It was shocking to say the least. Here standing before him was Tina. The stranger that helped him earlier. Beside her, arms crossed protectively on his chest was Eric.
He was tanned with bronze hair and bright green eyes. His shirt had the Australian flag pressed onto it and he wore worn blue jeans.
"Yes." Mr. Statio said a perplexed look coming over him. "Did you meet before?"
"Once, earlier today she helped me." Ryan explained not wanting to say too much.
"Well good to know you've met." Miss McCrety smiled. "Now what do you say we get to business."
"Yes lets." Mrs. Statio agreed speaking for the first time.
Moving forward Ryan went and stood beside Miss McCrety as she sat back down behind her desk. A file sat on the desk top his name easy to read "Ryan Myer's" It read.
Following the usual plan for these meetings Miss McCrety began. Hands clasped before her she leaned forward. "So Mister and Misses Statio within your background checks out, no police records."
Having hear this multiple times Ryan tuned it out instead thinking over the people before him. Tina and Eric still sat on the couch looking at each other with blank eyes. They're gaze flickered to him briefly and Ryan felt like he was being examined right to the core.
Repressing a shiver he turned his gaze back to his two maybe parents.
Both sat comfortably in the cushioned chairs listening as Miss McCrety outlined the regular terms. In other words what was expected of them, of Ryan. There's also the explanation that every two months or two years there will be a representative coming to talk to them and check up on Ryan.
"Ryan." Looking at Miss McCrety it took him but a moment to read the look in her eyes. "It's time you went and packed."
Sharing brief smiles with each other Ryan could only sigh. Here this lady, the head of the orphanage that had housed him all these years was telling him to pack up and get ready to leave.
"Eric, why don't you help the lad." Mr. Statio suggested.
Releasing a sigh Eric broke the gaze he had been sharing with Tina to look at his new "brother".
Ryan was already across the room when Eric joined him. Looking he met the eyes of the taller guy before stepping out and into the hall. Walking down the picture lined hall, Eric walking silent as ever behind he was left to his own thoughts.
Only he didn't have any. The moment all orphans wish for had come and he didn't know what to feel. Should he be happy, sad? Should he feel anything at all?
Stopping just before the stairs he looked at an old picture. He looked at the sad kid at the edge of the group Miss. McCrety's hand on his shoulder, the other kids caught smiling and laughing.
"This was the first picture I had taken here. My parents died but two months before and I had no known family."
He could feel Eric's eyes watching him as he reached forward and brushed his thumb over his younger self leaving a clean streak.
"I'm sorry." Was the eventual reply.
Ryan snorted at the unneeded apology but didn't say anything. The words seemed hollow in his ears, carrying an almost distracted air in them. Ignoring the glare that met his peripheral he moved on. It may have been rude of him to dismiss the show of this stranger caring for him, but he didn't want to hear sympathy for something so old.
Taking the steps slower than the first time he ran his hands over the wooden banister feeling the worn grooves made from many years of use. Behind him he could hear the stairs squeaking as Eric followed his lead. The stairs ended too soon for his taste and soon they were walking down the door lined hall.
Stopping at the end of the hall he swallowed past the growing lump in his throat and opened the old door.
"Bloody hell!" Eric exclaimed his accent coming through stronger than ever. "It looks like a rubbish bin blew up in 'ere."
"Glad you like it." Ryan muttered looking at the mess that has been his sanctuary for all these years.
"Well we better get started."
It took them close to a half an hour to pack everything. Lucky he always had some clothes packed. Grabbing the luggage that held his clothes and most personal items he paused. Looking his sighed at the many bags and cases that still sat on the floor in the stripped down room.
"We will get them later." Eric told him grabbing a couple bags himself before going out the door and downstairs. Shutting the door to his old room for what will possibly be the last time he followed what felt like a worn rut in the floor downstairs.
Sitting outside at the curb was an old pickup. The body was so rusted and dented that it was impossible to discern the make. Rusted metal bed open the bags that Eric had brought down already sitting up close to the cab, Ryan set his beside them.
Pushing the bags to the back he shut the bed door leaning against it to collect himself. A hand was placed on his arm and he looked down at Tina, a sad smile gracing her face. "Thank you." Ryan muttered appreciating the silent comfort and support.
Hand sliding off his arm as he moved away Ryan walked up to a teary eyed Miss. McCrety. They smiled at each other before at the same time rushing forward and embracing. The tears flowed freely as they hugged on the door step to Ryan's home for the past years.
After a full minute of embracing they pulled away clasping each other's forearms. "I'll miss you Ryan."
Smiling through the salty tears that tracked down his cheeks Ryan couldn't help the excitement that buzzed through him. "I'll miss you to Miss. McCrety, I've had so much fun living here with you and the others."
The antique truck made a deep roar as it was started. Looking over Ryan saw that Eric sat behind the wheel. "Go." Miss. McCrety told him when he turned back.
Not able to say anything around the all blocking lump in his throat Ryan just hugged her one last time before running towards the truck. Pausing at the open door he looked into the smiling faces of his new family. There was just enough room on the small back bench beside Tina. Hoping into the trucks cab he squeezed into the back and buckled up.
Sometime after leaving the city, for Mr. and Mrs. Statio said the house was way out in the country far from the noisy city, he must have nodded off. The last thing he remembered was the toll of an old Grandfather clock.
He dreamt a shudder running through the frame of the old truck. The body faded the roof disappearing all together. A loud neighing drew Ryan's gaze to the front as two large draft horses came into view. They snorted as the truck disappeared to be replaced by a wooden carriage.
Looking around him Ryan took in the new scenery. Rolling grass hills made them move as if on a wave. Lush foliage wrapped around the worn dirt rut that the carriage moved in. The reigns cracked and Ryan turned to look at the driver, eyes bugging out of his head at the sight.
A large humanoid rabbit sat where Eric would have sat large ears twitching as he frowned at the beasts before him. "Relax Eric."]
Looking towards Tina, who had just spoken, Ryan jaw dropped. Wings buzzed with suppressed laughter behind her, a robe covering her and long blonde hair tied back in a braid.
Ryan shook his head to try to rid his eyes of the image. It stayed. Next came the pinch test, the slight pain will wake him up.
Shutting his eyes he winced as the slight pain pinched his skin. "What are you doing?" Tina asked.
"Just waking up." Opening his eyes Ryan froze. Nothing had changed. Eric was still a rabbit, and Tina a fairy.
They topped a hill and Ryan gasped. Before him was a large wood, the tree's growing unnaturally high. A castle sat in the middle of the woods a large clock tower sitting in the middle of the stone walls.
"Welcome home Ryan." Mr. Statio beamed.
Taking a second to gather his thoughts Ryan fiddled with the medallion that had appeared around his neck. At this point h was too numb from surprises to be shocked. After all to him this was still just a crazy dream. "What is this place?" Than looking at the others he asked the biggest question of all. "Who are you guys?"
Two hours later they sat in a study. Ceramic cups holding tea steamed on the wood table that they sat around. Lanterns lit the shadows showing the large ceiling, high bookcases filled with books. Suits of armor stood in each corner metal covered hands holding their swords point down.
"This is so messed up." Ryan sighed rubbing his throbbing temple. Looking up at the others he had to avoid starring. Eric sat on his plush chair, feet crossed and a carrot in his mouth. His long ears lay back in frustration.
Tina sat beside Ryan her wings making a buzzing noise as she sipped her steaming ea. "Let me get this straight." Ryan continued.
"Would be smart of yah." Eric commented. Pausing at the lilt that the vowels took it was a while before Ryan came back to his thoughts.
"Anyways." Sighing at the annoying headache that had come on he rubbed his head. "Okay you're Mother Nature and Father Time?" Ryan began pointing at MR. and Mrs. Statio. A nod was their response. "And you're the Easter Bunny?"
"Got that right." Eric grinned.
"But you weren't always?"
"We've been over this." Eric sighed. "I was human once but just like Tina and now you I was chosen to replace the original."
"We're long living not immortal." Tina explained gently laying a small hand on his own.
"Okay and you're the tooth fairy?" Ryan asked looking at the small fairy beside him. "Then there's also Nick, who's the original Santa Clause." Pausing he thought over everything. "Did I miss anything?"
"Only yourself." Mrs. Statio, Mother Nature told him.
"Right and I'm supposed to be this Hollow Knight?"
"Hallowed Knight." Eric growled.
"Right what happened to the last one?"
Instantly the room went cold as sadness blanketed all. "Henry was a good man, and an even better warrior." Father Time lamented. "He died doing his job."
Knowing the question soon to follow Mother Nature picked up the story. "He was the guardian of this world and the humans'. Without him watching over the border the lands would have been overrun with monsters years ago."
"Speaking of which." Father Time mused. The toll of a clock sounded and slowly he started to count down. "Five…Four…Three…Two…"
"Father!" Someone screamed.
The heavy foot falls of a person running grew louder by the second. Panting for breath the large man slid around the corner holding onto the trim for support.
His white hair was wind swept, his heard unkempt looing. His long red jacket was scuffed with an even deeper red. "They….They broke through."