Kanami stepped out of her car and avoided a puddle. Hikari held an umbrella for her and gently took her hand. The umbrella trembled under the crashing of raindrops. Storm clouds kept the sky dark, only illuminating when bolts of lighting fractured it. Rolling thunder crackled and shook their bodies after each blast of light. Wind swept the drops of water in zigzagging patterns. The maid assassin shut the door as Kanami shivered. The pair of girls walked up the stairs and stopped outside Hoshi's apartment.
Kanami knocked loudly but heard no answer. "I thought I would do her a favor by checking up on her," Kanami pouted, "as the student council president, of course. Perhaps she already went to school."
"Your indirect kindness shall be the stuff of legends, Lady Aizawa," Hikari answered.
Kanami tried opening the door but found it locked. "Should we go?" she mumbled. "I'd hate to see her miss school over some bad weather…it's not like I'm worried about her…"
"Of course Lady Aizawa, school attendance is much more important," Hikari said.
"But I really should check on her…"
Hikari reached behind her back and took out two small pins. She handed the umbrella to Kanami still attempting to come up with reasons or excuses or both. Hikari knelt down next to the door and turned her head to listen for a click.
"But if someone found I stopped by and didn't get her…"
Hikari bent her wrist and turned the pins slowly. She then grabbed the handle and turned it. The door creaked open and Hikari stood up. She relieved Kanami of the umbrella and pointed. "Lady Aizawa, it seems Hoshi left the door unlocked."
"She did?" Kanami said in surprise. "I suppose I didn't turn it hard enough. Now I have to give her a scolding. Let's go Hikari."
Kanami stood outside the open door. She'd never actually been into Hoshi's room. She'd come by a few times, out of curiosity, to see where she lived, but had never been invited over and never invited herself in. Thanks to Chiaki, she was able to befriend Hoshi and talked more easily with her as of late. But this made her nervous. Oddly enough, she was scared to walk in. A hand pushed her back and she stumbled into the dark apartment.
"Hikari—did you just push me?" Kanami shouted in a fluster.
"I would never, Lady Aizawa," Hikari said innocently, though her face remained devoid of expression. "I must have tripped. It's very wet out here."
Kanami furrowed her brows but searched for a light. "H-Hoshi?" she called out. "Are you still home? You forgot to lock your door."
Hikari flipped the switch revealing a barren room. Although the apartment was small, it looked incredibly spacious. A small table sat in the center of the room with a television in the corner atop a small stand. A small chest for clothes was next it with nothing on top. There were no items strewn about the floor; no mats, rugs, game systems, trinkets, clothes, books, or magazines. Even the kitchen was clean. There were no dishes in the sink, in the drying rack or hanging on the walls. There was nothing on the counters either.
"What's with this place?" Kanami asked, genuinely confused. "Did she move? She moved without telling me!?"
"I believe Hoshi lives here alone and supports herself in total independence," Hikari answered. "She has no parents and asks her brother not to send her money. She runs newspaper routes in the morning and sometimes works odd jobs at night in the market district, helping an electronics, vegetable, and appliance store. She borrows a bicycle belonging—"
"How do you know all that?" Kanami asked. She saw Hikari holding a paper. Hikari stopped and stuffed it back into her pocket. "I found it online."
"Really, where?" Kanami said with a frown.
HIkari held up a finger. "The Aizawa Maid Intelligence Network."
"Again with your stupid—oh nevermind. It doesn't seem like Hoshi is here."
"We should look for her just in case," Hikari said.
Kanami paced the small room but there wasn't anywhere to hide. She looked under the table just to have something to look under and then walked to the curtain. It was a huge black sheet duct taped to the window frame. Kanami peeked underneath it but saw no sign of Hoshi. Just an outdoor porch being pelted with heavy rainfall. Hikari came out of the bathroom and shook her head.
"I know she's scared of lightning and thunder, but how bad can it be?" Kanami whispered. She walked to the closet and slowly grabbed the edge. With newfound nervousness, she slowly opened it. There were a few boxes, some clothes, and a futon messily stuffed into the corner. Kanami frowned but then the futon shifted. It barreled out of the closet, knocking Kanami over who in turn knocked a box over. Old school books, a flash light, duct tape, and other household essentials spilled across the floor. She frantically pushed away but dragged a crying Hoshi out from underneath it.
"H-Hoshi!?" Kanami shouted.
Hoshi had her arms wrapped around Kanami's waist with her head buried in her stomach and chest.
"M-My shirt! Stop it!" Kanami cried, trying to push Hoshi away. Hoshi sputtered a chain of unintelligible words. She pressed her tear-soaked cheek against Kanami's stomach and rubbed her hair against her chest.
"That tickles!" Kanami laughed. She tried crawling away, tears forming in her eyes. "Hi-Hikari, help me get her off!"
"I don't see a problem," Hikari said with a flat expression. "Remember, girls are okay."
Kanami blushed as the heat from Hoshi's tears and staggered breaths warmed her bra. Kanami started feeling dizzy.
Hikari squatted next to Hoshi and stroked her hair. "There, there, we're not going anywhere," she whispered. Hoshi began to calm down.
"What's wrong with her?" Kanami asked.
Hikari bowed her head slightly, "It would be best if we didn't leave her alone for the time being. Why not let Suzuki take care of her?"
"Suzuki?" Kanami said, putting a hand on Hoshi's head. The fragile girl was still clinging to her shirt. "That's a great idea! Come Hikari, let's get her in the car."
Hikari held up the roll of duct tape. "Shall I hold her down?"
"Of course not!" Kanami shouted.
"I see, you wish to hold her down yourself."
Hoshi lied down on a soft bed with a white sheet over her body. A curtain was drawn around her bed, letting her lie in peace. The nurse's office was typical of most high schools. There was a desk and a chair for the nurse. Folders and notes were piled on the table. Cabinets contained medicines and vitamins and small amounts of crackers for those that skipped breakfast and lunch, trying to diet before physical examinations—there were also few beds with sheets neatly tucked under pillows. The whole room had an air of chemical sterility.
"It's been a while, hasn't it Suzuki?" Hikari said, standing at Hoshi's side.
Another woman stood beside her, wearing a white lab coat with a pink buttoned shirt, a pink miniskirt, white stockings and lacey Spartan sandals. She had long, voluptuous pink hair that snaked to a point below her waist. She kept her eyes closed in a smile.
"Three months, twenty-four days," Suzuki answered, still smiling. "I see you still haven't gotten rid of that ridiculous eye patch."
"And I see you're still wearing those gaudy head ornaments," Hikari answered.
Hugging Suzuki's ears, hidden under her flowing hair, were a pair of large white headphones in the shape of rabbit ears. The rear rabbit ears were slanted back like antenna. The other ears were folded over, pointing toward Suzuki's closed eyes.
"Let's agree to disagree," she answered.
A bolt of lighting illuminated Hikari's deadpan expression and Suzuki's unusually pleasant smile. Hoshi shifted in her bed and drew the covers closer to her mouth. She moaned and then calmed down again.
"What's your assessment?" Hikari asked.
"She's suffering from abandonment issues amplified when she experiences astraphobia," Suzuki answered.
"Are you familiar with her file?"
Suzuki nodded. "Her father disappeared leaving behind a wife, son, and this girl. The mother contacted authorities but they concluded it was only a domestic case and he likely abandoned them. Housing records showed when the son came of age, he also left. The next police report is of a young girl found in the woods by a passing motorist. The girl was never reported missing and they never found her parents."
"Her brother claimed responsibility of her until this past year, when she began living independently," Hikari finished.
"Is she a danger to Lady Aizawa?" Suzuki asked.
Hikari shook her head. "She was tagged as a suspicious person but I've taken her off that master list," Hikari said. "From my experience, she has no financial interest in Lady Aizawa." Hikari turned to Suzuki and raised a finger. "In fact, Lady Aizawa tried approaching her multiple times to no avail. I believe she was pursuing a more intimate relationship with her."
"Lady Aizawa likes girls from broken homes," Suzuki said, giving a thumbsup.
"Lady Aizawa also likes cute frail girls," Hikari added, also giving a thumbsup.
Another lighting bolt scared Hoshi into turning over and clutching her covers. Suzuki leaned over her and used the thumb to rub her forehead. She calmed down. "Speaking of that, I don't have clearance to read her file."
"Who's?" Hikari asked, already knowing the answer.
"Shige Chiaki," Suzuki answered. She let go of Hoshi and straightened her body, placing her hands in front of her waist.
"She is of no danger to Lady Aizawa either."
Suzuki put a finger to her smiling lips and hummed. "No matter, as her bodyguard, it falls upon you to be absolutely certain in these matters, Hikari the Harasser."
"Indeed it does," Hikari said with little expression. "Has there been any change in Lady Aizawa's condition?"
"I will need more time to tell," Suzuki said, walking back to her desk. She sat down, reached for a folder, and then crossed one leg over the other. "It pains me to know a few kids, a hypnotist, and an assassin maid did what my medication could not, but I suppose its for the best."
"We were warned there could be repercussions like the second year Endo Yukino, but Lady Aizawa's personality seems intact."
"Perhaps its her personality in general," Suzuki answered. She put a pen in her mouth and chewed the corner. "She likes to be domineering."
"She likes to be on top," Hikari said.
"She always has a leg up on other people."
"She can't keep her hands out of people's messes."
Hikari coughed and turned away. "Joking aside, as her personal physician, it falls on you to keep watch over her at school, Suzuki the Swan."
Suzuki waved her hand as Hikari bowed. She turned on heel and walked out of the nurse's office. Suzuki reached up and rubbed her headphones. She took the pen in her mouth and tapped one of the rabbit's ears. It gave a chilling high note. Suzuki stood and wandered to the window. She put her hands behind her back and tilted her head toward Hoshi.
After a few hours, Chiaki and Kanami stopped by. Suzuki was tending to another student that had fallen and scraped his knee running out in the rain. Hoshi was awake now, talking quietly with Chiaki and Kanami. Suzuki leaned an earphone toward them but never took her attention off the boy with the scraped knee.
"There you go," she said with a gentle smile. She tapped his leg and shooed him away. Suzuki put away her box of bandages and strolled over to Hoshi's bed. "And how are we feeling now?" she asked.
"Okay I guess," Hoshi said, pulling the covers up to her mouth. "I'm sorry for taking up a bed, Sensei."
"Don't worry about that," Suzuki answered. "It looks like it stopped raining, isn't that nice?"
Hoshi pulled the covers over her head.
"She kind of reminds me of you," Kanami whispered, leaning toward Chiaki.
"Hoshi, I didn't know you had a fear," Chiaki said, tugging at her bed sheet. "Don't worry, I get scared of lightning and thunder."
Hoshi lowered her covers and smiled. "Yeah, I shouldn't worry about it," she said. "It's not that big a deal. It's not important."
Kanami and Chiaki quietly sat next to her. She seemed to have some kind of resentment. Kanami looked at Suzuki but she simply shrugged. Kanami told Hoshi about what she missed in class and Chiaki told her she could have her notes later. Hoshi thanked them but said she wanted more time to rest. They left the nurse's office a little disheartened.
"I don't mean to pry, but why did you tell them it wasn't a big deal?" Suzuki asked out of curiosity.
"But you've already been prying," Hoshi answered. She sat up in bed and then pulled off her covers. Suzuki opened her mouth in confusion, following Hoshi with her shut eyes. Hoshi stood in the center of the room and then began stretching. She reached down and touched her toes and then bent backward with her hands on her hips.
"My father left, and then my brother went to live on his own, and then my mother abandoned me," Hoshi answered. She faced Suzuki and smiled. "It was all public information at one point. I'm sure it's not hard to find."
Suzuki hummed and also stood up. "You were pretending to be asleep?"
"I wouldn't say pretending," Hoshi said, holding a finger to her mouth. "I was just too scared to open my eyes."
"Why are you telling me this then?" Suzuki asked. "I hope you don't mean to compromise my position at school."
Hoshi wagged a finger as she smiled. "Of course not, I like you Sensei. If you weren't around, who's supposed to take care of Kan-chan?"
"Instead I have a favor to ask," Hoshi answered.
"Huhm," Suzuki said as tilted her head.
Hoshi looked around and then wandered to a scale. She stood on it and began playing with the weights. "It sounds like Allis-chan is going to start something serious and possibly dangerous. I have a feeling I won't be able to help, and as amazing as the Captain is, he may be in serious trouble."
Suzuki kept her eye on Hoshi, watching her move from the scale to a microscope. Hoshi peered inside it and then backed off to inspect the slides.
"I was hoping to have a little more help, just in case," Hoshi continued. "I don't think Hikari will be around and it would be really really nice to have someone as strong as her—" Hoshi spotted a stethoscope and picked it up "—just in case."
"Hikari isn't here to defend herself, but I think I'm a better fighter than her," Suzuki said with a wide smile.
Hoshi unbuttoned the top of her shirt and put the end against her chest. She giggled at the cool touch. "If that's true, would you be willing to help me? It'll help Kan-chan too, indirectly."
"I see," Suzuki said slowly. She pressed her lips together and then traced her finger around one of her rabbit ears. "What do I get out of it?"
Hoshi put her hands behind her back and stepped toward her desk. Suzuki watched her carefully as she picked up a folder; Allison Connor's folder.
"Allison has a book, you know," Hoshi said, opening the folder. "I've seen her look at it when know one else was around. I didn't know what it was at first, but then I saw a similar book with similar markings. Now I know what it meant."
"You know that file is confidential," Suzuki said with a smile.
Hoshi turned and smiled back. "Raiji will probably get it before you, and I mean no disrespect, but you probably won't see it again if he does."
"Huhm," Suzuki said. She walked over to Hoshi and stopped. Hoshi handed her the folder.
"If I get you the notebook, will that be fair?" she asked.
Suzuki opened the folder and scanned through several paragraphs. She found the one that mentioned her father and his research notes. She closed the folder and tossed it to her desk. Then she put her hands on her hips, still smiling. "Do you really think you can make a deal with me? An assassin nurse?"
Hoshi furrowed her brows as if thinking deeply. Then she smiled. "I dunno, can I?"
Suzuki put a hand on Hoshi's head. "Something about you bothers me, but in a good way. Sure, you have a deal."
Hoshi held her hand out. Suzuki slowly took it. After two shakes, Hoshi walked back to her bed and lied down under the covers. "If you don't mind, I'll wait here until things start moving. It's best for bait to be out in the open."
"Bait?" Suzuki asked. She put away her folders and locked the drawer. "Are you really just a simple girl or something more?"
Hoshi held the top of her covers and peered over them. "Sensei, what color do you think my hair is?"
Suzuki thought carefully. "Dark pink? No, maybe a light maroon?"
"I call it gentle red," Hoshi answered. "But despite what I think, you'll see what you want to see."
"Perhaps we're both over thinking this," Suzuki answered. "Rest here then. I need to stop by the teacher's lounge."
"Remember our promise," Hoshi said with a pouting face.
Suzuki nodded. She left the room, quietly closing the door, and then walked down the hall with her hands in her pockets. She considered Hoshi's analogy not because it was right or wrong, but because she suggested it in the first place. She turned an objective question into a subjective one. It wouldn't surprise her if Hoshi had trust issues. Actually, it would surprise her if she didn't have trust issues. Suzuki put her debate on hold at the sound of footsteps.
Allison Connors walked quickly down the hall. Her lips formed a small grin as her eyes looked past the hall toward something intangible. She spotted the nurse and bowed her head slightly.
Suzuki smiled and kept on walking. She was no stranger to the incidents happening at school and the supposed method, hypnosis, but it was hard to believe a conspiracy involving a grandiose master plan. But a deal was a deal. Suzuki grinned at the thought of an opponent that required skills equal to Hikari's.