| Teeth in the Dark
||[Sep. 18th, 2013|10:14 pm]
Very carefully, Katsuko closed a mental box around the memory of Kakashi and Raidou’s spar from last night. Then she put it in the furthest corner of a mental shelf in a mental closet and shut the door. Her entire squad was waiting for her response, and the image of Kakashi and the captain grappling with each other like determined octopuses wouldn’t do anything to help her regain her equilibrium.
“Everything’s fine,” Katsuko said, waving Genma off. She needed to sit down, but if she did that she wouldn’t stand up again for a good while. Already it was an effort not to break into howling laughter. “Just got hit with five memories at once. Let’s keep going.”
“Anything noteworthy?” Genma asked, as the team started off again.
“Stink badger burrow,” Katsuko said, thinking fast. She didn’t know if Raidou and Kakashi wanted the rest of the team to learn about their spar. “I’d rather not talk about that.”
Kakashi’s lion-dog mask gave nothing away, but Katsuko thought she detected the slightest hint of surprise in the way his posture changed. She couldn’t decide whether or not to be offended. Did he think she’d tell the entire team and laugh about it?
“If you molest forest critters, you deserve anything you get.” Raidou’s mild tone told Katsuko he wasn’t the slightest bit convinced by her explanation.
Genma laughed. “Is ‘stink badger’ Hatake’s new code name?”
Well, there went all her efforts to be discreet.
Ryouma had been listening with curiosity. He turned to look at Katsuko and Kakashi, the slightest hint of suspicion entering his voice. “Does the fraternization rule not apply to clones?”
Katsuko let her voice reach desert levels of dryness. “Neither I nor my clones would endanger Hatake’s virtue in any way.”
“Neither you nor your clones would ever get the chance,” Kakashi said. Spoilsport.
Raidou brought Ryouma up to speed. “Hatake and I sparred last night after everyone turned in. As far as I know, clones were not involved past some minor voyeurism.”
“Ah,” Ryouma said. “That kind of sparring.”
Katsuko snickered at that for the next two miles.
They followed a stream northwest, running along its grassy bank before cutting across to a rocky ravine. Katsuko kept quiet, more focused on enjoying the calm before they reached their destination than engaging in conversation. They stopped for a water break once, took care of the necessities, and moved on.
It was high noon when the team crested a hill and saw the cluster of houses and buildings that marked the first village, Hayama. Rice fields stood between a river and the carefully-maintained earth-and-timber wall that encircled the community. It should have been bustling this time of day, but only a few small figures hurried through the streets.
Raidou led the team around the town walls in a quick search of the surrounding area. No sign of bandits near the river or in the forest, but the woods of Isagewa Province were old; even the shadows had weight here. Katsuko squinted, trying to see the sun through the thick branches woven overhead. A few birds sang out. Something furry and rodentlike scurried up a tree trunk. Besides that, not nearly enough wildlife for a forest this large.