An Unlikely Story…

Chapter One: Chance Meeting

          There was strangeness in the air on the day the gate opened again.  A near tangible energy crackled above, lingering over the bustling American city known as Chicago, unlike any electrical storm they had seen in quite a while. While the lightning flashed over sidewalks crowded with shuffling black umbrellas prepared for a downpour, the rain fell over a different part of town…

          …At precisely six-oh-seven PM, the downpour began on the suburb just north west of Chicago, surprising many commuters who were on their way home from work. They had the luck of being safe and dry inside their cars, however, while one young woman pushed through the doors of the small local bank and braved the rain without so much but her jacket on.

          "Mandi, do you need a ride home?" one of the co-workers called out to her, already getting into his own car.

          She simply shook her head. Aside from the rain, it felt quite nice outside. The young teller didn't persist on insistence and slipped behind the wheel of a nice silver BMW, leaving her to continue walking toward home.

          The young woman turned and began down the long stretch of the next block, her head bowed, the heavy rain soon dragging bright red streaked dark hair down around her shoulders, hiding her downcast gaze. She kept her hands stuffed in the jacket's pockets and a sigh escaped her lips, causing the puff of breath to steam up the tortoise shell rimmed lenses on her face.

          "Hey, watch it!" A female voice shouted as a shoulder clamped hard on Mandi's shoulder, pulling the young woman backwards from the curb.

          Several car horns honked as Mandi jerked her head up, eyes wide and the fog clearing from her glasses.

          "Oro?" She glanced at the woman who had pulled her from the busy street's wrath. "Thanks…I guess I wasn't really paying attention."

          The woman tilted her chin downward, lifting a dark umbrella with the insignia of a lotus flower up a bit higher. The motion revealed a pair of shocking blue-violet eyes framed by fine long lashes.

          "You should be a little more careful- it wouldn't have been good if you'd let something happen to you so early on. There's still so much left for you to do."

          "Eh?" Mandi quirked a brow at the umbrella woman, whose eyes continued to bear down into her own as though trying to read her very soul. However, there was a kindness hidden behind them as well as a slightly amused gleam. "Right…I guess so. I should get going now. Thanks again."

          "Go where?" The woman's strangely accented voice was enough to hold the younger woman in place. "You waste your life on trivial fancies, my dear. You go home every day from work and after dinner occupy the remaining night's hours in front of a screen or bent over paper. Your dreams are spent uselessly…isn't it so boring?"

          Arching a brow, Mandi placed a wary brown eye on the umbrella woman. "Who are you?"

          "Names are not important right now though I already know yours…I know both of your names, actually." A smirk formed on the mysterious woman's red lips. "Tell me, don't you wish that those things you watch on your screen every night could be true? Don't you wish to escape routine and have a fantastic adventure? Wouldn't that be so much more…fun?"

          "Well…sure, but there's not much happening around here that would allow me to do anything like that- and in case you haven't noticed, this is reality and I'd only be so lucky for a freak chance of anything cool happening." Turning, Mandi gave a small wave, calling out as she crossed the street. "If you're not going to tell me your name or tell me how you know mine, then I'm going home, if you don't mind."

          "Not all roads can be traveled in conventional ways…just keep your eyes open." The woman lowered her lotus umbrella, glancing slightly to the south at the big city's skyline, just visible over the horizon. "Of all places to find her, why did it have to be here? This is going to be tricky…"

          …When Mandi had crossed the intersection safely, she looked over her shoulder, quite surprised to find the strange woman had gone. There weren't many places for her to have gone so quickly, but she supposed it wasn't impossible for her to have crossed the other way.

          "Get a grip, Mandi," she muttered quietly, quickening her pace down the empty sidewalks. "Though…that was so weird…how did she know that stuff? And where did she come from?"

          Snorting, she tried to shake it off, though couldn't help but keep on wondering about what the woman had said.  That wasn't the only thing she wondered about.  Though she couldn't see her face, those eyes had been oddly familiar. But she'd never seen eyes that color before…except for in…

          "Nah can't be. That'd just be really weird. Heh…and now I'm talking to myself. I bet I look like a complete dork right now…yup…that's me."

          Finally suppressing her thoughts to remain unspoken, Mandi began to hum quietly, removing her glasses to wipe the moisture from the lenses. As she did, her foot caught on a strap of something, causing her to stumble a few steps forward. With a kick she noticed that it'd been a leather hiking bag lying in the middle of the sidewalk.

          "What the hell?" Where on earth did that thing come from? Replacing the spectacles, Mandi looked closer to see loose pieces of paper scattered on the ground, soggy from the rain, but still quite legible.

          Some had drawings on them…pretty crude and insulting sketches with the same two characters yelling back and forth at each other, and some appeared to be pages from a history book. Her fingers clutched one particular page, lifting it to eye level, squinting as she mouthed out the words written on it.

          Buddhism was not only a prominent religion in the Western reaches of India for it also spread towards the East, affecting many of the cloth in China, causing them to reaffirm themselves into the creed. In ancient times it was said the land became corrupted by the spirits of the damned, possessing the innocent and turning them into demons meant to fight against the spread of the Buddha's words. In this legend there rose four to help save the sanctity of the lands to the East and West…

          …A gust of wind tore the page from her hands, but the damage had been done. Her imaginative mind had already connected the story to one of her favorite Japanese animation shows, for it was pretty much the exact same tale.

          "How…strange," she muttered, blinking several times, bending down to pick up the hiking pack to toss it to the side so nobody else who came along would stumble across it like she did.

          The moment it was in her hands, however, Mandi heard a male voice speaking to her.

          "Excuse me- that belongs to me."

          Arching a brow, the young woman turned to her left to see a black Jeep Wrangler pulled up at the curb. The soft leather top was up and the window was cracked only a smidgen, the speaker's eyes being the only real visible part.

          "Oh- well I wasn't going to take it…it was just in the middle of the sidewalk so I was going to move it. Wait…how do I know this is yours? You could just be saying that." Mandi arched a brow, not wanting to give something to someone if it wasn't theirs. It was only fair- maybe she'd keep it. It was a nice pack after all.

          The window came down a bit more and a hand slipped out. "Someone tossed it out not too long ago- we had a disagreement. Give it to me, please."

          His voice remained low and steady, and Mandi had the feeling she'd heard it, or something like it, before. She sighed. Like she really felt like getting jumped over a back pack.

          "Alright, whatever, no skin off my nose. Here, take it." She held it out and it was taken rather roughly away. "You're welcome?"

          "Thank you." The voice replied as the window came down all the way to allow him to pull the entire pack inside the Jeep.

          What Mandi saw in that brief moment made her gasp. A flash of white cloth, blond hair, and a deep violet gaze moved so quickly that it made her take several steps backward. Another voice spoke up.

          "Hey- is that a girl? Is she hot?"

          "Never mind that- we've got things to do." The blond man's voice said flatly, the window rolling up much too quickly for Mandi's liking.

          Within a few seconds the Jeep was moving down the road again, leaving the girl to think about what had just occurred. First the woman with the familiar eyes, and then this…all three voices had been familiar but the likelihood of what Mandi thought it could mean was not a big one at all.

          But there was always that teensy little percentage of a chance…

          "Nah…it couldn't be…could it? Too…weird. I watch too much TV…time to cut back on the anime, Mandi…" she turned to resume walking home, "Like that'll ever happen," she snorted, turning onto her street.

          Though no matter how much she told herself it couldn't be there remained a shadow of wonderment.

          As she reached her house and walked in late to dinner, taking in the aroma of lamb patties and mashed potatoes, Mandi realized that the strange woman with the umbrella had been right after all.

          She'd sit down and eat her dinner and then retire to the computer where she went nearly every single night. At least this time…there was going to be something very interesting to talk about with her friends…