So, uh... Hi?
Look, I perfectly understand if you no longer have any interest. After all, I did go on an unofficial hiatus for about two years. However, if you are completely awesome and stuff, I welcome you back to this story! If you've completely forgotten what's going on, feel absolutely free to re-read The Wanderer and the first two chapters of FYATTO to get back into the spirit of things. But anyway, for the first time in a very long while, please read and review!
"For the love of Tentei and his siblings, enough!"
Wander grinned boyishly down at his exhausted wrestling opponent, keeping the teen's weakened arms pinned firmly to the ground. It was clear his younger friend, only just starting the training to be a warrior, had much more to learn. Rolling off the boy and assuming a lounging position next to him, Wander chuckled.
"I'm sorry, Meiun, but it's just so easy!"
"Yes, well... Lord Emon will be coming by soon. Perhaps we should put ourselves back together again..."
Meiun was referring to the fact that both of them were stripped down to the bottom halves of their training attire. Both had lazily thrown aside their cinched cloaks and plain shirts before engaging in the sweaty, uncomfortable business of "hand-to-hand" practice. Personally, Wander much preferred the sword, but a warrior needed to become adept at every aspect of his profession. Even the sweaty, uncomfortable aspects.
Wander stood up and gave Meiun a hand. As both of them pulled on their shirts and cinched their cloaks, the young man smirked over at his smaller friend.
"You know, Meiun, our Lord isn't a prude."
"Of course he is! Or he would be... I don't know! But he's a high class man... surely he wouldn't want to come by the warrior-pen to see two boys half-naked..."
"In case you haven't noticed, my friend, we're not the only 'half-naked' boys here..."
Wander spoke the truth. Inside the large, octagonal, sparsely-shaded warrior-pen, there were many other people training. Some were firing at archery targets made of hay, some were sparring with wooden swords or spears on worn wooden platforms, and some stood around talking and eating in the shady spots. As this was a hot day, nearly three quarters of them were stripped down. Obviously, this didn't bother Wander. But for some reason, the normally light Meiun was bothered.
The younger boy's brown eyes were wary, and when he had finished straightening himself out he kept one hand behind his neck, where loosely tied dark-copper hair hung.
"Never mind... I suppose I just felt odd..."
Wander raised an eyebrow.
This caused the older boy to chuckle.
"Nobody's watching us, Meiun. We're all alone in the most remote corner of the pen."
As if to prove his point, he kicked at the old, dusty sand they stood on in the near-forgotten wrestling circle. Weeds sprouted around the edges of the circle, and the branches hanging overhead were un-trimmed. Meiun just shrugged and looked down at his feet.
"No... just... being in close-quarters, I guess..."
Wander's eyebrow raised even higher, and he turned his whole body to look at his friend.
"You were uncomfortable being in close-quarters with me? Gee, I didn't know I repulsed you so much."
Despite the fact that Wander had started to grin as he said this, Meiun looked a bit horrified. A flush of embarrassment appeared on his cheeks and he flailed his hands in front of him.
"No, no! You don't, obviously! It's just that... ugh... never mind. Let's change the subject. Oh, look, it's Lord Emon!"
As Wander looked away to the pen's entrance, Meiun just kind of sighed and smiled in relief. The diversion from his awkwardness only lasted a short time though. For Lord Emon stepped in one pace, glanced around, nodded in approval, and stepped back out... the young boy's relief drifting away alongside the man's flowing red robes. Wander turned back to Meiun, grinned, and spoke as if nothing had happened.
"So, you're fifteen years old. Entered the courting business, yet?"
It was the younger's turn to raise his eyebrow.
Wander grinned even wider, if possible. For some reason, Meiun found himself smiling broadly back.
"You know, finding the one?"
"Oh... Yeah. Yeah! I am."
Despite the awkward way that was worded, Wander nodded.
This elicited a frown from the older.
"I haven't had the time, really. I'm sort of in it, but not... Eh. Emon pushes me into training more and more, and my parents support that, so they haven't urged me towards anybody."
"You seemed so excited about courting a second ago, and now you're telling me you're not even involved in it. You even just used the classic 'I don't have enough time because of work' excuse!"
The roles in this conversation had suddenly changed. Wander was the awkward one, while Meiun was grinning.
"Yes, well... you just wait and see. Maybe the right woman will pop into this training pen one day and demand I marry her for the simple reason that my muscular body and awesome hair call to her, and she's fallen in love with me on the spot."
"It could happen. Women are strange creatures, my friend. But that's why Tentei put us here. To unlock the mysteries of those voluptuous beasts, and tame them. Women are the goal!"
Meiun just blinked.
"Men are strange creatures."
Mono watched from a safe distance, sitting cross-legged on her cool-weather cloak. Despite it being the middle of fall, that day was a warm one and she had felt the need to throw off the unneeded clothing. She was currently watching the loudest, most active fishing competition between two people that she had ever seen.
Gaius and Barba were standing on opposite sides of the small lake west of the geyser field. They were ankle-deep in murky water, holding crude, wooden fishing rods with long fiber lines and bone hooks. Whenever either of the men felt a tug, they sprinted out of the water so they could drag their catch on to shore. A good three quarters of the time such dramatic motions were vast over-reactions, and the opposite man would tauntingly shout about the other's impatience and overall inability to fish. When something was successfully caught, shouts would be exchanged on its size and edibility. And even during the down times, when neither man was getting so much as a nibble, they shouted to each other about how it was the other's idea to pick such a barren fishing spot.
Needless to say, it was very loud.
A few other Colossi were there on that outing, and they were being comparatively quiet. Avion and Phalanx were perched in a nearby tree conversing, Phaedra was grazing a ways off with Agro (as usual), Argus was sitting in a sulky fashion a few yards away from Mono, and Malus was on the other side of the lake shore, making surprising headway with talking seriously to Pelagia. Every so often Mono would faintly hear something along the lines of,
"Yes, collecting rocks could have some beneficial effects on sucker-fish breeding..."
But the young woman's amused reverie was broken by the cries of the person beside her on the cloak. Mono shifted the red-haired infant from his lying position next to her to a sitting position on her lap, expertly positioning him so he would be comfortable without poking her with his horns. Wander was almost a toddler now, and besides quickly outgrowing whatever clothes were sewn for him, he was becoming more social. It was soon obvious that his cries had been for attention, and not for food or a change. Mono grinned down at the boy, feeling joy at his gray eyes smiling up at her. She ignored the annoyed snort that came from Argus.
Every Colossus came running (except for Argus, who walked) when they heard Mono scream. However, they quickly discovered that she was not in any danger. That scream had not been a scream at all, but an excited squeal.
"Yes, by mangling your name in probably the only way possible..."
"Shut it, Argus!"
Avion shook her feathers excitedly and danced around Mono's knees, looking up at Wander with big, bright eyes.
"Oh, how wonderful! The littlest Wanderer will soon be speaking with us!"
Malus looked down at the Eagle and managed to smirk in a kind fashion.
"Avion, he's still only around a year old. Advanced conversational abilities are going to take months to develop."
Avion paid no heed to Malus' words, and instead focused on happily preening the young one's short mop of hair. Mono smiled up at Malus and briefly patted his arm before placing it back at Wander's side.
"My Titan, please try not to dampen her spirits. She's probably the most enthusiastic godmother in the entire universe."
"Of course. And she has plenty of reason to be."
A groan could be heard from just outside of the small gaggle of semi-mortals. There was no need to look for the source.
"Blech... I wish Kuromori were here. I'm sure he would agree that all of this disgusting foolishness is just... sickening. Getting so worked up over a stupid little demon boy."
For a minute it seemed as though nobody had deigned to respond to Argus. Mono and her friends continued to coo over Wander adoringly and tried to encourage him to say other words. However, the figurative silence was broken when Malus turned towards Argus, who was now sitting in his original spot, and replied with a small smile.
"I asked Kuromori what he thought of your opinion. He gave me a very colorful response which I shall not repeat."
Argus did not look at him.
"Meaning that he hates the idea of drooling over the putrid thing so much that-..."
At this point, the group was silent. Malus stepped towards where Argus was sitting, but stayed a small distance away.
"My dear Sentry, we have been in these bodies for a year. During the entire course of that year, while the vast majority of us have become happy and fulfilled, you have not. You have not only stayed the same, you have gotten worse. This is something I do not understand, and this is something I cannot abide."
Argus did not look up, but he did snort loudly.
"Really? You do not abide my attitude? What are you going to do... banish me? Throw me in the sea? What a fool."
Quicker than you could say "Dormin", Argus found himself inches off of the ground, his hair held in one of Malus' hands and the other hand glowing at his throat. The still soundless crowd could only guess at the expression on the Titan's face, as he was entirely facing the now terrified Argus.
"Well, not necessarily a fool, m-maybe just an incredibly mistaken person, but I-"
The Sentry not only stopped talking, he just about stopped breathing.
"I find your terms for me incredibly ironic. You are a person who refuses to see past their own personal prejudices; prejudices born in the fire of shame and fear. Because of these weary ideas you have neglected two innocent and righteous beings, and continue to do so. I cannot abide this. From now on, you will treat them with respect. You will not insult them, you will not curse them, you will not throw things at them-"
"Hey, that one time was an accident!"
"-You will not throw things at them! And, you will participate in the Colossi's efforts to take care of them as well as us. You will help to gather food, sew clothing, and create tools. This is something you have woefully neglected as well. You do not have to shower our Wanderers with lilies every time you pass, and you do not have to create the most beautiful loincloth the world has ever seen, but you must carry on. Do I make myself crystal clear?"
"...Yes... My Titan..."
Malus promptly dropped Argus to the ground. The Sentry rubbed his head furiously as he straightened out his attire. It was just as Malus turned that the small crowd finally realized that Wander had started to cry. Mono tore her gaze away from the men and rocked the boy on her shoulder, patting his back and resuming the cooing sound she had been making earlier. Avion stayed with her - as did Pelagia, while Phalanx flew off, Phaedra rejoined Argo, and Gaius and Barba returned to their fishing competition. When the Masked One's aquatic lullaby had successfully delivered Wander into dreamland, Mono felt content enough to tear her eyes away from the infant. What she saw when she looked up surprised her.
Malus was kneeling in front of her. The glow had vanished from his bracers, and the expression on his face was unreadable.
"Are you... alright, Malus?"
The Titan blinked a few times, as though confused by her question, before responding.
"Of course I am. Why would you doubt that?"
This time Mono blinked in a confused fashion.
"I... Well, I suppose I don't know. Maybe I should be more concerned about Argus."
The young woman felt relieved as the man's face relaxed into a smile.
"Perhaps. I did give him quite the talking-to. You could say my ability to do that is the reason I'm leader around here."
To Malus' surprise, Mono shook her head.
"No, I don't think that's the reason you're the leader at all. I can think of a much better reason."
"Really? And what would that be?"
Mono smiled and nodded her head in the Masked One's direction.
"You not only listened to Pelagia, you conversed with him!"
To this, Malus only grinned and laughed in response.
So... Do I still have it? Please, let me know in the reviews. You get an imaginary chocolate orange if you do!