“Don’t tempt her,” Raidou warned.
Katsuko snorted, one hand playing absently over her sword hilt, fingers brushing the red leather tsuka wrapping against the grain. He knew that tic; she did it when there was something eating at her, and she wanted to know her weapon was in reach.
“Ueno, tell me the truth,” he said. He waited until she looked at him. “Is my brain sticking out?”
She blinked and gave him a dubious eyebrow. “No, why?”
“Just feels like it, then,” he said, gingerly touching the furrow Mitarou’s stone spear had gouged. His hair was already crunchy with drying blood, but more welled up underneath his fingers. Head wounds were a faucet.
“We can get Isamu to put a band-aid on it and kiss it better,” Katsuko suggested.
“Maybe I’ll just use your shirt for a bandage,” Raidou said, making a show of going for her hem.
“Maybe I’ll give you another head wound,” she said, whacking his hand away. She caught a pressure point at his wrist; nerve pain zinged up his arm.
Something about his expression must have amused her, because she snickered.
“C’mon, sadist,” Raidou said, grinning at her. “Let’s sort the children out, then you can walk me to a medic.”
“Hey,” said Isamu. “I’m older than Ueno.”
“And I’m wiser,” said Mitarou, yanking a final shuriken free from the turf.
Katsuko appeared to consider this. “But I’m the handsomest,” she decided.
The pair exchanged a look.
“True,” they agreed together.
“You’re creepy when you do that,” Raidou told them, crossing to crouch by Isamu’s collapsing starfish shape. He grabbed the younger man’s previously injured ankle, checking for heat and swelling under the bandages. Still tender, judging by the way Isamu hissed, but no worse. The exercise had probably done it good.
Despite Katsuko’s stellar finishing blow, Mitarou’s sutured shoulder didn’t seem any the worse for wear, either. Raidou let him go with a jostling clap on his good side.
“That was a balls-up mess, guys,” he said. “Good job.”
“Does that mean we can go home?” Mitarou asked hopefully.
“I broke a sweat!” Isamu put in. “And, like, most of my pride.”
Raidou looked over his shoulder at Katsuko, who was hovering a little awkwardly, hands jammed in her pockets. He didn’t want her out of his eyeline yet, but the guys were their usual reboundable selves; he didn’t think they’d have any issues.
“You’re free,” he said, winning a round of raspy cheers. “Ueno, want to help this old man totter to a doctor?”
Katsuko gave him a sidelong look, eyes narrowed, but her mouth finally lifted in its familiar smirk. “Sure thing, gramps. Need me to carry you there?”
He lifted his arms, stretching his back with an ancient-sounding hnnnngh and a lot of spine pops. “That’d be fantastic, actually. Let’s do that.”
Mitarou got to his feet, hauling Isamu with him. “Can we watch—” Mitarou began.
Isamu cut him off with a hand over his mouth. “Thank you, lieutenant,” he said, with a formal bow. “Pleasure working with you. I look forward to being pummelled again sometime. Come on,” he added in a rush, yanking Mitarou.
Mitarou made a muffled noise like werk and freed his mouth. “Thanks, Namiashi,” he said, a little more sincerely.
Raidou sensed the beginnings of an Impending Moment.
“I’m seeing you both tomorrow,” he informed them tartly. “Clear out before I make you run laps.”
“Going!” said Isamu.
“Gone!” said Mitarou.
Two mirrored Ram seals flashed, and the pair vanished in twin clouds of dirt and leaves, speeding away with two nicely performed shunshin no jutsu.
“Smartasses,” Raidou said, amused, and cocked his head at Katsuko. “Well, milady, where’s my palanquin?”