If he could say nothing else about his new companions, they were at least entertaining. His second day here, and it still amazed him the way that little girl bossed around her two companions - and the way that they obeyed her without question, as well as the way they put up with her abuse. But none of them had had any problem with him being along for the ride as well, interrupting their neat little trio.
"Saa... Enjeru-kun!" Suzu called, bouncing back from the mess hall. That woman seemed to be a limitless ball of energy. The man sitting beside him shook his head ruefully, apparently thinking the same thing. "Why are you hogging Aku-kun all to yourself over here?" He felt himself flush scarlet; he couldn't quite get used to her comments.
The general scowled impressively at her, and she grinned back, apparently not fazed in the least. "It won't work, Enjeru," Miki commented, predictably only a few steps behind Suzu. "She's glare-resistant."
"That's a good thing, right?" he couldn't help asking.
Miki chuckled softly and jerked a thumb in Enjeru's direction. "Around Mr. Attitude here, yeah."
Enjeru frowned. "Did you guys come here just to insult me or did you have an actual purpose?"
"To insult you!" Suzu happily answered, bobbing her head slightly. The reddish-blonde-haired man sighed in apparent frustration, looking almost ready to commit murder on the small young woman.
"We wanted to ask you both to join us at weapons practice," Miki covered smoothly.
"I don't have a sword," Aku quickly tried to excuse himself.
Enjeru raised an eyebrow sharply, finally taking the rest of his concentration away from the report before him. "We'll have to do something about that." He stood and set the papers down in the chair he'd just vacated, anchoring them with a pen. "I'm taking Aku to see if we can find a sword for him. We'll meet you at the training grounds in a few minutes," he stated shortly before he and their newest companion started walking in the opposite direction of the training grounds.
"Well," Suzu commented once they were out of earshot, her face and voice very serious, "if nothing else, Aku-kun is good for Enjeru-kun."
Miki looked up at her, distracted. "How so?"
"He's outside in the daylight for starters. How long has it been since we've seen him do that?"
He shrugged, unable to remember exactly. "A long time."
"He's talking a lot more, especially around Aku, and he's giving less death glares too!" she continued. "And the glares of death have been toned down quite a bit in the last few days. And, I swear to you, Miki-kun, believe it or not, I caught him smiling this morning!"
He froze, did a classic double-take, and stared in open-mouth shock. "Enjeru?" She nodded. "Our Enjeru?" Another nod. "Our emotionless Enjeru?"
"He's not that emotionless. If he was, Aku-kun would be dead by now." She grinned wistfully in the direction the other two went. "I think they're good for each other. Aku-kun is finally beginning to relax around us."
"You can't blame him for being nervous. He was brought here as a prisoner, remember? Our fighters accept him because we do, and that's it. If we ever stopped accepting him, they'd murder him in a heartbeat."
She nodded slowly, turning and starting to walk in the direction of the training field, and he followed her. "And besides, we have no idea what he went through before he came here, other than that his father - and apparently a great deal of other people - abused him." She smacked her fist into the palm of her other hand. "Man, if I ever get my hands on that Yuurei, he's gonna wish he was never born."
Miki chuckled, draping his arm over her shoulders and pulling her tight up against him as they continued walking. "I think you're going to have to wait in line, Suzu-chan." At the puzzled look on her face, he laughed again. "I think Enjeru may have beaten you to the first place in line."
"He's always so damned competitive." She stretched her arms out before her. "Think they'll be here soon?"
"They'll be here whenever they can get Aku a sword that meets Enjeru's standards. It could take a while."
She grinned up at him and flopped down on the sparse grass in the field. A moment later, he'd folded up his much taller body to sit beside her. "Let's just wait here for them." She lay back on the grass, her white hair a startling contrast to the faint green of the grass and the dark brown of the soil. "I could use a nap."
"I just hope they get here before you have time to burn out here in the sunlight. I remember how much you bitched last time."
She blew him a raspberry and closed her eyes.
Somewhere across the camp, Enjeru was meeting Miki's expectations of him and perhaps surpassing them, handling each and every sword in the armory - and rejecting each and every one of them as well. If it wasn't badly made, it was too long. If it wasn't too long, it was too heavy. The list of complaints went on and on. Aku just stood a bit to the side and watched with an amused but concerned expression on his face. Is he normally this picky? he couldn't help thinking to himself, wandering a little away to consider another table.
"I think I like this one, Enjeru," he called out a moment later, slowly picking up a weapon that looked like it couldn't decide if it wanted to be a dagger or a sword, its length falling somewhere in between the two.
The general's shadow fell over the bright blade a moment later, studying it with a critical eye. "You're going to lose some range with that," he commented softly, "but it'll be made up for by being more easily controlled. Sure you want it?"
"Hai," he answered softly, already resheathing it.
"Okay," he lead them back out of the weapons' storage tent and in the direction of the training field. They walked in fairly companionable silence for few moments before he spoke again. "I hope Suzu hasn't gone to sleep waiting on us."
He grinned slightly. "Is she difficult to wake up?"
A faint smirk touched the other man's lips. "Not to wake up, but to put up with after she wakes up is a different story. It can be hell on earth." He shook his head slightly, brushing a stubborn reddish-blonde lock out of his eyes before it fell right back into its previous place. "I don't know how Miki puts up with her sometimes."
"Are they a couple?" There's certainly a lot of chemistry between them.
"Certainly not for any lack of trying on Miki's part." Enjeru chuckled slightly, an odd and apparently quite long-unused sound; it seemed to stick in his throat and come out hoarsely, as if he'd forgotten how to do it correctly. He coughed to try to clear the tightness that remained in his throat afterwards, but it did little to help, and so he continued speaking. "He's been trying to get her to notice him as anything other than a friend for just about as long as he's known her, and she's remained happily oblivious the whole time. Honestly I don't think he stands a chance with her."
"Maybe if he tells her how he feels..."
"He never will. Miki's too used to going at everything on his own. We all had to be."
"You guys have known each other a while then?"
"Since we were kids. When we all first met, Suzu was eight, Miki was twelve, I was ten, and Marie was six."
"Marie?" he repeated.
"She's like a little sister to us all. She was the one who brought us all together and kept us together for those first few years." He sent the general a prompting look, and the man chuckled again. "Miki and Suzu didn't like me at first. I was a pain in the ass even back then and a weakling half-breed to top it all off."
"Why did you stick with them then?"
He shrugged. "They were the first friends I'd ever had. They're the only friends I've ever had, either because I'm half-ningen or because I'm the general."
Aku sighed, fiddling with the laces on the sword he carried. "I've never had any friends before. Over there," he nodded towards the west, where the enemy's camp lay, "there's no such thing as friendship or loyalty except as weaknesses to exploit in others. Yuurei would have killed me for sure if I'd tried to make a friend around him." He paused, biting his lip slightly. "Enjeru?"
Auburn eyes turned to look deep into his sapphire ones. "Hai?"
"Are you my friend?"
He was silent for a moment then slowly nodded. "Hai... I'd like to be."
"Can I be your friend?"
"You already are, Aku." He glanced away from his companion and frowned fondly at the two figures sprawled on the field. "Great," he complained softly, drawing the word out long, "now we have to wake them up."
"What did you have in mind?"
"A bucket or two of cold water."
"I heard that, Enjeru-kun," Suzu growled not-so-menacingly, peeking one golden eye open. "Like I told you last time, the next time you douse me in cold water, you won't live to tell about it."
"Well, then get up. We're supposed to be training, not sleeping."
"You shouldn't take so damned long then. You and your anal retentive self," she replied, slowly sitting up.
"He was just trying to make certain I had a good sword," he interrupted smoothly.
Golden (suddenly no longer sleepy) eyes started at him wildly, the look in them reading along the lines of "Who are you, and what have you done to Aku?" The first even semi-argumentative words out of the young man's mouth - and they weren't even for himself.
14 July 2001
Well, I tried to beat the clock, but I guess I lost. A chapter a day seems to be my limit. Anyway, please remember that I love reviews and/or e-mails.
See you in the next chapter!!