"Are you going to be alright?"
"I'll be fine, stop worrying so much," I responded mechanically. It was the same question every morning, and my answer was always the same regardless of how fine I really was. I know how sincere she was, and that every time she asked it was out of genuine concern, but my appreciation could only go so far; after all, the one thing I hated most was being treated like I was made out of glass. While I was mentally grumbling to myself I think I might have let my irritation slip through a little, because she suddenly had a look of concern on her face. She was probably thinking that she'd said something wrong, and so I forced a smile to let her know everything was alright. She seemed to accept it, as she gave me a slight nod and finally stepped out of the car. I sat waiting for her to circle around, not bothering to watch when she opened the back door and pulled out the contents. I had my door open when she made it to my side, and was already pushing myself up and out of the seat, trying to get out on my own. She wouldn't have any of that, though, and stepped forward to lift me herself. With a light sigh I let myself be coddled, and was gently lowered into the wheelchair.
"Have a nice day, Hayate."
"Thanks Signum, you too."
"I'll come pick you up later."
"Mhmm, see you later."
She looked me over once more before finally turning away, circling around the van again to get back in the driver's seat. I sat where I was, waving as the car slowly pulled away from the curb, before wheeling myself around towards the school entrance. I loved Signum, I really did, but sometimes she tried to act too much like my protector, doing her best to shield me from the world. I was already in middle school, and I was getting tired of being babied all the time. I was perfectly capable of taking care of myself, after all.
The school courtyard was almost empty by now, most students having gone to their classrooms since the bell was about to ring in a few minutes. I always preferred it like this, arriving late enough so I didn't have to go through a crowd to get to my homeroom. Of course, sometimes that meant cutting things a little too close, and once or twice I'd actually been late. Still, it was worth it, even if it was only for selfish reasons. As I made my way across the courtyard, I started humming lightly, becoming a little more cheerful the closer I got to the school. Passing through the entryway, I headed over to the lockers, stopping at mine to get some textbooks for today's lessons. Apparently I had crammed it a little too tightly the day before, because the moment I opened it several books came falling out. Annoyed with myself, I reached down to pick them up, but stopped short as someone else stooped to gather them up before me.
"Hey, I can -" I started, but trailed off when I was suddenly met by a pair of deep, red eyes. It was a girl, someone that I didn't recognize, and for some reason all I could do was stare. Her face was beautiful, her features so striking and soft, but there was something more to her, a depth that went beyond appearances. If I had to compare her to something, it would be snow; gentle yet cold to the touch, and so hauntingly beautiful to watch. Even as she was looking at me she seemed detached, as if her eyes weren't really seeing me. As I was staring at her, almost mesmerized, she roughly shoved the books towards me. I was caught so off guard by her callous behaviour that I didn't react immediately, so she instead dropped them into my lap and stood abrubtly.
"T-thank you," I managed to stammer out, but she'd already turned away, walking off down the hallway, her long pale hair flowing freely behind her. I continued to watch, motionless as I tried to fathom the strange girl. Unfortunately, time decided not to grant me any such luxuries as I heard the clamouring of the bell, signaling that I was already late. Berating myself for getting distracted I wheeled myself quickly down the hallways, rushing to homeroom. When I finally got there only a few minutes had passed and I could still hear the clatter of chairs from within. With an impulsive decision I tried my best to slip in unnoticed, but of course the teacher spotted me right away. I suppose I'm a fairly obvious person.
"You're late, Yagami-san. Hurry and take your seat, if you please."
A faint laughter trickled through the classroom as my classmates all turned to look at me, and I blushed slightly from becoming the center of unwanted attention. It was surprising, though, that my teacher had only said that much, considering that the last few times I was late I had to wait outside for several minutes, after which I'd received a personal lecture. Deciding not to look a gift horse in the mouth, I moved towards my desk, which was at the back, next to the windows – my personal favourite spot, by the way, which I'd been lucky enough to draw in the last seating arrangement. The homeroom teacher didn't bother waiting for me as he started to speak, which worked out fine for me since I wasn't paying much attention anyway. For some reason that girl I'd met only moments ago kept popping up in my head, and the curiosity was killing me. I'd never seen her before, though that could be said about a lot of people in this school. However, she looked about the same age as me, and somehow it seemed like she would stand out from the crowd, even from a distance – probably the light hair. Either way, I was determined to find out who she was and had already started planning out my lunch break to track her down.
"- so I hope you make our newest transfer student feel as welcome as possible."
At that very moment the door to the front of the class slid open, and the very girl that had been haunting my mind walked through it. I swear if I could have I would've jumped to my feet from the shock. As it was, I'm pretty sure that my eyes were bulging and my mouth hanging wide open. She kept walking, coldly ignoring the attentive eyes of every student in the room until she reached the center. With a slow, graceful turn she faced towards everyone and bowed stiffly.
"It's nice to meet you. My name is Reinforce Ein."