Strawberry Panic! Fan Fiction ❯ Soft Power ❯ 1 ( Chapter 1 )
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1. Lulim Steps In
Chikaru hid a smile with her teacup as yet another meeting degenerated into a shouting match between the presidents of Spica and Miator on, among other things, the continuing absence of the Etoile from their meetings.
Right on schedule, she thought to herself with a tinge of amusement. I hope Shizuma-sama is at least enjoying herself, as she had earlier spied the Etoile disappear into the woods with a bewildered girl in tow.
Not the red-haired one though, Chikaru mused, blocking Shion's huffy tones as she recited through the accomplishments of Spica versus the history of Miator. Miyuki was steadily turning an alarming shade of red - which was rather unusual. Shion must have said something particularly venomous today, Chikaru sidetracked idly.
In truth, the Etoile-sama needed a break. Tragedy and heartbreak like that doesn't heal overnight, if it ever heals at all. If what she knew of the Etoile's past was accurate - and Chikaru had one-hundred-per-cent belief that her grapevine was solid - she silently prayed that one red-haired and vibrant transfer student would finally bridge the chasm the Etoile was masking with studied flippancy.
But it doesn't mean that these meetings should go to waste, Chikaru winced as Miyuki finally exploded and her voice reached new heights in decibel levels.
Chikaru mentally rewound the last few moments before Miyuki launched into her counter-attack and suppressed a chuckle at what she had been passively listening to while her thoughts wandered. Oh, that will definitely get Miyuki's goat!
Setting aside her inner musings she studied the events unfolding in the conference room. To her right Miator's Student Council president was riding the blast of her pent-up indignation. However, Chikaru knew that Miyuki's sense of duty and purpose would eventually win out and balance her input in their subsequent meetings. Miyuki's sense of fairplay even with inter-school matters was one thing she admired in Miator's student body leader.
But Shion, Chikaru turned to the fuming blond who had planted both palms on the table and was leaning aggressively towards Miyuki, was entirely another matter. An embodiment of Spica's modern curriculum and forward-thinking, Shion hammered her opponents until cowed into submission.
There wasn't any doubt that Shion was competent in her position, but once you've teased a red flag on the face of her competitive streak she just simply charged and charged.
Chikaru's soft chuckle went unnoticed by the two on either side. Shion certainly looked like an incensed bull. She looked about ready to head-butt Miyuki.
With a self-mocking and resigned sigh, Chikaru decided that it was time for Lulim to exercise a little soft power to temper the ambitious Spica president.
With her ears ringing, Chikaru headed to Lulim's school grounds wondering if it would be prudent to bring earplugs to the next meeting. She was working out how to slip them on surreptitiously when she spotted her friends loitering under a tree.
Kizuna and Remon were locked into their favorite past-time: thumb wrestling. Kagome leaned on the trunk quietly conversing with Pashibaru.
Never failing to improver her mood, she headed towards her loyal retinue, when the thought struck that this was a perfect opportunity to rally her troops.
Reaching them she pompously cleared her throat and grandly called to order an impromptu meeting of the Secret Club.
2. Conscripting the Secret Club
Shion began to doubt the soundness of her mind. For the past few days she had the tingly feeling that she was being watched. Once she had whirled around to catch the perpetrator only to find an empty hall. Had she just imagined it or did she glimpse something pink disappear into that corner?
Pressing a hand to her temple, Shion had continued walking convinced that stress was feeding her paranoia.
If only Amane-san would cooperate!
Shion was determined that before she graduates she would see an Etoile couple from Spica. This was her last year and it fueled her sense of urgency to fulfill a dream she has been lobbying for since her early years in the Student Council.
From Secretary to President, she had been involved from day one First Year, and has schemed and counter-schemed only to be denied.
Then Amane-san, who had always been popular for her bishonen appearance, had managed to effortlessly gather a sizable fan-base that transcended the Spica student body. Her grades were good despite her devotion to equestrian training. In Shion's mind Amane was the perfect candidate in finally reeling in the Etoile position for the honor and glory of Spica!
Of course, Shion indulged in a mini-evil laugh, letting it be known that she was the architect behind this success would be no small feather in her cap.
A faint click sounded and Shion snapped out of her reverie to point an accusing finger in its direction...only to startle a group of her underclassmen with her triumphant yell of "Ah-HAH!"
Embarrassed, Shion gathered herself, "Sumimasen," she said with mustered dignity. Willing herself into an even pace she stiffly walked on. She really has got to get these hallucinations under control! Shion thought irritably.
Remon tried without success to be stealthy as she fled the Spica grounds after a day of tag-team surveillance with Kizuna on the movements of the Spica president. It didn't help that she walked in an exaggerated tip-toe and was sporting her Sherlock Holmes outfit over her pink Lulim uniform.
It wasn't a small miracle that Shion hadn't managed to catch the clumsy Lulim students that have been dodging her steps.
Clutching her Polaroid camera, she went to find Kizuna who was supposed to conceal herself in the bushes near the Spica exit prior to their reporting back to the Secret Club.
Cupping her hands into a makeshift bullhorn, Remon sounded out the signal to meet. She called out...with the mating sounds of a wild warthog. Or what Remon and Kizuna agreed to be the mating sounds of wild warthog - when in fact it sounded more like a cow being tortured with a feather. If ticklish cows existed, that is. And never mind the fact that wild warthogs weren't native in the Astrea woods.
Remon was oblivious to the weird looks she received from Spica students entering and leaving the grounds.
Suddenly, a bush sprung from the foliage and wiggled its way to Remon. It whispered: "Someone left the cake out in the rain..."
To which Remon responded "...I don't think that I could take it 'coz it took so long to make it and I'll never have that recipe again."
"Oh no!" Remon and the bush sang out before dissolving into giggles.
"Mission accomplished, Kizuna-chan! Let's report back to Onee-sama!"
The bush, which was Kizuna in her stake-out costume, nodded her leafy head with an enthusiastic, "Hai!" The pair wiggled and tip-toed their way to Lulim.
"The Secret Club is in session!" declared Chikaru with a smart rap of her I-Make-It-Official gavel.
"Surveillance team - report!"
The lights dimmed. A slide projector snapped to life and Kizuna, who had shed her leafy countenance, read from the surveillance log.
"Based on the subject's schedule pieced together from various sources. The subject begins her day early." (Slight grumbling about the insane hours kept by exercise junkies may or may not have been inserted here, but Chikaru let it pass.)
"5:30 AM: the subject has gone jogging in a fashionable white sweat suit, if I say so myself!
"6:30 AM: the subject was spied cooling down after completing a circuit around Astrea Hill." An Image of Shion in a stretch that showed off her toned arms snapped to focus. The jacket she had shed folded neatly in a stone bench.
"6:45 AM: the subject is at the Weights Room doing lifts." Slide after slide of Shion using various equipment flashed by. "Interesting side-note: the subject likes to listen to punk-rock while weight training."
Chikaru lifted a surprised brow, but said nothing.
"7:AM: the subject is using the showers in the Spica gymnasium."
Chikaru choked back a shocked cough. Gasping, she exclaimed, "How in the world did you get that panty-shot?! Baka! What were you thinking?!"
Remon's glasses reflected an unholy light as she pushed them up the bridge of her nose. "Onee-sama, you did ask us to be thorough. Besides, we have edited out the more...um...interesting photos." Remon and Kizuna grinned at each other wickedly.
This time, Chikaru's delicate eyebrow twitched in consternation. "Ecchi," she muttered under her breath.
"Pashibaru?" Kagome intoned sweetly. "Isn't Chikaru-sempai enjoying it too?"
"Nani?" Chikaru thought she heard something, but Kagome was nodding at something Pashibaru was saying.