Pai resisted the urge to shake her head and sigh loudly as she entered the miniature training ground that was the famed Hacker's Elementary School, grade three. The class was packed with children, mostly faces she knew and had scolded thoroughly over her teaching career, but today her attention was fixed on Kamui and Kaede, her 'disciples', so to speak. They were both teachers-in-training and the job of showing them how to handle the little tykes had been left to her. Well, so be it. She wouldn't hesitate to yell if she had to yell. That's usually how things went, anyway.
"Pai-sensei, konnichiwa!" Kaede greeted, bowing her head politely and speaking in soft, beautiful Japanese. Kamui lifted her chin in recognition but kept her painted lips shut, her colorful eyes gleaming curiously as they scanned her superior's outfit.
"Yes?" Pai said, a silent dare. There were no uniforms here, and she was proud of the outfit she had spent hours carefully designing, no matter how many others disapproved. Kamui said nothing but to shake her head again in polite dismissal. Pai frowned and turned back to the class.
"Get in your seats, you little worms!" she snapped.
There was a collective groan around the room as the children shuffled to their desks. Pai glanced back to Kamui and Kaede and was pleased to see them studying the children like good little teachers in training.
"Today we have two visitors." Pai announced, jerking her thumb in the direction of the two remaining adults. "This is Kaede-sensei and Kamui-sensei."
"Konnichiwa…" the class mumbled in unison.
Pai planted her hands on her hips and surveyed the classroom. Sitting in the front row with his hands folded was Silabus. Then Atoli, followed by Mia, who was whispering something to a giggling Elk. Next to Elk was a child that seemed to resemble him in all aspects, Tsukasa, who normally kept his mouth shut and cringed at all the wrong moments. Subaru sat beside him with her legs folded neatly beneath her, then Kuhn behind her, wearing a strange expression on his pale face.
Sitting in a row by the door was the troublemaking trio that liked to call themselves the 'Azure Knights,' Azure Kite, Balmung, and Orca, all of which had dressed carefully to look like creatures from a graveyard, in her opinion. Little devils that couldn't be tamed. She'd say a thing or two to the little monster's parents if she could, but they always seemed to avoid questioning at the right time.
Then there was Haseo, sitting with both his elbows planted on his desk and his head propped up by his hands, pouting. Mistral was to the right of him, her eyes shining cheerfully.
And sitting nearby the strange Azure trio was one of the Azures' twin brother, Kite. Pai had never bothered to ask their mother why on earth she had given her twins the same damn name, but no matter. Kite sat behind his twisted brother, dressed entirely in red as always. Then there was BlackRose, looking irritated at a smiling Mimiru. And last of all was one of Pai's personal favorite students, the soft-spoken Shino, with her pink hair brushed over her forehead and her cute black outfit tied crisply at the back.
They were a lot to handle, those children. Pai doubted Kaede and Kamui could really grasp how much of a mess all of them together could make. Sighing gently, she stepped back waved her arm before her gently. "Go play." she ordered. "You know where the crayons and paper is, right?"
"Yes, Pai-sensei!" they chimed eagerly, and there was a scraping of chairs as they all scattered about the room again.
Pai sat beside Kaede and Kamui, brushing her bubblegum hair over her bare neck. "They can be a handful." she said, shrugged her toned shoulders gracefully. "But besides the kids, there's not too much trouble around here. Vice Principal Helba has an attitude to her, but she's not too difficult to get along with."
"What about the Principal, how is she?" Kaede asked fearfully.
Pai frowned. Morganna was one lady she wanted nothing to do with. She hardly ever saw her in school grounds, but it seemed that woman knew everything that happened within the school regardless. Creepy.
"Don't worry about her." she muttered at last.
Kamui raised a delicate eyebrow.
"Well, maybe you should. You see, Mor – KUHN, GET AWAY FROM THOSE TWO RIGHT NOW OR YOU'LL SIT IN THE CORNER FOR THE REST OF THE WEEK!"
Kuhn hung his head guilty and trotted away from where Shino and Atoli sat on the large, colored rug, rolling a red and yellow ball between them. Pai glared at the blue-haired child until he had receded unto a safer section of the classroom.
"What was I saying?" she said after a awkward pause.
"The Principal." Kaede reminded her kindly.
"Ah, yes. Morganna." Pai nodded as her train of thought returned to her. "You see, Principal Morganna doesn't quite like the children too much. It's just…especially Mia…and Tsukasa -- Tsukasa's always getting picked on by her. And I never see it happen either, he'll just start crying randomly and say it's because Morganna won't leave him alone."
Kaede looked hurt. Pai shrugged once more, looking away for a moment, and when she looked back she saw Kamui looking at her intently, both eyes fixed. She shivered, now seeing her eyes clearly for the first time. Two different colors, like precious rocks gleaming. At first it took her breath away, but then it filled her with a strange feeling she didn't trust.
Pai decided she wasn't going to like Kamui very much.
"Ah, children." Kaede spoke again, taking her attention. "I love children, really. Sometimes they can be quite a bother, but seeing them all together like this, so innocent…"
Innocent? Tsukasa and Subaru were sitting under the coloring table, hands laced together and noses just touching. Mia sat by the windowsill, swinging her long legs casually as Elk rested his head on her shoulder, ruby eyes serenely closed. And Azure Kite sat separated from the safety of his two twisted friends for a moment, looming unnoticed behind a diligently coloring Haseo with his one visible eye glittering strangely. Honestly, these were the most UN-innocent children she had ever seen. Pai feared the day when the whole lot of them hit puberty. God knows The World would go to hell and back, if it hadn't already.
"Pai-sensei, Kite-Azure-sama is drawing A's all over everything again!" Silabus whined, waving his hand over his head in spite of the fact that he was calling out anyway.
"They're not A's! That's the Tri-Edge sign!" Shino said in horror.
Several of the students gasped loudly. Pai raised an eyebrow, wondering what the heck a Tri-Edge sign was and why it had anything to do with the English Alphabet.
"Not fair!" Silabus pouted in the offender's direction. "You took the red crayon!"
Azure Kite hissed loudly in retaliation. The children drew back like wounded animals.
"He drew his stupid A on my picture!" Mistral said tearfully, waving around a single sheet of paper that was marred by several different colored crayons, the topmost of which was said 'Tri-Edge sign' – what looked indeed like a sideways red A.
"It's not an A!" Shino said again. "Don't call it an A!"
"It is too!" Mistral dared. "My picture was beautiful! I bet you it would be all famous and rare someday if stupid Kite hadn't gone and ruined it!"
"What did I do?!" Cried the normal, sane Kite in dismay.
"Not you! The creepy one!"
"Sensei!" Silabus begged, wide-eyed.
Azure Kite slipped back to where Azure Balmung and Orca sat in watchful silence. She sighed loudly when she noticed their hands linked under the desk again.
"Stop that, you two!" Pai threatened. Azure Balmung and Orca gave her empty looks that made her shiver in spite of herself.
"Now Pai, they're only children…" Kaede began doubtfully. "I have a child myself…you just need to try and understand them, you know?"
"Shut it!" Pai snapped. Kaede blinked several times before huffing and looking away.
And then, quite suddenly, she heard a loud, piercing shriek that could only belong to one girl.
"Atoli – oh Atoli honey, what did you do!"
Atoli cried loudly, covering her tiny face with both hands as Shino crawled toward her with worry in her eyes. The ball they had been passing back and fourth between them gently lay forgotten at her feet.
"It hit her nose, I think." Shino whispered, horrified.
"Atoli, come here." Pai cooed, gathering her up into her arms. "Come now, we'll get you some ice. Just – " she craned her neck and saw the worried children gathering everywhere. Kuhn and Haseo seemed genuinely concerned, while the Azure trio sat mysteriously toward the back of them room, exchanging stoic glances.
"Everyone sit down." she ordered, feeling irritated at the lot of them for no real reason. Their shoulders sagged.
The children hurried back to their desks around her. She watched Mistral disappear behind her with a fist full of crayons still in her grasp, and Azure Kite wonder slowly to his seat with that strange look in his eye again.
Atoli sobbed still. She set her back by her seat, stroking her hair soothingly.
"Ha" she heard Azure Kite breath huskily.
"Leave me alone." Haseo snapped from somewhere behind her.
Pai closed her eyes, trying to control her patience. Atoli pulling her tiny hat over her ears with embarrassment as she continued to cry.
"Go away!" she heard Haseo hiss again, followed by the unnerving laugh of that Kite twin again.
"I – I – " Atoli clutched her arm for a moment before continuing helplessly; "I want my Mommy - !"
Several of the other students began to whine. Pai felt a vein throb in her temple. "Kids, be quiet for a moment – " she began.
They only whined louder. She felt something snap inside her, releasing Atoli and standing up sharply, stomping her foot beneath her, she shouted; "I SAID – SHUT IT!"
The class fell into instant silence. For a moment, that was. And then there was a loud yelp, cut off suddenly. She glanced down to see Haseo sitting with his legs locked together, both hands clapped over his mouth, small fingers barely concealing a furious blush. And behind him – no surprise!, she thought bitterly – that Azure Kite child, his razor teeth glittering in a sly smile.
God, that kid creeped her out sometimes.
"Kite!" she scolded him loudly.
"What did I do!?" Came the panicked voice of his twin across the room.
"Not you!" Pai rolled her eyes. "The dark looking one!"
"Whaaat!" Moaned Mimiru and BlackRose at the same time.
"Not either of you!" She shouted. "You!" she pointed in the direction of the offender.
"Me?" Haseo asked, looking up at her with honest surprise.
"NO!" She stomped her foot again. "YOU!" She shook her fist before the Azure Kite's one staring eye.
There was silence. Pai suddenly felt very foolish – none of the three Azure kids ever said anything. What was she expecting?"
"Ha…" breathed the boy softly. Pai stood still for a moment, unsure of what to do next, and then the Azure Kite's hand re-appeared at Haseo's pale neck and began to slip back under the fabric of his jet-black shirt.
"CORNER! NOW!" Pai screamed, slapping the boy's hand away sharply. The boy trudged off toward the corner, somehow managing to pout around his needle-like teeth. Haseo began to cry very loudly.
It took seconds for his sobs to make Atoli begin to wail again.
And then the normal Kite - the one that she thought wouldn't grow up to be the terror of some New Jersey Jail – put his head down on the desk and began to cry as well.
Azure Kite grinned slyly from his seat in the corner.
Pai was feeling a headache coming on.
"ALL OF YOU!" came an unfamiliar voice. "SIT DOWN AND SHUT UP OR I'LL DEBUG YOUR CORRUPT LITTLE MINDS UNTIL YOU'RE ALL THE FACELESS LITTLE ZOMBIES GOD INTENDED YOU TO BE!"
The room fell into sudden silence as sixteen surprised faces looked to the woman who had shouted. There, with her hands on her hips and her colorful eyes alive with superiority, stood none other than Kamui.
"New-lady-sensei?" Mimiru asked with innocent awe.
Pai looked at the woman's sudden anger and her loud, very expert yelling voice and decided that she really didn't hate Kamui very much after all. In fact, with an attitude like that, they'd probably get along very well.
"Listen to Kamui-sensei, all of you!" Pai said, feeling herself grin. "Sit down."
The children rushed back to their seats, pink-faced.
"You." Pai pointed a trembling finger at the leering Azure Kite, who dared to sit there before her as if he were a normal kid. He couldn't fool her, no! Not her! That kid would probably grow up to be infamous, she'd be her life on it! Yes, there would be forum thread after forum thread on that little devil! And probably some strange yaoi-themed pictures from some weird American girl with too much time on her hands! Oh yes, Pai could tell when she saw a trouble maker, and that child was nothing but trouble. "ALL of you!" she embellished, gesturing at the other two Azure 'knights.' 'Knights' her skimpily-clad ass! "I'll have a chat with your parents, all three of you!"
The simply stared back at her blankly. Pai felt her face heat up. What twisted women birthed these freaks anyway?
"And you too." She added, pointing at the still-blushing Haseo. "I don't care how bad you try to look, I'm speaking with your mother for making her son look like jailbait. And you, Atoli, you have to control your tears!"
"Are you gonna talk to Daddy Sakaki too, Pai-sensei?" Atoli asked with innocent fear.
Hell no, she wasn't gonna see no Sakaki! That man was bad news if she ever saw it. "No, dear, I'm simply advising you."
Atoli bowed her head politely, blushing.
"You two think you can handle these kids?" Pai asked, looking back at Kaede and Kamui.
"Sure thing." Kamui answered, looking confident.
"I think I'll just stick with Zevvy." Kaede said stiffly.
Pai couldn't help it. She had to laugh.
x x x x x x x x x
Some years later...
x x x x x x x x x
Haseo held the two duel blades tightly in his grasp, watching the strange orb of light float downward and reveal a strange, zombie-looking character with a bright hat pulled over it's even brighter hair and one wide, staring eye. This was Tri-Edge? The PK that killed Shino?
"Hmm?" He lowered his weapon for a moment, raising an eyebrow. "Don't I know you from somewhere?"
The thing said nothing. Haseo's face felt strangely hot. Really, he could have sworn he saw this thing before. Some time long ago. Something about a crayon. And some loud lady with pink hair. And a hand down his shirt…?
(What the hell, Haseo?) He thought to himself, forgetting for a moment the PK before him and the obvious battle music that had sprung up mysteriously around them. (Don't you think you'd remember getting felt up by a famous PK?)
(Yes, but what if you were just having another nightmare about that weird American girl with the wing obsession?)
(You mean the one that drew those creepy yaoi pictures?) Another voice inside him argued with a shudder.
(Don't think about that, Haseo!) he chided himself. (Shino would kill you!)
He didn't even notice when the PK's small hand shot up in the air and summoned Data Drain…
x x x x x x x
x x x x x x x
Haseo looked up and past the dark-skinned PK woman and her lackeys, feeling a shiver slip down his spine as he saw the woman standing there behind them. A lady with pink hair and the skimpiest outfit he had ever seen a player wear.
He had had nightmares about that woman a thousand times before!
"Looks like you guys are having fun." Pai introduced herself with a confident smile. Haseo resisted the urge to groan aloud.
"Was it true? Did I really attend some grade school with a bunch of little kids I keep running into now…?"
Silence. Several faces turning to stare at him.
Haseo felt his face flush.
"Did I…?" he said slowly, wishing he could sink into the floor and avoid their staring eyes. "Did I just say that out loud…?"