"I'm not going to hold back," Enjeru stated softly, threateningly.
"I'm not going to either," Miki returned.
A second later they both exploded into action, moving almost too quickly for Aku to follow their movements. Almost. Maybe that's why it wasn't quite as much of a shock to him as it was to Suzu to see them slide to a stop a moment later, both breathing heavily. A thin trail of blood slid down from a slice across Miki's temple, and his shirt, pants, and trench coat were all sliced in a few places. Enjeru looked a lot worse. Half of one of the sleeves of his white shirt was almost sliced away, revealing a deep gash angling down his sword arm. His black pants hid the worst wound apparently though; he barely seemed able to put any weight on his right leg.
"Stop it, both of you!" Suzu yelled, running a few steps towards them.
"Stay out of this, Suzu!" ordered Miki, never even looking her way. "I'm not backing down till this bastard starts listening to me!"
She winced as she noted the tightening around Enjeru's eyes. Miki hadn't meant that word in the literal sense (she hoped), but of course that's how Enjeru would take it. The reddish-blonde man's body froze up just slightly, his eyes glazing over just slightly, and his grip on his katana loosened just noticeably. Miki didn't seem to notice, however, as he moved in for the next stage of the attack.
"Oi, gaki!" Suzu suddenly yelled, pitching her voice deep and commanding. "Block!"
As if struck by lightening, the general jolted. His eyes narrowed, and his grip on the sword renewed itself just in time to parry the attack and push the other man back, resuming the fight at as close to full-strength as he could currently manage.
"Why are they fighting?" he couldn't help thinking aloud.
"Because they're both stubborn asses!" Suzu declared, stomping her foot in a mild show of temper.
"Why did you call Enjeru 'brat'?"
"It's what his tousan used to call him when he was training him. He always obeys anything close to that voice," she returned, never taking her eyes of the fight. "Kuso... this is so wrong..."
"Suzu-s... Suzu, I have an idea..."
Enjeru panted softly, shifting his katana into his other hand. He wasn't as good of a fighter left-handed, but his right arm was pretty well gone. He'd always wondered who was the better fighter between him and Miki; it seemed he was finding out the hard way. For every wound he inflicted on the taller man, he received at least two in return. At least he's breathing hard too... he thought savagely to himself, staring at where the other fighter leaned against his sword across the field. "Getting tired, Miki-kun?"
The handsome face drew up into a sneer. "Not even close. Are you ready to listen to me?"
"I still don't believe a word you're saying." He frowned. "And I thought I could trust you of all people, Miki. I guess I was wrong."
"Damn you, Enjeru. If you'd lose even half of that smart-ass attitude of yours, we could avoid ever having to do this."
"So it's all my fault?" He sneered and launched himself at Miki.
The taller man started to bring his sword up to defend himself, maybe even deliver a few new injuries to his friend, when light blue streaked across his vision, and suddenly he couldn't move his arms. Looking down, he could see why: the long ribbon Suzu always wore around was wrapped around him, binding his arms to his body. "Dammit, Suzu! Let me go!"
"Iie!" she returned. "I'm not going to sit by and let my friends kill each other! I saw enough of that over there!"
He felt rather than saw her gesture westward, and immediately he felt chagrin wipe the anger out of his system. Of all the things he'd meant to do, reminding her of It was not one of them. "Gomen ne, Suzu," he whispered.
The ribbon loosened, and he glanced over his shoulder to see her sad eyes staring at him. "Oh, Miki-kun..." Her eyes flew wide open suddenly. "Enjeru! Matte yo!"
He whirled back around to see the general almost on top of him, katana aimed at his heart for a final killing blow. Yes, his moves were predictable when he was angry, but he also lost all sense of reason and became a monster out for blood. He struggled against the cloth binding him, but it held firm, as Suzu had known in would when she chose to imprison him with it. "Enje-"
A dark shape moved between them, arms held out wide. "Stop, Enjeru!" Miki's eyes flew wide when recognition flew through the adrenaline blocking his brain. "Stop now!" Aku yelled again.
"Move, Aku!" Miki yelled. "He's not going to stop!"
"He'll stop." The voice was hard and certain; there was no doubt in the young man's mind. "He promised he wouldn't let anyone hurt me, even himself, and he always keeps his promises." Navy blue eyes looked up at the sword tip approaching his face. "He'll stop."
The blade drew closer, close enough now to reach out and touch. Suzu winced her eyes shut, while Miki could only watch in abject horror. "Move..." he whispered again.
When Aku spoke, his voice remained absolutely calm. "He'll stop."
And just like, he did. The tip of the katana sank to the ground at Aku's feet. Glazed auburn eyes stared at him blindly for several long, tense moments before focusing. "Aku...?" he whispered.
The dark-haired young man slowly stepped closer, pushing the blade out of the other man's hands and placing a gentle hand on the uninjured arm. "Hai, it's me, Enjeru." He spoke gently, his voice soothing.
"... why didn't you move?" It didn't sound like Enjeru's voice even as it came out of his mouth. For all of its typical deepness, it was shakier and almost childlike and fragile.
"You promised you wouldn't let anyone hurt me. You always keep your promises. And you're my friend, ne?" He smiled faintly. "Now why don't we get Deborah-san to do something about those wounds, ne?" He looped Enjeru's uninjured arm around his shoulder, taking the brunt of his weight onto himself.
Suzu scooped it up. "I'll hold onto it, Enjeru-kun. I don't think either of you need a weapon," she cast Miki a dirty look," until you promise me you can get along again." The taller man hung his head in shame.
"Aa...," Enjeru agreed softly, apparently barely paying any attention to what she said. He sagged slightly against Aku. "Let's go..."
Suzu and Miki watched them slowly walk away before she sighed loudly and jerked the ribbon that still held him. It tightened beyond tolerable ranges for a split second, like it had cut off the circulation in his lower body and his breath, then it loosened and fell off. He slammed his sword down into the dirt and fell back against the grass, stretching his long legs out on either side of him. "I fucked up royally this time, didn't I?" he whispered harshly to himself.
A thin shadow fell across him, but he didn't look up at her. "Hai, you did, Miki-kun." She sat down beside him, setting her ribbon down next to her. "You're just lucky we're all so forgiving."
"I guess so..." His voice was tight with regret and guilt.
She sighed and bopped him lightly on the head. "Don't start this, Miki-kun! You look like Enjeru, sitting there blaming yourself for everything that ever goes wrong." When he didn't respond except to rub lightly at the spot she'd hit, she scowled and moved over to plop down in his lap. "No one blames you for this but you, Miki-kun..."
She started just slightly when she felt warm hands on either side of her waist as he pulled her closer to him, resting his head against her chest. "Gomen ne, Suzu-chan," he whispered.
Shock forgotten, she rested her cheek against his hair and ran a soothing hand up and down his back. "For what, Miki-kun?"
"I've always tried to keep Enjeru out of trouble, and I've always failed. The one thing Marie asked me to do, and I failed at it." She felt him relax just slightly against her. "You must be so disappointed in me."
"Iie," she returned softly. "I'm not disappointed. You've kept Enjeru-kun and me safe for so long, Miki-kun."
"Not that well. I didn't do a good job of protecting you."
She resisted the instinctive urge to stiffen. "If you're still kicking yourself about that, Miki-kun, I'm going kick you around the camp a few dozen times. That was not your fault. Yuurei's to blame there too." Her thoughts trailed off, and silence settled down on them for several long moments.
"Do you think Enjeru's going to be okay?"
"Hmm...? Oh, I'm sure Aku won't let anything happen to him. I bet he's putting him to bed now."
Her prediction was startlingly accurate; across the camp, Aku unlaced the last loop on the other man's boots and slid them off his feet. "How do you feel, Enjeru?"
The general nodded slightly, listing to the side just a little as he did so. The old healer had used that familiar silvery potion (which she had identified as Bassei, from the continent, which explained why he'd never seen it before) on the cuts, but she'd also bound them tightly, explaining that because Enjeru was half-ningen, he didn't heal very quickly and there was still blood loss to worry about. "Kinda dizzy," he belatedly answered.
"You lost a lot of blood. Don't go picking anymore fights with Miki-san, okay?" He looked up faintly from helping clumsy fingers unbutton the formerly white shirt Enjeru had worn. "We were worried."
"You were worried... about me...?" the other man whispered, slowly leaning down against the pillow.
"Hai. Now go to sleep so you can heal." He slowly started to move off the bed when a familiar hand grabbed his arm in a weakened grip. "What is it?"
"You're still hurt too." He slid over as far as the small bed would allow. "There's room enough to share."
His eyes flew wide, but he could not argue. "H-hai..." He turned and blew out the single candle that lit the tent and laid down as well. Surprisingly, sleep came quickly.
15 July 2001
Maa maa... Two chapters in one day!!! Yay!!! I've finally passed my goal! Next goal: three chapters in a day... that'll be a while though... Anyway, hope you enjoyed, and I love reviews and/or e-mails.
And I'll be posting links to the piccies Pokahydee-chan is doing for me of my main characters as soon as she gets them to me. ^_^ I'm as excited to see them as everyone else!
Especially dedicated to Tenshi-chan (Chibi Tenshi) because she asked for a few of the scenes that appeared in this chapter! Hope you enjoyed, amiga!