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  1. 022: Feels Like Home [Continuation From: Welcome To WILD'S] ----- ___________________ ... RYŪNOSUKE was visible winded as he bristly turned the corner into the intersection and continued his run along the pavement. He peered ahead and spotted his landmark, the Tamura residence, or as it had been colloquially dubbed by the neighborhood "the black box", about a kilometer away. Of course, to Ryūnosuke it was simply his house and, for the foreseeable future, the finish line for his morning runs. "I missed this.", the teenager noted mentally, and fondly recalled his routine morning runs back in Osaka. There were a lot of differences between life in Karakura and life in Osaka. For instance, he'd never been attacked and nearly killed by a Hollow in Osaka. Nor was he a rookie member of a secret team of super-powered teenagers. Small differences like those really set the two places apart. Still, some things were the same; like the mild discomfort of cold morning air stinging his fingertips and ears, that was more or less the same in both places. As was the delightful anticipation of an endorphin rush of accomplishment that would come once the run was over. The sudden thought of it made Ryūnosuke grin. He wondered why he ever gave up this incredible ritual in the first place, but then he remembered his last few months of morning runs in Osaka. Mornings that he didn't run alone. That was another difference between Osaka and Karakura; there was no Enokida Hina in Karakura. Ryūnosuke shook his head and picked up his pace as if to cast out the unpleasant thought. Leave it in his dust. That was the best part about waking up before sunrise and running a few miles, it helped clear his mind, helped him focus. Ryūnosuke needed that now, today was a big day after all. His first day as a part-timer at the Sato Gift Shop & Dango Store. Of course, that was just the front. Ryūnosuke grinned again as he exhaled. Today was really his first day as a member of WILD'S. Although he had yet to fully grasp the scope of what being in WILD'S meant, he more or less had the basic outlines. Part-time job for a decent wage, training to master his Fullbring abilities, and a chance to save lives by killing Hollows and eventually offing that bastard Baron Quadhorn as well. Positively titillating stuff, especially the last thing. Prospects like those had kept the teenager up at night. Restless, just like the night before a big game --another familiar feeling, that. In fact, Ryūnosuke hardly got a wink of sleep the night before just ruminating over it all. Admittedly, that was part of what got him out of bed and running again but, more specifically, meeting a teenage girl in arguably the best physical shape he'd ever seen had both reignited something in his competitive spirit and also put him to shame. "Sugiyama Chizuru", her name and image lingered in Ryūnosuke's mind. Admittedly, he recalled that her face wasn't hard to look at at all either, but that wasn't as impressive as her incredible 3D delts. Sure, she was attractive, but even after she pulled back her white tiger mask her facial features hadn't pulled his eyes like her visible bicep veins did. He spent a dedicated portion of the night and morning wondered if her muscles were natural or if there was some medical or possibly even supernatural enhancements at work behind the scenes. Now that he thought about it, that could explain the general unease and temperament he'd sensed from her. Maybe it wasn't that she had anything against him. "A little roid rage?", he whispered pensively as he imagined Sugiyama rampaging through the WILD'S base in a fit of hormonal-imbalance-induced rage. "Eh, she might be an odd one.", he concluded internally. Then there were the others. Sato Iwa, kappa mask, was the only other male on the team and so far he gave off "easy-going, cool big brother" vibes in Ryūnosuke's opinion. Sato was also kind of funny in his own way. What stood out about him the most, however, was just how excited he seemed to have Ryūnosuke on the team. Ryūnosuke didn't believe that kind of happiness and sincerity could be faked, which had the effect of easing his mind a bit at the time. It felt nice to feel welcomed. Right up there with Sato in excitement to meet his acquaintance was Kenzaki Juri, the girl with the beautiful phoenix mask and also the one who'd saved his life after the Baron Quadhorn attack. She was nothing but endearing, and after speaking with her for just a few minutes Ryūnosuke wished he could just take her home and have her for a little sister. Juri deserved all good, love and protection as far as he was concerned. Lastly, there was Kanako Ichihara, Ryūnosuke could tell she came from some wealth --one of those it took one to know one kind of deal. Besides that surface observation, he also picked up that Ichihara was the tech-savvy member of the team. She also seemed rather sassy and sarcastic and was apparently very close to Kenzaki. Ryūnosuke simply figured there might be a familial relation between them. Most importantly though, not unlike Sugiyama, Ichihara didn't seem much convinced or thrilled with Ryūnosuke's addition to the team. While Sugiyama appeared more indifferent to him, Ichihara seemed to visibly despise him for some reason. He'd need to get to the bottom of that, preferably sooner rather than later. Nevertheless, his first impressions aside, Ryūnosuke was certain of one thing; his journey to becoming a full-fledged member of WILD'S would be an interesting one, to say the least of it. As he rapidly closed the distance to his house, Ryūnosuke's anticipation for the day only grew. He paced to a triumphant halt right up the stairs leading to the door, took a deep breath of the cold Karakura air, and held it in his lungs for a moment. Just as he'd hoped, even that sensation felt familiar. He raised his left forearm to wipe the sweat from his forehead and no sooner than his sleeve blocked his view did he here the front door open. "Ryūnosuke?", called his mother, Tamura Mariko. Ryūnosuke lowered his arm to face her. They both seemed shocked to see the other as a silence briefly settled between them. "Y-you went for a morning run? You haven't done that in a while." Mariko added. Ryūnosuke watched his mother expression and tried to make a read of it, for a moment he saw alarm and a bit of confusion... but then it changed. Right before his eyes he saw his mothers expression soften in a smile --a very familiar smile. A smile he'd seen hundreds of times in Osaka on mornings just like this. Ryūnosuke nodded and smiled back in return. "Yeah... Tamaida.", he replied. His saw a glow in his mother's eyes and looked down. Why did he feel embarrassed all of a sudden, he wondered as he scratched a sudden itch on his nose and sniffled. Oddly, he felt strangely empty-handed, like he'd forgotten something? He sucked his teeth when it finally dawned on him. "Crap. Sorry, mom. I didn't bring anything for breakfa-" "Okaeri, Ryun!" Mariko exclaimed and sniffled herself, fighting against swelled up tears, joyous as they were she couldn't risk them being misunderstood and ruining this moment. Mariko straightened up and gasped, "Ah, Ryun, you're all sweaty!", she gestured her son towards the door while feinting mild disapproval. Run upstairs and shower!", she ordered. "Breakfast will be waiting when you're done." For that Ryūnosuke had only one answer, "Yea, ma'am!", as he briskly slid through the door pass his mother, kicked off his sneakers and shuffled into his house slippers. As he dashed upstairs for the shower, Ryūnosuke thought, "this feels familiar". As she closed the door and finally let her tears flow, Mariko thought, "this feels familiar". As they each let the relief of that sensation sink in they both thought, "Finally... this feels like home." To Be Continued... ______________________________ WC|1,340 -----
  2. [Tamura Residence a.k.a. "The Black Box"] The home of Tamura Mariko and Tamura Ryūnosuke. Located in the Kasazaki district of Karakura, The "Black Box", as it has been dubbed by the locals, was only recently constructed after the demolition of the former Mafuyu residence. The Mafuyu family moved to Germany seven years ago and were looking to sell the land, however they were unable to find any buyers due to the tragic circumstances surrounding their departure from Karakura and the rumors that the house was cursed. The land was bought by Tamura Keiji who promptly saw to the demolition of the former home and the construction of the bold architectural statement that is the new Tamura residence. The jet black anomaly stands imposingly in the corner-plot of two intersecting roads. The neighbors of the Tamura's are the young newly-weds Mr. and Mrs. Hamashida on one side. And on the other side, the retired widow Mrs. Suzuki, who is also the president of the neighborhood association. The Black Box sticks out like a prop from a futuristic sci-fi thriller. The majestic, obsidian obelisk has a dominating presence that overshadows the neighboring homes. Curiously, the neighborhood association has documented a considerable decrease in petty crime and unruly behavior in recent months. Even more curious, it seems more people are taking out their trash on time. It is unclear if the Tamura residence has anything to do with the change. ----- Residents: Tamura Mariko Tamura Ryūnosuke
  3. 001: Things We Left Behind And Others We Didn't PRT 1 ----- ____________________ ... RYŪNOSUKE had not been particularly attentive of his surroundings for the majority of the four hour drive from the airport. He'd gazed out of the passenger's seat window on occasion to take in, if not but visually, the stark change in scenery that was the countryside of the Tama region, also known as Western Tokyo. Although he was not in a frame that would allow a full appreciation of the simplistic and natural beauty of the region, the 17 year old --who had until now lived exclusively in a bustling city-- saw in the wide and empty green plains visible on the roadside an indication of just how much he was leaving behind. He was hundreds of miles from Osaka, hundreds of miles from his old life, his old home. "Hundreds of miles from-" Ryūnosuke inhaled deeply as he pressed his head against the window glass and closed his eyes, hoping to banish his thoughts and clear his mind. Merely a temporary reprieve, he knew; one that worked most of the time, but the thoughts were never truly gone. The guilt and shame were always there, persistent, stubborn, and lingering in the back of his mind, pouncing out from the darkness to torment him only when he pretended he could move beyond them. Ryūnosuke sighed lowly in frustration. Who was he kidding, no amount of time or distance could ever make him forget what he'd done --the harm he'd caused-- much less could any distance change it. Tamura Mariko had thoughts and regrets of her own as she watched her son from the backseat of the silver SUV bound for their new home in Karakura. She regretted that she'd noticed too little and too late to help him, that she didn't see the signs that he was struggling and needed help. Most of all, she resented the fact that a tragedy had torn a rift between herself and her boy. Where there had once been warmth and openness now festered an expanding pit of coldness and silence. Oh, how she hated the silence and everything that came with it. The doubt and paranoia. Sleepless nights, woke with fear as she wondered if she would have to go through what that poor girl Hina's mother experienced. "Would she wake up one morning and find her boy-" Mariko shuddered, holding back the tears that had begun to swell in her eyes. "No." That was precisely why they had left Osaka. It would take time, it would be hard and painful, but she would get her family through this crisis. They would reclaim their happiness and she would see the glow in her son's eyes again. Even if that meant moving to the edge of the earth. Mariko reached over the passenger's seat and placed her hand tenderly on Ryūnosuke's left shoulder. "Are you okay, Ryūn?" she asked lowly. There was a delay in her son's response. Part of her hoped that perhaps he was considering to share everything that was bothering him. That he'd suddenly become inclined to tell her everything that happened that morning when he found Hina. That he'd shout at her, curse at her, or even blame her, just as long as he'd opened the door that would allow her back into his life. Let her be his mother again. "I'm fine." Ryūnosuke mumbled. Mariko, squeezed his shoulder, silently begging him not to shut down on her again. "Are you sure? You haven't eaten or said anything in hours. Are you hungry." "Mom, I'm fine... I'm just tired is all." "Alright, honey." Mariko conceded. She gave Ryūnosuke a final pat on his shoulder before she reclined in her seat. She wondered if she'd pressed too hard again without realizing it. If her maternal instincts had gotten the better of her again. But what else was she to do? What else did she have to trust in if not the biological imperative to protect her child? Did that make her selfish? How could it be wrong of her to want to be close to her son again? How could anyone expect her to be patient and endure the agonizing pain of knowing your child --the most important and beloved thing to you in this world-- is so close, not even an arm's length away, and yet so achingly distant from you? Ryūnosuke surely couldn't comprehend his mother's feelings. For as much as he was a selfish teenager, he had very real torments of his own as well. Perhaps fortunately, if he had nothing else going for him, Ryūnosuke was mature enough to at least recognize his own thoughts and emotions. He knew very well, that he was dealing with his own guilt, shame, and regret. He was angry, but not with the world --most certainly not with his mother. Rather he was angry with himself, for what he'd done. He'd blamed himself for ruining what little happiness his family had. For destroying that little happiness he'd always taken for granted. Add to that the fact that, for better or for worse, the troubled teen had inherited his father's pride, which dictated that there were things he simply could never say openly or admit. Mr. Nagashi was a man of many talents and responsibilities. Exactly three months from the day he'd have been under the employment of Tamura Keiji for fifteen years. He'd been President Keiji's (of Tamura Pharmaceuticals) closest friend for seven more years than that. Point was, Nagashi had known the Tamuras for a very long time. He'd, in fact, known young Ryūnosuke for the teenager's entire life. Nagashi, was practically a member of the family himself, but he was a professional and never eluded to that fact and was all the better at his job for it. At least in his own opinion. Officially, he was the Head of Security at Tamura Pharmaceuticals. Unofficially, the parameters of his job description were much less clearly defined. Put bluntly, he did whatever the Tamura's needed of him; with top priority going to whatever Tamura Keiji instructed him to do. At the moment, that task happened to be driving Keiji's wife and son to their new home. That also meant silently enduring the tense atmosphere that now loomed over the entire Tamura household like a black smog of ill-managed emotions. It was no secret that the smog followed the mother and child even now, and that it was heaviest around Ryūnosuke. Nagashi would have loved to give the teen some much needed advice but the truth was that even Nagashi, in all his life-hardened wisdom wasn't sure what he should say to Ryūnosuke. Frankly, as much as it pained him to think it, he was fine with being invisible as long as the Tamuras collectively acted as if he was. "We'll be there soon, we've got about another twenty kilometers." he said sharply before allowing himself to fade back into invisibility just as quickly as he'd spoken. "Thank you, Nagashi." Mariko replied shortly afterwards. Ryūnosuke remained silent. The teen opened his eyes again and watched as a train approached on the railway parallel to the road. He wondered where the train was going, what were the odds of it heading to Osaka. He watched closely as they passed the train, heading their opposite directions, and for a moment time seemed to slow down to a halt, just like it did in the heat of a match, when he was in the batter's box, honed in on a pitch. For just a second he caught a glimpse of a teenage girl who couldn't be any older than he was. She sat alone with a thick red scarf wrapped tightly around her neck. She wore an opened jean jacket, with a white blouse underneath, and on her lap was a small pink suitcase littered with newly applied and some aged and peeling cat stickers. However, her most defining feature was the ever obvious look of repressed sadness on her face. He recognized that expression, it was Hina's expression, the one that haunted him now. Ryūnosuke shifted upwards in his seat and looked backwards at the train as it drew away again, his brows furrowed with concern as a faint gasp escaped his pressed lips. Nagashi and Mariko took note of the teen's sudden alertness. "Ryūn?" Mariko called worriedly. Ryūnosuke responded quickly, almost too quickly, "It's nothing." he reassured; hoping his mother would leave it at that. And, against every cry of her maternal intuition, Mariko did. To Be Continued... ______________________________ WC|1,415 -----
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