Chapter 1: Books

Kaoru wiped a hand across her sweaty brow and took up her stance. Her fiercest enemies to date faced her. Unconsciously, her hands gripped her weapon tighter as she prepared. She watched as one of the other combatants got ready and hurled a small white missile at her. With a resounding crack her weapon sent the missile flying through the air and she took off running, dodging those who sought to stop her and urging her companions on ahead of her. Fear gave her added speed as she saw one of them rush towards her, the missile clutched tightly in her hand. With her last bit of strength, Kaoru hurled herself home, moments before she was struck.

As the dust settled, she heard the umpire cry. "Safe!" Kaoru leapt to her feet and grinned. She'd gotten a home run! The rest of her team cheered and slapped her on the back as she made her way to the benches, glad to be able to sit.

The inning finished quickly and soon Kaoru was out in left-field, watching for the elusive ball. Every time a new batter came up she readjusted her stance so she was relaxed and ready to run. Their turn to bat came back up before Kaoru once saw the ball. Another swing and this time she hit a grounder, forcing her to run flat out to reach first base. This time when she was out in left-field she had to scramble after a ball and hurl it towards second. The batter stayed at first but Kaoru felt good about at least stopping her from getting home.

It didn't take that much longer for the game to finish and Kaoru and her team won by four points. Jubilant, they made their way, laughing and singing, back to the school to get changed. Once inside the change-room, the gossiping started.

"Oh my god did you see Mamoru in the front row? He was watching me again. I hope he asks me out." Akiko told everyone excitedly.

"He must like you; he was the only boy in the stands besides Hikaru."

"So when are you and Hikaru going to start dating?" Sakura asked Kaoru.

"For the last time, we're just friends. We've known each other since we were little, that's why we're so close. We're not going to start dating!"

"Then can I have him?" Itsumi asked.

"Go ahead and ask him if you want. I don't care."

"Be careful you don't upset Kaoru. You don't want her to tattle on you to Hikaru!" Sakura teased wickedly.

Kaoru rolled her eyes. "Hikaru does what he wants. And I'm certainly not going to go 'tattle' on you to him. He'd probably just laugh anyway."

"He does have a rather warped sense of humour, doesn't he?" Itsumi thought aloud.

"And you guys only see his good side. I've seen him when he's not in a good mood."

"Should we be afraid?"

"You should run for the hills." Kaoru said half-jokingly. Hikaru could be pretty scary when he was angry.

"I heard he lives with his grandmother cause his mom's nuts." Etsu piped up.

"She's not nuts. Her job just keeps her busy so Kunikida-san takes care of him."

Kaoru was finished changing so she packed up her stuff and waved good-bye. The girls quickly changed their topic of gossip from Hikaru to Mamoru.

"Good game. Your home-run was quite the spectacle." A light male voice said from the shadows beside the doorway.

The girl grinned. "I'm so glad we won! They were really tough. You ready to leave?"

Hikaru stepped out of the shadows that had hid him so well. "Sure. Momiji's at the library again. I think she's found another book."

Kaoru groaned. "Not another one! Doesn't she ever give up?"

"Apparently not. So where are we heading first?"

"Pet Palace. I heard they just got some new puppies." Kaoru said excitedly.

"A dog? Your parents are going to have a fit."

"Well I have it in writing so they can't go denying it. They said I could pick out any kind of pet I want and I if I want a dog then I'll get a dog."

Hikaru laughed and reached over to ruffle Kaoru's hair. "Lead on!" He cried.

In the end, they look in the Pet Palace, the Animal Shelter, Pete's Pets and the Pet Emporium and had absolutely no luck. None of the some hundred cats, dogs and birds Kaoru had seen had sparked her interest.

"They're just so boring and ordinary. I want a really cool pet." She whined to Hikaru.

The boy shrugged. "There's always tomorrow."

"Not if Momiji's at the library."

The next day Kaoru woke up late and as a result was forced to run about the house getting ready for school. Her mom was completely unsympathetic and tried to lecture her as Kaoru bolted her breakfast and ran outside.

She only just managed to get outside in time to meet Hikaru. They walked together every morning from the time they'd been in kindergarten because they lived next door to one another.

"How was your grandmother last night?"

"The same. As soon as I was finished my homework she had me working. I did actually get some sleep last night, though."

"I still don't see why you won't try out for sports. You'd be the best on any team in no time."

"Unlike you I don't feel the need to compete with other people to prove I'm the strongest. Besides I hate physical activity."

Kaoru snorted. "If it wasn't for your grandmother you'd be fat."

Hikaru shrugged. "I like good food. There's nothing wrong with it."

"You're the only person I know who considers two cheeseburgers with everything on them a 'snack'." Kaoru teased.

"And you're the only person I know who will forgets where she parks her bike." Hikaru retorted.

She flushed. "That only happened once."
"Only once that you're willing to admit to. I'm sure you've done it other times and just won't tell me."

"You had better not be spying on me again or I'll do more then just trap your locker!"

Their bickering was halted as they arrived at school. They split up, heading to their respective lockers and then to their homerooms. Kaoru spent most of first period staring off into space rather then listening to her teacher's incessant droning. Second period was better. Hikaru was there and they spent the class playing war on paper.

War is an easy game to play. All you need is two people paper and drawing supplies. You each take turns drawing things to defeat you opponent which they must then counter. Say Player 1 draws a nuke. Player 2 counters with a nuke-eating chicken. Easy, ne?

Lunch followed second and the two of them saw Momiji for the first time that day. She came running up, auburn hair flying with a grin on her face. "I found a new book. This one has a spell I'm sure will work. But I need your help." She said as she sat down.

The two friends exchanged a glance. "Of course," Kaoru replied to the unspoken question. "What are friends for?"

"Then we'll have a club meeting after school!" She said. Momiji was the president of the Occult club had been started by her due to her obsession with the supernatural. It currently had three members. Kaoru, Hikaru and Momiji.

"We've got Math next." Hikaru reminded them. "And the bell's going to ring soon." This prompted the other two to start shovelling their food into their mouths. Kaoru noticed Hikaru wasn't eating.

"What'd you do this time?" She asked, knowing depriving Hikaru of his lunch was his grandmother's favourite punishment.

"I called her a dried up old hag after she made me do the same thing four times, because, and this is a direct quote, 'I wasn't using my whole self.' I did the exercises exactly like she told me to too."

Kaoru sighed. "You need to watch your mouth. One day she's going to stop threatening and actually cut your tongue out. Then what will you do?"

"Write messages or use sign language. Either way will work." Hikaru replied with a grin.

Momiji shook her head. "You guys always joke about the weirdest things."

Hikaru and Kaoru exchanged a look. Momiji didn't know a lot about Hikaru's family and that's the way he wanted it. She was a great friend and he trusted her, but his family would probably just confuse her.

Before either of them could change the subject, the bell rang and the point became moot. All three of them trooped into Math and sat in their customary seats in the back row. This subject, unlike Kaoru and Hikaru's first two classes, required them to pay strict attention and take lots of notes, so they kept the horseplay down to the occasional passed note and whispered comment.

After Math, Hikaru and Kaoru had English and Momiji had French. They waved goodbye to Momiji before sliding into their desks. "So you think she's going to be really upset when it doesn't work?" Kaoru asked.

"Nah. She gets excited about the spells but doesn't actually get depressed about them not working anymore. I think she's starting to take them less seriously now. And no," Hikaru said noting the look on Kaoru's face. "I don't think she's going to give up. Just tone it down a little."

"Oh well. I guess it was too much to hope for."

English sped by as the two chatted at the back of the class. Hikaru was all but fluent in English and helped Kaoru over any rough patches she encountered so they rarely paid attention to what Watson-sensei was talking about.

Once again they split up as they went to their respective lockers to grab their homework and bags. They met up again as they made their way down to the school's basement which served them as club headquarters. Momiji was waiting for them.

"I've got everything set up just like the book says." She said as they flung their bags in a corner and walked over to her. "I just need you two to stand at opposite ends of the pentagram and chant some things. I photocopied the stuff you need to read." Here Momiji handed each of them a sheet of paper and then pushed them into position.

"What exactly is this spell supposed to do?" Hikaru asked.

"It said something about opening the hidden gate. I think that it unlocks magic for people. And that would be awesome!"

Kaoru sighed as she took her position in the north. She hoped Hikaru was right and Momiji wouldn't be too disappointed when the spell failed. They had tried countless spells with her and none of them had worked.

In the centre of the star, Momiji had lit a white candle and began chanting, her black cape, the one she insisted on wearing during every attempt at a spell. "Dioma, Herthi, Lo y Terv! Let the gate open and its power be revealed!"

"Wredz, Mnig, Spib y Terv. I stand as the anchor to the south." Hikaru said, reading his part with very little enthusiasm. He'd read countless other spells, Some in languages he understood. Others in ones he could barely pronounce. This was the first one to have combined the unpronounceable with the understandable.

"Purb, Tsior, Jafk y Terv. I stand as the anchor to the north." Kaoru chanted, voice as unenthusiastic as Hikaru's. the words felt funny in her mouth. That was new. She began having second thoughts about the wisdom of messing about with things they didn't understand. But it was too late now. Momiji had only to read her last part.

"Let our words be heard. Let the gate open. Xirsh, Grec, Upi y Terv! Let our will be done!" Momiji shouted the last word and for a single heartbeat nothing happened. Then a flash of light appeared in the centre of the pentagram. Hikaru jumped back and tried, in vain to shield his eyes. Kaoru snapped her own eyes shut and turned away. When their eyes finally stopped watering, Momiji was gone.