Date: September 22, 2015
The newest Iga Clan head sees to the treatment of Ayumu, one of a mad jinchuuriki's rampage. After a rough start resulting from distrust between Asashi and Ayumu's retainer, Shun, the operation is completed without a further hitch. At which point, the lover and daughter of the patient, Ei and Miyu, reach the hospital seeking answers. By the end, a proposal is made that guarantees to change many a futures…
Poster's note: foul language filtered in obvious places.
"A Bond Renewed, A Kitsune Reborn"
Tenrai Hospital [Sunagakure]
The Hospitals entrance is small, nothing more then a foyer really. There are always nurses standing at the ready to lead loved ones to their lovers, or reunite family members. The actual hospital itself is a large single floor, divided by curtains, with the patients laying on small cots. One side of the building has a few rooms, the operating theater, medical supplies, and intensive care, for the most serious cases.
All across the floor, visitors can be seen talking with men and women in cots, all of them in varying degrees of healing. Some of the sheeted 'rooms' have had the door drawn across to allow privacy, but for the most part they are left open so the patients can see what is going on and who is moving around the building.
In the late night after most patients have been put to rest, suddenly there's a bit of activity around the hospital room of one Iga Ayumu. It's hard to make out what's going on exactly, but from the murmurings it sounds like a Medical Ninja has at last come along with the prowess to repair the battered Iga's body after the damage that was done in his battle against the One Tails Jinchuuriki. Within moments nurses are coming in, one in particularly seeming to be carrying a rather potent-looking anesthetic solution that she hooks up to the IV hooked into the man.
Ayumu had not been alone in the least. Though others may have argued or expected the wayward retainer to be anywhere but near the often grating Iga, Shun took it upon herself to remain by his side at all times. If that meant hiding in the walls, or even pretending to be a patient then… so be it. On this particular eve, it is the former Shun took up residence in until nurses began flooding into the room. Her cautious nature kept her quiet at first, but —
"I would suggest you remove the IV. Immediately." She states flatly as she stepped forth from the wall furthest from the door.
"He's going to need to be unconscious for what he's about to go through," a voice that would be all too familiar to Shun as her lifelong rival and now her Clan Head rings out as Asashi steps up. "Unless you just want him to experience his body being re-broken a bit and everything set in place, the IV will be quite necessary, unless you just want to physically knock him out and somehow guarantee is lasts long enough for the surgery to be done." As he stops at the door, Asashi looks over Shun's way for a moment, showing a faint smirk before looking back toward Ayumu.
Shun needed only the first three words spoken by Asashi to identify him. Truthfully, she may have sensed him well before that point, but either circumstances prevented it, or her rival has grown a great deal since the last time they met. She didn't much care for either perspectives, or his presence there for that matter. This is made evidently clear by her refusal to so much as bat an eye in Asashi's direction. Granted, such a thing wasn't much of an insult among members of the Iga Clan.
"If things were a matter of what I desired, Ayumu would not be conscious even now." She leans against the wall, folding her arms across her chest. "But his wishes are clear… Besides, it is not as if he has not been through much worse," Shun said, smiling softly despite herself.
"I see," Asashi says, lifting an eyebrow faintly and then turning to walk over to the bed. "Ayumu, what is your issue with being put to sleep? I prefer not to have to deal with you writing around while I'm trying to operate on you. It's not like your body has any secrets for me to steal since we're of the same clan."
Just breathing alone is a monumental task in itself for the eldest of the Iga trio, but Ayumu manages that and more without any visible signs of pain. His neck, head, and parts of his upper body had been the only thing the mostly spared from the worst of the assualt. Albeit, that in itself is a matter of perspective. Turning just enough to properly align his gaze with Asashi's general direction, Ayumu stares for a good minute or so before cracking a forced grin.
"Experience… and consequence," He said simply. Just as he seemed on the verge to say more, Shun interjects. "Paralyze his motor control. If that is a possibility without compromising his recovery than do so."
"Surely one of your studies include a method of achieving this however. Right, Asashi-dono?" She adds, calm on the surface, and yet there can be no denying the bitter edge to the honorific tossed at the end.
Listening to both of them, Asashi ponders for a few moments and finally shrugs his shoulders. "Good enough, but don't expect to be able to start crying or even speak mid-surgery to ask to be sedated. You won't even be able to move your tongue." With that he turns toward the door, nodding to the nurses as he says, "Be sure he's prepared well. I don't want to have to do this twice." He then moves down the hallway into a different room to begin preparing a few things for the surgery while Ayumu is wheeled down the hall toward an operating room. He does, however, look back at Shun as he walks, smirking just slightly as he knows she's not too fond about calling him that.
"Wouldn't dream of it," Ayumu replies, smiling in that foxy fashion of his. Afterwards, it becomes all a matter of patience on his part, so not another peep comes out of the Iga. Shun, on the other hand, cannot seem to hold her tongue this evening. An abnormal phenomon, though not nearly so when it comes to the new Clan Head being about in person. "What made you come back?" SHe asks simply in passing just loud enough for only Iga ears to pick up. Beyond this, Shun continues to avoid sparing Asashi even a glance in his direction, knowing full well that acknowleding his presence beyond simple fact at the moment would not be the wisest course of action.
"There are things to be corrected. One of us eventually had to make the sacrifice to be tied down if we're ever going to see any progress in the clan, and it was doubtful that your master would ever agree to sit still for long," Asashi answers back in the same low tone, barely moving his lips but it would sound quite audible only to another Iga. Once he's gotten his things, he meets them in the operating room. The former (maybe former) assassin-turned doctor, holds a rather interesting looking syringe that he uncaps and injects into Ayumu's shoulder. "Nurses, situate him. I plan to be done by the time that medicine even has time to think about wearing off," he states as he moves his hands into a seal, preparing chakra and spewing out several eyeballs that stick to various points around the room to offer him absolute sight so that absolutely nothing is missed in his work. Within the seconds Asashi spends in preparation, Ayumu would extremely quickly lose all motor control, only his breathing allowed to continue at this point as an oxygen mask is placed over his mouth. "No backing out now, Fennic. If you think the action that caused this injury was painful, feeling yourself repaired from the inside out will be much more excruciating, but it will be over soon enough."
Shun eyes open wide in genuine surprise at the answer. The shock is in fact powerful enough to leave her standing in the hall, staring at Asashi's backside using an eye hidden at the end of her ponytail. While she could not readly disagree with the admission, the fact that /him/ of all people chose to make the sacrifice — Shun shudders out of her stupor, then proceeds into the operating room to stand off in a relatively unoccupied corner. Her presence there went against regulations, and Asashi could rightfully order her out of the room. But by the stance she took up and based on past experiences, the order may not be so received well, let alone fully adhered to by Shun.
"So you say," She finally comments in that same low tone from before. Meanwhile, Ayumu silently observes the exchange, and may have even chimed it at some point if not for drug (poison?) injected into his system. If he could move his lips at least, Asashi would be treated to another one of the Fennec's broad smiles. He has burned alive twice, his arm severed in the most painful way twice, only to have it regrown from scratch, and subject to a variety of lesser horrors over the short expanse of his life. And deep down at his core, Ayumu remained the same man that enjoyed every experience life had to offer, be it good or bad or twisted. It is only out of necessity he held off the suffering that should've been endured from having so much of himself broken, intent at the time of making sure the information passed on by the man Keiko tortured and killed reached the right ears.
It would not happen again.
He would not avoid it even if it were possible…
Asashi seems unbothered by Shun's presence in the room. It's not like she's actually getting in his way, so there's no harm done there. At her comment that finally comes, he smirks back at her once more and then looks back to Ayumu. "Here we go," he says before moving his hands through a set of hand seals that creates what looks like a cloud of chakra around his hands. To trained Iga eyes, this cloud is actually made up of nano chakra particles made to go inside a patient's body and repair it from the inside out. An impressive amount of skill to have picked up in the mere time since he went back into the shadows. It might make one question how long he'd been planning on or at least pondering taking the reins of the clan.
With the movement of Asashi's hands over Ayumu, the particles enter the Iga's body and begin doing their job. Blood vessel, muscle, and bone are fixed back in place and repaired. Even his chakra stream is made better, the whole of his body being repaired from the inside out, which, while incredibly cool, is not something Asashi would wish on someone… that he had any remote like for. Can't say he wouldn't do this in reverse to an enemy.
There isn't a single word that could accurately describe the pain of having everything mended at once. Ayumu tried to find it, nevertheless, seeking an alternative focus out of desperation. He does not succeed. Though not even a strangled sound leaves her master, Shun tightens her hold on her arms as the procedure continues. The sounds his bones made… She shook her head lightly, wishing in hindsight that her attachment to her bothersome cousin did not compel her to remain at his side.
It takes some time of these repairs, but at last Asashi seems satisfied that Ayumu will be able to function fully, though he may or may not have briefly consider sterilizing him in the process while he wouldn't have noticed to keep anymore Ayumu Jrs from running around, but he apparently thought better of it. Once it's done, he takes a step back and nods to the nurses, who then begin to clean the Iga's body and redress him so he can be clean and comfortable once his body comes back under his own command. "Next time I think he'll think better of wanting to stay conscious while going through such an operation. I don't slow down for kindness in the middle of a procedure. I get what needs to be done finished and move on to the next task."
The desire to be anywhere and everywhere else persisted, but this did not leave her blind to her duty. Asashi was — had been an assassin, and she did not put it past the elders going behind her grandmother's back with a deal involving support in exchange of ridding of them of one of the clan's larger necessary evils. Still, there are moments of lax security on her part. A twinge here and there from just the wrong combinations of sounds reaching her ears. "As much as I wish to agree with you, I've learned a long time ago not to underestimate this one," She said with a ghost of a smile playing at the edge of her lips. She licked them soon after, and trained the makeshift eye stalk on Asashi pointedly. "What is next for you, Asashi-dono?" Shun asks, a touch less venomous than earlier. (re)
"Yes. Don't underestimate his ability to survive, nor his ability to cause trouble or his ability to get in over his head," Asashi says, smirking slightly as he peers back at the still-paralyzed Ayumu then back toward the hallway. "There is much work to be, Shun. Truth be told, I'd planned on remaining in the shadows quite a while longer as the new Clan Head, but some poor sod had to go and get himself mangled by a rabid Jinchuuriki, and so I had to reveal myself and my new position earlier than planned to be certain no one would try and use the convenience of the situation to rid Sunagakure of what many likely assume to be one of its more dangerous liabilities." Underneath that, it's probably a bit easy to tell that protecting Ayumu, Shun, and Sachiko from any further attempts at assassination, extradition, or other acts of shaklery played a big part in the reason Asashi sacrificed his free lifestyle to become a Clan Head, though he'll probably never admit wanting to protect her. "What of you two? Will you be staying around Sunagakure long after he recovers enough to move around, or will you be hitting the road again?"
It had taken some time for Ei to make her way to the hospital after hearing of someone coming in to help with Ayumu's condition. The main reason for this, is Ei went looking for the one person no one would ever expect her to: Shun. She didn't want to bring Miyu and have the poor girl see her father's injured body, but neither did she want to bother Obaa-sama in the middle of the night. So, when she fails to find the other woman, the kimono-clad mother heads to the hospital anyway. Miyu is definitely asleep, although Ei finds it quite the task to carry her daughter all through the village like that. The child is against her chest, head on her mother's shoulder and arms wrapped around her neck. Arriving at the hospital, she had a bit of an issue, being that… well, she's actually not family, strictly speaking. Ayumu and she never married, but some quick thinking in regards to Miyu, she's let in…
"Of course you're here," is the first thing that leaves her mouth when she sees Shun. She's much too irritable to be amiable, it would seem. It's the literal middle of her night — too late to still be up and much to early to be up for the day. The second thing she says is, "Clan head…? Good evening, Iga-dono." Okay, maybe not /too/ irritable.
Shun pulled in her bottom lip and chewed, but the effort to hide her own smirk is a wasted one. It is situations like these that reminded her of just how much she disliked the new Clan Head the most, though she would never admit it. If experience as an Iga has taught her anything, it is the fact that even the simplest of things can lead to the unearthing of things far more complicated and worrying. Never one to allow herself to be tied completely down by emotions or introspection, Shun retakes a more analytical expression as Asashi answered her question.
There isn't a shred of doubt that makes itself known in Shun. But again, this could mean anything in the end. Ultimately, her attention wavers as an all too familiar smell stands out against the stark sterilzers used in the hospital. Shun still fails to turn her eye stalk on Ei until the worn out woman speaks up. "Good morning to you as well, Ei-dono," Shun replies calmly on the surface. Then, she holds out her arms, forcing a small smile. "Shall I?"
Catching a scent that, while not familiar to him, bears traces of another familiar scent, Asashi cants his head toward the door. He likely has eyes hidden in that fabulous pink mane somewhere to observe with. Then again, seeing that he's a Medic now, he could've replaced his eyes and made them look as if he were still blind if he actually wanted to. "Ah, the bride of my troublesome clanmate. A pleasure to finally meet you… and this must be Miyu." He doesn't cant his head, though one would assume his hidden eyes look to the child. "Your husband has been repaired. It will take some time for him to recover still, but he won't be bedridden."
Ei gazes at the female Iga with uncertainty, some irritation, before it settles into a more calm expression. A thankful one. She shifts herself to help move the sleeping child to the arms of the other woman and then emits a sigh of relief as she straightens out her kimono a bit. Then those golden eyes shift to Asashi and she raises her brows. "Yes… I suppose you could say that. I am Fujiwara Ei. The pleasure is all mine." Meeting another Iga. She's not sure it /should/ be a pleasure, actually. "That sleeping dear — by kami can she sleep through anything — is indeed Miyu." She shifts her gaze toward Ayumu and then her gaze flicks more sharply back to Asashi. "Did he actually /say/ we were married or was that just a conclusion you came to?"
For a noticeable second there, Shun seemed almost surprised by Ei acceptance of the offer, seeing as how both didn't rightly care for each other on even the most uneventful days. Her surprise does not keep from handling the child properly, though her unfamiliarity with the situation does show itself in her stiff movements. Thoughtlessly, she drifts closer to Ayumu with Miyu in tow, tension lessening the longer she held Miyu until a wary smile blooms in her expression. "The latter, mostly, I suspect. A little bit of teasing and revenge before he has to give most of it up soon." Shun says idly as sightless orbs regarded the recovering wanderer.
"Though now that I think about it… I wouldn't put it past my master to make a comment like that, though I do not understand why he would bother doing so." She adds offhandedly.
"Fujiwara still, hmm?" Asashi asks, canting his head slightly. "It was something I assumed, yes, considering both of your statuses. There's still a lot of paperwork I haven't looked through yet." He looks over to Shun then, smirking slightly in the direction of Ayumu's room then looking back to her. "Curious train of thought, that," he remarks with a bit of a dark gleam in his eyes that suggests he wonders if she's forgotten he can now use more subtle forms of revenge that are much more effective.
Shun has every right to be surprised and the green-haired woman makes no remark of sarcasm or even wariness as the other woman takes her child and even starts to walk away a little, toward the child's father. Ei does watch her do this, though, interestedly. She smirks at the remark of Ayumu very likely saying something like that. "He probably wouldn't have a reason. It would just make sense for him to say it." She shrugs and then glances to Asashi, nodding her head. "Does he seem like the type to propose to you?" Her brows rise slightly. Ei herself honestly would be utterly shocked if her significant other actually proposed. She's sure the idea must be terrifying to him.
Shun did not need an eye trained on Asashi to catch the look in his eyes. Albeit, no Iga with an ounce of talented required much to sense something from virtually nothing. In answer, she merely turns to him, offering an apathetic stare down before her attention shifts to the talking Ei. "Hmm… Even now." She murmurs, lowering her gaze and freeing up a hand to briefly rub at her noggin. Even when Ayumu wasn't around, the man's tendency to cause headaches plagued her. "For that matter, would you be against it Asashi-dono?"
"He's the type for a relationship, it seems. His way of committing to it is his own judgement," Asashi says with a shrug of his shoulders. As Shun's question, he looks over to her and lifts an eyebrow. "They've been together for quite some time, and they share a child. While she's not from our clan, she is of noble birth of sorts as he is among the clan. There would be no harm in allowing their union to take place."
Ei listens to the two of them and squints lightly at the blank space in front of her after Asashi's words. "I wouldn't say that to her, of all people, if you don't mind my saying so," she utters, somewhat quietly but not secretively. Yes, Shun did ask the question herself, but the kimono-clan woman glances to the other, trying to catch a glimpse of emotion from her. "Whatever the case may be, I have little faith it is something to worry about. Ayumu is… comfortable with your relationship. Maybe not so with other things in his life… and I don't think he'll gather the courage or the mindset to propose. Not anytime soon, anyway." She shifts to move herself toward the edge of the injured man's bed, looking over his current status. Of course, she doesn't move any blankets or anything to do so, though…
Unfortunately for Ei, Shun does not provide much of a chance to gauge her emotions. At least, not in any direct manner a layman might pick up, though Asashi would've surely sensed both surprise and disappointment before Shun buried herself into Miyu's hair. She even went the extra step of sealing away the eye stalk, leaving any speculation regarding her feelings to the whims of one's imagination. She peeks past small curtain Miyu's hair provided as Ei past close, but couldn't quite summon up a word of warning before it is already too late. Luckily for Ayumu, Asashi's drug had run its course for the most part. There could be no hiding the lingering pain of restoration, but Ayumu at least had his eyes closed, and breathe evened out to the point to feing sleep. He could only hope at that point Ei wasn't so sensitive to his sleeping habits as he was with her.
It is, perhaps, a futile hope; especially considering how 'helpful' Asashi tended to be.
"Oh, I'm not sure that's what bothers Shun the most today," Asashi says, smirking slightly and looking between them. Of corse, he's likely referencing the fact that he is Shun's lifelong rival and has now assumed a rank higher than her own and one that can't be surpassed unless she were to overthrow him one day. "Then again, I could be wrong. Who knows… Anyway, I must be getting back to my office." A brief pause there. Boy, that still feels weird. Still, it has its perks. "I'll see you all soon." With that he turns and starts to walk down the hallway, bringing his hands up to pull his hood up and thus tuck his long pink hair into it as he exits the hospital to get back to work. Seems he still keeps an underworld worker's hours.
The green-haired woman doesn't realize there's something off about Ayumu. In fact, there are too many factors that make it impossible for her. He's injured, so that could affect his breathing even if his breathing was not suggestive of sleeping. Ei herself is very tired, worried, and just overall a type of anxious she normally isn't. So, as Asashi leaves, she offers a half-bow to him but no words… and then finds a chair to quite literally toss herself into. With a heavy sigh, she reaches up to rub her temple and then looks over to Shun and Miyu, the older basically hiding behind the child's hair. She hums thoughtfully and then reaches into her hair to scratch her scalp idly. A tired Ei is a very different Ei, after all. That has been proven to both of these Iga before. "He keeps getting into trouble," she murmurs, absently, as if talking to someone other than Shun. Her gaze drifts to Ayumu and she huffs out a sigh through her nose. "I sometimes wonder… if he's actually trying to die."
Instead of annoying her as expected, the tension about Shun actually eases to a degree. Twice now she had a reason to be thankful for her rival. She would never admit it of course, but this did not mean she couldn't be a little less herself around the aggravating assassin-turned-leader. Just a smidgen. With that in mind, Shun half-bows as Asashi passes, and maintained it until Asashi has slipped out of what would normally be visual range.
Just as a soft sigh slips past her lips, Ei speaks up. Shun… did not know what to say at first, and Ayumu did not dare to, so a moment of silence passes before Ei can hear Shun shuffle closer to her. "And if he is…?" She pries, ignoring better judgement for something more. If the green-haired woman would be turn to her now, she would see just enough of Shun's face to know the question had not been voiced out of malicious intent or amusement; only utter seriousness.
Ei didn't dare turn to look at the other woman for a long few moments. When she does, she still doesn't quite have an answer. Just an anxious, lost look that Shun, of all people, had certainly never seen on her face. "I don't know," she whispers, clearly unable to say it any louder as opposed to trying to hide her voice. "I…" She keeps her mouth partially open a minute, as if just looking for a specific word, before she shakes her head. "Why won't he talk to me? Where would Miyu and I go?" Biting her lip, she turns her head toward him while shaking it some more. "… Would the clan take care of Miyu if he did…?" She glances back at Shun again, more pointedly asking, "Would you… be able to? Obaa-sama, maybe…?" It's clear she's asking because she doesn't believe she could manage being a single mother in that case and for no other reason. For Miyu's sake.
For both of their sakes (or so she would later tell herself), Shun remained steadfast in retaining the same expression as earlier in hoping of offering no false hopes; no false promises. She could not have been more angry, sad, and conflicted on the inside than any other moment. Miyu is clutched more tightly, and though not consciously aware of the fact, acted as a means to keep the more volatile feelings built up in the younger Iga from bubbling out to the surface.
"She is one of ours… as are you, without question." The last words slip out before Shun is even aware of any desire to see them held back. But after a moment or so, she could not find any reason to even /want/ to take it back. While some of the others would still probably disagree in regards to the ex-heiress, neither she or Obaa-sama would allow her to suffer for Ayumu's last and greatest mistake. "As for why he won't talk to you of all people, I dare not even dare to even guess." She pauses, and furrow her brows. Did she even dare? He couldn't be any condition to think clearly after what he just suffered through. Or perhaps, the opposite is true…
"But… if you don't want to give him a chance to run away, I would suggest asking him right now." Shun hardly waits to guage either of the couple's reaction to the statement before making her way for the door.
The answer brings a smile, albeit a pained one, to Ei's face. "Good… I trust she is in good hands, then," she murmurs. The woman frowns faintly in confusion over the last words spoken by the other, but it quickly fades as she realizes it should have been obvious. For several long, drawn out moments, she doesn't say a word to Ayumu. She doesn't even move, for that matter, and if not for her scent still strong in the room, she may as well have vanished. Words and ideas and problems all run through her head at once, leaving little room for her to bother making herself more obvious. And unless he breaks the silence first, and probably even as an interruption to him trying, she says, "Don't let me stop you…"
What could he say to that? Ei wasn't the only one that spent the moment of silent thinking, and rehashing lines of thought that crippled in any effort to even get to a proper start. He could try — /did/ try on impulse to say something. But she cut him off, and cut the man down, effortlessly. So, Ayumu remains silent and thoughtful, staring into the darkness like always despite having both eyes completely open. His lips part for the second or third time, but not a word slips out as it dons him. It did not matter what the excuse was this time for his being in the hospital in the first place. The fact remained that he made a choice knowing full well from the start did not remotely promise to end happily.
Pain stabs at his brain over and over again as Ayumu forced fresh muscle and tissue to bend in his hands; balling them into tight fists at his sides. "… No," He said quietly. A single word. A simple thing. Once it is out, Ayumu willed his hand to find Ei's closest one, or even just a piece of her kimono. Anything of hers was better than nothing.
Her one statement was all she needed to say, all she felt was necessary or worth voicing. Ei lets his thoughts eat away at him, more than she ever could. She knew long ago that he hurt himself far worse than anyone else ever could. More often than not, she tried to draw his thoughts to better things… to herself, very often. Miyu, now, and yet… she couldn't always be there with him.
As he reaches for her, Ei drops her gaze from his face to that hand, it finding cloth since she was not /that/ close originally. She moves, shifting her seat a little closer and taking his hand gently. "'No' what?" She sighs, speaking up before he can answer her. "Ayumu… Seven years. We met when I was sixteen. I'm twenty-three now… My birthday… passed recently. I dug into your way of life. I learned Ryoji-speak. I followed you, gave up everything to do so. I settled here, in the /desert/ of all places," she chuckles. Then she gulps, trying to hold back what could only be tears. "I went from lush life to… barren, difficult life. In more than one way. For all I learned, though… I lost sight of you, didn't I? I thought… I must know you, but clearly I was very mistaken. Tell me… where I failed… what I missed, what I did wrong to lead us to this point… won't you?"
The number of reasons for his simple, pathetic, and desperate attempt at an all-encompansing answer to her worries were numerous, but they all carried a sense of wrongness to them. It weighed down any efforts to speak. Soon enough, that did not matter, for Ei began anew. Ayumu listened without comment, or any desire to interject. In a matter of moments, Ei struck deep into his heart, uplifting his spirits with melancholy memories, only to strike deeper still with a reminder of the sacrifices made along the way.
There was more to it of course. He squeezed her hand gently without thinking as her questions sunk in deep. No, not gently. He grasped her more like a man desperate to hold on to a cliff by the end. Thoughts of physical pain and discomfort became background noise that all but ceased to exist for the Iga. "Nothing… You did nothing wrong. You and Miyu… both of you kept this foolish fennec grounded. For that, I was and /am/ grateful. But… I was still far too accustomed to treating everything as fleeting. Too used to playing on edges that should be left well enough alone, thinking… myself too lucky." He pauses, forced for a moment to take a breath due to still mending lungs. "I became so used to these things that anything else… I feared them. Feared them so badly that I tried to trick myself into not believe it. Tricked myself into not thinking more was needed." His grip finally loosens as one phrase slips out barely at whisper level before he slumped more heavily in the bed.
"I shouldn't have dragged you into all this…"
Ei listens to him and each past-tense statement makes her heart tense. At his whisper, she frowns at first, but humor where there shouldn't be any bubbles to the surface and she can't even properly attempt to cover the giggle. "Dragged me…? I think it was I that dragged you. From the moment we crossed paths in Konohagakure… it was never you that kidnapped me. Never you that seemed to truly /want/ to. It was I. I played with that custom, Ayumu. Your fleeting thoughts, the way you spoke, the way you did everything…" She pauses a moment and stands up, carefully leaning over him. Softly brushing her cheek against his, she presses her lips close to his ear, only barely brushing it as she whispers, "Didn't you enjoy my abduction of you?" She's close enough that she knows she should be filling all of his senses, except for one, which she remedies just a little by pulling away and giving him a soft kiss upon the lips. "Ayumu, I can't make you stop testing your boundaries. That's… I knew that, so I didn't ask you to stay with Miyu and me. I didn't get angry when you went wandering because that's what I love about you. If…" She stops, taking a deep breath as she sets herself back on the edge of her seat. "If we are not enough… to anchor you, then I'll go back to Konohagakure… Miyu… Miyu can stay with Obaa-sama."
Ayumu did not for even a moment let hope flicker in his chest at the subtler signs pointing towards and impending change of spirit in the green-haired woman. Even after she giggles, the Iga scowls for a moment out of confusion and anger. Here he was being /normal/ for a change by pouring his heart, but what does she do…? Ayumu's scowl quickly melts into a look of confusion, then one of embarrassment as her words truly sunk in.
Ayumu could not have wanted to kick himself in the back of the head anymore than now for being so arrogant…
Despite his embarrassment burning solidly in darkened cheeks, Ayumu never allows his attention to waver for even a moment. His already exceptional sensitivity (though obviously not sharp enough for prevention measures of certain incidents e.e) grew by leaps and bounds with that attentiveness. Even as he drank deep her scent, or attuned his ears to every twitch, Ayumu faint smile still left him seeming hungry for so much more. "I can't deny it." He answers softly out of refusal to taint the air with anything that wasn't his love. Finally, she administer the remedy to his hunger. He kissed back, and even as she moved to pull away again, Ayumu matched her to try and maintain the feeling for a few seconds longer.
Wrong and Right. Just like that, she made him forget the importance of it for a time. That all change in an instance the moment she began talk of going back to Konoha, and leaving Miyu to Obaa-sama. He did not stop to consider it, or his next action for that matter. Every muscle screamed at him, but Ayumu would not be so easily dissuaded from getting out of that bed. He doesn't make it far, with or without aid, nor intended to for that matter. Unless begged or forced to stop at some point, a sweaty and panting crimson-maned Iga kneeling before long, grasping both of Ei's hands.
A lengthy moment of silent recover passes before he finally utters the words, "Ei… will you marry me?"
The ex-heiress of the Fujiwara family couldn't have missed the scowl, but she doesn't comment on it. She couldn't blame him, after all. She'd have been upset too if he laughed during such a conversation. As such, Ei doesn't fight him when he tries to keep her close for a longer kiss. She had still plopped down on the chair, but that didn't last long. The moment he started to move, she looked concerned and confused. As his intention of getting out of the bed was made clear, she immediately stood again, trying to ask him what in the world he was doing, why, and… all with no response, surely. She always let him wander and now was really no exception as she helped him out of the bed.
As she realized he was not falling — his legs were not failing him — but he was actually… trying to make his way toward the floor, she furrowed her brows in outright, unabashed befuddlement. Even once he is knelt, it takes a lot of convincing for her to even consider what he might be doing is truly what it seems. The moment her name leaves his lips, it clicks. The following question is so obvious it may as well have bit her fingers and she would've lost the digits.
No sooner than those words leave his mouth, Ei's eyes flood with tears. Part of her wants to say he needn't do it for her sake, but the more logical part of her brain knows that has nothing to do with it. She softly squeezes his hands in hers and nods emphatically before managing to utter, "Yes, of course." But then she laughs again, a spluttered sound and a chuckle. An explanation comes quickly as she mutters, "Iga Ei. That has to be the shortest name in existence."
Indeed, Ayumu offered no response. Even if every cell in his body didn't seem to be trying to fill his psyche with their screams at the time, the wanderer would not have bothered putting forth the effort. He would be lying if ever asked to deny that nerves had anything to do with the decision. It played its part, and may have very well been his undoing long before the complaints of limbs turned into structural failure for putting too much stress on them. Sheer willpower kept both from reaching fruition, though he still did tremble from the effort of maintaining the painful stance.
As Ayumu knelt there can be no denying the look behind his gaze. If she wanted him to kneel for eternity for the response, the wanderer would've done so without hesitation or regret. The question wasn't just impulse, or need spawned by the heat of the moment. Truthfully, it was something that should've been asked years ago, but excuse after excuse bound both their hands. No more.
Tears… a squeeze… His heart jack hammered in his chest, threatening to explode at any moment. Through effort, Ayumu strained to listen pass the drum beat, and even after catching her words he remained unconvinced. He didn't dare trust any one sense wholly, but her laughter and the scent of salt gave him pause long enough to open up.
If he could muster up the strength to lift both of them up, Ayumu would've had her in the air, laughing along with him as he spun her about from sheer excitement. Sadly, he settled for crawling closer on his knees, and resting his head against her abdomen; smiling and crying silently. "It is, isn't?" He utters amidst a bout of chuckling.
Ei's hands hold him close, intertwining with his hair just a bit as she rubs his back. "It's a wonderful name," she murmurs, trying to get her tears under control. It doesn't seem to be working well, exactly, but at least she can speak around them. "Now come, get back in bed. Asashi-dono will not be happy if he finds out I ruined all his effort by getting you on your feet too soon." That said, she wouldn't force him back into the bed before he was ready. The moment he is ready, however, she moves to help him and would make sure he was comfortable before crawling into the bed with him. Lying beside him, she realized how terrible a mistake she was making. After all, she was exhausted. Now that she was not standing, it was much harder to keep her eyes open. Sniffling softly now that her tears have subsided, she smiles gently at him. "Are we going to have a ceremony or just get the paperwork?" It's an honest question and she truly doesn't seem inclined toward one answer or the other.
What remains of Ayumu's hair is a shadow of its former glory thanks to the doctor. Still, there remains plenty, and at the moment the Iga appreciated what they did for him. It was a silly thing to fret over, he realized as her hand fell upon a more exposed backside. One certainly worth laughing over, but by now, all he cared for was to enjoy the moment. Ei's words fail to sway him.
And why should they? Ayumu was /far/ too happy at the moment to carry about Asashi's wishes. Pain, too, was but a distant thought as they embraced. Him about her waist, and her hands against his back. But his happiness couldn't blind him forever to the weakness sensed in her legs. With a more subdued smile, Ayumu pulls away to begin the process of making it back into bed, though not with the intent to make sure Ei joined him.
Whether or not she read his mind or had same intent from the start, it mattered little to the Iga. Once she is with him, Ayumu had no intention of letting her leave before sleep took them both.
"There's no question about it." He pulls her back closer to his chest, and whispers into an ear, "Ceremony." before nipping playfully at her ear. While not one to care much for the like anymore after one two many incidents in the past, Ayumu knew they could do no less after everything they've been through.
Ei didn't try forcing him at any point, but did shake her head at him slightly. It was accompanied by a smile, however, and her hands never left him until he was ready to get up. Once they are in bed, she relaxes against him and smiles at his answer. She emits a light, mildly surprised noise at the nip, but only giggles. "All right," she responds quietly. There were other questions to think about, but right now… she didn't want to ask if they'd invite her parents. She didn't want to ask if they were going to have a honeymoon and if so, what crazy place would he take her? Ei just… didn't want to ask more questions. Statements were what mattered now. "I love you," she whispers, burying herself against him as gently as she can. She's sure he's still sore and doesn't want to be the cause of pain, even if she's sure he wouldn't be the slightest bit bothered.
Ayumu did not know if it was merely infatuation, relief, or some combination of the two and then some; but for once, his mind was clear of distractions without evoking the enkindler state. For once, his mind was truly quiet. He smiles absently, grateful for it, then brightly as the last statement left her mouth. "And I love you," He whispers, planting one last kiss upon her neck before truly allowing himself to get cozy. Despite the pain and stress that makes itself known again with time, Ayumu remains awake until certain Ei has fallen asleep, wanting even while fatigued to spend as much conscious time with her as possible. When sleep does finally claim him, dreams remind the Fennec of just how foolish a man he is…
Foolish, but very lucky.
A contented noise escapes Ei at that kiss and she smiles tiredly, but joyfully. Several things she'd never thought would happen did tonight. She had actually sought out Shun and, in the end, she felt as though their rivalry had faded somewhat. An Iga that did not seem as… let's say 'scary' had made himself known. While Asashi is scary in his own right, the mystery of him seemed entirely different than what she'd experienced so far. And Ayumu had chose to truly bind himself to her. She truly thought he would be too terrified to actually do such a thing and she was not wrong in his feelings, but his ability to dampen and overcome those feelings is what she had wrongly doubted. It had been an emotional, horrible, but incredible night. Part of her fears she will wake up to an empty bed, despite the logical part of her saying that is truly impossible with his condition, but still she drifts to sleep. She has no worry that Miyu will be in danger or anything of the sort. She is in very, extraordinarily capable hands.