A/N: Yes, I'm uploading this on July 7th. Yes, it's Killua's birthday. Yes, this was all planned.
Just want to clarify something: the spelling of character names. Was it just me or were the anime and manga names really confusing since they were different? I'm going to stick with the anime version, so Zoldyck instead of Zoaldyeck, Kite instead of Kaito, etc. Because I watched the anime first. Yeah.
Also, huge thanks to my beta Reeyachan for reading over this chapter and future chapters to come. She has a HXH story too, so check that out!
Disclaimer: I do not own Hunter X Hunter.
Chapter 1: Hiyori
"Humans are social creatures," my teacher once told me. "You can try to cut your ties with everyone else, but no matter how cold and mean you are to others, you will always get an aching feeling in your heart. The urge to interact is just too great for anyone to bare."
If a family could be defined as a group of people who cared about you and would be by your side supporting you with unconditional love no matter the circumstances as well as helping you through the hard times and giving you a shoulder to lean on when you were sad, then I think it was safe to say that I had no family.
Growing up for me was hard, especially with an older sibling. In the beginning, I had been prepared to be mocked and insulted by other kids, you know, the normal bully and victim routine. But I didn't expect to watch both my parents praise my brother—as if they were the ones harassing me—and talk about how when I grew up, I should learn to be exactly like him. It was so obvious that they favoured him over me, but it felt worse when they didn't even bother trying to hide it.
He was the smarter one—the better one—and he always exceeded me in everything he did; and yet, he didn't take this opportunity to brag or even bully me. He helped me up when I was down. He dragged me along so I could keep up. He never once stabbed me in the back.
Great. So I had someone who I could talk and help me with whatever problems I was having. Now, what was wrong with that? What was wrong with an older brother helping his sister? Absolutely and utterly nothing—if only he didn't see me through pitied eyes.
To him, he was being nice; he was acting like how a caring, protective older brother should be. And I wasn't complaining because, surely, that had to be better than a brother who discriminated you along with his parents, right?
However, I don't think he realized that what he was doing was actually making the situation worse. Mother and father took this as a chance and saw their son as an even better person. And at some point in my life, I was forced to stand on the sidelines and observe my parents as they slowly got tired and fed up with me and I could only ask: at what point did they stop caring?
Had they ever cared at all?
That was me, at the age of one. I was begging my brother to play with the new toy he had gotten just a few days ago. It was one of those clapping monkey figures that held symbols in its hands and would make sounds when you wind it up. Every time he spun the dial, the monkey would march towards him, a smile never wavering on his face, and my brother's own face would light up with joy and he would laugh for minutes and minutes non-stop.
I tried my best to lean over and reach for the toy, because I wanted to play with it too, but he moved it further away and eventually, I toppled over on the floor, feeling the tears well up in my eyes and sniffing to hold them back. It was like this every time: my parents would buy him a new toy for smashing all the plates off the dinner table while I had to watch him get cooed and fussed over, not being able to get angry or jealous because I knew that I wouldn't get the same treatment no matter what I did.
And just like all the times before, he gave me a look that said, Why should I let you play with this? Mom and dad gave it to me.
"Keep going, Hiroki! You can do it!"
That was me, at one-and-a-half years old, watching as my parents—mother in front of me and father behind me—praised my brother, clapping and cheering as he took his first steps. At first, he stood up awkwardly, wobbling and holding onto the couch desperately, but as time passed, he eventually mastered the art of walking and was running everywhere around the house, experimenting with his legs and feet, seeing how fast they could carry him.
I remembered how father gave him a light push on the first day to help him start on his journey across the living room to where my mother was, with her arms open, smiling widely. I remembered how, when he finally did make it to the destination, he collapsed into mother's arms as she cuddled and kissed him until he fell asleep, completely exhausted from the exercise.
And I couldn't help but think why they hadn't done the same to me, when I had learned to walk a few days later.
That was me, at age two, speaking my first word, my voice pronouncing the harsh word innocently. I heard this word from every inch—every centimetre—of the house; and even my little two-year-old brain could understand that it was addressed to me every single time. Crawling or walking up the stairs, I would hear father mutter it under his breath when he passed by me, while mother would simply ignore me and pretend I didn't even exist. Although I didn't know what it meant exactly, I could tell by his tone of voice that they were mad, angry, disappointed... at me. Often, I would wonder what I had done for them to call me this.
When they heard me say it one afternoon, mother and father exchanged looks over the dinner table and froze in mid-action of feeding Hiroki his pudding snack. First, it started out as snickering, but eventually, they changed to full-on laughing, mother covering her mouth in attempt to stop the giggles from spilling out and father jerking so violently that he knocked over the food and the pudding splattered onto my brother's face.
The house echoed with cries of laughter from my parents and loud, wailing sobs from Hiroki.
It was the first time mother and father ever laughed because of me, and even though I didn't really know what I had said, I felt a sense of pride.
"Here," Father's gruff voice interrupted the sound of the TV and Hiroki and I both momentarily turned our attention away from the screen to see him handing me a box. "A puzzle for you to do while your brother and I leave the house for a while."
That was me, at age three, staring in wonder at what the box that was being offered to me could contain. Hiroki was peering over my shoulder as I hesitantly reached out to grab the item, both of us staring at it like it was some kind of alien material. Father had never given me anything other than things such as food and clothing, so this just might as well be treated as an alienated object.
As I continued to examine the box, I noticed that at some point, Hiroki had been pulled away and he left with our father to go somewhere that I will never know. When he came back, I was sure that he would talk about all the cool things he saw and got to do, but I knew that all the descriptions, no matter how detailed, still wouldn't be the same as experiencing them for myself.
Now, more so than this mysterious box, I couldn't help but wonder where they went that was so confidential that I couldn't even know about.
That was me, at age four, looking up a new word I had discovered in a simple picture book.
"A pair; two people or things closely related to or closely resembling each other."
I looked over at my brother Hiroki, who was also reading a book of his own. This was the first time I had closely examined him. We had the same brown hair, the same dark brown eyes, and even the same facial features—if we were the same gender, we would've looked identical. It was almost as if we were a bottle of shampoo; two-in-one. Parts of a whole.
Realization dawned on me and I continued reading the book, even more entranced that I was before. It was then that I concluded: I was a twin.
"You're such a disappointing, weak, unpleasant, stupid... girl!"
That was me, at age six, trying desperately not to let my mother's words get to me. She was mad over the fact that I had accidently pushed Hiroki over, causing him to get a big bruise on his leg. He was crying in pain as father placed a wet cloth over the wound so that it wouldn't get infected and mother was glaring at me with eyes that contained so much hatred that I feared my soul would crumple apart.
Muttering a sorry for the billionth time, I scurried away, running to my room and burying my head in the pillow to hide my tears. It was the first time that I had hurt my brother that much and I was scared that he would hate me for the rest of his life. And even though, later, he had told me that it was no big deal, he knew it was an accident, he could still walk perfectly fine, I couldn't help but wonder: maybe this wouldn't have happened if I were a boy... after all, just look at Hiroki; he never made mistakes. Maybe mother and father would've loved me a little more if I had been a boy.
So... why hadn't I been born a boy?
"Hurry up! We have to go here and—ooh! Let me show you that; you'll love it!"
That was me, at age seven, following Hiroki aimlessly around our small town as he pointed at literally everything we passed. It was the first time I've ever left my backyard and father said that from now on, I was only allowed to go outside to run errands for him. Today, though, Hiroki snuck out with me when he noticed me sitting at the window for hours, looking outside and wondering what secrets the world I never stepped into held.
Holding my hand the entire time, he showed me all the shops, the parks, the bus stops, and we even got to eat at a restaurant! There was music, people actually came up to you and brought you the food, which was a nice change from mother's strict rules of feeding yourself, and get this: the waiters even sang happy birthday for the kid who sat in front of us. No one's ever sung me happy birthday except for my brother.
On the way back, Hiroki demonstrated his new-found ability to climb trees. I watched in both awe and envy as he courageously took one step after another until he was at the very peak several feet over the ground, grinning widely and waving down at me. This was my older brother, I realized, who was always a step above me—both figuratively and literally.
When we got back home, father asked where we were, and from one look in his eyes, I could tell that he knew what we've been up to. And I'll never forget what Hiroki did that day—he took the blame all on himself.
"That bracelet... every time you look at it, it'll remind you of how you killed me."
That was me, at the age of ten, staring in shock as mother spoke her last words to me with a pool of blood surrounding her body. I remembered shaking so hard that I thought I would explode, and I stood there, frozen, for a few minutes before I let out an ear-piercing scream that woke up the whole house.
I could've done something, I realized all too late. I could've saved her.
But I had been too scared. The aura the assassin let out was too menacing and the minute I stepped into the room, just in time to witness mother's heart being pulled out of her body, I dropped onto my knees. In less than a second, she had died and I was completely and utterly useless.
When father finally arrived after what seemed like eternity, I was shoved aside as he tried to do all sorts of things to save her, but it was no good; she was already gone.
My wrist was glowing with the curse that mother implanted onto me. I tried pulling, biting, cutting, and I even got father to attempt ripping it off with Nen, but nothing worked.
The bracelet was here to stay—forever.
"You can't bring back the dead, not matter how hard you try."
That was me, learning an important lesson. Mother was gone and all this time, father had taken out his anger on me, saying that everything was my fault, that if I had done something sooner, something better, something helpful, all of this could've been prevented. Or, at least, begged until the assassin killed me instead of her, because I was a nothing while she was half of father's entire life—the other half being Hiroki.
The worst part was... I think I was starting to believe everything father said.
"Mom... mom—come back!"
That was me, crying over my mother's death at her funeral. But a part of me knew that I wasn't actually sad that she died; I was just scared of what father would do to me afterwards. After all, her death meant one less person to verbally abuse me with.
And I realized that everything they said had been right—I was a selfish jerk.
"Father, please! Just listen to me!"
That was me, a few days after mother's death, practically begging my dad to even acknowledge me. After all that happened a few nights before, father wouldn't even look at me properly anymore—it was as if I had become an alien who was only allowed to stay in the house because it was technically illegal to just throw me away.
Since then, father's eyes had been clouded, but the coldness in them didn't go away; instead, they intensified. I'll never forget the look of hatred he sent my way when I came down the stairs for breakfast in the morning; and I'll never forget what he said to me a few days later, when everything finally got to him and he snapped:
"Just—just shut up! You're such a failure; you couldn't even save your own mother!"
And that was the last time I ever talked.
That was me, a day after I have taken the vow of silence. The two words rang through my head repetitively. When I was younger, I had thought that being a selective mute was a stupid idea because, well, if you had a voice, then why not use it?
But now I understood all too well.
It was easier to do than I had expected.
"Hiroki and... child." Father looked at me with narrowed eyes. "Come with me. It's time for you to learn Nen."
That was me, a few weeks after mother's incident, trying not to flinch at the name he now called me. After that night—the night of mother's death—father lost the little respect he had for me and I was being treated like trash. I saw Hiroki glance my way, eyes filled with pity, as he grabbed my hand, squeezing it slightly to reassure me, and dragged me along, forcing me to follow him and father to the backyard.
Wordlessly, I walked behind my brother, almost like a shadow. I was a no-one now; nothing but extra baggage to carry around. Hiroki was the only one who really understood; he had to understand. We were siblings, after all—twins.
He was the only one I could turn to; I had no one else.
"Nice to meet you."
That was me, a few minutes later, being introduced to a Nen teacher that father had hired. Before father left us alone, he turned to me and said that if I were to do well in something in life, it had to be Nen so that I could prevent what happened on That Night. The only response I had given him was looking away, ashamed.
Weeks later, both Hiroki and I had mastered the basics of Nen and we were ready to find out which category our Nen belonged to. Walking up to the glass of water, I gently placed my hands around it and performed Ren.
Moss sprouted from the bottom of the glass.
That was me, a few months later, musing over the new name that had suddenly been thrown at me not so long ago. They were a family of assassins who took on missions to kill anyone without a second thought if they were paid the right amount of money, father had explained with absolute hatred in his eyes.
"They were the ones who killed your mother."
After hearing that, I felt Hiroki stiffen beside me and when I turned to look at him, I saw that his teeth were gritted tightly, hands curled into lethal fists shaking uncontrollably, and his eyes had the same clouded look as father's. At the mention of mother's killer, he had turned from my loving twin brother to a monster who I no longer knew what he was capable of doing.
And right there, I promised myself that I would ever let him come across a Zoldyck.
"You two will be attending the Hunter Exam."
That was me, at age eleven, staring at my father in shock. I had lived with one simple rule my whole life: listen to whatever father said and if I hadn't been given permission to do something, I didn't do it. That being said, the first thing he had told me was to never take even a step outside our front door unless it was to run errands or buy groceries.
Now, let me tell you: I was not a rule breaker.
Although this new request wasn't a violation of the first rule, it shattered the second one into a millions pieces and completely flushed it down the toilet.
Father stared at me, eyes narrowed. "You'll never pass the Exam."
That was me, now, at age twelve, ready to completely give up.
And the answer to the question from before? Had they ever cared?
It was quite obvious, actually: no. Not from the moment I was born, not while I was growing up, and certainly not now. And even if I begged, cried, threw tantrums like a five-year-old, the cold, hard truth was that they never will.
A/N: I know this is a prologue and everything and it's supposed to be short, but future chapters will also be about this length. I just have difficulty writing long chapters, okay? Shut up. I'm working on it.
So hints about Hiyori's Nen. Just reminding you guys that any impurities that appear—in this case, the moss—means that the user is a Conjurer. More hints to come in the next few chapters.
Reviews are very much appreciated. :D
NEXT CHAPTER: In which a bet is originated, Hiyori and Hiroki enter a fancy building, and Killua is somewhat introduced.