Note: Please keep in mind that English is not my first language, and this translation is unbetaed :')
Where am I…?
Kyo opened his eyes and immediately winced at the white glare of the room he was in. Squinting, he noticed that he was lying on a stretcher, in a room that looked like an infirmary.
He couldn't see much of his surroundings because there was a thick green screen in the way, but he heard a tender, soothing female voice in the next cubicle. A baby was crying nearby. Someone was rushing across the room.
He sat up, feeling groggy. He was wearing his own clothes and not a hospital gown, and this was definitely a good sign. There was no IV going into his arm, and his vital signs were not being monitored.
Getting off the stretcher, Kyo felt a sharp pain on the side of his head. He instinctively touched the spot with his hand and his fingers brushed a large bump that instantly reminded him of what had happened.
The final match, the fight against Verse, the arena collapsing. And Yagami sending him flying against an iron girder like the fucking savage he was.
Rubbing the bump, Kyo thought of Iori—who had reacted faster than him—and tried to subdue a feeling of humiliation.
While he had been wasting precious seconds trying to decide what to do, Iori had followed his instinct, and no unnecessary thought had gotten in the way of his actions.
Because, as expected, Iori didn't mind causing him an injury while trying to save him.
Kyo would make sure to give him hell about it the next time they saw each other.
He pushed the screen aside, ready to leave the place, and found out that he was actually in a hospital's emergency ward, together with other people who had been injured during the collapse of the stadium. There were patients of all ages, and the wounds went from light scratches to deep bleeding cuts.
Kyo assumed those were the less serious cases. The critical patients were probably being treated on other floors.
Trying not to think about the number of victims, Kyo told himself that what had happened, and the outcome, was not his responsibility. He had inherited a great power with the main purpose of keeping the world safe from the destruction caused by creatures like Orochi or Verse, but this didn't mean that he was to blame for the lives that had been lost, or the people who had been injured.
He had come to terms with his duty, and the fact that he couldn't save everyone.
"Dammit," Kyo muttered, stepping onto the corridor to find it full of people demanding to know what had happened to their loved ones.
The situation didn't improve at the hospital's waiting rooms. The staff couldn't cope with the pushing and yelling of the crowd and the people making inquiries at the top of their lungs.
How many people were at the stadium?, Kyo wondered. Thirty thousand? How many were unable to escape?
"Kyo!" Benimaru appeared suddenly, nimbly dodging the crowds. "How are you feeling?"
"What's going on?" Kyo asked. Benimaru's hair was disheveled and covered in dust. The blonde's hands were stained with dried blood. "Are you okay?"
"I was helping the wounded while you took a nap," replied Benimaru, smiling without humor. "After you hit your head, you passed out while we were evacuating the arena. Do you remember?"
"What I remember is that Yagami is an idiot," Kyo muttered. "Where is he?"
"I don't know, Kyo. Thinking that you were dying and rushing you to the hospital didn't leave much time to worry about Yagami as well, sorry."
"It doesn't matter, I'll find him," Kyo said. "And Daimon?"
"He's assisting the rescue crew."
"If they are accepting help from civilians, things must be really bad…" Kyo muttered.
"The number of casualties keeps rising," Benimaru sighed tiredly. "Can you go back to the hotel on your own? I'd like to stay and help."
"Sure, but I don't plan on going back just yet," Kyo replied.
"Oh? Are you going to give us a hand?" Benimaru asked, somewhat surprised. However, the blonde's expression turned into suspicion one second later. "No, of course you won't. You're going to look for Yagami."
"It won't take long. If he's not here, I'll help," Kyo said, and he walked off before Benimaru had time to say anything else.
In the next wing, the hallways were crowded with tearful, distressed people. Blood stains were visible on the walls and floors.
Benimaru was right, Kyo was going to look for Yagami. He wasn't worried or, at least, not as worried as he would be for someone who was really close to him. He knew that Yagami was alive somewhere, because it couldn't be any other way, but the frailty he had seen in Iori during the fight against Verse troubled him.
Seeing Yagami on his knees, clutching his chest, had brought back memories from years ago—from a time when he was sure that Yagami's life was coming to an end. The immense power that resided within Yagami had been gradually eroding his body, and those who knew about his affliction coincided in that Yagami should have died a long time ago.
However, Iori had survived and, over time, his health had improved. As a tasteless joke, Kyo's friends liked to point out that Yagami was still alive thanks to his obsession with him. His obsession with killing him, to be more precise.
Kyo could only smirk disdainfully at those comments, but deep down he knew it wasn't so simple. It went beyond wanting to kill him…
After the fight against Verse, Iori proved that things had changed between them the moment he accepted his help to stand up. Instead of brusquely pushing him away, he held his hand tightly. Maybe too tightly.
Maybe Yagami would have mocked him before trying to break his wrist, had there not been an interruption?
Or maybe he wouldn't have… Maybe it was true that something was different…
Years had not passed in vain and now Iori wasn't just a constant annoyance in his life. The redhead was the person who stood by his side when a new enemy appeared. In his own peculiar way, Yagami had accepted his role as the host of one of the Sacred Treasures. When it was necessary, the Kusanagi sword and the Yagami magatama fought alongside each other once again.
As the heir to one of the relics, Kyo felt he had a duty toward Yagami, on account of those brief moments when they were united against a common enemy. Iori had tried to protect him from the falling rubble—the least Kyo could do was check if Yagami was okay.
And to berate him for this, of course, Kyo thought to himself, running his fingers through his hair. Although he'll probably laugh at me and call it an insignificant bruise.
Kyo smiled bitterly. Even in his mind, Yagami could be extremely irritating.
He continued along the hospital's corridors, and he soon realized that walking without a clear destination would accomplish nothing. The place was enormous, with several floors and wards, and each area was filled with people desperate for information. Some even recognized him from the tournament and approached him to ask for help, because Kyo seemed to have a clear purpose and didn't look disoriented and confused like the rest of the crowd.
"Sorry, I can't help you…" he muttered, moving away from the hopeful faces, and telling himself once more that it was impossible for him to solve everyone's problems.
Impatiently, Kyo decided to look for Yagami by focusing on his energy. He had never liked using such ability, but he had no choice, especially if he wanted to leave the hospital soon.
Unlike him, Iori had made use of such skill shamelessly, for years, in order to find him whenever he felt like picking up a fight with him. And Kagura Chizuru, the heir of the third relic, had done the same, to pester him with requests and responsibilities.
This link was an ancestral bond that tied them together, as hosts of the Three Sacred Treasures. Since a young age, Kyo had tried to avoid using such power, because it reminded him of the obligation that had been imposed upon him by his "destiny". It was because of that bond that he couldn't get rid of Yagami, or Kagura, or his duty as the Kusanagi heir.
However, complaining about his destiny was a thing of the past. In the hospital, his ability to perceive Yagami's presence proved to be useful and extremely precise, even after years of not being used.
Kyo climbed some stairs, crossed the facilities from one end to the other, and finally reached a floor where he knew he would find Iori. When he asked for him at the reception desk, the nurses confirmed that Yagami was there, but they denied him access, because Kyo wasn't a direct relative.
"Do you expect Yagami to come to a tournament in Russia and bring his whole family with him?" Kyo grumbled angrily, and the nurses stared at him blankly, because he had spoken in Japanese.
"Oh, Kusanagi! Are you looking for your friend?"
Kyo turned around to find himself staring straight at Antonov's face. The tournament's organizer eyed him with a friendly expression. Under his shockingly pink shirt, thick bandages covered his torso, but despite being hurt, he carried a young, beaming boy in his arms.
"Yagami is not my friend," clarified Kyo, feeling slightly annoyed.
Unfazed, Antonov replied:
"I saw him protect you in the arena. That's what friends do, right?"
Kyo bit back an exasperated growl. He wasn't going to start a discussion about Yagami with that man.
"And where were you, by the way?" asked Kyo insolently. "You disappeared as soon as Verse showed up."
Antonov laughed heartily at Kyo's disrespectful tone.
"I was doing my part. A champion must protect his fans," he explained, making the child in his arms bounce once.
"Antonov protected us!" said the boy, looking at Kyo. "He saved us!"
Antonov nodded, pleased at himself, but his expression soon turned grave.
"I'll bear the hospitalization costs for all the victims and also for the rescue operations, but something like this can't happen again. That thing… That… creature, is he gone for good?"
"I highly doubt it," replied Kyo.
"Whatever you need to fight that monster, anything, just ask. I want to help."
Kyo regarded the tall man, who was talking in a softer voice. The emotion in his clear light blue eyes was honest. When Antonov wasn't bragging about his strength and his title as the KOF champion, he looked like a good person. And he transmitted something, a frank naïveté, that assured Kyo that Antonov wasn't guilty of summoning Verse.
"It'll be safer if you stay here playing nanny," mocked Kyo, half jokingly, half seriously.
Antonov didn't take offense and kept smiling.
"You're right. I admit that you knew how to face that creature while I was still perplexed," he said. "But I have more money than any of you. My vast resources can help. What's more, your friend Yagami can stay at this hospital as long as he needs. Courtesy of the owner."
Kyo sighed. It was to be expected that Antonov owned the hospital. The place was probably called Antonov Hospital, just like the stadium was called Antonov Arena and the airport of the city was known as Antonov Airport.
"Where's Yagami?" Kyo asked, feeling that he had wasted enough time.
Antonov repeated the question in Russian to the nurses behind the desk using an authoritative tone. The young women looked for Yagami's room number on their screens.
"By the way, Yagami is still a bit disoriented," warned Antonov. "He's not seriously hurt, but it would be better if he remains at the hospital for a few days."
Why didn't he say so before?, thought Kyo.
The room mentioned by the nurses was not far. Kyo pushed the door and entered without announcing himself.
The place was narrow, with barely any clearance between the monitors and medical implements, the bed, and an uncomfortable-looking chair next to the bedhead. The walls were made of naked, spotless white cement.
The bed was empty. Yagami was standing next to the window, looking out, his back turned to Kyo.
Kyo breathed in relief. If Yagami was up, it meant he felt fine enough. The redhead was also wearing his own clothes, and the wine-colored coat was hanging from the back of the chair. The only sign of the injury he had suffered was a bandage around his head holding a gauze slightly stained with blood.
Is this what people call divine justice?, thought Kyo, smiling to himself. At least his own contusion didn't need a bandage like the one Iori was sporting.
Kyo came closer and stood next to Iori, looking through the window. A crowd had gathered on the street, in front of the entrance. The security personnel has installed a metal barrier and a group of photographers, cameramen and reporters were demanding to know about the victims of the stadium's collapse.
"You're lucky the hospital is full. Otherwise they would have make you wear one of those green gowns…" commented Kyo sarcastically.
Iori didn't answer, but he turned his head slightly to look at him.
"Well, it seems I didn't need to worry about you," Kyo continued with an exaggerated sigh, scratching his head absently. "I'll go back to the hotel and-ow!"
Kyo winced when he accidentally brushed the swollen bump on his head. He closed his eyes tightly, because it had been a stupid thing to do, and, when he opened them again, Yagami was staring at him intently.
"Are you alright?"
Iori's voice was devoid of his usual contempt. Instead, there was a trace of concern.
Kyo didn't react at first, but then he laughed it off.
"You really hit your head hard, eh? Antonov mentioned that you were disoriented, but seeing you speak like this is very funny."
Iori frowned slightly and turned to look through the window again.
"Who are you?" he asked in a low voice.
Kyo laughed again, with a touch of annoyance this time.
"Now, that's not funny. You're bad at joking, Yagami."
Iori didn't have time to reply, because two nurses came into the room and looked at them, startled.
"You shouldn't be walking around," said the older nurse, a short-haired woman who walked toward Iori while shooting Kyo a reproachful look. "Please, return to your bed."
Despite her stern voice, the woman took Iori gently by the arm, pulling softly.
"Don't touch me," Iori said. His voice was low, the same tone he had used with Kyo, but the words sounded harsh and sharp.
"Please, sir, you need to rest…"
The woman's words turned into a surprised gasp when Iori freed himself by pushing her rudely, making her stumble against the other nurse. Both of them lost balance and fell on the floor with a yelp.
"Yagami!" Kyo intervened, grabbing Iori by the arm, because the redhead had taken one step toward the women looking angry and menacing. "What the hell are you doing?" Kyo demanded, raising his voice.
Iori shot him a furious glance, but then his expression changed. The redhead put both his hands on the sides of his head and closed his eyes. A groan escaped from his lips.
"Yagami!", Kyo repeated, a surge of concern making him tense up. Was Iori suffering an attack? The Riot of the Blood?
But soon it was clear that neither of those things were happening. He had seen the expression on Iori's face before. It was pain. But… why…? And why did he look as if he was in anguish?
The nurses were back on their feet, and, despite their initial fright, they did their job without faltering.
"Take him to the bed," instructed the older woman, and Kyo complied, relieved that at least Iori was allowing his touch.
Iori sat clumsily on the edge of the bed, without lowering his hands. The groans had subsided, but it was evident that the pain had not. Kyo felt lost.
"What's happening to him?" he muttered, looking at Iori's bandages.
"Please, lie down," the second nurse instructed timidly. She was a blond young girl who didn't look like she had much experience yet.
Kyo was not surprised when Iori didn't obey. The pain was still upsetting him, and his back was hunched, his eyes closed, his teeth gritted tightly.
"Can't you give him some painkillers?" demanded Kyo. He wasn't sure if it would help. He didn't even know if Iori needed painkillers, but he felt the urge to take command of the situation, because it was making him feel powerless, just like years ago, when Iori coughed up blood and all he could do was stare, unable to help him.
The older nurse tried to ask Kyo to leave the room, but the younger one shook her head. It was obvious that she didn't want to be left alone with Iori. The hospital was overcrowded, and the support staff who intervened when treating violent patients had their hands full. Maybe it would be easier if Kyo stayed there to help.
"We will give him some sedatives, but he needs to lie down first," said the older nurse.
"Did you hear, Yagami? Do as they say and the pain will go away," Kyo instructed, taking Iori by the shoulder and firmly pushing him toward the pillow. To his surprise, Iori yielded, without opening his eyes.
The women hurriedly prepared and IV. Kyo remained alert, in case he had to intervene if Yagami reacted violently to the needle prickling his skin, but the redhead didn't seem to feel it. After a couple of minutes, Iori calmed down. When he opened his eyes, his gaze was slightly unfocused.
"What's happening?" Kyo asked again.
After confirming that the painkillers were working, the blond nurse turned to Kyo.
"Please come with me and I'll explain. Are you a relative?"
Grudgingly, Kyo followed her to the corridor. Before leaving the room, he looked at Yagami one more time, and he noticed that Iori's glazed eyes were fixed on him.
The young nurse's explanation left him feeling numb. The head contusion Yagami had suffered did not leave any visible external wound, but the internal swelling was serious. And if it kept worsening, Yagami might need surgery to relieve the accumulated pressure.
Iori's disorientation was due to the inflammation. If his condition deteriorated, his movements could also be affected.
"But I don't think it's just some disorientation, he didn't recognize me," Kyo said coarsely.
"What do you mean?"
"Yagami asked me who I was," Kyo explained. "And he's not being himself. He… He's not like this."
"Do you mean that he usually doesn't react in a violent manner?"
"No, not that…" Kyo muttered, starting to lose his patience, because he meant the contrary. Iori's voice had been too soft. "The way he's talking. It's not like him."
"This sounds serious, I need to inform the doctor…"
"Didn't you notice that something was wrong with him?" asked Kyo, stunned.
Despite being younger than him, the nurse frowned sternly.
"He didn't answer any of our questions. It was hard to tell…"
The woman walked off, leaving the sentence unfinished, as if she had had enough of Kyo's insolent attitude. Kyo stood in the corridor for a while, but his shock soon wore off and he strode back to Yagami's room. The redhead was lying down, his eyes closed.
"Please, let the patient rest," muttered the nurse who was still tending to Iori.
"Antonov said that I can stay with him," Kyo grumbled. It wasn't true, but he was getting tired of the staff's unwillingness to cooperate.
The nurse pursed her lips, but she didn't insist. She couldn't contravene the decision of the hospital's owner.
Kyo waited by the foot of the bed until the woman left, and then he pulled the chair and sit by the bedhead. He sensed the faint smell of burned fabric from Iori's coat, and this made him rub his face tiredly. Just a few hours ago, they had been talking on the arena's balcony, looking forward to their next fight. How had they ended up in a hospital?
An involuntary sigh escaped from Kyo's lips, and he realized that Iori was not asleep. The redhead opened his eyes slowly and turned toward him.
Kyo couldn't read his inexpressive face. Aside from the glaze of his eyes, Iori looked normal. It was the way he talked that signaled that something was off.
"Listen, Yagami, it would be for the best if you do what the nurses say," Kyo said, leaning back against the uncomfortable chair and crossing his arms. "A head injury is a serious matter. And your condition could worsen if you're not careful."
Iori didn't say anything. His red eyes examined Kyo's face, his sour expression, his tense posture.
"If it weren't because you spoke, I wouldn't have realized either…" sighed Kyo, admitting that he had been too harsh with the nurse.
Still in complete silence, Iori tried to sit up.
"No, no, didn't you hear me? Try not to move," Kyo objected, leaning toward Iori.
Iori gazed at him, frowning, as if he couldn't figure out why Kyo sounded worried and annoyed at the same time.
Kyo tried to control himself and imagine what Yagami was going through. Although the situation was disconcerting, and aside from the incident with the nurses, the redhead was doing a great job at keeping it together.
Due to the bandage around his head, Iori's hair had been pushed back, and Kyo clearly saw the bitter shadow that swept through Iori's eyes. It was the first evident sign that Iori felt as lost as him.
"Do you really don't know who I am?" Kyo asked, keeping his voice soft.
Iori narrowed his eyes, without averting his gaze, making a clear effort to recognize him. After a few seconds, Iori put a hand to the side of his head with a faint groan.
Kyo stood up, alarmed.
"Take it easy… I shouldn't have asked… You don't need to push yourself, I'm sure that eventually…"
Iori winced and Kyo cursed silently. Why was Iori in pain despite the sedatives? And… was it really pain? Iori's gesture made him think of Orochi's influence, and all those times the god had haunted Yagami, trying to break his will.
But Orochi had been sealed.
Was this because of the dark power that took hold of Yagami during the tournament?
Was it merely the pain caused by the injury…?
"Goddammit…" Kyo became aware that, whichever the answer, he couldn't leave Yagami alone. Not until he made sure that Iori would not become a threat to those around him. "You need to get better fast, Yagami," Kyo said. "And to do that, you need to listen to me and rest."
Kyo placed a hand on Iori's shoulder and gently pushed him back. Again, Iori allowed it and he laid back against the pillow, docile under his touch.
No, this isn't right… Kyo thought to himself. Yagami didn't do that kind of thing. He didn't obey in complete silence. Where were the harsh words? The shove to get rid of him?
Iori still had his fingers buried in the red strands of his hair, pushing hard against the bandage. He looked at Kyo through half-closed eyelids, and Kyo wondered if he had remembered something, because his crimson eyes were full of annoyance now.
"Are you going to tell me who you are?" growled Iori dryly.
Kyo blinked, taken by surprise. For a brief moment, the tone of voice had been right, as well as the look in Iori's eyes.
Maybe this wasn't as serious as he had thought. Yagami was still Yagami. He just needed to remember who he was.
Kyo tried to sound nonchalant, but it was obvious that he was expecting his name to cause some kind of reaction in Yagami. A vague sign of recognition, at least.
There was nothing. Iori's annoyance dissolved and his face was inexpressive again.
The name meant nothing to him.
"Can you remember your name?" Kyo asked, masking his disappointment.
"You do remember!"
"No, but you keep repeating it."
Kyo stared. Yagami had made a… joke?
No, not a joke. Iori's face was serious.
"Your name is Yagami Iori," Kyo explained. "Do you know where we are?"
"Somewhere in Russia," Iori muttered, glancing at the window.
"Do you remember why we are here?"
Maybe I shouldn't be asking so many questions… thought Kyo, while Iori shook his head slowly. What do you do in this kind of situation?
A creak at the door interrupted his thoughts. Kyo expected a nurse he could interrogate about Iori's condition, but instead he saw that it was Antonov. The millionaire smiled brightly, and his smile was not completely out of place. Now Kyo knew that Antonov was trying to keep a positive attitude in a dire situation, because he was a good person.
"I'm glad you found your friend, Kusanagi."
"I told you that Yagami is not my…"
Kyo bit his lip and shut up.
"I'll visit often to check that everything is alright. The hospital can barely cope and we have to help each other however we can. You can give us a hand as well, Kusanagi. While your friend is resting, of course."
The door closed slowly.
Kyo hesitated before turning toward the bed. As expected, Iori was looking at him with an unreadable expression.
"That sounded awful, but it's the truth," Kyo muttered. "We aren't friends. But it doesn't matter."
"Yeah…" Kyo looked for a way to express himself properly. How could he summarize his relationship with Yagami in a few words? "It's…" A long silence followed.
"Hard to explain," finished Iori mockingly.
Kyo frowned. He wasn't sure if Iori would have talked like that under normal circumstances. His deep voice was the same, but the words… There was something in his words that sounded different, but not to the point of turning Yagami into a stranger.
It's him… without the hatred… Kyo realized suddenly.
"What makes you say that? Do you remember?" Kyo asked, using the same mocking tone.
Iori shook his head slowly.
"That's what I felt when I first saw you," he muttered.
"What does it even mean?"
Iori didn't reply. He glanced toward the window, and after a while he closed his eyes, and the question remained unanswered.