Chapter One

Slowly the girl dragged herself on toward the giant school building, her head staring down at the crackled ground as she walked. Though her direction was towards the floor, even then her bright emerald eyes were noticeable and extremely beautiful, even if they were half-closed from either sadness or exhaustion. Her bangs moved with her against her dollish porcelain skin, and the braids that tightly held together her lavish, wavy light brown hair banged lightly against her back. It would seem that this girl was beauty sealed away, unable to show itself in the murky midst of lowered self-confidence.

Still staring intently yet not really comprehending the grainy concrete, she jumped at the tap on her shoulder and spun around, her locks flinging over her shoulder she moved with such force. Another girl in the arms of an older student was standing there with an inquisitive expression.

"Suzuno, you're going to Jonan too?" The girl asked curiously with a smiling face. Suzuno smiled thinly back, trying to keep friendly, but her voice was meek and only managed little above a whisper. How badly she wished she could remember this girl, probably from middle school, who clearly remember her face and name and put two and two together. How could this girl even bother?

"Y-Yes, I'm coming here," she replied quietly, and the girl, obviously knowing the awkward feeling Suzuno had with talking to another person, moved on, talking jovially to her boyfriend next to her.

Many students were walking around just as happily as the next, all heading towards the same school doors in their same school uniforms. She started to notice now that she was out of her own world that everything was so entirely loud. With the mix of voices, high pitched and deep completely surrounding her, it was so much different than the quiet concrete below her, filled with nothing except crawling ants and specks of grass peeking through the cracks. But in a way, while new, it was also pleasant to see so many people laughing and smiling. It made her want to smile and do the same things.

Of course, what would people think if she did such a thing? With people here who already have seen her in middle school, they know she's someone with no one to act that way with. Why bother to start now? Even if she did try, people would find it strange and probably avoid her even more. Suzuno nodded to herself as she walked into the school building through the entrance along with hundreds of others, not even bothering to look around at the school-grounds and gaze at its' detail.

She started to think about this morning, before she left for school, and seeing her Father's encouraging grin made her feel a little braver about going back after a summer and transition to a completely different school. Takao Oosugi, a rather famous novelist, was not only that, but her smiling, friendly, popular, handsome father, who had raised her with love and care on his own. Her mother had died in a car accident when she was only six, but because of him, she was able to endure the pain. The feeling of her mother's warmth was dull and faint, but her father had always been there for her, and she could recall his strength as he held her like a loving parent in a second. His strength . . . it gave her strength.

She started to think of this morning, before she had left for her first day of high school, sitting on his lap on the carpet floor as he loosely braided her hair the best he could. She was fiddling with her toes, her long black socks and tiny school shoes next to her.

"So," he started, piling one row of hair atop another as he spoke, "How many friends will you bring home today? Forty? Fifty?"

"No," she replied plainly, and he paused his braiding for a second as if concerned. Although he couldn't see, she smiled widely and said, "I'll bring home a hundred! I'll make plenty of friends easy, just like you Daddy!"

She knew with those few words, her father was completely reassured, and inside she was burning a golden flame. But, unfortunately, without her father to guide her and hold her hand as she walked through the crowded halls, that flame would be diminished. Just once she'd like to be independent enough to not sound silly going up to someone she didn't know and talk. One would think she would know, with the way her father was so outgoing. But it was like a secret technique, and she had failed to catch on.

Suzuno's bag, which was round and made of a dark brown leather with a sling meant to be for the shoulder, was held with both hands at her front. They clung to the strap, and she gripped it even tighter to help shield her nervousness of the foreign building as she continued to walk on. Inside this bag was a very precious gift from her father, given to her only a few months ago on her seventeenth birthday.

"Happy Birthday!" Takao had said loudly and energetically, giving her a strong hug and a kiss atop her forehead. In his hands he held five small wrapped gifts, and as he let go of her, Suzuno peered past him to see another one on the couch in their living room. She pointed to it curiously, so he replied, "I want to save it for last."

Another memory to smile about with her father.

She had finally found her classroom on the second floor, and there were already many students, more girls than boys in there among haphazard desks chattering amongst each other. As she stared, she noticed how different her uniform seemed from theirs, even if they were the same.

'Their skirts . . . ' she thought to herself, looking down at the floor as she stood in the doorway, ashamed a little. 'They're so short . . .'

This made her look down at her own skirt, which she wore down to cover her knees. To clothe her shins, she wore long black socks. Except for her hands and face, she had been securely covered. But then again, these girls were incredibly pretty, with tanned, shimmering legs and expensive make-up; of course they would show it off, and they had every right to. To try and separate herself, already feeling even more misplaced then before, she sat down away from the other girls in the far back. She placed her bag at the side of the desk, and then backed up a little in her seat to look down shamefully at her skirt, like it was something dirty.

'Maybe if I . . . Just a little . . .' Grabbing the edge of her skirt gently, she pulled up a few inches, exposing ghostly white skin. She immediately pushed it back down, feeling ugly.

'How could I even think that!' she thought in a rushed inner voice, tears starting to fill her eyes. 'I've never thought about . . . those things before . . . How could I? What would they think?'

"Hey, is something the matter?"

Suzuno nearly jumped suddenly and looked up, surprised to see none other than a beautiful ganguro sitting before her. Her thickly put on make-up and eye shadow concealed her glowing bright blue eyes, and her lips were large and full; sexy. She had never imagined a girl like this would ever bother to talk to her.

"Oh . . . umm. . . "Suzuno replied in a quiet voice. "I'm okay, really-"

"You know, if you wanna come over and talk to us," the girl said, flipping back her wavy blonde hair, "It's okay. You don't have to be afraid."

She then looked around cautiously and came down to a low whisper as she leaned over onto Suzuno's desk, slightly exposing through the top of her uniforma rather large chest. "My name's Puriti. If there's anything you need at all, just ask, okay? I know you're type girl; the shy and quiet ones. See those bitches over there?" She pointed to a small group of giggling girls with their skirts just as short as Puriti. They looked back and Suzuno and her for a second, then continued on. "They take advantage of nice girls like you, so stick with me before you get burned."

"Umm . . . Okay," Suzuno agreed quietly, nodding. As if automatically thinking it was polite, she then said, "I'm Suzuno Oosugi."

Puriti nodded, and taking out a mirror and lipstick from her purse that was hanging off her shoulder, she quickly waved and went back to her desk. It was then that she noticed that the girls she had talked about before were walking over to her, and they all had pleasant and warm smiles on.

"Hi!" one with light curly brown hair said. She seemed to be the most direct of them. "You're not very familiar, so we came to introduce ourselves."

"Oh," Suzuno replied, feeling warmth and the flame being revived from her and her Father's conversation about making friends. Suddenly, the fowl warning from Puriti was non-existent. These girls came to her willingly; she wasn't going to miss this oppurtunity! "It's . . . It's nice to meet you. I'm Suzuno Oosugi."

"That's great!" Another girl with short brown hair and round glasses said. She clasped her hands together excitedly. "We were wondering, Suzuno- Is there any chance you could do a favor for us?"

'A favor?' she thought to herself. 'I wonder why, when we've only just met . . . But, if I say no, they probably won't want to become friends with me . . .'

"Umm . . . Sure. I'd love to do a favor."

"Alright," the short haired once again spoke happily. "See, we don't want the class to get too hectic, so we were wondering if you could find the teacher for us." She moved her hands as she describe him. "He's a really tall guy with brown hair like mine, and glasses. You can't miss him!"

"Okay!"

Already with a happy smile on her face, Suzuno pushed back her seat, ignoring the loud screech it had when clashing with the ground, and ran outside of the classroom. The five girls smirked darkly together after smiling sweetly in front of her, letting their true masks out. Puriti, who had talked to her friends while sitting on top of the desk, turned her head a little and sighed dissapointedly.

"I warned that girl . . ."

x

After running through the still crowded hall for at least ten minutes, Suzuno felt she could never find this man the girls described. When she left, she carried her bag with her that had her school paperwork just in case he wanted to ask questions, but if she could never find him, how could she hand them to him?

Even though she felt confident suddenly about finally meeting new people like her father, she would have to go back and tell them that unfortunately, she was no help. But even then she tried her best to smile and even hummed a little as she imagined how nice they would be about it. With cheery faces like that, how could they not be the forgiving type? She imagined nothing else.

"I-I'm sorry!" she said as she walked in the room, her voice a little louder then usual. "- But I couldn't find our teach-"

Unexpectedly Suzuno felt a stream of thick and heavy water splash on the top of her head, pouring all over her shoulders and dripping over her body. The pail, which had been sitting blissfully on top of the wedge of the door, had fallen over to the floor and she stood there, drenched, as everyone looked at her in an equal silence. The sweet, charming girls she had talked to before started to giggle furiously, and following that, everyone laughed. Slowly, with her eyes wide open and still trying to comprehend what happened, she tried to squeeze some of the liquid from her ruined hair.

"This isn't . . ." she suddenly whispered to herself, her bottom lip quivering. "This smells . . ."

"Spoiled milk," the girl with long curly hair said, smiling in a conceited manner as her fingers twirled her locks. "It's a little gag we play. You know, for fun." She giggled a little more cutely, although it was meant to be a sort of way to finish her defeat. "Little bitch."

Why? How could this happen? She finally thought . . . What about the friends she promised to her father to bring home? Not twenty-five, or fifty, or even seventy-five . . . She promised a hundred with poise, but now . . . No one would ever go near a girl who was covered in such a disgusting white lumps. Finally, realizing that she had ruined the one occasion to even start over, that it was all over before it began, a wave of tears filled and defiled her eyes, and she turned to ran out into the hall.

She didn't care if people looked at her strangely as she ran by or if they covered their noses. It didn't matter anymore. No matter what she did, she could never accomplish being able to be what her father was. She pushed through the crowds, one hand in front of her to keep the people out of the way, and the other one to continuously wipe away the river of tears that crusted on her skin as it tried to dry itself.

With everyone on the inside, Suzuno felt that the only place to be alone was the outside, and she pushed open the school doors to the same concrete floor she saw just not too long ago, Only this time, the lot was empty, and in a wide space she saw through her clouded eyes rows of cherry blossom trees with petals flowing everywhere in a thick and mesmerizing mist.

Ignoring the putrid smell from the milk on her soaked clothes and hair, she gazed at the view, but instead of lifting her spirits, it only saddened her more. She spoke quietly to herself, her voice full of depression and regret. "Is this . . . Is this what people who look up see?"

Saying that, her lower lip began to tremble again, and she ran into the raining petals, hiding herself from the school by sitting inbetween two cherry blossom trees.

'I'll hide here . . .' she repeated to herself, bringing her knees up to her chin and continuously wiping away tears on her sour sleeve. 'I can't go back there . . . I'm not even wanted there . . .'

After at least five minutes of silence to herself and her breathing had returned to normal, Suzuno leaned her head against one of the trees, feeling a little exhausted. Her cheeks were puffy, and her once green eyes had a tint of red to them.

"Hey," a deep, womanly voice said, and she looked up. Standing there with her hand on her hip and scowl for an expression was Puriti. She seemed angry that Suzuno hadn't bothered to take her warning, and her tone showed, although she actions she described were undoubtedly kind for someone who was a stranger. "I gave your name to the office and told them what happened. Your old man will be here soon . . . He said he'd pick you up."

"I want you Daddy . . ." She whispered, closing her eyes and sniffling a bit. She only could semi-hear what Puriti was saying, but it mixed in with the strong emotion of hate for herself she was feeling now. The ganguro, who seemed more like the type to yell for such a foolish waste of time, only sat next to her and said nothing.

"Where are you . . .?" With that, she lifted her head a little again and looked at her equally saturated leather bag, which was now ruined, and opened it. She reached in and took out a book, which she held very closely to her heart and squeezed . . .

"Can I open the last one now?" Suzuno remembered saying eagerly to her father on her birthday, getting as close as she could to the mysterious present. Takao chuckled and picked up the present teasingly, acting like he was going to put it on the top shelf of the closet. She pulled on the edge of his button-up shirt, protesting, and finally he gave in and handed it to her. She tore the wrapping open, and the she came across a thick red book. She would've read the name of it, but a large black men's belt strapped over it tightly, binding the book completely shut and enveloping the title. Looking up peculiarly at her Father, she asked, "What is this?"

"This . . ." He said in an almost nostalgic tone, lightly placing his hands over hers, "This is a love story. An adventure, an amazing story of finding out who you are, and the journey telling of how one person can affect everyone. . . . It's the memory or a very dear friend of mine, and it's my most treasured gift. But . . ." he warned, his grip on her hands strengthening a little, "You must never open it."

"The Universe of the Four Gods . . ." Suzuno whispered to herself, and Puriti looked at her curiously. "My Daddy's most treasured gift in the entire world, and he gave it to me."

"Is that what it is?" Puriti asked, soundly partly interested and partly bored. "Are you close with your dad?"

"Daddy . . ." she repeated, going off into her own world of memories again. She looked down at the book, which, even though it was covered with milk, was still seemingly in good condition. "He told me never to open it, but . . ."

At that second, looking down at the book, when her judgment and heart were at its weakest, the idea of finding the mysteries of the book seemed unbelievably enticing. What did she have to lose now, by looking in there? She just messed up the one thing she knew her Father wanted for her . . . What was there to lose now?

Gradually, her hands wavering between whether or not she should, she unbound the book, using her slightly long but tedious nails to claw at the strap to open it. Suddenly her movements became jerky, and she could feel her tears start to fall again. Puriti looked at her, a little concerned, but then looked past the insecure girl as a gorgeous, expensive, smooth black automobile pulled up.

The door to the car opened and out stepped a handsome, blonde haired man with the same green eyes as Suzuno's. He looked at the view of the cherry blossoms for a second, then in that gaze, noticed Suzuno and an unfamiliar girl next to her. He walked towards her slowly at first, even if he was terribly worried about her condition, but when he noticed what she had in her hands, he sprinted into a run, his body alert.

"Daddy . . . Daddy . . . "Suzuno repeated, finally throwing the belt onto the ground. "Please . . . If this story is about you and your friend, then I need to learn from it. Teach me about real friends, about real love, about . . ."

"Suzuno!"

She looked over, her eyes shocked to see her father running towards her, a terror in his eyes. "Suzuno, don't open that book! Don't!"

"Please . . ." she said in a tiny voice, gorwing into a shout, "Please, please, teach me how to make friends too!"

She flung open the book, and immediately a glittering and bright light was thrust out.

X x x x

Authors Notes: Finally, the edited version of the first chapter. I re-read this and literally cringed at the mistakes. XD At the same time however, I'm impressed with how strong my main character has gotten in time. I think I've managed her development much better than I originally thought!

Well . . . enjoy!