To A Far Away Land
Tanaka assessed him as he tightened the buckles of his suit and slipped his leather gloves on.
”Yup,” Suga nodded. Tanaka was quiet and tugged at Suga's sleeve smoothing out the wrinkles carefully, as if lost in thought. Suga inspected his features a moment, and then flashed a bright smile at him.
”It's all fine! I'll be back by dawn. Don't worry.”
”The eastern wind is strong today.” The he grinned: ”So bring my glider back in one piece!”
”I'll try,” Suga laughed, and punched his shoulder, laughing harder as Tanaka stumbled, holding his arm.
Then Suga took the glider and lifted it above his hands, running upwind and then jumped, and as the glider took under the winder and rose higher, Suga hoisted himself on it and started the engine with a press of his sole on the start pedal.
Tanaka watched him go until he was but a spot in the horizon.
Then, with a grim expression, he turned back for the village.
He never felt quite as alive as he did when flying.
The wind whistled in his ears, the air currents narrowing his path and like a sparrow in the sky he dove downwards, and then, with a press of his foot on the pedal, he soared up again. The wind grabbled at his clothes, teasing, like little fingers tugging at him. Suga let out an exhilarated whoop as the glider flipped almost upside-down and then took another nose-dive towards the ground.
If Tanaka could see me now, he would kill me.
Or god forbid, Daichi.
The glider wobbled dangerously and he yelped, correcting his course.
The wasteland stretched infinitely in front of him. The sun was heaving up to the sky from the horizon and the sand dynes glimmered like freshly fallen snow. The wind was cool on Suga's cheeks and he let himself just glide in the air for a moment, closing his eyes. Even behind his eyelids he could see the dance of the light. Smiling, he opened his eyes.
From a distance he could see something.
Suga squinted, shielding his eyes from the rising sun for better visibility –
Suga sucked in a sharp breath. It was a large Ohmu, shell glimmering in the sun. It was seemingly unmoving but Suga knew they could be very unpredictable.
An Ohmu meant that the Sea of Decay wasn't far away.
Suga pressed on the pedal, and soon, behind the sandy dynes rose a high forest.
”It has moved closer,” Suga murmured to himself, frowning. And indeed it had – last time it had been almost two hours before he encountered it. Now it was only an hour and a half away. The edge of the forest loomed threateningly ahead, its deep greens luring Suga closer.
He flew his glider closer with a firm press of his foot, the wind pinching his cheeks as he maneuvered the mask on with one hand. He purposefully went around the Ohmu, circling past it underneath the headwind.
The Ohmu was magnificent.
Its big shell snapped and groaned as it moved and the clacking of its forelegs was unnerving, yet peaceful in the quiet of the wasteland. It wasn't angry, its eyes peaceful sky blue, just slowly roaming away from the Sea of Decay.
”What are you doing here,” Suga chuckled quietly and watched it go, not paying attention where his glider was heading.
Then suddenly, a scream – and as Suga turned his head to see where it had come from, a black mess of feathers – a crow?! - collided with his face and he lost control of his glider. With a sharp, stomach-turning lurch he spiraled down towards the forest, crashing through the trees – right into the Sea of Decay.
Last thing he saw was a flash of green; and then, blue.
When he came to, his sight was a blur of deep blue greens.
It was soft all around him, it was like he was sinking to a soft mattress. The shroom-like plants around him reached towards the skies and a giant, white spore somewhere above him pooffed a white cloud of pollen that floated down like snow.
He blinked. It was moss. He was sinking to moss. He grunted and a jolt of pain ran down his side – there was a long, vertical gash there, oozing red droplets of blood, soaking his suit. His face was probably bruising as well and there was a throbbing nick on his cheek.
Smells weird, his hazy thoughts offered him. A tang of leather, something sharp – Suga snapped his eyes open as it all came back to him in a rush and he tried to sit up –
His breath caught in his chest.
A small Ohmu was staring at him at his feet.
Suga remained still, his hands shaking. The Ohmu's many eyes were calm, baby blue as it stood there, staring at him. Its forelegs tapped the ground with a sharp clack-clack-clack. Suga swallowed back a panicked whimper, but that caused the gash in his side to thrum in pain and he gasped.
The Ohmu stilled and then, underneath its shell, three golden tendrils reached towards him.
Panic splashed in Suga's guts. He made a futile, pathetic attempt to scramble away, and the Ohmu flinched, retracting its tendrils a little. Suga drew in harsh breaths, the pain sharp, and the smell of leather becoming repulsing as seconds ticked by.
The baby Ohmu was frozen for a moment, until it curled one tendril softly around Suga's ankle. It wasn't a grip, not even a proper hold – more like a comforting touch. Suga stared at its eyes, his heart about to leap out of his chest. The Ohmu was staring back, as if waiting for him to give in. Suga just sat there for a second, feeling conflicted, and curious, and then he forced himself to relax, breaths evening out as he lay back down.
The Ohmu made a clicking sound and more tendrils appeared underneath its shell, reaching out to his wound. The tendrils brushed the edge of the wound, almost curiously, and Suga let out another pained gasp. As the tips touched the lining of the wound, the tendrils started glow golden light.
Suga sunk into brightness, yellows and golds;
It was bright, like sunshine and child's laughter on a summer day.
He let his eyes fall shut to the lullaby of the Ohmu.
Waking up felt like shaking off old, heavy feathers off his coat, and lazily, Suga opened his eyes again. The Ohmu was already crawling away, its forelegs clicking and clacking. Suga watched it go, how it disappeared behind the trees.
Slowly, he stretched his aching body and got up clumsily, legs tingling with sudden weariness. The glider was nowhere to be seen – the crash had been sudden and quite a drop too, and Suga hoped he hadn't attracted any unwanted attention.
Other than the Ohmu. He honestly couldn't say whether it had been unwanted or not.
Suga had never been to the forest before. He had circled it from afar, admiring its vastness, fearing how it spread closer day by day. He had repeatedly been told to avoid it, not to attract insects or accidentally bring pollen to the village. That he ventured close enough to need a mask to block out the pollution was bad enough.
All he knew about the Ohmu was that they were ancient and they were angry. Keep away, they always warned him, if you see one, run away or hide, and hope for the best. But this one had – done what, exactly?
Suga raised an arm to peer at his side. There was crusted blood around the wound and in his clothes, but the gash wasn't bleeding; where the skin had been torn, there was now a scab that looked at least a day old and it didn't feel as deep as it had in the beginning.
The Ohmu had healed him.
Suga didn't know what to make of that.
Something was tugging at his memory. A melody, a song,--
He inhaled deeply, ignoring the obnoxious smell of his leather mask. He needed to find his glider first, or he would be stuck here for who knows how long. Suga looked up at the trees, wondering if his descent to the forest floor had left behind any marks – and indeed, far in the distance he could see a curious opening in the abundance of branches. He followed the trajectory with his eyes and it continued a bit to his right, further in the forest. There were some new-looking bruises on the surrounding trees and Suga figured that this guess was as good as any.
With a wince he remembered that his rifle was still attached to the glider and he was basically defenseless save for his insect flute. He hadn't brought anything else, having planned to stay away from the forest.
”Well,” he puffed, finding comfort in saying the words out loud, ”there's no point in wallowing in it.”
Sighing he set off, following the path to where he assumed his glider had ended up crashing.
There was no clear path – the moss turned quickly into tree roots and bizarre undergrowth. His legs were aching from the fall before, but it was relatively easy to move once he got to firmer ground. The trees, tall and thick with age, were looming over him – a few rays of sunlight were let in through the branches, but everything else was covered in a blueish hue. Somewhere far away, Suga could hear distant buzzing.
A plant poofed above him and its spores rained down with a whispery rustle. Suga held out his hand and watched, mesmerized, as they fell on his open palm.
”Beautiful,” he breathed out. And it was – the forest was truly fantastic. As dangerous as it was, the Sea of Decay was beautiful.
It was a magical world – different kind of silly-looking plants were growing all around him, some bigger than Suga himself, some like small worm-like creatures growing from the earth. There were tall shrooms and flowers that looked like little flurries of dust. Up above him were the trees, tall and stern and ancient, the trunks wide and covered in dry, mossy bark. They seemed to reach the skies, covering the forest under a ceiling of leaves and branches.
A loud crack on his right snapped him out of the spell of the forest.
A huge beetle crawled carefully across his path. It was three times his size, and knarred and klacked as it moved without even acknowledging him and then disappeared in the abundance of trees.
Suga stared after it, and suddenly he was aware of the buzzling of bugs all around him, all of them big and busy, yet differing in colour and size. Flying above, there were big but slim-looking insects, seeming to glide in the air and then rapidly flapping their light pink wings.
The most remarkable thing was, Suga noticed as his thundering heartbeats had calmed down to mere anxious palpitations, that they seemed to be just minding their own business, not sparing a thought to the insignificant human travelling their forest.
They weren't attacking. They didn't care.
Suga let out the breath he had been holding and continued his search.
After having climbed over several annoyingly large tree roots and having to crawl under a few as well, he was exhausted. Even though the gash in his side had been healed, the other less severe scratches on his body still ached, reminding Suga of their existence with every step and he hoped that he'd find his glider as soon as possible so that he could leave. He didn't have the resources to stay overnight in the forest, and no one except Tanaka even knew that he had left.
Tanaka is going to kill me, he thought to himself. He let himself grin. Oh well. He had to get out first. The maiming would come later.
He suddenly stumbled upon a clearing – even though the trees were still looming above, there was a big road-like path in the forest that had trampled down the plants and trees on its way. There were dents in the ground, almost like tracks.
”Are those –”, Suga didn't let himself finish, because at the other end of the clearing was a huge Ohmu.
It was the size of a castle and Suga gripped at his chest in terror, his fingers curling in the fabric of his suit as he forced himself to calm down.
The Ohmu's eyes seemed oddly empty and it was standing absolutely still.
Slowly, Suga took a shaky step forward, and then another, and as there was no reaction from the creature, he approached it to inspect it closer.
It was an empty shell – some of it was broken at the back, the shell crumbling here and there but it was still mostly intact. Suga touched the surface with trembling fingers and let out a laugh as he slid his fingers over the rough planes of the shell. The little coarse bumps scratched his leather gloves and when Suga knocked on the shell, it was hard, making a thick thud-sound. Suga smiled, content. He patted the shell, lost in his thoughts.
The material was tough and probably well-enduring. They could probably make tools out of it – they would just need to experiment with it first. It seemed light enough to be carried in the glider, or at least Suga hoped it would be.
This would mean coming to the forest again. This would mean venturing deeper into the forest, trying to unfold its secrets. Suga glanced around him, at the plants reaching towards the thin slivers of light. Hm.
Suga wasn't sure if he'd be allowed to return after this – he had to get his glider fixed and his bruises were nasty-looking and very visible and Tanaka prioritized his health enough to rat him out to Ukai.
And... even though the insects he saw today had been harmless...
Suga looked up, squinting, stepped back a little. He then jumped, gripping the edge of the shell with his hands, and hoisted himself up, and then started climbing.
When he was almost at the top, sweating and heaving he sat himself against an empty eye.
It was quiet. A couple insects flew in the distance, buzz of the wings melting to white noise. The toxic jungle seemed to stretch out forever all around him. The Ohmu shell was cold underneath him and the eye like glass. Somewhere, another spore poofed and the little spores floated down, like dandelion seeds dancing in the wind. Suga felt like he could stare at the sky forever, the greens and blues meshing together in the faint beams of light caressing the forest floor.
I would like to come here again, he thought. I'm definitely coming back.
Out of the corner of his eye he suddenly spotted something – he quickly turned to see and almost lost his balance for a second, flailing as he tried to grasp the air until he regained his stance. He squinted down at the wall of trees.
It was his glider.
He slid down the shell, dragging his feet so that he wouldn't topple over.
The glider seemed to be in good enough condition to fly home, only a few bruises and a beginning of a fracture in the frame, and all his stuff seemed to be intact too. He tested the engine and it thrummed into life with a push of the pedal. He spread the wings and hoped for the best as he hopped on the glider and kicked it off the ground as the engine coughed, and then settled to its familiar hum.
With a final, thoughtful glance to the Ohmu shell, he bid farewell to the forest.
The wind was strong.
Even though the sun wasn't quite setting yet, it was already painting the desert in orange hues, quite the contrast to the cool blues of the forest. The cold air current bit at his bare skin where his clothing was torn on his side. He gripped the handles tight and supressed a shiver. He couldn't help but look back at the forest behind him becoming smaller and smaller until it was only a hint of green in the horizon. Suga sighed. As beautiful as it had been, it was a relief to see it disappearing from his sights. The Ohmu he had seen before was nowhere to be seen.
Movement somewhere below him caught his eye.
Squinting against the sunlight, he saw something move, going towards the village. He shielded his eyes and when he saw two panthers, black fur shining golden in the light, and a figure riding the other, his heart leaped in his chest and a wide smile spread across his face.
The man riding the panther glanced up at the sound of the engine and then, raised his hand in a wave. Suga answered in kind, flailing his arm wildly until he almost lost his balance, and then he pointed forward. There were some ruins up ahead, they should meet up there.
Daichi closed his hands in a fist and encouraged his panthers forward.
The sunlight warmed Suga's chest as he pressed on the pedal.
He basically leaped off his glider mid-air and ran towards Daichi who had just dismounted his panther and waited for him with open arms in the middle of the decaying rubble.
”Koushi,” he laughed and Suga practically flew in his embrace.
Daichi had to take a step back to balance himself and then he spun Suga around in his arms and it was like a cage filled with butterflies was opened in Suga's chest, fluttering out in the open as he squeezed Daichi tighter.
”Hi,” Suga chuckled breathlessly.
”Prince Koushi,” Daichi answered in kind and finally let him down.
The two black panthers were now circling the two of them, purring for attention like big cats and Suga scratched them behind the ears.
”Kuroo, Kai,” he cooed, ”how lovely to see you!”
Kuroo answered by tugging at his pants with his teeth.
There were fingers caressing his cheek and as he looked back up to Daichi, his expression had turned into a worried frown. He was running his thumb gently over a bruise on Suga's cheekbone.
”What happened?” he asked, concern lacing his voice.
Suga was about to answer, when a noise suddenly cut throught he air.
A crow was circling above their heads, its caws sharp and loud, and Suga had to laugh.
”It's wonderful news.”
- end -