The Start of a New Beginning
The air was thick and musty in the car after just a three-hour drive. Kazuto had spent the entirety of the journey staring intently out the window at the passing scenery. He had seen everything from vast oceanscapes to towering mountains to seemingly bottomless valleys. He hated to travel even though this was his first time outside the city of Tokyo.
Born, grown, and raised a city boy in the center of the busiest city on Earth, Tokyo, Kazuto was curious about the outside world. He enjoyed reading, writing and looking at pictures of the world but never wanted to actually go there. It was something that had fascinated him from his young childhood. While all his classmates spent their days socializing and playing around, Kazuto could be found in the library reading about the outside world.
It was the truth that he had no contact with his classmates he did have a friend; Tanaka Ayumi, his neighbor and childhood friend. She acted more like a caring mother than an actual friend. A kind, thoughtful, charming childhood friend she was. And to no avail, Kazuto couldn't stand that side of her.
Kazuto's attention was pulled from his window to the opposite side as his little sister, Miki, frantically pointed out the car door yelling, "Here! Here! Here!" Kazuto removed one ear bud from his mp3 played and looked across the seemingly endless depths of the cliffy shores. A large yet standard Japanese style house sat proudly at the edge of the cliff where it began to descend. Kazuto, in his seventeen years of life, had never visited his cousins as they had always come him.
It had been years since he had seen his aunt and uncle. But then there was Kiku, his fifteen-year-old cousin. On multiple occasions they would play when they were younger, but as time passed they grew further from each other. She was an oddball now. Distancing herself from the group and most often barricading herself in her room. Nobody knew what she did in there alone. Not even her parents.
The road, once smooth, suddenly became sharp and rocky. It was a wake up call to Kazuto that they were now on the property. His parents had told him about that on the way. Not like he needed to know.
Their car pulled up in the middle of the stone circle in front of the house. At the steps to the small porch stood Jirou and Chiharu Tsuji; his aunt and uncle. Not having seen them for over eight years made Kazuto sweaty and hesitant. Once he got his act together he exited out the opposite end of the car. It then hit him his cousin, Kiku, was missing.
"I assume it was a safe trip?" his uncle asked greeting his father. His mother had gone over and began talking to his aunt leaving Kazuto and Miki standing in the center of the driveway awkwardly.
Finally his aunt pulled away from her conversation and walked over to Miki. "Look at you all grown up now." She tightly squeezed Miki's cheeks like any aunt would. This had always been known to Kazuto as "the death squeeze". It took a rebellious Miki some thirty seconds to pull away from her aunt's grasp. "My, my I remember when you were still a baby!" Miki ran behind her mother gripping her long summer dress tightly. Though Miki was only nine she still had her childish episodes.
Aunt Chiharu turned over to Kazuto still listening to the music on his mp3. Silent at first she gave Kazuto a look down, then a look up. Kazuto gazed into her suddenly sullen eyes without batting an eyelash. Shortly after the long staring contest she faced back to his mother and the two began chatting again.
Kazuto awkwardly waddled away maintaining focus on his iPod. The song changed to something he deeply enjoyed so he turned up the volume. He walked over to the beginning drop of the hill looking down upon the beach and shimmering ocean. Against the blinding gaze of the sun he could see a silhouette of a person standing by the water's edge. The person turned to the hill, noticed him and waved. Kazuto let out a small sigh and began the descent down.
Kiku stood barefoot in a frilly one-piece dress that seemed to almost show more than needed. Her skin was soft and smooth to the touch appearing almost like porcelain. Her nails, carefully painted down to the borders, carried small cats each in a different color. Kazuto could get a small whiff of lilac and daisies in the sea air coming from her. After eight years all Kazuto could say was a faint greeting. It was an odd enough encounter for the both of them as they kept to themselves; Kazuto focused on the illuminant screen of his mp3 and Miki on the piles of sand beneath her feet. Finally the latter spoke, "eight years, huh?" Kiku's face flushed a bright red. Kazuto only nodded. Another silence fell over the two and to make it seem less awkward Kiku picked up a small, smooth stone by her foot and tossed it as far as her slim arms would allow her.
Kazuto felt a responsibility to start something. The two of them used to play together all the time when they were younger. They were so close at the time she would address him as Onii-chan. She said it so much he began to believe that they were actually siblings. It wasn't until then that her mother told her to cut with the childish names and grow up. That was the last time he saw her.
Kiku lightly folded her hands while shyly avoiding eye contact. The redness in her face had dissipated but the nervousness was still quite present. "It's been eight long years since we last talked, huh nii-nii?" Kazuto rubbed the back of his head astonished she was still referring to him as such. "You're still calling me that, huh?" he asked. Kiku nodded.
Kiku clenched the sides of her dress tightly. She bit her lip letting out a quiet moan of anxiety. She had known of his arrival for weeks now but never planned for it. And now she was paying the consequences. "Hey, do you remember that thing we promised?" She immediately closed her mouth embarrassed with her choice of words. Kazuto tilted his head confused again. He didn't remember her being so roundabout. "What promise?" he finally asked. Kiku shook her head furiously and turned back to the ocean. "N-nothing! Never mind!"
The two stood in silence for the second time in several minutes of their reunion. Already Kazuto was growing impatient. Kiku was once the most straightforward young girl he knew. Fear was something she didn't know of.
At the same time, he was tempted to ask her what she meant by her prior question. Promise? The words rung in his head again and again until it began to drive him mad. Even if he had promised her something, how would he remember after eight years? What was her deal exactly?
Back on top of the hill, Kazuto's father waved frantically calling the two to come back. His words were trouble to decipher at such a distance. Kazuto let out a sigh upset his question would remain unanswered. As he turned back to Kiku, she was already running past him. Fast. Her movements were quick and flexible like a cat. Kazuto couldn't help but smile to himself.
He followed slowly at his own pace turning his music volume back up again, drowning out all distractions. As he neared the edge of the beach he felt his foot hit something hard and spiky. He drew back concerned he had stepped on a crab or piece of driftwood. Yet buried under a thin layer of sand and dirt lay the tip of a diamond like crystal. Kazuto knelt down and dug it out, gently brushing away the sand. It was a somewhat small cylindrical, turquoise crystal with smaller versions of the main body jolting out of the bottom at a forty-five degree angle. It seemed to gleam much like a night star when held up to the sun. It the first he had ever seen something of its type. Smooth like it was cut, clear like glass, and seemingly untouched by anyone before. He looked up the hill just as Kiku was reaching the top, pocketed the crystal without a word and made his journey back up.
His aunt and mother had cooked dinner fashionably. An assortment of rice dishes, various types of fish found off the coast and traditional southern side dishes all but covered the edges of the table. The meal looked almost like something out of a five-star hotel. But of course this was normal for his family. Both his mother and aunt were eccentric cooks. It had always been a competition. Wife vs. Sister-in-law. His father couldn't pick sides.
They said their thanks and dug into the table of delicacies. Little by little the food melted away into their mouths as the night grew darker. Not just food, but laughs were passed around the table with stories and anecdotes they could not have shared these past eight years. All the while Kiku was silent. She knelt at the table, hand carefully folded, eyes locked on her twiddling thumbs, a sullen look on her face. Something had felt off since he arrived.
A gradual smile formed on Kiku's face when she realized Kazuto was looking at her. He smiled back, which unfortunately made her sink back into her depression. Odd, Kazuto thought.
Chiharu banged a small spoon on her elegantly crafted glass. The sharp sound resonated with the even smaller dining room. In less than a second the family's chatter died to a low mutter of a few words. "Now that I have your attention," she began, "I would like to take this time to iterate a little legend from around these parts. One of myth, yet very real. One of fiction, but total fact. It all began years ago when people began to go missing. There one day and missing the next. The settlers at the time began to fear the supernatural. While some claimed it was the angered spirits of their ancestors, there were a miniscule amount of those who told stories of them vanishing into the sun. Early in the morning, under the luminous sun, a bright flash erupted out of thin air. When the flash dissipated, they were gone. This went on for years until one of the missing returned. He claimed stories of another world he was transported to. Tales of magic, monsters and mystery. Of course no one believed him, but he kept at it. With his return the disappearances stopped. People returned to their normal lives and the returnee was forgotten."
"Mother that's just a childrens story." Kiku snorted.
"How cold Kiku. My mother passed that down to me!"
Kazuto, tired of the jabber around the table, stood up and left the room without another word. Tired not only of the stories, the loud chatter, one talking over another, but also tired from the trip. He had his room which he decided to retire to for the night.
He changed out of his clothes being sure to remove everything from his pockets. He stopped upon reaching and pulling out the gem from before. It had a magnetic feel to it as his eyes remained glued. The sleak, glossy texture was alluring. It become impossible to avert his gaze. Eventually he overcame the strange sensation and dropped it on a dresser. Tossing over in his bed he thought about how strange of a find it was. After all, who would drop and forget about a gem as beautiful as it? All these and more slowly faded from his mind as he drifted off into a slumber finally shutting his eyes. It was only then that the stone began to glow. Brightly.
Kazuto was awoken early in the morning by the shaking of another and the sunlight flooding his bedroom. His eyes still tired from a long nights rest took their time adjusting. When they did Kiku's image was projected crisply in his mind. "What do you want?" he asked turning over.
She flipped him back, a stern glare on her face. "Get up," she ordered. Kiku grabbed his loose arm dragging him off the bed. Much like a drill sergeant training his recruits, Kiku hovered over Kazuto with the same look and posture. "Come with me."
Faced with no other option Kazuto caved in. He dressed, made his bed and made for the door before stopping. Something inside calling to him. He turned to the dresser where the gem lay. It called to him. Something was beckoning him to take it with him. Frozen in place by this strong unknown desire Kazuto began to hear voices. Soft, but audible. One by one the voices grew louder. More joined in. He swore he was going insane. So in the split second he recovered his sanity he swiped the gem. The voices stopped.
Outside Kiku waited patiently against the gate in a similar one piece she wore the day before. This one being a pure yellow with dim blue stripes. She didn't even say one word but motioned him to follow. Kazuto only followed silently.
After minutes of walking through thick brush and rough terrain they neared a small clearing. It couldn't have been any larger than the house itself. Just near the end, Kazuto could see a drop where the hill ended and the colored ocean of the morning began. Was this it?
Kiku spun lightly showing off her plush one-piece glide over the breeze. "Beautiful isn't it?" she asked facing the sunrise. Kazuto didn't have much to say in reply. Only to ask what her purpose was. "I just thought you'd want to see it." She lied. "To be honest I wanted to tell you something."
Kazuto wanted to ask more before hearing what she wanted to tell him. "Why here?"
"This is where it started if you don't remember."
The waves thundered below violently growing stronger by the second. A thin breeze blew past his ears whistling. As Kiku opened her mouth to speak the wind picked up and a wave smacked its body against the Cliffside. Her mouth was clearly moving but the words never came out.
A crack broke through amidst all the rambling of the wind and waves. It was loud enough to wake even the heaviest of sleepers. It didn't take Kazuto long to realize the edge where Kiku stood was breaking off.
There was no hesitation in his next movement as he dashed forward. Kiku remained frozen by the sudden fall. Three meters. Kazuto picked his legs up and ran faster. A gasp of surprise finally came from Kiku as she realized what was happening. Two meters. Half way through her fall already Kiku let out a scream of desperation. One meter. Kazuto knew in his mind what he had to do. He had no doubt in his mind. No regret. Zero meters. Kazuto leapt off the cliff grabbing Kiku's arm. Using the greater force from his body weight he swung Kiku around like a pendulum tossing her back on the cliff edge.
His fate sealed, the end of his life drawing near, Kazuto shut his eyes calmly. The whipping of the wind by his ears. The crashing of the waves. Both were the last two things he would hear. Up above Kiku's shrill cry echoed off into the horizon catching his ears. He began to wonder how his name would be remembered. What would Ayumi think? A small grimace came across his face.
Without warning his vision was enveloped in a bright light, much like a lightning bolt strike in brightness. Bright enough to blind him even with his eyes closed tight. The strength of the sun on a hot summer day. It gave Kazuto a warming, welcoming feeling as he fell.
The light vanished. The lashing wind stopped. The crashing waves dissipated. All was silent again. But something was off. The soft feeling of grass replaced the empty floor. The smell of fresh flowers intoxicated his nostrils. He slowly reopened his eyes still blinded by the flashing illumination. Blinded by a sudden burst of light he shut his eyes tightly again, waited a few moments then opened them again.
A serene blue sky hung high overhead. Beneath him the crisp green grass he so missed. He was on solid ground and very much alive. But where was he? He stood up, legs shaking like a cornered dog. He had no clue of his whereabouts or how he got here. What concerned him was his last memory. Did he really fall off a cliff risking his life to save Kiku? Was this all just a dream?
He shoved those thoughts out of his head and walked. He didn't care where to, he needed to find answers anyway possible. Up ahead was a lining of tall, round trees leading into a forest. That was probably a better place to look since the only other direction was out into a vast, plain horizon.
His head hurt and his bones ached with every step. It was becoming a difficulty to walk in a straight line. Leaning on every other tree to regain his balance became necessary to continue any further.
Finally, he reached a long stretch of dirt road that lead on for miles. "A road." He smiled pleased with his choice and the nearing chance of finding help. The sound of an approaching cart caught his attention and sent shivers down his spine. Two large horses charged full speed at him, the cart driver flailing his hands frantically telling him to move. But his body refused, frozen like a statue. The driver steered the horses away just meters away before stopping just past him.
"Who are you to obstruct my lady's travels?" A stern and commanding voice boomed from the carriage. Kazuto swallowed all his bravery as a large man in shimmering armor stepped out; sword drawn to arms. Still his body would not move. "Are you an assassin from Gastaria, fiend?" the man rose his sword high as he reached sword distance. Kazuto shut his eyes tight and braced for the worst.
"Cornelius!" another voice came from the carriage. The man stopped and froze in his steps only to sheathe his sword and turn around. A young maiden, most likely no older than he was, stepped out of the carriage. She had dazzling purple hair draped to her shoulders; two braids hanging on both sides from front to back. Her eyes were a deep, piercing red like an apple. She wore a flashy pink Victorian-style dress that almost clashed with her physical appearance. "Can you not see this boy is unarmed?"
The man grunted bowing his head. Kazuto was speechless as he looked between the two. Who were they? What language were they speaking? He thought of this chance to slip away and find help. Unfortunately the girl approached him. "Are you alright?" she asked. Kazuto didn't know how to reply even. He had no clue of what they were saying. "Not much of a talker, are you then?"
Kazuto shook his head. Everything in his mind was twisting and turning almost too fast. "I don't even know what you're saying." The girl put on a confused look. How would she react to a language she'd never heard before?
Suddenly, her expression changed. She pranced back to her carriage, dug around a little and came back with a small pocket sized book. She flipped through the pages and stopped on one half way through. Her next words were like a chant. Faint and mashed together. When she finished, she smiled, shut the book and asked again if he was okay. Kazuto almost leapt back from shock when he realized he could understand her. "What the heck was that?" he asked.
She giggled to herself a bit. "Magic" she replied. "Have you not seen it before?"
Kazuto shook his head. "No. I don't even know where I am."
The girl gave him a visual look down at his appearance. "Guessing from your appearance you are not from around here. Where did you come from?"
"Last I remember I was falling off a cliff just outside Shimoda."
"Shi-mo-da?" the girl tried to pronounce the name as best she could. Things were beginning to get weirder as the conversation progressed.
Kazuto folded his arms. "In Japan." Once again the girl tried to pronounce the name but had difficulty. Kazuto grumbled frustrated over the confusion. "Look, can you just tell me where I am so I can figure out how to get back."
"You're just outside Briting." She said. Now things were more complicated than before. "How do you not know your current location? Are you not a citizen of Teruinn?"
"Teruinn? You mean this isn't Japan?"
"I don't know what delusions you have suffered boy, but this is the great continent of Teruinn."
"Now listen here just a moment-" He was stopped by the armored man pointing his sword to his throat. "Watch your language against my lady!" Kazuto was ready to rebuke and call them all crazy, but with his attention turned to the sky he finally knew he was no longer home. He counted not one… not two… but three moons in the sky. How could he not have seen that sooner?