Draconis Colony, Forest
It was a long walk getting back to the colony. When they were busy looking out for new and unusual things, the time passed quickly and they didn't realize how far they'd gone. Now, when their one, overriding concern was to return with Ryuu, the hike seemed to take forever.
The hike was not without it's excitement, though much of it was fairly mundane. Kaoru and Muffy chatted together in a pair, the topic of conversation being nothing any of the rest of them wanted to know, vapid as it surely was. Ryuu flapped alongside Toma, eager to learn more about Tokkastria as there was no evidence of his race in the trash he'd been sifting through.
Mitani followed from behind and kept his gaze firmly locked on Jaze out of fear for his own life. Adell and Jaze walked together. Adell kept a tight grip on Jaze's tail in an effort to keep future attempts of murder at a minimum.
Jaze: You can let go of my tail now.
Adell kept moving forward, not even bothering to look at Jaze when he spoke.
Adell: Not a chance.
Jaze: I promise I'll be good!
Adell: You said the same thing right before you tried to rip Neige's face off the last two times.
Jaze: He gave Toma cigarettes!
Adell: He gave Toma one cigarette, and he barely finished half of it. You don't have to be so overprotective, you know. Toma is old enough to make...
Suddenly, there was a flurry of activity and Adell found himself whipped in the opposite direction.
Jaze leapt at Mitani with all the strength he had to both break Adell's grip and attempt to remove Mitani's face once again. However, Adell's grip held firm and the resulting yank caused both of them to fall to the ground.
Jaze: Ow! That's gonna bruise...
Mitani looked down on Jaze with an expression of delight on his face.
Mitani: Ha ha!
Adell: Shut up, Neige! You're not helping!
To Adell's relief, the next voice they heard was Kaoru's. He pointed up ahead.
Kaoru: Look! There's the colony!
Draconis Colony, Draconis Park
The group staggered wearily up the hill, the final incline before reaching their biology teacher sitting at a large folding table awaiting the return of the students. His back was turned to them as he chatted with to of his teaching aides. No other students were standing around. It was clear to them that they were the first to return. Adell was relieved. Jaze would surely not try anything in front of a teacher.
Adell: Mr. Voltaire, we're back.
Mr. Voltaire didn't turn around to look at them.
Mr. Voltaire: I thought I heard a commotion in the woods. Been fighting, have you?
Adell: No sir. We're finished.
Mr. Voltaire: Mmmm... That was quick. So, show me what you got.
As though on cue, Ryuu landed heavily on the folding table in front of Mr. Voltaire with a resounding thunk.
For a brief moment, Mr. Voltaire's eyes met Ryuu's.
Mr. Voltaire: SWEET MOTHER OF GORGONZOLA!!!
And he fell right out of his chair.
Kaoru: I guess he likes cheese.
Ryuu stood up and slowly walked to the edge of the table. Looking down at Mr. Voltaire, he sniffed the air a little.
Ryuu: Can I check to see if it's a boy human or a girl human?
Adell, Kaoru, and Jaze: NO!!!
Mr. Voltaire staggered to his feet, brushing himself off.
Kaoru: So, Mr. Voltaire, is this good enough?
Mr. Voltaire: Uh... yes. Ha ha. Very good. You, um, mind if I chat with... uh... What's your name?
Ryuu held out his paw.
Ryuu: I'm Ryuu!
Mr. Voltaire hesitantly reached out with his hand and shook Ryuu's paw.
Jaze: Can we stay here with him?
Mr. Voltaire: Of course. After all, you found him. Or... he found you. Anyway, you can catch me up on what I've missed so far.
Mitani: Meh. My work is done. I'm going back to the hotel.
By the time Jaze turned to shout at Mitani, he'd already turned his back on the rest of them and started walking towards the road.
Jaze: Good riddance!
As the rest of them inched closer to the folding table where Ryuu and Mr. Voltaire were, Adell turned and spoke quietly to Kaoru.
Adell: I've been at this school a year now and things don't seem to be getting any less strange.
Kaoru: I know.
Two Weeks Later
Rune Lake, New Carpathia, Rune Lake High School
The last class of the day was coming to and end and everyone seemed eager to leave. They had returned from the Draconis Colony a few days before. The finding of a dragon was on almost everyone's mind. Adell, Kaoru, Jaze, and Toma had spent a lot of time chatting with Ryuu while they were there and they were now missing his company. Jaze, however, was thinking of something else. Toma hadn't shown up for school since they got back and all he could think about was figuring out where he could be.
Mr. Voltaire: You will all get your grades on your performance during the trip next week. Tomorrow, we will be starting our discussion on the continuing disintegration of the moon, Susano, its effect on marine life, and ways the other moon is compensating, so be sure to have your chapters read!
As soon as Mr. Voltaire finished, the bell rang and all the students stood and gathered their things and quickly left the room. Adell and Mitani walked outside together. Adell gazed up at Susano, which was now high in the sky. His parents used to tell him what it was like to see two full moons in the sky, but all he could remember was the one full moon and the fragmented Susano. Over the course of his life, he was fascinated to watch it slowly fragment more and more.
For several moments, he was lost in the sight of the moon, until he felt a sharp jab in his shoulder.
Adell turned sharply. It was Mitani, indulging in one of his favorite little games of giving him a shoulder punch whenever he was distracted.
Mitani: Ha! That's what you get for not paying attention!
Adell: Neige, I told you I hate that!
Kaoru and Jaze both emerged from the doors of the school together, each without his respective significant other.
Mitani: No Muffy today, Kaoru?
Kaoru: We broke up. I was starting to get the feeling that she wasn't so smart.
Mitani: No way!
Nobody could miss the sarcasm in Mitani's voice, but either Kaoru missed it or he was ignoring it.
Kaoru: I'm more worried about Toma.
Everyone turned and looked at Jaze. He was staring forlornly at the ground, his ears drooping lazily at the sides of his head.
Jaze: I haven't seen him since we got back. He doesn't answer his phone. He doesn't answer the door. I don't know what to do.
Mitani looked up and pointed matter-of-factly towards the sidewalk.
Mitani: He's right there.
As though synchronized, everybody turned and looked towards where Mitani was pointing. Toma was indeed standing there on the sidewalk just outside the school grounds. He looked terrible. His face was a delicate shade of green that was only accentuated by his unusually sleepy eyes and ears that drooped sickly down the sides of his head. The four of them approached quickly, lead by Jaze. Though they couldn't see anything below his chest as he was standing behind the hedge, as they got closer, they were disturbed to see white smoke curling up from one side and wafting away in the breeze.
Jaze: Toma! Are you okay? You look awful!
Toma: I feel terrible.
Jaze peered over the hedge to confirm his suspicions. Toma was indeed holding a cigarette down by his waist.
Jaze: Why are you smoking?
Toma: I don't know. I can't seem to stop.
Adell: I'm sure that's what must be making you feel bad. Nobody knows how smoking would affect you. It's only been a few days since you started.
Jaze: Yeah, quit now while you can. You can't have smoked that much.
Toma: I guess not. I've had four. Is that a lot?
Adell: Four cigarettes? That's not really bad at all, I think...
Toma: No, no. Not four cigarettes. What do you call them? Cartons. Four cartons.
Several moments passed as stunned disbelief played across all their faces.
Adell: Four cartons?!?
Jaze: Since when?
Toma: Since three days ago. Is that a lot?
Jaze: Four cartons in three days?
Adell: Hell yeah, that's a lot! No wonder you feel bad!
Jaze: I'm calling Dad. He's the director of the Nekomi Resource Centre and they have a rehab clinic.
Jaze stepped a short distance away and pulled out his galaphone and slid it open. The blue glow of the screen and keypad illuminated his hand as he began punching in numbers.
Kaoru: Toma, maybe you shouldn't be smoking that now.
Toma instantly stepped back and turned to his side, facing his cigarette hand away from Kaoru.
Toma: It's mine!
In the background, they could hear Jaze speaking with what was apparently a receptionist.
Jaze: Hi, yes, I'd like to speak to Tier... My name's Bond. Jaze Bond. He's my father... Yes, I'll hold.
All city images from SimCity 4.