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The Mysterious Play

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‘This is the story of a girl who made her dreams come true after she came to possess the seven stars of Suzaku, and many powers were bestowed upon her.

‘The story itself is a spell. The one who reads it through will be given the powers and granted a wish just like the girl in the story—

‘— Because the story begins and becomes real the moment the first page is turned...’

Chapter Text

... a double cheese burger...

... a triple scoop of choco-mint, vanilla with raisins, and strawberry ice-cream...

... a pork cutlet rice-bowl...

... all these yummy foods...

... cheesecake, sushi, vegetables...

... and I can eat it all!

Pasta, study, chicken— wait what?

Study, study, study, study!

Huh! Where’d all the food go?

Study!

Study!

Bibliotheca!

What?

“Miaka! Translate that into English please!”

With a jolt, Miaka Yuuki awoke to find herself in the middle of her Spanish class.

“Miss Yuuki! Did you just fall alseep in my class?”

Huh? How did I go from food to Spanish?

Guiltily, the schoolgirl remembered drifting off at the beginning of the class.

Oh! It must have been a dream.

“Miaka!”

At the sound of her name, she looked up into her teacher’s agitated face.

“I’m sorry Mr Sanchez. What were you saying?”

She watched helplessly as the man’s face turned tomato red.

“That’s it, young lady! See me after class!” he said as he stormed back to his desk.

Oh, man. I guess I’m in for it again.

(-)

Yui Honguo waited for her friend by the school gates at 3:00, fifteen minutes after class was let out.

Suddenly, she spotted Miaka’s characteristic brown side-buns bouncing toward her.

“Sorry about that, Yui!” she called, waving her school bag.

“Did you get a detention?” Yui enquired.

“No, he just gave me another lecture about how ‘school is important’ and ‘I’ll never pass my exams if I spend all my time daydreaming’.” her friend huffed.

“He is right, you know.” Yui sighed. “Anyway, I wanted to go to the national library today to return a book. Are you coming?”

“Sure!” Miaka grinned, “It might do me some good to be around all those books!”

As they rode the train into town together, they talked about college and what to do after high school.

“I’ll be trying for Junon, of course.” Yui said.

“Yeah, me too.” her friend admitted.

“You want to go to Junon College?” Yui’s eyebrows skyrocketed.

“I know I’m not smart enough, but my mum won’t let me try anywhere else. She said it’s the most important time of my life and I need what’s best for me.” Miaka stared at the floor.

“Whatever.” Yui giggled, “This is our stop; we’re here.”

The National Library towered over most other buildings in the street, but was still small in comparison to the skyscrapers that now dominated the Tokyo landscape. Still, despite its place in the skyline, the building still managed to be imposing and impressive.

Miaka stopped and stared for a second, before realising that Yui wasn’t waiting.

“Hey! Wait up!”

Inside, Yui turned to Miaka: “I’ve just gotta drop this book off and then we can go. There’re some vending machines over there if you want a drink or something in the mean time.”

Don’t mind if I do!

“Let’s see... hmm... I think a juice carton will do just nicely!” Miaka exclaimed as she pushed her coin in— only for it to eject violently from the machine and roll away.

Huh? That was kinda weird.

As she bent down to pick up the coin, a bright red flash up ahead caught her eye.

She looked up to see a stunning red Phoenix, engulphed in a bright red light, soaring above her. The bright scene filled her eyes, and she stood, trance-like, and followed the bird.

... the power of Suza—

“Miaka!”

The young girl came to with a start, and looked around to find herself in an old store-room, a book clutched in her hand, while Yui stood at the door watching her incredulously.

“What are you doing in here?”

Miaka turned to face Yui.

“I-I don’t know. I think I must have gotten lost.”

“What, and you just happened to pick up a book?”

“I don’t know?”

Yui shook her head and walked to her friend.

“What have you got there?” she frowned. “It’s written in old Japanese, I can’t make it out.”

Miaka looked down at the book.

“It says ‘The Universe Of The Four Gods’, I think.” she murmured.

“You can read that?” Yui asked.

“My grandfather taught me old Japanese when I was little.” she admitted.

“Well, what does it say inside?”

Miaka moved back the heavy cover to reveal a single paragraph on the first sheet.

“It looks like a warning.” Yui observed.

“‘ ... Thereby the girl of legend opened up the doorway which led to another world. This is the story of a girl who made her dreams come true after she came to possess the seven stars of Suzaku, and many powers were bestowed upon her. The story itself is a spell; the one who reads it through will be given the powers and granted a wish, just like the girl in the story. Because the story begins and becomes real the moment the first page is turned.’ Huh. What do you suppose that means?”

But there are was no time for Yui to answer; because as suddenly as the Phoenix had appeared the first time, it now came again, and brought with it a light so blinding that neither girl could be sure of how long it took until everything faded away.

(-)

Yui awoke first.

Groaning, she sat up and held her head, trying to shake an overwhelming sense of dizziness.

Miaka stirred beside her, asking blearily, “Yui? What happened?”

It was only when the girls cast a look around themselves that they realised something was wrong.

The dark, cramped archive room had faded, and in its place was a barren landscape, covered sparsely with rocks and a few stunted trees.

“What is this place?” Yui wondered aloud.

“It-it can’t be a dream. I can feel my head hurting.” Miaka conceded. “Besides, I can’t remember the last dream I had that wasn’t about food.”

“This is more like a nightmare.” Yui shivered.

They both stood, and Miaka turned away from Yui to scout the horizon.

“I can’t see anything. It’s just... barren.”

When she received no reply, Miaka turned— and saw a tall, middle-aged man pressing a knife into Yui’s throat.

His companion— a younger, scrappier-looking boy— glanced her up and down, and then smiled.

“These two are an excellent find. We can sell them for a high price, easy.”

It took Miaka a moment to realise that this man was speaking old Japanese, and Yui therefore had no idea what he was saying.

“Please,” she tried, her pronunciation shaky, “we don’t know where we are. We don’t want any trouble.”

“Stupid girl,” the older man sneered, “we don’t care what you want, only how much money we can get for you.”

“We have no money.” Miaka confessed, “and my friend doesn’t speak this language.”

“Oh? Then it’ll be twice as easy to capture her.”

He signaled to the younger man, who pulled a knife and advanced on Miaka with a smug grin.

“I wouldn’t do that, if I were you.”

Miaka started at the sound of a third male voice.

Suddenly, a man appeared from behind Yui’s captor, twisting his arm and bending it until Miaka heard a sickening crack.

The older bandit fell to the floor, and Yui broke away, gasping.

Her saviour said nothing, but made towards the other criminal, taking him out with an impressive display of martial arts.

Finally, he returned to the first man, and with a swift kick to the head, left him unconscious.

As he turned towards the girls, Miaka could see a glowing red symbol on his forehead. Gasping, she recognised the character: ‘ogre’.

“Are you both alright?” He was soft spoken, quiet and gentle.

“Y-yes.” Miaka managed, “Thank you for helping us.”

“Well, I’d prefer money over thanks, but from the look of you I’d say you probably have none.”

“We’re sorry,” Miaka said, “but we’ve got no money or even anything valuable. We don’t even know where we are.”

“That’s a shame.” the man sighed. “Well, as much as I know it was the right thing to do, I’m afraid I can’t help you again should you find yourself in any more trouble— not when I could find paying customers any day in the city. Money makes the world go round, you know.” He laughed at that. “Good luck, girls.”

With that, he turned to leave.

“Where is he going?” Yui asked, “Did he tell you where we are?”

Before Miaka could answer, the same blinding red light from the library engulfed Yui completely.

“Miaka!” she cried as she faded with the light.

“Yui!” her friend called, trying in vain to hang onto her.

Yui!

(-)

“What... happened...?” Yui groaned as she found herself, for the second time that day, in an unfamiliar setting. Suddenly, she realised she was back in the archive room at the library— and that Miaka was not with her.

“Miaka!”

Looking down next to her, she saw the same book they had been reading from lying with its pages moved forward.

An idea flashed trough her mind, and she raced off to find an Old Japanese Dictionary.

(-)

Miaka had been walking nearly an hour.

She wasn’t sure where she was going, or why she was going there, but she had no food, no water, no money and now she was alone.

The trees had become thicker, and the ground softer as she had walked. She could see to a break in the foliage just ahead, but no further than that.

As she walked, she pondered.

Where am I? How did I get here. This all started when I read that stupid book. What did it say again? That it was some kind of spell?

Then, abruptly, Miaka’s train of thought was cut off as she reached the break in the trees and saw an enormous, sprawling city spread out before her. Unlike the Tokyo she was used to, this city was wider than it was tall, the buildings all in the old Japanese style Miaka had only seen on school trips and in text books.

This was definitely not a text book.

It’s like a painting, or a film set!It’s extraordinary!

This sense of wonder, however, was dwarfed by both the worry that she really was in old Japan, and the relief that she might be able to find help here.

Making her way into the city, Miaka was bombarded with an array of sights and sounds.

Colourful dishes were being cooked right there in the street, children were waving vibrant ribbons through the air, a group of performers showed off a team of performing elephants in the square.

All around her, there was a general sense of happiness, of people living rich and full lives.

She wandered aimlessly, staring at the unfamiliar scenes before her, until a street vender called out to her.

“You there! Girl!”

She turned to see an elderly lady waving at her from behind her stall.

“You look lost. Do you need any help?”

“Yes, actually. Where are we?” Miaka asked.

“I thought you weren’t from around here. Those strange clothes are a dead giveaway. You stand out easily.”

Now that she thought about it, her school clothes did look odd against the barrage of old-style traditional Japanese garments.

“You must be foreign. Your Japanese is good enough, though. Well, you’re in luck, my girl. Welcome to Konan: the oldest and best country in Japan. You’re in the capital city.”

Her suspicions confirmed, Miaka thanked the woman and drifted back through the crowd.

What do I do? I can’t live here! I have to get home! I can’t support myself, I don’t know anybody here, I have nowhere to stay and—

In a flash, Miaka was pulled into an alleyway.

“Well, well, well, look what we’ve got here.”

Miaka struggled against the man holding her as five more other men surrounded them.

“Her clothes alone ought to fetch a good price.” one said.

“Is it true that women who travel alone are looking for excitement?” another laughed.

“Enough!” Miaka yelled, breaking free and turning on her captor. Pushing and punching him, she put her whole body into fighting him off.

“Somebody restrain her!” he yelled.

“Who’s that?” was the only reply.

“Huh?” Miaka ceased her actions to stare up at a shadowy figure standing on the rooftops above her.

“You need four men? To handle one woman? Come now, that’s just pathetic.”

Miaka recognised that soft spoken voice.

It’s that guy from before!

“Why don’t we even the odds a little?” he said.

Miaka stepped back, and once again watched as the mysterious man fought off her assailants.

And, once again, when he’d finished he turned to her so that the ‘ogre’ character on his head was visible.

“We really ought to stop meeting like this.” he laughed. “I know I said I wouldn’t help you again, but, since you went to the trouble of getting assaulted outside my house, I thought I might as well give you my name.”

He walked right up to her, so close that Miaka had to look up to meet his gaze.

“My name is Tamahome.” He said. “Who might you be?”