A/N: It's been a while, but I managed to upload something that's been on my mind since PPF. Criticism welcome, but no flames.


The outside room's incandescent bulbs above Professor Aleksandr Kazakov continued to glow ominously silent, throwing frosty rays of light evenly across all but empty rows of metallic chairs. The aged man couldn't help but observe, after a cursory glance around the place, that everything in the school, from the thin grey doors to the very atmosphere around him, demanded a need for unrequited silence. It's in times like this, the professor decided as he glanced guiltily towards the closed classroom door in front of him, that it's perfectly acceptable to be a little rebellious. He kicked the chair to his right, and was promptly rewarded with a brief but satisfying clatter echoing across the cold marble floor.

The pause that followed was deceptively peaceful for the professor. Then a sudden crack of a cane hitting flesh escaped past the thin layers of the closed door. Aleksandr instinctively convulsed, overturned his own chair in the process. He recalled seeing a little boy who couldn't have been more than twelve years old stumble out of that very same door a couple days ago with nothing more than bloody rags for hands. Despite his own children having enrolled in the prestigious school for more than a few months already, he steadfastly continued to repress an involuntary shudder every time his grey head bowed low to enter through the ironclad school front doors.

After a few more minutes had passed, the classroom door swung open inaudibly. The fifteen-year-old elder of the Kazakov family's two children, Lillian Kazakov, walked stiffly into the waiting room. Aleksandr had already half-risen to his feet, but a quick wave from Lillian made him sit back down.

"Father," she chided the patriarch. "Ivan isn't going to be coming out of that room anytime soon. He messed up four times today."

Aleksandr grimaced visibly. "Four times. How unusual. Your brother hasn't done so poorly since he recovered from sleeping in class, which I remember was due to his late night gaming escapades."

Lillian didn't bother to defend her brother, opting instead to cautiously hobble around the cluster of chairs. She flexed her own tender fingers against each other gently, and her joints creaked in unison with the vociferous cracking of bones rebounding off pallid concrete walls.

"He was passing notes in class during the morning lecture to the new transfer student from Spain."

"Oh dear."

"But that wasn't why Ivan got into trouble, Father."

Aleksandr attempted to appear enchanted. "Go on. You mean to say that being caught passing notes in class isn't enough justification for the teacher to warrant a beating? I would have thought that paper-folding fanatic instructor of yours would have no qualms in taking the smallest –"

"Enough," Lillian huffed with a shake of her blonde tresses. "You turn the simplest insults into some long-winded speech, Father. And can you please show at least some respect in my school by proper referring my 'paper-folding fanatic instructor' as the Grandmaster? Anyway, I saw Ivan get into trouble because he chose to pass the notes, but not because he was passing the notes."

The professor wrinkled his brow as annoyance clouded his brilliant cobalt eyes. "I don't suppose you would care to amend the logic behind that fantastically obscure comment of yours, Lillian?"

Lillian looked contemplative as she leisurely rounded past another luminous wall of white. She solemnly placed her pointer finger lightly against the side, delicately dragging the thin digit across the icy material with little check in her stride.

"I can't really explain it exactly, but I think a choice or something was given the moment Ivan realized the Grandmaster was watching him since the beginning. Ivan could have continued onwards in his own dealings, or he could have stopped."

"And he obviously didn't stop," Aleksandr mused. "But it's not as if Ivan could have avoided being reprimanded even if he did discontinue his efforts."

"Who knows?" Lillian replied. "Then I saw him mess up on his origami pieces again three more times before I left."

"Just like that?"

The pale adolescent quietly pulled up a chair and sat down soundlessly. "Just like that. You know Ivan's naturally clumsy with his fingers, Father. Then again, I also got whacked for messing up on some of the new models we are learning about, albeit twice only."

Aleksandr nodded solemnly before checked his faithfully ticking watch. Another muffled smack of the cane echoed through the classroom doors, followed by a short wail of agony.

"Three more minutes before the school bell rings," he ruminated calmly, before turning to his daughter again. "Lillian, can you remind me again why both my children, the youngest having not passed his thirteenth year, have adamantly decided to enroll in a school that is nothing more than a thinly veil-excuse of a child-beating seminar, headed by an infamous cane-wielding origami aficionado I have seen only once since the day of your enrollment?"

Lillian folded her arms as deliberately as she could and glowered intently at her father.

"Despite your major in the Humanities, Father, you don't understand anything at all about the world and its people you claim to study."

"Oh? And this is coming from a fifteen-year-old girl who hasn't even graduated from high school?"

Lillian shook her head and turned to study the classroom door. "I'm just saying that in this school, there is more learning and understanding Ivan and I can learn in a few years than you can ever –"

Soft, deliberate chimes of the school's uniquely designed bells rang in unison throughout the school grounds. The faint fluttering of papers that followed filled the campus in a crescendo that shortly gave way to the loud screeches of chairs being carelessly slid against the marble floor as the brilliant antithetical climax. Relieved faces and aching fingers in abundance came streaming out of their academic confinements, and students paused only once to turn back at the open doorway and call out a cheery thanks to their respective instructors.

Ivan Kazakov came running out of his own classroom with a wide grin plastered across his face.

"Father! Did you wait long?" he blurted, espying his waiting convoy. "And Lily, you have to teach me how to do the super cool rose model the Grandmaster always does! I always wanted to learn how to…"

He paused, finally realizing the fact that Aleksandr was gazing in horror at his crimson coated fingers. Colors ranging from the bronzed shade of Ivan's hair to the indigo tinge of his mother's eyes adorned the beaten, bloated appendages that hung by his sides. Ivan chuckled nervously and promptly hid his hands behind his back.

"Father," he said, in a calmer tone than before. "It was my fault. I should have been more responsible, and this sort of thing is actually well deserved."

Another pregnant pause ensued. By now, the waiting room was almost deserted, as with its other frosty colleagues across the school grounds. Yet tension continued to crackle and hiss across the frosty air around the three Kazakovs and other lingering families equally upset with the brutalized tatters of their respective children's hands.

"Ivan," the professor enunciated both syllables of his son's name slowly. "We will extensively discuss the matter of your injuries at a later date and time, but we will keeping this present party's best interests in mind for now by getting out of this demented place immediately."

Aleksandr theatrically turned towards the exit door in the back, hastily bumping into a young man wearing flowing, ceremonial robes heading off in the same direction. He grumbled as he stepped back gingerly, unwilling to apologize for his abrupt actions.

"Sir, in the event that my swift movements may have been understandably too quick for a lethargic youth such as yourself, I call to attention how you …" Aleksandr blinked confusedly, grandiose admonitions forgotten. "Wait, I know you, don't I?"

The young man allowed a brief look of amusement flicker in his steely obsidian eyes before pulling out a small square piece of paper from the folds of his robes and resuming his walk back out the door.

"Indeed you should, Professor Aleksandr Kazakov. The Grandmaster stands before your presence."