Jade Potter is a lonely girl from England who just happens to have a dark and secretive past. When she goes to Japan as part of a school assignment, she and seven other children are summoned to a strange world, where not all is as it seems. Just what is the Digital World, and how will everyone get back home again? Will they want to? And who exactly is Jade?
Chapter 1: Meet Jade
Eight-year-old Jade Potter loved school for many reasons, the main reason being that she was able to escape from her relatives for a little more than six hours. Her parents, James and Lily Potter, had died in a car accident when she was very young, and during the darkest part of the night Jade sometimes imagined that she could remember the very instant when first her father died, and then her mother. Her only living relatives were the Dursleys, as Petunia Dursley was Lily Potter's older sister. Her husband, Vernon, and son, Dudley, were two extremely large beings and Jade often thought to herself that the two were wider than they were tall.
At school, for the first time in the seven, almost eight years that she had been living with the Dursleys, Jade was in a different class to Dudley. She was able to concentrate on her work without worrying if a spit ball, a pencil or a dictionary would be flying across the room to hit her in the back of her head. She didn't excel as much as she could, as if she did too much better than her cousin she would be deprived food and locked in the cupboard under the stairs for an undisclosed amount of time. As it was she didn't eat anywhere near enough and was severely malnourished.
However, how much she ate, where she slept, or how she performed at school was not what Jade was thinking about at that moment. Her attention was focused on the letters in her hands, one in English and one in Japanese. At the beginning of school year the teachers decided that to encourage international friendship a Pen-Pal system would be implemented, the Pen Pal Project. They chose Japan because the language that students were studying was Japanese. At the end of the school year, during the summer, the classes involved in the program would have the chance to go to Japan on a summer camp. Jade didn't think that she would be able to go for the simple reason that going would make her happy and her relatives did everything in their power to prevent her happiness.
Anyway, Jade's Pen Pal was a ten-year-old named Taichi Kamiya. He shortened his name to Tai for her, and was in the fifth grade. He loved soccer more than any other sport, and was the star on his soccer team. He had a younger sister named Hikari, though she preferred to be called Kari, and she was in the second grade. Tai was going to celebrate his eleventh birthday on the last weekend of June, and Jade expected to hear all about it during his next letter. This letter, however, spoke of how his soccer team had just won their grand finale. He gave her a play-by-play description of the game, and it was only in the last paragraph that he asked how she was.
About a month into their correspondence Jade had admitted that she wasn't well liked at home. She had no idea why she had done it, but every letter after that was filled with descriptions about different things, be it parties, school, weekends, or soccer, and that allowed Jade to imagine it clearly. At night she would pretend that she was with Tai, experiencing the same things that he was experiencing.
To make up for the lack of information that she had, Jade told him about some of her dreams, the nicer ones anyway. She wrote of a world filled with creatures of every shape, size and personality, with magic around every corner and a guardian that would protect her. Every letter she wrote would describe another dream, and every letter she got asked for more details about her Dream World. Tai had quickly become her best and only friend, and she hoped that she would be allowed to continue to write to him after the school year was over.
She began writing about her most recent dream, including the eggs containing her future protectors and the evil clown who wanted her to be alone forever. She wrote about how scared the dream had made her, but she had a hero who stood in front of her and carried her away from the evil clown. She knew Tai would get a laugh out of it, and maybe he would talk to his friends about it as well.
"Jade? Could you come up here please?"
Jade looked up from her letter, the small smile on her face sliding off as if it had never been there, and walked towards her teacher. Every week she was always asked the same questions, and by now Jade knew that her teacher was sick of it as well. Because Jade was having such success with her Pen Pal, Dudley was jealous. The boy had begun to blame Jade for hiding his letters, or destroying them depending on the mood he was in, and he would make such a fuss that the teachers had pulled Jade up to the principal's office to explain her actions.
The only problem with that was that Jade didn't speak.
As her voice was never heard at home, and her relatives didn't care one iota about her, Jade had stopped trying to get their attention with noise. She never spoke in class because it had become ingrained in her that adults didn't want to hear what she was saying. Her punishment for destroying Dudley's "hard work" was to write a letter to his Pen Pal and apologise. So Jade had two Pen Pals, though she put more effort in with Tai because he seemed genuinely interested in what she had to say. Not that Sora Takenouchi was horrible to write to, but it was funny how Sora had started to address her letters to Jade instead of Dudley.
"How are Tai and Sora?" Jade's teacher kindly asked. Jade allowed a quick grin to cross her face to signify that they were both doing well. Her teacher, Ms Rein, had always taken Jade's side over Dudley's, and for that Jade loved being in her class. She didn't want to go up to the fifth grade and be in someone else's grade.
"Now, if anyone asks I've scolded you about destroying your cousin's work…again," Ms Rein continued with a sigh at the end of her statement. "But what I really need to talk to you about is your permission slip to go on the camp. You haven't brought it back, why not? I thought you would like to go to Japan more than anyone else in your year."
Jade looked down sadly. It wasn't that she didn't want to go; it was her relatives who didn't want her to go. She stared back up at her teacher sadly and allowed her to attempt to decipher the look.
"I think I need to speak with your aunt and uncle," Ms Rein said after a moment. "Maybe I should mention how abnormal it is that you are the only student who has yet to receive permission to go. It's not like it's costing them anything. The project is funded by the school and the fees they paid at the beginning of the year."
At that Jade grinned in happiness. Ms Rein nodded at her and waved her back to her seat. Jade smiled happily and walked back to her seat. For the rest of class she maintained her happy face, only allowing it to drop when the bell rang for recess. Recess meant Dudley, and Dudley meant pain. It was best not to look happy about meeting him.
Tai's tongue was poking out of his mouth as he carefully wrote another word in English. He had already written the Japanese portion of his letter, but now he needed to rewrite it in English for Jade. He thought that Jade had the most incredible imagination out of everyone he had met, and loved reading about the Dream World. There were times when he was thinking about her world that he wished it was real, and that there was something familiar about it.
With every letter he wrote he included a photo so that she would have the image to go with his ramblings. He had included photos of him playing soccer, his family, his class photo with a circle around him so she could find him, and individual photos of him doing different things. This time he would include pictures from his birthday, and a wish to see her on summer camp. She had included a few photos of her own, but they were always of her in her at school. Only once had she included a photo of her family, but it hadn't included her. Tai suspected that she wasn't well treated at home, and was scared that one day she would stop writing to him. He had never been particularly engaged in his school work, unless it was sport, but this Pen Pal Project was the best thing that the school could have done to engage him.
The last thing that Jade had sent him was a birthday card that she had created herself, combining both English and Japanese. She had drawn it at school during her free time, and Tai was thinking about what to get her for her birthday. If she was able to come to the summer camp, her birthday would fall in the middle of it. He doubted that she had ever gotten a meaningful birthday present before, so he wanted to get her something nice.
"You must be writing to Jade. There's nothing else that would make you concentrate that much."
Tai looked up quickly, blinking at his best friend. Sora Takenouchi was a tomboy, though she also had a heightened protective instinct when it came to Tai and the others on his soccer team. Tai usually had a few injuries come the end of his soccer match, but he knew he could always count on Sora to mother him worse than his own mother. They had been friends since kindergarten, and had been in the same class every year. She was also writing to Jade, though her Pen Pal was supposed to be Dudley Dursley, Jade's cousin.
"Yeah," Tai answered, eyes returning to his letter. "Has she said anything to you about coming to summer camp? She's been very evasive when I've asked her."
"Only that Dudley would be coming so that I could see his intimidating physic for myself," Sora replied. "Though I couldn't tell if she was joking or not."
"Well, she is intimidated by him," Tai muttered. "Have you seen a picture of him? I'd be intimidated too. He's really fat. Just about wider than he is tall. He must eat five times as much as Jade and if she turned side on I'm pretty sure she'd disappear."
Sora laughed, even though she knew Tai wasn't exaggerating. Every letter that Tai had gotten from Jade, staring from about a month and a half into the project, he had shared with her. Shortly after he had started to share with her, Sora had started to address her letters to Jade because she was tired of never getting anything from Dudley, and was curious about England. Still, every letter she got from Jade usually started off with:
Dear Sora, I'm sorry for destroying Dudley's letter to you. How have you been?
She wondered just what Jade's home life was like, and if Jade was alright. She agreed with Tai about being intimidated by Dudley, even at only nine-years-old, almost ten, he was morbidly obese. Jade had warned her that Dudley would be going to the camp, but she had never said anything about coming herself.
"Are you writing about you party?" Sora asked after a while. Tai nodded and put his pen down. When Sora started to talk to you, it was best to pay attention. Besides, Tai knew that he wouldn't get any more work done until she went off to do her own work.
"I get the strangest feeling that she's never had a birthday party before," Tai explained. "So I wanted to tell her what they are supposed to be like. Did you know that she calls them Life Days, so that she can celebrate the fact that she's lived another year. It's not the fact that she was born on that day, it's that she's still alive to see another year. I'm really worried about her."
"I am too," Sora admitted. "But what can we do? Did you tell Mr Fujiama?"
Mr Fujiama was teacher responsible for the Pen Pal Project, and would be the teacher in charge of the summer camp. Tai had spoken to him once about what Jade had written, and while the man had been concerned, there was little that they could do in Japan when Jade lived in England. He informed Tai that if there was a serious problem the teachers at Jade's school would be able to discover it and make the appropriate decisions. Tai had never spoken to him about Jade again.
"Yeah," Tai sighed. "But he said that if there was a problem the teachers in England would find out about it. But, Jade doesn't speak. She just writes everything. Some of her teachers think that she's mentally challenged and don't bother with her. Why would they look when they don't want to find a problem?"
"I guess we'll just have to wait until she comes to summer camp," Sora said reassuringly. "And don't worry so much. You'll get wrinkles."
"I will not!"
"And write about something other than your party. Ask her what her plans are for the summer or something."
Tai grumbled and picked up his pen again. No one other than he ever read his letters, and there was no way that he would tell Sora everything that he wrote down. She didn't need to know that he told Jade more about himself than he had ever told anyone. Jade knew all about his fears, his hopes, and his dreams, just as he knew all about hers. They truly were best friends. All he wanted to do now was actually meet her.
The last week of the school year and the first few weeks of the summer holidays were tense due to the fact that Ms Rein was constantly calling the Dursleys to ensure that Jade was able to go to Japan, and then once permission was granted Dudley was taken shopping so that he would have some new clothes to wear. Jade was more often than not locked in her cupboard, which also happened to be her bedroom despite the fact that there were two spare bedrooms upstairs, and only released so that she could do her chores.
So as to not raise too many suspicions, Petunia Dursley bought an outfit for Jade to wear. Despite the fact that it had been bought from a discount store, it was the first new outfit that Jade had ever received that hadn't first belonged to Dudley. The skirt was dark green and flared out to stop just above her knees; the shirt was black and baggy, with the sleeves stopping above her elbows; her shoes were ratty old sandals that were falling apart, and probably wouldn't survive the camping the trip; and her back pack, which had belonged to Dudley, was black and green, matching her outfit perfectly.
Into the back pack went a tooth brush, a bottle of water, her blanket that she had had since before she could remember, a hairbrush, other toiletries, paper and pens. Her passport, which she had been given reluctantly, was stowed in the front pocket where she could reach it easily. Just before leaving she had sent another letter to Tai, a short one, saying that she was allowed to go to summer camp and she would meet him when her bus arrived. The Japanese students would get to the campsite a week before the English group, so as to relax a little before they were inundated with foreigners.
At that moment in time Jade was flying over Japan, preparing to land after the twelve hour flight with British Airways. The food provided had been nice, and Jade was happy to say that she had slept for most of the flight. The best part of the flight had been the fact that Dudley was on the other side of the plane and couldn't bother her. Ms Rein was sitting next to her, so Jade had felt relatively safe.
As Tokyo was eight hours ahead of London, Jade was a little shocked getting off the plane thinking that it was two in the afternoon, when in actual fact it was midnight. Looking around at the other English students who were all red eyed and exhausted, Jade knew that it would probably take a bit of adjusting. There was still an hour bus trip to the camp ground, and then after that it would be dinner and bed. At lunch time after everyone awoke, all the English students would be able to meet with their Pen Pal and submerge themselves in Japanese culture. However, at that moment Jade just wanted to get to the campsite and crawl into bed.
She wondered what it would be like to sleep in an actual bed.
Dudley was whining on the other side of the group, and hearing the tone in his voice Jade subtly crept closer to Ms Rein. There were three teachers on the camp with them: Ms Rein, Dudley's teacher Mr Sanders, and the principal Ms Trish. Mr Sanders was Dudley's ally, and in his eye the large boy could do nothing wrong and never told a lie. Ms Trish was neutral, but she had learnt long ago that it was best to keep the parents happy…and if that meant that Jade wasn't treated exactly the same as the other students, that was a consequence she was willing to take.
"Jade, you'll be in the same cabin as Stephanie, Alison and Rebecca," Ms Rein said kindly as she noticed Jade at her side. "We'll have something quick to eat when we arrive, but otherwise breakfast will be in seven hours, six when we arrive."
Jade nodded her understanding but that's all the movement she made. When the group collected their bags, and Jade made sure that everything was still in her backpack, the large group boarded the waiting bus and through the darkness they travelled to the campsite. Jade was once again next to Ms Rein, as the other students had learnt that being nice to her meant getting beaten up by her cousin.
Stephanie, Alison and Rebecca were the quiet girls in the class, though not as quiet as Jade. They never made a fuss, were respectful to their teachers and were perhaps the only students in the school who hadn't picked on Jade in some form or another. Jade hoped that the three would maintain their neutral outlook, but the next two weeks would really demonstrate how much influence Dudley had over their year.
Arriving at the campsite was anticlimactic, simply because it was dark and jetlag was catching up with the group. They were herded into the dining hall, even though only a handful of the English kids ate anything, and Dudley ate everything else. The cabins they would be staying in were spread out across the site, and it took a while to herd everyone to where they would be spending the night. Jade was lucky enough to be in the first group taken out of the dining hall, and she was pretty sure that Dudley had been too busy stuffing his face to notice her absence.
Her cabin, number fourteen, was supposedly overlooking the lake, but as it was too dark Jade would wait to see it once the sun rose. There were two bunk beds, and the other three girls claimed all but the bottom bunk on the bed to the right of the door. It was to that bed that Jade immediately curled up on, hugging her pillow to her chest and making sure that her bag was resting on the end of her bed. The bed was softer than anything she had sat on before, and almost immediately she was unconscious.
Tai was up early on the day that the English students were supposed to join them. He was aware that they had arrived at midnight, and he vaguely recalled them arriving long after he had retreated to sleep. He was sharing a cabin with a boy named Yamato, though he insisted on being called Matt. Matt was one of the "cool guys" and Tai had yet to see him without his blonde hair covered in gel in all the years that they had been acquaintances. Matt's little brother Takeru was also sharing a cabin with them, but that was more due to the fact that Matt was a little overprotective of him. Takeru looked exactly like Matt, but only in miniature size and with a hat keeping his hair flat. The final person in their cabin was a computer geek who had simply introduced himself as Izzy and retreated into the computer that he carried around with him. Izzy had red hair, and very few people skills, but from just watching him, Tai was pretty certain that there was nothing that Izzy couldn't do with his computer.
Only Matt and Tai had been a part of the Pen Pal Project, with Izzy being in the fourth grade and Takeru being in the second. Matt hadn't really made much of an effort with his partner and wasn't really looking forward to meeting the boy he had been partnered with. For that reason Tai didn't wake him as he snuck out of the room to look for Jade. He threw on a blue shirt, his shorts, gloves and runners, and made sure that his lucky goggles were secured firmly to his head. He never went anywhere without his goggles.
"You're up early Tai."
Tai looked over his shoulder and grinned when he spotted Mr Fujiama walking towards him. He waved and waited for the teacher to come closer before pestering him with questions about the new arrivals. Mr Fujiama laughed at Tai's pestering and held a hand over the boy's mouth so he could speak.
"They arrived last night safely, but they probably won't be up for another few hours yet. They need to get used to the time difference. You will be introduced around lunch time, so go have breakfast and then be back here at twelve. And don't pester anyone else! You will meet your Pen Pal today; you had Jade Potter didn't you?"
"Yes sir," Tai replied. "So she was allowed to come?"
"I haven't been told otherwise," Mr Fujiama assured him. "I was told that all students would be arriving."
Tai sighed in relief. He had gotten a short message from Jade saying that she would be able to come to Japan, but until he saw her for himself he wouldn't trust what the teachers were saying.
The hours passed by slowly. Tai settled himself in his tree and watched as new faces slowly made an appearance from the as yet unused cabins. At first it was only one or two at a time, but as twelve came closer more students made an appearance. The English teachers entered each cabin to ensure that everyone was up, and as soon as Tai saw Sora make her way to the dining hall did he climb down and join her. Matt was standing nearby, Takeru glued to his side, and on the other side of the dining hall were the English students.
"Attention students!" Mr Fujiama called. Echoing after him was one of the English teachers, translating for the foreign students. Silence fell quickly on the Japanese side of the hall, and slowly on the English side. Once there was complete silence Mr Fujiama continued.
"We will be calling out students from Odaiba Elementary first, followed by their Pen Pal from England. The rest of the day will allow you to become acquainted, but I assure you that after today you are not expected to spend the rest of your holiday playing tour guide. However, having said that, I expect that all of you will welcome our guests. Now, Shin Niko…"
Tai rocked back on his heels as the English teacher called out a name and an English student walked forward reluctantly. Apparently there were few students who were actually looking forward to meeting their Pen Pals, in either country. Sora sighed next to him, and Tai followed her gaze towards what had to be the fattest kid he had ever seen.
"That must be Dudley," Sora mumbled. "Jade really under-represented just how big he is."
"She did say that he was wider than he was tall," Tai whispered back out the corner of his mouth. "Do you see Jade yet?"
Sora shook her head slightly, before sighing as her name was called out. She kept her face cautiously blank as Dudley was also called up. Tai winced when Dudley started to talk to her in English, loudly and arrogantly. He wasn't fluent in English, but he had put in some effort because of Jade, and he knew that what Dudley was saying wasn't very polite. Sora didn't know any English, but she did recognise the tone and a whispered conversation with Mr Fujiama confirmed that she needed to spend at least the next hour or so with Dudley.
They went off outside, each clearly disgusted with the other. Other pairs had left together, but not one had looked excited about the rest of the afternoon. Tai's name was called near the end of the list, and he eagerly walked up to where Mr Fujiama was waiting for him. Before he could catch a glimpse of Jade, Mr Fujiama pulled him aside and whispered a few warnings to him.
"Ms Trish, the principal of Surrey Primary, has asked me to warn you that Jade Potter is a troubled student."
"She didn't sound…troubled in her letters," Tai whispered back.
"It's what I've been told, so just…be wary when you're with her. If anything happened to any one of you it'd be my head that parents would be calling for."
"You worry too much," Tai told him. "I'll be fine. Can I meet her now?"
Mr Fujiama nodded and Tai turned in time to see a young girl who looked no older than Takeru walking up to him. Her hair was dark and untidy, though she appeared to have attempted to straighten it with her fingers before arriving, and her eyes were the brightest green that Tai had ever seen. The pictures of her did absolutely no justice to her, and all Tai could do when he saw her was smile. He had practiced with other students his English greetings, as he had wanted to make a good impression. It had been easier learning how to write English, as there it didn't matter if his pronunciation was off.
"Hello Jade," he said in English. "I am Tai. Nice to meet you."
He figured that he had succeeded when Jade smiled at him. She extended her hand to shake his and he figured that some of his relief had shown on his face as she started to lead him outside after a quick glance at the female teacher behind her. Tai went with her willingly, his hand still encasing hers.
Jade had only slept for a few hours before getting up and walking around the campsite. The lake had been spectacular, and if she had known how to swim she would have made her way over to test the temperature. As it was, she knew that she would be tempting her bad luck, so instead she walked the length of the site and committed it to memory. As the clock ticked over to twelve, Jade made her way back to the dining hall where the rest of her classmates were. Ms Rein was going to be acting as translator, and would be repeating everything that the Japanese teacher would be explaining.
"Attention students!" Ms Rein called in English, half a beat behind the Japanese teacher. Jade waited patiently for the students around her to quieten. Once everyone was silent Ms Rein and the Japanese teacher continued. "We will be calling out students from Odaiba Elementary first, followed by their Pen Pal from Surrey Primary. The rest of the day will allow you to become acquainted, but I assure you that after today you are not expected to spend the rest of your holiday stuck with your Pen Pal. Now, Jessica Hilton…"
Jade's eyes scanned the mass of Japanese students on the other side of the hall. She had photos of Tai, and she was pretty sure that she had identified him when Dudley went up and insulted his Pen Pal, Sora. She sighed, glad that she had written a note for Sora to apologise for Dudley's behaviour. It was in her pocket and she made a mental note to see the older girl some time before dinner. Dudley and Sora left the hall, each thoroughly disgusted with the other, Dudley because Sora couldn't speak English and Sora because Dudley was disgusting. A few students after that and Tai's name was called out. Jade quietly made her way up, wondering what Tai's teacher was telling him. He was tall, though that could have been due to the fact that his brown hair was sticking up in every direction and held in place with a set of goggles. His brown eyes widened when he saw her, and then a wide grin spread across his face. Jade couldn't help but smile back at him.
"Hello Jade," Tai said in English. "I am Tai. Nice to meet you."
Not one other student had gone through the effort to greet their Pen Pal in English, and Jade was amazed that Tai would do so for her. She held out her hand for him to shake, and he took it with relief in his eyes. Jade gently pulled on his hand, leading him outside. She glanced quickly at Ms Rein, who made a shooing motion to her; she continued leading the other boy outside. Tai took over once they were in the open. Lunch was provided between twelve and two, so Jade and Tai would be able to get to know each other before eating.
Tai led Jade to his tree, and helped her to climb it so that they would be pretty much undisturbed for the rest of the afternoon. Jade shimmied out on the branch, whereas Tai used the trunk for a back rest. The two stared at each other for a long time, one not sure what to say and the other unwilling to say anything. In the end Jade pulled out a note book and pencil and wrote out a short sentence in Japanese characters, tongue sticking out from between her lips as she did so. She handed it to Tai who glanced at it curiously, humorously noting that they both stuck their tongues out when concentrating.
I understand a little Japanese. But don't speak too fast because I am still new at this.
"You can understand Japanese?" Tai asked, in Japanese. Jade nodded, and in response Tai grinned happily, laughing a little.
"This is great!" he said. "Out of everyone involved in the Project it seemed that I was the only one excited to meet my partner! And I could see that that was true in England as well. Sora will be happy to see you; she's been eagerly awaiting you as well. Sympathies will be coming your way now that she has finally met the giant pig."
Jade giggled at that. She completely agreed with Tai, but there were others in her class who appeared to be willing to get along with their Pen Pal for half a day at least. For the next few hours Tai asked questions of her that she could answer without speaking: how was the flight, was the food any good, do you want to play soccer later, what cabin are you in, what do you think of school, what do you think of Japan so far, etc.
"Tai? Have you ditched your Pen Pal already?"
Jade looked down through the branches and spotted a blonde boy with a smaller version of him walking around his feet. Tai looked down as well, before grinning and shaking his head.
"Nope! You run away from your Pen Pal then?"
"No, they ran away from me. It's hard to communicate when you don't speak the same language, or have any desire to figure out what everyone's saying. Where's your Pen Pal?"
Jade moved into sight by shuffling closer to Tai. She swung her legs and gave a wave to the blonde boy, before staring at Tai curiously. He understood what she wanted to know.
"This is Matt," he said. "The littler kid is his brother, Takeru. We share a cabin and I may have bragged about you to everyone."
Jade blinked, slightly puzzled why anyone would want to brag about her, before turning back to Matt and Takeru. Matt stared up at her with intense curiosity.
"Hey Tai? Does your Pen Pal speak Japanese?"
"No idea," Tai stated with a laugh. "Jade doesn't speak at all. But she does understand what we're saying. And if she doesn't then we just need to write it down and she'll be able to translate it for herself."
"Cool!" Takeru declared. "Do you want to play with me, Jade?"
"We're going to find Sora soon, little buddy," Tai told him. "We have to rescue her from a fat pig that probably wants to eat her."
Takeru laughed, but Jade knew that Tai was being completely serious. He and Sora had known each other since kindergarten, and cared about each other a lot. They had played on the same soccer team for a while, and used to live in the same building complex. To help him decide Jade leapt from the tree, turning her land into a graceful role so she wouldn't hurt herself. Tai shouted in alarm as she jumped, but after seeing that she was alright breathed a sigh of relief and joined her on the ground.
"That was so cool!" Takeru explained. "How did you do that?!"
"If I ever see you doing that TK, I'm telling mum," Matt said before Jade could as much as blink. She assumed that TK was Takeru's nickname, and decided that she would show the boy how to roll later…when his brother wasn't around.
"Obviously you do that a lot back in England," Tai observed as he joined them. "You're very light on your feet. Does this mean you want to find Sora?"
Jade nodded, and turned her head to listen for her cousin. Dudley was always very loud and easy to locate, so it was towards the commotion that she started to navigate towards. Tai, Matt and TK followed her, and Jade easily heard TK asking Matt how she knew where to go.
"She's listening for the loud, fat kid from earlier," Matt told him. "Do you remember him?"
"Oh yeah," TK stated, and Jade imagined his eyes widening. "He was really fat. Is he human?"
Jade was interested in hearing Matt's reply, but at that moment she spotted Dudley and his gang surrounding Sora, without a teacher in sight. She started to run forward, recognising the glint in Dudley's eyes. He only looked at her like that when he was about to hurt her. Sora looked like she was ready for a fight, and Jade wondered where Sora's other friends were, and if they were hunting for a teacher.
Before Dudley could do anything that he probably wouldn't regret Jade collided with Sora, sending her to the ground, and receiving the punch that would have hit Sora in the back. Due to her smaller height, and lighter physic, Jade caught the punch on the side of her head and went flying through the air. Stunned, she lay face down on the ground without moving until the earth beneath her stopped shifting.
"What's going on here?!"
Jade remained still. The teacher had spoken in Japanese, so Jade knew that there was no escape for Dudley and his gang. Numerous voices started speaking at once, English and Japanese alike. Dudley was prominent amongst the English speakers, and he was blaming Jade for picking on Sora and trying to attack her. Unfortunately for him, the teacher was Japanese and therefore was not in the pocket of the Dursleys. He believed Sora when she explained how the boys had ganged up on her and if Jade hadn't pushed her aside she would have been beaten up.
While the explanation went on Jade attempted to sit up. A warm hand on her back ensured that she stayed on the ground, and another hand softly touched her head where the punch had landed. She flinched as it caused more pain. It wasn't Tai, but she could hear his voice nearby.
"Hey, don't move alright?" a new voice told her. "You probably have a concussion. Can you move your fingers and toes for me?"
Jade didn't see a problem with obeying the order, as it was something she did to ensure that she could still move all parts of her body. She lifted her fingers one at time on each hand, creating a miniature wave that could have been called a lazy wave, and flexed and pointed her feet. There was still a hand on her back, though the one near her face was gone.
"That's good," the voice told her. "I'm going to help you roll over onto your back, alright? Don't go too fast or you could get sick."
Once again it wasn't too hard to obey that order, so Jade grabbed onto a supporting arm and with her eyes still closed rolled from her front to her back. The warm hand rested on her forehead, shielding her eyes from the sun. The voice asked her to open them, so Jade did and found herself staring up at a boy with blue hair and glasses. He was older than the other children, so Jade assumed that he hadn't been a part of the Pen Pal Project.
"Hello there," he greeted with a smile. "My name's Joe. What's yours?"
"Her name's Jade," Tai said, appearing in her line of sight. "She doesn't speak."
"Oh," Joe blinked in surprise. "Well, um, Jade is it? Can you track my finger?"
Joe moved his hand from left to right, and Jade attempted to follow it. She was fine on the left, but too far to the right and her head pounded uncomfortably. Joe and Tai helped her to sit up, and Jade held tightly to Tai's arm when the earth underneath her moved.
"You'll tell us if you're about to throw up right?" Joe asked, noticing how her face lost all colour. With her face as pale as it was, the rapidly forming bruise beside her right eye was very prominent. Jade focused on Joe for a moment, nodding slightly.
"Is she alright?" Sora asked, kneeling in front of the trio. Jade blinked at her, forcing away the black spots.
"Concussion," Joe explained. "She should be fine. Some ice and rest will fix her up in no time at all. But to be safe I think someone should stay with her for a while and wake her up every hour to make sure she doesn't slip into a coma or anything."
"That's a brilliant idea Joe," the teacher stated, joining the conversation. "I need to go and have a talk with these English teachers. If this is the behaviour that they allow at their school, I'm going to have to actually use those secluded cabins to keep you kids separate."
"From what Jade's told me," Tai began. "Her cousin is allowed to get away with a lot more than normally allowed because everyone's afraid of him. That, and he blames Jade for everything so she gets punished and he gets away free."
"He won't be able to do that here," the teacher stated with a scowl. He swapped to English to speak with Jade, and waited until she was tracking him. "Why don't you go back to your cabin? I'll let one of your teachers know where you are. And thank you for helping Sora, but in the future if there's trouble could you find a teacher instead? That we you won't get hurt."
Jade cautiously nodded, not that she had any intention of getting a teacher if she needed help. She had been dealing with Dudley since she had arrived at the Dursley's house; she knew what to do with him better than any teacher would. The teacher looked at her uncertainly, probably recognising the indecision in her eyes, but otherwise allowed Tai and Joe to lead her away whilst he ordered Dudley and his gang to the dining hall where the other teachers were still waking up.
Being as short as she was, Tai obviously found it easier to lift her and carry her with one arm around her back and the other under her knees. Jade linked her arms around his neck in fear of being off the ground, but otherwise didn't move. She knew that it was best she didn't walk because otherwise she would pass out or throw up. Sora, Joe, Matt and TK followed behind them, and Sora volunteered to stay with Jade as she was the only girl in their little procession. Joe promised that he would return every hour to make sure Jade hadn't fallen into a coma, Matt promised to talk later before pulling TK away, and Tai promised to keep a watch for Dudley to make sure that they wouldn't be accosted without warning.
Sora sat near the head of the bed and Jade's head was placed on her lap. Running her fingers through the younger girls hair, Sora smiled as Jade relaxed, falling asleep almost instantly. The smile faded from her face as her mind flashed back to the attack. She had spent an hour or so with Dudley, watching as he and his gang mucked around. Their attention had been elsewhere, until Sora decided that she had had enough of watching them and set about leaving. She had wanted to find Tai and meet Jade, but before she could go too far Dudley and his gang had surrounded her. Dudley had said something to her, in that arrogant tone of his, and Sora knew that she was in trouble. She prepared to fight, as she knew she wouldn't be able to escape all of them, but before she could move a muscle a small body had crashed into her.
When she looked up it was to see a small girl face down on the ground and not moving. Mr Fujiama appeared and told of Dudley, and during that time she discovered that the girl who had tried to protect her was the one she wanted to see. Jade Potter had stopped her from getting hurt at the expense of her own health. All at once she felt incredibly guilty, though she knew that it wasn't her fault Dudley was a bully. To make for her feelings of guilt, and spend some time with the only English student she wanted to spend time with, she volunteered to sit with Jade to make sure she wouldn't slip into a coma. It was clear to her that Tai really wanted to sit with her, but cabin fourteen was a girls' cabin and as a boy he wasn't allowed to enter.
"Why'd you do it Jade?" she asked softly, her hand gently brushing Jade's hair. "Mr Fujiama wasn't far away; he would have stopped it before it got too out of hand. And I'm bigger than you, harder to hurt."
Sora relaxed against the wall and started to hum a soft tune. When one of the boys returned she would ask them for a book, there was no way that she'd move now that Jade was comfortable. She continued to hum even as more footsteps reached her ears. It didn't sound like Dudley's, the boy would still be with Mr Fujiama getting chewed out for being a bully, and it didn't sound like a child. When the door opened quickly Sora got a good look at the English teacher who had stood beside Mr Fujiama at the introductions earlier.
"Good afternoon," the woman said in Japanese. "How's Jade?"
"Sleeping, I think," Sora replied. "What's your name? I'm Sora."
"Oh, I'm Elizabeth Rein," the woman replied after blinking in shock. "Sorry, I guess I was a little distracted. Jade's always getting hurt and at times I think I'm the only one who worries about her."
"Dudley and his gang do this often then?" Sora asked.
"Not that I can prove it, but yes," Ms Rein said as she sat on the bed rested her hand over Jade's. Sora frowned as she felt Jade tense up at the contact, having thought that the girl was asleep.
"Why don't you do anything about it?" Sora asked, her hand continuing to move across Jade's head as if she were petting a cat.
"I have tried, but when Jade doesn't speak in her defense, and no one else wants to speak up against Dudley, it's hard to prove that anything bad has happened at all. I keep Jade with me when I can, but at recess, lunch and before and after school…just watching her run from her cousin is heart breaking. Especially after what happened to her parents."
"Her parents?" Sora repeated. "Tai said that they were killed in a car accident."
"Car accident?" Ms Rein echoed in shock. "Good Lord no! James and Lily Potter were respectable people who were killed by a serial killer almost eight years ago. The fact that Jade survived at all is a miracle! I was still in school when it happened, but I remember the articles about it. Car accident? What have the Dursleys been telling her?"
"Did you know her parents?"
"No, but they were friends with my cousin Peter. He was killed eight years ago. Before working at Surrey Primary I had always wondered what happened to Jade. It's sad, but if I make too much of a fuss I know I will be sacked and then Jade won't have anyone!"
Elizabeth Rein was an orphan who had lived with her aunt and cousin growing up. Her cousin, Peter Pettigrew, was six years older than her and went to an elite boarding school that was only accessible to those who received an invite. Not everyone was accepted, and there weren't any enrolment forms to apply. At first Elizabeth had been really jealous of Peter, especially after she turned eleven and wasn't accepted to Hogwarts. But as the years went on and the stories Peter told became wilder and wilder, she accepted that she would always be happier in the normal world.
She did, however, know all about the war with You-Know-Who. She had been with her aunt when she received the notice telling her that Peter had died trying to avenge James and Lily Potter, and that the government would be giving him an award posthumously. Elizabeth had cried for a whole week before becoming even more dedicated in her work. She had been fifteen at the time, and now at twenty-three she was happy with her accomplishments.
"Ms Rein?" Sora asked, breaking into the woman's thoughts. "What punishment will Dudley receive? Will he be sent home?"
"Mr Sanders and Ms Trish are firmly on Dudley's side," Ms Rein replied, snorting in disgust and shaking her head. "I doubt they'd send him home."
"He should be put into a juvenile detention centre," Sora mumbled. "He's a menace to society. Where are his boundaries? He's going to seriously hurt someone one day and the consequences won't mean anything to him."
"I don't know Sora. But could you and your friends keep an eye on Jade for me when I can't? She's so quiet, if you're not looking for her you'd miss her completely. I hate to say it, but sometimes I forget that she's there at all."
"Don't worry, we'll look after her," Sora promised. "I know that Tai has heaps of activities that he wants to do with Jade. He's probably the only one in the Program who has been looking forward to this meeting, and the only one who engaged with it."
Ms Rein laughed and left the cabin. Sora shook her head with a smile before focusing on Jade. The girl had relaxed as soon as Ms Rein had removed her hand, and Sora wondered why.
"Your teacher cares for you," she whispered to the girl. "The other teachers I can understand you not trusting, they sound like horrible people. But I wouldn't push away those who genuinely care. Ms Rein will protect you as much as she can."
Jade opened her eyes and rolled onto her back so that she could stare up at Sora. She nodded slowly, though still uncertain. Sora smiled at her and ordered her to go back to sleep. She would need all the energy she could get if she wanted to keep up with Tai's plans.
Next up in Intertwined Destinies:
Chapter 2: It Begins...