A/N: This fic uses the Japanese names, not the English dub names, so here's a guide for confusion.
Kento = Shu
Cye = Shin
Sage = Seiji
Rowen = Touma
White Blaze = Byakuen
Anubis = Shutendoji (Shiten for short)
Talpa = Arago
Inferno armor = Shiroi Kikotei
The Ancient = Kaos
The Ancient's staff = shakujo
On to the fic!
There is a madness between dreaming and waking when you know what you are seeing is a dream, and you want yourself to wake up, but you cannot do so. It's like someone is holding your eyelids shut, and much as you try to fight it, you are trapped beneath that heavy darkness. Trapped in the nightmare. It pulls you down like a rip tide, and every breath, every attempt to open your eyes is only that: a moment between surges. Before the current drags you under once again…
And then that awful force lifted. Ryo snapped his eyes open and sunlight momentarily blinded him while he lay on his bed shaking, his fingers clutching at the bedsheet covering his body. It took some time for him to fully register the pain in his fingers. He winced as he tried to open his hands.
He stared at the ceiling, afraid to close his eyes again. But exhaustion led him to shut his eyes again, if only briefly. He wanted to drown out the nightmare, the fear, the memories…
When he reopened his eyes he simply lay in the bed, still breathing hard. He was eventually able to sit up, and the blanket fell off his chest to pool over his lap and legs. For a time, he could only stare at the blue cloth covering his feet and feel the sweat dripping down his brow and the beating of his heart; like it was trying to escape from his chest.
Where am I?
Nothing he saw in the room was familiar. It definitely wasn't his apartment in the city. He saw a pleasant bedroom with blue-painted walls, a small wooden dresser on the wall on his left, beyond which stood a shut wooden door. There were windows on either side of the bed letting in sunlight. Opposite the closed door was a glass door showing a view of the outside and the rungs on a balcony of some sort.
Feeling a breeze on his skin, he looked down and saw that he wasn't wearing his armor anymore, even though he did not remember taking it off. He wore no shirt and had on a set of nightpants.
Byakuen growled, put his large furred head over the edge of the bed, and bumped his human's hand. Ryo smiled and pet him, ruffling the white fur.
He turned to his left to see his armor crystal, glittering with red and orange light in the sunlight atop a nightstand. As he stared at it, he tried to recall what had happened - if he remembered coming here, lying down, perhaps taking a nap…
It was all tired fragments. Just… just the battle and… and they had won, hadn't they? He remembered… Remembered nearly failing, remembered falling… falling and seeing his friends there. His friends with him. Returning to the safehouse, half-aware. Then going to sleep. How long had he been asleep? He couldn't recall waking up before now…
He pushed the bedsheet off and put his feet on the ground over the left side of the bed. As he tried to stand, he stumbled and grabbed for the wall clumsily. Byakuen was already up and there to support him, as always. Ryo smiled down at the tiger and reasoned that he must have been sleeping for some time, to be so weak and unsteady.
A zinging in his head made him put his left hand to his forehead. Headache from sleeping too long? Rising too fast? Was he still injured? How was he injured? He couldn't recall.
He heard voices coming from beyond the glass door and looked up. He let go of Byakuen and stretched a little, trying to regain proper use of his legs. With time and some help from a strong tiger, he managed it. Then he walked to the glass door, opened it, and stepped outside onto a large balcony.
More sunlight and a gentle breeze found him out there, brushing his face, hair, and chest. He shut his eyes, bathing in the warmth and the feel of the wind on his skin. It was an anchor from the nightmare, keeping him safely in the waking world. When he reopened his eyes, he looked out over a large green field, surrounding by forest. There was a lake a far ways off, glittering blue.
He crossed his arms on the rail and rested there as he looked out, a light smile on his face as he drank in the beauty.
"Hey Shin, here!"
The familiar voices of his friends called his attention back down to the grass. Shin and Shu were doing some sort of acrobatic exercise together, as Ryo watched Shin run and leap forward to land with his hand on Shu's raised one, so that Shu held Shin up in a one-armed handstand in the air. They stood that way for several moments, both sweating, with only slight trembling, and then Shin pressed down and leapt off while Shu pushed him up and off, and Shin landed on his feet a short ways away.
"Nice job, guys," Touma said, watching from a chair in the grass nearby. He had a laptop on his lap, but was grinning at the other two.
Ryo looked around and spotted Seiji sitting, cross-legged, in the grass a short ways away. His eyes were shut and he appeared to be meditating. But as Ryo caught sight of the blonde, the latter opened his eyes and looked straight up at him. Seiji smiled. "Hey Ryo! You're awake!"
That caught the attention of the other three, so they all looked up at him. Ryo felt oddly embarrassed. He put up a hand to wave, not knowing what else to do.
"Good to see you awake, Ryo!" Shu called up.
As he looked out at them, seeing them all out of armor, in jeans and t-shirts, relaxing in the sun, he could almost forget-
I see you there, Ryo. Kekeke… you cannot run forever!
He felt his throat constrict and found it hard to breathe. A look of fear came over his face as he turned and ran back inside the room, away from them all. Away from seeing them call out to him, shouting for him to come help them. Away from Arago's demonic face, leering hungrily at him.
He didn't make it to the bed and simply fell to the ground, curled up in a ball. He pressed his hands to his eyes, trying to drown out the images, the words…
Help us, Ryo! He's killing us! He'll destroy everything! Help us, Ryo! Help us!
Come out, come out, wherever you are, my dear little senshi. I will find you eventually.
When he opened his eyes again he was lying back on the bed and the room was dark. He sat up and turned to look out the window. It was nighttime and he could see the moon resting over the trees.
He was shaking again, and the feel of sweaty sheets met his fingers. His body was slick with it and his hair clung to his face.
All he wanted to do was curl up under the sheets for the rest of his life. Curl up where no one could hurt him, like how he thought when he was little. Just stay there and away from all the terrible things in the world…
He felt the tug of the armor, even as it rested on the nightstand. Felt the heat of it, reaching for the cold, fearful center of his being, trying to warm. He reached out and grasped the glowing red sphere in his hand, putting it over his heart. He shut his eyes, letting the warmth seep through his body, pushing back the nightmare for a moment. Thoughts of sunlight and sunny beaches and campfires filled his mind. He felt the warm air in the room and Byakuen's body heat emanating from the floor. As he stretched out his senses, he felt the body heat of four others in the building. Downstairs, it felt like. His friends. In his mind, their fiery forms were wreathed in the colors of their armor: dark blue, green, orange, and light blue.
He clutched at the crystal as the trembling returned. He couldn't face them. He just couldn't. He'd failed to help them. He'd given up. He didn't understand what happened, where that strange white armor came from, or the power that came with it. He could barely remember what happened – the armor had used him, though it should have worked the other way around. But wasn't that all that had happened recently? A strange armor with a mind of its own, taking him over to wreak some sort of havoc? They knew that the armors had originally been a part of Arago's armor. Beyond that – a part of his actual body. Then Kaos had broken the armor and forged them into nine smaller armors. Since then they had done… what? Wreak havoc, fight battles... Although Kaos had taken the vast capability to wage war away from Arago, he had truly just miniaturized it, allowing the armors to spread out and cause chaos on their own, in more places than Arago had ever tried at once.
He felt that call to chaos every time he donned the armor. The call to blaze, to burn, to destroy everything in his path… He had felt it in the volcano when Shutendoji had come to kill him. All he wanted was to attack his enemy and destroy him utterly.
That call terrified him. That desire to destroy. It was not a part of who he was. He didn't want to destroy. He hadn't wanted to hold this much responsibility in his hands – the fate of the world, who does that? And despite the call of that power, Arago had terrified him. The entire demon realm had terrified Ryo. Arago's army was a never-ending tide of monsters that he could send after the senshi, and Arago himself was a giant demon they were somehow expected to kill? And then the demon lord had absorbed all of Ryo's friends and become even more terrifying, until all that was left was Ryo, who had apparently been expected to face him alone. What other choice did he have, than to sacrifice himself? There was nowhere to run, and he was injured.
Is this all I'm left with, then? Lying in bed, afraid to leave my room – or whoever's room this is – caught between nightmares and the fear of facing people I called friends? People I let down.
What did I do, back there, when it all went to hell? What did I do? That power… It-it felt so much stronger than the Rekka armor. It was brighter and hotter than any flame I've ever used before. And it hurt, it… it hurt…
Finally cutting through the nightmares was the sheer weariness in his bones. No doubt he had been sleeping for some time, and that probably aided his less-than-healthy state. But he felt like someone had been using his body as a punching bag for at least a week. It didn't feel as bad as it had after the battle, when he had to truly fight to keep his eyes open and his body moving so that he wasn't being entirely carried along by friends who were at least nearly as exhausted as he was after they all died-and-didn't-die and how was he supposed to understand anything that was going on in his life anymore when he was having thoughts like that?
The wooden door creaked open and a light flicked on. Ryo turned to see Touma walking in with a smile and a tray. "Hey Ryo. Just wanted to bring you something to eat, if you can. You've been asleep for a long time and you need to start getting your strength back."
Ryo sat fully up and took the tray from Touma, looking over a plate of food and a glass of water.
"We tried to check your temperature while you were out, until the thermometer burned Shu's hand. But then we kind of figured that, what with the fire element of your armor and all, it was kind of a no-win scenario. It's like trying to check Shin's temperature. He moves between freezing and lukewarm. I'm nearly as bad," he flexed his fingers, staring down at them incredulously, "I get pretty darn cold, too. I guess it's supposed to be like high up in the sky, or even space." He shook his head in disbelief. "Nice to know we won't be able to tell whether we're all sick by the normal means, anyway."
"How long was I asleep?" Ryo asked, not knowing how else to respond to Touma's words and the very odd thought that no one could take his temperature because it was far over the average human's.
Touma smiled nervously, "Oh, heh, it's uh… been about two weeks now."
Ryo simply stared at him.
"But to be honest, all of us were really tired. Shu stayed in bed for six days. We thought you were both going to sleep forever until he finally got up. Seiji recovered fastest after two days and checked up around town to see how things were. I got up the next day and went out to get some groceries and stuff – we were starving – and then Shin woke up two days later. We've been stretching and exercising, it's true, but there's also been a lot of sleeping and just relaxing. We all feel like we've been running marathons. That final battle was just… intense."
Ryo looked back down at the tray.
"So you should eat. And then, if you want to go back to sleep, we'd understand. It's just we kind of… I mean, we were getting really worried. That white armor that showed up was just… it was unbelievable. But we don't really know what it did to you. We thought it might have killed you or just left some really terrible permanent damage. The only thing we could judge by was the fact that your skin was still warm. Shin said we should take you into a hospital… but Seiji and I think that's a bad idea. If there are any lingering demons, we don't want them heading for us at a hospital. And then, well... We don't really know how the armors are changing us – judging by the whole temperature thing, and any number of other things – and who knows how a hospital would see that? Or what they would do to try and counteract it? We didn't want to kill you trying to put you back together!"
The white armor. It all came back to that. That… that power, whatever it was. The fire in his hands, that he unleashed with his attack. The power… the sheer power… Power to obliterate Arago forever. Power to destroy Arago's armies, the entire demon realm, if Ryo so chose. Power just waiting to be directed. Hungering… hungering…
He heard the crash and Byakuen's growl as he knocked the tray off of his lap and onto the floor to put his hands to his head, afraid of the memory, trembling once more. He ignored Touma's cry of alarm. Everything faded.
And that was the problem. Beneath the pain and the nightmares of that strange realm, he remembered. It wasn't truly fear of it all that he had felt.
It was exultation. He wanted to fight. He wanted to destroy it all. Even as he stood alone before Arago, a small part of his mind hadn't been afraid. Had wanted to run out and throw all of his power at the demon. To laugh in the creature's face in one final blaze of glory.
And when the white armor had taken him… it had felt so good. That sense that he was so powerful. Unstoppable, even. Arago had been nothing – blown aside like a leaf in a tornado. Ryo had felt that raw energy in his hands, and if he hadn't been moving in the steps of his attack, he knew he would have thrown his head back and laughed at the sheer rush of feeling of it.
I destroyed a demon lord, the strongest demon lord… The one who killed Kaos, who commanded the Demon Mashou… I destroyed him in a single blast of power. And it felt… it felt good to be that powerful. It felt amazing…
And then complete exhaustion had descended on him. Like gravity was trying triply hard to press him into the ground. The power was gone, and he was just a human again. Just a weak human.
But he could still feel it. Trickling in from the armor crystal, and trickling in from Touma, standing nearby. Touma's spirit, which Ryo could feel so strongly. His spirit-no, the Tenku armor. Ryo turned to look at his friend, and the image of the blue armor briefly superimposed itself over the blue-haired boy's body. It called to Ryo too - to the crystal that had fallen into his lap. To his soul. The fire lurking in the crystal depths, in his chest, in his head, waiting to summon the armor, to pick up his swords. Waiting to blaze forth-
"Stop!" He screamed, "Just shut up! I don't want that! I don't want it!" He didn't want to destroy things. That's all the armor would do. It would destroy! Like he had destroyed that camp of poachers. Burned them all away to nothing, so that there weren't even any bones to bury, and the traces of their campsite were gone entirely…
He didn't take pleasure in killing or destroying things. He certainly didn't seek it out! That just wasn't who he was. That wasn't who he had been trained and taught to be. That wasn't who he wanted to be. He felt tears course down his cheeks and wished he could just make the voice in his mind screaming to call the armor and just slash and burn to stop, to quiet. He wouldn't don the armor. Never again, if this is what it wanted. If it was twisting him into something else to suit its own purposes. People's lives had been at stake before, but maybe now, now that Arago was gone, they could get over it. Put the armors away and forget it all happened…
Or maybe someone else could step forward and take his place. He hadn't wanted this. Or if he had…
Burn, blaze, live!
…He didn't want it anymore. Maybe he was a coward and a weakling for that, but he didn't care. He wouldn't become a monster for this. Whatever it was.
"-o! Ryo! Buddy, you there?"
He opened his eyes to look into bright blue eyes on a concerned face.
"Damn, Ryo, what happened? What's wrong? It looked like you were in pain!"
"So he's finally out of it?" Shu asked from nearby. Ryo turned his head and spotted the heavyset, dark blue-haired youth standing nearby with his arms crossed. "Jeez, you had us worried. Scared the living daylights out of Shin!"
"Oh, like you weren't startled!"
"Of course I wasn't!"
Shin snorted. He was standing on the opposite wall from Ryo's bed, his hands in his pockets. "You jump at shadows and want to ignore the fact that you were ready to put on your armor and run around trying to kill anything that moved when you heard that scream, just like the rest of us!"
Seiji appeared at Ryo's elbow and handed down a glass of water to him, saying nothing as Ryo took it and murmured his thanks, gulping it down before he knocked that one over too. Only after he set the glass on the nightstand did Seiji ask, quietly, "So what happened there, Ryo? Are you still hurting?"
"I…" He looked away. Seiji had this ability to just stare straight through you, as if he could see everything about you. While that was great for tracking or sensing enemies, it was… embarrassing to look at him just now. Seiji would see what was there. What evil was there in his spirit. Because that's what the voice was. What the desire to burn was… or it had to be. A hungry evil waiting to devour everything, just like Arago…
"You know," Seiji said, intruding on Ryo's thoughts, "We're all still getting over everything that happened in that battle. Fighting all the demons, the Demon Mashou. Being… devoured by Arago. And then that… that strange white armor. And then Arago was gone! And we're all still alive to see the city back to normal, and life seems to be returning to normal. It's a lot to take in." He grinned, "Now the hard part is figuring out what it all means. Which, I can promise you, has been a lot harder than an endless target practice session!"
He was trying to cheer Ryo up. And it worked, partially. He felt the others agree with Seiji. They were all still reeling from the battle. It might not be for the same reasons, but they all felt it. He looked around at them and he could feel their tension. He had screamed, and they were all startled by it. In their shoes, he'd be really worried too, and on top of everything else…
Ryo realized that the nightmare was fading. The hunger was fading. Although he could still feel his friends' auras strongly, especially now that they were standing nearby, it was no longer with a desire to devour. It was a comforting warmth akin to how he first felt with his armor crystal. A bond. Whatever bound them together was protecting him. Keeping the nightmares at bay.
At least temporarily. He could feel the murky thoughts there, waiting at the back of his mind. But with his friends around him, he could push them back, at least briefly. Try and get things out and understand, while he wasn't a monster.
"So you don't have anything on what it was?" He asked. They'd had two weeks, after all. Well, Seiji had almost that. The others had close.
"A little," Touma replied. "I was actually looking over some stuff I found today, including a reference to a 'Shiroi Kikotei'. A great white armor with immense power called forth by great warriors in ages past. It was said to protect people from demons. Some of the symbols I've found on the scrolls people have downloaded match those found on our armors, and the pictures drawn are sort of similar to what I can remember it looking like. It matches up to some references that sound a lot like Kaos. Beyond that, though… what capabilities it had, how it was created, where it came from… there's nothing concrete, yet."
"We kind of thought," Shin ventured, "That you might be able to tell us something about that, Ryo. You wore it, after all."
"More like the thing wore me," Ryo replied, dryly. Seiji's gaze narrowed at that. "I just… I can remember talking to Kaos in… inside Arago. And then feeling you all there, and then… and then there was this burst of white light and fire everywhere. And I didn't even know what I was doing when I attacked Arago. It was like my body was moving on its own. And it…" His hand, resting on his knee, tightened its hold on the blanket, "It was… It was agonizing. It was like drowning in the volcano again, except this time it hurt. Like looking into the sun and not being able to look away, or jumping onto a stove or-or I don't know…" He let go of the blanket and looked at his palm. "But it also felt incredible. Like I knew that I had this endless amount of power, just waiting to be used. Like when I use my normal armor, and it…" He couldn't describe to others in words the way it felt to burn, to blaze. It was something felt with the mind and the heart, something experienced, not explained. "I felt like I could do anything. I don't know why I thought that, but I did. And I don't know where the armor came from, or what it was."
The others had listened intently, and they were silent for a time after he finished, to go through all of what he'd said.
"I have to wonder," Touma said. "We were all knocked out, and I thought that was just from, well, everything, and maybe it was. Dying, not dying, whatever happened to us. We used a lot of energy during that battle, and all the battles before. Our bodies needed a break. But none of us really outdid each other, from what I can recall. I have to wonder… maybe, Ryo, you were especially tired because you actually wore the armor. And if that's true, I wonder if the rest of us were drained because we shared our power to create it."
"Hold on a minute," Shu said, "You think we created that?"
"I remember sharing my power with you guys," Seiji replied. "I remember that, from what little I remember of that battle. The energy drain we experienced during and after it was over… it had to come from somewhere. If we had to power something with the magnitude that Ryo is describing… it's possible, I think. It's just possible."
"We shared power to create something…" Shin said, "It's such a strange thing. I never thought we could do that."
"Well, we didn't know the armors were connected like that before," Seiji commented. "They were originally part of Arago, and they even reconnected when we… When he swallowed us. We might not have been able to figure it out on our own, but at least then we managed it."
"It was Kaos," Ryo said, "He came and guided us somehow. I saw him inside Arago."
"He's still saving us," Shu shook his head. "And we never get to thank him for it."
"I wonder if that's really it for him," Touma said, "There's that business with the bridge, and Arago. For a dead guy, he sure gets around."
"Which brings us back to the question of what happened when Arago erm, devoured us," Seiji said. "Did we die? Did we just go to sleep? Did we, I don't know… cease to exist for a brief moment and then get reformed? Did we merge with the demon?"
"You can't be serious," Shin said, "Merge with that-that monster? I don't recall, I mean…" He blanched.
"There was a moment… that time, I…" Touma frowned. "I remember darkness and… and pain. And—" he shuddered.
"I guess I'd forgotten," Shu said, quietly. "It was awful, whatever it was."
"We all wanted to forget, I think," Seiji said. "I tried not to think about it at first. I thought it was only me. I felt alone in there, maybe I was going mad… Until the bond, and then the… the Shiroi Kikotei, if that's what it was, appeared."
"Wait," Touma said, "I have an idea. If he absorbed our armors to gain their characteristics back into his original armor… and that involved absorbing us along with them… And we have no explanation for the creation of the Shiroi Kikotei… I have to wonder… is the reverse possible as well?"
"What do you mean?" Seiji asked.
"Well, our armors formed Arago's armor, which was big and all and we all know how powerful it is. Or is supposed to be, anyway. But then we combined our powers and Ryo managed to escape and form the Shiroi Kikotei. Maybe we did the same thing Arago was trying to do in reverse…?"
"You mean stole some of his power back and used that to form the Kikotei?" Shin asked. "But that doesn't make sense. Why would using his own power against him destroy Arago? It shouldn't have hurt him. It would be like throwing a brick at a skyscraper."
"Well," Touma began, "Think about it for a bit. It seems like it was a group effort to a) combine all of our powers and b) push Ryo out there. We know for a fact that he didn't have Ryo's power at that point. Since our powers were all involved in making the Shiroi Kikotei, he didn't have our powers either. We were either in-between or… maybe just helping form mass, I don't know. Our powers weren't there for him to draw on for self-defense. We can all sense where our armors are, what our powers are doing. We all knew. So Ryo had our five powers, plus whatever Kaos gave him, and maybe whatever we could get from Arago…"
"Versus Arago's leftover energy," Shu interrupted, "And don't forget the four Demon Mashou. I don't like five and a half versus four and a half odds. We didn't beat Arago by a single number. We owned him!"
"You're forgetting, though," Seiji commented, "He was still reforming himself. Putting his armor back together, building his power… That armor of his has been in pieces for a thousand years. He didn't just put it back together and run off and start conquering the world. He was struggling. And not just because he was trying to become 'one' or whatever, but because we were all fighting him. Or… at least Ryo was."
They all looked at their black-haired friend. Notably, he hadn't been partaking in the conversation. He was looking down at the armor crystal, which he was holding in his hand again. At their silence, he looked up at them, surprised to see them all staring at him. Then he looked back down. "Well… I don't really think, I mean… I ended up somewhere when he absorbed me, I know that much. It wasn't a great place… very dark and… a voice kept telling me to go to sleep. Kaos was the one who kept me awake and aware. It certainly wasn't any work on my part."
"I wonder…" Seiji murmured. "At any rate, with those odds: lacking in numbers, focus, and still reforming, with great weakness, and he had to contend with Shutendoji, who could not have been happy to become absorbed, we could easily beat him."
"So the Shiroi Kikotei might not be as powerful as we think it is," Touma said. "If this is all true, then if Arago HAD been at full strength… we'd have been toast."
"If this is all true," Shin commented, "And he was at full power, we couldn't have formed the Shiroi Kikotei in the first place. We would have still been absorbed."
"I'm just wondering," Shu said, "Why did it pick Ryo, of all of us?"
Ryo clenched his hand around the crystal.
"No offense, Ryo, but we're equal in power level. Why pick you?"
"Why not him?" Seiji replied. "For one thing, he was the last absorbed. Arago would have had a tenuous grip on him, in terms of connection with all our armors. He would have been the easiest to remove from Arago's web and stick outside once our powers combined. He was also the most awake of us, since he was absorbed last. I don't know about you all, but I was pretty darn sleepy when I was in there. Barely conscious of what was going on when I felt the bond start to kick in. It felt like-like being tied to a chair and being forced to watch some bad movie. I couldn't move and didn't even feel like I wanted to move, which was even weirder. If Ryo wasn't like that, he'd have had a better chance."
"Those are good points, Seiji," Touma replied. "You too, Shu. And I think it's worth checking into. If I can find more tales on this Shiroi Kikotei, because I promise you, I don't mean to stop looking, I might be able to find out more about the choosing process. Is it random? For instance, the next time we summon it, assuming we could and wanted to and needed to, could it go to any one of us? Or will it go back to Ryo, as the designated bearer for this armor bearer generation? Or is there something special about the Wildfire Armor that makes the bearer of that armor the designated bearer? We do need to look up more on our armors, after all. Learning about their histories and any special capabilities would be valuable."
"Whoa, whoa, whoa," Shin stepped forward, waving his arms, "That's all well and good, but resummon the armor? Are you crazy? We did that the first time in the demon realm, when there was no one to take the backlash, and we all agree that it nearly killed the lot of us, and only Ryo was wearing the damn thing! Look what it did to him for that short amount of time! What if, the next time we try, we summon it here? Even ignoring the potential damage a weapon like that could have on anyone nearby or the environment around us, what if this time we kill Ryo, or all of us? Who needs Arago to start throwing down Youja when we can just go destroying the planet and ourselves for him?"
"I'm not saying we should try for it," Touma replied. "I'm just saying that it's worth investigation. We need to figure out what we're meant to do with these armors. Arago-"
"Was our enemy, and now he's gone," Shu finished. "Our job is done, as far as I'm concerned."
"I don't know about you," Seiji replied with a lowered eyebrow and a sharp voice, "but I don't remember anyone telling me when I received my armor that my job was to defeat Arago. I was just told to bear it responsibly, and with honor, and to protect this world. Besides, we don't know if Arago is really gone, or if all his cronies are gone, too."
"So who do you want us to go against next, Seiji?" Shu snorted, "I don't see any demon lords falling out of the sky. Should we go into the city and start arresting common criminals? Car thieves? Traffic violators? That's a great idea! I can just imagine stopping some thief running out of a convenience store in full samurai armor and giving the guy a heart attack. Does self-defense and the public good cover that?"
"I think we should see what the future brings, and not be so hasty and jump to conclusions," Seiji replied, quietly.
"We've waited two weeks. Heck, we've been fighting this thing for some time now! I think it's time we went back to our own lives!"
"Turning tail, Shu, now that the battle's over?"
Shu flushed and snarled, "What did you just say to me?"
"I'm saying that maybe Ryo was picked to wear the Shiroi Kikotei and finish the fight because he actually wanted to fight back," Seiji threw back, "Unlike certain people I know."
"Guys, come on!"
"Really, you're gonna do this now?"
"Would you all please leave!" Ryo's voice broke over theirs, "I'm… I'm really tired still." They all stopped and looked down at him.
"Uh yeah, sure Ryo," Touma said, gesturing for the others to go. "Sorry. We'll finish this tomorrow, okay?"
They all murmured apologies to him as they stepped out, Shu still glaring and refusing to look at Seiji, who was last out, and who clicked the light off before he shut the door. Ryo sat in the dark, staring at the glowing red crystal.
"Maybe Ryo was picked to wear the Shiroi Kikotei and finish the fight because he actually wanted to fight back!"
"Why did it pick Ryo?"
"Maybe we did the same thing Arago was trying to do in reverse…"
"You mean stole some of his power back and used that to form the Kikotei?"
I'm a monster. That was the only answer. Out of all of them, he was the monster. That's why he was chosen. That was the only reason. Arago could control his army using his demonic powers… maybe I could control the Kikotei because I… Because I had some of Arago stuck in my head, like when I was in that… that other place, where he was trying to smother me, along with the others. The armor is so strong, and it was a part of him once. I just don't get it…
He put his head in his hands. The transformation crystal fell back into his lap.
A/N: Basically everything that happened in season 1 happened and then we're into AU territory (things still pretty much happen in the order they do in season 2, but with lots of tweaks, and it'll snowball once we get back to the demon realm). Nasuti and Jun are not in this story. I add plenty of female characters, but at the start of this I could not figure out a simple solution to allowing the guys to develop character and save Does-Everything-Plot-Hole-Filler-Nasuti (I love her but... the protags need to do stuff too). I've thought up a couple ways to add her, and I might do that in the future (I wouldn't limit her, but working around what I've developed with the guys), but for now. This stays as is. And does anyone actually miss Jun?