Disclaimer: This is a fanfic. Ronin Warriors is property of Bandai.
Copyright: © 2012 Moonrise Inn Publications
Warnings: AU. Pre-Wars. Sexual content.
Challenge Response: Personal challenge issued by Valandra
Authors Note: Revised chapter. Previously, I posted the wrong draft, my apologies.

Storm Clouds
Co-Author: Zorra Reed & GunpowderBlue
Proofread: W.C.


February 1987

It hurt him to know that other kids were always pointing at his back and laughing; their hateful puns and scornful looks boring into his person, no doubt, in an attempt to rip his confidence and self esteem apart from the inside out. In their eyes, he could do nothing right: always clumsy, always looking over his shoulder, always worried about what the person behind him is doing or saying. He had no friends. He didn't even have people that pretended to be his friends. No one bothered to even use him…he was so low on the charts. A disaster, a menace, a clown: he wasn't worth the dirt under a dog's fingernails — they'd told him as much.

He was a failure and was steadily shrinking in on himself. He would rather spend his days wishing he could disappear than deal with all the uncertainties a certain jackass, sitting behind him in science class, was impressing upon his psyche. What a wild hoot that jerk thought it was, to place signs or other obscenities on the "new kid's" back…or chewing gum in the thick locks of his hair. So worried by such actions was he, that it resulted in his inattention to the assignments. Paranoia had settled in early on: from science, to math, to gym until all his classes suffered and any attempt made to reclaim his grades in study hall or at home where thwarted by his inability to concentrate. He was exhausted from stress.

Sorrowful blue eyes lifted to the landscape of the suburban park, reflecting on the events of the day rather than see the handful of children running amuck in the late afternoon sun.

His peers, in his opinion, had gone too far in their prank earlier that day — crossing a line that should never have been crossed — when in their foolishness, they'd thrown a crumpled paper to him during his meal break which he'd curiously, and with no small amount of trepidation, spread flat. The sight that greeted his eyes went beyond disturbing imagery to constitute as a true threat: him sitting on the cafeteria floor with his hands bound, a lone figure pointing the barrel of a gun to his temple, the characters in the background standing in an arc around them and laughing. He'd re-crumpled the paper in anger and stuffed it into his bag; then abandoned school shortly thereafter, retreating to the solitude of the park to clear the fire from his mind.

How hard it had been not to cry in those moments following the discovery and depth of their hatred for him; but he'd learned long ago the danger of showing emotion in front of ones enemies…especially tears. The only safe place to cry was in his bedroom in the dead of night where his pillow could stiffly the harsh sobs.

So here he was, free from authority and left to his own devices, sitting in the bitter cold atop the jungle gym; watching as his breath formed puffs of steam, and leaving the large fluffy snowflakes gathering on the shoulders of his uniform undusted.

"You're going to end up catching your death of cold sitting out here without a proper coat," drawled a male voice from off to his left. Stepping closer to the jungle gym when the raven-haired teen failed to answer, the newcomer pulled himself up to stand on the lowest bar, his arms draped over the bars at shoulder level. "Going to tell me why you're out here Ryo, or do I have to guess?"

Shrugging his shoulders noncommittally, Ryo eyed the teenager at the edge of his vision. The black Gakuran hugging the male's narrow form matched that of his own, indicating they attended the same school. "Well…?" the teenager prompted with a drawl to his tone that failed to impress and only served to darken Ryo's mood further. For a moment, Ryo envisioned himself ripping out handfuls of the cheery-red mop escaping from beneath the strangers grey wool cap. Frown deepening, as though he could sense Ryo's thoughts, the cheery-head pulled himself up to sit beside the moping teen. "You didn't used to be so quiet. Last time I saw you…you were chasing that cat of yours around the living room…or was that the other way around…it was chasing you."

Ryo pressed his lips at the mention of his tiger. Outside of his parents, no one was supposed to know about his unofficial 'pet'. More on edge now then he'd ever been at school, Ryo continued to purposefully ignore the older boy sitting beside him and turned his woeful gaze upon the cloudy sky instead.

"Your mother asked my mom if I wouldn't mind looking after you while they're away." Ryo's parents had left that morning for a weeklong business trip. They'd debated about sending him to his Aunt's in Cairo for the duration but had eventually decided it would be too expensive for such a short trip. Besides, he was now old enough and responsible enough to stay on his own…or so they'd said.

Four months had passed since Ryo and his family had moved to this country — his father's homeland of Japan. Having originated from the warm climate of Africa, the sudden change to cold weather had been both a shock and a stroke of poor luck for Ryo's declining health.

Ryo shot the other boy a quizzical look, expression filled with distrust and annoyance. Who was this to claim such control over him? A moment later, he gripped the slippery bars beneath him and hoisted himself up, doing a flip as he dismounted the jungle gym. Straightening, once he'd completed his perfect dismount, Ryo stuffed his gloveless hands in the pockets of his pants for warmth. With a final backwards glance to his disturber, he headed off down the narrow boot-treaded path that traced the sidewalk, his own feet dragging as he trekked through the blanket of white crystals.

The other followed at a more sedate pace as far as the street, watching as the young teen walked off in a different direction then he knew the house to be. He shrugged and turned down the opposite path. Ryo would have to come home sometime.

But sometime never came. And when the sun rose the next day, Ryo was nowhere to be found.