Chapter 6: Timely Rescues and Squashed Plants

A burning sensation in my left wrist brought me back. I saw Kamakura working at the wall on one side, and the other people on the other side.

"There," Some guy's voice said, "That's enough room for you to crawl through."

"Yeah, but not my friend," Kamakura answered.

"Friend?" asked one of the girls. "Why isn't he helping?"

"Hmm, good question," Kamakura replied with a bit of a bite to his sarcasm. "Hey, Storm Shadow! Are you not working because of the fainting spells from your head injury, or because of your broken wrist?"

"I didn't mean… oops," the girl muttered.

"Storm Shadow?" Asked the other girl. Well, okay, young woman. They both sounded about in their mid-twenties.

"Yeah," Kamakura answered shortly.

"Sorry!" called the other girl, the one who had asked about me.

"That's ok!" I yelled. "Sorry to be such a bother!" I sighed as my voice echoed around the cave.

"Don't worry. We won't leave you to rot," said the first girl. (The one who hadn't asked about me.) Boy, this was getting confusing. I needed to learn some names.

They cleared away some more of the debris, and with all four of them working, it still took about two hours to make a hole big enough for Kamakura to fit through without having to squirm. I slipped in and out of consciousness throughout the process.

"Sensei," Kamakura whispered.

"Hmm?" I murmured, feeling light-headed.

"There's enough room at the top now. I know the farthest you've gotten is the position you're in right now, sitting , but do you think you could try?"

"We ran out of our emergency water last night, Kamakura. I'm willing to try just about anything," I answered. "Besides, this stone floor is killing my butt."

Kamakura carefully reached around my chest and helped me to my feet, acting rather like a human crutch. It felt like all the blood drained from my head and my knees buckled. Kamakura held on to me until I could get my legs underneath me, and we started up the rocks. I kept my wrist tight to my chest. "Kamakura," I whispered, "Not a word about how I really broke my wrist. Falling over. That's not very dignified."

"It does sound kind of silly, doesn't it?" he muttered, glancing at me with a grin.

"Just let them think I broke it in the cave-in," I insisted.

"Okay, I guess," Kamakura finally agreed.

"Thanks," I said, picking my way up the pile.

Kamakura nodded. "Watch your step, the rock up ahead is a bit wobbly."

"Right," I said, carefully placing my foot on the rock.

"You guys coming?" the guy asked, poking his head into the hole.

"Yeah. We're taking it slow. He was unconscious for almost three days," Kamakura noted.

"Really?" the guy asked, pulling his head back out.

"Yeah, really," Kamakura insisted, hunching forward, a bad move, as it turned out.

I stepped on a loose rock and slipped, grabbing Kamakura at the same time he grabbed me. His hand hit my chest and wrist. I took a few deep breaths as the shooting pains raced up my arm. Gritting my teeth, I took another step, willing myself to remain conscious.

"Sorry," Kamakura said.

"What happened?" the guy at the entrance asked.

"He slipped and I accidentally bumped his broken wrist." Kamakura answered, watching my step for me as I struggled to remain upright despite the waves of nausea that were coming faster and with more intensity. I was glad I hadn't eaten anything, or I probably would have lost it. Breathing shallowly, trying to concentrate on moving towards the entrance, I put one foot in front of the other, focusing on that simple action. Kamakura helped me to the entrance and I slowly crawled out. The guy helped me out and froze, looking at me.

"What the…" He said. I looked up.

"Hi," I said slowly.

"Y-Yeah…" He said slowly, eyeing my shinobi shozoku 'costume'.

"Yeah, um, this is Storm Shadow," Kamakura said, stepping forward.

"Storm Shadow?" the guy asked, "That's an interesting name."

I sighed. "Um, yeah."

Kamakura and the guy helped me down the rocks on this side, until we reached the bottom. When we did, I was greeted by girl 1, who turned out to be a blond-haired girl with an outfit wholly inadequate for hiking… or clearing out a cave-in.

"You hungry?" Asked the girl.

I shook my head very, very slowly. Even that was enough to make me dizzy. I closed my eyes and took a breath, fighting back the queasiness in my stomach. And head. Yes, yes, I know it sounds weird, but if you ever get queasy in your head you'll know what I'm talking about. I guess another word for it could be vertigo, but it wasn't quite…

Since my legs weren't entirely sure where the ground was, I quickly sat down and stared at a rock lying on the ground. It was kind of round, and there was plant underneath it, struggling to grow under the rock's perpetual pressure. I reached out and picked the rock off of the plant.

There you are, little buddy. Good luck in life. It's not so easy, is it?

"Chiiiih!!" Pepsi screeched, running up my leg and plopping contentedly in my lap, where he immediately began purring, closely followed by what I had eventually recognized as snoring.

I continued staring at the plant. I wasn't going crazy, though I'm sure it sounds like it. I was just concentrating on something other than my head and wrist.

A foot smashed the plant into the ground. I slowly looked up to see girl 2 staring at me. She was tall, with long black hair and Asian features.

"How did you break your wrist?" She asked me.

"I honestly can't tell you." I said. "I mean, I got knocked around. I'm not sure how any of it really happened."

"Knocked around?" She raised an eyebrow, as if to say, 'what kind of description was that?'

"We were in a cave-in. Are you implying that you can't be hit on the head during a cave-in?" I snapped, staring at her foot, where she'd squashed the poor plant.

"No, I just want to know what you were doing in the cave in the first place," she snapped. "You totally ruined my birthday backpacking trip."

"Well, I'm sorry. Next time I'll ask fate to wait until the next group of people come along," I answered.

Sighing, girl 2 put her hands on her hips and glared at me. "Do you live in the cave?"

"Oh, you mean 'why we were out in the wilderness,' right? " I asked, understanding.

She nodded.

"We were training," I answered.

She snorted. "Yeah, what are you anyway, some sort of cult?"

I shook my head. "Never mind."

"And who's the other guy?!" She demanded. "He says his name is Kamakura, but he's not even Chinese!"

"Eh, Kamakura is Japanese," I said.

"Really? He totally doesn't look like any Japanese people I've ever met!" She exclaimed.

"No, I meant the name," I snapped, shaking my head.

"Why did his parents give him a Japanese name? He's like… 100 American," she said.

"Ask Kamakura," I snapped.

"Oh." She thought about that for a moment, and then left me to stare at the poor squashed plant.

Life just got harder, buddy, I thought at the pathetic thing. My sympathies.