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Casualties of the Post-War Era

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"Casualties of the Post War Era"

Chapter 1: Bare Bones


“You ungrateful little bitch!”

The force in which Hotaru’s back hit the wall was enough to shake the entire length, even knocking a few pictures off their hooks. Hotaru looked up at her foster mother, her left eye burning and her lower lip split and bleeding.

This woman wasn’t all that imposing at about 170 plus pounds and 5-foot-8 but she had a mean right hook and liquior lent her more than enough strength to subdue a 16-year-old young woman. She had dyed red hair that had been bleached before that and made her long hair look fried in those waves she had. Her dark orange eyes were color enhanced by some prosthetics designer and blood shot from the alcohol. While the woman was normally cranky, she was violent drunk and Hotaru let herself be the target instead of someone else who wasn’t used to being beaten from training, sparring and combat, like the kids in the next apartment.

Hotaru used the wall to push herself back up onto her feet. “Sorry, Kirimei. I didn’t know you were talking to me at the time. I should have known better. I’m sorry.”

“I didn’t have to take you in, y’know!” Kirimei half slurred as she staggered back to catch her breath. “I coulda left you there to rot but I didn’t! I took you in and this is how you thank me, by keepin’ this place a mess!”

The apartment was a mess but not from Hotaru’s lack of activity. Kirimei would attack her if she tried to clean up while the woman was at home and she’d attack Hotaru if the girl didn’t stay out of her way. Hotaru cleaned while Kirimei was at work at whatever bar she worked at and stayed out of the woman’s way the rest of the time.

She was almost 17, just 2 more months but it was a morbid mark in time. So many things had intertwined and now so many were gone. There was no point in celebrating when there was so few to celebrate with. It would just be another painful reminder of how many had been sacrificed for victory…even if it felt more like defeat.

Kirimei’s hand gripped Hotaru’s hair close to her scalp and threw her to the ground. Hotaru pushed her off the floor, only to get kicked repeatedly in the stomach. She felt her ribs crack and blood bubble up into her mouth when Kirimei’s foot slammed into her jaw. No doubt some of her teeth were loose now.

Hotaru would have to sneak out to get her jaw and ribs looked at by a professional. However, she knew that for her to be in pain, there was damage and possibly internal bleeding which chakra would quickly stem, of course. She knew someone she could go to, someone who had survived. She could trust them to keep her injuries a secret.

The last thing she needed was for the police or child welfare poking their noses into this mess.

“I need a drink.” Kirimei muttered, backing away. “Get that skank ass of yours in your room and don’ come out until I tell ya to.”

“Yes, Kirimei.” Hotaru muttered, trying not to have blood drip on the floor as the woman went back to her spot on the couch. Soft ticks on the hardwood got Hotaru to look up at the approaching big mass of dark red and white fur with glowing amber eyes. The cold black nose and pink tongue sniffed and licked her arm and cheek.

Hotaru scratched the demonic looking hound behind the ears and used his large form to get to her feet. She staggered slightly, wincing faintly at the pain in her chest. The dog nipped the cuff of her sweatshirt sleeve and gently led her back to her room. This hellish looking hound may have looked frightening but he was actually a big sweetie to the general populace.

“I’m fine, En.” Hotaru reassured the dog in a low voice as he led her down the hall to her open door. “She maybe drunk but she’s no Sensei. Nor is she Tsunade. She can’t do too much to me.”

Her small sanctuary, her room was pretty bare. She had a small book shelf of books with her cell phone and iPod charging on top. Her backpack was on top of the foot locker under her window. Only some clothes were in her closet with a large dog bed on the floor with food and water bowls beside it. There were modified document tubes under her bed and there was only a big panda with a dark blue scarf on her bed and a weird rabbit looking purse with a panda, a bird, a turtle and a lion carefully tucked into the zipper. A small jar of 5 green candies with a letter on each one sat on her window sill.

Hotaru kept things simple, most of her things in storage but those she couldn’t do without were what she had with her. She didn’t set it all out, like she would have if she where at any place she’d call home. She didn’t want to have to pack it all up again later and this way, she could easily stash it all to hide it from Kimirei if the woman ever got passed the deadbolt and catch chain. And of course, it made it easier for her furry roommate to guard it all.

Hotaru groaned as she laid on her bed, trying to ease the weight pulling on her ribs. En whined softly and nudged her hand. He knew she wasn’t dying but he knew she was a lot of pain. She smiled softly, closing her eyes and gently played with the end of his muzzle with her fingers.

“I think she might have cracked a couple ribs this time, Enmaru, m’love.” Hotaru told the dog as he was careful not to jostle the bed. “I think…I think I’ll have to go see Knox tonight…just to make sure.”

Enmaru whined softly and nipped the side of her sleeve, tugging her arm off her bed. “No, En. Not yet. We’ve got to wait until she turns on the TV.”

Enmaru released her sleeve and whined softly again. He went to her closet and stepped passed his basket to nip up a pair of shoes from a small collection. He came back to the bed and set them on the comforter before going to the closet door and pulling the coat off the corner. He also brought it to the bed, setting it next to the shoes.

Kirimei would turn on the television shortly but Hotaru couldn’t leave until she did. It provided perfect cover when she was hurt. She’d just have to meditate until then, since it wouldn’t be long now.

No…not much longer…

“You really hate fighting, don’t you? You’re good at it and it seems…commission? Wait, you were made? Seriously? Wow, I didn’t know…no, I couldn’t tell. I figured it was just really good training…oh, I see. You’re sick of war…yeah, me, too…I guess it makes everyone sick eventually…what? No, I didn’t want it to turn out like this…yeah, I wanted to make it better…yeah, I miss her, too…”

Hotaru opened her eyes as Enmaru pulled one of her legs off the bed. She could hear the TV and Kirimei’s drunken comments and laughter. Sitting up with a soft groan, Hotaru realized that she had fallen asleep. Her left eye and her jaw were throbbing and her ribs and stomach muscles ached. She got to her feet and pulled on her coat, running a hand through her short hair.

That was right, Kirimei had taken a box cutter to her hair just a few days ago. Her hair had been to her waist but now it was barely longer that her jaw, except for the hair around her face. Those locks had been strangely spared and reached her collar bones and her bangs feathered her forehead. She had forgotten Kirimei’s drunken rampage the other night…her back, however, was another story. The pain killers she had taken must’ve worn off when she fell asleep.

Her back was irritated and it would only get worse, since she had a long sleeve dark gray shirt on under her dark blue sweatshirt and black coat. Her faded blue jeans and white socks complimented the darker tops nicely, though she hadn’t been dressing for looks. The lengthy clothes were good for this weather but they helped hide her “rewards” so she didn’t get the police stopping her.

Hotaru unplugged her cell phone and iPod, tucking both into her coat’s deeper pockets and snapped the flap of the pockets closed. She locked her deadbolt and slid the chain into the catch. She shrugged on her backpack and felt her back scream at her. She sucked on her split lower lip to distract herself from the pain as she picked up the little glass bottle containing the green candies. She looked at them, her eyes distant.

“Sorry, guys. You’re still benched until further notice.” She said to the candies, tossing the bottle onto her bed gingerly. She grabbed her shoes as Enmaru nipped something up from his bed. He came over to her as she opened her window. “What do you have there?” She held out her hand and he put a dark case into her palm. “Oh, my glasses. I forgot about them. Thanks, En.”

Hotaru put on her glasses and managed to put the case into her backpack without pissing off her back or ribs too badly. Enmaru slipped half way onto the sill as Hotaru put on her shoes and joined him in a crouch. Her window didn’t have anything outside it, unlike the living room which had a balcony. However, it meant that it was going to be a bit of drop down to the ground.

She would land on her feet and Enmaru had enough demon blood in his pedigree that it would take more than dropping 3 stories to hurt him. The landing would jar her body, even if she landed without any real momentum. It would be the change of pressure and the stop in general.

She wasn’t really looking forward to it.

“Well, let’s go.” Hotaru sighed. She and Enmaru jumped from her window and dropped towards the ground. As predicted, Enmaru landed as easy as a cat on his paws and Hotaru landed in a crouch but still managed to jostle her ribs and resettle her backpack. It made her grit her teeth, pressing her forehead to her raised knee and keep both hands on the ground for balance.

Enamru whined softly and licked her cheek worriedly. He knew that she was in even more pain than before. He was worried about her, much like the others would have been. He was all she had left and she would kill to keep him with her.

“I’m fine, En. Just catching my breath.” Hotaru reassured, burying her hand into his thick fur. Enmaru draped something over her arm, getting her attention. The smart dog had grabbed his leash before they had jumped. It made her smile softly as she hooked it to his collar and stood, the loop sliding around her wrist. “Come on, En. Let’s go pay Ol’ Knox a visit.”