Lan Hikari is an ordinary boy. He had friends, a family and the coolest dad.
His older brother, however, was quite different. Ether Net Hikari was by far from ordinary.
Lan was normal. He had slightly above average grades, friends who cared and was an avid fan of roller blades. Ether was not. He had the highest grades in the school and was rumored to take high school classes while he was still only an elementary student. His closest friends were some of the strongest net battlers around. And he was an avid fan of music and flying.
Ether had a special skill that he rarely had to hide. It drove the people at SciLab up the wall. He could hack into any network or mainframe simply by breaking apart the code. He often used a slender metal rod to act as a conductor while he tore apart the strongest barrier in the net.
And that was without using his Net Navi Fukurou.
Fukurou was the strong, silent type. He matched his operator perfectly. Like Ether, he had the strange skill of breaking apart code like it was nothing. He could slip into the tiniest crack in computer code and vanish into the net without a trace.
That was probably why Ether had designed his Navi to look like a ninja.
Ether had black hair that reached his neck and was tied in a simple ponytail. His green eyes shone brightly behind specs of his own design. They helped him to see the code that lay in plain sight all around him. He was roughly five feet and still growing. He preferred darker colors like blue, purple and deep red. And he often wore skates on his shoes. (They could be taken off and put on with ease.)
Fukurou wore a ninja outfit in deep blue and night black. The only thing that could be seen of his face were his eyes, which were a startling amethyst. His jet black hair was cut short, and would go all over the place if he hadn't put it under a strange headband with a blank plate. His footwear was simple, yet made for speed.
When he struck, he threw shuriken to do minimal damage and kunai for maximum. If he was close enough to an enemy virus he would use a tachi to take them it. It was remarkably similar to Protoman's Wide Sword.
Ether headed out to school and then to SciLab. Since they had realized that Ether could break in whenever he wanted, they had decided to employ him to write barrier walls for them. It prevented the alarms from going off every five minutes.
As it was, Fukurou had been given special clearance into every system, since even if he didn't he would break in anyway.
(They had quickly learned that Ether was a dog on a bone when he wanted to know something. So they saved themselves the headache by simply telling him their project and asking him to not break in.)
Ether thought it would be an ordinary day. Well, ordinary for him at any rate. He went to school and was about to head to SciLab when he noticed the bird. It was an owl, and it was so out of place that he stared at it.
He tapped his brother on the shoulder and pointed to it.
"Lan, am I seeing things or is there a barn owl on that branch?"
Lan paused. He was going to hang out with Dex and Yai after school. He looked at the tree and saw that his brother was right. (Ether had a hobby of bird watching. He had a thing for owls.)
As they watched, wondering why it was awake at that hour, they saw a second owl join this first. This one was a horned owl.
"Okay, now that is just weird. Those two species should not be in close proximity to each other...especially since both of them are male," said Ether, confused.
For the next two weeks Ether and Lan spotted ten different species of owl. And they all had two things in common. One, they were all carrying a letter. And two, they were not native to the area.
After the third week, Ether had enough. He had kept his window closed when he realized how out of character the owls were acting (had seen the movie The Birds and it left an impression on his young mind) but now he threw it wide open.
The owls swooped into his room. All of them bearing the same letter.
It was made of old fashioned parchment paper, and it bore a very elaborate crest. A snake, a raven, a badger and a lion all surrounded a very archaic looking 'H'. Instead of opening it, he decided to show them to his parents.
"Mom, dad...those owls that were haunting me dropped these."
The Hikari family sweat-dropped at the sheer number of letters, all bearing the same crest. What really bothered them was that every letter had Ether and Lan's names on them, and where they slept.
"Hogwarts?" read Lan.
They weren't about to open a mysterious letter that had their names on them. It could be a bomb for all they knew. And it didn't help that Ether's specs kept beeping whenever one came close to him.
(Ether's specs were designed to detect foreign code AKA anything that didn't fit into acceptable parameters. It had saved them more than a few times from a nasty letter bomb sent by criminals who made the mistake of using his code to protect their information.)
"Should we call Chaud?" asked Lan.
"Last time he came for a letter bomb he brought an entire bomb squad and ten bomb sniffing dogs. Have you forgotten the mess those guys left?" Ether reminded his brother dryly.
Lan winced. He had to call his friends to help clean up the yard. Those dogs had left nasty surprises for them in the yard. Yai had refused to come.
"You have any alternatives?" asked their father.
Ether pulled out his special PeT (Personal Terminal) and said "Fukurou."
A bizarre and elaborate circle sprang up from beneath Ether's feet. None of them reacted, since they saw it often enough. Ether was going to summon his Net Navi to the material plane. Something SciLab had been trying to duplicate with absolutely no success. (It annoyed Chaud that he couldn't explain how Ether could do it.)
"Day Dreamer Summon!"
Zeros and ones circled in front of him, and his Net Navi materialized.
"What's the problem this time?" he said calmly. (Materialized, Fukurou was at least a good seven inches taller than his operator. It used to annoy Ether something fierce.)
Ether handed him one of the letters. It had Lan's name on it.
Fukurou waited until they had taken cover to open it.
"Dear Mr. Hikari,
You have been accepted to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry..."
They all stared.
"Seriously? Don't they know we've been taking magic lessons since we were seven?" asked Ether.
Lan and Ether had an odd power inside them that used to mess up their computers. It had driven their father up the wall until he took them in to have it analyzed. Once they had the energy pinned down, SciLab designed a program for their PeT's that would allow the thing to run off that energy.
After that they had no more problems. Occasionally someone would come in and complain that their PeT wouldn't run properly and they would have to add the program.
So in an attempt to lower the number of complaints from magic users (as Ether discovered they were called) he set up a rather ingenious way of identifying them. He placed a special code into the PeT display in stores that only those who had enough magic to cause problems would see.
Mages would see the code and ask for the program to be installed in the store.
The number of complaints dropped...though it had lead to an interesting conversation with the local Magical Government. Ever since then they had used the code to find young Mages and alert them to their potential.
(It had lead to a boost in the school attendance. Especially when the school had decided to add arenas for the students to battle using their Net Navis, provided they did their homework. If they didn't they were locked out of the system.)
Fukurou opened the others, though half of them he pinned to the wall with a shuriken. Apparently someone had planted hidden port keys to them when opened.
Once they had seen what the letters said, the boys wrote back to the mystery person and had one of the owls deliver it.
McGonagall looked up from her tea to see an owl fly in. It was one of the owls sent to the two boys in Japan.
While we appreciate the offer, next time would you please send someone instead of flooding the town with owls? Also, could you send someone to describe the courses available?
Sincerely, Ether Hikari."
Odd, she thought.
So she alerted Dumbledore as to where she was going and prepared to meet the two muggleborn brothers.
Two days after the owls quit showing up, a woman appeared at their door. It must have been pure coincidence that she happened to show up before they went to school/work.
Ether let the woman in carefully. His sub PET was on his wrist. Today was one of the rare days when someone was stupid enough to attack SciLab directly. Chaud had given him a secondary PET for Fukurou so the viruses hackers sometime sent wouldn't infiltrate his usual one.
He mostly did it so the classified data Ether hid on his PET wouldn't be compromised.
Ether had felt the sentiments behind the gift. It was one of the many reasons he considered the rather frosty boy his friend.
"May we help you Ma'am?" asked Lan.
"May I speak to Lan and Ether Hikari?"
She came in and sat down at the table with them. They asked intelligent questions, and to her relief she didn't have to explain that yes, magic was real.
"What sort of wireless does this school have?"
McGonagall looked very confused. When Ether elaborated on what he meant, it cleared up.
"Muggle, that is nonmagical, items do not work at Hogwarts. Especially when they are run by electricity. From what the normal born tell, there is too much magic in the air for them to function properly."
Ether and Lan looked dismayed. No tech?
"Now hold on boys. We have made several advances in integrating technology with magic. We could use this as a test run," suggested their father.
Ether took that as the challenge it was. He then asked McGonagall what courses were eligible for students. And was very unhappy to learn that they offered so few.
Their parents gave them a choice. And both decided on something different.
Lan would stay with their parents and take the same courses as before. Ether took the challenge Hogwarts presented, provided he was allowed to take summer courses and have access to the SciLab satellites.
Chaud was not happy about the decision. While it would open Ether's horizons when it came to magic, it also limited his ability to help them with the various problems that came with working with high profile cases.
Still, he did come to a compromise that would allow him full access to the satellites (and the internet). He would take all their prototype PETs that were labeled for magical use, and test them in a magic only environment. This would determine if they were ready for distribution.
Ether had upped the deal by getting certain classes sent directly to his E-mail. If he could get Fukurou to work in Hogwarts, then he could continue his normal education even while he was away.
It was something his parents readily agreed to. After all, he only went to school with his brother for appearance sake.
Ether went with McGonagall a week after she arrived. He had to get school supplies after all. And he had taken care of his affairs. All his friends (all of them were far older than he was, except Chaud) knew he would be gone for most of the year.
They were all fine with it, and wished him luck.
Ether went into the bank, and prepared to deal with the monetary system. He was naturally good with numbers. It came with his job.
The goblin in the booth scowled, and placed a sign right before they went up. Another goblin came in from the back and took his place.
"New account?" asked the goblin.
Ether noted that the armband on the goblin glowed. The goblin noticed it as well.
"Yes, the boy needs to have an account opened," said McGonagall.
The goblin looked at Ether carefully before saying, "Our records show there is a previous account. I'm afraid you will have to wait here while we sort this out."
He was looking at McGonagall when he said this. Her eyes were a bit surprised, but she didn't argue. Ether went into the back through the door.
Once he was in the office his eyes widened in appreciation. The goblin had good taste in weaponry. (He should know. His room was decorated in Japanese weaponry and he had pictures of medieval ones on his walls.)
The goblin nodded in approval. When Ether examined a mace, he said "12th century England, I presume?"
"You know your history."
"I know my weapons. I have a few 15th century katanas, properly sharpened, back home. Never know when an old weapon needs to be called back into service," said Ether.
The goblin looked at him with respect. Ether sat down.
"We have been expecting you for some time. Of course we didn't think you would appear in Japan off all places."
"I was adopted when my parents found me on a doorstep in early November. They couldn't believe someone was idiotic enough to leave an infant alone with a thin sheet to keep it warm."
The goblin nodded.
"We were alerted to your name change as soon as the paperwork reached us. By which name do you wish to go by?"
"Hikari. I have no desire to know of my parents until I am certain it won't come back to bite me," said Ether.
"Very well. Mr. Hikari, allow me to take you to your trust vault."
"I almost forgot to ask...but what is your name?"
The goblin seemed very pleased by the request.
"I am known as Griphook," he replied.
The ride would have been disorienting for someone who wasn't used to extremely high speeds. Much to the horror of his mother, Ether loved to skydive. On the rare occasions he could afford it (or when Chaud was in a really, really generous mood) he would take Fukurou with him and jump.
The wind had always pulled at him. And his father had given up trying to persuade him to try something else. To that end, he had given him special goggles made to his prescription for his tenth birthday.
So when he rode the cart, he stood up and whooped.
Once they reached the vault, he realized Griphook was grinning at him. He grinned back.
"I love high speeds."
Griphook cackled and opened the vault. Inside were piles of gold, silver and copper.
"29 knuts to a sickle, 17 sickles to a galleon."
"Let me guess. Knuts are copper, sickles are silver, and galleons are gold?"
Griphook nodded. Ether took his bag and swept a large amount of the gold and silver coins into it. He could always get copper coins when he bought his supplies.
"Is there anyway to withdraw from the account in the normal world?"
"There is a card that muggleborns use. They have learned to deposit muggle cash into their usual account and have it converted through our subsidiaries."
Ether looked interested.
"How is this done?"
"Our mundane contacts alert us to the amount, and we convert that into galleons or sickles here. It usually takes two to three days for the conversion."
As they boarded the cart, Ether asked "Wouldn't it be easier to convert using computers? The amount would come directly to you and it would take up less time."
Griphook shook his head.
"Unfortunately magic disrupts the power supply. And it tends to block wireless signals."
"What would you say if I could help you set up a computer based system that ran on magic?"
Griphook looked intrigued.
"The goblins would accept you as one of our own, and possibly share the profits."
"Let me work on the calculations. I can come up with a working prototype before next year, hopefully."
Griphook grinned at him. And they made short time coming back up.
It took little time to get the supplies. Ether spent a bit of time in the Arithimancy section of the bookstore, and bought some extras. He spent more time in the Managerie, but found nothing to his liking. Until she took him to the owl Emporium. He fell in love.
Owls of all shapes and sizes perched, waiting to be sold. And Ether adored owls. He was the resident owl otaku back home. As he wandered around the store, he spotted a white owl that he had only heard about.
It was a gorgeous snowy owl, with only a few gray specks on it's feathers.
"How much for this one?"
The assistant gave her a look, and scowled.
"Two galleons. She's a real handful."
He knew how to handle owls. Once, his father took him to a place where they treated owls that were hurt. He learned how to handle them.
He held out his hand, and let her make the first move. She gave him a speculative look, and did a slow walk onto his hand.
He handed over the gold coins without question.
"Do you have any special items for serious handlers?" he asked.
It turned out that they did sell items for true enthusiasts. He bought half their stock and went with McGonagall for his final item.
When he learned that he needed a wand, he shook his head.
"I already have one. They have us learn how to cast without them for our fourth year."
And so he found a place to stay until term started.
People came and went. Some of them were a little obvious that they were looking for someone in particular. So he tested the prototypes around low magic areas.
They worked fine, aside from a few minor glitches. He took out his tool kit and had Fukurou look around for bugs. If it wasn't a programming error, he would take out his screwdriver and open it up.
He had become quite a mechanic while working at SciLab. He had to be, since sometimes there wasn't anyone around to help him fix his PET when he started working.
Now he could put one of the older models together in his sleep. Literally.
He was almost done when he realized someone was staring at him.