The clock struck twelve. Athena Hayanashi blew out the single candle on the rainbow cupcake in front of her. Happy Birthday to me, she thought. She took the tiny candle out of the cupcake and licked it clean. God I hate sweets, she thought and then dumped the Ralphs cupcake in the trash can. Celebrating your birthday alone is really no fun, eh?
She sat down on the sofa and started opening the few letters on the coffee table. Bills: rent, gas, electricity, internet, cellphone, insurance, medical fees, etc. Then there was one check, which comes every two weeks. Working as a PA (personal assistant) for a real estate lawyer isn't a gig she spent six years in the university training for, but when one's twenty-four and on one's own, any job that pays the bills is the job one must take.
Athena sighed. Years of study, and for what? An empty apartment with shelves of books to fill up lonely nights. A laptop instead of close friends. Papers instead of photo albums full of memories. It's the twentieth century, one must be cultured, successful, gorgeous, and happy. What a goal to achieve when one also has the rising cost of living and minimal salary. Why couldn't I have lived in a much simpler time?
She decided to leave the bills for tomorrow and turned on the television. Tsk, only cartoon is on at this hour? I guess it's still better than informercial. She picked her legs up and watched as the screen bursting into colors. Reaching for the jar of skiddles, she started poping them in her mouth. They tasted bitter like medicine. She reGod I hate dubbed anime. The English dub always sounds so retarded. As Athena watched the story of an orange hair kid thriving to be Hokage despite his limited intelligence, the back of her brain kept on screaming, Jeez how life is simple there. Wouldn't I love it to just escape this life and live in that world?
Two hours later, she went to sleep with that thought coursing through her brain. Man, it's so much better living in a fantasy.
Her sleep was rudely interrupted by the knee jerk commonly experienced as the body falls into deep sleep and mistakes itself as dying. They seem to happen more and more frequently these days. Not again! she hated that feeling of falling into an imaginary abyss, twisting in fear, then waking up with sweat seeping out from your pores. She rolled onto her left and tried to sleep through the imaginary fall. The wind charms overhead started clanging against each other. Faster and faster. As if a thunderstorm was approaching.
She heard the howl of wind pouring over her skin. She couldn't keep from feeling like she was falling. Snap out of it, damn it! She scolded herself, insistently closing her eyes. It's my birthday, for pete's sake! The room got colder as the metal cylinders smashing against each other each time more powerful. Someone tugged at her blanket, and with one last howl of wind it was torn of her body. That's it! Athena opened her eyes and sat up. Huh?
A wide blue sky, as pale and bright as pool's water, greeted her eyes. A dash of gold light from the east entered her vision. Beautiful, she thought. She stayed in that trance for a time, until it dawned on her that she had gone to bed in her bedroom in her apartment in her two-story apartment complex. What? It was then that she realized she was truly falling.
Her body shred through the air, spinning its way down. She could hear space being ripped off into shrill hisses around her. Her head felt like it was about to explode. Patches of green and brown below swiftly passed through her slightly opened eyes.
I'm about to die. I'm about to die. Screams filled her head. It's going to hurt, oh god I hope it's over quickly! I hope it's over so quick I won't feel anything. Her life flashed through her eyes. The rainbow cupcake with a single tiny candle. The billing letters sprawling across the coffee table. Empty photo albums.
A flash of green darted in front of her. The color of leaf. Maybe death isn't so bad. It's the last thing she remembered.
Tsunade looked at the new report on her desk. Her left index finger was slightly tapping the wood surface. You got to be kidding me. ¥9800 for a night at a roadside inn?
"Kakashi, what is this?"
"Hm?" A silver hair man looked up from his book.
"Don't 'hm' me! Explain this crazy expense in your report. Couldn't you have found a cheaper inn?"
"Well, you see...there wasn't any other inn..."
"Then sleep outside!" she rose from her chair. Her eyes shone with killing intention. "Next time, it'll come out of your paycheck!"
"Ehhh? But, but..."
"You have something else to say?" She slowly raised her right arm, showcasing a tight fist brimming with her infamous strength.
"No...nothing," Kakashi lowered his head in defeat.
"Actually, about the woman I rescued yesterday, how is she?"
"She's awake," Tsunade stepped out from behind her desk. "Something's not right about her though. She claimed she didn't know how she got here, and she seemed surprised to know where she was. I had Shizune do a memory check, it showed she actually knew about us, not only that, but also detailed information on some of our ninjutsu and ninja forces, you, Naruto, Sakura, many others, and even myself included."
"Huh?" Kakashi's eyes lost their sleepiness. "A spy?"
"Not likely. We did other tests as well. She doesn't possess any ninja skills. I also had Kurenai checked for any mind-control technique that might have been placed on her. Nothing."
"Could it be that her arrival here was sudden and against her wish? That's the only thing that will explain how she can know of us yet was surprised to find herself here."
"That's exactly what I thought. It doesn't explain how she knows so many things about us though."
"Well, if she's not a spy, why can't we just release her?"
Tsunade became quiet. After a while, she turned around and faced her most treasured jounin. "Because we don't know where she came from."
"She doesn't remember?"
"She does. The problem is we can't find it on the map. That isn't the only strange thing."
"Her description of it was...bizarre at least. I called a specialist just to make sure she wasn't lying. Turned out she was telling the truth."
"I see," Kakashi presumed his thinking position—leaning against the wall, his chin rested on his fingers, arms crossed in front. "Then there's the question of who sent her here, and for what purposed."
"Right," she nodded. "Since she has no place to go, I decided to keep her here for the time being. I also put her in the apartment next to yours. Keep an eye on her. She doesn't appear dangerous right now, but it's better safe than sorry. Got it?"
"Yes M'am," he turned and was about to exit. "Oh, what's her name?"
"Hayanashi Athena. Weird name, isn't it?"
"Sounds foreign. Okay, I'll give her a visit. Gotta be friendly to your new neighbor, right?"
"Kakashi, don't tell her what we discussed here. Especially the part where your job is to watch her."
"What am I supposed to tell her?"
Tsunade gave him a shrug. "You're her savior. Make it up!"