There were loads of new things on the surface. New animals, new places, new enemies, new Gunmen to take control of and do crazy things with. New girls, too, even if Kamina had to admit that Yoko and her huge rifle weren't exactly how he'd imagined his dream girl to start with.

Oh, yeah. There were new germs, too.

Down in Jiiha Village, people had gotten sick all the time. But Simon never had. He was constantly digging around in the dirt, doggedly drilling on and on, and Kamina knew that a little thing like sickness wouldn't stop him. He'd run into all the bugs that existed down there and drilled right past them. Up here, though, he was vulnerable, and one night, as they set up camp, Kamina noticed that he was shivering.

"Simon!" he said. "It's not cold enough out for you to shiver! So man up and quit that shaking!" He thought at the time that maybe Simon was scared of the coming night. They'd been fighting beastmen for days now, after all, and sometimes they got woken up to do it in the middle of the night. Anyway, it wasn't right for Simon to be scared, because he could conquer anything he wanted.

"All right, bro," Simon said in a small voice, and he stiffened himself up and tried to stop shivering. Kamina gave it no more thought that night, and soon enough, they went to sleep.

Kamina woke up in the middle of the night not to the trembling of the ground as beastmen in Gunmen approached, but to the trembling of a hot body against his. "Bro, I don't feel well," Simon whispered. "I really don't feel good at all."

Kamina sat up and slapped Simon on the shoulder. "That's part of being on the surface! You'll learn to tough it out, Simon. You just--"

Simon interrupted him by throwing up on his blankets.

"You deserved that," Yoko said to Kamina as he washed his blankets in the nearest stream. She'd woken up, too, and she'd followed Kamina when he went to clean up. "Why do you push him so hard?"

"Because he can take it," Kamina said. "He just doesn't know it yet."

"What about you?" Yoko said suddenly. It was things like that kind of question that made Kamina wonder about her. It felt uncomfortably like she was seeing through him.

And that was why he told her the truth instead of blustering and crowing. "So long as he can take it, I can take it," Kamina said. He pulled the blankets out of the stream, hung them up to dry, and headed back to the campsite.

"You're not going to wash them anymore?" Yoko asked dubiously, in that tone of voice girls always got when they complained about male hygiene (something they knew nothing about, Kamina thought).

"Hah! I'm not going to be washing some blankets instead of watching Simon right now," Kamina said. "Leeron can't take care of him right all alone. He needs his bro."

Simon had thrown up again by the time Kamina and Yoko returned to the camp, but this time he'd managed to do it away from where they slept. Yoko had thought to bring some water from the river, and Kamina splashed it over Simon's fevered face. "Go back to sleep," he told Yoko. "I'll take care of Simon from here on."

Yoko hesitated and looked between the two of them. Kamina wondered if maybe he shouldn't have said what he had to her. But then she nodded. "All right. Take care of him, Kamina." And she headed back to her own blankets.

By this time Simon was huddled on the ground, his arms tucked tight around his knees. He was very pale, and he was shivering again. Heat radiated off his little body, and sweat dampened his face. Kamina crouched next to him, took the corner of his own cape, and carefully wiped off Simon's face. "Sweat it out, Simon," he said. "That's what real men do when these little bugs invade your body."

"L-little bugs?" Simon asked.

Kamina took off his cape entirely and wrapped it around Simon. "Yeah," he said. "Leeron told me about it while he was hanging all over Gurren trying to get at me." He'd actually been going after Kamina to keep Gurren clean--for its own sake and for its pilot's, he'd said, and that's when he'd explained about germs. It had been something they'd only known vaguely underground, and Kamina thought it was probably best to pass the information on to Simon. "Nasty things like invisible tiny beastmen come from people's asses and get in their mouth and their blood," he said. "But your body has its own little Gunmen and it fights them off."

"My body isn't fighting very well," Simon said.

"Like hell it isn't!" Kamina said. "Your body's fighting hard, Simon. That's why you're so sick now. Your body was so busy fighting, it missed the bugs sneaking past the front lines. They don't fight like men, they sneak like cowards or beastmen!"

Simon smiled wanly. "I think I'm going to throw up again, bro."

Kamina held his cape back, but this time Simon only gagged and retched. There was nothing left in him to puke up.

"Now get back to sleep," Kamina said. "That'll help your body fight." He grabbed Simon by one arm and started dragging him back to his makeshift bed.

But Simon resisted. "Bro...if I go to sleep there, you won't have anywhere to sleep."

"Real men can sleep on the rocks," Kamina said. "You'll be able to do it too one day when you're tough enough."

Simon was too tired to argue. Kamina shoved him into the blankets, wrapped him up tightly in the cape, and waited for him to fall asleep. Then he stayed at his side, sitting there in the dark and the quiet, for as long as he could.

After a while, Yoko crept up. "You should go to sleep," she said.

"I'm not leaving Simon alone while he's sick," Kamina said.

"You'll catch what he has, idiot," she said.

"Yeah? It'll have to catch me first."

"That doesn't make any sense!"

"It could catch you easily," Kamina said, "so you should go get to sleep."

Fortunately, she was tired enough to comply. With a last curious look at him, she retreated back to her bed and went to sleep.

In his sleep, Simon turned and clung to Kamina's cape. "Bro," he mumbled. "Fight with me."

Kamina wasn't sure if Simon was listening. "What the hell kind of question is that?" he wondered. "I'll always fight with you. Even when I'm gone."