Chapter 0:

Wayward Steps

The Seiren Family Secret

            They say that the provincial life is so much different than urban city living. Others think that it’s better—the air is cleaner, times are simpler, and you can truly feel the sense of community. Some might say that it’s dull. Simpler times sometimes translated as stagnant and excessively mundane.

Not that Aria Haruki can agree to any of these sentiments. She could barely remember any of her time back in her hometown, a provincial city beyond the metropolitan stretches of The Capital. She was ready to change that, though. Aria was looking forward to feeling nostalgic as she prepared to gather her travel luggage.

“Is your phone fully charged?” Aria’s mom asked her for what seemed to be the tenth time today, and it had only been an hour since she woke up at 7 AM.

“Yes, and it’s in my sling bag.”

“What about your plane ticket? Your toiletries?”

Aria patted both the sling bag and the only luggage she had, a small orange trolley bag that held at least a week’s worth of clothing. “Both here. Mom, seriously. I’ve checked and rechecked everything!”

“You never know, maybe a ghost would try and take them out.”

She shook her head at her mother’s smirk. Mrs. Haruki was amazingly spry at her age, yet still looking young. If she hadn’t decided to go on a full mother look with her pink house duster and a green frilly apron, they would have looked like siblings. “Anyway, have you contacted Claire? She knows to pick me up, right?”

Mrs. Haruki plucked her phone out of her apron’s front pocket. “Well, yes, but I’m afraid your cousin hasn’t been exactly replying to my messages.” She shot Aria a nervous smile. “I trust her though. Probably just ran out of data.”

“Right…” Aria made a mental note to check if her money was enough for a taxi ride.

The doorbell chimed, and Aria looked at the living room mirror one more time. She felt ready enough to go. Her dark brown hair was brushed down, falling just beneath her denim jacket covered shoulders. The grey shirt underneath that looked immaculately ironed, and Aria brushed off the lint on her black leggings. Her outfit wasn’t fashionably stark, but it was comfortable. Her white sneakers emitted a small squeaking noise as she wore it by the front door.

“Look at my girl,” Mrs. Haruki sniffed. “So independent already.”

“You know I’ll always come running back to you,” Aria smiled, dragging the trolley to the front door. “See you next week.”

“Wait,” her mother held her hand. “Before you go, I should tell you that you’re ready to know a secret.”

“A secret?”

“The Seiren family secret. It’s nothing too special, but it’s just a story passed down from generation to generation. You have Seiren blood, of course, from me. It is only fitting that you’d want to know it.”

Right. Aria Seiren Haruki was her full name. “You would know the story, why didn’t you tell me before?”

“It would be easier to believe if there was…actual…evidence. You’ll see.”

Her mother released her hand, finally waving goodbye. “You should ask Claire when you arrive in Sanvia City. She’d be happy to tell you.”

As the Aria embarked on the taxi, her wide-eyed stare and her furrowed eyebrows mismatched the excited glow of her mother’s smile. For the first time since her travel preparations, she felt an unease settling on her stomach.

What was she to expect?

Twenty-four hours later, Aria only wished that she’d let the family secret stay a secret.

Joe Gold

The Seiren Family Secret