Something was not quite right here, was the first thing he thought as he began to wake up.
It wasn't the bad kind of "not quite right" though; that much was for sure, he thought to himself, stretching just slightly. When he was able to move more than he'd anticipated, he started to figure out what was "not quite right." First of all, of course, he was able to move around, no chains, no rope. Second, he was sleeping on something soft and extremely comfortable. And third, his entire body felt stiff, but not the stiffness of bruises and scabbing wounds. Instead it was the stiffness of almost completely healed injuries and bandages.
Wrestling his eyes open, he stared for a long second at the unfamiliar tent wall before him before quickly sitting up and taking stock of his surroundings. He was sitting on a single bed in a large tent with dark green ceiling and walls. A tent? he thought to himself. Only Yuurei has a tent like this, but this isn't Yuurei's.
As he looked to his left, down at the silvery potion and bandages on the floor beside the bed, the memories of last night began to come back to him. Oh yeah, I escaped and got captured. Those three weird people brought me back here and... took care of me, healed me. I wonder what they're going to want with me. He frowned. They haven't mentioned anything yet. Demo... everyone wants something. No one's nice for the sake of being nice.
"So I just have to figure out what they want," he muttered aloud.
"Who says we want anything?" an only vaguely familiar voice asked from his right.
He nearly jumped out of his skin and whirled to face a man with reddish-blond hair and almost auburn-colored eyes, dressed in a white shirt and black pants. Who the... Oh yeah... He's the one who claims to be... "Enjeru?"
His eyes narrowed, but he nodded slightly. "That's right. Having a hard time remembering last night?" Aku couldn't help frowning at the way he put that. He nodded slowly. "Suzu had to use a sleep spell on you to keep you from being in too much pain while she healed you. You're always disoriented after a sleep spell; it'll go away in a few minutes."
"So what are you going to do to me?" he asked, hugging his legs up to his chest, trying his best to ignore the fact that his pants were shredded almost beyond the point of decency, as well as the fact that his shirt was nowhere in sight.
"We had a long discussion about that last night." The older man scowled faintly. "We finally decided that if we sent you back to your father -"
He couldn't hold back shivering and hugged himself tighter. "Please... I'd rather you kill me than send me back to him," he requested, not caring if it sounded like he was begging or not. Anything to keep from going back there.
"I never said we were going to send you back. As I was saying, if we sent you back, Yuurei would probably kill you. Same with if we sent you in the other direction. So you're going to stay here, with us."
"Here?" he echoed, glancing around again. It was a big tent... well, big for one person. For two, it could get a bit cramped. And he looked at the bed he sat on. "Just what did you have in mind?" he asked, nervousness tingeing his voice as he looked up into those endless and unreadable deep reddish-brown eyes.
The scowl worsened, got deeper and a bit scarier. "Nothing like that. There's a sleeping bag on the floor. I'll be sleeping in it the next few nights, till you get completely better, then it's yours." He frowned. "I don't know about how things are over there, but I have no intention of... taking advantage of you." He stood suddenly, frown growing even more sour as Aku wasn't able to keep from jumping. "You may not remember it, but I promised last night I wouldn't let anyone hurt you, Aku. That included myself."
"Why?" he whispered, though the volume grew with every word till he was nearly shouting. "Why do you care? We're enemies, my kind and your kind; we've always been enemies. Why should you care what happens to me?"
"I honestly don't know. Maybe because I'm only half 'my kind,' as you put it. I don't think like the others do."
"So the rumors are true," he whispered softly. "You are half ningen too."
He shrugged. "I don't remember hahaue to remember what a ningen that isn't running in terror is like, but I suppose so." Each step slow and measured out, he crossed the few feet to the foot of the bed and picked up a set of clothes, holding them forth towards Aku. "These are for you. They're mine, so they'll be a bit big on you, but it's all we could come up with on short notice."
Slowly he accepted the clothes, trying hard not to act like they were going to bite him. "Th... thank you."
Enjeru shrugged. "Don't worry about it. We'll get someone to make you some clothes of your own sooner or later."
"And for being so nice to me. No one's ever done anything like this for me before," he softly said, staring down at the clothes.
A hand closed around his shoulder in a gentle but firm grip that seemed almost comforting and reassuring in ways he could not place yet. He glanced up to see those unfathomable auburn eyes up close and staring down at him in some soft way that he'd never seen before. "I'm - we're going to change that, Aku." Abruptly, he stood back, looking a bit chagrined, as if he'd done something he hadn't meant to. "Things aren't perfect here, by any means, but it's got to be better than where you came from. I - we'll take care of you."
"Is that a promise?"
The general nodded slightly. "That's a promise. I never have and never will break a promise." The faintest hint of a smile graced his lips for a second then vanished. "I'll be right outside. Why don't you get dressed and we'll see what we can come up with for breakfast? All right?"
He returned the nod and tried on the smile as well. "That sounds good."
"Okay. I'll be right outside," he repeated, slipping almost silently over to the tent flap that served as a door. "Come on out when you're ready." He stepped outside, letting the flap shut behind him.
For a long moment, he stared after the man. So this is the infamous Enjeru? Nothing at all like I'd been expecting, but a welcome surprise nonetheless. He seems really kind of nice, in an odd sort of way, like he doesn't want to be. With a slight shaking of his head and a ghost of a smile, he quickly started changing into the clothes he'd been given.
He nearly jumped out of his skin again when he heard an extremely loud feminine voice just outside the tent scream, "Enjeru-kun no baka!" He scrambled into his clothes to see exactly what was going on - and was barely able to hold back a laugh at the sight that greeted him on the other side of the piece of cloth in the faint pink light of predawn.
A white-haired woman, even shorter than him and dressed all in blue, had the reddish-blond-haired man in a headlock, forcing him to bend nearly in half to be down at her height. One blue gauntleted fist rubbed sharply into the top of his head. A man dressed all in black except for a tan trench coat leaned against a tree nearby; if he were laughing any harder, he would have been doubled over. It was pretty close as it was.
"Miki," called Enjeru softly, "quit laughing."
"No way, fearless leader," returned the dark-clad man. "This is too priceless! You at anyone's mercy; it's too rich!" He winked slightly. "Besides, you brought this on yourself."
"Hai hai!" the white-haired woman continued, digging her fist in a little harder. "You were supposed to stay with him at all time! Not leave his side for a moment!"
"I didn't think he'd appreciate me standing over his shoulder while he changed clothes."
"Excuses, excuses!" she complained. "I have half a mind to -"
"Umm...?" he interrupted quietly.
"Hmm?" The woman finally let go of Enjeru and turned to face him. "Ah! You're up!" She winked at him confidently and gave him a thumb's up. "Looking good there, Aku-kun! A regular bishounen!"
He could feel a blush spreading across his cheeks and cursed his too pale skin.
"Ignore her," the tall man, Miki, stated, grinning slightly and lighting a cigarette. "Our Suzu-chan is always like this. You get used to it." She pouted cutely in his direction, and he ignored it. "Glad to see you up and about."
"Aa..." He glanced around, noting that the majority of the rest of the camp was awake as well. "No one's going to say anything about... me being here, are they?"
The white-haired woman punched her fist into her other hand, a fierce grin on her face. "They'd better not, if they know what's good for them."
"We've been spreading the word that you're going to be an informant for us against Yuurei," Miki continued, a calm counterpart to Suzu's temper. "And besides, they know better than to cross us." He jerked his thumb in the direction of their general. "Especially not him."
Enjeru shrugged. "I always keep my promises" was all he'd say.
13 July 2001
Maa... I'm rolling the chapters on out, ne? Anyway, I hope you're enjoying reading it as much as I'm enjoying writing it. Remember that I love reviews and/or e-mails.
And thanks to the people in the AnimeHorizons forums for distracting me!! ^_~ I had fun!
See you in the next chapter!!