. Prologue .
A warm sunlight basked the small playground of the Cherry Blossom Kindergarten where almost every young child was happily smiling or boisterously laughing. Almost. Hidden amongst the laughing children was a small girl hidden within the crevice of the classroom stairs. She had short pink hair with a yellow ribbon securing the top half of her hair in a ponytail. Her clothes were partly muddy and her knees and elbows stained with remnants of dried blood. Using the palm of her hand, she wiped the tears away from her face and cautiously watched the playground.
"Where is she hiding?" shouted a boy emerging from the playground.
"I couldn't find her."
"What are you guys looking for?" asked a much shorter boy walking towards the group with a yellow bouncy ball in his hands.
"A girl in pink hair," replied one of the boys.
"Oh, you mean Amu. I saw her when I was getting the ball back."
"Where is she?"
"She's under the classroom stairs crying. I hope you all cheer her up," replied the boy walking away to resume his game.
Thanking the clearly naïve child, the group of boys approached the staircase where they could easily make out the head of pink hair that stood out from the dark shadows.
"We found you Amu."
Startled, Amu turned her head to see the very reason she was in her current predicament. Fear immediately registered itself in her golden eyes and she pushed herself even deeper into the crevice.
"Hide and seek is over, so get out of there," commanded a boy in blonde hair.
Amu fiercely shook her head causing strands of her pink hair to fall in front of her face.
"Get out!" shouted another boy reaching into her hiding spot and grabbing her wrist firmly.
He pulled her out of the little crevice roughly. Amu stood in the middle of a circle the boys had formed around her. Her hair had old remains of spider webs tangled within the pink locks and her face had a newly formed scratch with bubbles of blood threatening to sliver down the curve of her cheek causing her to scrunch up her face.
"Look at her! She's crying!"
"Hey Amu, don't your parents have enough money to buy new clothes, or do you just wear your dirty ones to school?"
"Why don't you talk Amu?"
"Why do you keep calling her Amu? If she doesn't do anything then she's just another worthless 'it' in the world who isn't qualified to use our limited air!"
With wide eyes, the other boys turned to the child who had spoken as though he was the most intelligent and wisest being standing amongst them.
"My daddy taught me," the boy shrugged.
The group nodded their heads and began their torment once more.
"Look at its ugly pink hair."
"It looks like an animal."
"It's starting to wobble!"
"Hey you think it would like it, if we threw stuff at it?"
"You're right let's go!"
Amu sat in the middle of the now disappearing circle, watching the boys run towards the playground like wild animals. She struggled to pull herself up because of her injured knee and as she did, the pain exponentially multiplied to the point where she would collapse on the black top. She could just barely see the group of boys running around with excited grins on their faces.
Biting her lip as hard as she could, she placed her palms on the ground and pushed herself up. A single tear caressed the side of her face. Turning around, she began walking – slowly at first until she could numb out the pain just slightly and increase her speed. It wasn't before long that Amu was running as fast as her handicap could take her.
From the playground, one of the boys bent down to pick up a small pebble when a flash of pink hair immediately caught his attention.
"She's running away!" he shouted dropping all of his 'weapons' to run after her.
Fear nestled itself back into Amu's heart when she could hear footsteps and the yelling of the boys behind her, although they were at a distance. Looking around frantically, her gaze landed on a lone classroom door. Swallowing harshly, she stood on her tiptoes and reached for the doorknob. The door creaked open and she slipped inside, venturing further and deeper into what seemed to be not a classroom as she had thought at first but the janitor's closet – her most frequent hiding spot. It was as she was pushing past the stacks of buckets and mops that she noticed a red door that she'd never seen before.
I saw her run into this door!" she heard one of the boys shout.
Amu heard the door open along with the echoing footsteps. She stood on her tiptoes once more and opened the door only to have a gust of wind drag her inside. Although she could no longer hear the footsteps and voices of her tormenters, it did not necessarily dislodge the fear in her mind. Clutching the hem of her skirt, she gazed at a group of people dressed in gray robes walking around a white circle drawn on the ground as they chanted something in a loud whisper.
The thought of hiding crossed her mind once more until she just faintly heard the shouting voices of the boys. Terror ran through her, and she immediately ran towards the group of the people breaking up their circle. With wide eyes and unable to move, Amu helplessly watched the circle the gray cloaked people walk closer towards her. Tears began to roll down the curve of her cheek and her sniffles resonated within the barren room.
"She broke the ritual. A punishment is in order," spoke a booming voice.
"She is a mere child."
"A child no doubt, but nonetheless the circle was broken. And the Book orders punishment for breakers of the circle."
"What punishment are you going to give her?"
The room was once more silent excluding the cries from Amu.
"She does not understand the ongoing occurrence and she is frightened. I say a 'gift' would be suffice."
"You are delusional. We are to give a punishment not an award!"
"A punishment must be given, but it need not to be severe. I suggest a curse, but on the grounds that it must be temporary."
"That sounds plausible."
"It is decided. Young girl," he spoke grabbing Amu's attention. "For breaking the sacred circle, the Book bestows upon you a curse. Anything you wish for, whether to yourself or out loud will be granted. It is possible to break this curse, but that rests upon you. The sentence has been made. Goodbye."
The room began to dissolve. Amu stared at the scene in pure astonishment – the room was shattering into fragments of glass and transforming into colorful butterflies leaving her back into the darkness of the janitor's closet within a blink of an eye – the strange red door now non-existent.
She could hear the voices once more, but this time she could not escape. Trapped amongst the mops and stacks of boxes, Amu remembered the words of the cloaked people. I'm scared…I don't want them to hurt me…I want them to…disappear.
Silence filled the room as she spoke her words. Clutching the hem of her skirt, she pulled herself up cautiously and searched the closet, finding no trace of the boys. Content, she headed back towards her classroom.
Amu picked at her food silently while she listened to her parents talk about their day pleasantly.
"Amu dear, how was your day today?
Unable to say anything, she shrugged and took a bite of her least favorite vegetable on the plate.
"Did anything happen?"
"Wait darling," spoke up Amu's father. "Look at the T.V. what's that about?"
"Five students who attended our local Cherry Blossom Kindergarten have all at once had misfortunes brought upon them. Two young boys have disappeared and one child had been missing since the dismissal of the school day at 12:40 p.m. Police; only an hour ago, found the boy's mutilated body in the fields behind the school. As for the other –
Amu quickly jumped out of her seat, grabbed the remote from her father's hand, and turned off the T.V.
"Sweetie, why'd you turn off the T.V."
Unable to bear the silence any more, tears began to roll down her face.
"I did that!" she exclaimed. "I caused that to happen to those boys!"
Embracing her, Tsumugu looked at her with a warm smile on his face.
"I know it's sad to see your classmates have such a misfortune brought upon them but-
"No!" she exclaimed pulling herself away from their grasp. "I made them disappear."
"Sweetie, that's absurd. How could you-
"I was hiding from them today…they were making fun of me. I found this door and there were these people in gray dresses that said that they would give me a curse for crossing a circle. They said if I made a wish, it would come true!"
"Honey, I want to believe you…but I can't," said Tsumugu.
Wiping the tears away from her face, Amu set out to prove her very own misfortune.
"I wish for a cupcake."
A few minutes passed by, and Amu's parents grew more skeptical of their daughter's outcry until the doorbell rang. Exchanging a glance amongst each other, Midori got up from her position on the floor and went to open the door only to find their neighbor with a cupcake at hand.
"This is terribly bad manners, but I had this cupcake that was leftover from a charity event this evening and I thought that I'd give it to Amu. Well, once more I'm sorry for the bad timing. Good night!"
"Who was it darling?"
"The neighbor, she wanted to give a c-cupcake to Amu."
Placing the plate beside her, Midori grabbed her daughter's hand.
"Amu…those boys on the news. What exactly did you wish for?"
"I was scared…I didn't know what to do. So I wished for them to disappear."
Tsumugu dragged a hand through his hair.
"I won't let you go back to the school."
"What else can we do Midori? It'd be best if we moved too; I don't understand what's happening exactly, but Amu needs a fresh start."
Nodding, tears began to well in her eyes and she began to cry.