"Shards of Reality"
By Jinx&Jedi

Co-written with Jasson Knight

Chapter Six

Last period of the day...

      Alex sighs, thinking of a few curses to describe his occasional forgetfulness. He’d forgotten his workbook for his computer class in here back during gym class.
      He’s still getting the occasional lapses in both his short and long term memory; something that bothers him greatly. Being a telepath, he isn’t used to forgetting stuff. Normally he could have his psi effectively record a class, fall asleep, and remember it as if he’d been awake the whole time.
      Zanaton had messed up his entire nervous system, by possessing him for such a long time...
      > CRASH <
      He’s thrown hard against the hard locker door. The mind-numbing force of the impact knocking the breath cruelly from his lungs. He tries to reach out with his telekinesis to dive his assailants away, but all he feels is a grinding headache like he was drawing a sheet of sandpaper across his brain - just like the rough, cage-like vent in the lockers surface as it grates across his now bleeding back.
      He can’t make out their faces, but their laughter rips across his hearing.
      Alex tries to curl up in a ball to protect his stomach, but cries out in pain one of their boots finds his stomach.
      He’s roughly hauled to feet by his hair, then his ear is a wash of dizzying pain. A hand pauses in front of his face to show him his bloody earring. Then it tosses the earring away and he’s thrown to the floor.
      "HEY!! WHAT THE &^%$ ARE YOU DOING TO HIM!?" a girl’s voice screams. "LEAVE HIM ALONE!!"
      Heavy boot-steps pound his head like jackhammers, as his assailants flee from their discovery.
      Alex lays there until he hears the heavy metal door close and the sound of their shouts and boisterous laughter to fade.
      He pushes himself into a kneeling position, blood dripping onto the floor from his nose and lip. He tries to open his left eye, but it’s swollen shut.
      "Are you okay?" the young woman’s voice asks him softly.
      He hurts all over, so he lets himself side back down onto the cool floor. Alex relishes the feel of the cool stone floor against the welts across his cheek, easing the pain. "I’m going to get your friend," the girl tells him, getting to her feet hurriedly, "I’ll be right back!"
      He listens to her footsteps fade into the distance, then his telekinesis finally starts up and he shuts off the lights in the locker room and lies there, alone.

      Kento sighs and chews on the eraser at the end of his pencil in frustration. All he’d done was tell it like it was. And what did he get for his honesty?
      A pretty blonde girl suddenly bolts into the room. Kento raises an eyebrow. Is that the new girl Babes’ friends with?
      She’s hurriedly telling the detention teacher something. Kento pays only half attention as he goes back to writing sentences.
      > "Please! I need him to come -!" - "This is the detention room. He’s in here until..." - "One of his friends have been beaten to a pulp!!!" - ".... who?..." - "Koma Alexander..." <
      "WHAT!?" Kento roars, nearly tipping over the desk. "WHERE IS HE?!"
      Sharra swallows and points back down the hall. "Boys' Locker Room."
      Kento tears out of the room, bolting down the hallway as fast as he can. Sharra curses and runs after him, sweeping her blonde hair away from her face.
      As Kento passes Sage, he bellows, "Alex’s hurt!!" Kento throws open the locker room door. In the murk, he can see the red head curled up in a fetal position at the far end of the locker room.
      "Alex!! Alex! ALEX!!" Kento screams as he falls to his knees beside his friend. Then he takes a deep breath and forces himself to calm down for his friend’s sake. "Can you hear me, Ogre?"
      "Alex?" Sage calls, peering into the darkness. "Shit..." Alex’s school uniform is hanging in torn rags, stained thoroughly with his own blood.
      "Hey, ‘Lex. You okay, Kid?" Kento nudges his shoulder gently. "Alex!"
      Kento pulls the unconscious teen onto his lap; gently wiping the blood away from Alex’s face, "Sage or Sharra, get me a wet cloth."
      Sharra takes off and returns a few minutes later with a wet wash cloth. Kento dabs the wounds on Alex’s face and his torn ear, as Sage begins to feel Alex’s wrist. He can feel the break easily.
      "Shit." Sage breathes. "Ken’, we gotta get him to a hospital... Wait, he’s not -!"
      "SAGE!" Kento growls warningly.
      Sharra blinks uncomprehendingly, "What? He’s not what?"
      "Nothing," both boys snap simultaneously.
      Alex suddenly whimpers with pain as he begins to regain consciousness.
      "Take it easy, kiddo... We’re gonna get you some help..." Kento whispers, cradling Alex against his chest. The younger boy shudders and begins to sob from the pain. "Sage..."
      "He’s gone already," Sharra says, nodding at the door. "He went to get a blanket from his car."
      Kento nods, spotting a metallic glimmer a few feet away. He picks up Alex’s earring and wraps it up in his handkerchief.
      "Kent-" Alex gasps, "Th-nk ‘m g’nna be s-ck!"
      Sharra watches in amazement as the strongest kid in school handles Alex with a gentleness she would have thought impossible for someone so big. He rubs Alex’s throat and chest, trying to ease the pain that’s turning the smaller boy’s stomach.
      "Better?" Kento asks his softly.
      "H’rrts..." Alex moans, his voice barely audible.
      Sharra kneels in front of him. She was in the same music class as he was, and she thought he was cute. "You really sounded good in choir today," she whispers, "I just wanted you to know..."
      Kento tries not to laugh at Alex’s expression as Sharra leans in and gently kisses him. Then Alex’s eyes suddenly roll into the back of his head as he passes out.
      Sage runs in a moment later with a blanket. Within a few more minutes, Sharra watches them pull out of the school parking lot and turn in a direction that leads out of town; away from the nearest hospital.
      "What are you guys hiding?" she asks softly, hugging herself.

      Alex didn’t know how long he’d been out, or what exactly had happened. Why did he hurt? Where was he?
      He moans in pain, and tries to roll away from the hands that were gently undressing him. The hands don’t halt their gentle but rapid movents, gently removing his pants and school jacket.
      "Alex, stop!" vhides a familiar voice softly. "You’ll reopen your wounds!"
      "Nooooo... s-stop!" Alex moans, fighting his friends; terrified that Mia or Rahne were someplace close by.
      "Easy Ogre, it’s just us buddy... take it easy.." Kento says softly, handing Sage a pair of sweat pants. "The ladies are outside, if that’s what you’re worried about..."
      Alex moans as Sage pulls the sweat pants over the minor wounds on his legs. He nearly passes out in Kento’s arms as Sage tries to lift his T-shirt over his head.
      "Damn," Kento curses as Alex got a bout of the dry heaves.
      Sage lets go of the soft cloth. "Probably gonna need to cut it off.."
      Kento gets up from his place keeping Alex still; carefully opening the door, making certain to stay as quiet as possible. "Hey Babes, Mia, we need some help in here with him..."
      Alex feels himself lifted a little, then the slightest chilling touch of a knife blade against his bare skin. He knows it’s either Rahne or Sage handling the knife. Mia was cradling his head against him, and Kento’s ample hands hold him tight.
      "Eep!" Comes Rahne’s soft gasp, then the sound of the knife falling to the hardwood floor.
      "HEY! Watch it!" Sage yelps, barely missing getting the knife on his foot.
      Alex cries out in pain as the loud sound cuts through his head like a fiery band of bard wire being pulled taunt around his skull. Then his stomach rebels viciously.
      "Sorry... He’s sorry. Easy...." Kento murmurs, smoothing the younger Ronin’s hair in an effort to comfort him as Alex retches into a waste basket.
      "Nice reflexes, Ken," Sage teases softly, moving to support Alex.
      "Yeah, and how many times did I do that for you, Mr Perfect?" Kento retorts in perfect dead-pan humor. "I seem to remember quite a few..."
      Alex listens to the banter between the two for long moments, before he realizes that it’s a distraction.
      "Owie..." a young voice squeaks softly, followed by Cye’s voice shushing the child. Everyone else has come into the room.
      "What?" Alex asks nervously.
      Alex doesn’t receive an answer as the Ronin stare in horror at a message burnt across Alex’s back.

       Late that evening; Ryo watches Anubis’s son sleep. Even though the clock reads 11:00pm; Wildfire finds that sleep evades him.
      Alex had probably been targeted because he had no armor to warn him of their identity. That not only bothers him greatly, but the fact he’s going to have to force Alex to take on a responsibility he wasn’t ready for.
      Ryo uncurls his fist, and stares at the golden power crystal in his hand. While wearing this armor, Anubis had been both their greatest enemy and ally. Kayura had worn it until they had discovered that Alex was alive.
      Was Alex ready to accept the responsibility of being the next bearer of the Armor of Loyalty?
      White Blaze rumbles softly and nuzzles Ryo’s hand; as if encouraging him. He reaches over and stroke’s White Blaze’s large head, taking comfort in his presence.
      In the dim, pinkish-gold light from the multi-colored lights washing through the frost covered window from the Christmas lights outside, Ryo could see the little ball of fluff Kento had got Alex for Christmas. The small charcoal gray, calico kitten snuggles against Alex’s chin, her little nose tucked under gray and gold tail.
      "Be sure to move her, White Blaze, if Alex transforms in his sleep," Ryo reminds the tiger softly.
      White Blaze rumbles softly and proceeds to lift the kitten by the scruff of the neck and puts her down beside him. The kitten mews softly in protest before settling down beside the tiger.
      Ryo tries not to laugh at the ludicrous size difference between tiger and domestic kitten and fails; however all that comes out is a pained chuckle.
      Taking a deep breath, the Warrior of Virtue slips the orb into the red-head’s pale, bandage shrouded hand.
      A bright golden kanji briefly flares on Alex’s forehead like a small sun.
      "...loyalty..." Alex mutters before falling into a deep sleep, from which Ryo already knew, would be impossible to wake him from.
      The deed complete, Ryo lays down on his bed and stares out his window. He wishes his sister was here, so he could have someone he could talk to.
      However, Rahne had left with Rowen after dinner for the mountains to learn how to summon her full armor and use her special attack.
      With a sigh, Ryo rolls away from the window. Before he too falls asleep, he reaches for his sister’s mind across the distance.
      I love you, Sis, Wildfire whispers to its armor twin in a breath as hot as the belly of a volcano.
      In response, like a perfectly equal breath of pure cold as bitter as his is hot, comes the sensation of someone squeezing his hand. I love you too, Brother.
      Ryo of Wildfire reaches out and holds his hand outstretched, not surprised in the least to feel the sensation of his sister’s cool hand in his.

Someplace else...

      A child huddles in her cell, listening to the other prisoner’s screams and cries. After every attack, the dungeon swarmed with captured humans or Dessanins. She knows the most of them will never live to see the light of day ever again.
      She brushes a strand of filthy hair away from her too thin, dirt streaked face; trying not to cry. Tears hadn’t gotten her anything but a beating since she’d been captured.
      A cruel smile touches her thin lips. One day her mother and father would find her and the people who were doing this to her would die.
      Morgan, the only daughter of the Warlord of Cruelty, keeps smiling, but the tears start to fall down her cheeks. Someday, when she got strong enough, no one would ever be able to beat her again...

End Chapter Six