Hoops of Steel
Part VI

Seiji blinked at the sudden scene laid out before him.

Lush forest, sun-dappled and sweet smelling, engulfed him. Birds sang, the wind toyed with the treetops and everything radiated LIFE.

Seiji stood there, naked, and stared at the beacon of glowing light that was Korin

His armor sat there, sat, although it had nothing to sit on. The faceplate was down and it was empty and it sat and stared at him.

Seiji worried. The landscape around him was much friendlier than the last dream that had felt like this but...

Now wait a minute. I KNOW this is a dream?

//Tenku calls it "lucid dreaming."\\ Seiji could FEEL the voice echo through his body, mind and soul.

"Who are you?" he asked aloud.

//You call me Korin.\\ Seiji stared at his armor and took a hesitant step towards it.

//I wanted to talk to you...\\

"You can talk?"

//Well...via the bond, yes.\\

"How is this possible?"

//Hmm. Tenku explains it better...\\ Korin pondered and the birds twittered happily in the background and chased the breeze through the leaves. //You see, we are BONDED to you. We are as much a part of you as it is possible for a technically inanimate object to be. And over the centuries, as we've been passed from wielder to wielder, we've picked up so much human energy...\\

"That you are alive?"

//No. We are not ALIVE. Just sentient. We like to think that we know how you think but that isn't really the truth. Our little experiment with the dreams showed us that.\\ Korin sounded regretful.

Seiji blinked. "You mean...That Dream...?"

//We are not psychic, but we did have something of a sense of...Wrong. We did the best we could to try to prevent it by giving you the dreams; I guess we wound up CAUSING it instead. I do apologize. It was not my intent. Tenku did the best it could to protect its wielder.\\

"So Touma was right." Seiji sighed and sat on the soft grass. "I'm a little confused. Why didn't you just TELL us? You're talking to me now."

//We didn't want you to know we were sentient. You have already banished us from your lives as much as you can, and we were afraid you'd become scared and forever shut us away. We couldn't...couldn't stand that.\\ The ancient armor paused. //We used to be one. Then we were nine, really only five because the other four are Elsewhere. Now it seems as though we are only two, Tenku and myself.\\

"Why you two?"

//Because of you two. Because you and Tenku's wielder share a bond deeper than the bond we give to you. And we want to encourage that. You two belong together, you are stronger together than you are apart.\\

"And as long as Touma and I share this...deeper bond...you and Tenku at least have company?"

//Exactly,\\ Korin sounded proud of its wielder. //So we didn't want to TELL you outright, afraid of being shut away for GOOD. So we used a dreamscape, just as I'm using now. It is really the only way I can talk to you where you'll accept it.\\

"You're so sure about that?"

//You're talking to a centuries old pile of metal. If you were awake, would you so readily accept that and everything else I'm telling you? Dreams provide an automatic open-mindedness and suspension of disbelief.\\

"Okay, I understand that. So if you were afraid before, why aren't you now?"

//I am. But I know it's worrying you and Tenku's wielder sick and my purpose is to protect.\\ A long pause. //You...you won't shut us away will you?\\

"It's hard to say. As you've pointed out, I'm not exactly myself here."

//Oh. I suppose you'll tell Tenku's wielder about this when you wake?\\

"That is quite a safe assumption."

//Just try to make sure Tenku doesn't find out? It didn't like this idea, but I could no longer sit by and do nothing. Maybe it isn't wise, but...it's hurting you subtly and our job is NOT to hurt you.\\

"Then I suppose asking you to tell Tenku 'Thank You' for saving Touma's life is out of the question?"

//For now, yes. I'm sure we'll find a way to pass that along at some point.\\

"Thank you. May I ask a question? About something that has been bothering me since this all began?"

//Of course. What is it, wielder?\\

"I...I read something that made me wonder. A note someone made about how the wielders of the armors seem to share a certain...intensity of emotion. Is that due to the armor bond or..." Seiji paused. "I'm not quite sure I'm getting across what I'm trying to here."

//You don't need to. I am bonded to you.\\ The wielder of Korin got the distinct impression that his armor was smiling parentally at him. //Your love for Tenku's wielder is not something we engendered. We cannot control you unless you let us. Your meeting with the wielder of the Shiroi Kikoutei should have showed you that. That wielder was controlled by the armor, but even the armor cannot truly control EMOTION. Tenku and I have done nothing to create your love, and could not even if we tried. We are grateful for it, but your own hearts are the only ones responsible.

//As for the other wielders and you, that is only because we reach for each other so desperately. We were once the same; it's hard to be nine. That is the source of the bond and the source of the close camaraderie you share with your fellow wielders.\\

The feeling of relief was like a sudden wind, blowing his doubts away. "Thank you. I am...extremely relieved to hear that."

//You're welcome. I am afraid you may have something of a headache when you awaken; this does take its toll on you.\\

"I'll accept it as proof that this conversation took place."

//Good. Then you should go; it will soon be morning. I apologize for all of this. To confuse and alarm you was never our intent.\\

"Your decision to inform me of all of this should alleviate much of our confusion. Thank you."

//Farewell...\\ Korin faded into the sunlight. The birds had stopped singing, and the trees and the clearing began to dissipate slowly. The light began to fade as Seiji turned and made his way out of the dreamscape and back into sleep.


Violet eyes blinked awake and a low groan escaped his lips. He sat up, raising a hand to his forehead. "Feels like I've been hit on the head with a hammer..." He clenched his eyes shut against the migraine...

I am afraid you may have something of a headache when you awaken...

Seiji's eyes shot open at the voice in his memory. The voice itself could not be pinned down - it sounded like his own, but deeper, somehow aged. The armor...

He tossed aside sheets and reached for his robe to go talk to Touma, then paused. His news could wait the few seconds it would take him to stop by the bathroom and get some ibuprofen first.


"So...the armors ARE sentient??" Touma asked over breakfast. The others were sort of staring at the two of them blankly, trying to assimilate all the information. Seiji had decided it was something they all needed to know about, and had called a "family meeting" of sorts.

"And they're lonely?" Shin asked.

Seiji nodded in answer to both questions.

"You sure you didn't...like...smoke some opium or something, Seiji?" Shu asked. "Maybe you had something that disagreed with you before you went to bed?"

"I doubt Touma disagrees with Seiji much," Ryo commented. Seiji shot him a Look, and Touma nearly choked on his toast laughing. Seiji half-stood to see if Touma needed help, but was waved back into his seat.

"Actually, that would depend on what we were discussing," the blue-haired smart aleck replied after clearing his mouth.

"You know what I meant."

"Can we not talk about that at the breakfast table?" Shu asked pointedly.

"And can we get back to the armors having minds of their OWN?" Shin added.

"Right," Touma added. "So they were just lonely and trying to protect us. But they didn't want to TELL us that because they thought the idea of them being sentient would freak us out, right?"

"Well it IS sort of creepy," the once "Fearless Leader" acknowledged.

"Is it ALL the armors or just Tenku and Korin?" Shu wondered aloud.

"All of them," Seiji confirmed. "It's just Tenku and Korin doing this, because they can more easily connect with one another, but my armor told me they all felt this way."

"How sad, when you think about it," the former warrior of trust said aloud. "I mean, how old are the armors? Centuries? Imagine being chopped up into nine pieces and spending the rest of eternity trying to pull yourself back together. No wonder they're upset."

"But it's just METAL, right?" Shu asked around the last of his breakfast.

"They're Mystical Armor to begin with, Shu," Touma commented. "They're imbued with magic, and they've been passed down in our families for generations. Between the magic and the human energy they've absorbed...it's really not surprising they sort of 'woke up', so to speak."

"So what do we do?" Ryo asked.

"I think we ought to help them."

"Yeah it's only fair. It'd suck to be separated from you guys for hundreds of years."

Touma smiled over at Seiji who nodded in reply. "I know what we can do by way of apology," the warrior of Light announced, standing.


//SUNLIGHT!\\ Korin was so enraptured, Tenku could feel its radiance shining.

So could the others.

//I never thought I'd feel the warmth of the sun on my surface again,\\ Rekka sighed contentedly.

//It IS nice to be out again...\\ from Suiko.

//You said it. Free.\\ Kongo reveled in the sensation.

//I still say you shouldn't have just told him,\\ Tenku grumped momentarily to Korin, but then brightened and, in a quieter tone, added, //But I'm glad you did.\\

//You can thank me later.\\


The armors' wave of joy filled their wielders' souls. Shin smiled warmly at their armor, sitting out in the brightest patch of sunlight they could find in the back yard.

"They really are happy, aren't they?"

Shu grinned. "Well it's a great day to be outside." He looked at Seiji. "So if this is the beginning, what's next? Sitting on the couch next to Kongo, watching movies and eating popcorn?"

"Not necessarily," Seiji replied.

"I think they'll be happy for the occasional day like this. Warm, sunny, cooling breeze...if we're going to be out and about anyway, there's no reason we'd need them right away," Touma reasoned. "I mean, do you really need your armor to do the landscaping or to play basketball?"

"Well Suiko'd be useful for watering the plants..." Ryo commented.

Shin snorted. "Yeah, one Chu Ryu Ha and we wouldn't have plants to have to water anymore!"

"Who needs Suiko?" Shu asked, and suddenly they were all doused with water as the supposed warrior of Justice turned the hose on full blast.

Seiji stopped Touma with a touch before he ran off after Shu to seek his own justice for being drenched. "How do you feel now?"

"Mystery solved, right? You know how I hate unsolved mysteries. I confess to being a little jealous that You solved it, not me, but..."

"I solved nothing. I was given the answer. I am only the messenger."

"Eh, whatever Seiji." Touma looked over at the armors. "They are bonded to us as much as we're bonded to them, right?" Seiji nodded. "So they can feel what we feel, correct?"

"That follows, yes."

"So come on, Seiji. Just for the armor's sake - loosen up a little today, hmm? Really let yourself ENJOY today." Seiji arched an eyebrow. Touma sidled up and whispered, "For their sake...and mine?"

The very slightest hint of a grin crept across Seiji's lips. Touma took the opportunity to kiss that grin hello and then commented, "Besides, I'll need your help holding Shu down as I stick that hose down the front of his shorts. Please?"

A slight sparkle of violet. "My pleasure."


.:Wisdom's Sacrifice Fiction:.