Chapter 1: Manifestation One: The Passions

The day started OK, then slowly slid down the scale of good to something that didn't quite match anyone's description of even the decent.

It all started out with a simple letter of love, a confession to someone I thought would show me the same feelings as I had for them. I woke up a little earlier than usual so I could be ready on time, dressed in my school uniform after the usual bathroom duties. I decided to skip breakfast and arrive at the train station early to ensure that I would not miss "Her" arrival. I had put my finest and newest school uniform on and even trimmed the single lock of hair that always ran wild at the top of my head. I had broken out the unopened bottle of cologne my mother had given me for Christmas. She said that it made me smell, in her words, "yummy".

Every weekday morning Mihoshi Kikko and I, Tsubasa Kie, fifteen year old high school student, caught the same train to the same school, and every evening we would catch the same train back. I fantasized about talking to her many times, but could never get the courage up to speak with her. This girl stood 1.5 meters tall, with dark red hair and deep green eyes that reminded me of the fields of grass behind our house in the countryside. Her eyes couldn't get any greener, and she had the sweetest smile with little dimples. There was just the slightest hint of freckles sprinkled over her nose. She always seemed to be helping someone out at school with some project or something. And whenever she did anything, no matter what it was, she made it look easy. Little did I know the truth behind this female.

I arrived at the station and sat on the bench just inside the entry so I could see her when she arrived, and waited. This train station was one of the newer stations, with clean and unmarked tiles on the wall and fresh posters. The fluorescent lights were not flickering from age, and the turnstiles always moved smoothly at the entry.

I made the mistake of letting my mind wander and explore possibilities that could happen when I introduced myself to her formally and then gave her my love letter. She would tear the envelope open and read quickly, then squeal with delight and joy that such a person as I would find her interesting, and throw her arms around me and rain kisses on my face. I could feel my face turning red with embarrassment just imagining this. I inadvertently let out a chuckle of delight that made the woman that was sitting next to me look at me and move to the far end of the bench, away from me.

I rechecked my pocket to make sure that the letter was still there, and looked around again to make sure she hadn't arrived during my mental ramblings. Things were getting to be a bit busy, and there were more business types showing up. One person in the crowd stood out a bit as he was dressed nothing like the rest of them. He wore a long tan coat, and a hat pulled down to cover his face so I couldn't see if I recognized him. He was looking furtively around and moving towards the platform edge, looking in the direction the train would be coming from. I stood and moved towards the transit police that stood at the far end of the station platform, but after I stood up Kikko arrived with her usual retinue of friends that constantly changed. I changed the direction and headed off to intercept her at the platform edge. She was talking and giggling with her friends about a TV show they had all watched last night. As I arrived, I cleared my throat to get her attention, but my attempt at getting her attention was not successful. I cleared my throat slightly louder. This worked and Kikko and her friends turned to face me.

I remember clearly that Kikko had a slight smile on her face. The same kind as her friends, almost a smirk. She gave me a questioning look, and I stood straight and looked her in the eyes. "I have seen you almost every day since my first day at school, and admired you from a distance. I wish to give you this letter written with my heart. Please read it." I remember she looked down at the envelope in my hands, and her hair fell forward obscuring her face from me. Her shoulders jerked once then twice and I thought I'd made her cry. I said quickly "If you wish, we can talk about this privately later on the train if you feel too emotional about it." Her head flew up so she looked directly into my eyes and I saw something, I'm not sure what it was, because at that very instant something to my right caught my eye and I glanced there just in time to see the man in the overcoat raise his hand and press something that was in it. There was a bright flash where he stood, then a force struck me. The blast hit me from the side and slightly behind, knocking me into a post that stood next to me. That same blast knocked almost everyone else onto the tracks and into the path of the fast moving train.

They say thirty people were killed instantly that day, and another fourteen died in the hospital later. One person survived. They were hospitalized and in a coma. The doctors say that I was completely unharmed with not even a scratch, but I know different. That day one person survived, but I was also dead, beyond help.

When a person's heart is ripped from their body by a simple denial of feelings, that person will heal. However, when the same person dies also, the death of that person makes the loss permanent and complete. I would never know what the answer to my letter would be. To watch the one I love die left me dead, never to feel again. I could not feel and would not feel.

I went to a new school a month into the following year, after spending time with all kinds of doctors who examined me. None could solve the problem with my lack of emotions. Medical Doctors searched for damage to my brain with no luck. Psychologists examined me, but could not come to any conclusion except that I was injured, as it didn't match up with any known syndrome that they knew about. I knew that I was missing something, but it didn't matter to me as I didn't know what it was any more.

The teacher, a woman in her late twenties, said "I will be your language teacher, my name is Enoki Ai. Class, I would like you to meet our newest student. Please introduce yourself."

I bowed and said "My name is Tsubasa Kie, I am pleased to be here and hope to make many good friends. Thank you for accepting me into your class."

The teacher indicated the only free desk in the center of the classroom, and as I stood by the new desk, a very new desk, I suddenly realized something strange about this class. It looked like I was the only guy in classroom. They were all looking at me with smiles. I don't know why, but at that point I felt very uneasy.

The teacher said "We have just started on a new book today, so I will give you this and have you stand and read to the classroom, Kie-kun."

I took the book from the teacher and hung my school bag on the hook of the desk. I flipped open the book to the beginning of the first chapter and began to read. It took me a few moments to realize that what I was reading was a series of love poems from an early Edo period of Japan. This caused me to look up for a moment to find not only everyone staring at me intently, but most of the class had this strange look on their faces, their eyes were glazed and some had a tear showing. I didn't understand what that look was, but it made me very uncomfortable and put me on edge. I returned my attention to the book and continued to read all the time, waiting for the teacher to say "enough". Not a word or sound was uttered. When I finished the twentieth poem I looked up to see a room full of teary eyed faces, even the teacher had tears in her eyes. I looked left and right and behind me. Everyone showed signs of tears.

The bell went off at that moment, signaling the end of class, and everyone jumped at the same time at the sudden and loud noise. Sniffs and the rubbing of eyes accompanied the noises of books and bags being gathered. I placed the book in my bag and bowed to the teacher and left for my next class. It was not until I was well into the hallway that I realized that I could see no other guys. I was apparently the only guy in the hallway. I stopped dead in my tracks and surveyed the hallway end to end. It was nothing but females from one end to the other. I moved slowly down the hallway, looking into classrooms and saw nothing but female students and teachers. I paused outside my next class and politely inquired with a student next to the entrance. "Is this school a girls only school?"

She looked at me, then giggled nervously behind her hand and ran off down the hallway without answering. I tried a few more times, without any success, to ask a few others, but all I got was the giggling and running, I finally decided to ask my next teacher.

I entered the classroom and moved to the side of the teacher's desk to wait for her to finish with the paperwork she had on her desk. She finally finished and looked up at me. "You must be Tsubasa Kie? I'm your chemistry teacher, Inao Mitsu. I am also your home room teacher. Try to be on time please."

I nodded and replied, "I am pleased to meet you and will endeavor to be on time. If I may ask, is this school a girl's only school, and if so, why am I here?"

Mitsu-sensei looked directly into my eyes and replied "if this was a 'girls only' school would you be here? And you are here because you need to learn. Please take your seat, Kie-kun, class is beginning momentarily." I walked over to a free desk, once again in the middle of the classroom, hung my school bag on its hook and sat down.

At the front of the classroom next to the teachers desk, which was off to the side a bit, was a large counter which the teacher could stand behind. It had several devices on it that looked quite scientific in nature from scanners and Bunsen burner to test tube racks, etc. Mitsu-sensei stood up after the last members of the class seated themselves at their tables. I noticed once again that the class was full with nothing but females and I was the only male. I didn't think this was right, but the teacher already said in no uncertain terms that it was perfectly fine. Somehow I just couldn't get it out of my head that it wasn't quite right.

I was paired with some tiny little girl who looked like she was no more than 10 years old, and seemed to take my presence in the classroom as an insult to her intelligence. She spent most of her time causing a disturbance to my concentration by insulting me about one thing or another. First my handwriting was at the level of a five year old, then I was dressed in a shabby manner that showed the school in a bad light. Then I was not paying her enough respect, or paying any attention to what she had to say. I finally had enough.

"I suspect you have a problem with accepting other people as your partner, and I will now save you the embarrassment and remove myself from this lab group." I turned and walked to the front of the class to speak with the teacher. "Sensei, I wish to trade partners, as the one I have is causing more problems than it is worth. I need someone that will allow me to complete my work without interruptions."

Inao-sensei looked at me and then glanced over at the girl who was my partner, "I see. Maybe you can work at the desk here," she pointed at the desk off to the side by the window. "You will find all the needed equipment on the shelf under the counter next to me here." She stood and walked over to the little girl. They spoke for a short time while I set up the equipment, and then sensei returned to her desk next to me. She sat and continued working on the papers she was doing before I had interrupted her.

I moved through the assignment in the book, completing the experiment without interruptions. The last part of class I spent cleaning up the detritus of the experiment and completing my notes in my textbook. After I had completed everything needed, I discovered that there was still another fifteen minutes left of class. I scanned the classroom looking at all the people here, once more a class completely comprised of girls between the ages of sixteen and eighteen, it seemed to be a mixed grades classroom, and I didn't understand why. What do I know about running a school? I'm only a kid of seventeen, anyway. If the administration feels the need to mix student content, then so be it. I suddenly noticed that a few of the students seemed to be having various problems, and a few were trying to cleanup. I began assisting them. Everyone in the class froze for a moment, the girls stepping back from me as I began to help. They acted like I was dangerous or something. I just shrugged and finished off the rest of the cleanup, the class staring at me while I worked, until the sensei stood and clapped her hands to get everyone's attention.

"Don't just stand around, people. There are things that need cleaning up and putting away. Assisting Kie-kun will make work finish a bit faster and get you out for lunch a bit faster."

"I can finish all this off myself, sensei." I stated, causing her some consternation.

"Kie-kun. It would not be proper for you to do all the work yourself. Please get a few of the other girls to help." She replied with surprise.

I shook my head and continued to clean up the messes around the class without help from anyone. I didn't want assistance. I just wanted to do something to keep myself busy. I had discovered a long time ago that keeping busy makes time pass faster. Nobody helped me, and I didn't ask anyone to help me. I just moved around the room cleaning up around the girls. As I moved from one lab desk to the next the girls that occupied that station moved away from it. I considered this no more than a curiosity and ignored it. It wasn't until I was on the last desk and the bell rang, that I noticed that everyone in the class had finished what they were doing and were staring at me. The sensei stood at the front of the class watching me with a look on her face I could not fathom. When the bell rang, I moved back to my desk and took my school bag from its hook and headed to the door. Nobody had moved still by the time I'd reached the door. I opened the door and paused, looking back at the classroom from one end to the other. I looked at all the students staring at me, and one puzzled teacher. I shook my head and moved off into the hallway towards the next of my many classes.

I only glanced back once on my way down the hallway, and found that just about everyone was standing at the door of the class staring at me as I retreated. 'Curiouser and Curiouser' I said to myself, quoting something I remembered from my past.

My next class was a simple math class, and I moved through that quickly without incident, although I did notice a few looks from a few of the class's all female student body. The teacher's place was occupied by an excruciatingly tall but soft spoken woman of mid to late thirties, who went by the name of Itami Juri. She stood at least one hundred and ninety seven centimeters tall, and, by the looks of it, used to belong to some sports team not too long ago. Juri-sensei was a quiet teacher who spoke very little, and did most of the class interaction by writing things on the board. The manner in which she communicated led to a quiet and peaceful class which I found to be eminently relaxing. I found that not only did I get more work done that way, but it made the time pass quicker. In no time at all I was out of the class and heading off to the lunch room.

I could hear the other students moving about and talking loudly to each other the closer I got to the lunch room, until I turned the corner and stepped into the lunchroom proper. The place was crowded with students, and off to the side was a table with four women who looked older than the students, obviously teachers. They were seated at it speaking amongst themselves with smiles and subdued laughter. The moment I entered the room proper there was almost a ripple that traveled from me to the far reaches of the room, like a pebble dropped into a pond. Silence moved from me to the teachers' table at amazing speeds. Everyone was looking at me, and then the teachers noticed the silence and they themselves became quiet as they tried to see what the cause was. I moved through the people towards the food counter and thought I was going to have to wait in the long lineup at the counter, but it dissipated as I arrived. The girls seemed to move away from me like a wave at the bow of a boat. I arrived at the cashier with my selection of food and paid, then scanned the room for an available spot to be seated at. It still looked to be that I was the center of attention until slowly they moved off to other areas of the lunch room and out the lunchroom doors. Mostly out the doors. They didn't look nervous. Just confused, and some a bit spooked, like I was a catfish in a Koi pond. I found a spot off in the corner of the room that beckoned me and made myself comfortable. It didn't take long before someone interrupted my meal. It was the tiny girl from Chemistry class who seemed to have a problem with me.

"I thought you might have gone home by now, boy." she said with a derisive tone of voice.

I replied, "I would not leave the school before the appropriate time, as that would be against the rules. I also have need of an education so that I might be a productive member of society. What would make you think I would leave?"

She scowled at me for a moment, and then, making a face at me, stated, "I was told you had no personality, but they didn't tell me you were a total freaky robot. You ever crack a smile or anything?"

I examined her carefully while she spoke. A short girl, looking no older than 10, with black hair and a smattering of freckles over the bridge of her nose, eyes the color of coal, her ears were the kind that stuck out slightly even if she didn't have her shoulder length hair tucked behind them. Her school uniform hung on her like it was two sizes too big for her, and obviously had not been fitted. It did look new, or almost as brand new as mine was. As I examined her she must have realized I had no intention of answering any questions she had asked me. My intense examination had obviously made her uncomfortable, until she shouted at me. I paid little attention to what she was shouting and continued to stare at her while I ate.

"Noro Utako! Cease this disturbance at once!" one of the teachers shouted from across the room. This caused the little girl to close her mouth shut with almost an audible snap, and turn a blazing color of red. She whirled around and angrily harrumphed at the teachers', table then stormed off. I looked over at the teachers' table to see two of the students bowing to the one teacher who shouted and walk away. It was obvious that they had pointed out to the teachers that I was being disturbed while eating. I didn't recognize the students, but I guessed I would probably see them another time during the day and thank them for their courtesy. I continued eating my meal and examined the faces of the crowd of girls and young women in the room. Some of them still stared at me, while others spoke quietly with their friends and partners. It was obvious to me that I was of some sort of interest to most of them, as I seemed to also be the center of attention to just about everyone. I had no idea why this was, but figured that it would come out in the end.

I finished off my lunch and headed off to my next class, looking at my calendar to see which one that was. As I exited the lunch room I inadvertently bumped into someone while looking at the slip of paper that was my calendar. My head hit something soft and resilient, causing me to stagger back and snapping my head up and back. Staggering back, I bounced off the door to the lunchroom, which had swung shut and then was again being pushed open by students who were leaving. I impacted with this, causing me be slammed forward once again into the person. Bouncing backwards again, I was struck once in the back by the door which threw me forward, very much like a ping pong ball. By now my head was ringing from multiple impacts, and I completely lost my balance and fell forward, eyes closed and arms outstretched to stop my fall. My hands stopped my fall, and it took a moment for my eyes to stop their dance. I suddenly realized that I was leaning against Enoki-sensei, my hands on her breasts. I lunged backwards, pulling my hands to my chest like they had been burned by hot coals, and promptly slammed the back of my head against the lunch room door which had started to swing open again. I saw stars and I watched the floor come up to meet me, then darkness.

My eyes burned for a moment as I cracked them open. I appeared to be in bed somewhere, and I wasn't sure where. My head was buzzing and felt like it was full of wasabi. There was a metallic taste in my mouth, I sat up slowly and the world did a flip-flop for a moment then settled. I looked around at the room. It was a decent size room about six meters long and four meters wide, with a window all along one wall that went from ceiling to floor. Sliding doors in the center led out to what looked like a small sun-deck. The room contained a large wooden four drawer dresser, a small desk with a computer and a comfortable looking office chair, an open door appeared to lead into a darkened closet and the bed I was on, a large queen size wooden four poster. The walls were a soft burgundy, while the floor was hard wood with throw rugs of various kinds. There was only one door left that was closed. I didn't recognize the room or the view outside the window, so I carefully stood and went to the unopened door and listened for any noise. Hearing nothing, I cracked the door and looked outside. A long hallway greeted my eyes. Several doors along the hallway revealed additional rooms. At the end of the hallway was a stairway leading down and around the corner, so I couldn't see anyone or what might be at the end at it. I stepped down the stairs. At the bottom I was greeted with a wide open space that was possibly the living room, it contained various couches and chairs, with a large open fireplace. An opening in the far wall led to something that looked like a kitchen or pantry.

I moved through the living room to the only door that I could see that wasn't open, and as I was about to open it I was distracted by the distant sound of giggling. It came from off the kitchen. I moved into the kitchen and looked around. It was quite a large kitchen, about eight meters long by five meters wide, and roughly rectangular with an area that looked like a walk in freezer. There was a gas range with an old fashion double sink, and a center island that looked like a large cutting board. There were lots of cupboards all along the walls, and at the far end a closed door. This was apparently where the giggles were coming from, as I heard them again. I walked to the door and opened it, revealing another long hallway that led off to the right. Intermittently along the right wall were what appeared to be sliding Fusuma doors. I idly wondered what was behind them, and almost slid one open when I heard the giggles again. I was coming from the door at the far end of the hallway. I moved slowly down the hallway until I heard screams and shouting. It sounded like someone was being attacked or harmed, so I bolted to the end of the hallway and slid the door open so hard it came loose and smashed as I entered the room. I suddenly discovered that the floor was slippery, wet and soapy, and afforded no traction at all ... My momentum caused me to continue in the original direction I had been traveling. This was unfortunate, as the direction I was heading seemed to be towards a large body of what appeared to be hot water, or, more importantly, a huge bath. My foot hit the edge of the bath and caught. Momentum continued to exert its force on me, and I went over the edge in a bit of a dive and landed face first with a splash of very hot water. I suddenly realized that I wasn't totally immersed in water, as my toes had caught on the same edge that had tripped me, and I was now feet up and head down. Then I came to the realization that my face was resting against something that was NOT the bottom of the bath, and was, in fact, quite soft and supple. I placed my hands down to lever myself up out of the water and they came down on something just as soft as what my face was resting against. I came up out of the water, and, after a moment of clearing the water out of my eyes, I beheld what had stopped my landing from becoming something less than healthy. Three quite pretty ladies were seated in the bath, staring at me with a look of shock on their faces. I stepped backwards in an attempt to head for the door, only to bump into something behind me, I spun around thinking that it was the "Attacker" and came, literally, face to face with another woman. She had the darkest green eyes, and a face wrapped by long black locks of hair. High cheekbones and a narrow face with a tiny aquiline nose. Her eyes had a bit of a twinkle in them, almost like she had been laughing, and then I saw the others ... in total the bath had eight women, the three I first saw who were now behind me, the one I turned to face, and another four, two at either end. I slowly staggered off to the side ... muttering something about an attack, and tried to get out of the bath quickly. I did not succeed the first time and slipped back into the bath again, landing once again half on and half off someone and completely submerging myself once more. I got up, quickly apologizing, and exited the bath quickly. As I moved down the hallway I could hear my one slipper and one sock making squishing sounds, and I could also hear the start of laughter behind me. I just continued back to the room I started at and woke up in.

I stood in the entry way looking at the room I had returned to, and discovered a few things I had missed the first time. In the closet were clothing that appeared to be men's clothing that looked like they would fit me. I also recognized a few articles of clothing that appeared to be mine. Upon further examination I discovered that my entire wardrobe was there, my own clothes. I checked the drawers of the dresser and found all my personal articles of clothing there also. All my personal possessions were in this room, in the desk, in the closet, in the dresser and in the bookshelf, everything I had was here. Someone had carefully placed everything I owned in this room. I removed the wet clothing I was wearing and took out my housecoat from the closet and put it on.

Sitting at the desk, I waited for something to happen or someone to come to me. While I waited, I opened the school bag by the desk and took out some books to study. It wasn't too long before I heard noises coming from the hallway. I placed the books back into the bag and turned the chair to face the door. Noises outside the room hinted a large group of people, but none seemed to be angry or unusually emotional. A knock at the door and then it opened a little. A lady poked her head around the corner looking for me, she saw me and pushed the door wide. All eight of the women entered the room and lined up in front of me. They all wore the same style of kimono and had an overheated look about them. One of them I recognized from school as my literature teacher, Juri-sensei. One of the group on the left stepped forward. She stood about 160 cm tall, with short black hair and brown eyes. Bowing, she said "I am Nakata Nene, welcome to our home. Please consider it your home also. This will be your room for your stay." She stepped back and the next in line, a very tall slim woman with red hair and green eyes, almost leapt forward and, bowing, almost shouted "Okui Sata! 17 years old! Blood type B! Single!" Then with a blush and almost a whisper, "Welcome". She was quickly pulled back into line by Nene, and the next one stepped forward blushing. She was extremely tall and very slim, with short blond hair and blue eyes. It was obvious that one of her parents was not from Japan. She bowed also. "I am Soho Tama" she said in almost a whisper. "Greetings." She giggled nervously behind her hand and stepped back, and the next came forward to bow. "Takahashi Ume. Pleased to meet you." She had a long black pony tail, black eyes, and was quite short. Another bow. "Uno Yui. Welcome." this from another very tall woman, with striking long white hair and dark green eyes. She tripped a bit stepping back into line and steadied herself by holding onto the breast of Ume, who promptly turned beet red and gasped. "Aida Chika, welcome." Said the next girl who stepped forward. She was of medium height and build, with shoulder length wavy brown hair and brown eyes. She looked a bit nervously at the others and then me, but stepped back into line. An extremely short lightly built girl stepped forward and looked up into my eyes. She had floor length hair and black eyes, but couldn't be any taller than 142cm tall. She stared into my eyes for a long moment, then seemed to make a decision "Izumi Doi, welcome." She stepped back into the line and then the last person stepped forward. "You know me from class, but I'll introduce myself properly. I am Itami Juri. I teach literature at the school, and I am also the leader of this group. If you have any questions or need help, then you just ask and any one of us will see what we can do. This is not to say we are the maids here." she looked at the others and continued. "We all live in this house, and each of us has a job here. We will assign chores also, so don't think otherwise. Any questions?"

I looked at them all standing there in front of me dressed in their kimonos, and bowed. "I am Tsubasa Kie. I am pleased to meet you. I have only a few questions. What am I doing here, and what happened? The last thing I remember was bumping into someone just outside the lunch room in the school. Now I am somewhere that is definitely NOT the school, with no idea how I got here."

Juri-sensei nodded and replied, "You ran into me and were knocked unconscious in the process. I took you to the nurse's office, but she said you were undamaged but seemed to be in a deep sleep that none could wake you from. The nurse said she didn't think that having you sleep at the school would be a good idea, so it was decided to move you to this place as I had a spare room that would suit you fine. After we got you here, we all decided that it would be more convenient for you to live here and go to school than anywhere else, as we are right across the school grounds proper."

Doi piped up with, "We also have lots of privacy with the tall stone wall around the property, and a wonderful swimming pool full of bathtub warm water to use!" She suddenly flushed red with embarrassment when she realized what she had insinuated, and began to stutter an apology.

I noticed they had all turned a slight rosy color, so I moved on to my next question so they would forget the embarrassment. "Are you sure that this living arrangement is acceptable to the school?" I glanced at Juri-sensei, "I would hate to get anyone in trouble or anything."

Ume piped up at that point, "You mean like busting into the bathroom when all of us are bathing and jumping into the bath? Then molesting Juri-san, Chika-san and I, then ogling Nene-san on the way out? That should be enough to just get you arrested!"

"Ume-kun!" Exclaimed Juri-sensei, "You know that Kie-kun was just reacting to the scream. A scream I might add that you caused when you..."

Ume jumped forward waving her hands back and forth. "Tha ... tha ... tha ... That's OK, sensei, I understand." She had turned an extreme shade of red and her eyes dropped to the floor.

I stated, "As you can see, there is a high possibility that someone will misunderstand the situation, and someone will be hurt or worse. I don't wish to be the cause of pain or trouble. I don't think this is a good idea, and I will not stand for any one of you placing yourselves in danger all because of me. I will pack my belongings up and return to my original living space. I thank you for your kindness." I turned to the closet and attempted to open the door to begin gathering my belongings up.

'Kie-kun, you don't understand the situation." I heard Juri-sensei say. "There is more to this than you realize. Stop this, sit down for a moment and let us explain."

I ignored her and continued removing my possessions from the closet and placing them on the bed. I deliberately ignored them. I pulled the suitcases from the top of the closet, laid it out on the bed and began to fill it with articles of clothing.

"Kie-kun!" Tama exclaimed, "It's important that you listen to what we have to say!"

I continued to ignore them until Juri-sensei walked over to me and spun me forcefully about to face them. I looked into her eyes and saw pain, sadness and something else. "OK, what is it that is so important that you would all risk you reputations and careers?" I asked.

Juri-sensei removed a large piece of paper from her kimono and handed it to me. I examined it. It was a Guardianship designation paper. A legal document stating that until further notice I was under the care of this group of people, and that I would be residing at this residence from now on. I reread it twice before handing it back to Juri-sensei. "What right do you have to be designated my guardian? Most of you are probably no older than I?" I queried. "I don't think this is a socially acceptable situation, and it will cause additional problems for those that become involved with my life. Please reconsider this action."

Sata, having remained quiet so far, finally stepped in and asked, "Why do you have such a problem with living in this situation? Does it disturb you to be living with a couple of ladies? Are you afraid of what could happen between us?" Her voice dropped to a husky and breathy tone, she moved up to press against me and spoke directly into my ear, "Are you afraid you'll not be able to control yourself with us? Afraid you'll do something to despoil our innocence and turn us into fallen women?"

I paused for a moment and, gently forcing her away from me, I replied. "I have no emotional interaction with anyone, I find the possibility of becoming intimate with any one of you to be more than unlikely. I am neither interested nor affected by you. I just wish to assure you that there are socially acceptable interactions that must be followed or the resulting ramifications will be widespread. 'Cause and effect' if you will, I refuse to be the cause of someone else's pain, whether it be emotional or physical."

"No matter what you do, there will always be a possibility that someone gets hurt." stated Chika shyly. "That is the nature of people interacting with each other. It's all in whether you intend to hurt someone on purpose, or if someone is accidentally hurt by you. Either way there is no permanent damage done, and people are supposed to move on..."

"I have no other recourse but to accept the conditions stated in the document." I confirmed, "I will remain here until I am released from it. Please take care of me and I will do my best. I will expect a list of chores assigned to me sometime soon." I began to return my belongings to the closet to a chorus of what sounded like sighs of relief. I didn't understand it then, but accepted it anyway. I turned to find only one person left in the room besides me.

Yui was standing by the door, a meter or two away, staring at me when I turned and looked at her. She was startled and turned to leave too quickly, bumping into the door frame and falling backwards. I caught her and placed her back on her feet. "Please be more attentive to your surroundings. You might have hurt yourself." Yui bowed deeply to me then paused on the way out the door, "what is it like to not feel anything?" she asked, looking at me wistfully. She left before I could consider the question properly.

This looked like it was going to be a learning experience like no other I had experienced so far. I was living in a house with eight women I knew very little about. Going to a school that appeared to be nothing but girls. The strange thing was ... I didn't remember arriving at the school. My first memory of this was being introduced in literature class. Everything before that was a gray haze. I felt there was something important I must remember, but I just couldn't pinpoint it. I just hoped that nobody would be hurt by me. I would be extra careful. I slid the suitcase back on the top shelf and turned to gather the rest of the hanging clothing from the bed. I heard a sound and turned just in time to see the suitcase I had just shelved slide towards me. I tried to block its motion, but was not fast enough. The heavy case struck me on the forehead with enough force to cause me to see stars. The world spun out of my control. I felt myself falling backwards as the blackness encompassed me.

When awareness returned I was watching myself from a distance. I was in the kitchen. "How did I get there?" I thought. I was standing behind Nene, who didn't look like she knew I was there. She was making something to eat, cutting up vegetables and lettuce for a salad, by the looks of it. I watched myself step up extremely close to her. She knew I was there, as she suddenly stiffened, she looked frightened and gripped the knife she held. She had her eyes wide and mouth slightly open, as if she would scream. She didn't seem to be able to do anything. Frozen in fear. I brought my face to within millimeters of the back of her head, and appeared to be smelling her, breathing in her scent. My hands, on either side of her, were set like I was going to hold her, but not touching her. I moved my nose along the back of her neck and by her ear, her hair flowing with the motion of the air I breathed out. Her eyes closed to slits as she relaxed. Slowly, breathing her scent as I inhaled, I moved to her left ear. I moved down to the lower part of the back of her neck, and blew a steady and gentle stream of air which parted her hair and revealed the soft white skin of her neck. Goose bumps and the rush of blood under the skin showed, she gasped and jerked a little. Her eyes closed and she seemed to shiver. I leaned even closer to her and appeared to be whispering something into her ear. The whispering lasted a long time, while my hands roamed up and down her body, never touching and almost touching. As I whispered to her, I continued to inhale her scent and breathe the warm air clinging to her body. I was breathing her. She had her eyes closed, her face was flushed, and I could see her chest heaving. She was breathing deeply and the pace was quickening. I continued to whisper things to her, breathing her, smelling her, and blowing gently on her until she stiffened and let out a small sigh. Her legs gave out and she slowly collapsed onto the floor. Trying to hold herself up by the counter had failed, the bowl filled with food on the counter slipped over the edge and the knife in her hand slipped. It looked like it would strike her in the head, but I was faster and redirected the knife and bowl's path. It crashed into the wall on the far side of the kitchen, the knife sticking into the wall with a vibration from the force. Nene was crumpled on the floor, leaning against the counter, but didn't appear to be in pain or unconscious. She was just breathing heavy, and a sheen of sweat on her flushed face made it look like she just had a heavy workout. The bowl crashing and the knife stuck in the wall caused a stirring in the other rooms, and as the sight of myself faded I saw just the hint of someone entering the kitchen before it all went to blackness.

I was lying on my bed with a cold cloth over my eyes and the sound of several people in the room. They seemed to be quietly talking all at once in an excited manner. I could make out some words, but nothing that could give me an explanation. It took me a few moments to realize that the falling suitcase had hit me, and had probably knocked me out. I stirred in bed, which caused an immediate cessation of talking.

"Ah. You're finally back in the world of the living. You have got to stop using your head in that fashion. It's not designed to stop fast moving large objects." a voice said. It took me a moment to focus my eyes and realize it was Juri-sensei speaking. "You've got a bit of a bump, but you don't seem to have anything else wrong with you. Do you remember anything?"

The tone of voice she used was curiously suspicious, so rather than talk about dreams, I just mumbled "No." and left it at that. I suspected that something might have happened while I was out, but I wasn't going to hazard a guess, in my condition. I looked around the room. All the ladies where there except for Nene. They were all looking at me with suspicion. I gave them an inquiring look. "What's wrong?" I asked.

Juri-sensei cleared her throat roughly and stood, quickly breaking up the suspicious group "Nothing is wrong. We were just worried that you might have hurt yourself when you knocked yourself out. You've been out for a while, and this is the second extended unconsciousness that you've experienced in the last week." She shooed the group out of the room.

"What do you mean, the second extended unconsciousness, how long was I out ... both times?" I inquired.

Juri-sensei answered slowly, "The first time you had us a bit worried. You were out for the better part of a week..."

I looked at Juri-sensei to see if she might have been joking or such, but she appeared to be quite serious.

She returned to sit at the chair by the desk and sat. "This time you were out for about five hours. It's about 2300. We found you lying on the floor, probably 20 minutes after you were hit in the head. The doctor was called and examined you. She didn't find anything wrong with you except the fact that you appeared to be in an extremely deep sleep, and you had a small bump on your forehead. She thought you might have had some sort of brain contusion, but everything showed up as an abnormally deep sleep, nothing more." She leaned forward in the chair looking at me intently, "it's the same as the first time, in fact. All the tests they did on you showed you to be sleeping at a level similar to that achieved by some of the Buddhist monks when they meditate. More a trance than a sleep, but with more similarities to sleep than meditation. The doctor called it a sleeping trance." She examined my face intently for a moment and continued. "Have you ever experienced anything like this before, and do you remember anything during these times of trance sleep?"

I swung my legs over the edge of the bed and sat up carefully. "I don't remember ever suffering anything like this in my entire life. As for remembering anything during this time, I didn't even know I was out that long so I can say no, I don't remember anything." I looked down at my feet for a moment and then glanced back at her. "Why? Did something happen while I was out cold?"

"Err, ah, um." Juri-sensei seemed almost embarrassed and not able to say anything until I pinned her with a hard look.

"What happened while I was out? Did I hurt anyone or cause someone pain?" I demanded.

"Ah! No!" she said, waving her hands in a negative fashion at me. "You didn't hurt anyone or cause anyone any pain or suffering. In fact, it seems you did the exact opposite. This is a bit embarrassing to say, but it appears Nene-san was visited, somehow, by someone that looked exactly like you. The difference was that they uh ... kinda ... they ... umm ... well ... I'm sorry, I can't say it. Nene-san will have to tell you. This is more personal and best explained by her. She will tell you if she feels you should know. All I can say is that she has apparently never experienced anything like it before." Juri-sensei looked quite uncomfortable speaking about this, and couldn't look me directly in the eyes. She was flushed with a slight glow of sweat across her forehead.

I stood and bowed to her. "I am thankful you have taken care of me so well. I had no idea that I had been out of it for so long. I will try to be extra careful and remain conscious at all times."

She stood and with a grin replied as she moved to the door. "I wouldn't try too hard, Kie-kun, remember, you will have to sleep some time. Just be as careful as you can and don't knock yourself out on anything."

She exited the room then quickly returned, dropped a slip of paper on the desk and waved on the way out. I went over and looked at the paper. It was a list of duties that I was assigned to do. I was to keep my room, the bathroom and living room clean. I was also in charge of doing all the dishes, along with the usual male duty of taking out the garbage. This didn't seem too difficult, so I headed to the living room to ask about the cleaning supplies.

Before I arrived at the living room I could hear people talking quietly. I slowed down as I came closer to the entrance to the living room. I could hear distinct voices now. They seemed to be talking about something in the kitchen. I paused for a moment, just out of view of everyone, and listened.

"I could swear that he was standing right behind me there!" someone said. "I never saw anyone, but you know how sometimes you can just tell someone's there?"

Another voice taunted, "Maybe you're just feeling all mellow-mellow for him?"

"I'm not like you!" the first voice retaliated. "I don't tease and I don't get 'mellow-mellow' for anyone. I could feel them breathing on me! It even smelled like him!"

"What do you mean, smelled like him?" A calmer voice asked.

"You know that soap he had in his things? The one wrapped in plastic?" the first voice clarified, "It has a musky smell like incense, leather and soap mixed. That's the smell I detected very strongly, almost like the soap was being held under my nose."

"I know the soap you mean. I was the one that did the shopping yesterday and I had to find it. They said that they'd never heard of it before ... I like it." stated a fourth voice.

"You know what I mean, then. You can't mistake that smell. It sticks in your mind!" the first voice disclosed. "All I know is that someone was there, that smell was there, and, whoever it was did that to me."

I was curious what the 'That' she was talking about was, but more importantly I was wondering who would have been using my soap. A soap that was only made for me. I was going to wait a bit longer and listen more, but I was suddenly thrust from behind by someone. Almost all the ladies were present and their heads turned around to face me with a look of surprise.

"Look who was eavesdropping!" Yui-san announced with a smirk. "Our own little peeping tom has a new hobby, Ume."

Ume-san looked up and copied the smirk. "Graduated, has he?"

Juri-sensei stood quickly, making placating motions. "Now, girls, he's part of this house now, too. We shouldn't jump to conclusions. Let's ask him first what he was doing before we act harshly."

Yui-san moved around to stand with the rest as they looked at me expectantly. I looked at each one, trying to figure out who out of them had been speaking. "In truth I was eavesdropping." I stated. They all looked surprised for a moment. "I heard talking when I was coming down the stairs, and rather than interrupt what seemed important I just stood out of sight and listened."

Nene-san looked angry. "How could you! This was a private conversation!"

"If it had been a private conversation you would not have been talking about it in the living room." I said, "It sounds to me like it was a girls only conversation, and you forgot that it is no longer an all girls house. I suspect that you are just embarrassed because the content was more personal than you are willing to share with anyone other than your closest girlfriends. I understand, and I will ignore what was said, and from now on I will announce my presence whenever I move from room to room. That should alleviate any privacy problems between you all as a group and I."

They looked shamed a bit, and mumbled amongst themselves for a moment before Juri-sensei stepped up to me. "I'm afraid that we have been more than a bit rude. First we welcome you into the house as a part of our group, and then we treat you as an outsider, and downright rudely." She pointedly glared at Ume-san and Yui-san. "I think we are going to have to remember that the invitation to you was not only offered, it was accepted. This means you are no longer a guest, you are part of us, now."

As a group they all bowed and asked forgiveness. I in turn also bowed, "I will try my best to fit into this social group to make this more comfortable for everyone."

"Uh ... sensei, what did you mean by, part of us?" Chika-san inquired, looking at her with a quizzical and slightly worried look but there was no answer.

Evening finally arrived, everyone was spending time in the living room doing homework and studying. I chose a chair off by the north side of the room facing a wall of floor to ceiling windows. A low table in front of me held all the books from school. I was reading the chemistry text when I felt a gentle pat on my shoulder. I looked up into the delicate blue eyes of Tama-san. "Can I ask you a personal question?" she inquired in almost a whisper.

I stared deeply into her eyes for a moment, "Yes."

"Do you remember the last time you felt emotions?" she asked as she moved around to sit on the low table in front of me. "Do you remember feeling happiness or sadness in the past?"

I placed the book on the table, looked down at my now empty hands, then back up at her and tried to remember. I couldn't remember anything from before being introduced in class the other day. Anything before that is vague and fuzzy, beyond my ability to clarify. I looked directly into the blacks of her eyes as I thought. "No." I answered.

Tama-san growled in frustration and stalked back to her place on the couch, mumbling all the way. She seemed to be complaining about something to do with robots and stone statues having personalities, or such. I just returned to reading the chemistry book. I briefly heard snickers from some of the other women in the room, but it went back to quiet soon after.

Several hours went by and I glanced at my watch. 23:46. I gathered up my books and headed to the stairs. "Good night, all. I'll see you in the morning." I said. I heard a chorus of goodnights as I headed off up the stairs to my room. I entered and closed the door, did my usual set of exercises, changed into my night clothing, killed the light and climbed into bed. Sleep was quick to claim me.

I was watching myself move around my room from a spot that appeared to be about a meter above the bed. I watched myself move around the room touching things. It appeared I was trying to pick things up or move things. The closest I got to success was the motion I caused in the clothing draped over the chair, and moving the curtains. I couldn't seem to interact too well with things. My body acted almost like a ghost. I wondered who was controlling it. It couldn't be me, as I was floating above the bed. I looked down and was jolted with the realization that I was still in bed. I looked like I was fast asleep. Listening carefully, I could hear a quiet breath coming from my sleeping form. I looked back at the moving me and saw that I was smiling brightly. The look of the eyes, though, showed great sadness. Sadness so profound that I couldn't understand how I could be smiling, it confused me. I watched as I moved to the door and tried to slide it open. I couldn't move the door. It acted like it was covered in grease. No matter how careful or forcefully I tried, the door just didn't seem to want to move. I watched as I tried and tried, then suddenly there was some motion to the door. Repetitive actions seemed to have paid off. I paused, and then gently tried to open the door again. I could get it open just a few centimeters before it became stuck again. More persistence, and once again the door slid open further. I guess I figured out that if I persisted I could get the door open. I noticed that it was starting to get lighter out. I realized that I had been working on the door all night, just to get it open no more than a dozen centimeters. Not wide enough for anything to fit through. Things were beginning to fade slowly now, and my position of observation slowly sunk back towards my body on the bed. I saw myself at the door lean against the door and fade along with my awareness. Sleep took me finally.

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