"I still think you are being foolish." Kinshirou insisted, face twisted in disgust. "That man has no place in our world."
"True," En replied, not in the mood for an argument. Not right now. "but we can't leave him here either."
Kinshirou's glare didn't hold it's usual ire, but that didn't mean the emotion wasn't there. "He can rot here for another seven years. Longer even." And even that wouldn't be enough. "It's not your opinion that counts on this matter." Kinshirou said taking a step forward and then looking over shoulder, at the people they had come to save.
In a way Akoya still hadn't let go of Arima. They were standing near the portal, Akoya holding onto Arima's arm while they watched Yumoto awkwardly talk to Loft about the future of Lovil. Io and Ryuu were sitting on the ground closest to the portal. Ryuu had his face buried against Io's shoulder and kept as still as possible so he wouldn't accidentally jostle his sore ribs.
"Bringing that... man to our world." Kinshirou shook his head. "That's an insult to them."
"Kin-chan." Atsushi looked at his friend and then at his boyfriend. As frustrating as it was, both were right, and honestly he didn't want Machigattao back on earth either. "Think of all the damage he did just from here... He's less dangerous on earth."
"Even so that doesn't justify-" Kinshirou faltered, the world spun around for a moment, he was standing still but everything around him just... tilted. When it stopped Kinshirou discovered that the opposite happened. The world was standing still, but now he was being held up by a very worried looking Atsushi.
"I..." Kinshirou winced suddenly very aware of how heavy his wounded arm felt.
Grimacing Kinshirou looked over at Arima, feeling awful when he saw that both Arima and Akoya were looking at him in concern. "I'm fine." He tried to assure them. "My arm just felt... odd. Nothing to concern yourselves with."
"You lost too much blood." Atsushi fretted, looking his friend over. "Kin-chan you need medical attention."
"He's right, let's go." En said and walked towards the portal. "We've been here for too long."
That was what everyone had been waiting for. But no one as long as Akoya, Ryuu and Yumoto.
"We're going home..." Yumoto breathed jumping onto the platform. Akoya nodded as he and Arima got on as well.
Io carefully lifted Ryuu up. Ryuu was still too weakened to do much, but to be frank, Io doubted he'd be able to let go of his boyfriend after all that had happened.
"...How do we activate it?" Ryuu asked after a moment.
"Just transform and then you have to fire an attack at the right display." Io answered. "I'll help you aim..."
Someone was hugging her. That's the first thing Chiyo became aware of when she started to wake up. That and a far away sound... It was persistent, just like the person holding her.
The person shook her shoulders, and Chiyo frowned in her sleep, the voice didn't sounds so far away anymore. She still couldn't make out words but it was louder. Loud and obnoxious. Whoever it was need to "Stop yelling..."
"Ch- ake- up!"
Why didn't the person stop?! She was cold, sore and... away. Numb. Not her head though, her head felt ready to burst- So she really didn't need not some jerk yelling gibberish at her right now. "Quiet..."
But the person only got more persistent. Chiyo groaned, blue eyes fluttering open. All she saw was a blurry image. Black, red and orange... Moving and making that faint sound.
It felt like her senses were turned off. The blurry thing in front of her moved again and Chiyo blinked dimly aware that she was outside. Outside... Outside Kurotama bath! The long-haired woman blinked again, and the blurry world took shape. "G-Gora?"
Gora tightened his hold on her. "Thank goodness..."
Not gibberish this time. It took a few minutes for Chiyo to make sense of his words, and for her brain to catch up with the events of the past week. And when she remembered, Chiyo hugged Gora back. "Something happened." Chiyo murmured feeling herself shiver. Everything had turned so cold... "T-to the boys. I think they-"
"I was so worried!" Gora blurted out, unable to keep the words in as tears started roll down his cheeks. "You turned cold and- I can't lose you too!"
"Gora..." Chiyo stared at her e-… Gora. "You big idiot..." She breathed out, reaching up to cup his cheek, wiping his tears away with her thumb.
"I love you too!" Gora cried, needing to say it. He almost didn’t have the chance to ever tell her that. "I love too and-"
"Darling..." Chiyo's smiled tiredly."It's okay, I'm alright now." She pulled away from him, ready to tell her about... about what she thought happened to the boys, but a sudden sound coming from further into the backyard made them both freeze. "You hear it too right?"
Gora and Chiyo scrambled to their feet and ran further into the backyard, they reached portal just on time to see it light up. A rainbow of light came out of the portal and when the lights faded, there were nine people standing there. Well technically there were seven people standing, Ryuu was still being carried by Io. And there was a certain person at the boys' feet, twisting and turning but unable to free himself from his bonds.
Not that that was who Chiyo and Gora's eyes were drawn to.
For five seemingly long seconds Yumoto stood completely still and just stared at his brother. Gora looked different too. His big brother had massive bags underneath his eyes, a thicker beard than Yumoto remembered Gora ever having. Gora was crying and -
Yumoto leaped off the platform and threw himself into his brother's arms, gasping tearfully when Gora hugged him back tightly. "Yumoto!" Gora choked, hugging Yumoto and lifting his little brother up- he couldn't be close enough. "Yumoto!"
"A-An-chan!" Yumoto sobbed, surprising himself with the tears that flooded down his cheeks.
It was weird, Akoya mused as he slowly got off the platform. In that horrid month, he'd heard Yumoto cry several times, but none of those times it sounded like these sobs. These hurt to hear too though.
Loud, gasp-like sobs wrecked Yumoto's small body as he clung to Gora, who clung to him just as desperately.
Akoya wondered if it hurt the others to hear those sobs too. Then again he himself wasn't paying attention to the Hakone brothers anymore. He was gazing at the sky. Such a different, better shade of blue...
Tensing up Akoya turned around and saw that Arima was a few feet behind him. He hadn't even realized he had walked forward. "It's... It's real." He spun around to look around, taking in every little earthly detail. The smell of the grass, the difference in that soft breezes messing with his short hair and the sounds of normal birds chirping from the trees. "We're really back..."
"You are." Chiyo found herself nodding. She looked at the boys who looked... Lost. Most of them hadn't even gotten of the platform yet. "It's alright now... Welcome back."
Perhaps that was the push the others needed to get off the platform as well.
Ryuu sighed when he felt Io get off the platform. "You can put me down, I can stand now I think." They were back... It air felt different. The sounds were different...
"You're covered in bruises." Io stated not comfortable with the idea of letting Ryuu walk on his own. "Let's just... wait with that for a while."
"That makes no sense..." Ryuu trailed of, by now he'd almost gotten used to feeling like someone was watching him. But the emperor was tied up at their feet, Ryuu could hear him twitch on the ground- And there was someone else there... He didn't recognize the voice from earlier. "Who is there?"
Chiyo froze when she saw Ryuu. Like Yumoto and Akoya this boy was scary thin, and was covered in cuts and bruises, but... his eyes. They were aimed at her, but obviously the boy wasn't seeing her.
Not with eyes that looked like- that. "He..." Chiyo swallowed, unable to look down at Machigattao on the ground, not even for a second. That person wasn't the guy who she once considered her best friend. Not when he- Chiyo shuddered recalling that feeling of when she collapsed- that sensation in her head and eyes...
Shuddering Chiyo looked at Ryuu again. "You must be... the new Vesta."
Unseeing eyes widened as much as they could, and Ryuu's grip on Io's shoulder went slack. "And you're the old...older Vesta."
"Yeah." Chiyo nodded numbly. Slowly she looked down, paling even further when she found Machiga... Machigattao staring at her with large, dark blue eyes that shone with admiration. Feeling sick, Chiyo looked away again, and instead took in the condition of each of the eight boys.
Cuts, bruises... small wounds, fuck Kinshirou's sleeve was covered in blood! All of them were pale and shaking in some sense, looked haunted and-
The atmosphere changed when they all heard that voice. The tension went up as everyone turned their head in Wombat's direction who was running up towards them from the house
"You're back!" The pink alien cheered stopping in the middle of the field so he could look at all five of his boys. "I knew you'd all make it back! The power of love is a powerful thing...." Wombat trailed of when Yumoto pulled back from Gora to look at him.
Something about those red rimmed eyes was different from before. Yumoto looked older. Older and scared. Yet despite the obvious fear on the boy's face Wombat tensed up, anticipating Yumoto's inventiable cuddle-attack.
The cuddles didn't come.
Instead Yumoto starred at Wombat for a few seconds, then whimpered and buried his face against his brother's chest again.
Wombat starred. "Yumoto...?"
Yumoto didn't respond, he just cried in his brother's arms, he couldn't look at Wombat... He just couldn't.
Chiyo's eyes narrowed as she looked at each of the boys. "We need to get you all to a hospital." She said stepping forward. No matter how you looked at it, or what they had been through, these eight boys were teenagers, just kids. And Gora... was too worn out from the stress and the relief of having his brother back. So... she had to take charge. "Get in my car, I'm driving." She just never thought it would take something like this to leave her acting like the responsible adult.
"Your car?" Kinshirou echoed quietly. "Surely we won't all fit."
"Go try it doll. You'd be surprised how much one can make fit."
Surprisingly that was all the persuasion Kinshirou needed. He nodded quietly and began walking in the direction of the bathhouse. Akoya, Arima, Io and Ryuu followed after him. Yumoto stayed with Gora, not even considering stepping away from his brother. En and Atsushi only hesitated because En was glaring down at Machigattao who was squirming in his bonds again.
"Uh..." Atsushi shuddered, lightly holding onto En's arm. "What do we do with him?"
Chiyo didn't even bother looking at Machigattao again. "Put him in my trunk sweetie. "
En and Atsushi nodded quietly, and went after the others, both dragging Machigattao along behind him.
"Chi-chan..." Gora looked at Chiyo but most of his attention remained on his little brother. "I'll drive. You fainted earlier."
Chiyo smiled sadly. "Ten people in my car is dangerous no matter who is driving. And... You don't want to let go of that one." She said smiling at Yumoto. "Come on Gora..."
In all honestly Chiyo had expected it to be an awkward, tense ride to the hospital, but it wasn't. It was just silent.
"What are we going to tell the people?" Atsushi quietly wondered from where he was pressed against his boyfriend. "M-maybe we should have... waited till we decided what to tell everyone..." Atsushi knew that wasn't an option, but... he felt nervous and tired and he had no idea what to do now. Everyone was hurt and exhausted, Kinshirou was so pale and
En-chan had really worrisome bruises starting to appear on his face. They were all hurt and- it was all going so fast!
"Atsushi..." En sighed. There wasn't enough room in the car for him to reach to the side and try to calm Atsushi with a soothing touch. "We need to go the hospital, you know that." He wanted to reach down and grab his boyfriend's hand, point out that Atsushi's fingers were bruised... wanted to stop those hands from shaking so badly.
"You're hurt." Was how Atsushi chose to reply.
"He landed a few lucky hits."
"A black eye and swollen face do not count as lucky..."
En sighed tiredly. "I'm fine. It will heal."
"Hero complex..." Atsushi said shaking his head, not feeling up to trying to smile in amusement. He sighed and rested his head against En's shoulder. "You scared me out there."
"We're back now, try to-"
Kinshirou's exhausted sounding interruption took the couple by surprise, especially considering how quiet Kinsirou had been since they left Lovil.
"Is there a problem mr. President?"
Kinshirou nodded. "...They're asleep." He said nodding in the direction of their kouhai. It had only taken a few minutes for the younger teens to fall asleep. Akoya was using Arima as a pillow while he slept soundlessly, Io and Ryuu were curled up around each other, and Yumoto still hadn't let go of Gora, even in his sleep.
"Not for much longer." Chiyo replied, pressing her foot down on the gas pedal. "We're almost there."
"Still, it's best to let them sleep for a little longer." Arima said, trying to remain motionless so he wouldn't accidentally wake Akoya. "They deserve all the rest they can get after... all of it."
"All of it?" Gora asked, glancing over his shoulder to look at Arima.
"They... Wouldn't tell much." En admitted expression falling. "But what we do know is that that place was... hell."
Gora opened his mouth to ask more but he stopped talking when Chiyo took a sharp turn, and he needed to steady himself.
The quick movement made Io stir, and the seventeen-year-old made an almost silent sound of protest. "Be quiet." Io muttered, rubbing his eyes. "Ryuu is sleeping."
Grimacing, En rubbed his forehead. "So were you two seconds ago Io, go back to slee-" He stopped talking when the car's tires made a screeching sound as she parked.
"We're here..." Chiyo, hands still on the steering wheel. Despite her rush to get the boys to the hospital, she was getting anxious now too. There was no doubt that hell was going to break loose once she and Gora showed up in the hospital with eight boys who have been missing for weeks. "Come on, let's do this."
She politely didn't comment when all of them hesitated.
It was a day like any other at the hospital, not too calm and not more busy than usual. That all changed when a large group of people entered and automatically gained the attention of every doctor and nurse present.
Great, now they were all just standing there. Fists clenched at her sides, Chiyo stomped over to the receptionist's desk. "Hi, glad you can all see us." Chiyo glared at the ginger-haired woman at the desk. "But we could really use some help!"
Apparently medical staff needed a password to start doing their jobs.
The four doctors present rushed to the group along with 6 nurses, and the chaos began.
"Those- you're those boys that have been missing!" A blonde doctor in his late forties blurted out, quickly trying to take the situation in, and not liking what he was seeing. "Goodness where have you been?!"
"I've seen them on tv..." Young nurse, Mita murmured feeling like her shoes were filled with lead as she stopped in front of Akoya and Yumoto. "But... they're really all just kids!"
"They are." Gora raised his voice, stepping forward and blocking Yumoto from the woman's view. "They're kids, not celebrities."
Doctor Kage nodded absently and looked at the boys, eyes widening when he saw Kinshirou's blood covered arm. "How long ago did you get that injury?!" He asked quickly stepping forward and reaching for the boy's injured arm.
"I..." Kin gasped when the doctor grabbed his arm, the limb felt oddly heavy. "Two hours ago I- I think."
Frowning deeply, Kage nodded at the nurse when she quickly handed him the scissors from a nearby plate. Kage used it to cut away Kinshirou's sleeve. "Good god..." He and the two nurses at his side gasped when they saw what appeared to be a huge, deep bite mark. "Those are teeth marks... What kind of animal could do that?!"
"Uhm well... It's alright..." Akoya stammered, shifting nervously when all eyes turned to him. "I uhm.. killed the beast- dog... already."
Another doctor stared at him. "You're the Gero ki-" Hokama shook her head and turned to the woman at the reception desk, who nodded already grabbing the phone to call the police. She then looked at the boys again. "Come on, you all need to be looked over!"
Kage nodded. "Kusatsu-san we need that wound cleaned and... I need to take pictures." He said and began guiding Kinshirou to one of the doors along with Nurse Mita.
"It's alright..." Kinshirou answered Arima and Atsushi. The eighteen-year-old tried not to think what the troubled looks on the doctor and the nurse's faces could mean. He had a pretty good hunch about what was wrong with his arm. Kinshirou was no fool, those teeth marks went in deep and he knew that the wound should hurt a lot more than what he was feeling right now.
Once they were out of the hall the remaining doctors focused on the rest of the boys.
Doctor Yoshida walked over to Ryuu who was standing and his feet, but mostly leaning against Io. The blonde man gasped in horror when he saw the boy's eyes. "...You weren't blind when you were taken..." He said getting closer to the teen. What he saw made him pause, both mentally and physically. Frowning deeply, doctor Yoshida quickly reached forward and grabbed the sides of Ryuu's head, ignoring how the boy immediately tensed up and tried to pull back.
"Don't!" Io protested automatically moving to push the doctor away. "He doesn't like-"
"Are those hearts?!"
"Don't be so rude!" Scowling, Doctor Haname walked over to them to pull the doctor away from the teen, but seeing Ryuu's eyes made her stop. "His pupils... look like ripped hearts... Right?"
"The shape is almost perfect..." Yoshida muttered, starring into those ruined eyes and feeling his stomach twist. "God..." The grown man shuddered, feeling sick. "God kid, what happened to you?"
Haname chewed on her bottom lip, struggling to make sense of this teenager's eyes... While trying to keep herself from shuddering at the sight of them.
It wasn't uncommon for damaged eyes to become a faded shade of their original color, the glassiness to the eyes was normal too. In some cases, like flash blindness, pupils automatically turned white after a flash.. and a rip through them- But that shape! How? Not just that, but how could someone do that to another person?
"Did... D-did your captor..." Haname felt like she might throw up. "Burn your retina with fire?"
It had burned... Burned so bad, and it wasn't like he knew how to describe that kind of pain. So Ryuu only nodded.
"Oh god..." Haname shivered, covering her mouth with both her hands to stifle a gasp.
"He?" Yoshida echoed. "He who? Who did all of this?" These boys were malnourished, looking like they just returned from war, and the doctor had trouble picturing what kind of person would willingly do this to children.
"I had him be put in the trunk of my car..." Chiyo answered, twisting a piece of fabric from her pants in her hands. "He... that guy is insane..."
Doctor Haname looked at her, trying to detect lies. When she found none, the short-haired woman nodded. "Alright. The police will arrive here shortly for... that man. They'll want to speak to you."
Chiyo nodded hurriedly. "Yes, whatever, just get to work already."
En, Atsushi, Arima and Gora all sent her a frantic look, one she couldn't respond too. All they could do was hope that their lies would match.
It hadn't taken long for the police to arrive, and with them came a hoard of reporters and journalists. The flashes of their cameras could be seen from inside the hospital, just like how their shouts could be heard.
It had taken far longer for each of the boys to get looked at by a doctor and taken to a hospital room to be taken care of.
Gora had been allowed to go with Yumoto, but only because Yumoto had panicked when someone told Gora to wait outside
Even Atsushi, Io and Arima were being looked over for injuries and trauma. Chiyo was forced to stay in the hallway and try to listen to what was being said. She had heard words like 'malnourished', 'feeding tubes' and 'concussion' being thrown around, not really understanding what was going on.
Because she was the only one not being checked over or allowed to be near the others while they were being looked at, Chiyo was the first one of the group to deal with the police.
"Who knows how many other people Machigattao has hurt over the years." Chiyo finished her explanation agent Tanaka and agent Domen. She didn't have to pretend to sound distraught. "I hadn't seen him since my own last year at Binan high, before he disappeared, and I don't know what he did since then... All I know is that he kidnapped and hurt those kids." Chiyo finished her explanation with a shrug.
"Then why did those other kids disappear too?" Damen asked, a grimace on his face when they heard a reporter let out a particularly loud shout outside. "None of them even let their families know about this.... insane rescue mission."
Chiyo shrugged again. "They really wanted to find their friends, obviously."
He didn't have trouble believing that, it was the 'how' part that didn't make sense. "Care to elaborate sir-"
"Ma'am." Chiyo corrected tiredly. Normally she didn't give a damn about pronouns, but today was tiring enough.
"Right." Tanaka sighed "Can you explain how those boys found their friends after a month?"
"Well..." This was the tricky part. "I believe those kids happened to find more clues than your whole team..." Which in a way wasn't that big of a lie. Chiyo nodded to herself. "But are you really going to ask them about that? Didn't you see them?!" She spoke louder to empathize her point, to all the people near. "They've been through hell! They're fucking traumatized!"
Damen and Tanaka both winced at her tone. "...I- we could ask Kinugawa and Arima about this." Damen murmured, a sad frown on his face. "We only have one more question for you though."
"Not like I can stop you."
"You said the culprit was in the trunk of your car."
That wasn't a question. "Your men got him out..."
"Yes," Tanaka nodded, tiredly running his hand through his red locks. "But what kind of... vines was Machigattao tied up with.. No one on our team recognizes it."
Blue-eyes grew for just a millisecond, then Chiyo forced her face into a frustrated expression. "That's what you focus on?!" She screeched. "One of them is blind! Kinshirou just went into surgery- And you want to talk about plants!"
"We're sorry miss." Damen grunted and got up, scowling in annoyance. They wouldn't get any more information from the distraught woman. "That would be all for now."
Chiyo nodded, glaring at both agents, hoping they'd stop asking questions to all of them soon. "Good."
All things considered it was kind of ironic. But not the good kind of ironic, Atsushi couldn't see it that way, not even after that nurse had given him something to calm down. His situation was the.... throw up and cry kind of ironic.
En-chan had a concussion, a minor one, but still. It meant that he couldn't sleep for too long or at all, and if he did he had to be woken up every two hours... so it was ironic. En-chan had a concussion, and Kin-chan was still in surgery.
Atsushi had gone to see how Kinshirou was doing, while a nurse tended to his boyfriend, only to be directed to sit outside an operating room. Arima was already there by the time Atsushi arrived and he hadn't stopped pacing in circles till two police agents came to question him and Arima.
"Just a few questions." Tanaka told the boy, tone much gentler than how he had sounded when talking to Chiyo.
"R-right." Atsushi nodded, forcing his shaking hands to remain still on his lap.
Damen frowned. "You okay kid?"
Atsushi shook his head. "No..." Sleeping kind of was En-chan thing and En was already exhausted when they came back. No he had to stay awake and Atsushi wanted to be there for him, but the boy also felt like he needed to be there when Kinshirou woke up. Kin-chan might not take it well if he wasn't there.
Arima frowned and gently squeezes Atsushi's shoulder, before looking at the agents again. "Sorry, yesterday- this morning..." The brown-haired teen sighed tiredly. "It's been long."
Nodding Damen grabbed his voice recorder. "How did you find them?"
"What do you mean?" Atsushi asked, looking at the light above the operating room's door.
"How did you even know where to look?" Tanaka clarified wondering if the boy was truly that shaken.
Not knowing how to answer the agents, or give them something they'd believe, Arima stared at them. "I'm not sure..." He frowned, now very aware that they really hadn't thought about what to tell the police. "We just had to find our friends."
"That doesn't answer our question." Damen sighed, rubbing his wrinkled forehead.
"We... found a trace." Atsushi slowly answered. "Uhm... Me and En-chan started this club some months ago.. a-and there was a sign on the club door... behind it there was a photo of... well the old defense club I suppose..." Atsushi nodded to himself, yes this could work and wasn't too far from the truth. "We recognized Gora on the picture, so we went to Kurotama, to ask him about it, and found out that one person on the photo... Machigattao, went missing while at this school too... so w-we researched."
"You researched?" Agent Damen echoed incredulously, dropping his recorder to the ground in surprise. "Jesus Christ kids!" The agent exclaimed before he could stop himself. "Why didn't you lets us in on that research? Tell us what you found? Going after leads on your own was fucking dangerous kid!"
Atsushi's outburst startled the others, but the blue-haired teenager didn't care. He pushed himself out of the plastic chair and started pacing again. "I know it was dangerous, but if we hadn't-!" The boy gulped loudly. "Ryuu is blind and was assaulted! Akoya-kun had to fight for them all to survive! Yumoto is so quiet and hurt now! Kin-chan's a-arm and En-chan got hurt too! And they-"
"Kinugawa-kun." Arima spoke up before one of the agents could try to console Atsushi. "It's alright, go to Yufuin-kun." He said walking over to Atsushi and squeezing his shoulder again.
Atsushi shook his head. "Kin-chan will be upset if I'm not there when he wakes up."
"Kinshirou will understand."
"He won't..." Atsushi blinked back the stinging sensation in his eyes. Maybe it was the medicine they'd given him that made the eighteen-year-old feel so hysterical. "I just got him to want to be friends again and if I-"
"Kinshirou knows what it's like to worry for someone you care for, and by now he should know that Yufuin-kun is important to you too." Arima gently pointed out. "Go to him, it might take a while for Kinshirou to wake up when he's out of surgery."
For a few seconds Atsushi stared at the other, then a smile formed on his face. "Thank you Arima-kun!" He cried out before quickly turning around and sprinting off to the direction of En's room, completely ignoring the two police agents who watched him go in shock.
Atsushi had completely forgotten about the questioning and the lie he just cooked up, all he thought about as he sprinted to hospital hallways, was his boyfriend and how he'd make sure to keep En-chan awake in a good way, un till it was safe for him to fall asleep. Maybe they could go check on Yumoto, Ryuu and Io together. And then later he'd go to Kinshirou's room again to see if Kin's arm would be alright and-
"Eh?" Freezing in his tracks Atsushi stopped just in time for someone to collide into him.
"At-chan!" The young, blue-haired woman cried, hugging the younger boy close. "You little jerk! Mom and I were so worried! H-how could you j-just disappear like- You're back now!" Kinugawa Meiko sobbed, hugging her younger brother.
Atsushi's mind needed time to catch up with was happening. "M-Meiko oneesan?"
"I was so worried!" Meiko sobbed hugging Atsushi close.
"I- I..." Atsushi swallowed thickly and hugged his sister. "I'm sorry for worrying you..."
They were so loud. Loud and vulgar, not caring about all the attention they were getting, that seemed what they were aiming for after all. They weren't just loud though, Akoya knew better than that. Those people outside were vultures looking for dead meat to exploit.
Now dressed in a hospital gown, Akoya stood near the window of his private hospital room, watching the crowd of reporters and journalists that had gathered on the parking lot.
The old him- The Akoya from before all this, would have loved the attention, maybe the old him even would have the courage to stand closer to the window and bless those photographers with the chance of getting a clear picture of him.
But as it was right now, Akoya didn't want to get closer. He didn't want the press to try and sneak pictures of him and the others, he didn't want them trying to tell their story.
Akoya wanted to go and see if Kinshirou was out of surgery and if he'd be alright. He wanted to know if Ibushi hadn't been hurt. Akoya wanted to go check on Yumoto and Ryuu.
Instead of doing all that, Akoya had to stay in his hospital room and wait for his doctor to come back. Sighing, the seventeen-year-old glanced over his shoulder and looked at the thin tubes that were placed on a metal cart near the door. The doctor was considering giving him a feeding tube, apparently his body was lacking vitamins and whatnot.
Akoya hadn't decided yet what he thought of having that disturbing looking thing inserted through his nose. He dreaded it, but at the same time... he also dreaded eating in front of others again, that time he and Yumoto had let themselves go at the sight of normal food, fresh in his mind.
Akoya was about to sit down on the hospital bed, but stopped when he heard a sound from outside the room. Still very much on alert, Akoya sighed again when he realized he'd been waiting for the sound of hooves approaching.
Those footsteps from outside were probably just the doctor or a nurse returning.
Then again, nurses weren't allowed to wear high heels...
The door burst open and Akoya's breath hitched when he saw the two people who ran into the room.
"BABY!" Gero Masami was already sobbing loudly before she had her child in her arms. "Oh my baby! You're back!" Masami pulled back slightly and Akoya's eyes widened further.
"M-mother?" Akoya choked. His mother's face was covered in tear tracks and smudged make up. She had bags under her eyes, her clothing and hair were disheveled, salmon-colored strands of hair sticking to her cheeks, and... his mother didn't look like the woman Akoya had admired for as long as he could remember.
Masami didn't bother wiping her eyes as she looked her son over. "Oh look at y-you!" She cried, feeling her knees trouble. "Your hair... Oh baby..."
Akoya winced and Masami quickly pulled him in a hug again. "I'm so glad you're baaack!"
Smiling sadly, Daiki placed a hand on his son shoulder, when Akoya looked at him, the brown-haired man couldn't help himself and hugged his wife and son. "We were scared..."
His father too had bags under his eyes, the man looked exhausted. Neither of his parents really resembled the message of beauty and grace that their family was all about...
Which was... a relief...
He wasn't standing out or looked down on by them... They had really missed him.
"M-mama.... dad..." Akoya bit his bottom lip and clenched his eyes shut, despite his effort, a few tears slipped from his eyes and rolled down his cheeks. "I-it's okay." The boy choked out. "I- I was scared too."
Nice and soft... Ryuu tried to keep his focus on the feeling of Io gently massaging his hands. It was clear that no one was going to tell him what was happening in the hallway, so Ryuu had stopped asking about the 'arguing people'. And it was easier to focus on Io's hands, then on the questions his two doctors kept spouting.
Ryuu was pretty sure the male doctor, was still starring at his eyes. He could hear the man occasionally mutter about it being impossible, and wanting to do tests... He could feel the doctor's eyes on him, Ryuu tried not to focus on that either but it was hard not to think of other... dark-blue eyes watching him hungrily.
"Hm? Oh..." Ryuu lifted his head, blinking in confusion when he realized he'd curled up. "Sorry..."
"It's okay." Io replied, rubbing circles over the back of Ryuu's hand with his thumb.
"He's right." Doctor Haname nodded and then turned to glare at her colleague. "Hida-kun why don't you go check on your other patients." She spoke tone sharp and leaving no room for arguments. "I'm sure you're needed elsewhere."
The black-haired didn't say anything as he stomped out the hospital room. For a moment the arguing in the hallway was clearer before the door slammed shut, and Ryuu perked up trying to hear what was being said. "Why won't you say what's going on out there?"
Io paused so Haname answered instead "Because that's not important right now." She told the teen. "Those people need to settle something with the staff. that's all."
It was a bigger 'something' than how Haname made it sound. Outside the room the boy's family was arguing about who should get the most say about the teen's treatment here at the hospital. The staff already knew which of the three claimed guardians had legal rights to the boy. Zaou Noa had all documents ready, and had raised the boy for eleven years.
The problem was that the Zaou Megumi and Mantarou did not take the news of having no say of how their son would be treated well.
"Let's not focus on what's happening out there, okay?" Haname said, forcing cheerfulness into her voice.
"And the people outside?"
"They have no right being there." Io answered, gently squeezing Ryuu's hand. How had all those reporters even gotten there so fast?
"Boys..." Haname sighed sadly and grabbed her clipboard again. These kids didn't deserve any of this. She looked at her clipboard and grimaced when she saw the next question she
had to ask. "Zaou-san, how much can you see?" Just the state of the boy's eyes told her enough, but it was mandatory that she asked.
Ryuu had already curled up again, that question made him pause. No one had asked him that yet. "It's... Uhm... It's like..." He shifted uncomfortably and thought back to Akoya having to break the news to him... Ryuu's fingers twitched nervously in Io's grip. "You know like when someone suddenly turns the lights off?" He asked, lifting his head. "But... my eyes don't... adjust to it being... dark."
His answered was followed by a heavy silence, and Ryuu groaned quietly and pulled his hand away from Io so he could curl up on the bed easier.
"How many more questions are there?"
Feeling her heart break, Haname looked at the list of questions again. "Uhm, that was all for now." Realizing that the arguing outside had stopped as well, Haname nodded to herself. "I'll be giving this to the reception so they can get the right painkillers for you. Meanwhile... there are two people who want to see you." The doctor adjusted Ryuu's IV one more time before leaving the room.
Right after, Ryuu heard two sets of footsteps come closer and close the door behind them.
"Ryuu.." A deep manly voice spoke. "Wow... it's been so long! A-and then this..." The man said, followed by a breathy laugh.
He didn't know who was talking to him, the voice didn't sound familiar at all, so Ryuu didn't lift his head. Still... the person sounded like he was supposed to know them.
"Oh sweetheart!" The other person cried out and Ryuu frowned, head still bowed. This person's voice was softer, feminine... And still Ryuu was at loss of who it could be. Maybe one of the girls he used to date had been insistent on visiting... but that didn't make sense.
"Ryuu honey..." The woman said. "Look at you-"
"I can't." Ryuu muttered, fed up with feeling confused, the teen finally lifted his head and faced the direction the voices were coming from. "Who are you?"
Ryuu didn't think that those shocked silences that followed whenever someone saw his eyes, would ever stop stinging like that... "Who are you?" He repeated a little louder, impatience filling his tone.
When neither of the two adults did anything other than stare at their son, Io grimaced. "Ryuu, these b- When you were missing, your parents came." Two weeks too late. "And they want... want to be part of your life again."
It was Ryuu's turn to fall quiet. The boy went still, for the first time since entering the hospital room.
His parents were here...
'It's easy to leave you behind.'
They were the people arguing outside in the hall this whole time, they were here, because... because he'd been kidnapped and- Furiously shaking his head, Ryuu started feeling around near the head of the bed.
"Ryuu?" Megumi nervously called out. "Honey it's us, mom and da-"
"You were arguing with grandma." Ryuu muttered, he hated how his hands shook. He couldn't find it like this.
Mantarou nodded. "Yes, but that only because the doctors here didn't take me and your mother seriously."
Ryuu ignored the man and continued his search. That thing had to be around here somewhere...
Not even Io had expected Ryuu to react like this. Io had no idea what he expected, be it joy at his parents being there or shock, but... not this weird mixture of anger and indifference. "Ryuu..." Ryuu kept feeling around near his pillow. "What are you searching for?"
"There's supposed to be a button that gets a nurse in here." Ryuu quietly told Io. He'd seen enough hospital dramas to know that there should be such a button near him now. "I need them to leave, Io."
Taken aback by the desperation in his boyfriend's tone, Io nodded mutely, and reached for the 'call nurse' button and handed it to Ryuu who immediately pressed it down.
It didn't take long for a nurse to rush into the room, a ginger-haired woman in her mid thirties with a slight frantic look on her face. "What's wrong?!" She asked, looking at Ryuu for a sign of injury her colleagues might have missed. "Are you hurt? Did something happen?"
Ryuu pointed in the general direction of where his parents should be standing, still shocked into silence. "I don't want them here. Can... Can you sent them out?"
The woman looked exhausted, and for a moment Io worried she would be annoyed by Ryuu's request. Instead the woman nodded her head. "Sure thing," And turned to Ryuu's parents. "You heard your son, please leave this room."
That snapped Megumi and Mantarou out of their silent stupor.
"B-but- Wait!" Megumi sputtered, stepping away from the nurse. "Wait! We're his parents, we should be here!"
"Not if the patient does it want it ma'am." The nurse said, putting it as simple as possible. "Now leave."
Megumi shook her head again. "W-we should-"
The word 'no' was on her lips again, but when Megumi turned to her husband, her face fell.
Mantarou had a grim look on his face and shook his head. "Ryuu doesn't want us here." He told his wife. "We should respect his wishes."
Megumi wanted to protest, but the woman was still too... stunned, to do more than whimper as her husband guided her out of through the door the nurse was holding open for them.
Ryuu sighed when he heard the nurse close the door. Good... He didn't need- He didn't want them anymore... not because they pitied him. A month ago he'd have seen them being here as a chance to show them that they made a mistake by leaving him. He'd try to impress them... A month ago he could have seen them.
"Ryuu, there's an older lady here for you." The nurse told Ryuu. "Do you want me to sent her away as well?"
Shoulders sagging in relief, Ryuu pressed his back against the pillow. "Baba-chan is still here?" His parents hadn't chased her away.
The nurse nodded. "Want me to let her in?"
"Yes please." Io answered, when Ryuu didn't reply. Ryuu was stiff again, so Io took Ryuu's hand in his again and squeezed.
Nodding the nurse went into the hallway again, two minutes later Ryuu heard someone else enter the room. He lifted his head and braced himself for a reaction he couldn't get used to. Bad, creepy, disturbing, scary. His eyes looked bad and people couldn't look at him without recoiling in horror. The only person who'd been able to look at his eyes for longer
Ryuu heard Noa inhale sharply, and winced. Even his grandma would be repulsed... and if she ever found out what else Machigattao had done and wanted to do to him. She'd be-
Ryuu's thoughts came to a sudden halt when he found himself pulled into for a gentle, warm hug, and the pink-haired teen gasped.
"It's okay..." Noa whispered, feeling Ryuu start to shake. "It's okay Strawberry... Baba-chan's got you now." She said, holding her grandson close and running her fingers through soft pink hair."It's going to be okay..."
Choking, Ryuu clenching his eyes shut, trying to fight the too large lump in his throat. "B-b-baba-chan I-" Ryuu shook his head, tears starting to roll down his cheeks. "I was scared!" The sixteen-year-old sobbed, returning the hug. "I was s-scared! A-and I missed you! And- It hurts!"
"Shhh... It's going to be better..." Noa whispered, hugging Ryuu tighter and rocking back and forth. "We'll work something out, okay?" They'd clean the house, put specific signs on the
walls, get all the help they'd need. "We'll figure it out Strawberry... I don't know how yet, but we can go on from this. Promise."
Noa continued to rub gentle circles over Ryuu's back, and started humming a tune. The same tune she used to hum for him when he was younger.
Remembering that he sang that same lullaby for Yumoto weeks ago, made Ryuu's tears increase, but hearing his grandma's voice... it was still just as soothing as when he was little. Eventually his sobs died down, and silent tears rolled down his face as he listened to the song, and her promises.
Io watched their reunion in silence, wanting to give the two of them their space. After a while the teen started feeling like he was possibly intruding on a family moment, so Io got off the bed and quietly made his way to the door.
Surprised by Ryuu's voice, Io stopped a feet away from the door and turned around.
Both Ryuu and Noa were facing him, and Io winced. "I was just..."
"Don't go..." Ryuu pleaded.
Noa nodded, a small smile gracing her worn features. "Thank you Io-chan." She said and reached out for him, inviting him closer. "Come here."
"There's no need..." Io shook his head, stepping back. "I shouldn't intrude..."
"Io..." Ryuu rubbed at his eyes. When he didn't hear the sound of footsteps returning closer to them, Ryuu sighed. "Don't go. You should stay here too."
Nodding again, Noa looked at her at outstretched hand and then at Io, who stared at her long and hard.
After almost a minute of nothing but silence, Io nodded and walked back to them. Once he was within reach, Noa grabbed Io's hand and pulled him in for a hug too. "Thank you for keeping your promise... Io-chan."
Stunned by the hug, Io leant into the contact. She was his family too. "O-of course." Io whispered, not knowing or caring if Noa heard him or not. "We needed him back."
It was getting late. Visiting hours must have ended hours ago, not that any of them cared about that. It wasn't like they would have left if the staff told them too. Then again, the hospital staff was being very lenient with them already.
"Dinner time." Chiyo said when she walked back into Yumoto's hospital room, a bag with tak out in her hands.
Gora who'd been dozing of in the chair at Yumoto's bedside, jerked awake. "Uhm- wha..." He blinked drowsily. "Hush Chi-chan..." Gora muttered, tiredly rubbing the sleep from his eyes. "Yumoto is asleep."
"You should snooze too." Chiyo replied, setting their dinner down on the night stand, and grabbing an extra blanket from the cabinet near the door, before walking over to Gora and covering him with it, before she settled down in the chair next to his. "We'll be here all night anyway."
Gora didn't reply right away, the man watched his little brother sleep on the hospital bed, with a pensive look on his face. "I meant it."
"That... That I still love you."
"Oh..." Chiyo sighed, the words made her happy, but today was like an emotional rollercoaster. She still couldn't believe how easily it had been to hand her childhood friend, over to the police. Machiga hadn't even struggled when the authorities took him away. "...You had a crappy way of showing it." Chiyo told Gora, despite her words she rested her head against Gora's shoulder.
"I'm sorry." Gora murmured, looking at her, chest swelling in joy of having her close again, on the same day that he got Yumoto back.
"Good." Chiyo smiled tiredly. "I still love you too." The long-haired woman sighed again and undid her ponytail. She'd ran out of sick days and excused to miss work a few days ago. And... She was only supposed to stay at Kurotamea for a few weeks... "So, what now?"
She didn't want to leave now that the boys were back, but if Gora didn't want to share his house anymore now that Yumoto would be back home, then she couldn't impose on them. But without a job it would be impossible to find an apartment in town.
"I..." His face felt hot. "I don't want you to leave town... Or to leave me again." Gora turned to her, brushing his fingers over Chiyo's cheek. "It's been good having you live with me again, like before..."
Convinced that her cheeks must be bright red right now, Chiyo put her hand on top of Gora's. "Then... I'll see what I can do about getting the rest of my stuff moved here too... Not like I could leave you to deal with this alone."
Gora's smile fell and he looked at Yumoto again, he only had his brother back for a few hours, and already he could see the changes in the kid's behavior. "He's still so small..." Maybe smaller than he'd ever seen Yumoto before...
As much as she wanted to deny it, Chiyo couldn't deny that. Hooked to a feeding tube, combined with how much weight the boy had lost... Yumoto looked so much smaller than he should be, sleeping there on that hospital bed. "He'll be alright..." Chiyo murmured, getting up from her chair and sitting down on Gora's lap. "He's got you..."
Tears shone in Gora's eyes, he didn't bother trying to hide them. "Th-thank you." He whispered, wrapping his arms around her waist and pulling her close. "I love you."
"You're welcome darling..." Chiyo replied, burying her face against Gora's chest. "I love you too."
In a way it had been easier at the temple, at least there he could sense through the temple where they were. Ryuu hoped they somehow sensed he was near too, it would be awkward if he was the only one of them feeling.... this.
It had to be very late. There was hardly anyone in the hallways, which was good. The sight of a blind teen, stumbling around, and dragging his IV-stand with him would attract a lot of unwanted attention.
There were no doctors or nurses out... not near him at least.
Just him in the hallways, carefully shuffling forward inch by inch. Every now and then Ryuu would flinch, certain he'd bump into something.
The blind teenager jumped when he heard footsteps getting closer. Two sets of footsteps... Coming from different directions.
Maybe... Maybe leaving the room had been a big mistake. But he couldn't go back to his room- he didn't know where he was. There were people there and- He didn't know how many or where he was and- Maybe those agents hadn't been strong enough to keep Machigattao there! Maybe the emperor escaped and came ba- "W-who is there?" Ryuu nervously taking a step back. "Who are you?!"
The footsteps got closer, both pairs, and...
"Aniki?" Yumoto blinked in surprise when he rounded the corner and saw Ryuu. He looked to his left and his smile grew. "Ako-chan!"
"Brat? Fluff-head?" Akoya looked at them both. "You're... here already."
Ryuu's hand dropped away from the wall and he pressed it against his forehead, feeling his panic slowly eb away. "You guys..."
None of the three needed to explain why they'd been walking around the dark hospital halls by their own. "...Let's go to the cafeteria." Akoya suggested after a moment of silently basking in each other's presence.
"Yeah, I wanna sit down." Yumoto nodded and grabbed Ryuu's hand. "Let's go."
Nothing else needed to be said on their way. They walked in silence and when they reached their destination all three of them sank down at a small round table.
After fifteen minutes, Yumoto finally broke the silence. "It's... three in the morning." The short boy stated, resisting the urge to tug at the tubes inserted through his nose. "An-chan and onee-san are asleep... But when I woke up... I needed to get out of the room."
"Oh.." Ryuu breathed, it made sense for it to be so late. "Io and Baba-chan were asleep too."
"I couldn't sleep well either." Akoya admitted resting his chin on his palm, and his elbows on the table. "...It's strange being here."
Ryuu chuckled bitterly. "It definitely feels weird." But he had no way of knowing if home... still looked like home. Ryuu sighed, he couldn't stay angry long, not even if he tried. Tiredness and fear kept coming back too soon. "At least... At least my grandma doesn't mind how my eyes look..."
"My parents haven't commented on how my hair looks now... Only once.." Akoya spoke, disbelief coloring his tone. "They were... different for a change." And as mean as it sounded, Akoya was glad that his mom and dad hadn't looked perfect today.
Yumoto looked at Akoya. "Are you going to let it grow now?" He asked, giving in and touching the feeding tube.
"I... haven't decided yet." Akoya answered before reaching forward and pushing Yumoto's hand of the tubes. Of course Akoya thought about letting his hair grow back. 'It's just hair, it can grow back' had been something he'd told himself shortly after Loft cut it off. But the thing was... the pink-haired boy wasn't sure if he wanted long hair again.
Would it even feel right? Akoya looked at Ryuu, catching a glimpse of glassy, discolored eyes, hidden carefully behind pink bangs.
"Oh..." Yumoto put his hands on the table top, a deep, uncharacteristic frown on his face. "Was it a good idea to leave Loft in charge of Lovil?"
"Well..." Akoya cringed at the question.
"It's not like we had time to hold a debate with the citizens Yumoto." Ryuu answered for him. "But... Loft knows enough about Lovil to keep things going smoothly for a while." He shrugged, toying with his fingers. Loft taking care of the planet was the best choice they could have made under these circumstances. "A-and... those other monsters... had been monsters for too long. A love shower wouldn't have worked."
Then there were monsters like Chalk who Ryuu didn't even consider saving. There were plenty of those around... None of those were as bad as the real monster though.
Ha... Ryuu smiled to himself at the almost gross kind of irony to the situation. Sixteen-years-old and he was still worried about the monster in the dark.
"Okay..." Yumoto bit his lower lip. He couldn't decide how he felt about Loft. No, that wasn't true. Yumoto knew how he felt about the centaur, he couldn't name the feeling, but it was bad. The way he felt when he saw Wom-san again today was bad too... It was scary. And no amount of cuddles could take those bad feelings away...
Groaning miserably, Yumoto rested his head on the tabletop. "What now?" Yumoto asked, looking at Akoya and Ryuu.
"Now..." Akoya hesitated, feeling his... 'brothers' attention on him. "I don't know... how or if it can be alright again.... but we're back now."
Ryuu and Yumoto nodded, both of them reaching for Akoya's hands and squeezed gently. The three fell back into a comfortable silence. No words needed to be said anymore.
They were back on earth, back with their loved ones... that was already more than they'd dared to hope at times. What would happen now was a mystery. They were scarred, beaten and changed.
But they were back now... They survived.