3rd of Wealsun 377 ONT: Kaiden Academy, Fire Nation
“What?” Hikaru blinked and looked over at his friend Natsu.
The pink haired youth only grinned and nodded in the direction Hikaru had been looking. “That’s her name, Yukiko Omori. The one that you’ve been stealing glances at while the commander was welcoming us and then again at muster for our unit assignments. Not that I blame you.” Hikaru had the decency to blush at this as he was trying to be secretive and nonchalant about it.
“How is it that you know her name?” Hikaru found his eyes drawn to her once more as she smiled and joked with a few of her friends. It looked like she was heading for the south end of the compound and he was trying to think of a reason to wander in that direction.
“It’s a secret!” The spiky haired youth laughed and dodged the playful punch from Hikaru. “I’ll only tell you on pain of a full stomach.”
“… second son of my great grandfather on my mother’s side which are known for having green eyes of all things. So in general terms we are cousins as I found out last summer at the gathering. Her family is from the north and they sent her here because this is the best academy in the Fire nation and because I was attending.” The story had taken a while to get out as Natsu spent more time stuffing his face than speaking and Hikaru had long since passed impatience. He knew that giving in to the urge to throttle his friend would only result in delaying what he wanted to know. “… doesn’t have an affinity for the elements like I do but her magical potential is supposedly quite high.” Hikaru was certain that Natsu’s true talent was talking but his affinity with fire was a close second. “…so I think I can arrange it so you two meet up.”
“Really? Thanks Natsu.”
Natsu leans back now fully stuffed and nods. “What are friends for if not for setting up distant cousins with?” Both friends looked up as their sunlight disappeared with the arrival of a half dozen other trainees. Hikaru’s mood soured when he saw who it was at the head of the group. The eldest Ishikawa, Batou towered over the others as his two years gave him a height and strength advantage. Not that the others would do much thinking on their own that he would allow, Hikaru mused.
“Someone with as much potential as you Dragoneel should know better than to associate yourself with traitorous spawn like the Yamamotos.” The six had circled the two friends and Batou actred as if Hikaru wasn’t even there. His friends, however, had eyes only for Hikaru and all he saw there was a group of bullies looking for a reason to attack. He wasn’t going to make it that easy for them. “If you’re not careful you might catch it and I’m told the only way to keep that filth from spreading is to cleanse it with fire.”
Hikaru’s eyes narrowed and he rose to his feet, fists clenched in anger. Beside him Natsu stood and placed a hand on his friend’s shoulder forestalling the violence. “Ishikawa-san, you honour us with your presence. We new cadets can only stand here in awe of your family’s exemplary record and service to the Fire Nation. I am certain your father has taught you well and as a senior member of the mounted division I hope to learn much from your actions at the Academy.”
Batou frowned, this was not the reaction he wanted and worse it was respectful enough that with the few others nearby he would lose some face if he were to press with such blatant jabs at Hikaru. “See that you do Dragoneel. And the first lesson would be in deciding what kind of soldier you want to be. A hero or a traitor.” And with that he turned gathering his friends behind him as a lord gathers his cloak.
Hikaru stared at the back of Batou while his mind relived that frightening night and he felt as if his jaw was going to crack with how hard he was clenching it. Ishikawa, Fujima, Moto, Tanaka and Kita. All important houses, all with strong ties to the Ishikawa family and at least some were complicit in what happened that night.
“Ha! Well that will make things interesting will it not?” Natsu grinned and Hikaru could only shake his head. Interesting was an understatement. It was no secret that it took more than a few tries for his name to be accepted onto the rolls as he had been blocked at almost every turn. Only his ties to the royal line and want to serve finally gave him access but the highest he could be was as an archer. It was a position that would allow him to serve but not one that would gain honour and glory in battle facing the enemy with the sharp steel of a blade. Hikaru didn’t really care as long as it gave him a chance to show that his family were not the traitors they were thought to be.
Natsu was about to say more when he spied Captain Rugenji moving towards them and thought better of it. “Tomorrow after second bell be near the dragon gate.” With a quick salute to the captain, Natsu made his escape. Unfortunately that left Hiakru with the captain and a mess of dishes. He sighed and saluted knowing that he was about to be given a menial task to keep him busy for the next few hours.
4th of Wealsun 377 ONT: Kaiden Academy, Fire Nation (shortly after second bell)
Hikaru tried not to hurry to the Dragon Gate even though his archery practice had run late. It wasn’t his fault that someone had tampered with all of the strings assigned to him and covered his bow with grease. In truth the entire day so far had been one bad prank after another and even now he was trying to not let his boots fall off as the laces had been sliced so they came apart when he went to tie them up earlier. That was not the extent of it either and even the instructor knew someone was out to make Hikaru’s life miserable and admonished the group as a whole about tampering with the equipment of comrades and allies as they might be the only ones between you and an enemy blade. But all Hikaru received was snickers and whispers like “Its only what a traitor deserves” and “Can’t trust the untrustworthy” or “send him home before he injures one of us.”
Earlier it was a more direct approach with Batou and his cronies. It seemed at every turn at least one of the six friends were nearby and he was somehow always in their way; a foot here, and arm there or an outright shove for not moving fast enough or in the right direction. With size and years and training Hikaru didn’t have all he could do was absorb the abuse and hope someone would step in. Yet none seemed to notice or if they did were not of a mind to help the son of a traitor against the sons of powerful Fire Nation families.
So it was with relief that Hikaru reached the spot Natsu had indicated he would try to get Yukiko to meet him. Yet he was there alone, no Natsu and definitely no Yukiko. He frowned and looked around trying to see if anyone was heading towards him possibly running later than he was. But as the minutes dragged by it was becoming very clear that he was not going to have company. Well at least it had been a break from the bullying. After nearly a half bell with no sight of anyone Hikaru sighed and turned to make his way back to his assigned barracks.
“Giving up so soon?” An amused feminine voice carried to him on a soft breeze. Hikaru stopped and looked around surprised. “Another mark against you and we haven’t even formally met yet.”
“Who?” Hikaru spun in place trying to figure out where the voice was coming from. In return he was met with laughter.
“Who were you coming all this way to meet?” The voice questioned in return. “One would think if one was wanting to make a good impression one would have done a few things differently.”
Hikaru glowered and stared at the dirt. He didn’t like this game, it felt too much like the taunting and bullying he’d received from the others. “You seem to know much more than I so I’m sure you know.”
“Oh stop being such a boy and think!” The voice tsked, “Natsu said you were intelligent. I’d like to see you work some things out on your own.” There was a small pause before the voice continued, “If you do, come find me and we can talk.”
A small shadow detached itself from the Dragon Gate and Hikaru watched Yukiko leave. He frowned and thought over what had just happened and sighed shaking his head. He didn’t like these games not the ones the six played nor the one that Yukiko was playing. Yet it seemed he would have to take part in both if he was to survive Kaiden Academy and the first part of that was going to be in finding Natsu and, well things would be done and said…