In the square center of the academy’s campus were scattered about numerous small groups of four each. These were the first-year students who were getting introduced to the rest of their teammates for that year, and would soon meet their respective Masters.
Team S, one of the seven teams assembled about the square, was comprised of two girls and two boys. The two girls were chatting excitedly with one another in low voices while the two boys were shyly keeping to themselves some distance away. One of the boys paced about, his mind clearly wrapped in thought and his eyes darting between the architecture of the campus’s buildings, the trees, and the skies above. The other boy lay in the grass, his eyes half-closed and immersed the activity of gazing at the rolling clouds which masked the brightness of the noon sun overhead.
“Oy!” one of the girls called out enthusiastically. She was pretty, with emerald green eyes and fiery dark red hair.
The pacing boy turned towards her. “Oy,” he called back in a monotone voice.
The boy lying on the ground raised his hand and waved it lazily at no one in particular, apparently his way of replying with minimum effort.
“Which one of you is Itagami Sayake?” The girl asked.
The boy who had been pacing looked at the other boy lying on the ground, implicitly answering the girl’s question. Itagami Sayake, the boy lying on the ground, made no motion to respond, as though he couldn’t be bothered with taking the effort to introduce himself.
The red-haired girl got up instead and walked over to Itagami.
“Hey, I’m talkin’ to you. The least you can do is answer.” She said, somewhat irritated.
The other boy returned to pacing. Which, apparently, did not bode well with the girl either.
“And you! Why’re you pacing around like that? It’s like you’re an anxious husband waiting for your wife to give birth.”
The boy stopped pacing again and stared blankly at the girl, somewhat taken aback by this sudden onslaught, but unsure what to make of it or how to respond.
“You’re sure the fiery one. Goes with the hair, I suppose.” Itagami suddenly said, maintaining his lazy disposition. “Didn’t even know you could buy dye that color.” He commented as he turned on his side so his back faced the girl.
“For your reference, this is my natural hair color.”
“Yeah, yeah, not like I actually care, unless you’re going out of your way to prove it to me.”
The girl kicked Itagami in his ribs, gently. “Pervert. I’m Anjela Lavernyne, by the way. Nice to make your acquaintance, Master Sayake.”
“You’re acting surprisingly familiar with someone you’ve never met.” Itagami replied in a humored tone of voice. He didn’t seem the least bit phased or even annoyed by her kicking him.
“You’re askin’ for it, acting all high and mighty and saying dirty things.” Anjela said, scowling. She paused, waiting for Itagami to reply, but he didn’t have anything to say.
Dissatisfied with the silence, Anjela continued verbally pummeling her target. “I might never have met you, but I’ve sure heard a lot about you. You’re the lost child, heir to the famed Akio bloodline and the Senken-gan, aren’t you?”
“What of it?”
“You seem pretty lame considering your heritage.”
“How come you still go by a different name?” Anjela continued, relentless.
“It’s my father’s last name. Just because my mother’s family needs an heir doesn’t mean I gotta change my name, does it?”
Anjela shrugged. “And you, mister anxious husband! You got a name?” She called out to the other boy, maintaining her offensive on both fronts.
“Hadrian.” The other boy replied quietly, his gaze transfixed elsewhere.
“Didn’t your parents ever teach you any manners? And don’tcha have a last name?”
“Picky, picky.” Itagami commented. “You sound like a granny.”
“Shut up, Sayake.” Anjela replied, grinding her teeth.
Anjela complied, harder this time, and seemed satisfied by Itagami’s “ow.”
Turning her attention back towards Hadrian, Anjela continued. “Well?”
“Hadrian Zephyr. And no, my parents never taught me any manners. I’m an orphan.”
This seems to shut Anjela up, whose demeanor changed instantly into one of quiet reflection and empathy.
“Oh… I’m sorry to hear that.”
Hadrian shook his head. “No worries.”
Anjela smiled sweetly. “I’m kind of an orphan, too.”
Suddenly Itagami got up, his interest piqued — though not by the ongoing topic of conversation. “Wait a second, you were one of the semifinalists in the losers bracket in the Arcadia Tournament, weren’t you?” He asked, his question aimed at Hadrian.
Hadrian nodded. “Yeah. How’d you know?”
Itagami grinned. “I couldn’t participate, but I did get a chance to watch the winners bracket semifinals and finals. I just happened to remember your name from the roster. Kinda sticks out.”
Hadrian nodded slowly. “I guess so.”
Itagami chuckled. “Wanna fight?”
“Hey… wait a second…” Anjela started, but was completely ignored. The two boys were already in combat stances staring each other down, sizing one another up.
Suddenly, Itagami rushed at Hadrian with alarming speed. He directed a punch straight at Hadrian’s unguarded solar-plexus, but was blocked by Hadrian’s arms a split second before his blow would have made contact.
An instant after landing his punch, a sudden gust rushed about the two of them, and the true nature and force of Itagami’s blow was made apparent, pushing Hadrian back a meter.
“Can’t time the release properly.” Itagami muttered, grinning.
“That was still pretty good.” Hadrian said. “Timing your release right before landing the blow is tough all right. Mind if I try?
Itagami’s grin widened. “Give it your best shot.”
Hadrian leapt back, then lunged towards Itagami the moment both feet touched down, his fist pulled back and curled up —
Itagami already had both hands up in a boxing-style offensive stance, and pushed forward with one arm to parry aside the incoming blow while readying his other arm to instantly counterattack —
But where expected his blocking arm to make contact, he found only empty space.
Suddenly, Hadrian’s leg swept out from below, making contact with Itagami’s knees and kicking them out from under him. Itagami felt his legs buckle and fell backwards. The breath was knocked out of him as he landed on his back. As he was trying to scramble back to his feet, Hadrian fluidly leapt on top of Itagami’s body, pinning him down, and pointed his curled fist at his face, indicating a killing blow.
“A little trick I’ve been working on.” Hadrian commented as he got off Itagami and offered a hand to help him up. Anjela and Ayame were both watching this scene incredibly intently.
Itagami beamed. “I’m impressed. Next time… I’ll be the one pinning you down.”
It was then that Itagami turned and noticed the two blushing girls. Suddenly realizing the alternate connotation to his words, he began blushing himself. He pointed abashedly at them and yelled: “H-Hey, don’t go getting any weird ideas!”
“Like what?” An adult’s voice asked.
All of Team S turned and immediately recognized their new Master. “Uh… um… nothing much.” Itagami mumbled in reply, his voice trailing off with embarrassment at his thoughts.
The Master chuckled. “I was just teasing. You don’t have to be so embarrassed about liking guys. This is the age to explore and try new things!” He exploded with sudden enthusiasm.
Ayame and Anjela were slightly appalled, and expressions of incredulousness were plastered across their faces.
Itagami’s face turned as red as a beet. “Wha… I… I don’t swing that way, all right!” He yelped. “I’d rather be in a relationship with that barbarian–” he pointed at Anjela as he said this– “than be with a guy!”
“You’re the barbarian.” Anjela muttered so only Ayame could really hear. Somehow, she didn’t feel particularly offended by Itagami’s outburst. She had kicked him, unprovoked, after all.
The Master laughed. “I’m just teasing. You’re Itagami Sayake, right?”
Itagami nodded, immediately calming down. “Ye…yes,” he stammered quietly, still somewhat confused. “Pleasure to meet you.” He said.
The Master nodded, then turned to Hadrian. “You?”
“Hadrian Zephyr.” He bowed. “I look forward to learning with all of you.” He said emotionlessly.
Master Isanori nodded again, then turned to Anjela. “And you, young lady?”
“Anjela Lavernyne.” Anjela piped up. Then, eyeing Itagami specifically, she added: “Don’t give me any weird nicknames, like Barbarian or Angie. I’ll rip your vocal cords out.”
Master Isanori chuckled. “To be expected from an heir to the fiery Lavernyne bloodline. And you, oh fair blue-haired princess?” He bowed with a princely flourish.
The blue-haired girl blushed, unsure how to respond to Master Isanori’s behavior. “Ayame Kasayuki.” She spoke daintily.
“Ah, the Kasayuki Clan. Another renowned bloodline. Seems I lucked out this year and got a lot of talented blood in my team. We’ll be sure to beat all the other teams out, eh?”
Itagami gave a thumbs-up and Hadrian nodded in agreement while the girls simply looked at each other uncertainly.
“Welp, it seems like we’ve covered our introductions… though, I guess I didn’t introduce myself — I’m Isanori Kenjin. You can call me Kenjin, Isanori or just Isa, I’m not especial to the title of Master.”
“Oh, isn’t it Grand Master Kenjin now, Mr. No-blood Prince?” Piped a brunette woman dressed in a Master’s attire who had happened to be passing by.
“Ah, right,” Master Isanori scratched his head somewhat abashedly. “I suppose it is. Definitely don’t call me that, I’ll die of embarrassment.”
“Don’t let his casual demeanor fool you.” The woman continued. “Isanori bears the title of Grand Master for a reason. Few can match him with a sword — or even without a sword, seeing as he’s one of the few disciples of the Soulblade summoning technique.”
“Come now, Raquel, don’t tell them all my secrets.”
“Oh now, I’m keeping the best secrets to myself.” She said suggestively.
“Heh… heh.” Isanori said. “Kids, ignore her. She likes to pretend there’s something going on between us.”
Suddenly, Anjela exclaimed, “Ah! So you’re Raquel Leonira, the Beast Princess!”
Raquel looked disapprovingly at Anjela in what might be called a glare. “Just Master Raquel will do, missy.”
Master Isanori chuckled nervously. “You’d better watch yourself around her… she bites.”
Raquel literally snapped at Master Isanori, who stood at attention. “And you’re my trained seal, don’t you forget…” Raquel said, licking her lips like a lion eyeing a lamb. Then she walked off towards another group of students, presumably her own team.
“Master Kenjin, there is something going on between you two, isn’t there?” Itagami asked, staring after Master Raquel.
Then, of all people, Hadrian suddenly spoke up in his monotone voice: “Because if there is, I’d sure like to get in on it.”
Everyone just stared at him, completely taken aback by that sudden outburst. Master Isanori was the first to recover from the shock.
“Ahem.” In the blink of an eye, the two young men were suddenly in a choke-hold by Master Isanori. “I think you two had better lay off the fantasizing and gossipping… leave that to the ladies.
“Come hither, Anjela and Princess Ayame.” Master Isanori called behind him as he dragged Hadrian and Itagami, still in a choke-hold, the two of them grunting and complaining.
“Ow, gerroff me you old man.” Itagami struggled, which in turn led Master Isanori to tighten his hold. “What’d I do anyways, it’s that other dope that made that stupid comment…”
“Itagami, I think he’s trying to kill us…” Hadrian mumbled as Master Isanori strengthened his hold, struggling only halfheartedly after witnessing Itagami’s utter lack of success.
Anjela shook her head. “Good lord, he’s just as bad as the both of them.”
Ayame giggled. “I think it’s nice. I like how lively they are.” She commented, as two girls trotted after the trio. Then, blushing, she added, “Plus, I don’t mind being treated like a princess.”