It took a few days for Rokusho to recover, during which Kabuto spent nearly all his free time in the infirmary with his knight.
“Were they really Scissors soldiers? I thought you were the only one left,” he prodded, concern clearly laden in his voice.
Rokusho nodded. “Stronger armor, faster, and better-armed, but unmistakably Scissors,” he explained, “I was lucky to have gotten out alive.” Kabuto winced at that sidenote.
Rokusho continued, “What I don’t understand is how they left... They fought and killed like mortals, but when reinforcements came, it was as if they just... disappeared. I am no fool who believes in magic or apparitions, but something ominous is afoot.”
Kabuto ribbed, “Are you sure you didn’t lose so much blood that it got to your head?”
Rokusho looked rather grim. “It was because of me those good people lost their lives last night. A repeat attack must be avoided at all costs.” He looked up. Kabuto was silent as well.
The prince placed his hand on Rokusho’s shoulder and said earnestly, “We’ll get them next time.”
A suspicion dawned on Rokusho, and he asked with narrowed eyes, “You’re not thinking of coming with me on the next encounter, are you?”
“Well, yeah! You lost a lot of guys!” Kabuto’s breath caught when he saw Rokusho grimace, but Kabuto continued, “You need someone to have your back and level the playing field. Those guys… They’re probably going to be tough to beat with just the average fresh-out-of-the-mill replacements.”
“Kabuto,” Rokusho chided.
A sigh. “Besides, it was really annoying to just be huddled with everyone, on the edge of my seat and not knowing what was gonna happen to you...” Kabuto looked at Rokusho’s wound, guilt in his eyes.
“Kabuto…” Rokusho repeated. “You’re someone whom I‒the kingdom‒” he corrected, “‒cannot afford to lose. You absolutely will not come with me. Even if I wanted to, the king would have me killed for putting you in such danger.” He sat up straighter, wincing slightly as he aggravated his wound. “And besides... They weren’t just ‘run-of-the-mill soldiers,’ they had families, and friends, and people who cared about them. If I can’t take care of my squadron, then I don’t deserve to command them. I... may even go alone next time.”
Kabuto’s eyes widened. “No way! You can’t just take no one! You already got that little token!” He gestured vehemently to Rokusho’s bandage. “They could kill you next!”
“And,” Kabuto added before Rokusho could protest, “if you do go alone, people in the castle might think that you’re colluding with them.”
“Hmmph…” Rokusho crossed his arms in thought. Kabuto was right, and said Medalorian smiled smugly at his own ingenuity.
Kabuto continued, “If they come again, you can’t face them as you are. You’ll definitely be… We’ll leave another commander in charge. You didn’t take the entire army, after all. Just… stay on the sidelines and think of a strategy. No on-field stuff.”
Rokusho frowned. How could he do that? He was the only one who had a half-decent chance against them close-up. However, a direct order from the prince was unquestionable.
Quietly, he turned his head to face the window opposite where Kabuto was sitting, now watching a few young Helms play in the nearby courtyard. He couldn’t help but think about what the leader had said.
They destroyed our way of life and killed almost everyone! Their voice echoed in his mind, and for one painful moment, he imagined the children out there as children of his own kind… Soon to either be killed, or forced into growing up too soon.
After all, he’d never gotten to play like that.
Within a few days, Rokusho was well enough to return to his quarters, though his range of movement was still limited. In his room, he thought ceaselessly on how to defeat the imminent follow-up attack, replaying the battle from that fateful night over and over in his head. He soon grew restless and began moving through the motions of battle, despite the pain protesting against him when he started moving too quickly or extending too far. He knew Kabuto would have had a fit if he saw him, so Rokusho kept his activity private. He wasn’t completely silent, though, as he let out a pained grunt and breathed heavily. He cursed himself for being so inept, and he cursed his wound, too. He needed to heal faster! The next attack could happen at any moment!
He was deep in consternation as he heard a knock at the door. He straightened immediately, sending another wave of pain through him. It was none other than the prince who poked his head in.
Rokusho immediately tried playing innocent, greeting the prince, “Ah, Prince Kabuto… I was just deliberating over the battle...”
Kabuto let out a long, suffering breath. “I’m right next door. I can hear you overstraining yourself.”
Rokusho sighed as well and looked downward. He must not have been as quiet as he thought...
“I cannot idle like this. If they attack again and I’m not well enough to fight back, we’ll be overtaken!”
Kabuto chuckled a bit. “Rokusho, you’re being hyperbolic. You may be our best knight, but that doesn’t mean that the others aren’t almost as good. And our defenses are impenetrable!”
“Not impenetrable,” Rokusho said in a half-grumble. “I got in. And there’s no guarantee that they can’t do the same.”
This warranted another chuckle from Kabuto. “That’s true, but security’s been tighter since you’ve gotten here, and we’ve gotten better. Just… rely on us more, okay? As much as you’d like to be, you’re not a one-man army.” Kabuto smiled at him assuringly.
Rokusho didn’t have any choice but to half-smile back, slightly relieved at how calmly Kabuto had actually reacted, though the worries still plagued him. He admitted aloud, “I just… I don’t know what to do.”
Kabuto nodded, understanding Rokusho fully. “Yeah, that’s like you. When you don’t know what you’re supposed to do, you try to spread out in all directions. If something’s bothering you, you’re restless until you figure out what it is. What I’m asking you to do is just tone it down. You’ll be doing yourself a favor, I promise.”
Kabuto shifted his stance and beckoned Rokusho in a large gesture. “C’mon, let’s take a walk. You’ll feel better by the end of it, I promise.” Rokusho paused, then sighed and smiled at his friend.
“Alright. That… does sound nice.” He followed Kabuto out the door. They strolled through the large hallways and courtyards, taking more than enough time so Rokusho wouldn’t strain himself and making pleasant small talk along the way. The knight relished in the company of his old friend, not having quality time to do so for a long while.