"Kazuto! It's time to head out for your archery lesson!"
He just then finished tying his hair up in the scrunchy he received the day before for his birthday from his best friend. Some of his hair wouldn't pull back into the hanging pony tail, but he liked the bangs which covered his forehead. His hair was as smooth as silk, and a calming pure black. As a seven year old, Kazuto Kirigaya was a perfect picture for androgyny. He looked more like a girl than a boy, but there was no denying he was a boy at the right times.
He hurried down the hall to the stairs from his bedroom to the living area where his mother was waiting for him to make sure he was ready.
"Why are you wearing your gift from her already? You're going to get it ruined during your lesson and it'll make her sad. Just wear your hair tie like usual."
She always scolded him for making decisions that went along with his feminine nature for fashion and honestly...he liked being called cute more than cool. After begrudgingly switching back to his regular hair tie and packing the scrunchy in his archery equipment's empty space on the side, he ran out the front door to meet his best friend and one of the primary reasons for being as androgynous as he was. Asada Shino. Her younger brother was watching on from in front of the door of their house as she waited for him.
"You're slow this morning Kazu-neechan!"
Her younger brother Shiro enjoyed taunting and referring to Kazuto as either an older brother or older sister, depending on the way Kazuto was dressing himself. The dressing habits stemmed from a little playfulness from his mother when he was even smaller, but playtime with Shino sometimes landed him in her clothes and her in his clothes as they would switch roles playing imaginary games such as house or princes and princesses. More of the time Kazuto ended up playing the boy role either way, and Shino ended up playing the girl role, just because it felt more natural to them.
Shino seemed a little distressed about something regarding Kazuto's appearance, and he knew why right away. She seemed to give up on her frustration temporarily and turned away.
Kazuto followed Shino to her mother's car which was waiting to take them to the archery hall for their practice. When they got inside the vehicle, Shino finally spoke up about what was bothering her.
"You didn't wear it today..."
"I was wearing it! It's right here in my bag!"
He pulled the scrunchy out of his bag to show her that he wasn't lying. She still pouted, and the car began rolling out of the driveway and onto the street.
"But you aren't wearing it..."
"I was! Mom got mad and told me I was going to ruin it during practice and made me switch to a regular hair band. Smell it! It has the smell of my shampoo on it!"
He was desperate for her to forgive him for not wearing the scrunchy. She trusted him enough to take the scrunchy from him and smell it for proof. The scent was there and she continued to hold onto it and smell it for a while.
"We should trade shampoo next..."
They both blushed after she said it. She didn't do it often, but sometimes she said something embarrassing to both of them.
The archery hall wasn't very far from their homes, so they weren't driven sometimes if they were up and out of their homes early enough to walk there. The car stopped and they knew they arrived. Kazuto and Shino hopped out of the car and waved to Shino's mother who waved before pulling away from the parking lot to drive back home.
"Since you aren't wearing it, I'll wear it."
"What if it does get ruined though?"
"I'll buy you another one."
They pushed their way in through the heavy glass doors into the archery hall's entrance room and tucked their shoes into their labelled spaces by the left wall.
"Don't ruin it. I don't want you spending so much of your chore money on me."
"I want to."
She was a little less spoken than Kazuto was. Whenever they were together and conversing, it was often other kids would ask why Shino wasn't talking so much with her girlfriend. Neither of them would let something like that go, and it usually turned into a bit of a fight where Kazuto would show off what he gained through lessons.
When they stepped in to the range, they were greeted by the teacher and told to join everyone else. Like usual, they were a little late.
"It was obviously princess Kazuto. Shino seems like she would never be late without him holding her back."
The other kids were shushed by the teacher. When everyone was seated, he stood and began running through the schedule for the day. As punishment for being late, Kazuto and Shino would take the first shots at the targets, and would clean and restring all the bows at the end of the lesson.
Kazuto took the lead on the target practice, and as usual he was unexpectedly good for a child. The arrows flew smoothly and struck solid into the target a little off centre. After his five shots, one to each target, it was Shino's turn. She was equally as good as Kazuto, although her strength wasn't quite as solid so her arrows didn't fly as smooth. They still struck near centre, but sometimes they would bounce and fall instead of striking through. It was a good evening for her as all five arrows pierced their targets, though not all of them were near the centre. When they retook their seats, the others began their turns practising their shooting.
The teacher was asking why Kazuto and Shino were late yet again.
"Mom made me switch hair band this morning. I was wearing Shino's birthday present to me, but Mom said I would ruin it during practice."
Shino took the scrunchy she didn't end up wearing from her pocket and put it in Kazuto's hand to show the proof.
"I was going to wear it if he wouldn't, but he really didn't want it to be ruined, so I put it in my pocket and we took even more time to show up."
Kazuto and Shino were known for being very mature especially with the lessons of diligence from their classes in martial arts. They also took kendo lessons on weekends with Kazuto's cousin, Suguha who lived in another prefecture. With all their lessons, they were quite fearsome if any bullies decided to pick on them, and they were unfortunately targeted often.
"I see...Indeed a frilly hair band would get ruined during archery practice. You should take care of nice things when you can. Why not save the scrunchy for school or your days off?"
Actually, they didn't often have days off. Archery lessons were held after school Mondays Wednesdays and Fridays, while Kendo occupied both days of the weekend. Tuesdays and Thursdays were often packed with homework from school, though they did do that together. Wearing the scrunchy at school would also risk it with the bullies going after them. The only occasion they could think of for Kazuto to wear it was on holidays, and those were so few and far between.
The two of them sulked over the issue of not being able to wear it without it getting ruined. The sulking didn't last long before their turns came up again for practice shots at the targets.
They didn't cheer up until the lesson ended. Then they complained about being hungry.
"Don't forget to do your cleaning duty. I will be here doing a little bit, but you have to do your part. When you're finished I'll let you out."
Kazuto and Shino did have a little fun with cleaning most of the time. They did a good job, but when they were about done, they would slide around on the smooth hard wood floors until the teacher would tell them it was time to go. The true end of their lessons was when they exited the doors of the hall and started walking back home. The night was usually dark enough that the street lights would turn on and they would hold hands out of habit to make sure each other was safe on the walk home. Both of them considered it as if they were protecting a frail girl, but they knew they could handle any situation as long as an adult didn't attack them.
Just as always though, the trip home was safe, and when Kazuto left Shino at the door, he was stopped by Shiro.
"Kazu-nii! You aren't wearing onee-chan's gift!"
"I didn't want to ruin it Shiro. I want it to stay pretty right?"
He pouted, but it didn't take long for him to cheer up.
"Good night Kazu-nii. Onee-chan loves you!"
He dashed back into the house before she could get her hands on him, but she tried.
"Good night Kazuto."
After saying her goodnight to Kazuto, she closed the door behind her and the sound of footsteps thundering through the house could be heard as she chased him. Life was very lively for the three. Kazuto loved spending his days with Shino and Shiro. It was even more fun when he thought about the weekends when his cousin Suguha would make a fuss about Shino always tagging along, treating Kazuto like an older brother and always just adding another role to their playtime.
Kazuto grew up having a lot of fun. Life was good for him, and he made the most of it, even with the bullies.