Carpathia III: Episode 119: A New Home
The Outlands, Yseri
For a change, the last few weeks of travel were uneventful, though Toma's physical condition worsened slightly during the journey. Whether from the constant fighting in the arena or a side effect of the caffiene, nobody knew, but walking was now more of an arduous affair for him. At one point in the journey, they passed a grove of trees. From there, Zet was able to fashion a walking stick for Toma from one of the branches. Since then, Toma's condition appeared stable and he was able to keep pace with the rest of the slow-moving group without much difficulty.
At long last, the journey reached its end, illuminated by the sunset sinking into the river. Realizing that it would soon be dark, Jaze wondered, only for a moment, how they would find Jacob, Roose, Aten, or anyone else he knew. He needn't have worried, however. In very short order, Roose found them.
Before Jaze could say anything, Roose was already leaping toward him. Jaze braced himself, though without concern, as he remembered how light Roose was and was able to catch him with ease. Roose commenced sniffing all around Jaze's neck and shoulders before leaping away.
Roose: You still stink!
Jaze and Ryuu smirked knowingly while the others looked on. Behind Roose, Jaze now saw Jacob and Aten excitedly approaching. Jaze waved happily at them both.
Before any more pleasantries could be exchanged, Roose suddenly turned his attention to Toma and galloped toward him on all fours. Jaze wrapped his arm around Toma's shoulder reassuringly.
Jaze: Toma, this is Roose. He's a good friend.
Toma said nothing, only watching in bewildermint as Roose circled around his feet, sniffing. Around and around went Roose, slowly moving up until he reached Toma's chest. Finally, he grabbed one of Toma's ears and turned it over a few times, examining it.
Roose: You're Toma! Your ears are just like Jaze said. I didn't picture them this long, though.
Roose continued to play with Toma's ear as Jacob and Aten finally arrived.
Aten: Jaze! Ryuu!
Ryuu leaped from Zet's shoulder and wrapped himself around Aten.
Ryuu: Hi, Aten. You're getting taller!
Jacob turned for a moment to smile at Aten and Ryuu before extending his hand to Jaze. Accepting it eagerly, Jaze took his hand, expecting a shake, but instead Jacob pulled him into a tight hug.
Jacob: We're glad you made it back. We were worried.
Jaze sniffled as he struggled to speak.
Jaze: Sorry I was gone so long. It's quite a long story.
Jacob pulled away and, for a moment, gave Jaze a fatherly gaze before turning his attention to Toma.
Jacob: And you must be Toma. We've been waiting for you for a long time. It's good to finally have you here!
Toma's eyes widened as he took a step backward, clearly confused.
Toma: Um... Thanks?
At the same time, Aten trotted up to Toma as well, with Ryuu close behind.
Aten: Hi, Toma! I'm Aten!
Jacob turned and held out his arm, beckoning the party to come with him.
Jacob: Come! You must be tired. Introductions can wait until we get you settled.
Nobody hesitated following, as the promise of a cozy bed and a hot meal overrode any concern anyone might have had. As they proceeded forth, Toma leaned close to Jaze and whispered in his ear.
Toma: Why does everyone seem to know me already?
Jaze gasped suddenly, as a flood of thoughts poured through his mind. He never planned to keep his own ordeal from Toma, but preferred a moment more private along with Ryuu to explain everything. Now that they had arrived at the village, there would be many things to explain, including how everyone already knows Toma and his relationship with Rhoskel, who died here and, Jaze guessed, was probably buried somewhere close. As Jaze thought, the situation became even more urgent when Ryuu spoke.
Ryuu: Now that everyone's safe, I'm going to look for that other dragon!
Jaze remembered that Ryuu said it would take days to find the other dragon and he couldn't wait that long.
Jaze: Ryuu, wait!
Everyone, including Ryuu, stopped in their tracks and turned to Jaze.
Jaze: Erm... You guys go on ahead. We'll catch up.
Kaoru: You alright, Jaze?
Jaze took a deep breath.
Jaze: Yeah. There's just something I need to take care of first. We'll be fine.
Jacob: We're headed to Nita's house. I reckon you still know the way?
Jaze: I do.
The others continued ahead, leaving Jaze, Toma, and Ryuu behind. Once they were out of earshot, Jaze spoke with both of them.
Jaze: Toma, you remember when I mentioned that Ryuu could share your memories with me if you wanted?
Toma tilted his head to the side.
Toma: Yes, I remember.
Jaze: Ryuu is already carrying all of my memories from the time I arrived. He's already shared them with everyone else. I know you've been through a lot... so have I... so if it would be too much for you to see...
Before Jaze could complete his thought, Toma interjected.
Toma: Sure, I'll see them.
Jaze's ears perked on his head, surprised that Toma agreed so quickly.
Jaze: Oh... Well, that's good. It'll make things easier, I guess. It's just... well, there's a lot in there. Some of it might be difficult to believe. Some of it I'm not very proud of. Still, you deserve to know.
Jaze turned to Ryuu, fairly certain that he would know what Jaze was about to ask.
Jaze: Ryuu, before you go, could you share everything with Toma?
Ryuu: I can do that. How much would you like me to give?
Jaze, already assuming that everything would be included, thought for only a moment, ultimately deciding that Toma should choose.
Jaze: As much as Toma would like to see, I suppose. Offer him the Dragon Wars too. That does help put everything in context.
Toma: I guess I'll see everything. What should I do?
Ryuu sat by Toma's feet.
Ryuu: All you have to do is sit while I touch your face.
Right away, Toma slowly lowered himself to the ground with the help of his walking stick.
Ryuu: This will take about ten or fifteen minutes. We'll catch up, Jaze. I know the way. It feels strange if someone's watching and I don't want to mess up.
Jaze, in the middle of sitting himself, stopped and rose to his feet.
Jaze: Oh... um... okay, I suppose that makes sense.
Jaze slowly turned to walk away, turning once to see that Ryuu was still watching him, making sure that he was actually leaving. It was hard to walk away from Toma despite knowing that he would be safe with Ryuu. Jaze had to force himself to continue without looking back.
Jaze caught up with the group just as they reached Nita's house. As he approached, he could hear Jacob speaking to them.
Jacob: This is Nita's house. We've cleaned it and fixed it up, hoping that Jaze would come back, but nobody is living here now. We didn't expect so many, so space will be a little tight until we can build more space for you. Aten and I live close by, so we can help you out if you need anything.
Suddenly, Jacob's eyes met Jaze's. Jacob reached his hand high in the air and waved, prompting everyone else to turn.
Adell: Jaze! Where are Ryuu and Toma?
Jaze sniffed and lightly kicked a rock, which skidded a few inches in front of him. Trying to keep his mind settled, he focused on little details, watching the tiny pebbles skitter away from the rock as it slid by and the puff of dust in its wake.
Jaze: Ryuu is giving Toma all my memories. Toma is going to see the relationship I had with Rhoskel. Not sure how he's going to take it. I didn't realize that Ryuu wanted privacy when he did that.
Adell: Right, I remember that. Ryuu said it's harder to give memories and he doesn't like people staring when he does that. He made everyone wait outside and come in one at a time. He also forbid us from seeing you until he had a chance to apologize first
Jaze breathed deeply, still concentrating on the details around him, keeping himself focused. He watched the leaves sway as small gusts of wind ran through the tree branches and took in the familiar smell of the flowers around Nita's house.
Jaze: Well, whatever happens, happens, I guess. I feel like I should be more worried than I am.
Kaoru: That's because you trust Toma and he trusts you. I'm sure everything will be okay.
Jaze allowed a small smile as he scanned the faces before him and suddenly stopped at Reuli, noticing several strands of yellow embedded amongst the pink.
Jaze: Reuli, are you turning blonde?
Reuli gasped and slapped his hands on his head.
Reuli: I am!? I wanna see! Is there a mirror?
Roose: There's one inside the house. I can show you!
Wolfram: I'll go with you!
Jacob stepped aside as Roose led Reuli and Wolfram into the house. Once inside, Quilyon turned to Kaoru and smiled.
Quilyon: He's got dad's hair for sure. That makes me happy. Even though he's gone, it's like a little piece of him is still here.
Kaoru reached up and ran his fingers through Quilyon's hair.
Kaoru: There's a lot of your mother here too.
For a brief moment, Jaze had finally managed to distract himself from his worries, until Artemis pointed behind him.
Artemis: Looks like Ryuu and Toma are done.
Jaze whirled around and immediately spotted Toma slowly making his way toward them with Ryuu trotting alongside.
Jaze stepped forward hesitantly, doing his best to brace himself for any reaction. For the last few steps, Toma let his walking stick fall to the ground and he fell into Jaze's arms.
Toma: Jaze... All that time... all those thoughts... You never stopped thinking about me.
Together, Jaze and Toma both sank to their knees while Toma cried quietly into Jaze's chest.
All city pictures from SimCity 4