Chapter Thirty ~ Relapse

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"How did she do that?"

"Cashile sensei is awesome!"

"Did you see her move?"

The genin were whispering amongst themselves, unaware that I could hear them. I rolled my eyes.

Our mission had been completed with ease the rest of the way. No attacks from thieves, enemy ninja. No attacks from them. Atsushi and the rest of the merchants kept quiet, looking slightly (very) terrified for the duration of the distance.

As for Michiko, her leg was bandaged tight (courtesy of Aisa). She'd walk with a limp for a while, but that was about the extent of her injuries.

And now we had set camp for the night. We were considerably slowed by Michiko's injury; what should have been a two day journey, in my eyes, looked as though it would be elongating into four.

"I can hear all of you, y'know," I said, making myself known.

"Cashile-sensei! Will you teach me how to do that?" Aisa asked enthusiastically-- too enthusiastically. He was clearly referring to my fighting skills.

I rested my hand on his head and pushed slightly downward. "Absolutely not."

They were so young, so ignorant. But for some strange strange reason, I had no desire for them, any of them, to feel the pain that I had felt. The pain, the torture, the suffering, that had molded me into the deadly weapon I could turn myself into.

Aisa pouted. "Why noooot?"

"You're not prepared. The answer is no," I repeated in a clipped tone, which stopped his pout immediately. He let the subject go after that.

"Thank you for saving me, sensei," Michiko piped up, changing the subject.

"It wasn't me," I admitted. "Well, it was. But I was only able to save you because Aisa ordered you to jump, you listened without question, and Kento held the majority of them off. You three did well," I praised, acknowledging what they did right. They really did have an impeccable trust. Connection. Bond.

My rare praise instantly cheered the genin.

"How long is it going to take to return?" Kento asked out of context, glancing towards Michiko.

"At least four days, by the looks of it," I replied.

"Alright," he nodded, glancing back down toward the fire (the fire, which I had to remind myself was normal, that my genin would need to feel some level of comfort out in the forest).

"Get some rest—I plan for us to be back in Konoha as soon as possible," I informed them, giving them all pointed looks.

"Yes sensei," they chorused in sync.

I left them and walked up a tree which gave me the most advantageous position-- allowing me to view every side, but also within close enough range of the genin so that I could come to their defense need be.

I leaned against the trunk of the tree, relaxed enough for my body to rest, but also aware and alert.

Ready to protect.

***

We arrived at Konoha four and a half days later.

"Geez," Michiko sighed. "A mission that only should have taken four days suddenly took over six."

"Yeah, I'm exhausted!" Aisa agreed.

Kento but his lip and simply looked at me. That glance was enough to tell a story. Something was definitely going on with him, something he'd forgotten about until now.

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