Part Eleven: Hiroshi and Kasumi
I gaze mournfully towards Kasumi, who’s still at my heel. "And why are you following me?" I ask, even as I turn and head to Koori. I pat his muzzle, "We’re going to see Satoshi again," I tell him, "we have a mission."
It’s not an officially sanctioned one, but it’s one nonetheless.
"Hiroshi, you can’t go by yourself." Kasumi tells me, and I shake my head and begin to ready Koori. I have what supplies I’ll need, everything that I’m going to need.
"Yes I can. Anyway, I won’t be alone. Koori will be with me."
"But that’s still just two against…"
"Four," I cut in. "It’s four. I’m not going to go up against them all by myself. I’m not stupid."
"But this sounds ridiculous! You can’t put yourself in this
I pause and close my eyes. "Kasumi, I have to do it. I have to make the best of this chance that we’ve been given. I can’t let Kanto fall, and I have to do what I can to save the Orange Islands…"
She shakes her head, completely caught in disbelief. "It’s not all just the worry of *one*, Hiroshi. You need help."
I smile. "And I have it."
She looks determined all of a sudden, and I don’t like that look one bit at all. "That’s it, you’re not going to do this by yourself."
"But I thought we already went through this… I won’t be by myself."
"I know you won’t. I’m going with you."
I stare at her and blink. "But you’re the heir… You can’t put yourself in danger, Kasumi. This is my job…"
She shakes her head, hurt and a determined spirit on her face. "No, it’s not just your job. If I can’t help my people… then I’ll at least help *yours*!"
"Then you should stay here…"
"I will *not*!"
And I know, at that time, by the fire in her eyes and just the way that she carries herself, she’s not going to let me get out of this. So instead of leaving, I help her up onto Koori.
She nods. "Yes. I’m sorry, but you needed to see the truth…"
I close my eyes for a moment. "Don’t be sorry. I’m just glad you made me open my eyes," I say, doing just that. And they’ve been opened in such a way. "Have I told you you’re a very special person, Kasumi?"
"I think so… why do you ask?"
"Because you’re not just special to everyone else. You’re very special to me…"
She doesn’t get a chance to say anything at all, I direct Koori to take off. With a few powerful beats of his wings, we’re in the air and heading towards Satoshi’s last position…
I have to let Satoshi knows what’s going on. And if he and I really have been chosen for something… Then I’m going to make my best to have us do what we’re meant to do. Not that I know what that is, of course…
"What are you thinking about?" She asks.
"A lot of things. What I’m supposed to do… getting to Satoshi and letting him know what’s going on. I need to talk to Shigeru, of that I am sure. I… it’s just a lot of things."
"I know…" She says, then I’m distinctly aware that she just yawned.
"I know you must be tired. You can rest if you want to, Kasumi. I’ll try and keep us as steady as possible."
"Thank you… but that’s not necessary…" She yawns again.
"If you say so," I say, grinning slightly. The mood is killed abruptly, though. "Koori!" I say abruptly, I can feel Kasumi clinging to where she’s seated in.
"What’s going on?" She asks.
"It’s nothing that I can’t handle, but it’s a Johto rider…" I say, knowing that Koori’s not that easy to blend in with the clouds. We’re going to have to stay out of eyesight… I don’t want to have him stress his wounded wing again…
"Why would they be this close?" Kasumi asks, but it’s in such a tone of disbelief I’m sure it’s not really a question meant just for me.
But still… "I’m not sure. But I’m not going to risk a battle, not right now…"
The motions of the rider and the dragon… it’s so calm and controlled. Like they don’t *care* that they’re this close to the border. "Oh Gods…" I murmur. "That’s it."
"What?" She demands.
"They… with our dragons out of commission… they can be as carefree on the border as they wish. They’re just waiting to invade…"
She says something but I don’t catch it. If I take this the long way, then I’ll be able to keep out of sight… I don’t want to put Kasumi in danger in this. I need to get to Satoshi, he needs to know what’s going on… And if what Kasumi suggested is *really* true, then that’s the most important thing right now.
"I’ll get us out of this," I tell her, determined, directing Koori as well…
I'm silent for a moment after Hiroshi speaks, thoughts racing. "And why do you suppose they feel that they must scan the borders first?" I ask. I have a ghost of an idea, but I want to see what he thinks as well.
"Wouldn't they be making certain there are no obstacles before they invade?" he responds, straining forward to try and catch some glimpse of silver.
"Why? They've disabled your main fighting force." I feel I'm being brutally practical, but it's important to know what's happening around us in a situation like this one. "There shouldn't be anything in their way at all."
He turns slightly, just for a second, to glance at me. "Then what do you think they're doing?"
"Cleaning up their messes." The words had an ominous ring to them even in my own ears. "They obviously know that there are border guards in and around this area. Their dragons are supposed to all be disabled, so they'll be on the ground somewhere, and these little scouting parties are probably intended to find whatever remains of them and..." I let the sentence trail off.
Hiroshi's breathing quickens. "I see what you mean." His eyes dart forward once again. "*Where* is Satoshi?" he muttered urgently. "He should be in the air by now, but I can't see him anywhere!"
I don't want to say what I'm thinking right about now. "Perhaps there was a problem. They may still be on the ground, fixing a broken fastening or something along those lines." Or perhaps they were caught by one of those scouts, I think but don't add.
"Maybe." He looks worried. I don't blame him at all.
"You know, there might be a different reason for the dragonriders in this area," I muse, to take both our minds from that ugly possibility. "In fact, I can think of another myself."
Hiroshi glances over at me again. "What's that?"
"Well, Shigeru *is* Sakaki's son," I remind him, shrugging. "So there's a very good chance that these scouting parties are actually *search* parties. If he plans to invade your country, he's more than likely going to want his heir out of the direct path of his armies."
"But didn't Shigeru say that he and his father don't get along?" he asks, after a moment of silence.
I shake my head. "Perhaps, but it doesn't matter. No matter how they might despise each other, Sakaki wouldn't let him be injured. Shigeru is an asset, not a hindrance. And he'd make a very good power-puppet for someone like this Johto Lord."
Another thoughtful silence. "Do you think he'd listen to any demands we might make by threatening to harm his son?"
A good plan. I have to admire Hiroshi's ability to look at the greater good rather than what *he* might want. Satoshi would be extremely unhappy if anyone tried to use Shigeru's life as a bargaining tool, but I have a feeling that both he and Hiroshi would be willing to do just that in order to protect their country. And, if Shigeru is who they seem to think he is, I suspect that he would be more than willing as well.
However, it won't work. "I don't think he'd listen," I say, shaking my head. "It didn't sound like he's all that fond of his son in the first place, and I *know* his power would be more important. In war, there must be sacrifices made. Men such as he live by these rules. He would agree to your terms and then plan a sneak attack to take you by surprise. Shigeru's life is insignificant when compared to the land he could take then."
"I see." Hiroshi lets out a long breath. I know he's feeling discouraged, and I wish I could say something to cheer him. But all I can think of is the impending doom that seems to hover over our head. We would have to pull off a miracle to win this war.
Koori suddenly lets out a shriek, and swirls around, spiraling toward the ground. Hiroshi and I both look down to where he's about to land and spot the silvery outline of Satoshi's dragon.
"Thank the gods," Hiroshi breathes softly, and then his face twists into a frown. "Satoshi has some explaining to do. He should've been up in the air half an hour ago at least!"
Our landing is more or less uneventful, and Hiroshi pauses to help me off of Koori's back before stalking off toward the clearing. I hold in a smile. It's not the fact that his friend is getting slack on guard duty, I think to myself. It's because he was worried and there wasn't any real reason for him to be.
I nearly crash into Hiroshi before we can make it into the clearing; for some reason, he's stopped short. I look up in time to see the surprise on his face, then glance back into the clearing. It's obvious now why Satoshi was neglecting his duties; he's sitting half on Shigeru's lap, with the noble's bound wrists securely wrapped around his waist, and it looks like they're gazing into each other's eyes...
I don't even think either of them heard us land.
Hiroshi clears his throat loudly, and I watch with interest as Satoshi's head whips up toward us. He looks astonished for a moment. "Hiro?" The most sheepish little smile graces his face almost at once, while Shigeru looks down at the ground, embarrassed.
"I think," Hiroshi says, quite calmly, "that you have some explaining to do, Satoshi." A wicked grin spreads on his face. "*Lots* of it."
Satoshi shifts away from Shigeru, moving so that they're not connected with their arms. There is a lot that I want explained. I mean, its not like this is such a big surprise . . . wasn't it obvious? Okay, so I'm not that sure.
"Well?" I ask, sitting down with Kasumi. She's wearing a slight grin on her face. Obviously she's finding this as amusing as I am . . .
I mean, it's going to be hard enough to bring up the current situation in Kanto, as well as my thoughts on the subject. We need this to lighten the mood before we even have a mood at all.
Satoshi blushes. I mean, blushes hard. There's something similar on Shigeru's face... even if he's currently staring at his bound wrists. "Well?" I ask again.
"We're um..." Satoshi begins, and then blurts out, "I love him!"
Wow... "Really, 'Toshi?" I ask. I've never seen him so convinced of something in my life. And he's the type of person who wears their conviction like a badge of honor.
He nods, and rests one of his hands on both of Shigeru's. "Uh huh."
"Even with who he is and everything?"
"*Especially* because of who he is!"
I can't help but smile. "That's exactly what I thought you'd say, 'Toshi."
He grins. "You do know me well."
"Better than I know myself at times, it seems." I admit with a grin of my own.
"Oh really, it can't be that bad." Satoshi laughs at Kasumi's comment.
"It is, Kasumi, it *is*!"
Kasumi smiles and I hide my face behind my hand. Satoshi sets his hand on Shigeru's shoulder then, and gives a little squeeze. "Are you all right?"
Shigeru nods. "Uh huh." He says, looking at Satoshi and smiling. "Just, earlier and all..." Satoshi nods.
"I know, 'Geru. I know."
I refrain from going *awwww!* if only because Satoshi would hurt me, and I have to be serious now. Satoshi's smiling face comes crashing down.
"I don't like that look, Hiro. What's wrong?"
I sigh and lower my gaze. And then after taking a deep breath, I explain what the current situation is. From the situation in the Orange Islands, to the state of our defenses...
Satoshi's pale, and Shigeru doesn't look much better. "Is that why I saw that dragonrider... who didn't seem to care about our defenses?" He asks. I nod.
"I think so. That..." I sigh. "Or they're here to take out who was left."
"What about Shiika and Koori? They're all right." Shigeru says.
"I know. That's what's strange..." I glance at Kasumi, who gives me silent support with a smimple smile. I thank her silently and look back to them. "I think that we're going to be the ones who can fix this. The gods themselves might have chosen us..."
Satoshi blinks. "But how...?" He pauses and shakes his head. "There has to be some way, right Hiro?"
That's my best friend for you. I smile and nod. "Of course there will be, 'Toshi. We just have to find it..."
Shigeru groans and sets his head in his hands. "I don't know how he could have pulled this off. But my father... if this is some plot of his..." He shakes his head and sighs. "I wish there was something I could do."
And I'd wanted to talk to him... but if he doesn't even know what's going on...
"Well, there's only one way that I can think of fixing this, then." I didn't even expect those words to come. They just did.
They look suspicious, and Kasumi shakes her head. "You had best not be thinking what I think you are!"
"But Kasumi... if there's any chance..."
She's pleading with me silently. But she can tell I'm not going to change my mind...
Satoshi clears his throat. "Mind feeling us non-telepathic people in?"
I grin slightly, but it's touched with sadness. "We could find some way to sneak into the Johto Lords palace and find the heart of this and end it once and for all..."
Have you ever felt like everyone was against you? Well... that's the strange thing. I think they actually might agree, and see the merit in this comment.
He is insane.
"You are insane," I tell Hiroshi, in one of those calm, manner-of-fact tones that one might hear in a voice declaring that gold dragons breath fire.
"You know," Shigeru murmurs, sort of half looking at us. "I think she might have something there."
Hiroshi turns on him. "*You* would know the palace best," he says, and I can just feel the passion in his words. He truly does believe that we'll be able to pull this off, and everything will be fine. It's endearing, but very danger.
"I suppose I would, at that." Now he's looking at us, and I can see the hopeful expression on his face. He wants to find redemption for who and what he is, and I believe he thinks that this will do it.
"If it could work..." Satoshi has a bright-eyed look; there's a glint in those dark brown orbs that is just dying to run off and start on this new mission. "We have to. It's our only choice. Will you help us, Shigeru?" At this, he turns back to the Johto noble earnestly.
Right. As if he'd say no at this point.
As I sort of suspected he would, Shigeru positively melts under Satoshi's gaze. Whatever objections he might have had to this suicide mission no longer matter now. "Of course. I'll do whatever I can to help."
"Then it's all settled," Hiroshi announces, satisfied. "We'd best start making plans, hadn't we?"
"I'd best start reserving grave space for the lot of us," I say flatly, crossing my arms over my chest. "What's possessed you? How could we possibly get into the palace and destroy whatever is causing this? Do you know how heavily this prize will be guarded?"
"We don't have any other choice," Hiroshi counters, and the look on his face is complete and utter determination. "I would die before I sat back and watched my homeland being invaded."
"So would I," Satoshi chimes in, just as passionately. His expression mirrors his friend's, and I see a good amount of stubbornness in there as well. "I want to know that I at least *tried* to do something."
"You have a lot to lose," I remind him. "You've found love for yourself quite recently; are you that anxious to lose it?"
"I won't lose it," Satoshi says, and there's so much belief of that in his eyes that it's frightening. "Love can conquer anything. Even fear, or death. And what I feel for Shigeru isn't something that danger can come between."
Shigeru nods slowly in agreement, his eyes fixed adoringly on the dark-haired dragonrider. "We'll take it on together," he adds, and Satoshi looks up to smile at him beautifully. I watch them stare into each other's eyes for a moment, then sigh. They believe too strongly in the myth of good triumphing always over evil. Love over hate, light over darkness... It doesn't always work that way.
"Kasumi." I turn back to Hiroshi, who has a slight smile on his face as he holds out his hand to me. "Will you come?" he asks, and I can tell by his expression that the answer is important. I know that he would have me taken to safety if I were to say no.
But, somehow, even though the mission sounds completely insane...
"I think it's a suicide mission," I tell him. But I can't help returning his smile as I place my hand in his. "I'm coming. You can't leave me behind. Even if we *are* all doomed, I won't stand by and watch you throw yourself into danger. You'll have to take me along with you."
His eyes are thick with emotion. "I would never dream of leaving you behind." And then he grins. "I know you'd hurt me if I tried."
What were those myths again, I think, as I stare back into his breathtaking blue eyes. Good over evil... light over darkness... love over hate... They don't seem as farfetched now.
"So how do we get into the palace?" I ask, breaking the mood by necessity. We need to plan, if we're going to insist on this insanity. "It's going to be heavily guarded on its own, and once we're inside, there will be even tighter secury. Unless I am somehow mistaken." Here, I look to Shigeru for confirmation.
He shakes his head. "I wish I could say that was true."
I sigh. "It would take a miracle to get us inside."
"A miracle..." Shigeru's eyes suddenly light up, as if an idea has turned on inside his head. "Well then," he murmurs, glancing at his bag speculatively. "If a miracle is what we'll need, then perhaps a miracle is what we'll get."
Satoshi looks startled. "What do you mean, 'Geru?"
He smiles. "I mean, I think I know a way to help us get inside the palace."