"Your father did this to you?" Aku nodded sleepily; the spell was really starting to take effect. "Why?"
"Because I tried to run away before. He caught me that time and did this."
"He won't this time." The words slipped out of his mouth before he knew what was happening, but he couldn't find it in himself to try to call them back even if he'd been able to. Very quietly, Enjeru added, "I promise."
"We'll have to see about that." The words were immediately followed by a huge yawn. "I don't..." another yawn "trust you, you know."
If Aku had been looking, he would have seen something incredibly rare: a smile on Enjeru's face. But he was already asleep, and besides, it vanished quickly anyway. He let the chair settle back down into its normal position just in time to avoid a scolding from the shorter half of the pair walking in the door.
"So what did he say?" Suzu prompted, her voice soft for once, as she stepped over to pet down a wild dark strand of hair on the sleeping boy's head.
"Yuurei did this to him." Two sets of eyes, one golden and one sapphire, shot over to him, surprise and horror evident within them. "He tried to escape and got caught."
"How cruel," the woman whispered, slowly sitting down on the floor beside the bed.
"How could a parent do that to their own child?" Miki wondered aloud, flopping down on the desk beside Enjeru.
Unsurprisingly, Enjeru favored him a dirty look, one of the better ones in his collection. "We've always known how bad they were. Why are you surprised to actually see it?"
"It's just that, I can understand how they treat us; we're their enemy after all. I can't even begin to imagine them treating one of their own like this."
Enjeru nodded faintly. "So the question is, what are we going to do here?"
Suzu glared up at him, golden eyes blazing. "Well, we're certainly not giving him back to them if that's what you thinking!" she declared, barely managing to keep her voice down to a whisper. "They'd kill him for sure this time!"
"And if we sent him on his way," Miki continued, "they'll probably find him anyway. Someone who looks like that kind of stands out around here, you know."
"But if he stays here, there will be trouble also," Enjeru put forth. "The troops won't like him, and then it's about time for Michael to be around for his annual inspection. He won't like this."
"Letting him stay here is the only humane option we have left," Miki stated after a long moment of silence.
"We can explain it to the troops that he's going to be an informant for us," Suzu thought aloud, tapping her finger against her chin lightly. "They'll have no choice but to believe it, especially if you tell them, Enjeru-kun." She winked slightly. "They think you're the coolest thing since feathers were put on wings." She giggled slightly as the general blushed slightly.
"All the same, though," Miki cut in, his voice serious, as he patted down his jacket pockets, "he should stay with one of us at all times. Especially in the event of Michael showing up." Finally reaching down into a deep side pocket, he produced a pack of cigarettes and proceeded to light one up. An almost playful look in his eyes, he shook the burning stick at Enjeru in a scolding motion. "He seems to like you best; you're the most logical choice to stay with him, Enjeru."
Suzu nodded excitedly and winked at Miki. "Besides, you have the biggest tent of us all."
"Not by any choice of mine!"
"Shhhh," she scolded. "Do you want to wake him up?"
He scowled faintly. "You're enjoying this too much, Suzu. I'd almost think you planned it."
She grinned even more brightly and waved her hand in a dismissing gesture. "Iie, iie! Demo saa... Miki-kun and I have been planning forever trying to find a way to get that stick out of your ass. This works as well as anything else."
The scowl grew as he turned the smoking man. "You're in on this too, Miki?"
He grinned and held both hands up before him in a placating gesture ruined only by the cigarette still held in one hand. "Hey, Suzu on a rampage is a force to be reckoned with, even for me."
"You're an imp, Suzu."
She pouted cutely. "Don't be so mean, Enjeru-kun! If you're mean to me, I'll pounce you every time I see you."
"You do that anyway."
She considered this for a moment. "Not every time. I'm not pounced on you right now, am I? Nope, didn't think so. Keep being mean to me, though, and you'll never get a moment's peace." She stood and stretched. "Oi... I'll be right back. I'm going to go to the healer's and get some more of the potion and some bandages. Can I trust you boys to stay out of trouble?"
"We'll be good, Suzu-kaasama," Miki returned, earning himself a playful cuff to the shoulder.
"You'd better be, especially you, Miki-kun. I'll be right back." She vanished out the tent door in a flurry of white and blue.
"She seems to be doing a lot better these days," Enjeru commented softly and thoughtfully, looking back at the young man asleep on his bed. "It's almost like she's put it all behind her."
"She's a bit too much better," the taller man returned. "No one can just bounce back like this. She isn't the same Suzu she used to be."
"Just as long as some Suzu is back, I'll be satisfied." He sighed softly. "I wish I could have avoided getting her involved in this war to begin with."
"She wouldn't have listened. As I recall it, you tried it and she still came here." He punched Enjeru's arm not so lightly. "Don't start blaming yourself again. At least you kept Marie out of it."
"Got a letter from Marie today," the reddish-blonde-haired man mumbled.
Miki leaned forward, dropping the cigarette and crushing it beneath his foot. "Really? What'd she say?"
"Come visit. She misses me. Scolded me for not writing her. She got married and had a kid. That's about it."
The older man sputtered. "Marie... has a kid? Our little Marie?" He cracked his knuckles threateningly. "I'm gonna have kill someone."
"I doubt she'd be very happy if you killed Isaac."
The sputtering just got worse. "She married Isaac?!? What is she? Crazy? Of all the - I thought she had better sense than that!"
"You'd better not be talking about me like that, Miki-kun," Suzu's voice rang out. Looking over his shoulder, Enjeru spotted the blue-clad woman standing in the doorway, her arms once again laden with various objects and the ancient-looking healer standing behind her.
The old woman slowly hobbled over to the bed and gently touched the fading injuries on the young man's back. "You did a good job, Suzu. I can see a professional touch here."
"Of course!" She winked and gave the woman a thumbs-up sign. "Around these guys, I've had lots of call for practice!"
The old woman shook her head slightly. "You young people... honestly..." Suzu just grinned. "Anyway," the other woman continued, gently placing the bandages over the fading wounds, "these won't scar and at worst he should be slightly stiff in the morning. Can't do anything about the others though." She shrugged stiffly. "He'll sleep the whole night through, thanks to that sleep spell, but still someone should stay with him, just in case."
"We can handle that, Deborah-san," Miki answered.
She turned back to him. "You should have come to see me hours ago, Miki-kun. Even you aren't as invincible as you think you are."
"I'm fine, Deborah-san." His voice was becoming short, thin.
She glanced back and forth between Enjeru and Suzu then back at Miki. "Which one of these two are you trying to impress?"
Once the old woman was out of the tent, Suzu put on her most kawaii puzzled face, holding a delicate forefinger over her lips. "Now, how should we manage this?"
"Manage what?" Miki repeated.
"Sleeping arrangements. We can't kick Enjeru out of his own tent, especially not after I went to all the trouble of digging up a sleeping bag for him." Said general rolled his eyes. "I'm small enough to stretch out when I put the two chairs together. Demo saa... Miki-kun... there's nowhere for you to sleep here!"
"Brat." But it seemed to be a term of endearment.
"You're just saying that 'cause you like me so much!"
"Honestly," Enjeru cut in, "would it be good for him to wake up and see so many people in here? We wouldn't want to overwhelm him too much, would we?"
The other two stopped their playful bickering to stare at him in nothing less than abject shock. "Masaka..." Suzu intoned softly.
"You have developed a conscience, Enjeru. Gods save us all."
"Okay, we'll be in our tents if you need us for anything, Enjeru-kun." Suzu grabbed her much taller companion by the front of his black shirt and dragged him out of the tent.
In the silence that followed immediately thereafter, Enjeru leaned his chair a little closer to the young man and settled in for a long night.
12 July 2001
Maa maa... and here's yet another chapter!!! Hope you're still enjoying! I love writing this! Remember: I love reviews and/or e-mails.
See you in the next chapter!!