Pride

Tachibana’s officers renew their bonds in the aftermath of their battle with Uesugi. Drama, I-3

Akira hovered beside his friend as Shinji flexed his arm. He wanted to go on to recheck the rest of their injured, but he was wary of the thoughtful expression on Shinji’s face. It was the one that might just turn into wanting to excercise the arm immediately, and never mind what the doctor said.

“Shinji…”

The screen behind them slid softly open, letting in a spill of sunlight. “Well, that’s the temple settled with. All the injured will be cared for here until they’re on their feet again. Kamio? How is everyone?”

Akira stood quickly, feeling a bit lightheaded with relief just to hear his leader’s voice, deep and collected as always. “Tachibana-dono! Everyone’s going to be all right with some rest, the doctor says…” He swayed, vision blurring for a moment. Maybe it wasn’t just relief…

Strong hands caught his shoulders, pushing him back down to the tatami, and Akira focused on the quirk of Tachibana-dono’s smile.

“I think you’d better rest, then. That was a pretty heavy head blow you took.”

Akira nodded, setting the world briefly swimming again. “Yes, Tachibana-dono.” Next time, he vowed to himself, he would be ready for Kaidou of Uesugi’s perseverance and would not let his guard down too soon. Gathering his scattered thoughts he continued his report. “Shinji’s shoulder was only dislocated, and Ishida and Sakurai came out with no injuries, though both their squads had serious losses.” Akira bit his lip.

“I saw that Mori and Uchimura had to fall back,” Tachibana-dono said quietly, looking over at the pallet by the far wall. “How bad?”

“Mori took one of Ooishi’s arrows in the leg.” Akira ordered his hands not to clench on each other. “Uchimura… he took Kikumaru’s knife in the side. It got past his armor.”

Tachibana-dono squeezed his shoulder and rose, moving toward the three captains clustered around their heavily bandaged fourth. Akira and Shinji followed silently.

“Tachibana-dono!” Uchimura made as if to sit up, only to be held down by his co-captain.

“The doctor said to stay flat, so stay flat, damn it!” Mori ordered, fiercely, before looking up at their General. “Tachibana-dono.” He bowed his head, formality hampered by the bandaged leg stuck out in front of him and the grip on Uchimura’s arm he hadn’t let go. “I’m sorry. We couldn’t—”

“No,” Tachibana-dono interrupted with a smile. “You have nothing to apologize for.

Mori frowned down at his lap. “But we didn’t—”

“You reached the command lines, and opened up the center for the other squads.” Tachibana-dono settled down beside them, resting a hand, for a moment, on Mori’s bent head. “You occupied their attention for the time we needed. You did well.”

Akira smiled himself, as he sat down, though he had to catch himself against Ishida’s shoulder when he swayed, head giving a warning throb. Mori still didn’t look happy, but he was holding his head up again. No one would ever wonder at their trust in Tachibana-dono, who had seen his trust in them.

“No one yet has been able to defeat Ooishi Shuuichirou when Kikumaru is fighting beside him,” Tachibana-dono told them. “They’re a deadly combination in the field. You did well to hold them as long as you did.”

Uchimura and Mori both looked up at him with clear eyes, now, and Akira nodded to himself. Much better.

“So, I guess we’re eating dinner here, today?” a light voice asked from behind them.

“An-dono!” Akira could feel Shinji laughing, silently, beside him, and knew his face must have brightened right up. But he couldn’t help it. An was leaning in the door, overkimono just a bit askew with how briskly she walked, eyes laughing.

“An.” Tachibana-dono smiled at his sister. “I was coming back soon.”

“Oh, of course you were.” She came and let the very large parcel she was carrying thump the the floor, and gave her brother a look of tolerant amusement. “In the meantime, though, you might as well all get a good meal. It’ll help you heal up.” She undid the parcel’s wrappings and started unstacking the trays inside. “Tell me how it went.”

She listened and nodded and insisted on details as they took turns telling her, and stuffed a bit of rice into Uchimura’s mouth when his eyes darkened over the explanation of how Kikumaru had gotten through to him.

“If you were having trouble with Ooishi-bushou’s ranged attacks, then you’ll just have to practice harder with me, when you’re on your feet again,” she declared, filling her brother’s sake cup again.

“It’s Ishida who’s going to be practicing more with you,” Tachibana-dono corrected, returning the favor. “You’re strongest with a short blade, not the bow, and it will do him as much good to work with a small, fast partner as it will you to face raw strength you can’t overcome directly.”

An huffed at him and some sympathetic grins appeared among the officers. Her determination and ferocity drove An to take her warrior’s responsibilities far more seriously than most women of their class, but they also made her a bit too direct for her own good at times.

Of course, that was one of the things Akira liked best about her. One of the things all Tachibana-dono’s officers could most relate to.

“We need to be stronger than we are, though,” Shinji observed. “All of us.”

Akira met his friend’s eyes and they smiled at each other, sharp and hot. “We will be.” He looked up at Tachibana-dono, willing their leader to accept their determination.

Tachibana-dono’s mouth curved slowly. “Of course you will,” he answered, soft and strong as the first breeze in typhoon season.

The seven of them nodded at each other while An smiled over them with gleaming eyes.

End