Raging Alone 8: Trapped

Desòchu used his thumb to catch a dribble of pulped fruit from Rutejìmo’s chin. It ran along his digit and into his palm. He could almost taste the bland sweetness in the back of his throat.

Rutejìmo made a gurgling noise and spit up his lunch over the back of Desòchu’s hand, coating it in half-digested milk and fruit.

“You’re so disgusting.” Desòchu shoveled the food back into his brother’s mouth before wiping his hand on a stained cloth. He used the spoon to capture more from the bowl before holding it near Rutejìmo’s mouth.

The baby reached out for it while making grunting noises.

“First finish throwing up,” he said in a low voice. With his other hand, he patted Rutejìmo’s back to encourage the burp he knew would be coming.

Movement caught his attention. Hyonèku and Kiríshi were walking toward him, their hands clasped together. He stared for a moment with a feeling like he had somehow missed something critical.

The last he knew, Kiríshi had laid her claim on Gemènyo not Hyonèku. The two were together for years, the last few involved them sharing kisses and intimate touches whenever the four of them were alone.

Kiríshi sat down across from Desòchu and reached out for Rutejìmo. When the baby caught her finger, she smiled and pulled his arm in different directions much to the baby’s amusement.

Rutejìmo giggled, the abrupt laughter rising up.

“How could you ever get tired of this, Sòchu?”

Desòchu’s face twisted into a scowl. “I had to change three diapers this morning. The little ass drinks too much and then shits it out within an hour.”

Kiríshi pulled a face.

Next to her, Hyonèku slid onto the bench next to her. “Doesn’t sound too bad. How much shit can he possibly create?”

“Mountains,” Desòchu answered. “All watery crap that always leaks out of the sun-damned diaper. I don’t know how he does it since he seems to be spitting up this crap as fast as I can shovel it into his mouth.”

The three teenagers remained silent.

Uncomfortable, Desòchu returned to the futile task of feeding his brother.

“When is your father coming back?” asked Kiríshi.

“Does it matter?” His father’s attitude had not gotten better in the last few months since Rutejìmo was born. If anything, he seemed to drink more and spend more time out on jobs instead of remaining at the valley. Sometimes, he took another job before ever returning from the previous one.

She continued. “We were thinking about heading over to the Ryayusúki and picking a fight.”

Desòchu looked up at Hyonèku. “A fight? They kicked your ass last time and then chased you all the way back with those damn horses of theirs.”

Hyonèku grinned and ran his fingers through his dark hair. The short strands flared out from between his fingers. “Yeah, but nothing else to do. Besides Fumaràchyo should have just gotten back from Wamifuko City and he promised to sell me a couple bottles of something strong. A bit of drinking before fighting is exactly what you need.”

The idea of getting drunk with the Ryayusúki sounded appealing. It had been months since Desòchu had gotten more than an hour or so away from Rutejìmo. He noticed his temper had been fraying with the constant wailing at night and endless diapers.

Hyonèku beckoned. “Come on. With all four of us, they won’t kick our ass this time. I’m sure your grandmother will watch him.”

“She’s on a job right now.”

Kiríshi frowned before she turned to Hyonèku. “You said Yutsupazéso has Mènyo, right? After he threw rocks at Hikòru’s honor with that… ballad?”

Desòchu ducked his head to hide his smile. Gemènyo managed to get five stanzas into a relatively lewd but epic poem about Hikòru before one of the elders pulled him off the table. Given how little Desòchu saw his father recently, he thought the song fit with his current feelings. However, he wasn’t going to stand up for Gemènyo in front of Yutsupazéso; no one in their right mind would do that."

Hyonèku chuckled and he stroked his fingers along the back of Kiríshi’s hand. He nodded twice then he shook his head. “You really think Zéso would let us go?”

She smiled and turned her hand over to grasp his fingers.

Desòchu cleared his throat.

“Why not?” he said rolling his eyes. “We ask Yutsupazéso if someone could watch Rutejìmo? What’s the worst that could happen?”

Desòchu’s heart beat faster. “Really?”

Kiríshi smiled broadly at him. “Come on, you need to get something. If anything, you need to wrestle in some blankets. I know you’ve been sniffing around Mádi.”

With a snort, Hyonèku said, “Yeah, until Ràchyo found out that Sòchu was interested in his sister.”

Desòchu grinned with the memory. The slender beauty from the horse clan had returned his affections more than a few times on a quiet evening. His body grew hotter with the thought of stealing more than kisses.

“See?” Hyonèku pointed at Desòchu. “I told you he still had a dick.”

Kiríshi rolled her eyes and pulled her hand free from Hyonèku to poke him. “Give him a break. Come on, let’s ask the old bird.”

Desòchu stood up slightly to bow respectfully. “Thank you for trying.”

“We missed you.” Hyonèku winked at him.

“For playing cards?”

Kiríshi shrugged. “Cards, talking, fighting, whining, and drinking. There are too many things missing when it’s just three of us.”

When they left, he returned to feeding his brother with a little more hope than before.

Rutejìmo finally burped, spraying Desòchu’s face with milk and fruit. Then he sat back and laughed happily while clutching the spoon.

This time Desòchu didn’t care. He thought about spending the night with the Ryayusúki clan. The horse rider’s valley was an hour walk away but it would be no time at all if all four of them were together.

A half hour later, he finished cleaning up and changing his brother. He just finished nestling Rutejìmo into a bassinet when Yutsupazéso and the others arrived. He turned and sat down on the bench next to his brother.

The clan leader looked older than the sky and rocks. Deep wrinkles scored her face but somehow that only highlighted the many cuts that scored her skin. Rumors had it that she had been tortured but Desòchu didn’t know anyone who knew for sure. No one would risk asking her directly.

She limped over to the table. She had a walking stick twice her height with feathers dangling from the top, one for each of her three children. When she reached the bench, Hyonèku and Gemènyo both rushed to help her sit down.

Yutsupazéso grunted with discomfort. Slowly, she rested her stick on the side. Another grunt. Then a third. Time seemed to stretch out painfully as she shifted. No one would risk her ire by hurrying her up and Desòchu suspected she knew that. Finally, she looked at him sharply. “You want to run away, right?”

Desòchu cringed. “Yes, Great Shimusogo Yutsupazéso.”

“Who’s going to take care of the babe?” She didn’t even look at the now sleeping Rutejìmo.

“I was hoping someone else.” When no one said anything, Desòchu continued, “… just for tonight? Please? I need a break.”

Yutsupazéso glared at the three teenagers near her. “Well, which one of you is going to do it?”

Gemènyo opened his mouth.

“Not you, asshole.”

He closed his mouth.

Yutsupazéso pointed her two fingers toward him. “You aren’t even remotely sorry for insulting Great Shimusogo Hikòru last night.”

“I said—”

“You said what you wanted me to hear.” She pointed him again and then leaned forward to poke him roughly. “I can see you smirking when my back is to you. Not to mention I heard you humming it under your breath while cleaning this morning.”

Gemènyo ducked his head. He had a faint smirk on his lips.

She turned to Hyonèku and Kiríshi. “Which one of you is going to give him a break? Both of you are old enough to watch a baby for a night.”

Kiríshi opened her mouth. She looked like she had been stabbed in the stomach. With a pleading look, she glanced at Hyonèku and then Desòchu.

“Great Shimusogo Yutsupazéso,” Hyonèku said with a bow. “I… we were hoping that one of the other adults could watch him, just for a few hours.”

She stared at him for a moment. Then she scowled. Somehow, the wrinkles on her face grew deeper.

Hyonèku shifted to one foot.

“Do I like look like I just got out of diapers, Boy?”

“N-No.”

“You plan to be gone until morning. When you get back, you’ll probably still be drunk and strapped to the ass of some horse.” She waved a hand around her. “You plan on being useless for a day, like some little brat without a worry in the world.”

All four of them blushed.

“I don’t have time to deal with a bunch of puking kids.”

Desòchu cringed again. He wasn’t going to be able to leave.

“If anyone is going to go, it should be Desòchu. The boy is probably hoping to fuck Great Ryayusuki Domádi.” It sounded like a curse the way the old woman said it.

With a sinking feeling, Desòchu blushed hotter. The conversation started poorly and he suspected that the old woman planned on making them all suffer for even asking.

Yutsupazéso cleared her throat. He looked into her dark, cloudy eyes. “She got married last month. No more playing around.”

Desòchu closed his eyes tightly for a moment. He was missing so much of his life since his brother became his responsibility.

“So, which one is going to stay here and watch the babe? Everyone else has jobs. Real jobs that help the clan.”

Kiríshi sighed. “I—”

“No,” interrupted Desòchu. “I’ll take care of my brother.”

“Sòchu?” started Hyonèku.

“Just go.” Desòchu reached down and scooped his brother from the bassinet. He missed and fumbled again, his fingers growing clumsy with everyone watching. “Have fun, I’ll stay here.”

He held his brother tightly when he hurried away, his cheeks burning with his humiliation and frustration. In his arm, Rutejìmo made a little strangled cry before Desòchu realized he was holding the baby too tightly. He relaxed his grip as he rushed home to get away from everyone except the one person who caused all of his problems: Rutejìmo.

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