Draxum scampered out of the hidden depths of the mystic city, the yokai police hot on his trail. With all the remaining strength Draxum had in him, the yokai bolted to his lab, desperate to find his transporter. His body burned and contorted in ways that forced the yokai Warrior to suffer unbearable pains, stumbling over rubble and crashing into anything that stood in front of him. Another hot bile of blood bubbled and rose in the back of Draxum’s throat, causing the yokai to splutter violently.
All of this was humiliating, the watchful eyes of concerned yokai, unaware of Draxum’s endeavors. The yokai police that once looked highly on the yokai now trying to take him down and drag him to prison. Draxum felt completely lost and empty, and the itching desire to be encouraged and comforted by his gargoyle companions only grew stronger.
The disgraced yokai warrior finally reached the fiery pathway that led up to the palace, the hot flames beneath the bridge burning with such intensity it caused the yokai to stumble. Of course his energy being drained would cause his skin to be more sensitive to the unrelenting heat from the lava below. Draxum whipped his head back and noticed the police were no longer following him, though the haunting sounds of the yokai horns continued to blare throughout the city.
Despite his body feeling like it was on fire and his hooves aching from the lengthy walk from beginning to end, Draxum succeeded in reaching his palace doors.
Bright lights flashed in Draxum’s direction, almost blinding him. Draxum almost cursed himself for his lack of attentiveness, his thoughts too preoccupied with his home and returning to the human city to check to see if any flying aircraft were tracking him down. The air balloon full of armed policemen froze, allowing the yokai police to fly/climb down from their vehicle and approach the mortified yokai. With one last desperate push, he stumbled inside.
Draxum rushed down his lab, with the footsteps from the determined officers close behind. Draxum could hear their murmurings and cursings aimed at his direction.
“A whole squadron just to chase this walking corpse.”
“A waging warrior scientist? This is the right guy?”
“What a waste. Scumbags like him should just turn himself in instead of wasting our time.”
Draxum hurriedly combed through the shelves. Grabbing and tossing various books, gadgets and trinkets that were no longer useful to him. The police’s steps marched louder as Draxum finally grasped the old yet still functional transporter.
“WE SAID STOP. DON’T MOVE,” bellowed a commanding voice. Draxum knew the risk of opening up a portal and jumping through, being fully aware that he was likely within shot of flabbergasted officers. Draxum took a deep breath and opened the portal, jumping through before the anti mystic orb thrown his direction could prevent himself from escaping.
The juxtaposition between the cool comfort of his lab to the hard, cold pavement of the New York City back alleyways was enough to make one feel dizzy and collapse. Though Draxum kept his head high and marched forward…
Until his legs buckled beneath him.
Draxum knew he should have expected it to happen. His body had endured excruciating amounts of pain and stress and it was only natural for it to finally give up and prevent him from moving any further.
Draxum’s frail body lay wet on the pavement, humiliated and afraid, Draxum could do nothing but agonize over his weakened state. His body hurt, his head hurt, but worst of all, his heart hurt. And not in the physical way, but in a way that only Draxum and the highly empathic Lou Jitsu could understand. There was pain, agony and anguish that pierced his withering soul. It stung harder than the throbbing sensation Draxum felt all over his body.
For once in Draxum’s life, he was alone.
There was no one to turn to, no one to rely on. No one to encourage him, comfort him or tell him everything was okay. No one to pick him up and gently lay him to bed. No one asked if he was safe. No one to call him by his name. No one to hold him. No one to weep for him. No one.
He had no one.
For once in Draxum’s life, he wept. His light tears transformed into endless waterfalls, the salty wetness clinging tightly to his face. Draxum, with the last remaining strength he had, turned to the side and cradled himself, desperate for any kind of touch and affection. He felt like a child, like an infant. He hated that, he hated himself. To degrade himself in such a way, despite the lack of bystanders, was appealing to him. And yet… the stinging sensation for love and warmth never left him.
“Please…” Draxum pleaded, his voice hoarse. “Please… please…”
Despite his pathetic cries, nobody came. Draxum’s tears slowed, yet the pain never left him. He could only hold himself tightly and silently beg for a better tomorrow.
Draxum’s eyes snapped awake, and the drowsiness soon hit him once he realized he barely got a chance to properly rest, only getting about an hour of shut eye before the unfamiliar voice spoke to him. It had been a full week since the traumatizing event, and Draxum still suffered through nightmares and repressed memories, as well as battling his own inner demons as the desire to exile himself out of the city grew even more.
Though the voice called to him, Draxum was unsure if the person could even find him, as he was hiding comfortably in his new box-shaped home. It was much easier to fit given that his bulky shoulders didn’t risk tearing the edges.
Draxum resisted the urge to run, knowing that the voice would only catch him instantly, due to his rather risky choice of making his new home a darkened alleyway with a dead end, with the only positive being that the unfriendly tone of such a dark and secretive spot made human interaction highly unlikely, though he had dealt with a stray dog or two from time to time.
“Hey Draxum… you don’t have to respond. Or maybe you’re asleep and I’m just talking to no one,” the voice spoke. There was so much friendliness in their tone.
Too much friendliness.
Draxum’s body stiffened as the footsteps drew closer, “I saw you earlier today. You still have some mutagen on you? That’s pretty cool! Maybe it can fix you right up!” A playful laugh was then followed. “But you shouldn’t be mutating things, even if you want to be paid.”
Taking the risk, Draxum popped his head out of the box to see the newcomer, finally getting the mysterious visitor in perfect view. Though he had already known who the person was from the start. The small orange turtle, Michelangelo, carrying a brown bag by his side. As Draxum was eyeing up the small boy, scanning his body for potential weapons, though finding none, his eyes accidentally locked with Michelangelo’s. Draxum quickly shoved his head back inside.
“So you’re awake! That’s good,” Michelangelo chirped. Draxum only snorted in response. If there was anyone Draxum wanted to see, the last would be the child of his unbearable arch enemy.
“Why are you here,” Draxum finally spoke, his claws were up and prepared for an attack.
Michelangelo blinked, completely unfazed by Draxum’s threatening stance, “you looked hungry. You’re all skinny now, so I brought you some food.”
“I’m skinny because of YOU,” Draxum snapped. That’s a lie. Draxum thought to himself bitterly. I’m skinny because of that wretched demon. But I refuse to give this boy a chance to coax me into whatever he wants, after everything his family has done to me.
Michelangelo only shrugged however, likely not buying into his lie, “whatever. You still need to eat.” Michelangelo gently shook the bag in front of him.
“Do you want me to grovel for my food? Beg to be fed?” Draxum eyed him indignantly.
“No, I want you to come out of that box, that’s all,” Michelangelo’s gaze was still friendly and Draxum struggled to detect a hint of malice behind it. It was undeniable that he had his father’s eyes. “But if you want to come out, that’s fine too.”
Draxum’s claws lowered, but he still couldn’t bring himself to leave the box, the only source of comfort and security he had. There was a small, very slight urge to leave and confront the boy, but anger and distrust that overwhelmed him had a stronger pull on him. However, one question was beginning to itch in his mind.
“Why?” Draxum asked, trying to hide the anger in his voice. “Why are you doing this? After everything…”
Michelangelo approached him slowly, causing Draxum to raise up his claws once more as a defense mechanism. The boy only stood a foot away from him before crouching, keeping his eye level to Draxum’s. Draxum cursed at himself silently as he felt his defenses lower once more, feeling somewhat calmed by the turtle’s kind eyes and bright smile.
“It’s for a few reasons,” Michelangelo started, his smile fading a bit. “What happened back at the stadium, and seeing you so hurt and terrified. Finding out from Mr. Hueso that you’re basically a wanted criminal. Finding out you don’t have a home. Finding out that you have… no one.”
Draxum’s heart stopped for a second when Mikey’s final words hit his ears. It was something he had always said to himself, but hearing it from someone else… it was agonizing.
“I… I don’t care about your stupid pity party,” Draxum growled, baring his fangs. “And I know there’s some ulterior motive in this. You have human DNA in you, you have their deceitful nature in you.”
Michelangelo chuckled and scratched the back of his head awkwardly, “well dang… you got me. I do have other motives.”
The boy's arm began to extend in his direction, and Draxum’s defensive nature turned to terror as he propelled himself backwards, not wanting the teenager to touch him. Draxum shut his eyes for a moment preparing for the worst, but not wanting to die as a coward, he forced himself to snap his eyes open and look at whatever was facing him. And that’s when he saw it.
Open and extended, propped up in his direction. Draxum knew what the gesture was, and what he was meant to do in return. Yet he didn’t fully understand why. Why would the boy want to show him such friendliness, why would the boy offer him a handshake, one of the most welcoming gestures of friendliness there is. Draxum’s eyes looked at the boy in confusion, waiting for a response, desperate for any answer.
“I want you to join my family,” Michelangelo said softly, as if the words he was saying were a struggle for himself. Or perhaps it was his own emotions overwhelming him. “I want us to start over. I want you to be safe. I want you… to be my dad.”
Draxum’s terror and confusion quickly grew into anger as his eyes flared up with rage. The yokai dove at the boy, claws bared, ready to attack him. Michelangelo lept from the floor and evaded his rage filled assault. His gaze was still warm, albeit a little more cautious.
“Don’t you dare call me father,” Draxum shouted, not caring who heard him as he spat his hateful words to the child. “I am not your father, I will never be your father. You ruined my life, you ruined everything! And now you come here, smiling and happy, mocking me with your useless optimism, only to ask me to be your father? Get out of my sight.”
Instead of a response Michelangelo only looked at him, his smile was faint, but his eyes were full of sorrow. Draxum could see them glaze over, as if he was ready to cry in front of him. Though he prevented himself, instead shutting his eyes tightly and taking a deep breath to calm his nerves.
“I’m sorry you got hurt this badly Draxum,” Michelangelo said, his voice surprisingly steady for someone so visibly shaken and distraught. “But you can’t blame everyone for everything you know. Sometimes it’s just your fault.”
After a brief pause, as if thinking of more things to say, Michelangelo left without a word, leaving Draxum wordless and shocked. He didn’t expect the boy to be so direct, after his kindly nature and playful words moments ago. Had he gone too far? Perhaps lashing out in such a way was unfair to the young boy.
No… Draxum thought bitterly. It’s his fault for thinking he could manipulate me into siding with him.
Quickly waving off his brief moments of self reflection, the yokai’s attention was then fixated on the bag, with its alluring scent drawing him closer. His hunger overwhelmed his urge to open it more respectably, tearing it open with his claws and grabbing whatever he could from the inside and shoved it in his mouth, not willing to check the food or savor its flavors. Despite the boy’s charity-like attitude, he was right about one thing. Draxum was starving. The past three days the yokai had been struggling to get by after using up the last of his remaining mutagen vials to mutate a woman’s battered hand purse.
The sweet, chocolate-y flavor of the unknown food hit Draxum like a truck. It was unbelievable how good the food was, unbearable even, knowing that Draxum will likely never taste something as good again. Draxum’s brief moments of satisfaction finally subsided, allowing the yokai the energy he needed to fall asleep once more.
The next few days were… odd, for Draxum. Though his daily routine was usually the same, frequent nightmares and angry talks to himself about his failure as a yokai savior, the yokai always found himself greeted with an unmarked, brown paper bag placed in front of him. It was always when he was asleep, knowing that whoever was doing it would likely not want to confront him at the moment.
Draxum’s feelings on Michelangelo were still conflicted, still believing the boy had an ulterior motive, but a questioning part of his brain knew that his anger was also stemming from a place of fear and frustration. Frustrated that he can never feel as though he’s in control of a situation anymore. And fear that his anger and hatred for that particular turtle was developing into something else.
It was a new day and five days after his confrontation with Michelangelo. Waking up from another violent nightmare, Draxum was surprised to see not just a bag, but Michelangelo himself. After days of sending him food as well as Draxum’s own crushing guilt over attacking Michelangelo and blaming him for the situation he lived in, Draxum found himself more relaxed around him, and a more willing to speak to him naturally.
“What is…” Draxum started, though his words trailed off, noticing the box that sat nicely in his lap.
“You ever play checkers da—I mean Draxum?” Mikey asked, Sitting cross legged and eager, his eyes bright with enthusiasm,“It’s nerd stuff, I think you’ll like it.”
“Checkers…” Draxum scratched his mask. It’s a word he’s heard but not used in a sentence like this. “Is it a game?”
“Yeah!” Michelangelo said, opening up the box and placing a red and black checkerboard in front of Draxum. “Which colors do you prefer? Red or black?”
Draxum smirked and pointed at his hair, “Red.”
“I was thinking you’d say that!” Mikey responded, placing red, circular pieces on Draxum’s side of the board. After Michelangelo placed his pieces, he looked up at the tired yokai, his eyes fixated on Mikey’s pieces.
“Do you want me to teach you how to play?” Michelangelo asked timidly. Draxum could see his body language had shifted, much more cautious and reserved as to not make Draxum feel cornered and afraid.
“If you can… please,” Draxum asked politely. As the boy began to explain the rules of checkers, the yokai began scanning the board, envisioning the many ways he could defeat the turtle in mental combat.
“You can go first, since you’re a new player,” Mikey offered, already putting his hand on the first piece he wanted to use.
“No…” Draxum shook his head. “You can go first, I love the added challenge.”
The truth was however, whatever move Michelangelo made, gave Draxum the confidence to figure out how to defeat him. The boy was young after all, he lacked the skill and wisdom to learn and read his players the same way Draxum could have.
Michelangelo grabbed the piece furthest to the right and shifted it forward, Draxum opted for the center. The game was only starting off simple, to give Draxum a sense of security against his younger opponent, but his resilience and high fortitude remained strong, not wanting the smaller turtle to have the upper hand over him.
“You’re holding that piece really tightly,” Michelangelo said, breaking Draxum’s thoughts. Draxum looked up, feeling a hot wash of embarrassment when he realized the turtle had already made his move minutes ago.
“I… was thinking,” Draxum said awkwardly. Draxum made his move, still aiming for the center, keeping a watch on the two pieces going to opposite ends of the board.
The rest of the match was in silence, with both participants being rather intent on winning the match.
“Do you play these games often,” Draxum asked, wanting to quell the silence between them.
“Not really, I usually play video games,” Michelangelo responded quickly. “But you’re old so I thought you’d like it more.”
“Old!? Baron Draxum isn’t old!” Draxum rolled his eyes, not wanting to alert the boy to the fact that he was about to take three of his pieces.
“Ha, no way you’re like, crazy old! I can see the bags under your eyes,” Michelangelo laughed, making his next move. “I bet you’re a hundred.”
“Well I bet… that you’ve LOST THREE OF YOUR PIECES,” Draxum exclaimed, gleefully taking his red piece and hopping it over three of Michelangelo’s.
“Wh… how?” Michelangelo scratched his head.
“You need to keep a watchful eye on your opponent, or else they’ll take everything from you,” Draxum wink, though it was a darker joke directed at himself.
“Dang… you’re really smart Draxum,” Michelangelo grinned, clasping his hands together. Draxum darted his eyes away, it felt unfair for Michelangelo to look at him like that. After everything…
“I’m sorry,” Draxum quickly said, squeezing his eyes shut.
“Huh? For gloating?” Mikey cocked his head to the side in confusion. “It’s okay to brag. I’ll be bragging too when I—“
“No. I mean I’m sorry for lashing out. And for saying the things I said,” Draxum choked out. His apology felt like bile to his tongue, yet he couldn’t force himself to keep it down much longer. “I just wanted to say thank you. For still having faith in me.”
Draxum could see Michelangelo’s eyes glaze over again, this time the tears came with them, “Draxum… you…”
Michelangelo slammed his black piece to the ground, hopping over five of Draxum’s pieces and taking them to his side, “...just lost half your squad!”
“WHAT!?” Draxum stood up in alarm. “H-how?”
“I used to play checkers with Donnie before we got our own video games. I got to learn a thing or two from him,” Michelangelo laughed in delight.
Draxum couldn’t help but crack a smile, and joined Michelangelo’s bellows of laughter.
The match continued on, and despite Michelangelo’s best effort, he was still no match for his older opponent. Only managing to take one other piece from the sheep scientist.
“Wow… and I was so sure I was gonna win too,” Michelangelo sighed, though his excited expression showed that he was completely satisfied by his match with Draxum. Picking up the pieces and the board game to return to the box, Michelangelo noticed that the bag given to Draxum was still unopened.
“Hey you forgot to eat!” Mikey complained.
“Huh, I suppose the thrill of the match was enough to quench my hunger,” Draxum said smugly, only to be met with an eye roll. “Will we… play this again?”
Michelangelo looked back in surprise, “I’m going to be gone for a few days… but I promise I’ll return, and I’ll be able to show you something really good. Way better than just checkers and some sweets I baked.”
Draxum nodded, “I’d like that very much.”
As the boy packed up his things and waved goodbye, Draxum’s eyes were to the clouds. The warm colors of orange and pink told him that the day was ending, and he needed to rest. Taking several bites out of Michelangelo’s baked goods, Draxum curled himself in his blanket and went to sleep.
For once, his dreams were peaceful