Disclaimer: This story is fictional, and says nothing about the orientations of any member of the X-Men, or any other character related to Marvel, any celebrity or otherwise. If you are under 18 or 21, or live in a country where it's illegal to read something like this, leave, though I seriously doubt you will. If you don't like the idea of two guys in a relationship with each other, or having sex with each other, what are you doing here in the first place?

X-Men and all related characters, Copyright Marvel Comics, Created by Stan Lee

Mutant High

Chapter 1

David Bauer was the spitting image of the ideal American dream. Blonde with blue eyes, he had that slightly goofy, mischievous smile that made everyone else feel at ease with his company. But he had a secret. A secret, that if revealed, would change everyone's impressions of him. David Bauer was a mutant.

At first he had been afraid to let anyone know about it, but Ryo had wriggled it out of him. Ryo had this uncanny ability to read a person's body language so well that it seemed he could read minds. When David had finally confessed to his best friend that he was a mutant, Ryo had done nothing more than raise an eyebrow and say, "So...? I already knew that ages ago when I first met you."

"Don't you find it unusual at all?" David had asked.

"Unusual? Man, have you taken a look at me lately?" Ryo snorted derisively. David couldn't help it. He laughed. Ryo Summers was one of the oddest people in their town. He was Asian, half-Japanese and half-Chinese, and yet he had an English surname. He was taller than most Asians, and his hair was a natural red and his eyes were a deep shade of green. The teachers all had a love-hate relationship with him, especially the newer ones. He slept, or seemed to, through every single class, and yet if a teacher asked him a question, he would immediately answer them. Correctly. With his eyes still closed. Only the new or stubborn would push the matter, only to find that Ryo could recite nearly the entire lesson word for word, with more accurate information about the class session than those who were awake the whole period.

The more David had thought about it, the more he was certain about a theory he had. "Are you a psychic mutant?"

Ryo shook his head. "I'm not psychic. If I was, I wouldn't have to ask you what was wrong, would I?" David nodded and Ryo continued. "Well, since you've revealed your big secret to me, I guess it's fair that I reveal one to you too."

"Alright. What's the big, dark secret of Ryo Summers?"

"I'm gay," Ryo had said. "And I was dating John for a while, even after he moved away. He's a mutant too, like you."

"I knew THAT long ago too," David laughed. "The gay part, I mean. I didn't know John was a mutant too." The two of them had just chatted after that, and nothing more was said about the subject.

Two years of satisfying friendship later and all that was due to change. There were always bullies around, but bullies quickly learned to back off. Their group of friends consisted mostly of the truly cool people. Not the popular ones in school that thought they were cool, but rather the goofy oddballs, jokers, artists and dreamers. Generally the targets of abuse of the neanderthal-brained jocks that felt they had something to prove by bashing up someone weaker than themselves.

Only two things kept the bullies away: Ryo and Shawn, another member of their group. Shawn was an artist and a poet. He was also the school's boxing champion. He was lean and toned rather than stocky due to years of training by his father, an army officer. Similarly, Ryo was the school's martial arts champion, having been trained by his mother since he was old enough to walk. After a few official school matches, and more than a few unofficial ones in the hall, bullies had learned that the group was off-limits to abuse. As a result, many of the more tortured students would hang around them and eventually become accepted, lending a large measure of protection.

All that changed with the arrival of one Bradley Martin. Within the first few weeks of transferring to their school, some of the younger students began to complain about him to Ryo and Shawn. A few of the smarter school ex-bullies warned Bradley against the group he was targeting, but he just laughed them off. A few complaints later, and Shawn and Ryo warned him on their own. Nothing physical, mind you. Sometimes reputation and intimidation work better than force. Things did settle down for a few weeks, but soon Bradley was up to his old tricks. And a few of the less experienced bullies began to join him when they discovered that Shawn and Ryo could only be in two places at any given time.

Shawn was the one that did the smart thing. He went to the principal, and the school investigated. Several boys, including Bradley, were suspended. Peace reigned in the halls for two weeks. The end of the two weeks marked the biggest drama to happen in the state. Bradley came back to school. And with him, several knives and a gun. He waited until Shawn and Ryo were in other parts of the school, and then had drawn his gun and shot at two girls from the art class.

He had not counted on David being in the area. David knew what he had to do when Bradley's gun had been drawn. He knew, without a second thought, that everything would change for him. Bradley fired at the girls whose cries for mercy went unheeded. David's mutant powers had activated in that instant. The bullets ricocheted off his shields. His power allowed him to generate shields anywhere within his line of sight. Unlike most shields that just blocked, David's shields deflected or reflected anything thrown at them, earning him the nicknames Reflecto-boy from Ryo and Ricochet from everyone else who knew his secret.

The girls had been saved from the bullets. Bradley Martin had not. Two of the bullets had ricocheted back to him, one hitting his arm and the other shattering his right knee. And the state had gone insane. Police investigating said that David was a hero that had acted out of defence to protect others. The neighbourhood had agreed and had held a parade in his honour after hearing the truth from all the children who had been bullied by Bradley and his goons. Several of the goons themselves admitted their mistakes and had been punished by their parents and the school. Everything seemed to be fine.

Then the rioters came to town. They were from other towns, other states. They had threatened to kill David, but when the citizens of the town had refused to comply by saying he was no threat, several of them had been killed for being mutant-sympathisers and harbouring dangerous criminals. One of those killed was Shawn. The town still remained defiant, but David feared for the safety of everyone else and announced that he would surrender himself to the rioters.

Ryo was livid. He had confronted David and yelled his head off at his friend. "Are you crazy? People got hurt and people died to protect you from those maniacs. Are you going to dishonour their sacrifice and let yourself get killed? Do you mean to let them die in vain?"

"They wouldn't be dead if it wasn't for me," David said. He couldn't face Ryo like this, and just stared at the school's memorial for Shawn.

Don't be an ass," Ryo gave him a solid shaking. "They wouldn't be dead if Bradley hadn't been such a freaking prick and bully who tried to gun down two helpless girls in school! Everyone in this town seems to know that, except you. If it was your fault all this shit happened, then what were you supposed to do? Let that maniac shoot those girls? At least Shawn and the others had died defending something they believed in, died standing, honourably and defiantly."

"But they're still dead," David said. He dropped the rose he was holding near the photo of Shawn, adding yet another memento to the sea of flowers and cards. Without looking at Ryo he asked, "And what about you? I don't see you showing any signs of mourning." He regretted it the moment he said it.

"There is nothing in this earth I can use to symbolise the pride I feel for..." Ryo's voice cracked slightly, "for the man I loved who gave his life honourably to save a friend. I will respect him, not by mourning his loss, but remembering his life and his integrity. And I will honour him by not allowing you to go out to those bastards like a cow to slaughter!" Outwardly, his face seemed to show no emotion, but David could almost feel the grief and pain that Ryo projected.

"Do you think they'll stop with just you?" Ryo said after a while. "Soon they'll want every mutant in this town. And while there aren't many, there are a few. And what happens after they're all dead too? If the rioters are not satisfied and claim we're hiding more mutants, what do we do then? Think it through, David! Don't be a fool." And with that, he left David to his thoughts.

Despite Ryo's confrontation as well as the requests of his friends, family and neighbours, David still felt the best choice of action was to surrender himself. Thankfully, that choice was removed from him upon the arrival of a certain man. That man was Professor Charles Xavier. The Professor ran a school called the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning. And that school was run by mutants for mutants, to train them in their powers and to teach them to live with humans in peace. When Xavier came to town with several of the teachers, the X-Men, the townspeople had cheered. And the choice was made: David, and any other mutant that wished it, would go to study at Xavier's School. A few of the other kids decided to follow him there as well with their parents' blessings.

David couldn't believe everything that had happened. He tried to be happy that people would be safe, but he still felt like he was being uprooted. He covered up his sadness with jokes, acting his usual goofy self with everyone in school. There were a few tearful farewells, but nothing that David couldn't handle. There was a small farewell party held at his house for everyone who was going to be leaving for the school. He acted as normal then, and everyone was generally relaxed about it. But after it was over, he had cried, alone in his room.

He didn't hear the door open or his mother come in, and he jumped slightly when she put her arm around his shoulders. He hugged her and cried for a while, drawing strength from her presence. After a while, he calmed down.

"I wish none of this had happened," he said. "I just wanted to study in peace, hang out with my friends and just be like everyone else.

"Things happen for a reason, son," his mother said. "Parting is always hard, but it's a fact of life."

"Yeah," David said. "I'm leaving tomorrow, and already Ryo is parting from me. He wasn't even here for the farewell, and I didn't see him in school all day."

"He had some things to settle with his family," his mother said. "His mother's company has transferred her to Australia, and they'll be leaving in a week's time. Ryo decided to help them pack since he's not following them. I guess he didn't tell you that he'll be following you to Xavier's."

David looked up at his mother. "He's going to Xavier's?"

Mrs Bauer nodded. "You see, everyone in his family is a mutant, but they've kept quiet about it until recently. His mother reluctantly agreed to let him study in Xavier's school, and he'll be leaving with you tomorrow. She just called me and told me the news. Ryo argued with her, saying that he would be leaving to be on his own in a few years anyway, and that he didn't want to go to Australia.

"Now get to bed, you've got a big day tomorrow. And always remember that your sister and I love you very much."

Ryo was greeted with a whack to the back of his head. "What was that for?"

"For not telling me you're a mutant, dumbass," David replied. "I thought we shared each others secrets."

Ryo rubbed his head. "You shared ONE secret with me, so I shared one with you. Maybe if you had more secrets to trade, I'd have told you a bit more."

"Ass!" David laughed. "What else haven't you told me?"

"Many things," Ryo said. "But you've got nothing left to trade with." David pretended to punch Ryo, and the two started laughing. And just for a moment, everything seemed just fine in the world.

"The jet is leaving in an hour or so," Ryo said. "Can you believe it? They have their own jet!"

"They're the X-Men," David laughed. "They probably have a whole base in the school or something. I wonder if they'll let us join the team. It looks like something I'd like to do."

"Maybe," Ryo said. He checked his watch. "The jet's leaving soon, and I've got an errand to run. I'll meet you there later." He didn't wait for a reply as he jogged off.

Ryo stopped jogging once he reached the memorial. He looked at the portrait of Shawn, remembering his smile, his laugh, his gentle touch and kind attitude. The memories of everything they shared washed over him, and he stood there in silence. He felt calm, savouring the memories and letting them go. A part of Shawn would always be with him. With a quiet whisper, Ryo said goodbye for the last time. A warmth surrounded him, as though Shawn was saying goodbye as well. The sensation faded, and Ryo walked towards the jet that would take him to the next chapter of his life.

Ryo was tired. And he was fairly certain that by the time this day was done, he'd be exhausted. He and David had made the mistake of not sleeping on the jet, and had chatted the entire way from Florida to New York. Then after arriving at the school, they had to carry and unpack all their items to their rooms. Immediately after that, they had to attend an introductory speech by their principal. And just to start things out, they were to meet with one of their teachers, Scott Summers, for a Danger Room session, whatever that was.

Including himself and David, three other kids from town had joined Xavier's school. Molly Hayes was a relatively quiet girl. While pretty, she was always soft spoken and tended to hide her face behind her golden brown hair. Sally Blevins, on the other hand, was chattering away like an excited squirrel. She was given the nickname Skids in school, possibly because she was one of the few girls who loved skateboarding. She was rarely seen without her baseball cap, her blonde hair in a ponytail. Russell Collins, also known as Rusty because of his red-brown hair, was Sally's boyfriend. He tended to be a bit more quiet than she was, but nearly everyone was more quiet than Sally.

"I wonder what the Danger Room is," Sally said. "Why do they call it the Danger Room? Is it dangerous? What's it for? You're not going to brainwash us or something, are you?"

The teacher escorting them, Jean Grey, just smiled and pushed her several locks of her red hair behind her ear. "No, we're not going to brainwash you. And you'll find out the rest of it when you're there."

"Do you ever keep quiet, Skids?" David asked. "I mean, you never used shut up in school either. How many times did you get detention for talking in class?"

"Oh, I've lost count," Sally said, not catching David's hint to keep quiet. "I don't know why they always pick on me though. It's not like I'm disrupting class or anything, I'm just talking about schoolwork all the time anyway. And besides, I still get good grades and I don't cause any other problems besides that. I wish they would've cut me some slack. But then I'm not there anymore, so maybe here will be different. I mean, I know it'll be different since everyone here is a mutant, but I think you guys know what I mean right? Why are all of you looking at me like that? Is there something in my teeth? Or on my nose? What??"

Molly raised an eyebrow. "Is your mutant power the ability to talk continuously without taking a breath?" Ryo, David and Rusty all struggled to hold back chuckles.

Skids laughed. "That would be a rather silly power, wouldn't it? No, my power is to create force fields. If I could control it better, I think I would have been more help during the riots. It's similar to David's powers except that he bounces things back. Anything that hits my shields kinda goes 'plonk' and drops. I wish I could make my shields bounce things back. It would be so fun if someone threw a baseball at me or something and it bounced back and hit the person back. Or I could play catch with someone and not have to even catch the ball, just let it bounce back to..."

"We're here," Jean announced loudly. She looked fairly amused at Skids, but David was certain that after a few weeks of them being here, everyone would be telling Skids to just shut up. She usually did so without taking offence. For a good thirty seconds or so.

Jean led the group into a control room with a huge glass panel that overlooked a large silver-grey room. The brown-haired man sitting at the controls got up as they entered. He had on a pair of ruby sunglasses that completely blocked his eyes from view.

"You must be the new guys," he said. "Hi, I'm Scott Summers, and I'm in charge of all the Danger Room sessions. The room is equipped with Solidified Quantum Anti-Matter Virtual Reality Holographic Simulation Projection technology, created by our very own Dr. Hank McCoy."

"Reverse phase technology?" David interrupted, looking amazed. "That's fantastic! The holograms will be realistic and solid, and with enough power, you could recreate anything in that room."

"'Reverse phase technology', eh?" The students looked behind them to see a large, furry blue creature enter the Danger Room. "Quite a succinct description, and rather less wordy and technical than my original idea. Most fascinating that you could interpret the allusions and summarise the concept. Tell me, boy, what's your name?"

"David Bauer, sir," David said smartly. Despite the fearsome appearance to the creature, he exuded a sense of warmth and friendliness that made all the teens feel at ease.

"Call me Hank, David," Hank said. "I would certainly enjoy conversing with you on the topic, maybe after your sessions. I'm certain it would prove rather enlightening for both of us."

"Sure, si... Hank," David said.

"Show-off," Ryo whispered with a grin. David nudged him sharply in the ribs.

"Alright, since David has effectively stolen my thunder," Scott said with a grin, "how about the rest of you introduce yourselves. Starting with you." He pointed at Skids.

"Oh, my name is Sally Blevins, but everyone just calls me Skids," she said. She was going to say more, but Molly quickly interrupted her.

"I'm Molly Hayes."

"Russell Collins, but people call me Rusty."

"Ryo Summers."

Scott glanced over at Ryo. "Are you in any way related to Philip or Christopher Summers?"

"Sorry to disappoint, but no," Ryo said. "My great-grandparents translated their original name into English when they first came here. My legal surname is Summers, but my true surname would be Natsuba."

"You never told me that," David said. "How come you never told me that?"

"Is it something important or life-threatening?" Ryo asked. David stuck out his tongue. "Thought not," Ryo said.

"Alright," Scott said. "Now that that's out of the way, what we'll be doing today is testing your powers and how much control you have over them. That way we can gauge your current developments, as well as see your weaknesses and strengths to teach you the best we can. Yes, Sally?"

Sally lowered her raised hand. "When do we get to join the X-Men?"

"Don't worry about that for now," Scott said. "You'll have plenty of time to make your choice... yes Ryo?"

"I've already made my choice," Ryo said. "I think all of us have." The entire group nodded in agreement, their faces serious. "You already know what happened in our town, the reason why we're all here in the first place. We've seen what the world is like and how they see us. We've also seen that human-mutant co-operation and coexistence is possible. Friends and neighbours of ours have died to protect our community as a whole."

"Family too," Molly whispered sadly, but everyone heard it clearly. Ryo remembered that Molly's father had been one of those killed in the initial riots.

"The reason why we're all here," Ryo continued, "is because we want to prevent something like that happening again. To protect our friends and loved ones. To protect our futures and our dreams. To prove to the world that humans and mutants can live together and help each other. Our town did that, and in the spirit of our town, that's why we're here. We carry their dreams and ideals with us, and I think I speak for all of us when I say we want to be on the team. We know the dangers, we've felt the pain of loss. And we made our choice the moment your jet landed in our town and gave us the option of coming here."

"We're not taking 'no' for an answer," David added.

"Agreed," Rusty said. "We're not here because we were outed and had no choice. We're not here because our families didn't want us. We're here because we want to make a difference."

"We're all in this together," Skids said. She put her hand out, palm down. Taking her cue, the others began piling their hands on top of hers.

Jean wiped a tear from her eye and smiled at the kids. Hank nodded his approval. Scott smiled.

"It seems you've won over my team-mates," Scott said. "If I didn't accept you now, I think I'd have to start kicking people off the team for mutiny and insubordination. I'm not sure how many vacancies there are on the junior teams, but..."

"My team has one opening, and Ororo's has one," Jean said quickly. "Kurt's team is also one short, and Sean's has two openings. That's five spaces for five students, right?"

Scott shook his head in mock frustration. "Even my fiancee is against me!" The tension in the room dissipated as the teens and Hank broke out in laughter. Jean just smiled coyly at Scott. "Alright then kids, you're on the team. Welcome to the X-Men. Now can we actually get you guys to step into the Danger Room and show us what you can do?" he asked before the group could get too excited.

Grinning, the five teens headed into the Danger Room while the teachers remained in the control room. Once they were out of earshot, Scott said to Jean and Hank, "Those kids are amazing. Their town should be proud of them."

Jean shook her head. "They should be proud of their town. They've got a firm sense of principles and morals. You can't just pick those up at a garage sale, you know."

Scott nodded, then grabbed the microphone from the control panel. "Alright, I want you guys to know that if you feel like you can't take anymore, give us a shout and I'll end the simulation immediately. In a moment, you're all going to be fighting robots, and the more you kill, the more you appear. I want to see how well you work as a team and how well you control your powers, and also whether you know your limits and when to stop. Are you guys ready?"

The kids all gave him the thumbs up and Scott started the simulation.

"Simulation begins in fifteen seconds," the computer announced.

"How well can you guys use your powers? Quickly," Ryo asked Molly and Rusty.

"Well enough," Molly said. "Mine's simple, I just don't fight that well.

"I'm okay, I guess. I can't aim well," Rusty said. "Why?"

"Okay, quick plan," Ryo said. "Molly and I will attack the robots directly since our powers are combat-related and close range. David, cover me and Molly. Skids, cover yourself and David. Rusty, stay near them and protect them with your fire blasts if robots get too close. If you're getting overwhelmed, shout and we'll be there as soon as we can."

"Roger that," Rusty said. "Look out!"

"Got it!" Molly said. She punched the robot and sent it flying across the room.

"Not too much strength, Bruiser," Ryo joked. "Let's try to last as long as possible."

"Got it, Ryo," Molly said. "And thanks for coming up with a codename for me."

Ryo laughed, then rushed forward to the robot advancing from the left. Molly headed for the one on the right. She used her momentum to shoulder the robot, knocking it to the floor easily. Ryo placed his palm on his opponent and released a burst of his internal energy. The robot's circuits fried, and it collapsed on the floor. Four more robots appeared immediately. With every robot destroyed, another two more would appear.

Rusty was bursting flames from his hands at any robot that got too near to the two shielders when he felt something hot streak across his back. He screamed and looked at Skids. She stared at him in shock, then shouted, "Lasers! They've got lasers now! And they hit hard enough to pierce my shields!"

"David, cover Rusty and try to reflect the lasers back to their owners," Ryo shouted, destroying another robot. He turned to face his friend. "Don't worry about me, I've got more than just this up my sleeve."

"Behind you!" David shouted. It was too late, the robot had fired a laser at Ryo. But Ryo wasn't there. He appeared behind the robot, as though out of thin air. With a punch to the back, the robot collapsed.

"I told you not to worry about me," Ryo said. "I can see in all directions at once. DAVID, COVER MOLLY'S BACK NOW!"

David created a shield behind Molly just as a new robot on the scene blasted some form of laser cannon blast at her. The blast hit the shield and ricocheted back to the new robot, exploding it.

"Mein Gott!" David exclaimed. The impact of the blast had stunned him, and his nose was bleeding. "Careful guys, that thing hits hard!"

"Ryo, I'm running out of power," Skids cried. Sweat was dripping down her face in small rivers. "Those laser cannons hit hard. I can't hold my shields up much longer!"

"Molly," Ryo called. "Fall back, get closer to the others."

With a nod, Molly made her way back to the others, Ryo close behind her. Together with Rusty, the three of them held the robots back, with David and Skids occasionally blocking the laser cannons. Ryo's ability to see in all directions at once made it less necessary for them to block as he could shout for Rusty or Molly to duck and avoid the cannons altogether.

"I can't anymore," Rusty said. He tried to blast a flame, but only a few sparks shot from his hands.

"Take a rest," Ryo said. "Let's see how much longer Molly and I can keep this up."

Molly grunted, totally focused on the enemies. She punched at a new robot that had spawned near her. There was a loud 'clang' and a cry of pain from Molly. "Ryo, they're immune to me now."

The robot swung a punch at Molly, who was immediately covered with a shield. The robot connected with the shield, and Skids groaned. "Ryo."

Ryo's face was grim. "Skids, cover yourself and the others with one shield for as long as you can. David, protect me for a while. What I'm about to do is going to take a while." Ryo closed his eyes and focused his energy. Since he was young, his mother had trained him in their clan's style of martial arts. It used internal energy to fight instead of purely physical strength. The advantage the Natsuba clan had was their mutation. They could control their internal energy a lot more than a normal person learning the same internal martial art style. Ryo had learned early on to make his internal energy appear to the naked eye, and form it into a semi-solid form. That was what he was focused on now. He felt his energy surging out into his hands. He was ready.

Leaping into the air, Ryo activated his shadowstepping power, the ability to nearly instantaneously appear at a new location not too far away. It was what he had used to dodge the missiles. But he was tired, and as he shadowstepped another ten feet into the air, David and the others could see the blurry image of the path his step took him. Flinging his arms out, Ryo began throwing black shuriken at the robots. The shuriken were his internal energy in a near solid form, and as they hit the robots, they disrupted the electrical flow inside them, disabling the robot instantly. Ryo kept throwing as many of them as he could, taking out nearly all the robots in the room. With a scream, he threw the last few shuriken at the last robot, and it collapsed to the ground. Ryo landed on his feet, then stumbled and began coughing. He knew he had drained too much of his internal energy. He could barely stand, and was starting to get giddy. He was so drained, he almost didn't notice the next batch of robots. He dodged a couple of punches instinctively without the thought registering in his head. He had been trained since young, after all, and even semiconscious, his body reacted as quickly as if he was fully alert.

"Scott," he managed to gasp. "Scott!" The others heard him gasp and they all began calling for Scott to end the simulation. The robots faded from the Danger Room, and Ryo slumped down onto the ground. His friends rushed up to him.

"You alright, dude?" Rusty asked. "That was awesome! You took out nearly the whole batch on your own."

"It was teamwork," Ryo said after catching his breath. "If Skids hadn't been guarding the rest of you and David hadn't been guarding me, I would only have managed to take out one or two before they hit me. Great job, everyone."

"That must have been tiring," Skids said. "You seemed barely conscious when you landed. If you hadn't dodged all those punches from the new robots, I'd have thought you were out for the count."

"I knew you were fantastic with martial arts," Molly said. "You had that reputation in school. If that prick Bradley had seen you pull that stunt, he would've crapped his pants."

Scott, Hank and Jean walked up to the kids, concern showing on their faces. Scott knelt next to Ryo and put his hand on Ryo's shoulder. "Are you alright?"

"I'm fine," Ryo said. "I just need a few hours to recover my strength. That last attack drained me."

Scott nodded and stood to address the group as a whole. "You did well guys. I haven't seen such teamwork and determination in any group so far, especially when none of you have fought together in a group. Also, you have broken a Danger Room record. According to this print out," he waved a sheet of paper, "you guys lasted a grand total of one hour, forty-one minutes and twenty-nine seconds. You beat the previous group's record by forty-seven minutes."

Jaws dropped all around as the group exchanged looks.

"Seems a shame to have to split them up," Hank said. "If only we could keep them together."

"We would have to work with others as well anyway," David said. "If you just kept us all together, we'd just become stagnant. As much as I dislike the idea of splitting, I think it would be better for us. We came here to learn and challenge our limits, not to grow comfortable with each other. I'm sure that some missions require the X-Men main team to split up and work with different people, right?"

"The boy raises a cogent point Scott," Hank said. "We have had to occasionally separate or join teams when the situation requires."

"I wasn't the one that said it was a shame to split them," Scott reminded Hank. Ryo couldn't help it. He was half-dizzy from exertion and couldn't stop himself. He burst out laughing. It was a contagious laugh, and for some reason, everyone else start to join in.

After they finished their laughing session and calmed down, Scott let them off to have dinner and then a good night's rest. "After all," he said, "you all have classes tomorrow. I'll let you know which teams you'll be in tomorrow morning."

David groaned and turned over in bed. The incessant knocking at his door was driving him crazy. Covering his head with a pillow, he snuggled into the soft mattress and tried to get back to sleep. The knocking turned into a pounding. "Dammit David! Open the bloody door or I'll kick it down!"

"Is there a problem?"

Ryo turned to face the speaker. The man was blue and looked like a demon, forked tail included. His appearance was a little stunning, but Ryo was rarely shocked and maintained his composure easily. He recalled his talk with Jean earlier this morning where she was describing the other teachers and what they looked like. He put his hand out. "You must be Kurt."

Kurt smiled and shook Ryo's hand. "I see someone's been talking about me." He spoke with a German accent, but Ryo was used to it after hanging out for so long with David. David's accent wasn't as strong since he had been mostly raised in the States.

"Yup, it was Jean," Ryo said. "I'm under her team now. David's going to be under yours as soon as I can get him awake so he can see Scott before breakfast."

"Ah, you are one of those from yesterday," Kurt said. "I have heard much about the situation with the town. I thank God that the people in your town acted as they did. They really are a shining example of love in this world." He smiled gently at Ryo, who was fidgeting slightly. "I see my religious talk makes you a little uncomfortable. Have no worries, mein freund. I am not always so serious. It is usually after my morning devotions. Just like I am sure you are more contemplative after your morning exercises."

"You saw me this morning?" Ryo asked. "I thought I was hidden in the trees at the grove near the pond."

"Ya, I was there after you left," Kurt replied. "I have always admired the movements of taiji as a method of both clearing the mind and training the body. You move through them gracefully. I should like to challenge you to a swordfighting match one day. That would certainly be educational.

"Jean told me you were a master at the swords," Ryo agreed. "It would be an honour to duel with you one day." He thumbed towards David's door. "We do have a slight problem of your new student still lazing about in bed. Wouldn't it be funny if you were the first thing he saw when he woke up? I think he'd wet the bed."

Kurt chuckled. "That would be a sight to see. And it can be arranged." With a BAMF!, Kurt was gone, leaving a slightly sulphuric scent behind. Ryo focused his powers and sent his sight and hearing through the door to watch. Kurt was standing next to David's bed, shaking the boy awake. "Wakey wakey," he said.

David removed the pillow from over his eyes and rubbed them. "Ryo, I don't know how the hell you got in, buaaaaAAAAHHHHHHHH!" He screamed and scrambled away from Kurt, falling off the bed in the process. Kurt laughed, did a backflip to David's door and opened it, letting Ryo in. Ryo was howling and grabbing his stomach with laughter.

David breathed heavily as he tried to calm down and make sense of the two laughing people in his room. Slowly, he got to his feet, grabbing the nearby nightstand for support. His feet were still shaky from the shock. His eyes narrowed on Kurt, then slowly widened in amazement. "Mein Gott! Du bist die erstaunen Nachtkriecher!"

Ryo and Kurt both stopped laughing. "Err, what did he say?" Ryo asked Kurt.

"I said, 'my God, you're the amazing Nightcrawler'," David replied. "My mother told me so many stories of your performances in the Munich Circus. She loved your acrobatics most of all, and once when we went home to Germany for holiday, she wanted to bring my sister and I to the circus, but you weren't part of the show anymore then."

Kurt smiled. "You'll have plenty of time to see free performances, except that you'll also be part of the show."

"He's your team's mentor," Ryo explained. "You're supposed to go see Scott before breakfast to find out which team you're in. I was lucky Kurt came by when I tried to wake you up." He exchanged smirks with Kurt. "Your mentor has a fantastic sense of humour."

David rubbed his butt. He had landed hard on it when he fell off the bed. "Please don't do that again," he pleaded. "I don't think I can handle too many shocks like that." He looked at the dark patch on his bed and on his shorts, then sighed. "I think I need a shower and a new bedsheet."

Ryo and Kurt burst out laughing again as they left David's room.

Molly, Skids, Rusty, Ryo and David sat at a table together. They were still new to the school and classes didn't start until after breakfast. All of them were laughing at Ryo's retelling of the morning's incident. Even David couldn't help but laugh.

"I wonder if we'll still be able to get together like this," Molly sighed as their laughter died down. "I know we'll be spending more times with our teams, but I'd like to keep meeting every now and then. It's like having a little piece of home to remember."

"I have a suggestion. How about we set a day every week where we meet up with each other after classes?" David looked at the others. He saw nods of approval from all of them. "So which day should we choose?"

"Friday?" Skids asked.

"Thursday," Ryo said. He looked at Molly, and they could see the loss in each other's eyes. She bowed her head slightly and agreed with him.

"Why Thursday?" Skids asked. Rusty and David looked at her, then bowed their heads sadly.

"That was the day the rioters killed our friends and family." Ryo said. "How could you have forgotten? It's only been two weeks." He looked at Molly. "How are you holding up?"

"Knowing that I'm doing something to prevent what happened..." Molly trailed off. "I'll get better." She bit her lip unconsciously. "Ryo, may I speak to you in private please?"

Ryo got up. "We'll be back later, guys." The two of them left the cafeteria, and Ryo led Molly out into the garden in the backyard. They made their way to a quiet spot and Ryo waited while Molly fidgeted a little as she stared at the ground.

"Don't get me wrong," she said, looking up. "I know you're hurting every time you think of Shawn, but you seem to be able to let it go, remain calm and even be happy. How do you do it?"

"When I practice my martial arts, it is a form of moving meditation," Ryo said. "I can't teach you the style used by my clan, but I can teach you some of the basic movement forms. It'll help you clear your mind as well as improve your body and health. But I will warn you now: if you go ahead with this, you will not feel better immediately." Molly looked at him curiously. Ryo continued to explain, "Before your mind can be cleared and focused to move on, first it must let go. Once you start this, everything you ever experienced will be brought up again. Happiness, sadness, love, pain... Everything." He paused to let it sink in. "Once that process is over, you'll be able to look back on the past and remember the happiness and sadness, but you will be in control of your mind and emotions."

Molly thought it over for a long time. Ryo watched her patiently as she paced along the grass. She finally stopped pacing and looked at him. "Teach me."

Ryo nodded and smiled.

David stifled a yawn. He hated history class most of all, and ancient history was even worse. Ororo, or as they called her during lessons, Ms Munroe, did make the lesson as interesting as possible, but David had never been interested in history in any form. He barely contained another yawn, and glanced enviously at Ryo.

Ryo was, as usual, sleeping in class. If what he did could be called sleeping, David thought to himself. Ms Munroe had yet to notice anything yet, and David wondered what she would do when she spotted Ryo.

He didn't have to wait long. A few minutes later, Ms Munroe noticed Ryo sleeping. She grabbed an extra piece of chalk and aimed it at Ryo, then threw it with amazing accuracy. Judging by the faces of the other students, David surmised that throwing chalk was Ms Munroe's way of waking sleeping students. Just before the chalk hit Ryo's head, Ryo's right hand reached up and grabbed it between his first two fingers. He didn't bother to move his head. "I'm not sleeping."

"Would you like to share with the class what I've been teaching since class started then?" Ms Munroe asked. The other students were whispering excitedly, some even pointing at the chalk, still between Ryo's fingers. "And please stand up and address the class, Mr Summers."

Ryo flicked the chalk easily to David, striking the centre of his friend's forehead. He ignored David's angry mutter as he stood up and opened his eyes. "You started off the lesson with an introduction on Ancient Greece and Rome, and on how both of their cultures have affected many European countries throughout the centuries, and the results of which can still be found today in philosophy and language. From there, you gave a quick overview of the Illyrian Wars and a brief note of the Second Punic War and references to Hannibal. You mentioned that Demetrius of Pharos was defeated by the Romans in 217 BC and fled to the court of Philip V of Macedon. You began to focus on the Macedonian Wars, a series of four wars between Macedon and Rome and its allies that, according to the Greek historian Polybius, was incited in the beginning by Demetrius of Pharos. You were going to go into more detail when you noticed me lying on my table and threw your chalk at me."

The class burst out laughing at that last remark. Ms Munroe silenced them by raising her hands. She smiled at Ryo. It was a dangerous smile, a challenging one. One that Ryo knew very well. He returned her smile with a slight smirk in answer to her unspoken challenge. David sighed and braced himself for the inevitable. This had happened so many times over so many years, he knew how it would turn out.

"So, Mr Summers," Ms Munroe said, almost coyly. "Can you tell me, then, how many Illyrian Wars were there, and when did they happen? I believe I skimmed over that one rather quickly, and I'm sure most of the class doesn't remember it." She was right, of course. Most of the students were rifling through their textbooks to find the correct passages.

Ryo grinned. "I clearly remember you saying that there were two of them. The first lasted from 229 BC to 228 BC, and the second lasted from 220 BC to 219BC. Incidentally, you mixed the dates up slightly when you first brought the subject up, saying the first was from 230 to 229 BC, and the second from 219 to 218 BC. Only when you were repeated a bit of background for Demetrius of Pharos did you mention the correct dates."

"No way!" One of the other students exclaimed. "I don't even remember her bringing up the dates."

Ms Munroe herself was taken aback. She narrowed her eyes at Ryo who replied with an amused smirk. David glanced at Ryo, shook his head and sighed. Ryo is such a showoff, he thought to himself. The amused expression was nothing more than bait. David knew what to expect next.

"So, in the First Macedonian War, which year was the Treaty of Tempea signed?" Ms Munroe asked.

"The Treaty of Phoenice," Ryo emphasised Phoenice, "was signed in 205 BC. I don't know when the Treaty of Tempea was signed and which war it ended because you haven't covered it yet." Ryo sighed theatrically. "Why do teachers always ask a trick question the second time round? They never take my word for granted that I was listening."

The bell rang out, and students began to pack up their books. David held his breath in anticipation. It was as if the whole situation was scripted out. When Ms Munroe made her announcement, he was hardly surprised. "There will be a pop quiz tomorrow on the First Macedonian War. Don't please be prepared for it."

It was almost word for word the exact sentence of every other teacher. Checking his timetable, David mentally prepared himself for pop quizzes in at least two other subjects. David knew everyone in Ryo's classes would be studying like crazy tonight. And Ryo, being Ryo, would be playing games on his computer or sleeping, or anything other than studying. And he'd get every question on every quiz correct too. It was going to be a long day. Sometimes life just wasn't fair.

Ryo walked through the cafeteria, aware of the multitude of eyes staring at him. He ignored them all and made his way to the table where his friends were. Some of his friends back at home had often thought him oblivious to his surroundings. His powers were mostly tied up with his vision, however, with different levels of activation. At the lowest level, which he used continuously, it allowed him to notice every little fidget or twitch of people around him, and accurately read body language. Body language gives away more information than people suspect. Mind-readers could be fooled by fake thoughts or prevented from scanning minds with enough focus on their target's part, but body language was unconscious on the whole.

Using his powers, Ryo could see 360° in a one kilometre radius, see through solid objects or even send his sight and hearing to a location up to five kilometres away. With more concentration, he could see energy of all sorts, as well as the energy flow, nervous system and internal organs of people. Coupled with his martial arts style as well as his power of channeling his internal energy to disrupt energy flows, it made him a good warrior. Centuries of breeding from his clan allowed such a perfect synergy between the fighting styles and powers since the powers were bred to match the clan's focus.

He activated part of his powers as he continued to cross the hall. When people are irritated with you, it's always good to be able to watch your own back. He was hardly surprised when a group of six students started to come up behind him. Calmly, he placed the tray with his dinner onto the nearest table, startling the guy sitting there alone. Ryo turned around to face the group. The atmosphere in the cafeteria grew quiet, tense. Everyone was watching the scene intently. Even the temperature seemed to drop.

"So, the amazing Ryo Summers," the group's obvious leader said. He was dressed in black jeans, a grey shirt under a black leather jacket. His black hair complemented his outfit well, and he would have been more good-looking if it wasn't for his obviously fake smile. "Hi, I'm Julian Keller. Welcome to Mutant High." Julian's voice was friendly. His eyes and body language were not. If that's the way he wanted to play it, Ryo would play along for now.

"Thank you very much," Ryo said just as courteously, though his face remained expressionless. "I'm glad to be here. Who are your friends?" The silence was palpable, exceeded only by the tension.

"Oh, excuse my manners," Julian said calmly. He pointed out the others in his group to Ryo one by one and introduced them. Ryo took notes mentally: the metallic girl was Cessily Kincaid; the big, chunky, granite-looking guy was Santo Vaccaro; the Puerto Rican was Brian Cruz, the Brazilian was Roberto Da Costa and the blond with the mohawk was Ray Crisp.

"Nice to meet all of you," Ryo said in a friendly tone. "To what do I owe the pleasure of this meeting?"

"You know very well what," Julian said, all trace of friendliness gone. "Because of you, I now have to study for seven tests for tomorrow. You and your bloody smart-aleck tricks."

Ryo nodded as though he understood. "I see. So you dislike me because I actually do well in class?" Ryo smirked. "Makes you look like the fool you are, doesn't it?"

Santo stepped forward, cracking his knuckles. "Watch what you say, punk."

"Oh, so now I'm a punk because I'm outnumbered five to one? Wow, I must be so very intimidating."

Julian grabbed Ryo's shirt and pulled him close. "Listen very closely, new boy. Don't mess with us. Otherwise our next visit won't be so friendly." Spit splattered on Ryo's face. Julian let him go, and Ryo wiped the saliva off with a smug grin on his face.

"If I'm not wrong, threatening another student is a no-no in this school, isn't it?" Ryo said as the group started to walk away. The whole group stopped. It didn't seem possible, but the whole cafeteria became more silent than before. Julian turned around to face Ryo again, his eyes narrowed with anger.

"Did you say what I heard you say?" Julian asked, his voice dangerous. "Be aware that there are six of us, and only one of you."

"Fantastic," Ryo said. "I'd beat all of you easily, and you'll all be suspended for attacking me in a group. It's a good deal for me, isn't it?"

"Why you..." Santo stepped forward, his arm pulled back and ready to punch. Ryo didn't flinch. Julian stopped Santo with one hand. The large goon glared angrily at Ryo, but lowered his hand and stepped back.

"This isn't over," Julian's group turned and walked away. The cafeteria started to buzz with whispers and activity again. Ryo watched the departing backs for a moment, then retrieved his dinner from the table.

"That was brave of you," a young man seated at the table said. His grey-green eyes caught Ryo's attention immediately. For some reason, they reminded him very much of Shawn. Even his hair was nearly the same shade of brown. He looked nothing like Shawn, though, and Ryo felt a pang of loss at the memory. Ryo covered the emotion quickly and it went unnoticed by the boy, who said, "It was also rather stupid. Those guys are all members of Team C, and they're notorious for being a little harder to deal with than others. The vice-principal, Emma Frost, mentors their group. She's the only one stern enough to keep them in line."

Ryo snorted. "I've dealt with worse bullies than that back home. I'm not scared of them. Besides, if it gets rough, I can always talk to my squad mentor."

The boy looked at Ryo, surprised. "You just got here yesterday and you're on a squad already? Which squad are you in?"

"Squad A under Jean Grey," Ryo replied. "I haven't met the rest of the squad yet, but I'm sure I'll see them when I have my Danger Room course about an hour after dinner." He reached for his tray again.

"Well, I'll see you there later then," the guy said. "I'm Bobby, and I'm your teammate."

"Oh, cool," Ryo smiled, a sincere smile this time. "And I mean that literally too. Manipulating ice must be a seriously fun power."

Bobby looked shocked. "H-how did you know I...?"

Ryo laughed and tapped near his eyes. "Thermal vision is one of my eyes' powers. I can see the heat spectrum, and you were showing up as rather interesting shade of blue just now when Julian started his little confrontation. You were also radiating your coolness. I thought I was standing under the air-conditioning outlet at first."

Bobby laughed, a laugh that sounded almost like music to Ryo. It seemed to sparkle like frost when hit by the sun's light. Ryo felt his heart beating a little faster, and he slowed it down with a thought.

"Well, at least we have one thing in common besides both being male," Bobby said. "Thermal vision is helpful sometimes, isn't it?"

"I have better and more accurate methods of detection with my vision," Ryo said. "But it allows me to see that my food is getting very cold now, so thermal vision does have its use." He couldn't help but smile at Bobby. He quickly caught himself and reached for his tray. "I'd better get going, my friends are waiting for me."

Bobby nodded. "I'll see you later in the Danger Room." He changed his mind abruptly. "Never mind, I'll join you and your friends now, if that's alright with you. It's kinda boring eating alone."

"I'm sure they won't mind," Ryo glanced over at his friends and motioned at Bobby. They didn't seem to have any objections. "Alright, they don't mind. Come on and join us."

David yawned, covering his mouth quickly. "The food's getting to me. I really hope I can stay awake." He narrowed his eyes at Ryo. "For some reason, I have three tests tomorrow."

Bobby grinned at David. "I've got four tests, and I have Danger Room in less than an hour. All because of Mr Show-off here." He glanced at his watch. "I'd better go check the team roster to see who we're sparring against. I'll be back in a bit."

After he left the table, Skids said, "Man, I'm so glad I'm not in any of your classes. You already had that reputation in school. Luckily I haven't had to experience that first hand."

"I've got three," Rusty sulked. "Looks like taking classes with Ryo was a bad idea."

"It won't happen often," David said. "It only happens if we get a new teacher. That's the only thing I can be positive about."

"I can't believe no one thinks of their future," Ryo said. "If it wasn't for me causing all these tests, you guys wouldn't know what hard work and studying is like."

"Ryo, you never study!" David growled. "I still think it's related to your powers."

"I did study," Ryo laughed. "But I didn't study the subjects. What I learned from my mother, and had many years of study in, is how to take notice of and remember everything around me. I studied that for years, that's why I don't have to study now."

David rolled his eyes. "Whatever. I still say it's your power. It's easier to believe."

"Believe what you want," Ryo smirked. "As long as I know the truth. Overestimating and underestimating your allies or enemies are both dangerous in their own way. It's an advantage I like to keep."

"You can do more than you let on," Rusty said. "That's the impression I always got from you. You're going to surprise a lot of people, enemies and teammates alike."

"Speaking of teammates," Skids said. "Bobby's cute, isn't he? He's funny and goofy and friendly. And he reminds me a bit of Shawn."

"They're nothing alike," Ryo said, a hint of a snarl in his voice. David and Rusty eyed him cautiously.

Skids was as oblivious as usual. "Surely you must see the resemblance, Ryo. You were closest to Shawn, after all."

Ryo struggled to control himself. He wanted to bang on the table and shout, but he succeeded in avoiding an outburst like that. "I don't want to talk about it," he said, crossing his arms and leaning back in his chair.

Skids would have said more, but Molly put her hand in the younger girl's shoulder and gently shook her head. Skids let the matter drop.

Bobby checked the roster again. He was right the first time. Team A was up against Team C for the Danger Room match today. Team C was Julian's team, the same team that Ryo had his confrontation with earlier. It was a perfect opportunity for them to get Ryo back without getting in trouble.

"Hey, Bobby." Bobby whirled around and spotted Jubilee. She began jabbing him in the chest as she talked. "Where were you? I didn't see you at our usual table and everyone was worried you'd gotten into trouble. Again."

Bobby grabbed her hand before she could jab him again. He could almost swear there was a finger-sized hole in his chest after all these years. "Relax, Jubilee. I was sitting with the new kids."

"And that Ryo asshole?" Jubilee growled. "I've got three tests tomorrow because of him."

"I've got four, and I'm not complaining," Bobby said. "Besides, Julian's got seven."

"No way!" Jubilee exclaimed, then laughed. "Hey, I might start to like Ryo now. Julian certainly deserves it."

"Yeah, but that means trouble for us in the Danger Room today," Bobby said. "We're up against Team C today."

"Cool," Jubilee said. "We get to irritate Julian some more by trashing him in the Danger Room." Bobby knew that statement was pure bravado. Team A had always lost or tied to Team C. But then, they were a member short since John left to join the Brotherhood. Now that they were tied again, maybe they could win. Which reminded him...

"You'll have to start liking Ryo as soon as possible," Bobby said to Jubilee. "He's on our team now."

"Dammit!" Jubilee slammed her fist into her palm. "I was hoping it would be that blonde cutie. Or the other redhead."

"David and Rusty," Bobby said. "They're okay, I guess. Rusty's a little quiet. David's very friendly, but he's a little too goofy for me."

"Too goofy for you?" Jubilee laughed. "You're like the class, no, the school goof."

Bobby just grinned. "Alright, so David's a competitor for the Goofdom crown."

Jubilee pinched his cheek. "You're just jealous. I guess I just have to get used to another Asian in the group. You know I prefer blondes though. Except Sam. He's too much like Scott, and he's our team leader too."

"Well, you know I like Asians," Bobby laughed. "So this time, I've got eye-candy. You and Leyu are both girls, so I didn't get to indulge. I can't wait to work with Ryo."

"And you get to see him in the locker room all naked and wet from sweat and showering," Jubilee teased. Bobby's eyes widened and he started to blush.

"I'd better get back to Ryo... err, I mean, the new guys," Bobby stammered. "I'm supposed to tell Ryo who we're up against today."

"Come on," Jubilee said, grabbing Bobby's wrist and practically dragging him to the cafeteria. "I might as well get to meet our newest team member now, right?"

Bobby rolled his eyes, knowing Jubilee wouldn't see it. He half-shuffled, half-stumbled as Jubilee dragged him through the cafeteria, catching his balance only once to point out the table Ryo and his friends were sitting at. Before he could get Jubilee to let go, she started dragging him over to the table again.

"Hi, I'm Jubilee," she said, finally letting go of Bobby's wrist and sitting down in Bobby's seat next to Ryo. Bobby "hmphed" and went to grab another chair while Jubilee continued her introduction. "Bobby tells me you're in our team, Ryo. I think that's the only thing stopping me from screaming my head off at you for giving me three tests to study for tomorrow."

David laughed. "See, I told you you'd make everyone hate you after today. People won't hate you after Friday, though. They'll DESPISE you."

"Despise who?" Bobby asked, finally finding another chair. Molly and Skids shifted a little to their left to make space for Bobby between Molly and Ryo.

"Me, apparently," Ryo said, his voice neutral. "People didn't seem to have much trouble with this back home."

"Because we were used to you already," Rusty said. "It only happened when we got new teachers, so unless something like that happens here, by Monday, everything should be fine."

"Monday?" Bobby asked. "What did I miss? What's the deal with Friday?"

"Everyone 'hates' Ryo now," Jubilee said. "But why would they despise him on Friday?"

"Because the tests are tomorrow," David said. "And the results come out the day after. I already know what Ryo's going to score on all the tests."

"100% perfect scores on all tests," Molly, Rusty, Skids and David said at the same time. "Happens all the time," David added. "That's why he'll be the most hated man in school on Friday."

"Talking of being hated, Ryo, you'd better watch your back today in the Danger Room," Bobby said. "We're up against Team C today."

Ryo raised an eyebrow. "That Julian goon and his gang that attempted to intimidate me and failed utterly?"

Jubilee's eyes widened in shock. "You stood up to Julian and his gang?!" She looked at Bobby, who nodded in reply. "You're either brave or stupid."

"Stupid," David said immediately.

"Stupid," Rusty agreed.

"Stupid," Molly added, shaking her head.

"Stupid," Skids said.

Ryo exaggerated a sigh. "I think they're right."

Jubilee giggled. Bobby looked a little irritated, however. "It's not a joking matter, Ryo. They'll really try to blitz you today."

Ryo shrugged it off. "Don't worry about me, Bobby. I'll be fine. It's time I built up my reputation here anyway. And I do owe them some form of getting back for their little failed intimidation stunt just now."

"What're you gonna do, fight them alone?" Bobby snapped.

"Yup," Ryo said simple.

"That's crazy," Bobby said. "Except for the teachers, no one can beat all of them single-handedly. And even among the teachers, the only one I'd expect to be able to defeat them all at once would be Jean. She's the only one powerful enough."

Ryo blinked and stared at Bobby in astonishment. "You're kidding, right? They're not all that powerful. You could beat them on your own. In terms of power, you're one of the most powerful mutants in school."

Bobby narrowed his eyes. "You haven't even seen my powers in action, how would you know that? Everyone knows I'm one of the weakest mutants around."

"You don't put in the effort," Jubilee stated.

"Why should I bother to put in more effort?" Bobby asked her. "We already know I can't do it. I can't stand the psycho-babble stuff they say about you doing better if people keep encouraging you. I get enough of that from Jean, Emma and Xavier. I don't need it from the rest of you either."

Ryo started to argue, but Jubilee cut him off. "It's a sore topic," she said. "I'd suggest dropping it."

There was an uncomfortable silence at the table for a moment. Bobby fidgeted in his chair for a while, then announced, "I'm going to go get changed into my uniform. I'll see you guys in the Danger Room." He left immediately, ignoring Jubilee's protest.

"What's up with him?" Ryo asked, slightly miffed. "Why should he be angry when people tell him he's powerful?"

"He doesn't believe he is," Jubilee said. "He thinks he's crap at school and at controlling his powers, and every time someone tells him he's smart or powerful, he'll argue that he isn't. Jean and Sam, who's our team leader by the way, and many of the other teachers keep telling him to put in more effort and it really irks him."

Ryo sighed. "I wish I knew that. I wouldn't have said anything otherwise. But honestly, he could probably take on this whole school on his own if he tried. His power signature is... enormous, for lack of better word."

"How would you know if you haven't seen his powers at all?" Molly asked. "He does have a point there."

"The same reason I knew what Rusty's and your powers were yesterday in the Danger Room without me asking what your powers were," Ryo said.

"Didn't you?" Rusty asked. "I thought you asked us what our powers were."

Ryo shook his head. "I asked how well you could control your powers, not what they were. I already knew."

"Wait a minute," David said. "Is that how you knew I was a mutant even before I confessed it to you? And how you seemed to know that I wasn't the only mutant in town?" He gazed curiously at Ryo. "How much do your eyes actually see? You seem to get a lot of information about things just by looking. What other things do you see besides what you've told us?"

"Oh! Look at the time on the grandfather clock," Ryo said. "Come on, Jubilee. We'd better get going to the Danger Room." He downed the last of his apple juice in a few quick gulps. "We don't want to be late." He made a hasty disappearance, not waiting for Jubilee. She watched his departing back for a moment, then turned to his friends. They shrugged in response.

Wait a minute," Molly said as Jubilee started to rise. "Isn't the grandfather clock in the main hall of the mansion, four rooms away, near the front door?"

Julian was infuriated. "Don't you get what I'm saying, you dumb fuck?"

"Oh, I get it alright," Ryo said, allowing his amusement to show on his face. Julian was less intimidating without his shirt on. He was well-muscled, as was nearly everyone in this school. The fitness program must be excellent. "You're basically just telling my team to stay away from me and you and your team are gonna try to kick my ass and fail miserably."

"Ease off, Ryo," Sam said. "Don't push them."

Ryo glanced at the blonde. Samuel Guthrie was a bit shorter than David, but he was well-built from physical training. His blue eyes were kind but stern, and made him look older than his seventeen years. "Don't worry about me, Sam. I can take care of myself.

The boys were all in the male changing room, and Julian and the rest of Team C, with the exception of Cessily for obvious reasons, had confronted Ryo and given him a warning to watch himself.

"I'd like to see how well that turns out," Julian sneered. "The rest of you, stay out of this battle."

Sam and Bobby started to protest, but Ryo stopped them with a gesture. "I already spoke to Jean. She's telling the girls what I'm going to tell you now. Stay out of it, you'll just be there to make sure I don't get hurt too badly if I lose." He looked Julian straight in the eyes. "And I assure you, I won't lose."

"I'll see you in the Danger Room then," Julian huffed, putting on his uniform shirt and zipping it up violently. The other guys from Team C followed him out. Ryo watched them leave, then shook his head.

"I still don't see how you can be so casual about all this," Sam said. "And how in the world did you get Jean to allow something like this?"

"I'm casual about it because I already know what to expect," Ryo said. "I shared my plan with Jean and she thought it would be a good idea. And so did Emma."

Sam eyed him curiously. "Emma Frost? What does she have to do with all this?"

"It seemed to her that Julian was getting a little too cocky for his own good," Ryo said. "This is a win-win situation for her. If I win, Julian and his gang get a painful and embarrassing lesson to take them down a couple of pegs."

"And if you lose?" Bobby asked, a hint of concern in his voice.

"She gives them hell for them ganging up on an obviously new student, who, while cocky, is still only one person compared to their six. And six versus one is hardly a fair fight."

"I get it," Sam nodded. "Let's hope you win then. Normally I'd love to be part of the action, but the less battered up I am, the more I'll be able to study for four tests tomorrow." He looked at Ryo and curled his hands as though he would strangle Ryo.

Ryo laughed. "Was that my fault again?"

Bobby sighed. "I don't like the whole situation. I hope you know what you're doing, Ryo."

Ryo smiled at Bobby. "Don't worry. I'm pretty sure I'll give you something nice to watch." He patted Bobby's shoulder, then made his way out of the changing room with Sam following closely behind.

Bobby's mind raced. What did Ryo mean by his statement? Did Ryo also suspect anything? Or did he mean he was going to do something special? Bobby was confused and cautious. He didn't want to take Ryo's statement the wrong way. Maybe it was just his hormones re-interpreting the phrase for him.

"Bobby, aren't you coming?" Sam called from the entrance, snapping Bobby out from his thoughts. Bobby quickly caught up with Sam and Ryo, a slight blush visible on his face. "Man, I wonder what you were thinking about," Sam laughed.

They met the girls outside their changing room on the way to the Danger Room. Jubilee confirmed that Jean had indeed spoken to them with the same message Ryo had just told the guys. Then she introduced the last two teammates to Ryo. Theresa Cassidy had long, red hair and freckles. She had greeted Ryo in a friendly manner, then casually mentioned something about having two tests the next day.

The other girl was obviously Japanese. She bowed to Ryo in the formal manner. "Yashida Leyu desu."

"Natsuba Ichigo," he replied, returning the bow.

"Ichigo? Strawberry Summers?" she asked, laughing. Ryo nodded with a grin.

"It's a childhood nickname I had when I was still staying in Japan," Ryo explained. "Because my hair is naturally red."

"I was wondering about that," Jubilee mused. "I thought it was much too natural to be dyed. I was going to ask you where you bought your dye from."

Bobby frowned. "Am I the only one that's bothered by the fact that Ryo's going to be fighting Team C on his own?"

"I think you are, yes," Leyu said. "If he thinks he can do it, then let him do his best. The rest of us are here to make sure that he doesn't get turned into tomorrow's lunch item if he fails."

"Since when have you ever been so worried about things, Bobby?" Theresa asked, her voice with a slight Irish lilt to it. "You're usually the foolhardy one doing all the crazy things."

"That's because I'm more experienced," Bobby said. "Ryo's new, and he doesn't know their powers."

Ryo smirked. "Julian's telekinetic, Roberto draws from solar energy to become super strong and fast, Ray blasts lightning out and can fly, Santo's super strong and durable and can shoot his limbs and reattach them, Cessily turns into liquid metal and change her form easily, and Brian has the useless ability of making people run towards or away from his target."

"Oh yeah, that's right," Jubilee laughed. "I forgot you can see other mutants' powers."

"'Know yourself and know your enemy," Ryo quoted, "and you will never lose a battle.' That's translated from The Art Of War."

"You read The Art Of War?" Sam asked.

"When I was seven. Very good book."

Jean came out from the female changing room dressed in the black X-Men uniform. "Sorry I took so long, guys. Are you all ready to go? Ryo, you prepared?"

Ryo nodded. "Let's get this started."

Jean and Emma were in the control room to monitor the situation, and the rest of Ryo's team were standing behind him, near the entrance of the Danger Room. Despite all his bravado, Ryo was nervous. Even a seasoned fighter feels nervous before a battle. He took a deep breath and calmed down almost instantly, his mind and body attuned to the environment. He activated his powers.

He watched the Team C's movements, how well they worked as a team. Their teamwork was good, and a prolonged battle would be his downfall. He would have to finish this off quickly. Remaining calm, he waited for Emma to announce the beginning of the round. He began to focus his energy into something big and sprang into action the moment she announced "Go!" on the intercom.

Ryo got down on one knee, his hands touching the floor in either side of him. "Soshoryu!" His energy had already been charged up, and almost immediately, two large, shadowy Asian dragon forms began to circle around him, rising higher and higher. Team C stopped in their tracks, awed at the sight. The dragons seemed to radiate darkness, and they somehow seemed metallic at the same time.

Santo recovered from the shock first, his right forearm detaching and flying towards Ryo. There was a slight blurring of the air, and suddenly Ryo was at the top of twin dragons, his eyes closed. He uttered a single word, "Chire!", and the two dragons seemed to crack, and then shatter. But the spiraling twin lines were still there. Looking closely, one could almost make out that they were...

"Weapons," Leyu breathed. "They're knives and daggers for throwing."

Ryo was standing on the curves of the spiral of his energy. His energy could be as solid as he wanted, but it drained him to make them solid enough for him to stand on. He only had one chance at this. He pushed his powers to the max. He could increase his speed temporarily for a short time. Usually he used it as an instantaneous burst to move from one spot to another, a trick his family called "shadowstep". But now he needed to keep it up for a long period of time as well as push his eyes to the max so he could see in slow motion, as well as all the details of his opponents. He needed to see the meridian points on their bodies for this attack to be effective.

Taking a deep breath, Ryo grabbed a weapon in each hand, then began to spin. To the others, he looked a like a blurry top, but Ryo felt as though he was moving in slow motion. To him, his opponents were immobile. He threw the two knives with perfect accuracy as he spun. Each revolution he completed, he would grab a new weapon and throw it as he started falling to the ground. Weapons to Julian's head to disrupt and cut off his telekinesis and his neck to paralyse him. Same for Brian, except to block off his psionic tagging power. Weapons to Santo's nerves to detach all his limbs; he could only put them back together manually or have someone put him back together. Weapons to Roberto's and Ray's necks, disrupting their nervous systems, paralysing them from the neck down. And weapons to Cessily's neck as well, but instead of paralysing her, it forced her power to activate and keep her in liquid form from the neck down.

Bobby stared at Ryo in awe. He was moving impossibly fast, the thrown energy weapons speeding towards his targets before they could react. It was over in seconds. Bobby looked over at Team C. For a moment, they remained standing, then they collapsed to the floor as their bodies became limp. Santo's limbs detached as he fell, giving the impression of a crumbling statue. Cessily's liquid metal form pooled around her head. He turned to face Ryo, half-expecting a smug look on the guy's face. His teammate was kneeling on the ground, coughing like crazy. Bobby spotted something red.

"Jean! Emma!" he shouted. "Ryo's coughing up blood!"

Ryo wiped his mouth, grimacing at the feel of blood on his hand. His powers dealt with sight and his internal energy. When he pushed himself too far, his body took internal damage. He knew he would be blind for about ten minutes or so. He pushed himself hard yesterday in the Danger Room, and now he had pushed himself even harder. He knew he had gone too far when the familiar white haze had engulfed his vision after he threw the last of his energy daggers.

He tried to stand, but his entire body was numb and shaky. He wobbled a bit, and felt like he was going to fall. He could feel vague sensations from his arms, and realised he was being supported.

"Steady there," Bobby's voice came from his right. "Are you okay? Sam, maybe we should let him lie down?"

"Ryo, do you want to sit or lie down?" Sam's voice came from Ryo's left. Ryo tried to answer, then leaned himself forward. He felt the slight burn in his throat that comes from vomiting.

"Oh my God! That's a lot of blood," Jubilee said. So distant, so far away.

"Ryo, hang in there man," Bobby said. "Jean's gone to get Josh. He'll get all of you fixed up in no time."

Ryo just nodded. Bobby and Sam slowly lay him on the ground, away from the mess. The next thing Ryo knew, he was looking at a golden youth. His hair and skin were all a rich gold hue. Ryo felt a warmth spread throughout his body as the young man healed the injuries Ryo sustained. A few seconds later, Ryo felt strong enough to stand. "Thanks."

"Anytime," the boy smiled. "Hi, I'm Josh Foley. Just ask around for me if you ever need patching up." The boy was lead by Jean to help the members of Team C. It must not have been very long since the fight happened, Ryo figured.

"Hey, feeling better?" Bobby asked. Ryo suddenly realised his team was gathered around him, looks of concern etched on all their faces. Ryo smiled at them.

"Yeah, I'm feeling a lot better," he said, getting to his feet. "I should have known better than to pull that stunt twice in two days."

"You did this yesterday too?" Sam asked, surprised. The team headed to the changing rooms.

"Not as powerful," Ryo said. "But enough to tire me out. I didn't fully recover from yesterday's usage, and today's was more powerful. I'm not surprised this happened."

Bobby rolled his eyes. "You should be more careful next time."

"What was up with all that shouting in Japanese?" Theresa asked. "I thought you were casting a spell just now."

Ryo laughed. "It's a trick my mom taught me when I was young. Name your most powerful attacks so that when you shout its name out, your friends know what to expect. Your enemies won't know what to expect, and that gives you an advantage."

Sam smirked. "Smart. I wish I thought of that. The impression of power can be more powerful than the power itself. Everyone was taken aback by that."

"I like the name," Leyu said. "I thought it fit well."

"Yeah, it was in Japanese, right?" Bobby said. "What did you say?"

"Soshoryu means 'Rising Twin Dragons'," Ryo said. "And 'chire' means 'scatter'. I need to train it up a bit more though."

"It gets more powerful?" Bobby was astounded.

"Not much more," Ryo said. "It's my mother's trick. At her level of skill, she doesn't have to throw the energy like I did. She locks the energy onto the targets she wants it to hit, and then scatters it. The energy flies there on its own, and she doesn't have to throw or aim it. She doesn't even have to focus on it after that, saving her energy for more powerful attacks."

"That's scary," Sam said. Then he laughed. "Did I tell you? Jean and Emma aren't going to tell Team C that you got knocked out at the end of your attack too. That's why Elixir healed you first."

"Elixir?" Ryo asked. "Oh, Josh." He thought about it for a moment. "That's a bit mean, isn't it?"

"They deserve it," Jubilee said. "They're bullies and troublemakers most of the time."

The sound of footsteps in the hallway between the changing room stopped her from saying more. Team C, trudged through the hallway, looking angry and tired.

"We'd better hurry and get changed," Leyu said, loud enough for the approaching team to hear. "Some of us have a lot of tests to study for tonight." She was rewarded with groans and growls of frustration from the Team C members. Team A said their goodbyes, and disappeared into their respective changing rooms and showers.

Ryo paused the DVD player. Whoever was knocking on his door was a bit impatient. He was lazing about in his room in a t-shirt and boxers, trying to watch episode one of the Bleach DVD his mom had given him as a goodbye gift. The knocking on the door became a little louder. He used his powers to look through his door to see who it was.

"What the hell do you want, Julian?" he shouted.

"I want to talk," Julian shouted back from outside. "I'm not about to try anything stupid."

That's because you're scared of me, Ryo thought, rolling his eyes. He decided to give the guy a break. "Come in, it's not locked."

Julian let himself in, then closed the door telekinetically and locked it. Ryo was on guard instantly. Julian quickly put his hands up in a calming gesture. "Relax man, it's habit. I really don't want to try anything stupid." He glanced over at the TV set. "Hey, what show is that?"

"Bleach," Ryo said. "It's a popular anime in Japan. I read the manga. This is the first time I'm watching the anime so far."

"Looks interesting," Julian said. "Wait, you have more tests tomorrow than anyone else in school and you're watching cartoons?"

"You're not exactly studying either," Ryo pointed out. "Get to the point. You didn't come here to talk about cartoons and homework."

"Hey, relax man," Julian said. "I came to apologise about how I treated you."

"Okay," Ryo said. "Apology accepted."

"Erm, technically, I haven't apologised yet," Julian said. "But thanks."

The two young men just stared at each other in uncomfortable silence. Ryo broke off the eye-contact first. "Alright, if that's it, I'll get back to my cartoon." He started the DVD again. Julian watched it for a while, obviously interested. Ryo paused the show again.

"Either leave or have a seat." Ryo patted the free space on the couch next to himself. "It's only been five minutes into episode one, we can just start from the beginning if you want."

"Oh, hey, thanks," Julian said, sitting next to Ryo. They watched about six episodes in all before Ryo yawned. Julian was nodding off by then.

"We'll re-watch episode six another day, alright?" Ryo said, nudging Julian a little to wake him up. Julian nodded dumbly and rubbed his eyes.

"Man, I'm beat," he said. "I'd better get back to my room." He got to his feet, then wobbled a little, trying to catch his balance. He grinned sheepishly at Ryo. "I'm a little more unsteady than I thought."

"My power disrupts energy flow as well as the nervous system," Ryo said. "That's why you're so tired." He walked to Julian and removed his jacket. "I have no idea why you need to wear that thing here."

"It looks cool," Julian said. Ryo just shook his head and snorted derisively before tossing it onto the couch. He reached for Julian's belt and unbuckled it.

"Hey, what're you doing?" Julian said, grabbing Ryo's hand.

"Well, if you're gonna share my bed tonight, you'd sleep better without leather pants on," Ryo said. "You'll be so sweaty and sticky in the morning if you did. And so would I, and I don't fancy that at all."

"I was gonna go back to my room."

"You can barely stand, let alone walk, and I'm not going to support you all the way to your room and back."

Julian gave in. "Alright, alright." He unbuckled his belt and removed his pants.

"Need to borrow a pair of shorts?" Ryo asked, rummaging through his closet.

"Is it alright if I just sleep in my boxers?" Julian asked. "I feel like I'm gonna collapse where I stand."

"Sure," Ryo said, taking off his shirt. Julian stared at Ryo's lean body for a moment, then took his shirt off as well and got in bed together with Ryo. They lay next to each other, facing the ceiling. Then Julian turned his back to Ryo and shifted slightly lower, leaving a gap between his neck and the bed. His body rubbed against Ryo's side.

"Dork," Ryo whispered, turning to face Julian. He slid his arm under Julian's neck. Immediately, Julian shifted backwards, moving his body closer to Ryo's. His butt rubbed against Ryo's crotch for a moment. Ryo put his other arm over Julian's waist, and Julian grabbed hold of Ryo's hand, intertwining the fingers. Ryo pulled Julian closer, and then both boys fell asleep.

to be continued

Phew, finally got this chapter out after continuously working on it for nearly two weeks. Hope you guys enjoyed it so far. Drop me a line at LeoHyuuga@gmail.com and let me know! Peace all!