"What will you guys do once we return?" Sasuke asked surprising everyone with this sudden thoughtful question. He baked that question for quite some time before taking it out of oven and catching everyone with their guard off. He looked at each of them waiting for their honest replies, intending to force everyone to answer his question if not.
"What a silly question," Naruto laughed amused by Sasuke's out of character question. "Eat ramen." Life is about ramen and becoming Hokage. Once he returns, he will eat ramen every day and shortly afterwards becore Hokage.
Sakura looked at her dirty hands, thinking carefully of what they were asked. Ramen…that is nothing… She judged Naruto as she always does. Life has more to it than just ramen but…she doesn't know what exactly. She judged Naruto although she has nothing better to say and now she feels guilty for thinking so immaturely. What will she do once she goes back? Will she go back? They left Konoha four months ago, ordered to represent their village in the war that the elders started because the Wind Country invaded the River Country and made camps too close to the Fire Country. So far, this meaningless war is difficult to win and nothing points towards peace. Either way, there will never be peace even after this war ends. She's seen too many things to go back to a normal life. Nightmares already follow her everywhere she goes and scenes she never wants to see again play before her eyes whenever she goes to sleep.
There is really nothing to go back to anyway. People at home have no idea what they are going through. They are living peaceful lives back in the village with lots of delicious food and in sanitarian conditions. "I want to return to my…older self," she whispered. That was the only thing that crossed her mind and seemed worth mentioning. Sakura kept on looking down, eyes staring at her wretched trousers. She got them only four months ago but they already look like she has been wearing them for over one year. They are covered in dry and wet mud and washed in blood.
"What about you?" Naruto asked back.
Sasuke asked that question because he had no idea what to do once back. It is not like he heard news that they will go back but he knows that one day he will and he has no idea what will happen next. "Probably take a bath," he said noticing dirt in his hair. A one-day long bath would not be enough to wash away everything, but it would be a start. After that….maybe he will spend time with his family and try to forget the life he had that year.
Sakura found his statement amusing so she smiled. The first smile of the week and Sasuke's first joke. "On second thoughts," she stated feeling energized, "ramen sounds amazing," she admitted missing the strong scent of meat and the nice texture of noodles. Her mouth is all water just thinking about it. Man, she would kill for some food right now.
They were ordered four days ago to fight in the front lines against the Suna shinobi. The plan was to be there only for one day and then return but things got crazy and they found themselves forced to stay there until they manage to push the enemy back. 200 leaf shinobi trying to fight back over 500 sand shinobi is madness but those are the orders. There are not enough shinobi to help anyway so they have to make it happen on their own. They were promised reinforcements but so far nobody came. Where could they possibly find reinforcements anyway? In this war men and women fight together and sometimes even children have to be sacrificed. They saw young lives die before their eyes in terrible ways. If reinforcements will come, there is no denial that the they will consist of teenagers and maybe villagers who learned in a hurry a few taijutsu moves. This is war. This is their war.
Shisui crushed the mosquito which was courting him since he arrived back at the camp, letting it to fall out his palm as he threw his slimy shirt on the ground and poured some cold water over his chest. It was cold but felt good and refreshing on that hot day. Taking in a deep breath he was pleasantly surprised by the lack of smell of burnt or rotten flesh. There is actually a nice combination of scents, pine and grass, that remind him of home, of his parents and of his favorite training ground. He smiled catching the scent of something even more pleasant, even more nostalgic: food. Shortly he will enjoy a nice, hot meal of something edible. Maybe tonight they will receive rice, fish and miso. God, he misses the miso cooked by his mother back home. Her food is pure magic and now he would give anything for a permit to go back home and enjoy a meal with his family.
For tonight, this is the only bath he can enjoy. Grabbing his dirty shirt, he went back to his tent in hope to find something cleaner to wear. Surprisingly, he was left a new shirt and a new pair of trousers. Every now and then they receive clothes from the village and if someone is lucky, the family will send more often something clean to wear. He is not part of those lucky to receive something from his mother as she is also fighting somewhere in the River country.
After long thoughts, he decided not to change into his new clothes but to keep them for when he manages to properly wash off the dirt. Pleased with his decision, he slipped the shirt back on and went to grab whatever they will be served with hope that it is properly cooked.
In the canteen tent, he had the pleasure to discover that they will receive udon and a bottle of hot sake. What is life in war if you cannot enjoy a warm drink after slaughtering so many throats? Being well known and a captain of a powerful squad, he received two bottles of sake and some extra meat next to his bowl of udon. Winking at the lady who served him, he walked out of the tent in search of a quite place to enjoy his meal. The tent is crowded and noisy and he is in desperate need of a quiet place with no people and no talking. He had enough of winning men that smell worse than skunks.
Finding a rock big enough to rest his back onto in the middle of the field far away from the tents, Shisui opened one of the bottles of sake and smelled the drink. It is cheap and has a slight teste of mold, but it feels heavenly. The last time he had such an amazing drink was right before he received the news that he needs to go to the front line with his team. The bad news had a stronger teste than the sake and everything felt spoilt. Now he is certain he will stay in the camp for at least a few days before he is sent to another battle.
War wouldn't be so bad if they had the opportunity to wash more often and eat the needed amount of food. In the front lines, the only food he can hope for is the one he takes with him and it usually lasts for only two-three days. After that there are only promises that they will receive some food. And by food, they mean some onigiri that are crushed during the transportation.
The udon is warm and tasty. Far from enough but tasty. He will have to fill his stomach with sake and hope it will keep him full until the next meal. After that he will have to visit the medical tent and see how his wounded men are doing. They left 50 but 10 died in the first day and 15 are seriously wounded. Only 25 were able to walk on their own feet back to the camp. Out of those 15, he wonders, how many will make it back to his team and how many will be buried?
Sakura watched the last few enemies fall together with one of their nin in an explosion. The hot wave forced her to lie on the ground with her eyes closed. Their comrade sacrificed himself knowing very well that he will not make it back once he throws the kunais with explosive tags. With slow movements, Sakura got up, a little dizzy after the close by explosion blew before her, waves of hot air drying her face and eyes. All that matters is that they can finally go back to the camp to eat something and rest their tired eyes. She sighed relieved and turned to leave but hearing some moans she stopped and looked behind him. He survived, she thought with a heavy heat. She slowly walked to the man, dragging one foot behind her, hoping that he will shortly die and she wouldn't need to reach him.
But he did not die and she had to go all the way to him. She scanned his wounds while standing, knowing that if she were to knee she wouldn't be able to get up again: a broken arm and a hole in his abdomen. It would take too much to heal him and she has no more chakra left for such a serious procedure. Even if she struggles to stop the bleeding, he won't survive the trip back home. The man will bleed to death the moment they get him up. Sakura looked at one of her teammates and shook her head with regret. The man understood that nothing could be done so he took his kunai out and walked to his friend, hiding the weapon behind his back. Sakura turned her back so she wouldn't witness the heartbreaking scene. It is not because she does not have the stomach to watch but because it would make her feel like a hypocrite. She does not want people to know that she, a respectable medic, would allow something like this.
"We can go back to the camp," Kakashi announced as he landed near them.
Alarmed by Kakashi's sudden appearance, the man tactfully hid the kunai in his pocket and pretended he wanted to help the injured man. Maybe Sakura and everyone else can ignore a dying man but Kakashi would not allow it. He is the captain of the team and he has the last word. Another man came with a stretcher and they rested the injured man on it. Sakura had no choice but to stop the bleeding with bandages and somehow secure the broken arm.
On their way back, Naruto noticed she was stumping so he offered to carry her. She wanted to accept his proposal but not wanting people to see her getting special treatment, she just leaned over him as they walked back. On their way, they went pass the shinobi sent to take their place. Naruto saluted them and wished them good luck in a very detached way. He was the only one still capable of speaking and sending positive energy, the rest of the team was bruised, barely standing up and trailing behind Kakashi like a horde of zombies. There was no need to cheer them up, however Sasuke felt envious watching Naruto's positive attitude. There was nothing really to be positive about but Naruto won't get gloomy. He wishes he could be more like Naruto; maybe then, he could look forward to the following day.
Sakura watched Naruto with indignation and resent. They should not be happy after all the lives they took. They do no have the right to be happy. Dirty clothes and lack of food are only few of the punishments they should accept for their crimes. She wants to scold him and wipe that smile off his face but she cannot say anything. Naruto is most likely forcing himself to be like that so everyone can feel a little bit better about themselves. People passing them must not be frightened before arriving in hell. Out of all people, Naruto is one of the few who really cannot accept this war and who cannot accept the concept of killing. This must be hard on him and she must let him be no matter how annoying she might find his actions.
"I wonder what food they have ready for us," Naruto affirmed hearing his stomach.
"As long as it fills my stomach, it can be anything," Sakura answered hearing her stomach crying for food as well.
"Ramen would be nice…"
She wonders how her parents are. Since she left home she hardly heard anything from them. She is aware that everyone was forced to fight in this war and this makes her restless. Sasuke's parents were asked to participate and she fears her father is fighting somewhere as well. Her parents are not strong or capable shinobi. This makes her uneasy. If her father was forced to join the army he might have died long ago. He is incapable of fighting and he is not that good at surviving either. No letter from her mother reached her so far so she can still hope they were both safe in the village. She would kill twice as much if needed only so her father could stay home. Hearing his bad joked would definitely rise her current mood. She misses them so much.
"Maybe they will give us some cigarettes," one shinobi affirmed hearing Naruto.
"Or maybe some goose meat and rice," another said daydreaming.
Everyone started laughing. Even Sasuke portrayed a smile imagining the goose meat. If they can have food and a good sleep anything would do. Even just rice would be great.
Shisui slept most of the morning and woke up around 10. He could not believe he was so lucky to rest for so long without anything bad happening. He threw the blanket aside and looked for his clothes. Not wanting to dirty his futon, he slept naked. It was a risky thing to do but he took the chances and thank god he did not have to rush out of his tent in pants to fight the enemy. After dressing he went outside to enjoy a quiet and lovely morning together with other shinobi who just woke up. He threw his hands in the air and stretched. Today's objective is to take a shower and wash off everything. He does not even need soap if he can find clean water. Then again, soap is not very common during war.
On his way to the canteen, he found some barrels with water especially put there for washing and he changed his destination. If war taught him anything, that is not to leave anything for later because afterwards he will lose his chance. He slipped out of his dirty, slimy clothes in one second and jumped inside the barrel without holding back. The water was cold but it felt nice and it sobered him up in no time. He deserves baths like this where all he needs to worry about is soap. These months he has been working like a slave, going up and down the fields fighting enemies and saving comrades.
After a few scratches the water changed colors to the point he could no longer see beneath his abdomen. It terrifies him to realize just how dirty he is. Once clean, or at least cleaner than before, he wore the new clothes he found yesterday and went for food.
He waited in line and accepted whatever they offered him: three slices of bread, some butter (far from enough for the amount of bread) and a cup of coffee. He was surprised to see something as rare as coffee in his mug. A delicacy like that is served only once every few months and not everyone gets the chance to have it. Some people wake up really early for it and even then they lose the chance to have some.
Bread is not his favorite food and most likely most of those in the tent feel the same but when hungry nobody can complain. It is great they have at least that much. The butter is almost melted and looks like oil but it will give a different taste to the bread which will most likely catch mold soon and tomorrow morning it will be even worse.
Looking around, he had the surprise to see that Kakashi and his team were back from their mission. Noticing there was a seat right next to Kakashi, Shisui crossed the room until he reached the destination. Since this miserable war, Kakashi no longer bothers to hide his face when eating. The man noticed Shisui and nodded. He made more room for Shisui to sit and for a couple of minutes they ate in silence. Kakashi's team was served with some gem as reward for their hard work but they do not seem to care that much. They look like they died, barely having any power to chew the old bread. Everyone is dirty, tired and although extremely hungry, they cannot concentrate enough to chew. This reminds him of yesterday when he felt just the same. War is the only place where everyone is equal: everyone is hungry but does not have the power to eat and everyone is deprived of sleep.
"Have you noticed how everything tastes like mold here?" Kakashi asked disgusted by his coffee.
Shisui nodded as his mouth was filled with hard bread. He took a sip of coffee to help it down his throat. "Everything is bad…" he answered resigned.
One of the men at the table broke a front tooth as he tried to chew the bread. The tooth fell out of his mouth and rolled down the table until it reached the two men. They looked at it with very little interest. It is war: things like this happen all the time. Get a few punches in the face and then eat hard food and you are lucky to lose only one tooth. The man continued to chew and ignored what just happened. It is only one tooth after all.
Sakura fixed the tooth with a pit in her stomach. She was also unlucky to get a few punches in the face. What will happen if she starts losing her teeth as well? It is bad enough she has nothing to be proud of anymore, she cannot lose her teeth as well. She broke her bread in smaller pieces and started eating it one by one with a little butter and gem. After four unslept nights and continuous fighting she gets this miserable meal. They are mocking people who fight hard and give them garbage to eat.
Her misery was intensified by a blow in her leg. She looked across the table at the man who disrupted her from her rhythm. The two locked their eyes for a few seconds reading the situation.
Feeling the blame was on him, Shisui apologized. "My bad."
"Sure," she growled clearly bothered. After all the hell she went through lately another blow was all she needed. Her anger was intensified by his clean figure. He had the luxury to properly wash and put on some clean clothes while she is dirty and disgusting.
"Didn't mean it, you know?" he added bothered by her reaction. It was an accident. The tables are small and he had to move his leg for a more comfortable position.
"Whatever." The two kept on staring at each other until they concluded it was not worth it and directed their eyes to their pitiful meals.
Feeling bad for Sakura's attitude, Kakashi whispered to Shisui: "Bad night." They were attacked on their way back and everyone was forced to somehow counter the hit. But nobody was really in the mood for another fight so Naruto and Kakashi had tried their best to protect everyone.