Integra wasn’t one for sleeping in. Even at her very young age, even if there was no school due to weekend or holiday, even if her father assured her that the Organisation would continue to function and the world would continue to turn without her ever-so-important presence in the world of the conscious, she still woke up not long after dawn like clockwork. Even on a day where she “slept in” she’d be up by eight AM, wide awake and wanting to face the world head-on.
It was sometimes hard to wake up with the dawn when London was often so cloudy and bleak, and usually wet and rainy. It required a special skill and a finely tuned internal alarm clock to wake up on time in spite of the weather patterns. But Integra woke up on that chilly November morning a scant hour after what would have been sunrise if the weather had permitted the sun to shine that day, just as was to be expected.
Glancing over at the glow that was the elaborate French doors in her room, Integra realized that trying to tell what the weather was without her glasses would be impossible. She muttered something bitterly about her recently-acquired eyewear and groped around for the oversized glasses, looking out the doors again.
It was snowing. Not raining, not sleeting. It was actually snowing. Fine flakes were falling on the Hellsing grounds, leaving a fine powder in it’s wake. Throwing off the covers and ignoring that she was barefoot and still in her nightgown, she ran toward the doors and threw them open, stepping out onto the balcony.
The snow was melting beneath her feet, making them wet and cold, but she ignored the discomfort as she looked upwards at the sky. The snowflakes were falling n her glasses, melting and leaving drops of water. When she looked back down they dripped off of her face, leaving streaks behind that she would have to clean off later. Either way, they were obstructing her view.
Integra removed her glasses, almost dropping them carelessly on the balcony before she thought the better of it and placed them on the dry carpeting in her bedroom at the entrance to the balcony. Then she turned her face upwards again, eyes wide open. She could only see the flakes that were very close to her face, but that was enough. She felt them tickle her face, and stuck out tongue for a moment before pulling it back in to giggle at the feeling of the tiny crystals that had fallen onto it.
She held her arms up, the sleeves of her lacy white nightgown sliding back to expose a good portion of her arms from the elbow down. She relished in the feeling of the snow on her bare arms, turning around as much as she could on the small balcony to feel it from every angle.
The door to her bedroom opened, but Integra didn’t really hear it from her place outside. Besides, the person who had opened it had intentionally done it as quietly as possible on the off chance she were still asleep.
Walter glanced around the room, trying to find the young heir to the Organisation. “Miss Integra?” he asked, stepping in further and closing the door behind him. “Miss Integra, your breakfast is ready if you would like to...”
Walter stopped that train of thought as he looked out at the balcony, at the little girl dancing outside in the snow, laughing and carefree in a way that he hadn’t seen her in years. Usually she tried to portray herself as a miniature adult, and such moments of innocence were rare.
Walter knew he should have warned her to come inside before she caught a cold, and told her that she could go outside when she had eaten breakfast and was properly dressed for the occasion. But as he opened his mouth to tell her just that Integra giggled joyously and stopped dancing, walking over to the end of the balcony and gripping it as she looked up.
Well, perhaps a few moments longer wouldn’t hurt anything...
Himiko was fortunate enough to have been raised in relative seclusion. Although she sometimes asked about the lack of neighbors or children her own age to play with, between working and training Himiko had a pretty full life without the worry that some stranger would harm her in her own home. As such, Yamato had to ease up a bit of his “overprotective guardian” role when his little sister asked him if she could go outside to play shortly after her sixth birthday.
Yamato had bundled her up more than he usually did when he took her out, knowing that a cold would set their training back at least a couple of weeks until she regained her sense of smell. But after applying so many layers to his little sister that she was more clothes than person (much to her chagrin), he finally opened the door and let her slowly waddle outside.
It was bitingly cold outside, despite it having been an otherwise pretty mild winter. Very little snow was on the ground, and the first thing Himiko did upon achieving her freedom from the confines of the indoors was seat herself in front of a little pile of it. It was hard to move her arms around the many layers of clothes, but she managed to slowly fashion some sort of abstract sculpture from the frigid substance as well as the rocks and twigs she had found underneath it.
Having exhausted her amusement with that activity, she tried to maneuver her clothes-laden body to stand back up. Instead she only managed to fall back down ungracefully, cushioned by the four pairs of pants she was wearing. Undaunted, she rocked herself back and forth, trying to catch herself on her arms and use them as a means of getting back to her feet, but this plan, too, only ended with gravity as the winner.
Himiko glanced at the kitchen window for a moment, wondering if she should call for her brother’s help. She sat still, giving this careful consideration, before deciding she didn’t want to get him involved just yet. If she called out to him he would only bring her back inside, and she wasn’t quite ready to return to the confines of her home just yet.
With that decision made, Himiko scanned her surroundings. If she couldn’t get up, what was there to do? Well, if she couldn’t get up, she might as well go down. With that, she let herself fall backwards unceremoniously, arms and legs spread-eagle. She moved them back and forth a little bit in a weak attempt at a snow angel, but finally gave up, staring into the gray February sky.
After a few moments of considerable study, the sky seemed to reward Himiko for her patience: the first few snowflakes fell down onto the part of her face that was still bare. One of the snowflakes landed in her eye, and she closed it for a moment, before opening them again to stare up into the swirling vortex of snowflakes around her. She cocked her head to the side, wondering if this was what the grass saw.
After a few more moments of wondering about the life and times of a blade of grass, a shadow fell over Himiko. She squinted, trying to see who it was, before raising her arms as much as she could manage. “Aniki!”
Yamato crouched down next to Himiko, eyeing the thin layer of snow that had begun to build up on her. “What are you doing here on the ground?” he asked her gently, sounding worried.
“I fell. Couldn’t get up,” Himiko said plainly. She rocked her way up into a sitting position, and then tried once again to achieve a standing position, her methods once again failing her. She looked up a her brother with an “I told you so” look.
“Why didn’t you call me to come and get you?” Yamato asked, standing up and picking her up. He held her high in the air for a moment, before putting her back on the ground.
“I didn’t wanna come in just yet,” was the answer. As Himiko waddled toward the entrance of the house behind her brother, she looked at the spot where she had been laying down. “Ne, Aniki?”
“Yeah?” Yamato asked, lighting a cigarette.
“Can we move all of the snow away?” she asked, grabbing the railing of the steps with both hands as she waddled her way up sideways.
Yamato raised an eyebrow. “Why? I thought you liked snow.”
Himiko nodded. “I do. But if the grass is all covered up, how can it see anymore?”
“I’m sorry, I really am,” the woman said pitifully, her voice sounding worn and tired. “I have tried my best with him, but obviously it is not enough.”
Ritsu didn’t wait to hear the response of the person who was currently belittling his mother. Thanks to those kinds of people she was sad all the time, and the apologies were draining the life out of her. Later they would go home and it would be Ritsu’s turn to apologize, as if replenishing her stock and restoring some of the strength that had been taken from her. It was all he had to offer her, and he hated himself for it.
It was a lot to bear for someone who was just shy of his sixth birthday. But it was true: the younger members of the Juunishi were already showing talents that far surpassed anything he could do, and he always felt an added measure of shame when their parents bragged about their talents and his mother had nothing to offer them in terms of her own son.
Ritsu stepped around the building that his mother was speaking in front of, hiding as best as he could from the reality of the situation around him. He looked up at a tree near the pagoda style house, tears still in his eyes. Sniffling, he jumped up to grasp the first branch, almost slipping on the snow that had gathered on it in the last snowfall. He pulled himself up onto it with surprisingly little effort, and stood up on it shakily, jumping up to grab the next branch and pull himself on it. It was a process he repeated until he was able to easily jump over to the roof of the house.
High places were his sanctuary. Not even his mother knew that when he wanted to be alone, to disappear, that he headed for higher ground. He was sure that she would be more ashamed of his cowardice in this respect. It never even occurred to him that his natural agility may be his one talent.
The roof was cold and icy, and it was all Ritsu could do not to fall off of it as he slowly made his way on hands and knees to the center, perching himself there and curling himself into a little ball. He could still hear his mother’s voice, although he couldn’t really hear what she was saying. He’d come back down when it seemed like the conversation were about to end, though, so for the meantime he was alone to think.
Burying his face between his knees, Ritsu began to sob miserably, wondering why he had been born to burden his mother. She was such a good, hardworking woman. Certainly not deserving of a punishment such as him. And all of the apologies in the world wouldn’t fix that.
Ritsu suddenly stood up, walking the center of the roof like it were a balance beam to the back of the house. He peered over the edge, sighing and holding his arms out to keep his balance. It had begun to snow, and he tilted his head upward to let the cold air dry his hot tears. Just one more step and his mother wouldn’t have to apologize anymore...
“Hey!” a voice shouted, almost startling Ritsu into losing his precarious balance. He crouched down and grasped the edge of the roof to keep from falling. He looked down over the edge of the roof. A figure was coming around from the side of the house. The girl was a little younger than he was, and was looking upward at him in awe. “What’re you doin’ up there?”
“I’m sorry! I’ll get down if you want!” Ritsu cried out, reaching out for the tree. His foot started to slip, and he crouched down and grasped the roof again.
Kagura snorted, as if she thought the idea were silly. “I don’t care if you come down or not. I just wanna know how you got up there.”
“I climbed,” Ritsu answered truthfully.
Kagura walked over to the tree that he had used to get up there in the first place. “You climb up this?”
“I don’t believe you!”
Ritsu felt a pang of hurt. His cousin Kagura was one of the few allies that he had. If he didn’t have her trust he had nothing. But then, he had considered ending his life on the roof of her house, so maybe she was right not to trust him...
“Climb back down that and I’ll believe you,” Kagura finally said after a long moment of tense silence.
Ritsu nodded, standing again. The snow was making the roof more slippery, but thinking about what he had to lose if he didn’t do it, he leapt over to the top branch, letting himself fall one branch at a time with much speed and grace. He was finally on the ground.
“I didn’t know you could do that!” Kagura cried gleefully, clapping her hands excitedly.
Ritsu looked down at the ground, nodding. “Could you...not tell anyone?”
“Why?” Kagura asked, cocking her head to the side. Tears slid down Ritsu’s cheek, and Kagura withdrew her question. “Okay, okay, I promise not to tell. Jeez, you finally do something cool and you don’t even wanna tell anyone. You’re such a weirdo.”
“I’m sorry,” Ritsu said softly.
Kagura shook her head, grabbing Ritsu’s hand. “Sorry’s no fun. Come inside with me and we’ll play dress-up!” And without waiting for him to agree or not, she dragged him back into the house with her.