Chapter Sixty Five ~ Aftermath

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Aisa, Kento, and Michiko were sitting in a kneeling position next to me, when I woke up next. They all looked exhausted and worried. Not a bit of their energy or enthusiasm was on display. "Sensei!" Michiko perked up when she saw that I was silently observing them, having just woken up.

"You three did well, I've been told," I spoke gently, my voice raspy. Aisa took the cup of water and handed it to me so I could drink. He pointedly didn't stare at my missing fingers.

It was the first time that they didn't brighten up at my praise, exhaustion pulling down on them as though gravity had doubled. The attack had taken a big toll on them and it showed tremendously.

"Go home and rest," I ordered. "Be with your families. Don't waste your break hours on me."

Shoulders sagging, Michiko and Kento got up. "Feel better, sensei," Kento murmered.

"We'll come visit," Michiko affirmed.

After they left, I turned my attention towards Aisa who sat in front of me, wide-eyed and shaking with anticipation.

"Where's Aiden?" He asked. "I haven't been able to find him anywhere yet, which makes sense I guess because all the hospital areas are overflowing and none of the lists of injured with their locations is even remotely up to date, and he was probably hurt a little in the fight? Because the bad guys were really strong—Kento, Michiko, and I had to help take one out and it was really scary and hard but we're fine! Anyway, do you know where Aiden is?" Even though he was visibly tired, his voice still brightened, asking about his brother.

I let out a deep breath and stayed silent, carefully watching him, trying to figure out how to say what needed to be said. But instead of the truth that needed to be spoken, I found myself echoing, "Eat your vegetables."

Aisa looked at me strangely and let out a nervous laugh. "You know I only like ramen and sushi and your desserts and not vegetables, Cashile sensei," he replied. He could sense the mood change however and responded accordingly: denial. "I guess the reason I couldn't find him in the hospital is that he wasn't that badly injured, so he's still out there helping, right? He saved you, right? I sent him to you to save you," he said quickly, desperately, naively. His fingers clenched on his knees.

"You idiot," I whispered, unable to bring myself to say what I need to say. Aisa grabbed onto my arm, anxiety most likely overwhelming him. Keeping facts from him, keeping him in the dark would do nothing. If anything it would make him more helpless. I needed to tell him straight. Instead, my mouth formed the words, "He loves you."

"I know, Cashile," he laughed, voice high and nervous and increasingly hysterical. "I don't need you to tell me that." He stood, laboriously pulling me up with him, grip tight and eyes panicked. "We should go look for him; he's probably wondering where I am and if I'm okay and if you're okay, too."

I squeezed my eyes shut, wishing to rub at my temples, wishing to rub away all the headaches and the problems. I shook his hand from my arm, swaying weakly for a moment. I wanted to put this off. I wanted to panic, throw up, pass out. Instead, I swallowed audibly to clear my throat and said, "An enemy wounded him. Stabbed. In the chest." Unfortunately, I stumbled in both my voice and my facial expression. I ruthlessly strangled my emotions, pushing them down, down, down, into a steel room with locks that I knew would rust and break long before I was ready for them to. "He's gone."

"Y-you... you mean he's going away, right?" Aisa asked, voice high pitched and trembling. He stepped away from me and I locked my knees to keep from collapsing bonelessly to the ground. "He's going away for awhile but then he'll come back, like you did, right?"

I stared at him as his lips trembled and his eyes—a lighter brown then Aiden's, rounder and softer, too—filled with tears. "No, Aisa," I replied. My voice was cold and void of emotion and I struggled and failed to turn it into something kinder without releasing my iron grip on my own emotions. "He's not coming back."

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