The Knight and the Princes
By: Ghost of the Dawn aka Ty-Chou
Chapter One: The Forgotten
"What do you mean you're in Tokyo?" Mia's voice demanded on the phone.
"Well, apparently, Kayura had the gate put us back in our own time, but forgot that we don't live here," Kento replied.
There was a pause on the line. "I don't know what any of that means."
"We don't live in Tokyo, we live in Toyama."
"I know that. What was that about a gate again?"
Kento sighed. He certainly didn't have the energy to explain. And definitely not in front of the nice ticket master who let him use the train station's phone. "We'll fill you in later. We just need to get back. Would you mind buying us tickets home? We'll pay you back when we can."
"For everyone? All the guys are with you? And Robyn?"
"Yup. We got everyone."
"And White Blaze?"
"He won't need a ticket, but he made it back, too."
Mia chuckled a little, unaware that she had been on the receiving end of the last of Kento's humor. Damn, he was exhausted. Why did he have to be dropped back so far away from home?
"Yes, of course I'll get tickets for you." Mia paused. "Kento, you left my house only about ten minutes ago."
"Say what?" Kento gaped. What did she mean ten minutes? They had been out there in that horrible future for several days! He glanced up at the dates on the station's board and nearly dropped the phone as he suddenly felt lightheaded. "Excuse me, is that today's date?" he asked the ticket master in a weak voice.
The older man, who had been waiting on him politely, glanced up and then nodded in confusion at why Kento suddenly looked so pale.
"Okay, Mia," Kento said, trying to keep himself together. "I'm going to hand the phone to the nice man waiting here so you can buy the tickets and we'll see you in a few hours, okay?"
The next few moments floated by with a detached numbness as Kento watched the ticket master take Mia's credit card information and then print out six tickets to Toyama. When they were handed to him, Kento clutched them tightly as he walked off almost trance-like to find his friends.
The guys were all gathered in the men's bathroom at the train station, trying to put themselves together and look somewhat presentable for a public train ride back home. Kento had been chosen to get the tickets because he sported the least visible battle damage. He was dirty and roughed up, but his pants and jacket fit well enough into the crowd. He was sporting a log gash on his back which stung like hell, but as long as he kept his back to prying eyes, he could pass as somewhat normal.
As Kento neared the bathroom, he spotted Robyn sitting on a bench, waiting for them. She looked positively homeless sitting there by herself. She was dirty and scared, her knees pulled up to her chest. Kento paused to check on her.
"You okay, Rob?"
She startled when he talked to her, blinking at him. The rising sun behind him illuminated Hardrock's form. Though it had been late afternoon in the future, they arrived in the present-day Tokyo a little past 5AM.
Robyn glanced down before she spoke softly. "Yeah, I'm okay."
"You didn't get hurt or anything?"
Her gaze remained on the ground. "No, I'm fine."
He found her mannerisms to be a bit off. But they had all endured quite a traumatic event. Could Kento really expect any of them to act normal after that?
"Okay, sit tight a little longer. I'm going to check on the guys and we'll be out soon, alright?"
Robyn only nodded and Kento moved on to see how the rest of his team was doing. Rowen was the first he encountered. The taller man just seemed to be wandering around without much to do. Rowen didn't look too bad, but he had been completely out of it since he came through the portal. No one could get more than a word or two out of him and Sage had pestered him three different times to wash up before he finally did something.
"Rowen, can you go sit with Robyn?" Kento asked. When Strata didn't respond right away, Kento touched his shoulder. "Rowen."
"Huh? What?" he asked, thrown out of his thoughts.
"Robyn's outside alone. Go sit with her."
"Uh, yeah." Rowen turned and wandered out.
"And don't go anywhere!" Kento called after him before turning to the others. "What's up with Ro? He get knocked in the head?"
"I don't know." Sage didn't glance up from his work. "He's been out of it since we got back."
"Dais said something to him," Ryo said. "I don't know what happened, I wasn't paying attention. But Rowen looked a little dazed as he was shoved through the portal."
Sage frowned. Something was fishy, but he couldn't worry about that now. They had to appear presentable before the train came. Ryo and Cye looked the worst. Ryo was pale and feverish. As the high of battle wore off, he was also in a great deal of pain.
Cye's arm was disgusting, covered in grime and disintegrating web. They tried to clean it up as best they could, but that just exposed the very deep gash and started it bleeding all over again.
The only lucky part in all of this was that Ryo had been absolutely wrapped in bandages. There was plenty to share so that Cye at least looked like he had already received proper medical attention after he was cleaned up. Sage was now attempting to finish wrapping fresh bandages around Ryo's leaking abdomen. Kento stepped in to finish the job while Sage took care of himself.
The blond swordsman was decorated in cuts and scrapes, but nothing serious. The worst of it was that he was still covered in Cale's crusting blood. He cleaned what he could, but there was really no helping it. Luckily, he was wearing all black because he was going to have to sit in it for several more hours until they got home.
"What about you?" Sage then asked, nodding at the slice up Kento's back.
In response, he took off his jacket, rotated the t-shit so the cut was in the front. Then put his jacket back on and zipped it up. "This will work for now."
Ryo's shirt had been drenched in blood and thrown in the trash. Cye had on a dark tank top under his sleeveless jacket and gave it to Wildfire while apologizing for the stench. They all smelled. They were all dirty and sweaty from battle. They would just have to deal with it.
The PA system announced the train heading out of Tokyo would arrive in two minutes and they all stepped out of the bathroom, as presentable as they were going to get.
Rowen was found at the bench where Robyn had been waiting, but both sat like strangers. Rowen hunched in the middle as if he meant to sit next to her, but Robyn was curled up, perched on the far side while blue-haired young man stared off into space.
Robyn only stopped hugging herself when she noticed Ryo approach. Quickly she stood and moved over to him. "Are you okay? You're not looking very good." She felt his sweaty forehead. "You're burning up."
He let her take his arm and he patted her hand. "I'll be okay. We just have to get on the train and get home, and everything will be fine."
As he spoke, their very train pulled up. Kento showed their tickets to the attendant as everyone filed in. The trains that took people across the different prefectures were a lot nicer and not as crowded as the intercity trains that took people to and from work. The group was able to find a section of padded benches where they could all sit together and they prepared themselves for the long haul. Toyama would be five hours away.
Once the train began to move again, Kento dropped on them the new information he had gathered at the ticket booth. "Guys. I just found out what day it is. I think we've been gone for... maybe three days."
Everyone stared at him.
"You're joking," Cye accused.
"I am not. We are pretty much right back where we started before all this craziness happened."
There seemed to be a collective sigh of relief from the group. Between Falnan and all the time travel, the ronin had been away from home for several weeks, if not months. They had long since accepted that both jobs and school would be a wash by the time they ever made it back. Maybe they could recover their lives after all.
Curious from the conversation, Robyn surreptitiously glanced at the man behind her who was reading a newspaper. Her stomach dropped when she saw the year. It was about 300 years off. How could that be? Where was she? Where had these strange men taken her?
Ryo looked to the girl at his side when he noticed she was beginning to hyperventilate. "Robyn, what's wrong?"
"This isn't right. I don't belong here." Her voice came out in breathy pants. "I'm in the wrong time. How—how did I?"
Ryo touched her hand and looked her in the face. "You are where you're supposed to be. I promise you. And you're safe with us. Give it some time and we'll find something familiar for you."
"Something familiar?" Cye asked. "What's going on?"
Ryo shook his head. "She doesn't remember anything. She doesn't remember any of us. That's why we couldn't find her. That's why White Blaze kept her safe."
They all stared at her now and Robyn wished she could disappear. Cye, who sat on the other side of her, leaned in far too close for her comfort, completely disbelieving what he just heard.
"You honestly can't-"
Ryo subtly raised a hand in warning and Cye stopped himself, realizing how uncomfortable Robyn looked. He pulled back and suddenly looked so very tired. "I see. Well that's just something else we'll work on when we get home then."
Robyn slumped in her chair and watched her hands for a very long time.
The conversation died after that. Everyone was exhausted from the battle and soon heads began to droop and rest against each other. Within the first hour, all five warriors had dozed off. The battle, the use of the armors and their wounds had taken everything they had.
Only Robyn sat there, wide awake. She didn't dare go to sleep. She wanted to believe everything Ryo said. She wanted to believe that these men were her friends, that they would take her where she belonged. But a fear was slowly boiling in her and she was very afraid she had blindly followed these complete strangers off a cliff so steep she would never return.
What was she doing with them anyway? Even Ryo was a stranger to her. She had known him maybe 24 hours. What had possessed her to follow him so willingly? Sure, she thought he was cute and he seemed to need her help. But then she witnessed utter chaos. Monsters and destruction so indescribable, she didn't know how any of them could sleep. And she saw the power of these men as well, of their strange friends that were oddly left behind. Again, she berated herself for following them like an idiot. What if this had all been a big mistake? What if, because she went with these people, she never found where she truly belonged?
These thoughts kept Robyn wide awake as the train chugged along while the sun slowly rose overhead.
It was late morning when the train finally arrived in the Toyama prefecture. Mia was waiting at the station for them. She had rented a van. It was the only way she hoped to get all six of her passengers home at once. Even Natalia would be able to join them.
Mia's heart quickened when she saw her boys emerge from the train. They looked so tired. She could tell right away Ryo was not well. He was visibly clammy, his skin not nearly the right color. She couldn't wait to get them home where she could feed and care for them.
Hearty hugs were received all around. The warriors were so glad to see her and they had missed her. Natalia stayed by the van, feeling very out of place with these people. Then she saw Robyn and Robyn saw her and they locked eyes instantly.
"Nat!" Robyn cried, startling the others. She ran over to her blonde roommate and hugged her.
Natalia was a bit surprised at such a warm greeting, but hugged her back. Hugging Robyn's shoulders was like hugging coat hangers wrapped in flesh.
"Robyn, you're so thin. What happened to you?"
Robyn pulled back, her eyes a little wet. "I don't know."
From a few yards away, Rowen frowned at the two girls. "Oh sure, she remembers the blonde, but none of us?" Since he had awoke from his nap, he had been acting more like his normal self.
Mia quickly ushered them all to the van. Sage helped Ryo climb into the passenger seat. Wildfire's whole body was drenched in sweat and he wasn't paying much attention to his surroundings. The rest climbed in the back. Natalia sat next to Robyn and the redhead wanted to cry with relief. Finally, someone familiar. She was in the right place. Everything had to be okay now, it had to.
Ryo was instantly put to bed when they reached Mia's house. Sage followed him up, a first aid kit under his arm. Halo was determined to mother-hen him until his condition was more stable. Mia remained downstairs with Kento and Cye, using a second medical kit to check them out. With the type of friends she had, she kept plenty around the house.
"Cye, this is really bad," she said when she removed the bandage on Torrent's arm. "We should probably take you to the hospital."
Cye glanced at the grotesque gash. It looked very painful, but he didn't let it show. "Ryo's the one that really needs a doctor."
"Except he got shot and there's no way we can take him to a hospital without dealing with a whole bunch of questions we can't answer," Kento said.
"I can deal with this, too," Cye insisted. "Sew it up as best you can, my armor should be able to handle the rest. If Ryo's not going, I'm not going."
Mia nodded, trying to steel herself as she attempted to clean the wound. She had taken a few first aid classes and she knew how to stitch up flesh, but she never developed the stomach for it and certainly wasn't looking forward to putting Torrent back together.
Pouring antiseptic on the wound made Cye hiss in pain and sweat began to bead his brow. Mia had a wine glass next to her and she took a large gulp before pulling out the needle and surgical thread.
"Is Sage okay?" she then asked. "Am I mistaken or did he have blood on his clothes?"
Cye and Kento looked at one another.
"He says the blood's not his. I think... I think he saw Cale die," Kento said softly.
"Cale? The Warlord?" Mia gaped.
"All the warlords were there. It was nuts, Mia. Friggin' nuts."
From the kitchen, Robyn sat silently at the table. Natalia was at the stove, heating up canned soup for everyone. It was the fastest way to get some warm food in their stomachs.
Rowen sat at the kitchen table as well, across from Robyn. He bounced his knee in agitation, tapping on the table as he stared at her. He couldn't help but be annoyed at Robyn for not remembering them. He knew it probably wasn't her fault. He knew something happened to her while they had left her all alone, but he still couldn't help it. It wasn't just the amnesia, something else bothered him. It niggled at some forgotten irritation at the back of his mind and every time he looked at her face, it just made him more irritated.
"Hey, hey you," Natalia said to him.
Strata visibly sighed. "My name is Rowen."
"Whoever you are, stop staring at her like that. What are you trying to do to her?"
Rowen glanced at Robyn who had been shrinking in her seat, staring at the table top under his sharp gaze. Rowen turned his attention to the wall for a while, but it slowly rotated back to Robyn and he frowned again.
"I said stop it!" Natalia accused again. "Mia!"
"Whatever you're doing, Rowen, cut it out," came Mia's voice from the dining room.
"I'm not doing anything!"
Strata huffed and jerked up from the table with a noisy slide of his chair. "Fine." With hands stuffed in his pockets, he skulked to the dining room and took a seat across the table from the others.
"Someone needs a nap," Kento said.
"We all need naps," Cye added. "As soon as we get some food."
"Hey, isn't that my line?" Kento teased.
Even as he spoke, Natalia came in with steaming bowls of beef stew and placed them before Cye and Kento. The third was plopped in front of Rowen with a salty glare before she walked back out. All three warriors were instantly trying to devour the hot food as fast as they could.
With her work finished, Mia stood to retrieve two more bowls and take them up to Sage and Ryo. She found the latter laying feverishly in one of the bedrooms, topless and skin damp with sweat. Sage hovered over him, inspecting the curious evidence that someone with clear medical training had already sewed Ryo up once. Most likely, that person had not been Robyn. Halo would have to be patient for a day or two to get the full story of what Wildfire had been doing during his absence.
Mia placed both bowls on the nightstand and went to fetch some wet cloths to help battle Ryo's fever. When she came back, she found Sage attempting to attach a large square bandage to Wildfire's side with medical tape.
"What happened?" Mia asked as she sat at the edge of the bed, wiping Ryo's face with the cool cloth. Wildfire's hooded, exhausted eyes swiveled in her direction, but he seemed out of it.
"He was shot," Sage said, eyes focused on his work.
Mia stared at him. "Shot? With a gun?"
"Yeah, maybe less than two days ago. I think Wildfire's been fighting to keep him together, but now that the danger's gone, the armor's gone dormant."
Mia didn't know what to do with that information. Two days? They had only been away for a matter of hours. And what was this about Wildfire's power? Weren't the armors gone now? Answers to these questions would have to wait. Right now she just needed her boys to be okay. When they were all well and stable, then she would bombard them with more questions.
She tried to dry the sheen of sweat covering Ryo's body enough that Sage could attach the bandage. Between the two of them, they managed to dress the wound enough that both were satisfied it would hold for at least the next few hours. Mia then shoved a bowl in Sage's hands before he could find something else to do and Halo obediently ate.
Next order of business was to get some food into Ryo, but he was already asleep. Though he breathed deep and even, no amount of saying his name caused him to respond.
"Leave the soup here for now," Sage said. "I'm going to stay with him for a while. If he wakes up, I'll make sure he eats it."
Mia nodded. With nothing else to do, she left to see about everyone else back downstairs. She returned to the kitchen. Passing Robyn and Natalia sitting across from each other at the small table, she found the pot on the stove empty and she immediately set about looking through the cupboards and fridge for something else to make. She knew her boys. After a big fight, they would all be eating every few hours until they got their strength back.
"Robyn," Natalia's voice chastised behind her, "you need to eat something."
Mia glanced behind her to see the redhead halfheartedly stir her soup. "I'm not really hungry."
"Robyn. Eat. You look like you haven't had a good meal in a week."
The redhead continued to merely look at the cold food, making no attempt to consume it.
"Would you eat something else if I made it?" Mia offered.
Robyn's shoulders hunched timidly as she attempted to make herself smaller in the chair. Her voice was soft as she spoke. "No thank you. I'm not hungry."
It was then that the reinforcements entered. Kento and Cye approached the table, sitting themselves on either side of her while Rowen leaned against the door frame. He made no attempt to come closer.
Natalia tried her final tactic. "Robyn, Mia worked to make this food for you. You need to eat it or you're being rude."
They both knew it was just canned soup heated in a pot, but it was enough to get Robyn to respond. She put a lukewarm bite in her mouth and slowly chewed. It was clear on her face she tasted nothing. Mia placed a mug of hot tea next to her and Robyn drank that as well under Natalia's watchful eye.
Cye frowned as he watched the redhead. He knew Robyn didn't care much for tea, but he wasn't going to object to her putting any sustenance in that thin body. He just wished she would talk to them, or at least look their way instead of shrinking away when any one of them approached her.
On the other side of her, Kento reached out and touched the side of her face with his knuckles. She instantly jumped back, wide eyed at the contact.
"What are you doing?"
"I'm just trying to make sure you're okay," he insisted. "You don't say anything to us."
"I'm okay." Robyn glanced at Natalia. "Do you... know these guys?"
The blonde shrugged. "Kind of. I've gotten to know Kento pretty well in Falnan. And I know this one is Cye." She glanced over at Rowen, but she was still irritated with him. "But they're really your friends, Rob, not mine."
Robyn blinked at her roommate and then looked again at the three young men in the room. She didn't know their faces, didn't feel anything for them. Overwhelmed, she rubbed her face with her hands, wishing she could just sit in a small, dark room alone. Just sit by herself and not look at anyone; especially not all these faces she didn't know.
Arms wrapped around her shoulders. Someone's cheek pressed against her head.
"It's okay," Rowen said softly into her ear. "You're safe here and you don't have to push yourself. Are you finished eating?"
Robyn nodded her head. It did not escape Rowen that she leaned into him a little. He took her hand, gently guiding her to her feet.
Cye gave them a skeptical eye, but didn't say anything as Rowen lead her her out. Her fingers remained in his hand as Strata took her upstairs and guided her to the bathroom. He paused before a closet to fetch a towel and put it in her hands.
"Here, take a shower. You'll feel better afterward."
"I don't have any other clothes," she reminded.
"It's fine. I'll have Mia find you some clothes by the time you're done. Enjoy some hot water. I have a feeling you haven't seen it in a while."
He was rewarded with a small, but grateful smile.
"Hopefully soon you'll remember that though I'm a jerk sometimes, I'm still a nice guy."
Robyn nodded slightly, then closed the bathroom door. He heard her locking it from the inside as he turned and walked back down the stairs. Upon returning to the kitchen, he found Cye and Kento clearly attempting to explain to Mia in part of what they had been up to.
"So, you don't have the armor, but you still have the power of the armors... in some way?" the brunette was saying.
"Yeah, like that," Kento replied. He nodded in Rowen's direction when he entered. "Rowen can show you."
Strata looked around. "I've never done it inside, but it should still work, I suppose." With a wave of his hand, a breeze whipped briefly through the kitchen. It rattled papers on the fridge and the calendar on the wall before settling.
Natalia was still at the table, a bit stunned by the display. Mia was already on her feet, approaching Rowen. She immediately took the hand he had gestured with, inspecting it as if she would find some evidence of his power. He looked exactly the same; not even a trace of subarmor on him.
"So, this is how you fought," she assumed.
"It's been a challenge to get used to it," Strata admitted. "Also, Robyn's in the shower and she would probably love some clean clothes when she gets out, if you have any to spare."
"Oh, yes! I'll find her some clothes right now. But I expect to hear more when I get back," Mia informed them and hurried off to her room.
Natalia waited for the other woman to leave before landing an accusing glare on the three warriors. "Seriously, what happened to Robyn out there? Why does she look this bad? She looks so nervous and depressed. Why doesn't she remember any of you? What did you guys do to her?"
"We didn't do anything-" Kento started to say.
"We left her alone," Rowen spoke as Hardrock finished the last word. "She was separated from us in a very scary place for a very long time. And we couldn't find her. That's not an excuse, it's just what happened."
"We didn't look hard enough," Cye added with self-loathing in his tone. He clenched his fists on the table. "It's our fault."
"Then I hope you'll be eager to help fix this," Natalia said. "We need to get home. Robyn and I can't stay in Japan. We've suddenly disappeared from our lives and it's been days now. We need to get back there as soon as possible. I think that will be better for Robyn, whether she remembers you guys or not. Right?"
Rowen visibly clenched his jaw at her, but said nothing. Clearly, he was not happy with that. Kento had a similar frown on his face.
"Whatever she needs," Cye said quietly, "we'll do it."
The other two slumped slightly in defeat. Cye would always hold Robyn's welfare far above his own. Even when what was best for her was the completely opposite of what he wanted. They couldn't argue with him.
Robyn stayed in the shower as long as she dared. She didn't want to be selfish or rude and take all the hot water, but she wasn't looking forward to going out there again. In here, she could pretend the shower was her whole universe. These four walls and the hot water were all she had to know, all she had to worry about. Why couldn't the rest of her life just be these four walls, keeping her warm, washing off all the grime and the fear?
Unfortunately, it couldn't last. Eventually she brought her shower to an end and peered out the bathroom door, towel wrapped around herself. She found a pile of clothes waiting outside. Robyn took her time dressing in the bathroom; again, not wanting to leave the sanctity of the tiny room. She even sat on the toilet lid for a while after she was dressed. Everything out there was so confusing and unfamiliar. She just wanted to be home again.
Eventually, she dragged herself out, shuffling toward the stairs. Sage suddenly appeared out of the closest bedroom in front of her, two bowls in his hands. One was empty, the other full. Robyn froze. In the back of her brain she hoped he wouldn't notice her. He did, of course, and paused to silently look at her.
"Um... how's Ryo?" she asked to break the silence.
"He does not feel well right now, but he will recover." Sage nodded to the stairs, signaling for her to go ahead of him.
Robyn had no choice but to comply. She felt uncomfortable every step on the way down with the warrior at her back. They ended up back at the kitchen where Robyn quickly pressed her back against the nearest wall so Sage was no longer behind her. The blond merely continued on and placed the bowls in the sink.
Natalia was the only other person in the kitchen at the time. She had been on the phone and hung up as they walked in. "Good news, Robyn. I managed to get a hold of my boyfriend. He is hella confused about most of what I said, but I think he was too happy to hear we were alive to argue. He's going down to the apartment to try to find our passports and fax us a copy. Mia said if we tell the airport ours were stolen, the copies should get us back to the US."
"We're going back home?" Robyn blurted out, relief painted all over her tone.
"Yes! As soon as possible!"
Robyn covered her mouth with her hands as she let out a sound between a laugh and a sob. Home. Finally, some place she remembered. That was where she belonged, where she felt safe. Her knees went weak in relief, the wall helping to hold her up.
Sage frowned at her response, but made no effort to converse further with her.
Natalia walked to the redhead, embracing her. "Honey, it's going to be okay. Let's go find Mia. She's in her office looking up plane tickets. We might even be able to catch a flight tomorrow."
Robyn nodded and allowed the other woman to lead her off to the different part of the house. Sage silently watched them go and then stalked off to find other members of his team. Kento, Cye and Rowen were all plopped in the living room. The TV was on, but it was clear none of them were really watching it. They were all too preoccupied and exhausted. Kento and Rowen were mostly just staring off into space while Cye was half asleep.
"Are you guys aware those girls might be leaving as early as tomorrow?" Halo asked.
Cye didn't open his eyes, but he sighed heavily.
"Yeah," Kento confirmed, chin resting in his palms. "Robyn's roommate is eager to get her home. She thinks it will be for the best."
"Will it?" Sage asked.
Kento shrugged. Rowen made a disgruntled sound and shifted on the couch.
"Is there really anything else we can do about it?" Cye said tiredly. "It's not our decision and it just might be what's best for Robyn, to get her as far away from us as she can. We haven't brought her anything but problems and pain since we showed up in her life again."
Back when they had flown to Oregon. Back when they found her at a soccer game, sat on the couch in her apartment, let her cat walk over their laps. It felt like a whole other lifetime ago when the rest of the world had only experienced three days' time.
"It just doesn't seem right when she can't make that decision for herself," Rowen muttered.
"Yeah, but maybe when she gets home and feels comfortable it will all come back," Kento said softly. "I'm sure we're still in there somewhere. We give it some time and she'll remember everything. She'll be e-mailing us before we know it and we'll all get on video chat to talk about how scary and crazy all this was and everything will work itself out. Maybe we'll even see her in person again sometime soon."
"I just hope she'll be okay," Cye whispered.
Kento patted him on the shoulder. "Me, too, buddy. Me, too."
Robyn stayed glued to the other girls for the rest of the day. Mia helped them purchase plane tickets leaving early the next morning. They would need to be up by at least 5 AM to make that flight.
The day dragged slowly for everyone. Their internal clocks were no longer in sync with the current timezone. The ronin had left the future late in the afternoon only to appear in the present early in the morning. It was a rough task of itself to make it through the day. Naps were attempted, but they were not restful. It happened very slowly, but an air of restlessness was settling over the house and it kept the warriors in a constant state of slight agitation as the minutes ticked slowly by.
Any time any of them caught a glance of Robyn, it only made it worse. She looked as unsettled as they felt. It hurt that they could no longer talk to her like they used to, that they couldn't treat her like a friend. Robyn was only a stranger now and it was a harsh reality to handle.
When dinner time finally came around, they all sat down at the long dining room table. Everyone except Ryo, who was still dead to the world. Again, Robyn ate very little as the guys wolfed down their food as if they hadn't seen a meal all day. Many attempts were made at casual conversation. If anything was address to Robyn, she would plaster a weak but fake smile on her face, give the briefest answer she could, then go back to staring at her plate. It seemed nothing at this house was going to help her. She really did need to get away from all of this and be at home.
Bedtime was more than welcome when it came around. It was hardly 9PM before everyone shuffled toward bedrooms, nearly dead on their feet. The only bedrooms on the ground floor were Mia's and a small guest room, which Robyn took. She immediately shut the door on anyone else so she could be alone in her little four-walled fortress.
Sage slept upstairs, taking the second bed in Ryo's room to keep an eye on his condition. Cye and Kento took the two beds in the next bedroom. Natalia slept in the room at the end of the hall. Rowen slept on the couch, mostly because that's where he had drifted off while watching TV. Even Mia was in bed by 10:30 and for a few hours, the mansion was dark and quiet.
Then the screaming began.
Rowen sat up from the couch in the darkness. A feeling of anxiousness washed over him as if something was wrong, but it was the dead of night. Everyone was safe in bed and asleep. His ears picked up a brief sound of distress coming from the small guest room nearby. Was that what had awakened him? Normally, Rowen could sleep through an earthquake.
The house went silent for a few moments, then he heard it again. It was soft and muffled, but definitely sounded like the person making it was in some sort of trouble. Robyn. He knew she would not be happy to see him, but he got up and silently padded toward the closed door.
Suddenly, a sharp, terrified scream came from the bedroom. The sound raised the hair on Rowen's neck as he surged forward. Robyn's voice pierced through the whole house as he grabbed the doorknob. It didn't turn. He was locked out.
Several footfalls from above told that the other guys had heard her distress. They raced down the stairs as Rowen threw his shoulder into the door. Once, twice. On the third try, he busted through the lock and threw the door open as he felt Kento, Cye, and Sage rush up behind him.
Rowen palmed the wall for a light in the pitch blackness. He flipped it on just in time to see Robyn flopping off the bed, tangled in a blanket. The warriors had all been too preoccupied with getting in the room to notice the screams had already stopped. Robyn scooted back against the wall, sitting on the floor with the covers.
"Robyn, are you okay?" Rowen asked, eyes still wide and wild.
She glanced around at the strangers looming in the doorway, clutching the blanket tightly as if it would protect her from them. "I'm sorry, I just... I had a bad dream."
The four warriors were still trying to process that there were no enemies to fight, even though their hearts still raced from the scare. Robyn still looked like she felt like she was danger. A few of them moved further into the room to assess the situation and Robyn surprisingly pulled the blanket over her head at their advance.
The ronin all paused in confusion.
"I'm sorry," Robyn's small voice came from under the covers. "I didn't mean to be loud. Please, just go back. I'll be okay."
The warriors looked at each other. They didn't believe a word of that. Cye stepped forward, crouching down to extend a hand to her covered form.
"I said I'm fine!" her voice shot out, trembling with a high pitch of fear, before he could touch her. She must have been able to see the shadows of their bodies through the blanket. "Please, just go. I'm fine. Please go away. Please go. Please go."
She kept repeating the last two words in a whisper, as if she were trying to pray away a haunting spirit.
The four looked at each other again, feeling helpless. There was nothing they could do to improve this situation. Robyn was scared of them for some reason. She didn't want them in her room; didn't feel safe with them around.
Something heavy butted past their hips as White Blaze bodily made his way through them and into the room. He glanced back at the group, giving them a confident look before turning to the girl under the blanket. The massive beast crawled on his stomach toward her, nosing his head beneath the blanket. As soon as Robyn saw who it was, she hugged the tiger around the neck, making a sound akin to a sob. There she remained, completely covered with the tiger half under the blanket with her.
There was nothing else the ronin could do for her, no matter how much they wanted to. They had no choice but to leave and regretfully shut the door behind them. The four silently shuffled back to their respective sleeping spaces feeling defeated. Any previous arguments they had about Robyn leaving so soon no longer felt valid. Being here with them was not good for her. They would not speak a word against her going back to the US.
The next morning came far too early for anyone's comfort. Mia made sure the girls were up by 5AM so they would have enough time to get something to eat and still catch their flight. She weighed her options about letting the guys sleep. They needed their rest, but maybe they also wanted to see Robyn off, even if she wanted nothing to do with them.
The decision was made for her when the guys began stirring on their own. After such a frantic wake-up call in the middle of the night, they were all hypersensitive to any sound in the house.
All three women were in the kitchen eating toast and fruit when Kento, Cye and Rowen came in. There was warm oatmeal on the stove, the smell of cinnamon in the air. Robyn looked very intently at her food, of which she had only taken a few bites, as the guys joined them at the table.
The redhead was a hard sight to look at. She was gaunt and pale, dark bags under her eyes from lack of sleep and nutrition. She looked exhausted and heart-sick. It took all Robyn's energy to even look that normal; to not tremble to the point of shaking in the presence of these strange men. It was only that night when she could remember she had seen their faces before: in her nightmares.
Night after night, Robyn was haunted by the same imagery. So much death. Battlefields of bloody bodies. Demon hoards, fantastic beasts and humans all killing each other...
She is killing, too, with massive blades and inhuman strength. With an anger and bloodlust that isn't her own. All the time, she is in pain, bleeding at her side from a wound that won't heal. There is also a great, dark figure, full of evil. It laughs with an almost human face that is twisted with glee and sharp fangs. Black blades shoot out from it, stabbing her over and over again. Blood is everywhere. There is so much pain. And their faces are there. These strange men who claim they're her friends. They are there, too, in this horrible place. And they are watching as she dies.
Robyn always wakes up screaming, grabbing herself, trying to stop the blood. Trying to hold her broken body together. She checks her clothes, never finding any blood in the waking world, finding herself well and whole. That should be enough to calm her. Realizing it's just a dream should mean she can easily get over it. But if it was just a dream, why is she covered with so many deep scars? Scars in all the same places she bled in her dream.
She was so startled by the sound of her name, she dropped her spoon. Oatmeal flicked on the table as the utensil clattered on the floor. Robyn moved to retrieve it but Cye was faster, picking it up and handing her a new one before retrieving a cloth to clean the mess.
"Robyn," Mia said again. "The taxi should be here in about five minutes. Make sure you're ready."
The redhead blinked at her and then nodded.
Natalia stood and rubbed her back to comfort her. "We'll be out of here soon."
Robyn sighed a little. It felt good to hear those words. She couldn't wait to get out of this house and away from these people. After the previous night, she couldn't stand looking at their faces anymore.
Natalia left her as Mia called her over. The brunette produced some cash and put it in the blonde's hands. Natalia thanked her wholeheartedly and even hugged Mia for all her help.
Sage walked in then, announcing Ryo was awake, but in pain and in no position to get out of bed. He spooned a bowl of oatmeal with the intent of making sure Wildfire ate every bit of it.
Robyn just stared at the table as she shivered in the early morning chill. She still wore the thin summer blouse Mia had given her the day before. Next to her, Kento unzipped the dark blue hoodie he wore and handed it to her. She stared at him with wide eyes.
"Take it," he ordered. "I know you're going to be cold all the way home. Just take it."
Very slowly, with trembling, pale fingers, Robyn reached for it. She touched the soft material for several moments, leading Kento to believe she wasn't ever going to put it on. But eventually she did shrug it over her thin shoulders. The much bigger sweater nearly swallowed her. Yet, her face softened slightly at being warmer.
Kento couldn't help but smile a little when she shyly pulled the collar up to her nose and smelled it. It was a very Robyn thing to do. She always smelled everything of Cye's she put on. Or anything else of theirs she managed to swipe. At first, it seemed she did it just to test how clean it was. Then it became apparent she liked it because their clothes smelled like them. Maybe the smell of his hoodie would trigger something in her memory. At the very least, Kento warmed to see that she seemed a bit more comfortable to be wearing it.
Ryo's gaze moved from the window to the doorway as Sage stepped in. He tried to sit up, but pain shot through his abdomen. Ryo didn't recall the pain being this bad the first time around. Was that Wildfire's doing? Had the armor's power helped reduce the pain while there was evil still to be defeated? If so, it should have been a welcomed sign to know there was no long any danger about. Ryo, however, didn't feel all that grateful.
"If you didn't move so much it wouldn't hurt so bad," Sage counseled.
"It would hurt less if you gave me those pain killers," Ryo informed him.
Robyn's friend Cindi had sent him off with a bottle full of prescription meds when he left that hospital. Of which Sage promptly confiscated the moment he knew they existed. At the moment, Halo was holding them in his hand.
"You'll get these when you eat all of this." He placed the bowl of oatmeal in Ryo's lap. "I'm not giving you medication on an empty stomach."
Despite the pain, Ryo was happy to have warm sustenance and made no arguments as he ate.
"Robyn's leaving in a few minutes," Sage spoke. "They're taking her to the airport. She's going home."
Ryo paused with the spoon still in his mouth, brows raised. He chewed and swallowed. "It's going to be like that, is it?"
"I'm afraid so. She wants to go home. I think that's the best place for her right now."
Sighing, Wildfire gazed out the window. He had heard the screams in the night, too. They had awoken him from his fevered dreams where he was still fighting demons and Talpa's evil. He knew about nightmares. He could only imagine how much more difficult it was to face them when surrounded by complete strangers.
"I promised I would get her home," he said softly, though his chest ached with regret. "I'm glad we're keeping that promise."
Robyn was more than eager to get out of there when the taxi pulled up. She was quick to climb inside the back seat even as Natalia said her good-byes.
"Well, it was weird, all of you," the blonde said, looking at Cye, Kento and Rowen. They were the only three warriors who had followed to the front porch to see them off. "I don't know if I can say it was good to get to know you guys, but I'll definitely never be the same again."
She smiled at Kento, who shrugged and then extended his arms to her. They embraced.
"Take care of yourself," he told her.
"You guys, too. You bunch of weirdos," she laughed back. Glancing at the taxi she added, "I'll take care of Robyn, too. Whatever she needs. I'll be in touch with Mia to let you know how she's doing."
"Thank you," Cye told her.
Natalia and Mia hugged next and the former thanked her for all her help.
Meanwhile, Cye made his way over to the side of the taxi where Robyn sat. Rowen and Kento questioned the wisdom of his actions as he opened the door. Robyn blinked at him, stiff and wary at his presence. Cye crouched on the ground, making himself lower and less threatening.
"I'm sorry you had such a hard time," he said gently. "I'm sorry we couldn't save you from whatever it is you've been through. We should have. We should have worked harder to protect you. We failed you and I'm sorry for that, too. Maybe one day you can forgive us and remember that we are your friends. If you ever need anything, anything at all, don't hesitate to ask. We will do anything we can for you."
Robyn looked self-consciously at her hands. Cye watched as she swallowed, and then slowly nodded. That was probably the best he could hope to get from her. He stood, holding the taxi door.
"Be safe. No matter what happens, I love you."
Robyn's head snapped up, staring at him wide-eyed, but Cye had already closed the door on her. Something niggled at the back of her darkened recollection. A car door shutting in her face. Large, sad green eyes on the other side of the glass. In the memory, it was dusk, police lights flashing overhead.
Natalia hopped into the backseat next to her from the other side and closed the door. "Hold on, honey. We'll be home before you know it."
Robyn wasn't listening. She was desperately clinging to the tiny tendrils of deja vu that threatened to slip from the fingers of her recollection. She was so young back then, when they took her away. When her mother and father were taken in a separate car to keep them away from her. When she was removed from her home, never to return. The house she grew up in, she didn't care about. It was the boy next door she did not want to leave.
She remembered him standing on the sidewalk, his mother's hands on his shoulders. He looked like he ached to run to her and she desperately wanted to stay. But it was not to be. She was trapped in the car as it took her away; so very far away from him.
The taxi rumbled out of the gravel driveway. Robyn watched out the back window as they drove away, her heart pounding. The group of young men remained on the porch as she was pulled further and further away from them. No. No, this wasn't right.
Natalia thought Robyn said something. "What?"
"Cye..." she said softly. Then louder as she slapped her palm on the window. "Cye. CYE!" Robyn suddenly came to life, nearly frantic as she grabbed the door handle. The doors automatically locked when the taxi went into drive. She was trapped.
"Stop the car!" Robyn yelled frantically in English. Then again in Japanese as her voice hitched with desperation. "STOP THE CAR!"
The four who remained on the porch watched the taxi as it left. They were beginning to turn to go back inside when the car's tires screeched to a halt, catching their attention. They watched in confusion as the two passengers climbed out of their side of the cab, arguing loudly with each other. They were still too far away for anyone on the porch to discern the conversation.
Robyn, however, quickly turned away, not caring what Natalia had to say. She broke into a jog, headed back for the house.
Torrent breathed in at the sound of his name and took off running. His long legs ate up the distance between them at twice the speed as he nearly collided with Robyn. She jumped for his arms and he held her tight, picking her off her feet and sweeping her in a circle.
"Cye!" Robyn was laughing and crying at the same time as she hugged him and buried her face in his neck. "I'm sorry! How did I ever forget?"
His embrace remained strong. "It's okay. I've got you. It's all going to be okay."
At this point, Kento and Rowen caught up with them just in time to hear Robyn say, "Please don't make me go. Can I stay? I want to stay here with all of you."
It was Cye's turn to bark out a laughing sob as he held her tight. One hand cradled her head as he tucked her into his chest. "You don't have to go if you don't want to. We are happy to have you with us." It felt like an understatement, but Cye didn't know what other words to use to express the relief of not having to see her taken from him again.
Up ahead, Natalia stalked toward them, using the universal "What the hell?" body language.
Kento just motioned for her to get back to the cab. "You're going by yourself," he said, though it wasn't loud enough for her to hear from that distance.
"Bye bye!" Rowen called louder, waving at her and grinning in triumph.
Natalia blinked at them in confusion, but when Cye turned around, leading Robyn back to the house, she got the hint. She gave them a small wave good-bye and returned to the taxi. The car drove away as the group moved toward the house.
When Cye finally let her go, Robyn drifted to Kento to give him a one-armed hug around the waist. She made a soft noise when he draped an arm around her to hug her back.
"I haven't seen you guys in a long time," she said into his side.
"I know," he responded gently. "It's been tough, but we're all home now."
She smiled at him and then leaned forward so she could see the third person walking on the other side of Cye. "I see you over there, Rowen."
"Oh, so now you remember my name."
She stuck out her lip in a mock pout. "Poor baby. Ego so fragile."
Instead of getting irritated, Rowen broke into a grin. It was too good to see a normal look on her face, to hear her talk to them like she used to.
"That's me. Fragile ego baby."
"Can I give you a hug?"
Rowen's eyes instantly lit up at the offer. He smoothly swept in front of Cye, cutting off Torrent to dip down low. He wrapped his arms around her hips and hefted Robyn up high. She gave a squawk, doubling over to grab his shoulders for balance.
"This isn't what I meant," she complained.
"We'll, it's what you're getting," Strata responded, internally frowning as he felt how light she was. Now that she was with them again, they were going to feed this girl. He turned right up the stairs and marched her into the house. Robyn laughed and cried out as she had to duck down again to fit through the door without banging her head. The others smiled as they followed after.
From the top floor, Sage had watched out the window. He turned to tell Ryo what had happened, but Wildfire was out again, half-eaten bowl still in his lap. Oh well, he'd learn about it soon enough. Even Sage had to smile a bit to himself. After all they had been through, it finally began to feel like everything was going to be okay.