The maiden

It was early that Monday when I rose up from her bed, still struggling with remembering where everything was in this new house. Clock was to the left now, same with the dresser.

I rose up, stumbled over to it and grabbed some clothes, blouse, blue skirt, and the rest of the stuff that my hands stumbled on. After that came washing up for the first day in the rest of my life. I couldn't help but indulge in a sad kind of laugh… optimism never did me any good.

Bathroom was the first door on my right when I stepped out of my room. I bathed quickly and then stepped out. I really shouldn't have done it, but I forced myself to look in the mirror. I looked decent… as usual.

My name is Mizuki Rajoshin, I am 5'9" tall, and today is my first day of class at Tokyo's famed M-- University. That should be reason to celebrate, and to extent, I was happier than I was other days. For one, my parents wouldn't have to see me when I came home today, since they were off in New York City, doing their new jobs.

I come from Sendai, a region in Japan that is known for plain-looking women. Whether there's any proof of that besides me, I'm not sure. I only moved to Tokyo a week ago, and back home I saw plenty of beautiful women… petite, able to style their hair any way they want, and never worrying about not having a date on Friday, if they were the especially lucky ones.

And here I was, taller than most Japanese adult men, with long black hair, brown eyes, and a face that -while not ugly- was not something that would win me any pageants. I paused for a moment, wondering if trying to at least apply some make-up would be appropriate, but I decided against it.

A plate of leftovers later, I was out the door, with a Mapquest guide to M--. I was glad my credits had transferred over from it's sister college C--, it would save me some time in terms of getting my credits… some of them hard-earned and nearly impossible to reclaim.

Art, literature, and caligraphy were no problem. I had free reign in that, I could do as I pleased. But math? I sucked at. History? I did only slightly better.

A short while later I was on campus… the walk wasn't as bad as I feared. Nobody was really paying attention to me, but I had expected that. The trial by fire, though, was going be coming up soon.

Half an hour later, I was standing outside the doors of my first class, next to probably the worst class representative I have ever met. She introduced herself as Horoki Ayasato, and stood bright and cheerful. That's perfectly fine, she looked like a nice enough person. Brown eyes, light-brown hair in a pair of pigtails, a few freckles on her cheeks…

But she's wearing a fuku. A sailing uniform… like those that students in secondary schools are required to wear. M--, being a University, is a little more flexible in its dresscode, but this isn't Sailor Moon.

Almost as if she was reading my mind, she smiled and spoke up on the subject.

"So tell me… do you do any of the fun stuff at the shrine like Sailor Mars?" Horoki asked innocently. I didn't answer her. "Come on, it says right here that you serve as a miko -a shrine maiden/priestess- for the Rajoshin Shrine!"

"I just started."

"But what about wearing a hakama and looking into the flames and-"

"I just started."

Before Ayasato could say anything else, the door opened, the professor coming out and nodding. Out of the frying pan and into the fire…

M-- has the tradition in which each student that transfers in must introduce themselves to one class, to "introduce" them to the various groups and clubs to avoid running the risk of the person become ignored and avoided. Crazy, but I've heard its worked… to an extent.

I walk in after Horoki, the girl having written my name in both English and Kanji on the whiteboard. I step in front of the class… there's about fifty people.

"I'm Mizuki Rajoshin…" I could already tell that a lot of people were tuning out to what I was saying. The men mainly because I wasn't even a pretty face, some of the girls for thinking I was an intruder into their little in-crowds. Nevertheless I continued.

"I transferred here because my parents have been attempting to become interpreters for various UN ambassadors for the past few years without much luck until recently. Since they were going to be busy most of the time, they decided that my grandfather should take me in… he's the one that runs the Rajoshin Shrine. I'm a little interested in Shinto and agreed to be a miko, but I really don't know much about it just yet."

That's a half-lie. When you're a kid, you love mythology. Everyone does. There's that one manga writer out there making millions on his series Sea Ruler Oceanus… it's absurdly formulaic where a young man discovers he's the reincarnation of the Titan of the Seas and fights against the tyranny of his older brother Chronos. It's the nostalgia factor for the people that read it… and the foreign nature of the story makes it more appealing.

I was the same, always reading up about Shintoism. Shinto is unusual that it feels everything has a god. There's a god for your house, there's a god for clouds, there's a god for groups of clouds, and it goes that way. Being a Shrine Maiden, as Grandpa Kouji told me, really just comes down to performing a few short rituals a day, or at least he's going to keep it limited to that for me.

The rest was basic stuff, didn't look like many people were paying attention anyways. I finished up and took an empty seat and got ready for the lecture.

I noticed right away that people dyeing their hair at M-- was absurdly popular… various shades of blue seeming to be the most frequently occurring, although most of the people in question seemed to otherwise be normal in terms of their habits, like the one sitting next to me at a small restaurant on campus.

His name was something I don't really remember… nice guy, though, and had decent skill in speaking Japanese. He was studying abroad and had come from Europe and also gave me a few bits of advice about the various people to know at M--.

"So…" he asked as I finished my bowl of noodles, "You living on campus?"

"No. I walk here."

"Oh…" he answered before standing up. "Well… I need to get to my next class. It was nice talking with you anyways." He walked away, waving once. I returned the favor before checking my schedule… nothing for another two hours. Well, it would give me time to look around and get the lay of the land.

Six hours later, my classes were all done for the day, it was getting into the early evening, and I wanted nothing more than to just go home to bed. M-- seemed fairly deserted too, most of the students in their dorms or home by now, and most professors having long since left.

Didn't really matter though. Crime is low in Japan. With civilian ownership of guns outlawed, all there really was to worry about was knives, and I wasn't too scared of that.

Of course, I wasn't prepared for that I encountered that night… who really would be? I was maybe half an hour's walk from home and leaving the campus when I felt a shiver go down my back. Behind me… I could feel that something, something not human, was behind me.

I turned to see some strange figure of darkness there, looming over me with only the slightest echo of a human form.

"You…" it was a female voice. I wondered if I should've been surprised or not. A black hand rose up, pointing at me, and I took a step back in caution. It didn't do any good though, as the ground around me suddenly darkened, black hands reach up all around me and binding me down.

I screamed, I screamed as loud as I could. When some black creature that is obviously not human starts attacking you, you really lose all ability to keep a level head simply because you're not used to it. Military soldiers get trained to perform in situations when live ammunition is being fired overhead, to get used to the sound and the atmosphere. If it had been some drunk or pervert, that would've been one thing, but this was entirely different.

Of course, the creature itself had sent one hand down my throat to choke me and make my screams and probably kill me too. It felt like water- no, not water. Water was fluid, your arms moved through it. What was killing me was something dark, something demonic…

But then a brilliant white light erupted from behind the creature, and I heard screams that were not my own.

"Leave this girl alone, servant of the Shiko!"

The creature faded away, dissolving as I found myself able to breath… falling to the ground and panting for new breath as I looked up at my savior.

She was shorter than me, but that was no challenge… maybe five or six inches shorter. Her hair was short… the tresses themselves being light brown with a slight bit of red in them… I wondered if she dyed her hair like Julien and the others did.

But what she was wearing was the most surprising thing about her… she looked to be wearing normal clothes… but only underneath a suit of white armor, intricately designed and beyond belief in terms of perfection. In her hand was a tsurugi blade, maybe a foot and a half long and also white. Darkness quickly overtook me, however.

The light.

I looked down at the girl in surprise. I could barely believe I was that late… she could have died… or worse.

The monster was gone… Bright Luminescence had been enough to expel that one, probably it was one of Genbu's. It wouldn't be surprising, considering his abilities.

She was that new girl, Mizuki Rajoshin. Gosh, I had thought, She's taller than they said… I immediately reverted back to civilian clothes, glad nobody else saw. Taking out my phone, I immediately dialed my superior.

"Loretta Brauner here," came the familiar female voice. She should be familiar, considering she was my teacher for literature.

"Fate," I addressed her by her alter-ego, "It's me… we nearly lost one."

"Who was it, Minako?!" she said in a worried tone. That was odd… Miss Brauner usually wasn't surprised. No, correct that. She never was.

"The new girl… Mizuki Rajoshin… she was attacked. She doesn't look that good."

"I see. Can you move her?"

"Yes, I can get her to your office."

"Understood. I'll meet you there."

Picking up the taller girl, I struggled back to Miss Brauner's building, swiping my identification card to disengage the electronic locks. A few minutes later, I rounded the bend to see her there, looking unusually worried.

"How… how much did she see?" Loretta asked.

"She was already being choked when I got there…"

"Did anyone else-" she stopped when I shook my head. This was… uncomfortable. Fate had always been the one to never be surprised or stunned by any action of the Shiko in the past. "I understand. There's only one thing we can do now… the talk."

I knew that was true… she was the new girl. People might not even take what she had said seriously, and she might try to do something crazy or dangerous to prove what she had seen.

"Okay then. Let's get somewhere a little better situated for this then…"

The maiden

I woke up to the sight of two figures… the first being my savior. The other was a teacher here… I didn't know which one.

"Minako Yuki. First year student here at M--." the girl said, reaching out. I shook her hand before the woman shook my hand as well.

"Loretta Brauner," the woman continued. Her Japanese was flawless for a foreigner, better than Julien's. "Professor of Literature here at M--. And you, Mizuki Rajoshin… have seen something you shouldn't have."

My blood ran cold for a moment. They weren't going to kill me were-

"Rest assured," Loretta continued, "Your life is in no danger at the present time. Unfortunately, however things do not bode well for you because of this… You have had your first viewing of a war… our war."


"Against the Shiko," Minako explained. "Not exactly demons, not exactly gods… but certainly not human."

"What… what are they then?" I asked.

"Exactly as Minako said," Loretta answered. "They are timeless entities… and we understand very little about them. It is for the best…"

"You have got to be kidding me…"

"No, we are not," Loretta snapped, stunning me a little. "Do you have any explanation, Miss Miko, for what you saw out there, which would have killed you had we not interfered?"

"Uh… no…"

"I expected as much…" she sighed, knowing this would take awhile.

"Mankind is, to an extent, a creation of the gods that is ignored by them. We have reached a point that they do not interact with us because of our arrogance, our pride. For every act of divine intervention, we will do one of three things.

First, we may refuse to believe it. We will sneer at the religious, kill their ideals and their mysticism for the purposes of science. We cannot truly have something we can leave alone… every stone must be uncovered. Every mystery of the faith must be shattered, sages must be discredited… all because of the second kind of person.

There are then those that misinterpret the signs. They blame misfortune for actions of the gods… and that is wrong. Terrible actions simply occur because it is one's fate, nothing else. Yet these people will condemn those they dislike… and lead crusades, either physical or metaphysical, to punish them.

And lastly, there are those that simply ignore these miracles. They are the worst, because they do not care. And that is the greatest sin a person can be capable of. To ignore your destiny because you don't care is the most abominable crime a human can commit.

These three kinds of people are why the gods have abandoned us, left us to confront the Shiko. They have left, taking their lot with them… demons, spirits, they are all gone, leaving us at the mercy of the Shiko and their agents…

But I will not stand that. This is not mankind's fate… and so Minako and I fight, as others have before us. Fought against the evil the represent.

And now, you are one of us "

I blinked in surprise as the last statement. "I-I'm sorry… but that's crazy. I just moved here. I'm going to be a miko for my Grandpa and-"

"Silence," Loretta commanded, and it was so. Sound died around me, and I couldn't speak at all. Minako wasn't surprised by this at all, looking worried at me nonetheless. "I will not tolerate you to abandon your fate." She stood up and walked around me, all the while leaving me powerless to argue. "You saw Minako… she never lets a servant of the Shiko reach their intended victims before she vanquishes them. This is something surprising… it must mean that you were meant to see it."

She reached out, touching my head with her finger as a bright light shined around her and then me.

It felt odd… I experienced no sensation at all… no shock, no exhilaration, nothing entering or leaving my body…

"It is done," Loretta said as she removed her hand. "You have been anointed now… you are a Celestial Warrior, like Minako." She nodded at the girl, who took the act as a sign to leave. "You will defend Tokyo against the forces of the Shiko from now on… revel in it, for you are a defender of humanity. You will now go to sleep… and wake up at your home. Goodbye, Mizuki Rajoshin."

Everything went black again…

And then I discovered myself standing back home, staring at the prayer altar in the shrine…

I had no idea what had just happened, but I knew it was for real. And no matter what, Horoki couldn't know… because she'd demand to be one too.