A grownup Jun reflects.
Disclaimer: Remember, Jun (Yulie) is only six years younger than the boyz, so he's 8 at the time of the show. Also, Naste (Mia) was nineteen at the time of the show, so she's 5 years older. And in case you hadn't guessed, I've started using the original names so Ryo is Ryo (pronounced like Rio), Sage is Seiji, Rowen is Touma, Kento is Shu, and Cye is Shin.
Dedication: To my friend who runs "The Sage Page", sorry about scaring you pal and Happy Birthday.
When I woke up this morning, I sat up, stretched, killed the alarm clock, rubbed my eyes awake, and wondered what the hell had died in my mouth last night.
You'd think I'd learn not to go drinking with Naste anymore. But, what can I say, it was the end of the first school week and it's not as if her husband minded. He's another professor at the college she works at, not one of the guys, like most think. I've met him, he's very nice, if a little on the snobbish side. I don't blame him for that, he is a full time professor, and I'm just a lowly high school teacher. I teach History.
The guys were so floored when they found out that that was what I wanted to do more than anything. Ryo was very pleased with me, as was Shu; they both said that if they had had a teacher like me in high school, they might have done better in history. Shin said they were both lying their asses off, but it was still a wonderful thing. Teachers are so hard to find, even here, especially the good ones.
I got up and went to check on my kids. None of them are mine really, I'm a foster parent though. Naste raised me after Arago was vanquished by the guys; we never found my parents. So I decided that I would never allow a kid to go without some kind of parenting if I could help it. I've got five kids under the age of fourteen, under one roof at the moment: some of who are easier to deal with then others.
Miri was up, but that wasn't surprising. She's always been an early riser, even on a god forsaken Saturday when I encouraged all of them to sleep for as long as possible since they had all been studying so hard. She was making coffee, and although she knows she's not supposed to drink it, she always argues that since she's the eldest at thirteen, she should. I gave her a hug and took her coffee cup-now mine-from her and sat down to read the paper. She offered to make breakfast in a little while, after the other four were up, I had no problem agreeing to the idea.
A knock on the door grabbed my attention and I went to open it. There on my doorstep was one of my best friends from childhood and the insanity that I lived through. I knelt down and hugged Byakuen around the head, finally able to get my arms around it. I noticed that he was carrying something in his mouth. When I took it from him, he walked past me and into the house. I followed him, beyond curious.
He lead me to my study, and I was more than slightly confused that he would be able to even find the place in my house. He walked over to one of the glass casings that held a suit of armor I had for inspiration whenever I decided to write a few more chapters on the dissertation I'm doing (I'm working on getting a PhD in Ancient History, so I can help Naste and her husband on their digs and discoveries) and nodded his head once. He then turned around and stood still.
A strange light came over him, and he started to glow a gentle blue. The light started at his paws and slowly climbed up his legs and across his chest, only to continue over his head and down along his back and belly to fully flush out to his tail and down his hind legs. When the light faded, he stayed absolutely still. I walked forward, intrigued by what I had just witnessed and placed my hand on his nose.
He could very well have been a stuffed tiger in a museum for all the breath and life I could feel. His body was completely motionless, not even a sign of breath or a blink of an eye. I knelt down and placed my head close to his chest, boggled at the predicament and heard a very, very faint heartbeat within the massive cavity.
It was some sort of comatose state of being I decided, although unexplained. For whatever reason Byakuen had for coming to my home to sleep for however long, he evidently trusted me enough to look after him. I was more than slightly confused, since I had no explanation as to what was going on. I paced for a moment, staring at my now frozen friend when I decided that it was too early on a Saturday morning for me to try and think.
I sat down on the couch and opened up the pouch that he had given me at the door. I saw that there was something shining and put it on the coffee table to gently up-end it so that it would empty out. Inside were five balls I could recognize from a hundred yards away if necessary. They were the armor orbs the guys had used in the past. What were they doing here though? They should be with the guys to say the least.
I walked out of my office, gave Miri a quick hug and told her to have breakfast ready by the time I got back. I drove the forty minutes to the guys' home. I had spent a lot of time in that house: I had learned to drive a motorcycle in that driveway, and I had learned to swim in that lake in the backyard. The house brought back many memories all at once, just like it always did every time I saw it.
I walked up to the door and knocked. I was surprised when no one came to open it. Out of curiosity, I gave the door a gentle push and was rewarded with it swinging wide open in greeting. I stepped inside, calling out for the guys one at a time. There was no response to my words of seeking.
I went throughout the house, searching everywhere for any sign of them. But neither Shin nor Touma were bustling about in the kitchen, swearing at the stuck oven door. Seiji wasn't in the practice room doing lengthy katas. Shu wasn't in the garage working on the damn Toyota that would be better off in a car museum, nor was Ryo working on a newer motorcycle. There was no one upstairs in the bedrooms, the favorite spots of the couple and trio after a hard day. I called out their names several times, the only answer that was ever returned was the sound of the house creaking.
I returned home more confused than I had been to begin with. When I walked into my study, I jumped at little, still not used to seeing my beloved four footed friend there against the display case.
I sat down on the soft couch that I used for sleeping on sometimes when I was so overloaded with papers I didn't even try to go to my own bed. I had placed the orbs on the coffee table in front of it before I had left. I gazed at them, much like I had when I was small, but this time, instead of awe being the premier emotion, there was a significant amount of curiosity.
I gently picked up the orb I felt most comfortable with: and no, it wasn't the pale red one. Sieji's green mystical orb flared to life for a moment, the same way it always had whenever they felt life touching them. I could really use him right now, I thought, Seiji could be a bit too matter-of-fact on occasion, but he had more faith in the orbs and their powers after a while. Of course, he wasn't the only one who struggled not only with faith in what they did, but who they were and how they did it. I think all the guys had those feelings of doubt on more than one occasion.
The cool, flickering light inside gave me no answer, and so I set the orb down, resting on the pillow I had placed it and the others on earlier, the same question running through my head yet again. Where were the guys?
A soft sound caught my ear, and I turned my attention to Shu's warm orange ball. Strange, almost unearthly soft wails seem to escape past the power of the orb inside, and I saw something bizarre. The strong hands coming together to crack the arthritic knuckles and flex the arms powerful enough to lift a jeep in his better days. Going up a torso that had the strength of an ox, all to rest on a face bearing a soft mustache and a grin I will always remember.
The image swam within itself for a moment, turning this way and that, reminding me of the way Shu would pick me up when I was little before he had pulled his back. It curved this way and then that before twisting suddenly in on itself and disappearing into nothingness. The orb turn a bright orange, flared power, and snuffed itself out as easily as it had the life it had stolen.
I brought a hand to my face, praying that what I had seen had not been real. I turned to glance at the green orb to witness Seiji rolling a shoulder that had been dislocated twice within the last year. Silver ran in and out of his hair, layering the once too blonde hair and matching now steel grey eyes. Again the image twisted a moment before turning in on itself, and flickering out of existence.
I turned to Touma and Shin's blue orbs, not wanting to see the way the dark blue haired warrior now needed braces to help him move on occasion. I cringed at watching how Shin leaned against a wall, holding onto his chest and trying to breath, having become more familiar with the sight than I had ever wanted to. The two images danced, before puffing out, letting the orbs grow dim.
Forcing myself to stare at the red orb, I could see Ryo clutching at his wrists, trying to breath through another attack of pain rushing through them. He'd gotten the arthritis even worse than Shu and Seiji had, having the pain ebb in and out during the day to the point where he couldn't even lift a glass to his lips. The scene flared to a brilliance I had not wanted to see, before quietly fading away.
My hand was clutched to my mouth before I really realized it, trying to keep me both from getting ill and from swallowing my tears. They were gone, it was really that simple.
Naste had once told me that the way the armors worked was that they used the potential power unleashed by the spirit. That was why if the spirit was unwilling, or in doubt, the armor didn't work. But the fact that they used the spirit meant that the armor also consumed it. And the body.
I had my answer now. Where were the guys? Gone, simply gone. Dead.
The tears started to come, regardless of how hard I tried to hold them back. It's hard to morn when you have varying opinions running through your head about what you should do: some said: boys don't cry Jun, men don't cry; and the other swore that it would be okay once the pain was let out. How could be okay though? There was no one there to answer my questions anymore, no one there for me to ask why.
I don't know how long I stayed that way, in my darkening study with the door closed, gently crying and cursing the damned orbs who had stolen my brothers' lives. When the door did open though, I shouldn't have been surprised at who had come through.
Even though Seiji had no desire to marry anyone and his family didn't force him, there was belief that since he was the only son, he should have a child. His clear grey eyes looked up at me with question from the face of his child, whom I had taken into my care last year when it proved to be too difficult for Seiji to raise, even with the others because they were all failing quickly.
"Jun-san?" the softest of whispers came through. "What's wrong Jun-san, Miri says you won't come out to play because we were bad. Is that true?"
"No Kyo," I told him, assuring him. I would say that if one could inherit a trait by mere association, then Kyo has Ryo's guilt complex. Of course, to be fair, he's also inherited Touma's curiosity, Shin's sweet words of comfort, and Shu's fearlessness and desire to never see anyone hurt.
"Oh, okay then. Those are pretty marbles Jun-san, can I see one?" I saw the six-year-old reach out towards the orbs, his father's gently flaring up a little as it felt fresh essence. I don't know why I did it, by it was the first, and last time, I will ever strike my children.
Kyo pulled his hand back, staring up at me, slightly afraid. I breathed heavily, threatening the orb with all the power I had to even try and steal this child's soul like it had the others. It glowed for a only a moment more before dying down to its original luster. I looked back at the little boy with the golden hair and steel grey eyes and gently pulled him into my lap.
"I'm sorry Kyo, I didn't mean to frighten you. They're dangerous is all, I don't want them to hurt you."
"Did they bite you?" Kyo mistakes static electricity as biting, he hasn't quite gotten to that part of science in school yet. He stared at me though, with eyes that apologized for doing a wrong he had not committed, as I said, he's inherited Ryo's guilt complex.
I tucked his head under my chin and blinked back the tears that escaped. "No Kyo, they didn't bite me, they're just covered in that chemical you're allergic to." He knew I was lying, but he could tell that I was upset, so he didn't argue with me. "Promise me, promise me that you won't touch them again, okay?"
Kyo nodded quickly, hugging me tightly. "Jun-san? They look familiar, but I don't know why."
Taking a breath, I answered him softly. "That's because they belonged to some people you knew. But they're gone now, so I have to take care of them."
Kyo pulled away from me a little before smiling brightly up at me. "Like us orphans? We belonged to someone, but they can't take care of us anymore neither."
"Yes little one, something like that."
"Do you tell the marbles stories too? Like you do us?" he had a goofy grin on his face. As I said, Kyo is very aware of when anyone is upset, and since he doesn't like to see them that way, he tries to cheer them up.
"What do you think, silly thing?" I smiled at him, feeling a little better.
He climbed down from my lap then and walked over to Byakuen, gently patting the tiger. "Big kitty. Where's he from Jun-san?"
I joined my child by my old friend and knelt down next to him, looking up at the tiger the way I had so long ago. "I don't Kyo, I got him this morning though." I leaned my head lightly against the inanimate animal and closed my eyes, recalling memories of playing and laughing with the giant beast.
I remembered one of the many times that he and I were out playing in a meadow and I looked up at the clouds. A flash of sunlight caught my eye and I had turned to look at it, discovering that what it was Ryo and Seiji practicing with real swords instead of the wooden normal ones. I don't remember what had been happening, other than that at the time there had been some threat or another that was trying to destroy the world and my older brothers had had to stop it.
An idea struck me, and when I re-opened my eyes, I made sure to check out the frozen tiger. The glint that could have been either sunlight peeking through clouds or reflecting off of swords bounced from his eyes. The guys had once told me that they thought Byakuen could communicate through other means though aside from growling and body language. I had never seen it myself, but that didn't mean I didn't wonder.
"Kyo," I said calmly, getting up from crouched position. "I want to write a little before I make dinner, okay? Then I promise that you and I will play a game."
"Which one?" Kyo looked suspicious, I had once promised to play a game with him and forgotten, he wasn't willing to let it happen again.
"Whichever one you want." With that, the little one skipped out of my study, content to let me sit boringly at the computer until the desire to write had evaded my senses. I turned to the orbs and glared at them, feeling the anger at my loss flare up through me as their power did to them. Then I strode purposefully to my desk and turned on my laptop.
"It was eighteen years ago that a strange phemonen appeared in the sky. If you looked out any window of Tokyo, you could see black clouds in the middle of the daytime; upon which, there was seated a large castle. Of course, that hadn't really appeared until midday.
"I had gone with my parents that day to pick out the one birthday present that I had wanted. As any little boy of the late '80s, my heart had been set on the one cool thing to be found: a skate board.
"Between the blue board with a yellow stripe on wheels, and the young man with a tiger walking down the middle of the street, I had not seen the black clouds and strange castle up above until it was too late."