Ayumu Kasuga's hand slid over a blank page, filling it with her loose, flowing handwriting. This was it, she could feel it! This was the start! In spite of her excitement, she wrote as slowly as ever, carefully forming each word. Finally, the pen slid from her fingers as they started drumming lightly on the desk and she read over the result of her epiphany.

"But they were no match for the fury of his emerald... blade..." her head sank to the desk with a gentle thump. "God, I suck." Face planted firmly to the cheap wood, she slapped the back of her head with her off-hand. "Commercial, Ayumu, think commercial... but don't suck!"

She threw herself back in the chair and sagged limply, staring at the ceiling. Without conscious effort, her fingers deftly turned the sheet into a paper airplane and tossed it. The little dart looped through her small living area and skidded off the top of a wastebasket already stuffed with crumpled paper.

"The problem is that all commercial fiction sucks," she sighed. "This isn't accomplishing anything." Her eyes slowly started tracking motes of dust drifting in the air. There were quite a lot of them, but you'd come to expect that living in such an old building.

After finally hunting down the individual particle she was looking for, she sprang to her feet and started pacing around her abode. It only took a few seconds of such stalking to slide down to her usual energy level, after which she sat heavily her small bed and glowered softly about the apartment.

The rooms were small but not cramped, neat but with a definite rumpled, lived-in feel to them. From where she sat, she could see the whole of her domain, excepting the closet-like restroom with its casket-like shower. The ambiance was dark, not for a lack of sunlight but because the walls were a nice walnut color and her furniture (merely the bed, a dresser, a table, her desk and a couch) were soberly hued as well.

Next to her bed was the "Kitchenette," which was really just a sink, a stove with a single burner, a mini-fridge and a microwave crammed into one corner. There was a cupboard above it full of spices and condiments she never used but could never resist buying.

Two large windows admitted a wash of sunlight and made the place bearable, but also revealed the languid ballet of the dust that always filled her rooms and the whole building. When she had first moved in, her allergies had tried to kill her, but she was past that phase now.

On the table was the sole bit of ostentation in the whole place: a rather nice CD-player with an attendant pair of petite speakers. A modest CD rack stood next to it, the home of a few orchestral discs, some guilty-pleasure pop confections and a lone Edwin Starr (you know it.) She had once had a larger library of Soul discs, but she had lost them one by one in bets with Benjiro, that louse.

Sharing that tabletop was a small army of framed pictures. They were arrayed more or less in chronological order, a picture of her 8th birthday party with all her friends from Osaka on one end and a picture taken only days before on the other. Most of them featured her friends from High School.

Her eyes wandered over them and then forcefully turned away. "Ah, me..." she berated herself, "Don't get all melancholy now. Still... I wonder how they're all doing..."

Instead of the devil's rustling wings, she heard an insistent rap at her door. Ayumu steeled herself; it was probably one of her writer friends, either there to complain about her other friends or talk about some stupid idea they had. Benjiro never knocked, and he was about the only person who'd come calling that she'd be happy to see at this particular moment. Taking her time, she crossed the floor of her tiny abode and slid the door open to a surprise.

Her visitor was a tall, willowy girl in a light blue hoodie and jeans. A sleek fall of mahogany hair brushed her narrow shoulders, framing her pretty, heart-shaped face and large, light-brown eyes. Ayumu felt vaguely annoyed at having to look up at her, though she couldn't say why.

"Oh!" the girl said, "I didn't expect you to be in. Hi, Ayumu-san!"

Ayumu stepped back awkwardly. "Oh... um, hello..." Shoot, she knows my name! Think, Ayumu, think!

"Hey, c'mon. Don't you recognize me?" She leaned easily on the doorframe. "I came all this way to see you, and I even remembered to bring a present!"

"I, um..." Ayumu hated admitting that she didn't remember someone. Unfortunately, due to her absentminded nature, it was a situation she found herself in often. As she opened her mouth to confess, though, something clicked. "Wait a second..."

She took two handfuls of the girl's hair and held them high to the sides of her head, then stood on her toes and stared deeply into the other's face. After a few seconds of concentration, Ayumu's dark eyes widened and she flinched back. "No way!"

Her visitor smiled broadly. "Now she sees!"

"It can't be...! Wow, you're so... I mean... come in! Come on in, Chiyo-chan!"