"Oh God... Oh God, Shin... Oh God," she whispered. She was barely touched, but Shin -- poor, brave, stupid Shin -- was seriously injured. The armor had saved him, just barely saved him. Kage knelt by him in the rubble, hands shaking, afraid to touch him, tears streaming down her face. "Oh Jaysus, lad, why'd y' jump in front o' me?" she whimpered to him. "Don' be dead, lad, don' die, please..."
"Cute," came Kinu's soft voice. Kage turned, glaring virulently at the woman and crouching closer to Shin.
"Get th' fuck away wi' y'!" she hissed. "Y' done 'nough. Leave."
Kinu laughed. "Silly. I'm not done." She raised her hands and they began to glow. Soft gray fog spilled from her palms.
"Don't you touch him," Kage said in shaky Japanese, her tone low. The pale young woman sneered.
"Shut up," she said, reaching slowly for Shin. "You're useless." Her fingers barely touched Shin's toes, but it was all that was necessary. He gasped and arched off the ground, rasping for breath. The fog flowed toward his head unhurriedly.
"Stop it," Kage said, flustered. "Stop it!" She leapt up and dove for Kinu, tackling her a few feet away from Shin. Her muscles cramped almost immediately. Kinu threw her off with a guttural cry. Kage landed hard on a sharp piece of concrete. Kinu stood, panting, and walked back to Shin.
"I'm going to kill him slowly. And then I'm going to kill you too."
Kage pushed herself up. "I told you to stop," she growled and spat blood from her mouth. She had bitten her tongue in the fall.
"Ch'. So cocky and so weak." Kinu had reached her victim and was leaning down to touch him again. His breathing was shallow and his eyes rolled about in his head. He looked over at Kage, the expression on his face a rictus of pain and fear. Kage trembled as she stood.
"Don't touch him again," she growled.
"Shut up, you pathetic piece of trash," Kinu snapped, almost touching him. She smiled up at Shin. "Don't worry. It will be very painful. You will be happy when you finally die." Shin whimpered in his throat, the only sound he could make.
Then something odd happened. A ball of fire engulfed Kinu and exploded like napalm, sending Kinu into a frenzy of screams and flailing in an attempt to rid herself of the flames. The pain lessened in Shin, though he could still only manage to look up. As Kinu dashed about, he saw Kage standing there, haloed by black flames. Her eyes burned with a frighteningly fanatic intensity. "How does it feel?" she asked lowly, directing her question at the blazing woman. "To be in ridiculous pain and not be able to do anything about it? How does it feel, you overblown snake?" Kinu ran for Kage with a kamikaze scream. Kage matched it with a war cry of her own, creating a soccer ball-sized sphere of black flame and hurling it into Kinu. The flaming vessel was flung into the air, screaming as she was carried by momentum away. She landed somewhere on the other side of the destroyed building. Somewhere away from Shin and Kage.
She walked slowly toward Shin. He was wary of her, of what she might do to him in her current state. The intensity in her eyes, like flames on their own, made him extremely nervous. She knelt beside him; her breath was coming in harsh pants, as if it was an individual effort for every breath. "Don't worry, Shin... I won't hurt you." The flames disappeared though she still radiated heat like a woodstove. She reached down and gently put her hand on his arm. "I'm going to try and get you up. Think that's okay? It'll hurt, but... well, I don't want to leave you."
"Okay," he rasped. She pulled him up and slung his arm over her shoulders. He swallowed the exclamation of pain he wanted to loose. Kage shook like a leaf in a high wind but she stepped deliberately forward, intent on getting them out of there. "Kage," he started.
"Quiet, Shin. We're getting out of here," she whispered. They made it out of the rubble at a snail's pace and headed down the empty street. Kage stumbled but never fell, breathing harder the farther they went. A distant roar stopped her steps. They waited for the others to come in sight. Byakuen was the first to make it, covering ground with bounding steps. The others were not far behind. Seeing Kage and Shin, the others called out names and Kage tried to answer, but her voice seemed to be gone. So much of her seemed to be broken. She looked over at Shin and gave him a smile like water. "We're safe," she told him.
"Thanks for saving me, Shin." Kage's legs finally gave out. Her eyes widened in surprise and she managed to twist so that she could take some of Shin's fall. She heard his shout and Byakuen's roar, but her head hit a stray piece of asphalt and Kage did not know anything anymore.
It was three days after the battle before Kage opened her eyes again. Her head ached dully, as did most of the rest of her body. She felt unduly cold, even though she was covered by what looked like three or four inches worth of blankets. All the curtains in the room were drawn shut to keep out light; while it made the room colder, Kage was grateful for the lack of light.
She lay there quietly, staring at the ceiling. The only thing she could think about was the battle. In reverse, in realtime, in slow motion -- nothing but the battle. Shin lying on the concrete, barely breathing. His gasp when Kinu had barely -- barely! -- touched his armored toe. The flames touching her skin. The fireball that Kinu was... Kinu flying through the air... Kinu's screams of pain and fury igniting Kage's revelation of victory--
STOP. Her eyes burned. The stream of tears seemed to make canals in her cheeks with their heat. She wanted to curl up in a ball, but her body hurt enough as it was. She stayed flat on her back, her heart aching as much as her body.
The door open and she released an involuntary little gasp. "Kage?" whispered Shu. She was breathing too heavily to respond, but he hurried over to the bed. Seeing her covered in tears and beginning to hyperventilate, he hurried back to the door, calling for Seiji. The blond came in shortly after and gently lifted her so she reclined in his arms.
"I'm glad you're awake," he murmured. "I could not comfortably do this while you were unconscious. Be still." He touched her forehead lightly. Cool green light flashed and melted into her. It felt like aloe vera on a burn; that is, if her body was one giant burn. Her aches faded slowly away, the last to leave her the throbbing headache. Now that the aches were gone, however, she had plenty of lung capacity to properly hyperventilate. Seiji held her tight to his chest, whispering in her ear softly. She shut her eyes tightly as Seiji rocked her like a child. A weight on the other side of the bed caught her attention and Shu wrapped her up in his arms from the other side. Between the two, she was as a canoe on the waves. It took time, but eventually her breathing slowed and she could not hold it in any longer.
"He could've gotten killed," she sobbed. "Because of me."
"That happens when you fight, Kage-chan," Shu said soothingly. "Besides, he didn't die. He's up."
"That's enough, Kage," Seiji said firmly, holding her at arm's length to fix her with a stern, one-eyed look that brooked no argument. "Shin is alive and healing quickly. You saved his life. Think on that instead." But she could not do that. Her brain just would not make the change.