This is:For those who asked for more…For those who threatened me for more…For those who begged for more…and
For those who made me think there could possibly be more…
He knew he would never be the same.
That had been Shu's first thought upon his arrival back home. His first words. The first truth.
He could never be the same.
Those beetles he would catch in the forest, the old man who's roof he'd had ruined, those croquets, his kendo lessons, his gourmet breakfast, his family… none of it seemed the same. It had all changed. He had never thought that he had taken any of it for granted. Shu had cherished everyday, and showered it with optimism. He never brooded, he accepted everything. He had thought that he had appreciated everything.
But he hadn't.
No, everything had changed.
The air he smelled had changed. The humidity, that Shu had been used to, was now suffocating him after his time spent in that arid world. Even the water in the air was a luxury.
The change was noticed immediately by all who knew him. Even the man who gave him croquets had noticed that Shu was not the same. He had seen too much. Gone through too much to be the same boy. To be the same man.
No time had passed since Shu had jumped from the smoke stacks to save Lala-Ru. He had even found his duffle bag in the exact same spot he had dropped it in after running into that pole. The only proof that anything had happened were the missing smoke stacks. They had all be transported with him to Helliwood.
Shu blinked when the thought crossed him for the first time. How could he have missed it. He didn't even know how he managed to get home to Japan. After all, Helliwood and it's bound system had been destroyed by Lala-Ru's sudden flood. So, how had he gotten home?
His last memory had been of his arm around Lala-Ru's shoulder as they watched the sunset. He remembered how her should began to feel more and more insubstantial. Then it was gone.
He couldn't remember what had happened after that, except…
He would never be the same.
Shu sighed as he mulled over these thoughts not for the first time, and definitely not for the last time. He churned through these thoughts just as effectively as he churned through his breakfast.
Everyone was watching him as he poked uninterestedly at his meal. This was decidedly strange behavior for him. Shu had always gobbled down his food faster than a starving hyena, and his table manners would shame the same hyena.
Since returning from Helliwood Shu's appetite hadn't diminished. He merely appreciated the taste of his meal that much more. Appreciated it's familiarity. He also never knew when he would get another chance at eating it again, thus Shu took his time.
He remembered his first meal after his return home. His mothers blatant and over exaggerated shock when he slowed his eating down to a manageable level. She had been terrified that he had been ill. Shu had still remained himself enough to find it funny.
"Shu, I'm shocked that you didn't even run through the store. But this?? Are you sure your alright? You seem tired, are you sure you don't need to go to sleep?"
"Leave him alone, Mom. I'm sure he's just depressed that girl dumped him," His sister responded with a scorn that transcended her age.
Shu started laughing, choking on his food at the absurdity of it all. He had forgotten about her. The quiet girl whom he had admired. How he had wanted to impress her in kendo that day, today. Shu had completely forgotten the disappointment he had felt when she walked off with his rival.
Shu laughed until tears came out of his eyes, until he choked on his food. Shu laughed until his family felt that he was back to normal. His father went back to his evening news paper, and his mother had settled down. His sister regained her half lidded stare.
Ah, care free Shu was laughing for no reason. Everything is fine. Nothing new here. He must be fine to be acting like an idiot. No problem.
Shu could hardly catch his breath to finish his meal. It had been so difficult to pick up the pieces of his composure. He managed it though. He knew he would. He managed to smother the howls of laughter into workable chuckles and returned to his meal.
He could still laugh. Others might have started crying after such an event. Others might have gone insane. Not Shu. No. Not Shuzo Matsutani. He would laugh, and keep laughing. He needed to remain un-jaded, to remain care free and non-chalant.
He needed to remain himself.
He had to keep looking forward to the next day. To instill in himself the confidence that good things would happen tomorrow. Shu had to believe in all these things and to keep smiling.
Otherwise Hamdo would have broken him.
All the evils of that world would have stuck to him and ruined him. Like that Tabool guy. Like Nabuka. Like Alamba.
Yes, he would never be the same. He had changed. Who wouldn't change after such an experience? No one was that resilient. Not even Shu would be able to shrug off an experience such as Helliwood, like he shrugged off falling hundreds of feet.
However, that didn't mean it had to change him for the worse. Shu couldn't allow such horrors to ruin him completely. Change him? Yes. Ruin him? Never.