Author's Note from "Half-Esper Laura": My friend Kati and I originally worked on this story from 1998-2002 and produced episodes 1-30; although it's most intense at the very beginning and tapers off somewhat by about episode 10, as of now (2011) I would classify all of that as "embarrassing old stuff"; for an a/u rewrite, we stuck way too close to the original for way too long, and in general I've matured as a writer since then. However, I never stopped loving the world and the characters as we had re-created them, somewhere inside me I could never bury the project, and just in time for NaNo2010, I was seized with the urge to return to it. There will be another author's note when the new (and IMO much better) material begins, but chapters 1-30 will remain as they are, and I hope you will enjoy them despite their flaws or at least be patient with them. Thank you!

Fushigi Yuugi (sorta): Through the Looking Glass

by Kati dEsprit and Half-Esper Laura
Based on Fushigi Yuugi by Watase Yuu

This is the story of a girl who gathered the Seven Sei of Suzaku. She gained omnipotent power and made every wish come true. The story itself is an incantation. Whoever finishes reading it shall receive this power. As soon as the page is turned, the story will become the truth and begin...

Episode 1:
The Girl of the Legend

"Give me back my food!"

The entire class jumped as Yuuki Miaka, the somewhat bubble-brained girl with the brown hair buns, picked up her desk and slammed it against her teacher.

"Ah, Miaka," her best friend, Hongou Yui started, with the calm tone of one who had seen Miaka do this a frightening number of times. "Who did you just hit with your desk?"

"Huh?" Miaka questioned, opening her eyes. "Oh, it was just a dream." She looked down, and finally notice her badly bruised instructor lying on the classroom floor. "Teacher!"

"Bingo," Yui said.

"Yuuki..." he groaned.

"Yessir?"

"Go stand in the hall."

"Yessir." She sighed and headed into the hall, not even bothering to put the desk down.

Yui sighed and rested her chin on one hand as the teacher slowly picked himself up and returned to the blackboard to resume the lesson. Why does Miaka always do this...? She's my best friend, but it's hard to speak up for her when people laugh about the stupid things she does... They all talk about how different we are. I love Miaka, but sometimes it would be nice to have a best friend who was smart and studious like me. If that were the case, then...

"I want him to do his best," the teacher intoned, in English. "Hongou, please translate."

Yui snapped out of her reverie, scolding herself for letting her attention wander in class.

Miaka sighed and gathered her things. What a day! Thank goodness it was over. She had a ton of homework, cram school that afternoon for her high school entrance exams, and on top of that her arms were sore from holding that desk up so long.

"Come on, Miaka," Yui called, "or I'll leave you behind."

"Wait a minute, will you?" Miaka shouted, dashing after her.

"I can't believe you, sleeping in class. You aren't going to pass the Yotsubadai exam that way."

"I'm not taking Yotsubadai's exam," Miaka mumbled hurriedly.

"Oh? Which one then?"

Miaka attempted to cover the answer "Jonan" with a cough.

It took a moment before Yui could make an adequate reply. "Jonan Academy? Miaka, are you sure? That's not something to say lightly."

"I'm sure!" Miaka said. "I want to go to the same high school as you."

"I'm flattered, but Miaka... You certainly aren't going to pass the Jonan exam by sleeping in class!"

"I'm trying really hard!" Miaka whined. "Besides, I have to go to the same High School as you. You're my best friend, aren't you?"

"Of course, but you have to be realistic!" Yui sighed. If she wanted to get into college and become a doctor, it was important to go to the best high school she could. She thought she'd accepted that it would separate her from Miaka, but here she had to dredge it all up again...

"Are you saying I'm too dumb to make it?" Miaka pouted.

"Yes," Yui said, with biting humor.

"Yui, that was mean!" Miaka whined.

"Maybe I could help you study or something..."

"Yay!"

"Just..."

"What is it, Yui?"

"Next time I say not to play loud rock music while studying, listen, okay?"

"Ahhhhh!" Miaka whined.

"Here's my stop," Yui said as the train they were riding pulled into a station.

"This isn't our cram school's stop," Miaka protested, following her.

"I know. I need to stop by the National Library for a minute."

"The National Library?" Miaka questioned. Yui nodded, and Miaka sarcastically added. "Wow, Hongou Yui, the smartest girl in school, hangs out in the most interesting places."

"Maybe if you hung out' here more often, your grades would be better," Yui teased. "It'll only take a moment; I just need to return a book."

Miaka paused outside the building and looked at the "National Library" sign written above the door in big letters. "Yui, does the National Library belong to the Nation?"

Yui just sighed and went on into the building.

"Hey, I was just joking!" Miaka protested, trotting after her. "Hurry up, will you? If we hurry, we can get some ice cream before cram school!"

"Why don't we wait on that? Mom asked me to pick Azami up from violin lessons and take her out for ice cream. Twice in one day is too much," she said, starting toward the return desk.

"Too much ice cream? Never!" Miaka joked, watching her go. Left by herself, she looked around nervously. She had never imagined there could be so many books in one place. It was like school, only worse! A vending machine caught the corner of her eye. "Ooh, they sell juice here," she said, wandering over. What am I thinking? They sell juice everywhere...

"Okay, I'm done," Yui said, returning, but Miaka wasn't where she had left her. Great. If she's wandered off in here we might be late... Looking around, she saw a few vending machines. Sure enough, there was Miaka. "Come on, Miaka," she said, walking over. "You were the one who wanted to-"

Just beyond the vending machines was a stairway, and sitting on it was a giant bird. Even a sparrow in here would be strange, but this was a blazing red creature, with a crest on its head and a long, flowing tail. It seemed to emit a brilliant light as it rose with one flap of its wings and glided up the stairs.

"Yui, is something wrong?" Miaka asked.

"D... Did you see that!"

"See what? I was trying to see if I had enough money for a soda, too."

"There was a bird here," Yui said, walking up the stairs and standing just where the bird had been. "It flew up these stairs..." She looked up. There was a red light on the right wall at the top, as if it was shining from around the left turn. Yui started walking up the stairs toward it.

"Seriously Yui, you study too much!" Miaka said. "Maybe you should take advice from me every now and... um... Yui...? Wait!" Miaka ran up the stairs, and caught up just as Yui reached the top. In front of them was a closed doorway. "Confidential Documents Reference Room; Authorized Personnel Only,'" Miaka read.

Yui reached for the doorknob. She thought she heard a faint click' just as she touched it. The door was unlocked, and she pushed it open.

"Um, Yui, I don't think we're supposed to be in here," Miaka whined, taking her arm nervously.

"Come on, Miaka, no one's looking," Yui said. "Besides, if you'd just seen a red peacock in the National Library, wouldn't you want to know where it came from?"

"No, I'd think I'd been studying too much, so I'd go home and rot my brain on soap operas instead."

"And you wonder why your grades are so bad," Yui sighed. "Miaka, that's your whole problem."

"What, I don't go chasing after birds?"

They both stopped at the sound of a book dropping from the shelf. Miaka screamed and jumped. "Oh, it was just a book," she sighed in relief. "There's nothing to be scared of, Yui."

"Who's scared?" Yui said, walking over to the book and picking it up.

"What is it, Yui?" Miaka asked, following her closely.

"Offhand, I'd say it's a book," Yui said, then read the spine. "The Universe of the Four Gods..." She opened it and sat down on her knees. "It's Chinese. Looks like a very old dialect... This is the story of a girl who gathered the Seven Sei of Suzaku. She gained omnipotent power and made every wish come true. The story itself is an incantation. Whoever finishes reading it shall receive this power. As soon as the page is turned, the story will become the truth and begin...'"

"Wow, you can read ancient Chinese?" Miaka squealed as Yui turned to the next page.. "You're amazing!"

Suddenly, a brilliant red light erupted from the book, so bright neither of them could see. The feeling of the bookshelves at their backs, the floor under their knees, all dissolved away, and they clung to each other, screaming as they fell through the blinding brightness...

Yui groaned slightly and opened her eyes to find herself staring at Miaka, and feeling rough, stubbly ground beneath her. They weren't in the library any more, that was certain. All around them a barren landscape stretched toward the horizon, dotted only by the occasional scrub-brush. "Miaka? Are you all right?"

"Huh?" Miaka asked. "Where are we? What happened?"

"I don't know..." Yui said, sitting up.

Suddenly, she brought her elbow down on Miaka's head. "Did that hurt?"

"It hurt plenty!" Miaka shouted, slugging her.

"It definitely hurts too much to be a dream," Yui said, picking herself up.

"Of course it's not a dream, there's no food here!" Miaka wailed. "There's no double cheeseburgers, no raisin-nut topped ice cream! There's no-eek!"

Yui had sighed and turned away from Miaka's meaningless raving, but whipped around at her scream. "Miaka! MIAKA!"

"Yui, help!" Miaka screamed. She struggled against a burly man who was holding her, with one elbow around her throat.

"What a lucky find," a second thug said, resting a large, curved sword on his shoulder. "Two... unique women, out here all alone... You two will bring a good price."

"What are you talking about!" Yui demanded.

"Sheesh, how naive can you get?" the man holding Miaka asked. "We sell girls."

Yui gasped. If this was a dream, it was a nightmare!

"Yui, run!" Miaka screamed.

Yui hesitated. If she ran, where could she run to? She couldn't just abandon Miaka... "No!" She cried, dashing toward the thug holding her friend. On the last step, she threw her entire weight against the man, smashing her shoulder into his side. "Hurry, Miaka!" she shouted, snatching the girl's hand and pulling her to her feet as the man toppled to the ground.

"Oh no you don't," the other said, grabbing her from behind. "I hate to damage the merchandise, but if you're not nice..."

"Stop."

Everyone froze and looked up as a man dressed in black appeared. He was tall, with shaggy, dark tealish hair that dangled in his eyes and a rattail that hung down his back.

"Who the heck are you?" the sword-wielding thug demanded, brandishing the blade.

"Let them go, or I'll punish you," the man warned.

"Yeah, right!" the other man scoffed. "This ain't your business. Just keep travelling and you won't get hurt."

The man shrugged, and suddenly jumped, moving faster than the eye could follow. His first blow was a kick across the face of the man holding Yui, who let go of her and fell to the ground.

Yui and Miaka took each other's hands for a little grounding in reality as they both stepped back and watched the battle, too transfixed to run away. As the young man descended on the second thug, his hair blew upward, revealing a red glow in his forehead. That's a Kanji character, Yui realized. She watched him closely through the lighting-fast turns of the brief battle, and finally was able to read it. "Ogre"...?

At last the two thugs fell to the ground, one clutching his arm in agony. They wasted no time fleeing across the scrubland. Their young rescuer turned to the girls. "Ladies, are you all right?"

Yui nodded. "Thank you very much."

The man walked up to them and smiled. "Money is a better way to show your appreciation," he said, holding out his hand.

"Huh?" both girls asked.

"Aw, geez, don't tell me you two don't have any money," he griped. "Don't you ladies know money makes the world go round? I can't spare the expense of rescuing poor people all the time."

"You helped us all on your own!" Yui countered, although well aware where she and Miaka would be now if he hadn't.

"Wait, I have a little money," Miaka said, hunting through her pockets.

"Sorry, girls, I can't stand poor people," the man said, walking away from them. "Catch ya later!"

"Wait! Wait a minute! Where is this place!" Yui shouted. She couldn't believe this man would go to all the trouble of saving them just to abandon them here in the wilderness, when he should know what could happen to them alone out here.

"Goodbye!" he called back.

"You could at least let us go with you to the next town!"

"I'm not slowing down for you and I'm not spending a cent on you," he answered, not even bothering to turn around.

Yui sighed hotly. At least if they could walk with him, they'd be a less inviting target, whether he would actually protect them or not. "Come on, Miaka," she said, turning.

Miaka wasn't there.

"Miaka?" Yui called, doubling back. She knew she hadn't gone far enough to let Miaka get out of sight... "Miaka!" She turned back to the man. "Hey, did you see-" but by that time she had lost sight of him as well. For such a bare landscape, it was shocking how fast people disappeared...

"Oh!" Yui stamped her foot in frustration. "Where did that airheaded girl go!"

As the brilliant red light subsided again, Miaka found herself kneeling in the Library's Confidential Documents Reference Room, with her money still clasped in her hand. Hurriedly she stuffed it back in her pocket. If she was back here, then... "Yui?" she called, jumping up. "Yui!" She ran around the dimly lit room, looking down all the aisles. She even took the risk of opening the door a little and peeking out. Yui was nowhere to be seen. Where could she be?

Then she noticed the book lying open on the floor. There was an ink drawing on the page, of a martial artist fighting some men while two girls looked on. That's what happened to us... She thought. Curious, she picked up the book and started to read. She had never payed attention in reading class like Yui, so it was difficult, but she could force her way through it if she tried.

"The girl tried to... escape from her a... attack... ers... Then, a man with the... mark of the ogre apeared.'" The mark of the Ogre! It really is about him. "He helped the two girls.'"

Could it be? she wondered. It wasn't a dream. So, is Yui still...?

She looked at the illustration again. The short-haired girl was probably Yui, and the man who had saved them... There was even the tiny character sketched on his forehead. What a crummy picture, she thought, looking at the drawing of him. He was really cute in person.

Yui tried to resituate herself in the hay cart, but no matter how she sat, the straw itched against her bare legs. It was a small price to pay, though. She doubted any thugs who showed up would snatch her out of the back of a moving cart. She hoped she hadn't given up searching for Miaka prematurely, but surely the girl wouldn't have just run off without telling her. Probably someone had taken her, and they would probably go to a city with her.

After a short while, the cart rumbled down a hillside path, and just down the slope, Yui could see a grand city stretching out before her. There were too many houses and larger buildings to count, and she could see people milling about in the streets and marketplaces. At the center of the city, there was even what looked like a grand palace with a wall around it, like the Forbidden City in books about China.

This was what she had been waiting for. Yui hopped out of the back of the still-moving cart as gingerly as she could manage, although she couldn't avoid taking a spill and scraping her knees. She looked down the slope, trying to plan some kind of path while she had this bird's eye' view of the city, knowing it would become a labyrinth once she actually entered it. There, in one of the crowded streets, she thought she saw a flash of familiar tealish hair, a black coat... That's him! The man who saved us back there! Given his monetary interests, she doubted she could get much help from him, but he had been the only other person there when Miaka vanished. Maybe he saw something she didn't. At any rate, he was all she had to go on. Drawing in her mind a path through the streets to him, she took off running down the hill.

In hindsight, she knew she should have known better. By the time she had picked her way through the crowded streets to the place where she had seen the man, he was already gone. What now, Yui? She looked around. She should ask some of the people here, perhaps the merchants, if they had seen him, and which way he had gone.

Surveying the marketplace, she couldn't help but notice what a lively place it was. She could hear the cries of the merchants to prospective customers, see glimpses of gold and brocade and a thousand other gorgeous things on display lining the streets. The food-sellers' wares tinted the air with appealing scents of fruit and hot bread. All around her people walked down the streets, talking and laughing.

In another moment, she noticed them all staring at her, and was suddenly intensely aware what a strange sight she was. Her short blond hair was odd for a woman here, and the above-knee-length skirt of her uniform must look scandalous to them. She could feel the heat of her own blush, but there was nothing for it. Best to find Miaka, and hopefully a way home, as soon as possible. Nervously, she walked up to one of the merchants to ask.

"Say, did you hear about a strange girl in town?" the man beside Tamahome at the small lunch-stand asked.

"Yeah, I've heard people mentioning it all morning," the proprietor answered. "A strange girl with short, pale hair?"

"That's the one. Supposedly she wears a really short skirt too. Now that, I'd like to see!"

"Dear!" growled the woman beside him, jabbing him with her elbow.

That sounds like the girls I met... Tamahome thought. He tapped the man who had been talking. "Sorry to interrupt, but I couldn't help overhearing. Are there two of these girls, dressed alike?"

"I've only heard about one," the man replied.

Couldn't be them then...

"Word is she's in town looking for someone," the foodseller put in. "A guy with the character Ogre' on his forehead. Girl's screwy if you ask me."

"Sounds that way, doesn't it?" Tamahome laughed. A girl dressed like that, looking for me...? Even if it is just one, it's gotta be one of them...

Not like it's any of my concern.

Yui felt a tap on her shoulder. "Excuse me, Miss?"

She turned to the unfamiliar voice and took a step away from the man's touch. "What is it?"

"I've been watching you," the man said. He was tall and somewhat young-looking, with hair pulled up in a covered bun. "Would you like me to show you around our empire of Konan?"

So, this place is Konan. She appreciated the hint, but at the same time, her pride burned inside her. She knew how her outfit must look, but the nerve of this man, thinking she was the sort of girl who could be picked up on the street! "I'm sorry, I don't have time for such a thing," she said curtly. "I have to find someone." She turned with her chin up and a slight hmph.'

"The man with the mark of the Ogre?" he asked.

Yui turned back around. "Do you know of him?"

"Know of him?" the man echoed. "He's a good friend of mine. I can take you right to him."

Yui hesitated for a moment. This sounded too good to be true, and after she and Miaka's encounter outside town, she didn't trust the people of this world very far. Still, her only other option was to keep wandering the streets, which was sure to get her lost and in danger before long. "Would you, please?"

He nodded. "Come with me."

Yui followed him for several minutes, into the backstreets of the city. Here it was nothing like the sunny, open marketplace; the narrow paths angled this way and that like a maze. She could see smaller shops around her, and people's homes, but gradually even that was left behind, and they stepped into an empty alley. Apprehension was rising inside her. Something about this was very wrong. "Are you sure your friend' is around here?" she asked, looking around warily.

"Quite sure," he said. Yui saw shadows of boxes and bushes resolving themselves into human shapes as a couple of rough looking men stepped into the alley.

He tricked me! Her heart pounded, and she took a step back, turning to run.

Yet another pair of strong hands gripped her shoulders, stopping her. "This one's an oddity, isn't she?" came a voice just behind and above her head.

"Not every day you find one like her," her guide' agreed. "Those clothes will bring good money, too."

Yui jerked away from the man holding her. "Let me go!"

"It was your choice to follow him," a third, somewhat pudgier man said, picking up the hem of her skirt.

"He tricked me!" Yui argued, bringing her knee up into his chin.

"Aww, poor baby."

"She's a ferocious one, she is," the pudgy one said with sarcasm, rubbing his chin.

Yui took a step back from the advancing thugs and felt the alley wall behind her heel. I'm being backed into a corner. This is bad... Fighting wasn't normally in Yui's nature, but it didn't look like she had a choice... She gritted her teeth in a determined grimace.

"Now, don't make a face like that," one of the thugs cooed, taking her chin. Yui braced herself against the wall behind her and coiled one leg. His stomach received the full force of her kick, and he doubled over.

Her heart pounding with desperation, Yui took the back of his kimono and threw him forward, toppling him over. She pushed off the wall, trying to throw herself through the gap, but another man yanked her back by her wrist and clapped a hand over her mouth. "She really is a ferocious one," he growled. In the next moment, Yui's teeth came down on his finger and he fully understood what he had said. She threw her free elbow back into his chest with all her might. Tearing her wrist from his weakened grip, she turned and ran as hard as she could.

"Get her!"

She hadn't even gotten to the next bend in the street when one of the two remaining thugs tackled her about the ankles, sending her crashing to the ground. She pushed herself over onto her back, fighting to free one leg for a kick, when her guide came down on top of her, taking her by the wrists and pinning her down. "I am not about to let a little girl like you make a fool of me!" he growled.

No...! "NO!" Yui screamed. He didn't have a hand free to stifle her. "HELP ME! SOMEONE HELP ME!"

"Shut up, you-" He stopped short as a large pebble bounced off his head from above, then stretched his neck to look up. "Who are you!"

"For one girl... four guys?" came a familiar voice. Yui saw a man standing atop the alley wall, silhouetted in the sun. On the forehead of the dark figure, a familiar red light shone brightly. "What real man needs that?" He leapt down on them.

In their haste, the men let go of Yui's legs, and the man holding her wrists lifted one hand. A punch to his chin had just formed itself in Yui's mind when her rescuer's knee smashed into his face, sending him flying away from her. There was a moment of lightning-quick motion right on top of her, but the instant it cleared, she scrambled to her feet and away from the battle.

Her first impulse was to run, but she didn't. She had found the man with the mark of the Ogre again, and she wasn't going to let him out of her sight this time.

"The girl was in danger again,'" Miaka read. "Then the man with the Mark of the Ogre on his forehead appeared. He punished the men.'" She sighed. Geez, how dull can you get? Whoever wrote this thing couldn't write, and they definitely couldn't draw. She looked at the illustration again. It didn't matter how it was written. If that was the man she had met in that strange world, if that girl with the fluffy, short hair was Yui, she was going to see this story through.

To Be Continued...

PREVIEW
Yui has found the man with the character Ogre on his forehead, but the two soon find themselves in danger from the soldiers of Konan. The man once again rescues Yui, and in his arms, a red light shows her a momentous vision.
NEXT TIME:
Suzaku no Miko