RWBY-The Journeys of Lan

Chapter 16

Ch 16

Lan ran through the dark, past the dark shadows of buildings that once held comfort for him but now mocked him as shadowy counterparts of their former selves. He was angry, ashamed, and wracked with sorrow. Alayna had picked James over him, this was the thought circulating through his brain as he ran and ran. Part of him wanted to run back to the ballroom and beat James to a bloody pulp, part of him of wanted to just breakdown right there, but the biggest part of him wanted to get away from all, to keep running until his feet bled.

Slowly but surely, sense began to return to him and as his thoughts started to become organized his pace began to slow down. He suddenly realized that he had ended up on a path in the middle of what appeared to be a small forest. He was breathing heavily at that point; he hadn’t even realized that he had become that exhausted. Stopping, Lan bent down and placed his hands on his knees while he tried to get his breath back. After a few moments his breathing slowed and he was suddenly struck with the realization that he didn’t know where he was running. He had simply burst out of the ballroom in the heat of the moment and had senselessly run in random directions. Now that his rational had begun to surface, he soon found himself reasoning with himself, trying hard to calm himself down.

Yes, it had shocked him when he had seen the two of them dancing together, especially when it was a ‘couples only’ dance. But how did he know for sure she thought James and herself as a couple? He could have just jumped to a conclusion without properly analyzing the situation. Her red face could have been because she had been flushed from the heat of dancing, and she had also hugged him during her dance with him, so why should he be jealous of her hugging James? She probably treated all her friends like that.

Reasoning with himself like that, his anger slowly faded away and replacing the void was shame over what he had done. He knew for a fact that his little outburst had scared and alarmed many of the people there. Who wouldn’t be scared of an angry child who had just cracked a stone floor with his foot? How could he have had an outburst like that in front of everyone? Especially right in front of Alayna? Lan covered his eyes with his right hand and groaned as he remembered the fear that had appeared on her face. What did she think of him now? Would she be afraid of him from now on?

Lan moaned as negative scenarios of what her response would be began to fly through his mind. He pictured her slapping him, crying, and even kicking him in the nether regions. Steeped in a new wave of depression, Lan didn’t realize that he had started walking again until he rammed forehead first into a stone pillar. Staggering backwards and rubbing his forehead, Lan discovered that he had walked right into the middle of Othello’s tomb. Standing there in the stone monument illuminated by the glowing orbs held by the statues and the white light of the moon, Lan felt his negative emotions recede back into the depths of his heart, and was slowly replaced by a feeling of tranquility. Here, buried in this place was a man who could have understood him, a man who had felt pain even greater than Lan had received. “Compared to that, what right to I have to complain over my situation?” thought Lan.

Sitting down on the top step and pulling his legs to his chin, Lan gazed at the two tombs at the center. No thoughts passed through his mind as he did this. He simply sat and stared, unthinking and unmoving as a gentle breeze whispered through the pillars of the monument. It was as if he had disconnected himself from the world he lived in and was watching all of this through the eyes of a free spirit, unbound by the shackles that bound a mortal’s thoughts. Every floating leaf, every ray of light, every gust of wind was a new stitch in the beautiful tapestry that was set out before him. He suddenly found himself desiring to simply to take it all in.

Something stirred within him at that time, something that was all too familiar with the sensation that the boy now felt. The spirit within him had suddenly found itself unsuppressed by the volatile environment of a human soul, free from the pressure exerted upon it by a more powerful spirit. Slowly, it began to regain its awareness and restore its strength by drawing upon the natural energies that Lan took in simply by breathing. It soon began to move itself from its previous position to a place where it would better be able to recover; the very core of the boy’s being. Closer and closer it came until it was at the edge of the boundary that marked the entrance to Lan’s core. A tendril of energy seeped out of the spirit and closed in on the barrier. Closer, closer…

“Lan?” came a quiet and sweet voice “is that you?”

With a jolt, Lan snapped out of the tranquil state that he had been in and whipped his head in the direction of the voice. This sudden impulse of awareness caused a powerful shockwave to emit from the core of Lan’s soul, knocking away the spirit and causing it to spiral away. It came to a stop in a part of Lan’s being that was far from the core but better than the outskirts where it had dwelled before and was held in place there. A feeling close to exasperation was briefly emitted by the spirit but quickly faded; after all, it had all the time in the world to wait.

But back to Lan.

Lan found himself face to face with Alayna. Judging from the sweat dripping from her chin, her messy hair, and the few rips in her dress, the girl had obviously ran after Lan to search in of him after he had ran out of the hall.

“Alayna?” said Lan, still half-dazed “how did—“

It was then that all the negative emotions that had faded away flooded back into him with a vengeance. Fearing that he would break down in tears in front of her again, Lan turned his head away, covered his eyes, and attempted to keep his breathing steady.

Her eyes filled with concern, Alayna slowly walked over to Lan and sat down beside him.

“There there.” She said, patting him on the back. “I don’t know what’s wrong but you should cheer up Lan.”

“Cheer up?” thought Lan, as he wiped away the snot dribbling out of his nose “How can I cheer up when the reason I’m hurting so much is sitting right next to me?”

The two of them sat together for a little while, an awkward silence slowly building up between the two. Surprisingly, the first to break it was Alayna.

“Um…” said Alayna, stumbling over her words “y-you could…t-tell me what’s wrong Lan. I…might be able to help.”

Lan moved his hand away from his eyes and fixed Alayna with an empty stare.

“You’re ‘mutter’ ‘mutter’ me” muttered Lan, once again averting his gaze.

“What?” said Alayna, scooting closer towards Lan “I didn’t catch that.”

Lan gritted his teeth and clenched his fists until his knuckles became white. He felt something pushing through the barriers of his good-nature, like a volcano pushing its way out of the earth. He tried to suppress it but found it breaking through every mental barrier he set in front of it until finally it burst.

“YOU’RE WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME” shouted Lan, rounding on Alayna who scooted back in alarm. “WHY DID YOU—“

Lan quickly caught himself before he went any further. He bit down hard on his lip to prevent any more hurtful words from pouring out and struggled to get his temper back under control. His whole body shook with effort as he attempted to force back what had just exploded.

He tasted blood in his mouth and knew that he had just bitten into his lip. He turned around as tears of pain and frustration began to pour down his face. But still, he couldn’t settle down, too much blood was going to his head. Walking away from the monument, Lan stopped in front of one of the large trees surrounding the area, pulled his head back, and began to repeatedly smash his forehead against the wood. Blood and splinters flew from the point of impact as Lan head-butted again and again and again.

When he finally stopped he had smashed through more than half of the tree’s width. Then, to make sure the tree didn’t fall on the monument, Lan gave the top portion a punch and made it topple onto the trees behind it.

He then took a deep breathe, pulled out a handkerchief, wrapped it around the bleeding portion of his head, and walked back to Alayna who was still wide-eyed with surprise and was covering her mouth with her hands.

“Sorry” said Lan, plopping down next to her “Lost my cool there.”

“N-no problem” said Alayna, scooting closer to him now that she saw he was completely calm. “Uh, are you okay?”

“Better” answered Lan.

Now that he had lost some blood, Lan found that he could think a lot more clearly due either to his now calm mind…or the dizziness that was brought on from blood loss. He no longer felt as nervous and apprehensive as he did before. He finally felt ready to hold a civilized conversation.

“So did anyone else come to look for me?” asked Lan

“Yeah” said Alayna “My dad, your grandpa, Rodrick, and James.”

Lan responded to the last name with an annoyed grunt.

“H-Hey!” said Alayna, “I thought it was me you we’re mad at!”

“Yeah” said Lan “but it’s because of what you did with James.”

“What?” said Alayna, looking confused “What did we do?”

“Well, there was the dance back there” said Lan moodily “why did you dance with him during the couples only dance?”

“Well, we’re best friends!” said Alayna.

“So are we.” grumbled Lan.

“Yes” admitted Alayna “but I found him first and I really wanted to start dancing, so I just took his hands and got started.”

“Sure.” Said Lan, rolling his eyes “and I guess all that cuddling I saw was a special dance technique?”

“Lan!” shouted Alayna, her face turning bright red “That…That was because the song playing was so romantic, didn’t you pay attention to it?”

“Not really” responded Lan, looking at the ground “I was focusing too much on trying to find you.”

Alayna opened her mouth closed it, puffed up her cheeks, turned her head away, and started pouting.

A slight smile crept onto Lan’s face as he watched this.

“Still so adorable.” He thought.

Lan found himself growing increasingly dizzy for some reason; his thoughts were growing more and more muddled. This was most likely due to the blood that was beginning to leak out from the bandanna, so he tightened it once more.

“Well” said Alayna, turning back to Lan “I already danced with you once, and it’s only fair that James got a turn right?”

Lan found himself growing a bit angry again.

“So, what?” he said “then you’re saying you like us both equally?”

“Yes!” said Alayna.

“That’s a lie.” said Lan.

“Whuh, you—“said Alayna, looking surprised and insulted.

“If that’s the case” continued Lan “Then why did you kiss James that time?”

Alayna, completely caught off guard by this, was stunned into silence for a few moments.

“W-Well” she finally said, her face beet red “Th-that’s because I was caught up in the moment! Anyway, why do you even care about something like that? I told you I was sorry for giving James the credit! Why are you still so hung up on it?!”

Lan sat there, his fingers pressed together, staring into the sky. The time had finally come, much more suddenly than he had expected. Lan took a deep breath, slowly exhaled it, and turned to face Alayna. Sensing that the atmosphere had changed, Alayna shuffled nervously under Lan’s calm yet strong stare.

“You want to know the reason?” said Lan, shifting closer to Alayna.

“Yes.” Said Alayna hesitantly.

Lan opened his mouth, but suddenly found it very very dry. He closed his mouth, swallowed to moisten it, then slowly reached out with his trembling hand and placed it on top of Alayna’s.

“Alayna!” he blurted out.

“Yes?” squeaked Alayna, surprised.

“I-” started Lan “I—“

The words just wouldn’t come out. He pushed and pushed, but they just kept getting stuck in his throat. Why was this so difficult? Where had his calm gone? He had practiced over and over and over again to prepare for this, even had Byakko play the part of Alayna once or twice (which ended badly on both accounts just so you know). But even after all that he was finding it near impossible to get the words out while placed under Alayna’s innocent gaze. He felt his face growing more flushed as he kept choking on his words.

“Lan?” asked Alayna who had just recovered from her shock “you okay?”

“Ohhhhhhhh.” Moaned Lan inside his mind “I’m going to fail, and then it’s all going to be over. This will end up becoming one of those best friends forever things and then I’ll never be able to tell her again. Ahhh what am I going to—“

“Shut up!” came a familiar voice inside his head, the very same gruff and crass voice that had been with him for as long as he could remember. “Hurry up and get to it already, I’m getting bored!”

Lan felt pain explode against the side of his head, as if he had just been smacked, but when he reached up to touch the area, there wasn’t any bruise, swelling, or any indication that he had just been harmed. But it did have some effect on the boy. All of his nervousness had completely disappeared and his trembling had stopped.

“Always there to knock some sense into me aren’t you?” thought Lan. He then looked up and smiled at the now very confused Alayna.

“Alayna.” Said Lan, once again calm.

“Are you sure you’re okay Lan?” said Alayna “you’ve started and then stopped so many times that…well I’m starting to think that maybe you might have a concu—“

“I love you” interrupted Lan.

Alayna stopped, blinked, cleaned out her right ear with her pinky finger, and shook her head.

“Sorry Lan” she said, “I think I must have heard you wrong because—“

“I love you” repeated Lan.

Alayna stared at Lan for a few moments, and then all of a sudden her face turned scarlet.

“L-Lan!” she stuttered, “w-why are joking like this, it isn’t really nice and—“

“I’m not joking” said Lan, squeezing her hand slightly, “I really really like you.”

If at all possible, Alayna’s face flushed an even deeper scarlet and she began to babble nonsensically about how it was such a surprise and other random things while she began playing with her hair.

“And that” said Lan, interrupting her embarrassed babbling “is why I was so upset when you kissed James.”

Alayna stopped mid-sentence and stared into Lan’s honest eyes. They looked at each other for a few moments before Alayna spoke again.

“So” she said slowly, breaking her gaze with Lan “I guess you want to hear how I feel?”

“That would be nice” said Lan.

Alayna took a deep breath, averted her gaze, and then placed her hand on her chin, obviously thinking. Lan gave her as much time as she needed, he knew such a decision wouldn’t be easy for a sweet young girl like her and that she would need plenty of time to think. They sat there hand in hand under the light of the moon as the minutes slowly ticked by. Finally, Alayna lifted her gaze and turned towards Lan. Lan’s heart leapt to his throat as she opened her mouth. What would her answer be?

“I’m sorry Lan” she said. Lan’s heart sank to the bottom of his stomach. “But…I just don’t know.” Lan perked up a bit and continued to listen. “You’re really nice. You’re strong. And you’re really cool when you fight. But…I don’t know. I just don’t know if it would work or not.”

“Why?” asked Lan.

“Well” responded Alayna “we’re still just kids and…for all we know there may be people better suited for each of us out in the world.”

“Ah” said Lan, starting to become gloomy “So for you, James is a better choice.”

“No!” shouted Alayna, appalled “Lan, how could you say that. Both of you are my best friends, and I like you both equal. ‘Sigh’. Lan, I’m sorry but I really don’t think this is a decision that I can make right now. We’re still kids, there’s still so much we have to learn about before deciding on something like that. You know like how people talk with each other, how things work in the adult world, and—“

“About each other?” finished Lan.

“Yeah.” Said Alayna, sighing in relief. “Glad you understand. Now come on let’s get pack to the party and—“

“So you’re saying” interrupted Lan “that I have a chance with you?”

Alayna closed her mouth, blushed, and shifted around nervously.

“Yeah” she said “I…guess so.”

“Okay” said Lan, getting up and scratching the back of his head “I guess that’ll do for now.”

“Well” said Alayna, doing the same “I guess we’d better head back n—“

“Just…one moment Alayna” said Lan, seizing her hand. “You said that right now you like me and James just as much, right?”

“Yeah” said Alayna, slowly.

“And you said you want things to be fair between us two for now, right?” said Lan

“Uh huh” said Alayna nervously.

“So…don’t you think you owe me a little something” said Lan, blushing and smiling slightly.

“What?” asked Alayna confused.

“This.” Said Lan.

Before she could react, Lan leaned forward and kissed her on the lips. Projected onto the ground in front of the tomb by the light of the moon was the now linked shadow of the two and as if by the hand of some kind of divine intervention, Lan was standing on the side of the tomb that Othello’s stone casket was located on and Alayna was standing on the side of the tomb Desmona’s was located on, as if symbolizing the everlasting love of the two that now slept there.

They stayed like that for several moments, until finally, Lan pulled back and smiled down at Alayna’s blank expression. He had done it. Just like the knight in shining armor in all of the fairy tales he had read, he had kissed his princess, and had won her heart…

At least, that’s how he thought should have been like.

As Lan stood there smiling and looking at her, he noticed something forming at the corner of her eye. A single tear had welled up there. Alarmed, Lan released his grip and stepped back. More and more drops began to appear as well, filling both her eyes to the brim until finally, they all spilt out.

“Waaah” Cried Alayna, dropping to her knees. She covered her eyes with her hands and then began to wail.

Lan was stunned, he had never heard about, watched, read, or learned about anything like this happening. He didn’t exactly know why she was crying but he did know that this was his fault.

“Alayna!” said Lan, dropping to his knees and grabbing her shoulders “I’m sorry, I sorry I kissed you. Ohhhh if you really didn’t like me that much you should’ve just told me.”

“No!…Lan!” said Alayna through her tears, her nose starting to clog “It’s not you it’s” the rest of her words were covered up under her sobs. Alayna didn’t hate Lan, in fact she like him more than most people. But a little girl’s heart is as pure as a snowflake and just as delicate. She had been completely unprepared for Lan’s excessive forwardness.

Lan was feeling completely helpless, he didn’t know what he could do to make her feel better, didn’t know how he could make amends, and he was growing more panicked by the second.

“Hello!” someone shouted. Lan turned his head to look in the direction of the voice. Standing there with a lantern in his hand and a smile on his face was James.

“There you are!” he said “We’ve been looking for you for—“

It was then that he noticed Alayna’s hunched form. The smile disappearing from his face, James ran over to the two of them, dropping the lantern onto the stone in the process. The light inside went out with a soft hiss.

“James” said Lan, standing up “I—“

“Move!” shouted James, pushing Lan out of the way. He then dropped onto his knee and looked into Alayna’s face.

“Alayna!” he said, gently grabbing her arm with his right hand and placing his left on the top of her head. “Alayna, are you okay?!”

But Alayna was unable to answer him, her tears blinding her from what was in front of her and her ears deaf to everything save the sound of her own sobs.

Lan stood near the two of them, his mind erratic and his soul disturbed. Biting down on his lower lip, Lan reached for Alayna’s shoulder, hoping to help calm her down.

With a sudden movement, James lashed out with his arm and knocked Lan’s arm away. Backing away and gripping his wrist, Lan watched as James began to rise.

“What the heck did you do?” growled James, “You made Alayna cry!”

“James” said Lan meekly, his mind blank from desperation “I—“

“Shut up!” yelled James, rounding on Lan “You know what? I don’t care what the reason was! You made Alayna cry you jerk!” James put up both his fists and entered into a kickboxing fighting stance “And now I’m going to kick your ass!”

Dashing forward, James threw a right straight at Lan’s face.

Make no mistake. Lan felt like he deserved this. He wanted to get hit by that punch, to receive some judgment for what he had done. However, Lan had been trained by his grandpa to react to any danger that he sensed. With the fist speeding towards his face his body acted almost instinctively. Tilting his head slightly, Lan avoided the blow completely. After which he grabbed James’s wrist with his right hand and twisted it upward to hyperextend James’s elbow joint. Lan then slipped forward and slammed his left palm upward into James’s elbow joint, dislocating it. He then knelt down, bent his arm, stepped forward, and rammed his elbow into James’s side, knocking him backwards and breaking several ribs. This all happened in just under one second and sadly, unlike Lan, James didn’t have his aura unlocked, which meant that he had taken the full force of Lan’s blows with nothing to protect him.

James crashed onto the ground screaming in pain, his one good arm grasping his ribs. Realizing what he had done, Lan ran over to James to check on him, but because of James kicking out at him in whenever he got close, he wasn’t able too. Suddenly James starting coughing, each cough sending shivers of pain through his body. Then with a horrible splattering sound, James coughed up and spluttered out a mouthful of blood. Realizing that his broken ribs must have punctured something, Lan tried to rush over and help, but was once again held at bay by James’s kicks.

Coughing again, James spat out a burst of blood that flew out farther than his last…far enough that a single drop landed on Alayna’s crying face. Feeling the cold sensation hit her; Alayna sniffed and brushed the area with her hand. She opened her eyes a crack and looked down at her palm. Alarmed at the sight of the crimson liquid in her hand, she yelped and jolted backwards. Then, with tears still pouring out of her eyes, she became aware of the screaming and looked in the direction it came from. What she saw was James clutching his ribs and screaming on the ground, only stopping every so often to cough out more blood…and Lan standing right in front of him.

“James!” cried Alayna, who quickly stumbled to her feet and ran over to his side. She dropped to her knees, attempting to help him. But not knowing what she could do to help, she simply sat there with a helpless look on her face, her hands moving this way and that above his writhing form.

“Oh my god!” cried Alayna, tears flowing from her face faster than ever. “James!”

Lan moved forward this time intending to provide medical treatment to James whether he wanted it or not.

“Alayna, please move away” said Lan “I’ve got to check what was punct—“

“No!” shouted Alayna, moving herself between Lan and James, spreading out her arms in a protective gesture.

“Stay away from him!” cried Alayna “How could you do this to him?! Because I said I liked him as much as I liked you!? He was your friend! How could you hurt him like this?!”

“No-Alayna” stuttered Lan, moving forward again, his hand outstretched “I didn’t mean to, he—“

“No!” yelled Alayna, who was both angry and frightened “Get away from us! You aren’t our friend anymore! You beast! You monster! You-you Grimm!”

To be called a Grimm, to be called as bad as one of those dark creatures that stole lives and destroyed dreams like they were nothing, to be called one of the very creatures that had taken away the many of the things that mattered the most in his life, and by the girl he loved the most, how could any young child have stayed strong? Lan felt something break inside of him, felt a splitting pain spread out from his heart. He staggered backwards, clutching his chest as though he had just been shot. Then, with tears spilling out of his eyes, he turned and ran into the forest as fast as his legs could carry him leaving James and Alayna behind.

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It was dark, the trees around him blocked out the light of the moon. He didn’t know where he was going, what he was going to do, or what he wanted anymore. But he didn’t care. He just kept running and running. No matter how many times he fell, no matter how many times he was cut up by the surrounding foliage, no matter how many times he rammed into something he couldn’t see; he just kept on running. All he felt now was pain, emptiness, and sorrow. He had finally had love in his grasp, but with one stupid mistake he had shattered it to pieces, and worst of all he was now hated by the girl he loved. Running through the darkness, he felt that he was being eaten up by the void, slowly being melted away into nothingness, and that was what he wanted right now. To become nothing. Slowly, however things became lighter and lighter, until finally he broke through the last group of bushes and emerged into the moonlight.

He stopped here, slowly getting used to his new bright surroundings after being in the dark so long. To his left was the edge of the town, to his right were the town’s towering wall, and directly in front of him was a large, hairy, muscular Faunus wearing a black gi and a solemn expression on his face.

“G-grandpa” spluttered Lan “I-I—“

“You don’t need to say anything else” said Byakko, who strode forward, knelt down, and embraced his grandson. “I heard what happened” he wiggled the two ears on the top of his head to emphasize the point. “and don’t worry Lan, grandpa will take care of the rest.”

Lan felt pain explode near the right side of his lower neck and the world turned black.

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First awareness returned as Lan began to awake, then physical sensations, then thought. He was feeling quite groggy for some reason and the back of his head was pounding. From the textures of what he felt surrounding him, he knew he was in bed. He turned onto his side to continue sleeping, but suddenly felt something odd. The whole room was shaking, just like when his grandfather carried the house, but that shouldn’t have been the case. Byakko had never picked up the house since they arrived at the…

Lan’s eyes shot open as that thought triggered the realization of the many others connected to it. He bolted up into a sitting position and looked through the window near his bedside. New scenery was whizzing past his window as he gazed outward, a large open plain dotted here and there by trees. “Why was the house moving?” he thought “shouldn’t we be at the village?”

Lan sat there a few moments, gathering his thoughts and waking up the outer recesses of his mind. Then he remembered. The kiss, the blood, and the tears. Lan leapt out of bed. He wanted to find the two of them, to apologize and to possibly save their friendship. However, the moment his feet touched the ground the house shook violently, causing him to fall onto his backside, and then slammed down with a loud crash. Then came the crash of the front door opening followed by the clomp of heavy feet. They came to a halt in front of the door of his room. Realizing what was about to happen, Lan leapt to the side just in time to avoid the door that had, once again, been kicked out of its frame and came flying forward. Standing in the doorway was none other than Byakko, his right foot stuck out and his right hand holding what appeared to be a large piece of charcoal.

“Good morning sleepy head!” said Byakko, “Feeling better?”

Lan groaned and got to his feet.

“Grandpa?” he said “how did I end up he—“

He was cut off mid-sentence by a sharp pain that flashed from the back of his neck, which caused to gasp and grab said area.

“Sorry I was so rough last night” said Byakko, placing the charcoal onto a table “but you needed to be subdued as fast as possible before your negative emotions permeated your being too much, and I do not know how to harmlessly knock a person out.”

“Whuh-but…Alayna and James!” cried Lan, “I need to go apolo—“

Byakko held up his hand and cut the boy off.

“No you don’t” he said “I already took care of everything. I’ve already spoken to Cassio and Rodrick, they pretty much got the gist of what happened and were pretty understanding.”

“James’s injuries?” asked Lan

“Taken care of.” said Byakko. “He was taken to the hospital and was quickly stabilized. Apparently Alayna’s watching over him.”

“Then shouldn’t I go and see them?” said Lan.

“The adults and I talked” answered Byakko “and we decided that it wouldn’t be a good idea for you three to meet. Not after an event like that. It’s not because of you Lan” added Byakko when he noticed Lan’s crestfallen expression “it’s because, unlike you, kids your age aren’t as willing to forgive and forget when something bad happens to them. James is probably going to hate you for a long time, and it seemed that Alayna’s still pretty shaken and scared. So, we decided that the best thing for us to do would be to move on and continue our journey.”

Lan stood there staring blankly at his grandfather for a few moments then lowered his head.

“I…see” he said quietly. He swallowed a lump that was beginning to form and once again found himself on the verge of tears. “I guess I deserved that attack you gave me.”

“No no!” said Byakko, exasperatedly. He walked over to Lan, kneeled down and embraced the boy. “The reason I did that was to help you avoid all that pain. I know you’re hurting inside right now, but trust me when I say you’d have been hurting a lot more last night if I hadn’t done that.” Byakko pulled back, but his large hands remained on Lan’s tiny shoulders. “Things hurt a lot less after youse passed through the dream world. Trust me, I know from lots experience.”

“Okay” said Lan, tears beginning to form in his eyes. “Thanks grandpa…but could you ‘sniff’ leave me alone for a few minutes?” Lan was forcing himself not to break down, as not to make his grandpa worry “I’ll be fine but…I just need some time to think.”

“Sure” said Byakko “is what you thought I’d say right?”

Lan stared at his grandpa with wide, surprised eyes.

“You think I’m just going to leave you all alone with your head full of these dark thoughts?” said Byakko staring him right in the eyes “Impure thoughts, sure why not? But dark depressed thoughts? Never!”

Byakko turned Lan around, pulled the boy to his chest, and sat down with his back to the wall.

“To leave a child who has just been hurt as much as you have alone, is the same as giving them up to the darkness” said Byakko, setting Lan into his lap. “You think I’m going to let that happen to you?”

Lan looked up at him, tears streaming down his face.

“Let me tell you something boy. When a person is sad and broken, they may yell, scream, and give their all to force their friends and family away. But deep inside that’s not what they truly want…They want them to stay, they want them by their side. What they want is someone who is strong enough and willing to stay with them through no matter what kind of dark time they’re experiencing. Someone who they know can rely on with all their heart.” Byakko smiled down at Lan, whose lip was beginning to tremble “You know I’m telling the truth don’t you boy? And you better believe that this smelly old tiger’s going to stick with you no matter what. After all we’re family.”

Byakko’s words struck a chord deep in Lan’s heart. Slowly the dams that were holding back his pain within his heart collapsed, and he began to shake.

“I’m just going to stop talking now.” Said Byakko, sighing “Go on and cry boy. After all, this is your first heartbreak, and balling your eyes out after that is something I believe everyone’s entitled to.”

Lan stared up at his grandpa’s smiling face, his whole face red and trembling. Then, he buried his head into his grandpa’s scarred chest and began to cry. Byakko, his face kind and gentle, patted the young boy’s head. Wind blew in from the window near Lan’s bedside, bathing the two of them in its cool embrace.

“Stay like this as long as you need to Lan” said Byakko, leaning his head back and closing his eyes. “Don’t worry; I’ll stay by your side as long as you need me.”

.

.

.

A few hours later Lan had ceased all crying and whimpering. Byakko had then taken the boy to the bathroom and given him warm bath followed by a cold shower. Lan had then dressed in a loose-fitting t-shirt and shorts and went downstairs with Byakko for some food. As soon as his foot touched the bottom of the steps, Ignis, who had been ordered by Byakko not to bother them until Lan came downstairs, had come bounding out of the living room and began running around and rubbing against Lan, obviously worried.

“It’s okay boy” said Lan patting Ignis on the head “I’m fine now.”

The three of them then went into the kitchen where a massive plate of cookies, a jug of milk, and a bowl of kibbles were waiting for them.

The three of them plopped down at their respective seats, and each began to eat.

“Feeling better boy?” asked Byakko

“Yeah.” Said Lan nibbling a cookie.

“You got to know that it wasn’t completely your fault” said Byakko, shoving a handful into his gaping maw. “I’d say it’s a lot due to bad luck. Alayna may have cried, but not because she hated you, but more cause you surprised her. If James hadn’t popped up just then, well things probably would have turned out a lot differently. So don’t blame yourself too much.”

“Mmmm” said Lan, biting into another cookie “But I guess I still better wait a while before I try my hand at love again.” His voice was heavily subdued, but was slowly gaining his normal vigor.

“Got to agree with you there.” Said Byakko “going to need to get some more life experience under your belt before you try stuff like that again, and I think you also have a lot to learn about from this experience.”

“Uh huh” said Lan.

“Now boy, I’ve got a lot to talk about with you, things I’ve been thinking on since last night, but I want to make sure all the gloom and doom is gone before I start. You completely calmed down? your heart finally heal up after its first breaking?”

“Don’t worry grandpa” said Lan smiling “You’ve raised me to be much stronger than that. Besides…I’m no stranger to pain; I’ll bounce back from this in no time.”

Byakko smiled and leaned back as the atmosphere around them lightened even further, in fact he relaxed so much that he immediately cracked off one of his trademark, class 7 ass-grenades.

Smiling and shaking his head, Lan hit a button near the sink which activated a fan that sucked the befouled air out of the room before anyone could suffer.

“Well, now that we’ve all calmed down” said Byakko, grabbing another handful of cookies “It’s time to evaluate on what went wrong.”

“Mmmm” said Lan, pouring himself a glass of milk.

“From my analysis” said Byakko, surprising Lan by pulling out a huge stack of paper “You made 3 major mistakes. One! You went after a girl who already liked and had set up a relationship with someone. Two! You didn’t make sure that you were the first person she saw after you saved her.”

“But a deathstalker app—“

“I could have easily handled that alone!” said Byakko cutting him off. “Now stop interrupting. Where was I? Oh yeah. Three! After you had set up a good deal with the girl, you got too greedy and had to go for a kiss as well…Well I guess it’s also bad luck that James showed up just as Alayna was crying.”

At this point you could almost see the gloomy cloud that had formed over Lan’s head. Lan was also quite shaken by just how fast the mood had changed, but he didn’t say anything because for some reason, this new atmosphere was driving even more of his dark thoughts away.

“But anyway” continued Byakko, “this has shown me that you still need much more knowledge on how to act in certain so-cietal situations. So, while you were asleep I have compiled a list of destinations and organizations that we will visit.” Byakko tapped the stack of papers at his side “Each of them will give you valuable experience on how the world works and will let you met many great people, many of them some of my old friends!”

As Byakko rambled on and on, Lan found himself slowly forgetting his troubles. He was once again being completely sucked into grandpa’s pace, just as he had been for his whole life and his mind was once again being filled with the confusion and incredulity that followed whenever Byakko explained one of his plans.

“Also” said Byakko “I have started to assemble kits to help you understand certain things. For example, this one” Byakko pulled a giant cardboard box with the word “booze” written on it in purple crayon “is in case you ever begin boozing!”

“Not likely” said Lan flatly.

“Yeah, I know” said Byakko tossing the box behind him “but you never know. Anyways I’ve already gotten started on your romance guide one, and have finished the one on haggling! Ahhhhhh, I love that word haaagle haggle haggle haggle.”

“Okay.” Said Lan chuckling “but uh…grandpa, do…you think we can leave the romance one for last. I…don’t think I’m ready yet.”

“Sure!” said Byakko “You’re too young anyway. I’ll give it to you when you’re 13!”

“Why thirteen?” asked Lan.

“Read one of them biology books you like so much” said Byakko, giving the boy a wink “You’ll find out why. But for now, I want to give you these.”

From seemingly out of nowhere, Byakko pulled a massive pile of manga, DVDs, and video games.

“For a kid like you who’s going to be on the road most of the time.” Said Byakko pushing the pile towards Lan, “These will be the best guides to help you learn about the basic workings of the world through the best medium kids can understand: over the top and action packed stories! And from what I can tell, some of them will also give you a small insight into how the whole love thing works. Plus, they’ll give you entertainment while on the road!”

Lan knew just how ridiculous this idea was, but he appreciated the thought that Byakko had put into gathering this all. Besides, some of them actually looked quite interesting.

“Thanks grandpa” said Lan, smiling and setting the pile aside, “I’ll look at them later.”

By this time Ignis had finished his kibbles and had plodded over and fallen asleep on Lan’s feet.

“So, where are we going now?” asked Lan, bending down to scratch Ignis’s ears.

“To set up a home base!” shouted Byakko “Can’t keep carrying home on our backs so to speak, with the kind of lifestyle we’ll be living it may get blown up with a bazooka or something.”

“Why?” asked Lan

“Tis the life of a wandering warrior” said Byakko, striking his poetic pose. “We never know what will befall us! Now let’s get going, we’ve wasted too much time anyways!” Byakko leapt to his feet, grabbed the plate cookies and dumped them all down his throat.

The two of them then got up and headed out the front door. Lan was feeling quite a bit better now, albeit his spirit was still weak, and as he gazed out into the bright blue sky he felt calm spread over him. His first attempt at love had gone badly, that was true, but it was only a bump in the road on the great journey of his life. He’d have to think on this experience though, so as to never make such a mistake again, and with how long it would take to tramp down the road towards their new destination, he would have more than enough time to think about it. And so the two of them each hoisted up their respective burdens and began to walk down the road to their next destination, a little red pup running after their heels.

(If you want to keep the happy feelings you have now, skip to the second to last paragraph and read this next part later)

“Oh! I just remembered!” said Byakko, turning around “We haven’t done this for a while!”

Pain exploded around Lan’s nether regions and with a whimper he crumpled to the ground.

“Pain resistance training!” said Byakko.

“Why?” whimpered Lan.

“We can never stop improving ourselves no matter what!” shouted Byakko “that is what my master told me!”

“So you did this too?” squeaked Lan

“Nope.” Said Byakko “I was able to run away whenever he tried to hit me there. I didn’t want to take the damage…and on that note”

An evil smile crept across Byakko’s face as he pulled a pair of pliers out of his gi.

“Now that I think about it, I’ve been kicking you in that area a lot recently” Byakko took three menacing steps toward Lan, who was gazing at the pliers with a horrified expression on his face. “We don’t want it to get to small now do we? Don’t you worry; grandpa knows plenty of ways to make it get bigger!”

“No I-I’m fine” said Lan, scooting away as fast as he could “M-my aura will counteract any damage right?”

“Bigger is better!” said Byakko, closing in.

“No, I uh think I’ll be fine the way I’ll be!” said Lan, who was now crawling away.

“Nonsense” said Byakko leaping into the air, casting a shadow over Lan’s horrified form “You’ll thank me for this when you get older!”

From far away a rabbit jumped as it heard a massive impact and then saw as a massive dust cloud rise into the air in the direction of the road, and a few seconds later it fled as an ear-splitting scream of pain filled the plains.

Little Root Epilogue: As a result of the heartbreak Lan received here, he lost all initiative to pursue romantic relationships himself, devoting that time instead to improving his various skills. Lan and Byakko would never return to Little Root since then, but would keep in contact with the villagers. They also later heard that Alayna and James had gotten engaged and planned to get married when they turned 21 (three years in the future from present time.) and having successfully put the past behind him at that point in time, Lan was able to honestly wish them a happy life together.

Well everyone, that’s the end of Lan’s first romantic attempt as well as his first interaction with people after he left the village. I didn’t intend for it to be this long, but the detailed descriptions and metaphors eat up a lot of words. Do you guys think I should cut down on them? Anyway, we are less than 1/6 of the way done with the content I have currently planned (which means it will probably become even less in the future as I come up with more ideas). Also, I plan to put short epilogues after certain story arcs, do you guys think that’s a good idea? But anyway, for those who have read my story, thanks for your support and to help me make it even better, please write a review. Seeing just one more person saw that they like my story helps me get oh so more motivated.


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