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Guilty Filthy Souls[May. 21st, 2014|08:44 pm]

[Takes place May 8, Yondaime Year 5, following No Quiet Man's Descent and Salt the Earth.]

Arechi Hill Safehouse was dust-choked and hollow, entranceway swept with old leaves. It had been carved right into the base of a hill; a quick wartime job someone had done in the heat of necessity, and smoothed out by more careful hands later. Unoccupied now, but the seals still worked. They came down in a shiver of chakra when Raidou keyed through the correct sequence of hand-signs.

He shouldered the heavy door aside, letting his blunt, tired chakra sense extend.


He’d expected that, but worry still tasted like lead. Katsuko slipped in ahead of him, shedding rain off her armor. She cracked a neon green lightstick and set off down the long, dark hallway, chasing shadows around the bend. The walls had subtle curves instead of rigid straight lines, which made it feel a lot like a burrow.

A deep burrow, at that.

Raidou heaved the door closed and followed her. There was an automatic illusion built into the safehouse’s defenses; as soon as the locks tumbled back into place, the outer view of the door vanished, replaced by an anonymous scrubby patch of hillside. You had to know exactly where you were going to find it. Even then, they’d almost missed the tiny marker stone in the dark and rain.

“Found the pantry,” Katsuko called, voice rasping with tiredness. “And the cells.”

“Is there food?”

“Looks fully stocked.”

There was one blessing. Konoha did its best to maintain safehouses, but you never knew until you landed in one. And there was nothing quite as crushing as finding your bolt hole ripped open and laid bare, with the long journey to the next one ahead of you.

A pump creaked, followed by splashing.

“Running water, too,” Katsuko said, from the tiny cubbyhole that served as a kitchen. “Must be hooked into an underground stream.”

“Gives us good odds for a generator,” Raidou said, and cracked his own lightstick.

He found the generator after a little searching. It was wired up in a back room which served double-duty as linen storage and a ventilation hub, judging by stacked towels and a steel shaft vanishing up into the ceiling. For a bunker this deep, they had to get the air in somewhere. Raidou put his face next to the grate and smelled rain. A faint, cold breeze stroked his bare face. Still in working order, then.

The generator took a bit of cajoling, but some helpful soul had left a wrench and hastily chalked instructions on the wall: bang until working. There was oil, too. Raidou applied both and a sturdy kick for good measure, and the machine grumbled to life.

Electric lights flickered, died twice, and finally brightened to a low yellow glow.

Back in the kitchen, Katsuko gave a croaky cheer.

Raidou stuck his glowstick into an armor-strap and headed back, learning the layout as he went. A bathroom with a toilet, sink, and a shower, glory be, though Raidou doubted the generator had enough juice in it to make the water any better than ‘not quite icy’. A low-roofed bunkroom, stacked with six individual narrow cots. Most importantly, a neatly stocked medic’s closet spilled treasures when Raidou cracked the door open in a cloud of dust. Bandages, sterile equipment, painkillers, even Ringer’s lactate in carefully labeled IV-bags. Most things were actually in date.

There were also the two cells Katsuko had found, made up of narrow little slots carved into the hill near the kitchen. They weren’t fancy. Hard-packed dirt walls and barred doors, with a bucket shoved into the corner and a blanket apiece for a bedroll. A place to hold someone briefly, not keep them indefinitely. Though a lick of glimmering energy in the bars suggested someone had actually spent the time and effort to set some chakra-limiters in place.

Somewhere to bed the rookies down, if they got cranky.

The thought made a faint smile rise up before it died. The rookies weren’t here, and neither was the lieutenant. In twenty minutes, they’d be officially late.

They were the faster team. They should have been early.

He had to shove the worry aside. His half of the team was here, and she had broken bones. He grabbed medical supplies, stopped in the bathroom long enough to soap the remains of Aoisuke’s shattered face carefully off his hands, and went back to her.

Katsuko had put her time to good use. She’d wrangled up a tiny kerosene camp-stove from who-knew-where, and a pot to go with it, and already had a block of dried noodles on the boil. The bubbling broth swam with seasonings from what looked like… four different packets? Katsuko’s approach to cooking was to start with a mallet and build from there.

“Smells good,” Raidou said, because it could always be worse.

“I don’t know what flavor packets I put in,” Katsuko informed him. “But I think one of them is chicken.” She crouched intently over the flickering blue flame, stirring one-handed with a metal spoon. Her mask was up on top of her head, pushing dripping hair back. Steam wreathed up around her face.

Raidou eyed her and thought about landmines, snares, and other things that coiled up tight before they unwound all over the landscape. But he felt a lot like a wolf-trap himself, and of the two of them, he was the only one who’d snapped today.

Stiffly, he hunkered down next to Katsuko. “Let’s multi-task. You cook, I’ll take a better look at your shoulder, and then we’ll swap.”

“Sure,” she said, and flicked a glance at the watch tucked beneath his arm-guard. It had survived the Kiri-kunoichi’s exploding tag, and everything that followed after. The tick was a faint metronome beneath the sound of bubbling water.

Late, late, late.

One thing at a time. Raidou eased Katsuko out of her sodden sling, her armor, and with permission, out of her shirt. He had to cut through the shoulder; her arm couldn’t bend enough to go through the hole. Black cloth peeled away, revealing a deep blue sports bra underneath, which matched the color of the ugly, mottled bruising surrounding the obvious notch of a broken bone. The little red silk-screened bunnies did not, though; one of them was frozen in the act of kicking another clear across her chest.

“Where do you even find these?” Raidou asked.

“I know people,” Katsuko said, as if she had a lingerie black market source tucked into her back pocket.

Raidou decided not to touch that one. He lifted her bad hand gently, and pinched her fingertips one by one. “Still feel that?”

Katsuko made a sound approximately like “Gnaargh,” which Raidou took as an affirmative.

“That’s good. No obvious nerve damage,” he said, trying for brisk and efficient. Her hand was cold, but so was the rest of her. The collarbone was bridged up under the skin, which wasn’t ideal. Raidou had done his time in the medic-tents during the war. He knew basic field medicine, at least along the lines of stitch it, staple it, chop it off, drug ‘em up, cross your fingers (if you still had them). When pressed, he could set a bone, but he’d rather let Genma get eyes on it first.


Coin-sized burns flecked Katsuko’s bare skin wherever the armor hadn’t protected her. One edge of the bruise was blue-black, drawn like a ruler line just below the break and flecked about with more burns, as if something very hard and very hot had cracked into Katsuko’s shoulder at high speed.

“What did this?” he asked.

Katsuko gave him an exceptionally neutral look, which was a red flag all by itself. “Support beam,” she said, after a moment. “You were still caught in the genjutsu, and it was coming right down on you.”

“Oh,” said Raidou. He backed away from the yawning edge of guilt. “You mean you got an actual hero moment, and I didn’t get to see it?”

“That was extremely rude of you,” Katsuko agreed. “And now nobody will believe you if you tell them I saved the day.” She sniffed. “I am unappreciated in my time.”

Raidou knocked her mask off and dropped a towel on her head. The terry-cloth was cold and badly in need of airing, and it smelled faintly of oil from being stored next to the generator, but it was dry. He rumpled it over her wet hair.

“You’re appreciated,” he said.

Katsuko was silent for a beat that edged them too near to actual emotions, then she let out a belated squawk and snatched the towel from him. She wrapped it loosely around herself, grumbling, and poked the noodles like they’d offended her.

Raidou smiled unevenly, and got back to work.

They each had a clean change of uniform sealed into scrolls. Katsuko put up with Raidou’s attack of cleaning, ointmenting, and bandaging on her burns and scrapes, and then vanished down the hall to re-dress herself in the bathroom. When she came back, her face was clean, new armor gleamed under the yellow lights, and she’d twisted her hair up into the towel with the particular magic trick that most women just seemed to know.

It probably took extra magic to manage one-handed, but Raidou wasn’t going to ask.

She accepted a new sling for her right arm without protest, which told him how much it hurt, and a handful of non-narcotic painkillers. He didn’t push her on heavier drugs; until the rest of the team showed up, or Katsuko and Raidou went out after them, no one got morphine.

Which was a shame, because Raidou was pretty sure his headache would have killed a bear.

“Your turn,” Katsuko said, turning on him with dark, vengeful glee and a handful of unused medical supplies. “Sit still, captain, or I'll tape your eyelids together.”

“Oh god,” Raidou said involuntarily.

But sitting still was the least he owed her. He shucked his armor and peeled his shirt off, wincing when aching ribs protested. Katsuko’s gaze flicked over him, narrowing as she catalogued injuries, and then landed on his watch. And stayed there.

Two minutes after 0300.

Late. Officially.

Raidou unbuckled the band and set the watch down between them, where they could both see the face. The team had agreed on an hour grace period, but Raidou knew he couldn’t wait that long. Even this short break was itching at him, as necessary as it was.

“If they’re not here in thirty minutes, we’ll go after them,” he said.
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