Date: September 19, 2010
After the siege is over, all that remains are the dead and those who live on in a broken form.
Poster's note: Profanity filtered in obvious places.
Tenrai Hospital - Sunagakure
The hospitals were crowded places these days, considering the number of dead, wounded, and dying that were flooding into them from the streets and battlefield(s). Many people were released long before they would have been normally to their homes simply because there was no room for them and there were many others who required the attention of the limited medical staff more. Still others who would have pulled through in ideal conditions passed on because of a lack of resources and manpower.
But Rinako was 'special'. The bijuu-bearer warranted her own room with what guards could be spared sitting outside of her door to ensure no one harmed one of the village's weapon while she was vulnerable. Rurohashi Rinako had regained consciousness for only a handful of minutes yesterday, just long enough to cantankerously ask for food and inhale it, before closing her eyes for another nine or so hours. This cycle had repeated the last twenty-four hours, long periods of sleep, followed by short periods of groggy consciousness which were used to eat. She had had a hard time focusing on answering any questions, so her debriefers had chosen to let her be until the jinchuriki became more lucid.
Sometime during the night, most of Rinako's physical wounds had healed, the bijuu's accelerated healing power being lent to keep it's host alive, leaving the young woman to now simply recover from the extreme chakra deprivation. She could not walk unaided yet, which meant she had to ring a bell and wait patiently for a nurse to be free to assist her to the bathroom, an embarassing task for someone who was supposed to stand strong for the village. Not yet well enough to travel around and make a nuisance of herself, the kunoichi had tried to alleviate the boredom by bouncing a ball against the wall, but her usually-formidable muscles had quickly grown tired of even that activity. For now, she lay on her side, taking turns frowning at first the wall, then the IV needle sticking out of her inner elbow, then back at the stoic white paint.
The room was small, was actually a utility closet that had been cleaned out for patient use when the room was needed. The real rooms were packed with six to ten patients each, and this was what was spared for her. The lone, small window sat high on the sill, and showed only passing clouds, but the blinds were currently shut, and Rinako didn't feel like wasting the energy to ring her bell and ask for it to be opened. Her door was closed and had no window on it, two bored civilian-conscript soldiers sat outside her door exchanging periodic, bored conversation. She didn't want to move, didn't want to think, didn't want to BLINK. Everything took too much energy, and it felt like every muscle in her body, even ones she didn't know she had, even her organs, right down to her TEETH was radiating waves of dull pain.
Her lids were growing heavy, it must be time to sleep again. Sleep was good, sleep meant she wouldn't have to look at the wall any more, wouldn't have to put the effort into staying awake anymore. …But it also meant she'd have to talk to HIM again. He came more often in her dreams.
Ruri is physically in better condition than Rinako. Her right eye socket has been torn a bit, the muscles stretched, and she has lost significant amounts of blood. No one thought to check the blood to make sure it was all hers. Whose else would it be? Well, that question will never be answered now. Ruri is tired, but aside from the damage to her face, she is physically whole and functional.
The same can not be said for her mind. She has been faced with her greatest fear, and unlike the other times when she had others around to help her, support her, and make her feel at least somewhat safe, Ruri had no one to aid her. She was surrounded completely by the dusty, wrathful dead, and their dry flesh, their raspy groans, their sightless eyes, their cloying scent of decay, and all the other features of the undead that made Ruri want to run screaming. She was faced with these fears, and though she fought with the power she had stolen from Sheex, she could not maintain her calm, or 'keep her cool', or retain any sort of thoughts of tactics, or of her team, or the Village. She could only desperately scream for help, plead for her sister to rescue her, and nothing else. If the Three-Tails had not charged over, scattering the zombies, then before Nai destroyed the Jutsu controlling them, they likely would have set upon her immobile, traumatized form, and eaten her alive.
The clean-up crew, medics, and soldiers that came out to take care of the mess and gather up the wounded and ESPECIALLY to check on the Jinchuuriki of the Sand Village, found Ruri clinging to her unconscious and mauled sister, and unresponsive. It took a lot of effort and convincing to seperate her from her sister even temporarily, and then she wouldn't allow herself to be moved more than a few feet away. She had to maintain line-of-sight with her twin at all times.
She has regained her senses. Ruri knows now that she is probably safe. Unless the dead come for her again. And they have — in her nightmares. The past 24 hours have not been restful for her. Unwilling to remain apart from her sister, Ruri has managed to make her way to Rinako's 'room'. She doesn't want to continue sitting around the hospital, especially since the room she initially had was shared with a dozen others, and she was deemed to not be in life-threatening condition. She was thus free to go. No room for her.
She approaches the door, and the guards acknowledge her and admit to Rinako being inside. Presumably she'll be allowed inside. If so, she just enters. Doesn't bother knocking. The days of privacy between sisters are long past. If permitted within, Ruri stands at the foot of the bed and stares at her sister in a subdued fashion, not bothering to verbally announce her presence.
The guards allow Ruri into the room, looking at her quizzically for a moment, one of them even starting to open their mouths to ask 'Rinako' how she'd gotten out of her room without them noticing and what had happened to her eye. It takes a moment for the pair of men who just a few days ago had been bankers to remember that the one they were protecting, though against any real attack they'd likely barely function as an early warning system, had a sister, notably a twin. They probably should have asked more question, been sure of Ruri's identity, but… they weren't professional soldiers, they were civilians drafted in the village's time of need.
A sound reaches her ears in the darkness, something other than the near-silent hum of flourescent lighting. Slowly the light floods Rinako's world again as her eyes begin to drift open, revealing a sea of bare whiteness. Slowly her darks eyes are taken off of the wall as she turns onto her back. It seems to take forever for her to complete the movement, and most of her energy escaping her along with the breath that leaves her lungs in what felt like a whoosh, but was really a soft, despondent sigh.
Slowly her gaze lingers onto the familiar form at the foot of her small, single-person bed (really just a gurney), starting to process the image. It feels like even THINKING is taking up vast amount of her limited energy, and somewhere, she could hear chuckling, a low, taunting laughter. Her eyes close.
It's a tiny whisper, and then her eyes slowly drift open again, once more revealing her younger sister. The name and face come to her now: Ruri, her sister. She was mad at her about something, something one of them had done. She'd remember later. Right now she had to do something else, her tongue peeking out to wet her dry lips. She was so thirsty, even with the IV. Her eyebrows raise just a bit, as if in much-belated surprise.
Ruri watches as her sister rolls onto her back. She was hoping Rinako was asleep. But apparently not. The guards outside were barely given the time of day, let alone an explanation — even if they had actually asked for such. She didn't want this discussion to happen now, she didn't want this confrontation to happen now, not when Rinako was still so drained and needing all the energy she had for recovering. But of all the things she might have expected to hear, being told to shut up wasn't one of them. She takes a step back as though struck.
When her sister opens her eyes again and focuses on her, speaking her name, she decides that Rinako was just half-asleep, or hallucinating or something. Surely, in a time like this, her own twin couldn't still be mad at her. Surely… "Hi," she utters quietly. "Didn't mean to wake you. Just seeing how you were doing." A pause. "I should go now. You need your rest." Apologies, begging for forgiveness, clinging to her sister and never letting go… Those are things that can happen later, when she's well enough to receive it. Right now, she should leave. But she doesn't want to. So she stays where she is, hesitating, hoping that Rinako will tell her to stay so she has an excuse to do so.
An arm waves unsteadily in the air as the elder of the two girls makes a small sound of disatisfaction. "I sleep all… the time. Haven't seen… you. I want to sit… up. Help me?" Each breath between words, where a someone would normally only take a brief heartbeat's pause, is stretched out, Rinako inhaling deeply as if it somehow suddenly required more oxygen for her to speak at length. With a cross between a sigh and a grunt, the jinchuriki places her palms flat on the thin mattress pad and begins to push herself up. The process goes much smoother if her sibling assists in her efforts to upright herself against the wall with the two pillows, though she can manage the feat alone, it simply takes her longer.
"Are you okay? I don't… remember anything after jumping off… the boat. I had a dream. A… bad dream. You were screaming… and I couldn't find you."
As if her vision were bleary, the dark-haired kunoichi rubs a her non-IV'd arm across her eyes using the back of her hand, her mouth tensing into a frown as she winces as she tries to shift her legs. The pain in every pore of her body increased when she was sitting up, but she does her best to bear it with a stoic frown. The semi-psychic link between almost all twins might give her away, but Rurohashi Rinako would not let pain keep her down!
"Sit with me for… a while? I don't know… what's been going on."
Ruri needs no further encouragement. She rushes to her sister's side and gently helps her up into a sitting position. Unlike her usual firm grip, she treats Rinako as though she were fragile, delicate, not a rough and tough kunoichi. Once Rinako is up, Ruri just nods her head, before realizing maybe that isn't noticed. Her twin seems to be pretty out of it. "I'm…" She doesn't want to say she's okay, because she's not. But she doesn't want to make her sister worry either. "…told I can leave the hospital." That's true enough. Her injuries are minor compared to many others. The invitation to join her sister on the bed is accepted readily. She scrambles to climb into the bed, and then wraps her arms around Rinako and hugs her as tight as she dares to while hopefully not causing additional pain. Not that she knows what will cause her sibling pain, or just how bad off she is, but she can guess at least.
"Nothing happened," she says quietly as she clings to Rinako, resting her head on the nearest shoulder. "We won. You blew up their stupid snake thing and we're all alive. I'm alive, Kara's alive, Shemri is alive, so is her cat… Our whole team is intact. The one behind it ran for it, I'm guessing. Bugged out before Kara could get to where he was, but he probably knows not to mess with us now, huh?"
She tries to sound cheerful, confident, reassuring, but she doesn't know if — even in Rinako's drained state — she will buy it. There's one other piece of information she needs to share, but she doesn't want to right now.
Rinako lets out a low groan of pain as her sibling wraps arms about her for mutual physical comfort. It didn't exactly intensify her pain to be touched, as her physical injuries were healed, but rather it was a psychological admission of the fact that she WAS in pain at the feel of being touched, instinctive, reactive. A hand slides over to rest limply in her sibling's lap, gently so as not to upset her IV, as she lets her head fall to the side to bury her cheek in the other girl's soft hair. She lets her eyes close again, inhaling the scent of hospital shampoo and the underlying, unique smell that was just Ruri.
"Mm… yeah." She doesn't want to break the moment created by physical closeness, not when she could just imagine a little, just a little, and they were back in their apartment, sitting against the headboard, and not in some dingy hospital closet. "That'll teach 'em. Everyone's… fine. That's good. But…"
The fateful 'but'. As much as she wished it, there were just things the jinchuriki had to know, things she NEEDED to find out before her mind could be put at ease. Though with the uncomfortable gnawing anxiety in her gut, she doubted that ease would be where her mind ended up.
"…The village? I remember bodies. So… many bodies. They were all over… the sand. How many, Ru? How many… died?" She leaves off the unspoken 'because I wasn't here.' She didn't need to show her self-loathing pity to her sibling. She could feel sorry and hate herself in private, a burden to borne alone.
Ruri shivers, remembering that most of the bodies she had seen were walking around still. But there had been plenty still on the ground. Far too many. "Most were bandits. Raiders. Scum of the wastes, all gathered together in some kind of army, and then thrown at the Village. Thousands of them were killed. That's what most of the bodies were. On our side…" She trails off and tries to remember the estimates. "…I don't know the exact number. They aren't done cataloguing who is missing, who is… Dead, and who was thought thought but was just injured. Lots of the last one. Can you imagine? Lying out there in the desert, stabbed, impaled, burned, and so forth, for three or more days, and they survived. Some of them actually dragged themselves back to safety instead of waiting for Medics to get them."
She's babbling, trying to avoid giving an exact count, trying to reinforce the positive. But eventually, she has to give a straight answer. "But… Though they're still counting… We lost a lot. Not as many as the bandits, but still a lot. Combatant casualties were high. Soldiers, ninja… They think we have about 20% left at worst. At best maybe… 45%. But like I said, they're still counting! Those are just estimates. Civilian casualties are low too." She lifts her head a bit, trying to look Rinako in the eyes. Or eye. "Most of the civilians survived for the time period of the siege. It wasn't until those zombies got inside the Village that some of the wounded couldn't get away. About… Two or three dozen. Civilian recruits have been drafted to help defend Sunagakure until we can recover. Everyone from Jounin right down to Academy Students have been tapped as emergency resources, and training for the students has been stepped up, and the enrollment age for new students might be lowered. That's a rumor, though. I haven't heard if the Council will approve it or not. We're all sticking around for awhile, until we're sure the attacks are really over."
Ruri bites her lower lip. "If it wasn't for you smashing their snake thing, and… I guess Nai-san did something with that funeral medallion from our first B-Rank mission to destroy the zombies… But if it wasn't for you two, it's likely Sunagakure would still be under attack right now. Lots more dead. And… I'm told you rescued me. I was going to die. I was surrounded by those… Th-things and I c-completely… L-l-lost i—" then she can't speak anymore, and Ruri just buries her face in the side of Rinako's neck and cries quietly, body shaking with sobs.
The elder of the Rurohashi twins stays silent throughout the the first bits of information, which certainly wasn't hard, since it took so much breath just to speak. And it seemed hard enough to just draw air into her lungs in the first place. She was a kunoichi who had more chakra and stamina within her than most others thought possible, and it only grew when she actually let the Other out. But now she was physically as helpless as she mentally felt.
Especially when the more factual figures are delivered.
Now her eyes aren't just closed, they're squeezed shut, her mouth screwing up as her expression bunches. She wouldn't cry in front of her sister, no matter how understanding she might be. Even if at least half of their friends and comrades were dead. HALF! Somewhere deep within her, she hoped her parents were among the corpses.
"Shhhhh… Shhhhhh… I'll always be there."
When her twin begins to break down and leans against her, shoving her face against her neck, an arm lifts weakly to drape over the younger girl's shoulders. Rinako felt stunned. Numbed. Half. At least half of their forces, and she hadn't been able to do a thing to stop it. She hadn't even BEEN THERE when it was happening. She was the weapon that was supposed to prevent this, that was her sole duty, the sole reason for the burden she had borne all of her life was to protect this village. It was the one thing that was supposed to make all of this WORTH IT. And she hadn't even done THAT.
With a sniff, Rinako wipes away the two trails of moisture leaking from her eyes with the back of her hand. The word 'FAILURE' was branded into her brain, and that low, taunting laughter was back.
"…Tch." There's a soft sound deep in her throat, akin to a tiny growl, which cuts off shortly after the laughter only she could hear stops. "Shhhhh, I'd never let anything… happen to you. Not… to you."
Ruri accepts the comfort offered, selfishly drinking it in like the waters of life. She needs it to soothe her pain. She failed. She failed herself, she failed her sister, and she failed the Village. The last one was almost inconsequential. But the first two… She thought she was getting stronger. She thought she was getting tougher. She thought she had the guts to never give up. And yet, when push came to shove, she fell down and didn't get back up. But this isn't the time to wallow in self-misery. She failed once. She can't let it happen again. She has to be strong. She has to BECOME strong. Because she sure as hell isn't right now.
Rinako needs comforting too. But there's something she needs to tell her. She might not be fully aware of just how bad her sister is taking this information, but she knows one thing for certain. Her sister will find out one way or the other. Cutting off the sobs gradually, she makes an effort to speak. "That b-bastard… The Kazekage… He was taken down on the first day of the attack. He's been SLEEPING in a bed the entire time, while everyone was out dying. And then… I saw him. I saw him chatting politely with the one controlling the zombies and the snake. The one probably behind this entire stupid invasion! He was just standing there and TALKING while everyone behind him fought and died!"
Ruri has had a lot of hate for Sousa for a long time. Only Sheex was as hated. And now that she has seen that it's possible for a Sheex to exist that isn't a total scumbag psycho, only Sousa remains at the top of her hitlist. And this new revelation… She has never loathed anyone or anything as much as she loathes and hates Sousa right now. Not even her own failures can make her this disgusted. It's not just anger she feels as she trembles, perhaps holding her sister a bit harder than is really comfortable. She absolutely, positively, wants Sousa DEAD. The black hatred in her voice practically drips off her words as she says coldly, "Before, I blamed him for what he did to you. Now, I blame him for what he has done to everyone we know and care about. Everyone we have fought alongside, struggled to become stronger with… All of it. He sold us out. He sold YOU out. You know what else I found out? We haven't been gone for two days. We've been gone for more than a MONTH." She pulls her head up and fights agains the idiotic masculine urge to punch the wall really good and hard. That would break her hand. "For whatever reason, while we were over there in the Land of Winter for two or three days, back here, about a month and a half passed. Don't you think it's a bit convenient that this invasion started so soon after we departed? It was raging for TWO. WHOLE. *BLEEP*ING. WEEKS." Her volume is rising beyond the level that the guards wouldn't hear. But even if they came in now, it wouldn't stop Ruri. "Only our return and your efforts stopped it. I don't know what that bastard thought he would gain from this plan of his… But I hope you understand now, what must be done. When you're well enough, we can take him down together. I don't know if Kara and Shemri will join us. When we show them the evidence, they'll probably believe us. But they might not be willing to fight. So it will probably be just you and me. Like it should be."
She releases Rinako from her bearhug, and starts to scoot down to the foot of the bed. "He'll die, Nee-chan. He'll die, and then we can take back our Village for the people. They'll be safe, the injured will heal, new life will form…" And then she prepares to open the door. But she pauses to turn her head to look over her shoulder. The bandages over her right eye instantly stain red in an expanding blot of blood. The younger Ruruohashi twin stares at her sister, burning the memory of what she looks like due to the machinations of Kokoroe Sousa into her brain. This is what happens to people who trust him. This is what he does to people. "…And those who died will be avenged."