The great banner over the oak doors to Orion Hall declared proudly, “Welcome, Freshmen!”, and looked as though all the upperclassmen had done their best to make it look bright and cheery and welcoming—but inside the hall was anything but.
Currently, Headmaster Winters was expected to make a speech, but not before a seemingly endless speech and rundown of all his achievements was made by the massive hulk behind the pulpit who had previously introduced himself as Mr. Bradley Murdoch.
Inside Orion Hall was splendid and grand, with all the old-world sophistication that Dalton Academy continued to boast of. Before the stage, where many professors sat, a great mass of boys sat, that sea of blue and red uniforms and everlasting discomfort for those not used to uniforms, on chairs in military-precision straightness.
There were four distinct divisions: the seats were split by aisles that made the demarcation lines.
Directly before the stage, seated front left, were the day students, looking at each other and everyone else curiously, wearing the golden pins with a “D” given to them upon enrollment.
To their direct right, still before the stage, with gleaming white and gold heraldry shields on their lapels and smiling at each other as they whispered very discreetly, sat the boys from Hanover House.
Behind the day students, in a solid block of blue and gold shields, were the grinning Windsor House students, who were much less discreet in their talk. Some stifled laughs came from the boys.
And behind the Hanover boys, in ranks of red and white shields, were the more somber boys of Stuart House. When they spoke to each other, it was in low tones, and mostly related to what the professor in front was saying.
In the Hanover side, a boy with thick sandy hair was snickering softly as he looked over his friend’s shoulder, a boy who looked rather oriental in descent. They were both poring over a magazine that the latter had snuck in, looking down at motorcycles.
"That one?" Daniel Abbot whispered to Wesley Hughes, the owner of the magazine, grinning. "You want to get that one?"
"You know it," grinned Wes in answer. "My dad already said yes."
"It’s specs are nuts, though. Can you even drive that in campus?"
In the Windsor side, the air was slowly getting less behaved by the moment. A pair of golden-haired boys, identical to the last eyelash, were very carefully passing out jelly beans to everyone else in the group. The boys, who had yet to have their breakfast, were grateful, and all wanted some.
"Do you have any red ones?" whispered a good-looking African-American boy near them.
The twins looked up, ice blue eyes twinkling. “Yeah,” Evan Brightman said, holding some out. “But be careful.”
"What for?" David Sullivan asked he grabbed a couple from him.
"Because you don’t know what kind of red one you get," Ethan Brightman said simply.
"This tastes funny," whispered a Japanese boy nearby. His also bespectacled friend agreed.
Evan grinned at Satoru Kogo. “Oh, you got a bad one?”
"It tastes like toothpaste!" Drew Mapleton protested.
"Shh!" said a dreadfully pale boy with dark hair hunched over a netbook, typing with extreme rapidity. "I can’t concentrate."
"I still say you can’t kill the stage lights like that." Ethan popped a blue jellybean into his mouth and winced.
"Oh I can," Hansel Westwood snorted, typing.
From not too far off, a small curly-haired boy blinked at them and then carefully inspected the green jellybean he held in his palm. After a moment’s pause, Reed van Kamp carefully bit into it. He sighed in relief when it tasted normal.
He looked up, however, when suddenly the side doors opened and someone strode in.
Other students also looked up, as what appeared to be a latecomer arrived. The latecomer had brown hair and was wearing dark glasses, and wasn’t even in uniform. He had on slacks that was supposed to look like theirs and a white shirt, but if Reed’s mental catalogue served him well, that blazer was Giorgio Armani.
It was notable among the ranks of Stuarts that there was a seat left empty, at one far end of a row, while the others were filled. No one seemed to want the chair. As it happened, it was right next to a tall blond boy, who was listening to the proceedings with mild interest.
Logan Wright glanced slightly at the slim latecomer who didn’t even wait for him to answer as he took his seat, chucking the jacket onto the back of his seat. A soft murmuring rose from the ranks.
"Hey, isn’t that—?" "—movie star?" "What the hell?" "Late…"
"Nice entrance," snorted the athletically built boy on Logan’s other side. He looked tanned and toned and torn between being impressed and irritated.
"I slept in," sighed Julian Larson answered coolly, not even taking off his sunglasses. "But it looks like I might be getting more sleep in here." He eyed the ongoing speeches.
Derek Seigerson raised an eyebrow, but saw that Logan looked a little amused as he told the actor, “You’re going to have to get used to this kind of thing.”
"Oh, prep school veteran?" Julian smirked looking at him over his sunglasses. "Or just used to boring political speeches?"
The US Senator’s son smiled some more upon being recognized. “The latter. Unsurprisingly, those speeches get even more sanctimonious at home. But are they any better than endless awards show speeches?” He looked at Julian with a devastating green gaze.
Julian smirked, already aware that everyone knew who he was. “Tough call.”
From across the way, the two Brightman boys looked at each other, and then intently at their tall blond friend from junior high in the Stuart ranks, who seemed to have found some people to talk to in spite of his misgivings. They smiled at each other.
And then all the lights of the stage died.
"Yes!" came the soft, barely audible hiss from Windsor’s side—and money was exchanged.