Chapter 1: A Boring Life (1)
I remember the day I first laid eyes on the monster wearing the face of the prettiest girl I'd ever seen. Of how in the span of a few seconds I'd been made to understand in utterly intimate detail how an ant feels when trying to scale the mountain, or a man lost at sea forced to witness the approaching hurricane.
I felt small.
And yet I couldn't look away. The curse I'd been stuck with and ostracized my whole life for suddenly warned me that this girl, who's beauty could make even the most jaded and asexual of men and women swoon, could shatter my existence to pieces with the slightest iota of attention and effort.
Naturally, I hadn't understood any of that at the time. How could I? I was a second year junior high student a few days into his next level of education, already bullied, teased and friendless because of my appearance and 'weirdness'. A weirdness that no one else possessed and only I could see.
I probably would have been picked on in any school, granted...but in Japan where conformity and social humbleness is the order of the day I stuck out like a sore thumb.
It was that 'freakishness' which turned the girl's attention my way, like the scent of blood reaching the nostrils of a shark...or maybe it was the way I began to drip hemoglobin from my nostrils and eyes, spaz out in my chair and hit the ground in a twitching heap. One or the other.
Back then my powers were...unimpressive.
The last thing I could remember seeing was the girl's bewildered expression, a break in character since not once upon entering the room and introducing herself had she displayed the slightest hint of expression.
...On a side note, that girl later became my wife.
We just got off to a bit of a rocky start.
A low groan echoed through the school's infirmary, small pile of blankets shifting as a student forced himself awake.
And promptly regretted the decision, grabbing his head with a hiss of pain and violent wince as agonizing pain coursed through his skull, eyes screwing themselves shut against the pressure.
"What...what was that?"
"Oh, you're awake?"
The school nurse peeled the curtain surrounding his bed back, checking over his condition before nodding in satisfaction.
"You gave everyone quite the scare, Nanashi. Do you know what might have happened back there? You suddenly collapsed and began bleeding from your eyes and nose."
Gently poking and prodding the boy's face to check for potential damage or injury the kindly woman eventually felt certain that the young male was in no immediate danger, his voice confused as he replied, "No, I felt fine...am I free to go? I think I might just be hungry."
Frowning at the brusque tone the woman nonetheless sighed, remarking, "Well I can't find anything immediately wrong with you...very well, Nanashi. If you really feel up to it you're cleared to go home. But be sure to stop by the teacher's lounge before doing so, they have the schoolwork and homework you missed while in here."
"Right. Thanks, miss Koboyashi."
Nodding professionally the woman returned to her desk, Nanashi waiting until she was busy with her other work...and let out a shaky breath, fingers tightly lacing themselves together.
"That girl...what was she?"
"Oh, great. Them again."
On a good day Nanashi wasn't happy to see the trio of bullies that routinely made his daily life a slog and today had definitely proven itself to not be a good day.
He had bigger things on his mind than the bullshit of some wannabe Yakuza.
The kick that knocked his feet out from under him and left the boy stumbling suggested otherwise, albeit.
"Don't pretend you're deaf as well, Gaijin-faggot. Heard you collapsed and started bleeding today...guess you don't need our help anymore, huh?"
"Already heard about that, huh? Been hanging out in the girl's bathroom and making sure your pad doesn't fall out?"
Knowing full well such confrontational words were just going to earn him more trouble than remaining silent would have the boy wasn't proven wrong, the trio of punks scowling before ripping his backpack off of him, tossing it away into the dirt...but not before unzipping it so that the contents were scattered in every conceivable direction.
"Aren't you a funny guy, Gaijin-faggot?"
A sudden punch to Nanashi's stomach caused the boy to double over, wheezing in pain as the bully smirked, caustically stating, "Not so funny now, is it? Heard you collapsed after looking at Sajyou...gonna tell you this now, but keep your creepy ass away from her, she doesn't need to be bothered by some Gaijin-faggot."
A final kick to his thigh left the downed boy grunting in pain as the three smirked, departing with a final uttering of, "Mess around with her and we'll be back, Gaijin-faggot!"
Nanashi weakly regained his breath, trying to take deep lungfuls before collecting his things with a dark mood.
"Bullshit. They'll be back regardless of what I do...and I guess they're too stupid to realize that girl is as much a 'gaijin' as I am. Fucking idiots."
Nanashi paused in his collection of his things, staring into the reflection of a small stream located just outside the school grounds and the reflection appearing within.
A thin, pale and fragile body. White hair that looked listless rather than snowy with dull red eyes and effeminate features that were a bit too sickly and weak to be cute or adorable.
"...They looked the same as always. Not like her."
The three punks had been no more than the usual weightless pricks they always were...not at all like the monster that was the doll-like girl who he'd looked upon after she transferred into his class.
"...These fucking eyes."
As if his looks weren't enough to set him apart from the crowd he also enjoyed having rumors and stigma from earlier years, when he'd talked about how 'heavy' each person he saw was without the realization that no one else could see what he could.
Small wonder they all thought he was crazy. Hell, he thought he was crazy.
And yet what had been so different about that girl, that she could cause him to blackout like that?
Shaking his head and releasing a tired sigh Nanashi set the matter aside for the moment, instead concentrating on making it home.
[And for tonight's closing single we-BZZT!]
"Oh for fuck's sake!"
Angrily staring at the radio as it broke down again - and wouldn't start no matter what he did - Nanashi sullenly accepted the fact that until he could find the money to replace it the house would be empty and silent.
Only a constant stack of dirty dishes, haphazardly placed laundry and trash that needed to be emptied to keep him company.
Grunting in annoyance the boy moved into the kitchen, grabbing a simple frozen meal and setting a pot of rice to boil in a beat up and ancient rice cooker before starting on his homework, listlessly going through the tedious and unengaging lessons until dinner was prepared.
Bland, uninspiring...the meal was depressingly similar to the homework. He'd had to cut down on spices and flavorings purchased since money had quickly gotten tight over the past few months. Having to buy new school supplies and clothes every now and again was more expensive than he'd anticipated.
Carelessly tossing the dishes into the already overflowing sink Nanashi stared at his homework...and promptly ignored it, instead dropping to the living room floor in order to begin his physical workout routine.
Not that it was much more impressive than any of the other activities he'd engaged in that night. A few pushups, a few situps and he had already been left gasping for air, sweating profusely and grimacing at the pain in his stomach where he'd been punched earlier that day.
"Dammit...am I getting...weaker?"
Wasn't working out supposed to make one stronger? The only thing he'd gotten over months of training was flimsier.
Grimacing at the thought Nanashi trudged into the shower, rinsing off quickly before sullenly going back to complete his assignments...after all, what else was there to do?
The radio was broken, his non-school books had been tossed into the mud a few months back and all he had left was homework to keep his mind off of things.
The hours passed with excruciating slowness, the teen eventually giving up on the task at hand before dropping into his bed, grimacing at the smell of dust and laundry that he would have to do at some point in the near future.
"Well, another day of exciting junior high to look forward to tomorrow."
The dull words were noticeably lacking in enthusiasm, the young boy briefly wondering what the hell he was even supposed to be working for, when everyday passed by in a predictable and lifeless manner.
"...I wonder if I'll react the same way when I see that Manaka girl tomorrow."
Nanashi awoke with a start and aching head.
"Guess that answers that particular question."
Hissing in displeasure as his head ached almost as badly as it did last time the boy gazed around the school infirmary...and blinked, finding his view dominated by the sight of the very same girl that had been causing him to collapse every time he'd seen her.
Manaka Sajyou, daughter of a relatively wealthy family, universally liked despite only showing up a few days prior and unnaturally beautiful, features a blend of eastern and western influences as she resembled a perfected doll more than she did human.
Also possessor of a frighteningly intense glare as she stared guilelessly at the boy.
"...Why doesn't my head hurt when looking at you now?"
The sudden question earned a head tilt from the girl, school uniform hanging loosely yet elegantly from her slim frame, like an unassuming and plain ballgown.
"Because I kept the mana from reaching your eyes, obviously. Having your head combust would create more trouble than is worth the time to merely keep you alive."
Nanashi blinked, deciding to tackle only one of those worrying statements at a time as he clarified, "Mana? And how would that make my head, well...explode?"
"Combust. There's a difference. And I suppose, in the interest of expediency, you could think of mana as magic power. I kept the magic power from causing your eyes to combust."
Completely at a loss of what to make of that statement the boy decided to remain absolutely still as the beautiful girl leaned in close, examining his eyes with a mildly curious expression.
"I wondered why you didn't simply turn your Mystic Eyes off when they obviously pained you so...you are completely ignorant of the Moonlit World, aren't you?"
Edging away from the junior high student who was either completely insane or playing a trick on him Nanashi blandly replied, "Magic is stage magician crap. Who are you trying to fool?"
Manaka blinked at his direct words-
-and the young male couldn't help but feel a small chill crawl up his spine at the leer that suddenly marred such a perfect visage.
"Oh? Magic is fake, is that it?"
Manaka spread her hands wide-
-and Nanashi yelped in fright, pushing himself against the bed's headboard as in one palm a blistering inferno roared to life, the heat crisping his skin while a swirling blizzard occupied the other, frosting over the edges of curtains and bed alike.
"Tell me, little boy...is magic still fake?"
The pale-haired youth could only gape, the display upending every bit of common sense he'd held to be true about the world.
The girl saw this change and smirked, bringing her appendages together in a loud clap that shot heated steam into every corner of the room, the overhead sprinklers kicking on and drenching everything as the boy could only gape at the display.
"Hmm...I think this could be rather fun~! Here, consider this a little present."
Nanashi could only sit, motionless and shellshocked, as Manaka reached out and tapped his forehead-
-and the boy doubled over, hissing in pain as heat raced throughout his body in spiraling and random patterns, eyes fiercely aching as they once again became overwhelmed by the mere sight of the fragile-looking girl in front of him.
"Okay, I think I'll leave you to explain the mess. See you later, Nanashi~!"
With a maliciously gleeful smile the young lady practically skipped out of the infirmary, seemingly untouched by the pouring water as the boy could only wonder what the hell had just happened.
The rest of the day had passed by in a haze, the boy being reprimanded for somehow - even though no one was sure how he could have done it - setting off the fire sprinklers, case not helped by his unresponsive and distracted state of mind.
The walk back home had been even more of a surreal experience, the people around him carrying those strange 'weights' like they always did...as if those few seconds the Manaka girl had 'turned off his mana' were just some bizarre dream where he was a normal person with normal eyesight.
"...There's no way magic is real?"
Still scarcely able to believe the sheer absurdity of such a premise Nanashi barely paid attention to either his homework or dinner, instead consumed with the brief and ephemeral interaction he'd had with the strange girl earlier, eventually shuffling off to bed where he would toss and turn in a fruitless effort to properly sleep...all the while unaware of strange lights and illuminated pathways that would occasionally creep across his skin.
"Hey, Gaijin-faggot! GAIJIN-FAGGOT!"
Rather than fake his disinterest and distraction Nanashi legitimately didn't even notice his usual gang of bullies, mind elsewhere...namely on that of a strange and potentially dangerous girl who had upended his entire worldview in less than a minute, who may or may not know things about his strange visual affliction and the existence of 'magic'.
Entering the school premises before the rest of the gang could accost him Nanashi listlessly took his seat, distantly going through the motions of attending classes all while avoiding looking at one specific corner of the room, where Manaka Sajyou sat.
...Not that he could do that forever, eyes eventually flicking towards the calm and collected shape of the strange girl-
-and a violent wince appeared on his face, skull pounding at the inexorable force of Manaka's meer presence...but he didn't collapse, didn't begin bleeding.
"Am I...getting used to this?"
The thought was a strange one and hinted at all manner of things he previously hadn't known about his eyes.
Had the girl been telling the truth, something about his 'Mystic Eyes' or some other strange title?
"I need to talk to her. Whether she's insane or not I need to know."
Unwilling to have his head start hurting too much Nanashi sent only a single glance towards the back of the doll-
-and her knowing gaze held nothing but curiosity and smug superiority.
"...Why are you following me?"
"Oh? You're suggesting that you don't have all sorts of questions for me, little boy?"
Scowling at Manaka's smug words as she walked at his side Nanashi tried his best not to wince as the rest of the school shot him furious or dirty looks, no doubt wondering what the weird loner kid was doing with their famous trophy.
'Of course I do. But I don't know anything about you. And just looking in your direction causes my head to hurt, not a great start."
The lady's tone held nothing but triumph.
"But it doesn't hurt as much as it did before, now does it?"
Sending a quick glance her way and noting that his head had indeed lessened in pain felt when he looked her way Nanashi grumbled, "A little bit...but I still want you to stop following me. Everyone else already hates me, they don't need more reason to do so."
"Hmm...no, I don't think I will. You see, Nanashi...you interest me."
Warily edging away from the predatory sounding girl she giggled at his action, continuing her explanation with, "I am what you would call a Magus, one who practices magic and magecraft. You have Mystic Eyes, a rare gift that causes one to see the world differently than others."
A wide smile crossed the normally placid girl's expression.
"I'm a rather unique magus, actually. I know all sorts of things and can instantly learn about things I don't know in seconds. And yet I don't know what kind of eyes you have, or why you are ignorant of magecraft."
She skipped in front of him, haloed by the descending sun and casting her porcelain features into sharp relief as she smiled like a demon, all malicious glee and supernatural beauty as she took his hands in hers, the boy's head splitting in pain as he met her gaze of pure, manic blue yet was unable to look away.
"You're a mystery that I can't immediately understand and I want to solve it."
His eyes seemed to thrum with instinctive fright as Manaka leant in close, joyously whispering, "Let's be friends, Nanashi!"
And here's the Fate story, introducing the Diary of Wimpy Kid reject and the little bundle of mass murder that is Manaka...albeit with some changes this time around.