Quick note: I've found myself far too fond of this topic. "Hero/Heroine returns home after life-changing event. Re-adjusts to new life". I admit I love this topic more than is probably healthy, but man it's fun to write! I love trying to assimilate a perfectly changed character into a situation that was once "normal" for them or, sometimes, that was once unimaginable for them and has now become normal. So here I am with a Now And Then, Here And There fic about Shuzo Matsutani. Because WOW. Life change. WashuRight's fic He Had Changed also deals with this, and she got the idea first, so I feel I need to pimp out her (or his?) story to you all if you haven't read it already.

Disclaimer: Idea was WashuRight's first, anime was created by a different person entirely, if I had the creativity to make anime like that I wouldn't be sitting here in college procrastinating on my physics homework by writing fanfiction for free.

Normal. This was normal. Right? Shu sighed. Waking up in the morning had quickly become a game of "which universe am I in today" as he struggled to assimilate himself back into his life as a Japanese boy. Apparently he'd been missing for only one day—his mother and father had been worried sick about him and had put out a police search for him. He was found only two or three hours after his arrival—once he'd overcome the shock enough to remind himself he had a home to go to, the poliece had found him wandering dazedly down the street. The car horns and street noises had seemed so surreal. Waking up in a bed in his room with food and water at his disposal was still surreal.

At first his parents and sister and classmates all buzzed around him trying to get him to tell them where he'd been for the past 24 hours, but they all stopped asking after a while. His silence about the matter confused and… to a lesser extent… ashamed them.

He'd kept up with kendo—with remarkable improvement to his previous fighting style. Soldier-like. Calculated. Strong as well as aimed. Balanced. None of the things he used to be. That girl—the quiet one he'd been trying to impress the day he left—seemed to have taken a liking to him. Either it was his skill in kendo or the mystery of his disappearance. She'd made him lunch one day. He didn't eat it. She suddenly seemed so frail and—well, normal to him now. Compared to Lala-ru… well, there was nothing to compare.

So his days went by. After a week he started laughing and joking again. This world started to seem more solid to him. More normal. But, he reminded himself, not the only kind of life there was. He'd been in Hellywood. He'd been in Zadi Bars. He'd seen war. He'd been a soldier. He'd seen people he cared about die. He'd seen people he cared about kill—sometimes kill other people he cared about. He'd seen too much death. Too much hate. Too much—well, too much everything. It made everything he saw now even more precious. He'd taken up religion. The thought that somehow all those souls were interconnected and would perhaps be reborn in a more peaceful life and… it helped him to have something to explain the idea of the "soul" that had suddenly seemed so much more powerfully there than before. There was more to him—more to everyone than just flesh, bone, and brain. Hellywood had taught him that, and it was something he couldn't ever let go of or lose sight of ever again.

To other people he'd matured. He was himself—the same optimistic, friendly Shu they'd always known, but with more sense and more strength. He had this new aura around him that attracted people. He was charismatic, outgoing, never afraid to help someone who needed it, sensitive, intense, and kind. All the girls said he was mature enough to be a high-schooler. Even though his looks hadn't changed since he left—with the exception of a few new muscles and a scar or two—he'd suddenly become "rugged" and "handsome" instead of "scrawny" and "goofy-looking". Many women confessed their love to him. He'd smile gently, thank them for thinking so, and say he was waiting for another woman. Someone named "Larla" or "Lala-ru" or something. Occasionally he'd talk about a Sarah—an American name. Shu knew an American?

When it rained, whenever there was a break between classes he would go outside and lie down in the grass, staring up at the sky like he was waiting for someone, seemingly careless about how the water would drench his clothes. The teachers learned that asking him to change would only get them a lecture on how water was a precious resource, and getting a little wet was a blessing and nothing to be ashamed of. He'd been sent to the headmaster's office a few times for that, but when nothing changed the teachers gave up and accepted it as another one of his new quirks.

After another two years at school, the old kendo club leader had graduated from the school and Shu took his spot. He'd kept up his Ellywood training, finding that when he worked through the routine he could clear his mind and remember the lessons he'd learned there all the more easily. It helped him relax and helped him reconcile the differences between the worlds.

There was so much in this world that the other world had not had. So much to be grateful for. So much to teach others. So much to rethink about everything he'd thought he'd known. Every morning was a new day, and every new day was a new opportunity to change the world. He was one kid in a world with thousands, but somehow he knew that each and everything he did counted—that someone somewhere would be effected by his actions, and that he needed to make everything he did count, and life every day like it was his last.

Every day a new day, every morning a new morning, and as long as he had life in him, something good was bound to happen.

Lala-ru is the water. She is the rain. She will never be truly gone, and someday soon he'd see her again. He just had to wait.