Rill strode into the detention area with a stormy frown upon her face. "What is the matter?" she asked the guard on duty.
"It's Azuma. During the red alert he was screaming and whimpering, but when it was over he seemed fine, he went back to staring at the walls," the man reported.
"I see," she nodded and walked over the observation window that looked in on Azuma's cell. He was staring blankly at the back wall, rocking almost imperceptibly as his lips moved in a litany of undecipherable words. Rill put her hand up on the cold barrier between them and sighed. "What happened to you?" she whispered, letting her fingers trace the outline of his profile.
"Are you even listening to me Hijikata?" Rill demanded, knocking her pilot candidate on the side of the head with her fist.
Hijikata blinked. "Yes sir," he automatically responded.
"Ji-Kun," Rill groaned, "Pull your head out of space and come back down to G.O.A. You need to know this information for the test tomorrow. What's eating you?"
"Aww Rill, you know studyin' ain't my thing." Hijikata shot her one of his infamous devil may care grins.
Rill frowned. "You've been so distracted lately. At this rate you'll never pass your exams and become a pilot."
That got his attention. His face turned serious. "I will be a pilot Rill. Nothing is going to stop me. Nothing at all."
"Great enthusiasm," someone behind Hijikata laughed. He turned to see his roommate, Cain standing behind him. Cain was a year older than him, but they were in the same class as candidates. Cain grabbed Hijikata's head and gave him a bruising round of noogies.
"Ah! Cain. Itai! Damn it! Stop!" Hijikata struggled in the grasp of his roommate.
Rill laughed at the pair as they ended up wrestling on the floor, Cain coming out on top with the slighter Hijikata pinned neatly beneath him. "You guys, that's it, I promised to meet the girls. I spent too much time watching Hijikata stare into space. Hijikata, I expect you to study, got it?" Rill looked down at her partner.
"Got it," he squawked.
"Good. See you later, make sure he studies Cain!" Rill said as she left the room.
"Sure thing Rill," Cain said to the retreating girl's back. As soon as she was gone, he looked back down at Hijikata, who had stilled beneath him. "Tsk tsk, Ji-Chan, how will you ever become a pilot of you don't do your lessons?" Cain asked running a finger down the side of Hijikata's cheek.
"I'm doing my lessons," Hijikata replied, swallowing tightly.
"It looks like you're a little lacking in your dedication. Perhaps you need a little reminder? Is that what you want. No problem, can't have our best candidate loosing his dedication can we now?"
By now, Hijikata's eyes had widened as he stared up at his roommate. "C-C-Cain!" he stuttered
"Shhh." Cain pressed a finger over Hijikata's lips. "Lessons Hijikata, it is time for lessons. Today I'm going to teach you a little discipline. Every Goddess Pilot needs discipline. You want to be a Goddess Pilot don't you Ji-Chan?"
Hijikata nodded soundlessly, chewing nervously on his lip. Cain, though nice when around others, could be completely unpredictable when they were alone. Cain stroked Hijikata's hair softly as he moved back and sat on his haunches. Standing up he offered a hand to Hijikata, who hesitantly took it. Cain pulled the smaller boy to his feet and into his arms. Resting a hand possessively on his lower back he used his other hand to tip Hijikata's chin up where he fiercely claimed his lips.
Cain backed up until he was at the closest bed, where he sat down, pulling Hijikata onto his lap. Hijikata was struggling for fresh air when Cain pulled back. Cain brushed a few errant strands of brown hair from Hijikata's eyes as he leaned in to his face. "Discipline Ji-Chan." He whispered into his ear.
Hijikata was momentarily disoriented as Cain swiftly maneuvered him till he was lying on his stomach across the taller boy's lap. Cain roughly pulled at Hijikata's shorts. Alarmed, he began to struggle to get away. A loud smack to his bared buttocks stopped him in his tracks. "Discipline Hijikata. Pilots need discipline and I'm going to make you a pilot." The statement was followed by another hard slap. Hijikata winced and bit back a whimper. Another slap followed, and another until Hijikata couldn't help but whine softly as he squirmed in Cain's lap, trying to escape the punishment.
Hijikata couldn't be sure how long the sound of a harsh hand hitting his skin filled the room, but he barely noticed when it stopped. It wasn't until he was hauled up face to face with Cain that he snapped out of his pained haze. His bottom was burning and the material of Cain's shorts was abrasive against the sensitive skin. Cain captured Hijikata's face between his hands and proceeded to steal his uneven breath away. He felt as if he was being eaten alive as Cain's hungry mouth worked against his fiercely.
Hijikata cried out in pain as Cain grabbed a hand full of his sore rear to pull him closer. Tears blurred his eyes and there was a feeling of vertigo as the room spun around him. When his eyes cleared, he was looking at the steel gray ceiling of their room. Then Cain's face eclipsed his vision, blocking out the light as his heaving body settled on top of Hijikata. Hijikata shut his eyes tight, focusing on one thing. He would be a Goddess Pilot, no matter what.
"Cain! What did you do to him?" Rill's voice startled Cain from his concentrated study of the data pad in front of him.
"Look at Ji-Kun. He's so focused. It's amazing! If I didn't know better I'd say I wasn't even looking at the same person." Rill waved over to the other side of the study hall where Hijikata was staring intensely at his own data pad.
"Nothing really Rill, we just worked on his discipline." Cain shrugged with a big grin as he caught the minute twitch of Hijikata's shoulder from across the room.
"What's your secret? I'd sure like to know, if only I could get him to study that well."
"Can't tell ya Rill, then it wouldn't be a secret any more huh?" Cain winked.
Rill pouted. "Cain," she protested leaning closer to the candidate.
At that moment, a chair scraped loudly across the floor as Hijikata stood up, collected his pad and slipped out of the room. Rill stared after him, wondering what his sudden departure was about. Maybe he was jealous that she was flirting with Cain.
"I'll go see about him," Cain offered, also standing up.
"Don't forget, the test is in an hour!" Rill called after him as he walked from the room.
It took a few minutes, but Cain eventually found Hijikata. He knew all of the other boy's hangouts. He was currently haunting his favorite one, an observatory that looked out onto the small green and blue pearl that was Zion. Hijikata sat huddled in front of the large windows, his hands down between his knees watching the butt of a cigarette burn between his fingers, dropping its ashes down onto his shoes. Cain walked into the middle of the room and watched as Hijikata deliberately lifted the smoldering butt to his lips and took a long drag.
Cain snorted. "What have I told you about those things? It's a filthy habit." Hijikata didn't reply. He just continued to stare off at Zion as his hand fell limply back between his legs, dropping more ashes into the small pile on the toe of his shoe. Cain stepped forward and took the remains of the cigarette between his fingers.
"Hand," he instructed. Hijikata lifted his hand palm up and Cain captured it in his own. He ground out the glowing butt in the center of Hijikata's palm, grinning at the hiss and wince before dropping the shreds of paper, ash and tobacco to the ground. Cain let Hijikata's hand fall back and instead he captured his face, staring deep into his brown eyes.
"It's your own fault you know. If you weren't so weak, I wouldn't have to do this to make you better. There's something you lack, but I give it to you. Do you know why? Because you will be a pilot. But we can't have just anybody as a pilot. Zion depends on you. You're gifted, but you need discipline. Do you understand me?" Cain's thumb stroked Hijikata's cheek, moving down to run across his trembling bottom lip.
Without warning Cain slammed Hijikata's head into the glass. "Look at it!" he instructed. "Look out there. That one little ball. That is what you must save. That is what you work for. I will make you the best. I will make sure that it survives through you." Cain pulled Hijikata up and smashed his lips against he smaller boy's. He captured the soft bottom lip between his teeth and bit it, almost tearing through the delicate tissues. A hand wandered up into Hijikata's uniform, but before Cain could trespass further, an alarm went off.
"Attention. Victim is heading towards Zion. Candidates, please report to your head instructor for further instructions."
Cain let Hijikata go. Unprepared, he fell bonelessly to the ground. "Get up Ji-Chan. It's time to go defend Zion."
Hijikata watched intently, seeing victim far in front of him where they met the Goddesses. Tiny blasts were shooting at dot-like Victim and exploding in small starbursts. From far away, it was almost beautiful. Sitting in space he was almost at peace. He could almost forget about his problems. What were his problems but tiny specks in the expanse of space? They were there to protect a planet, letting nothing else distract them from that mission. His mind was drawn back to the fight by an exceptionally large blast. That wasn't supposed to happen.
"Rill, what's going on over there?"
"The battle is tough. They're not telling us much. Be ready though, anything could happen."
Hijikata nodded, bringing his focus back to the battle in front of him. He had a bad feeling about this fight.
"Candidate 19, Azuma Hijikata." Hijikata jumped at this new voice in his cockpit.
"Reporting sir." He replied swiftly.
"Congratulations Candidate you have been promoted to Pilot, please return to G.O.A. immediately for transfer."
"W-what? But what about the other-"
"This is a direct order. A pilot is needed. Now return to base immediately."
"Yes sir." Ajikata quickly maneuvered his Pro-Ing back towards G.O.A.
Cain's voice crackled over to him. "Ajikata, you're breaking formation. What are you doing?"
"I've been called." He responded before breaking their connection. "I've been called," he repeated in a whisper. "I'm free..." No sooner had the words left his mouth then his Pro-Ing was rocked with a blast. Turning swiftly, he watched as a group of Victim converged on the group of candidates he'd just left. His response was immediate, firing into the group, quickly hitting the attacking creatures. The battle was swift as the upper candidates quickly took down the enemy.
There was just one problem, the largest Victim and probable leader, had broken away from the group, singling in on one candidate. Cain. Ajikata froze, eyes intent on the battle between the two. From the corner of his eye he saw the four able Goddesses approaching, but he knew they'd be too late. Rill was yelling in his ear, but she was drowned out by the sound of blood rushing to his head, beating in his temples, behind his eyes as he watched.
Slowly his instincts took over, moving him forward, but in that same instant the Victim claimed victory. He felt the Pro-Ing explode more than he saw it. He just knew that it was gone, taking Cain with it. Cain who tormented him, pushed him and who in some twisted way, had loved him. Cain...was gone. Ajikata's eyes followed the pieces of the Pro-Ing as it exploded outward, almost imagining Cain's face staring back at him through a cracked piece of glass.
His eyes flicked up to stare at the Victim, who had no care of what it had just destroyed, it merely kept it's mindless course for Zion. In that moment, that one moment, he loved that Victim, that creature that shared a name with his condition. Victim, one who is subjected to oppression, hardship or mistreatment. One, who is injured, destroyed or sacrificed under any various conditions. In that moment they were one. That's when he raised his gun, aiming carefully and firing. He watched emotionlessly as the Victim was hit, exploded and died.
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