This has literally been sitting in my folder for months. I needed to post it.

The festival had been incredible. His mother had gone all out on their yukata, making them herself. She dedicated months to planning and creating them. While he didn't really like being dragged from store to store to find the perfect fabric and supplies, nor being used as a live mannequin, even Yuuri had to admit that the end result of her labor was amazing. They all wore different shades of blue, his mother and fathers being almost black while his and Shouri's were lighter. His mother called his azure and said it brought out his eyes or something, but Yuuri liked it because it looked like the ocean when it caught the light just right.

Each of them had varying designs on the fabric. His parents had simpler looking geometric shapes while Shouri had a fierce looking dragon that stretched from the bottom of his yukata to his shoulders. Yuuri had detailed waves running along the bottom of his yukata and his sleeves. He loved them because they almost looked like they were moving when he walked and spun around.

The waves and the entire bottom half of his yukata was covered in mud now. There might have been a little blood too from where he had accidentally slid down a steep hill because he couldn't see the ground in the darkness and the rain. He lost his left sandal in that fall and he could feel the sting of nasty scratches all along his legs.

He stumbled forward wincing as his toes caught on a tree root and he nearly stumbled to the ground once more.

The festival really had been incredible. It was on the boardwalk by the river. The entire area was transformed with colorful streamers and smiling people.

He had won most of the games that his friends from school said was supposed to be impossible. Yuuri didn't understand why they thought it was so difficult. All you really had to do was make sure you aimed precisely. And Yuuri was very good at aiming. He hit all the targets at the first stand on his first try. His mom had laughed in delight at the surprised look on the vender's face and his dad had chuckled and told him he'd definitely be a professional baseball player. Shouri had ruffled his hair with a grin.

Shouri hadn't been grinning when a child ran into him while playing and made him stumble against the railing or at least what was supposed to be a railing. Apparently, it had been broken sometime before the festival and had been replaced temporarily by a flimsy rope and sign warning people away from the area.

When the rope broke against his weight and he fell into the river the last thing he saw was his brother's frightened face.

(Then there was water. It surrounded him and suffocated him. It dragged him down, down, down and wouldn't let him claw himself to the surface.)

He shivered and glanced behind him.

No more torches.

That was a good thing at least.

He wasn't sure what he did to make those people so angry. Yuuri was just as clueless as they were as to why he had suddenly appeared in the middle of their village in the late evening. He had tried to talk to them, but they seemed to speak an entirely different language. Yuuri was able to dodge the rocks some of the children threw, but when the adults started pulling out weapons he knew he had to run.

So, he did.

It started raining soon after that, making everything more difficult.

He shivered again and tried to pull the wet fabric tighter around himself to try to stave off the cold, to no avail. What had been nice for a slightly humid afternoon in the middle of July was not good for where ever he was now. The cold of the rain combined with the chilly night was almost unbearable.

He sneezed softly and glanced around him.

Trees, bigger than he had ever seen before, loomed over him and every rustle of the bushes made him twitch, half expecting to see the mob of people chasing him or a scary predator like a bear or wolf.

(This was definitely not what he meant when he wrote down his wish for something exciting to happen, on the little piece of paper his mother had handed him for the festival. He had meant something like learning he had cool superpowers like on TV or even something simpler like winning a vacation to a cool place or just going to a professional baseball game. Something he could brag to his friends about when he went back to school. Not something scary like this.)

The rain was heavy, damping most of the noise around him, however, he as he stood there shivering he started to hear the heavy beat of what sounded like wings. He stumbled back, eyes scanning above him. Whatever it was making that noise had to be big and was probably not a creature he wanted to confront.

He tried to turn and run, but only managed to stumble and fell on his face.

There was a huge thump behind him and he reluctantly turned to look.

Yuuri immediately regretted that decision when he found himself face to face with a beast he thought only existed in fantasy stories.

(Dragons weren't real! And yet, he couldn't deny the existence of the one right in front of him, baring its teething threateningly.)

A sob left his throat and he curled into himself on the wet ground, waiting for pain.

Josak folded his arms over his chest as he leaned silently against the wall. He allowed his expression to show how little he thought of this mission instead of his words for once.

Conrart, however, didn't hold back.

"You want us to investigate a rumor about a double-black…?"

His friend's face was as blank as ever, but there was a note of incredibly in his voice and fire in his eyes.

(The disbelief was expected considering the situation, but the fire had been building for some time now. Ever since the Lady Julia's death, in fact. It made Josak nervous to see it flair brighter. He had to remind himself that Conrart was loyal to the country and to his mother. But, as the days turned to weeks and the fire continued to burn, that reminder was slowly becoming fainter and fainter.)

Lord Voltaire, for his part, never looked up from the piles of paperwork littering his desk. Judging by the state of his clothing, and the darkening bags beneath his eyes he hadn't gotten up, much less looked up, for several days.

Keeping the peace after such a long and difficult war was a hard thing to manage, he supposed. Not that he knew much about politics. He just followed his orders and let the big shots worry over their papers and carefully crafted insults.

"Yes," Lord Voltaire replied tersely. "Take a small unit of five to six men, we don't want to cause alarm, and search the area for…"

As he watched Conrart's shoulders tighten, Josak decided now was probably the best time to step in to prevent an unnecessary fight between the brothers. Regardless of what the man thought, he needed his family right now. He needed a reminder of his ties to the living and loyalty to them, even if his loyalty to the Great One had been shaken.

"Look, my Lord, do you really think its necessary to send us to investigate this? I mean, I hear rumors all the time about double-blacks being born or showing up, but not a one of them has been true. It's just grunt work to confirm what we know isn't true."

He got an eyebrow twitch for his informal and rather blunt way of talking, but Contrat relaxed a little bit and that's all he cared about. He endured lectures on proper etiquette before, he could live through another. Dark blue eyes snapped to him in annoyance as the man straightened his shoulders to look at them. He found his own back straightened unconsciously. The man's gaze always had a certain weight to it, but today it seemed to be even heavier.

"The reason I am sending the two of you on this mission is because the area that the rumor occur was near our Dragon preservation on our western border. There has been an increase in rogue activity in that area and, as I am sure you have heard Jozak, there has been an interest in dragon parts on the black market. If you had let me finish, I would have told you that the investigation of the double-black rumor was merely a cover for investigating the area for any human or mazoku alike attempting to kill our dragons. If you do not already know, dragons are closely tied with the elements that we as mazoku derive our powers from and are infused with majustsu. If one of our enemies or even a neutral party gets a hold of even one of them, then they can be used for a number of rituals that could be devastating to the peace we are trying to uphold."

If his voice wasn't so flat, Josak might have mistaken his tone for sarcastic. As it was, he held back a grimace and glanced worriedly at Conrart to gauge his reaction.

(Shoulders stiff. Face cold, but eyes burning. Not good.)

"Well, alright then!" He forced a cheerful grin on his face. "We'll get on that right away!"

He shouldered his friend out of the room, ignoring the sharp glare he received with ease. He only fully released Conrart when they were several hallways and a flight of stairs away from Lord Voltaire's office. Conrart's glare hadn't lessened, but his shoulders had relaxed somewhat.

Josak grinned at him. "Why don't I go grab some extra soldiers and you start packing our normal gear."

Conrart huffed and turned away without a word. Judging by the direction he was walking, though, Jozak was fairly certain he was going along with his suggestion. He chuckled to himself. He cared for his friend dearly, but the man tended to scare people away with his blank expression and flinty eyes. His smiles were hard to come by normally and they had practically become nonexistent since the Lady Julia's death. People, both soldier and noble alike, tended to avoid the man like the plague now. It was better if Josak gathered their comrades than him and Conrart knew it.

He turned the corner and stepped out into the training yard, eyes flickering over who he wanted to take. Josak rocked back on his heels a moment as he continued to watch without notifying anyone of his presence.

A redheaded man dominated one battle with a smaller brown-haired mouse of a boy. He winced as the boy hit the ground again. Alfred wasn't holding back on Jeoffry today. He wondered what the boy said to piss the older man off. Judging by the way he was practically spitting fire it had something to do with his family being lesser than Jeoffrys', though he doubted the boy actually said anything of the sort. He was too kind for the army; too soft. It was likely Alfred assuming something benign to be negative again.

He sighed and wondered, not for the first time, why noble families even bothered signing up for the army if they would continue to cling to their useless pride.

Regardless, Alfred was a definite no go. The man was an excellent swordsman and tracker, but he was noble born and had a bit of an attitude with half mazoku. Which would set either Conrart or himself off and compromise their mission.

His eyes drifted over the other soldiers. Felrill was coaching Liam in what looked like his footwork.

Felrill would be a better candidate. He was also noble born, but he was older and he had more of a lenient attitude than most. Liam was another one. He was a common born mazoku and wasn't the best with the sword, but excelled at archery. If they were going into dragon territory, he definitely wanted someone with a keen eye watching the skies. They were good people, personality wise as well. Both quiet and hard to provoke to anger.

(With the way Conrart's already closed off personality has degraded it was for the best to have comrades.)

Josak hummed to himself. Felrill and Laim would make them a unit of four, but Lord Voltaire suggested five to six.

He frowned as Jeoffry dodged a block only to have his sword knocked out of his hand, by a lightning fast swing from Alfred.

If they were going into dragon territory it might be good to have someone who had a pack with the fire element. It'd also be good to get the boy some experience without shoving him off onto a battlefield.

Josak nodded decisively.

"Hello!" He called out with a grin. "Felrell, Laim, and Jeoffry! You lucky lads have been chosen to accompany me and Lord Weller on a mission. So, pack up your bags boys, we leave by sundown!"

There was a round of groans and laughs as everyone registered his words, but the three didn't argue as the stopped their training to headed back to the barracks to pack up.

He grinned and glanced back at the rest of the soldiers, still at attention from the moment he revealed his presence. "Alright at ease people, jeez, you'd think I was some sort of war hero or something ridiculous. Don't burn down the castle while I'm gone. Issac, I'm looking at you!"

"Oi! That was once, and it wasn't the whole castle!"

"Yeah, yeah. Keep telling yourself that."

With a wave he was off, meandering towards the stables. Conrart was already there, speaking quietly with the stablemaster. He still looked as solemn as ever, but the fire had dimmed a little bit since the meeting.

(Hopefully, some time away from Blood Pledge castle will help Conrart with his grief. If he knew the man better, he might have bet that Lord Voltaire thought the same, but Jozak wasn't a betting man unless he was certain of the odds.)

He was wrong.

So, very abysmally wrong.

It had been his fault. Felrill and Liam were good choices and weren't offended by Conrart's more standoffish nature. Jeoffry, on the other hand, was a little too friendly. It took two days of travel to get to the dragon reservation and Jeoffry spent most of that time trying to talk to an increasingly annoyed Conrart. He was a good kid, but he apparently had a bit of hero worship for the "Lion of Luttenberg" that Josak hadn't anticipated. That coupled with an almost borderline painful nativity born from being coddled from the true harshness of the war by his noble family and…

Well, that was how they ended up here, walking mostly aimlessly through the forest while their men set up camp and started patrols on the edge of the trees.

(Honestly, Jozak was surprised Conrart hadn't snapped sooner. He only hoped Jeoffry didn't take it too personally.)

He grimaced at the sight of Conrart's straight back and stilted movements as he cut his way through some dense underbrush.

Josak sighed. "You know he didn't mean anything by it, right?"

Conrart continued further into the forest, shoving his way through a deep bush until he was out of sight.

He rolled his eyes at the lack of response. He knew that the man heard him. "He just wanted some swordsmanship tips and you're the best one we have. Come on now. I know you don't like sparing with people, especially the lower ranks, but he just wanted some advice. He's just a kid really. Not a lot of experience in battle."

"Yes, so I've heard him complain incessantly about." Conrart's voice was clipped and cold.

Jozak winced. Ouch. Ok, so that's what this was about. "Like I said, he's just a kid. He doesn't know how horrible battle can be. His parents lost their first son in one of the earlier battles and didn't want to lose him as well. Since their nobility, even minor ones, they got away with it because he was their last son and heir."

"I see no reason why I should coddle him."

He rolled his eyes. "I don't want you to coddle him. Just don't act like a complete cold-hearted ass. I mean, by the Great One Conrart, you ripped him a new one. I'd be surprised if he ever wanted to lift a sword again after you tore into everything he was doing wrong. That's not how you teach people, you gotta be more patient than that..."

He trailed off with a sigh. There was no response, but he didn't expect one. His friend was not the talkative sort. Josak pushed his way past the bush, ignoring the way some of its branches cut into his arm.

"So, look when we get back to camp just-"

Josak froze when he saw Conrart raise his hand; his other on the hilt of his sword. He cursed mentally as his own hand drifted over his sword. He scanned the area, but he didn't see anything. He glanced at Conrart expectantly, but the man merely tilted his head to the side and gestured for him to follow.

Josak scowled but followed the silent order.

As they crept forward, Josak started to make out the sound of rushing water. It was likely a small waterfall. He strained his ears further and could hear a soft voice beneath the roar of the water. He gripped the hilt of his sword and pulled it out in tandem with Conrart.

No one was allowed into the forest without special permission, so whoever was speaking had to be one of the bandits Lord Voltaire mentioned. He felt a grin cross his face. Josak couldn't believe their luck.

(Well, it was probably more of Conrart's luck than his. The man either insanely lucky or horribly unlucky at any given moment.)

He could only hope it actually was good luck today.

The pushed past another bush and entered the clearing silently. Automatically Josak scanned the area noting the abundance of colorful flowers littering the ground leading up to the cheerfully burbling river. The rush of water was from a waterfall, that loomed over the clearing and sprayed a fine mist around its base. Though not enough mist to completely enshroud the figure that stood on one of the many damp rocks in the middle of the river staring up at the small cliff the waterfall was rushing over.

He nearly dropped his sword.

(There was no way.)

The figure tilted their head to the side as if listening to something no one else could hear and turned towards them. Wide eyes blink owlishly at them from a small pale face. The boy looked about twelve or thirteen in human years and wore a strange garment that was torn and dirty.

(Midnight black hair and eyes…)

"A double-black." He whispered in awe.

Never in his lifetime would he have thought he'd actually meet one. Rumors cropped up all the time, but after all of them led to dead ends Jozak had started to believe that they didn't exist at all except in legends.

The boy blinked slowly and spoke. It sounded like a question with the way his voice went high at the end, but Jozak couldn't understand any of the words coming out of his mouth. They sounded like complete gibberish.

Conrart straightened and raised his sword.

"On the authority vested in me by Lord Voltaire, I hereby arrest you for trespassing."

Jozak blinked at his friend in disbelief, but the blank expression on his face held little answers.

The boy flinched back from the cold stare and took a step back. He seemed to ask another question, eyes wide with fear. Conrart took a step forward.

"Hey, Conrart he's just a-"

He didn't get to finish that sentence. He was cut off by a deafening roar as a huge beast leaped from where it had apparently been hiding out of sight on the cliff. The ground shook when it landed nearly throwing Jozak to the ground. Hot breath and searing spittle ghosted over him as the beast roared again right in their faces, wings flared hiding the boy from view.

So, it was a horribly unlucky day.


I dunno where this came from. It just popped into my head one day. I haven't even watched this show in years, but once it got into my head I couldn't get it out until I started writing it down. Then I left it sitting on my computer for months on end instead of posting it. I'm a dork yall.

Basically, there are some time shenanigans and Yuuri ends up in Shin Makoku way before he should have at a younger age. He's thirteen and in his second year of middle school, so before he punches his coach in his third year. I dunno I just liked the idea of a colder/more emotionally stunted Conrart warming up to an adorable Yuuri and Yuuri helping him with his grief. All platonic mind you, he's thirteen y'all.

This'll probably be only 3 chapters. Nothing crazy long or anything. Just a short little pop back in time and back. lol