Anibun

© 2000 by Seiiruika

This page was last modified: 2000/10/18


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A blond haired boy rushed through the woods, turning from time to time his attention behind him afraid to see someone appearing suddenly among the trees. Earlier, he had heard men calling his name. He had not thought that he would be discovered so quickly. Or, maybe someone had said to an instructor that he had run away. This did not surprise him. No one liked him. Everyone had tried to humiliate him, the gaijin, the stranger. He did not want to be caught so he ran.

After few minutes, he stopped breathless and he looked around listening carefully to the woods' noises. The only sounds that reached clearly his ears were his breathing and his heart beating. He was afraid that everyone could hear them, so he tried to calm down.

He was tired, too tired to continue running and to go farther. Already, the sun was setting down and in the woods, the night was already here, oppressive but much more welcoming for him than from where he had run away. His stomach grumbled but he did not mind. He had forgotten about the problem of the food, but for him it was not the most important thing. He was free.

'FREE!!!' his mind shouted with strength. A rustle of leaves made him turn suddenly, his heart beating more. A fox rushed out running after a rabbit and the blond child sighed in relief. 'I've thought it was them!' He glanced around him and silently, he walked near a tree and he crawled under a bush. He was too tired to continue. He laid down and he curled up into a ball to protect himself from the coolness of the night. He did not really feel the cold. In his country, before he came there, he was used to it. He yawned and his head bent deeper until he took the fetal position.

"Mama" he murmured tearfully. "Wait. I will come to you!" Tears rolled on his cheeks without shame. Why didn't the adults understand him? He disliked this country. It was not his. He wanted to return into the expanse of his country admittedly unwelcoming and harsh, but it was there that he had lived for the most part of his life, until this tragedy. There, in this so strange country, was no one for loving him, no one to understand him. It had been nearly three months of humiliation and ill treatments, sadness, loneliness. Only few children had talked to him, but each time they did this, it was to insult him or reject him.

"I want to come back home, Mama" he murmured among his tears. He put his right hand under his sweat shirt. His fingers found what he was searching for. They surrounded around the object and the boy tightened his grip on it when he felt the warm metal. 'Mama...' He closed tightly his blue eyes when painful memories crossed his mind.

'Docvidanija, Hyoga. Docvidanija my little angel...'

He shivered and he curled up before falling asleep.

Songs of the birds could be heard. Songs welcoming the sun were filling the woods. Rays of the new sun passed through first the green leaves of the trees and then the ones of the bush. Warmth spread on the boy's skin and his eyelashes fluttered. He moaned and he turned as if to hunt this sensation. But suddenly his eyes opened and he sat upright. His head hurt the little branches and he rubbed it, disturbing his blond hair. He looked around him lost.

The blond boy blinked and with his left hand, he rubbed his eyes dispelling the sleep. He remembered having run away from the institution and his tiredness. His stomach grumbled and the boy put his hands on it to quiet him. He listened a long time and when he was reassured that there was no one near there, the boy crawled out of the bush. His stomach manifested one more time. "Sorry, I can't" he replied to it.

He got up and he carefully looked around him. He did not know where he was and where he should go. 'Japan is an island, so I can find a harbor if I go ahead of me!' His light blue eyes narrowed and determined he went ahead without a look behind him. 'I hope they will not find me before I reach a harbor...'

He walked a long moment, his hand pressed on his stomach as it was a way to quiet it. He was hungry, very hungry. The only thing he had had in was the water he had drunk when he had found a spring earlier in the morning. He had found nothing else and he hoped to find something quickly especially a village. In early spring there was nothing to eat in a forest. His paces were not very sure now and everything was swaying around him, and sometimes he fell on the ground when one of his feet bumped in a root or a stone or something else that made him stumble. He had stopped few times to rest a bit, but the sensation had not gone away.

He sighed and he stopped, looking up in order to see the sky and the sun. But the top of the forest hid them to him. He screwed up his eyes when he saw ahead of him some rays of sun crossing the foliage. "West" he murmured to himself, knowing that it was a long time that the afternoon had begun. "Where to go?" he demanded to himself loudly. He shrugged and he waved his arm in front of his face.

A noise reached his ears. It was not a noise of the woods. Since this morning he had learnt to recognize them. The forest was so full of noises and so quiet at the same time that he had felt in peace. He had also thought about his mother wondering if she had once experienced the full life of the woods. Maybe in the taiga even if the life was not so numerous. He listened carefully. Nothing. He heard nothing. The forest was quiet...

A sound and his heart beat strongly and quickly even before he had recognized the noise. Before he was conscious of what he was doing, he was running. 'A dog!' He heard the barking of the dog again, closer. The noise came from behind him and he turned his head to be sure of what he had heard. But he saw nothing but his instincts screamed at him to run away as long as he could. He heard a barking and then an another. He understood that there were several dogs on his tracks.

He did not hesitate and he rushed ahead of him, determined to escape his pursuers. He ran during few minutes, still listening carefully, breathing hard, a pain growing and hurting his side insidiously. He winced in pain but he did not stop. Instead, he quickened his paces. 'No!!' his mind shouted, when he realized that the dogs were not far behind him and when he was aware of the men's voices.

"There he is!"

"We will catch this little brat!"

"Hurry up!"

"He's not so far away!"

The boy's heart jumped into his chest and he looked ahead of him, trying to not hear the men's voices. The dogs were right behind him. He did not need to look back to conform this. He could hear them. He stumbled but he kept his balance at the last second and he continued his way. Several times, one of his feet had hit either a stone or a root or he was slipping on the uneven ground. Moreover, he had had more difficulty to breathe, the pain in his side making him suffer terribly. 'I must continue!' his mind shouted. 'I must continue! I must continue I must continue I must continue I must continue I must con...'

His right foot caught in a root and with his momentum, he was sending away, tearing down the slope without hoping to slow down his fall. He tried to protect his head and he continued rolling down the little hill. Suddenly something stopped his fall. His back had bumped something very hard. He tried to sit up but he did not succeed on the first attempt. Then he tried again and he moaned under the pain. Opening one eye, he glanced quickly around him and he saw that a tree had stopped him. Leaning on the trunk, he stood up with difficulty and he made two paces before he heard the dogs coming nearer.

'No!' his mind screamed while he made a gesture to run. But he stopped dead in his tracks when his body did not respond. His legs gave away under him and he felt a pain in his right heel. He glanced at it and he grimaced in pain when he tried to move it. He stood up again but he was suffering so much that his head was spinning and he fell on his knees. He heard the dogs behind him and he got up in a jump, his mouth opened when pain crossed his body. No sound came and tears filled his ice blue colored eyes. He managed to skip along but he quickly stopped when he saw a dog in front of him. He slowly turned and saw another. He swallowed hard and he clenched his fists angry. He saw five dogs surrounding him. Slowly he backed and the tree that had stopped his fall hampered his gesture.

The blond boy did not move. He only glanced from left to right and back, keeping an eye on the dogs that were baring their fangs growling and threatening. The child bit his lips in pain. His ankle made him suffer and his back was sore too.

"They have him!" shouted someone.

"It's about time!" said someone else.

"In any case, he had made us run!!"

The boy shivered hearing the men coming in his direction. He had lost everything. One of the Doberman huddled up itself and pounced on the child. The little boy recoiled but the trunk prevented him from moving and the dog sank its fangs into the child's right thigh. The child opened his eyes wide and he screamed. But the dog continued pushing its fangs into the flesh. The boy screamed louder and tears filled his ice blue colored eyes.

"Stop Inuchi!" shouted a man standing in front of the boy. The dog groaned. "I think that he has understood!"

The dog loosened its catch and came to the man who had shouted, still groaning. The boy collapsed and held his thigh, seeing the blood flowing out of the bite. He winced in pain and he bent his head. Another man came near him and without kindness made him stand up before slapping him several times.

"You have made us run, nasty boy!" he continued slapping.

The boy bit his lips hard not to cry. He did not want those men to think he was weak. He wanted to prove he was strong. He wanted to prove to himself that he was strong. But a fist came on his nose and the boy felt dizzy. He moaned slightly before everything went black around him.

'MAMA!!!!!!!!!'

Something cold against his skin made the boy stir. His eyelashes fluttered. The boy moaned.

"Mama..." he said in a whisper. He opened slowly his blue eyes and he blinked. He closed them again before opening them. He stared in front of him at the gray wall. He tried to get up and he screamed slightly in pain. His right leg was hurting him as hell. The pain made him remember his escape and the end of it. He also remembered the dog biting his right thigh.

He looked down and he saw that he had new clothes. The pain crossed his leg and he slowly passed his hand on his trousers where the wound was. He could feel through the fabric the bandage. He then looked down on his right ankle. It was swollen and an another bandage was surrounding it. Trying to forget the pain, the blond boy glanced around him and he recognized where he was. Gray walls surrounded him, and only a little window gave a little light in this dark room. The cell of exclusion. He knew it very well for having spent four days in. He groaned angry.

'Since when have I been here?' he wondered sitting on the floor trying with caution not to feel the pain crossing his body. He did not know. He saw a jug with water and he stood up. Now he was aware that he was thirsty. He tried to get up on his legs but he only succeeded after a dozen tries. He limped toward the jug and he drank the liquid. He put it aside and his right leg trembled.

The blond boy managed to go to the bed and he collapsed with exhaustion on it. He had eaten nothing since one day or more, he added, and his right leg could not bear his weight during a long time. He moaned when his leg hurt the mattress. His eyelashes became heavy and they closed slowly.

A noise like a creak reached his ears. The boy tried to get out of the limbo. He moaned and he did a real effort for opening his eyes. During few seconds he could not focus something and then he could distinguish a shadow near him. He raised a little his head and saw one of the instructors putting something near him.

"Here, your meal" he said. "Three days without eating certainly makes you think!"

The boy did not reply and he sat on the bed looking out the corner of his eyes the instructor sitting near him. Without kindness, he took the boy's leg and he changed the bandage. "Baka! How could you claim to run away from the orphanage Hyoga!" He tied the bandage and he stared at the boy. "You're in Japan! I don't know what your education was in Russia, but it was bad! Your mother was certainly unable to raise you!"

Hyoga's eyes narrowed angrilly. He clenched his fists and then he pushed the man away from him. "Don't say this! Mama was gentle and kind. She loves me! Let me return to my country!"

"Fu! Here you mustn't speak in Russian!" The child glared at him. "It's no use getting on your high horses, Hyoga!" The instructor walked to the door and he opened it slightly. He turned to the boy. "Anyway you will not stay here a long time." With this last sentence, the man went out and closed the door with strength.

Hyoga stared at the door for a long moment and when he was sure the instructor would not come back he sighed, relieved. He bent his head. "Not here a long time?" he wondered loudly. "What did he mean? I will not stay in the cell of exclusion? Or in this orphanage?" The boy sighed heavily and his hand crossed his chest until he found something that he gripped. "Mama, please help me... Please Lord! Help me to return to Russia..." He laid down and he turned to the wall. His forehead touched the cold concrete but he did not mind. Blackness took him by surprise.

Hyoga tensed when he heard the key turning into the lock. The metal door opened in a creaking noise and he blinked when the rays of sun attacked his eyes. He put his right arm on his forehead trying to offer a shield for his eyes.

"Get out of here, Hyoga!" shouted the instructor who had come three days ago to bring him food and to bandge his wound. The boy moaned and he did not move, trying to get used to the brightness that flew in the room.

"Are you deaf?" the man shouted impatiently coming inside.

The blond boy raised his head to the man who took, without kindness, his left arm and made him stand up before pulling him behind him. Hyoga tried to follow the quick paces of the man but he had difficulty. His legs were too small and his right leg was still hurting him. So, it was limping and losing his balance every three paces that the little blond boy followed the instructor.

They walked a moment and when they arrived in the big house where all the orphans of the district were, the man changed his direction. He did not go to the room that the Russian shared with five other children. He went to the left, to the director's office. Hyoga's face stayed expressionless. He knew that he would be lectured by the director. They stopped in front of the wooden door and the instructor knocked it three times.

A muffled answer came and the man opened the door. He pushed Hyoga inside, and he closed it behind. He pushed the boy once more and the Russian found himself in the middle of the office. He wanted to turn and glare to the instructor but he stopped. He saw the director staring at him and he noticed that he was not alone. In the room were two men wearing black clothes and sunglasses.

Hyoga narrowed his eyes slightly. He did not know those men. He did not think much of their appearance and he turned to the director ready to be lectured.

The director only gave him a quick glance before he turned to the men.

"This is the boy I have told you ." One of them, the tallest, turned to him. "Hyoga is half-Russian. Few months ago the ship on which he had traveled sunk into the East Siberia Sea. His mother had died in this accident. He had been picked up by a Japanese cargo boat which had left him in Hokkaido. "

"So?"

"He had been a troublemaker in the orphanage of Hokkaido, so he had been sent to Honshu. But there too he had been a troublemaker. So, he came here. But his try to escape and his last actions in the different orphanages made me call the Graad Foundation." The director stood up and he walked to the window. "I know, the Graad Foundation had an organization to cater children as difficult as him."

"The Graad Foundation has accepted this child, so..."

"Michiyama! Take Hyoga to his room and help him to pack his things!"

"All right." The instructor turned to Hyoga and showed him to the door. The child cast his eyes over the director and then over the strange men before his look returned to Michiyama. "Are you going to obey?" the instructor nearly shouted. He then took the boy's arm and he dragged him along with him.

"Does he understand the Japanese language?" asked one of the strange men.

"A little" revealed the director. "His mother and he were on the way to Japan when they had this shipwreck. His father is Japanese. I think they have come to Nihon only to see the boy's father, but the man was already dead. If his mother had not decided to come here she would not be dead, that's sure..."

Hyoga wanted to turn to the director and to shout him something but the door closed and he stared at the wooden gate. Michiyama pulled him behind him and Hyoga was forced to follow him. 'The Graad Foundation?' he thought. 'What's this? An institution for difficult children?'

"Come in Hyoga and pack your things!" The child complied slowly and he walked to the far corner of the room where his things were. "Hurry up! They're waiting for you!"

Hyoga glanced at the instructor and he put his things in his bags. He had not a lot of them as all the orphans, but he took his time, just to put Michiyama in trouble. 'The Graad Foundation? This name means something to me...' His head suddenly jerked a little. 'Mama had told me about this big company... But why am I going there?''

"Hayaku Hyoga! The way to Tokyo is long!"

Hyoga turned to the man and he looked at him surprised. "To...Tokyo?" he demanded.

"Yes you're going to Tokyo. There you will not be as free as you were here! The Graad Foundation will bring you into line!" He looked down at the bag. "Have you finished?" The boy did not reply. The man took the bag and pushed Hyoga outside the room.

While they were walking to the office, Hyoga thought about what he had learnt. 'Tokyo! I'm going to Tokyo. There is a harbor! It would be easier for me to reach Russia, to join Mama! Oh yes I'm glad to go to the Graad Foundation!' A little smile appeared on his lips and he looked up at the man who was turning the handle of the director's office. He quickly made his satisfied smile vanish and he came in.

"Here is his file. Do what you want it with him" said the director glancing to the boy. "We're not responsible for what he does from now on. I hope you will improve your behavior, Hyoga."

The blond boy stared at the director and despite himself, the man shivered. He did not like those so ice blue colored eyes looking at him with no emotion. He swallowed and he turned to the two men of the Graad Foundation.

"You can take him now. The sooner is better..." The two men nodded. "Michiyama, walk them to the car. Good luck, Hyoga."

The boy said nothing and before Michiyama pushed him out of the room, he followed the two men. He was glad to leave this place, now that he knew where he was going. A place where it would be easier for him to reach Russia, his country was waiting for him.

His right foot hit a chair leg and he winced in pain. He had forgotten his wound. It was now sore with intensity caused by the impact. 'I should wait a little before running away, until my leg is healed enough.'

The instructor stopped in the porch and he looked down on the blond boy. He said nothing and he stared at the men who were walking to the big black car. They spoke a moment with the chauffeur and the tallest turned to Hyoga. "Come" he ordered.

Without hesitation, the boy complied and did not look back. He got in the car and he sat in the middle of the back seat.

"Do you want to say goodbye?" asked the second. Hyoga did not glance at them, neither at the instructor. Seeing his reaction, the men got into the car too and flanked the blond child. They made a gesture and the car pulled away.

Hyoga, between two black men, was stiff and did not blink once when the big black car pulled away. He did not look back at the institution which was becoming tiny as the car went along. He had lived fifteen days in it but it was fifteen dreadful days. It had also been the case of the two other orphanages. He was now going to another prison, and seeing the ones he was travelling with, it seemed harder than the previous institutions. He looked straight ahead of him to his dark future searching for a way to escape from his destiny.

The travel lasted for the most part of the day and Hyoga had not once spoken a word. The silent men surrounding him, the noise of the car and the length of the journey made him drowse a little. After midday, they had stopped to eat a snack before continuing the trip.

Hyoga several times had had tried to look through the window to look at the landscape, but the two men were too tall and did not allow him to do so. So, he had stopped shifting on his seat and he had closed his eyes wondering what he would find in Tokyo in the Graad Foundation.

The sun set at the west in an explosion of warm colors, in all the palette of the reds and the yellows when Hyoga noticed a little change in the men's attitude. He looked ahead of him and he saw the car passing a huge gate and continuing until it reached a big house, like a castle.

The blond child opened his eyes wide, surprised to see this there and lost, expecting to find another institution. He swallowed and he stayed there, contemplating the residence. He was barely aware of the two men getting out of the car and of another man coming to them. They spoke a moment while the one who was at his right during the trip, pulled the boy out of the vehicle.

"No Tokumaru-san is not here now. He will come later."

"We have brought the new child."

The man with gray hair turned his head slightly to the child and studied him. He saw him staring at the house. "I will go and ask Kurada-san." He walked into the house and a few minutes after, a man with brown hair and eyes came out and gestured to the men to follow him.

"So it's the new one?" demanded Kurada glancing to the child. The two men in black did not answer. "His name?"

"Hyoga" replied the one at the left of the boy.

"Hyoga?" asked Kurada, surprised. "A Japanese name for a gaijin?"

"A konketsu" replied the same man.

Kurada saw the boy glancing to the huge house. "Mitsumasa Kido-sama and his granddaughter Saori-sama live in this house " he said firmly. "You, you will be with the others in a house not so far. You should respect the rules that we told you! Never go into this house without being allowed, understand?"

The boy just looked up at the man but he replied nothing. Kurada felt unease when the pale blue eyes stared at him. He turned to the man. "Does he speak Japanese?"

"Sukoshi. But he understands, I think."

"We will see this later with Tokumaru-san."

The boy followed the three men and he gripped the handles of his bag, glancing all around him, memorizing the area. He had learnt quickly, especially in Siberia, to always pick up marks and until now it had helped him a lot. Furthermore, this faculty helped him develop his memory. They continued on a path and then they passed a huge and large building.

"This is the gymnasium" Kurada said without kindness. "It's there that you will train with the others from tomorrow on!"

Hyoga blinked. 'A gymnasium? To train?' he wondered puzzled. But he did not show his surprise and he continued limping slightly behind the men who had continued, without showing once a look of compassion toward him. They walked for a moment and finally they stopped in front of a house.

"It's there that you're going to live!" Kurada opened the door and walked in. Hyoga stayed outside looking around him but one of the men pushed him inside. "The others are certainly eating. You will join them soon."

Someone came to him. "Kurada-san?"

"It's the new one" he replied showing the boy with his thumb. "Tokumaru-san is not here, but he will probably come back soon. He would like to see him. Tell him the rules Yamada!" Then without waiting for the answer, he turned and walked out leaving the boy with the two men in black and Yamada.

Hyoga did not move one muscle. Everything was new here, as always, but he could sense something very worrying. He blinked when the man spoke. "His name?"

"Hyoga" answered a black man.

The other man did not make comments on the name as the others had done. He studied the boy a moment and then he took a paper from his pocket. He read it and he nodded to himself. "Yes, Hyoga. But I thought he would be here only in two days..." Yamada said turning his look to the man who had answered him the first time.

"The institution did not want to keep him any more. From what we know he had caused a lot of trouble in this orphanage and the two previous ones."

"A rebel. As some of them here." He paused and thought a moment. "Come with me, boy! Try to memorize the area. You will put your bag in the room you're going to share with three others before going to eat."

Hyoga did not reply and made any gesture to show that he had understood. Since he had come to Japan, it was a little game he liked playing. The adults and the others did not know that he understood the Japanese language. His mother had taught him, but he had big gaps in the reading and the writing. He stayed at the same place waiting.

Yamada stopped and turned to Hyoga. "Did you understand?" One of the men pushed him and the blond boy lost his balance. He kept it at the last moment. He then slowly followed Yamada. After few minutes, they stopped in front of a door and the man opened it.

Through the window, Hyoga noticed that the night had come, making the sky turn to a deep gray color. The man switched on the light and Hyoga blinked. He saw four beds, two at his right and two at his left. There was only essential furniture. He noticed there was no one.

"Now it will be your room. You share it with three boys. They aren't here now, they are in the refectory. You will meet them soon. Put your bag there!" ordered Yamada showing the bed at his left, the nearest one to the door.

Hyoga glanced around him and he noticed few details showing the three other beds were already occupied.

"Isogi" shouted Yamada pushing Hyoga to the bed. Slowly, the blond boy put his bag on the bed and he turned to the man. "Come with me! We'll go to the refectory." Sighing, the boy complained and Yamada closed the door behind them.

"After diner, you will be taught the rules of this place. Believe me, you're going to be brought into line here, as many of the rebels here!"

They walked through corridors and finally they stopped in front of a door. Even if it was closed, the blond boy could hear the clinking of the knives and forks on the plates and sometimes someone saying something. Yamada opened the door and he came in. Everything went silent.

"As of tonight you have a new companion." He heard noises and whispered. "Silence!" he shouted. Everyone stopped whispering. Yamada had a close look at all the tables and he stared at one of them. He had not agreed to place the young trouble with those but it was Tokumaru's choice. Two troublemakers in a same room would promise problems.

"Ikki!" he said in a firm voice.

A blue haired boy looked up and he turned slowly to Yamada puzzled. For once he had done nothing. "You are the oldest of your room. It's you who will take care of the new one." The boy did not answer and stared at the man. Yamada looked around him searching for someone.

"Where is he?" he sighed already exasperated. He saw the blond boy waiting outside, looking through the window. He frowned. "Come here!" he shouted.

There was no answer.

Yamada made a gesture and one of the men near Hyoga took the boy's arm and pulled him inside the room. They stopped at the entrance. He gestured him to come in, but Hyoga did not move, so the bodyguard pushed him inside. His right leg hurting, the blond boy walked in clumsy, losing his balance. His head bent, and humiliated by this gesture, he tried to regain his balance. He stopped in front of the man.

"Take him to his table!" He glanced around him. "You others, continue eating and in silence!" After a last look at the man pushing the boy ahead of him, he walked out of the room.

The others had practically finished eating. He walked slowly, pushed from time to time by the man, to his table and sat on his chair without glancing once around him. He took some food in his plate, aware that everyone was looking at him in silence. There was no sound in the refectory, nothing. He could feel the others' look. He knew that he seemed strange in their regard. It had been the same in the three orphanages. Hyoga bit the inside of his mouth not to shout at the others.

'What are you looking at? I'm not an animal!' He wanted to shout at them, but he stayed quiet and he swallowed his anger and his humiliation. 'Anyway', he thought 'I won't stay long here...' He took a swallow of what was in his plate and he pulled a face. He put down his fork and he waited for the others, wondering how they could eat this.

The meal was coming to an end and the ones designated to clean the tables were gathering the plates. The others stood up and began to gather among them to go out the room. Yamada came back and he showed Hyoga to a man. He approached the boy and he pushed him toward the man. The blond child limped as far as the door under the looks of the other kids. He heard whispers but he stayed expressionless and he followed Yamada out of the room and then out of the house.

"Hurry up! You are expected by Tokumaru-san!"

Hyoga continued walking with a limp wondering who was this Tokumaru. He had the feeling that it was someone important and every one he had met seemed to fear him. In the darkness, he noticed that they went to the big house.

Yamada only stopped at the door waiting for the child to reach him before he went in and walked to an exact room. He knocked. "The new child is here, Tokumaru-san" he said.

"Come in" replied a deep and cold voice from inside.

Yamada opened the door and gestured for Hyoga to come in. The child complied and he glanced around him, to see where he was. He saw that he was in an office.

Behind a stack of papers, in front of the desk, there was a bald man with matt complexion who was reading some papers.

The man looked up when he heard the door closing. His black eyes stopped on the blond child who was openly staring at him waiting. He narrowed his eyes and he stood up taking a file on a pile. He opened it and he read it.

"So, this is Hyoga..." he said stopping near the child looking him up and down. "Konketsu?" he noticed. "He has a Japanese name..." He read the file further. "Russian..." He looked up and he turned to a man wearing black clothes.

Hyoga was surprised to see him. He had not seen him when he had come in the room. He recognized the tallest of the men who had taken him here. He said nothing, waiting and wondering why he was there.

"He has lived in Russia until now, does he understand Japanese?"

"A little from what the director of the orphanage had told us..."

"We will see that tomorrow. If he can't, he will be taught on top of that what it is planed." The man continued reading. "A rebel from what I can see! We will take him in hand!"

"Tokumaru-san" Yamada began. The man stared at the instructor and allowed him to continue. "I think we should change his room. Ikki is a rebel too, it will face problems..."

"It was the only free space. It's the last one anyway. They can tear each other apart if they want, it's not my business."

Yamada wanted to reply something but he shut his mouth to keep to himself what he had wanted to say. Tatsumi looked down on the boy who stared back at him.

"I'm Tokumaru Tatsumi. It's by me that all the Kido-sama's affairs and all the problems pass I have Kido-sama's trust. Henceforth, you will live with the other children until you will be sent to different training camps to become a Saint. Here you will get an education in every sense. I will know tomorrow your standard in our language. If it is not enough, on top of the usual tasks and your training for becoming a future Saint, you will have intensive Japanese lessons."

Hyoga did not reply. He continued staring expressionless the man who was speaking about training, about Saints. He did not understand.

"You have been adopted by Kido-sama as all the others, but this doesn't give you the right to do what you want. You are forbidden to come here without my permission. You are forbidden to escape. You mustn't talk back to me...Yamada continue!"

The man nodded and he turned to the child wondering if he would understand all.

"You must get up at six o' clock at the same time your roommates do. You must make your bed and you must clean your room with them. I will give you the sharing of the tasks, it alternates every week. If one of you is not present in the playground at half past six, all of your group will be punished. Then the training will begin. At eight o'clock, it is the breakfast time. Thirty minutes after, classes during four hours. Then lunch time. At three p.m. training or studies by alternation until seven o' clock. Then you are free until eight o'clock. Then lunch. After bedtime. The curfew is at half past nine."

Tatsumi nodded and he continued explaining all the things that the Russian should know. Hyoga suppressed a yawn. He was tired and he had more and more difficulty to stay awake and to follow the man's words. Everything became confused in his mind. He wanted to sleep.

"That's all" Tatsumi said a long moment after and he returned to his desk. "I will not allow you to make trouble here! Go now!"

The child stared at the man and Yamada pushed him outside. They walked to the house where the orphans were. Hyoga, each pace he made, made him wince in pain. He had stimulated his leg too much today and he had difficulty to follow the instructor. Determined to not show his pain, he kept an expressionless face. When they arrived inside the house, the child was near to sigh in relief. He followed the man in the corridors and he stopped in front of a door.

The blond child noticed there were four names near it. They were in kanji and he could not read them.

"I hope you have understood now. This is your room. There's your name" said Yamada showing the last of the four names. He opened the door and he pushed Hyoga inside. He switched on the lights and Hyoga blinked.

He noticed that his three other roommates were already in bed, but not sleeping. Yamada glared at them. "Hurry up and get changed! As for you, sleep! The curfew is already passed."

The blond child walked to his bed and he turned his back to his roommates. He searched in his bag for his things for the night, and especially his pajama. He put it on his bed and he put his bag on the floor near his bed. He took his T-shirt off and then his trousers. He felt the cross he was wearing moving on his stomach and he felt reassured as he felt his mother's presence near him. He passed his hand on the jewel slowly.

"Hayaku!" shouted Yamada drawing Hyoga out of his thoughts.

The boy did not have the strength to turn to him and to glare at him. He only complied and without turning to the other children, he slid in the bed, his head turned to the wall.

"And that I don't hear you!" warned the instructor after a last look around the room. He switched off the light and he closed the door. No one in the room moved or spoke. Then one of the children turned on his bed but said nothing.

Hyoga sighed. He closed his eyes but he did not find the sleep he wished. He was tired. He was ready to fall asleep in front of Tokumaru earlier. Why could he not find the sleep he needed so much. It was right that his wound on his right thigh was hurting him but it was not the only reason and he knew this. He was in a new environment and he knew nothing. Since his mother had died he had been near strangers, who did not understand him, who did not want to understand him and the hardest with him were the children. His apprehension to be near new ones and seemingly a rough one if what the last orphanage's director had said was true, was certainly the reason the sleep was flying away now.

He opened his eyes listening to the noise around him. He could hear the steady and regular breaths of his roommates. They were sleeping and they have not paid attention to him. He tried to think about what Tokumaru had said. 'Saints? To become a Saint? A Saint as the ones in the Bible? Mother had said that Saints are pure creatures and they live in the sky near God. Only the ones who had been kind and good in their life become Saints when they die... They're going to kill us?'

Hyoga rubbed his right leg. He was very puzzled. 'Training? What kind of training? What does this Foundation want? Why would I care about this since I'm going to escape soon, once my leg will be healed?! I will join you Mama! Wait for me!' He closed slowly his eyes and decided to forget about everything in order to welcome a refreshing sleep. He fell into a deep black hole, but he did not fight it.

A scream reached his ears. Then another one. Slowly, Hyoga opened his eyes and he heard another scream.

"Niisan!" shouted one of the boys in the room.

"Shun!" shouted an another at the other side of the bedroom.

Then someone switched on the lights. At the corner of his eyes, Hyoga saw a light brown haired boy turning to the other side.

"Shun!" There was a silence during which only sobs broke it. "Shun! Wake up! It's me! Wake up little bro. It's only a nightmare..."

"Niisan!" shouted Shun throwing himself into his brother's embrace. "Niisan! Niisan! Niisan" Shun did not stop repeating, despairingly hanging on his brother's neck.

"It's all right Shun. It was just a nightmare. Shh... everything is fine, now. I'm here. I will never leave you alone. Shhh, sleep now..." he murmured into his brother's ear.

"Don't leave me Niisan, don't, please!" pleaded Shun screaming.

"I will not leave you, Shun. Keep your shirt on..." he glanced at their roommate. "I'm going to sleep with you, Shun. Everything will be all right then." Saying this, the dark blue haired boy slid in the bed near the crying haired boy and took him in his arms. He glanced again to Kiochi

and nodded.

The child walked to Hyoga's bed and then to the door. He switched off the light and he returned to his bed. He slid inside with a sigh and he turned several times searching for his sleep.

Hyoga opened his eyes. He had closed them when Kiochi had come to the door. He focused on the dark wall in front of him. He still heard the muffled tears of the child. His head pressed deeper into his pillow so that he did not hear them. They were too painful. They seemed too painful to him as it mirrored his own grief. He closed his eyes. Slowly, not to disturb the others, he pressed his left hand on his left ear, hoping to hear silence.

But they were there, creeping into his mind. In fact, he had the feeling that the tears were in his mind, that it was his own mind that was crying. 'Stop!' screamed Hyoga's mind. He curled into a ball and his own tears flew out of his closed eyelids. He had suddenly difficulty to breathe and he noticed that he had held his breath unconsciously. He forced himself to open his eyes and to let his breath slowly. He felt and heard his blood in his head and he stopped pressing his hand on his ear. There was like a ringing and then his head lightened.

The tears had stopped and he sighed in relief. He pressed his hand on his heart that ached and he found the cross he was hiding under the shirt of his pajama. He closed his fingers on it. 'Mama....'

* * *

"Hyoga..." the woman asked staring down at the child who was looking at the opened frozen field and the sea covered with ice in front of him. The wind was blowing accentuating the biting cold, but the child and the woman were wearing warm coats and the taiga at their right and behind them, protected them from its violence.

"Yes Mama?" he demanded looking up at her. He liked to watch her. She was his world and all he loved. The sun setting down had darkened her blond hair and blue eyes, darker than his.

"Tomorrow, we will reach the harbor. You will at last see your father." Hyoga titled his head.

"Your father is someone very good and kind. He lives in Nihon. It's an island."

"Why must we go there, Mama?" he demanded.

"Because I want you to meet your father, my son..."

"Why doesn't he come here?"

"There you will be happy. And we will form a family..."

Hyoga turned his look to the ice plains. He liked his country but if his mother wanted to join this father he had never known, so he would, just to be with her. He could not understand the world of the grown-ups but he would do everything his mother would tell him. He felt a hand on his shoulder. He turned slightly and he saw his mother crouching near him. He turned completely to her.

The woman sighed and she took one of his hands. She opened it, the palm turned to the sky and then she put a golden cross in it. The necklace made in white pearls catching the rays of sun, followed slowly in. She closed his palm and she sat on an icy rock praying.

Hyoga stared at his mother and returned his look to the rosary and then to his mother.

She opened her eyes and she smiled at him. He looked again down puzzled. "It is yours, now, Hyoga. My mother had given it to me when I was the same age than you are now. She herself got it from her mother who got it from her mother..."

"But Mama" began the child, "it's your rosary..."

She shook her head slowly. "It is yours Hyoga. I don't need it anymore. My faith in God is strong enough so that I can still believe in God without the Northern Cross. I want God to look after you. You are so young."

Hyoga stared at the cross a long moment not understanding. His mother took the rosary and passed it above his head. The cross came beyond his navel.

"It is a bit longer, but it will be perfect when you will grow up. You are a Christian and there is not a lot of Christians in your father's country... Promise me to always keep it Hyoga."

"I will Mama." The woman kissed him on his right cheek and Hyoga smiled happy.

* * *

Hyoga tightened his grip on the cross. 'You were right Mama. There, there are not a lot of Christians... But you were wrong too. Father was already dead for a long time now...' He raised his head slowly when he heard the silence. The boy who was crying was now asleep. He eyed the two forms in the bed. 'They are lucky! They are brothers. They could put up with the pain of the other. They could confide their pain and fear to each other. They are together, they are not alone. Me I have nothing left. I've lost everything. My mother, my country, my identity. The only thing I still have is the last gift I have from Mama...' Tears ran silently on his cheeks and he did nothing to wipe them away. 'Mama! Why did you leave me alone? You have promised, you have promised...' He buried in the pillow crying until the sleep took him.

Shun looked down on the boy deeply asleep. He titled his head to one side curious and he blinked. He put the tip of his index finger in his mouth thoughtfully and he looked up to Kiochi staring at him. He returned his inquisitive look on the foreigner and he noticed the tracks of the tears on the pale cheeks of the boy. His heart sank. He approached his right hand to the boy's cheek before slightly changing the direction to the wild blond manes. But he stopped afraid. It was the first time that he saw such color of hair in his life. He had seen some people with blond hair on TV but never in reality.

The door opened and Ikki, the oldest of the three children came in. He saw Shun about to touch the foreigner and he frowned loudly. "Don't touch him!" warned the blue haired boy.

Shun turned to Ikki puzzled. "But Niisan..." he complained. "We must wake him up or he will be punished..."

"It's not our business" replied Ikki pulling Shun by the arm to him.

"But we will be punished too..." started Kiochi.

"Kurada had told him the rules!" He looked down on the sleeper frowning and walked out pulling Shun along with him. Kiochi followed him doubtfully but not wanting to experience Ikki's anger.

"Foreigners are trouble. Don't dare approach or speak to him, Shun!"

Shun bent his head wondering why Ikki was so hard with their new roommate. Ikki was hard, coarse and harsh with everyone but with him. He raised his head and he saw his brother's shoulder. He trusted him. His brother knew everything, but he could not help glancing back at the closed door.

They arrived in the playground where around sixty children were waiting, some yawing, others doing some stretching exercises, others chatting. Shun came nearer to his brother. He was still unease with all those children who always laughed at him. They were here for more than one year now, but he still did not have a friend. Some spoke with him but only when they were sure no one was seeing them. But he had not a real friend to talk with but his brother. Everyday, he thanked the kami to have a brother like Ikki, protecting him.

They all stopped talking when five instructors came. They looked around them and they nodded to Yamada. All the children split into five groups and joined their respective instructors. Then the four of the five groups took different directions. Only one was staying in the middle of the playground. The instructor was looking at them. He counted them in his mind and he narrowed his eyes. He counted once more and his face became furious. He inspected the group again. There was someone missing. Yamada had said to him earlier that he would have a new pupil, but he was not here seemingly.

The instructor looked around for Ikki and when he found him he shouted. "Where is your new roommate? Hyoga, is that?!"

"Still in bed."

"Nani!" barked the instructor. "If my information is right, he is under your responsibility!"

"He knows the rules!" was brewing Ikki meaning that he did not want to baby-sit a gaijin.

"That you like this or not, you're the oldest" Yamada shouted. "You know what will happen to the three of you..."

"I'm not responsible...."

"Go and search for the lazy one!" ordered Yamada. "As for you Ikki, we'll discuss this later!" He turned to the instructor. "Start without him! He will make up for the waste of time. Don't hesitate to be hard on the new one. It's a real rebel."

The instructor nodded and he barked his orders. The children began running around under the hard look of the man.

"Niisan..." pleaded Shun in a whisper.

"Daijobu Shun. He will do nothing to me..." He gave him a ghost smile and he concentrated on the training.

Hyoga was dreaming that he was running into the frozen plains of Siberia like before. He was laughing and he turned to his right. "Mama!" he shouted happily. But suddenly the ice cracked under his feet and...

"Wake up!" shouted someone near his ears and pulling him out of the bed. Hyoga felt the cold floor under him but he did not stir. He curled more into a ball. "WAKE UP!" the man shouted with strength.

Hyoga blinked and he opened one eyelid. He saw a black form in front of him. Then he could manage to see a man wearing black clothes. The child moaned and he sat up rubbing his eyes.

"You're late!" said the man pulling him on his feet. Hurry up!"

Hyoga looked up to him innocently and glanced around him. He remembered. He was in the Graad Foundation and from what Yamada had told him yesterday he should wake up at six to bei at half past six in the playground. He saw that there was no one in the room. And, if the man was here, it was certainly because he was late.

The blond child stood up and he rubbed again his eyes which wanted to close themselves. He wanted so much to find again the softness of the sleep. He stretched and he disturbed his hair.

"You will hang around a long time?" asked the man in a dangerous tone. Hyoga was about to go to the bathroom but the man stopped him. "You haven't time to take a shower. Get dressed and make your bed! I will come to pick you up in five minutes!" The man walked out and Hyoga hurried in complying but after he had gone to the bathroom.

He was just finishing his bed when the man came back and dragged him along the corridors. They, then walked to the playground, crossing from time to time a child running. They stopped in front of a man. Hyoga looked up and saw another Japanese man with a cold look. The man was studying him and he turned his look to a paper. "Hyoga?" he asked staring to the boy. He was sure that the new one was Japanese, but he was wrong, well the name had misled him.

"Does he speak Japanese?" asked the instructor while he glanced at Ikki and Shun passing him. He caught sight of Ikki turning to them. He glared at him and he turned his attention to Yamada.

"From what the director of the orphanage he was in said, he understands a little. But Tokumaru-san will check his level later. Anyway he does not need to understand to do what we want him to, so what is the problem?"

"I was just surprised by his name. Which country is he from?"

"Russia..." Yamada stared at Hyoga. "We will have a little talk together later!" he said firmly. "So now the training can begin?"

The instructor nodded. "Run around the path twenty laps for beginning." Hyoga stayed at the same place. "Run!!" he shouted pushing him.

Hyoga reluctantly began to run. The first round was all right, then he began to feel tired. At the end of the fourth lap, he had the sudden urge to stop and to take some rest a moment. His leg began to make him suffer and he rubbed it often. The more time passed, the more Hyoga was rubbing it. At the sixth lap, he was breathless and he was limping. The instructor glared at him, shouting for him to continue and to stop putting on an act.

Three rounds after, Hyoga's side hurt him and he dragged more and more his right leg. He was not running anymore. It was like he was walking very fast but, he had the feeling to have more difficulty to pick up with the pace.

Two rounds after, the child was exhausted but stubbornly he continued limping. His head was spinning and he fell on the ground. Few children passed near him and they laughed at him.

"Eh! The new one!! Are you a wimp?"

"I did not know that a Gaijin was so frail!"

"Poor little blond doll!"

"Even the cry-baby Shun is more tough than you!"

Tears of humiliation filled his blue eyes and he slowly stood up. His leg was aching like hell, but he was now determined to show them that the Russian were more tough and better than them. A hard expression on his face, he shot off hobbling, trying not to show his pain.

Later, Hyoga saw that there was less people on the running path and when he arrived near the instructor, he saw some children doing stretching exercises and limber up while others were continuing running. Seemingly the ones who had done the twenty laps were doing other things. He tried to count his laps but he had forgotten them and he was sure that as long as the instructor did not tell him to stop, he had not done them.

Then, finally, Hyoga found himself alone on the track and every movement he did, his leg threatened to not hold him anymore. He continued running. Then all was silence. He had lost the time notion, the external noises did not reach his ears and only the sounds of his heart beating too fast, his blood circulating in his veins and his breathing clearly reached them. The sensations of his body were completely different. He felt nothing. Even the pains had vanished. He was looking at the things without seeing them, he continued running mechanically.

The pain in his leg became stronger. This made him come out of his torpor, but with it all the sensations he had tried to not feel and to forget. He concentrated on scenery. A landscape dominated by the ice, where only reindeers, polar bears and silvered and blue foxes were reigning on this harsh country. He had the feeling to feel the cold wild wind against his skin, to sense it, to feel the coldness. He had the feeling to hear the cracking sound of the ice. He had the feeling to hear the hammering of the hooves of the reindeers galloping into the white expanse. He had the feeling to hear the swans uttering above him flying off in a flurry of wings in the sky dominated by the red colors of the pale sun setting in a golden sea strewn with icebergs. He had the feeling to...

"HYOGA!!!" shouted someone behind him.

...see his mother smiling to him...

"HYOGA!! STOP!!"

He ran to her....

"HYOGA! ARE YOU LISTENING??"

She sank in the icy sea...

"STOP! HYOGA!"

His legs gave away and he fell in a black hole. "Mama!" he said in a whisper. He had the feeling to turn and to hunt the sensation that oppressed him, he slowly opened his eyes. "What happened?" he murmured when he saw the instructor staring down at him.

"He's all right" said Yamada.

Hyoga turned his head to him and he noticed that he was lying on the ground. He slowly tried to sit up and then he stood up. His right leg gave away and he fell on his knee. He looked up around him and he saw the instructor taking his arm and pulling him on his feet.

"The next time listen to us when we say to you to stop! You have done your twenty laps. The training is not finished, so you must get used to it." Hyoga swallowed. He was thirsty. "You will drink" said the man noticing this and dragging him along to the gymnasium where the others were already doing different movements. The instructor gave him a bottle of water that Hyoga drank quickly.

The man looked around him and then he nodded to himself. He pulled the child behind him and he placed him in front of the punching ball.

"This is your training today. Show me how you fight!" Hyoga looked up to him questioning. The man sighed. "Taro!" he shouted "Come here and show him!"

A boy a bit older than Hyoga with black haired approached and nodded. Then he punched the bag full of sand and he kicked it.

The man stopped him and he dismissed the boy who returned to his previous activity, doing some push ups.

"It's your turn, now." Hyoga turned to the motionless bag and he began to fight against it.

"Harder!" shouted the man. Hyoga bit the inside of his lips and he punched harder; he kicked harder trying to not feel the pain crossing his right leg and then his all body.

Time ran slowly for Hyoga. It seemed that it were hours he was there punching, kicking the punching ball. Punching, kicking. Punching, kicking, punching, kicking. Then all went silent. The children went away and Hyoga stayed at the same place lost, breathing hard and sweating.

Yamada approached him. "Before you go and take a shower we have to talk." Hyoga tiredly looked up and waited. "What did Tokumaru-san and I say to you yesterday? You should have been on time this morning! Today I will forget all about this lateness. I put it down that you are new and that the journey has tired you! But don't let it happen again! Understand?"

Hyoga just stared at him and replied nothing. He shifted on his leg, trying to keep his balance, while his right leg was trembling.

"The showers are this way. Hurry up! I will go and bring you some clothes, you surely haven't a lot of them. The clothes you are actually wearing will be for your training." Yamada left the gymnasium and Hyoga walked to the place, the man had showed him earlier. He crossed few children walking out.

The blond child looked around him and he saw that the last ones were finishing taking their shower. He sat on a bench and he sighed in relief more than happy to take a little rest. He slowly shook his head. He was ready to fall asleep. He took off his clothes and he went to the shower. He let the warm water run on his body, relaxing him. His bandaged thigh relaxed and he sighed with pleasure. At least, he rubbed his body in order to ease his tired muscles.

"You haven't finished!" shouted Yamada stepping in. "You have already been late for the first training. It's not the moment to be late for breakfast! Hurry up!" he glanced to the child and he narrowed his eyes when he saw the right thigh bandaged. "What's that?" he asked approaching the child and touching the white fabric.

Hyoga winced in pain and he tried to put his leg out of the reach of the instructor. But the man made him sit and he took off the bandage. Hyoga let him do and in the same time the man he looked at his wound. It was blue around the fangs' prints that the dog had left in his skin. The wound was not totally healed, but it was already and on few, some scabs were already dried.

"Where did you get this wound?" the instructor asked in a neutral voice. "You don't want to answer or you can't answer?" The man groaned and he came to a closet. He took some bandages and he wrapped them around the thigh. "Why haven't you told me you were wounded?" he demanded remembering Hyoga limping last night and during the training. "We could have gone without your fainting fit this morning!" he shouted finishing tying the bandage. "Now get dressed and quickly!"

Hyoga complied and walked limping to the refectory. The others were already eating and he went as yesterday night to his table under the children's looks. He heard some chuckles, but he did not turn to look at who were laughing at him. He sat on his chair and he began to eat. He did not try to strike up a conversation with his roommates.

Shun stared at the stranger and tried to give him a shy smile but his brother frowned and the green haired child bent his head, devoting himself to his meal. But when he was sure that Ikki was not looking at him, he was eyeing the foreigner hoping to get a recognition from him, but it did not come and Shun gave up, sad. The breakfast finished in silence and everyone stood up. They went out after they had stacked the plates up. Hyoga stayed at the same place, not knowing what he had to do.

Yamada came behind him and pushed him outside the room. "There is class now. From what Tokumaru had seen in your file you have seven years old, so you will be in the oldest class for today." He took out of the pocket of his trousers a paper that he held out to Hyoga. "Here, there's the sharing of the tasks and the alternation."

Hyoga stared at the paper and then put it in the pocket of his black trousers. Still limping, he walked through the corridors. He suddenly stopped when Yamada knocked on a door and opened it. He took his arm and pushed him inside the room.

"Matsumoto-san, this is your new pupil, Hyoga. He is late because he must know a lot from what he should do."

"Tokumaru-san had warned me that I would have a new pupil" he said looking down to the blond child.

"So I have nothing to add" said Yamada turning on his heels and leaving the room before the teacher asked him something.

Hyoga turned his expressionless eyes to the children in front of him who were staring at him oddly. He saw around twenty children, maybe more. He withstood their look and he hardened his own wanting to show them that he was strong and not a wimp as some had said this morning.

"Hyoga" called the teacher, "your place is there!" he said showing the third place in the row which was the nearest of the wall where the door was. "The books and your things are already in the desk." Hyoga looked up at him puzzled and Matsumoto frowned. "Do you understand? Hurry up! Go to your seat!"

"It's a Gaijin!" shouted someone.

"He certainly doesn't understand!" said an another smirking.

"SILENCE!" He pushed Hyoga to the free desk and he turned to the blackboard. "Take your book and open it at the page thirty two. Iroshi, read as you seem to like speaking this morning."

He glanced at Hyoga who had sat and he saw him eyeing around him to know which book he should take. Matsumoto sighed in his mind. It would be a long morning.

Hyoga watched the hiragana and the kanji. He knew few of them due to the lessons he had gotten in the previous orphanages. But he knew that it was not enough to read. He recognized some of them and he sighed. So, he followed what the others were reading out loud. He was borrowing. He glanced around him and he saw at the fifth seat of the row near his own, one of his roommate, Ikki, the oldest. 'So if I'm in the same classroom so he is not a lot older than me!'

The reading went on, and Hyoga had more and more difficulty to hide his yawns. He wanted to sleep. The training had tired him and his thigh was sore. He rubbed it discreetly. His eyes closed slowly.

"Hyoga!" shouted the teacher. "It's your turn!" The blond haired child blinked and looked up puzzled. "Read!" Hyoga took his book and tried to make out the kanji and the hiragana he saw.

"Stand up when you read." The child obeyed. He looked down on the book, then to the teacher and then to the book.

"So?" groaned Matsumoto. Hyoga swallowed and he said nothing. "What are you waiting for?" he shouted near the boy's ear.

Hyoga felt his anger building in his vein. He could not read. He did not know this writing. Those men did everything to humiliate him. He heard some pupils chuckling before laughing. The blond child gritted his teeth. His cheeks began to redden and Hyoga did not know if it was because of the shame or because of the anger. Maybe it was both reasons. He would not stand this any longer. He was ready to shout in Russian to the teacher, to throw the book in Matsumoto's face and to leave the class, not without throwing a black look to the others.

"Sit down!" ordered Matsumoto. "We'll see that later. Tokumaru-san had asked me to assess your level in Japanese language, seemingly you have to learn everything." He turned to a black haired boy. "Maru! It's your turn!"

Fifteen minutes after, the reading time finished and the teacher gave them some test papers. "You have one hour to finish them. I don't want to hear a noise" he said putting papers on Hyoga's desk and looking down to him. He finished his distribution. "You can begin" he allowed them.

Hyoga did not even take the trouble to pick up a pen. He could not read and write this language, so it was useless to try. So, he stayed still, looking at the back of the child ahead of him.

The teacher stared hard at the blond child. 'He shouldn't be there. They are all Japanese, but this child. He is a foreigner who knows practically nothing. How did the Graad Foundation adopt him and why?' He did not know the answer and he did not try to find one. It was their problem. He was just there for teaching rudiments to those children who would be sent away around the world. He walked up and down the room a moment and he returned to his desk.

"I have to go out few minutes. I don't want to hear a noise, understand?" After a last look, he walked away.

The children replied nothing and they waited. One of the children sitting near the door, opened it ajar and looked out. He saw no one and he closed it raising his thumb in the air. As it was a signal, everyone turned to the golden haired boy.

"Hey! The gaijin!" shouted someone.

"What are you doing here? You should have stayed in your country!"

Hyoga ignored them and did not move.

"So you don't know how to run?"

"You don't know how to box?"

"You don't know how to read? What are you able to do?"

Hyoga clenched his fists but he replied nothing. He knew it would be hard there, as it had been in the three previous orphanages. But here, he had immediately understood that only rivalry advocated. The feelings like love, friendship, the mutual help were practically nonexistent. The words of the instructor of the last orphanage echoed in his mind once more.

"Maybe he's unable to speak! Eh Ikki!" shouted someone, "has he said something?"

"Yes, you're his roommate, you must know!"

"I have nothing to do with Gaijin!" replied the dark blue haired boy.

"Oh come on! You must know!"

"I don't want to have something to do with him, that he is dumb or not!"

Hyoga continued staring at a point in front of him. If they thought he was dumb, so much the better. At least, his roommate had been clear. He would never have help from him. 'Anyway, I won't stay long here!' He felt something hitting his head. He looked down and he saw an eraser. He did not turn to know who had thrown it.

"Hey! Gaijin! Give me back my eraser!" shouted someone. Hyoga did not move.

"Hey! Kuma had asked you something" said the child behind him. Hyoga did not reply. "Hey!" continued the boy pushing him. "Pick up the eraser!"

Hyoga narrowed his eyes angrily. If this 'Kuma' wanted his eraser, he had to come and pick it. He would not do it because this boy had wanted to make him react to have fun. He bit his tongue not to speak or replysomething.

"Are you going to pick it up? Yes or no wimp?"

"What is happening there?" shouted Matsumoto coming in. Everyone bent on the test papers. The teacher made his hard look travel on the pupils and then they rested on Hyoga.

"Hyoga! Come here!" The child just looked up and he saw a man behind the teacher. "Have you heard?"

"Hyoga. Mr. Matsumoto is saying for you to come near him. You will go with me" said the strange man in Russian.

The boy opened his eyes wide when he heard this man speaking in his language and he turned to Matsumoto who gestured for him to go with the man. He stood up and he joined the man. They left the room and then they walked through the corridors.

'Who is he? He seems Japanese and he speaks my language. Why is he here? To keep me back in Russia? If only it is for that. Oh God, please, make him take me back toRussia!'

They saw Yamada at the door of a room and the man stopped. Hyoga did so and he looked around him puzzled. "There you will be fine, Yoshida-san" he said opening the door and allowing the entry. He then closed the door and Hyoga heard him walking away.

The blond child turned to the man puzzled but said nothing. He knew that this man could speak in Russian so he waited for him to make the first move.

"Sit down" said the man. Hyoga obeyed and sat at the only desk in the room. "My name is Yoshida. Since of now I will be your teacher."

"My teacher?"

"Your teacher in Japanese" said the man in Japanese without warning. He saw disappointment crossing the child's eyes. "What is the matter?" he still asked in Japanese.

"Where have you learned Russian?" inquired the boy.

"My father was Russian. Is that all you want to know?"

"Why are you my teacher?"

"Because, according to Matsumoto-san you have real gaps in Japanese. Tokumaru-san had asked me to come yesterday." Hyoga frowned. This man was speaking in Japanese instead of in Russian. "You don't seem to be happy..." noticed the man walking to the window. Hyoga replied nothing. "Come on! I know very well that your level in Japanese is correct" he replied looking into the windowpane to the child's reflection.

Hyoga clenched his fists and he glared at the man who turned to him. The child saw Yoshida's blue eyes studying him quietly.

"You can play this little game with them if you want, but with me it won't work. And do you know why?" The child only stared at him. "Because I have done the same thing. But what they can't see are the lights in your eyes meaning you have understood what they have said to you. All the things you would do for keeping your secret won't work a long time, Hyoga. It's useless to continue playing this trivial game." The man approached the child. "But I recognize that sometimes, it's interesting, is not it? Putting the others into trouble, or to have time to do the right thing, or to give the right answer are interesting, no?"

Hyoga did not reply and he chewed the inside of his mouth wondering what he should think about this man. He had seen through him so easily.

"But don't count on me to speak to you in Russian. I will speak in your language only if you need some explanations." He stopped near the child and bent down. "You have actually understood all what I have said since I have begun, isn't that true?"

"If you think you are so good, so you know" said calmly the boy without hesitation, plunging his eyes into the blue ones of Yoshida.

"The little polar bear bares its fangs. So, I was right. Seemingly you understand what you are told, or when you don't understand all the words, you understand the concept. You are far from stupid, I must admit it."

"Russians are not stupid! You should know this you too as you are half-Russian and half-Japanese, as me!" shouted the boy angry.

"Touchy. You are really hotheaded. After all, the little exercise that you forced yourself to do, doesn't do any harm to you. On contrary, it would make it possible for you to learn the patience and to have self-control on your reactions. It's a positive point." Hyoga pouted and turned his head. For him this man was worst than the others. The man chuckled. "I know that it is difficult for you to be there" he said in Russian. "Japanese don't't like foreigners. Your blond hair is like your yellow star, there. I am luckier than you are, I have inherited more of my mother's features than you from your father's ones. Your father was Japanese no?"

Hyoga did not reply and he turned to see the black haired man standing in front of him. He was right when he said that he was lucky. He looked like the Japanese people, only his blue eyes betrayed his origins. 'If they betray him' he thought bitterly thinking about the green eyes he had seen on a green haired child. 'But I prefer to look like a Russian, like Mama and not like this father I've never known and don't want to know!'

"So, I'm now certain that you understand Japanese. What about the reading and the writing?" He put in front of the boy a book and then a notebook with a pen. He opened the book and he pointed his index finger to a paragraph. "Read it" he said, settling down near the child to see what he was reading.

Hyoga swallowed and he stared at the book. "I am waiting Hyoga. You are maybe stubborn, but I bet that I am more stubborn than you are. So if you want to play this game, we will be two. Read, now." Yoshida waited and Hyoga bent his head. He did not want to say to this man that he did not know Japanese writing, that he was not able to read.

"You can't" asked the man studing the boy. Hyoga barely nodded. "I see. You don't want to admit your gaps. You know, being able to admit your weakness is a proof of courage."

"I know my gaps, but I don't want to tell you them."

"Ok. As you want. So just tell what you know." Hyoga sighed and began to enumerate the katakana and the Hiragana he knew as the dozen kanji. Yoshida nodded and he began to help Hyoga to learn the writing.

They were working when Tokumaru-san knocked and opened the door without waiting for the answer. "So what is his level?" he demanded glaring to the blond child.

Yoshida stood up and walked to the hired-man of Kido Mitsumasa. "It depends on few things" he replied.

"Does he understand what we say to him?"

"He is smart. He does. He has no problems at this level." He ignored Hyoga's black look. "He is able to speak Japanese, with some grammatical errors, but with time he will correct them. The problem is that he is stubborn and refuses to speak in Japanese."

"And?"

"his gaps are in the writing level and also in the reading level. So I'm teaching him the writing. But if he had nothing to write during the lesson, he can easily be in a class."

"All right. So while, the others will have free time after the meal, he will learn our writings." With that Tokumaru-san left.

"If you want to have free time, I advise you to learn quickly. We will work together until lunch and then after for today. Write me what you have learnt since we have begun."

"Why it is so important for me to learn Japanese? I want to return to Russia."

"You have been chosen to become a Saint. Kido-sama is the originator of this project and he is Japanese. So it is natural that you learn this language. And moreover, your father was Japanese. Having two cultures is very gratifying. Now do what I have asked you."

"It's stupid" mumbled Hyoga.

"Don't forget I know Russian. If your companions and the instructors don't know your language, I do. So don't try to insult me." He slapped his head slightly and he handed a book to the blond child.

"Here, it's for you, a dictionary in Japanese and Russian. It would help you a lot."

Hyoga pouted but he took the book and he put it aside. He looked up at the man and he drew the different hiragana on his paper hoping he would soon succeed in escaping from this Foundation for returning into the frozen plains he liked so much. 'I swear I will return, near Mama, even if it take all my life for fulfilling my wish!'

Hyoga went into the woods adjacent to the Kido's property. He liked going into those woods. He had not gone far into because he had not a long time in front of him, but he had already seen a spot that he liked very much. A little secluded clearing he had discovered four days ago, and since he had come there, he had seen no one in. This place was safe for him, it was his place, his place of peace.

Today, he had not taken the short way. He had wanted to walk a little through the woods for hearing the birds and for calming his rage. The training, the lessons were exhausting especially as Tatsumi and the instructors asked him a lot, more than the others as for compensating his difference, his origin. Sometimes he dreaded Tatsumi's arrival who came to see how the training went and Hyoga had the bad feeling that the bald man was always tracking down the lest error and the least lapse he could do.

He heard noise not far. It was not a noise of an animal, he was sure of it. It was a regular sound. Curious, he approached it. As far as he approached it, he heard it louder and he could also heard cries of rage, of someone putting his energy in what he was doing. He lowered his eyebrows surprised. 'Who in the world, would be enough crazy to continue training after what they suffered.'

He stopped dead in his tracks when he saw a boy punching with strength a trunk. Near him was a boy looking at him in the same time admiring and skeptical. Hyoga recognized two of his roommates, the oldest Ikki and the youngest, Shun.

He stared at Ikki still punching the tree, relentlessly and the sweat was flowing on his cheeks. The regular and dull sound of the fists against the trunk was monotonous and insistent and the shouts of the dark blue haired boy were cutting it as a blade did with a paper.

Fascinated, Hyoga kept looking. He understood now why Ikki was so strong and he understood the reason. His frail young brother needed all the protection from his older brother. 'How a frail boy like Shun can survive there?' he thought. 'Maybe for being with his brother! He has luck to have someone on who he can count.' Then the sound stopped and Hyoga returned his attention to the two brothers.

Ikki had turned to Shun. "It's your turn, Shun" he said.

The boy nodded after a moment of hesitation. He came in front of the trunk and he stared at it a long moment. He swallowed and he glanced at his brother. Ikki nodded to him, his arms crossed, showing him to go. Shun blinked and returned his attention to the tree. Then he threw his fist against the trunk. He did not move his fist from the bark and he bent his head, crying.

"No I can't. I can't Niisan. It hurts too much. I don't want to fight."

Ikki put his hands on his brother's shoulders and made him tun to him. Shun was crying and he trying to wipe the tears away. "Listen, Shun, we're orphans, we haven't any parents or relatives, we are alone. If you want to live here and if you want to become a man you must learn how to fight."

"But what this will further us Niisan?" said Shun sniffing.

"To become strong, very strong. Like this, we will live the life we want."

"But me I don't want to fight Niisan..." Shun saw the hurt in his brother's eyes. "Sorry..."

"You don't trust me Shun?"

"Yes of course, but..."

Ikki with the index finger of his right hand brushed his brother's right cheek as a light caress and collected on the tip of his forefinger a tear that had just flown out of his eye. He held his finger and he moved it in front of Shun as he said no or as he was agitating his index finger for warning him. Ikki gave him a true smile and the lightly shaken off the tear that became in tiny droplets in which the rays of the sun passed through making them iridescent.

Shun smiled brightly to his brother. "I will do everything so that you will be proud of me, Niisan. I promise you to try to become strong."

"It's a wise decision, Shun..."

Hyoga moved back. He should not have witnessed this scene between the two brothers. He had involuntarily jumped into a private conversation that was not his. When he was sure that they could not hear him, he rushed to his place. 'At least they are together. They can support each other and they will never be alone... Mama...'

The blond child looked through the window and he stared at the blue sky crossing by some light cirrus. He then looked outside. There was no one. They were certainly training or studying. He let his book and his papers on the table and he walked slowly to the door. He opened it a crack and he glanced in the corridor. It was safe, so he squeezed through the narrow opening and he closed carefully and noiselessly the door. He headed stealthily for the entrance and there he stopped and looked outside. No one. He walked out.

Hyoga looked around him. There was no one in sight. He glanced again around and he crossed the field. His last attempt of escapes from the orphanages had taught him to not run away without caution and without his things, but if he returned now in his room he could be caught or seen.

Since he had arrived there, he had planed to run away and to reach the nearest harbor. He wanted to get illegally on a ship bound for Russia. It was the opportunity today. He had been obedient since he had arrived for not arousing suspicion. While the others were either training or studying, he was alone for doing Japanese exercises that the teacher had given him. He would be certainly alone for one hour or two before he had to join the others. It was enough to get out of the Kido's property and for putting distance between it and him.

He hid behind a tree and he looked around him. He was still alone and there was no one at the gate. It was his chance. He rushed out of the property and he turned to his right. He did not know which direction was the harbor, but the most important thing for him was to put as much distance as he could between this prison and him.

The director of the last orphanage was right. There, the Graad Foundation could bring the most stubborn and the most awful children into line. The training they got and put up with and suffer were on the verge of the human respect and unbearable. The strongest could barely stand them, the weakest like Shun could not. 'No wondering why he has so much nightmares!' thought bitterly Hyoga running. 'Myself I have difficulty to stand it, especially with my wounded leg...'

He ran along the Kido's property a very long moment. It was big. The orphans were not allowed to go in some part of the property and especially in the house, the castle, as he had heard Omaru to Kiochi, or outside the property. They could go in the woods if they wanted for doing what they wanted or to be alone, but they ought to come back in time if they did not want to be punished.

Hyoga continued running, then he saw buildings around him and he knew he was not near the Kido's property. He slowed down his run for not attracting the attention of the passer-by he passed time to time. He decided to continue walking a long moment before asking where the harbor was.

Free, Hyoga looked around him surprised by the noise, the height of the buildings, by the crowd. He was not used by what he was just seeing. He had been brought up in a little village in Siberia and he had always been in orphanages outside of the town. Tokyo was the capital of Japan, he knew this, so that meant for him it was big, but he had not expected so big for a seven years old child. When he had come there, he had not paid attention to the landscape when he had crossed the city in the car.

After a long moment he turned to his left and he saw a woman walking to his direction, holding a little girl's hand. "Sumimasen Mrs." asked Hyoga hesitantly. The woman stopped and looked down on him.

"Do you know where is the harbor?"

"The harbor?" demanded the woman.

The blond child nodded trying to conceal the pain that ached in his heart when he saw the girl tightening her mother's hand. 'Mama!'

"Well... You're not in the right direction. The sea is this side" she said showing him the East. "Are you lost?" Hyoga nodded with his chin. "You should go in a police office. Someone there will help you. Do you want me to take you to the nearest police office?"

"No, no, that's all right Mrs." he replied quickly. "Arigatoo" he said rushing to the direction the woman had pointed earlier. 'The police! They would send me in the Kido's prison again! Everything but this!'

He walked, he walked asking his way time to time. He was looking around him and above him. The giddy height of the buildings suffocated him. He was used of the open fields. He sighed and he stopped. He sat on a bench tired and he rubbed his right thigh. It was sore. He closed his eyes appreciating the stop he had allowed himself. He had not thought that the sea and the harbor would be so far.

He stayed a long moment sitting, looking at the people attending to their business. When he caught his breath, he set off again.

Suddenly someone grabbed him by his neck and lifted him from the ground. Hyoga's eyes widened and he tried to turn his head for seeing who was behind him. But because of the strength of the grip, he could not. "Where do you think you're going?" asked a cold voice.

"Let go of me!" he shouted. "I say you to leave me alone! Leave me alone! I don't want to return there!" But the man did not listen to him and he simply turned walking to the big car parked not faraway. Hyoga put up a struggle but the grip was too strong. "Let go of me!" he shouted.

The man threw him inside the car and he sat inside. Hyoga jumped and tried to get out of the vehicle but a firm hand took his left arm and made him sit down. "Leave me alone!" he shouted trying to free himself from the man's grip.

"The little walk is finished" the man voiced. "Now you must come back" said the tallest at his right. The car pulled away and Hyoga threw lights of anger to the two watchdogs of the Kido.

"I don't want to return there! It's inhuman!"

"For your information, chibi" said the man at his left, "you should speak Japanese and not in Russian."

"I will speak my language if I want and not your babarian's one! You are only torturers!" hurled the blond boy.

"You should follow my advice. Tokumaru-san is angry against you..."

Hyoga wanted to reply something else but he shut his mouth and he looked ahead of him, champing at the bit. 'One day I will do as I wish. My behavior will not be imposed by someone!'

The come back was quick, too quick for Hyoga. The car pulled up in front of the few steps taking him to the mansion. The boy still looked ahead of him and did not even pretend to move. The two men got out of the vehicle and waited. Hyoga did not move. He crossed his arms in front of his chest and glared at no one. The two men wearing black clothes glanced at each other and the one who had sat at his right took his arm and pulled him outside the door.

Hyoga tried to resist and he tried to kick the man, who dodged it. He pulled him out with strength and Hyoga fell to the ground. He stood up slowly while the man, he had seen the first time he arrived, came out. He looked down on the boy. "You have found him rapidly. Tokumaru-san is furious..."

The two men nodded and they pushed the boy inside the house. It was the second time he came in. He was led to the room where Tatsumi sorted out the Foundation's internal and external affairs. One of the men opened the door after he had heard they were allowed to come in with a growl. The other pushed the boy inside.

Tatsumi who was pacing up and down stopped immediately when he caught sight of Hyoga.

The blond child looked up but he did not look away from the bald and furious man who was in front of him. He kept an inscrutable face on which no emotion showed.

Tatsumi gave him a black look and without warning he slapped the boy with strength.

The child felt the blow and he stepped back under the strength. He was tempted to put his hand on his cheek, but he forced himself, by biting his tongue, not to show his pain. He balled his fists angrily. He felt his cheek turning red and burning, but he did not mind and he continued to stare at the man.

Tatsumi's eyes narrowed. He smacked the child again. "I order you to lower your eyes!!"

Hyoga did not comply. He got an another slap, then an another, then an another. "Look down!" A new slap rang.

Hyoga's look hardened. "You haven't the right! Let me return to my country! I hate Japan! I hate the Japanese!"

"Speak in the Japanese language!" shouted Tatsumi taking the child's arm and shaking him roughly. "Kido-sama has not adopted you so that you could run away at the first occasion after few days! You should know now that here is your home! You have luck to have been taken out of the orphanage where you were! You now get a reasonable education, the least you should do is to show your gratitude to Kido-sama!"

"Grateful?! Don't make me laugh! This old man is a torturer with no heart like everyone else here! Adopted? We're only slaves! We must train and for what? For becoming Saints? Saints don't exist! They only exist in this old madman's dreams!"

"Stupid Russian!" Hyoga got a slap on his right cheek and a blow on his nose. Blood flew out of his nasal appendage but the child did not make a gesture to wipe it. "I can tell you that I'm going to get you out of the habits of speaking in Russian!"

"What is happening here?" shouted a voice at the door.

Tatsumi stopped his hand which was half-way to slap the blond boy again. He looked at the door and mumbled. "Kido-sama" he said bowing in front him.

"What is happening here?" demanded the old man looking at the child.

"He had tried to go away, Kido-sama. I was just trying to teach him the rules, but barbarians are slow to understand."

"That's enough Tatsumi! His face is covered with blood! Find him another punishment." He looked down on Hyoga without kindness. "I wish that this will not happen again, Tatsumi! I want you to reinforce the security."

"Hai, Kido-sama."

The old man walked away. There was a silence. The child had not turned to the old man. He was still glaring at Tatsumi, challenging and defying him. The man looked down on him furious.

"You will not cope that easily Russian!" He took the child by the arm and pulled him behind him. "You will not get off so lightly!!" He came out of the room followed by the two men who had caught Hyoga in the streets. "I know a place where you will think as long as you will about what you have done! You will regret having been so insolent and brazen!" he tightened his grip on the child's arm who winced in pain. He pulled him along him in the courtyard and then to the house where the children were.

The boy crossed the playground pulled by Tatsumi. Bruises were covering his face. Hyoga was aware of the stare of the other children when they passed them. He could also hear the whispers. Tatsumi stopped and turned to the other orphans. "This will teach you a lesson!!" He took the blond boy by his neck and showed him to the children. "He had been stupid to break the rules and to run away. You must do what we told you or you will be subjected to the same fate as him if you try to escape!!"

Hyoga tried to keep his eyes open but he had difficulty. He knew that Tatsumi had not finished with him. He raised his head and he gave a quick glimpse ahead of him. His eyes opened wider when he saw his younger roommate staring at him, tears in his green eyes. 'Shun...' his mind whispered, surprised to see someone sympathizing to his pain. The child came closer to his brother afraid, searching for his protection. Hyoga winced when Tatsumi tightened his grip around his neck taking him to the place that he had heard the others speaking about. The cell of meditation as they called it. For only one second, his look crossed Shun's and he closed his eyes, resigned.

Tatsumi opened the heavy door and threw him inside. Hyoga fell heavily to the ground and the cold concrete hurt his head. He moaned. He felt a hand taking his neck again and lifting him.

"You have dared to humiliate me in front of Kido-sama, believe it, you will regret it! Hold him!" shouted Tatsumi.

Two hands took the boy's arms and clasped them. Hyoga opened his right eye trying to see what was about to happen. Tatsumi freed his neck and walked to a corner. He took a shinai and he approached dangerously the blond child.

Hyoga understood what would happen. He shifted to free himself from those hands but he could not. A first blow hit his right shoulder, then the second his left arm. The blows rained down. After five blows of shinai, the man freed him and Hyoga, a blood trickle flowing out of his mouth, collapsed face downward, unable to scream or unable to plead for release. He felt other blows on his back, then nothing. "Let that be a lesson to you gaijin!" said Tatsumi before walking away. Like in a dream, Hyoga heard the door. 'Ma...' he lost conscious.

Hyoga moaned slightly when he regained conscious. He was alone and a shiver ran down his spine. He looked around him. It was dark and only a ray of moon was lightening the room. It was quite large compared with the others he had spent in. He sat on the ground and he winced in pain. He had forgotten his wounds. He looked at his arms and he saw bruises everywhere turning into dark spots more visible on his pale skin. Admittedly, his skin was not as pale as a pure Russian or Westerner due to his Japanese inheritance, but it was paler than most of the other children there.

He tried to get up but he gave up when he could not. He wondered how he was still alive after what Tatsumi had subjected him. Something bothered him near his swollen lips. He could not move them, so he passed his hand on it. He felt on them dried blood. He scanned slowly the room and he crawled toward the jug. Clumsy, he drank and then he sorted out to clean his wounds. As soon he had finished he fell into darkness.

The blond child moaned and tried to turn. He opened his eyes and he blinked, seeing the rays of sun falling right on his face. He slowly put his hand on them and he moaned angrly.

"Oh, you're awake" said a voice behind him.

Hyoga turned his head abruptly and he winced in pain. His gesture had been too violent. He sat up slowly and he saw Yoshida staring at him. He saw the hard look of the man but he withstood it.

"What you have done is stupid. Trust me, since now, I will not leave you alone when you are under my responsibility." Hyoga continued staring at him. "As you sow so shall you reap! You have been looking for trouble, you have gotten it, and seemingly worst than you have expected. You have been adopted by the Graad Foundation. You can't return to Russia, except if they allow you. It is not difficult to understand, no?!"

"Mama... I want to..."

"That's enough Hyoga! Your mother is dead! Dead! Do you understand what this word means? D.E.A.D!!! She will never come back! You will never see her again! She is at the bottom of the East Sea of Siberia. Understand?! So stop thinking of her. You have been lucky to be saved and to have been adopted by the Graad Foundation!"

"No! Mama! I want my mama. Mama!"

Yoshida approached the child and put his hand on his forehead. He felt the warmth and he sighed. The child had a little fever, it was maybe that he was so unstable right now. But he also knew that the child could handle this, he knew this very well.

"Mama had saved me, Mama had given her life for me. I have killed her! I have killed her! I don't want to live! I want to join Mama! I want to be near her, I want to be in her arms. Mama. MAMAAAAAAAA!!!!" The child began to cry in a hysterical way, calling his mother.

"Stupid child!" shouted Yoshida taking him by his shoulders, shaking him in order to have Hyoga's attention, at least a moment. "You want to die? All right! That's your choice! But you say that your mother had given her life for you! What would her sacrifice mean if you die? She has saved you because she wanted you to live, she wanted you to live and to find your destiny. She wanted you to be happy, even without her. If you die, she will have died for nothing and this because of her ungrateful son!"

Hyoga continued crying shaking his head, refusing to hear those words. He felt the man taking his rosary and he tried to prevent him from taking it off. "Noooo" he shouted.

Yoshida took the cross off and held it in front of Hyoga's eyes. "You're Christian, no? Do you know that the Church is against suicide? If you kill yourself, you will not go into Heaven. You will not join your mother! You will go to Hell, and this for what? For trying to join your mother? You will not succeed. But if you live your life, without trying to commit suicide, the opportunities to join your mother in Heaven will be high! Can you understand?"

Hyoga continued crying. He was not able to stop and he felt Yoshida's hand on his. He felt him opening his little hands and slipping the cross into them before closing them. Unconsciously, Hyoga pressed the cross against his chest and he swayed forward to behind, his head bent.

"You have lost her recently. There, most of the children don't remember their parents. You are certainly the luckier among them" said Yoshida standing up and walking to the door. "You can remember her." He paused and was about to say something else, but he said nothing.

He wondered why the boy had lost his cold attitude. The fever did not explain all this fact. Because of him? Because he was able to understand the boy? Because Russian language made him remember his mother? 'Did this escape mean so much to him?' He glanced to the child and he walked out closing the door. Just before leaving, he put his hand on his own cross and he sighed. 'Maybe you will join your mother sooner than you think, Hyoga...'

Hyoga came back to reality and he saw Yoshida staring at him. He moaned and he sat up.

The man gave him a plate without a word and he saw the boy hesitating. "You should eat. You can't train, you are too wounded. But even if you are wounded, this won't prevent you from learning Japanese writing. So eat and we will begin, we have all day long."

The child took a swallow and then an another. "When will I get out of this cell?"

"I don't know. It's only your second day there. I doubt that you want to go out in this state" the man said studying the boy.

Hyoga did not look down. He knew what the man was thinking of. He was certainly covered with bruises and some had turned black. He was sure he looked awful and he felt very bad.

"I see that you have made the right choice" said Yoshida without taking his eyes of Hyoga.

The blond child arched his eyebrow puzzled. "Choice?" he demanded between two swallows.

"To live " replied the man. Hyoga stopped his gesture of feeding halfway and bit his lips. "Your mother is certainly glad that you have decided to live. Hyoga, if you still live, your mother will still live inside your heart. She will not leave the living world, until your are dead. She lives through you, and in you."

Hyoga put his fork in the plate and stared at the man. "If I have to learn kanji, why don't we begin?" he said coldly, pushing his plate aside. He did not want to speak about his mother with Yoshida.

Surprise crossed the man's features but it vanished as quickly as it had appeared. As Hyoga was ready to do what he wanted, he approached him and the lesson began.

Yoshida glanced at his watch. It was now sixth hours he was with Hyoga who seemed to want to learn as quickly as he could. He had noticed something different in the boy's attitude, and he could not know what had made him change his mind. Hyoga was before hostile to the idea of learning and even of becoming a Saint. Maybe he had given up or the fact that he had cried yesterday had made him think about his future.

"What is a Saint?" asked Hyoga to the instructor suddenly.

Yoshida's head jerked back a little, being caught to think about something else than the lesson he was teaching to Hyoga. "Tokumaru-san had explained you this, no?" Hyoga shook his head carefully trying to not awake the pain in his neck. "I see..." The man pushed the book aside. The Japanese lesson is finished for today. 'So it is not because he wants to be a Saint he had changed, so why? Is it only a respite. It could be the explanation, so maybe by explaining things to the Russian would help him to be less rebel.' He came nearer and sat in front of the boy. "What is a Saint for you?"

"Mama had said to me that a Saint was a man or a woman who had loved God and had lived helping the people around. When he or she had died, he or she entered in God's paradise... Is that so?"

He sighed. Hyoga was still speaking in Russian with him. He rarely spoke in Japanese and he always made him notice this fact but today he had not the heart to correct him. He saw that the child had difficulty to follow the lesson and he was ready to fell asleep. "What you are talking about are the Saints of the Christian. It is not what Kido-sama thinks."

"So what is a Saint? Why should we train like mad?"

"In Greek mythology, it is said that Athena was the Goddess of War and of Wisdom. Not the Goddess of carnage. She is protecting the world from the Evil, each evil that comes to destroy the world. For keeping the ordeal and the peace in the world, Athena has warriors called Saints. Those Saints fight against Evil."

"Athena doesn't exist! God exists not a Goddess. They want me to serve this Goddess?" The instructor nodded. "I don't believe in this Goddess. I believe in God, the God that Mama believed in! I want to return to Russia. I want to return to Siberia! Why don't they let me return to my country?"

"Hyoga... You easily forget that you have Japanese blood in your veins. So you have to stay in your father's country."

"I have never seen him, so I don't consider him as my father. He is dead, as my Mama. Mama..." Hyoga's colored eyes became darker because of the tears, but he stifled them.

The instructor sighed again. Hyoga was stubborn, more than stubborn, especially when his mother was concerned. He was sure that when he had the opportunity, he would try to escape again to reach Russia. It was his own reason to stay alive, he had now understood this. "Hyoga. Do you know that Saints have powers?"

"Powers?" asked the blond child rubbing his arm without looking at the instructor. This story of Saints was not interesting and he wanted him to go away. He was tired, very tired.

"They have different powers. I don't know which, but they have some. It is said that a Saint is able to divide the sky in two with his fist and to open a gap in the ground with his foot. Nothing can resist a Saint. Saints are really powerful. But to become a Saint, people must go through terrible ordeals and are put to severe tests. Only few become Saints. It is what is said."

"I don't want to become a Saint" stated Hyoga closing tiredly his eyes.

"So what would you want to do if you have the possibility?" asked the instructor putting the emphasis on the word 'possibility'.

Hyoga tried to think and he shrugged his shoulders. He winced in pain. "I don't know. I don't want to become a Saint. It's the only thing I know. I want to join Mama." He slowly fell asleep.

The man stood up and he sighed. "You are really stubborn! But sleep on it first...." He walked to the door and he opened it. He blinked at the sky. The cell was darker than he had thought. He closed the door behind him and he began to walk to the house when a voice made him stop. He turned and he saw Kido-sama walking to him with his granddaughter Saori.

"How does it go with the Russian?" he asked while the girl pouted because her grandfather was speaking with someone and not to her.

"Ojiisama!" she shouted trying to draw his attention.

"Saori, would you please wait a minute" he said turning his look to the little lavender haired girl. She drowned angry.

"Why are those boys so important, Ojiisama? They're only orphans!"

"They are more important than you can think. You will understand this when you grow up. You should be kind with them and not humiliate them."

"I don't like them" she replied turning haughtily her head.

The old man turned to the man. "So?"

"Hyoga? He is really stubborn. He doesn't want to become a Saint. He wants to return to Russia. I think he wants to return where his mother is buried."

"We must give him time... Even the weakest has accepted, so..." said the old man eyeing a couple of children walking to the refectory.

"You are speaking about the green haired boy, Shun?"

"It's his name?" The man nodded. "Let this Russian have the time to think " he said walking to the house, taking his granddaughter's hand. She laughed happily and she pulled the old man's hand. The man followed them in the coming night.

Hyoga moaned in his sleep. His wounds made him suffer, and he turned with caution on his side. He opened slightly his eyes. He saw the starry night through the window. He closed them again and darkness took him.

* * *

"What is a Saint?" asked a voice. Hyoga turned and looked around him searching the owner of the voice. "What is a Saint" asked the voice again.

"Who are you? And where are you?"

"What is a Saint?" asked for the third time the voice.

"Who are you?" demanded the child walking through what seemed to be white clouds.

"What is a Saint?"

Hyoga understood that if he did not answer, this voice would still ask him this question. "Someone who lives with God, in the sky, in the Heaven."

"Are you sure?"

"Mama has told me this! I trust Mama. Mama has always told me truth." The child narrowed his eyes searching for the owner of the voice.

"What does a human know about Gods?"

"I believe in one God!"

"What is a Saint?" asked again the voice after a long moment of silence.

Hyoga turned on himself still searching for the voice. Then he realized that it did not come from an exact direction, but it was all over, everywhere, filling the space. He swallowed. He had to give the right answer, he knew it. But which one was the right one. He did not believe in what Yoshida had told him. He wanted to only believe what his mother had told him.

The white clouds surrounding his feet, slowly turned gray and they closed around his feet, then his legs. Hyoga tried to move but he could not. The entity waited for an answer. The clouds surrounded his waist, then his chest. He panted, fighting to breath, fighting his fear of dying.

"Wha... What is a Saint?" the child asked to the entity.

There was like a long silence and the clouds vanished slowly, releasing the child who fell on his knees, breathing hard.

'It is said that a Saint is able to divide the sky in two with his fist and to open a gap in the ground with his foot. Nothing can resist them. They are really powerful.' Yoshida's words rang in his head and he shook it with strength, but the words stayed inside, being written into fire letters in his mind.

Then the scene changed.

The sky was dark and the sea was stormy. It was the panic in the boat. The people were rushing into the lifeboats, shouting, screaming. Some were already on the sea moving from the boat which was sinking. A door opened and a woman holding her son in her arms rushed out. She was nearly falling, but she kept her balance and she walked quickly to the nearest lifeboat.

"Mama?" asked the boy afraid by all the noise and sensing the fear around him.

"Everything will be all right, Hyoga. I'm here."

"What is happening?"

"Later, my little angel." She arrived near the boat and she looked at the sailor who was helping some people in.

"There is no place safe, Mrs. Try an another lifeboat."

The blond woman put her hood back on her head and put Hyoga's one on his little head, covering his blond hair and protecting his ears. She looked around her and she saw that there was no other lifeboat. Her heart sank. What would happen to them. What would happen to Hyoga?

The child closed his arms around her neck and pressed his head against her shoulder. The wind took the child's fur hood off. This time she did not pay attention. She looked worried around her once more. She pressed Hyoga against her. She sighed and closed her eyes. There was only one solution left. She would do everything for her little son. She opened her blue eyes determined. "Hyoga! I will be always near you, my child. Never forget what I'm telling you. I love you and I will still love you, always."

"Mama?" he demanded puzzled looking up to her blue eyes. They filled with tears but she smiled at him. She should be strong for him so he would understand. "I love you, my little angel. Be kind and God will help you." She bent over the ship's rail and she held her son to the sailor who was surprised to still see her there. "I prefer that he goes with you! I'll go and join the last lifeboat."

"All right Mrs. I will keep an eye on him."

"Thank you" she said, when she felt the hands of the man closing around Hyoga's waist.

"MAMAAAA!!!" he shouted afraid to be separated from his mother. He tightened his grip around her neck "Come with me! Mama!"

"Be kind, my son, I love you. I will always be near you Hyoga" she said, kissing his forehead. "I'll join you."

"No Mama! Come with me! Mama!" he said crying still holding onto her neck. She freed herself from the little arms and she paced back. "Mamaaaa! No, I don't want to! I want to stay with you! Please Mama!"

The man dragged the child in the boat and it was launched. "Hurry up!" he shouted to the woman who was still looking at her son. "I will look after him." She nodded and she smiled at the boy.

The boat sailed and Hyoga still looked at his mother not understanding why she was staying on the deck instead of heading to another lifeboat. He saw her smiling then, tears ran on her cheeks. Unconsciously Hyoga understood that there was something wrong. Something was definitely wrong and he did not why. It worried him and he felt a pang . "Mamaaaaaaaaa!!!" he called extending his arm to the silhouette on the deck. "Mamaaaaa!!"

"Be careful, Chibi!!" shouted the sailor stopping him, saving him from falling in the cold-ice sea.

"Mama is still on board!" he shouted trying to free himself of the man's grip.

The man looked to the boat which was sinking and he saw the silhouette, still looking into their direction. He suddenly understood and he tightened his grip around the boy's waist.

"MAMAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!" he shouted on the top of his lungs. "We must return and help her!"

"There's nothing else we can do! It's too late!" shouted the man in his ears for being heard among the waves crushing against the lifeboat and the wind blowing.

"Docvidanija Hyoga. Docvidanija my little angel..." she said crying before turning her back to her child.

"MAMAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!! Don't leave me! MAMAAAAAAAAAA!!! MAMAAAAAAA!!!" he shouted crying freely. He saw his mother opening the door and then closing it behind her without a last look at him. "MAMAAAAAAAAA!!!!!" he shouted desperately.

The lifeboats had contended with the waves before coming aground on a little island covered with ice. The men did not seem to be worried. They knew that a Japanese cargo ship was on the way to pick them up. It was the last message they had received before they left the boat that was sinking into the sea.

A blond boy was at the point of the little island and was staring at the sea with intensity. His red eyes were scrutinizing the surface of the sea covered with pieces of ice and little icebergs. He was hoping to see his mother coming to him, to hold him against her, to hear her voice, to feel her hair between his fingers, but nothing appeared in the horizon. Only the wind was blowing. "Mama...." he whispered tearfully.

"His mother was the only one who had not been saved?" asked the captain of the ship.

"Yes, I think so" replied the man who had promised the woman to look after Hyoga. "There was no place left in our lifeboat and I was sure there was an another ready to take her..." The sailor bent his head. "I was sure. She knew that there was no lifeboat left. It is why she entrusted her son to me. If I had known..."

"We shouldn't have accepted so many passengers" said the captain.

"They were going to Japan, to see the boy's father."

"What a tragedy! A shipwreck in such a place. There, where it sunk, it was carried away by the strong currents in the bottom of the East Siberia Sea. It will never rise to the surface and the woman will rest in peace in the ice-cold water, for eternity."

"Mama will not rest there!" said firmly the boy still looking away. He had heard the men speaking, but he had not spoken in the conversation. He had understood that his mother had given her life to save him. He had understood but he did not want to believe in her death. No his mother had never left him alone and he was sure she would come back to him one day. But as the men were speaking, the reality of the tragedy became stronger than before. He knew he owed something to his mother. He would not leave her alone, no, not after what she had done.

"It's impossible" said the sailor to Hyoga. The child did not turn to him.

"It's impossible. The current would certainly carry the boat away, farther, where the sea is permanently frozen. The sea is very deep there, the currents are strong. A huge icecap covers the surface of the sea, a several meters icecap. Even with technology, it's impossible to make a hole into it. It fills itself up as people make a hole. And if miraculously you succeed, the sea is so icy, that you'll not make it. A well trained man with a wetsuit would not make it for more than a quarter of hour."

"So you understand now that it is impossible!" said the sailor.

"I will success in bringing my mother to the surface!"

"It's impossible. You must be strong, very strong. And if you succeed in your will, don't disturb her eternal rest. Her body is in an icy sea covered with glaciers. Your mother will be identical to the one she was the day of her death. As long as she stays there, in that icy water, her beauty will never faded. She will be eternal."

Hyoga said nothing more and stared at the sea while a boat appeared at the horizon, breaking his view. 'I will find you and join you, Mama, I promise you! You will not stay here alone!'

* * *

Hyoga opened wide eyes and he stared at the ceiling. He blinked and he shivered. He huddled up in the blankets and he felt his own tears on his cheeks rolling freely. 'This nightmare again. This dreadful day... Mama... Why? You have promised to join me! I have been kind. They hate me. I want to be near you, Mama...' He wiped his tears away, but they continued rolling. He searched for the cross and he held it tightly against his heart. 'They all say it's impossible to see you again, to join you. But I'm sure I can, I'm sure. But I can't even try! I'm jailed here, in a country that I hate, where everyone hates me. I have been adopted, but I'm like a slave! We must train to become Saints! Saints don't exist! It's a stupid thing! How can a man be able to cleave the sky in two with his fist and how can he be able to open a gap in the ground with his foot? Impossible! Totally impossible! I...'

Hyoga sat suddenly upright opening wide eyes ignoring the pain that crossed his body. 'Wait a minute!' He narrowed his eyes and he said aloud what he had thought. The words suddenly took on their full meaning.

'You must be strong, very strong.' The captain's words rang into his mind. 'The Saints are powerful, nothing can resist them.' Yoshida's ones echoed in his mind too as an answer. 'You must be strong. Nothing can resist them. You must be strong. Nothing can resist them.'

"Yes! That's it!" shouted Hyoga jumping on his feet ignoring his pain. He began to cross the cell, his index finger around his chin. 'If what Yoshida had told me is right, so it's my only chance to see my Mama again. Becoming a Saint! It's my only chance to see Mama again!' his eyes shone with hope. "Mama... Haven't you said that in every situation we can find the best? Finally, this situation is perfect. I don't mind now that the others hate me or not. No now, what is important is to become the strongest for you. Wait for me Mama. I will keep my promise!"

Hyoga tried to remember what were Yoshida's words about the Saints. He was angry at himself to not have paid attention yesterday, because of his tiredness. 'I hope I haven't imagine this!' It was so fuzzy in his mind. 'I should ask Yoshida again.'

He stopped pacing and he looked up at the window. The sky was still dark. Only a little pale light could be seen at the edge of the windowpane. 'The dawn is here, but he will not be here for hours!' thought Hyoga. He paced up and down again. Now that he had hope of reaching his mother, he was impatient and he hardly could wait. He looked up again and he had the feeling that time ran slowly today.

He made an abrupt movement and he winced in pain. He had forgotten his wounds and they came vividly back to his mind. He stopped, noticing the uselessness of walking up and down waiting for time to pass. He sat and he looked up at the window. He couldn't do anything but waiting.

The key in the lock turned and the door opened. Hyoga's heart jumped in his chest but he did not turn to greet the people who came in. He did not want to show his interest. The door closed and the child waited.

"You are awake?" asked a voice that Hyoga knew to well.

The blond child narrowed his eyes when he recognized Yamada's voice. He wondered what the man was doing here.

The man approached him and he stopped in front of him. "Still so talkative" said the man crouching in front of him and taking the boy's chin in his right palm. He lifted it a little and he plunged his eyes into the ice blue colored ones of the child who glared at him in answer. "Still so cooperative as I see" he told him ironically. "A real rebel. Seemingly, the treatment you have received from Tokumaru-san was not enough. Take your clothes off, Hyoga" he ordered.

Hyoga narrowed his eyes and anger crossed his features. He did not move to comply.

"You should comply, Hyoga" said Yoshida who was near him. Hyoga's eyes were now puzzled. "He just want to examine you. It is him who has treated your wounds when you were unconscious." Hyoga sighed and then complied. He let the man examine his body and each time a hand passed on a bruise or a scratch, he winced in pain.

"Some are still very deep" said Yamada, removing the bandages. "When will you understand to stop being a rebel?" He slowly treated the wounds of the child who did not answer. 'Certainly never' thought the man answering the question he had asked. 'Contrary to the others, nothing can prevent you from still being a rebel. You are not Japanese.' Even if he knew that the child had Japanese blood in his veins he was not able to consider him as one each time he saw those ice blue colored eyes and this blond hair.

'You are Russian and you only desire to return to Russia, to your country. You have no ties here. The Graad Foundation can't put pressure on you. You are a stranger. All the children , here, are put under pressure so that they become less rebelian. They have accepted Shun in the Graad Foundation because he is the weak point of Ikki. So they won't hurt his brother, Ikki is ready to do everything. The Graad Foundation has promised Seiya that he can see his old sister if he becomes a Saint. Even the others are put under different pressures, but I think that this time, the Foundation, especially Tokumaru-san, and us will sustain a setback, because of you.'

"Turn" he said applying some ointment on Hyoga's back. 'Yes you have not a weak point. You will continue being rebel, until you return to your country or until your death. I admit that I admire your courage and your stubbornness, Hyoga. But we'll try anything to bring you into line. We won't let a child dictate his laws there...'

"So?" demanded Yoshida.

"Nani?" demanded Yamada surprised and lost.

"How is he?"

"Oh. He is all right, specially after Tokumaru-san's treatment." He finished tying the last bandage and he stood up. "But during two days he will not train. So use this time to teach him Japanese writing and respect if you can Yoshida-san." He turned to Hyoga and stared at him. "No one has had success in escaping the Foundation, so don't try again. But be sure that your training will be harder when you are in state, and believe me I will see to it, Russian. Do what you want with him, Yoshida-san." He then left.

Yoshida looked at the door and then he returned his attention to the child. "So how are you this morning?" he demanded. Hyoga did not reply and he looked down, not knowing how to ask his question. "Here, your meal. You should eat and then we will begin."

Hyoga began to eat under the look of the man who was waiting. He had all the day long with the Russian. He noticed in the gestures of the child that something was bothering him, but that he did not want to speak about it. He did not ask. If the child wanted to speak he would. It was not necessary to make Hyoga angry or he would not bring something out of his mind. He knew that he was actually the only person that the blond child trusted a bit and he did not want to break this trust, or it would have to be done all over again.

Hyoga had noticed that the man was studying him with intensity and he shifted a bit, embarrassed. He tried to finish his meal as quickly as he could, but he had the feeling he was slow. 'I must ask him!' he shouted to himself. 'I must!' He took a swallow of cereals and he tightened his grip around his spoon. "Is it true?" he suddenly asked.

"What is it true?" asked back the man after few seconds of hesitation.

"What you have told me!" clarified the blond child putting his bowl away.

"What I have told you? What are you talking about?"

"Saints" replied tersely the boy.

"Oh that."

"Is it true?"

"True? It is what it is said."

"Saints are powerful?"

"Yes they are, according to some people."

"Ah?"

"Why are you asking me this?" demanded the man curious. He had not expected the child to ask him such a question, as he had claimed he did not want to become one.

"Shall we begin the lesson..." said Hyoga changing the subject and taking his exercise book.

The man sighed and rolled his eyes to the ceiling. He knew perfectly well that the boy would not answer him. But he knew that there was something strange in Hyoga's attitude and he did not know the reason. The question he had asked about the Saints made him think that he had accepted to become one, but was it true? He did not know why he would have accepted. He stopped his thoughts. The reason was not important but now he would bring him into line. He returned his attention to the child and the lesson began.

Hyoga sighed contentedly and he crossed his arms behind his head before leaning his back on the trunk. It was now three days that he had come out of the cell. Being more than one week inside it had made him forget the others' looks, but reality had came more bitterly than before, and he needed all his strength to master his emotions.

Hyoga left the book closed on his lap and he closed his eyes. He let the rays of sun passing through the foliage warm his skin. He was safe there, alone, without anyone looking at him as if he was a strange animal. He could relax and think. 'Mama...' he thought putting his hand on his chest. 'Mama, if only you could see this blue sky. I remember you liked to see the sky. You told me one day that it looked like the color of my eyes. But today it looks like yours, Mama....' He sighed fighting against the sudden lump in his throat and the tears that filled his eyes. Thoughts alone about his lost mother made him want to cry.

But, today he did not want to feel sorry for himself. He wanted to recover from the blows he had gotten almost two weeks ago after his escape attempt. He wanted to recover psychologically. He did not want to break down in front of the grown-ups and in front of the other orphans. He wanted to become as cold and expressionless as the ice in Siberia. He wanted to be as cold as any of them so that nothing would hurt him, especially the humans. He wanted to remain unmoved by the others and by what would happen to him in the future. He had promised this to himself and he would keep that promisse.

He sighed deeply and he let the quietness and the silence overcome his mind and his body. He yawned. He was so tired. His lack of sleep was because of his younger roommate's nightmares, but now sleep was overtaking him and he felt that he was slowly drifting off.

Hyoga heard a noise and his eyebrows frowned. He was feeling so well that he could not accept someone disturbing him. He heard a shout then a teary voice.

"No, leave me alone" pleaded a voice not far away.

"Why, cry-baby?" demanded another voice laughing.

Hyoga opened his eyes and he narrowed them angrily. The quietness was finished. Anyway, he knew this voice and the nickname of the boy confirmed his suspicion. He looked down and through the leaves he saw the green haired boy backing toward the trunk, trembling while five boys were pacing in a menacing way to him.

The blond boy shifted a little to have a better view. He would not intervene, after all, his older brother was always near him. He heard Shun calling for his brother. One of the boys sniggered and Hyoga looked around, puzzled. Ikki was nowhere. 'What is he doing?' he thought, worried for the green haired child.

He heard the answer of one of the boys. 'Cowards! They attack him while his brother is not here!' Hyoga balled his fists when he saw Tetsuo punching Shun in his stomach. 'Five against one! What should I do? Help him? Why would I be worried about him?' But before another thought came into his mind, the blond boy jumped down from the branch behind the group. He punched the boy with strength, wanting him to release Shun and leave him alone.

Shun cried and called his brother to help him but the boys only sniggered, glad that they could vent their anger on the boy without the older brother around. "Niiiiiiiiisaaaaaaaannnnnnnnn" he called desperately while Tetsuo quieted him with a punch on his stomach. "You have lost your mother, Shun?" asked the boy ironically taking his chin in his palm and obliging the green haired boy to look up at him. He pushed the boy and he fell to the ground. "You're a boy or a girl?" he said taking him by the back of his shirt. "Come on! For once your brother is not here, we're not going to miss the opportunity to fight you! You're going to pay for what your brother has done to us!"

He was about to slap the crying boy when he heard a dull sound behind him. He was about to look above his shoulder when a fist came and punched him hard. He fell to the ground and he moaned. "Who dares?" he shouted, opening his eyes and wiping away the blood that flew from his mouth. He saw blond hair and his eyes narrowed angrily. "Oh the Gaijin!" He stood up and he took a fighting position. "You want to fight with me? Gaijin are nothing!" Hyoga did the same.

Shun, not feeling the punch, looked up when he heard Tetsuo asking who had dared. He saw his roommate, the last one, the taciturn, sad and the blond haired boy, always alone. He opened his eyes wide, wondering why this boy was helping him. His brother had told him that he was a foreigner and that he should not speak to him and seemingly after three weeks, no one had spoken even once to Hyoga, but only to insult him. He noticed in the blond manes some little green leaves and he looked up at the tree. He was certainly in the tree when Tetsuo's band had intercepted him.

The blond boy did not reply and stared with his ice blue colored eyes at the Nihonjin. He turned slowly so that he was near the young child. Shun let a sigh of relief pass his lips and he looked up gratefully at the blond boy. Hyoga did not glance at him. The green haired boy stood up slowly but stayed near his rescuer. He was suddenly worried. He saw Tetsuo's friends surrounding them. Hyoga had noticed this too, Shun thought, seeing the blond boy pacing closer to him as if to protect him, ready to fight.

Slowly, the blond boy made Shun pace to the tree trunk without tearing his eyes from his opponents. When he felt that Shun could not go further, he concentrated on the boys. Now they could only attack them on three sides and not four.

The boys looked furious. They were sure that they could beat Shun freely, but their plan had fallen through because of the gaijin. Tetsuo ground his teeth. "What could we expect from a stupid gaijin? To protect someone as weak as Shun! You should have had the presence of mind not to have intervened! You would have been safe!"

Hyoga did not reply and did not give an indication if he had understood or not. He continued staring at the gang with his light blue eyes.

"After all, this would give us some exercise. It's he who asks for it!" said one of the others. Tetsuo nodded. One of the boys rushed to Hyoga. Hyoga at the last second, and in a fluent movement, dodged him. When he saw the vulnerable neck of his opponent, he gave a rap on it. The boy fell to the ground but the blond child did not care. He turned to his right when he felt danger coming at this direction. He stopped the fist with his two palms and then took the right wrist of the boy. Bending, he made him fly away.

Shun screamed, afraid.

Hyoga felt a punch in his stomach and then an another on his left cheek. The Russian lost his balance but he stopped himself in time when he saw Tetsuo ready to slap the green haired child. Hyoga jumped to him, he pinned him to the ground and he beat him up before he got on his feet. He turned to the two others who were ready to fight him. He dodged one and blocked the second. He knocked him off and he turned to the first. The fight went on few minutes longer and then everything stopped. Hyoga was panting but he was looking around him in order to see if there were other opponents. He saw the boys on the ground unconscious. A satisfied smiled appeared on his lips and he took off the dust from his clothes.

If in the beginning he was upset to have been disturbed, now, he was near to thanking them. This had released his tension and he felt heartened. He felt that he could keep his emotions under control too. Glancing once around him, he saw the book on the ground and he picked it up. Then without a word, he walked first pace away before stopping. He glanced behind him and he saw Shun looking at him and then to the boys on the ground before turning to look at him. Seeing that he was not going to speak, Hyoga walked away.

Shun did not move and stared at Hyoga's back. The blond boy glanced back at the boy before walking away. Shun blinked, surprised and he found his voice again. "Wait!" he called Hyoga. But the boy was already away. Shun heard a moan and he glanced down. He moved back before they awoke completely. He was alone, no one would help him. Hyoga was now away.

He walked toward the field. He was puzzled. Ikki had warned him not to approach or to speak to Hyoga. But he had saved him while Ikki was training in the gymnasium. 'Why did he help me?'

Yamada was waiting for Hyoga to finish his shower. The child was alone. He had noticed that the boy was always the last to take a shower. When the blond child was ready to leave the gymnasium, he took him by his left arm and he pulled him after him.

Hyoga felt the strong grip and opened his eyes wide, wondering what was happening. They were going to the opposite direction of the refectory. He blinked and he looked around him. They were walking to the cell of meditation. "Why are we going there?" he asked stopping his paces.

The man continued dragging him along. "Why do you ask? You certainly have an idea, no?"

"Why?" he demanded.

"You know perfectly why, stupid little savage!"

Hyoga narrowed his eyes. He did not understand at all. What had he done wrong? He had been quiet and obedient since he tryed to escape. So why was he going into the cell of meditation? He tried to free himself while Yamada was trying to unlock the door with one hand.

"Stay still!" shouted Yamada succeeding in opening the huge door. He threw the boy inside and he stepped in closing the door behind him.

Hyoga, stunned, tried to get on his feet. He faced the instructor, his ice blue colored eyes showing his lack of understanding. "Why?" he demanded again, balling his fists when a first slap rang out. He put his hand on his cheek and stared at the man.

"You want me to refresh your memory! You know perfectly why you are here!" A punch hit his other cheek. "I thought that you would stay quiet, that there would not be other problems with you! But I was wrong!" The man continued slapping him and then he took Tokumaru's shinai and the blows rained on the Russian.

"I have done nothing!" he shouted angrly.

"Nothing?" hurled the man. "What have you done this afternoon? What have you done to Tetsuo, Iroshi, Mito, Kunio and Hotsumo?"

Hyoga opened wide eyes in understanding. The boys he had beaten this afternoon to help Shun. But he still did not understand why, the man was hitting him while he had done nothing wrong. He had helped someone who was in danger! 'Justics doesn't exist here!' A blow hit his arm and he screamed. "I've done nothing! It's them who started this!" he shouted. He felt another and then everything stopped. He felt bad and he closed his eyes.

"You've gotten what you deserve. I don't want another fight, when there is no reason in this fight! Next time, don't involve yourself into a fight and don't search for a fight, or next time, it will be Tokumaru-san who will hit you. You're lucky that he is not here today. You will stay here until the day after tomorrow!" The man left the boy and he slammed the door behind him, leaving the child alone.

A moment later, Hyoga crawled to a corner of the cell and he sat, his back against the cold concrete. He raised his knees against his chest and he buried his head in them. Yamada had beaten him without wanting to hear his explanations. Tokumaru was not here, and the instructor had punished Hyoga and after having beaten him he had left him in the cell. The golden haired child was more than relieved that Tatsumi was not here. He disliked this man and Yamada's blows were less painful.

Hyoga had begun to think Yamada was a demon. But he was disenchant and this punishment left a bitter taste in his mouth. He had helped his roommate and he had been thrown into the cell. 'Why? What have I done wrong? Should I have let him be beaten by those guys? Mama had always told me to help people in difficulty. God had given his life to save Humanity....' He touched the cross and he took it off. He stared at the rosary a long moment.

The child was totally lost. He had lost the notion of good and evil. He had been brought up in a different culture than the one he was living in and all his moral and ethical references were shattered. It was like a part of himself he did not know existed had disappeared in the same time that his mother did. His mother was his reference point, his light, and his lighthouse had guided him, preventing him from sinking into the sea of the world's horror and of the cruelty of the other people. The light had passed away and now he was wandering in the darkness without any chance to see this light again, the light of life or one of any affection.

He cried openly knowing that he was alone and that no one would see him. 'Mama. Have I been right to help him? Am I a good boy? They all say I'm a rebel, is it right? I just want to return to Russia, to Siberia where you are. I want to return to our country. I hate father's country... Mama, God, help me please! Please...' he prayed with all his strength crying.

He fell asleep clenching the rosary against his chest, hoping for an answer from the God his mother had believed in so much.

Shun forced his eyes to stay open. He was looking at the bed near the door. It was empty and it was late at night. The curfew had passed a long time now. He heard his brother in the bed near his own moaning and he turned to him. He was sound asleep and Shun sighed. Slowly he slid off his bed and he walked on his tiptoes to the empty bed. 'Hyoga...' he thought sadly. His eyes filled with tears and he let them roll. He knew what Hyoga's absence meant. He was punished. By his own fault, and his horror of violence, his weakness had put into trouble the one who had helped him. That was why Tetsuo had looked so pleased, even after his defeat. Hyoga was not at the table. No one had seen him. No one was worried about him. He had not come back from the training and Shun was sure that he had not run away, otherwise there would be actions stations like the last time, and none of the instructors had asked where was the Russian. He was also sure that he had not been thrown away, because his things were still there. There was one solution left, the cell of meditation. 'I should thank him, I should excuse myself...' He returned to his bed and he cried silently in his pillow.

The next day Shun woke up shaking by his brother's hand.

"Wake up Shun! You're late..."

Shun blinked and he rubbed his sleepy eyes. He glanced up to his brother and he saw him staring at him strangely. "Ohaiyo Niisan..."

"You have cried" said Ikki sitting near him. "What's wrong Shun?"

Shun wanted to say him something but he closed his mouth. If he knew that Hyoga had helped him, Ikki would be very angry. The green haired boy did not know why his brother did not like the stranger, while he had been gentle with him.

"Shun?"

"Nothing Niisan. Tetsuo had tried to pester me yesterday but he did not succeed."

"Tetsuo! I'm going to show him..." shouted Ikki standing up.

"Yamete Niisan. It's all right. I have nothing and someone had helped me..." replied quickly Shun grabbing his brother's arm.

"Who?" asked a very surprised Ikki.

"Ikki! Shun!" shouted Yamada. "You're late! Do you want to be punished?"

Shun slid off his bed and gave a smile of apology to his brother. They did Shun's bed and they walked out. In spite of Ikki's insistence of knowing who had helped him, Shun stayed quiet. "Please Niisan..." he murmured.

"All right I'll not insist." Ikki walked outside followed by Shun. 'Maybe the one who helped Shun doesn't want the others to know that he helped him...' He let the subject drop for the moment, but he put it at a corner of his mind for later. He glanced to Shun puzzled. Since two years, Shun rarely smiled with his heart like he did before. He had no friend himself, but Ikki was glad that Shun was with him. Since they had arrived in the Graad Foundation, even if it was a hard life, Shun was happier. 'When will I see a true smile on Shun's face?'

While the first training of the day was finished, Ikki sat at his table and he turned his look to Kiochi. He was waiting for them and he glanced to the fourth chair. It was empty. The dark blue haired boy was not sorry for the Gaijin. The more the days passed, the more he had difficulty to stand the golden haired boy and this without knowing the real reason. Moreover, he had not seen him this morning during the training.

"You found it hard to wake up this morning, Shun?" demanded their roommate devouring his meal.

Shun sat and nodded after he had glanced at the empty chair of Hyoga. He swallowed with difficulty and he practically did not eat not having the heart to.

"The gaijin is still punished?" demanded Kiochi.

"I don't know what he has done, but seemingly yes" replied Ikki.

"Tatsumi is hard on him. He does not like him."

"None of our business..."

"The blondie likes defying him!"

"I don't want to speak or hear about him, all right?"

Shun stayed quiet and he stared at his plate during all of breakfast. All of this was his fault. He hated violence. He did not like fighting and the foundation wanted him to fight. So he did, with a heavy heart for his brother. He had to do it for him. He had to become strong, even if he believed that there were other ways than violence for existing and for defending ideals. By his fault, the only one who had helped him, except his brother, had been unjustly punished and certainly had been beaten. Their roommate was right. Tatsumi hated Hyoga, more than he had hated Ikki. Before his brother had been Kido's hired man's pet hate, now it was Hyoga. 'And this is my own fault...'

"Shun?" asked Ikki puzzled.

"Daijobu Niisan" he replied with a sad smile. He walked away from his brother to go to his classroom.

Ikki followed with his deep blue near gray eyes worried about his brother. Shun was depressive and it was not because of a nightmare, he hadn't had one last night. 'So why?'

Shun had the opportunity to see the blond haired boy training outside alone under the direction of the hardest instructor. Tatsumi was looking at the boy, the shinai in his hand and Shun's heart sank. 'Tatsumi hates him. Why can't humans love each other?' He returned to the lesson, but he could not help looking through the window to his roommate running, jumping, falling. At first it was only time to time and then more often. He felt so sorry for Hyoga that he bit his lips. 'My fault, my own fault... I must thank him...'

"Are you paying attention to what is said, Shun?" shouted the teacher.

Shun turned to him and blushed. "Sumimasen..." he said softly.

"What is so interesting outside?" asked the teacher looking through the window. He saw the blond boy running and fisting the air. He turned to Shun who had bent his head. "What about the new one?" he demanded.

"Nothing" he said in a breath.

"So stop looking at him. He is punished, so will you be if you continue being so inattentive!"

"Hai" replied Shun. There were few chuckles but the man made them stop with a black look. Shun bit his lips, tears in his eyes. 'Why do they keep going at Hyoga?' he thought glancing outside quickly.

Shun did not see Hyoga in the afternoon and in the evening. 'Seemingly he is still in the cell.' It was Kiochi's turn to clean the tables and Shun stood up to follow his brother. He saw Tetsuo looking at him and smiling wide. The green haired boy wanted to turn to his brother who was saying something to Hiro, but he remained still a sudden gleam of anger flashing in his green eyes.

'It's unfair! Hyoga had done nothing wrong! It's unfair!' He balled his fists and he turned to the door, walking out of the room, without waiting for his brother. 'No it's not Hyoga's fault! He mustn't endure this because of my weakness. I can't and I don't want this.' He walked quickly through the corridors and he stopped in front of Yamada's office. He looked around him unsure and then after hesitating, he knocked at the door shyly.

"What is it?" shouted a gruff voice inside.

Shun swallowed wondering if he had to go in or not. Yamada had not allowed him to come in. He knocked on the door again and the door opened suddenly. The green haired boy, his fist still up, looked up and saw Yamada staring at him with surprise.

"What do you want, Shun?" he demanded.

"I want to speak to you Yamada-san" said Shun bending his head.

"To speak to me?" asked Yamada utterly surprised. Shun fidgeted and glanced around him. "Not here..." he said. Yamada gestured him to come in and closed the door behind him. "So what do you want?"

"Hyoga is not responsible" said Shun all of sudden tears in his eyes. "He has done nothing! He mustn't be in the cell!"

"Hyoga has gotten what he deserves!"

"But he had done nothing wrong! It is not fair!" shouted Shun.

"And what do you know about this?" The man went to his desk and he sat. "He should not have beaten Tetsuo and the four other children. It's only a savage that needs to be made more human."

"It's wrong!" shouted Shun.

"Wrong?" demanded sarcastically Yamada. "I have seen the bruises on the victims. They have confessed me that the Russian was the responsible. It serves him right."

"So, I too must go in the cell!" said Shun determined.

The man laughed. "What you have just said to me is stupid. I would have difficulty to believe that it was you whom had beaten them!"

"It is right that Hyoga has beaten Tetsuo and his friends, but it was to protect me. They had attacked me and Hyoga helped me. He was studying Japanese when we disturbed him! It was not his fault! It was mine! It was mine. Hyoga has done nothing wrong, he has done nothing" said Shun crying. "He doesn't deserve this punishment..."

Yamada sighed. He hated children who cryed and Shun was always crying. He could not understand why the green haired boy so shy was taking the gaijin's defense. Since the blond boy had come here he had never seen him speaking with someone and Ikki openly disliked him. He was sure that none of Hyoga's roommates had told him a word, so why the weakest between the orphans was taking his defense. He remembered what Tetsuo and their friends had said to him yesterday and what had been Hyoga's punishment. He began to have misgivings about what they had told him. He looked down on Shun. "That's enough!"

Shun shivered when he heard the cold voice. He did not look up and he tried to hold back his tears.

"Anyway it is too late. That your versions of those facts are right or not, it's too late. His punishment will finish tomorrow. Moreover, this won't harm him."

"But..."

"Go back to your room" ordered Yamada.

Shun stayed in the same place. "But..."

"Go to your room or his punishment would be longer!" threatened the instructor.

Shun swallowed and he backed to the door. He did not want Hyoga to spend more time in the cell of meditation by his fault, so he opened the door and he walked out. He noticed that he was still crying and he wiped his tears away, but they continued rolling on his cheeks. He rushed to his room, passing some orphans and when he was safe in his room, he threw himself in his bed, crying.

Few minutes after, the door opened and Ikki came. "Here you are Shun! I was looking for you for a long time. Where were you?" He heard muffled sounds and he switched on the lights. He saw his brother crying, his head in his pillow. "Shun!" he shouted rushing to him. He sat near him. "Shun? Doshita?"

Shun sank his face deeper into the pillow and shook his head.

"Shun? What has happened? Why are you crying? Did someone bother you?" demanded Ikki trying to make his brother turn. But the green haired boy was stubbornly clenching the pillow, refusing to turn. "Shun!" called Ikki worried. "What's wrong? You can tell me. Haven't I ever been there for you?"

A muffled answer came from the pillow. "... too weak!"

"What are you saying Shun? Please look at me!"

"No!" he shouted, crying louder.

Ikki took the shoulders of his brother and forced him to turn. Because of his brother's strength, Shun could not resist and Ikki saw the desperate expression of his brother. "Shun..." he said pressing him against his chest. "What's wrong?"

"I'm too weak!" shouted with strength Shun. Ikki looked down on his brother surprised by the tone he had used. "I'm too weak!" said Shun again. "It's unfair! It was my fault! It was my own fault! Why is the world so unfair Niisan? Why? Tell me why justice doesn't exist here and in the world! It was my fault not his. I'm too weak! I'm too weak!"

"Shun... I don't understand what you are talking about! What is unfair? Why do you say it was your fault. Who are you are talking about?"

"Why is there no justice here Niisan?" pleaded Shun.

"..." The dark blue haired boy replied nothing. He could not answer his brother's question. He did not know why he was asking him this and what had triggered off this question.

Shun stayed a long moment silent, waiting for his brother's answer. "You can't" he simply said bending his head. "We're only children, we don't know or remember our parents, we're alone and we must train to fight. Why? Why? I hate violence! I don't want to! It was not his fault! It was mine!"

"Shun! Calm down" Ikki told him, shaking him. "You're worrying me a lot, you know? I don't have all the answers to your questions Shun. That's right we're alone, it's right we're only children, it's right that we suffer a lot. But I am persuaded that this suffering will lead us to a better life where the justice that is missing here, the peace and the joy, will reign. By becoming stronger, we can change the world, especially if we are two..."

"It's for those reasons that you want to become strong?"

"Yes Shun" replied softly Ikki wiping his brother's tears. "Do you remember what you told me when we had been taken in by the priest of this church?" Shun narrowed his green eyes. Ikki sighed slowly. "When you had seen a picture of the Earth from space. You told me this. 'Me, I would like to be able to protect peace, so that there will be less children like us, so that there will be less orphans.' Isn't it true?" The green haired boy nodded. "So you must become stronger to protect peace." Shun gave him a little smile that meant you are right. "Now can you tell me what is happening?"

The child suddenly bit his lips. No he could not tell. He had disobeyed his brother. The gaijin had saved him. Inside his heart he knew this action would make his brother angry and that he would be humiliated. He did not want his brother to know that he was worried about Hyoga, about the bad treatments the blond child got from everybody. He did not want his brother to know that he had pleaded for Hyoga's freedom and that he had failed. No he could not. The subject was too sensitive for Ikki.

"Shun?"

"It's all right Niisan" he said softly. "I feel better."

"No Shun! Since this morning you have been acting strangely..."

"It's all right Niisan. I'm a bit tired. Can we go to sleep?"

Ikki narrowed his eyes and was about to reply something but when he saw the pleading eyes of his brother he stayed quiet. Shun did not want to answer him and sometimes Shun was stubborn. 'If only he could have this stubbornness and this will when he was training, I would be less worried for him...' He slowly nodded and Shun smiled at him before changing his clothes. He did not look at Kiochi when he came in the room and he slid quickly in bed, avoiding his brother's look.

Shun turned his back and he closed tightly his eyes. 'Onegai, Kami-sama protect Hyoga. He doesn't deserve what he endures because of me.' The green haired child felt his brother's look on his back, but he did not turn. He curled up under the sheets hoping that sleep would take him soon.

Shun through the window saw Hyoga going into the little room where he was studying Japanese alone with the teacher. He sighed wondering if he was really out of the cell as Yamada had said yesterday. Hyoga again had not trained with them that morning and he had not eaten with them. He shivered suddenly when a sentence of Yamada rang in his mind 'Go to your room or his punishment will be longer!' Shun swallowed. 'Will his punishment be longer because of me?'

The green haired child continued looking through the window. It was free time and everyone was doing what he wanted. Shun had decided to stay in the little library where he could see the window of the room where the Russian was given his lesson.

He saw Hyoga writing and repeating words. He surprised himself by not remembering how the boy's voice was. It was no good trying to remember, he could not. He realized that the boy had rarely spoken. 'It's certainly harder for him than for all of us. He is a foreigner and he doesn't understand our language. And he is alone... I should thank him and ask him why he had helped me and maybe...' He cut suddenly his thought, his wish, not wanting to be thwarted after.

Hyoga came into the study room and walked to his desk without a word. Yoshida approached him slowly and gave him papers. "Why must I live in a country which is nothing for me but a pain?" the blond child said suddenly, angry.

"Why don't you want to appreciate it? Your mother had wanted to come here to have a better life. But she lost hers on the way."

"Don't dare speak this way about Mama! I hate this country. Where is justice? When I do something wrong I am beaten. When I do something right I am beaten too! Where is justice?"

"Hyoga! We're not here to discuss justice" the man said, slapping the wooden desk with his hand.

The child bit his lips and he looked down on the list of the new kanji he had to draw and learn. 'There's no justice here! Why? Yamada had said that I should not begin again and that Shun had told him what had happened. So why didn't he excuse himself to me?' He clenched his fists angrly.

"Hyoga! Concentrate on your work!" Hyoga complied, fighting against the different emotions which were battling in his heart. Anger, sadness, bitterness, loneliness, grief, revenge were invading his heart and mind. He hoped to have free time to try to calm down or he would lose control of his emotions, betraying his own promise.

The weather was fine and everyone had gone outside. Expecting to see Hyoga coming out of the study room and hoping to approach him, Shun had left his observation post in the library. He was close to his brother, who was playing with others. Shun had declined the offer to play and his brother had looked at him strangely before he reassured Ikki that he was fine. He was waiting for a sign. Then it came. He saw the blond child coming out alone, and walking to the woods, without a glance to the playground.

Shun saw Hyoga walking away, unnoticed by the people present in this area of the park. 'He's free!' he thought happily. He turned to his older brother and he saw him arguing about something with Seiya. Seemingly it was something hard because they were shouting, ready to jump at the other's throat. Geki and Shiryu were trying to keep them apart before the punches began. In the corner of his eye, he saw the blond boy going around a tree and disappearing from view. Shun turned in that direction slightly. He hesitated. His brother was ready to fight and he should be near him, but he wanted to go and speak with the gaijin. He took one pace toward the blond child. 'Moreover, I had not had the opportunity to thank the stranger.' He stopped and turned to look at Ikki. 'Niisan told me not to approach him. But he helped me, I have to thank him even if my Niisan is against this.' It was his only opportunity. 'Niisan is too occupied to take notice of what I am doing for the moment.'

Determined and after a last look at his brother who was gesturing in a wild way, trying to get free of Shiryu's grip, Shun took a deep breath and walked to where he had seen Hyoga for the last time.

Shun went on through the park, searching for the blond boy, but he did not find him. 'Where is he?' he asked. He suddenly looked up at the foliage wondering if he was not on a tree like the last time. He walked, looking up, trying to see something yellow, blond among the green leaves and the brown almost black branches. Nothing. He was about to give up when he heard muffled sounds, like someone was murmuring and crying. He stopped dead in his tracks and he listened.

Shun's heart squeezed and silently he approached the sound. He went around a tree and stopped again. He saw Hyoga sitting on his knees murmuring among the tears that were flowing out of his ice blue colored eyes. His blond bangs covered his forehead and eyes, while he bent a little more as if he was going to fall to the ground.

"Mama" he said in a tearful voice. "Why? Where are you? Why did you leave me alone? Why did you stay there? I want to join you. I want to go into the sky like you. Please come and take me from here..."

Shun arched his thin green eyebrows in surprise. He did not understand what language Hyoga was speaking. The only thing he understood was that the boy was grieving about something or someone. The little green haired boy walked a pace in the blond haired one's direction but he stopped and hid himself behind the trunk of an oak tree and observed the crying boy.

'He wants to be alone... He is like Niisan... He looks like Niisan....' he thought observing the stranger. 'He will not be happy to know that I have seen him crying' he continued thinking, remembering what Seiya had said two days after the arrival of Hyoga in the Foundation. 'He is as cold as the color of his eyes. He has no emotions!' And everyone had agreed with him.

'No emotions?' asked Shun. 'Does someone with no emotions cry like he does now' he demanded biting the nail of his right index finger. Shun stopped looking at Hyoga but stayed at the same place, his back against the trunk, listening to the litany and the tears. 'He is alone! No one wants to go near him, to speak with him. I understand his pain. He is like us, an orphan and no one wants to be his friend, to help him. But he helped me!' Shun swallowed. 'I'm alone too. If Niisan was not with me, I would be as alone and as sad as Hyoga. I have a brother to protect me, but he, he has no one. He is a 'gaijin'. But for me he is the most comprehensive person, more than the Japanese!'

Shun turned to the boy who was still kneeling and made his presence noticeable by passing through a bush, the leaves rustling among them.

Hyoga's back tensed at the noise. It was not an animal, he knew. No, those paces belonged to a human. Who dared come into his clearing? Hyoga wiped his tears with his left arm, but did not turn to find out who was behind him. He hesitated between standing up and going away and on sitting on the ground and waiting for the person to go away and let him alone with his loneliness. He sat on the grass and he pulled his knees up to his chest, surrounding them with his arms before putting his chin on them, his head bent. He heard the person stop behind him, then he heard him take a step and stop at his right. There was a silence only broken by the songs of the birds singing somewhere, not so far away.

"Can I sit near you?" asked a thin voice.

Hyoga did not answer. He knew who was near him, the little boy with green eyes, the one he had helped few days ago and the one with whom he shared the room. He did not want him to be there, he wanted to be alone.

Shun looked down on the sitting form, but he did not have an answer. He shifted a little wondering if he had to insist or to go away like Hyoga seemed to want. He sat near the blond boy and he took the same position as he, without a word. He contemplated the rays of sun playing through the green leaves in front of him. He noticed the songs of the birds. It was a quiet place and he understood in one way why the stranger liked it. He was sure he had come often here since he had arrived in the Foundation.

Hyoga stayed quiet and did not move. He had heard the boy sitting near him, but he was relieved when he did not speak. He had learnt that Shun was someone very frail and that he liked speaking as he wanted to be reassured, to hunt his fear of life. The blond kid returned to his thoughts, the one that he loved the most, his mother. The contradictory feelings he actually had in his heart made him think about her, and he remembered perfectly what he had felt that time, his helplessness in face of the tragedy, it was like he felt now. He heard the sound of the sea, furious, drowning out the last words of the blond haired woman standing on the deck of the boat.

'Docvidanija, Hyoga. Docvidanija my little angel...'

'MAMAAAAA!!!!' his mind screamed. His shoulders tightened and his head sank deeper into his crossed arms, a lump in his throat again, ready to cry. He held his tears back. He did not want to cry in front of the green haired boy.

"Arigato gozaimasu for what you have done" said the green haired boy eyeing the stranger.

Hyoga tensed some more but did not say anything, waiting.

Shun watched Hyoga wondering if he had heard what he had said. Maybe not. He was only tensed but he had not moved. Shun looked staright in front of him and sighed inside his mind. 'Maybe he has difficulty to speak. He is a stranger and he doesn't know nihongo very well.' He tightened his grip around his knees and he put his chin on them. "Thank you very much for what you have done" he said again. In the corner of his green eyes he saw a light movement.

Hyoga turned to look at the boy and studied him for few seconds before he took his earlier position again.

Shun took this sign as a signal and he studied the blond boy more openly. He could still see the tracks of his tears but he also saw the bruises on his cheeks, on his arms and the scratches on them. He felt guiltier, because of him he had been beaten. "Gomen nasai" he said softly, his eyes filling with tears.

Hyoga turned to him puzzled.

Shun knelt near Hyoga and extended his hand to the right arm, putting his finger on the nearest bruise. Hyoga followed his movement more puzzled. "You have been punished because of me. Tatsumi and the others are very hard on the orphans and seemingly they have been harder on you." Hyoga stared at him without a word. "Usually it's my Niisan who helps me, but it seems that Tetsuo and his friends waited for Niisan to be away. Shun sighed and a tear rolled on his left cheek. "You are the first one who had helped me, onto ni arigatoo."

Hyoga listened to the green haired boy and felt sorry for him. 'The orphans seem to be hard among them, and it seems that there is no place for the weak in this world. And Shun is one of them. If his brother weren't here to help him, how could he survive?' Hyoga shook his head in denial. Shun titled his head not understanding what the stranger wanted to say.

"Iie" the blond boy replied in a hesitant voice.

Shun's face lightened with a big smile. "You understand me?" he asked joyfully.

"I don't speak nihongo well " he said, "but I understand, not all, but..." he replied with an embarrassed smile while he wiped Shun's tears, like a brother would do.

Shun smiled. "Do they hurt?" he demanded concerned showing the wounds.

Hyoga shook his head. 'No those don't hurt me, but he one in my heart does more than you think.'

Shun stared at the blond boy looking to see if he was hiding the truth from him, but he could not because of the expressionless face. "My name is Shun" he said a moment latter.

Hyoga just nodded and he stared back at Shun. He was so frank and so naive too, so innocent that everyone wanted to protect him, well that he wanted to protect him. "Hyoga" he replied softly knowing perfectly that everyone here knew his name.

"It's a Japanese name" said Shun. "But you don't seem to be Japanese."

"Mama was Russian. Father was Nihonjin."

"Your father?!" shouted Shun scrutinizing the blue eyed boy near him. "You don't look like a Nihonjin" Shun said truthfully.

Hyoga shrugged. Shun was frank but he preferred this to the looks of suspicion he could see around him every time.

"That's why you are in Nihon!" Shun exclaimed, standing up and looking down at Hyoga. "The others were wondering why a Russian was here! You can't imagine the numerous stories that go around about you!"

Hyoga blue eyes hardened. 'Was my impression about Shun correct? I thought that he would become a friend! How stupid I was! He is like the others! I have the feeling that he wants to satisfy his curiosity!' The ghost smile that was playing on his lips vanished and his features became hard.

Shun saw Hyoga's change of mood. He saw him stand up and walk away. Shun rushed after him and grabbed his left arm. "Gomen nasai Hyoga-san! I didn't mean to..."

Hyoga turned angrilly to him, breaking him off, he freed himself from Shun's grip. "You are like the others" he said furious, catching Shun's collar. "I..."

"Shun!!!" shouted a voice to their right.

Both of them turned and Shun saw his brother's deep blue eyes narrowing dangerously in anger. He was so angry that they were black. Hyoga saw the danger but did not let go of the green haired boy's collar. "Niisan" Shun whispered with an astonished voice.

"Let go Shun, Gaijin!" shouted the deep blue haired boy rushing to him and punching the blond haired boy. Hyoga lost his balance and fell to the ground heavily. He stood up immediately and he rushed to Ikki angry, his eyes becoming like ice ready to pay him back.

Shun who had fallen on his knees but jumped to his feet, afraid. "No Yamete!" Shun shouted.

Hyoga punched Ikki's right cheek without a word, but he felt a punch on his stomach and another on his right cheek. He was about to answer when Shun came between them stopping them and looking up with pleading eyes to his brother.

"Yamete kudasai Niisan! Hyoga-san has not hurt me! Yamete Hyoga-san!" he said turning to the blond boy gripping his brother's arm to prevent him from punching the boy again. He could feel the tension in Ikki's arm and he swallowed, praying that he had enough strength to stop his Niisan. He also hoped that Ikki would not attack the Russian again.

Hyoga stared at Ikki and looked down on Shun and rushed away, searching a safe place before one of them could see his tears. Sadly, Shun released Ikki's arm, murmuring Hyoga's name.

"Shun!" Ikki shouted, taking Shun's shoulders. "Are you OK? Where did he hurt you?" Slowly, Shun turned to his brother, his green eyes full of tears. Silently they rolled on his cheeks.

"He did not hurt me. He didn't."

"So why you are crying?"

"He's alone! He was the one who saved me from Tetsuo, the last time..."

Ikki's eyes opened slightly wider in surprise while Shun cried freely. "I just wanted to thank him, to be his friend..." he said between his tears. Ikki stared at the place where the Russian had disappeared suddenly, not so proud of himself, and unable to make a gesture. He had been unfair to the new orphan. But his gesture was one of slapping his brother, so it was natural he had misinterpreted his gesture. Shun went away from his brother and he sat on the grass, his tears still rolling on his cheeks.

"Why didn't you tell me?"

"Would you have accepted that he had helped me?" Shun asked, staring straight ahead.

Ikki bent his head. 'Would I? No and now that I know that I can't accept that a gaijin helped Shun! I hate this! I don't trust him and I owe him something now!' Ikki looked at his brother.

"No" he replied.

"And now do you?" Shun said turning to look at his brother. Ikki shook his head in denial. "It's why I haven't told you. Because of me he had been punished. Because I'm too weak, he has been in trouble!" Ikki replied nothing and he came slowly to him. He sat near him and he took him in his embrace "Why do you hate him, Niisan?"

"I don't know..." he said, "but I can't trust him, I can't let him hurt you! He was ready to slap you!"

"If he had slapped me he would be in his right" replied Shun. "I owe him something Niisan. I have a big debt to him and I'm not sure I can pay him back. I have thanked him but it's not enough. I think it's not enough. He had to suffer an injustice because of me and I haven't been able to help him. I was not kind to him. I said something that I shouldn't have... He would be in his every right to hit me if he had wanted to, Niisan."

"Shun! I can hardly recognize you!" Ikki stated, looking down to the boy to be sure it was really his brother.

"Niisan... You have told me to be strong. I will become strong and able to help the people I think highly of. I want to be stronger for you, Niisan, but also for Hyoga-san so that he would not be subjected to the bullying of the others. The failure I had yesterday must help me. I owe Hyoga-san something Niisan, and even if it's not enough, I will be there with him, for him. I want him as a friend. And, you know what? He looks like an angel. He is like the little angels I have seen in church were we have lived before coming here."

"Like the others he will reject you, Shun."

"Maybe, but if I don't try, I will regret this. Maybe he will not, Niisan. He helped me while I had never even spoke to him. How can I pretend to become stronger if I don't follow through my ideals, Niisan?"

Ikki stared at Shun for long moment and then nodded. "You are right. Do what you think is best, but if he hurts you or if someone else does, just tell me. I will always be near you, Shun."

"Arigato Niisan" Shun replied standing up and holding out his hand to his brother. He helped him stand up and they looked at each other. "Thank you for always being near me."

"What's an old brother for?" The dark blue haired boy chuckled.

Shun waited. He had finished his shower and was waiting at the entrance of the gymnasium. He had not had the time to speak to Hyoga. He had came in just in time for the training, and several times, he had tried to draw the blond boy's attention. But Hyoga had not looked once at him and Shun's heart had hurt. He had noticed the hard expression on the Russian's face and he had bitten his lips not knowing if he could speak with him today or not.

Several times, the green haired boy had met the gazes his brother's had gave from him time to time. He knew that he was worried, but he had decided to follow through his ideals and he would not give up. While they were taking their shower, they had spoken once more, but Shun had said that he had to try. Then Ikki had stayed there a moment before leaving his brother alone, not reassured.

Shun sighed. His back leaned against the wall, very close to the big door of the gymnasium, he kicked a little stone absent-mindedly. He turned to look to his right. Hyoga was still not here. He knew that the Russian always took his shower last. Tetsuo had laughed and had said that it was because he was too modest. But Shun had the feeling that it was for another reason.

The boy put his arms behind his back and sighed, looking up at the sky. The sun was ready to set and Shun was admiring the colors of twilight. He stayed a long moment admiring the red and violet clouds while the golden cirrus slowly turned into gray ones. A move at his right made his head turn and he saw the blond boy coming out of the gymnasium. A ghost smile appeared on his lips. Hyoga had not seen him and he was continuing walking toward the refectory.

"Hyoga-san" he said softly. The boy did not stop. "Hyoga-san!" he called rushing after him. Hyoga stopped but he did not turn. "Hyoga-san" repeated Shun stopping near him. "I'm sorry for earlier" he apologized. "Gomen."

Hyoga, who had stopped, waited. He had not expected Shun to wait for him, to call him and to give apologies. 'But what about those apologies? I have been too jumpy. He had the right to know why I'm in Japan. I haven't been correct with him, while he was the first one who had talked to me kindly.'

Shun bit his lips. Hyoga said nothing. "Gomen. I shouldn't have asked you. I'm too curious. Please forgive my brother for what he did to you. He was wrong. I'm sorry, I'm too weak for doing anything good. I always bring problems to the ones who are close to me."

"Your brother likes you" Hyoga only said turning his eyes to the darkening sky. "I deserved it."

"No you didn't Hyoga-san!"

The blond boy turned to Shun, who was looking up at him. "Why?" He asked simply.

Shun stared at him puzzled. 'What kind of question is this?' He searched the blue eyes of the Russian and titled his head. "Why, what?"

"Why are you here?"

"I was waiting for you, Hyoga-san."

"Why?"

"Because I wanted to offer you my apology and because...." Shun bent his head and he looked down at his hands. Hyoga waited a moment.

He saw that Shun was not at ease, the way he was crossing his hands and playing with his fingers told him that he was very nervous. He sighed and he waited few seconds. "And?"

Shun's eyes opened wide before he closed them again. He could not ask him to become his friend like this. He was not sure that Hyoga had forgiven him. "Why did you helped me, Hyoga-san?"

Hyoga turned his eyes to the last violet cloud turning gray.

"I don't know" he replied simply. He saw, in the corner of his eyes, Shun's eyes opening wide, puzzled. He shrugged. "You were alone. They were five..."

"Only for that reason?"

Hyoga shrugged. "Maybe or maybe not. Only God knows."

"You are speaking Russian..." Shun noticed with a little smile.

"Can't explain in Japanese" Hyoga said seriously turning to him.

"It's not important Hyoga-san" Shun replied giving him a smile. "I... I was wondering if..." He stopped and Hyoga stared at him. "if you want to stay with me."

"To stay with you?" Hyoga demanded puzzled.

Shun nodded. "Well... I mean to be close. To speak together, play, or do other things..."

"Why with me?"

Shun looked down and kicked a stone. "I feel comfortable with you, Hyoga-san, as I never felt before with anyone but my brother. But I can't explain what I really feel when I'm near you, but I like this feeling."

Hyoga stared very surprised at Shun. He had only been near Shun once, this afternoon. He still did not understand why the child wanted to be with him. He felt more comfortable with Shun than with the others. He remembered that he was the only one who had never laughed at him, and the only one who had shown compassion and interest in him.

"Hyoga-san?" Shun demanded seeing the Russian walking away.

"Not Hyoga-san" the blond boy said suddenly. "Only Hyoga."

Shun narrowed his eyes a few seconds and then he opened them wide. "Really? You want?!" The Russian nodded with a ghost smile on his lips. "I'm so happy Hyoga-kun!"

"Hyoga-kun?" Hyoga demanded puzzled turning to Shun.

"It's an honorific title for a friend. I prefer to call you Hyoga-kun."

"A... friend?" Shun nodded and Hyoga looked down at the ground. 'A friend? I have heard a lot about friendship, but as Mama traveled a lot through Russia and Siberia, I have never had one. Why did Shun propose me to be his friend? Because I helped him? Because he is alone? No he is not alone, he has his brother.' He narrowed his eyes slightly when he remembered how Shun had looked at him when Tatsumi had put him into the cell of meditation the first time. 'Friend...' his mind whispered.

"How should I call you?" Hyoga demanded.

"As you want Hyoga-kun."

"So, Shun-kun is right?"

"I think you speak nihongo well. Shall we go to the refectory or we will be punished. But if we are punished together, I don't mind. I will be with you..."

"Thank you."

"For what, Hyoga-kun?"

"For speaking to me. For not thinking that I'm a monster. For having gone and seen Yamada, last time."

Shun did not mention to Hyoga the error he made in his sentence, but he promised to himself to help the Russian to speak Japanese very well. "It was nothing, and it has done nothing. I'm too weak, and Yamada-san refused to free you. I couldn't accept that you were punished because of me. But I want to become stronger."

"Does your brother accept that you speak with me?"

"If you don't hurt me, Niisan will do nothing to you."

"He hates me."

"Daijobu, Hyoga-kun, Niisan will not hurt you, if I ask him. I don't know why he doesn't appreciate you, but I will do everything I can to protect you from him."

They arrived close to the house and they opened the door. Hyoga narrowed his eyes. "Shun-kun, you shouldn't come with me inside."

"Why are you saying this, Hyoga-kun?"

"I will wait until you go in."

"Why?"

 

"Because, you will be rejected" the blond boy said to the green haired child.

"I'm already rejected Hyoga-kun. I'm too weak and they don't want to be near me. Niisan doesn't appreciate them a lot because of this reason. So, I don't fear to be rejected as I'm already rejected. We will go in the refectory together."

Hyoga gave up and he stepped into the corridors. Both were walking quickly. They knew they were late, but neither Shun nor Hyoga minded. They stopped in front of the door and Hyoga put his hand on the handle. He looked down on Shun who smiled at him reassured by his presence. The Russian's heart lightened and he smiled back. He opened the door and they came in.

"Shun! Hyoga!" Yamada shouted surprised to see them together. "Where were you? You're late!"

"Gomen nasai" Shun replied. "It won't happen again, Yamada-san" he said looking at him.

Hyoga stood in front of Yamada as if he was protecting the green haired boy and he stared into the brown eyes of the man.

"That it will not happen again! Go to your table, now!"

The two boys turned and they walked quietly to the table where Ikki was staring harshly at Hyoga and Kiochi was looking puzzled. They sat, Hyoga at his place. As Ikki was in front of him, he saw the killing glare of the dark blue haired boy. He just stared at him back and then he began to eat.

"Don't dare make Shun late again, Gaijin" Ikki said under his teeth.

"Niisan, please" Shun said softly turning his eyes to him, pleading. "He has done nothing. He is not responsible."

"Anyway. He is older than you. He should know the rules. If Yamada had punished you, I swear the gaijin would have had a hard time!"

"Niisan. Hyoga-kun has been very kind to me. So stop please."

"Hyoga-kun?" Kiochi asked surprised.

"SILENCE!!!" Yamada shouted. "If the four of you continue I will clamp down!" The children stopped speaking and they ate their meal slowly. Shun glanced at Hyoga and he smiled at him. The blond boy nodded slightly and he returned to his plate.

Ikki could not stand it anymore. He was truly fed up with Hyoga. He was the oldest and this foreigner, even if he had helped Shun, did not want to obey him. He was the one in charge here. It was bad enough that he had difficulty with Seiya and Shiryu without counting Jabu. But Shun, Kiochi and this Russian were under his orders and he wished that the three of them obeyed him. It was counting without Hyoga and it was more than he could bear. He had had a bad day and Hyoga's indifference and his way of looking at him was the last straw.

"It's your turn Hyoga!" he growled his blue eyes becoming darker.

Hyoga just stared back at him without saying a word.

"Don't push him Niisan" Shun said rushing to Hyoga's aid and wanting to dampen the tension that he sensed mounting between the two children. This could become really serious. "I'll go and..."

"No!" Ikki shouted slapping down the fork and standing up. "It's the gaijin's turn!" he roared bending a little and taking Hyoga's Tee shirt collar in his fists. He pulled the boy towards him.

Hyoga slapped Ikki's fists in vain trying to free himself and glared at the boy in front of him.

"Don't you dare touch me" he said calmly looking into Ikki's eyes.

Bit by bit the refectory became quiet as everyone was observing what was happening there.

"I do what I want, gaijin!" Ikki roared pulling Hyoga closer to him. "I'm the oldest so you must do what I say!"

Hyoga did not answer and gave him a sardonic smile.

Ikki became angry and his right fist dropped Hyoga's collar. He punched the Russian's left cheek. Under the strength of the punch, Hyoga's head turned to the right and went back. He would have fallen to the ground if Ikki's left fist was not still holding his clothes.

"Nani?" someone said somewhere in the refectory half-surprised by the fight while others let out cries of surprise. Shun opened his eyes wide.

"I'll teach you a lesson Gaijin! A lesson you won't be able to forget!" Ikki shouted.

Hyoga turned his head to the blue haired boy and his pale blue eyes threw lightening of anger and were claiming for revenge. He grabbed with his two hands Ikki's left fist still holding his tee shirt and he turned his body violently, making the other fly above the table, plates, glasses and forks and knives were flying away and some broke.

Ikki fell on his back on the ground. He opened one eye and he saw the blond boy staring down at him, harshly. Ikki groaned and his cheeks became red.

"Niisan!!" Shun shouted trying to go to him but Kiochi grabbed him by his arm. Shun turned to him and the dark haired boy shook his head slowly. "But..." Shun protested. Kiochi shook his head in denial again and he tightened his grip on Shun's arm.

"Let them. They have to fight..."

Shun looked at him surprised. 'Why must they fight? Why?'

In the same time, Ikki jumped to his feet and without hesitation, he punched the Russian on his stomach and on his right cheek. Hyoga backed one step away to keeping his balance. He responded and Ikki felt a pain on his chest before a punch hit his nose. The dark blue haired boy felt something flowing out of it and without verifing this fact, he knew his nose was bleeding.

"Kuso!" Ikki roared rushing to Hyoga.

"Niisan!!" Shun cried freed from Kiochi's grip. He ran to his brother and Hyoga's direction but he was stopped by the other children who had gathered around the fighters. "Niisan! Hyoga-kun! Yamete! " Shun pleaded trying to shout louder than the cries of the others, and to cross the crowd. "Yamete kudasai!"

But none of them heard him and the fists, punches and kicks flight continued, hitting cheeks, stomach and other limbs.

"Go on Ikki! Show him that Nihonjin are the best!"

"Teach him a lesson!"

"Come on! Make him grovel at us!"

Shun managed to squeeze between people and he dashed toward Ikki and Hyoga in order to stop them. "Yamete kudasai! Niisan! Hyoga-kun!" he shouted tearfully.

"What is happening here?" shouted a stentorian voice.

Everyone stopped shouting and they turned to the door. Shun stopped in his rush and froze. He knew this voice too well and he foresaw the worst. The children saw Tatsumi and Yamada staring at them. Most of them parted in front of Mitsumasa Kido's hired man who went up to the two boys, who still fighting had not heard the question, totally involved in their fight.

Tatsumi looked at the two fighters. "Stop that immediately!" he shouted. But neither Hyoga nor Ikki stopped. "Stop that" ordered Tatsumi, taking by the collar the two children and picking them up. Ikki glared at Hyoga but he kept quiet. Hyoga did the same, his fists still clenched. "I don't know what is happening here, and I don't want to, but you know the rules and what happens to those who don't respect them!"

"It's the gaijin!" someone shouted. "It's the Gaijin! He started it!"

"I don't want to know who had started it or not! They were two for fighting! I will punish them the same way!"

"It's unfair!" someone shouted. "It's he who had started!" he said pointed his index to Hyoga.

"Yes, it's unfair!" repeated several voices.

"SILENCE!" Tatsumi shouted. He turned to the two men near the door and gestured them to come with his chin. "As you like fighting, you're going to fight as much as you want. I'm fed up with you, Ikki. I'm fed up with you, Hyoga!"

Each man took one child by the collar and they walked away.

"Niisan!" Shun shouted.

"Let me down! Let me down! You haven't the right!" Ikki shouted, fidgeting in all directions. But the man held him firmly.

"As for you, keep still! I don't want to have another hitch this evening!" His black eyes traveled on each child before he turned and left the refectory.

"It's terrible" Shiryu said in a breath. Shun turned to him afraid.

"Why do you say this, Shiryu?" Seiya demanded surprised.

"Tatsumi is in bad mood. You have heard what he had said. He was fed up with both. He will vent his anger on them..."

"No..." Shun murmured understanding and crying. "No... It can't be..."

"Shun...." his roommate murmured "don't worry, Ikki is strong!"

"Why? Why can't he accept Hyoga?"

"Ikki was right when he said that the Russian is a troublemaker..."

"No he is not" Shun replied softly after a long moment, remembering the time he had seen Hyoga crying. "He is not responsible..." Kiochi looked down on Shun in surprise. He took him by his shoulders and took him to their room. He should take care of Shun, who was in a state of shock or he would be the target of Ikki's anger.

Ikki shouted few times and then kept quiet when he saw that the blond boy was saying nothing. He saw a sparkle of hate in his blue eyes directed to Tatsumi.

"Needless to tire yourself Russian! You know the rules!" The men took them in the cell of meditation, but none of the men wearing black clothes put them down. Tatsumi closed the door and he looked up and down at the two children. "The rebels I submit them!" he said taking his shinai. "We'll begin with you" he said approaching the Russian.

Hyoga stayed still and the man who was holding him put him down on his feet, but he took his arms and he put them behind his back. The blond child glared at Tatsumi.

"You only set about yourself! Ikki is the oldest of your group, so you must owe him some respect and you must obey him!" A blow fell on his right shoulder.

Hyoga bit the inside of his mouth to keep from screaming. 'No I won't scream! I will not submit to you! I will not submit to him!" Another blow hit him. Hyoga bit his lips harder. A trickle of blood flew out of the corner of his mouth, but he continued staring at the man in front of him. He got a few other blows. "You are inhuman" Hyoga said without anger before the shinai hit his left arm.

"How many times should I tell you that you must speak in Japanese?" shouted Tatsumi. Hyoga gave him a smirk. He knew he had the hold on Tatsumi by his language. Other blows rained down on him before the man let him go.

Stubbornly, the Russian, in spite of trembling legs, stood up, defying Tokumaru. His legs shook more violently and he fell on the ground without a moan.

Tatsumi came to Ikki and looked down on him. "It's now your turn, Ikki! You should set the good example, but seemingly you aren't mature enough for this!" A blow hit Ikki's back, then another.

The dark blue haired boy wanted to shout insults but he stayed quiet. He would be ashamed to let his anger get the better of him while the one he loathed had hung on without saying a word but a sentence in Russian which was more than a statement or an insult or a menace. He too he would not give up and submit to Tatsumi and he had surprised himself to have admired the Russian.

'Shun.....' he thought to resist to the pain. He felt the blows and suddenly they stopped. Ikki looked up at Tatsumi with hate in his eyes.

"Let that be a lesson to you! If you want to fight each other then do it outside! Now if you still have enough strength for fighting, then do it, this doesn't concern me any more!" Tokumaru walked out of the cell followed by the two men.

The two boys heard the door closing behind them and they gave each other a withering look. They stood up and they faced each other, their fists clenched ready to fight again. But none of them moved. They only stared at each other, none wanting to give up. They stayed a long moment like this before by common consent they decided to stop it.

Hyoga lowered his fists without tearing his eyes from Ikki. The other child had done the same and they walked to the wall, each at the opposite side of the other. They sat on the ground, their back against the wall, trying to ignoring the pain that crossed their body.

Hyoga leaned back against the wall opposite of Ikki. He was now used of this cell of meditation. The punches that Ikki had given him, made him suffer more than the blows of Tatsumi's shinai, but he did not move. He glanced at Ikki a long moment latter and he had the impression that the other was sleeping. Half of his face was in the shadows and his bangs hid his eyes. Hyoga glanced down to his arms and he saw that the bruises had turned black.

He rubbed the most painful one on his forearm and he winced in pain, suppressing a moan. 'I want to go back to Siberia' he thought. He put his arms around his raised knees and he buried his head in them. 'Mama! Why? Why do you want me to go to Japan. There is no one. I have no one...' Tears rolled silently when pictures of his mother came to his mind showing him with grief and bitterness all that he had lost. He heard a little noise and he froze. The noise came from Ikki's place. He did not move. He listened carefully but he heard nothing more. He raised his head but he did not glance to his cell companion.

He put his right hand under his shirt, and his fingers closed on something that made him sigh in relief. He pulled it out and he stared at the golden cross, the Northern Rosary that was handed down in his family. He remembered again when his mother had given it to him before they arrived at the harbor. With his fingers, he drew the outlines of the jewel, imprinted in the skin of his hand the different bumps and the different gems making up the rosary.

"A memento?" a voice asked suddenly.

Hyoga's head jerked back but he did not look up. He put his treasure under his shirt and he crossed his arms before him. He lowered his eyes, not wanting to have a conversation with Ikki.

Ikki said nothing. He had seen the jewel and how Hyoga had looked fondly at it. Pain, joy, hope, relief had crossed his features. A memory from one of his parents. He did not say anything when only the silence answered him. The boy sat more conformably and he stared at Hyoga who was basking into the glow of the moon's rays turning his blond hair into silver.

Since he had sat, Ikki had not torn his look from Hyoga's silhouette at the opposite of the cell, plunged into his thoughts. He was angry at him, but also very worried about Shun. He could not understand why his brother seemed to appreciate the Russian so much.

'Why do you hate him?' Shun's voice rang in his mind. 'Why do I hate him?' he asked himself. 'I don't know. I don't know why. Since he has arrived I haven't appreciated him. Because he is a stranger, a foreigner? Because I want to protect Shun? When I learnt that he had helped Shun, I have been plagued by contradictory feelings like gratitude and suspicion, incomprehension, as now I am.'

Ikki saw Hyoga moving a little, glancing to him, as to assure himself that he had not moved. 'I was surprised that he did not cry under Tatsumi's blows. I have always thought that gaijin were cowardly and only Japanese were courageous. But he proved me the contrary tonight and I must admit the other time when he had helped Shun and had been punished because of Tetsuo.' Some images of Hyoga covered with bruises when he was in the shower hit his mind.

'Why do you hate him?' Again this question. Ikki sighed. 'Maybe because I'm jealous of him. Because you care too much about him, Shun. I have seen how you looked at him when he had first come into the refectory room that first night. You were attracted to him. Yes, I'm jealous that he could take you away from me one day. You are now often with him, reading, playing, speaking. I'm jealous of him because he makes you happy, makes you feel better. I'm jealous of him because you want to become strong because of him. I have the feeling that you don't need me anymore. I'm jealous of him, Shun, I'm jealous.'

Ikki stared at Hyoga a long time studying him. He saw him taking something under his pale blue Tee shirt. Something caught the moonlight and Ikki saw a cross and pearls around a necklace. He noticed how Hyoga gripped the cross and the different feelings that crossed the Russian's face: relief, sadness, grief.

"A memento" he heard himself say to the blond boy. Hyoga hastily hid the cross under his shirt and stared at him. 'A Christian?' wondered Ikki. 'He really is different from us. Shun is right. He is and he feels alone. I should make an effort, after all I owe him something....' Ikki swallowed before he murmured. "Thank you..."

Hyoga looked at Ikki surprised, but he said nothing. Hyoga thought a moment. 'Should the war between Ikki, one of my roommates, and me continue? For the very first time he didn't shout at me...' Hyoga stared at Ikki who was staring back at him. "About what?" he demanded in a neutral voice.

"Shun" the blue haired boy replied tersely, leaning more comfortably against the wall.

Hyoga stared at him and met the deep blue eyes of the other boy. They did not speak and they did not look away. Then he moved slightly and he looked up at the window. "It was nothing" he replied simply.

"Why?" demanded Ikki settling more comfortably. Hyoga glanced at him puzzled. Ikki sighed.

"Why did you help him, while no one else had?"

Hyoga shrugged and bent his head. He had himself wondered why he had really helped the green haired child. He had not found the answer, so he had put it on his Christian education. "I don't know" he said turning his light blue eyes to Ikki. "Because he was in danger" he continued.

Ikki said nothing more and closed his eyes. He felt relieved. He had thanked the stranger and he had the feeling he had paid his debt toward him. He still did not really trust the gaijin but he knew that deep inside him, he was certainly the only one that he could trust one day, because of Shun. He was not blind. He had seen how Shun was living more near the blond child, trusting him completely. After two tries to keep Shun away from Hyoga, he had given up, because of his brother. Shun wanted with all his heart to be with the Russian who had not thrown him away, like the others did. And this was enough for Ikki to try to put his trust in the blond child.

Hyoga saw Ikki close his eyes, closed his own and tried to forget the pain. He kept the rosary in his hand, clenching it, afraid to lose it, to lose the last gift of his mother .

Sitting near the 'castle', Shun was laying on the grass, quietly looking through a pictured book. From time to time he trashed the air with his legs, humming a song he had heard on the TV. He felt happy. Now more than one week past he felt happy. Since his brother had come out of the cell of meditation with Hyoga, Ikki was not so hard on the Russian. Even if he continued to ignore the gaijin, he was not yelling at him like he had always done before. The tension between the two boys had lowered and Shun had wondered what had happened.

The green haired boy looked to his right and he saw the blond child doing his exercises almost twenty five meters away. Few meters away from the Russian, Ikki was talking to Shiryu. He sighed, pleased. 'Niisan seems to have accepted Hyoga-kun's presence. He's not trying to pull us apart as he had tried before both were punished together.' He turned to look at the book and he flipped a page. 'What happened between them when they were in the cell? I have tried to find out but neither Hyoga-kun or Niisan have told me anything about it.' He sighed. 'The most important thing is that they don't jump at each others throat's. It's a real beginning.'

Suddenly a shadow covered his book and Shun looked up surprised. He saw a brown haired boy, his hands on his hips, looking down to him. Shun sat on his knees and he grabbed his book closing it and putting it against his chest. He knew this child. The green haired boy had tried to become his friend especially when he had learnt that Seiya was younger than he was, but the brown haired boy had not wanted to. He had told him that he was too young. Even if Shun was three months older than Seiya, he looked like he was the youngest among all the children.

"What are you doing, Chibi?" Seiya asked staring at the book.

Shun did not reply and he glanced at his brother who was still talking to Shiryu. He remembered that Shiryu was the one in charge in his group and that if there were problems among the two, Ikki would try to settle it with him. His look traveled to Hyoga who was tracing his kanji on his exercise book. He swallowed. He was not at his ease with Seiya who was a daredevil, wanting to show he was the best and the strongest. Being close to him brought problems and he wondered how Shiryu could stand this boy. 'Maybe because he is responsible for Seiya' he thought turning to look to the boy in front of him.

"Reading?" asked Seiya extending his right arm to grab the book. Shun recoiled a little trying to put the book out of Seiya's reach. The boy's brown eyes narrowed. "Eh! I want to look at it!" he said approaching the child.

"No! It's mine! Niisan gave it to me years ago. It's mine!" he said firmly recoiling. But he could not recoil more and Seiya grabbed the book and pulled it from him. "No! It's mine!"

"I want to look at it, cry-baby!" he shouted pulling with more strength.

"No! Let it go! It's mine!" Shun shouted pulling it to himself. "It's mine! You haven't the right!" he said. "Niisan!" he called while Seiya succeeded in getting the book.

Seiya held it high as a trophy. "I've got it, chibi!" he said happilly. He jumped and he began to run to the opposite direction while the green haired boy was crying. The brown haired child could not go far and someone pushed him on the ground.

"It's Shun's! Not yours!" someone shouted angry.

Seiya stood up and turned to the one who had pushed him. He saw ice blue colored eyes staring at him angrilly among the blond bangs that sometimes hid the Russian's eyes.

Hyoga had been writing something on his exercise book when he had heard Shun shouting that it was his. The Russian had looked up and he had turned his eyes to the green haired boy. He saw him fighting with a child to keep his book. He bit his lips angrilly. 'Why don't the others want to leave Shun alone?' Then Shun shouted for help, he did not think more and he jumped to his feet to help his young roommate.

"The gaijin?" Seiya said surprised. The boy found his self-assurance quickly and stared back at Hyoga. "I just wanted to look at it!"

"You shouldn't take it from Shun's hands" Hyoga said extending his hand to take the book.

"No! I won it!" Seiya said rushing away with the book.

"It's not yours!" Hyoga shouted rushing after him. "Give it back!"

"Come and take it if you are so clever, gaijin!" Seiya shouted sticking out his tongue.

Hyoga smirked and he quickened his pace. He extended his arm and he succeeded in grabbing the book. He pulled it to him and it fell on the ground. Seiya stopped dead in his tracks and turned to take it again. But Hyoga had already bent over it. Seiya jumped on Hyoga and made him lose his balance. They rolled together on the grass away.

When they stopped, Seiya was beyond the Russian and the Japanese made a sudden move, escaping from the blond child's grip. Hyoga chased after him. The children had forgotten the book and they were running shouting at each other.

Shun bent and took the book. He glanced up and he saw that the chase was still continuing. He saw his brother coming near him and he looked down on the book. "Gomen Niisan" he whispered.

"Daijobu Shun" replied Ikki tousling the green hair of his brother. He looked at Hyoga still chasing after Seiya who was calling for Shiryu's help when he felt that the Russian was near to catching him. The dark blue haired boy was surprised that Hyoga had reacted so quickly to help his brother. Hyoga had reacted quicker than he had. He put his hands on his hips and he followed the chase with his eyes.

"You shouldn't have bothered Shun" the Russian said still running after Seiya.

"I asked him!" Seiya shouted. "Shiryu! Help!"

"He did not agree!" Hyoga replied

"I can't help you Seiya" Shiryu replied walking to the two brothers.

"Why?"

"He is right. You shouldn't have bothered Shun. He had not accepted to lend the book, so why did you steal it?"

"I've did not steal it Shiryu!"

"You didn't?" Hyoga shouted near to catching the brown haired boy.

"Help Shiryu! He's going to kill me!"

"Hyoga-kun" Shun called, hiding behind his brother when the two were passed in front of them.

Hyoga did not reply to Shun. A pleased smile appeared on Ikki's face when Seiya fell on the ground not far away from them. Shiryu chuckled. "You should have thought of that before Seiya" the black haired child said.

Seiya opened his eyes wide when he felt a weight on his back. He turned his head and he saw a glimpse of blond hair.

"Offer apologies to Shun" the Russian said crossing his arms on his chest and putting all his weight on Seiya.

"No! I've done nothing wrong!" Seiya shouted. "Get off me!"

"Not before you offer apologies to Shun" Hyoga replied smirking.

Shiryu knelt near Seiya still smiling. "Do what he asks you, Seiya."

"No I won't! Ittai!" he shouted when Hyoga jumped on the small of his back. "He's mad! He's going to kill me! Please Shiryu! Help me! Tell him to stop!"

"Say you are sorry!"

"Seiya. I advise you to excuse yourself to Shun. You are not in any position to argue. You were wrong. You must offer apologies and then he will stop."

"Please Shiryu...." Seiya said extending his hand to Shiryu.

"Not until you apologize."

Seiya closed his eyes when he felt the pressure on his back. 'He isn't joking!' Seiya thought suppressing a cry of pain. A little smile appeared on his lips. "OK! Ok! Ok!" the brown haired boy shouted slapping the ground with his hand. "I will offer my apologies. So get off me!"

"No. Not until you apologize."

"Why?"

"I don't trust you" Hyoga replied simply looking down at him.

"Hyoga-kun..." Shun pleaded. Hyoga did not turn to Shun and he waited.

"Sorry Shun! Sorry! I won't do it again!"

Shun gave him a little smile. "Gomen but this book is important to me. But I should have lent it to you..."

"As you see Seiya, it is not difficult to apologize."

"Oh! The gaijin! Get off me now!"

"As you want Japanese" Hyoga said getting up and dusting his clothes off.

"Shiryu, can you help me to stand up? He has ruined my back! I has never imagined that he was so heavy!"

"Shun." Ikki said softly. The green haired boy turned to his brother who was still staring at Hyoga sitting on Seiya's back, refusing to get up. "You like Hyoga, no?" he demanded turning his deep blue eyes to Shun.

"Yes Niisan. He is the only one, besides you, who is kind to me. He saved me from Tetsuo's gang, and he is still looking after me..." The boy stared in surprise at his brother. "Why do you ask me this?"

Ikki did not reply and he stared at Hyoga who stood up and saw Seiya holding his hand out to Shiryu to help him get up. Shun titled his head and he smiled at Hyoga his thanks. "What would you think about having a new big brother, Shun?"

The green haired boy turned to him his green eyes wide open. "Ani?" he demanded more than lost.

Ikki glanced down at Shun and smiled. "Hyoga has already defended you several times. He deserves my respect. I admit that I haven't performed well with him." He stopped and Shun replied nothing. He knew what those words had cost his brother, he was so proud and self confident that he rarely recognized he was sometimes wrong. "Anibun..." Ikki said softly. "Do you see Hyoga as an Anibun?"

Shun eyed Hyoga rushing away from Seiya's anger. Seemingly, the brown haired boy wanted to take his revenge on the blond child. "Yes" he replied to Ikki.

"It's what I have noticed. So would you agree that he becomes your new brother?"

"I would be very happy, Niisan. Hyoga-kun is so alone, there... But do you?" he demanded glancing away.

"He's the only one in whom I can put my trust, as far as you are concerned, Shun."

"You know what Niisan? Hyoga-kun is like you. You are so much alike. I have the feeling to have a new brother. Yes you are really alike!"

"No, I don't think so. We are very different."

"No. I'm sure of what I'm saying" Shun said smiling at Ikki. "Does Hyoga-kun know?"

"I will ask him..." Ikki stopped talking to Shun when he saw Hyoga rushing to them. "Do you need a hand, Hyoga?"

"No. I can handle this" he replied dodging one of Seiya's dives, who fell on the ground, his nose in the grass.

"The grass tastes good?" asked Hyoga stopping and staring at Seiya. "I did not know you were still hungry!"

"Can't you speak in Japanese! I understand nothing that you are saying to me! I even have the feeling that you're insulting me!" Hyoga shrugged.

"You must change your attacks" he said coming up with the words.

"Change my attacks?" he demanded standing up and rushing after the Russian. "What do you mean by this? I will catch you easily!"

"No" Hyoga said sure of himself, avoiding another attack and stopping, putting his hands on his hips.

"He is right, if you continue like this, Seiya. We can read you like in an opened book."

"On which side are you on, Shiryu?"

"I'm neutral..." Shiryu replied. "On top of that, you were wrong to annoy Shun." Seiya groaned.

"Consider yourself lucky that it was he who took Shun's defense and not Ikki. Or you would have a hard time..."

"Oh that's all right!" Seiya grumbled turning to Hyoga who was not at the last place he had seen him. He glanced around him and he saw him, near Shun, the green haired boy speaking to him, laughing, seemingly very happy. "Eh! Don't turn your back on me!"

Hyoga turned to him surprised. Shun looked at Seiya and then at Hyoga. He took the blond boy's arm and he shook his head in denial. "No Hyoga-kun. It's enough..." The Russian only nodded.

"He! Seiya! Shiryu!" shouted a boy running to them. "You want to play soccer?" Geki asked stopping and looking at them, waiting for their answer. "Oh! You're here too Shun, Ikki?! You wanna too?"

Seiya smiled brightly forgetting his revenge on Hyoga and he turned to Shiryu. The black haired boy nodded with a little smile and they ran toward Geki. Shun turned to his brother who nodded too seeing the sparkle of want in his young brother's green eyes. It was rare that someone proposed them to come and play. Shun's eyes smiled.

"Can I really?" he demanded knowing that he was often on the sideline because of his weakness.

"Sure!" Geki replied raising his thumb. Shun's eyes filled with tears and he walked to Geki before he changed his mind. He stopped only put Hyoga's things near his book and he continued toward the playground.

Ikki followed him but he suddenly stopped. He turned and he saw Hyoga turning slowly, his head and he shoulders bent, he walked to the woods, alone. Despite of himself, Ikki's heart sank. Every movement of the Russian showed loneliness and sadness. The blond boy had shared a short moment with people, near friendship and now he was again alone. Ikki felt that this loneliness was certainly more hurtful than before. Hyoga had experienced the warmth of friendship and was now thrown away because of his difference.

"Hyoga!" he called. Hyoga stopped but he did not turn. "You want to join us?" he asked him.

Hyoga said nothing for few seconds and then shook his head in denial unable to speak. He had not been asked by Geki and he was sure that the boy had seen him near Shun and Ikki. No, his presence was not required, as always. He was too different. His heart ached and he bit the inside of his mouth.

Ikki walked few paces to Hyoga puzzled. "Why?" Hyoga took a deep breath still not turning to the boy.

"Because, I was not asked" he whispered. He did not wait and he walked away before Ikki asked him something more. It was already too hard to stand this indifference.

"But I want you to play with us!" Ikki shouted hurrying after him. "I want you in my team!"

"You maybe, but the others?" Hyoga replied back turning to Ikki who stopped.

"Why do you care about it? It's the first time I see you worried by this!" He frowned when he saw Hyoga narrowing his eyes, and ready to turn away.

"Niisan!" shouted Shun further away.

Ikki waved to Shun meaning that he was coming and to wait a minute. "Come on Hyoga!" he said turning to the Russian who was staring at Shun. "Moreover, this would please Shun."

"No Ikki" Hyoga breathed. "Go there. Thanks." He turned to the woods meaning that the discussion was over and that he would not go back on it. In a way Ikki could understand him. He, himself, had been isolated from the others and still was, but it was by his own will to protect Shun. But Hyoga was pushed aside purely and simply, uncompromisingly because of his difference. No one had given him the slightest opportunity to integrate the group. He closed his eyes and he walked to the others. He saw his brother rushing to him.

"Hyoga-kun?" he demanded stopping near his brother and looking to the boy. Ikki's deep blue eyes locked with Shun's green ones. "He won't come?" he asked with a hint of sadness in his voice. Ikki shook his head in denial.

"No" he replied noticing the hurt in his brother's eyes. Shun ran toward Hyoga before Ikki could stop him. The blue haired boy saw his young brother rushing to the blond boy after he had shouted his name. He arrived close to the Russian and grabbed his arm, making him stop.

They were too far away to hear what they were saying, but Ikki saw Hyoga shaking his head in denial several times before he bent it. He saw Shun shaking vigorously his head too and shaking Hyoga's arm, trying to pull him with him. He saw Hyoga shaking his head again and trying to free himself but he could not. Ikki knew that Shun could be very persuasive and staring at Hyoga, he was sure the Russian was nearly giving up.

A smile played on his lips. 'No one can resist Shun especially when he is near to crying. Hyoga likes Shun too much to hurt him...'

Hearing his name, Hyoga tensed but he continued walking. He did not want Shun to see how sad he was. He did not want him to be worried. But he was forced to stop when two hands gripped his arm and made him stop.

"Hyoga-kun" Shun pleaded. The boy did not turn. Shun tightened his grip around the Russian's arm and he turned around to face him. "Hyoga-kun" he called softly searching the ice blue eyes. But the blond boy was avoiding his gaze. "Hyoga-kun. Come with me. Play with me!" Hyoga shook his head in denial without a look at Shun.

"Please Hyoga-kun!" Hyoga shook his head again.

"No Shun-kun."

"Why?"

"..." Hyoga turned his head to his left and he swallowed with difficulty, feeling that the lump in his throat was growing. His eyes tickled and he knew that he was near to crying. He held the tears back.

"You don't like playing soccer?"

"It's not that Shun-kun..." Hyoga said softly.

"So why don't you want to come and play with me?"

"Ikki already asked me."

"Please Hyoga-kun!" Hyoga shook his head.

"No Shun-kun. Go with your brother."

"Iie! Not without you! I want to play with you!" Hyoga shook his head again and his arm for freeing himself. But he had underestimated Shun's strength and he could not succeed.

"Shun-kun, let go of my arm..." Shun shook his head with strength. He had the opportunity to lock his eyes with Hyoga's.

"No. Hyoga-kun! Come and play with me! I'm rarely asked to play with the others. You're my friend! I want to play with you and Niisan. Please Hyoga-kun..."

Hyoga saw Shun's eyes filling with tears. He could not stand this anymore. He bent his head and did not move while Shun pulled on his arm. "Shun-kun.... Please...I..." Shun stopped pulling on his arm but he did not drop it. "Shun-kun... They don't like me. They don't want me. You say it's rare when they ask you to play with them, so go on, enjoy it. If I go with you or with your brother, you will be push aside once more and it be my own fault. Thank you for considering me as a friend, but I will not really be one if Ikki and you will be subjected to the disgrace from the others, by my fault. Do you understand?" Shun titled his head to his right puzzled.

"Sorry Hyoga-kun but I don't understand Russian..." Hyoga looked at Shun surprised. He had not been aware that he had spoken his maternal language.

"Sorry, Shun-kun. I don't speak nihongo well. I can't explain what I feel..."

"Hyoga-kun" Shun said softly. "Ii desu yo. Don't be ashamed to speak Russian. I like to hear it." Hyoga smiled.

"I'm not ashamed, Shun-kun..." Hyoga replied still looking down.

"Hyoga-kun, onegai come and play with me."

"Shun-kun, please..."

"Hyoga-kun.... You're the first one who considered me a normal child, who had not laughed at me. You're the first one who protected me when Niisan was not near me and I know you always do." The green haired boy smiled when he saw the blond haired one blushing a little. "I don't mind what the others think. They have asked me, but if you don't come with me, I won't go and play with them. I don't want to leave you alone. You have done a lot for me..." Tears rolled on Shun's cheeks. Hyoga's ice blue colored eyes softened.

"Shun-kun..." he murmured passing his right hand on the green-eyed boy, wiping the tears away. "Don't cry... Please, don't." He sighed and he closed his eyes. "Are you sure?"

"About what?"

"I can come?" Shun nodded.

"Of course! You will really come?" Shun shouted smiling wide and pulling Hyoga's arm.

"Do I have a choice?" Hyoga noticed looking at Ikki who was walking away. He followed Shun who was laughing calling to his brother to wait for them. 'Why am I so weak in front of Shun?'

Ikki stopped and waited for them. "So you have changed your mind?"

"Yes he has!" shouted Shun happy, freeing Hyoga and rushing to the field where the others where waiting, splitting them in order to draw up the teams.

"It's difficult to resist Shun" noticed Ikki. Hyoga did not reply but Ikki was sure to have seen a smile on the Russian's lips. Like him, he rarely showed his emotions, well, in front of the others. He had eyed them when the Russian had believed he was alone and he had been very surprised to see that the dominant feeling was sadness, a very deep sadness and loneliness. It maybe why Shun was so attracted by the blond boy. His brother's nature always dictated him to help people in difficulty. 'It's maybe one of the reasons I have accepted he could become an Anibun for Shun.'

The two boys arrived at the field and they looked around them. Shun was waiting for them.

"In which team are players missing?" asked Ikki.

Some turned to the blue haired boy surprised to see him there. "Well, in Furo's team" replied Jabu.

"Eh!" shouted Tetsuo. "What is the gaijin doing here?"

"We have not asked him to come" shouted Furo. "We don't want him here!"

"Yeah! Go away!" shouted several boys.

Shun looked around him surprised by the rejection Hyoga was the object of. He was sure that they would accept him as a teammate, as Shiryu and Seiya had done earlier when they had 'played' together. But he crossed few hard glares and he turned to Hyoga. The Russian was not surprised. 'He knew!' thought Shun understanding his friend's earlier attitude.

"He's with me!" shouted Ikki frowning. "He will be in my team!"

"We don't want to play with him!"

"He will play with me" replied Ikki glaring at the black haired boy at his right.

"Why are you by his side?" shouted Tetsuo. "You have told us to not approach him or speak to him."

"It's not your business..."

"Hyoga-kun will play with us!" shouted Shun coming near the blond boy. "He has as much the right to play as us!"

"The cry-baby is protecting the Gaijin?" smirked Furo. "This doesn't surprised me, after all, birds of a feather stick together. This Gaijin is as weak as the baby!"

Ikki's deep blue eyes flashed with anger, but Hyoga had already rushed to Tetsuo and punched him. "Don't you dare insult Shun, coward" he hurled.

"Bastard!" shouted Tetsuo placing a hand on his cheek.

"Insult me as much as you want, it will not work! Anyway, I will not play with boys like you!!"

"When you speak, speak in Japanese not in a barbarian language!"

"Excuse yourself to Shun!"

"Hyoga-kun!" called Shun. "That's enough I'm used..."

"But Shun-kun..."

"Tetsuo!" shouted Shun turning to the boy. "Hyoga-kun is like you, like us, an orphan! Why don't you accept it that he could be a friend?"

"Because he is not Nihonjin!"

"Can the nationality really be a barrier?" demanded slowly Shiryu approaching the blond haired boy. Tetsuo blinked when he saw the calm boy stopping near Hyoga. "Wars made orphans like us. Most of the wars have for origins the hate and the fears of others..."

"You protect the blondie, Fist Fight?"

"I don't protect him. He is strong enough to protect himself. But I don't like injustice."

"We will not play with him!"

"Why?" demanded Shiryu.

"I've already told my reasons. Here, everyone thinks like me! The Gaijin mustn't be here! He has nothing to do here!"

"They are not real reasons" pointed Shiryu.

"For me it's an excellent reason..."

"Really? Are you afraid of losing?" spoke Ikki approaching Hyoga, a smirk on his face.

"Afraid? Afraid of what?"

"That he will be stronger than you! Oh, but he is stronger than you, no? Hasn't he already taught you a lesson?"

Tetsuo clenched his fists. "What do you mean by that? What are you talking about?"

"You know very well what I'm talking about! Moreover, your revenge was such a despicable act that it made you sick!"

"Shut up! I'm afraid of no one and certainly not of a Russian!"

"So?" asked innocently Ikki.

"He will not play!"

"I suggest you put an end to the argument" cut Shiryu turning his look to Hyoga. "Shun is right. He has as much right to play as us. He is like us and he goes through hell like us."

"What do you suggest Shiryu?" demanded Ichi curious.

"We will make two teams. One with Hyoga and the other with Tetsuo. We'll see which team will win. If it's Hyoga's, then nothing will prevent us from putting him aside. If it's Tetsuo's, then we'll stay on our position." There was a long silence.

Hyoga did not believe it. They're going to play for his integration among the others. He had as much chance to win or lose. Thinking about it, he had more chance to lose. Who except Ikki and Shun would want to be in his team? Not a lot more, and he was aware of this. But maybe it was the only solution.

Tetsuo was speaking with his four friends and then he nodded. "All right, I'll agree."

"You?" asked Shiryu turning to the blond child. Hyoga nodded too. "All right then. Who wants to be in Hyoga's team?" Everyone glanced at each other. There was not exactly a crowd. Ikki and Shun came closer to Hyoga, Shiryu too. "Seven players are missing" said Shiryu softly. He turned to Seiya. "You want to take up the challenge, Seiya?"

"Why would I take it up? If I must take it up, it would be against him and not with him! I have to get my revenge, too!"

"You are wrong Seiya" replied with a smile Shiryu.

"It's not true!"

"I thought you were my friend..."

"I must get my revenge..." Seiya stopped as he saw Hyoga's roommate coming into the group formed by Ikki. Then he saw Nachi joining them. He looked at the other group where lot of children had gathered around Tetsuo. The black haired boy was choosing his teammates according to their strength. The boy was making every effort to win. Seiya saw that he had chosen Geki, Ichi and Jabu. His brown eyes narrowed. He had a revenge to take on Hyoga, this was true, but he wanted to humiliate Jabu too. He turned towards Shiryu and he went to him.

"You have changed your mind?"

"Just the time of a respite..." replied the brown haired boy.

Shiryu's right eyebrow arched a little in curiousity but he did not ask. He turned to Hyoga who was talking to Ikki. He was surprised that the dark blue haired boy spoke to him. He had claimed so many times to hate the gaijin that he did not understand. 'Is it because he took Shun's defense? And what was this sentence? 'Hadn't he already taught you a lesson? Moreover, your revenge was a despicable act that it made you sick.' Shiryu sighed. 'Well, better that then another war...' Shiryu thought remembering the fight in the refectory.

Then after a long moment, they succeeded in forming a team. Shiryu was searching for someone and when he saw him, he walked up to him. "Gyuma" he said, "you are the most neutral among us, so I would ask you to referee the match. The brown haired boy nodded and he walked to the center of the playground. He whistled the beginning of the game after Shun gave Hyoga and the other members of the teams blue sky scarves, saying that it would be handy to recognize their teammates.

The boys ran after the ball, bumping into each other from time to time. They seemed to be at the same level and Hyoga was trying hard to be in harmony with the others. He was not used to playing with the others. He had been often alone, even when his mother was in life, and ever since he lived in the Graad Foundation, he had never played with the children, wanting to be alone, and being rejected by them. So he was trying to succeed in playing well together, but he failed. He could not play. Tetsuo and his teammates were always marking him, preventing him to get the ball. The game went on and none of the two teams had advantage over the other.

Suddenly Kiochi, who had the ball, passed it to Ikki who rushed to the goal without looking around him to see if he could pass the ball to someone. He dribbled around one player, than another and he continued to the goal.

"Ikki!" Seiya shouted. "Don't be selfish!"

"Pass the ball!" Nachi said to his right, running without being marking.

But Ikki continued to play alone. The ball passed between Tetsuo's legs and Ikki got it back. He quickened his pace and he dribbled around two defenders. He shot the ball to the goal and Geki plunged to catch it. But it was too late and the deep blue haired boy scored a goal.

"Great Ikki!" Seiya shouted, raising his two fingers in the air showing the V of victory.

"You're great" Kiochi said.

"You're the best Niisan!" Shun said rushing to him. Ikki tousled his green hair and smiled at him.

"The game is not finished. We should score some goals" he said simply. Shun nodded and he turned to Hyoga. He smiled at him and then he returned to his position on the field. Ikki approached the Russian.

"You should score a goal" he said in a whisper so that no one else could hear him, "or even if we win, Tetsuo would not accept your victory. Fight for yourself." He walked away without a look to the blond boy.

Hyoga followed him with his eyes. 'Ikki....' he thought surprised by his roommate's voice. 'He's doing everything so that can I win, so that I'll be accepted among them. He's right. I must fight.' A resolute expression appeared on his face.

"You can succeed" someone said near him.

The Russian turned to the boy who had spoken and saw Shiryu. Surprise crossed his ice blue colored eyes. The black haired boy only smiled at him. Hyoga only nodded and he returned to his position on the field. 'Yes they are right. They trust me... I mustn't destroy their expectation, I mustn't.'

The game started again and Hyoga put his heart into catching all the balls he could in order to score a goal. But he wanted so much to prove to the others he could score one that he committed some fouls.

"I wonder if you are able to play..." Seiya said, exasperate. Hyoga gave him a black look. "You always commit fouls! We always lose the ball, because of you."

"Stop that Seiya!" shouted Ikki. "It's not the right moment!"

"I'm just telling the truth!" Seiya shouted back.

"Shut up!" replied Ikki. "Look at the ball!"

"Give me a break!"

"Give him one!" Ikki told Seiya off. Seiya stuck out his tongue at the dark blue haired boy and he ran to the other side of the field. Ikki frowned and he sighed exasperated. He caught sign of the thanks in Hyoga's eyes and he shrugged, running to block Ban.

The game continued. Few minutes later, Seiya, ready to be blocked, threw the ball high in the sky without seeing to whom he had sent it. Three people rushed to it. They jumped in the air. Hyoga, Shiryu and Shun with their eyes focused on the ball did not see the others and when the ball came at their forehead level, they headed toward the ball at the same time.

The ball was sandwiched between the three heads and for two seconds it was blocked. The strength of the three, then, threw it above them. The ball twirled before falling on the ground. As the ball was not there, the three children bumped their forehead because of the momentum. They lost their balance and they fell on the ground heavily.

"Ittai..." the two Japanese said rubbing their heads.

"Ouch" Hyoga moaned opening one eye and looking at both children near him. He saw Shiryu and Shun. "What happened?" he demanded.

"Hyoga-kun? Are you all right?" Shun asked opening his green eyes.

"I'm fine? Shun-kun?"

The green haired boy nodded. "I hadn't thought that you had such a hard head, Hyoga-kun" he continued rubbing his forehead. He saw Hyoga holding out his hand to him. He took it and the Russian helped him to his feet.

"You too, you have a hard head" Hyoga said smiling. "Here!" he said to Shiryu, helping him to his feet too. "You too."

"Thanks" Shiryu told him. The three of them heard cries of joy and they looked around them to find out the reason. They quickly understood. Jabu had scored a goal. "I think we have a problem" Shiryu noticed seeing Seiya's black look. "We have made a big mistake together."

"I didn't know that someone else was going to catch the ball" Shun said softly, sorry. " Once more it's my fault."

"It's not Shun-kun's fault." Hyoga tousled the green hair of the child. "Mine. I should be more careful and it's my fight, not yours."

"It's not only your fight" said Shiryu narrowing his gray eyes. "It's our fight too. We must learn to trust the others, to think about the others, not only ourselves first. Shun has already won this battle, you too. Now it's our turn. It was not your fault, not Shun's fault either. We're all responsible." Shiryu glanced to their teammates. "We'd better return to play before Seiya eats us."

Both boys nodded and Shun gave Shiryu a little smile. "Arigato Shiryu-san." He turned to Hyoga, but the Russian was already away and Seiya was telling him something seemingly very angry. The blond boy replied nothing and he just passed the brown haired boy without a look.

"Are you all right Shun?"

"Yes, I am, Niisan" Shun answered smiling at his brother.

"So, go to your place. The game is not finished. We must win!" Shun nodded and he ran to his place. 'We must win, for Hyoga.'

The game continued and Hyoga had a sweaty forehead. He looked up at the sun and heturned to look at the ball. The scores were close. Iroshi had scored one a few minutes after Jabu's goal. Then they were tied on points thanks to Seiya who had taken the ball from Jabu's feet and had crossed half of the field alone. He could hear the other children on the sideline cheering Tetsuo's team on. This did not surprise him as he was the stranger. But what annoyed him was that he rarely had the ball. Seiya refused to pass it him, or when it was someone else, he could not because Tetsuo was marking him.

Hyoga glanced to his right and he saw the black haired boy smirking at him. They had bumped several times and the Russian was sure that Tetsuo did it deliberately to make him angry and to get him out of the game. But Hyoga stayed calm. He had decided not to respond to his provocations. 'I should score once. Ikki and Shiryu are right. If I don't, even if we win, they will not accept me. My duel with Tetsuo will be tied!'

"You won't win gaijin!" he told him in a whisper.

"We will see that!" Hyoga replied eyeing Kiochi who was passing the ball to Shun. "You haven't won yet." Hyoga let a smirk play on his lips. He had deliberately spoken in Russian to annoy the Japanese. Tetsuo's eyes narrowed dangerously, angry.

Near the field, the children continued shouting. "Don't let them win!"

"Gaijin are nothing!"

"Put him down!"

None of the children saw the old man and his granddaughter coming up behind them. They continued shouting and the old man stopped behind them without making noticeble his presence to the children still watching with interest the match.

The little lavender girl wanted to say them something, but the old man stopped her by putting a hand on her shoulder. She looked up surprised and he shook his head in denial.

Kido Mitsumasa then turned to look at the field. He saw the children running after the ball and he heard the shouts. Slowly he began to understand what was happening. He was still looking at the children from a distance. He did not know them and he did not want to. Most of them would certainly never come back here to protect Saori. And, he had not encouraged the children to have real links of friendship or it would be hard when the time came to send them to different training places.

But he had noticed something. The Russian had never been accepted. At first, the blond child had always refused to comply or to stay here. His escape was a proof of his stubbornness. He had wondered what would make him accept to become a Saint, but he had found nothing, absolutely nothing. They could not put pressure on him. He did not know what had made change his mind but he was relieved that he did. The konketsu was trying to integrate the group and Mitsumasa Kido knew that he should help him, because if he did not and if this blond boy succeeded in becoming a Saint, he would never come back here, never and Mitsumasa Kido would lose a guardian for Saori.

"Hey. What will happen if the two teams are tied?" asked a boy.

"I don't know. Shiryu didn't mentioned this case" answered a blue haired boy.

"If they are, what must we do with the gaijin?. Should we accept him or not?" demanded another.

"What do you want?" asked the first boy.

"I don't like him..."

"He's too cold!" added the second.

"The match is not finished" said a fourth one. "Just wait."

The old man turned his gaze to the field and he took his granddaughter's hand. They walked away, letting the boys alone. Together they walked to the house and they passed by Yamada-san who was running toward the field seemingly angry.

"Yamada-san?" called the old man stopping. The man stopped and he turned to Kido Mitsumasa.

"Kido-sama" he said bowing deeply in front of him. "I'm sorry. I will tell the children to go and train. I am sorry. This will not happen again, Kido-sama."

"Let them play a moment. Until the game finishes."

"But Kido-sama..."

"They are only children. They need to relax a bit. And playing soccer can shrug off their rage. And this game can be a training too. Children need to play a little. Those children will have hard times in few months. We must let them play so that they can have some few good memories, or they will not able to become real Saints and protect Athena."

"As you wish Kido-sama."

"Until the game finishes." Mitsumasa said walking away. "Oh! Tell the gaijin to put his things away " he told him eyeing the exercise book and the book on the ground. Yamada nodded. "Saori-chan? Come with me, it's your piano lesson, now."

"Why should I learn to play piano while 'they' play!" pouted the girl turning to the playground.

"Saori" the man said waiting. She sighed and walked slowly after him saying that the world was unfair.

Yamada looked at them. He was surprised by the man's request. But he knew that usually it was Tokumaru-san who gave the orders concerning the children, and everyone knew that Tokumaru-san was harder than Kido-sama. When they were not in view, he walked to the children who were still shouting, some of them were playing on the field. He stopped near a group and they looked up at him.

"Yamada-san" they gasped surprised and afraid. Then they understood that they were late and they were ready to leave the field.

"Don't you want to see the end of the match?" the man said into a neutral voice.

"We can?" asked a boy.

"You have Kido-sama's permission" he said eyeing the blond boy running on the field trying to block the ball. 'He's playing!' he thought in disbelief. He knew that everyone had rejected him but Shun. And since he had gone in the cell of meditation with Ikki, the latter seemed to be more tolerant toward Hyoga. But playing with the others was something he had not expected even once.

Hyoga passed the ball to Ikki who continued toward the goal. Before Jabu came to him, he passed it to Shiryu who quickly passed it to Seiya. The latter passed it to Shun who passed it back to his brother. Ikki blocked the ball with his chest and he looked around him, searching for someone available. He then saw Hyoga running, trying to be free from Tetsuo's marking. He rushed toward the goal still eyeing the Russian. He saw him wronging-foot Tetsuo and rushing to the goal free. Right behind him where Tetsuo and Shun. "Hyoga!!!!!" he shouted shooting into the ball.

Hyoga heard Ikki's shout and he looked behind him. He saw the dark blue haired boy shooting the ball to him and he ran more quickly to the goal before someone could stop him. But Ban jumped and deflected the ball. It went in the other direction of the goal. Hyoga changed his direction and rushed toward the ball before Geki could grab it.

The big child with the blue almost deep violet hair, rushed to the ball and pushed it with his fists. He fell to the ground and he saw the blond child diving to the ball. He knew he could not do anything.

"Go on!" Ikki shouted startling his brother who was practically behind Hyoga. Hyoga dove toward the ball and his forehead hit it but he felt resistance.

"You won't score a goal Gaijin!" shouted Tetsuo who was blocking the ball with his right foot.

Hyoga felt that the pressure on the ball was lighter than before because he was falling. The blond child bit the inside of his mouth. He put his hand on the ground and leaning on his right hand he put all his weight forward. Tetsuo felt the pressure but he could not do anything. He was laying on the ground and he could not do anything in this posture. Hyoga's strength pushed his leg aside and the ball headed for the goal.

The blond child fell on the ground and Tetsuo's foot hurt his forehead. He first winced in pain before moaning when he felt his aching wrist. He slowly sat up and he shook his head, his eyes closed. He moved his right wrist and he sighed, relieved that it was not crooked or broken.

Two hands lit on his shoulders.

"You did it, Hyoga-kun!" Shun shouted happilly. "You did it!"

Hyoga looked up at the green haired boy who was smiling wide at him. He then turned his head to the goal and he saw the ball was behind what were the goalposts. "I have?" he demanded in disbelief.

"Yes you have Hyoga-kun! It was a splendid goal! Tetsuo couldn't do anything!"

"I scored. I really scored."

Shun nodded at him, not understanding what the blond boy was saying. He knew that he was prey of some strong emotions because he was speaking in Russian. He had noticed that Hyoga always spoke in Russian when he felt strong emotions or when he could not explain something in Japanese. "Are you all right?" he demanded concerned while he helped his friend to stand up. The Russian turned his puzzled look to the Japanese. "Your head?" Hyoga put his hand on his forehead and he smiled.

"Don't worry Shun-kun. After all the blows I have received today on it, we can tell that I have a hard head. I feel alright."

"I think I will learn Russian" Shun joked. Hyoga opened his ice blue colored eyes surprised and then he disturbed his hair embarrassed.

"Sorry." Shun shook his head in denial. "So?" he demanded walking to the other part of the field.

"My head is fine, Shun-kun" he reassured him.

"So, you did it" Shiryu said near him.

"You've taken your time!" Seiya noticed crossing his arms on his chest. "I'm better than you!"

Hyoga shrugged and he saw Ikki nodding to him. The blond boy nodded back to him.

"Sorry" said Gyuma, "but the game is not finished. There is not long time left so take your positions" he advised them. They all nodded and Hyoga saw Tetsuo throwing him beams of hatred but he did not care. The game continued a moment until the referee whistled the end of it.

There was a long silence while Shiryu went to the middle of the playground. Without hesitation, he spoke to everyone. "As you have seen, Hyoga's team has won. So as Shun and I have told you in the beginning, Hyoga has the right to be among us."

"It would be better if it had been a duel" shouted a boy. "This proves nothing!"

"Hyoga has won his duel with Tetsuo. He scored a goal while Tetsuo didn't score one. And the last goal was a duel between both and Hyoga has won."

"But..." someone began.

"There's no buts. Hyoga is now among us. And everyone is free to speak or to play with him. No one will force you and certainly not the Russian. But he won the right to be among us and this you should not forget. Have you understood Tetsuo?" The boy glared at him and then he walked away angry with his friends.

"Fiiiiiii. He's angry" Seiya said pleased. He turned to the Russian. "Don't think that I have forgotten that I must take my revenge on you." Hyoga only shrugged and his eyes met the gray ones of Shiryu. He had the feeling that they were smiling at him. He nodded his thanks slightly while the black haired boy shook his head in denial. He then turned and joined Seiya who was teasing Jabu. The blond child felt someone pulling his Tee shirt and he saw Shun smiling to him.

"The break is finished" shouted Yamada. "It's training time! Go to the gymnasium quickly. Hyoga! Go and get the things you left near Kido-sama's house. And quickly!" He then glared to the children who had split away while Hyoga went the other direction under Yamada's look. 'it seems he managed to integrate into the group... Interesting... Shun could help us in keeping him in line' he thought staring at the green haired boy walking with his brother, speaking animatedly. He glanced to the blond child and then he followed the others. 'Kido-sama is right...'

Shun rushed to where was Hyoga, reading, learning the kanji for the next day. "Hyoga-kun!" he shouted waving his hand to the blond child. Hearing his name, the Russian looked up from his book and he gave the green haired boy a ghost smile. He closed his book and he put it near him on the grass.

Shun sat near him under the tree and put a book on his lap. "I was sure to find you here!" he told him glancing to the playground where he saw the others playing. Hyoga had rarely played with them even after they have 'agreed' to accept him. Only a few of them had accepted him in their game, but this did not seem to bother the Russian. He just sometimes liked to stay around.

Hyoga titled his head to Shun who turned his head to him smiling.

"You were doing your Japanese exercises?" The Russian nodded. The green haired child took Hyoga's book and opened it. "Did you succeed?" the other nodded again. Shun leafed through the book. "You don't need help today?"

"No, Shun-kun, that is all right." He eyed the book down on the green haired boy's lap.

Shun followed Hyoga's eyes and he smiled. Putting aside Hyoga's exercises' book, he opened the one he had brought with him and he quickly leafed through it. The page he was looking for passed and he stopped his movements. He turned back a few pages. His eyes smiled and he held the book to the blond boy.

"Look what I have found!" he said showing the two pages. Hyoga looked down. He saw a map and some pictures.

"Russia..." he whispered. His eyes filled with tears but he held back them by closing his eyelids tightly. Shun's features saddened.

"Sorry Hyoga-kun. I.. I have thought you... you would be happy. I did not think you would be sad" he murmured tears in his eyes.

"Shun-kun" Hyoga murmured turning to him. "Don't cry. Thank you. I like your kind gesture." He stroked the green haired boy's cheek with his finger. "You're worried about me..."

Shun nodded.

"You rarely smile. I have never heard you laugh. Even when you smile, your eyes are sad. I had thought you missed your country..." Hyoga smiled sadly to him.

"Thank you for your kindness Shun-kun."

"Really!?"

Hyoga nodded and turned his gaze to the book, staring at the pictures. He slowly closed his eyes, remembering his country. The huge forest, the huge frozen plains that were covered with ice most of the year, the color of the sky so particular in Russia and especially in the North in which the seasons were very contrasting. The memories of a time of happiness were all that he had left.

The Russian felt a light touch on his forearm and he opened his eyes slowly. He turned his head slightly to the boy and saw that Shun was looking at him strangely.

"Something's wrong?" he demanded.

Hyoga shook his head in denial and he ruffled the green hair with a smile that he hoped would be joyful.

"Thank you" he replied even if he really did not know if he should thank his friend for his kind gesture. Those pictures brought him so many memories, happy memories accentuating the loss of happiness and the hard reality in which he was living.

"Hyoga-kun? Can you tell me a bit about your country? I want to know it..." Hyoga put the book so that he was between them. He then showed a place on the map.

"I was born there" he said, "near Nadym, in the Occidental Siberia plains, near the Gulf of Ob." Then he made his index finger travel on the map. "I traveled a lot. Before I came to Japan, I lived there, in Khatanga, in the Central Siberia plains." He stopped speaking, wondering how he could explain his feelings to his Japanese friend. He had some gaps in his vocabulary.

"What's your country like?" Shun demanded to help him.

"Immense, wild, beautiful. Humans are nothing. The summer is short. The winter is long, very long. During few days or weeks, in winter, the sun is not in the sky."

"It's night! All day long!" Shun shouted surprised. Hyoga nodded.

"And in summer, for a few days or weeks there is no night."

"No night!!" Shun shook his head. "I don't believe it! You are joking, no?" Hyoga shook his head in denial.

"No it's true."

"Tell me more Hyoga-kun."

The golden haired child nodded and he spoke slowly, searching for the words, and when he did not find them, he told them in Russian, knowing that Shun would not mind. He felt relieved. He had first thought that he would cry, but it was not the case. It was the contrary. It was as if he was living what he was telling, as if he had returned to his country and that he would find his mother again. He spoke about the color of the sky in the different seasons, telling Shun that he preferred the winter. He spoke about his travels, the people and fauna.

Shun listened to him liking the sound of the Russian and noticing that more and more often he was speaking in Russian. He had also noticed that the tone of the blond child had changed. He was more joyful and his eyes were shining with pleasure. He had never seen him like this.

"Hyoga-kun" he said softly, "you like your country very much. I understand now why you wanted and still want to go back there. I now understand in a way your loneliness."

"I'm not alone. You're here."

"Hyoga-kun? Is it true that you have seen white bears?" he demanded suddenly. The blond child nodded wondering why Shun had suddenly changed the conversation.

"Have you slept with one?"

"No! They are huge and dangerous too..." Hyoga stared at him startled when suddenly Shun chuckled and then laughed. He laughed with all his heart, tears of joy rolling on his cheeks.

"Shun-kun?" the green haired boy did not reply and continued laughing.

"What is so funny?" Ikki demanded suddenly behind the two boys. Shun turned to his brother and smiled happy.

"Hyoga-kun is speaking about his country. It is so different from Japan!" Ikki turned his look to Hyoga who avoided the child's look.

"Really?" he asked.

"Really Niisan! It's so strange and so interesting! When I am be older, I want to go and see this country! Do you know that sometimes during the years the night is all day long and that other times it's day all night long? Hyoga-kun had been in strange places where only ice covered sea and ground and in the sky there are things, oh what are their names?"

"Northern Lights" replied Hyoga. Ikki arched his eyebrows not understanding. "Sorry. I don't know the Japanese word. I will ask Yoshida-san"

"He told me that he had seen white bears, and I asked him if he had slept with them. He replied that he could not, because they were too huge and that it was too dangerous. So I wanted to explain to him about Yuri's bear, but I couldn't. This memory is so funny! Do you remember her? She couldn't sleep without her bear. I remember the day she dropped flour on it because it was too dirty. Then she was all white!" Shun laughed at the memory and Ikki smiled pleased to see Shun so joyful. He glanced at Hyoga who was looking at Shun puzzled, not understanding the green haired boy's hilarity, but he smiled a little. Hyoga glanced up at Ikki and he turned his eyes away.

Ikki shook his head slightly. He had accepted the Russian's presence and he sometimes surprised himself to hear what Hyoga and Shun talked about. But the blond boy was not at ease with him, so when he was near them, he tried not to show his presence. He stopped his thoughts and bent toward Shun.

"Training time is soon, Shun. Go and put the book back on it's shelve."

"Hai Niisan." The boy stood up and closed the book. "Nee, Hyoga-kun, you will tell me more about your country? I'd like to hear more!"

Hyoga only nodded and Shun gave him a beautiful smile before rushing to the little library. Hyoga stood up too and gathered his things. He glanced at where was Ikki and he saw that he had not moved. He was there staring at him, waiting. Then he turned to look at the green haired boy.

Ikki looked at Shun who was moving away, running to the library before joining the others.

"It's been a long time since I've seen him so joyful and heard him laugh so heartily." Hyoga turned to Ikki puzzled. The boy rarely spoke to him and he had never confided in him. He stared at the dark blue haired boy whose gaze was lost, without noticing the puzzled look of the Russian.

"Shun has always been a cheerful child and loving, but a few years ago he has changed. Probably he has not realized this himself." He sighed. "I've done everything to giving him back his joie de vivre which is his characteristic, but I have never completely succeeded." Ikki turned to Hyoga staring at him in his eyes.

"But you, you have succeeded where I have failed. You have truly made him laugh and he smiles more and more often. It's not forced smiles like before, no it's true smiles I see on Shun's features."

Hyoga did not feel hatred behind those words. It would be natural that Ikki would be jealous and would hold him a grudge, but to his surprise, it was not the case. No, the dark blue haired boy seemed relieved instead, nearly pleased.

"Why did Shun not want to live?" the Russian asked. Ikki said nothing for a few minutes and then he spoke slowly, agreeing to fulfill Hyoga's curiosity.

"Shun doesn't remember his mother. He had never known her. She died a few months after his birth. I have myself forgotten our mother's face, her silhouette. We were placed in an orphanage. I didn't accepted this fact and I ran away with Shun. I did not want to be separated from him. He was and still is the only family I have left, I live for him."

Hyoga glanced to where he had seen Shun the corner. He had the feeling that Ikki did not like to speak about his and his brother's past in front of the green haired boy. But Shun was not there. He turned his attention back to Ikki's story.

"We were caught and placed in another orphanage. In this one, I behaved myself. Shun had grown up laughing and playing with the other orphans. He was my only comfort and I wanted to make every effort to make him happy. We didn't have a family so I wanted him to live a life as normal as I could offer him as did the other children. But one day, the people of the Graad Foundation broke this. They came to take me with them. They did not want Shun because he was too weak, he was not interesting for their project of Saints! I didn't want to be separated from Shun so I ran away once more with my brother."

Hyoga said nothing. 'The Graad Foundation. They destroy everything and everyone' he thought bitterly.

"We wandered for five months through Japan. Shun had totally lost hope and his will to live. He got sick and I thought that he would die. We took refuge in a church in which the priest had taken us in. He asked nothing and he healed Shun. Shun started to enjoy life again, but he was more taciturn and sometimes he was racked by nightmares." Ikki sighed remembering this period of his childhood.

"One day the Graad Foundation took me, but they took Shun too this time, knowing that without him, I would not obey them. Shun is their guarantee of my obedience and loyalty toward them. Shun had changed a little, trying to laugh again. He was new among the other children. Shun is someone who hates solitude. But he was bitterly disappointed. They rejected him. They insulted him. Shun has no friend here and he became withdrawn, this until you came and accepted his friendship."

"Here it's an ordeal" Hyoga said knowing perfectly what he was talking about. "But he is lucky. He has a brother. He is not alone." Ikki gave the Russian a smile.

"You're the only one who made him laugh, truly laugh." Ikki walked slowly to the gymnasium.

"Hyoga? Do you like Shun?" The blond child nodded.

"He's the only one who helped me." Ikki smiled. Shun had said the same words. "Shun is my friend" Hyoga said glancing in the corner of his eyes at Ikki, dreading his reaction. When nothing came, he continued. "I regard him as a little brother. A brother that I don't have but if I had one, I would like him to be like Shun" Hyoga admitted hesitantly coming up on few words.

Ikki stopped walking and turned to Hyoga laughing.

Hyoga stopped too and looked at Ikki.

"What is so funny?"

"I can't believe it!" answered Ikki between two laughs. Ikki seeing Hyoga's puzzled look,

tried to stop laughing. "You know? Shun considers you more than a friend."

"Hu?"

"He considers you an 'Anibun', Hyoga."

"Anibun?" Hyoga asked not understanding the word. "What's this?"

"He sees you as a brother. Anibun means someone or a friend considered as an old brother!"

"Anibun?" Ikki walked again slowly to the gymnasium and Hyoga followed him. "I did not know he considered me like a brother..."

"It's like this. The funniest thing is that you too you consider him as a brother." Hyoga disturbed his blond hair embarrassed. "Hyoga?"

"Yes, Ikki?"

"Would you really be Shun's Anibun?"

"Hee?"

"Would you protect Shun when I can't be near him?"

"You're always near him."

"Not totally. Would you?" Hyoga nodded.

"Yes. I will protect Shun."

"Thank you Hyoga" he said sincerely.

"Ikki?" Hyoga asked stopping walking. Ikki turned to him puzzled. "If I am Shun's Anibun, Shun is what?"

"Your Ototobun" Ikki replied simply.

"So, you consider me as an Ototobun?" The dark blue haired boy looked into the ice blue colored eyes of the Russian for a moment, but he replied nothing. Hyoga waited. But no answer came.

"As a friend? I want to become a friend for you."

"Hyoga-kun! Niisan! What are you doing?" Shun shouted appearing at the corner of the gymnasium.

"We are coming Shun!" Ikki shouted back walking toward his brother. Hyoga sighed and he followed him. "As for your answer Hyoga, choose yourself. I don't have to answer you" Ikki said without turning to the blond child.

'As I want Ikki?' Hyoga thought. 'Well, I prefer to consider you as a friend. Maybe one day I will consider you as an Anibun, but until this day, you will be my friend.' The blond child followed the two brothers and then joined them. 'Mama. God. Thank you. I'm not alone, but I still miss you Mama.' He smiled at Shun and then at Ikki. 'I hope that our new friendship will grow and that we will see each other again when our training to become Saints is finished...'

The End


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