In the distance, a colony of bats burst from the caves embedded into the Ground Three Training Mountain. Ryuko, Yui, Yua, and Natsuru would all likely notice a sea of black rising into the air and rotating around the mountain like a cosmic ring. The ring completed a few rotations before rising further into the clouds and dipping back down. The creatures screeched and hissed as they flew over the entirety of the Ground Two Training Area, fanning out and covering the wide range. The anomalous behavior wouldn't last long though. Not long after a few bats had flown into the area where the quartet resided would the entire colony be drawn back to their homes. The bats moved erratically, as if they were being propelled by an invisible force. The creatures circulated and coagulated back into the airspace before making a beeline to their caves. Found them!
Shimiko's eyes flickered back to their normal blue color as she deactivated her Hachidora Ketsurygan. With one hand she wiped away a single bloody tear as she continued speeding towards their location. She was running Naruto-style, with her hands and arms trailing behind her and her body lurched forwards. Her center of gravity low and her eyes fixed forward with determination. Shimiko could feel the emotions well up in her chest as she closed in on their location. Natsuru had left the continent for China without even saying goodbye. When Shimiko had read the note that she had left, it had torn her up inside. It had made her wonder what she could have done better. They had drifted apart over the years and while the Chinoike had always come up with excuses for why she was too busy to spend time with her friend, none of them could numb the pain she felt knowing Natsuru was gone. The fact that the Senou had left her the Tower was proof that her departure was final and permanent. There was no goodbyes, no negotiation, no tearful pleading. She was angry but she also understood. Natsuru had needed her friends and Shimiko wasn't there for her. But now she had returned. She knew Mora would not lie to her about something so serious. If Natsuru was back then maybe she was in trouble or needed help. It wasn't like her to change her mind so easily. Whatever the reason, Shimiko resolved to hug her and never let go. She'd never take her friend for granted ever again.
Then there was Ryuko. The Priestess hadn't left on bad terms per se, but the circumstances of her departure were even more disturbing. Natsuru had wanted to leave. As painful as that act was, it was an act of volition. Shimiko had come to accept that. Ryuko on the other hand, had fainted before her very eyes. A sudden onset of plague had taken her, and with each passing day she remained in the coma, the likelihood of her waking up lessened. She had seen Seigi go through the same thing and she knew that it was only a matter of time before Ryuko died or someone pulled the plug. She had contemplated doing it herself. It wouldn't be right for her friend to waste away on a hospital bed. She had already gone through that with her older brother. Her dreams were haunted by Seigi's emaciated form and the pity in the caretakers' eyes as everyday he grew weaker. She could never bring herself to do it though. No matter how much she told herself it'd be an act of mercy, some part of her held out hope that the girl would wake up. The Thundercats didn't give up on her when she was in a plague coma and so she decided that she had no right to shut that door on Ryuko either. Words couldn't express how thankful Shimiko was that Jashin stayed her hand from euthanizing her friend. Ryuko had fought off the sickness. It had taken more time than any doctor thought possible, but she had done it. Now, they were all here together againPraise be to Jashin!
Shimiko rushed onto the scene in a blur, skidding to a halt near both Ryuko and Natsuru. Her arrival would be perceived as little more than teleportation to most people, but for women as astute as her comrades, they'd probably see her coming a mile away. When she stopped in front of them, she noticed that they were within hugging distance but Shimiko was too overwhelmed to move. If she had been paying attention to their words, she would have heard something about a surprise party but instead all she could do was stare.
It was them. Ryuko with that beautiful blue streak running through her charcoal hair. The giddy look in her eyes. Shimiko had even caught the twang of her accent as she uttered words that the blonde was still too jubilant to comprehend. Natsuru's expression was as placid as ever and Shimiko wouldn't be surprised if it remained unchanged even with her sudden appearance. The woman was tall, taller than Shimiko, although not by much. She had always been the middle child amongst them but in recent years she had grown to a stature nearly identical to Natsuru's.
" she started, mouthing the first two words and then vocally uttering the third. For so long it had been just her. She had been alone. The last Thundercat. But now they were together again. The moment was so cathartic that Shimiko did the only thing she knew how to do when overcome with such raw emotion. She started crying.
Shimiko reached out and hugged Ryuko first. Subconsciously, she knew that Ryuko would be the most receptive to such a display of affection. In the end it wouldn't matter. She was going to hug Natsuru whether the Senou liked it or not. Shimiko squeezed Ryuko tightly and if Ryuko ran to glomp she wouldn't even try to resist. Whether standing or tumbling to the ground, she'd sob against her Nakama as she tried to contain the wealth of feelings that were pouring out of her.
"I didn't know if you were gonna wake up....I believed...I wanted to believe....I didn't want to give up...
" she managed in between sobs. She was trying to say that she was sorry for almost losing faith but that Ryuko was so much bigger than that and that as much as Shimiko pulled for her, ultimately it was her own strength and willpower that pulled her out of the coma. Unfortunately, she wasn't able to articulate that so instead so just said: "I'm glad you're back
" before breaking the hug and turning to Natsuru. The worst of it was over but the tears were still streaming down her face. She started towards her friend. "I knew you couldn't resist coming back to see me
" she joked. Natsuru and her had always been sisters, rivals, and friends in that order. They had fought like hell, both verbally and physically. At their last dinner party, they had almost went on separate paths but in the end true friendship won out.
Shimiko would go to hug Nat-chan and if the bluette attempted to dodge, Shimiko would chase her. She assumed her base reflexes would be sufficient to capture the girl in a loving embrace but if not, Shimiko had no qualms about using jutsu to express physical affection for her older sister. Natsuru was not getting out of this. Even if she had to cut off the woman's arms and legs, she'd hug nugget Nat-chan with all her might. After the hug was complete, Shimiko would step back and start laughing almost hysterically. She had always been very emotional but this was a whole new level. She had been through quite a lot recently. She had seen a lot of miracles, faced down some dire possibilities, and come closer to God than she had in a long while. Normally, she kept a mask of pleasant and cheery composure, but today she broke form openly and without care.
"I can't believe this.....Jashin be praised....I can't believe you guys are back...
She was now shaking her head in a daze, slowly coming to her senses as the jubilee wore off. They'd think her mad and by all accounts she was. She had spent the past few weeks cloistered in a mountain subsisting off of snails, under-cooked rice, and human blood. She looked to Yui and Yua, and smiled. This was a first. She'd almost always acknowledge their presence first whenever she entered a room, but today was a very special day. She walked over to them and gave them a hug.
"Hello darlings! I see you've already welcomed my Nakama home.
" She turned to them both and smiled as she wrapped a loving arm around her children. Presumably Ryuko and Natsuru remembered who the twins were and how important they were to Shimiko. She did notice Yui looked a bit uncomfortable. She also noted the large amount of sand in the area, along with the kunai and arrows strewn about. There had been some sparring taking place here.
"Is everything alright Yui?
" she'd ask. She was glad her friends were back but her motherly instincts would not let her neglect Yui and Yua's wellbeing even during a momentous occasion such as this.
[Shimiko is wearing the same thing described here