Chapter Fifty Eight ~ Reunion

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When I woke, it was to the sound of cheering. Sakura had clearly healed the worst of my wounds and even pillowed my head with someone's jacket but was nowhere in sight, so I stood, limping, towards the closest person I could find.

"What's going on?" I asked.

She looked at me, eyes widening in recognition before replying, "People are--are coming back to life! Naruto is the savior of the village and is even somehow bringing people back from the dead!"

I raised an eyebrow but did nothing else to express my disbelief, knowing it wouldn't be received well in the face of her hero worship. Everyone did seem relieved and relaxed, however, so I would believe that Naruto somehow managed to defeat the Akatsuki leader.

Naruto had defeated the Akatsuki leader. Unexpectedly, my knees buckled and I barely kept upright as a wave of relief swept over me; it was over. Despite hours of fighting, despite watching people die right in front of me,  despite witnessing the destruction of the village, I had survived. My genin almost certainly were alive, too; they survived the worst of this assault and were far away from the fighting afterward.

I filled my aching lungs with air and let it out in a tremendous sigh. The threat was gone but the damage was still here; wearily, I prepared myself to find my genin and begin any extractions necessary. All I wanted to do was go back to the apartment and sleep for a few hours, but duty called. Not to mention chances were the apartment was no longer standing.

Travelling toward the extraction point I'd left my genin at took much longer than I thought it would; my worst injuries were healed, but my limbs still ached and trembled. With a grunt, I was forced to pause, stretching out a cramping calf against a piece of rubble. The apartment may have been decimated, but at this point I would happily find some corner of rubble to sleep in. I was certain my genin felt the same.

When I arrived at the point, everything was organized chaos, people rushing everywhere to help and find out what was going on. "Kento!" I called, spotting his red hair, even as streaked with dirt and plastered to his head with sweat as it was.

"Sensei! You're okay!" he shouted, handing the old woman he was helping off to another ninja. "Michiko and Aisa are this way; they're helping clear rubble from a house where someone got trapped."

I nodded, more relaxed now that I knew the genin were okay, and we turned to head in that direction. Before I could get far, someone grabbed my arm and tugged me back, and just before I punched the perpetrator in the face Aiden exclaimed, "Cashile!"

"Ah, Aiden," I acknowledged, any relief about his survival tempered by exhaustion. The same exhaustion was evident in his face, streaked with dirt, and I wondered how many near death experiences he'd had. I wondered if he'd seen anyone die, crushed by rubble. He wouldn't even know what was going on as our entire village was reduced to ruins in the blink of an eye. Where do you go from here? "You're--"

"Where's Aisa?! Is he okay?" he asked frantically, looking around. I smiled; I would always know what Aiden's priority was. "I haven't seen him--"

"Relax," I interrupted. "He's fine. I haven't seen him yet, but Kento would have reported if he was injured. Was he?" I raised an expectant eyebrow toward Kento, who shook his head.

"No more than when you last saw him," he answered.

"Which was minimally," I cut in before Aiden could panic. "C'mon, let's go find them."

***

"Aiden!" Aisa shrieked, throwing himself toward his older brother.

Aiden caught him, pressing his hand into Aisa's filthy hair and holding him tightly, eyes closed, a tear streaking unobtrusively down his cheek. "You're alive," he whispered reverently. "Thank God, you're alright."

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