Same as before
Disclaimer: I don't own the Ronin Boyz or Byakuen, I'm just messing with them for a little while and I promise to return them to Bandai eventually and relatively unharmed. Do not take anything written here as fact, I'm just telling a story.
When Ryo woke up, the first thing he realized was that he was snuggling up against Seiji rather than Byakuen. He frowned at his boyfriend and leaned over to nip at his neck, waking him up sharply. Seiji slowly opened up his grey-violet orbs and frowned at his kitten, Ryo knew that he hated to have his neck licked at.
"What's the matter with you?" Ryo snapped, making Seiji raise an eyebrow. "I was trying to look after -Blaze you know. What gives you the right to decide when I need to leave someone alone while they're suffering?"
"He wasn't suffering, only sleeping. Besides, as soon I moved you, he woke up."
Ryo's eyes opened wide and he sat up, ignoring the fact that he wasn't wearing anything. "Why didn't you tell me?" He ran towards the door, only to feel a sharp tug on his hair. He stopped instantly, rubbing at where his hair had been yanked.
Seiji got up, pulling on his bathrobe and handing Ryo his. "Let's go wake up the others first, then we can all make sure that Byakuen is fine. Okay?"
Ryo nodded, admitting defeat. "But I want to go make sure he's all right."
"If he could get up by himself, which he did; and wink at me, which he did; and walk out on his own, which he did; I think he'll be fine."
Knocking on the other bedroom, they heard several groans followed by gasps at the realization that they had completely over-slept. Shu opened the door quickly, looking at Seiji and Ryo and nodded a quick good morning. "Is there any news on the fuzzball?'
Ryo nodded gladly, "Seiji says that he woke up last night."
"Oh good," Shin let out a relieved breath. "I felt so guilty for trying to yell at him while he was sick."
"You never feel that if you yell at any of us when we're sick," Touma teased as he pushed pass. He wanted to see how the tiger was just as much as the rest of them.
"That's because you can defend yourself," Shin explained haughtily as he pushed pass.
Ryo jumped onto the banister and slid down. "He has sharp claws and teeth, not to mention a really sandpapery tongue. I don't think he's defenseless Shin."
Shin crossed his arms and glared at him. Then he turned the glare onto Seiji, "I thought that you said you'd get him to stop doing that, it ruins the finish."
"I fail to see how," Seiji muttered as he walked down the steps.
"But he might get a splinter in his butt, or some other sensitive place."
"Ryo, don't do that again," Seiji warned sharply.
Ryo just rolled his eyes from where he was at the bottom of the stairs. "Yes Seiji. Now can we go check on Byakuen, please?"
They heard a slight chuckle coming from the library then, making them all stop in there tracks. Temporarily forgetting that they were only wearing bathrobes or night clothes, the fearless Ronins set off to find the intruder.
In the library, they saw a hand reaching up to retrieve yet another book and place it in a huge pile. The hand was fine and graceful, with fingernails that couldn't rightly be called nails, more like claws. They were painted black and they belonged to a man they had never seen before. He was tall, so tall that Shu's old bathrobe seemed to just barely come past his mid-thighs. He was very pale, as if he had been kept inside his whole life; stranger still was that his long hair was blacker than even Ryo's. It made a very striking image to say the least.
The man turned then to regard them all. Strong, tender, brown eyes focus straight ahead, not blinking, waiting for the explosion.
"Wh- who are you?" Ryo was the first to speak, hardly surprising. "What are you doing in our home?"
"Well, at the moment, I am trying to catch up on the last eon or so. But right now..." the man frowned as he trailed off and he went over to the glass of water that was sitting nearby, one of the ones from the kitchen. He dipped a napkin in it and walked back over, stopping in front of Ryo. Gently, he reached out and held Ryo's face while he washed away the semi-permanent dirt that was always on the boy's cheek. "There," he smiled. "That is better now. Touma, could you come here too please, you have a smudge below your eye from lunch yesterday."
Touma couldn't help but remain still, his mouth agape as the man proceeded to wash his face too. When the tall man had finished, he looked at Seiji and Shin, "I do not understand why it is you let them get so dirty."
Shin's mouth opened and closed several times, Seiji just remained quiet, trying to figure out all that he'd seen thus far. Finally, Shin shouted, "Who are you damnit?"
The man's head went back a little, surprised at the outburst. "I bring you back enough venison to last you a winter and you swear at me? I never realized you were such an ungrateful child."
He continued to shake his head disapprovingly, and then his attention turned to Shu, who was standing behind the others a little. "I hope that you do not mind me borrowing the old bathrobe. I do not have anything to wear exactly. Oh, how is that rock you found coming along?"
Shu blinked, surprised. "Um, okay. It's mostly ground down, all I have to do is polish it up now."
"That is good." Again, his attention shifted, this time looking at Seiji. "Well, have you figured it out yet, mister-I-should-know-what-is-going-on?"
"Byakuen," Seiji answered very softly. "You're Byakuen."
The man nodded; the familiar doting look that parents reserve for stupid children on his face. "That is very good. Now do you see why it is important to pay attention to your surroundings?"
Seiji blushed a little, recalling how his grandfather used to ask him that an awful lot. It seems that sometimes, he still didn't pay full attention. He nodded back, "yes, I understand."
The man smiled. Then he turned his back on them, grabbing his latest stack of books and went to go sit down on the nice leather couch. "I would like to finish this one book if you do not mind, before I answer any more questions."
The boys stood there, staring at the man that they had all learned to be known as Byakuen, confused beyond belief. What was going on exactly? That Byakuen had been turned from beloved tiger to strange man sitting there and reading through their books as if he couldn't quit.
Ryo studied the man before him; he seemed elegant in his long frame and had a beauty about him that he would have typically reserved for some sort of extremely-well-to-do woman, or even a fairy from folk tales. The man's beauty was ethereal, how could he possibly be the beloved tiger he had known not only throughout his training and since then, but whom he'd caught glimpses of as a child. He leaned against the wall, not fully comprehending and wishing for all the world that he could believe it was really him.
Shin bustled about in the kitchen, readying up breakfast for him and the others. Miso soup was easy enough, he often made one huge pot and they'd eat out of it during the week. The rice maker was almost always on, now all he needed were the raw eggs to put over it.
He quickly fixed the five meals for himself and the others and was about to crack open the last of the eggs to make into a raw, scrambled treat for the family tiger when he recalled that said tiger was now human and in the library reading history books. Since it was dangerous for humans to eat raw eggs really, he simply made up another bowl, this one a little larger than the others, of fried rice and dumped the raw egg on it. The rice, being as hot as it was, quickly cooked the raw egg into a scrambled form. He placed the bowl with some chopsticks across the top and carried it out to the man.
"I thought you could use some breakfast," he said gently as he placed the tray on the side table. "By the way, thank you for the venison, we had some the other night, it was wonderful."
The man looked up from his current book, turning another page and raised an eyebrow at the eldest of what he considered to be his litter. "I am glad to see your manners have returned. Thank you for breakfast; is this the egg and rice thing that you are always having?"
"Yes," Shin nodded. "I hope you remember how to use chopsticks," he teased.
The man quirked a smile, "It may be a while child, since I was last human, but it is hard to forget how to use them."
"So it's sort of like riding a bicycle, then?"
The man nodded, "I do not like those contraptions, but I can see where they are useful."
He went back to reading for a while longer, very aware that while the others were busy eating breakfast, he was being stared at by his charge, Ryo. He figured that now would be as good a time as any to address the confusion of the most sensitive of the litter and motioned him over. "I do not know this current form of Japanese as well, what does this word say and what does it mean?"
Ryo sat down and took the book, looking at where the man had motioned with the long claw. He nodded and quickly explained what the word was made up of and what it now meant. "Why are you trying to read so much?"
"I cannot read because my attention wanders very quickly. As the tiger, my mind's attention is based mostly on motion."
Ryo nodded, "So that's how you were always able to kick my butt at soccer, because you can focus better on moving objects I mean."
"Well, that and having four feet verses two is a definite advantage. I also had greater control than you."
Ryo flushed fiercely. "That was a low blow," he muttered, remember the time he'd accidentally hit the Ancient in the head with an uncontrolled kick to the soccer ball. "Would you like us to read to you from time to time then?"
The man thought a moment, and then nodded his head. "Yes, that would work very well I think. Thank you very much. I think that will help me to focus on the world around me a little better."
Ryo could feel the man's fingers gently running through his hair. He was still unsure what to make of everything, and was just to voice his concerns when the man smiled at him tenderly and kissed his forehead in paternal fashion.
"You had that familiar look of nervousness on your face. What would you like to know?"
"When did this happen?"
"What, my shifting of forms? Ever since the armors first picked their wearers. I lost my son to the first red armor, so I decided to let the Ancient one to transform my body so that I would be able to watch over the children who were picked."
"Your son was Hariel?"
"Is that what you were told his name was? His name is Shinta, not Hariel... at least not to me at any rate."
"Was he very young or something?"
"He was fifteen, a little older than you and your companions were when the armors picked you. But he was my son, and I was not quite willing to let him go to his death if I could not prevent it."
"I had no idea," Ryo whispered.
"Well of course you did not, the man who taught you never even knew. It is not something that I can talk of often since I only shift to my human form every once in a while."
"Can you think like a human in your tiger form?"
The man laughed gently. "There is no difference between myself as the tiger and myself as the man. I have a somewhat harder time concentrating on human issues such as focus and memory, and I am subject to deeper instincts, buy for the most part I am the same."
"So is that why you gave Touma and me baths?"
"I was curious about that too." Touma mentioned as he sat down on the floor. The others had joined them, wanting to hear the man's story. Seiji handed Ryo a bowl of food and sat down next to him, knowing that his lover had missed breakfast for confusion of the man that they were gathering to listen to now.
The man flushed a little along his cheek bones. "About a week before I can change back to the human side of myself, I have surges of both feline-tiger instincts and human instincts. You and Touma received baths because I thought you were in need of it."
"But I'd just come out of the water," Ryo pointed out.
The tiger in man form thought on this for a moment before replying. "I suppose you are right. I guess that I decided that the lake did not do a good job on cleaning you very well."
"Was the hunting kick also a tiger instinct that you had to answer to?" Shin asked, still shuddering at the sight he'd opened the door to on Sunday.
"Well, you are my litter; I should keep an eye out and feed you when necessary."
"'Your litter'?" Touma asked. "You consider us to be your litter, but I thought male cats didn't concern themselves with raising the cubs."
The man nodded his head, "that is usually true, but male tigers and male lions will help to take care of the litter for at least until the mother is able to hunt on her own for the cubs. In my case, I have always considered every group who wears the armors as my children. The only problem is that I remember them after they have died a little too clearly."
"How many of us have there been?" Shu asked.
"More then I care to count," was the quick, almost tense reply.
"What do we call you when you're like this?" Seiji asked.
"What you feel like. I do not remember my given name anymore, so I do not truly care since I am only human for one day."
"You said that you get moments of human instincts," Shu began. "Was that what that was when you were watching me swim the one day? It felt as if you were trying to communicate."
"That would be a fair approximate, during the times of the surges, I can use a form of mental telepathy sometimes, although it is more of planting an idea into the head of someone."
"What about when you were carrying me?" Seiji asked.
"That was a combination of both instincts I think. The admonishment was a human instinct, along with carrying you, but the amusement was purely animal"
"I'm so glad I amuse you," Seiji muttered.
"You all do. You can all be very childish at points, the snowball fights for instance; but you are also very adult at times, the countless noises I hear at night from bedrooms being the case and point." He was surprised to see that almost all the boys flushed with embarrassment, except Seiji who just turned his head away in partial shame. "Did you somehow think I did not know?"
"We were sort of hoping," Shin began. "I mean, until today, you were just a tiger to us."
"A tiger with a very keen nose," the man explained. "It would have been difficult to not notice that some personal scents were blending together to the point where it is almost hard to distinguish person from person."
The discussion continued for some time. Each boy would ask a collection of questions to Byakuen, loving the chance that he could finally reply to them. His voice was a smooth, deep baritone, and that was something that they all knew they were going to miss once he had returned to his usual form. His voice could carry them back in time very quickly as he told them stories of his travels while being the tiger.
The tales and questions went long into the afternoon, and they only stopped for a short while so that they could eat some of the venison that Byakuen had brought back. It amazed the boys that he had impeccable table manners; more refined then Seiji's even. Then again, he had come from earlier era, long before a new, more laid back culture had settled in.
It saddened the boys to learn that they only had until sunset before Byakuen would change back, so the tried to spend as much time with him as possible. They tried to get in many questions and loved listening to his stories.
"One thing I want to know," Shin began. "Is what had happened to you when I found you draped in our dirty clothing yesterday."
"Ah," the man nodded his head. "I was tired, my body was getting ready to change and I wanted to have at least something to cover myself with. Besides, have you never seen a cat do that before?"
"Well, no," Shin explained. "I'm also guessing that the damage to the drapes in the living room was also a surge of animal instincts." Shin hoped so, he had loved those drapes.
"Actually, no," the man confessed. "I do apologize Shin, but there are indeed times where I wonder about your fashion sense. Pink and green drapes should not go in a room where the furniture is mostly tan leather."
Shin frowned and huffily threw a pillow at the man's head. He was hardly surprised to see it grabbed deftly out of the air, without the slightest effort.
A short while later, the man started to yawn almost uncontrollably. He managed to cover his mouth and preserve proper decorum, but it was clear that his time was running out and he was getting ready to change forms again. The others left while Ryo stayed behind a moment to ask one more thing. "Will we ever get to see you like this again?"
"Sweet child," the man began gently as he kissed Ryo's forehead tenderly. "When you wake, I will have already returned to the form you know very well. The next time that I will appear as I am now will not be until long after you have joined the others who have worn the armor in eternal sleep."
Ryo hugged him, not wanting to let go and say good-bye to a newly made friend. "I would not wish your job for all the magic in the world."
"Nor would I wish any other to have it. It can be very hard to take care of so many children."
When Byakuen next awoke, he stretched out his back and yawned, his mouth open wide. Oh well, I should go out and get something to eat, the litter will be up soon.