The Art of Breathing

Chapter 13: Wistful Sighs

"Grief can be a burden, but also an anchor. You get used to the weight, how it holds you in place." – S. Dessen

It had been a few days since the Hokage's funeral, and a little over a week since the attack.

A harsh week, walking through the rubble and debris and death left in the wake of the invasion.

But things were starting to look up. The number of people out and the temporary stalls, both as shops and for relief aid, on the streets showed that things were starting to move again.

It wasn't much, but the citizens of Konohagakure were a strong willed bunch, and it was something.

Even the line at the hospital was getting shorter.

The academy was shut down for the week. It would remain closed for at least two more, as even the academy chūnin had been drafted for missions and clean up around the village.

Yuuto counted himself lucky as, between location and a disgustingly large amounts of wards, his house had taken no damage. That coupled with the fact that he had been able to almost immediately confirm the health and general safety of Iruka, his students, and Naruto, he was a lot less stressed than he could have been.

Not that he wasn't feeling the pressure right now, but rather he wasn't driving himself spar with worry.

He sighed to himself as he made his way to another collapsed building by the destroyed south wall with the team of 'eternal genin' that he was currently leading.

The rain the pervious few days had been a mixed blessing. It had washed away the worst of the blood and had calmed the dust. However, it also caused water damage to several damaged buildings and left puddles of mud everywhere.

As they scrambled over the rubble, he was reminded of another issue. The hot, humid weather of the area worked against them, as the stench of the bodies still trapped beneath the collapsed structure permeated the air. Not all the bodies had been retrieved yet, and it was unlikely that there would be any survivors at this late a date.

The reek of decay was so strong that he gagged. One of the team had to leave to vomit. Everyone pulled up face masks over their mouths and noses as a sort of shield. But it didn't really help much.

Then they got to work clearing the debris. Just they had for several other buildings over the last few days.

Bodies would be bagged and sent to the morgue for identification. The majority of wreckage would be moved or destroyed. They would write up the report for the listed address and move to the next building.

The south wall had the most damage due to the large summons that had been called there. It had been a long week, Yuuto thought to himself as he helped move a collapsed support beam, and the next week would not likely be improved by much.

But it could have been worse. Yuuto counted himself lucky.

The sound of sobbing, soft and terrible, hopelessly beckoned to ephemeral shadows of souls slipped of their mortal coils. The stark white hospital walls and background noise did little to drown out the sound, but then he was listening for it specifically.

A small frown crossed his lips. His green eyes were darkened and overflowing with grief. Yuuto stood outside of West 3 room 19 of Konoha's hospital. Satori's room.

He closed his eyes and took in a bracing breath, and opened the door.

Sitting all alone on the hospital bed, curled up and wrapped around a pillow was Satori. The last surviving member of one of the ANBU squads he had trained. She looked wrecked. Still hooked up to IV's, dark bags under red rimmed eyes, her hair that was once dark as night, dulled and snarled in places.

Her head snapped up towards the door. Not even in this state was she completely unaware. There was a moment of silence as she examined his face.

"Yuuto-senpai?" she questioned, voice raw and broken. He nodded and, maintaining eye contact, crossed the room to the bed. Satori's slate grey eyes filled with tears and a small choked sob escaped from her mouth. Hands curled, white knuckled in the sheets.

As Yuuto sat on the edge of the bed, the young woman closed the gap between them and buried her face in his shoulder. Without a thought, he wrapped his arms around his former student as she let out a new round of sobbing, muffled in his embrace.

It was heartbreaking.

Due to misinformation on her last mission, she had lost two teammates and ended up in the hospital badly injured. The only remaining teammate she had had, Kazuto, had been killed in the recent invasion.

It was painful.

Yuuto pulled her closer, careful of the lines, and murmured into her hair, "I'm here. I'm here. Let it out." He wouldn't say that it would be alright. He knew by experience that it would never be. She would always miss her teammates, always feel that echo of loss where they should be.

Yuuto wasn't sure how long they had sat like that. He just held on, and let the last survivor of this squad he had mentored share her pain.

After a while the sobs faded away and she mumbled a soft, broken "Thank you" into his vest.

The loss was one of many. But this one was more personal. Kazuto wasn't the only one of his mentored that hadn't survived the disaster that was the third round of the chūnin exams. Another full squad was killed off defending against the multiple, large summoned snakes on the south wall of the village.

Since he was listed as one of the members emergency contacts, Yuuto had been debriefed on how Akihiko, ANBU Monkey, and Motoharu, ANBU Duck, had been crushed by the initial attack. Of how Kaname, ANBU Lion, and Yoshihide, ANBU Frog, help hold off the assault until Jiraiya had arrived, but later died by a sound-nin and suicide jutsu respectively.

He moved Satori, tucking her in under the covers and went to sit in the chair next to the foot of the bed.

A slow breath was let out. It had been a damn long week. And the next wasn't looking much better.