Chapter 1: Yuushuu (Perfection)

A young girl walks the warm sidewalk on nimble leather sandals, tapping the heated cement with every gay step. Her arms to her side, clutching the backpack straps dropping over her sturdy shoulders. Her green school uniform skirt bound with her, as she happily hummed herself a catchy tune, repeating the lyrics in her head. As the other citizens walked by, she would nod or politely wave with a chipper grin on her face, like the world was bending her way. She breathed in the breeze in perfect harmony, heart beating in perfect intervals as she trotted down the tree-lined path, the busy road to her right, with busy people with busy faces, unlike hers. No, the world was, for at least the time being, perfect for her.

"Hey, cutie!" Yelled a grim child of a boy sitting on a nearby bench, next to the lighted intersection she was about to cross. She momentarily stopped humming, blinked a few times and turned her head towards the sound, tossing her brunette tresses over her face, quickly pushing it behind her delicate ear with her middle finger. She stared blankly at the boy seemingly etched with black, looming in what seemed an unwelcoming position. His face was smeared with a sickening grin that captured unpleasant thoughts within the dark corners.

"Sir?" Was all the girl answered, her church bell voice baffled, once again pushing her hair out of her face. The boys face pulled back to what seemed like an even more gruesome face.

"Don't you remember me?" He called. The girl turned her body towards him and gently cocked her head to the side, seemingly examining him.

"I'm sorry...I don't recall...." She said, tapping her mouth with thought.

"How about you come around to my place tonight, we're throwing a party, I'm sure we can get reacquainted there, eh?" The boy smirked, shifting in his belt covered black clothes. The girl closed her eyes and scratched her head.

"I'm real sorry, but I really need to get back home now...I wish I could of remembered you, but my mother says I'm not allowed to go to parties yet." She said, bowing before him in regret. The boy had a confused, and almost shocked face.

"Your mom? Aren't you that orphan, though?" The boy said, rudely and blatantly. The girl stopped, not raising from her bow, blushing deeply. She covered her face with both hands as she slowly lifted her body.

"Are you lying to me? Hey! Are you listening?" He tried to catch her attention, but she stood stiffened.

"I must go now...my mother doesn't want me to be late..." She said, quickly fleeing the scene. The boy made no attempt but quickly lifting his arm out to stop her, when he found it a lost cause.

The girl ran, slowed by the books in her backpack, until she flew past multiple streets and the sights she loved seeing everyday where a blur in her tears. She ran and ran until she made a sharp turn into a local forest, pushing limbs and leaves out of her soaked eyes as she dashed forward. How did he know?

To the adult world, Chiyo was a bright, athletic, and beautiful young woman who came to school everyday and had loving parents. The brutal reality was that she had no parents, except for herself. She was her mother and father, she signed the notes and the permission slips and made her lunch and cooked her meals. She had lived fine in secrecy, but she knew she couldn't keep such a big secret hidden for her whole life. She wanted a mother and father, but she didn't want to be chosen, she wanted to choose. If she would have a perfect father or brother or sister or mother, she wanted to choose for herself.

Chiyo, wiping away her tears, took out some instant food that she buys from her work money. Her work being a young actress for a local arts center, where she basically lived. Somehow they paid her to be role in big plays, because she easily lived every part and was always the main attraction, even if not the main character. She often just had breakfast, lunch at school, and dinner when she came back, and it was never a big meal.

Her home was an abandoned bunch of stone walls and a sleeping bag in the middle of a forest. The only thing that ever would find her were stray dogs. It was comfy, but she was the most popular girl in school, with many boys swooning over her calm and sensitive attitude and beautiful looks. She was never loud or mean, almost constantly goody-goody, but no one seemed to mind. A lot of people knew she was alone, but they would never tell. They knew that if they did then she would be taken away. She was content.

After her dinner and homework, she snuggled into her sleeping bag and studied hard, she couldn't bare the idea of failing anything. After a long night of studies and notes, Chiyo yawned deeply and put her books aside. She cuddled further into the red bag and fell fast asleep.

When she awoke, always at the same time, a few hours before school starts, she stretched and made quick breakfast. As she sucked up the delicious noodles, she combed her hair and put on her school uniform. Inspecting herself in a pool of water, Chiyo brushed her hair with her hands a few times and then began to walk through the forest. As she quietly meandered towards the beaten path that led to the street, she heard early joggers that would make her nice company for the morning. She cleared the last branches and saw the young man, about in his early twenties, running briskly with his cold breath floating from his mouth in the cool morning air. As he drew closer, Chiyo put on a cute smile and raised her right hand high in the sky.

"Hello!" She called, joyfully. The man slowed to a stop in front of Chiyo, grabbing his knees and breathing deeply from his obviously long walk. Chiyo could tell a lot about the forest and the people in it, and this man was a person who ran every morning that he could spare. She liked him already. Of course, she easily liked people.

The man slowly raised from his position and gasped a mouthful of air and let out one last big exhale as he put on a debonair grin.

"Why, hello." He smiled. Chiyo's smile broadened. The man smoothed back his bright blonde hair, then let it fall to his ears again.

"Why do you jog so early, sir?" Chiyo asked, coming up with easy conversation.

"Same reason you get up hours before school, I guess. The smell of nature! The bittersweet smell of sap, flowers, trees, and animals...feels good to be alive."

"The one time to be alone and free of pointing fingers?" Chiyo added.

"You look smart, but you still have a lot to learn...you're never alone in nature. Listen..." The tall man bent to Chiyo's height and put his hand to his ear, motioning to do the same. She did, and the sounds of buzzing bugs and awoken birds resonated through them. The sound of rushing water past round glimmering rocks glided through hearing distance.

"Yes...the river is my brother." Chiyo said. The man looked at her. She smiled.

"The sun is my mother, the air is my father...the trees are my sisters..." Chiyo trailed off. There was a quick passing silence, when the man raised himself again.

"My name is Kasei. What is yours, nature-born?" He asked.

"Chiyo." She said quietly.

Over a month in time Kasei would meet Chiyo every morning, same time, same spot. They would exchange idle conversation, enjoying each other's company. School was normal, nothing brought up her parent situation...until May. The sun was gleaming and the forest provided perfect shade. Chiyo proposed a picnic with her beloved Kasei later that evening, but something dreadful happened.

"Chiyo?" A teacher asked. Chiyo's head bobbed up from the book she was reading.

"Yes, ma'am?" She answered, the other children goofing off behind her.

"Chiyo, if you don't mind, I'd like to see you after class..." The teacher said. The boys behind her made intimidating noises, signifying that she was in trouble and was being mocked. Chiyo was able to ignore them, until the class was over and she took a big swallow of breath. She walked quietly to the teacher's desk and everyone else had left.

"Chiyo, it seems that your parents have not attended any school activities or confrences since you were ten." The teacher said, eyeing her above her glasses.

"My mother is very busy." Chiyo said.

"And your father?"

"He comes and goes." Chiyo ended. The teacher sighed deeply.

"Well Chiyo, you never put a phone number on anything! I can't ever talk to them either?"

"We don't believe in phones or electricity." Chiyo said without fumble. The teacher moaned.

"Well, I am telling you right now that if they don't come to the school once this year, we are going to have to suspect something...anything, Chiyo, you understand?" The teacher said. Chiyo nodded.

"Thank you, Ms. Mackee, I'll ask them if they are free this week." Chiyo solemnly said. The teacher let out a huge sigh and smiled.

"Don't worry yourself, Chiyo. You are my best student, I only want to meet your deserving parent and brag about you!" The teacher happily said. This did not cheer Chiyo up one bit. She bowed, and stumbled past the chairs to the door.

Outside the door she again went into a mad blush, she had no idea what to do...there was no way out, she was cornered and couldn't get away.

"I need a parent..." She repeated to herself. She decide that she would have to pick a parent...any one would do at this moment, as long as there were no long papers and lawyers stalking them. As she held her dizzy head, a boy stopped before her.

"Hey, what's wrong?" The deep voice said. Chiyo opened her eyes and saw the boy etched with black in front of her.

"You!" She said, suprising herself and the boy, "hello......" She tried to finish, embarassed.

"Are you feeling okay?" He asked again. Chiyo blushed a bit and stood straight, trying to put on a smile.

"Yes, I'm fine, I was just a bit dizzy, that's all...thank you." Chiyo said, trying to forget her position. The boy put his hand on her shoulder and She looked up into his solid face.

"If you need anything, ask me. You don't look too well, maybe you should go to the nurse."

"No, really, I'm fine. I'm going home after next bell anyway, so I'm okay." Saying 'home' made Chiyo's insides hurt, she knew that the boy knew her secret and she didn't want him spelling it out again.

"I'm Genichi...don't make fun of my name." he said, lifting his hand off of her shoulder to propose a handshake. Chiyo looked questioningly at the presented hand and slowly outstretched hers.

"I am still unsure...if I can trust you..." Chiyo whispered, hoping not to sound too impolite.

"Everyone says that..." Genichi smirked. "Now...mind explaining exsactly what's wrong? Is it about...ya know...?" Chiyo blushed a bit, she must of really embarassed herself in front of him last encounter.

"Well...y-yes...in a way, that is." Chiyo murmered. Suddenly, the warning bell to get to your classes struck through her eyes, snapping her back to reality. She looked back at Genichi, who cursed under his breath at the bell. He slowly turned his head back to the timid Chiyo and smiled, winking.

"Listen to my advice when I say it: When ya don't know what to do, you have to rely on the people you trust the most, okay?" He then slowly walked off down the long hall decorated with tall lockers and wooden doors. Chiyo looked around confused. People she trusted the most? Should she take it seriously? She had to take this chance and do whatever she could to stay in school.

After the nervous tension in her last class, Chiyo ran all the way back to the forest again, feeling as if tears were about to form in her eyes but were held back by something inside her...hope, determination...luck, even. She stood in front of the entrance to the forest where she could hide away and cry here eyes out, hoping the problem would dissappear only to know it would not. But...then she saw her second path, opened by Genichi. It was the park to the side of the tall looming trees that usually protected and shielded her but now only seemed forboding and disgraceful. Wlaking into the forest now was giving up perminatly and there was no chance to turn back. Then again, if she went to the park where Kasei waited for her to share lunch with him...then...then...

It was all so much clearer to her then. She looked out at the park. Going there was basically declaring her right to freedom. She would have to ask Kasei the question...if he'll be her parent.