Kasukabe, a suburban town in Saitama, Japan.
The year is 200X.
Ryouou High School
"What a horrible smell," said a girl with long, butterscotch-colored hair, while pinching her nose shut.
"Ugh! Does it stink or what!" replied a girl with long, lavender hair done in narrow twin ponytails. She, too, was holding her nose.
Just then, the classroom door slid open, and both girls let go of their noses as they looked to see who was at the door.
"Kagami-sama!!!" a certain short, flat-chested, blue-haired girl called from the threshold. "Did you get the assignment for world history?"
"I did, and don't think I'm gonna show you my work," replied the twin-tailed girl.
"Aww, don't be so stingy," said the bluenette.
"You never change, Konata. Graduation is only a few months away! If you don't start cleaning up your act now, how will you expect to manage yourself in college, or even in the real world?"
Konata then picked up one of Kagami's ponytails, and started tugging playfully at it.
"Put it down, Konata."
"Not until you let me see your homework."
"For the last time, you are not seeing my answers!" she shouted as she yanked the piece of hair out of her friend's hand. "Not like I put all that effort into my schoolwork just so you can leech off of me or something!"
"Come to think of it, when did you start wearing pigtails?"
"Back in Junior High. At some point, I just randomly decided to try them out, just for the heck of it, but then I started getting comments from people saying how cute I looked. Until then, Tsukasa was always the cute one, while I normally got compliments about how mature and responsible I am, so hearing something different felt nice for a change."
"Come to think of it," said Ayano, "I've been thinking of trying out a different hairstyle. Not sure what, though, but I don't want Misa-chan to laugh at me if I put too much effort into it."
"That's a good idea," said Kagami. "Konata, don't you ever think of trying something out yourself? I mean, you have grown it out long enough to do whatever you want with."
"I'd rather do it in the presence of others," the blue-haired girl answered. "It's no fun to do it when you're all alone."
"Don't you think you might get more of a reaction when you try something out in private, and then come out to show it off?" Ayano asked.
"Hmmmm… I guess you're right. Maybe I should take that approach."
The next morning…
Kagami yawned as she woke up, and stretched before climbing out of bed. She then wandered into the kitchen, settling down at the table and getting started with her bowl of rice for the morning.
"That's a nice hairstyle you've tried out, Kagami," her mother said while looking oddly somewhere above her head.
She put the bowl down. "Huh?"
"What made you decide to try that out?" asked her father, Tadao.
"What are you talking about?"
Her sisters came in, only to freeze and stare. After a beat, they started snickering.
Kagami reached up to her hair, only to find it missing in the back. Going up, she found all her hair bunched up on her head. She tried pulling down a strand, but as soon as she let it go it shot back up as if magnetically attracted.
She stood up so quickly her chair dropped over and ran to the bathroom.
What she saw in the mirror was terrible. All her hair was bunched up on her head in the shape of a large oval. She tried pulling at it again, but the effect stayed the same. As she failed to undo it, she started panicking. Going to school like this was be totally humiliating; she had to get it back to normal.
Furiously, she ran back to the kitchen.
"All right, which one of you did this to me?" she asked sharply.
Confused, everyone looked at one another. No one admitted to anything, or knew why she'd form her hair in such a way that she'd be embarrassed about, or how anyone else would have been able to pull such a stunt off on her… or for that matter, how the strands she tried to pull back down moments earlier rearranged themselves back in position. Even Kagami herself didn't take long to wonder how anyone could have done that to her in her sleep without her waking up at their constant touching.
The whole way to school, she continued in vain to pull at the strands, dreading how people would react to this sudden change, as well as such an awkward hairstyle itself.
Not long after she and Tsukasa reached school grounds did Konata come to greet them, her hair also done up into a beehive.
"You too?" all three of them asked in unison.
"What's going on here?" asked Kagami.
"Yuu-chan noticed something different about my hair just when we were saying bye to each other," said Konata. "I could've sworn it was straight back at home."
"I noticed sis's hair shaped like that right after I woke up," said Tsukasa. "She wasn't happy about it."
"At first, I thought one of my sisters played some kind of prank on me, but then again, I don't know who actually would. Besides you, that is."
"Either way, this style is just moe!" Konata commented. "Sure hope Miyuki-san's hair also looks like that by now."
"Shut up, that is totally embarrassing!" said Kagami, blushing.
The blue-haired girl's wish was realized. Inside the hallways, Miyuki was walking to class by herself when an oval-shaped blue gem appeared out of thin air over her head. A commotion broke out as her hair began to rise and wrap itself around the stone, taking the same oval-shaped form that Kagami's and Konata's had taken.
"Wha-What's going on?" she asked.
"Your hair," a nearby girl said. "Something appeared over your head, and now it's acting weird."
At that point, her hair had finished arranging itself, but everyone in the hall was still talking about what had just happened. Embarrassed, the girl covered her face and headed for the girls' room to hide.
"It happened to you, too?" a certain perpetually shut-eyed boy asked Konata in their classroom.
"You saw someone else?" the girl responded. "Was it Miyuki-san by any chance?"
"You'll never believe it! Like, this weird stone appeared over her head, and then her hair started to rise up and wrap around it, and everyone was like—"
Her heart started pounding in excitement. Ohhhh, this is gonna be moeeeee! she thought to herself.
Minutes went by. The bell rang, homeroom had started, and she still didn't show up.
"Takara-san late to class? That's a first," commented their teacher, Nanako Kuroi.
She hid inside one of the restroom stalls, trying in vain to bring her hair back down, until a teacher came in and noticed her.
"Excuse me," the teacher said. "I've noticed you've been in that same stall since my last visit here. Shouldn't you be in class?"
"It's a little embarrassing, but…" said Miyuki.
"It's okay, I won't laugh."
"Something happened to my hair, and now… I can't get it back to normal!"
The girl opened the stall door.
"Why would you style it like that if it embarrasses you?"
"I didn't. Something caused it to end up like this before homeroom started."
The woman made her own attempt to unravel the girl's hair, but the strands just arranged themselves back in place.
"That's weird," the teacher said. "Y'know what, why don't you just remain in there, and I'll go get one of your parents to come get you."
"Thank you very much," said Miyuki.
Upon coming home, Kagami was about to get started looking for clues online about what had happened involving her and her friends' hair, but then the phone rang.
"Kagami-san?" said Miyuki from on the other end.
"Oh hey, Miyuki. What's going on?"
"Would it be okay if I came over for today's notes and assignments? I had to leave school today."
"Sure. What happened?"
"Something happened to my hair, and—"
"Wait! That happened to me too today!"
"And to Konata, although neither of us were at school yet when it happened. I found it kinda weird, but she thinks it looks 'moe'."
"I was just about to look online to see what's going on here."
"Oh, that's a great idea!"
"Well, see ya soon!"
After failing to find anything out about the issue at hand, Kagami tirelessly sent emails out, starting with everyone living in Saitama, while waiting for Miyuki to drop by. She came after having hitched a ride in her mother's car, and the two of them and Tsukasa gathered into Kagami's room to go over the material together. Today being the weekend, they decided to let her eat dinner with the rest of the family and sleep over for the night.
Late that night, all hell broke loose as Kagami heard screams from elsewhere in the house. She jolted out of bed, just in time to notice the outline of her desk lamp rise into the air. As if thrown by invisible hands, it came right at her face. She grabbed her pillow and whacked it twice, only for the pillow to burst into feathers. The lamp was deterred for a moment, allowing her to grab her cell phone before it tackled her again and she staggered back, grasping for the doorhandle in the dark. She found it just in time to fall out of her room. The lamp hurled against the wall above her, shattering.
Kagami yelped as she scrambled to her feet. As she ran, lights started to flicker around her, photos on the walls came to life and furniture started to move on its own. She had to dodge a closet and jump over a couch before she reached the door.
Outside, the world was normal again and she stopped, panting hard. When something moved closer to her, she startled, but it was only Tadao.
"Kagami, are you alright?" Tadao promptly asked her.
"What the hell is going on here!?!" she asked.
"I don't know," said Miki. "Where's Tsukasa?" Miki asked. "Tadao, go back inside and get her! The rest of you stay out here. I'll call the police."
Kagami frowned as she became aware that her father had run into trouble and wouldn't be able to save Tsukasa alone. The strange sensation also spurred her to move, and she went into the garage, where she grabbed a wooden baseball bat. When her mother ringed a neighbor's door to ask for a phone, she slipped back inside the house.
The lights still flickered and she saw Tadao on the floor, struggling against a lamp cord around his neck. His face was turning red and one hand tried to grab the floating lamp, but it was too far for him. Not for Kagami though. One swing shattered the lamp and the cord's grip died out.
Tadao choked and took several deep breaths. "Thanks," he finally stammered. She helped him get up with one hand, holding her bat firmly in the other and her eyes on the surrounding. Several other pieces of furniture were moving towards them.
"Didn't your mom tell you to stay outside?"
A swarm of knives emerged from the kitchen and Kagami shouted, "Forget that! Go get Tsukasa, I'll cover you!"
He nodded and ran for the stairs.
As one, the knives shot at them. Kagami focused on the largest, batting them out of the air with two swings. The other knives hit her, but weren't sharp enough to cause more than a few shallow cuts. The knives on the ground rose to the air again and Kagami backed away, towards Tsukasa's room.
She slammed the door once inside. On the other side, the knives embedded themselves into the wood. She turned to find Tadao in the middle of stomping on an animated baby doll, which was breaking rapidly. Tsukasa was in a corner, wide eyes and frozen.
Kagami knelt down before her, noticing she had growing bruises on her face and neck in the form of tiny hands. Tsukasa's eyes were fixed on the doll and the remnants of several other toys.
"Tsukasa, it's gonna be okay, snap out of it," Kagami said, shaking her gently. Tsukasa's eyes finally fixed on her.
"Okay," she whispered. Kagami pulled her to her feet and looked back at Tadao, who was still stomping on the remnants of the doll.
"Let's go," she said. He gave one more furious stomp and breathed out.
"Our own house is trying to kill us ..." he muttered.
Kagami noticed Tsukasa's bed starting to shiver and rise. "Dad, we gotta go, now!"
The bed swung on its side and almost crushed him. Kagami threw the door open, batted away some of the knives that had gotten loose and pulled out Tsukasa. Tadao closed the door behind them, or at least tried to. The bed rammed against the door before it was shut, pushed into the hallway.
They managed to sprint through the hallway, seconds before the bed managed to worm itself out of the room.
Inside the kitchen, the table had already come to life and blocked the hallway back outside, and floating chairs tried to pierce the three of them. Tsukasa and Tadao ducked, but Kagami dodged around her assailant and ran for the nearest window, breaking it with her bat. She pulled loose one of the curtains and threw it over the glass. She already had enough cuts for today.
"Come on, let's get out!"
"Just our luck today," said Kagami, a few minutes after they came back outside. "First, these stones mess with our hair, and now our house just tried to kill all of us… Wait a minute! Maybe this isn't such a coincidence. Let's see if Konata's alright!"
With that, the seven of them all packed into the family car without hesitation, and drove at top speed the way there without worrying about running into anything or anyone.
The whole day, Konata had been meaning to meet up with Miyuki in person, eager to see her with her new hairstyle. It had slipped her mind during the long hours she had been in class, even after her other friends noticed and asked about it. Soujiro and Yui had asked as well when she got home, and that's when she finally remembered to give Miyuki a call… only to end up having to leave a message.
She figured she could just pay her a visit on the way to her part-time job in Akihabara, but only Yukari was home. Due to the nature of her job, the state of her hair was a slight issue after turning out to be stuck in place. Nevertheless, she did manage to cosplay as someone with all other aspects matching the character.
Coming home, she had once again forgotten about Miyuki, and settled in to play World of Warcraft for all hours of the night. It was when she heard someone knocking frantically at the door, long after her family had all gone to bed, that she would finally get to see her the way she was for herself… but she had the good sense not to comment this time, after noticing that she, among the entire Hiiragi family, were clearly in some kind of shock over something.
Some of her sudden guests looked like they had been in a brawl of sorts. Kagami was the one directly across the threshold from her.
"What brings you all here at this time of night, and what's with the bat?" Konata asked. "You all look kinda freaked out, too."
"I'm guessing nothing bad happened to you too, right?" the lavender-haired girl asked, between two heavy breaths.
"What're you talking about?"
"We were all asleep, and then I heard screams. Next thing I know, my lamp attacks me, and I just barely escape the house with my life. All of us made it out except Tsukasa. Dad and I went back in to find her, and then we figured that these things that did our hair up like this might've caused the whole thing."
"Wow, that must've been rough!" Konata commented. "Glad that didn't happen here, or else everything I worked so many hours to buy would've gone to waste."
Kagami was in no mood right now to make any snarky comments about her friend's obsessive collecting habits. Meanwhile, Soujiro, Yutaka, and Yui, having already heard Kagami's frantic knocking from moments earlier, had woken up to see who was there.
"Kagami-san," Miyuki started. "Did you find anything out about those things?"
"Now that you mention it, I didn't, but I did send out a whole bunch of emails. Y'know, to see if anyone else got them." said Kagami. "Guess I should've remembered to check them before going to bed." She then faced Konata. "Say, would it be okay if I borrowed your computer for a sec?"
"Go right ahead," said Konata.
As it turned out, only one person had replied to her, but the name seemed somewhat familiar, and it seemed this person would actually know what was going on.
There actually aren't that many of those. They're part of what my dad's been researching for as long as I can remember. Let's meet up at my house tomorrow morning, and I'll explain everything then, okay?
"Dad!" Kagami called out upon returning. "I just heard back from someone named Rokuna Hiiragi. Isn't that your cousin's daughter?"
"Yeah, that's right. What, she has trouble too?"
"No, but she seems she might know what's going on here," she said as she drew out her cell phone. "Tell me, what's their phone number?"
She dialed it in as he instructed, and a few moments went by before hearing back.
"Unnnggghhh….. Who is this?"
"Rokuna, is that you? The other two are both here, and you're the only other person who's gotten back to me so far. Something really bad just happened back at home, and we need to know as much as possible ASAP!"
"Guess I shouldn't be surprised. Let's all meet up at my house, okay?"
"Make sure you bring a weapon of some kind. It's gonna be dangerous."
"Right! See ya!" She then faced her friends after ending the call. "Konata, Miyuki, that was my cousin. We just agreed to go visit her. Get dressed and grab something to fight with."
"Sis!?!" said Tsukasa, her attention caught. "Would it be okay if I come with you too?"
"Well, sure, but you better be ready for whatever might be out there."
"Sorry I can't lend you my gun, but we do have plenty of other things you can use," said Yui.
Looking through different parts of the house, Miyuki had armed herself with a frying pan, and Konata found a yo-yo and a slingshot in a box of toys from her childhood, and decided to let Tsukasa wield the latter. As far as clothing went, though, there naturally wasn't anything of Konata's or Yutaka's that would've fit the other girls. Not that anyone was surprised, but this left the Hiiragi twins and Miyuki with no choice but to leave barefoot and in their pajamas, same way they had left home. But then again, they were expecting to return by dawn anyway.
Meanwhile, Yutaka started cooking a pot of rice. Konata noticed upon emerging from her room, now dressed up.
"Yuu-chan, what're you cooking rice for," she asked.
"Just making some riceballs for you guys, just in case you get hungry. Say, oneechan, would it be okay if I come along too?"
"Thanks, but you should stay here. We don't know what's out there that Kagami's cousin was talking about, but if anything happens here, I'm sure Yui-neesan will keep you safe." She then faced her other cousin. "Right, nee-san?"
"You can count on me!" the cop said. "As for you, don't let anyone tell you otherwise, but you're a brave young girl. Just remember to go for it!" She whipped her fist out in a thumbs-up while saying those last three words.
The girls continued to get ready to leave, and said their goodbyes to their families. Soujiro, even after being informed by Tadao and Miki, had good faith in them and was willing to let his only daughter take risks in life. Tadao and Miki, though… not so much.
"Not on my watch!" said Tadao.
"What if something were to happen to you?" said Miki. "Why don't we just go see her tomorrow morning?"
"It's not like there's anything to animate out in the woods," Kagami replied.
"We never dreamed that something like back at home would be possible," said Miki. "If that could happen, then just think of what else might."
"I would never forgive myself if something were to happen to you, and we weren't around to protect you," said Tadao.
"If what happened back at home actually is because of those things in our hair, then I wouldn't want all of you to be caught up in another poltergeist attack," Kagami replied.
"Especially Yuu-chan," Konata added.
"I would rather die alongside with you than be left without even one of my daughters," said Tadao. "There is no way I am letting you sacrifice yourself to some dangerous situation or another!"
"Something's outside the front door!" Miyuki shouted to everyone. "We gotta leave!"
Kagami just barely darted away from her father as she and everyone else except Yui headed for the backdoor.
Tadao, having reason enough to believe her after the events from not too long ago, didn't bother to chase her, instead heading outside with Yui to confront whatever was outside.
"Freeze!" shouted Yui, pointing her gun at what turned out to be some silver, humanoid… thing, while Tadao tackled it to the ground in an attempt to pin it down. The creature only warped out from underneath Tadao and pressed its pod-like foot down on him, and then pointed its tentacle-like arm at him before gathering pink energy at the tip. Yui promptly fired a few rounds into its back, and it warped to the side of the house, only to receive a blow to the head from Soujiro, who had just fetched a sledgehammer from the shed. A few more whacks, and it couldn't take anymore and left.
"Thanks, guys" said Tadao, between heavy breaths, as he and Yui regrouped with Soujiro.
In the midst of the flight, the four seniors ditched their families and headed into the forest. Kagami drew her cell phone out and called Rokuna again.
"Rokuna! Let's meet up at the hill in the woods. Something was outside Konata's house, and we just had to leave."
The woods were silent and lit only by the moon and stars. Kagami led the way with the bat and a flashlight, not only knowing where to go, but also as the most alert and sensible one of the group. The path she and her friends were on was narrow, but wide enough not to require them to walk single-file.
Not long after they entered the forest did they encounter their first adversaries. The growl of a medium-sized brown dog wearing square glasses, the caw of a large-yellow-beaked crow wearing sunglasses and a purple bowtie, and the hiss of a green snake coiled up like it was ready to pounce, could all be heard simultaneously.
"That's odd," said Konata. "Why would a dog and a crow be wearing—"
She didn't have time to finish as the dog pounced and bit her. The snake coiled around Tsukasa, and the crow flew up to Miyuki and pecked her in the worst place possible: at her bespectacled eyes. None of them had time to react, and they screamed and hit the dirt in fright and pain.
Kagami froze up, having to choose who to aid first and not wanting to accidentally hit any of her friends instead of their assailants with the bat.
Choosing her sister first, she dropped the bat and attempted to pull the snake off of her. Her strength alone wasn't enough to pull it completely off, but at least enough to allow Tsukasa to hold its head away from her.
"Hang in there!" said Kagami. "I'll try getting Konata or Miyuki to help you too!"
She picked the bat back up, and gave a barefoot kick to the crow, hurting her foot with such a move, and then swung the bat at the bird and sent it packing.
She then turned to Konata, who was curled up and thrashing on the ground while the dog continued to bite her in the leg. She brought the bat down onto the mutt, eliciting a yelp from it before it turned on her.
At this point, Miyuki was slowly recovering from her ordeal with the crow, hands still over her eyes. While her glasses were broken thanks to the bird, she didn't need them to realize that her friends were still in trouble once she uncovered her eyes. A burst of adrenaline helped her recover the rest of the way, and she armed herself with the frying pan to give the dog several whacks, before accidentally hitting Kagami instead and causing her some pain.
"Sorry!" she said, as the mutt ran off.
"Save," said Kagami, while breathing fast and heavy. "Tsukasa!"
Miyuki looked in Tsukasa's general direction, to notice that she was starting to give way to the snake. Konata had gotten up by now, and both she and Miyuki went over to deal with the reptile. The combined strength of all three girls helped get it off and throw it to the side, after which Kagami finished it off with the bat.
All four girls settled down to nurse their wounds and examine one another's.
"Miyuki," said Kagami. "Don't tell me your glasses are broken."
"I sorta spaced out, and then that crow pecked at my eyes and broke them."
"Come to think of it, Konata sometimes talks about how you do that a lot. Not like we ever had to go through anything like this before, so now you need to start paying attention to stuff more than ever. Anyway, that snake we just fought… Were you able to tell whether it's poisonous or not?"
"Well, there are poisonous species where we live. I could barely see what kind that one was, but I don't think it contains venom," she answered.
"Well, that's a relief," said the Kagami.
Hidden among the trees, the silver alien observed the girls. Still having a headache from its previous skirmish, it wasn't up for another fight at the moment. Besides which, they could only fight for so long. At this rate, they eventually would succumb.
A handful of battles later, the girls reached and climbed the hill. Halfway up, they found a small white box with a ribbon tied neatly around it.
"Hmm. Wonder how that got here," said Tsukasa, walking up to it before kneeling down and almost opening it.
"Considering everything that's happened today, I'd probably leave it alone," said Kagami.
The girl they met at the top wore a yellow shirt and a red skirt and sneakers. Her hair was a rich shade of brown, and like theirs, had been arranged into a big beehive.
"Hi. I'm Rokuna Hiiragi," she said. "Let me fix you up."
She extended her hand towards them.
"P. K. Healing. Alpha."
A green glow emanated, healing up Kagami's wounds and removing the tears and bloodstains from their clothes. She repeated the process for the other three girls. They thanked her, before Kagami continued.
"That's not gonna have any weird side effects, is it?"
"Don't worry. It won't." said Rokuna.
"Thanks. Anyway, it's been a while since we met," she said. 'These are my friends, Konata and Miyuki. We've actually been friends since the beginning of high school."
"Hi," said the former. "I'm Konata Izumi. Nice to meetcha."
"My name is Miyuki Takara," said the latter. "It's a pleasure to meet you."
"So anyway," said Kagami. "What is the deal with these stones, our hair, and everything that's happened tonight, and how did you manage to heal us up like that?"
"From what Dad told me," said Rokuna, "there are actually supposed to be twelve of those altogether. They're supposed to enable you to use some weird powers, but they require really long hair in order to take a host."
"So what's been causing stuff to attack us?" asked Kagami.
"Actually, you were being targeted because of them. According to Dad, this is just the beginning of an alien invasion from a distant planet, and the gemstones are what will help us fight back."
"Just as I thought, in a way," said Kagami. "We had our hair done up against our will by these stupid things, and now everything is gonna try to kill us. Except, at least it's not the gemstones themselves that caused all that."
"So, how do we know what we are capable of?" asked Miyuki.
"You just kinda realize it subconsciously. Dad should know more about it, so let's go to my house and ask him."
The other girls agreed to that idea. Kagami lent Rokuna the flashlight, and let her lead them back to her house.
They weren't attacked by any more animals from that point on, but something much worse was yet to come.
Not long after they came back down, a silver light flashed throughout the area, and down came a metallic humanoid thing with tentacles for arms, some buttons on the right half of its chest, and a visor where its face should have been.
"Everyone spread out!!!" shouted Rokuna.
She ran right past the Starman Jr., while the other four girls ran off in other directions to the sides. Unfortunately, despite being made of titanium, it was able to move quite fluidly, and was also capable of night-vision to seek them out. It looked to its right, spotted Konata, and teleported continually after her until she couldn't run any more, before extending one of its arms forward.
"Keep moving!!!" she could hear Kagami shout, who had sensed the alien chasing her and had followed it in turn. The blue-haired girl instead hit the dirt as a pink, foot-thick laser narrowly shot past her, ripping through any trees that were in its direct path.
Kagami then extended her hand forward, and shot out a wave of fire. Needless to say, this had the unfortunate effect of setting numerous trees ablaze, but also did its job of hurting the alien. Their enemy warped out of the flames, but was still hurt from being scorched in the first place.
"Behind you!" shouted Konata. Too late, as the alien, now riled up, swung its arm upside her head, knocking her on the ground. It then stepped towards her to stomp on her with its metallic, pod-like foot, but was stopped by a bolt of lightning and a shot of winter-cold energy, both attacks which caused its body to melt and crack at the same time. Tsukasa had also come to her aid, and helped her get up and out of the alien's way as it collapsed.
Rokuna then drew out her cell phone, and called the local fire department to alert them of the fire that Kagami accidentally started.
"That's exactly what I sensed outside of Konata-san's house," said Miyuki, after Rokuna finished the call.
"Must've been desperate to try to kill us itself," said Rokuna.
"You think that thing was responsible for what happened back at our house?" asked Kagami.
"If it was, then I guess we're safe for now," said Rokuna. "I can't seem to sense any more around here. Anyway, don't rely on psionics too much. You can only use it so much each day, and the most common way to use more of it is to find a magic butterfly, but even they don't recover that much."
"Magic butterfly?" the other girls said, almost in unison.
"Oh, they exist, but only psychics can tell them apart from normal ones."