The stench of blood and burning flesh was impossible to ignore. Tetsuya picked his way through the charred battlefield, supressing the urge to vomit with every step he took. The ground was stained deep red with streaks of charred black, piled with bodies and parts of all shapes and sizes. Hamza was at Tetsuya's side, chosing with care every empty patch of land to set his paws in. His fur was stained similary to the ground. Every now and again, he would poke his nose close to a particularly large pile of flesh, emulating his bonded's actions as they searched. Each time they would reach down, hoping for some small sign of life, only to pull away disgusted and disappointed. Tetsuya couldn't see how this wasteland could contain any life. Hamza certainly hadn't found any, and if anyone wandering this battlefiled could, it would be him. The lynx's sense of smell was their best chance at being successful on this trip.

Tetsuya turned and looked at his two companions. Michiko was to his right, her face set in a grimace. Nurya, her unicorn that was currently in human form, was trotting behind her. Michiko paused, staring at the ground for a moment. She reached a slender hand down near a pool of blood. She rested it there for amoment before jerking it back up. She took a single breath and continued on her way, Nurya scurrying to catch up. To Tetsuya's left was Kazuo. He was the furthest forward of the three, scanning the surface carefully but never reaching down. Ren had settled himself on Kazuo's shoulder, his head hidden in Kazuo's hair. The sheer amount of death seemed far too much for the little serpentine water-dragon to bear. Tetsuya could imagine the little thing trembling, showing the emotions his bonded dare not show.

Michiko and Kazuo. Husband and Wife. Mother and Father to two boys. Healers. The only reason Tetsuya was out in this desolation was for them, to protect their desire to help anyone and everyone they could, to save any person that has a ghost of a chance of survival. It was that wish that brought them to here, and to every war zone they had been to previously. Tetsuya supressed a morbid laugh at that thought. This wasn't a war. It was a massacre. All of the soldiers he could see were Vetrian, citizens of the desert country along the western border. No doubt this attack had been orchestrated by Cerin, the boy-king of their own country, Aimes. The scorched earth was a clear trademark of Cerin's style. His troops were as efficent as they were brutal. It was rare to find a person who had managed to survive. The scorched earth came from the archers, who lit their arrows before sending them flying toward enemy troops. Actually hitting a target meant very little when the battlefield itself could be turned into a weapon. Despite this, Cerin's archers were incredibly accurate.

"Tetsu..." Tetsuya turned to find Michiko standing just behind him, her face still set. He could see the shadow of tears in her eyes. Nurya was hiding behind her, peeking out from behind her hip. Michiko's lip trembled a bit as she tried to say more, but Tetsuya simply shook his head. It was all that needed to be said. Michiko stood for a moment, the gravity of the simple gesture reflected in her eyes, before noding once herself and turning away. Tetsuya watched her go, wondering if it would be better to call off the search.

A single snort and a low growl caught his attention. Hamza has wandered further away than Tetsuya had realized. He was standing near a particularly large pile of bodies, his nose gently trying to nudge the top layer off. Tetsuya picked his way over and crouched down next to the pile. These bodies were particularly charred. They must have been at the center of one of the fires. He started to peel off the outermost layer of bodies, most burned beyond any recognition. The further he went in, the less burned the bodies were, though none showed any signs of life. Tetsuya checked each one carefully before shifting them aside, not wanting to miss the one he was looking for. Hamza, who had reverted to human form and was now kneeling next to the pile of bodies, simply said "He's at the bottom. Don't bother with the rest"

"The bottom?" Tetsuya said, pausing. "How did he not suffocate?" The lynx simply shrugged and, without a word, took on animal form again. Hamza was not a fan of being human-esqe. Tetsuya started pealing bodies off the pile, giving them no more than a second glance. Behind him, he heard two sets of feet running.

"Did you find someone?" Michiko said as they came up behind him. Kazuo quickly knelt to the ground and started to help move bodies.

"At the bottom," Tetsuya said. The two shifted and pulled, moving body after body. Michiko continued to check on those that were pulled away, ensuring that they were beyond help. Hamza kept his eyes locked on the center of the pile.

"Is that..." Kazuo stopped. The last body he had moved and revealed a bit of ground, and a single boy lying on the ground. He was curled in an almost fetal position, blood covering his face, neck, and the top of his shirt. "A head injury? He can't possibly..." Hamza stepped forward and nugged the boy's ear. Beneath the lids, his eyes twitched wildly. Kazuo reached down, his fingers reaching for the boy's neck. He paused there a moment, staring at the ground. "He's alive." Kazuo said quickly, and before anyone else could move, he had scooped the boy up off of the ground. "We need to get him back quickly."

"We can start bandaging him up on the way, stop the bleeding some," Michiko said as the trio quickly moved through the battlefield to a horse-cart sitting on the end of the field. "But a head injury. He may be alive, but he probably wont wake up." Neither of them said anything more. The only other option was to leave the boy where they found them. It was an unspoken agreement between them long ago that it would never be an option. As they neared the wagon, the boys arm slipped from Kazuo's grip and hung limply underneath him. Tetsuya caught a glimpse of the forearm, and stopped cold, his eyes locked on what he saw there. Michiko stopped a second later, looking at her friend with concern.

"Tetsu?" she said. "What..." She followed his gaze to the boys arm, and her face fell. On the boys arm was a tatoo in the shape of an arrow-head. A thin "T" shape was cut from the center of the arrow head, and behind the arrow-head was the outline of a circle. Underneath the arrowhead were four numbers. The numbers barely registered. Michiko stood for a moment, staring dumbfounded at the boy. Then she rushed forward, grabbing her husband by the elbow. "We need to get home quickly," she said, by way of an explanation. Her husband glanced at her once, confused, but followed her lead without question. Tetsuya followed, knowing that, if they didn't get away from this place soon, they may have more than a dying boy to deal with.

They settled the boy in the cart, padding his head with every scrap of cloth and hay they had, hoping the jostling of the car would not injure him anymore. Michiko climbed in behind him and quickly began to bandage the head with a long strip of cloth. Tetsuya climbed into the front, next to Kazuo, and waited as the wagon lurched forward and started down the path toward their village. He looked around nervously, but saw nothing. As they entered the cover of the trees, there was a single spot of movement from the treetops. Tetsuya did not see the hawk that flapped its wings from the tallest tree. It rose from the branches, turned, and quickly flew out of sight.