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Old 05-21-2018, 02:28 PM   #11
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Tamon had thought himself a clever sort, but Yuu set about getting Noboru talkative with such ease that Tamon felt a pang of jealousy and the same electric thrill of anxious need to prove himself to Yuu that he had felt when they first met. He took notes in the back of his mind about just how Yuu got Noboru talking, about the way he set him at ease by playing on the sensibilities that society hammered into him. Noboru saw them both as children, and so he was more candid than he ought to have been, because what could a couple of children possibly do to him? It was to Noboru’s credit, Tamon had to admit, that even at what might have been his most conversational, he wouldn’t speak of the family business. That was the sort of loyalty you couldn’t buy, and he stopped considering even the possibility that Noboru was somehow involved in Arisu’s disappearance. He might have had the means to get her out of her room without a fight and out of the manor without question, but he didn’t bear any animosity towards his employer.

As always, Tamon feigned disinterest, but as the conversation between the lieutenant and Yuu went on, he realized they were both the sort of person he wanted to be: calm, collected, intelligent, personable, and dutiful. It was a shame, Tamon thought, that someone of Yuu’s character was from Konoha. Sunagakure could use more shinobi like him given the recent events and tragedies, and if his previous partner was any indication, they could use them in spades.

“Whoa,” he muttered to himself as he saw the apex of the Okita manor cresting over the hills. Somehow, he had expected the second manor to be more modern; for there to be a discernible difference between the families that might inform the core of their grudge against one another. That was not the case; they were both alike in dignity, and so he followed Yuu as he had suggested: with his hands visible and folded neatly one over the other atop his abdomen. He heard Noboru retreating back the way they came, and considered that a great relief.

“So, Yuu-san! I have a plan,” Tamon said, looking to Yuu as they approached the front gates of the manor. He had his shallow breath taken away for a heartbeat by the way the world reflected off of his fey eyes. The stormclouds above and in Yuu’s eyes made his heart race. He couldn’t wait for the rain. “If Arisu is hiding here, we might be able to get her out to stop the Sasami attacking them, but the Okita family will respond to two shinobi sneaking in to their home, y’know!”

“So, I think we should pretend to be hired by someone one in the Okita family,” he explained, “and try to steal some answers out of them. You’ll always miss your shot if you don’t know where to aim!” He tapped his temple for emphasis, as if his projectile idiom was trying to teach Yuu a valuable lesson.

The guard at the front of the gate was almost dressed as well as Noboru, but he did not have the same respect for standing at his post. He was leaning against the gate, rolling a butterfly knife around and about his hand with the same carefree grace Tamon had with his Thinking Shuriken, and left his tie untightened and his dress shirt untucked. His shoulder-length, dark hair was brushed haphazardly to one side, and he grinned toothlessly at the sight of Yuu and Tamon approaching.

“Bad time to be travelling! The storm’s about to break, huh.” He snapped his knife closed, and shoved off of the gate. His grin widened until his teeth, as white and straight as Yuu’s, showed. “We’re having a bit of trouble at the moment, so don’t make me do anything I’ll regret.”

“We’re here to solve trouble, not make it, y’know!” Tamon held up his hands, as if to show off just how unarmed he was to the guard. His kunai was still nestled against his wrist if there was trouble, but the guard seemed amiable enough and he knew he couldn’t put one in the eyes of whoever was in the guard tower. It was a cold comfort.

“Ah, yeah, great!” The guard clapped his hands together, rubbing them against another with something approaching glee before he kicked backwards to work the gate open. He turned on his heels and pushed it open the rest of the way, bowing to Yuu and Tamon with theatrics that danced on the line of humorous and insulting. “Jirou sent out another one of you to look for him a little while ago, but we need all hands on deck to find Ichiro-sama.”

Tamon shot a look at Yuu, knowing that a missing member of the Okita family was no coincidence. “We’ll go see him immediately.”
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Old 05-21-2018, 02:46 PM   #12
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Yuu hadn’t bothered melting back into professionalism as they approached the Okita manor, holding his hands behind his head as he walked up to the entryway with a relaxed saunter. It was better this way, he had wagered, so that he wouldn’t be identified as a threat. His eyes glanced over the guardsman as they approached and he committed himself to a rapid assessment, using his gaze to determine if they were in any danger by the man. When he decided everything was good, he cracked a grin at Tamon as they started deeper into the compound.

I’m a sensory-type ninja,” He explained to the guard who had stared a bit awkwardly at his eyes. “Even if I look like a kid, I’ll be able to find Ichiro-sama, no problem.

The guard grunted at him as he walked past and Yuu felt a little defeated – not everyone was so easily seduced by his charms. The Okita compound was far more conventional towards Yuu’s tastes, sweeping archways and carefully layered singled roofs on padoga style buildings. Their bodyguards were far more aggressive, Yuu noticed while doing his best to appear disinterested in the threat – crossbow men, archers, swordsmen, the whole sort were out and ready to look for trouble. The two kids were able to pass up relatively unburdened, however.

Apparently they weren’t the first ninja to saunter through this day.

“More ninja?” A small blonde woman adjusted her glasses at the approach of the genin, taken a bit off guard by their headbands. “I wasn’t aware we hired any more.”

She glanced down at her wrist, her suit jacket’s sleeve revealing a small watch near the palm of her hand, then at the two children with a twisted line of seriousness on her lips. “Are you working for the other guy?”

Yuu glanced over at Tamon and slowly lowered his arms to his side, waving weakly at the woman. “Yes, ma’am. We’re part of his team. We operate as one unit. We got a little lost, though, where is Mr. Jirou again?
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Old 05-21-2018, 07:25 PM   #13
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The activity in the compound was worrisome. A fully grown man going missing was not usually as worrisome as the apparent abduction of a young heiress, but the Okita seemed to have already predicted the Sasami’s intentions. The reality of the violence about to spill over sat like a rock in Tamon’s gut. He and Yuu had to resolve this faster with each new round of information, and he could only imagine what chaos would be revealed once they met with Okita Jirou.

“Well, he’s in the kitchen if he’s moving like clockwork tonight,” she sighed, adjusting her horn rimmed glasses. She looked between Tamon and Yuu, passing a discerning gaze and hard frown between the two of them. Tamon offered her a quick, informal two-fingered salute, which didn't improve her disposition. “Go down the hallway to your left. Should find Master Jirou three doors down.”

“Thanks so much!” Tamon chirped, his voice half a song as he passed by the woman to follow her succinct directions.

There were fewer guards inside the manor proper, but that only made Tamon more anxious than he had been. He took a private moment to suck down one of the last hits from his inhaler as he walked down the hall towards Jirou. To his credit, Tamon was able to maintain a convincing veneer of smooth, easy confidence, never appearing hurried or panicked despite walking at a steady clip to meet with Okita Jirou. Tamon trusted his gut as he had when meeting the boss of the construction project, and reached into one of his pouches. His fingers grazed the surface of his A/V recording cube, and with a practiced pulse of chakra, he brought it to life and loaned it his eyes and ears.

Two guards manned the door outside of the Okita kitchen, and one glance at the forehead protectors that both Yuu and Tamon wore was enough for them to hold the door open for them. The kitchen itself was spotless, and quiet but for the soft babble of boiling water and the steady thump of a kitchen knife cutting down into a wooden cutting board. Okita Jirou wore his hair loose, but spent a great deal of time treating it so that it framed his face at near perfect angles. He wore glasses, and a dress shirt that looked freshly laundered, as well as a pinstripe apron over his clothes.

Jirou did not seem to glance up, but Yuu might have been blessed enough with his dojutsu to see the almost imperceptible flit of his gaze. “I thought Tomi said he could handle this alone,” he said, gathering the vegetables he had diced with the flat side of his santoku knife and dropping them into the stew pot nearby. “That his partners would only slow him down.”

Tamon had to think quickly. “Tomi’s a lot like your knife,” he hummed. “He’ll cut anything, so you need to make sure someone’s got a firm grip on him.”

“Ah. Always the quiet ones.” Jirou looked up and flashed a mirthless smile at the pair of shinobi. “Well, shall I catch you up?”
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Old 05-22-2018, 12:38 AM   #14
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Yuu slid into the kitchen and quickly had to calm himself down. There was a lot of cutlery about, enough to put anyone on edge, and they were in the middle of a proper infiltration. It felt like one wrong move would mean tangoing with a lot of blades, and despite his training, a knife to the skin was a knife to the skin. Okita Jirou defined intimidating, too – casually cooking, deftly handling the knife like a surgeon. A large man, more than capable of handling his own. Each cut of a vegetable sent a shiver down Yuu’s spine, who did his best to look as composed as ever.

He slid his hands behind his back to stand at ease, and to relax his body. He clutched his hands together tightly.

If Tomi-san wants to handle this alone, it wouldn’t be surprising.” He cast a glance to Tamon then back to Jirou. “But to be clear, we should probably make sure we’re all on the same page.

“It’s simple,” Jirou said, not making eye contact as he continued preparing his stew. “I’ve convinced my older brother, Ichiro, to elope with the Sasami girl. You guys are supposed to crash the party and kill them. When that idiot Sasami attacks in retribution, we eliminate his forces and take his grounds. Then you guys get handsomely rewarded and everyone goes their happy little way.”

His knife came down onto the cutting board with a sharp plop, punctuating his words with a deadly tone.

R—right.” If Yuu could turn more pale, he did so. “Eliminate the elopers, secure the farmland, get paid. It’s that...that simple.

“It’s that simple.” Jirou scooped the last of his vegetables into the pot, and started to clean his knife against the edge of his apron. “Any concerns with that plan?”

Outside, there was a peal of thunder, and rain started to crash down on the roof, surrounding the group in a din of steady static.

We’ll follow Tomi’s path.” Yuu nodded at Jirou as he started to sweat against his collar. “Did he already head to the kids? We should try and catch up, just in case.
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Old 05-23-2018, 03:16 PM   #15
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Sly as he was, Tamon had an easy time slipping into the mindset of a mercenary, and it was all thanks to Jirou’s direct, exacting demeanor. He was a man to fear more so than respect, but he and Yuu (who, despite one instance of an anxious stammer, had done an excellent job of playing the role) had got him to make one slip. He had been practicing his ability to walk on walls long enough to know one slip was enough to send you crashing to the ground, but springing a trap on Jirou now wouldn’t stop his assassin from cutting down Sasami Arisu and Okita Ichiro.

“They’re headed east, to the border with River Country. If Tomi is worth what I’m paying you, he shouldn’t be too far behind,” Jirou said, his voice half a whisper. His rapt attention was on cubing the cut of chicken he had pulled onto his cutting board, as if this business of murders and successions was just another night for him. Tamon had the feeling that was close enough to the truth to make no difference.

“We’re on it,” Tamon said, a smirk curling the corner of his lips. He turned on his heels to excuse himself, and as on his way in, he managed to hurry without looking hurried.

“Please make sure to dispose of the bodies properly, gentlemen,” Jirou called out after them, almost as an afterthought.

The guards stationed outside of the kitchen slid the door closed as soon as Tamon and Yuu had quit the room, and when he was out of sight and out of mind of Okita Jirou, Tamon drew out his A/V cube. He turned it over and over again in the palm of his hand, studying it and wondering if it was best to cut off the head of the snake by passing this information to KAZE, or suck out its venom first by taking out the mercenary ninja.

He thought of his last partner, and realized it was best to stay firmly in control of the situation. Someone else might just start killing everyone, he realized, but any justification was to push the craving for thrills and glory far from his mind.

“Let’s put some pep in our step, yeah?” His easy grin widened beneath his mask, and he tucked the crook of his elbow against his mouth and let his other arm trail behind him as he took off as fast as he dared to put as much of a distance between himself and the dark plots as possible.
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Old 05-24-2018, 03:59 PM   #16
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Pitter patter, pitter patter.

The rain started to swell around the two genin as they started their movement from the Okita compound. It swashed down over their bodies and caused Yuu’s hair to slick straight to the back of his robes, the sound of his layered garments a steady drumline of crackling fabric. Moving through the sudden storm made it difficult, and fears started to mount that they wouldn’t be fast enough to catch up to this Tomi before he managed to perform his task on the runaway lovers.

I hope Jirou wasn’t wise to us, sent us running the wrong way,” Yuu quietly remarked as they splashed down the path at foot speeds only possible to those trained like shinobi, flickering in and out of sight as they paused for footing before bounding off again, practically sailing through the air.

But, finally, barely in the edge of the vision of his incredible sight, there was a resthouse, built of wood and stone, on the edge of the road. Inside, for sure, were two people huddled around a small lit stove – a man and woman. Yuu slowed his movement as they reached the general area and waved Tamon to huddle down next to him as he formed a hand seal and concentrated his chakra into his eyes. Quickly, quickly – he’d have to see. Even if the Byakugan granted him sight beyond sight, it was difficult to process all that information at once. Glance at any picture of a crowd and point out how many people wear glasses – that sort of thing. Yuu had to do that in a 360 degree field all around him, pushing his vision out to the brink, until it was just a faded and blurry image almost completely devoid of color.

And quickly, before this assassin took out the kids.

Byakugan!

The rain stopped. Tamon’s heart was in the middle of a single beat. A bird in the branches of a tree overhead was preening its feathers. An ant hill with well over a thousand busy bodies. Yuu’s own heart pumped once. Lightning slowly cracked over the sky, spreading out like spilled water on a wooden table. The stove before the two lovers in the roadhouse just across the bend crackled as the log underneath splintered. Where was he? Where was he?

Yuu came out of his trance as quickly as he entered it, sucking in hair and stumbling forward, a trail of blood from his nose resting against the top of his lip. “Right there!

A shuriken flew from his hand and spiraled through the air, pinking neatly into the wood of a spindly desert tree. Tomi stepped out from behind it, his brown eyes glaring at the two genin, soaking from the rain. His face was twisted in a mixture of confusion and anger. “Don’t get in my way,” He said --- his voice lost under the crack of thunder around them.

Yuu pushed Tamon to the side and yelped as a return kunai slashed through his arm, where Tamon’s throat had been moments before. Tomi was fast, and was taking advantage of the horrible visibility. “What do we do?
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Old 05-24-2018, 05:05 PM   #17
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Tamon hit the ground when Yuu shoved him, skidding a few inches and slathering his clothes with mud, grime, and rain-slick grass. He hadn’t expect the rain to come down in sheets, and worse, he had never been in a rainstorm before. He leapt to his feet, disoriented and barely cognizant of the danger until he heard Yuu’s cry. He found his footing, even if it was unsteady at first.

This wasn’t his battlefield, he realized that. Hyuuga Yuu and the peerless Byakugan would win the day, but Tomi was fast, and more experienced than he was, perhaps even more than his partner. “Alright!” Tamon rasped, working against his illness to keep his rattling, wet breath under control. He steadied his hands and worked them into seals, each one flowing one after the other. He worked them into the seals of the monkey, the boar, the bird. He held his fingers in the triangle formation of the last seal, and the whipping wind sighed as his chakra molded it. The air coalesced around his shoulder blades, swirling and tightening until two crude facsimiles of arms formed atop Tamon’s slim shoulders.

“The Byakugan can help you find him easier than he can find us or I can find him,” Tamon said to Yuu, and a rippling peal of thunder nearly drowned out his quiet voice. His real fingers began to work his sash loose as a plan likewise loosened up his mind. The Lucky Devil had to be craftier than the devil himself to make it through this without getting crippled or killed. “So, I’m going to risk distracting him, and you circle around to ambush his blind spot!”

“I am Uehara Tamon, the Lucky Devil of Sunagakure no Sato!” He called out to Tomi, hoping to stall him with words to start. He drew off his dirtied outer robe as soon as he got his sash loose, leaving his upper torso in nothing but a mesh undershirt. “Get ready to die at the hands of the orphan genius of the Iron Flower Generation!”

It was a lie, of course, but the red cloaked Spartoi were acclaimed throughout the Wind Country, and he hoped Tomi would have heard of them.

“I’m going to take that cloak off of you, so don’t bleed all over it!” shouted the mercenary ninja, and Tamon threw his cloak to the left with one of his conjured arms while he made a break for the right, risking his life on the poor visibility. Two kunai glinted in the slim fingers of moonlight that managed to get through the cloudbank, and tore into Tamon’s red robe. Explosive pouches tied to the rings of the kunai sparked to life, leaving Tamon’s ears ringing and his favorite robe in tatters and ash.

Deafened and disoriented by both his fall and the explosion, he snatched shurikens into all four of his hands, whipping them in a deluge of steel to match the driving rain. Most of his shots went wide. He wasn’t sure he had made purchase at all, it was difficult to tell in the rain, but the sudden barrage of throwing weapons forced Tomi from his cover. Tamon ran in the same direction after him, pulling three shurikens and a kunai into hand, and readying his next salvo.

Tomi was faster than he was, and Tamon couldn’t keep up to save his life. His heart hammered in his ringing ears as the mercenary began to outflank him. “Come on!” he shouted at Tomi, over the rainstorm. “I’m right here, y’know!”

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Old 05-24-2018, 06:00 PM   #18
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Tracking Tomi in the rain was more difficult than Yuu could have anticipated. This guy was swift. Even if he could keep his eyes on the prize, as it were, following his motions and sudden movements was an exercise in futility. There was a counter to that, the other half of his kekkei genkai – but he’d have to get close enough to touch the guy, which was a troubling proposition, all things considered. White light traced the cut on his arm as he forced the blood to coagulate using his medical ninjutsu, and then he moved away from Tamon with a nod. He’d have to trust this kid with his life, an unfortunate side effect of being a loaner ninja: risking your neck with people you barely knew.

Tamon had shown several times that he was clever, but this was the first time Yuu had to see if he was a skillful combatant or not. It wasn’t uncommon for the investigative types to flounder when pressed against the grindstone, Yuu himself no exception to the rule. But that was months ago, his first time dealing with a life or death situation. Now, there was no time to hesitate—his arms behind him as he moved through the mud and foliage to find ground against Tomi’s movements.

He was priming an other set of explosive kunai when the form of the Hyuuga burst out of the bushes at him, flying through the air with his arms out at full wingspan, a spinning bicycle kick as his feet lashed out towards Tomi’s face. The enemy ninja dropped his explosive pouch at his feet to catch the boy by his ankle and send him flying into the air—but he smiled, glowing down at the man, forming a one-handed seal.

Horisageru no Yadama!” He shouted, the forked kunai he had primed earlier in the mud flying up at Tomi’s chest, catching the explosive pouch in the process. As it exploded, Tomi covered his face to protect himself from the explosion, staggering back, and Makoto, of the Eagle house, revealed himself as his transformation technique ended.

The actual Yuu came from below, flowing through the explosion of the fireworks and slammed his palm into the stomach of the man, followed by three swift punches rolling over his arms, and a final pin-point precise finger thrust into the kidney, before falling back into the brush. Makoto let out a cry as he circled the air above them, fluttering through the rain. “Finally! We get to do something cool!

Tamon!” Yuu shouted – Tomi was recovering from the attack already, and drawing steel.
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Old 05-25-2018, 10:17 AM   #19
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“Yatta!” Tamon’s voice cracked as he cheered, from frayed nerves more than puberty. “Great job, Yuu!”

The mercenary was reeling under Yuu’s sudden, clever ambush, but the mortal glint of his kunai kept Tamon running for his life, and for good reason. When Tomi recovered from the attack, his pace was staggered from the puncturing jab to his kidney and the severe burns to his face, but even hobbled and half mad from the lancing pain he was gaining on Tamon.

“You little bastard!” Tomi didn’t yell; he roared. “I’ll kill you, then your friend, then those sickening lovebirds!”

He couldn’t keep up the pace he was making, and even if he could, he had to keep Tomi in place for Yuu’s follow-up attack. He could feel the crackling, dull ache in his chest, and held his next breath as his mind raced to find a path of escape before he collapsed in a fit of bloody coughing. Instead of running away, he worked himself into a u-turn, mud and grime spraying in an arcing wave away from him. He nearly slid out of control, but his conjured right arm jabbed his kunai into the ground to work as a pivot point.

His fingers curled around the ring of his fuuma shuriken, and he flicked his wrist, the folding blades fanning out and forming the four points of the demon windmill. He had no time for a proper handseal, but he did have time to givethe flat of one of the blades a quick kiss for good luck. With his two left arms, hurled it at Tomi with all the strength in his sickly arms.

The wind whipped around the fuuma shuriken as it sawed through the air, whipping away the needles of rain off of its hardened steel. Tomi sank to his knees, sliding on them through the muck, the razor edge of the fuuma shuriken shaving off strands of his bangs. He threw his kunai as he slid, and Tamon yelped in pain as he was hammered to the ground by the impact of one of them slamming into his shoulder and the other nearly breaking his collarbone from the impact. Tamon sobbed, and coughed, and clutched his wounded arm, but Tomi did not rise from his knees to finish the job.

The kunai Tamon had been preparing jutted from Tomi’s throat, the arc of its throw concealed in the shadows of the fuuma shuriken. The mercenary gurgled for words that wouldn’t come, and crawled first towards Tamon, then towards where Yuu had retreated, as if his sudden change in fortune didn’t make sense to him; as if he couldn’t make heads or tails of the fact that he couldn’t even breathe his last.

“Unlucky,” Tamon gasped, curling up into a tight ball as the rain and running mud washed over him.


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Old 05-25-2018, 11:50 AM   #20
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Sasami Arisu screamed in terror as the door of her little cabin roadhouse burst open, and Okita Ichiro quickly and firmly stood up to stand between her and the doorway. Hyuuga Yuu stood there with a little eagle perched on his shoulder, and slumped his package – a one Uehara Tamon – onto the wall. Both boys were bleeding, covered in mud and rain, and exhausted. Visible outside the open door was the slumped corpse of Tomi, the hidden assassin that had come for the pair.

Arisu. Ichiro. Forgive my mess.” The door slowly shut behind him and stillness was trapped inside the cabin – the smell of cooking soup and soft crackling of the stove fire not enough to drown out the sense of tension in the room. “I am Hyuuga Yuu, of Konohagakure. This...

He gestured to the wounded boy. “...is Uehara Tamon, of Sunagakure. We were here for a joint operation to investigate the increasing reality of a land war between your two families.

“Land war? I don’t care about that.” Ichiro gestured at the air defiantly. “I’m done with the Okita family, I don’t want to deal with their business anymore. I just want my own life.”

You can thank Tamon here for that life, then. Okita Jirou hired Tomi, that corpse out there, to come and kill you two as you eloped.

Arisu gasped.

He wasn’t a corpse until recently. I need to patch this kid up and we need to get back to the Sasami estate to stop this...indiscretion from becoming more sour.

“I don’t want anything to do with MY family, either!” Arisu pleaded. “I’m tired of having everything chosen for me!”

Yuu nodded sadly at her. He could resonate well with that. “Is it worth the blood of your clans and your retainers, though? We can try diplomacy when we get back. Please. I don’t want to see any more bloodshed.

“We’ll have to think about it.” Ichiro said, turning to Arisu. “Their feud happened before us and we knew it would happen after us, too.”

Yuu wasn’t entirely listening, rubbing his hands together to usher healing into Tamon’s wounds, but he remarked absently as he worked. “It would be real nice if we could have some of that soup. I’ve got a wounded child soldier here.

The lovers stared down at the two young boys, bleeding and broken for their protection, and then turned to each other with looks of regret on their faces. “But – “

Lightning cracked outside. Arisu gently patted Ichiro’s back. “Let’s tend to the children, first. Then we can talk.”

To be continued next time in...Both Alike in Dignity!
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