It was a bright, sunny, hot day, what one could and most likely would call a great day. The summer sun beat down on everyone, and maybe most of the people were happy with the pleasant weather.
Not so much for Aria Planetes. The young, tomboyish girl was trying to hold back tears as she trudged back home. Despite not being like the average girl around age six, the boys playing soccer had refused to let her play, all because she was a girl, and they didn't want to have to hang around the girl.
Angry at the boys, she desperately wished to someone that rain, heavy and sudden, would fall and ruin this nice weather so the boys wouldn't be able to play. Maybe even get sick. It would have served them right.
At a section where two roads crossed, Aria reached up and pushed the button to alert the traffic lights that there was someone who wanted to get to the other side legally. Almost immediately, the red hand turned off, and the white humanoid figure lit up.
That was where Aria made her first mistake. Instead of looking both sides like her mother and her teacher had always told her to do, she simply began walking, eyes focused on the black asphalt and white paint. Her hair, shortly cut because she had gotten gum stuck in its strands some time ago, ruffled slightly in a small breeze that felt good against her sweaty skin.
Halfway across, Aria found her legs suddenly seizing up, and she froze, unable to move forward. In paralysis, she struggled and tried to call for help.
That might have been fine, but at that exact moment, a car filled with drug dealers on the run from two police cruisers were speeding down the quiet roads, heading right to her. To swerve could give the cops that extra edge they needed to arrest the criminals, and they'd done far worse than running down some kid who didn't have the sense to move when there was a speeding car coming their way.
Aria tried to scream, but she was paralyzed. The strange force was creeping up her legs, and try as she might, there was just no way she could even move a muscle. Her clear blue eyes widened in fear and horror, knowing even at that young age that this would be her end.
The voice was male, but it was as if it had been someone in her head speaking. Suddenly, her legs unfroze, and with strength and reflexes that should have been impossible for a six year old, the girl dove out of the way and rolled to safety.
The car belonging to the people who could have been her murderers shot by, followed by the two police cars with the blaring sirens and the bright, artificial lights on top of them.
They were far too busy to notice the girl crawling to the safe little island of concrete where the pole with the lights stood.
Aria gasped, holding her scraped left elbow with her right hand, and her left temple with her other hand. She hadn't escaped this without injuries, although if she hadn't been able to move, it might have been a lot worse.
She let go of the places that hurt, and looked at her hands. They were filthy, and fresh blood ran down them from her wounds.
Are you alright?
There was that voice again. Aria looked up, and saw a blond man kneeling down next to her, his ocean blue eyes filled with concern. His way of speaking was quite odd, because while she saw his lips move, there was no actual sound, and she could only hear his voice in her head. His clothes were nice, a crisp Catholic school uniform with grey slacks, white button-up shirt under a black sweater with an orange tie. He was really handsome, like the ones in the picture books her mother used to read to her back when she had liked princess stories with pretty dresses.
Those idiots, he muttered, hand reaching out to try and touch her, but not quite making contact. Not even watching where they're going… the worst kind, and they're the ones that stay behind most of the time.
She blinked, and reached out, trying to touch him. Something about him…
Her small, stubby fingers passed through him.
His eyes widened. Now, don't be scared! He warned her, almost panicking. I have a good explanation for this, I swear!
"Are you a ghost?" she asked, head tipped to the side.
He relaxed. Well, that simplifies things.
"What's your name?" she asked.
He bit his lip, brows furrowing above his blue eyes in consideration. I'll tell you, he said at last. If you promise not to look back until we get to your home.
Aria frowned. Why would she look back? It was just the way that she had come, and that she saw every day on the school bus. "Okay."
"You can speak!" she cried out in surprised delight. His last sentence had reached her brain through normal ways – meaning her ears.
"You can hear me normally now?" he was still kneeling in front of her.
She nodded, suddenly uncertain.
"Interesting," he grinned slowly. "How about this?" SeeWoo suggested at last. "We go to your home, and while you eat snacks, I tell you all about ghosts?"
Aria pondered this. That seemed like a good deal to her. A secret for something that she liked to do anyways. "Okay."
"Then lead the way, Miss Aria."
Smiling at her new friend, she did so, trotting off to her home.
Following, SeeWoo paused just a bit, turning to face the four corners. Before, if Aria had looked, it would have been an empty crossing, nothing of interest except perhaps the small shops on the street behind it.
If she had looked now with her just newly-gained sight, she'd have been horrified. At least fifty people, all shades of the dead, were floating a few inches above the ground in a sitting position, staring aimlessly up to the skies as if they were silently protesting to the god responsible for their inability to get to the proper afterlife.
Four corners. Best place to get into a car accident and get your soul bound on earth forever.
SeeWoo turned back to the front, and smiled down at the obliviously happy girl. She'd have to face it, sooner or later, but at the moment, her ignorance would be bliss.
"Oh, and Aria," he told her as they reached her house. At the front of her door, she took off her sneaker to grab her key. "Don't tell anyone about me, please."
"Why not?" she asked, beginning to unlock the entrance to her home.
"I'm a secret," he winked mischievously. "A fantastic secret, if I do say so myself. Keep me, and I'll be tons of fun."
Her mother had always told her to respect the privacy of others. Aria guessed that this was one of those times. And he had promised fun... "Okay," she agreed readily.
"That's my girl," he said, and with the door now open, both walked in. "Now, let me tell you all about ghosts…"
~Nine Years Later~
Down the streets, a few people, both living and mere shades of the once-living, strolled and floated down and up, each to their own businesses. Amongst them, a teenage girl hurried down the familiar road, struggling with her heavy backpack and the heat of her black sweater as it stuck to her in a sweaty, heavy mess. At least her pink skirt behaved. In the breeze that promised cooler times soon enough, her long hair, just passing her waist, waved and flew around, showing off to the world her pink-tinted locks of pale gold. She hadn't cut it since she was six, because her best friend had told her that she looked nice with her hair long.
Reaching her destination, a house clean and well kept, she reached into her pocket and grabbed her little cat stuffie key ring, and selecting her familiar house key, she let herself in.
"Mom!" Aria Planetes, antisocial girl in grade ten who saw ghosts and thought nothing of it took her shoes off. "Mom?"
"In here, honey!"
Throwing her schoolbag at the base of the stairs, Aria trudged into the kitchen, where her pink haired mother stood at the stove, just taking out a batch of freshly baked cookies. The scent of vanilla and melting chocolate chips filled the air.
"Welcome back," her mom grinned at her. "You're home… and didn't bring a friend. As usual."
"Mo-om!" Rolling her eyes playfully, Aria grabbed a cookie delicately with her fingers, not caring whether they were hot or not, and held it in a strange angle, like she was holding it out for inspection. Iroha Planetes assumed it was to cool the cookie. "I'm selective about friends!"
"Well, tell them that they're more than welcome to come to our house to play."
"'Play'," Aria rolled her eyes again, this time more in exasperation than anything. "Because that's a word high school kids love to use."
"I've heard them use it at parties," her ghost friend informed her, pausing his sniffing of the cookie to share new information with her. "Of course, they say it in a voice they believe to be seductive, and then they lead the fellow play-er to a bedroom, but it's still loved."
Aria bit back a laugh, and instead bit into her cookie, much to SeeWoo's chagrin. "I was eating the scent!" he protested.
Her mother, of course, heard nothing of it. "Take a plate, you crazy girl," she mock-scolded, handing her the stack with the smell still strong on them. SeeWoo grinned, and Aria took the plate.
"Thanks, mom!" she ran out of the kitchen, and SeeWoo, deprived of the scent of cookies, ran after the girl.
~In her Bedroom~
Aria leaned back into her chair, away from the dreadful piece of paper that held her homework. "All done!"
"Your homework, or the cookies?" SeeWoo was still staring at the once-full plate mournfully, as if the sad gaze of the dead could replenish homemade baked goods.
"Both, of course."
SeeWoo, sitting on her bed, watched as his bonded shaman reach for her laptop.
After the near-death experience where Aria had been possessed by SeeWoo temporarily, they'd found that she was given the sight from the event, something that allowed her to see and speak to the remnant shades of the dead. For a young girl, that would have been disconcerting, and would have led to her being locked up in some mental asylum with shock treatments to cure her of something that only deafening and blinding her would have done. Luckily, SeeWoo had stuck around to teach her how to act normal and pass as sane, as well as how to use her powers.
People with the sight were rare, but not that rare. It was just that ghosts blended into the rest of humanity rather well, having once been humans themselves, and were often thought to be normal people. Most of the time, anyways. Aria had once seen a ghost cat.
But people that were shamans? Honest-to-goodness, actual shamans with power? That was much more rare, a one in a thousand. Some people with the sight could have similar traces, but the full powers of a shaman were randomly distributed.
As a shaman, Aria often went around freeing trapped souls from being bound to their earthly prison, urging them to go on to the beyond, their own Afterlife. Already, she had freed about a hundred souls or so, and that was in person. On the web, if people followed her advice, she had probably sent three or four hundred souls into the Afterlife.
Her computer connected to the Internet, Aria clicked on her favorites, and scrolled down through songs and articles about historical figures and chemicals until she was at the familiar blog.
The screen changed from her home page to her blog. Or rather, the blog of the psychic exorcist 'IA'.
Logging into her admin account, Aria deleted several spam mails, and some from angry readers accusing her of being a witch, and then ran the rest through the virus detector. Coming up clean, she picked one begging for help that had been marked as 'Level One' by the online psychic community.
Dear Lady IA, it read.
"Lady IA," Aria murmured, grinning. "Fancy. I like it."
"Focus," her ghost reminded her. "Your client awaits."
I find myself haunted by a peculiar sobbing sound every night. At first, I thought it was just my twin sister, but when I asked her, she told me, swearing on everything she had, that it hadn't really been her. And my sister is someone that doesn't lie to me. So then, I asked my parents, but they said that they never heard anything like that, either.
One of my friends says that she has the sight, and she told me that I had a ghost. What do I do?
Aria turned in her swivel chair to face SeeWoo, who had already read ahead with his super-fast reading skills. "What do you think?"
"Sight, ghost, sobbing…" he shrugged. "It's real, if he's describing them accurately."
She didn't ask what to do. This was still a part of her training, to see if she could name a solution that would work best. "Incense, or a cup of holy water in the kitchen, because that's where the spirit of family is strongest," she listed, pulling up her memories. "If the room where the sobbing can be heard, some sort of food should be put there, as well as a pair of slippers so they'll 'eat' and leave on their journey to the Afterlife."
SeeWoo nodded, approval clear on his face. "And then, if that doesn't work…" he prompted.
"Call an exorcist or a shaman."
He nodded to the glowing screen. "Your haunted customer awaits."
"Customer, my foot," Aria grumbled, her fingers flying over the keyboard as she quickly typed in the words. "I do this for free."
"And your teacher lists them so that you'll get your volunteer hours," SeeWoo reminded her. Not that she needed it, but… "It'll eventually come in handy."
Ms. Stockley, who told Aria to call her Miriam after school times. The pale haired woman, on the first day of school back in grade eight, had looked up when she and SeeWoo had walked in, and had seen the ghost boy. Aria hadn't known the English teacher could see SeeWoo until she had called them to her after class to ask about him quietly.
Aria remembered being more shocked than she had ever been in her entire life. Even SeeWoo had been surprised, something he later admitted under intense questioning from her.
Miriam had smiled faintly, and promised to keep it a secret. From then on, they'd become friends of a sort, although to others it would have been seen as a mentor and a pupil. Some people even thought they were related.
After half a year, when she mentioned her blog to the young teacher. Miriam had suggested that she register herself under some kind of organization so that she'd be able to get volunteer hours from helping people. She'd be able to remain anonymous, which had been a relief to Aria and SeeWoo. They didn't want people asking what their little ghosty was thinking of.
"Send," she muttered, her solution being sent to the poor guy. And, about ten minutes of community service added themselves to her psychic volunteer tracking community account that she had managed to sync with her blog. It had taken a few secret payments, and some kind of hacking that SeeWoo had done for her, but now, whenever she sent replies, about ten minutes would be added on each. Sometimes, even an hour or two, depending on the problem. Mostly, the Level One problems just gave her ten minutes for effort and electricity spent on reading the problem. She would get more time if she solved the higher levelled ones, but she only did them to learn. Aria would have preferred not having a ridiculous amount of time, like a thousand hours. Already, she was at a hundred and she was beginning grade ten.
The other e-mails just proved to be some kind of things that SeeWoo guessed to be animals living in the rafters, or mischievous siblings playing tricks. So, today, she'd managed to get ten minutes added on. Yay.
"And now you can read about cases of haunting in modern day sites," he suggested, pointing to the book she had borrowed from the school library.
"Oh, no, Aria," she lowered her voice, a bad imitation of SeeWoo's polite, polished voice. "You most certainly may not take a nap, because you being tired doesn't affect your learning at all."
"Fine," SeeWoo allowed. "Take a nap. I'll wake you up in an hour."
"You do that," she agreed, rolling off her socks and crawling under her blanket. Her head hit the pillow, and within moments she was asleep.
Twenty minutes later, her mom came to check on her, but quietened when she saw her daughter asleep. If she had had the sight, she might have been outraged at the blond, handsome boy watching Aria sleep, but oblivious, she only rearranged the blankets covering her and left to make supper.
For solitaryloner's supernatural contest, because I feel that all of my other ideas are just too centered around romance.
The idea for this came when I listened to the IA song, A Tale of Six Trillion Years and a Night, as well as the covers by Ikasan, Vivienne, and Soraru. Best covers ever. Don't ask how this came from that song, because I don't know.
The way things work here... most of those are based on things I remember reading and hearing about in Korean myths and others. So, don't quote me on this. I own nothing.