Long Awaited Reunion
If Kichiro noticed the severe increase of tension as we walked in utter silence to our next destination, he didn't mention it. It was three days after the whole unmentionable incident, and the squad had been travelling for two days straight.
I had to say, they had an awfully strange travelling method, though I suppose when you're marching off to war, cautions such as this one were necessary. The way they worked, half of the troop would set off one hour before the rest, that way, if either hit a snag along the way, like an enemy ambush, they would not jeopardise everyone's lives and they could send for backup which would only be an hour away.
I blamed this method for my still not seeing Mina. It was sending me out of my mind and I let out a long groaning sigh as I trailed behind the redhead. An older warrior walking just in front of us, Tsutomu, turned his head as his pace slowed to match mine, ruffling me on the head as he arrived.
'What's up little smiler?' He grinned. The nickname came from 'Emiko', which actually translated as smiling child, due to the way my Kanji was written. It was irritating, but I'd heard worse.
'I just thought I'd have seen my sister by now.' I grumbled, swatting his hand away and earning a chuckle at my weak attempt. Tsutomu was the only male who seemed down to earth enough to have a decent conversation with, and also the only other warrior I could tolerate.
He rubbed his chin thoughtfully, fingers skimming the rough stubble that he'd been working on. 'Your sister is Mina, right?'
'That's the one.' It wasn't surprising he guessed who she was, we did look similar despite the age gap. Then something struck me. 'Wait, have you seen her?'
'Oh yeah, here and there. But she's quite shy so I haven't actually spoken to the girl. Besides, she's usually busy cleaning up after that Uchiha, heh.'
My eyes shot to his, shock and fury mashing together in my wide purple irises. 'What?'
Sasori made a weird choking noise, and slowed to walk beside the older male with a warning glare.
'Oh… Erm, yeah…' Tsutomu trailed off awkwardly, massaging the back of his neck and averting his eyes from mine.
Clenching my fists so tightly that my nails almost drew blood in my palms, I seethed through gritted teeth. 'Tsu-to-mu…'
Sensing the immediate danger, the older male spun around to walk backwards in front of us as he retreated further ahead, throwing Sasori and apologetic look before turning forwards again.
I glared at the red head, fighting down my temper. My chakra spiked furiously, jabbing at anyone within reach, including Kichiro. He glanced over questioningly, grimacing as his eyes landed on my furious expression.
Suddenly, Sasori huffed beside me, tilting his head to watch my reaction as he spoke. 'Before you fly off the handle, let me make you a preposition.'
I raised an eyebrow and bit down on my tongue, waiting to see what he had to say before I openly and ruthlessly tore him apart.
'If you promise to drop it for now and not make a scene–'
I opened my mouth to snap 'no promises', but he slapped a hand across my mouth before the words could form. The gesture stunned me momentarily, but I soon recovered to snarl and whack his arm away.
'Let me finish.' He stated calmly, as though talking down to a naughty child. 'If you promise not to make a scene, I will personally bring her to you the second we reach our next location.'
I blinked at him, surprised as I debated my options. I doubted he was lying, since he'd never hear the end of it if he was and Sasori wasn't exactly one to tolerate nagging. Though the urge to slap him senseless was overpowering, I squeezed my eyes shut and counted to ten, slowing my racing heart. When the pounding in my chest had subsided, I slowly turned to look at him, and nodded once.
I expected some sort of smug smirk, but he simply nodded back and continued to walk in silence.
I frowned as I studied his neutral expression. I didn't understand him at all sometimes, which was a whole other issue in itself. I shook my head in disbelief that he had known the entire time and had never once thought to mention that my 12-year-old sister had been under the orders of that damn bastard Uchiha from the start.
Why hadn't he told me? What possible benefit could he have from with-holding that information? Then again, maybe that was why. It was no benefit to him whether I knew or not, so why should he care?
I growled softly as I realised I was right. Selfish jerk. A memory suddenly flashed into my mind at this thought. It was from the marketplace, back in Ookiimura, when Sasori had stepped in to stop that monster from flogging us in public. A small voice in the back of my mind whispered 'there was no benefit to him then either, so why bother?'
I jolted in surprise as someone pressed a palm to my forehead. Refocusing my vision on the present, I glared at Kichiro, who was stood still in front of me, blocking my path.
'What?' I hissed, glaring as he retracted his hand as though bitten by a snake.
'A-are you feeling alright? You look awful…'
'You don't look that great yourself.' I snorted, only mildly offended.
'Emiko, you look really pale…' Sasori's voice buzzed in my ear, but I was suddenly having a very hard time concentrating on the figures beginning to crowd in front of me.
Taking a wobbly step back as I wafted a hand to warn them away, someone caught my elbow as I tripped and started to fall. After that, everything went black.
Later that night
'Koko? Can you hear me?' A small voice whimpered by my ear, something warm rubbing softly against the back of my hand.
Am I dreaming?
'Koko, wake up, please…' A small wet droplet landed on my cheek and trickled down my chin.
My eyelids fluttered, and I squinted in the dim lighting as the blurry blobs of colour began to form shapes, then a figure, then features.
My eyes shot open fully as I bolted upright on the soft material I had been lying on.
'Koko!' She sounded scared, the skin around her eyes tinted red as though she had been crying.
'Mina…' I breathed, and she dove at my, flinging her arms around my neck and squeezing until I coughed lightly at the pressure. 'Too tight! Choking!'
She pulled back and beamed at me, her pretty eyes flashing brightly even in the shadows. I took this time to take in my surroundings. I was in a tent, though it was small and cramped, and damp. I could hear a faint pattering on the thin material, which I interpreted as rain. Other than that, it was fairly plain looking, and eerily quiet outside.
'I was so worried about you! When they came to get me at our camp and told me you were sick I was so worried!' Mina spoke softly, as though not to disturb the peaceful atmosphere. The past few weeks finally started to dawn on me and I realised this must be where our half of the troops had set up camp, an hour away from Mina's. So someone had gone to get her?
'Are you alright? I can't believe it, I haven't seen you in so long. That Uchiha, has he done anything to you? Has anyone hurt you? Why weren't you at the gathering?' I babbled in a flurry, but stopped short when she laughed at me, her little voice ringing like a wind chime.
'I'm fine! Everything's fine. Sasuke hardly bothers me, he's always out. It's been pretty boring actually. Sasuke managed to get himself in a fight with one of the other squad members on the day of the gathering, so neither of us could make it. He got in pretty big trouble too, since there wasn't meant to be any spars when the new troops arrived… I missed you, Koko.'
I pulled her into another hug, gentler this time, and she explained that I must have passed out from exhaustion, since we'd been walking for two solid days. I recalled dully how, on the second morning, I had refused breakfast and opted to donate my rations to one of the other medics, who had looked a little frail.
'That's why I'm here, two of your troop came to get me immediately and brought me here to heal you, but there wasn't much to heal, you were just tired and hungry! You should have seen the look on Sasuke's face when they dragged me away, it was so funny!' She giggled at the memory.
'So he didn't come with you?'
'No, they just said they'd have me back by morning.'
'Who's 'they'?' I wondered out loud, and she frowned, and looked to the side as she tried to remember their names.
'One of them was really tall, with dark brown hair and practically black eyes…'
'Tsutomu?' I guessed and she nodded.
'And erm, Ki… Kichi-something?'
'Kichiro. He's the squire I'm working with.' I smiled at the idea of the pair of them scooping Mina away from the Uchiha without an explanation.
'Oh that reminds me, I have to go tell the other guy that you're awake!'
My eyes flickered to hers at her excitement. 'Other guy?'
'Mhm, the red haired one, I think he's the warrior you're healing?'
'Oh, Sasori. Is he injured?' I frowned, half rolling my eyes at his inconvenient timing.
'No.' She cocked her head to the side, confused. 'He wanted to know that you were okay. He was here for ages, but I told him to go and get some sleep 'cause I didn't know when you'd wake up.'
I blinked at her, slowly taking in what she had said.
She grinned and patted my head playfully. Crawling on her hands and knees to undo the entrance of the tent, she threw my once last happy grin as she slipped outside.
Left alone with my thoughts, I frowned. Why did Sasori care? Then it hit me. If I was incapacitated, then he'd be down by one medic and, since I was his only medic, he'd be in trouble if anything serious happened. Satisfied with my explanation, I sighed and let myself slide back down under the covers, only mumbling a soft greeting when Mina came back, and vaguely aware that she was talking to someone with her.
When I got back Emiko's tent, she was already drifting back off to sleep, but that didn't seemed to bother the warrior too much. He hadn't even been asleep when I'd gone to tell him she was awake.
The low sheets of the tent blew softly in the wind as we crawled further inside, fastening it tightly again behind us.
'She was just tired really. She needs to eat something soon too, but she'll be fine.'
He nodded and gazed at my sisters sleeping form. He kept his expression blank, but I thought I could see a small smile playing on his lips in the dim lighting.
When Kichiro and Tsutomu had come to get me, I had been washing my hands in a small stream we had camped by. I thought they had been enemies at first, and screamed as they leapt out at me from behind some particularly thick bushes. Sasuke had appeared seconds later, alarm written across his face, but he relaxed instantly as he recognised the pair.
Without a second warning and before I knew what was happening, I was thrown onto the taller one's back as the smaller had shouted a quick 'we'll have her back by morning!' over his shoulder.
They explained on the way that Emiko had collapsed and that Sasori had ordered them to come find me immediately. I had thought that with such urgency she must either be dying or dead, and had started to cry along the journey. Kichiro seemed nice enough, comforting me and telling me she was probably just worn out, and thankfully he'd been right.
It was no lie when I had told Emiko that I had been fine, Sasuke barely bothered me apart from when he needed healing, and even then he was always polite, if not reserved. When the new warriors had arrived, he had even stuck up for me at one point when a gang of them tried to push me around.
I was lucky really. Emiko made him sound much worse, and I often found myself wondering what had gone so wrong between them. She had never had the courage to say.
Sasori shifted beside me, moving from his crouch to a more comfortable kneeling position. 'Has anyone stopped by?' He asked, a seemingly innocent question, but something behind his honey coloured eyes made me suspect something darker.
'Nope, just you.' I smiled lightly and he seemed mildly relieved.
'If anyone does, come find me immediately.' His eyes locked with mine, his expression dark and serious. I nodded reassuringly and he made to exit the tent, pausing to glance back over his shoulder. 'One more thing…'
I waited expectantly, but he seemed to change his mind and shook his head, turning back round to leave and muttering 'nevermind' as he went.
I found it strange, but dropped the thought as Emiko shuddered slightly, so I moved to snuggle under the sheet beside her, pressing my side against hers for warmth.