"Today…it's raining again…" someone said from behind the newspaper. He had his legs casually rested on the table. It was raining heavily outside; and there were no other people beside him and his friend on that classroom.
"Yeah, it's the early summer rain again…." His companion, who was watching the downpour from the window, nonchalantly replied with eyes still fixed on the outside. The rain seemed to increase intensity over time, just like his frustration. "This sucks. I wanna go home!" he complained; but his friend didn't pay attention to his words.
"HEY YATO! Did you hear me?" he yanked his friend's newspaper, and behind it he saw a pair of angry eyes from a bespectacled young man, with a reddish-brown hair and short ponytail. "So very polite, Katsuro." He remarked sarcastically. "Well, it's because you're ignoring me!" His friend, Katsuro, defensively retorted. "Never mind, I'm just joking about being angry." Yato smiled.
"Yeah, I know." Katsuro said with a laugh. At this point the rain has begun to subside; and within moments it was merely a small drizzle. "Say, have you heard? They said there's a wandering spirit in the woods nearby. In a form of a girl, holding a doll, they said. Some of us have seen it."
"Spirit, eh." Yato perked up. Seeing his enthusiasm, Katsuro grinned. "I bet you want to check it out."
"No, maybe not really. But my sister Hitomi might."
"Ah, she. Always interested in spirits ." He remarked, his eyes on the window again.
"Yeah." Yato thought about Higashikai, the small university town where they live; it seems almost everybody here have some sort of interest in the spiritual and the supernatural things; and even among the students of the prestigious Shirasato University where they both studied.
Thirty minutes later, the rain has stopped completely., and Katsuro has left, after giving his regards to his friend's sister. Yato didn't go home right away; instead he found himself wandering to the back of the campus building, where it stood, the nameless, pristine woods, which was said by many senior townspeople to be sacred, a door leading to the other world. Indeed, its appearance; with its complete lack of animals, its tall tress which also served to block the sunlight considerably and its utter silence inside, adds to its otherworldly image. But so far, some people who entered the forest as a part of test of courage or cheap thrill hunt returned home unscathed; and thus no one really talked about it anymore.
He didn't know why he was drawn to the forest today. Indeed, he has experienced some strange things since he started living there, but not quite like this. For some reason, the woods seemed different now.
He wandered deeper. After trudging through a cracked stone path, he stumbled into a clearing, covered with leaves from past autumn. There's a small creek, and he decided to wash his legs there.
A rustling sound startled him, and he quickly looked over his shoulder.
There stood a blonde short-haired woman, wearing a blue dress, and a white capelet. Her clear blue eyes are fixed on him, without blinking. A small doll in the shape of a little girl floats around her. She didn't say a single word.
And she was quick to disappear, leaving him alone once again, without even giving him a chance to say anything.
"The rumored spirit? That beautiful girl?" He mused. That girl was indeed beautiful, he thought; although the beauty seemed so inhuman. The sight of her caused his heart to skip a beat.
"It's getting dark…" he said to himself, but his curiosity overcame him, and he decided to wander even deeper.
As the night falls and the darkness soon envelops the woods, he took a small pocket flashlight from his long coat. "Luckily, I always brought this with me." He smiled.
A tug. He felt something tugging his sleeves. He points his flashlight at the culprit. It was the same doll the mysterious girl has with her; and now it apparently moved on her own. "You…want me to follow you…?" he tried to converse. Strangely, the doll seemed to understand, and nods.
"Fine…" The doll floats, and slowly moved towards a group of trees. Yato decided to follow her, overcoming his own fear and hesitation. Along the way he made signs to mark the way back, for safety measure.
And not far from there, he stumbled on yet another clearing, and that girl, sitting under the largest tree, her body leaned against it, with closed eyes.
She's sleeping? Wait…' He ran to her to take a better look. And soon he realized she was soaking wet, maybe from the rain earlier, and, putting a hand on her forehead and feeling her shivering, it became clear that she's having a fever. A rather high fever.
"So this is why the doll wanted me to follow her?" He looked around for the doll, but it is lying on the ground now, motionless. "Hmmm….A spirit would shivers from cold….I guess I have no other choice, then." He said to himself, and he picked the girl up, and also the doll, and started walking to the direction of the exit, carrying the girl on his arms, putting his coat on her to protect her from the cold.
"Nggh…" She moaned softly, and slowly, her eyes opened. Seeing herself being carried in a man's arms, her eyes widen with shock. She opened her mouth, but no sound came out.
"I'm sorry for this rudeness, but trust me, I will help you." He tried to calm her down with his smile. She nods weakly, and murmured something that sounds like "yes" before seemingly losing consciousness again.
He finally reached the spot where he parked his bike, and soon they were on the ride to his house. Even with his coat covering her, she was still shivering, he noticed; the night wind was cold. Fortunately, his house is not too far from his university.
"HITOMI! OPEN THE DOOR!" he shouted; a sound of someone rushing was heard, and within minutes the door opens and behind it stood a short teenage girl, about fourteen. She stared, with great curiosity, at him and the girl her carried on his arms.
"Oh dear…" she covered her mouth with her palm. "Someone's hurt….quick; bring her in, Yato-nii…" She spoke with soft voice, stepping aside to give him a way.
"I think we must give her a compress; she got fever, you know…" He instructed; the girl nodded and rushed to the kitchen. And not for long she merged with a bowl of water and a cloth. She carefully applied the cloth to the mysterious girl's forehead.
"Now, let's just let her rest…" He said with a concerned look on his face. "Say, Yato-nii. Who is that girl?" the young girl called Hitomi asked.
'I don't know; I just found her in the woods near the campus…" Yato replied, shrugging. "Say…you know…she…looked… a little unusual, right?" Hitomi said worriedly.
'I…know…but somehow…I felt I can't just leave her there…" He replied, with heads bowed. Hitomi didn't reply; she only nodded slightly instead.
"Leave….me…alone…." The mysterious girl moaned in her sleep; it surprised both Yato and Hitomi. And also slightly unnerve them. "Is she having nightmare…?" Hitomi asked, her voice a little shaken. "….Probably; let's just leave her be…there's nothing we can do right now…." He replied, as calmly as he could.
Time passed, and an hour later, the girl opens her eyes, and the first thing her blue eyes saw were the worried faces of a young man and a younger girl.
"Ummm…are you feeling better now…?" he tried asking. There's no response, only a horrified and surprised look from her. "Who…WHO ARE YOU!" Shouting, she quickly rose from the couch, and tried running away, but tripped and fell; luckily, the carpet was thick. 'LEAV-LEAVE ME ALONE!" She shouted desperately. "I…" Yato tried to say something, but Hitomi intervenes. "Nee-san, please….trust us; we didn't want to hurt you. If we did, we already done it a long time ago…" She said comfortingly, gently holding her hands. The mysterious girl calmed down. "Sorry…" she murmured.
"Here, you should rest at the couch; it's better than the floor, isn't it?" Yato, gave his hand to her, wanting to help her standing up. "Th-thank you…" She took his hand and sat back at the couch, blushing.
"It seems the fever's gone." Hitomi said after putting her palm on the girl's forehead. "Ah, I'm going to introduce myself and my sister, so it won't be awkward." He smiled. "I'm Amami Yato, and this is my sister, Hitomi." The latter bowed.
"What's your name, nee-san?" she asked politely. "Nee-san?" He asked with puzzlement. "It's nothing…It's just…I want to call her that…." She said shyly.
"I understand…hope she didn't mind…." Yato turned his gaze to the girl, who watched them silently. "So, what's your name?" She looked hesitant to answer. "If you didn't want to, it's okay…" Yato smiled.
"…Alice….that's…all…I can remember…" She finally replied. The brother and sister looked at each other, puzzled.
'Oh dear. This is more complicated than I thought; an amnesiac girl who may not be human. But still, why do I have this urge to help her…and keep her here…?'
"I….see…." Yato said cautiously. "I'm sorry…for troubling you. I'll take my leave, then." She rose and began proceeding towards the front door.
"No, wait. We can talk this over. Or at least, stay for a while; it's dangerous for a girl to wander outside without shelter." Yato took her hand to prevent her from leaving. She blushed again. "But…but…"
"Please, nee-san." Hitomi begged. "I''m about to prepare dinner, so please stay for a while. You must be hungry, right?"
Looking at the two who seemed stubborn, Alice finally gave in. "…All right…" She said after a long sigh.
"This is the guest bedroom. You can use it." Yato pointed to a minimally furnished room with a mahogany bed; while his sister prepares dinner. "Why are you…so kind to a stranger like me….? I don't even remember anything about myself…" She looked down. "My father, he always told me to help those in need." He pats her shoulder. "it's okay…really."
"I see….so..where are this parents of yours? Surely they're wonderful parents." She asked. Yato looked sad for a moment before replying, "My parents died in an accident almost two years ago." He replied.
"Oh no! I'm sorry!" She said regretfully. "It's okay. We already got over it by now." He smiled.
"Ah, dinner's ready." He said, hearing his sister calling from the kitchen. "Come on." He walked to the direction of the kitchen, followed by her.
Meanwhile, in the woods, on the spot where Yato found Alice, another girl appeared, seemingly out of thin air. She brushed some water droplets that fell on her long blonde hair. "Geez, I hate it when my hair's wet." She grumbled, before dusting some dust off her black jacket. "Well, this outside world clothing isn't so bad, though. Yukari can be counted on sometimes."
She looked around; scanning the surrounding. "A-Ha!" her yellow eyes had found something that caught hr attention: a rather plain-looking book without title or illustration on the cover to indentify the content whatsoever, and bound with a mysterious lock.
"So she really came here. Aaah,, tracking her down would be a hassle…" She put the book into her bag, and walks away.