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Smoke Signals

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It’s hot.

It’s so hot it’s hard to breathe.

Lio stares at the source of the heat, his fists clenched.

It’s daytime.

The sun is just slowly starting to set.

“Just go away already, would you.” Whines Lio, wiping his hands on the grass below him. His hands are sweaty and stick to the pages of his book, leaving visible stains and its getting on his last nerve.

He slowly leans his head back in order to not hit his head too hard on the concrete wall behind him.

Lio Fotia, aged nine, child of a car-producing company’s CEOs (and most likely its next heir. He whines at the thought) is one day into the week-long summer trip in the countryside near Promepolis and he already wants to go home.

He’s been here before with his parents the year before and the year before that. The first was exciting. Everything was new, he was somewhere outside of his mansion’s territory and everything was new to him, even if he wasn’t allowed to go too far from the summer house.

It was built at the request of his parents (while wealthy, they’re not great architects). The exterior betrayed how the inside looked. Simple wooden structure combined with stone underestimated the marble pillars and shiny floors nearly identical to his own home lurked within. Lio was a bit
disappointed, but at least it kept him from getting too homesick.

(At first.)

Lio closed his book. It was a fantasy novel about two young girls meeting by coincidence after being seperated for a long time and are pitted against each other in a fight for the salvation or destruction of the world. It’s honestly very engaging, and it’s not like Lio has a short attention span, it’s just--

It’s soooo hooooooooot.” Lio whines, grateful for the rare solitude he has to let out his opinion audibly for once, even if there’s no one listening. His servants are all inside, cleaning up the place after leaving it neglected for so long. And his parents are in the city, settling some business with people they know through work.

(Work, work, work. Is that all parents do? If so, Lio never wants to have kids. He wouldn’t wish this loneliness on anyone.)

The child slides his back down the wall, most likely getting his pure white shirt dirty in the process. The house not actually that far from the city. It’s about an ten-minute drive, from what he’s heard from his servants. But due to the small expanse of trees and large, large, large sunflower field covering Lio’s view of the direction the city is in, he can’t even see the buildings.

So close, yet so far away.’ That sentence can basically sum up everything about his life.

He opens his book again. Maybe he can find it in him to focus. If not, he’ll call Engel to get him an umbrella.

It’s nice and quiet, at least.

Up until he hears someone shout.

Lio looks up. In the sunflower fields, he sees something peeking out from the tall stems.

“Heeey!” The thing repeats, stepping out from the flowers and into the grass.

It’s a boy. The first human child Lio’s seen in months other than himself. He blinks.

“Hey, you! You a statue??”

“Uh,” Lio stutters and clears his voice. “No?”

“Oh, cool! ‘Cause that woulda been awkward.” The boy steps closer. Lio hides his anxiety of human interaction outside his family after months (or years, if that one time he tried to talk to the daughter of his mum’s friend and somehow made her cry, causing her to never come by again doesn’t count) of limiting himself to short conversations with his servants by inspecting the approaching boy.

He was definitely bigger than Lio. Older by a year or two, maybe three, but Lio’s unusually small for his age (from what other people always, always tell him. He gets it, he’s short), so he wouldn't know. He had big, spiky blue hair that at the same time was flopping on the side of the boy’s head while standing up at the same time. He was dressed in a red shirt with flame patterns on it, beige shorts, socks and yellow and orange sports shoes. Opposite of Lio’s fashion, basically.

A commoner’ , Lio thought. ‘Mum and dad warned me about those.

So with that thought, when the boy asks “Ya look bored. Wanna take a hike with me?” The boy throws a thumb behind his shoulder with a wide grin. “I was gonna catch grasshoppers in the field, but I forgot my bug net so I’m just walkin’ around.”, Lio, son of two wealthy, posh people, raised to not interact with people outside of business, says;

“Sure.” And the book he was holding is thrown to the grass with a small thump.

The boy grins even wides, somehow (Lio has never seen someone smile so much, and he’s met people who had tried and failed to create business ties with mum) and holds out a hand to the other child.

Lio holds out his hand, and when he hesitates, the mysterious blue-haired boy takes the initiative grabs it and hoists him up, bringing them almost face-to-face as Lio stumbles.

He was tall. So much that Lio had to crane his neck up almost all the way back.

The sun was setting and getting into his eyes, blocking the boy’s clear visage.

“What’s ya name?” He asks.

Stunned, he mindlessly chokes out "Lio."

“Nice to meetcha, Lio! My name is Galo Thymos!”

“Galew... Thee moose?" Lio tilts his head after stepping back and patting himself down. The boy was talking really fast. The way he sounded seemed off, too.

The boy groans and stomps his foot. "Noo! Galo Thymos! Thy-mos !"

"Feh...mos." He tries again, slower this time.

"Ehh, close enough. You'll learn it eventually! Just don't forget it!" He turns around, towards the flower field, but doesn't start walking until he throws a "You talk weird." behind his back.

Lio, starts running after the boy with puffed up cheeks. "No, I don't! You talk weird!" 

"You mean 'wee-rd'?" Galo tries correcting him. The nerve!

"Wee-ard!" Lio shouts back.

"See! You do talk weird!"

"No, I don't! You're just close-minded!"

"Huh? Am I?"

"Yes!" Lio shouts, finally able to have the upper hand. He crosses his arms as he waits for the other to admit defeat, but instead he sees a worried face lean down closer to him.

It’s the first time he sees his eyes. They’re blue, with bright pink spots where his black holes should be.

"Aw, hey, I didn't think it was such a big deal to ya! I'm sorry! Don't cry, Lio!"

Lio's confused , especially when the boy uses the bands on his wrists to wipe at his cheek.

Lio realizes he's crying.

Ah. Lio wasn’t ever really used to shouting. He always felt bad when he did. Whenever he finds himself being yelled at, he always starts crying despite himself, so having to try and put that feeling on others makes him cry, too.

Lio suddenly realizes the other boy is tearing up.

"Why are you crying too!?" Lio chokes out in between sobs.

"I dunno!" Galo hiccups. "Why are you crying!?"

"Because I'm sad! And angry!"

"Then that!" Galo says before wiping at his face.

They both just start to cry more.

The scene turns into the two boys, confused and crying in the border of a sunflower field. Lio's surprised his servants didn't hear the commotion (he supposes they are all inside and thinking he's still in his room), so he just pulls a packet of tissues from his pocket and gives a few to Galo. (‘few’ meaning he took a fistful and blew his nose into it.)

Eventually, they calm down, pocket their pocket tissues (Galo giggles as he says that outloud. Lio pretends to roll his eyes as he tries not to laugh) and head out into the field. Lio stops for a second.

He sees the boy before him, sun setting behind him. He can’t quite see his face.

Lio lowers his head, shakes it and steps forward.

First time out of the house in a long time. He’s got this.

As they walk down a small path made between the sunflower patches (Lio remembers it from his previous stay), the shorter decides to be the first to make conversation, like the gentleman he was raised to be.

"You have weird hair." He says.

He was nine, what did you expect?

Galo, to his surprise, just turns to him and replies, "You have really nice hair!"


"Yeah!" Galo suddenly starts patting Lio’s hair with both hands. "All poofy n' stuff? It looks like cotton candy!"

"H-Hey, stop that!"

"I wanna like, lay in it!" Galo, instead of stopping like requested, comes closer and starts rubbing his face (his sweaty face, Lio shudders) all over Lio's hair. "If you grew it out and I laid in it, I bet it'd be like sitting on a cloud!" He muses.

Lio is far too embarrassed to step away. Like his brain is on overload. So he just kneels down, away from the body next to him.

Lio's never had too much physical contact from anyone. Especially since his parents are usually away nowadays, he only gets his hand held by his servants and, sometimes, when he falls asleep somewhere, carried in the arms of his maids or Engel. But that's it.

"I'd look like a girl." Lio mumbles into his knees.

"A 'guh'?" Galo eloquently says.

"A girl!" Lio shouts louder, still into his knees.

"A girl??"

Lio hums affirmatively.

"No, you wouldn't!"

"Yes, I would."

"Nuh-uh. My hair is long, do I look like a girl?"

Lio tilts his head to look up. He can still only see Galo's shadow, but he can make out the outline of Galo's hair, and that's enough to answer the question, right? "No... But yours is all spiky."

"It's still long! And besides, "He kneels down, and Lio can see his face again, grinning wide. "Samurai had long hair, and they were never mistaken for girls! It's all about how you carry yourself!"

Lio blinks. He's calmed down from his small overheat, so he lifts his head. "Semu...rye?"

"Oh man," Galo takes Lio's hand and pulls him up. He’s very strong, he notes. "I'm gonna teach you so hard about Samurai. Listen to this--!"

Galo then goes on a tangent about Samurai, which, despite Lio's previous frustration with the boy's loud mouth, he found himself listening intently to.

Lio's never been very interested in history. It's all dates and months and merciless, discriminating emperors who only went down in history because they managed to kill a lot of people and get a lot of land. Noone Lio would want to learn about, much less be interested in.

Galo, however. Galo rambles about Samurai (Japanese knights, basically, as he describes them to Lio in order to familiarize him), the Samurai code, facts about them. No dates or big names, he just talks about them with his big, shiny eyes as he wildly gestures the positions they take when sword fighting.

"Sword Fighting?" Lio tilts his head.

"Yeah! They used katana--like, swords, but really really thin, but just as sharp--and they posed like this!" He said as he spread his legs, slightly bent one, and put his arms together near his head.

Lio didn't really talk except for that part, nodding along and "ooh"ing at especially exciting parts of Galo's lecture. Galo bent over a sunflower at one point to help him gesture a sword position, but let it go as soon as he was done (Lio thought he heard a small "sorry" directed at the plant when he finished and he smiled for a second. Just a second).

Time passed. Galo was still talking, Lio was still listening. Eventually, they got to the other side of the sunflower field and Lio uncrossed his arms to step forward. The expanse was now made of clear, green grass and in the distance, he could spot the city, tall, white buildings making Lio feel smaller than he is already.

"Aw, crap !" Lio jumps as Galo bonks himself in the head with his fist. "I promised mom I'd be back home by six!" He scrambles to the side, zooming past Lio. The younger spots a blue bike with pink accents laying against the wooden fence surrounding the flower field. Galo hastily grabs the bike and carries it to the side of the road, in direction of the city. Lio finds himself following him like a lost duckling, with no knowledge of what he should do or say. Say goodbye? Tell him to come again? Plead him to stay?

After the taller gets on the bike, Lio takes a step forward, as if to try and stop him when he knows full well he won't be able to, strong as he is.

Galo however, doesn't ride off into the sunset immediately. He turns to the other boy.

"You gonna be here tomorrow, too?"

Lio stutters, hand coming up to fiddle with his ribbon. "Yes, well, I'll be at home..."

"Cool!" Galo gives him a thumbs-up. "I'll be here tomorrow at like, uhh... twelve? One? Sound good?"

Lio's eyes widen. Without thinking, he replies "Yes!"

"Awesome! See ya, Lio!" He salutes before taking off.

Lio steps on the asphalt, only on the pedestrian walk, to see Galo off. He sees the boy waving still, and he waves back hesitantly.

He watches him until he can't see him anymore.

The wind blows past him.

Lio looked behind him, at the sunflower field, and thought about how far they had wandered from the summer home during Galo’s rant.

He whines. At least it was a straight path.




When he finally comes back to the summer house, Lio flops on the grass.

He was sweaty, dead tired, and sweaty. So sweaty. Why did he wear a long-sleeved shirt on a summer day.

Eventually, he got up and grabbed his book (it was still there, thankfully) before returning to the house through the back entrance.

Engel darted towards him as soon as he saw him, patting him down and asking him where he's been. Lio replies he was taking a walk. (Technically not a lie. He just forgot to mention the extra history lesson.)

Since he had no bruises or anything, he got off with only a warning and a plea to let the old man know when he was going to go off and explore.

Lio returned to his room, put his book on the desk and flopped on his bed, identical to the way he fell on the grass earlier. Poetic cinema, really.

He usually had more energy than this. It was only six in the evening. Then again, he doesn't usually walk through a giant field twice in one day, either.

Lio sighs and sluggishly changes into his pajamas before pulling the sheets over his whole body and lets sleep take him.




Lio dreams of beautiful, long-haired knights fighting each other with katanas in a vast, golden grass field. He was sitting on the ground (soft, like a flower's petals) as he looks on in wonder and cheers them on.