Chapter 28: Waking Up In… Hell?

"Where are we going?"

"Em o que vai, irmão grande?"

"I'm tryin' to figure that out, irmão pequeno! Where are you taking us?"

"I'm taking you to your freedom."

"Liberdade?"

"Jas is right – what freedom?"

"Your freedom."

"So… what do we do?"

"You take your brother Raimundo, and you take Hero, and you run."

"Is that a racist joke?"

"No. You run, and never look back!"

"But where do we go?"

"Somewhere – anywhere! Anywhere but here! But just don't come back."

"But Homem Velho - !"

"Run!"


Hero's head felt in a fog – like she was done doing opium or something. Her lips felt swollen, and she knew she was somewhere cold and hard and damp. She groaned and opened her eyes.

It was as dark as it felt. The walls were made of cool stone, and Hero's shoulders felt stiff and sore. Her head hurt like someone had clubbed her, too. She remembered her vision of the past. How ironic - I dreamed of the day I left... and I'm back here again... aren't I?

Hero squirmed. Her metal arm scraped the stone ground. She sniffed the damp air. The deepest corners of the cell were covered in shadows, and Hero couldn't discern what was there. She pressed her real hand to the ground and absorbed what energy she could from it - enough to make a light. But just making the light made her head feel mysteriously fuzzy. Her palm shimmered and flickered between on and off as she moved it around the cell.

She heard a groan from one of the corners. Her directed the light towards that corner, and drew back, her eyes wide in astonishment.

It was Masato!

"Masato!" Hero gaped.

"You idiot!" Masato croaked. He dove into a fit of coughing, and Hero smelled blood. She scrambled up, ignoring her pain, and crawled to him. Masato looked terrible: his clothes were torn, one eye was bruised and sickly yellow, he had numerous scrapes along his face and arms, and he was holding his ribcage like something was paining him. Blood dribbled down his chin as he spat, "Why did you come!?"

Frustrated at him despite his condition, Hero retorted, "I came for you, dumbass!"

Masato closed his eyes and gasped, gritting his teeth in pain. "We'll discuss dumbassery later... Help me!"

Hero pulled the medical supplies from her pocket. She had a few rolled wraps of gauze and some wound disenfectent left. Luckily the Tsukishiro people had left it alone. She set to work disinfecting Masato's lacerations, trying to be as gentle as possible. Masato flinched once or twice, but Hero ignored it.

She pulled up his shirt gently, ignoring Masato's growl of disdain. The area around his left ribcage was bruised.

"What the hell happened?" Hero wondered as she lightly touched the purple-and-yellow area. Masato flinched.

"They had their fun." He stated grimly. "I don't think anything's broken, but it hurts to breathe more than necessary."

"I don't know how to fix this..." Hero told him.

Masato threw her a look - Hero couldn't tell whether it was sympathy or something else there.

"I can try... I mean... I'm not House or anything..." Hero sputtered, suddenly unsure of what to say.

Masato leaned back against the bloodstained wall. "Dumbass..." he gasped with a smile on his face. "They're not going to let me die - not when they're having so much fun."

"It's wrong!" Hero spat. "It's all wrong. I wasn't supposed to get caught!"

"But you did." Masato said bluntly. "I don't know who came up with this plan, but I gotta hand it to them... it's terrible." He tried to laugh, but only more blood came out of his mouth when he tried.

Hero steadied him as he faltered. "Watch it..."

"This must really take your cake, Hero." Masato said sadly. "Me, Masato, the big-shot... like this."

Hero sighed. "It's not taking any cake of mine, Masato." She lifted his chin to get a good look at his tired, weary eyes and his bruised face. "If anything, it's just making me angrier."

"Try not to blow us up this time." Masato pleaded half-heartedly.

"Once I've got all these people out, I will destroy this place." Hero vowed. "I'll make sure it doesn't hurt anyone else again..."

"Noble intentions for such a... violent Irishwoman." Masato said tiredly. His eyes were beginning to droop. Hero laid him down gently on the stone floor. She checked his pulse to find it strong and steady. When he was settled, Masato groaned, "I'm... sorry."

"For what?"

"Treating you... like shit." Masato coughed.

"I treated you like shit too." Hero told him after a pause.

"But I started it." Masato pointed out. "I just... I hated the fact of meeting someone who might... actually... beat me." He looked up at her, his bruised eye already closed. "But... I'm glad it was you who beat me."

Hero stared at Masato in astonishment. He was pretty beaten now - worse than Hero had done to him before. Heor never expected him to say something like that. She kneeled beside her friend as his breathing slowed in the smooth rhythm of sleep. "Oh Masato..." she murmured. "You baka..."