DECAY: Crack: BLOSSOM

[Westlands | Coast | Greater Wind Country]
From the eastern desert plains, to the infamous Westlands and the southern coast with its neighboring islands, the Wind Country covers an array of changing landscapes and other settlements. The people who live there are as diverse and powerful as the lands they live on.

DECAY: Crack: BLOSSOM

PostPosted by Tsuneo » Mon Feb 07, 2011 8:36 pm

Her arms were raw.

The glop was called "scrubbles." Brilliant chemical invention that had been brought into Suna's daily medical practices sometime around the fourth year of the Kyuudaime's rule. Completely self-contained disinfectant agent, contiained a scrubbing grit and a disinfectant that could be used to clean both infected hands and instruments without the use of water. It had been a godsend when it was discovered, allowing field hospitals to operate without having to lug gallons and gallons of potable water around with them through the desert.

This had to have been the thousandth time today that Kohana used it to clean her hands and forearms. They were red and raw from the scrubbing grit which was slowly rubbing her skin off from the rest of her arm. Fortunately it acted enough as a moisturizer to prevent it from cracking, making her hands a leaking infection dispenser. She seethed a breath through her teeth to shunt the pain away.

It was nothing. Nothing at all.
Nothing compared to the injured she was helping.

"I think we're done for now. Just a few bandages that need to be applied, nothing I can't handle." The kind, middle-aged face of Homaku was weary, his balding head partially covered by the surgical mask he had pulled to his forehead. He squirted a glob of scrubbles onto his hands and started working the grit into his own skin. "Why don't you take a rest?"

"No. If anyone needs to take a rest, it's you Doctor. I'll apply the bandages." Kohana mustered a smile, trying to keep it as bright and perky as she could. Homaku sighed and chuckled all at once.

"Very well. But then rest. Tatsu should be awake soon, he can take over until the next wave shows up."

Kohana turned to face the supply table, scooping up a fresh vial of disinfectant and roll of bandages, setting them both into the medical kit that hung at her hips. She checked to make sure her medical vest was still zipped up, her bandanna-style forehead protector holding her fiery ponytail in place between her shoulder blades.

"Has there...been any word? About moving out?"

"I'm afraid you're asking the wrong person about that, as you know. Still, I wouldn't get comfortable...and make sure you close all your procedures with transport in mind. It takes more time, but I'd rather do it now than when we have to."

"Right, doctor. Don't worry. We'll be okay." Another smile.

"Ah, Kohana-hime. When you say it like that, I almost believe it."

Kohana slipped out from the tent and out into the main camp.

Mobile Hospital BLOSSOM.

It was little more than a collection of dusty old tents with cots rowed inside them. Bright red crosses were stitched into the sides, a feeble request for mercy from any would-be attackers. Chakra-molded earth walls were placed in a perimeter around the camp, where weary Suna-nin stared at the endless expanse, trying to pick out specks of enemies against the fiery backdrop of the sun. Between the main tents, refugees too well to be placed on a bed but too injured to leave, sat around small fires atop blankets and pillows that the shinobi had distributed. There they waited, hoping for a cool day or for their wounds to mend enough to get back onto the road and head inland for Suna.

Beyond the walls, two shinobi dug graves for those they couldn't save.

The rumors had been persisting for days; the bandits were organized, and they were coming for BLOSSOM. The camp barely had enough forces to keep a sense of security amongst the upset and frightened civilians that filled their camp. They wouldn't be able to repel an attack. Even if she fought.

But BLOSSOM's commander was...well...

Kohana shoved the thoughts aside, focusing on her triage. Focusing on her training. Focusing on mom. It had amazed her how quickly Kohana had remembered everything she had ever been taught, despite having not used it for a handful of years. What amazed her even further was just how little she had ever known; her medical knowledge had bloomed ten times what it had in the two short weeks she'd been working at BLOSSOM. It was the first time she had ever felt like she was a real medic...though she supposed it was because it was the first time she'd ever had to be a medic.

She shoved the opening to the tent aside. Two tables, both with patients waiting; the closer a woman lacerations across her arm, the other a blonde boy who was staring out the other end of the tent, his injured leg elevated on the table. Just a nasty twist, from visual inspection. Nothing that couldn't wait.

"Hi, sorry for making you wait...this might sting a little, okay?"

The woman nodded bravely, too numb or too lost in her own thoughts to care about the stings the antiseptic delivered. With a little nudge of Nunojutsu, the bandage was applid in just under a minute. The woman thanked her, and shuffled out of the tent.

"Hi, sorry for making you wait, we've been very busy. Though you look lucky, your injury isn't so bad! Still, a little bandaging will-"

The boy turned. His single eye met hers.

Kohana dropped the bandage.

"P-...P-...Pantsu..."

She flung herself at him, gathering him up into the biggest hug she could muster.

She could feel it. Feel the connection snapping back into place like a dislocated arm being rammed back into its socket. Making her whole, filling a void that she had grown so accustomed to and yet seemed so unbearable now that he was there to fill it. It was just one of those things she could never explain; one of the burdens of being a triplet. Kohana never felt right without them near.

And it had been so long since all three of them had been together.
Almost a year.

She had stood there, her heart on the very verge of shattering, holding her brother and sister and using every bit of strength in her to forgive them for what they said; that mom's death was their fault. And in the midst of all that fear and confusion, she had vowed that she would be the one to hold them together. To make them grow together and be stronger than ever before so that something horrible like that would never happen again.

And then they both vanished.

She had failed, and failed miserably. It wasn't for want of trying; Kohana had searched everywhere for them. But only bad luck. Such bad luck that Moxie had been to and from Suna too quickly for Kohana to meet up with her. Dad had said she was doing well but...it was different than that. She needed to feel that Moxie was all right. Just like she needed to feel Pantsu was all right as well.

Though he didn't.
He felt...disheveled. Lost.

"Oh geez, sorry your leg let me get working on that it doesn't look too bad though does it I guess you just twisted it were you at Tsuji where have you been are you all right I was pretty worried about you, you know, running off like that after everything I thought maybe you had, well nevermind that, did you know what Mox has been up to, taking down crime lords and blowing up prisons and hanging out with Raikages, I can't hardly believe it, I think she has a boyfriend too but I couldn't get a straight answer out of Dad have you seen him in a while either have you seen anyone in a while where have you been are you all right?"

She remembered to breathe, and finished tying up his leg. Then she hugged him again.

"I missed you. I love you."
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Re: DECAY: Crack: BLOSSOM

PostPosted by Klee » Tue Feb 08, 2011 4:45 am

"Kohie-hi-why are you-?"

His voice was cracking, incoherent and uncontrolled from months upon months of disuse.
But it didn't matter. He didn't know what he was saying, nor did he want to talk to her.

Kohana was one of the two who knew Pantsu's secret. One of the two he felt remotely comfortable around.
However, she was the last person he wanted to see.

She was one of the ones he had tried so hard to run away from. One of the last people he wanted to hold any sort of connection to a person like him.
Especially not right now, not when she was performing the most divine of tasks and healing Suna's fallen.

And yet she treated this like any old family reunion. She spoke of how much she loved him, of what she'd been doing with her life, what Moxie had been up to in hers. Things they rightfully deserved to be doing. Her manner of speech was reminiscent of mom.
And he didn't want to hear it. Any of it.

More importantly, he didn't want her hugging him. Touching him.
Wasting another moment that she could be spending saving an untainted life or catching some rest.

"I'm leaving."

Pantsu forced himself violently from her grip. Or tried to do that, before he realized what he was doing and went softer.
He was much too strong. He couldn't injure her.

But still, she resisted.

So he tried to talk.

"Kohana, I don't need to be here. It's fine, the twist was...an accident."

A lie.

In reality, he'd tried to kill himself.
More specifically, attempted to drown himself in a sandhole. Not the most comfortable or painless path to take, but he'd contemplated worse throughout his time in the wilderness. He'd been wandering the desert for maybe a month now, perhaps more. He'd lost count. He'd been gone ever since Suna had been plunged into this decaying state, calling upon every shinobi to assist with what was now far too many problems. They were desperate. For the majority of the past year, the authorities had respected his retirement and let him be. But no longer could the Wind Country spare even one man.
So Pantsu had been left with no choice but to flee.

He couldn't help them. He wouldn't. He refused to fight.
Never again.

But with every step he'd taken from Suna, his guilt had trebled.
How could he leave them behind? Walk away from these people who needed him so much, put them through more trauma than he'd already done. All because he couldn't bring himself to taint another life in another fight that moved beyond his control. He wondered what would happen if he tore the patch from his skin for even a moment, what the Kyoumougan would show him, whether the nightmare imprinted visions would continue to linger. Or would they have gotten worse? Would it consume him again? He feared it would.
But he feared that he'd be useless without it. Or at least, that a moment would come where lives would be lost if he didn't use it.

He was trapped.

And as with every other padlock haunting his heart, there was only one way to escape the internal pain. Death.

The sandhole had been just that. Another of his attempts to take the easy way out. But as with every other time that he'd given in to the lure of blissful death and come so close, he'd realized that he was cheating.
Pantsu had long since concluded that suicide was forbidden. He deserved to walk this earth, spending every waking moment of the day and every dream of night caught in the anguish. This, he supposed, was the only punishment that would ever equate for what he'd done. Dying was indeed, cheating.
And of course, he was still bound by his promise to Moxie.

If there was one thing Pantsu now sworn above all other pledges, it was that he would never break another promise.

Usually this vow kept him alive, unscathed despite the temptations.
But this time, he'd remembered it a fraction too late.

His leg had been sucked in too deep, impossible to free without every tendon giving into a force they hadn't been designed to handle. He was lucky to have made it out with only a twisted leg.

It was the BLOSSOM team that had found him. It was by chance that the patient escort had been traveling through the area at the time. Bad luck.
His selfish side had wanted to carry the pain with him. Anything to weigh out the constant trauma of his aching heart.
But in his starved state, crippled by the fresh injury, he was in no position to resist the aid they'd forced upon him. Even when the initial moments of shock had long passed and the soreness had waned into nothing that stopped him from walking, he couldn't just stand up and leave. They'd already wasted so many of their precious resources on him. So very many.

And he was in no place to look even the slightest bit ungrateful.

However, that was all past now. The wound had been completely healed, he could no longer feel his leg over the remainder of his dead numb body. The satisfaction that had come with the pain had also subsided. He was back in his rightful place, only with more people having ill spent their time attempting to restore his undeserved well being.
He would be leaving now.

But Kohana continued to resist.

So Pantsu was forced to change his tact.
He didn't want to hurt his sister. He didn't want to hurt anyone, that was why he wanted to leave.
But this truth hurt, and she had to know.

"It's all because mom's dead. This wouldn't be happening if she was still here, still in control. It's all my fault that it's dying."

He didn't look at her as he said it, as though that would ease the pain for her. His eyes instead focused on the dusty fabric providing walls, ears ringing with the sound of the struggle outside.

"It's disgusting. But you still say you love me? You continue trying to waste your time?

He almost wanted to smile in the sickening irony of it all.
Anything to make her understand what he had to do, and why.

"Listen to yourself."
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Re: DECAY: Crack: BLOSSOM

PostPosted by Tsuneo » Wed Feb 09, 2011 2:00 pm

Kohana felt her heart aching.
He hadn't changed. Hardly at all. He thrashed against her embrace, he shot out bitter, painful words like he was slinging kunai into chest. It was enough to make Kohana cry. Or yell. Or scream. Or hit him.

Her face went stern, her hands wrapping around his wrists and holding them gently to his sides. Her emerald eyes zeroed in on his single brown one and held his attention completely.

"No sulking."

Content with the reprimand, she reached into her medical kit and produced a stethoscope. She brushed her hair away from her ears, setting the device into place. She deftly parted the front of his shirt and pushed the metal disk to his bare chest.

"Breathe in."

A routine check-up. Not because she thought he was truly injured, though she didn't rule out the possibility that he might be hiding something worse. More so for her, to gather her thoughts.

What Pantsu said wasn't...incorrect. Things had gotten bad, and they had gotten bad quickly. But Kohana wasn't entirely convinced that mom's presence would've prevented any of it from happening. The load of bandit attacks resulted more from Kirigakure's fall than it did any fault of Noriko's decisions. They would've come no matter who was wearing the pointy hat. Would mom handle it differently? Better? She...thought so, but she was also far too biased to make that decision clearly. In her mind, mom could do anything. Why not this?

But that wasn't the point, and Kohana knew it. Pantsu wasn't concerned with the technicalities and causality of what was going on. He was hurting. And he felt he deserved to be hurting, and he didn't want anything making him feel better. That was the true problem. And while Kohana wasn't sure she could help fix that problem any more than she could fix the brimming strife around her...at least diagnosing it made her feel a bit better. Much like knowing the nature of a disease that's going to kill you.

"Grandma and grandpa are doing well. Grandpa's gonna retire soon. Guess wrangling all those sheepeehs is getting to be too much...uncle Katsuo is gonna take over. He's getting married you know, grandma wanted me to make sure you kept your schedule clear for the wedding. It'll be in the summer...hopefully all of this clears up before then. She's really pretty, his fiancee, you'll like her.

Oh, and get this! Uncle Katusro is part of the Saihoushi ruling council! Just a junior member but...I mean really, can you imagine? The same guy who thought it would be a good idea to give Moxie chakra threads when she was five is now going to be dishing out village policies. I guess he was always smart, grandma said he just didn't know how to apply himself very well.

Chuu and Ayame are doing good. They're cute. Growing up pretty quickly...they don't live at the village anymore though. Dad wanted them closer so he moved them to the Gou compound. He spends a lot of time with them these days. Still, he's doing some weird missions and is gone for long stretches at a time. Guess they stay with one of his cousins while he's gone. I didn't even know dad had extended family...they're nice and all, but they definitely treat me different when I go to visit. Guess they sorta...know. I guess a lot more people know than I used to think. You ever...ah, nevermind.
"

Their family lineage was always a bit of a sensitive subject with Pantsu. Best to avoid that landmine for now.

"Don't worry, almost done with this check up...breathe in again. Good. Anyway, trying to run into Mox has been really impossible...she was gone for a long time. Fighting the Hana Syndicate. You remember that story about mom taking down slavers for her Chuunin exam? Guess they came back in full force. Mox took care of 'em. Nearly by herself, if you can believe it, though she has some friends now that are part of this...odd team. I don't know, dad told me a few stories but you know how he is with details, some of it I can hardly believe. Need to get it out of her, you know? But she came back while I was on training, then when I came back, she was gone again. Guess she went back after I was deployed here to BLOSSOM and well...she's probably out there now. Who knows where. I put in a request to command to find out, but communication lines have been hectic. Probably won't hear until we get closer to Suna."

Kohana put the stethoscope away, allowing Pantsu to put his shirt back on.

"Well you seem to be in okay shape, wherever you've been...you haven't been eating well though. You're underweight. Here."

Her hand snapped open a pouch and fished out a bar wrapped in silvery paper. It was heavy and dense, and fell into Pantsu's palm like a brick.

"Eat that. It doesn't taste very good but it's got all the nutrition you need."

He did nothing. Just made a face and ignored her command. Kohana frowned and reached out to him, sliding his eyepatch aside. The golden right eye nearly glowed; it was beautiful and frightening all at once. Their eyes locked again.

"You may be stronger than me, Pantsu, but I'm still your big sister. Right now, I know what's best for you. So eat. Now."

She crossed her arms expectantly.
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Re: DECAY: Crack: BLOSSOM

PostPosted by Uchiha Sasuke » Thu Feb 10, 2011 4:00 am

The tension buzzed throughout BLOSSOM within the confines of her earthen walls. Most of the more audible complaints originated from the patients and refugees. Sure they had been saved from a more imminent death, but what did it matter when they were trapped in a cage awaiting an inevitable onslaught from outside forces?

But now even the medics and the rest of their shinobi counterparts could be heard whispering similar tales. The local bandit groups had attempted and failed multiple times in the past to overrun the hospital’s encampment, but if they could actually set aside any trivial conflict and form a cohesive group…their next assault would crumple Suna’s defenders and crush everything within.

The commander had something much different in mind. He wouldn’t sit idly by and let all of the warriors, doctors, and civilians within these walls be slain so easily. Some had already pronounced him insane for staying in the region this long, but the shinobi were still a loyal bunch. Each and every one a volunteer, those who willingly sacrificed their safer circumstances to journey out here and save hundreds of lives. He had made sure that anyone who didn’t want to be serving here would be quickly transferred elsewhere. Weak-willed brats didn’t belong in a place like this anyway.

Speaking of which, it seemed BLOSSOM had an important guest paying her a visit…

An imposing figure strode through the rows of tents, standing a good six and a half feet tall with a muscular frame built into it. Unlike typical Suna wardrobe for higher-ranking shinobi, he wore no flak jacket, instead choosing a light, sleeveless black top that exposed all of the intricate tribal markings inked into his mocha-colored skin. His jet-black hair was relatively short, but had visibly started to curl in the areas where it spilled down the sides of his face and the back of his neck. Judging by his facial characteristics, he was somewhere in his mid to late twenties.

Ignoring some of the looks he was receiving from nearby refugees, he pushed aside one of the tent’s flaps and stepped in. The pair of Saihoushi within seemed to be just finishing up a personal exchange. Good timing.

Ah, just the people I wanted to see! Kohana-san, you’ve really been our guardian angel, coming all the way out here to provide medical service for our needy patients. Not to belittle your skill, but I believe your calming presence and beautiful smile have done an equal amount of good for everyone here.

He chuckled briefly just before the lighthearted aura emanating from him instantly shifted to one of pure severity. His deep brown eyes narrowed as they focused on the other male in the tent. Oh how the royal family wreaked such havoc within their own country…

The man extended his hand and gripped Pantsu’s tightly, the strength of a thousand men squeezing the life out of the boy’s palm and fingers before finally releasing it a few moments later.

Welcome to BLOSSOM, Tsubasa Shishio. Name’s Shota Kigo. I don’t know all the details surrounding your arrival here, nor do I expect you to divulge them. However, let me make one thing clear. You’re not leaving this camp until we finish relocating closer to the village. I don’t even want to see you take a single step outside the walls without my permission.

You don’t have to help us fight. You don’t have to help with anything. You can spend the entire time curled up on a cot crying yourself to sleep for all I care. As long as you stay out of everyone’s way and don’t cause any problems, then we won’t have any problems. You understanding me?


The room fell silent as he paused for a few seconds of contemplation, going over a mental checklist of tasks he needed to accomplish before day’s end. It probably felt like an eternity to the two triplets waiting for him to either continue or exit.

He finally cracked another wide grin, his countenance pulling another complete reversal as quickly as it had shifted the first time.

That’ll be all for now. I hate to increase your work load, Kohana-san, but I hope you can continue to lend your assistance. Some of my men are escorting another group of refugees here, and they will be arriving shortly. There will probably be several more injured to tend to. Now I really need to get back out there to relieve some of our watchmen. Shouldn’t be difficult to find me if either of you need anything. Until then…

Shota bowed his head low before turning and exiting through the tent flap. He sucked in a deep breath and then released it in the form of a sigh. So many problems ravaging the Wind Country and so few people willing and able to plug the holes popping up everywhere. As long as he could save the people under his care and get them all safely back to Sunagakure…that would be enough to satisfy him for now.
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Re: DECAY: Crack: BLOSSOM

PostPosted by Klee » Fri Feb 11, 2011 5:26 am

She shouldn't have done that.
He couldn't remember doing it, but his hands shot to the side of his head, trying to compress the earthquake of emotion.

As always, the first thing Pantsu saw through the golden gaze was the family. Fallen. Alive. Together. Separated. Each scenario more terrible and unsettling to his mind than the last. It was the pain he had anticipated for when he would see through the Kyoumougan again, only a million times worse. Maybe Kohana's recent remarks about them ha. Stupid, pointless crude things to tell him. He didn't need to hear about what they deserved. What he didn't have. He didn't want to feel this jealous rage for what they possessed, never again. Didn't want to hurt them.
Never again.

But then he was spared.
His slain family, the sight of himself, the pyrrhic victor, it all faded as her voice punctured the visions.

"...but I'm still your big sister."

The Kyoumougan erupted.

The only thing he saw was Kohana. Dead.
A figure stood above her body, a man. Him. And then simultaneously, somebody else.
But then she was alive, the man beneath her. A background resonated into vision. Tents. More bodies. Wait, was that Kohana who stood? Her locks, or was that no...fire?
Everything was engulfed. His entire mind stung with the pain of a forest inferno.

It took everything he had to slide the eyepatch shut.

Sweat transcended his puckered skin, his trembles violent as the visions etched his every fear into his mind like the all encompassing flame.

He hesitated when reopening his eyes, as though he wasn't sure if his right eye was truly blinded or not at first.

And when he was sure that it was and he opened it, it was only then that the shock and reality set in.
So he lashed out at Kohana.

"Don't...don't [badword] do that again. You're not my big sister, you don't know anyth-"

As suddenly as the impulse had risen, he caught himself. But it was not moment too soon.
He had come within an inch of striking his sister in the face with all the force he could muster.

As Pantsu stares at his shaking hand,
another volcano of anguish erupted inside him.
What had he just done?

"I'm sorry."

He'd almost hurt his own sister. It was like...like that day all over again.

"So so sorry."

Pantsu wondered if she heard his whimper.
His every vital sign still transforming his body into a fissuring wreck, he looked away and clutched the nutrient bar for dear life.

There was no way he could stay here.
But how could he tell Kohana that?

"Stop trying to help me, you mustn't."

His composure had improved since the...attack, but it was difficult to focus his nerves with the Kyoumougan's tales haunting every inch of his brain.

He nibbled on the bar anyway, if only to further his apology. This was mistake.

After months of starvation, the rapid upsurge of long absent minerals left him wanting to throw up shortly after the first bite. His heart rate and the taste didn't help.
He retched, throwing the bar to the floor, where it skidded across the earth.
That hadn't been intentional.

His sickness doubled at the mere thought of wasting the village's precious resources more than he had been with his very presence. His head shot up, apologies racing his mind to his lips. In the same moment, Kohana made some frantic movement too. Maybe she went to retrieve the bar. Or to force her worries on him further. Maybe she was torn between both.

A glow of vivid sunshine penetrated the tent and blinded him, so he never found out.

Just as instantly as the light had encompassed the room, it faded as the flap glided back to its closed position.
The man who had thrown it open with far more force than necessary was easily twice Pantsu's size. Every pore of his war-chiseled skin reeked of authority. Even now when he'd sworn never to serve state again, envy for this man's stupor prickled through his veins.
It was an odd sensation. Disgusting to think about after everything the emotion had put him through and yet familiar and frighteningly satisfying.
Justification to hate himself, in one sense. A forbidden escape he had long craved.

The man's business was predictable. He rattled off well deserved compliments in Kohana's direction, praising her but filling his tone with hard, unforgiving encouragement. He had all the traits of an experienced leader, one who knew where to tread the line between respect, command, trust and order. Traits that Pantsu would never hope to possess.

He approached him next. A simple yet clear introduction followed by a handshake that threatened to crush Pantsu's fingers. But it took a lot to make his numb heart feel anything, and this didn't quite cross that line.

Then Kigo instructed him not to leave. Nothing unusual - simple, administrative commands that any good medical commander would ask of his patients, for their own sake.

It wasn't the instructions that bothered Pantsu. It was the execution. The way that Kigo's words and emotive pause had left him feeling guiltier than ever before about his pledges to refrain from battle and depart place, even though Pantsu
knew that his own choices were for BLOSSOM's own sake, it frustrated and tore him.

But even so, it would never equate.
Not after the Kyoumougan.
Pantsu ultimately could not comply.

The moment the imposing silhouette had faded beyond the tent's midst he turned to Kohana.

Kigo's words had changed nothing.

"Let me go."

Her face was torn. A part of him almost hated her for it. But he hated himself more for putting her through that.

After everything he'd put her through, did Kohana really think that a few remarks about his family and health was enough to make him stay here? To...justify it? Maybe he understood the commander's position, that man didn't know what Pantsu had done, he was merely a noble soul trying to protect as many people as he could in this desperate time.

But that was exactly why Pantsu had to go.
Why couldn't Kohana understand that he was doing this for her sake as well as his?

It shredded him up inside.

"I won't die out there, alright. I only ate yesterday, I'll feed myself properly in another two. And I won't get hurt. Th-this was an accident, I told you. I'll be more careful, it won't happen again."

This time he wasn't lying.
Fresh visions of the Kyoumougan lingered deep within his mind. It hurt ever so much.

So much that he'd sworn not to take the easy way out.

"I'll never fight for Suna again, for anyone. If you keep me here, I'll just be a burden. You know what it's like to have me as a burden, Kohana, you don't want that. Not with what's going to happen."

Sometimes he wondered why he didn't just go.
As out of practice and malnourished as he was, he still could have knocked her out in a heartbeat and fled. But he was doing all of this to protect her.
Though selfishly and undeservingly, a part of him had also been trying to protect himself.

He didn't want to tell her that, but maybe it was the only way.

"Listen."

Pantsu turned to face the entrance, Kohana continuing to cling. He struggled to contain a tremble, the thought of vocalizing the vision terrifying him to the very bone.
He touched the eyepatch, out of a delirious hope that it would speak for him. That she would see what he saw.

But in any state of sanity, he'd have never really wished the curse upon her.

So he resigned to telling her instead.

"I saw this whole place burning. I saw you burning. I don't want to see it again."
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Re: DECAY: Crack: BLOSSOM

PostPosted by Tsuneo » Fri Feb 11, 2011 11:56 pm

She regretted removing the eye patch.

She had forgotten, simple as that. Forgotten how horrible the eye was. She had forgotten how it had changed Moxie within moments. She had never seen Pantsu with the eye, not really. She had been to busy waiting in the Saihoushi village.

No, not waiting. Hiding.

She was relieved that the Commander Kigo had interrupted, because without it she may not have been able to hold her composure. The kind words held her like a hug, just long enough for her to find the scrap of strength she had been using to prevent herself from breaking down into tears; that scrap of strength she had copied and stolen from mom.

And she was relieved that he was ordering Pantsu to stay put; even if it was only for tactical and safety reasons. What she needed was time, and it looked like she had earned just a little bit more. Homaku and Tatsu could deal with the new wave of refugees for a few minutes. They'd get her if they really needed her.

The Commander left. Pantsu turned to face her immediately.

"Let me go."

And then came the excuses. The demands, the words that meant practically nothing. He would say anything, do anything, to get away. Each moment was like a boulder tossed against the walls of her heart, but somehow she was still holding it together.

"Listen."

He touched his eyepatch again. The eye...it was telling him something.

"I saw this whole place burning. I saw you burning. I don't want to see it again."

"Stop!...Just!...Stop it!"

Her breathing had increased, her fists clenched together.

"Stop trying to run away from me, Pantsu. I...I can't deal with it anymore. You and Moxie running off all the time. You were always running off. Running to Suna. Running away from Suna, running into the corners of the world, leaving me behind all of the time...did you ever worry or wonder about me, even once?"

She turned away, squeezing her fists even tighter than before. She couldn't look at him; she might cry if she did.

"You were always chasing after me when we were little. You always wanted to be stronger than both of us. And then when Moxie's eye turned, you became obsessed with it, but you didn't realize that you were leaving me behind, did you? Didn't you realize that by chasing after her so hard you had left me behind, left me to try and catch up to you? And you knew...you knew I couldn't chase you. You knew what that Genin exam did to me, and you knew I didn't have the strength to keep training, and you ran off anyway. Both of you did. You abandoned me.

But I don't care about who is stronger or goes first. I just...miss you. Both of you. Don't you ever feel that? That emptiness when we're not there? Maybe...maybe you lost it with everything that's happened, but I never did. That connection between the three of us. It was always supposed to be special. Don't you remember that night mom explained it all to us? The night of the day we signed the sheepeeh contract? There only two other people in this world that really have an understanding what it's like to be us, Pantsu. There's only two other people in this world that really understand what it's like to be you.
"

Kohana took a long breath. She hadn't meant to say all of that. She didn't even know she felt that way, she was nearly as surprised to say it as Pantsu was to hear it. She orced herself to turn and face him agian.

"You keep blaming yourself for mom. You know who we should blame? All of us. All three of us, because if we had stuck together instead of shoving each other apart, then we could've prevented it all. That's how I feel. But we can't fix that now. We can't bring mom back. So the only thing we can do, the only thing mom would've wanted us to do, is stick together."

She threw herself at him again, throwing her arms tightly around his neck.

"I know you're hurting. And I know I can't fix it...but maybe if we just...give it time. Wait, struggle, fight, maybe eventually it'll just...find a way to heal. So please, stop listening to that eye. It tells you lies, Pantsu. It always has. Showing you the worst and the best at the same time, telling you they're both equally possible. You have control over what happens. Not a bit of genetic mutation."

She eventually let him go.

"Um. Are you a doctor?"

The voice was so tiny that Kohana thought she was dreaming it. She turned to the other end of the tent, spotting the small girl holding the hem of the entrance in front of her like a shield.

"Hi sweetie, is something wrong?"

"My mommy. She said to get a doctor."

"Oh, okay, well there are a bunch of doctors out there, just tell your mommy to wait for one to come by."

"My mommy isn't here, she stayed behind."

Kohana blinked. She didn't want to leave Pantsu out of arm's distance, but something was tugging at her. She decided to risk it, moving over to the little girl and crouching down beside her.

"Stayed where?"

"With the lady with the baby in her tummy. She said that I should go with the group to find the doctors and tell one to go back and get her and the lady cause they can't move."

Kohana shot bolt upright, stepping through the tent entrance, mouth open to call for a shinobi and a field medic.

She didn't say a word.

BLOSSOM was suddenly very crowded. The latest crush of refugees had been much larger than the last; perhaps three times their average crowd. Every medic was working quickly while the rest of the shinobi were busy trying to get the unharmed civilians organized. She should already have jumped in to help...

She spun back into the tent; relieved to see Pantsu still standing there; and quickly scooped up an equipment scroll from one of the tables, hooking it into her vest. She zipped up the flak vest and took a glance through her medical kit, then reaching over to the supply bins to replace what she had expended. She took a spare kit and tossed it at Pantsu.

"Come on, you can carry that in case we need it." She turned to the little girl. "Don't worry sweetie, we'll find your mommy and bring her back right now, okay? Why don't you find one of the soldiers and have them give you something to eat?"

The little girl nodded and scurried off. She looked back at Pantsu, who was looking veyr hesitant.

"Come on. You have something to say, say it on the way. You don't need to fight for anyone, I won't ask you to do that. Just...help me carry the stretcher when we get there, okay?"

- -

"Commander, we have to go. This last grouping is officially too much on our stores. We're going to have to move the walls out to expand the perimeter, which means we're going to have to thin out our patrols. The likelihood increases, then, that someone will steal their way into the camp and cause some serious damage. Both you and I know that, sir."

"Che, you would say that, you big baby. Commander, you're not gonna listen to boy-coward are you? We need time to stabilize the patients before we can move out. If there are this many refugees moving, then wherever they came from is still being looted. The bandits always take longer at these bigger towns, we have at least another week. We should take it, and find whoever else we can. Besides, it'll give us more time for the reinforcements to show up."

The two Special Chuunin glared at each other. One a thin and wiry boy who specialized in logistics and supplies, Kai. The other, a squat and buxom girl who was one of the chief medical techs, in charge of patient transport and security, Lanai. Both had been advising the commander on their daily operaitons for weeks now, and during that time the two had never agreed on anything. Ever.

"Commander, while my colleague here is using valid data-"

"Oh, I quote something you say and suddenly it's valid data."

"-...I'm afraid that waiting for the promised reinforcements is a foolish tack. Suna is falling apart at the seams, if they were going to give us reinforcements they would be here by now, wouldn't they? We've had these standing orders to pull BLOSSOM closer to Suna for two weeks now. We can't keep ignoring them in hopes they'll send us some spare manpower."

"Commander, our safety is not more important than helping civilians. You were the one who taught me that. Remember, sensei?"

Lanai was fairly impressed with her emotional touch, trying to remind Sota of their days as master and student. Not bad for a girl who thought most emotional displays were not only wasteful but too complicated to master. The two listened to the Commander's reply in silence, but it was interrupted.

"Sorry I'm late...Sansei Ichigo, reporting in, sir! I'm the messenger from your promised reinforcements."

The young Genin managed a salute before grimacing.

"Um. I only have bad news for you though, sir."
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Re: DECAY: Crack: BLOSSOM

PostPosted by Uchiha Sasuke » Sat Feb 12, 2011 2:39 am

Dwindling supplies, constantly thinning patrols, impending attacks from bandits, and the very real possibility of receiving no reinforcements…all accurate descriptions of the crisis that BLOSSOM was now facing.

Patients needing further medical treatment, more refugees wandering the desert in need of shelter and protection, and the lives of every man and woman under his care and command…those were the things he needed to protect, regardless of those problems.

Having these two subordinates around made him feel like his subconscious had split apart into opposite extremes and manifested physically to fight it out for supremacy. Both sides had valid arguments and truth. Unfortunately, one side had Suna and proper legality to back it up.

The commander couldn’t deny he was walking a thin line here. The balance between staying long enough to save more people and staying long enough to get wiped out by a massive onslaught was nearly impossible to predict.

He had sworn to himself that he would be the only one to stay behind and hold off an attack if it caught up to them. But who would take his place in the rest of BLOSSOM’s and Suna’s future struggles? There were far too few high-ranking shinobi left to throw his own life away so easily. He couldn’t make that decision on his own.

His arms remained folded, his lips drawn into a thin, stoic line as he allowed the two passionate chuunin continue to plead their respective cases. His former pupil’s attempt to sway him with a hint of nostalgia did not amuse him.

I also taught you that dead people can’t help anybody. We’re the only thing standing between these civilians and their inevitable deaths. But that being said, I don’t agree that we need to leave immediately. Those return orders were issues by a group of councilors who have no idea what-…

"Sorry I'm late...Sansei Ichigo, reporting in, sir! I'm the messenger from your promised reinforcements."

The village had actually sent more men? It didn’t make sense, considering how many times they had been ordered to retreat. The commander’s immediate doubts proved to be well-founded mere seconds later.

"Um. I only have bad news for you though, sir."

Of course you do. Better spill it quickly then, kid. Time is a commodity that separates the dead from the living out here.
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Re: DECAY: Crack: BLOSSOM

PostPosted by Klee » Sun Feb 13, 2011 4:20 am

"Heh. That day we signed the contract. That was the day we met Viral. I don't remember a thing Mom said."

He let the sardonic smile fade quickly.
It was time to let out the serious truth, the one he'd been struggling to word in the least hurtful way possible since they'd left the main BLOSSOM complex.
He hadn't entirely succeeded - how could he - but what choice did he really have? This had to be said.

Was that why he'd followed Kohana? Why he'd gone with her, now? To talk to her, to explain? Again, he could have run. She didn't need to hear any of this.
But after seeing her tears and having her touches and hugs rip at his insides, he felt as though he owed Kohana at least one small explanation.

Or had he joined her because truly wished to assist his sister in transporting the pregnant refugee to a place where he knew that she and her baby would be in the best possible hands? Did he really think that he was in any place to dabble in such suffering and stand alongside those like Kohana?

None of this would be happening if mom was here. This woman wouldn't be in her predicament.
So that's why he was here. Trying to equate to mom's deeds in her stead, because it was the only thing he could do.

That was the only reason he was here.

"Kohana. Standing together with people doesn't work for me. It never has, never will. I used to think there was a special connection between us too. But when I bound close to you guys, all I ever felt was hatred. I never realized I was running away from you. Why? Because I thought both of you guys were ahead of me. The genin exam...it broke me too. It was the first time I'd seen such destruction, and realized just how much power a person could hold. I hated Moxie for moving closer to that level every day, but I hated you too. You had the strength to distance yourself from its lure. I never had that."

Pantsu swallowed, his throat shuddering as his voice had done.
He hadn't wanted it to come to this.

"Of the two, I chased Mox. Why? Because if I surpassed her, I could have brought an end to both of you. There were times Kohana, times I wanted both of you dead."


Even now, years after this had all become his ultimate reality, vocalizing the thought was agonizing.
But if he didn't shred both their hearts to pieces and explain the truth, how could he ever make her accept why he couldn't do what she wanted?

He took her chilling silence to mean that thus far, she understood.

"It's not just about Mom. Sometimes I wish it was, but there's so many other acts and thoughts that I don't know if I'll ever find redemption for. I don't know how, or if it's even possible. But I know that I can't just fix this by standing together with anyone, be it aiding them in battle or just drying their tears."

Kohana had come to a halt, and Pantsu stopped behind her. He presumed they'd reached their destination. A series of plain stone caves marking an end to the stretch of desert. No man-made structure. Just a simple cave in the middle of the filthy desert was being used for shelter.
So this was how people suffered these days.

It wouldn't be like this if mom was here.

He detached the pack from his belt, and tossed it at Kohana.

"You take it, call me if you're using the stretcher. You might not need me."

She looked up at him, deep green eyes filled with that painful worry which he would have done anything to expel from his mind.
So he tried turning around, and spoke to the desert instead.

"I'm sorry. I want to stay close to you, I want to never run again, I want to believe in this 'bond' between us and love you like I should, but I can't. Every single person I've tried to love, I've destroyed."
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Re: DECAY: Crack: BLOSSOM

PostPosted by Tsuneo » Mon Feb 14, 2011 12:12 pm

"O-oh..."

It was all she could find to say.

Mindlessly she descended down the sandy hillside, heading toward the dark mouth of the cave.

Dead? He wanted her dead?
Before Mom...?

That thought more than anything stabbed through her like a knife. Before, everything had made sense. Killing mom had been an accident, more or less. Mom's own choice, in actuality. She had more than enough skill and power to have saved herself, but she had chosen instead to save all those Moxie and Pantsu's rampage had taken.

Trying to kill Mox...she had always written that up to Pantsu being completely tainted by the Kyoumougan, losing his mind to his own envy. It was the heat of the battle and the conflicting ideas and Moxie's own inability to try and talk him out of it that had escalated their rivalry into bloodshed. And while that was horrible, it had made sense.

But this?

Why? Was she really that horrible to him? She had always teased Pantsu, even as a child. Always bossed him around. But that was her job, she was the big sister, she was the one who was always leading the way. Until they were fourteen, she had been the role model, even to Moxie who seemed so strong and far away from her now. But she had done all of those things out of love; because her brother and sister were too special, too important, too wonderful to be harmed, even by themselves. Someone had to keep them safe, and it had to be her. No one else could do it, not even mom because mom didn't understand what it was like to be a triplet, mom didn't understand the connection between them...

Had Pantsu ever felt that way? Ever?
Did he ever love her the way she had loved him? Not in this perverse, self-hatred, this fear of destroying her, but ever truly wanted to keep her safe and happy?

The cries from the cave shook her from her reverie, and none too soon. Those thoughts had to wait for now. She had to deal with the present, to those she could help right away. Her brother would be around later.

"Hello? I'm a Suna medic, I'm here to help."

"Oh thank goodness, in here! In here!"

Kohana rushed in, kunai tucked in her hand, waiting for the ambush. But none came. Tucked in the corner of the cave, a woman in her thirties was waving frantically. Another figure was laying down, cradled in the woman's arms.

She was...just a girl.
She couldn't be any older than Kohana herself, maybe even a year younger, but she was quite pregnant, her body swollen nearly to its breaking point. She was a pretty thing, with chocolate brown hair that was ragged around her shoulders. Her eyes were terrified, and her breathing sharp and shallow.

"Relax, it's okay, try to breathe slowly. Here, drink a bit of water, but drink it very slowly. Good...now how are you feeling? How far along are you?"

"I...it hurts...I think I'm having contractions..."

"How many weeks has it been? Months, do you know?"

"I lost track but...I mean, nine months, I know that, it's almost time...oh God, I thought I was going to make it out before she came, I can't let her be born out here..."

"It's okay, it's okay, there's a medical outpost not far from here, and we'll get yout here. I think you're just having stress-induced contractions, we'll get you calmed down. I think we can postpone labor until we get you back to Suna or one of the larger outposts, but don't worry, we have doctors and no matter what happens you and your baby will be safe. Okay?"

She took her hand and squeezed it. The girl's breathing slowed and she nodded, trying to hold her composure. The contractions seemed to be passing. Kohana looked at the woman.

"You did well, thank you for your help. And your daughter made it to the camp, she's being taken care of right now."

The relief on the woman's face shuddered all through her body. "Thank you..."

"Can you help me shift her? I need to deploy a stretcher, she shouldn't walk."

They managed to unroll the scroll beneath her back, and with a slight application of chakra, the stretcher appeared. They adjusted the pillow contained in the package, getting her as comfortable as possible. The woman looked tough, but she certainly wasn't strong, not compared to the young man outside. And as much as it was paining her to even think of her brother, she didn't really have a choice. She moved back to the mouth of the cave and cupped her mouth with her hands.

"Pantsu! Get down here, I need your help!"

She went back to the stretcher and pulled up on one end, testing the weight. They would be fine, provided none of the bandits showed up. '

"W-wait, what did you just say?"

"Oh, my brother, he was waiting outside, he'll help us carry you back."

"Yes, but what did you-"

Pantsu crossed into the threshold of the cave. The girl gasped, her eyes widening with panic, filling with tears. But there was another emotion dancing across her face, one Kohana didn't know how to place. She looked over to Pantsu, who looked equally shocked.

"Tsubasa..."

- - -

"I was part of the reinforcement team and we were en route here to provide you back up and...well, demand from Command that you pack up and move back. Intelligence reports are showing that whatever refugees haven't made it through by now are being rounded up into camps by the bandits and that specific operations have to be made to save them. BLOSSOM is too exposed here and they need support closer to home. But, on the way here we spotted not one, but two groups of bandits, rampaging through some nearby villages. Our squad captain decided that instead of coming here, that they were going to engage them directly, drawing them toward one another. Captain believes that they might be able to cause some confusion, forcing the two groups to fight each other for a bit, buying us some more time. They'll hold them off there for as long as possible, then fall back here for the final push out...bad news is, with two groups, we don't know how long they'll hold. And there's too many of them to repel, even if we include the forces we have here. We need to start evacuating now if we want a chance of escaping."

Ichigo plucked out two scrolls from his pouch and set them on the table. The Commander nad his two advisers stood around while he unrolled the first.

"We have two options of escape. First is here...there's an offshoot tunnel from the irrigation system a few miles due south. An access point. Too small to pull the injured through though, and there's a few sections where it wasn't meant to be accessed by people from that side. In short, we're going to need to clear the way with earth techniques or explosives and mine our way through to the main irrigation canal. We can then follow it back to Gorge Pass. Problem is, Command isn't too keen on making the irrigation canal even more accessible than it already is, but we can't simply walk through the desert, they'll pick us off slowly if we do. Captain suggested we could close the access tunnel we make behind us."

"That's very dangerous. Not only is Command right and that it would compromise Suna's general security, but if the bandits discover we're in there, it might be hazardous for our health. They only need one person with earth-chakra and they could start shaking the irrigation system apart. Even if we defended against a total cave in, the structure would suffer damage, and we will lose lives. I'm not convinced the 'protectoin' we would gain is worth that risk."

"Yeah, but we can keep a team up top, trace along the route as an escort, even to draw away any bandits that get close. Would require a team to be on their own though...practically a suicide mission in the right conditions. But it would work."

"The other option is a bit...more unconventional."

Ichigo scooped up that scroll and unfurled another.

"I have in my possession fifteen dirigibles from the Engineering Corps. Special loan from Hachidaime-sama. They should be enough to carry all the patients and civilians and well...fly us to safety. Our team has been trained on their operation, so we'd have enough pilots so long as we tether some of them together. It makes for a smooth ride and we would be out of bandit reach, for the most part. We won't be slowed down by terrain...of course, if they have any long-ranged techniques or weapons, the dirigibles aren't exactly armored. We'd have to leave some of our soldiers on ground level to help protect them. Probably don't have enough room to take them all into the air anyway. I have all the equipment for construction and I know how to do it, but again it'll take some time to get it ready and to load everyone on safely. We need to start right now if we're going to have a chance to make it...same with the tunnel. No solution is particularly quick, Commander. Sorry, but these were the best we could come up with."

"That's quite ingenious, actually. No one will expect for us to simply float our way out of here, if we leave the rest of the camp's structure here the bandits may not even notice us. They'll fan out looking for traditional trails of escape and they won't find us. A brilliant strategy."

"Oh hell no, no way. This is no time to be testing out new technology and insane evacuation plans. These people are hurt. Putting them into a giant flying thing might result in them, oh I don't know, falling, and put a pretty big damper on their recovery. It's too risky to be testing this out on civilians, Commander, better we take our chances in the tunnel."

"Going into the tunnel means there will be assured casualities, Lanai. The dirigible is a gamble, but the only one where we might be able to save everyone."

"As a medic, we can't take that kind of gamble."

"Well we don't have time for both. We need a decision now, Commander. Our team can't hold them off forever."

They all looked at him, awaiting a decision.
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Re: DECAY: Crack: BLOSSOM

PostPosted by Uchiha Sasuke » Tue Feb 15, 2011 3:03 am

Shota cursed under his breath and rested his hands on the table. Two independent groups of the bastards, he should have considered this. Now it was too late to make a clean retreat, and they were left with two options riddled with separate sets of potential problems and chances of failure.

Using the irrigation tunnels was risky and could endanger even more people in the future, but they knew exactly where it was and where it would lead them. It definitely was the most predictable and consistent of the two options, but as Kai pointed out, the one that would ensure casualties. There was no chance for everyone to survive that route.

Yet on the other hand…aircraft remained a very experimental field in the world. Would they really have time to properly assemble all of them, and would they be in good enough condition to carry the patients and other civilians to safety? He trusted the work of the former Kazekage, Dakara Gou, but did he trust it enough to risk so many lives on it? Lives that would forever be on his conscious, assuming he even survived to carry that burden?

God damnit, he should have stuck to leading teams of little brats and never taken on bigger responsibilities. But somebody needed to do it, and he cared too much about people to sit by and let others less competent than himself screw it up.

Either option is gambling with how many people we end up losing…but as commander it’s my job to decide which risk is worth taking in order to save the most lives possible.

He folded his arms and breathed in deeply. Most likely the biggest decision of his life up to this point, and he had mere seconds to make it. No pressure at all.

Ichigo, begin assembly and loading of the dirigibles immediately. Take as many of my men as you need. Report back to me when they’re ready.

The decision was made, for better or for worse. Now they all needed to suck it up and make the best of the situation.

Kai, make sure that we pack just enough supplies for the journey without unnecessarily weighing down the airships. We’ll split up the civilians equally and fill the rest of the space with shinobi. The rest will remain down here to cover their flight, under my direct command. I’ll take volunteers first, but anyone else without a spot in the air will have no other choice.

Finally, he turned to face Lanai, the other two males scurrying off to perform their assigned tasks. Beneath her hardened expression, trained to hide the outward displays of emotion she despised so fervently, he could see the disappointment. The pained expression of someone who felt betrayed. For a moment, his resolute will faltered, but there was no time to second-guess anything now.

Lanai, oversee the patients when we begin loading everyone aboard the ships. After that, I’m leaving your assignment to your own judgment. You can ride with one of the groups to monitor their health, or you can join me and the defense squad down here. Whatever you feel is the best use of your abilities.

But regardless of your decision…good luck. Whenever we’re both safely back in the village, I’ll treat you to something at one of those girly cafes you pretend you don’t love. For old times’ sake.


The commander saluted her and turned to follow in Ichigo’s footsteps. He trusted his subordinates to carry out his orders efficiently and thoroughly, but he could still offer his own physical ability to expedite the process. The one factor they could fully control in this entire process was time. And the more time they saved, the better their chances became of escaping a tragic, bloody end in the desert.
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Re: DECAY: Crack: BLOSSOM

PostPosted by Klee » Wed Feb 16, 2011 2:58 am

"Tsubasa..."

No.

Each of her features were just as he remembered them.

Her voice told him that this wasn't a dream, the fearful chiming near and real, calling the name of the monster he had become. Her beautiful tones had always haunted his nightmares from a distance.

Now the near sight and sound of her pierced through his heart.

"Chia...."

His voice trembled with the fear of a man at the guillotine. His face tore, anguish stripping a ghost of a smile from his face moments after it had appeared.

Maybe he did feel a spat of delusional relief at the sight of her impossible presence, but the other emotions were quick to overbear his mind.

Pantsu couldn't take it. His body shuddered as confusion, relief, fear and feelings at all exploded into his existence like fireworks. He spun and was out of the cave before he or anybody else knew what he was doing.

Once he was outside, he allowed his legs to buckle. Pantsu fell onto his knees, holding his face in hands for dear control.
This was a cruel joke.

Chiaki was dead. He'd seen to her demise himself, blown her body to pieces in his manic rage. Even Mom's technique would not have been capable of restoring her.
He knew this because if it had, he'd have found her there. She wouldn't have been able to run so quickly. Not with her heart.
Again, he rammed his fist into his brow. If this was a nightmare, he wanted to wake up. Sometimes he let himself sleep through the mortifying visions, sometimes he thought he deserved it, but not this. He would suffer anything but this.

He didn't wake.
And yet his most twisted nightmares made more sense than this.

Could it be that Mom's technique had gone further than simply bringing his beloved back to life? That she'd...she'd run, her heart intact as she'd craved her entire life. As he'd once promised to give it to her.

His heart stung.
She hadn't spared him even a thought as she ran that day. No goodbye. No nothing, as she'd taken off into the night.
...What was he saying? Why should she have thought of him? After everything he'd done to her. That whole week they'd been together, he'd done nothing but use and violate her frail body to achieve his own ends. Back then, he'd believed the sensations to be those of true love. In reality, what he'd done had been anything but.
If Chiaki had deserved anything, it was the chance to run. Run and find a better life, one where she would never be subject to what he'd put her through.

Now that the initial shock had faded, he was beginning to realize that this was perhaps why his heart ached above all.
Chiaki had never found that better life.

In fact, her predicament could not be worse. Her village had been overrun, she thrown into harsh refuge in the final term of what had to have been a fierce pregnancy. Chiaki had always been a weak girl. That was why...he'd chosen her, so easy to take advantage of. Maybe the reasons for her frailty had all to do with heart, but even with mom's miracle at work, it wasn't possible that her strength would have increased so rapidly. Not to the point where she could carry a child through such hardship at such a tender age. Especially not without assistance.

Where was the baby's father?

Pantsu's insides lurched just thinking about it.
Chiaki had slept with another man. Judging from the timeframe, this was not long after she'd laid with him, that precious, haunting night. But where was this man now? Had she...left him too? No. That didn't seem to fit, not with the circumstances. Maybe he'd left her, then. Maybe he'd walked away. Maybe he'd perished in the conflict.

Pantsu felt hatred.
Hatred for this man for condemning Chiaki's pure soul to this agony. Hatred for the world for taking his life, leaving her alone should that have been the case.
But also, a bubbling, uncontrollable hatred for Chiaki herself. Why had she moved on, left him behind to be with someone who she considered better, only to have this man leave her in circumstances worse?
He already knew the answer. The simple, glaring truth. No man could commit crimes upon her more dire than his. That was the only rationale that mattered.
Even her unborn child's father, Chiaki was better off with.

But Pantsu's heart still ached. Now that the shock was fading into numbness, another truth was becoming clear. He still loved her.
No. Not love. That would imply that he knew that definition. But this was close.

Jealousy filled his being as it did with love. And so did hope.

On an impulse, Pantsu shot to his feet. So fast that he had to catch himself on the rock.
What...was he doing?
He almost wanted to go back in, to do what he came here for. Envy, hatred and guilt coursed through his veins and he knew their powers but he wanted to help her. He didn't want her suffering through this. He wanted to stand by her side and believe in the cruel hope that she would consider all his sins redeemed, and that he had the right to make her happy.

He wanted to believe he could try it.
So wickedly, he did.

Kohana might have said something when he stepped back in. She may have even scolded him, for walking out in such a situation. He wouldn't have blamed her.
He didn't hear her either.

His mind was numb to all but Chiaki.

The shock still rained on her face, her panting reverberating through. He was sure her terror had increased since he'd left the cave, and that was no surprise.

He forced himself to meet her face anyway. This was a task. He thought of it in the most mortifying way, of looking at her in her swollen, ripe state, breathing her evidence of being with another man and...hurting her for it.
But he still did this, still offered to help her even though it wasn't his place because he was clinging to a chance like a fool. Twisted hope.

But he hoped it anyway.

"I'm...sorry."


Pantsu looked into her eyes as his fingers shook into a grasp around the stretcher. He didn't demand it, but asked for a response through his gaze. Did she want him here?
If she wanted him gone, if she never wanted to see him again, then he would leave.
He'd run back to the main base and rally up another, better man to help her in his stead, if that was what she willed. The wait wouldn't be long. They'd traveled here at civilian pace. The skill was dormant, but with wind and chakra, he could gather further assistance at no real cost of time.
He could run.

Run away, if she were simply to ask or reject him.
And if it came to that, his selfish subconscious decided that he would never come back.
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Re: DECAY: Crack: BLOSSOM

PostPosted by Tsuneo » Wed Feb 16, 2011 11:54 am

"I'm...sorry."

Chiaki wasn't sure she could breathe. He stood in the mouth of the cave, the burning sunlight glowing past him, surrounding him in a radiant glow. Like a ghost, or an angel. But he stepped into the darkness fully, and started to reach for the stretcher beneath her, fully real. Fully alive.

He looked broken.

In her mind, when she still thought about him, it was the memory of the man that had made love to her. Strong. Powerful. Rigid and mighty. But he was only a shadow of that person now. He was so thin and frail-looking, as if he hadn't eaten or hardly moved since that day. His one eye, formerly so bright with his lust for power, for conquest, that glint that had scared her so much, looked dull. Confused. Hazy.

For some reason the physical transformation relieved her. If he had changed that much physically, could he have...changed in other ways?

She didn't know. Another contraction was waving over her, and her heart won over her mind. Her hands reached up for his and squeezed it tight, relying on his strength.

"I'm scared..." Tears glistened in her eyes. "I'm scared, and I'm glad you're here."

The medic woman bent down in front and took the stretcher's other end. His sister. It had to be, the way she looked at him and her, the way she walked, it was so alike. So alike the other sister, the one that had made Chiaki reborn.

"Pantsu, let's go." There were questions on her face, but she didn't ask them.

Pantsu. That ridiculous name. But if he was responding to it again, if he had thrown aside "Tsubasa" did that mean...?

No. She couldn't risk it, not so soon. It broke her heart that she felt that way, but things were different now. This wasn't about Chiaki's safety alone anymore it was about her's as well, and she couldn't risk it after a stammered apology and a few observations. She had to know for sure.

- - -

BLOSSOM had turned to pandemonium in the short time they were gone.

Kohana led Pantsu and the stretcher through the front gate and had anticipated gliding quickly through the tents and into the operating post but...the operating post was already gone. The tent still stood, but all of the major equipment was packed up, ready for transport. Thankfully the table was still standing; the two triplets picked up the girl and set her onto the table. Kohana pulled out a pillow from the shelf beneath it and set it into position, propping the girl up.

She was still clutching onto Pantsu's hand.

So many questions ran through her mind. Who was she? Why did Pantsu seem to just...melt, in front of her? Sure he had dated in the past, chased after women like they were collectibles, but as far as Kohana knew there had never been anyone this special. And why was she pregnant?

Could he...?

No, that was impossible.

Kohana found an IV and set it up expertly; she had to make sure the girl wasn't dehydrated from her journey. Then she stepped beside Pantsu, bringing her mouth to his ear.

"I don't...know what's going on here, but can you keep an eye on her? I need to find Doctor Homaku, she's going into labor but I'm not sure it's time. It could be from shock. We need to stabilize her and I need to find out what the hell is going on around here..."

She vanished out of the tent before he could respond.

- - -

They were alone now. Chiaki hadn't dared release his hand, not for one second. She wondered if she was too afraid taht if she did, he'd somehow vanish. Leave her alone. Again.

Though she supposed that wasn't entirely his fault.

"How...how have you been?"

The question seemed so trite.

"I'm sorry. For not...showing you. I wasn't sure what to do, to be honest, I just found myself alive and...healthy. My heart, it was fixed by...well, I guess by your mother. I could never really piece together what happened that day exactly, but when I found out you and your sister survived but your mother had died, I assumed she must have had something to do with it..."

She tightened her grip. He was feeling uncomfortable, but she wouldn't let him leave.

"I've had to learn a lot about myself in the last nine months...I...well...have you learned...anything? Are you...different?"

Her questions were so transparent, but she couldn't think of any other way to ask them.

"Sorry I just...I've thought of this so many times. What I would say to you when I saw you again, how I would explain everything, but it all seems...wrong now. I just...I don't know."

Her heart won out again. She took his hand and placed the palm on her womb. Inside, she kicked against Pantsu's touch.

"It's...a girl."

- - -

Oh no, they had to be kidding.
Kohana rushed through the assembly yard, shaking her head in disbelief. Dad's stupid flying contraptions...that was how they were going to get out of here.

They looked better than the ones she had seen before. Much larger, much sturdier, and the civilians seemed to be perfectly content with boarding them. Two were already full, floating a dozen feet in the air, waiting for the others to be ready to move on. The injured were gathered under a wide tent, the rest of the medical crew working hard to keep everyone comfortable. The other civilians milled about restlessly, clutching what few belongings they had to them while two Suna-nin ordered them to throw leftovers in a pile.

Weight was key. She remembered that from her dad. Flight only worked if the weight was precisely balanced.

"Tatsu! Where's Homaku?"

The other medic rose his glasses with his middle finger.

"Headed out with Lanai, spotted some injured out of the border. He'll be back soon."

She needed to find him. She spotted the Commander; he was toiling away at some piece of a dirigible. Kohana snapped to attention.

"Commander! We're really...gonna fly out of here? I mean, Dad's work is sorta...eccentric, and..."

The Commander turned to face her, and she shook the thoughts away. Now wasn't the time.

"Sorry, sir! What's more important is we just retrieved a pregnant girl from the field...we may have to deliver the baby now, and the conditions on the airship are not going to be good. Too cold, too unstable. We need at least an hour or two to safely transport her...we might be able to delay labor, I don't know, I haven't talked to Homaku, but..."

She paused. What was she asking for?

"Sir, I volunteer to stay behind with her. We can use another method of escape, or if there's a spare airship then we can use that. But we can't move her just yet. Me and my brother will be fine."

Whoever this girl was, she was vastly important to Pantsu. Which may mean she was the only hope of ever healing him.

It saddened her a bit to realize her own sisterly love wasn't enough. But she was glad there was hope at all.
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Re: DECAY: Crack: BLOSSOM

PostPosted by Uchiha Sasuke » Thu Feb 17, 2011 3:46 am

Everything was moving much more smoothly than he could have even hoped for. Ichigo was surprisingly adapt at explaining the construction process of the airships, and the combined effort of he and BLOSSOM’s guards had already produced results. Several were fully constructed, and a pair had already been loaded up with injured and medics to care for them.

The rest of the base worked in sync to pack up supplies and personal belongings, ensuring that only the most essential goods be taken along for the journey. Everything else would be left behind, serving as a sacrificial offering for the bandit groups when they inevitable overran the emptied camp.

Shota finished lugging a large wooden piece of an airship and rubbed his hands together as Kohana approached him. He folded his arms and silently listened to her request, choosing to refrain from commenting on her obvious lack of enthusiasm regarding her father’s machines.

A pregnant girl, huh? As if they needed any further complications right now. He couldn’t just ignore the problem, but there was no possibility of having a spare ship to leave behind for only a few people to use. BLOSSOM was just too damn full of sick people and refugees needing to be carried out. That left one alternative, however unsightly it was.

We’re already leaving a team down here to follow the flight of the dirigibles and prevent any potential anti-air attacks from the bandits on the ground. It’s going to be very high-risk, and it’s impossible to predict exactly how large of a force we may end up running into, but I plan on leading everyone through to the fallback zone, even if that compromises my own safety.

Commander Kigo shifted on his feet, an uncharacteristically anxious gesture for him. If the situation got anymore complicated, he wasn’t sure if he’d be able to handle it appropriately. There were too many lives on his hands already.

If you feel that staying on the ground is the best decision for the girl, then I give you permission to accompany us. I’ve heard many…unflattering things about your brother, but you siblings are still the offspring of our beloved Kyuudaime. She knew exactly how to cultivate the conditions for a better future, and we can’t make our world better if we can’t even protect the young, the sick, and the defenseless in our own country. Your heart is certainly in the right place, and for that I thank you, Kohana-san. Now, I think we both still have work to do before departure time.

He both saluted and dismissed her with a gesture of his hand and turned back to the assembly lines. It felt good to see his subordinates hard at work, putting their full effort into their assigned tasks. The only thing continually sending chills down his spine was the thought that his decisions could send them all to their deaths.

He could only pray he had made the right ones so far.
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Re: DECAY: Crack: BLOSSOM

PostPosted by Klee » Fri Feb 18, 2011 3:20 am

He'd craved for her to reach out to him so badly, but the moment Chiaki had touched him, he'd wanted her to let go.
But Pantsu wasn't strong enough to fight his unworthy desires and pull himself free. He was a fool.

So she never let go, and it hurt.

Sometimes, Chiaki screamed. It torched him to see her in such pain, but the knowledge that it was he was only standing by her to comfort in place of her man made it worse. Other times she spoke to him, asked him questions or talked about her baby. Regardless of what it was, she squeezed his hand with every word.

Just enough, so he couldn't find the words to speak back.
There was always a certain yearning in her tone, one that for a fleeting moment would pleasure him but fill him with guilt and discord seconds later. Was she asking all this because she'd...reconsidered? Did she want him back? Want him to be a part of her child's life? He couldn't allow for it, never again would he subject her to...himself. Not when she had someone else, somebody who could only be better.

But he didn't know how to say this. Or maybe he did, but his stubborn wishes stopped him. For long periods, he stared with intensity into her forest-like eyes, trying to convey meaning without words, to no avail. He would tear away rapidly when he realized this. He didn't want her finding comfort in his gaze. He didn't want to find pleasure in his.

For minutes upon minutes after Kohana had left them, Pantsu didn't speak.
Not until Chiaki forced him.

It was like the child sprang to life when he touched her. The kicks rocked through Chiaki's skin, the quakes fluttering through as though the only barrier was water. He felt his own body lurch as the tremors made contact, their center directly beneath the position of his fingers. This connection - could it...feel him? The phenomenon entranced him. He caressed her belly, dragging his fingers along oh so slowly. The throbs followed his very trail, as precise and solid as iron filings to a magnet.

Pantsu tore his hand away the moment he reached the end of that one tender stroke.
What the hell was he doing?

He'd already defiled Chiaki enough. He had never wanted a thing to do with her baby.

But he couldn't shake the feeling.
His hand shook has he held up to his face, surveying it with as much fear as if the bony fingertips had unleashed a curse upon Chiaki and her unborn daughter. They'd both felt so dear, so difficult to let go of despite every ethic compelling him to do so.

This had to stop.
He deposited his hand in his pocket, trying to drown the sensation in fabric.

"I've learned so much, Chiaki. You're right, it was my mom who saved you, and every other person I was responsible for murdering. Except of course...herself. I killed her, just like I killed you. And I learned that without her, Suna is crumbling. I'm a horrible person, Chiaki, and I've done a lot of bad things. Most of these, I'll never be able to make up for, but the one thing I can and will do is make sure none of it ever happens again."


Pantsu turned around as far as her hold on him would allow, refusing to make contact with her tearing eyes as he spoke.

"Kohana will be back soon. I'll be leaving when she returns, you'll...be in better hands then. I can't stay here Chiaki. I'm not a doctor, but I can't fight to defend either. A hospital is no place for a man like me, you know that."

He let the moments that followed follow in silence. This was something that she needed to understand. She had to. This was...too hard for him too otherwise.

"Good luck with your daughter. I'm sure...she'll be as beautiful as you are."

He wiped the ghost of a long forgotten smile from his face as suddenly as it had appeared.

He tried to gently slide his fingers from her grasp, but she still didn't let him.
So he stopped trying, clinging to his beautiful, fool's dream.
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Re: DECAY: Crack: BLOSSOM

PostPosted by Tsuneo » Fri Feb 18, 2011 4:25 pm

Was it enough?

No. Not really. But she couldn't wait. The contractions pushed at her body, but her mind was racing, full of fear and anxiety. He was leaving. The arrogance and the might and the pride that had once filled him up had been replaced with complete sorrow. Maybe too much sorrow...but when she had found out about her little life, the little girl inside her, it had been so quickly filled...

Chiaki had to take a chance now. Otherwise she may never have it again.

"No, no you can't, you have to stay...she...her name...her name is Hanae."

Her words were cut short by another seizing contraction. Time and thought blurred in a haze of red pain.

"Hanae Saihoushi...she's yours, Pantsu. Your daughter."

A dull rumble punctuated the air, followed by gasping screams from all around the camp.

- - -

Kohana couldn't help but stare daggers at the Commander.
She knew he was right. Pantsu's reputation was not strong amongst Suna, and there had been more than one rumor about why he was allowed to wander freely, most concerning mom. No one knew the truth of his involvement with Mom's death; but there had been suspicions. Illogical that they may be, they still lingered in the iar around him. She could see it in the eyes of the other soldiers.

"Thank you, sir. I'll prepare what we need right away."

Evacuating by foot was not ideal, especially when the defenders would be focused on protecting the dirigible fleet. But it was better than the cold, unstable sky. If they had to deliver, then at the very least a soldier or two might be able to keep an eye out while she and Doctor Homaku worked on the girl.

A dull rumble punctuated the air, followed by gasping screams from all around the camp.

Kohana rushed ahead through the camp and back to the girl. She and Pantsu were clutching hands, the girl's face twisted with pain and emotion, her own brother's face practically unreadable.

"It hurts..."

"Okay, relax, we need to get you some painkillers and a suppressant, we have both just...give me a second. We need to get ready to move, so try and keep calm okay? We'll be safe here, just so long as we-"

The earth shook, the roars of individual explosions molding into one, gaping sound. Kohana shoved her fear and curiosity out of her mind, focusing on locating what she needed for the girl; but there was nothing there. All of the cabinets had been emptied, the supplies packed for transport.

"Damnit. I'll be right back, I need to-"

More screams, this time followed by barked orders. Kohana shoved her way through the entrance of the tent, watching Suna-nin rush toward the western wall, shuriken spinning from their fingertips. Kohana headed sharply to the north portion of the camp, where the dirigibles were being assembled.

But she didn't get far.

Two men had slipped past the defending Suna guards and were stealing into the tent Kohana had just left. She jammed her toes into the sand and managed to spin herself around, outstretching her fingers. Chakra Threads lashed onto the tent itself and then yanked the fabric onto the closer intruder, ensnaring and constricting his torso and shoving him to the ground. Kohana whipped out a kunai, running straight at the tent.

"Pantsu! Look out!"

- - -

A dull rumble punctuated the air, followed by gasping screams from all around the camp.
It caught Ichigo off-guard.

It echoed from the west side of the compound...no, just beyond the west side. All of teh Suna-nin had snapped up in alert while the civilians began to panic. A few shinobi attempted to keep everyone calm. Ichigo took a breath.

He was really too young and stupid to be in charge of such an important operation like this, why did she make him do it...

"Come on, everyone! Keep working, we need to get these dirigibiles finished!"

They were nearly done; most had been built, half had been filled. The more pressing problem was that they still didn't have anyone to fly them; the pilots were with the rest of his reinforcement team. Assuming they even survived long enough to get back, they would probably have enemies hot on their tail. This was too dangerous...

"Enemies approaching east gate! All shinobi, to defensive positions!"

The gathered shinobi dropped their tools and ran. Ichigo muttered a curse and did the same. No point in trying to build a dirigible by himself, especially if the enemies were just going to walk in and wreck them anyway...

It was Kai, the operational Chuunin, who had taken command of the wall's defenses.

"Stay sharp and follow my commands! Arm shuriken and standby, we're employing the Raging Sandworm!"

There was comfort in those commands. Ichigo knew what he was supposed to do, what he was supposed to wait for. Instead of lost in the chaos, his mind was back in the training fields, being yelled at by Kyuuen-sensei about why the Raging Sandworm was a good tactic and that if they were going to screw it up that they might as well but their hands up in surrender...

Ichigo peered over the wall, fingers hooking through his shuriken. The bandit group attacking was scattered and ill-organized, which meant easy pickings for them. It didn't even merit a Raging Sandworm, but he wasn't about to argue.

Kai formed handseals. "Attack when you have a target!"

The sand turned into a volcano.

The explosives rigged beneath the ground burst into a smoking showers of sand and force, engulfing the attacking bandits. For several long moments the sound was so vast that it felt like silence, the smoke so thick it felt like darkness. Finally shapes took form; motion mostly, small flits of movement from the few bandits that had survived. Some had turned to run, others charged forward, lost in a berserker rage.

Ichigo let his shuriken fly. Two missed while the last caught his target in the shoulder, bringing him to his knees. Another Suna-nin finished the job, landing a hit right in his throat.

The wave of bandits was gone; none got any closer than fifty feet from the wall.

"Stay sharp, we don't have any more explosives to rely on, but hopefully that'll make them think twice about attacking again."

"Kai-teichou! Infiltrators from the west side!"

He spun around, a flash of panic in his eyes. Ichigo knew his dillema; if they went after the intruders, then the east wall may be underdefended. But if they didn't, defending the wall might be a moot point.

"The Commander is over there. He can handle a few straggling intruders...Ichigo, we need these airships ready. Can you make do with a smaller crew?"

"I...I think we have to."

"My sentiments exactly. If you're a Genin or you're injured, go with Ichigo and get back to work on assembly! The rest of you stay here. We'll have to hold it off on our own, but it's just a few drunken barbarians. Get moving!"

Kai caught Ichigo's arm before he leapt down from the wall.

"We need to start lifting off. If these civilians stay on the ground..."

"We don't have pilots. If the Commander tells me to send them up, I can, but they'll still be stationary. It might give them a little bit of safety, but..."

Kai frowned. "Fine. Do whatever the Commander needs us to do, I'll make sure you get the time you need. But I hope your Captain's judgment is sound."

"Don't worry. She'll be here."

- - -

"Just let me take the lead, Homaku."

Lanai huffed a breath through her nose. Shota-sensei and his...being him! It was infuriating!

What the hell did he know about what she liked! Those girly drinks were...just a special occassion thing when she felt down, not an all-the-time-thing! He couldn't just give her one later, it had to mean something! And from him it wouldn't mean anything! Nothing more than...friendship or...teachingness...or...

Not what she wanted, anyway.

Perhaps she was really more infuriated over herself. It had been a girlhood crush, the follied fantasies of a young Genin looking up to her master, confusing those senses of admiration and security with those of love. She had spent an entire year pursuing other boys, working on her studies, growing into her Chuunin rank, and yet a short assignment with him and they were all coming back.

Pathetic, pathetic.

"Lanai, they are in dire shape. I'm afraid we may be too late...we may need to work on them here."

She hadn't even noticed they arrived.

One of the spotters from the west gate had seen the group of refugees struggling to make it up the sand hill. They had collapsed all at once, save for one brave soul who yelled out and waved his arms frantically. That was when he fell to the ground and started bleeding all over it.

"Sh!t. Bandit work. Has to be. They must be getting closer, these wounds aren't that old."

"I agree...still, peculiar choices. They seem almost surgical in nature...er, not that they were done by surgery, but rather that they were very careful wounds."

Lanai didn't see it. "What do you mean?"

"Well, they died almost exactly as if they were meant to die here. The wounds they received would all kill them in about the same amount of time, from bleeding to death. Normally you don't see such consistency from a fleeing group of refugees, the wounds are received during a retreat. These were almost..."

Homaku never finished his thoguht.

The kunai sunk into the back of his head before Lanai could even blink. She leapt to her feet, drawing her weapon while the other two Suna-nin near her tried to do the same. One was successful; the other was leaking from a dozen senbon holes in his neck.

"It's a-!"

A hand snaked up from the sand and pulled at her. She swore and swiped her kunai down at it, severing fingers. She tossed herself to one side, watching as a half-dozen men rose from the sand.

Not bandits though. No, these were skilled, coordinated and...armored?

The last living Suna-nin near her died with a graceful arc of a sword blade. Lanai threw hands together, focusing chakra.

Earth Release: Pillar Forest

Seven thick columns of earth sprouted around her. She turned and ran, using them as cover against the weapons being hurled at her. She was heading in a dead run back at the western wall. She had to warn-

Lanai lost control of her right foot.
The shuriken and severed her achilles tendon, and she collapsed into the ground. Two of the armored men pounced on her while a third stradled her, holding a blade to her neck.

"Tell us the escape route."

"Sure, let me show it to you here on this paper."

The roll of explosive notes popped out of the seal in her hand. She released them, the wind giving her one favor of rising them across their bodies, the chakra adhesive taking effect.

She set them off. Slow-fuse, the paper being eaten away. She wanted a moment to have a final thought.

That girly drink.
It was too bad sensei wasn't going to buy it for her.

A dull rumble punctuated the air, followed by gasping screams from all around the camp.
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