Chapter 0:

Chapter 0: Prologue

Diamond Dreams

Rain sprinkled against the glass window of the late-night diner in Tokyo. Shiro Kazehaya was an eighteen-year-old high-school student studying for his final exams late at night. He lived alone in his apartment, his family sending him 10,000 Yen allowances each month. He sipped on his soda, highlighting through his exam review sheets. His digital watch buzzed 9:00 PM, signaling that it’s time to head home. Exhaling sharply, he rose up from the diner booth. Guess it’s that time already. Putting away his laptop and notebook into the bag on the table, he slipped the ten dollar bill for the food and drinks under the receipt at the table and walked towards the door.

Nodding at the waitress who had taken his order previously, he said his thanks and pushed through the glass door and continued under the small roof extension. He reached behind him towards his backpack side-pouch, and removed his small expandable umbrella. He undid the strap and clicked the button at the base to extend the umbrella. The rain began picking up, and had now turned into a full on storm-fall. Raising it above his head as he stepped down from the shelter, he walked down to the sidewalk. Cars sped past, and their tires sprayed torrents of water onto the sidewalk, soaking his jeans.

“Are you kidding me?” he grunted aloud, angrily brushing what he could off of his t-shirt and clothes.

Shiro quickly turned right and headed into an alleyway to avoid the cars oncoming. He quickened his pace through the dark, constantly checking around him. He’d had to make this trip in the alley before, and vaguely remembered the route towards home. Walking past two alleyways with rain pelting his umbrella- the path became more remember-able, and he side-stepped into the third open alley. The sound of water splashing filled the alley with intense reverberation on the walls, drowning out almost everything.

He walked towards the exit, but something grabbed his leg, with wild strength. He looked down, only to gasp in horror. A man, slumped in an all-black robe, gasped up at him, stomach oozing blood from a wound. Shiro immediately dropped to one knee, taking out his sports towel from school and firmly pressing it to the wound. Blood continued to soak the towel with no signs of slowing. It won’t stop bleeding! It’s like this isn’t a normal wound. He thought frantically. What could even make a wound like this?

“Help, somebody, please help!” he screamed, looking around worriedly.

No one could hear his calls. The rain overpowered any chance to call out from the alley.

“I’ll go get help, keep applying pressure here-” Shiro said, trying to put the man’s hand on the towel. The man coughed blood, as he reached for Shiro’s right arm. He shakily grasped it above the wrist and turned his hand towards him. The man whispered something incoherent and pressed Shiro’s palm to his. The man pulled Shiro towards him, forcing his ear close, and began to speak.

“Thank you for trying, but this is enough,” The man said. “I won’t be making it back to that place… but you can”. “You’ll learn to use this-” he said, forcing their palms together even more firmly. “Take good care of him,” he pleaded.

It was like a fire had spread into his palm. Thousands of images flashed through his head in the matter of seconds. He recognized nothing. There were sensations he’d never felt before, so far distant feeling yet familiarly soothing. With a sudden jolt, the images were gone- leaving as fast as they appeared. Snapping back to his senses, he felt the intense pain once again.

“Ow! What the hell!” he yelled, stumbling backwards onto the ground. It felt like something had branded his skin, leaving an intense burning sensation. Grasping his wrist, he looked down and saw a small, black diamond take shape in his palm. “What is this thing?!” Shiro gasped at what he was seeing. He flailed his hand side to side aggressively, as if trying to shake whatever was on his hand off. Stop! Get off! It began swiftly spiraling around his hand like a snake and immediately shrunk back into the diamond. This time, it swelled into a full-fledged jet black gem. He glared angrily back up at the man, but he was gone. Nothing was left, not even his clothes. What the hell!? He thought, scrambling to his feet. What did he do to me!?

Soaking wet, he scrambled to his feet, clutching his right hand, and sprinted through the alleyways towards his apartment. This cannot be real. It hurts! God, it hurts! I need to call the police! He shoved his hand into his pocket as he ran, but his phone was missing. Oh god, I left it charging on my… bed.

“Shit!” he swore aloud.

Turning the last corner of his route into the front apartment patio, he bolted to the front door of his apartment. He grabbed his key ring from his belt loop, frantically searching through the jumbled group of similar looking keys. Key, key, key- where’s my key! Finding the key, he plunged it into the lock, and turned. The lock tumblers cracked loudly as the deadbolt began to move. Am I going to die? He thought. His mind began to race. As Shiro gripped the door handle, his right palm seared with heat more fiercely than before. He groaned in pain, opening the door regardless. The door swung open, creaking on its hinges, and he ran inside.

He ducked into the first door on his left, his bedroom, shutting the door behind him. He raced to the edge of the bed for his phone, nearly trampling over his stacked manga all over his bedroom floor. I need to call the police! The phone laid screen down on his bedsheets. As he reached for his phone, he realized the pain was… gone. Suddenly, a wave of nausea washed over him, and his knees buckled underneath him. He landed on the floor next to the bed.

Whatever that man gave me, it's messing me up! I need to get help- I need to grab the phone! He shakily reached up, seeing his phone at the edge of the bed peering down at him. He tugged on the bedsheet, causing the phone to slide off and clack onto the floor. His fingers slowly unlocked his phone, his movements becoming slower with each passing moment. Please stay awake. Please stay awake! His fingers finally has sweep across the screen, dialing 9-1-1. As he pressed the ‘call’ icon, his body drops limp, succumbing to his tiredness. As his eyes slowly begin to close, the phone screen illuminates brighter.

“9-1-1, what’s the nature of your emergency?”

Everything was pitch-black. Lights, sounds, and his sense of touch- everything was gone. Seconds seem to feel like minutes, and then to hours. Is this a dream? It doesn’t feel like a dream… Suddenly, quick bursts of intense pressure invaded the silence. Beating him from side to side, they would leave as fast as they came, becoming increasingly more frequent- and a lot more violent. They shook every facet of his being. Soon, they were constant. As soon as it felt like he couldn’t take anymore, the bursts stopped abruptly. Silence remained once again.

This time, it was only for a short time, as the sensation of falling kicked in swiftly. What the- am I falling?! His stomach seemed to climb to his throat in fear, as he flailed his arms back and forth in darkness. Suddenly, his eyes flew open, and the world below him burst into view. A thunderous wave erupted in the sky as he awoke. He could feel the air ripple and vibrate as if an earthquake had shaken the sky.

Falling past the clouds, his vision became clearer. Vivid shades of blue filled the sky as he descended above a land of green, lush fields and valleys. He stared in awe at what was before him. This has got to be a dream, this is way too crazy. He glanced at his hand as he descended. The gem remained, and this time faintly glowing- as if… reacting to the new surroundings. A small farm sat on the hill directly below. It seemed he was aiming right for the only building in the area.

Like hell I’m dying here. If this is a dream, then I can… STOP FALLING! He commanded, spreading his arms wide. Nothing seemed to happen. He continued to fall, almost faster now. A frown covered his face in dissatisfaction. So this isn’t a dream then. I’m not in control… His diamond began to burn hot, and streams of air formed around his hand and forearm. What’s happening now!? He was seconds from impacting the ground. His hand pulsed and aggressively flung forward, aiming towards the ground. His fingers outstretched and began to shake. The gem illuminated the brightest he’d seen before, and a shockwave rippled down from his shoulder and out of his hand. Air slammed the ground below, immediately slowing his descent. The sudden force of the air pushed the underbrush below aside fiercely. I can use magic?! Oh my god-! Suddenly, the air keeping him up cut off. He fell the remaining few feet, hitting the ground and knocking him unconscious.

Sujin 崇神
Joe Gold
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