The moment Yuji slips and hits his bottom against the soft sand he can already hear the mocking laughter that rings out a second later. At six years old, he already understands the principles behind the interactions of children; and if you fall on the playground you get laughed at. A plus B equals C. Simple math.
Flushed and embarrassed, he angrily brushes himself off and ignores the laughter of the other children. He knows he's lost a lot of respect because of this, and it's up to him to prove himself to the others now.
But Yuji isn't the strongest or the fastest or the biggest kid- in fact, he's the runt, the weak one, and in the cutthroat world of children that means he's the target, the whipping boy, the one the others assert their authority over because it's the first time they've even had any semblance of it.
Yuji wishes he was stronger, to be one of those bigger, stronger kids, the ones who gather others around them like suns gather planets, who have an endless supply of pseudo-friends to back them up as they swagger across the playground, kings of the tiniest kind of kingdom. And deep inside, he wishes for a hero, for a big, booming presence like his father to shield him from this harsh place. Someone strong and big and powerful, who could not be affected by the words of others, by their sharp tongues and loud laughs.
The voice is not big, it's not booming, it's not the kind of all consuming presence that his father leaves.
It's small and quiet and a girl's voice (for in the world of children girls are always associated on a lower strength scale than boys), but for some reason...
Yuji thinks it sounds like a hero.
His hero doesn't quite look like a hero, however, for it's not even one of the bigger, tougher looking girls, the tomboys with short hair and loud voices and the ability to push back when boys try to assert their authority.
She has short hair, true, but she's small; even smaller than Yuji, the smallest boy in the class, with the kind of frame that makes it obvious that no matter how much time passes this person will never grow very much. Her limbs are short and slender, and she seems very much like the porcelain dolls that his mother puts up on the high shelves and sternly tells him to never, ever touch.
Except her eyes.
Even at six years old, Yuji can tell there's something special behind those eyes, a life, or perhaps a soul, that is aflame with the kind of passion that you only find in the truly special ones, the ones that years down the line will be called legends. It is a quiet power, like a deadly riptide, rippling beneath the surface, unseen but ever present and powerful. Those eyes have a power, a truly great power. He wants those eyes to fix upon him and judge him worthy, wants it more than he has ever wanted anything in his entire life- not like those dying of thirst want a drink, but rather like a holy man wishing for his God to, just once, grant him a blessing.
And even before those schoolyard bullies try to challenge her, and far before this girl picks up a stick off the ground and uses it to soundly trounce those bullies (an act that no one believes she's capable of, least of all the teacher), Yuji knows that this is a real hero.
After she's chased away the others, whose taunts, in Yuji's mind, have long since faded in importance, he approaches her, shuffling slowly, as though merely being in her presence was some sort of sacrilege.
"Um... my name's Nakata. Nakata Yuji," he says slowly, rubbing the back of his head with a nervous laugh.
Slowly, she turns and fixes her gaze upon him, wide-eyed and unblinking, like a newborn child. For a moment, she says nothing, expression blank, and Yuji wonders if she even understands what he's saying.
"Kawazoe. Kawazoe Tamaki." Her voice has lost none of its quiet intensity, a serene kind of power, like watching a Shaolin master meditate, knowing all of that coiled power is hidden beneath the tranquil exterior.
"Kawazoe... Tamaki..." Yuji murmurs, running the words across his tongue, like that slow, hesitant tasting of foreign food. The name feels long, far too long for such a small girl, and far too much for his six year old self to say fully. "So, Tama-chan, then?"
She blinks for the first time, and the expression of surprise on her face is, honestly, cute, even to Yuji's inexperienced eyes. He finds a slight smile growing on his lips.
"That's fine, I guess," Tamaki responds quietly, though that hint of confusion remains in her tone, like the last vestiges of a sudden storm.
"So, what do you like to do, Tama-chan?"
"I like watching anime."
"Anime, huh? Like Blade Braver?"
"Yes. Blade Braver is the best."
As they walk back inside, Yuji knows nothing about the Kawazoe Dojo that he will join in a week, nor about the Muroe Kendo Club and the unique and colorful people he will meet there in less than a decade, and certainly nothing about Kendo either.
All Yuji knows right now is that this girl, Tama-chan, is something special.
And that's enough.