Chapter 1: The Bookworm

Retsujo was late for class. Again. As she rounded the final corner, she ran right into her teacher. "Ah! Shinbou-sensei! I'm so sorry! I was…"

"In the library. Reading. It's where you always are. Mark my words young lady, one day your obsession with books will get you into trouble."

The young high schooler hung her head to hide her blush and scuttled into the room. Surprisingly none of the other students were laughing. Though that was less because they liked Retsujo and more because she was late almost every day. After awhile it just ceased to be funny.

Kamoku smiled as her friend sat down next to her. "What were you reading today?"

Retsujo grinned. "Ivanhoe. Ah, how I wish I were alive during those times. To be able to go out and fight evil, save people and be a hero. And do you know what the best part of that time was?"

Kamoku shook her head.

"No school."

"But you're so good at it Retsujo!"

"That's only because I like to read, and I'll read anything, even textbooks. Though fantasy will always be my favourite."

"But that's good! You can get into any university you want with your grades."

"And do what? I still can't even decide what I want to do!"

Kamoku smiled. "You'll find something. I know you will."

Retsujo shook her head and turned to pay attention to what Shinbou-sensei was writing on the board. Kamoku was always so optimistic.

As the lesson progressed, Retsujo kept glancing at her shy blond friend. Actually Kamoku was her only friend. The rest of the school thought she was crazy. Only Kamoku had started to talk with her and stayed with her. Retsujo repaid this kindness by doing everything in her power to help her friend with math, which poor Kamoku could never understand.

As always during class, Kamoku was industriously writing down notes. And as always, Kamoku's dedication caused Retsujo to feel guilty thus making her copy down notes as well.

Class stretched on and on, at least from Retsujo's outlook it did. The girl considered school just another obstacle between her and reading. The only good part about school was that it had a library within it.

Finally school was over and Retsujo was free to return to the library. Kamoku had to go do shopping for her mother so she didn't accompany her there that day. Not that it made any difference. Once Retsujo started reading, the rest of the world disappeared.

Having finished Ivanhoe, Retsujo began prowling the stacks looking for a new book. It took her half-an-hour to find one. As she pulled the silver-bound book off its shelf she was rather amazed that she'd missed so flashy a book. Across the top in ornate black letters read the title, 'A Book for Heroes'. Underneath the words was a crossed sword and wand. Smiling triumphantly, Retsujo sat down in one of the chairs to read the back of the book.

Instead of giving information on what the book was about there was a poem written there. Or maybe it was a warning. It said:

If you be courageous

And if you be strong

If you be quick of wit

And know right from wrong

Then open this book

And forge a new destiny

One that may take you

Far from your family

Friends and adventure

You will find

Betwixt my

Silver bound spines

Open me if you dare

And find yourself there!

Retsujo frowned. What kind of book was this? Only one way to find out, she thought to herself before opening the book. Looking at the first page she found it blank, she flipped through the entire book and found that all the pages were blank. What kind of person writes a blank book? Retsujo wondered. She shut the book and looked at the cover. At the bottom it listed You as the author.

You? What kind of author is that? Instead of one of those choose your own adventure is this a write your own adventure book? Whatever, Retsujo thought, I don't care. I'll just go pick a different book.

The girl went to stand but found she was already standing. In the middle of a clearing. In a forest. Retsujo whirled around but only saw trees in every direction. What is going on? Retsujo wondered. "This must be a dream." She said aloud.

It would be bad to waste this dream just standing here. I suppose I ought to walk around until something happens. Retsujo decided choosing a direction at random and heading off. However, she soon discovered how annoying skirts can be when trying to walk through a forest. Twigs snagged at her skirt and socks, scratched her legs and roots tripped her. Retsujo swiftly decided to never ever go camping.

Her lucky break came when she stumbled onto a game trail. Knowing that only pain and slow going would find her if she left the path, and having no real destination, Retsujo began following the trail.

The winding track eventually led her to a lake and the first person she'd seen since she'd opened the book she still carried.

"Hey you there. Girl. Help me down from here will you?" A male voice called out. Retsujo whirled around trying to locate the owner of the voice.

"Up here."

Retsujo looked up and couldn't help but laugh. Suspended above the ground was a net and in the net was a man. "Oh yes it's very funny. Ha Ha. If you're done laughing now, I'd appreciate it if you'd get me down."

The girl grinned and walked over to the captive. "How do I get you down?" she asked.

"See the rope attached to the tree in front of you? Untie it, but make sure you let it drop slowly. I don't want to crash to the ground."

Retsujo complied and with muscles straining, slowly lowered the man to the ground. "Geez, you're heavy." She complained.

The man snorted as he untangled himself. Now Retsujo noticed something odd about him. He had dark blue hair! "Well I'm sorry." He said sarcastically. He glanced over at her and raised an eyebrow. "You're walking through a forest in a skirt? You must be crazy."

"Well it's not like I had much choice in the matter. I was at school when I opened this stupid book and this happens to be my school uniform." Retsujo replied hotly, brandishing the book.

"No need to get testy. That book must have some kind of spell on it to transport you. How far away is your school?"

Retsujo deflated like a popped balloon. "I don't know. I don't even know where I am."

"Well that's easy enough. You're in Miserareru Forest. So where's your school?"

"Kakyou. It's a big city."

"Kakyou? Never heard of it. That must have been one hell of a transport spell. I know all the major towns in Ikyou."

"Ikyou? I've never even heard of a place called Ikyou!"

"Really? But we're the biggest country on the continent! Everyone knows Ikyou."

"Continent? What continent? There's no country called Ikyou in the world I know!"

"The Mahouteki continent."

"What?!?!?! This is impossible. It's not happening! It's a dream. Just a dream." Retsujo cried.

"Hey! I'm no dream! I'm real. Ikyou is real. You're the one who's dreaming about this Kakyou place or you're just plain crazy."

"I'm not crazy! One minute I'm at school opening a book, next thing I know I'm somewhere else completely."

"Well where are you from then?"

"Earth! Our continents are Asia, Africa, Australia, Antarctica, Europe, North America and South America. That's it! No Mahouteki."

"Well I've never heard of any of the places you just mentioned so you must be far from home indeed. I do owe you one for getting me out of that net so I suppose I'll take you with me. What's your name there, stranger girl?"

"I'm Retsujo. Retsujo Ishiteki."

"Well I'm Hiniku Chuukin. Well come one then. We want to be well away from here when the Kigai come to check their nets."

"What are the Kigai?" Retsujo asked, not at all liking the way the blue-haired man said the word.

Hiniku looked at her, confused. "You've never heard of the Kigai?"

"I'm not from anywhere even remotely near this place, so no, I don't know about the Kigai." The girl replied scathingly, out of patience with the whole world.

"Whoa. No need to snap. The Kigai are rather nasty little creatures. About knee high, dark brown, live in caves, don't like light much. They set out traps to catch prey and then check them after dark. They'll eat anything and are vicious. Not much problem singly but they travel in packs so things can get dangerous in their territory. Now move!"

Retsujo followed Hiniku's lead around the lake and down the game trail that started on the other side. "Where are we going?" the girl asked after awhile.

"To Anchaku. It's where I was heading before I got careless and didn't check for traps. I'll see if I can't find someone who's heard of the place you're from. I'm sure some scholar or another has heard of it."

"Really? Thank you so much!" Retsujo replied with feeling. She had begun to feel like she'd never see home again.

Hiniku turned read and muttered a disclaimer, causing Retsujo to grin. Obviously Hiniku wasn't used to girls. Maybe I'll have fun with him, Retsujo thought as she followed him towards Anchaku.