Rune Lake, New Berengaria, Rune Lake High School
It was the end of yet another day of drudgery at school. Toma had been in rehab for a week already and he as progressing rapidly with the expertise of top tokki and nekomi experts. Regardless, Jaze was depressed and his mood was bringing everyone else down. Clearly having visiting hours three times a week was not good enough for Jaze as he mostly moped around all day, his ears sagging like wet napkins on the sides of his head. Adell, Jaze, Mitani, and Kaoru all sat outside at one of the tables behind the school having yet another futile discussion about what they were going to do for the rest of the day.
Kaoru: Well, can we at least go to one of the stands next door and get a hot dog?
Jaze continued to stare at the table as he spoke.
Jaze: I'm not hungry...
Everyone grumbled in frustration. Though they sympathized with Jaze, his constant bad mood was wearing thin on everyone. If he heard them grumbling, he didn't appear to care.
Adell: We'd rather not leave you by yourself, you know, but we can't go on like this day after day.
Mitani: Not our problem if he doesn't want to do anything. Let's go. If he wants to follow, he can follow.
Before Adell had a chance to growl at Mitani for yet another display of insensitivity, there was a loud thud in the middle of the table, carrying a tiny handbag. Everyone looked up and were surprised to see Ryuu sitting in front of them. Even Jaze forgot about Toma for the first time in a week.
For several stunned seconds, everyone simply stared at Ryuu in shock.
Ryuu: Whatsa matter? Did you forget about me already?
Adell: Ha ha... Actually, you surprised us.
Kaoru: I can't believe they let you in the country so quickly.
Ryuu: They gave me a working visa!
Ryuu opened his tiny handbag and started rooting around inside. Everyone watched expectantly, except Mitani, who leaned back in his chair and rolled his eyes.
Jaze: That is the cutest little handbag I've ever seen.
Ryuu smiled as he finally found what he was looking for and pulled out a card. Kaoru took it and started reading.
Adell: Wow, they did give you a visa. But what kind of work would they have you do?
Ryuu: They want to study my fire breathing ability at Equilibria's science division. I also help with other experiments, since I can control my flame more quickly and easily than their machines.
Adell:So, you really can breathe fire?
Ryuu: You don't believe me?
Adell: Well, you didn't show us on Draconis.
Ryuu: You didn't ask. I didn't realize it was especially unique until after you left.
Kaoru tilted his head and grimaced at Ryuu's visa card that he was still holding.
Kaoru: This can't be right. According to this birthdate, you're 274 years old.
The others leaned in to look at Ryuu's visa once again.
Kaoru: In Carpathian years?
Ryuu: Yup! I know I'm a little young to have a job, but I know I can do it!
Kaoru:"A little young?" You were born in 1882!
Ryuu: Like I said, I'm a little young. I won't grow to my full, adult size until I'm around 400 or so.
Adell: So you're not full size now? How big are you going to get?
Ryuu: In your system of measurement... about 120 feet, I guess.
A few more moments of stunned silence passed.
Adell: You're going to need a bigger house when that time comes, I think.
They didn't have much more time to mull on the unusual circumstances. At that moment, they heard a familiar, frantic voice nearby.
Artemis: OH MY GOD, THAT'S THE MOST AMAZING THING I'VE EVER SEEN!!!
Everyone but Ryuu, who was looking around excitedly, knew who it was.
Ryuu: Who was that?
Ryuu kept looking until he finally caught sight of the source of the voice, which was now barreling at him so fast he barely had time to react. Ryuu spread his wings and leapt into the air in a futile attempt to fly away in time.
There was a flurry of motion as Artemis leaped over the table and snatched Ryuu straight out of the air. Artemis then tucked and rolled to a halt. He immediately began poking, prodding, and examining Ryuu feverishly from every possible angle.
Artemis: This is unbelievable! I've never seen anything like it! It's so light, yet solid, a perfect balance of agility and strength!
Ryuu: Put me down! Put me down, or else!
Artemis stretched out and examined one of Ryuu's wings and then he pried his mouth open and looked inside.
Artemis: You look just like a tiny dragon! Are you a dragon? Do you breathe fire and everything?
Ryuu struggled to speak, but it was difficult for him with Artemis holding his mouth open.
Ryuu: Nyut ne yown! Nyou're angging wor it!
Ryuu took a deep breath.
Ryuu: *Hack! Cough! Hack!*
Wad of something slimy spilled out of Ryuu's mouth and landed right in Artemis's lap. Artemis let go in disgust and Ryuu immediately flew back to the table.
Artemis: Ew, what's this? Dragon hairball!
Mitani: Ha ha! Stupid dragon!
Ryuu turned to give Mitani an irritated glare, but he couldn't control what happened next.
A very brief, though intense, stream of fire streaked from Ryuu's mouth.
Mitani: Waa! My shirt's on fire!
After a moment of hesitation, Adell grabbed a towel from his gym bag and smothered the flames with it. Once the fire was out, he started checking Mitani's chest to see if he was hurt.
Adell: Looks like your clothes were just singed a bit. You feel alright?
Mitani glared menacingly at Ryuu.
Mitani: That... was... my... FAVORITE SHIRT!!!
Mitani tried to lunge at Ryuu, but Adell grabbed him and held him back.
Adell: Neige! It was an accident! He has a job now, so I'm sure he can pay for it!
Mitani backed down unhappily. He turned and faced away from Ryuu and Adell, stewing in his own anger.
Ryuu: I can pay for it. I'm sorry.
Adell: There, see? He's employed and he isn't going anywhere for a long time. You'll be able to get a new shirt.
Mitani: Right. Just what this planet needs. Another weird alien mucking up the gene pool.
Kaoru, Jaze, and Artemis cringed and glared at Mitani. Adell felt a surge of anger. He stood and faced away from them.
Adell: I wanna talk to you. Alone.
Adell walked away without checking to see if Mitani was following. Mitani rolled his eyes and followed Adell to the back of the school's annex building and found a spot where there were no people nearby.
Adell: What the hell was that?
Adell: "Mucking up the gene pool." That.
Mitani rolled his eyes again.
Mitani: You're overreacting. I was only talking about Ryuu.
Adell: Maybe you should tell that to Jaze and Artemis, because I don't think they can read your mind. And I don't think they appreciate that you consider them "muck."
Mitani: I told you, I wasn't talking about them!
Adell sighed. He could already tell where the argument was going and how futile it would be.
Adell: I'm getting tired of explaining your behavior to everyone. I'm getting tired of wondering how you're going to embarrass me next. You won't take responsibility for anything. You're part of the reason Toma's in rehab now and you have not once apologized for it!
Mitani folded his arms across his chest.
Mitani: Hey! I didn't make him do it! He asked me for a cigarette!
Adell: Did you tell him that they're unhealthy and addictive?
Mitani: No, but...
Adell: Did you even try to talk him out of trying it?
Mitani: Well, no, but...
Adell: That's exactly what I'm talking about!
Adell took a deep breath while Mitani fought to think of something to say.
Adell: Look, I think it's best if we just don't see each other any more.
Adell: I don't love you. Hell, I don't even like you.
Mitani: You're lying!
Adell: It was fun for awhile, but childhood memories cannot sustain us for a lifetime. We're too different and what I want for the rest of my life just isn't you.
Mitani: We're not too different!
Adell: It's best for both of us. I'm going to go back and sit with my "mucky" friends. Don't follow me.
Adell turned and walked away, leaving behind a stunned, wide-eyed Mitani. He could see the others, Jaze, Kaoru, Artemis, and Ryuu all talking together. However bizarre Artemis and Ryuu's first meeting was, they seemed to be friendly to each other now.
As he approached, he gained a stronger realization that he was now leaving one part himself behind and rejoining the other. The distance he covered was like a journey through life itself, a transition to something new, where old friends and new possibilities awaited him. Once he was finally close, the others noticed him and he tried his best to smile cheerfully, though he failed extravagantly at it.
Kaoru: Adell, are you okay?
Adell knew he wouldn't be able to keep himself together for long and with those four words, a tear slid down his cheek.
Adell: We broke up.
Jaze, overflowing with sympathy, leapt to his feet right away and threw his arms around Adell, hugging him tightly. For awhile, they were locked bond of two people who were without their boyfriends, though both for different reasons.
Jaze: Feel better?
Adell: A little. Thanks.
Ryuu: Awww... I'm too small to give hugs.
Adell chuckled a little through his tears and smiled as he held out his arms.
Adell: That's okay. We humans like to cuddle warm, furry little guys like you.
Adell: Sure. Come on.
Ryuu leaped excitedly into Adell's arms and he squeezed him tightly and scratched behind his ears.
Ryuu: Mmmm... You're warm. You sure this helps? Cuz I feel like this is better for me than it is for you.
Adell smiled as Ryuu nuzzled himself tightly against Adell's chest.
Adell: It helps.
End: Short Stories Volume 4.
Stay tuned for Volume 5!
All city images from SimCity 4.