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“We were told to sit with our section to-” Amema put in air quotes, “get to know them better,” end air quote, “but I think I would have sat with them anyway, don’t you? I mean, I’m finally starting to feel like a grown up!” He smiled at that, trying to get a smile out of Kune too. He ignored that he didn’t. “Well, maybe not like a grown up, but I’m feeling older, you know? A whole new world and all that! I really hope I have some autonomy here, I just want to make music for once unobstructed! Or maybe that’s not it really, but I want to go new places and meet new people, and this the perfect place to do it- somehow, I never thought I’d actually be here, but here I am! And all I see on the horizon is new friends.” He pointed excitedly to where he saw trumpet cases. “Over there!”

Amema waved to them, there were four of them, but only one of them turned his head to notice him, and he immediately narrowed his eyes, and turned back, to try and pretend he hadn’t seen anything. That was the one that had colorful feathers. And all four of them looked much older. Like seniors, maybe. It was hard to tell how old they were; everyone here looked so much older. But these guys looked especially old. Just not adult.

There ware two trumpet cases on the floor near them, which alerted that they might be trumpets. The guy who looked at them was holding a trumpet case, so he was almost assuredly a trumpet. And one guy was holding a trumpet, which was really a sign of his trumpethood. The other two didn’t have anything trumpet related on them, but at least one of them was probably a trumpet, because of the case in the floor. One of the cases could belong to the trumpet holding guy, Kune thought. The girl one of them, the only girl one, seemed to Kune not to be a trumpet. He could just tell somehow. She was the one who was talking about “Hey what’s over there, Archen? Are those your ninth graders?”

Archen shrugged, and turned to face Kune and Amema again, longer this time, but still disapproving.

Amema practically ran over to them, and started asking a million questions. He was beyond excited at this point. New people, new place. It was a chance to start over and lose his reputation, and maybe even become something great. He was bothering Archen mostly, but the other three were interacting with him as well. Archen was clearly displeased. Kune walked up more slowly and carefully, significantly less excited. It wasn’t like they hated to be here, but she wasn’t excited either. They were just kind of here at the moment.

Our of the corner of their eye, they saw Pancham pointing to Shelmet, showing off that he had noticed that Amema was there, and that Amema was still managing to be the same person, like he wouldn’t be there, and like he wouldn’t act the same. Already ruining appearances, Pancham was probably saying. First day of bandcamp and all that. Kune knew better than to say anything. If the french horns here were decent people, they’d correct his behavior probably. Either that or the trumpets would pick on Amema too. Archen at the very least was already showing signs of that being an eventual possibility.

“You.” The girl pointed to Kune. “What’s your name? You’re a trumpet too, right?” She waved as she said it, like they were finally seeing each other. Amema turned his attention to Kune too. Archen looked slightly relieved. He had already had to answer that no, they don’t do professional music yet, and they will in fact be marching on the field, but it isn’t actual marching, just kind of, marching, like you just, I’m not going to demonstrate, but you roll your feet.

Kune nodded. Their name came out slowly. “Kune.” “I’m not sure about my real name,” they wanted to say, but that would just be too outright to tell a stranger. “Who are you?” They were disinterested in this conversation, but knowing the names of people would be useful.

“I’m Mawile.” She answered politely. “These are Archen,” she gestured to the one looking annoyed, “Buizel,” she gestured to the one looking self-important that he was considered a valid source of information, who did a slight bow, “and Jirachi,” she gestured to the final member of their group, who looked very tired but still happy to be there, maybe just to distract himself from being tired. He had been contributing to Amema’s conversation with the others minimally, but it hadn’t been a very long conversation, so maybe he would be more talkative if he had been given more time to talk.

“What do you play?” Jirachi asked. “I’m Flute. I don’t have it with me though- it’s on the wall over there, where I keep my stuff.” He pointed, and Kune saw, lazily thrown on the floor, a white backpack with the word “Stargazer” printed on it in black sharpie. It was good penmanship, but the fact that it was sharpie and there were no stars or anything killed the effect.

“I play trumpet.” Kune answered. “So does Amema,” they gestured,

to which Amema nodded rapidly. “Yeah, I’m probably the best or second best in my grade.” He bragged. “Kune’s the other one though, they’re really good at things, they can play a high A, like, really often, I mean, they have to warm up first, but really everyone does, right? I’m sure you guys can probably hit high A pretty easily, since you’re older than us, but that’s pretty impressive for an eighth grader. Or, we’re ninth graders now, aren’t we?” He looked up in thought for a moment. “I guess we’re kinda in between. We’ve ended eighth grade but we’re starting ninth grade in what, like, two weeks? When we officially like, start school. I guess that means you guys aren’t really twelfth graders either yet though haha.” Saying haha out loud was probably the worst thing he could have done in front of people he was trying to impress, but Kune wasn’t one to judge, especially not their best friend. They would try and shield him from this mistake; they made a mental note to.

“I don’t feel like a twelfth grader.” Archen responded drily. “Geez… I’m so old.”

“You’re seventeen.” Jirachi said.

“I feel old.” Archen whined. “School gave me scoliosis and stress and now I have the joints and attitude of an old man.”

“I don’t think you act old!” Amema said, maybe anxious to say something because he hadn’t in the last few seconds. “Most old people I know are grumpy and want me to do things for them. Now my dad,” he chuckled, “he’s old. He has like, no energy at all! It’s like he’s tired but it’s all the time! I think that’s why he makes me do stuff. I mean, I still love him of course, and most of the time, he’s not grumpy. I think that’s an old person thing, to be grumpy. They say old people tell you to get off their lawns, but mostly it’s their gardens! Lawns aren’t really that important and gardens have food in them, but sometimes I’m just going on an adventure and I have to cross through a few things.”

Archen just stared at him, trying to communicate “I am grumpy. Get off my lawn/garden.” Amema got the message, but he didn’t let it be known that he got the message, because then that would make him susceptible to their ridicule. Stupid was already something he’d heard enough to describe him, so it wasn’t as damaging a word anymore, but if he was seen as weak, who knows what could happen? Archen himself didn’t look that strong, but Buizel and Mawile did. Those were people he couldn’t afford to fight with… and might anyway.

“Me.” Buizel contributed. “I mean I don’t think I trampled crops or anything, but I used to be like, all over the fucking place. I-”

“You said a curse word.” Amema’s eyes widened in respect. This person really was something incredible, probably the best trumpeter here, and certainly the one with the most independent spirit. He didn’t care about society’s regulations.

“Dude, I saw fuck all the fucking time, it’s not a big deal.” Kune couldn’t tell if he were playing it off like it wasn’t rare to try and seem cooler, if he actually genuinely just said whatever he wanted whenever he wanted. Probably a mix of both. Pancham said fuck sometimes too, but not as frequent, and always as the punchline to something. Like the word itself, because it apparently was an artifact of rebellion and being better than everybody else. Buizel thought he was better than everybody else, that was partly a given from being a trumpet and partly the attitude he gave off, but Kune wasn’t sure if he cared about rebellion. Maybe the fact that he didn’t care about rebellion made him cooler.

“That’s so…” Amema was trying to muster the will to curse, but it felt so evil to him. He usually said whatever he wanted, because he lived life without rules, but this was one thing so ingrained in him that he couldn’t. Like littering. He didn’t litter either. He had spent enough time thinking about it (a solid three or four seconds) that he couldn’t really back down, but he couldn’t just continue to say it, because the impact would be lost. “… cool.” He said, just leaving out the important part.

Buizel thought that was kind of amusing. Mawile did too, but Buizel was the one that snickered a little. Not maliciously, just snickerly. Archen might have secretly thought it amusing, but was maintaining appearances. Jirachi had somehow phased out of the conversation in the past minute or so, and was now just blankly staring into the void. Kune got the feeling that was something he did a lot.

“Anyway,” Amema tried to right the conversation, “Mawile, what do you play? I play trumpet but I’m pretty sure you already knew that. And I know Buizel and Archen play trumpet, or I’m pretty sure Archen plays trumpet, he has, you have,” he turned to Archen for confirmation, and Archen boredly nodded, “yeah,” he continued, “so do you play trumpet too? Because you’re hanging out with these guys, and it’s not like friends from other sections can’t be friends or anything, but he told us to go to our sections. Kune and I are both trumpets too!”

“I’m a Clarinet actually.” Mawile said. “But I won’t be playing Clarinet this season, because-”

“Why?” Amema interrupted ungracefully. Archen showily rolled his eyes, and looked to Kune to judge them. Kune was just carefully observing everyone, not comfortable enough to really say things yet. Archen approved of them. They could tell.

“I’m Drum Major.” Mawile explained. She didn’t seem annoyed that Amema had cut her off like that, but not really amused either.

“So is that like the biggest drum?”

“No,” Archen and Buizel said simultaneously, but with much different tones - while Archen was annoyed, Buizel was a little worried.

“No,” Mawile said slightly after them. “I keep time. You know how at the middle school you had your teacher keep time? The 4/4 pattern with the arms? Or the ¾ pattern, or whatever time signature. Point is, he tells you where the beats are, right?” She paused to give Amema time to think a little.

“Right.” He said.

“Well, in marching band, it’s a student who does that. Me, namely.” She pointed to herself, proud that she had gotten the position.

“Conducts.” Buizel added.

“Conducts.” Mawile agreed, pointing at him, because he had remembered the crucial word she had forgotten. “I conduct. While all of you march, I conduct.”

“And sometimes we’ll like, not march.” Buizel said. “Or I will. Whenever we’ll in sectionals or anything, I’ll be y'all’s drum major. I do on a minor scale all that constructive critiquing she does, within my section, so I’m basically a mini her, a section leader is what I am. I didn’t want drum major though, it’s much better when you can stay in your own section.” He was trying to flaunt his position too, to show that he was just as competent. He knew that Mawile was going to be a better drum major than he would have been, but he didn’t want his pride to be bruised. He wanted to maintain his strong appearance in front of the new kids, mostly Amema though, because Amema was more prone to admiration.

Amema might not have picked up on that, but it made Kune happy in a way. This was progress, the first step to becoming more liked. Kune themself was liked fine, but no one really liked Amema. He was too annoying, too loud, just too much in general. But this was a new place, and many new people; it was almost like a new start. So there was a chance things would turn for the better. For a split moment, he looked back to Kune, and they shared a sudden understanding of hope. That maybe Pancham wouldn’t intervene. That maybe people wouldn’t intervene like they had so often had before. It truly was the fault of Amema’s own personality that caused people to be fed up with him, but Buizel at the very least got a positive first impression.

So that was one person they could be friends with.