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Karol was nervous. They were getting close to his hometown, and with every step, he felt as if his legs were becoming lead. Though they were nothing compared to the weight in his heart. Would the Hunting Blades be there? Would they be out on another guild job? They were always on the move… Karol liked that about them because it meant he didn't need to be in Dahngrest for long. Being there… despite how much he loved it, he also hated the place. There were so many shameful memories he would rather forget. People he didn't want to see again. People he had disappointed because he was a coward. A frown formed at his lips as he gazed at the horizon, where the city was coming into view.

"Azure!" Yuri shot off a burst of energy that smacked into one of the bird monsters threatening to attack Karol from behind. "Hey, Captain. Keep on your toes," Yuri said with a smile down to him. "I can't always save your hide, you know." He noticed that ever since Dahngrest had been mentioned, Karol was... out of it. Almost as if he didn't want to go... Yuri had kept a close eye on the boy since.

Karol jumped slightly as he saw Yuri attack in his direction out of the corner of his eye. "S-sorry!" He laughed sheepishly, though it was almost forced. He could hear her voice, clearly in his head, scolding him in a similar matter. 

'You're always causing trouble for us! One of these days I won't be here to save your hide, Karol!' 

Karol tried to pay more attention to his surroundings but couldn't help but to dwell on the anxious feeling he felt with every step they took towards Dahngrest.

Yuri placed his hand on Karol's head and ruffled his hair fondly. "Relax, Captain." He smiled at him before they continued on.

It wasn't long before they arrived in Dahngrest, and unfortunately, what Karol was dreading most came true. Practically out of nowhere, the white-haired member of the Hunting Blades landed right in front of Karol. "There ya are, Pipsqueak!" He grinned. "Where'd ya go, huh!"

Yuri already had his sword out, frowning at this new guy...

Karol took a step back as someone landed right in front of him. He stumbled into Yuri. "T-Tison!" The brown-haired boy stammered out the name nervously. So they were here. "Where's Nan?" he asked, his voice, to the trained ear, just a little higher than usual. "Is the Chief here, too?" he asked, taking a hesitant step forward towards his fellow guild member.

"Feh... Wouldn't you like to know," Tison said, shoving Karol's shoulder. "And I asked ya a question, runt. Where did ya go? We had a job! If you want to see Nan and the Chief, I'll have you know they ain't very happy!" Tison said before he began laughing. "It's just like you, Karol. The only thing we can rely on you for is running away. We can't even use you as bait! But maybe if we just tie you up and- Gack!"

Yuri was in front of Tison in a second, grabbing onto the front of his shirt. "Hey. I don't care who you are, but you don't have the right to talk to Karol like that," he said lowly.

Karol flinched as the other shoved him, his cheeks burning as the Tison began to berate him in front of the others. He wanted to stop him—it wasn't true! He hadn't run away this time! They…They had left him behind… But Karol couldn't well say that, could he? He gazed at the floor, not able to meet anyone's eyes…That is, until he heard Yuri step in. "Yuri, don't!" His head snapped up and he reached for Yuri's sleeve, pulling at it. It was only going to make Tison angrier! But… Karol was secretly trying to ignore the warm feeling he felt when Yuri came to his defense.

Tison just grinned as Yuri narrowed his eyes at him. "Whatcha gonna do?" Tison taunted, taking out his knives. Yuri tensed up. This guy was begging for an ass kicking. But when Karol tugged on his sleeve, Yuri looked down at him before shoving Tison away. "Let's go, Captain. We should go set up our room at the inn," he said, grabbing Karol's hand and towing him away.

Karol let himself be pulled for a second, hesitating. What was he doing? He had finally found the Hunting Blades… and…even though, even though he had grown used to being here, traveling with Yuri… he couldn't stay. That realization made his heart drop to his stomach. He pulled his hand out of Yuri's grip. "I'm sorry, Yuri," he said, looking at the ground. He could feel Tison's stare on his back and it made him shuffle uncomfortably. "I finally found my guild, so… I guess I'll be seeing you around. It's been fun." He gave the other a small fleeting grin, feeling as if he was making a mistake.

Yuri turned and looked at Karol. The disbelief that crossed his expression was fleeting before it was replaced by the normal Yuri indifference. The dark eyes glanced back at the waiting Tison before returning to look at Karol. He then smiled sweetly... Almost.. too sweet. "Right," was all Yuri said before he walked over and grabbed Karol, picking him up and putting the small brunette over his shoulder and heading off to the inn, turning deaf to any protests that might come from the young boy.

Yuri's "right" made Karol's gut twist horribly—parting just didn't feel right for some reason. So he was startled when he felt arms wrap around his waist, hefting him into the air. "Huh? Yuri!" The young boy squirmed as the other began carrying him off. "What are you doing? Let go!" he protested. He dared to risk a glance at Tison, dreading to see his expression.

"The Chief'll hear about this, runt!" Tison shouted after them. Yuri turned and walked backwards. With Karol in one hand, he extended the other arm as a sign of a challenge. "Next time, bring it!" he said before he headed into the inn.

"Two rooms," Yuri said to the slightly freaked out innkeeper. He handed the gald pouch to Rita who counted out the money as Yuri headed up the stairs to the room. He dropped Karol on the bed and crossed his arms, looking at him. "What are you doing with a guy like him?" he asked, sounding exasperated. "Not exactly the pleasant type, is he?"

"He's… part of the Hunting Blades..." Karol tried to explaine feebly, squirming on the bed at Yuri's intense stare. At the same time, he was freaking out. "Why did you do that for?" he asked, his voice small and panicked. The Chief was going to be so angry! He shivered slightly.

Yuri raised a brow. "What do you mean what did I do that for? What else should I have done?" Yuri grabbed Karol's chin and lifted it to look at him in the eyes. "Let you go off with a guy who could hurt you if he wanted? No, I don't think so." The hand moved from Karol's chin to the top of his head where he placed it there gently. "Guild or not, that guy isn't good news."

Karol felt his cheeks heat up once more, but this time not out of humiliation. He almost couldn't bear to look at Yuri's eyes, which held such concern for him. When was the last time he had seen that directed towards him? He couldn't remember. His words and gestures made him almost want to cry, and his eyes twitched closed when Yuri's hand moved to the top of this head. It felt warm. "B-but…" he protested feebly, unnecessarily. "I have to go back," he whispered. What would everyone think of him when they found out he had ditched another guild? He wrapped his arms tightly around himself.

"No, you don't," Yuri said immediately. He sat down on the bed and leaned back against the headboard. "There's a really easy way out of this, Captain," he said, giving a small smirk to the brunette as he nudged him playfully with his foot. "Wanna know what it is?"

Karol opened his eyes and shifted to look at Yuri, curious and hesitant and afraid. "What is it?" he asked, trying not to think of what was waiting for him when he returned to the Hunting Blades.

"It's really easy. It's worked for me in the past and I'm sure it'll work for you." Yuri leaned forward as if he was going to tell him the meaning of life. "Now listen closely. I'm going to tell you a single word and all your problems will be solved." He then moved in to whisper into his ear. "Quit." Yuri then lay back down on the bed, his hands behind his head with a small smirk.

Karol bit his lip as Yuri inched closer and he wondered what that one word would be. Only to fall back startled at the unexpected answer. "W-what?" the younger boy yelped, shocked at what Yuri had told him to do. He hadn't expected the other to tell him to quit at all. All his life people had told him that quitting was cowardly, quitting was what weaklings did. And now Yuri… whom he had always thought as strong… told him it was alright to quit. Needless to say he felt very confused. "I can't do that…!" Karol shook his head.

"Yeah, you can," Yuri said, looking at him. He then sighed slightly and sat up. "Listen, Karol. Quitting is okay as long as it's for the right reasons. And I can confidently say that you've got a damn good reason to quit. I'm surprised that loon hasn't killed you yet," he said with a small frown and a nod of his head to the door as if gesturing to Tison.

"He wouldn't!" Karol shivered, his protest holding a bit of fear. He didn't think the other would… At the most, he would just roughen him up a bit. He had before. "He wouldn't..." he repeated, trying to assure himself. Karol shook his head, a painful expression on his face. "A guild… is like a family…. I can't abandon them like that …not again…" He brought his legs near him and buried his head between his knees.

Yuri leaned forward, his elbow resting on his knee as he looked at him. "You keep saying that a guild is like a family. But from what I saw, that family isn't very friendly. My advice to you, quit the family and get adopted," he said, ruffling Karol's hair fondly before lifting his head. "Come on, Captain. Where's that spirit you're so well known for?"

Karol's cheeks flushed. It almost sounded… as if Yuri was offering him this. Telling him it was alright to keep on traveling with them. "Is… is it really okay?" he asked in a very small, vulnerable voice. He peered up at the other with baited breath, his heart slowing, almost waiting to be broken once more. What was he doing…? He thought faintly. Opening his heart like this… It was dangerous. The grip of his hands on his pants tightened.

Yuri looked at him and smiled with a small laugh as he kept his hand on Karol's head. "Of course it's okay. I'm telling you to do it, aren't I?" he said, giving him a fond smile. He then pushed Karol down and put one hand on the brunette's chest to keep him down before his other hand began to tickle his stomach.

It was as if something inside him clicked at those words and a wave of warmth threatened to overwhelm him. And then he was suddenly on his back, laughing, and trying to stop. He struggled underneath Yuri's teasing fingers half-heartedly. "Haha… Yuri, stop!" Karol cried out, unable to stop tears that slipped past his eyes. He felt so… happy. Wanted.

Yuri grinned. "Aw, come on~ You gotta say the magic word~!" he teased as he moved to a different position, both hands tickling Karol's sides. "I can't hear you~"

"Hahaha…!" Karol's body trembled with laughter. "Yuri..! P-plea—ahahaha" he squirmed breathlessly as he tried to dislodge the hands.

Yuri laughed slightly and stopped. "Good enough." He then grabbed Karol in a headlock and rubbed his fist into the boy's brown locks before finally letting him go.

Karol huffed at the gesture as he tried to regain his breath. "Stoop! Yuriii!" he whined as he felt the other mess up his hair. He lifted his arms protectively over his head, pouting at the other, though he was really trying to hide his happy pleased grin.

Yuri laughed at his pout and couldn't help one last tease. He pinched Karol's cheek before he laid back and put his arms behind his head. Yuri closed one eye and looked at Karol with the other, smiling still. "So. Why don't we take it easy for today, huh?"

Karol mocked-glared at the other's hand before letting his arms fall to his side. He moved to sit how he was before, legs tucked in and chin leaning on top of them. "Yeah. Let's." He gave the other a small smile.

Karol slowly stretched out from his position and made to leave the bed to head over to the next one. Though Yuri and him occasionally shared beds, it was only because the rooms didn't offer enough. But right now neither Estelle and Rita were here.

When Karol stretched out, Yuri's leg moved and pushed Karol back down on the bed. The black haired male hooked his ankles together, trapping the boy between his knees. Yuri had closed his eyes at this time and feigned sleep.

"Eeeh...!" Karol let out a startled sound as he suddenly found himself trapped by Yuri, unable to move. "Yuri…?" he peered at the other questioningly, only to meet a sleeping face. Karol frowned slightly at the other's hold on him, trying to squirm his way out of it but failing.

Yuri tried to suppress a laugh but his mouth twitched, widening a bit in a small smile. Yuri twisted himself and as a result, caused Karol to fall back on his back, the taller male's legs still hooked firmly around his waist as Yuri lay on his side. I just love picking fun at Karol.

Karol let out another startled sound as he was moved once more, his body almost bouncing as he was forced back into the bed. He continued to try to escape the other's grip, complaining to the other. "I know you're awake, Yuri!" he whined as he tried to slip out of the leg lock. "There's no way you can fall asleep that fast!" he protested.

"Well, how do you know how fast I can fall asleep?" Yuri asked, his eyes still closed. "I'm actually sleep talking right now, so, ha." Yuri once again tried to suppress a smile.

Karol couldn't help but to let out an amused giggle. "Liar…" Karol laughed slightly, resigning himself to his fate. He stopped struggling to escape and instead tried to make himself more comfortable, shifting a bit.

After a while of Karol not struggling anymore, Yuri opened an eye and huffed slightly. "Aw, its no fun when you surrender. Alright, fine, I'll let you go." Yuri grinned down at him. "On one condition."

"Hehe..." Karol had a feeling that might get Yuri to stop. Yuri… He was actually a bit of a child himself, maybe that's why Karol liked him so much.. "What's the condition?" he asked curiously, opening his previously closed eyes to look at Yuri.

"You must say 'Yuri will forever be my lord and master!'" Yuri said with a teasing smirk. "And you have to say it loud and clear!"

"Eehh?" Karol protested wide-eyed. A light red tinge spread across his cheeks. "No way! Why do I have to say that?"

"Because if you don't, I'll keep you trapped there for eternity~~" Yuri said in a spooky voice as he wiggled his fingers creepily.

"Stop that!" Karol squirmed as he saw the fingers inch closer to him. This was so unfair. "Can I pleeease go, Yuri?" Karol asked instead, his voice low and whiny and as cute as he could make it.

"Nope!" Yuri turned his head away and closed his eyes. "That's not what I asked for." Yuri moved straight again, forcing Karol to sit up. "Come on, come on. You know what I want. You have thirty seconds or I'll tickle you again. And this time, you've got nowhere to run," Yuri warned, wiggling a single finger as he inched it closer to Karol.

Karol edged back as much as he could (which wasn't much) as Yuri's finger teasingly crept closer. "That's not fair, Yuri." He could feel his cheeks glow in embarrassment, and tried to hide it with his hand as he began muttering Yuri's request lowly.

"What's that, Captain? I can't hear you!" Yuri said, cupping a hand around his ear as if it would amplify Karol's low voice. His finger was still creeping closer.

Karol let out a small shiver as he felt the finger near his skin—he could almost feel the touch already. Knowing that this was a lost battle, Karol tried again, this time louder than before. He refused to look at Yuri's face, instead, he looked downwards, staring at the wrinkled sheets tangled between their legs. "Yuri will… forever be my lord and master." He flushed at his admission. Though he knew this was only a joke it felt… it felt really odd to say those words out loud. He dared glance up at Yuri's face for a moment, "Happy?" he huffed, crossing his arms over his chest.

Yuri laughed slightly and ruffled Karol's hair before unhooking his legs and letting Karol free. "Don't be so pouty. You know it was just a joke, right?" Yuri said, leaning back and putting his hands behind his head with a smirk. "Besides, Captain Karol, you're the only lord and master I'll ever need."

"D-don't make fun of me," Karol protested. Why did Yuri always do this to him? He made him feel strange more and more lately. Karol didn't understand why.

"I'm not making fun of you. I'm serious this time," Yuri said, before he immediately stood up. "Why don't we go get something to eat! Anything good around here, Captain?" he said, immediately changing the subject.

"H-huh?" Karol scrambled to follow after Yuri, bewildered by the abrupt change of subject. "There's a bar nearby…" he said after a moment, almost reluctantly. He… he didn't want to really move. What if they met up with the Hunting Blades again? Although Yuri had told him to quit… Karol wasn't sure what he would do once he met with them again.

"Alright. Then I'll go get some food and bring it back here for us," Yuri said. He seemed to have read Karol's, and realized that the boy didn't want to leave the inn. And Yuri told him that they'd take it easy, so that's what they'd do. "Be back in a little while. Wait for me, alright?" he said with a smile before he headed for the door.

"A-alright." Karol nodded. He didn't really want Yuri to go but... he didn't want to go out either, nervous about meeting his team. He sighed and laid back in the bed Yuri had left as he waited for him to get back. He closed his eyes, drinking in the warmth of the bed... as well as thinking about this whole thing. He felt...really happy. Happier than he had in a really long time.

A few minutes later, the door slammed open. "There you are, brat!" Tison smirked wide, seeing Karol alone in the room. "Let's go. The Chief is waiting."

Karol shot up from the bed. "T-Tison!" he squeaked, wide-eyed. This was exactly why he hadn't gone out! Guess I can't always be running away, can I? he thought bitterly to himself. He felt frozen as he gazed at the other almost fearfully.

"Didn't you hear me, runt?" Tison walked over and grabbed Karol by his arm. "I said the Chief is waiting, you pathetic excuse for a fighter!" he said, shoving Karol off the bed. "Let's GO!"

Karol stumbled out of the bed, landing on his knees and nearly scrapping his skin. He tensed his body protectively as he got up to his feet. "S-sorry!" he whispered hurriedly.

Tison rolled his eyes. "Just MOVE!" he snapped at him, getting out his knives, "Or do I have to chase you out of here?"

"N-no! I'm going!" Karol rushed, backing away from the other hurriedly. He had been on the end of those knives before and didn't want to experience that again. He scampered out of the room, looking back at the other nervously.

…I'm sorry Yuri…

Tison smirked and walked out of the inn with Karol, occasionally shoving him when he walked too slow. "Here he is, Chief," he said as they got to the street corner where Clint and Nan were waiting.

"Nan…" Karol breathed lowly, almost wincing.

"So you've finally decided to show up?" Nan all but screeched. "I thought you'd have died before making it here all alone, you loser." She scowled at him, her arms crossed over her chest as she looked down at him, despite them begin about the same height. She was looking at him so angrily Karol couldn't help but to cringe.

Tison sniggered with that wide insane grin of his. His eyes were hidden under his hat but it was clear that they were brimming with amusement.

"How long have you kept us waiting?" Clint said, glaring down at him. The massive man easily towered over the small boy.

"I'm sorry! I'm really sorry!" Karol flailed, body stiff and bowing and trying to please. His nerves were jittery and panicky and he didn't know what to do, what to say. Karol bit his lip as he stared at the floor, unable to meet his boss's intimidating glare.

"Sorry doesn't cut it, Karol!" Nan snapped, and Karol took a step back, accidentally stumbling into Tison. He flinched.

Tison grabbed the shoulder of Karol's shirt, lifting him up slightly. "What should we do with him, Chief?" he said with a smirk. His voice hinted at bloodlust. "He failed the guild after all." Tison grinned.

Clint narrowed his eyes. "I don't have any time to waste with this pathetic runt. I have a job to do," he said before walking past Tison. "You deal with him, Tison," he said. 

Tison grinned and looked down at Karol, his head tilting to the side as he grinned maniacally. "My pleasure, Chief."

A distressed sound escaped Karol's lips at those words, and his body shook slightly. His eyes shot to Nan, who for a split second stared at him pityingly, before she too left coldly without a word. Karol was left in Tison's mercy, and god, was he terrified.

"Let's go, runt. I'm going to have a lot of fun with this." Tison grinned, gripping Karol's arm and roughly leading him down the street to the inn. Leading Karol up the stairs and to a room, he threw the boy onto the bed. "Let's see, let's see..." Tison said, locking the door behind him. "Shall we start from the top and go down?" Tison took out one of his knives.

Karol tried to struggle feebly, but he knew it was no good. He found himself thrown onto the bed, his trembling becoming more pronounced than before as he tried to back away and merge into the wall. "T-Tison…" Karol stammered, staring at the other's knives with pure fear. "Please, please don't." His voice was low and shaky. He was on the verge of tears.

Tison looked at him for a moment. "This isn't right," he said, putting the knife away and grabbing Karol. He pinned him flat down on the bed before grabbing Karol's bag. He used the strap to tie the boy's wrists together and then hooked the straps over the bed posts so Karol's arms were held up. Tison then pulled off Karol's red neck scarf and tied it around his eyes like a blindfold. "Much better." Tison grinned.

For a split second, as the other put away his knives, Karol felt relief overcome him—but he hoped too much, too soon. When he felt the other's hands on him he lashed out, crying out as his wrists were bound and burning against the rough material of his bag. Karol wondered if Tison would gag him, as he took a hold of his scarf. And then the world went black. "No…" Karol whimpered, squirming to get out of his bonds. What the heck was Tison going to do? He wondered in a panic.

Tison laughed at this. "Squirm all you want, you're not leaving until I'm done with you," he said, taking out his knife. He made sure that Karol could hear it leave the sheath as well. "See.. With your sight gone, it makes your skin that much more sensitive," he said with a grin as he ran the dull side of the knife down Karol's cheek. "Which means... you're in for a world of hurt, brat.".

This only made Karol tug at his restraints harder—that is, until he felt the cold, steel feeling of what was most definitely Tison's knife. He froze. He could hear his heart hammering at his ears. 'Godgodgodpleasestop', he chanted in his mind, trying to breathe.

Tison grinned wide and turned the knife over. He swiped the blade against Karol's cheek, making a cut and a few drops of blood squeezed themselves out. Tison grabbed Karol's chin roughly and turned his head to get a better look at the cut before he leaned down and licked the few drops of blood. Tison smirked wide before he grabbed his knife again and sliced open Karol's shirt.

Karol let out a small noise at the wound, shutting his eyes tightly. He felt the sticky flow of blood trickling out of his wound, shuddering at the feel of Tison's rough tongue against his wound. "Why…?" His voice cracked, his throat burning and aching, and he tried not sound as helpless as he really was as the other sliced his shirt open, the tip of the knife just barely tickling his skin.

"That's an easy answer." Tison smirked and moved the blade of the knife against Karol's skin, next to his collarbone. "Because I can." The blade was pushed down, slicing easily into the skin. Tison didn't make it too deep but once the cut was made, he moved the knife around, aggravating the wound further to make sure it left a scar.

"A... aah!" Karol cried out loudly, his small body bucking as he tried to get away from the pain—but that only served to make it worse. "Stop! Please stop!" The tears he had tried so hard to stop were soaking into his scarf and trailing down his cheeks. It hurt so much!

Tison laughed and gripped Karol's hair, yanking hard. "You stupid, pathetic little boy. Crying already?" He smirked, twisting the knife a bit more in the wound before he took it out. He then turned it horizontal and followed the same routine, pressing it into the skin to make the top of the T.

"AAHHH!" Karol let out a shrill piercing scream. He could feel his blood pooling at his shoulder, the burning stinging wound hurt! He felt as if he was drowning between the pain and his tears. He sobbed wanting this to stop, to end. "Please," he cried, wishing he could bury his face in his arms. Wishing he could escape.

Tison slapped his hand onto Karol's mouth, his fingers digging harshly into Karol's cheeks as he held his head, palm firmly over the boy's lips. "Not too loud. We don't want anyone coming in here." Tison smirked as he finished the top of the T. "Aw, does that hurt too much? Let me make it better." Karol would then feel a horrible stinging sensation at the wound as Tyler poured nearly half a bottle of rubbing alcohol directly on the wound. "Oops. I guess that made it hurt more. Silly me."

This only made Karol sob louder, though they sounded muffled through Tison's hand, whose sharp nails were leaving marks of their own on his skin. Karol wanted to die. It hurt so much. It was agonizing. He felt the burning liquid seep under his skin and arched on the bed, thrashing as if that would make the pain cease. He tried hard to imagine he wasn't here, that this wasn't happening, changing his mantra from stopstopstopstop to YuriYuriYuriYuri. Too far gone into his pain he didn't even noticed he had hiccupped the very name aloud.

As if the mantra had summoned him, Yuri's dark voice was heard. "You know, I've never been to a sleepover before but I think you're doing it wrong." 

Tison was pulled off of Karol and then there were several grunts, thumps, and the clangs of swords meeting knives. Then there was a crash of glass and Yuri grunted slightly, but not a second later, there was a louder crash and then... silence. There were a few footsteps then on the wooden flooring and Karol's scarf was pulled away from his eyes, allowing him sight.

"Karol, are you alright?" Yuri asked worriedly, frowning in concerned. He was bleeding down the side of his face. There was a smashed vase in the corner of the room. It seemed Tison smashed Yuri over the head with it. But Yuri didn't seem to notice as he pulled the straps off Karol's wrists. He picked the boy up bridal style and smiled. "I thought I told you to stay in the room. Stranger Danger, Captain."

Karol felt his heart jolt at Yuri's voice, and he cried out the other's name as he felt Tison get pulled off of him. He hiccupped loudly, holding his breath as he tried to stop crying. There was a long moment of tension, the loud crashes made him wince and hope Yuri was alright. And then his vision was returned to him. Karol whimpered in pain as he was shuffled, blinking rapidly as a rush of tears continued to fall and disrupt his vision. Yuri's hands were kind as he untied him, and Karol's let out a bubble of laughter that sounded more like a sob at the other's reprimand. "I'm sorry," he mumbled into the other's shirt, his face buried in the comforting, safe warmth that was Yuri. His hands gripped tightly to the other, clinging to him as his body shook and his eyes refused to dry.

Yuri held him close, his arms and stance protective. He moved to a room that wasn't theirs and Yuri kicked the door, "knocking." It was Rita's and Estelle's room though Rita was absorbed in her research on her bed and didn't hear the knock.

Karol bit his lip as his shoulder throbbed in pain. He didn't pay much attention to where Yuri was taking him.

Estelle had been looking through Rita's books, leafing through concepts even she didn't quite understand, when she heard a loud kick hit their door. A quick glance at Rita told her the mage had not noticed so she went to open the door, only to gasp loudly at the sight that met her eyes. "Karol!" The pink haired-girl ushered them both in, immediately setting off to work and healing their wounds. "What happened?" Estelle asked Yuri as she focused on healing her comrades.

Karol looked away from the healer, ashamed.

"Don't worry so much about it, Estelle. Some jerk was just acting stupid," Yuri said simply. "How are you feeling, Karol?" he asked, looking at the brunette. Rita began to pay attention when she had heard Estelle's worried cries. "Looks a bit more than stupidity to me," she said, still holding a book in one hand.

"…'mfine." Karol murmured softly, refusing to look at everyone. His wounds didn't hurt much anymore really, except for the slight twinge he felt at his shoulder. Estelle gazed at Karol worriedly as he curled up in the bed, his back to them, and clutching at the sheets as if it was his last lifeline. Her hand hovered over him, no longer healing, but instead wanting to be comforting. This seemed a lot more serious than them getting into a simple fight.

Once both he and Karol were healed, Yuri walked over and picked up the boy in his arms. "I'll leave you ladies to yourselves. Thanks for the healing, Estelle," he said before he headed off and out of the room to their own room. Yuri sat on the bed and held Karol close, his arms protectively around him. "Just relax. Everything's fine now."

Estelle shared a bewildered but concerned glance with Rita as she watched the boys leave abruptly. "…I hope everything's alright…" She sighed sadly, her hands falling to her flowery skirt.

"They'll be fine, Estelle," Rita said uncaringly. "Boys will be boys." Her eyes returned to her book.

Back in their room, Karol drank in Yuri's comfort, heeding his words and relaxing. He didn't want to have to let go—if he did, would Tison come back? Would he take him again and hurt him? Just thinking about it made Karol want to curl into himself again. His tried to stop his shoulders from shaking, but it was a lost battle. "I'm sorry," he whispered to Yuri again, not sure if it was because of what had happened, or because of how he was acting now. The words felt lame on his tongue, having said them so often in the past hour…thought it felt longer than that.

Yuri frowned slightly. "Don't apologize. It wasn't your fault," he said, holding Karol closer and more protectively. He didn't say anything about the trembling or didn't speak more than he needed. He just let Karol try to calm down as Yuri held him close.

It took a while, but Karol did calm down, pressing his forehead on the other's shoulder as he evened out his breathing. His grip on Yuri's shirt loosened, and he was barely clinging anymore. Instead he leaned into the other as he began to tell Yuri what had happened. "She didn't even care," Karol told him, softly. "She knew and just walked away!" His body tensed, remembering Nan's cold pitying expression. Yuri had been right. This… this was nothing like a family should be. The realization made him despair.

Even as Karol relaxed, Yuri's protective hold never loosened. "You shouldn't go near them anymore, Karol. They just want to bully you around," he said, patting Karol's hair softly. "But don't worry, I won't leave you alone anymore. They won't get you again."

Was this… ? Here in Yuri's arms Karol had never felt safer. His mouth curved into a small smile against Yuri's shoulder. "Yuri…why are you doing all this for me?" he asked softly, curiously.

Yuri looked at him. "What do you mean, why? Do you have to ask?" he said, giving him a small smirk as he ruffled his hair. "You're part of our group. Part of our family," Yuri said softly in a rare genuine moment from the black haired male.

Family… Tears sprung at his eyes again, but they were happy tears this time. His heart swelled at those words. For how long had Karol wanted to be accepted like this? Karol covered his face with one hand in an attempt to hide dampening eyes and the happy flush of his cheeks. He laughed lightly, throwing his arms around Yuri's neck. He had never been happier.