Unbroken

Interlude Two: Through the Eyes of a Child

© 2000 by Sofía 'Toffee' Francisco

This page was last modified: 2000/12/04


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"Eyes such as your own
I could never hope to find:
Eternity shines...."
- Scorpio Blood -

When did it start, really?

They had been there always, and I could see them walk around my room at night, pale, sad and mourning, trapped beyond the flow of time. I would cry for hours when they came, and there was no amount of coddling that would soothe me, or placate this fear that rode my very soul.

"He's a devil-child, Natasha, only a devil could have eyes like him," the old lady spoke to my mother often, warning her of the dangers of keeping me. My poor mother, owning nothing save for her faith, and her love for me, was such a frail creature in body; despite the burning will that sparkled in her eyes. But my conception had worsened her constitution, and she would never again be as healthy as she used to be.

"We should have drowned him, he is cursed as a bastard and an evil thing."

My mother would not have this, though I know she, too, often doubted the purity of my soul. But she loved me, and she was the only one who did not treat me like a monster.

"Can't help seeing, mamma.." I whispered to her one night, feeling chilled despite the warmth of her embrace. I couldn't help seeing it, flowing around my room, wraithlike and shimmering in a halo of moonlight.

"He says he can see ghosts," my mother told the elder lady who shared her house with us. The woman clucked her tongue.

"Ti's a devil thing all right. You should get rid of him, Honey..."

I feared this more than anything else, but held myself in check and said nothing. I had no right to hurt my mother, having me was bad enough. But she loved me, and she refused to let go. I was all she had, she would say.

No child in the village ever ventured a step close to me.

"Weird eyes..." they would murmur in awe.

Weird...? They were a simple icy blue, but as I looked in the mirror I saw what scared them. My eyes were wide, too wide and too alienated for a 5-year-old. And the wise yet hard shine gave me an air of superiority, and perhaps a bit of cruelty, too. I do not know.

But at last the town, small and superstitious as it was, asked my mother to leave if she would not send me away alone. She packed our meagre belongings in a bag and stroked my hair.

"We are going to where your father lives, far away from here."

Father... I didn't know then, how I would grow to hate that word. We were supposed to leave for Japan on a cruise; using what little savings my mother had left she bought two low class tickets, praying that my father would be waiting for us. The old woman, though pleased that I was leaving, was sorry for the young girl my mother so evidently was, and tried to dissuade her of travelling like this.

"It's cold and unhealthy... you are far too weak to try stunts like that, Honey."

"It is all I can afford, and I will not send him alone."

So we left together, embarking on a long, slow trip to a land I did not know. All I could do was hope that they would not come there. That the wraiths of my childhood would not follow me overseas. My mother tried her best to calm me, telling me that we would be all right. We sailed out into the ocean... but a storm forced us back towards the icy coasts... the crew was restless because of the danger of icebergs. But no one expected a virus to spread through the ship.

Within days people started dying, the corpses of the poorer were thrown into the sea. My mother and I stayed in our small room, hearing the roar of the seas and the unsettling groan of the ship's metal under the water. The captain wanted to dock into the nearest port, but the ice was too thick in these parts for there to be a place to get off.

"We will be all right... we will go to Japan and your father will be there." Mother would repeat this litany to me, day after day, night after night. She would hold me to her chest and rock me, whispering, praying, and stroking my hair as she had always done when I was afraid. I would go out when she slept, to bring food, yet we were half starved by the time the captain announced we would be arriving at a port city where we might disembark. The flu had already done over with most of the passengers... all of them poor desperate people like myself and my mother, unable to pay a better trip.

"Don't worry... don't worry... we will go to Japan... and your father..." she just kept on saying this... it was not until she started to throw up blood that I realised that she was sick. I called for the ship's doctor, and he gave me some medicine, knowing that it would not work, just like it had failed on all the other passengers who had fallen ill. But I took it to her, and make her swallow it.

She would wake up sometimes... and tell me everything would be fine... then she would fall unconscious again and thrash in the bed, feverishly. I stayed by her side, feeding her the medicine and sleeping beside her. Half of me hoping that I would catch the flu from her and die, so as to not be alone. But I didn't. Somehow, the virus did not touch me, and I never even felt dizzy. Yet my mother felt it, and was turned over under the onslaught her body was not made to resist.

She died two days later.

I looked at her... the corpse of this eighteen year old child, more a girl than a woman, that had given birth to me five years earlier, and cried. I lay down beside her crying and clung to her cooling body, for safety and sanity, in a world where nothing made sense.

I must have fallen asleep at some point, but I was wide awake when the ship was jolted violently, and every hinge and beam began to screech. People were screaming outside, hollering to get ropes and lower boats... as the ship groaned and shivered like a giant monster. I did not know what to do... but I was reluctant to leave my mother's side. I didn't care... I wanted to stay here forever. I knew... that there would never gain be some one who understood what I saw, and did not fear me. She was all there was. As I had been all she had.

I got up and looked out the door, seeing everyone running around in a hurry, the ship shuddering under all of us.

:it's sinking:

I turned around, feeling a cold shiver run up my spine. I had heard voices like that before, I knew what it was, and yet I refused to admit that it could be that, not here, not now.

"Mama...?"

She stood there, pale and unreal, like a watery image. Behind her... lay also my mother. Her cold flesh and bone, dead. As the ghost in front of me was, dead.

:it will be all right... come:

She guided me through the weaving crowds, and I followed suit in a drunken trance, unable to break the spell of seeing this thing... that was my mother, and at the same time was not. Impossible.

No one else saw her, but she flowed among the screaming people until someone lifted me off my feet.

"Wait! Don't lower that boat yet! There's a kid here!" the man hollered at the last boat, holding me above his head. Only then did I wake up, and started to scream.

"Mama! Mama!" reaching out with my arms towards that shimmering thing that stood on the veranda, smiling at me with that lovely smile only she had. The sailor stared uncomprehendingly at me, seeing nothing in the place I pointed at.

"Shut up, kid! I don't see your mama anywhere!" I screamed and cried and kicked when they tried to put me in the small boat, calling out to her. "There is no time!" The sailor shook me violently and threw me into the boat. My mother - or what she had become - merely stared at me, and smiled.

I did not stop crying even after we were well away from the ship and I could see the icebergs it had crunched into, for I could still see her there, as the ship gave it's last keening moans and fell into the darkness of the seas.

I was alone from that moment on, lost in a city I did no know, with no one to turn to. People would rush by, picking up luggage from the docking sector, or greeting relatives with ample smiles on their faces. No one noticed me though, it was as if I was one of them... the ones that no one else could see.

Ghosts.

There were many of them here, too, brooding in this or that corner, some paler and waning, others bright and furious, all of them unseen. I avoided them as best I could, yet did not leave the area. Where could I go? I knew no one, had no one. My mother... was dead.

If only I had stayed in our room, I could have drowned with her. I could have stayed beside her, dead or not.

But I was alive, and she was a gauzy image haunting the deep seas. Haunting...?

I had to do something... I couldn't leave her like that, trapped like all the rest. Why had she stayed behind, and did not go up to heaven? Why were all these ghosts here?

"Are you lost, little one?" a soft voice. I turned to look at the elderly lady who had spoken to me, and saw her straighten brusquely and gasp as our eyes connected.

"Yes," I replied, trying to sound as meek and childish as I could, afraid of scaring her off.

"Oh... oh..." she stared at me, torn between good faith and pure fear. "I'll... go and get... help."

Of course, she didn't show up again.

I was used to that. People - normal people - always reacted like that to me. Some said I looked too wise, others that I looked to old, too detached, too afraid. Some said fragile, others cruelly sweet. But no matter how they tried to define it, they were all afraid, and no one ventured closer.

Eventually, after an indefinite amount of time, the authorities noticed me and decided to do something about it. I looked up at them, hoping that these people did get scared and left. I didn't want to leave... I couldn't leave my mamma like that, not like that... forever.

"Who are you with, boy?" the tallest of them spoke to me in a deep throaty voice, a cigarette dangling from his mouth.

"Mamma..." I murmured, giving him a hostile look.

"And where's your mamma, boy? I haven't seen anyone with you for a long while," he talked to me not unkindly, but with the controlled voice of someone confused and trying not to show it. He was afraid, but he did not understand why.

"She... she..." I tried to look for a good excuse, one that would make them go away, but I was feeling dizzy, and tired. I looked up at the tall man beseechingly, and everything went black.

The next thing I knew I was being shaken, big hands that tried to be gentle, but could not hold back their natural roughness.

"You shake him any harder and you'll kill him, Mikhail," it was a smooth cheerful voice this time, and the hands stopped jostling me.

"He's not responding." Ah... the dock's guard, the tall one...

"Look at him! He's practically just bones! What this kid needs is some food and..." She was cut off by the man's rough whisper.

"Don't start making plans, Anna, we have to hand him in."

"Like he was a criminal? For God's sake, Mikhail! Look at the child..." Her voice became tender, and I felt a soft hand stroking my cheek.

"Immigration will find out about him... Anna..." the man's voice turned pleading.

"Please, just this once, Mikhail. He's obviously been abandoned, or orphaned... just... just until he gets better, not longer," her hands run through my hair... it made me want to cry.

"Anna..."

"Please... until his fever drops."

There were no more protests from the man - Mikhail - and soon things faded into nothingness again.

I woke up in a small house, a fire burning in the grate. A woman's pleasant voice could be heard singing, together with the homely sound of pots and pans, and the occasional hiss of boiling water. I tried to sit up, but my head was too heavy and even that small movement made the world spin on its axis. I must have made a sound, since all of a sudden there was a plump smiling face peering down at me.

"Ah, you are awake, little one." It was the woman from before.

I looked up at her, and was surprised to see her look back without the slightest trace of apprehension. Her face was flushed from working in the kitchen, but her small hazel eyes shone brightly. She looked to be in her mid forties, her bouncy overweight body clad in a flower decked dress and a kitchen apron.

"You must be hungry! Wait here and I'll get you something!" she scuttled off into the kitchen, laughing as she almost crashed into the door. In truth, the thought of eating made me feel even more sick, but I couldn't have said no anyway.

"Are you feeling better?" A gruff question from near the fire made me turn slightly. The man called Mikhail sat on an old armchair, reading a newspaper.

"Y-yes..." My throat was sore and I ended up coughing, curled up into a ball. The man got up and pressed a hand to my forehead.

"Well, at least your fever went down," he mumbled. I looked up at him, at his square features and nondescript eyes, and tried to smile. He frowned a bit, then smiled.

"Damn weird look you have, boy. What's your name?" he asked, folding the newspaper carefully.

I coughed some more and then spoke up. "Hyoga Kido."

The man blinked at that, and gave me a long hard look. "Well I'll be damned... you're foreign, aren't you?"

"Leave the poor thing alone, at least until I have put some decent food into his belly!" The woman half laughed half scolded as she pushed the man out of the way and set a tray on my knees. "You can eat without help, can you?"

Mikhail cocked his head to one side. "Well, he looks like he's six or seven..."

"I'm five."

Both blinked, taken aback.

"Well... you certainly look older," she murmured, putting her hands on her ample hips.

"I can eat alone..." I assured them, and picked up the spoon.

The man gave me another stony look, a flash of pain going through his eyes as I attempted to smile at him, and the woman sighed almost painfully and went back into the kitchen.

"Now don't get us wrong, boy... you can stay here until you are better. But after that..."

"I know."

He said nothing else for a while, and I did not dare eat, though I had just now found out how ravenously hungry I was.

"Well then... eat up," he ruffled my hair as he spoke and then went back to his arm chair, slumping into it tiredly.

I was long after midnight that I woke up, a creepy feeling edging up my spine. The house was silent, and the fire had burnt itself out quite a while ago. I shivered because of the cold and curled up in the bed, pulling the sheets tighter around me. The man and the woman, who were obviously a couple if not a marriage, were sleeping in another bed on the other side of the small house. I regarded them quietly, confused by their show of compassion when no one else had ever done even half as much for me. Only my mamma.

I had to get her out of there.

I couldn't stand the thought of her like that, alone. Wandering in the rotting passages of the ship, under those frigid waters. Mamma...

I turned back to the lady who had helped me, Anna. She slept in the protective embrace of her husband's arms, and he held onto her tightly.

"Who are these people...?" I spoke out loud, trying out my voice, but careful of waking them up.

:my parents:

I gasped softly and shifted on the bed, looking for the source of that soft whisper. "Who are you?"

No answer came to that question, but the shivery feeling up my spine warned me, and I turned around. It was a boy, perhaps a few years older than me. I could see the dim outline of things through his watery body, the luminescent form shifting every now and then, but keeping the main shape. I froze on the bed, afraid to make the slightest sound, afraid to close my eyes lest it angered the unearthly creature that hung in the air before me.

:they are my parents...:

Pain flashed through the ghostly eyes, to be replaced by anger.

:leave! they are my parents!:

I pulled the sheets over my head, pleading for the boy to leave, to go back to wherever he had come from, to let me sleep. After a while the atmosphere seemed to lighten, and the feeling of being near one of them faded, and was gone. I must have fallen asleep, for I woke up with light pouring in through the windows and the fire burning once again.

"Did you sleep well?" Anna appeared through the door of the kitchen, carrying a mug that smelled of soup.

"Yes, thank you." I took the mug as she offered it to me, and she sat at the foot of the bed with a sigh.

"Mikhail and I have to go to work now, will you be all right alone?" Fear gripped me like a vise as she asked me this, my thoughts wandering back to the boy that roamed this house with pain darkened eyes.

"Yes... of course."

"Mikhail is the dock guard, and I sell tickets..." She told me this with a nervous laugh, feeling evidently guilty about leaving me here for the day.

"It's okay..."

"I'm sure it will be."

Mikhail strode in, fastening the buttons on his jacket. Anna got up hastily and helped him straighten out his clothes. After they were done he knelt in front of me and started at me coldly.

"You seem to be feeling better." I nodded with a small smile. "When you are fully recovered I'll warn immigration about you. Your name sounds Japanese so they'll get in contact with the nearest embassy."

Japan.

The name invoked a pain in my chest. That was where mamma had wanted to take me, to see my father. My father.

"My father lives in Japan." I told the man, and he blinked in surprise.

"In Japan?"

"That's where we... I was going." Both regarded me worriedly, unsure of whether to believe me or not.

"You said you were with your mother," Mikhail prompted, trying to straighten out the facts.

"Yes... but she is..." dead, like your son... only you don't know it. Because it's not the death everyone thinks will come to them. "...dead. She died on our way here."

"What's your father's name?" I stared at the man, confusedly.

"I don't know."

"That's not much help," he informed me, crossing his arms over his chest.

"I don't know."

"Leave him, Mikhail," Anna hauled her husband to his feet, and dusted his knees. "We'll do what we can."

I stayed with them for two more days, seeing them in the morning and at night. The boy did not come back until the third night, his filmy appearance leaning over my bed when I opened my eyes.

:they are my parents:

"I know, and I'm leaving."

This seemed to placate the look of profound hatred and jealousy. It was obvious, the boy resented me for stealing the love of his parents... or their thoughts. Clearly, they had taken me in because of their feelings for their dead son.

"What happened to you?"

:it was hard to breathe... I coughed lots of blood. No money for medicine:

Apparently, the initial dislike had worn off to curiosity, as he realised that I could truly see him. How many nights had he spent talking to his mother and father, as they slept on unheeding?

"I'm sorry."

I could not hide my fear towards this apparition, but somehow, this sick boy was less intimidating than the previous ones. I had never seen a child-ghost before this one. This boy was more bearable at least.

:have you seen my teddy?:

He asked all of a sudden. I shook my head, unable to understand what he meant. The boy pouted briefly, his image wavering strangely until it was gone, so was the feeling of him.

"Don't you have any kids?" I inquired innocently, too unnerved by last nights visit. Anna jerked upright, her eyes clouding over momentarily. I regretted having asked the question, but held on to my purpose now that I had aired the subject.

"We had a son... Karl," she replied at last. Mikhail did not move from his chair, but I could see the white knuckled grip he had on the armrests.

"What happened?"

"He... he died of pneumonia..." Anna sighed and put her hand in her apron pockets. "He lost his teddy bear playing outside one day, and went out to look for it much later. He got caught in a storm."

"I'm sorry..." I bowed my head, aching for the mother and the boy, who would stay beside her forever, and would never be heard or seen again. Like my mother...

"It happened a long time ago," Mikhail cut in abruptly. "So there's nothing for you to regret."

Anna gave him a scolding look, but he did not turn around so it was lost on him.

"Anyway... tomorrow we'll take you to immigration office, there you will be sent to Japan probably. I already informed them about you, but since you don't know your father's name all I could give was yours and your mother's."

"Thank you, you have been too kind."

He turned around at that, and his eyes softened somewhat.

"Just take care of yourself, kid."

Anna cried when they left me in the crammed little office, as a policeman took my hand and guided me to a chair. She waved sadly and smiled before following her husband out into the cold morning air. I sat on the wooden bench, watching them disappear round the corner, and wiped away the tears that were threatening to fall.

"You are Hyoga Kido?"

I looked up sharply at the speaker, a freckled red haired woman with thick glasses that regarded me coldly. I returned the unfriendly look and smiled inwardly at her sudden wince and fearful pallor.

"Yes," I answered, aware of her suspicious looks.

"You don't look very Japanese," she proclaimed, crossing her arms authoritatively.

"I am half Russian," I replied, holding her gaze without blinking, aware of how it was beginning to truly bother her.

"Fine. There's a man who says he was expecting a boy under your name."

"M-my father?" I whispered, disbelieving this cold woman's words.

"Not in the flesh. He sent someone to check if you are the kid."

My father was looking for me.

He was looking for me.

Hope sparked in my heart all of a sudden, at the thought of seeing my father and getting along with him. But mama... I would have to tell him, and surely he would understand! He would help me get her out and bury her, or find out why she was still on this world. But it would be all right now, because my father had been looking for me and I would not be alone.

He cared.

My father cared...

"Stay here, I'll go and look for him," go and look for the man who had come to pick me up. I felt a brief pang of sadness, because he was not here himself... but it would also be a bit too much to ask him to come all the way from Japan when he did not know if I was his son. It would be okay.

"Here he is, sir, the boy we told you about." I looked up when I heard the woman speaking, giving the man beside her a bright smile. He only glared back coldly.

"So I see... he claims his name is Hyoga Kido?"

"That's what he said," she answered with a smug look at the man's doubt. He turned to me and sighed heavily.

"The blond hair is a bit confusing... but I think Kido-san said the mother was blonde, too... and the other ones we have monitored are much stranger coloured," he spoke in a low monotone, studying me with slanted black eyes. I had never seen someone with such thin eyes... mine were more almond shaped than my mother's, but this man's were barely slits on his face.

"Did my father send you?" What was he talking about? Other ones they had monitored...? Stranger coloured? Nothing he said made sense to me, but there was a growing pit in my stomach.

"Shut up," the woman scolded sharply, but then man held up his hand for her to hold her tongue.

"What was your mother's name?" he inquired coldly, eyes narrowing even more.

"Natasha."

"Natasha what?" I did not know my mother's surname... only mine.

"I don't know."

"Your father's name?"

"I don't know."

"But your name is Hyoga Kido?"

"Yes."

He gave me another long look before turning back to the woman. "I think it's him, so we'll take him out of your hands anyway."

"Come with me, sir," she purred at him, guiding the man into her office. I simply sat where I was, my heart pounding and blood rushing in my ears. What was going on? My father couldn't have sent this man! And what had he meant with 'other ones', did I have more brothers? Nothing made sense.

I had to get out of here... I had to leave.

"Get up, we are going now." The man stood in front of me, pulling on a heavy jacket. I stared up sullenly, unwilling to follow him. He raised a brow and slapped me. "Get up."

I did not budge, I didn't even bring a hand up to my burning cheek, I simply stared up at him with the cold ferocious look of cornered animal. He slapped me again, on the other cheek, and pulled me to my feet.

"These people here don't give a damn about you, so if you want trouble I shall have no problem giving it to you," he hissed at me, black eyes blazing. "Now come, I am tired and I want to get back as soon as possible."

I followed him numbly, my eyes blurring as tears threatened to fall.

No... nothing made sense.

Nothing at all...

The trip to Japan was done in a jet plane, and that itself spoke of the wealth my father possessed. But none of this moved me, I was beyond reaching, hoping to whatever God there was that had allowed all of this to happen, that my father would like me. I was asleep when we arrived, and too dizzy to understand anything. I knew some Japanese and of what I could make out my blonde hair was an object of controversy.

At last I was put into a car and taken through the towering buildings of the Japanese city into a residential area, and through the gates of a huge estate. At the door I was shoved out of the car and into the lobby where a tall bald man waited. Was this my father...?

"So you are Hyoga..." he murmured in Japanese, a rough unfriendly voice that chilled me.

"He has arrived?" Another voice was heard, this one old and choppy. The bald man straightened his jacket and turned to the stairs from which another man was coming down.

"Yes Kido-sama, it is this boy."

I turned disbelieving eyes to him, unable to comprehend how this aged man could have slept with my mother... my young mother. It was disgusting... and my head reeled with the implications. Cold grey eyes froze me on the spot as he studied me attentively, and huffed.

"Well, he does look like his mother. Take him to the lab and have the genetic tests taken," he rasped, and turned his back on me without so much as saying hello. I felt a cold grip of ice close over my heart.

"Father?" I called softly, taking a few hesitant steps towards his towering figure. He turned on a swirl of deep blue robes and crossed his arms menacingly.

"Don't get things wrong, boy. I will take care of you but I have not interest in acting as your 'dad'. Your mother is dead and you are alone, learn it and accept it." The cold words cut me like knives, his uncaring eyes burning into my skull with the force of a brushfire. I opened my mouth to speak, but not words came out. I could feel the warm tears fall down my cheeks, and bit my lip when I heard his grunt of annoyance.

"W-will I live here... with you?" I could not keep the small fibre of hope from weaving its way into my voice, the belief that if he got to know me he would like me. He would love me.

After all... my mama had chosen this man, there had to be a good reason for that... there had to be!

"No. I don't want you to bother my granddaughter with your presence." He turned his back on me once more and made his way up the stairs. I took a step forward, feeling the world sway around me.

"But Father!" I tried reach him, but the bald man stood between him and me, and struck me to the floor with one heavy handed blow.

"Don't bother Kido-sama with your childishness, now get up and let's go."

But I couldn't give up, I couldn't leave mama there... down there, alone! If he did not care about me then at least he could care about mama!

"But what about mama!?" I cried at his retreating back, and saw him stop. "You can't leave her there!"

"I see nothing wrong about a burial at the sea," the bald man growled as he reached down and shook me viciously. "Now shut up!"

"You can't leave her there! She's alone and she can't leave or come back!" I screamed. I was talking nonsense to them, the wouldn't understand what I was telling them. And why was I telling them? They would hate me... like everyone else... no... no... NO!

But mama...

Mama...

"Leave or come back?" it was my father who addressed me, his eyes piercing mine.

"You have to do something... please... she's trapped there..." I slowly fell silent, feeling dizzy and sick. What had urged me to blurt that out? Oh God... help me please, I was done for now!

But surprisingly, my father smiled. It was not a sweet smile like mama's though, it was cold and cunning, like the smile of a predator eyeing its prey. His old face seemed to become a mesh of shadows and angles, his eyes swallowing up the whole world. I felt a cold sweat break on my neck and at last he spoke.

"I knew I had done well in choosing that woman, did I not tell you, Tatsumi?" he smiled at the bald man, a cold satisfied smile. "He has the gift, he can See."

"Kido-sama... it is too soon to know perhaps, let us do the tests," Tatsumi answered softly and respectfully, bowing slightly.

"Yes of course... from what we have studied none of the other's developed those aspects. But one is more than enough." He smiled again and narrowed his eyes at me. "And since we had to bring this one in early, why not make the best of it and learn all we can?"

Those words chilled me, but I did not know what to say. All I could do was stare as Tatsumi gained upon me and cocked his head to one side curiously. "Doctor Nishi will be most interested."

My father simply walked off.

Tatsumi grabbed my arm and pulled me out of the house gruffly, I followed numbly, the world spinning on its axis and threatening to fall over me. I swallowed down my tears and walked on clumsily, tripping as he forced me to go faster. He stopped all of a sudden and hauled me into a long black car. He said nothing during the trip, not even to tell me where he was taking me. But by then I didn't really care.

I was too tired and emotionally drained to do much more than stifle any sound and stare dully out the window. As the car rolled forward I began to doze off and finally fell asleep.

When I woke up I was lying on a bed in a small white room with no windows.

Alone.

I got up slowly, trying to reassert my grasp over time and place, but the pale unadorned walls and cold tile floor spoke of nothing. I was a stranger in a place meant for strangers. I strained my ears in search of any sound that might reveal where I was, but everything was as silent as a tomb. I did not know if it was night or day, or even what day it was and this upset me.

A sudden sting in my arm made me turn and look down, there was a bandage on the underside of my elbow with a few drops of blood staining the white fabric. Why did I have this?

I pulled on it until I saw the small puncture wound, clearly someone had used a needle on me, though I did not know if it had been to inject or get something out. I sat on the cold floor, staring at my bandaged arm and trying to figure out where I had ended up. It wasn't long before I heard the distant sound of footsteps, so I hurried back into the bed and pretended to be asleep. The door creaked open and a figure stepped in.

"You don't have to pretend you are asleep, I saw you were awake on the monitor," a soft mildly high voice greeted my ears. "Come on boy, get up."

I rose gingerly and blinked in the bright white light, taking in the details of the man that stood in front of me with his arms crossed. He was tall, taller than I had expected, but his exaggerated thinness explained the soft voice. His face was expressionless, fine and yet curiously common, like the face of a thousand sculpted marble statues that after while seemed to be the same. His hair was black, raggedly cut close to his scalp and leaving a slight fringe over his forehead, his eyes were just as dark and had the narrow quality I had begun to place as common in all Japanese.

"Who are you?" I asked, noting with a pang of unease that he wore a white labcoat, like the ones I had seen doctors use when mama took me to the dentist.

"My name is Takeo Nishi," he replied in perfect Russian, an amused glint entering the dark eyes as he saw me blink in surprise. "I am in charge of you from now on."

"You speak Russian?"

"Obviously," he huffed, smiling a white toothed smile. There was something... unnerving about him, in the way he looked at me.

"Where I am?" I whispered. He cocked his head with a fast and almost birdlike agility, staring at me with one eye.

"In the Graude Foundation Laboratory."

"Lab...laboratory?" My father had sent me to a lab? For what? "Why am I here?"

"Well, first we had to do the tests to find out if your were Kido-sama's son or not," I touched the bandage on my arm upon hearing this. "And also, since you are earlier than the others and a clear anomaly... it was decided that you should be studied."

Studied!? Like some circus animal? I glared up at him furiously and let out a shaky breath. Takeo Nishi only smiled wider and shifted slightly on his feet, very much like a bird indeed. Or a lizard.

"Well, I am impressed. For a five year old you are surprisingly intelligent and perceptive. Let's hope you are smart enough to understand your position."

"My position?"

"You are under your father's care, but he has left you under mine. And with specific orders to... determine the origins of your power," I must have looked startled as he decided to explain. "Your power meaning this... ability you have to 'See'. And the other's will not be brought here for at least two more years."

"The others? What others?" I mumbled quietly, keeping a firm hold over my curiosity.

"Kido-sama's other children."

Other... children? Was this to what the other man - Tatsumi - had referred? I was not the only one? "I have other brothers?"

"Oh yes, a few hundred last time I heard, all of them safely kept in monitored orphanages," he informed me, black eyes widening and then narrowing as he spoke, analysing me all the time.

"A few hundr..." It took a while for this to even make sense, let alone sink in. "Why are they in orphanages?"

Nishi seemed to be about to answer, but thought better of it. He only smiled again, that infuriatingly smug smile and tossed his head to throw the hair out of his eyes. "Too many questions too soon, boy, you will find out in due time. Now, we have work to do."

He walked up to me and grabbed me, I tried to fight back but all thoughts of resisting vanished from my mind as I felt a sharp sting on my neck. I tried to look, to see what was wrong, but the world was blurring once again, becoming a sea of darkness.

* * *

"Are you sure you didn't kill him, Nishi?" I knew that voice...

"He's drugged, nothing more," that high voice again, with the ululating intonations that made him sound just as inhuman as he seemed.

"But the genetic test..."

"Fear not, Tatsumi, my friend, this boy is without a doubt a Kido," Tatsumi...? The name was vaguely familiar but I could not place from where.

"Don't call me your friend, and get away from me," a gruff reply, followed by the other's soft high chuckle.

"Ah well...anyway, back to business. The child is stunningly intelligent, very receptive and he understands Japanese better than he lets on."

"How do you know this?"

"I spoke to him switching from one language to the other, but since he was too focused on who I was he did not realise the trick. I doubt he can write in it, though."

"Nishi... Kido-sama gave you permission to study the boy, but don't harm him more than necessary. He is the only one who developed something other than a potential for psychic energy, so he is valuable." Were they talking about me...?

"I know, I know... but it will still be fun to find out his limits."

I did not hear what else they said, things started to get blurry again, and consciousness faded from me...

When I awoke the next time I was no longer in the small windowless room, but lying on a cold hard table in the middle of yet another room, this one larger and with a huge light above me. There was something disturbing about it... but I could not free my mind from the muddy feeling long enough to understand it. I tried to lift a hand to my face, and found I could not.

I was strapped to the table.

"Awake again?" the familiar face of Doctor Nishi hovered over me, recognisable only because of the voice, for the light cast shadows too deep on him.

"Let me go!" I tried to sound menacing, but my throat was dry and I did not get over a small squeak.

"Now now, let us no get upset. I am only going to finish my tests and then you'll be free." He sounded so reasonable, and so calm... it made me want to hit him, but all I could do was glare tearfully, because the light was hurting my eyes. "Good boy," he crooned and disappeared from my eyesight. I could hear the clanging sounds of several metal drawers being opened and things being taken out.

"What are you doing?"

"Getting the implements I need," he replied, his face coming back into view. I felt something stinging and sharp go into my arm but I kept myself from wincing. After a few minutes the whole arm went numb. I blinked in panic, trying to get some life back into the limb by moving my fingers, but they did not respond.

Nishi's lips quirked up in a feral smile, the birdlike guise melting away to reveal a sharp toothed snake with darkening eyes. "Don't worry kid, all I need is some samples. You should be thankful, I thought an anaesthetic might be a good idea."

"Samples!?" I exclaimed, now trying to struggle for real. Nishi only huffed and nodded.

"You know, the usual. Blood, tissue and ... well, a bone sample might be nice, too," he spoke lightly, with a hand on his chin like a dreamy poet. It was too strange, and too grisly. This man spoke of butchering me up like he was about to go and pick some flowers.

"Let me go!" I arched my back against the table, straining against the bonds that held me.

"Now, now... the less you struggle, the better, kid, believe me."

I tried to move away but he gripped my arm and sunk a needle in, his smile disappearing, his face loosing all semblance of emotion. Like a ghostly carving of marble and moonlight, too pale and cold to be living. I looked away, fighting back tears of confusion and humiliation, knowing that this man had nothing to do with my pain.

I watched in silent anguish as the syringe was slowly filled with the deep red liquid, unable to even slightly twitch that arm. Nishi continued until he though he had enough, and drew the needle out of my skin. He tapped the syringe slightly, studying my blood in the light of the operating lights.

"You know they say blood runs thicker than water?" he inquired mildly, setting the sample down and picking up a sharp knifelike object. I did not answer, and he only sighed and pressed the cutting edge to my numbed arm. I looked away, feeling suddenly sick. I did not feel pain, but I could still feel the odd pressure as he cut slightly and took a small sample. "There now. Two down, one to go."

I closed my eyes against him, against the glaring light and the harsh reality, hoping that this would all dissolve and become nothing more than a fancy nightmare. But a sudden jerk and twist made me start, and I saw him doing something to the underside of my arm. I tired to look, but he firmly pressed my head to the other side.

"Better if you look away, kid," he said. I was surprised by this sudden show of compassion. Another jerk and a sudden jolt up my arm made me gasp, followed by a heavy click. I could smell blood and I knew it was mine. With heavy swift movements Nishi took out some gauze and bandaged my arm. "That wasn't so hard, was it?" Nishi asked coldly. "Look now..."

I turned my head slightly and saw him holding a tiny blood stained piece of something that looked like yellowish marble. I blinked, trying to make sense of what I was seeing.

A piece of bone.

The world swooned then, my stomach heaving as I fought not to throw up right there and then. I watched in a daze as Nishi put the sample on a silvery tray beside the other two and called for someone to come and take them. He then leaned in front of my face and smiled.

"It could have been worse, you know," was the last thing I heard before passing out again.

When I woke up the next time I was back in the small room. There was a dull, heavy ache in my arm and I did not dare touch it. The bed was comfortably soft compared to the table I had been strapped to. I looked around and was surprised to find a small stack of books beside the bed. I climbed out, wincing as the movement jostled my arm and knelt beside the books. There were two on how to learn English, a Japanese writing book and a Russian tome on Greek legends. I stared at them, trying to piece this puzzle. Obviously they wanted me to learn while I was not being used as guinea pig. I debated whether I should refuse... but the prospect of staying here in this white room doing nothing was too much. I crossed my legs and used my good arm to pick up one of the English books, that was self-teach styled with Russian as base language.

Evidently, they knew I could read complicated things... and I did not want to know how the had found it out.

* * *

It was a whole week before I saw Nishi again, a nurse came in every day to bring me food, change the bandage on my arm and run some routine exams. I had already begun to understand basic English and discern hiragana from katakana and had found some brief hours of entertainment in the fancy legends on ancient gods. I was in the middle of trying to pronounce out loud a particularly strange word in English when the door opened and the Doctor strode in.

"I see you are advancing fast," he commented. I glared up at him from where I sat on the bed. "Don't give me that look, kid, I am not here to cut you up like last time."

He smiled again, shifting on his feet like a nervous sparrow and walked up to me. It was only then that I noticed that he carried a load of books under his arms.

"More?" I asked, hiding the fact that I was glad I would have something to do after I finished the current books.

"Some more on English and Japanese writing, Greek and Norse legends..." He looked up at the ceiling trying to remember all that he carried. The last two did get my curiosity, I had found that legends were nothing short of fascinating. "And some stray stories."

He dropped all the books on the bed and sorted them out. Then he handed me four that he had pulled apart from the rest and flashed me that twisted smirk. "I thought you might get bored with just plain culture."

I stared down at the proffered books and saw that there were two science fiction novels and the two other were on the Animal Kingdom. I looked up at him strangely and took the books.

Why was he doing this for me?

But he said nothing else. Getting up swiftly he strode out of the room and closed the door.

I had a few days of peace and quiet, until I woke up from a particularly disturbing nightmare to find I was no longer in 'my room', but in a more ample one with posters stuck on every wall. Nishi sat on a chair beside me, looking just as stoically uncaring as he had when he took the samples. I tried to get up and found that I was not tied down as last time.

"Why am I here?"

"We have to make some new tests... these require your co-operation."

"And If I say no?"

"Don't make me angry, boy. I have a job, and you are technically a prisoner, so behave." The tone of his voice left no space for argument, and I had not interest in finding out just how bad things could be made for me.

All in all it was a pretty easy task, I had to read aloud what I read in those posters to check my eyesight, hear a few recordings and in general, prove I was healthy enough. But as the test carried on I began to understand a bit more about Nishi. He had two 'personas', the doctor and the other one. His doctor facade was the calm and cold one, the other one... well, the other was probably just him. But at least it gave me an idea of how to react at given times with him.

Things carried on like that for quite a while. I would spend most of the time reading whatever was brought to me, and Nishi made sure there was always something fun to read. I knew this because the non-educating books had his name on them. Every week or so my food would be drugged and I would wake up in one room or another to have samples taken or do some new test. My life went on between four white walls and I had completely lost track of time.

Though at nights I still dreamt of my mother and the ship... plunging into oblivion. I had to get her out... I had to... somehow.

I had almost forgotten about my father and why I was here in the first place... until things changed. I wasn't sure how long I had been in the lab, but I was quite certain that it had been longer than months already. Judging by my perfect Japanese writing and practically flawless English. It was one of those days in which I knew they would drug my food, because since the time I had refused to eat it they gave me only one meal at night the times they planned to do something; to make sure I was hungry enough to eat it. Nishi would laugh when I told him they I knew he would try something in the exact same time he had it planned, but it was no surprise to him. This, more than anything else, puzzled me.

I could never figure out if he was some sort of mad scientist or a dedicated doctor. But his odd concern for me was what confused me the most; that he would bring me his books so I would not get too bored, that once in a while he would joke and act - though unnerving - in a friendly way towards me.

Still, he never warned me when things were going to happen... perhaps he expected me to know this, too, by pure instinct. But I never could have guessed what was in store for me... not that on that night.

I was hungry enough, waiting for the evening meal from which I would wake up in a strange room the next morning, so when it came I just ate it, hoping it wouldn't lead to early morning blood sampling as it had a few weeks ago.

It didn't.

I woke up inside a car, riding through a jostling dust road with the night sky above. I jerked upright and blinked in utter amazement; my father was in the car. Beside him sat Tatsumi, and on the other side, right beside me, Takeo Nishi stared dreamily out the window.

"Where are we going?" I demanded, feeling a sudden chill in the pit of my stomach when my father smiled tightly and looked out the window. It was Nishi who spoke to me.

"We are going to confirm the veracity of... your ability."

"My ability?" I stared at him, dumbfounded, and blinked in confusion at the sad look he gave me, almost compassionate. But nothing else was said until the car jerked to a stop. Nishi sighed and turned me to look at him, an overwhelming sadness in his dark eyes. He fished a long strip of black material from his pocket and blindfolded me.

I was so mesmerised by the unexpected pain in his eyes that I didn't resist when the world was obscured. He took my hand and guided me up a slippery path, his hand squeezing mine almost viciously. No one said anything as they guided me and then stopped. I felt a sudden cold creep up my spine, like the whisper of a frozen hand stroking the back of my neck. And a ghostly voice, almost unheard...

:where is my daughter?:

It was so soft I wasn't even sure I heard it, but I shivered nonetheless. Nishi's hold on my hand tightened, and then loosened. He pushed me forward, and I heard a dusty crumbling sound beneath my feet.

:Achika...where are you!?:

Again that voice, this time too loud to have been nothing but my imagination. I jerked backwards as the wave of cold and desperation flowed all over me, but rough hands pushed me towards the voice.

:where is my daughter!?:

All of a sudden, the blindfold was removed, and I blinked in the darkness. Moonlight crept through holes in the roof of the house I was in... what little roof there was left. The whole place was in shambles, charred wood and twisted beams, made into jagged shadows and horrific forms by the pale moon. I gasped and turned to stare at Nishi and my father, but they were not there. I bit my lip, trying to find the door out among the shadows, but the waning light did not touch the walls and I saw nothing.

:where is she...?:

I turned fearfully, and saw her. It was a woman in her mid-thirties, her black hair charred and burned around her. Her skin was ghostly pale, and translucent, but her eyes... the burned like fire, with a hatred I had never seen.

:no one came!:

She shrieked at the top of her whistling thin pitch, winking out of view and then coalescing in front of me, hands reaching out, like burned claws ready to tear my apart. I took a step back, seeing her mad gaze devour me. My throat tightened, I wanted to scream but I found no voice.

:she was crying and no one came!:

"No..." I whispered. "Get away..."

:where is my little Achika!:

"Please..." I could feel my eyes burning, and I stumbled upon something, falling on my back.

:there was so much fire...:

"No..." I pleaded, as the hag flowed closer to me, eyes blazing in pure uncontrolled hatred.

:she was screaming so much...:

I tried to get up but fear held me immobile as she floated above me, ghostly tears streaming out of her eyes, her watery image trembling in and out of focus as moonlight struck it.

:where is my daughter...?:

Her distraught whisper sent knives into my heart, as I stared at her. For a moment it seemed like she would calm down and disappear, yet with a sudden jerk through her pale form she let out a bloodcurdling shriek and fell upon me. I screamed as I saw her image splash against me and felt the burning intensity of her eyes.

:no one came!:

She shrieked again, and I screamed as loud as I could, unable to move. And without warning I was being picked up. For a moment I feared the woman had gained substance and was killing me, and I cried out in fear and fought back... but the hands were warm. Too warm to be a ghost. I fell limply as strong yet thin arms picked me up and I was pressed against a warm chest.

"Nishi..." My father's voice, sharp and cruel, a warning.

"He Sees, Kido-sama." It was Nishi who held me, his fingers stroking my hair softly. "It is enough."

There was a determined edge to his voice, and I curled into his bony grasp, seeking whatever comfort he could give. His arms tightened around me and I let out a shuddering breath.

:Achika...:

I did not dare open my eyes, but I felt Nishi shiver, and this surprised me.

"He can see her? Are you sure?" My father's voice, cold and calculating.

"Don't lie to us, Nishi," Tatsumi, also a warning tone to his speech.

"He can." And he lifted me up and leaned my head against his shoulder. I let him handle me as he would, too tired and confused. "He has the gift, I am sure."

"Is she so terrible to make him scream like that?" Tatsumi wondered, I opened my eyes to look at Nishi, and saw him staring straight ahead, at the woman who still hovered where I had been lying.

"Grief makes all humans horrible," he replied, and looked away as if in disgust. "And loneliness..."

Briefly, I thought of my mother, and felt tears slip out of my eyes. Nishi looked down at me, the aching sadness dulling the black orbs of his slanted eyes. He sighed and smiled thinly, his warm hold on me never loosening. I leaned my head on his shoulder again and let him take me out of the house and back into the car. My father sat down in front of us again and smirked.

"Well, at least now we know that it is true."

Nishi looked up at him, his eyes hollow and misty. "Yes."

After that day things changed between Nishi and me. He would still drug me whenever he needed to make a test, but I stopped resisting him. He would still study me in his birdlike jerky fashion and made cruel remarks, but I knew... I knew. I read the books and learned what was given to me, and began to spend more time with him. Nishi would visit me often, not for tests or samples, simply to talk. And I would listen intently as he explained about my power - our power - and how it worked. How to control it.

"You can't 'not see', it is a part of your senses, like hearing and taste," he told me, smiling like a smug lizard who had just caught a fly. "But you can ignore them. You saw it...the worst they can do is scare you."

"Can't they... hurt us?" I had whispered, leaning forward slightly. Nishi smiled and ruffled my hair with his bony fingers.

"No. They are not able to touch you even. Only scare you, and once you realise that all they can do is shriek and upset you... you can ignore them."

"But... I can feel their feelings!" I had protested.

"Yes, but you must learn to control their influence over you. They can overwhelm you with their feelings, but you are stronger... you are alive."

In the following days Nishi would take me, always at night, to other places where there were ghosts. It was always terrible, but he would stand beside me and force me to bear it, to control my fear. After a while it grew easier, though no less unsettling.

"You will never stop fearing them... all you can do is control your emotions so that they don't control you."

"Why are they here still?" I had asked this often enough, but Nishi didn't know.

"Unfinished business perhaps, lost dreams, lost loved ones..."

"My mother had no reason to stay," I whispered, having told him of my mother long ago already.

"I don't really know... they just... stay."

It was confusing, but I learned to accept it. Nishi became a part of my life, in some strange way, I began to care for him. Despite his ways, his almost macabre humour and his reptilian gazes; there was a bond between us. And I knew that he, too, cherished it.

"What of the others?" I inquired once, as he filled in some papers sitting on my bed. He had come to make me company and finish his work. I had begun to realise that part of Nishi's affection for me was born from the fact that I could understand what he felt, his life had no doubt been as lonely as mine. His personality was not all that strange when you analysed it in the light of his 'power'.

"Others? Oh... you mean Kido-sama's other children."

"Hm." I nodded. "Why are they not here... why are they in orphanages? Do none of them have mothers?"

Nishi sighed and stopped writing, a vague frown on his fine boned face. "Well... no, none of their mothers are alive, now. They were... disposed of." I shuddered and gazed at him, mouth open.

"What!?"

"I don't know what he wants you for, but he selected each woman carefully... some of them he took twice, wanting more than one child of this or that bloodline..." He must have noticed my shocked expression for his eyes seemed to grow dull. "After he was satisfied he... got rid of them."

"Rid of... He killed them!?"

"Yes. Apparently, family ties are impossible... for what he wants you all."

"But then... what about me? Did he make things so my mama would die?" I cried, my hands clenched into fists.

"No... your ability to see made you more vulnerable... you wouldn't have survived in an orphanage, they would have gotten rid of you. Natasha's death was not planned... not for at least two more years before the shipwreck," he got up from the bed and knelt in front of me on the floor, placing a cool hand on my shoulder and squeezing lightly. "He chose your mother because - apparently - there was a history of 'seers' in her bloodline, and her genetic code carried the potential for it."

This made me blink. "What do genetics have to do with this?"

"You must know, for you have read the books, that what we are physically and sometimes even mentally, is determined by out genetic material, that is hereditary. Powers such as ours, psychic abilities, mind reading... all of these are also related to some extent, to your genes."

"Genes carry... what? The potential to develop them?" I was struck dumb by his words... it was too strange.

"Exactly. When Kido-sama chose the women who would bear his progeny he studied their DNA patterns carefully... making sure the children would have the... potential." A sudden dawning of understanding made me breathe in sharply.

"That is what you do... you studied this for him!"

Nishi winced visibly, looking away. "Yes."

"But... why?"

"I did not know then what he would do, and after... well, there is not much to say. Few people would hire me for my - and don't tell me you haven't noticed it - erratic personality. Geneticists aren't supposed to be crazy. I love my job... I love unlocking the secrets of these things... I didn't think he would..." his voice trailed off into silence.

"I understand."

"No you don't."

"I can pretend I do then," I cut back.

For the first time ever, Nishi smiled at me honestly, and sighed, his eyes shinning strangely. "You won't be here forever anyway... the other's will be brought here soon and after that... I don't know what will happen."

"I... know..." I looked up at him, feeling a sudden pain at the thought of leaving him... not because I liked this laboratory, but because I cared for Nishi.

"Don't give me that look, kid, it's not like it will be the end of the world." He got up after saying that, picked up his papers and left me alone for the rest of the day.

The time came sooner than I had expected.

Nishi walked in one morning, carrying a bundle of clothes in his arms. Since I had arrived all I had been given where white lab clothes, the sight of the blue pants and T-shirt took me a little by surprise. Nishi laid them on the bed and helped me put them on, sighing ever so softly as the job was done and I got up, wearing the clothes of a normal kid.

"What are these for?" I whispered, afraid of what he might say. He cocked his head to one side, his trademark move, I had long ago realised.

"You are leaving today. The other children are arriving, it is time."

I took a step back and licked my lips nervously, eyes wide. "L-leaving?"

"Yes. You will go to the Kido estate... until whatever he has planned is decided." There was a clear edge of pain in his voice.

"I will go alone?" Somehow, I wanted him to go with me, I didn't want to leave him.

"I will take you to the door of the lab. Come now, you are a handsome little lad of seven... you should be able to do things like this on your own." I stared at him, feeling the world turn around me, crushing in its intensity.

I was a fine lad of seven.

Seven?

Noticing my shocked look Nishi smiled painfully. "After all... you have been here for two years."

I glared at him, swallowing a sudden lump in my throat. "Nishi..."

"I understand."

"No you don't," I whispered, feeling my eyes sting.

"I'm going to miss you, too, kid."

"My name is Hyoga."

Silence followed after that, and without warning he leaned down and hugged me, his thin arms drawing me against his chest and squeezing me until I thought I would go out of breath. "Take care then, Hyoga."

I couldn't say anything.

He took my hand and guided me through corridors I had never seen, climbing stairs and twisting on odd corners until we reached an ample room with large windows. He pulled me forward, where Tatsumi awaited with a large car parked behind him. The same car that had brought me here, by the likes of it. Nishi knelt close to me and smiled, a fond toothy smile.

"Remember... you control it. And nothing... and no one can hurt you."

"I will miss you, Nishi."

"I know, kid," he smiled at my frown, when he called me that. "But remember one more thing..."

"What?" I leaned forward, to hear his whisper.

"Make the best of your life, while you are alive." He then got up and nodded at Tatsumi, who grabbed my arm and jerked me out of the doorway into the lab garden. I closed my eyes and tipped my head up, feeling the sudden warmth that stroked my cheeks.

It was the first time in two years that I saw the sun.

Tatsumi growled something and pushed me into the car. I turned around, to wave at Nishi out the back window, but it was chromed... so even though I waved, tears trickling down my cheeks, Nishi saw nothing.

Still, he stood there until the car swerved out of view.

I sat back down on the cushioned seat and glared at Tatsumi. He gave me a harsh look, the same look that had once made me tremble, but now I saw beyond that. He might hit me, or scream at me... but he did not scare me. I was stronger.

Stronger than him.

The Kido mansion was just as I remembered it. Large, hard polished and richly furnished, but stunningly cold. My father was known among the kids as 'the old geezer'. They did not know he was our father, nor would they believe me if I told them. I knew none of these children had developed any power like I had, so I held my peace and never said anything. In time I learned to make some friends... I had never played along with other kids my age, and my foreign features unnerved most of them. But a few dared to come closer and I learned to care for them.

Though whatever bonds we forged would only become real when we met again, six years later. Of course, this I did not know. I simply cherished their freely given affection, sometimes violent, sometimes sweet. I learned to care for those few who accepted me, and gave them back the full measure of the love I could give. I treasured every day I spent under the sun, every birdsong I heard, and every laugh I coaxed out of my friends.

My brothers.

"Your eyes... they look so old," the youngest one, Shun, whispered once. His huge green eyes staring deep into mine. I smiled and ruffled his hair as Nishi had done with me not so long ago.

"Leave him be," Shiryu spoke.

"But they are!" Seiya cried back at him, his brown eyes glowing indignantly.

"Nevertheless." Shiryu looked up at me and smiled coolly. "If he wants to talk about it he will."

I never did though... I didn't want to scare them off.

We spent a whole year there, training our bodies and learning languages and such like, legends I already knew, things I did not have to pay attention to because I had long since found them out. Until new things were taught... of Greek Gods and saints, not the Christian ones, warriors. They told us about fights, and honour and duty. The reason why we were here. And I knew... that this was why Kido had chosen us, why he had studied each mother so carefully... so that the children might have potential. And as soon as a whole year had gone by; when I was eight, we were rallied together to find out where we would be sent.

For me, it was Siberia.

Mama was there, mama...

I took my fate and smiled, for it was what I had wanted. To go back to my lands, where I had been born. I had suffered there, yes; I had been alone there, yes... but I loved it. And I would go back and someday, somehow... rescue mama.

If I truly had the potential to do the things they said we would do, it was not impossible. I could do it. I could save my mother.

We were sent out on different days, some on busses, other on plains... many on ships. I was embarked on a sunny morning, on a trip that would last a few months and would leave me near a railway station, from where I should take a train to the town close to which I would train. I memorised these directions and climbed into the ship without looking back.

The future was in front of me.

Arriving and feeling once again the cold winds of my land was a relief, and I sighed. The dock was bursting, full of people going here and there, none even pausing to look at me. Like back then... after mama died.

"Are you lost, little one?" a soft voiced elderly woman leaned down and smiled at me. I looked up at her, and was surprised to find she did not jump back in fear.

"My, you have very wise eyes, little one," she mumbled, but not fear showed on her face. I smiled softly and nodded.

"Perhaps." And then I walked off, towards the station.

I got of the train a few days later, a bit dazed after the long trip, and sighed, breathing the frozen essence of my homeland. Beautiful Siberia. Smiling I headed off the path and walked right through the small town, grinning as a group of children ran by laughing. I walked until I was well away from the place and searched for any sign of people. Ahead of me, upon a small slope, I could see the figure of a tall man and a group of children.

It was here.

I made my way up to them, surprised by the noble and grim mien of the tall man. He scolded me for being late, and I nodded silently, knowing better than to talk back at him.

"I got lost," I whispered. And saw him frown at me, curiously. His eyes, though sad, were clear and pure, and his stance was that of a honourable man. Authority and power clung to him like a mantle. I smiled, liking him already and then walked up to join the troupe of children who waited there.

That was how I met my teacher, Aquarius Camus.

Siberia was cold, but a beautiful land I felt at home in. I did my best and survived the training when the rest of the new kids ran off or died. But there was more than that, after a while it realised I was not doing this for my mother only.

There was something about Camus... his eyes perhaps, those haunted looks, or his quietness... or his bravery. Whatever it was, as time went by I grew to love him, like I had loved no one before. Isaac was my friend...but there was something special about Camus and I could not understand how others did not see it, and feel for him just as strongly. And I was just so sure that Camus cared for me, too... as more than just a pupil.

So I pressed on and fought to be as great as I could become, for him and for mama.

For both of them.

But most of all, I loved my life and all around it, I cherished every minute and every day under the sun, under the moon. I cherished every single moment I had and the people I spent it with, because it would not last forever.

I knew.

It was my mistake that I assumed that Camus cared for me, the worst mistake I ever made. I should have known better, but I was too trusting, I cared too much for him. So when Isaac died, and Camus' coldness to me finally made sense, I did the only thing left: I fought to become as great as I could be, even though I would always be second best in his eyes, I fought and gave my best to make him proud.

I never made it though.

In the end, he never cared.

The End of Interlude 2: Through the Eyes of a Child -- Continued in Part Five: Saga


RamblingToff:

Okay.. this was supposed to be a request for Stayka... but it mutated into something completely different! (always happens... *sweatdrop*) So, I'll still write Stayka's request, (really, I promise!) and this is... um... dedicated to all Hyoga fans! ^.^


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