|[May. 22nd, 2014|05:40 am]|
Raidou felt his mouth pull sideways. “She’s the little sister I never, ever wanted.” |
And more than that.
He didn’t have good words for Katsuko. She was a puzzle and a problem, and occasionally a ferocious pain in the ass, but she was also a kindred spirit. The first time he’d seen her fight— the first real time, with blazing swords and howling chakra and gleeful, joyous violence, he’d thought, I know you.
She’d looked back at him through the eyeholes of her rat mask, still shiny and new, and winked, and killed a man.
No one had come through the war intact, but Katsuko had taken all her sharp, broken places and turned them into weapons. And underneath that, she’d still managed to keep a little softness. She ate terrible foods and said idiot things, but she cared so deeply about her teammates—even the new ones—that it nearly made her vibrate. As much as she bullied them, she’d still die for them.
Probably exactly like he’d seen, six hours ago.
He rumpled a hand through his hair, shaking away blades and blood and the dull sound Katsuko’s knees had made, hitting the hardwood floor. It wasn’t real; it hadn’t happened. Genjutsu just had a vicious way of sticking around afterwards, like acid reflux for the brain.
When he looked up again, Ryouma’s face was still pale and pinched; if he had edges, they were all turned inwards. He looked a little worried at the stretch of silence.
“Sorry,” Raidou said. “I think this day is starting to melt my brain. Food?”
Ryouma gave a guilty jolt and went for the stew pot. “It’s boiling,” he said. “I don’t think there’re bowls, but there should be more spoons…”
He liberated the pot from the burner, hissing quietly at the hot metal edges, and set it down on the dirt floor. The burner flicked off with the faint plink of cooling metal. Ryouma scrambled up to find the spoons, and came back to juggle the sausages, pickled burdock root, and the rice, which had managed to warm next to the burner.
The stew was—well, ‘brown’ was probably the best you could say about it.
“Ah, shit, hot,” Raidou said, burning his tongue on the first mouthful. He was more careful for the second bite, and discovered actual flavor: salt and savory, meat gravy, an extremely weird cross-over between the soy, beef, and burdock. But he was starving and it was food. “This is—ow, damn—perfect. You should run cooking detail for breakfast, too.”
Ryouma was trying to wrangle a cold sausage from the can; he glanced up sideways, skeptical. “Remind me never to ask your opinion on restaurants.”
“Breakfast and lunch,” Raidou said, finding a thread of cheer. He pushed the pot across. “Better dig in before I eat the whole thing. I’ll trade you a sausage.”
Ryouma handed the can over and tried a proper taste of his creation. He paused, spoon still in his mouth, and made an extremely complicated expression. “I’ve had worse, I guess.” He risked another bite. “It’s better than the curry.”
“Not a high hurdle to jump,” Raidou said dryly.
“The curry wasn’t my fault. You didn’t even have any.” Ryouma tried the rice, which was lukewarm at best.
Raidou finished half the can, traded them back for another third of the stew, and forced himself upright to get them both another metal cup of water from the pump. That, at least, was cold and clear, drawn up from an underground stream. They had another two drinks apiece, making up for water they’d bled and sweated out. Raidou settled down again, feeling the leaden buzz that came from caffeine layered over exhaustion.
Another hour, he judged. Maybe two. Then he could sleep.