Raian's anticipation could not be hidden. After he had met the wise Shōyō a week ago in the inner Rukongai districts, he was finally to enter the school classroom. There, he would receive tutelage in order to become stronger. He would finally be capable of acquiring the strength necessary to protect his brethren. Raian slowly walked along the outside hallway, walking closely near Shōyō himself, who had then opened the sliding door.
Inside, sat several children around the same age as Raian himself. Shōyō, his bangs somewhat covering his eyes, formed a light smile at the students sitting before him. "Everybody, I would like to introduce you to a new student that will be joining us starting today."
It was to be expected. Raian was nervous. Despite having had to stand up for his brothers countless times, when it came to personal matters, he had a shy way about him. He wasn't the best at opening up to a bunch of strangers he had never met before. But he swallowed his fears and stepped out from Shōyō's side, standing before the classroom full of children.
"Hello, everybody. My name is-" But at that moment, a familiar sight and voice interrupted the young Raian's introduction.
"It's you?!" called out the familiar white-haired boy.
Raian's own eyes widened in surprise. "You... You're-!" obviously referring to the white-haired boy, who was none other than Seireitou; the boy Raian met at a riverbed on the outskirts of this village several months back.
"Takashi-kun, what are you doing here?!" asked Seireitou in an almost innocent chime, earning the reaction of a popped vein in Raian's forehead.
At that moment, Raian immediately dashed across the room and slammed the backside of his heel right into Seireitou's face, sending the latter flying through the open window on the opposite end of the classroom. "I TOLD YOU IT'S RAIAN, YOU BASTARD! I TOLD YOU I'D KILL Y-!" But his anger was quick to subside, noticing the awkward reactions of the other students and the steam rising from Seireitou's body after being slammed straight through the window, partially destroying the wall in the process.
Even Shōyō's normally calm demeanor was reduced to a bout of surprise. "Raian-kun? You and Seireitou-kun are familiar with one another?" he had asked, earning him a slightly annoyed expression from Raian. "Eh... I guess you could... say that..."
Seireitou's head immediately burst out from the rubble. "I have no connection to Raibi-chan whatsoever!" he protested, as Raian's heel, as if by instinct, slammed into the fallen white-haired boy's head once again. "SILVASOUL!" escaped his lips as his head slammed straight through the same rubble from before. Comic blackness filled Raian's eyes as his facial muscles would tremble in anger. "I... told you... It is... Raian... You dickwad...!"
Afternoon had eventually come, and following the end of Raian's first class day, he was to clean up the mess he had caused in the middle of the room. Shōyō had sat down in a cushion seat, drinking a small cup filled with a sweet-smelling tea, watching as the young boy swept up the rubble. Though this was a form of punishment, Shōyō wasn't angry with Raian for his actions. He even shared a cup of tea with the young boy as he was cleaning up his mess.
"Tch... Shouldn't that idiot be helping me with this?" asked Raian, his eye twitching at the thought of the white-haired boy that annoyed every fiber of his being each time his mouth opened to speak. "This wouldn't have happened if he wasn't being a jackass."
Shōyō gave off a small chuckle. "Perhaps, but Raian-kun, a warrior has to maintain his cool and composure at all times. If something as small as mistaken identity is what gets to you, the enemy will easily be able to manipulate that weakness." the mentor enlightened, taking yet another sip from his tea.
Raian had kicked one of the pebbles on the floor out into the outside clearing. "If that's my weakness, then his weakness is a lack of memory. That'll get him killed too." he answered.
But Shōyō responded with another chuckle of his, causing Raian to look at him in confusion. "What?" Shōyō looked back at the young boy. "It isn't that Seireitou-kun forgets your name, Raian-kun. But the act of remembering a person's name means to accept their existence. To accept the possibility of becoming familiar with them, and ultimately, to accept the chance of forging a friendship." the grey-haired mentor explained.
"Although young, Seireitou-kun has already experienced a life filled with loneliness. He has made friends, only to watch them die merciless and painful deaths in this war-torn era of ours. It is a horrible thing, to become close with somebody, only to lose them so suddenly without warning. He does not speak of it, but if I had to guess, his refusal to address you with your actual name simply means... He doesn't want to experience the same pain again. Therefore, Seireitou-kun continues to mistaken your name on purpose so you never seek friendship with him, in an attempt to ensure he never have to deal with the loss of a friend again." he continued.
However, despite saying such sad things, Shōyō's face brightened up a little. "But... It could also be that he wants to spare you the same burden, of the pain of loss, should he meet his end. Instead of ignoring you, he continues to use the wrong name when addressing you, as though to irritate you on purpose... Perhaps it is his way of trying to be friends with you, who knows." he finished, taking a final sip from his cup before finishing the tea.
Raian's gaze slowly descended to the floorboards. It wasn't that the white-haired boy was trying to be rude or was an annoying person in general, but rather, he had experienced the same things as Raian himself had. Seeing innocents being killed by all manner of people; criminals, warmongers, thieves, and the like. Could he blame Seireitou? He was the same as him. They were children that lived in an era filled with war, and despite being young, their sense of friendship and trust was hopelessly skewed. Deep down, they were already broken people, and beyond ordinary repair. Raian, however, desperately sought to protect his last reasons for living: his brother. Why else would he endure such a painful world? Seireitou merely sought a different way to endure this world: by purposely seeking loneliness, so as to never again experience the pain of loss. Both of them were just struggling to endure this hell of a world... Both of them were just looking for the light at the end of the tunnel, that's all.
"You are an interesting case yourself, Raian-kun." Shōyō then stated, as Raian once more looked up. "Ordinary people, after being dealt such rudeness, would never again choose to familiarize themselves with that person. Seireitou-kun has repeatedly done so, and yet, you continue, on some deeper level, seeking to connect with him. It's odd, isn't it? It seems you both are looking out for one another, despite not even being officially friends." Shōyō concluded his thoughts.
At the same riverbed where he had met Raian all those months ago, Seireitou had sat down in a crossed-leg position, staring into the murky waters. He was deep in thought, about several matters, but more so toward a single person in particular. Her name was Kana Ishi, a student that had formerly studied at the school, but had been recently found dead in the outskirts of the village. She was found by none other than Seireitou himself, witnessing the disturbing image of her mangled body from what could only be assumed to be the result of a vicious rape and subsequent choking. But it wasn't a strange sight, death was the closest friend Seireitou had. His eyes narrowed while he remained in thought, also thinking back to other friends he had to dig up graves for, and each one, done away with in such horrible ways.
The young boy's entire body shook at these disturbing thoughts. Each mental image came in clear as day, and with it, a piece of his innocence had been chipped away. A boy forced to experience such horrors as often as he pissed in the river, what cruel joke is such a thing? Seireitou had stopped questioning why things were the way they were. At this point, he spared himself the disappointment of never coming up with an acceptable answer to it, and merely accepted the darkness that was this era.
But his line of thought was interrupted by a flat rock that whizzed straight through the air and slapped onto the water's surface, skipping several times before landing right onto the rocks on the other side of the river. Seireitou turned to see Raian, the one that had just thrown the rock, bearing a slight grin. "I've been practicing since the last time, Seireitou. I hope you haven't been a lazy ass the entire time, otherwise, you'll never catch up to me." he had announced, causing Seireitou's eyes to widen a little at the familiarity Raian was displaying.
But his thought remained brief as he stood up abruptly. "You talk a big game, but your throw was still as weak as it was all those months ago... Raian-san." he had answered.
Raian merely relayed a smirk. "Then how about we settle this by force then, Sei-san." he stated, deepening his stance as he held his hands out; ready for battle.
Seireitou's ears immediately perked up. Sei-san? What manner of nickname was this? But he shook off the self-instilled confusion. It was at that moment the white-haired boy arrived at a thought. The answer that had escaped him all these times before now. All these times, he thought he had just been incapable of coming up with an answer, but that wasn't the case. He was just running away from it. And in such ditches of loneliness and despair, that answer he sought so deeply would never have been found. Not alone. The sadness that had shaken him earlier had seemingly disappeared, as he too, entered a fighting stance; staring down his opponent.
"Let's form a bond, Raian-san!" called out Seireitou, as he charged forward, prompting Raian to do the same, as the two boys held their guards up ready to toss blows with one another. The white-haired boy's eyes reflected a genuine flame, unlike anything ever before seen in him.
Raian's ears also had perked up, his attention toward Seireitou's words, while continuing his dash forward.
"I feel as though I can build a true bond with you! With somebody like you, who lives your life in pure devotion to someone, I know I definitely can!" Seireitou had answered loudly, as the two boys launched off the ground.
They stared each other down, airborne, with their fists ready to collide.
Raian's grin formed once more. "I agree, Sei-san. Together, we can... put an end to this war-torn era!" he responded.
And within that moment, their fists were thrust outwards, striking each other directly into one another's faces, sending them hurtling through the air.
Would these turbulent times never cease? Would this world always be one drenched with the blood of friends and loved ones? Or is peace an actuality? Whatever the case, the two boys would endure. The flames burning deep within their warrior spirit would persist, and with their newly formed friendship, they would ensure that they would support one another's flames, so that nothing can ever cause them to be extinguished.
They would endure for a tomorrow worth awakening to.