Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for language.
The day began in the same way that many before it had begun, with the blaring screech of an alarm followed closely by a hand slapping the top of a clock. Misumi Shoku turned over in her bed and desperately pulled its purple sheets over her head to make the responsibilities of the day disappear. After concluding that the day would in fact, not just end because she willed it, Misumi slowly pulled the sheets off her thin frame, sat up, and finally glanced over at her clock. The dull red of her alarm clock read 7:45 A.M.
For a moment, Misumi simply stared at the clock, before her brain finally registered the sight before her, sending a wave of panic down her spine.
Misumi moved like lightning between her room, the kitchen, and her bathroom, trying to accomplish multiple tasks at once and failing to do any of them. She cursed her sore body as she moved, a consequence of her workout from the night before. In the midst of the chaos, she managed to spot a sticky-note left on the fridge as she tried to cram some ice-cold leftovers in her mouth, a blessing from the takeout she ordered yesterday.
“Misumi. Tried to wake you up. Left for work. I love you.”
A sigh escaped her lips as Misumi read the little note from her mom. She always felt bad about her mom always being gone when she got up, but she did not have time to think about that right now. In a whirlwind of motion, she threw on the white shirt and dark blue jacket of her school uniform. With all the grace of a wild horse, she pulled on her black skirt and knee high white socks, threw on her black dress shoes, and sprinted out the door. She probably didn’t look great, but she really did not have the time to care.
Misumi turned around and ran back into her apartment, burst into her room, grabbed her tie, tossed her school bag over her shoulder, and sprinted out the door for a second time.
“I’ll tie it on the train.” She thought as she double checked her bag, praying that she had remembered all of her assignments for the day.
Misumi had, in fact, not made the train, so she ran the entire way to her school, desperately trying and failing to keep herself in order while she did so. By the time she managed to get to Kosei, she was quite late, and Misumi knew that being late to Kosei was not something she wanted to be.
“If I’m careful, I might be able to avoid being se-”
Misumi jumped in place and spun around to face the approaching tall and lanky form of Vice Principal Igarashi. His brown dress shoes clicked with force across the pavement as he bore down on the student with a scowl across his thin face.
“Young lady, you better have a good reason for being late! And you look terrible! Your tie isn’t properly in a bow, your jacket isn’t straightened out, and your shoes are scuffed! Is this how you want people to think about the school, that all of your peers are just as disheveled as you are!”
Misumi really was not in the mood to be yelled at again by the Vice Principal, as if their first few interactions had not already indicated that he was not a fan of her. But all she could do was keep her head down and listen as he berated her.
“If I had it my way, people like you who don’t take what this school is trying to do seriously would not even be allowed here, so be grateful that you get to come here at all.”
“I just missed my train” was the thought that kept running through her head, but she could not bring herself to voice it.
“Now, go get yourself put together as best as you can manage, then report to your first period class. When I see you next, you had better be looking like Kosei High material.”
She looked up at him, trying to hide the fact that she was beyond done dealing with him already. His brown eyes were slightly hidden by his straight black hair, but even the mop on his head could not hide the genuine anger that he held for her in this moment.
“Do I make myself clear?”
“Yes sir.” Misumi muttered after a brief pause.
“Good. Now do as I said at once.”
Misumi began walking off to do just that, when Igarashi sternly added:
“Oh, and your mother WILL be hearing about your tardiness.”
She glazed back at him for just a moment, then continued on her way.
Misumi made her way through the empty hallways of her highschool to find a mirror to make sure she was ‘Kosei High material’ as Vice Principal Igarashi had stated.
“Why does it matter if I am a little disheveled? It isn’t a reason to yell at me.” She wondered to herself as she made her way into the bathroom.
Much like herself, Igarashi was a new arrival to this school. She was there the first day when he made his grandiose speech regarding bringing Kosei to a new level of excellence. She assumed he was talking about funding textbooks or something. What he actually meant was to force everyone to care a lot more about their appearances and the appearance of the school more than anything else. Additionally, students who did poorly in their school work could expect a verbal thrashing from the Vice Principal, who cared little for circumstance, and only for results. Only a month had passed since he had arrived, and already it felt like the entire school bent to his every whim.
“Does the principal know that he yells at students?” Misumi thought to herself. “Probably, but if it makes him look better, I doubt he objects.”
As Misumi straightened out her jacket and tie, she took a long look at herself in the mirror. She had forgotten to straighten her hair this morning, and already her long black locks were beginning to return to their extremely curly state. Her gaze caught the bags formed under her dark brown eyes, a frustrating thing to see considering the whole reason she was late was because she had overslept. As she continued to fix herself up, a word crept onto her lips and into the open air.
Despite her best attempts, she could not hide the fact that she clearly was not fully Japanese. Her mother always said that she looked like her father, but her warm sepia-brown skin tone was usually the first detail that people noticed.
“Stop it!” She practically shouted at her own brain, “I just need to get through my classes and go home.”
With that, she finished tying the black and white striped tie into a bow around her neck, and went on to her first period class.
“Watch where you’re going!”
Misumi swerved to the right of a well dressed man as she made her way to her train home. Despite its incredibly rough start, she concluded that the day had not been the worst day she had ever had. Since exams were right around the corner, most of her teachers were focused on making sure students did well and not assigning much new work, and she had managed to go through an entire lunch period with no one talking to her, which was nice. She did not run into Vice Principal Igarashi for the rest of her day, but she would still have to deal with the email that her mother would be receiving.
“I didn’t see Akiyoshi senpai today, I wonder if he was sick.”
Misumi grappled with her thoughts as she made her way through the crowded station, trying not to bump into the hundreds of people changing trains and trying to get to their homes. She had stayed late at school to try and get some studying done while her mother was at work, a decision she was now regretting as she pulled the dark grey hood of her oversized hoodie just a bit closer around her face. A statement her father made drifted into the forefront of her mind.
“I don’t like the crowds. It’s too easy to lose yourself in them.”
A small pang of sadness entered her heart. She could really use him on a day like today. Before she even had time to process this thought, she ran headfirst into someone’s shoulder. The impact caused Misumi to stumble backwards and fall flat against the cold concrete. She looked up expecting some angry businessman to begin yelling at her for looking at the floor and not at the people ahead of her, but the figure who stood before her was not at all what she was expecting.
The woman standing above her was clad in a deep blue long sleeved coat that went down to her knees, accented with a large belt with a golden buckle and eight golden rings that went down the front of her outfit. A similarly blue headband sat upon wavy silver hair that went down to her padded shoulders.
“Is she... cosplaying?” Misumi thought to herself as she struggled to understand both the outfit and why someone would be standing in the middle of a crowded subway station while they wore such an outfit. Finally climbing to her feet Misumi began to sputter out an apology to the storage woman.
“I’m sorry mi-”
Before she could even finish her brief apology, the woman’s gaze, which had up to this point been firmly centered on something in the middle distance, fell upon Misumi, and her shiny yellow eyes stopped Misumi’s sentence in its tracks. Though the woman could only have been centimeters taller than Misumi, she suddenly seemed triple her size as Misumi felt as though she were an escaped convict and searchlights had just spotted her. She had always gotten nervous around strangers and new people, but something about this woman set off alarm bells in her head that she had never heard before.
The infinite time of four seconds passed as the golden gaze lingered on Misumi, briefly glanced back up at the middle distance, then returned to her. A slight smile crossed her thus far emotionless face.
“I think you’ve gone too far.”
Misumi did not even register that the woman spoke to her for a second, but when she finally did, her guard dropped completely. Her voice was calm, almost gentle, like a mother speaking to her child. Again she spoke.
“You’ve missed your train stop.”
Misumi finally reclaimed control of herself and glanced back to see that she had indeed gone too far, by a considerable distance as well.
“Thank you.” Misumi said to the woman before turning and walking away.
A second passed before Misumi had a thought.
“Wait, how did she know where my train was?”
It was at this exact moment that Misumi passed by a very loud boy who excitedly exclaimed, “We got a hit!”
Not that Misumi noticed this, she was far too busy contemplating how on earth that strange woman knew her, or if she had just imagined the whole thing.
“Maybe because I was in my Kosei uniform she knew my train? But that still wouldn’t explain how she knew because we all take different trains to go home.Maybe she was a student, and her outfit just made her look older?”
As Misumi engaged in her internal deliberation, she made her way down the stairs and to the train tracks. Her debate continued while she waited for a train, and almost a minute passed before the silence registered in her brain and she realized that she was completely alone on the boarding platform. Misumi spun around in place, searching for any signs of life, but the empty platform provided none.
“What the hell? Where did everyone go?” Misumi thought as she made her way back up the stairs to the main station, only to be greeted with a similar emptiness.
The station looked just as it had before she went down the stairs, but all of its patrons had vanished into thin air. Misumi called out for anyone, but all that responded was her own echo.
“This doesn’t make any sense. How-why-... what is going on?”
She could feel her breathing getting more erratic as the panic of sudden isolation began. She placed a shaking hand on her chest to try and settle her breathing, but to little avail.
“Focus. Breathe. Steady.”
She repeated these words to herself over and over again, trying to force herself to calm down, when the sound of high heels clicking on concrete caught her ears. One platform over, the woman in blue began to descend a flight of stairs, paying little mind to the panicking teen who was the only other resident in the building. Misumi could barely make it out, but a dark red light appeared to be emanating from the platform the woman was heading down towards
“W-wait! Come back!”
Misumi forced the words out as she ustedaly rose to her feet and began to chase after her. By the time Misumi reached the stairs, the woman was finishing her descent and making her way to the platform, having either not heard Misumi or not caring that she was called after. It took a moment for Misumi to realize that the only way she could get this woman’s attention would be to catch up to her, and that involved going down this flight of stairs.
“This is insane. I have to be dreaming. That’s it! I’m dreaming! All I need to do is pinch myself, and I should wake up right? Maybe I should slap myself, just to be sure.”
A smacking sound rang out across the station.
“Nope, not dreaming.” Misumi thought as she rubbed her now stinging face.
Misumi looked down the stairs once again. The same ominous red light glowed just enough to be seen from above. As her instincts screamed against her doing it, Misumi took another look around the station, holding out a fleeting hope that some other person would be there. What she saw, however, was not a human being. Standing just a few meters away from her was a large column of blue fire. Before seeing it, Misumi did not feel any heat, but now it seemed that the temperature in the whole building was beginning to climb. With each second that passed, the pillar of flame seemed to grow both taller and wider, threatening to consume the entire station. She stared in horror as two red slits appeared on the column’s head in the shape of eyes, followed up by six more. Now presented with no other option, Misumi flew down the stairs as fast as her legs would carry her, into the mysterious red light.