Author's Note: Hello! I'm back with the second chapter. I wanted to get it in before I leave for two weeks. I hope you like this one as you liked the first one. As promised, this one is a bit longer. By the way, I noticed a slip-up. Arago was written where Talpa should've been. My apologies, it won't happen again.
The teen froze with his back to the man. Biting his lower lip in indecision, he gripped his skateboard tightly in one hand. After several long minutes, Yuli turned and stood, studying the taller man. His eyes confirmed what the Jewel of Life had already confirmed. This was definitely Wildfire.
'Why is he still so much taller than me? It's not fair! I grew up and yet I'm still looking up at him! Will I ever reach his level?'
Yuli sighed softly. "Yes, sir?" He needed to feign ignorance for a moment longer, eyes avoiding the sight of White Blaze, if only to gather his scattered thoughts.
But the tiger wouldn't let the boy lie to himself; he came forward butting his head against the other's free hand. A rich rumbling purr assaulted the air and the Wildfire smiled tiredly.
"It's been a long time, you've grown up." The warrior ran slender fingers through his midnight locks flicking the loose locks over the back of his shoulders.
Yuli flinched away from White Blaze, eyes wild, skin pale. He stared at Ryo for a long moment, not responding. He knew he'd been caught, trapped like a mouse by the predator it feared. But this man was not someone he needed to fear, right?
"Too long..." When he finally spoke, his soft voice nearly cracked.
"How have you been in this peace?" The azure eyes didn't lie; this was Ryo of the Wildfire. No one else could hold such haunted yet powerful fire filled eyes.
After a moment, Yuli calmed himself, but he was unable to near the older warrior. Instead, the teenager retreated into the shadowy recesses given to him by the tree. He swallowed the urge to run and turned away from Ryo for a moment, closing his eyes and leaning against the tree. He was trembling and he couldn't make himself stop.
The treble had never truly left his quiet tenor voice, and, at the moment, he felt a lot like the child he'd been. "How...How did you recognize me? I've changed..."
The warrior sighed heavily as he took out the armor ball and shut his eyes. "Can you forgive me? I shouldn't have got so caught up in living the way I was denied before, but the war with Talpa...I just wanted to forget."
Falling silent, Yuli listened to Ryo, heart thudding in his ears. That voice, the voice he'd tried so hard to forget, yet at the same time had treasured.
Swallowing harshly, Yuli resisted the urge to turn, to flee. Did he want to forgive Ryo for leaving him behind? Did he want to remember that he was below them, those five self-assured young men, that he was just the child they had to protect? The teen couldn't truly say what he wanted.
Elegant fingers closed over the orb as it flared with a soft crimson light. "If I could just forget then this empty feeling...this lingering ache to protect the entire world would fade as well. We don't have to fight anymore, yet I can still feel the desire too. You know that feeling or at the very least it's waking up within you."
He refused to answer that, he wasn't a warrior. It wasn't possible. He knew it wasn't, for the teen didn't have it in him. Yuli was sure of that.
The warrior opened his haunted eyes and rounded their full piercing blaze upon the young man. There was something entirely off about the teenager something the man saw every time he looked in the mirror. 'There is no way he's living alone the others wouldn't let him would they?' He sighed once more and sat down heavily letting the walls of flame in his mind fall away to leave just the man.
However, the lithe teen was unable to relinquish his solidly built mental walls. They were his only protection. He was no savior, just a normal human whom had no right to continue living. So many people had lost their lives, his parents included, and yet, there he stood. Why should he be so special? A question he'd haunted himself with, something he would never forgive himself for.
"If I didn't know better I'd say you're like me, living alone. I don't think its done jack for my sanity." He patted the spot in the grass beside him as the tiger urged the other to sit purring madly and rubbing against the teen.
"Does the jewel of life ever try to take over you?" Concern flashed in the bright azure eyes that had hardened and dulled over time as Ryo Sanada drew his knees up to his chest and stared at the grass. "The armor of Inferno has been trying to make me fight...it still hasn't show what virtue it is so I don't know what trait to work on to gain better control of it..."
Yuli glanced over his shoulder. "Take me over...?"
Was there an answer to that question? He wasn't sure, and if there was...Did he even want to know? No, he was sure that the Jewel of Life wasn't trying to take him over. It wasn't possible. This man was questioning Yuli's everyday life and it was confusing him. He didn't like it.
"It may not have a virtue Ryo." Sage Date slipped from the shadows his violet eyes narrowed slightly in what to those who knew him could be called worry.
The man was shorter than Ryo but taller than Cye. He rubbed his temples slightly casting his eyes at the young teenage Yuli before sighing softly.
A sharp intake of breath and an even tenser profile was the only acknowledgement Sage was going to get from Yuli at the moment. Two of them? How could he face two of them? They were too observant!
Thinking quickly, the boy wrapped his arms around a nearby branch and pulled himself on top of it, leaving his skateboard on the ground. He needed distance from those piercing eyes, his heart wouldn't stop racing.
"And now that Ryo mentions it, I haven't heard anything from Mia about you. Is he right in his possible musings?" The warrior of wisdom sat down on the right side of Wildfire symbolizing his own desire to be just equals with the other two. "I don't know much of what's going on with you Ryo, but Yuli he's right living alone does nothing for one's sanity. You know Wildfire that's the first intelligent thing I've heard you say out of battle."
Sapphire pools stared down at them from the heights of the shadowy branch, guarded and frightened. "No!" His tone was a little sharper than he'd intended, so he forced himself to soften it. "No, I still live with Mia. How could I not? She's all I have left..."
Yuli wanted equality, but he couldn't sit down on the ground so close to two of them when they were popping up out of no where so suddenly. After all, he had never exactly been they're equal, so why start pretending he was?
"I almost wish that car had squashed me..." He murmured softly.
Yawning, Rowen slowly walked around a tree, bored. "Yuli, you could fall. We both know how bad your balance is in trees. Come down."
When the boy only answered with a shake of his head, Rowen frowned, but his midnight gaze caught sight of Ryo and Sage and he brightened. "So, are we having some sort of party? A reunion perhaps?"
His long stride brought him to Ryo's left and he took a seat. "Sorry, if this was meant for someone else," he glanced pointedly at Yuli, "but they aren't here, so I'll take this spot."
"By the way, Yul, Cye's shopping...Otherwise he'd already be up there after you." He smirked when he got the shudder he'd been going for.
Yuli busied himself with climbing higher into the tree. Slipping on one branch, he groped for another to grab onto and hung from it for a moment so that he didn't fall and break something. Pulling himself onto that branch, he decided to stay facing the trunk. For some reason, he couldn't face three of them. One had been bad, two worse and three...It was impossible.
How could they expect him to speak and think coherently with three of them staring at him with such observant, piercing eyes? The very thought nearly cause him to fall off his branch. At this point, he was halfway up the tree, so falling would be a bad idea.