The bright, round moon had retreated, slinking behind the clouds and leaving the world beneath it in a pitch-black haze. For all intents and purposes, the darkness had conquered Warukko City, at least for a little while. Still, despite this overwhelming supremacy, the city’s sky-scape resisted doggedly, fighting back with its pulsing neon signs, jumbo LCD TVs and towering floodlights that swept the sky in wide, luminescent arcs to reclaim its lost dominance. Last, but not least, were the stars. These were the tiniest, yet fiercest warriors in the city’s battle against the night, the final bastion of light. They shone down on the city, dotting the night sky with their sporadic illumination. This night had unwittingly become a tense gridlock between darkness and light, night and day, dreams and reality. There was something strangely comforting about this kind of night.  

Rem Sasaki lay silently atop the fenced-off roof of Warukko East Municipal High School, observing this apprehensive stalemate with rapt interest. He absently reached out with his left hand, attempting to grasp the celestial bodies that were well beyond his grasp. He felt a strange bond to this particular kind of night, not just because of the fact that his creamy brown skin was in stark contrast with the rest of the Japanese population, but because he felt himself akin to the lights, persistent, tenacious, willing and able to rebel against anything and anyone he disliked. Perhaps, though, in the eyes of society, he was comparable to the darkness, aiming to defy all the rules it held dear.

The teen sighed and then chuckled wryly. Laying there beneath the stars, he couldn’t help but succumb to clichéd thoughts of feeling insignificant in the grand scheme of things; the universe and its infinite possibilities. Yup, he was insignificant alright. So much so that no-one had had the decency to wake him up from his usual class-skipping naps when school let out for the day. He awoke at dusk, only to find the entrance to the rooftop locked tight. Short of sprouting wings and flying to the cobble stoned courtyard three stories below, there was no way down.

So, Rem had no choice but to kick back and spend some quality time with himself and his thoughts. More specifically, the unsettling nightmare that had forced him awake about an hour earlier. It had been surreal, since he had dreamt it with an omniscient perspective, as though experiencing everything himself as well as observing the entire thing from a distance.

Rem had awoken from it with a start, letting out a scream that might very well have been heard for miles around. The significance of that bizarre dream, any hidden meaning it might have possessed, was completely lost on him. All he could do was stare up at his outstretched left arm and wonder why the dream had felt so real, why his left arm still throbbed as though the pain had really affected it. Just then, something else caught his attention.

Far overhead, a shooting star made its way across the night sky, its tail trailing after it like streamers on a kite. A smile crept upon Rem’s lips as he studied it, wondering what wish he should make. He wasn’t a sentimental person by nature, but even he took time to enjoy the little things. Before he could think of a suitable wish, however, a second shooting star sped after the first, mirroring its trajectory flawlessly. The boy let out an enthused whistle. Shooting stars were rare on their own, but two? He just had to get a picture of this! He dug a hand into his trouser pocket in search of his cell phone…

“Rem, you idiot!” he chided himself, immediately lifting the device in front of his face. He could have easily phoned someone to come open the door for him, meaning less time on this god-forsaken rooftop! He sulked at his own foolishness as he checked his cell for activity. There were numerous missed calls and text messages; some were from the numerous Asou Academy girls he’d fooled around with one time or the other. Most, however, were from a contact he had maliciously dubbed ‘Sho-chin’. The boy grimaced expectantly as he dialed said Sho-chin’s number.

Upon entering high school, he had been pressured into joining one of the many extra curricular clubs that were available, as all freshmen were. He’d chosen music because he was already well practiced with the drums, and because he thought he’d be able to breeze through the experience without much of a hassle. Unfortunately for him, he hadn’t counted on a club president as fanatical as Shoji Yamakuza.

“SAKAKI!!” a high pitched voice roared through the receiver. Luckily, Rem had anticipated such a greeting and had held the phone a good distance away from his ear.

“It’s Sasaki,” Rem corrected.

Shoji ignored him. “Just because you’ve got a little skill doesn’t mean you don’t have to practice with the rest of us! The culture festival is-”

“Settle down, Yamakuza,” Rem cut in, “I’ve got a good excuse this time.”

“You’d better have! This is the third time you’ve flaked on us this week!” Shoji shrieked.

Rem explained his predicament, afraid that the other boy would call him on his stupidity, but to his surprise, Shoji simply heaved an exasperated sigh. “Oddly enough, this doesn’t surprise me,” he muttered, “Sit tight, I’ll send Vinz your way.”

“Thanks.” Rem snapped the cell phone shut and then placed his attention back on the shooting stars. What he saw made him spring up to a sitting position in shock.

The two lights had broken away from their original flight paths, instead, turning sharply in midair and launching at each other. Rem’s jaw dropped as the lights clashed, broke apart from each other and clashed again.

“Oh man…” He got to his feet and brought out his phone once more to record the spectacle. After another clash, one of the lights made a beeline toward the west, into the distance. The second light darted after it, spiraling across the sky like a punctured air balloon in swift pursuit. It eventually caught up, the first light having abandoned its getaway. They crashed into each other again and again, the twin lights dancing across the sky, sometimes near, sometimes in the distance. He couldn’t be certain, but as they drew near he was sure he could feel the slightest rush of hot air around him with each collision.

Rem’s eyes darted left and right, struggling to follow the lights as they sped, twisted, curved and then collided with each other yet again. The lights hovered in place for a few seconds and then one of them simply dropped, falling from the sky at ungodly speeds. Confused and amazed as he was at that point, it took the boy quite a few moments to realize that the light was rocketing right toward him!

Letting out a startled yelp, Rem took a few shaky steps back, tripped and fell onto his haunches; a violent blast of hot air buffeting the rooftop as the light drew closer. Given the gargantuan force that preceded it, he knew that a collision would most definitely destroy the rooftop. There was no escape! Scrambling backwards in a panic, the boy did the only thing he could; raise his hands in front of him defensively and close his eyes.

A second passed, then another, and then yet another.

Hesitantly, he opened an eye; peering through the long, thin fingers he’d spread out in front of him. The object that had been only just been on a collision course with the rooftop now hung in midair a few feet away. The air around him was sweltering, causing beads of perspiration to pour down his face. He withdrew one of his hands, using the other to shield his eyes from the near-blinding light. Slowly rising to his feet, Rem cautiously observed it. From what he could discern, it held the shape of a sphere of about one meter in diameter. Taking deep, nervous breaths, he drew closer to it.

“O…oi…” he sputtered, sweating bullets, “W-what is this thing?”

As if in answer to this question the sphere shattered, scattering shards reminiscent of broken glass across the rooftop. Rem let out another startled cry and shut his eyes as an object flew out of it, as though shot from a cannon, directly at him catching him square in the chest. The blow knocked the wind out of him and toppled him over. The world around him spun uncontrollably for several minutes. He felt nauseous, as though he would throw up at any given moment. His head ached, and he was sweating more profusely, his clothes clinging to his lean frame because of it.

    Amidst all of this, he was distinctly aware of a slight weight pressing down on him. Even with his mind in turmoil, he couldn’t shake the feeling that this load was familiar. Swallowing hard and fending off the headache, he inched his eyes open unsure, and most definitely afraid, of what he’d find. Staring down at him, with a puzzled expression on her face, was a girl around his age. Her slender, curvy body lay pressed against his. Her long, golden-blond locks flowed along the length of their bodies. Rem widened his emerald green eyes as he stared quizzically and nervously into hers.

    ‘W-where’d this chick come from,’ he wondered in exasperation. Like any hot blooded male his age, his eyes instinctively scoured her astonishingly sultry form with the greatest appreciation. She was petite, her well-proportioned figure displayed in full through a jet-black, skintight body fitted suit that clung to her cleavage. Her strange clothing sparked several ideas into Rem’s mind about her identity. Perhaps she was a cosplayer of some sort. Though, as he instantly reminded himself, cosplayers didn’t randomly plummet from the sky like meteorites. His gaze moved back up to her face. She certainly wasn’t Japanese. Her features were Caucasian. A tourist, maybe? Coupled with the clothes, the thought came to him that she might even be some foreign secret agent!

Rem shook the thought out of his head almost as immediately as it had come. No matter how desperately he tried to justify this girl’s sudden, bizarre appearance, nothing he considered made any sense.

The boy’s eyes once again fell on hers in an attempt to gain some insight he might have missed the first time and what he saw made him gasp. Her eyes had suddenly grown bloodshot. Her hair, previously straight and flowing, had bristled, taking on a likeness to a porcupine’s quills. The corners of her lips curled upwards oh so slightly, morphing her bewildered expression into one of complete insanity.

Strangely, as she raised a hand over her head, the first thing that entered Rem’s mind was how familiar the crazed look on her face was. Then, as she brought her tightly clenched fist down on him, the urgent need to prevent his face from being smashed in prevailed. Her punch landed in the spot where his head had been only a second before. His finely tuned instinct had kicked in at a very opportune time, causing him to crane his neck ever so slightly to the left. The sudden movement sent another wave of the mysterious nausea through him; the headache he’d been holding at bay also flooded his senses and his body wretched involuntarily because of it. The impact had caused the entire rooftop to shake, and Rem slowly turned to see her withdrawing her forearm from a rather sizeable hole. She’d just punched through a thick layer of concrete! Effortlessly! Panic swept over him as she raised her arm yet again. She still had him pinned, and feeling unwell as he was, there was no way he could move to avoid another of those earthshaking punches the way he had before.

‘Okay, okay, calm down Rem,’ he told himself. True enough, Rem had been pinned like this before. A quick knee to the gut usually did the trick. After that, it was a simple matter of flipping her over and getting the hell out of there! Before he could put his plan into action, though, a series of earsplitting cracking sounds saturated the otherwise hushed rooftop. Then, he felt a sharp jolt underneath him. He didn’t dare move, and even the girl on top of him laid still, her fist still hovering threateningly overhead. There was another crack, an even sharper jolt and then he felt the surface he’d been lying against sink, slowly at first and then it sped up with a vengeance. Disbelief plastered itself on the boy’s face as the rooftop buckled under him, sending them both through it to the classroom below.

    Rem stirred slowly amidst a pile of rubble and broken furniture. His body ached something awful and the first stable breath he drew filled his nostrils with the dust that had clouded the air around him, evoking a series of short, hacking coughs. Blood trickled in veined rivulets down from a long, thin gash on his forehead. The way he felt, nauseous and in pain, the boy was quite content to just lay there until someone found him the next day.

    However, he was all too aware that a certain crazy female lay in wait somewhere in the dust filled room.

    Pushing aside some debris, Rem struggled to his feet. As he did, a severe rush of vertigo unsteadied him and he almost fell over again. The movement did, however, force him to double over and vomit. ‘There goes a perfectly good cheeseburger,’ he thought ruefully. He was trembling, sore all over and he could feel his body temperature rising. What was happening to him? He almost never got sick. Shaking these thoughts away, he swept his eyes across the now destroyed classroom. He had bigger problems than being sick.

    The moonlight shone down through the hole he’d fallen through, but the haze of dust and debris obscured his vision.

    A sudden unknown force, akin to the thick, pulsing vibrations of bass, and accompanied by a flash of light, pierced the air an inch or so from his face. The surge shot past him and struck the wall that separated the classroom and the third floor’s main corridor, reducing it to a pile of oversized rocks. The force of the blast tore the dust cloud apart, revealing the girl’s position on the opposite side of the room. She stood with a twisted, perverse grin and her right arm was outstretched toward him, residual energy crackling around her open palm.

    It didn’t take Rem long to connect the dots. Adrenaline surged through his veins and he was sprinting down the corridor long before she fired the second blast. Another explosion rang in his ears as the classroom on the opposite side of the hall caved in on itself. A third flash of light soared past him, then a fourth and a fifth. An ominous whooshing sound penetrated the corridor, followed by a continuous, dry crackling of flames. More explosions thundered through the corridor as they tore the ceiling just ahead of him to shreds, causing it to collapse, right between where he stood and the third floor staircase, his only exit.

    “Shit!” Rem stared at the burning wreckage that blocked his way to freedom in despair, “shit, shit, shit, shit!” If his situation hadn’t been dire before, it sure was now. The fire had spread to the walls, the billowing plumes of smoke causing the sprinkler system to kick in. The cool water that rained down upon them was a brief respite from the heat, but it wouldn’t be for long, not if he couldn’t find a way to escape! He quickly turned, his eyes searching feverishly for an alternative. There was an emergency exit at the opposite end of the hallway, back the way he had come. It was usually locked but, through the smoke, he could see that it was partially ajar. And Meteor-Girl, as he’d dubbed the golden-haired terror, stood between him and it, letting out a low, abrupt laugh.

Just who the hell did this girl think she was? Didn’t she know that messing with Rem Sasaki was a death sentence? Any of the students who traversed this very hallway during the daytime could attest to his less than perfect reputation. They would probably tell of the times Rem had bullied his underclassmen into doing his bidding, or of the times he’d sit on the sidelines and harass the girls’ softball team while they practiced. Or even the most damning blow to his character: that he often consorted and/or picked fights with the local gang element.

These thoughts sent a red-hot surge to his ego, and his demeanor shifted almost imperceptibly. His eyes narrowed, his nostrils flared, and the sides of his lips curved into a wry grin. He gathered himself up off the floor and idly wiped the blood from his lips. Everyone who set foot into this building feared him! Why shouldn’t she!? Like the crackling flames leaping and dancing around them, Rem’s ego refused to let him cower before this threat any longer. It didn’t matter who this girl was, or if she had him outclassed in every way imaginable. Rem Sasaki wasn’t going down without a fight.

    The girl let out another cackle as he struggled to his feet, her crazed eyes never leaving him. Putting his back against the wall of rubble to support his weakened frame, Rem directed a finger at her. “Didn’t you get the memo?” he spat, “You just don’t fuck with Rem Sasaki!!”

He pushed off of the mound of debris and launched himself at the girl with everything he was worth. He was almost upon her when her sultry form blurred from his vision. Her unexpected movement startled him, causing him to stumble slightly mid-stride, but then a sharp pain in his abdomen dwarfed all other senses. A liquid mixture of bile, warm soda and tobacco rose from the point of impact and sputtered from his half-open mouth, spilling onto the lithe, black-clad figure that stood before him. The girl then spun around on the ball of her right foot, slamming her left into Rem’s cheek. The blow uprooted him from the spot, sending him tumbling and rolling like a rag doll all the way back to the heap of debris he’d started from.

    Rem lay punch-drunk on his back for a few seconds, but when he recovered, he groaned loudly and his body screamed protest as he fought to push himself to a sitting position, the movement causing him to throw up a third time. The blaze around them had intensified greatly during the short exchange despite the sprinkler system. The air was thick with heat and smoke. He coughed a bit as he glanced up at his assailant and shook his head weakly; chuckling as he flipped her off. Her last attack had drained what was left of his strength, but did nothing to quench his spirit. His eyes grew heavy; his breathing more ragged, his body ached in places he didn’t think could ache and the strange bout of sickness he’d suffered throughout this encounter came upon him once more.

As his consciousness slowly faded, an odd feeling of peace washed over him. He knew he was going to die; even if Meteor-Girl didn’t kill him the fire surely would. Still, despite the swell of emotions building within him, fear, despair, sadness, regret, anger, there was this calming detachment that left him satisfied. No matter what happened to him, he could at least go with the knowledge he’d given survival his best shot. With the dry grin still on his face, his eyes closed and the darkness consumed him.