Author's note: This is a story I wrote a little while ago. Although it was written rather recently, I first started plotting it back in middle school, a time when I was heavily into my anime obsession and more years ago than I'd like to admit at this point. Although it matured over the years before I finally put pen to paper, I retained many of the pseudo-Japanese names I had created for the cast all those years ago. In a way it's my oldest child, so please treat her kindly (laughs).

The story itself is complete in one way or another and was loosely skimmed for grammatical issues, more than a few of which I'm sure I missed. I'm sharing it now in a time when things have become a bit rough for me personally and I need a manner of reconnecting with my passions and writing. I hope you will enjoy this action/comedy/drama with all of the passion and emotion that I had creating it.

Updates will occur twice a week every Tuesday and Friday. Since it's already completed (short of a few revisions) there will be no delays. All that being said, I present Part One, Chapters One and Two, for your entertainment.

PART ONE: The Invitation

Chapter One: A Mute Kind of Fear

Pitch black. Behind closed eyes, there was only the darkness. It started from the core and writhed within her pulsing and alive. She raised her hand and slowly lowered it, each exaggerated sweep of the fan she clutched a practice in precision. She pictured herself in her mind, saw her own body. She saw the darkness around her and imagined it surrounding her figure, enveloping her. Every inch of her body was shrouded in the mystery of the veil. She thought of the strength it drew as it resonated with the blackness building up within her.

All of it moved, with a simple, silent command, to the fan as she brought it closer to her heart. It gathered around the object, welling up into a concentrated mass that gradually began to take shape. One deep breath in, held for what seemed to be an eternity. When she couldn't hold it any longer, when her lungs screamed for oxygen, she flicked her wrist to snap open the fan.


Sakura opened her eyes, the harsh artificial light far above blinding her. She pushed the ground away from her as she began to sprint. Before moving too far, she veered to the left and brought her arm ahead of her in a quick sweeping motion. The darkness took physical from, a lengthy black strip left behind in the air as if her fan were a marker and the world paper. It sped away from her, seeming to split the air itself as it went. She finished her turn, pivoting on the balls of her feet and landing on one knee. Behind her, the darkness sliced clean through a red target, the steel halves clattering on to the floor the same time she snapped the fan closed.

After a moment to breathe, Sakura stood and turned to inspect the target. A clean slice, nearly in the exact center. Not quite perfect, but miles above where she'd been a few years ago. With a satisfied smirk, she slipped her fan into the side of her skirt and chanced a glance at the clock hanging on the wall.

"Shit," she muttered, half under her breath. The high ceilings carried her voice across the otherwise empty gym, her curse bouncing off the walls and coming back to her in a whisper. "I'm late…"

Sakura huffed in frustration and jogged over to her bag. She scooped it up without slowing down and finagled it on to her back in the most awkward fashion she could've possibly managed. There was a good length of time where her arm got stuck halfway through the strap and she didn't doubt she looked like a chicken. All the while, her feet kept moving, pushing her with as much speed as they could muster towards the large steel door that led outside.


Sakura stopped dead in her tracks, all of her momentum dissipating in the blink of an eye as she jerked her head over her shoulder. She looked back in dread, hoping she'd been more responsible than she knew she had been, searching for the source of the noise. "Of course…" was all she could murmur as she took in the sight before her.

A yard or two behind, no doubt flung off during her backpack-chicken-dance, was her pendant. Crafted to look like her namesake, the mostly circular in design pendant glimmered just the slightest bit in the overhead lighting, its pink color seemingly paler than usual. Sakura turned back, her tardiness pushed to the back burner for a moment.

After dropping her backpack, Sakura crouched down to scoop up the beautiful glass piece. She held it in front of her face by the worn, thin leather strap that she used to tie it to her bag and inspected it for any signs of damage. There weren't any, of course. There never were. She had to have dropped the pendant at least ten times in the past year alone, and not once had it ever been left with a battle scar.

As the pendant slowly rotated in the air before her, Sakura started to hear the soothing pitter patter of a flowing stream, complemented by the occasional hollow bonk. The still gymnasium air became scented with burning incense and a particular cologne. In her shining reflection on the pendant, Sakura saw not the dull gray bleachers she was in front of, but a slim tree, crooked yet tall enough to act as a canopy for the stone-carved bench underneath it...

"God, already?!" Sakura shouted, catching sight of the clock once again. "Forget beating the rush…" she muttered while tying the pendant to her bag as tightly and quickly as she could. "I'll be lucky to even get any of the average stuff…"

Sakura sprang to her feet and sprinted out the door. The harsh electric lighting was immediately replaced by warm sunlight as Sakura dashed through the quad. She dully registered the change in lighting and scenery. Her boots dug deep into every stretch of grass she ran over in favor of taking the concrete walkway. The hell was the point of aesthetics if it meant having to walk for an extra twenty minutes to get wherever you wanted to go?

The fountain directly ahead marked the center of the quad, which also marked a dramatic increase in the number of students around her. Practically the entire student body gathered outside between classes, whether it was to make their way to the next building or just to get some air during a break. Sakura's blind sprint softened as she began to weave expertly through the crowd. Letting her feet take control, she searched for the easiest path to navigate the sea of bodies around her. She saw an opportunity in a small parting just beyond the fountain.

No sooner had Sakura broken free from the crowd when she reflexively jerked her head back. Searing flame shot through the air, mere inches from her face. Her eyes widened, pupils shrinking as the heat licked at her before flying freely towards the sky. Her feet continued forward, the momentum she'd picked up in her journey refusing to stop on such short command. There was an odd moment of weightlessness before she landed hard on the concrete.

There was pain, she was sure, but Sakura found it hard to pay attention to it. She watched the fire that had almost claimed her face dissipate as it got higher above, finally snuffing out with all the glory of a match in a bowl of water. Sakura leaned back on her hands, taking a deep breath to calm her racing heart.

"Are you all right?!" cried a male voice somewhere off to her right. His exaggerated shouts of concern made it pretty obvious he had been the cause of the flame. "I was just screwing around…I really didn't think…oh hell, are you okay?" From the increasing volume of his voice, she guessed he was getting pretty close. Sakura exhaled slowly and stood, using the few seconds she had before he was close enough to answer to brush off her skirt.

"I'm fine," Sakura said calmly as he skidded to a halt at her side. She ran a hand through her long hair, shaking out the knots afterwards and turning to him. "Watch yourself, you almost got me!" She said this with a smile, thankful if for nothing else than the fact that she'd avoided damage. It didn't seem to matter to the boy next to her. As soon as he'd seen her face, Sakura knew it wouldn't matter what she'd said to him.

"Yeah…" he said mildly. He was young, easily in the freshman class, if not still middle school. The concern was gone from his voice and face. There was nothing left but a mute kind of fear, the kind that causes you to purse your lips and speak quietly when you try to hide it. "I'll be…" He never quite finished his sentence, just turned on his heel and jogged back to his friends.

Sakura gradually noticed the prevailing silence in the usually-noisy quad and counted the seconds. On cue, voices began to gradually whisper around her. Heads turned, people pretended not to stare. It was the same as the last time she'd been running, when she'd bumped in to someone. It was the same as every time someone drew attention to her. She slid her bag a little higher up on her shoulder and walked, a clear path ahead of her opening up as the students backed away with every step she took. In a matter of minutes she had found her way to the cafeteria. She pushed open the smooth metal door and let it slam shut behind her.

The cafeteria was as crowded as the quad. Students gathered in groups around tables too small and laughed together. Others had taken their chances with the lengthy lines, hoping against all odds for the chance to buy one of the more popular snacks. The bag on her shoulder slid down her arm as her face dropped. She was a lot later than she'd thought.

Resigning herself to a fate of eternal hunger, Sakura sighed and walked into the crowd, hoping if for nothing else a table. She's made it only a few feet when she heard someone calling her name. She looked left and right, her gaze finally settling upon the man who'd been trying to get her attention. Blonde with short, messy hair that seemed longer on the right side, uniform unkempt and the regulation tie hanging loosely around his neck, the man calling for her was seated at a table for two. He gestured towards the open chair across from him.

"Hiroko!" she called excitedly, sitting down opposite him. "You actually beat me here?" Her excitement changed to a pretend-scowl. "Now I know I'm late."

"Is that any way to treat the guy who managed to snag you something to eat?" Hiroko said with a smirk, dangling a bag of chips in front of her face. "I go out of my way, just for you, and you viciously assault my character…"

"Hiroko, you've been late to nearly every class we've had since day one. Now give me the damn chips," Sakura snatched the bag out of his hand and worked on opening it.

"You don't hear me spoiling your fun with blunt honesty," Hiroko muttered.

"Good luck with that one," Sakura said, managing at long last to rip open the package in her hands. "At least I can tie a tie." She grinned and Hiroko laughed. She set the bag down on the table and began to dig through her bag for the bottle of water she kept there.

"How was 'independent study'?" Hiroko asked. Sakura rolled her eyes.

"You mean the school's polite way of saying 'you're the only dark carrier here, so have a free period while everyone else goes to a specialized class for their element'?"

"Look at the positives! You'll be top of your class when you graduate. You won't have to struggle for that valedictorian seat they reserve for each element!" Hiroko smiled. She found her water at the bottom of her bag, twisted off the cap, and took a generous gulp. Before she could set it down he spoke again. "So what happened?"

Sakura gave him a measured look, trying to figure out exactly what he was talking about. Hiroko glanced to his right to clarify. Sakura looked over and saw a group of girls whispering and talking excitedly. One of them was bold (or rude) enough to stare blankly at her.

"They only get like that when something makes you stand out," Hiroko commented. "Otherwise, they're perfectly content ignoring you."

"Easier to pretend I don't exist most of the time, right?" Sakura said with a grin. Hiroko sighed.

"I just don't get it," he started, retrieving another bag of chips from somewhere in his bag and ripping it open. "The rest of the world hates us, calls us freaks, and yet they think its fine to treat you like that? Here? Where we're supposed to feel 'safe from judgment'?" Hiroko grabbed a handful of chips. "Doesn't it bother you?"

"Not really," Sakura said honestly. "I guess after two years it kind of stopped getting to me. The better question…" Sakura leaned in, motioning for him to do the same. "…is why a blonde-haired, blue-eyed, Rock Jock is talking to the outcast. Could hurt your popularity, bro." Hiroko pulled back in laughter, Sakura doing the same.

"'Rock Jock', huh?" he asked. "That's a new one."

"You really haven't heard anyone say that before?" Sakura asked incredulously. "It's so…common for you earth carriers. Hell, I've heard it before and most of the school doesn't even talk to me!" Sakura grabbed a handful of chips and stuffed them into her mouth, greedily chewing. Practicing in the gym like she had been earlier always left her starving.

She'd barely gotten through the crunch, most of the food in her mouth still whole, when she spat it viciously into a napkin. Sakura grabbed her water bottle and chugged the remainder mercilessly. When it was empty, and when her mouth was no longer on fire, she chanced a glare at the guy sitting across from her. He was laughing harder than she'd heard in a long time, his eyes watering as he struggled to keep them open. Sakura threw the empty bottle in her hand at him with as much force as she could muster.

Hiroko let out a small gasp of pain as it bounced to the ground and began to rub his head. "You bastard, you know I hate spicy crap!" Sakura shouted, her tongue still roaring in protest of the heavy chili flavoring she'd just eaten. At that, Hiroko broke out in laughter again.

"That's why it's so fun to give it to you! It was written right on the package, and that face you just made?" Just as it seemed he was about to calm down, Hiroko fell into his heaviest fit yet. In the midst of gasping for air, he snorted. His laughter stopped immediately and he threw a hand over his mouth and nose.

"What was that?!" Sakura shouted before succumbing to laughter herself. "You sounded like an old man with gas!" They both sat there trying to get their hysteria under control until the bell rang, letting them know it was finally time to head to their next class.

"What's today?" Hiroko asked idly, gathering up his belongings.

"History," Sakura answered, dumping the trash out and slinging her bag over her shoulder. Hiroko let out a sigh and stood, his shoulders slumped. "You act like we don't have this every single day."

"It's the little lies that get me through the day." Hiroko straightened up, his face brightening. "I just remembered! You never told me what happened this time!"

Sakura started walking, Hiroko only a few steps behind. As they made their way through the quad, Sakura shared her close experience with Freshman Fire, Hiroko staring in surprise. It wasn't unusual for something to draw attention to her. Usually when she had to tell the tale, she skimmed over most of the details. This, however, was a special occasion. It wasn't every day she was a literal inch away from months in a burn ward.

"At least he tried to apologize!" Hiroko offered as they made their way through the halls of the main building. Their history class was conveniently located on the third floor of a building that only had stairs. The room itself was stuffy and crowded with a perpetual layer of dust and air that couldn't be stirred even with the windows open. It was like an uphill battle to reach a nursing home.

"Always the optimist, aren't you?" Sakura muttered as they reached the third floor. Hiroko pushed the door open, holding it for her. "I just-"

Her words cut off, surprise causing her to interrupt herself. Hiroko nearly walked into her before stopping short, but Sakura couldn't find it within herself to answer his confused ramblings. The hall was usually empty; the pair of them making it a point to move so slowly that they always arrived last. On the rare occasion they saw another student, they were breathless from the stairs and pushing open one of the doors in haste. It had never been the case that someone who stood out as visibly as the girl in front of them did.

The girl, sixteen or so, wasn't sweating or panting her way into a room. She stood calmly, hands folded behind her back, tapping the toe of her boot just behind her, staring at a poster hung on the wall. She tilted her head to the side, her ponytail swinging gently with her. A lollipop stick poked out from pale, pink lips and moved from corner to corner of her mouth as if it couldn't decide where it was happiest.

She wasn't in uniform, either. Black boots that stopped just below the knee added a few extra inches of height with their heels. Cream-colored shorts exposed a generous portion of her slender, fair-skinned legs. A fur-collared pink coat hid most of her neck. Sakura found herself staring at the zipper, wondering how in the hell the girl managed to get it passed her bust.

When Sakura finally looked up, she saw the girl had noticed them. She smiled, pulling the lollipop out of her mouth as if about to speak. She was cut off by a boy running excitedly up to her from the other side of the hall. He was blushing, a surprise considering how likely it was that most of his blood had found its way to his jeans.

"I managed to find someone who knew your schedule!" the boy exclaimed proudly between pants. The girl turned away from Sakura and Hiroko, smiling instead at the dog eagerly sitting by her leg. Sakura shook her head and started to walk the remaining few yards to the classroom.

"Thanks!" said the girl, her voice as soft and appealing as the rest of her features. "Let's see it, then." There was a rustle and the exchange of paper. Sakura reached the door to the classroom, chancing a glance back to see where Hiroko was. His face was beat red, frozen in an expression of shock and awe. No doubt he'd noticed that certain "porn-star charm" the girl gave off with every move.

"Oh, and are you going to the dance?" asked the boy eagerly. "It's next week, and I was wondering…since you're new…"

The dance…Sakura let her mind wander to the semi-formal the school had planned months ago. She hadn't put much thought into it. In fact, she'd made it a point to ignore it entirely. Paused in front of the classroom, she looked over her shoulder at Hiroko, not quite sure why she felt inclined to do so. Hiroko caught her eye, no longer distracted by the stranger's ebullient charm. He grinned widely at her.

Sakura felt her cheeks flush and she snapped her head away from Hiroko before he could notice. She pushed open the door to the classroom, finding her way to an open chair without a second glance. Hiroko came in shortly after, taking the chair next to hers. Sakura fixed her gaze out the window, trying her hardest regain her composure.

"Urematsu…" came a voice from the front of the classroom. Sakura turned to her teacher, hoping she'd managed to hide any trace of her random freak out. Professor Shisomi, a bespectacled man with gray hair that clashed with his youthful appearance tied off in the back, was looking at her expectantly.

"Here!" Sakura exclaimed boldly. There was about a fifty-fifty shot he was just going through roll. She gave a half-hearted smile, hoping she'd win the coin toss.

"I'm well aware of that, given the fact that you interrupted the start of lecture by storming in here," Shisomi said blandly. Damn, she thought, slumping in her chair. Should've picked tails. "I was just hoping you could find it in you to…I don't know…pretend to pay attention?"

"Hiroko was late, too!" Sakura tried to point out, well aware of how childish she had to sound.

"Wow…" Hiroko said as if he were commenting upon the weather. "Turns out busses really hurt when someone throws you under one…huh…" Sakura made a face at him.

"Yes, but Mr. Kobayashi doesn't seem to be making it a point to ignore me by staring out a window." Sakura flushed again as Hiroko let out a low whistle.

"Funny…it doesn't hurt so much anymore." Hiroko stretched back and returned Sakura's murderous glare with an equally mischievous smirk. Sakura rolled her eyes and bowed a quick apology. The door to the classroom creaked open just as Shisomi attempted to return to his lecture for the day. A shock of green hair tied back in a pony-tail poked its way through the crevice.

"Excuse me?" The girl from the hall eased her way in to the classroom. She seemed to have abandoned the lollipop at some point. Sakura glanced around the classroom, soaking in the effect this girl had on a crowd. Every person in the room was staring at her; guys with a barely restrained lust, girls with an overwhelming and apparent sense of catty jealousy. Hiroko seemed immune now. He was rocking back in his chair, gnawing on the capped end of his pen and staring at a blank page in his notebook.

"At this rate I might as well have taken today off…" Shisomi mumbled. He turned to greet her properly, surprisingly immune to her charms. "Can I help you?" A grin more innocent and adorable than a kitten exploded across her face.

"I'm so glad I'm in the right place!" she exclaimed. "I was standing outside and some nice man was kind enough to help me find my schedule. I don't know what I would've done if he hadn't been there!" Sakura stared, imagining she was writing out dialogue for the girl with the added challenge of having to avoid using the word "daddy". Three mentally crumpled scripts later, she gave up.

"I was standing right out in the hall when he showed up. I'd been right in front of my classroom the entire time!" She closed her eyes and playfully knocked on the side of her head. "I can be so clueless sometimes! It's a little embarrassing."

"All right, then," Shisomi started, miraculously impervious to the innocent sex appeal the girl shot out with the force of a twelve gauge. Sakura would think he was gay if she hadn't seen the way he looked at Dr. Sadako, the woman in administrations. "Let me be the first here to welcome you to our school, miss…?"

"Kyono!" the girl exclaimed with a crooked salute. "Teri Kyono."

"Ms. Kyono…" Shisomi reached over to a clipboard on his desk and flipped through the papers attached. "I don't have anything about a new student with me…" He gestured towards the rest of the class. "Why don't you introduce yourself here while I run down to administrations? Won't be more than a minute."

"Sounds great!" Sakura didn't think it was possible to sound any more excited without going into cardiac arrest. Shisomi nodded and walked out of the classroom muttering something about a more productive day studying the working of his kitchen sink. Once the door was closed, Teri looked around the class.

There was a brief moment during the girl's casual observations where Sakura could swear they stared at each other. Teri looked calm, collected in that moment, a flash of intelligence and maturity that betrayed her air-headed act in the beginning. She raised an eyebrow slightly, or at least Sakura thought she did. Faster than a bolt of lightning the moment passed, leaving her to wonder if she'd imagined the entire thing.

Teri stopped searching the classroom and settled on smiling at Hiroko, who was still tipping his chair and chewing his pen like a dog with a bone. Funny how he seemed to be the only dog without a bone at the time being, considering the drool collecting in front of the male students. Teri flipped her bangs back with a toss of her head and made her way over to him.

"I saw you in the hall earlier, didn't I?" she asked, stopping uncomfortable close to Hiroko. She leaned in slightly as she spoke. Hiroko broke his staring match with the notebook and turned his head towards the voice, blinking in surprise. Sakura narrowed her eyes as she figured out the purpose of Teri's lean. In trying to find who was talking to him, Hiroko was presented with her finely sculpted chest hovering only an inch away from his face.

Hiroko let out a gasp and reeled backwards a bit, a move that pushed the chair to the tipping point and sent him falling backwards. Sakura reached out to grab him, but Teri beat her to the punch. The new girl grabbed his wrist and threw her own body back, using her weight to pull Hiroko back up. This tactic resulted in him falling forward and landing on the ground on top of Teri. Sakura stared with her mouth agape as Hiroko turned a vibrant shade of red.

"Sorry for startling you!" Teri said, looking up at his face. "Are you all right?"

"N-no, I mean, yes, but, I…." Hiroko stuttered, seemingly paralyzed atop her. A few students stood up to see what was happening. There was a brief silence where Teri rolled her head slowly from side to side to observe his hands. She looked back up at him and offered a suggestive smile.

"Comfy?" she asked playfully. Hiroko blinked and looked down at himself. Once he'd noticed his position, he shouted and jumped up, stumbling backwards a few steps. Teri slowly sat up and got on her feet. "You shouldn't move too quickly right after you fall…You could've stayed a little longer if you wanted." Teri winked at him while she brushed the dirt off of her shorts.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?" Sakura demanded, slamming her palm on her desk and standing up with an air of authority. Teri stopped brushing off her shorts and looked over to her with feigned innocence.

"I'm sorry," Teri began. "I'm such a klutz!"

"I'm not talking about that!" Sakura shouted. "I mean the whole slutty grade school-er thing! Is that really what you think 'introduce yourself' means?"

"Oh!" Teri gasped and covered her mouth with both hands. "I never meant to do anything like that! Oh my…I have such an awful tendency of giving the wrong impression without even realizing it!"

"Cut the crap!" Sakura could feel a rage building up inside her. She expected Teri to feel offended, to try and argue. Instead, the girl's face somehow became even more innocent and her eyes watered slightly. If this was somehow an act after all, she deserved one hell of an award and a leading role in a movie.

"I'm so sorry!" Teri said, her voice cracking just a bit as she shook her head. "I really didn't mean to do anything like that! I promise!" Teri closed her eyes and let out the cutest, most pitiable wail Sakura had ever heard. "I've already gone and offended someone and it's only day one…"

A single tear slid down her cheek and Sakura realized she'd entered a losing battle. She chanced a look around the classroom and saw her performance had sold her to the class. Half of them were looking at Teri as if she'd just admitted she had a terminal illness. The rest were glaring at Sakura vehemently. One girl was shaking her head at her as if she'd just kicked a puppy.

Sakura snapped her head back to Teri, who had dried her eyes and was currently walking towards her. She took Sakura's hand, interrupting her attempt to rekindle her anger in the girl. "I'm really sorry. Honest. I can imagine how it has to feel to think that a stranger is flirting with your boyfriend, and I-"

"BOYFRIEND?!" Sakura shouted while she jumped back a step, knocking over her chair. She gaped at the girl, feeling mortified. "He's not my boyfriend!"

"Oh!" Teri started. "I'm sorry! I just figured by the way you were acting…"

The flame inside was gone, her wrath subdued. Sakura felt hot and cold at the same time, like someone had just dumped a bucket of ice water over her head and threw her into a fire. Teri stepped back and apologized again, but Sakura found herself babbling to herself the same way Hiroko had when he fell on the girl.

"All this excitement is making me feel a little warm…" Teri said sheepishly. She delicately took hold of the zipper to her coat and tugged, relieving it of its laborious duty of prison guard to the massive inmates beneath. Teri slid off her coat, revealing a tight tank top that hugged her skin like a swim suit. "That's much better!"

Teri stretched her arms a bit and moved over to Hiroko again. She folded her arms behind her back and looked at him with the same sincerity and shame she had with Sakura. Hiroko seemed to have mostly regained his composure now that the shock had worn off. He looked at her levelly, all the while casting the occasional glance at Sakura.

"Are you okay?" Teri asked. Hiroko nodded and she sighed with relief. "I'm glad I didn't end up hurting you. What's your name, anyway?"

"Hiro," he answered immediately.

"My name is Hiro," he said with a slight scowl. Sakura smiled and shook her head. He sighed, relenting. He kicked the ground lightly, head down. When he brought it back up she could see relief and something optimistic in his face. "But I guess…if you're that determined…'Hiroko' works, too."

The embarrassment of earlier faded out of her as she remembered the past. It had become so natural to her, calling him 'Hiroko'. She'd almost forgotten that it was a nickname. She felt the tension in her joints slip away as her body relaxed. Sakura leaned against the desk behind her and watched Teri "apologize" to Hiroko.

"Hiro?" Teri mused. "Such a nice name…" Teri took a few steps away from him and wrapped her arms around her body. She kept her face pointed to the floor as she did so. After only a few paces, she turned and walked back. "I'm sorry again for my clumsiness."

"Don't worry about it," Hiroko said soothingly. "No one got hurt, right?"

"Well…" Teri put a finger to her chin. "I'd still like to make it up to you. And since you're single…I figure this is the most sincere expression of my apology that I can do for you!" Teri beamed and moved closer to Hiroko. The wall stopped him from moving, and despite his stammered attempts at declining, Teri closed the gap between them and raised her face.

It couldn't have lasted for more than a second. Some area of her brain that functioned purely on a rational level acknowledged this. That same area noted it was quite literally a quick peck, but that area was drowned out by the rest of her being.

As if someone pushed a "slow-motion" button, Teri brought her lips closer to Hiroko's and slowly closed her eyes. The room disappeared behind them, the desk and blackboard replaced with a shining light spectacle romantic shades of pink. The distance between their mouths shrank until it was gone and Teri was kissing Hiroko. Her hands cupped the sides of his face. Her body was pressed against his.

Sakura's eyes threatened to burst out of her skull, her jaw felt as if it had unhinged. Her fingers spread as wide as her body allowed and the tension that had caused it to become as immovable as stone to return.

The lights disappeared as Teri pulled back from Hiroko. Sakura became aware of a faint noise between a gurgle and a sentence emanating from the back of her throat but was unable to do anything about it. Somewhere in her head she knew Teri's arms had never left her sides, that the kiss was a sweet little thing and nothing more. Whenever she recalled the image, however, Teri was found crushed against him with her hands running rampant through his hair.

Sakura felt the fires of rage burst to life inside yet again and she snapped her jaw shut. She grabbed their bags in one hand and stormed over to Hiroko, taking exaggerated and long strides.

"We're leaving!" she roared at him and grabbed his wrist. Sakura made her way to the door, half dragging Hiroko along as he stumbled his way behind her. She ripped open the classroom door and made her way out to the hall, only vaguely registering Teri's sigh and melodramatic cries of self-pity and "regret" as she got farther away.

There was something she knew, despite not being able to see it for herself. She knew it the way people just…know things sometimes. Teri was bemoaning her behavior and how easily it must get misconstrued, but Sakura knew that it was an act. Sakura could guarantee in that moment that should there have been a way of taking a picture of how people really felt, the stills of Teri would have the biggest grin the world had seen. It was the kind of smile of a person who felt accomplished, who knew that something had played out exactly the way they wanted it to.