Just Like That
It was hardly surprising when I returned to the land of the conscious to find myself wrapped up in a blanket alone and back in the medical tent where Shige was being held. I didn't exactly have Sasori pegged as the 'morning after' type.
I rolled onto my back and stretched, but the memory of the patient I was supposed to heal came flooding back all too soon, and I froze mid-stretch in horror. What had I done?
My head snapped to the side as I shot upright, staring with unbelieving eyes at the motionless figure lying on a thin bedroll not five feet away. I shuddered involuntarily as I suppressed the urge to scream and pull all of my short brown hairs out of my head. This was not going to be easy, keeping a straight-face over the next few days. I scowled at my own thoughts, I even sounded like a murderer. Because really, that's what I was. Regardless of my reasons, I had indirectly murdered this man, and nothing anyone said or did could change that.
The squad leader was less than pleased, to say the least. He had entered the tent shortly after I had awoken to check on Shige's condition, but one look at the man's cold dead body had been enough to confirm what I was about to tell him.
Despite everything, the leader offered me a reassuring smile, only proving to fuel my guilt when he patted me lightly on the head and murmured, 'I'm sure you did everything you could.'
Once again, Sasori was AWOL. I wasn't surprised, he was more than likely trying to distance himself from the situation, trying not to draw attention to himself. And I can't say I blamed him. A small part of me felt hurt, that he would up and disappear again after everything that had happened.
Trudging solemnly to my own tent, I was greeted by a less than enthusiastic Kichiro, who sighed sadly as I entered. 'Any news?' He asked, a hopeful glint in his eyes that I promptly demolished.
'Only bad, I'm afraid. Shige passed away overnight. There was…' I gulped audibly before forcing myself to continue. 'There was n-nothing I could do.'
To my surprise, the squire then proceeded to envelop me in a comforting hug, wrapping his arms securely around my waist as I froze at his touch. This was the last thing I deserved.
'Don't worry, we'll get to the bottom of these murders. If there is an enemy lurking out there, we'll find them.' He promised, pulling back slightly to give me a determined look.
I nodded, a weak smile crossing my features as I tried my best to convince myself that he was wrong. They couldn't find out, because there was no evidence. There was absolutely nothing that could suggest a scuffle between members, not even left in the forest.
We lingered another three days in that camp site. Obviously, Tsuyoi had wanted to make extra sure that there was nothing that could provide any further insight into what had happened.
I was more than relieved when he finally announced we were moving off again. I almost smiled. Almost. Had I not been standing so close to Kichiro that morning, I probably would have.
The next few weeks were uneventful. They were saying now that we were only two days away from reaching the battleground, and my nerves grew more with every passing second. Sasori was no help, he had become somewhat withdrawn after the whole Shige incident, and I was positive Kichiro had noticed.
Though on the rare occasion I was left alone with the redhead, he acted no differently to how he had just before everything had turned sour. He still threw me sarcastic remarks about my nagging, and was still as stubborn as ever when it came to my healing him.
'You know, for a medic you're very unsympathetic.' He had informed me one time.
'What the hell is that supposed to mean?' I scowled at his wrist as I continued to knit the broken bone back together that had snapped after a particularly nasty spar. 'I still can't believe you broke your own wrist.' I grumbled.
True enough, he had broken it himself somewhere in the midst of the fight. His opponent possessed a strange technique in which it allowed the user to bend and stretch any body part they wanted. He'd managed to wrap his arm in a tight spiral around the redhead's wrist, squeezing like a boa constrictor and cutting off the blood supply. That's when, for some bizarre reason, Sasori had seen fit to land a blow so hard to his opponents arm that his chakra cut straight through both his wrist and his spar partners arm.
'Pain is relative.'
'Whatever you say.' I muttered, ignoring his usual riddles. 'And I am not unsympathetic! It's just in this case, it was your own fault. I don't see the point in sympathising with something so idiotic…'
'What would you have suggested I do?' He raised an eyebrow seeming genuinely curious, but I could see the beginnings of a smirk tugging at the corner of his mouth.
'Oh, I don't know, maybe yield?' I spat, purposely tugging a fragment of bone back into place harshly with my chakra, holding back a smirk when he winced.
Despite the sudden shooting pain I'd caused in his arm, he scoffed in response. 'You can't yield in a war, Emiko.'
'Well, that's what spars are for. People with broken wrists don't survive long in war anyway, as far as I know.'
He was quiet for an uncharacteristically long time, finally making me glance up to check he was still conscious. 'What, no witty comment to throw back about that?'
He half-smiled and stated plainly, 'I was just wondering how you withhold such a high intensity sarcasm level at all times.'
I stared for a moment, but scowled again when I decided he was laughing at me, internally or not. 'It's a superpower. Several years ago I was bitten by a radioactive mule.'
He let out a sharp breath and rolled his eyes while I chuckled at my own comment.
That had been two weeks ago. Most of our encounters followed similar conversations where I'd scold him, he'd ignore me, and then we'd start all over again. The 'stubborn cycle', as Kichiro had taken to calling it.
So here we were, setting up camp for what was supposed to be the final time. I had been sitting beside the tent that Kichiro was struggling to put up by himself, ripping out fistfuls of grass and pleasantly informing the squire each time the wind picked up and blew his pegs away.
It was amusing for a while, until Sasori's impatience arrived.
'How long does it take to put up a tent, boy?'
I frowned at the term, Kichiro was a similar age to me, and I doubted Sasori was much older.
'S-sorry! The wind is quite strong at the moment…' The squire threw me a sideways glare and muttered something incoherent about laziness.
'Why aren't you helping him?' Irritated honey eyes turned to me.
'I'm a medic, not a squire. Besides, I am helping. I'm his moral support.'
'If you help, I'll consider letting you see Mina again.' He offered, but I could see past his bored expression, he was way too lazy to do that. Besides, we weren't far off the general meeting point now, so I'd be seeing her anyway.
'Nice try, but I'm not stupid.' A smug grin crossed my face as the redhead growled lightly in agitation, but before he could say anything further, a voice from behind caught our attention.
'Don't bother with that. We're moving out again.'
'Why?' Sasori questioned the other warrior that had approached. He was tall, with pale brown hair flopping over his eyes almost low enough to cover them both. I bit back a remark about him needing a haircut.
'Leader says, Chitani are onto us, they've marched out to meet us already, and they'll just plough through all our defences if we sit around and wait for them to arrive. So we're moving out. Now.'
The red head nodded and turned back to Kichiro, who had already begun to gather the pegs together again. 'Leave that. We won't have any use for tents from now on.'
The squire gulped, dropping the material and watching absently as it flapped and rose into the air, free for the wind to whip it away. I patted him lightly on the shoulder and smiled reassuringly, not missing how pale he had become. 'Let's go.'
He nodded and followed my lead hesitantly.
We walked solidly for another twenty-four hours, trekking through rough mountainous terrain that none of us were used to. The squad finally gathered in the final destination where we would all be together and the squires set about building the camouflaged khaki medical tents in the shadows of the trees around us.
Tsuyoi currently stood atop a particularly large boulder, barking out orders and giving his inspirational speech. I let out a soft breath as I listened, only vaguely paying attention. My gaze wandered from his powerful form to the redhead beside me and was surprised to find him staring back.
He shifted his gaze back to the leader as he spoke, just loud enough for me to hear. 'I do wish he'd get on with it.'
I felt a pang of nostalgia as he muttered about things being dragged out so much, and I had to hide a smile at his impatience. He seemed to notice though, raising an eyebrow.
'Hasn't anyone ever told you, patience is a virtue?'
He threw me a disgusted look, glaring like I'd just suggested something outrageous.
'Apparently not…' I chuckled in response before Tsuyoi caught my attention again.
'…and obviously you've all been briefed on the battle plans and strategy. I would now like all warriors to assemble at point A as indicated, from there I will be assigning you to teams of five and we shall move out immediately. I have received word from the other squads, who will be doing the same so you will be likely to meet on the battlefield.' He paused to incline his head momentarily. 'I would like to solemnly thank you all in advance for your efforts and hard work. I sincerely hope to see you again.'
With that, the crowd scattered and I knocked backwards slightly, grumbling as I rebalanced. My eyes scanned the sea of people but I cursed as I realised I'd lost sight of Sasori.
Squeezing between bodies, I managed to emerge on the other side of the giant tent that had been erected. Several bed rolls were laid out in a make-shift hospital layout, with crates and rocks placed beside each one to be used as tables and equipment storage. My expression darkened as I realised this was it. We were here. We were at war.
Before I knew it, the troops had moved out, and just like that he was gone. I didn't see him leave, I didn't even get to say goodbye. I tried to swallow the lump that was rising in my throat, but I couldn't deny that I was hurt. A small hand wrapped softly around my own, fingers curling together as I stared ahead at nothing. I hadn't even noticed her approach.
'It'll be alright, Koko. We're together now.'
A single tear dripped from my eyes as she spoke, my heart swelling at her words. It shouldn't be like this, I was the oldest, by seven years! I should be comforting her. And yet here she was, small hand in mine, seeming so much older and wiser than her 12-year-old body suggested.
I pulled her into a tight hug, mumbling into her hair as she returned the gesture. 'I know, Mimi. It's all alright now.'