Chapter Sixty Three ~ Futile

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I wasn't helping here, I vaguely realized. That wasn't Aiden. That was a dead body. Me being here wasn't going to change that. That was Carbon and Oxygen and Hydrogen and Calcium and it was all put together and ordered neatly to make a body but it wasn't Aiden.

Somewhere in my hazy mind, it registered: Aiden wasn't still here.

But I was.

And I was going to make a difference.

***

My hand grasped around the knife that lay beside me, and I forcefully picked myself up off the ground. My chest hurt. I blamed it on my broken ribs even though it felt nothing like the sharp pain of bone moving beneath skin. It was an achingly empty feeling. My mind was both terrifyingly clear and confusingly muddy. I stood, my eyes staring but not seeing, just like Aid—I took a step, stumbled slightly, and straightened. Walking listlessly down the ruined street, I drew closer and closer to the sounds of fighting.

An unfortunate enemy spotted me and assumed I would provide an easy win for It. It attacked.

I tore Its throat out with the knife in my left hand, short and brutal and messy. Unforgiving.

Another Claw attacked, and It managed to catch me in the upper arm with a shurikan before I stabbed it in the throat, and then stabbed it again to make sure It died, and then stabbed it once more because I wanted to.

I glimpsed a Claw about to kill a jonin and approached It from behind. It was too caught up in Its current fight to notice me and I grabbed Its arm from behind mid-strike, plunging my own blade into Its stomach several times before cutting deep into Its upper thigh, severing the femoral artery. The jonin I saved was covered in the Claw's blood but still managed to mutter a quick thanks before helping another chunin in danger.

My leg collapsed beneath me as I took a step, but I grit my teeth and refused my body, instead forcing myself to stand once more. A Claw attacked, and I was on the defensive for several moments. Then another enemy approached me from an undefended side and I hurried to try and dispatch my current enemy before It arrived. A distant part of me recognized that I was piercing too deep into the enemy, moving too far from comrades, leaving myself open to being surrounded and overpowered, but I didn't care.

I kicked in the knee of the Claw I was currently fighting, feeling it pop and crack. The Claw kept fighting anyway, of course, just as It was trained to do. The second Claw is on me, and I have to block a strike from It while dodging a blow from the other one. A kick to the first Claw sent Its mask flying off and dislocated Its jaw. The Claw is young, maybe ten years old. So that's why It seemed smaller than previous Claws I'd fought.

I threw the second Claw away, blocked a strike from the first, and stabbed It in the eye, but not deep enough to kill. It kept fighting, of course, as It was trained to do. The second Claw returned, immediately overextended Itself, and I broke Its back with a well-placed kick. I made sure to step on Its neck so it was truly paralyzed or dead and couldn't interfere at all as I turned back to the first Claw, who was still fighting.

The ten-year-old's face was caked in blood from Its eye, Its knee was twisted, and still It fought. A muffled yell made its way past my gritted teeth as one of Its attacks connected with my calf. I turned, spun, unconsciously ran chakra down my blades, turning them to controlled lightning, and cut her hand off. I immediately stopped running chakra down my blades; it didn't demand much energy, but I was low enough that it was dangerous.

The Claw pressed the stump to Its stomach in an attempt to stem the bleeding, holding Its weapon in Its left hand instead. I knew that It would pass out from blood loss soon, but in the meantime, It could do damage so I needed to take it out now.

There's fighting all around me but the other Claw's and comrades are preoccupied with their fights for now, not interfering with mine. I blocked a stab, spun around, and stomped hard on Its heel, rupturing the Achilles. No matter how trained Claws were to ignore pain, injuries still affected their mobility. The Claw took a step forward but Its knee wouldn't take the weight and collapsed. I kicked Its blade away and fell beside It, stabbing It in the chest.

But Claws can keep fighting through injuries that would kill others and so I stabbed It again, and again, and then I looked into the ten-year-old girl's eye as she wheezed. But I felt nothing so I stabbed her again, and I felt her die beneath my hands but I couldn't be sure so I stabbed her once more.

Alarmingly, someone grabbed my shoulder, pulling me back. I whirled to attack, but they grabbed my wrist and twisted, quickly and efficiently disarming me. I slashed wildly with my second blade but it was blocked as well, a skilled twist tearing it from my weak, finger-missing grip.

I tried to punch my assailant in the throat but they grabbed my other wrist, holding them in front of me. Squirming, I tried to kick out, heart pounding and exhausted but unwilling to stop fighting until the end.

"Cashile! Cashile, what are you doing!?"

I realized, suddenly, that my enemy was speaking, and after blinking up several times realized it was Kakashi. Slowly, I stopped trying to release my wrists from his grip. He looked terrible, clothing stained with blood and hair soaked in sweat and grime. He was wounded, though not nearly as badly as I was.

He scanned me, face going white and eyes fearful. "What the hell are you doing?!"

At the reminder, I jolted, needing to arm myself and make sure the Claw was dead. "The Claw, I need to kill It or It will keep fighting, It'll keep fighting and killing and--"

"Cashile, she's dead. Look at her, she's dead." I looked down and saw the mutilated Claw immediately. There was no way It could stand up or fight or be anything even close to alive. I stopped struggling, muscles going limp against Kakashi's restraints. He scanned me again, and I didn't think I had ever seen him look more frightened than in that moment. "Christ, Cashile, what are you doing? You're injured, fuck, how aren't you—"

He cut himself off before finishing the sentence, and I wasn't sure if it was because he didn't want to risk letting me know how injured I was—as if I didn't know—and sending me into shock or if he himself didn't want to admit to how badly I was hurt.

"I need to keep fighting. The Rising Phoenix is my enemy," I responded emptily.

Something in my voice seemed to concern him even more. I wasn't sure if it was the rasp of words against my dry throat or the emptiness in my voice or the fact that if I fought I would surely die. "Don't worry, Cashile," he told me, ignoring my words. "We're holding them off well. If Pain hadn't brought everyone back to life it might have been a different story, but..." He paused, studying my scrutinizing face.

"This is a fight we can win," he assured, "I'm getting you out of here."

I tried to protest, to escape, but my body failed me now as he scooped me up and slung me over his shoulder. In complete reflex, I cried out in pain at the sudden pressure put on my broken ribs and bruised muscle and cut skin. He muttered quiet apologies and prayers that I wasn't sure I was meant to hear as he extracted me from the battlefield.

Every step he took caused fire-like pain to flare in my abdomen, and oh god my chest, the numb and achy feeling, for which there was no longer any Claw distractions to provide cover for.

My eyes were going hazy, and I unconsciously focused on my hand hanging limply toward the ground, caked and dripping with a mixture of the Claw's and Aiden's blood. I felt something drip down my face in tandem with the blood as my vision was lost along the edges, narrowing in on my downward pointing hand as everything, inevitably, turned black.

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