Sousuke lay supine on the cold pavement, eyes squeezed shut and hand clutched to his heart and looking as if he was comatose. The rate of perspiration increased dramatically, which confused him all the more. It wasn't a fight or flight situation so why was he sweating so profusely? And why couldn't he summon the strength to stand on his own two feet? So many questions…He had left everything behind just to find some answers, but all he discovered were more questions of his enigmatic past. It was like the battle with Venom on the TDD-1 all over again.
So many unanswered questions like…
"Why did Gauron say, "I love you, Kashim" just before he died?"
"Why wasn't there any evidence to prove his death?"
And for the last two years, Sousuke had found himself acting without the consent of his logic, a voice in his hand pulling the strings as if he were the puppet.
"What does this all mean?"
North Korea. Intel provided the information that the late Gauron first made his infamous reputation there. And although the Venom pilot's place of birth is just about unknown to everyone on the face of the planet, there had been rumors circulation about North Korea with some sort of connection with the terrorist. Sousuke left for North Korea three days after taking Kaname on the fishing trip. It had been one of the hardest objectives he had to face in his life. The tears, the anguish, the heart-wrenching pain…oh, and there was Kaname. It's a good thing Visa is accepted in hospitals worldwide.
There was not much he could remember about Korea. There was a vivid picture of the snowy landscape of an abandoned military base preserved in his mind. He also remembered knocking over a vial of lavender-colored substance and the first time he became aware of his cardiac condition. And yes, the memory of a doctor running numerous tests checking for carcinogenic agents still lingered in his mind, but that was about all he remembered up till the point he returned to Mithril and received an order to visit Kaname.
Sousuke. I am so disappointed in you.
"W-What?" That voice again.
Looks like you've really gotten yourself into some deep shit this time, huh?
"What the hell are you talking about?"
There's no need to dissimulate your emotions.
"…Go to hell."
I believe I've already been there. You of all people should know that.
"You are not well-conditioned in the mind."
Maybe I am, maybe I'm not. The question is: are YOU?
"Who the hell are you?"
All in due time. I believe there is some unfinished business you need to attend to . . . Kashim.
Sousuke gave a loud gasp of air as he regained consciousness. His hazel eyes were diluted and his mouth slightly ajar, panting to the point that he couldn't even control himself. Beads of sweat dropped from his eyebrows and onto the cement pavement. A frustrated grunt escaped his throat. It was the third time this week he had passed out and heard the strange voice in his head. What could this mean?
Slowly, the young Mithril operative regained his composure. Securing his right hand on the metal railing and his left supporting his weight, Sousuke pulled himself up to his feet. Finding himself lose control of his body again, Sousuke leaned on the brick wall for support. He felt dead on his feet and had every inclination to fall asleep on the spot but he knew it would not be wise. There was no telling the events that might take place during his respite.
Kaname frowned. No matter how many times she convinced herself that it was probably for the best interest of the world if Sousuke would just drop dead, she just couldn't bring herself to think if Sousuke was to die. It pained her to see Sousuke in such a pathetic state. It was obvious how shaken up he was. It had taken all the strength he could muster just to get up. His eyes were drooping, threatening to lose consciousness.
Sousuke's voice brought Kaname from her thoughts.
Her heart melted from the soft voice calling her name.
"I'm here, Sousuke. Are you okay?"
Sousuke was steadily regaining his vision. He could discern from the blurry figure that Kaname had come out and found him sprawled on the ground. It was unfit for a Whispered to see her protector so weak and vulnerable. It was also standard protocol that all Mithril operatives remain vigilant. Sousuke had learned his lesson back during his days in Afghanistan when his whole brigade was slaughtered because of the laziness of one watchman.
"It's not a problem," he grunted as he struggled to regain his composure. "Please, I'll just be a few moments then I'll be on my way."
"Are you sure?" Kaname looked on with an uncertain expression.
"I do not wish to cause you anymore pain, Kaname. This is what you want, correct?"
Kaname remained silent. She knew Sousuke well enough to understand how his mind works. If she told him to jump off a bridge, he would probably ask, "Which bridge?" in an emotionless tone and actually perform her request as if it was an order. She was also uncertain of her feelings toward Sousuke. It HAD been three years. Who knows what a certain Captain might've done to corrupt his innocent little mind?
"Kaname? In all seriousness, it would be poor etiquette on your part to ignore my question."
"Listen. You need medical attention." She paid no attention whatsoever of his demand for an answer. She was not yet ready to provide one. "Come back up and I will try to see what's wrong. I AM the top of my medical class." She straightened her posture and threw her nose in a pompous manner.
"Yes. I have heard from 2nd Lt. Kurtz Weber that your major is nursing." A thought suddenly came to Sousuke. Kurtz had asked him for a favor. At first, Sousuke raised his eyebrows at the nature of the favor. Why was Kaname's hygiene called into question? The request was still a complete mystery to Sousuke, but he would not disappoint.
"Are you a dirty nurse?"
"Oh, I see. You know, Miss Chidori, it is not something to be ashamed of. There are different kinds of antibiotic soap that you can try out if you are displeased with your current one. I would recommend one with triclosan and cocamidopropyl betaine. The former ensure the decimation of bacteria and the latter serves to moisturize the skin. I happen to have a spare bottle of Dial Antibacterial Body Wash in my apartment. Should I go get it? I wish to assist you in your time of need." Sousuke had been a guerrilla warrior in Afghanistan before. He knew the pains of having lice, hook worms, and other parasites.
"Um…it's all right, really…" Kaname cursed herself for getting her hopes up. He was more clueless than she had remembered.
"It is not a problem. Like I said before, I wish to be of assistance."
There was silence between them. Any normal male teenager knew better than to breach on the subject of a female's hygiene. It was strictly below the belt. Sousuke did not see the harm in his inquiry. After all, he was performing a community service. He was doing his part in making the town a better place in an olfactory sense. He felt a sense of pride in his selfless action and smiled eagerly.
Kaname grimaced at the thought of Sousuke "assisting" her with her so-called hygiene problem. Part of her was touched by his concern but the other ninety nine percent was in consensus toward punishing the dense otaku for his lecherous comment when she saw him smiling.
"Ouch. Miss Chidori, may I ask what that was for?" He grimaced, wobbling around nursing the foot Kaname stomped on. It was to his misfortune that Kaname was wearing high heels.
"Ohhh!!!" Kaname was blushing furiously, her eyes similar to those a rabid Rottweiler might possess.
"Chidori, are you all right? Perhaps you are in need of medical attention. Come, I will accompany you to the nearest physician."
"No, Kaname. It's not a problem. I insist."
"Oh?" Kaname fished through her bag trying to find her halisen. "I know I put it here somewhere…"
"Miss Chidori?" The look on Sousuke's face was one of bewilderment. His face brightened. "Perhaps you are doing the wise thing and taking my advice?"'Ah, here it is…'
With a swift flick of her wrist, Kaname sent Sousuke flying across the street. He had four seconds of hang-time before crashing into a telephone pole. The impact caused a shockwave that jolted the pigeons standing on the lines.'Hmmph! What a clueless otaku…'
Her smug smile was ephemeral. The pained look on Sousuke's face as he struggled to maintain his balance was a real tearjerker, and as far as Kaname could tell, her actions may have led him to severe internal injuries. His eyes were somewhat dulled from the pain, emotionless and deader than she had ever seen. Her heart sunk.
"I'm sorry, Sousuke," Kaname found herself saying. She bowed deeply and her gaze set on the asphalt. It had not occurred to her that she was standing in the middle of the street. And it was to her ill fate that a drunken truck driver came across her direction, turning a sharp turn and nearly toppling Kaname.
Sousuke moved swiftly. He could feel his energy returning. He felt better than ever! In the split second fate allowed, Sousuke raced toward Kaname, gathered her in his arms, found refuge in a nearby alley and landed without much injury. Sure, there were a few abrasion around his elbows and knees, but all in all, he was unharmed and Kaname unscathed.
"Kaname, are you okay?"
He was unaware that he was still holding her in a protective manner, much like the time when she was nearly hit by a truck driven by a suspicious individual. He had only known her for two days then.
"I'm fine, Sousuke."
Kaname was slightly pink in the cheeks. That was twice Sousuke saved her from being run over by a vehicle. What evil priestess had cursed her with such blight? Kaname wasn't complaining though. It felt rather pleasant having Sousuke so close to her. She felt…well, protected."Whenever I am with you, there is nothing I cant do…"
The words he had spoken to her on their fishing trip echoed in his mind like a person's voice would in a cave. Yes, he felt as if he could accomplish goals he never thought possible whenever Kaname's around. That was important. But there was something else the blue-haired girl brought. Something instinctive. Something innate.
He was sure to dig deeper for more answers.
Kaname's cheeks brushed against Sousuke's. She heard herself in the middle of apologizing when she noticed how deep in thought he was. She closed her mouth and sighed contently. Even if it was for just one day, Kaname felt as if Sousuke has completely paid his debt for leaving. Just this one day…
Her complacent feeling towards Sousuke soon ebbed away as she looked down and saw where his hand was placed. Her face contorted from content to surprise and eventually, anger. That damn otaku managed to ruin the one good thing going between them!
There was hell to pay…