Bright lights illuminated my body, heat scorching my arms and leaving marks that I would always carry with me. Flames danced around and surrounded me. Any moment, I knew that I, like my friends and mother, would be engulfed in the blazing mess. It was an accident; how could three five year old girls know what would happen if you played with fireworks, played with fire? My thoughts blurred. Where are you? Why aren't you here...? My tears were cut short as the circle I was in grew smaller, and the fire slowly crept closer. It was too smoky to see. I knew everyone was gone. They were waiting for me. The only thing that kept me chained to this world, unwilling to disappear, were thoughts of a young boy. He was out there, not knowing what was happening to his precious home. I strugged, fought to keep my eyes open, but it was too hard; I was so sleepy. And it was getting harder to breathe. As my golden-colored eyes began to close, his face flashed in my mind once more before I lost consciousness. Natsume...

Karin's eyes snapped open. Her heart was beating so hard and fast, she feared it would burst from her chest. That dream again... Why do I keep reliving that? With a barely audible sigh, she pushed off warm and soft cotton blankets and stood, running her hand through long, silky raven colored hair. Today would be her first day at Alice Academy. She had learned the details of how the academy was run from her deceased parents, who had gone themselves. Karin knew she had an alice, and she also knew it would end up putting her in a bad situation. The steal and copy alice. With the ability to absorb any alice from users and use it at her command, the school wouldn't allow her to be just a normal student. Luckily, she had brushed against a little girl with the ability to make fluffy white clouds appear. Useless, but Karin had managed to convince her selfish foster parents it was her one and only power. They were disappointed at the worthlessness of it, but still they quickly and greedily accepted the money the 'Alice' school had offered to them, eager to rid themselves of the adopted girl, who was only ten.

Shaking her head, Karin had the same cold, blank look in her eyes she had kept for the past four and a half years. She felt resentment, fury, distrust, and scorn heat up her blood and push out any logical thoughts. The young girl's happy, bubbly personality had been replaced by a cold aloofness, as if she didn't care about anything. She put a wall around herself, never showing any emotion. If someone said something to her, it would bounce off the invisible barrier and land shattered at their feet.

Karin opened the door to the bathroom, closing and locking it behind her. The room was silent, except for the sound of her feet smacking aginst the cold marble floor. A creaking sound and flowing water added to the noise as she turned the knobs to select a warm enough temperature. While the bath filled, Karin slipped out of her pajamas. A silver brushed sparkled in the lights. Reaching down hesitantly, she wrapped her slender fingers around the handle and lifted it to her face, inhaling the scent of cherry blossoms. A moment later, she began to run the brush through her hair, removing any tangles. It took awhile, considing that the the curtain of soft black fell to her waist. By the time she was finished, water had filled the tub to the rim. Karin slipped into the water. Her hair floated out in all directions. Sighing, she reached for the soap, deciding to end the bath quickly.

An hour later, a soaked Karin emerged, wrapping a crimson towel around her body. Leaving wet footprints behind, she re-entered the bedroom. In about ten minutes, she was dried, and dressed in a pleated black skirt, a blood red t-shirt, knee high black socks, and black ankle boots. Her hair was brushed neatly. The man who dared to call himself her father called for her. She resisted the urge to strangle him and headed downstairs. Karin watched with little interest as he threw her suitcase in the car and began ranting and raving about how long she took to get ready. They were soon on their way to the train station, and an hour later Karin found herself put on a train to Tokyo with a small amount of money and a map.

Her eyes darted from side to side as she tried to decide on a place to sit. Finally, she chose a seat next to a sleeping girl who looked about her age. She wore a white skirt much like Karin's, along with a pink top and brown hair pulled into pigtails. Karin watched the girl from the corner of her eyes. They had similar facial features; it rather intrigued her. But it didn't really matter. She would probably never see her again. Her eyelids lowered themselves, and, almost against Karin's will, she fell into a soundless sleep.

A few hours later, the train pulled into it's stop. She rubbed her eyes tiredly, grabbed her bag, and quickly walked out. The girl with the pigtails practically jumped off the train. Her eyes grew big as she glanced around in awe. Ignoring her, Karin took a look at her surroundings, and found her own eyes widening. It was bigger than she imagined. Huge screens with advertisments were placed high up on the sides of buildings. People were randomly scattered around; most were probably tourists. They crowded everywhere; a candy shop full of sweets gathered from across the world, a large fountain in the center of a small park-ish area that was filled with fresh green grass, vending machines strewn about, skyscrapers, and a street performance. Her interest increased as she tried to get closer for a better look. Karin gasped when she saw what it was. A few adults, messing around, throwing fireworks, and catching them. She turned and walked away, holding in all her emotions that threatened to burst and spill everywhere.

The map was easy enough to follow, and she found herself at the school within a couple hours. Suprise was written all over her face when she studied the person outside of the large iron gates. It was the girl from the train. She angrily stomped her foot and demanded to be let in, to see someone named Hotaru or something. The guard shook his head and walked away. The girl sat down, defeated. Obvisously she had yet to notice Karin's presence. Suddenly, two older boys jumped out of a van. Karin didn't really bother to listen, until the girl started to leave. However, she didn't even have time to utter a syllable, much less a warning, before a man showed up. At least, she thought he was a man. An earring, long blonde hair, a loose white shirt, and a male voice just added to the confusion. He didn't notice Karin either. The man quickly inserted himself into the conversation, somehow convincing the boys to leave. Then he turned to the girl. A few minutes of talking went on between them, before Karin finally took a step forward.

"Excuse me..."