†††† The auditorium easily slipped into a compact form of chaos.† The crowds were talking in excited whispers, some louder than whispers, while others just left because the show was over.† Paramedics were racing from their vehicles to the triplets in order to safely transport them to better care, a.k.a. the hospital.† The actors and stagehands couldnít help but feel a mix of both confusion and curiosity.† They were confused as to what could have possibly stricken the triplets down in the way that it did.† It was a curious thing to have the paramedics come just a few seconds afterwards as well.† Benji caught sight of one of the paramedics holding Harunaís bracelet up briefly.† He noticed that it had been blinking a bright red before the official turned it off.† Was the bracelet specifically for contacting the paramedics?† If so, did that mean Haruna was a regular patient?† This was utterly bewildering from every approach.† Nevertheless, everyone hoped that the triplets would be okay.† They had yet to hear the ominous report from the specialist.
†††† The triplets opened their eyes to find themselves spinning in a spiral-motion, surrounded by an endless abyss of starry black.† As they spun for what seemed like hours, the girls started getting dizzy, heightened with a sense of drowsiness.† Fortunately, sleep won over regurgitating impulses in the end.
†††† Haruki found herself waking up to several dozens of bookshelves, each and every one lined from top to bottom with books of all sizes and lengths.† Staring in wonder, she stood up and slowly walked over to the nearest bookcases, skimming over the various titles.† She easily found several classics, in several languages.† She stopped to look at Little Women by Louisa May Alcott and was mildly surprised that it was the complete editionĖ-the original, full manuscript--protected by a red hardbound cover.† As she looked, she found that many books were translated to or from Old English, French, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, and even Egyptian, among several other languages.† The more she looked, the more she wondered just how long the bookcases went on, for she must have passed at least thirty or forty bookcases with seemingly no difference in the surrounding environment.
As if sensing her perplexity, the next bookcase she passed revealed a small clearing of sorts--a reading area.† Amongst the array of beanbag, inflatable, and leather chairs, Harukiís eyes locked onto a sole figure with their legs crossed and nose hiding in the pages of a blue hardbound book titled Lost at Sea: Poseidonís Rage.† Haruki watched the person for a moment.† When they turned the page, she cleared her throat loudly to catch the personís attention.
The figure visibly jumped as they dropped the book on their lap.† Haruki instantly distinguished the person as a girl, perhaps in her early 20ís.† Her thick, black bifocals covered her aquamarine eyes.† Her outfit comprised of a bright orange shirt and black warm-up pants.† The light freckles dotting her cheekbones seemed to glow as the wind from the open window rustled her brown--highlighted blond--hair, held up in a loose ponytail.† Before Haruki could gather her voice, the girl spoke in a rapid dialect.
"Who are you?† What are you doing here?† Donít you know that this library is off-limits to commoners?† And are your clothes to signify your status, or do you just like to play dress-up?"
Haruki was temporarily held spellbound, but her voice was calm and clear as she responded just as quickly, "My name is Haruki Shouri.† I was in a play before I found myself here, so I didn't get a chance to change.† Iím sorry, I didnít realize that this place was off-limits, as I have never been here before nor do I know where Ďhereí is." Haruki stopped to take a breath, but added, "By the way, I donít believe I have I ever seen such a thorough collection of books in one place; it is beyond extraordinary."
The girl said nothing while she gave Haruki a scrutinizing look.† An enlightening thought must have hit her just then, because her expression slackened slightly as she verified, "You...youíre new, arenít you?"
Haruki blinked.† "Excuse me?† What do you mean by Ďnewí?"
The interrogator added, "I mean are you new to this world, to Yumeka?"
The surprise must have been quite obvious in Harukiís expression, given that the stranger suddenly relaxed her nerves completely and let out a hearty laugh.† The sound echoed throughout the large room, in a somewhat eerie fashion.† On the last strings of her laugh, she put her hand up to gesture for Haruki to wait a moment.† Taking a deep breath, she finally introduced herself.† "Iím sorry, really, I am.† Let me start over.† My name is Polilla Pregunta, but please, call me Polly.† I suppose I should tell you a bit about this world before anything else.† Please, have a seat, any seat will do."
Bewildered, Haruki glanced from Polly to the numerous seats, and slowly made her way to a nearby leather chair.† While she did so, Polly put a bookmark in the book she was reading and set it down on a nearby table.
Once Haruki was seated, she began.† "Where should I start?† Well, okay, how about the purpose of Yumeka?† To put it shortly, this world is meant to make all of your dreams come true.† Anything you wish, desire, hope, want, and yearn for can become real, but only as long as you stay here.† All you have to do is say it aloud or think it in the form of a statement, and it will be granted."
"Anything?"† Haruki questioned in disbelief.
"Well- Okay, not anything exactly, but it might as well be.† If someone with stronger DP than you wishes for something that contradicts your own, before you even think about it, then yours is revoked and theirs is kept intact."
Haruki couldnít help but interrupt with, "Whatís DP?"
"Hmm? Oh, sorry again.† It stands for Dreaming Potential.† The more potential you have to dream big, or if you already dream big, the stronger it is.† Also, if you have a lot of experience dreaming unique dreams, your DP increases as well."
When Haruki slowly nodded at this, she continued.† "Where was I?† Oh, Iíll give you an example.† Take this room.† A long while back, I wished for a place that contained every single book ever made, in its perfect state and categorized very well.† Since itís a remote place, nobody contradicted it.† Thatís a good thing.† On the other hand, say someone suddenly came here and wished that he/she could rule the world.† Since that position is already taken by the creator of this world, their wish is refused."
"What happens when your wish is refused?"
"Oh, nothing much.† You just feel a little pressure on your symbol, and thatís your sign that it didnít go through.† All of your wishes that do come true are written into your book."
"Um...What symbol and what book?† I donít think I have those yet."
It was Pollyís turn to be surprised.† "You havenít?† No, I'm sure you have.† Your symbol is usually located in an inconspicuous place, so it doesn't draw attention if you don't want it to.† Itís generally on your right or left shoulder.† Can you take that tunic off?"
"Huh?† Oh, sure," Under her breath she added, "I have a shirt underneath anyway."† Haruki took off the tunic and was immediately caught off guard by the faded blue symbol on her right shoulder.† It was a picture of a scratchy line graph within an open book, surrounded by the common outline of a water drop.† Haruki brushed her hand over it softly, feeling its texture.† The picture reminded Haruki of a tattoo, though she had never recalled it hurting.
"Does it come off?"
"Well, once youíre established as a visitor here, it stays with you, even when you return to the real world."
"Yes, you return to the real world every time you exhaust yourself to a state of sleep in this world.† However, if you or someone else wants you to stay longer than that, then it is done; you stay Ďovernightí.† Also, if you have a mind to return here, you will come back when you fall asleep in the real world.† Simple enough, no?"
Haruki nodded.† "It all sounds very organized and regulated.† Wait, what about the book?"
"Oh that?† Well, it wonít do much good now since this is probably your first day, but hereís the procedure.† Just hold your hand over your symbol and say, ĎI am a disturbed dreamer.í"
"What kind of saying is that?"
Polly shrugged.† "Donít ask me--I didnít make it up."
Before Haruki could even try to uncover her book, a blaring alarm suddenly went off.† Both girls clutched their ears to make a feeble attempt at nullifying the ringing of their eardrums.† Wincing, Polly shouted to Haruki over the intervals, "ITíS THE NIGHTMARE ALARM!† COME ON, WEíVE GOT TO GET TO SAFETY!"
Surprisingly, Haruki heard it and nodded.† She followed Polly down a trap door in the middle of the seating arrangement.† Down...down...down... until they came to an abrupt stop on a huge pile of cushions.† As Haruki looked around, she found that it was a small cavern, lighted by a single, huge torch on the wall with only a single computer on a desk to decorate the room in the least.† As if this were nothing but a game of casual hide-and-seek, Polly walked over to the desk, and sat on the rolling desk chair that appeared.† With lightning fast fingers, Polly typed away at the computer.† Several instantaneous beeps and clicks were heard as the information was quickly computed.† Taking her time, Haruki walked over to her, and looked over Pollyís shoulder.
A whole bunch of pop-ups were showing up every other second, bombarded with computer-language information.† Finally, a full-screen pop-up appeared in English.† It was a live TV video and was recording the actions of the Ďnightmareí.† Without realizing it, Haruki scoffed at the sight of the nightmare in question.† A Godzilla-sized pink bunny with demon red eyes and huge buckteeth pillaged the city buildings.† Polly frowned at this.† She continued to watch as she reprimanded, "Yes, I know it looks rather silly, but never underestimate the power of a nightmare.† A creature that is fueled from the desire of a dreamer is nothing to scoff about--especially if the dreamer has a lot of DP, but is completely unaware of the rules."
Offhandedly, Haruki asked, "Is there any way to defeat a nightmare once it is manifested?"
"Generally, if a Day Knight--the equivalent of a sheriff to a burglar with the Ďnightmareí being the burglar--is in the area, heíll take care of it.† But if not, the only way to get rid of it is to outsmart it, to trick it into being intimidated.† Of course, itís pretty much impossible for anyone in this area since there are only newcomers here.† Iíve stayed in this town for a long time, but I donít have nearly enough DP to take down a nightmare, even if itís a small one."
"Ehhh..."† Haruki murmured with slight interest.† She stroked her chin as she contemplated the situation.† A few moments later, Haruki broke the silence by asking, "Just so I know, once a nightmare is created, what makes it Ďruní?"
Polly glanced at Haruki suspiciously in the corner of her eye, but answered, "It thrives on the fear and negativity that its presence creates.† The stronger the fear, the stronger the nightmare."
Haruki thought about this a little before confirming, "So, if you show it no fear, then itís powerless against you?"
Polly blinked in surprise at this.† In a daze, she repeated it, as if getting
used to the concept.† At last, she let
out a combination of a sigh and a scoff.†
"You make it sound so easy, when itís not.† Naturally, this nightmare is weak because its
dreamer is weak.† Since nightmares are
formed by a personís subconscious, the nightmare is only as powerful as the
creator.† Which means, compared to the
other nightmares out there, ours are weaker than weak.† You know what I mean?"
†††† Haruki nodded.† With a deep exhale, Haruki tugged at her collar.† "Is it me, or is it a bit hot in here?"
Polly raised an eyebrow at this.† Slowly, she answered, "Well, I suppose the torch does give off pretty warm heat--Iím used to it, so I didnít really notice."
"You mind if I go up to the surface to get some fresh air?"
"Go ahead.† Just think or say what you want in a statement and itíll be--wait.† You canít-"
But Polly was too late; Haruki had gone to the surface, teleporting only a few meters away from the monstrosity of a rabbit.
Slightly overwhelmed by using her first wish, though small, and seeing how large the nightmare really was, Haruki staggered backwards a few steps.† In a rough approximation, the young girl only came up to the nightmareís heel.† That gave her an idea.† Taking a deep breath, Haruki made her second wish.† "I wish I could be taller than this nightmare rabbit."
The dreamer was immediately surrounded by a swirl of white pixie lights.† The circle of lights around her expanded as Haruki grew taller.† Once she was about five times as tall as the rabbit, the glow dissipated, disappearing slower than it had first appeared.
Her wish did the trick, for the nightmare looked up at her, eyes squinting and mouth quivering in fear of what was to come.† Haruki looked down on the rabbit with her hands on her hips.† She gave the nightmare a very clear, delightedly sweet smile.† At this, the poor nightmare looked like it was going to be sick with cowardly fear.† In an attempt to protect itself from Harukiís especially sweet, fearless, smile, it covered its eyes with its ears, holding them down with its forepaws.† Unfortunately, now that Haruki had started, she thought she might as well finish the job.
††† In her gentlest tone, coated with five or six layers of poisoned honey, Haruki chided the nightmare.† "Oh, Mr. Rabbit.† That was a very bad thing for you to do.† Why would a sweet little bunny like you want with being mean to people and buildings who were minding their own business?† You arenít a meanie, are you?† No, you arenít, my sweet, furry, cuddly little bunny."
†††† As if the words were an incantation of destructive witchcraft, the rabbit suddenly started rolling back and forth on its backbone, paws at tugging at its collarbone.† It appeared to be in great mental disorder; its speech was garbled up until it began to gargle, and then stop altogether.† With a burst of black pixie dust, the rabbit was disposed of, nice and neatly.† Haruki exhaled deeply in relief before wishing to return to her normal size.† Upon completing the shrinking procession, Haruki looked around in dismay.† The cobblestone road was totaled with stones cracked and piled up all over the place.† The buildings, mostly two or three stories tall, were partially caved in or humongous piles of crumbly rubble.† Mumbling to herself, Haruki accidentally wished by saying, "I really hope this place gets cleaned up soon; more people could get hurt if it stays like this."
†††† Like magic, a wave of glowing white spread over the town, leaving a sparkling, prosperous town in its wake.† Upon seeing her wish granted at a remarkable speed, Haruki was stunned.† As a delayed reaction, Haruki let out another sigh of relief.
†††† "Your DP rate is phenomenal.† You could be useful to us.† Come, follow me."
†††† Haruki instantly turned around to face the voice, and was met by a lower torso.† Slowly, Haruki followed the torso up to the face, which was hidden by a thick mustache, beard, and sideburns.† Haruki gulped nervously.
†††† Haruka groaned.† Whoever was responsible for her splitting headache was in for a killer beating.† Constant bleeps and sound effects did not help the case whatsoever.† Slowly, Haruka managed to grip a nearby surface and hoist herself up.† She forced her weary eyelids open and looked around.† The first word that came to her mind was "arcade".† All around her were rows upon rows of Japanese-style arcade machines.† Scattered all around the big room were clumps of kids, young adults, and adults, some playing, others watching.
†††† As Haruka walked around the room, she saw that the games varied greatly with every row.† She recognized a lot of the games as ones she had played in the past. †However, quite a few of them sported characters and plots that she had never seen or heard of before.† One game in particular caught her interest--a one-on-one fighting game with bizarre creatures for fighters.† One looked like a knight in black armor with red trimmings; he was winning, though the other, dressed in a white robe with gold trimmings, was putting up a good fight.† To Harukaís vast surprise, the fighter in white suddenly summoned a large golden ball of energy, and demolished the knight.† He was declared the winner.
†††† Intrigued, Haruka asked
the winner who those characters were based on.†
The boy and his friend looked at Haruka as if she were an alien that
caught had ambushed them and was prepared to kidnap them.† The player slowly asked, "You...you
donít know?" His friend added, "I thought everyone knew about Devaki and
†††† Haruka blinked as the information registered.† Chuckling slightly, she rubbed the back of her head as she responded, "I guess so.† Where am I anyway?"
†††† The first boy answered as he gestured towards the room.† "Where else?† Youíre in Yumeka, the world of Dreams.† This building itself is for game-aholics like us.† You like to play games?"
†††† Haruka blinked again.† Shrugging, she replied, "Well, Iím here, arenít I?"† During the next pause, Haruka looked around in awe.† Catching sight of a boxing ring in the central area, she smirked and excused herself.† The two boys exchanged glances, nodded, and followed her.
†††† Two people, no, creatures were fighting within the ring.† Haruka joined the crowd of spectators, and watched a humanoid tiger use brute force and mouth-induced flames.† A man with pterodactyl characteristics retaliated with wind attacks and severe pecks.† In the end, wind put out the flames, and the tiger was barbequed by its own attack.† A rather normal referee in comparison, a man with a black and white striped shirt, announced the winner, and the crowd grumbled, unsatisfied.† Haruka caught wind of a nearby conversation that mumbled about Raubvogel always winning.† Nobody could beat him; he was unstoppable.
Grinning once again, Haruka walked over to the referee and asked him about the terms of the matches.† He answered that anyone could challenge the previous victor in an anything-goes match, but the loser, whoever fainted first, would have to forfeit 100 DPP to the winner.† When Haruka asked what "DPP" was, the boy she had met earlier, who had won the game, told her.† It stood for "Dream Potential Points".† The more you earn the stronger and more powerful you and your dreams got.† The newcomer couldnít help but ask what dreams had to do with it.† The boyís friend answered that, in this world, all your dreams could come true; all you had to do was wish it in a statement.† Upon understanding, Haruka nodded, and asked that she be the next challenger.
The referee, and everyone else who heard, was surprised beyond belief.† A mere child, new to their world, wished to challenge the great Raubvogel?† The referee asked if she even had 100 DPP to spare.† Haruka shrugged her shoulders, not knowing how to check.† The referee showed her in a demonstration.† First, he asked her to bare her shoulders.† Caught unawares, Haruka did as she was told, taking off the knightís chain mail, and ripping her sleeves off.† She didnít much care for them anyway.† As she ripped off her right sleeve, Haruka was surprised to find a red emblem apparently tatooed on.† Upon closer inspection, she identified the design as a blue and gold shield in front of crossed swords.† It reminded Haruka of a medieval kingdomís symbol.
The referee only nodded and told her to place her left hand over it and repeat after him.† Haruka did so, chanting the same spell that Haruki had learned at that same moment in the library.† Immediately, the emblem glowed a brilliant crimson as the referee guided her hand farther from her arm.† Then, with a small pop, the glow disappeared, and a tiny book the size of her fingernail lay in the palm of her hand.† The referee told her to place her other hand over it, and say, "I, (input first and last name), am this bookís owner, and wish for access to its information."† Haruka shortly complained about how long all this was, but she did as she was told.† The book made another *Pop* and a medium sized blue book appeared in her hands.† Feeling particularly curious, she opened it to the first page, and read a small inscription.
This book was formally made for Haruka Shouri on this day.
Anyone besides the owner who dares to open this book, shall be punished.† Severely.
I sincerely hope that you enjoy your stay here.
~Lady of Dreams
†††† Half to herself, Haruka asked, "So how do you check DPP?"
In answer to her question, a simple command of "Please turn the page ~>" appeared a few spaces below the dedication.† Almost mechanically, Haruka did just that.† "Please Wait" blinked repeatedly on the next page before it changed to, "Process complete.† You now have 8000 DPP."
†††† When the boy read it over her shoulder, his eyes widened remarkably, as he exclaimed, "8000 DPP?!† Thatís crazy for a newcomer!"
†††† Instantly, murmurs and gossip were spread amongst the crowd.† Meanwhile, Haruka held her ear with discomfort as she hissed, "Geez!† Not so loud!† You shouted right in my ear, kid!"
†††† The boy backed down and calmly said, "Sorry, um..Haruka.† Oh, I forgot to tell you before, but my name's Kenta.† My friend here is Garte."
†††† Haruka waved him off.† "Whatever.† I could care less what your name is."† To the referee, she asked, "So how íbout it mister?† Can I fight?"† The referee sighed.
†††† "I suppose there's nothing stopping you.† Just keep in mind that any request previously granted cannot be granted again by someone of weaker DP.† Understand?"
†††† The challenging fighter began to do warm-up stretches.† "Yeah, yeah, whatever.† Ok!† I'm ready to go!"
†††† In a triple flip, Haruka jumped into the ring; she smirked when she saw that Raubvogel looked slightly surprised at this.† "Ready to rumble?"
†††† Raubvogel said nothing in response, but got into a fighting stance just as Haruka did.† The referee held up his hand and declared, "Ready?† Begin!" as he brought his hand back down.
†††† The bird man was the first to launch an attack.† With sharp claws on his feet, he launched a spiral jump kick.† Continuing to smirk, Haruka silently wished to have rawhide gloves, and caught his foot in them.† Haruka then proceeded to spin him quickly without seemingly any effort before throwing him down like a lumberjack would chop wood with an axe.† The arena rumbled with the sudden impact; Raubvogel rebounded slightly before coming at a rest on the floor.† Many ooh's and ah's were echoed from the crowd.† While Raubvogel slowly got back to his feet, the crowd grew larger as rumors of a newcomer standing up to an elite fighter were broadcasted to the far reaches of the building.
†††† Raubvogel called up some saliva, and spit it to the side, eyes glaring at Haruka.† "Not many people can do that to me, even less so by newbies like you."
†††† Haruka's smirk widened.† "Well, when you've had as much physical and emotional training as me, it isn't all that hard.† Your past opponents must have just been really weak."
†††† Growling in frustration, Raubvogel charged Haruka with his head bent down like a bull.† Half to herself, Haruka murmured, "When will you learn?† Rushes won't work against me."† She prepared herself well, and seized him by his pointy blue ears.† Before he had a chance to react, she sent a mind numbing blow to his stomach with a thrust of her knee.† Groaning in pain, Raubvogel crumpled to the ground, clutching his bruised stomach.† But he refused to give up.† When he thought Haruka was offguard, as she believed she had won, he grapped her ankles from under her, and soon toppled her.
Haruka had quick reflexes though, so she caught herself with her hands, arms locked straight, while forcing her feet up to kick him in the chin during a backflip.† Her feet hit their mark, but since Raubvogel did not let go, he was slammed once more into the ground, face down behind Haruka.† The impact loosened his hold, and she easily slipped out of them.† As a deciding factor, Haruka bent her legs and jumped at least ten feet into the air before hurtling back down, elbow extended.† As her elbow cracked the small of his back, his body curled into an arch, electrified with pain.† Upon standing once more, Haruka replaced her elbow with the heel of her shoe, pinning him down.† But that didn't matter, as he was knocked out cold.
When the referee announced that Haruka was the new champion, the large crowd erupted in cheers.† Haruka smiled and gave everyone the victory sign before jumping back out of the ring.† Kenta and Garte led the crowd that surrounded her as they congratulated the new victor.† It took at least half an hour for the crowd to disperse with the help of the referee, but once it did, he came up to Haruka to tell her that she would need to go into the back room with the unconscious Raubvogel in order to get the DPP transferred.† Haruka agreed, not knowing what was in store for her.
†††† Haruna was in for a rude awakening as she landed with a loud *THUMP* on the dusty, dirt road face-down.† She groaned softly as she clutched her face in pain.† Rubbing her nose ruefully, Haruna adjusted to the light before taking in her surroundings.† Haruka had always told her that it was a good idea to know your surroundings before you started moving.† Haruki had helped her learn to identify the actual objects early on.
Upon thinking these thoughts, Haruna realized with a start that she was no longer beside her sisters.† In fact, as Haruna searched her surroundings, they werenít anywhere to be found!† She herself appeared to be in an alley of some sort, the obvious scent of dank rain combined with a distinct smell of garbage within overlapping shadows was too overwhelming for the anemic girl.† When she slowly stood and turned around, she found herself watching an ever-moving stream of people power walk across her line of vision.† The people were of assorted heights, widths, skin colors, genders, clothing, and appendages.† Some rather interesting characters, in Harunaís opinion, were a pair of catlike human girls, complete with black markings, orange-coloring, clawed paws for hands, and protruding ears and tail.† Almost self-consciously, Haruna looked down at her own wardrobe.† She still had her princess ballroom dress on.
†††† Haruna looked back at the crowd, and considered joining them.† Taking into account their own looks, she judged that they wouldnít care much if she walked among them dressed like she was.† However, as she took a step forward, she silently wished that she could change her clothes to something a bit less extravagant.
†††† As if her fairy godmother were shining down on her, Harunaís dress began to glow, and separated into trillions of tiny blue particles.† Those particles started to change their hue, as well as their shape.† When the glowing faded, Haruna looked down on a pale blue cloak which hid a dark blue long-sleeved shirt and faded jeans.† The outfit as a whole appeared old, worn-in, even ragged.† The black boots on her feet were covered in a thin layer of dried dirt, giving her the look of a long-time traveler.† When Haruna took off her hood, her naturally wavy black hair was tied back in a low ponytail.† She thought to herself, 'This is certainly less extravagant, thatís for sure.'
†††† With a sigh, Haruna stretched her muscles a little before collecting herself and stepping into the streets.† Haruka always stretched after sleeping; she reasoned that it would be of no use to anyone if you formed cramps with the smallest exertion of energy towards exercise.† Haruna was immediately swept up into the line of motion, and pulled in the direction that the people were moving.† Stiffly, she managed to face forward and start walking on her own.† It was harder than she thought, to walk that fast.
†††† While she was forced to move forward quickly, she managed to catch glimpses of shops and buildings on either side of the road.† She seemed to be in a marketplace of some sort, because there were signs and stalls for assorted vegetables, hung-up meat, clothes, gadgets, pets, farm animals...it seemed that anything sellable was being sold here.† Every few stalls, there would be a fairly large gap before the next set of stalls.† In these gaps, there would be a side road which helped empty and fill the main road with people.† Since Haruna had been pushed to the middle of the flurry by newcomers, she could no longer get out.† Her heart told her what she already knew--that she needed to find her sisters--but that was virtually impossible with the way things were going now.†† Therefore, Haruna resolved to follow the main road until the pack dispersed enough to walk normally or the pathway ended...whichever came first.
†††† Absently, Haruna noted that the sun was going down just below the rim of the horizon, when both occurred at once.† By the time she reached the end of the road, the exit gate for the city, the crowd had completely dispersed.† When the sun was replaced with the moon and stars, all of the city lights were extinguished.† No trace of the inhabitants could be seen; Haruna was alone in a desolate ghost town.† At least, she thought she was.
†††† "Girl, what are you doing outside at night?"† A strong hand gripped her wrist and held her by it easily.† Haruna instinctively closed her eyes when she felt her feet leave the ground.† Her captor shook her vigorously when she said nothing in reply.† "Answer!† What is your purpose?"
†††† Haruna yelped, but couldn't find the courage to answer.† She sensed the approach of another figure.† A younger, female voice protested, "Onii-chan!† Don't be so rude!† She's probably just new here!"
†††† Her captor's deep voice reverberated in Haruna's ears.† "Is this true?† Are you simply not aware of our rules?"
†††† Haruna swallowed nervously, and nodded.† She slowly opened her eyes when she felt her feet touch ground again, and the grip released her.† In the moonlight, she could now see the one who apprehended her.† He was a giant of a man, towering over her by at least a foot or two.† He wore a simple silver cloak that looked black in the night.† He wore no gloves on his callused hands, but golden bands hugged his wrists.† Haruna was so intrigued by this figure that she jumped when the other girl asked if she was alright.
†††† The girl looked to be about as young as Haruna, as well as the same basic height.† Her glossy black hair cascaded around her shoulder as she repeated her question.† Haruna shook herself out of her trance and smiled.† She answered that she was fine, just a bit startled.† The girl nodded and stepped forward.† She introduced herself as Nisou.† Her brother was called Kuno.† Taking her turn, Haruna told them her name as well.
In a much kinder way than Kuno, Nisou asked Haruna what she was doing out so late.† She merely replied that she had been separated from her sisters upon arriving here, or this world, she supposed.† Nisou asked if she'd like to come back to headquarters with them.† If she was extra polite, their seeker might allow them to use the crystal ball to find her sisters.† Haruna was very elated at this prospect and instantly agreed.† She naÔvely followed the pair to a distant dome building.