When anyone says “Return,” the others are full of sorrow.
Sorrowful minds, sorrow is strong, we are hungry and thirsty.
Our defence is not yet made sure, no one can let his friend return.
- Kutsugen, “Song of the Bowmen of Shu”
As far as the eye could see, there was nothing but stones dimpled by the rain, rotting oak and dead grass. The light rain did nothing to abate the odor of decomposition, the sound of mud below their feet, under the dead ferns. A sense of paralysis seeped into her brain as she trailed the jounin, who made way through the trees overhead. At one point, she found her eyes meet those of Uragiri ahead her, and for a second she felt a bolt of adrenaline run up her spine as he took in the panic of her eyes - or perhaps it was deadness. He talked ahead of him, his voice mangled among the thudding of footfalls and pattering of rain.
There was a great hunger in her eyes as she took in the boy next to her, as if she could somehow communicate the sense of dread that had settled in her chest should she somehow meet his gaze. Not that she held any particularly fondness for Motoke, but recent events had endeared her to his existence, past her own feelings of disdain. Eiji
. Little time had passed since the departure of their old teammate before they had unceremoniously been reassigned. The details eluded her mind in that moment, lost in a cold haze that had stiffened her shoulders and back for the preceding week. There was a familiar cycle of questions that her mind continually returned to as she tried to make sense of things - though the entire procedure at this point felt more a self-effacing condemnation than anything of productive value.
Yayoi had mentally fled Amegakure, the familiar village emptied of its peace, offering only a mangled sense of guilt. In the dimly lit shops where she roosted in the nighttime, she read her own fear and shame in the faces of her family and the wide pool of shinobi she had come to know. So young, such a shame
. Or perhaps, Again, another one
. Paranoia had begun to root itself in her mind. In the familiar glow of Amegakure’s lanterns she felt her guilt magnified in their expressions. The dead eyes of her father. You knew it would be like this
. Where would he be buried? In the clan’s complex there was a small room with the name of their ancestors carved out in wood among the wall, sets of bowls studded with ripe plums set out as offering. When Amegakure was founded, the warring shinobi left many to die of famine. Yayoi wondered if the shinobi clans - the orphanage, no less - cared to memorialize their dead. Her mind persisted in wandering, very well knowing the ultimate direction of her thoughts, what she was waiting for. There were fringes of imagery of him at the edges of her eyes which she tried, and tried not to read as the teams made their way through the trees.
One foot darted in front of the other as she followed Uragiri, the other jounin in sight. There was a clearing ahead, and the rain slowed with their arrival. Head ducked down as if to hide from the streams of light, Yayoi gazed ahead into the empty field. His face made its way to her in dreams, the image of him fresh in her eyes when she woke, as if it had been left on her pillow as a gift. It was disorienting, and Yayoi looking pleadingly into the sky as if to will the sun to blind her. In the years she spent in the Academy, she didn’t know this feeling of guilt, or of shame and fear. She knew it now and felt she could not live with it, overwhelmed suddenly as inexperienced and ignorant people are - when every hurt is the most intense hurt imaginable. Someone like Uragiri would never care so much, having been washed over and over with the weight of death time and time again. The same with Mizushima with her stolen eye, Motoke who seemed to revel in death.
The sound of Uragiri’s voice jolted Murakami back into reality as she took in the group of shinobi in front of her. Indistinguishable hunter-nin rimmed the edge of the clearing, and the small group of ahead of them - some with pale-white eyes. The testimonies of both groups somehow enraged Yayoi, now feeling alert and on-edge. Some story about being refugees when they were clearly shinobi who had the power and responsibility to care for their own. Abandoners and cowards - what of the actual civilians in Konohagakure who were actually suffering during the war, or the teammates they had left behind? At least the hunter-nin - imposing or not - were honest with their intentions, while the group before them pranced around in their sheep’s clothing. The exchanges Yayoi could make out between them were entirely insulting. She felt a swell of pride with Sakana’s words. “Deserters deserve to be punished, deserve to be accountable for the consequences of their own actions. What a waste of time,”
she stated, acid creeping into her voice. As if it was a matter of pride, she stared around their group with steel in her eyes, gazing testily at Sakana. Instinct spoke clearly in her attitude - the tenseness of her shoulders, the hand on her yumi. There was clear, unrestrained anger in her voice, and she turned to her teammates, as if waiting for a response.