Dinner was quiet in the Sujima household. Amaro held his head down over his wife's famous soup, unable to hold her gaze. He felt her eyes boring into him, whenever she managed to take her eyes off of Shinto's healing wounds. Hiko was much like his father, silent, not wanting to throw off the delicate balance of faux peace.
" May I be excused?" Shinto said, pushing the bowl from in front of him.
"Yes, son." Katherine an Armaro spoke in unison.
He rose to his feet, limping off into the distance.
" Can I go too?" Hiko inquired.
"Yes, son." Armaro interrupted.
"Permission to go outside?"
"Granted. But don't wander too far."
Hiko took his brother's bowl along with his, placing them in the kitchen sink before leaving through the back door.
" Why did I listen to you?" Katherine started. "The boys need to train. They need to become strong. Now look at them."
"I'm surprised you said them." Armaro retorted.
"Don't what me. You know what. The last couple times, it was Hiko who came home beat up and you didn't have much to say then. But its..."
"Don't you dare start with this again," Katherine shouted.
" It's started. You baby Shinto. You made Hiko feel guilty for expressing himself. Just so Shinto could feel good about himself. I let him spare without rules. You should have seen your sons. Both of them. I have never been more proud. Shinto will get over the loss and grow. But he won't ever be as good as he could be if we baby him."
"But Hiko will always win. You know that. He's marked. Shinto cant beat fate. "
"I never believed in that. " Armaro rose. "If that were so you would never be my wife."
Katherine smiled. " The impervious one and the supreme wielder of earth? Together? We should have expected a child like Hiko shouldn't we."
"Yeah." Armaro walked over to her, kissing her on her forehead.
"That boy has a control that I can only dream of having. They both do. I just want to be there to see them reach their potential. That's why..."
"You didn't!" Katherine yelled.
"Pick some other children. They don't need this. Them fighting each other is enough, but the other clans?"
"Growth my dear."
Katherine sighed. "I don't like it."
"But it's necessary."
Hiko walked among the grass, the fireflies twinkling around the tree in the distance. He could hear them begin. The argument that they always had. He kept walking, hoping the night would allow him to forget it all, at least for a little while.
"What you doing out so late?" A voice came from the tree above.
Uraki leapt from its branches rousing more fireflies from their courtship.
"Just had to get out for a bit," Hiko replied
" They at it again eh? Cause you finally kicked Shinto's ass?"
" How'd you know?"
" Heard dad talking to mom about it earlier. Said he had never seen your dad so proud of you, of both of you."
"Yeah." Hiko slumped against the tree, fixing his eyes to the night's sky.
"Sometimes... I wish I didn't have it. Life would be easier."
"True." Uraki rested his hand on his friend's shoulder. "But then you wouldn't be my friend."
Hiko fought the welling in his eyes. He hated crying.
" She'll come around. She loves you, you know."
"I don't." The first tears fell. " I really don't."
Uraki rubbed his head. " She does. You'll see it someday."
Armaro knocked on the bedroom door.
"Shinto? Can I come in?" he asked.
Shinto fumbled with the lock before pulling to door open. He climbed back into his bunk staring at the bed above him.
" About today..."
" Dad. I don't want to talk about it."
" You don't have to. I just wanted to let you know that I'm proud of you."
Shinto scoffed. "Proud of what? That he beat me."
" No. That you faced him at full strength and gave it your all. That you will use this to grow."
" I cant outgrow that." Shinto pointed through the window at his brother's frame.
" You're not supposed to. You're supposed to grow with him."
" Solo practice at 5," Armaro said. " We've only got a week left."
"Mom agreed to let us fight?"
"Agreed is a strong word. Rest up son."