Bryant woke up looking at a pair of boots. He knew whose they were and was not excessively pleased with his current position.
"How long has it been?" he asked, sitting up.
"Only a few minutes," Adan, his sensei, replied. "You almost made it this time."
Bryant hopped back onto his feet and brushed the dust off of his clothes. Even though he had just failed to evade his sensei, he didn't care, not that day. It was his birthday, and he almost couldn't wait to see how badly the villagers tried to insult him with their gifts.
He suddenly darted in the direction he had been heading when he blacked out, but Adan was too fast. He felt himself being hauled backward by the shirt.
"Sorry, but you've already failed. Nice try, though. Go train. Tomorrow will be naginata practice. Don't expect me to make it easy for you."
Bryant smiled and melted back into the forest. He was almost eager to go home.
For such a small kid, Adan thought, he's got a scary smile.
Bryant smiled often, but not widely enough to show any teeth. When he did grin, though, his small fangs were revealed. He had inherited them from his half- kitsune father, William, as well as bright blonde hair ( which was surprising, considering his mother's hair was black) and blue eyes. It was his grandmother, though, who had created the marks on his face- one thin black streak on each cheek- that made him look, he had been told, like a sad knockoff of a manga character. He also had short hackles on the back of his neck. Even though he was only five feet three inches, unlikely to grow through a growth spurt anytime soon, and excellent at being invisible, he could never escape stares from the others. His appearance was just another reminder to them that he wasn't entirely human, and they could be unkind about it.
Bryant had, like other ninja, such a light step that even fallen leaves were silent beneath him. He used this skill better than most of the others his age, resulting in the question when he came into the sandy clearing.
"How is it that you, even though you're a month younger than me, are that much better at walking through dead leaves?"
This was Mikael, who could almost be called Bryant's friend. Bryant's answer was simpler than the question.
"I weigh less."
"I thought that was why. Want to let me practice on you?"
Mikael ran at Bryant, hurling an arced punch, which the smaller boy found easy to dodge.
"Could you try to avoid something that will break my jaw? I'd like to be able to eat."
"Fine, but will you let me hit you? Just once?"
"No! How old are you, six?"
Mikael grumbled and went for the fastest punch he was capable of. He still couldn't match Bryant's speed.
"Why are you so fast?"
Bryant leaned away from a kick that Mikael sent his way and replied, "I run through the trees, but I don't dodge them until they're really close. It works better than it sounds."
After that brief exchange, neither of them talked much; instead, they both focused on their respective tasks. They practiced until Mikael was tired of trying to hit Bryant. He hadn't succeeded once.
"You still can't hit that little fuzzball, Mikael? You should let me try. I can put him down easily."
This was Chris. He was the main jerk of the five teenagers in the village and had seemingly disliked Bryant from the kitsunekage's birth. He never stopped trying to put the younger ninja at a disadvantage, but his efforts were often quite childish.
"Come on. Let me take a turn. I need a punching bag too, you know."
"Why don't you try being a punching bag for once? Or do you like being a windbag better?"
The interruptor was Eva, the closest thing Bryant had to a sister. Physically, they were nearly opposites, with her having very dark skin, hair, and eyes, but that didn't matter. Working together, they could completely destroy a group twice their size. Being between them, as Chris was now, was not a good position from which to aggravate either one.
When Chris turned around, Bryant used the distraction to flee up the nearest tree, where he crouched, immobile until he was nearly impossible to see, even fair as he was. Eva instructed Chris to either train or go away, and the boy chose to leave. Bryant, however, stayed in the tree.
Eva looked up in his general direction and said, "Why don't we mutilate a practice post, Bryant? It sure would feel good about now."
Bryant smiled slightly and climbed down.ns 220.127.116.11da2