Kanbei was god-like, but he wasn't a god. He was a man, and could be overwhelmed like any other. He was falling back under the concentrated attacks of Red Spiders and footsoldiers, two replacing each one that he cut down. Kyuuzou turned away from his fights, able to dispatch each opponent almost carelessly, and saw Kanbei's plight. It was supposed to be a general attack, but apparently it was more to wipe out Kanbei than anything else.

And that Kyuuzou would never allow.

He lunged away from his fight, and cut down two of Kanbei's assailants effortlessly, hacking his way towards Kanbei. eventually he found himself fighting back-to-back with Kanbei, and their opponents quickly thinned as the smarter ones decided not to face the skill of Kanbei coupled with Kyuuzou's possessiveness and speed.

The battle slowly died down, and the two men were able to pause, listening for any more attackers. When all that greeted them was silence and the stirrings of wildlife, they relaxed as much as either allowed in the presence of the other. Kyuuzou turned to face Kanbei and admirably hid his shock at the long gash on Kanbei's left arm.

'He had been fighting with only his right hand this whole time...'

Kanbei was pale from bloodloss and let his katana slip from his hands, other hand closing around his wounded arm, trying to staunch the bloodflow. He did not hear Kyuuzou approach, and only noticed him when he pulled Kanbei's injured arm away from him. Kanbei hissed with pain and glared at Kyuuzou, his temper short with pain. He was startled though, at how gentle Kyuuzou's hands were as he parted Kanbei's clothing to get a better look at the gash. After examining it, he looked up at Kanbei, his eyes nonchalant.

"There's a river near here. I won't let you die of an infection. Not before we have our duel."

Kanbei nodded, the ghost of a wry smile on his lips.

Kyuuzou let go of Kanbei's arm and led him on silently. Kanbei followed, growing slowly more tired as the weariness that hit him after every battle slowly worked its way into him. Not looking where he was going, he tripped inelegantly over a tree root. He braced himself for the fall, but instead felt two strong arms catch him around the waist, carefully avoiding his injured arm.


Kyuuzou half-carried,half-dragged Kanbei the rest of the way to the river. He laid the man on the bank and tore away the bloody cloth that was clinging to the wound. Gently, he placed the wounded arm into the icy river, making Kanbei shudder. Kyuuzou watched and waited as the arm slowly became its natural tan hue again, rather than sticky red with blood, finally letting him see the true extent of the wound.

Kyuuzou was impressed, though he would never let it show. It was bad, cutting through both fat and muscle, close to the bone. He would have to make a tourniquet if Kanbei was to even last the night. He left Kanbei's arm in the water before taking off his coat, and tearing strips off his shirt. (He would never do that to his coat.) Once he had enough cloth, he looked around for a pair of sticks that would be able to press onto the skin around the wound, staunching the bloodflow. satisfied after a few moments of searching, he returned to Kanbei and took his arm out of the water. He worked quickly, finding the right place to put the sticks before wrapping them tightly with the strips of cloth, closing the wound. He'd have to be careful to change the tourniquet after a while. He didn't want Kanbei to lose the use of his left arm. He placed Kanbei's arm next to Kanbei's body, and watched his laboured breathing, frowning. Hopefully the bloodloss would not have drained him. He looked at his discarded jacket and sighed inaudibly. He picked it up and gently laid it on Kanbei's body, trying to cover as much as he could. Damn the cold up in these mountains. It wasn't good for the injured. After making certain Kanbei was as comfortable as possible,he retrieved the other man's sword. He sat down on a nearby tree, and looked the sword over. It was starting to lose its edge--Kanbei would have to sharpen it again soon. It was caked in oil and blood, but even so, the craftsmanship shone through. The blade was still strong, even after many year's usage. The handle was ill-fitted for Kyuuzou's hand, but he assumed that was because it had been crafted to Kanbei's grip. Overall, he approved. It was a good companion for the skilled samurai. He washed it off and then laid it next to the now unconscious man. Suddenly a thought struck him, making him start.

Why was he doing this for Kanbei? What was the purpose?

He shook his head, uneasy, and washed off his hands. He stood, the wind cold against his bare arms and partially uncovered torso. After the battle, he hadn't even considered asking the others for help. It was beneath his pride. But where were they now?

Why were there so many goddamned questions tonite!

Questions he had no answers to.

And some that he didn't even want an answer to.

He retrieved his swords and held them lightly in each hand. He knew these. He knew this life. He had found all the answers he had ever wanted in killing, in battle. It wasn't until he fought with Kanbei that he started asking questions that had no answers. He betrayed his master, left his comrade(whom he had barely tolerated), and for what?

To protect farmers from mechanical samurai.

Why should he have cared? But it wasn't for the farmers he went.

He went because of Kanbei.

He had heard stories about him, and so had idly wondered about what it would be like to face him. When he finally did, he found that he hadn't wanted to stop fighting him. It was a larger thrill than anything else he had experienced before. It was as if he had begun fighting again, having finally found a challenge. It was fun once more, rather than just going through the motions. It was slightly strange...but it was almost as if he wanted to prove himself to Kanbei; prove he was a better, more worthy warrior than a hero of so many wars.

So foolish.

He turned and looked back at the wounded man, breathing lightly, more easily, deep in exhausted sleep. Kyuuzou looked at his swords. It would be so easy to kill him right now. Wounded, unconscious...its what his assassin instincts told him to do.

But he wouldn't.

But why not?

He swung one sword in a graceful arc to stop it right over Kanbei's throat.

Because it would be dishonorable to kill such an opponent while he was wounded and unable to respond. Because he was needed by others, and Kanbei felt responsible for them. Because he was too good a warrior to die in such a disgraceful way. And...because Kyuuzou needed him alive. He was the constant challenge, the motivation that drove him to excel. He pulled his sword away and sheathed it, disgusted with himself. Too sentimental. He was becoming too attached to someone who could be used against him, someone he could lose. Caring for someone would make him weak, and that would not do. His lips curled back in a silent snarl, irritated with himself, allowing himself briefly to feel a flash of anger before pulling himself into control again. His eyes regained their sleepy, careless look and he turned, content to wait for the dawn. It was not intelligent to move hindered by an injured man,and in the dark. Here, at least, he could make a stand against anyone who would try to attack him. Not like any of the Nobuseri would after so recent a defeat; they were machines, but they had once been samurai, and so weren't entirely stupid. He closed his eyes and listened intently, calming himself,pushing the irritating questions to the back of his mind. Emotions were stupid, and he couldn't allow himself to feel beyond the desire to fight and to become better. Anything aside from those two emotions weren't worth his time...but whenever he looked at Kanbei, there was something else. Something else beside the desire to grind Kanbei's skills into the dust, to defeat him. That something was why he kept on putting off their duel, and he believed that there was a shadow of the same emotion in Kanbei. He could have requested at any time, and Kyuuzou would have accepted, and vice versa, but each of them seemed almost...reluctant. As if it were more interesting to talk about it rather than to actually duel. He frowned slightly again, feeling uneasy. This wasn't the same uneasiness he felt whenever there was something that was a physical threat to him around. This was a response to something else. He turned to face Kanbei again, feeling that something had changed. He could barely hear him breathing. He moved quickly over to him and knelt down next to him. It was time to change the bandages anyway, but...he did not know how to revive a man. He had never needed to. His mind turned over every memory, searching for anything that might help, as he released Kanbei's arm from the tourniquet, pleased that the bloodflow had stopped. He was able to re-bandage it with simply more strips of cloth that were torn from his shirt, tying them tightly onto Kanbei's arm. He looked at the pale, sleeping man, and felt that odd emotion worm its way into his chest again, and before he could stop his hand, it had brushed away some of Kanbei's hair from his face. He was startled with himself, for showing such a sign of caring and...almost... affection...for another. He clamped down on his emotions again, sending that odd feeling back into the depths of his being where it belonged. He watched over Kanbei the entire night, changing bandages when necessary, making sure that Kanbei was kept warm and as comfortable as possible. He didn't notice his own discomfort as he sat with his swords on his lap, his chest eventually entirely bare from the creation of makeshift bandages, nor did he notice the passage of time. The only moments when he was conscious of this was when Kanbei would wake up for enough intervals for Kyuuzou to force some water down his throat, trying to quell the fever that results from losing too much blood, the body trying to compensate for the warmth lost. He sat, stood, keeping himself awake, and waited for when Kanbei would awaken.