Chapter 1: Chance.

            They started running toward a point far in the distance. A destination far beyond their reaching hands. But Rick and Karen didn't care.

            As they ran through the flower garden, roses bloomed, and lily flowers smiled at their eagerness. Karen laughed, and turned her head to look at Rick, who was laughing back at her, "I am going to catch you!" Rick said. He looked at her pale white and naked flesh, and he imagined he was holding his brush, while standing in front of a canvas. He would capture this moment, this picture of that lovely creature running in front of him – he would capture her enchanting aura forever on that canvas…

            If only she would stop, or slow down, and let him catch her. He wasn't ashamed with his nakedness, and she wasn't with hers. Neither of them were aware of it.

            "Oh Rick," Karen said, "I wish we can stay here forever…if and only if we didn't learn what we have learned…"

            Learned?

            "Mr. Kurosawa…?" Dr. Jenson asked for the third time, "have you learned anything from reading this book?" He asked with a smirk, and in a slightly sarcastic voice.

            "Ah…"Rick stuttered, "well…well, I…I learned that it's not a good thing to have knowledge, because it…it corrupts you?"

            "Very good! Mr. Kurosawa, I see that you have been paying attention, after all!" Dr. Jenson's smirk stayed on his face, but he sounded surprised. "I see you have been reading with the rest of us after all…and oh yeah, Mr. Tsang, you can stop passing the information to Mr. Kurosawa now."

            The class laughed collectively, as both Rick and Josh blushed.

            "Very well, I see the class is about to end," the bell rang, and Dr. Jenson continued as everyone started to leave, "tomorrow, we will continued to discuss the influence of the story of Adam and Eve's fall in literature."

            "Sheesh, was he perceptive or what?" Josh grumbled after he and Rick left the classroom, "how the hell did he know?"

            Rick looked at the people walking pass the two of them; most didn't bother to look at them at all; the girls seemed to overlook them when they passed by them. "I don't know! Dude, that's not important. Hey, have you seen her?" Rick looked around again.

            Josh cocked an eyebrow. "Who, Kirika?" He couldn't hide a snicker.

            Rick punched Josh on the upper arm. "Oh shut up! That's gross, not her!"

            Josh laughed, "Oh come on! Kirika is not your real sister! Hell, you guys aren't even related! And she's very cute…Hey, you think she and I…"

            "No!" Rick said with all the firmness in his voice he could muster, "I won't let you get 10 feet near Kirika, you sex fiend!"

            The two them laughed, and joked, while moving through the flow of the students at the Republic High. Most of the students strolled down the hallways, and chatted about girls, or boys. Some were talking about latest games on PS2, Xbox, or Gamecube, still others talked about sports, and the rest talked about other things.

            Someone would mention "school", or "homework", and laughter and jeers could be heard throughout the hallway.

            Rick looked at the calendar on the wall. May 22nd, 20XX. "Summer is here." He muttered. 

            I have to go out with Karen. I have to. Rick tensed when he thought of Karen Mimasuya.

            "Karen Sorenson-Mimasuya." Josh said all of a sudden, "16 years old, blond, brown eyes. Rumored to be a mixture of Swedish and Japanese. Drives a Porsche 911 GT Turbo that her dad bought on her 16th birthday, and gave it to her on her sweet 16th party before she moved here. That was last month…" Josh raised a hand to Rick's questioning look, "…her father bought that mansion on the hills about 20 minutes from here, and they've been living there ever since. Karen started to attend this high school on April 1, 20XX. Even before she came, there were rumors about her arrival. When yours truly heard that she was going to attend this school on April fool's day, it occurred to me that this may be a joke by someone out to get me. But she did come, and yours truly was right yet again." Josh paused, and looked at Rick. "Why do you think Karen switched schools at the end of the school year?"

            Rick scratched his head, it made no sense to him neither. "I don't know man, all I know is that I've been dreaming of her every night since I last saw her."

            It's true. Rick smiled, Karen's been in my dreams every night since that fateful day…

            April 2nd, 20XX. Rick woke up to the sound of the alarm. He stumbled and tumbled down the stairs, and barely grabbed his toast before he ran out of the door. Just when he was about to enter the school…

            Thud! "Oh shit!" Rick exclaimed, as his notebook fell out of his book bag about 10 steps back. He sighed, and went back to pick it up.

            His eyes widened when a girl stood where the notebook was, she was holding it in her hand. "Here, you dropped this." She handed Rick his notebook, and started to walk away.

            "Thank you, but you didn't have to…"Rick said quickly, as he looked upon her face.

            The students who were walking and running fast around them seemed to have stopped, the hands of the big clock on the wall stopped moving, and the chatter of the birds became silent. The bell rang slowly…

            Ring…ring…ring...ring…

            The image of her face had etched itself in his mind forever...as he gazed on Karen's back, he thought he saw soft, feathery wings, and a ring of light above her graceful head of blond mane. Time had lost its meaning to him then…the bell rang again…

            Ring! Ring! Ring! Ring!

            "Oh fuck!" Rick yelled in frustration, "I need to get to the gym and change!" He quickly waved at Josh. "I'll see you later, man!"

            "Yeah," Josh said, "later." He shook his head after Rick left. "Rick's always imagining things. It would be better if he just think practical." He sighed deeply, "no wonder he can't get a girl…man, when the hell is he ever going to grow up?" He started to walk down the hallway slowly. Eh. I guess I am going to be late.

            The hallway was fairly empty by then. Most of the students had ran off , while some of the few left stood around and chatted lazily, and others packed up their stuff, and disappeared quickly.

            Josh strolled with his head lowered. Such is the way of this school, I guess…

            "Oomph!" Josh turned the corner, and ran into someone. The other person fell backwards, as Josh quickly looked up at the person who fell.

            A brunette was holding her chest. She was wearing a pair of jeans and a t-shirt with a logo that said, "Love Hina" on it.

            Josh frowned, and he walked toward her.

* * * * * * * * * * *

            Rick swallowed hard as he snuck a peek toward her direction, what is she doing here? Rick thought.

            Karen was talking with the teacher, who was the school track coach. Karen didn't look at Rick, while Rick stole glances at her every 5 seconds.

            "Hey man, your shoes don't match." John Kim said to Rick, "you are not thinking of running with that combination, are you?"

            "Oh!" Rick quickly sat back down, "silly me…hey thanks, man." He started to untie his left shoe.

            Ok, I need to just have some courage. Rick braced himself, as he looked up toward Karen's direction. Now if I can strike a conversation with her…

            Karen was not standing at where she was. Rick looked around the field, Karen was walking off the track field, toward another girl who was waiting at the side line.

            Oh man, Rick breathed out deeply, I had a chance to talk to her…

            "Ok everyone, gather around me!" The track coach shouted.

            Rick looked up quickly at coach, and then looked back at Karen's direction, finally he sighed, and walked toward the coach.

            * * * * * * * * * * *

            Josh stopped in front of the girl, and reached out to her. She looked up at Josh, and smiled softly, then she took Josh's hand. "Here you go." Josh said. With his help, she stood up, and looked at Josh.

            "Thank you." She said gently with her eyes probing Josh's face. "Are you hurt?"

            "Huh?" Josh cocked an eyebrow, "what do you mean? I ran into you! Are you hurt?" He looked into her eyes.

            "Heehee…no, I was the one who wasn't careful. I am sorry." She said. Her voice was like jingling bells.

            Josh forced his face into a smile, "no problem. You sure you are ok?" He asked without really looking at her direction.

            "Yes, thank you…" she almost whispered; Josh strained his ears to hear her. "Oh no!" she said all of a sudden, "I am late for my drama class!" she ran past by Josh toward the other end of the hallway.

            Josh turned to look at her back. Her soft and neatly brushed hair floated as she ran. The elegant curve of her back made him smile, despite the hardening around his eyes.

            "Too young…" Josh muttered, as the brunette ran into Karen as she turned around the corner, "and clumsy, too." He shook his head, and walked toward his class.

            While Josh bumped into a random girl, Rick was hoping he could talk to a particular one. His mind raced as his legs moved in great strides, and his feet dug into the track as he ran fast forward.

            Karen…where are you right now?

            "Watch it!" A runner warned as Rick almost ran into him.

            Rick mentally shook his thoughts of Karen away. He silently cursed himself, and focused on the goal again.

            After about 40 minutes of sprinting and jogging, Rick sighed a breath of relief, got off the track field, and went into the locker room.

            "Hey, that was some sprint out there, kid." Coach Sanders said while Rick tried to put on his normal sneakers, "you run a lot? I mean, you've got your own running shoes and all."

            "Oh yeah, Mr.…I mean, Coach. I…I just love to run. Kind of clears my mind when I do it. You know what I mean?" Rick said absent mindedly.

            "Uh huh, whatever. How about joining the track team?"

            "Uh…me?" Rick looked at Coach Sanders with a frown, "I…I am not sure about that…"

            "Come on kid, running is good for ya, besides, I think with your talent, we just may have a shot at the County Championship!" Coach Sanders said with his arms wide open.          

            "Um…" Rick said with some uncertainty in his voice, "sure, whatever you say, coach.

            Why do I run a lot, anyway? It sure helps me clear my mind…

            "Well, think about it, Rick." Coach patted Rick's shoulder, and left him alone in the locker room.

            Rick sighed. I guess joining the track team won't make my life more complex. He mused, hell, maybe this will make me more popular, and hey! Karen may just be more interested in me after I join the team!

            Rick's smile broadened, then he started to chuckle, finally he laughed out aloud. He picked up his bag, and left the locker room.

            12:00PM. "Hey Josh!" Rick called as he saw Josh was sitting at the "usual" table, with their mutual buddies: Darien King, and Jenny Kim.

            "Oh, look, it's Rick, 'I am so in love with Karen', Hunter!" Darien said aloud to Rick's direction.

            "Ugh…would you shut up, Dar?" Rick quickly sat down and made a gesture, he whispered, "gosh, I don't want the whole school know about this!"

            Darien apologized quickly while Josh shrugged and said, "Rick, I really don't think you stand a chance with her." He yawned, "so what the hell is new in this world of ours, Mr. Kurosawa? Or should I say, Rick Hunter?"

            Rick blushed at the mentioning of his middle name. "Man, don't call me that! I hate that name! It makes me think of that butchered version of "Macross" the TV series." He made a face.

            "What's the difference, really?" Josh yawned again, while Rick cocked an eyebrow, "I mean, it got people interested in anime in this country, and people in these releasing companies made money; and Mr. Marcek got his ass kicked for it; so much for authenticity." He looked to the side; that brunette girl came in he ran in that morning came in, and sat at a table all by herself, I wonder if she's alone by herself? Josh thought absent mindedly.

            "…And so Mr. Tsang got another detention today in Calculus class." Jenny said loudly next to Josh's ears, "once again, he didn't give a damn."

            Josh turned to look at Jenny out of the corner of his eyes. Rick laughed and said, "I guess our resident cynic actually cared less than usual today, didn't he?" then he stuck out his right hand toward Darien, "Hey man, you owe me $20! Pay up!" Darien sighed,  took out a $20, and handed it to Rick. "You got me there. Look, guys, I've got to go, my love awaits!" Darien smiled, and quickly left the table.

            "And there goes out resident lover boy." Josh said flatly, "waste of time, and money."

            "Ah…ah!" Jenny said with a frown, "what, love a waste of money? Come on Josh, don't you like anyone in this school?" She paused, while checking out some of the guys; her eyes lingered at the football players' table,  "you know, romantic dinners under the moonlight, walks on the beach, and…"

            "Save it." Josh said coldly, "going out costs, no matter what." He looked at the football players table, while Jenny pouted, "say, isn't that Sorenson-Mimasuya with Trieze Stonemiller?"

            Rick's body turned instantly rigid; he took a deep breath, and slowly, carefully turned to look at where Josh pointed.

            Karen was giggling and laughing, while Treize and the rest of the football team laughed and roared about something that everyone else around them didn't laugh about.

            Rick stared at Trieze, and then at Karen. This can't be happening!

            Josh and Jenny chatted lazily; Jenny talked with a whiny voice, and Josh spoke with a flat tone, but whatever they were saying passed Rick by without registering in his head. He stared at Trieze, then Karen. Fire came out of his eyes.

            Bang! Josh and Jenny were startled, and they turned to see Rick gritting his teeth, and shook hard. His fist had slammed on the table.

            "What…what's wrong, Rick?" Jenny asked in a frightened voice.

            "Don't Rick. It's not worth it." Josh said calmly, and slowly; he put an arm on Rick's right arm.

            Some of the football players turned to look at Rick. Karen kept looking at Trieze, and didn't bother to change the direction of her gaze. Trieze looked at Rick's direction for a few seconds. He turned to a couple of his buddies, and the three of them laughed about something, while pointed at Rick. Rick heard something about girly boy; he took a deep breath, let it out, and was about to stand up.

            "Oh well, I guess it was inevitable anyway." Josh said flatly, he looked at the football players, with eyes that looked like eyes of the dead fish sold in the supermarkets, and stood up. "If you want to go, then we go." Josh said in a tired voice. "that's the way it is."

            Rick stood up full without a word, and the two of them began to walked toward the table where the football team sat. Karen finally turned, and looked at Rick.

            "Guys, wait," Jenny grabbed both of them on the arm, "look, this is not worth it!" She stomped on the ground, "this is so shonen-anime-cliché! Forget it, Rick! You are way over reacting!"

            Rick looked into Karen's eyes at that instant, Jenny's voice lost to him…

            I will save you, my princess. Rick declared silently, after he pulled out his knightly sword with a cross guard, with Latin words etched all over it.

            Karen looked down from the balcony of her bedroom at Rick, who was far away in the field.

            Rick could barely see Karen, but he knows she was waiting for him. "My knight, I've been waiting for you. Come and rescue me." She seemed to said in Rick's ears.

            Rick tightened his jaw, and he charged forward, on his white horse, onto the horde of horsemen and foot soldiers that came at him. The dust that trailed the horde had covered the sun, and was threatening to cover him as well.

            "Stand down, both of you." Coach Sander appeared suddenly in front of Rick and Josh, "do you want to get your asses kicked, and get expelled?" He said sternly, "it ain't worth it, Rick, whatever you've got against Coach Jackson and his boys…I mean Stonemiller." He quickly turned to look at Karen, who had a strange look on her face, "so it's about that young lady, isn't it?" He whispered, "you can win over her heart with charm and brains, or you can look like a idiot and a loser after both of you get your asses kicked, it's your choice, Kurosawa."

            Rick looked over the shoulder of Coach Sanders at Trieze, who had a big smirk on his face; the same that his buddies had. Trieze winked at Rick, and stuck up his middle finger at him.

            Rick gazed at Trieze, and at coach sanders; he turned slightly right to look at Josh, who were expressionless and rigid. He gazed at Trieze again for a moment, and pursed his lips. Finally, he smiled. "Thanks, coach." The left corner of his lip went up a little, as he turned toward the exit of the cafeteria, he paused, and turned to look at the track coach. "Is there a practice today?" He asked.

            The corner of the older man's lips went up, "at 2:30 PM sharp."

            "I'll be there." Rick said simply, and walked out of the exit. Josh looked at Trieze, and Sanders each briefly, before following Rick out of the door.