(A/N: This is the first part of a test pilot for a new series called Neo-Neon. Currently it is just a side-project I work on when I have the extra time. I'm putting it out here to gauge people's reaction to it. My other story, Million To One is still my main project and effectively my sole focus for the foreseeable future. I hope you enjoy and leave feedback on these early test chapters, and please check out Million To One if you have the chance. Thank you.)


(Test Pilot)

-Chapter One-


In the deepest recesses of space, far beyond anything you'll ever know, there is a world beyond your wildest dreams. This world is inhabited by people sort of like you but not quite. It's not clear whether they came from us or we came from them, but they are human all the same. Gazing out upon the infinite horizon, the world would appear to be more mechanical than organic. Indeed, over the years the planet has become one large city spanning the entire globe with only sparse packets of real nature left. The planet is running low on the resources required to maintain its population, and thus began the Great Expansion.

This world has many, many moons orbiting it. All different kinds, most of which can easily support life in many different forms. The problem? These moons contain hostile wildlife, vicious terrain and are notorious hideouts for criminal syndicates. For this reason, most of these moons have labeled as Danger Zones and the general populace is forbidden from visiting them. The only ones allowed to set foot inside these zones? They are known as Seekers, aptly named because that is exactly what they do. They seek out new territory, make it safe for people to live in and gather resources for the homeworld.

Not just anyone can become a Seeker, however. You must possess a natural ability known as FLO. FLO is the unexplainable element, the golden variable, the spark from which all things are made and the binding that holds everything together. Harnessing its power allows you to bend, break or even rewrite the laws of reality itself to your whim. Only around one percent of humans have the potential to utilize FLO, so naturally they are highly sought after and encouraged to become Seekers. Because of the increasing severity of the situation, even children have been granted the opportunity to attain such responsibility.

If their FLO testing proves positive, they have the option to attend a prestigious institution where they will be trained to use their newfound powers. It known around the world as the Miraculi Institute, founded at the very inception of the great expansion. This school stands near the very center of Haven, the central district of the planet-wide nation known as Neo-Neon City. At this very moment, a train is headed there now, filled with children who are brimming with potential...

The soft grinding of metal on metal echoed throughout the surrounding area as the bullet train zipped by. The long, silver train was more sleek and curved than a metallic mannequin and easily a thousand times faster. A subtle hum pervaded the air as it whisked it's passengers along the seemingly never ending track. It's windows were tinted black, as if to conceal the people riding within, not that it would matter. At the speed it was going, you could've never identify anyone inside to begin with.

Inside one of the many compartments of their bullet train were two children sitting across from one another, a table laying between them. They sat on very comfortable seats, cushioned almost to the degree of a couch, which was expected seeing as this train carried passengers all over the world. As fast as it was, it could still take days to reach your destination, so they wanted you to be comfortable. These two had been riding this train for the past sixteen and a half hours, and the boy had already taken two naps en route.

The boy had short dark blue hair, which was exceedingly messy to the point that certain strands and curls positioned themselves skyward. Rocking the ever-popular black t-shirt and dark blue short-sleeve jacket combo, his torso was the epitome of fashion... twenty cycles ago. His lower half was dressed in a pair of black shorts that were quite long, reaching halfway down his shins, in fact. He wasn't the tallest boy of his age, of that there could be no doubt. Upon his feet were typical black boots. At the moment, his nose was deep into a volume of Unlosing Ranger, a manga he had purchased at the station.

Sitting across from him was his longtime childhood friend from the same town. This girl had dark brown hair with well-groomed bangs both in her face and parted to the sides. In the back, there were three short ponytails draped between her shoulders. She wore an almost identical outfit to her male travelling companion, except her jacket was brown and her shorts were far shorter, barely reaching her knees. She also wore boots, though these were a bit more stylish, brown boots with black edges and outlines. They reached about halfway up her shins. However, what probably stood out most about her outfit was the bright red scarf wrapped loosely around her neck.

This girl was downright chipper and constantly staring out the window, her excitement building rapidly. "Isn't it amazing? Look at the view, Vita! You can see out for miles!", she exclaimed, her gaze drifting along the horizon, looking at all the different buildings scattered throughout the landscape.

The boy whose name was Vita briefly glanced out the window, but quickly returned his attention to the book. "Yeah... it sure is different from home", he casually remarked. The girl looked at him with mild concern, "Aw, come on! This is exciting stuff! We're going all the way to Haven! I remember you always used to talk about going there someday!", she said.

He shrugged, "That was a long time ago... and I never thought we'd be going to live there", he said, not looking up from his book. The girl just smiled warmly, "Yeah I know, it's great isn't it? Who would think we'd be the only kids in town with the potential to become Seekers? Grandma seemed really proud of us!", she explained genuinely. Vita seemed dismissive, "I don't know why, all we did was touch a crystal...". The test they administered to check for FLO potential was to bring the child to the local testing center when they turned twenty-one Cycles old. At the center, they would be allowed to touch a FLO Crystal, a concentration of FLO condensed into a physical form.

If the crystal showed a reaction to their touch, like shaking violently, then they had the ability to use FLO. Both of them had been taken there only a few days ago, as their birthdays were only ten days apart, Vita being the older one. Their expectations upon arriving at the testing center were completely different. Vita didn't even remotely consider the possibility that he could be special enough to use FLO, whereas there wasn't a doubt in the girl's mind about it. She had been saying that they both would pass the test since they were really little, so perhaps her optimism had somehow influenced the reality.

You're probably still confused about that whole cycles business, huh? Let's take a moment to explain that. The world of Neo-Neon is not only one-hundred and eighty percent larger than your world, but it also rotates far slower. A single day lasts fifty hours total, if you can believe it. Since both sides of the planet have their own sun, there is only a thin ring of darkness that passes through the world. This is known as the Night Ring, and it only lasts about four hours. However, due to the vast quantities of moons orbiting the planet, eclipses happen several or even dozens of times every day depending on your location. So the denizens aren't exactly lacking any down time.

What is referred to as a cycle is one hundred of these fifty hour days. Furthermore, a cycle is broken up into five seasons. Desni, Reja, Zio, Aoru, and Wykka. Desni is a period of cool, dry air and lots of wind. Reja is a period of hotter air and rainfall. Zio is a period of intense heat and dry air. Aoru is a period of cool air and intense rainfall. Wykka is a period of cold temperatures and snowfall. Each of these seasons lasts twenty days exactly, and since the planet spins on a perfectly straight axis, there isn't any difference of season between different locations on the planet… the moons can get quite crazy though!

By the way, in case you were wondering, today is the 10th of Desni. Anyway, let's get back to the conversation at hand.

The girl seemed disappointed, "Aw, Vita… you're no fun today! You always get all stern and serious when you're nervous…", she remarked aloud. Vita only buried his face deeper in his book, "Pfft, I'm not nervous…", he mumbled obstinately.

The girl reached over and poked his forehead, "Don't be like that. I'm sure we'll make all kinds of friends there", she reassured him, or attempted to at least. Vita didn't seem convinced, "Avy, we're from one of the Reserve Patches, I don't know if we can fit in with city people…", he replied in an obviously nervous fashion.

Reserve Patch refers to the multitude of patches of natural land that have been preserved as nature reservations. The people who live in these areas are often considered slow and backward by those who dwell in the city complexes.

Avy, which was short for Avylyn, seemed to have a more upbeat take on the situation, "I don't think it matters where we're from at all". Vita sighed at her naïvety, "You shouldn't assume everyone thinks the same as you", he warned her. He glanced out the window and reflected a bit. Her habit of assuming everyone was as kind as her was going to get them in trouble someday.

This wasn't the playground back home, they were going into an adult's world. There were bad people who couldn't be reasoned with in an adult's world. People who just want to take the things you hold dear and don't care how much it hurts you. If there was anything Vita was nervous about, it was that. They couldn't just hide behind grandma anymore, they had to take care of themselves now. He had heard there were times long ago when the world wouldn't put that kind of pressure on you until you were older, but those weren't the times they lived in.

Avylyn started to look a bit solemn as she continued to stare out the window, "It really is different, there's hardly any grass or trees… it's tall buildings as far as the eye can see…", she said. Vita nodded, it was quite the jarring shift for them and it was admittedly adding to his level of anxiety about being so far from home.

To be honest, Vita didn't even know why he had chosen to attend the Institute… but then again, he didn't exactly know what he wanted to do with his life yet. But Avy had chosen to go, so he decided to follow her. There weren't many other kids back home so he didn't want to be all by himself.

Grandma said they were to look after one another, and Vita did intend on doing just that. But at the same time, Avy's impulsive recklessness might prove too much for him to handle. He shook his head, convincing himself he needed something to calm his nerves.

He stood up out of his seat, "I'm going to get a soda, do you want anything?", he asked her. Avy nodded, "Yes, please! Get me a lime soda!", she ordered politely. He nodded back, pulled the sliding door open and walked into the train's center hallway.

This was quite the luxurious train, the cabins and halls were quite wide and spacious. There was even a theater room and restaurant, which he and Avy had eaten at the previous night. He started heading down the hall to where he remembered there was a vending machine.

His boots trailing along upon the dark green rug that ran all the way down the alley, there was hardly any feedback from the momentum of the train. In fact, one could hardly even tell it was moving at all from the inside. When he reached the vending machine, he pulled a thin metal card out of the inside pocket of his jacket.

This was his Link Card, something every registered citizen had to have. It was literally everything in this world, scanning it would provide everything from your genetic key to your medical records to your bank accounts and more. There was no physical currency anymore, at least not to the public anyway.

Your wealth did have backed-up material value in the form of precious gems and metals, but that was all held by the banks. Actual purchases were made with link cards, either directly or through the Global Network. Direct card-to-card transactions were usually for stuff you didn't want showing up on record.

He swiped his link card so the machine could scan it. Barely even a second later, the touchscreen display in the front of the machine lit up with his name and photo ID, as well as current account balance. Vita currently possessed 2,829§, or Screb, which was a fair bit for a kid his age.

Most of it was travelling expenses given to him by grandma, but some of it was just his wage working on the farm. A bottle of lime soda costed 6§ each, totalling 12§ for the purchase. As he pressed the lime soda icon on the display twice, he saw his account balance drop to 2,817§. He pressed the confirm icon and after a split-second verification, two bottles of soda dropped into the slot below.

He shoved his link card back into his inner pocket, grabbed the two bottles and placed them in his jacket's outer pockets. He walked down the hall and opened the door to his cabin… or at least, what he thought was his cabin. But he didn't see Avy sitting there waiting for him, but rather three kids he hadn't ever seen before.

Two of them appeared to be sleeping, one rather fat kid who barely looked like a kid and across from him a rather skinny kid in a ragged shirt. The only one clearly awake was sitting next to the skinny kid. This guy had light brown skin and his hair was tied back in dreadlocks, with a rather serious expression on his face as he turned to look at Vita.

"Oh, sorry. Wrong cabin!", Vita exclaimed, but just as he was about to walk out, the kid told him, "Wait, your coming here was no accident… it was fate". Vita raised an eyebrow at this strange kid, what was he on about? The kid pulled a deck of cards out of his front pocket and placed it on the deck, "The name's Nanner, kid. I'm a travelling psychic", he stated charismatically. Vita took the empty seat beside the large sleeping kid and responded, "I'm Vita… and uh… I grew up on a Reserve Patch".

Nanner nodded and started shuffling his deck, "I see, I see… Since you're here, would you like me to read your fortune? It's all in the cards, you know… it'll be on the house since it's your first time", he offered aloud, placing the deck back onto the table.

Vita wasn't a big believer in destiny or anything like that, he didn't like things that couldn't be changed. But he figured he'd humor the guy just to be friendly, "Sure, lay it on me", he answered confidently. It's not like anything this travelling psychic had to say mattered anyway. Vita had nothing to lose.

Before he drew the cards, Vita could sense Nanner building up his Aura in his hand. Aura, or a person's natural life force was an essential part of learning to control the power of FLO. Could it be that this psychic's abilities were a result of FLO? Certainly that would add credibility to his predictions but the scary part was whether his FLO was letting him predict fate or… control it?

Vita shuddered at the thought as he watched Nanner draw three cards and lay them face down on the table before him. He flipped the first card over, and it appeared to be II of Pentacles, in the upright position.

"This card tells you to let go of your old ways and embrace new opportunities", he informed Vita aloud. Clearly it was referring to how going to this school was something of the start of a new life for him. That much was obvious. Nanner then flipped over the second card, which was revealed to be The Star, in the upright position. "This card symbolizes hope, discourages reckless pride and encourages cooperation with others", he explained calmly. Vita was now half-expecting the last card to be something really ominous.

Nanner then revealed the final card, which turned out to be X of Swords, in the reversed position. "This card indicates that someone close to you will inspire you to bring out your latent talents, but warns that you may not succeed if you cannot conquer your own self-doubt…", he elaborated in detail.

Hm… thought-provoking, but not exactly overly dramatic. Vita nodded in response, "Huh, well thanks. I'll keep all that in mind… I should really get back to my cabin, someone's waiting for me".

Nanner shuffled his tarot deck once more and shoved it back into his front pocket. He smiled as he uttered quietly, "Hm… Until we meet again, Vita Vaavrin…". As Vita closed the door behind him, he suddenly stopped to wonder… how did Nanner know his surname? He shook his head, it probably didn't matter in the long run. He hurried along back to the correct cabin, handing Avy her soda and cracking open his own, taking a long drink of fresh limey goodness.

Avy smiled at him, "Thanks, Vita. I hope it wasn't too much", she worried aloud. Vita shook his head, "Not really, and the old lady gave us plenty of screb you work with", he reassured her. Avy was practically bouncing in her seat, "I heard the Institute actually grants students a weekly allowance of 2,000§! Isn't that awesome?", she exclaimed.

Vita nodded, he had heard that too, and to be honest he thought it was rather exorbitant of them. Well, with seekers in such high demand lately, one supposed they wanted to shower on the perks pretty quick. A professional seeker can make more money than almost any other profession.

It wasn't even all that uncommon for amateur seekers to rake in 500,000§ a year. It probably helped that there weren't very many worthwhile seekers but loads of demand, coupled with the high risks of the job in general. These were things that young Vita had read up on before boarding this train.

Gazing out onto the shining horizon, his eyes suddenly felt heavy. He laid himself flat on the seat and closed his eyes. "I'm going to take another nap…", he remarked before trailing off. As his consciousness faded away, the last thing he heard was the announcer's voice.

"Attention passengers, we will be arriving at the Miraculi Institute in one hour", it rang throughout the train.

As the pair exited the train, and walked down the gleaming silver ramp, it was impossible not to notice the enormous structure before them. It resembled a giant black dome with many silver towers both surrounding it and penetrating from it. One could see that a train track also lead right through the building itself, which lead to some speculation.

"If the train could've gone right inside, why drop us off here?", Vita asked, staring intently at the building. Avylyn shook her head and exclaimed, "Silly Vita! If we were inside, we wouldn't get to appreciate the sight of this place!".

Vita shrugged, that was true. It was an impressive sight to behold, and Vita assumed the people in charge wanted to give as good of a first impression as possible. He found himself simply standing in awe as everyone else passed him by excitedly.

"So… I guess this'll be our home now, huh Avy?", he remarked to his companion… who he quickly noticed was not standing beside him anymore. He nearly jumped at the revelation and started looking around the immediate area. She really couldn't stand still for even a moment, could she? Not off the train for a minute and she'd already ran off.

He ran around the area, which was filled with prospective students, frantically searching for Avy. So preoccupied with his task was he, that Vita didn't notice as he ran right into wall of black and white stripes, which he slammed against, causing him to fall over backwards.

"Hey! Watch you're going, punk!", shouted the kid he had crashed into. Vita shook his head and gazed up at the source of the shout. This kid had pale skin, thick eyebrows and curly red hair hidden beneath a black ski cap. He was dressed in a black and white striped shirt with long black jacket. Under his black jeans, there were what appeared to be combat boots.

Vita snapped back, "What? How am I the punk? Have you looked in a mirror lately?". He had, of course, realized only a brief moment after the words left his mouth that he might regret saying that. The kid before him reached down and snatched Vita by the collar of his shirt and hoisted him up off the ground.

The two glared eye to eye before the punk-looking kid spoke, "You think you can just waltz on up here and start judging me!?". Vita's eyes darted from side to side before he simply uttered, "...No?". The punk seemed taken aback, but then he nodded and released his grip on Vita's shirt.

"Well, so long as we're clear on that, shortie", he mumbled awkwardly. Vita stomped the ground before him and declared, "My name is Vita Vaavrin! And I'm not that short!". The punk looked back at him and shouted back, "Yeah? Well, my name is Rhombus Pneumo! And I ain't a punk!". Vita had heard that city dwellers had a habit of introducing themselves by their full name, so he thought he should do the same.

Vita shook his head, he didn't have time for this. He retorted, "Whatever!", and ran off in another direction. Rhombus seemed to call out for him to return, but Vita didn't listen. He continued his search for Avylyn, which was becoming more unsuccessful by the minute. Dammit, where could she have gone?

"I-I'm sorry Mez… I really don't h-have any money to give you", stammered a shy-looking blond boy who was being pressed into the wall behind him. Mez, the guy in front of him who was joined by two rather burly underlings, was an older student who had been at the Institute for about two years already. He had a rough-looking face, but his eyes were obscured by his circular green-tinted sunglasses. Upon the crown of his scalp laid a fluffy chartreuse mohawk that hadn't been gelled to stand straight yet today.

"Oh really? That's too bad… After all the protection we gave, you're gonna skimp out on us?", he remarked in a raspy, intimidating tone. The blond boy was shaking was Mez took a step closer towards him.

"I-I k-kept telling you guys I didn't need protection! Y-You j-just barged into my c-cabin and said you were m-my bodyguards!", he nervously proclaimed, his eyes widening with fear. Mez took another step forwards and cracked his knuckles in preparation for a beat-down, his two goons following the example.

"Hey! Leave that kid alone!", a female voice shouted from far off to the side. Her red scarf whipped around heroically in the wind, shining bright in the sunlight. Mez cocked his neck to the source of the sound and scoffed, "Piss off, we've got important business with this little runt".

Though they couldn't discern it from the distance, the girl cracked a sly grin and cracked her own knuckles in anticipation. She ran straight at the mohawk man, but did not attack, instead she waited for him to throw the first punch. And as if on queue, Mez did indeed attempt to slug the girl in the face.

She raised her leg and swatted the man's fist out of the way, then leapt forward and delivered a solid kick to his chest with her other leg, using it as leverage to flip herself over and land back on her feet. Her kick had sent the man tumbling to the ground, and the two goons stared blankly at their fallen leader.

Mez sat up and simply re-adjusted his sunglasses, snarling, "Oho… You are gonna pay for that, missy". As the girl got into a fighting stance, there was suddenly a loud humming noise emanating from Mez's left ear.

It was his Com-Link, specifically the ear-mounted kind, which resembled a bulky metallic earring with a soft green lift blipping on and off. He quickly pinched the device, accepting the incoming call. "Yeah!? What is it!? I'm a little busy here! …What? No way! ...Really? Aw, hell yeah man! We are there!", he exclaimed, picking himself off the pavement. He gestured to this minions, "C'mon! We're outta here!", he commanded them, storming off, his minions following on his heels.

The blond boy sighed in relief and turned to face the girl, but just as he was about to say something, she anguished in frustration, "Ugh! Man… I wanted to fight some more…".

The blond boy didn't exactly know how to respond to that, so he just said what he was going to say anyway, "Um… Thanks for that, they've been pushing me around all day", he said graciously. She smiled and nodded eagerly, "It was nothing! I just happen to be here, my name is Avylyn Rorek by the way, what's yours?", she continued on.

The boy had ruffled light blond hair and bright orange eyes. Upon his scrawny chest was an orange and white striped shirt and covering his scrawny legs were brown cargo shorts, lastly upon his feet of questionable scrawny-status were a pair of brown sneakers. He had a very boyish appearance even among the other young boys. "Oh, I-I'm Crauw Xythemoire and I-I'm starting here today too…", he started to say and trailed off. Avylyn nodded and extended her hand politely, "Ooooh! Your name is cool! It's nice to meet'ya!". Crauw looked a bit puzzled, but accepted the handshake regardless.

It was at that point a familiar blue-haired boy ran up behind her. "Avy! There you are! Sheesh, why do you always have to run off like that? What are you doing?", Vita shouted as he grinded to halt beside Avylyn. She puffed out her cheeks and replied, "I'm making friends, Vita! What's wrong with that? You should try it for once instead of picking fights everywhere you go! We've been here five minutes and I bet you've already gotten on someone's bad side!". Vita scratched the back of his head in embarrassment, recalling the recent run-in with the not-punk.

"A-A-Anyway! No need to get so defensive… I just get worried when you leave without saying anything", Vita mumbled trying to steer the conversation away from himself. Back home, Vita had a bad habit of picking fights with the other kids. It wasn't uncommon for him to come home dirt-covered and bruised. Not that Vita has a bad fighter per se, but when it's ten to one, you aren't exactly gonna leave unscathed. Of course, Vita had to wince a little bit at Avy's remarks, considering she also got into plenty of fights back on the Reserve Patch.

"Aw, it's okay! Anyway, this is Crauw, he's-", Avylyn began before stopping dead in her tracks when she noticed Crauw had ran off. Avylyn had an exasperated expression as she cried out, "H-He… just ran off without saying anything… that was just rude!".

Vita snickered, "Yeah, can't imagine what that feels like…", he remarked sarcastically. Avylyn ran off after Crauw, shouting, "H-Hey! Come back! He can look scary sometimes but Vita's really not that bad!".

Vita reached out in vain, "Hey! We're supposed to be in the Amphitheatre in like ten minutes! Don't forget!", he loudly attempted to remind her. Vita sighed as his shoulder slumped, "...That girl, I swear…", he muttered under his breath.

"Mmh-hm, I know right? A real cutie you got there, man", a raspy voice commented. Vita jerked his head towards the wall beside him, where the voice originated. A boy about his age was leaning against the wall, biting into an apple.

His hair was loose and wavy, spilled over in all directions from the crown of his head, and colored like a dirty pile of hay. He was dressed in rugged-looking clothes, with his plain black t-shirt that was clearly ripped a bit on the collar. Beneath that were very raggedy looking camo pants and muddy boots, plainly visible as one leg was crossed over the other.

"I'm sorry… who are you again?", Vita asked in a snarky tone as he watched the kid take another bite in his apple. The boy swallowed and responded in turn, "Names Auncel, but back to the topic at hand, that is one good-lookin' girl you're with". Vita was a bit weirded out by this guy.

"Um, yeah. I suppose…", Vita said nonchalantly, shrugging all the while. Auncel tossed his apple core into a nearby trash bin and nodded, "Yeah yeah, especially her thighs… it's rare to see such well-shaped thighs on a girl. A bit o' meat on the bones but not too much, yea?", Auncel went on.

Vita stared down Auncel fiercely, "What exactly are you getting at?", Vita demanded to know. Auncel stuck his hands in his pockets and whipped his hair back, "Nuthing much, just sayin' I might wanna piece of that, ya know?", he quipped.

Auncel was about to walk away when Vita grabbed his arm and yanked it away. "No. I don't know, so tell me, what are you planning on doing to her?", he demanded once again. Auncel sighed, "Hey man, I didn't see your name on her or nothing, dig? Just lookin' for a good time is all, figured I'd take a shot", he explained.

Vita's expression grew enraged as he twisted Auncel's arm around and pushed against the elbow until a loud crack echoed through the air. Auncel gaped and fell to the ground, holding his shoulder with the other arm. "Gah! Geez! What the fuck, man!? Grrragh… You… You broke my fucking arm!", Auncel shouted furiously.

Vita kicked him down on the ground and stood over him triumphantly, "Listen real close. I don't know what you sick city-slickers do for fun, but don't you lay one fucking finger on Avy! If you ever hurt her, I swear I'll break more bones than you can count", Vita warned him in a chilling tone of voice unbecoming of a boy his age.

Vita left the grovelling boy, both his fists and teeth clenched tight. These city people couldn't be trusted, and this was just one more reason he needed to keep a close eye on Avylyn. He continued to wander around outside before heading into the amphitheater.

The amphitheater was comprised of a very large stage in the center of the dome building and the enormous high rise seat columns that rose up to form a giant bowl inside of the giant dome. There weren't nearly as many people seated as there were seats however. Maybe a hundred or so people were loosely seated in one section. Vita walked down the stairs to find a seat, when he spotted Avylyn jumping up and down and waving her arms to get his attention.

Without a moment's hesitation, Vita approached Avylyn and took a seat beside her. "Vita! Vita! As I was saying earlier, this is Crauw! He's new too", she exclaimed, presenting Crauw as if he was a new car. Crauw, who sat in the seat on the other side of Avylyn, blushed and fidgeted in his seat, "Heh, we're all new here today… It's nothing special", he muttered, a bit taken aback by Avylyn's forcefulness. Vita nodded if only to acknowledge that Avylyn had told him something. He was still in a sour mood from earlier.

Crauw leaned in, "Sorry I ran off before, it wasn't you. I just remembered something important I had to do, hehe", he apologized. Vita shrugged, "Yeah, whatever, it's fine", he said blankly.

Avylyn reached over and felt his forehead, "Are you feeling alright Vita? You seem really on edge…", she noted with concern. Vita gently pushed her hand away and replied, "No, no… I'm fine, really. Just… a lot to take in all at once". Avylyn smiled, seemingly satisfied with that response. Vita slumped in his seat and sighed, hoping his earlier actions wouldn't come back to bite him in the ass.

Vita scanned the stands, surveying the kids that had come from all over to learn how to control their FLO powers. It didn't take him long to spot Nanner and the other kids he ran into back on train. They were sitting together at the other end of the amphitheatre, and oddly enough Nanner's companions were still fast asleep. Were they planning on sleeping straight through the opening ceremony? It wasn't any of his business, and it couldn't be helped but he wondered what that said about them as people… and future Seekers. He shook his head, no… it wasn't his place to judge.

Vita couldn't help but notice Avylyn staring at him. He blinked and bluntly asked, "Huh? What is it?". Avylyn's cheeks were puffed out and her eyes focused intensely on Vita. She reached over and poked him in his upper arm, "Viiiiiita! It's your turn! Go meet some people!", she demanded excitedly.

Vita flailed around for a split-second before meeting her stare, "Whaaaat? Why? I'm so comfortably seated right now!", he responded hastily. Avylyn waved her finger in his face, "Don't you worry! Your seat is safe with me! Just go talk to someone!", she exclaimed.

Vita crossed his arms, "Don't wanna!", he stated defiantly. Avylyn continued to poke his arm while she cooed, "Oh c'mon Vita! I'll give you a reward if you manage to make a friend!". Vita titled his head as he weighed his options… what could Avy possibly be offering him? He knew it was pointless to ask, that was just the kind of playful girl she was. There was something about this wager that he didn't like, though he couldn't precisely determine what it was.

Vita lifted his hand to meet Avylyn's. Their hands formed fists that lightly tapped one another before opening into palms that smacked into eachother, then their fingers slid down until they were holding eachother's hands by their palms. With three simple shakes, the deal was set. This was their secret handshake, known by nobody in the world but them. There was a bright smile on Avylyn's face that was so infectious that Vita almost smiled himself… almost.

He got up out of his seat and wandered around the hall aimlessly for a time. There were so many strange-looking people walking about, how was he supposed to know who he should try talking to? Strangers weren't something that he was used to, back on the Reserve Patch, everyone in town pretty much knew everyone else… even if the other kids hated his guts, they still knew him.

Vita stopped dead in his tracks along the edge of the amphitheatre and decided the best way to go about this was to immediately try talking to the weirdest person in front of him when he opened his eyes. After a moment, his eyelids reluctantly lifted as if they were very finicky garage doors. His vision quickly focused on a boy sitting cross-legged on top of a crate… who was wearing a skull mask.

The boy had dark skin and worse mostly rags and feathers, which the occasional bone tied to his body. His face was completely hidden behind the front of a skull mask… belonging so some unknown animal. The boy was not moving an inch and appeared to be in some kind of trance. Vita slowly approached the boy and tapped him lightly on the shoulder.

"Um… hehe… Hello?", Vita asked aloud, his voice shaky and nervous. The strange boy did not make any acknowledgement of Vita's presence. Vita clapped his hands right next to the boy's ear, "Hey! Hello? Anybody in there?", he asked again, slightly louder this time. There was no response that time either. This was starting to irk Vita… this guy was being pretty rude.

But Vita knew of a sure-fire way to get the boy's attention. He bent over next to one side of the crate the boy was sitting on and pushed up to try and tip the crate over. The boy did nothing as he lost his balance and fell to the floor. Vita peered over the crate to check for any possible reaction, when suddenly the crate blasted back against Vita and plowed him straight into a nearby wall. "Gurgh!", Vita grunted as he collided with stone.

The next thing he noticed was the boy, still cross-legged, levitating off the ground and staring down at Vita. "Did you not take my silence as a sign that I do not wish to be disturbed? You people are all the same. No respect for others", the boy stated bluntly, his voice sounding far deeper than someone of his age should.

Vita didn't stop to think about what he meant by 'you people', but instead shouted, "Grr… Hey you! Who do you think you are!?". The boy glared at Vita but otherwise did not move, "I am Crutpai Ghisato. Please address me only by my tribe name, or better yet, please do not address me at all", he responded with hostility in his tone. He then floated away and plopped himself back on the floor where he had been before.

Ghisato, eh? Vita made a mental note not to get involved with this guy.

After that miserable failure, Vita decided to talk to someone more normal looking. A girl with long flowery silver hair in a casual dress. She looked a little older than him, but not by much from what he could discern. He figured he might've been a bit too direct with Ghisato earlier so he tried a more friendly approach. Vita stuck out his hand and smiled politely, "Hello! So… it looks like we're going to be classma-", he began to say before she slapped his hand away.

"Get that filthy paw away from me, you beast!", the girl declared in a haughty voice before running off with a disgusted look on her face. Vita looked down at his hand and scowled, deciding that Ghisato was now a paragon of social interaction by comparison. 'What the hell was that girl's problem?', he wondered to himself.

He shook his head and marched onwards, he wasn't going to give up that easily. Third time's the charm, right? He looked around for someone else to talk to… maybe someone he could strike up a conversation with. All the way in the dimly-lit front row were a boy and girl sitting with their backs against eachother, each of them mashing buttons on handheld gaming devices. Hm… maybe?

Vita strolled down the stairs and walked up in front of the pair. He could tell almost immediately that they were siblings. They both had dark purple hair and pale skin, and their clothing style matched as well. The boy had long bangs combed over one side of his face, and the girl had her slightly longer hair parted in the sides, with a small tail in the back. The boy wore a black hoodie and jeans while the girl wore a black T-shirt and skirt. Her legs were covered by purple striped stockings until her black leather boots took over.

Either these two were twins, or some kind of weird twin impersonators. Vita cleared his throat before speaking up, "Hey! What are you guys playing?", he asked in a conversational tone.

The boy briefly glanced at him with his uncovered eye, which Vita noticed was highly unusual. His eyes were orange but… instead of pupils, he had a black spiral that was reminiscent of a vine covered in thorns. After only a second, his eyes veered back to his gaming screen.

"How amusing, sister. He thinks he is in a position to converse with us", the boy scoffed mockingly. His sister chuckled, "I recommend cold indifference, brother. That should put him in his place", she chirped condescendingly. Vita took this chance to notice that her eyes were the same way.

Vita swallowed his pride and decided to ignore their obvious insults and try again. "So… what are your names?", he inquired nervously. Both siblings chuckled in unison.

"What kind of loser wouldn't recognize the infamous Elm Twins?", the brother poised almost poetically. "Just look at his dirty face, brother. He's clearly from a backwater slum in the middle of nowhere", the sister theorized. Vita gritted his teeth… she wasn't entirely wrong but the way she worded it was getting him worked up.

"Listen and listen good, you dunce. Because I'll only say this once, I'm Taeko and this is Kotae. We're the best at what we do and you could never compare, so we ask that you kindly get out of our hair", the brother whose name was Taeko uttered as if we had rehearsed it a thousand times before. The twins chuckled softly once again.

"Excellent as always, brother", Kotae said warmly, as they slipped eachother a high-five without even looking. If nothing else, their synchronicity was to be admired. There was something off about these two, but Vita had decided he had enough and wasn't going to get anywhere with them. Solemnly, he returned to his original seat… with nothing to show for it.

The lights in the stands dimmed as the lights on the stage grew brighter. These was but a lone figure standing in the center. A tall man drenched in a black cape, his head covered by a large orange glowing orb. This was it… the entrance ceremony was officially starting now. Avylyn clutched Vita's shoulder and squee'd, "Oooooh! The excitement is killing me, Vita!".

Vita couldn't help but smile at her enthusiasm. He was also curious, but she was on a whole other level. He gazed back down towards the man on the stage as he cast open his arms and let his cape flow in the breeze. "Goooooooooooooooooooooooooood Afternoooooooooooooon! I would like to welcome each of every one of you to first day of the rest of your lives!", the man shouted, his voice amplified by machinery.

"I am Director Ziltch. I shall be your headmaster for as long as you remain here at my prestigious institution. My assistant Buunbyu has prepared an absolutely heartwarming and inspiring welcome speech for you all!", he declared, pulling a roll of paper of of his pocket and holding it up high. And then a moment of silence passed by as the audience waited in anticipation.

Ziltch then swung his arm around and chucked the roll of paper all the way across the amphitheatre and into the highest and farthest away trash bin. "Too long! Didn't read! Anywho, hehehe… let's just jump right into the part you really want to hear about, eh?", he shouted dramatically. It was at this point that everyone realized that they weren't dealing with any ordinary headmaster.

An enormous holographic display behind him turned on and showed a diagram of six circles overlapping eachother in a circular sequence. It looked almost like a flower, actually. "As some of you already know, FLO! That's right… FLO… the mysterious ability that only a select few possess in this world… But how does it work exactly?", Ziltch mused, looking over the audience through his eyeless helmet.

"Before we go any further, we must awaken the potential locked deep inside each and every one of you! I have spent entire cycles developing a technique to do just that but first… a brief explanation of what kind of FLO you might end up with…", he went on, making dramatic hand gestures and rapidly changing his pitch to emphasize his points.

"Traditionally! There are six different types of FLO that specialize in different kinds of applications… however this is not absolute. There is often overlap between individual abilities, and some skills might not even fall into any specific type", he explained, pacing back and forth on the stage. Vita was somehow both dismayed and entranced by the headmaster's showmanship. Perhaps that was the intended effect… Vita listened intently as the Director went over each point in detail.

"Quarok… the red-colored aura. Should you have this type within you, you will be most suited towards offensive abilities. Inflicting as much damage as possible! But you will suffer when it comes to physical enhancement, which will leave you vulnerable to brute-force attacks", Ziltch explained, pointing to the red circle on the chart behind him.

"Enduri… the blue-colored aura. This one is nearly the opposite! Someone with this type would be naturally skilled as evasive and defensive measures, making them tough to take down. However, their offensive capabilities are limited so they must rely on cooperation with others to succeed…", Ziltch explained, pointing to the blue circle on the chart behind him.

"Zabroso… the green-colored aura. This type gears you more towards ranged abilities and setting various kinds of traps to ensnare your adversaries! It allows you to fight from a distance and control the flow of battle! These kinds of Seekers often find success in leadership positions", Ziltch explained, pointing to the green circle on the chart behind him.

"Yexhel… the golden-colored aura. Users of this type of FLO are able to manipulate the environment around them and change physical properties. This type is tricky to use, but can be deadly in the right hands due to its versatility. Should you possess this kind of FLO… you are in for a difficult… yet rewarding journey", Ziltch explained, pointing to the golden circle on the chart behind him.

"Uekiro… the orange-colored aura. This type makes you best suited for a supporting role, such as a medic or summoner. Practitioners of this discipline can form contracts with the alien beings known as the Zenyu. Though weak in physical strength, you can become an invaluable asset to any team", Ziltch explained, pointing to the orange circle on the chart behind him.

"Dopuur… the purple-colored aura. Users of this type are skilled in casting illusions and deceiving their opponents. They often have inhumanly keen senses and even be trained to create spacial disruptions that have a variety of functional advantages. Force-fields, wormholes, and even pocket dimensions can be created with enough study", Ziltch explained, pointing to the purple circle on the chart behind him.

Ziltch then started calling students down to the stage to have their potential awakened. One by one, he would place his hand upon their heads and channel his own aura into them, awakening their ability to generate and manipulate their own auras. They would still require training to fully control it, but as the Director said, their potential to do so had been unlocked. Vita silently wondered what kind of aura he possessed as he watched all the other students go through the ritual.

There seemed to be a rather even distribution of the different types, more or less. Vita noticed that several students weren't being called at all. He had heard a rumor that some students come to the academy already knowing some basics of their own FLO powers, so they must have had their own private awakenings. It's been known to happen.

When it was Avylyn's turn to go down on stage, she literally leaped out of her seat and rushed downstairs as fast as she could. The Director seemed to take delight in her enthusiasm and even offered her a high-five. Vita shrugged… the Director seemed like a friendly-enough guy, if a bit… odd. As Ziltch laid his hand on Avylyn's head, her smoke-like aura began to shift into a red hue.

'I guess that means she's strong but vulnerable… that's a dangerous mix considering her recklessness… I need to keep a close eye on her...', Vita thought to himself.

After a long while, Vita's name was finally called. He felt a strange tension as he progressed down the stairs… as if this was a life-changing moment. In all honesty, it probably was but… there was something more than that. As he got up on stage and stood in front of the Director, Vita felt a weird sense of… familiarity. He couldn't explain it if he tried, but there were many significant feelings swelling within him at that point in time.

"Are you ready, young man?", the Director asked politely, extending his hand. Vita gulped and slowly nodded… this was it. The course of his life would be decided in an instant. As the Director's aura was pushed into him, Vita's senses went into overdrive and he felt more than he had ever felt before. He could feel… energy all around him… both in the people and in the ground itself. FLO was theorized to be derived with the energy of life… so maybe it wasn't all that strange afterall.

After a moment, the Director stopped and withdrew his hand. "That's… That's incredible!", he shouted at the top of his lungs. His excitement filled the room and everyone was suddenly gossiping behind Vita's back. Something wasn't right here… Vita held out his hand and took a quick glance at it and gasped.

The aura emanating from his body… was pure white.

-End of Chapter One-