Tales of the Nightfall
Part 1: Metamorphosis
Chapter 3: Ordeal
Ruku woke the next morning, his mouth dry. He grunted and snuggled against the soft, firm thing underneath him. Why hadn’t his alarm gone off? Why was he naked? And what the hell was he lying on?! His eyes flew wide open as the realization hit him. He got up and saw Jake.
'Oh...' he thought, and nuzzled the sleeping fox under his chin, memories from the previous night flooding into his skull, ‘Think I’ll let him sleep and go take a shower.’
He gently, quietly got to his feet and located his cloths. Folding them, he slowly ascended the stairs in the entrance hall. There was no one around. He didn’t know whether he should thank his lucky stars, or curse the fact that he’d have to search for the bathroom on his own. Fortunately, the bathroom was the first door on the right he’d checked upon reaching the second floor landing.
Laying his cloths down on the sink, Ruku turned the hot water on. After he waited for the water to warm, he turned the shower head on and stepped inside closing the glass sliding door behind him. He groaned softly as he stepped under the hot water, feeling the hot stream pour over his as he began to wash the dried fox spunk from his fur.
‘Gods, last night was amazing?’ he thought. He turned off the shower and shook himself to get mostly dry, then used a towel to finish. ‘But what was I thinking…? We didn’t even use a condom…’
Just as he wrapped the towel around himself, the door burst open, and there stood Jake. ‘So that’s where you ran off to!’ he said, jubilantly, smiling at Ruku.
Ruku, taken off guard, clutched the towel closer and yelled, “What the hell?! Get out!”
Jake shrugged, leaning against the door frame with a cocky grin, “Oh come on. Been there, done that. Literally. There’s nothing you got I didn’t see last night.”
Once again Ruku blushed so much that the red marking almost blended with his otherwise black fur.
“GET OUT!” he yelled, embarrassed, flinging his arm outward.
Jake flew backwards out the door, and hit the wall on the other side. The door was then telekinetically shut and locked. He walked up to the door and chuckling,
“There’s a wardrobe three doors down on the same side as the bathroom, feel free to get a change of clothes.” With that, he left to take a shower in one of the other three bathrooms.
Breathing heavily, Ruku opened the door and walked three doors down and found the wardrobe. It was a large walk-in closet the size of a bedroom with various styles of clothing. As Jake was taller than Ruku, Ruku didn’t think there’d be any clothes that would fit him. Even so, he picked out a black, sleeveless vest, and a pair of black cargos. Surprisingly, they fit him quite well.
Once he was finished, he walked down stairs and made his way to the kitchen. As he entered, Jake was also entering from the opposite door.
“Ah, there’s the shy pup.” he said, “Calmed down yet?” Jake was now wearing light blue pajama shorts, and no shirt.
Jake sighed, “Well, don’t start feeling resentment now!” he said, when Ruku did not respond, “I did tell you to stop me before I did something we’d both regret. You said ‘kiss me’. You wanted it as much as I did.”
Ruku blinked at him, “I’m not feeling resentment,” He said, finally, “I just…you took me by surprise is all.”
Jake chuckled, “Oh is that all?” he reached for a pan on top of a stack of recently cleaned dishes, perched precariously next to the sink, “Would you prefer I warn you next-shit!”
Ruku gasped and threw up his paws in warning as the stack of pots, pans and china careened toward the floor.
“Watch it!” he yelled, but his warning fell on deaf ears. Time had stopped.
Literally, time stood still. Jake stood motionless in mid stance, reaching for the falling dishes he could not possibly hope to catch, a look of shock frozen on his face. The dishes hung in mid aer, threatening to drop and shatter at a moment’s notice. The chair that Jake had toppled accidently in his movement to attempt to catch the dishes stood on one leg, impossibly defying gravity.
Ruku looked on at this scene before him, down to his paws then back again. Had he done this? Stopped time?
“Jake?” he said timidly, “Jake if this is your idea of a joke it isn’t funny.”
When Jake did not respond, Ruku moved quickly, catching each dish and pot. If this was his doing, he had no idea how long it’d last, so if he wanted to avoid having to clean up glass he’d better act fast. After restacking the dishes in neat piles next to the sink, and setting the chair back on four legs, he stole a quick feel of Jake’s bare, chiseled chest and a quick nip at his left nipple before moving back to his original spot. Barely a second later, time resumed.
Jake halted, blinking and looking at the plates neatly stacked back up beside the sink. “How…” he said, confused looking to Ruku.
Ruku shrugged, “Witchcraft.”
Jake looked at him and laughed. “Your doing then.”
Ruku smiled, then looked at the clock on the wall,
“Damn it, I’m gonna be late!” he said, turning and running out of the kitchen before Jake had a chance to stop him. Soon Ruku was out of the house, and was running toward the cafe at top speed. It wasn’t that far, he remembered the direction Jake had taken the previous night. It was only a few streets down and around a corner.
The ground was wet: it must have rained the night before. As Ruku ran by a large puddle in the rode, a car came by causing it to splash up.
“Whoa!” he said, throwing up his paws in front of him, as though they would protect him from being drenched.
Once again, Time stopped. It just stopped, dead. All the people around him, all the cars, even the big splash that was headed right for him, everything was frozen. Ruku looked around, sure that this time it WAS his doing. Heart pounding, he turned and ran toward the cafe. Toward Yuko, whom might have an answer. Moments after he moved, time resumed. He had avoided getting drenched, but the woman standing behind where he had been wasn’t so lucky.
But Ruku didn’t notice that. He didn’t notice that there was now a soaking wet human woman where a soaking wet fox should have been. All he knew was that somehow he had just frozen time, twice. Could it be possible that he now had a new power? It’d been years since he’d Gained telekinesis, his second power after levitation, so he’d believed that was it; that he’d gain no more powers. Had he been wrong?
He hadn’t noticed just how far from the cafe Jake lived until he finally reached it, panting. He entered to finding only Yuko. She turned to face him as he entered, a smile spreading across her face which looked grim.
“Yuko…I…” he panted, but was abruptly cut off.
“You stopped time.” she said, “I sensed it. You’ve got a new power, congratulations!”
“Where is everyone?” Ruku asked, regaining the ability to breathe once more.
“Rouge and Raven haven’t arrived yet.” Yuko replied, “I’ve been here for quite some time, and--”
She was cut off by the sound of Ruku’s phone ringing. It was one of the ring tones that came with the phone, Ruku had never gotten around to downloading others.
“Moshi Moshi.” he answered, and as he listened to what the frantic male voice had to say on the other end, he froze. Literally. What the person said hit him so hard, that time for him just froze…
Yuko suddenly stood up when Ruku’s face went blank.
“Ruku!” she said, “What’s wrong?!”
Something was wrong with Ruku. She could tell because he was no longer moving. She ran to him, examining him, trying to figure out the problem. Then it hit her. Ruku’s new power had turned against him and frozen him in time. Whatever he’d just heard had set his emotions to such a degree that his powers and emotions were in direct turmoil.
Just then, a male fox burst through the door, clutching his chest. It was the man that Ruku had left with the previous night.
“What happened to Ruku…” he croaked, tears that had nothing to do with how he felt himself stinging at his eyes. “What’s wrong with him? He’s like a statue.”
“Ruku’s just suffered an emotional blow.” Yuko said, “I don’t know what it was, but it’s caused his new power to turn inward and freeze time for Ruku instead of everything else.” Jake and Yuko looked at Ruku.
“Isn’t there something we can do?” Jake asked, breathing heard, “It feels like his heart’s been stabbed a million times.”
“How do you…?” Yuko said, looking him over, “I see, Empathy…We simply must un-freeze his time. Lessee, can you write a spell real quick?”
“Uh…” Jake said, “Yeah…not very good at it though…How’d you know about my empathy?”
Yuko smiled, “It is my gift. Now, a spell. Quickly, please.”
Jake looked at Yuko, then turned his gaze on Ruku, “Um…Here these words, here the rhyme, heed the hope within my mind, restore what’s lost, restore Ruku’s time.”
A tear ran down Ruku’s face as he dropped the phone, and fell to his knees. Jake whimpered and tried to move away from Ruku, as far away as he could get to where Ruku’s emotions would affect him less.
“She’s…” Ruku said, his voice cracking, tears streaming from his eyes, “She’s been hit by a truck…she’s in the hospital.” With these words, he broke down and sobbed, “She tried to call me, so I could pick her up and walk home with her…but I wasn’t home…my phone was off…”
Yuko knew that Ruku was talking about Rouge, Jake knew as well, but it was because of his empathy that he knew.
Yuko picked up the phone, “Raven?” she said, “No, Ruku was just…frozen in his emotions.” She listened to what Raven had to say, “Alright, we’re on our way.” She hung up the phone, and turned to Jake, “Are you alright to drive?”
Jake shook his head, “If I drove without Ruku in the vicinity, otherwise…” He clutched at his chest even tighter, “His heart…it aches…there’s so many emotions there I can’t tell them apart... It’s tearing me up… I’ve never felt this before.”
Yuko went to Ruku and place a hand on his forehead; he was trembling with each sob. He blamed himself, she could tell, even without Jake’s empathy.
“I can remove your empathy.” Yuko said after a moment, before fixing her gaze on him, “What’s yours is mine, power I command to cross the line, Empathy your heart cannot bear, I take the power through the aer.”
Jake looked up, the pain was gone. “How…? Why?!”
“You are no true empath.” Yuko said coldly, “How you received this power is beyond me, but I’ve taken it to give to its proper owner. You’ll have your others. Get Ruku to the hospital now, I’ll be along soon enough…”
Soon after that little event, Yuko having refused to explain further why she’d taken Jake’s power or what she’d do with it, nor why she wasn’t coming with them now, Jake and Ruku were speeding toward the hospital that Rouge had been taken two. Ruku had calmed some, but the tears were still coming.
“If only I could’ve been there with her…” Ruku said, between sniffles, “maybe…I could’ve done something…”
“Stop.” Jake said, “Just stop right there! You can’t beat yourself up over what you can’t control. What would you have done if you’d been there anyway? Most likely, you’d be the one in the hospital, instead of her. Ruku, I understand how you feel, trust me, I felt it to. But you mustn’t think like that.”
Ruku was looking at Jake with wide, red, tear filled eyes. He smiled softly and nodded, “Yeah, you’re right... I guess…”
Ruku stared out the window, tears till streaming through his fur, as Jake sped down the road toward the hospital. They didn’t say anything while they drove; Ruku didn’t really seem to be there mentally enough for them to talk anyway. He was somewhere deep in his thoughts. Had he looked into the rear-view mirror, he’d have seen the cops following them.
But Jake did see them, though they hadn’t turned their lights and sirens on yet. Why hadn’t they? Did they know they were headed for the hospital? Would they wait till they got there before stopping him and giving him a ticket? Jake was going ten miles over the speed limit, but the cops didn’t seem to want to stop him.
Jake looked a head and saw the hospital, Ruku saw it too. He sat up, eagerly, as they approached. Once they were in the parking lot, Jake pulled the car to a stop and Ruku bolted from the car, heading toward the sliding, double doors. He barely noticed Yuko as she emerged from the direction of the parking garage.
“Ruku! She’s in ICU Room number 375!” She called to him. Ruku stopped only long enough to nod, then continued on his way.
Ruku, in a hurry and not wanting to waste time on the elevator, ran all the way up the stairs. When he reached ICU Room number 375, he found that the room was empty. He looked around, backed out of the room, pressed his back against the wall, slid down it onto the floor, and cried, his head burring in his arms on his knees, his tail curled close around him.
After a few minutes, a nurse walked by and tapped him on the shoulder. “Excuse me!” she said to him, “You mustn’t be here. The person in this room has been taken to surgery and won’t be back for a while; you must wait in the Waiting Area.” She walked off.
Ruku, wiping away tears, made his way to the waiting area where he found Raven, sitting opposite Rouge’s parents.
Mr. And Mrs. Yamaguchi were sitting huddled together, Mrs. Yamaguchi was sobbing hysterically into her husband’s shoulder. As Ruku approached, Raven stood up and took him off to the side.
“I already explained to the Yamaguchis and the nurses,” he said, “But you need to know as well…where’s Yuko?”
Ruku hadn’t noticed yet, but Yuko hadn’t followed him inside. “I thought she was right behind me…” he said, “But tell me what happened.”
“I was at the cafe when it happened,” Raven said, “She was crossing the street when this huge truck came out of nowhere… literally. It was almost like he just appeared out of thin aer. Anyway, he was driving too fast to stop in time, even though he threw on the breaks. Rouge had no time to react…she’s in a pretty bad way…”
Ruku could only imagine the event that must have transpired, but he really didn’t want to. He heard Mr. Yamaguchi trying to console his wife, while she went on about how she didn’t want to lose her daughter: how she couldn’t lose her daughter. Ruku and Raven went back to where they were, and sat across from them.
No sooner did had he sat down, than Yuko walked in. She kept her distance from the four of them, Ruku didn’t know why: he hadn’t been listening when Yuko took Jake’s power of empathy away.
“How is she?” Yuko asked.
Raven shook his head. “We won’t know until she comes out of surgery.”
“I see,” Yuko said, giving each of the, a quick, soft glance, “Then I shall go. There is something I must do, I will be back later.” With that, she turned on her heals and left the way she had come.
After a few moments, Ruku realized he didn’t know where Jake was.
“Excuse me, but I need some fresh air.” He said to Raven, and the Yamaguchis. It wasn’t a complete lie: the air in the hospital was a mix of non-pleasant odors, and Ruku’s nose couldn’t take much more of it.
He retraced his steps, going back the way he’d come, heading for the front of the hospital. When he reached the front of the hospital, he didn’t see Jake anywhere. He figured he must be in the garage, so that’s where he went next.
Sure enough, Jake was sitting in his car, in the garage, looking at a ticket. When he saw Ruku coming, he got out of the car abandoning the ticket on the passenger’s seat.
“How is she?” he asked, and Ruku mimicked what Raven had done when asked the same question: he shook his head.
“We won’t know until she comes out of surgery.” He said, then added, “Thanks for helping me to keep a straight head on till we got here.”
“No problem.” Jake said, quickly, “I couldn’t let you blame something you had no control over on yourself.”
“I know…but still, I can’t help but wonder…would it have been different if I--Ow!”
Jake hit him over the head, “What did I tell you?!”
“Ow!” Ruku said again, then started laughing. It started small, a chuckle, but it grew into a full laugh. “My dad used to hit me like that all the time when I got out of hand…I guess he’s still looking out for me in the after-life…told you to hit me did he?”
Jake softened, and smiled. “Sorry for being so rough.”
Ruku shook his head, “Don’t be,” he said, smiling, “I suppose I should head back before the start wondering where I am.” He turned back to leave and said, “I’ll be back to let you know what’s happening.”
Ruku ran back to the waiting area where he was greeted by the sight of the Yamaguchis and Raven standing around a nurse, he joined them and heard what the nurse had to tell them…
Outside, back in the car, Jake waited for Ruku to come out with good news. He hoped it would be good news, he didn’t know if he could take seeing Ruku in pain again. As he sat there, wondering if Yuko would be willing to give him back his power of empathy, he wondered if he even wanted it anymore, it was an annoyance after all. He didn’t have much time to think about it, however, as he saw that Ruku was coming back.
But something was wrong. As Jake got out of the car, smiling, his smile faded instantly as he saw Ruku. It wasn’t the fact that Ruku was walking slowly, with his head hanging low that had told him something was wrong. What it was that Ruku’s tail was between his legs, and Jake could see tears in Ruku’s fur from where he was. Jake walked around the door to the front of the car where he awaited Ruku. As Ruku looked up, Jake saw that his eyes were red and puff; he’d been crying, a lot.
Seeing Jake there, waiting for him, he couldn’t bear it anymore. He lowered his head and broke into a run toward Jake, throwing himself into Jake’s open arms. Jake embraced Ruku, as he sobbed into his chest. He knew that Ruku would tell him what happened once he calmed down a little, so for now he wouldn’t press him. So they stayed like that for a while until Ruku finally spoke.
“They said…” He sniffed, between sobs, “They said that there’s a lot of damage to her head…she’s in a coma and…” he paused as if not able to bring himself to say this most critical part, “They said she may never wake up again..!” he resumed sobbing. Jake held him tighter, it tore him up to see Ruku in this much pain.
Jake hadn’t known Ruku for that long a time, and he hadn’t known Rouge at all, but what he could already tell was that those two were very close. Brother and sister close. Of course they weren’t siblings, but they were close enough to be siblings.
After a while, Ruku asked to be taken away from the hospital, far away. Jake willingly obliged by helping Ruku into the passenger’s side of the car, and taking him back to his home…
The bell rang as Yuko was preparing to close the cafe down for the rest of the day. As she turned to see who it was and tell them that they would be closed, she saw that it was the female who’d come in the day before.
“Welcome back,” Yuko said, knowingly, “We are closing for the day, is there anything I can do for you?”
The woman walked in, cautiously as she had before. Yuko stared at her with her soul-piercing eyes while she waited for her to speak.
Finally, the woman said, “You…were right.”
“Oh? About what?” Yuko said, though she already knew After all, she had predicted that the woman would return.
“About the man on whom I had a crush…” The woman said, hanging for head, looking only at the floor. “When I went to see him yesterday, there was another woman with him…he told me that they were now engaged and that’s why he wanted to meet with me last night.”
Yuko didn’t say anything so the woman continued, “I…I’ve accepted that there is nothing I can do, now that they are engaged, but…I just wish the pain would go away…”
Yuko walked toward the woman, “Many of the people who have come here have had wishes,” she said, “What many have not realized is that most of those wishes can be granted by the people here. You wish that the pain in your heart would subside correct?” The woman nodded, and Yuko continued. “It is within my power to grant that wish, however, unlike the others, I will need proper payment for my service.”
“If you can make my pain go away,” the woman said, “Money is no object.” She began fumbling around in her purse, but Yuko stopped her.
“I do not mean money,” Yuko said, “What I am talking about is something much more important, a condition. In this case, you want your broken heart to be mended, to do that, I will take away the feelings you have had for this person.” The woman looked mortified, “I won’t take away your memories of him, but the love you’ve had for him, and all the special moments you’ve shared will disappear. You may, of course, choose not to accept, and may leave with you broken heart that will heal itself over time.”
“No,” the woman said quickly, “Perhaps this is the only way I can truly get over him…please, do what you must.”
Yuko walked the remianing distance between her and the woman put her hand on the woman’s chin and lifted her face so that their eyes met. The woman looked into the soul-piercing red eyes of Yuko for thirty whole seconds before she found herself outside the cafe. She looked around,
“What…was I doing here again?” She asked herself, unable to remember anything that had just happened. She shivered and made her way to her car, parked just outside some cafe. “I don’t even like coffee…”
“Yuko,” came a familiar voice, “Have you forgotten?”
Yuko turned around to see a man dressed in a white robe embroiled with an intricate golden design. The man was shorter the Yuko by a few feet, and had no hair. He stared up at her trough emerald eyes.
“Hello, Yuri.” Yuko said, “No, I have not forgotten, I know what I must do tonight.”
Yuri nodded at his. “I certainly hope so, Yuko.” he said, “Kazuhiro is going on ordeal starting now, if you do not do your part, all will be lost.”
Yuko smiled and said, “Have I ever let you down?”
Yuri looked like he wanted to argue but said, “No…no you’ve always done your job as a Guardian Power. Even, in some cases, better than any of the other Guardian Powers have done.”
“Then why are you here?” Yuko asked,
“As a precaution.” Yuri said, “Kazuhiro’s powers will evolve to a level he is not yet used to, as well, his emotions shall be fever pitch with what has happened recently. The Powers thought that now was the perfect time to put him on ordeal.”
“I know this,” Yuko said, “You do not need to remind me, Yuri.”
“Yes, I know.” Yuri said, “I just thought I would. Good luck to you, and Kazu-kun.”
With that, Yuri disappeared in a flash of blinding white light.
“You know that’s not what people call him.” Yuko said, more thinking out loud than speaking to her fellow Guardian, who could still hear her. “I guess I’d best prepare them for what is to come.” With that, she waved her hand and the door to the café locked itself and the sign flipped over to “Closed.” Then Yuko herself disappeared in a flash of white light…
As she slept, peacefully, in a car crash induced coma, Rouge was visited by a woman. This woman chose an unnatural way of arriving: suddenly appearing out of thin air in the middle of the night.
“Rise.” this strange woman said, she must not have known Rouge could not hear her, that this person sleeping on the bed was actually in a coma.
And yet, Rouge rose from the bed. She was not solid, however, anything but. Only her spiritual form had risen from that bed to stand facing the strange woman.
“Yuko?!” Rouge said, confused, “What the hell’s going on?”
Yuko motioned for Rouge to be calm, then she said,
“Rouge, Ruku is to be put on ordeal for the next three months. I know this must inconvenience you, but you are a part of this test that Ruku must overcome.” Rouge opened her mouth to speak, but Yuko continued.
“Please, wait and let me explain.” She said, “The test is simple: Ruku’s powers will evolve to a much stronger level-yes, Ruku is a witch, please let me finish- at the end of three months, he must make a choice; keep his powers, and allow you to remain in a coma for a year and possibly die, or give up his magic and his boyfriend, to allow you to awaken.”
Rouge’s mind was suddenly flooded with a million questions, “Ruku’s… a witch?”
Yuko nodded, then said, “Actually, he is more powerful than that; he is a Mage.”
“What if he chooses wrongly? In this test I mean.” Rouge asked, suddenly worried, “What will happen…?”
Yuko said, “Do not worry. I have faith that he will chose correctly. In the event he chooses wrongly, you will still wake up in three months. Besides, Rouge, as the person closest to his heart, you will know once you wake up what choice he made.”
This seemed to put Rouge’s mind at ease. “Ruku has a boyfriend?”
“Yes, but that is not important.” Yuko said, holding up her right hand and producing a pink sphere. The sphere lifted into the air, flowed to Rouge and merged with her spirit. “Rouge, though you are not a witch, you are an Empath. A True Empath: one who was created and destined to become an Empath. It is time you were given your power.”
Rouge took a step back, “Wh…what?”
“Rouge, before we depart tonight you must know one thing.” Yuko paused to make sure Rouge was listening, “Empaths are put on this world to help people, because they can truly know how someone is feeling, and what they need, a true Empath can easily grant help where it is needed. However, for the time being, you must never tell anyone that you are an Empath. Not even Ruku or Raven. It is not yet time for them or the word to know you exist.”
Rouge nodded before her body called her back into it.
“See you in three months, Rouge.” Yuko said before disappearing…