He woke up on the base of a long staircase.

He sat up, rubbing the tiredness from his eyes. His back rather hurt from sleeping on rock. He gave out a yawn, and scratched his tousled head. He stood up and stretched, enjoying the silence that makes nature so paradoxical. Despite a backdrop of birds singing, of the autumn wind blowing, it was a more comfortable silence than the dead silence he has experienced for a while now.

He looked around. He didn't recognize where he was. He kind of figured, since he would not normally sleep outside on the sidewalk. But…

This wasn't a sidewalk. This was a very archaic but well-maintained stone road that led to what seems to be the most daunting set of stairs he has ever seen in his short life.

He blinked at the sight. It WAS rather weird. He pinched his arm and grimaced, feeling the stinging pain.

He looked behind him, and saw the path lead out to a far distance, hugged between two sections of forest.

What a start to a day.

Perhaps he was dreaming?

He really had no choice, did he. He began climbing the stairs. His lazy body, unused to such a workout, frequently had to stop to rest. At least the day was great and windy. He couldn't imagine doing this during the merciless heat of the summer.

He trudged on, his legs dying on him. Figuratively. He forced his meager will on them to keep going, wanting to see the big prize on the top. After all, this long staircase wouldn't exist without a reason, right? It led to somewhere. Probably interesting, or at least different.

More importantly, he didn't think the wildlife decided to take up engineering and build pointlessly long staircases as a monument to the natural order of life. Hakuna matata and all that.

He could see the end. It was a heartening sight. He lifelessly trudged on, and finally reached the top, where he collapsed on the ground gracelessly. He took a beat or two to gather his bearings.

He rolled to his back, and looked up, his head aching as hot blood coursed his fatigued body. He saw a crimson arch. No, it was a tori gate, wasn't it. Heh. Who said anime couldn't teach you anything.

He was in Japan then?

…..Well, he guessed that clears things up.

As he made a silent realization and resolution, he sat up. He looked down, into the base of the long, long staircase that made 15 minutes of his life utter hell. Or somewhat hell. Maybe.

He was tired honestly. He wanted to sleep, and the weather was nice enough to let him by with just his back on the tori gate.

…Nah. He'll check the area first. Let's not be weak now, he made it this far after all.

He looked around the area again, this time from the top. So much forest. And yep, that's a shrine all right.

Very red, it almost hurt his eyes. He was in holy ground was he. Was it technically desecration if he decided to just lie down and sleep there?

Nah. No religion could be that absurdly uptight.

He walked towards the shrine. He felt like himself again. See, he wasn't that weak. It WAS only a 15 minute exercise after all.

He stood before a rather inelegant, though well-cared for box. The donation box, presumably.


He searched his pockets, and found his wallet. Ah, he had his wallet with him this whole time. He didn't really know why that thought amused him.

He looked through the pockets. Yep, that's yen alright. He WAS in Japan.

Well, when in Japan and all that.

He rolled up the bills and dropped them in. It made a soft thud on bottom of the box. Huh. He could hear that? Must have been empty. He couldn't help but feel sorry now for the now identified empty donation box. The metaphor this spoke of in regards to the condition of this shrine.

He was half-assedly wondering what to pray for as he donated. Guess he knew now.

He clapped his hand three times, then bowed as he prayed, closing his eyes.

He prayed that good fortune shall fall on this shrine for a long time.


Boom. Thud. Thunk. Gah.

He woke up again. This was mildly annoying.

He twitched his body. It listened. Good, he wasn't paralyzed. But damn did he hurt.

Would a paralyzed person still feel pain? Probably, he thought faintingly.

Damn. He hurt. Really hurt. He cannot emphasize that enough. And he had a splitting headache as well.

Considering the white-hot pain that radiated from his noggin, he's not sure that was really a metaphor. Did he fall on his head? What on Earth crashed into him?

High-pitched. Must have been female.

He struggled to remember. Then he realized a contradiction in his thinking and sighed.

If what he remembered was correct, the path of the collision between his poor back that drove his body from a straight stand to nearly flat on his face came from the sky and diagonally down onto him.

That made no sense. The person would have fallen from the sky then. He didn't see anyone, and last he heard, no human could fly.

Could have been a parrot that crashed into him. No, that's silly. Parrots don't talk like girls. Or weighed that heavi- Huh, that would be weird to say in front of a girl. Better not do that and God damn he hurt.

Was he blind? Oh wait, there's some wet fabric on his cheeks. Must be a wet towel. Does he have a fever? He does feel hot right then.

He shakily brought a hand to the towel and tried to lift it off. Pleased that he wasn't so damaged that he couldn't manage that, he slowly opened his eyes. Damn headache made him wince. A door opens.

"Dammit Marisa, of all the stupid- Oh? You're awake." A melodious pitch. A girl then. Huh, she could be a singe-

He opened his eyes, and found two others staring back into his.

He will never forget that face for the rest of his life.