Following the Fish Face incident, Catherine’s sobbing breakdown and inability to explain her own actions led to her being sent to the school’s psychiatrist first and foremost. They were really only a junior therapist specialised in dealing with teenagers and little else ; never before had they been put in charge of someone so young, but they resolved to do their best ; Most would’ve, seeing just how devastated the young girl was. Her own guilt had beaten her to a miserable pulp.
They could barely get her to speak. She only apologised over and over again whenever questioned ; the rest of the time she spent shoving her face into her tiny hands, crying her heart out. Several minutes into the session, she grabbed onto the side of the desk, bending over to hit her forehead against it - saved unscathed by the therapist, appalled. Things never got that bad for the rest of the session - feeling like she was genuinely given the right and the time to be listened to helped Catherine calm down at least a little - but it nonetheless left them with nothing but concern.
The report they addressed their superiors expressed these worries ; the girl was not okay. She needed to be observed, and potentially put into foster care. This constituted the majority of their report ; there was another side to it, however. Over the few hours they spent surveying and learning to understand the girl, amongst her cries and self-victimising, and surprising attempts at self-control despite her age, she showed brief moments of amusements, whenever specific details of the incident or Felicio’s subsequent misfortune was brought up. They really were brief ; mere instants, a second or two, and always followed up by further desperation - almost like Catherine was trying to hide it. Maybe they were simply overinterpreting her behavior. They had never been asked to care for young children before - but it still tugged at them, enough that they felt a need to include it.
His authority stopped there. What came of his report is unclear. Though, in the well-maintained grand machinery of the GHH and its institutions, one needn’t even be of a sardonic mind to doubt an official document could be simply ‘lost’ without someone’s intentional interference, there was no clear evidence that was the truth. Nor would anyone have had much of a motive to - Catherine’s well being concerned only the law and her family, and reason would stand, most people were more scared of the former.
Though, Miles and Kate weren’t the most straightforward of people.
Catherine was simply asked to stay home a few days before returning to school, potentially in a different class. Far as she could tell, her family or teachers weren’t taken accountable for Felicio’s injuries either - neither was she, of course, on account of being eight.
Her parents didn’t share that viewpoint. Miles and Kate Yuu held her fully accountable for what had happened, frankly unable to understand how it had possibly come to this. They likely saw it as an impulse to go against their good intent ; a shortcoming of their methods. That wasn’t inaccurate - however, they failed to understand why.
They had their daughter removed from District 17’s public GHH institute entirely, strictly homeschooling her for a few months. Oddly, she found she prefered this. No interactions with anyone but the only two people in her little world she at least somewhat understood. Even then, she blamed herself for it. This was likely supposed to be punishment - she shouldn’t be enjoying it. And so she forced herself not to. By the end, she had lost a third of her weight and whatever husk of a personality she had was bent even further. Catherine Yuu, age 9, was then put into a private hero school.
The existence of those schools was contradictory, but easily explained.
Following the unexpected, quasi-overnight success of the GHH’s own schools, investors looking for the next lucrative trend had jumped on the bandwagon ; Private hero schools gradually made their apparition. Most had no relation to the GHH or police whatsoever, nor were they recognized by any authority, even beyond the government ; independent sources had developed to rate these oddballs, but they weren’t regulated either ; ultimately, there was no real way to tell if there was any value in putting one’s child in such an establishment over a free, government-owned one beyond assumptions and gossip. Over the years, however, a few had been endorsed by the GHH itself through often opaque means, and had become the real moneymakers of the private hero-schooling world.
Though their independence implied there was no real consistency on how each of these private institutions worked, in general, they deviated from their public counterparts in four ways : Longer hours, smaller classes, stricter teachers, and more specific lessons ; they justified the extra fee through the promise that they would prepare any child to not only pass and graduate, but excel in heroism. To the point that pursuing any other career would be alien to them, even.
From then on, Catherine was enrolled into the Herring Heroic Private College. Despite its name, it taught children of all ages, much like District 17’s. But unlike it, those who attended it were of much higher social standing. Chances were, if one’s parents could afford it, they tended to put their children into private hero schooling over standard GHH schools, mistakenly believing them to simply be ‘better’ - or simply being used to the price of things from their social upbringing. The trimestrial fee wasn’t cheap ; if it was any token of their - broken and misdirected - but genuine interest in helping their daughter, Miles and Kate had indebted themselves just to afford her tuition and ensure she would finally straighten out.
Despite the added difficulty of fitting in with an entirely separate social demographic, Catherine’s grades and behavior became irreproachable over just a few years. After Felicio’s incident, Catherine’s ability never went rogue again; it still wasn’t all too powerful, but she had full control over it. She no longer let any of her emotions slide through, tackling every situation with the same plastic, v-shaped smile, and avoiding unnecessary human contact to focus on her studies. She was a ghost of a person, but exemplary in her grades and behavior. She lost even more weight, to the point of unhealthiness - which didn’t stop people from finding her ‘too fat for her age’ based on her body shape alone, but she locked those remarks away like all her other frustrations. She picked up sports, but they did not help. Ultimately, she concluded that per her ability’s stationary, elemental nature, her poor health would not impede her productivity, and let sports go too.
Despite her notable improvements over the course of her stay at Herring’s, she was still considered a C-ranking student to the GHH ; due to the dubious nature of private education, they almost only acknowledged the two years she spent in District 17’s institution. The eight years that followed were scoffed at - if anything, they found the sudden improvement suspicious, possibly ducking away points for it. Still, Catherine let nothing show through.
Despite her best efforts to the contrary, Catherine had even made a friend over the course of her school years : Junie Shards.
In many regards, the two were polar opposites. Junie was something of a prodigy - tall, fit, the youngest daughter in a higher middle-class family of six, who lived in a cozy farm far off in the country side. Kind, naive, passionate, and, even having transitioned quite young, at ease with herself. And yet, the two had plenty in common, too. Most obviously, a lack of friends.
Junie’s spoiled childhood, sheltered upbringing and good-willed nature had made her grow up rather childish and awkward, even through adolescence - people her age had trouble relating to her - the time she spent living in the countryside didn’t help either : she seemed unable to adapt to the ways of city life. Ultimately, people came to her like a fly to a lamp, curious about her origins, her ability, or drawn to her appearance, her skills - but they left just as quickly once her novelty wore off, and all that was left was an eccentric, out of place child that wore out their patience. But there was something else about Junie that drew people away. While she was usually a bit of a bobble-headed, bumbling idiot with a clueless streak, she completely changed whenever she used her ability.
As soon as that energy blade spawned into her hands, she became an entirely different person. Silent, focused, confident - almost cocky in her calm attitude. During lessons, duels, practice, presentations, she completely lost her childish self, becoming more akin to a robot - cold and calculated. She herself didn't seem creeped out by it at all, or even really aware of it. She admitted that having her sword out helped her focus, but nothing beyond that. Many took it as hypocritical, or just scary, and stayed away from the girl.
And so Junie was alone, despite herself. As was Catherine, however the latter wanted it that way. Even then, Junie felt drawn to the girl. She wanted to give her some form of company.
Catherine didn't want any - but she wasn’t willing to shove her away either, so as to avoid being rude. Junie came again and again, until Catherine grew to expect it. She figured it was a good thing. She needed social interaction - they both did. Junie had grown up sheltered and isolated, and the few people she knew back home outside of her family knew her under a different name. Junie herself had long gathered the courage to come out and tell them - but her relatives were supportive : excessively so. They wanted to spare her any pain and ensure her a perfect, troubleless existence. So they had avoided her the trouble and burned her bridges for her, enrolling her in a comfy school off in the city by the time of her puberty and realisations, encouraging whatever slight interest she showed, never expressing any doubts or constructive worries. As a result, she knew very little about the world, but much about herself. She wanted to be a hero. She wanted to live a long life. She wanted to enjoy lots of different things - she basically had a whole list of places to visit and hobbies to try out people had mentioned off-handedly, that she’d never let go off and swore she’d get to one day. And she wanted to be Catherine’s friend.
The two made an odd pair - yet were barely ever seen apart. It was hard for other people to see nothing more than an everyday friendship there ; ‘Opposites attract’, they figured. In all fairness, Junie’s feelings certainly leaned a bit further than platonic companionship.
Something about Catherine fascinated her. While, at first, she had taken her for a shy, lost girl, Junie gradually realised there was much, much more going on. She couldn’t quite put her finger on it ; it was clear how much effort Catherine put towards hiding… something. And Junie wanted to see her let it out. She was determined to make her let it out. Sure, Catherine Yuu’s angular, puffy-cheeked smile was cute : but it wasn’t real. It wasn’t how she was feeling. The rare occasions where she could feel her almost slip, act out of line - those moments proved it, and Junie lived for them. She was delighted that she could offer Catherine a space where she was confident enough to let her true self show through, and she always tried to encourage her further.
Catherine started pushing Junie away. This couldn’t last any longer. She had spent the last eight year trying to hide away her imperfections. It was everything she’d worked towards. The only unscrewed cork in her shimmering machinery was Junie and everything she stood for. She was like a fly to her - just distracting and obnoxious enough for Catherine to forget herself now and again. She hated it. The idea of lifting the curtains of her mind for anyone to see was revolting. She knew all too well what her true feelings and thoughts were like. If she let herself go even for a second, it would just happen all over again. She’d ruin everything all over again. Maybe that was what Junie wanted. Junie wanted her to ruin everything all over again. No, no, again with those thoughts. Junie didn’t care. Junie was a normal girl, and Catherine should pay her no mind - like normal people did. She had to be calm. And. Reasonable. She couldn’t let things slip by her like this. She needed time away from Junie.
Graduation came, and with it their respective GHH interviews. Both were hired. Junie an S - Justice’s Sword - and Catherine a C - Erusserprepyh. Per the usual ranking pair-up rules and their reported history together, they were assigned to work together as a duo. Still, Catherine let nothing show through.
Her parents had sunk everything into her tuition fees. Catherine picked up a part-time job, but even coupled with her meager GHH rookie earnings, it wasn’t much. Junie offered her to be her roommate. She politely declined, and went looking for other roommate offers - from people who had nothing to do with the GHH.
And she found one.