It'd taken twice as long as he had originally believed to receive them. The guards wheeled the two in, sheets draped over their forms. Michi rose and picked the cloth from the first stretcher. The woman looked older - more frail than she ought to.
Not wasting time, Michi set to work on her unconscious form. He stripped her of her garments, taking his time with the process. When she was fully disrobed, he began to probe meekly about her body. The time whittled away as he scanned her over, prodding where he felt it necessary. At long last, he shuddered briefly, then, after pausing a moment, stepped away from her.
He'd not been able to find what was wrong with her, and the notion that he would fail to save another patient without even knowing what ailed them had shaken him. He'd ceased his examination for the time being, seeking something to refresh himself. Retrieving the flask from his desk, he put back several swigs, gasping as he finished. Michi wiped at his mouth gruffly, tossing the drink haphazardly.
It took a moment, but Michi finally realized that he hadn't heard the bottle break.
He'd taken twice as long as he'd planned, having found a rather comfortable patch of dirt, but finally the finished product lay in his lap. He could practically worship it in all its utter completeness, and he would, had he not made better from worse! Alas, the two stringed instrument would have to do, major tuning issues aside. He'd promised his help, and though he was not in the best place to give it, he would do his utmost.
I'll catch the fiends unawares! And lo' shall they behold my mighty wrath, for I choose not to exercise the vast oceans of mercy that sway within my soul. Pray for my disregard, callous knaves!
Their cook had taken twice as long as Ko would've figured, to make a snack. It became sadly apparent, as Mokuteki choked down the first bite of the wrap, that their cook had some... issues. Masking her pity for Mokuteki, she shot Rei an apprehensive glance. The girl's spite was uncalled for, not to mention actually gave the impression that she was a terrible cook. Food, however, was the least of her current concerns. The more and more she thought about the refugees' conditions, the more and more her stomach began to churn.
She'd mostly ignored what Mokuteki said, though hid it. Her question had been pointless in retrospect. He never would have suggested 'nuking' the place if he didn't have the kind of fire power to back it up. She was being typically over-analytical, but that was what kept a puppeteer alive, wasn't it? She hoped so, because if not, she didn't have much else going for her.
Wasting no further time, they packed up and set out, Mokuteki taking the lead.
Osamu had probably been out for twice as long as he thought, but it wasn't the first damn thing on his mind right now. The biggest issue was the searing pain at his back. Sweeping whatever clouded his vision away, the memories came back rapidly. Right, that god forsaken bitch had gotten a hold of him while he was asleep. He craned his head around to view the surroundings. A tent, or something like that, but he wasn't underground.
His eyes settled on a man draining a flask. A moment later it had been flung in Osamu's direction. He was pained, but not enough to stop him from catching it. He swallowed what was left in the flask, and nearly spit it back out. It was piss warm, which figured, seeing as they were in a damn desert. "Shit, least you could do is refrigerate this crap." Osamu eyed the bottle over, still lying on his back, and tossed it casually to the side. He looked back over to the man. "So who the hell're you?"
The man looked at him, then over to something out of Osamu’s vision. Then back at him again. He barked a laugh, surprisingly. Osamu raised an eyebrow. "Pardon my curiousity - sitting here full of goddamn holes and what not - but what the hell is so funny?"
The man approached, wiping away a tear. "Not so much funny as it is relieving, I suppose. HA! Imagine that! Fits me perfectly though doesn't it?"
Osamu's brow remained lifted as the man rolled him over. "Ah yes, I suppose they don't tell the prisoners things like that, no." He pulled Osamu's shirt off. "You see, I am this... facility's doctor. It's my job to patch up the injured. Believe me when I say you're lucky to have something that needs nothing more than stitches and bandaging."
"Why would I be lucky to have a dozen damn holes in my back?"
"A good question indeed. You're not so lucky for that, no, not at all, but you're lucky in that it's not something requiring, how shall I put it... skill? I do what I can, but quite frankly, I can do very little."
Osamu grimaced, but could do little to complain. The man was clumsy and inefficient, but eventually got the job done. Wincing, Osamu sat up for the first time since he'd fallen asleep.
"Good to see you're not trying to outperform a rainbow. I'll go inform the guards of your recovery and have you returned to your cell." Sudden awareness seized Osamu as the man turned. His chance was now. He quickly found the bolt tucked away in his pants. Povard must have done him the favour of returning it before they took him. He grabbed the man, pressing the quarrel in to his back.
"'fraid I can't let you do that. Nothing personal, and you have my thanks for patching me up, but I'm not going to rot in a goddamn hole for any longer. Now first things fir-" Osamu almost hadn't seen the thrust coming in time to duck under it.
Pushing the doctor away, he leapt to the source of the blade. He brought his hand up, grabbing the man's extended arm and stabbed him low in the gut. He lurched, and Osamu stabbed him twice more to ensure he was dead. He wasted little time stripping the man's armour and donning it for himself, pausing only to examine the several strange disfigurations of his body.
Leaving the body on the bed he'd occupied not long ago, a quick survey of the room found the inept doctor huddling in a corner. Osamu hefted him up by his collar. "You're showing me where they put our goddamn stuff, understand? Act natural and I don't kill your sorry ass." He rose, quickly regaining his composure, and lead the way.
He couldn't help but dismay that one of his few successes had been slaughtered, but then, it was more a blow to his ego than anything else. Striding nonchalantly along the rows of pits, Michi led the man to the tent where whatever contraband the refugees possessed was thrown.
Strangely, this was the first time he'd ever actually contemplated the number of refugees being held here. It must be nearly 200, if not more, though the guard force was less than half of that. It mattered not, however. The failsafe set up in the event of an attempted liberation would deal with any problems, callous as it were. All they had to do was burn a cell's door, and thus its roof, and anything within would have only a slightly greater chance of surviving one of his own operations.
Finally, they arrived at the tent, the man stepping inside ahead of him. There was a very brief shout, cut off by a sword coming through the tent. The man found his weapons swiftly, as very few of the refugees had contraband to begin with. "I assume then, now that you have what you want, you'll be doing away wi-"
A small explosion echoed, and an alarm blared out suddenly.
No sooner than Ko had crossed the threshold of the camp, than an alarm had been raised. They’d responded to the assault Mokuteki had begun quicker than Ko had thought they would. Finding a hiding place, she took quick observation. She needed to know where all the pits were so that she could... there... there were far more pits than she could've imagined! This was... she had known that... but this...
She shook herself, both mentally and physically. There was no chance of saving all of them, not even a chance of saving half of them, and she knew she was going to have to live with that. Not wasting any time, she twitched a finger and Yaen immediately fired one of the smoke bombs kept in its limb compartments. The bomb gave her the cover she needed to move up to the first few pits, without being seen from elsewhere. She took nearly a minute to find the first cell.
What she arrived to was a burning chunk of wood, what passed for the cell's overhead door. A knot formed in her stomach, knowing full well everyone in that pit was dead, and it occurred to her at last, that they were screaming. No, it wasn’t just them. The screams were coming from all around her. It was too much, she could feel the knot rising.
She tossed up what little she had eaten earlier in the day then and there. She'd expected it to be bad, but this? Whose mind could hope to expect this, or stomach it, for that matter? She'd have stood there, shocked, much longer, had another batch of screams not stirred her. The voices of children were audible. She felt sickened further, and yet a part of her forced her upright. She would find those responsible; she would confront them; she would show them no mercy.
She charged carelessly from the cover of the smoke and in to a sea of flame. They'd set fire to nearly every cell, and there was nothing she could do for those who were trapped beneath those raging infernos. Despair would've taken her again, had she not caught a small gathering of guards in front of a single cell. A single unlit cell.
A spark of desperation took her suddenly, and she whipped her arms in their direction, Yaen dancing over the flames and in to their midst. Strangely, the guards offered no resistance. She rushed to the scene, and as she approached, found she could hear something over the carnage. It was... music. She slowed, approaching the hole cautiously.
Ko peered over the edge, and found herself struck still. A strange fascination had taken her, leaving her staring blankly downward. It was as though she had been overcome by a strange bliss, a sense of wholeness that she wanted to welcome, but felt obliged to push away. The music started to fade, and with it, the feelings. She almost tried to jump in after them, but snapped herself to reason.
No longer distracted, she surveyed the scene below.
He hadn’t been sure how much longer he could’ve kept up, so he was of course relieved when the guards, hovering over the cell, had fallen to some outside source. He didn’t think the prison camp’s guards would be so inhuman as to unleash such a maelstrom, but Povard had his own ace. As he had said, a bard was only a mostly accurate description of himself. Wait, had he said that? No matter.
Still wary, he’d kept playing. He ceased his song soon after the girl stepped in to view. She was clearly a Suna operative, the headband was indication enough.
”Hail, kunoichi! It would appear our saviour has arrived! Ah, and on that note, have you any rope? I wouldn’t normally need such a thing – I’ve scaled far greater walls in the past – but, alas, my hands are calloused from all the playing, you see.”
The girl stared down at him in a mix of shock and disbelief. Nodding apprehensively, sharpness quickly took her features. ”Right, well, I’ve got better than rope.” She certainly did, the monkey-puppet-thing descending in to their midst. The girl was forced to work hard, her hands in constant motion, but in a very short time had removed them all from the pit.
He was the last to climb free from the wretched hole, and was caught with an unexpected surprise when he clambered over the edge. He could see Osamu making his approach, a figure tagging along behind him. Povard was almost not quick enough to react to the girl’s sudden movement, but blocked her with his arm just in time. ”Hold a moment! Though he may wear different garb, that is most unmistakably an ally!” She was hesitant at first, but relaxed with a sigh.
When the alarm had gone up, Osamu’s arm had followed suit, his crossbow now pointed at the doctor. ”This alarm, it means this shit hole’s under attack doesn’t it?” The doctor nodded. ”So what does that mean for the guards? What are they going to be doing, where are they going to be?” The man seemed to struggle with the thought, and after an episode of stuttering silently, forced the words out.
”W-well, from what I u-understand of the, uh, the protocol, for this situation, they...” He paused a moment, breathing deeply to regain his composure. ”They’re going to burn the cells, their doors rather. By now I imagine they’ve ignited most, if not all of them.”
Anger played across Osamu’s face, and his finger began to press down on the trigger. He stopped, after what felt like far too long, lowering the weapon. ”I’ll spare your sorry damn life, if only because you were at least trying to do some good.”
Osamu stepped past him, surveying the carnage. They’d done as the man had said, lighting the cell’s hatches on fire. The sea of flame obstructed his vision, but he could still make out figures in the direction of his cell. One stood out unmistakably, the cheeky bard.
As he approached, he finally caught a glimpse of what had gotten them out of the hole: A Suna shinobi, a puppeteer to be precise. Her gaze was a mixture of practiced indifference and shock. She’d probably never seen anything as devastating as this before.
Ko stared around her. This was it. This was the extent of what her powers could save. Ten people, ten [badword] people, out of how many? She could barely stomach the thought. They’d done all they could, and that was so dismally little, but all she could do now was extract the remaining refugees. The children would probably slow them down, but there wasn’t much to be do-
Speaking of the children, Ko snapped her head in the direction of the scream. She’d found that, as well, she’d snapped her entire body to the child. Instinct wasn’t something a shinobi should ever utilize. It got them injured, or worse killed, and Ko now only began to understand what she had done.
She should’ve been more over-analytical.
She’d not been thorough enough in her execution of the guards, and had left one alive enough to find a crossbow and fire it at the nearest thing. That thing had been one of the three children, and she had, without a thought, stepped in front of it. She wasn’t sure, as she lay staring up at the sky, why she’d done it. She didn’t know the child at all, and yet she’d felt compelled in that moment to step in front of a loaded crossbow.
The refugees were standing over her now, clouding her vision of that massive sky. This was for the better, she decided. She didn’t want to get lost in the sky. She tried to speak, but choked on her own blood. Ko wasn’t sure why the sky was beginning to fade - beginning to blend with everything else, but found it strangely fascinating. It was as though she had been overcome by a strange bliss, and she welcomed that sense of wholeness with open arms.