“Shi—… s-shoot! How is it 7:45? I set the alarm for 6:10!”, Sumire Kato yelled, her hand firmly planted onto her head. She wanted to stay there and ponder the possibility for a while. In fact, she’d probably prefer to go back to sleep, but one thing that ‘dream’ Kuna and the real Kuna had in common was that they’d both gone to the Soteria School for Seekers. Even in his brief time there, he was fully aware of their rules and how serious they were about abiding by them. If school started at 8:00, then she was supposed to be there at 7:50.
She slammed her hand onto the alarm, nearly crushing it from the force. Afterward, she darted toward the bathroom and ran the shower, which took about one minute to get hot.
“In the meantime, I might as well brush my teeth really quickly!” Sumire sighed.
As she brushed her teeth, she looked in the mirror to admire the hairstyle she’d chosen for herself. She was a blonde girl with wavy, shoulder-length hair. Due to this, the only styling she’d need to do was to brush it down a few times. She spat out her toothpaste, gargled a handful of water, and began to brush her hair with the brush in her medicine cabinet.
Sumire was tall for her gender, but no taller than the average male, with bright blue eyes and cream-colored skin. While her blonde hair was fairly uncommon, her skin color was not. The Island of Tenebris was a homogenized society, a result of The Barrier beyond the Island’s waters that prevented travel into and out of the Island for most regular citizens.
“That should do it!” Sumire proclaimed, a wry smile on her face as she slowly placed the brush back into the cabinet. She stared into the mirror for a while, doing nothing but looking at the girl she saw. Sumire wasn’t a child anymore. She was eighteen and was really about to start at SSS in just a few hours.
“I’m kinda nervous. I know getting that invitation is a big deal and all, but... It’s SSS. Kuna—”
Now wasn’t the time to bring that up, Sumire thought to herself. If she began to think about him, she wouldn’t be able to focus on getting to school on time. Rather than dwell on the topic, she took a deep breath and spoke on something else.
“I’m just... I don’t know if I can handle a big task like that all by myself. I need help... I need friends that I can rely on... but the voice won’t let me do that. Kuna, you were always able to help me ignore it, but how can I do something so important without your help?” Sumire whimpered, her eyes narrowing as she relaxed her brow.
“Why’d you have to go? I need you, Kuna.”
Before Sumire could lose herself in her emotions, she heard a voice ringing loudly in her head; the voice of her brother.
“I don’t want you late for school. Those academy people in Soteria don’t play around about that stuff!”
Sumire began to feel the suffocating steam from the shower she’d left on, and her eyes widened as her mind went into a frenzy. She turned the shower handle down slightly, undressed, put on her shower cap, and quickly cleansed herself before running naked toward her bedroom, nearly slipping from the water dripping from her body.
When she returned to her room, she plopped onto her bed and began to roll around, assuming her bedsheets would work as her impromptu towel. Deeming she was sufficiently dried, she put on deodorant, sprayed the nearest perfume, and opened her drawer, pulling out the first outfit she could find. She put on her underwear, a black t-shirt, black sweatpants, and a pair of white socks.
Finally dressed, she sprinted toward her phone and dropped it into her pocket, too nervous to check the time. She ran toward the door, slipped on the closest pair of white sneakers, and picked up her duffle bag and bookbag. Sumire left her wallet and ID in it, so she didn’t need to worry about picking it up. The only thing she needed before leaving was her keys, which were left on the nightstand beside the door. She picked her keys up but slowed as she looked at Kuna’s picture.
“Watch over me, okay?” Sumire whispered, a soft smile on her relaxed face. Finally ready to travel to Soteria, she left her and Kuna’s penthouse. Bags in hand, phone on deck, and a shower cap on her head.
As Sumire walked into the lobby of the building she lived in, she checked the time on her phone and noticed that it was 8:00. She was officially late for her first day.
“I-I can still make it. If the train is late, I can catch up to it, right? I don’t wanna have to wait for the 8:30 train... The shuttle from the station probably takes fore—”
Sumire grimaced as she looked through the window of the lobby. It’d begun to rain, and she didn’t have any time to go upstairs for an umbrella.
“Shi—… s-shoot! Isn’t this supposed to be a fancy building? How come they don’t give umbrellas out?” Sumire pouted to herself, looking around the building with a visible frown on her face. She was like that for a while before sighing in defeat and sucking her teeth. Staying around here and complaining was only going to make her later, so she might as well go out there and head toward the train station.
As she ran outside, she was pelted by rain. Rather than complain, though, she began to pat her head. She noticed that she’d left her shower cap on in her haste and began to chuckle to herself, embracing the rainfall as she strolled through the crowded city streets.
“Rain makes everything better, doesn’t it?” she sang to nobody in particular, a broad smile on her face. It was probably her attempt at remaining calm, given she was late, but nobody was there to call out her random attitude shift. It was odd that she was so calm about it, especially considering she was choosing to take the train. If she used her Imperium, she could probably get to the academy in a few minutes.
No. I don’t wanna use it right now. I’m saving my energy for after I get there. I know you know what I wanna do, and I need to have the energy to do it.
So be it. I just hate to see you lowering yourself to the level of these commoners.
Stop being such a baby! I’m already late, so I decided that I’m gonna take my time. I mean, the smell of rain is amazing! I can even smell it coming off the grass and the trees, and it’s so~ good! How can I not take my time enjoying this? I think I’ll walk around for a bit and head to the station when the train arrives.
Whatever you say, Sumire. Just know that when you end up being late, I’ll be—
Our conversation was interrupted by the sound of some child’s infernal crying. The boy looked similar to how Kuna did when he was about 9. Why couldn’t that kid be more like Kuna? When he was sad, he just cried when he thought Sumire wasn’t around. Instead, he’s making such a big scene. Besides, he’s staring right at Sumire. It’s like he’s just begging for her attention! The smartest thing for her to do is ignore this kid and keep walki—
“Hey, kid! What’s wrong? You can talk to me abo—”
Her request for the boy’s name was interrupted when he pulled her into a hug. The boy was drenched in rain and tears, causing Sumire to regret not going back up for her umbrella. She’d tried to wait for him to stop crying before speaking again, but his tears refused to relent. For that reason, she interrupted his crying with a comment.
"Kid, you really shouldn't hug a total stranger. What if I was a monster?" Sumire questioned, chuckling slightly as not to unnerve the boy.
"T-then a H-hero S-seeker... would've... b-beaten you up...!" the boy chattered, sniffling after almost every word.
Hero Seekers usually patrolled in civilian clothes rather than tight spandex costumes like in manga. A few of the students and businesspeople running around were probably Seekers in plainclothes attire. How come they didn't help this kid?
"I suppose this isn't as important as a crime, but they still could've done something!" Sumire thought to herself. She let out a sigh and began to laugh.
"You're right. They probably would've. Lucky for you, I'm not a monster." she chuckled, finally crouching down and returning the child's hug as he continued to cry.
"It's alright. You're okay now.", Sumire reassured. His tears flowed for a few more moments, and Sumire hugged him all the while. She felt a slight compulsion to check her phone to see how late she was, but that need went away as soon as she saw the new look of relief the boy carried on his face. Sumire enjoyed doing the right thing. Kuna always wanted her to be a good person, and she tried her hardest to be one.
After a few more moments passed of their silent hug, Sumire moved away from the boy and grabbed his shoulders, asking him to tell her his name and why he'd been crying.
"My name is Akiji and I don't know how to get to the monorail and my parents said I'm too young to go alone but they couldn’t take me so they made me go alone and it's my first day so even if I do find the monorail I don't know where to go from there so I just—." Akiji spoke as though he were on a time limit, and Sumire knew to cut him off before he started crying again.
"Relax, Akiji. Let's take this slowly, okay? First off, which city is your school located in?".
"I-it's in Redline."
"Wait, seriously? I thought it would've been in Periti!” she exclaimed. “Your parents must really trust the Hero Seekers to send you there by yourself... I'd never go there alone!" Sumire whispered to herself.
Unfortunately, though, since Akiji was still an arm's length away, he heard everything she thought she'd been saying under her breath. His body stiffened, and his nostrils flared as tears began to fill his eyes again.
"Shit, I really wish I was better at comforting people. This is impossible." Sumire thought.
Typically, when people find themselves in situations where they need to comfort someone but can't think of the right words, they just give cursory advice like, "you'll be fine" or "it'll get better eventually." None of those would work on Akiji, though. She imagined what Kuna would’ve said to her, but considering the circumstances, his kind words probably wouldn’t have worked. Instead, she thought about what Kuna would’ve found interesting in his youth and began to smile.
"W-wait, listen! I'm sorry for scaring you, Akiji. I'll admit, Redline can be a pretty scary place, but you know what?" Sumire began to erect a cocky grin across her face as she furrowed her brow.
"I can be scary too."
Most people would expect such words to scare a child, especially from a stranger at arm's length looking you dead in the eyes. Luckily for Sumire, though, she had experience with young boys due to her life with Kuna and her childhood at The Orbis School and knew precisely how to get him to calm down. If there's one thing young boys like, it's deadly Imperium.
"Akiji, we'll take the monorail together to Redline, and when we're on, I'll show you my super deadly Imperium, okay?"
The light that radiated from Akiji's eyes was probably bright enough to light a dark room. "Okay! Let's go right now!" the boy beamed.
Sumire smiled, stood up from her crouched position, wiped off her pants a few times, and grabbed Akiji's hand. As Sumire walked with Akiji, she took note of the birds flying high above them, all gravitating towards a single tree. She took note of a single bird, however, as it had been carrying an Acidic Rattlesnake in its claws. Sumire’s eyes began to glow as she pointed towards the sight.
"Hey, you see those hawks over there?" she questioned.
"Yeah, there's so many. Are they dangerous?" Akiji responded.
"Not at all. A-at least not to us. Just remember where they are, okay? They have a nest in that tree right there, so once you see it take a right, and you'll be facing the monorail station. Don't forget, okay?"
"Sumire, Sumire Kato. I totally forgot to introduce myself. Sorry about that!"
Akiji said the girl's name to himself and smiled. Suddenly, his eyes glistened as he finally spoke, "That's a cool name, Miss Kato."