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The Hello! Project Fanfics => H!P Fanfics => Library => Topic started by: rokun on October 11, 2007, 02:21:42 AM

Title: The Circle of Three [CONCLUSION: 28: Ascension]
Post by: rokun on October 11, 2007, 02:21:42 AM
Well, it seems people like drabbles and one-shots around here, but I just can't help myself and have to write "epic"s... :lol: I'll leave it to you to judge what it is, but this story is definitely more premeditated than probably anything else I've written. It's the culmination of a slow work week and all the ideas that have been floating in my head the past months as I've plowed on through Odyssey and Berry Beautiful (though of note: it has no relation to either). It's actually probably more like my first fic, Curse of the Dragons, but I hope it stands on its own well enough as well. As an intended long story, this Prologue and first chapter only give teasers to what the story may eventually be, but I tried to include everything I wanted to. I don't know if it's what you'll like, but here it is anyway because I wanted to write it! Now... have fun!


The Circle of Three

Prologue

Screams from behind drove the young mother along as she ran through high brush surrounding the banks of the river which gave life to her people.

So it had been for countless generations. When news from afar came to them of some distant chief that called himself Lord of All Lands, the people of the small village thought little of it. They didn’t understand how some man they had never heard of could govern them; truly, they were just beginning to understand the concept of government. For generations it had been a completely content communal society where no man thought himself higher than another. As it grew, and they came to understand the differences in temperaments of their neighbors, a primitive form of law had developed in order to ensure the well-being of all, and they had even elected a chief, but he was still thought to be no more than any other man.

However, the truths of what they could not understand rang clear when soldiers clad in stiff leathers and weapons made out of a material never before seen in the village – the new invention of bronze – marched into the village’s dusty streets. “By order of his majesty Shang, King of All China, all women who have borne offspring that to this date are yet to live a year must present them to us in the square,” a man at the head of the rank bellowed.

The people came out to stare at the soldiers, since they had never before seen their like. When they didn’t respond to the demands the soldier continued. “I give you one additional and final warning. Bring your newborn to us, or you will all suffer the consequences.”

At this time, some of the throng that had gathered at the spectacle began to include mothers carrying suckling babies, and upon no further response and the soldiers seeing this, the one who spoke nodded to another at his side, who clutched his spear and advanced toward one of the mothers.

Not knowing any better, the villagers watched as the soldier advanced, and only reacted when he reached the child and, raising his spear, plunged it down through both babe and mother. As the mother wailed in pain, the villagers began to run in all directions. Some soldiers ran after other mothers who had appeared, while others were sent to enter homes and root out any that hadn’t. Before long screams began to resound all around through the early evening dusk as babies were murdered in their cribs, along with mothers who put up any resistance. Others however took flight in their desperate effort to save their children.

The mother did her best to endure as stiff bamboo and reeds slapped against her body as she ran, her arms encircling her infant son in an attempt to protect it from the same treatment. She could hear the sounds of her pursuers, the men who at first had been exotic wonders and were now terrors out of her worst nightmares.

Finally she arrived at the edge of the great river, and quickly chopping some bamboo from around her, began to tie them into a small raft. With the sounds of her pursuers drawing ever closer, she knew she didn’t have time to fashion anything larger that might carry her as well, so she did the best she could to get a sufficient platform for her child.

Tying the last rope together, she set the crude raft at the water’s edge and knelt, laying her baby on it. “May the gods watch over you, child of my heart,” she told it tenderly and with inevitable sadness at the parting. Then she pressed her lips to its forehead, which made it stir slightly out of the sleep it had fallen into once she’d stopped running, and carefully laid it on the water, giving it a slight push.

She stood as the current picked the tiny raft up and carried it toward the center of the flowing water, and with her hands folded in front of her looked after it with sadness in her heart that mixed with hope at the life her child might yet live. A sudden sound of bamboo breaking behind her made her turn away, and she looked into the faces of two of the men in the solid leathers.

“Where is your child?” one of them ordered gruffly, and his eyes darted around the bank.

“He has gone,” the mother responded, raising her head in defiance at the authority she had until this night never known. “He is now beyond your reach, and the gods will provide for him.”

“That was a mistake, bitch,” the other man stated roughly, “All we wanted was the child. You could have lived.” And, raising his spear, he thrust it through the mother just above where her hands lay folded at her stomach.

She fell in pain, and when she hit the ground couldn’t move as she felt her life’s blood drain away after being disrupted by the wound. In the position she fell, her head leaned back far enough to give her sight of the river’s eastward course.

Through her throbbing ears, she heard the men speak to each other. “As far as I’m concerned,” one said, “Both mother and child died as she was trying to protect it. Is that what you saw as well?”

“Of course,” the other responded. “Like you, I do not have a death wish.”

“All is well then,” the first replied. “Come.” With that, the pleasant and calm clatter of bamboo rustling as they departed the bank was the last sound the mother heard.

“My dearest son…” she breathed in her last whispers as she watched the speck floating quickly through one of the last rays of the setting sun down the center of the river that gave her people life. “By the gods, you are saved…” With that, she choked, and was still.
Title: Chapter 1 - A New Year Amidst the Stars
Post by: rokun on October 11, 2007, 02:22:26 AM
Chapter 1 – A New Year Amidst the Stars

“…And so the baby Izanagi floated down what we now call the Yangtze River, from a place supposedly near what is now called Chongqing, all the way to the river’s mouth and out into the sea,” Mita-sensei, a relatively young teacher of history and folklore, explained as he prodded the map overlaying the chalkboard. Thirty girls stared at him from their seats, some appearing bored, and some enraptured by his words.

“There are some tales of Izanagi’s journey down the river, as might be imagined by the length of the trip…” He gave a sly grin at his comment, to which several of the girls giggled. “But of course, he is best known for what he did once he came out to sea. It is said in legend that he created all the islands which now comprise the country we all live in, and you can see that they almost appear to spread out from the mouth of the River, as if he created them one by one. As you also well know, he bore the celestial trinity of Amaterasu, Tsukuyomi, and Susanoo – the Sun, the Moon, and the Tempest.”

“So all of that came from this baby boy who was saved by his mother?” asked Airi Suzuki, who sat in the fifth row. “We knew all about the sun and stuff, but I’ve never heard about that.” A few of the other girls giggled again.

“Yes, Miss Suzuki,” Mita-sensei said, still grinning. “According to this legend, it all came from that poor little baby boy.” The chastised girl blushed in embarrassment. “Of course, that’s the key point –” he said, rising from the reclining position against his desk he’d adopted when asked the question. “According to this legend…”

The sound of the bell signaling the end of the class day made the girls all quickly gather their bags. “Don’t forget,” Mita-sensei said as he walked around his own desk to wrap up. “Tomorrow is a sports day, so after checking in here in the morning we’ll be heading out to the field. Dress appropriately!” As girls began quickly heading for the door, he raised his hand for their attention again and continued loudly. “Also!” There was a collective groan from the girls before him. “You’ll have a report due next week – Truth or Myth: Which is More Convincing? You’re to choose one of the legends we’ve gone over in class and do an analysis on it to argue your case whichever way you wish. Suzuki,” he said, nodding at the slim girl who clutched her bag tightly and ducked her head to hide the pinkness that appeared on her cheeks as some of the other girls looked at her too. “I expect quite an insight from you on this baby boy, his mother, and… the sun and stuff.” This time, nearly the whole class joined in on the giggling as Mita-sensei smiled warmly at the now desperate-looking young girl. “Now, you girls all have a wonderful night. Don’t forget, our first assembly of the year will be held at seven sharp. You’ll meet all the first years, and also find out who will be the new head of House Nakazawa. Hopefully those of you in the other houses remember who your leaders are.” He kept smiling at Airi as he spoke, who after he finished scurried quickly out the door.

“Well you can’t be too surprised about his attention there,” said Risako Sugaya, Airi’s classmate in year and friend, even though she was from a different House. “After how last year ended, everybody knows you’re Yajima-san’s favorite.” Airi still tried to keep her head low as much as she could. Risako adopted a pensive face. “I wonder who is going to be the new head of Nakazawa…”

“Don’t ask me,” Airi responded finally once she’d found her voice. “Like I’d know anything about what goes on with school leaders.”

Risako stopped dead, forcing Airi to do the same, and stared at her before she began a quickly cut-off laugh as if just realizing that what the girl staring back with a serious face had said wasn’t intended to be funny. “You’re kidding, right? You’re not gonna get away with any of that this year. People might have counted you out as being just a first year for most of last – not me of course – but not after Fujimoto-san caught you and Yajima in the bath. She might be graduated now, but she told everyone she could find before she left.” Airi kept staring back at her with a blank expression. “You didn’t know?” Risako said, eyes widening. “Oh Airin, Airin… We have a lot to talk about…” And wrapping her arm around Airi’s shoulders, she began to usher her down the hall.

The girls didn’t get too far though before in the distraction of chatting with each other, they nearly ran into a girl leaned up against a wall. “Hey!” she barked. “You two best watch where you’re goin’,” The two girls froze at the easily recognizable voice and looked up slowly to see the bumpee and two other faces staring back, each with its mouth moving as it chewed something. Gross… Airi thought. Don’t tell me that’s tobacco! The random thought was part of her defense mechanism that clicked in when she realized she was face to face with the three girls remaining from the group that even the Circle was reluctant to mess with – Reina Tanaka, Miyabi Natsuyaki, and Koharu Kusumi.

“Excuse us,” Risako muttered hastily and desperately. “We apologize for bothering you.” She also bowed her head over and over. For some reason however, Airi did not do the same, just stared into the face of Natsuyaki, the one she ran into. She knew she should be bowing and apologizing also or she was liable to be used as a cute girl-sized punching bag until dinner and stuffed into a locker, but her better judgment had fled and she did no such thing. It had fled because when she touched the older girl, a tingling feeling shot through her body like a very thin jet of flame. Even more oddly, after her initial rude comment, Natsuyaki had just stared stiffly back at her.

“Didn’t ya hear her, ya little shrimp?” Tanaka said, taking a step toward the two second years. Risako was frantically yet fruitlessly tugging on Airi’s arm. “Ya better watch yourself!”

“It looks like she wants to play, Rei-chan,” Kusumi said with a glimmer in her eye. “Whaddya wanna do to her, Miyakko?”

Tanaka reached out as if to grab Airi by the hair, and Airi noticed the hand that was tugging at her arm fall away, but Natsuyaki held out her arm to stop the fifth year’s move. “Hold it,” she said, her brows furrowed as she studied Airi’s face closely. As her leader stood down with a frown, she paused before continuing, “Leave this one be.” Then she turned and gathered the other two girls, with Kusumi protesting that her fun was being spoiled, but Tanaka just shrugging as if she didn’t care one way or another.

“It’s not my problem if you’re goin’ soft, Miyakko,” Tanaka said as they began strolling down the hall without looking back. Then she turned to the girl she was addressing. “At least, you’re not gonna make it my problem, right?”

“No,” the other responded. “Jus’ this one time. Later tonight, though…” Airi couldn’t hear what else they said as they disappeared down the hall through a path that was eagerly made for them by the students they passed dodging quickly out of the way and into other passages.

“You have become crazy since the spring!” Risako said in a breathless but obviously immensely relieved voice. “Facing down the Skulls like that. You’re lucky we’re both not being… drowned in toilets or something right now!”

“Right…” Airi responded, distracted, as they started walking the other direction down the hall. “Sounds like fun.”

“What?” Risako asked, alarmed. “Being drowned in toilets?”

“Sure,” Airi said, and turned quickly to her friend, grasping her wrist. “Hey, I need to run back to my House. Can I meet you at dinner?”

“…Sure,” Risako responded, giving her friend a very strange look in return. “I’ll bring mothballs and dirty rags to have with our sukiyaki.”

“Sounds great,” Airi said, still deep in thought. “See you later!” And with that, she turned and walked briskly down the hall and outside toward her House.

When she entered into the front lounge of House Matsuura, still in deep thought, she received the same reception she drew every time she walked through there since returning for the school year. All heads turned toward her from their studying or chatting, and most continued to look at her as she passed them while heading toward the stairs to her room. One girl did more than stare however, and jumped up, quickly gathering the material she was studying, to run and join Airi just before she reached the stairs.

“Hey!” Chisato said. “How was your first Friday of the fabulous new school year?”

“Y’know Chisa,” Airi said, breaking out of her thoughts to greet her friend with a grin. “You’re not going to get the Skulls to like you if you keep saying words like ‘fabulous’.”

“But I’m not saying it to them,” she protested lazily. “I’m saying it to you!” Airi rolled her eyes. “By the way…” she said, stepping forward and spinning around to block Airi’s path as they left the flight of stairs. “I heard you had a little run-in with them.”

Airi frowned at her. “Boy, word sure travels fast around this place.”

“Hey!” Chisato complained. “I told you not to call me ‘boy’!” Airi huffed, and flipping her hair, walked around the shorter girl to continue on her way. “Just kidding, just kidding…” Chisato said quickly, running to catch up with her. “And you know word travels fast here. This is Seishin Gakuin, after all.”

“Tell me about it,” Airi said, stopping in front of her door and fumbling for her keys in her bag.

“So… You don’t seem to have a scratch on you,” Chisato commented, looking Airi up and down. “Maybe I should start looking to you for advice on how to approach them!”

“I still don’t know why you want to join their stupid gang,” Airi said. “They’re a bunch of idiots.”

“Yeah, well, may be!” Chisato stammered. “But so am I!” Airi stared at her, letting her key hover at the lock. “I mean,” the other girl recovered. “No they’re not! They’re more than they seem to be, I’m sure of it! And they’re also so cool, and always get their way and everything… Don’t you ever wonder what that would be like?”

“Yeah,” Airi responded. “Every day I wake up wondering, ‘What would my life be like if I was an idiot who stood chewing tobacco all day and staring at people like I was a cow, and talking the same way?’!” She stuck the key into the lock and twisted it hard, pushing the door open after it clicked.

“I’m sorry,” Chisato said quietly, and Airi turned to see the girl with her head bowed. She suddenly felt guilty about acting that way toward her friend, but the girl really was just being ridiculous! Chisato raised her head as she felt her friend’s eyes on her. “But I still think you’re wrong about them.”

Airi looked at the resolved tomboy a moment. She wanted to just sit in her room and think for a little while about her experience with Natsuyaki, but she felt a responsibility to console and at least hear out her friend. “All right,” she said. “Maybe I’m wrong.” She of course didn’t believe that, but she thought it might make the other girl feel better. Then again, Natsuyaki could have easily led the other girls in beating her up like they had so many others, but she hadn’t… She shook her head to try and clear it from such silly thoughts. “Do you want to come in? I was going to do a little homework, but you know, we haven’t really had the time to catch up yet.”

Chisato looked at her oddly before following her into the room and jumping on a bed, laying on her stomach with her knees bent and legs waving in the air while propping her head on her hands. “It’s funny you’re inviting me in. This is my room also, after all.” She let her head turn to look at Airi with a grin. Airi felt completely foolish. She really had to stop being distracted so completely. “Then again, I suppose I should be used to it…” She shifted a hand to her mouth to try to stifle a giggle, but it didn’t work very well.

“Grr…” Airi growled in mock sulkiness, and jumped on the bed after Chisato where she started to tickle her.

The girls fought and played like that for a few minutes until they noticed someone in the doorway, and once they both realized who it was they stopped tumbling, chests heaving, and stared up at the older newcomer.

“Chisato Okai and Airi Suzuki…” the girl said in a self-satisfied voice. “I thought it might be a mistake matching you two as roommates, but we must do what we can to ensure our girls’ happiness.” The girl started walking into the room, swaying as if trying to show off her athletic build. “Still, Airi-chan, you at least I thought above childish games like this. It’s almost a different person from who I knew at the end of last year…”

She grinned, and Airi blushed at the subject of last year coming up. Chisato turned to look at Airi warily. She’d never told her friend exactly what happened that time in the last week before everyone went home for the summer, so all she’d heard was the story that… that Fujimoto girl had spread. Her face kept its reddish hue, but it turned from embarrassment to anger. She looked up at Maimi Yajima intending to say something, but her tongue froze at seeing the girl’s smile widen.

“Now that’s the Airi I’m talking about…” she said. “I’ll see you around,” she continued, apparently content now with her effect. Her gaze lingered on Airi, but she also tossed Chisato a smirk as she turned to leave.

Once out the door, Chisato punched her fist into the bed and huffed. “That girl…” she scowled between gritted teeth. “Some day… when I’m head of House Matsuura…”

Airi though stayed silent, just looking down at her hands as she played with her thumbs. This would be a long year…



“Seriously,” Reina said, pulling at her bubble gum as she chewed it. The three remaining members of the Skulls had gathered around one of the tables in the cafeteria. They needn’t worry about getting the table they wanted even if they came late of course, but it was a good place to hang out at until everyone else started arriving for dinner. “What is up with you, Miya? You’ve been out of it seemingly ever since that little girl ran into you.”

“It’s nothing,” Miyabi said, though her brow was still knit in frustration. She was trying to remember what she felt when the girl had run into her, but it all happened so fast it was hard to tell. It almost felt like… a jolt of lightning… She didn’t know why, but the feeling bothered her. She didn’t like things intruding into her space like that.

“You’re not trying to rob the cradle, are you?” Reina continued, grinning, and Koharu broke into a giggle.

“Of course not,” Miyabi said dismissively. “Besides, she’s not my type. And her friend’s cuter.” She tried to bite off the last word as she said it in order to have the comment back, but it was too late. She heard an excited gasp from beside her.

“Oooh!” Koharu exclaimed between chews. “Miyakko’s got a sweet~heart, Miyakko’s got a sweet~heart!” she sang, until Miyabi sucker punched her in the stomach, causing her to nearly spit out her gum. “Owwww~!” she whined, still keeping her sing-song voice. “Did you see that?” she pled to Reina. “She hit me!”

Reina rolled her eyes. “As far as I can tell, you deserved it,” she said lazily, and sat back in her chair, draping her leg over the back.

Miyabi probably should have restrained herself, but the girl still sometimes pushed it too far. Koharu might be in the same class as her, but she’d only joined the Skulls late last year, so was still a little wet behind the ears. As for herself, Miyabi had been involved with the gang going on three out of her four years at Seishin. Fujimoto had been quite proud of her. She’d been somewhat of a prodigy. Somehow she’d always thought Reina was threatened by that, and she knew she’d be on pins and needles about it this year since the older girl was officially the leader. Well, maybe she could shake things up a bit… Then again… she thought, looking at Reina, who was picking at her teeth with one of her long black fingernails, and the chastised Koharu beside her. She’s not really that bad…

“The girl’s right though that it’s been boring so far this year,” Reina said in a slightly complaining tone. “No good fights, and the one that nearly fell into our laps today you had to go and walk away from.” She lolled her head to stare at Miyabi, who found the wonky-eyed look disturbing. Well, it didn’t hurt their image to the girls they picked on at least. Still, it made her uncomfortable. It was just unnatural! “I still think you went a bit soft over the summer. Or is it just because you like that girl’s friend?”

“I told you, it’s not like that!” Miyabi said in a loud voice that was becoming angry. The other two girls looked curiously up at her, and Reina raised an eyebrow above her eye which Miyabi swore didn’t join the other in looking at her. Shivering, she turned away and continued with a sigh, “It’s just… when that toothpick bumped into me I felt this like… shock… go through my body. I’d never felt anything like it before, so it got to me, see? I just didn’t feel like pummeling her anymore.”

She turned around to see the other two girls grinning stupidly at her. “‘Cute girl’ has competition,” Koharu said, and this time Reina just nodded.

“If you’re gonna start crushing on every second year and younger you see Miyakko, we’re gonna have to make you a different kind of Skull,” Reina said ponderingly.

“Yeah,” Koharu chimed in. “A thief.” She looked around at the other two girls, who stared back at her. “Of cradles.” More staring. “Oh come on, do I have to spell it out for you idiots?”

“We get it…” Miyabi said slowly, as her and Reina still stared at her.

“Oh…” the freshest blood responded.

“So this… shock…” Reina said, and couldn’t keep a smile off her face, nor a laugh that began to escape. Miyabi glared at her. “I’m sorry! It’s just too cliché…”

“It’s not like that…” Miyabi grumbled, under her breath this time. She was through trying to explain it to these girls. They were intelligent enough most of the time, but, well, even more of the time their hormones got the best of them. Then again… she thought, and tried to put herself in their shoes. She sighed. A sound made her turn to see a few girls begin to come in for dinner. Private time was over. She chuckled as she looked at the early comers, and their eyes widened at the sight of Miyabi Natsuyaki giving them what must have looked like an amused and sadistic laugh coming from a Skull. A shock… That is pretty cliché… isn’t it?



“Are you ready to accept the mantle we have for you?” a girl said from a shadowy chair on the outside of a large circle drawn on the floor. The drawn circle enveloped a drawn triangle, and chairs stood at each of its points. Only one of the chairs was illuminated, and in that chair sat a visibly nervous young woman.

“It’s been my dream ever since I entered this school,” the nervous woman replied. “It may be my last year, but… I am ready.”

“Then we will perform the ceremony,” the girl who hadn’t spoken yet said.

“Just as it was performed for us.” From the first again.

“Repeat after us,” they said together. “No more than students of Seishin we may be.”

“No more than students of Seishin we may be,” the increasingly anxious young woman repeated.

“But more than students we can become.”

“But more than students we can become.”

“Matsuura of the Sun, give me strength.” Only the one with the higher voice spoke this time.

“Goto of the Moon, grant me your power,” spoke the other.

Knowing she no longer had to repeat, but instead utter the phrase she’d been given beforehand even though she had no idea of its meaning, the young woman finished, “Nakazawa of the Tempest, bestow me with your ire.”

The light upon her flared out as the last word left her mouth, and a breeze began to blow through the completely sealed off room. The breeze increased until it felt like a whirlwind traced the circle around the triangle at whose points sat the girls, the Heads of the Houses of Seishin.

Then suddenly, the young woman spoke words she’d never known before along with her two companions. “In return for your blessing, our lives are yours.” The howling wind died out into nothingness, and the young woman saw what looked like eyes flashing red where her companions should have been. And as all the lights once more flared to life and she saw the two girls smiling over at her, she understood.

Far above, a grim-faced man looked on, and gave a nod as the eyes of the newest member of the Circle of Three flashed red as well.
Title: Re: The Circle of Three
Post by: JFC on October 11, 2007, 03:11:29 AM
If it's all the same, you might want to hold off posting more chapters for the time being with the possibility of the forum going down again. It'd be a shame to get a whole bunch of responses, only to lose them.
Title: Re: The Circle of Three
Post by: rokun on October 11, 2007, 03:41:47 AM
Ahh, along with everything of course I didn't even know that was going on!  :-\ Especially since I just now with these posts got access to the Asshole where the thread discussing it is, lol. The good thing is it seems likely the forum won't be lost... And if it is, everyone is always around, and I have copies of all my stories in a zillion places. ^_^ I have no plans to post more chapters anytime soon anyway, lol. I hope people can enjoy these while they can. :)
Title: Re: The Circle of Three
Post by: JFC on October 11, 2007, 04:57:25 AM
^ Heh, looks like I may have jumped the gun a bit. :mon sweat: Yeah, ebc gave a more detailed description of what exactly happened, so it looks like it's hopefully not as bad as I initially thought (though losing the gallery/picboard still sucks ass).
Title: Re: The Circle of Three
Post by: mode107 on October 12, 2007, 12:31:39 AM
Ok, so I've actually read this new story of yours about twice, but I kind of rushed through it because I had other things to do. So now I just read it all through, and I have to say that it has me hooked . It make me want to learn more about the characters stories:)    I was kinda sensing a harry potter thing going on when I read about the houses and the years, but then I thought differently after I read the last half. Anways, sweeeet work  :yep:
Title: Re: The Circle of Three
Post by: rokun on October 12, 2007, 03:59:33 AM
Hey modesta! Glad to hear from you here. :) There definitely will be a Harry Potter vibe throughout the story, but I didn't want to make it a completely Harry Potter theme. :) I mainly just wanted to use the boarding school setting, and Harry Potter was a perfect template. Still, there will also be more fantasy elements coming about later!

@JFC: Yeah, thanks for letting me know about the jphip problems! I'm sure I'd still be clueless about them if it wasn't for you. I wonder if that's also why people seem to be hesitant to comment... There definitely seem to be enough of you that have looked at it at least! C'mon, tell me what you think. :) Even if you hate it. There's not much to go by yet, but I always love input! I plan my main themes, but most of what actually happens comes about just as I write.

Also, I didn't mean to start it exactly this way, but this is not a Berryz or C-ute-centric fic. It's more H!P-centric (or at least, of active members). You've heard of a few Momusu (Reina, Miki and one other as of yet unidentified one :) ), and after this introduction things will be fleshing out a bit more. That's basically what this was - an introduction to some of the characters and plot elements. Anyway, I think part of the reason people don't bother with me is because I talk too much, so I'll stop now. :lol:

Take care everyone!
Title: Re: The Circle of Three
Post by: rokun on October 20, 2007, 12:50:39 AM
Yoshi! A couple quick postings between my stories, but I wanted to get this up as soon as possible since I haven't really allowed anyone to get into it yet. :) This chapter definitely opened a lot more thought for me though... I hope some of you enjoy it too!


Chapter 2 – Airi Suzuki

“I didn’t know that seventh years could even become Circle members!” Chisato stammered in her normal bubbly voice. “That means I may really have a chance!”

“You really are quite ambitious, aren’t you Chisa-chan?” Risako asked rhetorically.

“It can happen,” Airi said, as the three girls walked down the hall after leaving the first assembly of the year. “If there’s a really good candidate but the last one or two house heads had a long tenure. They just have kind of bad timing. Still, whether it’s for one year or your whole Seishin career, once you’re part of the Circle…” She didn’t need to go on, and the other girls nodded their heads in understanding.

Nobody fully knew why, but every girl who had become Head of her house and thus part of the Circle had gone on to do great things of one kind or another in their lives, and tenure didn’t seem to matter. Only being in the Circle seemed enough. Personally, Airi was curious to see what kinds of things Hitomi Yoshizawa, the just-graduated former Head of House Nakazawa who she’d liked in the short year she had to know her, accomplished. She heard that the woman had taken some governmental job in Aichi.

She came out of thoughts to her two friends staring at her. “You read too much, Airin,” Risako said. “You need to get out more! Do some partying! Enjoy yourself! I mean it, if you don’t have fun in the sports festival tomorrow I’m going to be having a talk with you…”

“Me too,” Chisato said, giving her a toothy grin.

“Ugh!” Airi huffed, and quickened her pace as if to walk ahead of the other two girls. They of course caught up quickly. Airi could only go so fast with the amount of books she carried around…

“Maybe you’ll beat me to the Circle,” Chisato said, still grinning. “Especially if Yajima-san’s vote counts for anything at all…”

As if bringing up that subject had cast some sort of spell, the three girls fell into silence as they kept walking. Eventually though, Risako spoke up again. “So what really happened last year, Airin? Were you and Yajima-san really making out in the bath like Fujimoto said she saw you doing?” Both her and Chisato blushed slightly when she asked that.

Airi stopped dead. “What!” she demanded. “That… that… girl said what?!” Risako and Chisato just looked between each other, both with heads slightly bowed and still slight flushes.

“I take it that’s not how it was then?” Chisato asked, daring the question.

“Of course it wasn’t!” Airi nearly shouted. Her raised voice made some of the other students walking nearby scuttle away and try to avoid the three of them the best they could, but she didn’t care. Their curious stares suddenly began to take on a whole new meaning to her though. “We were just talking! She’d invited me in there, and we just… enjoyed each other’s company…”

“Oh…” Chisato said, still looking as if she was trying to decipher her friend’s meaning. “So she asked you out?” Airi’s eyes widened at the girl’s suggestion, and with another huff she clutched her books tightly to her chest and stomped off between the other girls.

Once again though, they caught up to her quickly. “Well…” Risako said, the two looking as if they still didn’t get it. “What did you guys talk about?”

Airi glowered at the two a second, and hesitated before responding, “Oh you know, we were just beginning to flesh out plans for taking over the school… and then taking over the world. And it would all start at the sports festival tomorrow.”

She thought that would end this silliness, but Risako just brought up another question. “So… you two have still been in contact since you’ve been back this year?”

Airi stopped dead again, and her friends, having taken another step before noticing, turned back toward her. She stared into their earnest faces. “No!” she said. Their expressions didn’t change. “We made all the plans we needed to in the bath. They included us acting as if we’d hardly talked before when this year started in order to not look too suspicious. Oh…” she added, as if in afterthought. “And then she gave me the most wonderful massage…”

“…It’s not nice to make up lies to your friends, Airin,” Risako said, and with a glare Airi started walking again, although normally this time, and the other girls joined her. “We’re not stupid, you know.”

“Could have fooled me…” Airi grumbled.

Chisato poked her in the side, and she looked over to see the girl smiling at her, if a trifle uncertainly. “You have to admit, Osuzu. It’s strange to see a member of the Circle and a first year talking alone like that in a… close… setting.” Airi began to open her mouth in protest again, but Chisato held her hands up to stop her so she could finish. “Even if nothing more happened!”

“Why’s that so strange?” Airi asked frustratedly. The two other girls gave each other quick glances again. Airi hated when they did that…

“You know,” Risako said. “I think she will have you beat once Yajima-san graduates.”

“Oh well,” Chisato responded. “That’s still three years away. A lot can change.”

“Your interest in the Skulls won’t help either,” Risako added. “I’ve never heard of someone from there joining the Circle, and some of them have even been better leaders!”

Airi huffed again, and the two girls stared at her. “Thanks for your interest…” she said sarcastically. Then she followed quickly, “Fujimoto was some leader all right…”

“She was!” Chisato protested. “I bet she could have outdone Shimizu-san any day. And maybe even Yoshizawa-san!”

“Thank Kami-sama I’m not in that parallel universe…” Airi responded gratefully.

“Sometimes you speak strangely…” Risako commented, frowning at her.

Airi gave her a grin. “That’s why you like me though, isn’t it?”

The other girl broke into a grin of her own. “Of course! Still… it makes it hard to understand you sometimes…”

“Story of my life…” Chisato sighed, and Risako looked at her curiously. “You don’t room with her,” she explained animatedly. Risako giggled.

“Guys…” Airi said. “I’m really still here…”

“Oh well,” Chisato said dismissively, as if changing the subject. “If Osuzu’s destined for the Circle, at least I still have the Skulls…”

“Good luck with that,” Airi said, and Risako gave her a cock-eyed smile and nodded reluctantly in agreement.

“You’ll see!” Chisato pouted. “They’re more than what they seem, and when I join I’ll prove it by being my same cheerful and optimistic self!”

“They’re optimistic, all right,” Airi said with a grin, and Risako giggled, apparently catching onto her meaning. Chisato apparently hadn’t. “Optimistic about how easily they’ll beat everyone up…” Now, her slightly younger friend looked almost offended.

“Hey yo,” came a voice from the side of the hall, which shadows obscured slightly. They shrouded the speaker so well in fact that Airi couldn’t even identify her. However, the voice was enough. “Twerp.”

The three girls froze. Risako adopted a look that was almost full of terror, but Chisato’s eyes sparked with interest. Airi felt like sighing. The girl really was going to get stuffed into a toilet one of these days… Then they looked around at each other. “Twerp,” the girl had said, which sounded like she only meant one of them, but they didn’t know which one.

“Geez you people,” the girl in the shadows said. “Do I have to spell it out for ya?” Now she stepped out into the light, and the three young girls faced Miyabi Natsuyaki again. “You.” She pointed at Airi. “Toothpick. I want a word. You others can scurry away.” Even though she pointed at Airi, the girl’s eyes lingered on Risako. Airi even saw her biting her lip as if she was nervous at something. Why in the world would a terrified second year make a member of the Skulls nervous?

Even though her offer sounded like a command, none of the girls began scurrying anywhere. Chisato actually stepped forward. Airi held back a groan. “Natsuyaki-sama!” she said breathlessly. Frowning, the addressed girl shifted her attention. Chisato seemed to lose a little of her nerve once the girl actually caught her eyes. “I… I want to be a Skull! I think you guys are just the greatest, and even though I know I’m nothing special, especially compared to all of you… I also am sure I’d have a lot to offer!”

Natsuyaki studied her a moment, her face unreadable. Risako seemed like she would pass out at any second. “Joining the Skulls isn’t child’s play, ya know,” she said finally. “We only take the best, and ya have to pass an audition before you’ll even be considered. And I dunno…” She looked Airi’s young friend up and down, and the girl blushed at the scrutiny. “Ya look kinda scrawny and green to me.”

“No I’m not!” Chisato protested, drawing her small frame up. Airi had to give it to her. The girl definitely had nerve. “Plus, I know you joined them in your second year!”

Natsuyaki smiled a cold smile at that before saying quietly, “So ya think you’re as good as me, huh?”

Chisato’s eyes widened at the black-garbed older girl’s question, and her mouth opened and closed as if trying to find some way to explain that what she said wasn’t really… what she said.

Thinking this was beginning to go in a direction that would not end well for her friend, Airi spoke up. “You said you wanted to talk to me?” Her voice sounded much stronger than she felt. Although, she couldn’t help but feel quite curious about running into the girl who, when they literally ran into each other last, acted very strangely. And then there was that shock.

Natsuyaki looked over at Airi again as if just remembering she was still there, and smirked. “Yea, I do,” she drawled. “You, girl,” she said, glancing out of the corner of her eyes to Chisato again. “If you want to audition, be at the Cave Sunday night. Midnight.”

“B-but…” Chisato said, still nervous even though it seemed Airi had bailed her out. “That’s a school night…” She hesitated, but decided to add one more comment. “And my name’s Okai!” Well, Airi had tried.

Natsuyaki looked fully at her now. “So it is. Don’t be late. And you can bring a friend.” Her eyes drew back to Risako. “Or two. Now scram.” Both girls hurriedly gave a look of pity to Airi before running off together down the hall. Airi gulped at now being alone with the Skull.

“Alone at last…” she said, looking Airi up and down this time. “How romantic.” Airi gulped again.

The older girl closed in on her and wrapped an arm around her shoulder, escorting her in the same direction her friends fled, but slower. Girls still passed them from time to time, but made sure to keep their distance at seeing Natsuyaki’s clothes, which made her very identifiable. However, most of the girls still glanced curiously at them to see who the Skull was being friendly with, and more than a couple eyes widened when they saw Airi. Great… Airi thought. That was all she needed. First she was found in a – she blushed – compromising position with the Head of House Matsuura, and now everybody would think she’s friends with the Skulls, since they didn’t make a habit of walking this closely with, well, anyone. She’d never be able to live her reputation down after this. Why did she feel this was all too much for a second year?

Eventually Natsuyaki led her down a side corridor that was empty except for a few straggling students. The stragglers even disappeared before long. Airi cleared her throat and decided to be brave. “Natsuyaki-san…” she offered. “What was it you, er, needed to talk to me about?”

“No need to be like that,” the girl said, her eyes flicking around them as if to make sure they were completely alone. “We’re friends after all. Buddies, ya know?”

Airi smiled wide despite her nervousness in what she hoped was an agreeable expression. “Sure,” she said. “Buddies.”

Upon apparently deciding the area was clear enough, the older girl turned and rounded on Airi, who tried to keep herself from stepping back. “Now…” she said. “I want to know what you did to me when you ran into me earlier.”

Airi stared. The girl’s vernacular seemed to change completely, and she almost sounded like a normal teenage girl, if a rather strikingly confident one. “I… I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Liar,” the girl hissed in a low voice. “I felt something go through my body. It’s like your touch shocked me or something. The others have already teased me to where I can hardly stand it anymore, so I thought I’d get to the bottom of it myself. What’d you do, toothpick?”

This time Airi gave her a level look. For some reason, hearing the girl complain about being teased and her apparently uncertainty – which Airi had caused her – made her less afraid. “The name’s Suzuki.”

“Yeah yeah,” she responded. “Airi, right? What a sickeningly cute name.”

This time Airi drew herself up. Sickeningly…? Oh, sickeningly cute. While she was trying to figure out whether that was an insult or not, the other girl poked her in the stomach as if for an experiment. “Ow!” Airi protested, and thoughts of sick puppies left her mind.

“See? I didn’t feel it that time. It must have been something you did then. What was it?” She looked at Airi curiously as if that would force her to explain it.

“I didn’t do anything!” Airi stated loudly. “How would you expect me to be able to do something like that to begin with?”

“You’re the one that Mikitty caught with Yajima last spring, aren’t you?” Miyabi said quickly as if presenting a further fact in her experiment, studying her closely. Who’s Mikitty? Airi thought. “Are you working for the Circle?” The girl’s eyes narrowed.

“No,” Airi growled. “I’m not. And I don’t appreciate being accused of things I’ve not done.” She had realized who ‘Mikitty’ must be. “For your information though, when you got in my way earlier, I felt something shoot through me as well.”

“Did you?” Miyabi responded quietly. “Now that’s… interesting. Thank you, toothpick. I mean Aichi.”

“Airi!” Airi corrected again with irritation.

“Whatever.” The girl finally let go of her, and Airi hoped this meant she would be going. “I guess I’ll probably see you at your friend’s audition Sunday.” She grinned devilishly. “It’ll be a blast.”

Airi was saved from responding by a taller girl walking toward them. “And what are you doing to this second year, Natsuyaki-san?”

Miyabi darted her eyes to the newcomer, instantly curling her upper lip. “None of your business, Yajima.” Airi hadn’t identified her savior yet, but at that name she felt like groaning. Could this night possibly get any worse…?

“It is if I find her tied to a lamppost anytime soon,” the older girl replied.

“That won’t happen,” said Miyabi.

“I’m sure it won’t.”

“Fine. Well, yea, see ya later, Aiko.”

“Airi!”

Maimi stepped around seemingly to take Miyabi’s place as she sauntered back down the hall, and appraised Airi. “You’ve got some guts, standing up to Natsuyaki-san like that,” she said with a smile. “I’m beginning to remember what I saw in you last year.”

“Yeah,” Airi responded, becoming more relaxed. “Well, I’m beginning to regret ever meeting you last year. Do you have any idea what’s happened since that Fujimoto girl walked in on us? If this keeps up, the only people who will still talk to me are my best friends, and apparently for some reason defying all understanding, you and Natsuyaki.”

“Oh, I doubt you’d find that to be true,” Maimi said. “Fame is a funny thing, you know. At first the effects of it might be quite a shock, but eventually envy sets in and people just want to be close to you. Besides, I have heard those rumors. Troublesome things. Me kissing a first year in the bath… You want to talk about reputation…”

“What have you got to worry about your reputation?” Airi asked suspiciously. “You’re in the Circle.”

“Yeah, I guess you’re right,” she said, looking thoughtful and obviously not the least bit worried about her supposedly tarnished reputation. “Dreadful things it still can do to your social life though. Umeda certainly hasn’t been giving me the kinds of glances she did last year.” She sighed wistfully as if at her loss. For some reason Airi did not feel sympathetic, and actually had a hard time even wrapping her mind around Maimi wanting to date someone, as it appeared she did this… Umeda. “Oh well.” She turned her attention back to Airi, who felt herself laid bare by the scrutiny. “Maybe it wouldn’t be too bad a thing making the rumors true. You are pretty cute, after all.”

Airi tried her best to keep herself from blushing. She knew the girl couldn’t be serious, but at this moment she just could not even deal with the idea of the Head of House Matsuura coming onto her. “What is it you want, Maimi?” she asked finally, just wanting to get back to her dorm and her pocky.

“Nothing in particular,” the girl responded, busying herself with pulling fuzz off her sweater. “I just thought I should save you from a bad influence.” She gazed at Airi again. “But you look to be quite fine on your own. I really am impressed.”

“Yajima-san…” Airi blurted out suddenly, surprising even herself by the formality.

“Yes?” the girl responded, somewhat surprised herself before her expression fell into an amused smile.

“Do you intend me to replace you in the Circle when you graduate?”

The older girl just continued smiling as she turned and headed back down the hall, calling back after a few steps just to say, “See you around, Airi-chan.” Then soon she was gone, and Airi was left alone in the quiet hall. However, now that the notorious figures had departed, one by one a few students started trickling back through, every one giving Airi an interested glance as she passed.

Airi sighed, and clutched her books to her chest again before heading back toward her House. Eventually she reached it, and found both Chisato and Risako apparently waiting for her in the lounge. “Airin!” Risako cried, and threw her arms around her. “You made it back! When Natsuyaki-san wanted to talk to you alone, I was sure you were a goner… or at least that we’d find you turned up in the dumpster in the morning.”

“Nope!” Airi said cheerily. “No dumpster for me!”

She looked over at Chisato, and frowned when she saw the girl staring at her with a look not far short of awe. It soon turned to a small pout though. “It seems you’re better than me at everything… You got to know someone in the Circle… You can talk to a Skull without getting clobbered… You do better than me in every class…”

“Hey!” Airi said, concerned about the girl’s attitude. “You got invited to that audition you know! Sunday night…”

“Yeah… I guess,” she said, and her face suddenly lit up. “Yeah! You’re right, you know! I have an audition with the Skulls!” Her face began to take on that look of awe again. “I have an audition with the Skulls…” Risako hurried to pull up a footrest for Chisato to plop down onto instead of the floor.

“Um…” Airi said, thinking it might be best to change the subject. “Speaking of the Circle, I ran into Maimi… er… Yajima-san.” She tried to catch herself, but the damage had already been done. Both girls stared up at her this time. “It was nothing much!” she explained desperately. “Just… well… She said she came to save me from Miya… I mean… Natsuyaki-san.” The girls continued staring at her, and now she was attracting attention from across the room too. “She… just wanted help with her homework?” she continued meekly… and hopefully. “I think I’m gonna go up to my room. I have lots of homework to do myself… er… I mean Yajima-san’s homework. Right. Bye!” And she ran across the room, up the stairs, not resting until she sat on the edge of her bed, her books laid to her side. Sure she had her best friends. Just like she had told Maimi. For how much longer?

She heard the door click, and hurriedly grabbed a book to pretend to read out of it. She didn’t look up as the girl entered and walked across the room. She even did her best when the footsteps stopped right in front of her. “Airi,” Chisato’s voice said. “What are you doing?”

“What does it look like I’m doing?” Airi replied briskly. “I’m reading.”

“Well unless you enjoy reading upside down, I think you’re still just trying to avoid me.” Airi blinked before actually focusing on the book for the first time. Blast it! she scolded herself. It really was upside down…

Heaving a deep breath, she closed the book and set it aside, looking up into the concerned face of her best friend. “You know I’ll still be your friend whatever happens, right?” the girl said. “Even if you become evil and try to take over the world, I’ll still be there. Okay?”

Airi stared another minute before breaking out into a giggle. “Taking over the world…” she repeated in an amused tone. “As if! Although… Didn’t we use to plot that a long time ago?”

Chisato smiled now too. “Mmhmm! You wanna do it again? Maybe we can even call Risako in this time.” Airi grinned. Maybe the day wouldn’t turn out too badly after all…
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [2: Airi Suzuki]
Post by: mode107 on October 20, 2007, 01:50:31 AM
Wow, two updates on two of your different stories, nice going rokun  :yep:

This 'Circle members' thing really has me interested. So we know Maimi's part of  it, but who else? I'm kinda sensing that Miyabi is too.
and whooo's goin to be the head of the house of Nakazawa?  heh, I really wanna know.

So I see a little Miya/Risako in the works, and also an Airi/Maimi, I sense the second pair's relationship is going to be a little undercover, because
of that mention of the reputation, and how Airi saying that they would act as if they barely spoke to eachother before the new school year to avoid looking suspicious.

 I'm rushing somewhere now, so once again, awesome chapter.
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [2: Airi Suzuki]
Post by: g4rfield on October 20, 2007, 02:01:49 AM
*Sigh* I feel sad that chapter 2 is over and I want to read more!!! D@mmit! Update this quick. I need my fix!!  :twisted:
I have to admit, when I read the prologue I was like WTF is this?? Then, I tried a couple lines of Chapter 1 and well, then I wasn't very interested in Berryz or C-ute or well ya know, and Chapter 1 doesn't really have any of my fave in it with dialogue. What do you know, I got hooked on that other Berryz Fic of yours and here I am sprouting non sense!  :lol: Hmmm....are you gonna bring The sun, Moon and Tempest  as well as Miki and Yossie into life? I mean, like having them appear at the school and interact with 'the students'??
Pairings: Miya x Risako. Airi x ?? My first time ever reading Airi pairings with whoever. 
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [2: Airi Suzuki]
Post by: rokun on October 20, 2007, 06:05:49 PM
Hey guys! Thanks for your comments. :)

You'll definitely be seeing some of Miki. In fact, it won't be too long from now... (can you guess when?) Others who've already graduated (like Yossi) might pop up from time to time also. Or they might not. As for Nakazawa/Goto/Matsuura, well, they're around. ;)

Next chapter you'll find out a lot more about the Circle, and the main plot will be hinted at a bit more... There have been subtle little things so far, but nothing that you would be able to make sense of yet. XD I'm eager to see your reactions when things begin to fall into place.

Also I do want to say, even though there's been a lot of a few Berryz and C-ute so far, this is by no means a Berryz/C-ute fic. The Momusu just haven't appeared much yet. :) However, this is based mostly on who's currently in the three groups. There's a structure to how everything's set up that kinda copies what's going on in real life. One thing I'll say now, since I probably won't state it too explicitly and it might be hard to figure out (though you might even be able to already with a few hints): You know there are the three Houses of Seishin Gakuin - Matsuura, Goto, and Nakazawa. C-ute are part of Matsuura. Berryz are Goto. Momusu are Nakazawa. :)
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [2: Airi Suzuki]
Post by: g4rfield on October 20, 2007, 06:32:19 PM
I guess I'm a little slow. I know there are 3 houses as I read Harry Potter and the setting is close enuf BUT I didn't notice the set up around the kids as to which house they belong to.  :lol: Baka!  :sweat:
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [2: Airi Suzuki]
Post by: iacus on October 21, 2007, 06:59:38 AM
chapter 2 is over and I want to read more!!!

I got that same exact feeling. I haven't been around lately and I just noticed this story. I read through the whole thing and, while it's mostly set up so far, it looks great.
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [2: Airi Suzuki]
Post by: meowz on October 21, 2007, 09:54:19 AM
You know there are the three Houses of Seishin Gakuin - Matsuura, Goto, and Nakazawa. C-ute are part of Matsuura. Berryz are Goto. Momusu are Nakazawa. :)

Ah...and I've been thinking the next head of house Nakazawa would be Takahashi. Am I close?
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [3: The Skulls]
Post by: rokun on October 24, 2007, 02:24:19 AM
Well, Airi was fun and fresh, but now it's time to move on! :D Some of your questions may be answered here, and I realized now that I said what I did in my last comment, things might start to make a lot more sense. :lol:


Chapter 3 – The Skulls

“Bored now…” Reina said, lounging in a recliner in a back lounge of House Nakazawa. The small but cozy room was vacant but for a crackling fire and two girls – Reina, and Koharu, who was pulling at her bubble gum while lying on the couch and staring at the ceiling. It was vacant except for the two of them because this was known as the favorite hangout for the Skulls, and no normal Seishin girl desired the consequences of trespassing on their turf.

“And you’re just the most interesting companion…” Reina continued, staring at the side of her kouhai’s head.

“I thought the Skulls would be full of fun and adventure,” Koharu said wistfully. “That’s why I joined. Last year was fun enough under Mikitty, but so far this one…” As if the apparently brain-dead girl just noticed what she’d implied, she let her head fall to the side to look quickly over at Reina. “I mean, it’s just getting off to a slow start! That wasn’t at all a comment on your leadership…”

“If I were you, I wouldn’t continue opening your mouth and letting sounds come out of it…” Reina warned, and turned to look away again. “We need to recruit some new members. With Mikitty’s graduation and Maihacchi’s transfer, we’re at the fewest the Skulls have had in a generation.” She didn’t say any more for a few seconds as she churned something over in her head. “If I don’t change that soon I really will be the worst captain we’ve had in ages. The Skulls have been around for over a millennium, and that’s not how I want to go down in history.”

“You actually agreed with me?” Koharu asked in astonishment, eyes wide and mouth hanging open. In a flash, Reina leapt from her recliner and cuffed the younger girl on the side of the head. “Ouch!!” she cried, pressing her hand to her ear as Reina loomed over her.

“I didn’t say that,” Reina said in a voice that brooked no nonsense. “Now. Do you know of anyone who might fit in well with us? Any friends?” Reina paused again, staring into space. “I cannot believe I just asked you that. That’s all we need, is more of you.”

“Hey,” Koharu whined. “I’m a Skull just like you are! So what if it took me nearly four years to be invited. Mikitty chose me!”

“That she did,” Reina said, wondering what kind of drug the old captain had been on at the time. True, the girl had passed her audition – after trying unsuccessfully to get one for years – but Reina had not voted for her inclusion. Maiha had, oddly. And so had…

The door swung open, and Reina and Koharu both became suddenly alert to be ready to identify the intruder, but upon seeing who it was stood down. “It’s about time you got here!” Reina grumbled. “I’ve been left with nothing but this lot for company,” she said, gesturing at Koharu, who gave her a narrow-eyed look before yawning in her face.

“Oh give it a rest, Rei-chan,” Miyabi said, entering the room looking troubled by something. “If you’d let the girl have a chance you’d see she’s really not that bad. When she’s not being a childish idiot of course.”

“H-hey!” Koharu piped up, looking between the two of them as if trying to work out whether she’d really been bailed out or not.

“Yeah, I guess,” Reina said, stepping back to her chair. “There are few enough of us as it is. It won’t do to be constantly at each others’ necks. Well, for any serious reason.”

Miyabi gave Koharu a cool look as if considering Reina’s words before continuing. “Speaking of how few of us there are, I found a new candidate. I was skeptical at first, and she’s young, but she shows a bit of promise. Plus, she’s from Matsuura.”

Koharu perked up quickly at the news, but Reina considered its implications before responding. So the girl had been on the job. Good for her. This might be just the thing she needed to begin her legacy as Captain of the Skulls – they hadn’t been able to pull someone from House Matsuura in since before her time. Those girls were for some reason usually such goody-goodies and obsessed with nothing but c-uteness. Still, lacking such a member meant a third of Seishin’s population was virtually inaccessible to them, one of the few things that had caused Fujimoto much grief.

“So someone’s got a death wish, huh? She must have been pretty special to sway our Miyakko so quickly,” she said finally.

“Nah, nothin’ like that,” Miyabi responded offhandedly. “She was quite assertive though. I just came on her in the hall, and she told me she wanted to join.”

“Very special indeed…” Reina said, now studying her first mate. They all knew, even though she was younger, that Miyabi had a more impressive resume than Reina. She joined not long after she even entered the school, which was almost unheard of, while Reina had joined late in her own first year – a fact that was still quite impressive, especially since there wasn’t anyone recorded in generations that had joined as early as Reina. That was, until Miyabi came along. She also had quite an aptitude for finding trouble, and an even higher one for getting away with it. Reina knew that if she didn’t have nearly a year more experience and higher class standing than her, it would be a close argument as to who was best suited to be captain. She was still proud though – Fujimoto had not hesitated one bit in naming Reina as her successor. Sometimes first impressions were the most lasting. “So who is this mystery student that I haven’t caught any drift of yet?”

Miyabi was frowning at Koharu for some reason obviously only known to herself as Reina spoke, apparently oblivious of her insinuations, but at her question she responded, “Let’s see… Oh yeah. Okai… something or other.”

“Okai?” Reina asked. “Never heard of her.”

“Okai…” Koharu said slowly with her brows knit. “Chisato? I know of her. She’s a second year. You’re right that she’s young, but if she already shows promise then, well, I guess that’s great news.” Reina was impressed. The girl said that while even knowing the obvious truth that she was putting herself down for only joining at the end of her third year. However, she did sense a slight bitterness in the girl’s voice. If this Okai chick really did pass the audition and get invited to join, the nearly two year gap between their statuses would cause quite a lot of tension between them. Reina grinned vilely. This idea was getting better and better all the time.

“Still drawin’ a blank,” Reina said again after dropping out of her fantasies, and relaxed into her chair. Well, whoever this girl was, they might as well give her a chance. Any potential was better than none, especially with such intriguing strings attached.

“Wait,” Koharu said again quickly. “I remember more now. She always hangs around with…” She shot Miyabi a look that the older girl hurriedly avoided. Now what could that be all about? “…That Suzuki girl who ran into you earlier.” Ah. That would be it.

Reina barked a laugh. “Is that so? I suppose you invited her friends along to the audition, according to the Code?”

Miyabi still avoided their eyes. “Yes…”

Reina jumped up from her chair and loped over to her, stopping only just before running into her. “Are you sure you didn’t invite this Okai to audition just because you wanted to get under the skirt of one of her friends?” she whispered as a sarcastic hiss into her ear.

This time Miyabi brought her eyes up to Reina’s and faced her steadily, her gaze becoming heated. “No,” she growled. “Okai showed as much promise as could be expected before an audition. We’ll find out for sure there.”

“All right then,” Reina said in a suddenly normal voice, and turned back to her chair. She paused before sitting down again though. “For when should I summon the Master?”

“Sunday night,” she heard Miyabi say behind her, since her back was still toward the girl after turning. “The usual place.”

“I’ll note it on my calendar,” she said with a smirk while finally dropping back down into the chair and looking up at Miyabi.

“There’s one more thing…” Miyabi said, a trifle hesitantly.

Reina cocked an eyebrow. “Yes?” Koharu had started pulling on her gum, apparently bored already again. Reina could tell she was listening closely though, but she couldn’t gauge her reaction to the audition. The only people who had a say on auditions were the current captain and the one who found the candidate, so she had no place to talk. That apparently didn’t prevent her from absorbing as much as she could about the situation. Maybe Fujimoto had seen something subtle about the girl.

“In the hall, I didn’t only run into Okai…” Miyabi responded. “Suzuki and the other Goto girl were there too.”

Koharu started giggling, and Reina felt herself grin. “So perhaps there were some ulterior motives…”

“Yes,” Miyabi said, in a more confident voice and becoming angry again. She looked at Reina hard, and it quickly wiped the grin from her face. So the girl was being serious about something. “I wanted to talk to Airi – Suzuki – about what happened when she ran into me.”

Koharu began giggling more at the use of the girl’s first name, plainly wondering about what kind of crush Miyabi might have on her, but Reina didn’t join her. Now that she knew there was a point to get to, she just wanted the girl to get there. Apparently Miyabi was still unsure of Reina’s attitude though, because she hesitated before going on. “I see,” Reina said, letting her know she had her attention. “And?”

The other girl visibly relaxed, although still appeared quite tense for some reason. “It wasn’t just me. She felt it too.” Koharu now had dropped her giggling, and just looked between the other two girls trying to figure out what she’d missed. Reina was beginning to catch on, but she wasn’t sure if she liked where it was heading. “Just like when you and I first touched,” Miyabi finished meaningfully. Reina sighed, closing her eyes. Well now. That was an interesting turn of events.

Before she could gather a response though the door swung open again, and since now the arrival couldn’t possibly be someone who belonged here, all three Skulls shot looks toward it. Reina was almost glad someone had decided to trespass. She felt quite an urging to beat some poor defenseless girl to a pulp at the moment. It had been a long and pulp-free week.

All three of you are here,” came a quite composed yet almost taunting voice from the doorway. “Good. That’ll make this much easier.”

The Skulls froze as the girl who spoke walked through the doorway and was soon followed by two more. “Ai-chan, will you close the door and lock it behind us? We don’t want anyone interrupting us and our little… ice breaker here.”

Reina looked hard at the one who’d spoken. She almost ground her teeth at the girl’s diminutive size and how weak she seemed. Despite that, Saki Shimizu was one of the most respected and feared girls in the school – even by the Skulls. Above and beyond that of course, she was head of House Goto and one of the Circle of Three. Reina had sworn when she became Captain of the Skulls that she would not be cowed by someone as pathetic-looking as her like Fujimoto had been for some reason, and that she would bring the Skulls back to their rightful place. It had been centuries since the Skulls and the Circle had literally had equal footing, and that was one more thing she intended to leave as her legacy. Shimizu was also the perfect one to begin with, but as she looked at the rest and felt the attention of all three, she couldn’t help but feel a little anxious. Her eyes lingered on the last one in – the girl who’d shut the door. Unlike the other two, this one she knew quite well. It was hard to adjust to thinking of her now as a Circle member. She suddenly felt slightly less impressed by the whole idea of the group.

Shimizu followed the gazes of all three Skulls, and Reina noticed they had all been looking at the same person. “Ah, yes. You’ve seen the formalities, but we haven’t introduced House Nakazawa’s new head in a friendly sort of way yet. I believe two of you know her already. Yes? Ai-chan, would you like to say something to our friends?”

Ai Takahashi stepped up and looked from one Skull to another. She didn’t have quite the poise that Shimizu or Yajima did, but Reina had talked with her several times on occasion before she’d joined the Circle. The girl in front of her now seemed much different.

“Hello you guys!” she said in a sweet voice that completely contrasted with Shimizu’s. “I’m still getting used to my new job, but Maimi and Saki-chan here told me we should come down for a little visit.” Her smile almost sickened Reina. “Wow! It’s sure much different not seeing… Mikitty… along with you.” Reina caught a hesitation when the girl said the graduated girl’s name, and her brows furrowed slightly as to what that might mean. She thought back to the times she’d run into Takahashi in previous years. No… It couldn’t be…

Yajima cleared her throat. “As you can see,” she said with a grin, “She’s taking to her new role quite well. She’ll be a nice new flavor to the Circle, don’t you think?” Reina looked at the other Skulls. Miyabi just stared, and Koharu nodded her head with her mouth hanging open as if unaware what she was doing. Suddenly she burst out into a laugh herself.

“Are you guys actually serious?” she choked out, drawing the eyes of all five of the girls, who were in various stages of confusion at her laughter. “So now we have a shrimp and a choirgirl - who kept getting tossed out like garbage while fawning over someone way beyond her league - as our great and wonderful Heads of Seishin? At least one of you almost looks the part!”

Takahashi’s eyes widened at Reina’s derision, and Reina thought she saw some anxiety in them. “How’d you know…?” she began before trailing off as if she hadn’t realized she’d let the words come out of her mouth.

Reina coughed another laugh. “I was so stupid not to realize it before… I thought it was odd I’d run into you so much near here, but each time it was right before Mikitty would talk about another one of her conquests. Then last year she almost laughed every time she talked about ‘this one girl’ who just couldn’t seem to get enough. You didn’t think she actually liked you, did you? You knew she was a Skull after all.”

Takahashi’s face had darkened throughout Reina’s taunting, until when she finished the girl glared at her out of no more than slit eyes, her face quickly adopting the visage of a storm cloud.

“Now, you see,” Yajima said, shaking her head. “This is just the kind of behavior we can’t have from you this year. The Headmaster says this is going to be a very important year for us, and while I’m not sure what that means, we still can’t have you constantly harassing other students and just being generally insubordinate.”

“Insubordinate?” Reina spat. “But you’re the all-powerful Circle. What? Not used to having challenges to your supposed authority?” She purposely turned her back to them and returned to her chair, falling back into it lazily.

“Reina…” Miyabi warned through gritted teeth, her eyes flicking between her and the Three, all of whose expressions became colder by the second. For some reason it also felt like the air around her became colder by the second. She quickly discounted that in her mind. It must be due to how hot she was becoming in her anger and heightening incredulity. Koharu looked like she was almost scared out of her wits. Well, at least one of her girls had some kind of backbone. Far from their glory days, indeed…

Her thought was disrupted violently however when she felt a rush of wind as strong as a typhoon hit her, and her chair flew back to hit the wall, herself thrown up into the air before hitting the wall as well and sliding a meter or two down to where she hit the floor hard. Through the disorientation and sudden blazing pain in her back and rear, she tried to catch her breath and her bearings again.

“Now, now,” Shimizu said, a smile coming to her face. She was speaking to Takahashi, who stared wide-eyed at Reina as if in disbelief at what she’d just seen. Miyabi and Koharu had apparently run to take refuge behind the couch. “There’s no need for such vulgar displays… Although I don’t claim to disagree the good captain deserved it.”

“I…” Takahashi stuttered. “I’m sorry. I don’t know what happened. I just was angry, and…”

“We’re going to have to help her learn to control that, Saki-chan,” Yajima said, looking over at the shorter girl. “It won’t do to have her tossing around everyone she has a fuss about. Now, you take care of the other two, and I’ll tend to our captain over there.” She walked slowly over toward Reina, who tried unsuccessfully to move, while Shimizu rounded the couch for the others.

“Still,” the Head of Matsuura said softly as she bent toward Reina. The girl’s words were plainly intended only for her. “I hope you’ve gotten the message.” She clutched Reina’s arm, and at the touch Reina’s mouth dropped open in a desperate but voiceless scream as she felt scathing fire flood her body, making her feel like she was being burnt to a crisp. The pain was so terrible it felt almost eternal, but it really only lasted a second before the girl released her arm and she felt as if nothing had happened, aside from having developed a sudden soaking sweat to go with the ache in her back which suddenly didn’t seem that big of a deal.

She gasped to take in air to cool herself off, and looked up at Yajima, who was studying her carefully. “You’ll live. That ache will serve as a reminder. I don’t know what it is with you… Skulls… but every time a new leader comes along you have to be taught again who’s really in charge of this school.” She stood up, still looking down at the heavily breathing Reina. “This is a free school, so you can play at your little rebellion as much as you want, but just remember that if we ever catch you causing trouble or being too much of a bad influence…” She left the warning there with a hard expression before turning her head to the side. “Saki-chan, are you done over there?”

“Yeah,” the other girl said, smiling up at Miyabi and Koharu, who were smiling back pleasantly as if they hadn’t a care in the world, much less seen their captain tossed across the room and nearly fried. “I think I’ve come to an understanding with these two. Do you need me to talk to Tanaka too?”

“Nah,” Yajima said, looking back to Reina, who still sat hard against the wall. “Not aside from the usual. I think Ai-chan and I have gotten through to her quite well enough, though in a perhaps… messier… way.” She brushed at her skirt, and Reina vaguely wondered if her skin really had fried and left some ashes on the girl’s clothing. She hoped so. The girl deserved that and much more.

Then, as if drawn by some invisible force, Reina’s eyes were pulled across the room to Shimizu’s, which gazed steadily back. As she shared the look Reina felt a tingling inside her head, but it was gone in a heartbeat and the small girl turned away. Reina blinked, but her present situation hadn’t seemed to change in the slightest. She still nearly groaned as she tried moving her aching sweat-soaked body.

“What’s going on?” Takahashi asked, looking between the other two Circle members. “You’re all giving each other funny looks…”

Yajima smiled. “Oh, just taking care of a little business. Well!” she continued, looking at the three Skulls, Reina still on the floor and the other two beginning to adopt confused looks. “I’m glad we were able to introduce Ai-chan to you all. You all have a wonderful year, and I’m sure we’ll run into each other again.” She beamed at the three Skulls. Reina desired nothing more at the moment than to punch the girl in her brightly smiling mouth to make it bleed, but she still unfortunately couldn’t get up from the floor. “Oh…” she continued, and she frowned down at Reina. “You guys might want to help your friend. I think she’s fallen for some reason and can’t get up…” At this cue, Miyabi and Koharu looked over at her, and with concern developing on their faces walked over to help her, much to Reina’s disgruntlement.

“See you around!” Shimizu chirped as she led the Three out the door, Yajima not looking back but Takahashi casting Reina a nervous glance. Before her comrades had helped her up though, they were gone, the door swung shut again behind them.



“Some help you two were,” Reina grumbled, narrowing her eyes at Miyabi and Koharu.

“What?” Miyabi asked. “It’s not our problem you fell.” She cast a glance back toward the door. Something had just happened, but she couldn’t remember what. She could have sworn there were just other girls there…

“Yeah,” Koharu snorted. “Some captain. Can’t even stop herself from falling dow ~ OUCH!” she finished, stumbling toward the side after a ringing blow from Reina’s hand.

“What the hell!” Reina swore, looking between the two of them. “Am I the only one with any brains in here? Didn’t you see what just happened? This means war…”

“What are you talking about?” Miyabi asked. She was getting annoyed with Reina’s not making sense, but that wasn’t the only thing that fed her temper. She still felt some kind of fog in her mind that she couldn’t shake however hard she tried.

“I’m talking about…” Reina began brusquely before cutting off abruptly. “About…” It looked as if she was trying to mouth words, but nothing came out. Her eyes widened and she looked desperately between her two kouhai.

“Yes?” Miyabi asked skeptically. Of all times for their captain to go crazy… They had an important audition coming up, and she needed to get ready for it. “We were just talking about the Okai girl’s audition. You were going to call the Master?”

Reina opened her mouth a couple more times before closing it without saying a word. Miyabi tried to keep her face as straight and serious as possible. “Are you getting sick or something?” Koharu asked, now looking cautiously at Reina. “If so, you better get away from me… I have a lot of homework to do this weekend – not to mention girls to taunt – so I better not catch anything!”

This time when Reina closed her mouth it clicked shut. “Girls to taunt…” she growled, though she did so slowly as if surprised she could speak. “Girls to… taunt…” she growled in an even more dangerous voice, and by this point Miyabi thought Koharu’s wariness was well-founded.

Sure enough, barely another second passed before Reina jumped the girl, and with a screech from Koharu they crashed to the floor, both wrestling and fighting for position. Every so often Koharu would emit another screech when Reina pulled out a bit of her hair. Miyabi leaned against a pillar lazily and watched, yawning. The two ended up doing this quite often for some reason. She had tried stopping them in the beginning, but since then she’d learned to let them be. Reina always won of course, but despite all the clawing and hair-pulling Koharu usually somehow ended up barely the worse for wear.

Miyabi didn’t move until Koharu was thrown against the pillar she leaned on, and she dodged aside easily to avoid getting knocked down by the girl as well. She fell to the floor, and Reina towered over her, chest heaving in exertion. She was also sweating a lot more than usual for some reason. “Geez Rei-chan, you seriously need a bath,” Miyabi said.

Reina’s furious gaze snapped up to Miyabi. “You want a piece of me too?” she warned, but Miyabi looked back at her with disinterest.

“Sure,” she responded with little emotion. “Just name the time and the place.” After staring another second, Reina just huffed and turned to walk away a few steps, holding her arms crossed. “You know Captain, pouting really doesn’t suit you.”

“My boot will suit your…”

“Hey!” Miyabi suddenly interrupted with a shout, feeling some of the fog clear somehow in her mind. She’d been fighting against it throughout Reina and Koharu’s whole fight, and right this moment forgot everything else at the sudden breakthrough. “The shock!”

Reina turned fully around to stare at her. “What?” she asked, totally thrown herself.

“I remember now! Right before you fell we were talking about when I ran into Airi—” she ignored Koharu’s giggle this time “—and how we both felt some kind of shock when we touched! And how it reminded me a lot of when you and I first…” Reina’s eyes widened as if she had just come to some realization as well. “What is it? Do you remember something?”

“Yes…” Reina responded. “I remember something alright.” She suddenly became an odd mixture of excited and seemingly mad. “Those…” she started, spluttering before saying more. “She…” Once again she failed to say more. “Iya~!!” she screamed in disgust, and threw her arms up. Miyabi was completely lost, and by what she could see out of the corner of her eye, so was Koharu. “Fine!” Reina yelled into the air as if to no one, while looking up at the ceiling in the same way. “I get it!” She brought her gaze back down to Miyabi. “Yes…” she hissed between gritted teeth. “That does sound very similar to what happened between you and me.”

Feeling relief that her supposed senpai may not have completely lost it yet, Miyabi commented again quickly. “That’s kind of odd, isn’t it? We should probably look into it?”

“Yes…” Reina said condescendingly as if speaking to a young schoolgirl, making Miyabi’s own eyes narrow. “We probably should talk to this… Airi… more.” The girl’s words made Miyabi drop her ire and lower her head in a blush. “She’ll be coming to Okai’s audition, right?”

Miyabi nodded, keeping her eyes down. “Yes. I would guess so. Suzuki seems to be her closest friend, and you know girls like them. If they can get away without doing something on their own, they will.” She was careful not to say anything but ‘Suzuki’ this time.

“Good,” Reina responded in a high voice, as if satisfied in a maniacal sort of way. “We’ll go about things as usual, and Sunday night we’ll… do our best to learn more.” Miyabi grinned, looking up at her leader. Despite her quite odd attitude, Reina’s mouth curved up in a smirk as well. That was beginning to sound like quite a fun night. The mist unclouded in her mind to reveal the face of the girl from her own House that hung around with Suzuki and Okai, and she tried her best to keep herself from blushing again. Well… she corrected herself. In a manner of speaking…

Then she was snapped out of her thoughts by the girl next to her, who stood looking at shards of wood and cloth jumbled against the wall. “Um…” Koharu said. “What happened to the chair?”
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [3: The Skulls]
Post by: mode107 on October 24, 2007, 03:31:45 AM
Updated  :w00t:

So is this cave thing coming in the next chapter? I can't wait to read what'll happen. Maybe they're gonna "beat in' Chisato?  Hope not.
  So Saki is head of the house of Goto and Ai is head of Nakazawa? and Ai liked Miki? niceee

and those parts where Miya blushed when Reina mentioned Saki, is it possibly Miya is starting to like Airi too?
I like that c-uteness line  you added in there.  :lol:
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [3: The Skulls]
Post by: chibilolli on October 24, 2007, 11:28:58 AM
Wow. What a great story so far. I know you said that the 'houses' are based on Harry Potter but when I read it I think of Strawberry Panic! Have you seen that anime?

I like your placement of Koharu in the skulls. First of all I thought she was too 'dumb' to be in a group like that. But all the 'hard' gangs need one stupid person with them lol.

Can't wait for the next chapter with the audition (if you put it in there). I'll spare you the 'Update Now's!!!' until later lol.

and I promise to write better comments as the story goes on
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [3: The Skulls]
Post by: iacus on October 30, 2007, 07:49:13 AM
*Random story speculation time*

Reina, Miyabi, and Airi, all have the same "potential" as the Circle girls have. Reina is going to try to use this to overthrow the Circle/make the skulls famous/get revenge. There's probably something big happening with the Circle as well but I can't tell what that is yet. Is Miki going to come back as a teacher? That would be so awesome.
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [3: The Skulls]
Post by: g4rfield on October 30, 2007, 05:52:42 PM
So....what I gather from the little 'incident' with Reina is that The Circle all possesses magic within them, as proven when Ai-chan tossed Reina like a sack of garbage across the room, Saki burn Reina's inside, (Fire magic?) and put the silence spell on her, making her not able to tell the other 2 about what exactly had happened.

The Skulls doesn't look like they're capable of any magic right now, but they might be when they connect with a certain someone like Miyabi with Airi or Miyabi with Reina when they touch. Hmmmm...interesting.  :mon heh:

Heh...I feel all doki doki while reading chapter 3 and as soon as it near the end I get all sad again. You need to write longer chapter Rokun.  :grin: Yeah I'm greedy. I also can see the differences in paragraphs now. It's shorter and much easier on the eyes. Yaay for that!  :w00t:
This sentence confuse me a little “So now we have a shrimp and a choirgirl - who kept getting tossed out like garbage while fawning over someone way beyond her league" until you supply the explanation on the next paragraph. *jaw dropping* Ai-chan had a crush on Miki??! Wow. Just wow.
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [4: The Three]
Post by: rokun on November 01, 2007, 06:29:32 PM
Thank you guys for being interested in my story. ^_^ I hope maybe to get some more comments as it goes on and develops more. Speaking of development, in the next chapter there's a lot of information about the world... And it's also a good bit longer if that's something you wanted. :P Also, some of your questions might be answered or explained a bit more fully...

However, it seems like some of you are on pretty good tracks for where the story's going. :) I also wanted to comment on the part of Ai liking Miki, which some of you have mentioned (and I'm glad to see you enjoy). Yeah it might have been a little confusing when Reina first started babbling about them, but she'd just come to the realization herself and was figuring out how to express it in her own mind. So I have a feeling everyone in the room was confused at least at first. :lol: More on that too in the next chapter. :) Maybe you've noticed a little theme as to the chapters so far... This will probably be the last one like that though, since the plot is really beginning to get underway. The chapter after this should be very interesting. ;) For now, a lot of dialogue and background! Hope you enjoy, lol.

____________________________________


Chapter 4 – The Three

“All right!” Ai shouted. “We’ll do better next time, I’m sure of it!”

She stood on a slightly raised platform looking at a group of disheveled girls from her house who wore rather disappointed expressions. They’d just finished the final competition of their inter-house tournament – a futsal game - and although they had beaten Goto, they lost to Matsuura in points, something that she knew she would never live down to Yajima-san. She thought a second. She supposed she should just be calling the girl Maimi from now on, since they were both Circle members now after all.

That idea and what it entailed still seemed rather crazy to her. It was just at the end of last year when Yoshizawa-san had called her to her room – the girl’s own room! – and told her that she was recommending her as Nakazawa’s new Head. She knew there wasn’t a very talented batch of younger students. Tanaka had shown some promise, but for some reason the Circle didn’t look too kindly upon the Skulls, much less recruit from them, and now with both Mikitty and Yoshizawa gone her house was quite weakened. She also knew that she herself couldn’t yet compete with Yajima or Shimizu…

She looked over at the other groups of girls. Shimizu – Saki – was already leading her rowdy group back to their house. She wondered how the girl did it. She looked as proud as ever in her diminutive figure, and her girls chatted as if they’d just won. Maybe competition just didn’t mean the same thing to everyone. Then she looked at Maimi.

The Head of House Matsuura was giving her girls a very emotional pep talk, to which there were loud cheers and condescending looks on the girls from other Houses. They were obviously happy they won. It doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone…

“Um, Ai…chan?” a girl from the front row just before her said. Ai blinked and looked at her before breaking into a smile. “Are you going to stand up there all day?”

She blushed around her smile, and with a glare at a chuckling Tanaka a few rows back stepped down to join the curious one. She wasn’t sure if she liked Tanaka better now that she was ignoring her, or before last night when the girl just cracked jokes and made fun of her. Of course, she did the same thing to everyone, and none of the rest were spared the torments that she now avoided since tossing the girl across a room. She still was astonished, and a bit frightened, of how she did that. Maimi and Saki promised to teach her, but nothing happened last night since they all just wanted go to bed.

The Nakazawa girls began walking back to their house, but most avoided her except for a few of her closer friends at the front, and none were closer than the girl who brought her back to reality when she had dozed off on the platform.

“If I’d known becoming part of the Circle would change you that much, Ai-chan, I wouldn’t have let you do it…” said Risa Niigaki as she looked over at her with a concerned face.

She smiled back. “I’m not really different. I guess I just have different… responsibilities. You know I’m not used to it. With Mikitty and Yoshizawa around, there wasn’t much need for anyone else…”

Risa snorted a laugh back. The two of them had known each other since arriving at the academy over six years ago, and were close friends almost from the start. However, for some reason the girl had never approved of her choices of people to date…

“Fat lot Fujimoto did,” she said after her laugh. “Unless you call harassing every girl she came across and doing her best to be a bad influence on those delinquents a great contribution to the school…”

“Hey,” Ai said, in a voice that was not amused at all. “Don’t talk about her like that. Nobody really understood her.”

“And you did?” Risa asked skeptically. “If you regard spending a few nights in her room as a way of finding some understanding of her, then most of the older girls in the school would understand her perfectly.”

Ai rounded on her best friend, her eyes burning with anger. The girls following them stopped, looking among each other to see if anyone knew why their new leader looked as if she was about to attack one of the other seventh years. Risa gave her a wary yet challenging look in return. A slight breeze also came up from somewhere and started swirling around them.

“I think you’ve insulted her enough for now…” she said through gritted teeth. “You’d think my best friend would be a little more supportive at a time like this…”

“…Whatever,” Risa responded after a second. “I’m just glad she’s gone, so you can wake up and smell reality again.”

The wind whipped up a little more, and Ai opened her mouth to give another retort, but stopped when she felt a hand on her shoulder. Seeing the other girls suddenly become anxious she had an idea who it was, and quickly tried to calm her own mood.

Before looking back, she shouted to them, “Good job everyone! Run on back to the house and enjoy the evening.” Most looking very relieved, they hurriedly broke ranks and ran ahead as Ai turned to face the girl who interrupted her.

“I thought I’d break in here before you lose control again and do something you’ll really regret this time,” Maimi said quietly with a small smile. She lowered her voice even further to continue, likely so that Risa couldn’t hear what she said. “Tossing a Skull around is one thing, but I think you’d feel bad doing that to one of your friends…”

Being unable to hear didn’t keep Risa from leaning forward to try and catch the girl’s words. Maimi looked over at her and started speaking in a normal voice again. “Quite an inquisitive friend you’ve got there, Ai-chan. Brave and loyal, too. Not many people would even approach me if I was with other Circle members.”

“Thank you for the compliment…” Risa said in a bitter voice as she scrutinized the younger girl. Ai didn’t think she’d ever gotten used to girls younger than her in their authority positions, especially compared with the examples Yoshizawa and Iida had set in their time here.

“We’ve been best friends since first year,” Ai said quietly. Come to think of it, she never did really see Maimi or Saki hanging out with members of their own houses. From time to time she’d see Maimi flirting with Umeda or Saki chatting with Tsugunaga, but from what she could tell their relationships could hardly be called friendship. In her last year though, she was determined not to let anything change with Risa. She just had to figure out how to keep her temper better... And it would help a whole lot if the girl just dropped the subject of Mikitty.

“I see,” Maimi said with her unchanging smile. “That’s very sweet. Ai-chan,” she began, looking over at her. “Would you walk with us? We should talk about today’s events.” Ai looked beyond the girl and noticed for the first time that Saki had joined them. The petite girl was easy to miss sometimes…

“If it’s all the same to you,” Risa said, “I’d like to stay with Ai-chan too.”

Maimi raised an eyebrow at Ai, who looked back steadily, before responding indifferently, “Suit yourself. We’re going to the Circle’s private bath, but you can tag along on the way.”

Then the two other Heads began walking without regard for what the two of them were doing. Ai gave Risa a look before hurrying to keep up, and her friend fell in at her side soon after.

“It was a fun day, don’t you think?” Maimi commented in a bright voice.

“For you, maybe,” Saki said, her face seemingly dark. “You didn’t come in last place.”

“You’re right,” Maimi responded, her voice losing none of its luster. “We didn’t!”

“Aren’t you being a little cocky?” Risa asked, and for her effort got a glance from Maimi before she turned her eyes back ahead as if the girl wasn’t even there.

“I’m very happy with my House this year. We’ve got some very strong second years, and our first year class even seems to be the best in a generation.”

“Second years, huh?” Saki said, a little caustically. “I suppose you’d mean Suzuki and the older Okai girl. They do seem pretty strong… I think they could even beat out some of your fourth and fifth years, don’t you?”

Maimi frowned at her. “I didn’t mean it that way… I just said they’re strong.”

“Whatever,” Saki retorted. “I’d like to see Natsuyaki or Sudou tackle some of their classmates from your area. I have a feeling we’d have some Matsuura to sweep up from the floor after that…”

“Don’t forget Natsuyaki is a Skull,” Maimi growled, and Ai thought she was nearly going to round on the other Circle member. “That basically forfeits anything she can do.”

“Speaking of…” Saki responded, apparently changing the subject since she knew she couldn’t argue that point. “I heard your Okai girl has set up an audition with them.” This time Maimi stopped dead, and Risa exchanged a glance with Ai as the rest of them stopped too. They were barely halfway across the field and back to the school.

“Is that so…” she said in a low and dangerous voice, avoiding everyone’s gaze as she stared at nothing, apparently caught in her own thought. Ai once more felt the same thing she did in the room with the Skulls yesterday. The air around them seemed to suddenly become chilly. Risa even crossed her arms as if to keep warm, but obviously thought nothing of it. After yesterday’s events, Ai wasn’t so sure anymore that it was a coincidence…

Saki smiled smugly in her apparent victory. “Yeah, it’s too bad really…” she said as if speaking idle thoughts. “I just hope it doesn’t rub off on her sister too… It would be a shame if your first and second year classes, which do show so much promise, would come under a bad influence…”

“Not if I can help it,” Maimi said, still with her dangerous voice. “No Matsuura has been with the Skulls in either my or Ishikawa’s time as Head, and I don’t intend that to change now.”

Saki kept smiling, despite Ai’s thoughts that it might be good not to press the Head of Matsuura any further. “And how exactly do you plan to stop them? You’ve somehow been able to keep any qualified girl away from auditioning all this time, but once it’s begun you know we have little power to stop them from doing whatever they want to.”

“Yeah,” Maimi responded, her voice becoming a little more normal, to the relief of both Ai and Risa. “Well, I think it’s time we reassert our authority. The Skulls have been allowed to flourish for far too long at this school.”

Saki even giggled at that. “It’s been this way for centuries, Maimi! You know we can’t do anything about it because we can’t use our powers in front of anyone. Without them, we’re nothing more than average girls that happen to lead the others around by the noses.”

Silence met them after Saki spoke though, because Maimi had turned quickly to a confused-looking Risa, and after a second Saki looked her way too with a frown. As if to put it behind them, Maimi began walking briskly again, forcing the others to either keep up or stay behind.

They walked quietly for most of the rest of the way before Saki spoke up again, this time in a noticeably more chastened and controlled voice. “So what’s going on with you and Suzuki anyway?” she asked Maimi. “Ever since your ‘talk’ with her last spring, you seem to pay a lot more attention to her, and even I was surprised at the, er, extent you went to back then.

Maimi broke into a grin. “She’s cute, there’s no doubt about that, even if she is a little bookworm. I don’t know. What do you think, Ai-chan?” At the sound of her name, Ai was brought stiffly to attention, but she felt a little lost in the conversation. “Do you think a young girl like her, and a queen like me…” Ai stared at her. “I was kidding about the ‘queen’ thing, you know…” she said quickly.

After Ai stared a few more seconds, she turned away again. “Gosh,” she said in a disbelieving voice. “Saki-chan, we’ve really got some work to do on this one…”

“Don’t bother telling me that,” Saki responded. “If you went on to me about skirt chasing after a second year, I’d stare at you like you were crazy too.” She leaned her head around Maimi’s body to give Ai a toothy grin, which she gratefully smiled back at.

“Pssht,” Maimi sassed in return. “Don’t tell me you’ve never thought about it. I’ve seen you making eyes at that one second year of your own. Sugaya I think her name is… right?”

“I do not!” Saki cried, scandalized.

“Do too,” Maimi said, grinning, and this time she shared it with Ai as well.

“Do not!!” she insisted again. “I’m not a perv like you are.”

“Well,” Maimi said with a shrug. “A Circle member has few choices. Sometimes we have to take what we can get. I still don’t understand how you can be so satisfied with just boys even though none are around here.”

“There are plenty back at home during vacation time…” Saki explained slowly and with emotion. “While here, I can restrain my urges for a few months…”

“Your loss,” Maimi said, shrugging again, and this time grinned at both Ai and Risa, who ducked her eyes quickly away from the other girl’s. Now what was that all about?

“Er…” Ai said, feeling like she was intruding when speaking for the first time in so long. The other two girls looked interestedly at her though, which gave her confidence to continue. “I’m afraid I’m with Maimi here on this one, Saki…” she said carefully, and Saki huffed overdramatically, turning away.

“See?” Maimi said. “Even our wise and powerful Nakazawa colleague sees the sense in not denying your urges. You’ve got nearly three more years here, Saki-chan. You really should lighten up.”

I have to lighten up?” Saki responded. Maimi grinned and shrugged again.

“Although…” Ai began slowly again. “Seriously, Maimi…” the girl looked at her curiously. “A second year?”

This time Saki giggled. “I think she’ll fit in just fine. Don’t you, oh queenly one?”

“Oh I’m sure she will…” Maimi responded distractedly, but didn’t go on since they had finally reached the entrance to the Circle’s compound. “Well, it’s time for us to go on alone,” she said, turning to Risa. “Scram, unworthy one.” She said that in a teasing voice, but it was still clearly a dismissal. However, Risa looked at Ai before going anywhere.

“You’d better go…” Ai said reluctantly. “There really isn’t supposed to be anyone except Circle members allowed in here, and don’t you remember the stories that the Headmaster will come down and eat you if you try to get in and aren’t in the Circle?”

“And also the fire-breathing dog…” Maimi added.

“And the ghost of an old Head who haunts the tower and will never let you sleep again…” Saki added too.

Ai shrugged and grinned as if to express her helplessness. “I’ll come visit you later tonight, okay?”

“Okay…” Risa said. “You be careful, Ai-chan,” she said seriously.

Ai was a little confused by her tone of voice, but responded brightly, “Aren’t I always?” before following the other two girls in.



A short time later saw the three Heads soaking very happily in the large bath which sat in the middle of a chamber that had to have been larger than most classrooms. It was less a bath than a hot spring somehow brought into the middle of the school. After spending a little time there, Ai decided she may very well be able to get used to this whole Circle thing after all…

Maimi sighed in pleasure. “Now that’s what I call nice after such a long day…”

“No kidding…” Saki agreed.

“What are you talking about?” Maimi responded, tilting her head and half-opening an eye to look at the other girl. “If you’d actually done any work you wouldn’t have come in last. I still can’t believe you lost to our Ai-chan here…” Saki just sighed, apparently in too much comfort to be bothered by the girl’s diatribes this time.

“By the way,” she said after a time, changing the subject again. “What’s going on with that friend of yours there, Ai-chan? It’s not too often someone willingly walks with us that far like that.”

“Mmm… What are you talking about, Saki-chan?” Ai responded, unhappy with the interruption of her relaxation. Speaking was something that felt like it took more work than was necessary right at this moment.

Maimi coughed out a laugh. “The girl’s obviously in love with you,” she said. “I could see it every time she looked at you.”

“That’s ridiculous,” Ai said, brushing off their comments and trying to return to her relaxation. “We’ve been friends for ages. It was never anything like that.”

“If you say so,” Saki responded, and gratefully seemed to let the subject drop.

However, after another minute or so Maimi spoke up. “Was it true? What Tanaka was saying about you last night?”

“Huh?” Ai responded. That seemed like all she could drag out of her throat since words and especially complete sentences seemed too exhausting a proposition at the moment.

“About you and… Fujimoto. You know, you fawning over her when she threw you out like garbage and just treated you like one of her conquests, but you still couldn’t get enough.”

This time Ai’s attention was captured fully, and she lolled her head to stare hard at the rude Head of Matsuura. “It’s not like that,” she told her firmly. “I was special to her.” Maimi cleared her throat instead of responding, and shared a look with Saki.

“You know,” Saki said in a tentative voice. That might be the first time Ai heard such an unsure tone coming from either of their mouths. “Now that you’re in the Circle, a lot of things will be different for you. It’s almost all good, but one of the first things you need to do is be honest with yourself.” Maimi nodded as if encouraging the girl to go on. “Fujimoto kind of… got around.”

“I know,” Ai said stoically. And she did know of all the girls other than herself who had gone to that room and not resurfaced until the next morning. But these new friends of hers didn’t know what it was like. Mikitty just had this way with her… She made her feel more special than anyone ever had before.

The other two shared a look again. “Listen,” Maimi said. “Fujimoto isn’t the type for commitment. I don’t doubt she made you feel, um, very special, and I’m sure she quite enjoyed your little trysts, but that’s all they were to her. Tell me,” she said, pulling herself up in the bath a little to focus fully on Ai. “Have you even heard from her at all since she graduated and left Seishin?”

Ai stared between the two girls. Maimi looked hard at her, but Saki just gave her glances every so often when she opened her eyelids halfway as she relaxed. “Well… no…”

Maimi nodded solemnly. “And have you tried contacting her in that time?”

“…I’ve mailed her once or twice.” It was more like several dozen times, but the girl had never responded. She didn’t want to hear any more, but Maimi wouldn’t let up.

“Then I don’t think you need our help to figure out where you stand…” And she relaxed back into the water, apparently satisfied she’d now said enough.

Ai sat there a moment as the girl’s words – and her own – resounded through her mind. She’d been trying so desperately to cling to some hope… but they were right… she was right… It was obvious where she stood. It just wasn’t easy to accept. She’d given to and shared more with the girl than she had anyone else, over the course of almost two years. And even before she had the nerve to approach her, she’d had a crush on her for nearly as long.

She began crying a little and hugging herself, and Maimi reached over to pat her shoulder. “It’s okay… I know it must be hard. But the best thing you can do is move on.”

“I’d start by paying more attention to that friend of yours,” Saki continued. “Like you heard us say, it’s hard for anyone in the Circle to have a relationship while in school, but it’s not unheard of. And as long as you stay away from the Skulls, you’ll be fine.” Ai looked over to see the girl smiling at her. “For example, it’s probably best not to become like Maimi-chan here. Not only has the girl whose skirt she’s chasing barely lost her baby fat, but she also may soon be the best friend of a member of the Skulls.”

“I swear, I didn’t know that,” Maimi said seriously. “If I had… but it’s too late now. It’s not her herself that’s joining, and I know I can best any member of the Skulls any day, so I’m certain I can keep her from being corrupted.”

“Um…” Ai started, wanting to finally ask about things that had been on her mind almost constantly since last night. “Why does the Circle despise the Skulls so much? And what happened last night? I… I don’t know what I did, but I think you guys did something too… I’m surprised what happened isn’t all over the school by now.”

Maimi and Saki exchanged glances once again. “I’m sure you know by now, Ai-chan…” Saki began. “But being in the Circle gives us certain… privileges. Privileges above and beyond authority as Heads of Houses.”

“The ceremony we performed for you last night bestows in a new Circle member the power inherent in her House,” Maimi continued. She checked to see how Ai was receiving this information, and at a blank look since she didn’t understand what the girl was saying at all, explained further. “I suppose you know the legend of how Seishin Gakuin was founded?”

“Of course,” Ai responded impatiently. “That’s one of the basic traditions of the school. Nearly two thousand years ago, around when China first took notice of us, three exceptionally powerful women from different tribes around Japan came together and decided to start what, at the time, was a training center for young women with similar ambitions. It’s evolved over the years as our education system has evolved into the school it is today, but that legend is what we take a lot of our pride as Seishin students from. Of course, there’s surely no truth to it… I bet it was just started during the Edo period to try to rally popular support for the shogunate.”

“Well, that’s an interesting theory…” Saki said. “And one that I’m sure many people believe both inside and outside of Seishin. However…” She looked earnestly at Ai. “The legend is true.”

Ai stared at her. “How do you know that?”

Saki became slightly ruffled at her challenge, but Maimi responded calmly, in contrast to her usual demeanor. “We just know it. If you really think about it yourself, you’ll realize it too. The theory you gave might be what you believed before, but after last night, you’ll experience certain revelations… and that’s one of them.”

Ai still stared at both of them. What the girls had just told her seemed ridiculous, and yet… Now that she thought about it, she wondered why they couldn’t be right. There was definitely something going on inside her, and it had to have some cause, didn’t it? Plus, it almost seemed like she could envision those three women from the legend more sharply than she could have based on any picture she’d seen up until now. She could almost see them smiling at her…

When she came back to reality though, all she saw were the two other Heads smiling at her. “See?” Maimi asked. “You know the truth now. However, the legend is a little different from how we’ve always learned it…” She looked over at Saki, who nodded before continuing the explanation.

“Nakazawa, Goto, and Matsuura were supposedly women with high authority in their tribes. That kind of power was unusual for any women of the day to hold, so it’s amazing no one wonders more how they came to it.” She smiled eagerly as she went on, as if excited about telling the story. “They came to their status because they had power beyond political authority… In their day, they were called witches.”

Ai became silent in thought at the girl’s words. Witches? That means they had some kind of mystical power – powers like that which she’d just been observing among herself and the other Circle members…

Saki continued hurriedly, “It’s said in secret histories found only in this building that they bestowed some version of their power to those that followed after them… to those students that showed the most promise at the school… to those who were granted authority over other students…”

“The Heads of the Houses…” Ai said, completing the girl’s line of reasoning.

The other two nodded. “That’s what they are today. What we are, Ai-chan.”

Suddenly Ai became afraid as she slowly embraced the realization. So some part of one of these historical witches was now inside her? Aside from being creepy, she was scared about what that power might mean. After all, she’d thrown Tanaka across the room and nearly done the same to her best friend…

“But…” she began in a trembling voice. “What… how… what kind of… powers… do I have then?”

“They’re different for each Circle member; for each representative of a different House,” Saki responded. “It’s said the original three founders had different powers, and so bequeathed only their own to the Heads of their respective Houses.”

“So that means…” Maimi continued. “We can’t necessarily help you directly with your own, but we can do our best to guide you on the general principles. Yoshizawa wasn’t exactly… forthcoming… over what all she could do, so we don’t necessarily even know everything you’re capable of.”

She looked at Saki and gave her face a discerning inspection. “I don’t think even the two of us know what one another is fully capable of.” Saki just smiled softly… and quietly. Maimi took her eyes from the girl and looked out the large window looking out onto the night. “If I remember right, it’s almost a new moon tonight, isn’t it? Are you planning to go out later?”

“Maybe,” Saki responded. “There’s an audition for the Skulls tomorrow, after all. It might be good to liven things up a little bit…” Ai looked carefully at the small girl, and noticed that not only was she excited to tell the story, she’d seemed to be excited all night so far. She suddenly felt slightly insecure sitting in the bath with her.

“Ah, yes. That audition…” Maimi said. “We’ll definitely have to keep an eye on it. Care to join us in our plotting, Ai-chan?” she asked her, a sly grin gracing her lips.

“Um…” Ai said, but decided she’d better do what she could to keep these girls happy. “Sure. It sounds like… fun.” She kept her eyes on Saki that whole time, but the girl just smiled up at nothing as if musing to herself.

“Great! I think it’d be the best thing for you, especially since Fujimoto is likely to arrive sometime tonight.” Ai’s attention was instantly caught by this new piece of information, and everything else flew out of her head.

“Yes…” Saki said, still staring at the ceiling. “I’m particularly looking forward to that.”

“Mikitty…?” Ai asked, trying to hold back her excitement.

“Don’t get your hopes up too much,” Maimi warned. “We’ve heard that she’s taken some important position in the Skulls alumni association or whatever they want to call it. It’s kind of like the Circle – once you’re a member, unless you really screw something up, you’re in it for life. Anyway, I doubt she’ll be giving any calls to old flings she’s completely outgrown now.”

Ai was silent at the girl’s words. Well, this might be a chance for her to find out once and for all if what the girls were saying about her was true. “That’s why we want to keep you with us while she’s here,” Saki said earnestly. “I don’t think anything good would come of you meeting her alone now that you’re in the Circle, and while we’re not crazy about seeing her again, we also don’t want you electrocuting her or pulling what you did with Tanaka again. Only this time, I think you’d toss her a much longer distance…”

“I’ll keep myself under control,” Ai muttered, affronted at how these girls thought they needed to take care of her and watch her every step.

“Well then I’m certain we’ll have nothing to worry about…” Maimi said, relaxing into the water again. “I think we’ve been in here just about long enough,” she said after a time. “But, this talk of you meeting Fujimoto reminded me… We never answered your question about the Skulls, did we?” Ai shook her head, though the girl paid her no mind and just went on.

“The Skulls have been around for almost as long as the Circle. Yes, since not long after the founding. They’ve had different characteristics throughout the centuries of course, but the common thing has been that they’ve always rebelled against the Circle’s – and thus the school’s – authority. Now, not even the ancient Circle members who wrote the secret histories know why, but they’ve always been a thorn in our sides, and despite our best efforts we can’t seem to get rid of them.”

She paused a minute as if to let her soaking relax her a bit more before continuing. “Recently the Circle has been winning that battle, and we’ve managed to regain our full authority a little bit. Yoshizawa was able to somehow keep a leash on Fujimoto…”

“A leash?” Ai asked, responding to the horrible things that image conjured in her mind.

“Yes,” Maimi said. “And now I think we might have to do the same thing with Tanaka and Natsuyaki. Tanaka might be their Captain, but we’re not fooled that there isn’t some friction between them. They have too few members right now to be much of a threat, but if they start recruiting again, which seems to be starting with that Okai girl’s audition tomorrow…”

“I have to vouch for that,” Saki interjected. “If they get even five members again, they can cause us a lot of trouble. Especially if they pick someone up from Matsuura.” She looked at Maimi, who nodded grimly. “Maimi’s done a good job of keeping order in her House without their meddling, and that’s also why she’s… well… how she is today.” She looked up at Maimi, in a slightly nervous way, Ai thought. The other girl just smiled.

Ai felt like she understood. She’d felt it since she’d gotten to know these girls more. They all might be in the Circle, but Maimi clearly seemed to be the most confident of them all in her power. Were the Skulls really that big of an influence on the Houses?

As if in response to her inner question, Maimi said softly, “I feel sorry for Saki-chan a lot of the time. She puts up with a lot from Natsuyaki. I think she may even be losing a few hairs…” She grinned over at the smaller girl, who gave her a shadowy look in response. Ai had no clue what the girl might have meant other than the obvious – her hair is falling out – but she didn’t notice anything of the like. Her hair was quite bushy now, actually. She also knew that she’d rather not have Saki glaring at her in that way… It really scared her, and she wasn’t even its target. She idly began wondering what Saki’s secret powers might be…

“Well, I think that’s good enough for me tonight,” Maimi said, climbing out of the bath and snagging a towel hanging beside it. “Ai-chan, just remember it’s best if you stay in. We don’t want you running into Fujimoto yet, plus Saki has her little… scouting mission… that I don’t think you’re quite ready for yet.” She smiled as she talked about the other Circle member, who very quietly and calmly as if ignoring her words climbed out of the bath as well.

Supposing she might as well follow, Ai did the same. “Sure, no problem,” she said. “I think I’ll just go to meet Gaki-san and hang out for a while.” She looked up at the other girls as they toweled off. “That is okay, right?”

“Of course,” Saki said distractedly. “You two have fun.”

“Yes,” Maimi said with a grin. “Have fun!”

Ai blushed, suddenly feeling very naked in front of these girls in just the towel she held around her, and turned away stiffly to head toward her clothes. She heard some giggling behind her as she did. She honestly didn’t know what they were talking about. Her and Gaki-san? They’d been best friends for what seemed like forever. There was no way…

Title: Re: The Circle of Three [4: The Three]
Post by: g4rfield on November 01, 2007, 11:33:27 PM
The Circle Inner bath house!  :shocked: Some questions answered some don't. For example, why is it that in most TakaGaki pairing fic, it's always Risa who fall in love with Ai? Maybe you can enlighten me a bit.  :grin: Other than that, I'll wait until the audition. Go Rokun write more chapters!!! [crack whip] *I'm such a slave driver*  XD
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [4: The Three]
Post by: mode107 on November 02, 2007, 02:06:22 AM
Quote
“I know,” Ai said stoically. And she did know of all the girls other than herself who had gone to that room and not resurfaced until the next morning.
  :shakeit: 

lol, I'm sorry, I've always wanted to use that. It's  nice that you gave us the bg info on the two. So Miki's coming back? sweeeet. I have a feeling she might feel a bit jealous if she sees TakaGaki together, kinda in that 'you dont really care' way, but then you still have those feelings deep inside.

and c'mon Ai, just go for Gaki  :P

I wanna be in the private bath! :bath: :tantrum:
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [4: The Three]
Post by: chibilolli on November 06, 2007, 11:03:23 PM
Great chapter. It was nice to find out more about the circle members. Now I want to know about the Skull members.

Reina and Miya FTW :heart:
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [5: Audition]
Post by: rokun on November 09, 2007, 01:04:49 AM
Another chapter for you guys for the weekend. ^_^ For the first time in a while, this is the longest chapter I've ever written... It may not be quite to Estrea's extreme-ness yet, but at 9k words there's still a lot going on. :lol: I feel like I put a good bit into it, and although it was hard I'm happy with the result. I'm not getting many responses yet, but I hope maybe this will cause some more people to chime in. ^___^ I'd be thrilled if someone commented on quite a few of the different things that go on here... Anyway! Here you go! It's audition time. :twisted:


Chapter 5 – Audition

Reina walked through the moonless darkness, doing her best to act as if she wasn’t afraid of the night since of course as Captain of the Skulls she couldn’t be. However, even if she betrayed any sign of fright or cowardice, nobody would see her because good girls of Seishin didn’t walk by themselves out-of-doors in the middle of the night.

She was trying her best, but it was hard, especially after she’d seen what the Circle was capable of the night before. They’d even put some curse on her to make her unable to tell anyone what she’d seen. It was the little one that did it; it had to have been! She looked at her and did… something. That has to be it… Reina kept telling herself. She was not just going crazy.

Then again, it also didn’t help that as she walked through the night to the cave, she heard more rustling noises in the trees around her than there should have been. It’s just some animal running through the trees trying to find food, she told herself. Or else it’s just the wind. Either way, it was nothing to worry about.

She wasn’t crazy about even coming out here tonight, although walks in the dark like this were nothing new to her. There was just some kind of mood to the night; something she sensed. She couldn’t pinpoint it, but something just seemed wrong with it. She had no choice though since she now led the Skulls. It was her duty to meet the Master and prepare for the Okai girl’s audition.

Eventually the blackness ahead fell into an even deeper darkness, and she knew she was nearing her goal. She barely realized that her feet picked up to walk just a little more quickly at the sight, but as the gaping maw of the cave reared ahead of her she was almost at a run… until a figure jumped out at her from what must have been atop a rock. She couldn’t help a shrill cry, and before she could stop herself hopped a step back.

“Well, I know I’m a terrifying sight, but seriously Reina… screaming…?” an older girl said as she leered in front of her.

Reina felt like her heart was going to beat out of her chest, but she tried her best to calm herself down. She couldn’t afford to look this pathetic in front of… “Mikitty…?” she asked, peering up at the face that was becoming more recognizable by the second.

“In the flesh,” the girl said, grinning.

You’re the Master now?” Reina asked, completely flummoxed. The girl had just graduated!

“Yeah,” Miki said, looking off into space and adopting a frown for some reason. “Ohtani-san didn’t want to do it anymore, and they like to keep someone young in the position because of the…” she looked around the area they stood, “…responsibilities it comes with.”

“But Ohtani-sama was so old!” Reina exclaimed.

“Hey!” Miki said quickly with a sour look. “Watch your mouth! She’s only a few years older than me!” And she cuffed Reina on the side of the head without too much force.

As Reina turned back to her, rubbing her cheek, she mumbled, “As long as you don’t start going along and saying I should call you Fujimoto-sama…”

Miki grinned again. “Of course not, little buddy!” This time she wrapped an arm tightly around Reina’s neck as if in some twisted friendly embrace and pulled her toward the cave entrance. “That’s another reason they like to keep someone young in this position. They like to have the current captain and master on somewhat equal footing since they share a lot of duties when they come together. Did you ever hear me call Masae ‘Ohtani-sama’?”

“Well… no,” Reina admitted. Come to think of it, she never had. Reina always thought that was just due to Miki’s badass-ness, so this was definitely a new piece of information. She no longer held Miki on a pedestal that was quite as high as it used to be. Wait, did that mean…?

“Yes, that’s right,” Miki said, and Reina for the first time noticed the girl was grinning at her with a sparkle in her eye. “You do the same with me and it will… improve your authority.” She was now grinning very widely, and Reina realized she was doing the same. “So!” Miki said, breaking away from Reina’s gaze and looking around again. “A new audition! How exciting! I know Kusumi managed to pass, but I hope this new girl does a, er, better job…” She sighed as she thought about Reina’s housemate.

“I thought you liked her!” Reina said, bristling. “If it were up to me, there’s no way I would have let her join…”

“But it wasn’t up to you,” Miki said briskly. “The vote is just a formality, you know, to try to get a consensus, since that’s best for us all. If a girl passes the audition though, no matter how well, she’s in. Not everyone might be happy with it, but if she passes, then it means there’s at least something in her making her worthy of being a Skull.” She peered into Reina’s face as if trying to draw something out of it. “Don’t tell me you haven’t noticed anything remarkable about her yet?”

“Well…” Reina said hesitantly. She still didn’t like the girl, but she supposed she’d gotten used to her since she was all she had for company lately except for Miyabi. Then she thought of the times when Koharu seemed to be thinking more than she let on. “Maybe…”

“See!” Miki said as if the issue was settled. “There you go, she’s still new. I’m sure as time goes on she’ll prove herself even more to all of you. Not everyone’s an anomaly like you or Miyakko, you know.”

Reina hesitated again wondering if she should be offended by the girl’s statement, but couldn’t do so long before Miki went on in that one-track mind of hers. “So, this audition! It’s so exciting, isn’t it?! Aside from Kusumi’s a few months ago, we haven’t had one in… over a year, no? Since Maihacchi joined. Of course things were quite active before then with you and Miyakko.”

“How’s Maihacchi doing, by the way?” Reina said quickly, eager to not get into the subject of join dates. “Surely you’ve been keeping up with her.”

“Of course!” Miki said, giving her a frown. “I wouldn’t be a very good Skullmaster if I didn’t keep track of our members. She is still a member, of course!” She apparently felt it necessary to point that out, although Reina didn’t see the need. Once a Skull, always a Skull. It was a motto of sorts. Well, if they used such silly things as mottos.

Miki adopted a vexed face before continuing. “However, the school she transferred to has no tradition at all, and there’s no Skulls chapter there. That’s not surprising, of course,” she added hastily. “Very few schools are as long-standing as Seishin – none that I know of, actually – and any that survived the Restoration were necessarily quite separate from Seishin, and the Skulls are an institution rather unique to here…”

Reina stared at the girl, who still held her in a headlock, as she seemed to become lost in reminiscence of some kind. She obviously had a lot to learn as Captain. “And so Maihacchi…” she said, trying to prod the girl in that direction again.

Miki seemed to snap out of her reverie and spoke quickly again. “Oh yes, of course. She’s doing fine, and we’re even trying to work with her to start up a chapter at her new school. We would have preferred someone with a bit more… experience… but any Skull should be capable of it.”

“I sure hope Koharu never transfers then…” Reina said with a sour face before realizing what had really come out of her mouth. “I can’t believe I just said that…”

Miki tapped her on the side of the head again. “As Captain, you really need to get over whatever issue there is between you. You can’t lead with that kind of attitude.” She looked back at the dark entrance to the cave. “Now, about this audition.” Reina finally realized that perhaps she wasn’t the one trying to keep the conversation focused, and decided to finally keep quiet. “Who’s the unlucky girl?”

“A second year,” Reina said, still frowning at nothing. “Okai… Chisato, I believe.”

Miki gave a low whistle through her teeth. “Just become a second year and granted an audition, eh? That’s pretty impressive. Of course, she still has to pass, and even if she did she wouldn’t hold a candle to you and our Miyakko…” Reina’s face darkened, and the older girl looked into it. “I take it you weren’t the one who invited her?”

“No,” Reina said quietly.

“Didn’t think so,” Miki responded casually.

Reina looked up at her, her emotion now dancing in her eyes. “What’s that supposed to mean? I’m not good enough to recruit for auditions?”

“I’m not saying that,” Miki said, and she finally released her hold on Reina’s neck, which she quickly rubbed to ease her muscles. “I just know you’re a little touchy about girls challenging your standing.”

Reina felt like she was struck by a blow at that. The girl had noticed what went on between her and Miyabi? “I…” she began, but became unable to continue. If she thought that way about her, why did she ever select her as captain?

Miki was giving her a very intense look, a small smile gracing her lips. “You think I didn’t notice your little feuds?” This time Reina really did begin to feel a little offended by the girl’s choice of words. They bit at each other a lot as Skulls, but she was the Captain now! This girl had chosen her! “I chose you partly for your seniority, yes. But true Skulls rarely become close with anyone out of a general distrust of the status quo. Miyakko has a lot of talent and potential, yes, but she’s a bit too… open-minded as well. Tell me. Has she found a girlfriend yet?”

Reina blinked at her senpai, startled at the question. “Um… no…” Miki continued to look at her expectantly though, and she finally found herself capable of thought. “Well, apparently she’s got her eye on a second year or two.”

“Ahh…” Miki said, nodding wisely. “You can count on this: before long, she’ll have herself a girlfriend. If not one of those you say she’s got an eye on, someone else. But it’ll happen.”

Reina kept staring at her, slightly confused. “But… Mikitty…” she tried her best not to trip over her words. Why was it so hard to talk about this anymore? “You had all kinds of girls. What’s so special about her getting one?”

“The fact that she’ll get one,” Miki responded, giving her that intense look again. “True, I indulged in certain…” she grinned, “pleasures… but I could never become attached. Such is the typical Skull’s life. Don’t get me wrong,” she said, responding to a look apparently of mutual pity that Reina tried to quickly erase from her face. “I don’t desire anything more. Because…” she said, looking carefully at Reina to make sure she heard her. “That’s the point.”

Reina fell into thought for a moment. The girl was right, she supposed. Reina herself even felt no need to have someone to count on or be attached to, whether a lover or a friend. But Miyabi… did…? She’d have to be more attentive to the girl’s attitudes from now on.

“Miyakko might be Captain some day,” Miki said in a more relaxed voice now. “She is a year behind you after all, and you could always transfer.” She gave her a dagger look as if to say she’d better not, though. “But the Skulls need to be wary of everyone, and so need a leader that is.”

Well, Reina understood now. Still, she didn’t know if she was supremely thrilled by the revelation. “Speaking of girlfriends and being wary…” Reina began hesitantly. “One of your old flings is now part of the Circle.”

This time it was Miki’s turn to blink. “From Nakazawa?” she asked. Reina nodded. “…Who?”

“Takahashi,” Reina replied.

As if she was imitating Reina’s earlier emotions, Miki’s face darkened now as well. “Oh really?” Suddenly she broke into a shrill laugh. “Ai-chan in the Circle, huh? Really? Good for her. I couldn’t see it in her.”

Reina nodded again, and as if her voice was spurred on by itself, she added, “And there’s more. Last night, the Circle, they… did stuff. Takahashi threw me across the room somehow, and the little one messed with my head to where…” She snapped her mouth shut, eyes wide at what had come out of her mouth. “Where I couldn’t tell anyone about it…”

Miki’s eyes widened too as Reina spoke, until it seemed she was almost struck speechless too. “You… you saw it too?” she asked, and for perhaps the first time ever Reina heard fear in the girl’s voice.

“Too?” Reina asked intently. “What do you mean?”

Miki’s mouth was working, but it didn’t seem like any words would come out. Eventually she gathered herself though to say in a quiet voice, “I haven’t been able to talk freely about this… ever…”

“Me neither…” Reina said carefully. “You don’t suppose… they did the same thing to both of us, and whatever it was doesn’t work between us for that same reason?”

Miki wrapped her arm around Reina again, though this time it was just around her shoulders in what was really no more than a friendly gesture. “We have a lot to talk about, Reina. Okai, right? Is she bringing friends?”

“Probably,” Reina said, still reeling from their mutual realization. Maybe she wasn’t going crazy after all… She came back into focus momentarily though. “Her friends are the ones I told you that Miya was interested in.”

Miki was silent a moment as if she saw something in Reina’s words that she couldn’t herself. “It sounds like an interesting night.” She looked back at the cave. “Come. Let’s talk while we prepare.”

Reina now felt much more tentative about the audition tomorrow night. Somehow she thought it would mean more than the test of a second year wanting to join the Skulls. As she and Miki walked toward the cave, her eyes were drawn to the brush around them, having thought she saw something shining from within. When she properly looked though, she caught sign of nothing except the movement of some of the foliage as if an animal was bounding through it and away. Putting the evidence of the glowing spots and what might have caused that much disturbance together, she wondered if there might not be any coyotes or wolves around. The area around Seishin was fairly wild, after all. The thought left her mind though when the two of them entered the cave’s dark interior.



“Are you really sure you want to do this?” Airi asked her friend for what seemed like the hundredth time. She couldn’t deny there was a certain… charm… to the Skulls, but she still couldn’t believe Chisato of all people wanted to do that to herself. She was just always so happy… and energetic…

At another resolved nod from her friend, she sighed. “I swear though, Chisa. If I ever find tobacco around our room…” The other girl gave her a cute glare, but didn’t respond.

It was eleven-thirty on Sunday night, and although both girls were tired, they marched out through the empty Matsuura lounge toward the eventual goal of the cave that was just beyond some of the woods to the east of the school. Airi didn’t really think she wanted to do this at all, but she wanted even more to support her friend as best she could, and just could not turn her down. Besides, Natsuyaki at least didn’t seem to be that bad a person. Well, when she wasn’t trying to constantly bully her around that was. She wished the girl would at least actually remember her name…

When they left the house, as they walked along the path to the woods they saw a figure walking quickly up toward them. Airi pulled Chisato to a stop, although the other girl seemed reluctant to do so in her eagerness to get to her audition, and they waited as the girl came into view. Before long though, Airi felt she could have sighed in relief.

“Hey, Okai, Toothpick,” she said, nodding at each of the girls in turn. Airi narrowed her eyes.

“It’s Airi,” she said in a low voice. “Ai. Ri. Not too hard to remember.”

“Love is never logical,” Natsuyaki said in response, looking levelly at her, and Airi stared in befuddlement. “Like I said before. What a sickeningly cute name.” She looked at the two girls again. “It’s just the two of you here?”

“Yes…” Chisato said, furrowing her brow as if confused by the question.

Natsuyaki stared at her for a moment with her head slightly cocked before giving Airi a short glance and turning back to the auditionee. “Are you ready?” she asked her.

This time, as if she was waiting for the question, Chisato nodded without hesitation. “Yes, Natsuyaki-san.”

“Good,” the other girl responded, and looked the two girls up and down. “You’ve brought nothing with you. That’s good too.” Then she suddenly started walking down the path. “You two going to join me?” she asked, and with a quick look at Airi, Chisato jumped ahead to keep up.

Airi herself felt like throwing up her arms, but instead just followed her friend. “What are you getting me into, Chisa?” she growled into her friend’s ear when she caught up. The shorter girl just gave her a smile and shrugged.

They walked through the woods in silence for the most part, Natsuyaki keeping up a brisk pace before slowing down when Airi estimated they were about halfway through.

“You know the Skulls have accepted only two new members in the past two years,” she told them casually. “I hope you’re ready. I hear the Captain and Master have prepared something especially fun for you.”

The two younger girls exchanged glances. “I’m ready for whatever you can throw at me,” Chisato said in a small but challenging voice.

Natsuyaki looked over at her and smiled. “That’s a good attitude you have there. Be careful about being too proud so soon though. Even if you pass and are able to join, you’ll have a long road ahead of you before you’ll be more than fresh meat in the Skulls.”

“Tell me,” Airi said, sidling up toward Natsuyaki and breaking in. “What is really up with you guys? You act all cool and talk like you’re all yankiis or something, but times like this you seem just like any other girl.”

Natsuyaki kept the smile on her face and shifted her cool gaze toward Airi, who for some reason felt warm beneath it. “You tell me,” she said. “Are you going to like having a friend who beats up other girls as a hobby? You remind me of a choirgirl like that new Nakazawa head is. You ever even broken a school rule?”

Airi looked nervously over at Chisato, who kept her gaze carefully away from her and on the path ahead.

“I didn’t think so,” the Skull continued. “You’re in for a rude awakening tonight I think. I wonder how well you really know your friend. Or am I mistaken?” she asked, this time directing it at Chisato. “You keep this company. Do you really have what it takes to be a Skull?”

“Yes, I do,” Chisato said between gritted teeth, still not turning her head. Airi also noticed her fists were clenched at her sides. She couldn’t help staring a bit herself. She’d never heard Chisato talk like this. True she wasn’t as into school and keeping up a clean image as Airi or even Risako, but she was far from a delinquent. If she passed tonight, was that what she would become?

“I see,” Natsuyaki said, looking forward as well. “Then there must be something special about you, toothpick.”

“It’s Airi…” she responded in almost a resigned whisper, trying to hide a blush she felt for some reason.

“Oh, I need to tell you about your task tonight,” the Skull said, and Chisato suddenly perked her ears eagerly. “You’ll be going into the cave to fetch a real skull. We’ll tell you more when you arrive, but basically, if you find the skull you pass. If you don’t, or if something happens to it, you fail.”

Chisato finally looked up at her, a little anxiously. “That’s all I have to do? Find a… skull?”

“Don’t sound so scared of it,” Natsuyaki responded. “Do you think you can call yourself a Skull if you can’t even handle a real one?”

Chisato’s eyes sank back down. “No… I guess not.”

“And yes, that’s it,” the other girl said. “Like I said, we’ll tell you more when…”

Trailing off, the older girl suddenly stopped and looked around them. Chisato and Airi did too, and they almost unconsciously gathered toward their guide, looking around nervously themselves.

“Something’s wrong…” Natsuyaki said.

Airi could feel her heart beating in her ears, her senses straining to their max in this quiet night. She didn’t know what she was trying to catch, but if Natsuyaki had heard or seen something, and thought it was something to be concerned with, she thought she probably should be too. She could hear the trees swaying and perhaps some brush being swept past in the distance, though that could have been only the wind.

“What?” she asked in a high whisper. “What is it?”

“I don’t know…” their guide responded. “Hey, you two wait here. I’ll go check it out.” Then, before Chisato or Airi could respond, she strode off the path into the trees and soon disappeared.

Airi’s eyes widened, now becoming terrified at being left alone while their older companion went to research something that apparently was enough of a threat to cause her to investigate it. As minutes dragged on, she moved closer to Chisato, to where eventually the two girls held hands tightly between them as they squeezed together, looking around wildly.

“Where do you suppose she is?” Chisato asked quickly. “You don’t… You don’t think this is part of the test, do you?”

“What?” Airi said, momentary startlement calming her nerves slightly. “Of course it wouldn’t be! Your audition is at the cave. Plus, Natsuyaki-san and the other Skulls would want to make sure you’re not cheating or something, since you could do anything unsupervised out here.”

“I’m not sure…” Chisato began, but cut off when they heard movement from behind them. Airi barely had time to react before something flashed beside her and her friend fell to the ground, her hand going limp as Airi kept it clutched tightly.

“Chisato!” Airi cried, and tried to spin to see what had hit her before she herself keeled forward in sharp pain as something hit her own head, and then all she could do was try to keep hold of her friend’s hand with quickly numbing fingers while the darkness of the moonless night pressed in around her.



“Ow…” Chisato said, groggily opening her eyes to find she was lying on the ground. Sitting up unsteadily, she rubbed her head while trying to remember how she ended up here. She was out in the woods for some reason, but she didn’t recognize the location until she turned around and saw the gaping maw of a cave right behind her.

“Give me a break…” she said, and did her best to stand. After some initial wobbling she managed to steady herself, and peered into the darkness of the hole. It wasn’t a huge opening, but since she wasn’t the tallest person she would be able to get into it easily. It was about twice her length any way around.

She’d been here before of course. Most girls new to Seishin who had any sort of adventurous spirit about them made the trip through these woods to stare in awe at the place which was said to be haunted. She’d never seen any evidence of it herself, but Airi for one was convinced there was something unnatural in it. She’d even had to drag her out here the one time she wanted her to see it, and the girl hadn’t returned since. Until now, perhaps.

She looked around her again. That’s right. Airi was with her when… something… happened, and the next thing she knew she was at this place which was strangely exactly where she was heading for. “I’m gonna kill Miss Natsuyaki Miyabi when I get my hands on her…” she grumbled, and dusted herself off.

Whatever Airi thought, this obviously had to be part of her “audition”. Only, the girl had been right about one thing. Why weren’t the Skulls around and watching her every move? She didn’t even know what she was supposed to do. She peered around at her surroundings before turning back to the cave entrance. “Well, I guess I should go inside and see what happens,” she told herself.

As she took a step forward, she heard a rustling in the trees around her. At first she thought it might be the wind, but when she saw light reflecting off two almost pinpricks just above a bush, she shouted out, “That’s right! I’m catching on to your stupid game! I’ll prove to you I have what it takes!”

Then, as if the apparent audience gave her extra motivation, she walked confidently into the cave without a backward glance. The passage narrowed and widened as she walked along, but she took it all in stride. Unlike her friend, Chisato cherished adventure and what might lay hidden and unseen. She’d been into the cave before, and alone as well since most others were too scared of the stories to try it – except for Airi of course who just thought the whole idea of ‘adventure’ was ridiculous – but as she kept walking, she realized she hadn’t yet gone quite this deep in.

After walking a few minutes and totally immersing herself in this underground world, with only the sound of dripping from the damp roof to entertain her, she thought she heard something else break the silence. At first she thought it was a draft from some crack ahead that led to the surface, but when she stopped and listened more closely, it sounded more like a high-pitched voice.

She began running ahead and toward the sound until she started to pant, and then stopped to see what she could catch of it now. When her panting and heartbeat pounding in her ears slowed, her eyes widened at what she heard.

“Chiii~saaaa~!” came a shrill voice from somewhere much deeper than she already was. “Heeee~lp me!”

Recognizing the voice to be Airi’s, she now began running even harder down the twisting passageway. She was no longer sure this was all part of the audition. Why would they kidnap Airi? They didn’t even know that she’d be coming. It was her audition! She suddenly regretted getting her friend involved.

“Airi!!” she shouted in a voice that fell dead against the claustrophobic walls. Weren’t places like this supposed to echo?

“I’ll find you,” she said under her breath as she ran. “I swear…”

Suddenly around one turn she came upon a wall in front of her, and stopped with a skid. A dead end? It couldn’t be. Airi’s voice was still coming from ahead of her. She studied the wall closely, illuminated as it was by some phosphorescent fungus or other, and saw that there was just darkness at the bottom of it. She could see the rest of the wall, but at the bottom it looked like nothing existed.

She stepped closer to it, but when only a few steps away, she felt her foot splash into what was probably an inch of standing water. “You’ve got to be kidding me…” she said, and knelt down to peer at the ground.

Sure enough, there was a pool of water leading up to the wall that had looked like a dead end. Taking another careful step forward, she felt the water rise over her shoe and soak her foot, but it was actually pleasantly cool, so she really didn’t mind much.

“Help~!” She heard Airi’s voice, a bit stronger now, coming from just above where the water stood. It appeared she’d have to take a little swim to get to wherever her friend was trapped. Sudden thoughts of Airi drowning fueled her on, and she felt her way carefully ahead.

She knew this wasn’t going to be easy from the beginning, but as she became wetter and wetter, she realized this was going to be an even longer night than she thought she’d bargained for.

...

“Aiiiiriiii~!” echoed a soft voice from somewhere ahead of the girl it named. Airi stared at the cliff above her, from which it seemed the voice came, and fought a bit more at the ropes that bound her.

“This is not making me think more highly of you, you know!” she told the girls surrounding her in a voice that she supposed was more furious a few minutes ago not long after she’d woken up. “If anything happens to Chisa…”

“Oh, I’m sure she’ll be fine,” Tanaka said, scraping a knife along her fingernails. “And if she’s got what it takes to be in the Skulls, she’ll be even more than that. Don’t you have any faith in your friend?”

“Ugh!” Airi burst out, disgusted, and the girls around her laughed.

“She’s quite the little firecracker, isn’t she?” Fujimoto asked from beside Reina. She peered curiously at Airi as if she’d not seen anything of her like before. Airi herself certainly must have stared almost as much when she first saw the girl here. She’d hoped to never see her again in her life, and now here she turned up at a time that, to her, almost could not have been worse.

“Choirgirl you said, Miya? She’s nothing compared to my Ai-chan.” Tanaka’s mouth turned up in a smirk at that, though Kusumi, standing a bit behind the others, looked a little frightened at the topic. The whole time they’d been here the Nakazawa girl appeared as if she was totally out of place among the rest of them. At least they weren’t chewing that filthy tobacco this time. She supposed that wasn’t exactly proper spelunking gear.

Natsuyaki, in response to Fujimoto’s jibe, just looked at Airi with narrowed eyes. She’d been doing that almost constantly since she woke up and started fussing at them, and for some reason Airi didn’t like it one bit.

“I don’t know who this ‘Ai-chan’ is, but if she’s any sort of good person, I’d be proud to be told I’m like her!” Airi said, raising her chin at the four girls surrounding her.

The Skulls exchanged glances with each other. “Why Suzuki,” Fujimoto began. “Don’t you know? Ai-chan – you might know her better as Takahashi – is one of your new great leaders.”

This time Airi really did just stare at them. The new head of Nakazawa? They sure were talking about her with nothing amounting to the respect normally due the Circle… She shook her head. It must just have been because she was new.

“Is she?” Airi asked. She tried to keep the weakness caused by the new information out of her voice, but failed. “Well then I should be proud you’re comparing me to her.”

The four girls looked among each other again. “I wouldn’t be so sure about that,” Tanaka said, and for some reason the two other current Skulls frowned over at her and she lowered her eyes. Fujimoto seemed to be uncomfortable too. What was going on there?

“Well!” the recently graduated Skull said. “I think it’s time we should be going. You have our directions down, right?” she asked Airi.

“I understand what it is you asked me to do,” Airi said in a tight voice. “But I’m not sure I want to do it.”

In response, Tanaka shrugged. “Do what you like,” she said. “But remember, if you don’t follow what we said, your friend fails her audition, and I doubt she’d be happy with you for causing that, would she?”

Airi ground her teeth at the girl’s words. She was right; Chisato wouldn’t be happy with her about that, and she had come along to support her after all. Still, she wasn’t happy that these girls were putting them through this.

Fujimoto grabbed at the rope hanging off the side of the ledge Airi’s chair was perched on. “Well, depending on how your friend does, one way or another I’ll see you on the other side.”

“I’d rather hope not…” Airi responded with a growl.

“Ouch!” Fujimoto mocked, holding a hand to her heart. “You wound me with your words. Where’s all that hate from, little sister?”

“I’m not your sister!” Airi spat. “And you should know quite well where it comes from!”

Fujimoto grinned. “Oh yeah, the little ordeal involving you and the Great Yajima.” She shrugged and for some reason gave a glance toward a stone-faced Natsuyaki. “It wasn’t my fault you decided to jump in the bath with her.” Airi felt her face blush as the girls around her snickered. “Adieu,” the girl told her with a salute and a nod of her head, and jumped off the ledge, sliding down the rope out of sight.

“I want you to know, I’m rooting my hardest for your little friend,” Tanaka said, grasping for the rope herself. “I really am. You don’t know how lonely it gets sometimes with just these two knuckleheads for company.” She grinned at Airi, but she noticed her eyes stray toward Natsuyaki as well. “I have a feeling we’ll be seeing more of you, no matter what happens tonight.” Then with a nod, after handing her knife to Natsuyaki she slid down the rope herself.

“I just want you to know…” Kusumi repeated, and became the third to grab onto the rope. “Oh screw it,” she said. “I don’t care how you two do. I’m happy being the youngest and cutest.” And with a quick mocking smile, she slid down after the others.

“You’ll have to forgive her…” Natsuyaki said, stepping around to face Airi. “She’s still new after all.” She leaned in close to Airi’s ear, making her feel slightly uncomfortable in her helpless position. “And between the two of us, she’s also an idiot.” Then she leaned back again, grinning.

“I’m actually amazed you all managed to get into this school,” Airi said, giving the girl a glare.

“Careful now,” Natsuyaki said, examining the knife. “Your friend will be one of us soon enough, you know, and you don’t think she’s an idiot, do you?”

If she passes your stupid audition,” Airi shot back, nonplussed.

The older girl just smiled. “Oh, she will.” Her gaze didn’t falter as she studied Airi’s face. “They’re right,” she said. “You are kind of cute, especially all tied up like that.”

Airi suddenly felt her entire body flush with heat at the girl’s words, and she also became very anxious about her current situation. “Um…” she began. “I…”

“Oh don’t worry,” Natsuyaki said, grabbing onto the hanging rope. “Even though I probably should, I won’t take advantage of your condition or anything.” Despite the uncomfortable feeling, Airi couldn’t pull her eyes away from the Skull’s.

“Um…” Airi said. “Thank you…”

“Don’t mention it,” the other girl responded, creeping to the edge and laying her knife as high as she could reach up the rope. “However… I’d watch yourself in the halls from now on,” she said with a grin, and Airi gasped as with one stroke she cut through the rope above her, and both her and the rope fell out of sight.

She listened carefully, but didn’t hear anything from below. Then she mentally chided herself for even worrying about the other girl. Who cared what happened to a Skull? The less of them, the better off the school was, as far as she was concerned. “Your friend will be one of us soon enough, you know.” Natsuyaki’s voice reverberated through her mind, and she sighed. She wondered yet again what she was getting herself into, but for some reason the truth of it seemed to hit her much harder now.

Now that the cave had become silent, she looked up at the cliff again and the rope that angled toward it and lay somewhere atop it out of sight. Well, she’d gone this far, she might as well keep it going. For Chisato’s sake… she thought.

“Chisa!” she yelled again. “Help me!!!” There was no response, but from the cry before she knew the girl must be coming. It was apparently now time to wait.

While doing so, she vaguely wondered where the Skulls went. They made no sound after vanishing down that rope. Did they just have nothing more to say? That seemed unlikely since she was now getting to know them better. Did they run off somewhere? She didn’t want to think of the other, more likely reason: that it was a long way down.

She didn’t know where she was or how she got there, except that apparently she was in the cave past the woods. After being knocked out earlier she’d just woken in the chair to the unpleasant sight of Fujimoto’s face. Quickly she had decided there were much better ways of coming back into consciousness.

“…Airi?” she heard a weary voice call from above. Breaking quickly out of her reverie, she looked up to see Chisato apparently on her hands and knees peering over the cliff’s edge.

“Chisa!” she said, excitement bubbling up inside of her. “You made it!” She squinted her eyes for a better look at the girl, and for some reason it appeared her hair was sticking to the side of her head like it was wet or something. What had the girl been doing?

Chisato kept looking down, but Airi noticed her eyes flicker to her side for some reason, as if something from the wall beside her was catching her attention. “Are you all right?” she asked hesitantly.

“Yeah!” Airi responded. “I was just…” she caught herself quickly. “I mean, er, the Circle ambushed us in the woods. They seemed to know where we were going, and apparently didn’t like it very much. They kidnapped me and tied me up in here… I didn’t expect you to come after me though…”

She hated lying to her friend, but there was no other way. The girl would be much less happy with her if she’d told her the truth. “Of course I would come after you, Osuzu!” Chisa said, apparently trying to inject some playfulness into her voice. She sounded almost too weary to be capable of it though. Plus, whatever it was to Airi’s side seemed to keep distracting her. “You’re silly.”

“Well…” Airi responded, wondering if the girl was ever going to come rescue her. “I am stuck deep in a cave somewhere…”

“Right…” Chisato said, but now she seemed completely distracted and barely even looked at Airi anymore.

“What is it?!” Airi demanded in the nicest voice she could, unable to stand it any longer. “You’ve come this far. Are you going to help me? You can probably get down here on that rope up there.”

Chisato blinked and looked at Airi almost as if she’d forgotten about her, and then glanced over to the rope. “Yeah, probably…” she said, and looked back down. “Um…” she began, and seemed to be uncomfortable with continuing.

“Yes…?” Airi said. She had a feeling the girl was not doing well in her audition being this dense.

“Well,” Chisato said, her eyes straying to the side again. “It’s just that… there’s a skull in a chamber just like yours a few meters away from you...”

Airi stared at her. The girls from earlier definitely had not told her about that little part of the deal. She opened her mouth to tell Chisato everything, but stopped short, grinding her teeth. It was all a set-up. They knew what they were doing. The problem was they had told her that if for some reason Chisato didn’t swing down on that rope to save her, there was no easy way to get to her ledge, and it might be days before anyone could set her free. They assured her she had nothing to worry about though… Man, she hated those girls.

“But…” Airi said, in a voice that was really quite genuinely pleading. “I need you to help me… I don’t want to be stuck here forever!”

Chisato stood up and walked over to the rope. After picking it up, she stared down at Airi, then moved her eyes as if she was scanning the wall. “Hang on, Osuzu,” she said tenderly, and fed some of the rope through her hands, peering closely between it and the wall in front of her. Airi felt suspense building constantly within her. The girl had to find the right length of the rope to use to jump down; that was right. She would be down momentarily…

Then, giving a slight nod, her friend gripped the rope tightly in her hands and shuffled toward the edge, concentrating downward, before jumping off. Airi’s heart seemed to fly up into her throat in excitement until… Chisato vanished from sight past the wall to her left.

“Chisa!!!” she screamed, but received no response. Sure that her friend had given up on her and sacrificed her for her stupid ambition, she began crying, unable to stop. She heard scuffling from what she knew must be the hollow beside her, but she didn’t care. Chisato had made her choice; she’d be stuck here for days. Her terror rose as she thought of the classes she would miss. Her grades would never recover!

When she had nearly completely succumbed to her own personal pit of despair, the scratching from the wall outside her cubby became louder, and she blinked through her tears trying to see ahead of her. There was no hope, but what else had she to do?

As such, she almost didn’t register when Chisato came crawling around the wall, grasping her rope tightly in her free hand, and almost collapsed right in front of Airi. A skull that was threaded through the rope just above Chisato’s head stared through its empty orbs straight into Airi’s face.

“Chi…” she began, trying to catch her breath. “Chisa…?”

Her friend looked up at her, her face covered in sweat and dust showing a concerned expression. Now that Airi got a closer look, she also saw that the girl was completely soaked almost from head to toe. Only the top of her head seemed to be spared from whatever she had been doused with.

“What’s wrong?” Chisato said, stumbling up and over to her friend. “Did something happen?”

“I thought…” Airi sniffed, unbelievingly. “I thought you had left me here…”

Chisato’s face suddenly became stricken with pain and scandalized. “Of course not! How could I do that to you? You’re my best friend!” Her tired fingers fumbled at the ropes holding Airi to the chair as she tried to untie them. Eventually she succeeded, and squeaked as Airi nearly jumped up at her to give her a tight hug.

“I’m sorry…” she said, still sniffing. “I’m such a baby… I should have trusted you more…”

When she felt Chisato awkwardly patting her back, she pulled away slightly to look into her face. “Yes,” the girl said with what breath she had left. “You should have.” Then her mouth slowly turned into a grin, causing Airi to smile and laugh too.

“But you know…” Airi said, her sniffling finally clearing up. “You look like hell…”

Chisato laughed at that too, raising her hand to scratch at the back of her head in embarrassment. “Yeah,” she responded. “I kind of feel like that too.”

“So…” Airi said. “Do you think we can get down now? They said there was an exit below…”

“They did?” Chisato asked sharply, then looked down and to the side, grumbling to herself. “Would have been nice if they told me that before I swam, crawled and jumped my way here from the main entrance…”

“Come on,” Airi said looking up at the skull, now excited about what would happen when they showed up not too much the worse for wear at wherever the four girls were waiting. She wrapped her arm around Chisato’s waist and pulled her over to the rope. “That was brilliant you know, what you did with the skull.”

“I know,” Chisato said, grinning, and Airi smiled at the sparkle she saw in her friend’s eye. “It actually makes me disappointed in them though… If it weren’t for the Circle interfering, it wouldn’t have been much of a test.” Airi just grinned as they swung out from the ledge and slid down the rope.

Upon reaching the bottom, there was a very obvious slope up toward a glow that could only be the exit they’d mentioned. Weary as both of them were – Chisato because of whatever she went through to get there, and Airi from numbness after being knocked out and tied to a chair for who knew how long – they ran toward it, and eventually burst out once again into the night air. Moonless though it might have been, it was still considerably brighter than the place they had just left. The Skulls had left candles around Airi’s ledges, but in general the only light came from that glowing fungus that seemed to be everywhere.

Chisato laughed at being back in the fresh air again, but Airi was looking around wildly, trying to discern where the Skulls were hiding. She didn’t have to look long though before four figures strode out from behind some trees. She looked steadily at them, but Chisato didn’t notice them for a few seconds. When she did, she squinted as if unsure whether she believed what she saw.

“Congratulations,” Fujimoto said, raising a flashlight to her face. She flashed it between the two girls and to the skull Chisato held in her hand. “You have both your skull and your friend. I’d say you’ve passed our audition with flying colors! Don’t you?” she looked around at the three younger girls beside her, who looked at Chisato with varying expressions. All, however, seemed very interested. Airi wondered how many of them actually thought Chisato would pull it off. Seeing Natsuyaki’s face, she knew that girl apparently hadn’t lied about her expectations. She wondered how she could be so confident in them.

Wearing a stern look, Tanaka nodded. “Quite impressive…” she said, what seemed a bit reluctantly. “In good time too. I can’t say anything but ‘yes’.”

Airi looked at her friend, grinning. Chisato was staring among them all with wide eyes, apparently still in a bit of disbelief.

“Of course a ‘yes’ from me,” Natsuyaki said casually. “I chose her, after all.” Fujimoto nodded at her response and looked to the third current Skull.

Kusumi seemed very reluctant to say anything, but finally grudgingly mumbled, “’Yes’ from me too… She’s obviously got what it takes…”

“Well that does it!” Fujimoto said, and stepped forward to wrap her arm around Chisato, hugging the small girl to her side. Chisato gave Airi an uncertain smile. Airi’s smile had completely vanished when Fujimoto stepped up to her friend. Well, the girl no longer went to this school. Surely she wouldn’t be here long.

Fujimoto looked over to her. “Your friend is quite something,” she said, giving Chisato a pat on the arm. “Are you sure you don’t want to audition too? I see quite a bit of potential in you as well, even if you aren’t quite as… adventurous… as your friend. Chisato, right?” she asked, looking back at the new Skull. Chisato nodded, a bit hesitantly. “Yo Rei-chan,” she called over to the captain. “What should we call her now?”

“Hmm…” Tanaka said, stepping toward the three of them as well.

“How about Okacchan?” Kusumi said, coming up to join Tanaka. “That sounds pretty cool.”

“Okacchan…” Tanaka said, bringing her hand to her chin as if pondering it. “Yeah, that could work.” Chisato just beamed around at all of them, even Fujimoto this time.

Also despite Fujimoto, Airi found herself smiling at her friend’s happiness. It truly did seem this was what she wanted, and she was glad she could be a part of it. She looked over at Natsuyaki – Miyabi, she decided she’d call her from now on; the girl had told her to do it in fact, but she hadn’t been comfortable enough with it until now – who was still standing back from the rest. Despite all of their attention on Chisato, she was just gazing at Airi, who saw a smile come to her face when she noticed Airi looking at her. This of course caused Airi to blush again, but the hot rush that suddenly jolted through her body wasn’t caused by the blush this time.

Amid the trees behind Miyabi, she saw twin glowing points that led a dark form as it bounded out of its hiding place. She tried to cry out in warning, but the shadow was too fast, and Miyabi went down in a tangle of fangs and guttural growls.

She finally found her voice at seeing the girl being viciously mauled, and screamed the loudest she thought she ever had. She heard muffled swearing from behind her, and footsteps hurrying in the direction of the attack.

Apparently hearing their approach, the beast swiped its maw up to look with its beady glowing eyes at the other girls – ‘beast’ was the only word Airi could think of to describe it; it looked like a large dog, but with teeth that looked like they could shred a cow and sticky hair that was falling out in patches – and once again quicker than they could react, jumped over at them.

This time Airi wasn’t the only one screaming, but Fujimoto and Tanaka did their best to fight with the thing. They did the best they could at least while trying to avoid being sliced by either its teeth or its abnormally long claws. Airi felt herself bowled over to the side at another of its leaps and tried to crawl away, but within seconds its growls faded away, and she looked up to see it hurdling down the path, sticking its snout up into the air to give a shrill howl, before it disappeared into the darkness, the howls the only remaining trace of its existence.

Almost feeling afraid to, Airi looked back at the other girls. Tanaka was holding her arm, which was bleeding around her fingers, and Fujimoto was limping along, apparently trying to run after the animal. “You’d better run, you damned bastard!” she shouted after it. “Nothing does this to my girls!!!”

Kusumi just sat crying and rocking with her knees pulled tightly into her chest, but Chisato ran up to Airi to make sure she was all right. Sweat and dirt-streaked as she still was, she now seemed in the best shape of them all. “Are you okay?” she asked quickly.

“Yeah…” Airi began, trying to reorient herself. “Yes. I just got the wind knocked out of me.” Her eyes still felt pried wide open at the horrible sight. The horrible… “Miyabi!!!” she yelled, and turned to look at what looked like a pile of clothes lying motionless toward the trees.

Chisato held her back, looking warily at the first victim. “I… I don’t think you should go over there, Osuzu…” Airi started crying again.

The others had now caught onto their surroundings, and although Fujimoto still limped along the path, Tanaka walked slowly over to where Miyabi lay. Kneeling down, her face drawn in horror, Airi saw her begin crying herself. “No… no!” she cried. “Miyakko… I can’t believe this… Miyakko…!” As she leaned fully over the fallen girl, gripping her clothes tightly as she wept into them, Airi finally tore herself away from her friend. She only made it about halfway though before falling to the ground in her own shock and anguish.
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [5: Audition]
Post by: mode107 on November 09, 2007, 02:19:03 AM
Wha?! is Miyabi dead?! :OMG:

So Miki's back now? Hopefully Ai avoids her, and not give in to her charms.
 
It's nice seeing Airi becoming a little friendly towards the Skulls now. At first I thought that she was going to lose Chisato as a friend if she were to join the Skulls, but now it doesn't really like like that. 

So Airi blushing at Miya :heart:  maybe a possible Airi-Miyabi-Maimi-Risako,uh, love rectangle in the future?  :kekeke:
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [5: Audition]
Post by: Amarghetta on November 09, 2007, 03:35:35 AM
Werewolf Miya maybe?
 :shock:
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [5: Audition]
Post by: g4rfield on November 09, 2007, 04:00:00 AM
Yeah!!! new Chapter....new looooong chapter!! I would enjoy commenting on this one.  :D Got several points to address. How I love to poke and prod and analyze your stories to the bottom.  :grin:

1. The arrival of Fujimoto-sama
So she had the same spell done to her by the Circle people. Interesting. I wonder if Yossy knows about it or had it done to her too. And....Ohtani as the old master??? I should've guessed! Reina and Miki discussed  Miyabi and how she is the only Skull who felt the need of an attachment. Girlfriend instead of a fling or one night stand and maybe friends too. I wonder why is this common among the skulls. I mean the need to be a lone wolf, is there any reason behind it or just simply people with the same characteristics happen to group together because they recognize the vibe and that's how Skull became. Of course I had no doubt Miki sees this in Reina thus choosing her to be the Captain.  So Miya is an exception huh?

2. The audition
It was interesting the way you choose to have Airi to be the one to lie to Okai. I mean no doubt this is to serve an angle somewhere down the line. Probably a problem between the two will start when Okai finds out the truth, but I digress. So Risako didn't show up in this chapter. Why? I thought they both were to support Okai and be there during the audition? I got a little confused myself, reading the paragraph about Okai going back and forth on what seemed to be a tight tunnel, to retrieve the skull and get Airi. I can only imagines that the cave have two ends. The opening is in the low ground and where Airi was captived was the high ground. So Okai had to hike and probably climb up to where the 2 tunels were. Wow, she sure is athletic. Where does the exit end up though? I mean which part of the wood?

3. The Beast
It didn't say that Miya was dead. She was mauled, yes, and her clothes torn but nothing being said about her being dead. So my conclusion is the girls was shocked, full of adrenaline and failed to check Miya's pulse thus asumming that she's dead while she probably just unconscious and lost a lot of blood as well. My bet is in the middle of their hysteria either Airi or Miki will notice Miya is actually still alive. *cross fingers and pray* Don't want Miya to be dead while there is some unexplored love angle to be explore.  :grin: If she met an unfortunate end however, the author better start praying I never found where he lives.  :twisted:

4. Airi's feeling
She seemed to be taken to Miya quite a lot in this chapter what with all the blushings. If Miki notices that later on, there will be some teasings, provided she stayed within the school for whatever reason. Heh. There's also Airi's doubt about Okai. She sees what her best friend is capable of and therefore got a little frightened to see the side she had never seen before. Which is understandable. She just need to have faith that Okai won't change for the worse. Judging from the way Okai pull through with her audition, she definitely values her friends as much as the Skull. My question is, for how long will be she able to continue juggling these 2 very different attitudes before the confusion finally starts eating her from the inside.

You want review, you got one. Hope I managed to address all of the different things you put into this chapter.  ;)
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [5: Audition]
Post by: JFC on November 09, 2007, 05:54:03 AM
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this is the longest chapter I've ever written... It may not be quite to Estrea's extreme-ness yet, but at 9k words there's still a lot going on.
:mon blood:



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Reina walked through the moonless darkness, doing her best to act as if she wasn’t afraid of the night since of course as Captain of the Skulls she couldn’t be. However, even if she betrayed any sign of fright or cowardice, nobody would see her because good girls of Seishin didn’t walk by themselves out-of-doors in the middle of the night.

She was trying her best, but it was hard, especially after she’d seen what the Circle was capable of the night before. They’d even put some curse on her to make her unable to tell anyone what she’d seen. It was the little one that did it; it had to have been! She looked at her and did… something. That has to be it… Reina kept telling herself. She was not just going crazy.

Then again, it also didn’t help that as she walked through the night to the cave, she heard more rustling noises in the trees around her than there should have been. It’s just some animal running through the trees trying to find food, she told herself. Or else it’s just the wind. Either way, it was nothing to worry about.
So the current leader of The Skulls is scared of the dark? 

...

Maybe just a wee bit ironic? :P



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She had no choice though since she now led the Skulls. It was her duty to meet the Master and prepare for the Okai girl’s audition.
So I take it the Master is higher up on the hierarchy, eh? Probably the person that auditioners have to impress if they want to get it.  It's going to be interesting to see what the audition process is like.

Incidentally, if Yuko wasn't already the namesake for one of the houses she'd fit the role really well. :)



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She barely realized that her feet picked up to walk just a little more quickly at the sight, but as the gaping maw of the cave reared ahead of her she was almost at a run… until a figure jumped out at her from what must have been atop a rock. She couldn’t help a shrill cry, and before she could stop herself hopped a step back.

“Well, I know I’m a terrifying sight, but seriously Reina… screaming…?” an older girl said as she leered in front of her.

Reina felt like her heart was going to beat out of her chest, but she tried her best to calm herself down. She couldn’t afford to look this pathetic in front of… “Mikitty…?” she asked, peering up at the face that was becoming more recognizable by the second.

“In the flesh,” the girl said, grinning.
Nice one Miki-sama! :lol:

Wait a sec, what's she doing here? Hasn't it been established that she graduated from the school?



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“You’re the Master now?” Reina asked, completely flummoxed. The girl had just graduated!

“Yeah,” Miki said, looking off into space and adopting a frown for some reason. “Ohtani-san didn’t want to do it anymore, and they like to keep someone young in the position because of the…” she looked around the area they stood, “…responsibilities it comes with.”
Miki-sama's the Master! :shocked:

Hmmm...responsibilities? Wonder what she means by that? :dunno:



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They like to have the current captain and master on somewhat equal footing since they share a lot of duties when they come together. Did you ever hear me call Masae ‘Ohtani-sama’?”
Makes sense when you put it that way. If the two of them can think on relatively the same wavelengths it probably makes planning and doing Skull activities a lot easier.



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“The vote is just a formality, you know, to try to get a consensus, since that’s best for us all. If a girl passes the audition though, no matter how well, she’s in. Not everyone might be happy with it, but if she passes, then it means there’s at least something in her making her worthy of being a Skull.”
Interesting...so even if they don't like an auditioner, so long as she actually passes she's pretty much guaranteed a spot. Considering their dwindling numbers at this point in time that's probably not such a bad thing.



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“How’s Maihacchi doing, by the way?” Reina said quickly, eager to not get into the subject of join dates. “Surely you’ve been keeping up with her.”

...

“Oh yes, of course. She’s doing fine, and we’re even trying to work with her to start up a chapter at her new school.
So Maiha's at a new school now? If so, starting up a new chapter sounds like a good idea. At the very least they'd have more girls from which to find potential new members.


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We would have preferred someone with a bit more… experience… but any Skull should be capable of it.”

“I sure hope Koharu never transfers then…” Reina said with a sour face before realizing what had really come out of her mouth. “I can’t believe I just said that…”
:kekeke:



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“One of your old flings is now part of the Circle.”

This time it was Miki’s turn to blink. “From Nakazawa?” she asked. Reina nodded. “…Who?”

“Takahashi,” Reina replied.
Now if Miki is really the player that she's been portrayed to be, it'll be really interesting to see how she reacts to THIS bit of news. :D



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As if she was imitating Reina’s earlier emotions, Miki’s face darkened now as well. “Oh really?” Suddenly she broke into a shrill laugh. “Ai-chan in the Circle, huh? Really? Good for her. I couldn’t see it in her.”
Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm...so first she was sort of
 :badluck:
and then she's suddenly  :wahaha: ?

The latter seems a little bit forced to me, as if she's trying to make it look like she's unconcerned, where in fact she actually IS.



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“And there’s more. Last night, the Circle, they… did stuff. Takahashi threw me across the room somehow, and the little one messed with my head to where…” She snapped her mouth shut, eyes wide at what had come out of her mouth. “Where I couldn’t tell anyone about it…”

Miki’s eyes widened too as Reina spoke, until it seemed she was almost struck speechless too. “You… you saw it too?” she asked, and for perhaps the first time ever Reina heard fear in the girl’s voice.
Whoa, the Circle did the same voodoo trick on Miki-sama that they did to Reina? :O

Could be part of the way that they try to keep The Skulls "in check".



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Miki’s mouth was working, but it didn’t seem like any words would come out. Eventually she gathered herself though to say in a quiet voice, “I haven’t been able to talk freely about this… ever…”

“Me neither…” Reina said carefully. “You don’t suppose… they did the same thing to both of us, and whatever it was doesn’t work between us for that same reason?”
Perhaps the curse is such that it's just meant to ensure that only the current captain of The Skulls knows of the secret powers of the Circle members. If you think about it, it makes sense. It definitely wouldn't do anyone any good if word got out amongst the rest of the student populous, let alone their parents, that there's a hidden coven of girls with supernatural powers running loose on campus.



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“Are you really sure you want to do this?” Airi asked her friend for what seemed like the hundredth time. She couldn’t deny there was a certain… charm… to the Skulls, but she still couldn’t believe Chisato of all people wanted to do that to herself. She was just always so happy… and energetic…
Actually, yeah, why DOES Chisato want to join the Skulls anyway? O_o



Quote
They walked through the woods in silence for the most part, Natsuyaki keeping up a brisk pace before slowing down when Airi estimated they were about halfway through.

“You know the Skulls have accepted only two new members in the past two years,” she told them casually. “I hope you’re ready.
That could be part of the reason why there are so few of them right now. :mon sweat:



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I hear the Captain and Master have prepared something especially fun for you.”
Considering that it's Miki AND Reina plotting together? Yeah, should be interesting to say the least. :twisted:



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The two younger girls exchanged glances. “I’m ready for whatever you can throw at me,” Chisato said in a small but challenging voice.
Confidence is good, but Chisato still needs to stay on her toes.



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“Oh, I need to tell you about your task tonight,” the Skull said, and Chisato suddenly perked her ears eagerly. “You’ll be going into the cave to fetch a real skull. We’ll tell you more when you arrive, but basically, if you find the skull you pass. If you don’t, or if something happens to it, you fail.”

Chisato finally looked up at her, a little anxiously. “That’s all I have to do? Find a… skull?”
Seems easy enough, but considering what's at stake there's undoubtedly more to it than just simply finding it.



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Trailing off, the older girl suddenly stopped and looked around them. Chisato and Airi did too, and they almost unconsciously gathered toward their guide, looking around nervously themselves.

“Something’s wrong…” Natsuyaki said.

...

“What?” she asked in a high whisper. “What is it?”

“I don’t know…” their guide responded. “Hey, you two wait here. I’ll go check it out.” Then, before Chisato or Airi could respond, she strode off the path into the trees and soon disappeared.
My guess is, either this really is unexpected like Miyabi said....OR it's part of the audition process. Can't have a member of the Skulls panic during a situation like this now, can we? : :kekeke:



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Airi barely had time to react before something flashed beside her and her friend fell to the ground, her hand going limp as Airi kept it clutched tightly.

“Chisato!” Airi cried, and tried to spin to see what had hit her before she herself keeled forward in sharp pain as something hit her own head, and then all she could do was try to keep hold of her friend’s hand with quickly numbing fingers while the darkness of the moonless night pressed in around her.
WTF they were knocked unconscious? WHO'S THERE??? :OMG:

...

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“Ow…” Chisato said, groggily opening her eyes to find she was lying on the ground. Sitting up unsteadily, she rubbed her head while trying to remember how she ended up here. She was out in the woods for some reason, but she didn’t recognize the location until she turned around and saw the gaping maw of a cave right behind her.
But, she and Airi weren't anywhere near the mouth of the cave yet.  So who was it that carried and left her there?



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She peered around at her surroundings before turning back to the cave entrance. “Well, I guess I should go inside and see what happens,” she told herself.
Ummm...before she enters the cave, just wondering here...where's Airi?



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As she took a step forward, she heard a rustling in the trees around her. At first she thought it might be the wind, but when she saw light reflecting off two almost pinpricks just above a bush, she shouted out, “That’s right! I’m catching on to your stupid game! I’ll prove to you I have what it takes!”
Perhaps they HAVE been watching her all this time after all.



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After walking a few minutes and totally immersing herself in this underground world, with only the sound of dripping from the damp roof to entertain her, she thought she heard something else break the silence.

...

When her panting and heartbeat pounding in her ears slowed, her eyes widened at what she heard.

“Chiii~saaaa~!” came a shrill voice from somewhere much deeper than she already was. “Heeee~lp me!”
AIRI!!!  :scared:



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“Help~!” She heard Airi’s voice, a bit stronger now, coming from just above where the water stood. It appeared she’d have to take a little swim to get to wherever her friend was trapped. Sudden thoughts of Airi drowning fueled her on, and she felt her way carefully ahead.

She knew this wasn’t going to be easy from the beginning, but as she became wetter and wetter, she realized this was going to be an even longer night than she thought she’d bargained for.
Well, to get into the Skulls, she couldn't have actually expected it to be a walk in the park.  :roll:

...

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“Aiiiiriiii~!” echoed a soft voice from somewhere ahead of the girl it named. Airi stared at the cliff above her, from which it seemed the voice came, and fought a bit more at the ropes that bound her.

“This is not making me think more highly of you, you know!” she told the girls surrounding her in a voice that she supposed was more furious a few minutes ago not long after she’d woken up. “If anything happens to Chisa…”

“Oh, I’m sure she’ll be fine,” Tanaka said, scraping a knife along her fingernails. “And if she’s got what it takes to be in the Skulls, she’ll be even more than that.
So then...the skull that Miyabi mentioned that Chisato has to find...is Airi's?  :stunned:  Well, Miyabi never said anything about it coming from a skeleton, huh?

So then, the audition is to see if Chisato is brave enough to face the unknown in order to save Airi?   It must be to see how deeply her convictions are and to see how loyal and committed she is. Makes sense that the Skulls would want to make sure that their members could be counted upon to help/bail each other out.



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“Why Suzuki,” Fujimoto began. “Don’t you know? Ai-chan – you might know her better as Takahashi – is one of your new great leaders.”

This time Airi really did just stare at them. The new head of Nakazawa?

...

“Is she?” Airi asked. She tried to keep the weakness caused by the new information out of her voice, but failed. “Well then I should be proud you’re comparing me to her.”
Would Airi be saying that if she new of Aichan's powers or of what types of stuff the Circle does, I wonder?



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“Well!” the recently graduated Skull said. “I think it’s time we should be going. You have our directions down, right?” she asked Airi.

“I understand what it is you asked me to do,” Airi said in a tight voice. “But I’m not sure I want to do it.”

In response, Tanaka shrugged. “Do what you like,” she said. “But remember, if you don’t follow what we said, your friend fails her audition, and I doubt she’d be happy with you for causing that, would she?”
So now they're coerced Airi into playing a role in Chisato's audition?  That seems somewhat odd that they'd do that. But knowing how important this apparently is to her friend, I find it hard to believe that Airi would deliberately mess things up for her now.



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Fujimoto grabbed at the rope hanging off the side of the ledge Airi’s chair was perched on. “Well, depending on how your friend does, one way or another I’ll see you on the other side.”
Airi's tied to a chair that's perched on a ledge?!?!?  :mon scare:  What the hell did they plan here?



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“I want you to know, I’m rooting my hardest for your little friend,” Tanaka said, grasping for the rope herself. “I really am. You don’t know how lonely it gets sometimes with just these two knuckleheads for company.”
:whistle:



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“Careful now,” Natsuyaki said, examining the knife. “Your friend will be one of us soon enough, you know, and you don’t think she’s an idiot, do you?”

“If she passes your stupid audition,” Airi shot back, nonplussed.

The older girl just smiled. “Oh, she will.” Her gaze didn’t falter as she studied Airi’s face. “They’re right,” she said. “You are kind of cute, especially all tied up like that.”

Airi suddenly felt her entire body flush with heat at the girl’s words, and she also became very anxious about her current situation.
Boy, Miki sure called it.  8)



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Airi gasped as with one stroke she cut through the rope above her, and both her and the rope fell out of sight.
Wait a sec...exactly how high up are they?



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“…Airi?” she heard a weary voice call from above. Breaking quickly out of her reverie, she looked up to see Chisato apparently on her hands and knees peering over the cliff’s edge.

“Chisa!” she said, excitement bubbling up inside of her. “You made it!”
YAY she found her!  :w00t:  Now all she has to do is get her out of that chair and off the ledge.



Quote
“I was just…” she caught herself quickly. “I mean, er, the Circle ambushed us in the woods. They seemed to know where we were going, and apparently didn’t like it very much. They kidnapped me and tied me up in here… I didn’t expect you to come after me though…”
Ah, so Airi's role in this is to start planting the proverbial seeds of distrust of the Circle.  Considering their adversarial history together, it makes sense that they'd want to make sure all Skull members share that particular mindset.



Quote
“Of course I would come after you, Osuzu!” Chisa said, apparently trying to inject some playfulness into her voice. She sounded almost too weary to be capable of it though. Plus, whatever it was to Airi’s side seemed to keep distracting her.
Could it be that same mysterious thing that Chisato was talking to right before she entered the cave?



Quote
“Well…” Airi responded, wondering if the girl was ever going to come rescue her. “I am stuck deep in a cave somewhere…”

“Right…” Chisato said, but now she seemed completely distracted and barely even looked at Airi anymore.

“What is it?!” Airi demanded in the nicest voice she could, unable to stand it any longer. “You’ve come this far. Are you going to help me? You can probably get down here on that rope up there.”

Chisato blinked and looked at Airi almost as if she’d forgotten about her, and then glanced over to the rope. “Yeah, probably…” she said, and looked back down. “Um…” she began, and seemed to be uncomfortable with continuing.

“Yes…?” Airi said. She had a feeling the girl was not doing well in her audition being this dense.

“Well,” Chisato said, her eyes straying to the side again. “It’s just that… there’s a skull in a chamber just like yours a few meters away from you...”
Ooooooooooooooooooooooooh...THAT'S the test!  :mon star:  The situation is probably set up to appear that Chisato has to make a choice between saving Airi and going for the Skull to pass the audition.  If this is the case...what's going to happen once she makes her choice?


Quote
her friend gripped the rope tightly in her hands and shuffled toward the edge, concentrating downward, before jumping off. Airi’s heart seemed to fly up into her throat in excitement until… Chisato vanished from sight past the wall to her left.
Looks like she made her choice.



Quote
She heard scuffling from what she knew must be the hollow beside her, but she didn’t care. Chisato had made her choice; she’d be stuck here for days. Her terror rose as she thought of the classes she would miss. Her grades would never recover!
So now here's Airi, stuck on a cliff, tied to a chair...and she's worried about her grades?   :bleed eyes:



Quote
As such, she almost didn’t register when Chisato came crawling around the wall, grasping her rope tightly in her free hand, and almost collapsed right in front of Airi. A skull that was threaded through the rope just above Chisato’s head stared through its empty orbs straight into Airi’s face.
Hah? She repelled to the chamber with the skull, grabbed it, then scaled the rock cliff to get to Airi?  :mon huh:

That's impressive.  :pimp:



Quote
“I thought…” Airi sniffed, unbelievingly. “I thought you had left me here…”

Chisato’s face suddenly became stricken with pain and scandalized. “Of course not! How could I do that to you? You’re my best friend!” Her tired fingers fumbled at the ropes holding Airi to the chair as she tried to untie them. Eventually she succeeded, and squeaked as Airi nearly jumped up at her to give her a tight hug.
Awwwwwwwwwwwwwww... :nya:



Quote
“That was brilliant you know, what you did with the skull.”

“I know,” Chisato said, grinning, and Airi smiled at the sparkle she saw in her friend’s eye. “It actually makes me disappointed in them though… If it weren’t for the Circle interfering, it wouldn’t have been much of a test.”
Now, assuming that Chisato has passed and is going to be welcomed into the Skulls, the next question is...If, in the future, Chisato finds out that the Skulls made Airi lie to her and that the Circle had nothing to do with what happened, would she remain with the Skulls?  :hehehe:



Quote
“Congratulations,” Fujimoto said, raising a flashlight to her face. She flashed it between the two girls and to the skull Chisato held in her hand. “You have both your skull and your friend. I’d say you’ve passed our audition with flying colors!
Praise from Miki-sama herself! Hard to beat that. :thumbsup



Quote
Wearing a stern look, Tanaka nodded. “Quite impressive…” she said, what seemed a bit reluctantly. “In good time too. I can’t say anything but ‘yes’.”

Airi looked at her friend, grinning. Chisato was staring among them all with wide eyes, apparently still in a bit of disbelief.

“Of course a ‘yes’ from me,” Natsuyaki said casually. “I chose her, after all.” Fujimoto nodded at her response and looked to the third current Skull.

Kusumi seemed very reluctant to say anything, but finally grudgingly mumbled, “’Yes’ from me too… She’s obviously got what it takes…”
And it's a unanimous vote.

Welcome to the Skulls Chisato.  :mon thumb:



Quote
Airi’s smile had completely vanished when Fujimoto stepped up to her friend. Well, the girl no longer went to this school. Surely she wouldn’t be here long.

Fujimoto looked over to her. “Your friend is quite something,” she said, giving Chisato a pat on the arm. “Are you sure you don’t want to audition too? I see quite a bit of potential in you as well, even if you aren’t quite as… adventurous… as your friend. Chisato, right?”
Did Miki just invite Airi to audition for the Skulls?  :mon spit:


Quote
She looked over at Natsuyaki

...

Despite all of their attention on Chisato, she was just gazing at Airi, who saw a smile come to her face when she noticed Airi looking at her. This of course caused Airi to blush again, but the hot rush that suddenly jolted through her body wasn’t caused by the blush this time.
Don't tell me Airi has some special abilities too?



Quote
Amid the trees behind Miyabi, she saw twin glowing points that led a dark form as it bounded out of its hiding place. She tried to cry out in warning, but the shadow was too fast, and Miyabi went down in a tangle of fangs and guttural growls.

She finally found her voice at seeing the girl being viciously mauled, and screamed the loudest she thought she ever had. She heard muffled swearing from behind her, and footsteps hurrying in the direction of the attack.

Apparently hearing their approach, the beast swiped its maw up to look with its beady glowing eyes at the other girls – ‘beast’ was the only word Airi could think of to describe it; it looked like a large dog, but with teeth that looked like they could shred a cow and sticky hair that was falling out in patches – and once again quicker than they could react, jumped over at them.
EHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!  :shock: :shock: :shock:

WHAT THE HELL JUST HAPPENED?!?!?  :temper:



Quote
Airi felt herself bowled over to the side at another of its leaps and tried to crawl away, but within seconds its growls faded away, and she looked up to see it hurdling down the path, sticking its snout up into the air to give a shrill howl, before it disappeared into the darkness, the howls the only remaining trace of its existence.

Almost feeling afraid to, Airi looked back at the other girls. Tanaka was holding her arm, which was bleeding around her fingers, and Fujimoto was limping along, apparently trying to run after the animal. “You’d better run, you damned bastard!” she shouted after it. “Nothing does this to my girls!!!”
From the description...it sounds like...werewolves?

Could this be the reason why Chisato keep having that feeling that they were being watched before? If these, in fact, ARE werewolves, then the next thing to ask is... WHO are they? Unless the school is located within a town/city, then these werewolves have to be people (either students or teachers) FROM their school! It could be anyone, even the 3 Circle members themselves (maybe like a side effect of gaining their powers).



Quote
Her eyes still felt pried wide open at the horrible sight. The horrible… “Miyabi!!!” she yelled, and turned to look at what looked like a pile of clothes lying motionless toward the trees.

Chisato held her back, looking warily at the first victim. “I… I don’t think you should go over there, Osuzu…” Airi started crying again.
MIYABI NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!  :frustrated: :frustrated: :frustrated:
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [4: The Three]
Post by: rokun on November 09, 2007, 06:33:35 PM
Yaay! :nya: Thank you for all your comments! That makes me happy! :D And welcome JFC and Amarghetta to this thread! :mon heh: Well, you did your part, so I should do mine too! If you haven't commented yet, don't feel discouraged about still doing so. There's just a lot to respond to already!

First, I'll start by going back a chapter...

The Circle Inner bath house!  :shocked: Some questions answered some don't. For example, why is it that in most TakaGaki pairing fic, it's always Risa who fall in love with Ai? Maybe you can enlighten me a bit.  :grin: Other than that, I'll wait until the audition. Go Rokun write more chapters!!! [crack whip] *I'm such a slave driver*  XD
:lol: Don't ask me! Lol. This is just what works out in this story for me. Maybe Risa being the younger and people thinking she's a more er... genuine? girl, she chooses her love while Ai is too busy with other things (or other girls)? In this specific one, Ai is a central character (and at least at first, intended to be the MOST central to the plot, though as my plot develops I dunno if that'll stay quite the same... lol), and so I'm trying to give her layers. Having her just in love with Gaki and that being all there was to it would be pretty boring if it was that way throughout the whole story. ^_^ I enjoy her connection with Miki...

Now, onto this chapter!

Quote from: modesta107
maybe a possible Airi-Miyabi-Maimi-Risako,uh, love rectangle in the future?
Hmmm, you know what? That's looking more likely as time goes on...  XD

g4rfield point 1: In response to your questions about what it takes to be a Skull, we know by now that both the Skulls and the Circle have been around for nearly as long as the school has (up to 2000 years ago), right? There's lore in there that explains their relationship and thus the Skulls' distrust of the status quo, but just not all of it has come out yet. :) I'll just say for now... what's going on between the two groups is much, much bigger than just the school...

pt. 2: I debated how to handle Risako in this chapter. The key in this as far as I see it is that so far in all their interactions, Miyabi has been somewhat of an unreliable narrator. She's seen the three of them together and assumed they were all the closest friends. And it's true to an extent - Airi feels close bonds with them both. However, this being Chisato's audition, she doesn't have the close relationship with Risako yet, and with Risako not being from their House... there really just wasn't any thought of inviting her along. So she didn't come :) if to Miya's slight disappointment... but as you saw, she seemed to get over it...

Also, about the cave, I'm sorry if it was a little confusing. I've rarely written about an experience like this (nothing like it at all since CotD), so I probably didn't do the best job of putting it into words. The cave from the place Chisato entered it is basically a long tunnel, probably carved by water over history, all of which is left is what Chisato encountered and had to wade through deeper in the cave. After getting through that little bottleneck, the cave opened into areas with larger chambers, such as where Airi was held captive in, and which made the main part of the cave deep inside the hills. There are likely many passages to the surface branching out from these chambers, one of which the Skulls, Airi and Chisato used to get back into the woods (in a more secluded spot not as easily accessible from the school - hence why non-Skulls didn't know about it). Skulls have had centuries to explore the area around the school and find out all its secrets...

Pt. 3: I won't say whether Miyabi is dead at this point, but she was definitely torn up a good bit... That's what freaked Airi out so much, because she was witness to virtually the whole thing. The good news is you'll find out what's up with her right at the beginning of the next chapter. :)

Pt. 4: Airi does seem somewhat taken with Miya, doesn't she? As far as I was concerned, you could see something at least would happen between them ever since they started arguing with each other almost right after they meant about things like Airi's name. ^_^ I won't promise that's how it'll end up though... The relationships between many of these girls are going to get quite complicated... As for Chisato, I wonder how much of Airi's doubt of her was just caused by being tied up helpless deep inside a dark cave...

Quote from: JFC
Incidentally, if Yuko wasn't already the namesake for one of the houses she'd fit the role really well.
You know, once I started establishing the Skulls hierarchy I thought of that. :lol: However, she's already got a bigger part to play...

Quote from: JFC
Actually, yeah, why DOES Chisato want to join the Skulls anyway? O_o
The way I see it, aside from needing someone to connect Airi with the Skulls (not wanting her to join herself at this time) :lol:, as you saw in the short insight into Chisato's character this chapter, she's a more adventurous type, and she believes the Skulls might be able to give her that type of thrill she craves since nothing else at the school really is. Also, hanging out with girls like Airi and Risako, she wants to separate herself a little from that "good girl" or "good student" image they (especially Airi) exemplify. For once, she wants to try to walk on the dangerous side of life...

Quote from: JFC
Would Airi be saying that if she new of Aichan's powers or of what types of stuff the Circle does, I wonder?
I wonder that too. :) Although, we still don't really know what the real agenda of the Circle or even the Skulls is... And really, I don't think even they themselves know yet (remember the line from Maimi about "The headmaster says this is going to be a special time for us" or some such?).

Aaaannndd... I just had to quote this:
Quote from: JFC
Could this be the reason why Chisato keep having that feeling that they were being watched before? If these, in fact, ARE werewolves, then the next thing to ask is... WHO are they? Unless the school is located within a town/city, then these werewolves have to be people (either students or teachers) FROM their school! It could be anyone, even the 3 Circle members themselves (maybe like a side effect of gaining their powers).
There's definitely something going on this night beyond Chisato's audition... or maybe it was caused by Chisato's audition? Notice all the references to the "moonless" night? Now, who can we think of that has some relation to the moon? I'm probably making this too obvious, but I thought someone would already catch on to the little hints spread around the chapters so far :lol: Guess I'm subtler than I realize >.> Also... since my actual writing isn't catching up to my views of the characters, I thought I should prod it forward a little bit more. :lol: Look for some revelations in the next chapter...

Again, thanks for all the :heart:. ^____^ It makes me want to make my next chapters at an even higher level!! Dang, I almost wrote a whole other chapter of backstory right here...
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [5: Audition]
Post by: iacus on November 09, 2007, 09:50:25 PM
Now, who can we think of that has some relation to the moon?

Quote
Goto of the Moon
:D

“I’ll keep myself under control,” Ai muttered, affronted at how these girls thought they needed to take care of her and watch her every step.

Looks like someone wasn't able to keep themselves under control. But why? Was it the sight of Mikitty that did it, or was it some kind of supernatural force that was released when Okai passed the audition?
I'm going to guess right now that Airi will somehow use her and Miya's connection (No, not their love connection. Their
"lightning bolt" connection) to save Miya's life.
EDIT: Oops, I forgot that the Goto house head was Saki, not Takahashi. :-[  Makes you wonder if Aichan knows about the attack or not though.  Also, I wonder if the whole independent attitude from the skulls is a new development or if it's a tradition that dates back to when the skulls first formed.
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [5: Audition]
Post by: mode107 on November 09, 2007, 11:00:51 PM
I forgot to throw Erika into the mix for a possible love pentegon XD
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [6: Awakenings]
Post by: rokun on November 16, 2007, 12:34:35 AM
Well, I'm getting kind of back to my weekly updating, aren't I? :lol: Um, well this chapter's just about as long as the last one, so I hope you can enjoy it too. I went through a few revisions of it in order to try and get just the right amount of detail... I hope it comes across well.

What will happen to Miyabi??? Is she dead??? Tune in below to find out...


Chapter 6 – Awakenings

Miyabi found herself in a very dark and cold place, and she didn’t know how she got there. The last thing she remembered was smiling at the toothpick girl when she’d looked at her. That was, aside from the excruciating pain and coldness she’d felt right after that. There was also the feeling of something large and hairy atop her. She hadn’t liked that feeling at all.

The place she was in now was completely different though. She tried to look around, but realized that she couldn’t see anything. It just felt like she was… there. There, and yet nowhere. Then suddenly she felt like something warm infused her whole being, and her vision, such as it could be called, became flooded with a luminescence she couldn’t shut her eyes to.

At first she was scared, but soon the brilliance became very pleasant and she wanted to feel it completely overwhelm her. She now knew that somehow she was inside her own mind, but that it was opened to her in a way she’d never imagined before. In it she saw visions of things she had no experience with. She saw the school on fire, blazing as brightly as the sun. She saw bricks being laid in a structure that stood in its spot, while three women dressed in long flowing robes looked on. For a second Miyabi thought one of the women, a petite long-haired one, looked over at her and even recognized her.

Then the visions faded, and the warmth flowing through her felt like it was becoming colder. With the cold, the darkness and pain were returning. No! She wanted the light back! But it was all slipping away. Anything she felt also seemed like it was slipping away. Was she dying?

“Miyakko!!”

She heard her name as a cry in the distance. She tried to latch onto the voice, but the excruciating pain threatened to completely engulf her. Now she wanted nothing more than for it to end.

However, it didn’t. Instead, it began fading once again. This time though, she didn’t fall into some brilliant realm of apparent fantasy within her mind. She felt dull throbbing all over as her senses quickly began returning to her. Before long she was able to feel her limbs and even tried to move one. Then, she opened her eyes to a world that was still dark with rain actually beginning to fall onto and around her. Yet even so, in its reality it was much more vivid than what she’d been staring at before the pain returned.

She realized someone was leaning over her crying and murmuring her name. There were also whispers and whimpers from beyond the increasingly muddy bed she lay in. Her eyes, quickly again, regained their focus, and she realized a girl was staring down at her, her own eyes moist with tears mixing with the rain sliding around her face.

“Rei-chan?” Miyabi asked from her stupor, finding her voice.

The girl atop her blinked in her tears and hurriedly wiped them off, apparently at first unable to see through them. “Mi…” she began. “Miya…?” Finding their focus, her eyes now became wide as if she was seeing a ghost.

Miyabi tried to sit up, resting her weight on her elbows at first, and blinked as she looked around her. Not far away from them, the Okai girl had her head down as she whispered something to a taller girl that looked like Suzuki kneeling on the ground with her head down also. Airi, she corrected herself, wanting to continue the closer relationship she felt was developing between them. That was who she’d been looking at before the pain started. And then…

“What’s going on?” Miyabi asked, returning her gaze to a still terrified-looking Reina.

“Y… you…” Reina spluttered, apparently having lost her ability to speak for the moment.

“I what?” Miyabi asked, and she craned her neck to look through the rain past the captain. Kusumi was sobbing into her knees for some reason. That’s right, they had just finished Okai’s audition. Then where was… “Where’s Mikitty?”

Reina just stared at her in response.

“If somebody doesn’t start speaking normally to me, I’m going to get mad,” Miyabi said, eyes narrowing while raising her voice slightly.

This time she was loud enough that Okai looked up at her, and after a momentary surprised glance prodded at the girl beneath her, who began stirring a little more. When she looked up and saw Miyabi staring back at her, she blinked too. “Nats… Miyabi?”

“Ok, that’s it,” Miyabi said, and shoving their captain hard off of her, making her tumble and fall on her back with a small splash, she jumped to her feet. Finally able to focus on herself she began straightening her clothes that were quickly becoming damp, when she noticed they were wet with something other than water. Dabbing it and holding a bit of the mysterious substance up to her eyes, she growled. “Who bled on me?” she asked in an accusing tone.

“It was you…” Reina said, finally seeming to regain some of her sense. Now, Miyabi had always held a certain respect for their captain, but the girl’s groveling right now was nigh appalling. “You were bleeding. And…”

“Well I’m not bleeding right now,” Miyabi said, her mind drifting back to her experiences inside her head. “So you can stop with all the talk about it.”

Suddenly, she was knocked backward by a crazed monkey. She staggered, but upon regaining her bearings found Airi holding her in an impossibly tight hug. “Hey hey now,” she said quickly and dangerously. “None of that. I don’t do random hugs.” The girl didn’t budge. “…That means you can stop that now.”

She tried prying the girl from around her, but to no avail. The second year was surprisingly strong; there weren’t many girls she couldn’t push around as she liked. In fact, Reina was the only one she knew. Then again, aside from their regular fodder, she didn’t come into contact with many…

Eventually though Airi released her, a euphoric expression on her face. “You’re all right!” she said, beaming at Miyabi. Then something seemed to come over her, and she looked anxiously around her at Reina and Okai, who just stared at the couple. Reina dropped her eyes and her face broke into a smirk, while Okai just looked at her friend as if she’d never seen her before. At least the rain was letting up.

“Oi,” Miyabi said in Reina’s direction. “Don’t look at me like that. Don’t think that being Captain spares you from getting beat down.”

“Oh, I’m under no illusions…” Reina said amusedly, and turned to apparently attend to a still-cowering Koharu.

Thankfully Airi pulled away from her but instead now looked at her in horror. For some reason this irritated Miyabi more. So the girl hugged her as if there was no tomorrow, and now was terrified of her again?

“I’m…” the young girl began. “I’m sorry… I don’t know what came over me.” And she quickly turned and ran to her friend, pausing next to her, still turned away from Miyabi. Okai patted her tentatively on the back. That was right. Miyabi should be calling her Okacchan now.

By this time Reina had also somehow corralled Koharu, although there was still no sight of Miki, and with the girl still shaking next to her, Reina walked back toward Miyabi. “This is kind of weird though,” Reina said. “I saw you. You were nearly torn to pieces. I… well, I lost control for a minute…” Yeah, Miyabi thought. You turned into a big crybaby is what it was... She smirked. She couldn’t wait to see how she could play around with that.

“…And the next thing I knew,” the Captain continued, “You sat up and called my name.”

“So what?” Miyabi asked. “I guess I must have miraculously healed.”

“That’s some kind of recovery…” Reina said.

“She’s right,” came another voice. Miyabi turned and found Airi looking back at her again. “I didn’t get the best look at you…” she said slowly, “But what I saw after that… wolf thing… attacked you… You were just a pile of tangled parts. You weren’t human anymore…”

Miyabi stared at her a moment before barking a laugh. “Tangled parts?” She looked at Okai. “You’ve got a strange one there, Okacchan.” The addressed girl smiled nervously.

However, Miyabi was not a stupid girl, no matter what she might let on. As strange as it seemed, what two of these girls had seen could not be complete illusion. There was some wolf thing as Airi put it? Come to think of it, she knew she’d heard something in the woods earlier other than them, and with an involuntary shudder she quickly tried to hide, she remembered the large hairy thing she’d felt atop her.

Still, finding out whatever it was that attacked her probably wouldn’t explain how she survived the encounter. She wondered if it had anything to do with the white light she saw. Had she died? Did she almost go to the world beyond? She shivered again at the thought. Something must have caused it. Well, she was always one to experiment, and she’d survived almost being ripped apart, hadn’t she? She looked up into the trees until she caught sight of what looked like a sturdy bough and focused on it.

The next thing she knew she felt nauseous, and her feet curled in her shoes as they were no longer flat on the ground. She threw out a hand to steady herself, and it rested against the rough bark of a tree trunk. She stared at it a second before looking down several meters to where girls still stood on the ground below.

“…Miya?” Reina asked, her eyes searching around the clearing. Airi looked like she was becoming frightened again.

“I…” Miyabi began weakly, but the sickness overcame her and she lost her footing, plummeting through branches that slapped hard against her before the ground hit her like deadweight and she felt pain that seemed almost as bad as when she was nearly torn apart by an animal.

“Miyabi!” Airi gasped, and she leaned down toward her. “Are… are you all right?”

Miyabi tried to talk, but nothing came out. She couldn’t move, and the pain in her back was slowly turning to numbness. “I…” she finally managed to breathe. “I think my back broke…”

This time there was no descent into white light. There were no visions. There was just the pain, and the terror of quickly becoming unable to move or feel nearly any part of her body below her neck.

“Help…” she rasped again. “Help me…”

Airi stared at her before beginning to wail. “This is too much!” she screamed. “Too much!” And she jumped up from Miyabi, running off in some direction, not even minding the puddles she splashed through. From the rhythm of the splashing sounds from those puddles, it appeared someone followed her.

“Miyabi…?” Reina said, coming up with a wide-eyed Koharu trailing behind. “You’re really… not okay, aren’t you?”

Miyabi closed and opened her eyes very slowly, still unable to make more than such short, slow movements, and even that through what seemed a dense fog. It wasn’t helped by the fact that the rain was beginning to fall again right into the face she didn’t have the capability to shield from it.

Reina’s expression became tight again and she began breathing heavily. “You’re an idiot, you know that?!” she said. “You can’t leave me alone here! You go off and you… you…” She looked up through the raindrops into the tree Miyabi fell from as if unable to find her words. Then she clutched Miyabi’s arm tightly, her eyes tearing up. “You idiot… You idiot…” she repeated, closing her eyes and squeezing Miyabi’s arm tighter.

Such a gesture did no good of course since Miyabi couldn’t feel her extremities, but oddly she began to feel a warm feeling flow through her again, and soon she did notice a sharp squeeze around her arm as if it had come out of a deep sleep. She swallowed as feeling returned to the rest of her body, and she felt pain again. It dulled quickly though, just as before.

“You idiot… You idiot…” Reina was still repeating, up until when Miyabi reached up and flipped her over, pinning her to the ground beneath her and eliciting a short yelp from Koharu. Reina’s eyes widened beneath the bangs plastered by the rain to her forehead as she breathed quickly in shock, staring up at her.

“It’s you!” Miyabi said between clenched teeth. “You’re the one healing me! What are you doing?”

“I…” Reina began. “I don’t know. I didn’t do anything! I just didn’t want to see you like that, and…”

“And I got better,” Miyabi said, raising herself from the girl. As the two took seated positions and stared at each other, Miyabi grinned. “Cute trick you got there.”

“I…” Reina started, her mouth apparently still dry. “I could say the same of you. What was that you went and did there? How did you get into that tree?”

“I don’t know…” Miyabi said, looking back up into its branches. Then she looked back at Reina. “But it was cool,” she said, her grin widening even further.

“Yeah… I guess so…” Reina said. “Much better than me just being able to heal you at least…” she grumbled.

“What are you talking about?!” Miyabi asked, scandalized. “You just saved my life! Twice!”

Reina gave her a skeptical look in return. “And the cool part is…?”

With a growl as she narrowed her eyes Miyabi pounced on the cross-legged girl, and they rolled around playfully wrestling in the dirt while thunder rumbled around them until Miyabi had her pinned again. “You know,” Miyabi said, taking her small victory for granted, “This is really going to put the Skulls on the map… I mean, we apparently have some kind of powers! You with your healing and me with my…” She looked up thoughtfully. “You know, I’m not really sure what it is I do yet…”

At a cough from behind, the two girls craned their necks to see Koharu watching them anxiously, completely soaked just like them. “Um… excuse me? I’m glad to see you two are having fun and all, but…” Her eyes flickered back and forth between the two girls, apparently nervous at their position. “I feel kind of left out…”

“Oh do you?” Miyabi asked with a smirk, and then she had a sudden idea. She looked at Reina, who after a second seemed to understand and smiled and nodded back. “I wonder what else we can do to make her feel uncomfortable…” Miyabi said in a sultry voice, looking into Reina’s eyes.

“I couldn’t say…” Reina said as if trying to think of something.

Then, Miyabi leaned quickly down and kissed the older girl hard on the mouth, writhing up against her as if she needed her more than anything. Reina responded just as aggressively as thunder rolled and lightning flashed in increasing bursts, a cyclonic wind even coming up around them, and after a minute or so the two girls separated. Grinning into each others’ eyes again for a moment, they looked back at Koharu, who stood frozen, staring between the two girls and the sky.

However, it wasn’t long before her eyes slowly narrowed and she stuck out her bottom lip. “That’s not funny, you two!” she scolded, and turned away. “Where’d the other two and Mikitty go, by the way?”

Looking back at Reina Miyabi shrugged, still with a smirk, and slid off her, getting to her feet. As Reina rose too and straightened her non-regulation seifuku, which seemed pointless since she was nearly caked with dirt and blood by this point, she murmured softly into Miyabi’s ear. “That Suzuki chick is a lucky girl. Although, if you attack her like that sometime, you’ll probably smother the poor thing.” Miyabi gave a blush at that, although she wasn’t sure whether that was from embarrassment or anger at the girl’s never-ending teasing.

“Speaking of…” Reina continued. “Koha’s right. Where’d they run off to?”

“Don’t ask me,” Miyabi said, straightening her skirt. “I was a little paralyzed at the time.” For that, she received a hard poke in the side. She refrained from assaulting the older girl once again.

“Well,” Reina said. “I guess we might as well head back to the school. That’s probably where they went, and we’ve gotta gather our new Skull and give her a proper initiation after all. I also would love to talk with the Master.”

“New Skull…” Miyabi said, dropping into thought and ignoring the part about Mikitty for the moment. “Y’know that’s nice, but with what’s just happened with you and me we’re gonna have to test her to see if she’s anything special too.”

“Doubt it,” Reina said curtly. “You and I are at least close in years. I don’t know how we’re able to do… whatever it is we’re doing, but what are the chances a second year is the same?”

“True,” Miyabi said as they began walking down the path back to school, Koharu falling in at their sides, apparently wanting to talk but unsure what to say. At least it had stopped storming. “How ‘bout her?” she asked, jabbing a finger in their companion’s direction. “Should we throw her off a roof or something to see what she can do?”

Koharu’s eyes widened at that. “Excuse me! If that’s what it’ll take, I’d prefer never to find out whether or not I’m a freak like you!”

“Freak?” Miyabi asked, tasting the word in her mouth. “You do realize that as a Skull you’re already a ‘freak’, right?” That shut the girl up nicely. “Whaddya think, Rei-chan? Maybe we could just toss a hair dryer into her bath or something. …Rei-chan?”

She looked over at the girl to see that she was just staring off into space as if trapped in a world within her own mind. She reached over and slapped her cheek, causing the girl to glare back at her. “Don’t tell me you’re seeing a bright white light,” Miyabi stated slyly.

“No,” Reina said, curtly again. Then her lips curled up into a smile. “I look forward to running into our friendly Circle again though…” Miyabi looked curiously at her, unsure what to think of the girl bringing up this certain subject. What did the Circle have to do with anything? Did this have something to do with the other night?

She thought back to it again. This time, it felt like she burst through some kind of veil within her head and faces swam into her mind’s eye. Aha! She knew other girls had been there! When she took a closer look at the faces though she recognized them easily, and when the memory of Reina flying across the room for no apparent reason appeared, she felt an odd emotion – fear. Well, what had she to worry about now? She’d just nearly died and been completely paralyzed. Surely it couldn’t get much worse than that.

On the spur of the moment she looked over at Reina, who still seemed lost in thought as they walked, a smile on her face. There was something different in the way Miyabi studied the girl this time though – this time, Miyabi understood the smile.



They eventually made it back to the school, and although there was no sign of Miki, they ran into Suzuki and Okai not far from House Matsuura. Suzuki seemed quite at a loss when she saw Miyabi walking around as if nothing had happened, but after the Goto girl chidingly told them that apparently Reina could heal anything, at least as far as she was concerned, the second year quieted down and just gave the two of them odd glances. It was enough to make Reina’s skin crawl.

She explained that they had to appropriate Okai for her initiation into the Skulls, and informed Suzuki that unless she wanted to audition too she’d have to run off back to her house until her friend caught up with her. When Reina patted her shoulder with a grin while telling her of all the reasons to audition, she felt a strong shock rip through her, and her eyes widened, seeing the same expression come across Suzuki’s face. Then she looked over at Miyabi.

“What is it?” the girl asked with a frown.

Reina looked back at Suzuki, who cast wary glances among the two older Skulls. “What it is…” Reina began, and Suzuki looked to her, a difficult to decipher look in her face, but at least clearly one that informed Reina not to tell everyone about what they’d apparently both just felt. “…is I think this girl is somehow destined to join us.” Relief came over the young girl’s face. “I mean, her friend’s already here, and another of us is already halfway under her skirt…” This time when the second year’s eyes widened she blushed profusely, and Reina smiled, looking over at a glaring Miyabi.

“I’ll tell you,” Reina said, leaning close to Suzuki’s ear and whispering into it. “She’s quite the hellion despite her prissy appearance. You could even do anything you wanted to her,” she continued, her grin widening. “And I bet you wouldn’t ever want more…”

“Excuse me!” Suzuki said in a high brisk voice, backing away from Reina as if she had the plague. “I think you’re right. I must be going now.” She bowed quickly at the three Skulls and gave a short smile to her friend. “I… have homework to do.” Then she scurried off toward her house and through the door.

“Such a polite girl,” Reina said, tapping her chin. “None of that better have rubbed off on you, Okacchan.” She turned to the other young girl, who puffed out her chest. “Can’t have anything like that in the Skulls.”

“That’s one of the reasons I wanted to join you,” she responded vehemently. “I don’t want to fit in like everyone else.”

“Good to know…” Reina said, and cast her eyes around the other Skulls.

“What were you telling her?” Miyabi asked, her brows still furrowed.

Reina shrugged nonchalantly. “Oh, just about what awaits her in her future happy life as a Skull! What else?” Miyabi didn’t seem convinced.

“So what’s next?” Okai asked eagerly.

“Well aren’t you the spunky one,” Reina said, gesturing to the others to follow her on the way toward House Nakazawa. “The first thing you need to learn is to relax. Do you think we’re as easygoing as we are because we’re uptight all the time? You’re set for life now, so there’s no need to worry too much about silly things like homework.” Okai tried to open her mouth, but Reina plowed on despite it.

“That doesn’t mean you should shirk it all of course – you have to do enough to be allowed to stay at the school after all – but the main thing is to not stress about it. We’re about… fun…” She gave Miyabi a look at that to which she responded with a raised eyebrow. “But most Skulls don’t have a future lying in the academic realm.”

“Look who’s talking…” Miyabi said quietly, and Reina gave her a quick glare.

“Miyakko and I happen to do well enough,” she explained. “But don’t feel like you have to hold yourself to our standards. I mean, look at Koha over there,” she said, nodding to the girl who grimaced in response. “She’s barely hanging on, and things couldn’t be better.” Reina knew that with the sarcasm she couldn’t keep out of her voice, there was no way the girl could believe her. Well, she’d learn it all in time.

“All that’s fine,” Okai said impatiently. “But what about freedom and adventure? That’s why I joined you.”

“There’ll be plenty of that,” Miyabi said, giving another look to Reina. “We don’t have anything planned at the moment, but this coming week we’ll start kicking it into high gear.”

“Your first assignment,” Reina broke in, annoyed at the girl’s interruption. She looked up and down Chisato’s perfect navy blue school uniform, although while many girls wore skirts she wore a short pair of c-ute capris. “…aside from a trip to the Skulls’ fashion boutique… is to find a poor helpless girl this next week and bully her in some way. You’ve gotta start establishing a Skull’s reputation and separating yourself from your friend there.”

“But I like Airin…” she responded uncertainly. “And she’s my roommate, so it’s not like I can just stay away from her anyway.”

“There’s no need for that,” Reina said. She paused a moment as she remembered the shock she felt when the two of them touched. First her and Miyabi when they met, and then Miyabi and the girl, and now her and the girl. Although, even though she didn’t know what her interaction with Miyabi was, the shock Reina felt upon touching her was much stronger than when her and Miyabi met those years ago. In any case, something was most definitely fishy. Before going on, she poked Okai to see what would happen, although nothing did other than the girl frowning at her. “I have a feeling all of us will be seeing a good bit of her in the future.”

“There’s no way she’s going to want to join the Skulls,” Okai said quickly, rubbing the portion of her arm Reina just poked. “She hates you guys.”

Reina stopped in her tracks, a shadow falling over her face, but before she could talk Miyabi spoke up with a voice calmer than what she would have used. “You’re one of us now,” she said, walking over to Okai and looking her directly in the eyes. She also laid a hand hard on the younger girl’s shoulder. “You shouldn’t speak of the Skulls as if it’s something separate. It’s what you are now. I don’t think she hates you, and that only has to improve her image of us in general. You’re Okacchan now, remember?” Reina couldn’t stop a smirk coming to her face again as she looked at the two. She didn’t think Okai was the only reason anymore that Suzuki might have a better view of them…

“Right…” Okai said a trifle hesitantly. “I’m a little worried about that too though. I hope she doesn’t start thinking too much less of me...”

“It’ll be all right,” Reina said, walking up to them too and pushing Miyabi aside a little. She was the Captain. It was her job to console a fellow Skull if she needed it. Of course, the key phrase there was if she needed it…

“While it’s true Skulls don’t really have friends outside our little ‘circle’, like I said before…” She gave Miyabi a slight grin before continuing. The girl apparently had decided to start ignoring her when she did this. That only made her grin wider. “I have a feeling she’s irrevocably tied to us now.”

“If you say so…” Chisato responded, and Miyabi finally let her go, but not before giving her shoulder a bit of a squeeze.

“Guys…!” she heard Koharu burst out insistently, and when Reina turned to the girl another voice shouted out from back along the path.

“Ai! Saki! Here they are!”

This time she spun on her heel, automatically crouching in a defensive posture. She recognized that voice, and immediately didn’t like what it might portend.

Yajima Maimi ran down the dark wet path toward them, and almost right away Reina saw Takahashi and Shimizu emerge behind her. She glanced over to see Miyabi grimly awaiting their arrival too. The other two girls just seemed confused about what was going on, although Koharu with her experience did seem a little anxious. Well, maybe this was as good a time as any to start showing Okai the ropes. However, with her newfound knowledge, Reina was a bit more worried than usual at this encounter.

While still several paces away Yajima stopped cold, and Reina could tell she was staring at Miyabi. “What’s the problem now? Are you actually going to enforce the unwritten rule about being out in the middle of the night?”

“How are you here?” the Circle member asked in a demanding yet slightly dazed voice.

Reina stared between her and Miyabi, who crouched even lower. “What are you talking about?” she demanded herself. “Were you watching us? If so, then we now definitely have a problem. There’s no way I’m letting you track my girls twenty-four hours a day.”

Thunder began to rumble in the distance as Yajima shifted her gaze to look at Reina as if she was an annoying bug that she wouldn’t even bother to squash beneath her shoe. To her side, Reina caught Takahashi glancing up at the sky curiously. Shimizu just stood silently behind them as if trying to make herself invisible. Refocusing on Yajima, she thought she caught the girl’s eyes flashing red for a moment. It must have been a trick of the night.

We are the Heads of this school,” Yajima said evenly. “So we’ll keep track of whoever we want.”

“No,” Reina growled loudly. “You won’t.”

“Why shouldn’t I be here?” Miyabi said, momentarily diffusing the ire quickly forming between the two apparent leaders of their respective groups. “This is my school as much as it is yours.”

“But you were—“ Yajima began, but Shimizu stepped up and raised a hand to lay on her shoulder.

“I may have been mistaken in what I thought I… saw,” the small girl said in a low, calm voice. “Either way, she’s here right now, so there’s nothing really to be said about that anymore.”

After giving her fellow Circle member a fierce gaze for a time, during which Reina exchanged glances with Miyabi, the Head of Matsuura continued, “You’re right. It’s good that we don’t have to deal with the consequences anymore.”

Reina looked hard at the girl amid the increasing thunder and activity in the sky above. What was she talking about? If something happened to one of the students at Seishin, she supposed the Circle would be responsible in some way, but with how they talked about it and learned about it so quickly, this seemed like something more… personal.

“Do you know something about what attacked us?” Reina asked in a low and dangerous voice, her agitation not lessening. At her words, thunder clashed what seemed like directly above them.

Yajima looked back at her. “Something attacked you?” she asked in what Reina guessed what was supposed to be an innocent voice.

“Yes,” she responded. “Miyakko almost died. If it wasn’t for me, she would have.”

This time Yajima’s eyes narrowed, and despite Shimizu tugging on her sleeve and Takahashi giving her furtive glances, she shot back, “If not for you? What did you do?”

“That’s none of your business,” Reina replied, and looked around at her girls. Miyabi was looking at her, and at her glance nodded her support. Koharu still looked a bit nervous though, and Chisato just looked stunned. Reina cracked a smile at that. Yes, Okacchan, she thought. Nobody messes with the Skulls.

“Maimi…” Takahashi said, finally speaking up. “Something’s wrong here.” She glanced again at the sky while she spoke.

“Tell me!” Yajima demanded again, ignoring the newest Circle member and keeping her furious gaze fixed on Reina. Reina’s own snapped back to her as crackling lightning above lit their battlefield in a haunting glow.

“Yajima-san…” Takahashi said again, more insistently this time, but the Matsuura girl threw up her arm, fingers splayed, and Reina’s mood quickly turned to astonishment as a ball of something that flickered and glowed brilliantly formed and quickly increased in size in front of her hand.

“Reina!” Came a voice from another part of the clearing. “No!” Reina recognized the voice of Miki, but she couldn’t take her eyes off the fireball in Yajima’s hand that was now the size of her head. Shimizu backed quickly away, looking up at the brilliance warily as Reina could tell by the fresh illumination of her face, but Yajima’s attention didn’t shift from her.

“I’ve had about enough of you!” Yajima growled, and pitching her hand forward, threw the ball directly at a bewildered Reina.

“No!!!” came a yell from her side, and out of her periphery she caught sight of Miyabi stepping forward. Just then, when the fireball was halfway to her, it seemed to implode in midflight, and the clearing fell back into darkness again. This time it was deeper though, since the sudden light had forced their eyes to adjust quickly.

When she could see again though, Reina caught the three across from them all staring at Miyabi, who was glaring back, wide-eyed and breathing heavily. Koharu and Chisato both had fallen on their knees to the ground, stupefied and silent.

The tension continued uneasily for perhaps a minute, before Shimizu stepped back up to Yajima. “This isn’t the time,” she said quietly beside the girl’s ear. “I think we all,” she continued, glancing over at Takahashi, “need to discuss our observations from tonight.”

“No,” Reina said, finally finding her voice after nearly getting incinerated. At first though, the other girls didn’t look at her. “Everybody saw that, right?” she asked, looking around at her girls. Miyabi nodded grimly, and she could tell from the vacant expressions of the other two that they apparently had seen as well. She’d expected the same from Miyabi, so the girl’s lack of surprise now caught her off guard.

“Saw what?” Shimizu asked casually, and Reina felt her eyes drawn again to the small girl’s.

“No!” Miyabi said again. “You’re not messing with our minds again!” she snapped.

When she spoke, Shimizu fell back from Yajima as if hit by a blow, and she blinked her eyes groggily. The fog Reina had felt appear momentarily within her mind cleared up immediately, and while it left she thought she saw a red glow in Shimizu’s eyes as well. Even though her mind was clouded, this time she knew there was no doubt about it. She looked over at Miyabi. “What’s going on, Miya?” she asked carefully.

“What’s going on,” Miyabi said, stepping closer to the Circle, who backed a step away and started looking like they wanted to back away even further, “Is that I think I’m finally beginning to understand what’s happening to me.” Reina didn’t know exactly what the girl was talking about, but if it helped them put the Circle in their place finally she was all for it.

“Don’t come any closer!” Yajima warned, though Reina thought she began sounding a little desperate. “Ai-chan! Stop her!” she ordered, looking at the Nakazawa seventh year.

However, Takahashi just looked up at the sky again, where clouds still roiled amid vicious-looking thunder and lightning. “I don’t know if that’s such a good—“ she began, but Yajima cut her off again.

“Now!” she commanded. “Or Saki will make you!”

Shimizu gave the girl a look when she said her name that seemed to imply she wasn’t sure if she wanted anything to do with making Takahashi do anything, but she looked back at the older girl, who was becoming nervous.

“Okay…” she said, and she looked back into the sky.

Reina wondered what she was doing until thunder began booming even louder, and lightning suddenly began jabbing down into the woods nearby, occasional loud booms signifying trees that had likely been struck down. Then Reina, along with the other Skulls, looked up nervously too.


“Control!” Yajima said, becoming anxious too. “You need to learn control!”

“I know!” Takahashi responded. “But that’s what I’ve been trying to tell you! There’s something else!”

Then, looking up into the impending maelstrom, Reina finally began to understand too. She hadn’t really thought about the difference before, but ever since the other night her senses became more attuned to her surroundings, especially when she walked out in the woods. It felt like she could sense all the life around her, and for some reason she just hadn’t paid attention before.

She looked down at Miyabi, who still stared up. Aside from seeing the girl, she could feel her life, as if it was some tangible force emanating from her. Although for some reason it came stronger from Miyabi, she could feel it from the other girls too.

However, when she looked at the Circle, even though their life forces shone almost as strong as Miyabi’s, they flickered, almost as if something was fighting within them. When she looked back to the sky she could feel the churning clouds, and even the thunder and the lightning. In a way, it seemed to mirror herself. She thought back to the rest of the night. It had rained when she cried. It stormed strongest when she was angry, as it was now when she faced her enemies. For some reason there was no doubt about it anymore – she couldn’t even necessarily explain why, but she knew these girls were her enemies, in a way that went far beyond the rivalry between Skulls and Circle.

Lightning still shot almost chaotically down around them, but now that she understood it, she became calm and reached out to it. “No,” she said, drawing glances from a few of the girls around her. She looked at Takahashi, who still stared fixedly up into the sky. “This is my storm,” she told the girl calmly, and she finally caught her attention. “You’ve no business with it.” With the girl’s attention brought back to her, the lightning stopped flashing, and even the thunder’s rumble seemed to fade slightly.

Takahashi’s eyes widened as she looked into Reina’s calm face, and she glanced between it and the sky above. “What?” Yajima asked. “What is it?”

“…Now is not the time,” Shimizu insisted once again. “We should go.”

Yajima looked furiously back at Reina, and then at each of the other Skull members in turn, even Koharu and Chisato. It seemed she wanted to say something else, or rather yell it, but instead after the glances she just turned on her heel and stalked off, the other girls catching up behind. Shimizu followed her nonchalantly, yet obviously eager to be away from that scene, but Takahashi spared a few glances back at Reina and up at the sky.

Miyabi moved as if to follow them, but Reina said quickly, “Don’t.” The girl stopped, and when she looked back at her she continued. “Shimizu’s right. We’re good for now, and just need to think about what’s happened.” After a second, Miyabi nodded and fell back in with her.

Sighing, Reina turned and smiled at the other two girls. “Please,” she said in a cheerful voice. “Stand up and join us.” The two girls just stared at her. Reina decided to change her tack, and made her face become stern. “You two are Skulls, aren’t you!? You can’t let something like this faze you!” Then, giving each other glances, they both stumbled to their feet.

Reina heard a low whistle from behind her and glanced back to see Miki limping up. “That was some kind of show you put on there,” she said, looking very interestedly between Reina and Miyabi. “Can’t say I’ve ever seen the like.”

“And where were you when we all nearly got killed?” Reina asked in an angry voice. Thunder rumbled behind her, and Miki shook her head.

“Tsk tsk,” she said. “I don’t think we can have you losing your temper again.” She smiled. “Besides, why do you think I’d want to get involved in something as dangerous-looking as that?”

“You know something about it, don’t you?” Reina asked quickly, jumping on an intuition.

Miki fell silent a moment. “Maybe,” she said. “But I assure you, I couldn’t repeat what you just did.”

“If you’re hiding anything from us…” Miyabi said in a threatening voice. Miki frowned at her. Regular Skull members weren’t supposed to speak to the Master like that.

“All I know,” Miki said slowly. “Is that the Skulls were formed with the idea that someday, the True Blood would come to Seishin.” The other girls looked on quietly as they considered her words. Reina had no idea what that might mean though. “It doesn’t go into much detail about what the True Blood are, but since they’re ‘coming to Seishin’, it’s guessed that they’re students. It also doesn’t say anything about what they’re supposed to do… except that they have the ability to ‘alter the stars’.”

“Alter the stars?” Koharu asked. Reina, although pleased with the girl’s regained speaking abilities, didn’t really want her involved in this moment. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Well…” Miki began, though a bit unsteadily. “One of the possible meanings of ‘seishin’ is literally ‘stars’, or at least ‘celestial objects’. Of course we don’t know what the founders meant since it’s written in kana, but that could mean the True Blood could affect some kind of change on the school.”

“Or…” Reina said, hoping for more with their newfound abilities than just something dealing with the school. “It could mean literally doing something to the stars, couldn’t it?”

Miki hesitated a moment before responding, and she also began limping again toward House Nakazawa. The other Skulls followed. “There’s an expression,” she said. “Where ‘alter the stars’ means to change one’s destiny. It’s not specific though, so there’s no telling whose destiny will be changed.”

“Like it could mean anything to begin with,” Miyabi said in an annoyed voice. “’Change your destiny’. What kind of destiny are we supposed to have anyway? We’re just students at Seishin.”

Skulls at Seishin,” Miki corrected. “However, I don’t know,” she admitted with a shrug. “Unless it means your destiny as a Skull, or perhaps the destiny of someone as a Circle member.” The girls were quiet at that.

“You’re not really too helpful,” Reina said skeptically. “You know that?” In response, Miki gave a toothy smile.

“So who are these True Blood?” Miyabi asked. “Since you mention them at this time, I take it you mean it could be us. Or perhaps the Circle…”

“Perhaps,” Miki responded wisely. “I think you’re going to need to find out though.”

“Us?” Chisato asked, speaking up for the first time. “How are we supposed to find out about anything like that?”

“Well I certainly can’t do it,” Miki replied. “I’ll be gone by sunrise, after all.”

“That’s okay,” Reina said. “We can handle it.”

“I’m sure you can,” Miki said with a warm smile, and patted Reina on the back. “So now that you all know, what are you going to do about the Circle?”

The girls all looked at each other. “Well, maybe it’s our destiny to find out,” Miyabi said with a grin and nearly tangible sarcasm. The other girls sighed, and Reina poked her in the side. “Ow…” the girl said as if not really meaning it.

The whole time they walked along, Reina felt a presence paralleling them from the woods along the side. She wasn’t sure it would mean anything, but after poking Miyabi she caught the slightest glimmer of yellow eyes peering out from the brush. Watch all you want… she thought to herself. Though, you now know not to mess idly with my Skulls… As if to accentuate her point, a small whirling dervish of air sprang up nearby and blew past them toward the eyes, which disappeared at its approach. As they continued walking and the dervish dissipated, Reina’s mouth turned up in a smile signifying satisfaction she’d not felt in a long time.
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [6: Awakenings]
Post by: g4rfield on November 16, 2007, 01:42:58 AM
wedge.  :grin: *reading now*
Ok, comment time! I'm as always, positively enthralled by this chapter. Finally some answers, Miyabi is not dead (now I don't have to hunt rokun down)  :twisted: She's just almost dead. Thanks to Reina, all is well again. At first I didn't know why the powers suddenly got so apparent like that. I guess it takes a really bad situation to maximize a talent that lays dormant to turn it into a really powerful weapon. We know that there's an underlying of magic beneath Reina, Miya and Airi, but to see Reina heal the badly torn Miya, twice, and pull out a heavy storm, lightning, the whole nine yards....is kind of shocking. Miya herself seemed to have teleportation...ummm... can it be called magic? ESP maybe. Anyway, the yellow eyes, I would go with most people here and say it's werewolves. Miya got bitten, so she has a potential to go wolfy on a full moon.  :grin:

Now we see the Circle as less powerful than the Skulls. Is there gonna be revolution inside the school soon?  :w00t:

The one thing that I just found a bit disturbing is Reina. First, I have the feeling that she could turn really really evil after she finds out 'bout her newfound power. Second, don't you think that she's warm up to it fast, like she's able to control it and everything, her understanding of her new power seems to surpassed even Miyabi. I don't even know if Miya can even measure up everybody's power like Reina does. I think Ai-chan knows what Reina is capable of from that short 'meeting'. Just not the full extent maybe.

 
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [6: Awakenings]
Post by: mode107 on November 16, 2007, 02:37:22 AM
Woah, this was a confusing chapter. It had nothing to do with how you wrote it, I was just so much for me to remember, which is good because I like long chapters :P

Well for one thing, it's good  Miyabi is alive and well. Maybe now she might  also be able to turn into a werewolf on a night of a full moon?  :lol:

And Maimi being circle member, I didn't expect her to threaten Reina and charge up a fireball(was it?) to hit Reina. How was she going to explain herself to the headmaster if she were to actually hurt Reina? Bad Maimi!  :angry:  :wub:
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [6: Awakenings]
Post by: JFC on November 16, 2007, 05:18:51 AM
Quote
Miyabi found herself in a very dark and cold place, and she didn’t know how she got there. The last thing she remembered was smiling at the toothpick girl when she’d looked at her. That was, aside from the excruciating pain and coldness she’d felt right after that. There was also the feeling of something large and hairy atop her. She hadn’t liked that feeling at all.
She probably didn't even realize what hit her.



Quote
She saw bricks being laid in a structure that stood in its spot, while three women dressed in long flowing robes looked on. For a second Miyabi thought one of the women, a petite long-haired one, looked over at her and even recognized her.
The three original women that the school Houses were named after?



Quote
Then the visions faded, and the warmth flowing through her felt like it was becoming colder. With the cold, the darkness and pain were returning. No! She wanted the light back! But it was all slipping away. Anything she felt also seemed like it was slipping away. Was she dying?
FIGHT MIYABI!!! FIGHT!!! :pleeese:



Quote
She realized someone was leaning over her crying and murmuring her name. There were also whispers and whimpers from beyond the increasingly muddy bed she lay in. Her eyes, quickly again, regained their focus, and she realized a girl was staring down at her, her own eyes moist with tears mixing with the rain sliding around her face.

“Rei-chan?” Miyabi asked from her stupor, finding her voice.
SHE LIVES!!! :w00t:



Quote
Miyabi tried to sit up, resting her weight on her elbows at first, and blinked as she looked around her.

...

“What’s going on?” Miyabi asked, returning her gaze to a still terrified-looking Reina.

“Y… you…” Reina spluttered, apparently having lost her ability to speak for the moment.
Considering what she just went through, trying to sit up isn't the best thing for Miyabi to be doing right now.  Too much movement right now could worsen the injuries she's suffered.



Quote
Then where was… “Where’s Mikitty?”

Reina just stared at her in response.

“If somebody doesn’t start speaking normally to me, I’m going to get mad,” Miyabi said, eyes narrowing while raising her voice slightly.
Strange...Miyabi sounds rather well for someone who just got viciously mauled. :?

And where IS Miki? Did she go off to get help?



Quote
“Ok, that’s it,” Miyabi said, and shoving their captain hard off of her, making her tumble and fall on her back with a small splash, she jumped to her feet. Finally able to focus on herself she began straightening her clothes that were quickly becoming damp, when she noticed they were wet with something other than water. Dabbing it and holding a bit of the mysterious substance up to her eyes, she growled. “Who bled on me?” she asked in an accusing tone.
She got up? But...how? She SHOULD be in massive amounts of pain, not to mention probably REALLY lightheaded from the loss of blood.  :stunned:



Quote
“It was you…” Reina said, finally seeming to regain some of her sense. Now, Miyabi had always held a certain respect for their captain, but the girl’s groveling right now was nigh appalling. “You were bleeding. And…”

“Well I’m not bleeding right now,” Miyabi said, her mind drifting back to her experiences inside her head. “So you can stop with all the talk about it.”

Suddenly, she was knocked backward by a crazed monkey. She staggered, but upon regaining her bearings found Airi holding her in an impossibly tight hug. “Hey hey now,” she said quickly and dangerously. “None of that. I don’t do random hugs.” The girl didn’t budge. “…That means you can stop that now.”
As awkward as this may be, isn't this sort of what Miyabi wanted in the first place? To get closer to Airi?  Maybe it's just the fact that they're with the others...making her feel a little self-conscious.  :P

That still doesn't explain though why she's up on her feet when logic says that she should be barely conscious.



Quote
“I’m sorry… I don’t know what came over me.” And she quickly turned and ran to her friend, pausing next to her, still turned away from Miyabi. Okai patted her tentatively on the back.
Ooooooooooooooo...maybe Airi feels something similar to what Miyabi feels?  :love:



Quote
Miyabi should be calling her Okacchan now.
Okacchan? Someone could misunderstand that and think Miyabi was calling her "mommy". XD



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Reina walked back toward Miyabi. “This is kind of weird though,” Reina said. “I saw you. You were nearly torn to pieces. I… well, I lost control for a minute…” Yeah, Miyabi thought. You turned into a big crybaby is what it was... She smirked. She couldn’t wait to see how she could play around with that.
Miyabi = :kekeke:
Reina =  :mon sweat:



Quote
“…And the next thing I knew,” the Captain continued, “You sat up and called my name.”

“So what?” Miyabi asked. “I guess I must have miraculously healed.”

“That’s some kind of recovery…” Reina said.
It's like Miyabi has some sort of healing powers (like Wolverine from the X-Men franchise). If this is actually the case, could it be that there are MORE students at this school who also have powers? Perhaps it's NOT just The Circle that has them.  :mon unsure:



Quote
She looked up into the trees until she caught sight of what looked like a sturdy bough and focused on it.

The next thing she knew she felt nauseous, and her feet curled in her shoes as they were no longer flat on the ground. She threw out a hand to steady herself, and it rested against the rough bark of a tree trunk. She stared at it a second before looking down several meters to where girls still stood on the ground below.
Whoa...Miyabi can levitate? :o  Well, it WAS said that the original three woman that the Houses were named after were supposedly witches, and that they found a way to pass on their powers to the subsequent generations of House members, right?  Looks like Miyabi somehow managed to "tap into" those powers.



Quote
“I…” Miyabi began weakly, but the sickness overcame her and she lost her footing, plummeting through branches that slapped hard against her before the ground hit her like deadweight and she felt pain that seemed almost as bad as when she was nearly torn apart by an animal.
Well, she's still new at this, after all. Levitating herself that high probably wasn't the smartest thing to try for her first time out. 



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Miyabi tried to talk, but nothing came out. She couldn’t move, and the pain in her back was slowly turning to numbness. “I…” she finally managed to breathe. “I think my back broke…”

This time there was no descent into white light. There were no visions. There was just the pain, and the terror of quickly becoming unable to move or feel nearly any part of her body below her neck.

“Help…” she rasped again. “Help me…”
Oh shit.  :mon scare:



Quote
Reina’s expression became tight again and she began breathing heavily. “You’re an idiot, you know that?!” she said. “You can’t leave me alone here! You go off and you… you…” She looked up through the raindrops into the tree Miyabi fell from as if unable to find her words. Then she clutched Miyabi’s arm tightly, her eyes tearing up. “You idiot… You idiot…” she repeated, closing her eyes and squeezing Miyabi’s arm tighter.

Such a gesture did no good of course since Miyabi couldn’t feel her extremities, but oddly she began to feel a warm feeling flow through her again, and soon she did notice a sharp squeeze around her arm as if it had come out of a deep sleep. She swallowed as feeling returned to the rest of her body, and she felt pain again. It dulled quickly though, just as before.

“You idiot… You idiot…” Reina was still repeating, up until when Miyabi reached up and flipped her over, pinning her to the ground beneath her and eliciting a short yelp from Koharu. Reina’s eyes widened beneath the bangs plastered by the rain to her forehead as she breathed quickly in shock, staring up at her.

“It’s you!” Miyabi said between clenched teeth. “You’re the one healing me! What are you doing?”

“I…” Reina began. “I don’t know. I didn’t do anything! I just didn’t want to see you like that, and…”

“And I got better,” Miyabi said, raising herself from the girl.
REINA'S THE HEALER!!! :w00t:

...

Hmmm...so does that mean that Koharu has a power too? Or maybe Miki?



Quote
“You know,” Miyabi said, taking her small victory for granted, “This is really going to put the Skulls on the map… I mean, we apparently have some kind of powers! You with your healing and me with my…” She looked up thoughtfully. “You know, I’m not really sure what it is I do yet…”
We could be looking at the beginnings of some type of mystic witch battle between The Circle and The Skulls. :O



Quote
“New Skull…” Miyabi said, dropping into thought and ignoring the part about Mikitty for the moment. “Y’know that’s nice, but with what’s just happened with you and me we’re gonna have to test her to see if she’s anything special too.”

“Doubt it,” Reina said curtly. “You and I are at least close in years. I don’t know how we’re able to do… whatever it is we’re doing, but what are the chances a second year is the same?”
Oh don't get too ahead of yourself Reina. Considering all the weirdness that's already happened, in all likelihood ANYTHING can be possible.



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“Should we throw her off a roof or something to see what she can do?”

Koharu’s eyes widened at that. “Excuse me! If that’s what it’ll take, I’d prefer never to find out whether or not I’m a freak like you!”
Poor Koharu. :lol:



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“I look forward to running into our friendly Circle again though…” Miyabi looked curiously at her, unsure what to think of the girl bringing up this certain subject. What did the Circle have to do with anything? Did this have something to do with the other night?
Well DUH! Reina's obviously thinking "payback".



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They eventually made it back to the school, and although there was no sign of Miki, they ran into Suzuki and Okai not far from House Matsuura.
Ah, nice to know the two of them made it back okay. :)

...

NOW WHERE THE HELL IS MIKI???  :pig huh:



Quote
She explained that they had to appropriate Okai for her initiation into the Skulls, and informed Suzuki that unless she wanted to audition too she’d have to run off back to her house until her friend caught up with her. When Reina patted her shoulder with a grin while telling her of all the reasons to audition, she felt a strong shock rip through her, and her eyes widened, seeing the same expression come across Suzuki’s face. Then she looked over at Miyabi.

“What is it?” the girl asked with a frown.

Reina looked back at Suzuki, who cast wary glances among the two older Skulls. “What it is…” Reina began, and Suzuki looked to her, a difficult to decipher look in her face, but at least clearly one that informed Reina not to tell everyone about what they’d apparently both just felt. “…is I think this girl is somehow destined to join us.”
Well, whaddaya know...EVERYONE just seems to be full of surprises tonight.  :shocked:



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“The first thing you need to learn is to relax. Do you think we’re as easygoing as we are because we’re uptight all the time? You’re set for life now, so there’s no need to worry too much about silly things like homework.” Okai tried to open her mouth, but Reina plowed on despite it.

“That doesn’t mean you should shirk it all of course – you have to do enough to be allowed to stay at the school after all – but the main thing is to not stress about it. We’re about… fun…”

...

I mean, look at Koha over there,” she said, nodding to the girl who grimaced in response. “She’s barely hanging on, and things couldn’t be better.”
Oh BURN!  XD



Quote
You’ve gotta start establishing a Skull’s reputation and separating yourself from your friend there.”

“But I like Airin…” she responded uncertainly. “And she’s my roommate, so it’s not like I can just stay away from her anyway.”

“There’s no need for that,” Reina said. She paused a moment as she remembered the shock she felt when the two of them touched. First her and Miyabi when they met, and then Miyabi and the girl, and now her and the girl. Although, even though she didn’t know what her interaction with Miyabi was, the shock Reina felt upon touching her was much stronger than when her and Miyabi met those years ago.
Almost looks as if another power/ability that the girls have is a sort of "sixth sense" that lets them know when another person with similar abilities is near.  If that's the case, logic would dictate that under these circumstances, the stronger the shock, the more potential power. That could certainly explain Reina's sudden interest in getting Airi to join The Skulls.



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“Ai! Saki! Here they are!”

This time she spun on her heel, automatically crouching in a defensive posture. She recognized that voice, and immediately didn’t like what it might portend.

Yajima Maimi ran down the dark wet path toward them, and almost right away Reina saw Takahashi and Shimizu emerge behind her.
The Circle members? What are they doing out this time of night?  This has the potential to turn REALLY bad, REALLY quick, particularly with Reina's and Miyabi's newly-discovered powers.  :scared:



Quote
While still several paces away Yajima stopped cold, and Reina could tell she was staring at Miyabi.

...

“How are you here?” the Circle member asked in a demanding yet slightly dazed voice.
That's a rather odd thing to ask.



Quote
“I may have been mistaken in what I thought I… saw,” the small girl said in a low, calm voice. “Either way, she’s here right now, so there’s nothing really to be said about that anymore.”
What, they thought they saw Miyabi somewhere? By the sounds of it, it would have to be somewhere that's a fair distance away, or it was somewhere that she shouldn't have been able to get away from.



Quote
“Do you know something about what attacked us?” Reina asked in a low and dangerous voice, her agitation not lessening. At her words, thunder clashed what seemed like directly above them.

Yajima looked back at her. “Something attacked you?” she asked in what Reina guessed what was supposed to be an innocent voice.

“Yes,” she responded. “Miyakko almost died. If it wasn’t for me, she would have.”
Hmmm...if they're being honest in their reactions, then it looks like The Circle had no knowledge of the existence of that wolf-creature.



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“Maimi…” Takahashi said, finally speaking up. “Something’s wrong here.” She glanced again at the sky while she spoke.

“Tell me!” Yajima demanded again, ignoring the newest Circle member and keeping her furious gaze fixed on Reina. Reina’s own snapped back to her as crackling lightning above lit their battlefield in a haunting glow.
Question now is...is the change in weather affecting the girls (specifically Maimi), or are the girls affecting/changing the weather?



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“Reina!” Came a voice from another part of the clearing. “No!” Reina recognized the voice of Miki, but she couldn’t take her eyes off the fireball in Yajima’s hand that was now the size of her head. Shimizu backed quickly away, looking up at the brilliance warily as Reina could tell by the fresh illumination of her face, but Yajima’s attention didn’t shift from her.
Okay, NOW Miki shows up again? Where's she been???



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“I’ve had about enough of you!” Yajima growled, and pitching her hand forward, threw the ball directly at a bewildered Reina.
Maimi seems to be taking this thing between The Circle and The Skulls a LOT more seriously than the others (even Reina) are.  I mean, rivalry is one thing, but to actually strike out with an attack like this? Is everything alright with Maimi?  :k-crazy:



Quote
“No!!!” came a yell from her side, and out of her periphery she caught sight of Miyabi stepping forward. Just then, when the fireball was halfway to her, it seemed to implode in midflight, and the clearing fell back into darkness again. This time it was deeper though, since the sudden light had forced their eyes to adjust quickly.

When she could see again though, Reina caught the three across from them all staring at Miyabi, who was glaring back, wide-eyed and breathing heavily. Koharu and Chisato both had fallen on their knees to the ground, stupefied and silent.
The Skulls protect their own.

Looks like Miyabi's powers aren't limited to just levitating.



Quote
The tension continued uneasily for perhaps a minute, before Shimizu stepped back up to Yajima. “This isn’t the time,” she said quietly beside the girl’s ear. “I think we all,” she continued, glancing over at Takahashi, “need to discuss our observations from tonight.”
But...WHAT observations? What did The Circle see? Why were they surprised to see Miyabi there?



Quote
“Don’t come any closer!” Yajima warned, though Reina thought she began sounding a little desperate. “Ai-chan! Stop her!” she ordered, looking at the Nakazawa seventh year.

However, Takahashi just looked up at the sky again, where clouds still roiled amid vicious-looking thunder and lightning. “I don’t know if that’s such a good—“ she began, but Yajima cut her off again.

“Now!” she commanded. “Or Saki will make you!”
Maimi's sounding almost paranoid here. I mean, why does she seem to be so scared of Miyabi? Whatever the reason, she's obviously so spooked that she wants Aichan to use her powers to force her back the same way she threw them around at the chamber a few chapters back.



Quote
Reina wondered what she was doing until thunder began booming even louder, and lightning suddenly began jabbing down into the woods nearby, occasional loud booms signifying trees that had likely been struck down. Then Reina, along with the other Skulls, looked up nervously too.


“Control!” Yajima said, becoming anxious too. “You need to learn control!”

“I know!” Takahashi responded. “But that’s what I’ve been trying to tell you! There’s something else!”
Okay, so the changes in the weather are NOT the girls' doing? If so...what's causing it?



Quote
Then, looking up into the impending maelstrom, Reina finally began to understand too. She hadn’t really thought about the difference before, but ever since the other night her senses became more attuned to her surroundings, especially when she walked out in the woods. It felt like she could sense all the life around her, and for some reason she just hadn’t paid attention before.

...

It had rained when she cried. It stormed strongest when she was angry, as it was now when she faced her enemies. For some reason there was no doubt about it anymore – she couldn’t even necessarily explain why, but she knew these girls were her enemies, in a way that went far beyond the rivalry between Skulls and Circle.

Lightning still shot almost chaotically down around them, but now that she understood it, she became calm and reached out to it. “No,” she said, drawing glances from a few of the girls around her. She looked at Takahashi, who still stared fixedly up into the sky. “This is my storm,” she told the girl calmly, and she finally caught her attention. “You’ve no business with it.” With the girl’s attention brought back to her, the lightning stopped flashing, and even the thunder’s rumble seemed to fade slightly.
So...not only does Reina have healing powers, but SHE'S the one who's been affecting the weather??? :OMG:



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Takahashi’s eyes widened as she looked into Reina’s calm face, and she glanced between it and the sky above. “What?” Yajima asked. “What is it?”

“…Now is not the time,” Shimizu insisted once again. “We should go.”
Obviously discovering that they were no longer the only ones with powers has been a bit of a shock to them. The Circle no longer has the advantage as both groups now have demonstrated that they have mystical powers.Now they're going to have to reconsider the way that they deal with and treat them.

Ummm...by the way...with all the standing around and yapping that both sides just did, shouldn't Miki have reached them by now? 



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Reina heard a low whistle from behind her and glanced back to see Miki limping up. “That was some kind of show you put on there,” she said, looking very interestedly between Reina and Miyabi. “Can’t say I’ve ever seen the like.”
She's limping? Why? I don't remember anything about her injuring herself before or during Chisato's initiation test.



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“All I know,” Miki said slowly. “Is that the Skulls were formed with the idea that someday, the True Blood would come to Seishin.” The other girls looked on quietly as they considered her words. Reina had no idea what that might mean though. “It doesn’t go into much detail about what the True Blood are, but since they’re ‘coming to Seishin’, it’s guessed that they’re students. It also doesn’t say anything about what they’re supposed to do… except that they have the ability to ‘alter the stars’.”
Huh? The "True Blood"? This must have something to do with their newly found powers...but what exactly is the connection?  Also, how exactly does Miki know all of this, but the others apparently don't?



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The whole time they walked along, Reina felt a presence paralleling them from the woods along the side. She wasn’t sure it would mean anything, but after poking Miyabi she caught the slightest glimmer of yellow eyes peering out from the brush.
The wolf creature?


Dammit that was long. My eyes hurt and I'm all dizzy.  :mon ko:
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [6: Awakenings]
Post by: rokun on November 16, 2007, 04:26:55 PM
Ok, I wanted to post something fairly quickly here in response to things so far...

Sorry if some people were confused by the length. Some people like long chapters and some don't, and I just felt with the last two that the chapters each had kind of a flow throughout... But then, with how this split almost down the middle somewhat decently when perspective switched from Miyabi to Reina, splitting into two parts might not have been too bad. In fact, when writing it I got confused by whose perspective the beginning of the second part was from! :lol:

So, I'll say that if you haven't read it yet you may want to think about not going through it all in one sitting. Stopping at the "..." wouldn't hurt too much. ^_^

Now, another thing I wanted to say.

My stories are getting increasingly long and detailed, as this one is already through just six chapters, and it's my intention in this to build everything up slowly. I love all the guesses you're making :heart:, and am very glad there's so much variety. My aim is to give only hints about what's actually going on as the girls find things out themselves. You're kind of learning at the same pace they are (and in general they're not starting from a large knowledge base!). I hope this adds a sense of mystery and seeming chaos to it, but there really is an underlying logic to it all that hopefully will come together piece by piece; hence the title of this chapter - Awakenings. This is when two of the girls first are "awakened" to the roots of their potential. When making guesses, just make sure you take everything into account.

For example, in case it's not as clear as I mean it to be, remember the title of the story.  Three is a very significant number here. We know of the three Circle members and that they have some sort of powers, and you might even guess that they're very integral to the main plot of this story since the title basically names them (note - that plot hasn't been broached yet necessarily aside from references such as "the headmaster says it's a special year" for them). There are three founders of the school. At the very beginning of chapter one, remember the folklore lesson? There's a reason it starts out that way. There are three that compose the "celestial trinity" - the Sun, Moon and Tempest. You know how the Circle is related to them. Perhaps other girls... mirror them in a way?

There's an awful convenient lineup House by House. Maimi of Matsuura (the Sun), Saki of Goto (the Moon), Ai of Nakazawa (the Tempest). Now in this chapter we have Miyabi of Goto... and Reina of Nakazawa. Something's missing, no? :P I think most of you have already guessed it (it's not exactly subtle who the major characters are after all), but the girls just haven't quite put it together yet. :) Miki's the only one with some advance knowledge because of the information she's privy to as Skullmaster. And you're also right about a trigger to them realizing their power. Maybe not all triggers have been pulled yet...

I've already said too much, but I can't help myself to add: I can't wait until the last girl of the Sun comes to "light". ;)
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [6: Awakenings]
Post by: g4rfield on November 16, 2007, 04:50:39 PM
Don't worry about the chapters being long rokun. As I've said before, I like them long.  :grin: Keep in mind tho' that not every time people (read:me) read those chapters are at a time where they're well rested. For example, last night when I read it at 3 AM my time, I barely got enough sleep as it is, but it's beside the point, heh, what I meant is, forgive me if I missed a point or two.
Quote from: rokun
Stopping at the "..." wouldn't hurt too much. ^_^
Ummm....well....I didn't stop, but I think it's pretty obvious that first perspective is Miyabi and second is Reina...right?

Quote from: rokun
I've already said too much, but I can't help myself to add: I can't wait until the last girl of the Sun comes to "light". ;)
I begin to sound like a broken record but I will maintain my opinion, that girl shall be Airi.  :yep: What her power is....hmmm....was there any hint yet? I don't seem to recall any. Maybe when something REALLY bad happened to Miya, she'll be awaken? I mean the last time she got attacked by that 'thing', Airi and Miya are not exactly involved, so the next time when the bond between them is stronger, maybe this will be one of the triggers to cause another awakening eh?
So, my guess, key 1 to awakening: Someone close to the 3 got hurt/die. Doesn't movies usually use this formula too? Like Buffy for example....Tara got shot = Evil Willow emerged. Just sayin'...... ;)
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [6: Awakenings]
Post by: Kreuz_Asakura on November 16, 2007, 06:23:25 PM
Well, well, this is getting really exciting... and just ike g4rfield I think is Airi why?
Quote
There are three that compose the "celestial trinity" - the Sun, Moon and Tempest. You know how the Circle is related to them. Perhaps other girls... mirror them in a way?
This really make me think
-Ai-chan and Reina are from the same House ---> Nakazawa, who represents the Tempest
It looks like they have the same kind of powers (Ai thinking it was storm when it was Reina's storm and all that)
-Then we have Saki and Miyabi of Goto ---> Moon
Looks like they have some kind of psychic powers.... and the fact Saki represents the moon make think if she was the one who attacked Miya in a wolf form ??? Maybe Miya could do it too?
-We have Yayima, she's from Matsuura house ---> Airi is from Matsuura House too
Matsuura represent the Sun, that could explain that fireball she created
-Looks like the Skulls could feel this connection, at least this happened with Reina and Miyabi, both felt it the same with Airi
-Airi has a strong character
So, yeah... I really think is Airi
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [6: Awakenings]
Post by: chibilolli on November 27, 2007, 10:56:41 AM
Um...I thought I'd commented on this story more but obviously I haven't. Sorry Rokun, I blame...um...I dunno. Anyway...

These last two chapters were fantastic. I don't think they're too long. They're a perfect length. The audition chapter kinda reminded me of the Goonies but without all the boobie traps etc. When I was reading it I was picturing that in my head (Such a great cheesy film).

I was a bit shocked when Miyabi got mauled but I had a feeling you wouldn't kill off one of the main characters in that short amount of time. Miya having the power to heal herself is WIN, but obviously it has to be done when another member with powers is near her. Or am I reading that wrong (maybe I should've re-read the last chapter before I commented). Then Reina having the power to control the weather, to some extent. That's really cool.

I can't wait for the last person to be discovered. I think we all know who it is but I still can't wait to see how its going to be done.

UPDATE NOW!!! (oops, you've started me off now) :lol:

P.S - Miya kissing Reina :heart: :oops: (my two overall favourites out of the whole of H!P. But we know Miya has another person on her mind)
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [6: Awakenings]
Post by: iacus on November 28, 2007, 03:26:33 AM
So, if is Airi the second sun girl to have powers, how will she us them? She's not a Skull, so she doesn't have any sort of feud with the Circle. . . Oh wait, the Circle is going to try and kill her aren't they?

“All I know,” Miki said slowly. “Is that the Skulls were formed with the idea that someday, the True Blood would come to Seishin.”

This is probably way too early for speculation, but does this imply that the Circle somehow took over the school way back in the past? And that the Skulls were set up by the survivors to fight back againsist the Circle?
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [7: Questions]
Post by: rokun on November 28, 2007, 02:04:15 PM
Sorry for the later update! I took a break from just about everything over Thanksgiving. I hope everyone else who observes it had a good one. :) Anyway, onto the next chapter! This might be a bit slower and I hope not too boring, but I had to do a bit of character development. Hopefully TakaGaki fans will at least enjoy it. :)


Chapter 7 - Questions

“You’ve been awfully quiet since the weekend, Ai-chan,” Risa said as the two girls walked from their last afternoon class. Risa’s arms were full of books, and Ai couldn’t help but notice the girl glancing at the mere one textbook and notebook that Ai clutched in her own.

They did have some homework to do before the weekend, but Ai hadn’t felt motivated since the run-in with the Skulls several days ago. Something as simple as studying suddenly seemed not so important anymore, no matter that there might be important college entrance exams coming up before too long. Then again, according to popular legend around Seishin, Circle alumni don’t seem to have trouble getting into any college they want. She made a mental note to ask Maimi and Saki about that sometime to see if there was any truth in it.

“Ai-chan…?” Risa continued in a hesitant voice, clearly trying to get her friend to talk, but nervous of how far to push her. “…Is the Circle keeping you busy?”

Ai turned her face to stare at the girl. “I’m sorry,” she said finally. “Yes, it’s keeping me busy. I’m always distracted since I…” Seeing the look of concern on her friend’s face, she stared back hard and decided something in her mind.

“Nii-chan…” she began, slightly hesitantly. Maimi might literally kill her, but she needed support from somewhere other than the other Circle girls she wasn’t even sure she could trust yet.

“Yes?” Risa said, showing obvious interest at Ai being willing to talk to her at all.

“When we get back to our room, there’s something I need to talk to you about.”

Risa looked hard at her for a minute. “All right,” she responded, and they took another step forward only to find a girl blocking their way.

Tanaka smiled innocently up at them, her hands held behind her back as she tilted her head. “Well hi there, senpai of mine,” she said in almost a sing-song voice.

“What do you want?” asked Risa, looking down her nose at the younger girl. In all her time here, Risa had never thought much of the Skulls. While Ai watched her glare at the girl, she wondered. Might Mikitty have had something to do with that?

“Well I haven’t seen our great leader since I put her in her place, so I thought I’d come and have a little chat.”

It seemed like Risa’s glare couldn’t get any harder. “You’ll do well to learn some respect one of these days,” she said in a steely voice. “Teenage girls might get out of your way because they’re scared of you and your little gang for some reason, but you’ll find it’s a lot tougher bullying people around in the real world.”

Tanaka just smiled at her without concern. “You think so?” she asked. She gave Ai a glance before looking back at Risa and continuing, “What was your name again?”

Noticing her friend’s eyes narrow even further, Ai jumped in before she did something she might regret. Unfortunately, Ai knew this girl a bit better than her loyal friend. “What do you want, Tanaka-san?” she asked in a short yet careful voice.

“Oh, so she can speak, huh?” Reina asked, looking back to Ai. “I thought you didn’t do anything other than just stare at the sky anymore.” This time, at the girl’s words Risa turned her gaze on her friend, but Ai avoided her eyes.

“You sound so confident,” Ai said, feeling slight anger bubbling up inside her. “But you know what? I don’t think you knew any more of what you did than I. The storm just followed you around, and you didn’t even react to it until I started playing with it… You wouldn’t be anything more than a pile of ashes if I’d been able to deal with the mess you created.”

The younger Skull stared coolly back at her. “Be that as it may, I wasn’t the one who ran away with her tail between her legs.”

“I didn’t see you making any move to follow!” Ai barked back, and feeling someone pulling at her, she realized she’d been leering at the Skull, who met her advance with her own, leaving the girls’ faces only centimeters apart until Ai was pulled back.

“Ai-chan,” Risa said, still tugging at her. “I know she’s the scum of this school, but that doesn’t mean she’s worth losing your temper at. Besides, you’re a Circle member now. You can’t go around yelling at obnoxious children like that.”

Ai blinked, breaking her line of sight with the other girl, who backed away, surprisingly ignoring Risa’s insult and furrowing her eyebrows, still peering intently into Ai’s face as if surprised at something she saw in it. She was losing her temper. That seemed to happen a lot more often since she was inducted into the Circle. In fact, she always was one of the most even-tempered girls around. Risa even complained that she was too boring sometimes. Judging by the girl’s worried look when she glanced back at her now though, she didn’t think the change was entirely welcome.

After relaxing in her friend’s grip she looked back at Tanaka, who still stared at her sternly. She scrunched up her face in an attempt to rein in her temper before asking quietly, “So was there something you actually wanted, or was it only to harass me?”

“Actually,” the girl responded, now appearing thoughtful. Ai hadn’t seen the look on her face often, but strangely it actually seemed to suit her. “I thought that since we seem to share…” She glanced at Risa. “…a common interest, that we might want to compare notes.”

She seemed to hesitate before continuing. “You might be right that neither of us knows much about our seemingly mutual skill. I thought we might be able to learn something from each other.” She looked steadily into Ai’s face as she spoke. “That is, if we could stop yelling at each other for long enough.” She seemed to throw that in at the last moment with a slight twist to the corner of her mouth.

Ai stared at her, but Risa gave the girl a response. “What are you talking about?” she asked impatiently. “You don’t take any classes together, do you? Or… did you both join a club or something?” This time Ai noticed her glancing between both of them.

“No…” Ai said finally. “We did run into each other last weekend though.” Seeing her friend’s questioning look, she tried to convey wordlessly that she’d tell her about it later and turned back to the Skull. “I’ll have to think about it,” she told her.

“Take your time,” the girl replied, and with another glance between the two of them turned her body as if to walk away. “I’d be careful how much I listen to your fellow Circle members though.” She gave Risa an uncertain look before continuing. “There’s something mutual among you all too, and I think those two have grown too comfortable with it.” She looked carefully into Ai’s eyes again as if searching for something that she couldn’t find. “Maybe you’ll find that right now, despite our loyalties, we might have a bit more in common.”

“What could she possibly have in common with you?” Risa growled, looking at Tanaka as if the girl was something unpleasant stuck to the bottom of her shoe.

“Nii-chan…” Ai pled, tugging on her friend’s sleeve, but it seemed to have no effect.

“Ai-chan doesn’t run around beating girls up with all her free time. Nor does she skip classes as regularly as she goes to them. Nor does she spend every possible breath she has challenging every little bit of authority that’s visible! Nor does she…”

“Nii-chan!” Ai scolded lightly, but firmly enough that she finally seemed to get through to the girl. “That’s enough…”

Tanaka never took her gaze from Ai’s face though, and shrugged at her words. “Suit yourselves,” she said. “I just think this might be something bigger than any of us, and that it might be worth exploring what we can do together.” Then she turned away.

“That girl…” Risa grated as the two girls resumed their course to their room. “What is she trying to do now? Ingratiate herself? Bad enough that last year Fuji—“

Turning her head to catch Ai’s sudden look of interest, Risa broke off suddenly. “I mean,” she corrected. “Just who does she think she is?”

“Of course…” Ai said, nodding at her friend and patting her on the shoulder. “I have no intention of working with her on anything, so don’t worry yourself over it.”

“Oh,” Risa said, acting as if surprised Ai agreed with her. “All right then. She’s a bad influence Ai-chan, and especially now that you have such a respectable position, I just have to do my best friend’s duty and make sure you don’t associate with anyone like her.” The girl smiled at what Ai supposed was meant to be a flattering comment she was able to throw in, and she smiled back.

“I wouldn’t dream of it,” she responded.

However, despite her words, in actuality she wasn’t as sure as she made it sound. What the girl said had made sense. Wasn’t that what had been stamping down her motivation all week? Seeing what she could do, and what others could do… It had made her think there must be something more than entrance exams and endless studying, even though she’d done all right by them so far in her over six years at Seishin Gakuin, and really throughout her whole life. Getting into this school definitely had not been easy, after all.

Honestly, she wanted to take the girl up on her offer. Maimi and Saki had acted warm and open about their abilities, but there was also a distance with them. For example, they admitted they didn’t even really know what Ai could do or maybe even how to do it.

Now though, she had found someone else who seemed to be able to do at least some of the same things as herself. Tanaka had done something with the weather that night. It had rendered Ai unable to do anything with it, at least at first attempt. She’d seen a few of Maimi’s and Saki’s abilities, but never did they show any affinity with the conditions around them that Ai seemed able to claim. And really, she only had hints about what their true powers were. She was even slightly scared of Saki, especially since earlier that night the girl had come running to them with blood all over her in a right state, which sent Maimi into a frenzy leading to their encounter with the Skulls.

Despite her logic and rationality telling her to maybe talk to Tanaka though, something deeper within her and at least as strong was arguing hard against it. Don’t trust her, it said, and thoughts of the things she heard the girl and the rest of the Skulls had done in their time at Seishin assaulted her memory. Is this, as Risa said, really someone you want to be associating with?

Ai had always been a model student. Maybe not the most brilliant or the “choirgirl” Tanaka had called her, but she worked hard. Her teachers always praised her for her effort, and she thought no few of them seemed proud she was now part of the Circle, even if it did take nearly her whole career here to get to that position. It wasn’t her fault that Yoshizawa and Iida stayed around so long though. Randomly, she admitted to herself she’d thought of joining choir once…

“Ai-chan…” Risa said again, and Ai stared at her as if just remembering they were walking together. “Were you being honest to me a minute ago? You seem pretty deep in thought for someone so certain of her path.”

Ai stared at her another moment before responding. “I said there was something I wanted to tell you, Nii-chan.” Looking around her, she noticed they had neared House Nakazawa. “Come on.” She hurried the rest of the way in and past other students who peered curiously at her. She’d definitely been no stranger to attention since she was named head of the House.

Closing the door after both girls had entered their room, she turned back to see Risa smiling patiently up at her. At least, it looked patient. Ai could tell in her face though that she was being driven crazy by anticipation.

“Okay,” she said finally, and Risa’s unceasingly attentive look made her walk over to her bed and sit next to her. She looked over into the girl’s face and for some silly childish reason felt like blushing, though thankfully she managed to stop it before it showed.

“You can’t tell anyone else what I’m about to tell you, ever,” she said, studying Risa closely though trying to keep her gaze fixed on the girl’s eyes.

“Okay,” Risa said, still seeming at ease and giving Ai a disarming smile. Feeling more at ease herself at the girl’s attitude, Ai tried to gather her thoughts. Now, where to begin?

“You know how I went with Maimi and Saki to be ‘initiated’ into the Circle, as they put it?” Risa nodded. “Well, they performed some kind of ceremony there, and ever since then I’ve been able to do things.”

“Do things?” Risa asked with interest.

“Well, it started when I got angry and threw Tanaka-san across the room…”

There was silence when she said that, and after a few seconds she gave Risa a sideways look. The girl stared at her, that fixed smile still on her face.

“Threw her across the room, huh?” Risa said, clearly just in response to Ai’s apparent expectation of one. “Well, I imagine she probably deserved it, but…” The girl broke off and began laughing.

Ai frowned at her, and seeing that she wasn’t joining in with her merriment, Risa’s laughing died off quickly. “You’re being serious?”

“Are you really my friend?” Ai asked in disbelief.

Risa grabbed Ai’s arm and lifted it up between them. “Look at this!” she said, waggling it up and down. Ai was used to her friend’s playfulness, so she just let the girl have her way with her. “Who are you gonna throw anywhere? Much less someone like Tanaka! I’ve seen some of her fights. Most girls can hardly touch her. Or don’t you remember what happened with the weights in gym class a few years ago?”

“I didn’t throw her with my arms,” Ai said, pulling her captive one out of her friend’s grasp. “I just got angry, and I felt something tingle within me, and next I knew I was looking at the girl flying across the room and slamming into the wall.”

Risa looked at her levelly for a moment before raising a hand to Ai’s forehead. “Are you feeling all right? You have dreams like this often?”

“I’m being serious!” Ai said, now beginning to get a bit frustrated.

Risa slowly took her hand away, looking carefully into Ai’s face. “Okay, Ai-chan,” she said. “I believe you.”

By her words and through her anger Ai thought the girl was scared, but looking at her she realized she wasn’t, and her calm expression allowed Ai to calm down too.

“You heard Tanaka-san and I talk about running into each other the other night,” she said, giving her best effort toward relaxing. She didn’t know if she liked this; getting angry was not something she enjoyed. “I’ve found when walking outside that it feels like I’m connected with the environment. It’s… hard to explain, but I feel like the breeze is talking to me, and that the clouds are listening to me.”

“…That’s kinda creepy, Ai-chan,” Risa said, considering her friend calmly still.

“It is, isn’t it?” Ai asked in response. She lay back on the bed, staring at the ceiling, even now feeling the attention of what was outside and beyond it, and even around them in this room.

Risa didn’t join her at first, but she went on. “I was with Maimi and Saki when I ran into Tanaka-san and the other Skulls that night. It was late, and Maimi and I had only come out when Saki ran into our lounge while…” She hesitated a second. “…in a right state. But when I went outside, it was like one of the strangest feelings in the world. The wind still spoke to me, but it was like it was distracted somehow. It made me curious all the way until we ran into the Skulls, but then… I found at least some answers.”

Risa broke into her field of view as she leaned over to look into Ai’s face. “I’m sorry Ai-chan, but I think I’m getting lost in your metaphors. What kinds of, er, things was the wind saying to you?”

Ai just shook her head. “It’s not a metaphor.” She thought a moment though before continuing. “Actually, I guess it kind of is. We weren’t actually speaking of course, but I was definitely communicating with it. I realized I could communicate with everything contained in the air around me.”

“So, you could talk to trees and stuff too?” Risa asked, clearly trying to be as patient as possible with her.

“I’m sorry,” Ai said, sitting up and causing her friend to settle back as well. “I’m sure I must sound crazy.”

“No,” Risa said intently. “I can’t say I understand what you’re talking about, but I believe you’re having these experiences.”

Ai smiled. “That’s not even all of it. When we met up with the Skulls, Maimi started going at it with them. Saki had… reported that something happened to Natsuyaki-san, and maybe the others, and Maimi completely freaked out. Then she freaked out more when we ran into them and found that they, especially Natsuyaki-san, hardly even had a scratch on them. I was surprised too after what Saki said, but Maimi let her temper get the best of her and—“

“Like you almost let your temper do?” Risa asked quietly.

Ai looked at her. “Yes…” she said. “I suppose so. Anyway, she then somehow made this… ball of fire… in her hand, and threw it at Tanaka-san. Natsuyaki-san did something though, and it vanished half-way there.”

Risa was very quiet as the two girls continued looking into each other’s faces, Ai with an insistent look and her friend with an unreadable one. “…I thought the Circle might be a bad influence on you, Ai-chan,” she said finally. “Are you… are you doing drugs? Something had to have caused what happened to you.”

Ai shook her head, and even barked a short laugh. “Not as far as I know,” she responded. “Although something weird did happen the night I was initiated. When we finished some sort of ritual, I felt strength flood into me. It made me feel powerful, heated my blood. The main sensation only lasted a moment, but after that was when I started feeling the connection to things around me.

“I told you that night it all seemed distracted as if something else was influencing it, and after Maimi failed at her attack on Reina, she… asked me to try something instead. I didn’t want to of course,” she added hurriedly at Risa’s raised eyebrow, “But tensions were high. Something had to be done. Only, when I tried, it’s like the clouds heard me but resisted for some reason. Lightning struck all around us, but it couldn’t do anything…

“That was when Tanaka-san spoke up. She looked at me and said it was her storm, as if she was challenging me, and I lost the little control I had over things. That’s when I realized it seemed she could do the same things as me. At any rate, it apparently spooked Saki enough, and she convinced Maimi to back off and we left. We didn’t talk the rest of the night, even though I could tell Saki at least wanted to. Maimi wouldn’t have anything though, and has for the most part done her best to ignore us since.”

“Ai-chan…” Risa said in a low tone, and she wrapped an arm around Ai’s shoulders. “This is serious. There’s something going on here that’s way beyond anything we want to be involved in. I noticed you haven’t been studying this week, and now I think I get why. You’re on your way to a good school,” she implored. “If you can just lay low in the Circle for the year, you’ll have an even better reference. Don’t ruin it for yourself.”

Despite Ai’s inner turmoil, she felt strangely comforted in the girl’s embrace. Things were always like that with Nii-chan. She thanked whatever higher power there might be once again that the girl was such a good friend. Although… with the way things looked now… what if she herself was now a higher power?

She shook her head. “I don’t think so, Nii-chan,” she said slowly and with effort. “I think I’m already involved, and that I can’t go back.” She looked deeply into the girl’s face. “I don’t know if I want to go back.”

“Aww, that’s so sweet,” came a voice from the door as the two girls noticed it swing open, and Maimi walked in followed by a pensive-looking Saki. Ai was amazed at how the girl was so small and wispy that sometimes it seemed she could even disappear into the shadows. “I’m glad to see you two finally getting it on.”

Regretfully, Risa’s arm quickly pulled away from around Ai’s shoulders, and at a quick sideways glance she saw her friend’s eyes lower as her face flushed. Tact was one thing the Head of House Matsuura could definitely learn.

“Oops,” Maimi said, as she stopped a pace or two away from them. “Did I let out a secret?” She glanced over at Saki, whose expression didn’t change in the slightest. “Well if we’re not going to have a show, can you get lost? We need to talk with Ai-chan.”

Risa did rise after the girl’s words, but instead of heading out the door at the girl’s command, she walked up to Maimi, and though she didn’t raise her eyes to look into her face, her voice lowered the temperature in the room far more effectively than any trick Maimi had yet pulled.

“I don’t know what you did to her, but I want it to stop now,” she hissed. “She’s a year away from being out of this school and on her way to a wonderful future. I won’t let you ruin her life.”

Ai felt her body tense with every word that emanated from her friend’s mouth. Nii-chan… she thought and wanted to say, but for some reason hadn’t the voice to.

Maimi’s eyes widened slightly, and she gave Ai a look before returning back to Risa. “A wonderful future, you say? What, is she going to go to a nice college so she can get married to a guy from a good company and live happily ever after far away from you?” She lifted a finger to Risa’s chin as she spoke and raised her face slowly up to hers. “You can’t tell me that’s what you want.”

When Risa’s face rose to eye level with Maimi’s, Ai saw only a blur as the girl’s arm raised, and a sharp crack filled the air. She gasped as Risa clenched her fist in the air after turning the Matsuura girl’s head to the side with a violent slap that left red prints blooming on her cheek.

Ai didn’t even realize she was holding her breath as she stared at the scene as if it was frozen in time. Even Saki looked on as if taking an interest in the encounter. Finally Maimi turned her head back, pulling her hand from beneath Risa’s chin to rest it on her own cheek. Then she looked beyond her at Ai.

“You know, Ai-chan,” she said in an oddly amused-sounding voice. “I like her. She’s got backbone. You’ve made a good choice.”

Ai helplessly looked on as Risa’s hand flew up again, but this time Maimi caught her wrist in her hand with impossibly fast reflexes, and returned her attention to her assailant.

“It does no good to use it on me though,” Maimi said. “I presume you’ve told her about our little gifts, Ai-chan?” Ai couldn’t even tell if the girl noticed her slight nod with her eyes still fixed on Risa as they were, but Saki definitely noticed it.

“What would you like as her replacement memory?” the small girl asked in indifferent tones. Ai appraised her for a moment, and wondered what happened to the girl who before she joined the Circle seemed so active and energetic. It seemed every time she saw her recently, and really ever since she was raised a couple years ago, she became more and more distant.

“No,” Ai said, rising and joining the other girls. “You’re not messing with her head.” Risa finally tore her eyes from Maimi and looked at her, concern flooding her eyes as well as what Ai thought was slight fear. Ai reached out for her arm and pulled her back to her side, then finding her hand to grasp tightly. “She’s my friend and confidante. I need her at least as much as I need you.” She didn’t look at her friend as she spoke, but felt the girl squeeze her hand back strongly and fought back the urge to smile.

“Oh come on,” Maimi said. Ai thought her sarcasm was a bit lost this time though with the large handprint now showing on her face. She looked over at Saki in mock exasperation. “These two seriously need to get a room! Oh wait…” She looked around them. “We are in a room.” Then she looked back at Ai. “Suit yourself. Though know there will be more than hell to pay if word of this leaks out even more. You know what I mean.” For some strange reason, Ai felt she did. It was one of many things she somehow understood since her initiation night.

“Well,” the girl began again, and looked around before settling herself in a love seat, gesturing Saki over next to her. “Then we might as well have our talk together here. Please, have a seat,” she said, gesturing to the bed with a smirk on her face. Ai glanced at Risa, who seemed to hesitate, but at a firm nod from Ai the two girls sat, hands still clasped tightly together.

“We’ve spoken with the Headmaster for advice,” the girl began, appearing to be all business once again, despite the red mark on her cheek that apparently would not disappear. “Of course, advice is all he gives us. Any final decisions rest with us, but Saki-chan and I agree it’d be best if we leave the Skulls alone for the time being. We still can’t have word of our power getting out, and any confrontation with them likely would make that quite difficult. We also think it’s best if we get back to things as normal. All this avoiding each other has done us no good.”

Ai nearly ground her teeth at that. Avoiding each other? It was her that was avoiding the two of them! She looked at Saki as if barely considering Maimi’s words and asked her, “What do you think? We have these abilities. They also have these abilities. Might it not be more useful to find out the common ground between them?”

Maimi looked between the two other Circle members, and acted as if she was going to say something more, but at seeing both holding each other’s gazes and ignoring her, stayed blessedly silent.

“Our abilities are granted to us as the Heads of the Houses of Seishin…” Saki began in a deliberate tone. “It’s been that way for as long as there is recorded history of the school.” Ai felt Risa’s fingers tighten around her own once again. Now the Goto leader did spare a glance for Maimi, if a short one.

“These other students are an unknown. You could probably tell by how they used their powers that they are raw and untrained. It’s likely they don’t even know where it came from. I…” she gave Maimi another glance, “agree that we should stand back for now and observe in case there might be unpredictable aspects to their… abilities… and make sure they pose no threat to the school.”

Ai stared at the girl, and she was sure her mouth must also be hanging open. Was she hearing her right? Were they really concerned about the school? Everything she’d observed about Maimi at least seemed to indicate completely otherwise.

But then again, did it? Saki seemed calm at nearly all times. For example, it was her that caused them to back down and not continue what might have gotten even uglier the other night. And Maimi… Yes, the girl was an arrogant bitch, but what had she done to cause harm to the school?

Before Ai became involved with the Circle, like all other non-Skull Seishin girls she’d respected them as protectors of the school, and they always seemed to be there for their charges. She’d almost fried Tanaka-san of course, but Ai wondered if there were really that many girls in the school who would have missed her. Aside from probably nearly half the population she’d been a part to beating up, the Skulls’ reputation was anything but clean and shiny. Thinking of Mikitty with something hard in the pit of her stomach, she recognized she knew that as well as anyone. The amazing thing was that they were still around the school at all.

That led her to her conversation with the girl just a short time ago. After the verbal jabs, the girl had actually seemed almost friendly to her. And she was still a student here, after all. Was there something more to all this that she was missing? She was confused, and felt like she didn’t know what to do anymore.

She turned her head to look at her friend, who was already gazing sympathetically back at her. If nothing else, she had one person who she knew was unequivocally on her side. The problem was, she seemed to hate everything about any of her other associations, including the girls sitting across the room.

“Come on,” she heard Maimi say in a smooth voice. “Kiss her. You know you want to.”

That of course caused both Nakazawa girls to blush and look quickly away from each other again, although their hands didn’t part. At the edge of her vision Ai caught Maimi grinning at them, and even Saki smiling at them warmly. They appeared at the moment to be nothing other than close friends trying to hook up one of their own. Maimi could have completely gone off at Risa when she slapped her, but didn’t. It truly was confusing. She thought about all the things that had happened as well as possibilities and plans for the future. What was she to do?
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [7: Questions]
Post by: JFC on November 28, 2007, 11:00:52 PM
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Then again, according to popular legend around Seishin, Circle alumni don’t seem to have trouble getting into any college they want.
Hmmmm...interesting.



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In all her time here, Risa had never thought much of the Skulls. While Ai watched her glare at the girl, she wondered. Might Mikitty have had something to do with that?
Well, considering that Miki had "happy fun time" with Aichan problably irked Risa a bit.



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She was losing her temper. That seemed to happen a lot more often since she was inducted into the Circle. In fact, she always was one of the most even-tempered girls around. Risa even complained that she was too boring sometimes. Judging by the girl’s worried look when she glanced back at her now though, she didn’t think the change was entirely welcome.
Well, given what she's been exposed to over the past little while and what she's having to cope with in terms of her confusion, it's not surprising that she's flustered like that.



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“Actually,” the girl responded, now appearing thoughtful. Ai hadn’t seen the look on her face often, but strangely it actually seemed to suit her. “I thought that since we seem to share…” She glanced at Risa. “…a common interest, that we might want to compare notes.”
Reina wants to talk to Aichan about their new powers?  Assuming that she's not secretly planning/scheming something, sharing what they know with each other could prove beneficial to both of them.



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“I’d be careful how much I listen to your fellow Circle members though.” She gave Risa an uncertain look before continuing. “There’s something mutual among you all too, and I think those two have grown too comfortable with it.” She looked carefully into Ai’s eyes again as if searching for something that she couldn’t find. “Maybe you’ll find that right now, despite our loyalties, we might have a bit more in common.”
Well, Maimi and Captain HAVE been Circle members longer than Aichan has, so it's certainly possible that they both know more about their powers than they're letting on.  From what Reina says here though, it's also implying that The Circle may have some hidden/secret questionable agendas that Aichan doesn't know about yet.



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“I just think this might be something bigger than any of us, and that it might be worth exploring what we can do together.” Then she turned away.
Perhaps "enemy" isn't going to be so clear-cut after all. :?



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She’s a bad influence Ai-chan, and especially now that you have such a respectable position, I just have to do my best friend’s duty and make sure you don’t associate with anyone like her.” The girl smiled at what Ai supposed was meant to be a flattering comment she was able to throw in, and she smiled back.
Risa means well...awww.   :wub:



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Maimi and Saki had acted warm and open about their abilities, but there was also a distance with them. For example, they admitted they didn’t even really know what Ai could do or maybe even how to do it.
If those two are planning something, then it might be that Aichan's just a pawn to them.  She should be extra-attentive to what they say and do.



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“You know how I went with Maimi and Saki to be ‘initiated’ into the Circle, as they put it?” Risa nodded. “Well, they performed some kind of ceremony there, and ever since then I’ve been able to do things.”

“Do things?” Risa asked with interest.

“Well, it started when I got angry and threw Tanaka-san across the room…”

There was silence when she said that, and after a few seconds she gave Risa a sideways look. The girl stared at her, that fixed smile still on her face.
Risa not quite know how to react, or did she misunderstand and think that Aichan physically grabbed Reina and shoved her?



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Ai frowned at her, and seeing that she wasn’t joining in with her merriment, Risa’s laughing died off quickly. “You’re being serious?”
...

Risa grabbed Ai’s arm and lifted it up between them. “Look at this!” she said, waggling it up and down. Ai was used to her friend’s playfulness, so she just let the girl have her way with her. “Who are you gonna throw anywhere? Much less someone like Tanaka! I’ve seen some of her fights. Most girls can hardly touch her. Or don’t you remember what happened with the weights in gym class a few years ago?”
Looks like Risa's thinking the latter.  :O



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“I’m being serious!” Ai said, now beginning to get a bit frustrated.

Risa slowly took her hand away, looking carefully into Ai’s face. “Okay, Ai-chan,” she said. “I believe you.”
Does she really? O_o



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“I’m sorry,” Ai said, sitting up and causing her friend to settle back as well. “I’m sure I must sound crazy.”

“No,” Risa said intently. “I can’t say I understand what you’re talking about, but I believe you’re having these experiences.”
She believes that Aichan believes, but that doesn't necessarily mean that she doesn't find Aichan's story a little farfetched (to put it mildly).



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Saki had… reported that something happened to Natsuyaki-san, and maybe the others, and Maimi completely freaked out. Then she freaked out more when we ran into them and found that they, especially Natsuyaki-san, hardly even had a scratch on them.
Wait, Captain knew that something had happened to Miyabi? How? She wasn't there when it happened, was she?  Or...[bgcolor=black]did she meet up with Miki during that time when Miki was MIA?[/bgcolor]



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Anyway, she then somehow made this… ball of fire… in her hand, and threw it at Tanaka-san. Natsuyaki-san did something though, and it vanished half-way there.”

Risa was very quiet as the two girls continued looking into each other’s faces, Ai with an insistent look and her friend with an unreadable one. “…I thought the Circle might be a bad influence on you, Ai-chan,” she said finally. “Are you… are you doing drugs? Something had to have caused what happened to you.”
Aichan's story is certainly outrageous enough to make it seem like that, isn't it?



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“That was when Tanaka-san spoke up. She looked at me and said it was her storm, as if she was challenging me, and I lost the little control I had over things. That’s when I realized it seemed she could do the same things as me. At any rate, it apparently spooked Saki enough, and she convinced Maimi to back off and we left. We didn’t talk the rest of the night, even though I could tell Saki at least wanted to. Maimi wouldn’t have anything though, and has for the most part done her best to ignore us since.”
They obviously had no knowledge of The Skulls having powers at all, let alone have the ability to wield them as well as they could wield their own.  Surely Maimi and Captain figured they'd be able to easily dominate The Skulls once Aichan joined them and received her powers, now it looks like they're going to be up for a struggle.



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“I think I’m already involved, and that I can’t go back.” She looked deeply into the girl’s face. “I don’t know if I want to go back.”

“Aww, that’s so sweet,” came a voice from the door as the two girls noticed it swing open, and Maimi walked in followed by a pensive-looking Saki.
Uh-oh.



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“I don’t know what you did to her, but I want it to stop now,” she hissed. “She’s a year away from being out of this school and on her way to a wonderful future. I won’t let you ruin her life.”
If only Risa knew (and believed) what she was dealing with.



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Maimi’s eyes widened slightly, and she gave Ai a look before returning back to Risa. “A wonderful future, you say? What, is she going to go to a nice college so she can get married to a guy from a good company and live happily ever after far away from you?” She lifted a finger to Risa’s chin as she spoke and raised her face slowly up to hers. “You can’t tell me that’s what you want.”
She's making it sound like Aichan no longer has a choice in the matter, as if she's destined to do only what The Circle demands of her.  Definitely starting to wonder what they're really all about.



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When Risa’s face rose to eye level with Maimi’s, Ai saw only a blur as the girl’s arm raised, and a sharp crack filled the air. She gasped as Risa clenched her fist in the air after turning the Matsuura girl’s head to the side with a violent slap that left red prints blooming on her cheek.
:o 

Go Risa!



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“What would you like as her replacement memory?” the small girl asked in indifferent tones. Ai appraised her for a moment, and wondered what happened to the girl who before she joined the Circle seemed so active and energetic. It seemed every time she saw her recently, and really ever since she was raised a couple years ago, she became more and more distant.
Whatever The Circle has been planning, Captain must be deeply involved in it. It could also be that she's had to do things over the years that just sucked the proverbial life out of her.  From this it's pretty evident that at least Captain has been hiding from Aichan the true extent of her powers. Being able to replace people's memories? That's serious. Makes you wonder how many times and how many people she's done this to, and for what reasons she did it.



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“No,” Ai said, rising and joining the other girls. “You’re not messing with her head.”

...

“Suit yourself. Though know there will be more than hell to pay if word of this leaks out even more. You know what I mean.” For some strange reason, Ai felt she did. It was one of many things she somehow understood since her initiation night.
So now The Circle is resorting to threats? That's rather arrogant and almost dictatorial in nature. Aichan REALLY needs to watch her back, as well as keep an eye on both Captain and Maimi.



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“We’ve spoken with the Headmaster for advice,” the girl began, appearing to be all business once again, despite the red mark on her cheek that apparently would not disappear. “Of course, advice is all he gives us.
The School's Headmaster is in on this too? :scared:



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“Our abilities are granted to us as the Heads of the Houses of Seishin…” Saki began in a deliberate tone. “It’s been that way for as long as there is recorded history of the school.” Ai felt Risa’s fingers tighten around her own once again. Now the Goto leader did spare a glance for Maimi, if a short one.

“These other students are an unknown. You could probably tell by how they used their powers that they are raw and untrained. It’s likely they don’t even know where it came from. I…” she gave Maimi another glance, “agree that we should stand back for now and observe in case there might be unpredictable aspects to their… abilities… and make sure they pose no threat to the school.”

Ai stared at the girl, and she was sure her mouth must also be hanging open. Was she hearing her right? Were they really concerned about the school? Everything she’d observed about Maimi at least seemed to indicate completely otherwise.
This was indeed surprising. Maimi and Captain had appeared to be concerned solely about their own selves and of The Circle up until this point. Their schooling and the lives/welfare of anyone else (even those within their respective houses) seemed to take a backseat.



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But then again, did it? Saki seemed calm at nearly all times. For example, it was her that caused them to back down and not continue what might have gotten even uglier the other night. And Maimi… Yes, the girl was an arrogant bitch, but what had she done to cause harm to the school?
The only reason why Maimi hadn't done anything yet to the school was because Captain kept her in check and calmed her down before she could seriously lash out. 



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At the edge of her vision Ai caught Maimi grinning at them, and even Saki smiling at them warmly. They appeared at the moment to be nothing other than close friends trying to hook up one of their own. Maimi could have completely gone off at Risa when she slapped her, but didn’t. It truly was confusing. She thought about all the things that had happened as well as possibilities and plans for the future. What was she to do?
What Aichan needs to do is keep a close eye on the two of them and to NOT let down her guard around them. The two of them (Maimi and Captain) have a Jekyll/Hyde thing going on. Once second they seem like they're on your side, the next they're wanting to do things that you'd never dream of. Aichan shouldn't be so quick to relax around them as she doesn't yet know which side of them is real and which is the act.
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [7: Questions]
Post by: mode107 on November 28, 2007, 11:38:38 PM
So, is it that Ai having doubts about being in the circle? Stick in there  :yep: 

I can see how Risa isn't buying Ai's story at first. I mean the circle members (imo, to the other students) seem like just normal-regular house leaders, so Risa probably thinks that Ai's story is a little unordinary.

Ha,Maimi being a bit of a buzz kill when she entered the room. It must have hurt a little bit for Risa hearing how Ai's 'future' could be. Oh crap, Risa slapping Maimi  :O  I was a little "what the heck Risa!", but then I found it funny when the hand-print wasn't going away, but Maimi deserved it, I've never seen that side of her, she was acting like...a bitch!  but by not slapping back, or charging up another fireball, it showed that Maimi can control herself from lashing out. So the girls get their abilities when the join the circle? Makes me wanna join now. It still makes me curious of how they join, or how they are recruited(I hope I didn't miss that part). 

TakaGaki  :wub: :wub: :wub:
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [7: Questions]
Post by: g4rfield on November 29, 2007, 01:53:24 AM
Uwaaaa....now we got the answer as to who attacked Miya that night. Saki is the werewolf!!! I suspect as much.
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“Come on,” she heard Maimi say in a smooth voice. “Kiss her. You know you want to.”
  :mon misch:
I noted the Takagaki situation that seemed to flourish atm. Much appreciated, thank you, though I do wish you follow Maimi's direction. :mon lol:

I like how you make Risa NOT freak out upon hearing that her best friend, the Circle and possible the entire Skull got weird powers. It's always nice to know you got your own personal supporter when things get tough.

I think Ai-chan will have a talk with Reina and possibly be civil enough to start train together or at least discuss how to better control their powers. I wonder what the rest of the Skull think about this development as we know for sure The Circle cringe in disdain at the mere mention of any Skull member.

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Maimi could have completely gone off at Risa when she slapped her, but didn’t. It truly was confusing.
Yeah, she could. So why didn't she? What's in it for them if Risa were to support Ai-chan as her lover?  :mon huh:


Title: Re: The Circle of Three [7: Questions]
Post by: rokun on November 30, 2007, 12:41:22 AM
Wow, people have quite varied ideas of what's going on!! I'm happy, it seems I have you all right where I want you at this point in time. :yep: Some of you who are making some guesses are right about things, and some guesses might be a little off base. :D I was gonna do a little rundown of what we know of the characters so far, but I think my time tonight will be better spent writing the next chapter. :) I already have potentially half of chapter 8 done, and things have already shaken the world... or at least the school. I'm kinda going out on a limb with this one... but it's time for things to really start getting hot...

So we have one person who thinks Ai should be very wary of the Circle, another one who thinks she'll conspire with Reina, and another who wants to join the Circle too. :lol: Poor Ai-chan has a lot of choices ahead of her. Good thing she has a lot of experience under her belt (with many things...), and what seems like a good head on her shoulders. That's usually a pretty winning combination. How will she be able to handle Maimi?

On the other side of the coin, the Skulls are just realizing what they can do, yet are already being aggressive in trying to figure it out. Then again, they seem to be a pretty aggressive group to begin with... They've used the "power" of their gang in the past to harass other girls and make many enemies. How will they handle things now that they might have some real power? And will they be able to win Airi over?

Also... What is the deal with Saki? She's being darn creepy, isn't she???

Why am I asking questions about my own story?!?!?! XD

Stay tuned...
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [8: Prophecy Girl]
Post by: rokun on November 30, 2007, 09:10:19 PM
I said there were questions? Well here are maybe some answers. This chapter is maybe in between as long as chapters 6 and 7, so if you think you don't want to read it all at once feel free to stop at the "...". I'm not chopping them up though, so enjoy the full monty when you can. ;) This chapter was fun. Fun fun fun...

P.S. I didn't get the chance to edit this since I don't have time at the moment yet just really wanted to get it posted. I bet it'll still be fine, but if I'm able to I'll try to edit it later tonight or tomorrow. Cheers~


Chapter 8 – Prophecy Girl

“Did you have any luck with Takahashi?” Miyabi asked as she walked into the Skulls lounge within the confines of House Nakazawa.

Reina looked up at her entry, along with the other two girls in the room, who were both still halfway in their sleeping bags. They had a little slumber party the night before, but being unable to find Shimizu easily before they’d turned in for the night, Miyabi was up early to try and catch the girl off-guard. She caught her of course, but…

“I couldn’t say…” Reina said, looking thoughtful. “She had some kind of friend with her that obviously hated my guts. The good thing was for some reason I had the feeling both of them weren’t crazy about the rest of the Circle either. Takahashi sure doesn’t have the look of the other two, and her friend seemed a bit… overly protective.”

She paused a second to a yawn from Koharu before going on, giving a glance to the newest Skull who still lay in her bed with an almost pained expression on her brow. Miyabi smiled, remembering how that felt at first.

“She also didn’t flat out refuse me, which also shows she has quite a different attitude than we’re used to seeing. Maybe there’s something useful about being raised so late.” She lolled her head as she sat in her sprawled way in her chair, her long T-shirt somehow being enough to cover her completely. Not that Miyabi had never seen anything more before. “How about Shimizu? You finally hunt her down?”

“Yeah,” Miyabi responded blandly. “She hardly even talked to me. It almost looked like she was scared of me the whole time, but honestly it was the look in her eyes that scared me.” The girl’s eyes had been hollow and dark, and Miyabi avoided them as much as she could because when she looked into them she could hardly even reconcile that she was talking with a human being.

She’d liked the girl back before she was raised, even though she was a shrimp, but aside from being a Circle member now, she definitely was no longer very sociable. Not that Miyabi would willingly socialize with her anyway under normal circumstances. Circumstances since a week ago definitely had not been normal.

“I think she might still be sore about that night,” she said in an attempt to sound cool, needing no explanation of what night she meant. A new world had definitely opened up for her since then, although for the most part she was wary of what she could do.

“Yeah,” Reina agreed. “I’m afraid that’s making it hard for Takahashi too. Of course, if I’d been so totally owned like that I’d probably act the same way…” She trailed off, and Miyabi wondered if they were thinking the same thing. She wondered if things had been different, and if it was a little more even playing field with all sides prepared, whether the result might not have been a bit different too.

“Are you really feeling that bad?” Miyabi asked suddenly, addressing the youngest girl still lying in her sleeping bag. A pained moan was her only response.

Walking over to the small tub lying on the floor, which was now full of mostly water with a few small chunks of ice, she dug a bottle out and tossed it at the girl, where it bounced on her stomach and rolled off just past her, eliciting another muffled groan.

“Have s’more sake,” Miyabi advised. “It’ll make you feel better.”

Chisato turned her head to look at her. “Really?”

Miyabi widened her eyes in innocence, glancing over at Reina who rolled her own slightly wonkier eyes, smirking. “Sure, kid,” Miyabi responded, and Chisato rolled her head to frown at the bottle lying at her side.

“It’s so nice having four of us again!” Koharu said, rising from her bright pink and yellow slumber bag. “It makes things like we did last night like real parties!”

“They are real parties,” Reina said, lazily curling a finger in her hair. “Nothing else like Skull parties. Ne, Miyakko?”

“I’ve got no reason to doubt that…” Chisato said in a slightly slurred voice – well, more slurred than usual at least – as she chugged a couple gulps of the bottle Miyabi threw at her. That of course resulted in her jerking to the side in a coughing fit, which itself caused the other Skulls to break out in laughter.

“She’s right though,” Miyabi said, crouching down to a chess game between her and Reina they’d never finished. “It was quite a fun time, and much better with a bit more varied company.” After peering at the board a moment, she moved a bishop halfway across the board, flicking a knight she captured off the board with a finger. “Checkmate,” she said, and dove for her own blankets where she wrapped herself tightly in them. It had been cold walking all around campus so early this morning!

Out of the corner of her eye she caught Reina’s eyes dart to the board at her claim, and after staring at it a second jumped off her chair, crawling over to inspect it more closely.

“It definitely gave a good distraction from all the crowing you two have been doing all week,” Koharu said. “’I owned Yajima’ this, ‘Did you see Shimizu’s face?’ that. It all became rather droll.”

Choosing not to make a comment at the girl’s misuse of vocabulary, Miyabi rolled over to get a better look at Reina, who still examined the chessboard closely, and smiled. “Just give it up. You know I don’t lie in chess.”

“But…” Reina said. “This queen…”

“Blocked by my knight,” Miyabi stated through a yawn. That quieted her captain again for the moment.

“Well I think I’ve had enough of this…” Chisato said, scrunching her nose at the bottle in her hand. “I feel well enough to… ow,” she said as she tried sitting up, and held her head. “I need to go find Osuzu. She’s probably already in the library trying to find out why I should disown you guys.”

“You need a reason?” Miyabi asked, rolling to look up at her. “Okacchan, Okacchan… Have you learned nothing from us yet?”

Chisato stared at her as if Miyabi had sprouted horns. “Um… okay,” she said in a very slow voice.

“If you’re going to meet her,” Reina said, finally rising from the chessboard but with a fixed grimace on her face now. Apparently the girl had finally admitted she lost. “Ask her again about joining up. All it takes is a request…”

“It’d be much easier if you’d let me tell her that, you know!” Chisato said exasperatedly. “There’s no way she’d just know that since she was involved so much with my audition she wouldn’t have to go through another one herself, and to join all she had to do was ask.” The young girl adopted a sour face as she spoke. Ever since they told her of that rule she’d seemed rather offended that it would be that easy for Airi to join with what she had to go through. What did the girl think her friend went through to end up tied up deep inside that cave? Miyabi smiled at the memory.

“That’s the point,” she said, as Reina just rolled her eyes. Miyabi hated when the girl did that, because when she did her wonky eye appeared to just dance around inside its socket. “Plus, if she’s really studying our history, wouldn’t she find that out for herself?”

“Fine…” Chisato responded in resignation as she buttoned her seifuku and donned her cap. A cap sure looked different on a girl in seifuku, but Chisato somehow had the fashion sense to pull it off. “Well you guys have fun. I’ll come back if she’s still just being boring.” With that, she disappeared out the door.

“I really hope she gets that Suzuki girl to join soon…” Koharu said in a slightly whiny voice. “four’s better than three, but five would be even more fun. Plus then we’d have two young ones to pick on!”

“For you to pick on you mean,” Reina said, now examining her fingernails, the chessboard apparently forgotten. Miyabi knew better though.

Koharu stared between the two of them. “What are you talking about?” she asked disbelievingly. “You were the ones pushing all that sake on her!”

Reina tossed her head to look at Miyabi. “Is she really this dense?”

“Hey!” Koharu demanded, fists pressed against her hips. “I don’t know why I put up with you two…” she grumbled, and quickly headed out just like Chisato had.

“Alone at last…” Miyabi said, grinning at Reina. “People could think we’d get up to something.”

“Right…” Reina huffed, returning quickly to the chess board. “Like much wilder rumors aren’t already all over the school. I just would die to see what happened if Yajima-sama’s favorite became a Skull. I might even already have my legacy as Captain set…” Miyabi sighed. Her and her legacies. “Hey,” the other girl said in a more serious voice. “Come over here. I want to play you again.”

“No,” Miyabi responded shortly.

Reina glanced over at her. “What? You’re not gonna let me get even?”

“You know I’d just kick your ass again,” Miyabi stated as if it were fact as plain as day.

The Captain’s eyes narrowed. “Keep talking like that and I will literally kick your ass.”

“Bring it on,” Miyabi responded, and yawned, rolling away from the girl’s gaze and snuggling under her blanket. “I need a bit more sleep first though. It was tiring dealing with Shimizu. It’s like the girl sucks the life out of a place. That’s one thing I’ve gotta learn how to counteract.”

“Do you think you can?” Reina asked, this time in a different voice.

Miyabi turned her head to see that the girl had come closer, and now sat with her legs crossed beside her. The girl wasn’t going to let her get any sleep, was she?

“I suppose so,” she said, forcing another yawn down. Thank kami-sama for the sake last night, or she’d really be feeling bad this morning. “I mean, I stopped her other attacks, didn’t I?”

Reina now was just looking down and picking at her foot, and appeared quite brooding. “I didn’t tell you before because I didn’t want everyone to know, but something else happened when I met with Takahashi.” Miyabi perked up. The expression the girl had now told her she was really being serious about something that might be important.

“While I was talking to her, at one point I saw her eyes glow red.” She hesitated. “At first I thought I might be seeing things, but the more I think about it the more I knew it’s what I really saw. And Miya…” she continued, now looking up into Miyabi’s own eyes. “When her eyes went red, I wasn’t looking at Takahashi anymore.”

Her attention now fully captured, Miyabi sat up, keeping the blanket up around her waist. “Is that so now?” she asked vaguely.

“I also wondered…” Reina said tentatively. “Did anything like that happen when you spoke to Shimizu?”

Miyabi shook her head. “No,” she replied. “You know how she is though. Hasn’t been the same ever since joining the Circle. I didn’t know Yajima before she joined, and I doubt anyone else we know did either. It’s too bad we can’t compare all three.”

“Miya…” Reina said, now looking earnestly into her face. “You’re still… you… Aren’t you?”

Miyabi stared at her a moment before coughing out a laugh. “What are you talking about? Have you been into the sake this morning too?”

Reina shook her head slowly. “I’ve been thinking. If something happens to the Circle, now that they have those powers, that makes them different, will that happen to us? I mean, we seem to be able to do the same things… Will we start changing too? How will we know? They definitely don’t seem aware of it.”

“No,” Miyabi responded confidently. “The same thing won’t happen to us. Nothing really changed with us, did it? We’ve always just been Skulls, and can you imagine any group of girls more in contrast with the Circle? Besides, there are three of them.”

“That’s something else that makes me worried,” Reina said softly, clearly not fazed by Miyabi’s answer to her question. Despite all their differences, the two of them really did work well together, including the ability to have productive discussions.

“There are three of them, and just the two of us,” Reina stated. “It seems like what I can do is similar to Takahashi of course, from what we’ve seen, and you can combat Shimizu. It all is almost an eerie reflection, don’t you think? And if so, who’s Yajima’s opposite?”

“It’s probably just a coincidence,” Miyabi responded dismissively. “They’ve all got something in common; we’ve got something in common. We tested Okai and Kusumi. They can’t do anything special. Have you heard of some other rogue student zapping people and throwing fireballs at them? Who could it be?”

Reina didn’t answer for a moment. “Somebody who has some connection to both of us…” she said as if ticking off a point. Somebody from Yajima’s House…” She looked up at Miyabi before continuing. “It’s obvious it has to be after all, right? Don’t tell me you’ve thought the same about Takahashi and I, and you and Shimizu.” Miyabi furrowed her eyebrows. What was the girl saying? “I don’t think I’ve told you yet Miya. You remember the shock you had involving a certain girl? I felt the same thing after Okacchan’s audition…”

Miyabi stared at her. Was the girl implying what she thought she was? But there had been no sign of anything. There was nothing special about her. A face appeared in her mind and she couldn’t help but smile. Nothing special, eh?

Her train of thought was abruptly broken though by a distant scream from outside that sounded as if someone was either being tortured or was completely scared out of her wits. Feeling her body seize at the shock of the sound, Miyabi shared Reina’s intense wide-eyed look.

Miyabi became even more excited when they both glanced out the window, and it must have been lost while they were in conversation, but the only light that spilled in was as red as if the whole world were burning. The two girls didn’t wait any longer before jumping to their feet, and after Reina hurriedly pulled on a black skirt to go with her T-shirt which had only a large mikan in the middle, running outside.



“Airin…” Risako whined. “How long are we going to spend in here?”

“Until we find something about the Skulls,” Airi responded in a voice that brooked no nonsense. “We know they’ve been around the school a long time, and so surely somewhere in the school’s records there’s something that talks about why they are just so… so… crude!”

“I don’t get it, Airin,” Risako said, yawning. “It’s eight in the morning on Saturday. And we’re spending it in the library! Tell me again why I’m here with you?”

“Because you love me,” Airi said offhandedly, not even looking up from her book. Truthfully, she was just reading the same word over and over at the moment as she grinned on the inside. The Goto girl grunted, and when Airi shifted her eyes slightly to see her looking longingly at the library door, she imagined the truth of her words was being considered very carefully right then.

“Actually I hate you…” Risako said under her breath, and turned back to the large volume splayed open in front of her. This time Airi let the smile appear on her face.

Honestly, she was getting fairly tired of this herself. She’d been in here, at times with and at times without Risako, in most of her free time the past week. She was, to put it mildly, concerned by what she’d seen of the Skulls, and just needed to find something to convince Chisato that hanging out with them was a bad idea. Freaked out might be a better phrase to use.

Her close friend had been doing that a lot this past week. Airi would see her every night of course when she returned to their room, but her time out seemed to get later and later every day.

It wasn’t like she ignored Airi – in fact, the girl invited her along many of the times she went out to do something with the Skulls – but each time Airi politely declined. She wanted nothing to do with the almighty Skulls at the moment. Particularly Natsuyaki Miyabi. Like usual, she couldn’t stop herself blushing at the thought of that girl. It was things like that which needed to stop! 

“Don’t tell me you’re thinking about Natsuyaki-san again!” Risako said, interrupting her from her thoughts. She looked up from her book and stared at the girl, who was giving her a very fed up look. She wasn’t that obvious. Surely…

“I am thinking of nothing of the sort!” Airi defended. “I was just reading a particularly adult-oriented story in here that I’m sure weren’t meant for innocent eyes like mine!”

“Oh?” Risako asked, nonplussed. “Show me,” she ordered, and she reached over for Airi’s book. Before she touched it though, Airi snapped it out of her grasp and to her chest.

“I couldn’t!” Airi exclaimed. “My eyes have been corrupted enough by reading it. I couldn’t live with myself if I allowed your purity to be tarnished too…”

“You’re weird,” Risako said disparagingly, and frowned back down at her own book.

“Yes, but you still love me,” Airi insisted.

“I thought we already cleared that up,” Risako replied, not looking up. “I hate you, remember?”

Before the exchange could continue, Airi heard a low whistle from over her shoulder. She turned with her eyes bugging out at someone actually paying attention to them, but calmed quickly when she saw it was just Chisato. In fact, in contrast her mood became quite dour indeed.

“You guys are something else, you know that?” the other Matsuura second year said, pulling out a chair and spinning it around to straddle it, leaning her chin on arms lying across its back. By the way she held her head, it looked like there was something wrong with it. “I think all this studying is literally driving you crazy.”

“I agree!” Risako proclaimed, and sprang up, arching her stiff back, before walking away toward a washroom without a backward glance.

“You don’t need to pull her into this, you know,” Chisato said in a much more serious voice meant only for Airi’s ears. “I know what you’re really about in here. You’re trying to dig up dirt on—“

“—The Circle!” Airi finished for her. “That’s what I’m doing! They have such a squeaky clean image, you know something’s gotta be hidden behind the curtains of the ivory tower!” The ivory tower was what the Skulls had taken to calling the secure roundish compound that contained the Circle’s private areas. Chisato had taken to using that term too, and Airi tried her best to lampoon as much of the girl’s new vernacular as she could.

“For example,” she continued, overriding her friend’s attempts to break in. “Did you know that in 1284 an alumnus of the Circle married a leader of the resistance against the Shogunate and nearly assassinated the emperor herself? These are evil people. Evil I tell you!”

“…Uh huh,” Chisato said, giving Airi a glazed look. “You won’t find any disagreement from me there.”

“And look here… look here!” Airi insisted, pointing to a spot in her book. “This even mentions a legend that goes all the way back to the founding and to the first Circle, which consisted of students hand-picked by the founders, and says that they—“

“Founders?” Airi heard Risako say from behind her, and she then felt the girl peering over her shoulder at the passage she was pointing to. “That sounds more hokey than adult to me! In fact, I don’t see anything bad in here at all!”

“Fine!” Airi said, rising quickly and slamming her book shut. “I recognize when my friends have deserted me. I’ll just go back to my room and learn the secrets of this school myself!” She began stalking toward the library door. “Nobody else cares anyway…”

Making her way out into the hall, she kept her teeth clenched as she walked quickly down it and out across the grounds to her house. She was being overdramatic of course. Risako still was there after all, although it was obvious the girl found the material not worth studying by a league.

As for Chisato, she wondered if the girl even studied anything at all anymore! And was that sake she smelled on her breath this morning? What had the girl been doing all night! She hadn’t returned to their room since saying she was going to a party with the Skulls. Natsuyaki’s face suddenly flitted through her mind’s eye, but she quickly shook it away.

Though she neared her house, she wasn’t paying a whole lot of attention to where she was going, and as she stomped along she didn’t notice a girl cross into her path until she slammed into her, causing her book to fall into the dirt and come open to the page she’d just marked, and her to fall back on her rear, her legs splayed and hiking her skirt up well above her knees.

“Hey, watch it—“ came a voice from above her. “Oh, hello there cutie.”

Airi recognized the voice immediately, and with extreme trepidation lifted her eyes to find Maimi beaming down at her. She saw the older girl’s eyes travel down her body, and she grinned wider, causing Airi to look down too and quickly snap her legs together, pulling them underneath herself while she tugged her skirt back over them.

“You should know by now that you need to be watching out for me at all times. I never look where I’m going,” Airi said with almost a pout.

Maimi crouched down to her level, still smiling at her. “Hey…” she began almost tentatively. “I’ve been inspired by a new friend of mine to think differently and more progressively about some things. Would you like to come to one of the side lounges in the Circle building with me sometime? There’s one especially that’s set up with a Playstation 3. We could catch some games or a movie together…”

Airi couldn’t stop staring at the girl, while at the same time feeling her body tingle all over. Was she… was the Head of House Matsuura asking her on… a date? “I…” she stuttered, any studious train of thought completely gone from her head. “I… um…”

“Wow, I made you speechless huh? I guess I’m more striking than I realize. I’ll have to brag to Saki-chan about it.” For some reason the girl gave a very broad smile while saying that.

“I…” Airi tried again, and finally slapped her brain into shape within herself and was able to put a short sentence together. “I don’t know, Yajima-san. There’s actually…” She snapped her jaw shut in horror. Was she just about to say Natsuyaki’s name???

“Yes…?” Maimi asked, clearly not giving up. Airi shifted her eyes, unable to meet the other girl’s gaze. “Well,” the girl continued after a moment. “Maybe I can give you a taste of what could be in store for you if we get all cozy and cuddly in there…” She then reached her arm out and touched Airi’s shoulder. Airi felt a warm but small rush of pleasure emanate from that spot before her body suddenly seemed to sear with tides of raging heat.

She lost all sense of her environment for a split second, and when she came to found herself bent over, staring at the ground which seemed to glow red and move as if it was a river of lava. She fought somehow and got the torrent within herself under control, but it still felt like her blood was boiling, and could hear it pumping from her heart a hundred times louder than normal.

“Suzuki-san!” she heard Maimi cry out, hugging her arms as if afraid to reach out again toward her. “Are you all right? I’m sorry. I didn’t intend to do anything more than…” The voice hesitated. “I’m sure I didn’t do anything more than… I just wanted to give you a little taste, and right now I couldn’t do much more even if I wanted…”

Airi began breathing again, although heavily, and her vision began slowly returning to normal. However, soon it reddened again, although it was different this time. This time it was no longer surreal, and the light coming to her eyes really was becoming redder. And also dimmer… In addition, it was no longer just her vision that was being affected. She felt like her body began to expand and reach out toward… something, and the burning invaded her whole being.

Maimi had for once become silent, and Airi looked up slowly through the flaming torrent flowing through her, and even though that was the only way she could describe it, it wasn’t unpleasant. Far from it in fact, and eventually she felt as if she could even obtain control over it.

Upon finding Maimi’s face, she saw that the girl was staring up and away from her with her jaw hanging open. She also began to notice girls stepping warily out from the front door of House Matsuura, and although a couple of them looked over in their direction and pointed at their leader and what seemed a sick second year, most stared up as well.

Now unsure if she wanted to, but with an inescapable urge, Airi looked up too as her world seemed to become awash with a dim reddish glow to find the Sun blocked out in a sudden eclipse, its edges radiating a crimson red around the dark orb blocking its light and bathing the world below in the same hue.

Having identified the cause of the strange event, many of the other girls began whispering and giggling to each other, obviously excited at witnessing what must be something very rare. Airi with her inquisitive personality would have been at least as excited as any of them, if not for the rush that she still felt beneath her own skin, but she still couldn’t tear her gaze from the ball of blinding light that was for the moment blocked from sight. Even though it was blocked, she knew it was still burning as it always did behind the obstruction. She could almost see it in all its splendor within her mind, and far from being the violent giver of life she’d always known it as, it glowed at her as a warm companion.

Looking down at her arms, she was sure the skin would have burned off, but it was there as it always had been. Where was this indescribable sensation coming from then?

“It’s amazing…” Maimi said, still looking up at the rare event.

“Yes, it is…” Airi agreed, at least as much awe in her own voice.

“I’ve never seen anything like it…”

“I’ve never felt like this before…”

Then as if out of some instinct, Airi reached out and grabbed Maimi’s wrist. The moment she did though, the girl’s attention was diverted totally back down to earth as she let out a blood-curdling scream, causing every face within sight to dart toward them and look on nervously, now even more curious and slightly worried at what was going on between the two.

With the scream the burning suddenly ceased within Airi, and she collapsed to the ground, nearly losing consciousness. As she opened suddenly heavy eyelids she noticed the redness around her give way once more to familiar white light, though the return to normalcy did not cause anyone to go back inside their houses since they’d just seen a member of the Circle cry out as if she was being murdered.

Airi blinked more, trying to get some kind of bearing of her surroundings through her dull senses, but only was able to see Maimi curled up in a tight ball facing away from her, writhing as if in unbearable agony with her arms held in front of her blocked from Airi’s sight. Before long though she heard steps reverberate through the ground beneath as if people were running up to them, but once they stopped she heard nothing but silence at first.

“Maimi…” a girl said, and she saw a small figure kneel and bend over the jerking form in front of her. She thought she recognized who it was by the voice and size together. Shimizu…? she thought through the fog inside her head.

As if the girl could hear her thought, she looked back at Airi warily, and with the help of another girl who came up on Yajima’s other side, pulled the House Matsuura leader up and began walking her between them and away, Saki occasionally throwing glances back to her that were very cautious indeed. Where were they going? Why were they leaving her? Airi tried to move, but felt like she had no energy.

“Osuzu?” she heard Chisato say as her friend’s shadow fell over her after a length of time she couldn’t specify. “Are you all right?” When Airi didn’t move, the girl’s shadow disappeared and she heard her friend call out, “Oi! Reina! Miyabi! Come here! Something’s wrong with her…”

Soon she felt more forms around her, and pressure on her arm as someone must have gripped it. “Stay calm…” she heard a voice say above her. “I’m not sure what you’ll feel here…”

At first she felt nothing. But after a few seconds, it seemed like a cool tide washed over her body, and her senses returned to her. Before long she was even able to sit up, and blinked blurry eyes at her current companions.

When she sat up Tanaka released her arm, a look of concern as well as caution on her face. Chisato seemed almost distraught, and not far behind even Natsuyaki stood watching her with a cool and unreadable expression. At Airi’s glance, the older Goto girl turned and looked in the direction she remembered Yajima being carried off in.

“They didn’t even stay to see if she was all right…” Natsuyaki growled through her teeth barely loud enough for them all to hear. “Some leaders of the school.”

“Their interests only involve the school,” Tanaka said, seemingly satisfied now with Airi’s condition and turning toward the other Skull. “Not necessarily every student in it.” She turned back toward Airi and gave her a careful study. “Especially one involved in whatever made one of them scream like that.”

“Ya gotta admit…” Kusumi said. Airi turned to look at the girl who stood a few paces off to Tanaka’s side. She hadn’t even noticed the final Skull was even around. “It was kind of satisfying to hear…”

“Something like that isn’t satisfying to hear from anyone,” Reina said grimly, still studying Airi.

“What…” Airi began in a choked voice as if her throat had been scalded dry. She coughed before going on. “What happened?”

“We thought you might be able to tell us,” Natsuyaki said, turning back to her. Airi looked into the girl’s eyes, a girl she’d been thinking of all too often lately. The look she gave her now though was anything but warm and flirtatious.

“I…” Airi began, at a loss. What was she going to say? That she felt like she caught fire, the sun disappeared, and when she touched Maimi… What had happened?

She looked aimlessly around her, mostly down at the ground in her embarrassment, while fishing for a response. Something caught her eye though from the book that was still lying open beneath her, and furrowing her brow she forgot about the other girls and bent down to look at it.

The ink for some of its words had become red somehow, and they almost glowed their message up to her. It was a passage she’d read part of before, but this time through, and as she read further, her eyes widened and mouth slowly fell open. It was a message apparently passed down from the Founders themselves to the first Circle. The writer, presumably one of those Circle members, related it verbatim but did not seem to understand it.

On a certain day in the dawn of the Third Age, the sky will run red as if stained by the gods themselves. So shall this prophecy be fulfilled, and our Destiny be set on its road to fruition.

Airi noticed that below the red print was a section that she remembered was nothing but a blank page before. It was that which detailed this mysterious plan and piqued her greatest interest.

“I knew you were too serious a student, Osuzu,” came a young and quick voice from above her. “But this is overdoing it. We have to get out of here. With whatever happened to Yajima… The Headmaster might even be here soon to investigate.”

“She’s not wrong, sweetheart,” Tanaka joined in as Airi looked up at girls she just remembered were also present. “We need to get lost.”

Airi looked around her. “We?” she asked, but her attention was drawn back to the book. “But there’s something important here…”

“There’s no time,” Miyabi said, and reached down to grab Airi’s arm and pull her up. “Come on.”

Airi was half-dragged and half-ran unsteadily along with the girls, protesting this course of action and urging them to look in the book too. “Once we’re safe,” Reina said, helping Miyabi in pulling her along, and though Airi struggled rather successfully against Miyabi at first, she couldn’t overwhelm the two of them.

Eventually they reached House Nakazawa, where some girls still stood outside, but carefully avoided looking at the Skulls running up toward the building. It probably appeared to them as if they were kidnapping another of their prey and dragging her off for who knows what, and none of them wanted to get involved in that when only one Skull was involved, much less all four. It hadn’t taken long for word to spread that Chisato had joined them.

As they stumbled into a room Airi had never been in before that had blankets and sleeping bags strewn across the floor as if their occupants had fled on a dime, they finally released her and she straightened herself up, huffing heavily.

“Excuse me!” she said. “I will not have you dragging me off to… Where are we? Nakazawa? Is this supposed to be a safe place?”

“It’s as safe as you’re getting while we try to sort this all out,” Reina retorted, now seeming to get annoyed. Miyabi still hovered very close to her, and Airi felt heat rising in her body that she knew had nothing to do with what she’d conjured earlier.

“Sort all what out?” Airi demanded. “I don’t see how this involves any of you.”

“What’s that?” Miyabi asked, having apparently caught a glance at something and peering over into her book. “Kinda weird to have red ink in a book like that.”

Airi pulled the book away from her. “It’s got nothing to do with you!” she stated.

Because of the direction she pulled it though, Chisato was now able to get a look at it. “What are you talking about? Red ink? I don’t see anything.”

Airi looked at her about to burst out with another complaint too, but at the sight of her friend’s face her expression softened, and rational thought finally returned to her. “What?” she asked. “It’s right here,” she said, pointing to the passage.

“I don’t see anything,” Chisato responded. That half of the page is blank.

Airi stared at her, but suddenly she felt arms encircle her waist, and when she froze at the unexpected touch let down her guard, and Tanaka snatched the book away. “Hey!” she said in reflex, but the grip on her tightened, and for some reason felt all too intimate, and she turned her head to find Miyabi’s face right beside hers grinning at her. Of course, now realizing the situation she was in, she couldn’t help but blush.

“’On a day…’” Tanaka read, peering down at it. Apparently she could see the red text. “’The sky will turn red as if stained by the gods themselves…’” She hesitated, and gave a quick glance up to Airi. “’So shall this prophecy be fulfilled and our destiny set…’”

Now everybody stared at Airi, and though she’d turned quickly away from Miyabi, her blush definitely didn’t go away under the scrutiny. She noticed Tanaka and the girl who held her exchange glances before the leader of the Skulls looked back to her. “I think…” the girl began, “that we need to talk.”
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [8: Prophecy Girl]
Post by: Amarghetta on December 01, 2007, 02:49:45 AM
“While I was talking to her, at one point I saw her eyes glow red.” She hesitated. “At first I thought I might be seeing things, but the more I think about it the more I knew it’s what I really saw. And Miya…” she continued, now looking up into Miyabi’s own eyes. “When her eyes went red, I wasn’t looking at Takahashi anymore.

Oh, interesting! It made me think that maybe she got a glimpse of Nakazawa. A very brief, limited to skilled girls kind of glimpse... :yep:

And since there's also that paragraph which Chisato cannot see, whereas Reina and Miya can, it suddenly doesn't seem so farfetched.   :)
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [8: Prophecy Girl]
Post by: g4rfield on December 01, 2007, 03:05:20 AM
So, I was right, Airi IS the other one!! She's the powerful one. Just awake and already she could make Maimi screech like that. I almost feel sorry for the girl.
Saki could be the werewolf, or rather all three of the Circle could, since they seem to have changed by having the ceremony performed on them and thus having the power. My guess is they don't realize the power is changing them because it worked quietly and maybe the power is molded to the heart of the user. So if you have what's required to be the head of the house but your heart is black then that's how the power is going to corrupt you more. The misuse of the powers eh? Ai-chan doesn't seem to realize this but she might since she was just initiated. But...glow in their eyes?? Hmmm....
The Skulls does not seem to be affected by their powers. Wonder why that is.

I also wonder if Fujimoto was granted the same power when she was still the head and now that she is the Master, did she have the knowledge and the power or nothing at all? Then, what is Skull? Why was it created? Did I miss the answer to this on previous chapters?

The chosen girl could read the glowing red text on the book = The book must be something special.

Sorry I didn't comment much on this chapter, I lost my train of thoughts when I read this and it was a couple days ago late at night when my brain is too tired to think. Kinda crappy I know. I'll make it up to you in the next chapter. However, I do have an excuse. My brain stopped working after I caught a cold, and now it's getting better though the cough is still there. Anyway, can't wait to read the next chapter. I want it to be awesome!!!
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [8: Prophecy Girl]
Post by: JFC on December 01, 2007, 05:29:48 AM
Quote
“Did you have any luck with Takahashi?” Miyabi asked as she walked into the Skulls lounge within the confines of House Nakazawa.

...

“I couldn’t say…” Reina said, looking thoughtful. “She had some kind of friend with her that obviously hated my guts. The good thing was for some reason I had the feeling both of them weren’t crazy about the rest of the Circle either. Takahashi sure doesn’t have the look of the other two, and her friend seemed a bit… overly protective.”
If The Skulls are lucky, they might be able to use Aichan's apparent growing distrust to their advantage somewhere down the line.



Quote
“She also didn’t flat out refuse me, which also shows she has quite a different attitude than we’re used to seeing. Maybe there’s something useful about being raised so late.”
Again, useful for The Skulls.  By not being raised earlier, Aichan hasn't had as much time to become indoctrinated into The Circle's way of thinking/doing things as Maimi and Captain have.  It's pretty evident that the latter two are pretty much towing the company line, so to speak, whereas Aichan has had a chance to mature a bit and learn to think for herself more.



Quote
“How about Shimizu? You finally hunt her down?”

“Yeah,” Miyabi responded blandly. “She hardly even talked to me. It almost looked like she was scared of me the whole time, but honestly it was the look in her eyes that scared me.” The girl’s eyes had been hollow and dark, and Miyabi avoided them as much as she could because when she looked into them she could hardly even reconcile that she was talking with a human being.
Considering Captain's "zombie-ness" in the last chapter, you can't help but wonder if she's somehow doing something to herself when she uses her powers (or even if it's detrimental to her just merely having those powers).  It's like she's had the "genki" sucked out of her.



Quote
“I think she might still be sore about that night,” she said in an attempt to sound cool, needing no explanation of what night she meant.
That is certainly possible too. Up until that point, Maimi and Captain had believed and known that the two of them were the two most powerful girls in the school. In the blink of an eye, that changed, and all of a sudden there were others (though untrained) who now had powers just as powerful as theirs. Worse for Captain, she was defeated right in front of The Circle's new member, which definitely wouldn't help her confidence/general disposition much.  At the very least, she'd be embarrassed, but it's more likely that deep inside she's absolutely furious at what happened, and that anger is building up within her.



Quote
“Are you really feeling that bad?” Miyabi asked suddenly, addressing the youngest girl still lying in her sleeping bag. A pained moan was her only response.

...

“Have s’more sake,” Miyabi advised. “It’ll make you feel better.”

Chisato turned her head to look at her. “Really?”

Miyabi widened her eyes in innocence, glancing over at Reina who rolled her own slightly wonkier eyes, smirking. “Sure, kid,” Miyabi responded, and Chisato rolled her head to frown at the bottle lying at her side.
Poor Chisato.  :lol:



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“Well I think I’ve had enough of this…” Chisato said, scrunching her nose at the bottle in her hand. “I feel well enough to… ow,” she said as she tried sitting up, and held her head. “I need to go find Osuzu.
Airi? Yikes she's going to have a fit if/when she sees Chisato all plastered like this.  :shocked:



Quote
“Ask her again about joining up. All it takes is a request…”

“It’d be much easier if you’d let me tell her that, you know!” Chisato said exasperatedly.
REALLY NOW? :stunned:

Can't help but wonder if this is an actual rule or if Miyabi was just trying to find a way to make it easier for Airi to join because she "likes her-likes her". :D



Quote
“I really hope she gets that Suzuki girl to join soon…” Koharu said in a slightly whiny voice. “four’s better than three, but five would be even more fun. Plus then we’d have two young ones to pick on!”

“For you to pick on you mean,” Reina said
Ah, touché. :hee:



Quote
Reina now was just looking down and picking at her foot, and appeared quite brooding. “I didn’t tell you before because I didn’t want everyone to know, but something else happened when I met with Takahashi.” Miyabi perked up. The expression the girl had now told her she was really being serious about something that might be important.

“While I was talking to her, at one point I saw her eyes glow red.” She hesitated. “At first I thought I might be seeing things, but the more I think about it the more I knew it’s what I really saw. And Miya…” she continued, now looking up into Miyabi’s own eyes. “When her eyes went red, I wasn’t looking at Takahashi anymore.”
:stunned:



Quote
Reina shook her head slowly. “I’ve been thinking. If something happens to the Circle, now that they have those powers, that makes them different, will that happen to us? I mean, we seem to be able to do the same things… Will we start changing too? How will we know? They definitely don’t seem aware of it.”
It might be that it's a side effect of receiving the elder's powers that the descendants were never told about.  Who knows, there might have been an ulterior motive in mind when the elders made it so that they could pass on their powers to the future house members.



Quote
“That’s something else that makes me worried,” Reina said softly,

...

"It seems like what I can do is similar to Takahashi of course, from what we’ve seen, and you can combat Shimizu. It all is almost an eerie reflection, don’t you think? And if so, who’s Yajima’s opposite?”
:scared:



Quote
“Somebody who has some connection to both of us…” she said as if ticking off a point. Somebody from Yajima’s House…” She looked up at Miyabi before continuing. “It’s obvious it has to be after all, right? Don’t tell me you’ve thought the same about Takahashi and I, and you and Shimizu.” Miyabi furrowed her eyebrows. What was the girl saying? “I don’t think I’ve told you yet Miya. You remember the shock you had involving a certain girl? I felt the same thing after Okacchan’s audition…”
Ooooooooooooooooooooooh...wait a sec...what house was Airi from again?  :?



Quote
Her train of thought was abruptly broken though by a distant scream from outside that sounded as if someone was either being tortured or was completely scared out of her wits. Feeling her body seize at the shock of the sound, Miyabi shared Reina’s intense wide-eyed look.

Miyabi became even more excited when they both glanced out the window, and it must have been lost while they were in conversation, but the only light that spilled in was as red as if the whole world were burning. The two girls didn’t wait any longer before jumping to their feet, and after Reina hurriedly pulled on a black skirt to go with her T-shirt which had only a large mikan in the middle, running outside.
Oooooooooh THAT cannot be good. :mon scare:



Quote
“I don’t get it, Airin,” Risako said, yawning. “It’s eight in the morning on Saturday. And we’re spending it in the library!
Eight in the morning...in the library?  On a SATURDAY??? Ouch. :dizzy:



Quote
Tell me again why I’m here with you?”

“Because you love me,” Airi said offhandedly, not even looking up from her book. Truthfully, she was just reading the same word over and over at the moment as she grinned on the inside.

...

“Actually I hate you…” Risako said under her breath, and turned back to the large volume splayed open in front of her. This time Airi let the smile appear on her face.
:P



Quote
“Don’t tell me you’re thinking about Natsuyaki-san again!” Risako said, interrupting her from her thoughts. She looked up from her book and stared at the girl, who was giving her a very fed up look. She wasn’t that obvious. Surely…

“I am thinking of nothing of the sort!” Airi defended. “I was just reading a particularly adult-oriented story in here that I’m sure weren’t meant for innocent eyes like mine!”

“Oh?” Risako asked, nonplussed. “Show me,” she ordered, and she reached over for Airi’s book. Before she touched it though, Airi snapped it out of her grasp and to her chest.

“I couldn’t!” Airi exclaimed. “My eyes have been corrupted enough by reading it. I couldn’t live with myself if I allowed your purity to be tarnished too…”
XD  XD  XD



Quote
“You’re weird,” Risako said disparagingly, and frowned back down at her own book.

“Yes, but you still love me,” Airi insisted.

“I thought we already cleared that up,” Risako replied, not looking up. “I hate you, remember?”
Friends, gotta love 'em.  :rofl:



Quote
Though she neared her house, she wasn’t paying a whole lot of attention to where she was going, and as she stomped along she didn’t notice a girl cross into her path until she slammed into her,

...

“Hey, watch it—“ came a voice from above her. “Oh, hello there cutie.”

Airi recognized the voice immediately, and with extreme trepidation lifted her eyes to find Maimi beaming down at her.
Coincidence? I wonder... O_o



Quote
Maimi crouched down to her level, still smiling at her. “Hey…” she began almost tentatively. “I’ve been inspired by a new friend of mine to think differently and more progressively about some things. Would you like to come to one of the side lounges in the Circle building with me sometime? There’s one especially that’s set up with a Playstation 3. We could catch some games or a movie together…”
Maimi must have the same hunch about Airi that Reina has, which would explain her sudden interest in her.



Quote
“Well,” the girl continued after a moment. “Maybe I can give you a taste of what could be in store for you if we get all cozy and cuddly in there…” She then reached her arm out and touched Airi’s shoulder. Airi felt a warm but small rush of pleasure emanate from that spot before her body suddenly seemed to sear with tides of raging heat.

She lost all sense of her environment for a split second, and when she came to found herself bent over, staring at the ground which seemed to glow red and move as if it was a river of lava. She fought somehow and got the torrent within herself under control, but it still felt like her blood was boiling, and could hear it pumping from her heart a hundred times louder than normal.

“Suzuki-san!” she heard Maimi cry out, hugging her arms as if afraid to reach out again toward her. “Are you all right? I’m sorry. I didn’t intend to do anything more than…” The voice hesitated. “I’m sure I didn’t do anything more than… I just wanted to give you a little taste, and right now I couldn’t do much more even if I wanted…”
Trying to lure Airi with a sample of the power that she's been given, is she? She must be really determined to get her in with The Circle to do this.



Quote
Maimi had for once become silent, and Airi looked up slowly through the flaming torrent flowing through her, and even though that was the only way she could describe it, it wasn’t unpleasant. Far from it in fact, and eventually she felt as if she could even obtain control over it.

Upon finding Maimi’s face, she saw that the girl was staring up and away from her with her jaw hanging open.
Looks like Airi already has some power within her, and Maimi might have triggered them.



Quote
“I’ve never felt like this before…”

Then as if out of some instinct, Airi reached out and grabbed Maimi’s wrist. The moment she did though, the girl’s attention was diverted totally back down to earth as she let out a blood-curdling scream, causing every face within sight to dart toward them and look on nervously, now even more curious and slightly worried at what was going on between the two.
Ah, so it was Maimi screaming that Reina and Miyabi had heard.



Quote
“Maimi…” a girl said, and she saw a small figure kneel and bend over the jerking form in front of her. She thought she recognized who it was by the voice and size together. Shimizu…? she thought through the fog inside her head.

As if the girl could hear her thought, she looked back at Airi warily, and with the help of another girl who came up on Yajima’s other side, pulled the House Matsuura leader up and began walking her between them and away, Saki occasionally throwing glances back to her that were very cautious indeed. Where were they going? Why were they leaving her? Airi tried to move, but felt like she had no energy.
Whatever power Airi has/can wield, it's big, powerful, and obviously dangerous enough to have Captain worried.



Quote
“What…” Airi began in a choked voice as if her throat had been scalded dry. She coughed before going on. “What happened?”

“We thought you might be able to tell us,” Natsuyaki said,

...

“I…” Airi began, at a loss. What was she going to say? That she felt like she caught fire, the sun disappeared, and when she touched Maimi… What had happened?

...

Something caught her eye though from the book that was still lying open beneath her, and furrowing her brow she forgot about the other girls and bent down to look at it.

The ink for some of its words had become red somehow, and they almost glowed their message up to her. It was a passage she’d read part of before, but this time through, and as she read further, her eyes widened and mouth slowly fell open. It was a message apparently passed down from the Founders themselves to the first Circle. The writer, presumably one of those Circle members, related it verbatim but did not seem to understand it.

On a certain day in the dawn of the Third Age, the sky will run red as if stained by the gods themselves. So shall this prophecy be fulfilled, and our Destiny be set on its road to fruition.


Airi noticed that below the red print was a section that she remembered was nothing but a blank page before. It was that which detailed this mysterious plan and piqued her greatest interest.
So the message was hidden in the book, and would only be seen once the first step in the prophecy that it mentions had been taken (namely, Airi's powers awakening).  As is the case with many prophecies, this one is cryptic and vague. Exactly what "destiny" is it that the Founders were speaking of, and what role does Airi have to play in it?



Quote
“What’s that?” Miyabi asked, having apparently caught a glance at something and peering over into her book. “Kinda weird to have red ink in a book like that.”

...

Chisato was now able to get a look at it. “What are you talking about? Red ink? I don’t see anything.”

Airi looked at her about to burst out with another complaint too, but at the sight of her friend’s face her expression softened, and rational thought finally returned to her. “What?” she asked. “It’s right here,” she said, pointing to the passage.

“I don’t see anything,” Chisato responded. That half of the page is blank.
It must be that only people who have the special powers can see it, right? They did say that they checked Chisato out, and she didn't have any. But we know that Miyabi and (now) Airi have them, and they can see the ink.



Title: Re: The Circle of Three [8: Prophecy Girl]
Post by: mode107 on December 01, 2007, 06:20:05 PM
I couldn't imagine girls like The Skulls having a slumber party, but since that was the case, they must have had to discuss some 'business'.

Saki being gloomy and hollow-like, I kinda wonder if Maimi had something to do with it. Maimi seems like a nice girl, but after that encounter with the skulls, when Maimi yelled at Ai and Saki to do something, which they didn't, it seemed like Maimi would penalize them for it. But then again, Saki's gloominess could be the result of whatever power she has.

Chisato drinking :lol:, funny stuff, but Chisato hanging out with The Skulls now, and doing things like that, I'm sure her relationship with Airi is going to become distant.

Quote
“Fine…” Chisato responded in resignation as she buttoned her seifuku and donned her cap. A cap sure looked different on a girl in seifuku, but Chisato somehow had the fashion sense to pull it off.

Damn Straight! :rockon:

Now, with Maimi coming on to Airi like that, I'm wondering is she's really interested in her, or if she sees something in here which could be a benefit to the circle. If its my first thought, then Airi go for it..o wait, there's Miyabi  :P. I really like that Miyabi came to Airi's mind at that part, when nothing much has happened between the two except for blushing. Airi has hope

 :O Airi's power is awakened? What the heck is up with those girls giggling? Surprised that they were not awed.

This whole scene and through was written well. UPDATE NOW!  no I'm kidding, take your time please  :yep:
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [8: Prophecy Girl]
Post by: rokun on December 03, 2007, 04:52:13 PM
Hey everyone! There are some different reactions to this story than I expected, but I'm glad to see that people are commenting on quite a variety of things also! It's nice to see that there's not just one major thing happening that everybody mentions their opinions on. Maybe length has something to do with that. :) Speaking of, chapter 7 was of course relatively short, with 8 a bit longer, but hopefully it's not a problem for most people.  ^_^ It doesn't seem too bad... These last couple I actually haven't even been paying attention to length, just writing until I'm satisfied with this specific leg of the story, so hopefully it might even be a bit more natural now.

I'm glad you're beginning to pick up on the separation of these six girls from the rest of those at Seishin. There definitely is something special about them, and the next chapter when Airi and the Skulls have their "talk" should help illuminate a bit what's going on. For now I'll just say that's a very interesting book Airi found. :D The fun thing will be when the Circle find out about it... You can imagine they'll be very interested in Airi after what just happened.

g4rfield: I like your theories about what underlies their powers! I put a good bit of thought into how all that works, so I'm glad you're discovering it's not all just random happenstance. :) Of course... this isn't to say you're right. :glasses: Something that I did believe you all mentioned - the eye glow - is actually a key hint to their nature. One thing you maybe stumbled onto a little...
Quote from: g4rfield
The Skulls does not seem to be affected by their powers. Wonder why that is.
Amarghetta mentioned something similar too...
Quote from: Amarghetta
Oh, interesting! It made me think that maybe she got a glimpse of Nakazawa. A very brief, limited to skilled girls kind of glimpse... :yep:
I'll leave this topic at that for now though. :)

modesta, I like your different comments as to the relationships and random little things that I throw in. :lol: These are perhaps the things that make me happiest while writing, even though they may not necessarily apply to the broader plot. They're just fun, and I think help flesh out the characters. Honestly, when I first started developing this story I got a plot in my head, then decided who would play what role. It was after all that I thought, "So... what should relationships be? Those are usually the most fun!" The funny thing was, with roles assigned, relationships just kind of fell into place. There are patterns to some, and maybe not to others.

Risa and Ai have been best friends for years, and have always been very close. Risa's also been in love with her for a long time, but felt unable to act on it since she wasn't sure Ai would even "swing that way", and Risa, for all her assertiveness, has had trouble with her self-confidence after a long time in Ai's shadow (for example, Ai was the one, even though Risa's also a 7th year, who was selected for the Circle, no?). Risa's doubts about that disappeared when Ai and Miki had their affair, but that, as you know from Risa's character at this point, made things even more complicated.... Until now, when Miki's out of the picture.

Risako and Airi have also been friends for years - at least from elementary school. That's how they're so close while being from different houses, and also why Risako and Chisato may not be that close yet... Their relationship is different from Risa and Ai's, but they have a different modus operandi in relation to others. Their problem, at least at the moment, is that the same girl likes them both...

As for Maimi and Airi, I believe Maimi really is interested in her. I don't think she would have tried to do something as normal as asking her on a date if she wasn't. Maimi acts like she's in control and above everything most of the time, so I just don't see her lowering herself to something so "normal" without some real motivation. :) Of course, after what happened in the last chapter it may have made things a little stickier...

JFC... I want to say something to your very welcome long and thought out responses, but I think I've covered most of it so far and with what I have left! One thing I wanted to compliment though...
Quote from: JFC
Looks like Airi already has some power within her, and Maimi might have triggered them.
You guys have been talking about these triggers for a long time now. There really is something specific going on. If you want, you might want to glance back to when Reina's and Miyabi's powers "awakened".  ;) Although, Miyabi's might be a little tougher to pin down unless you put it together with a guess about something else. Which leads us to...

Saki. Like I said before, I'm glad she's coming across as creepy. Her powers and the reasoning behind them are perhaps the most mysterious... as well as creepy in their own right. Hers are probably the darkest of anyone, and I'm a little scared about what kinds of things she might do in the future with them... what she's done already... :mon cweepy: Maimi's the controlling one right now. Ai's finding her place. Saki almost always just seems to be there. If you remember some of her in-depth answers to questions though, she knows an awful lot. I'd shudder to think what'd happen if she got hold of Airi, who is learning a lot herself... or something... :mon unsure:

Well, there's my in-depth reply for the time being. I think I squeezed a lot into this response, which is longer than I realized... gomen lol. Don't read it if you don't want to. :lol:
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [8: Prophecy Girl]
Post by: rndmnwierd on December 05, 2007, 09:47:23 PM
I definately need to start commenting on this story now, too. It's so interesting to try and figure out where exactly where you're taking the plot and what the girl's powers really are. I'm also trying to keep up with who is in what house and who's an ally or enemy. Not ready to make any guesses yet, maybe I never will be, but I'm looking forward to the next chapter. Is that when everything starts coming together?
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [9: Embarking On Destiny]
Post by: rokun on December 07, 2007, 12:49:53 AM
When did I post the last chapter? I don't know! Time for another!

This chapter gets a bit wild and zany, and I know I'm tired out after writing it. I can't imagine what it'll be like after reading it! The moment I at least have been waiting for has finally arrived. Oooh the horror! Enjoy!


Chapter 9 – Embarking On Destiny

Feeling a mite nervous and a little upset, Airi somehow found herself face-to-face with Miyabi Natsuyaki. Tanaka and the girl had held a discussion, while Kusumi looked on curiously and Chisato looked among all of them as if just wondering if she was allowed to talk to her friend. However, when Airi was able to catch her eyes, the girl actually seemed afraid… of her.

Just when she was beginning to fall into thought herself about what had happened, and gave a few glances at the book Tanaka still clutched in her arms, the girls had turned back to her. Miyabi approached her, and they ended up alone in the back lounge of House Nakazawa, the others having vacated somewhere for a reason Airi couldn’t fathom. She wondered why she even let these girls keep her here, and by the looks she received as the others left, apparently she wasn’t the only one with that thought.

“I’m impressed,” Miyabi said in a monotone voice, bringing Airi back to the present. “Rei-chan was actually right.” Airi frowned at her. “I could tell it was hard for her, but for some reason she thought it would be better for me to talk to you first. She felt you’d respond to me better.” She continued gazing at Airi, who sat in one of the vacant sleeping bags she hoped was Chisato’s, from a chair she’d spun around to sit in backwards. “Apparently she was right.”

“Wh…” Airi began, and scolded herself for stammering. “What do you want with me?”

“Oh there are many things I want from you, Airi.” Airi noted with an odd excited feeling in her stomach that the girl actually got her name right, but it quickly cocooned into butterflies when she saw the smirk appear on her face. However, the trace of mirth rapidly vanished.

“But now…” she continued, and rose to drop down next to Airi on the fluffy blankety bag. Airi’s stress level rose a small bit. “I’m just curious to hear what you have to say about what happened outside,” she finished, smiling pleasantly over at Airi.

“Wh…” Airi pinched herself on the leg and winced before continuing. “Why should I tell you about it?”

“Because I’m so charming,” Miyabi responded, still smiling. At the moment, Airi couldn’t exactly deny that. However, she would not let herself be caught in the girl’s trap. Before she could speak though, her captor went on. “Actually, we… believe we might be able to help you if we know what’s going on.”

Airi stared at her. “Why should I believe you could help me with anything?”

“You’ll just have to trust me,” the girl responded, and from all Airi could tell, she was quite sincere. For some reason, at those words Airi felt another feeling rush through her, and she felt more at ease, and even comfortable with the girl who was part of something she’d hated as long as she’d been at Seishin.

“All right,” she responded. “I trust you.”

Miyabi blinked as if she wasn’t expecting such ready assent, but promptly smiled. “Good!” she said. “I’m glad to hear that. So… is there anything you’d like to tell me?”

“Well…” Airi started. Where to begin? “I was just walking back to my room after becoming annoyed with Chisa and Rii-chan, when I literally ran into Maimi. The girl is so rude and never watches out for when I’m walking! Anyway,” she said, and didn’t notice Miyabi’s reaction to her words. A suspicious and slightly surprised look had appeared on her face.

“We start… talking…” There was no way she was going to go into more detail about that to this girl! “And then she touches me, and I feel like I’m on fire. I fall down, and then everything begins to turn red…”

“She touched you?” Miyabi asked astutely. “Are you two…” She hesitated before going on. “…close?”

“Um…” Airi said, rapidly feeling like she wouldn’t be able to keep her secrets much longer. A sudden rush within her made her much more confident though, and her expression changing, she happily continued, “I guess… maybe? She was asking me on a date…”

“A date?” Miyabi asked, and she was definitely thrown this time.

Airi nodded. “Not just any date either! She wanted me to come watch a movie or something with her in a private room in the Circle building.”

“She asked you to the Ivory Tower?” Miyabi asked, her eyes widening and clearly surprised now. “Did… did you accept?”

“Well,” Airi responded, the exchange between the two girls becoming fast-paced, “I hadn’t really answered, but that was when she… touched me… And when she did, like I said I felt this strange feeling run through me. It was very nice at first. Well, before it started making me feel like my skin was going to burn off.”

“That doesn’t sound very nice at all,” Miyabi commented blankly. Airi shook her head, and in response for some reason Miyabi shook hers too before going on. “So why did she scream? That was her screaming, right?”

Airi nodded, fear invading her a little bit as the memory returned. “Yes. I felt this sudden urge to grab her arm, and so I did, and… apparently it hurt her…”

Miyabi looked carefully at her. “Yes, it looks like it did. I don’t know how much you were able to tell from the ground as you were, but she held her arm in front of her like it was broken… or worse. We haven’t seen her since Shimizu walked her away though. They seem to have locked themselves up in the Ivory Tower.”

“She’s… she’s going to be all right, isn’t she?” Airi asked plaintively. “I didn’t want to hurt her. I don’t want to hurt anyone…”

“I don’t know,” Miyabi replied with a slight shrug. “From the look of it though, her arm was all that was bothering her. In that case, she can’t be in too bad of shape.” Airi nodded again, and the girl returned once again to her questions.  “When did you get this feeling to… grab her arm? What was happening at the time?”

Airi thought back, although as far as she was concerned, the quicker she could blot the memory from her mind the better. “The sky was red… I felt on fire… but… it was like it was part of me. The Sun that was blocked out, I could feel it. I felt its heat, but it wasn’t beating down on me. It’s like…” She looked nervously up at Miyabi, knowing that the girl wouldn’t believe her. “It’s like it was inside of me.”

Miyabi observed her quietly a moment. Airi would have given anything to know what was going on in the girl’s mind, but she didn’t share anything. Instead, she finally asked her another question.

“You have this book,” she said, nodding to the volume sitting on the floor in front of them. “The passage glowing red that apparently not everybody can see, do you know what it’s about?”

Somehow regaining her will back at mention of her discovery, Airi glared proudly at the girl. “I can’t say,” she said in an even voice.

Miyabi sighed. “I’m not here to take anything away from you,” she said. “There are just certain… things… going on at this school lately that have us worried about what they mean. For some reason Reina thinks your book has something to do with them.”

“Things?!” Airi asked demandingly, thinking that it was about time she start asking questions. “What are you talking about? Have you guys found ingenious new ways to bully other helpless young girls?”

This time Miyabi’s eyes narrowed. “That has nothing to do with this,” she said flatly. “If you must know, it concerns run-ins we’ve had with the Circle. We’ve discovered things about us all that… seem somewhat similar to what you just went through. We want to find out if there’s a connection.”

“Why would I be connected with anyone in the Circle, much less you!” Airi retorted, but before Miyabi could answer the door burst open and the girl jumped to her feet.

Airi looked into the doorway, but all she saw was the petite figure of Saki Shimizu. However, her small package seemed to radiate an aura of foreboding and command that completely belied her size.

She looked around the room quickly, registering that it was just the two of them there, and shut the door hard behind her. “What are you doing here?” she hissed at Airi. “Don’t you know what kind of place this is? I could have girls placed into detention for even going near this place.”

“I’d like to see you try it,” Miyabi countered in a voice that sounded almost as hard, and the Goto Head flashed her glare over to her housemate.

“And you,” she said. “You were such a promising student. You could have been the pride of House Goto. But you decided to get yourself involved with this lot.”

“Yes,” Miyabi responded forcefully. “I did. And I have absolutely no regrets.”

“I need to talk to the Matsuura girl,” Shimizu continued, still staring hard at Miyabi. “You can leave.”

“Not happening,” Miyabi replied casually but firmly, and true to her word she didn’t move from her spot. Airi looked up at the girl, and with sharp fear of the Circle member building up steadily inside of her, she was thankful for the protection.

“Fine!” Shimizu spat. “You can stay here and cower in the corner then!” As if to punctuate her order, shadows seemed to coalesce in front of her, and they seemed to leap out toward Miyabi in a grotesque visage of fangs and claws. Airi fell back, but Miyabi jumped further, her back hitting the wall and her face appearing terrified as if she was actually face to face with her worst fear. Airi certainly felt like shivering herself, but she thought the other girl stronger than what she showed. Since whatever Shimizu did apparently wasn’t directed at her, it made the fear in the pit of her stomach rise to new heights.

After she blinked though the shadowy form was gone, and Shimizu just stood glaring at her younger housemate, who still stared back with the fixed horrified expression.

“That’s enough,” came another, but weaker, voice from the door that Airi just now noticed swung open. Maimi walked up next to her fellow Head, and even laid a hand on her wrist. Airi’s gaze though was fixed on her other arm, which was held tenderly in a bandaged sling.

Shimizu looked over at the new arrival, the anger in her face giving way slightly to concern. “You shouldn’t be here,” she said. “I can take care of this girl... find out what she did to you.”

“It’s all right,” Maimi said. From the moment she came into the room Airi noticed the girl couldn’t take her eyes off of her, even while speaking to Shimizu. “I don’t want you getting too worked up.”

“I’m not…” Shimizu began sharply before biting off her words. Then she glared back at the other two girls as if it was their fault and took a couple steps back toward the wall. Once there, she crossed her arms. “I’m staying here though to make sure the Skull doesn’t try anything. You’re too weak to defend yourself.”

Maimi finally took her eyes from Airi to give Shimizu a crooked smile. “Thank you very much,” she said in a tight tone, then looked over at Miyabi, who was still hugging herself against the wall as if she wanted to be anywhere else except there. “I don’t think she’ll be trying anything too soon though.”

Then she turned back to Airi, who peered over her knees as she held them in front of her. “Now, Airi…” She began. “Airi…” There was an amazing amount of warmth in her voice toward someone who had just horribly injured her arm. She walked over to Airi and crouched down in front of her to meet her level. “Tell me… Did you cause that eclipse?”

Airi blinked at her, some of her fright vanishing at the insane question. “What are you talking about?” she said before thinking, and even coughed out a laugh. “How could I have caused that?”

“Stranger things have happened,” the girl responded mysteriously. “Your… friends…” she began, grimacing over at Miyabi, who actually seemed to be recovering, as if she was something unpleasant stuck to the wall, “have surprised us lately. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that someone else could surprise us too. Especially someone like you, who I knew was special in some way.

The girl became distracted as Airi noticed she caught sight of the book lying a meter or so away. She bent over to it and picked it up, looking at the passage containing the red text. “This book is… very interesting,” she said, apparently having forgotten what she was just questioning Airi about. “A prophecy? From the Founders?” She directed a startled gaze up to Shimizu, who gave one just as startled in return, and then turned back to Airi. “Where did you find this?”

“It was in the library,” Airi replied, feeling a bit of her strength return. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Miyabi blinking as if trying to shake off grogginess within her head.

“The library?” Maimi asked sharply, then turned back to Shimizu. “Do you know anything of this?”

The other girl walked up to them, and the closer she got the stronger desire Airi had to back away from her. There was definitely something wrong about that girl. The image of the shadowy wolf came into her mind again.

She looked down into the book, and appeared to read the red text and what surrounded it quickly. “No,” she said quietly. “I’ve never noticed this before.” She gestured Maimi to turn the book so they could see its cover, and she continued, “I do know the volume though. Precepts of the Trinity of Seishin. It contains most of the guidelines set down by the Founders as related by the first Circle. It was called the Trinity before the name was changed in the Muromachi Period due to protests as Christianity began to spread.”

“I really need to learn this kind of stuff…” Maimi scolded herself, frowning at the book.

However, Shimizu was glaring at Airi again. “Why were you reading this book? Is Murayama-sensei having second years study the ancient history of Seishin now?”

“No,” Airi said coolly, proud at how she was conquering the feeling of fear from the girl that seemed to be attacking her emotions. She shifted her eyes just enough to catch sight of Miyabi, who appeared to have come fully to herself now, and seemed about to step toward them. Airi gave her a hard look, and quickly went on.

“I actually was researching the Skulls because I saw them do some strange things that I wanted to get to the bottom of.” Her mention of Miyabi’s group stopped the girl in her tracks, and she now looked at Airi warily. Airi guessed the look was because she hadn’t told Miyabi this information yet, but honestly, the girl hadn’t asked!

“There’s nothing about the Skulls in here,” Shimizu stated with an impatient twist to her mouth.

“Yes, I realized that,” Airi replied patiently. “However, I found elsewhere that they seemed to be actually as old as the Circle, and thus the school, and this was the only book I could find easily from that period.”

Shimizu didn’t seem to have a response to that, but Airi noticed a spark suddenly come to Maimi’s eye. “Airi…” she said with a warm smile once again, laying the book down and apparently forgetting it for the moment. Shimizu frowned at her, and she looked up at her comrade in the Circle. “Could you leave us alone for a little bit?” she asked. Shimizu darted a look at Miyabi, who had smartly adopted a faraway air again, but before she could protest Maimi continued, “I’m sure I’ll be all right. What’s this little girl going to do to me?”

Shimizu frowned at her arm as if that were a case in point of what exactly this little girl could do to her, but nodded her head and rose up to head out the door. Maimi turned back to Airi. Apparently she wasn’t concerned about Miyabi hearing whatever she wanted to say to her alone. In fact, she seemed to hardly recognize the girl’s existence at all, causing Miyabi to refocus her own glare at the girl again. Airi barely held herself back from bursting out into giggles.

“Do you remember my offer, Airi?” the older Matsuura girl asked. “You… noticed what I might be able to do for you,” she said with a slight hesitation. Airi wondered how the girl could be so good at ignoring reality. “So how about it? We could catch a movie in a pleasant atmosphere… maybe have some mochi… talk…” She threw in that last as if in an afterthought, but Airi knew what her intentions were now. At least she thought she did. “And if things go well, maybe other things too,” she finished with a grin, and even made Airi blush. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Miyabi glancing anxiously between the two of them again.

“Are you sure you want to be so near to me for who knows how long?” Airi asked, and cast an obvious glance to her bandaged arm. “Are you all right, by the way?”

“Oh I’m fine,” the girl insisted. “It was just a scratch. I don’t blame you in the slightest. I must have fallen and hurt myself.” She scooted closer to Airi, who was beginning to feel a little flustered. “So how about it?” When she reached out and took Airi’s hand, albeit carefully, it became too much for her and she jumped to her feet.

Maimi rose slowly too and arched an eyebrow at her, but Airi, her mind blanking in response to the situation, avoided the girl’s look and found her eyes resting on Miyabi, who looked on quietly with a very tight expression. Feeling some unidentifiable emotion course through her, she made a spur of the moment decision and acted before she thought. There were reasons Airi Suzuki did not normally do that, and this one might have them all beat.

Releasing and recoiling from Maimi’s hand, she turned and walked swiftly over to Miyabi, reaching up to the surprised girl’s neck and leaning in to press her lips against her mouth. She held them there for a moment as she realized what she just did but couldn’t possibly think of what to do now. After all, she’d never kissed anyone before. Oh my god! she thought. I just kissed Miyabi Natsuyaki! That thought froze her body completely, but she knew she had to do something else eventually.

The decision was taken away from her though when she felt the other girl’s arms wrap around her waist, and Miyabi tilted her head which, Airi realized, allowed them to kiss more easily. Then she realized something else. The girl was actually kissing her back!

She lost track of time for a while, but when she came to she found herself still in Miyabi’s arms, and she opened her eyes to see a stone-faced Head of House Matsuura standing not two meters away. She noticed that for some reason Miyabi smiled at the girl and gave her a look that was almost… triumphant?

“So that’s how it is?” Maimi ground out through gritted teeth in a barely audible voice. “Instead of wanting someone who could give you fortune… respect… anything you desire, you instead go for this… Skull...” she spat. “This… slut?”

Airi suddenly came out of the paradise she was in and glared at the girl. “Miyabi’s not a s… s…” She couldn’t finish the horrible word.

“Yes she is!” Maimi roared, tearing hear arm out of the sling to clench both her fists at her sides. Airi almost gasped at the blackened skin she saw beneath the freshly torn bandages, but if it was painful the girl didn’t even seem to notice. “They all are! Even your stupid little friend who got herself involved with them!”

Now the girl had gone too far, and Airi’s fury boiled within her. At least that’s what she thought, since it seemed to rapidly become quite hot in there. She jerked as if to jump at the girl, but Miyabi held her tightly against her side. Airi looked up at her with a disbelieving questioning look. Why wouldn’t she let her at the girl?! She’d maimed her once, so what’s to say she couldn’t do it again?

Suddenly though the heat disappeared, and she saw a look of concentration on the face of the girl who held her. Airi looked around. Waves of heat seemed to hang in the air throughout the room, but she now felt like she wouldn’t even break a sweat.

“Are you going to insist on frying yourself?” Miyabi asked Maimi lazily. “That’s all that’ll happen if you keep this up.”

“How little you know of me,” Maimi hissed in response. “You didn’t seem so sure of yourself when Saki-chan was around earlier.” Airi felt Miyabi tremble slightly for the first time, and she made sure to hug the girl’s waist as comfortingly as she could as if she had any experience with such a gesture.

The corner of Maimi’s mouth twisted. “That’s right,” she said. “You’ll soon learn to respect us.” She looked at Airi with eyes that portrayed the deepest loathing. And yet, strangely, Airi thought she saw nearly concealed hurt in them too. “All of you!”

She looked down to the book, which still lay open between them, and picked it up, slamming it shut. “This belongs to us!” she proclaimed. And after she turned and walked out the door, slamming it behind her, the room seemed to return to normal.

Miyabi maintained that look of concentration, but after a minute or so she slowly seemed to relax, and Airi began to feel slight warmth in the air around her again, even though it was nothing like when the Circle member was in the room.

“Are you okay?” Miyabi asked her, craning her neck to look at Airi since she was leaning her head on the girl’s shoulder. Airi nodded, and Miyabi darted her eyes around the room anxiously. “Um…” she continued after Airi made no move to shift her position. “Are you going to let me go?”

“No,” Airi said with a smile, trying to push down the butterflies that were filling her own stomach. Trying to push Maimi aside for the moment, she realized she had to face the fact that she’d just kissed Miyabi Natsuyaki. As a defense mechanism, she tried her best to make the other girl feel uncomfortable too. “You’re my hero, after all.”

Miyabi blushed, but made no move to separate them. So the girls stayed like that for a few minutes, with Airi’s head on her shoulder and their arms around each others’ waists. “Airi…” the other girl said finally.

“Mmm?” Airi said, beginning to feel quite comfortable and as if she could even drift off to sleep on her feet. She’d woken up early that morning after all, and it had already been quite a long day. She enjoyed the sublime protected feeling she experienced in the Skull’s arms. The Skulls… What was a Skull again?

“My legs are getting tired…” Miyabi replied.

“Oh?” Airi asked, doing her best to keep the girl off-guard even in her torpid state.

However, at that moment the door swung open again and Tanaka and the rest of the Skulls hurried in. Becoming fully alert very quickly, Airi pulled away from the last Skull, which resulted in quite a disoriented state at the sudden movement. But she was still too late.

“What the…” Tanaka began, staring at the both of them. Kusumi’s mouth curled up in a evil-looking smile, but Chisato’s eyes looked like they’d pop out of her head. Airi hugged herself, rapidly becoming quite embarrassed.

“Here I thought you two might have been in trouble when I saw Yajima stalking out of here and almost dragging Shimizu with her, but all you’re doing is getting it on!” Tanaka continued. Airi honestly felt like she couldn’t blush any deeper.

“We weren’t…” Miyabi spluttered, although in a much more composed way than Airi could have managed right then. “...getting it on…!” she finished. “Yajima was in here, but then Suzuki kissed me and—“

“She kissed you?” Tanaka asked, a taunting smile definitely forming on her face now. “She kissed you??” Then she began laughing uncontrollably, so hard in fact that she fell into the nearest chair. “Our champion seductress! Our supposed great leader! She kissed you!”

Now even Kusumi and Chisato were staring at their captain as if she had gone mad. Miyabi however looked almost as embarrassed as Airi felt. What? What was the problem? She looked over at the girl she’d kissed, but she avoided Airi’s gaze.

“Well…” Chisato said, still frowning at their elated leader. “They always wanted you to join the Skulls, Osuzu. I didn’t know that was how it’d happen though!”

“I’m not—“ Airi began hastily, but cut off when her brain managed to kick in. Wasn’t she? She may not have officially been invited and joined them, but didn’t going out with one of them automatically make her part of the group? She’d kissed her after all, and it was, she blushed as she thought it, definitely returned, so didn’t that mean they were going out?

Her eyes widened. She was dating Miyabi Natsuyaki! Her perfect child world came crashing down within her head. She’d never be taken seriously at the school again! But… even so, it just felt so nice… She tilted her head and smiled at the other girl, who clenched her own fists at her sides as if she was restraining herself from something too. The room didn’t become a furnace for her, though.

“Osuzu!” Chisato cried, and now even Kusumi had started laughing. “Stop mooning at her like that! It’s so… weird!” Airi blinked and blushed again, but Miyabi had apparently had enough.

“I need to get some air!” she announced, and strode to the door as if she was trying to do so as respectably as possible through the howling of her friends’ laughter.

When she was gone, Tanaka and Kusumi were finally able to calm down, and Chisato bustled over to her, pulling her down where they both had a seat in what Airi finally had confirmed as her sleeping bag. “Oh my god!” she whispered excitedly. Even though she tried to keep her voice down, if Tanaka and Kusumi weren’t virtually crying themselves they surely would have heard it. “Did you really kiss Miyabi?” She stared at Airi in awe as if she was some kind of hero.

“Y-yes…” Airi stammered out. Her mind was a mess of jumbled emotions right at that time. “I don’t know what came over me, Chisa! Maimi was hitting on me, and after what happened outside I was just feeling uncomfortable, and then, I dunno, I just walked over and kissed her! What did I do, Chisa?!”

“Yajima-san too?” her friend gasped, her awe reaching yet another level. “What did you do?” she asked, as if it were the most ridiculous question ever conceived. “Much more than I ever could, I’ll tell you that!” Then seeming to suddenly realize what she said, she hurriedly followed, “N-not that I have any wish to kiss Miyabi. Not at all!” She now seemed completely defensive, and Airi just stared at her. The other girls seemed to calm down enough that they could hear their exchange, and they grinned at each other as they listened.

“I’m not saying you do…” Airi said in a very slow and patient voice.

“Good!” Chisato exclaimed. “Because I don’t! Honest!” She then looked around them, but without seeming to notice the audience of the other two girls, leaned in closer to Airi. “Do you… do you like her?”

Airi, who was very aware of the other girls’ very amused gazes, hesitated at the question, although Chisato seemed insistent. “Um…” she finally said. Looking between Tanaka and Kusumi she resolved herself. Who cared what they thought? “I… suppose so.”

“Of course you do!” Tanaka said, and hopped from her chair to head over to the two seated girls. The sudden voice and motion caused Chisato to almost jump, and she spun her head to face her leader. Tanaka continued on, sitting down to lounge on Airi’s other side, and wrapped an arm around her shoulders.

“You know, you’re a lucky girl,” the Skull Captain informed her. “If you must fall for any of us, she’s the one to go for. Me, I like to have my fun, but a relationship is like a plague as far as I’m concerned. And I won’t even get started on Mikitty.

“Kusumi…” she began thoughtfully, and turned to appraise the Nakazawa girl, who gave her a funny look as if wondering how she was going to verbally abuse her this time. “I’m not sure about her yet, but she’s an idiot, so probably best not to tap that in any case.”

“Hey!” the girl protested, albeit weakly.

“You didn’t mention me…” Chisato said, with a look like she was feeling left out.

Tanaka blinked at her. “You? Well I thought that was obvious. You’re the best friend. Unless you’re me, that’s not gonna happen. What? You want her?” Airi felt another blush coming on.

“N-no!” Chisato defended, giving Airi anxious looks as if to ensure she didn’t get the wrong idea. Airi smiled reassuringly at her friend. “I just…”

“Well then that’s that!” Tanaka said. Then she studied Airi again. “Miyakko on the other hand…” Her face twisted into a grin. “Boy I’m gonna have fun with this one!”

“You be nice to her!” Airi demanded, giving the girl a fiery look.

Tanaka laughed and patted her back. “Don’t worry. Chill, chill… I won’t go after her.” Airi nodded, but the girl wasn’t finished yet. “…too much.” She grinned, and Airi thought it best to let it be this time.

The Captain kept studying her face though. “Y’know, I suppose I should welcome you to the Skulls. Normally it takes a request, but I’d say if you’ve made it with one of our best members, I don’t know how we can really deny you,” she finished, grinning while she spoke.

“But I don’t want to be a Skull!” Airi complained, although she had a feeling she was fighting a losing battle here. “I’m not taking orders from you… nor obviously Miyabi,” she threw in after a small hesitation.

Tanaka still looked at her thoughtfully, but Chisato spoke up. “They don’t really give us orders…” she said. “We pretty much do what we want. Of course they make sure to let us know we’re new…”

“Y’know what?” Tanaka resumed. “I think you’re right. We shouldn’t treat you like any other new member, or maybe even an old member who’s not the Captain.” She donned a small smile as she spoke, almost as if she was being very careful with what she said, but was also very satisfied with it. Airi couldn’t begin to imagine why, although it was good they realized she wouldn’t be listening to them.

“…I’ll think about it,” Airi admitted after a moment.

“Think all you want,” Tanaka said, withdrawing her arm from Airi’s shoulders and standing to move back to her chair. “It won’t make any difference. After your friend’s audition, as well as what happened today, you’re a Skull whether you accept the fact or not. Actually, I’m a little disappointed in you. I thought you’d been doing a lot of research, though apparently you haven’t learned anything.”

Airi tried to make sense of what the girl had just told her, but in the end felt like she was just willing to let her call her whatever she wanted. She wasn’t going to fight anymore. She looked back at her friend, who smiled at her with intense pride, and she couldn’t help but smile back. Plus, if it was going to allow her to spend more time with Chisato - as well as Miyabi, she had to admit to herself with an internal blush – she may not mind it at all.

Besides, she’d kissed the girl and so now the two of them were dating, right? Once word of that got out, the insignificant matter of whether she was a Skull or not would be rather meaningless. Plus, there was the whole deal with the Head of House Matsuura… and she supposed she now needed to add the Head of House Goto to her list too. She wondered for a fleeting second what she was really getting herself into, but realized in actuality it was all her doing. It didn’t have anything to do with the Skulls – that was only a label she either did or didn’t use for herself.

Who knows, maybe she could even try to reform them from the inside and make them decent again? She wanted her best friend to be decent, after all. Looking at the smiling Chisato and really being able to pay attention to her for the first time in all the chaos of the morning, she noticed the girl was chewing something. She could most definitely start with that!

“Spit it out,” she ordered, sticking out her hand below the girl’s chin.

Chisato’s chewing suddenly stopped. “Huh?” she asked.

“The tobacco,” Airi explained. “It’s a gross habit, and I’ll not have you doing it. That goes for any of you!” she said, looking around the room. Koharu stared at her as if she was crazy, but Reina was obviously holding herself back from bursting out laughing again.

“But it’s not—“ Chisato protested.

“Spit it out!” Airi commanded again, and the girl quickly heeded her this time, a second later spitting out her wad of bubble gum into Airi’s hand. Her face coloring, Airi noticed that Reina apparently couldn’t hold her laughter back any longer.

“Unruly indeed!” the girl cried out, and for some reason, amid all the embarrassing laughter, Airi felt that despite her much better judgment, this was where she belonged.
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [9: Embarking On Destiny]
Post by: Yukari on December 07, 2007, 01:26:33 AM
ooooooooh i love this fic  :luvluv1:

now i like Airi  :wub:

and AirixMiya  :nya:
 
they kissed... and now "dating" XD XD
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [9: Embarking On Destiny]
Post by: Amarghetta on December 07, 2007, 01:41:05 AM
So, The Skulls triad is complete now. Miki's gonna have so much fun when learns about it...  :w00t:

It's funny how The Skulls are supposed to be the bad girls, but they seem cooler and more relaxed about things. Unlike The Circle, they don't seem to have a secret agenda; well, besides Miki, that's it.  XD

Oh, and I wonder about Socko's reaction to the news. Her two friends are Skulls now! That's gotta be quite shocking, especially after Airi's initial dislike for them.  :P
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [9: Embarking On Destiny]
Post by: mode107 on December 07, 2007, 02:42:41 AM
So it looks like Miki was right about Miyabi getting a girlfriend :lol:

Woah, harsh outburst from Maimi there! I feel bad for her, because you had said she was interested in Airi, but now in this chapter you can see what her intentions were, and after Airi kissed Miyabi, I can't help but wonder if Maimi felt a little heartbreak along with that anger(poor her if that was the case). So Maimi as a possbile antagonist? I have have never read of an angry(or maybe evil) Maimi, so this is really going to get interesting

Updates on two of your stories in one day?!... your awesome!
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [9: Embarking On Destiny]
Post by: JFC on December 07, 2007, 06:06:51 AM
Quote
The moment I at least have been waiting for has finally arrived. Oooh the horror!
Prelude to the climax?



Quote
Airi somehow found herself face-to-face with Miyabi Natsuyaki. Tanaka and the girl had held a discussion, while Kusumi looked on curiously and Chisato looked among all of them as if just wondering if she was allowed to talk to her friend. However, when Airi was able to catch her eyes, the girl actually seemed afraid… of her.
Does Airi even remember what she just did?



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“I’m impressed,” Miyabi said in a monotone voice, bringing Airi back to the present. “Rei-chan was actually right.” Airi frowned at her. “I could tell it was hard for her, but for some reason she thought it would be better for me to talk to you first. She felt you’d respond to me better.”
Makes sense, considering they're probably in the same grade, PLUS the fact that other than Chisato (who, as the group's newbie, has no idea what's going on herself), Miyabi's the Skull member Airi has talked to the most (what with Miyabi's flirting and all ;D).



Quote
Before she could speak though, her captor went on. “Actually, we… believe we might be able to help you if we know what’s going on.”

Airi stared at her. “Why should I believe you could help me with anything?"
It's got to have something to do with the book Reina has, right? Right now Airi probably fits the description of something/someone that is written in the book (hence the title of the previous chapter), and that something/someone is probably supposed to have a BIG impact on things.



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“Well…” Airi started. Where to begin? “I was just walking back to my room after becoming annoyed with Chisa and Rii-chan, when I literally ran into Maimi. The girl is so rude and never watches out for when I’m walking! Anyway,” she said, and didn’t notice Miyabi’s reaction to her words. A suspicious and slightly surprised look had appeared on her face.
Airi really should start watching out for herself instead of expecting others to watch out for her. :P


Quote
“We start… talking…” There was no way she was going to go into more detail about that to this girl! “And then she touches me, and I feel like I’m on fire. I fall down, and then everything begins to turn red…”

“She touched you?” Miyabi asked astutely. “Are you two…” She hesitated before going on. “…close?”
Something tells me the relationship between the two people involved must be a factor in the events happening the way they do.



Quote
“I guess… maybe? She was asking me on a date…”

“A date?” Miyabi asked, and she was definitely thrown this time.

Airi nodded. “Not just any date either! She wanted me to come watch a movie or something with her in a private room in the Circle building.”

“She asked you to the Ivory Tower?” Miyabi asked, her eyes widening and clearly surprised now. “Did… did you accept?”
Hmmm...Maimi already knew the power that Airi had within her? If so, what was the purpose of going to that tower?



Quote
“The sky was red… I felt on fire… but… it was like it was part of me. The Sun that was blocked out, I could feel it. I felt its heat, but it wasn’t beating down on me. It’s like…” She looked nervously up at Miyabi, knowing that the girl wouldn’t believe her. “It’s like it was inside of me.”
Airi was channelling the power of the Sun itself?  :shocked:



Quote
Miyabi observed her quietly a moment. Airi would have given anything to know what was going on in the girl’s mind, but she didn’t share anything. Instead, she finally asked her another question.

“You have this book,” she said, nodding to the volume sitting on the floor in front of them. “The passage glowing red that apparently not everybody can see, do you know what it’s about?”

Somehow regaining her will back at mention of her discovery, Airi glared proudly at the girl. “I can’t say,” she said in an even voice.
Which means that either The Skulls are still a bit lost themselves, or they have figured out from the book what Airi is and it says she's a threat.



Quote
“If you must know, it concerns run-ins we’ve had with the Circle. We’ve discovered things about us all that… seem somewhat similar to what you just went through. We want to find out if there’s a connection.”
It could be that they're all receiving these powers at this point in time for a specific reason, or more likely for a specific purpose.



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“Why would I be connected with anyone in the Circle, much less you!” Airi retorted, but before Miyabi could answer the door burst open and the girl jumped to her feet.

Airi looked into the doorway, but all she saw was the petite figure of Saki Shimizu. However, her small package seemed to radiate an aura of foreboding and command that completely belied her size.
Uh-oh. Which Captain are we going to get here? The one that messes with your head, or the one that seems like she's zombified?



Quote
She looked around the room quickly, registering that it was just the two of them there, and shut the door hard behind her. “What are you doing here?” she hissed at Airi. “Don’t you know what kind of place this is? I could have girls placed into detention for even going near this place.”

“I’d like to see you try it,” Miyabi countered in a voice that sounded almost as hard, and the Goto Head flashed her glare over to her housemate.
Probably an idle threat at best. Something tells me it wouldn't be in either The Circle's nor The Skulls' best interests to do that to Airi right now and leave her "unchecked".



Quote
“I need to talk to the Matsuura girl,” Shimizu continued, still staring hard at Miyabi. “You can leave.”
Yeah right. Like that's gonna happen.   :roll:



Quote
“Fine!” Shimizu spat. “You can stay here and cower in the corner then!” As if to punctuate her order, shadows seemed to coalesce in front of her, and they seemed to leap out toward Miyabi in a grotesque visage of fangs and claws. Airi fell back, but Miyabi jumped further, her back hitting the wall and her face appearing terrified as if she was actually face to face with her worst fear.
Shit, there she goes messing with Miyabi's head. :dizzy:



Quote
“That’s enough,” came another, but weaker, voice from the door that Airi just now noticed swung open. Maimi walked up next to her fellow Head, and even laid a hand on her wrist. Airi’s gaze though was fixed on her other arm, which was held tenderly in a bandaged sling.

Shimizu looked over at the new arrival, the anger in her face giving way slightly to concern. “You shouldn’t be here,” she said. “I can take care of this girl... find out what she did to you.”
Yeah, and knowing the types of power/skills Captain has, in trying to figure out what happened Captain would probably severely mentally/emotionally traumatize Airi.



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“It’s all right,” Maimi said. From the moment she came into the room Airi noticed the girl couldn’t take her eyes off of her, even while speaking to Shimizu. “I don’t want you getting too worked up.”
So it's important that Captain NOT get too worked up? Must have something to do with her strength and her ability to control it.



Quote
“I’m not…” Shimizu began sharply before biting off her words. Then she glared back at the other two girls as if it was their fault and took a couple steps back toward the wall. Once there, she crossed her arms. “I’m staying here though to make sure the Skull doesn’t try anything. You’re too weak to defend yourself.”
Seems a little odd that between The Circle members, Captain would be the group's "muscle".



Quote
“Now, Airi…” She began. “Airi…” There was an amazing amount of warmth in her voice toward someone who had just horribly injured her arm. She walked over to Airi and crouched down in front of her to meet her level. “Tell me… Did you cause that eclipse?”

Airi blinked at her, some of her fright vanishing at the insane question. “What are you talking about?” she said before thinking, and even coughed out a laugh. “How could I have caused that?

“Stranger things have happened,” the girl responded mysteriously. “Your… friends…” she began, grimacing over at Miyabi, who actually seemed to be recovering, as if she was something unpleasant stuck to the wall, “have surprised us lately. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that someone else could surprise us too. Especially someone like you, who I knew was special in some way.
Ah, but if that's true, exactly how did Maimi know that there was something unique about Airi? Also, when did she start thinking this?



Quote
The girl became distracted as Airi noticed she caught sight of the book lying a meter or so away. She bent over to it and picked it up, looking at the passage containing the red text. “This book is… very interesting,” she said, apparently having forgotten what she was just questioning Airi about. “A prophecy? From the Founders?” She directed a startled gaze up to Shimizu, who gave one just as startled in return, and then turned back to Airi. “Where did you find this?”

“It was in the library,” Airi replied, feeling a bit of her strength return. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Miyabi blinking as if trying to shake off grogginess within her head.

“The library?” Maimi asked sharply, then turned back to Shimizu. “Do you know anything of this?”
Ooooooooooooooooooooooooo...so The Circle didn't know about the book or the prophecy, did they?   But then, where did the book originally come from, and how/why did it end up in the school library?

...

Wonder if Miyabi can at least hear/understand the convo that they're having?



Quote
She looked down into the book, and appeared to read the red text and what surrounded it quickly. “No,” she said quietly. “I’ve never noticed this before.” She gestured Maimi to turn the book so they could see its cover, and she continued, “I do know the volume though. Precepts of the Trinity of Seishin. It contains most of the guidelines set down by the Founders as related by the first Circle. It was called the Trinity before the name was changed in the Muromachi Period due to protests as Christianity began to spread.”
Hmmm...was the book originally in the possession of the Circle, only to be lost/misplaced and then found by someone who brought it to the library, or did someone hide it there deliberately? If the latter, why?



Quote
Shimizu was glaring at Airi again. “Why were you reading this book? Is Murayama-sensei having second years study the ancient history of Seishin now?”

“No,” Airi said coolly, proud at how she was conquering the feeling of fear from the girl that seemed to be attacking her emotions. She shifted her eyes just enough to catch sight of Miyabi, who appeared to have come fully to herself now, and seemed about to step toward them. Airi gave her a hard look, and quickly went on.
Airi has seen with her own eyes that the others are scared of her capabilities.  Hell, Maimi knows first hand about Airi's capabilities. Could it be that Airi's confidence is because she's starting to accept and even control/channel her power?

...

Or is she just stalling for time so that Miyabi can recover?



Quote
“Do you remember my offer, Airi?” the older Matsuura girl asked. “You… noticed what I might be able to do for you,” she said with a slight hesitation. Airi wondered how the girl could be so good at ignoring reality. “So how about it? We could catch a movie in a pleasant atmosphere… maybe have some mochi… talk…” She threw in that last as if in an afterthought, but Airi knew what her intentions were now.
With what she knows know from the book, it's pretty obvious to anyone that Maimi simply wants Airi's power to be on her side should another conflict with The Skulls happen. One could almost say that Maimi was power-hungry.



Quote
“So how about it?” When she reached out and took Airi’s hand, albeit carefully, it became too much for her and she jumped to her feet.

...

Releasing and recoiling from Maimi’s hand, she turned and walked swiftly over to Miyabi, reaching up to the surprised girl’s neck and leaning in to press her lips against her mouth.
Oh...my.  :stunned:

Well, I guess Airi's decided who's side she'll choose.



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“So that’s how it is?” Maimi ground out through gritted teeth in a barely audible voice. “Instead of wanting someone who could give you fortune… respect… anything you desire, you instead go for this… Skull...” she spat.
Sore loser. (http://i30.photobucket.com/albums/c340/J-F-C/razz.gif)



Quote
Now the girl had gone too far, and Airi’s fury boiled within her. At least that’s what she thought, since it seemed to rapidly become quite hot in there. She jerked as if to jump at the girl, but Miyabi held her tightly against her side. Airi looked up at her with a disbelieving questioning look. Why wouldn’t she let her at the girl?! She’d maimed her once, so what’s to say she couldn’t do it again?
Never mind the fact that if Maimi got seriously hurt, there would be questions asked, a LOT of questions. Right now public attention is the one thing that these girls DON'T need. Another thing is Captain. Right now Maimi seems to be the only one who can keep her in check. If Maimi's out of commission, and Captain goes nuts, it'll be very, VERY hard to stop her. 



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“Are you okay?” Miyabi asked her, craning her neck to look at Airi since she was leaning her head on the girl’s shoulder. Airi nodded, and Miyabi darted her eyes around the room anxiously. “Um…” she continued after Airi made no move to shift her position. “Are you going to let me go?”
Well, Miyabi did want to get closer to Airi.  8)



Quote
“No,” Airi said with a smile

...

As a defense mechanism, she tried her best to make the other girl feel uncomfortable too. “You’re my hero, after all.”
:lol:



Quote
Tanaka and the rest of the Skulls hurried in. Becoming fully alert very quickly, Airi pulled away from the last Skull, which resulted in quite a disoriented state at the sudden movement. But she was still too late.

“What the…” Tanaka began, staring at the both of them. Kusumi’s mouth curled up in a evil-looking smile, but Chisato’s eyes looked like they’d pop out of her head. Airi hugged herself, rapidly becoming quite embarrassed.

“Here I thought you two might have been in trouble when I saw Yajima stalking out of here and almost dragging Shimizu with her, but all you’re doing is getting it on!” Tanaka continued. Airi honestly felt like she couldn’t blush any deeper.
Airi =  :mon ko: :mon ehh:
Miyabi = :mon ko:
Koharu =  :mon misch:
Chisato =  :mon spit:
Reina =  :hehehe:



Quote
“Well…” Chisato said, still frowning at their elated leader. “They always wanted you to join the Skulls, Osuzu. I didn’t know that was how it’d happen though!”
:pimp:



Quote
Her eyes widened. She was dating Miyabi Natsuyaki! Her perfect child world came crashing down within her head. She’d never be taken seriously at the school again! But… even so, it just felt so nice… She tilted her head and smiled at the other girl, who clenched her own fists at her sides as if she was restraining herself from something too. The room didn’t become a furnace for her, though.

“Osuzu!” Chisato cried, and now even Kusumi had started laughing. “Stop mooning at her like that! It’s so… weird!” Airi blinked and blushed again, but Miyabi had apparently had enough.

“I need to get some air!” she announced, and strode to the door as if she was trying to do so as respectably as possible through the howling of her friends’ laughter.
Oh the embarrassement! So cute!  :wriggly:



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“You know, you’re a lucky girl,” the Skull Captain informed her. “If you must fall for any of us, she’s the one to go for. Me, I like to have my fun, but a relationship is like a plague as far as I’m concerned. And I won’t even get started on Mikitty.
Yeah, it's probably better that Airi not hear about Miki-sama.  :grin:



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“Kusumi…” she began thoughtfully, and turned to appraise the Nakazawa girl, who gave her a funny look as if wondering how she was going to verbally abuse her this time. “I’m not sure about her yet, but she’s an idiot, so probably best not to tap that in any case.”

“Hey!” the girl protested, albeit weakly.
BURN!!! :mon lmao:



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“Y’know, I suppose I should welcome you to the Skulls. Normally it takes a request, but I’d say if you’ve made it with one of our best members, I don’t know how we can really deny you,” she finished, grinning while she spoke.

...

“…I’ll think about it,” Airi admitted after a moment.
Might as well. Considering how she just totally rejected Maimi and the Circle, Airi would do well to have some backup.



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Looking at the smiling Chisato and really being able to pay attention to her for the first time in all the chaos of the morning, she noticed the girl was chewing something. She could most definitely start with that!

“Spit it out,” she ordered, sticking out her hand below the girl’s chin.

Chisato’s chewing suddenly stopped. “Huh?” she asked.

“The tobacco,” Airi explained. “It’s a gross habit, and I’ll not have you doing it. That goes for any of you!” she said, looking around the room. Koharu stared at her as if she was crazy, but Reina was obviously holding herself back from bursting out laughing again.

“But it’s not—“ Chisato protested.

“Spit it out!” Airi commanded again, and the girl quickly heeded her this time, a second later spitting out her wad of bubble gum into Airi’s hand. Her face coloring, Airi noticed that Reina apparently couldn’t hold her laughter back any longer.
:on lol:



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for some reason, amid all the embarrassing laughter, Airi felt that despite her much better judgment, this was where she belonged.
Funny how sometimes you feel the most comfortable in the most unexpected situations.  :)
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [9: Embarking On Destiny]
Post by: rndmnwierd on December 07, 2007, 07:00:20 AM
Go Airi, lol. So what is the deal with the powers? Will we get a true, full backstory of the school soon or are you just going to tease us some more?
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [9: Embarking On Destiny]
Post by: AmberSan on December 07, 2007, 09:06:01 AM
lol they were finally getting it on XD

it seems like the reason the skulls were formed was to balance the Circle so that each Citcle member had a Skulls member with the same powers.

waiting for the next chapter 8)
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [9: Embarking On Destiny]
Post by: g4rfield on December 07, 2007, 10:08:43 PM
Hehehehehe.....wohooooooo!!! Airi kissed Miya...and their dating!!! and this is where things went wrong cuz it's all in Airi's head. Miya never once said that they are indeed dating, and who's to say when you kissed someone you automatically dating them anyway. The more I think about this the more it became a potential problem source in the future chapters, of course that is only if I'm right.  XD

Maimi is burned, and burned hot she is!!! I'm intrigued by the questions she thrown at Airi and their importance as well as with the book she took with her. Does she know something? She must be otherwise she wont be getting that mad. I think Airi is like the key to a great power or something that whoever hold her heart will have everything, and Maimi must have realized how special she is to be so mad when Airi declare she choose Miya....by making out with her, among other reasons. :lol: Yeah, that must BURN like hell!!

 I like analyzing your stories Rokun, but this chapter doesn't really having much to be analyzed. I still enjoy it tho, esp. the kissing scene,  :grin: I would love to see how Miya handle this, and Airi with her unwillingness actually start to feel at home with the Skulls.



Title: Re: The Circle of Three [10: The Trinity]
Post by: rokun on December 08, 2007, 10:09:29 PM
Wow, so many responses on both my stories! Thank you everyone, I feel so loved! :nya:

Can't analyze a whole lot huh? Well, now it's time for a little diversion from the normal fare. Hopefully I can establish a bit of lore in this world to make it more interesting. Some "new" characters come in who'll hopefully help a few things make a bit more sense. Since it's mostly informational I'm not sure how much analysis can be done, but there's a lot in here! A lot of little things... Anyway. Thank you all again, and I hope you enjoy!



Chapter 10 – The Trinity

Two thousand years ago…

“It’s almost complete,” a medium-sized woman pronounced, appearing quite stately with her hair that was beginning to turn a faded white and long grey-green v-necked robes over her skirt and short jacket. She looked down from the summit of a hill onto a large two-floored wooden structure whose roof was still being thatched together.

Two other women flanked her, both of them in their own robes that looked as if they belonged in a court rather than the wilderness of eastern Kyushu. One, with long silky hair below her crescent crown, stared off beyond the laboriously constructed structure as if peering into another world altogether. The other, her grey-green spring robes touched with white, looked on at the construction with pursed lips.

“Himiko is worried,” the long-haired one said suddenly, and the other two, through the years well-attuned to their sister’s visions, turned to her attentively.

“A supposed imperial line has been discovered, and there is a movement to revolt and bring Japan under a new rule,” she continued, eyes glazed as she saw far beyond the distant peaks and valleys.

“Imperial line,” the woman in white trim spat. “Somebody thinks they’ve found the great yet cowardly progeny of Amaterasu once again. I fail to see why this should be taken any more seriously than the other dozens of claimants in even the past century that I’ve existed on this heathen world.”

“Calm yourself, Aya,” the eldest said, laying her arm on the petulant woman’s shoulder. “Let us be patient and at least hear our sister out. Have you else to say, Gocchin?”

“It is Abe of the True Blood they’ve found,” the third woman stated, and silence fell among all three.

“Then it is our time to move,” the eldest said grimly. She turned to the south and west and looked toward the horizon. Clouds that had been floating scattered throughout the sky all day rapidly grew darker and seemed to converge in that direction, and even from the pinnacle they stood on many leagues away, they saw flashes of lightning strike within the now foreboding developing storm.

She then turned back to Maki Goto, who had lost the look of her scrying-dream, and now seemed to be awaiting her word. “Kansai is now under the cover of storm, free to be made into your playground,” she informed her sister. Although the three women were not related by direct filial bonds, they did share ancestry from centuries prior. Now, having found each other, they shared an affinity that Yuko Nakazawa felt if was not sisterly, nothing could be.

“Thank you, my sister,” Maki said soberly. “I shall return.” Then, within a blur of shadow, the woman vanished.

“I worry about her…” Aya said from Yuko’s other side. “I wonder if there’s any passion left in her sometimes.”

Yuko began walking with her carefully down the side of the slope toward the nearly completed building that was to be their school for exceptional girls. “There’s very little cheer to be drawn from constantly dwelling within the human mind, whether it’s your own or somebody else’s,” she explained to her sister. “Besides, I don’t think anyone can be cheerful on her way to an assassination. Even a necessary one.”

Aya nodded as they picked their way along the bottom slope of the hill, but was distracted by a man rushing up toward them and bowing sharply. “Great Ones,” he began, avoiding their eyes. “We are nearly finished with the trusses of the east wing. However, we’re unable to build it around your requested star symbol to its front. We just don’t have the engineering capability. I’m afraid we may have to do without it.” The man seemed very hesitant to speak, and hearing his problem, Yuko learned why.

“We must have that symbol, foreman,” she explained firmly. “The School of Soul and Stars after all must have a star identifying it somewhere.” The man darted his eyes around nervously. Even the workers on the project doubted the wisdom of building a “school” at all, much less in a largely uninhabited area such as this. “Unless you’d like to offer your soul for it instead,” she said, lowering her eyes and giving the man a grim smile.

“What seems to be the trouble?” Aya asked, taking a step toward the structure and peering at it.

The foreman seemed thankful for the distraction from Yuko’s offer. “The stone you’ve had us use for the entryway,” he said quickly. “It’s impossible to weld it to the surrounding thatch. It’s too heavy.”

“Is that all?” Aya asked. “There.” She pointed at a gaping hole just above what looked like a wide doorframe. “Is that the spot?”

“Yes, Matsuura-sama,” the man responded. Aya kept her arm outstretched, two fingers pointed toward the construction, and the sleeve of her robe billowing out below her arm. Men who were working on it and happened to glance over and see the two women arrive scattered, knowing by now there were better places to be when a sorceress’s attention was directed somewhere such as Aya’s was now.

Yuko could see the heavy dark-polished wooden star lying on the ground before the doorframe, and it rose from its bed, the air below it coagulating into what looked like a thin platform. It seemed too thin to support the star’s bulk, but Yuko knew since it was ice made from water in the air and controlled by her sister, there was little chance of that.

The platform raised the star, and more ice appeared in front of it so the star could be tilted forward and fitted into the gap above the doorframe. Held still by ice that now surrounded each side of the wall, the inside began to glow red as the star was fused by extreme heat to the supporting stone. The red glow grew until the ice started to visibly melt as well, and within seconds all the ice was gone, leaving a stone and blackwood structure that hardly even appeared to have a seam.

Aya lowered her arm and looked again at the foreman, who stared in awe at the act she’d just performed. “Will that suffice, Fukuda?” she asked, deigning using the man’s name. Yuko’s youngest sister was quite an enigma. She could be the most violent of them all, but at other times her politeness outdid any Yuko or likely even Maki was capable of.

Fukuda nodded. “Yes… with that in place we may be finished by the end of the week. He looked now between the two women, this time not lowering his eyes. “If I may… be so bold…” he began, tilting his neck slightly in a bow while making sure his eyes never left theirs.

“You may,” Yuko said, curious to hear what matter instilled such rare courage in him.

“If I may ask, your graces, how will you be selecting students for your school? I have a daughter,” he said, picking at the sleeve of his coat. “Many of the other men do as well. We hope for a better life for them than the hard one we lead. You’ve said…” he hesitated. “You’ve said this school will be the best in the land, and offer opportunities for young women far beyond what they might normally encounter.”

Aya furrowed her eyebrows at the man’s presumptiveness, but Yuko actually smiled. “So you wish your daughter to be one of the inaugural class? I think I’ve seen her before. Kanon I believe is her name, correct?” The man nodded gratefully. Yuko kept smiling. “She seems very bright and has much life in her. Of course we’ll have to meet the girls of your men, but we just might be able to work something out. Your efforts in Seishin’s construction should not go unrewarded, after all.”

The man’s face brightened as if he couldn’t believe his ears. He’d felt honor-bound to make the request, but obviously believed the likeliness of it being accepted was quite low. “Yuko!” Aya complained. “We can’t go inviting every girl in any random village to the school!”

“Fukuda’s daughter is not every girl,” Yuko explained patiently. “How many foremans do we have doing such good work for us? How many workers do we even have? Trust me, there will still be plenty of room for all.”

“I cannot begin to thank you, Nakazawa-sama,” the foreman said, bowing over and over again.

“No,” Yuko said with a bemused smile. “You can’t.”

Then however, the mood was spoiled by a darkening of the clearing, and a mass of shadows appeared not far from the two women. The foreman, not used to such things as Yuko and Aya were, gave a yell and ran off, and many of the other workers who remained visible ducked for cover too. However, the shadows dissipated quickly to reveal the figure of Maki Goto, a scarf over her mouth. She pulled it aside as she walked up to the other two women, whose faces had become set as stone.

“Has the deed been done?” Yuko inquired.

“Yes,” Maki replied. “Abe is dead. However, we have a larger problem.”

“What kind of problem?” Aya snapped.

The older girl did not respond in kind; only considered her calmly. “Himiko has rallied an army of mystics,” she said emotionlessly. “Alone, each of course would be vermin beneath our feet, but with the numbers she has gathered…” She looked earnestly at both of her sisters, with a passion Yuko hadn’t seen her show in decades. “Apparently she now considers us a liability. Her battle against the insurgents has not gone well, and she needs a scapegoat. Who better than those who could potentially usurp her power themselves if they had a change of heart?”

“Our hearts do not change,” Aya growled, anger broiling in her visage. “That is an insult to our honor! How does she expect to defeat the imperials? With the backing of the line of Amaterasu, they could rally support undreamed of in Japan’s history.”

Yuko sighed. “It is still a short history, my sister,” she sympathized. “This troubled land has seen great armies rise and fall, and shall see the rise and fall of even greater. Tell me though, Gocchin. With Abe dead, who have the insurgents to rally around?”

“The line continues,” Maki responded. “It is now hidden even from those who claim its grace… even to me.” She looked at each of her sisters in turn, but the effect was not lost on them. “With Abe’s death Amaterasu’s line will no longer see power over others, but the rallying cry still rings out. The faith of the people is strong.”

All the women were silent as their sister’s words sunk in, until Yuko finally broke it. “Yet we no longer can have influence over it,” she said quietly.

“Our time cannot be over!” Aya cried. “We have worked for too long! We are true heirs!”

“We are the reflection,” Yuko admitted, shaking her head slowly and suddenly feeling very tired. “Nothing more than shadow. The dark underbelly of a consummate radiance.”

A long moment passed again in silence. “I refuse to believe that.” Aya said, steeled with determination.

Yuko considered her quietly. “As do I, sister,” she said. “But we must pick our battles. This is one we cannot win as we are now.” She looked up to Maki, whose face looked on clouded in shadow. “There is a ritual. Do you know of what I speak?” Maki nodded. “Then guide is in the preparation. An army, even of mystics, will take time to arrive. Perhaps we shall give the School of the Soul and Stars an opening even grander than we envisioned.” For once, a rare smile appeared on her darkest sister’s face. She could tell though that it held little mirth.

Several days later…

“We welcome you,” Yuko Nakazawa’s voice intoned in the large vaulted hall of the newly completed Seishin Girl’s Academy. “You embark on a new era in the history of Japan; no, in the history of the world. Never before in the vast East has someone sought to establish a center of learning and of storing our vast knowledge. Some of you are the daughters of nobles.” She nodded at a well-dressed section of students who looked haughtily and self-importantly around the hall. “Some of you are the daughters of no more than common laborers.” She smiled at a much more ragged bunch of girls on the other side of the room who stared around themselves in expressions of awe and wonder.

“True talent and ability comes in all shapes, sizes… and dress.” The noble daughters looked as if their worlds were coming crashing down around them. Did wealth and authority not guarantee success? Some of them would find it very hard at this school. So would some of the peasant daughters. That was something Yuko made sure would be seen to.

“You will learn to the limits of your abilities…” She looked around, trying to capture eyes in each one of the young faces. “And then beyond.” Then the corners of her mouth turned up into a smile. “Welcome to your future,” she said with her arms outstretched, and the students, no matter what their station, suddenly seemed filled with elation and started talking and celebrating among themselves.

Yuko stepped down from the platform and up to her sisters. Aya was casting an appraising eye out to the crowd of youngsters. “Are you sure you didn’t go overboard?” she asked Maki. “They seem a little… too excited…”

Maki shrugged. “Feelings of pleasure aren’t my forte,” she said once again. Yuko wondered how many times they’d heard this over the years. “But I do enjoy the intrusion. It’s incredible how readily people accept fear and pain, yet resist joy as if it were a disease best avoided at all costs.”

“…You’re rather terrifying, you know that?” Aya asked, and her sister looked at her.

“If you two are done playing around…” Yuko said with half a grin. “Have House leaders been chosen?”

“Yes,” Maki said, and gestured for them to follow her. “This way.”

They walked through the paneled halls, Yuko still marveling at the craftsmanship and plain feel of the place. She couldn’t be prouder if she’d designed a castle for the Queen herself. Eventually they reached a room, and upon entering found girls awaiting them that were among the oldest they’d invited.

“Sisters,” Maki said formally. “May I introduce to you Mari Yaguchi, Kei Yasuda, and Sayaka Ichii.” As she said each name, one of the girls bowed. Yaguchi was short, but carried herself with a stately air. She was obviously a daughter of the court. Yasuda however wore a jacket and skirt that reeked of the earth, even though the otherwise clean garments were probably the best she owned. Ichii was difficult to identify. Her coat was cut medium-length, and her skirt hemmed skillfully, but it still would be far-fetched to be presentable in court. A merchant’s daughter, perhaps.

“Welcome to Seishin,” Yuko said, smiling at each in turn. “You three have been selected to the first ruling student council. After the Headmaster, you will have charge over the other students.”

“What about you?” Mari asked curiously. “Surely you’ll take a lead role in the school’s running.”

Yuko just smiled without giving a response. “You’ve been given these positions because of your experience as well as your potential…” she said, walking around them until her and her sisters formed a triangle a few paces from each. “However, we will give you something more to assist in your leadership over the other students.”

The girls looked on at the three renowned sorceresses, apparently feeling slightly afraid at their current situation. Yuko was about to begin the first incantation when Maki suddenly spoke out in a loud and clear voice.

“The School with doors spread wide shall last for ages to come,” she intoned. Yuko held her breath. Not now! What else could possibly disrupt their plan?!

However, the woman continued, her prophecy becoming stronger as it was related. “For millennia it shall stand, and on a certain day in the dawn of the Third Age, the sky will run red as if stained by the gods themselves. So shall this prophecy be fulfilled, and our Destiny be set on its road to fruition.”

As she finished, she fell back, her eyes closed as if recovering from a blow. Everyone in the room was focused on her; Aya and Yuko with their jaws tight, and the young girls with their mouths hanging wide.

“Leave us!” Aya said to the girls, and they scurried out of the room. She then hurried to their sister and wrapped an arm around her to help her stay on her feet. Yuko hurried to her other side.

“So it’s true!” Aya said excitedly. “We will attain our destiny! The Third Age…” She looked curiously at Yuko, who shook her head.

“I can’t say what it might mean any more than you. Gocchin, do you remember what you just said?”

Maki raised groggy eyes to the other women and shook her head. “No…” she said wearily. “The past minute is dark to me.”

Yuko nodded her head understandingly, but the woman’s eyes unfocused again. “The army is nearing…” she said. “We must perform the ritual.”

“But you’re weak,” Yuko said.

Maki lifted her weight off her sisters and stood on her feet, if a trifle unsteadily. “No. We must do it now.” Yuko and Aya looked at each other and nodded.

A few minutes later they had taken their triangular positions again around the center of the room, although this time minus the young girls. Maki had explained to them they didn’t need to be present, to which Aya complained why they asked them there to begin with. Maki ignored her again.

“I will go first,” Yuko said, and met the eyes of her sisters for approval, not as if it would have mattered if she didn’t receive it. She closed her eyes and attempted to relax in order to come into contact with her spirit.

“To those who have accepted the mantle of time,” she intoned, her voice echoing off the stone-reinforced walls. “We bestow our blessing.” She paused a specific amount of time before continuing.

“No more than students of Seishin you may be, but more than students you may become. I, Nakazawa of the Tempest, give you my strength.”

Immediately after she spoke the last word, she convulsed as if a primeval force ripped through her, and she felt like a part of her was torn apart and separated from her. Her eyes flew open and she stared at living shadow in front of her. It appeared in the form of a bear, and seemed to regard her for a moment with glowing red eyes until suddenly it dispersed into the air. At the same time, they heard a distant scream from another part of the school. Yuko fell to her knees, but looked quickly at Aya, who stared at her with wide eyes.

“Continue!” she commanded. “The flow of spirit must not be interrupted!”

The woman came to herself once more and, lifting her chin, closed her own eyes. “To those who have accepted the mantle of time…”

After Aya performed the ritual her soul split into the shadowy form of a red-eyed tiger, which dissipated to a scream from afar just as Yuko’s had, and Maki began the third and final repetition.

“I, Goto of the Moon, give you my strength,” she finished, and shadows formed in front of her in the shape of a gigantic wolf. It considered her just as the other two daemons had, but did not dissipate quickly as with their own. Instead, with an otherworldly guttural growl, it leapt at its summoner, who screamed while her sisters jumped to her rescue.

“Gocchin!” Yuko shouted, but it was too late. The beast had ripped out her throat and slashed claws black as night at her midsection before dissolving into nothingness and eliciting another scream from far-off.

Yuko caught her sister in her arms, and along with Aya when she arrived, held her fast. Maki no longer had any breath, but was able to choke out her last words. “For the future…” Then she gurgled and was still.



After observing the funeral pyre for their sister, the remaining two ancient sorceresses prepared for a journey to meet the advancing army. The three girls they had selected as the first Trinity of Seishin were just awakening to their abilities, but Yuko and Aya warned them to keep them secret or else the Queen, or even the imperial line, might find them out and destroy the school.

“The school is everything,” they instructed them. “We’ve bestowed our knowledge to it, and your mission is to learn it the best you can while acquiring new information and skills as the world changes around you. This is our promise to you: If you are loyal to the school and to the knowledge and wisdom it stands for, Seishin will make your name eternal. This is a wondrous day for the women of Japan.”

They weren’t sure if the students listened, but the sorceresses had no choice but to entrust their destiny into their hands. Their sister’s last prophecy ensured that they would be loyal. At least that’s what Yuko Nakazawa and Aya Matsuura held to their hearts as they met the advancing army with heads held high; the army that they knew to be their doom.

Back in 2007…

Maimi and Saki stared at the pages of the book they held in front of them, while Ai looked on from the side. She didn’t see what the big deal was; it was only a book after all, no matter if it did have strange glowing red ink…

Ai Takahashi had much more important things to worry about. Such as the small matter of Maimi opening her big mouth and insinuating that perhaps she and Risa were no longer just friends.

That had been a very awkward encounter, and the few days since, Risa seemed to avoid her. Hating herself for it, she wanted to come to Maimi for advice, but for some reason the girl goes and almost has her arm burned off in the middle of a freak solar eclipse, and now the two other Heads of Seishin couldn’t be pried away from that book if their lives depended on it.

“Seriously you two, what is so interesting in there?” she asked.

Both girls raised their heads to look at her as if she was an idiot. She was not, thank you very much! For that matter, she was even older than them! They should be the ones showing her respect!

“It’s a chronicle of the first Circle of Seishin,” Saki explained as if to a child. “Written nearly two thousand years ago.”

Ai yawned. “And… that applies to us exactly how?”

“I thought you were a good student!” Maimi said, and coming to her feet, she carried the book over to Ai and dropped it in her lap. Ai noticed it was at the page with the red text. The girl had been acting with a very short fuse ever since she retrieved that book – well, shorter than usual – and Ai just did her best to try and ignore it. That was the only thing that seemed to work when she got like this. However, this seemed to be different for some reason.

“Yeah?” she asked, looking at the pages. “Third age… yadda yadda yadda… prophecy… yadda yadda yadda. So what?”

“So what?!” Maimi asked incredulously. “Didn’t you see what happened today?”

“Yeah,” Ai responded. “It was really cool. I hear astronomers all over the world are rushing to try to figure out what happened. It apparently wasn’t predicted by anyone. I guess we don’t really know everything yet.”

“But someone did predict it!” Maimi howled. “Look!” she pointed vaguely toward the red text. “In the Third Age the sky will turn red… This was related by Seishin’s founders to the first Circle!”

“Trinity,” Saki corrected, and backed away slightly at the glare she received in return. However, apparently used to the girl’s fits by now, she recovered quickly and walked up to them, kneeling down to peer at the book too.

“You see, the Third Age,” she said. “A certain day at its dawn… The Third Age probably refers to the new millennium.” Ai cocked an eyebrow to the girl. “It had to be something we’d be able to understand in the Third Age!” she explained quickly, though Ai was still skeptical. “And we’re still at its beginning. Do you know how rare an eclipse that bathes the earth in light that red is? Especially one that was completely unpredicted and happened to occur right over Seishin.”

“Ok,” Ai said, deciding she’d play along. “Say this supposed prophecy was talking about today. What’s the point?”

Saki and Maimi looked at each other, both girls appearing to try and keep the other patient. “It resumes the destiny of the founders…” Saki explained further, looking at Ai to see if she now comprehended any more, which she definitely didn’t.

“And this destiny is…?” Ai asked. That didn’t seem to be illustrated anywhere that she could see.

“To rule,” Maimi said simply.

Ai stared at her, but a second later suddenly burst out laughing. “Rule?” she asked. “I suppose we rule Seishin. What else could we do? Rule the woods outside?”

Saki leaned forward and rapped her knuckles on Ai’s head. The assaulted girl gave a yelp and rubbed the spot tenderly. That girl’s bony fingers hurt!

“I think they mean to rule the world,” Maimi said slowly amid Ai’s dying laughter. “Or at least Japan.”

Ai stared at the girl again. “You can’t be serious!” The two other heads looked at each other. “And stop doing that!” She reached out and pulled the two girls apart. They blinked as if surprised at her assertiveness.

“Ai-chan…” Maimi said, though she appeared now to be rapidly losing patience. “These powers we have… these things we can do… They’re not normal. Who’s to say they don’t serve some greater purpose? I know I’ve always wondered why we’ve had to hold ourselves up in this building and be careful not to let the secret out.” She looked up at Saki, who nodded in agreement that she felt the same. “Now we know!”

“A ‘greater purpose’?” Ai asked, disbelief now clouding her features as she realized the other Circle members were completely serious. “How is ruling the world a ‘greater purpose’? Even ruling Japan! There’s nothing great about that! It’s about the most selfish thing someone could do!”

“But…” Maimi began. “What if we’re really better than them? You know how incredibly hard it is to get to the positions the three of us hold now, much less be able to do the things we do. What if we’re meant to show everyone the way?”

Ai quickly rose to her feet, the book falling from her. Saki grabbed it though, and the other two girls rose with her, looking at her expectantly. “You two are really serious, aren’t you?” she asked. “You want to try to take over the world?”

“Maybe just Japan,” Saki offered innocently.

Ai broke out in a nervous laugh. “’Maybe just Japan’?” she repeated. “Right.” Her eyes darted to the door. “Um… I need to go find Gaki-san. We’re supposed to meet to do some group work for Murasaki-sensei’s English class.” Then she headed for the exit.

“We need you to be able to do this!” Maimi pleaded, and Ai came to a stop, lowering her head slightly to give half a look back over her shoulder. “You may be new to your powers, but you’ll find that you want to put them to use for the greater good. I know you will.”

Ai continued staring for a minute silently, turning the girl’s words over in her head. The two of them were insane. That’s all there was to it. She thought then of what she could do, of how it felt when she slipped herself inside of the storm, of the rush when she became angry and her thoughts took shape… of when one of those shapes threw another girl hard across a room.

Insane… she thought to herself as she left the room without a backward glance. She was going to go and find Gaki-san. And then kiss her like Maimi had instructed her to. Then she’d wake up and realize this had all been a dream.
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [10: The Trinity]
Post by: g4rfield on December 09, 2007, 03:19:22 AM
 :nya: :nya: :nya: I can't wait to read the next chapter for some TakaGaki kisses!!!   :grin:
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Can't analyze a whole lot huh?
I detect some....slight disappointment.....  :(

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Two thousand years ago…
I'm thinking...wow! Yuko sure is OLD!!  XD oh well a not funny joke, just disregard it.

Abe of the True Blood...hmmmm... could it be she's the ancestor of the Skulls? She was killed and so far she's the only other power mentioned, so Airi could be from her ancestry line. Interesting.... :glasses:
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“Gocchin!” Yuko shouted, but it was too laote. The beast had ripped out her throat and slashed claws black as night at her midsection before dissolving into nothingness and eliciting another scream from far-off.
  :scared: That's....a rather violent death don't you think? Poor Gocchin.

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Insane… she thought to herself as she left the room without a backward glance. She was going to go and find Gaki-san. And then kiss her like Maimi had instructed her to. Then she’d wake up and realize this had all been a dream.
Yes!! I want some smooches next chapter. I wonder what happened with Miya x Airi after the 'incident'.  :mon star:

I begin to think that I was right after all. The powers must be affecting their sanity. The fact that the shadows left the previous masters to be with the next predecessor prove that they ARE being possessed to a certain extent, so I won't be surprised when the red glowing effect is actually a sign that the power is getting a better hold on its host.

Ai-chan wasn't completely not affected either as I recall....cuz she's new. Hmmmm.....
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [10: The Trinity]
Post by: rndmnwierd on December 09, 2007, 04:55:52 AM
Haha! Back story chapter, just as I thought. Okay, the Circle's powers are finally understood, though Maki's death was kind of odd. But the Skulls'? I feel like the answer is right in front of me...


TakaGaki!
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [10: The Trinity]
Post by: JFC on December 09, 2007, 07:13:35 AM
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Two thousand years ago…
Ooooooooooooooooooooo...we gonna see the original trinity of the girls that the houses were named after? :w00t:



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“Himiko is worried,” the long-haired one said suddenly, and the other two, through the years well-attuned to their sister’s visions, turned to her attentively.
Hmmm...who's Himiko?



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“A supposed imperial line has been discovered, and there is a movement to revolt and bring Japan under a new rule,” she continued, eyes glazed as she saw far beyond the distant peaks and valleys.

“Imperial line,” the woman in white trim spat. “Somebody thinks they’ve found the great yet cowardly progeny of Amaterasu once again. I fail to see why this should be taken any more seriously than the other dozens of claimants in even the past century that I’ve existed on this heathen world.”
So then, these three were part of some group that was ruling Japan prior to the establishment of the Japanese royal family, but were overthrown/deposed?  Could Himiko have been their leader?



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“It is Abe of the True Blood they’ve found,” the third woman stated, and silence fell among all three.
Abe? Nacchi's ancestor? Is he/she the one from the Imperial family (or as Aya put it, the progeny of Amaterasu)?



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“Then it is our time to move,” the eldest said grimly.

...

“Kansai is now under the cover of storm, free to be made into your playground,” she informed her sister.

...

“I worry about her…” Aya said from Yuko’s other side. “I wonder if there’s any passion left in her sometimes.”

Yuko began walking with her carefully down the side of the slope toward the nearly completed building that was to be their school for exceptional girls. “There’s very little cheer to be drawn from constantly dwelling within the human mind, whether it’s your own or somebody else’s,” she explained to her sister. “Besides, I don’t think anyone can be cheerful on her way to an assassination. Even a necessary one.”
Assassination? Who are they going to kill, and for what reason?



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Aya nodded as they picked their way along the bottom slope of the hill, but was distracted by a man rushing up toward them and bowing sharply. “Great Ones,” he began, avoiding their eyes. “We are nearly finished with the trusses of the east wing. However, we’re unable to build it around your requested star symbol to its front.
Oh crud, probably don't want to be pissing them off right now.



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“If I may… be so bold…” he began, tilting his neck slightly in a bow while making sure his eyes never left theirs.

“You may,” Yuko said, curious to hear what matter instilled such rare courage in him.

“If I may ask, your graces, how will you be selecting students for your school? I have a daughter,” he said, picking at the sleeve of his coat. “Many of the other men do as well. We hope for a better life for them than the hard one we lead. You’ve said…” he hesitated. “You’ve said this school will be the best in the land, and offer opportunities for young women far beyond what they might normally encounter.”
Makes sense...from a father's viewpoint.



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the shadows dissipated quickly to reveal the figure of Maki Goto, a scarf over her mouth. She pulled it aside as she walked up to the other two women, whose faces had become set as stone.

“Has the deed been done?” Yuko inquired.

“Yes,” Maki replied. “Abe is dead.
So she killed Abe. Still no idea as to why she did it.



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“Himiko has rallied an army of mystics,” she said emotionlessly. “Alone, each of course would be vermin beneath our feet, but with the numbers she has gathered…” She looked earnestly at both of her sisters, with a passion Yuko hadn’t seen her show in decades. “Apparently she now considers us a liability. Her battle against the insurgents has not gone well, and she needs a scapegoat. Who better than those who could potentially usurp her power themselves if they had a change of heart?”
Ah, so the three of them (Yuko, Maki, and Aya) work for Himiko, who's probably the one who's currently ruling the land, and who is the one who'll actually by overthrown by this insurrection.

But by the sounds of it though, Himiko needed their power to get the power and position she now has. To turn on them like this isn't the smartest thing to do if she really wants to keep that power.



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Tell me though, Gocchin. With Abe dead, who have the insurgents to rally around?”

“The line continues,” Maki responded. “It is now hidden even from those who claim its grace… even to me.” She looked at each of her sisters in turn, but the effect was not lost on them. “With Abe’s death Amaterasu’s line will no longer see power over others, but the rallying cry still rings out. The faith of the people is strong.”
In other words, Abe's become a martyr, and as such, has probably now become more powerful/influencial compared to when he/she was alive. After all, it wasn't the actual man that they had to fear, but the ideals which he/she stood for. Killing a person is easy, but an ideal? Not so much.



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“Our time cannot be over!” Aya cried. “We have worked for too long! We are true heirs!”

“We are the reflection,” Yuko admitted, shaking her head slowly and suddenly feeling very tired. “Nothing more than shadow. The dark underbelly of a consummate radiance.”
A reflection? So then...it's not their place to rule, but instead they stand in place for the one that does?



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“There is a ritual. Do you know of what I speak?” Maki nodded. “Then guide is in the preparation. An army, even of mystics, will take time to arrive. Perhaps we shall give the School of the Soul and Stars an opening even grander than we envisioned."
So then the true purpose of building the school was to give the three of them a fallback position? Somewhere where they could lie in wait for a time when they could re-emerge en force?



Quote
“Have House leaders been chosen?”

“Yes,” Maki said, and gestured for them to follow her. “This way.”

They walked through the paneled halls, Yuko still marveling at the craftsmanship and plain feel of the place. She couldn’t be prouder if she’d designed a castle for the Queen herself. Eventually they reached a room, and upon entering found girls awaiting them that were among the oldest they’d invited.
The first Circle? :O



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Yuko was about to begin the first incantation when Maki suddenly spoke out in a loud and clear voice.

“The School with doors spread wide shall last for ages to come,” she intoned. Yuko held her breath. Not now! What else could possibly disrupt their plan?!
I take it Maki isn't entirely in control of herself right now?



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“For millennia it shall stand, and on a certain day in the dawn of the Third Age, the sky will run red as if stained by the gods themselves. So shall this prophecy be fulfilled, and our Destiny be set on its road to fruition.”
The sky running red? Shit, that's where we are now. That means it's the dawn of The Third Age (whatever the hell that means).



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“So it’s true!” Aya said excitedly. “We will attain our destiny! The Third Age…”
The question is though...WHAT is that destiny that they are supposed to attain? 



Quote
“The army is nearing…” she said. “We must perform the ritual.”

“But you’re weak,” Yuko said.

Maki lifted her weight off her sisters and stood on her feet, if a trifle unsteadily. “No. We must do it now.” Yuko and Aya looked at each other and nodded.

A few minutes later they had taken their triangular positions again around the center of the room, although this time minus the young girls. Maki had explained to them they didn’t need to be present, to which Aya complained why they asked them there to begin with.
Well, the process would probably be easier for them if the others were there. It would also give them the ability to do things like better explain to the girls what had happened/what was done to them and to inform and train them on what they need to know and be able to do in certain situations.



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“I, Goto of the Moon, give you my strength,” she finished, and shadows formed in front of her in the shape of a gigantic wolf. It considered her just as the other two daemons had, but did not dissipate quickly as with their own. Instead, with an otherworldly guttural growl, it leapt at its summoner, who screamed while her sisters jumped to her rescue.

“Gocchin!” Yuko shouted, but it was too late. The beast had ripped out her throat and slashed claws black as night at her midsection before dissolving into nothingness and eliciting another scream from far-off.
Oh shit...the wolf. :o  Seems safe to say that the house of Goto has another issue to deal with. But then...that means that the wolf that attacked Miyabi was...:OMG:



Quote
The three girls they had selected as the first Trinity of Seishin were just awakening to their abilities, but Yuko and Aya warned them to keep them secret or else the Queen, or even the imperial line, might find them out and destroy the school.

“The school is everything,” they instructed them. “We’ve bestowed our knowledge to it, and your mission is to learn it the best you can while acquiring new information and skills as the world changes around you. This is our promise to you: If you are loyal to the school and to the knowledge and wisdom it stands for, Seishin will make your name eternal. This is a wondrous day for the women of Japan.”
So then the purpose of the school is to train/educate girls to be the best of the best, and out of ALL of them, the best of THEIR ranks would attain the positions of House leaders, and thus have these powers bestowed upon them in anticipation of the time when the original trinity's goal's could be realized!  Yuko, Maki and Aya couldn't achieve them themselves, so they built the school so that someday, someone could.



Back in 2007…
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Maimi and Saki stared at the pages of the book they held in front of them, while Ai looked on from the side. She didn’t see what the big deal was; it was only a book after all, no matter if it did have strange glowing red ink…

...

and now the two other Heads of Seishin couldn’t be pried away from that book if their lives depended on it.

“Seriously you two, what is so interesting in there?” she asked.

...

“It’s a chronicle of the first Circle of Seishin,” Saki explained as if to a child. “Written nearly two thousand years ago.”
Really? There must not be many records of this type from past Circles.  Even if there are, this one is particularly special, as it's the one that would (in theory) have the most accurate records of what the original Trinity wanted to happen and how they wanted it done. If they're lucky, it could possibly have information that could tell them what to do given recent events.



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“Didn’t you see what happened today?”

“Yeah,” Ai responded. “It was really cool. I hear astronomers all over the world are rushing to try to figure out what happened. It apparently wasn’t predicted by anyone. I guess we don’t really know everything yet.”
Heh, Aichan's skepticism is probably part of the reason why The Circle likes to appoint it's members while they're still young and emotionally "malleable".  :P



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“It resumes the destiny of the founders…” Saki explained further, looking at Ai to see if she now comprehended any more, which she definitely didn’t.

“And this destiny is…?” Ai asked. That didn’t seem to be illustrated anywhere that she could see.

“To rule,” Maimi said simply.
Sunnovabitch.



Quote
“These powers we have… these things we can do… They’re not normal. Who’s to say they don’t serve some greater purpose? I know I’ve always wondered why we’ve had to hold ourselves up in this building and be careful not to let the secret out.” She looked up at Saki, who nodded in agreement that she felt the same. “Now we know!”

“A ‘greater purpose’?” Ai asked, disbelief now clouding her features as she realized the other Circle members were completely serious. “How is ruling the world a ‘greater purpose’? Even ruling Japan! There’s nothing great about that! It’s about the most selfish thing someone could do!”

“But…” Maimi began. “What if we’re really better than them? You know how incredibly hard it is to get to the positions the three of us hold now, much less be able to do the things we do. What if we’re meant to show everyone the way?”
I hate to play this card again, but it looks like we've simply got another case of "absolute power corrupting absolutely". It could be that in this case, that's LITERALLY what's happening. Maimi and Captain have had their powers longer and have been following The Circle's propaganda longer than Aichan has, and they're certainly behaving...oddly, to say the least. Aichan's the new one in the group, so she's still got a mind of her own. :yep:



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“We need you to be able to do this!” Maimi pleaded, and Ai came to a stop, lowering her head slightly to give half a look back over her shoulder. “You may be new to your powers, but you’ll find that you want to put them to use for the greater good. I know you will.”
And of course, the Circle will decide what is "the greater good", right?  :roll:



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She was going to go and find Gaki-san. And then kiss her like Maimi had instructed her to.
Probably the most normal thing that's happened to her today.


...


Could it be then, that The Skulls are descended from the mystics that were part of that army that descended upon the school when it was originally built?  It would certainly explain how Reina and the others also have powers like The Circle does.

Question is, when the shit starts to fly...what will Aichan do?
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [10: The Trinity]
Post by: Grisours on December 09, 2007, 01:54:57 PM
Wow, I really love the stories that you write, and this one isn't any different... :hee:

really cool to see some insight on the Circle's history, but I'm still curious to hear about the Skull's... and like everyone else mentioned, who is this Abe? The Abe Natsumi or some ancestor? Because gocchin killing nacchi sounds really cruel...  :'(
and other thing I'm curious about: what happened with Airi and Miyabi (and takagaki), obviously!  :wub:
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [10: The Trinity]
Post by: mode107 on December 09, 2007, 06:08:19 PM
You're updating is on a roll  :)

Quote
“Gocchin!” Yuko shouted, but it was too late. The beast had ripped out her throat and slashed claws black as night at her midsection before dissolving into nothingness and eliciting another scream from far-off.

Woah, violent much? lol

Nice back story(and long too),I'm still curious about The Skulls though, even if they were not mentioned here(unless I missed something), did the skulls always have that 'badass' persona to them?

damn, Maimi and the circle ruling Japan, or the whole world? Possible begininng of the antagonist Maimi?! :nya: but I do have to admit, it does kinda creep me out a little..
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [10: The Trinity]
Post by: Loser87 on December 09, 2007, 09:26:27 PM
jebus...
Talk about power hungry man...
Honestly I see Takahashi doing something at the very end that'll destroy the circle's plan but...
We won't know until the very end..

Once again Update!
...On the Berry Beautiful one too!
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [10: The Trinity]
Post by: rokun on December 11, 2007, 10:46:00 PM
I wanted to respond a little to people, as well as provide you with something for the time being since I'm forcing myself not to actually write in order to study for my finals... (my first one of which is tomorrow!!! :cry:) That doesn't mean I can't make notes on the next chapter though... :lol: which I've done. If it goes according to plan, it should be pretty fun and awesome! Anyway, like I said, for the time being here's a bit more extracurricular explanation of some of the history I've stolen and created for those who might be interested in such things. :)

You've probably noticed random references to Japan's ancient mythology and history so far in the story, and this chapter was loosely based on the legend that in the wee years B.C. to A.D. Chinese travelers coming to the Japanese island(s) reported that the region was ruled by a queen named Himiko. Japan wasn't yet ruled and consolidated by the line of divine emperors that lasted through most of more recent Japanese history until MacArthur made Hirohito rescind his divinity after WWII.

My additions to real life legend of the events in the last chapter occurred during the waning years of Himiko's reign. She was trying to hang onto power, aided in part by the three sorceresses, against a rebellion of people led by the standard of what most Japanese believed to be the house with a divine right to rule - the descendants of Izanagi, and more specifically his daughter Amaterasu, the Sun Goddess. As the sorceresses found in this chapter, Abe (yes, Natsumi) was that figure. She wasn't necessarily a leader or general, but rather the theological divine figure they were fighting for.

The sorceresses likely had a different heritage than that of Nacchi's, although they also still claimed it to be divine. Because of this competing claim to divinity, and perhaps something else as yet unknown, they were in opposition to Nacchi's house and thus by default on the same side as Himiko (against the insurgents). That's why Maki went off to kill Nacchi - to try to chop off the head of the rebellion. After Maki does the deed the pure divine line disappears from sight - as you read, even to Maki's scrying. That's where that story ended for the time being.

As Maki learned though, Himiko feared that the sorceresses would themselves claim the right to rule and eventually betray and overthrow her, and so turned on them before they could have that "change of heart". That's why her army advanced on the school. However, I'll leave it up to you for the moment to guess what the intentions of the sorceresses really were. :)

Back to Nacchi's story. Her martyrdom actually only strengthened the numbers of the insurgence. Coupled with her betrayal of the sorceresses (who charged Himiko's army to their deaths at the end to uphold their honor), as you can imagine things didn't go very well for the defense of her crown. No longer aided by her most powerful allies Himiko's army was defeated by the insurgents, and an emperor was named and took power. This emperor claimed to be of Amaterasu's divine line, and that's how it went down into history and legend. However, with the pure divine line supposedly hidden after Nacchi's death according to Maki's prophecy, the likeliness of the line of emperors being what they claimed is slim...

Wow! That's a lot of stuff, and I imagine might be confusing (it was confusing to write!), but does give a somewhat concise overview of the history and legend.

One more thing I wanted to talk about. Some of you mentioned the violence at a point or two in this chapter... It's not the first time that happened. Remember Miya and the wolf? Those scenes are going to happen in this story. When I first began drafting it I was actually envisioning a horror, and although it didn't completely turn out that way, I still want it to have certain elements of that genre and be creepy and even actually horrific in parts. It's that whole darkness thing I like having in my stories. :)

Thanks again for all your support!!!
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [10: The Trinity]
Post by: meowz on December 13, 2007, 02:29:41 AM
Like everybody else I'm curious to know how the skulls came about and where they fit into history :dunno: Ah the suspense...

After reading something about Japanese mythology, I just realized a similarity between three of the gods and the three houses. Izanagi begot Amaterasu(sun goddess), Tsukuyomi(moon god) and Susanoo(tempest god) after returning from the underworld. Izanagi's story was also mentioned in your prologue too so I was wondering if there was any connection here...you know, Matsuura of the sun, Goto of the moon and Nakazawa of the tempest?
Were the three sorceresses themselves descended from the three gods? After all, you mentioned that "they did share ancestry from centuries prior"...

Edit: Ah, oh oops, I didn't read your previous post up there :mon sweat: Oh well, I guess that's where you got the background of the sun, moon and tempest thing from. It's all starting to come together really nicely now I must say. :hehehe:
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [10: The Trinity]
Post by: Yukari on December 14, 2007, 01:36:17 AM
i NEED a new chapter please  :drool:

in what moment the skulls were created??  :O

what happen with airixmiya?  :wub:
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [10: The Trinity]
Post by: glcorps2002 on December 14, 2007, 01:01:00 PM
It's time to throw my hat into this ring!

The Skulls are probably from Abe's blood line. That's all I can think of at the moment but there will be more soon.
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [10: The Trinity]
Post by: rokun on December 14, 2007, 04:00:10 PM
Hey! People are still responding yay! :) Lol. I haven't posted anything this week because I've been way overstressed with finals, but my last one is coming up within the hour, and after that I just have a few more hours of work and I'm DONE!!!  :w00t:

I have a feeling I'm gonna feel like writing in order to relax tonight (and since I've been putting this next chapter on hold all week even though I have it mostly planned out), so hopefully I can have something up over the weekend. Keep your fingers crossed though because I can never really tell!

I'm so happy to see so much interest in this, although now I'm feeling the pressure to meet all your expectations... >.>

Happy Holidays!
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [11: Kisses and Consequences]
Post by: rokun on December 16, 2007, 03:30:44 PM
Well, I ended up not having a whole lot of time this weekend, but still managed to complete a little something for you all. I don't want to say much, so for now here you go. :) Another calm before the (perhaps literal) storm? Then again, a lot of things about this aren't exactly "calm"... :O


Chapter 11 – Kisses and Consequences

As Ai stormed into House Nakazawa, students studying and socializing in the front lounge swiveled their heads to watch her pass. She caught some of their looks out of the corners of her eyes; these girls definitely looked differently at her since she’d become a Circle member. Instead of hardly even registering her presence like they had before, now they looked her way as if expecting something, though she had not a clue what.

Just past halfway through the lounge to the stairs, she stopped in her tracks, still very well aware of all of the youthful eyes on her, although she fixed her own ahead of her and up near the border of the wall and ceiling.

“Why do all of you look at me like that now?” she asked in a somewhat quiet but actually authoritative voice. She dropped her gaze and met those of some of her house members, whose expressions didn’t change. “What’s made me so different from the Ai Takahashi so many of you hardly even knew?”

“You’re in the Circle now,” one of the girls responded, and Ai looked toward a couch near a fireplace to find the one who spoke. She shrank slightly under her gaze, but her eyes were still wide as if she was constantly surprised by everything. She knew the girl; she was a sixth year and so one that had been with Ai at Seishin the longest aside from the other seventh years, of whom she thought none were here. Those in their final year before university were usually locked in their rooms or the library studying, or else socializing in some club or other.

“That’s true, Kamei…” Ai said, considering the girl. “That still doesn’t mean I’m a different person.”

“But you kind of are…” another girl said from next to Eri. Ai knew her too – Sayumi, another sixth year. Those two seemed to be together all the time, not much different from how she and… the reminder of her mission and how she must still be dreaming came back to her.

“Maybe I am…” she admitted. If this was a dream, who knows what kind of personality she could appear to have… right?

“Yes!” another girl said, and Ai shifted her eyes to her to see a change in expression as if a light bulb just went off in her head. “I know what it is now! It seems like you’re becoming more and more like Yoshizawa-san! She used to tear through here all the time like she was angry at something, and we just hoped it wasn’t one of us. That’s why we always paid attention to her, because if it was she was just about to let us know it.” Ai blinked at the girl, a fifth year by the name of Erina. At Ai’s frown the girl almost ducked as if afraid she was going to attack her. “Before this year I don’t think I ever even saw you do anything but smile at everyone…”

Ai stared at the intent girl for a moment. She was right. She was Ai Takahashi – the cute one, the nice one… but never the argumentative one. Convinced even more now that this was a dream, she started walking again, conscious of the eyes still following her. “…Shouldn’t you all be studying?” she asked without looking at any of them. In her perfect dream world they would all be studying, and no one would have strange powers that threw people across rooms. Well, nothing was ever perfect.

Traveling up stairs and down a hallway, she found her room and walked inside to find Risa sitting cross-legged on her bed with a book open in her lap. The girl looked up at Ai’s entrance, and smiled when she saw it was her long-time friend. “Hi Ai-chan!” she said as Ai walked swiftly toward her bed. “I wondered where you…”

She stopped talking though as Ai mounted her bed and crawled over it toward her. It took her just a fraction of a second to close in on her prey, and Risa was about to give a startled cry when Ai brushed the book off her lap and leaned in toward her. The girl tried to lean back in surprise at the motion, but since Ai had pinned her legs down with her weight couldn’t move fast enough before Ai’s mouth came into contact with her own.

Ai’s forward progress combined with Risa’s motion backwards resulted in Risa falling back onto the bed and Ai pressing down on top of her, kissing her vehemently while her hands lightly held onto her shoulders.

Risa initially kissed her back, confirming within Ai’s mind that this really was a dream, and Ai just enjoyed this feeling as if realizing it was something she’d wanted to do for a long time. Once she woke up she’d have to analyze why she felt such a rush from the fantasy of kissing her best friend, but for now she was happy with the feelings the act stirred within her.

After letting herself go in such a way, she drew her hands down her friend’s shoulders to her sides to hold her beneath her, and deepening the kiss, also pressed down against her, even bending her knee to draw her leg up to rub against Risa’s.

However, once she really began to get into it, she began to feel a little resistance beneath her, and soon the girl managed to push her up enough so that their kiss broke. After finding her eyes, Risa looked into them in shock, causing Ai to freeze in anything else she was doing.

“Ai-chan!” Risa cried, in what was a slightly breathless voice. “What…” She swallowed. “What are you doing?”

Ai continued staring at her. “Kissing you,” she said dumbly. This was not supposed to be part of her dream.

Her blunt response elicited a blush and lowering of the eyes from the other girl. “I… I know that…” she stuttered. “But… why?” she asked, and looked back searchingly into her molester’s eyes. “You’re my best friend…”

Ai finally began to embrace reality. The girl’s expression was nothing she could have imagined. This was definitely not a dream. “Nii-chan…” she said, rising slightly and pulling back to hug her knees to her. Risa got up quickly and reached an arm over to her, but Ai shied away. “I… I’m sorry…”

“There’s no need for that,” Risa said quickly, still plainly quite embarrassed at the situation. “It’s just… surprising.” She looked back into Ai’s face. “I never knew you felt that way about me…”

“I didn’t…” Ai began, shaking her head. Was her world completely devolving into insanity now? She slid quickly off the bed and headed for the door.

“Ai-chan!” Risa cried after her, but she was already outside of the room and headed down the hall.

“What have I done?!” she asked herself. “I’ve just made out with my best friend, that’s what I’ve done,” she answered herself. Risa would surely never speak to her again. How could she be such an idiot! Of course it wasn’t a dream! Didn’t she even know reality anymore when she saw it?

That brought her back to the reason she thought it was all a dream to begin with – Maimi and Saki reading that book and talking about taking over the world. Or perhaps just Japan. That was ridiculous! Or was it?

She found herself at the end of the hall, and walked down some stairs randomly until they let out into a side corridor on the ground floor. She went down it, neither really paying attention to where she was walking nor really caring.

They all had these powers; that was a fact. She could do something with the weather. She could toss people across rooms. Saki could play with people’s minds and do other things that Ai knew little about yet the little she did know completely creeped her out. Maimi could do… something. That was right – she threw a fireball at Reina. Were they some type of gods now? Surely only gods or demons could do things like that… and there was no way it could be the latter.

“All right, Ai,” she told herself. “Think through this logically…”

She tried to do so, although it was very hard seeing that this was a very illogical situation that was completely irrational compared to anything she’d ever before had experience with.

“These powers we have… these things we can do… They’re not normal. Who’s to say they don’t serve some greater purpose?”

Maimi’s words came back to her, and she evaluated their truth. If they were really some type of higher beings, what’s to say they weren’t intended to lead everyone and show them the way? They already led the school – they were chosen for a reason. Plus, Circle members always obtained important positions in companies after graduation.

For that matter, what about the whole idea that they were chosen? Have all Circle members had this power? Maimi and Saki said Yoshizawa-san had abilities. Why had none of the ones that came before them tried to do anything other than lead the school?

The sky will run red as if stained by the gods themselves.

The phrase from the book suddenly burst into her mind, and she stopped in her tracks. That’s why the other two heads were so interested in that book. They’d had years to come to grips with their power and what it meant, and so they immediately knew the significance of the passage… and of the sun just happening to turn red today. She finally understood.

She hadn’t noticed before, but suddenly Ai realized she wasn’t alone in the dimly lit hallway. Was she in the basement somewhere? She looked up to find a girl looking back at her. Miyabi Natsuyaki considered her stonily, her face shadowy in the hall’s poor light.

“What are you doing here?” Ai asked, her mind still full with the thoughts she’d just been having.

“I could ask you the same thing,” Natsuyaki responded evenly.

Ai looked around before furrowing her eyebrows at the Skull. “This is my House. That means it’s not yours. I know your little hideout is in here, but that doesn’t mean you have free rein to wander around it as you please.”

“Are you going to lay down the law then?” Natsuyaki asked quietly, and Ai noticed her fists clench at her sides. If the girl was looking for a fight, she had not found Ai in a forgiving mood.

“I wasn’t aware I needed to,” she responded. “Good girls of Seishin don’t trespass where they don’t belong, and especially don’t wander dimly lit halls alone. They could get hurt.”

“Is that a threat?” Natsuyaki asked. The girl seemed ready, but hardly worried at whatever Ai could do.

“No,” Ai said, drawing within herself. “But this is.”

With that, not completely knowing what she was doing, she felt for the air around her, and began to notice a breeze stir up from around her feet. The breeze quickly turned into a small whirlwind that she encased herself within. Natsuyaki’s eyes widened at the sight, since the current picked up dust that now encircled her, but didn’t make any move as if to run.

“I think you know what I can do…” Ai said, fighting to keep control of the wind. Out of the corner of her eye she also caught flashes from the corners of the walls as if sparks were leaping from wall to ceiling and back. “If you don’t leave right now, I might need to teach you a lesson.” She spoke through rage that was quickly boiling up inside of her. The girl was being completely insubordinate! How dare she talk to her like that! She was a leader of this school!

“Give it your best shot!” Natsuyaki suddenly shouted.

At the infuriating girl’s challenge, Ai felt something powerful rise within her. She would not be spoken to like that! A thought of Risa flashed across her mind, and the idea of losing her friend because of her own stupidity made her anger flare even higher. She kept trying to tell herself Risa was her friend and would forgive her, but at the moment something within her wouldn’t let her believe that.

“Fine!” she screamed at the fourth year, and she lashed out at the girl. She didn’t move, and still didn’t know exactly what it was she did, but upon throwing her arms out in front of her, lightning flared from her hands toward the girl as the two faced off within the hall where electricity was now also crackling all along its walls – even putting out some of the few and far-between lights lining them. Despite that, it was actually brighter than before with all the energy she was putting out herself.

The blinding flash from her hands faded and she blinked in horror, expecting to see the girl fried in front of her, but instead Natsuyaki still just stood facing her, her face a measure of concentration, but absolutely none the worse for wear.

“Is that all you’ve got?!” the girl yelled at her. “If so, that’s not going to do the job!”

Then, before Ai could summon any more of the lightning that was still crackling violently along the walls, the girl jumped at her, and they both went down in a tangle of fists and boots.

Ai had never been in a fight before, but somehow she knew what to do. With reflexes as quick as the lightning she summoned, she blocked the girl’s blows and even was able to launch some of her own the other way. The two rolled around on the dusty floor amid the lightshow dancing along the walls, but neither gained the upper hand until Natsuyaki managed to roll atop her and slammed her to the floor, staring down at her while breathing hard.

“You crazy bitch!” she yelled, and began lifting Ai and slamming her repeatedly against the floor. “What are you trying to do, kill me?!” Ai was becoming a little disoriented as the back of her head began to throb after hitting the floor time and time again.

“I like her, all right?” she yelled into Ai’s face, and Ai wondered if she couldn’t make out the girl’s meaning because of her quickly fading consciousness, or if the girl really wasn’t making any sense. “So what if she kissed me first! I still wanted to kiss her, after all!”

However, the girl wasn’t able to continue with her tirade because at that moment she was jerked off from atop Ai as if blasted away by something, and flew down the hall where she skidded along the floor a meter or two before becoming still.

“Ai-chan!” she heard Saki say from behind her, and then she felt hands around her head helping her up. The smaller girl pulled her to the wall and leaned her against it, looking carefully into her face. “Are you all right?”

“I wanted to kiss her…” Ai repeated her attacker’s last words, as vague visions of being beaten up and then much more pleasant ones of Risa swam across her mind.

“You wanted to kiss her…” another voice said from somewhere to Ai’s side. However, this one had a dangerous tone to it that even in Ai’s current state made her insides freeze. “You Skull…” the voice said. “You filth…!” Then, as Ai saw Maimi come into her view in front of her as she advanced upon the other fallen girl, Saki rose to quickly attempt to restrain her.

“Don’t even try stop me this time!” Maimi barked at the girl. “You know she’s already no good! And then she goes and… she goes…” She turned a glare of death back down the hall.

“…Shimizu?” came a voice from that direction. “Yajima?”

“Don’t do something you’ll regret…” Saki advised the Matsuura girl. “We’re still unsure of what they can do… If we’re to go through with our plan we need to know our adversaries…”

“You’re right,” Ai said, rising unsteadily to her feet as she regained her bearings somewhat. Then she looked down the hall to see Natsuyaki rising slowly to her own feet, and narrowed her eyes as she looked at the girl’s wrists.

The girl jerked and began quickly sliding up the hall, her arms raised above her head as if she was being dragged by them. She shuffled her feet in an attempt to gain her footing, but she was moving too fast, and soon came to a halt right in front of the three Circle members, two of whom looked at the girl’s sudden presence with wide eyes of surprise. Upon reaching them, Natsuyaki’s arms lifted further into the air as if pulled upward by an unseen force, her feet rising from the floor and dangling a few centimeters above it as she stretched tall before them.

Ai looked at the other two Circle members, who shifted their stares of surprise to her. She smiled in smug satisfaction. “You’re right,” she repeated. “We do need to know anything they might have learned. And what better way to do that than to ‘talk’ to one of them?”

She smiled up at the futilely struggling Natsuyaki. Apparently whatever magical defenses the girl could summon didn’t work when she was already chained, like Ai had done to her with binds made of solid air. Or else her own injury from the fight and being thrown down the hall affected her ability.

“Well look at what we have here…” Maimi said, grinning at the realization of what was going on. She stepped up to Natsuyaki and seemed to consider her a moment. Then, with a quick thrust of her arm she slugged the girl in the mouth, sending her head lolling against her shoulder and making her lip begin to swell and bleed. This time, neither Saki nor Ai made a move to stop her aggression against their new captive.



“You kissed Miyabi Natsuyaki?!” Risako squawked, and Airi noticed the tenor of her voice wasn’t much short of awe. “But… she’s a Skull!” She disbelievingly looked between her two friends as they sat across from each other in the dining hall.

“Apparently we are too,” Airi said in a tight voice, playing with her noodles.

“Yeah,” Chisato said, smiling ear to ear at someone new hearing their story. “You’re actually the odd one out now, Rii-chan!”

Airi scooped some noodles up into her eagerly awaiting mouth. For some reason, she was very hungry this noontide. After spending a bit more awkward time with the Skulls, where Reina and Koharu teased her and yet treated her with an odd amount of respect, she and Chisato had gone off to find their friend, which had ended up in the three of them having lunch together. It was a bit late, so not many other girls were in the hall.

This was something Airi was glad of, since she didn’t yet want the whole school to know of her new, er, club. After all, it wasn’t like she’d just been welcomed into the chess club. Still, when glancing around the room, she thought she caught shifty glances from some of the girls that remained as if they were trying to watch her without being noticed. Then again, she might just be paranoid. Making a girl scream and kissing another one all in one morning might have had that effect in her…

She looked up from her soba to see Risako gawking at her as if she was some kind of idol. “What?” she asked.

“You kissed Miyabi Natsuyaki!” the girl repeated.

“You already said that…” Airi said, and she heard Chisato giggling from beside her.

“But she’s like one of the most dangerous and sexy girls in the school!” Risako cried in a restrained whisper as if she was saying something scandalous, and also sounded as if she thought Airi was being dense in understanding something. Then, apparently fully realizing what she’d just said, she had the good sense to blush. Dangerous? Airi thought. Sexy? Really! She tried very hard not to think of how she felt herself when the girl’s lips had been on hers, as if refusing to believe it happened for the moment.

“I mean…” Risako said, still in her blush. “It’s true a lot of people hate her, but most girls would kill to be recognized by her, much less kiss her.” The girl mouthed that word a few more times, as if it was something strange that should be given special attention.

“Hello?!” Airi said, and reached over to rap the girl on the head with her knuckles. “What about that eclipse thing that happened, and what I did to Maimi. Er… Yajima-san.”

“Give it up…” Chisato murmured out of the corner of her mouth. The girl had been trying to get her to admit that she was really on a first-name basis with such prominent girls in the school, but Airi was trying to resist the best she could.

“I know, I know…” Risako said. “But you didn’t kiss her, did you?”

“Well…” Airi said, and she blushed again. “She had asked me on a date where…” She blushed even deeper, but wanted desperately to get it out. “Where there very likely would have been kissing at the least going on!” she finished in a flurry, and now she had both girls staring at her.

“Right…” Risako snorted suddenly, and Chisato joined her in giggling.

Airi’s eyes flew wide open at her friends’… offensive!!!... responses. “It’s true!!” she insisted, and banged her fists on the table for emphasis. When the giggling didn’t diminish, she cast around her mind for a way to make them believe. “It’s happened before!” she said, and she apparently got their attention at least somewhat.

“What has?” Chisato asked.

“We made out!” she lied. “Last year! In the bath!”

She suddenly wondered if she’d gone too far, and knew she was right by the other girls’ suddenly serious expressions.

“It isn’t nice to lie, you know,” Chisato advised.

“Especially to your best friends,” Risako offered earnestly as well.

Airi looked between them, and then dropped her head to the table just beside her noodles, completely given up. Chisato patted her shoulder. “It’s really cool that you kissed Miyabi though,” she said.

“Miyabi…” she noticed Risako mouth out of the corner of her eye while looking like she was startled at her own boldness. The girl just couldn’t seem to get over the fact that they were both Skulls now and that the other Skulls were now their friends, despite their uber-coolness factor around the school.

“Yeah…” Airi said, resigned, her head still lying on the table. “At least I am dating her…” Risako was staring at her wide-eyed again.

“Erm…” Chisato said, and she reached up to scratch at the back of her neck. “Are you… sure… that you’re dating?” she asked.

“Why?” Airi asked, pulling her head up and looking curiously at the other Matsuura girl. “I kissed her, didn’t I?”

“But…” Chisato said tentatively. “Did you guys say anything else? Like did she ask you out?”

“Well… no,” Airi said. “But we kissed. Surely that means she’s my g… my girlfriend…” She choked on that word, and she wasn’t the only one. Risako spluttered into a coughing fit as she’d just swallowed some noodles, and Chisato cleared her throat nervously.

“Osuzu…” the girl said, giving Risako a cautious eye as if to make sure she didn’t need any assistance. The girl held up her hand to say she was all right, although still couldn’t seem to stop coughing. “I think Miyabi kisses a lot of people…”

Airi stared at her. “What do you mean?” she asked.

“Well, I heard from Koharu-chan…” Chisato said nervously. “She and Reina…”

“What…” Airi said, her face suddenly darkening. She didn’t like where this was going at all.

“N-nothing!” Chisato defended, raising her hands as if to hold off her friend. “It’s nothing!”

“Chisa—“ Airi began, her voice dangerous, but she was interrupted by the two girls just named running into the dining hall toward them.

“Okacchan! Airi!” Koharu gasped, since she was the first to arrive. “You have to come! Miyakko’s—“

“She’s gone,” Reina said upon arriving too, frowning at the younger girl, who now looked abashed at her presumptiveness. “We looked everywhere for her, but all we noticed was something odd about one of the basement passages in Nakazawa we use sometimes to get around with nobody noticing. It was like the place was destroyed… and there were signs of struggle…”

Airi and Chisato stared at the new arrivals, while Risako just gaped at them all. Suddenly noticing the looks, which weren’t the only ones by the way since basically the whole hall was most definitely looking at the five of them now all pretense of shiftiness, imagined or not, dropped, Reina focused her attention on Risako. “Who’s the add-on?” she asked. Risako squeaked something unintelligible in response. “Nevermind. Bring her too if you need. Although kami-sama knows we need more of you brats.”

“Um…” Chisato said. “Bring her where?”

“To look for Miya,” Reina responded as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.

“Did you kiss her?” Airi asked suddenly, and the eyes of all the other girls shifted to her.

“What?” Reina asked, apparently trying to be patient with her, but having a hard time of it.

“Miyabi,” Airi responded. “Did you kiss her?” She got up to face the girl, not even noticing the rest of the girls in the dining hall giving her odd looks.

“What does that have to do with anything?” Reina asked, clearly in disbelief that Airi would have brought up such a subject right now.

Airi looked into her eyes. Incredulity was in them, but there was something else too. She was hiding something… Knowing that this wasn’t the important thing right now, as well as feeling like she already had received her answer, she decided to drop it.

“So you’re asking us to come help you find Miyabi?” she asked calmly. “What do you think we’ll be able to do that you couldn’t?”

“It’s not that…” Reina said, looking around at them all.

“The Skulls stick together,” Koharu said, her face quite intense as well right now. “If something happens to one of us, it happens to all of us, so we all work together to help make things right again.”

“Well said…” Reina said approvingly, though she didn’t look at the girl. Airi would have expected Koharu to beam at the comment, but her determination didn’t waver. “So are you two going to help or not?” she said with an air of finality. For some reason Airi felt this was a critical point in determining the future of… something.

“I never said I’d join the Skulls…” Airi said, now noticing the looks of the other girls around the room focused almost exclusively on her. Word would be around the whole school by dinnertime that the Skulls had a new member, and strangely enough one that didn’t appear to be cowed whatsoever when talking to their leader. Everyone knew that was unusual in the Skulls, except of course for the slightly unusual case of Miyabi, but there were long-established reasons behind that. “But if Miyabi’s in trouble…” Reina looked somewhat taken aback at the dangerous look Airi gave her. Good. “Then I’ll help her.”

“Of course I’m in,” Chisato said, and then gave Airi a peculiar nervous glance. “Though maybe not for the same reasons as Osuzu…”

“Do you have any idea where she might be?” Airi asked.

In response, the faces of both of the Skulls in front of her darkened. “I have my ideas…” Reina said. Airi regarded her curiously. The look on her face was not good at all. What could those ideas be to trouble her so?

“Tell me we’re going to storm the Ivory Tower…” Koharu said in a voice that was nearly pleading. Airi’s eyes widened, and she heard Risako gurgle slightly from across her. Giving the girl a glance, Airi saw her eyes roll slightly up into her head to make her look like she was about to faint.

“You think the Circle has her?” Chisato gasped.

Reina and Koharu didn’t respond, but the rest of them already knew the answer to her question. Except for Risako of course, who once again looked completely lost. “What makes you think that?” Airi asked.

Reina and Koharu looked at each other. “You might know a little of this, Airi,” Reina said. Airi felt weird at the girl using her first name. “But Miya and I are rather… unusual. Have you ever wondered why nobody ever fights back against us when we bully them?”

Airi grimaced. The girl’s words were not a good reminder of the negative traits she likely would now be associated with as a member of their little club. “Not really,” she said flatly. “Mostly I wonder what sort of horrible people would do things like that to other girls.”

“Give it a rest…” Reina said, and looked very seriously into Airi’s face. The Skull leader’s earnest look captured Airi’s attention. From what she knew lately, these sure didn’t seem like the girls she’d always heard so much about.

“The strong prey on the weak,” Reina continued. “That’s the way the world works.” Airi’s face darkened again, despite the girl’s seeming sincerity. “Kami-sama knows that’s how this school works. And besides,” she added. “I’ve come to wonder if that wasn’t all training for a higher purpose…”

She seemed to go off into thought for a moment, but at a soft jab in her shoulder from Koharu came back to herself and refocused on Airi. “Anyway,” she said. “Nobody fights not just because they might be scared, but because they can’t…” She paused a second as if her words were supposed to have some effect on Airi she didn’t notice. “Even the ones who are supposedly the most athletic and such,” she explained. “We’re just too strong for them.”

She gave a glance at Koharu, who held her face tight, but nodded despite her reluctance. “Take Koharu here,” Reina continued in a softer voice, so that only the girls right around her could hear. “She acts tough, and with the Skulls name behind her people let her be tough. But if anyone had any courage, they could maybe challenge her back.” Her expression became grim. “Not so with Miyakko.”

Airi considered her carefully. “So you’re stronger than the other girls. Big deal. Like you said, the strong prey on the weak.”

Reina shook her head though almost before Airi finished talking. “It’s a bit strange though… I mean, we take advantage of it, but there’s really no reason we should be stronger. After all, do you seriously see us in the gym often? And then…” She stared hard into Airi’s face this time. “There are the other things we can do.”

“Other things?” Airi asked, deciding to indulge the girl. She glanced over at Chisato, who had a serious look of her own. Was there something she hadn’t told her? Looking back at Reina, she hoped she’d finally get some answers.

“Well…” Reina said. “For one, I can apparently heal just by touching someone. You remember what happened with Miya out in the woods, right?” Airi nodded, swallowing at the memory that as time went on and she became closer to the Goto girl seemed to become more poignant. At the time though, she’d just chalked it up as that she wasn’t hurt as badly as it had looked, and Reina knew some first aid. Experiences since then though had changed her mind on that a bit…

“I can also affect the weather.” Airi blinked at her, and she noticed Risako walk up from around the table to her side as well, casting them looks between one of awe at Airi due to how she was speaking to the Skulls to effectively more curious ones at the Skulls themselves.

“The weather?” Airi asked. “What are you talking about?”

“Well, I don’t really know how to control it yet…” Reina admitted grudgingly, “But it kind of follows my moods. Like, if I get angry, it gets stormy. If I’m happy it gets sunnier. Those kinds of things.”

Those kinds of things were crazy was what they were, at least as far as Airi was concerned, but the girl went on. “Miya can do things too. She seems to be able to stop other people’s powers for example.” Airi thought back to when they were in the room with Maimi. Right after she’d kissed her. She blushed again, though it quickly turned into light anger as she remembered Miyabi was missing now. She had done something to make it cooler in there. It seemed like Maimi was doing something to the air. She looked into Reina’s eyes again. Could she actually be telling the truth? As far as she could tell, the girl was being honest.

“She also seems to be able to, er, disappear and then pop up somewhere else right away,” Reina continued.

Airi furrowed her eyebrows at her. “Like… teleporting?” she asked, and Reina quickly nodded, seemingly happy with Airi’s understanding.

“Yes, that’s it. Although she doesn’t seem to have much control over that either. The one time she did it she was very dizzy and even fell out of a tree…”

She fell out of a tree? Airi thought. If she was going to date the girl, she definitely needed to learn a bit more about her. If she was going to date the girl… Had she already decided that was what she wanted, despite whatever might have happened with Reina? Then she thought of Maimi. How did she manage to get herself mixed in with two of the most well-known girls at the school? She was just Airi Suzuki. She was just a second year. And Reina Tanaka is looking at me like she’s almost pleading for my help for some reason… she thought. What was really going on?

“And then there’s you…” Reina said slowly.

“Me?” Airi asked, her train of thought disrupted.

Reina nodded slowly, and the other girls’ faces became blank. At least, those of all but Risako, who was now looking at her curiously. She looked back at her friend. She’d known the girl for probably half of her life at this point, but now she was being viewed as if the girl had never seen her before.

“You had something to do with what happened outside earlier, didn’t you?” her friend asked. Airi blinked at her.

“What are you talking about? Were you out there too?”

Risako shook her head. “No, I wasn’t. But Airin, I knew there was always something different about you. Now that… they… talk about this stuff,” she said, giving Reina a slightly anxious glance still, but the girl just nodded as if for her to continue. “Whenever we play around, I can never beat you in anything. You’ve always been the strongest of the two of us.”

“I’ve noticed that too…” Chisato chimed in, looking at Airi as well.

“Then there were other things…” Risako said, and now seemed to hesitate a little before going on. “Sometimes you’d look up at the Sun. You’d look up at it and just stare at it for minutes on end. I don’t even know if you realized what you were doing, because when I started talking to you after a little bit you just acted like nothing was going on, but something was strange. Anytime I even try looking into the Sun for a second I feel like I’m blinded, but it doesn’t seem to affect you at all…”

She looked nervously toward Reina again. “I don’t know if this really has anything to do with what you’re talking about,” she said. “But since something happened to the Sun when you were out this morning, and since it sounds like you did something strange, I thought I’d mention it…”

Reina actually smiled at her, and Risako lowered her head in a soft blush. “Actually…” the Skull said, looking like she’d just come to a remarkable realization. She now seemed like she couldn’t take her eyes off Airi. “I think it might have everything to do with it…”

However, instead of continuing with the subject she looked around at the girls surrounding her. “But now’s not the time to talk about things like that. The point is, it would take someone very exceptional to even be able to harass Miya, much less do anything to her. And I can think of only a few people who might fall into that category… which means we need to find her. Since we’re headed to the Ivory Tower you’d better be prepared. Come on.” Then she turned, and along with Koharu started walking for the doors.

Chisato started after her, and at a look back Airi began following too. “C’mon Rii-chan,” she said, pulling their other friend along with her. Squeaks of protest issued from the girl’s throat, but true to what she was just explaining, she couldn’t pry herself from Airi’s grasp.

“What am I going to do!” she whined, sounding almost terrified.

“You’re my friend,” Airi explained. “I need someone around who isn’t crazy.” Chisato gave her a frown since they were now catching up close to her. “Yes, you’re crazy too. Honestly…” she said, and they exited the dining hall to the watchful eyes of the small groups of other Seishin girls who still remained there.
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [11: Kisses and Consequences]
Post by: maiZe on December 16, 2007, 04:50:36 PM
Stuck in the house for the day due to a crazy snowstorm outside and seeing a new chapter just made my day! :D

Ahh! Such a hectic chapter!

Poor Risa. She's probably all confused about Ai's behaviour. I'm worried about Ai, though 'cause her confusion and anger are causing her to abuse the powers that she's still trying to sort out. I was very surprised and upset to see her  capture Miyabi and have the idea to 'talk' with her.

Three vs. one?!? Poor Miya. I was a little sad to see no Miya/Airi interaction this chapter, but that's okay, I can wait. Miya's so torn about the kiss though. Hopefully it won't take her long to get over the fact that she didn't initiate this foray into a new part of their relationship.

Maimi needs to learn to accept rejection. Get over it, Maimi. Airi chose Miya. It's not Miya's fault she's so fabulous. XD

I'm glad to see Risako seems to be taking all of this very well. She's surprised, but doesn't seem to be put off that her two friends are now Skulls.

I'm also glad that Airi hasn't completely shut herself off the the possibility of a relationship with Miyabi even though she's upset about Miya and Reina. Though her and Miya will probably be having a talk about that soon.

“C’mon Rii-chan,” she said, pulling their other friend along with her. Squeaks of protest issued from the girl’s throat, but true to what she was just explaining, she couldn’t pry herself from Airi’s grasp.

“What am I going to do!” she whined, sounding almost terrified.

“You’re my friend,” Airi explained. “I need someone around who isn’t crazy.” Chisato gave her a frown since they were now catching up close to her. “Yes, you’re crazy too. Honestly…” she said, and they exited the dining hall to the watchful eyes of the small groups of other Seishin girls who still remained there.
This just made me LOL.  :lol:

Can't wait for the next chapter!! I hope nothing too drastic has happened to Miya yet, and that she Skulls kick the Circle's butt for taking Miya! :kickass:
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [11: Kisses and Consequences]
Post by: mode107 on December 16, 2007, 05:23:17 PM
Woah,I didn't think Ai was serious about the kissing part in the last chaper, awkward moments to come  :lol:

*Gasp* You mentioned Erina! :heart:

I still can't get over that fact that Maimi is becoming the "evil" one. I still like the concept of that though.

Quote
“Well look at what we have here…” Maimi said, grinning at the realization of what was going on. She stepped up to Natsuyaki and seemed to consider her a moment. Then, with a quick thrust of her arm she slugged the girl in the mouth, sending her head lolling against her shoulder and making her lip begin to swell and bleed.
I must say, that I loved that part  :wub:


Title: Re: The Circle of Three [11: Kisses and Consequences]
Post by: Grisours on December 16, 2007, 08:30:52 PM
I just love it when there's a new chapter here... I swear it makes my day soooooo much better! :wub:

when I was reading I noticed you mentioned Erina, which is so very nice... (and kamei and sayumi too, I guess)

at the beggining I was thinking "what the hell, Ai-chan is crazy" but when she kissed gaki-san I stopped thinking that... XD I hope gaki-san forgives her (if there's anything to forgive! =D) so they can be together...

I also hope that the Skulls find miyabi soon... that bit with the Circle and Maimi beating her looked scary enough... and is Maimi really jealous? because I thought she only pursued Airi to know what were her powers, but now I'm thinking that maybe she really likes her... dunno...
and Airi is so naive, thinking that miya is her girlfriend just cause they kissed! (well, I hope she is, I like them together!)... and although Risako looks kinda "innocent" when compared to the Skulls, she did help them... I wonder if she's also going to join them...
as you can see I'm really looking forward to next chapter! keep it up!  :D
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [11: Kisses and Consequences]
Post by: rndmnwierd on December 16, 2007, 10:44:43 PM
I can't wait for the next chapter, the set up in this one was almost unbearable. I feel bad for Ai though, it seems like she's losing herself too quickly to realize how she's changing, and then the whole thing with Risa. Mmm.
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [11: Kisses and Consequences]
Post by: Loser87 on December 17, 2007, 02:49:06 AM
wow that was mad OD...

lol But anyway let's speak in english now and not slang, that was one heck of a read!
I'd say I'm satisfied with this chapter and I suddenly had a jump start in my brain on whats gonna' happen next...
I mean as in the far future and stuff...=T

But I'm not too sure so i'll keep it to myself.

You should update soon because i wanna see what Maimi's gonna do and what will happen when the skulls come in to save miya!
Oh yeah..P.S...Update the other chapter too!

YAHH YAHH!! >=D  :kickass: :whip: :whip: :mon zoom:
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [11: Kisses and Consequences]
Post by: JFC on December 17, 2007, 04:47:32 AM
Quote
As Ai stormed into House Nakazawa, students studying and socializing in the front lounge swiveled their heads to watch her pass. She caught some of their looks out of the corners of her eyes; these girls definitely looked differently at her since she’d become a Circle member. Instead of hardly even registering her presence like they had before, now they looked her way as if expecting something, though she had not a clue what.
Maybe they're waiting to see if her behaviour starts becoming a little "off", like it has for Maimi and Captain?



Quote
“What’s made me so different from the Ai Takahashi so many of you hardly even knew?”

“You’re in the Circle now,”

...

“That’s true, Kamei…” Ai said, considering the girl. “That still doesn’t mean I’m a different person.”

“But you kind of are…” another girl said from next to Eri. Ai knew her too – Sayumi, another sixth year.

...

“I know what it is now!

...

Ai blinked at the girl, a fifth year by the name of Erina. At Ai’s frown the girl almost ducked as if afraid she was going to attack her. “Before this year I don’t think I ever even saw you do anything but smile at everyone…”

Ai stared at the intent girl for a moment. She was right. She was Ai Takahashi – the cute one, the nice one… but never the argumentative one.
Interesting way to look at it. If Aichan had been elevated to The Circle earlier, would the other house members be so surprised by her current behaviour/demeanor?  It could just be that this change is so odd for them since they've always "known" and seen Aichan in a different way.  It's no one's fault, really. Aichan has probably had this side to her all along, it's just that she's never had to use it before.



Quote
Traveling up stairs and down a hallway, she found her room and walked inside to find Risa sitting cross-legged on her bed with a book open in her lap. The girl looked up at Ai’s entrance, and smiled when she saw it was her long-time friend. “Hi Ai-chan!” she said as Ai walked swiftly toward her bed. “I wondered where you…”

She stopped talking though as Ai mounted her bed and crawled over it toward her. It took her just a fraction of a second to close in on her prey, and Risa was about to give a startled cry when Ai brushed the book off her lap and leaned in toward her. The girl tried to lean back in surprise at the motion, but since Ai had pinned her legs down with her weight couldn’t move fast enough before Ai’s mouth came into contact with her own.

Ai’s forward progress combined with Risa’s motion backwards resulted in Risa falling back onto the bed and Ai pressing down on top of her, kissing her vehemently while her hands lightly held onto her shoulders.
:stunned:

...

GO AICHAN!!! :rockon:



Quote
“Ai-chan!” Risa cried, in what was a slightly breathless voice. “What…” She swallowed. “What are you doing?”

Ai continued staring at her. “Kissing you,” she said dumbly. This was not supposed to be part of her dream.
Like, DUH!   :P



Quote
Her blunt response elicited a blush and lowering of the eyes from the other girl. “I… I know that…” she stuttered. “But… why?” she asked, and looked back searchingly into her molester’s eyes. “You’re my best friend…”
Uh...oh. :O



Quote
Ai finally began to embrace reality. The girl’s expression was nothing she could have imagined. This was definitely not a dream. “Nii-chan…” she said, rising slightly and pulling back to hug her knees to her. Risa got up quickly and reached an arm over to her, but Ai shied away. “I… I’m sorry…”

“There’s no need for that,” Risa said quickly, still plainly quite embarrassed at the situation. “It’s just… surprising.” She looked back into Ai’s face. “I never knew you felt that way about me…”

“I didn’t…” Ai began, shaking her head. Was her world completely devolving into insanity now? She slid quickly off the bed and headed for the door.
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! :pleeease:



Quote
Maimi’s words came back to her, and she evaluated their truth. If they were really some type of higher beings, what’s to say they weren’t intended to lead everyone and show them the way? They already led the school – they were chosen for a reason. Plus, Circle members always obtained important positions in companies after graduation.

...

The sky will run red as if stained by the gods themselves.

The phrase from the book suddenly burst into her mind, and she stopped in her tracks. That’s why the other two heads were so interested in that book. They’d had years to come to grips with their power and what it meant, and so they immediately knew the significance of the passage… and of the sun just happening to turn red today. She finally understood.
Oh no...please don't tell me Aichan's starting to think like how Maimi and Captain are? :OMG:



Quote
She hadn’t noticed before, but suddenly Ai realized she wasn’t alone in the dimly lit hallway. Was she in the basement somewhere? She looked up to find a girl looking at her. Miyabi Natsuyaki considered her stonily, her face shadowy in the hall’s poor light.

“What are you doing here?” Ai asked, her mind still full with the thoughts she’d just been having.

“I could ask you the same thing,” Natsuyaki responded evenly.
Uh-oh. This could turn ugly.



Quote
“I think you know what I can do…” Ai said, fighting to keep control of the wind. Out of the corner of her eye she also caught flashes from the corners of the walls as if sparks were leaping from wall to ceiling and back. “If you don’t leave right now, I might need to teach you a lesson.” She spoke through rage that was quickly boiling up inside of her. The girl was being completely insubordinate! How dare she talk to her like that! She was a leader of this school!

...

Ai had never been in a fight before, but somehow she knew what to do.
Okay, I gotta ask, where's CAPTAIN, and just how strong is she? This is all a bit to coincidental to NOT be suspicious, IMO.


Quote
“I like her, all right?” she yelled into Ai’s face, and Ai wondered if she couldn’t make out the girl’s meaning because of her quickly fading consciousness, or if the girl really wasn’t making any sense. “So what if she kissed me first! I still wanted to kiss her, after all!”
Holy shit, she admitted that she likes Airi! :o

If Maimi or Captain found out about that, they'd likely flip!



Quote
“Ai-chan!” she heard Saki say from behind her, and then she felt hands around her head helping her up. The smaller girl pulled her to the wall and leaned her against it, looking carefully into her face. “Are you all right?”
Fuck, I KNEW she couldn't be too far away.



Quote
“You wanted to kiss her…” another voice said from somewhere to Ai’s side. However, this one had a dangerous tone to it that even in Ai’s current state made her insides freeze. “You Skull…” the voice said. “You filth…!” Then, as Ai saw Maimi come into her view in front of her as she advanced upon the other fallen girl, Saki rose to quickly attempt to restrain her.

“Don’t even try stop me this time!” Maimi barked at the girl. “You know she’s already no good! And then she goes and… she goes…” She turned a glare of death back down the hall.
Oh yeah..."ugly" doesn't begin to describe how bad this could get now. :scared:



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“You’re right,” Ai said, rising unsteadily to her feet as she regained her bearings somewhat. Then she looked down the hall to see Natsuyaki rising slowly to her own feet, and narrowed her eyes as she looked at the girl’s wrists.

The girl jerked and began quickly sliding up the hall, her arms raised above her head as if she was being dragged by them. She shuffled her feet in an attempt to gain her footing, but she was moving too fast, and soon came to a halt right in front of the three Circle members, two of whom looked at the girl’s sudden presence with wide eyes of surprise. Upon reaching them, Natsuyaki’s arms lifted further into the air as if pulled upward by an unseen force, her feet rising from the floor and dangling a few centimeters above it as she stretched tall before them.

Ai looked at the other two Circle members, who shifted their stares of surprise to her. She smiled in smug satisfaction. “You’re right,” she repeated. “We do need to know anything they might have learned. And what better way to do that than to ‘talk’ to one of them?”
Aichan...:mon scare:



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“You kissed Miyabi Natsuyaki?!” Risako squawked, and Airi noticed the tenor of her voice wasn’t much short of awe. “But… she’s a Skull!” She disbelievingly looked between her two friends as they sat across from each other in the dining hall.

“Apparently we are too,” Airi said in a tight voice, playing with her noodles.

“Yeah,” Chisato said, smiling ear to ear at someone new hearing their story. “You’re actually the odd one out now, Rii-chan!”
Poor Socko almost sounds jealous.  :hee:



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She looked up from her soba to see Risako gawking at her as if she was some kind of idol. “What?” she asked.

“You kissed Miyabi Natsuyaki!” the girl repeated.

“You already said that…” Airi said, and she heard Chisato giggling from beside her.
:mon lol:



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“Hello?!” Airi said, and reached over to rap the girl on the head with her knuckles. “What about that eclipse thing that happened, and what I did to Maimi. Er… Yajima-san.”

...

“I know, I know…” Risako said. “But you didn’t kiss her, did you?”
They're teenage girls, of course they're going to pay more attention to who's swapping spit instead of who just got beat up.  :roll:




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“Osuzu…” the girl said, giving Risako a cautious eye as if to make sure she didn’t need any assistance. The girl held up her hand to say she was all right, although still couldn’t seem to stop coughing. “I think Miyabi kisses a lot of people…”

Airi stared at her. “What do you mean?” she asked.

“Well, I heard from Koharu-chan…” Chisato said nervously. “She and Reina…”

“What…” Airi said, her face suddenly darkening. She didn’t like where this was going at all.

“N-nothing!” Chisato defended, raising her hands as if to hold off her friend. “It’s nothing!”
Uh-oh...:o



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“Okacchan! Airi!” Koharu gasped, since she was the first to arrive. “You have to come! Miyakko’s—“

“She’s gone,” Reina said upon arriving too, frowning at the younger girl, who now looked abashed at her presumptiveness. “We looked everywhere for her, but all we noticed was something odd about one of the basement passages in Nakazawa we use sometimes to get around with nobody noticing. It was like the place was destroyed… and there were signs of struggle…”
Time for a search party!


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“Did you kiss her?” Airi asked suddenly, and the eyes of all the other girls shifted to her.

“What?” Reina asked, apparently trying to be patient with her, but having a hard time of it.

“Miyabi,” Airi responded. “Did you kiss her?” She got up to face the girl, not even noticing the rest of the girls in the dining hall giving her odd looks.

“What does that have to do with anything?” Reina asked, clearly in disbelief that Airi would have brought up such a subject right now.
Indeed. This is not the time to be worrying about this. What they DO need to focus on is finding out where Miyabi is and determining if she's okay. 

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“The Skulls stick together,” Koharu said, her face quite intense as well right now. “If something happens to one of us, it happens to all of us, so we all work together to help make things right again.”

“Well said…” Reina said approvingly,

...

“I never said I’d join the Skulls…” Airi said,

...

“But if Miyabi’s in trouble…” Reina looked somewhat taken aback at the dangerous look Airi gave her. Good. “Then I’ll help her.”
Incidentally, this would be a good thing for Airi to help out with. When they find her...she can then ask Miyabi herself and find out exactly where her head is.



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“Do you have any idea where she might be?” Airi asked.

In response, the faces of both of the Skulls in front of her darkened. “I have my ideas…” Reina said. Airi regarded her curiously. The look on her face was not good at all. What could those ideas be to trouble her so?

“Tell me we’re going to storm the Ivory Tower…” Koharu said in a voice that was nearly pleading. Airi’s eyes widened, and she heard Risako gurgle slightly from across her. Giving the girl a glance, Airi saw her eyes roll slightly up into her head to make her look like she was about to faint.

“You think the Circle has her?” Chisato gasped.
Well, if they had all seen the looks of that hallway like how Reina and Koharu had seen them, it would definitely make sense.



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“What makes you think that?” Airi asked.

Reina and Koharu looked at each other. “You might know a little of this, Airi,” Reina said. Airi felt weird at the girl using her first name. “But Miya and I are rather… unusual. Have you ever wondered why nobody ever fights back against us when we bully them?”
Oh geez...Airi doesn't know about how they all have powers, does she? :?



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“And then there’s you…” Reina said slowly.

“Me?” Airi asked, her train of thought disrupted.
So now Reina's going to tell Airi that she has powers too? Is that the best thing to be doing?



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“C’mon Rii-chan,” she said, pulling their other friend along with her. Squeaks of protest issued from the girl’s throat, but true to what she was just explaining, she couldn’t pry herself from Airi’s grasp.

“What am I going to do!” she whined, sounding almost terrified.

“You’re my friend,” Airi explained. “I need someone around who isn’t crazy.” Chisato gave her a frown since they were now catching up close to her. “Yes, you’re crazy too. Honestly…” she said
:mon heh:



Title: Re: The Circle of Three [11: Kisses and Consequences]
Post by: mae-chan on December 20, 2007, 04:49:37 AM
Quote
“You wanted to kiss her…” another voice said from somewhere to Ai’s side. However, this one had a dangerous tone to it that even in Ai’s current state made her insides freeze. “You Skull…” the voice said. “You filth…!” Then, as Ai saw Maimi come into her view in front of her as she advanced upon the other fallen girl, Saki rose to quickly attempt to restrain her.

“Don’t even try stop me this time!” Maimi barked at the girl. “You know she’s already no good! And then she goes and… she goes…” She turned a glare of death back down the hall.

Somehow, I think Maimi must have thought that Miya wanted to kiss Ai-chan, and right after stealing Airi away from her and kissing her too :O
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [12: Hearts of Fire, Hearts of Darkness]
Post by: rokun on December 22, 2007, 12:15:42 AM
Finally I managed to write this to my satisfaction... Thanks for your comments everyone! I know chapter 11 was maybe less than I promised, even though you all seemed to really enjoy it, but I hope any deficiencies will be made up here. :) This is actually kind of an early climax...

To warn you, this is quite long again, but I've broken it up in a few spots to help make it easier. :) Feel free to take a break if you're getting tired of reading at one of those points lol. I just had to keep it all together, because it's all one story... Anyway, Merry Christmas and I hope you enjoy my little present to you!


Chapter 12 – Hearts of Fire, Hearts of Darkness

“A witch! That’s what I’ll call myself!” Ai Takahashi said as she looked into a mirror standing against the wall. It was an old and very elaborately carved mirror, with patterns up and down its sides and little faces of what looked like wild animals at the corners. “It’s just like Harry Potter!” she exclaimed, excitement bubbling inside her now. See? She was not such a different Ai Takahashi. She still had her inimitable cuteness!

She turned from the mirror and looked around the rest of the room that was designated as hers in the large structure that composed the private domain of Circle members. It was really a rather homey place… if you could call homey a place made mostly out of dark stone from an era before Japanese hardly even knew how to work it. It stood in sharp contrast to the mostly wooden buildings around her; especially the modern renovated ones that composed each House. It was the traditional home for the Circle, although Ai wondered if it wasn’t really more of a fortress. In which case, what was it supposed to offer protection from?

She’d come to this room for a little time to herself while she was able to enjoy it. She would have normally thought that on a weekend such as this she’d be studying somewhere, maybe with Risa. It’s funny how things don’t always turn out the way you think, isn’t it?

At the moment, she was still trying to reconcile herself to the new things it appeared she could do. If they were meant for some greater purpose, she was going to find it out for herself, despite whatever Maimi and Saki would advocate. Those two girls were young anyway; young and brash. She had to be careful not to just trust and go with whatever path they set themselves on.

In reality though, it seemed like only Maimi was the one advocating every route they’d take. Saki was a good restraint to her, but the Goto girl seemed to have little to say herself most of the time, except for a tidbit or two of knowledge when it was called for. Still, beginning with those little bits of knowledge, Ai felt she had reason to believe there was much more that lay beyond the girl’s small, quiet exterior, and really, she was more worried about her than about Maimi.

Her father had always told her, “You can trust the talker because you never have to make judgments on what lies behind his words, because he’ll always tell it straight out, but never take your eyes off the modest, for he could be hiding a knife to your back without you ever knowing it.” Her father was a veteran of the self-defense force and a fan of war discourse, so she always took his words lightly. She hadn’t thought his sayings about strategy and how to decipher your enemies would ever apply to anything she’d come across.

Sighing at the thoughts of her two comrades in the Circle, she turned back to the mirror. “I’m a witch, and I just have to find out why,” she told herself. A good place to start would be with the mystery of others who seemed to be similar to her – who might be witches too. Frowning at herself, she straightened her hair a bit. It seemed there was nothing she could do about it since she had gotten it cut before returning for the school year.

While she was fussing over her hair, a tentative knock came at the door. “What is it?” she asked in a somewhat annoyed voice. This was supposed to be her alone time.

She heard the door open, but no other sound for the moment. The reflection the mirror gave her was of the wall next to the door, so she couldn’t see at first who came in, but in the next second a girl stepped into its view. “…Ai-chan?”

Ai stared, her hand falling from her hair. Then she turned around and stared again. “What are you doing here?” she asked, beginning to get quite anxious. So much for trying to be in control of a situation.

Risa looked taken aback at her brisk tone. “I…” she began. “I’ve been looking for you. I suppose I should have guessed you would be here. I didn’t think I could get in either, but I had to try and see you…” She took a step or two closer to Ai, who backed up against the mirror. “Yajima-san let me in,” she continued. “She had this strange smile and looked at me like she was amused by something. She’s a strange girl…”

Of course. Just like always, there the two of them went trying to interfere with her life again. When would those confounded girls learn to leave her alone?!

“I’m sorry, Nii-chan,” she said quickly. “I was just… surprised to see you here. I don’t think anyone but the three of us has come into this building since I moved here.” Despite her calmer tone, her back pressed hard against the mirror as if she wished it was a portal to some far-off land. Or any land really. Just as long as it wasn’t here, where she had to face the girl whose deep friendship with her she thought she’d ruined forever.

“I wanted to talk about what happened in our room earlier today…” Risa said, apparently realizing Ai wasn’t going to budge, and walking over to sit cross-legged in a chair, seeming somewhat uncomfortable herself.

“Our room?” Ai repeated, feeling stupid at not being able to come up with something better to say.

Risa nodded slowly. “Yeah. When you… you know… kissed me…” She said the last two words much softer than the rest, and with a light blush, obviously uncomfortable with them still.

“Well Nii-chan,” Ai said, finally pulling away from the mirror and trying to don a winning smile. “I had just been through quite an ordeal, and I’m sure I wasn’t in my right mind and…” She stopped herself. What was she saying? She saw Risa’s brightness fade with her every word. Why did she have to dodge it? Couldn’t she just say what she really felt? At least then she would be honest with herself, and whatever happened would happen.

“I’m sorry,” she said, lowering her head and twiddling her thumbs. “I’m not good at trying to make up excuses.” She looked back up into Risa’s eyes. The girl’s even and trusting gaze in return pained her, because she didn’t know if she’d ever see it again, but she made herself continue.

“I’d just learned something that I couldn’t believe. I… You know me, I live in my own fantasy world half the time. Then it seemed like I really was in some kind of fantasy world. I thought I must have been dreaming, so I decided I’d take advantage of it and do something I thought I’d never actually do.

“You remember when Maimi and Saki came into our room?” Risa nodded, watching her quietly. “Maimi said we should kiss… but that just made everything awkward… and for some reason that was fresh in my mind, so that’s what I decided to do to prove it was a dream.

“However… as you know… it wasn’t.” She looked earnestly into her friend’s eyes this time, trying her best to express to her the conviction she felt about what she was saying.

“The way you reacted… It terrified me. I’d never seen you look like that before. It was like you hardly knew me. I could accept that, because I was acting completely out of character—“

Thinking about Mikitty betrayed the lie in what she just said, but that was something obviously best not brought up in this circumstance. Why did she have to make such a mistake anyway? Despite the feelings she thought she had for the woman, now that many things were quickly becoming much more real in her world, she began to realize everyone was right. She had just been another of the girl’s trophies. She could even imagine the girl keeping her panties or something as proof. The thought made her shudder, and it honed her anger again toward the girl and what she stood for.

“However,” she finally continued, in a somewhat choked voice at her most recent line of thought. Risa still watched her calmly, taking in every word she said. “It might have been out-of-character for me, but when it happened I realized that it was really what I wanted. My inhibitions were lowered, and I was just able to… well, to kiss you. To show you how I feel.”

“How do you feel?” Risa asked gently, standing up now and walking to close in front of her.

Ai kept her eyes on her friend’s. “That you’re the person who’s always been there for me, through everything that’s happened as long as I can remember. Anything I might have had before was really only an affair I couldn’t commit to. I just couldn’t realize what I truly wanted. What I truly wanted… was you.” She finished in a voice barely above a whisper.

“Ai-chan…” Risa said, lifting her hand to brush a strand of hair behind Ai’s ear. “You don’t know how long I’ve wanted to hear you say that. I wonder if it’s really true though…”

“It is,” Ai stated firmly, looking hard into Risa’s eyes.

Her friend nodded. “I can see you believe that. But I also see there’s something else going on in there.” She rested a finger on Ai’s forehead, and its touch seemed to cause warmth to spread outward from it and all the way down her body. “You’re bothered by something, and it’s not me. To really be what I want… I’d need you to let me in…”

Ai clenched her mouth tightly, trying to stop emotion from overwhelming her. “I will,” she responded resolutely. Then, before she let the girl slip away from her again, she leaned into her and wrapped her arms around her in a tight hug. “This time I’ll do it right.”

After a moment of just enjoying the other girl’s closeness Risa pulled back, and Ai did as well to look again into her face. It was smiling this time. “I’m happy to hear that,” Risa said softly. “But I think just a little bit of wrongness will be okay.” Then, with a grin, she leaned forward and pressed her lips against Ai’s – just for a few seconds, and in a very innocent way in contrast to earlier in their room, but it still felt wonderful to her.

They broke apart at a cough from the doorway. “I hate to break up this apparent start of something disgustingly beautiful,” Maimi said, and when Ai and Risa looked over at her they noticed her grin. “But our visitor is waking up. Since you’re the one who wanted to ‘talk’, I thought you might like to see her?”

After her offer, she turned and headed back out the door and down the hall. The two girls could hear her continue though as she went. “What the point of talking is though, I couldn’t begin to imagine…” If she said anything more, she was too far away for them to hear.

Ai and Risa looked back at each other, and they both blushed, falling into soft laughter, but still holding each other close. Then Risa adopted a more serious face. “What’s she talking about, Ai-chan?” she asked. “You have another visitor? I thought you said I was the only other person you’d ever seen come in here.”

“You are the only person I’ve ever seen come in here,” Ai said, as she took Risa’s hand and guided her across the room and out the door as well. “…willingly.”



After a long quiet trip that followed Ai’s solemn explanation, the two girls walked into a dusty old room in the basement that looked as if it had once been used for storage. Maimi and Saki were already there, and they looked over at the other two girls’ entrance from their quiet vigil of someone who was seated in a weathered old wooden chair, sturdy rope tied around her midsection, and her hands tied around her back as well. She was free to speak, but her eyes opened and closed slowly as if she was still waking up from a long sleep. Her lip was no longer bleeding, but was still swollen. Ai wondered again where Saki had gotten the herb for the tea they’d made her drink when they first brought her here.

“Ai-chan…” Risa said, looking around at the unusual situation, and narrowing her eyes slightly at the girl in the chair. “What’s going on?”

“What is she doing here?” Saki asked, looking at Risa plainly as if she thought the girl was someplace she did not belong.

“She’s my guest—” Ai began, but Maimi broke in.

“I thought it would be fun to have a little more company! We get so little you know, and having one guest here just made me ache for more!” She cocked her head a little now as she studied Risa. “I’m surprised to see them both here like this though. I take it you two must have sorted things out between yourselves? I know kissing usually works wonders for that sort of thing…” She grinned as she finished.

Saki adopted a slightly disgusted look that she now gave to Maimi. Ai wondered if the Goto girl knew some specific examples of Maimi’s involvement in “that sort of thing”, but Maimi just shrugged and smiled innocently.

“Fine,” Saki said in seeming acceptance. “Makes no difference to me. I still don’t think it’s a good idea though.”

“My dear Saki-chan…” Maimi said, raising a hand to pat her friend on the shoulder. “You have to learn to trust a little. Not everyone is a monster.” Saki responded with silence and a very level look.

“…Where am I?” came a voice from the center of the room, and the attention of all four girls turned to its source.

“So, our less willing guest finally awakens!” Maimi said, striding over to the chair and the girl seated in it.

Natsuyaki looked up at her groggily. “Yajima-san?” As if at a sudden realization, she jerked back slightly in the chair, but her bounds held her fast.

Maimi laid her finger underneath the Skull’s chin and lifted her up to face her. “Yes, you’re remembering right,” she said softly. “That I struck you is probably the last thing you remember, no?”

Natsuyaki nodded, blinking quickly in a seeming effort to make herself alert as quickly as possible. “No point trying to clear your head…” Saki said, coming up on the side of the chair. “The tea I gave you will make you feel sleepy for quite a while yet, so there’s no point trying to use your magic.”

Ai felt Risa’s eyes on her, and she turned to her friend, who searched her face. “What are they talking about, Ai-chan? Magic?”

After the questions, Ai stepped toward the chair herself. “What they’re talking about, Nii-chan…” she said, and she also felt the eyes of the other girls in the room when she spoke. “Is that this is a very dangerous girl.” She looked down hard into Natsuyaki’s eyes, which still looked back at her challengingly.

“Not only that,” Maimi interjected, “But she has also been very naughty. Did you know that before we caught her she was slamming your dear Ai-chan’s pretty little head into the floor? I don’t dare to think of what would have happened to her if we hadn’t arrived in time.”

“Ai-chan…” Risa said, coming up to her side and looking into her face again. “Is that true? Was she hurting you?” Ai nodded slowly, still not taking her eyes from Natsuyaki’s.

“I only fought back,” the bound girl growled up at them. “I fought back when it looked like she was trying to kill me.”

“Shut up, you sick pervert,” Risa said sharply, causing all the other girls to look at her in surprise. “Ai-chan would never do anything of the sort, but beating up defenseless girls is what you’re known for, isn’t it?”

“She’s hardly defenseless!” Natsuyaki retorted, shaken by Risa’s harshness yet apparently quite accustomed to people accusing her of such things. Well, Ai thought grimly. That’s because they’re true.

Still… Risa was about to bite back at the girl again, but Ai forestalled her. “I have to give her that,” she admitted, and Risa turned to face her. She was amazed at the anger she saw in her friend’s face. “That’s one thing you need to know, Nii-chan. The main reason she got the best of me was just because I’m not used to a fight.”

Then she grabbed Risa’s arm and pulled her back away from Natsuyaki. Maimi and Saki seemed to get the hint and backed quickly away from her as well. Natsuyaki just glared at her in hatred.

Ai closed her eyes and felt for the air around her. She felt her arms rise slightly as if pushed up by the air beneath them, and she focused it toward the girl who sat not far in front of her. She felt something swirl inside her head, and projected it to her target. Opening her eyes, she looked at the glaring Natsuyaki through a current of air circulating around her that picked up much of the dust from the floor.

The cyclone intensified, until the girl inside was almost completely distorted from view, and the chair rose up in the air and began spinning also as it was played with by the wind like it was nothing more than a toy. She didn’t hear anything from inside if the girl was screaming or crying, but out of the corner of her eye she caught Maimi staring at the whirlwind in grim satisfaction, visibly pleased at what her apparent enemy was going through. As if to accentuate the turmoil within, thunder cracked outside, and through a window near the ceiling the sky appeared to darken.

Ai wondered again what had happened to cause Maimi to hate the girl so. Being a Skull was almost validation in itself, but Ai could tell whatever was between those two girls ran much deeper. She needed to understand more of what was going on around her. She thought back to when Maimi and Saki had come on the two of them in that basement corridor. What was it the girl had said as she advanced on Natsuyaki?

She was unable to come up with the answer, as her memory of that time was still very dim, and coming back to the present, she drew some of the power out of the cyclone in front of her. It faded until they could see the chair and girl within, still spinning fast, and she carefully let it die down to where it set the chair back down nearly where it had begun, although the girl in it was slumped, extreme nausea and dizziness obviously affecting her. She even fell forward and vomited on the ground just in front of the chair, narrowly missing her own clothes.

Maimi advanced on her, still smiling, and looked down at the mess. “Well well, I don’t know if I could have done anything better than that myself. You know there will be more, but we’d also like to ask you some questions. If you answer them well, maybe I’ll keep Saki-chan away from you at least.”

Miyabi blinked and raised her head, though it was still wobbling on her neck in her motion sickness. She tried to look up at the girl above her, but seemed to have a difficult time focusing. Ai blinked too. She realized someone was holding her hand. She turned to face Risa.

“Ai-chan…” she asked very quietly. “Did you do that?” Ai nodded, and Risa swallowed and looked back at Natsuyaki. “I won’t deny she might have deserved something, but don’t you think you went a little overboard?”

“Nii-chan,” Ai said, taking Risa’s shoulders and turning the girl to face her. She saw her friend looking into her face with a new emotion – one of tightly restrained fear. “You have no idea what this girl has done. What they all are doing. Something is happening to this school, but it’s bigger than the school. I need to know that you’re going to be with me whatever happens. Won’t you?” As if to accentuate her question, a louder peal of thunder cracked outside again. The lightning must be close. Ai gave it no thought though.

Risa looked hard into her eyes, but after a moment she nodded. “Of course I’ll be with you Ai-chan. I know where you stand.” She looked over at Natsuyaki, who seemed to finally be losing her sickness, though Maimi’s grin widened along with her recovery. Apparently she was looking forward to the girl being fully back to herself again so she could “appreciate” what Maimi would do to her. “I know where they stand,” Risa finished in a low and even voice. Then, Ai hugged her tightly amid the strengthening sounds of thunder outside. At least she would have one loyal and trusted friend through it all.

“Ai-chan,” Maimi said, throwing her voice in her direction even though she kept her eyes on the captive girl before her. “I know you have reason to be angry with her too, but can you cut out a bit of that thunder? It’s getting distracting.”

Ai brought her mind back to the room and pulled away from Risa, who smiled reassuringly back at her. Then she fully noticed what was going on around her.

“Maimi…” she said slowly after a slight hesitation. “I’m not angry. Far from it. What’s happening outside isn’t because of me.”

Maimi sighed heavily. “Don’t tell me it’s an actual storm…” she said in frustration.

“No…” came a strong and surprisingly amused voice from in front of her. Natsuyaki slowly raised her head to Maimi’s face. Despite it all, the girl was grinning, and there was a very dangerous gleam in her eye that almost made even Ai’s breath catch. “They’re coming for me.”

As her grin widened, so did Maimi’s eyes, and just as it looked like Maimi was going to deck her with a blow that might even have knocked her and her chair over, she suddenly vanished, the ropes that had bound her falling loose on the chair and on the floor.

“No!” Maimi cried, though this time it wasn’t punctuated by a dull clap of thunder. This time they heard a sound like an explosion that shook the dust from the rafters of the ceiling. Ai hugged Risa tightly back against her again. The explosion could only mean one thing: the building itself was under attack.

As Maimi and Saki began running for the stairs, she jolted after them as well, dragging Risa with her. Not now! Not while Risa was in here! Her anger became fueled until it was white-hot again. If anything happened to her…



“I still don’t know why you’re bringing me along…” Risako whined in an insistent yet nearly terrified voice as she stared at the building that loomed closer and closer before them. “I don’t even know what you’re doing!”

“Me neither,” Airi told her as she marched along clutching her friend’s hand tightly so she wouldn’t escape. Chisato walked at her other side, giving the two of them skeptical looks. “But we have to do something to help Miyabi.”

“All right,” Reina said, and the small company drew up while they were still a short ways back from a large wooden door set into a very large building of stone that was bleached almost white. The Ivory Tower didn’t get its name from nothing. Reina stared at the door as if the look itself would cause it to open.

“Maybe we should just knock?” Koharu offered earnestly.

“Yeah that’d work really well,” Reina replied “’We’re sorry, but we think you’ve kidnapped one of our friends. Could you please return her to us?’ I’m sure that’d fly real well, and they’d open the doors right away to welcome us in for chai and cookies. Besides,” she continued, still staring at the door. “I’ve tried it before from time to time. It’s always locked tight.”

“You have?” Koharu gasped, obviously quite impressed.

Reina finally turned her glance toward her younger companion. “You can pick up your jaw from the ground now,” she said bitterly, and turned back again to the door. “Some Skull you are…”

“She has a point…” Chisato began timidly. “How are we going to get in?”

“Well,” Reina replied, and she stretched her arms in front of her, rolling up her sleeves and cracking her knuckles. “I thought I might try to do something about that.”

Then she became very quiet, and the other girls looked at each other, although none spoke as if afraid they would corrupt something miraculous that was about to happen. Airi waited and watched Reina. What did the girl think she could do?

As the seconds rolled by, Airi felt the Sun above them become masked by clouds that rolled in quickly. She felt like something was missing with the Sun’s disappearance, though looking up, she could still pinpoint exactly where it was in the sky.

Was Risako right? Did she really look into the Sun so often without even realizing it, and without experiencing any adverse effects? She of course knew enough to know that looking straight into it was bad for you, that it could even blind you, so the thought scared her a little. She waved her hand in front of her eyes. She didn’t think she was blind…

The clouds darkened quickly, and thunder began to roll too. They even began to feel light waves of rain falling down onto them. As she continued to look, lightning flashed up in the clouds. Some appeared to streak to the earth, but nowhere near them.

She felt Risako press up tightly against her side. “Aiiiriiin…” she whined. “What’s going on?”

Airi looked back down to Reina, who was still staring at the door, although with an intense look of concentration, and even… anger?

“It’s no use,” the Captain of the Skulls said in a low voice between gritted teeth. “I can’t control it well enough. It’s just reacting to my emotions, and I can’t focus it anywhere.” Airi felt Risako press even tighter against her, and now noticed Chisato subtly scooting her way too.

“Maybe Miyabi isn’t there?” Airi asked, trying to be helpful. “It might make the most sense, but we didn’t know they actually did it…”

Airi?

She blinked as she felt a voice reverberate within her mind, as if it was trying to reach her through a current of energy. “What?” she asked dumbly, and she felt the girls next to her look at her. She also felt very self-conscious after apparently answering a question from no one. However, the voice came to her again, and now she thought she recognized it.

I’m trying to get out, but they’re making me sick… they’re horrible…! In case I don’t… Please help me…

Airi felt her eyes look below the door to the ground just in front of it, and suddenly she knew without a doubt that Miyabi was in there.

“She’s there,” she stated, and the other girls looked at her curiously at her quick change of mind.

Ignoring them, she walked forward toward the door even while getting quite wet in the strengthening downpour. “Someone stop that rain…” she said with a voice that sounded distant even to herself, and she waved her arm vaguely out to her side. All of the falling rain completely vaporized, and none more came although the thunder still continued louder than ever, but she hardly even noticed. She was feeling something very warm rising within her, beating as if along with her heart. Hearing the plaintive voice of the girl she’d just kissed had triggered it as if flipping a switch inside of her.

She passed Reina, who looked at her with intense curiosity, and spared a glance back to see the other girls watching her fearfully. They’d seen what happened with the rain, even if Airi didn’t register it herself. Risako and Chisato were even hugging each other.

When she had crossed about halfway to the building, she fell to her knees, the sensation inside of her threatening to overwhelm her. “Need to get in…” she said, looking at the ground.

Please help me…

The voice hadn’t returned, but she still heard it repeating inside of her head. “Need to get in!” she shouted, and she raised her head sharply to the door. At the same moment a blinding flash came from it along with the excruciating sound of an explosion. Even though it was so bright and sudden that some of the other girls screamed and turned away, Airi stared directly into it. It was her light. No… She was the light.

The flash faded as abruptly as it began, and all that was left was an open doorway. The door itself was nowhere to be seen, but it looked like neither the rest of the building nor the frame had even been scorched.

“Special indeed…” Airi heard Reina say from behind her as the feeling within her quickly subsided and she came back to reality.

She gaped at the door and then stood up, turning to look behind her. Reina was gazing at her intently, but the other girls, with the exception of Koharu who was just very shaky and blinking as if having a hard time seeing, had fallen to the ground. Risako almost seemed to be weeping. Airi ran quickly over to her, followed by Reina.

“…Knew there was something about you,” she heard Risako whimper with a sniff as she came up, and she knelt down to lay a hand on the girl’s shoulder. Risako looked up, and with a completely different expression yelled at her, “You could have at least told us you were going to do that, you know!”

“I would have appreciated that too…” Koharu said, blinking. “I can hardly even see now…”

Without thinking, Airi stood up and walked over to the Nakazawa fourth-year. She laid a hand on her arm, and a second later Koharu blinked again and looked at Airi. “Well that’s much better.” Then she cringed upon seeing Airi so close. “T-thank you…” Airi was again very conscious of Reina’s eyes on her back.

“You!” came a furious shout from the direction of the building. They all turned to see Maimi stepping into the doorway, Shimizu just behind and what looked like two other girls in the shadows further back. Maimi had eyes for no one but Airi though. “How dare you come to this place after rubbing it in my face when I invited you here!

“And you!” she said, shifting her focus to Reina and gesturing at the missing door. “Your tuition just went up! This door was expensive! I’m sure your daddy will like that!”

Reina just smiled at her in that relaxed and amused way of hers. “That wasn’t my doing…” she chimed, and looked over at Airi, drawing Maimi’s eyes back to her.

“What are you talking about!” the Head of Matsuura demanded, but despite her feigned ignorance Airi noticed her hand go to her well re-bandaged arm.

“What have you done with Miyabi?” Airi asked, and despite her better judgment she advanced on the Circle members slowly. They took defensive postures warily, and coming closer, Airi thought she noticed one of the girls in the shadows pulling the other behind her as if in a protective way.

“That slut?” Maimi asked, and she even laughed in a very off-kilter way. “Many things… but not a fraction of what I wanted to. Tell me, are you responsible for that too?” She smirked as she taunted Airi, showing obvious disdain for any of her supposed abilities. Her hand never strayed from her injured arm though.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Airi said, her brow furrowing.

Maimi laughed again, and from behind her Airi heard Reina call her name warningly, but she didn’t heed it. Suddenly, Maimi turned and snapped to the girl next to her. “Saki! Teach the little whelp a lesson!”

Then Airi felt her eyes drawn to Shimizu’s, who looked back at her intently. She heard another, more desperate, warning come from Reina, but already she felt her mind buzz as it was being tampered with.

“No!” she yelled, and raised an arm instinctively toward her mental assailant. Shimizu's eyes widened and she fell to the floor.

“Ahhhh!" she wailed, and held her head as if it was on fire. Then Airi realized that was exactly what was happening, and dropped her arm again to her side. Shimizu still fell completely to the floor though, panting heavily and obviously more than disoriented.

Maimi looked to her companion with wide eyes, and then back to Airi. “What did you do to her!” she demanded, and Airi felt the air around her begin to get very cold very quickly.

“You should know very well what I did to her, Demon,” Airi said in a low voice, now completely engaged toward the girl she stared at, words coming to her seemingly from nowhere. “It is your mark, isn’t it? You’ve defiled the natural order, just for your power. To what end though?”

Then she raised an arm slowly toward Maimi, who stared at it as if at a viper. Then she screamed. She screamed as if her very soul was being torn from her. It wasn’t her soul though, Airi realized. There was something else… But there was also a connection. A strange union… And then, she felt a different bond… this time toward herself.

“Stop it!” yelled someone from behind Maimi, and she saw Takahashi come into view to try and hold the girl up. “What are you doing to her?!” She glared at Airi, and Airi’s world shattered in deafening sound and almost unbearable pain.



The next thing Airi knew she was lying on the ground, but it was far away from where she had just been.  She tried to rise, but felt the remnants of a sharp pain in her side. “Itai…” she said, wincing. Still, she managed to sit up through the ache and look around her. She felt her side as she noticed that she was in a forest somewhere. Birds were even twittering around her. It appeared to just be a bad bruise.

“…Airi?” she heard someone say from beside her, and she turned to the voice.

Almost unable to believe her eyes, she stared at Miyabi, who was kneeling on the ground too, seemingly just in the middle of brushing herself off. “Miya…?” she asked.

“In the flesh,” Miyabi responded, a grin blooming on her face.

“Oh Miya!!!” Airi wailed, and amid the pain she lunged over and hugged the girl’s waist tightly. She felt Miyabi awkwardly patting her head, but there was no way she was going to let her go. “I thought they’d done something to you!”

“Well they very nearly did,” she responded, and Airi loosened just enough to look into her face. She still wasn’t going to let her go again though. “What I didn’t expect though was to see you flying right next to me from out of nowhere.” She broke into a toothy grin again. “Just couldn’t stay away from me, could ya?”

“No,” Airi said earnestly, and Miyabi blinked at her seriousness.

“Now that I have you in this position though,” Miyabi said thoughtfully after orienting herself again, “There’s something that I need to do…” Airi felt the girl’s hand below her chin, and it tilted Airi’s face up to her own before she leaned in and kissed her hard. Much harder than when Airi had done the same to her. After a moment of it, Airi even felt herself blushing.

“Am I dreaming?” Miyabi asked her as they parted, looking carefully into her face.

“I don’t think so…” Airi replied faintly, still struck by the kiss. “Unless I’m dreaming too…” She paused and thought a moment. “Which may be very possible. I did seem to black out, after all…”

Miyabi smiled. “If it is a dream, I’m not sure that I want to wake up. It started out pretty poorly, but it’s suddenly become much more pleasant…”

“Miya…” Airi asked, raising her own hand to the girl’s chin. Miyabi seemed a little surprised at the affectionate gesture, but didn’t back away. What had they done to her? Whatever it was, she seemed quite well enough now. And in that case, especially since they’d just kissed again

“I need to ask you something…” Airi said tentatively.

“Shoot,” the girl responded.

Airi looked up into her face. “Are you my girlfriend now?”

Miyabi blinked, but before she could answer a rustling came from the side and four girls burst into the small clearing they occupied. They both clutched each other tightly at the surprise and for mutual protection, but relaxed when they saw who it was.

“Oh my god!” Reina cried, eyes agog at them. “You two are going at it again!”

Airi felt herself blush, but kept her arms purposefully around Miyabi. They were not... going at it! She was just asking a question… a very important question. She looked back into Miyabi’s face, but the other girl’s attention was fully on the new arrivals.

“I guess you’re both all right after all…” Chisato said, staring at them. Risako looked scandalized.

“How can you do this after what just happened!” Koharu shouted, showing a strange amount of aggressiveness for her usually playful and sarcastic attitude. She looked around at her companions. “Speaking of… what the hell did just happen!” Even though she looked at them all, it was primarily to Reina and Airi she spoke.

Reina gave a sigh of exasperation. “Why does everyone always look at me like I have all the answers! I don’t know any more than you do!”

“Right…” Chisato said, causing her Captain to sigh again.

“Are you guys okay?” Airi asked, suddenly remembering the situation. She loosened her grip slightly on Miyabi, but surprisingly the girl pulled her back. Apparently she wasn’t the only one that didn’t want to let go.

“Yeah,” Reina said, studying a now chastened-looking Chisato carefully. “After that lightning blast tossed you off this way, Takahashi and the other girl pulled the two you’d gotten to inside. Of course we came to find you, and I expected I’d need to show you once and for all the healing I can do, but from what I can tell you look just fine and dandy. I could have really used the validation too after being stupid enough to lose control of things to that girl…” She grumbled that last as if chastising herself.

“I am bruised a bit…” Airi complained, noticing the pain in her side again.

Reina turned to her with a hard frown. “Deal with it,” she told her. Then her expression softened. “Unless you can tell me what else happened out there. What did you do to Yajima and Shimizu?”

Airi stared off into the trees, trying to remember back to those moments. “I’m not sure…” she said. “It felt like my instinct just took over. Shimizu tried to do something to me, and I just wanted to stop her, and then… I felt something inside Maimi…”

Miyabi coughed. “Since thinking about anything inside Yajima paints a horrible picture for me, can we just give it a rest for now? She’s obviously been through a lot. We’ve both been through a lot. I think…” She grinned at Airi, causing her to blush again. “I think we could use some time to ourselves now…”

“Oh come on…” Reina said. “You two sure pick the weirdest times…” Chisato and Risako even turned away in embarrassment, though Airi noticed Risako clench her fists very tightly to her sides as well.

“To begin with…” Miyabi said, pulling Airi’s face back around to look into hers. “I think you asked me a question, didn’t you? Maybe this will be answer enough…” Then Airi felt the girl’s arms wrap very tightly around her as she kissed her once again, this time ignoring everyone else around. Airi was very self-conscious about the display they were putting on at first, but eventually she got lost in the feeling and just enjoyed the girl’s intimacy with her.

However, it was once again interrupted by people walking into the clearing. This time though, they all gazed at the new arrivals in complete surprise.

“Well…” a deep and mature, yet very feminine, voice said. Airi recognized it at once. It recalled a time to her that she felt she wouldn’t forget. “I’m glad to see the Skulls name carried on in such an exciting way.”

Miki Fujimoto smiled at Airi and Miyabi when she talked, and so her meaning was obvious, though the smile faded quickly. “We hoped to get here in time,” she continued. “Although from what we’ve just seen out there, I’m afraid we might have been just a tad too late…”

She looked behind her at a silhouetted form that was much shorter than her. “You’re lucky girls,” Fujimoto continued. “I didn’t realize what I’d missed in my time here. There’s someone who wants to talk to you.” Then, the shadowy form walked slowly up to them.



“Maimi,” Ai said, wiping a damp cloth along her forehead. “Are you all right?”

“How dare you kiss her… erm… urg…” Maimi mumbled, and then she opened her eyes. “Where am I?” she asked weakly.

“We’re still at home,” Ai told her. “You’ve been passed out for a while now. We weren’t sure you’d be all right.” She looked up nervously to Risa, who smiled reassuringly back.

“What happened?” Maimi asked, trying to get up from the futon she lay on. The two Nakazawa girls pushed her back down though.

“I don’t know,” Ai said. “But at least I was able to stop her from making it worse. The way you screamed… it was horrible. That’s the second time now. I think you should stay away from her.”

Maimi stared up at the ceiling as if considering Ai’s words. Ai didn’t believe for a second that she’d listen to her, but she had to try. Remembering the girl’s scream still made her shudder.

While she was thinking, Saki wandered in, still seeming a bit shaken herself. She’d recovered rather quickly from the young girl’s attack, but it was plainly still affecting her. Ai thought she had a fever by how red her face was. She also noticed the girl kept herself tightly under control. She wondered what the reason for that was. Saki always seemed to stay cool as much as possible, but as much effort as she was putting into it now made it so much more obvious she was keeping a tight rein on something. Ai wondered what would happen if she lost control. She glanced back worriedly at Risa again.

“Good, you’re awake,” Saki stated, and came up to Maimi. “Can you move?”

“Yes, I think so,” Maimi said quietly, much in contrast to her usual personality, and tried sitting up again. This time Ai and Risa let her, but still watched her carefully. She seemed fine though.

“Good,” Saki said again. “I’m sorry to push you, but he’s best not kept waiting.”

“Who?” Ai asked, and Saki turned to her.

“Aside from Niigaki and those girls with the Skulls, apparently some other students witnessed what just went on. With us out of commission here, that means it’ll be all over the school by nightfall,” she said, evading the question at first. She gave Ai a very even look as she went on, and Ai swallowed at her seriousness, which seemed a bit more intense than usual. “The Headmaster has summoned us.”
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [12: Hearts of Fire, Hearts of Darkness]
Post by: mode107 on December 22, 2007, 02:29:05 AM
yay, TakaGaki again :nya:.  Geez thanks Maimi for ruining the moment! She's been a bit of a buzz kill lately.

I would have advised Ai on not bringing Risa into the...well I like to say "chamber room" hehe, but looked like Risa took what happened in there pretty well :yep: I almost thought she was going to become a honorary member of the circle there.

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“The Headmaster has summoned us.”

Tsunku,Tsunku,Tsunku!?!
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [12: Hearts of Fire, Hearts of Darkness]
Post by: rndmnwierd on December 22, 2007, 03:35:42 AM
I'm pretty pleased with the fight scene. It's difficult to describe something without actually telling everybody what exactly happened, but you do a damn good job of it. And TakaGaki love.
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [12: Hearts of Fire, Hearts of Darkness]
Post by: JFC on December 22, 2007, 07:26:53 AM
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She turned from the mirror and looked around the rest of the room that was designated as hers in the large structure that composed the private domain of Circle members.

...

It stood in sharp contrast to the mostly wooden buildings around her; especially the modern renovated ones that composed each House. It was the traditional home for the Circle, although Ai wondered if it wasn’t really more of a fortress. In which case, what was it supposed to offer protection from?
Well, there's (the masses of innocent) people that could one day rise up and stand against them when they attempted to exert their authority too far.



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At the moment, she was still trying to reconcile herself to the new things it appeared she could do. If they were meant for some greater purpose, she was going to find it out for herself, despite whatever Maimi and Saki would advocate. Those two girls were young anyway; young and brash. She had to be careful not to just trust and go with whatever path they set themselves on.
Well, it's somewhat relieving to see that Aichan still at least has some sense to NOT allow herself to get swept up in the same doctrine/propaganda that Maimi and Captain have been following.

It still doesn't change what she did or said in the passageway though.



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In reality though, it seemed like only Maimi was the one advocating every route they’d take. Saki was a good restraint to her, but the Goto girl seemed to have little to say herself most of the time, except for a tidbit or two of knowledge when it was called for. Still, beginning with those little bits of knowledge, Ai felt she had reason to believe there was much more that lay beyond the girl’s small, quiet exterior, and really, she was more worried about her than about Maimi.
Good thing she realizes this.  One always should keep an eye on the quiet one, because more often than people realize, THAT person has more power and influence from "behind the scenes", so to speak.  It's not always the one with the biggest mouth that's the puppet-master.



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She heard the door open, but no other sound for the moment. The reflection the mirror gave her was of the wall next to the door, so she couldn’t see at first who came in, but in the next second a girl stepped into its view. “…Ai-chan?”

Ai stared, her hand falling from her hair. Then she turned around and stared again. “What are you doing here?” she asked, beginning to get quite anxious. So much for trying to be in control of a situation.

Risa looked taken aback at her brisk tone. “I…” she began.
Risa...

Wait a sec, if the building Aichan is currently in is meant for Circle members, how did Risa get in? :?



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“I’ve been looking for you. I suppose I should have guessed you would be here. I didn’t think I could get in either, but I had to try and see you…” She took a step or two closer to Ai, who backed up against the mirror. “Yajima-san let me in,” she continued. “She had this strange smile and looked at me like she was amused by something. She’s a strange girl…”
She did? That is strange indeed. Maimi has no real reason to allow Risa inside, especially if she knew she had come to see Aichan...unless of course, deep down inside Maimi's still a bit of a romantic at heart.



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“I wanted to talk about what happened in our room earlier today…” Risa said,

...

When you… you know… kissed me…” She said the last two words much softer than the rest, and with a light blush, obviously uncomfortable with them still.
It's not like they can avoid talking about this, not if they want to keep from making things supremely awkward between each other for the rest of their days at the school (and beyond).



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“It might have been out-of-character for me, but when it happened I realized that it was really what I wanted. My inhibitions were lowered, and I was just able to… well, to kiss you. To show you how I feel.”

“How do you feel?” Risa asked gently, standing up now and walking to close in front of her.
Tell her Aichan...be honest with yourself, so you can be honest with her!  :mon cute:



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Ai kept her eyes on her friend’s. “That you’re the person who’s always been there for me, through everything that’s happened as long as I can remember. Anything I might have had before was really only an affair I couldn’t commit to. I just couldn’t realize what I truly wanted. What I truly wanted… was you.”
Aichan = :luvluv2:



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“Ai-chan…” Risa said, lifting her hand to brush a strand of hair behind Ai’s ear. “You don’t know how long I’ve wanted to hear you say that. I wonder if it’s really true though…”

“It is,” Ai stated firmly, looking hard into Risa’s eyes.
Risa =  :k-inlove:



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Her friend nodded. “I can see you believe that. But I also see there’s something else going on in there.” She rested a finger on Ai’s forehead, and its touch seemed to cause warmth to spread outward from it and all the way down her body. “You’re bothered by something, and it’s not me. To really be what I want… I’d need you to let me in…”
Risa knows that something's been confusing and troubling Aichan, and like any best friend she wants to do what she can to help her make sense out of it all. 



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They broke apart at a cough from the doorway. “I hate to break up this apparent start of something disgustingly beautiful,” Maimi said, and when Ai and Risa looked over at her they noticed her grin. “But our visitor is waking up. Since you’re the one who wanted to ‘talk’, I thought you might like to see her?”
Ok, first possible test here. Is Risa going to ask Aichan what Maimi meant by what she said, and if she does, will Aichan tell her the truth?



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Risa adopted a more serious face. “What’s she talking about, Ai-chan?” she asked. “You have another visitor? I thought you said I was the only other person you’d ever seen come in here.”

“You are the only person I’ve ever seen come in here,” Ai said, as she took Risa’s hand and guided her across the room and out the door as well. “…willingly.”
Whoa...she told her. :shocked:



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“What is she doing here?” Saki asked, looking at Risa plainly as if she thought the girl was someplace she did not belong.

...

“My dear Saki-chan…” Maimi said, raising a hand to pat her friend on the shoulder. “You have to learn to trust a little. Not everyone is a monster.” Saki responded with silence and a very level look.
Maimi's response is rather cryptic, especially considering the whole "Captain might be the werewolf that's been showing up and randomly attacking" thing. 




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“So, our less willing guest finally awakens!” Maimi said, striding over to the chair and the girl seated in it.

Natsuyaki looked up at her groggily. “Yajima-san?” As if at a sudden realization, she jerked back slightly in the chair, but her bounds held her fast.
...

“No point trying to clear your head…” Saki said, coming up on the side of the chair. “The tea I gave you will make you feel sleepy for quite a while yet, so there’s no point trying to use your magic.”
Holy shit, they drugged her? :O

I guess it is a prudent move on their part, since she would probably be able to escape pretty easily if she could use her powers.



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Ai wondered again what had happened to cause Maimi to hate the girl so. Being a Skull was almost validation in itself, but Ai could tell whatever was between those two girls ran much deeper.
Well, there's the whole "Airi" thing, as in she chose Miyabi and rejected Maimi. ;D



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“Ai-chan…” she asked very quietly. “Did you do that?” Ai nodded, and Risa swallowed and looked back at Natsuyaki. “I won’t deny she might have deserved something, but don’t you think you went a little overboard?”

“Nii-chan,” Ai said, taking Risa’s shoulders and turning the girl to face her. She saw her friend looking into her face with a new emotion – one of tightly restrained fear. “You have no idea what this girl has done. What they all are doing. Something is happening to this school, but it’s bigger than the school. I need to know that you’re going to be with me whatever happens. Won’t you?” As if to accentuate her question, a louder peal of thunder cracked outside again. The lightning must be close. Ai gave it no thought though.

Risa looked hard into her eyes, but after a moment she nodded. “Of course I’ll be with you Ai-chan. I know where you stand.”
The problem is here, is that neither Aichan nor Risa know the whole story, or at least, they probably don't know as much as Maimi and Captain know.  Another problem is all the preconceptions/prejudgements that both sides have made about the other, which leads to attitudes such as the ones they're spouting off right now.

The only REAL honest thing here, is TakaGaki. :nya:



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“Ai-chan,” Maimi said, throwing her voice in her direction even though she kept her eyes on the captive girl before her. “I know you have reason to be angry with her too, but can you cut out a bit of that thunder? It’s getting distracting.”

Ai brought her mind back to the room and pulled away from Risa, who smiled reassuringly back at her. Then she fully noticed what was going on around her.

“Maimi…” she said slowly after a slight hesitation. “I’m not angry. Far from it. What’s happening outside isn’t because of me.”

...

Natsuyaki slowly raised her head to Maimi’s face. Despite it all, the girl was grinning, and there was a very dangerous gleam in her eye that almost made even Ai’s breath catch. “They’re coming for me.”
Ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooh boy. :scared:



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As her grin widened, so did Maimi’s eyes, and just as it looked like Maimi was going to deck her with a blow that might even have knocked her and her chair over, she suddenly vanished, the ropes that had bound her falling loose on the chair and on the floor.
Miyabi regain control of her powers, or was it Airi?



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“No!” Maimi cried, though this time it wasn’t punctuated by a dull clap of thunder. This time they heard a sound like an explosion that shook the dust from the rafters of the ceiling. Ai hugged Risa tightly back against her again. The explosion could only mean one thing: the building itself was under attack.

As Maimi and Saki began running for the stairs, she jolted after them as well, dragging Risa with her. Not now! Not while Risa was in here! Her anger became fueled until it was white-hot again. If anything happened to her…
we might be witness to one of the most epic, BRUTAL battles yet. :mon scare:



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Reina stared at the door as if the look itself would cause it to open.

“Maybe we should just knock?” Koharu offered earnestly.

“Yeah that’d work really well,” Reina replied “’We’re sorry, but we think you’ve kidnapped one of our friends. Could you please return her to us?’ I’m sure that’d fly real well, and they’d open the doors right away to welcome us in for chai and cookies.
Sarcastic Reina = Win. :lol:



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I’m trying to get out, but they’re making me sick… they’re horrible…! In case I don’t… Please help me…

Airi felt her eyes look below the door to the ground just in front of it, and suddenly she knew without a doubt that Miyabi was in there.

“She’s there,” she stated, and the other girls looked at her curiously at her quick change of mind.
Oh crap...it's gonna be Airi VS Aichan??? :o



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Risako looked up, and with a completely different expression yelled at her, “You could have at least told us you were going to do that, you know!”

“I would have appreciated that too…” Koharu said, blinking. “I can hardly even see now…”
Ooops. :D



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“What have you done with Miyabi?” Airi asked, and despite her better judgment she advanced on the Circle members slowly. They took defensive postures warily, and coming closer, Airi thought she noticed one of the girls in the shadows pulling the other behind her as if in a protective way.
Oh geez...I hope Airi sees Risa and doesn't lump her in with the other Circle members. :cry:



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“Saki! Teach the little whelp a lesson!”

Then Airi felt her eyes be drawn to Shimizu’s, who looked back at her intently. She heard another, more desperate, warning come from Reina, but already she felt her mind buzz as it was being tampered with.

“No!” she yelled, and raised an arm instinctively toward her mental assailant. Saki’s eyes widened and she fell to the floor.

“Ahhhh!" she wailed, and held her head as if it was on fire. Then Airi realized that was exactly what was happening, and dropped her arm again to her side. Saki still fell completely to the floor though, panting heavily and obviously more than disoriented.
Hooooooooooooooly...:stunned:

If THIS is how powerful Airi is now, imagine what she could/would/will be like when she's mastered her abilities as well as Maimi and Captain have done with theirs.



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Then she raised an arm slowly toward Maimi, who stared at it as if at a viper. Then she screamed. She screamed as if her very soul was being torn from her. It wasn’t her soul though, Airi realized. There was something else… But there was also a connection. A strange union… And then, she felt a different bond… this time toward herself.

“Stop it!” yelled someone from behind Maimi, and she saw Takahashi come into view to try and hold the girl up. “What are you doing to her?!” She glared at Airi, and Airi’s world shattered in deafening sound and almost unbearable pain.
Wait a sec, so who was screaming? Was Airi doing something to Maimi or the other way around?  And what's this about a "bond"??? :dunno:

And what the hell just happened?




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The next thing Airi knew she was lying on the ground,

...

“…Airi?” she heard someone say from beside her, and she turned to the voice.

Almost unable to believe her eyes, she stared at Miyabi, who was kneeling on the ground too, seemingly just in the middle of brushing herself off. “Miya…?” she asked.

“In the flesh,” Miyabi responded, a grin blooming on her face.

“Oh Miya!!!” Airi wailed, and amid the pain she lunged over and hugged the girl’s waist tightly.

...

“Just couldn’t stay away from me, could ya?”

“No,” Airi said earnestly, and Miyabi blinked at her seriousness.
:shy2:



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“I need to ask you something…” Airi said tentatively.

“Shoot,” the girl responded.

Airi looked up into her face. “Are you my girlfriend now?”
MIYABI, SAY YES DAMMIT!!!   :w00t:



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Miyabi blinked, but before she could answer a rustling came from the side and four girls burst into the small clearing they occupied. They both clutched each other tightly at the surprise and for mutual protection, but relaxed when they saw who it was.

“Oh my god!” Reina cried, eyes agog at them. “You two are going at it again!
Jealous, Reina? XD



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What did you do to Yajima and Shimizu?”

Airi stared off into the trees, trying to remember back to those moments. “I’m not sure…” she said. “It felt like my instinct just took over. Shimizu tried to do something to me, and I just wanted to stop her
Perhaps a better way to put it would be to say that her powers took over. It has often been said that abilities such as these will often, at first, manifest themselves when needed during times when the practitioner is still a novice.



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and then… I felt something inside Maimi…”

Miyabi coughed. “Since thinking about anything inside Yajima paints a horrible picture for me, can we just give it a rest for now?
:wahaha:

Potential pervvy jokes aside, could it be that the thing Airi felt is something that has to do with the members of the original Circle?



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Chisato and Risako even turned away in embarrassment, though Airi noticed Risako clench her fists very tightly to her sides as well.
Uh-oh...Socko's got the green-eyed gremlins?



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“To begin with…” Miyabi said, pulling Airi’s face back around to look into hers. “I think you asked me a question, didn’t you? Maybe this will be answer enough…” Then Airi felt the girl’s arms wrap very tightly around her as she kissed her once again, this time ignoring everyone else around. Airi was very self-conscious about the display they were putting on at first, but eventually she got lost in the feeling and just enjoyed the girl’s intimacy with her.
WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! :rockon:



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“Well…” a deep and mature, yet very feminine, voice said. Airi recognized it at once. It recalled a time to her that she felt she wouldn’t forget. “I’m glad to see the Skulls name carried on in such an exciting way.”

Miki Fujimoto smiled at Airi and Miyabi when she talked, and so her meaning was obvious, though the smile faded quickly. “We hoped to get here in time,” she continued. “Although from what we’ve just seen out there, I’m afraid we might have been just a tad too late…”
MIKI-SAMA!!!  :k-thrilled:  Where the hell has she been?

Wait a sec..."we"???



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“You’re lucky girls,” Fujimoto continued. “I didn’t realize what I’d missed in my time here.
Is it just me, or is there a hint of regret what Miki said just now?



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There’s someone who wants to talk to you.” Then, the shadowy form walked slowly up to them.
Hmmmm...another former Skull member?



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“Maimi,” Ai said, wiping a damp cloth along her forehead. “Are you all right?”

“How dare you kiss her… erm… urg…” Maimi mumbled, and then she opened her eyes.
Wow, either Maimi's really holding a major grudge at Miyabi...or she REALLY, GENUINELY has it bad for Airi.



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Saki wandered in, still seeming a bit shaken herself. She’d recovered rather quickly from the young girl’s attack, but it was plainly still affecting her. Ai thought she had a fever by how red her face was.
She's obviously never met anyone who had the ability to whup her the way that Airi did.



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Saki always seemed to stay cool as much as possible, but as much effort as she was putting into it now made it so much more obvious she was keeping a tight rein on something. Ai wondered what would happen if she lost control.
If our previous suspicions are true, then Captain probably has to keep mentally focused to control her werewolf form. The raw, raging fury of a beast like that would be exceedingly difficult to control, particularly if she's having to consciously having to control and suppress it from emerging.



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“I’m sorry to push you, but he’s best not kept waiting.”

“Who?” Ai asked, and Saki turned to her.

“Aside from Niigaki and those girls with the Skulls, apparently some other students witnessed what just went on. With us out of commission here, that means it’ll be all over the school by nightfall,” she said, evading the question at first. She gave Ai a very even look as she went on, and Ai swallowed at her seriousness, which seemed a bit more intense than usual. “The Headmaster has summoned us.”
Oh dear... :mon freeze:

This has got to be Tsunku, right? It's going to be interesting to see exactly how much he knows about what's going on (and more importantly, how much he knows about the special powers that the girls have).
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [12: Hearts of Fire, Hearts of Darkness]
Post by: AmberSan on December 22, 2007, 11:40:44 AM
a great chapter  :w00t:
it realy was some kind of a climax, or rather the beginning of one.. it seems that right now the two sides are more defined after this.. especially after Ai asked Risa to join her and after the relationship between Airi and Miyabi was stated...
i realy like how you portray Ai's character and i look forward to seeing what will happen to her when you continue the story..
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [12: Hearts of Fire, Hearts of Darkness]
Post by: mae-chan on December 22, 2007, 11:53:01 AM
Fantastic new chapter, with fluff and action :D
Hooray for TakaGaki!  :wub:
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [12: Hearts of Fire, Hearts of Darkness]
Post by: g4rfield on December 22, 2007, 05:15:37 PM
This is a great chapter. Make even better with the pairings finally making it official. TakaGaki and MiyaAiri  :heart: :heart: I still believe that eventually Ai-chan would see that the Skulls is not all that bad and will eventually join forces with them since at this moment, Saki and Maimi seem to be the ones loosing control over their powers. Maimi, I think maybe because Airi choose Miya and she might not realize it yet but what she thought was a challenge has in turn made her fall in love and so now she's bitter from losing and in denial about it. Saki....I don't know what she's trying to keep reign at. The werewolf inside of her?

I was awwwwing when Ai-chan finally admit that she wants Risa, but....does she need her? And Miya, dear Miya who finally get herself a very powerful girlfriend. I like these scenes and of course I have a few questions, such as, what makes Airi to be able to beat even the Circle members? She' so powerful and yet she doesn't realize it yet. Is she the Hearts of Fire and Maimi the Hearts of Darkness? What kind of connection toward Maimi that Airi feels. I hope the arrival of Fujimoto will help make this clearer next chapter and of course the much shorter shadow...mmmm Yaguchi?

So, the headmaster has summoned the Circle members. Does he now about what's going on, if so, could it be that he wanted the girls to erase the witnesses's memory? ooohh so many questions.
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [12: Hearts of Fire, Hearts of Darkness]
Post by: Loser87 on December 22, 2007, 05:50:07 PM
Oh, man...There's major props going to this chapter o(=w=)o
That was intense, I lol at Ai-chan's reasoning of being a witch like Harry Potter

But the fight scene was like..killer..it was just woah...
So far, Risa and Ai-chan is having major lovin' and there's is the more 'simpler' for now relationship.

Miya's and Airi's is...getting complicated with many complications already no?
I mean Maimi's still holding a grudge against Miya for most likely taking Airi away from her..And from that brief mentioning of Risako clenching a fist..She's jealous of Airi (I'm guessing) since in the previous chapter she was gushing at how miya was one of the most dangerous and 'sexy' girls in the school lol..

Saki, I reaaaalllllyyy hope you'll dedicate one chapter that'll explain her character's past, present, and possible future in full detail so we can get a hold of what she's really about instead of taking blind guesses lol..I mean her character in my opinion is the most intriguing with all that mysterious and dark silence she's got going on..

Anyway another awesome read Rokun, Update some more~!!!!
And Update Berry Beautiful too you bum! lol, but seriously update I'm itchin' for another good read from one of your stories o(=w=)b
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [13: Heirs Apparent]
Post by: rokun on December 31, 2007, 06:19:36 AM
It's too late to respond to comments... >_< gomen. I swear I'll say more after this. Maybe I'll do two chapters' worth at once. :) This is long, so once again, I advise to take breaks if you need to at the breaks between parts. ^_^


Chapter 13 – Heirs Apparent

“All right,” Reina said, settling into what was apparently her favorite chair in the small House Nakazawa lounge. “Are you going to tell us exactly who you are now?”

Airi wasn’t exactly thrilled to come back to this place, but Fujimoto and this new woman wanted somewhere they could relax and talk without much worry of interruption. Still, Airi thought that if there had been any other place within walking distance, they would have gone there instead.

All eight girls upon approaching Nakazawa noticed other students whispering and pointing at them more than they ever had been before. Skulls walking around at any time gained the attention of most who were near – the smart ones at least – but now everyone seemed to look at them with a different type of fear as they gossiped among each other and stayed cautiously away.

The younger girls of their little party, including Airi, were a little self-conscious at the not-so-welcome attention. Airi for one even began to get upset. She worried about her reputation from the minute she was told she had joined the Skulls, and then again when she thought she was dating Miyabi, but after the events of today it didn’t seem likely many of the other students would ever talk to her again. Even some of the girls she now walked with seemed to shy away from her. Koharu was the most visible, along with Risako for some reason – that made her saddest – but she caught Chisato looking askance at her from time to time as well. Not to mention Reina’s considering looks, although she looked more curious than afraid.

Miyabi was the only one who didn’t seem to treat her any differently. Well, that wasn’t technically true. As they walked they held hands, and this after they’d just made out in front of the entire group. That was most definitely something new, but still, instead of seeming uncomfortable being around her like the others, Miyabi had apparently done the opposite – become much more comfortable. That was a change Airi could live with.

Now after having settled in at the lounge, Miyabi held an arm around her as they reclined on a loveseat, both their legs on top of it and curled underneath them. Airi smiled dreamily up at the girl, who kept her face forward as she studied the two older women who had led them back here. It was a change she most definitely could live with.

“Hello everyone!” the short lady said in a perky voice. “I’m Mari Yaguchi! You can call me Mari, or Marippe if you like.” She was dressed in nice-looking black pants with a red shirt and white vest atop it that looked like it could be wool.

“Mari Yaguchi?” Airi asked, the name ringing a bell to her. She felt Miyabi’s eyes turn to her, and noticed she drew the gazes of the other girls as well.

Fujimoto blinked. “Do you know her, umm… what was your name again?”

“My name is Airi,” she said, giving Fujimoto a dirty look. She felt Miyabi’s arm tighten around her momentarily.

“You can call her whatever though,” her girlfriend said with a grin. “Airi, Aiko, Aika…”

“Not Aika,” Airi stated, poking the older girl in the side. “That’s the name of one of my friends, so I’m not going to respond to it!”

Miyabi frowned at her. “You have friends?” This time Airi pinched her. Hard.

“Let us just postpone our incredibly important meeting so you two can have your little lovers’ quarrel…” Fujimoto said in a very amused voice, smirking at them. Airi blushed in embarrassment, but Miyabi only seemed to tighten her protective grip on her.

Looking back at the two women, Airi noticed that Mari was smiling at her, and apparently had been quietly watching her the entire time. “I’m glad to see such a bond between you two…” she said warmly. Then she looked over at Reina, who reclined in her chair, seemingly bored. “I wish I could say the same for your leader.”

“Hey,” Reina responded, still not looking at the woman. “Don’t look at me if those two are putting the Skulls’ name to shame. I’m only their Captain; I’m not responsible for whose skirts they chase.” She lowered her eyes to look hard at Miyabi and Airi, who blushed again. The girl just had no sense of propriety! “…or whose they don’t,” she finished.

“Airi,” Mari said in that warm voice, drawing her attention back to her. “You said my name like it meant something to you. Does it?” The girl’s attitude made Airi feel at ease and quite willing to answer her questions.

“Yes…” she responded, remembering precisely where she knew it from. She knew it from a book. And not just any book. That name was in the book whose text changed to red and that the Circle took away from her.

“A girl named Mari Yaguchi was one of the members of the first Trinity.” Mari seemed to understand her, but as she stared at the other girls Airi realized their faces reflected quite a lack of comprehension, so she elaborated. “…the first Circle.”

She heard Reina sigh. “You just have to continue being a disgrace…” she told the ceiling, since she now lay across the chair, her head on one of its arms and legs dangling over the other. “I’m sorry Mikitty, I think we have a nerd in the Skulls now.”

Fujimoto glanced over at her with raised eyebrows before saying quietly, “Somehow I think we’ll be able to survive.” Then she brought her attention back to Mari, with a quick glance to Airi as her eyes swept past her.

“Good girl,” Mari praised Airi, clapping her hands together and smiling. Airi wondered where she got her energy from. It was quite different from the lackadaisical attitude she knew from Reina and Fujimoto, the other leaders of the Skulls she had met. “You’re right. You could say she’s an… ancestor of mine.”

“Someone from your family was in the Circle?” Miyabi asked cautiously, making sure once again she held Airi protectively enough.

Honestly, Airi thought. If it came to that, she felt she could protect herself quite well enough without assistance from the great Miyabi Natsuyaki. The girl might be her significant other now, but that didn’t mean she was also her bodyguard. So what if she was two years older than her…

Airi felt a strange tingling at that thought. Truthfully, she was a little nervous about that fact. Together with what she knew about her years as a Skull, as well as how good a kisser she seemed to be, it made Airi wonder just how much experience with a variety of things her new girlfriend might already have had.

“Yes,” Mari said simply in response to Miyabi’s question. Noticing the tenseness that now spread around the room among a company that likely thought less of anyone who was connected with the Circle than any other students, she began walking around to all of them, smiling as she went. Chisato and Risako blushed, seeming unsure if they wanted this woman’s attention on themselves, Risako still wondering if she should even be here at all to begin with.

When she stood smiling in front of Miyabi and Airi, she spoke up again. “My ancestor was in the first Circle…” she began, the warmth slowly fading from her voice as she tried to inflect it so that everyone knew what she had to say was important. “However, she was frightened of the power she received; of what seemed to be expected of her and her newfound friends, the other members of that Trinity. She held her post for as long as she was at Seishin, but after leaving…” She smiled again, a gleam in her eye.

“She knew more than probably anyone else has about her power and what lay behind it, except perhaps the other girls of her Circle. When she left Seishin, she kept influence in the school and began to recruit girls for another purpose, one much different than that of the Trinity. To these girls she gave the name of Skulls.”



“Can one of you explain to me what just happened out by the building that was given to you?”

The Headmaster asked his softly spoken question as the three Circle members stood quietly before him. Maimi and Saki both had their heads bowed, while Ai looked on. She wasn’t used to audiences with the Headmaster, so she didn’t really know the protocol. She wondered why the other two showed such deference though, and felt an urge not to do so herself for some reason.

“There are other students with abilities similar to ours, Headmaster Tsunku,” Saki said finally. “Twice now we’ve confronted them, with neither side gaining an advantage. And…” She looked up into his face. “We also found a book.”

“Oh?” he asked, leaning over his desk and steepling his fingers in front of his face. Even though Ai hadn’t seen him often, he was definitely an intimidating figure. Although, part of that had to do with his “office”.

Set in an old building that might have been the oldest there aside from the Circle’s, the Headmaster’s quarters covered most of its second floor. The first floor mainly held administrative offices in rooms that looked to be old classrooms. Strangely, those were vacant when the three Circle members passed through them on their way here.

The heavy stone star set into the building above the door was the subject of much discussion among the students, and Ai almost stared in wonder at seeing the other side of it as the light of the fading day fell onto the Headmaster through the thick glass within it. The sun shone as a sliver near its upper edge. In a few minutes it would be shining straight through into the office.

The three girls exchanged looks at the Headmaster’s raised eyebrow, and Maimi pulled the old book out from within her vest, offering it to him. He took it, but barely gave it a glance before setting it down on his desk. Maimi opened her mouth as if taken aback by his disregard of something that seemed so important to them, but he forestalled her.

“So you’ve discovered your heritage and the prophecy,” he stated. All three girls stared at him, and Ai almost spoke up now too, but in quickly fueled anger and frustration. Did he know about that all this time?

He rose from his desk and, folding his hands behind his back, walked over to the star window. “I couldn’t have imagined this would happen in my lifetime…” he said, as if pondering to himself. “So the Third Age is related to the Western calendar which we’ve just recently adopted… I wouldn’t have guessed, yet they obviously foresaw well. That should teach me once again not to second-guess Maki Goto’s declarations. When the sky went red this morning I wondered, but I thought it couldn’t be. What I’ve heard since though has changed my opinion on matters.”

He turned back to the three Circle members, who all still stared at him in wonder. “You’re very lucky girls. There have been many of far greater renown than you who could not fulfill the prophecy. Still, I knew that your confidence, as well as your youth, signified something special.”

He smiled as Ai felt suddenly inadequate after his mention of youth. He must have just meant the other two girls – they came to their posts as two of the youngest Circle members ever, while Ai was one of the eldest. He didn’t seem to exclude her though.

“Still…” he continued, drawing her eyes as he looked her direction. “I think I might have been mistaken in some ways about what I saw as unique.” For some reason, his words made her feel better.

“Headmaster Tsunku…” she said, speaking up for the first time. She had to swallow in order to keep her throat from being too dry. His piercing gaze seemed to look deeply in her as he gave a small smile. He apparently had expected her to address him. Now that she’d broken the ice, she felt a strong need to put to voice what had been troubling her. “Is it true? Are we supposed to rule… the world?”

The smile didn’t fade, but he stepped into the center of the star. The sun was now glowing around the inner point one of its spokes. It appeared it would be quite brilliant when it finally shone through its center. “That was the desire of the Three,” he responded mysteriously. “People need to be shown the way, and that way is best shown by those who are very wise. However, you three are not yet wise. There is still one final test you must pass.”

Then, the Headmaster threw his arms up and out to his sides as the sun came fully into the center of the star, outlining him as if he glowed of his own accord. At the moment though, the Headmaster’s new glowing personality was the least of the concerns of Ai, since when the sudden rays of the sun hit her from around the Headmaster, they reacted violently with the power that lay dormant within her body, and she fell to the floor screaming as if all of her cells and molecules were being rearranged.

At the outer edges of her consciousness she heard Saki and Maimi experiencing apparently similar reactions, at least by the sounds of their own screams, but she was barely in control of her own body as it continued what seemed like its internal war.

It was pain like she could never have imagined. It was also bliss, which after a moment she recognized as the joy of an inexplicable joining with another being. The only thing she could relate it to was the wonderful sense of sharing she felt in her sexual experiences with Mikitty, yet this was a far greater and purer form of ecstasy.

It was pure, yet at the same time more corrupt than the lowest acts she’d been a part to. It wasn’t communion with an outside individual as with lovemaking, but it was harmony with a being that was already inside her that she hadn’t recognized yet knew had existed there for some time. She suddenly realized it had existed within her since she was inducted into the Circle of Three.

After the torment and rapture that seemed as if it would be endless finally ceased, she felt the union complete, and she rose back to her feet, more fully in control of herself than ever before; more fully in control of the power that lay within her. It glowed inside her, like a beacon waiting to be directed to its use. She marveled at the strength she felt. She realized that until now she’d been nothing but a vessel, the means of transport of something much greater than herself. Now that greatness was her. Now she was a goddess.

After she rose though, she convulsed, and felt her body arch forward, the power within her released at the Headmaster and at the star he stood before. She saw two similar beams come from beside her, but then closed her eyes at the brilliance of the light that seemed as if it was battling that from the sun which still shone on them.

The Headmaster spun and flung his arms forward toward the window and the slowly setting sun. He directed the beams of power that assaulted him out through the star to where they disappeared into the distance. Ai reveled in the release of her power until it was suddenly cut off, and she fell once again to her knees. The sun no longer shone on them, and out the window there was only what appeared to be a grey mist, giving the late afternoon the air of twilight. She felt herself return to normal, although she still felt the power within her, lying just within reach in case it needed called upon once more.

Breathing heavily, she looked around her. Maimi stared back at her wide-eyed, on the floor and breathing heavily as well. Saki seemed to suffer the same as them, but she just stared at the floor as if lost in her own world. Then Ai looked up toward the Headmaster.

He turned from the window and looked at them. His eyes shined with exertion, but also with pride and fulfillment. “How honored I am to be able to witness this day…” he said. “The Three have returned, and I have been granted the privilege of being the one to serve.” He walked around his desk and fell to his knees, bowing to them. “My life,” he began, “is yours to command, Great Ones.”

Ai exchanged another wide-eyed look with Maimi, and then she felt waves in her mind as if memories were crashing into it, memories of another very long life. After the onslaught of the memories, and when the ache in her head subsided, she rose and looked down at the Headmaster.

“There’s no need for that,” she said. “You’ve been a great help, haven’t you?” She looked out the star window into the twilit sky. “What did you do? What happened out there?”

“It is a shield, Great One,” he responded, raising his head slightly to look up at her. “The school is now yours in order to develop your army.”

“Army?” Maimi asked, stepping toward him with a frown. “What are you talking about?”

“In order to establish your rule,” he explained, looking between them as if they weren’t understanding something. “While the shield is intact, nothing can enter or leave school grounds until you see fit. It is your base of operations.”

“Are you saying…” Ai said in disbelief, “that we’re supposed to make an army of the students?”

“I…” he began, as if suddenly realizing what a ridiculous notion that was. “I believe so. That’s why you began this school, to train your army for the day you would rise again.”

Despite herself, Ai laughed. “Have you even seen the students that are at this school now? They’re barely awkward children, much less an army. How are we supposed to make them one?” The idea itself seemed ludicrous. Although, she supposed if they were going to take over the world they would need an army. For some reason, she now thought she knew how to train one too.

“I don’t know, Great Ones,” he admitted quietly, bowing his head again. “On the path of your wisdom we trod.”

“You’re a great one for sayings, you know that?” Maimi said, still frowning. “Who are you anyway?”

“I am descended from your servants in ages past. I carry the knowledge of the school, as did all Headmasters before me, in order to support you on your return.”

“You keep talking about our return,” Ai said, trying to think logically about her current very unusual situation. She felt the power flicker within her, teasing her. Despite all the new sensations and cluttered memories that had suddenly assaulted her she was still Ai Takahashi, just… seemingly with more at her disposal. “What does that mean?”

He looked back up to them. “The Great Ones – Nakazawa, Matsuura and Goto – have been reborn within you. They could not fulfill their destiny within their lifetimes, so their souls have waited through the ages until those who they were reborn into could come to this school and regain their powers… as members of the Trinity. You three have been born as goddesses, and can now present yourselves to the world once more.”

“Who’s to say these… Great Ones… were goddesses?” Ai asked, raising a skeptical eyebrow. Despite her nonchalant attitude, the idea struck a hard chord within her. Was what she’d imagined all this time actually the truth?

“It is not my place to doubt,” he said, lowering his head again.

“It is not your place for many things…” came a voice from beyond Maimi. It was Saki, speaking for the first time since whatever happened to them. Ai blinked. What had the girl been doing? She hadn’t even noticed her presence. “Including this.”

Shadows coalesced in front of her before jumping out at the headmaster and seeming to vanish into him. He suddenly went rigid, and his eyes bulged out. He screamed, and as he did Saki stepped forward, a knife flashing in her hand as if it were a claw, and it swept across his throat causing him to gurgle and fall onto his side, twitching as he tried to catch breath that wouldn’t come. Ai gaped at Saki as the small girl stared at the fallen Headmaster, yet oddly, it appeared, through him, her own face dark and somewhat obscured by shadow.

“Why…?” Ai asked, unable to form any more words. She’d just seen the Head of House Goto murder the Headmaster of Seishin!

Instead of a response from Saki, she heard Maimi chuckle. “See Ai-chan? This is why it’s a bad idea to get on Saki-chan’s bad side. Still…” She frowned over at Saki. “He might have been able to help us. I know I don’t know what’s going on out there.”

“I do,” Saki responded in a low voice, and she stepped toward the star to look into the night that now surrounded them, her eyes seeming once more to look far beyond the shroud of twilight. “And Ai-chan does too.”

She turned back toward Maimi, who now looked quite offended that she was apparently being excluded from something. Ai couldn’t imagine what; she was sure she didn’t know any more of what the girl was talking about than Maimi did. “You were always the temperamental one,” Saki continued, with a small but wicked grin twisting the corner of her mouth. “If you thought a bit more before you acted, maybe you’d actually learn some things.”

Maimi jumped at her in anger, but Ai jumped just as quickly to hold her back. “Let me go!” she demanded.

“Weren’t you the one that just said not to get on Saki-chan’s bad side?” Ai said with a grin as she struggled to contain the feisty girl.

“Fine,” she retorted. She turned around to Ai. “Care to tell me what’s going on then?”

Ai glanced outside too, where she now began to hear screaming and yelling of confused panicking students. She basically ignored the Headmaster, who lay on the floor as his life bled out of him. She hadn’t liked to see it happen, but there was nothing she could do about it now. Now, the three of them were truly the heads of Seishin. “It’s time to build our army.”



“Something’s different,” Miyabi said suddenly, looking toward the wall as if it were a window to the outside. Airi supposed it was the best she could do, since after all this room had no actual windows.

Mari had been explaining to them the history of the Skulls, which seemed to bore most of the girls in the room. Risako and Koharu in fact seemed about to nod off, while Reina’s eyes had been closed for the last several minutes as she breathed evenly in apparent slumber. Mari just went on in that perky way of hers throughout it all, as if not paying any attention to what was actually going on around her.

She cut off and blinked though when Miyabi suddenly interrupted her, her eyes following Miyabi’s to the wall. “What?” she asked. “Is something coming through the wall?” The wall stood quiet and very white before their eager stares.

“No…” Airi said, suddenly noticing something as well. She didn’t look at the wall though. Instead, she looked up toward the ceiling.

 Mari now stared at the two of them with narrowed eyes, apparently catching onto the fact that her two wonder girls noticed something that the rest couldn’t, and as such was likely important.

Reina opened an eye and cast it over at them. Catching a glance at the girl, Airi thought once again about how that eye creeped her out. It definitely did not move naturally within its socket! Then, she quickly pulled her legs down from the chair’s arm and sat on the edge of its seat. “What’s going on?” she asked.

“The Sun,” Airi said. “It disappeared.” She blushed as she felt the eyes of every other girl in the room focus on her after the colossal pronouncement. Risako, wide awake suddenly, looked at her very cautiously.

Miyabi frowned over at Airi before detaching herself from her and rising from the couch. Airi felt suddenly cold when the girl released her; they’d been snuggled together for so long she had gotten quite warm and comfortable. Why did the girl have to leave?

“There’s some kind of power…” Miyabi said. “I’ve never felt anything like it before. I think we should go outside.”

Then she headed for the door. Airi jumped up to follow closely behind her, with the other girls trailing behind. Mari looked quite interested in what the two of them were leading them toward.

Walking through the halls they noticed a flurry of activity, and for once the student or two they spotted around a corner didn’t seem to give them any notice at all. Eventually they made it outside.

“Damn, Yaguchi,” Miki said, looking up into the inky darkness. “How long did you lecture us for?” She looked at her watch, and shook it as if it wasn’t working right.

Risako pulled her cell phone out and checked it as it lit up in front of her face. “It’s four o’clock…” she said, looking back nervously to the sky.

Many of the Nakazawa girls stood outside too, most in small clusters, as they pointed up at the sky in surprise as well as burgeoning fear. A few now started looking sideways over at the group of Skulls, and one of the clusters even started walking toward them. Airi thought nothing of it though until she noticed their eyes were fixed on the eight of them. They stopped while they were still a few paces away, looking at each other nervously as if no one wanted to speak up first. Finally one fairly short-haired girl, a few years older than Airi, stepped forward and pointed at them.

“What did you do now?!” she demanded. “We know you attacked the Circle earlier. You have some crazy witchy powers or something! You even made that eclipse!” When mentioning the eclipse she pointed only at Airi, who shrunk into Miyabi’s side, clinging to her arm and not happy about the attention. “Now the whole sky is gone and… well…” She looked to her friends for support, and they nodded. One of her friends had long, pretty hair, and the other two Airi thought were foreign exchange students. “It has to be your fault!”

“Now Kamei…” Fujimoto said, stepping forward with an almost seductive smile. The girl who’d spoken up stepped back quickly into the protective shelter of her friends as if the smile came from a viper, and not a recently graduated member of her own house. The long-haired girl held her arm similar to how Airi held onto Miyabi’s. Airi thought about that a second. Was that how she looked? That pathetic and helpless? Bravely, she let go of Miyabi’s arm and took a step away. Unfortunately, no sooner had she let go than Miyabi pulled her back protectively.

“Honestly!” she cried out suddenly. Miyabi’s head turned to her and she blinked. The other girls gave her odd looks as well – especially Fujimoto, who shot her a glare as if this was business she should stay out of.

Airi realized she’d spoken before she thought again, but she would not blush and cower away this time. This time she would be strong. She waggled a finger at Miyabi. “You!” she commanded in a no-nonsense voice. Miyabi blinked again and adopted a wary expression. “You may be my girlfriend now, but that doesn’t mean you have to protect me all the time! Just because you’re older doesn’t mean I’m helpless. Would you really want to be going out with a helpless girl in the first place? No you wouldn’t, and you know you aren’t. So act like it!”

Reina giggled and elbowed Koharu, who was standing next to her. “Miyakko’s being scolded,” she said in a low but very amused voice.

“And you!” Airi said, pointing at the captain. Reina suddenly adopted an expression of innocence and disinterest. Even though she pointed at her, Airi realized she really had nothing to say to the girl, so she turned to the group of Nakazawas that stood, now cowering, in front of Fujimoto, who was rapidly becoming amused herself.

“And you!” she said, pointing at them now. She narrowed her eyes. “Who are you, anyway?”

The girls exchanged looks. “Um… I’m Eri…” the brave one said, as if afraid what would happen if she didn’t respond. “Eri Kamei.”

“I’m Sayumi Michishige,” the long-haired one said in a high-pitched voice. Airi tilted her head. That one was actually quite pretty. Then she reeled at a hard elbow in the ribs from Miyabi.

As she rubbed it, giving her girlfriend a nasty glare, the other two introduced themselves hesitantly.

“I’m Li Chun,” one of the exchange students said in slightly broken language.

“Qian Lin,” the other announced. Airi mouthed that one’s name, wondering if she could pronounce it.

“Now that we’ve got that out of the way…” Fujimoto said with a grin still. She turned back to the Nakazawa girls. “So you think we did this, huh?”

Before they could respond though, a voice came on the loudspeaker above the door. They could hear it echoing from the ones inside the building as well. “Attention House Nakazawa!” It was Takahashi. Everyone standing outside looked around at each other in puzzlement. “How is everyone doing?”

Airi glowered at the cheery-sounding voice, partly because of their sudden darkening situation, but also because the last time she’d run into the girl, she’d thrown her into a forest with a lightning bolt.

“I and the other Heads of Seishin would like to make the announcement that until further notice, all classes and club meetings have been cancelled. We want you to all get a wonderful nights rest, and be up bright and early in the morning! You won’t see the sun, so be sure to set your alarms! There will be an all-school assembly at eight in the central dining hall. Please wear comfortable clothes; seifuku is not required. Good night everyone!”

When she signed off Airi looked around at her friends and the other Skulls, who shared dark looks. “Someone seems to know what’s going on,” Miyabi said.

“Classes are cancelled?” The girl’s words had finally sunk into Airi. “But my literature assignment is due on Monday! Wait… I haven’t started on it yet because of the research I was doing on the Skulls…”

“You’re really strange, you know that?” Reina told her, her face contorted as if she couldn't fathom Airi's quirks one bit.

“I may be…” Airi said meekly.

“Do you all still think we’re the ones who caused this?” Reina asked, changing tack and looking over toward the older Nakazawa girls.

“…Didn’t you?” the Michishige girl asked.

“No we didn’t!” Miyabi growled, apparently willing to dispense with politeness since these girls were not of her House. Or maybe it was just because of Airi’s furtive looks toward Michishige.

“It’s all around us…” Airi said, her attention diverted from her companions as she noticed something. Everyone else stared at her again. This time she ignored them though. The Nakazawa girls gave her curious looks. She was one of the youngest of their group, but all the rest looked at her attentively as if what she had to say actually mattered.

“What are you saying, Airi?” Mari asked. Even though none of the other girls knew who she was, she was clearly the eldest, even though she was so small, and her interest in Airi was the most striking of all.

“It’s magic,” Airi responded. She squinted up into the darkness at what looked like distant threads of some ethereal fabric. “It’s hiding the Sun and everything else around us.” She looked down over the tops of the trees. “It goes all the way to the ground… just past the forest.”

“What are you saying?” Chisato asked fearfully. “It’s covering us?”

Airi nodded. “And keeping us in.”

“Umm…” Li Chun said, looking over at Airi. Apparently seeing such a young girl talk about something like this wasn’t unusual to her for some reason. “I did not understand all you said…” she said slowly. “But we cannot leave? Who would do this?”

“I have a very good idea of who…” Miyabi said, glowering. Airi noticed she looked in the direction of the Circle’s building, the view of which was blocked by trees and half of House Nakazawa from their present position. Airi reached out and took her hand, squeezing it softly. Miyabi had told her a little of what went on when she was captive, and it made her anger flare higher at the three girls who resided there.

“The question is why,” Reina said, looking comfortingly toward Miyabi too. Despite her seeming intentions, Airi didn’t like that look at all. It appeared far too intimate for her liking. Whatever the two of them might have done together was something Miyabi had not told her so far.

“I think I can answer that,” Mari said, looking around at all of them. “The three founders of this school thought that with their divine blood they should be influential, that people should bow to them. People did for a while until a Queen betrayed them.”

Her audience stared woodenly at her. “Come on guys,” she said, frowning at them. “Weren’t any of you listening earlier?”

“No,” Reina said plainly.

Mari sighed. “Anyway, the point is, despite their apparent good intentions their rule would have been a cruel one. That led to their downfall, but before they died Maki Goto made a prophecy that they would rise again – that prophecy from your book, Airi.” Airi swallowed. Hearing it all spelled out made it seem somehow all the more real to her.

Mari went on. “I think their heirs have taken the reins of Seishin.” Her gaze pierced each girl in her audience, even the Nakazawa girls. “If they still want to rule, we are in a good deal of trouble, and you three are the only ones that can stop them.” She looked at Reina, Miyabi and Airi in turn as she spoke.

“That shouldn’t be a problem,” Airi said. “I nearly knocked two of them unconscious already.” This time she heard gasps from the Nakazawas, and she looked hard over at them. “They were hurting Miyabi.” The four girls looked at each other as if not so sure that was necessarily a bad thing.

“Um… Airi…” Miyabi whispered into her ear. “I don’t know if that’ll help much. “I kinda, er, welcomed that Qi… Qya... whatever girl to Japan and to the school. I’m not sure if she likes me very much. I had a run-in with Michishige too.”

“But she’s too pretty!” Airi cried, aghast. Miyabi narrowed her eyes at her again, causing her to snap her mouth shut tightly.

“Excuse me…” the Chinese girl Miyabi had assaulted said, looking angrily at her. The effect was somewhat lost though in the brisk high-pitched voice she used. “If you cannot pronounce my name, you can call me Lin Lin. That is what my friends call me.”

“Lin Lin?” Reina asked. “Isn’t that a panda?” Lin Lin blushed.

“So…” Kamei said, looking nervously from Lin Lin to Airi and the other Skulls. “If you’re right, then Ai-chan and the others are bad people. Why should we believe you? You beat everyone up all the time…” Wide-eyed as she spoke, she looked positively terrified at the very thought. Michishige though, at Kamei’s side, smiled over at Airi. Airi at least hadn’t proven she had bad intentions yet. In return, Airi smiled back wistfully.

“If you don’t stop gawking at that girl who is way too old for you, I swear I’ll beat her up again…” Miyabi growled into her ear. Airi’s smile vanished quicker than Miyabi did when she showed her one of the little “tricks” she could do, and she felt Miyabi’s arm snake around her waist and pull her tightly against her side. Airi squeaked. Very tightly.

“I would say…” Reina said, appearing deep in thought, her finger tapping against her teeth. “If you don’t believe us now, go to the assembly tomorrow morning and then decide. We won’t be there, so you can come find us afterward if they weren’t entirely convincing to you.”

Airi yawned, carefully avoiding looking toward the Nakazawa girls. Tomorrow sounded like it would be a long day.



“Do you think they’ll come to the assembly?” Ai asked.

Maimi paced around the room, hands held behind her back as she thought. Did the girl ever relax? Saki stared up at her with a bored expression. “Of course not,” she said, not breaking her stride. “But all the best that they don’t. By the time it’s over they’ll find the whole school against them. I’d like to see what they think their pathetic powers could do against that.”

“Remember,” Saki pointed out, still appearing bored. “The youngest one of them almost ripped your soul apart with her pathetic power.” That finally caused Maimi to stop and glower at her.

The smallest girl had finally come out of what seemed like almost a trance she’d been in since killing the Headmaster. She told them she just had a harder time adjusting to the new way her powers worked within her than they did, but Ai thought she knew better. The girl wasn’t that weak. Strangely, she thought she caught glances from her occasionally too that promised she’d explain it all whenever they could manage to be alone.

“That was nothing,” Maimi said, waving a hand dismissively. “We’re too strong now to let that happen again.”

“If you say so,” Saki said, and she curled up into her comfortable chair. It was a large chair, and combined with Saki’s size and flexibility, it appeared to Ai she could nestle her whole body in there where someone else would only be able to sit. Ai tilted her head. Well, maybe she could do that too. It was a large chair, and she wasn’t that much bigger than Saki. Maimi definitely wouldn’t be able to though.

“Well,” Maimi said, resuming her pacing. “One way or another we’ll find out after the assembly.”

“An assembly…” Ai said, looking down at her fingernails, checking them for smoothness. “That’s very quaint, isn’t it? You do know we’re trying to take over the world?”

“You’re the one who suggested it,” Maimi grumbled.

“That’s right…” Ai responded with a sigh. That was true; she thought it was too late to bring the girls together tonight, that they had to take time to get used to their new surroundings. However, the way she looked at things seemed to be slowly changing with every minute that ticked by.

“You know what?” she said. “I’m going to go find Nii-chan. I’m sure she’ll find all of this fascinating.” She walked toward the door, but looked back just before she got there. “You two have fun now,” she said with a grin. She had no idea if the two of them had ever done anything, but she had suspicions ever since she met them since the two seemed to be together all the time.

Seeing the look of disgust on Maimi’s face as she gave Saki a glance, she thought she might be wrong. In any case, the two of them were definitely strange, despite the just as strange affinity she’d developed for them as the night went on. It seemed to be the strongest with Saki for some reason, although she didn’t mind that at all. Except for the small facts that the girl positively terrified her sometimes, and had just murdered their Headmaster.

Oh well… she thought. It wasn’t her fault she was the only one who had someone to go to at night. Stepping down the stairs from the large bedroom on the second floor of the Circle’s building, she smiled. None of it would matter anyway come tomorrow. Then everyone would see how things stood… even the too-cheeky Head of House Matsuura.
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [13: Heirs Apparent]
Post by: rndmnwierd on December 31, 2007, 07:25:14 AM
Fascinating as always rokun. I really had a few giggles in this chapter as well, especially at Airi and her thoughts on Sayumi. But, what I really wonder about is how Risa will react when she finds out. Will she be able to recalibrate Ai's moral compass? God I hope so.
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [13: Heirs Apparent]
Post by: JFC on January 01, 2008, 12:51:46 AM
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The younger girls of their little party, including Airi, were a little self-conscious at the not-so-welcome attention. Airi for one even began to get upset. She worried about her reputation from the minute she was told she had joined the Skulls, and then again when she thought she was dating Miyabi, but after the events of today it didn’t seem likely many of the other students would ever talk to her again. Even some of the girls she now walked with seemed to shy away from her. Koharu was the most visible, along with Risako for some reason – that made her saddest – but she caught Chisato looking askance at her from time to time as well. Not to mention Reina’s considering looks, although she looked more curious than afraid.
Well, it's not like they can help it. It's simply human nature to react and pay a bit more attention when things like this happen (especially when they are unexpected as they were here).  They don't do it out of spite, they do it because they're just trying to make sense out of it.



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Miyabi was the only one who didn’t seem to treat her any differently. Well, that wasn’t technically true. As they walked they held hands, and this after they’d just made out in front of the entire group. That was most definitely something new, but still, instead of seeming uncomfortable being around her like the others, Miyabi had apparently done the opposite – become much more comfortable. That was a change Airi could live with.
Awwww... :oops:



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“Hello everyone!” the short lady said in a perky voice. “I’m Mari Yaguchi! You can call me Mari, or Marippe if you like.” She was dressed in nice-looking black pants with a red shirt and white vest atop it that looked like it could be wool.

“Mari Yaguchi?” Airi asked, the name ringing a bell to her. She felt Miyabi’s eyes turn to her, and noticed she drew the gazes of the other girls as well.
So...the new girl that showed up with Miki is Mari?  How does she fit into all of this?  Was she a Skull before?

And Airi knows her? I wonder how? :?



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“A girl named Mari Yaguchi was one of the members of the first Trinity.” Mari seemed to understand her, but as she stared at the other girls Airi realized their faces reflected quite a lack of comprehension, so she elaborated. “…the first Circle.”

...

“Good girl,” Mari praised Airi, clapping her hands together and smiling. Airi wondered where she got her energy from. It was quite different from the lackadaisical attitude she knew from Reina and Fujimoto, the other leaders of the Skulls she had met. “You’re right. You could say she’s an… ancestor of mine.”
And just how much of an ancestor are we talking about here? Direct descendant?  If so...have any of the original Mari's abilities been passed onto this one?

Also, how did Miki know/find out about her?



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Airi felt a strange tingling at that thought. Truthfully, she was a little nervous about that fact. Together with what she knew about her years as a Skull, as well as how good a kisser she seemed to be, it made Airi wonder just how much experience with a variety of things her new girlfriend might already have had.
Uh-oh...not liking where this line of thinking is going.



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“My ancestor was in the first Circle…” she began, the warmth slowly fading from her voice as she tried to inflect it so that everyone knew what she had to say was important. “However, she was frightened of the power she received; of what seemed to be expected of her and her newfound friends, the other members of that Trinity. She held her post for as long as she was at Seishin, but after leaving…” She smiled again, a gleam in her eye.

“She knew more than probably anyone else has about her power and what lay behind it, except perhaps the other girls of her Circle. When she left Seishin, she kept influence in the school and began to recruit girls for another purpose, one much different than that of the Trinity. To these girls she gave the name of Skulls.”
:stunned:  Whoa...The Skulls were started by someone from the original Circle.

I wonder if this little tidbit is known to anyone else.

By the sounds of it, the original Mari would have had to have spent considerable time practicing and studying her own powers as well as those of her friends if she knew as much about them as the current Mari claims.  And as the old saying goes, knowledge is power.  She must have written down/documented what she knew, right? I mean, she would have wanted what she learned/knew to be put to good use.



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“There are other students with abilities similar to ours, Headmaster Tsunku,” Saki said finally. “Twice now we’ve confronted them, with neither side gaining an advantage. And…” She looked up into his face. “We also found a book.”

“Oh?” he asked, leaning over his desk and steepling his fingers in front of his face.

...

The three girls exchanged looks at the Headmaster’s raised eyebrow, and Maimi pulled the old book out from within her vest, offering it to him. He took it, but barely gave it a glance before setting it down on his desk. Maimi opened her mouth as if taken aback by his disregard of something that seemed so important to them, but he forestalled her.

“So you’ve discovered your heritage and the prophecy,” he stated.
Sunnovabitch, he knew, didn't he? If he knew, why didn't he tell them?



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“Is it true? Are we supposed to rule… the world?”

The smile didn’t fade, but he stepped into the center of the star. The sun was now glowing around the inner point one of its spokes. It appeared it would be quite brilliant when it finally shone through its center. “That was the desire of the Three,” he responded mysteriously. “People need to be shown the way, and that way is best shown by those who are very wise. However, you three are not yet wise. There is still one final test you must pass.”
He makes a good point here. A good ruler is measured by their wisdom, not by their power. Anyone can have power, but that doesn't necessarily make them fit to rule.  A ruler needs to have the wisdom to use that power properly and more importantly, to NOT abuse it.



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Then, the Headmaster threw his arms up and out to his sides as the sun came fully into the center of the star, outlining him as if he glowed of his own accord. At the moment though, the Headmaster’s new glowing personality was the least of the concerns of Ai, since when the sudden rays of the sun hit her from around the Headmaster, they reacted violently with the power that lay dormant within her body, and she fell to the floor screaming as if all of her cells and molecules were being rearranged.

...

After the torment and rapture that seemed as if it would be endless finally ceased, she felt the union complete, and she rose back to her feet, more fully in control of herself than ever before; more fully in control of the power that lay within her. It glowed inside her, like a beacon waiting to be directed to its use. She marveled at the strength she felt. She realized that until now she’d been nothing but a vessel, the means of transport of something much greater than herself. Now that greatness was her. Now she was a goddess.
Why do I get the feeling that somehow the original Circle is, in some way, going to make an appearance soon, and that they're transforming and/or planning on taking over the bodies of the current Circle? :o

And how the hell did Tsunku do what he did? What power does HE have, and how does he connect in all this?



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“How honored I am to be able to witness this day…” he said. “The Three have returned, and I have been granted the privilege of being the one to serve.” He walked around his desk and fell to his knees, bowing to them. “My life,” he began, “is yours to command, Great Ones.”

...

“The school is now yours in order to develop your army.”
Huh?  :mon huh:




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Despite herself, Ai laughed. “Have you even seen the students that are at this school now? They’re barely awkward children, much less an army. How are we supposed to make them one?” The idea itself seemed ludicrous. Although, she supposed if they were going to take over the world they would need an army. For some reason, she now thought she knew how to train one too.
Aichan has a good point here.  The very thought of it is...strange, to say the least.



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“You keep talking about our return,” Ai said, trying to think logically about her current very unusual situation. She felt the power flicker within her, teasing her. Despite all the new sensations and cluttered memories that had suddenly assaulted her she was still Ai Takahashi, just… seemingly with more at her disposal. “What does that mean?”

He looked back up to them. “The Great Ones – Nakazawa, Matsuura and Goto – have been reborn within you. They could not fulfill their destiny within their lifetimes, so their souls have waited through the ages until those who they were reborn into could come to this school and regain their powers… as members of the Trinity. You three have been born as goddesses, and can now present yourselves to the world once more.”
Sunnova...:o  It creeps me out that I called this...sorta.



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“It is not my place to doubt,” he said, lowering his head again.

“It is not your place for many things…” came a voice from beyond Maimi. It was Saki, speaking for the first time since whatever happened to them. Ai blinked. What had the girl been doing? She hadn’t even noticed her presence. “Including this.”

Shadows coalesced in front of her before jumping out at the headmaster and seeming to vanish into him. He suddenly went rigid, and his eyes bulged out. He screamed, and as he did Saki stepped forward, a knife flashing in her hand as if it were a claw, and it swept across his throat causing him to gurgle and fall onto his side, twitching as he tried to catch breath that wouldn’t come. Ai gaped at Saki as the small girl stared at the fallen Headmaster, yet oddly, it appeared, through him, her own face dark and somewhat obscured by shadow.
:OMG: Captain...

Well, Goto WAS the most ruthless and power-hungry one out of the three of them, wasn't she?  Still....



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Ai glanced outside too, where she now began to hear screaming and yelling of confused panicking students. She basically ignored the Headmaster, who lay on the floor as his life bled out of him. She hadn’t liked to see it happen, but there was nothing she could do about it now. Now, the three of them were truly the heads of Seishin. “It’s time to build our army.”
Aichan...:cry:



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“Something’s different,” Miyabi said suddenly, looking toward the wall as if it were a window to the outside. Airi supposed it was the best she could do, since after all this room had no actual windows.

...

She cut off and blinked though when Miyabi suddenly interrupted her, her eyes following Miyabi’s to the wall. “What?” she asked. “Is something coming through the wall?” The wall stood quiet and very white before their eager stares.

“No…” Airi said, suddenly noticing something as well. She didn’t look at the wall though. Instead, she looked up toward the ceiling.

 Mari now stared at the two of them with narrowed eyes, apparently catching onto the fact that her two wonder girls noticed something that the rest couldn’t, and as such was likely important.
Airi and Miyabi must have the strongest innate powers out of them all, which could explain why they can sense something's off.



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Many of the Nakazawa girls stood outside too, most in small clusters, as they pointed up at the sky in surprise as well as burgeoning fear. A few now started looking sideways over at the group of Skulls, and one of the clusters even started walking toward them. Airi thought nothing of it though until she noticed their eyes were fixed on the eight of them. They stopped while they were still a few paces away, looking at each other nervously as if no one wanted to speak up first. Finally one fairly short-haired girl, a few years older than Airi, stepped forward and pointed at them.

“What did you do now?!” she demanded. “We know you attacked the Circle earlier. You have some crazy witchy powers or something! You even made that eclipse!” When mentioning the eclipse she pointed only at Airi, who shrunk into Miyabi’s side, clinging to her arm and not happy about the attention. “Now the whole sky is gone and… well…” She looked to her friends for support, and they nodded. One of her friends had long, pretty hair, and the other two Airi thought were foreign exchange students. “It has to be your fault!”
Uh-oh, potential mob mentality here. Fear and groups of people do NOT mix well.



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a voice came on the loudspeaker above the door. They could hear it echoing from the ones inside the building as well. “Attention House Nakazawa!” It was Takahashi. Everyone standing outside looked around at each other in puzzlement. “How is everyone doing?”

Airi glowered at the cheery-sounding voice, partly because of their sudden darkening situation, but also because the last time she’d run into the girl, she’d thrown her into a forest with a lightning bolt.

“I and the other Heads of Seishin would like to make the announcement that until further notice, all classes and club meetings have been cancelled. We want you to all get a wonderful nights rest, and be up bright and early in the morning! You won’t see the sun, so be sure to set your alarms! There will be an all-school assembly at eight in the central dining hall. Please wear comfortable clothes; seifuku is not required. Good night everyone!”

When she signed off Airi looked around at her friends and the other Skulls, who shared dark looks. “Someone seems to know what’s going on,” Miyabi said.
Hmmm...this mention of an "assembly" has me worried. Something tells me it's going to be a "you're either with us or not, and if you're not, we kill you" type of thing. :scared:



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“It’s all around us…” Airi said, her attention diverted from her companions as she noticed something. Everyone else stared at her again. This time she ignored them though. The Nakazawa girls gave her curious looks. She was one of the youngest of their group, but all the rest looked at her attentively as if what she had to say actually mattered.

“What are you saying, Airi?” Mari asked. Even though none of the other girls knew who she was, she was clearly the eldest, even though she was so small, and her interest in Airi was the most striking of all.

“It’s magic,” Airi responded. She squinted up into the darkness at what looked like distant threads of some ethereal fabric. “It’s hiding the Sun and everything else around us.” She looked down over the tops of the trees. “It goes all the way to the ground… just past the forest.”

“What are you saying?” Chisato asked fearfully. “It’s covering us?”

Airi nodded. “And keeping us in.”
Mari still hasn't revealed all that she knows, and something tells me that Airi's presence is going to turn out to be really significant.



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“The three founders of this school thought that with their divine blood they should be influential, that people should bow to them. People did for a while until a Queen betrayed them.”

Her audience stared woodenly at her. “Come on guys,” she said, frowning at them. “Weren’t any of you listening earlier?”

“No,” Reina said plainly.
:mon sweat:



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“So…” Kamei said, looking nervously from Lin Lin to Airi and the other Skulls. “If you’re right, then Ai-chan and the others are bad people. Why should we believe you? You beat everyone up all the time…”

...

“I would say…” Reina said, appearing deep in thought, her finger tapping against her teeth. “If you don’t believe us now, go to the assembly tomorrow morning and then decide. We won’t be there, so you can come find us afterward if they weren’t entirely convincing to you.”
Sure they can come find them...if they're still alive and in control of their own minds/wills after it. :mon scare:



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“Remember,” Saki pointed out, still appearing bored. “The youngest one of them almost ripped your soul apart with her pathetic power.” That finally caused Maimi to stop and glower at her.

...

“That was nothing,” Maimi said, waving a hand dismissively. “We’re too strong now to let that happen again.”
Maimi's definitely confident in their abilities now, even though they haven't had a change to try them out in full yet.  She needs to be careful though that she doesn't let her confidence turn to arrogance, as it likely will lead to her underestimating Airi and the others.



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“You know what?” she said. “I’m going to go find Nii-chan. I’m sure she’ll find all of this fascinating.”
And what if she doesn't? What if Aichan finds that Risa is terrified at what's happening and at what she and the others are doing?  They expect all the students to fall in line and follow their orders without question, and probably plan on dealing with those who don't in a really harsh and decisive manner. Well, can Aichan treat Risa that way, especially considering how she's come to terms with how she really feels about her?


PS. YAY FOR CAMEOS BY KAMESHIGE AND JUNLIN!!!  :k-thrilled:
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [13: Heirs Apparent]
Post by: mode107 on January 01, 2008, 07:32:51 AM
wha, wha? gejursjgedvfwtef,  Saki killing Tsunku :shocked: ..and with the knife to the throat....wow. I'm sure there's probably gonna be another violent death to come, and I'll be waiting  :P. Geez, Ai seems like the only sain one. I have many predictions about what will happen with Ai in the future, but I don't want to ruin the fun, I'll just wait to see if my predictions are proven right.  I'm looking foward to reading  about the assembly in the next chapter.  Maybe the Circle will shut the doors and not let anyone out, like in that Movie "Carrie."...and all hell broke loose, :lol:
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [13: Heirs Apparent]
Post by: Loser87 on January 01, 2008, 11:35:53 PM
Holy crappers!
This chapter was like woah..
Especially with Saki ruthlessly slitting Tsunku's throat like that just... :mon scare: :mon ref:
I have a lot of theories that I think Might happen but I'm just going to keep it to myself for now until I get more proof..

I find it cute that Yaguchi an original member of the Circle started the Skulls

MMmm...Something in me has been pestering me that Risako has a very important role in this story later one, despite her little and few appearances and part in this story so far..Something tells me later on in the future chapters she'll be very important.. :mon suspect:

Anyway, UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE!!
On both stories!!!
 :mon baby: :mon baby: :mon baby:
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [13: Heirs Apparent]
Post by: maiZe on January 15, 2008, 06:49:00 AM
I was out of the country for a few weeks to attend my cousin's wedding (with limited internet access), thus no recent chapter comments, but I was so happy to see all the updates during the holidays!

I should probably be focusing on the big moments of what went on in this chapter, but I'm afraid that Airi's cuteness is simply taking up all my attention (though that is not to say that I'm not interested to see what is going to happen next).

“Honestly!” she cried out suddenly. Miyabi’s head turned to her and she blinked. ...

Airi realized she’d spoken before she thought again.
Airi's so amusing when she acts solely based on her emotions. Makes me just want to pat her on the head. If she were an anime character, I could just see the big old tear drop on her head.

“And you!” Airi said, pointing at the captain. Reina suddenly adopted an expression of innocence and disinterest. Even though she pointed at her, Airi realized she really had nothing to say to the girl, so she turned to the group of Nakazawas that stood, now cowering, in front of Fujimoto, who was rapidly becoming amused herself.
Oh Airi, there you go again... XD

I'm infinitely enjoying all the Airi x Miya! They're just so adorable, with Airi's fascination with their new relationship, Miya's protectiveness, Airi's desire to still be independent, and Miya's possessiveness (lol... no stealing Airi away from Miya, evil Sayu... XD)

It'll be interesting to see how Risako acts around Airi as this progresses, seeing as they've been friends for so long, and this all seems to be weirding Risako out to the extreme.

As for the Circle, there was always something really dark about Saki. Was surprised she just straight out killed the headmaster, but wasn't particularly shocked.

Am looking forward to see what goes on at the assembly, how the school reacts to what the Circle has to say, and particularly how the Nakazawa girls who chatted with the Skulls will react.
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [14: Alliances]
Post by: rokun on February 03, 2008, 04:54:57 PM
Thank you for all your comments. :) I forgot how much there was to react to from the last chapter lol. Well this chapter is a lot of set up, but hopefully you'll enjoy as well... Here we go!


Chapter 14 – Alliances

“Wake up, you two,” Reina announced, stepping on Miyabi and Airi and making them wake to the pain. “And put some clothes on. Nobody wants to know what you got up to overnight.”

Coming to consciousness enough to realize what Reina was saying, Airi blushed furiously and suddenly felt very aware of Miyabi’s warm body lying next to her own. What did the girl have in her head? They most certainly did not get up to anything in the night, and Airi had just as many clothes on as she did before going to bed since it wasn’t like they were able to return to their rooms for pyjamas. As she got up and rubbed the sleep out of her eyes she stared after Reina as the older girl woke and rounded up some of the others. She just really did not know what the girl got into that head of hers.

“Good morning,” Miyabi mumbled as she sat up next to her. This Skull was obviously not a morning person as her long hair was disheveled and her eyes looked like they could close again at any moment. Her clothes were badly wrinkled too. Airi wondered how she could have managed that while just stuffed into a small sleeping bag along with her the whole night long.

“Good morning!” she responded brightly, blinking to try and wake further.

Miyabi stared at her. “…You’re very cheery.”

“Of course!” Airi piped up. “It’s morning!”

“Whatever,” Miyabi said, “I don’t know if I could handle this every morning…” She rose awkwardly to her feet to wander off in the direction of a washroom. Airi giggled at the fresh thing she’d just learned about her new girlfriend.

Apparently seeing the older girl walk away, Chisato shuffled hesitantly toward Airi while giving her shifty, sleepy looks. She was who Reina had gotten to after Airi and Miyabi, and the Captain was now on the other side of the room chatting with Mari and Fujimoto, who had also apparently been awake early.

“It feels weird not going to this assembly…” Chisato said quietly, giving the three eldest girls furtive looks. “I know I’ve joined the Skulls and now I’m really supposed to be a rebel and all, but missing a school assembly… this is serious.”

“I know I’m not crazy about willingly putting myself in a situation where Takahashi and the others have any control,” Airi said sagely, studying her friend. “I think it’s for the best. Plus we’ve got ourselves, right? It’s not like we’re alone.”

That was most definitely true; they weren’t alone. All of the girls who had gathered to hear from Mari had stayed overnight in the House Nakazawa lounge the Skulls claimed as their own. Most of them felt it was best to stay together, and after the events of the previous day the younger girls gave no argument.

Aside from that Airi of course had an ulterior motive – anything that would mean she could spend more time with Miyabi was for the best as far as she was concerned. It was funny how that happened so quickly… She wondered if it’s like this for everyone when they first begin going out. If so, even though she was still young, she wished she would have experienced it sooner.

She was distracted from her friend a moment by Miyabi sauntering back into the room in some boxers and a t-shirt, looking around a bit as if deciding who she wanted to join. Airi began smiling dreamily, and caught herself just in time to see Chisato look down and give a sigh Airi had a feeling she wasn’t expected to see.

“Does my being with Miyabi make you uncomfortable, Chisa?” she asked earnestly, catching the girl’s attention quickly again. She apparently had assumed Airi wasn’t paying attention to her.

“No,” she responded. “Of course not. I’m glad to see you seem to be happy.”

By the girl’s short and terse sentences Airi knew that she was lying through her teeth. She scooted closer to her friend and wrapped an arm around her shoulders, very conscious of Miyabi’s eyes following her watchfully.

“You know you’re still my best friend, right?” she told Chisato encouragingly. “No one’s gonna change that, especially not Miss Miyabi Natsuyaki. I may do things with her and sleep with her and maybe even kiss her…” she said, a slight flush coming to her cheeks at her words. “But she definitely doesn’t take your place. I mean, you don’t want me to start kissing you, do you?” She ended with a giggle at the ridiculous notion.

“Of course not…” Chisato said, shifting uncomfortably under Airi’s arm. “Things are different though. Especially with all this other scary stuff going on… And there’s Risako…”

Airi’s face fell slightly at that. That was a problem. Since finding out she and Miyabi were together, Risako had nearly avoided her like the plague. She couldn’t figure out why, but the girl always managed to elude her if she tried approaching her. There was always someone else to go off and talk to, or else some other place to be.

She gazed across the room to where the eight-day-older-than-her girl was chatting comfortably with Koharu, as well as dutifully ignoring Airi and Chisato as if the two of them didn’t exist. She didn’t know what the girl’s problem was and really wanted to talk to her about it, but with everything else that was going on and her seeming reluctance to talk, she wondered if she’d ever manage to do it.

She embraced Chisato a bit tighter for comfort, leaning her head on her shoulder. Would anything be normal again? No classes… Classes were never cancelled at Seishin. She wondered what could have caused it, and if the Headmaster would have anything to say about it.

Miyabi finally came back to their little area and sat cross-legged in front of them. “Hey,” she said, looking between the two.

“Hey,” Chisato said, looking uncertainly at Miyabi as Airi kept her head on her shoulder.
 
“Apparently that Marippe person is going to talk to us a bit while the assembly goes on. Says we didn’t listen well enough yesterday, and it’s important so we need to go over it again.” Miyabi finished with a toothy grin.

Airi narrowed her eyes toward the captain as she continued speaking with Mari. Noticing Airi’s eyes, she gave her a winning smile that Airi returned with a straight face. “It’s not my fault people don’t listen…” she said. “In fact I’m not even sure what I’m still doing here.” Her eyes slid back to Miyabi to see the girl still grinning at her. Oh… she thought to herself. She really was losing it!

Chisato gave her a glare that told her that she most certainly was not going anywhere, and she hugged the girl tighter and giggled in response.

“So what do you think is going on outside?” Miyabi drawled lazily, which Airi thought was an obvious attempt at trying not to notice Airi’s proximity to Chisato. It wasn’t her fault the older girl didn’t know their relationship, and it was something she was just going to have to learn. Call it Airi’s School of Hard Knocks. She tilted her head in thought. Well, maybe it was best not to call it that.

Finally able to focus again on reality, she noticed Miyabi looking curiously at her. She’d pulled her head off Chisato’s shoulder, even though she still had an arm around her, and her younger friend was giving her a questioning gaze too. What? Was she supposed to have all the answers? Even Mari was watching her as Reina blabbed on in her ear.

“Um…” she said. “Well we’re not gonna see the Sun… In fact it’s been getting darker since yesterday afternoon. I don’t think there was any moon either.”

“There wasn’t,” Miyabi interjected, bringing stares from the two younger girls.

“But… you guys are gonna fix it, right?” Chisato asked, looking anxiously between them. “I mean, you can do stuff.” She fixed her eyes on Airi. “Rii-chan said you have some type of… thing… with the Sun. You can bring it back, right?”

Airi stared at her. What did the girl think she was? Kami-sama? “Um…” she only said in response.

“What I think…” Miyabi said, reaching a twitchy hand over to Airi’s wrist to pull her with surprising strength away from Chisato and into her lap. Airi blushed furiously, and she thought she heard Chisato scooting away a little too. “Is that we need to stay together and work on something. Mako is here to help us out with things like this after all.”

Airi, trying to suppress the blush, pulled back to stare at her. “Who?”

“You know,” Miyabi replied, looking at her as if she was stupid. “Short girl. Dresses well.” She pointed. “Standing over there talking to Reina?”

“Mari?” Airi asked, becoming amused.

“Whatever,” Miyabi responded dismissively. Airi giggled.

“Well, what do you think we should do?” Airi asked, curious to see what her girlfriend had to say. Chisato appeared just as curious, since she was the one that thought they should be taking care of it after all.

“I think we need to run up to Takahashi, Yajima and Shimizu…” she began, opening her arms in an lavish way as she sat with Airi in her lap. “And we need to grab them…” In a flash she closed her arms around Airi and held her tight as she squeaked in surprise. “And just take them down!” Lunging forward, she tackled Airi to the ground, causing her to giggle and Chisato to scoot quickly away.

“Alright kids!” Fujimoto called, sauntering over to them. “The assembly’s about to begin, and we need to start figuring out what we’re going to do. I have a feeling that not showing up is going to cause us some problems, so we’ll need to be prepared right away when it’s over.” She finished in a serious tone that was quite unusual for her, and Airi and Miyabi sat back up, straightening their clothes slightly. After Airi gave her a cute pleading glance, Chisato scooted back to join them too in looking up toward Fujimoto and Mari.

While the three of them looked up from their seated positions on the floor, Risako and Koharu both glanced over from their standing perch on the other side of the room as well, and Mari considered them all, flanked by Reina and Miki, who returned to them after rounding the younger girls up.

After meeting the eyes of each of the younger girls, the Yaguchi woman, shortest of them all, walked over to a fireplace and laid her hand on the mantle. “I know you’re all young girls…” she said quietly, and her tone of voice caught the rapt attention of everyone in the room. “I wish you could just live ‘normal’ lives. Go to college… get a good job… marry a handsome and successful man. I don’t know if you realized it, but that all changed the day you decided to join the Skulls.”

Airi wanted to raise her hand and say that she most certainly had never decided to join the Skulls, but thought it was best to keep quiet in this situation. Risako was handling it well, so she could too. She glanced at her friend, but her eyes were only fixed straight ahead on Mari.

“Did you ever wonder why the Skulls audition is such an ordeal?”

“But all secret societies are like that,” Koharu piped up, looking around. “There’s always some type of initiation because not just anyone can be let in.”

“Secret societies don’t usually send you to a deep cave to perform an act where you are literally risking your life,” Mari responded with a twist to the corner of her mouth. “They’re designed that way because the Skulls want only the strong… Those physically strong, as well as emotionally and morally. The reason behind it… was to gather them into a tight group under the watchful eye of someone like me so we could control the hands of fate.”

With the complete attention of all of her Skulls now, Mari went on in a confident voice. “My ancestors knew of the prophecy that the Three would rise again. We knew that their rise would have an immediate and potentially far-reaching impact on the world when it happened. We hoped that, as divine fate tends to unfold, others would rise and be able to quell the witches’ fires. We hoped for the True Blood… and we did our best to ensure they would be Skulls.” Now she beamed around at Reina, Airi and Miyabi. “Thankfully, they are.”

The gathered girls all looked around at each other now in confusion, Risako even deigning to give Airi a glance in worry and budding excitement. “But what are these True Blood?” Miyabi asked.

Mari smiled down at her. “That I can’t tell you. It’s something you must find out in the struggle ahead of you.”

“To make it clear, you’re only talking about a few of us, right?” Chisato asked, drawing the eyes of those in the room yet not flinching. She stared straight over at Airi and Miyabi. “I mean, I’m not anything special. And we’ve seen what kinds of things… some of us can do.”

“That would be me, Miyakko and Suzuki then, right? Just like you said last night.” Reina said, gazing stoically at the three seated girls. “Not that we really have any idea what we can do yet.”

“Hey,” Miyabi said, returning the look with a frown. “I can teleport. And you obviously can heal people.”

“Yeah, you can jump around wherever you want…” Reina responded with mock thoughtfulness. “…If only you didn’t get sick whenever trying to do it.”

“I’m getting better!” Miyabi shot back, but Reina ignored her.

“As for me, sure you might have been dead if it wasn’t for me – and don’t believe for a second I’ll ever let you forget that – but how is that gonna help us fight a war, or bring the Sun back again?”

Now everyone stared at Airi, who peered around with wide saucer eyes. “Why’s everyone looking at me…?”

“Ahem…”

A few of the eyes turned to Mari as she cleared her throat, grinning and appearing to demand attention despite her short stature. “Nobody said anything about a war…” she commented idly, her eyes settling onto Airi. “I hope it doesn’t get that far. But I’m afraid we might have to act now. In what was passed down to me I heard tell of a shield like the one that’s around the school right now.” She walked around, peering up into each girl’s face she passed. Chisato was the only one short enough for her to meet somewhat levelly, and she returned the gaze strongly. Airi was impressed at her friend, and felt a smile come to her face.

“You know this school was founded by Nakazawa, Goto and Matsuura. They founded this school for learning, yes, but primarily as a training ground for a future army. With the assembly today… I think that army is starting to be formed.”

Silence met her extraordinary declaration. “An army…” Risako began finally, breaking it. “…of students?”

Miyabi and Reina both burst out laughing. “That’s ridiculous!” the girl beside Airi exclaimed. “These…” She spluttered, apparently unable to find an appropriate enough word to describe them. “An army…?”

Think, idiot!” Fujimoto growled, and Airi extended the woman a dangerous glare that she ignored.

“If only it were that simple…” Mari said briskly, eyes wide as she studied Fujimoto carefully. “But I think she’s got the right idea. What better way for a group of young women to gather a large – and prominent for their age – following than from a gaggle of girls who already look up to them and treat them with nearly complete loyalty?”

“Not everyone’s so loyal…” Reina snorted, grinning around proudly at her small group.

“…And that’s what makes you rebels,” Mari responded, finally seeming to reach her goal of setting the wheels turning in the not-so-dull minds of the awed and feared outcasts around her.



“So you want us to try and help you take over the world?” asked a wide-eyed Eri Kamei, standing near the front of the assembly next to a few of the other older Nakazawa girls, acting as if she was positively terrified at the thought.

“Yes!” Ai responded brightly, scanning the crowd in front of her. Most of the other girls of Seishin were staring at her with similar expressions, whether widened eyes or slackened jaws. Some even had both. Such as Kamei for instance. She wondered what was wrong with the girl. She was usually one of the more outspoken members of her house, but now it looked like her worst nightmare was coming true. They had thought the students would jump at the chance to be part of something great like this. As students of Seishin, they were a rather ambitious bunch, after all.

“Rest assured you won’t be facing anything unprepared,” Maimi spoke from beside her, emphasizing her points by gesturing fluidly with her arms. “Building on the knowledge of this school, we will be able to train you to be the best kind of soldiers. No; not soldiers. Leaders. All of you here today are lucky, because you stand at the threshold of history! What’s begun here will wash through Japan from the shores of Tokyo to those of Kanazawa, from Hokkaido to Okinawa. And you’ll be at the forefront of it all!”

Ai had to give the girl credit. She definitely could give an inspiring speech. Well, like Saki had said once before, she was always the emotional and passionate one.

“What about the Headmaster?” came another voice from the assembled students. This time it was from the Matsuura section, and Ai felt Maimi tense up beside her. Umeda she thought the girl’s name was.

Before Maimi could say anything through the heat rising to her face though, Saki stepped up and responded quietly, “The Headmaster has gone out to the rest of Japan already to spread word about our intentions. He will be on that mission for a long time, so it’s up to us to lead the coup from the school.”

“…What’s a coup?” asked another Matsuura girl, one of the younger ones this time. She didn’t know who it was, but the girl was short and had a round face and cute dimples up all the way past her nose.

“It’s what it’s called when the rightful leaders rise up and take control of a government,” Maimi said, giving Saki a mild glare at the interruption when she had plainly planned to respond to the Umeda girl. Ai didn’t really know what was going on there, but she thought she’d seen the two together shortly before the assembly started.

“Why do you think you can lead this government?” asked a tall girl in a somewhat demanding tone of voice. Ai thought she might have been one of their exchange students. She had a feeling they would be particularly difficult to recruit, even though Maimi seemed to think otherwise.

“Many reasons,” Ai said, taking another step closer to them all. She smiled at Risa, who considered her with a small smile of her own from the front row. She was right; the slightly younger girl had found their ideas fascinating when she discussed them with her. However, that wasn’t to say she completely agreed with all of them. Well, nothing could be perfect.

“Some are harder to discern than others,” she continued. “The best thing we feel we can offer though…” She raised her arms in front of her. “…is protection.”

As if emanating from her hands, a gust of wind rose up and spun in the air out over the heads of the assembled girls, who gasped loudly. Eventually the winds carried enough dust that it was almost as if a blanket was covering them all. Then Maimi stepped forward, and the wall of wind and dust ignited in flame, causing even more girls to scream and duck, looking nervously at the blanketing inferno above. Finally Saki stepped up, and visions of horrible monsters started to dart out of the canopy before they were enveloped by the blaze. The students screamed even louder before Ai quickly swung her hands to the sides as if parting a veil, and the wind blew the flame away until it dissipated into nothingness again.

She looked over at Saki, who was staring with great concentration out toward the students, as they began to calm and rise back to their feet again. As if in a wave, they turned their heads again to face the Three.

“What did you just do…?” asked a terrified-looking Matsuura girl who stood next to the dimpled one that spoke earlier. Ai thought she knew this one. Kanna was her name.

“We have unimaginable power,” Maimi said proudly from beside Ai, puffing her chest out. “A small portion of which we have just displayed for you.” She scanned the audience as if trying to hold the gazes of each girl within it. “Yes, gods do exist, and it’s time for Japan – and eventually the world – to return to the enlightened rule of the divine.”

“Um…” came a nervous voice from the Goto bloc. Ai decided she was going to give up trying to name all of these girls… at least for now. “Are we supposed to like, bow or something now?”

Ai smiled warmly at the tallish girl who had very nice legs beneath her skirt. Her taller friend standing next to her had very nice ones too. “There’s no need for that. You’re going to be leaders, remember? You’re the ones people will be bowing to. Many schools say it, but this is where it’s true as toasted tako.” She received some odd looks at her expression, and sighed. Well, at least they were able to understand her accent now… It had not been so easy when she first came to Seishin. “Come to Seishin Joshi Gakuin… and you will leave to lead.”

All three Circle members, even including Saki, began to exhibit broad smiles as similar ones started to appear one after the other on the faces of those arrayed before them.



A subdued group of eight girls marched out of a deserted House Nakazawa, most unable to avoid glances over toward the amphitheatre where the assembly would still be going on. Airi held tightly onto Miyabi’s hand as they walked purposefully ahead, wondering what they had gotten themselves into despite her confidence earlier at what happened the last time she went toe-to-toe with Maimi. Chisato walked next to her, and Risako graced Chisato’s other side, still doing her best to avoid looking at Airi or Miyabi.

They walked through the woods a good way until they reached a large hill, at the bottom of which stood the gaping maw of a cave that was all too familiar to Airi. They walked into the entrance and began lounging just inside, trying to look like they weren’t concerned about anything, although more than one checked the time on her cell phone – even though they had stopped working at some point overnight after having lost connection to the outside world – and looked outside as if seeing something far distant.

“What do you think?” Fujimoto asked Miyabi, whose hand Airi still would not release.

“There have been a lot of different emotions…” Miyabi said. At the moment she was one of those staring off into the distance, but unlike the others, Airi thought she was able to see something more than just endless trees. “There was incredulity, fear, anger… but now more than anything, excitement.”

“Anything else?” Mari asked, stepping up next to Fujimoto, who couldn’t hide her amazement at what Miyabi could apparently discern. Mari herself however seemed completely unfazed. As ridiculous as her story was, especially considering the events of the last few days, Airi actually found herself believing it more and more.

“The Chinese girls aren’t impressed,” Miyabi stated flatly. “Some others aren’t really either, despite the pressures being put on them. And then there are those…”

As Miyabi spoke, Airi sensed that the girl seemed to be looking farther and farther past what was right in front of her, and her eyes nearly glazed over. “Miya…” Airi said, squeezing her hand. “Are you all right?”

The girl didn’t move for a moment before suddenly blinking as if snapping out of some kind of trance, and glanced down at Airi with a haunted look in her eyes. “It’s horrible…” she whispered hoarsely. “Those poor girls… the ones we couldn’t get to but don’t join them… They try to run away…”

Without words, Airi leaned close to the older girl and hugged her tightly, resting her cheek on her shoulder. After a moment Miyabi managed to hug her back. What was the girl seeing? What happened to those who tried to run away?

“There’s nothing we can do for them,” Mari said quietly, studying the two embracing younger girls. “We know who our targets are, and who’s responsible for all of it. If we don’t stop them, much worse things will happen than… will to those students.”

“What are we supposed to do though?” Koharu asked. The girl had stayed quiet through most of their proceedings, but seemed quite adamant at the moment. “Kill them?”

Mari remained silent.

“It’s over,” Miyabi said from near Airi’s ear. Despite the girl’s words, she wasn’t ready to let go of her yet. “There are a few walking away from the main group, and… the others.”

“Did you give them the impression of our location?” Mari asked. Miyabi nodded.

The varied Skull members and friends waited through an uncomfortable silence as the wind blew softly through the trees around them. Airi had finally let go of Miyabi since it would probably be best that she not be seen hugging one of the primary tormenters of so many of these students that might soon show up. She honestly wondered why any of them would show up with the history most of the girls around her have had with the vast majority of the students at Seishin. It wasn’t long though before her thoughts were answered.

Figures became visible along the path through the trees leading to the cave, and eventually they were able to pick out who had come. Airi felt her body sag with relief as she saw the four Nakazawa girls from the night before leading the way, but there weren’t many more accompanying them.

One more girl walked with the front four that Airi didn’t recognize, but thought was also from Nakazawa. Following close behind them were three other girls that were mid-year students, of a similar class as Miyabi, and trailing anxiously a ways behind those were two smaller girls that must be first years. Airi didn’t recognize them at first, but then…

“Mai-chan!” she shouted, suddenly releasing Miyabi’s hand and running toward the newcomers. The front group paused to watch her cautiously as she approached them, but she just ran past them to stop in front of the Matsuura first-year. “I’m glad to see you’ve come!” She looked to the girl’s side. “You too, Asu-chan. I’m sure Chisa will be thrilled to see you!” The young girl brightened at her sister’s name and looked past Airi. Upon noticing the grinning Chisato, she ran forward to hug her tightly.

Airi looked around back down the path, but it was quiet. “…Mitssi didn’t come with you?” she asked stoically.

“No,” Mai answered in a high and almost squeaky voice. “She said she liked hearing what the Circle had to say, and that they were the Circle, so we should do what they say we should. She tried to convince me not to leave, but I got your message and trust you more than Takahashi-san and…” she hesitated slightly, avoiding Airi’s eyes. “Yajima-san…”

Airi felt her insides turn to mush just a little bit. Was this what it was going to be like now? Friend against friend? Looking back into her young friend’s uncomfortable eyes, she realized they likely didn’t have the faintest clue of what was going on. Actually, did she even have any idea what was really going on?

The Skulls all chatted with the new arrivals, and Miyabi grudgingly apologized to Lin Lin and Michishige for beating them up in the past.

“You had better set things right with Michishige!” Airi had told her. “Or I’m going to kiss her right in front of you!”

“You wish…” Miyabi grumbled back, but apologized nonetheless, which pleased Airi as she was able to enjoy the sixth-year’s smile away from the jealous gaze of her girlfriend for a short time.

“So the TaYaShi show wasn’t good enough for ya, huh?” Fujimoto asked the awed younger Nakazawas once they seemed to settle in with all of them.

“The what?” Kamei asked, a wide-eyed blank look on her face.

“Takahashi. Yajima. Shimizu,” Fujimoto responded briskly, counting the names off.

“Oh…” the girl responded.

“They talk big for such small girls…” Li Chun commented, frowning. Kamei nodded vigorously in agreement. Michishige tossed her hair, almost causing Airi to let out a hopeless sigh. “Why do they want to take over the world? I think China would have something to say about that.”

“China doesn’t have their power…” Fujimoto stated wryly. “The only ones that do are these three here.” She flourished an arm vaguely in the direction of Airi and Miyabi, although Reina was nowhere near them.

“Who?” Lin Lin asked in high clipped tones. “Those two little girls? And…”

Airi was about to angrily express how little she wasn’t, and apparently Miyabi had the same idea, niceness and apologies be damned, but Reina trumped them. “Me,” she stated, sauntering over in their direction.

“Who are you?” Lin Lin asked, curious.

Reina bristled at the snub, but before she could retort Mari hurried over to them. “Now now girls, we don’t want to alienate our newcomers right away, do we?” She beamed at the five Nakazawas, as well as the others who had come. Mai was still near Airi, and the Okai sisters were together too along with Risako. The others had been hanging out with Reina, who was grudgingly trying to be friendly to them, even though they weren’t Skulls and thus from her perspective rather unworthy of her attention. Looking at Mari’s smile, Airi tilted her head slightly. It beamed brightly most definitely, but for some reason she thought it was most definitely sexy too. Then she blushed at the thought, shuffling closer to Miyabi and snaking an arm around her waist.

“So what do we do now, boss?” Reina asked, leaning back against a tree and popping another stick of gum into her mouth.

“Now…” Mari said. “You must find a way to bring down this shield around the school so I can leave and go back home, among other things.” Airi stared at her. They seemed to be in a fight for their lives, and the girl wanted to go home?!

Apparently she caught others’ attention with that remark too, because Airi heard from beside her, “Go home? What are you talking about? You have to stay here and help us!” Airi could feel Miyabi’s arm tighten around her own waist as she spoke, apparently frustrated. She began lightly massaging the older girl’s side. Despite her cool appearance, she knew she had quite a passionate girlfriend.

“How do you propose I help you?” Mari asked. “I can’t do the things you can do. I also don’t know anyone at this school, except for the Headmaster whom I would very much like to look up before I leave. I would be completely useless.”

“But…” Chisato said, looking worried herself. “You have so many things to teach us…”

“That I may,” Mari responded, nodding. “But I only have a few more such tidbits to impart. I assure you I would just be deadwood floating in your rushing stream. Plus, if any of those three girls were to figure out who I was, we would all be in much danger. It’s best for me to be as far away from here as possible, at least at this time.”

“That goes for me too,” Fujimoto said, giving a nod that brooked no nonsense. Then she glared around at everyone as if daring them to challenge her. “I told you before, I’d be stupid to get involved in this.” Chisato couldn’t stop a loud sigh from escaping her throat. Fujimoto pointed at her and Risako. “You’re the ones that got yourselves involved.” Her finger settled on Risako, who drew back as if it was centimeters from her nose. “And by the way, are you a Skull yet or what?”

Risako mouthed words in response that never came, and Miyabi spoke up again. “So who’s gonna lead us against this… army?” She almost spat the last word, but Airi could tell that despite her inflection, the girl really was worried.

“I swear, do Skulls these days actually have any brains?” Fujimoto responded, rolling her eyes up to the dark sky. “You three, of course!”

Airi and Miyabi exchanged looks, and then glanced over at Reina, who was studying the ground in front of her toe intently. “So that means me, huh?” Reina said lightly.

Regretfully, Airi felt Miyabi’s arm pull away from her waist as the Goto girl walked toward the current Captain of the Skulls. “No,” Miyabi said firmly, stopping less than a meter away and causing Reina’s eyes to slowly travel up her body. Airi didn’t like how familiar the girl seemed… “You don’t have to do this alone.”

She stepped closer and spoke in a lower voice, leaning down slightly to meet Reina’s eyes straight-on. “Whatever bad blood might have gone on between us, this is much bigger than any stupid thing we could come up with. You don’t have to take it as an insult to your honor. You can’t do this alone.”

Before Airi knew it, she felt herself walking toward the two girls also. When she arrived at them, Miyabi turned to her with a frown as if she was interrupting. Reina only casually adjusted her gaze. “I’m with you too…” Airi felt herself say. “I’ll do my best to lead with you.”

Suddenly she realized that the two sets of eyes that regarded her were grateful. Grateful! To her! These accomplished girls… Then she also realized… although they might be together, for some reason they expected her to lead. The thought of that impossible idea made her mind numb.

“How old is this girl again?” Li Chun asked while leaning toward her Chinese companion.

“I pray old enough…” Mari responded, and Airi’s ears went completely red.
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [14: Alliances]
Post by: maiZe on February 03, 2008, 06:16:31 PM
A new chapter!!! *squee*  :luvluv1:

It's getting so exciting!

The chapter intro was great!
“Good morning,” Miyabi mumbled as she sat up next to her. This Skull was obviously not a morning person as her long hair was disheveled and her eyes looked like they could close again at any moment. Her clothes were badly wrinkled too. Airi wondered how she could have managed that while just stuffed into a small sleeping bag along with her the whole night long.

“Good morning!” she responded brightly, blinking to try and wake further.

Miyabi stared at her. “…You’re very cheery.”

“Of course!” Airi piped up. “It’s morning!”

“Whatever,” Miyabi said, “I don’t know if I could handle this every morning…” She rose awkwardly to her feet to wander off in the direction of a washroom. Airi giggled at the fresh thing she’d just learned about her new girlfriend.
Airi and Miya have such cute interactions.  :nya:

I like that Chisato's adjusting to Miya and Airi together. I wish the same could be said about Risako. Although, it doesn't seem like Risako's only worried about her role as Airi's friend and being pushed to the background as Airi starts this new relationship with Miya, like Chisato was. Hmm...

The girl didn’t move for a moment before suddenly blinking as if snapping out of some kind of trance, and glanced down at Airi with a haunted look in her eyes. “It’s horrible…” she whispered hoarsely. “Those poor girls… the ones we couldn’t get to but don’t join them… They try to run away…”

Without words, Airi leaned close to the older girl and hugged her tightly, resting her cheek on her shoulder. After a moment Miyabi managed to hug her back. What was the girl seeing? What happened to those who tried to run away?
I'm wondering the same thing. The Circle couldn't have done anything violent during the assembly, could they? You'd think that'd terrify even the girls who'd want to join them. And if they did do something to the girls who didn't want to join, how in the world did Eri and the others get out of the assembly?

“You had better set things right with Michishige!” Airi had told her. “Or I’m going to kiss her right in front of you!”

“You wish…” Miyabi grumbled back, but apologized nonetheless,
:lol: That's right Airi! You tell her!

Her finger settled on Risako, who drew back as if it was centimeters from her nose. “And by the way, are you a Skull yet or what?”

Risako mouthed words in response that never came,
Oh Risako... You must start speaking to the Skulls to become a Skull.  :on lol: No formal audition, but I guess the fact that she didn't run for her life as all the things went on in the past few chapters speaks for itself.

Miyabi spoke up again. “So who’s gonna lead us against this… army?” She almost spat the last word, but Airi could tell that despite her inflection, the girl really was worried.

“I swear, do Skulls these days actually have any brains?” Fujimoto responded, rolling her eyes up to the dark sky. “You three, of course!”

Airi and Miyabi exchanged looks, and then glanced over at Reina, who was studying the ground in front of her toe intently. “So that means me, huh?” Reina said lightly.

Regretfully, Airi felt Miyabi’s arm pull away from her waist as the Goto girl walked toward the current Captain of the Skulls. “No,” Miyabi said firmly, stopping less than a meter away and causing Reina’s eyes to slowly travel up her body. Airi didn’t like how familiar the girl seemed… “You don’t have to do this alone.”

She stepped closer and spoke in a lower voice, leaning down slightly to meet Reina’s eyes straight-on. “Whatever bad blood might have gone on between us, this is much bigger than any stupid thing we could come up with. You don’t have to take it as an insult to your honor. You can’t do this alone.”

Before Airi knew it, she felt herself walking toward the two girls also. When she arrived at them, Miyabi turned to her with a frown as if she was interrupting. Reina only casually adjusted her gaze. “I’m with you too…” Airi felt herself say. “I’ll do my best to lead with you.”
Aww... Skulls unity. It's so sweet!  :wriggly:

Suddenly she realized that the two sets of eyes that regarded her were grateful. Grateful! To her! These accomplished girls… Then she also realized… although they might be together, for some reason they expected her to lead. The thought of that impossible idea made her mind numb.
Wow... lots of pressure on poor little Airi. :fainted:

“How old is this girl again?” Li Chun asked while leaning toward her Chinese companion.

“I pray old enough…” Mari responded, and Airi’s ears went completely red.
Poor girl... all this pressure on her shoulders, and she's only a 2nd year. Well, this may work to her advantage. She could be underestimated due to her age (but after what she's done first-hand to the Circle already, I doubt that... I don't think a surprise attack will be coming from Airi. An attack? Yes. An impressive, powerful attack? Most likely. But surprising? I'm not too sure).

I find it fitting to make my first post with my new sig in this fic, which stars two of Buono!'s members. :D Miya & Airi FTW!!
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [14: Alliances]
Post by: Grisours on February 03, 2008, 09:41:15 PM
New chapter! I get so happy with updates!  :muffin:
I love the Airi/Miya relationship, since they're still learning things about each other. But Risako always gets me wondering, she was acting really weird in this last chapter. I think she doesn't like Miya and Airi being together, but I dunno why though...
The whole Circle situation is getting out of control! The way they showed their powers to the students was kinda cruel, the girls must have been scared. I would be, lol. And they lied about the Headmaster, that's baaaad.
Well, keep it up with the good job, the story's only getting more interesting!  :grin:
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [14: Alliances]
Post by: mode107 on February 03, 2008, 10:11:19 PM
Yeeeeeaa new chapter  :w00t:

Airi/Miya is cute, their actions remind me of things a new married couple and old(not like elderely)married couple would do

Quote
Airi felt her insides turn to mush just a little bit. Was this what it was going to be like now? Friend against friend?

That was my favorite line in that chapter.  I really love the relationships were ppl start out as friends and then turn out to be enemies, foes, so it's really gonna be great seeing Maimi and Airi in these positions

*gasp* you mentioned Asuna Okai!  :wub: second egg spotted in this story, lol

About Risako, I don't know what her actual problem is, does she like Miyabi, does she like Airi, or she just doesn't like them together  :? maybe she just needs someone to charm her.. Kusumi

hmm, Ai seems like she's finally slipping into the 'dark' side. I thought she was gonna be the good one, but it's never too late.  ^-^

TaYaShi<--------  lol, I liked that
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [14: Alliances]
Post by: JFC on February 05, 2008, 12:35:19 AM
Quote
“Wake up, you two,” Reina announced, stepping on Miyabi and Airi and making them wake to the pain. “And put some clothes on. Nobody wants to know what you got up to overnight.”

Coming to consciousness enough to realize what Reina was saying, Airi blushed furiously and suddenly felt very aware of Miyabi’s warm body lying next to her own. What did the girl have in her head?
Reina the perv. :lol:



Quote
“Good morning!” she responded brightly, blinking to try and wake further.

Miyabi stared at her. “…You’re very cheery.”

“Of course!” Airi piped up. “It’s morning!”

“Whatever,” Miyabi said, “I don’t know if I could handle this every morning…” She rose awkwardly to her feet to wander off in the direction of a washroom. Airi giggled at the fresh thing she’d just learned about her new girlfriend.
Awwwwwwwwwwwww. :D



Quote
“It feels weird not going to this assembly…” Chisato said quietly, giving the three eldest girls furtive looks. “I know I’ve joined the Skulls and now I’m really supposed to be a rebel and all, but missing a school assembly… this is serious.”

“I know I’m not crazy about willingly putting myself in a situation where Takahashi and the others have any control,” Airi said sagely, studying her friend.
Airi's got the right idea. While under normal circumstances they probably should be going, considering what's recently happened it's best for them to lay low and not expose themselves to scenarios where the Circle members could get at them.



Quote
“Does my being with Miyabi make you uncomfortable, Chisa?” she asked earnestly, catching the girl’s attention quickly again. She apparently had assumed Airi wasn’t paying attention to her.

“No,” she responded. “Of course not. I’m glad to see you seem to be happy.”

By the girl’s short and terse sentences Airi knew that she was lying through her teeth. She scooted closer to her friend and wrapped an arm around her shoulders, very conscious of Miyabi’s eyes following her watchfully.

“You know you’re still my best friend, right?” she told Chisato encouragingly.
It's understandable that Chisato would be worried about something like this potentially happening.  Up until now it had been the 2 of them, best mates. Now with Miyabi in the picture, she's scared that she'll be losing her best friend.



Quote
“No one’s gonna change that, especially not Miss Miyabi Natsuyaki. I may do things with her and sleep with her and maybe even kiss her…” she said, a slight flush coming to her cheeks at her words. “But she definitely doesn’t take your place. I mean, you don’t want me to start kissing you, do you?” She ended with a giggle at the ridiculous notion.
I'd laugh if Chisato was jealous. :lol:



Quote
Since finding out she and Miyabi were together, Risako had nearly avoided her like the plague. She couldn’t figure out why, but the girl always managed to elude her if she tried approaching her. There was always someone else to go off and talk to, or else some other place to be.
Really now? Now this WOULD seem like a case of jealousy. Question is though, if this is the case, who's Socko jealous of?



Quote
Would anything be normal again? No classes… Classes were never cancelled at Seishin. She wondered what could have caused it, and if the Headmaster would have anything to say about it.
If/When the student body finds out that the Headmaster is dead, how will they react when the find out that he's dead, and more importantly, that it was the Circle who killed him?



Quote
“So what do you think is going on outside?” Miyabi drawled lazily, which Airi thought was an obvious attempt at trying not to notice Airi’s proximity to Chisato. It wasn’t her fault the older girl didn’t know their relationship, and it was something she was just going to have to learn.
We have to remember that this is all pretty new for Miyabi as well. Sure she's dated, but this is probably the first time she's really, really liked someone.  Whether she likes it or not though, she still has to remember that Airi still has other friends that she interacts with, and the way that she does that is just something that Miyabi will need to learn to cope with.



Quote
“What I think…” Miyabi said, reaching a twitchy hand over to Airi’s wrist to pull her with surprising strength away from Chisato and into her lap. Airi blushed furiously, and she thought she heard Chisato scooting away a little too. “Is that we need to stay together and work on something. Mako is here to help us out with things like this after all.”
Mako? As in, Ogawa Makoto? She's here too??? :?



Quote
Airi, trying to suppress the blush, pulled back to stare at her. “Who?”

“You know,” Miyabi replied, looking at her as if she was stupid. “Short girl. Dresses well.” She pointed. “Standing over there talking to Reina?”

“Mari?” Airi asked, becoming amused.

“Whatever,” Miyabi responded dismissively. Airi giggled.
Oops.   :mon lol:



Quote
“Did you ever wonder why the Skulls audition is such an ordeal?”

...

“Secret societies don’t usually send you to a deep cave to perform an act where you are literally risking your life,” Mari responded with a twist to the corner of her mouth. “They’re designed that way because the Skulls want only the strong… Those physically strong, as well as emotionally and morally. The reason behind it… was to gather them into a tight group under the watchful eye of someone like me so we could control the hands of fate.”
So in this case, it wasn't just all talk. They really were looking for the best of the best when it came to new members.



Quote
“My ancestors knew of the prophecy that the Three would rise again. We knew that their rise would have an immediate and potentially far-reaching impact on the world when it happened. We hoped that, as divine fate tends to unfold, others would rise and be able to quell the witches’ fires. We hoped for the True Blood… and we did our best to ensure they would be Skulls.” Now she beamed around at Reina, Airi and Miyabi. “Thankfully, they are.”
So we WERE right in assuming that the purpose of The Skulls was to be a counterpoint to The Circle.  To hide their true intentions, they took on the "rebellious group" persona so that The Circle would only see them as that.



Quote
“But what are these True Blood?” Miyabi asked.

Mari smiled down at her. “That I can’t tell you. It’s something you must find out in the struggle ahead of you.”

“To make it clear, you’re only talking about a few of us, right?” Chisato asked, drawing the eyes of those in the room yet not flinching. She stared straight over at Airi and Miyabi. “I mean, I’m not anything special. And we’ve seen what kinds of things… some of us can do.”

“That would be me, Miyakko and Suzuki then, right? Just like you said last night.” Reina said, gazing stoically at the three seated girls. “Not that we really have any idea what we can do yet.”
The "True Blood" are the ones who have the special abilities. It could be that they're direct descendants of those who originally defeated the first Circle long ago.



Quote
“So you want us to try and help you take over the world?” asked a wide-eyed Eri Kamei, standing near the front of the assembly next to a few of the other older Nakazawa girls, acting as if she was positively terrified at the thought.

“Yes!” Ai responded brightly, scanning the crowd in front of her. Most of the other girls of Seishin were staring at her with similar expressions, whether widened eyes or slackened jaws. Some even had both.
As shocking as this is, The Circle still exerts enough power/influence over them all that a lot of them will probably agree to it, thinking that Aichan, Captain, and Maimi will protect them all the way.



Quote
“What about the Headmaster?” came another voice from the assembled students. This time it was from the Matsuura section, and Ai felt Maimi tense up beside her. Umeda she thought the girl’s name was.

Before Maimi could say anything through the heat rising to her face though, Saki stepped up and responded quietly, “The Headmaster has gone out to the rest of Japan already to spread word about our intentions. He will be on that mission for a long time, so it’s up to us to lead the coup from the school.”
Oooooooooooooh that's slick. By saying that the Headmaster is simply away they've made it so the others won't try to contact him or get suspicious as to why he's not around.



Quote
“…What’s a coup?” asked another Matsuura girl, one of the younger ones this time. She didn’t know who it was, but the girl was short and had a round face and cute dimples up all the way past her nose.
Maimai?  :oops:



Quote
“It’s what it’s called when the rightful leaders rise up and take control of a government,” Maimi said, giving Saki a mild glare at the interruption when she had plainly planned to respond to the Umeda girl. Ai didn’t really know what was going on there, but she thought she’d seen the two together shortly before the assembly started.
Maimi and Captain had probably assumed certain questions would be asked, and as such, planned responses for them.  It was somewhat odd though, to see Captain respond to it, considering she's been the quiet one of the 3 Circle members.



Quote
“The best thing we feel we can offer though…” She raised her arms in front of her. “…is protection.”

...

“We have unimaginable power,” Maimi said proudly from beside Ai, puffing her chest out. “A small portion of which we have just displayed for you.” She scanned the audience as if trying to hold the gazes of each girl within it. “Yes, gods do exist, and it’s time for Japan – and eventually the world – to return to the enlightened rule of the divine.”
They call it protection, but at the same time they're showing the student body what they'll have to face if they don't agree to help them. 



Quote
You’re going to be leaders, remember? You’re the ones people will be bowing to. Many schools say it, but this is where it’s true as toasted tako.” She received some odd looks at her expression, and sighed. Well, at least they were able to understand her accent now… It had not been so easy when she first came to Seishin. “Come to Seishin Joshi Gakuin… and you will leave to lead.

All three Circle members, even including Saki, began to exhibit broad smiles as similar ones started to appear one after the other on the faces of those arrayed before them.
Undoubtedly, the allure of power is something that they counted on appealing to the others.  The students at this school already have a sense of superiority because of the school's reputation as being one of the best in the world.  The Circle counted on this sense of self-confidence from the students.



Quote
A subdued group of eight girls marched out of a deserted House Nakazawa, most unable to avoid glances over toward the amphitheatre where the assembly would still be going on.

...

They walked through the woods a good way until they reached a large hill, at the bottom of which stood the gaping maw of a cave that was all too familiar to Airi.
Taking shelter I take it? It's a smart move, particularly if none of the Circle members know about this cave.  Staying on campus wouldn't allow them the time to plan out what they want to do, as there's only so many places there that they can hide.



Quote
“What do you think?” Fujimoto asked Miyabi, whose hand Airi still would not release.

“There have been a lot of different emotions…” Miyabi said. At the moment she was one of those staring off into the distance, but unlike the others, Airi thought she was able to see something more than just endless trees. “There was incredulity, fear, anger… but now more than anything, excitement.”

“Anything else?” Mari asked, stepping up next to Fujimoto, who couldn’t hide her amazement at what Miyabi could apparently discern. Mari herself however seemed completely unfazed. As ridiculous as her story was, especially considering the events of the last few days, Airi actually found herself believing it more and more.

“The Chinese girls aren’t impressed,” Miyabi stated flatly.
Damn...even from this far away, Miyabi can telepathically sense what they're feeling in the assembly? :o



Quote
“It’s horrible…” she whispered hoarsely. “Those poor girls… the ones we couldn’t get to but don’t join them… They try to run away…”

Without words, Airi leaned close to the older girl and hugged her tightly, resting her cheek on her shoulder. After a moment Miyabi managed to hug her back. What was the girl seeing? What happened to those who tried to run away?
Well, for the Circle, they would see anyone who didn't side with them was a potential roadblock/enemy to their goals, meaning that they would have to be...dealt with. Anyone trying to get away from them would have to do it very carefully to avoid getting noticed/caught.



Quote
“What are we supposed to do though?” Koharu asked. The girl had stayed quiet through most of their proceedings, but seemed quite adamant at the moment. “Kill them?”

Mari remained silent.
It could very well come to that. The only other option is letting them win and take over the world.



Quote
“Did you give them the impression of our location?” Mari asked. Miyabi nodded.
Who exactly are they referring to here? The one's who are trying to get away from The Circle or the ones that are going to follow them?  If it's the latter, then are they leading them into a trap?



Quote
Figures became visible along the path through the trees leading to the cave, and eventually they were able to pick out who had come. Airi felt her body sag with relief as she saw the four Nakazawa girls from the night before leading the way, but there weren’t many more accompanying them.

...

“Mai-chan!” she shouted, suddenly releasing Miyabi’s hand and running toward the newcomers. The front group paused to watch her cautiously as she approached them, but she just ran past them to stop in front of the Matsuura first-year. “I’m glad to see you’ve come!” She looked to the girl’s side. “You too, Asu-chan. I’m sure Chisa will be thrilled to see you!” The young girl brightened at her sister’s name and looked past Airi. Upon noticing the grinning Chisato, she ran forward to hug her tightly.
Ah, looks like it was the one's who were trying to get away. :)



Quote
Airi looked around back down the path, but it was quiet. “…Mitssi didn’t come with you?” she asked stoically.

“No,” Mai answered in a high and almost squeaky voice. “She said she liked hearing what the Circle had to say, and that they were the Circle, so we should do what they say we should. She tried to convince me not to leave, but I got your message and trust you more than Takahashi-san and…” she hesitated slightly, avoiding Airi’s eyes. “Yajima-san…”
Oh hell...Aika...:cry:



Quote
Was this what it was going to be like now? Friend against friend? Looking back into her young friend’s uncomfortable eyes, she realized they likely didn’t have the faintest clue of what was going on.
Unfortunately, in something as big as this, and considering how The Circle is manipulating the student body, it will likely end up being this way.



Quote
The Skulls all chatted with the new arrivals, and Miyabi grudgingly apologized to Lin Lin and Michishige for beating them up in the past.

“You had better set things right with Michishige!” Airi had told her. “Or I’m going to kiss her right in front of you!”

“You wish…”
Miyabi grumbled back, but apologized nonetheless, which pleased Airi as she was able to enjoy the sixth-year’s smile away from the jealous gaze of her girlfriend for a short time.
:mon sweat:

Wait a sec...where's Junjun??? :OMG:



Quote
“They talk big for such small girls…” Li Chun commented, frowning.
JUNJUN!!! :wriggly:



Quote
“China doesn’t have their power…” Fujimoto stated wryly. “The only ones that do are these three here.” She flourished an arm vaguely in the direction of Airi and Miyabi, although Reina was nowhere near them.

“Who?” Lin Lin asked in high clipped tones. “Those two little girls? And…”

Airi was about to angrily express how little she wasn’t, and apparently Miyabi had the same idea, niceness and apologies be damned, but Reina trumped them. “Me,” she stated, sauntering over in their direction.

“Who are you?” Lin Lin asked, curious.
Well, guess Reina's not as well known on campus as she thought. Then again, she probably would be if she showed up for class once in a while. :on lol:



Quote
“So what do we do now, boss?” Reina asked, leaning back against a tree and popping another stick of gum into her mouth.

“Now…” Mari said. “You must find a way to bring down this shield around the school so I can leave and go back home, among other things.” Airi stared at her. They seemed to be in a fight for their lives, and the girl wanted to go home?!

...

“How do you propose I help you?” Mari asked. “I can’t do the things you can do. I also don’t know anyone at this school, except for the Headmaster whom I would very much like to look up before I leave. I would be completely useless.”

“But…” Chisato said, looking worried herself. “You have so many things to teach us…”
Having the knowledge of what needed to be done was one thing. It's another thing completely to be willing/able to actually DO something with it.  Mari is just the mentor here, for some reason she is unable to actually get involved.  And she's right, this isn't her school, the people involved aren't her peers. For the battle to be won, it needs to be done by people who know the people that they're up against. Even with the whole special powers thing, the girls still know the rest of the student body better than Mari does.



Quote
“So who’s gonna lead us against this… army?” She almost spat the last word, but Airi could tell that despite her inflection, the girl really was worried.

“I swear, do Skulls these days actually have any brains?” Fujimoto responded, rolling her eyes up to the dark sky. “You three, of course!”
It's not like there's much of a choice, when you think about it. The Circle will undoubtedly be leading their side. It's a big burden to bear, but it's one that needs to be done.



Title: Re: The Circle of Three [14: Alliances]
Post by: anonymousdowner on February 05, 2008, 01:17:57 AM
The risako thing is bothering me..she likes miyabi or something huh  :oops: though i like airi and miyabi i still have the biggest thing for miyabi and risako lol anyway thanks for the update!  :D
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [15: The Icy Hand of Friendship]
Post by: rokun on February 15, 2008, 02:41:19 AM
Thanks for the wonderful comments everyone!!! :nya: It seems like the most popular topics are Miya/Airi cuteness and the Risako-ness. XD Hmm, interesting. ;) Well I can guarantee there will be more of all of that to come!!

One more thing - mode: Yay for the egg-spotter! :D Let's see what you think of this chapter. ;) I'm trying to give voice to those who have... well, little at this point. :) Keep it up please!!!

There's a lot that happens in this chapter! It took a little while, but I hope you'll give me a break for what went into it... I think it's fun, and I hope it'll give you a bit of a roller coaster feeling as well. :) As always, enjoy~


Chapter 15 – The Icy Hand of Friendship

“So what do we do now?” Airi asked, glancing over at Miyabi as the two of them along with Chisato stood together just inside the entrance of the cave, peering out at the rest of the girls now a part of their rebellious number who were socializing in hushed tones. They were up to eighteen strong now, so it was almost as if they were just members of a class, if one that included very diverse ages as well as students.

Miyabi was leaning lazily against the wall as she looked on, one foot crossed in front of the other, and she responded, “Well we have to do something. Standing around here isn’t going to fix anything.”

With that, the older girl brought herself up and walked over to the two eldest senpai, Airi and Chisato trailing behind, and stopped just in front of Mari to look down into her face. “We should do something,” she told the woman. “I can’t imagine the Circle is sitting back on their heels like this, and we have the disadvantage right now.” She flourished an arm behind her. “I mean, we’re in a cave!”

“I completely agree,” Mari said, looking her steadily in the eye. Miyabi stared back, frustrated at the lack of elaboration in the response she received, before spinning around to Airi. “Well these two are gonna be no use. I guess we’ve just got ourselves.”

“What’s up?” Reina asked, walking up with a couple of younger girls. Airi smiled at Konatsu, who was a fourth year and one of the few of the gathering from her own House.

“Your assistant here is getting impatient,” Fujimoto said with a grin, and Miyabi gave her a short glare, to which she responded with an innocent roll of her eyes.

“I’m just getting tired of sitting here doing nothing!” the Goto girl retorted in defense of herself.

“I thought you would be enjoying your free time with your little girlfriend,” Reina chided the slightly younger girl, now drawing her glare as well.

Throughout the whole exchange, Airi had been staring up into the dusky sky. This was perhaps a good thing, because otherwise she might have started glaring at Reina too after her last comment. “I don’t like this…” she said ambiguously.

The others stared at her, and in her peaceful obliviousness she didn’t notice that everyone else around the cave entrance was beginning to stare at them too. “You don’t like what?” Fujimoto asked with a frown.

Miyabi followed Airi’s eyes up toward the sky and the canopy of gently swaying trees. “Are you talking about whatever it is that’s making it dark?”

“Yes,” Airi responded ethereally. She nearly became detached from her surroundings as she tried to feel what lie within the magic that enveloped them. “It’s blocking out the Sun and I…” She felt a chill ripple through her, and shivered slightly. Miyabi was quickly at her side to wrap arms around her, and the touch brought her back to the cave, where she blinked around at the attention she received. “I have a bad feeling about it.”

As if her senses were amplified by the chill she received at the thought of the dome around them, she felt her already bad feeling amplified suddenly and darted her eyes around into the trees. She could have sworn she just noticed something within them, but nothing was there now except for the restlessly swaying brush.

“Are you… quite all right?” Reina asked, raising the eyebrow above her wonky eye at Airi.

“Yes,” Airi responded, now beginning to be slightly miffed. “I’d like to see the Sun again, though.”

“Well that does it!” Miyabi pronounced, keeping at Airi’s side with one arm around her slim waist. “That’s what we can do – go see what we can do about this dome of darkness!”

“‘Dome of Darkness’...” Koharu repeated, giggling as she joined the other Skulls along with Chisato and her sister, who was still looking in awe all around her and didn’t seem to want to come any nearer Reina and Miyabi at least.

Everyone stared at the giggling girl until she dropped off into silence, looking around at them self-consciously. “What? It’s funny! It sounds like some scary movie or something…” The sound of crickets chirping their unintelligible symphonies surrounded them.

“…Yeah,” Miyabi said finally, and Airi felt a tug as she was pulled along by the girl toward the woods. “All right, we’re going! I need to make my girl happy, after all,” she said with a grin and a wink over to Airi, who blushed profusely.

The two of them walked in their mutual intimate awkwardness until they reached a path in the woods, catching it in the direction of the road away from Seishin. Eventually they fell back to just holding hands while walking since it was rather uncomfortable doing so while embracing, and a short while later Airi felt suddenly pre-occupied and looked behind her, coming to a stop and dragging Miyabi with her.

Behind them were arrayed all of the girls that had been at the cave, with Miki, Mari and Reina at the front. Some of the non-Skulls looked around uncertainly, though showed no signs of anything out of the ordinary.

“You’re all coming too?” Miyabi said with a frown as she turned too and scanned the small crowd.

“If I’m leaving the school, I have to go this way eventually,” Mari responded, smiling.

“What, you two think you’re so special you don’t need me?” Reina grumbled.

Miyabi gave them a level look. “…You know you’re not who I’m talking about.”

“If we’re going to… rebel… against the school, we have a right to know the intentions of who we decided to follow instead!” explained Kamei in a frantic voice, apparently terrified at the words she was daring to use once again.

Airi smiled sentimentally. She supposed she was like that too. After all, they were the best and brightest and of course most well-behaved students, and doing something like rebelling against school leaders was very near to sacrilege to many of them.

Then she got involved with Miyabi…

She blushed again. Well, they couldn’t all be that well-behaved could they? After all, there were the Skulls. Suddenly Mari’s explanation held a much stronger meaning for her as she peered from face to face of the delinquent girls.

Miyabi stared at the now diverse crowd of students a few seconds before responding. “Fine, whatever… Like I care about what you do. Just keep your chins up. This could be dangerous.”

There were murmurs of laughter that Miyabi didn’t seem to notice as she turned back forward, and a few of the girls leaned toward each other whispering through their giggles. Airi smiled herself at the ironic comment by her girlfriend, feeling her own chin self-consciously, but before turning back to join her shook her head and mouthed to the rest, “She didn’t mean any of that… She really cares about you! Really!”

She received many raised eyebrows in return, including very sardonic ones from Miki and Reina. Turning the corners of her mouth in a pout, she widened her eyes. If she could, she would have stomped on both of their feet right there!!! But then she was quickly whisked away back down the path by the girl who still held her hand tightly.

It was a quiet trip through the woods, made even eerier by the sense that it was getting even darker the closer they thought they were getting to the border. At one point, when she thought they were very near the main road, Airi wondered why there wasn’t even thunder and lightning crackling just within the trees above their heads.

It certainly felt like a storm. At least, Airi felt something malevolent all around her just like one. It became so bad that she was holding onto Miyabi even tighter than the girl was to her now, and she did her best to stay shoulder-to-shoulder. Taking a few nervous glances behind from time to time, she noticed the other girls were comforting each other just the same, except for the three “leaders” of course. Still, Airi thought they too walked just that much closer together…

“Miya…” she whispered from right next to the girl’s ear, using her contracted name without a thought in her fear. “Something’s not right…”

“Just a little farther,” Miyabi responded, squeezing Airi’s hand consolingly. Airi wasn’t fooled though. She knew the older girl was terrified too. Her eyes darted to and fro along the path ahead of them that now seemed to disappear into darkness not far up.

Suddenly the Goto girl’s face brightened, and she pointed over to the side. “See! There’s the other path that comes straight from the school. Ours will meet up with it soon, and that means the road’s just up ahead!”

Airi squinted through the dark fog and the trees in the direction she indicated but could barely make out anything. She thought she detected a slight gap in the trees where another path could have split them, but couldn’t be sure of it. As they walked a few more, quicker steps toward the looming veil of darkness, she began to see the gap more clearly… but then someone screamed.

Airi jumped what she felt must have been a meter off the ground, and when she could finally regain her senses spun around to see the people behind her recovering from what must have been similar jolts. As she felt the tight grip of the sweaty hand of her girlfriend, she realized even Fujimoto and Reina had reacted to it.

“What the HELL was that for?!” Reina scolded, nearly screaming at the top of her lungs at a young girl who was somehow now nearly right behind her. “I swear, it sounded like someone…”

She trailed off when she noticed her words were having no effect on Risako, who was gaping with her eyes wide as saucers at a spot slightly ahead of them and in the direction Airi had just been looking in order to track the path beside theirs. The girl normally had a pale face, but now it didn’t seem as if there was any blood left in it. Airi, along with everyone else, followed the girl’s eyes into the trees. She didn’t see anything at first, but gasps from behind as well as girls who suddenly began crying and falling down to the ground to cower close together made her realize she must just have been missing something. She was really going to have to get glasses one of these days…

Walking toward the trees in order to get a better look, and finally being able to identify what appeared to be a few large mounds scattered among them, she felt a hand on her shirt attempting to tug her back.

“Don’t go over there!” Miyabi hissed, fright no longer concealed in her voice.

Airi shook the girl’s hand off though and started forward again. She wanted to see for herself what was causing such chaos among the others. When she reached the side of the path and started into the trees, she tripped over something and fell to the ground, to renewed wailing by one or two of the other younger girls with them. Rising to her knees, wincing with the pain, she looked back at what had tripped her and froze.

Now that she was close, she could make out a small body in seifuku lying amid the packed leaves. The girl’s face was fixed in an expression of horror, and stared out through wide open, lifeless eyes. There were bloody marks all over her as if she’d been tossed around like a sack of garbage, and an arm and a leg were each twisted at horrible angles. As her own wide eyes adjusted more and returned to the girl’s face, she gasped in recognition.

“Nakki…?” she managed to choke out disbelievingly. She didn’t know the girl well, but she was from her own House – just a year ahead of her and Chisato – so she of course knew her.

In a daze, still kneeling in the leaves next to the cold body, she looked around and noticed other, similarly abused fellow students. Now knowing Saki Nakajima was there, she was able to recognize the others as students the other Matsuura girl normally hung out with – Morisaki was there as well as Kanna, both lying haphazardly within the trees and leaves that now seemed to induce harsh chills with their rustling.

Further toward the other path she saw another form, and yet another actually on the path itself, just before it seemed to completely wind into the pitch darkness. She couldn’t tell for sure, but she thought the last looked even blacker than the others… Maybe the darkness itself was enveloping it somehow. The thought sent chills down her spine.

As she looked on in her horror, pinpricks of light caught her attention from the trees on the other side of that path, and for a moment she stared into eyes that were bright yet as cold as the darkness they pierced.

She lost the connection suddenly though when Miyabi, who had slowly been edging her way forward this whole time, grabbed her arm and pulled her quickly back onto the path with the other girls, most of whom sat in small groups still huddling together and crying.

“…You shouldn’t have had to see that,” Miyabi grated in a hoarse and hollow-sounding whisper.

Airi turned her face from the woods the apparition had now disappeared into and toward Miyabi’s own, unblinking and with her eyes fixed wide.

“I know…” She swallowed, looking longingly into the warm features of her delinquent girlfriend. “I knew those girls…” she said weakly, amazed she wasn’t shivering. Despite that, Miyabi still brought her into a tight hug. “What happened…?”

“I would guess they tried to get away,” Mari said solemnly, giving a look up the path that was almost as dark as the blackness beyond. “Whatever the Circle has set up, it’s not meant to let anyone through… A harsh price to pay for those whose loyalty couldn’t be ensured with an iron fist.”

“They did this because they wouldn’t follow the Circle?” exclaimed Erina, rising up from her spot next to Kamei and Michishige, who still huddled together, the raven-haired one sobbing heavily and the shorter-haired girl expressing only a fixed look of terror. “B-but… How could they?! Ai-chan would never…” She now seemed to only be reassuring herself.

“I would imagine you have nothing to worry about… yet,” Fujimoto said, now frowning ahead of them along with Mari. “This is only meant to keep anyone from running and telling anyone what was happening in here. I don’t think they counted on a rebellion acting from the inside.”

“But…” Erina continued, but now seeming at a loss for words.

“If they would do this, they would surely come after you just as strong,” Li Chun said, stepping up to lay a hand on Erina’s quivering shoulder. She was shaken, but somehow not as badly as the rest. Then again, she was one of the eldest ones here aside from Mari and Fujimoto. “And that means us, too.”

“No!” Michishige suddenly said in a squeaky, tear-roughened voice, jumping up and making Kamei fall back and flat on the ground for a moment before she also jumped up just as quickly to her side as if she’d fallen on a bed of needles. “Ai-chan wouldn’t do this!” She looked desperately around all of them, then through the trees at the bodies. “I mean, look at that! I know those girls on the path! Even the b…” Her voice broke in her sobbing. “…the burned one next to the darkness. It was Kikk…” She couldn’t say any more through her choking tears, but after a moment swallowed and cast a heated gaze back at the girls standing around her, so much so that Kamei even fell back from her slightly. “Ai-chan just couldn’t!

“Yajima would,” Chisato said in a low voice, her tear-streaked face turning into one of fury. Airi darted a scandalized glance her way. “Fire is her trademark after all, isn’t it?” she continued challengingly. Airi stared at her friend, mildly impressed at her focus and composure despite what she had to say about a girl she still couldn’t hate.

“I don’t think they actually know…” Mari cut in quickly to quell the budding arguments, now stepping cautiously forward and peering curiously into the blackness. “This is old magic… the kind of thing I’ve heard tell of from my ancestors. I don’t think they’d know how to do something like this.”

“How do we know that?” Miyabi said, fury quickly painting her own features. “Do we really know anything about what they can or can’t do?!”

“I don’t think they could…” Airi said thoughtfully, finally losing some of her own fear. “I mean, we were able to beat them before, and we certainly don’t know anything about this.”

“You mean you were able to beat them.” Fujimoto grinned before catching the hot glares of both Miyabi and Reina and clearing her throat. She now studiously watched Mari, who looked like she was treading on thin ice as she made her way tediously down the path. “But you’re right. I don’t think they could do this either.” She was now studying the older woman, who raised a hand in front of her.

“Airi,” she said, gesturing her forward. Airi blinked. “Come have a look at this with me.” Automatically Airi began walking forward, of course with Miyabi right at her side. “Stop,” Mari said, throwing her arm out in front of them as they were nearly to her.

Airi joined her in peering up. Now that she was closer, she saw something too. The darkness wasn’t solid; it was as if a thick roiling mist just blocked their way. “This was set here…”

“I knew they had something to do with it!” Miyabi suddenly growled, and she broke away from Airi to march back toward the others. “Look!” she said, gesturing vaguely to the dead girls lying in the trees and the blackness behind them. “This is the kind of thing they do to those who don’t agree with them! I know you may not trust me all that much either, but do you really want to ally yourselves with people like that?”

“Ai-chan wouldn’t…” Michishige sniffed again, clutching Kamei tightly.

“Are you sure about that?” Miyabi shouted back at her. She looked around at the others. “Would you bet your lives on that?!” Uncomfortable silence was all that greeted her this time, even from the older women.

Chisato stepped forward out of a small group also consisting of her sister, Risako, and Koharu, half of whom were still on the ground. “I think they’ve showed their true selves and intentions by what just happened here,” she said in a rough, sober voice. “I may not be able to do much against them myself, but I think those of us who can, should.” Airi’s eyes widened at the intensity of the gaze the other second year Matsuura girl then held on Reina, Miyabi, and even herself. She knew Chisato was braver than she led herself on to be – although she definitely knew it as it was a large reason she joined the Skulls – but still, she’d never heard her friend talk in a way quite this resolute and grave before.

Feeling the dark mist behind her as if through a sixth sense, she was going to respond that she thought that should still be their main concern, but looking into the young girl’s determined eyes gave her pause, and so Miyabi voiced her agreement instead.

“She’s right, you know,” she warned everyone. “Do you want this to happen to any more of your friends?” She gestured back toward the trees and the dark shapes within as she spoke.

Nobody else opened their mouths for anything other than continuing sobs, but no few of the small company shook their heads slowly. “All right then,” Miyabi said in response to her own question, and Airi noticed slight resignation in her voice. Miyabi then looked at both her and Reina in turn, and Airi knew why. They were asking these girls to support them, but they would be the ones doing the fighting, and that was quite a burden for the three of them no matter how just it might be. Swallowing again, Airi gave her girlfriend a nod.

“We might as well get started then,” Reina said, starting back down the path away from the wall of mist. “They’ve probably already retreated to the Ivory Tower with whatever idiot students followed them, so I’d say that’s a place to start.”

Feeling a squeeze on her hand and seeing a reassuring grimace and nod from Miyabi, the two of them started after the Captain. Miki and Mari followed a short ways behind, and then the rest, all of whom finally managed to come to their feet.

No one looked back at the darkness, shed tears, and lost friends they left behind.



“They’re coming,” Saki said from her shadowy perch next to the window of a small meeting room in a very old, austere structure bleached through the long years to the point that some called it the ‘Ivory Tower’.

“Aww, and we were just starting to have some fun! Weren’t we, Ume-chan?” Maimi asked the girl perched on her lap with a devilish grin. The other fifth year Matsuura girl giggled in response and laid her head on Maimi’s shoulder to watch the other occupants of the room.

Ai couldn’t help a slight sickly twist to her face. They’d left the other wide-eyed members of their “army” down in one of the large halls to have whatever fun they maybe still could while the Circle members came upstairs to plan their next moves. However, since she was apparently the Matsuura head’s new “conquest”, Maimi had brought Umeda up with them and hardly even paid attention to what the others were saying in between short make out sessions with the girl on her lap.

Then again, Ai supposed she wasn’t in a position to say too much about that, since she had a Risa Niigaki glued to her side as well. At least they didn’t make such a blatant show of their affections though. She looked at the girl next to her, and Risa rolled her eyes. It didn’t take much to discern that she had a similar opinion of the two as Ai did.

Saki, the only one of them alone at the moment, didn’t turn from the window at the playfulness from behind her. “They’ll still be a while, but we’ll need to be prepared.” The small Goto girl herself had only just joined them after wandering off who knew where. Ai still didn’t have down what the girl did in those times outside by herself, but felt that for some reason she didn’t like it one bit.

“How many did you say joined them?” Ai asked. Upon returning, Saki was a fountain of knowledge about the small rebellion that was going on, and even though she was beginning to reclaim and decipher some memories from another time of women who they apparently shared much in common with, Ai wondered how she was able to learn all that she seemed to know.

“There are no more than twenty,” Saki responded. “But not much fewer. Of course, not all of them are worth our attention.”

“A mutiny!” Maimi cried out suddenly, brandishing a bony fist in the air. “That’s what it is! Rotten disloyal traitors, the lot of them.” Her furious face right beside Umeda’s smugly grinning one offered quite a contrast.

“I wasn’t aware we had become the crew of a pirate ship,” Ai commented wryly, eliciting a soft coughing laugh from Risa beside her.

Saki finally turned around and faced the others, although it was still hard to see her face through the shadows. “You are once again acting in a way that does not befit your station, Matsuura,” she warned coldly, catching even Ai off-guard. She hoped the girl was referring to the school Maimi came from. Otherwise…

Not for the first time, she began worrying for the girl’s sanity. After another thoughtful moment and observation of the disdain Saki was showing her comrade, she acquired another worry. Maybe the relationship of the two heads really had been as close as Ai suspected.

“Calm down, Saki-chan,” Ai cooed, and the small girl’s eyes flickered toward her. She didn’t seem to fully realize that Ai was talking to her. Taking a deep breath, she continued. “We’ve already discussed what will happen if they come here, because we expected they would. I think it’s… rather odd that they’re doing it so quickly, knowing that we must be waiting for them, but all the better for us. Maybe we’ll be able to quell their little uprising before it even really begins.”

“I don’t see why you’re so confident,” Maimi said in a tight voice, glowering at nothing in particular. Umeda apparently could sense her mood, and started tracing lines along her collarbone in a soothing motion. “Then again, nobody tried to rip your soul apart either.”

Ai watched her carefully. The bitterness and anger in her eyes seemed to extend beyond whatever physical torture she’d felt, and Ai noticed she was barely even paying heed to the girl on her lap. There was something much deeper that was bothering her, and as most things she couldn’t understand did, that made Ai curious.

She thought back to the first assault on this building. Those reprehensible girls had come to save their slippery sleazeball of a “friend”, and despite some flashy fireworks Ai knew they weren’t in any trouble… At least, until that innocent-looking young Matsuura girl stepped to the front and faced Maimi down. The odd thing was that Maimi had seemed overly concerned with her as if she held an old grudge over something.

The next moment though, when Saki tried to “convince” her to step aside and let the adults play, all hell broke loose. Before Ai knew it both Saki and Maimi were on the ground, the Matsuura head screaming in pain, and so coming out from her position next to Risa, she scrambled to do something to stop them.

Somehow she managed to knock the young girl out of the battle, although obviously not disable her permanently. That was something that she was quite relieved by though, because she didn’t want any more people getting hurt than she could help. However, the surprising girl was doing something that was hurting her friends, so she had to do something. Unfortunately, it had taken her a while to explain that to Risa. With the young girl gone, the Skulls’ assault ceased and it allowed Risa and Ai to care for the other two with relative ease.

“Do you guys really need to fight them again?” Risa asked, and not for the first time. “I’m sure there’s some way you could talk this out. Tell them about your history; I’m sure they’d understand then. You’re more than just high school students.” She looked around at each of the Circle members as she spoke, her eyes finally coming to rest with pride on Ai, who smiled warmly back at her.

“You don’t know those girls,” Maimi said, waggling a finger at her. Upon seeing the slim appendage dangling in front of her, Umeda grabbed the girl’s wrist and brought it toward her before kissing and suckling lightly at one of the fingers. Maimi blinked in surprise as if just realizing there was a sizable girl on her lap, but quickly her expression turned playful, and she watched the girl contentedly.

For her own part suppressing a surge of bile that suddenly began rising within her stomach, Ai hurriedly turned her attention back on Risa and agreed, “She’s right, Nii-chan. Don’t you remember what Natsuyaki did to me in the hallway? They’re not going to listen to a word we have to say. I wish it wouldn’t… come to that myself, but I’m afraid we have no choice. You do believe in us, right?” she asked, beginning to smile again at her friend, who she now supposed was more than that. “…in me?”

“Of course I do, Ai-chan,” Risa admitted softly, lowering her face in embarrassment. “I just worry…”

“Well,” Ai said reassuringly, laying a finger below the girl’s chin to lift her head again. “There’s no need for that. They’re making a mistake already by coming here right now. See? It won’t be long before this is all settled.”

“Come ooon…” Maimi crowed teasingly in their direction. “Kiss her! You’ve got no excuse not to now.”

Ai turned to her quickly to see both pairs of Matsuura eyes watching them in anticipation, and she grinned. Then she leaned forward and planted her lips on those of a surprised, but definitely not reluctant, Niigaki.

“Yatta!!!” she heard twin voices yell, and she thought Umeda might even have been clapping, but then Saki’s voice cut through the excitement like a cold knife.

“They’re here.”



“We’re there,” Miyabi said, glowering at the large structure that suddenly loomed out of the trees in front of them. Airi knew her last memories of the place couldn’t have been the best, although she never told her exactly what had gone on.

“I don’t see anyone…” Koharu said hopefully, peeking around Reina. “Maybe they left already?”

“And where would they go?” Reina asked skeptically. The reminder of what they’d just left made the younger Nakazawa girl slip back beside Risako. Airi sighed as she looked at her friend, who seemed to still be trying her best to ignore her. She would definitely have to try and talk to her once all this was over with.

After deflating all of her kouhai’s hopes, Reina turned to Airi and Miyabi. “Should I ring the doorbell like I did before?” she asked.

“No need,” Miyabi responded, still staring at the structure. “They know we’re here.”

The gloomy pronouncement caused a stir in the girls behind them, probably because the new arrivals hadn’t witnessed any of their “special abilities” yet and so were a little scared at why Miyabi would have known that.

“Well then,” Reina said in a too-sweet voice. “I guess we’ll march up to the door and ask nicely for them to let us in.”

“No,” Miyabi commanded with an outstretched arm, eliciting narrowed eyes from her senpai. “That’s what she wants. She’d hit you before you knew what happened, and then we’d all be served up on a platter to their whims.”

“That’s what who wants?” Kamei asked. Despite their growing knowledge of their enemies, the other girls still weren’t fully sure of their allies.

“Airi…” Miyabi said reluctantly, turning to her. Airi smiled at her keenly. “…You’re the only one that’s really been able to beat them. I can only protect all of us for a time. What do you think?”

Seeing the concern in her girlfriend’s long features, Airi kept her comforting smile as she turned toward the building. “Well…” she began. She heard a cough from behind that she figured was from Li Chun, who still very visibly doubted her credibility in making any decisions on things as important as this. “Knocking on the door probably isn’t a bad idea. I’m not sure what I can do if I can’t see who’s attacking me.”

“I’ll go with you,” Miyabi said quickly, taking her wrist. “I think I can keep her out of your mind.” Airi nodded, and started forward.

“Osuzu!” Chisato shouted as they embarked, and Airi turned to see her friend stepping out of her sister’s tight grasp. “Are you sure you’ll be okay?”

“I’ll be fine,” Airi responded reassuringly.

Then, surprisingly, Risako stepped up next to the other Matsuura girl and gave her a strong look of support, although Airi noticed she carefully ignored Miyabi next to her. “Take care… okay?” she said quietly. Airi nodded again, her smile even wider now, and turned back around.

The walk up the last meters of the path to the bastion of the Circle seemed to get harder with every step, but with her hand tightly entwined in Miyabi’s, the large and somehow already repaired door became closer and closer. The darkness that surrounded them as well as the newfound knowledge of the mist that lay above and around all of it made Airi think she was walking up to some witches’ castle from out of any one of many fantasy mangas she’d read, although this was very, very real. It seemed very much darker, too.

They finally reached the big doors, and Miyabi looked to her inquisitively. Airi just shrugged in response and raised her free hand to knock at the door. Miyabi twitched as if surprised Airi actually did what she told her she was going to do, but then both girls stood still as they waited for some response.

“…I don’t think anyone’s coming, Airi,” Miyabi said after a moment. “Can’t you like, blast your way in or something?” Airi gave her a very level look in response, to which the older girl grinned nervously and scratched at the back of her neck.

However, just as they spoke, something clicked and the door swung open barely wide enough for someone’s head to stick out. They heard whispers coming from inside, although there was definitely also someone peering cautiously out at them.

“Who is it, Momo?” came an excited whisper from within. “Is it one of THEM?”

“Let me see!” cried another voice. “I’m older than you!”

There was the sound of a bit of scuffling, which caused Miyabi and Airi to look at each other with raised eyebrows, but eventually the small head of an apparently short Goto girl popped out to peer at them. She looked a little strained as if she was holding somebody back from the door, as well as trying to keep it cracked open only so much, but she suddenly gave them a too-bright smile.

“Hello!” she squeaked. Airi couldn’t have thought of another way to describe her almost forced shrillness. “What can I do for you?”

After exchanging another skeptical glance with Airi, Miyabi looked at her. “Don’t act like you don’t know who I am, Tsugunaga,” she drawled lazily, hunching down a bit as if trying to appear unimpressed and unconcerned. Airi widened her eyes. There was a lot she could learn from her girlfriend.

“Why, Miyabi!” the girl in the doorway piped, as if suddenly remembering her. “What a pleasant surprise!”

“I’m sure it is…” Miyabi grumbled. “So are you going to let us in or do I have to stuff you into the trash can I passed just a little ways back? It’s small and square; seems like a perfect fit.”

This… Tsugunaga’s… smile faltered a little at that, and suddenly another face appeared in the doorway as it widened just a bit more. This girl seemed much bigger, as well as older, and blond highlights in her brownish hair framed a round and slightly pudgy face. She was definitely still handsome, though.

“I can’t believe you even dare to come here!” she scolded Miyabi. “I knew you Skulls were no good, but this really is crossing the line! Not even showing up to the assembly?! The Circle has been so good to you to even let you stay here and not be expelled, but now you just turn your backs on them when they need us most!”

After giving the new arrival a wide, toothy grin, Miyabi tightened her grip on Airi’s arm and dragged her in front of her, to where she now was staring right into the faces in the doorway. “Who’s this?” the blond-highlighted girl asked. “She’s not a Skull. Looks like a runty little first year to me.” Airi felt her face grow redder as the girl looked her up and down appraisingly.

“Actually…” came a voice from within, but Airi had had enough.

“I am most certainly not a first year!” she roared. “And you let us in right now or I’ll… I’ll…” Her hot gaze fell to the door, and she was just about to bash into it when it swung open fully, causing the two girls inside who’d already spoken to stumble over each other and fall to the floor. Surprisingly, it was the younger Tsugunaga who was able to overpower the other and get to her feet first.

“Airi!” she heard a familiar voice cry in greeting. With the door now opened she noticed many students were gathered in the entryway, but couldn’t identify too many of them before one jumped forward to hug her.

After a second though, her assailant pulled back and looked anxiously at a smirking Miyabi before smiling back at Airi. “I was so worried about you! Where have you been? You missed the assembly!” Airi stared into the face of the Nakazawa third year, Aika Mitsui, who until lately was one of her closest friends.

“Isn’t it obvious where she’s been?” the round-faced girl growled, getting up finally and dusting herself off with a glare toward Tsugunaga and then Miyabi. “Apparently hanging out with Skulls.” She almost spat the last word.

“That’s what I was trying to tell you, Ogawa-san,” Aika explained patiently and yet a little nervously. “I think she’s joined them actually.” She peered up into Airi’s face, and Airi thought she hoped the girl would deny the allegation. “Didn’t you?”

Airi looked up at Miyabi for a moment, who nodded, before turning back to her friend. “Yes I did, Mittsi.” The slightly older girl’s eyes widened. “And we’re here for a reason.”

“Well if that’s the case,” announced another older girl from further back. “We need to take them to see the Circle. Don’t any of you remember what they said if any Skulls happened to drop by?” She glared challengingly around at the others as if she was trying to assert some kind of haughty authority, but Airi nearly almost giggled since it was hard for her to think the glare looked like anything other than a pout. Then her eyes inadvertently fell to the girl’s chest, and they opened wide. She had never seen… anything… like that before!”

After a second or two of staring she was blinded by a hand in front of her eyes, and she felt Miyabi slide an arm around her waist and pull her tightly to her side. “H-hey…!”

“We’d love to see the Circle,” Miyabi demurred, and after futilely struggling for a moment Airi’s eyes were finally uncovered only to see the busty girl turned around and walking away from them, as if expecting them to follow. They did so at urging from her girlfriend that Airi did not need, and as they walked they passed through a veritable sea of blank-faced girls who obviously didn’t care one whit what happened to the two of them. There were a few exceptions of course, such as small smiles from Kanon Fukuda and Akari Saho, Airi’s classmates from House Matsuura, as well as Mia Sainen, who was a good friend of Aika’s. She and Aika actually followed them for a good ways as if offering unspoken and possibly taboo support.

“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Airi whispered up to Miyabi, looking cautiously ahead as another girl who was likely also a seventh year joined their chauffeur.

“Don’t worry,” Miyabi whispered back from the side of her mouth. “I told you, I’m protecting you. It’ll take them a bit to figure out how to get past that, and by then I hope you’ll have it all under control.”

Airi stared at her girlfriend. Oh, she would just have it all under control, would she? The girl made it sound so simple.

“Right through here,” their leader said evenly, gesturing to a door at the end of the hall before them, and Airi did her best not to let her eyes stray back to the girl’s chest.

As the two of them started walking forward, she heard a sound behind her and looked back to see Aika raising a fist. “Ganbatte!” her friend whispered, appearing as if she was trying not to be worried. Airi’s heart sank just a little more. Whatever she was going to face beyond this door, it couldn’t be half as hard as that just was.

The next thing she knew, she and Miyabi were passing through it into a large, comfortable-looking fire lit room, and when she caught sight of Ai Takahashi standing smiling just inside beside another unfamiliar seventh-year, she felt Miyabi’s arm tighten around her waist just a little bit more. She knew there were others in the room, but there was so much furniture she couldn’t see them. They must have all been sitting.

“Natsuyaki-san,” Takahashi said in a sweet and warm voice, although with a wry twist to one corner of her mouth. “Welcome back.” Then her attention shifted slightly. “And you must be Airi Suzuki. I’ve heard so much about you.”

Airi stared back into those eyes that seemed friendly on the surface, but upon closer inspection appeared dark as a harsh winter’s night, as the door they just entered creaked shut behind them. However, it wasn’t ice she saw in them, but the far superior abrasiveness of raw and incredible power.
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [15: The Icy Hand of Friendship]
Post by: maiZe on February 15, 2008, 05:19:13 AM
Ahh!! So much tension! So much drama! The suspense is killing me!! Next chapter please! :lol:

But really, another great chapter. Enjoyed the light hearted Miya/Airi moments that were squeezed between all the craziness of this chapter.
“Are you… quite all right?” Reina asked, raising the eyebrow above her wonky eye at Airi.

“Yes,” Airi responded, now beginning to be slightly miffed. “I’d like to see the Sun again, though.”

“Well that does it!” Miyabi pronounced, keeping at Airi’s side with one arm around her slim waist. “That’s what we can do – go see what we can do about this dome of darkness!”
...
“…Yeah,” Miyabi said finally, and Airi felt a tug as she was pulled along by the girl toward the woods. “All right, we’re going! I need to make my girl happy, after all,” she said with a grin and a wink over to Airi, who blushed profusely.
Sooooo cute!! :mon inluv:

Miyabi stared at the now diverse crowd of students a few seconds before responding. “Fine, whatever… Like I care about what you do. Just keep your chins up. This could be dangerous.”

There were murmurs of laughter that Miyabi didn’t seem to notice as she turned back forward, and a few of the girls leaned toward each other whispering through their giggles. Airi smiled herself at the ironic comment by her girlfriend, feeling her own chin self-consciously, but before turning back to join her shook her head and mouthed to the rest, “She didn’t mean any of that… She really cares about you! Really!”
Ah... a Miya chin joke. XD I love Miyabi's chin. It adds to her charm :) But I LOLed at Airi's reassurances to the others.  :lol:

“Nakki…?” she managed to choke out disbelievingly. She didn’t know the girl well, but she was from her own House – just a year ahead of her and Chisato – so she of course knew her.
AHHH!!! You killed Nakasaki!! And Kanna! Well, not you, but your creative self, through Captain Saki, if I'm assuming correctly... :mon ref: So sad...

Chisato stepped forward out of a small group also consisting of her sister, Risako, and Koharu, half of whom were still on the ground. “I think they’ve showed their true selves and intentions by what just happened here,” she said in a rough, sober voice. “I may not be able to do much against them myself, but I think those of us who can, should.” Airi’s eyes widened at the intensity of the gaze the other second year Matsuura girl then held on Reina, Miyabi, and even herself. She knew Chisato was braver than she led herself on to be – although she definitely knew it as it was a large reason she joined the Skulls – but still, she’d never heard her friend talk in a way quite this resolute and grave before.
I really like Chisa in this fic. She's got such a strong character, it's really fun to see her develop. She's got so many dimensions to her that we've caught glimpses of through the chapters. I like the determination, confidence and conviction she shows here.

Saki finally turned around and faced the others, although it was still hard to see her face through the shadows. “You are once again acting in a way that does not befit your station, Matsuura,” she warned coldly, catching even Ai off-guard. She hoped the girl was referring to the school Maimi came from. Otherwise…

Not for the first time, she began worrying for the girl’s sanity. After another thoughtful moment and observation of the disdain Saki was showing her comrade, she acquired another worry. Maybe the relationship of the two heads really had been as close as Ai suspected.
Were Captain and Leader more than just associates as heads of their houses? I wouldn't have assumed so, since Captain seems so against the others as they chase after girls. I'm wondering who's been a head of house longer? Does Saki have a year or 2 over Maimi? 'Cause if so, that may explain why she's freakier than the other two girls. Goto's spirit has had more time to infiltrate Saki's (or something like that).

“I don’t see why you’re so confident,” Maimi said in a tight voice, glowering at nothing in particular. Umeda apparently could sense her mood, and started tracing lines along her collarbone in a soothing motion. “Then again, nobody tried to rip your soul apart either.”

Ai watched her carefully. The bitterness and anger in her eyes seemed to extend beyond whatever physical torture she’d felt, and Ai noticed she was barely even paying heed to the girl on her lap. There was something much deeper that was bothering her, and as most things she couldn’t understand did, that made Ai curious.
I wonder if Ai is going to find out about Maimi's chasing after Airi....

For her own part suppressing a surge of bile that suddenly began rising within her stomach, Ai hurriedly turned her attention back on Risa and agreed, “She’s right, Nii-chan. Don’t you remember what Natsuyaki did to me in the hallway? They’re not going to listen to a word we have to say. I wish it wouldn’t… come to that myself, but I’m afraid we have no choice. You do believe in us, right?” she asked, beginning to smile again at her friend, who she now supposed was more than that. “…in me?”

“Of course I do, Ai-chan,” Risa admitted softly, lowering her face in embarrassment. “I just worry…”
Follow that gut feeling Risa!! Run away!!! (But not too far or Captain will come get you too...) You need to worry more! Something's not right! Stop being blinded by your love for Ai-chan! Bring Ai-chan back to the light and get her to join the Skulls in fighting the crazy ones.

“Osuzu!” Chisato shouted as they embarked, and Airi turned to see her friend stepping out of her sister’s tight grasp. “Are you sure you’ll be okay?”

“I’ll be fine,” Airi responded reassuringly.

Then, surprisingly, Risako stepped up next to the other Matsuura girl and gave her a strong look of support, although Airi noticed she carefully ignored Miyabi next to her. “Take care… okay?” she said quietly. Airi nodded again, her smile even wider now, and turned back around.
Yay for more Chisato screen time! She's such a good, loyal friend! And yay for Risako finally acknowledging Airi's existence again (though it's sad that only a possible life-threatening situation made her approach Airi... But her "carefully ignor[ing] Miyabi" is curious... Still can't gather if she's jealous because she wants Airi or Miya to herself... Or maybe a little something something (wink wink nudge nudge) went on between her and Miya at some point, and she was too shy or afraid to tell Airi and Chisa. And now she's peeved... I mean, Miya was originally more interested in Risako.

Okay... Long comment. :) Now I'm tired. I can barely keep my eyes open. Can't wait for the next chapter! I shall sit on pins and needles until then! XD
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [15: The Icy Hand of Friendship]
Post by: anonymousdowner on February 15, 2008, 06:04:10 AM
Interesting chapter it looks as though it's almost war time lol and kanna dead?!! but i like kanna... anyway i just find the whole risako ignoring airi and miya oh so tempting and really wish to know why and then there was that miya slightly fascinated by risako in the beginning also but its good risako just acknowledged airi again i want that talk airi is planing with risako soon XD anyway thanks for the update!
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [15: The Icy Hand of Friendship]
Post by: Grisours on February 15, 2008, 06:10:14 PM
Yey for new chapter!  :muffin:
Wow, the story just got a little bit darker. I mean, girls dying? I wasn't expecting them to be really dead, maybe hurt or something...
So Maimi was trying to get over Airi by hooking up with Umeda? That bit was interesting, and I like the way Takahashi keeps connecting Maimi to Saki. Maybe they had something in the past. The takagaki bit was cute, too.
And in every chapter Airi pays attention to a different girl! First Michishige, now Okada (I think?).  :lol:
I want to know what's going to happen next. A fight? Some verbal discussion? Keep up with the good job!!  :yep:
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [15: The Icy Hand of Friendship]
Post by: maiZe on February 15, 2008, 09:53:37 PM
And in every chapter Airi pays attention to a different girl! First Michishige, now Okada (I think?).  :lol:
Yui!!! She sooo could be the busty girl. I was so  :doh:  :? trying to figure out who that was...  XD However, now that that's been mentioned, I realized I missed one of my other favourite parts in this chapter:

Airi nearly almost giggled since it was hard for her to think the glare looked like anything other than a pout. Then her eyes inadvertently fell to the girl’s chest, and they opened wide. She had never seen… anything… like that before!”

After a second or two of staring she was blinded by a hand in front of her eyes, and she felt Miyabi slide an arm around her waist and pull her tightly to her side. “H-hey…!”

“We’d love to see the Circle,” Miyabi demurred, and after futilely struggling for a moment Airi’s eyes were finally uncovered only to see the busty girl turned around and walking away from them
:lol: It's like Airi's a little kid who walked into the room during an intimate scene in a movie, and Miya's the overprotective parent who wants to keep the little one innocent a little while longer. But since they're dating, I probably shouldn't use a parental-type analogy.  XD
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [15: The Icy Hand of Friendship]
Post by: rokun on February 15, 2008, 10:44:15 PM
:lol: It's like Airi's a little kid who walked into the room during an intimate scene in a movie, and Miya's the overprotective parent who wants to keep the little one innocent a little while longer. But since they're dating, I probably shouldn't use a parental-type analogy.  XD
LoL, I think Miya's finally starting to catch on to her young girlfriend's wandering eyes... but really wants her all to herself. ;) Airi'd better be careful with that, or it might cause real problems in the future! Yes, Airi's quite the dorky bookish girl, and now that she's suddenly thrust into a romance with a more er... experienced partner, she's noticing many things for the first time. ;)

And yes, that was Yui. :lol: I bet you can guess who the other seventh year that joined her as she led them up to the Circle is too... not that it seems to be too big of a deal atm. :lol:

わあ~!  溢れてる きゃぴきゃぴ! XD (Wow! Overflowing cuteness! XD)
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [15: The Icy Hand of Friendship]
Post by: mode107 on February 16, 2008, 03:51:34 AM
Wow, now I knew the circle could be 'crazy' but never thought we would go to the point of killing students that wouldn't join them.  Nakki, Kanna, and Morisaki  :cry:

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Even the b…” Her voice broke in her sobbing. “…the burned one next to the darkness.
I knew that was Maimi's work even before Chisato's line. That's a horrible site for them to see, but on the other hand,...  Evil Maimi!  :rockon:

I knew a MaimiXErika was going to happen! I sensed it when Erika was mentioned earlier in the story and then came to a conclusion when the AiriXMaimi didn't work out

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Reina turned to Airi and Miyabi. “Should I ring the doorbell like I did before?” she asked.
I really lol'd at that part. I just found it funny

and for the Risako part, I didn't think it was weird of her or anything to ignore Miya, cuz she doesn't really know Miya yet.

Quote
She had never seen… anything… like that before!”
XD XD XD

I knew that girl was Yui. That was my first thought, and then I was like "Maybe not, Yui might have graduated by now.'' But then I saw your post and knew I was right  ^-^
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [15: The Icy Hand of Friendship]
Post by: chibilolli on February 16, 2008, 08:57:44 AM
Great chapter. I like that it's starting to get really dark now.

Miyabi and Airi are :heart: (I'm not sure which pairing I like more -MiyaxAiri or MiyaxSaki in Berry Beautiful).

I wanna say more, but I'm starting to sort of forget whats going on a bit (if you catch my drift)......update faster!
(yeah I know I'm being selfish)
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [15: The Icy Hand of Friendship]
Post by: JFC on February 17, 2008, 06:52:00 AM
Quote
“So what do we do now?” Airi asked, glancing over at Miyabi as the two of them along with Chisato stood together just inside the entrance of the cave, peering out at the rest of the girls now a part of their rebellious number who were socializing in hushed tones. They were up to eighteen strong now, so it was almost as if they were just members of a class, if one that included very diverse ages as well as students.
The real problem here is, aside from the actual Skull members, in all likelihood none of these girls have had any experience fighting, nevermind the fact that they don't have any special powers like how Reina and MiyAiri do.  When the shit hits the fan, I seriously question if the others are going to actually be of any use.  If anything, their presence might actually be a detriment as come fight time, The Circle might actually use their presence AGAINST The Skulls.



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Airi had been staring up into the dusky sky. This was perhaps a good thing, because otherwise she might have started glaring at Reina too after her last comment. “I don’t like this…” she said ambiguously.

The others stared at her, and in her peaceful obliviousness she didn’t notice that everyone else around the cave entrance was beginning to stare at them too. “You don’t like what?” Fujimoto asked with a frown.

Miyabi followed Airi’s eyes up toward the sky and the canopy of gently swaying trees. “Are you talking about whatever it is that’s making it dark?”
Uh-oh...The Circle launching a preemptive strike?




Quote
“Well that does it!” Miyabi pronounced, keeping at Airi’s side with one arm around her slim waist. “That’s what we can do – go see what we can do about this dome of darkness!”

“‘Dome of Darkness’...” Koharu repeated, giggling as she joined the other Skulls along with Chisato and her sister, who was still looking in awe all around her and didn’t seem to want to come any nearer Reina and Miyabi at least.

Everyone stared at the giggling girl until she dropped off into silence, looking around at them self-consciously. “What? It’s funny! It sounds like some scary movie or something…” The sound of crickets chirping their unintelligible symphonies surrounded them.
Koharu = :lol:

Everyone else =  :mon suspect:

Koharu =  :mon sweat:



Quote
“…Yeah,” Miyabi said finally, and Airi felt a tug as she was pulled along by the girl toward the woods. “All right, we’re going! I need to make my girl happy, after all,” she said with a grin and a wink over to Airi, who blushed profusely.
Woooo!  :pimp:



Quote
The two of them walked in their mutual intimate awkwardness until they reached a path in the woods, catching it in the direction of the road away from Seishin. Eventually they fell back to just holding hands while walking since it was rather uncomfortable doing so while embracing, and a short while later Airi felt suddenly pre-occupied and looked behind her, coming to a stop and dragging Miyabi with her.

Behind them were arrayed all of the girls that had been at the cave, with Miki, Mari and Reina at the front. Some of the non-Skulls looked around uncertainly, though showed no signs of anything out of the ordinary.
So much for their little romantic interlude. XD



Quote
“If we’re going to… rebel… against the school, we have a right to know the intentions of who we decided to follow instead!” explained Kamei in a frantic voice, apparently terrified at the words she was daring to use once again.
Good point. Going on your gut feeling is just a starting point. It's only fair that they know why it is that they're doing what they're doing.



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Miyabi stared at the now diverse crowd of students a few seconds before responding. “Fine, whatever… Like I care about what you do. Just keep your chins up. This could be dangerous.”
:mon lol:




Quote
She trailed off when she noticed her words were having no effect on Risako, who was gaping with her eyes wide as saucers at a spot slightly ahead of them and in the direction Airi had just been looking in order to track the path beside theirs. The girl normally had a pale face, but now it didn’t seem as if there was any blood left in it. Airi, along with everyone else, followed the girl’s eyes into the trees. She didn’t see anything at first, but gasps from behind as well as girls who suddenly began crying and falling down to the ground to cower close together made her realize she must just have been missing something. She was really going to have to get glasses one of these days…

Walking toward the trees in order to get a better look, and finally being able to identify what appeared to be a few large mounds scattered among them, she felt a hand on her shirt attempting to tug her back.
Oh please don't say that those mounds are what I think they are.   :cry:




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Now that she was close, she could make out a small body in seifuku lying amid the packed leaves. The girl’s face was fixed in an expression of horror, and stared out through wide open, lifeless eyes. There were bloody marks all over her as if she’d been tossed around like a sack of garbage, and an arm and a leg were each twisted at horrible angles. As her own wide eyes adjusted more and returned to the girl’s face, she gasped in recognition.

“Nakki…?” she managed to choke out disbelievingly. She didn’t know the girl well, but she was from her own House – just a year ahead of her and Chisato – so she of course knew her.
Damn I hate it when I'm right. Question is, was this done by The Circle? Would they be this vicious before the big battle?  Or was this by the same beast that attacked Miyabi earlier?



Quote
As she looked on in her horror, pinpricks of light caught her attention from the trees on the other side of that path, and for a moment she stared into eyes that were bright yet as cold as the darkness they pierced.

...

Airi turned her face from the woods the apparition had now disappeared into and toward Miyabi’s own, unblinking and with her eyes fixed wide.
Looks like it might have been the beast. But then why were these girls targeted? Were they not immediately swayed by what The Circle had proposed and thus were made an example for any others who were on the fence?



Quote
“I would guess they tried to get away,” Mari said solemnly, giving a look up the path that was almost as dark as the blackness beyond. “Whatever the Circle has set up, it’s not meant to let anyone through… A harsh price to pay for those whose loyalty couldn’t be ensured with an iron fist.”
But then, how were these other girls able to escape unscathed? Did they just skip the meeting and come straight to the cave?



Quote
“No!” Michishige suddenly said in a squeaky, tear-roughened voice, jumping up and making Kamei fall back and flat on the ground for a moment before she also jumped up just as quickly to her side as if she’d fallen on a bed of needles. “Ai-chan wouldn’t do this!” She looked desperately around all of them, then through the trees at the bodies. “I mean, look at that! I know those girls on the path! Even the b…” Her voice broke in her sobbing. “…the burned one next to the darkness. It was Kikk…” She couldn’t say any more through her choking tears, but after a moment swallowed and cast a heated gaze back at the girls standing around her, so much so that Kamei even fell back from her slightly. “Ai-chan just couldn’t!

“Yajima would,” Chisato said in a low voice, her tear-streaked face turning into one of fury. Airi darted a scandalized glance her way. “Fire is her trademark after all, isn’t it?” she continued challengingly. Airi stared at her friend, mildly impressed at her focus and composure despite what she had to say about a girl she still couldn’t hate.
The Aichan that they knew probably couldn't have even thought of doing anything like that. But in all likelihood that Aichan is gone now, replaced by a being that has been corrupted by the power given to her as Captain and Maimi have been. 

And WTF...poor Kikkawa-chan.  :k-sad:



Quote
“I don’t think they actually know…” Mari cut in quickly to quell the budding arguments, now stepping cautiously forward and peering curiously into the blackness. “This is old magic… the kind of thing I’ve heard tell of from my ancestors. I don’t think they’d know how to do something like this.”

“How do we know that?” Miyabi said, fury quickly painting her own features. “Do we really know anything about what they can or can’t do?!”
Miyabi's right.  Right now, there's no way of knowing for sure, since we probably haven't seen the full extent of their powers.

However if Mari's suspicions are right, then it means that there's yet ANOTHER person out there that has these powers, and for all we know it might be THEM that's behind a lot of what's been going on here.



Quote
Airi joined her in peering up. Now that she was closer, she saw something too. The darkness wasn’t solid; it was as if a thick roiling mist just blocked their way. “This was set here…”
That means it was a trap meant to take out anyone who tried to leave.  :bleed eyes:



Quote
“We might as well get started then,” Reina said, starting back down the path away from the wall of mist. “They’ve probably already retreated to the Ivory Tower with whatever idiot students followed them, so I’d say that’s a place to start.”
Indeed. Right now their options are either to wait or to take action. If they wait they're only giving The Circle time to get stronger and build up their forces. They need to end this, and end it now.



Quote
“They’re coming,” Saki said from her shadowy perch next to the window of a small meeting room in a very old, austere structure bleached through the long years to the point that some called it the ‘Ivory Tower’.
Man, how the hell does Captain know these things?



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“Aww, and we were just starting to have some fun! Weren’t we, Ume-chan?” Maimi asked the girl perched on her lap with a devilish grin. The other fifth year Matsuura girl giggled in response and laid her head on Maimi’s shoulder to watch the other occupants of the room.

Ai couldn’t help a slight sickly twist to her face.

...

Then again, Ai supposed she wasn’t in a position to say too much about that, since she had a Risa Niigaki glued to her side as well. At least they didn’t make such a blatant show of their affections though. She looked at the girl next to her, and Risa rolled her eyes. It didn’t take much to discern that she had a similar opinion of the two as Ai did.
Awwwwwwwwwwwww...Risa...not you too.



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Saki finally turned around and faced the others, although it was still hard to see her face through the shadows. “You are once again acting in a way that does not befit your station, Matsuura,” she warned coldly, catching even Ai off-guard. She hoped the girl was referring to the school Maimi came from. Otherwise…
Otherwise...that's not really Captain. :o



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“We’re there,” Miyabi said, glowering at the large structure that suddenly loomed out of the trees in front of them. Airi knew her last memories of the place couldn’t have been the best, although she never told her exactly what had gone on.

...

Reina turned to Airi and Miyabi. “Should I ring the doorbell like I did before?” she asked.

“No need,” Miyabi responded, still staring at the structure. “They know we’re here.”
Yeah, at this point it's probably useless to expect that they were going to get here without their presence being detected.



Quote
“Airi…” Miyabi said reluctantly, turning to her. Airi smiled at her keenly. “…You’re the only one that’s really been able to beat them. I can only protect all of us for a time. What do you think?”

Seeing the concern in her girlfriend’s long features, Airi kept her comforting smile as she turned toward the building. “Well…” she began. She heard a cough from behind that she figured was from Li Chun, who still very visibly doubted her credibility in making any decisions on things as important as this. “Knocking on the door probably isn’t a bad idea. I’m not sure what I can do if I can’t see who’s attacking me.”

“I’ll go with you,” Miyabi said quickly, taking her wrist. “I think I can keep her out of your mind.” Airi nodded, and started forward.
Pretty obvious by now that their biggest fight is going to be against Captain. If she starts getting in and messing with their heads...it can be over quicker than they realize.



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“I can’t believe you even dare to come here!” she scolded Miyabi. “I knew you Skulls were no good, but this really is crossing the line! Not even showing up to the assembly?! The Circle has been so good to you to even let you stay here and not be expelled, but now you just turn your backs on them when they need us most!”
Damn. They really have these girls hook, line, and sinker.



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“Well if that’s the case,” announced another older girl from further back. “We need to take them to see the Circle. Don’t any of you remember what they said if any Skulls happened to drop by?” She glared challengingly around at the others as if she was trying to assert some kind of haughty authority, but Airi nearly almost giggled since it was hard for her to think the glare looked like anything other than a pout. Then her eyes inadvertently fell to the girl’s chest, and they opened wide. She had never seen… anything… like that before!”
What...Airi hasn't seen a girl with boobs before? :P



Quote
“Natsuyaki-san,” Takahashi said in a sweet and warm voice, although with a wry twist to one corner of her mouth. “Welcome back.” Then her attention shifted slightly. “And you must be Airi Suzuki. I’ve heard so much about you.”

Airi stared back into those eyes that seemed friendly on the surface, but upon closer inspection appeared dark as a harsh winter’s night, as the door they just entered creaked shut behind them. However, it wasn’t ice she saw in them, but the far superior abrasiveness of raw and incredible power.
Oh man...it begins.
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [15: The Icy Hand of Friendship]
Post by: Yukari on February 27, 2008, 10:57:23 PM
fight! fight! fight!  :scolding:

ganbare~~ skulls  :ding:

*waiting the next chapter with popcorn*  :tntrm:
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [15: The Icy Hand of Friendship]
Post by: goosefish on April 09, 2008, 05:32:15 PM

I just spent the past few days reading your ENTIRE fic  :bleed eyes: *dies* It's official, you've turned me into a raving mad Miya X Airi fan!  :heart: And I absolutely love the way you portray Reina :heart: Come to think of it, I never really paid any attention to Berryz or C-ute until I started reading The Circle of Three  :oops: There are too many chapters for me to go through and coment on everything, but I just want to say that I really admire the amount of fine detail that goes in to your writing  :yep: And I can only ever dream of writing with as much flair as you do. It's been a while since your last update (uh... I'm not really one who should be talking) but I'm eagerly awaiting your next update, whenever it is!  :P
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [16: The Essence of Hatred]
Post by: rokun on April 15, 2008, 12:36:18 AM
Hey goosefish! Welcome back! :D I'm gonna have to catch up with your story too... Oh, and :oops: to your comments. ^^;;; At least you managed to draw me back too...

Sorry for the extremely long wait, but finally here's the next update! This was supposed to be for Airi's birthday, and though it's a couple days late, that's still partly why I wrote it. :) So without anything further, let the action commence! Good luck trying to keep up with it lol, but I hope you manage to enjoy...


Chapter 16 – The Essence of Hatred

Ai did her best to smile at the two rogue girls as if she had not a care in the world. This was despite her utter disgust at how they clung to each other – how anybody could even stand being in the same room as Natsuyaki she could hardly fathom, much less this innocent-looking young girl… She felt momentary sadness for her. If half of what she heard was true, this Suzuki might have had so much promise if her talents were put to use in a decent cause.

This was also, of course, despite her complete mistrust that these girls had dared to rebel against the school any other girl in Japan would do almost anything to get into. Maimi was right about that part, although she didn’t know if she would put it in such… crass terms.

She almost jumped when she felt a hand grab her own, and looked down to see a serious and supportive Risa looking up strongly at her. This time she smiled for real before turning back slowly to the traitors.

“So what can I do for you?” she asked them in her best strained cheerful voice. “Have you come to join your fellow students and school leaders? I hear you met some of your friends down below, is that right?”

Natsuyaki barked a laugh at that, and Ai lost part of her smile before she could help herself. “I don’t have any friends here…” she said uncaringly.

“Oh…” Ai responded, trying to keep the repulsion out of her voice. “How sad for you.” She looked at Suzuki, and her expression lightened slightly at the hesitation in the young girl’s face. “But you do… don’t you?”

Her attention caught, Suzuki looked up to her, and her eyes focused sharply. Ai widened her eyes at the transformation and hardness she noticed in them. “Yes, I do. And I’m going to do my best to make sure they come to see you as the monsters you really are.”

A brisk laugh from another part of the room interrupted the exchange, and Ai glanced over at Maimi, who rose, causing Umeda to slide off her lap. However, upon standing they hardly parted. Ai’s smile faltered even more. They nearly made as much of a show as the Skulls. How mature and ladylike…

“Yeah we’re monsters all right… BOO!” she said, jumping forward and throwing her arms toward them, causing the two younger girls to jerk back, their attention now completely focused on Ai’s Matsuura counterpart.

Maimi’s expression suddenly changed from her crooked smile to a harsh glare. “You’re the ones who parents are going to be scaring their children with stories of in the future, if you last that long of course… After all, you are the Skulls.” She waggled her fingers at the last word as if it was somehow magical or spooky.

Suzuki and Natsuyaki exchanged glances. “So what do you want with us?” the elder spoke with a glare. “If you’re going to keep teasing us, I might as well let Airi here rip your souls apart…”

Ai suddenly adopted a defensive posture, shielding Risa with her body as if that would do any good. Maimi automatically clutched her chest as if the pain from earlier suddenly came back. Now, all pretenses at pleasantries had been thrown by the wayside.

Maimi glared at the two girls, her eyes furious in rage. Umeda looked among all three of them, confused and slightly scared at something apparently going on that she hadn’t really bargained for. Ai sighed at Maimi’s next words.

“To think…” she grated out in a hoarse voice through her anger. “After everything that’s happened to us, everything I’ve done for you… You’d actually try to kill me…”

Suzuki set her chin defensively. “I wasn’t trying to kill you,” she stated. “There’s something inside you that shouldn’t be there. I was trying to remove it so that it wouldn’t harm you anymore.” She glanced at Natsuyaki, and continued in a voice tinged with sadness. “…I’m not sure which Maimi Yajima I came to like, but I know you’re not it.”

The room was suddenly quiet as Maimi stared at her younger Housemate. Natsuyaki even visibly tried to keep herself from glancing at her. Ai’s eyes only widened though as things suddenly started coming together in her mind. However, her attention was soon completely diverted.

“Would you like to know what is inside her?” spoke a soft voice from the shadows near a window. The traitors looked over to it with eyes widened slightly in surprise as Saki stepped slowly into the light. The smallest girl in the room gave them a calm gaze, but her eyes were unflinchingly focused. Ai had wondered when she would speak up, but now became a bit worried about what the girl might do. She felt an inexplicable trust in her, but nearly everything her eyes actually saw seemed to tell her otherwise.

Natsuyaki stepped protectively just in front of Suzuki, both girls adopting a wary posture, as the Circle of Three looked on. If she didn’t know anything about them, Ai would have almost thought the act was cute.

“You’ve been trying to protect her quite well since coming near this building,” the head of House Goto commented. “Apparently you’ve discovered a bit more of your own hidden secrets.”

Ai blinked and looked between her comrade and their foes. Her own hidden secrets? Her eyes narrowed at Natsuyaki as she became wary herself. What was Saki talking about?

“But,” the small girl continued. “You don’t know everything about us.” Her arm suddenly shook visibly, and her fist balled tightly as if it was in some pain. “Maybe it began with what was inside us, but now it’s beyond that.”

“Yes,” Maimi announced, straightening and staring haughtily down at the Skulls, though still obviously in hot anger. “After all, we are the heirs of the Founders of Seishin.”

Natsuyaki leaned down to whisper something into Suzuki’s ear, and the younger girl nodded hesitantly. “So that’s it then?” the vile girl asked. “You’re all big and bad now and you’re gonna kill us or something?” As she spoke to Maimi she couldn’t hide another glance at Saki, who now had both fists balled and looked to be almost hunched over in pain.

“Are you all right?” Ai asked her, concern and burgeoning trepidation now creeping into her. She felt Risa squeeze her hand tighter.

“You… ask what’s in us…” Saki grated out, seeming to have trouble with speech. If it could be possible, her eyes seemed to be deepening more and more into darkness. The shadows from near the window now seemed to be crawling out toward her.

“There’s… nothing in them but that which gave them power…” she continued. Ai glanced over at Maimi, who was looking on at Saki with a quickening breath and a triumphant smile as if she was witnessing something monumental. “And now… just them… heirs of goddesses…”

Saki now fell completely forward onto the floor as her clothes began to tear above roiling and swelling skin. Ai took a half step toward her before Risa caught her, and Saki threw up a hand to halt her as well – a hand which while in the air splayed, fingers and fingernails lengthening while hair began to sprout out of seemingly every pore. Natsuyaki and Suzuki stared frozen in horror, the elder Skull still with a protective arm spread before her lover.

“You have… no idea what you’re up against…” Saki growled, in a voice that was quickly lowering to where it was almost guttural. “Your feeble barriers would have only stopped me for so long… but I have a better idea since you so kindly came right here to see us… I…”

Seeming to suddenly lose the power of speech, the rest of Saki’s clothes fell off as a much larger version of the girl, as well as one covered with hair and looking like some grotesque dog, emerged. The face snapped up as a set of fanged jaws at the end of a long snout fell open to howl beneath glowing yellow eyes.

Suzuki gasped, and Ai thought she might as well. What is this…?! she thought in her own horror. This girl and comrade whom she trusted more and more as time went on… was she some sort of monster…? She felt Risa pressing tightly to her side as she stared on dumbly. She now had no idea what to do. She moved her open-mouthed gaze to Maimi, who kept staring on proudly with that smug smile. Had she known? Of course she would have… the two had been close… how close…?

“You were there!” Suzuki cried, pointing past Natsuyaki at the thing that used to be Saki. “With those poor girls! I thought that was… Did you do that…?”

“I did nothing…” the creature growled in a harsh, inhuman voice. “But now you can start thinking about what you did to your friends by leaving them alone.” And with that, it turned fluidly with its lithe and seemingly perfectly honed muscles, and with one jump sailed through the window through a crash of glass.

“No!” Natsuyaki shouted desperately, and she lunged toward the window herself. However, she was met halfway there by a charging Maimi, whose ramming blow knocked the Skull sailing across the room and into the wall, where she crumpled to the floor.

Maimi, having halted herself from the jolt of the impact, turned with a sneer toward Suzuki, who now stood alone in front of the door. “Now let’s see how you do without your fallen prince,” she taunted snidely, and Ai’s ears began to ring with the young girl’s anguished screams.



“Do you think they’re all right in there?” Koharu asked for what must have been the hundredth time. “I mean, they’re all alone with who knows how many…”

“They can handle themselves well enough,” Reina broke in impatiently. The current Captain of the Skulls did have faith in them, but she was also frustrated that she was stuck out here doing little more than babysitting a bunch of children. As Captain she should be leading the charge, if there was any charge to be led.

She felt someone step up next to her, and Miki leaned close to murmur into her ear, her hand dangerously set on Reina’s thigh, “Sometimes a Captain’s duty is to stay back while those under her do the fighting. An army’s no good with its head chopped off after all.”

Despite the rather grotesque imagery, Reina grudgingly accepted Miki’s point and stood her ground. She turned and looked around at her “elite escort”. Several of the younger girls, as well as some of the older ones, had sunk down to the grass to chat in tight circles.

The five other Nakazawa girls huddled together whispering to each other, one or the other casting surreptitious glances at the rest of the party from time to time. The older Chinese transfer student especially seemed suspicious as always.

Okacchan sat with her sister and the other tiny Matsuura first year, with that other friend of Suzuki’s not far. Furukawa, the remaining and eldest Matsuura girl, gave them longing glances from her perch next to the two mid-year Goto girls. Reina noticed she knew one and smiled at her. She had a fondness for others who shared her family name.

Mari and Miki also stood of course, not far from Reina. Mari for one seemed to be slightly impatient as well. “You that eager to leave us stranded here?” Reina asked the short elder girl.

Mari stared at her before donning a winning smile. “Of course not. In fact, I thought there were even a few more things I could tell you.”

“That would be helpful,” Reina responded through a forced smile of her own. She thought she heard Miki snicker and elbowed her in the ribs, dodging away quickly to avoid a retaliating grope.

If Mari was going to say anything further though, all the girls were distracted by a shrill, high-pitched noise that seemed to come from the building in front of them. The Nakazawas jumped quickly to their feet as they all stared at the looming tower.

“W-what d’you think that was?” Koharu asked in a shaking voice.

“It sounded like a howl…” Kamei chimed in fearfully.

“Like from some scary ghost!” Michishige cried, clinging to her friend’s arm.

“Don’t be silly, there are no such things as ghosts,” Li Chun stated plainly, trying unsuccessfully to appear cool and calm.

“In Japan there are!” Kamei responded with wide eyes. Then she looked back nervously at the building. “I don’t know why one would be in there though…”

“It’s an old building,” Erina said, squinting toward it. “Who knows what kind of history it’s seen.”

“I think it sounded more like a wolf myself…” Airi’s friend interjected, and everyone stared at her until she drew herself in. “Not that it would be any more likely for one of those to be in there…” she continued meekly.

“Osuzu…” Chisato worried, the two younger Matsuura girls clutched tightly to her sides.

“D’you think it’s started?” Miki asked no one in particular.

“It would be a fitting opening battle cry,” Mari agreed.

Reina stared hard with concern at the bleached structure. Damn it Miya, don’t get yourself and the girl killed in there…

Her thought was cut short as the sound of shattering glass caused the girls clinging to Chisato to scream, and they saw a dark shape burst out from one of the windows and fall to the ground.

“AIRI!” Chisato cried, jerking forward so quickly that the girls holding her fell to the ground clutching now only at her heels.

“That’s not your friend…” Miki said in a dark voice as the form seemed to orient itself and then suddenly and quickly come bounding toward them. Reina could feel her tense guardedly.

“Everyone get back into the trees!” Reina shouted, but her command fell only on the deaf ears of girls who were shocked stiff. Noting this, she stepped forward herself. The… whatever it was… was already halfway to them, and it raised its maw for a howl that mixed with a less audible high scream from back at the building. Well, they now knew where that sound came from.

She felt someone come up beside her, and saw Miki and Mari out of the corners of her eyes. “You guys stay back,” she warned through clenched teeth. “I’m the only one that might be able to stop this.”

“I can hold my own in a fight pretty well, if you remember…” Miki responded with an almost amused voice and a smirk.

“Whatever this is,” Reina responded quietly, “I think it’s going to be different from a normal fight.”

She closed her eyes and felt out to the sky like she had before, trying to find something that might help her against the charging foe. She couldn’t find anything though before she heard someone shout “REINA!!!” and a brick wall with many sharp teeth slammed into her.



“All I wanted was you…” Airi heard through pain as if a thousand burning hot needless were boring into her skin. She fell to the ground, amazed that she managed to stay conscious. “What did that witch do to you that made you ignore everything I had to offer?”

The pain quickly dulled into only a very warm sensation throughout Airi’s body. She felt her cheeks flush both from the heat as well as what the new sensation was doing to her. Finally she managed to open her eyes, and she saw Maimi peering curiously at her. She tried to open her mouth, but her voice couldn’t come as it felt like her throat was dry and hoarse from something. Was I screaming…?

“What are you talking about, Maimi-chan?” came a huskier voice from another part of the room. “Do you… like… this girl?” Whoever it was, Maimi seemed to ignore her as she stepped cautiously closer to Airi.

“Let’s just deal with them and move on,” Takahashi said in a tight voice, glancing anxiously from time to time out the broken window where another howl pierced the late morning air. Was it late morning already? Airi couldn’t tell… With the Sun gone it seemed as if she was losing her sense of everything.

“You’re not gonna hold me back this time, Ai-chan,” Maimi warned, her eyes not leaving Airi. “I want to have some fun with this one first…”

“Maimi-chan…” whined the plaintive voice from before again, and Airi heard someone burst into tears before apparently running out of the room.

For her part, Airi struggled to get to her feet and regain her senses so she could retaliate against the older and more athletic head of her House, but couldn’t seem to manage it. Maimi, eyes sparkling, had almost reached her before she was suddenly jolted out of Airi’s vision by another body flying in from the side.

“Don’t you dare touch her!” she heard Miyabi growl as the two older girls collapsed to the floor in a tangle of limbs, and all hell broke loose.

Sudden howls and screams from outside mixed with Miyabi’s own cries as Maimi apparently tried attacking her somehow rang through Airi’s head. She tried to shake it away, and apparently Miyabi was at least making progress since Airi heard her shout, “That’s enough of that, Yajima!” followed by the sound of the Matsuura girl being slammed against a wall.

It was when Takahashi moved finally as if to join in that Airi clung onto her focus and stood up. “Don’t move!” she commanded in a weak voice, and Takahashi halted to glance over at her.

She tried to speak, but the other seventh year stepped between them and she instead cried, “Nii-chan, don’t!”

“Stay away from her!” the long-haired girl warned in a very dangerous voice, balling her fists. Airi swayed as she stared back, her vision swimming slightly still from whatever Maimi had done to her. She still felt very uncomfortably warm…

“I may not know anything about what’s happened here the last few minutes…” the determined girl continued, “But when it comes to someone threatening Ai-chan, that’s where I draw the line.”

“Nii-chan, don’t…” Takahashi cried desperately again, and she lunged forward toward her apparent friend.

However, time suddenly seemed to drop to a crawl for Airi. It felt like something had burst within her head, and now a blinding illumination was filling her vision. It reminded her of the feeling she had before when the Sun seemed to join with her, be in her, and even though it was beyond some magical barrier, she could feel its raw burning power seethe through her.

Out of the corner of her eye she saw Miyabi holding Maimi against a wall, forearm pressed to her throat and choking her, but Airi’s attention was focused on the girls directly in front of her. Takahashi seemed to be hurtling in slow-motion toward the other girl, still standing resolutely before Airi, and lifting her arm, Airi spoke.

“You may go,” she offered in a voice colored with a very warm, very grand tone, much different from her normal little girl’s voice. Risa’s eyes widened in puzzlement, and Miyabi turned from a now nearly asphyxiated Maimi. Her and Airi’s eyes met, and somehow they came to an understanding. “Our grievance is not with you.” She then nodded to Miyabi, who adopted a look of intense concentration, and the resolute but surprised girl vanished.

“NOOOOO!” Takahashi screamed, and there was suddenly a peal of thunder so tremendous that the ancient building shook to its core.

As time resumed its normal course, Miyabi collapsed to the floor as if faint. Maimi also slid down the wall behind her, clutching her throat and gasping in an attempt to regain her oxygen. Airi blinked at the scene, with Takahashi also kneeling on the floor and trembling, her head bowed as she shook, the thunder cracking what seemed right outside their surrounding walls.

Airi’s eyes held worriedly on Miyabi. Maybe she’d miscalculated the girl’s capability with her power at this early juncture; she’d tried to share some of her own, but now was sure the girl wouldn’t even have managed her task if Airi hadn’t done so.

“Nii-chan…” Takahashi grated. “What have you…” Her body shook harder as it tensed further, and the volume of thunder increased. Airi tried to answer before yelping at an earsplitting lightning strike that shattered the stone wall next to the already shattered window, and fell once again to the floor, her first thought of Miyabi, who was groggily trying to come to her senses along with Maimi near the wall. She had a feeling it was too late for explanations.

She crawled over toward her, fearful of the rumbling that shook everything beneath them every few seconds. “Miya…” she whispered as she reached her, trying to lift her head up. “Come on, we need to get out of here.”

“Ai…ri…” Miyabi moaned, trying to focus onto her eyes. “What did I…?”

“We’ll talk later,” Airi shushed. “Come on!” And she tried dragging the girl over toward the window, not that she knew what they’d do once there since they had to be at least two floors up.

Unfortunately, Maimi also finally seemed to regain her sense, and she dove for Airi. Airi rose quickly to meet her and, in a display of a combat move she had no idea how she’d learned, grabbed the girl’s arms and rolled onto her back, her momentum giving her legs just the push they needed to connect with Maimi’s stomach and vault her across the room, where she crashed into Takahashi. With the newly temperamental Nakazawa Head’s disorientation, the thunder died off somewhat.

“Now’s our chance!” Airi told her girlfriend, and she began once again dragging her to the gaping hole in the wall. After just a short time Miyabi was able to start pushing herself under her own power as well, and they arrived at the edge to find it had started raining. Airi peered out into the blinding darkness, now silent but for the rain and thunder, but was unable to tell if anyone was still there. “We’ll have to deal with that later…” she admitted to herself reluctantly, and stared down at the three floor drop below them.

“There’s no way…” Miyabi groaned, just before some furious shouts from behind them.

“Come on,” Airi said. “It’ll be okay.” Then she hugged Miyabi to her side and lurched forward, pulling her along.

She felt air rushing past her ears as they fell, and almost before she knew it they splashed into the mud below. She drew herself tightly into a ball to ward off the pain, but strangely she didn’t feel any despite the fall and Miyabi even falling on top of her.

Her girlfriend groaned, and Airi forced herself up, dragging Miyabi with her. “You’re crazy…” Miyabi stated in a hollow voice, seeming amazed they were both still alive. “You know I’m never gonna be able to go anywhere above ground level with you again…”

“You don’t look too bad…” Airi said, grinning and appraising her girlfriend’s mud-covered blouse and skirt, before renewed clashing of thunder and shouts from above brought her back to the moment.

“Too bad I can’t say the same for you…” Miyabi responded, looking her up and down as well, not seeming to notice anything else at the moment.

“Come on!” Airi cried frantically, and taking Miyabi’s hand, pulled her into a run away from the building.

“Get them!!” she heard Maimi yell from behind as they ran. Airi stole a glance back to see Maimi standing furiously in the hole in the wall, a glance which she immediately regretted as she stumbled and nearly fell, though thankfully Miyabi kept her steady.

“Careful now,” Miyabi said smiling smugly at her. Airi almost huffed. This was no time for childish games about who was saving who!

“I don’t know!” she heard Maimi yell in response to something she couldn’t hear. “Hit them with a bolt of lightning or something! That’s what you do, isn’t it?” The two fleeing girls ducked and cast their eyes to the sky warily. Her voice was getting fainter though as they gained more and more distance from the tower. “What do you mean ‘that’s not how it works’?!” That was the last they heard before they reached the trees.

When they were just inside, strong hands caught their arms and pulled them off the path. Airi squealed in protest before she could think until a hand covered her mouth.

“Shhh!” Reina hissed. “Now that you’re in here they’re not going to know where we are, at least if you don’t go announcing our presence with something like that.”

Airi’s eyes wide, she looked around frantically before seeing Miyabi sagging in Miki’s arms. “Man,” the ex-Captain said to Airi, “What’d you do to this poor girl? She can hardly stand. You just can’t keep your hands off her, can you?”

As Airi’s blush became increasingly dark, Reina said flatly, “Well that’s something you should know quite enough about, isn’t it? And in case you’ve somehow forgotten our present situation, we need to get far away from here as quickly as possible!”

“I agree with the Captain…” Airi heard Mari say, and she glanced over to see the woman staring hard at something within the trees. The rest of the girls were huddled behind her, staring in terror at it as well. For the first time, Airi noticed that Reina had blood all over her and was favoring her left leg, and Miki wasn’t the cleanest either.

“What happened here…?” Miyabi asked slowly, scanning the trees as if danger could jump out at them at any moment.

For her part, Airi pulled away from Reina and walked toward what all the girls were staring at, which turned out to be a very dense batch of foliage nestled within a few trees. She jumped slightly when the whole thing shook as if something was trapped inside and trying to get out.

“Did you…?” she began, and Reina limped up beside her.

“There’s time to talk about that later,” she said quietly, considering Airi’s own ruffled and muddy appearance. “There’ll be time to talk about everything. But for now, we need to get out of here.” The brush shook again as if to accentuate her words.

“I think you’re right…” Airi agreed, and they gathered up all the fearful girls, some of whom who were also spotted with blood seeming almost prideful despite their continuing fright, and began a slow march down the path into the woods amid the lightening rain and thunder.

“…Do you think she’ll find out soon?” Miyabi asked Airi quietly as they walked closely together.

“I’d bet on it,” Airi responded, “Although finding her knocked out on her bed probably won’t make her all that much less angry.”

“And I thought she was even coming to doubt the others a little…” Miyabi pondered.

Miki walked up to them and cuffed them both on the side of the head. “Keep your conspiring to yourself until we can all talk about it somewhere. Unless you’re going to start holding out on us,” she finished with a grin. “…which won’t happen for me at least. I’ll make sure to find out all the yummy details…” she finished with a lewd glance at their mud-covered clothes. Airi and Miyabi both flushed darkly this time.

“So where are we headed?” Chisato asked hollowly from just behind Airi. Since she noticed the two girls had returned, her friend didn’t seem to want to be any farther from her than Miyabi was.

“Back to the cave?” Miki asked, raising an eyebrow to Reina, who nodded.

“No,” Airi said plainly, and everybody stared at her. “We’ll go back to the wall.”

“Um… Airin?” Reina asked tentatively and patiently. “We’ve already been there and couldn’t do anything…”

Airi just kept smiling and walking back down the way they came earlier that morning, Miyabi eventually taking her hand and smiling too. And for some reason, everyone else followed.



The tangle of brush at the woods’ edge shook one last time before a claw ripped through the side and wolf Saki bounded through it. She jerked her maw from side to side, but found no one remaining in the area.

She growled in rage. Who would have known that damned Nakazawa girl could do something like that? She thought she had it down that the powers of the Chosen were mere reflections of their own – and lesser ones in fact that they could now easily surmount – but something new like this troubled her.

Then she remembered the other ability her Housemate seemed to employ. She thought that was just a fluke of some kind. No more. She knew that the girl had somehow blocked her attempts at forcing entry into the young whelp’s mind, but her powers seemed just as mysterious as the others’.

She turned her thoughts back to the house. Takahashi and Yajima were involved in a heated argument, one which she didn’t care to join at the moment and that might just very well destroy the ancient structure. The important point though was: the rebels got away.

Sighing in what was probably more a rough pant in her present state, she began padding back toward the house. She would have to get the others focused back on the task at hand, although Takahashi at least seemed to be on her way to claiming her due place. She would have to work harder to slide herself into the girl’s good graces; she knew she’d already begun to doubt. She wished she could have foreseen the effect revealing herself tonight seemed to have.

It wouldn’t be long though; she’d let Yajima continue with the chaos she seemed to cause wherever she went, and before long she’d win Takahashi over completely. The corners of her mouth turned up in the closest thing a monster wolf had to a smile. She’d succeed, just as Goto had thousands of years ago, but also wouldn’t make the same mistake in granting her power to every new generation of random girl that happened to lead some ambiguous society she’d created. That line had run its course; it would now end with her, and the world would be theirs.
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [16: The Essence of Hatred]
Post by: maiZe on April 15, 2008, 12:47:48 AM
This is me seeing an e-mail notification last week, when goosefish posted with a "Can't wait for the next chapter" message:
"OMGWTF?! The Circle of Three's been updated?!?!" :O :D XD ... rushes over to JPH!P and checks ... *dies* "Nope... not a new chapter... T_T"

This is me seeing an e-mail notification just now:
"OMGWTF?! The Circle of Three's been updated?!?!" :O :D XD ... rushes over to JPH!P and checks ... *dies* "IT'S BEEN UPDATED!!! IT'S BEEN UPDATED!!! YES! YES! YES YES YES YES!"

Now that that's out of my system, I'll actually go and read the update... and then update this post with my thoughts... XD Can you tell I'm excited?!
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [16: The Essence of Hatred]
Post by: Grisours on April 15, 2008, 01:29:56 AM
This update made my day... actually, it made my week better, and it just started!!  :D
I still feel pity for Maimi. I mean, looks like she really liked Airi. And the Risa/Ai moment was very intense!
Captain scares me in this story  XD
Miki and Reina are awesome, though. Airi/Miya is so much rabu too!
I wonder what Airi is planning by going to the wall. This girl's always a surprise!
Looking forward to the next chapter!  :yep:
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [16: The Essence of Hatred]
Post by: JFC on April 15, 2008, 03:35:57 AM
Quote
Ai did her best to smile at the two rogue girls as if she had not a care in the world. This was despite her utter disgust at how they clung to each other
/me looks at Risa clinging to Aichan.

<_<


>_>


Yeah, she's one to talk.



Quote
If half of what she heard was true, this Suzuki might have had so much promise if her talents were put to use in a decent cause.
That cause, of course, being the cause of The Circle.
 :pig realmad:



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“So what can I do for you?” she asked them in her best strained cheerful voice. “Have you come to join your fellow students and school leaders? I hear you met some of your friends down below, is that right?”

Natsuyaki barked a laugh at that, and Ai lost part of her smile before she could help herself. “I don’t have any friends here…” she said uncaringly.
Wow. If anyone actually believed that she was being sincere just then...wow. Just...wow.

Miyabi's got guts, considering she just verbally smacked Aichan's "politeness".



Quote
“Oh…” Ai responded, trying to keep the repulsion out of her voice. “How sad for you.” She looked at Suzuki, and her expression lightened slightly at the hesitation in the young girl’s face. “But you do… don’t you?”

Her attention caught, Suzuki looked up to her, and her eyes focused sharply. Ai widened her eyes at the transformation and hardness she noticed in them. “Yes, I do. And I’m going to do my best to make sure they come to see you as the monsters you really are.”
Ladies and gents, the gauntlet has been thrown.




Quote
“To think…” she grated out in a hoarse voice through her anger. “After everything that’s happened to us, everything I’ve done for you… You’d actually try to kill me…”

Suzuki set her chin defensively. “I wasn’t trying to kill you,” she stated. “There’s something inside you that shouldn’t be there. I was trying to remove it so that it wouldn’t harm you anymore.” She glanced at Natsuyaki, and continued in a voice tinged with sadness. “…I’m not sure which Maimi Yajima I came to like, but I know you’re not it.”
Undoubtedly in Maimi's mind, taking away her power may as well be the same as literally/actually killing her.



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“Would you like to know what is inside her?” spoke a soft voice from the shadows near a window. The traitors looked over to it with eyes widened slightly in surprise as Saki stepped slowly into the light.
Okay, I don't care who's side she said she was one before. Right now, Captain's a wildcard, a potential loose cannon.




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“You don’t know everything about us.” Her arm suddenly shook visibly, and her fist balled tightly as if it was in some pain. “Maybe it began with what was inside us, but now it’s beyond that.”

“Yes,” Maimi announced, straightening and staring haughtily down at the Skulls, though still obviously in hot anger. “After all, we are the heirs of the Founders of Seishin.”
At this point, it would NOT surprise me at all if the spirits of the original Circle suddenly manifested themselves within the current Circle members.  :shocked:




Quote
Saki now fell completely forward onto the floor as her clothes began to tear above roiling and swelling skin. Ai took a half step toward her before Risa caught her, and Saki threw up a hand to halt her as well – a hand which while in the air splayed, fingers and fingernails lengthening while hair began to sprout out of seemingly every pore. Natsuyaki and Suzuki stared frozen in horror
Shit, Captain WAS the beast, wasn't she? :OMG:




Quote
Seeming to suddenly lose the power of speech, the rest of Saki’s clothes fell off as a much larger version of the girl, as well as one covered with hair and looking like some grotesque dog, emerged. The face snapped up as a set of fanged jaws at the end of a long snout fell open to howl beneath glowing yellow eyes.

Suzuki gasped, and Ai thought she might as well. What is this…?! she thought in her own horror.
Aichan didn't know...did she? Is this because of the ceremony they performed to bring her into The Circle? Was part of it to place that seed of the beast within her?  :mon scare:




Quote
“You were there!” Suzuki cried, pointing past Natsuyaki at the thing that used to be Saki. “With those poor girls! I thought that was… Did you do that…?”

“I did nothing…”
the creature growled in a harsh, inhuman voice.
Assuming that she's not lying about this, then we still don't know what killed the other girls.




Quote
“But now you can start thinking about what you did to your friends by leaving them alone.” And with that, it turned fluidly with its lithe and seemingly perfectly honed muscles, and with one jump sailed through the window through a crash of glass.
ONOES!!!  :mon wtf:




Quote
“Do you think they’re all right in there?” Koharu asked for what must have been the hundredth time. “I mean, they’re all alone with who knows how many…”

“They can handle themselves well enough,” Reina broke in impatiently. The current Captain of the Skulls did have faith in them, but she was also frustrated that she was stuck out here doing little more than babysitting a bunch of children. As Captain she should be leading the charge, if there was any charge to be led.

She felt someone step up next to her, and Miki leaned close to murmur into her ear, her hand dangerously set on Reina’s thigh, “Sometimes a Captain’s duty is to stay back while those under her do the fighting. An army’s no good with its head chopped off after all.”

Despite the rather grotesque imagery, Reina grudgingly accepted Miki’s point and stood her ground.
Leader's can't help but want to be in on the action, particularly since it's usually their plans/orders/strategy being executed.  Miki does have a good point though.  Reina's no good to any of them if she's captured/killed/incapacitated.  They best chances at victory come with her staying alive.




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The five other Nakazawa girls huddled together whispering to each other, one or the other casting surreptitious glances at the rest of the party from time to time. The older Chinese transfer student especially seemed suspicious as always.
They suspect Junjun?  :'(




Quote
If Mari was going to say anything further though, all the girls were distracted by a shrill, high-pitched noise that seemed to come from the building in front of them. The Nakazawas jumped quickly to their feet as they all stared at the looming tower.

“W-what d’you think that was?” Koharu asked in a shaking voice.

“It sounded like a howl…” Kamei chimed in fearfully.

...

“Everyone get back into the trees!” Reina shouted, but her command fell only on the deaf ears of girls who were shocked stiff.
Girls, you gotta take cover!  :gmon tears:




Quote
Noting this, she stepped forward herself. The… whatever it was… was already halfway to them, and it raised its maw for a howl that mixed with a less audible high scream from back at the building.
While I can understand what Reina's reasoning is right now (i.e. distract/delay the beast long enough for the others to escape), I can't see how she can possibly stand a chance against it.  :o




Quote
“All I wanted was you…” Airi heard through pain as if a thousand burning hot needless were boring into her skin. She fell to the ground, amazed that she managed to stay conscious. “What did that witch do to you that made you ignore everything I had to offer?”

...

“What are you talking about, Maimi-chan?” came a huskier voice from another part of the room. “Do you… like… this girl?” Whoever it was, Maimi seemed to ignore her as she stepped cautiously closer to Airi.

“Let’s just deal with them and move on,” Takahashi said in a tight voice,

...

“You’re not gonna hold me back this time, Ai-chan,” Maimi warned, her eyes not leaving Airi. “I want to have some fun with this one first…”
The whole question of if Maimi liked Airi, you have to ask, was it that she truly liked?  Airi herself, or her power?




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“Maimi-chan…” whined the plaintive voice from before again, and Airi heard someone burst into tears before apparently running out of the room.
Oh right...poor Umeda.




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It was when Takahashi moved finally as if to join in that Airi clung onto her focus and stood up. “Don’t move!” she commanded in a weak voice, and Takahashi halted to glance over at her.
Airi's finally ready to get into the ballgame?



Quote
She tried to speak, but the other seventh year stepped between them and she instead cried, “Nii-chan, don’t!”

“Stay away from her!” the long-haired girl warned in a very dangerous voice, balling her fists. Airi swayed as she stared back, her vision swimming slightly still from whatever Maimi had done to her. She still felt very uncomfortably warm…

“I may not know anything about what’s happened here the last few minutes…” the determined girl continued, “But when it comes to someone threatening Ai-chan, that’s where I draw the line.”

“Nii-chan, don’t…” Takahashi cried desperately again, and she lunged forward toward her apparent friend.

However, time suddenly seemed to drop to a crawl for Airi. It felt like something had burst within her head, and now a blinding illumination was filling her vision. It reminded her of the feeling she had before when the Sun seemed to join with her, be in her, and even though it was beyond some magical barrier, she could feel its raw burning power seethe through her.
Oh please no...poor Risa's just there for Aichan. She's not actually doing anything for The Circle! 
:pleeease:




Quote
Takahashi seemed to be hurtling in slow-motion toward the other girl, still standing resolutely before Airi, and lifting her arm, Airi spoke.

“You may go,” she offered in a voice colored with a very warm, very grand tone, much different from her normal little girl’s voice. Risa’s eyes widened in puzzlement, and Miyabi turned from a now nearly asphyxiated Maimi. Her and Airi’s eyes met, and somehow they came to an understanding. “Our grievance is not with you.” She then nodded to Miyabi, who adopted a look of intense concentration, and the resolute but surprised girl vanished.

“NOOOOO!” Takahashi screamed, and there was suddenly a peal of thunder so tremendous that the ancient building shook to its core.
WHERE'D SHE GO?!?!??! Please say Airi didn't vapourize her! PLEASE say she just teleported her somewhere safe.  :k-crazy:



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“Nii-chan…” Takahashi grated. “What have you…” Her body shook harder as it tensed further, and the volume of thunder increased. Airi tried to answer before yelping at an earsplitting lightning strike that shattered the stone wall next to the already shattered window, and fell once again to the floor, her first thought of Miyabi, who was groggily trying to come to her senses along with Maimi near the wall. She had a feeling it was too late for explanations.
Shit, now Aichan's on a rampage (she probably thinks that Airi just killed Risa).




Quote
“Get them!!” she heard Maimi yell from behind as they ran. Airi stole a glance back to see Maimi standing furiously in the hole in the wall, a glance which she immediately regretted as she stumbled and nearly fell, though thankfully Miyabi kept her steady.

“Careful now,” Miyabi said smiling smugly at her. Airi almost huffed. This was no time for childish games about who was saving who!

“I don’t know!” she heard Maimi yell in response to something she couldn’t hear. “Hit them with a bolt of lightning or something! That’s what you do, isn’t it?” The two fleeing girls ducked and cast their eyes to the sky warily. Her voice was getting fainter though as they gained more and more distance from the tower. “What do you mean ‘that’s not how it works’?!” That was the last they heard before they reached the trees.
Fortunately for them Aichan, for all her raw power, still isn't as skilled as Maimi or Captain are at weilding it.  Well, looks like they're safe from the worst of it for now (though the fact that they're going to have to eventually face a smolderingly pissed-off Aichan isn't any good).




Quote
When they were just inside, strong hands caught their arms and pulled them off the path. Airi squealed in protest before she could think until a hand covered her mouth.

“Shhh!” Reina hissed. “Now that you’re in here they’re not going to know where we are, at least if you don’t go announcing our presence with something like that.”

Airi’s eyes wide, she looked around frantically before seeing Miyabi sagging in Miki’s arms.
So the others all made it into the trees? Thank goodness...but...how? :dunno:




Quote
“What happened here…?” Miyabi asked slowly, scanning the trees as if danger could jump out at them at any moment.

For her part, Airi pulled away from Reina and walked toward what all the girls were staring at, which turned out to be a very dense batch of foliage nestled within a few trees. She jumped slightly when the whole thing shook as if something was trapped inside and trying to get out.
They managed to beat (or at least temporarily hold back) the beast???  :stunned:




Quote
“…Do you think she’ll find out soon?” Miyabi asked Airi quietly as they walked closely together.

“I’d bet on it,” Airi responded, “Although finding her knocked out on her bed probably won’t make her all that much less angry.”
So they sent Risa back to her room? That's a relief to hear, but Airi's right. Aichan's still going to be pissed about it.




Quote
“And I thought she was even coming to doubt the others a little…” Miyabi pondered.
It DID seem that way, didn't it? Talk about timing.  :banghead:




Quote
“So where are we headed?” Chisato asked hollowly from just behind Airi. Since she noticed the two girls had returned, her friend didn’t seem to want to be any farther from her than Miyabi was.

“Back to the cave?” Miki asked, raising an eyebrow to Reina, who nodded.

“No,” Airi said plainly, and everybody stared at her. “We’ll go back to the wall.”

“Um… Airin?” Reina asked tentatively and patiently. “We’ve already been there and couldn’t do anything…”

Airi just kept smiling and walking back down the way they came earlier that morning, Miyabi eventually taking her hand and smiling too. And for some reason, everyone else followed.
Is this a "last place they'd think to look" (i.e. back in the proverbial wolf's den) type of thing or does MiyAiri have a plan?




Quote
*WOLF-CAPTAIN PART*
What happened? Who did what? How did they subdue her?

Aichan claiming her due place? Does this mean that it's really her, and not Maimi, that's supposed to lead The Circle? Does Maimi know about this?  If she doesn't it's going to be REAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALLY interesting to see how she reacts when she realizes she's been deposed.

What exactly are you up to Captain? 
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [16: The Essence of Hatred]
Post by: mode107 on April 15, 2008, 04:12:08 AM
ejrgkhre;hhewu;  You updated!! :w00t: I really missed this story, and the other one

Saki was that wolf who bit Miyabi ?!  :shocked:  I always thought her special ability was more on the psychic side and not a
physical transformation.. or maybe she has both..?

The Airi/Miya is sweet, but it's like I almost want the Airi/Maimi to happen, even if it's a little one-sided at the moment :lol:

and dammit, I had something else in mind to add to this but my brother just pissed me off  :angry:
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [16: The Essence of Hatred]
Post by: maiZe on April 16, 2008, 07:38:32 AM
Wow! That was one hectic chapter (again XD)! But definitely worth the wait! You said this was for Airi's birthday, but I'm taking it as a birthday present to me too! It's the best one I've received so far (however, it's also the only one I've received so far as well... XD).

“All I wanted was you…” Airi heard through pain as if a thousand burning hot needless were boring into her skin. She fell to the ground, amazed that she managed to stay conscious. “What did that witch do to you that made you ignore everything I had to offer?”
My heart goes out to Maimi, 'cause it seems like she really was interested in Airi (I don't think at the time she was after Airi's ability 'cause they all seemed really surprised when Airi started showing her powers). However, at the same time, Maimi's just scary and while it's not really her fault (it's the spirit of Matsuura that makes her scary from what I can gather) she's still scary...

Natsuyaki and Suzuki stared frozen in horror, the elder Skull still with a protective arm spread before her lover.

“Don’t you dare touch her!” she heard Miyabi growl as the two older girls collapsed to the floor in a tangle of limbs, and all hell broke loose.
Miya protecting Airi was the sweetest thing EVER! It made my insides go all mushy.  :mon inluv:

I'm too lazy to quote other things... But I'm wondering what in the WORLD Reina did to subdue Saki. And Ai should be THANKFUL that Airi and Miya didn't do anything to Risa (though, really they had no reason to do anything to her, for like Airi said, they had no quarrel with her).

Saki's crazy... And scary... And Maimi's scary too for thinking that crazy, scary Captain is cool.

I wonder what's going to happen at the wall and why that's where Airi and Miya are leading the group. I'm too tired to speculate on that. XD

I can't wait for the next chapter!! But really, I'll wait however long I must, because this fanfic is FTW! I'm so in love with everything about it! And I'm eagerly anticipating some Airi/Miya fluffyness. PLEASE tell me there will be at least a little fluff in the next chapter... :D
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [16: The Essence of Hatred]
Post by: chibilolli on April 16, 2008, 12:39:58 PM
OMFG AN UPDATE!!!

Man, we've all been waiting so long for this. Thank you Rokun :heart:  :heart:  :heart:

Saki is the werewolf type thingy...I already thought that was the case but it's been confirmed now. But what the heck did Reina do to her to make her stop??? Hmm...

Miya x Airi :heart: I'm still really loving that pairing. Even though I also love the Miya x Saki pairing in Berry Beautiful. Now I have a new found love for Risa it made me go all wibbly when she was trying to protect Ai. I really hope she doesn't get hurt (or killed) somewhere in the story. No-one's mentioned about Erika...poor Erika. Having to see Maimi get all angry emotional over Airi (well that's all I'm gonna say on that because I don't really like Erika outside of the story so). Bit mean of Maimi though.

I'm glad that Airi and Miya are understanding enough to not hurt the people who arn't really involved in it all. Not like Maimi and Saki. Maybe Ai will realise this soon and maybe change sides :D

or not!
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [16: The Essence of Hatred]
Post by: goosefish on April 17, 2008, 07:48:39 AM
Yay! Update and I finally got time to read it!  :cow:

Miyabi being all protective of Airi made me all gushy inside  :wub: :wub:

Ai seems to be more out of loop than ever when Saki transformed and Maimi was beyond excited about the fact. It seems like she felt like she really had been kept in the dark about a lot of things despite her position amongst them.  :O

The way Maimi puts her feelings into words about Airi makes it seem to go beyond normality, almost like an unhealthy obsession  ;) But that’s just my observation!  :sweatdrop:

Airi jumping from at least two floors up and not feeling any pain? Tough girl!  8)

Wow, this chapter is so packed. I’m really eager to find out how the hell Reina managed to subdue Saki when she was in that form  :?   And also what Airi and Miyabi have in plan in leading them to the wall.

Btw, Miyabi/Airi = WIN!   :wub: :heart:
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [16: The Essence of Hatred]
Post by: loveshadow on April 18, 2008, 09:28:41 PM
Maimi kinda scares me sometimes  :lol:

This CHAPTER was ichiban.

The reactions to SAKI transforming were as expected... but i'd be more scared of Saki any day if compared to maimi.
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [16: The Essence of Hatred]
Post by: rokun on April 18, 2008, 10:56:05 PM
Wow so many different views and impressions of what's going on! Good! :) I hope to create a pretty rich world and set of characters, and I'm glad people are enjoying so many different aspects. ^_^ It seems like one thing most people do agree on though... that Maimi and Saki are getting scary! Yay for that too! It started off almost too calmly, but I'm glad I've finally been able to inject some horror-type stuff into it. :P

goosefish, welcome back again and thanks for your comments! I wanted to respond to a couple of the insightful things you mentioned. :)

The way Maimi puts her feelings into words about Airi makes it seem to go beyond normality, almost like an unhealthy obsession  ;) But that’s just my observation!  :sweatdrop:
Maimi does seem rather obsessed... doesn't she? mode also talked about almost wanting the Airi/Maimi to happen... Whenever they interact, it is rather hot and spicy, isn't it?  :twisted:

Airi jumping from at least two floors up and not feeling any pain? Tough girl!  8)
Glad you noticed that. ;) I wouldn't think any normal 14-year old girl would be able to do that... Though if you've noticed some things about some of the girls so far, maybe it makes some sense to you... and maybe that's why it wasn't mentioned much. XD

Hmm, and people (like JFC :P) seem to be suspicious of Junjun. now why on earth would she be suspicious? :roll: There might be something to that, but it'll likely be a long time until you find out (like in the sequel XD).

I'll try to not take so long for next time!!! Next week is the last of classes for the semester, so more freetime should theoretically open up. XD
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [16: The Essence of Hatred]
Post by: JFC on April 19, 2008, 04:39:56 AM
Hmm, and people (like JFC :P) seem to be suspicious of Junjun. now why on earth would she be suspicious? :roll: There might be something to that, but it'll likely be a long time until you find out (like in the sequel XD).
:shock:
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [16: The Essence of Hatred]
Post by: maiZe on April 19, 2008, 04:44:19 AM
Hmm, and people (like JFC :P) seem to be suspicious of Junjun. now why on earth would she be suspicious? :roll: There might be something to that, but it'll likely be a long time until you find out (like in the sequel XD).
:shock:
I second that :shock:

Sequel?! OMG!! SQUEE!!  :cow: :mon inluv: :mon angel:
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [16: The Essence of Hatred]
Post by: anonymousdowner on April 20, 2008, 11:26:49 PM
I love the action in this chapter and Saki as the wolf very cool but I kinda already knew this from the previous chapter  :) and the Maimi and Airi thing is very sad I actually feel bad for Maimi....  almost want them together too but all is good (: BERRY BEAUTIFUL UPDATE PLEASE! T-T I'm dying for that one...
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [16: The Essence of Hatred]
Post by: Maimi_Yajima on April 22, 2008, 12:41:22 AM
The truth that would be more attractive to view Airi love with Maimi.
The story is incredible truth.
But ...
It looks better Airi and Maimi.
Or I guess to Aya loves Maimi and apoyandola throughout.
I would like to see jealous Airi and Airi this love of Maimi.
I do not like the character of this Maimi obsessed with Airi.
Please do not do this in Maimi character!  :cry: :cry: :cry: :( :( :( :cry: :(
Maimi not deserves IT!  :cry: :cry:
Maimi deserves be loved and reciprocated!  :cry: :cry: :cry:
Please! :cry: :cry: :cry: :cry: :cry: :cry: :cry: :cry: :cry: :cry:
Title: Re: The Circle of Three [17: The Battle for Seishin]
Post by: rokun on April 28, 2008, 01:06:50 AM
Ok so umm... yeah. Wow. I hope you guys can get excited about this from the title, because I'm sure excited having written it. It sets a few records again - in it is the longest straight narrative (without breaks or changes in perspective) that I think I've ever written, and this is also the longest chapter in general I've ever written coming in just shy of 10k words. So, it's not the longest ever for jphip, but that's not a record I'm trying that hard to break. XD So keep that in mind and take a break or two while reading if you need. Otherwise, I've put a lot into it, and I think there's a lot to be taken from it, so I hope everyone enjoys...

Warning for violence and a bit of PG-13 style language and sexual innuendo.


Chapter 17 – The Battle for Seishin

“So uh… what’s the plan, fearless leader?” Reina asked in a very sardonic tone.

Airi walked ahead with her hand clasped tightly in Miyabi’s as their surroundings became murkier the closer they came to the wall. Knowing what they did now, it almost seemed as if it was also getting colder with a chill that likely had very little to do with the temperature. Oddly, at least perhaps if one didn’t know the cause, the darker it got the more the storm lightened up as well until it had even stopped raining.

Reina’s question came from just behind the two of them where she walked with Fujimoto and Mari, but Airi heard the soft and tentative footfalls of the other girls as well only a bit further back. Her plans and visions didn’t really include them, but they still followed nonetheless. She pondered on it as she walked. Well, the Circle was gathering students to themselves, right? They even had that big assembly about it. There must have been some reason for it…

When no one answered her question, Reina huffed audibly, causing Miyabi to give a short glance back. “Just give it up for now. Do you think she’d be taking us back here if she didn’t have some kind of plan?”

“I’m just saying it seems like you’re putting an awful lot of blind trust in her. I mean hell, she’s not even a real Skull.”

“She’s my girlfriend,” Miyabi growled, eliciting a chuckling response from Fujimoto, and Airi felt the hand entwined in hers tighten. “And from what I’m seeing, a mite more of a Skull than you are right now.” For some reason, as she caught Miyabi’s face out of the corner of an eye that was painstakingly kept forward, Airi thought the girl was actually looking beyond Reina at something.

“Just remember,” Reina retorted darkly. “About everything that being a Skull entails.”

Airi felt her companion tense at that in a different way, and for the first time she let her head turn sideways to give the girl a questioning look. Miyabi caught it after a second and stared back before shrugging it off and focusing forward herself, looking to the ground as if a fallen branch they were stepping over needed her full attention.

Airi’s mouth tightened. Please let them get along… she thought. Not now… This is not the time for one of your famous scuffles! If she had somehow not noticed the two almost co-captains’ propensity for them, Koharu and Chisa were more than willing to share stories of the… entertaining encounters.

To tell the truth though, she was still troubled herself about what had led them out here again. As she looked around her into the now darker and darker reaches of the woods, and even thought she could almost see the deadly swirling fog of the wall ahead, she wondered if this was really a good idea. What was she, as a thirteen year old girl, supposed to do about something like that anyway? But then, there were the oddities…

Coming back to herself, just before they passed it she noticed a fork in the path, one being the way to the road they’d taken before, and the other being one that just goes further into the wood, but still toward her target. She quickly changed direction to go down the new path.

“How can we be sure she knows where she’s going?” she heard the older Chinese transfer student whisper huskily a short way behind. “It doesn’t seem like it…”

“Don’t you remember where that way leads?” another of the girls hissed. Airi was still having trouble recognizing the voices of all the new arrivals, but she thought this one was that Erina girl, also from the Nakazawa group. “She just probably didn’t realize it until the last second… you know how that can happen.” The voice hesitated. “At least I hope that was the case…”

Airi clenched her hands again, her left one now fully in a fist. Her right probably would have been too if there hadn’t been something soft and warm obstructing it. “You’re a very brave and determined girl…” she heard Miyabi whisper warmly into her ear. “Especially surprising for your age. If only Kusumi could have half of that, or Reina even…” The girl leaned in closer until Airi could feel her breath hot against her lobe. “If we ever get some time alone I’ll have to find out how mature you are in other ways too…”

Her girlfriend clutched her arm as Airi stumbled, having apparently missed another tree limb for some reason on this more difficult path, as she even more pointedly tried to keep her face forward to hide as much of the redness as possible.

“Is our girl all right up there?” Fujimoto called.

“She’s fine,” Miyabi said, smiling back reassuringly. “We’re just almost there. Right?” she asked, looking again at Airi, who cleared her throat.

“Right!” she said, trying to keep her mind on the task at hand in hope of bringing some of the paleness back into her features.

She peered ahead of her into the blackness. They must be close – surely it wouldn’t be this dark further back. Unless… was the thing growing? Her face very quickly cleared up completely at the sobering thought. That was even more of a reason why they had to do this now. Plus, Mari needed to go home, right? Then again, didn’t they all really at this point?

Her worries were momentarily alleviated though when the blackness faded into the swirling fog they knew to be the wall, cutting off the path ahead of them. She stopped only a few meters away, staring up at it.

“So what’s the plan?” Miyabi asked slowly and quietly.

Airi swallowed into her suddenly dry throat. “We take it down,” she said simply.

“By ‘we’,” she heard Fujimoto say from behind. “You mean you, right?”

“The three of us,” Airi responded, turning around and looking at a slouching Reina.

“What’s up?” the Captain asked neutrally.

“I realized what our problem was before. Aside from the shock of finding our friends there and all of course… I can’t do this alone. Neither can Miyabi and neither can you. We have to work together.”

“And how exactly is that supposed to work?” Reina asked, sounding bored. “We’ve all been pretty independent in what we’ve been able to do so far.”

“You mean you have been,” Miyabi retorted in an even voice.

Reina widened her eyes as if in innocence. “Yes I have. What, do you think you’re sharing something doing whatever it is you are to protect your little red riding hood from the big bad wolf? Getting all close and snuggly with her in a… well, a very disturbing sense.”

“Reina, be careful…” Mari warned from the other side of Fujimoto. She looked like she wanted to step in, but Fujimoto threw out an arm to hold her back, her face expressionless.

The younger girls further back stared at the exchange with wide eyes, and Airi realized they weren’t exactly accustomed to how things went down with the Skulls. Or rather, this was more like the side they were accustomed to, and perhaps it was bringing back uncomfortable memories. Truthfully, Airi didn’t know if she exactly liked it all either.

“But bringing Yajima and Shimizu to their knees… Did you have anything to do with that? What have you two really done together?”

“Did you just see us escape from the Ivory Tower through a storm, leaving the Circle in chaos behind?” Airi asked quickly and loudly, trying to break up the atmosphere that was building between the two longtime rivals. Miyabi had released her hand not long after Reina’s first shots, and now had her fists clenched tightly as if she was preparing for a fight, which was something Airi did not want to see right now.

Blank faces turned to her, visibly irritated at the interruption, although Miyabi’s warmed quickly. Airi felt she had no choice but to continue on. “We got out of there together. I had… I don’t know what to call it, but something happened inside me and lots of things suddenly made sense. One was how we could resonate with each other, focusing our abilities and using them in a stronger way than any of us could by ourselves, or at least with what we know of our abilities now. So we were able to protect someone who was innocent in all this. I wouldn’t have guessed it would have had so many side effects though…”

Reina responded quickly. “So I’m supposed to trust this… feeling… that you had? What? Do I have to give you complete control of myself? Following you is one thing, but this…”

“Do you have a problem with following her?” Miyabi asked quietly, seeming calmer though still obviously very alert.

Reina swung her gaze over to her once again. “Are you telling me you don’t? You’ve always had enough trouble following me.”

“Please…” Airi implored, nearly at tears. “If we’re going to do this we all have to be united, and have full trust in each other… We can’t be fighting like this. Why can’t you believe me? Do you think I want all of this to be happening to me? Do you think I liked the feeling of… of… curiosity that I had when I almost ripped Maimi’s soul apart? Until Chisa joined I positively hated the Skulls, and now…” She looked pleadingly into Miyabi’s eyes. “And now…”

She suddenly felt weak, and sagged slightly as if to fall to the ground, but Miyabi caught her in her arms, looking strongly into her eyes. “I’m with you through whatever. You know that, right?” She glanced over at Reina. “It’s true I may not be crazy about playing second fiddle to you lately, but I think there must be a reason for it, right? I mean,” she continued, looking now at the roiling wall. “Like you were saying, this is bigger than all of us, isn’t it?”

“It might be worth listening to those girls,” Fujimoto said, studying Airi and Miyabi. “You know I never gave in one bit while I was in your position, but now I understand where the need is. You’re the Captain – you know what the Skulls stand for, right?”

“Yes,” Reina responded, looking carefully between her mentor and Miyabi. “Yes, I do.” Apparently coming to some decision, she turned to Airi, who was still shaky and partly held up by her girlfriend. “So how does this whole… mind meld thing… work?”

Airi blinked her damp eyes, still uncertain whether Reina was truly on board, but figuring it at least had to be worth a try. Right now, she thought she’d accept a plan that had any sort of hope in it whatsoever.

“All right,” she responded in a broken voice. “It involves a resonance of our power and… what we are. I apologize, but I should take the lead since I’m the only one who’s really done it before. Even so I’m also not in quite the same… condition I was then.”

“You’ll be okay,” Miyabi cooed, and Airi looked up into her mud streaked face. She nearly giggled. Reina nodded quickly in acceptance of her plan.

“Come on,” she said, getting fully to her own two feet and stumbling toward the fog. Miyabi kept her hands out, ready to pull her back if she tripped again. She smiled. That was something she wasn’t going to do now.

The other girls with the exception of Fujimoto and Mari sat down to watch, many with skeptical faces. Airi was glad to at least see Chisato and even Risako smiling their support at her. After Miyabi came to her side and Reina to her other, face impassive, Airi looked hard into the mist to study it once again. She closed her eyes, trying to feel the free air and the Sun beyond.

“So…” Reina asked, seeming to try her best to be patient. “What happens now?”

Still with eyes closed, Airi replied, “Even though I’ll be trying to… help you along… it’s your element that we’ll need to use, just like what happened with Miya and I back at the tower. There is something very similar to a dense storm inside this wall, and you know how to order the weather.”

“Okay,” Reina responded simply. “I’m not sure I’m that great with it yet though… I still can’t control it well. I’ve felt much more comfortable since I started using—“

“You’ll do fine,” Airi reassured. “The skill is inside you. This is where you have to trust me.”

With that, she opened her eyes and turned to look hard into Reina’s own. This was much more difficult because the two of them didn’t share the same connection she and Miyabi did, but she tried to look deep inside her for what she knew was there. After a few seconds of Reina just blinking at her and becoming more confused, she felt a hand on her arm which broke her focus as she looked over to Miyabi.

“I think I might know what you’re trying to do now…” Miyabi said. “Let me try?” After a glance over at Reina, who was gazing at Miyabi with a conflicted expression, Airi nodded. However, s