Chatter broken by radio static filled the small kitchen as the late morning sun streamed in through the windows. Hanako stood at the sink washing the last of the breakfast dishes. It looked as though it would be another sweltering day; even now the humidity was enough to make things uncomfortable. It was on a day like this that they had first come to this small town. A soft sigh escaped her as she gazed out the window. To think a year had passed by already; it was almost unimaginable. She couldn’t remember the last time they’d remained in one place for so long. “Hanako, could you bring me some more coffee?” She picked up the coffee pot and turned to her father who sat at the table reading the newpaper, “Right away.” She walked over and refilled his cup, trying to gauge his mood as she did. He was beginning to get that restless look in his eyes again. It was subtle, but Hanako had learned long ago how to read Ryou. He thanked her as she turned away to put the coffee pot back on the counter. “By the way, sweetheart,” her father continued, his voice betraying his discomfort, “There’s something I have to tell you.” Right on schedule, she mused to herself. She turned back to him, “We have to move again, don’t we?” Ryou smiled sadly, his eyes pleading with her to understand, “I’m sorry. I know this place has started to feel like home, but I got a call for work in Tokyo. It’s a wonderful opportunity. I know it will make our lives better.” She knew he was lying. Her father worked as a private tutor for a living. Moving very rarely helped him. That was how it had always been. She would accept his words and they would move. Lately though, she’d found it difficult to willing be blind. Maybe now it was time to confront him. She was going to be eighteen in just a few days and much closer to starting a life of her own. She took a breath and tried to find some courage, “Dad, I…I’m going to the market. We’re out of bread.” “Oh, fine. Don’t stay out too long,” he replied, surprised by her sudden change of topics. She nodded and headed for the door, silently cursing herself as she slipped her shoes on. So much for confronting him. She walked out into the hallway of their apartment building, pulling the door closed behind her. They lived on the third floor in a three room apartment. It was a little cramped, but cozy enough. She ran down the stairs, making sure she didn’t make too much noise. The walls were not very thick, which meant anyone with a room near the stairs could hear most anything that went on in the stairway. She'd learned that lesson the hard way her first month here when old man Noro caught her on her way up to the apartment and gave her a good chewing out for interrupting his favorite TV program. After reaching the ground floor, she entered the lobby of the building and headed for the door to the street. The building was situated in the downtown area of the small town. The streets were narrow and almost always busy. It was a crazy mess and Hanako loved every minute of it. Compared to the quiet routine of her life, the city always felt so alive. It was a welcome distraction, but not all of it. As soon as she stepped out of the confines of the building, it began again; the whispering. It was not like the dull roar of traffic and people. The voices were muffled and eerie, like something of another world. She was fairly certain that was because it was of another world. She pulled a music player from her pocket and slipped the ear buds in. The whispering could be drowned out with music to a point at least. She turned up the volume and started off, doing her best to ignore the uneasy feeling in her stomach. The market was not far from the apartment and it would only take her a few minutes to find fresh bread. This would not be a long trip. She went straight to the bakery. It was probably the best place in the market, at least in her opinion. It always smelled like fresh baked bread and sweets. As she entered, the woman at the counter looked up and smiled, “Good morning, Hanako. What’ll it be today?” “Just the usual, Hoshi,” Hanako replied, slipping the headphones out of her ears. ------------- Two figures watched her enter the store from atop a nearby building. “That’s the target,” one asked, looking through a set of binoculars. The other nodded, “We’ve got a team heading to the building to pick up the man. One of Tomo’s creatures is on the girl. If everything goes according to plan, we can close this operation tonight.” The first sighed, “Eighteen years…yes, I think I’m ready for this to be done.” ------------ “Be sure to tell your father I said hello.” “I will. Bye,” Hanako called as she left the store. She began to walk back towards the apartment building, pulling her music out again. Even though it was a short trip, it was always nice to get out of the apartment and talk to someone other than her father. Even if that person was a good deal older than her. She began to slip her ear buds back in when another voice called to her. “Excuse me, miss, could I interest you in some lovely fresh flowers today?” A man stood at a stand not far from her, holding a daisy in his hand which he held out to her. Though she knew it was a delay her father would not appreciate, she didn’t see the harm in stopping for just a moment.