Figured I should upload something. I don't like having this account inactive. Enjoy.

Also, about the moss mentioned? Think Spanish moss, not the type that grows on trees like a moist rug.

Chapter 2

Akemi couldn't remember the last time she had slept so well.

Slowly her blue eyes cracked open, the light of day breaching her thin barrier of lashes. It wasn't nearly as blinding as it had been yesterday when she awoke. She assumed this was a good thing. No immediate headache caused by light meant that she probably didn't have a concussion.

Akemi shifted her position to lying on her right side. She was met with the sight of a bookshelf right next to the bed. If she were in the right mind, she might question why it was nearly empty, or why it had strange-looking jars and such sitting on the shelves. She was in no mood to think further on the subject. A small moan escaped her lips as she remembered exactly where she was.

There were dull noises coming from above, most likely from the previously-unnoticed second floor of the building she was in. Eventually, the noise level increased and Akemi was roused from her comfortable spot underneath the covers. She pulled the blankets back and swung her legs over the side. She noted that she still didn't have a headache, even after sitting up. She grinned. Maybe she was completely fine now.

Once she was up and her uniform's skirt was flattened out, Akemi made her way across the room, over to what she figured was the doorway. A copious amount of moss hung from the ceiling down to knee-level, allowing some sunlight to peek through the thick bunches. The orange-head gently pulled the flora apart at her arm's length, bracing herself for the incoming brightness. Her jaw went slack at the sight. Now that she was getting a good look at the scenery of Mahokkai, Akemi didn't know how she ever thought that this could be Earth.

Within a few seconds, Akemi made some key observations. Here, the sky was not blue; it was a bright lavender color. The clouds were the same, but wispy and extremely scarce. As far as the eye could see, there was only forest to be viewed. Said forest was comprised of normal-looking trees with enormous stalks of bamboo coming out at random intervals and in different numbers in each area. Nets of mold-colored moss similar to the improvised curtains in her hands hung from branches.

"Oh, god. I'm not dreaming after all…" she muttered as a light breeze blew by. And here I was, hoping it was a headache-induced hallucination or something…

More noise from above reminded her why she decided to get up in the first place. As she closed the curtains back up, Akemi spotted a hole in the ceiling around a thick bamboo pillar. She guessed it was one of many keeping this place intact. Attached to the pillar were what seemed to be the rungs of a makeshift ladder. Curiosity getting the better of her, she stepped up to the rungs and began to climb.

Akemi's steps got slower as her head reached the opening. They stopped completely when she was able to see what was going on. She dared not move or speak. The sight in front of her was too incredible for her to interrupt.

Rokuro was standing in the middle of the floor, back to her and oblivious to his audience. Surrounding him were dozens and dozens of books in varying colors and sizes, all floating around here and there in midair. One by one they levitated in front of him, pages flipping at a speed no human could hope to match.

From what Akemi could see, Rokuro was doing some type of research. His arms were folded and his head was cocked to one side. Even with his back facing her, she could picture the befuddled pout she was sure he was wearing. After he was done looking through a book, it would be cast aside. It would lose its blue glow and be tossed away, no longer hanging in the air by magic.

One particular book happened to fly her way as she was climbing out of the opening. Despite the yelp she made out from fear of getting hit, her reflexes proved to be better than she thought. She grabbed the book out of the air without thinking, saving her a trip to the floor and a nasty bruise.

Rokuro's attention was caught now, likely from the noise she had made. As his head whipped around, every book in the air stopped dead and fell to the ground. The magic wore off as soon as his concentration broke. This hadn't been anticipated by the wizard apparently, as he jumped a few inches at the sound of books hitting the floor. Akemi winced.

"Err… Sorry," she apologized in a mumble.

"No, no, no. It's fine…" Rokuro muttered his own reply as he bent down to pick up the books nearest to himself. "It's alright. I just didn't expect you to wake up so sudden- Ah, thank you." He gratefully accepted the books that Akemi was handing him. "Anyway…" he continued, standing up with his pile of literature held by both arms and hands. "I take it you slept well?"

"Actually… I did," Akemi admitted. "Thanks for letting me use your bed, Rokuro-kun. I had a really nice nap."

"Nap?" Rokuro snorted playfully as he shelved the last of the books in his arms. "If your idea of a nap is two days, then yeah. I guess you had a nice nap."

"Two days!" Akemi screeched in a panic. "I slept for two days ! ?"

"Uh-huh," Rokuro replied calmly. His hands found their way into his pockets again. "That's, err, partially my fault. Sorry."

"How is that your fault?" Akemi questioned, though she wasn't sure whether or not she really wanted to know. Rokuro rocked back and forth on the balls of his bare feet.

"Weeeell… You see… I have nightmares sometimes. And when I do, they usually keep me up. And when they keep me up, I come here to sleep." Akemi pursed her lips.

"I don't follow. I thought this was your house or something…?"

"It's more like a refuge. Or a hideout. I actually live at my school, but my friend and I often come here just to hang out. You can imagine I'm here more than he is."

"Because of nightmares? I still don't get it." Rokuro blew his bangs up. He was really going to have to spell everything out for this girl.

"Look. The reason I come here when I have a nightmare is because this is the only place I can get some damn sleep. My bed has a powerful charm on it, made so I can fall into such a deep sleep that I can't have nightmares. Evidently, I can't have regular dreams either, but I feel it's worth it to not wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat. My school has policies against using magic on the property unless it's for class or practice. I'd get in trouble if I put a spell on my bed there." His hands were no longer in his pockets. Akemi could plainly see him twiddling his thumbs in guilt. "I guess I didn't take into account how different our biological structures are, though. I need a really strong charm for me to sleep because of… obvious reasons. You, on the other hand, are human; you probably don't need to be sedated with as much magic to fall asleep. I also doubt you have the same problem as me."

"Sedated?" Akemi echoed nervously, hanging on to that one word. "That's a… harsh term to use, don't you think?"

"I can't describe it with another word," Rokuro said. "It loses the effect if I do. Besides, I think you get my point now… So, again. Sorry." Akemi sighed.

"I guess it's fine… It's not like I'm not grateful for the sleep," she explained. "But really, why would you let me sleep for two days?"

"I didn't want to risk the chance of getting punched again." Akemi snorted. Not this again.

"Maybe you shouldn't stand over girls while they're sleeping then, creeper…" Rokuro's brows creased together in indignation.

"I am not a creeper," he protested. "That's more my friend's line of work, thank you very much."

"Oh, boy…" Akemi grumbled. She prayed Rokuro's friend wasn't one of those complete perverts like some of the boys back home. "… … … Wait a minute." Akemi raised a brow. "You said your friend- Uh, what's his name?"


"Hideki? Right. You said Hideki comes here too. Does he know I'm here?"

"Like I said, I come here far more often than he does," Rokuro answered. "He knows that I come here sometimes if I want to concentrate. Or for, you know… Nightmares… But I usually don't get nightmares night after night. They're more sporadic than that… So he might start to question why I haven't been sleeping in my bed at school for three days."

Three? Akemi mentally questioned. But I was out for only two days. Doing the simple situational math in her head, she realized that Rokuro was probably here before she arrived in Mahokkai. He must have had one of his nightmares recently. Good thing it wasn't during her stay. He might not have had his bed to comfort him otherwise.

Letting that issue slide from her focus, she shifted to a different topic. "If Hideki comes here, can't you just introduce me as another friend or something? Or someone who just happened to find this place?" Rokuro folded his arms again, giving her an incredulous stare.

"I can give you six reasons right off the bat why that's a horrible idea." Akemi matched his cynical gaze.

"Six?" Rokuro nodded, and began counting off his fingers.

"One, he might question why he's never seen you around before; of course, this is assuming he can focus on things other than a pretty face… Two, he'll take it the wrong way and think I have a girlfriend without telling him. Three, that's extremely awkward and I don't want to have to deal with the teasing… Four, he'd want proof if we decided to put up that front; again, that's awkward and I want to avoid that situation at all costs. I wouldn't want to put you in that sort of position, especially given my friend's perverted tendencies… Five, trust me when I say it's impossible to accidentally stumble upon this place. Finally, six… I'd prefer to not lie any more than I would have to, so…" Rokuro let his arms fall to his sides, his hands on his hips. "Do you consider me a friend?"

That was an extremely good question. Could she consider a guy she just met to be her friend? Akemi bit the inside of her cheek, formulating an answer in her mind.

"… Rokuro-kun." Rokuro's eyebrows shot up as she took some steps closer. "I'm not sure what I consider you to be," she admitted slowly. "I guess the right word would be acquaintance, but that feels strange considering the fact that you've taken care of me and I've slept in your bed within the first couple hours of meeting you…" She didn't notice the pink tint to Rokuro's cheeks as she spoke. "And truth be told, Rokuro-kun… I'm a stranger to this place, and have no idea what's going on. I'm a bit lost at the moment, you know… A friend would be nice."

The amount of ease in her voice as she spoke flabbergasted Akemi. She was supposed to be distrusting of strangers, as she had been taught over the years by both the educational system and her father; but it was getting harder and harder to be suspicious of the boy who didn't bother to use magic to clean up the books on the floor even though he was fully capable of doing so, who admitted to being scared of the images he saw in his sleep, and who was completely and utterly respectful towards her even though they knew nil about each other. He seemed… earnest. A little off, but earnest. Maybe too much, she noted. She was willing to take a chance on him, though. Sucking in a breath, she stuck out her hand and calmly asked,

"Would you like to be my friend?"

Her speech and question left Rokuro stunned, as indicated by the way his mouth was opening and closing in a silent stammer. "Uh-I-I-I-… Err… Uhh… I…" His Adam's apple bobbed up and down as he swallowed. "I… I think… I would like that, Akemi," he finally managed to spit out. "Very much, actually." His right hand reached out weakly, as he was still taken aback from the whole scene that had just played out. Akemi took his hand and shook it with a grip.

"Thank you, Rokuro-kun." Her smile was gentle and full of gratitude. "It's nice to know I can count on you."

"N-No problem, Akemi…"

Early mornings were always quiet around Chinoiri Boarding School. Until classes were announced in the morning, everyone was sleeping and damn well enjoying it. Hideki Miura was no exception. Today was one of the days when his classes didn't start until late afternoon, so he was going to milk the time for what it was worth.

Sprawled along the length of his bed, one arm hanging off the side and the sheets barely covering himself, the blonde boy was allowed to snore at incredible volumes. Normally such raucous noise would be intolerable by his roommate's standards, but as Hideki was sleeping and not conscious, he didn't care.

Footsteps came charging up to the room from the outside. There was no warning for the figure responsible barging into the room unannounced.

"Rokuro, get your ass up this instant!" the man yelled. When there was no reply, he looked to the left side of the room. The blue-covered bed was barren and empty. "Just like his head…" he grunted. He looked to the opposite side, and pulled the sheets out from underneath the sleeping wizard.

Hideki awoke just in time to hit his forehead against the side of his bed. He rubbed the spot with his fingers, the pressure relieving some pain. "Oww… Hnn… What time is it…?" he murmured. A shadow caught his line of sight, though blurry from his nebulous vision. Reaching over, he grabbed his glasses lazily and slipped them onto his head. He blinked. "Oh, Yakume… Wazzup…?" Yakume bent down lower, until his nose was just a few centimeters away from Hideki's forehead.

"Where. Is. Rokuro?" he gritted out. Hideki mumbled something to himself, his tiredness completely evident.

"Uhh… Rokuro…? Riiight…" he replied, very much sounding like he was drunk. "He should be right over there…" He languidly pointed to the other end of the room, only to find that his roommate's bed hadn't been slept in. "Err… He's supposed to be there… I dunno…" Yakume groaned, standing up straight again.

"Argh! That damned idiot, never around when I actually need him…" he grumbled. The greasy-haired man massaged the bridge of his nose, sensing a migraine coming on. "Miura, when you see that friend of yours, tell him he's in a shitload of trouble. Got it?"

"Can I go back to sleep now?" Hideki mumbled.

"I don't give a damn what you do so long as you remember what I just told you."

"Yeah, yeah, I got'cha, Chili Pepper…" The blonde shot the twenty-five-year-old a wide grin. "Noooo problem." Yakume hung his head in exasperation.

"One's an airhead and the other's a blathering idiot. Gods help me."

"Which one am I?" Hideki asked.

Yakume took his leave.

"So what exactly were you doing, Rokuro-kun?" Akemi inquired as she watched he wizard friend scan through another book he had found. "Before I interrupted you, I mean." Rokuro rested his arms on his crossed legs as he read.

"Looking for a way to send you home, of course," he answered with the barest hint of a sigh. "I haven't been very successful though, outside of obvious myths."

"Myths?" Akemi repeated beside him. "What myths?"

"Stuff like a portal that can help you traverse dimensions just by flying into it. That's called the Hakobuttori, I think." Rokuro frowned. "The problem with that is, aside from being a myth, it only comes around once a year, you don't know where it's going to appear, and you don't know where you're going to come out if you do manage to find it."

"Not exactly helpful," Akemi mused.

"I know; but sadly, that's the most helpful piece of info I've come across." Rokuro grabbed the book floating in front of him, and tossed it onto a nearby shelf. "Nothing in there, either. Great." Rokuro lied down on his back, rubbing his eyes with his palms. "I don't think I'm going to find anything useful in such a pitiful collection of books…"

It's still a lot more than I have in my house, that's for sure… Akemi observed, taking notice of the many shelves in the room and the books lying on each. It made her wonder why the one next to his bed on the first floor was lacking. "Isn't there a library you can go to?"

"It's a while away from here," Rokuro said. "I might head over there the next time I go back to the capital."

"The capital?"

"Yeah. Huge city, really busy and stuff." Rokuro stared up at Akemi in question. "Do you have places like that in the first dimension?"

"I live in one, actually," Akemi replied. "The capital city of Tokyo."

"So we both live in capitals. Weird." Some silence followed Rokuro's mutter, until Akemi brought a different topic to light.

"You say you live in the capital… So what's this?" She used her hand to signify the building they were in.

"Think of it like a clubhouse of sorts," the wizard replied. "It's a ways away from where I actually live, but it's comfy and I like being here. A home away from home." Chuckling to himself, he added, "People always wonder why Hideki and I made this place out in the forest to begin with, since it's so far away."

"You guys must be really good friends, huh?"

"Yup. He's my best friend, as a matter of fact; not to mention my roommate. Kind of a freak, but you get used to him."

"… … …" Akemi pursed her lips, mentally opting for a topic change. "… Rokuro-kun, if you don't mind me prying… Why are you here?"

Rokuro sat up upon hearing the question. He gazed quizzically at Akemi with an eyebrow raised. "What do you mean by that?" Akemi tapped her fingers against her knees.

"You've been here for, what, a few days? Don't you have school?"

"Yeah, but I'm not just going to leave you here while you're still getting used to everything." Akemi's eyes widened.

"You mean to tell me that you've been skipping for the past three days? Why would you do that? I can take care of myself, you know."

"And I realize that now; but I couldn't exactly leave you alone those two days you were sleeping." Rokuro's stare turned skeptical. "What if you had woken up while I was gone? Would you have any idea as to what's going on? What if you had tried to wander somewhere? Akemi, even I don't want to go into the forest below sometimes because I'm afraid of getting snagged by something." Akemi quickly decided that she didn't want to know what he meant. She'd take his word for it that the forest isn't a great place to take a walk in.

"Okay, you've got me there…" she admitted verbal defeat slowly. "You're right when you say I probably would've tried to get out of here…"

"My point. However, I do need to make a trip to the capital, so I will have to leave you alone for a bit whether I want to or not." Rokuro jumped to his feet, stretching as he spoke. "I need to drop something off at school for a project, pick something up from my room, go to the library… Oh, and food. Definitely need to pick that up." Food seemed like a good idea to Akemi, too. "Speaking of food… Err…" Rokuro looked down at Akemi in curiosity. "What exactly do you eat, anyway?"

"Uhh…" Akemi frowned in thought. "I guess… I don't really know what you guys eat here… So…"

"That's… a problem." Rokuro folded his arms. "Hmm… … Do you like apples?"

"Eww." Akemi made a face at the mention of the red fruit. "Not in the slightest. I'm almost sure I'm allergic to them."

"Ah, okay. I was gonna say, my teacher loves those things so I know where to buy some good ones… But anyway. At least I know something that you won't eat." Rokuro scratched his head in thought. "Well… I guess I'll buy a couple different things so we can see if you like what we have here. If you can't find anything, I'm sure I can work something out."

"That sounds like a plan."

"Alright. I'll be off, then. Umm… Try to fight the urge to leave this place, please."

"Stop worrying and go, you weirdo." Akemi grinned wryly. Rokuro rolled his eyes.

"Alright, alright…" The wizard sped over to the door of the second floor, which was also covered by a shield of moss. He saluted to Akemi sailor-style. "See ya later, then." He proceeded to make a running leap through the curtain and off the ledge of the so-called clubhouse. Akemi nearly had a heart attack. She instantly got up from her spot on the floor and ran after him.

"Hey, wait a minute! You're going to get hurt if you just jump off of a-!" As she made it past the hanging moss, she caught a glimpse of something below. It was Rokuro, calmly flying above the forest. Further inspection showed that he was standing atop a broom as if it were a skateboard. Akemi breathed a sigh of relief. Right… He can fly. I forgot about that… After all, she did crash into him mid-flight.

She shrugged the memory off and headed back inside, letting the moss drape behind her. The first thing that came to mind was why Rokuro needed a broom to fly.

Twenty-four hours. That was how long you had to wait before reporting someone as missing.

When Akemi didn't come to school the next day, Daisuke had begun to worry. If she was sick, she would have called either him or his sister up to let them know. After all, they did have plans for the movies. Rie was nonchalant about it at first, saying that if Akemi was that sick, then she needed her rest.

The otaku girl began to share her brother's worries after Akemi was absent for a second day in a row, without so much as a text message to tell them what was going on. A quick trip to the Segawa Shrine left the siblings panicked. After letting themselves into their friend's house and going a quick one-over of the area, neither of them could find the orange-haired girl anywhere.

On the third day, they were hysterical. Rie and Daisuke immediately went to their parents and had them report Akemi missing. The police then asked where the girl's parents were.

"Her mother is dead, sir," Shunomori Hirota had explained. "But according to my children, her father is on a business trip of sorts. Shall I inform him of what's happening?"

The officer who took the call said that he would do it for them.

It was an early afternoon when Shigeru Segawa's cell phone went off in the lobby of a small building. Since he wasn't in a publisher's meeting with Meiko at the moment, he decided to take it – Unfamiliar number or not.

"Shigeru Segawa," he answered the call name first. "May I ask who's calling?"

"Good afternoon, Segawa-san," a male voice answered back. "This is Hizan Umiyoshi with the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department. I have some news concerning your daughter, Akemi Segawa."

Shigeru was instantly alert to the call, for multiple reasons. A bad premonition settled in his gut like a rock in a shallow pond. "Hizan Umiyoshi… You're Hizen's brother, right?" He barely waited for a reply from the other end, already knowing the answer. "Why would Akemi be involved in anything relating to the police?" he asked, trying not to let his voice crack with worry. "What's going on here? Are you the one telling me this because you know me?"

"Well, yes… I thought this would be easier to hear from someone you were already associated with," Hizan explained. "But I digress. Segawa-san, I regret to inform you that your daughter has not been seen for three days. The attendance record at Okashii High says that she has not gone to school in that time, and two kids by the names of Daisuke and Rie Hirota, siblings I presumed, say that she's nowhere to be found on your property. It's reason enough for us to make the conclusion that your daughter has gone missing."

"Shikkun! Shikkun, guess what!" Meiko bounded down the hallway, shouting out her younger brother's nickname as she entered the lobby. "The publishers of Zengo Comics promised to let me do more color pages from now on! Isn't that grea-?"

"What do you mean, she's missing ! ?"

Meiko stopped in her tracks, hearing Shigeru yelling at the top of his lungs. Her smile faded when she saw him cursing into his cell phone, ignoring all the stares of the few people around.

"Uhh, Shikkun-?"

"I don't want to hear that bullshit!" Shigeru continued to scream. "Where is my daughter ! ?" Meiko's brown eyes widened. "Don't get technical with me, asshole! Get out there and do your job right!" Shigeru cut off the call after that outburst, nearly breaking the flip phone's hinges in the process. Meiko took the chance to run over to her brother.

"Shikkun, what's going on ! ?" she cried. "What happened! ?"

"Those Hirota siblings had Akemi reported as missing," Shigeru growled. "Apparently she hasn't been seen for three days now."

"Three days!" Meiko gasped. Her hands flew over her mouth in shock. "You- You don't think she's been…?"

"I'm going home."

"Eh?" Shigeru turned his angry brown gaze on his elder sister.

"I said I'm going home!" he repeated irritably. "I'm not going to sit around a fucking lecture hall while my only daughter is missing!" With that, the fuming thirty-six-year-old stormed off towards the building's entrance. "I'm taking the damn train home!"

"Shigeru, wait!" Meiko ran after her brother, trying desperately not to trip in her heels. "I'm coming home with you!"

"Don't, Meiko. You have that contract or whatever-"

"Which means absolutely nothing in comparison to my only niece going missing," Meiko said icily, gripping Shigeru's shoulder. "You don't think I'd give up a publishing contract for my family? You don't know me very well, then. I'm coming with you."

"…" Shigeru let his muscles relax somewhat. "… Fine. Have it your way, Meiko. Someone will have to tell the rest of the family, in any case, and I'd like it if someone with more people skills than I would do that honor." The word honor seemed to be a mockery of itself.

"And you?" Meiko checked nervously.

"What do you think? I'm going to find where Akemi is; and if it turns out she was kidnapped, then I'm going to kill those involved. Trust me when I say it won't do anything to my conscience."

Hey look, characters who haven't made appearances in the original continuity yet. Whee.

So everything in Mahokkai is light and fluffy and everything in the human world is not.

Overprotective Shigeru has reason to be overprotective in this timeline. Tokyo, watch out.