Chapter Three "C’mon, Alex! We’re gonna be late!" Mia calls up the stairs. She checks her watch again, and drums her fingers on the banister. She had a semi-formal luncheon at the University to attend and she had already paid to get Ryo and Alex in so they could see the new exibit. "He’s hurrying, Mia!" Ryo calls down the stairs. Finally Ryo herds the younger boy down the stairs in front of him. Ryo had one of his more casual suits and shirts. Alex had put on a light gray turtle neck under a charcoal colored blazer. Mia almost relaxes until she sees that Alex left his earring in. "Alex! You can’t wear that!!" Alex reaches up in shock and discovers he did forget to take it out. He turns and heads back for the stairs. Mia groans, then shouts, "Forget it, we’re late!" Alex skids to a stop, and races back to put on the brown oxfords Sage picked up for him. Mia notices his pant cuffs are dragging the floor yet again. "Not again!!! Alex, I just hemmed those!" Alex looks at the cuffs and drops his shoe with a ragged sigh. He looks up at Mia, tears of frustration brimming in his verdant eyes. Mia sighs and kneels to roll them up so they’re not obvious. It was times like these that she remembered that Alex wasn’t nearly as mature as the others. "It’s okay. I’m sorry. I’m just in a rush, that’s all..." After being freed from his possession, he’d been losing inches of height. He’d been as tall as Sage, maybe even a fraction taller, when he first got here. Now, at last measurement, he was down to five feet - two inches. Cale had assured them that they weren’t going to wake up and discover Alex was eight-years-old again. His height had probably been altered to keep his father from finding him, and was returning to the height he should be at this age. On the way there, Ryo gets Alex to sing to "Inside Out" by Eve 6 which is playing on the radio. Alex’s voice cracks a little during the song, evoking a laugh from Ryo and a bout of embarrassment from Alex. Mia can’t help but laugh. He was going to end up with a really nice, smooth voice once his voice stopped changing. Sometime during the actual meeting before the luncheon, the boys disappear. At least Alex isn’t here and bored... Mia thinks thankfully. Alex follows Ryo down the long hallway, trying to figure out which way they were going. Finally Ryo stops in front of a door and goes in. Frowning, Alex follows him inside. Ryo leans against a case and looks inside, he motions Alex over. Inside is a tapestry. Alex peers closely, not seeing why Ryo’s showing him this; until Ryo points out a figure depicted on the ancient cloth. A figure in armor. "Hariel?" Alex guesses, peering closer. "Yep. Though Mia’s not sure anymore that he was the first to use the White Armor. She thinks ‘Hariel’ might be a mixture of several people who used the White Armor." "Why?" He asks, furrowing his brow, trying to see if any of the other armors are on there. "History’s only as good as the people who record it. Mia and Cale planted forged papers that say you’re Alexander Koma and were born in Yokohama thirteen years ago. It’s not impossible. Someone may have goofed and Hariel might be several generations of men. Or he might be one man like we originally thought." "Oh. Cool," Alex says, looking around interestedly at the relics from the height of the Feudal Era of Japan and Medieval Europe. He spots a ludicrously huge sword that was probably well over seven feet long. "Ryo? This sword here, it’s too big! How could anyone use it?" To his dismay Ryo starts laughing at the look on his face. Ryo composes himself, and explains, "They didn’t swing something that big. That was meant as a way to take down a mounted knight by killing the horse." "How?" "You’d brace your feet down near that wide pommel and held onto what we’d normally think of as the guard. Then the idea was to get a knight to charge you." Alex makes a face as he realizes that it was a European weapon. "Oh. Dad only told me about the weapons from here... um- Hi, Sage!" Ryo turns to see the blond leaning against the door frame, a silly grin plastered across his face. "Hey, Sage. Back so soon?" Sage shrugs and yawns. "Dad was asked to explain the use of some style of European weapon to some Professor. So I’m here. How’s it going Ogre - or should I say ‘Mistoffelees’?" Alex grins shyly and shrugs, avoiding Sage’s intense gaze. He couldn’t force himself to look Sage in the eyes; he was far too intimidating to him. He mumbles an "okay" to the older boy. "Then what’s wrong?" Sage asks, catching the slight difference in Alex’s body language today. "He had a panic attack yesterday. He’s been jumping at shadows ever since," Ryo answers for him, giving him a look that was an even split between pity and annoyed. "Oh, those happen occasionally, but you’ll get over them. Trust me, kid," Sage says, then suddenly looks excited, "Cye called earlier this morning. A severe storm hit Michigan last night." Ryo’s eyes widen in fear for his sister. "Have you heard if they’re okay?" "Yeah, no one was hurt, just scared really bad. He said they were going to a shelter for tonight and then leaving tomorrow afternoon." He had to admit it, but there was something about being able to lounge around in your underwear a’la "Homer Simpson" without anyone saying a thing. Kento slurps the last of his latest bowl of cereal noisily and then lets loose a contented belch. Coming home for even the weekend meant that he didn’t have to play by the "Opposite Sex Rules". Since there was Mia and Rahne there, you had to be careful when even entering a closed room, let alone the bathroom back at the mansion. The smells of the restaurant waft up the stairs to the rest of the house, making Kento hungry again. Kento treks into the kitchen for some more, careful to step over his little brothers and sisters - and Yuli - who are glued to the TV for cartoons. He fervently hopes Rahne’s enjoying herself over in the US. She’d been shocked when Cye had offered her the chance to go. The ticket had originally been for Cye’s older sister, but she’d backed out, saying that someone had to stay to tend the business. Kento takes a huge mouthful and sorts through the mail laying on the kitchen table. Kento swallows a mouthful and stares at a letter addressed to Rahne. Huh? Why would a letter for Babes come here? Last night he’d simply draped his coat over the back of one of the kitchen chairs and went to bed. He folds the letter and stuffs it into his coat pocket. "Hey, Yuli! We gotta get ready to go!" Kento yells as he finishes up the last of his cereal, and dumps his bowl into the dishwasher. Whatever had happened to them, Kento wanted to be back to the Manision before his two friends got back from their adventure. He couldn’t sleep. No matter how hard he tried, Cye just couldn’t get comfortable. So he just sits there in the near darkness, letting his imagination wander. Beside him, Rahne sleeps with her head pillowed on his jacket. They had volunteered today to help with the clean-up. So tomorrow they were taking a jet-ski and touring the damage, helping where they could. He already had two of his wet-suits inside his backpack, ready for work. He’s absolutely amazed that she could actually sleep with that medieval torture device that she called a leotard. Having grown up in a all female household, Cye hadn’t been sheltered from the female things. Suddenly she gives a little squeak and jerks awake. She presses her face into the jacket and cries softly. Cye reaches over and rubs her back to comfort her. He draws a question mark on her back with the tip of his finger. " My - my Dad..." she whispers softly, moving closer to him. That was understandable. Ryo and her had witnessed their father’s mauling by a lion. According to them, their father had lived for about two days afterwards, when his body finally gave out. They had been so young when it happened, that nightmares couldn’t be helped. Cye continues to rub her back as she calms back down. Then she shivers and tries to pull the skirt down a little farther. He taps her shoulder to get her attention and motions to the bathrooms. Once they’re in the light he gets her attention and says, "We’ll put the suits on now. That way we won’t have to fight for a place to change in the morning. Besides, the suit’s warmer than that silly skirt." He hands her a slightly smaller of the two and she vanishes into the ladies room to change into it. When he comes out from changing himself, Rahne’s already waiting for him. They trek back to the cots and try to sleep. He rolls over and picks Rahne’s pendant up from where it’s sitting on her pile of clothes. He turns it over in his fingers, watching the dim light bounce off the cut edges brilliantly. Ryo had fixed it, and now Rahne wears it only during the day, and under her clothes. He puts it back, and drains his mind in an attempt to fall asleep. Morning comes too fast. He rolls over with a groan as Rahne shakes his shoulder to wake him. "Please, Rahney... I didn’t sleep much last night," he mumbles into his pillow, forgetting that she can’t hear him. "Fine. Be back." Rahne snaps, vanishing from his side. A few minutes later he becomes aware of her standing over him again. Then he’s hit with a shockingly frigid blast of water. He sits up angrily, watching little bits of red rubber fall into his lap. "I’m sorry, Cye," she says in a too-sweet voice, her hands resting on her hips, "But I couldn’t find a bucket." He holds his anger a few minutes than sighs. She didn’t look much better than he felt. Plus, he could never manage to stay angry at her no matter what she did. He into a sitting position with a grunt as cold muscles protest the motion. Rahne offers him her hand to help him up. Cye takes it and surpresses a gasp as he stands: her hand was colder than the water balloon had been. ~ R U O K ~ Cye fingerspells to her, suddenly all his aches were pushed to the back of his mind. He’d promised Ryo that he’d take care of her!! "I hurt and I’m cold. But I know why, and there’s nothing I can do." She murmurs, trying a ineffectual stretch. She shifts a little uncomfortably and covers up a rogue tear by performing a fake yawn. Cye pats her shoulder and reminds himself that she is a girl and she gets like this occasionally. It wasn’t often, but he knows he’ll be walking on eggshells for a few days. Rahne must have caught his expression, because she squeezes his hand in a mute apology. The jet-ski ride is treacherous to say the least. Rahne wraps her arms around Cye’s waist and holds on for dear life. She dislikes the reckless speed that Cye’s taking around an area with so much damage. However, she knows that Cye’s piloting this thing on his instincts. He instinctively knows where every possible danger in these waters resided, and how to avoid them. Still, she’s got to admit that he was making her nervous. Trust me. I know what I’m doing. It was more a feeling than a actual message, but Rahne knows that’s him mind-whispering to her through their kanjis. Try something. It’s plenty cold here, try feeling the cold with your mind/armor. I don’t know if it’ll work. Remember, my armors been corrupted from it’s true form. Rahne answers, reaching out with her armor power. Slowly, she can vaguely feel the area around them. But it’s fuzzy, and indistinct. She feels strange and off-balance... (rahne, stop!) A faint voice mind-whispers, but it’s full of panic and not Cye’s. She realizes it’s her poltergeist/mentor, the one who helped her escape from Zanaton. He’d followed her all the way here... Rahne blinks and suddenly she’s looking up at the sky, the seat of the jet-ski pressing awkwardly against her back. The vehicle rocks crazily for a moment then Cye’s face looms over hers. His mouth, lips, and tongue move in the patterns of speech. She shakes her head - she can’t focus her mind enough to figure out what he’s saying. (he’s asking if you’re okay, rahne.) "Yah. What happened?" Rahne asks as Cye lightly springs off into the water. ( "you passed out. i felt you do something with your armor powers, but then it cut off. the next thing i know, you’re trying to go swimming." ) Guardian translates for her, (you also said a name. i don’t think cye heard you. it was "dannin" or "dannon." i personally think you’ve spent way too much time around kento.) Rahne wishes that Cye wasn’t there so she could tell the ghost off. He spoke his mind on almost everything that happened; and it was annoying. Cye’s treading water beside the jet-ski, looking more than a little concerned. "Are you sure you’re okay, Rahney?" "I’m gonna admit it, Cye. This once, I’m a land-lubber." Cye laughs as Rahne carefully slips off the jet-ski and into the water so he can get on. He vaults up onto the seat, then helps her back up. An hour later, Rahne pauses on an outcrop of limestone, feeling overwhelmed. There was so much work to be done to repair the damage, and it was obvious that two determined teenagers weren’t going to do much, especially compared with bull-dozer and chainsaw equipped relief teams who had just arrived. Rahne sees some garbage floating near the base of the rocks and decides she can at least fish that out of the drink. Cye was within hearing distance, and the incline wasn’t too steep. She hops down from rock to rock, trying to ignore a new cramp, and calculate her apparent trajectory right. The rocks got slippery the further down she went. Rahne has to concentrate on her footing, especially considering that her boots are meant for swimming and not climbing. The water is right below her now, about three feet. Rahne leans over with her neoprene gloved hand extended to scoop the garbage bag up. She ducks backwards as a wave crashes against the rocks. Cye pulls her back from the wave, and the debris it threw onto the rocks. Rahne lowers her arm, which she’d thrown up in instinctive response... and finds herself looking at pallid, wet skin, and two clouded eyes staring straight up. Time seems to slow, as her brain registers what she’s seeing... She screams as Cye jerks her away from the drowned girl. He holds her tight and moves away from the water’s edge. "What’s wrong?! I heard a scream! There were two kids here...! Where’d the boy go...?! I thought I saw the girl climbing the rocks...!" Cye takes a deep breath and shouts, "Down here! Someone call for help!" A man dressed in a firefighter’s uniform starts to climb down the edge of the pier and onto the rocks, "You two okay?" "Yeah!" Cye calls, tearing his gaze away from the sight. Cye and Rahne climb up, the firefighter helping Rahne up. So far, she hasn’t started crying, but it’s obvious she’s gone into a type of shock. Cye makes her sit down and heads for the volunteer truck to see if he could get her some tea. Rahne sits there, breathing deep and trying to deal with it. She feels a cool, immaterial hand on her shoulder, and the undeniable feeling of someone there. (rahne? are you all right?) Rahne nods slightly, reaching up to rest her hand in the pool of coolness on her shoulder. "I-it just surprised me." (yes, if you consider surprise looking like you were going to faint as being the proper response,) the ghost replies sarcastically. "Please, don’t pick on me, Guardian." Rahne whispers, looking down at the ground and absently fidgeting with her armor crystal. (i understand. you better not play with that where people can see, it can attract the wrong kind of attention...) Rahne tucks it back into her hip pack, and runs a hand through her hair. She sniffles, now that the adrenaline surge is gone, tears are frighteningly close to the surface. (easy... take a deep breath...) The girl complies with the ghost’s order, feeling his hands try to massage her shoulders. She blinks back the tears and takes another deep breath for good measure. (that’s my girl. i know it’s tough, but you have a strong, pure heart - here comes cye - i’ll talk with you later about it...) Rahne feels her ghost mentor melt away and a few moments later Cye’s there with a Styrofoam cup for her. She takes a good sip of the tea, grimacing as she realizes its tepid instead of good and hot. "You okay, Rahney?" Cye asks, sitting beside her. He’d grown a little over the past three months, not much, but just noticably. His head used to be just about even with hers, now it’s a little higher. "I’ll live. So what’s up?" Cye streatches and then yawns. "We are, yet. No, they just told us to go ahead and leave. They talked to me about your discovery too." "I guess that’s good news. And..." Rahne says, brushing some loose strands that had escaped her braid away from her face. "They decided that since I was there, I’d do. They said they -" Cye begins to tell Rahne, then stops himself. She didn’t need to know details, like they had told him. "They said that it was suspected that someone had gotten swept off last night . ...And they hope you’re all right. " Long after they leave, the spirit named Guardian lingers. He had a bad feeling about this, and he had no doubt that something was wrong. Perhaps it was the tenacious effects of holding so much power for so many centuries. Or perhaps it was residual power left over from the role and legacy he had assumed and carried on. All he knew was that this had been no accident. Something was brewing. And he could do nothing to help them. Soon, he would not even be able to communacate with Rahne. He was slowly fading away, and soon there would be no way to help them. End Chapter 3