ACDC School

Kenji Kobayashi made his way into homroom, making good time. He prefered to be early but being on crutches now, his trips took longer.

"Kobayashi, good morning." One of the girls in his class said with a smile. He nodded and responded in kind as he headed to his desk. cutting him off, however was a larger, portly boy who looked like he had been held back a grade or two. "And the cripple returns." he said with a sneer. A tall skinny boy and a short chubby girl with glasses flanked him and like the goons they were, stood with their arms crossed and grinned.

"Ashigawa. I'm not in the mood for you, let me get to my desk." Ken started to move forward but had to stop again as the large boy wasn't budging. "Nah, I feel like standing here, ainoko." He sneered. Ken frowned at the term ainoko. Halfbreed. He hadn't heard it untill a few years ago but he grew to hate it fast. As Ken gritted his teeth and his mind begain to fire any number of retorts off to be slung, a girl stepped in between them and pushed the larget boy back. He gave a stupid grin like a lovestruck puppy at her touch. "Hey Yuki, morning.." He said.

She frowned at him as he and his goons backed off. "I'd prefer it if you addressed me properly as class representative, or at least by my family name Seiko." She snorted at him as he mumbled "Anything you say Yuki.." and the trio dispersed to head back to their desks.

Ken meanwhile, felt mixed appreciation and shame. She had helped him but he was a man, his father told him so. He didn't need her to bail him out of trouble. If only it hadn't been for his broken foot he was sure that bully Hito Ashigawa and his cronies wouldn't have even challenged him. But he remembered what his mother told him about karma and being good to others so he smiled up at her and said "Thanks Seiko."

She nodded and waved a dismissive hand to the seated troublemakers "Things like that make the whole class look bad. And please, call me Yuki. Unlike them, your not a jerk." Ken shared a laugh with her and sat down in his seat. He glanced over a couple seats from him and saw Hito glaring at him, mouthing the words ainoko at him. He turned back to front and sighed as he place dhis crutches to the side of his desk and looked into his PET's viewscreen. Musou was pointing over to where he knew Hito was sitting and presenting a very rude gesture. Ken snickered and mumbled to him "Yeah, my feelings exactly."

Ken slid a textbook and his homework from out of his bookbag as his homroom teacher, Ms. Yamada, came in. Yuki called for attention int he class and everyone stood and said good morning. She responded in kind and nodded to Yuki, who told everyone to be seated. She took several papers and a notebook from her bag as well as her PET and sat them on the desk. She noticed a stray paper which had fallen onto the floor from her things and scanned over it. She made an "O" with her mouth and looked over at Ken. She closed her eyes and sighed deeply as she began her latest announcements.

It wasn't untill she was at the end that she paused and added at last "And, Mr Kobayashi, I regret to inform you that the karate club, lacking your attendance for the next six months at least, has now fallen out of compliance. On top of it, you were the president and sensei. I'm sorry but without you the principal wants that ols classroom to be put to some other use."

Murmors around the class began, Ken simply frozen in shock, mouthing an objection he couldn't find the words for. Hito shouted out "Your half-assed club that nobody gave half a care about is over, Ken-chan." Most of the students laughed, adding to Ken's disgrace but as the anger was beginning to build in him and overtake the shock, Ms. Yamada spoke quickly "Mr Ashigawa, I won't allow disrespect in my classroom. Detention, afterschool. There are several dirty desks you will now be cleaning". He snorted and mumbled "Yeah, whatever." Before her stern look made him situp strait and say "Yes, Sensei". Ken just deflated. Karate was all he had in his life. One stupid injury, even one the doctors said he would recover from just fine in six months to a year and, it was all falling appart.
A few days later...

Ken sat on the sidelines during his gym class, bored, choosing to get a head start on some homework rather then just watch everyone run around the track. He felt so left out. Everyone had always thought of him as a big dumb jock who just got lucky on his tests but his grades were always in the top 3 of his class. His father had instilled in him to always strive for the best. "Perfection wasn't the goal, he would say, because that is impossible, instead we must do our very best and push past all our limits untill the day we die." He had said to him once. He hadn't seen much of his father the past month or so, since his accident. They spent most of their time together in his father's dojo as pupil and master, Karateka and Sensei. Lately though...

As his mind drifted, he failed to notice Hito ashigawa, and his goons, approach the bench he was sitting on. His train of thought was cut off when dirt and sod flew into his face and hair. He sputtered and looked up at them. "Aww looks like Ken-chan is finally eating my dust. So much mr jock impressing Yuki with his half-assed karate." Hito said with a sneer. Staring at him, Ken glared hard. Insulting his race or condition was one thing, insulting his father's beloved karate teachings was going over the line. "You take that back. Or I'll-" Ken started to say but Hito cut him off "You'll what, fall down? Hard to hobble around without your crutches, cripple!" Ken gritted his teeth and started to reply but he caught it too late. Without his crutches? He looked down where he had left them and they were gone. He looked wildly around and noticed Hito's pair of lackey's running off in seperate directions, each with one in hand.

Ken looked between the fleeing goons then back to Hito "Give them back! Now or you'll be sorry!" he snarled. Hito laughed, but just to be safe took a couple steps back, and snorted "Sorry? I'm sorry I never saw what a wimp you were before ainoko! To think I used to be afraid of you! What a joke."

Ken lunged at him, coming up off the bench and hopping on his good leg, but it wasn't far enough. He managed to keep his balance but with another couple of easy steps, Hiro was able to keep his distance even as he kept mocking "Aww so close. Come on mr cripple, come on boy. Heel!"

From the PET, Musou tried to shout a warning of some kind but Ken wasn't paying attention to anything but the bully in front of him. He felt a sharp pain explode in his right foot and he saw the world turn upside down as he landed on his back, dazed. One of Hito's goons had just cracked him in his good ankle with his own crutch. He groaned and looked around, still stunned from the impact. Hito couple barely contain himself as he snicked "Watch your step, crippled and clumbsy.", he said as he and one of his lackeys walked off. He saw one of them throw the crutch that had hit him beside him carelessly and saw the other goon break the second crutch over her knee and drop the pieces by Ken before also running off.

Moments later the gym class completed another lap and saw Ken laying on the ground with a broken crutch. Some of them kept running but a few, including the teacher and Yuki came to his aid. He could hear a few snide comments shoot through the air as those who kept running said things like "Clumbsy", and "So much for the karate kid". The teacher took a glance over him and felt his right ankle for swelling. "What in the world happened" Yuki exclaimed as she picked up his good crutch and handed it back to him. The teacher helped him back to sit on the bench before asking a few questions. "I'm... Fine." Ken said, shook to his core with anger and dissapointment. "Just.. Fell down." he added. Yuki looked with concern as she sat the broken pieces of his other crutch beside him and asked "Are you sure Ken? It looks like something happened-"

Ken growled "I'm fine, go away! Leave me alone. All of you just leave me the hell alone!" Of those who had stopped to help or watch, some looked hurt and others just rolled their eyes and went back to their next lap. Yuki put her hand to her mouth and bit her lip, trying to hold back a tear. She really liked Ken, usually, but right now? What a jerk. She ran off to the locker room, a few tears down her cheeks. The teacher frowned and pulled a notepad from his back pocket along with a pen. "Kobayashi, I want you to make your way, when your able, to the principal's office with this note. Your not really in trouble but I can't have you disturbing my gym class like this. Untill your able to participate again I'm waivering you out of it. If you don't recover before the end of the school year and pull your grade up from these absences, you can expect to see me again next year."

The anger drained from him along with the color in his face. Can't participate in gym? May even fail it? Athletics and his grades were all he had. The gym teacher took the silence as acceptance and sat the note next to him before running off to rejoin the class in their laps. Musou just watched silently as his partner slipped further away from him. He just didn't know what to say and the last thing the navi wanted was for Ken to be mad at him too.
A little while later...

Kenji was making his way slowly through the hall one one crutch when he heard voices approaching. It only took him a moment to realise it was Hito and his goons braggin about skipping out on gym. Ken pulled back into an empty classroom and waited beside the door. He looked down at his PET and thinking quickly, said "Hey Musou, do me a favor and play a brief sound clip for me. Earlier when Yuki said Ashigawa, play that twice, about 5 seconds appart." Unsure what his operator had in mind, but pleased his mood seemed to be picking up, he took only a moment to get it together. Ken turned the sound on his PET up and waited.

Still laughing at how he had got that crappy little karate kid out of the way, Hito was imagining it was only a matter of time untill Yuki saw how aesome he was. "Ashigawa..." he heard echo from nearby. Hito and his lackeys slowed down a moment and looked around. "Ashigawa." He heard distinctly from an empty classrom just a few feet away. It only took his ego and imagination a couple seconds to convince him he was about to spend some 'quality time' alone with Yuki. Not wanting his gang to stifle his smooth moves, he told them to go ahead, he'd meet 'em later. With a strut he headed into the classroom "Yuuuuki chan? I'm here." He chimed, before he saw a flash of white in his vision twice, each followed by a sharp pain in his face, then one final pain shot through his lip and mouth as he fell down and everything went dark.

Musou couldn't believe what he had just been a part of. Well, sure he could, it's not like that Hito guy wasn't asking for it but still.. It wasn't right to use karate to brutally beat someone down like that, was it? As Ken approached the principal's office he stopped at the water fountain for a drink. Musou cleared his throat and started off cautiously "Um, Ken... About what just happened.."

Ken finished his sip then glanced into the screen of his PET, answering "I know, Musou. That was messed up. It went against everything my father taught me about discipline and self-defense. But you know what? Through my weakness I learned something about myself. Something about my limits and how little patience I actually have." Musou gave a "hrmm" noise and said "So, we should take our failures and learn from the, right? Not cry over what's happened?". "Yeah, exactly. No point crying-" Ken said then stopped and thought about the last few weeks and how he had felt like he just wanted to give up. Shame on him, no wonder a petty bully was able to get to him.


"Yeah Ken?"

The morning after Musou's first netbattle...

Ken headed into homeroom, a few minutes late. Ms Yamada looked up at him creeping along with his crutches with no modivation. She decided to hold her tounge and just let him come in a little late this once. She motioned twords his seat quietly and went back to roll call...

As he sat at his desk, unpacking his things a whisper reached him "Psst Ken". He glanced behind him and saw one of his old Karate club members. Ken loved karate and practiced it for it's sake but this boy, Daigin Mitsunari, was one of those kids who just liked being part of something and having friends. Nothing wrong with that he supposed and they had been friends ever since second grade. Ken whispered back "Gin. How was your family trip? You've been gone for awhile."

Daigin (he prefered 'Gin') grinned and said "We went to Netopia. It was awesome. I heard you got a PET finally. Welcome to the modern age. Wanna trade chips? Have em spar?" He asked.

Ken looked down, lost in his own thoughts.. Where was Musou? He wasn't in his PET, he wasn't in Ken's PC anymore. Mr Program said he left for Netsquare sometime last night..

He felt a tap on his shoulder and snapped back to the moment. "Huh?" He said, looking back. Gin pointed to the front of the class and Ken looked forward, seeing an impatient Ms Yamada tapping a spot on the board. "Mr Kobayashi. The answer please." she said impatiently, for what must have been the third or fourth time.

Amid snickers from other students, Kensat up strait in his seat and looked over the problem. The protocal was to stand when called upon but in his case that wasn't needed. He quickly scanned the board, he had done his homework and everything and he was a clever child, but what had it gotten him.. Musou.. Where was he...

He blinked and looked up at the board again, saw the topic was something about netbattles and just threw out an answer. "Metools?" he said. The teacher tapped the board and cleared her throat "No, Metools are not the most commonly used battlechip and neither is the 'shockwave' they frequently relinquish. Are you paying attention, Mr Kobayashi?" she asked, pretty much rhetorically.

More snickers around him, none coming from Gin or Yuki, he noticed. They seemed concerned. He cleared his throat and said "Cannon. It's part of the basic starter pack. It packs a good punch, is accurate, cheap and commonly found enough to be in almost every folder" The teacher seemed impressed with the thoroughness of his answer and let his by, for the moment. "Thank you. Yes, as Kobayashi said, the cannon is....." she started and class went on and on.

During Lunchtime..

"Hey Keni, whats wrong, I'm worried about you." Yuki said. Ken looked up and studied her, with an almost blank stare. Worried? Why, he brought this upon himself. She didn't know though.. Would she blame him too, he wondered. "Yo Ken, cheer up. Don't you want to hear about Netopia?" Gin asked. One of the girls nearby, who had a very obvious crush on Gin, spoke up from a couple seats away. "Ohh I wanna hear, I wanna!"

Gin gave the classic sweatbeat. He was trying to cheer up his best friend, not- Then the girl was standing behind him and grabber one of his hands in both of hers. She dragged him out of his seat and headed out of the room with him as she was going on about "Lets go somewhere more private. Almost nobody sits up on the roof and I made a boxed lunch I want you to try." Gin looked back at Ken and shrugged helplessly as he was taken away.

girls were kind of scarry, Ken thought. Something about them seemed to have a draining effect on men. Even his father was powerless against his mother and he was the master of his own karate academy.. Yuki waved her hand in front of Ken's face a moment and said "Wow, you really are distracted. Why don't you tell me about whats going on. It will make you feel better, you know?"

He blinked and looked over at her. "I'm, uh, sorry about before, in gym.. I didn't uh.." He started, feeling a pang of guilt was the last thing he wanted in the middle of this whole situation. Yuki shook her head and smiled "It's ok, you can be a jerk sometimes Ken but I know you have a lot going on. You don't really mean it." Ken wasn't sure if he was supossed to feel good or bad about that statement, you could never tell with girls. She seemed to be trying to cheer him up right now so he hoped she was forgiving him. "Thanks, I don't want anyone else mad at me." He said.

Yuki rose her eyebrows. "Anyone else? Whos mad at you?" She didn't find it out of place that he hadn't tried talking to his navi through the class since some days he didn't at all. She just assumed they had some kind of 'professional' friendship. "It's Musou, I.. uh. I said some stuff and he got really mad. I guess I, sort of, drove him off." he grumbled in a lower voice. Unlike his parents, pretty much every child understood, fighting with your navi was fighting with a good friend and companion. For some, who had really good relationships with their navis, it was fighting with your best friend in the whole world.

Yuki didn't know how close Ken was to his navi but she got the idea. "Do you want to talk about it, tell me what you said?" she asked quietly. He didn't know why but Ken felt himself opening up to her. He said "You know about me and karate.." She nodded. He went on "Well I wanted Musou to be different. You know, to really learn karate and use it in his fights and live by it and stuff. He was my first student, outside of the karate club." Yuki bit her lip, she knew the loss of the karate club was still eating at him, and said "That sounds nice.. What happened?"

Ken looked away from her, out trowds one of the windows and the sky. "I guess I was really hard on him. Too hard. I was trying to immitate the way my dad trains me. Harder and harder every day, growing bit by bit as I do", he said. Yuki thought about all the training Ken must do, imagining him dragging around half-ton weights across burning coals while bearfoot. Whatever Ken's dad did to him made Ken too serious. He was eleven, and shouldn't have a care in the world. She said "Ken, your dad is really hard on you, it sounds cruel."

Ken looked back at Yuki, torn between telling her off for that comment about his dad and just nodding. Shes trying to help him, he guessed, so he just said "But it toughens me up. He never gives me anything I cant handle, as long as I give 100% every day. He even goes easy on me when I get hurt, like right now." Yuki bit her lip, trying to think like a boy for a moment and failing. Toughen him up? What was he, leather? She was worried about him but right now he didn't need help with that, he needed a friend. She went on "It's ok.. Look, everyone is different right? Maybe that.. stuff.. Your dad makes you do is ok for you because it works for you. Kind of like how theres not just one diet thats right for everyone, or not just one kind of hair product. People each see the world differently and have different needs." She nodded sagely, feeling like she was learning something as she worked it out aloud like a math problem.

Ken blinked again "Well yeah but.. I mean if I can take it.." he started to say then stopped. He didn't know where he was going with that, she was right. Yuki smiled and put a hand on his shoulder as she said "Hey, its ok. You guys are friends right? Well boys beat each up all the time and somehow grow closer. You two cant actually hit each other so maybe this is like that. Maybe you will be closer then ever after you make up, right?" The stuff boys did confused her sometimes, alright most of the time, but even so, they managed to work things out well enough.

He looked at her and said "Yuki..." as he thought over her sage wisdom. Man girls were smart. Or this one anyway. Maybe she wasn't so annoying to have around afterall. Maybe. She sat atop the desk next to his and adjusted her uniform skirt to make sure she wasn't showing anything embarassing before swinging her legs idly. Ken scratched his chin and said "But he left last night, he said he never wanted to see me again and I can't find him anywhere."

Yuki said "I'm sure he's just blowing off some steam. I wonder which he will figure out first, that you guys are partners and need each other or that you are friends and need each other." She grinned inside. Score more coolness points with Ken, she is on a roll today! Ken smiled for the first time in the day and reached into his back and grabbed his lunch and his headband. He Put his headband on and pulled it tight then dove into his bento. Yuki watched him eat and blushed, she sucked at cooking but she would have to try her hand at making Ken something. He was on light activity while he was healing up so something with not a lot of calories or fat, maybe tofu, hmm.

The bell rung soon after and everyone clamored back into the classroom eventually. Ken ate the rest of his lunch as fast as he could, almost choking in the process. Yuki sat back in her seat and their teacher headed back inside. As the second bell run, letting them know to begin class, Ms Yamada flipped through a few of her papers, getting what she needed. Without even looking up she said "Headband off, Mr Kobayashi. For the.." Her eyes trailed off for a moment then snapped back to her work "Twenty Seventh time this school year." she finished.

The other students grinned and snickered and for the first time, in what seemed like forever, even Ken laughed.
The next week...

Kenji seemed distracted in class, Ms Yamada noticed. He had payed very little attention to her in homeroom and later in her second period lecture on history. She called upon him and he gave the answer quickly and quietly but he didn't seem all there today. She had had enough in last period when she thought she noticed him sending an email. Her admin computer at the front of the class noticed it was to another member of the class, Yuki Seiko, and was allowed to intercepted it on those grounds.

She slapped her hand on her desk and spoke up "Mr Kobayashi. You know you aren't allowed to send email in class." Sure enough, his face went pale. He knew better than to deny it. Yuki bit her bottom lip and looked a bit ashamed herself. Well she would have to teach them a lesson. She said "You know the rule, you transmitted it, I caught it, now it goes up on the board for the whole class to see", with a bit of triumph in her voice. Neither of them seemed too embarassed about it however and Kenji even gave a little shrug.

She told her nave to post it on the blackboard and the current lesson saved and vanished. Suddenly a long string of college-level algebra appeared up on the board, stretching across it and down as work was written out, completed and mostly checked. At the bottom was a note: "Does this look right Yuki? -Ken" Ms Yamada blinked and tried to figure out what was going on. Some of the class tried to make sense of the giberish on the board, they were only just getting into long division afterall. Yuki spoke up, unabashed "Mostly right, Kenji, you should have double-checked it with the quadratic though and you would have seen it's one of the exceptions and actually isn't a valid equasion."

The teacher blinked and looked between Kenji and Yuki, Ken groaned and said "I see it now.. Figures.", Yuki just nodded knowingly. She looked over the problem out of professional curiousity and did some work on the board below it. She had been teaching grade school for so long she was really rusty. After a few attempts and a couple erasures and told her navi to clear the board and looked over at the two. She cleared her throat and spoke up "The two of you stay after class when the bell-" almost on cue, the bell sounded. She quickly changed her tone and blurted out "Homework is posted on our class BBS, make sure you download it before leaving." As children quickly complied then gathered their things and left, only two stayed behind, heading for the closet to get supplies for their classes' rotational cleaning duty.

Ms Yamada let silence loom over the room as she waited for the other students to get their cleaning supplies and head outside the room to start in the hallway, in front of class 5As' lockers.

She looked at the two and sat on her desk, crossing her legs and adjusting her long skirt, always the lady. She spoke up "Kenji, Yuki. I know you two have always been my brightest students but I thought you liked staying here with your friends in the fifth grade? I know I've approached you before at the beginning of the year, Yuki and asked if you were interested in skipping ahead." She shrugged, half-heartidly and asked "What's gotten into you two?"

Kenji spoke up first "Sensei, I decided I want to be an Official NetBattler. Er, to be precise, I was extended an offer by the Net Police to tryout when I thought my navi was ready." Yuki looked over at him in a bit of surprise. Did she not know this? Yuki said "Ken, I thought you were too young to work for the Net Police? Thats why you said you wanted to convince them to bring back Officials and let you be one.."

Ken grinned and answered "Remember how I told you I posted an inquiry on the NetPolice Info board?" Yuki nodded at that while Ms Yamada just boggled at the thought. Ken? NetPolice? She knew her nethistory (a required subject, ten years ago anyway) and knew a little about Officials but they were disbanded.. Ken went on "Well finally one of the officers responded. They said they were inspired by my interest and want to offer me an entry mission when Musou is ready." he smiled proudly.

Ms Yamada cut them off "Thats great, Kenji if thats what you want to do but.. What does this have to do with the two of you disrupting my class?", she said with crossed arms. Ken gave a sheepish grin and said "Sorry sensei for the inturruption. I've been studying hard lately. I told my parents about what I wanted to do and later about the posting and they were very supportive. I thought my father would forbit it and tell me to train for our family dojo but he told me to improve myself and bring peace to the world if its what I wanted to do, the dojo can wait, he said." Yuki bit her lip and tried to hold back a grin. She was proud of Ken and happy for him but still in trouble so it was a mixed bag.

Ms Yamada raised an eyebrow and said "And? Go on." Ken blinked and panicked a little, saying "Y-yes Sensei. Um.. So father told me I needed to study harder then ever and train my mind. He said become as sharp as I can, for policework. And well.. I.. Uh.. I might be a... little bit smart but I have to work and practice hard to understand the concepts and remember everything. Yuki here just.. It all clicks with her. Shes been tutoring me and helping me a lot." Yuki blushed brightly, still trying to hold back her joy through whatever correctionary action was coming.

Ms Yamada sighed and robbed her forehead. She said half-heartidly "What am I going to do with you children.. I want you to love learning and explore it on your own so I can't very well punish you for learning. But, I will give you both a warning for disrupting my class. No notes or email in class, you both know that." she wagged a finger at them. They both had mixed feelings and didn't react at first but they decided eventually upon looking ashamed. The teacher smiled and said "Don't worry, thats it for the discipline. You've been model students for the most part so you have a little leeway, but do it again and I'll have to make examples out of you or the other will think I'm getting soft." They nodded and both chirped "Yes Sensei."

Ms Yamada scratched her chin and said "Alright, now on to the underlying issue. You want to stimulate your minds and learn as much as you can as fast as you can, am I right?" Ken nodded quickly, Yuki saw how excited Ken was and smiled and gave a little nod. Ms Yamada said "Alright, here is what I can do for you. I will be very open with you about this. I want both of you to take an I.Q. test. It is designed to cover not just general knowledge but also knowledge of underlying concepts, memory and the ability to draw conclusions on varied amounts of information. It's both scholastic and psychological. I wan't to push you ahead through a grade or two but I can't just use your grades and regular test scores as evidence. If you do very well on these tests you may propel your education into a level you find more.. stimulating." she had some mixed feelings herself, these were two of her brightest students afterall, though all her students were precious to her.

They looked happy but very nervous. She smiled and said "I'll invite a certified board member to give you both the test afterschool on saturday. Oh and I've heard they have recently added a new part to the test so if I were you two, I'd brush up on.. well... just about everything." and with that hammer dropped she raised her hand and said "Dismissed." Ken and Yuki gathered their things and headed out as quickly as they were able.
On the following Saturday...

Ken and Yuki tried to go about their usual work and since they had been cramming all week for, the regular work they were assigned was complete in minutes. Other students kept sneaking glances of the two of them studying more advanced work and Ms Yamada had to finally ask them to go to a private study hall so she could teach.

At lunch, Gin laughed and acted like nothing was going on and it helped to put them at ease. It wasn't like they were going to some execution, it was just a test and if they were too nervous they would do poorly. By the end of the period they were laughing back. They spent the rest of the day studying, except for physical education, which Yuki still had to attend. Finally the time came upon them, everyone else was heading home and they waited in their homeroom for their teacher to come.

Ken looked over to Yuki and smiled "Thanks for helping me study and for everything. If everything goes well we will ace this." he said. Yuki looked a bit concerned and said "Well, Ken, remember what Ms Yamada said, this test isn't just to test what you know, it's to test how well you can learn and apply new ideas. By studying all this stuff I was hoping we would go over any ideas they might throw at us.."

Ken nodded and gave her a thumbs-up, saying "Hey don't worry. I know you will do fine. If your worried about me you won't be able to think, right?" Yuki blinked and smiled a bit. How old was Ken again? He sure didn't act like anyone else in his grade. So mature, she though. Then she remembered him yelling at Musou and running him off and the rumor that he beat up Ashigawa.. She wondered.

A few minutes later, their teacher came in and clapped her hands. She said "It's time. Come with me. We are going to a pair of small conference rooms in the back of the building." Ken grabbed his crutches and followed the two of them out the door. Yuki asked "So what happens now, sensei?" Ms Yamada spoke as she walked "You will both test at the same time. It may surprise you that these tests need to be administered by a qualified individual instead of just taken digitally but there is a reason for that." She raised a finger as she walked, a habit she did when she was making a point in lectures "This test is very important and as a result it is done by a real person, on paper, and graded by the same person, over three days. The session is recorded so if we don't remember anything or want to focus on your reactions we may review."

Ken and Yuki looked at each other. They knew why, hackers. All it would take is someone to drop their navi into the computer with the test and they would suddenly seem to be a super genius. As if to confirm their thoughts, their teachers said "The paper tests will be stamped by the department of education and only a handfull of certified copies will ever be made. These are to refer to if anything seems unusual about the data later when it is digitally recorded. Nobody goes from a 120 to a 180 without hard proof." she smirked at that one. She glanced back at them then said "Oh and children, please don't misunderstand. These tests are very important but they don't nessicarrily decide your future for you. It is just a chance. You still have to put in the effort and apply yourselves. Smarter people then I have said that the brain must be excercised constantly as if it were a muscle, to remain in peak condition.

Yuki said wearily "Use it or loose it. right?" Their teacher nodded and stopped walking. She pointed to the rooms before them and motioned to the one on the right "Ken, go ahead. Mr Shiro is waiting inside for you. He may seem serious but he is really a nice man, he just knows how important their test is for your future. Yuki lets step in here and..." Their voices drowned out as Ken stepped into the room and closed the roof behind him. Apparently the room was soundproof, because he couldn't hear anything of the pair he knew were talking just a few steps from him.

Ken looked over the room. Several chairs and desks had been stacked up in a corner and a conference table took up the middle. There was an empty chair, for himself he assumed, and sitting in the one across from it was an elderly man with a deadly serious look on his face. No smile, no twinkle in his eye like some grandfathers, just business. The first thing he did was point was shuffle a few papers in front of him into a neat pile then point to an empty spot on the table in front of him.

He spoke "I will be giving you your test. My name is Mr Shiro. I have been with the board of education for nearly twenty years and I have adminstered thousands of tests. I assure you that any results you recieve from me will be accurate and beyond reproach. That being said, place your PET on the table here and empty your pockets. You will be provided with everything you need."

Ken swallowed and did as he was told. His PET, his pencils, house keys, anything else he had forgotten to throw away on his way. Mr Shiro looked over the items then scooped them into a small basket. He reached under the table and placed the basket out of sight. He looked up at Ken with his crutches and stood. He placed the packet of papers at the empty end of the table, along with two sharpened pencils. "Sit", he said simply.

Ken complied again, looking down at the packet before him as he sat his crutches down. Simple instructions were written on the front, stating that nothing was to be done or accessed untill he was told to do so. He looked up at the administrator and the man cleared his throat. He said "Mr Kobayashi, as I'm sure you've noticed already, the instructions for this test are you go at the pace with which I instruct. Not everything in this test is as it appears and the time I spend explaining and confirning you understand may be the only time you have to clear your mind and relax. Do you understand?" Ken swallowed and nodded. He couldn't help it, he was nervous. He also soon found that that phrase, 'do you understand' was going to be something he heard time and time again over the next few hours. He was allowed a bathroom break halfway through but the administrator followed him to make sure he wasn't trying to cheat or run away.

Yuki was right, only a part of the test covered things he had known and memorised. One part that almost got him was when the administrator gave him several pieces of flat plastic, cut at various shapes and angles and told him to take all of them and form them into as many different and complete geometric shapes as he could with no pieces overlapping. He blinked and thought for a monent then increased his pace to just below frantic as he saw the man produce a stopwatch and time him.

Another was he was told things like, if A equals red and B equals blue what does A + B equal? He said the first thing that came to mind quickly, "Purple". After several of these questions they starts to make less and less sense. Another was if A equals apples and B equals blue berries, what does C equal? He blinked and looked at the man, trying to understand the question or the logic. The man tilted his head and looked at Ken, clearly forming some judgement "Do you want me to repeat the question, Mr Kobayashi?" he said. Ken shook his head and trusted his gut "C equals.. Cherries." he didn't ask, he told and was confidant with his answer even it is might have been wrong. Mr Shiro nodded and made a note on his paperwork. "Interesting", he said.

It ended eventually and Ken reclaimed his property fromt he basket. Mr SHiro had taken Ken's papers and placed them into a folder, and that into his briefcase. He looked like he was going to reach out and shake Ken's hand or something but again noticed the crutches and settled for a nod. He said "Mr Kobayashi, your results will be given to you in exactly three days time. I would like to point out that much of this test was based upon psychology and measured your ability to think and to do so quickly, even under pressure. There were very few instances where you could have given any 'wrong' answers. Ken was still shaking with tension but less now. The man was right, but more to the point, the test was over. He had given it his all and no matter what he would be proud of his work.

Ken headed back out into the hallway at about the same time Yuki did. She also seemed a bit shaken up but trying to keep her cool. She looked to Ken and laughed. Ken didn't know why but he couldn't hold back and he laughed too. They headed down the hall and to their classroom to reclaim their bookbags, talking about things they had said and done in the test. By the time they headed out it was already dark out and they went strait home.
Kenji and his friends sat at their desks during lunch one day. He sighed and poked at his packed sandwich while Daigin took another bite from a candy bar and Yuki picked at her fancy bento box. "C'mon Ken, it's just a month. I've been grounded for way longer", Daigin said. Yuki gave Kenji a sympathetic smile "Ken, it was for a good purpose, you were trying to help that storekeeper out. Your parents over-reacted". Kenji shrugged and grumbled "It's not fair though.. Grounded for a month? Come on", he took a half-hearted bite of his sandwich and stewed in the silence for a moment before adding "I didn't even finish the mission". Yuki countered "But you did get some battle practice in and got some chips and zenni right? Musou will be stronger than ever". Daigin nodded and finished his candy bar, he popped the top of his imported soda and took a swig. Following a content sigh he asked "So you guys find out your test results yet?" Kenji shook his head "Some time in the next couple weeks", he said. Yuki pointed out "They will send a copy of the scores to our homes".

In the networld of their operators' classroom Musou, Flower and Awesome Man stood around in their own conversation. Musou rubbed his sore shoulders and sighed. Flower gave a concerned look "Musou, what is mr Kobayashi doing to you in your training?", she said. Awesome Man grinned and added "Yeah you usually bounce back pretty quick, and Ken works you pretty hard". Musou grumbled "Ken has net training equipment in his PC and some in my PET. Master Kobayashi just has me throw energy for hours, punch walls and floors and do forms untill I can barely move". The other navis winced, they wern't worked or trained much at all really but they could imagine. Awesome Man adjusted his recently-bought cool sunglasses "So Musou, you going to try that mission again later?", he asked idly. The martial-arts navi grunted "If Ken wants to. Really, I'd rather not. I know it wasn't a total waste of time but it's hard to look on the bright side when you and your best friend are grounded".

The kids and navis continued their conversations untill the first bell rung, giving the signal to clean up their lunches, get back to desks and get ready for afternoon classes. It was bittersweet for the friends since it was about the only time they could spend together while Kenji was grounded. Hopefully the time would fly by.
Time had passed, the young martial artist wasn't grounded anymore and had long since found the results of his test. Both he and Yuki had been labeled 'gifted', her more so then he. As a result, they had been studying like mad, Yuki attending cram school, while Kenji was being tutored by his mother at home. From how she described it, Kenji was sure that he was being worked ragged compared to her, which was typical whenever his family was involved.

The friends were a few minutes into their lunch on another day. Daigen was sitting, well sprawling really, atop a desk beside them, while Kenji and Yuki were seated at their own desks. The two normally sat beside each other but often pushed their desks together when they needed to work as a team or like now when they were eating and just hanging out.

Daigin chewed on another of his famous candy bars and suddenly broke the silence with "So when are you guys taking your placement tests again?"

Yuki had her eyes closed as she savored a piece from her latest bento box. She winced as it almost looked like a vein was popping up on her forehead. The girl pointed her chopsticks at him and swatted them through the air as she said "Gin, we have been talking about this every day for almost a month now. Don't you ever pay attention to anything?"

Kenji, ever the diplomat among his friends, quickly spoke up "Gin, it's next week. You know, the day after school lets out for break? We have to be at the testing center first thing in the morning, while you get to sleep in" Just a tinge of bitterness there.

Yuki snorted and resumed eating. Daigin gave a dopey grin "Nah, I'll be there for you guys. It's the least I can do. Seeing as how a couple days after that, I'll be on a plane to Netopia for break"

Yuki suddenly looked like she didn't know if she should yell, cry or what but Kenji mumbled "This week.. Might be our last together". He sighed and tried to keep a smile on his face "I mean, Yuki and I will at least have break. From there depends on where we get placed. It would be nice if it was in the same school but, as long as we can visit by train or bus I'll be happy".

The girl bit her lip and gently placed her chopsticks down atop the bento box. She had suddenly lost her appetite. "K-Ken.. I.. I mean I could.. Refuse to take the test.. Or turn down a school if it would put me too far away.. I'm sure I'll have lots of offers".

Kenji frowned "Don't you dare. You do what's best for you. We can always stay in touch, even if it takes a bit of effort. If you get a full scholarship to a good school, even if it's out of the country, you take it". He doesn't look happy but adds "This kind of chance we have been given, it only comes once in a lifetime. We can't squander it".

With teary eyes, Yuki openly stared at Kenji for several moments, until the boy blushed and looked back to his lunch, poking the fried tofu with his chopsticks. All she could think was.. Oh Ken. What's best for me? I just want to be with you. Why can't you see that?

As usual, Daigin broke the tension in the air by being himself and spilling his soda, which had been sitting near enough to the others for it to splash on them all. With a groan, Yuki said "Gin.. Really?" And they all made their way to the room's sink and nearby paper towels. "S-Sorry", the boy said simply. They weren't really mad at him, and honestly were thankful, even if he hadn't meant to do anything he had lightened the mood.

Wiping the last of the beverage from the floor amid a few snickers from nearby other students, Yuki suddenly asked "Oh, Ken. You said you were going to get your cash off soon. Any idea when?" Daigin grinned and said with his usual well thought out and empathic "Ohh yeah, you've been a gimp for way too long man".

Kenji gave the boy a smirk "Gee thanks. I know I haven't worked out in months but how many vertical push-ups can you do?" Daigin just blinked and mumbled "The hell's a vertical push-up?" Yuki couldn't pass up the opportunity and said "A push-up. Done vertically". She and Kenji chuckled lightly as their friend squinted, obviously trying to picture it and finally seeming to understand as his eyes grew wide. "Y-you mean like walking on your hands? I've seen break dancers in Electopia do that, it's amazing".

Kenji gave a deep sigh and Yuki just closed her eyes really tight against the oncoming headache. Trying to salvage something of the conversation, the boy said "I'm going in for a medical evaluation tomorrow, after school. If all goes well I'll have it off then. If not, I'll have to wear it a little longer. Another week or two maybe".

Daigin grins and says "Dude that's awesome. One exam and your golden. Totally break a leg in there" the seated boy gave him a dirty look while Yuki finally groaned, holding her throbbing forehead now. As clueless as ever, Daigin just says "What? Did I say something wrong?"


In the netspace of the classroom, Flower and Musou were exchanging meaningful glances while AwesomeMan flexed nearby. "You two over there swooning over me? I am awesome after all. Yeah" This caused the other two to snap out of whatever they were thinking and look at him in surprise. They both snickered, trying to come up with something polite but then just openly began to laugh.

Unfazed, AwesomeMan adjusted his sunglasses and flashed a blinding grin from his pearly white teeth "Aww yeah. Nobody can hold their composure around me. I know you really want to weep tears of joy but laughing will do. We can't all express ourselves as well as I can". This of course, resulted in louder laughter, with AwesomeMan grinning even more.

Musou and Flower's relationship had changed recently. It happened after he got back from his second try at that mission to get the data for Mr Chessman. It had lukewarm results to say the least but so much had happened. He told his friends about it all and about Kenji's idea of helping anyone, even viruses, who wanted peace. Flower had given him a dreamy smile and told him how amazing he was for standing up for his operator's dreams and even worried about stuff everyone mostly hated.

The change came when Musou, having absolutely no idea what she was getting at, decided to open himself up to see the dataflow and attune himself as best he could to her, as he does in battle and during meditation. He picked up on something, some kind of raw emotion he couldn't place. It was similar to the idolization and admiraiton he had for his operator and Mr and Mrs Kobayashi.

And then it hit him. Sure, he liked to fight and was nowhere near as clever as even Kenji, but his long hours of meditation and training had taught him to trust his instincts and his feelings. To go with his gut. He tried being simply blunt about it, despite the awkwardness of the whole thing and just asked her right out, to her face, if she liked him.

Of course she had blushed so hard, he thought the plant navi was going to bloom, and had stammered and stuttered denials and anything really to try and take control of the situation. But he just reached out and took her by the hand and grinned. He told her it was alright, that he felt the same way towards her. And she just melted. They hadn't gotten around to telling the thick-headed AwesomeMan, or even talking about it really, just enjoying each others company.

A bell rang from within the datascape, mirroring the one sounding in the real world. It let the navis know classes were about to resume and to get ready to help out their operators however they could. The trio, without saying anything more, got back to their positions, each with grins on their faces for different reasons.
Next week...

The children of class 5A stood in front of their desks one last time as class representative Yuki Seiko announced the presence of the teacher and ordered them all to bow and then be seated. Ms Yamada nodded to her "Thank you Seiko. You've done a fine job this year". The girl blushed lightly, holding her composure for a moment and then picking at the armband she wore that identified her as representative with a shy smile on her face.

"It's the end of another school year and another job well done. The grades for your final exams have been posted on the board just outside the room. You will also receive a letter within the next few days with the results and your final grades. But-" she started to sound choked up and paused. She really liked this class and she knew some of them were leaving ACDC school very soon.

"But I'm going to go ahead and let you know that I have gone over the results and grades and each of you has passed. Some of you were close-" she glances over at Hito Ashigawa, who looked elated to hear he wasn't going to be held back. "But all of you have risen to the challenge and accomplished much. Some of you had to overcome great difficulty-" she motioned to Kenji Kobayashi, who just a few days ago got his cast finally removed.

He was wearing one of those big shoes that people with sprains wore to gently cover their gauze-wrapped limbs. He had mentioned his father was giving him rehilibitational therapy but had no idea what he was doing to the boy for him to need to keep it wrapped still but she felt it wasn't her place to ask. He didn't seem to be abused and she knew Mr Kobayashi ran his own dojo, so.. Well she knew better then to ask.

"Some of you have somehow managed to find the time in your days to keep on top of your schoolwork but also to tutor anyone else who needed help to make sure you all passed-" she motioned to Yuki, and the attention did nothing for her shy smile but add a deeper blush. The girl wasn't used to being recognized, and always went above and beyond. Sure she knew she was smart and good at what she did, that's why she was class representative, but somehow hearing praise makes it all the more real.

"And some of you have faced personal tragedy and, I would hope, have learned to open your heart to your friends in your times of need and become a stronger, better person despite the pain-" She motioned to another of the students, who steeled her expression and gave the best smile she could manage...

A school period later...
Children streamed out of their classrooms, and the halls filled with everyone from ages seven to twelve. The teachers and staff knew better then to go into the hallways right now and risk being killed by the flood of feet. It was the end of the school year after all and break had begun. Three weeks of playing, fun and no school. Though most of them had a packet of assignments to complete at their own pace, due when everyone reconvened.

Yuki, Daigin and Kenji had hung back in the classroom along with a few other students, to let the crowd thin out. Hito gave Kenji a dirty look, like he wanted to say something but he didn't have his goons around and the teacher was still in the room. Besides, without his cast on, he was afraid of getting his ass kicked. He mouthed "Ainoko" behind his back. Yeah, that would teach him.

A few more minutes passed, the children talked while their teacher got her things together and began to build up the courage to peek into the hall. It was the last day so nobody had any kind of cleaning duties or had to set anything up for the next day. She paused her exodus long enough to give a tearful look to Kenji and Yuki, who she knew were skipping ahead grades and wouldn't be back for certain. They were really good students for different reasons and she loved the both. She had been their homeroom teacher for four years now, out of luck more so than anything else.

As Ms Yamada and the last few children left, Kenji and his friends got to their feet, claimed their bookbags, Kenji his crutches, and headed to the door.


In the netspace of the classroom, three navis stood and got ready to jack out. "Hey, why don't we head into my PET for awhile, everyone? No reason to just sit and stare at each other through cameras and operators, right?" Flower had asked. She spoke up loudly, to her operator "That's alright, isn't it Yuki?" The girl nodded as the other two seemed to share the seniment. They were wrapped up in talking about their plans for summer break and what would happen next. Kenji and Yuki would head out to the center that Yuki's cram school used for entrance exams tomorrow, along with most of the next-year children, who had just passed sixth grade. A good meal and lots of rest awaited them. They both studied hard enough to know a last minute cram would do them more harm then good. Today was a day to relax and enjoy.

The three navis felt their PETs' jack-out commands being issued and affirmed the execution, vanishing from the school's network in a flash and returning to their familiar homes. Several moments later, Musou and AwesomeMan appeared in burst of energy, within Flower's PET. Her home was an expansive garden set against a datascape of clear blue skies with fluffy white clouds. Bushes, flowers, trees and plants of all kinds were growing wild in most places and a narrow cobblestone path ran through the garden, touching intermittent gazebos that dotted the area.

"Looks great as always" Musou said to Flower, who smiled warmly. AwesomeMan headed down one of the paths and stopped at a crystal clear pond, whose mirror-like surface was broken only for a handful of lillypads and cattails. Gazing at his own reflection, he turned his face to the side and smiled one of his famous blinding smiles "Yeah, very awesome" he added.

AwesomeMan seemed content to admire himself further while Musou and Flower headed down another path, holding each others' hands as big dopey grins were on their faces. "Sooo Musou" Flower began. "Do you and Kenji have any plans for break?"

The martial arts navi looked off at one of the clouds as he thought. He finally said "Well, we are wrapped up in a whole lot of stuff. So.. I can only assume we are going to be really busy trying to sort that out. And if we aren't, Mr Kobayashi will train us like dogs for at least eight hours of every day" He paused and blinked for a moment before amending "No wait, he is going to do that no matter what. So yeah, between training and trying to sort out this whole.. Net Police, Net Mafia, Counterinfect.. Iulm.. Ists.. Uh.. People. And whatever missions I'm sure Kenji will find for us to do, we-"

The navi found himself at the receiving end of a passionate kiss brought on without warning. Or maybe there was warning but he wasn't paying attention. Either way, his brain got fuzzy and he barely had time to return a second of it before Flower pulled back and giggled at his dopey smile and blank stare. "Your such a hard worker Musou. You and Ken are going to change the world some day. I don't know how but you will. Your 'do-ers', not just talkers and thinkers. If there's any way I can help, let me know. I'm not really a fighter though-" she bit her lip and looked down, wondering if she had failed him already in not being able to stand by his side in combat.

Musou gently took her chin and raised her gaze back up to his, where he stared into her eyes. "It's alright. I can find anyone to help me in combat. Or just fight harder, but you have a special place, in my heart, that nobody or nothing else can replace. My bright shining flower amid a sea of chaos and battle". Flower swooned as the color rushed to her face, more yellow and bright then usual and the petals around her head crept back shyly. "Aww" Was the only thing she could come up with.

From a healthy distance now, AwesomeMan watched his friends in their not-so-subtle activities. The navi sighed. He had hoped to win Flower's heart one day but even he knew, for awhile now, how they felt for each other and the best thing he could do as their friend was just stand back and give congratulations. He shrugged, plenty of other fish in the sea. Flowers in the garden. He was awesome after all, who wouldn't want all this?


The trio made their way out the school doors and admired the fountain one last time as they passed. The gym teacher stood, wearing his track suit and holding his whistle as he said "Come on kids, school's over, go enjoy your summer" The man and Kenji exchanged glances and the boy knew he had managed to pass the class only as a favor from the teacher. Kenji was one of his hardest working students, and had been over the years. He was in top shape and according to the note his parents provided, had only broken his foot because he was pushing a terror-struck little girl out of the way of traffic when a freaking street sweeper got him. He deserved to pass, even if some teachers would have taken the letter of the rule and not it's intent, and failed him because he couldn't participate.

He waved and they bolted out the gate as fast as Kenji's crutches could carry him, his friends nice enough to keep pace with him.

They hung out in the park for a few hours, and just talked, until the sun was low in the sky. As they stood to leave, Daigin suddenly said "Oh, Ken. I almost forgot. Since your birthday is over the break, I'll miss it like usual. Sorry man, hard to celebrate from Netopia. But I got your present already. I hope it makes up for it man. I think it's something you and Musou can really use" He gave a thumbs-up to Kenji and flashed a bright smile, mirroring his navi.

Kenji blinked and said "T-thanks Gin, you know you didn't have to. Being my friend is enough for me. I know I'm not always easy to deal with-" Kenji started, but Daigin waved at him dismissivly "It's fine bro, you know my family is rich and you never ask for a single zenni. You even insist on paying for your own share of everything. My dad told me once that people like you and Yuki are real friends. And your a fighter too, I feel like I could trust you with my life bro" Kenji blinked and tried to stammer some kind of reply.

Daigin just flashed another smile and said "Anyway, don't worry about it. It's not like it set me back all that much. Just roll with it for once. I might-" His smile faltered as the edge of excitement faded "I might not see you guys ever again"

Yuki bit her lip and Kenji gave a wounded look, uncomfortable and to the side. But he knew he had to try to be strong, for his friends if nothing else. "T-Thanks Gin. I- Uh. Really man. I don't know what to say. And don't worry, no matter how far away we are from one another, we are always just a net trip away. Hopefully we will still be in the same town or at least along the train route, but well even if we aren't-" he choked up a bit as he added "We will always be friends, right?"

The three of them gave each other a big, long group hug, not wanting it to ever end. In the netspace of Yuki's PET, Flower, Musou and AwesomeMan were embraced in a similar hug. While Musou and Flower were lost in making out, AwesomeMan had snuck up behind them and with a "Boo!" and a huge thumbs up along with one of his famous grins, they knew that he knew. And he was cool with it. They may be able to cross the globe in minutes or seconds but they had to worry about viruses and bad navis everywhere in their way and Musou was the only fighter. In the best situations they could meet from time to time by following links and going through the safest parts of the net.

Both groups breaking their hugs, everyone split back off by themselves or to their own PETs to head back home. Before heading indoors again, the kids all looked off into the distance, remembering ACDC school and giving it a fond farewell.

So long ACDC School, so long.