Chapter Thirty Nine ~ Return

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I straightened immediately at her tone. "Of course." I nodded stiffly and turned on my heel to exit the room.

***

I walked toward Aiden, ignoring the fact that he was working and probably shouldn't be interrupted. He only saw me when I was practically on him and set down whatever it was he was carrying.

I reached out, grabbing his shoulders to turn him to me. "Cashile, what—" he began, but stopped talking when I cupped his head between my hands. I studied his face closely, turning it back and forth before finally staring at his eyes. They weren't empty. They were full of emotion: confusion and surprise and happiness and after several long moments of studying him I let my hands fall away from his face and instead pulled him in for a hug. His hands hovered, confused, for a moment before returning the embrace.

"Would you ever swear in front of your brother?" I mumbled in this shoulder.

"What? No," he denied. "But—why—?"

"Do you want to go get sushi?" I asked, ignoring his confusion

"Cashile, are you okay?" Concern was written all over his face. His eyes widened as he grabbed my arm. "What happened here?"

I glanced down at the bulky cast wrapped around my wrist, replying, "There was a small incident on the mission. But I'm fine--sushi?"

He interlocked his fingers with the fingers of my mangled arm and replied. "Of course, as soon as I get off work. Meet me at the apartment at 8?"

I resisted a shudder. I didn't want to be alone. I glared internally at myself, at my weakness, and shoved it down, somewhere deep, where it couldn't resurface. "Sure, yeah. I need to meet up with my team, anyway. I'll see you then."

"Cashile?" Aiden stopped me before I could turn away. "You're okay, yeah?"

I hesitated, thinking about it, before truthfully answering, "Yeah. Yeah, I'll be fine."

Aiden watched me for a long moment before nodding. "Alright," he agreed. "Okay."

We parted ways without another word.

***

I found my team sweating under the tutelage of Sakura.

"Hey," I greeted, and she jumped up with a shriek.

"Don't sneak up on me!" she complained. I raised a judgmental eyebrow and she flushed, quickly changing the subject. "You have some good genin here," she complimented. "At first I was angry that Tsunade was saddling me with babysitting duty, but I'm impressed."

I nodded. "Luckily my mission didn't run too long. What did you work on with them?"

She shrugged. "Basic training for Kento and Aisa, though with an emphasis on strengthening for Aisa. I've been focusing on chakra control as well, with all of them, but mostly with Michiko. You already taught them how to walk on water!"

"Yup," I smirked, watching as Aisa and Kento collapsed, clearly exhausted.

"It's not over yet, boys," Sakura yelled, and both jumped up, clearly terrified of the pink haired girl's anger. "You better give me at least ten more minutes!"

"Where's Michiko?" I asked.

"I'm having her do the leaf concentration technique," she replied.

"Seems a little basic for her," I commented.

"Well, she's also doing it while sitting on a fast flowing river," she grinned.

"So that's why you're not at the normal training grounds," I nodded. "How's she doing?"

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