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Nip of frost and feather light are our gifts

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  Was it really any surprise that their adventure left physical marks and changes on their bodies? It was a surprise to spot it on JP first, but in hindsight, that did make some sense. The first change they’d had made, and the only universal one, it seemed, was how much easier it was to gain muscle. JP gained muscle mass like a bear stored fat for the winter, suddenly finding himself much heavier and under the squish of his fat there were rock solid lumps of muscle. The rest of them were more wiry, and didn’t notice their increase in strength until they used it—Takuya finding he could lift Tommy or Shinya above his head with ease, Zoe passing off a shopping basket to a classmate for her project momentarily only to find her friend struggled with it, Tommy lifting his entire bed up with one hand to look for a toy underneath it—things like that.

  Then, the personal changes.

  Takuya didn’t notice it at first, but the other warriors did. His hair, once a wooden brown, slowly became redder, and fire would dance across it if his emotions got strong enough. His skin grew darker too, as if exposed to the sun far more than it had been. Darker than anyone in his family had ever been in their known history. He stayed over at one of the others’ houses every time his parents fought about it, once the darkening of his skin could no longer be brushed off as a light tan.

  Kouji woke up with the sun. If there was too much light around him, he physically could not sleep. Not that he much needed to, anymore. The light gave him all the energy he needed from sleep, and a half hour or so of meditation centered his mind. That didn’t mean he didn’t want to sleep. He also found silvery fur around a lot, as if a wolf was shedding.

  Zoe found feathers in her hair, along with strands of blue and purple. And even with the new muscle weighing all of her friends down, she kept getting lighter, and lighter, and lighter, beginning to worry her parents, especially considering she happily and openly packed down more food than she had before she’d learned what it was to go truly hungry. Hollow bones would do that, even if they were reinforced.

  JP was a living rechargeable battery. Any electronic that needed charged while they were out, so long as he held it close to himself, would charge well, unless he consciously turned that off. As for how he recharged, well, thunderstorms seemed increasingly common anymore, but only when JP wanted them.

  Tommy couldn’t get cold. Or, actually, he could, but it didn’t affect him like it did most people. He was always cool to the touch, and was happy to form ice over his skin, as he could make that now, and didn’t start acting like he felt cold until it was way below freezing. Even then, he rarely put on more than a hoodie. However he did suffer heat exhaustion fairly quickly, unless he stayed hydrated, in the shade, and iced over faster than his ice evaporated.

  Koichi’s gifts from the digital world were to a lesser extent than the others, perhaps because he never physically went. Similar to his twin, he no longer needed sleep if he just meditated a little, and he couldn’t sleep when his element was around in force. Sometimes, when Kouji’s hair gleamed in the sunlight, Kouichi’s seemed to absorb the light. Koichi also found himself seeing more and more by the shadows and darkness than by the light. 

  The changes were all subtle at first, and they debated why that happened, or how, before eventually deciding that the amount of times they spirit evolved permanently affected their code, which permanently affected them.

  It had just taken a little while to become noticeable.

  But, they were gifts from the world they loved, a reminder of the truth that they couldn’t truly share, and hopefully a promise that they’d return.

  The warriors loved their gifts.

  After all, how could they not?