Chapter 2: More Than Meets the Eye
They arrived at the top of the massive flight of stairs without fault; paying no mind to the exhausted and frantic new comers they had passed on their way. Eventually you get used to the steps. Zeke gave reassuring smiles to some of them, but kept in pace with his unusually quiet partner. She was talkative enough on their way out the door, ranting at him about being a pervert and a jerk, but she became silent once they started up the stairs. "Are you ok?" He asked, frowning slightly as they entered the school doors. Ayame gave him a bored look.
"Yeah, why?" she asked and he frowned.
"You're super quiet… what's wrong with you?" he questioned and glowered when Ayame rolled her eyes. She opened her mouth, no doubt to make a smart remark that would leave him annoyed, but was swiftly cut off when a body stumbled into her partner. Taken by surprise, Zeke caught the curly blonde haired figure as she collided with his chest.
"Hey!" Ayame called out.
"Ah! I'm so sorry!" The girl squeaked and looked up at Zeke with wide hazel eyes. Her face then slowly became red and she swiftly pushed away from the confused male. "Oh! I-I'm so sorry!" she squeaked, stumbling back a few more steps before turning and running off, practically tripping into a few more students.
"What was that about?" Ayame asked, crossing her arms and wrinkling her nose in disapproval. "That girl was really rude. Are you ok?"
"Yeah I'm fine… She looks like a new kid."
"Yeah, but proper manners are pretty basic." Ayame countered. Zeke glanced at his annoyed partner and smiled slightly. She had her lips pursed and a look that he never saw very often. He reached over, poking her teasingly despite her sound of protest.
"Hardly!" Ayame snapped, shoving his hand away from her and scowling. "Get over yourself for once." She muttered. Zeke rolled his eyes.
"Learn to joke around." He muttered and cocked his head to the side as he looked past his partner and to a familiar pair walking towards them. "Ah, looks like we're not too late after all." Blinking, Ayame spun around and a bright smile crossed her face.
"Gabe! Aiden!" The taller of the two, brown hair still the same unmanageable mess from when they were younger, perked up instantly and waved.
"Hey! You two are on time this year!" He called out, ignoring the curious looks of the others in the hall as the four friends approached each other. The boys greeted each other with fist bumps and Ayame with a hug each.
"How'd your summer treat you?" The dark haired boy, Aiden, asked, a kind smile on his face.
"Pretty good. We went to see this brat's grandparents for a week in Japan." Zeke answered, giving one of his partner's pig tails a tug. Ayame swatted his hand away.
"And we went to New York for a week to see his grandparents." She added, giving her weapon a poke in the side. He flinched and swatted her away in return as he held his side. Ayame stuck her tongue out at him before giving a cheeky grin and turning to their friends. "What about you guys? Stay in the city all summer?"
"Worked in the city is more like it." Gabe answered, placing his hands on his hips and puffing out his chest proudly. "We got a job at Deathbucks." Zeke had cocked his head in interest.
"We made pretty good money. We went to the local festival the day it opened and even opened an account at the city bank separate from Shibusen expenses." Aiden added with a smile.
"So that means you guys will be treating us some time soon, eh?" Ayame teased. Gabe's cheeks reddened some and while Aiden gave a good natured laugh, he nodded his head dumbly.
"O-of course!" He chocked out, causing Zeke to roll his eyes. Apparently the brown haired boy wasn't completely over his crush, if that were ever an option. To make matters worse, Ayame still didn't acknowledge it.
"Well, we should get moving. I want a good spot for this speech Liam's got prepared." Aiden called out, snapping Zeke from his thoughts. The group walked together, ignoring the usual shouts and laughter that took over the halls, making note of how, as usual, nothing had changed. Yes, they were older, but in their three years of attending the school, there were very few changed that they came to see- though there wasn't really anything wrong with that. Entering the auditorium, upperclassmen could be seen sitting on table tops and standing in groups in the ends of the room while the new arrivals stood in the center, uncertain and nervous.
"Hey, there's our class!" Gabe called out, pointing across the room where Ava could be seen standing on a table and waving at them. Rion was sitting beside where his partner stood, perking up slightly at the sight of their friend's approaching.
"Hey guys!" he called out, a smile gracing his young face. He had opened up far more over the years with them, much thanks to Ava. "You're right on time. Ava said she saw Liam and Aimee vanishing behind the curtain with Mrs. Liz." His partner hopped down from her spot, practically jumping onto Aiden into a hug.
"I haven't seen you guys in so long!" she squealed as Aiden laughed and hugged her back. Rion wrinkled his nose in disapproval.
"It's only been a few weeks, Ava." He spoke up but she stuck her tongue out at him from over her shoulder, still hugging onto Aiden. Ayame nudged Zeke in his side, raising a curious eyebrow, but he simply shrugged. Ava was always pretty affectionate and physical. And Rion was a bit territorial at times.
"Morning, guys!" Sang out Aimee, coming to a bouncy stop as she entered their developed greeting circle, a bright smile on her face. "Glad you guys got a close spot to watch. Liam's super nervous right now!" she said, letting out an anxious laugh as she spun around and faced the stage with her hands clasped in front of her.
"Shouldn't you be up there with him too, Aimee?" asked Gabe, plopping himself into a seat and leaning back heavily. Aimee shook her head distractedly.
"No, he said he'd feel better seeing our faces out here… He's such an adult sometimes."
"I hope he doesn't talk forever like one though." Zeke added honestly.
"Looks like the show's about to start." A voice said smoothly, snapping the group of teens from their discussion. Zeke grimaced as Lyra pushed easily through them and posted herself up on one of the tables with a disinterested look on her face. She had a way of treating them as if they were commoners in her path any chance she could. Ares was close behind, but more mannered, as expected, smiling at the group as he leaned against the wall at the end of the table, next to his partner, hands in his pockets and eyes now on the stage. All eyes were now on the stage as Maka walked out and cleared her throat for everyone's attention.
"Greetings and I'd like to welcome not only the new students, but old students as well." She started, a warm smile on her face. "Shibusen is a special school and welcoming to everyone who comes in. Here you will meet people who will change your life in more ways than one. People who will become a bigger part of your life than you'd ever expect. Every year, as new students enter, we like to do a ceremony in which the new students are paired with their partners, but before that, a fellow student has something he'd like to share with you." With that, she lowered her mic and looked behind her as Liam came out. Everyone remained silent, waiting intently. It was strange. It almost felt as though they were being prepared for the worse. Zeke fought back the strange shiver that went up his spine. Liam came to a stop on the stage, looking as poised and mature as always.
"Good morning, Shibusen. My name is Liam Thompson. I'm Shinigami's son," Whispers started to fill the room but he continued. "I stand before you not as a Shinigami, but as a student, classmate, and friend. This school, for many of us is home, and will become home for many of you as well and for that reason alone, we have to protect it."
"What's he talking about?" Ayame whispered, tugging at Zeke's uniform jacket from where she sat. He shrugged his shoulders distractedly, staring at his long time friend speaking on stage. He had no idea what was going on, but clearly Liam knew something that he was going to have to share in detail later.
"There are going to be people who may judge you because you aren't norma,l, at least in their eyes, but don't let that discourage you, or fuel any negative feelings for people who aren't like us. People tend to fear that which they cannot understand and it is up to us to show that we're every day citizens and students of Death City. So, as we bring in a new group of weapons and meisters, I want to tell everyone to keep Shibusen pride in your heart and don't let anyone from the outside world bring you down." He lowered the microphone, give a short bow, finally moving and giving a brief smile when claps began to fill the room. Aimee was letting out proud hoots, waving at him from her new perch as Maka came onto the stage and took over.
"With that being said, I'd like the returning students to start heading to their respectable classrooms and new students remain here for your ceremony." The scythe meister spoke up. Students were shifting easily through the large room, around one another. Zeke tugged Ayame along, considering Liam would have to wait a while to get past the mass of students. Many of their classmates were making their way to their lockers and some towards the assignment board, no doubt to claim whatever seemed promising.
"We're not seriously going straight to class are we?" Ayame moaned, allowing Zeke to slowly release her hand and walk at a normal pace. He wrinkled his nose as he looked down at her from over his shoulder.
"Yeah! I want my seat." He answered, almost outraged that she didn't seem to get what he was trying to do. He had the same seat since they began at Shibusen and it was perfect. He wasn't going to lose it. One year he was convinced he should just carve his initials in the seat, but then thought of what his mother would do and chose against it.
"This is our THIRD year, Zeke." Ayame informed. "I doubt anyone is gonna touch your seat after three years. Let's go see if my gramps is here instead." She asked, jerking her thumb over her shoulder. She was looking at him expectant, the pair now standing in the center of the hall, people moving around them as they stared at each other silent.
"What do you need to see him for? It can't wait?" Zeke asked finally.
"Cuz I haven't seen him since the summer began!" Ayame shot back.
"He's not going anywhere! He's already dead." Zeke countered and Ayame huffed, clenching her fists at her side. That might have been a little too much, even if he had said it in an even tone. Ayame was more sensitive than she let on at times.
"Fine, I'll go alone. You go to your precious seat, or whatever!" she muttered, turning on her heal and stomping off, some students moving nervously out of her way.
"Shut up, Li." The white haired weapon grumbled, ignoring the knowing chuckle of his long time friend. The young Shinigami came up to his side, hands in his pockets and knowing smile on his face.
"You're not going after her? Make sure she's ok?" He asked, glancing to the side at Zeke who was pursing his lips in annoyance, completely losing his cool and collected stance as he subconsciously crossed his arms over his chest in annoyance.
"What for? She's a big girl." He grumbled, finally turning on his heal as well and continuing on his way. Liam turned easily, falling in step with his friend. It was annoying, for some reason, how quiet he was. Zeke glowered at him. "Shouldn't Aimee be with you or something?" he asked irritably. Liam blinked, taking in the question before shaking his head.
"She wanted to stay back and help out with the ceremony actually." He answered with a shrug. "She feels as though there will be students she can connect with that she'd like to personally speak with and put at ease. You know, its three years since she came to Death City and claimed this place as her home. She hasn't even spoken to her family, so it's kinda a big deal for her."
"Yeah I suppose so." Zeke hummed in distraction. Liam continued.
"I guess we're so use to our families always being around, we don't really think about it though, huh?" he asked. The scythe hummed back in response again. There was a long silence. "I heard Sid-Sensei was gone all summer." At this, Zeke felt his eye twitch. Sid was gone all summer now that he thought about it. Not to mention, Ayame had gone away for a bit during the summer too, and she usually spent certain days in the summer visiting the zombified meister for whatever reasons. "I suppose that must be why Ayame wanted to go see him. You know, she's pretty close to him…" He trailed off as Zeke paused and let out a frustrated growl, tugging at his hair.
"I GET IT!" He yelled, some students looking at him disapprovingly. "I'm a jerk, ok? Is that what you wanted to hear?" He asked and turned on his heal, stomping in the direction that his partner had gone. He paid no mind to the entertained look on Liam's face or the knowing hum he gave as he continued on his way to Crescent Moon.
Spirit leaned back in his seat, taking a long sip of his coffee, ignoring the smell of Stein's cigarette, and listening to the conversation taking place in the small lounging area as the small group of adults enjoyed their time before having to deal with students for the day. Entrance Day was always long… but then again, the week usually was, between getting new students adjusted to the ways of Shibusen. This year was going to be different with the deal Kid made with some of Death City's officials. Members of the Shibusen staff all responded differently to the news. They needed to protect the school and their students, no matter what the city officials seemed to think needed to be done in order to put regular citizens at ease. "But we don't have to change anything, right?" Marie asked, leaning into the table as she spoke in a small group with Sid, Soul and Nygus.
"As far as I know, we're keeping things the same, but there's a chance that someone will be coming to check out our dynamics." Soul answered and the woman pursed her lips in disapproval. Marie had been very adamant about not responding to any of the threats and complaints of the citizens. After all, they were responding based off of fear due to recent activities outside of Shibusen's power. They seemed to not realize that even Shibusen had casualties of their own.
"I don't think outsiders would really be able to understand. They don't understand now." She said.
"Maybe not, but what can you expect? There have been some weird things going on lately. Let's not forget the Seattle incident."Nygus informed.
"Maybe, but it was our students that helped to regulate that." Marie countered. "There has to be some other way around this." Stein took a long drag from his cigarette before cutting in himself.
"When it's all said and done, Kid is doing what he has to do. I'm sure there's some kind of system he developed that doesn't leave us vulnerable." He explained and held up his hand when his wife opened her mouth to complain further. "We have a visitor." The adults went silent as the door crept open and Ayame curiously poked her head inside.
"Morning." She greeted casually and pushed the door further open when she realized it was safe to enter. Spirit noted, while petite in size, the young girl looked more and more like her mother with each passing day, but that determinant look in her eyes was definitely that of her father.
"Shouldn't you be heading to class, Ayame?" asked Stein, raising a brow and the dark haired girl bit down on her lower lip guiltily.
"Well yeah… but I kinda wanted to see if Gramps had finally come back." She answered, eyes falling on Sid across the room. The zombified meister let out a knowing chuckle and waved the girl over, allowing her to run at him and give him an exuberant hug around his waist. Spirit watched slightly entertained. The fact that Black Star's own child would look to Sid as a grandfather figure wasn't too surprising. The man had taken the Star child in on his own all those years ago. It was even more interesting to see a child that came from the loud mouth assassin act in such a way. The girl had always been a loud and bold child… but then again, maybe with age came maturity even with the most stubborn bloodline running through your veins.
"I haven't see you in months, Ayame." He informed, patting the top of her head.
"I know! You were super busy!" The young girl answered back, beaming up at him. "I wanted to tell you I've gotten way better with the assassin rules." She chirped.
"Good to hear." Sid laughed. "Now where's your partner at?" And there it was. The girl huffed and pursed her lips.
"I don't know… don't care either." She muttered, crossing her arms stubbornly. Spirit chuckled and Soul raised a brow.
"What's he done now?" The white haired death scythe asked. The girl opened her mouth to rant, but was cut off when the door opened and an annoyed face appeared. That face was all too familiar and Spirit perked up immediately.
"Sorry if I'm interrupting. I'm looking for my meister." Zeke pushed the door open, a bored expression similar to his father's, on his face. He had his hands shoved in his pockets, but even Spirit could spot the hint of annoyance on the teenager's face as he looked at his partner. Ayame glowered back at him.
"What're you doing here? Didn't you have a hot date to meet up with?" she asked. Zeke's cool face fell into an equally annoyed one.
"Quit being a brat." He shot back in a grumble. All of the adults sat in silence, some amused, some curious. Spirit was intrigued. Had his grandson adopted his lady killer ways and was already beating off the beauties? "Can we just go to class? I don't wanna be late."
"Or lose your seat?"
"Hold on now you two," The older Death Scythe stood, snapping the pair of teens from their upcoming yelling match. He held a knowing smile on his face and ignored the looks of his colleagues. "It's been a long summer and while everyone was away I'm sure romances began to blossom…"
"Wait, what?" Zeke's face fell and Ayame became confused.
"I'm just saying, you're relationship is new and not everyone is aware of it so-"
"Whoa! Grandpa, hold on!" Zeke swiftly cut in, waving his hands frantically. "Who are you talking about dating?" he asked.
"Yeah, Death Scythe," Ayame spoke up. "We're talking about Zeke being totally in love with his special seat in class." She gave her partner an accusing look. Spirirt's face fell. Was this happening?
"It's a great spot!" Zeke countered. Spirit stared at the two in confusion while Soul let out a laugh and Stein shook his head knowingly.
"It's not more important than me seeing my gramps!" Ayame shot back.
"Fine, I was wrong! Can we go now?" Zeke asked in exasperation, lips pursed. His partner shrugged a shoulder carelessly.
"Sure." She answered and walked over to her waiting partner. Looking over her shoulder the girl said her good byes before following her once again stoic partner. As they walked out the door Spirit could just make out her stating to his grandson that she found Death Scythe to be "a weird old dude sometimes." He allowed his shoulders to sag in defeat.
Nothing could ever be so simple, could it?