Chapter Title (it was too long): "Remember Tonight, For it is the Beginning of Always."
Bedlam: Bedlam to start you out with the intro to chapter 3. We held off on this one because of reasons. But yes, it's been done for a bit. We're on to 4, 5 and 6 now. This one isn't as long as 2...and really, why must everyone hate on Ligi? I kid I kid. I hate the guy, too. He was created for you all to hate, so I think we did a good job there. Once again 3 was a lot of fun to work on, as are the next bunch. We're trying to be better and not let them run away from us, but it's hard. So much happens, and sometimes we have to bump things to other chapters for flow. Anyway. That's all I have, other than singing Anj's praises for her lineart she's been posting and the stories she's still cranking out. I've been working on mine but not posting….
Anjelle: A bit? It's been done since like a day or two after we posted 2 XD But yes, I made the cruddy lineart that is our cover. Was hoping to have it coloured before the update but... Well, there's always next time. You can see the full-sized version on my tumblr. I'll be sure to post links on our profile.
Atche was warm. Not overly warm, like his hammock would get sometimes when Luhfi'd climb in with him. He'd never admit it out loud, but he loved it when his baby brother spent the night in bed with him, even if Grandpa said he was too old for stuff like that. He hugged Luhfi closer, burying his nose in hair that smelled of milled grains. Mama said they didn't have to listen to the old goat inside the hut if they didn't want to, anyway.
"M'ungry, Atche..." Luhfi muttered sleepily into his chest, reminding Atche that he was hungry, too. He wondered when Mama was going to wake them for breakfa—Mama…He bit back a sob. All he had left of Mama were vague memories. Love and acceptance, something that they both missed, even if his little brother didn't understand why. Waking brought back the harsh reality that they'd never have any hope of finding what they craved ever again. If Luhfi hadn't stirred, waking sluggishly, Atche might not have moved and just let those monsters do what they would with him. But Luhfi needed him. His little brother was all he had left and he just couldn't give up.
Atche was shocked when he opened his eyes not to the darkened room that they'd been kept in. Even more surprising was that he was still warm, he and his brother curled up on some sort of pad that felt soft as moss when compared to the sack they'd huddled on the last few days. He let his eyes dart around as he sat up, taking in the large window that let in plenty of light as his heart pounded. There wasn't much to the room, just whatever they were on and a heavy-looking small table with four chairs. The strange, smiling, human-looking monster from before was there, sitting, just watching them. Both brothers returned his gaze tight-lipped as they waited for him to make the first move.
"I was wondering how long you two were going to sleep," the man spoke, his tone as light and open as the smile on his face. Atche wasn't going to let that fool him. For all he knew he was politely talking about killing them. He'd already proven himself untrustworthy twice. First he'd left them with that horrible monster, and then he'd tricked them with that bread.
Well, two could play at that game, even if he couldn't back up his words. "I want to gouge out your eyes with a seashell." Luhfi blinked up at him from the protective circle of his arms in shock for a second before he started to giggle. Atche grinned; at least he could make his little brother laugh.
"Good to see you're in such a good mood. Was worried there for a bit that bastard had... Never mind that, though. I bet you two are starving, huh?" The man rambled in his nonsensical language, unsealing a bowl that Atche hadn't noticed at first. His stomach rumbled loudly and he prayed to the gods that had abandoned them that this one wouldn't be so cruel as to make them watch while it ate. He didn't think he could take it from something that looked a lot like the traders that used to stop by town. "Hungry, yes?"
He met the man's eyes for less than a second, untrusting even as he watched as a smaller bowl of whatever smelled so good was ladled out. His mouth was watering. Finally he nodded.
"Of course you are. Poor things. Come on then." The small bowl was held out, but still he wouldn't move, wouldn't let go of Luhfi. Last time he had been weak and look what had happened; he had to be stronger. Luhfi, however, had other ideas. His little brother squirmed free and ran up to the table, a wide smile on his face as he clambered onto a chair. Atche was torn between pride and worry when his brother didn't take the bowl. The young boy looked at it with such heartbreaking longing that he finally gave in with a scowl and sat at the table himself. Luhfi beamed at him, having gotten his way as usual. "There now, was that so hard? Hungry?"
"Yes," he bit out, "but I'm not going to fall for the same trick twice. You did something to it." He shoved the bowl back towards the monster even though all he really wanted to do was take it. It smelled even more amazing up close.
The smile faltered, "Come on, cub! I know you're hungry. Is this about before? I had to do it!" and the bowl was once again nudged towards the two brothers. He just glared at it pointedly then at the man's chest, feeling his palms start to sweat even at this small act of defiance. But it had to be done; he couldn't risk losing Luhfi to whatever sick game the man was playing. Finally the man sighed. "Fine. Alright, you win. It was a dirty trick. And that bastard said you were stupid... Look? See?" Picking up the bowl the man took a drink from it before placing it back in the table, even going so far as to open his mouth to show the skeptical youth the liquid inside before swallowing. "It's safe this time, I swear it."
Either the monster was immune to whatever was in the soup, or it really was safe. Taking a cautious sip of the brownish liquid, he didn't think there was anything in it that could be dangerous to his brother, but he wasn't sure. It didn't taste like anything he was familiar with. Looking at the younger child's hopeful face and the way his cheekbones were showing, he knew there wasn't much of a choice. "Slowly, Lu. Don't spill."
"But Atche..." Luhfi whimpered, obviously upset about him not eating.
"I'll be fine, Lu."
"Hey. No. Cub, you don't need to do that. Look; there's some for the both of you." A second bowl was practically shoved in his hand. "Eat?" Despite it sounding like a question the look the man was giving him told Atche it wasn't. He lifted the bowl to his lips, willing to not challenge the redheaded man on it.
"YAY! Now you have some, too!" His brother grinned, "Remember. Slowly. Because it might be hot, right?"
Well, the liquid was warm, definitely not hot. It was more that he didn't want his brother to miss out on any of the food. Who knew when they'd get more? But Luhfi didn't need to know that. "Right. You don't want to burn your tongue."
It was some sort of thick broth, almost a soup. There were no pieces of meat or vegetables in it, but it tasted like there should be. Not that he could identify what kinds. Maybe onion, but he wasn't sure. Whatever was in it was making his stomach rumble more even as he slowly drank it down. Atche snorted, annoyed with his stomach for deciding that it was even more hungry than before as he finished his bowl. Not a single drop remained, and glancing over he saw his brother licking the inside of his.
When Luhfi looked up, a small smudge of grease on his nose, he held out the bowl to the man who'd fed them. "I'm still hungry! I want more!"
"Well, I bet I can guess what you're saying, little cub." The redhead laughed. "No."
"YES!" Luhfi shouted back, shoving the bowl forward with a frown. "Hungry!"
A headshake was his only answer, earning a full-blown pout. Atche had expected it, though. The container he'd brought in was empty. Idiot probably thought he'd brought more than enough and couldn't understand why his little brother wasn't happy with what he'd gotten. "I'm sorry. I know you're still hungry, but if you eat too much you're going to make yourself sick."
"I'm still hungry…" His brother's dark brown eyes watered slightly and Atche sighed, gathering the younger boy into his lap.
"It'll be alright, Lu." It had become a motto, one they both clung to.
Luhfi shifted around, settling in his lap to face the strange man. He figured his brother was giving him his best dirty look. Luhfi was always doing that when he didn't get his way. At least he wasn't giving it to his big brother this time. Glancing across the table, the man had a funny expression on his face. His eyebrows were scrunched together and his mouth was open slightly. Lu strikes again. Atche ducked so the man wouldn't see his smirk and rested his forehead against the back of Luhfi's head. He blinked, confused as he stared at the back of his brother's neck and down his shirt. The ugly metal collar that had sat there choking his brother was gone. A dark span of skin marked the spot it had sat. Atche sat up, pushing Luhfi's head forward slightly as he tugged the back of his brother's shirt towards his own chest, earning a surprised yelp from his brother. Raw red patches of skin marred the base of the young boy's neck where the collar had chafed. Ace touched a finger to one; it came away covered in a clear salve which he wiped off on Luhfi's shirt. He frowned. The shirt was definitely not the same one his brother had been wearing earlier; that one had been little more than rags, dirty and threadbare on top of being ill-fitting. This one didn't fit him much better, but it was a nice clean red, soft, too.
Luhfi squirmed, "Atche, what are you doing?"
"Hold still, will you?" He went back to his investigation. It looked like there were bandages under the shirt. He'd have to lift the bottom of it to be sure.
"Noticed, have you? Well, I don't know if I should be worried it took you so long or not." Yes, definitely bandages. They looked like they were on right, but Atche had to admit that he didn't know the first thing about how to put one on.
"How do you feel, Lu?"
"Other than that. Do you hurt?"
"What are you two talking about, I wonder?" Luhfi hummed for a few moments, thinking about it.
"Not really. I feel sort of tingly. And my neck doesn't hurt as much anymore!" His brother turned and Atche quickly reached out to prevent him from sliding off his lap. Luhfi's gaze immediately went to his own neck, and he tentatively touched it, half afraid he'd feel unforgiving metal. Instead he felt flesh, and his brother's eyes shone with joy. "Atche!" Arms wrapped around his neck and he returned the gesture, hugging his brother close.
"I wonder if Marco would mind if I take a little trip into town later? I'm feeling like having dog tonight. What do you think?" Grey eyes wet with unshed tears, Atche looked over at the man. "Don't mind me, cub. Just talking to myself." The weird man waved. "I think I'm going either way, though."
"Got no clue what you're talking about, mister…" he grumbled half to himself as he took a good look at the clothes he was wearing. Much like his little brother's they were better than before and he had no recollection of where they came from. Not even a half-remembered dream, which when coupled with the fact that he was pretty sure he was covered in bandages… One way to find out. He pulled his own shirt away from his chest. Just as he'd thought, bandages tightly pressed against his ribs and stomach, but he didn't really notice. There really was a slight tingly feeling, and when Atche ran a hand over the swaths of fabric they were warmer than he thought just his body heat would make them. He glowered at the man on the other side of the table. "When did you do this? How?" Even as he asked he knew the answer. While we were drugged, they must have—his heart began to race at the thought of being so completely at their mercy.
"What's wrong? Are the bandages too tight?"
"WHY?! Why are you doing this—any of this—to us?" He didn't understand why. The only one who had been even halfway nice to them before was that blond guy. That had ended badly, with them being passed off to that... that thing like they were nothing. This had to be a trick or something. Because he remembered the blond guy had been in the room too, and that couldn't be a good thing. Not when they'd seen what he really was.
"You must really not trust me much." The strange man let out a sigh, shaking his head slightly as he leaned back in his chair. "Not that can I blame you. I'm surprised you haven't bolted for the do-o-oor—" He flexed his arms towards the ceiling and Atche thought he saw strange markings peeking out from under the long, white sleeves. He immediately forgot about them when the man yawned, though. He had sharp teeth. Very sharp teeth, with large fang-like ones on the sides. Atche clutched his brother to his chest convulsively and leapt to his feet. "—yet. And there you go."
He was across the room in seconds, yanking on the door's handle. Panic threatened to overwhelm him when it didn't budge at all, and he couldn't help the strangled whimper that escaped him as he spun, back pressed against the unyielding wood. The monster was still sitting there, watching them with sad-looking eyes. He'd probably just been fattening them up, and any second now he was going to attack. But Atche wasn't going to make it easy for him. Oh no. He looked around the room for an escape route, ignoring the way his stomach rolled unpleasantly.
"Please don't get sick, cub. Take it easy. I knew I should have started you out on clear broth. What was I thinking?!" He flinched, eyes shooting back to the man at the table at the sound before scooting around the walls of the room. He'd try the window. "You've been giving the little one what little scraps that bastard gave you, haven't you? Damn it, I'm such an idiot." The walls were smooth stone? of some sort. There was no chance of pulling off something to use as a weapon.
The window glass was very clear, offering the boys an unobstructed view of what seemed to be a garden. He pressed against the cool pane, leaving a handprint on the thick and heavy surface as he tried to get it to budge. "Look, Atche! A bird!" Luhfi exclaimed, quickly losing focus in favor of the brightly colored bird that landed on the opposite side of the sill. He hardly spared it a glance, trying to wedge his fingers between the frame and the sill.
"Marco's... he means well. He didn't think that bastard would—well, he feels bad. That's why I'm here: to fix you guys up for him!" Atche glanced over his shoulder as he tried again to pry the window open at the slightly raised voice and saw the fanged man still sitting there, chin resting against his hand. He was grinning at them, or at least their general direction, obviously amused. "Hey, don't hurt yourself, cub."
"Ouch!" His fingers slipped, and he barked his knuckles on the heavy woodwork.
"I warned you. Anyway. Marco's a good guy. He's just… lonely. Yeah, lonely." Looking at the window again he decided the only spot he might have luck opening it was all the way at the top, and he doubted it was wide enough for even Luhfi to fit. Not like they could reach, anyway. There really wasn't much else in the room. Just the table where the weird monster—why hadn't he attacked them yet?—was sitting. "Don't tell him this, but I think you'll be good for him. Not like you have any clue what I'm talking about anyway, right?"
That thing they'd been sleeping on! Maybe there was something there he could use to protect his little brother. He grabbed his brother's wrist and dragged him away from the window. Luhfi made a noise of protest; apparently the bird had still been there. This was more important, though. It was some sort of large, raised cushion. Atche was pretty sure that it was something called a 'bed', but only one person in the village used a 'bed' and it looked nothing like this. That bed had been a thin pad held off the ground by a wooden frame and supported by tight ropes. He cocked his head to the side as he walked around it, confused. This had no frame he could see. It was large and round—mostly round, it'd been shoved up against the wall and that side was flat.
"Do you like it? You seem confused." Luhfi'd already pulled himself onto the—well, he was just going to call it a bed and be done with it—and his little brother's weight caused it to sink down ever so slightly. Cautiously he climbed on as well. It was definitely soft and firm, but with much more give than the one in the village. He remembered sneaking into the house with Lu and jumping up and down on it once. They'd gotten in trouble, but the man had always been mad at them anyway so it didn't matter when they'd had so much fun.
Lu half turned, pulling on a blanket that had been part of a pile on the bed. "Atche! Look! There's a whole bunch, and lots of pillows too!"
"Really?" It was hard to walk on the insanely large bed. Finally he gave up and crawled over to his brother. Sure enough there was an impressive amount of blankets and pillows. Nibbling his lower lip thoughtfully, he started going through them. They could be lucky and one of the pillows would be hard enough to maybe use as a weapon, though most of the blankets looked well worn.
"I'm not exactly familiar with human sleeping habits, so I wasn't sure if you cubs would feel better nesting or denning. So Marco and I made sure to get lots of nice clean bedding so you could do either. Or both." Atche ran his hand along a particularly soft blanket and glanced over at the man still just sitting at the table talking nonsense. Even if it was obviously not a new blanket, it was the softest one he'd ever felt. Completely useless as a potential weapon… but he loved it. He moved it to the side and hoped his little brother wouldn't use it for the fort he was busy making out of everything else. He let him; nothing in the pile was useful to defend themselves with and it was keeping his brother happy.
For his part he just flopped down with a huff and stared at the strange man. He should have done something by now. He was annoyed that the guy hadn't tried anything, in fact. Annoyed and quickly growing frustrated. There was nothing to do in this room, and they couldn't get out. By now that dog-like guy would have long switched from shouting at them to either throwing things or beating them. Atche had hated him, but he'd been predictable, and the brothers understood predictable. (He refused to think about where he was and when he was coming back.) This was just too much new, and new ended badly. Plus, he was hungry again.
The redhead sat straighter in his chair and reached down the front of his shirt, "Well, I guess it's been long enough. You've both managed to keep down lunch, and I'm sure you're hungry, cub." He pulled out a cloth bag and opened it up. Atche watched in shock as he picked out a thin wafer-looking thing from the bag. "Mmmmm, doesn't THIS look good?" The man didn't even look at him as he popped it in his mouth, making sounds of obvious enjoyment. Atche felt his jaw drop when the man did it again.
"I'm hungry, Atche," Luhfi whined, pressing against his side as the young child watched the man tease them.
"Mmmm. So goood!" Another wafer was eaten, and this time the man glanced right at them. "I know you're hungry. Am I going to have to eat this whole bag myself before you get up the nerve to come over here, little cubs?" He ate another, "It's a good thing I have two bags then, I guess."
Atche looked down at his precious little brother who was practically drooling and then back at the man. The worst was that all this man seemed willing to do to them was tell them 'no'. So it wasn't likely he was going to hurt them, not like the dog-guy. Even that drugged bread hadn't ended badly, really. The collars were off, at least. That's what he told himself when he slid off the bed and walked over to the table. It was the hard to do, and he couldn't bring himself to look at the redhead until he had settled his brother in a seat and climbed onto one himself.
When he did, the man was grinning without his fangs showing, holding out one of the small wafers. "Good Cub. Come on now, take it…"
Atche couldn't believe that the man was just going to share the food. He wasn't going to try and get them to talk or anything. He looked at the golden-yellow circle that the creature seemed to enjoy so much and wondered what it was exactly. It was held delicately between two claws, and he hesitated. The monster held completely still as the boy looked at his hand from all angles. When he glanced up, he swore that the other wasn't even breathing. Brown eyes met his and for the first time Atche didn't look away immediately. He didn't see disgust or even amusement. Just kindness and honesty. He was so shocked he reached out for the food before he'd realised it. It was slightly sticky in his hands, but not too bad. Handing it to Luhfi he licked his fingers. Honey?
"It's good! Really good!" his brother told him, smiling happily and he felt his lip twitch into a small smile. He was happy, too, and relieved for some reason.
The redhead ate another wafer himself, watching the two of them, before holding one out towards the brothers. "Let's try this again." And Atche took it readily before giving it to his brother. "Good."
Another one was held out and Atche reached for it, but Luhfi was there first. His tiny hands were dwarfed by the man's but he still held the man in place while he tugged the wafer free. He was so proud of himself when he held it out to his big brother that Atche had to remember to take it and not just hug him. It was sweet, but not overly sweet, and not at all as chewy as he was expecting. Atche decided it was good as he took another one for himself.
"This is a kind of sweet bread, you know. It's a mythos staple, actually. Made out of sesame seeds that are ground into flour, eggs, butter, milk, vanilla, some spices and of course honey. It's very good for you." The man pulled out another one of the sweets.
"Yes?" Luffy asked.
"Yes." He handed it over. "So where you think you're getting a treat, you're not, not really. I made a ton of these, too."
Atche barely waited until the next one was out of the bag before he had his hand out, his mouth watering. "Yes?"
"Yes. Positive reinforcement's the way to go." The redhead passed out two more before eating one himself, talking the whole time. "Plus, you probably think you're getting one over on me, too." Luhfi's hand shot out for the next one, the child bouncing in his seat. "Let's see how this works… can't keep calling you 'cubs' or 'humans' all the time, right?" He pointed to himself and said clearly, "THATCH," while looking directly at both of them. "THATCH," he repeated before eating the sweet.
Atche blinked in surprise, it clicking immediately what the other was trying to do. He leaned forward as the man reached into the bag sitting on the table and pulled out a treat and watched as the clawed finger pointed at his younger brother. It would be interesting to see what Luhfi did. The young child blinked at him before grinning widely and pointing at himself, "Thatch!"
Atche laughed out loud at that. Thatch, because he now had a name for the man, handed over the treat with a shake of his head. But he was smiling, and Atche thought he might have expected something like that. "I'm glad you think this is funny. Let's see how you do, though. You're the older one, right? Set a good example." Once again Thatch reached into the bag and pulled out a sweet. Atche watched his lips carefully as he spoke. "THATCH." He ate the treat, pulled out another and pointed to Atche.
He nudged his little brother so that he was paying attention first and then pointed to the man who'd been giving them treats, keeping eye contact with his brother. "Thatch." He saw realization finally dawn on Luhfi, and smiled, turning his attention to the man. He pointed at his brother and made sure to speak slowly "LUHFI," and then himself, "ATCHE".
Thatch's whole body just seemed to relax a little bit, and he couldn't figure out why. But as the man handed over the sweet he decided it didn't matter. There was something about sharing—being asked for—their names, for the first time since everything had happened, that felt good. His little brother sat there swinging his legs back and forth sing-songing, "Thatch-Thatch-Thatch!" so he could tell even Lu felt the same way.
"Alright, let's see if I got this." A sweet was held out, and the man pointed to Atche. "Ath and Luvi?"
"No." Luhfi giggled, taking the treat out of his hand. "Atche and Luhfi!"
"I'm not hearing it... Okay, Acky and Lofie? Is that right? It sounds the same to me as what you're saying…"
Atche took the treat and handed it to his brother who ate it happily. "No."
"This isn't working at all." Thatch shook his head, a small smile on his face at his attempts. Atche didn't think it was that funny. Their names weren't that hard. "How about Lu and Ach?" Thatch was still smiling, offering a sweet. Atche saw red—no one had the right to call them that. The only people allowed to shorten your name like that were supposed to be your family, and he wasn't even human.
He snatched the treat and threw it as hard as he could at Thatch's face, "How dare you?!"
"You're not family! You don't get to call us that, ever! No one does! NO!" he screamed.
His little brother tugged on his sleeve and he turned his attention to Luhfi. The boy's lower lip was quivering slightly and Atche immediately deflated, pulling the younger child into his lap. It had been a long, long time since anyone but him had called Luhfi 'Lu'. "You can't just do that, alright? Only family gets to shorten your name like that," he explained even though he knew Thatch wouldn't understand. "It's rude." Not to mention it hurt, being reminded of how alone they were. Luhfi sniffled wetly into his chest, and he rocked his baby brother in his arms, blinking his eyes furiously. The redhead was staring at him with this shocked expression, and he didn't have time to worry about whatever he thought. If he wanted to punish him for throwing the sweet or yelling, Atche would worry about it later. Right now Luhfi needed him to be his big brother and make everything all better. "It's alright Lu," he muttered, "I'm here for you; I won't leave you."
"M-mama…. I w-want Mama," Luhfi wailed, big, fat tears running down his cheeks and into the fabric of Atche's shirt . "I wa-wanna go home!"
Atche glared at Thatch as the redhead stumbled back from the table, apparently taken by complete surprise by the sight of Luhfi's tears. "This is your fault, you know."
Thatch had stood so fast he'd knocked his chair over, but he didn't seem to notice at all. Instead he was just looking at them. Atche did his best to ignore him standing there. "What did I do? Gods, you must think I'm some kind of monster." It was hard to ignore him with the way he was talking under his breath, though. "You poor things; what could have happened to you…" He spun on his heel and continued to mutter, but so low it was drown out by Luhfi's hiccupping cries.
He watched as the man paced, trying to comfort his brother. There was a big part of him that was glad to see him so upset over Luhfi's tears. He deserved it, reminding them of what they had lost. Acting like he's family. Like he could replace Mama. There was this other, smaller part that felt bad—that kind of liked the monster. For a big, bad, scary creature, he and his little brother already had him pretty much figured out. He was a pushover. After all, they'd managed to get more food out of the man after he'd said 'no' before.
Thatch stopped right next to his chair and looked down at them, running his hands through his hair. He seemed to have come to sort of a decision, because he dropped in front of them and lightly tapped his brother on the shoulder. When Luhfi pulled his face out from Atche's shirt, his eyes were red.
The man took a deep breath before looking directly at his little brother. "Lu-ffy?" He held up a handful of sweets, his expression hopeful. "Please, cub. I didn't mean to make you cry. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I know I can't make it all better for you two, but I'm going to try. Marco, too. Please, you just need to take this first step."
His brother thought about it for a second. Sniffling, he looked up at him, silently asking what he should do. Atche just shrugged. He was just as confused as his little brother. Luhfi sucked his lips, giving Thatch a hard look. The moment felt like it stretched on forever before the child spoke, "Luffy!" He pointed at himself and repeated the name before taking the sweets.
"Oh thank the gods, little cub. Luffy." Thatch offered a shaky smile, "I'll be sure to remember that." He looked at Atche, eyebrows raised.
"Atche." If the man insisted on re-naming them, he wasn't going to be the one to pick out his new name. 'Atche' was the name his family gave him.
"…Okay, how about… A-sce?" He found the sweets offered to him. "Does that work?"
Asce? It wasn't bad, but it still wasn't quite right. Atche chewed his lip in thought, wondering why. Then it hit him: the way it was drawn out in the middle reminded him too much of those snake-people. He had to repress a shudder; it just wouldn't do. Maybe if that part was shorter? "Ace?" he muttered before nodding to himself. Looking at his (well he wouldn't call him a friend, really. Acquaintance, maybe?) he poked the man in the chest, "Thatch. Luffy. Ace."
"Ace. Luffy. Thatch. Got it." Thatch grinned widely, fangs peeking out from under his lip as he handed over the sweets. Yet, for some reason 'Ace' wasn't bothered by them this time. He wondered why that was.
Had it been a few weeks earlier, Atche would have said that room was mind-numbingly boring. There was nothing to do, nowhere to go and all that mon—all that Thatch really did was speak in a language they didn't understand, occasionally muttering a few broken sentences they did know, and that was only for food. But really, after being stuck for so long—he didn't know how long—in that dark, damp room, he couldn't complain. They had light. They had food. And they didn't have to relieve themselves on a bucket in the corner. Thatch rarely even got up out of that seat, never approaching much less hitting them. And with those teeth and claws, Atche knew he could tear them apart in seconds. Maybe he didn't eat humans?
At some point, Atche began assisting Luhfi with the fort he tried to make earlier. They'd worked together, piling the pillows and cushions one atop the other and draping blankets over them—though he kept his favourite hidden behind the bed-like thing they were sitting on.
"So you prefer denning, huh? I'll be sure to remember that." He glanced the redhead's way, acknowledging him even though he didn't understand a word he was saying. It seemed only right after the man-beast bandaged them up and fed them. That was more than any of the other monsters ever did. Mama was the last one who was nice to them like that. After so long it was… kind of embarrassing. And he didn't know why.
"No, Lu," he started, removing the pillow his brother had just stacked onto the pile, "you want the small ones on the top. Like this."
"Alright!" The boy beamed at him as he went about correcting the fort that was far less sturdy than it probably should have been on his little brother's side. "Hey, Atche, I'm hungry again."
"You'll have to wait." He saw the boy's pout and smiled, spreading one of the blankets over the pillows that weren't wobbling. "He might want to get rid of us if we eat too much, right?"
The child's face sagged further as he looked to Thatch with sad, broken-hearted eyes, giving a reluctant nod. After what the dog-guy did to them, they couldn't afford to hope for more than they'd already been given. The fact that their aches, their bruises and cuts were given a break from the abuse was already enough to be thankful for. They could heal.
"What's wrong, little cub? Luffy?"
Both heads snapped up as Atche recalled the new names they'd been given, all because that man couldn't pronounce them. In truth he wasn't that upset—it was better than him trying to shorten their names—but he wasn't about to just accept it. Thatch could call them that all he wanted but Luhfi was still Luhfi and Atche was still Atche. Nothing would take the names their mother gave them away from them.
Luhfi, who'd crawled into the incomplete fort at some point, washed the sadness from his face to blink quizzically at the monster, waiting.
"Are you hungry again?" he asked with a smile, reaching for the bag of treats he had before. Atche could tell it was a question by the intonation but for the life of him he couldn't recognise the words. "I can't give you much or you'll get sick. Marco should be showing up sooner or later—hopefully sooner since I'm falling asleep. You'll be able to walk all over him with how guilty he feels." He pulled a sweet from the bag and held it out.
His little brother beamed, hopping out of the fort to steal the wafer from the monster's hand without hesitation. Atche was a little uneasy letting his brother so close, but after how many hours they'd been there without him hurting them he thought that maybe… maybe it would be okay. Maybe Thatch was good.
"More!" Luhfi demanded, holding out a splayed hand.
Thatch laughed as he handed it over. "Alright, alright, but this is the last one. I'm sure Marco will spoil you rotten once I leave. Bird-brain doesn't know how to say 'no' anymore."
The boy looked at it, his mouth watering as he broke it in half and turned to his big brother still across the room, grinning at him in that adorable way of his. "You have some too, Atche!"
He was about to get up when the knob started to jiggle. Both boys remained frozen when, for the first time since they woke, the door opened. Eyes widened as a tall blond was revealed on the other side and Luhfi immediately dashed towards his brother, ignoring his injuries as he dove into Atche's chest, an almost instinctual response that developed while under that dog-man's care. Honestly, he wasn't sure the kid even realised who it was; he simply sought safety from the only place he could get it.
Atche saw the blond glance his way with half-lidded eyes and fought to hide his trembling as he remembered the day before, a sea of blue flames engulfing his sibling as he fell from a tree. In all honesty it terrified him, seeing a giant bird grab his brother mid-fall and set him down. He heard the stories—the legends. The old guys in town would always talk about the mythos, about the dangers of them, and as he stared into those bored, blue eyes he remembered something he'd been told, once upon a time: the more human they look, the more dangerous they are.
That was when it clicked: Suzaku, one of the most feared mythos of all—one of the most powerful.
And it transformed. And it was him.
The blond reluctantly looked away from their cowering forms, heading over to the other monster at the table. Thatch didn't seem too surprised by their reactions, a sad smile playing on his lips as he turned to the other.
"Took you long enough."
"I paid Ligi a visit before coming here yoi," the blond started as he lowered himself into a chair. "He can't hurt them anymore."
Ace watched as the redhead gaped at the phoenix, distress washing over his features, and he held his brother tighter, closer. He'd protect him if something happened, no matter what.
"You didn't." They shared a look before something feral entered Thatch's eyes. It was just an instance, just a minute flash across his face, but it had the hairs on the back of his neck standing on end. "And you didn't save me anything? Not even a leg?"
"Sorry yoi. Wasn't thinking about that at the time."
"That's why we were supposed to go together. Marco, brother, I skipped breakfast for this!"
The redhead sighed, glancing at the boys periodically before shrugging his distress off. "Nah, I don't blame you. I'd have done it myself. What do you plan on telling Dalmatian? Ligi worked for him originally, right?"
The bird relaxed in much the same way, a tired look on his face as his elbows came to rest against the table. "He had rabies. He had to be put down. There was nothing we could do yoi." He paused, a groan passing his lips. "I feel sick."
"Yeah. The mutt was rotten yoi."
Thatch folded his arms. "That's what you get for not sharing."
Atche took the laid-back atmosphere as a chance to hide within the mostly-built fort with his brother, glaring at the two from within.
The bird blinked, staring unabashedly their way. Each time he did that it sent chills running up the human's spine. He was sure it was the same for his brother, if the way he huddled near to him was anything to go by. What bothered him most was that the blond kept moving! Thatch pretty much remained stationary the whole time they'd been awake aside from a bit of pacing. He wasn't sure how to deal with that.
But he wouldn't let his fear or uncertainty show on his face, making low noises instinctively to ward them off—not that he thought he could actually intimidate them, but he wanted to put on a brave front and after having that metal ring around his neck for so long it just felt natural not to use words. They wouldn't understand him, anyway.
"He's growling yoi."
"He's scared," Thatch replied, snapping his fingers to get the bird to look his way. "What did I tell you? No sudden movements, no eye contact. You're freaking them out again!"
"I didn't do anything yoi."
"Yes, you did!" Those blue eyes found their way back to the brothers. "And you're doing it again! Stop that!"
"LOOKING AT THEM!" The roar held no malice or anger but still had Atche and Luhfi flinching. Earlier he wondered what type of monster he was with those big teeth and long claws but now he'd decided that he didn't want to know. "Look at the wall or something! Stupid bird…" Whatever he was saying dropped off into a series of mutters that, even if he knew the language, the boy would find incoherent.
Blue eyes lingered before returning to gaze at the redhead, though Atche caught the almost-glances his way. "Why is this so easy for you? You're a predatory mythos."
"It's called stalking. You let your 'prey' move first."
"But I don't want to kill them yoi."
Thatch dropped his forehead into his palm with a groan, making Atche wish he knew what they were talking about even more. It was obviously about them since the blond—he was Suzaku, wasn't he?—kept looking their way, but that only made him more curious.
He felt his brother shift beside him, turning owlish eyes his way. "They're being weird," he whispered into his sibling's ear, curling up tightly against him.
Atche snorted. "They're monsters. What did you expect?"
"The lady keeps looking at us…"
"It's a guy," he stated as he glanced at the kid before returning to glare.
"But the dr—"
"HE'S NOT WEARING THE DRESS!" He immediately regretted shouting, cupping his hands over his mouth as both of the monsters turned to look their way with confused expressions. Atche couldn't help it, though; every once in a while when they were thrown into that cold, smelly room, his brother had asked when the 'lady' was coming back. He would wonder when 'she' was going to save them, but the elder had given up. That was why it annoyed him so much whenever Luhfi brought up the blond man from before—he didn't want false hope.
Eventually the men deflated and he saw Suzaku's posture sag, as though the tension had been drained from his shoulders. "They're talking."
Thatch grinned. "I told you: we can FIX this, alright? Just trust me."
The blond nodded hesitantly, which seemed to be the sign Thatch needed to stand from his seat. He edged the bag of treats towards the bird before rummaging through a sac atop the table, retrieving a second. He pulled out all sorts of other things and piled them in front of Suzaku. Atche didn't know what half of it was, but he was curious.
"Their names are hard to pronounce so just call them 'Ace' and 'Luffy' and whatever you do, do NOT shorten them. Bad things happen. Very bad things." They were talking about them! It was a little irritating knowing that. "They like the sweets so you can try using them to teach the cubs your name or something. Don't approach them; let them come to you. No sudden movements, alright? And if you can't think of anything to do then just… read a book or something."
The blond started sifting through the pile, sniffing things that it seemed even he didn't know about. "And the rest of this yoi?"
"Bandages, salve… just stuff to treat them with if my nap lasts longer than seven hours."
"Seven hours isn't a nap."
"It is for me! Try not to spook them and you'll be fine. And don't give me that look—it'll be okay. They're just scared. You said so yourself: they're talking. That's a big step."
Suzaku sighed, nodding to something that the other said, watching as Thatch stepped out of the room. Atche felt the urge to rush after him but repressed it. His mind flashed to a day that seemed so long, long ago, left alone with that thing that… that hurt them—hurt Luhfi. And that was just a dog. That wasn't the firebird he heard stories of. It wasn't Suzaku. If one dog-man could do all that, what could a phoenix do? How cruel could he be?
As the bird turned its eyes to them, Atche slunk back deeper into the fort, huddling Luffy closer to him. He wouldn't say he was scared—uneasy, maybe, but not scared. Even so, he couldn't help the flashes of memories as they bombarded his mind, of darkness and pain and so much else.
Suddenly a spark of realisation flashed across the blond man's face and his eyes narrowed. "Those are your names but… which one's which yoi?" He turned to the bag on the table, sticking two clawed fingers inside to retrieve one of the round snacks they'd eaten before.
"Oh yeah!" Luhfi exclaimed, finally remembering the wafer halves he was still holding. He shoved one into his mouth sloppily, crumbs falling to their fortress's floor as he held the other half out for his brother. "Here, Atche! You eat too!"
Honestly, his stomach was turning too much for it to even look appetising. "I'm not hungry," he bit out, looking at the monster but never meeting its eyes, "you eat it."
Luhfi's pout didn't last long as he devoured the sweet whole. He seemed to have relaxed—wasn't as scared as earlier—leaving the elder of the two to watch their very likely enemy as he sniffed the treat, reminding Atche of a wild animal.
Then blue met grey. Atche had to avoid his eyes; the dog-man never liked it when he made eye contact. He would tug hard on their chains, choke them, and the brothers learned quickly that their gaze should never fall above his chest. It was almost instinctive now.
"Ace," he called, looking between them and holding the sweet out between his talons. Realisation washed over Atche as he recalled his new name. Suzaku seemed to notice as his gaze fixed on the elder boy, waiting. "So that's you, then. Well, come on. You can have it yoi. I'm not like Ligi, I promise."
He didn't need to understand to know what the bird-man was saying; he wanted Atche to take the sweet. But there was no way he was getting close to that thing, instead ducking further behind pillowed walls. Those partially-lidded eyes opened a bit, something akin to worry on his face as he stayed perfectly still. When he saw that Atche wouldn't budge, he quickly turned to the younger, making the same silent offer. Neither moved.
"…Luffy?" The boy's ears perked up. He stopped gathering the crumbs and remnants of the pastry to look at the monster, his eyes never going above his chest. Suzaku looked frazzled as he urged the kid to take the sweet. "Please don't be scared. You weren't before. Just… just take it. I won't hurt you."
Before Atche had a chance to stop him, Luhfi had already sprung up and left the fort, hesitantly inching closer to the treat held out for him. "No, Luhfi! Don't!" Of course the boy didn't listen, taking small, slow strides nearer to the monster, carefully reaching for it. He stopped when his hand was mere centimetres from it, meeting blue eyes for the first time. Atche held his breath. Don't hurt him. Don't touch him. Please…
Pulling his mouth taut, Luhfi cautiously closed his fingers around the sticky treat, gently taking it from the other, and his big brother breathed a sigh of relief. But then he heard a breath hitch in the bird's throat and his attention was grasped once more. Eyes widened on the gaped mouth of the blond as he reached for his brother. Immediately Atche sprung up, destroying the fort as he dashed towards them. "Don't you dare hurt him!" But he was too late and a hand of sharp claws was already pressed against his brother's neck. The boy had flinched but never pulled away, leaving Atche to slow to a stop and stare in confusion. He finally brought himself to look the phoenix in the eyes.
It looked like the man was hurting—not the same way they were, not from injury or abuse, but something else. His eyes were fixed on Luhfi's neck, on the purple and greenish skin lining the area where he'd been collared. He ran his fingers lightly over the salve-covered cuts from where the metal chafed and dug through their skin repeatedly, where marks were reopened again and again with every jerk of the chain, every time they were dragged through the halls because their tiny limbs weren't keeping up. Why was he looking at them like that? Why was he pretending to sympathise? He left them there! With that thing—with that monster! Wasn't that what he wanted? Wasn't he the one who told that dog what to do with them? So why was he upset? How dare he look sad?
…But those thoughts died in his head, never to surface, because that man looked just as broken as they did.
After a stretch of stillness, the man gently tilted Luhfi's chin upwards, careful of the bandages and tender sores as he positioned his head to get a better look. "…They won't heal. They'll scar." His tone was somber, audible only because the room had achieved near-perfect quiet broken only by the sounds of their careful breaths. Suzaku bit his lip. "…How are you supposed to move on if you have those marks yoi?"
Atche furrowed his brow. He didn't know the words but there was worry in that voice. And fear. But his baby brother didn't seem to hold the same reserves; he saw him out of the corner of his eye beaming brightly. "See?" he started as he handed half of the honeyed treat for his sibling to take, "I knew she was nice!"
It shot his nerves to hell but he managed to grab the half held out to him, thinking that maybe it was okay. Maybe he could… not trust but… relax around the phoenix? But when he took one more look at the blond he inwardly panicked, noting how distraught he was. Something was wrong. He was upset, but why? They were strangers! He shouldn't care about them! So why—
"Does it hurt?" Luhfi's voice cut through the silence, pulling him from his thoughts as he turned owlish eyes to the bird, reaching towards him not enough to touch, but to feel the other's body heat gently caress his skin. His face went from a frown to a smile instantly as he gathered the courage to set his hand down on Suzaku's knee. "Atche says that when I hurt it's okay to cry. You can cry too; I won't tell!"
Atche swallowed. "Lu…" He turned to see that the phoenix looked even more distraught—no, more shocked. He couldn't have understood the words, so what brought it on had to be the touch and—
"…After all that, you can still smile?" There was a pause as he took a breath. "Thank the gods…"
The way that man was acting bothered the elder brother as he stood awkwardly beside his sibling. Luhfi wanted to cheer him up so Atche did, too. But he wasn't sure how. When Lu looked like that he would take him into his arms, rub his back in soothing circles to help calm him down. But that man hated their touch before. On that day, what seemed like forever-ago, he cringed every time they grasped his hand or robes. He never tried to hide his disgust with them, how he felt about humans. So he couldn't do that—didn't want to make him mad. He began patting his clothes but, of course, he didn't have anything. Except…
Nervously he stepped forward, taking his brother's spot in front of the man. He stared at his chest but even without seeing could feel those eyes on him, making him a nervous wreck. "Stop it. Stop doing that." But of course it was futile so he resigned himself to action over words, holding the treat out in front of him for the man to take with furrowed brows. He dared to glance up, just briefly, noting the confusion on the other's face, then the softness—something he hadn't seen in the phoenix before.
When a hand brushed against his own he jumped a little, stiffening as it pushed his arm back towards his chest with a shake of his head.
"Eat. Hatchlings need their strength." The tone was calm, soothing, and even though he didn't know what was said the intent was clear. He raised the sweet to his lips, biting into it as the man watched both brothers. "Worrying about me when you've been—you're… strange for humans yoi. Luffy."
At the sound of his name Luffy stepped forward, grinning as another of the pastries was placed in his hand. He gobbled it up instantly, standing ready for more.
"Slowly, boy. Ace."
It was Atche's turn and before he knew what he was doing, he was pulling the treat from clawed fingers. But before he bit into it he paused and thought, shakily pointing at the phoenix. "Suzaku."
The blond blinked once, twice, before his mouth curved into the faintest of smiles and he shook his head, leading Atche to raise his eyebrow. That was his name; he'd heard it himself! "Do you know what that title is?" He seemed to wait for a response. "Of course not yoi. But I don't want you to use it. Marco," he said slowly, pointing to himself.
The boy swallowed, heart racing as he readied himself to repeat, "Marco."
That smile widened, just a bit. "That's right."
Luhfi beamed, tugging on the blond's hand to get his attention and when he had it he laughed. "Marco!"
"You're getting it. Marco."
He wouldn't admit it, but Atche was relieved. That man hadn't garnered their trust, but he felt more… human.
Marco sighed as he read, feeling a light press against his arm. After feeding them a variety of things Thatch had left—in moderation and spanning over hours, as he'd been warned the day before that they wouldn't be able to hold down too much at a time—he wasn't sure what to do with them. The small one, Luffy, had tugged on his robes until he sat on the floor with them, which of course for legs like his wasn't exactly comfortable but he managed to lower himself without the boys seeing through the layered regalia to his non-humanlike feet. Luffy seemed to… not trust him, but was interested all the same, which was good; he'd been worried the nestlings wouldn't go near him after what Ligi did, especially with how terrified they looked when he transformed. He wouldn't forget the looks on their faces, knowing that they'd probably react the same way if they ever saw him like that again.
Earlier the humans had gathered in their nest to start rebuilding the den that collapsed when Atche—no, wait, he was supposed to call him Ace, wasn't he? He'd picked up on their real names quickly and, in his opinion, they weren't that difficult. But maybe that was a good chance for them to move on. If they were scared of mythos and held a bad past with humans, maybe that could be a fresh start for them—so when Ace got up, the den they'd built collapsed. Both boys went about rebuilding it, making it even bigger than before, until it was finally complete and Luffy got bored, crawling to the bird's side to see what he was reading. He couldn't read the words of course—most humans couldn't read their own language, let alone the language of the mythos—but still seemed to try as he peeked around Marco's shoulder. Ace remained in their nest, glancing over periodically as he perfected their den.
Moments ago Luffy started leaning against him. He glanced down at the boy, noting his drooping eyes as he yawned. Ace wasn't doing any better, really, his lids slipping closed every now and again as he swayed. It made sense they were so tired; they would need the rest if they were expected to heal. So, closing his book and dropping it to the floor, he turned to the little one and hesitantly scooped him into his arms. The action was forced, his dislike of humans pushing its way into his muscles despite everything that happened, but he did his best to ignore it as he walked across the room with the human against his chest.
Ace, half asleep as he was, growled at his approach, glaring when he saw his brother bundled tightly in the other's arms. Marco, for the most part, ignored the groggy threats from the boy who wasn't even tall enough to reach his waist and placed the younger carefully within the den of cushions and blankets before giving the elder his undivided attention. For the most part, Ace was the more cautious of the two, and the least trusting. Perhaps age had something to do with it—how old were they?—but the phoenix couldn't go near him without some sort of feral sound passing his lips. The only exception had been earlier when he was looking at Luffy's neck, seeing damaged skin that he knew would never heal. The areas where the collars repeatedly dug into their flesh looked like they had been opened every time that mutt had tugged on their chains, keeping them from healing. They would scar. They would scar and the boys would forever have those marks on their necks, reminding them of what they went through. It was only a week, but that was all that was needed.
The nestling looked far too tired to really care so Marco stepped forward. Ace's body went rigid but he never backed away, even as the phoenix knelt down in front of him.
"Hatchlings like you need their rest yoi. Get to sleep."
It looked like Ace wanted to protest as the blond reached out but he couldn't hold on for long, falling to lean against Marco's arm. He lifted the boy carefully and stuck him beside his kin, covering them in a blanket that was quickly kicked off. Both had their eyes open still, just barely, too tired to move. He knew it wouldn't be long and sighed, gathering some of the pillows that had fallen onto the floor during the construction of their den.
His eyes caught on a blanket shoved behind their nest and he blinked, reaching for it curiously. Nostalgia washed over him as he gripped the soft, smooth fabric of the old cloth, the corners of his mouth curving upward as he looked at it. A scent wafted his nose—Ace's scent. Had the boy hidden it there? Shrugging it off, he straightened and placed it over the humans' legs. Instantly they latched onto it, bunching it in their arms to snuggle nearer, their muscles relaxing. Luffy seemed to fall asleep soon after but Ace was still holding on, looking like he wasn't all there as his eyes forced themselves not to fully close.
"It's soft, isn't it?" he questioned, not particularly expecting a reply as he smoothed out their covering and tucked them in. "That was mine as a hatchling. My father gave it to me during my last rebirth yoi."
Why was he telling them about that? But soon grey met blue and he was staring into the eldest child's eyes, watching as he nestled closer to the other.
"I hope it's warm enough for you."
And slowly those eyes slid shut, light snores filling the room.
Atche woke to the touch of the softest blanket he'd ever felt. Snuggling closer he yawned, stretched and opened his eyes, peering blearily into the room. Lu was next to him, having stolen the blanket that they were using as a roof to cover himself with. Looking out at the window, night was arriving fast, the last tendrils of pink and orange vanishing from the midnight sky.
The boy sat up, wincing as the aches and pains from his injuries washed over his body. The only light in the room came from a few candles and lamps, leaving it just bright enough for them to be comfortable with. Then he noticed something: there was no one there. Thatch was gone and so was the bird, leaving them alone. The lack of company brought a rise of unease to swell in the pit of his stomach and he hopped to his feet, heading for the door.
He was surprised to see that the slab of wood was unlocked as he opened it, peering hesitantly into the connecting room. Immediately his eyes fell on the two monsters from before as they sat across from one another at a table, neither seeming to notice him.
"Look: you want the cubs to understand you, right? Then you're going to have to do a little better than that."
The blond groaned, dropping his head into his palms. "Human languages are tedious yoi. Why can't they learn ours?"
"You plan on keeping them, right?"
"Then they'll pick it up eventually, but until then you need to be able to understand the important stuff. Try again."
Suzaku—no, wait, it was Marco, wasn't it?—heaved a sigh. "Hungry yoi."
Atche's ears perked up. He understood that—or at least the first part. That was his language. So then Marco and Thatch were…
"Good, you got it that time."
"It's only one word yoi."
"Marco. Brother. It's important. If you know when they're hungry then it'll help out a lot when I'm not around."
"Taking seven hour naps."
"Hush. I need my beauty sleep. Now let's try 'yes'. Yes."
"See, you're getting it. No. No."
"You better be taking notes, bird."
Atche blinked, listening as they went back and forth with words that were basic to say the least, but they were words he understood. Beneath the phoenix's annoyance he could see a layer of deep concentration and as he stood there and watched the exchange he felt the corners of his mouth twist into an involuntary smile.
He took an absent step, alerting the two to his presence. Both sets of eyes turned to him and he flinched, but didn't move. They exchanged a look before the blond fully turned to him, leaning forward a bit. "Hungry yoi?"
The boy swallowed, taking one more step, supressing his excitement as he nodded. "Yes, hungry."
Thatch laughed as he rose from the chair. "Alright, I'll fix you up a midnight snack."
Being understood… felt great.
Before anyone asks: Yes, Marco ate Ligi. We'll touch on it more in the future but for now all you need to know is that it's a mythos custom and will be mentioned later. Just remember it. Also, HOLY REVIEWS. I don't know where you all come from but we're grateful! Thanks so much for the support and we hope to see you around more in the future!
To our lovelies~
Blue Wolf Miko: (B) It will get less sad…. (A) It'll get better! Don't worry, be happy~
Ireadtomuch: (B) HA! You thought you could fool us, when combined we have the power to break down the hardest of exteriors… No really, to keep up the illusion, read in private from now on. (A) Lol yeah, just read at home XD
damichan: (B) Thanks! Define 'catching a break'? (A) Yeah, because… things… will happen…
Son Goshen: (B) Ligi...Ligi is something I have to own up to. We wanted to create a character people could hate cleanly without coming into this with preconceived notions like if we had used someone from One Piece. We HAD thought about Breed or Dalmatian, but then you'd just hate him on principle right away not for what he did. So he's an OC. (A) I SAID NOTHING MESSED UP INTENDED GEEZ.
ThiefofStealth: (B)Yeah, chapter 2 is a real knife in the heart at parts. Thank you! (A) Glad you like~
Molly Grace 16: (B) I hope we can keep your interest! (A) What she said!
Shirani-Chan: (B)We love long reviews! Let me just say that first. Secondly, thanks for deciding to read the story, and LIKING IT! Anjelle will tell you that the language barrier isn't hard to write at all but sometimes I find it hard. The names, oh man….she came up with Atche and I came up with Luhfi, but there was a lot of going back and forth. (A) Long reviews are great! I don't find the language barrier hard. Maybe that's just me. Yeah, the names were tough. I've fallen in love with them though XD
xXMissAmeXx: (B) HA! Someone else who's a mythology nerd appreciates my work! I'm the one who usually looks up the mythos, but we both think up the roles or what the particular character needs to be able to do. So, joint effort, really. I feel kind of evil saying 'it makes my day to hear you say that' about the emotions, but it does, you know? (A) I'll stay out of this since I'm not a big mythology buff XD And yes, we're happy people reacted as we hoped :)
dragonfire1237: (B) Thank you! (A) We will!
caring16: (B) Honestly finding time we both can write together is sometimes harder than others, but the writing part isn't that hard. It's fun. (A) It's a LOT of fun XD
sairakanzaki: (B) I predict more tears. Thanks for the love! (A) Lots more tears. We warned you. But we'll give you a break for now.
shinXlullaby: (B) All this praise is going to make me blush. (A) You flatter us~
Aerle: (B) I keep telling her that, but she doesn't listen to me! I'll leave the rest to Anjelle. (A) If I'm not worried about this story I'm worrying about my others, sooo… :P I WILL WORRY. To be honest, we didn't really intend for you guys to know about what Izo was yet. Though Bedlam put it down, I only intended for 'Genbu' to be a hint. But, well, we needed to put it in the notes, so… You'll find out at a later date~ We has plans XD
Rheassa: (B) Total case of- nah, we're already working on 5 and 6. (A) We're ½ through 4 XD
Guest: (B) Thank you! (A) Here you go!
key46812: (B) Ligi gets no love, why is that? Thanks! Anjelle goes back after we write it all out and tightens it up, so I think the more we go on the harder it will be to tell as we get used to each other's style and with her excellent editing skills. We're going to get into where the mythos live in more detail, but for now, another realm. (A) Blame her for Ligi. Beddy, stahp, you're making me blush XD
alynawatlovers: (B) For plot! We didn't want to! (A) Because reasons! And it's Beddy's fault!
WeevilOne: (B) Admit it, if you met them, you'd like Luhfi and Atche. And no dog for you until you move, young lady! (A) Dogs DO need homes...
silent canary: (B)Have I mentioned I love your long thought out reviews? Because I do. Chapter 2 was one of those chapters that was hard to write because I had never had to write that kind of abuse and torment to young children who didn't understand before...hitting the right notes was tough. You seem to be one of the few people who noticed that Ligi's actions were completely normal for a mythos, too. Even if you hate him for it…. Gah, your review is just too amazing for words. (A) Sorry, I'm retyping my replies so I'm keeping this short T_T But thanks so much for the awesome review. Sadly I think you're the only person who realized that what Ligi did is perfectly normal in their society. The only ones who had a problem with it were Marco and Thatch.
hantoMNiGHT321: (B) Thank you very much! And again with the hating on Ligi. We did a good job on him…. (A) Blame her. I had nothing to do with him. Well, they'll at least try to get their trust. We'll see how it goes, though.
WhoaD: (B) WOOT you read Burning Rubber, too! Wait, hold on...back to this one. Thank you very much for the praise! We have lots of plans! (A) Stop rubbing in that they're from your fanbase :P Thanks! And yes, we have a lot of plans and all of your questions will be answered! Eventually.
onegirl92: (B) It'll get better… (A) Eventually.
Blueh: (B) That's all her fault. Just saying. We have plans for Izo. *grins* (A) Oi, YOU'RE the one who first suggested it. I just changed it and wrote it. Oh yes, Izo will be a LOT of fun muahaha.
MarzBarz: (B) I think it says something about fanfiction writers/readers that we love it when our hearts break a little. Marco really messed up, huh? But at least he's trying! Gotta love Thatch. (A) I think it's because we want to see things get better. And if they don't get better, it leaves an impact. So we're drawn to them.
Bard of Chaos: (B)At least I warned you! I agree, fanfiction makes us all a bit warped. (A) Fanfiction brings out the worst in us XD
TheAnalei: (B) Again, Ligi is an OC. We wanted you to come into this hating him for what he did, not for preconceived notions based off the One Piece character. Long reviews are great, we like those. The boys are cute, aren't they? And don't worry, Marco and Thatch are determined to help them! Even if they don't understand most of what they're saying at all. (A) Ligi has been eaten. Fear not. The boys are adorable. And they're going to recover. Hopefully.
Justa Little Puppy: (B) I refute any blame for you not doing your chores last time or this time before church. Ligi is a Black Dog, though, so it's ok! You can still like dogs! I do! (I feel like we made someone hated as much as Blackbeard…) (A) Lol I think we caused an identity crisis XD
Aille: (B) You'll have to wait and see for Whitebeard. Ligi seemed to have that effect on a lot of our readers for some reason. Can't imagine why… (A) Love the sarcasm XD
Nugni: (B) We don't already have a fangirl? I'm saddened by this. Social lives are overrated by the way. I will wisely keep my mouth shut on everything because Anj will kill me. (A) I will. She always reveals too much if I don't keep an eye on her. For now I'll just say wait and see :P
cirmos98: (B) If we were, we wouldn't tell you. XD Yeah we didn't notice at first how long it was until it got close to posting time. Then it was like WTF?! (A) It was a surprise to see how giant it was XD
Suki Miko: (B)Ah fangirling. I do that at work. My coworkers have given up on me I think. It's going to be a long road for Thatch and Marco. Honestly, writing this story has made me love those two more. (A) Zoro and Kuina were mentioned but for now they'll remain characters that may or may not appear later in the story :P
Nimphy-Ryuu-chan: (B) I think deep down we all like our characters to suffer a bit. (A) Truer words have never been spoken.
Frostheart D. Blaize: (B)Oyaji was listed. He's a Bochica. And as for the four symbols, you'll just have to wait and see….? (A) They ARE part of the symbols, but I can't say there'll be an azure dragon, sorry XD
Suki Miko: (B) I love 100days! There needs to be more good Thatch stories out there. Thatch is awesome. (A) Thatch needs more love. 'Tis true. And I also love that fic XD
samettikettu: (B) Success! We made you feel for humans! Thatch is awesome, isn't he? He and Marco are a great pair. Ok, That scene, that was all your Husbando. I had nothing to do with it. (A) Oi, again with blaming me. You first mentioned the neck snapping! I'll admit the cannibalism among mythos was all me, though.
uchiha-sakura193: (B) It's necessary for plot! (A) What she said.
Sully-van: (B) Stunned is good, right? This chapter was supposed to be an emotional sucker-punch, and I think it worked. (A) Yes, stunned is good.
Fruitstogether: (B) Nope, it wasn't from the hunger games. (A) As far as I can remember, there are no species in this fic so far that become something else when they age.
Thanks so much for the favs, follows, and reviews! We hope you enjoyed!
*quote by Dante Alighieri