Have you ever looked up at the stars and thought about your place in the world?

A girl with long, flowing black hair lies in the grass, staring into the starry sky. A streak of light shines for a brief moment.

-?- "A shooting star…"

Chapter 1: The Girl Who Looks at the Stars

-Teacher- "Each and every tree around the quiet burg was honored as a god. However, the village was not without its dark secrets…"

-?- "….." The girl sits at her desk, staring out the window into the sky, a customary tradition for students fortunate enough to be seated at the very back of the classroom.

-Teacher- "Shiranui!"

-Shiranui- "Hm? Yes?"

-Teacher- "Perhaps you would like to pick up where I've just left off. If you're not too busy daydreaming, that is." The entire class chuckles, but Shiranui doesn't seem to notice. She simply stands up and begins to read the passage.

-Shiranui- "The light from above glinted off Nagi's sword as a beacon of hope. Guided by his sword, Nagi, who had been taking shelter in the shadows, stood proudly to face his adversary. Channeling all his strength into his scarred and battered arms, he leapt ferociously towards Orochi, his sword poised high."

-Teacher- "Hm. I'm impressed. That's to be expected of the granddaughter of a renowned priest. Well, that will be all for today. Class dismissed."

-Shiranui- "*sigh*" She closes her locker and gets ready to leave.

-?- "Shiranui Asako-chan!"

-Asako- "Hm?" A small girl with glasses runs up to her.

-Asako- "Oh, it's you, Isamu-chan."

-Isamu- "So, what are you doing now?"

-Asako- "I just decided…"

-Isamu- "…'to go home for the day'. Yeah, I've heard it before."

-Asako- "Ah…" The two girls decide to walk home together.

-Isamu- "Hey, Asako-chan, why don't you join any clubs?"

-Asako- "You think I'd be any good at anything?"

-Isamu- "Are you kidding! You're the most talented girl I've ever met! You're smart, you're good at sports, and you're practically eligible for a full ride to Tokyo University! And on top of that, you're beautiful, and your breasts are practically popping out of your shirt! You're basically a walking, talking ticket to the top!" Asako blushes.

-Asako- "Is that so…"

-Isamu- "Well, you're not going to make it there if you don't show any initiative! Graduation's gonna come around faster than you think, so you need to step up your game."

-Asako- "Well, it's just that none of the clubs interest me."

-Isamu- "Whatever. Well, at the very least, you could hang out after school."

-Asako- "We hang out on weekends, don't we?"

-Isamu- "It's not the same. Every day after school, you go straight home and manage the shrine!"

-Asako- "The shrine was my grandfather's most treasured possession."

-Isamu- "But it doesn't have to be yours! Geez, you're practically the most perfect person I know, and you won't take advantage of that! I'll just go to Tokyo University in your place, then."

-Asako- "Hee…just keep your grades up, because you're definitely not getting a sports scholarship…shorty."

-Isamu- "I'm not that short!"

-Asako- "Ha, ha, ha, ha!"

I don't think I would fit in with any of the clubs. The truth is…I don't feel like I fit in anywhere. Call it teenage insecurity if you want, but for my entire life, I've felt as if I didn't belong.

-Isamu- "Well, I'll see you tomorrow, Asako-chan."

-Asako- "See you." Isamu continues walking down the sidewalk while Asako walks up a long flight of stairs to her grandfather's and her home.

My parents were killed in an accident not long after I was born, so my grandfather took me in as his own. We've lived together ever since.

She's now arrived at her home, and sees her grandfather in the kitchen.

-Asako- "I'm home, Grandpa."

-Grandpa- "Hello, Asako! Did you have a good day at school?"

-Asako- "It was just the usual. Nothing special, really."

-Grandpa- "That's what you always say."

-Asako- "We read the story about Nagi and how he defeated the demon Orochi."

-Grandpa- "Ah, yes, but you and I both know that-"

-Asako- "-it wasn't Nagi that defeated Orochi. It was the wolf, Shiranui, who helped from the sidelines. Shiranui used the Celestial Brush to counter Orochi's assault and eventually slay Orochi. But the people of Kamiki Village saw their beloved hero, Nagi as the one responsible for the triumph. And that's why we celebrate his victory every year here in the town of Kamiki."

-Grandpa- "That's the granddaughter I raised! Come to think of it, the festival is coming up soon isn't it? My, my, how many years has it been?"

-Asako- "It's been 600 years, Grandpa."

-Grandpa- "600 years! Oh, I wish I could be there."

-Asako- "What are you doing here, anyway? You should be resting, right?"

-Grandpa- "What, do you not want me to be here?"

-Asako- "It's just that you shouldn't."

-Grandpa- "Oh, I see. You have a gentleman friend coming and you'd like some alone time, is that it?"

-Asako- "No way!"

-Grandpa- "It's just a joke. No need to be defensive."

-Asako- "…Well, you really shouldn't be here. Why aren't you resting?"

-Grandpa- "Well, isn't it obvious? I have unfinished business."

-Asako- "Then why don't you bother someone else about it?"

-Grandpa- "Who else am I going to bother? You're really the only person I know."

-Asako- "…Is that why I'm the only one who can see you?"

-Grandpa- "…I would imagine so, yes." He rises up from his chair at the kitchen table and floats out of the kitchen.

-Grandpa- "Would you mind turning on the television for me? My stories are coming on."

-Asako- "…"

My grandfather died not too long ago. It wasn't an illness or some tragedy. I just woke up one morning and…he didn't. And now, he's a ghost who is, for lack of a better term, haunting me.

At home Asako does her homework and cleans up around the table. Sometimes, she'll watch TV with her grandfather. She was left a large sum of money in her grandfather's will, so she doesn't worry too much about expenses, but she was thinking about getting a job, anyway. But back to the story. Usually at night, people lie in their beds and drift off to sleep. Asako does the same thing, but she doesn't lie in bed.

-Asako- "Finally…" She lays a blanket on the grass and lays down on it, looking up into the starry sky with a contented smile.

-Asako- "*sigh*" Her grandfather sees her in the grass and decides to join her.

-Grandpa- "Looking at the stars again?"

-Asako- "You know me."

-Grandpa- "You'll catch your death of cold."

-Asako- "I've never really had a problem out here."

-Grandpa- "I know, I know. It's just in my nature to be concerned." They both look at the stars together.

-Asako- "Hey, Grandpa?"

-Grandpa- "What is it, dear?"

-Asako- "…Did you ever feel like you were…out of place? Like you didn't fit in?"

-Grandpa- "Aren't you graduating soon? I figured you would have figured all that out by now."

-Asako- "It's just…whenever I try to join a club or go out with my friends…I never felt right. When I'm here…looking at the stars…I just feel…at home."

-Grandpa- "Hm…"

-Asako- "Is that weird?"

-Grandpa- "Everyone's at home somewhere. Even if it's out here in the freezing cold."

-Asako- "Hm. Good night, Grandpa." She takes another blanket and drapes it over herself.

-Grandpa- "Good night, dear." She takes one last look at the starry sky, and sees a cluster of stars forming an image.

-Asako- "A wolf…" She drifts off to sleep.

-Grandpa- "…It's almost time."

-Asako- "*pant pant pant pant* Mom! Dad!" The young girl runs through the trees near the temple.

-Asako- "Mom! Dad! Where are you! I know you're there!" She continues running and sees a large tree just beyond a torii gate. There, two figures begin to enter a glowing light at the base of the tree.

-Asako- "Wait!" She reaches her hand out to them. But before they can turn around, the light becomes too bright.

-Asako- "NOOOOOOO!" The light envelops her completely.

"O, our merciful Mother…"

-Asako- "*gasp*" She wakes up in the middle of the field she fell asleep in.

-Asako- "…." She sits up and looks to her right, at a stone path.

-Asako- "*sigh*"

-Grandpa- "The dream again?"

-Asako- "…I have to go to school." She gets up, folds her blanket, and leaves to get ready.

-Grandpa- "…Asako…"

My grandfather's estate has a path that you couldn't see at first glance, because it leads downward. At the foot of that path is a massive cherry blossom tree that never blooms, not even in the spring. I keep having nightmares about that place. Nightmares that always end with me alone. I've never been down there. I don't plan to.

-Asako- "*sigh*" She lays her head on her school desk.

-Wataru- "Good morning, Shiranui-san."

-Asako- "Oh. Good morning...uhh...Kirisaki Wataru, right?"

-Wataru- "W-Wow! You remembered my name! Uh…this is kind of embarrassing, but do you have the notes from yesterday? I was too busy sleeping."

-Asako- "Um…yeah. I can lend them to you after school."

-Wataru- "Thanks. These notes are just so hard to understand. Do you think we could study together this weekend?"

-Asako- "I might be busy, but I'll let you know."

-Wataru- "O…okay, then. See you." He goes to sit at his desk as Isamu sits at her desk next to Asako.

-Isamu- "What are you doing?"

-Asako- "What?"

-Isamu- "Kirisaki-san totally has a crush on you! He's the most popular guy in school! Why don't you do anything!"

-Asako- "I just don't feel like it. I'm not into relationships."

-Isamu- "Geez! You really need to change your life around, Asako!"

-Asako- "*sigh*"

-Asako(thinking)- "I was thinking the same thing." The classroom door opens, as a young man in glasses walks in with a warm smile on his face.

-?- "Good morning, class. Please don't be alarmed, but your regular teacher had business to attend to, and I'll be taking his place. I am Ryu Kasseika, but you can call me Ryu-sensei."

-Asako- "…!"

-Asako(thinking)- "What…what is this…? I can barely move…" She puts her hand on her chest.

-Asako- "My heart…it's beating so fast! Who is this guy!" Throughout the rest of the day, Asako seems fixated on the new teacher; not a fixation of love, but something else…

-Isamu- "Asako, are you coming?"

-Asako- "Um…just go on without me for today."

-Isamu- "Hm?"

-Asako- "I, uh…needed to speak to the new teacher about something."

-Isamu- "Ooh, can I go with you! He's sooooo handsome~!"

-Asako- "Uh…you should probably just go home."

-Isamu- "Awww! But-"

-Asako- "I SAID GO HOME!"

-Isamu- "*gasp*" ….

-Asako- "…" She turns around.

-Asako- "I'll see you tomorrow." She starts running for the classroom and away from Isamu.

-Isamu- "…Asako…"

-Asako- "*pant pant pant pant*"

-Asako(thinking)- "I need to know who he is! I don't know how…but he knows something! I can feel it!" She arrives at the door of her classroom, staring at it, hesitant to open it. She slowly inches her hand towards the doorknob.

-Asako- "…Tch!" She clenches her fist to strengthen her resolve, then swings the door open. Ryu-sensei, who is still clearing up, is taken aback.

-Ryu- "Oh, I didn't realize anyone was still here. You're Shiranui Asako, right?"

-Asako- "…."

-Ryu- "I was very impressed with your reading today. Of course, that's to be expected. Your late grandfather was a well-known priest."

-Asako- "He taught me everything he knew after he took me in."

-Ryu- "Yes, yes, that's right, after your parents' death. I'm terribly sorry about that."

-Asako- "…!" She throws her suitcase towards him. It misses him and smashes through a window.

-Ryu- "Asako-chan!"

-Asako- "NO ONE KNOWS ABOUT THAT!"

-Ryu- "…!"

-Asako- "I've never told anyone about my parents' death! And I definitely wouldn't tell a complete stranger like you!"

-Ryu- "…"

-Asako- "So who are you! And what do you know about my parents!"

-Ryu- "…I know a lot about you, Shiranui Asako."

-Asako- "What!"

-Ryu- "In fact, I know everything about you. Your grades have maintained an average of at least 95 since you were a child. You excel in sports, but your favorite is tennis."

-Asako- "Ah!" A terrified look falls over her face.

-Ryu- "Aside from school, your hobbies include watching dramas with your grandfather and karaoke with your friends. In fact, a music producer happened to be at the same bar as you and offered you a contract one time."

-Asako- "How…how do you know all that…?"

-Ryu- "Also…you've never felt as if you've belonged…have you?"

-Asako- "…!" Ryu waves his hand over the broken window, and it restores itself completely.

-Asako(thinking)- "What in the world! Was that…magic?"

-Ryu- "O, our merciful Mother. It's been 600 long years…"

-Asako- "….." She takes a step back.

-Asako- "St…stay away!" She starts running in the opposite direction.

-Ryu- "Wait! Mother!"

-Asako- "*pant pant pant pant*" As she continues running down the hallway, a green scroll appears in front of her, emanating black smoke.

-Asako- "*gasp*" The scroll unravels itself, revealing three green creatures wielding flutes.

-Asako(thinking)- "What…what is this!"

-Ryu- "They're demons!"

-Asako- "Huh!" She turns to face him.

-Ryu- "It's all right! They're weaklings! You can handle them!"

-Asako- "What the hell are you talking about!" One of the demons yells a battle cry and moves to strike her with its flute.

-Asako- "Tch!" She spins in place, lowering her body as she turns and dodging the flute.

-Asako(thinking)- "Okay, dodged…now pivot with right foot…" She does so.

-Asako(thinking)- "…and kick with the lift!" She charges her foot straight towards the demon, but the kick seems to fly straight through it.

-Asako- "What! But how…"

-Ryu- "You can't defeat it like that! You have to use your powers!"

-Asako- "I have no idea what you're talking about!"

-Ryu- "Mother, please, I-"

-Asako- "I'm not your mother, so stop calling me that!" Her eyes glow for a brief moment.

-Ryu- "Mot-"

-Asako- "STOP IT!" Her brown eyes briefly glow a powerful red.

-Ryu- "Look out!"

-Asako- "…!" She turns back to the demons, who have all charged for her, ready to jab with their flutes.

-Asako- "Ahh!" She clamps her eyes shut and instinctively raises her arms to block. *CLASH**CR-CRACK*

-Asako- "…Huh?" She opens her eyes and sees a large, circular shield surrounded by flames in front of her.

-Asako- "A… mirror?"

-Ryu- "Yes…"

-Asako(thinking)- "This…what is this feeling…?" She closes her eyes.

-Asako- "*sigh*"

-Asako(thinking)- "My body…fells so warm." She opens her eyes, which have turned a fierce red once more. Her hair starts to gray.

-Ryu- "This is it!" She slowly raises her hand, the mirror following with it.

-Asako- "Haaaaaaahhhh!" She swings her arms aside, slashing across the hall, cutting through the walls and slicing the demons in half. The demons howl in pain before evaporating into thin air.

-Asako- "*pant pant pant pant**inhale* AWWWWWWOOOOOOOOOO!" Her hair turns completely white.

And the howl resonates through all of Japan…

At the same school, the kendo club is practicing for a meet. The best member in the club is practicing diligently, but stops abruptly, taking off his mask and looking out the window.

Again at the same school, a boy leans against the fence on the roof, smoking a cigarette. He's been smoking for as long as he can remember, but he's never had any problems with it. He looks up at the sun, which has nearly set.

Once more at the same school, the swim team has just let out of practice. Their star swimmer wrings a towel around her neck as she leaves the locker room, wondering if she should "accidentally" and conveniently leave her bento box on the roof again. She decided against that, but she has the strangest feeling she should check out the roof, anyway.

Three young brothers are practicing in their own private music studio. They have their first big gig coming up over the weekend. In the middle of their song, they all stop almost simultaneously, trying to figure out what they just heard.

Two men are competing in an illegal underground racing track. The man in the sleek, black sports car is ahead, confident in yet another victory. But before he can cross the finish line, he slams down on the brakes and rolls down his window.

This man prides himself in having the best ramen cart in the district. His noodles are always in high demand. He's recently hired a young girl to work with him. She's an expert at making rice cakes at so early an age. But they've decided to close up shop early this time, and the man takes his cart and the girl out to the top of a hill for a private dinner.

The woman is thrown out of another bar yet again. She wears sunglasses and a scarf around her neck so no one will recognize her. She yells and swears at the bar entrance before stumbling against the wall. Drunk and gasping for air, she starts to relax and looks up to the sky.

She comes from a very privileged family. Tonight, her father is holding an extremely exclusive dinner for some clients. She can't stand it anymore and runs away into the city for the night. It is there that she bumps into a boy about her age, who also seems to be running from something. As they fall to the ground, the contents of his bag fall to the ground. But they both ignore the electronic equipment and stacks of money, looking only at each other and then, to the sky.

He has just finished another session at the gym. This man prides himself in his massive physique and immense strength. As a personal reward, he treats himself to his favorite treat, a shaved ice, and tonight is no different. Well, tonight is a little different. There's a full moon tonight.

-Asako- "Ah…" She slowly starts to fall to the ground, but Ryu catches her.

-Ryu- "She's not there yet, but…she's awakened." He smiles contently at Asako, who is sleeping soundly, her wolf ears flickering in dreams.

-Ryu(thinking)- "Our merciful Mother…Okami Amaterasu!"