Sorry for slow updates…

Chapter 3: 20% Cooler

Fuyuki suddenly snapped back to consciousness. For a second, he couldn't move, mind blissfully empty. Then, slowly, his memories seeped back. As he regained control of his senses, the boy realized his eyes were closed. Suddenly, the recall of the pain that had caused him to black out flowed unbidden into his brain. Afraid, Fuyuki decided that he wouldn't open his eyes just yet. Turning slowly to his left, he used his right hand to check the status of his skin. The boy's fingers encountered an unfamiliar substance: definitely not human flesh. Still logy from his trauma, it took him a few seconds to recognize the material as bandages. This realization seemed to jump start his cognitive functions and he shot bolt upright, breathing hard. Fuyuki felt his arms and legs twitch involuntarily and his skin prickled uncomfortably.

When the spasms subsided, he collapsed back onto his bedding. Drenched with sweat, he looked over to his right and saw Dororo calmly applying a new bandage to Aki.

"If you're wondering about those seizure-like movements you just experienced," said Dororo distractedly, "It's your body's basic systems check. It knows that it should have lost contact with the brain, so it's making sure everything is alright. You were practically dead, you know."

Seeing that Dororo was clearly concentrating, Fuyuki focused on trying to stand up. His first attempt was a failure, resulting in him collapsing back hard onto the bedding. The second attempt was even harder and accomplished even less. Realizing he was getting nowhere, the boy did a few breathing exercises to calm himself before rolling onto his front and using his arms to slowly ease into a sitting position. Over by Aki, Dororo nodded absentmindedly.

"That's good. I've seen injuries like yours only a few times before. Take it easy, friend."

Ten minutes passed before Dororo finished with Aki's bandaging. Fuyuki watched in rapt interest as the ninja master spent the next five muttering strange words over the woman's body. When he was finished, her formed glowed blue and her pained expression eased into contented sleep. The heaving of her chest relaxed into gentle breathing, and her clenched fists slowly opened up and regained a healthy pallor.

Sighing with relief, Dororo leaned heavily against the wall and slid down to a sitting position. Fuyuki politely let the Lance Corporal rest for a few minutes, but ultimately his thirst for knowledge overcame his patience.

"What was that you were just muttering right then…and…and…what happened here?"

There was a pause in which Dororo only muttered with little distinction. Fuyuki leaned in closer, desperate for answers. A moment passed in silence. Finally, the Lance Corporal wearily opened his eyes and stared into Fuyuki's pained face. A wave of pity overtook Dororo and he shook the sleep from his system.

"I'm sorry, Fuyuki. You deserve to know what happened, but first I have to know what you remember."

Fuyuki quickly described his recollection of the ordeal. Dororo identified the memories as accurate, predictably cutting off when the ship reached its maximum temperature. Dororo allowed himself a slight smile, relieved that short-term memory functions hadn't been irreversibly damaged in the intense heat.

"That's great, Fuyuki," Dororo said, "I'm glad you're alright."

"What happened? Dororo, answer me!"

"Very well. I protected myself using my assassin magic. A different brand of my magic was what I used to close your mother's wounds. That's what I was doing when I was uttering my prayers you overheard."

"Are we all like this?"

"Unfortunately. It's a wonder why the ship didn't burst into flames like the other one. After you blacked out, the temperature suddenly stopped rising. It returned to normal after a few minutes. I'm guessing the less violent reaction has to do with the fact that the shield was only at 20%, but Kururu would know better than I."

"How come nobody else is awake yet?" Fuyuki began to panic as he realized that nobody else had yet to stir.

"Healing you all took about two hours each. I prioritized who to heal first, and you sustained the worst injuries. Even now, I wouldn't exert myself if I were you."

Fuyuki's heart soared to know that everyone else was fine. Sighing in exhaustion, he leaned back against the wall and closed his eyes, though his facial muscles continued to twitch as he fought to stay awake.

"Don't try, Fuyuki. You can walk and talk and think, but your body is still very weak. Sleep. Get better. Everything will be alright."

As Fuyuki dropped into a blissful slumber, Dororo lay him carefully back in his bedding.

He waited for Fuyuki's breathing to become rhythmic before getting up and walking over to where Momoka lay shaking. It had been a lie. He had attempted to heal Momoka first, for she had sustained the heaviest blow. The Lance Corporal had fully expected she would be the first to awake, and her lack of movement made him nervous.

Suddenly, he felt a great pain in his head.

"No…no…no…not this!" Dororo cried out loud.

Leaning forward, he pressed two fingers against Momoka's neck.

No pulse.