Chapter 1

I was always a straight B student. Because a C made me look dumb and an A wasn't worth the effort. Maybe that was why something like this happened to me. As a lesson, as way to build character. To turn me into a straight A. Well, whatever. Getting a C would take me half a day of studying. Bs would take one day. An A would take four days. See what I mean? Cost-benefit wise, a B is the most efficient way to get through school.

I finished my first year of high school. Just turned 17. Best years of my life (or at least that's what adults tell me). After the winter vacation I would become a second year student. And then a third year. After that university entrance exams. And then? The real world, my dad said. And the real world is shit.

My mom got anxious about my Bs. Only As could get into Tokyo U. She asked me why I never got a single A. I was supremely proud of my logic and told her why and she didn't like it. She told my dad and he liked it even less. So I was sent out here.

I once read this: Life never tells you when you're about to meet someone important. Maybe even someone life changing. I looked around. No way I was going to meet someone here.

White plains stretched across the distance. Nothing to my left, nothing to my right. The entrance to a forest in front and behind me was a village: a sleepy little place that only woke up when the tourists came to ski. Why did Tokyoites come to this corner of Japan to ski? Hakuba is much closer to Tokyo and other major places in Hokkaido are better. No one ever came here to ski — unless they did.

I trudged through the snow, breathing slowly, deeply. Each step taking me away from the village and closer to the woods. I almost felt bad about how I ruined the perfect snow. Almost.

I continued walking on this rough path until I came to the edge of a forest. And then something caused me to stop.

Footsteps in the snow.

Just a pair of prints. Nothing leading up to them. They were just there. Like someone had dropped out of the sky. I glanced about. Nothing to my left, nothing to my right. Which meant I was the only one here.

How did those footsteps get there? I walked closer, knelled down. There was something odd. It was definitely a human footstep. Nothing led up to them. And there weren't any shoe marks. Instead the step pointed towards a naked foot; I could see the marks of individual toes…Who the hell would walk barefoot in the snow?

I looked up. More steps appeared in the pristine snow. No sound, no person, nothing. They were in a neat straight line leading from the first step. A chill traveled up my arm. I rubbed my eyes. No, I was sure that there was only a single pair of steps up until a moment ago.

What made those new steps?

I followed the new steps with my eyes. They led into the forest. Like an angel had dropped out of the sky and decided to take a walk.

I followed the steps into the forest.