The chinking of metal against glass as they ate dinner in a silence that hung as an ominous weight over the three. Timidly looking between his two weapons, Ivan felt his stomach curl up and brace itself for the thick atmosphere to shatter into chaos. The two brothers hadn't talked to each other since their last group session with their mentor Yao. It was, of course, a complete failure, and the two had erupted into a huge argument which led up to where they were now. The animosity was only wearing away on the Russian, who didn't like it when two friends fought. Why couldn't they just get along? They were so radically different, it was no wonder they were having troubles syncing all three together.

Alfred was so extroverted, flamboyant and loud. He was an attention seeker, someone who waned to be known and loved. Matthew was introverted, the exact opposite. He blended in against the walls, never starting conversation on his own accord and fine with where he was. That was perhaps their greatest difference that only seemed to widen the rift between them. Matvey was perfectly content in his place, not striving any harder, not placing in more effort. The younger American, on the other hand, was completely bent of excelling in all that he did. Ivan just happened to be stuck between the two, being pulled in both directions. He didn't want to leave one weapon behind, but nor did he want to hold back the other. Violet eye glancing between the two over his spoon, he sipped the creamy broth of their intant-chowder meal. It was something with clams in it . . . or so the American assured him.

Now it was like living in a casino and every action was a gamble between agitating either of his two roommates or stepping on an emotional landmine. He might as well not venture any farther, but to leave things as they were was only asking to fan the flames. As it was, the two sitting across from each other wouldn't even look up from their bowels. He could either let this tension fester until they all went loony, or he could make them face this problem head on. Dropping his hand with the spoon, the metal chinking on the glass bowel, eyes closing as he sighed.

"Fredka, Matvey," the two froze and looked to him, ignoring each other entirely. Frowning darkly, he stood defiantly from the table, "I am tired of your childish bickering, until such a time as you two reconcile, I will ask Professor Yao to suspend all classes. There is no point in me putting in any effort if neither of you will, and I seem to be the only one who cares about this team." Turning on his heels, he strode away, leaving everything the way it was, the two brothers more confused than anything.

The American was the first to react, whipping around and glaring at the other across the table, "What do we have here? A little snitch? What have you been doing, crying to Ivan in the middle of the night so he'd baby you? Too scared to face me like a man?"

"Don't flatter yourself," Matthew sneered, "I can deal with my own problems without throwing the burden onto others, unlike someone at this table."

"I can do anything I set my mind to! I haven't told anyone about anything, so that just proves you wrong!"

"And he's upset at me too, idiot, so that obviously blows your half-cocked accusation out of the water too, genius!"

"Are you implying that I'm stupid?" blue eyes flashed angrily behind the glasses lenses as Alfred stood up, hands slamming on either side of his empty bowel.

The elder scoffed, "I don't see any reason to imply it, the more you talk, the less I have to say. It's a real mystery how you ever got this far in the academy."

"Half the time it took you Mr. Tortoise. You shouldn't even be here. If I hadn't dragged you along, you never would have found your Meister and you'd still be in the academy like last year."

Violet burrowed deep into azure, daring him to repeat himself as the usually passive Canadian slowly rose to his feet, holding in the sting that comment brought forth, "That was low Alfred. God, how can anyone stand being around someone like you!"

"I don't know, how about you try turning it around for a second? There must have been some reason mom left you!" Alfred shouted back.

The room instantly became silent. A pin dropping would have been like a bombshell as Matthew stared with glossy eyes at his younger brother. Even such an implication was taboo between them, but he crossed the line. He broke the rule, overstepped the boundaries. Without another word, Matthew left the room, leaving Alfred alone in the kitchen with the dirty dishes. The slam from the front door was like a slap in the face, physically harming him as he immediately regretted what he said. Guilt tore into his gut as he sank back into his chair, burying his face into his hands, propped against the polished tabletop.

What had he done?

The waves were peaceful as he looked out to the ocean, the light pink petals from the trees overhead dancing around him in the breeze. A puff of smokes left his lips as he pulled the cigarette away, the butt glowing with hot embers as he gazed out to the star-filled night sky. The moon was beaming, though not quite full, it cast long shadows on the cobblestone walkway behind him. He had even quit smoking. Clean for four years, and now this? Now Alfred- . . . Taking a long drag on the fag to calm his rising nerves, Matthew let it all out in a swirling cloud, trying to get her out of his head. He had no real memory of his mother, her having left when he was just about two years old, all he had of her were a scarce few home videos with her and his infant self.

He hated her, what woman could do what she did? One day, she just disappeared. Her clothes all gone and every sign of her existence erased from everything. In one night, without warning, she cleaned the entire house, packed her bags, and left before her fiance awoke, leaving her young toddler motherless. And then being called away to the academy, he had been content in solitude for twelve years of his life. Then two years ago, a twelve-year-old boy walked into his life. Mattie looked like his father, but Alfred looked like her through and through. It was like he was a reincarnation of her, and deep down, it pissed Matthew off. The cigarette rolled into his palm before being crushed in his grip.

The crowds rushed pass him, being bumped and tripped, though no one seemed to take any notice of the young man they passed around rather rudely. It was fine, sure a bruise here, a swollen toe there, but it wasn't a big deal. He was used to be walking on. The hoards of new Weapons were all smiles, high hopes in their eyes. Fifty children from ages of ten to fifteen were flooding the narrow walkways, looking up to the tall brick buildings. Matthew knew that sense of awe that came with the old-styled town. Like stepping back in time to a distant place. The flowers were in bloom in the early spring weather, the cobblestone dusted in blushing velvet petals. It would have been peaceful if he wasn't being shoved into a wall as the kids rushed past.

"Jeez," Mattie sighed, irritated but glad the hoard had finally passed, so now he could take his time to the opening ceremony to greet the new chosen students. Being fifteen himself, he had already been enrolled for two years, and he seemed invisible to everyone, from the students to the staff. Skipping out on this ceremony wouldn't kill him. Shy and sweet exterior, but a rather cold and jaded individual underneath it all. After all, he was completely alone in this world.

Taking a box from his pants pocket, he leaned against the wall, knocking a single stick from the cluster. Pale lips closed around the butt of the smoke, about to pull it out when footsteps pricked his ears. Hiding the box in his jacket p quickly, he looked up to the approaching figure, his jaw falling slack. For a split second his heart raced in anxiety, violet eyes widening as he took in the sunshine blonde hair, large blue eyes. He had seen those eyes before in home movies; dead, emotionless eyes looking into the camera, as though looking directly at him from years past. Backing away from the person, he had to blink a few times to change the image before him. Not a cold, stern-faced woman; but a beaming, bright-eyed boy who hadn't even noticed him, too engrossed in the scenic attraction. Just . . . he looked so much like her, it made his legs weak with fear. Who was he?

The new student was so engrossed by the old architecture and the beauty, he almost missed the upperclassman leaning against a wall, watching him.


"Alfred . . ."


"Woman? . . . Liberty . . .?"



Throwing his head back, Matthew looked up to the dark sky. Thin veils of clouds from the ocean dimmed the light of the moon. Despair, that word described how he felt perfectly as he sat underneath a depressing fog as it rolled in on the waves. Chills rippled up his spine as he sullenly closed his eyes, scuffing the toe of his shoes on the cobblestone sullenly, he made his way back. He didn't want to return and have to look at Alfred any more than he already had to, but it was late and too cold outside.

"There is such harmful emotions stirring in this class, don't you agree?" Kiku asked as he stood by the window, watching as the young blonde disappeared in the thickening mist, having watched him from the second he left the building.

Behind him, Gilbert also sulked, heart-aching over the denial of his brother. The Keeper wouldn't have taken the wild-card albino to be so dependant on someone else. He had never shown this side of himself, hiding it so well that even his Meister was taken aback slightly from the pain his soul radiated. The German never liked being alone, that was well known, but being dismissed by a mere child, ten years his junior, was comparable to killing him. In response to the Keeper's question, he simply grunted.

Sighing, Kiku turned to his youngest Weapon, "I can't read you my friend; your soul is in turmoil. You have not said anything since you went to speak with your brother, and your wavelength has become unstable."

There was silence in the dark room, the candles creating shadows that flickered and waltz, swaying to a fro with a silent orchestra. "I failed him."

"You followed what was said of you."

"You don't understand," Gilbert murmured, red eyes falling shut, "I succeeded under the circumstances of what you commanded, but on a human level, on an emotional level, I failed him. I failed both of them. I mean, I'm his big brother. I'm supposed to protect him, that's what every big brother is supposed to do. I haven't seen my baby brother for ten years . . ." Flat, dark eyes observed him, shrewdly, as though waiting for a punchline. He could feel the gaze as he sighed again. "I beg forgiveness, but you wouldn't understand without being in the situation."

". . . Perhaps not."

Alone at the dining table, Ivan groaned. He had heard the fight the night before, but it wasn't any of his business about their personal life. Even still, their pasts may be the thing causing such a large rift in the team. A knock at the door draws his attention; looking to the clock, it was only seven in the morning. Neither of the brothers would be awake yet, so he'd have to answer the call. Trudging to the door in his pyjamas and loose scarf, the Russian was rather surprised to see his teacher in the hall, not looking very happy, but there nonetheless.

"Ni hao Ivan," Yao smiled in welcome, even Ivan could see that it didn't touch his eyes, "How are you and the others faring?" With a heavy sigh, Ivan shook his head, not wanting to really speak about such unhappy matters, but still give an idea about how family life was going. He wouldn't have to suffer in total silence. "Not so good, aru? I had a feeling. If it was up to me, I wouldn't be here, aru! You kids need to work your own problems out, and be given the time to do so. I have no clue what goes on in that man's mind aru."

Ivan blinked questioningly, not understanding at all what the old Weapon was going on about. He didn't complain too much, but if he had something to go off on, it was common knowledge he'd go off on it to anyone within earshot. "Yao . . .?"

A paper, securely closed with a wax seal of a cherry blossom, was shoved into his face by a ranting Chinese man, "You have a mission assigned to you three, aru. I wouldn't have forced this on you if I really had much of a say, none of you are ready for this sort of thing. Aiyah, you would think he'd learn after the first time, aru!"

A Kishin has been located on the West Coast of the United States. Your team has been chosen to handle this issue with one other team who is excelling in the upper classes. Try and use this opportunity to pull closer together, and good luck.