16. Getting Lost
"'Let's all go on a group hike' you said. 'It'll be fun' you said…" growled the displeased Danchou from under her hood, as she struggled to step over yet another inconvenient stone blocking their rough path up the mountain. Her pale skin drenched with sweat and jade-colored hair dripping, she shoved her hands in her hoodie pocket and repeatedly beat them out and then back in, trying to create some airflow in her oven of an outfit.
The blonde boy beside her smirked at her disgruntled posture and remarked smugly, "I bet it'd be more fun if you took off a few of those thick layers, Kido! Maybe if you dressed more like a girl and less like an Eskimo—OW!" His point was abruptly interrupted by a solid elbow to his gut, though the hit was weaker than usual due to Kido's exhaustion.
Kido looked ahead to the rest of the group. Everyone, except the NEET, was making good time, and seemed to be enjoying the trip. She was not. It was way too hot to be hiking up a mountain this steep. She felt as if she were about to melt underneath the unrelenting shine of the sun. She looked off the side of the cliff, only a terrifying 12 feet or so away from the group. Chills went down her back, almost refreshing against the blistering heat, and she looked away.
Minutes later, Seto suggested the Mekakushi Dan take a quick break, so the people who were out of shape could rest up—which was basically everyone at this point except for Seto and Konoha, whom the Dan were convinced could survive a month-long trek through the desert with no food or water and wearing coats made of solid lead. They chose a semi-shaded area close to the side of the cliff and settled down to eat a few snacks they made sure to pack.
After they ate, a few of them wandered about to stretch their aching limbs. Kido, feeling a strange stroke of curiosity, inched closer to the edge and peered over. They weren't up as far as it seemed it was—only 60 feet or so. But it still caused a gut-wrenching feeling inside her, and she begun to pull herself away as she stood up.
But, to Kido's horror, Kano had snuck up behind her during the time she was staring down the cliff, and firmly planted his palms against her shoulders as she stood up. Only meaning to scare her, he pushed her roughly forward, but still clung to her, planning to pull her back after she gave a good scream. He got the scream, but what he didn't plan on was her foot slipping on a rock, causing her weight to fall forward completely and knocking them both off balance.
Kido's arms flailed wildly, looking for something to grab a hold of, but all she could find was air. She was helpless as she felt the both of them tipping over, gravity pulling on them like puppets down the side of the cliff. The next thing she saw was the ground at the bottom of it, coming towards her like a fist. Her screams were sucked out of her as wind pushed against her chest. She could still feel Kano's hands gripping her hoodie as they rocketed towards the earth. She closed her eyes and braced herself.
It was only a few seconds before they collided. Their bodies smacked against a slope extending towards the ground, breaking their impact as they rolled. When they came to a stop, Kido opened her eyes, first one, and then the other. Her head was pushed against something soft and warm, and two long stick-like things were crookedly bent around her waist and legs. She raised her head to find she was laying half on Kano's stomach, half in between his legs. She grit her teeth as she looked towards Kano's face, unable to see it due to the angle it was tilted at.
Fighting against her aching limbs that screamed in protest against her, she pushed herself onto her elbows and lifted herself from Kano's limp form. "K… Kano?" she muttered, detangling herself from his legs and crawling off to the side. Leaning forward to look at his face, she felt a pong of fear to see his eyes shut, and jaw open. "Kano… Kano?!" Suddenly terrified, she kneeled next to his head and outstretched a trembling hand to touch his shoulder.
After a bit of shaking, Kano's eyes slowly opened. Relieved, Kido sat back and looked at him. Kano looked around a bit, then locked on Kido's eyes, holding a confused expression. "Hey, Kido? Are we dead?"
Kido sighed and rolled her eyes as she looked up at the cliff. A few small heads could be seen extending from the edge, although she couldn't tell who those heads belonged to. She raised her arm and waved, signaling they were alive, and received an acknowledging wave back. She looked back to Kano as he sat up, clearly concealing the pain he was feeling. He looked back at her and grinned. "Well, I suppose we should get moving. No reason in staying here, right?"
Kido nodded as she stood, feeling slightly light-headed. Kano attempted to follow her action, but immediately stumbled forward and crumpled to the ground again with a pained exclamation. He tried again, but to no avail. He sighed and turned to look at Kido apologetically. "Hm… I guess I need to work on my falling skills, huh?"
Kido hid her worry as she glanced at him. "Did you hurt something?"
Kano hesitated before nodding. "Yeah, it's my ankle… It's not serious, but I doubt I can stand. Why don't you go find the others and come back for me?"
Kido felt her look turn into a glare as the next words came out on reflex. "Don't be stupid. Even if I manage to find them, it'll be too dark by the time I can come back, and we'll never be able to find you." The two sat in silence, waiting for an idea to come to one of them. Finally, Kido sighed and said "Why don't I just carry you?"
Kano grinned at her, bearing a funny expression "Oh! My knight in shining armor has come to rescue me?"
Kido rolled her eyes and crossed her arms. "I could just leave you here to rot, you know."
Kano chuckled. "No, no! I was kidding! Cawwy mee!" He extended his arms towards her like a little child awaiting their mother. As tempting as it was to just walk away, Kido gave in and approached him, turning her back to him and kneeling down as she waited for him to climb on. Once he did, and she stood up, she was slightly shicked at how light he was. He really did feel like a child clinging to her back.
As if he hadn't teased her enough, Kano wrapped his thin arms around Kido's neck and pulled his cheek against the back of her head, squeezing her. "Ahh~ I feel like a cute, helpless girl in some sappy romance anime!"
"Shut up…" Kido growled, digging her fingernails into Kano's legs. After a quick chuckle, he complied. Although Kido had no idea where to go, she just started walking. It made her feel more purpose in carrying Kano on her back, and took her mind off of the way he kept rubbing against her. The walk was mostly silent, except for an occasional blurb of uselessness from Kano. They eventually just decided to go back to the station at the base of the mountain and wait for the rest of the group.
Kido was exhausted by the time they reached it. The sun was beginning to disappear under the horizon, and the landscape was painted in orange. Kido dropped Kano on a bench and basically collapsed beside him. Her muscles were sore enough as they were, but now she was just numb. Kano watched her and smiled in silence.
Soon enough, the rest of the Dan reached the station as well. Kido was half-asleep by this time, but through her cracked eyelids, she could see Kano stand up and walk briskly towards them, arms out as he greeted the group. Kido's eyes wandered to the ankle Kano claimed was prohibiting him from walking—the one he was confidently standing on now—and cursed at him under her breath.
I wish I could write out my schedule and show you guys how insanely busy and stressed I've been, ad how sorry I've felt, and how much I'm convinced you guys hate me. But I can't. I can only dedicate my precious time to actually write this chapter and put it up for Valentine's Day. As much as I would have loved to write an actual story dedicated to the "Day of Shipping", or something for Momo's birthday, this is all I have to offer. If you still, for some reason, look out for my updates, I love you so fricken much.