The Boys of Summer

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Suzaku
White Belt
Suzaku
White Belt
Joined: May 28 2017, 05:13 AM

Jun 26 2017, 12:44 AM #31

From the yelling in the other room, everyone could hear that the tiger had returned.

[color=FFDFF4]"You brought White Blaze to the beach?"[/color] asked Kotori, tilting her head toward Ryo. It was a silly question, of course. White Blaze and Wildfire were practically glued at the hip, so to speak.

And on cue the tiger was very suddenly in the girl's personal space and mussing up her dress.

"White Blaze, what are you doing?" Ryo started, but in the brief moment he locked eyes with the brunette he developed an inkling of what was going on. The look he returned was enough for Kotori to know that the gig was up. At least, to Ryo's credit, for all of his brashness he was tactful when it mattered. He probably would have waited to catch her aside, but White Blaze was having none of it. He gave the girl another insistant nudge.

[color=FFDFF4]"Alright White Blaze, I get it."[/color] Kotori shrugged and resigned herself to getting the conversation over with. Cye and Kento were giving her concerned looks by this point, so she tried to downplay their suspicions. [color=FFDFF4]"Come on, it's not that bad. Work stuff, you know?"[/color]

No one seemed convinced.

[color=FFDFF4]"Look, let's go sit down and I'll fill you guys in."[/color]

[color=D0FFFF]"C'mon Rowen,"[/color] Cye gestured to the archer as he turned toward the living room, [color=D0FFFF]"let's go. Bring your girlfriend."[/color]

This cued another round of stupid boyish snickering between he and Kento. Rowen hadn't mentioned inviting a lady friend along. They were going to have so much fun taunting him this week.
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Joined: Jun 2 2016, 10:31 PM

Jun 27 2017, 10:50 PM #32

--(Miku)--

[color=C9D9FF]"I'm not his girlfriend!"[/color] Miku retorted.

No one heeded her as they filed into the living room, the one called Kento and his friend still snickering to each other things she didn’t care to make out. Sighing—and starting to feel very overwhelmed by everything that had happened today; also very much wishing she could take advantage of getting to sit in quiet spot by all by herself for just one minute—she followed.

Two others came down the stairs as she did, a woman who seemed a few years older than her, and a not as tall as Rowen but very broad shouldered blond who immediately gave her the “stay away from me” vibe.

Well, at least it was…a change, from the taunting and boyish attitudes of Kento and the other who’s name she still hadn’t caught.

She shot another glare at Rowen’s back for good measure. Damn genius lacked so much common sense sometimes, she wondered if he were even the same person.

The newcomers nodded pleasantly at her with murmured greetings, however, as everyone finished shuffling into the living room. A couch and an armchair filled the not inconsiderable space; the blond took up a spot along one wall as the woman settled herself between Kento and the brunet, who held a bag of marshmallows like a security blanket. Ryo almost seemed to guard the door, in a place where he could watch everyone at once.

Unnerved, feeling restless with pent-up energy and not particularly enjoying the sense of being trapped, Miku elected to stand off to one side with Rowen as Kotori took center stage.

[color=FFD4FF]"Guess we'll get right to it then."[/color] Kotori visibly straightened her stance, as if a mask of confidence had been drawn on from head to foot. Miku rather admired that, considering her own state right now.

[color=FFD4FF]"Something's been bothering me since last night,"[/color] she started. [color=FFD4FF]"Strange dreams, a foreboding feeling. Call it a premonition, if you like. The closest I could place the source was in Minami-ku, so I went there this morning to patrol the area. That's where I met Miku."[/color] She smiled briefly toward the redhead. [color=FFD4FF]"I was afraid she'd get drawn in by what...whatever was there, but I'd barely said 'hello' when this..."[/color]

Kotori closed her eyes, her brows furrowed as she struggled to find the right words. [color=FFD4FF]"How do I describe it? Much too large to be a dog, or even a wolf. Not a demon... not malicious, but...much different than anything I've encountered before."[/color]

She opened her eyes and turned toward Mia. Miku subtly tilted her head at the gesture. [color=FFD4FF]"I thought about giving Mia a call, maybe she'd come across something in her research, but... I can't help thinking that maybe..." [/color]

A sound like a record scratch went off in her mind. [color=C9D9FF]"Wait... This is about the puppy I found? Seriously?"[/color] She turned to Rowen, hands on her hips. [color=C9D9FF]"What have you gotten into since I left?"[/color]

Before he could answer, a loud pop distracted her.

And suddenly one very large, very intimidatingly broad and powerfully muscled man was standing not five feet away from her.

Two wolves stood at his side.

Two wolves as large as the tiger that had just lumbered to his feet, head lowered defensively.

Her body reacted before she could hardly process the change. A scream she realized later was hers echoed in the room, and next thing she knew she had her arms wrapped around something warm and solid and protective.

Heart still drumming in her ears, she glanced up and realized Rowen was looking back down at her with naked concern in his eyes. Embarrassed, she almost sprang back and folded her arms over her chest, glaring at anyone and everything in the room.

Including the big-ass wolves now calmly sitting at heel beside this man that reeked of the same energy that puppy had had.

Feeling self-conscious—even though hardly anyone but Rowen was paying attention to her—she snapped, [color=C9D9FF]"Can we stop it with the jump scares already?? Getting kinda old!"[/color]

The dark-haired man cast a disparaging glare her way, but seemed to zero in on Kotori. [color=000000]"You. Your scent smells of my wolves. Where are they?"[/color]

Miku shuddered at the way his voice growled just like one of the wolf creatures. It took everything in her willpower to resist sidling up to Rowen again, old memories threatening to wash over her and rip her out of the conscious world.

It took a moment, but something seemed to click behind Kotori’s eyes. [color=FFD4FF]"YOU!"[/color] she accused, pointing to him with a focused expression. [color=FFD4FF]"So I wasn't wrong... That creature was from the youjakai."[/color]

The five other boys in the room had jumped into varying states of alert at the first words. Blondie looked like he seriously considered leaping the couch before more civilly walking around it to stand toe to toe with this party crasher. They glared daggers at each other even as Ryo came up behind his friend and laid a restraining hand on his shoulder—but his expression hardly differed, previously warm blue eyes now flinty.

Kento must have been the comic relief of them all. He merely sighed and complained, "Aw man, what a bust... Couldn't you at least have popped out of a cake?"

The brunet simply opened the bag on his lap and silently popped a marshmallow into his mouth.

Yanking her mind off the track of trying to translate what she thought was supposed to be “spirit world” but made very little sense to her otherwise, Miku stared at all them. [color=C9D9FF]"You know this madman with the magic wolves?"[/color]

The woman, now standing, raised her voice to an impressive volume that spoke of experience. "EVERYONE settle down!" As Ryo obediently backed off, she replaced his hand on the blond's shoulder; he still hadn’t stood down, continuing to glare daggers at the wolf-man. "Now, since Cale isn't attacking us, I'm assuming he and the other Warlords are still all as we last saw them. I'm sure, once we talk this out, everything will seem much clearer."

[color=C9D9FF]’Cale!’[/color] As little relief as it was, she finally had one more name to use.

Marshmallow Boy swallowed and dug in for another. [color=D0FFFF]"The last time we saw them? Wasn't that something like, 'oh oops, my bad' and then they flew off into the sunset?"[/color]

Kotori hadn’t dropped her pointing. [color=FFD4FF]"Start talking, then. I thought you were guarding the barrier. What happened—what did you let out?"[/color]

[color=000000]"I didn't let anything out,"[/color] Cale growled, folding massive arms over his barrel-like chest. [color=000000]"Someone stole my wolves. I can only conclude it must be you. You've at least seen them. Don't try to deny it--I can smell them on you."[/color]

Barrier? Let something out? Magic wolves and spirit worlds? Warlords?

Miku was so, so utterly lost.

[color=C9D9FF]"Can someone please tell me what's going on, here?? Barrier of what? What's so scary about a puppy? And that puppy's yours? What the hell kind of dogs are you breeding, man?"[/color] she demanded, warily eyeing the wolves again. The larger of the two turned one red eye on her—exactly like the puppy’s—and she squeaked, scooting closer to Rowen against her own will.

"Are you okay? I thought you liked dogs," he murmured, as an aside to her.

She swallowed and licked her lips. How could she possibly explain how much the Grim had hurt her trust in all things canine?

[color=C9D9FF]"I...I...got bit once,"[/color] she finally mumbled back.

--[/Miku]--
[color=22FF66]"A sword wields no strength unless the hand that holds it has courage." ~ Hero's Shade, Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess[/color]
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Suzaku
White Belt
Suzaku
White Belt
Joined: May 28 2017, 05:13 AM

Jun 28 2017, 02:11 AM #33

With Mia tending to Sage, Ryo had taken a step back and was keeping a finger on the pulse of the situation. In particular, he was keeping an eye on Miku to gauge the girls' reaction, and by the look of it she was reaching critical mass. Witnessing a (former) DARK WARLORD OF THE (formerly) EVIL DYNASTY abruptly teleport into the middle of your business had that effect on a person.

"Rowen," he came up on the archer's side and spoke quietly into his ear, "Miku looks stressed out. Why don't you take her aside and explain what's going on."

By now Mia had managed to corral Sage to where he wouldn't jump on Cale at the drop of a pin, and that was about the best she could hope for. The warlord hadn't come for a fight. He would have thrown down the gauntlet already, and since the living room was still in one piece Mia felt that she could risk leaving the boys alone for 5 minutes.

"I'm going to make tea," she announced, and with a parting glance at Sage she left for the kitchen.

Cye offered Kento a marshmallow. The two were at least on their feet by this point, standing by.

Ryo observed that White Blaze had been surprisingly quiet through the ordeal until now. Normally the tiger would have been at the scarred man's throat, but the creature also possessed a deep wisdom rooted in his connection with the Ancient One. He seemed to have arrived at some silent understanding with the wolves, the lot of them regarding one another coolly and without fuss, letting the humans trade their words.

Cale and Kotori were still doing just that.

[color=FFDFF4]"My name is Kotori,"[/color] the girl insisted. She knew that she was pushing her luck. The malicious aura that once radiated off of this man was long gone, cast off like his former master. That only meant he'd made a conscious decision to throw away the demon's influence. It didn't automatically make him a person that could be trusted.

[color=FFDFF4]"And yeah, I've seen your wolf."[/color] Wolf, singular. Just one. And since Cale was so decided that she was the culprit, Kotori kept pushing his buttons. [color=FFDFF4]"Woke up this morning and said to myself, 'something's missing from my life--oh! I know, a magic wolf puppy', so I did a little hocus pocus--"[/color]

She took a step forward and waggled her fingers toward Cale's face in emphasis, musing as an aside that in the time that had passed since their last encounter, she had grown. She was nearly as tall as he was now. Maybe if she stood on her toes she could stare down at him.

[color=FFDFF4]"And poof! I snuck into the youjakai just like that, where everyone was asleep on the job because no one noticed an intruder in th--!!"[/color]

Kento clamped a hand over her mouth to shut her up. Good going, Kotori. You had one job.

"I'm taking this one out for some air," he decided. "Clear her head. Cye, you're in charge until Mia's back. Ryo, don't burn the place down."

He gave Ryo a pointed look. Ryo mouthed back a 'who, me?' Cye flashed a 'thumbs up' and stuffed another marshmallow away as Kento took Kotori by the shoulders and steered her out the door at the back of the house. With the ruckus temporarily behind them he pointed at the staircase that stretched from the small rear deck to the ground level.

"Sit," he commanded.

Taken off guard by his forwardness, the girl obeyed and seated herself near the top of the staircase, folding her hands in her lap. She became intensely interested in studying every small line in her skin as the blue-haired boy squished into the space beside her. Without Cale to yell at, she actually had to say something of substance now, huh?

[color=FFDFF4]"I didn't want to come here like this."[/color]

She let those words hang in the air a moment. [color=FFDFF4]"I mean, I wanted to be here. I want to be here. But, you know? I wanted to choose that for myself, not have it dictated because 'something came up'."[/color]

She bowed her head and ran her hands through her hair, frustrated. There was no easy way of putting it. [color=FFDFF4]"I know it sounds cheap, but I'm sorry. I'm sorry for being such a bad friend."[/color]

Seagulls passed overhead, calling their presence out loudly. 'Flying rat'" was the term Kento's mother preferred to use. It reminded him of a story he'd heard once about seagulls and fizzing tablets...

"Things happen. Don't you think I get that? Hell, I was risking my life on a regular basis when I was 14. It wasn't the sort of thing I could really tell people."

His feelings were hurt, Kotori was sure of it. He had every right to be upset at the way she'd taken him, all of them, for granted. But he'd never show it. That's just how Kento was. It was the sort of trait that Kotori both liked and disliked about him. Maybe it came from growing up with a lot of siblings, but he wasn't coddling a group of children now. He didn't need to mince words or hide how he really felt.

"What I mean--" he continued, "we've all got our moments, right? Just look at Ryo."

Poor Ryo.

"Everyone's got their burdens, but that's why it's important to rely on your friends. If you can't open up to us, who can you open up to?"

A nudge at her shoulder finally got Kotori to look up and face him.

"We're all here for each other. We have to be, since no one else remembers what happened."

Kotori missed a beat as she reached for something to say. Instead she finally smiled a little.

[color=FFDFF4]"Kento..."[/color]

[color=cce5f2]"Ara ara! Did we come at a bad time?"[/color]

Their heads snapped around to find the intruding voice. They didn't have to look far. Kayura had demurely covered her blushing face with her hands, but kept peeking up at them through her fingers. Dais and Sekhmet stood behind her at the bottom of the stairs, unimpressed.

Kotori glanced from the trio back to Kento, who was now on his feet and staring down the silver haired man with a look of warning. Oddly, it was Sekhmet who broke the tension.

[color=80c000]"This house is still in one piece. We're in the wrong place."[/color]

[color=cce5f2]"No, he's definitely here,"[/color] Kayura sniffed indignantly. [color=cce5f2]"And when I get hold of him..."[/color]

"I guess we'd better get back inside."
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Joined: Jun 2 2016, 10:31 PM

Jul 6 2017, 06:34 PM #34

(Woo! Finally caught up with this... @_@)

--(Rowen)--

There were so many dozens—hundreds—thousands of thoughts running through his mind as Rowen set a firm hand on Miku’s (tiny—when’d she get so small?) shoulder and steered her toward the stairs. He’d already been thinking he wanted to speak to her alone, the best one to bring her up to speed on all things Ronin and otherwise, but with everything that had basically…exploded all at once…

‘I only hope she’ll forgive me.’

The girl was unusually quiet as they moved into the room. She circled the space almost nervously—Rowen didn’t miss the glance out the window and toward the door as he partially swung it shut—before perching on the edge of the bed. He pulled up a chair from the desk and sat in front of her, elbows on knees.

Miku watched him as he settled, only to drop her gaze to her hands and playing with her fingers. After a few long moments, Rowen cleared his throat and asked, “Are you…okay?”

She managed a quiet, dry chuckle that almost unnerved him. [color=C9D9FF]“You’re going to start with that?”[/color]

Concerned, the archer hesitantly touched her hand. “I’m sorry, Artemis.”

The old nickname seemed to surprise her, almost flinching away from his touch as if afraid of being bitten. Wincing, he refrained from reaching out again but continued, “If…I had known…” He took a deep breath. “If I had known what I do now, I would have tried harder to find you. I know that probably doesn’t help much right now, but I really do mean it. And I’m sorry, if I did something to hurt you.”

Miku rubbed a hand along her upper arm, still not meeting his gaze. Rowen couldn’t ever remember seeing her so quiet. Instead of pressing like he might normally, he waited her out—thankfully not too long.

[color=C9D9FF]“You didn’t do anything wrong,”[/color] she murmured. [color=C9D9FF]“I-It’s all my fault… I should’ve told you I was leaving. B-but I—I just—”[/color]

“Miku.” He dared rest a hand on her knee. This time she didn’t draw back. They watched each other for long moments; deciding some of the more…personal side of their situation could be worked out later, he took a breath. “I found Strata.”

Her eyes widened, jaw dropping and a spark of excitement lighting in her eyes for the first time that day. [color=C9D9FF]“You what?”[/color] she squeaked, barely containing the hopeful joy in her tone.

She didn’t even realize she’d put her hands on Rowen’s. The archer smirked, which turned into a crooked grin. “You were right. It was in Amanohashidate.”

Miku leapt to her feet, pointing a finger at him. [color=C9D9FF]“HAH! I KNEW IT!”[/color] She glanced almost wildly around the room. [color=C9D9FF]“So? Where is it?”[/color]

When she noticed his grin fade, she self-consciously cleared her throat and sat back down. Rowen mirrored it with a sigh, withdrawing Strata’s orb from its usual pocket. When he produced it for her to inspect, the awestruck girl gently scooped it up and rolled it around her palm.

[color=C9D9FF]“It’s so…clear. And smooth,”[/color] she murmured, experimentally running a finger over the glass-like surface.

“The others have one of their own just like it,” Rowen explained quietly.

Miku shot a startled look his way again. [color=C9D9FF]“There’s more of them?”[/color]

He nodded. “Ryo has Wildfire. Cye has Torrent. Kento has Hardrock. And the blond guy, Sage, has Halo.” Somberly laying a hand over Strata’s orb, still in her hand, he watched her carefully for her next reaction. “Cale has one, too, as do three of his friends. They’re…not quite human, anymore. I’m…honestly not even sure how human we are, now, after using the armors like we have.”

Wide green eyes watched him anxiously. [color=C9D9FF]“W-What do you mean?”[/color]

He stared down at their hands, fighting his rising pulse as he allowed his larger hand to encompass both the orb and Miku’s hand. “Not long after you left and I found Strata, the evil we read about came to Tokyo. No one but the other Ronin Warriors—my friends—and select few who fought with us remember it. We call it the Dynasty War. We spent months in the raked out shell of the city fighting against monsters from the youjakai, the empire of a demon named Talpa who’d been cast out of our world prior to the Sengoku Era.”

His free hand almost subconsciously tightened into a fist. “Our armors came from his, which had been left behind and then split into nine parts by the ancient monk who defeated him. Talpa reclaimed four of them and gave them to humans who swore to serve as his generals—the warlords Cale, Dais, Sekhmet, and Anubis.”

Miku swallowed; he looked back up again to study her. [color=C9D9FF]“S-So he—Cale—he…tried to kill you?”[/color]

Rowen nodded sharply. “But we won. In the end, we showed them Talpa didn’t want the Warlords, just the armor, and swayed them over to help us. Anubis…sacrificed himself to make it happen, and to free Kayura, a priestess of the ancient monk’s human clan whom Talpa had enslaved.”

Muffled voices outside caused him to sit upright, looking toward the window, then back at Miku. A faint smile twitched at his lip, as he reclaimed Strata’s orb and hid it away again. “And chances are, where there’s one, the rest of the posse isn’t far behind.” He hesitated standing, just for another moment. “Does…any of that help?”

The girl nodded wordlessly, looking down at her fingers again. [color=C9D9FF]“I…I think…I just need some time to…adjust, to all this…”[/color] She managed a small smile and another quick glance up at him. [color=C9D9FF]“It’s not every day you find out your childhood friend’s grown up into a ho—a superhero.”[/color]

--(Miku)--

Oh God.

She'd almost called him a hot superhero.

To his face.

--(To be continued...)--
[color=22FF66]"A sword wields no strength unless the hand that holds it has courage." ~ Hero's Shade, Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess[/color]
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Suzaku
White Belt
Suzaku
White Belt
Joined: May 28 2017, 05:13 AM

Jul 6 2017, 11:38 PM #35

In spite of himself, Kento couldn't help but think of an American comedy he'd once caught on TV: Three Men and a Little Lady. It perfectly summed up the scene unfolding before him, though he couldn't decide which of them would be Tom Selleck.

After Cale had shown up it ruined any shock value of the other Warlords appearing. Kayura had looped her arm with Kotori's and pulled the taller woman along while she spouted her aggravation at the wolf-man and his independent actions, simultaneously berating Dais and Sekhmet for 'not stopping him'.

[color=D6EAF8]"For two grown men you should be more responsible,"[/color] she grumbled. [color=D6EAF8]"Especially you, Dais. As the oldest, you should have stopped Cale from running off on his own. We're not doing things the old way any longer, we need to be adults here."[/color]

Kayura must have trained them well, because the way the Warlords obediently followed behind her was quite a change from the days they wanted nothing more than to strangle her. Kento was rounding up the rear, old habits. From his position he hadn't missed the amused look Sekhmet shot toward Dais.

Guess we know who Kayura's favorite punching bag is...

---

Cye took note of the incoming troupe, but otherwise didn't budge from his seat. Cale was facing toward him and Sage, so he hadn't noticed the upset looking girl fast approaching from his rear.

"Mia, you might want to make more tea," Cye called out toward the kitchen. Much as he didn't want to ruin the surprise, he wasn't completely without mercy.

[color=d6eaf8]"Why you--!"[/color] And true to form, Kayura had snatched up the blue-haired man by the ear and wrenched his head down to meet her at eye level. Considering how much shorter she was, it was an impressive feat. Cye was disappointed that the marshmallows had run dry, this was starting to become entertaining.

---

Now that the gang was all here it was time to gather everyone around the campfire and sing 'kumbaya'. Ryo only needed to collect the stragglers, and if Rowen was anywhere near finished with his stories, Miku was going to be positively thrilled with the new company. He'd pushed off the wall and started toward the staircase, when ever-helpful Mia reached out from the kitchen to yank him aside.

"You can't just barge in there," she chided. "Here."

And now Ryo had a glass of water. He was about to take a drink, but Mia loudly cleared her throat with an 'a-HEM!' and put an end to that idea. "Take that to Miku. She'll probably need it."

'Oh' he silently mouthed. What a good idea. Mia was so good at these things.

So Ryo returned to his trip up the staircase, now with a glass of (untouched) water in hand. He strained his ears for a moment before 'hem-hem'-ing and announcing his presence, although he was mildly disappointed when he poked his head into the bedroom and hadn't caught them in some embarassing situation.

The lopsided grin he shot to Rowen probably gave away the surprise. "Come on down, guys. We have company."
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