A Messenger
Treating Wounds
[ Mamoru Senju | Meilin Cho ]
[ Eastern Continent | 11th Imperial Brigade | Operation Bright Fire ]
[ After Operation: Bright Fire | A collab between @RedFox and the amazing @Oetje ]

[ As if appearing from thin air, Meilin meets up with Mamoru who is having a hard time coping with the events of the previous operation. The purpose of her visit is to aid him in his treatment and treat the young Senju to several surprises, renewing the freshly promoted Mamoru's determination. Enjoy! ]

Carefully, Meilin examined the wound. The deep gash had been treated well but not enough to prevent a scar from nearly splitting Mamoru’s face. The ragged scar tissue reminded her of someone else but Meilin focused her attention on Mamoru. As his actual mentor, she had taken it upon herself to replace yesterday's bandage with a new one.
"Just sit still," she kindly instructed Mamoru as she applied the new bandage. Luckily, by the looks of it the alcohol that stained a part of the bandage would sting considerably less. "Just got to wear it for another day or two," Meilin explained as she made sure that the bandage was firmly in place, "then you should just be fine, again."

Doing as he was instructed, Mamoru sat still as Lieutenant Meilin treated his wound. He didn't say a word but gave her a brief look as the old bandage was pulled away, still gently pulling on the tissues that didn't seal entirely. As the new bandage was pressed onto his skin, he felt a slight stinging experience. When compared to what he felt the previous days, it was nothing. He waited for Meilin to finish securing the bandage so that it would slide off when he moved his muscles."Thank you, Sensei." He tried to move his lips as little as possible, his eyes locked on her face - the kindest face he saw in quite some time."I'm slowly getting used to it. But I'm in trouble - back at home, I promised my parents to come home in one piece. You think they'll notice?" The question was followed by a small laugh that ended abruptly.

Finishing the task, Meilin took a step backwards to inspect her handiwork. The question that Mamoru posed made Meilin’s brow perk slightly. "I think it is hard to not notice it. But,” chuckling, she lightly shook her head, "it isn’t all too bad. Just make sure you keep it to one facial scar.” she further told him as she started to clean up the few tools and put them back in a small box.
"I will arrange that you get a day or two of rest. To recover from that mission,” Meilin told him, "It is best to not get your bandage dirty and such. But I figure that you were told of that anyways.”

Chuckling again, Mamoru looked as she put away her tools, but he remained sitting. He nodded in acknowledgement."I will do my best to remain at one. At times, it looked like I'll get another one." This was followed by a frown at the idea of resting days. He felt it was wrong to rest while everybody around him was working hard. The other side of the coin was that he could really use them to get his bearings straight."T-thank you. I'd object, but I know you'd overrule my objections. It feels wrong to rest with the ongoing effort. " He dropped his head and let out a deep sigh."May I admit to something, Sensei?"

Done packing the few instruments in, Meilin decided to not respond to his remark of that she would overrule his objections. Cause he was right, she would. Taking a seat on an improvised stool, Meilin wanted to say something. However, she nodded as Mamoru asked if he could admit something.
"Yes, of course, what’s on your mind?"

It took him a few seconds to formulate his thoughts into words."Out there, during this last mission, I was - I was incredibly afraid. At moments, I was - was at peace with the idea of dying. And it - thinking back about it, it terrifies me. I-I thought I did everything right. But - someone else's mistake almost cost me my life. I know - I should have been able to defend myself better, I keep telling myself that. " He looked at her, and despite almost choking on some words, he kept going."And then, she ran away. And I don't know how to feel about it. Should I be angry at her? Should I feel sorry, sorry her? I - I don't know what to feel, Sensei."

Hearing out what Mamoru had on his chest, Meilin carefully considered her next words as a reply. She hadn’t been there and didn’t feel like she could either judge or approve of the actions that had taken place.
"I can’t tell you how to feel. That isn’t anyone’s task but that of your own. This other genin ran during the heat of the moment, true. I could say that we shouldn’t expect much from a genin. After all," slowly Meilin’s hand moved to her side as she flashed a smile. "You once froze in battle, which caused me to get hurt. Does that mean I am allowed to be angry at you? I don’t know if I was angry. All I know was that I was concerned that I would lose another genin."
Pausing, Meilin sighed softly.
"So, no, I don’t know the answer to how you should feel. Perhaps you should seek this other genin out. Hear them out. Learn what they felt at that moment. Battles can be terrifying. The moment of life and death can cause even the best of us to freeze and hurt those who we should protect."
Leaning forward, Meilin raised a hand upwards to Mamoru’s face.
"But if you want to know," her hand gently ruffled his hair, "I think I can’t be mad at you for doing your best."

Another intense mix of emotions washed over him. Pride, embarrassment, joy, sadness. He took a few seconds to get past it and looked back at Meilin as she ruffled his hair, and a small smile spread on his lips. His eyes glowed briefly, and he blinked a few times in rapid succession.
"Back then, my answer would be yes. I put everyone at risk by my actions - or rather, a lack of them. I was angry with myself, and was convinced that you were as well. But now, being on the other end. I - I." He remained silent. He never felt like that before, and talking about it was strange."I wanted to protect them all. My teammates. No matter the cost. To make sure they get back in one piece. And the inability to do so - ."He stopped there and looked at Meilin, realising he was getting onto thin I've with this topic."I want her to know that I'm not angry. That I'm not holding a grudge. I want her to know that all that matters to me is that we're all still alive. That's the most important thing. "

Retracting her hand, Meilin straightened her back and replied in turn.
"Then you need to let her know that. If you don’t say it to her, she might assume you are going to hold a grudge. And seeing what we are up against, this is unlikely the last time you’ll be working together with that genin," Meilin answered. Her smile then shifted slightly as she produced something small from a pocket.
"However, that is also something I want to address. Before I do that, I wanted to give you something. It is a bit awkward, due to the difference in our clans and traditions. But I think you have done enough to deserve it," holding up a simple rope, a wooden, round item was attached to it. The image of a snarling hound was visible.
"I am in no state or way able to offer you a place among my lineage. But I want to make it clear that you’re part of my team. We won't always agree or fight together. But whenever you are in doubt, I want you to carry this. As a reminder that I am proud of you."

Mamoru nodded and resolved to find Hideko and make sure she knows about the way he feels about what happened during the mission. He knew it wouldn't be the last time they'll go out on a mission and he knew the next one will be better in every measurable way. He than gave Meilin a puzzled look and observed her closely. He frowned slightly as she started, but shock and awe replaced everything else as she finished. His eyes started to glow again and this time, he was too lost in the moment of the situation to blink. A small, barely visible spot on the ground was no longer dry. His shaky hand extended towards Meilin’s and he looked alternatively at her and the pendant."Meilin Sensei - I. I thank you." Another wet spot on the ground."This means - this means the world to me. I - I." He was at a loss of words again. He blinked a few times, but it didn't help at all."Thank you. " He observed the pendant closely - a hound. He felt pride and determination swell up within him, unlike anything he ever felt before.
" I'll continue proving that your - your pride is not misplaced."

Meilin’s smile stayed on her lips. She gave Mamoru a moment as it seemed that it became a bit ‘too much’ for him. While not able to relate as she never had a real mentor bond with anyone, she recognised that it meant a lot to the boy. Letting a few seconds pass by, Meilin nodded slowly.
"Good. For now, I think you should rest. You had quite some thrills and it is best to find some peace before we are diving back into the fray." Rising up slightly, Meilin half turned away. "And I was serious. Don’t get that bandage dirty. Rest, okay?"
As she turned around to walk away, it seemed that something had crossed Meilin’s mind, causing her to stop. Once more she turned half towards Mamoru, the smile of before present as she winked at him.
"After all, with becoming a chuunin, you should know better."

He let the pendant rest on his palm and looked at it closely. Despite it's size, it was intricate and the hound depicted on it was very lifelike. The rope was neatly tied and from the look of it, he realised that not only did this need some time to make - no, that was not all that was to it. This gift was made by someone really putting their heart into it. He closed his palm around it and observed as Meilin was walking away. He nodded with a smile."I understand, Sensei. I will take it easy for the next two days - but only two days, I promise." He went back to admiring his gift, gently brushing his thumb over it when Meilin spoke up again. If her gift before made him speechless, this announcement blew his mind.Did she just say I'm a Chuunin is all that filled his mind. He stood up and straightened up. He blinked a few more times and saluted his Sensei, standing proudly at his full height."T-thank you." He could speak no more, but his tears spoke plenty instead.​


A Messenger
Two Hosts
[ Kyiomi I Homura | Áki Hon ]
[ Konohagakure, Empire of Akino | Imperial Gardens ]
[ A collab between @RedFox and the amazing @Aliceee ]

[ Upon his initial training sessions with The Sworn Swords, Her Imperial Majesty, Kyiomi I Homura herself requests an audience with the new vessel of The Nine Tailed Fox. Unsure at first, Áki gradually opened up to The Empress and in the process of the meeting, he learns some new facts about his predicament. As a result, the young Hon is determined to overcome his insecurities and succeed where others have failed. As a side result, his admiration for The Empress strengthened. ]

Raising the cup slowly to her lips, Kiyomi enjoyed the warmth of the tea - slowly spreading through her body. Releasing a soft sigh, she was more than comfortable in the isolated part of the royal gardens as the sun continued to rain warm rays on - only briefly at times interrupted by a light grey cloud.
Despite the fact that it seemed a moment of respite, Kiyomi’s mind worked on what she had to achieve today. There was some curiosity regarding the host of the Kyuubi. The reports had been a mixture of good and bad - which was all fine. It would have been rather dull if the host would be perfect and flawless. Awaiting the arrival of the Kyuubi’s host being brought to her, Kiyomi continued to enjoy her tea and the pleasant weather.

Before this day, Áki only heard about the Imperial Gardens. But now that he was in them, he knew the rumors and stories he heard didn't do the place justice. The sight was spectacular, there were no other words to describe it. In fact, if he wasn't brought here for a different purpose, he could probably spend the entire day wandering around. And these gardens would never cease to amaze me, he thought for himself. But he was here for a different reason, he had no doubts about that. The fact that he was escorted by a pair of guards. He was only told that The Empress requested his presence. The Empress of Akino, Kiyomi Homura I herself. This made Áki both incredibly nervous and excited, the two feelings vying for dominance.

They passed another pair of guards and entered another part of the gardens, one that was entirely empty. Walking only a brief moment, they entered what appeared to be a courtyard, where a lone person was sitting and enjoyed a cup of a steaming hot beverage. There was an air of importance surrounding her, an aura of authority surrounding her.The Empress, he thought to himself. It could have been only her. The guards stopped and mentioned for Áki to approach Kyomi Homura I. He did so, his heart racing. When he came within a meter or so, he dropped on one knee and bowed his head, looking at the ground."Á-Áki Hon, Your Majesty. You - you requested to see me?"

Staring at the boy, Kiyomi’s expression was blank. Only for slowly a frown to form on her brow. The painful silence between the two continued for a while, the young empress continued to eye Áki without uttering a reply.
"Rise, Áki," Kiyomi, her tone friendly and having a hint of being amused. Taking a sip of her tea, she would lower the cup slowly once more. "Take a seat," the empress calmly instructed Áki. Upon doing so, a servant would come forward with a plate of refreshments as some cups that were filled with drinks.
"Enjoy yourself. I have no desire to converse with a scared rabbit," Kiyomi continued speaking, only shifting to their mother language; Chonobi.
"This is no test or some kind of super secret training. I merely wanted to meet the one that got picked out as the vessel for the fox. I heard from my Swords that you’re doing well. Not amazing or sublime. But I would find it rather dull if you weren’t without flaws. "

Pausing, Kiyomi frowned once more at Áki. "Where are you from though? Tell me more about the hearth you grew up in. I am from Magnhild, but it has been some time since I have been able to see the highlands."

Áki was surprised by the tone of The Empress. It was exactly as he hoped it would be. Friendly. To him, it was also calming and made him shake off some of the nervosity he felt as he entered.”Thank you, Your Majesty.” His voice was now a bit firmer than it was before and he took a seat, as instructed, and was immediately served by the servants. He gave Kyomi Homura a tentative look, but looked away immediately upon the word rabbit being referenced.She’s right, you can’t be a scaredy rabbit, not with the way you are right now, he thought to himself, the images from that night briefly flashed in his mind. Clearing his mind of them, he instead took a sip of the hot tea and felt another kind of pleasant warmth spreading within him. He looked back at The Empress and a small smile spread on his lips.

”Thank you, Your Majesty. I'm doing the best I can. To listen to their instructions, orders, to take their advice to heart. Sometimes it goes well, and other times -” the boy let out a slightly frustrated sigh”- and other times it feels like I'm just smacked around. But even than, I try to give my best.” He felt relieved, having said this to someone. Now, a few seconds later, he doubted his judgement.You can trust her, this was the voice that triumphed in his mind in the end.

”I am from Rawon, Your Majesty. I've never been to Magnhild myself. But those around me who been - or claimed so, they tell me it's beautiful! I would like to visit it myself one day!” His voice was a bit happier now, and he felt more confident.”I was born in a small village, Bjarnafoss. We have some of the most beautiful waterfalls in all of Rawon, I've seen them all countless times! And the forests surrounding our village, they were simply beautiful. I climbed several of the highest trees, the view from up there was magnificent. But I had to climb down as soon as my mom found out. And when she did, so did the entire village. Her voice is rather - let's say, very audible.” He laughed a bit, but at the same time felt a bit sad - it was some time he got a chance to see her. He remained silent for a second or two, before looking at Kiyomi again.”If I may ask You, Your Majesty. What - what's it like to be The Empress of Akino?”

Taking a sip from her tea again, Kiyomi listened to the reply of Áki. She was well aware how hard the Sworn Swords were. But it would be a joke if they couldn’t conjure difficult training. A smile flowed briefly on her lips as he laughed. When he asked a question in return, Kiyomi was slightly amused.
"That is what you would ask first? Not what I would have done but," Kiyomi frowned briefly as she moved her gaze away, "I suppose it is just something that comes with responsibilities and less freedom than most people think. A lot of learning and listening. Being able to leave my mark, however, is something that feels very satisfying, though."

Pausing for a moment, Kiyomi emptied her cup and released a soft satisfied sigh. "Ah, but we aren’t here to talk much about politics, Áki of Rawon. You are aware that I have a tailed beast sealed in me as well. As such, part of your training will be up to me. Seeing I already mastered the basics and there is nobody else, it also explains why you are being here. While being smacked around by the Sworn Swords."
Thinking of something, Kiyomi leaned a bit back as a curious glint became evident in her eyes. "So, have you met Kyuubi yet? What can you tell me about the Bijuu sealed in you?"

Áki thought briefly about the answer of The Empress. The responsibilities she must bear every day were unimaginable to the young Hon, and he admired her for being able to deal with it, on a daily basis. He could relate to wanting to leave a mark, though he was sure they both meant that in a different way. Than, Kyomi got to the subject that Áki felt would be the reason behind their meeting today. The Nine Tailed Fox sealed inside him. He placed down the cup and rested his hand on the seal, contemplating his answer.

”Yes, Your Majesty. I heard only tales and rumors about it. Crazy, at times, at least that's what I thought. Now that I am a host for one as well. I see them in a different light. The power I felt that night, when the sealing ritual took place. It was immeasurable, I never thought it could be real. It was - it was scary.” As soon as he replied, Kyomi leaned in and asked him about meeting the Kyuubi, curiosity visible in her eyes. He remembered the encounter and embarrassment flooded through him at its outcome. But he realised that there was only one person who could help him with that, and she was right in front of him.

”I did, briefly, Your Majesty. It is safe to say I didn’t leave the best impression on the Kyuubi. I was afraid, very afraid. And, maybe I still am. But I would like to - if it is possible, to fix that.”

Was the sole word that formed the first response to Áki’s words. Visibly content with the response, Kiyomi would only explain her answer a second later. "If you hadn’t been scared, I would have declared you crazy. Bijuu are terrifying, no matter the form or amount of tails. As for leaving a good impression? Well, that is secondary, I think."
Pondering about something, Kiyomi frowned slightly. Then she spoke again. "We will begin your training soon. I have sadly to depart to the North, for the chuunin exams being hosted there. In the meanwhile, you shall continue your training with the Sworn Swords. Once I have returned, we will begin with your training. To harness and actually understand Bijuu chakra. It won’t be easy but nothing truly great ever comes easy." A small smile flowed on her lips as she nodded - clearly content with the schedule, that seemed to be just made by her a moment ago.
"However, I will allow you to ask some questions now that we are here anyways. I am certain you got plenty regarding Bijuu and whatnot."

Seeing that The Empress was pleased made him feel a bit easier. He thought about her remark as being crazy should he not be afraid, and he had to agree with that assessment. He listened about the plans in the future and was excited by the prospect of being trained by another host, The Empress of Akino herself. Knowing this, he was sure be could endure being trained by the Sworn Swords until the exams are completed. He was than given space to ask questions and after his mind being blank for a moment, it soon started to overflow with questions. Some dumb, some completely off topic. Eventually, he gave the Empress a smiling look.”I look forward to train with you, Your Majesty. I am sure it won't be easy - but I am ready to do whatever it takes. I won't fail.” His voice was finally as firm as he wanted it to, as he contemplated his question.”I am not sure how to describe it. But - during training with Rabbit, I fell under her genjutsu. People - people were shunning me away. All of them, calling me a - a monster. Is that - is that possible? Will I be able to remain myself whit the fox inside of me?” He ommited the details from the genjutsu that flashed in his mind, and waited for The Empress to reply.

Kiyomi decided against to inform that if he failed, it would simply lead to his death. But such a fact would likely terrorize his mind and cause all kinds of complications. Briefly, he reminded her of the previous jinchuriki of the Kyuubi. But it was unfair and too soon to draw comparisons between the two.
"Ah, you fear for losing who you are?" Kiyomi visibly seemed to ponder regarding the question. "It is a bit of yes and a no. I suppose that many will disregard you as a person if they knew your true status as a jinchuriki. Now? They will just assume that you are like a… playmate for my amusement. Or to try to keep min line," Kiyomi calmly stated as a small smile curled up on her lips. "After all, punishing me directly is a big offense. Punishable by death. You? Much safer and perhaps able to coerce me with pity, to keep me from not behaving. Not that will help. But it is the illusion of it all that will keep people from guessing why I keep you around."

Realising that she had slightly derailed, Kiyomi shrugged lightly. "Honestly though? You will be you. The fox will be the fox. It is only if you are ever able to sync with the Kyuubi that you may find yourself affected by it. The experiences of being a jinchuriki, will change your view most certainly on the world."
Leaning slightly back in her seat, Kiyomi waited to see if her answer sated the boy’s curiosity.

Áki listened to every word The Empress had to say, finding relief in them - probably for the first time since that night. He had to try very hard to hide a chuckle at keeping The Empress for not behaving, but he forgot about it by the time she said that the two of them will remain separate entities. That was probably one of his biggest fears. As he thought about how his view on the world will change, he thought about whether or not it started that time he felt the overwhelming power of the fox for the first time.”Back on that night, I think I felt its power. Or maybe just a fragment of it. It felt - it felt overwhelming. As if it could erase the Hokage monument as if it was a castle made of sand. It didn't feel possible, for it to be real. Is becoming synchronised with it the same as mastering that power, Your Majesty?”

Kiyomi’s eyebrows slightly perked up. Taking a sip of her drink, she seemed to ponder before deciding to answer the question. "No. Becoming synchronised with a Bijuu isn’t just raw power. It is a level of trust and bonding that can’t be comprehended until you experienced it yourself." She said, almost with a cautious tone. "The thing is that I don’t know the Kyuubi. And Lord Matatabi is far from pleased with the demon Fox, so," a wry smile flowed on Kiyomi’s lips, "I can’t actually help you much with bonding. Then again, your goal as a jinchuriki is simple. To prevent that anybody is using the Demon Fox against us."

Kiyomi’s answer left Áki with a small, visible smile on his lips, but a far bigger smile inside his mind. There will be another chance to change the impression he left on the Nine Tails.If I'm to achieve what The Empress managed, there'll have to be far more than that. He nodded and felt determination and a sense of duty swell up within him.”I can - I can do that, Your Majesty. They won't use it against us. ” He then remained quiet for a moment and considered what The Empress said.Lord Matatabi. How could I be so foolish to think he - or she was called just The Nine Tails, and felt ashamed a bit.”Is - I guess no one knows the name of The Nine Tailed Fox, am I right, Empress? I can't imagine how it's to - bond with a Tailed Beast. I - I don't have the slightest idea on how to even begin, but - I guess it's not like making friends in the Academy, right?” He asked, blushing for how silly the question sounded.

"I hope you can. If someone tries to extract the Kyuubi out of you after some period of time, you’ll be dead," Kiyomi calmly stated before she continued to answer his question, "Some are aware of its name. As for the whole bonding process? I don’t know either. That kind of information isn’t something I know. Every Bijuu is vastly different from one another. So, you practically diving into the unknown with the demon fox."

Áki felt a shiver run down his spine at the words The Empress spoke. Or was it because of the casuality with which she spoke them?Both, probably both, he thought. It took him a few seconds to regain his composure.”Well, I think - I think that's settled than, Your Majesty. Since failing is not an option, I won't fail. ” He managed to keep his voice firm and steady, despite not entirely feeling that way.”If I may ask, if it's not too personal - did Lord Matatabi, if I may call him that way, did he resent you? ”

The question that Áki posed caused Kiyomi to ponder. Much longer than before. "No, he did not. Lord Matatabi and I were victims of a situation that went wrong. We held no ill will towards each other. Of course, we did clash because of misunderstanding. But we came to an understanding slowly," Kiyomi couldn’t help but smile. The question had brought back some memories. Of course, she would have handled things differently. As long as it meant that she and Matatabi would wind up as they had now.
"Hmm, but I will allow you one more question before we shall call it enough for today."

Áki couldn't even imagine what it must have been like for Kiyomi.She's The Empress for a reason, dummy, he thought for himself. If he is to fully synchronise with The Nine Tails, he would have to interact with it a lot, he had no doubt about that. He looked at The Empress and frowned.”I don't know how to begin, Your Majesty. The Nine Tailed Fox - it terrifies me. I don't want to consider him as a demon, he didn't gave me any reason to do so - yet. But I'm scared of it. When I faced it the first time, I - now that I'm thinking about it, it didn't feel like me. I was a scaredy pup. But I know I'll have to face it again, better sooner than later. But I don't know how. Will you teach me how to contact the fox, Your Majesty?”

There was some amusement visible as Áki explained that he had been terrified. "You were scared? Good," Kiyomi stated calmly, "Means that you’re not a liar or some braindead idiot who thinks that they are chosen by the Sleeping God or our Gods. As for facing it," Kiyomi shrugged lightly before she gave a full answer.
"I know how and can teach you. But that is not the first thing I will do. After all, the Kyuubi is likely listening right now. And I doubt that we can fool that fox’s mind. A being that has lived for centuries and dealt with more humans than either of us either will? Give some food for the mind, doesn’t it? Right now, just don’t worry and just perform at your best."

That was indeed some food for thought, as Kyiomi said. The NineTailed Fox witnessed the history they only studied about. The amount of experience and knowledge it must possess is simply astounding. He nodded and placed a hand on his stomach, on the seal. He knew that the sealing would change his life for good, but he did not realize the full extent of it. Looking at The Empress again, he nodded one more time.”It gives one a lot to think about. To imagine what it must have witnessed and experienced is - is just astounding. I’ll do my best, Your Majesty. You can count on that. The Sworn Swords do have their way to bring out the best in me. If I won’t be able to, they’ll find a way to make it happen.” He replied with a bright smile. The idea of training with them was now more bearable, knowing that at one point, The Empress will train him as well.​
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Autumn Song

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I adore fantasy settings, a lot.
[ Eastern Continent | Sevudia | Encampment of the 11th Imperial Brigade ]
[ Hylli Hyuzu | Genin of Team 8 | Member of Lieutenant Meilin Cho's Platoon ]

[ Broken and Alone ]

Her fists were aching, but yet Hylli kept at it. The metal that should protect her knuckles was deteriorating. Not because of the constant punches but merely due to the lack of focus. Frustrated, Hylli kept pushing herself. She felt like a major idiot. Her first mission? She had to be saved. Her honour was in shatters. What would her parents and brothers say? That she was a joke, for sure.
Her eyes were too dry; no tears were flowing over her cheeks as she kept beating the wooden pole. Left, right, right, left and hook. Right, hook, elbow, left, left, right. The rain of punches kept raining on the wood, but eventually, Hylli couldn't bring herself to punch anymore.
Panting, she glared at her imaginary opponent - the immovable wooden pole.
Gritting her teeth, Hylli felt more miserable than ever before. Her stomach felt like it was twisted so far that it could implode at any moment.
"Fuck it," the Hyuzu cursed as she kicked, her shinbone slamming against the wooden pole. Again and again. The pain made her only angrier, but at the same time, she wanted to rid herself of it.

Eventually, Hylli collapsed in front of the pole. Sitting on her rear, she kept glaring at the bar in front of her. What was she supposed to do now? How was she supposed to repay her debt? Making matters worse, she was the only one without any scars from the mission.
"Damn you all," she mumbled, trying to push herself to get up. She refused to be seen as a coward. The anger surfaced again, enough to make Hylli raise and start to unleash another flurry of attacks.


Her hands had to be bandaged, and even her right leg was wrapped in bandages. Hylli had her legs pulled upwards and her arms wrapped around them in front of her tent. With an empty look in her eyes, she stared at the horizon - ignoring the ambience of the camp.
Her thoughts were back to the mission. What could she have done better? What was out of her control? More questions flooded her tired mind and body. But it resulted in the same mere answer:

She felt miserable.

Her appetite was gone as her stomach still ached. The worst was that she understood that it wasn't entirely rational, perhaps to others. But that didn't bother her. Her code of honour was her affair, not that of others.
Her anger started to simmer as she watched a couple of soldiers pass by. They spoke and laughed about something that had happened a week ago. Near immediately, Hylli had jumped up and lunged at them, feeling that they laughed at her.
Her left hand formed a fist so tightly that her knuckles started to hurt again.
"I will show them. All of them," she began to tell herself. Remembering who was the first that had bested her with ease, Kazumo Scylding came up in her mind.
"I will prove myself..."


The following day, Hylli woke up early. She ate her light breakfast and heard that she was given two days off together with the others. Two days were barely anything to make a jump to close in the distance with Kazumo and herself.
But she was damned if she wasn't going to try it anyway!
Once she finished her breakfast, she went to the training field. Finding some space, she stood in front of the wooden post that had taunted her before - still standing with barely any damage to it.
Taking a stance, raising her fists, Hylli would start to move - like a boxer, hopping from one leg to another. This continued for a few seconds before Hylli lashed out.
Left, right, right, left, right, left and hook.
The combinations started again, and the sore aching of her knuckles shot up her arms. Biting on her lower lip, she continued. The pain was nothing more than a punishment for her failures. She belonged to the Hyuzu clan. Her line was close to that of the Divine Dragon itself! Her family had served in the Dragon Guard for generators.
She wouldn't fall behind.

Ducking, evading an imaginary attack, Hylli rose again and lashed again. This time, the bandage started to show a few dark, crimson stains as the pain became harder to ignore.
She was lowering her hands, shifting to kicks. The attacks were delivered as she was taught back at home - swiftly and keeping in mind not sticking to one spot. It was near as if she was involved in a violent dance around the pole, repeatedly harassing it with kicks and delivering knee attacks.
But as anticipated, the pain and exhaustion became too much.
Resting out, Hylli remembered the harsh training back at home.
Had it been for nothing? The countless hours of training, the slow progress and the pain. She had even developed her style of combining knives with her chakra.
Once she had regained some of her energy, Hylli rose. She threw a glare at the wooden pole. But so far in their 'battle', the wooden object stood there - not dealing any punch or kick back, yet able to make Hylli surrender.

Spitting at the ground in front of the pole, Hylli turned her back to it. She would get it down. But first, she had to address her training differently.
Conjuring a shadow clone, Hylli waited for her opponent to take some space. Observing her shadow clone was a strange occurrence. It was like a mirror but one that now seemed to resemble her determination and anger - a perfect chance to unleash her pent-up aggression.
The two rushed at each other as they began their fight. Hylli blocked a punch of her shadow clone, wanting to retaliate instantly. However, her shadow clone seemed capable enough to dodge and land a blow against her stomach.
Gasping for air, Hylli tried to raise a hand. Only for a fist to smack against her temple - causing the original Hylli to fall on the ground. Her whole world seemed to tremble as black spots became visible. Feeling a weight on her stomach, she attempted to raise her hands. But a fist slammed down against her nose. The pain shot straight up towards between her eyes, numbing the following strike.
Tears started to well up in Hylli's eyes as she raised her hands over her face. Her shadow clone mumbled something as it kept raining down punches. In a quick manoeuvre, the original Hylli managed to lean to the left. Before her shadow clone could pull back her punch, Hylli wrapped an arm around the outstretched arm.
"Fuc--" the shadow clone tried to curse as she attempted to move away. But before she was able, Hylli manoeuvred her body to lean forward - moving with the shadow clone's motion. In a swift action, she wrapped her free arm around the head of the shadow clone. Starting to tighten her grip, Hylli closed her eyes, wanting to suffocate the other Hylli. As anticipated, the shadow clone struggled and used her free hand to land punches in Hylli's side.
The pain kept shooting through Hylli's body as each punch landed. But suddenly, the shadow clone poofed away - their pain and experience flowing into the exhausted Hylli.
Laying on her back in the dirt and mud, Hylli breathed heavily. She was staring at the sky, and the tears started to roll over her cheeks. The anger was replaced briefly by pain and more disappointment. Even a shadow clone could nearly beat the crap out of her; how embarrassing.

Later that evening, Hylli sat once more in front of her tent. She felt no need to socialise with her tent mates or the other members of her platoon. Most of them sat in small groups around campfires, laughing and sharing stories. Looking down in the wooden bowl, Hylli was happy that it was dark. It prevented many from seeing the bloodied bandages around her knuckles.
Slowly, she moved the spoon around in the bowl Hylli didn't want to eat. But slowly, she forced herself to take a spoon and move it to her lips. It did frustrate her, but she didn't want to make friends. Her mood was sour, and it annoyed her to no end that nobody was already calling her out. Both her allies had winded up wounded, and she had come out of it without a scratch.
Frustrated and her anger surfacing, Hylli tightened the grip on the wooden spoon - only to break it in half.
"Damnit..." she mumbled as she now forced herself to 'enjoy' her supper with a broken spoon. Tomorrow, however, she would make the most out of it.


Beads of sweat rolled down her skin as she pushed herself upwards. Her body as a weight, Hylli held on to the rod as she pulled herself upwards.
"Fifteen," she thought to herself. Slowly allowing herself to ease up, she attempted once more to pull herself upwards. Her arms protested as if they wanted to warn her that she was pushing herself too far.
"Come, don't slack now!"
Her face became red as she squinted her eyes. Her arms trembled as she could feel her grip loosening up.
"You going to stay behind them?!"
Biting on her lower lip, Hylli leaned her head forwards as she tried to push. It was all she could and wanted right now, pushing through the pain. How else was she supposed to stop being such a disappointment?
"One inch. Seriously? How hard is it?!"
Opening her eyes slightly, she could see how close she was to sixteen. Wanting to scream, she could see them again. How proud they seemed when she proclaimed that she was going eastwards. She was going to make them proud.

"F U C K."

The word escaped her as the grip slipped, gravity already pulling her back to the ground. The smack on the ground bereaved Hylli of her breath, slamming it near out of her lungs.
Breathing heavily and in a ragged fashion, Hylli glared at the rod. She had made it. Sixteen.
Slowly getting up, she wanted to raise her arms and shout. But her voice denied her that satisfaction. Rising from the ground, she would ready herself for another rematch.
Conjuring a shadow clone, Hylli felt her exhaustion. It was attempting to push her down - convincing her that it was going to hurt. That she could stop and sit down. That the shame wasn't worth to bleed and suffer for.
And that was just what pissed her off. Raising her hands slowly, Hylli breathed in and out slowly.

Her shadow clone rushed in with a flurry of strikes. But instead of immediately attacking back, Hylli watched for an opening. Leaning to the left, she avoided a proper punch.
"There," she thought as she lashed out - a hard hook deliver to the side of her shadow clone. Not feeling merciful, Hylli shoved the shadow clone back. Only to rush forwards and have a strong kick with both of her feet.
The impact was enough to topple her shadow clone near as Hylli fell to the ground.
"Not done yet," she gritted as the mere second her back landed on the ground, she was ready to use the momentum to push herself back upwards.
Back on her feet, she saw how her shadow clone came back with fists raised. The two engaged once more in a dance where they attempted to lure the other to give an opening and punish them severely.

Eventually, both Hylli and her shadow clone had taken a bit of distance. Feeling the exhaustion to the point it was painful, Hylli knew she had to end it quickly, or she would face the possibility of another blue bruise on her face.
Approaching her shadow clone carefully, Hylli made a feint to the right. Her shadow clone didn't fall for it but lashed out with a kick. Instead of focusing on evading it, Hylli took the hit. It was sending a shock of pain through her body, but stubbornly, the original Hylli locked the leg with an arm. In a swift motion, she kicked the leg on which the shadow clone stood to topple it.
While her shadow clone fell to the ground, Hylli held on to the leg and pushed it forward, accelerating the shadow clone's fall and maximising the impact. Hearing the grunt of her shadow clone, the original Hylli glared down before she stomped a foot down the throat of the shadow clone.

The soft sound of smoke replacing the existence of the previous shadow clone was quite satisfying but not enough to sate her drive or anger. Frustrated, she decided to return to the wooden pole. It was time to finish this.


Standing in front of the wooden pole, she had an idea how to end this. The lesson and influence from Hayate's advice had inspired her to something. Conjuring the particular alloy of her clan, Hylli focused on it. She wanted it to be long and flexible but yet strong enough to make a devastating impact.
Her memory briefly flashed when she had aided Kazumo to learn Obsidian release. He had barely mastered it but already could fend off a knife attack. If she wanted to regain something of her shattered honour, she would have to do something that he could not block easily.
Moulding the alloy into the desired shape, Hylli inspected it before attempting to raise her hand. Directing the flow of the alloy with ease, she aimed to slam the end of the whip against the wooden pole. Instead of the desired effect, the alloy seemed to land an impact but became more dented than the wood. Frustrated, she pulled the whip back before attempting again.
This time, she focused more on density. The result was slightly better, but in the end, the wooden pole stood victorious, still silently mocking her.
Fed up with constantly failing her high expectations, Hylli tried again. For a near hour, she kept at it, and each time, she noticed a new flaw in her new design. Every time she raised her arm and made the whip move out, it reminded her that if she couldn't something this ordinary, what was the point?

The sun started to settle as nearly all started to leave the training field. Yet, Hylli lingered. The dark didn't bother her. What did was that the wooden pole still stood firmly and defied her any victory.
Angered as she had never been before, Hylli kept lashing out. The cracking of the wood wasn't something her ears registered. Her vision only showed that the pole kept standing.
Just when the pain shot through her arm, she unleashed another attack. Heavily breathing, she couldn't raise her arm anymore. Wanting to swap to her other arm, she witnessed how the wooden pole slowly caved in. The wood cracked and moaned as it finally fell apart.
Blinking rapidly, Hylli wasn't sure what to do now. She had progressed, right? This was a step that she wanted, no?
Staring at the whip, she could barely make it out in the growing dark.

"You have made me very proud today."


Sitting once more in front of her tent, Hylli thought about all that had happened she had left home. The people she had met and the dangers she had faced so far.
Staring at the candle that was lit in front of her, Hylli closed her eyes. Her hands were placed on her lap as she recited the words. The exact words that she had repeated together with her and him. The words that hadn't lost their meaning.

"Gods, ancestors, look over me. Guide me as you have guided those before. Allow me to find glory and," she briefly paused, "allow me to keep my honour. Ancestors, I desire to learn and to prosper. To behold and to become," Hylli slowly and half-opened her eyes as she continued.
"I request your assistance. I desire to do more," her tone became firmer as she continued, no longer the same prayer that she had given together with her parents.
"I want to reclaim what belongs to me. I want to seek out those that grant me pieces of what I desire. Valdar, in your name, I want to wreak vengeance upon my debt. Valdar, in your honour, I bring you this offer."

Her right hand slipped to her side, unsheathing one of her knives. Her gaze focused on the candle; Hylli brought the tip of the knife against the open palm of her free hand. Puncturing the skin and letting blood flow towards the ground. Pulling the knife back, Hylli clenched her hand into a trembling fist.
"Valdar, deity of vengeance and battle. Hear me and take my blood," Hylli continued in her prayer as drips of blood fell in front of the candle.
"Aid me. Strengthen me. And I will bring you a grander sacrifice next time. Allow me to rise, and I shall do so with respecting you. I pray you to accept my blood and hear my request."

Lowering her head, she closed her eyes and remained silent. Tears started to flow over her cheeks again. The pain was replaced by something else. Whispers of the past began to surface as she couldn't help but feel immensely alone.

"You have made me very proud today."
"Us. You have made us very proud today, little hero."

"I am so sorry. I am a mess," she whispered to the voices, knowing fully well that they couldn't hear her. The wind could only carry her whisper so far.

"Remember, where you came from. Carry our lineage with pride. Keep your chin high."
"Don't forget us. We love you with all of our heart."

Opening her eyes, the tears started to flow more freely as she could not bear to speak the words. They were on the tip of her tongue.
"I miss you guys. I want to go home," she whispered. Suddenly a breeze picked up, and the howling of the wind caused her to flinch. Looking up, she saw the moon.
"But I won't come home. Not yet..."

Autumn Song

Armed with a trusty baguette!
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I adore fantasy settings, a lot.
[ Double Dragon! ]
[ Eastern Continent | Sevudia | 11th Imperial Brigade Encampment ]
[ A collab between @ChromeHound and @Autumn Song ]
[ With Hayate being able to arrange some free time, he lets Hylli know where they can meet up. The two engage in a training post, where Hayate helps Hylli get a better grip on the basic usage of Metal Release - putting his previous advice to example! ]

Arriving at the training field, Hayate glanced around. It was a cool afternoon and the field was clear, as requested. He was tempted to summon Kuromu, if not simply for the company and because it had been so long since he’d been able to actually summon the dragon… He had sent word to Hylli to meet with him, so he imagined she should be arriving soon.

Turning back to the field, he began stretching, doing what he could to warm up.

Jogging towards the place where she would meet up with Hayate, Hylli’s mood was remarkably positive. She was most curious about how a training with Hayate would go. There was the brief envy and hesitation, regarding the fact she was actually older than Hayate - yet it was she that was less experienced.
Arriving at the outskirts of the field that was used for training and drills, Hylli quickly noticed Hayate. Raising her right hand briefly as she slowed her pace, upon closing distance, Hylli also verbally greeted Hayate.
”Good morning,” Hylli began, lowering her hand as a smile dawned on her lips, ”I received your message and came as quick as possible.”

“Good to see you again Hylli!” Hayate replied as the girl approached. “And thanks for coming. Glad we were able to find some time to train with everything else going on.” Folding his arms across his chest, Hayate tilted his head slightly. “When you came to me before, you mentioned you had some questions around our bloodline ability and how to best utilize it. Would you like to train on that today, or did you have another preference?”

Flashing a friendly smile as response to Hayate’s greeting, further listening to what he had to ask. Pondering the options, she would nod at first.
”I think I would prefer to focus on that, yeah. I got nobody else than you to train and develop it with,” Hylli responded, giving her reasonings for it. Rolling her shoulders, Hylli tried to maintain her focus on what was to come. Yet, she couldn’t shake the idea that she had a lot to do if she wanted to catch up with the likes of Hayate.
”So, what is first?” Hylli decided to ask, almost opting to call him ‘senpai’ but that just felt odd.

Returning the smile, Hayate scratched his chin, thinking. “First things first,” he began, “why don’t you start by showing me what you are able to do with your bloodline ability?” Reaching into his own alloy pouch, Hayate withdrew some of the liquid metal, wrapping it around his hand and holding it up. “I want you to take some of your alloy and show me how you’re able to mould it. We’ll start small,” he mentioned, beginning to mould the metal in his own hand, a shape quickly forming, “I want you to mould the metal into a perfect sphere.” As he finished speaking, the metal in his hand finished forming into a sphere and Hayate looked to Hylli, curious to see how she’d do.

The instruction caused Hylli to cock her head slightly to the right. She remained silent, observing Hayate as he shaped the metal into a sphere. A nervous smile cracked on Hylli’s lips as she withdrew some of the alloy of her pouch.
”So, right now, I can’t do much,” Hylli began to demonstrate. She managed to cause the clomp of alloy to become solid - losing its quite flexible nature. ”I also know how to insert chakra to make it unstable and you know,” the young woman shrugged lightly, ”go kaboom. I haven’t really focused much else on expanding my knowledge or abilities on it. Kind of odd, but I always figured that there would be someone around who had extensive knowledge of it.”

Becoming silent, Hylli had many questions but she figured that it was better to let Hayate guide the training. She had remembered what he told her before. But so far she hadn’t been able to train or experiment on her own, yet.

Chuckling as Hylli mentioned she could make the metal explode, Hayate continued to the next step. “Making the metal blow up is certainly one application,” he began, holding up his own sphere, “but some situations call for a more… subtle approach.” Glancing at Hylli’s sphere, Hayate nodded with a smile. “Not bad.” Beginning to flow chakra into the sphere once more, he continued, “Now I want you to try to form solid spikes around the sphere. Oh, and try to keep the spikes as evenly spaced as possible.”

As he spoke, Hayate would demonstrate, his sphere expanding in several areas as small spikes began forming. The sphere lifted slightly in his hand, raised by the spikes he formed underneath it. Because they were evenly spaced, the spikes didn’t pierce his skin and instead rested, balanced, in his palm. This was the principle idea behind his spiked armour technique. It was a relatively simple concept, but could be challenging to master at first.

She nodded in agreement, with his statement about a subtle approach. Watching as listening intently, Hylli wavered slightly - when he instructed her to create some spikes. It seemed not to difficult but the last days had been nothing but challenging.
Pulling out some of the alloy from her pouch, Hylli focused as good as she could. The special alloy slowly started to twist and turn as if some invisible hands started to shape it - with the greatest care possible. The sphere itself didn’t seem that smooth, causing Hylli to huff and clearly agitated by it. A minute painfully passed as she kept concentrating and becoming content with the sphere. Ignoring the itch in her hands as she moulded chakra to shape the sphere, Hylli continued.

Slowly a spike started to grow. The growth clearly giving away the young woman’s hesitation as she tried her best to keep the focus one spike a time. Slowly and surely, she started to create her sphere with spikes. Upon her inspection, she noticed that the spikes weren’t that evenly spaced out or sharing the same size as thickness.
”Crap, okay, I want to try this again,” she muttered, audible enough for Hayate as betraying her frustration. A solid five minutes crawled past before she managed to create a spiked sphere she was content with.
”Bit slow but okay, done!”

Watching patiently as Hylli focused on trying to get the spiked sphere as even as possible, Hayate’s thoughts traveled back to when he was first learning the technique. He’d ended up stabbing himself in the hand several times trying to balance the bloody thing… All told, Hylli was doing quite well. When she had finished he nodded, smiling. “Very good.” Looking at his own sphere for a moment, Hayate tilted his head. “It’s too bad we don’t have a lightning user here,” he mused, chuckling. “Would have been good to show you how the even points can help distribute the energy rather than having it pierce through the metal as it normally would.” Shrugging, he held his hand out, beginning to flow chakra into the metal once more. “No matter, that’s something we can always review later. In the interim, I want you to try something else.” As his chakra interacted with the metal in his palm, the lower half of the spiky sphere began to liquify once more and Hayate allowed it to coat his hand, turning his palm so it faced downwards and the hard spikes remained over the back of his hand and knuckles.

“Try to coat your hand with the metal, without losing the spikes from the sphere. If you need to gather some more alloy, feel free, but try to keep as much of the form as you can.” As he finished speaking, he held his hand up again; turning it so that Hylli could see the entire hand was coated in metal. The back of his hand was completely covered in the spikes now, while his palm and fingers only had smooth metal covering them.

A bit surprised as Hayate stated it was a shame they had no lightning user, Hylli’s mind traveled to Dagrún. Then again, Hylli mused, Dagrún’s style of lightning seemed to be a force to overwhelm and leave no behind but dust. Perhaps not the best to train something with.
Listening to the instruction of Hayate, Hylli felt her stomach slightly twisting. She knew how to coat her arm in iron but not without drawing it from the alloy.
”Okay, here goes nothing,” Hylli muttered underneath her breath. Focusing on the hand that held the spike, Hylli’s eyes narrowed as she started to mould chakra. A sensation ran from her fingertips to her shoulder, one that seemed to strain and ached - as if the fibers of her body refused and opposed to Hayate’s idea. Pushing on, Hylli didn’t want to use more alloy. Yet, nothing of her hand started to show the typical transformation that was supposed to happen.

A shiver ran through Hylli’s arm, as the spike dropped to the ground - only followed by few drops of blood. Nothing of her hand or arm had turned to a protective state of iron. Flexing her fingers, Hylli’s expression clearly gave away her frustration and annoyance. The sharp biting pain of the spike moved through her hand.
Crouching, she picked the sphere up again and repeated the process. Once more Hylli focused on the spike and her hand, trying to bend the metal and wrap it around her hand. Her arm started to tremble slightly, to which Hylli used her other hand to forcefully keep her arm as still as she could.
The process seemed to remain stagnant until it appeared that the sphere was slowly sinking, the spikes not sinking into Hylli’s hand - without drawing blood.

”Pff,” Releasing a loud sigh, Hylli watched how eventually her hand was encased in metal, with the majority of spikes still protruding out of the casing. Slowly, Hylli flexed her fingers again - expecting some odd resistance from having her fingers encased.

While Hylli struggled initially, Hayate wished he could help, but he knew the best way for her to learn was to work through it herself. Remaining silent, he simply watched as she progressed. When the girl had completed the exercise, Hayate took a moment to review her handiwork. “Not too bad, not too bad at all,” he said, looking back up to meet her gaze. “Once you grow more comfortable with the technique, you’ll find you have more flexibility with the armour, until it becomes almost like a second skin.” Flexing his fingers to demonstrate, Hayate continued, “Our bloodline ability opens up a lot of possibilities and I have found that the only real limit is our imagination. The more you know about metal, the easier certain techniques will become and the more you’ll be able to mould things to your will.”

As he spoke, Hayate clenched his hand into a fist. Focusing chakra into the metal around his whole hand, the Hyuzu quickly formed a solid, spiked sphere around his hand; turning it into a semblance of the head of a mace. Swinging it a few times, he smiled and used his chakra to withdraw the metal, shifting it back so that it was just the armoured shell with spikes covering the back of his hand. “I have found that it is best not to show an enemy too much, so that they may underestimate the flexibility of our bloodline ability.”

Thinking for a moment, Hayate tilted his head to the side. “How well have you mastered the ability to destabilize the molecules within metal, allowing it to explode?” He was curious as to whether or not he may be able to show her a few more techniques he had been experimenting with.

It still sensed a bit odd. There was no resistance or friction, as she had imagined with her hand encased. Listening to Hayate, there were already some ideas floating through Hylli’s mind. But she decided against voicing them or getting too ahead of herself. Reckoning that she required more practice, she placed some of her ideas away as turning her attention fully towards Hayate.
”I got to agree. That and I don’t like to show off either,” Hylli said as she slowly started to manipulate the metal, back to its more liquid form - storing it into the special pouch afterwards.
”I know the basics of how to destabilize the metal. So far, I have been able to ‘cook’ it and time the explosions rather well. I suppose that the power behind the explosion could be better but I so far figured that the shrapnel could do most of the harm.”
Pondering, she lightly shrugged as an apologetic smile dawned on Hylli’s lips.
”I haven’t really looked more behind the technique to be fair. Other than that, yeah.”

Hearing that her mastery over the destabilized metal technique was relatively strong, Hayate smiled. Perhaps there were a few more things he could show her, at least as a start. “If you’ve been able to get the timing down, there are a lot of ways to maximize the technique’s efficiency, even if the power may not be there yet.” Glancing around, he noticed a small tree nearby and began walking towards it, speaking to Hylli over his shoulder as he moved. “As your control increases, so will your versatility.” Stopping in front of the tree, Hayate raised the hand that was coated with metal and spikes. Taking a moment to focus his chakra into several of the spikes that covered his knuckles, the Hyuzu continued, “When you begin combining the different techniques, you can exponentially increase their effectiveness. There’s also a very good chance that your opponents won’t know how to respond to the new threats you present. This is one example of how you can catch them off guard by combining techniques.”

Hayate turned his fist so that Hylli could see that three of the spikes covering his knuckles were now glowing, indicating that he had already started destabilizing the molecules. Without another word, he turned and launched a vicious strike towards the tree, embedding the spikes deep within the bark. Withdrawing his hand, Hayate had left the unstable spikes within the tree and he took a step back. After a few seconds the spikes detonated, the force of the explosion tearing out a chunk of wood that split the trunk nearly in half from where he had struck. The tree managed to hold intact for a couple seconds longer before toppling to the side, making a large cracking noise as the remaining portion of the trunk gave way under its own weight. Glancing at the damage, Hayate nodded before turning back to Hylli with a smile. “If you can manage to land a blow on an unsuspecting foe, you can see how our bloodline ability can be utilized to make short work of them.”

Walking back over to the girl, he began flowing chakra into the metal around his arm, converting it back to its liquid state and depositing it within his pouch. “Any questions?”

Both listening and watching Hayate, Hylli became curious to what he meant. When he began about combining techniques as showing the fist encased in metal with spikes glowing, Hylli grasped the concept fully. Yet, the result was devastating and Hylli dreaded what that could mean if it wasn’t a tree but an actual person.
”I got none,” she said, unable to hide her surprise and fact she was awe-struck. The ability of their bloodline was something she had underestimated, clearly, judging how Hayate just brought a tree down. Blinking twice in a rapid fashion, Hylli flashed a wry smile.
”I certainly see now how it came to be that others accepted you as their leader. That was quite amazing. I wouldn’t like to be on the receiving end of such a blow.”

At the same time, Hylli already decided that she would train and master the two techniques. The combination that Hayate showed was enough to inspire the young woman to think of more. But then another question came up in mind.
”Actually, I do have a question. Though, it isn’t regarding our bloodline ability. Or well, the one we discussed.” Hylli considered and pondered for a second, how she would formulate her question. ”I already have been trialed and failed at forming a bond with a dragon. I never heard actually of a second attempt. But would you think it a possibility? To attempt it regardless of the first attempt?”

Blushing as Hylli mentioned the others accepting him as a leader, Hayate glanced away and shrugged slightly. “That means a lot, thank you.” He was still self-conscious when it came to his own leadership skills and being recognized by others, but knew that Hylli’s words had been meant as a sign of respect. Turning back, he chuckled. “It’s usually a lot harder to hit a person than a tree,” Hayate said, laughing, “trees don’t move around so much.”

Folding his arms across his chest, Hayate raised an eyebrow in interest as Hylli posed her next question. Scratching his chin, the young Hyuzu pondered what she’d asked. “To tell the truth, I haven’t actually really thought much about that,” Hayate began, still deep in thought. “I know the Trial is typically intended to be a rite of passage for our clan and in pretty much every instance I can think of, it was a one time thing. Though...” Staring off into space for a moment, the Hyuzu briefly considered summoning Kuromu and asking the Dragon if he’d ever heard of such a thing occurring. “I do not recall it being expressly forbidden for a clan member to attempt the Trial again. From my recollection, it is mostly tradition that causes people to attempt the Trial only a single time. However, I could speak with a few people and see if I could get you a more clear answer. Would that help?” Hayate found it to be a rather intriguing question, and one that he’d very much like the answer to himself.

Chewing his lip in thought, Hayate tilted his head and looked back at Hylli, curious. “If a second attempt was a possibility, is it something you would like to try?”

Hylli smiled upon the remark that trees don’t move around so much. For a moment, Hylli couldn’t help but feel grateful for that - the sight was most unappealing if they could.
As Hayate revealed that he didn’t know and posed his question, if she wanted to try again Hylli couldn’t help but shrug lightly.
”That is something I am asking myself as well. I think I want to. But going against the traditions of our people? I think I would then rather have peace with the current outcome than becoming a pariah,” Hylli answered, ”For now? I am just most curious about it. It occured only since recently in my mind if it is a possibility or not.”
Becoming silent for a second, Hylli decided to speak again.
”Besides, we and some other guy are the only Hyuzu in this camp, so far I know. If we need permission from the Elders-- Oh, sorry, I mean the clan leader, then we require to wait some time, I reckon..”

“Well, I’m certainly happy to ask around to at least determine if it would be going against clan tradition, or if it is simply a rare occurrence.” Pondering for a moment, Hayate raised an eyebrow as she mentioned the other Hyuzu. “You must be speaking about Orun.” Hayate mused, shrugging. “I’ve only encountered him a couple of times. He’s...” Considering his words for a moment, Hayate glanced away before turning back. “I’m admittedly probably not the best role model when it comes to following all of the clan’s traditions. But I do respect most of them and value their importance to the clan and our history. Orun, on the other hand… from my brief interactions, does not appear to really care much about being a Hyuzu at all, aside from when it suits him.”

Realizing his tone had grown rather sour, Hayate shrugged once again, apologetically. Scratching the back of his neck, he smiled. “As for how long it may take? Well I imagine I can probably get an answer from Jora fairly quickly. I could also speak with my dragon, Kuromu, as he may have heard of such occurrences.”

She couldn’t have put it better, without sounding impolite. Aside from that, her interest in Orun was the equivalent as being interested in a wet towel; it had nothing else but irritation for her. ”The gods have a way to punish such folk, so we need not to worry,” Hylli stated as they swapped to the previous topic. ”I am grateful for whatever help you are willing to utilize. If anything, I would find it nothing but ideal if you would even help to set up the Trial with me.”
Becoming silent for a second, a thought ran through Hylli’s mind. ”Naturally, if you can send a message home, is it okay if I drop a letter later to be send back homewards as well? I have yet to find any quartermaster that isn’t a grumpy sod that won’t either charge me a few coins or isn’t willing to do that work. I just want to inform my folk that there is no reason to worry.”

Nodding sagely as Hylli mentioned the gods having ways of punishing those who sought only their own benefit, Hayate was relieved to see the girl shared his distaste for Orun. “The quartermasters can certainly be… less than accommodating when it comes to requests, I’ve found.” he said, chuckling. “I know some refuse for security reasons, but the others… well they should not be charging, that much is certain. Though it can be hard to weed out at times.” Scratching his chin, Hayate furrowed his brow for a moment before smiling once more. “But I would be happy to arrange for your letter to return home. If you are comfortable leaving it with me when you’re ready, I can have it delivered relatively quickly.”

A smile returned on Hylli’s lips as Hayate was willing to arrange a letter to be send home. The question if she was comfortable with leaving it to Hayate was simple; she had nothing she was ashamed of in her letter to her parents. Glad that he was willing to aid her, she decided to make a mental note that she would try to repay the favour later.
”Thanks, much appreciated. I will deliver the letter then later to one of your guards. I will remember this aid, Hayate,” Hylli made a small bow with her head to emphasis her gratitude and newfound respect. Even if she wasn’t entirely sure if Hayate could manage to get her to try the Trial again. The fact he was willing to pour effort into it was enough for her.

“I am happy to help,” Hayate smiled and nodded his head. “It has been a pleasure training with you Hylli. I have missed being able to work alongside another Hyuzu.” Returning the bow, Hayate found his thoughts traveling to whether or not he could speak with Kuromu about the Trial. The girl’s request had him rather curious and Hayate hoped to get an answer relatively quickly. If the dragon didn’t know, then he was certain his brother could do some digging for him. Provided Jora wasn’t too busy of course…

“If you’d ever like to train together again, please don’t hesitate to come by.”
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Fantasy, modern and magical.
[ Kirigakure | Capital of the Jirou Authority ]
[ Training Fields | Team Mika ]
[ A collab between @Oblivion666 , @luelle , @BlueFlameNikku and @Aliceee ]
[ Returned to Kirigakure, Mika decides to arrange and mentor a meet and training sessions. Kayleen and Aya, however, are no strangers to each other. But as the training continues, a new challenger joins the training and the team. ]

~ Part 2 ~
Previous Part ~

Mika seemed most calm about the situation. Only frowning when the new genin brought up that her standards were lower than ‘Neime’s ‘. As the newcomer introduced himself, Mika just absentmindedly looked at the distance.
”The fuck is a Neime?” The jounin mumbled to herself, only to find herself not caring in the slightest for whoever Sugi spoke about. It didn’t matter now anyways.
”He seems to be fine. No need to apologise more Kayleen,” Mika stated as she imagined that she had to figure out a new training. One where she shouldn’t limit vision if one of the genin was capable of going over the line.
”You two,” Mika just continued, addressing Aya and Kayleen, ”good idea to stick together in a situation where your vision is limited. Certainly when you lack the ability to fight without your vision, it is best to have your allies close.”

Turning her attention briefly on Sugi, Mika became silent for a few seconds. Then she continued.
”This next part of training, we will conduct how to respond against an attack. I will perform a jutsu and when it is your turn, you will perform one to defend yourself. If you are unable, you just attempt to dodge or limit the ‘damage’.”
Pointing at Sugi, Mika then gestured to him to take a place at a distance.
”I will showcase what I mean with Sugi. Then it is Kayleen’s turn. And finally, Aya.”
Waiting for Sugi to be ready, Mika brought her hands together. Weaving handsigns at a calm pace, the jounin held the Ram sign. From thin air, water started to gather rapidly around Mika. The volume oof water started to collect itself so fast that it produced an audible howling sound before a large shark of water was send flying towards Sugi.

Sugi was pleasantly surprised at the reactions he’d received so far. Mika didn’t appear to be moved much at all and the one genin was actually apologizing. His expression would soften up as he’d address her. [color=ed3d3d]”Thanks um...”[/color] With neither genin having mentioned their names Sugi opted to not say them. [color=ed3d3d]”I’m… sorry for jumping to conclusions. I thought it was a part of some punishment for being late.”[/color] The red head aimed to ignore the other girl for now. Addressing the chuckle wouldn’t do anything and giving her examples wouldn’t do much since he lacked the proof to back them. Besides, it was something he’d grown used to receiving back at the academy and actions do speak louder than words anyhow.

The genin silently nodded as he walked away from the group, a couple of paces passed the unexploded kunai making some weird movement with his fingers and readied himself. The shark of water came screaming towards him, making little indication to dodge. Truth be told Sugi had rather sub par ninjutsu and taijutsu compared to most. By all accounts he’s rated as a worthless combat operative. But that’s what makes him unconventional and unpredictable. With a sharp tug the unexploded kunai suddenly flies over into the genin’s hand thanks to the wire he’d attached just a moment ago when he walked by. With a swift motion he tossed it at incoming water shark and infused his chakra into the tag, finally causing it to detonate inside of it; spraying the body of water in all directions. Still being able to use that technique out of the moisture in the air, jounin were intense.

Watching the response of Sugi, Mika made a mental note. Gesturing that he could take place along the ‘sideline’, Mika turned her gaze to Kayleen. ”You are next, Akechi,” Mika calmly stated as she waited for the girl to take her place.
A moment of silence passed by. Not because Mika wanted to give Kayleen all the time to prepare what technique was coming at her. The jounin did consider to reuse the same technique. However, the genin could be expecting that. For a second, Mika threw a glance at the various puddles of water that were the result of her previous technique being blown up.
Bringing her hands together, Mika once more started calmly to go through a sequence of handsigns. Two puddles near Kayleen, yet at a respectable distance, started to rapidly shift. Only for the water to suddenly jump a whip-like feature towards Kayleen’s arms from two angles.

“Oh, right. I’m Kayleen by the way.” Kayleen said politely to Sugi, noticing his hesitation. She made her way over to recover her blades. When Sugi gave his own reasoning for the hostility, Kayleen offered a bright smile. “You don’t have to explain yourself, I totally get it.” She assured him, prying her sais out of the tree. “This is your’s.” She reunited him with the partially soggy scroll. Their team leader then recalling her attention. Kayleen immediately returned to her place in line.

“Ma’am” Kayleen reclaimed her composure, giving a respectful nod in response to Team Leader Mika. She imagined calling her Mika Sensei once they were to form a connection. Perhaps this early however, might be uncomfortable for them both unless otherwise warranted. She stood at attention when Mika proceeded to address her and Aya, praising them on their approach during their first interrupted exercise. A delighted smile silently forming on Kayleen’s lips, the cheeriness returning to her eyes.

Next up on the agenda, the genin were to try a defensive exercise with Sugi taking the lead. Kayleen was to go right after. In the meantime, she paid careful attention to Mika’s use of hand signs as she conjured up a new jutsu. This time, the water formation of a shark sent in a raging howl toward Sugi. oh boy… If she had the ears of a cat, she imagined they’d flatten down upon seeing that coming her way. Setting her sights on Sugi, she barely caught the action of the tagged kunai flying into his hand before he sent it darting toward the screaming water shark. The explosion flashed in the sky like a firework, scattering down with it a flurry of water droplets... some of which cooly misted down onto Kayleen.

“Clever…” Kayleen murmured, readying herself upon Mika’s instruction. Walking over to take Sugi’s place, she noticed the puddles of water from the splash. Maybe I can use those... Her back facing the team for a brief moment on her way over. As she stopped to stand in position, butterflies began to flutter in her stomach as she thought over her execution. Seeing Mika begin, she quickly modeled a single hand seal, nearly missing the rising whips of water already forming in her peripheral. Her sensei beat her to it, recycling the puddles for another use. The water whips suddenly snagging both of her wrists. Her arms forcibly stretched wide apart. “No...” She exasperated under her breath. Kayleen hung her head in shame with her cheeks burning bright, bound before the entire team. She could not even lift her head to look them in the eyes.

Upon the puff of a cloud of smoke, Kazua was now in her place... hanging by the flippers with an unsure look in their direction. An audible giggle coming from one of the nearby puddles. The top of Kayleen’s blue hair began to emerge from the surface of the puddle, soon revealing her eyes and entire head. “Don’t worry Kazua, I wouldn’t use you as a substitution in a real engagement.” Kayleen’s giggle loudening into a good natured laugh, as she fully arose to the surface. Kazua’s eyes gradually lowering into the slowest disapproving glower. Kayleen’s eyes formed upside smiles, imagining her strategy. She had preemptively woven the hand signs for a substitution on her way to trade places with Sugi, when her back was facing them. From there, she had made sure to partially stand in one of the scattered puddles. Before the whips came, her visible hand formation was enough for her Hiding in Water technique. The rest was history.

Mika didn’t respond right away, her neutral expression hardly betraying her thoughts upon seeing how Kayleen reacted to the technique. When it appeared that the genin was caught, Mika was about to inform Kayleen that failing wasn’t a sin. It was what people expected of genin - they had to learn from their mistakes, after all.
However, as Mika’s lips parted, her eyes slightly widened upon seeing the puff of smoke. Only for the turtle of the Akechi girl to be in her place. It would have been an amusing sight as the animal clearly seemed to be in discomfort, being held up by the water-whips.

Turning her attention to Kayleen, who rose from a nearby surface. For a moment, Mika didn’t say anything. If anything, she was genuinely pleased with the performance of the new genin. Whereas the genin before had been complete failures, their egos larger than that of a whale, these genin seemed to already understand various basics. As if they hadn’t forgotten the lessons taught during their time in the Academy.
”Good execution,” Mika calmly said, gesturing to Kayleen that she could take her position prior. Turning her attention to Aya, Mika gestured to her oldest student to take the place now.
For a moment, Mika considered to not be harsher on Aya. So far Mika was aware, Aya was the only one with real combat experience. She had survived several missions where the combat had been life or death situations - only to come out stronger.

Mika brought her hands together. However, a large difference was already noticed as the hands of the jounin sped incredibly fast through the required signs. Water started to rush around Mika, the sound of the large volume water nearly deafening the calm ambience around them. A column of water started to gather around the area of Mika and Aya - preventing the latter from easily escaping the raging volume of water that surrounded them.
Locking her eyes on Aya, Mika’s lips slightly curled upwards.

”Great Waterfall Technique,” Mika calmly said as she held the last sign. Suddenly the water seemed to roar as the large column would start to come crashing downwards towards both Mika and Aya.

Aya watched calmly as Sugi was called up first, he had the water shark technique which he was easily able to dispel with that explosive kunai from earlier. Not bad yet it was going to take more than one smart thing to make up for basically a temper tantrum if he was being punished, next up was Kayleen who went in confidently only for Mika to not utilize the same technique as before instead opting for a new one entirely. Which seemingly caught kayleen off guard as Mika seemingly had the woman by the wrists. Kayleen even looked beaten up about it which in Kayleen’s defense Mika did ramp it up a bit on her it seemed.

Then however, The turtle took Kayleen’s place which caused Aya to giggle a bit at the sight of seeing a turtle with it’s flippers caught by the water. The sight of Kayleen coming out of a puddle and apologizing to the turtle as well was somewhat amusing in itself. Honestly not what she thought was going to happen with that at all. Poor turtle though. Then came Aya’s turn she took a deep breath in as she approached the area where Mika was. Yet what came next seemed practically unfair in most scenarios.

A column of water started to gather around both of them, with the water thrashing about violently. Aya stared blankly as she weaved hand signs. Also locking eyes on Mika, when the words escaped Mika’s lips Aya cursed in her mind. An A rank?!?! Then the violent water began to come crashing down towards them, prompting Aya to summon a clone. The clone would toss a kunai straight up in the air which Aya then switched with, only to then throw another kunai outside the area and switch again.

Landing on the ground she turned around to see the water more than likely ripping anything that was inside to shreds. There was no absolute way she could have countered that. Even her evaporation jutsu had a limit to it.

There seemed, at first, no sign of Mika as the water column crashed with violence into the ground. It was enough to cause a heavy tremble for a few moments, only for some silence to return to the field.
Rising from the water, Mika seemed unharmed. Her hands placed at her hips, the woman’s gaze was locked on Aya. Once fully out of the water’s surface, Mika nodded subtly. There was nothing wrong with Aya’s decision.
Gesturing to Aya that she could rejoin the others, Mika glanced at the field. Where once was a field of grass was now replaced with a lot of puddles and a deep crater, filled with water. Slightly amused, the jounin turned her attention back at the genin. So far, they all had done rather well - showing that they had some tactical insight and understanding of their limitations.

”Good. Last training of the day. I want to see how well your team work. You three have to manage in less than four minutes to acquire this from me,” producing a small bell, attached to a piece of red cloth, from a pouch Mika held it up so that the genin could see it. Stringing the cloth to her weapon belt, Mika spoke further of what the genin had to do.
”Seeing the difference in experience and abilities. I will advise you to work together. I don’t plan to stay just on the defensive. In fact, I will give you a bit of time to conjure a plan together.”
As if she had nothing to fear from a bunch of genin, Mika turned around and started to walk to the other end of the field in the most casual and calmest pace.

Sugi gingerly accepted the watery scroll back. It was meant for Mika but he guessed she didn’t need it, else she’d have asked for it. Kayleen seemed like a good spirited person, all things considered so far. That substitution maneuver with the turtle was actually so funny to Sugi that he had to cover his mouth to muffle his laughter, though his shoulders still bounced a bit. He got a completely different feel from the next test. The massive torrent of water on display caused Sugi to step back even being out of harm's way already on the sideline. He watched the other genin manage to escape the impressive technique with a surprised look that quickly melted away. Admittedly, he didn’t think he would’ve been able to escape a technique like that on his own. Heck, he was now more afraid of this jounin than that giant sea serpent his old team had to deal with. He did wonder why something like that was used on her, maybe some matter of expectations.

After being informed about the final training regime of the day, Sugi was rather… skeptical. In previous experiences even a test like this against a chuunin was far from doable. Due to habit, he’d already started piecing things together. Making note of the now numerous puddles littering the air and making notes of techniques already used. He mentally stopped himself however, looking down at the wet field before squatting as he watched Mika trot off. Sugi knew any plan he’d come up with would be severely lacking.

The young man swallowed his pride and spoke up [color=ed3d3d]”Look, how things are… anything I come up with won’t be good enough to give us a fighting chance. From the sound of things you two know more about Mika senpai over there and each other more than I obviously do and despite what she may know… I’m the unknown factor here.”[/color] With that, Sugi covered his mouth and told Kayleen and Aya about the various techniques at his disposal. Mainly consisting of deceptive and hindering genjutsu and some ninjutsu. This was in addition to the large burgundy scroll on his back that was able to dump out a pond’s worth of water. [color=ed3d3d]”Tell me what you need from me and I’ll do it. I don’t expect us to actually get the bell but I’ll settle for making her take us seriously.”[/color] Sugi smirked as he finished speaking his peace.

As the water from the water whips spilled to the ground, Kayleen was standing on cue to catch her dwarf turtle in her arms. “I’ll make it up to you.” She winked at Kazua. His eyes drooping into a neutral state, before folding leisurely back into his home. She flipped him around to hang him onto her back as before, making her way back to the others. Her heart began to buzz quietly in excitement when her new sensei complimented her on her routine. “Thank you, Sensei.” She offered her cheery smile to Mika, before silently retaking her previous position as instructed.

Team Leader Mika called on Aya next to step into position. Aya stepped into the spotlight and Kayleen’s eyes lightly flickered upon seeing Mika’s accelerated hand seals. Rushing in now, was a massive, surging column of water that encompassed Mika and Aya. Both of them disappearing from view within the violently streaming circle. Then nearly as soon as it began, the suspended column of water inwardly collapsed, powerfully crashing over them. The glimpse of Aya transitioning into the air and landing safely outside of the collision, easing Kayleen’s mind. Their sensei, however, was nowhere in sight. Whew… that could’ve been bad for Aya. Kayleen thought, feeling the trembling of the aftershock.

A small smile formed on Kayleen’s face when Mika ascended from the aftermath. She signaled for Aya to reclaim her place beside her and Sugi. Kayleen noticing the squishiness of the drenched grass below her feet from the muddied training field. So far the training was pretty fun. Her closed smile slightly growing in silent approval of her new team. Her face quickly straightened as they continued with the training. Their team leader dangling a small bell before them that lightly jingled. After fastening it to her utility belt as she finished the last instructions, Kayleen watched her off. We must steal her bell? A blue brow raising. She quickly shook away her thoughts from forming, as they would be timed. “Four minutes…” Kayleen noticed herself saying aloud.

Kayleen curiously noticed Sugi squatting down once the sensei had left. He was staring at the water puddles, before he suddenly made his confession. Kayleen just listened, taking in next his muffled information concerning his jutsu. “The unknown factor…” Kayleen considered out loud, in front of her teammates. In all honesty, she herself wasn’t sure how to go about an assignment like this. She took a quick pause to think. “Well for starters, we should find a place out of sight. That way we can better execute a surprise ambush.” Kayleen verbally brainstormed, looking around the area. “Before we hide, picking the mist back up would help cover us.” Kayleen said, looking to Sugi with a small blush. “I’m not a mister, so do you mind?...”

The bell test… Well that was a pretty daunting task considering the fact these three didn’t know each other and more than likely considering two of them knew water release. Mika was their superior and more than likely wouldn't be fazed by any of their techniques. She already knew the outcome but more so she had the gist of what to do. Yet she wanted to see what the strategist would come up with, which on the bright side he at least knew they didn't have a chance. Then proceeded to tell them what he could do which was useful but water was pretty much hindering them if they gave her more resources.

Keeping her eyes on Mika Kayleen would chime in as she suggested her own plan to which Aya shook her head and walked forward towards Mika. ”Mika is a water specialist, throwing water everywhere is giving her ammo against us. Same for hiding, sure we can plan out a trap but wont do good if she plans around that as well. As for hiding in the mist. I rather we not put ourselves into a mist to give her more of a surprise element on us.” Aya stated before stopping. ”You two can plan all you want, I'm not giving her time to start setting up every trap she wants.”

Weaving hand seals she took a deep breath in, this time though she didn’t exhale really, more so she spit which sent four smaller fire balls almost condensed flying towards Mika, as Aya charged in already weaving her next hand seals

Mika seemed to ignore the genin. But as Aya spat several fire balls at her, the jounin halted and threw a look over her shoulder. Her gaze travelled towards Aya but she made no attempt to escape the attack. In fact, the attacks found their mark, the smoke suddenly mixed what seemed to be steam.
Nearly immediately, a fog started to grow thicker in the area.

Sugi looked up at Kayleen with a confused expression before turning into one of realization after a few blinks. He quickly stood up and looked away from the young woman, coughing into his fist with a mild amount of embarrassment. [color=ed3d3d]”My bad.”[/color] After Aya spoke her mind and started walking off to begin things, Sugi turned his back to that direction and addressed Kayleen. [color=ed3d3d]”She’s right on all accounts. Using any offensive water techniques will do more harm than good and the mist will favor her. But… we’ve still got a chance.”[/color] The crashing down of fireballs impacting the ground after the genin spoke and then the mist started coming in again.

Sugi’s smile started to creep up. With a hushed tone he shared his plot with his teammate, pleased that she appeared to agree the genin went into action. Sugi tossed a smoke bomb into the air and started weaving signs. Just like before he used his own hidden in the mist technique to lighten the mist as he wanted. Then as most of it finished dispersing, the smoke bomb finished falling towards the ground and exploded into a cloud of thick smoke. It only really concealed Sugi and Kayleen. Once the smoke cleared it’d reveal Kayleen with Kazua while Sugi was nowhere to be seen.

“Did you think I meant something else?” Kayleen asked Sugi with a perk of her brow. She wondered about his questionable response to her question about the misting. Her next question to Sugi was interjected by Aya who began to advance toward their superior, expressing a plan of her own. All points invalidating Kayleen’s suggested plan. “Well you see… I thought that if we did the obvious, then we might mislead her into underestimating us for our real course of action.” However, it was clear that Aya had no intention of expending any time to form a plan.

“If we chase after her, she may just lead us wherever she wants us…” Who says she didn’t rig the field sometime yesterday for today’s training? She might have had her answer to the question, had she known Aya was rooming with their sensei. Instead, Kayleen found herself talking to herself and only Sugi as Aya proceeded to launch an attack. The spurt of fireballs expectantly passing through their target. “Well here comes the mist afterall....” Kayleen said, halfway amused. As it started to pour into the area, Sugi approached her with his plan.

Kayleen gave Sugi a silent nod and agreed to follow his lead. Once thinning the mist with his jutsu, the smoke bomb landed detonating into a swarm of smoke. When the smoke cleared, Sugi had vanished like a magic trick. So we want to apply pressure straight away, huh? Kayleen thought, placing her hands together for an execution of hand seals. Two afterimages of herself splitting from her original form. She and her clones immediately sprang from the starting point to dash after Aya and the general direction of Mika, weaving through the puddles.

Just as she thought, when her attack had connected it went through the clone and sent mist sprawling out through the area. Only Sugi would then lighten it causing her to turn her head just in time to see smoke engulfing both her teammates. Yet when it dispersed only Kayleen and her turtle were left which made Aya mentally sigh. Not her worry if he wanted to hide then he could. Yet the next problem lay in figuring out where Mika was hiding, which that thought process was disrupted when all the Kayleens went running past her.

Aya simply stared before shaking her head and trying to think of where she would be hiding in this vicinity. Well…. she had an idea anyway, moving towards the deep crater of water she breathed in and shot out a wide spread amount of flame towards the water. She wouldn't be able to extinguish all of it but the heat from her flames would certainly raise the water temperature to boiling levels if one was hiding in it.

Observing the genin, Mika sat on a branch. The mist had given enough cover for her to slip out of the water and move to a new position. Witnessing how the cooperation started to fall apart, Mika made mental notes. regarding each genin that partook.
Bringing her hands together, Mika would start to make the mist grow thicker - rapidly to the point that the genin could barely see anything around them.
Holding on to the technique, she wasn’t planning to let the likes of a genin reduce it. But at the same time, Mika dropped from her current spot. Without producing a sound, the jounin started to move to a new spot - wondering how the genin were going to operate against both the disability and ticking time.

Just as she started the mist grew thicker, once more only this time it didn't seem to be relenting. That would mean she had a visual on them in this regard. Considering she had no idea where Kayleen and her clones were besides the general direction they went off into, Sugi was hiding somewhere. They possibly might think Mika actually planned on going on the attack which was unlikely. After all four minutes and you had to keep a bell from three genin? Well even if it would be easy enough to accomplish, why risk it?

So this time Aya ran to the edge of the field where the mist was still thick and moved into the forest, less thick. Weaving her hand seals she made a clone but one that radiated heat. Nodding Both Aya’s took off in separate directions, the real one moving from the left and clone from the right. Encircling around the field to maybe spy a hidden Mika.

Sugi watched from his concealed position, observing the various events take place. At the end of it all Mika was nowhere to be seen and they were all running around trying to find her. [color=ed3d3d]”How could I have been so stupid?! Saying she’ll go on the offensive. Why the hell would she even do that? She obviously was lying!”[/color] Now with the mist thickened again they weren’t gonna get anywhere. She could hide anywhere and they’d never find her, let alone in less than four minutes. The genin twisted and turned with the thought of abandoning the plan but if it wasn't gonna bear fruit then what was the point.

The Kazua on Kayleen’s back poofs into a cloud of smoke revealing Sugi dropping down onto the wet grass behind her. He didn’t like that this revealed Kayleen so quickly too but the mist likely would lessen that issue.[color=ed3d3d]”I’ve gotta take down the mist or we’ll never find her.”[/color] He looked at Kayleen with a look of frustration as he went about using the hidden mist technique again. After a moment Sugi felt a knot tie itself in his stomach. He wasn’t doing anything. The mist wasn’t thinning at all. He smiled weakly, letting his arms fall limply at his sides. [color=ed3d3d]”Right… as if a jounin’d let some genin dispel their technique a third time... ”[/color]

Some rather reckless ideas came to mind but they wouldn’t help and would instead make things worse. Besides, it wasn’t his style. People who did reckless things were just fools right? He bit his lip thinking back to throwing that paper bomb at Kayleen. His rash judgement of her character was founded on what… a single mistake? A single… reckless mistake and yet she trusted his plan. A failure of a plan at that. He clenched his fists in anger. They had every right to chuckle at his hollow words. Sugi slowly started to weave signs. A cacophony of laughter filled his head from numerous voices. He felt backed into a corner among the mist as if their voices were coming out from the mists. The anxiety caused his chakra to rile up. Suddenly he froze as the voices became deafened, a single voice ringing through the static. Always have your teammates back.

He took a deep breath and a wave of calm and focus washed over him. The genin made a single seal, summoning a water clone up from a water puddle in front of him. Both Sugis stood mirroring each other in dead silence as they weaved simulations seals for the hidden in mist technique. [color=ed3d3d]”Screw it.”[/color] He thought as he doubled down on this horrible idea that held his ass out in the wind since he was devoting most if not all of his concentration on overcoming the superior technique. But if he could thin the mist even a little it could reveal Mika for his teammates, putting it all in their hands.

Upon realizing she had seen Aya pass in her peripheral vision, all versions of herself nearly slipped to a halt from the slick grass. Whoaahh too far… Kayleen felt her heart racing from nearly slipping to fall straight onto her bum which would have dispelled her clones. “She’s persistent…” She noted, having guessed Mika would have been tired of going back and forth with Sugi over the fog. Forced to blow his cover, Sugi was back by her side. No sight of their other teammate. Aya must have thought that she was just going to rush into the mist foolishly.

Sugi’s third attempt at thinning the creeping fog failed. Things just got a lot more complicated… Kayleen thought, maintaining her clones for a little while longer. Meanwhile, Sugi seemed to be off on another planet with an unsettled expression… his fists balling into fists. He was visibly unhappy with himself. Before she could say anything, he sucked in a deep breath and summoned forth a clone of his own from the water. Doubling the enforcement of his jutsu, Sugi would attempt to thin the fog once again if possible.

I feel pretty useless right about now… Kayleen thought, squinting through the heavy fog. There was nothing but whiteness all around. Now I don’t even have Kazua… Her back feeling naked, absent from the swinging turtle shell. She only sighed, thinking of where Mika might be. “If that doesn’t work, then I suggest we move along the outside of the fog.” Kayleen said to Sugi, gesturing with a look toward the woods where the mist was less concentrated.

The mist remained in place, even despite Sugi’s renewed attempt to remove it. However, all of a sudden the mist started to rapidly change. The moisture in the air seemed to reform as some invisible force was guiding it to various locations.
Without a warning, the concentrated mist turned into water, starting to threaten to engulf the various genin in a sphere of water.
Watching from across the field, Mika leaned against a tree - invisible due to a whole other technique. They couldn’t see her and wouldn’t be able to, she imagined. For the mist and their doubts were strangling them. The lack of cooperation was going to be their undoing at this rate.
From the looks of it, the ‘strategist’ was already broken. The Akechi was trying to find some cohesion in the heat of the ‘battle’. And Aya? Mika threw a look at the side of the field. Aya had to learn yet everything that could be done with water release.
With the spheres of water trying to engulf and capture each separate individual, Mika wondered how it would affect their morale.

Running around the perimeter of the field and yet she still couldn’t find her sensei. Figured she’d try but there was still a skill gap between them and a big one. The mist suddenly turned into water and a spherical one that seemed to have her allies trapped. This prompted Aya to sigh as she sat down and leaned against a tree. This whole endeavor was over and they lost horrifically.

No luck. It was clear that Sugi’s efforts to thin the mist again were pointless. He looked over at Kaylee and sighed. [color=ed3d3d]”Yeah, you’re right. Lets get ou---”[/color] The sight of the mist turning into trapping spheres of water interrupted Sugi’s train of thought. With the sight of water surrounding his peripheral he had no time to think and listened to his knee jerk reaction. His water clone turned around and shoved the real Kayleen out of her water sphere just before it’d close around her. The water clone effectically trading places and Sugi having not enough time or notice to escape on his own.

He dismissed his water clone as it dissolved into the empty sphere, Sugi floating in his own as he looked down and away from Kayleen. The genin’s own lack of self worth teetering. He was used to holding his breath for around a minute since he went swimming a lot so he wasn’t immediately panicking or drowning but time would change that. [color=ed3d3d]”Fuck...”[/color] Sugi still thought even now but had no answers to get out. He didn’t have faith that any of them would be able to get rid of these spheres. Well… he had one idea actually. The genin calmly pulled a paper bomb out of his satchel. He looked at it and then he started picturing those grinning faces. Members of those so called noble clans, looking down on him. He put Mika’s face in there. He was frustrated and angry. Sugi flashed the paper bomb to Kayleen so that she'd have a heads up and step back. The genin then released it into the current the water sphere that entrapped him. He readied himself, watching it swirl with the current past his vision once… twice… BOOM!!!

With a sudden burst of muffled sound and rushing water the paper bomb went off behind Sugi. The force interrupted the surrounding water and furthermore thrusted Sugi forwards. The water exploded outward in all directions like a popped water balloon, depositing Sugi roughly onto the wet ground with a hard thud. Now coated in mud Sugi layed there still, the back of his clothes were covered in scorch marks and shredded in some places. A bit of blood dying in his beige jacket and black shirt. He tried to weakly stand up but couldn’t even get onto his knees. The genin’s ears were still ringing and his vision still spun as he fell back down into the mud, clenching a handful of it.

Just as Sugi began to agree to head for the woods, his water clone abruptly lunged at her. The unexpected push caused Kayleen to fall back onto her bottom, dispelling her clones. She nearly glared up at him until seeing a water sphere enclosing around Sugi’s clone in place of her. Her face softening and then slightly shrinking upon witnessing the original Sugi encased in water as well. Reaching behind her back, Kayleen quickly froze at the sight of Sugi retrieving a paper bomb from his satchel. He isn’t…. Her heart jumping out of rhythm. When he flashed it to her, Kayleen immediately rolled back just in time to not get soaked from the erratic bursting of water. Her eyes expanded for a moment, before rushing over to check on her injured teammate.

“Why did you do THAT? You could’ve KILLED yourself…” Kayleen questioned Sugi, in a state of bewilderment at what he had done. “I might’ve been able to get you out…” She quickly examined his body for any life threatening wounds. Using her hands, Kayleen applied the necessary pressure on the area of his shirt where the blood stained the thickest. “This was a TRAINING exercise. If this were a real mission, I couldn’t afford to have you injured in a position like this…” Kayleen’s voice softened, realizing that she was halfway scolding. “I suppose if we fail, we fail together…” She airily sighed, as she couldn’t abandon an ally. She felt bad for Sugi, but she also couldn’t help but second guess her initial thoughts on her new team. Talk about chaotic neutral… were her thoughts on him, thinking back on his previous actions. Meanwhile, Aya was off doing her own thing. At least her and Sugi had chosen to stick together. The point of the exercise was teamwork more so than getting some bell, or seemingly proving to outperform your teammates.

Watching the events unfold, Mika didn’t do anything to prevent Sugi from hurting himself. Fair enough, it was her task to lead and mentor these genin. But she saw no reason to get herself hurt if one of them was getting flawed ideas during a training session.
”I gave you a 7 before. Consider that a mere 2 now,” Mika’s calm voice sounded as she slowly appeared. Looking at the two genin, Mika slightly tilted her head.
”The training is over. You lot failed today,” was the simple statement following. Throwing a look over her shoulder, she knew where Aya was. The sphere of water had nearly formed all around Aya but by the lack of resistance - the water halted and just started to flow back on the ground.
”I have seen some promising things but also a lot of flaws. We will work this out later. For now, you all should get yourself some rest and remember today. Next time, I won’t go easy,” Mika said as she removed the bell from her belt. Considering it for a moment, she decided to pocket it away.

”Class, dismissed.”


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[ Kirigakure | The Jirou Authority ]
[ Mika Hayashi, Aya Oda and Jirou Kanbe ]
A Collab between @Aliceee , @Oblivion666 and @Nim
Jirou summons Mika and Aya to his meeting after hearing of what occurred to them. He then presents Aya with a couple of things, before giving the two an update on how things will be moving on.

Waiting in his office, Jirou sat by his desk and went over some papers, with several updates of what had occurred during the time he was away at the Chuunin Exams. Having heard that the Sayyadians had arrived, and the response given, he had approved of it. It was exactly as he had hoped it would be. He even heard that apparently, a Sayyadian had even joined their shinobi ranks, which slightly surprised him, but it did make the Sayyadian’s intentions clearer. Giving their ranks an allied soldier spoke volumes in his book.
Hearing a knock on the door, Jirou raised his head and watched as a guard opened the door, stepping in ”Mika Hayashi and Aya Oda are here for a meeting, as requested, sir!” The soldier said. Jirou nodded, before the soldier walked out and cleared the way for Mika and Aya to step inside.

During their walk to the meeting with the dictator, Mika had a neutral expression. However, before they had left their home, Mika had stated some words to Aya. Now that they neared the complex in which they would meet with the person that ruled the Authority, Mika briefly placed a hand on Aya’s back as they climbed the steps.
Guided to the office where the dictator would meet them, Mika would respond first with a salute. Standing close to Aya, the jounin remained silent as her eyes settled on Jirou.

Aya was a bit confused on why the Dictator needed to see both of them. She was sure he had reports on her already unless he just wished to see her and her sensei. Yet she was told ahead of time by Mika what to do, so when they arrived at the location and where standing in the man’s office. Aya just remained silent as she stared at him, in her mind she thought he’d be more scary looking.

Looking at the two as they entered, Jirou glanced over Aya for a moment longer. So she held a Bijuu inside her. Sometimes he was amazed by some of the feats that the shinobi were capable of. Of course, he had sat with one of her Imperial counterparts on that front. Releasing Mika from the salute, he gestured for the two to sit down in the available chairs, on the other side of the table from him.
"Glad to see you both arrived here so soon after. I still remember what you told me before.” Jirou said, looking at Mika "First and foremost, I am glad that you both appear to have recovered from the ordeal and are back in proper shape. I had called you here in order to hear, from both of you, about what happened.” He glanced towards Aya "The loss of a teammate and being so close to death is never easy. And I am relieved you did not need to experience the loss of your guardian too.” Finishing to speak, he turned to look at Mika once more, waiting to hear her side of things.

Mika remained silent, her expression remaining neutral - almost as if the expression was plastered on her face. Hearing what the dictator wanted did irk Mika slightly. She had brought out a full report on what had happened. To bring it up, with Aya present made her far from dropping her guard now.
”I was training the jinchuriki as we had discussed. The one we lost wasn’t progressing well enough and I couldn’t do much to prevent the enemy from landing a lethal blow. Aya, however,” Mika said, her eyes slightly narrowing, ”did enough that bought time that I could regroup and fend off the attack.”
Placing her hands at her back, Mika continued.
”Enough to be promoted, I need to add. She has shown understanding of responsibility and is capable of holding herself standing for a few minutes against an S ranked operative. That is all.”

So this meeting was about what happened? She didn’t see why she needed to be here and his comments were more instigating than anything. He must have had her record, losing a teammate wasn’t easy? Taishiro was simply another number at that point. The guardian comment only further annoyed her as she did indeed know that feeling. Aya however just bite her lip as Mika spoke even when Mika stated she should be promoted it didn’t really do much to change her sour attitude at the moment.

Nodding as he listened, Jirou had anticipated that Mika would likely not be overly cooperative "And from my understanding, the enemy had also utilized crystals. While that is an interesting detail, I will say that is not why I had asked you here, miss Oda.” Jirou turned his attention to her, before picking up something that had leaned against the side of his table.
Putting it on the table and pushing it towards her, the item was a sheathed sword. Jirou unsheated it slightly, to reveal the markings that indicated it was an Oda sword.
"I was informed you had lost your sword during the fight with this assailant, which was very unfortunate. So I wanted to give you this one. I came to possess it from an interesting source.” He turned to gaze at Mika "And as for a promotion, I have already deemed it right to promote her even before you came here. Takeshi was also updated by now about the decision. So a further congratulation is in order, Chuunin Oda.” Jirou said, offering Aya a smile.

Glancing at the sword, Mika remained silent. Her attention only briefly went to Aya, who remained silent. Having lived now for nearly months together, Mika had gained a good understanding of how the girl thought and responded to most situations.
”We are most grateful for your decision, Lord,” Mika made a small bow, her tone and subtle glance sideways serving as a reminder of her talk earlier with Aya.

As soon as he pulled out the sheathed sword she already knew. She didn’t need to see the blade to know that this was her sword. She remained silent as she moved forward and wrapped her hand around the sheath of the sword and picking it up. It already felt like a weight was lifted from her. The promotion itself seemed like it didn’t matter compared to the blade. It even made her smile as she looked it over. It was indeed her blade no imperfections at all. She held her close to her chest and smiled happily. ”Thank you.”

Looking at the two, Jirou smiled as he saw Aya’s expression brighten up as it did. Turning to look at Mika, his own smile faded, making way for a more neutral expression "I did bring you both here for another reason. Seeing the things that had occurred, I wanted you both to be aware of a couple of things that are going to happen once you leave the building. The first, you will be from this point on, watched by ANBU. They won’t be tight with you at all times, but you will be followed by them, for further protection, so that should either of you come into a situation like that once more, you will be capable of relying on more than your wits. They won’t intervene in most activities unless the situation proves more than either of you can take.” He said, glancing at Aya for a moment before turning back to Mika.
"Second, a rumour will rise. One that suggests the two of you have passed away. That even after you were treated, some crystals had remained within your bodies, and had eventually caused internal damage and you both passed away. This is simply another precaution, to try and fool those who had attempted to take your lives before. I will ask that you be careful and take personal caution, but aside from those two things, you are free to do as before.” Jirou said, before standing up.
"I wish you both good luck.” Jirou told them, before turning to Aya "And once more, congratulations Chuunin Aya. Make the Authority proud.”

The mere second that Jirou was done, Mika pressed a hand against Aya’s back. The gesture, hopefully, enough to remind them that they were going. Making a small bow as she proceeded with a few steps backwards, Mika turned around and opened the door for herself and her pupil. The talk had been short but she understood the decisions of the dictator. Frankly, it could have been much worse but it seemed that they hadn’t lost all their freedom - yet.

She did what Mika wanted after all she wasn’t use to these situations at all. Although that rumor might fool others but if that crystal woman lived then she wouldn’t believe it and neither would anyone else she worked with. For right now though she was just happy to have her sword back.

Watching the two leave the office, Jirou waited for the door to be closed, before sitting back down. The meeting had accomplished everything he had hoped for. Now, he just needed to consider how he wished to proceed from this moment on.


[Sevudia, Republican Military Camp | Eastern Continent ]
[Bashira/ Genin of Team 17]

Day One
Bashira had understood the orders well enough. They were simply to perform mundane tasks at the camp while their sensei was assisting on another mission. The first day she volunteered for patrol, and would walk the perimeter constantly scanning for any change. Her fingers itched to throw some senbon around, and further her training. She forced herself to finish her last patrol, and then she sped off to a somewhat quiet spot in the camp to do some exercises. All this waiting around had her anxious, and when her anxiety came on the best way to dispel was exercise.

She did twenty-five pushups, sit-ups, and toe touches until her anxiety was barely a whisper in the back of her mind. Bashira did three sets of each until her muscles were sore enough to justify sitting down, and quietly observing the rest of the camp. She noted the way the soldiers carried supplies around, the way the soldiers sat around a fire to converse with each other, and the way they trained when they could.

Day Two

Waking up the next morning Bashira yawned, and turned her attention to training. She could patrol later in the afternoon, but she felt she needed the practice with her senbon as well as further training with her bow and arrow. She got up, and got dressed humming an old song they once heard. As she made her way over to the training dummies she took out her senbon, and relished the way they felt in her hands. Shira would never tell anyone, but they had been a graduation gift from her only living relative. A gift that took her grandmother a year to save for while that money could have been spent on food or supplies for the shop.

Shira would position herself in the middle of the group of training dummies, and started her training by throwing a group five senbon at the dummies. She smiled to herself when four of the five hit their mark. She threw another five at the other dummie, and again four out of the five hit their mark. She repeated this process until she grew tired of it, and then took out the bow and arrow. At first she didn’t notch a single arrow as she practiced pulling the drawstring back.

Once she felt confident that she had it down she notched the first arrow. Again Bashira took aim, and then let the arrow fly into the target. It hit the target, but it was a little to the left of the exact spot she wanted to hit. She swore, but then regretted it. Shira would be a fool if she expected to master the bow and arrow in one day or even in one week. It had taken her months to perfect her aim with the senbon, and still she had that stray senbon who would somehow avoid the target. She continued to practice with the bow and arrow until her arms were sore, and it was time to take the final patrol in the daylight.


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[ Eastern Continent | Sevudia, 10th and 12th Imperial Brigade - Third Imperial Division ]
[ Hiron Hon | Jounin of Team 8 and Third Major General ]
[ Losses and decisions ]

Seated in his simple, wooden chair, Hiron gazed at the maps that were laid out in front of him. The moment where he would need to fight with the damn bastards that were opposite of the river was coming closer. Well aware that the enemy having the advantage of more soldiers, Hiron had some ideas on how to counter that. For what the Imperials lacked in sheer numbers, they had quality. But in order for quality to beat quantity to a bloody pulp, a good strategy had to be utilized. Else, this campaign was over with the next battle.
For a moment, Hiron wished that the 13th Imperial brigade had conducted their affairs in the south. But leaving the newly called 'Jirian force' would allow the southern flank to be weak. And then to threaten the integrity of the entire eastern campaign.
But so far, he had been informed, the 11th Imperial brigade was still hidden and north of the enemy. Roughly 8 to 9.000 trained troops, ready to slam into the enemy's back.

The maps that were drawn were done with the knowledge that they had gained from the villagers. Word spread about a certain Scylding, that had led a small group of volunteers to bring down what was called a 'bazelgeuse'. Some kind of absurd monster, Hiron had been told. Yet, the impact of such a deed allowed him and his officers to gain more favours from neighbouring villages. Leading all together to more information that Hiron could use. Rising up from his chair, he would place a map on top of the others.

"The Senju will hold this flank for now. They got enough numbers to withstand many waves. Meaning that the enemy has to cross the river to come swinging at us, here, in the centre," Hiron said. The men that were present had ranks that made it important for them to know what the plan was.
"The bastards will send their usual crap at us. Light infantry, is a term we will generously use for the scum. Their true force will be stationed behind."[/color]
Hiron paused for a moment.
"The 11th Imperial Brigade will hit it from the back and hold their attention, I want the Omari battalion--"

The canvas of the tent was shoved to the side hastily, the sound of someone panting and light from outside caught everyone's attention. A lieutenant of the 12th breathed heavily as he walked inside. Saluting to Hiron, he tried to catch his breath before giving a message.
"Major General, sir, we have returned from our trip to the northern spot. The Omari battalion," he began, pausing for a second, "are nowhere to be seen, sir."

The news introduced a painful silence. Tensions started to simmer as visible anger was seen in Hiron's expression. His eyes narrowed at the lieutenant as if he was ready to choke the life out of him.
"They are nowhere to be seen?" Hiron calmly repeated, straighten his back.
The lieutenant nodded hastily before speaking up again. "We found tracks, lots of 'em. All going over the crossing and well..."
No words had to be said. Hiron nodded as he slowly turned towards the table. Suddenly, the man's hand slammed against the table. The wood cracked and moaned loudly out protest against this violent act.
"Fucking greenhorns,"
Hiron mumbled as he looked at the map. He had doubts about the Omari and Senju volunteers before. Arseholes were willing to jeopardize the entire campaign if it could bring back some prestige and favour from the Empress.
Hiron said as one of the captains stepped forward - out of the line.
"Yes, sir?"
"Send a message to the Senju. Tell them that I will an actual competent person to lead and hold that spot. Tell them half of their forces,"
Hiron said as he half turned around. "The rest of you, here is my plan..."
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[ Operation: Bloody Walls ]
[ Sevudia, Eastern Continent | Jirian Force ]
[ Team Nishi | A collaberation between @DeliciousFood , @Nim , @Gerontis and @Oetje ]
[ Tasked by the general, Team Nishi heads out together with Karuko as reinforcement. The team is tasked to survey the area or else capture a source of information. The dynamic tends to far from cohesive but eventually, the team comes across a Rongese patrol. However, not all go as planned... ]

~ Part 1 ~

Readying herself, Nishi had taken in the information that was available. The last few months had been interesting, she figured, for the forces of General Yuuki. The mere fact of Akinians cooperating with Republican forces without any friendly fire incidents was a surprise. What was more interesting was the increasing resistance of the Rongese forces upon the allied advancements.
Did this mean that their enemy feared the allied forces enough, that they wanted to refuse further access? Perhaps now they were hitting the enemy where it was hurting.

Exiting her tent, in full Republican shinobi gear, Nishi went to the rally point that she had designated. The order to gather was given a day before, so she saw no need to check upon her genin. Approaching the rally point, Nishi decided to wait for the others to show up.

Heading towards the rally point, Karuko wasn’t sure yet what he thought of the fact he was assigned temporarily to another team. There was little concern regarding the genin that he had to watch over before. He wasn’t moved permanently to another team but he doubted that they would be active enough to cause any trouble. From what he had seen, they were not the type of genin to experiment and train on their own - which usually disappointed Karuko but considered a positive trait for this situation.

Approaching the rally point, the man noticed the other jounin. Raising a hand slightly, Karuko spoke up. ”Eh, you are early,” he stated, not seeing anybody else that the other was supposed to lead. Scoffing inaudible, Karuko decided to not expect anything from the other team - it would only lead to disappointment, the man thought bitterly.

Up and at ‘em, Alsanna came to the awful realization that she was truly in for the long haul when, yet again, she had woken up in the same, dingy tent as she did the other day. At least this time there wasn’t a special Nishi welcome. Now, there was a meeting to be had at a designated rally point, and in no way did that prompt any form of urgency or change priorities in this Genin’s mind.

A little breakfast was in order, and not just the military crap. In the same gear she had yesterday and parasol opened to prevent an unexpected sunburn, she ventured through the rows of tents, until she could infiltrate a potential group with some more delectable goodies. It’d be a group of teens she’d end up smooth talking and bet against for a special, sweet prize.

When she arrived at the rally, probably late, she had been indulging in what seemed to be a sweet rice ball. Yes, she was eating it in front of everyone. “Morning, Hardass-Sensei.” She greeted with a brief wave and in between bites. But then she noticed the second figure. A man far too old and big to be just some other Genin. Alsanna squinted at this man whilst still munching her treat. “This your Hardass-fiancé? Funny place to elope.” Very suddenly, a small pigeon had decided to land on top of her parasol! How endearing.

After waking up without a wet wake up call from Nishi, Hikari didn’t take long to prepare. They had a scheduled point to meet at, but no time. Even without a time, she didn’t think it’d be wise to keep Hirashima-sensei waiting for too long. Once arranged, she started heading out quickly towards the rally point.
It didn’t take her too long to find the spot, and by the time she got there, she saw Hirashima sensei and another man, both waiting there ”Morning Hirashima sensei.” She said, before offering a small bow to the man. Even if she didn’t know him, she figured it’d be best to show some respect, as he was likely superior to her in rank. And not long after, Alsanna arrived, eating a rice ball in front of everyone. Where did she even get that, Hikari didn’t know. She sighed at the joke Shirafuji said, finding it inappropriate, before turning her full attention to Nishi.

Nishi nodded towards Karuko. Not soon after, the two genin came to join them. The question, or well rather joke, from Alsanna was met with a blank stare. Deciding to follow with starting the briefing, Nishi spoke up.
”We are tasked to advance and perform a scouting operation. Currently, our push eastwards is thwarted by a massive fortification. We need to try to acquire some intel, in how perhaps to overcome the obstacle or gain an idea how many troops are garrisoned inside the fortification.”

Gesturing them to pay attention to the ground, Nishi crouched. Pulling out a kunai she started to carve a circle, at first.
”This is the enemy fortress,” she explained, starting to carve a square at some distance, ”this is our camp. The terrain in between is made up by meadows, plains and some woodland. Nothing too difficult or rough but plenty of places from which the enemy could attempt to ambush us or allies. We will advance in a controlled pace towards the perimeter of the enemy fortress. Our goal isn’t to fight and take out enemies but to acquire intel.”
Looking up, she focused her attention on the genin. ”That means no heroics or attempts to outdo one another. In order to see this mission being completed, we are aided by,” Nishi straightened her back and casually used the kunai to point at the man at her side, ”Karuko. He is of jounin class and more than free to punish you two on the spot as he sees fit. Unless there are any questions, we should head out.”

Karuko grinned as one of the genin approached and made a rather amusing comment, at least, in Karuko’s opinion. Not that he verbally responded but the grin spoke volumes. He enjoyed the somewhat attempt at a joke.
The other genin made a bow but Karuko didn’t respond in kind. He didn’t need to. He was higher of rank and as such, respect was something they needed to earn. Hopefully, they could earn it better than the team he had actually been assigned to.
As Nishi explained her plan, Karuko remained silent. Aware of the objective and what would follow, he remained silent. The goal was simple and how they would conduct the operation wasn’t a matter of academic material either.
Having no questions, Karuko hooked his thumbs behind his belt. It was going to be interesting to see how these two genin would operate.

Hikari - the critic, Karuko - The joyful audience, and Nishi - the butt of the joke. What a pleasant set Alsanna would have to deal with today. Taking proper care in assessing the reaction of each of her associates, she was left with a subtle smirk whilst crunching on now her second rice ball. “She’s a lil’ shit, don’t wanna look weird around her man.” she had lowered her voice just a tad, winking over at the only male in the group.
The briefing was blessed with a consistent background noise of munching. Alsanna paid very close attention, of course. Drawings on the dirt, a classic, her focused gaze on the doodles only faltered once she had something to say, which she did and did not hesitate to speak up during Karuko’s introduction. “Just intel? Need four guys for that? Hmmm. Alrighty. How about …” lips pushed out during her musing whilst her chin was tapped by her half-eaten treat. “We find a not-so disposable officer, and then we can get a cool party started after you rack their brains.” she smiled, first at Karuko, then to the official sensei, and then finally to Hikari. The latter was presented with the held half-ball. “Hungry?

Listening intently as Nishi explained the operation, Hikari thought it was explained well and she understood the objectives. After Hirashima-sensei asked if there were any questions, Hikari looked at both the other jounin and her teammate, waiting to see if either had any questions. And unsurprisingly to her, Alsanna gave what she found to be another couple of inappropriate remarks.
Shaking her head at the offer of the half-eaten rice ball, she turned to look at her sensei, offering only a shake of her head as a response, to indicate she had no questions or qualms regarding the operation.

”Alsanna,” Nishi began as she turned her gaze to the genin. The uttering of the name was followed with the air getting heavier, to the point that it became harder for the genin to breathe.
”Keep your antics out of the mission,” the woman calmly stated, yet the amount of pressure that was present made something abundantly clear: Nishi wouldn’t hesitate to use lethal force to put the girl in her place.
The tension slowly faded away as Nishi turned herself around and gestured to the group to follow her.
”Let’s just get to business and see this done before the sun sets down.”

With her name called and an unnatural pressure applied to her being, the parasol-girl seemed to know right away the source. Her foxy gaze turned into a focused, almost defiant one directed at the leader. No words were uttered, only a glare. The adjustment of her stance made the discomfort clear to those around. Before the pressure relented, the small pigeon that had come to roost over her shade started to squawk anxiously, consequently breaking her glare, instead peering upwards. “Get scarce.” she ordered with a dry tone, and the avian critter complied, taking flight almost immediately after, seeking shelter in one of the trees nearby.
Pupils dropped back down toward Nishi, her expression now relaxed and her tone back to relative normalcy. “No antics, pinkie promise.” she smiled.

The pressure was noticeable and even Karuko couldn’t deny that he felt unsettled. Knowing the source, he simply remained silent. Observing how the genin responded, Karuko’s grin returned. This team dynamic was far more interesting than that of his own. Then again, there was no real competition there, he bitterly thought to himself. Considering what they had to do, he did wonder if either of the two genin had the stomach to pull through if it would come down to killing.


The team moved in a diamond square formation. Being at the head, Nishi lead efficiently where they should go - with enough spacing that any enemy trap or ambush couldn’t take all four out easily.
The trek was mostly nothing more than moving through the plains and climbing some hills. Tracks were found but nothing that belonged to the enemy. However, they would eventually be capable of spotting the large fortress in the distance. As such, Nishi gave the instruction for them to take a small break and regroup.

The high walls and towers, combined with the various spires seemed to resemble something ominous on the horizon. The dark material from which the fortification was composed didn’t do much to dampen that eerie sensation.
Observing the landscape around the fortress, it was mostly plain grassland. Likely kept that way so that anyone daring to approach the defences was spotted easily and quickly.
”We don’t need to get too close to the fortifications themselves,” Nishi started as she finished the bland ration that she had packed for the break, ”We will try to ambush a patrol and hope there is an officer or sergeant among them. If we can extract information from them, we can return and brief the general about our findings.” Nishi further said out loud, throwing a glance at the others.

‘Enjoying’ the bland ration, Karuko listened to what Nishi said. Throwing a look at the distant fortress, he was content to stay away from it without an army backing him up. But if they could ambush and capture an enemy officer, then that would provide a lot of intel as well.
”Well,” he mumbled, his mouth still full with rice, ”can’t be that,” he further said - the words not coming through coherently. Clearing his mouth, Karuko nodded as he then spoke again.
”It can’t be that difficult to find a Rongese patrol. Buggers must be crawling all over the perimeter. Certainly now that they know we are around.”
Glancing at the genin, Karuko wondered about something.
”Any of yous having fought already, eh? Used to bloodshed or what?” He asked the genin, his grin of before appearing once more on his features.

The dismissed avian had indeed made some distance with its master, although not all that much. Keeping itself in safe spots, it adopted some vantage points to gather details on the surrounding plains and the fortress itself. It wouldn’t get too close as its inconspicuous nature could only do so well against normal shinobi.
Passive nods were given to the female leader of the group whilst lunchtime was being enjoyed while seated over a dead tree trunk. She stuck to mere drinks; her brunch had covered the needed nutrients it seemed. Although when Karuko actually got interested in her case and Hikari’s, her pupils trained themselves to his figure. “Hmmm? Oh me? If you count a prison riot and getting back at little slags stealing my shrimp chips as fighting, sure.” she briefly smiled, only to lower her head, allowing a rebellious fringe of her fall over her face.
As for bloodshed, though ...” her voice not only deepened a tad but had a slight rasp to it. “My father, he … Heh.” with that pause, she brushed the strand of hairs over her ear, gaze avoidant and a hand nervously caressing her shoulder. This ‘nervousness’ would come off as rather purposeful to those well trained in assessing behaviours. “It was too much, y’ know? And my brothers just let it happen … Tch. I’m not so weak anymore. Fuckers. Yeah, bloodshed I do know.” and even a little, exaggerated sniffle for good measure.

As she ate her ration quietly, Hikari listened to Nishi, nodding slightly as a small indication that she heard what her sensei said. Karuko’s question, however, made her lower her head a bit. She remained silent as Alsanna spoke. She couldn’t even begin to fathom abuse like that. Her family weren’t perfect and had their issues, but never anything that got to that. Once she was done, Hikari took a moment before looking towards Nishi.
”I’ve seen bloodshed, alongside sensei. We fought together against a bunch of the same people we’re up against now, only at sea. Needed to put a hole in some huge floating fortress and make it sink. And with her guidance, it happened. But until it did, I saw a lot of people get taken down by either my fire, or my teammates, or the crumbling ship. And then there were also the two times we failed.” Hikari paused, looking down at the ground and closing her eyes before continuing.
”First failure on the same mission. We were on a ship, and it got attacked by the enemy. A lot of rowers got stuck below deck, and we had to retreat into the water as the ship began sinking. All those lives are on me. My former teammate caused it, but it is still on me. Every single one of them. And then the second failure, just before we got deployed here. We were supposed to help escort some supplies, and ended up fighting next to a barn. The enemy was very experienced, and despite my best effort to follow sensei’s orders and get others attention through a flaming flare, I was too slow. People still lost their lives in a fire that started in the barn. Those too are on me. So I’ve seen lives lost because of me on both sides. And I don’t intend on seeing more lives lost on our side.” She opened her and looked at Karuko for a brief second, before going back to eat her ration. Her appetite was basically lost after all that, but she still knew she had to eat. They had a mission that will likely be anything but easy.

Listening to what the others said, Nishi remained silent as a neutral expression seemed plastered on the woman’s expression. The only change came briefly when Alsanna finished, provoking a frown from Nishi but nothing that spoke further of the woman’s emotions or if she bought the genin’s tale.
”If it comes to a fight, we will with the traditional tactic.” While certain that Karuko knew what she meant, Nishi gestured the genin to pay attention. Picking a stick, she started to drew into the dirt.

”Usually, this works best with five and when we are certain to outnumber the enemy,” Nishi began as she drew a few circles, ”these represent us. The principle is fairly easy to understand. More difficult to actually execute. We will split into three roles. Distract, kill and defend. Got that? Good,” the jounin continued as she drew a few squares.
”You two won’t likely win in a fair fight. To counter that, we will do the following. Distract is the person that will engage a foe and keep their attention. Even the most skilled combatants have difficulty to respond to a multitude of attacks or attackers. Kill is the person who will flank the distracted opponent and do what their role says. Aiming to kill the person without appearing flashy or taking too long.”
All the while, Nishi drew lines to illustrate that the one distracting would go for a charge while the person tasked with killing would go around into a flanking position.
”Defend is more fluid. The enemy, if smart or observant enough, will attempt to break our formation. Certainly if they got more numbers. Defend is to hold those enemies off, so that distract and kill can swap with them. That way, even if the enemy is more skilled, they will become overwhelmed and taken down by … well, you inexperienced lot. Any questions?”

Karuko remained silent. He was aware of the tactic. It was a sound tactic that could be countered but required a disciplined approach in return. That or a formation that wouldn’t give an opening for Nishi’s suggestion. However, he doubted they would face a large enough unit going on patrol to see such a thing.
Munching on a last bite of an apple, Karuko threw the remain to the side.
”I will take defense then. Two brats here won’t likely be able to understand how a battle is going even if it was up in their nose, ha,” the man stated, his voice quite jovial as he rubbed his hands clean on his attire. ”Besides, they need some more experience. Learn where to stick the enemy with the pointy ends and such.”
The grin of before returned on Karuko’s lips. He was more than eager enough to feel the rush of adrenaline and actually see some action - than to be bogged down with the annoying twats that he usually was paired with.

Alsanna’s gaze was completely captivated by Hikari’s figure during this brief moment of confessions. At first, she kept a consistent frown from her own admission of troubled pasts, but the more the blonde shared, the more the dark haired Genin leaned backward, her hand pushing back to support her weight. Her visage was hidden from her colleague’s sight and obscured from Karuko, but Nishi had a good look. She began to smile, albeit subtly. And when repeated failures, a twitch pushed out at the edge of her lips. Her eyes very distinctly veered toward the bandage Alsanna had wrapped the other day onto Hikari’s arm, and then back toward the portion of the blonde’s face she could actually see. This was repeated a couple of times, and her smile only grew after each repetition, ending with a sudden stare toward Nishi, and a wink.
Then came the plan. For posture adjustment, she leaned forward and craned her head over the earthen doodle. “Hmmm~” her head shifted from side to side. She was clearly musing whilst Karuko seized the opportunity to suggest his own role. ““I wouldn’t mind being a distraction, actually! Oh oh, I actually got some nifty ideas that could even surprise you two lovebirds.” she smirked, fingers interlocked before she stretched her arms forward, prompting her joints to crack behind her gloves. ““But then again, I am your actually valuable medic. Sooo, I’ll need the badass duo here to give me their thighs!” and after the cracking, she clapped her hands together as she finished with her proposition.

Listening to Nishi’s plan, Hikari remained silent as Karuko first stated which role he will take, before Alsanna came with her own remarks. She kept quiet for a moment more, before looking in Nishi’s direction.
”If Karuko is on Defense, and Alsanna being a pain in understanding which role she suggested to take, I can say that I am not certain if I could provide the best distraction. My fire release could provide a lot of distraction, but the smoke from any fire could serve to alert many more, which we don’t want. So it would probably be best for me to be a killer and use my blade each time, allowing me to swiftly do the job and retreat without much hindrance. I could aim for the necks to try and make for a swift kill.” Hikari said. This was meant to be a low-profile operation for their side, after all. So anything that could raise alarms should be thrown off the table immediately, and that includes her fire release.

Oi.” she narrowed her gaze toward the blonde of the squad. “I said I’d be a distraction! Even if that may compromise your medic. My additional suggestion will merely … Make it go a whole lot smoother! I think.” from a whimsical tune to a more casual moment of doubt, she rubbed her chin for a moment. “But if you want something concrete and smart, get me a warm body, enemy or otherwise, ASAP and you’ll have a show our victims simply cannot ignore. If we can’t get any of that, then your requested legs are doubly useful.

Nishi simply nodded as Karuko took the defending role - something she would have taken or requested Karuko to do regardless. Nishi frowned as the genin weren’t getting the full picture. There was a slight irritation upon Alsanna probing the jounin, but Nishi didn’t give a response to the girl’s ‘subtle’ jabs.
”The fact you instantly think about utilizing ninjutsu is enough to make me think you learned nothing of your past failures,” Nishi said, a clear hint of disgust as she turned her attention to Hikari, ”we indeed don’t want to alert the enemy. So making any mention of fire release or whatever you have stuck up there, is already a bad sign.”
Turning her attention to Aslanna, Nishi frowned. The girl had a point; she was a medic. Standard regulations and protocols forbid the medic taking any frontline occupation. Even if Nishi wanted to throw the nuisance that was Alsanna right at the enemy walls, it couldn’t be done.
”We will be doing this the old fashioned way. No use of ninjutsu unless I command so. Hikari, you will be distraction. Alsanna, you are going to be taking kill.” The woman ordered firmly before pointing back at the ground’s drawing.
”Memorise what is expected of you. Listen to orders and we should be able to perhaps ambush a small patrol before they may spot us with the like of sensory and what not.”

Rising up, Nishi dusted off her knees before she spoke again. ”So make the preparations you need to get ready, we are going.”

Alsanna peered toward one side, and then to the other, before pushing her lips out in a clear pout. “... Really?” with her hands raised to chest level and her fingers hooked, they were left twitching and without ‘legs’ to claim. Her squint was eventually directed toward Hikari, a dull stare now reigning over her expression. “Show me that wound of yours real quick, love.” she requested, monotone and with her right hand already reaching out. A purple-ish miasma oh so subtly oozed out and surrounded her approaching hand.


The team had moved through the landscape with a firm but steady pace. The breaks were short. It took three hours before the first tracks were found of a small patrol. The tracks weren’t fresh but underneath Nishi’s command, the team continued to follow them regardless.
Eventually, the team would be able to detect the patrol of Rongese soldiers. The brutes were armed with crude weaponry and seemed more like bandits than actual professional soldiers. But the presence of a more armoured and professional looking Rongese made it clear that it was an unit, with a leading officer.
The Rongese patrol was out in a clearing and seemingly enjoying a long break as some of the soldiers were seated on their behind, enjoying bread and drinking from flagons.
Counting twelve targets, Nishi narrowed her eyes. Signalling the others to stay hidden among the treeline, Nishi conjured a plan in her mind.

”Karuko, you will distract and hold off the majority with me. Hikari and Alsanna, remember your roles. Hikari engages one opponent. Alsanna, you flank around and deal a killing blow. Keep working through that and we won’t need anything fancy. Though,” signalling to the armoured target - who seemingly scolded two solders - Nishi continued, ”I want that target to be breathing. We will take him back for interrogation. Clear? Good.”

A grin split nearly Karuko’s lower face in two. Hearing the instruction seemed to give some joy as the man nodded. In a swift motion, he moved away from the genin and Nishi. Only to appear a few seconds later out of the treeline.
Dashing over the grass, the jounin brandished a tanto. A noticeable hiss heralded Karuko’s charge as he would perform a quick swing. The chakra that surrounded the tanto’s blade shot in a wide arc towards the enemy, the blue energy providing a terrifying howling as it approached the enemy.

The task was simple, and the usually quite bored and talkative Alsanna kept any sort of witty addition to herself. Instead, her gaze was focused on every single element of the unit they were to ambush. By how her eyes shifted, it seemed she was eliminating them one by one, until she focused on two. “Get that big one, to the captain’s left. Just make sure his arms are busy for a second. Y’can do that, blondie?” she turned her visage toward Hikari, eyebrows raising in expectation of a response.
When the operation seemingly commenced with Karuko’s head-on assault, the parasol gal went for elevation, her lithe and petite figure making it rather easy to navigate around and shadow Hikari’s initiative. Her parasol had actually been sheathed on her back for the time being. The same, murky manifestation on her hand would be quickly brought to tap the left side of her chest, leaving an unseen mark under her attire.

Looking at the soldiers, Hikari nodded silently as she remembered her role was to distract while Alsanna took them out. Hearing her teammate, she looked in the direction of the soldier she was referring to. Nodding as a response, she took out a pair of kunai, one in each hand. If what Alsanna wanted was the hands to be occupied for a moment, she thought of one way to do it. Moving along the treelines to get a better line of sight at the enemies, she raised her kunai, before throwing both kunai, one aimed at the soldier’s right hand, and the other at the soldier’s left leg. She also hoped the sound from Karuko’s swing would provide some cover that would allow her kunai to hit without being detected prior.

Waiting in the cover of the foliage, Nishi observed the situation. Karuko's eagerness caused Nishi to frown but she wouldn’t doubt he could pull off to drive and put the enemies into a defence. It was then the turn for the genin to pick someone out and perform their tactic of distraction and kill. Overhearing Alsanna picking a target and what she wanted, Nishi remained behind to see what Hikari would do. The two girls hadn’t worked in a real fight situation before. Their dynamic prior was enough to make Nishi hesitate if they could pull something off together in an excellent fashion.
But as Nishi watched, Hikari proceeded on Alsanna’s request.

The fierce charge and sweeping crescent of chakra caught the attention of the Rongese soldiers. Two were caught by surprise, the chakra cleaving through the men as the others managed to evade it in the nick of time.
As a consequence of the highly destructive charge of Karuko, Hikari’s kunai managed to hit their mark without a flaw. Hikari’s victim seemed to have trouble moving efficiently, his eyes trying to peer at the culprit that had threw the kunai.
The majority of the Rongese soldiers descended on Karuko, attempting to attack the jounin from various angles. A few Rongese soldiers seemed smart enough to linger behind, either worried about more opponents or smart enough to know to wait for an opening.

Nishi still remained behind. She knew her role but didn’t need to move from her position. Bringing her hands together, she speeded through various signs to then place the palm of her right hand against the ground. However, nothing seemed to happen as Nishi kept observing the situation further.
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[ Operation: Bloody Walls ]
[ Sevudia, Eastern Continent | Jirian Force ]
[ Team Nishi | A collaberation between @DeliciousFood , @Nim , @Gerontis and @Oetje ]
[ Tasked by the general, Team Nishi heads out together with Karuko as reinforcement. The team is tasked to survey the area or else capture a source of information. The dynamic tends to far from cohesive but eventually, the team comes across a Rongese patrol. However, not all go as planned... ]

~Part 2~

Predatory, blue eyes surveyed the current series of events. The plan was unfolding as expected, and with the first steps correctly applied, it was safe to assume the momentum gained would remain in the squad’s favour. Alsanna kept the center of her focus on her main target, but there were new elements to factor in now. Enemies in the back rows, perhaps not an immediate threat to her position, but a danger when she’d be exposed.

There wasn’t much time to calculate every eventuality, as her prey’s posture break was but a minuscule window she had to seize. Her light figure hopped off the thicker branch she had appropriated herself, the fall brief and with minimal sound. Alsanna’s position made it so that her boots, now with the metal talons unleashed, would land right under the wounded soldier’s shoulder blades while carefully circumventing any low-quality armour, ensuring pierced flesh and the tips of the talons jammed into some bone. Her left arm was made to latch around his neck with her gloves so conveniently efficient in applying friction. Her back would thus be arched forward, her upper body and core pressed against her target and making her frame as small as possible in the process. Finally, her right hand delivered the finisher. Index and major fingers together, they were driven right under the base of the skull, made to perforate the cerebellum in one, clean stab. This clearly wasn’t her first time doing this, nor did it seem like she was too inexperienced with chaos. Little sound was heard after the kill-move, but a brief, blue light flashed from the victim’s pupils whilst his mouth was left agape. The intent behind this semi-perilous endeavour was to leave a ‘mark’ in that now compromised brain and consequently ‘even’ the odds in this altercation.

Be a dear and shield me. And Blondie there.” she whispered to the ‘dead’ target, whilst her palm remained pressed on his head, ready to steer him as if he were a steed should his associates quickly turn toward Alsanna. If safe, she’d dismount with a rough shove from her feet, leaving a secondary ‘mark’ on his back this time, the same one that marked her chest.

The fact that he had cut down two seemed to ‘cheer’ Karuko up. The jounin pressed on the advantage as he quickly noticed that the genin both struck and took down an enemy. Noticing that some of the other enemies turned towards whatever hellish shit Alsanna was doing, Karuko moved further.
Unleashing another arc of chakra, he continued to drive the Rongese away unless he saw that the genin picked a new target. So far it seemed that these lot weren’t entirely inexperienced in fighting as their spacing and reactions had prevented more from being cut down in the initial attack.

After seeing her initial attempt succeeding, thanks to Karuko’s attack serving as a distraction and Alsanna making her own move, she turned her gaze to the changing situation. Some of the soldiers seemed to charge at Karuko, while others still stayed behind. She needed to create another opening for Alsanna.
Taking out two kunai and an explosive tag, Hikari first made a tear in the middle of the tag, turning it into a dud. Tying it into one of the kunai, Hikari looked at the men who stayed back, aimed the kunai with the dud between them, before throwing it. Doing the activation seal, The tag would start to glow before the kunai hit the ground between the soldiers. It would end up making nothing but a bit of smoke come out, but if it worked, then it would provide a distraction for Alsanna to utilize.
Hikari began moving away from her previous spot, while sticking to the treelines. She wanted to ensure that even if someone spotted where the kunai came from, they would find nothing there.

Nishi observed the battle. Calmly keeping a palm against the ground with the chakra at the ready to be sent towards the centre of battle at a mere whim, Nishi noticed the kunai that hit the ground. The tag that started to light up but produced nothing more than smoke was enough to distract one of the Rongese soldiers - who frowned. Before the man could look back at the battle, Nishi would make matters easier for Alsanna to do her work.
Four walls quickly rose up, surprising the man and his allies. Nishi’s earth technique confining the man - allowing Alsanna to strike with more security from above.

The enemies started to spread out further, their main focus being on Karuko - who kept posing the largest threat. However, two Rongese soldiers turned to a new threat; which was one that seemed to cause them to show signs of terror and agony. The man that had been Alsanna’s first victim moved slower but with a steady determination to his former comrades. Only to suddenly lunge his weapon forwards - in a clear attempt to hack his machete into the shoulder of his former ally.
The two soldiers shouted something in their native tongue, which sounded alien for the Kiri shinobi.

Walls of stone and dirt surrounded both the predator and the prey, ensuring a clean execution and some downtime to ensure she still had her ‘touch’. Pleased with the result, she merely nudged her chin to the left whilst the possessed peered at her direction, taking it as an order to move forward. Because of the size of the puppet, a swipe from his cleaver could probably allow him to pass through the walls, even in his undead state.
The hulking ‘undying’ was exercising its duty as instructed, serving as a barrier for Alsanna before anything else while pushing through his former comrades with no signs of restraint. Distractions from Hikari allowed a quick and game-ending strike for yet another Rongese. Alsanna seized this opportunity, keeping close to the giant, her lithe frame easily concealed behind his flank, and when the injured soldier’s posture was completely compromised, she went for the kill. A more traditional one involving her now whipped out parasol with pike at the tip extended and brought right into the armpit corresponding to the undamaged shoulder. It was a quick stab, in and out in a flash with a consistent squirt of blood coming out of the newly formed hole. For the briefest of moments, as she retracted her death-parasol with her right hand while her left had been raised to chest-level, flattened and perpendicular to her body as if performing a sort of hand seal whilst her head lowered itself a tad. This man was dead, or would be in a minute or two.
Watch out for your friends. We’ve got an audience.” she said with the most mundane of tones while she went to work once more. The undead sentinel was her main defense in this brief moment of vulnerability. The dying soldier fell, and with that she’d cushion his head with her thigh and palm as her free hand went for the same kill-move that turned the previous. “You’ve got a minute. How about you break those gawking friends of yours? They did let you down.” she chuckled, her gaze directed to the mortified duo. A brief wink was even dedicated to them. “You.” her bloodied index tapped the bigger undying, “Get me your boss.

Karuko’s enjoyment grew as the Rongese soldiers showed some spine,after all! One approached the jounin from the left with a spear. The difference in their weapon’s length meant that the Rongese should have an advantage over Karuko. Likely bolstered by this fact, the Rongese attempted to jab Karuko at his side.
The move was too telegraphed for someone of Karuko’s calibre. Evading the jab with stepping to the side, the free hand of the jounin grabbed the shaft. In a quick pull, he managed to bring the Rongese close enough as the blue chakra shot from the jounin’s blade. Blood started to creep out of the wound as the sharp energy drove deeper into its victim.
Glancing at the other Rongese, Karuko twisted the blade - the sharp energy shredding the inside of his victim, resulting in a blood curdling screaming.
Dropping his grip, he took a defensive stance as his eyes peered for another bastard brave enough to close in on him.
”Come on then,” he mumbled, wanting to attack but spotting some kind of disturbance in the corner of his eyes. Were those Rongese soldiers fighting each other now?

Coming to a halt after moving away from her previous position, Hikari watched the now changed scene. Earth walls had trapped some of the soldiers, likely the work of Hirashima-sensei, Karuko appeared to be making more pushes at the soldiers that came at him, and Alsanna was causing some of the soldiers to fight each other.
Trying to think on what else she could do to perhaps give Alsanna yet another chance, she took some wire and tied it to kunai she had kept in her hand, before throwing it at the legs of one of the soldiers that had become occupied with fighting one of their own. She specifically aimed to strike at the soldier’s shin. The wire was meant for afterwards, to potentially lure them for a moment by bringing the kunai back to her, and away from Alsanna, hopefully giving her yet another opening.

Observing further, Nishi made some more mental notes as the genin continued their work. Alsanna did briefly vanish from her sight, the earth walls confining her with the next target. Refocusing her attention to the other Rongese, Karuko filled his occupation with a certain visible enthusiasm. Something that didn’t bother Nishi, the result was positive and for all she could care Karuko was allowed to sing during it.
Hikari seemed to avoid getting in the whole combat. Her handiwork had been good but Nishi wondered if the genin understood that she was too far away if someone was going to try to confront Alsanna - while Karuko was too occupied and far away for a rapid response.
”Time to speed up this process,” Nishi muttered to herself. Removing her palm from the ground, the jounin proceeded to weave various signs before placing both palms against the ground.

The battlefield seemed to tremble slightly before chunks of earth started to levitate, some chunks higher than other pieces of dirt, debris and earth. Several Rongese soldiers were caught up in it, surprised and confused why the earth itself had decided to raise them on small platforms.
A few soldiers did seem quick enough to escape the odd shift of the battlefield. They began to shout at one another as three of them started to run into a certain direction as the others attempted to charge one final time.
The seemingly last stand seemed effective enough to overwhelm and take out the first turned soldier of Alsanna. Loud yells erupted through the air as the group of charging soldiers attempted to surround both Karuko and the second turned soldier of Alsanna, most likely wanting to take those two out first.

The terrain was to undergo an overhaul, to which even the steadfast Alsanna was brought to pay attention to and brace herself for. This moment of general chaos allowed for better crowd control, but in turn, the combined efforts of the enemy managed to wither down and put an end to the first Undying. Well, almost, they were notoriously difficult to kill without a full-blown decapitation. Alsanna herself immediately leapt back to create some distance while the zombie was serving his purpose as a shield. During that leap, she aimed one of her own, feather-shaped kunai charged with the familiar aura she had used before to one of the soldiers that had their backs turned (one that was running away).

Rude.” she muttered, lips pushed out in a clear pout. Upon landing her ninja-hop backward, she had employed both her hands to perform a simple hand seal, the shaft of her umbrella kept still between her forearm and shoulder. Nothing actually happened after that, she waited until she was sure where the aggression was directed. Karuko and the rapidly decaying Undying were at the centre of it. Although, hopefully by the efforts of Hikari’s distraction, the kamikaze undead would at least bring one of them down with it.

Now was time for a freakshow. A final assessment of the situation was made before she formed the all too simple ‘Kai’ seal with her left hand. The mark she had previously left on the first undead activated under his poor armour pieces and clothes, opening as if it were some sort of orifice and birthing something rather unsightly. What would come out would be a ‘clone’ of the nearly depleted undying, having used its body and chakra to form this monstrosity. This one seemed to have exaggerated facial features, larger eyes, smaller mouth, and its limbs were deformed in accordance to the damage he had taken prior to being turned. One arm was left lanky, while one leg was made far thicker than the other. The ‘clothing’ felt integrated to the flesh rather than separate from it. This horrid creature screeched a blood-curdling scream before blitzing toward the crowd, on all four, as if it were a feral animal. It was devoid of intelligence, but like a clone, it could be ordered to a degree, and this time it’d be to simply avoid the ‘captain’.

Well damn, not even a mother could love that face ...” she kept her distance, aiming for some elevation, while orchestrating this chaotic cacophony of unconventional crowd control. “Hikari!~” she called out, hoping her voice wouldn’t be hindered by the sounds of combat. Should her blonde colleague pay attention to Alsanna, she’d notice that her parasol was pointed at the direction of the escaping trio. If her kunai had successfully struck that previously targeted thigh, then the three runaways would be in for a similar horrific encounter, with the seal opening from the wounded soldiers’ thigh.

Noticing that the Rongese charged, Karuko wanted to attack in return. But understanding that they had two genin which combat experience wasn’t likely enough to ward off such foes in large numbers, Karuko remained on the defensive - watching out and hoping to provide a more tempting target to finish off first.
Content with the situation, Karuko readied his blade. The chakra enveloping it started to hiss even louder than before, the radiant blue becoming darker as the energy seemed to shift. Before the Rongese or Karuko would make their move, the blood-curdling scream of nearby attracted their attention.
”By the Divine’s tits,” Karuko whispered as he witnessed the birth of the monstrity, crawling out of a former Rongese soldier. A veteran of many battles and situations, Karuko’s stomach had hardened against most sights. But right now, he felt how his stomach turned and felt like it wanted to violently empty its previous contents.
A cold shiver ran down his spine as he wondered what kind of fucked up mind had to work in order to cultivate such kinds of ideas.
Hearing some shouting, Karuko nearly threw up in his mouth as he watched how the monster charged at the other soldiers. The motion of it was fascinating but mostly disturbing - as if a demon decided to play with the corpse, only deciding to add a modicum of mockery and amusement to it, warping the body to an unspeakable form.

”Fuck,” he cursed as he detected that the Rongese started to recover - somewhat. One of the soldiers moved in fast and attempted to deliver a quick jab. Largely due to his disgust and being distracted, Karuko’s body moved too late. The sharp edge of the spear ripped through the clothing of Karuko’s left shoulder, the sharp steel bringing a painful sting.
Reacting quickly, Karuko lashed out in order to drive the Rongese back. His maneuver worked, only for two others to move in and attack. Cursing his situation and fact he had been distracted by what was likely the work of a mere genin, anger started to take over.
Evading the jab of a sword, Karuko raised his tanto to seemingly block the strike of a Rongese with an axe. The wood splintered with a loud cracking sound as the chakra slided through it.
Catching the head of the axe, Karuko kicked the somewhat disarmed foe back before turning half around. Spotting another enemy moving in, the jounin threw the axehead at the approaching threat with all his might, using the momentum of his turn - watching it with an odd sense of satisfaction as the Rongese cried out in pain with the axehead embedding in his abdomen.

Watching the unfolding events, Hikari kept a close eye on where she could strike next. Some earth chunks started to levitate, likely the work of Nishi, seeing how she saw it before. Karuko was still occupied with several Rongese, and Alsanna then called out to Hikari. It wasn’t overly audible, but Hikari was keeping an ear open for anything that might sound unusual.
Turning to look in Alsanna’s direction, she caught sight of what her teammate called out to her was about. Three Rongese soldiers were beginning to escape from the field. It would be bad if they managed to completely escape, as that would mean they alert others to what happened, and then a lot of bad things could happen in turn. Taking out a pair of kunai, Hikari decided that things had escalated enough and chaos was going around enough for her to leave her hiding spot among the treelines. Charging forward, she jumped up, used one of the floating chunks to jump again, before throwing both kunai in the direction of the escaping soldiers, aiming for their bodies, but knowing that with their distance, they’ll be more likely to hit their legs.
Landing on another floating chunk, she took out her tanto, being prepared in case anyone tried coming at her.

Nishi stared at the sight that had unfolded in front of her. The team was cooperating and driving the Rongese to annihilation, of which there was no doubt in Nishi’s mind. But when she saw the ‘birth’ of a monstrosity, she couldn’t keep her eyes away from it. The intriguing ‘puppet’ of Alsanna allowing to spawn some absurd creation would pull blood away from Nishi’s expression, her face turning pale. The blood-curdling scream caused the hair on her neck to rise immediately.
For a moment, Nishi wanted nothing more than to act and destroy the abomination that had been birthed in front of her eyes. There was no way that the Divine would condone such a creation; this was the work of a demon.
Flowing chakra in the earth, Nishi focused on the few Rongese that were shocked to their core. The levitating chunks of rock and dirt suddenly fell down - slamming down around the group and the monstrity that charged at them. Before any of the Rongese soldiers could escape, the fallen earth started to expand and formed a tall, steep wall. Screams erupted from the confines of the newly enclosure as voices in a foreign tongue seemingly begged for mercy.
Closing her eyes, Nishi felt her inside still shocked from what she had witnessed. As she opened her eyes, the jounin moved her gaze to Alsanna. Some thoughts surfaced within Nishi’s mind but the objective was what counted.

The officer of the patrol now stood alone as his unit was being confined and slaughtered. The shock was visible as the man’s right hand loosened the grip on his straight sword, leading to the weapon falling to the ground.
Before the officer could gain any funny ideas, the earth opened beneath him as a hungry beast - capturing him.

The three fleeing Rongese soldiers didn’t manage to get far. The kunai of Alsanna hit the mark, causing one of the fleeing soldiers to fall down and roll over the ground. The hit in the thigh was serious enough but the man started to scream in terror as a new horror was birthed on the battlefield. The absurd monstrosity was barely even complete while it started to claw and punch the fallen Rongese.
One of the Rongese deserters turned half around, wanting to aid his companion. Judging by his expression and frozen motion, he was struck by the terrible sight as his brother in arms was literally mauled to death.
Two kunai soared through the air and hit the frozen Rongese in the chest. Pain brought him back to sense as he raised the tip of his spear and attempted to liberate his troubled ally.
The third and still fleeing Rongese did hesitate and that cost him dearly - Hikari’s kunai hitting him in the left leg. The pain was enough to cause him to barrel roll and come to a halt. However, it became clear that he would attempt to free himself of the weapon and attempt to keep fleeing.

Complete and utter chaos. A very controlled chaos, admittedly. Enemy morale was single-handedly annihilated by one ability. The ‘strength in numbers’ mentality was completely turned on Rong’s head. Alsanna smirked, pleased with the sight, although she seemed particularly content with what the curse marks spawned. As monstrous and revolting as they were, they clearly meant something completely different to the progenitor.
Karuko and Nishi cleaned house rather quickly now that the whole squadron was left in shambles. “Mind sparing a couple of the grunts, Nishi-Sensei?” she inquired just as the Jounin had peered in her direction, and Alsanna did the same barely a second after, allowing their gazes to meet. The Genin’s gaze didn’t show all that much; there was neither pleasure nor horror in her expression, just her slightly slanted, blue eyes widening a tad as she expected something from her sensei. By then she had ‘opened’ her parasol and used it to shield her head from falling earthen debris from the various impacts.

In the wake of this ‘victory’, Alsanna approached her first puppet. It was still ‘breathing’, though it was completely disabled on the floor. These things were truly resilient without having their heads completely destroyed. With a sigh, she lifted her parasol, the blade out and pointed downward, and finished the undying with a stab to the head. The retreat of the pike was slow, done with one hand while the other once again got flat and perpendicular to her chest, major finger barely touching her chin. For the briefest of moments, her eyes had closed during this peculiar act before she directed her attention elsewhere. The other undying had since ‘expired’ and the crushed cyto-clone was surprisingly still ‘solid’ despite being ‘killed’.

And don’t let any get away.” she said as casually as ever while carefully brushing her hand over her hair. It didn’t seem addressed at anyone, but Hikari could see the creature mauling one of the fallen soldiers cease its disemboweling and immediately glare at the direction of the furthest escapee. The spear-wielding one would manage to stab and even rip off the clone’s arm, but that didn’t stop it from wildly dashing toward the furthest one like some feral predator, seeking to spread its fury and subsequently help Hikari in her endeavour.

Now then!” Alsanna clapped her hands together, her tone rather jolly, “What’s next? Interrogate their boss? And before you ask, I can’t probe their brains for that sort of stuff. Nope.

Pulling his weapon out of the dying enemy, Karuko threw an apathetic look to the corpses. The fight had ended quickly as the Rongese cohesion had been broken; their morale shattered.
Turning around, Karuko saw that the fight quickly rounded up but not in a way that he could find desirable. His disgust grew upon sighting a second horror being brought onto the field as the responsible culprit landed on the ground. Watching Alsanna dispatching the first horror, Karuko’s grip on his tanto tightened to the point that he would have felt a twinge of pain. Instead, his gaze turned to a glare.
He had seen men die with dishonour in all kinds of ways. War was coveted by many as the way to gain respect, prestige and renown. But Karuko had seen the worse and grim realisation: it was a bloody mess. However, what he had seen today made him ponder a decision. One that he hadn’t considered taking for a long time.
Inhaling softly, the blue hue of chakra didn’t vanish from his blade as he started to walk forwards. His pace was slow and seemed casual, yet there was something off regarding the man’s body language - a certain purpose dawning.

”Gracious Divine, my Light,” the man mumbled underneath his breath as he kept his gaze focused on Alsanna, ”Guide this strike,” he mumbled as he unleashed a wave of chakra aimed at Alsanna - the crescent of sharp chakra aimed to likely cleave the genin in half.

Now that she was closer, Hikari actually started to notice how some of those things that attacked the other soldiers looked like. They were horrific. She had seen dead bodies when they had the mission on the boat, but this was just wrong. She watched, somewhat frozen, as one charged to the soldiers that had ran away, and made it way to the one that she managed to hit with her kunai.
Taking out a kunai and two shuriken, Hikari threw the kunai at the thing that was running at the soldier, before throwing the two shuriken, aiming to hit his head. She preferred he’d suffer an injury by her hand than whatever that thing might do to it.

After that, she dropped from the earth chunk she stood on, as they began to drop, landing with a roll on the ground. She kept her eyes on the soldiers that were trying to run before, now properly wielding her tanto, and started to walk in their direction. By now, she just wanted to make sure they would not share the same fate as some of the others on the battlefield did.

Watching the developments starting to wrap up the mission, Nishi threw a glance at Alsanna. There was no response coming from the jounin as she noticed something else that required her attention. Her right hand slowly moved to the hilt of her own tanto. Chakra started to mould and gather at her boots.
In a split second, a decision came up in her mind. She wasn’t sure what the correct was. For that second, adrenaline rushed with such speed that she could both feel and hear it going through her system. Only to explode in a loud roar as she seemed to vanish from her spot; the build up chakra producing a loud snap as she dashed forwards towards Alsanna.
Unsheathing her tanto, a sharp blue spread over the blade as she directed it to mark her decision.
The collision of chakra was intense, as expected of two jounin throwing mastered techniques against one another. For another second, the collision seemed to go nowhere but being stagnant as Nishi had pushed Alsanna out of the way. Throwing a glance at the saved genin, Nishi then managed to direct the furious wave of sharp chakra to a slightly different angle, merely missing the genin.
”I don’t think I sanctioned a genin’s death,” Nishi stated as some pulsation of killing intent radiated from the woman. ”Stand down Karuko. You can go and cut down your own genin if that is what you are wanting. She, however, is mine.”

Unsuspecting, Alsanna was left wide open for the upcoming friendly fire. Karuko’s deadly intent did not go unnoticed, but with her guard down the moment she actually turned her gaze to acknowledge the burly male’s approach to her, she could already deduce what was going to happen. Such hostile body language, a gaze charged with zealous resolve and that blade readied as if she were another Rongese target.
She just froze, as pale as many were when they witnessed her spawns. Cold sweats instantly took form under her hairline and her grip on the parasol faltered, prompting its very slow descent behind her. Shivering, gloved hands had practically lost any sensations as she attempted to do a simple hand sign. Her blue eyes just fixating the assailant, wide and charged the natural fright one would have when confronted to imminent demise.
Nishi’s intervention was swift. Far too quick for the genin to react properly and she fell like a ragdoll behind the Jounin. The parried attack barely missed Alsanna, though the band that kept her hair tied had succumbed to the pressure, allowing her mess of curly hair to fall while she just sat there, paralyzed. For once she was brought to actually shutting up.

The chakra surrounding Karuko’s blade continued to hiss and seem far from looking peaceful. Glaring at Nishi, Karuko remained silent. His eyes briefly moved to the terrified genin before back on the jounin that protected her from his rightful attack.
Much like Nishi, a dense radiation of killing intent started to move - clashing against that of the woman. For several seconds it seemed apparent that Karuko wasn’t going to back down and allow Nishi to stand in his way.
Straightening his back, the chakra around his weapon slowly sizzled down until it fully had vanished from the steel. No words parted his lips as he sheathed the blade back into the scabbard - with a certain passive aggressiveness that promised that this ordeal was far from over.
While now without any visible weapon or jutsu at the ready to throw and take the life of Alsanna, Karuko continued to glare at the two before turning to the dead that surrounded him. Silently, he would crouch down and inspect the dead.

Not noticing what occurred behind her, Hikari kept her eyes on the soldiers in front of her. Her kunai did hit the back of the undead’s head, making it fall down to the ground. Seeing that her kunai missed, however, Hikari started running, preparing her tanto. Moving around the reach of the soldier with the spear, she went straight for the one who was the furthest away, before striking him in the side of his chest. Taking her tanto out, she turned her gaze to the one with the spear.
Charging her movement with chakra, she moved with increased speed towards him, once more avoiding any attempts with the spear, before striking him in his back. She twisted the tanto, wanting to make sure the job was done, before taking it out and then kicking the soldier forward.

Looking up, Hikari saw Nishi staring at Karuko, and Alsanna appearing to be shocked. She didn’t know what had happened between them, and frankly, she couldn’t care less right now. After seeing the abominations Alsanna created, Hikari didn’t want Alsanna to touch her ever again, medic or not, life threatening situation or not. Alsanna was no medic in her eyes.

Remaining in between Karuko and Alsanna, Nishi kept her gaze on the other jounin. As the situation became less tense, Nishi waited before she turned to Alsanna. The gaze and expression of Nishi were calm, betraying none of her thoughts. Slowly, Nishi extended a hand to Alsanna.
”Get on your feet,” the woman commanded Alsanna, helping the genin up if she accepted the help. Now that they were done, Nishi dismissed her previous techniques, save for the one that held the officer captured.
Rocks and debris fell to the ground as the walls previously conjured crumbled. The field that had been clean was now riddled with debris and corpses. The fight itself couldn’t have lasted longer than a few minutes, at best, Nishi mused to herself.
”Best to keep that silence,” Nishi told Alsanna, ”unless you want to really see who is faster, me or him,” the implied threat of her not safeguarding Alsanna for a second attempt of Karuko’s attack would be hopefully enough to keep the genin from doing any stupid.
Dealing with the officer, who seemed to understand his situation, Nishi tied his hands. She didn’t understand what he tried to tell her. Perhaps he was trying to bribe her? Or intimidate her perhaps? Mentally shrugging, Nishi finished her handiwork of making sure the man was no threat anymore.
Throwing a look at the side, she saw that Hikari was doing fine. At least, no signs of wounds that raised any concerns.
”We are going back.” Nishi ordered firmly, giving a shove in the Rongese back to make him walk forwards.

A natural reluctance had Alsanna’s still shivering hand hover barely a few centimeters from Nishi’s. But she capitulated, looking at Karuko’s direction with focused eyes, she accepted the help from her leader while seizing her dropped parasol with her free hand. No witty response, not even a nod, she just stayed close to the only thing that could ensure her safety. Never once did she allow the male Jounin out of her line of sight, although she avoided anything confrontational as if she were dealing with some wild predator. Alsanna was left silent for the remainder of the trek, although her mind was very much pushing its limits. It wouldn’t be surprising to notice a degree of paranoia in her mannerisms, at least until they’d reach camp.

The frustration was clear as Karuko couldn’t find anything decent on the bodies. Not that he had expected anything. But the mere fact that he couldn’t execute someone unworthy of Miku’s Light was bothering him immensely. Knowing, however, his chances against the likes of Nishi, Karuko prefered to wait and see what would happen. Confident as he was in his own skills, the clash against Nishi was too risky and unpredictable that it wasn’t worth it. Not now, at least.
Rising up from the last body, he heard Nishi command. His gaze formed a glare briefly at Alsanna, the once jovial man that had enjoyed the jokes and jabs of Alsanna transformed into someone that wouldn’t lose a night’s rest over taking the same genin’s life.
Falling into formation, Karuko mumbled a prayer underneath his breath.

Seeing Nishi help Alsanna stand up, Hikari kneeled down and looked at the last soldier she had killed. She briefly glanced at her tanto, still blood dripping on it, and then she glanced up at Alsanna. Did this kind of stuff not bother her one bit? To be able to conjure such horrible things. Hikari just couldn’t wrap her mind around what kind of person would ever utilize such methods.
She wiped the blood on some of the still clean clothes of the soldier, before standing up and sheathing her tanto. Walking back towards the group, she watched as Alsanna now kept close to Nishi, as though her life depended on it. And as Nishi tied up the officer, Hikari approached Alsanna, faced her, and spat at her face.
”You ever touch me again, you vile thing, and you’ll regret it.” She told her, before stepping away, until Nishi gave them the order to head out. Hikari remained silent during the majority of the trek back, having no desire to talk after what she had witnessed.

Surprisingly, there was no initiative to avoid the spit. Hell, there was no shift in her gaze for the first couple of seconds that the gross projectile hit her cheek. She did end up closing the nearest eye, feeling some little droplets hit it while the opened one just stared blankly at the outraged blonde. No words still, only a quick brush of her cheek from her still shivering hand, though the fear factor had at least gone down a notch. The two entities that dwarfed her power would again have the majority of her attention.


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[ A Journey to the East ]
[ Yoshikuni Sadako ]
Having been ordered to journey to journey to the eastern front, Kuni makes her way. These are snippets of her journey.

Amegakure, The Empire of Akino

Packing her things in the barracks, Kuni made sure she had everything she needed. She was told to pack for a long journey, and not just long, but one that would take her away from Akino. She is going to be travelling alongside the 9th Imperial Brigade, at least until they reach the wolf country. There she would be informed of who she will continue travelling with towards her actual destination.

After making sure three times that she had everything she needed, Kuni closed her bag, and put it on her back. It was heavy, but at least she knew for a period of the trip, she wouldn't need to carry it on her back. Looking around, she wondered if she’ll miss the place. It wasn’t a home like with Eiji, but she had grown somewhat accustomed to life at the barracks. But she also somewhat looked forward to where she was going. Or at least, for who she was going to meet there.


At Sea, North of the Jirou Authority

Scrubbing away at the deck of the ship, Kuni felt the heat of the sun on her back. Throughout this leg of the journey, which was on a ship, Kuni had been assigned to help keep the deck clean as long as she remained on board. No ideal hands on board, or so the captain kept saying. Only times they were allowed to be ideal was during their short breaks. The Lieutenant that was incharge of Kuni, from the 9th Brigade, approached her ”Five minute break Sadako. Drink some water.” He told her, gesturing to the canteen she was carrying..

Putting the scrubbing brush back in its bucket, Kuni nodded and stood up, before opening her canteen and taking a long drink of water from the canteen. It was a very hot day, and there were no clouds in the sky. The sea wasn’t very peaceful, but with no storm in sight, the captain seemed to have no issues ensuring the ship stayed on course, only swaying with the winds and waves a bit.
Moving to lean on the ship’s rail, she enjoyed the salty sea breeze that flowed past her. She was a bit skeptical about if she’d be alright being on a boat for so long, and it was indeed a strange sensation, not feeling the earth underneath her feet for so long, but she was glad she at least didn’t seem to suffer from any sea sickness.

”Captain! We got a sighting of something, portside! It’s big!” Suddenly one of the sailors shouted. The captain went and took a look, making Kuni glance in the same direction. There was a shadow of something looming near the surface, but still far enough from the surface to avoid being clear. After a moment, it vanished, likely into the depths. The captain gave orders to keep a sharp eye, and also readjusted the ship a bit to steer more towards starboard, making sure they would gain some distance away from where the shadow was spotted, before correcting their course again, towards the Wolf Country.

While she had been curious about what the shadow could’ve been, Kuni didn’t have time to ask anyone about it. The Lieutenant gave her a whistle that the break was over. Grabbing her bucket of water with soap, she went back to the spot she was scrubbing before and got down on her knees. Taking the brush, she began scrubbing again. The work of cleaning a deck was never done, or at least, it felt like it.


Eastern Continent, Western part of Sevudia

Panting, Kuni sat down. Going through the mountains that Sevudia apparently had was far from easy. She wondered if these mountains could be compared to the ones that were between Akino and the Lightning, or if they were perhaps taller and with rougher passes. Taking a drink of water, she watched as the group that she was travelling with all sat down, and each took out a small ration. This was meant to be a lunch break, before they continued on. They still had several more hours of walking after this before they would have their next rest stop, and they would likely sleep.

The group she currently travelled with, towards the Eastern Front, was smaller than how she travelled with the 9th Brigade to the Wolf country. The split was done at some point in the Wolf country, and Kuni didn’t really understand why it was done, but they also had less supplies to carry with them.
Looking back in the direction they came from, Kuni offered a silent prayer to the god, for the people in the Wolf Country. Even if the forces of all three countries had pushed the zealots back, and it was becoming relatively peaceful there, she still felt like they suffered. They likely still needed support before they could properly heal from the war that had previously occupied them.

Once she was done, she grabbed her own, small ration. A small piece of bread and a couple of thin slices of dried tomato. It was far from the ideal meal. But she ate it without so much as a word. Everyone around her weren’t complaining, and she wasn’t expecting a feast when she arrived at the Eastern Front. She had wished a bit that she could cook something, missing her hobby, but perhaps when she arrived at the Eastern Front, she could volunteer to do some cooking.

After another ten minutes passed, the person in charge gave the order to get back up, gather everything, as it was time to continue. She pocketed her ration cover, and then put her bag on. Kuni helped make sure no one left anything behind, before they started setting off again. They had more climbing to do on the mountain side, and Kuni had the feeling that it wouldn’t become any easier along the way.


Eastern Front, Sevudia

Having finally arrived at their destination, Kuni felt a bit relieved. It meant the journey here was finally over. It was a long one, and one that only became harder as they neared here. The pathways across the Sevudian mountains were far from welcoming, in her own opinion. With her bag still on her back, Kuni approached one of the soldiers, asking for directions to a certain tent.
Receiving the answer, she started heading in the direction of the tent. There were a couple of guards outside the entrance to the tent, which didn’t surprise Kuni. The tent did belong to the Brigade General, after all. After stating why she was there, one of the guards went inside. She kept her composure and expression serious, working to supress any excitement she had.

And she was quite excited, because she was about to see Aiko!


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[ Sevudia | The Eastern Front ]
[ Brigade General Aiko Cho-Hon and Chuunin Yoshikuni Sadako ]
A Collab between @Lesli and @Nim

After arriving at the Eastern Front, Aiko and Kuni has somewhat of a reunion. They talk briefly, before Aiko gives Kuni her next set of instructions and the platoon she'll be assigned to.

Much like the previous days, the work of managing and organising the 11th Imperial Brigade didn’t stop. There was always a request from an officer or a verbal report that had to be given. Debriefs that she had to attend to and making sure that the entire brigade was coordinated to the plan that Hiron had established.
Understanding and wanting to fill the role that Hiron had designed for the 11th Imperial brigade, Aiko wondered if there was anything she had to keep her mind on. Plans were great but most died when in contact with the enemy. However, it seemed that the schemes she had planned with some of the specialised and elite units operating underneath her command were working out. The enemy was still oblivious that there was a large Imperial force hiding behind them - ready to strike and sandwich them when the key battle was going to take place.

Studying a map of the region, drawn with the information of the locals, Aiko felt a strange exhaustion. It had become more troubling for her to find a decent rest and it started to show. Bags underneath her eyes started to show and her complexion was pale. It had raised some concerns among her guard and top ranking officers - resulting that Aiko had to delegate more of her presence to others or else hide it with a simple transformation technique.
When one of her guards pushed the canvas aside and alerted her who desired to come in, Aiko frowned. She had already received the notification of who came to strengthen her force. An unexpected surprise but nothing that she found too troubling. Signalling that Kuni could come, Aiko would make some room on the table and wait for the former to enter the spacious tent.

Entering the tent, Kuni immediately fixed her gaze on Aiko. As glad as she was to see Aiko, she also understood this was a serious time. It wasn’t a place to jump on Aiko with a hug or just start talking casually. After taking a couple of steps forwards, she stopped and saluted ”Yoshikuni Sadako, reporting for duty as instructed, Ma’am!” She said, keeping her expression as serious as she could. After that, she lowered the salute, before finally sitting down next to the table. She put her bag beside her, feeling a bit relieved to take it off. After a moment, Kuni turned to look at Aiko ”Sorry about this, I wasn’t assigned a tent yet, so I wasn’t sure where to leave it.” She said, slightly dropping in the manners, but still trying to be polite.

Slightly amused, Aiko leaned back in her seat. It was a large change from the girl that had run away from Amegakure, to offer a salute. Just before Aiko could offer Kuni to take a seat or say something, the chuunin already did. Deciding not to lecture the girl of the breach, Aiko simply smiled and gave a subtle nod.
"It is all fine. It is rather new to you, I wager," Aiko started observing the girl. There wasn’t much that had changed, so far she could see. Eiji would be happy, Aiko reckoned.
"You will be assigned to a unit today and then get your instructions and gear from one of the quartermasters," Aiko stated before she decided to ask a question. "But, first, tell me, how have you been? Not causing any trouble, I hope?"

As Aiko explained things, Kuni nodded. When the question rose, she shook her head ”I’ve been doing my best not to cause any more trouble. Living in the barracks back at Amegakure made it easier, and I was even given a solo mission at one point. But I’ve been mostly trying to keep a somewhat low profile ever since the trial. I don’t want to give anyone any reason to think more poorly of me. So I figured, keeping to myself might help people just forget about me, at least for the time being. Forget about the troublemaking me.” She said, shrugging as she spoke.
”How I’ve been,” Kuni moved on to the first question ”I’m not sure. Back when I joined the Amegakure shinobi force, I did it because the shinobi in the village saw potential, both as an outlet for my energetic self, and to get me to stop causing so much trouble. After, I kept at it because of Eiji. But recently, I’ve found myself questioning why I’m staying in the corps more. Beyond being, well, you know. I feel like I just don’t know what I want to aim for with this.” She said, looking down to her feet afterwards.

Aiko listened as Kuni began to speak up, answering far more than that the woman had anticipated. Yet, Aiko didn’t interrupt but let the chuunin speak her mind freely. Waiting for a second after Kuni was done, Aiko spoke up.
"I know. I also would say that you’re not really fit for the Imperial military," Aiko calmly and friendly stated, "you lack the drive and discipline. Something that would have made me demand your resignation a long time ago. However," Aiko paused for a second, "there are people at home who rely on your work here. Eiji already lost an arm. Who is going to defend him? Sachi? You? You are not even going to be able to defend yourself if I threw you outside," the woman once more paused.

"It isn’t about you and if you belong here, however. You need to shape up and find a drive. A reason to adapt and force yourself through this swamp of trouble and horror. I and many others had to pull through far worse. And we succeeded. Or did you think that Eiji got his expertise, rank and admiration from others from self-pitying themselves?"

Looking up at Aiko, Kuni listened intently. It was harsh, but it definitely sounded right. When she asked her question, Kuni shook her head ”No, I don’t believe that one bit. And I definitely want to be able to defend Eiji, and Sachi, and even you and Zakito, even if the two of you won’t need it. I intend on doing my best, and to push the limit of my best so that people here could rely on me. So that you could rely on me.”
Kuni’s expression shifted into a more saddened one ”I saw the Wolf country on my way. It is peaceful now, but it still looks devastated. I definitely don’t want anything like that to happen to Amegakure, or Konoha, or Akino.” Her expression changed into a more determined one as she spoke.

Raising her right hand, as if she needed to rein Kuni already in, Aiko had a small smile dawning on her lips. "Let us start with steps. Just whenever you doubt, remember what is on the line. For now, it is best to see what you will need. And where I will be assigning you to."
Considering it all together for a moment, she had heard that a certain unit had lost a few soldiers - due to desertion. It was a unique event and it had been contained from spreading. But that did ironically open up a space.
"I will assign you to the platoon of a certain Cho. There are already some other chuunin and genin, so you won’t be feeling too out of place with only soldier folk." Aiko told Kuni, "Not to mention, it is best for me, so I won’t need to keep an eye on different units, I suppose. I do think it will be rough, seeing you are going through the standard drills. Learning how to handle armour, the whole etiquette. But just promise me," leaning slightly towards Kuni, Aiko raised a hand and gently pulled Kuni’s ear in a playful manner, "you will use these. Observe and try to learn. It may seem odd to learn soldiering but it will help you as much as it helped people like me. Okay?"

When Aiko brought up the first step, Kuni gave a firm nod. Remember what’s on the line. Afterwards, she moved onto where Kuni will be assigned to. It sounded like a bit of a relief to be in a platoon with other chuunin and genin. She did wonder about the Cho, but since she only knew one Cho and two half chos, both of the latter were elsewhere, Kuni figured she probably didn’t know that Cho.
As Aiko leaned a bit towards her and suddenly gently pulled her ear, Kuni felt like it was a bit irritating for her ear, but made a very slight nod ”I promise. I’ll look to learn and see about the whole military side of things, and do my best to not give you any trouble. And listen well to any and all instructions.” She said, hoping Aiko would let go of her ear soon.

Leaning back and releasing Kuni’s ear, Aiko was content with the response and renewed determination that had been sparked in Kuni. "Good. I am too busy for trouble. And I sadly can’t save you all the time. It is way past time that you start learning to be on your own. This will do you some good, I hope," finishing, Aiko did spread her arms as she invited Kuni for a hug.
"And come, it is okay."

With her ear released, Kuni nodded briefly. Aiko was right, Kuni couldn’t expect people to keep looking after her. She did need to start looking after herself. Seeing Aiko suddenly offer up the hug, Kuni smiled. Getting up, she went around the table into Aiko’s embrace ”Thank you. I promise I’ll do the best I can so that I won’t need to rely on others so much anymore.” Kuni whispered into Aiko’s ear.

Embracing Kuni in return, Aiko patted the girl’s back gently. The whispering words of Kuni made Aiko subtly nod again. "I know. You’ll do fine," once more Aiko patted Kuni’s back as she gently broke the embrace. "Find the quartermaster. Get your equipment and then make your way to the Axebiters. Ask for lieutenant Meilin Cho’s unit. There you will be finding your place to sleep, eat and soldiering work."

Moving away from Aiko, Kuni nodded as she memorized her next set of instructions. Quartermaster for the equipment, then Axebiters, Lieutenant Meilin Cho. After Aiko was done, Kuni went and grabbed her bag, putting it onto her back once more, before turning towards Aiko one final time. Offering a salute yet again, this time the salute was accompanied with a smile ”Thank you General, Ma’am.” She said, before leaving the tent to go do as she was instructed.
It was far from the ideal place to be at, far from home, but at least Kuni felt like she got her drive back. And now she needed to prove herself. Not just for Aiko and everyone around her, but to herself.


Fierce Rebel
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Fantasy, modern and magical.
[ Sevudia, eastern continent | 11th Imperial Encampment ]
[ The Bear and the Mind Reader | A collab between @Oblivion666 and @Aliceee ]
[ Madoc and Dagrún spend some time together. Dagrún tattoos Madoc's arm as the two begin to have a conversation, slowly several topics surfacing that reveal more about each participant of Meilin's squad. ]

Humming something, the rasping sound of steel grinding against the whetstone was easily drowned by the ambience of the Imperial camp. In a surprisingly good mood, Dagrún continued with the mundane task of keeping her new axe sharp. The weapon was in itself nothing special but it seemed that the Dowhon was most eager to take good care of it.
Raising the weapon, allowing the sun’s light to shine on it, a grin spread on Dagrún’s lips. Continuing to hum, she would spend on oiling the weapon carefully.

As he walked to the tent he has come to realize several things. All his friends were trying to kill him. They take him into dangerous caves, into battles, and into a hunt where somehow apparently pure anger winds up with him getting taken over. This is why he likes his tower, no one ever bugs him in the tower. But today he was at least hiding in a tent, granted he was being poked or something but better than being blasted. As he opened the flap he looked at Dagrun as she was sharpening an axe. Madoc looked at his forearm and raised his eyebrow. [color=00cdcd]”Now I know you are the expert here. Yet if you want to cut my arm off….. can you atleast cut my left one off. I use my right arm more.”[/color]

”Ah, ye finally woke up,” Dagrún replied, not hiding her amusement, ”Don’t fret. Ye not fit for me wasting an axe on yer skin.” In a fluid motion, Dagrún would rise up as spinning the axe rapidly.
”Besides, don’t worry, ye won’t lose anything. In fact, I wanted to test something also on ye, if ye don’t mind that is.”
Gesturing him to take a seat on one of the wooden stumps that was placed around their idle campfire, Dagrún continued. ”Unless ye can’t handle a little sting.”

Fake wiping sweat off he would shrug then take a seat as he raised an eyebrow to her testing something on him. ”Ooh a surprise! Last surprise I got was my dad leaving me… This is where you laugh.” But he shrugged and pointed to his eye. ”Depends on the sting. Eye cutting sting or like a minor nuisance kind of sting…. eh fuck it surprise away. Not like I haven't been surprised left and right on this continent. Who freaking knew that if you are angry enough, that mind control actually backfires.”

”Don’t worry. Unlike yous, mine exiled me. So ye got nothing to whinge about,” Dagrún calmly said as she waited for him to sit down.
”So where do ye want it and what do ye want?” She asked, seemingly taking out a few tools. Including some sharp looking, long nails. While Dagrún cleaned her tools, she threw a glance at Madoc.
”Also, fair warning, I take pride in this. I know ye try to joke ‘bout a lot. But don’t try to make me jab ye during the colouring? I will then spare ye from my singing. Deal?”

”Huh….. Weird hearing it from someone else.” Madoc would look at the tools she would be using and would whistle. ”So far my surprise looks more like Dagrun is going to have some fun today. Eh was already stabbed in the eye, can’t be worse than that.” Madoc would take the seat and would explain where and what before he was told to basically tone the jokes down which made him ponder. ”So no jokes in general during this? Cause that might be the most painful thing of all. Yet for the sake of not being jabbed harder.. I will relent.”
”Strange, huh? Other people have a life.” Dagrún retorted, her tone calm, ”Don’t tempt me, pretty face,” the Ylfling continued.
”Jokes are fine. But try to not give me reason to stab ye. I rather not have the princess try to come after me. Or the cap, in that regard. Okay,” suddenly a hard slap was what Madoc experienced against his back.
”Ye just need to sit still.”
Taking a place next to Madoc, she would take the desired arm unto her lap. Suddenly a jolt of lightning jumped around the tip of the needle that Dagrún carefully picked up.
”It's going to sting, a little. Ye won’t feel much afterwards. I am just going to make yer hide numb.” Pausing the blonde woman looked up, an amused expression visible.
”Unless, ye think that the pain is going to be a better experience.”

Well he can give a lot of people a reason to stab him but the captain or princess? ”Well that's just rude. Mamoru isn’t that ladylike, I mean I’m pretty sure he is drooling over Aoi. Besides let's be real they would applaud you for stabbing me.” Madoc said as he looked at the lightning on the tip of her needle. ”Now I know I like it rough but this is a new one.” Madoc said as he let her prop his arm on her lap and just waved her on.
”Eh do what you think best. You are the expert here.”

Without a warning, Dagrún tapped gently with the sharp point of the needle. The lightning jumped around the needle’s point, stinging Madoc’s skin. ”Trust, eh? That is a new one from ye,” Dagrún remarked as she kept tapping several points. Each tap causes the arm to become fully numb for the pain.
”I am also a tad surprised that ye decided to go with a more, Ylfling design. I could probably attempt to make it more according to Yakimara traditions, if ye want that.” She said, starting to clean his skin with a certain gentleness that likely appeared to be rare with her usual behaviour.

His left hand instantly twitched a couple times before he began to feel it less with each one. ”What’s that supposed to mean? I trust people, I’m just selective in whom I trust.” He then shrugged about his choice of design. ”I’m not really held down by my clan’s culture. In fact I’m sure stepdad will be more than displeased about my choice but oh well. We never really kept up besides a few traditions, and even then we barely do those anymore. So its fine if you do it how it is. Besides I can rock anything, no matter what culture it comes from.”

”Then I wonder why ye decided to let me keep stabbing ye with a needle, for another,” Dagrún briefly became silence as if she required to check the arm to be certain, ”another hour.”
She didn’t respond immediately regarding Madoc’s folks not keeping up with traditions nor his comment that he could rock anything. Only after she continued her work, at a calm pace, she spoke up.
”Why would ye stepdad be displeased? Taika bred?” She decided to ask, not hiding her curiosity.

”No they are both from the Yakimara Culture. He just…. I don’t know never liked me or something. Maybe it's a stepchild thing. Maybe I just don’t live up to what he expects. Maybe he's jealous my hair is far better.” Madoc said wanting to shrug but realized that's probably not wise in this situation.
”Honestly surprised I haven't seen my step brother yet. He's in the army, then again trying to find one man among thousands is well difficult. What about you since we're talking about our private lives. Why did your folk exile you? ”

An amused scoff escaped Dagrún upon Madoc’s remark of his hair being far better. She didn’t respond right away, once more, to Madoc.
”To make sure that another one wouldn’t suffer exile,” Dagrún said, shrugging lightly, ”I don’t think ye would understand how my folk operate. Or our honour. Judging from what I have seen from ye and well, anyone else in the squad. Save it from the cap’, she has some understanding I suppose.”
Her grip on Madoc’s arm tightened but she seemed anything but concerned at the moment for him to experience pain.
”Let’s just say, I took the blame to make sure my family wouldn’t suffer. That’s why I am here, with ye folk. Either way, so far it has worked decently for me. Despite my understanding of yer ways being… limited.”

He wouldn’t understand nor anyone besides Meilin, well good thing Aoi wasn’t around to hear that remark. ”Probably not wrong, but also probably not right. I certainly have no clue how you operate but doesn’t mean I can’t understand it. Yet you are free to think how you wish, I aint changing that.” He listened despite her grip being rather tight on his arm So something happened family wise that wasn’t her fault but she took it anyway to make sure her family didn’t have any repercussions on them.
Politics were stupid. ”Well you did what you thought best then. You took the brunt so others didn’t have to. No shame in that, none will admit it but sometimes that's the bravest thing one can do. Then again I'm just some outcast whose tolerated at this point.”
Madoc would then point at his arm that she was squeezing. ”So not saying I don’t like it rough but, my hand would appreciate the blood flowing back to it.”

”I need it perfectly still. Ye may be under the illusion ye can ‘rock’ anything. But my name is on the line, when they see this tattoo,” Dagrún answered as she kept her grip tight. The first few lines were set and Dagrúns expression radiated concern.
”There. The first few lines are always the most difficult. But I wager this should do.”
Loosening her grip slightly, she continued.
”Mhm. I start to think we all are outcast in some way or another. The Cap, Princess, Knuckleface, ye and I. Not sure ‘bout yer sleeping deity but if mine are involved? Then this proves they got some humour.”
Pausing, Dagrún halted and threw a frown at Madoc.
”Ye know, I didn’t actually expect ye to be understanding. Maybe one day I will tell ye the full story of how I got exiled. Though it ain’t no good to tell it without some good grog, heh.”

They were all outcasts? Eh he could see Meilin and Dagrun and himself but Aoi and Mamoru? ”Well I definitely know Meilin is an outcast. I’ve never been kicked off a team so fast with someone before. Also we gotta work on those nicknames. Aoi is….. okay fair on that one. Yet Mamoru? Nah he's just a Child…. one that needs to control his hormones but a child. Then again I try to avoid kids, so maybe you know something about him that I don’t.” He more so kept quiet on the sleeping deity part, he already knew she was a religious person so him making sarcastic comments wouldn't be smart.
”Shit I’m always down for drinking. Who know maybe I’ll tell you my secret too.”

”A child? Then he best grow up fast,” Dagrún replied, ”War isn’t a place for kids or brats. That and he is a knuckleface,” she calmly continued, the black lines started to seem sporadic instead of resembling anything coherent.
”Not to forget, a Senju among Cho? Pretty outcast, if ye ask me. Then again, I am not that interested in all’s backstory. It won’t aid us, that much, eh?” She continued, starting to connect various lines now.

Madoc shrugs with the arm that wasn’t being held by Dagrun ”It isn’t yet some find their way into it. Yet sounds like sound logic to me. Knuckleface it is. Granted I'm pretty sure he wants to punch me. Also granted I did say to like an entire group that we need to get him laid so he stops looking at trees.”
Madoc then waved his other hand with a smile. ”Well if we are going off history then Mamoru and Meilin are doing a good job at not killing each other. Granted, the same could be said between you and Aoi. Huh I really mind my own business and yet I'm the most disliked among our group of hooligans. Damn I’m good.”

”I fear sometimes that I am the only one who doesn’t want to deck ye,” Dagrún stated, amused, ”so far, I have yet to meet someone who doesn’t seem to consider that option. As for the cap? I would say Knuckleface isn’t trying to invade her space, as the Senju tried on the Vythlings,” Dagrún said, only pausing briefly. ”Cho? Ye lot have weird names for other people… Anyhow,” Dagrún continued, ”I doubt ye are the most disliked. Ye just act like the worst out of all of us. Except, for the princess. She likes ye. Ye liking her back?”

”Huh that scares me too.” Madoc stated as it amused at her being the only one to not want to deck him. Only to raise an eyebrow followed by a smile. [color=00cdcd]”Not wrong, life on the streets don’t really tell you proper names for people though. Kind of remembering that the Hons are Yflings right? And the one that almost got Meilin shipped off is a….. Sycling?”[/color] He looked at him arm and gave a pleasant smile before it returned to neutral when she asked the next question.
”Yeah…. I know she does.” He paused as he sighed. ”First and foremost though I am this teams number one asshole and I hold that with pride. As for liking Aoi back, I already told her she should find someone else. She can do a lot better than my prick ass. Then again as much as you two butt heads I can tell you don’t hate each other. And that's without me reading your mind.”

”Scylding, nice, ye do pay attention eh?” Dagrún replied, dipping the tip of the needle once more in what seemed to be a small vial of liquid obsidian. ”She could, easily, aye. Certainly now that yer lacking an eye. Problem is that ye can’t tell another to just look for another person. So ye can rightfully keep the number one arsehole title here. As for butting heads,” Dagrún frowned, briefly pausing, ”I suppose I was being too much myself. Most of the Taika lot like to stay reserved or can’t take a joke. I don’t hate her, true. But I tolerate and respect her for her abilities. Nothing more, nothing less.”

Scylding that's what archer boy was called. ”And none shall take that title from me as long as I shall live.” Dagrun then went on about the beef that the Taika and Chonobi seem to have which caused him to shrug. ”Well I can’t say you are wrong. Honestly I get some stuff from the past that carries on, yet if we all keep this ancestors beef going on? Well nothing's gonna change. I mean look at me. Technically I should hate all of you, but I don’t. Nope I like each and every single one of you. Don’t tell anyone that though, they might think I’m going soft or something. I will admit though that Taika need to chill out a bit. Too much anger isn’t good for anyone.”

”Technically, ye should also be more polite like, eh?” Dagrún replied, connecting more of the lines together. ”And not to worry. Who is going to trust lil ol me, stating that ye likes us all?” A smirk crept on Dagrún’s lips as she winked at Madoc.
”As for the conflict and past? Feuds are a thing. The Asiske clearly got their wrongs but we ain’t without flaws either. Raiding and pillaging ain’t the best way to befriend neighbours, I reckon.”
Whistling softly, Dagrún briefly lifted Madoc’s arm before continuing her work. Various dark shapes seemed to take form, closer to the idea of rolling waves that seemed to beset a beach than anything else.

”This is me being polite though.” Madoc said with a small chuckle before smirking at her comment. ”Probably not but thats why bygones should be bygones. Yet that's just an outsider's perspective.” As she lifted his arm he let out a whistle. ”Damn if I thought I was popular now I'm going to be beating back all my fans.” Madocs eyes then moved to her tattoos noticing that she had a couple here and there.
”So do you have any others besides those blue ones?”

”Bygones? I wager that murder and conquests aren’t just bygones,” Dagrún stated calmly as she continued. The base of the tattoo was there but the tricky part was imminent; the small details that could make or ruin the entire tattoo.
”Any others? Nay, I don’t. Unlike ye lot, my folk don’t just do it for the show. It is a form of rite and to show proud achievements,” Dagrún explained, ”of course, when I say my folk, I don’t mean every single Ylfling. But those that hail from the jarldom that I and my kin come from.”

”Now despite what I'm saying this isn’t just for show. It’s a way to remember all your mugs. I have more class than to go for being some eye candy. For example the eye patch one hundred percent makes me look better. However I certainly didn’t want my eye being damaged. So I can respect that you only do it for special meanings. We all got some form of that, or I hope so anyway.” Madoc stated as he paused and pointed to his necklace. ”Some of us even treasure things others wouldn’t understand. This may be some fancy necklace but to me, it’s an essential part of me.”

”The great Madoc respectin’ my folk’s traditions?” Dagrún calmly said, almost sounding like she was mocking him but in a way also being grateful for his words. Her eyes briefly lifted Dagrún’s gaze, to meet with what Madoc pointed at. ”That’s a nice necklace ye got there. What is the deal ‘bout it then?” Dagrún asked as she continued to draw the forms on Madoc’s arm. The designs became more complex with each line that was completed and filled in. Several times, Dagrún had to strike a spot with a jolt of lightning - to numb the spot.

”It’s to remember my sister…. she…. got a certain disease that I guess runs through my family. And well it eventually weakened her too much. So this was her necklace, her favorite color was pink but of course when mine was purple, she then switched and hers had to be purple as well. She really was an innocent woman through and through.” Madoc said with a faint smile as he looked at his arm as she was working on it.

It remained silent for a minute after Madoc’s answer. Dagrún calmly continued her handiwork - the soft sound of lightning jumping around the sharp needle as the Hon kept puncturing Madoc’s skin. ”I am sorry for yer lose, truly,” Dagrún said, though her voice was calm, ”It is a shame that some of the best have to go so soon. I will bring Audhild a sacrifice later, in yer sister’s honors,” halting, Dagrún frowned slightly as her gaze remained on the punctured arm of Madoc. Normally, more blood would be flowing due to the constant puncturing - however, Dagrúns lightning acted as a secondary element to make the bleeding lessen, making the work easier.
”Of course, if ye don’t mind the gesture.”

”As long as it aint Rabbits you are sacrificing. She really liked rabbits. I’m sure she would have appreciated you thinking of her.” Madoc was a bit more quiet and less joking around at this point, he would simply look at his arm. It tingled every now and then, but it didn’t hurt surprisingly. Granted his body still did ache from the bazel basically throwing his body all around the place. This though was surprisingly calming.

”Usually, it really depends to what god or goddess ye sacrifice,” Dagrún began, ”but, I shall make sure to not sacrifice any rabbit or hare.”
Pausing, Dagrún observed her work before she continued. Most of the work was done. There were just details she wasn’t entirely satisfied with that had to be done. ”It is nice to actually have a normal conversation with someone on the team, that ain’t the cap’, ye know? Maybe next month, I should tattoo yer other arm. I am certain to find some Yakimara inspiration or work to put on ye limbs.”

He chuckled slightly at the differing sacrifice depending on which deity was in the picture. He would never understand that but he wasn’t going to voice that. Instead he raised an eyebrow when she mentioned it being nice to have a normal conversation that wasn’t Meilin. Even going as far as offering to tattoo his other arm with some Yakimara inspiration. ”Now I’m starting to think you either actually like talking to me or you like stabbing me…. Or maybe it’s both. Yet you haven't had a normal conversation with anyone but Meilin? Some people I can understand but their are plenty of people in the camp, hell I should know I flirt with most of the females I come across. By the way the kitchen staff… are fucking crazy.”

Scoffing, clearly amused, Dagrún subtly shook her head. ”Nay, of course, I have had some normal conversations. But they aren’t part of the team, are they?” Dagrún posed the question but didn’t give Madoc much room to answer. ”I have yet to talk or understand anyone else but cap’, basically.” Observing the work so far, Dagrún would pat his arm.
”Nearly done. But aye, I also guess that I am not the easiest to approach. That and I don’t really flirt around. I find pleasures in simpler things, I suppose,” Dagrún paused as she continued to jab the needle into Madoc’s arm. ”I am just rambling, never mind me.”

”Why do they have to be part of the team for it to matter?” Madoc said, being a bit quiet at first before sighing. ”Well we're also different people and I don't see you being the flirting around type. It would be wayyyyy more effective for you anyway so don’t do that.” He took a pause and normally in these circumstances he would read one's mind to find out the issue but he felt he already knew.
”Rambling? No rambling is more weird, this isn’t weird. So you know it’s just me right? You don’t have to beat around the bush, you can mention your frustration with Aoi. Cause I have this feeling you want to understand her but something just keeps getting in the way of that huh?”

Briefly, Dagrún eyed Madoc before turning her gaze down to the arm she was still punctering. ”I know that it's just ye. And maybe that is why it might make it harder to talk,” Dagrún said calmly, ”I am far more used to ye being a downright bastard. But I like that ‘bout ye. Being an honest and downright bastard,” Dagrún said before pausing. Inspecting a certain part of the tattoo, she continued both talking and pouring more details into Madoc’s arm.
”I don’t understand her. She keeps calling me by Hon. But when I once merely joked about forgettin’ yer names, she seemed ready to throw hands with me. Yet, whenever she makes a similar remark, it seems that I need to just shut up and accept it.”
Not hiding her frustration, Dagrún frowned. ”It kinda feels that whenever something not goes her way, she can blurt it out. But whenever I feel odd, it is just shrugged off. I know the cap’ doesn’t mean anything bad. I already figured that I can’t just demand the cap’ to fix it. Yet,” raising her gaze to meet Madoc’s, Dagrún seemed quite annoyed. ”I already had like wha? Two talks? About treating others better. It is frigging annoying, I tell ye.”

He had a small smile when called a downright bastard, its true but most say it when they think he isn’t listening. ”It’s weird aint it, being all my playboy ness I’m actually not a complete cunt.” Yet he seemed to have hit the right topic as she began to vent her frustrations about the Miyazoto which were indeed valid points. Points he tried to keep himself out of when they actually went down.
People were awkward then again not everybody was as accepting of calling someone a dumbass like he was. ”Yeah thats why I try to stay out of the whole culture aspect. Our team is so different one would think we were created as a joke. Yet You’ve had talks with Meilin and I'm sure being told to be nicer is annoying. Like being scolded by a parent, so when I say this I don’t mean disrespect… Actually I do. Have you ever decided to say fuck it? I’ve said it before hell I’ve told the dumbasses to stop being dicks to each other. Sometimes though I can’t fix everyone's problems and so far it seems like you two the only way any problem is going to get fixed. Is by punching the shit out of each other. No joke. You respect Meilin and that's fine. Sometimes though Dagrun respect is tedious. So what I recommend is you find Aoi and both of you get your frustrations out. If that means decking each other until sunrise then deck away.”

”You know. There was once a time when Meilin acted very much independently because she thought similar to you. Granted her last team kind of abandoned her yet when you get a new team you don’t act like its going to be the same treatment. Meilin however was very much a solo act though and that annoyed Aoi. It irked me too but I also can find you guys miles away so It never really bothered me. However it bothered Aoi, which is the main subject here. Meilin and Aoi were once not on the greatest terms, hell they still aren’t but it's a leap and jump from before when I had to control both of them into not stabbing each other.”

Rubbing the back of his head with his free arm he gave a small shrug. ”So what I'm saying is. They were able to talk their problems out, hell the two even went on some outings together. So you might be told to behave, but I’m telling you to say fuck that shit. Don’t behave, go talk your problems out with the root and if that doesn’t work then you two need to swing away.”

Listening to Madoc, Dagrún continued to finish the tattoo. She nodded several times, to subtly emphasise that she was paying attention to what he told her. When Madoc concluded, Dagrún chuckled as she patted his arm again.
”It is done,” she said, her tone slightly warmer than before, ”do make sure to rub it too much. It is still fresh, so you shouldn’t be too careless. Else I will need to fuck yer arm again, to correct it.”
Placing the sharp needle down, Dagrún didn’t respond right away.
”That’s the thing, really. Back at home, we used to deck it out. Then drink. It solved a lot of issues, ye know? It was simple. We didn’t make a bloody difficult time, but, yer right. I suppose I will call her out the next time,” Dagrún said, clearly pondering on it. Only to frown for a moment.
”But what do ye mean that the cap’ was on her? I mean, no offense to her, but she always had that kinda loner thing to her. Yet, I know nothing of that she was abandoned by her other team.” Pausing, Dagrún curiosity seemed to increase. ”What happened? And don’t try to fook with me, Madoc. Seriously, if ye tell me that you had to be the gallant saviour, I swear. I will make you swallow yer teeth!”

”Gotcha rub dirt in it and make sure to drag on rough surfaces.” madoc said with a wink before dagrun would explain that's pretty much how ehr family would settle their differences was decking and drinking. ”See? Already halfway to understanding Aoi. She likes hitting and she likes drinking.” Then came Dagruns next set of questions which caused him to laugh when she worded it the way she did.
”First and foremost. If I was going to fuck with you, it wouldn’t be that way…. wait…. no it might be that way too. And gallant Saviour? Oh hell no. I came on the team and within a day I was sent off to another team with Meilin. From what I pried from their minds, Meilin had been acting very independently from her team. They didn’t like it, Meilin was frustrated. I made jokes and tried to befriend Meilin. Maybe see where this deep rooted problem was coming from. Yet that was a huge nope. I made one friendly joke with Meilin and I was evicted. It was like I had to run away from some girl's dad that caught me in his daughter's room. Yet from what I gleamed, the mission that caused it had personal implications on Meilin. Which led to her doing stuff on her own.”

Listening intently, Dagrún frowned but kept her opinion to herself. Until Madoc was done, Dagrún spoke up. ”Must have been one terrible joke, even for the likes of ye, to be evicted that fast.” Clearly pondering on it, Dagrún paused.
”But alrighty, I guess we are done for now. Thanks for the talk, Madoc. Ye ain’t that half-bad, I suppose.” Flashing a smile, Dagrún snapped the fingers of her right hand. A jolt of lightning jumped from her fingers onto the tattooed arm. Suddenly, a sharp sensation of pain started to originate from the fresh tattoo.
”I hope ye like it.~”

”Dagrun, when do I ever do anything that isn’t a terrible joke.” Madoc said giving a wink and finger gun when said he wasn’t half bad. Then his eyes widened when his arm now felt everything. ”Huh. Nifty. Numbing the pain and then releasing it in one go. Yep that's one hundred percent an ouch.” Madoc said as he looked at his forearm and examined it, letting out a whistle. ”Well hot damn. I could get used to being stabbed.”


"Teddy Bears never forget."
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A lot. Can't really pick a few out as it depends on the lore etc. etc. etc.
[ Eastern Continent | Sevudia | ???? ]
[ Koike Hon | A colonel of the 13th Imperial Brigade, Scholae of Akino ]
[ Wolves hunt in packs... ]

The wheels turned and sometimes produced a cracking sound, supporting and moving the heavyweight of the waggons further down the road. The cordon of men that guarded both sides of the waggons had become more silent. Before, they had engaged in cheerful banter. Talking about home, their 'previous conquests' and what they would do once they gained a leave. But, entering the forest that separated them from their location, tension dawned upon the men. Cautious glances were thrown around, but whatever was prowling in the woods didn't show itself.
The few present officers snarled and shouted instructions - urging to keep the pace up. But even they couldn't deny that they were being watched.
Rumours had spread of ghosts coming to life and brutally murdering those who didn't pay enough homage to the fallen. Yet, this didn't stop the supply caravan from attempting to reach their goal. The supplies were necessary to facilitate those inside the nearby fortress, preparing for a deadly siege against the combined Imperial and Jirian might. Without said supplies? Those brave men would succumb to hunger, agony and worse.

Continuing on the road, the caravan's pace slowed down. Scouts were send up ahead to make sure that no enemies were hiding and preparing an ambush. The few horsemen spurred their mounts as they galloped forward of the supply caravan. The sound of the horse's hooves would slowly fade away as the caravan was urged to move forwards.
Watching this, Koike remained silent. The Rongese didn't spot him, for the foliage easily camouflaged him. Then there was also the technique of one of the nearby operatives that masked his chakra signature - making it impossible for the Rongese to scan him out with traditional sensory ninjutsu.
Counting the enemies, he could spot a few Red Cloaks that were present among the enemies. Then, knowing fully well how troublesome they could be, Koike turned around and started to walk.

"Send a message to the first group. Take out the scouts and add them to the collection," Koike firmly ordered as one of the men sprinted near silently in a particular direction. "Everyone else, move to your posts."


The convoy continued. The tension was becoming tangible. Some of the Rongese looked wary at a tree or bush several times - unsure if it would provide cover for an enemy lying in wait. Two Red cloaks had taken up position in the centre of the moving line, resting in a wagon. One of them continued to search for chakra signatures, ready to alert his compatriot and soldiers. But so far, it was just the tension.

Watching from the foilage, Koike counted the troops. Of course, they had quantity, but that didn't faze him. If anything, he had to make sure that none of his forces would get too eager to rake up a body count higher than any potential rival in the unit.
Holding on to his two tantos, he remained crouched, waiting for the right time. The convoy just had to move a bit further, and they would be wasted in a volley or two.
"Everybody is ready," Katsu's whisper was barely audible, but Koike threw a look over his shoulder to nod. His brother in arms seemed eager, already clenching two knives in each hand. If anything, they would see how good these Rongese were.
"Good. You ready?"
"Born ready."

Grinning as he heard the cocky response, Koike turned his attention back at the convoy. The Rongese were almost in position, but then they suddenly came to a halt. Frowning, Koike tried to see and understand what was going on. The Rongese troops seemed warier as a rider came into sight - bloodied and two arrows stuck in his back.
"Ah, hardy bastard," Koike thought to himself. It seemed that of the scouting vanguard had gone well, but they had missed one rider. They let the rider return wasn't too bad - as long as the other group wouldn't reveal themselves yet. For now, Koike wanted to see how the Rongese were going to react. The rider approached one of the wagons, and briefly, Koike saw the straw hat affiliated with the Red Cloaks attire. A short exchange took place before the Red Cloak threw a look around. Almost an entire second did Koike and the Red Cloak had their gaze locked - but only the Hon being aware. The Red Cloak raised his right hand, but something soared through the air before he could speak up. The whistle was the only warning, but it all happened too fast before anyone could respond.

A knife slammed itself into the Red Cloak; his eyes widened in sheer surprise. Then, before anyone could respond, another knife embedded itself into the face of the Red Cloak, enhanced by wind chakra to pierce deeper. Not even a second later, the air was filled with arrows fired from the forest itself. Rongese soldiers screamed to alert each other but just found an arrow or two piercing their vitals with little effort, causing them to drop mortally wounded to the ground.
Another volley slammed into the Rongese formation, taking down both animals as men in a ruthless fashion. A few Rongese attempted to fire back, but all they did was exposing themselves against the unseen ambushers.

Watching the carnage as his men took down the Rongese, only a few managing to stand longer due to either their endurance, willpower or the fact that they had a shield that could catch an arrow or two - only to be shot from the other side. This unfair fight continued as Koike realised that there was no honour in slaughtering their enemies like this. But honour didn't win battles. It didn't stem the bleeding of a wound or prevented one to survive a mortal blow longer. An admirable virtue and concept but nothing of fantasy in the grim reality of war.
Watching a red blur moving out of the wagon and slamming against a tree, Koike narrowed his eyes.
"Katsu," Koike had only to say as his brother dashed past him - the explosion of the energy that launched Katsu forwards, briefly whipping up some dust. Watching the shadow of Katsu moving up the trees and chasing after the Red Cloak for a moment, Koike lazily moved his gaze to the dying convoy.


Jumping from branch to branch, Yijun held the small chest underneath his arm. Throwing a look over his shoulder, he noticed a silhouette moving through the foilage - a pursuer. Landing on another branch, Yijun smiled. He had wondered if the foreigners had any skills. The ambush had been excellent, but the supplies and troops were secondary objectives. All that was needed was the artefact. If it could reach the fortress, those foreigners would have a much harder time to siege it.
Making a sudden manoeuvre to the right, the thuds of several kunai hitting the branch made Yijun chuckle. Now that this pursuer came closer, he saw the small frame. His opponent couldn't be more than a young teen.
"Nice try, but got to try better, " Yijun said, but doubted that his enemy understood him. If anything, he noticed the determination of his red-eyed foe. Then, making a sudden stop, Yijun's free hand pulled out a short sword.
"End of the line, kid," the Red Cloak said in Rén, about to swing as he turned - already seeing the surprised look of the foreigner with the red eyes. However, the kid managed to twist his body to evade the swing. Landing on the branch, the knife-wielding brat then started a flurry of attacks. However, Yijun had recovered and started to put up his defence. He was impressed by his opponent's reflexes and reactions, but his attack seemed to miss the same expertise. A real shame, Yijun mused, amused to himself as he saw an opening. Delivering a firm kick to the kid's leg, he would perform a fast sweep with his blade. The sharp steel sliced effortlessly through the kid's chest towards his throat.
"You were twenty years too early to --" Yijun's eyes widened as the image of the kid suddenly burst in red colour. Taken aback, the Red Cloak moved away - landing on another branch. Looking around, he figured now that the brat had landed a genjutsu on him. But when? How?
Detecting the sound of two projectiles moving at him, Yijun moved to a new branch as he realised that a mere child now cornered him. Frustration and anger started to mix, boiling inside of Yijun's stomach. Hooking the chest to his belt, freeing a hand, Yijun clapped his hands together. A small shockwave originated from the Red Cloak as he dispelled the genjutsu. Opening his eyes, he was just in time to evade two knives flying for his face. Half turning, he had noticed a blue hue of energy shrouding the blade of a knife. Already swinging his weapon, a small cloud of smoke poofed and revealed the brat. The sound of steel clashing split the air for a second as the brat managed to block the attack barely. Before he could respond, the free hand of the Red Cloak shot forwards - grabbing the throat of the boy.

Satisified by hearing the surprised gasp, Yijun could now look better at the foreign bastard. His short black hair, glaring red eyes with strange pupils and odd-looking attire offended Yijun. Tightening his grip, he was about to drive the tip of his short blade into the abdomen of the kid. But before Yijun could finish the motion, something vibrated through his arm. The kid placed one of his boots in the way, kicking against Yijun's arm - preventing the movement from being completed.
"Nice, but the end of the---"

A sharp pain moved through Yijun's chest. His eyes widened in surprise, the pain clenching his throat. Then, slowly, his gaze moved down as the tip of a blade pierced through his chest. Before Yijun could think or do anything, the world turned black.

Falling as the Red Cloak released his grip, Katsu was suddenly grabbed by the wrist. Hanging in the air, he threw a glare upwards. "You are so slow," he threw at Koike, "I thought you would already come way earlier."
Pulling Katsu up so that he could step on the thick branch, Koike didn't give a response. Instead, he watched as the Red Cloak collapsed and fell - only to slam against another thick branch before coming to a halt.
"Seriously, if you are going to get any slower, I might as well ask Skuli to back me up next time," Katsu continued as Koike continued to look down at the corpse. Much to the chagrin of the Uchiha, Koike dropped down from branch to branch, halting next to the dead body.
Crouching, Koike wondered about something as he reached for the small chest that was hooked to the Red Cloak's waistband. Unhooking it pretty quickly, he then held it up. There seemed no seal in place, but that didn't mean he took any risks. Looking over to the right, he saw Katsu dropping on another branch.
"We are going to fall back for now. Let us regroup with the others and then move to the camp," Koike ordered, receiving a firm nod from Katsu.


Their base of operations was well hidden. Not to mention, easily defended. Yet, the security was tight as Koike didn't want the enemies to find and launch an attack with large numbers at them. Located in a small cave system, he had instructed some of the shinobi present in his unit to secure the soon-to-be base, reinforcing the walls needed to be and ensuring that the enemy couldn't use sensory information jutsu to find them.
There was also the fact that the troops were veterans, knowing fully well how to operate and not risk exposure. Altogether, this was a situation that they could hold out in for a few weeks - tops perhaps two months, Koike estimated.
Returning to the base with his troops, there was a muted celebration among the battalion's men. Nods and hand gestures spoke more than enough as some men split up and regrouped with off-duty friends, starting whispering exchanges.
Handing the small chest over to a few men who knew disarming seals, Koike hoped they could provide more insight into why the Red Cloak was attempting to carry it towards the fortress. Done with the exchange, Koike turned towards Katsu. "I want you and a few to move to the camp of the Jirians. Brief them on what we have discovered and of the plan that I told you. Perhaps that way we can end the siege before the Rongese will flood the entire area," Koike instructed, but Katsu frowned. It was clear that something was on his mind, his lips already parting to offer a likely protest. But suddenly, much to Koike's surprise, Katsu just nodded. Turning on his heels, the Uchiha would walk away, off to prepare for the quick travel to the Jirian encampment. Frowning, Koike wondered was now bothering Katsu's mind. Deciding to not fret over it, he would choose to take care of his gear. Perhaps get a breather from this all.

Checking his weapons, he wondered how the others were doing. He had faith in Hayate, Aiko, Kazumo and Saki - as several others. Yet, the enemy had proven themselves to be crafty on multiple occasions. And this whole conflict seemed to have no visible end in sight. No matter how many troops they took down, there were always others at the ready, eager to replace the fallen with a zealous loyalty and determination. Rubbing his eyes, Koike realised that he hadn't enjoyed a good rest in a while. Slowly moving back, he did wish that his sleeping spot was more like his bed at home - actually comfortable. But the bedroll was in anyways better than the ground, pebbles and whatnot.
Resting his head against the pillow, he closed his eyes as he embraced the smooth darkness.

"Don't you," her voice was nothing but a whisper as if she barely dared to raise her voice and to have someone else hear her or him, "ever thought of some other occupation?"
The question made him open his eyes. He had to wait a moment before his eyes had adjusted to the dark. Then, the ceiling slowly became easier to distinguish. "Sometimes, I have considered other occupations, yes." He answered in a whisper back.
The answer didn't do much to sate her curiosity. The soft sound of sheets moved by the gentle and slow movement of her body amused him, for some reason. Her face came into sight in the corner of his vision; the dark prevented him from seeing the likely frown gracing her face.
"No, for real. If you could be anything else but, you know, a shinobi. A killer. A soldier." She said, placing her arms on his chest before laying down. "What would you desire to be?"
He remained silent for a moment. It wasn't like he hadn't pondered about it. But he had only known this life. Sure, he knew what it entitled to be a farmer or a merchant. But he wasn't allured by those kinds of vocations. No, he had something else in mind. "Perhaps owning a small tavern, somewhere in a small town. Not too big, but just providing a good enough flow for the business. " Shifting his head slightly, he tried to peer through the dark to see her better. "What?" He asked, detecting her chuckling.

"You? A tavern owner? I don't know. I had expected you were going to pick something that still had some thrill to it. Something ordinary but spectacular," she said, "perhaps something that..."
Her voice trailed off, not daring to say it. But it had already crossed Koike's mind. Them getting away from a life of political intrigue, bloodshed and violence. Perhaps starting a more peaceful life as a civilian, somewhere people wouldn't recognise him or Haruka. But where would the daughter of the Tamiyo dynasty and a face filled with scars be able to settle down without people wondering? It was a scenario that would cause a lot of trouble, making people worried and pushing them to enact desperate actions.
"What would you imagine, you know," he began, not wanting to end the question as they laid in comfortable silence for a second, "we could decide it, for ourselves."

His question was met with silence. Then, carefully, he tried to get a better look at Haruka. He wanted to see the soft hazel-nut brown hair, the fair complexion, together with those beautiful brown eyes.
"You need to wake up," Haruka's voice suddenly was replaced by that of Katsu. Confused, Koike tried to get up, but the world shifted and rumbled. Unsure what happened, he blinked, and that is when it hit him.
"Skuli has found something interesting," Katsu said as Koike blinked rapidly, waking up from his short sleep. Nodding, Koike grumbled something as he rose from his bedroll. This better had to be worth it.


A Messenger
Can I do it? Am I worthy?
[ Mamoru Senju ]
[ Eastern Continent | 11th Imperial Brigade | Operation Bright Fire ]
[ After his recent promotion, Mamoru takes a moment to reflect on what lead up to his promotion and ponders on how to live up to it. ]

He stood there, saluting, for a few more seconds after Meilin left. He quickly wiped his eyes clean and sat down, his eyes observing the pendant he was gifted. More and more details were becoming visible the longer he looked at it. And the longer he looked at it, the more he came to cherish it.She really said she is proud, he kept repeating this in his mind. As weird at it was, in this specific moment, this mattered more to him than his promotion.Meilin Sensei is proud of me, he said one last time.I must be doing something right, he though to himself as he stood up. Looking for some rope, he quickly found some after a few minutes and made his way back to sit down.

Mamoru measured the rope around his neck, intending to fashion it into a necklace for the pendant. Finding the right length, he cut it to size and started to separate it into individual threads. He than took four of them and started to work on it, his pendant resting on the table before him. He started to intertwine the individual threads together into a thinner necklace than the original rope. His mind still tried to process his promotion, yesterday's events. In contrast to his fingers working steadily, his mind was wandering all over the place.Am I truly worth it? How will others look at my promotion? What should I do to live up to it?

As his mind wandered away, so did his focus on the activity at hand. The threads became too loose and a minute later, he dropped it, allowing them to unfold as he rested his hands at the table. His eyes glued to the pendant.What we accomplished yesterday was a team effort. I never could have done it on my own, he thought, wondering about whether Hylli or Hideko received promotions as well.Whatever you do, don't ask them, and he frowned at the thought. He wanted to avoid any and all suspicion about him rubbing it into their faces. Creating animosity between them would be to the detriment of all of them, especially since they will surely undertake future missions together. He let out a sigh and completely unraveled the threads.

I'll keep quiet about it, I won't talk about it unless directly asked.

With this thought in his mind, he started to work on the threads again, slower, as he was unable to maintain focus. He didn't have that much interaction with his team lately, and a part of him dreaded the encounter. The other part looked forward to it, as he came to genuinely miss them.It'll be fine, dummy, the last thought on the matter sounded like this. Not entirely convinced about how true it will turn out, he continued.What is expected of me from now on? How should I carry on? He was lost, more so than he was before his first mission with Team 4. His hands started to shake and he stopped for a moment, trying to make it stop.

Why do I assume that I'l fail? Why can't I - for once - trust that I'll be able to do it?

This question echoed in his mind, and he slowly continued. Slowly reaching the end of the necklace, he grabbed the pendant in one hand and and pulled the rope on the pendant onto his necklace and worked on the finishing touches on the necklace. Once done, he tied it together as tightly as he could and placed the finished necklace on the table.

I don't know if I can do it, but I - I'll give it my best.

Frowning, instead of smiling, he grabbed the necklace and pulled it over his neck. The pendant rested on his chest and he ran his thumb over it. He stood up, standing there for a moment, deciding to go and look for Hideko. He looked at the pendant one more time.

Thank you, Sensei.


A Messenger
[ Mamoru Senju | Hideko Kobayashi ]
[ Eastern Continent | 11th Imperial Brigade | After Operation: Bright Fire ]
[ A collab between @RedFox and the amazing @RoranHawkins ]

[ After an eventful morning, Mamoru decides to take Meilin's hint to heart and seeks out Hideko. The two share a moment together where Mamoru makes it clean he holds no grudge for the events of Operation: Bright Fire. Enjoy! ]

He decided to start looking for Hideko much earlier than he thought. In fact, he was surprised he could wait that long. Immediately after creating a necklace for the pendant Meilin gave him, he started to look for the young genin, wandering around the camp. He made his way across it, passing people left and right as they made their contributions to the ongoing effort. He let out a sigh.Why did I agree to those two days, he thought despite knowing that Meilin would find a way to make him take those two days off any way. After a few minutes, he was nearing the other end of the encampment, a much more quieter one where it was still possible people were sleeping.Great, at this rare I'll have to go tent after tent, asking for a girl with a cut on her hand - as if that would narrow it down, he thought as he passed by another tent.

Woah. That was some weird dream. She yawned before looking around, and it took her a moment to realize that she was not home. Right. I'm in the 11th Brigade. She thought absentmindedly. She got up and dressed in the tiny little private space that was allowed for her. ”Outch.” She squeeked as the pain returned while putting her hair into a ponytail. Fuck. She thought, as memories from yesterday came flooding back into her mind. Oh boy, was she lucky that she had two good genin in her team, otherwise there'd be no Hideko to speak of today. Except maybe in a funeral, or a missing in action report. She didn't even dare think of what she would do if she were captured.

Stepping outside her tent, as she was the only one still sleeping, she looked around. It was as if noone realised what she had gone through. If she thought about that, it was only logical, but still the feeling lingered. She looked at her hand, still packed in bandages and thought how she would explain her new scar to her parents.

Turning his head left and right, he was starting to question whether Hideko was actually in the camp or not. Just as he passed a tent someone was coming out, he took a few seconds to recognise the person as he was lost in thoughts. At a closer look, there was no mistake - it was her! He felt his heart starting to pound faster. Suddenly feeling a bit panicked, he turned on his heel and slowly stepped out towards her. He clenched his bandaged arm as he approached her, an awkward smile on his lips."H-Hideko? Do you have a moment, please?"

”Oh!” She said when her name was being called, like a recruit too tardy for training. ”Oh!” She spoke, as soon as she realised it was Mamoru. ”Sure? I was about to go for ...” She looked at the weather, and realised that it was midday. ”Lunch?”

He nodded his head, realising he didn't eat either."That - that sounds good. Would you mind me joining you?" He asked, scratching his neck with his left hand. His mind was racing with things he wanted to say, to ask, to do. And from all the options, he picked probably the most awkward one to begin with."I - I was wondering. Are you okay, Hideko? "

She laughed about his question, more to make sure she was okay rather than the other way around. ”Yeah! Why not? I didn’t expect to get hurt on my first mission, but hey… I’m still here?”” In truth she didn’t know whether she was okay or not. But most of all, why did he have to know that right now? Of all of the conversations they could have right now she asked if she was okay? ”Anyhow, I hope they have rice inside the eating tent. Like that fancy white rice! What about you?” She said, in an attempt to change the direction the conversation was heading.

Just as he worried about, he didn't start the conversation in the best way.Way to go, dummy, your talent of making people uncomfortable are staggering, he thought for himself. Blinking twice, he focused back to Hideko and nodded."Well, rice would be good to have. I don't expect them to have some pork barbecue here. That's going to be one of the first things after we get home. After meeting my family, of course. What about you? Any big plans for once we get home?"

”I mean, I literally just got here, but it’ll be interesting to see how my parents react to this.” And she showed her hand, still healing from the wound she’d sustained that would probably result in a scar. ”I do hope that it’s small enough to - you know, have them find out somewhere in the - I don’t know, coming years?” She said. ”About scars, that on your face - uh...” She blushed. ”How’s it looking for you? I reckon that a scar on my hand is far easier to hide than that.”

Upon looking at Hideko's hand, Mamoru saw the image of her getting it unfold in his mind again. Closing his eyes and shaking his head slightly, he looked back at her. Noticing her blush as they get to the topic of his scar, he felt his stomach churn.Careful now, he thought for himself as he prepared prepared to answer."Y-yeah, but I don't think you'll be able to hide it for long. Parents always find out, it's their secret ability. As for this." He paused, turning to her and a small smile flashed on his lips as be stopped and looked at her. He shrugged."It's okay. Really. Sen - I mean, Lieutenant Cho says another day or two and it should be fine. Won't look as bad as it does now. It slightly itches at time, and not being able to scratch it is - at most times- the worst thing about. But since we're here, I'd like to know something." He pondered for a moment, and upon realising there's no way to make this easy or pleasant, he cut the chase."Look. I want you to know that I'm not angry, Hideko. I'm really not. I'd just like to know why you made the decisions you made during the mission. I'd like to understand."

Hideko grinned as Mamoru worried about his parents finding out. ”Yeah, but whether they’ll find out now or later is a big difference!” She joked. However, she noticed that Mamoru was trying to get something said, and she slowed down a little. There was indeed something she also would like to say, but the opportunity didn’t quite arise. Fortunately, Mamoru was talking about the same thing she was thinking about, and he didn’t leave anything unsaid. Which was to his merit, but also to his doom. Hideko decided that she’d rather not decide on which of the two options she’d pick, and pondered instead about actually answering. She flushed and stood still, her face aimed at the ground, until she’d decided.

”Uh… Well… As soon as I lowered us into the ground, you said it was red cloaks, right?” She waited until Mamoru gave an affirming nod. ”So I instantly thought: us three genin versus an team of actual red cloaks? We’d have to run. And thereby, you said something of the kind, right? Well, I ran, until I realised that both you and Hylli were staying behind to fight.” She said, not saying that she’d been part of quite a lot of attempts to bully several people into shame.

She raised her shoulders. ”That made me feel kind of shitty, so I rejoined. In a way. I guess.”

Mamoru listened closely, every word of what Hideko had to say. As she kept retelling the events, they replayed in his mind. The ambush, their earthen shelter, the pain of his face getting slashed. The fear, desperation, helplessness. He knew - or at least be thought he knew, that despite Hideko not saying a word about it, she felt the same way. Or a similar way. He remained quiet even after shde finished, unsure what to do. Acting on instinct, he reached out with both arms and made a step forward, hugging Hideko."It's okay, Hideko. It really is. When different people experience same pain, there can be no bad blood among us." He remained silent for a second or two before releasing her from the hug." I'm so glad you are alright. That's what matters the most to me. "

And suddenly there was a hug. Weirdly enough, despite that Mamoru should be a stranger to her - she’d met Mamuro like five times - it was comforting. The near-death experience of the past night made it so. At least, for a while. When they released, she felt a twinge of doubt about her assertiveness, but that too was reduced.

”Ehm... ” She looked the other way, before looking into Mamoru’s eyes. ”Thanks. Really. Thanks.” She looked away again, wondering what they were doing, standing in the middle of the camp road. her blush grew and she punched Mamoru slightly too hard.

”Come on!” She joked. ”Let’s get ourselves some lunch!””

Mamoru stood there, observing Hideko reacting to the hug. To his great relief, she didn't seem to mind. She even thanked. A smile spread on his lips as well, and then he was hit with a thud. He chuckled and nodded."Now that you're saying it, I'm starving! Let’s go! "


Posting Speed
  1. One post per day
Preferred Character Gender
  1. Male
  2. Female
[ Sevudia - Authority's Encampment: Alsanna's Tent & Medical Ward ]
[ Alsanna Shirafuji - The Witch of Sevudia ]
[ Rumours spread quick that an occultist is among the Authority's ranks. Said fiend remains sedentary in her lair, until the witching hour. ]



Thump, thump, thump, thump …

An unpleasant tightness reigned over Alsanna’s chest as the squad arrived at camp. From the tips of her limbs right up to her neck, the beatings of her heart were almost visible to the general public. The moment the borders were crossed, she’d be the first to break off from the group and seek the solace of familiarity. Her eyes emitted the same focus she had during the whole return. No detour, no break, just a b-line to her somewhat spacious tent.

Thump --- Thump --- Thump …

The beats were still strong once she returned to her ‘home’, keeping a tight grip onto the tent’s opening, keeping her hands behind her back to ensure her shelter was sealed. It took a minute, her head craned downwards with her untied hair collapsed and veiling her visage. Her breathing stabilized, the heart was finally regaining its normal rhythm. One hand released the piece of tent she had been clenching and rose to her chest, palm flat over her left pectoral muscle. After a long sigh, she allowed the subtlest of tittering to escape her dry lips.

A more appropriate and straight posture was adopted. Her parasol was set neatly next to her rolled up sleeping bag and her standard issued top was removed, leaving her with a white, sleeveless and mostly featureless shirt and the usual legwear that had managed to stay somewhat acceptable. The few blood stains left on it prompted Shirafuji to purse her lips. “Great.

As rumours spread throughout the camp regarding a ‘witch’ among their ranks, a particular tent would seldom see its proprietor depart for more than a few minutes, and usually around the late hours. The night that followed the end of Team Nishi’s expedition was met with a rather restless Alsanna. She did not attempt to sleep but rather relegated her time into something that kept her mind busy. It started with her military coat. A thorough scrub of every little imperfection was in order. Whatever substance she could get her hands on in her tent and her surroundings, she’d use it. Almost obsessively so, she ensured that not only her top was clean, but also her legwear, boots and other accessories.

This would end with her parasol that had since accumulated quite a bit of dried blood. Every single gear, corner and surface was to be cleansed and polished. She’d even have a scroll to conjure the few cleaning materials she had obtained before departing her nation. The whole night was dedicated to cleanliness, with Alsanna sitting on a makeshift book-stool with a used supply crate as surface for her handiwork. The only thing that lit her tent was a dangling lantern, charged by fuel and only used in the night. Her tent was otherwise minimalist and consistently ‘tidy’.

Content with the state of her affairs, Alsanna moved to the next project. Light bags started to form under her eyes, seen even through her thin eye shadow. It’d involve her coat and a virgin scoll. Scissors, filaments, needles, paintbrush, ink and even a substance to dissolve said ink, she was ready for some calligraphy with a twist. Although before she commenced, a small avian, similar in size to a sparrow, had pushed through her tent’s fragile gate. A brief turn of her head showed the lack of caution she truly felt. Perhaps she was expecting this creature, as it landed on her half-exposed shoulder before it adopted its true, majestic form. A bright red and orange owl, taller than her head yet weighing so little with how she didn’t flinch from the change in size.

This newcomer did not halt her progress. Alsanna started to methodically draw the first lines of her little idea. All the while, the owl scooted ever so closer to its human’s ear before leaning its beak in closer. Barely audible whispers were conferred solely to Alsanna, whispers that gave more than just raw information. All the interesting events the bird had captured during its patrol around the plains near the Rongese fortress were shared in their finest details. She could hear, smell, taste and see these memories gathered by Aristedes, the Minervan Owl. Words often communicated by passing platoons were easily anchored into her mind, just as how they organized themselves. They were mostly not all that different from the group her squad had terminated. The critter was awarded a biscuit-like treat from its human.

All this information being processed did not stop the current project she was working on, as if her brain was merely storing these memories while her mind focused on the task. The seal she’d be working on was akin to a Generic Seal, albeit made smaller than usual with a few little tweaks to compensate for something. Multiple attempts were made, with the erasing substances knowing quite a bit of usage. Once pleased with a result, she moved onto the next step: Binding it to a sleeve. Being right handed, the choice was obvious. Scissors were first used to make a small incision with the goal to insert the small paper into one of the layers of her coat before stiching it back. The same seal was then marked into one of the ‘scales’ of her parasol, making the motive behind this whole endeavour clear now.

With a click of her tongue, she signaled the successful conclusion of her work. At least the theoretical part. The rest was rather simple, as it followed the same principles as other generic seals. When the two seals were in proximity, the parasol was made to vanish into a remote storage, and should Alsanna have her chakra brush near her sleeve, it’d conjure up the parasol.

Another job well done. Another distraction gone.

It was nearing noon. Her eyes could barely keep open, and yet she was already going for something else. A familiar mark was made on her forearm upon merely touching it with the opposite hand. Her azur gaze fixated it, head tilted as she dove into a deep muse. But before long, that blue light would shut, and her forehead would meet with her arm. Alsanna had fallen asleep.

Thump -------- Thump ------- Thump …

Such a peaceful rhythm.

The twilight had long since passed when she’d awaken. Now in complete darkness as her only light had been made to run during the whole day. Alsanna nearly fell from her sturdy but questionably stable seat. Only the many torches of the camp provided some halos of light into her obscure den. A sloppy yawn escaped her lips, the mark on her arm long since replaced with saliva and a red mark from serving as a cushion. Aristedes had since departed as well, potentially for food.

Speaking of food, it was probably unwise to go without any over a day after a tiresome mission. With her coat back on, she stepped out to get some air. There was hardly anybody out, most squads were either gone or asleep with a few patrols focusing on the borders rather than the barracks. It was so quiet and the sky was so clear. The damp air made for an oddly pleasant smell when mixed with some of the nearby flora. So far away from home, and so close to death, yet she rarely seemed more relaxed than she did now. A leisurely stroll through the many alleys brought her to the ration storage.

The handler took a minute to react to the short female’s presence, and she did nothing to get his attention. She just patiently waited, consciously taking every breath in while her mind wandered. Finally, he took notice and gave her a stare she somewhat expected. Karuko had done his work, and to rile up such a man there had to be something worth being afraid of. The distributor didn’t seem so much afraid as he was just eager to get the job done. A box of food supplies was given without a word, not hello or thank you, anything. And Alsanna reciprocated the silence. She only let a similar titter as before escape her lips when she walked away.

Each time she’d pass some night-group, there’d at least be one giving her an unwarranted stare. Not the sort a rutted male would give to a female, no. And each time, Alsanna was left somewhat amused but also mesmerized by the surreal situation she was put in. It made her more pensive than usual. It made this walk far more pleasant, ultimately. Except when she realized just how much she smelled.

A shower it was, after having her fix of food. Brief and thorough, she repeated the ritual she had performed the day before her last mission. Hair done and tied, she was ready to resume her walk, and later pursue her project.

The mask and scrubs had far better use now that reputation was becoming a thing. Once again, the medical ward was her playground and like she did before, she’d skim various tents and sift through the patient records, conscious of potential nurses or physicians crossing her path.

Her interest was piqued by a far less gruesome victim this time around. A comatose male with only a couple of casts, one on his left and the other around his neck. According to the record, he suffered severe trauma and potential spinal damage. The coma was artificially induced to help with recovery. “Guess they made the right call. There’s still hope left in this system after all, huh?” she spoke with a tint of sarcasm to the vegetable. With her decision made, she ensured that the tent’s entrance was closed with some clutter as to make entry difficult enough to give her a warning in case somebody wished to enter. “So, Mister ...” a quick glance at the file “Usui. I hope you are well.

The man seemed middle-aged, likely around chuunin rank by his scars and the gear in his locker. Alsanna maneuvered herself next to him, verifying various machinery, notably the respirator and the heart rate monitor. “You know. They say many coma patients actually hear and sometimes see everything that’s happening when they’re asleep. I’d be curious to know if this were your case.” she spoke while she tinkered with the many tubes and pads connected to his body without actually removing or damaging any of them. Eventually she did orient her eyes to him, their shape showing some sort of smile behind her mask.

Unfortunately, I’m not your doctor. Akino sends its regards.” she uttered with a dry tone as she whipped out one of her customized feather-blades and quickly approached Usui's throat. But before any contact was made, she stopped while peering over at the heart monitor. No change, which prompted a frown. “Tsk. Shame. Rarely are the cases here anything cool.” she reached for her nape, removing her mask before taking a deep inhale.

Though I suppose I won’t have to worry about you freaking out. It takes so little to prompt a heart attack from even hardened Jonin’s, it seems.” she ranted while taking out a pouch from her backpack and set it onto a nearby surface. Her gloved left hand then came to gently set itself upon Usui’s closest arm, where she’d apply the same mark she had put onto the Rongese soldiers. “Although I can’t blame them entirely. I wouldn’t call this holy either.

Before she went any further, she had set up the spare sheets and cushions on the floor next to the bed. She then conjured the infamous monstrosity from the mark she had set. The usual, deformed creature, although slightly less obscene than the Rongese spawns. Its face was fine, just as many of the limbs were, but its leg and abdomen weren’t right, just as its posture was terrible, as it emerged in a fetal position, unable to stand. “Hmmm. Superior chakra pool and control, as I would expect. But being comatose and the existing physical damage translates to anomalies regardless. Impractical.” she noted with a neutral tone while scratching her cheek.

The ‘clone’ was made to rest over the makeshift bed, and from there she used the medical tools in that pouch from earlier to do her thing, peering over at the entrance from time to time. The clone would stay alive so long as she didn’t actually kill it, which prompted care from the wannabe-doctor. Each anomaly she investigated, searching for patterns, means to understand how they could be reduced or how they could indicate issues in the progenitor. When diving into the internal organs, she first noticed how inflated the liver was. As expected, the concussions did damage the organ, as well as caused the spleen to rupture.

Hello.” as she dug deeper, she did find something interesting. The pancreas was partially shrivelled and clearly deformed. Yet there were no signs of dysfunctions, diabetes or damage in the patient file. Far too intrigued to care for subtlety, she downright ripped out of the organ to investigate. Little could be deduced, as it was ultimately the fruit of the Cyto-clone, but did this indicate a potential malady they couldn’t immediately notice? “This is very cool, Mr. Usui. If only you could see th- Actually. You’d probably try to kill me too.” the curious and energetic Alsanna formed a toothy grin on her visage before dispelling the clone, causing the whole thing to disintegrate into dust.

Standing back up next to the patient, she first set her hand upon his abdomen. “And no, I’m not going to open you up. I could. But that’d be cheating.” she giggled before focusing her gaze onto her hand. Just as she did with her previous ‘patient’, she attempted to ‘connect’ with this individual, although this time pain wasn’t something she could experiment with. This was the complete opposite, a man that felt nothing and could do nothing. A sleeping body, nerves mostly dormant and chakra lines inactive. Which is why she focused even more. An attempt to visualize both her body and this other human’s via her weak but methodical use of electricity. The bolts running through her body were made to run through Usui’s and then back into her. All in an attempt to get some imagery of some sort of his concealed innards. The absence of external sensory input, ultimately, could actually be a boon in this experiment.

I know you can’t hear me. But you sir are going to owe me at least a rice ball.” she smirked, removing her hand after leaving yet another mark upon his abdomen. “Still, it could be nothing. A cyst or inflammation. But let’s see if your double has a second opinion.” once again she manifested a Cyto-clone, except this time she had actually shifted the balance of chakra usage. Rather than using only a trace amount of chakra to form the curse, she also imbued some more to compliment the host’s forced usage. The goal was to potentially create a more refined version of the clone, one that’d resemble more a human than a demonic beast, which in turn would have far more … Human-like organs too.

Like the other clone, she put it under the knife. Anomalies were still somewhat grotesque, but with more care in chakra distribution and control as well as some inevitable variance in the results, this spawn was slightly more workable. The leg wasn’t as swollen, the liver seemed rather normal if not for the big fissure in the middle. But what intrigued her was the pancreas. The thing was a big swollen but not deformed. And when dissected revealed a black, viscous mass. “There it is. Still can’t tell if it’s a tumour or anything, but it does seem like this little asymptomatic shitter would have gone unnoticed with all this crap you’ve got going, bud.” she tossed the organ back into the clone-cadaver before dispelling it, adding more dust into the pile.

A post-it was nabbed from the top of the locker and she merely wrote the following: ‘Pancreas Biopsy U R G E N T, YW’ and stuck it onto his abdomen, just over his pancreas. “Welp. This has been educational, Mr. Usui-sir,” she was quick to start packing, as dawn was already kissing the crevices of the tent, “hopefully it’s just some infection from the shitty saline solutions or whatever. Buh-bye.

nutsmall.png Mask on, bag over her shoulder, Alsanna seemed about done for the night. Her mind was already pondering something new with her eyes emanating the same amount of excitement she oozed out when handling her previous patient. Though as she was about to leave the ward, the isolation units got her attention. A little detour, as unwise as it would be, was taken.

There was no unnerving smell. No beeping of the heart monitor. Nothing. Confused, she conspicuously opened the tent’s sanitary seal, only to find an empty and somewhat bloodied bed. The blood was dry, likely remnants of when the patient was stationary there. The patient file was still there while the belongings were stuffed in a vulgar box that sat over the only stool in the room.

Alsanna’s eyes showed nothing in particular. They merely absorbed all the details in the room before she took a couple of steps inside. She did not look at the likely updated patient file, instead reaching into the box of belongings. She only found a few burnt clothes, a damaged couple’s photo and a somewhat bloodied ring.

One hand held the strap of her bag, the other went flat and perpendicular to her chest as the tips of her digits barely brushed her chin. Her eyes closed for only a second before she finally departed.​
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[ Sevudia | The Eastern Front ]
[ Lieutenant Meilin Cho and Chuunin Yoshikuni Sadako ]
A Collab between @Oetje and @Nim

Kuni makes her way to the Axebiters, and introduces herself to her new Lieutenant. She's given a brief test, and the two tell each a bit about one another, before Kuni is dismissed for the day.

After she went and got her equipment from the quartermaster, Kuni made her way to where she was told the Axebiters were within the camp. Looking around, she felt a bit uneasy, seeing everyone there was still a stranger to her. Going over the instructions Aiko had given her, she decided to look for Lieutenant Meilin Cho, seeing how she was going to be her direct superior now. It only made sense to go and introduce herself to her new Lieutenant, right?
Asking a couple of people, Kuni managed to learn where Meilin was last seen, and went there. Upon arriving, she looked around, not sure who the Lieutenant was, seeing how no one told her what Meilin looked like.

Chewing on a cold piece of chicken, Meilin sat on one of the improvised stools. Clad in the gear that they had to wear at all times - unless given permission for a change. The unit had trained briefly earlier today to stay in shape. But Meilin’s thoughts were with the coming battle. It was like a storm looming on the horizon and soon they would have to weather it. Regardless of their individual desires or thoughts. Swallowing the bite, she wondered briefly if there was some time to conduct a special training.
"Hm," Meilin noticed someone that seemed lost. A rare occurrence these days as everyone had learned where they could and should be. A feature of the military that she had become to like, much better than the chaos and relaxation that city-life and garrison seemed to imply.
Slowly, Meilin rose up from her seat and stretched her arms. Waiting for the person to walk closer - now evidently looking for something or someone, Meilin would speak up. But instead of Taika, going fully in Chonobi on purpose.
"Are you lost by any chance?" Meilin calmly asked, waiting for a response.

Seeing someone stand up, Kuni was about to ask something, when the person talked to her in Chonobi. At the very least, it sounded like Chonobi from what Kuni had heard before. While she wasn’t sure what the girl said, Kuni still decided to speak up ”I’m not sure what you said, but I’m looking for Lieutenant Meilin Cho. I was assigned to the Axebiters, on the orders of the Brigade General.” Kuni explained in Taika. She had learned some basic orders in Chonobi, but she had no idea how to hold a full conversation in the language, and she didn’t want to try and potentially offend the person in front of her.
”I was informed that the Lieutenant was last seen here.” Kuni stated.

Sitting down again, Meilin eyed the person in front of her. It was ironic that more Taika were assigned to her squad. Perhaps it was a way from the brass to test her? Wouldn’t be the first or the last time, she thought to herself further.
"That would be me, I hope," Meilin replied back in Taika as she gestured to the other to sit down on one of the other poorly quality stools - a mere stump of wood.
"You are to take the place of the few deserters," Meilin casually stated, as if the other person should be aware of it and that was almost partially their blame. "So, what is your story? You don’t seem like much soldier work, if I am honest."

Hearing the response from Meilin, who now spoke in Taika, Kuni shifted her body more to attention. She hadn’t entirely expected this, but then again, the Empress was about her age. There was a lot that could surprise a person in life.
Seeing Meilin gesture for her to sit on the tree stump, she first waiting for Meilin to be finished ”I’m Chuunin Yoshikuni Sadako, Lieutenant Cho, ma’am!” She said, and only afterwards went and sat down ”I was informed of the deserters by the Brigade General.” Kuni added.
”My story? I come from Amegakure. I’ve been part of the shinobi force for a few years now. In the past years went through a lot of changes, and I haven’t received the proper military training, so I certainly lack in the department. But I am eager to learn and serve the best I can.” She told Meilin. She decided to drop the part about her being a Jinchuuriki for the time being. It would likely be better that less people knew, at least until she consulted someone who did know about it.

Meilin listened to this Kuni, slightly surprised that the newest addition was from Amegakure. Keeping her opinion to herself, Meilin listened to what Kuni told her. At least, she did seem genuine by her statement; wanting to learn and serve.
"Alright," Meilin said as she seemed to ponder. "You are a tad small though," the Cho thought out loud, frowning. Shouting something in Chonobi, Meilin waited. A shout seemed to be given back in return as Meilin rose up again - gesturing to Kuni to do the same.
"We are going to do a small test. Seeing if you can serve with us or going to be send back," Meilin said as a man came walking with an oval shield. He briefly spoke in Chonobi and Meilin responded, gesturing to Kuni, in the same language. The soldier casually shrugged and held the shield out so that Kuni could attempt to hold the heavy object.

"I want you to hold it up so I can see if you won’t be a liability in the unit," Meilin explained, gesturing to the shield being held out.

Kuni shrugged slightly at the small remark. She was always small for her age. She imagined she’ll probably remain relatively small. Hearing about the test, Kuni stood up after being given the gesture, and watched as a man came to them with a shield. The shield certainly didn’t look light. She watched the two as they spoke in Chonobi, briefly wondering if she could learn some more Chonobi while she was there, before Meilin spoke to her again, explaining what the test was. Turning to look at the shield, Kuni nodded. It was a reasonable test.

Taking the shield from the man with both hands, she managed to hold it upright. But shields weren’t meant to be held with two hands. Putting her arm into the shield’s straps, she let go of the shield, leaving it only on her left arm. It was certainly heavy, heavier than the earth fist that she could form around her arm. But with the straps, it was somewhat manageable. Raising the shield to chest height, Kuni kept it steady the best she could, her right arm still free. Sweat had formed on her brow, but she was determined to pass the test.

Observing Kuni, Meilin seemed to just watch and wait for a while. Walking around Kuni, Meilin didn’t state anything. Then she gestured that Kuni could return the shield back to the soldier before speaking up.
"Clearly need to work on your physique. Don’t think you will be fit for the front for a while but, you pass the height. Barely, but still," Meilin stated as she would take her previous seat again.
"You did state that you were a chuunin? When was your promotion? And what unit or well, units did you serve in?" Pausing briefly, Meilin gained a wry smile, "I hope you understand that I don’t have access to any profiles to read the answers from. That and I never have been the person to really peak into a profile with what one’s privacy matters are detailed."

Taking off the shield and returning it to the soldier, Kuni remained standing as Meilin asked her questions and gave the remark about not diving into profiles ”Well, I was granted my promotion after a chuunin exam, about a year, year and a half ago. As for units, I was in the Amegakure shinobi corps, in team 11 for some time, having served with the same team leader for some time. Then about a year ago, there was an event that caused him to lose his arm, forcing him into retirement, and from that moment I’ve been jumping between teams for a while. The last couple of months there I can’t say I even had a proper team.” She explained.
”And if you don’t have access to profiles, then I should probably tell you a bit more about my own capabilities. My chakra nature is earth, which I understand well. I don’t have training in any weapons such as the katana, tanto, or so forth. I can remain active for extended periods of time, got a lot of stamina, and,” Kuni paused to think about it ”I think those are the most important details. I know how to cook, if you think that could help in any way too.” She added.

Putting an elbow on a knee, Meilin supported her head as she would remain silent as Kuni told about herself. Briefly, she did wonder how much or what the Amegakure shinobi specialised in. Knowing that judging by appearances wasn’t really fair, this Kuni did seem far from a threat. The way that she had nearly struggled with keeping up a shield and stated Taika weapons made some things abundantly clear. She was going to be a lot of work.
"We will train you in stamina, strength and weapon expertise. Most of us use a variety of weapons. So we will see what works best for you," Meilin responded, at first, "I suppose it is only fair to tell something about myself."
Straightening her back, Meilin considered briefly what she should say.
"You know my rank but I am Meilin Cho. I specialise in swordsmanship and close ranged combat. I am capable of fire and crystal release. Been a chuunin for a while, leading the unit, designated as 4. I expect you to listen to orders, not cause a mess and don’t try any heroics. Sadly, I have seen people do those. And it always end up bad."

Pausing again, Meilin thought about the composition of her unit currently. The few that had deserted with Orun was a trouble. But she decided to not mention the traitor or the few other names. They didn’t matter, for now.
"There are a few sergeants that help me train and lead the unit. I expect you to respect them as you will respect me. Or well, anybody in the chain of command. Any questions?"

Keeping her attention focused on Meilin as the Lieutenant spoke, Kuni nodded along with what was being told to her. She was a bit surprised to hear about the crystal release, with a brief thought about Yumi passing in her mind, but she figured it made sense that others would be capable of learning about the nature if they put their minds to it. The bit about the heroics also made her nod again. She had a teammate in the past that had been prone for it, so she understood what Meilin meant.
Mentioning respecting the chain of command, Kuni nodded again ”That comes without a doubt, Lieutenant. I will admit that I was more troublesome in the past, but I am not here to cause trouble. I’m here to help protect and serve.” She stated, wanting to be open and clear with her new Lieutenant. Thinking if she had any questions, Kuni only had one come to mind ”Only one question comes to mind. Who can show me which tent will I be using? I do want to put my things away and start to learn how to properly equip the gear that I was given from the quartermaster.” Kuni said.

"Good. I appreciate your honesty. But the past is the past,” Meilin stated, somewhat more friendly, than before. "You are part of this unit. Everyone has a past but here and now? We focus on surviving together. And pace yourself, recruit," Meilin stated, not hiding her amusement as Kuni already stated she wanted to learn how to equip her gear. "You will be sleeping in that tent," Meilin pointed, at where the genin and Mamoru were sharing the tent together. "Take it easy for today. Tomorrow, early morning, you will be starting your training. Perhaps we can salvage enough time to prepare you for what we all are waiting for."

Listening to Meilin, Kuni had a small smile creep onto her expression. When the Lieutenant finished speaking, Kuni nodded ”Understood. I’ll go set my things then. Maybe I could also get to know my tent mates if I am to take it easy for today. And also learn where everything is in the camp.” She said.
”Thank you Lieutenant. Looking forward to serving under your command!” Kuni told her, before heading in the direction of the tent she was informed she’ll be part of. She was already curious about who her tent mates were, but she’ll have to wait and see if she could even find anyone there.


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[ Sevudia - Authority's Encampment: Discreet and out of Sight ]
[ @Oetje as Nishi Hirashima - @DeliciousFood as Alsanna Shirafuji ]
[ Nishi opts to confront Alsanna and her current reputation. A back and forth of sarcasm leads to a surprising degree of understanding. ]

Unseen Sickness

The rise of the sun was nearly timed as the warm rays started to dawn upon Nishi’s tent, as the woman walked out. The previous mission hadn’t bothered her in the slightest, unlike some other participants. Instead, she was already having her mind occupied on other matters. Calmly, the jounin observed how a waggon with supplies was moved into the camp. So far, it seemed that things in terms of preparing for the siege were going well. But there wasn’t anything that indicated that they were preparing engines meant to topple the walls or climb over them.
Curious and not assigned to any task, Nishi managed to find a crate nearby that she could find some respite on. Seated on her semi-comfortable spot, she watched as others worked. A nice change for once, she thought to herself. As the day slowly came to a start, the activity started to pick up as well.
Wondering if she should spend this day for her own amusement or train the genin, Nishi pondered on the matter. The two had shown some skills and actual competence in the last mission. Perhaps because this time, there wasn’t an idiot or two running around rampant, trying to solve or follow orders in the most smooth-brained fashion.
Crossing her arms out in front of her chest, Nishi decided that today, she wouldn’t exert too much effort. A bit of rest was well deserved, she mused somewhat amused.

A not-so-well rested Alsanna was heading back from her questionable endeavour back in the medical ward. More remarkable bags started to form under her eyes as proof of an increasing sleep debt. With the halo of dawn showing itself at the horizon, she squinted while her arm served as a means to shield her eyes a tad, the other one dedicated to holding her backpack over her left shoulder. She did not seem to be in any particular mood, though her destination seemed easy to deduce: She was going home! Well, ‘home’.
As she passed through groups, it became evident that at least some had taken notice of who she was in spite of a lack of any massively distinctive trait. Maybe it was the curly hair or the blue eyes, maybe her size? Nonetheless, a few started to whisper to each other when the petite female passed by. A subtle and barely noticeable titter would sometimes escape her lips when she’d actually notice these, though it’d never interrupt her gait.

Enjoying her rest, it didn’t take for too long until Nishi noticed one of her genin. Silently, Nishi observed as Alsanna strode forwards while it was evident that her presence wasn’t causing many to be truly positive upon sighting her. For a mere moment, Nishi considered her options. The temptation was to remain where she was and let the genin continue. There was the chance that someone was going to be bold enough and hurt the girl. Not that Nishi felt any compassion for the genin; it was her problem.
But it would look bad on her, Nishi thought as she proceeded with a mental sigh, pushing herself from the crate.
Heading with a brisk pace towards Alsanna, Nishi shot a look at some people that whispered in small groups, throwing subtle glances or even glares at the back of the girl.

"Alsanna," Nishi began, with a friendly tone, her right hand slightly raised to perform a wave - hoping to catch the genin’s attention as the distance was closed in. "There you are. I was looking for you. Hey, can you come with me? I got something that needs to be taken care of. Come," gesturing to the genin to follow suit, Nishi already turned half around on her heels to head back to the previous crate she had claimed.

It did not occur to the Genin that there’d be a pair of footsteps that were a bit more focused than the others and getting slightly louder as they converged with Alsanna’s path. It was evident that most of her mind was dedicated to something disassociated with her surroundings. Perhaps she was exhausted, or maybe she simply didn’t care. But when a familiar voice beckoned her attention, she did raise her azur gaze toward its source with a more attentive expression. From there she stopped on her tracks and just stared at the Jonin for a moment, posture still and stiff.
What is it?” she ended up replying with a very tilt of her head and minimal fluctuation in her tone. Alsanna didn’t budge for now. “What is it that you need, Nishi-Sensei?” this time her voice rose, if only just a tad. She did not seem to be very patient or particularly pleased with the encounter.

Of course, Nishi thought to herself, it had to go far from easy and smooth. Instead, however, Nishi flashed a friendly smile as she turned back to Alsanna.
"I just need your opinion on some matter. It is for the next mission. And seeing you are far from occupied," there was a certain emphasis placed on the last word as Nishi’s gaze was anything but friendly - hinting only more that the woman wasn’t going to take a no from her subordinate.
"Shall we? The sooner we are done, the more we can enjoy a free day, hm?" Once more, Nishi seemed eager to get going. She was happy that her presence had warded off some attention. But there was no telling what a few disgruntled soldiers or shinobi were going to do if it was her and Alsanna. And brawls were far from rare in an army encampment, Nishi thought to herself.
"So, you going to take root or follow me?"

The mixture of questionable friendliness and purposeful emphasis on certain terms prompted further squints from the ostracized Genin. With her options now clear, Alsanna peered over to one side, then the other. Then she gave a brief glance to the direction she was heading, as if pondering something. Her lips shifted about as well, starting pursed, then the edges stretching a tad as she clicked her tongue. She was definitely thinking a few things through.
Fine.” she replied after a full brush of the right side of her head from her free hand, clearing some of her rebellious strands of hair over her ear. With some noticeable reluctance in her body language she did end up following her superior.

Waiting for the genin to walk next to her, Nishi would guide her to the previous spot. Luckily, nobody had claimed the spot or taken the crate. Neither were there many around that could linger around and eavesdrop on their exchange.
Perching herself on the crate, Nishi stared with a more neutral expression at the genin. The friendly tone of before was replaced by the more familiar, even tone that the woman had addressed her students before with.
"You look like shit," was the first statement of Nishi, frowning slightly as she eyed the genin, "next time though, if you don’t catch on that I am trying to get you some cover, I will personally join any beating that is going to take place."
Letting those words sink in, Nishi crossed her arms as she spoke further.
"After all, I take it that you have experienced some changes in the camp? Seems you have gotten quite a reputation, for a genin."

One crate, Alsanna immediately sought something out when she was made to understand this was going to be their little ‘talking’ spot. A loud exhale from her nose signalled her discontent for having to invest in any sort of effort. Still, she mobilized herself for the sake of comfiness, poking her head around until she found a couple of wooden pallets she could stack over each other to make a small stool.
The intimidation factor from Nishi brought a brief raise of Alsanna’s eyebrows as she attempted to adjust her position onto her makeshift seat. “And be down another Genin. Sounds like you’re used to that.” a very brief glance was dedicated to her sensei before she finally found the sweet comfort spot: one leg over the other and back hunched just a tad so she could rest her arms over her thigh and calf. “Do I get some sort of popularity prize for this fancy record? Or must I also be glamorous and, y’know, actually popular rather than … What is it they say? A wicked witch? Hah.” she seemed amused, chuckling as she recalled the many little nothings uttered by her neighbors and the likes.

"It would be such a shame," Nishi calmly retorted, "Then again, we can always arrange your return to prison. I am certain that some would be more than relieved," the woman stated as if it wasn’t something horrible to suggest.
"Now, as much as I love our banter, how about we skip this adorableness and just talk business? You are drawing too much attention. And I don’t like that," pausing, Nishi crossed one leg over another as she kept her gaze locked on Alsanna.
"I guarded you from Karuko, because you actually showed competence. Not perhaps in the most beautiful way, but you are far from the worst. I hope," the last two words were more mumbled as Nishi dearly hoped that was the case.
"So, what are we going to do? Talk actually or going to play around? I am pretty sure there are already some guys ‘dying’ to pick you apart, after all."

As business became the actual reason behind this encounter, Alsanna took her time to let her backpack drop next to her and on the pallet. Her attention was on one of the pockets she was digging her hand into, although she did pause with each sentence finished by Nishi, making it clear she was listening. Eventually, she whipped out what looked like a couple of cereal bars or whatever was tasty in this shithole land of this shithole world. “Think fast.” one was tossed over at the adult of the duo.
To seriously address the prison business, I’ve held my end of the bargain, and factoring in the time I’d take to return home, my term would be up regardless. It’s not like I was in for murder.” her azur gaze returned to Nishi’s figure while she took a bite out of her sugary goodness, munching away between pauses in her replies. “I’m here, and I am talking. One doesn’t have to be a bore or panicked over dire shit to actually discuss important matters. Mmm damn, these are deeelicious!” she jerked her head back, blinking in surprise over her enjoyment of the treat. “After all, as much as I talk shit, I did deliver in spite of … Unfortunate incidents, did I not? And I delivered well. Now! If you want me to find a solution to my little spawns, sure, maybe you can even help. But this reputation of mine? Not gonna just vanish in such a confined space.

Catching the bar with ease, Nishi stared at it. If anything, it was better than most of the food that they were rationed. Certainly the bland soup or whatever stew that they had gotten yesterday. The mere memory of that made her wish that they could perhaps aid in ambushing and taking down supply waggons of the enemy. The chance of flavoured food or drinks for the taking was worth the trouble.
Taking a small bite, Nishi chewed slowly as she nodded when Alsanna began regarding her ‘deliveries’. Swallowing before she spoke, Nishi sounded slight amused, at first.
"Sure, you did deliver." The woman admitted, "so much that you gave everyone a scare. For a shit-talker, I even need to say that you’re not half as bad. Sure," shrugging lightly with her shoulders, Nishi also released a soft sigh before continuing, "I could do less with your antics. But you are not that bad. One of the reasons why I decided to risk my own hide in order to stand up against Karuko. Not that I think I would have won easily, if he had pressed on. That bastard isn’t a jounin for show."
Taking another bite, the taste of sugar brought back memories of being able to taste and digest better food. For a moment, Nishi wondered how the genin had acquired these bars. But seeing she was eating one herself, it was best to leave that as a mystery.
"As for the prison. I don’t think you need to rely on that. You won’t be the first to see the rules being changed around, just to abuse the crap out of it. Certainly if there are some seriously devout people in charge. But," chewing on another bite, Nishi paused to chew and swallow again, "I suppose I will try to safeguard that from happening."

At first she chuckled, content with Nishi’s own brand of appreciation for Alsanna’s performance. The amusement didn’t last, though she kept herself discreet, prioritizing her indulging over trying to be witty and sassy. “One of the reasons. Hmm. Wouldn’t the main one be that I am ultimately your responsibility, Nishi-Sensei? If you wanted disposable peons, you’d be leading some platoon of weaker Karuko’s, no?” she questioned, her eyes focused more on the bar she was unwrapping more and more as she ate more of it.
When she continued to speak, her voice was somewhat distorted from still having food pouched in her cheeks. “Mmm yeah, you’re probably right. Oh well. Prison. This shithole. At least I’ve got security in one of them. And it isn’t covered in mud.” munch, munch, munch. “... I won’t thank you for doing your job. Or for saving me. You brought the wolf among us, after all. But.” she pushed her lips out with a scrutinizing gaze dedicated to the older female. “I can’t say you’re incompetent. Rather have you than some fresh and whimsical chuunin leading this confused mess of a team.

Nishi imagined that most would argue back, try to convince the genin that she was in the wrong. That Karuko wasn’t added to the mission on her request! That it was the general that had decided on the matter!
However, Nishi saw no need or use to convince the girl. She didn’t need her thanks, even. The mere fact was that they both understood why it had happened. That was enough for Nishi, who didn’t need a morale ‘victory’ over or against a mere genin.
"Imagine that. Wanting prison more than this paradise," Nishi mumbled throwing a look around. Still, nobody seemed eager enough to approach or do much as long as she was near Alsanna. Which was what she had hoped on. It would be a drag if people did become bold enough to do something while she was around.
"Oh?" Nishi frowned slightly, the feigned tone of surprise being evident. "I aim to please, I suppose. That and it is what I am being paid for. Might as well do it before they realise that they can throw me behind bars as well. That would be ironic."
Taking another bite and finishing the bar given by Alsanna, Nishi chewed and took her time before she cleared her mouth, in order to speak again.
"However, I suppose we need to talk about this, ordeal. You are clearly goin gto be picked on. Bullied, discriminated and all that. Perhaps even something far worse, seeing you not even bad looking," the last few words containing a morbid predicament, not made much better by the casual tone that Nishi brought it with.
"All and all, it is going to bother me. On missions, that is. I can’t and won’t watch your back all the time. Certainly not going to hold your hand either. I figure we both will not enjoy that. So," leaning forward, Nishi planted an elbow on her leg to support her head.
"What should we do?"

An amused Alsanna smiled at Nishi’s brand of humour. The bar was about finished at the same time as the teacher had completely consumed her’s. With little care about loitering, Alsanna just tossed the wrapper before using her hands to support her back over the pallet she appropriated herself, one leg still over the other. “Wrong career if you just want the money, Nishi Hirashima.” there was no change in her tone when she said this, no ounce of humour or overt seriousness.
You’re right, even a flat, no butt little bitch like me is free game with how shit this place is. Time to find some boy clothes.” she smirked, peering over to the side. “Yes, better not hold hands, people might get the wrong idea.” eyeroll. “Now if you actually want a solution, I uhh ... ” she paused, her head shifting side to side in evident muse. “Oh, yeah. You can, y’know, get rid of me. Not an optimal solution, but a valid one.” she narrowed her eyes just a tad toward Nishi after giving that specific suggestion, keen on noticing something.
Or maybe, I dunno, have some holyman ‘purify’ me in some frenzy of zealous bullshit? Maybe you can add some special effects like in one of those theatres.” the grin on her face made her lack of seriousness clear to even the most oblivious of folks.
But ultimately, there is no salvaging my reputation. What there is, however, is optimizing my work. The more efficient it is, the more self-sufficient I am. I do not need to be stronger than my enemy to live. I just need to be sure my little spawns can do their job well enough. And for that, well, maybe. Just maaaaaybe, you could actually be a TEACHER for once.” her mouth was slightly agape in exaggerated excitement.

The suggestion of them employing a holy man didn’t seem to provoke much from Nishi. She did consider it but already wagered it was going to be an absolute shitshow. Likely even costing some favours or money, which Nishi or Alsanna didn’t have or want to give. Then again, it was clear that the genin was aware that it wasn’t going to help her situation.
"You want me to teach you?" The rhetorical question was followed by Nishi frowning. "What ever happened to students helping their teachers progress or something? But, to humour you," Nishi shrugged once more, "I could. I just am far from motivated with the amount of shit that is coming from your lips, again. Besides, no amount of training is going to help you against half a dozen assaulters."
Actually considering some options, Nishi cracked her own mind over it. There was something that made her speak up, yet evidently there was a sign of hesitation as Nishi spoke.
"I don’t think you are someone that is fond of charity. But perhaps we can turn the tide. If you could actually aid people, it is going to be harder to accuse you of heresy or worse. I am talking about patching people up, serving in some of the specialists that help this nightmare hole going on. You know?"

Mmmm~” she had quite the shit eating grin on her face right now. “You so want to NOT do your job that you actually propose a good idea! Innovation truly shines in desperate times.” in turn she also adjusted her position to have her arms rest over her knees and her posture mimic Nishi’s. “Although for the record, the more there are, the more dangerous I get. But I suppose if they’re all Jounin ... ” she paused for a moment. “If they’re all Jounin we seriously need a purge in the Authority.” she said with the dullest of stares and tones.
But, yes. You are not wrong. It is how I got a whole city’s favour, at one point.” her gaze moved downward as she let a weak chuckle escape her lips. “Give me your arm, Nishi-Sen- Eh screw it, I’m calling you Nishi outside of work hours.” as she made this proposition, her right hand rose to about cheek-level, and it oozed that strange, purple-ish aura she had displayed in the previous mission. A connoisseur of seals like Nishi would definitely recognize this as a form of Juinjutsu. “Consider this also an exercise of trust, m’hm!

Nishi shrugged subtly regarding the purge comment. She was surprised that the brass hadn’t cut more heads off. But perhaps she was just used to the more radical and violent changes before Kirigakure had partook and lost in the Great War.
When Alsanna requested her arm, Nishi wasn’t too sure this time. She eyed the genin with a wary gaze. Spotting the odd and purple-ish aura was more than enough to remind Nishi of some less charming seals.
"An exercise of trust? Oh sweetie," Nishi said, not offering her arm. "I rather not. Explain yourself first and I might indulge you. Else, I fear that I will make you regret if you decide to take action anyways," the woman responded. "I hope you won’t take offense. Seeing the products that you have shown on the previous mission, I would rather not be subjected to anything like that."

She just kept her hand raised for a moment, blinking with the dullest stare ever on her visage. “You … You know what I do with this. It- Tsk. Really, Nishi?” nostrils flared in visible frustration with a very swift exhale. “The Cyto-Clone merely consumes a minuscule portion of your chakra after I’ve applied mine to form the mark. What comes out is a clone of you … Sort of. You’ve seen them. But none of you seem to grasp what they are, so I’ll SHOW you.” she hooked eached of her fingers, some of which prompted light cracks, as if she was eager to tap her teacher with it. “And no, there’s no pain. The mark leaves. And the clone is under my influence. Sheesh. Why would I suddenly want to fuck you over?

There was no change in Nish’s body language. But her expression spoke volumes, that she was far from fine with the idea. Any threat didn’t need to be ushered as Nishi’s expression would make it clear that she was going to hurt Alsanna if she even dared to use the technique on her.
"It is not pain or the fact I want to know the exact details here and now. First, we are in a warcamp. Summoning that thing here and we are both in so much trouble, it isn’t even funny to joke about that. Second? If it is so harmless, just explain it. I am not some backwatered numbskull that can’t handle the finer art of listening and recognising details. Just simply explain it as I have already seen how grotesque it looks like," Nishi replied, not even attempting to hide her disdain of the mere idea to be the guinea pig of a sketchy technique.
"And I will not even begin with answering the last question. I can already think of twelve, no thirteen reasons why. So just explain or I might really put my fists to work."

The raised hand dropped and Alsanna’s disposition became more agitated. Her eyes rolled up and then rolled, reacting like a teen that hasn’t had her way. “That’s the point, their form is contingent on YOU. Illustrating it would have been far easier to explain, and no, with your level of expertise and lack of injury? I would not be afraid of bystanders. Because, in my awesome opinion, it would be identical to you.” she folded her arms and exhaled.
Fine. The Cyto-clone becomes an imperfect copy of the marked, which can include myself. The better their chakra control and the healthier they are, the more accurate their form will be. Developing a nervous system and chakra lines is too complex, as such they’re relegated to simple behaviours and can, at best, hold weapons to flail around if we’re speaking combat.” her fingers drummed over her bicep as she paused for a few seconds. “But I never designed them for combat. Unlike clones, they do not dissipate when killed or damaged. They will stay alive until they die, and then the body lingers for about five minutes unless I dispel them prematurely. The point of this ability is to both use them as dummies for my own studies, but also find anomalies in one’s body without risking any sort of invasive maneuver. Usually if you have, say, a heart problem, the heart will usually be deformed in some way on the clone. Though, it isn’t always perfect.” her tone started off with the evident begrudging attitude she had toward detailing the clone’s details, but she became far more composed as she was brought to ramble about it. “Point is. It’s not some magic trick. They’re not crazy feral monsters. And they’re far, far more useful to both of us than anyone would notice. Now … The reason why I bothered to actually tell you all this is because you. Yes YOU, Nishi, can maybe help me with this little conundrum.

Despite her opinion regarding said technique, Nishi listened without interrupting or berating Alsanna. In a way, it was a rather ingenious technique. Such a technique could really prove its worth. Perhaps not on an assassination or combat heavy mission. But Nishi didn’t believe that an operative should only shine in those departments. Smooth-brains were never her favorite, she mused to herself as she remembered some previous operatives on her team.
Once more, Nishi gently rested her head on the palm of her hand. Once Alsanna was done, Nishi slightly frowned.
"I certainly could. I already have some thoughts on how to help you. The thing is that doesn’t solve the whole problem that you might provoke a witch-hunt, my dear little genin. That is what I want to tackle first. Your whole obsession with creating more of those horrors, regardless of how you pose them, is a secondary objective."
Pausing, she opted to compliment the genin. It wouldn’t have the desired effect anyways.
"But if we put my personal detest against this technique aside. What is it in for me? I didn’t know I was protecting your hide from a beating, to just become your assistant in, well," making a vague gesture to the girl with her other hand, "whatever you want to accomplish with those clones."

What I want is to solve this problem. And I’ve made the solution clear in my explanation. The reason why they’re so obscene is because I lack the skill to compensate for the host’s shortcomings.” her tone became increasingly sarcastic. “And in order to do that, there is a specific discipline you and I both share, in which you’re supposedly a master of. Supposedly.” her eyebrows rose as she stared right into Nishi’s eyes.
If these things can be made to look no different than their hosts, or almost, then I can not only pull the charity card, but probably downplay the stigma that’s on my back.” her arms relented, hands now set upon her knees once more. “I’m curious, though. Why do you show so much disdain over these rather simple creatures? I saw how startled you were back in the forest. I can understand Hikari and the idiot. But I didn’t expect you to pay it too much mind.” she allowed her posture to relax, her previously brushed hair falling over her face again.

Nishi didn’t speak her thoughts out. But it was clear that this wasn’t some genin she could just fool around with posing as a lesser intellect. Both piquing Nishi’s interest and yet also tiring her already; Alsanna was going to be more difficult to manage than the likes of Hikari.
"Because I do share some of Karuko’s opinion. I reckon you don’t like him but do show some respect to the rank," Nishi stated, pausing afterwards. "I don’t think that the Divine would find it nice or be happy with me deciding to lynch you. But I have my reasons to dislike how or where this may be going. Aside from my obvious attempt to be a responsible and oh, so loving mentor, of course."
Pausing again, Nishi gained an idea.
"How about we try this idea out? I will offer you my help. Such as expertise and knowledge regarding a certain field. But in exchange, you are going to owe me favours. What those favours will be? You will learn in time. Nothing too weird. I am not intrigued to abuse my position. And if we keep following your previous jabs, Karuko-chan, would be so devastated if I indulge myself with you." The last sentence being said with a clear sarcasm.
"Perhaps we will even salvage an actual mentor-student bond from this? Won’t that be to your liking, hm?"

She attempted to say something, she really did, but all that came out was a loud burst of laughter after the ‘Karuko-chan’ mention combined with the thick sarcasm. The imagery that ran through this still rather immature teenager was probably quite amusing, even to hardened veterans for her to get this amused. “Oh shit … Screw him, Karuko-chan tried to off me over ugly people. Let me have this.
A moment was taken to catch her breath. “Alright, okay. Favours? I owe you for doing your job? I’m starting to wonder if maybe we’ll be cellmates in the near future, because you’re clearly way more of a crook than I am.” a perplexed Alsanna pushed her lips out, feigning a lack of impression, though she seemed to be playing ball nonetheless. “A bond?” an eyebrow rose, “... Is that actually a thing with you or are you baiting again? In any case. Sure. Let’s make this underhanded, unreasonable deal. I get to have calligraphy classes in exchange for human trafficking. Hurrah.” yes, she was very much sardonic the whole way.

Remaining silent for a moment, Nishi frowned once more.
"Ugly people? That is putting it nicely, isn’t it? From my view, they even barely seemed humanoid. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder or some shit," Nishi stated, not rather keen on remembering the grotesque creations. "Only one way to find out. Chances aren’t high that we will be bonding but the stakes are worth it, ain’t they? After all, who else than me will protect you? Hikari? Ha, yeah, she certainly seemed eager to be besties with you. I even begin to think that you’re going to be less popular than some people that are already being seen as jokes, from what I have heard. Jounin circle jerk talks, of course. You aren’t invited."
Straightening her back, Nishi would stretch her arms. A lazy yawn erupted from her lips. Lowering her arms, she posed a neutral look at Alsanna.
"Good. But not today. I rather not have you enjoy too much in one day. You already owe me big time for saving you from others today. And no, that bar isn’t going to count. Charity is charity, after all."
Placing her hands at the back of her head, Nishi’s lips slightly curled up in a smile.
"But, seeing we got an agreement? If you start to behave a bit better, who knows how much help my knowledge and experience can provide? I already know how to keep chakra staying better. And your pets can really use some more moderation in how they distribute their chakra if they want to avoid looking like… whatever they seemed before."

Ever seen a 70% burn victim? Although I do agree, both the clones and crisps barely look human. But still people, kinda.” she paused for a solid ten seconds or so, her mind wandering somewhere, before focusing back onto the discussion. “I don’t quite care about those seen as jokes. They’re unpopular because their shortcomings are humorous. Mine brought fear to two Jounin.” yet another cocky grin was thrown in Nishi's direction.
Yeah sure, I’ll make sure to pay you protection money for my tent too. Maybe you could make a business out of th- Oh, heh.” she snickered. “So now that you, as my teacher, have agreed to teach me, finally, I actually have a genuine question to ask.” she leaned forward a little more, until she could properly support her chin with her hand. “What’s the deal with you and blondie? I get that she may not be super bright, but a senbon to the arm? And she didn’t seem to inspire much pride despite being your student for … Longer than me I guess.

There was more to it, Nishi mused, but she decided to not bring that up. Certainly, not with someone as Alsanna. The girl was perhaps a genin but her tongue was already sharper than the likes of that particular Yuki chuunin. Then again, how hard was that? Not much of an accomplishment.
"A genuine question. Oh Divine," Nishi said, the sarcasm returning to her voice. When Alsanna inquired about Hikari and her, Nishi frowned slightly. "How dull. I was expecting an actual good question. Hikari? She is a student. A genin. The reason why I threw a senbon to the arm? Cause I wanted to test your skill. Everyone can claim to bandage a boo-boo. But it takes actual knowledge and skill to dress that to a sudden and unexpected wound. You know as well as I that wounds aren’t planned. The enemy won’t stop slicing and dicing, excusing themselves for forgetting that it wasn’t part of the script. Unexpected wounds are the way to test if someone has some competence."
Shrugging once more, Nishi continued.
"Besides that, pride isn’t something I want to inspire. Competence is what you need to showcase. And survive long enough for me to give an actual damn. Save those silly feelings and mush for between the two of you."

Oh?” she raised her eyebrows at the sarcastic reply. “Then I’ll ask you something else. Maybe.” instead of asking, she did sit quietly to better grasp the dynamic between the teacher and the senior student. As Nishi went on, the pseudo-doctor blinked in clear surprise. “Wait, that’s your actual rationalization for doing that? Like, do you actually believe that bullshit or is it what you say to those in that fruity Jonin club?” she leaned in closer, her eyebrows now furrowed. “You do know a girl of her age could have severe nervous damage with this sort of weapon if you angled it a bit differently, yes? You do know it is particularly dangerous to do so when she’s a tanto user, yes?” more and more she leaned in, until he stretched her back a little too much. “Sure it happens in battle, but one’s own teacher, ruining perfectly good resources? Tsk tsk. Inefficient practice. Pretty dumb.” she smirked. “But pretty cool, bwehehe.
Her back straightened, even arched a little to prompt a small crack. “Okay here’s a better question. Why do you lead Genin squads? So personal, so taxing. Probably needs more people skills than most jobs. Unnecessary hardass-ness works better on crappy platoons too!

Yeah, Alsanna was certainly going to require more management than the previous lot, Nishi thought to herself. As the genin continued, Nishi’s expression didn’t shift or betray her thoughts. When Alsanna started to ask her next question, Nishi would hop from the crate.
"Who knows? My mind is a maze of incomprehensible … something. That and you are way too curious for your own good," Nishi answered in return, "I was going to take the day easy, not to have a fangirl starting to keep shooting questions at me. We made our deal. Likely, those guys of before are now somewhere else, so you can go on your merry way. And I can avoid doing anything that is in my job description. Sounds like a win for everyone." The jounin placed her hands on her hips after gesturing that Alsanna could take her leave, the gestures radiating with an odd calmness to them despite the sudden change of heart.

I probably am. And I remain unapologetic about it.” a cheeky little tongue stick-out followed that generic and meaningless reply. But she was at least left in a visibly good mood. “You will repent for that awful answer. In the form of maybe displaying one of those sealing abilities in our next little venture, hmmm?” she shrugged after rising from her seat. A few little stretches were warranted here which in turn yielded quite the obnoxious yawns. “Oi Nishi.
She picked her bag up and whipped it over her shoulder while making sure she didn’t miss anything. Yes, she was leaving the teacher hanging for a moment. “Kind of sort of prefer your hardassness to disassociated no-hopers and overly attached tragedies in the making. Expectations are painfully reasonable with you. You’re still a crook though.” with that, she seemed quite hasty to get out of dodge!

Unknown to Alsanna, Nishi actually was looking forward to it. The girl was a pain in the ass but had a sharp mind. Perhaps, she would even be bearable in such an event, of studying and applying sealing ninjutsu in a training? Perhaps, Nishi mused. Readying to walk away, Nishi halted as Alsanna called out her name.
Listening and then watching the girl leave, Nishi finally dropped some of her guard. The usual neutral or even feigned expressions were replaced by something that could be described as someone in pain - as if she had seen a face from the past that had troubled her to a good extent.
Turning around, Nishi hooked her thumbs behind her belt as she started to walk away.
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Autumn Song

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I adore fantasy settings, a lot.
[ The 11th Imperial Encampment, Sevudia | Eastern Continent ]
[ Double Dragons, Double Hyuzu! | Hylli's Second Trial! ]
[ A (amazing) collab with @ChromeHound and @Autumn Song ]
[ Hylli is being summoned by Hayate. Having various hunches about them, Hylli learns that Hayate has organised a Trial of the Dragon. WIth Hayate's Guidance, Hylli makes a second attempt to fulfill the Trial and accomplish what some of her ancestors managed in the past. ]

The request to head over to Hayate’s tent had made Hylli curious. Perhaps their last training had been so pleasant, that Hayate deemed it worth to schedule another training? After all, some time had passed but enough for a letter to arrive in Akino and have an answer in return? She wasn’t entirely sure about it. But the prospect alone made her pace faster than usual.
Nearing Hayate’s tent, she made herself known to his guard and politely waited outside. Her mind was already progressing what kind of response she was going to get, in case it was the letter. Understanding that her parents were likely concerned, Hylli also was eager to know if they had some words of approval or motivation for her.

Hayate had been preparing for a while, ever since he had sent the request for Hylli to join him. He was hoping that the news he had would be something she was excited about as well. The guard entering the tent pulled him away from his thoughts and Hayate nodded, indicating for the guard to let Hylli in. Taking one last look at the table, he smiled and then turned back to greet Hylli as she arrived. “Thank you for coming,” he began once she had entered the tent, “I have some positive news to share with you.”

Being allowed to enter the tent, Hylli made a respectful bow with her head. When he stated that he had some positive news, she was initially confused. Then only to realise that couldn’t be a letter - for Hayate didn’t seem the type to open other people’s letters.
Not masking her curiosity, Hylli tilted her head to the left.
”That is great. So only positive?” Hylli half-joked, awaiting what he had in store for her.

“I certainly hope so,” Hayate answered with a smile. “Jora answered faster than I anticipated. It seems he supports our request to have you repeat the trials.” Watching for Hylli’s reaction, Hayate continued, “I have been able to arrange things so that we could start immediately, should you so desire.”

Hylli remained silent. The Trial of the Dragon hadn’t slipped from her mind. But in truth, she had braced herself from hearing a no. The sacred tradition wasn’t meant to be bend or revised; it was a tradition. Yet, she couldn’t resist the idea of actually attempting it for a second time. Certainly seeing how pathetic her first attempt had been.
”Wait, right now?” Hylli repeated, blinking rapidly as if she needed to wake up from sort of dream, ”If that is okay with you, then I am more than eager to attempt again,” she answered in return.

“Excellent,” Hayate said, rubbing his hands together, “I had prepared a few things just in case you were ready.” Gesturing to the table where a large tome rested alongside a bowl, he continued, “The beginning of the trial should be the same as you remember, however, there may be some changes to the second stages.” Moving behind the table, Hayate opened the tome and flipped to the correct page.
Looking back up at Hylli, he smiled once more. “So, to begin, the Great Dragon gave us three boons, what are they?”

Raising a hand, Hylli rubbed the back of her head for a moment. Walking towards the table, she felt some nerves creeping up. Placing her hands behind her back, she had no trouble to mention the three boons that the Great Dragon had bestowed upon them.
”The Great Dragon has gifted us with three boons. The first is the gift to create, allowing us to shape the world around us. The second boon is the bond, allowing those worthy among us to form a bond with those created in the image of the Great Dragon.” Pausing for a moment, Hylli was able to call on the third boon. ”The third is the gift of knowledge. She assigned us as the guardians of the knowledge, allowing us to pass it on to those who have proven their worth and loyalty.”

Nodding as Hylli provided the answers he was looking for, Hayate thought back to his own trial. He had been so eager at the time, and had studied extensively with Jora until the answers came naturally to him. He imagined Hylli was in a similar position here as she seemed to answer without hesitation.

Moving on to the next request, Hayate glanced back down at the tome before continuing, “Very good Hylli. What are the tenets that are core to our clan?”

A smile dawned on Hylli’s lips as her answers were the correct. It felt a bit odd as the first attempt, her grandfather had been present. His pride upon her able to recite the answers had been enough - even if she had failed to return with a bonded dragon.
”Our faith is the fire that fuels the Great Forge. The bonds that we form with the dragons are stronger than any steel. We shall show traitors no remorse. Through this bond, we will protect the real seal. We protect the Great Dragon as she protects us, her divine force. None are above the clan,” Hylli said, calm and confidently, ”We may share our gifts, but never our secrets. We pledge to avenge any grievance.”

Hearing the tenets recited back, Hayate was reminded of some of the older traditions of the clan and the Elders. They had guarded these traditions zealously even as times had changed and some of the tenets became outdated. Hayate still believed in many of them, but there were those that he worried had led the Elders astray previously.

When Hylli finished, Hayate smiled and nodded. “Excellent, you’ve done your prep work.” Looking down at the tome, he prepared to recite the text that would begin the next stage of the ritual but paused, “Are you sure you are ready for the next step?” he asked, “If you’d like more time to prepare we can continue at a later time.”

”They are not easy to forget,” Hylli replied, remembering the nights that she had memorised the necessary information. It was something that her family had lived by generations and she saw no need to break from them.
She didn’t answer the question that Hayate posed right away. It was tempting to take more time, to prepare for the real trial. But how much time did she actually have? With the looming threat of being called to arms again or a mission, did she actually have any time?
Slowly nodding, Hylli answered the question with a firm voice. ”I am as ready as I ever will be. And, hopefully, with a better result this time,” Hylli ended with a wry smile - feeling the nerves becoming worse.

Happy with her response, Hayate turned his attention back to the tome. “Before I begin then, please remove any metal that you have on you. This includes your pouch.” With that out of the way, he began reciting from the tome, speaking in the old language.

“As it has been since the First Father, we thank the Great Dragon for her boon. The bond in which we share with her glorious children is unbreakable, forged in the flames of her unending fire. We pledge our lives and our faith to this bond.”

The old language sounded strange in his ears, even as it came from his own mouth. He had not had to use the language in quite some time and he was a little rusty. Hopefully Hylli did not mind. “We will honour the Great Dragon by proving ourselves worthy of her gift.” Looking up from the tome as he finished, Hayate took a blade from beside the book and raised it in the air. Holding his hand above the bowl, he made a quick cut across his palm before turning his hand and letting some of the blood drain into the bowl. Wiping the blade, Hayate handed it, handle first, towards Hylli.

Patiently, Hylli waited for Hayate to commence with the ritual. The next part was less pleasant but it wasn’t supposed to be something fun, she imagined. Carefully taking the blade, she remembered prayer she had made a few nights ago. Aware of the blood-oath she had made to Valdar, Hylli realised that it was now or never.
Inhaling softly, she pressed the sharp steel against her skin. Slowly, she moved the edge to shred the skin and draw the blood. Once more with caution, Hylli moved the blade away from her hand. Positioning her hand above the bowl, she squeezed and endured the pain - watching a few drops of blood descend into the bowl.

Taking the blade back once Hylli had completed her portion of the ritual, Hayate cleaned the blade once more and continued reading from the tome. “With a sacrifice of blood, we submit our intent to honour our bond.” Dipping his fingers into the bowl, Hayate swirled them, mixing the blood. After a moment he withdrew his fingers and formed a seal on the surface of the table using the mixed blood. “We now move forward to allow the Great Dragon to test our mind, body and spirit so that she may measure our worth.”

Completing the seal, Hayate looked up at Hylli once more, no longer speaking the old language. “Once it begins, you will have three hours to complete the trials before you will be summoned back here. Do you have any questions?”

Three hours. She slowly nodded, understanding what was going to happen. The pain in the palm of her hand reminded her of what had happened before. Suddenly, she couldn't’ feel the nerves of before. Instead, she felt a strong drive to set things right. To prove others that she wasn’t going to linger behind. Without Hayate needing to say it, Hylli calmly started to disarm herself. Placing her weapon belts on the table, stripping herself of any weapon or iron tools. Which was quite disheartening, knowing fully what was awaiting her. But the rules were there for a reason.
”No, I have none,” Hylli said, her voice softer than before, ”I am ready when you are, Hayate,” Hylli said once she was done and now rid of anything that could be seen as breaking the rule. Focusing on her breathing, Hylli tried to flash a confident smile at Hayate. Only to realise it was perhaps more wry than ever.

Nodding when she said she did not have any questions, Hayate gave her a smile of encouragement. “Then may the Great Dragon smile upon you in favour. Trust in your instincts Hylli and I have faith that you will make it through these trials.” With that said, Hayate placed his hand upon the seal and flowed his chakra into it, completing the loop. The seal shone brightly for a moment and with a flash, Hylli disappeared, transported to the realm of the dragons. Glancing at where she had previously stood, Hayate hoped she would succeed. Closing his eyes, he uttered a silent request to Kuromu through their mental link. “Watch over her Kuromu.”

He doubted the dragon would hear him from this distance, but wanted to try nevertheless.

Wanting to say something, Hylli felt a rush of a wind picking up. The speed seemed to rival that of a tornado, threatening to pick her apart. It was hard to keep her eyes open and she instinctively raised her hands to protect her face against the lashes of the sudden tornado.
But as sudden as the gale had arrived out of nowhere, it vanished. Stumbling and falling on a knee, Hylli felt the rough texture of the ground. She remained frozen in motion, listening to the surrounding. Instead of hearing the ambience of the war camp, that she had gotten used to, she heard nothing. An eerie silence had replaced together with a new scenery.
Slowly rising, she looked around. It had been like her dreams and the trial before: a dry and barren wasteland around her. There was barely any vegetation and a cold breeze passed by her.

Inhaling slowly, Hylli took the landscape further in. In the nearby distance, she saw a large mountain reaching for the sky. There was something there, that moved through the air but it was too far away for her to really be certain what it was.
Carefully, Hylli started to advance through the landscape. It seemed far from bountiful in life but she had learned from her first trial: life here was different. It had adapted to the climate and what ruled this land.
Hearing a terrifying roar that went through flesh and bone, Hylli froze. Throwing a look over her shoulder, she witnessed a large shadow moving over the ground. It was big enough that she could lie down and barely form a good portion of it.
”Well, here I go again,” she mumbled to herself, advancing further.


She held a quick pace, moving forwards with her gaze locked on the sole mountain. The terrain didn’t become in any way easier. Various times did she need to climb steep hills in order to progress further. But Hylli didn’t let that stop her.
A few times she had to cross deep rivers with a strong stream. Managing to get across with pain and effort, Hylli kept moving forwards.
Feeling a twinge of exhaustion, she knew that time wasn’t her ally. Three hours seemed enough to reach the base of the mountain. But she remembered her first attempt at the Trial. The painful memory kept her from stopping. After all, there was an obstacle that she had to conquer. An obstacle that had prevented her from venturing further and having a chance to succeed.

Continuing for a while, Hylli came to a slow stop. Her gaze met the obstacle that had held her back the first time. A large canyon prevented her way - being too large for her to jump over with any kind of her abilities. She even doubted that the usage of earth release was going to work as the canyon was too deep, to allow a stable support.
Crouching near the edge, Hylli stared into the canyon. In the far distance she could see the form of a river running. But how deep it was, how deep or fast the river was and other details weren’t clear.
”How do I proceed?” She mumbled to herself, wondering how she should tackle this. She was back at where she had been during the first attempt. Back then she had spend nearly all time to make a push forwards - only to fail horribly.
Perhaps, she mused, there was a possibility.
”Great Dragon, Valdar,” she mumbled as she rose and straightened her back, ”here I go,” the Hyuzu mumbled as she spread her arms. Slowly she started to fall forwards, over the edge.
The rush of the wind made it hard to do anything as Hylli kept her eyes closed for a moment. Bringing her hands close to each other, she attempted to focus on her plan. But the roar of the wind as she continued to fall downwards made it near impossible to focus on anything.

A blue hue surrounded Hylli’s hands as she kept them close to each other. The blue energy started to shine brighter until it became so dense that Hylli could hear the familiar hissing.
”Time to see if I am an idiot or not,” she thought to herself as she tried to position herself to face the direction she wanted to go.
Turning, the young woman directed the chakra to form more solid - using the momentum to push herself forwards as she continued to descend rapidly.
Seeing the other side of the canyon, Hylli grunted as she kept trying to push herself forwards in a rolling motion.
”Just a few more rolls,” went through her mind as desperation started to mix together with adrenaline.
Stretching her arm, Hylli attempted to extend the chakra towards the edge. The tip of the condensed chakra, formed by the sabre technique, scratched the wall.

Her mind turned to a colour. It was hard to explain but suddenly, something caused her mind to see herself from a different perspective. The vision caused her to become confused, scared even. More so cause the vision moved at a lightning speed at her but she was still able to see so much detail.
Before Hylli could properly react, a strong force clasped around her. Pain shot through her body as her vision became partially black - her mind turning into vivid colours. The only thing that Hylli could register was the colour red and the roar of the wind in her ears, with a soft beating in the distance.

”Ugh,” released from the strong grip, Hylli smacked against the ground. She laid still for a moment, wondering if she would see the Valravns coming to take her to the afterlife. Slowly and cautiously, Hylli looked through her eyelashes. She laid on the ground but the sight confused her. The canyon was there?
Opening her eyes further and pushing herself up, her mind also collected itself. The strange experience of before gone.
”What,” she whispered as she threw a confused look around, ”the fuck was that?”
But as she looked around, there was no sign of anything else. She was alone, so far she could detect.
Straightening her back, Hylli observed the other side of the canyon. Who or whatever had aided her, she was now on the other side of it. A rush of joy went through her body but Hylli reminded herself: this was just the start.
Turning around, she faced the nearby mountain with a determined expression.

The journey kept challenging her with more steep terrain that was difficult to overcome, even with the ability of chakra aiding her. What would truly aid her would have been any of her tools. Even one of her special knives could aid her to move faster.
Unsure how much time had passed, Hylli felt exhaustion starting to trouble her. It became harder to keep the same fast pace or to face another steep hill with the same determination as before.
Climbing another steep cliff, Hylli pulled herself over the edge. Breathing heavily, she threw a look at the way back. Then it dawned on her, causing her to look with awe.
The terrain was rugged and seemingly dry, as if the sun dared any foliage to grow in the warm and near unbearable area. But in the far distance, she saw brown turning into soft yellow and green. Not a geographical expert, it was abundant that wherever the Dragon Lair was located seemed to be far from just in a dry biome.
”Does that mean,” Hylli thought to herself, ”that it is also why there are different dragons?” It seemed to be clicking together as she knew that there wasn’t just one type of dragon. Much like there wasn’t just one type of wyvern or animal. Certain dragons couldn’t, after all, thrive in certain biomes - if the teachings were true.
Continuing to look down at the far distance, Hylli wasn’t sure how she felt about it all. More questions flooded her mind. How did certain dragons then come to the mountain? How did they know? What was in place that continued the Hyuzu and dragons to cooperate?
Her first assumption was the Great Dragon. There was no other answer than that, which strengthened Hylli’s belief.

Turning around, she noticed that the base of the mountain was close. Unsure how much time she had left, Hylli pressed herself to keep moving forward.
Trying to ignore her exhaustion, the heat started to annoy her. Beads of sweat continued to roll over her warm skin, in an attempt to cool down her body. Pain started to surface in her legs and arms as more steep cliffs continued to be in her way.
Then her mind suddenly became invaded with another colour. A sharp green moved in and filled her mind. It was overwhelming that it hurt and made Hylli experience a pain, that seemed to threaten to explode her head. Squinting her eyes, she attempted to keep moving to the base of the mountain. Her senses started to become overwhelmed as if some sort of song mixed with the green. It didn’t feel malicious but it was far from pleasant.
Tripping and falling to the ground, Hylli grunted. The alien sensation continued to spread, as if it wanted to take over and keep a hold on her.
Refusing to back down now that she was this close, Hylli started to drag herself over the ground. She was so close, this time she wasn’t going to let anything stop her.
At least, that was what she continued to mutter to herself. Inch by inc she pushed on.

All of a sudden, an ear-piercing roar split the air and made Hylli froze in motion. Her blue eyes slowly moved her gaze to above as a shadow moved over her. Before she was able to distinguish what had roared, a strong tremor caused Hylli to flinch and close her eyes again.
Once more looking at what had approached her, her heart skipped a beat. Laying in the shadow of the beast, she saw its large wings - spread out and providing a beautiful but intimidating sight.
The large antlers that crested its head seemed to be a sort of natural crown while two scarlet eyes stared down on her. Even as its lips were curled upwards, in a sort of mocking replica of a smile, Hylli saw the rows of sharp teeth. They were slightly yellow but far from looking innocent.
The light brown scales that covered the dragon made it appear to shine even brighter.
”By the gods,” Hylli thought to herself, wanting to push herself up. Only for the beast to bring its head closer to Hylli.
A sharp pain invaded Hylli, turning to another colour. It was white, painful white. Unable to understand what it meant, Hylli tried to raise her arms over her head.
Before she was able to curl in a ball, she felt something odd that caused her to be pushed on her back. The dragon had extended one of his claws and in a cautious fashion pushed her and now held her on her back. It didn’t pressure weight on her or else Hylli was certain that it could crush her ribs.
”No, let me go,” she stated as she tried to slip out of the grip, ”I need to reach the mountain,” she mumbled, trying to push the claw away in mere vain and desperation.

The dragon brought its head closer. The stank of decay and death coming closer and causing Hylli to cough. The scarlet coloured eye narrowed as if it tried to peer in Hylli’s head. The painful white in the Hyuzu’s head turned to a dim yellow. The sound of the beast breathing was terrifying - a rumbling sound that vibrated enough that Hylli could sense it with her own body.
”Please,” she nearly begged as tears started to well up. There was no way that she could release herself from the dragon’s grasp. No way that she now could manage to get to the base. Letting her arms fall to the ground, she stared at the scarlet eye. It seemed savage and wild, representing the nature of the beast perfectly. But there was something that drawed Hylli in. Nearly seemed to make her forget the stink of death and rot.
Suddenly, the claw around Hylli’s waist buried into the ground and clapsed around Hylli. Surprised and shocked, Hylli felt the grip tightening. Trying to squirm out of it, she heard the beating of wings as the dragon raised her up - holding her close to its chest.
The colour in her head turned to a soft pink. Unsure what the colours meant in her head, Hylli couldn’t do anything but hold on and hope that Hayate could summon her back. Ending as a snack for a dragon was far from the ideal way to go, in her opinion.
Watching as the beast took off, Hylli could see how they started to gain altitude fast - the large wings producing a loud and distinct beat. Unsure what was going to happen, Hylli tried to figure out where the dragon was taking her to. Her fear was that the beast considered her a meal for itself or perhaps its brood. But then she noticed that they were soaring, slowly descending towards the base of the mountain.
Confused, Hylli halted her resistance. Her mind started to gain another colour through, which was a soft blue. Still unsure what was going on, Hylli did nearly instinctively relaxed as a result.

The beast gently touched down on the ground before it released Hylli. Landing on her feet, Hylli gazed at the mountain.It was so tall that the top was shrouded in dark clouds, hiding whatever was far above.
Hearing the dragon growl, Hylli half turned to the beast. The savage scarlet eyes observed her before it brought its head down. Suddenly, a mild pain flowed in Hylli’s head but was quickly followed by a series of projections. It was weird as she saw the mountain unmoving but the seasons and clouds moving rapidly.
Then it clicked. With wide eyes she looked back at the scarlet eyes.

”You were waiting,” she mumbled, realising that was what the projections meant. The soft hue of blue moved back in her mind. She wasn’t sure what the colour meant but it made sense now. This dragon had been waiting for her. Years, if she had to believe the projections. Dutiful, it had just been waiting.
Feeling sorry, Hylli made a small bow as she spoke up.
”Sorry, I didn’t know, I am so sorry,” rising her back, she pointed at the mountain, ”but I need to get there. Up! I need to conclude the trial… somehow,” lowering her arm, a realisation moved through her. Nobody had told her how the trial ended. How she was supposed to forge the bond.
The dragon growled as it briefly raised its head, gazing at the large mountain. Then it brought its head down to bring his eyes to Hylli’s level. The eye widened as a shock would be send through Hylli’s mind. The last that she could see was that savage scarlet eye, peering with an unknown intensity at her. Then a burning pain started to spread on her left shoulder and head - as if someone was placing a hot iron against her skin.


Opening her eyes, Hylli noticed that the vibration of the dragon’s breathing was gone. Instead of the mysterious mountain, she was back where she had started; in Hayate’s large tent. Slightly disoriented and confused, she tried to figure out if she had failed. Her mind as shoulder ached with pain. But she could remember the projections and other experience she had gone through.
Noticing Hayate, Hylli wasn’t sure what to say.
”I think I didn’t manage in time. I did meet the dragon. He is still waiting.” Licking her lips nervously, Hylli wanted to stand up but her legs refused. The exhaustion makes it hard for her to do much else than to talk.
”I need to go back. Before I am too late.”

Hayate had been making preparations while he waited, clearing an area of the tent and laying down some cushions. He had also requested some food to be delivered closer to the time the trial would be ending. He had faith in Hylli, but the trial was not easy for everyone. Most managed to make it through with some bumps and bruises, perhaps a few cuts as well… but there were others who fared much worse. Hayate had remembered the stories of some participants coming back missing limbs or even those who had come back badly burned…

Shaking the thoughts from his mind, Hayate waited as patiently as possible as time wound down. When the three hour mark hit, Hayate watched as a flash of light illuminated the large tent and Hylli appeared, standing in front of him. No missing limbs, that was a good sign.

Grabbing a glass of fresh water, Hayate approached Hylli and handed it to her. Letting her speak, Hayate would wait for her to finish before tilting his head. “Please, take a seat,” he said, gesturing to the cushions he had placed on the ground. “Walk me through the last thing you remember.”

Sitting down slowly, Hylli seemed still like she felt out of place. ”I remember a sharp pain.” Rubbing her shoulder, Hylli shook her head. ”It brought me to the base of the mountain. But I kept getting this weird visions and… flows in my head.” She tried to explain but it was all vague to her as well.
”It was waiting. All this time, it was waiting,” Hylli’s hands moved to her head as she felt a guilt moving down on her. If she hadn’t failed before, this could have been avoided. And now again she had to figure out how to get back. She wasn’t sure how but it just felt wrong and odd. Was the dragon going to wait even longer now on her? Was it going to fly away? Wanting to know, Hylli wondered if she could convince Hayate to send her again.
The mere thought, however, made her subtly flinch. That was against the tradition, she wagered. A second chance was already more than she could have asked for. If she had failed, then she should accept that fate.

Listening carefully as Hylli explained her experience, Hayate thought back to his own trials. He remembered those strange flashing colours and images. They had been overwhelming for him at first as well. In his trial, it wasn’t until he heard the voice in his head that he realized what the other experiences had been.

Nodding as Hylli finished speaking, Hayate waited for a moment before speaking softly and offering her a friendly smile, “Are you feeling alright enough to take a short walk with me?” he asked, not wanting to exhaust the girl any more than she had been already.

Briefly, Hylli wondered if she should. Right now, she felt miserable and wanted to say no. Hylli felt more like going back to sleep and just forget about today. However, Hayate had done her a great favour, so she nodded slowly.
”I suppose so, sure,” rising up, Hylli felt the exhaustion but it was better than before. Stretching slowly, she still considered to ask if she could be send back. The scarlet eye staring into her mind was still etched in her - the projections of the large mountain and indicating how long it had been waiting, weighing heavy on her.

Relieved when Hylli agreed, Hayate led them out of the tent, nodding to the guards. The air outside was crisp and Hayate enjoyed the refreshing nature of it. He remained silent for most of the walk, knowing that Hylli was probably still trying to understand everything that had happened during her trial. When they arrived at the large open field Hayate had prepared in advance, the young Hyuzu turned and stopped. “From what you described, it sounds like you have found your partner.” Letting his words sink in for a moment, he met Hylli’s gaze before continuing.

“The only way to truly test if the bond has been forged is to attempt your first summoning.” Taking another glance around the field, Hayate was briefly reminded how skilled his guards were. He knew they were out there, but he could not see them. They would keep people away, but they would also give the Hyuzu their privacy. “Have you been shown how to complete the summoning pact?”

Following Hayate, Hylli wondered what he had on his mind. Perhaps he just felt the need to comfort her by going on a walk and offering some advice? That was nice and all but she didn’t feel the need to talk much about it all. When they arrived at an open field, Hylli wanted to state she didn’t feel like using a training or even a spar to let out her frustration.
Hayate’s words, however, that she had found her partner made her want to explain that was exactly why she needed to go back. How long would it wait for her there? What if it grew tired and disillusioned? That meant she had truly wasted her time and chances on it all.
As he asked if she had been shown how to complete a summoning pact, Hylli just shook her head. She was too confused to utter words, instead paying close attention to what Hayate was going to tell her.

When she confirmed that she had not been shown, Hayate nodded. “That is entirely alright. I can help with that.” Folding his arms across his chest, Hayate cocked his head to the side. “The pain that you felt, was it in your shoulder or somewhere else?” he asked, gesturing towards the arm she had been rubbing.

Confused why he asked, Hylli patted her shoulder - where the painful aching had originated. ”It was on this shoulder,” she said, first, ”and also my head. It is hard to explain but it felt like something was burned into me.” Was her answer, still trying to figure out why he required that information.

Smiling, Hayate started to explain, “When we say our bond with the dragons is forged in fire, it is only partially a metaphor. When you have successfully earned a dragon’s trust and therefore initiated the bond, you become marked. The initial creation of this mark is a painful process, but it is worth it for the honour of gaining the partnership we do.”

“This mark is not visible until you have summoned your dragon. When you complete the summoning ritual, the mark is triggered and will appear until you send your dragon back to its domain, or if… if one of you loses your life.”
Scratching his chin, Hayate took out a small blade and handed it to Hylli. “Our pact with the dragons is different than that of a standard shinobi and their summon. We do not create a contract on paper, but rather on our own flesh, symbolizing the permanence of our pact and our bond.” Pulling out a second blade, he held it up and nicked his thumb, drawing a small amount of blood.

“To complete the creation of the bond, you must sign the mark of the dragon in blood over the spot in which the bond was formed. For me, it was my eye,” to demonstrate, Hayate closed his right eye and traced the mark of the dragon around it with the small amount of blood that had formed from the cut on his thumb. “Once you have formed the mark, you must flow your chakra into that spot and concentrate. Should the dragon still wish to complete the bond, it will merge some of it’s chakra with your own and the summon will complete.” Hayate had already completed his own summoning ritual years ago, so he did not need to flow any chakra to the mark for now. Instead, he would wait to see if Hylli was successful in completing the final step of the Trial, or if she would have any questions.

Paying attention, Hylli would accept the blade from Hayate. Rolling the sleeve upwards, she was slightly confused. So that meant that the trial would be completed? The excitement that she was so close of becoming a Hyuzu that had obtained a bond with a dragon, she felt like there was something. Like a catch to it. Using the granted blade, Hylli flinched as she nicked her thumb. Applying the blood to her shoulder, she attempted to form the mark of the dragon.
Reviewing her ‘bloody’ artwork, she was still unsure if it was going to work. Remaining silent, not wanting to voice her disbelief in case it was going to jinx the result, Hylli nodded back at Hayate.

”Okay, I think I get it. So what happened was that it granted me its permission to summon it,” Hylli thought out loud, summarising what Hayate had told her. It made then some sense on why it hadn’t decided to devour her on the spot. Yet, she could remember seeing a savage part when staring back into the eyes of the beast. A part of her felt terrified of actually being bonded to such a creature. One that didn’t speak or could converse directly with her.
An odd sensation flowed from her shoulder, rapidly spreading through her shoulder and mind. It was something she didn’t fully understand but it took away the pain from before away. Like something that had been missing was now there.

”So, what follows now?”

The question was immediately answered as something surged from Hylli. A painful exhaustion seemed to follow the words as a large amount of smoke came out of nowhere. Coughing, Hylli tried to wave it away. Only to hear a familiar and loud vibration following a very loud sound - as if something large breathed in and out behind her.
Throwing a look behind her, the smoke was removed as two large wings stretched out. Once more, the dragon of before stood behind her. Its savage eyes peered at her before at Hayate.
”By the gods,” Hylli whispered, feeling a sensation intrude her mind. Frowning, it was another colour, a soft hue of blue as the dragon yawned - revealing rows of dangerous teeth that were meant to kill and shred living beings.

Grinning as Hylli asked her question, Hayate simply waited for the inevitable response. It did not take long before the proof of her successful trial appeared behind her. When the dragon appeared, Hayate took a moment to study it before lowering his head in a respectful bow. When he rose back to his full height, Hayate looked back at Hylli. “It appears you’ve found a special bond indeed.” he said, before turning back to the magnificent beast, “This is quite a rare dragon, and a very impressive one at that.”

Staring at the beast, Hylli wasn’t sure what to do. So this was her bonded dragon? What was expected of her? Noticing in the corner of her vision Hayate bowing, Hylli rapidly formed a clumsy bow before straightening her back. The beast itself seemed barely interested in Hylli. A loud snort escaped its nostrils, its eyes set on Hayate. The tail of the beast swept across the ground as it the wings remained raised - causing it to appear much larger than it actually was. Yet, it seemed far from hostile yet, simply observing the human.

”So what now? How do I figure out its name? Gender?” Hylli asked, her confusion and surprise evident. She even tried to catch the beast’s attention, waving with her right hand. But all that it provoked was the beast raising its right claw and gently pushing Hylli aside. Confused, Hylli wanted to push back. But her exhaustion made such an action impossible.

“Well, we have a few options,” Hayate began, his attention still turned to the dragon, watching him curiously, “Most dragons communicate via images and emotions, so it is not always easy to get literal answers from them. Though, some do have names with literal translations, allowing them to communicate it by sending you a series of images that reflect what it means.” Tilting his head to the side slightly, Hayate shifted his gaze to Hylli, “Though, I must admit I do not have as much personal experience in communicating in that way. My bond with Kuromu is a little different in that he can speak telepathically and normally.” Pondering for a moment, Hayate decided to voice his thoughts, “If you would like, I could summon him and see if the two are able to communicate to some degree. Though… that is not always the best idea with a fresh summon. dragons can be protective, territorial or simply aggressive towards each other if the bond is still fresh.”

Taking in the information, Hylli observed the dragon. It didn’t seem hostile but also far from looking like a being of relaxation and calm. It did bother her that the dragon was acting like she wasn’t important to it - its gaze simply focused on Hayate. Considering the options, Hylli threw a glance at Hayate as she answered.
”Let us say that you summon your dragon, is there a way that I could de-summon my dragon? Or how big is the chance that it would come to a fight?” She asked, only realising that Hayate had made it clear that there was just a chance for it. ”If I can send it back, then I am willing to risk it. I just need to know how before we could attempt it. I do want to know more about …. Her? Him?” She said, out loud, hoping to attract the beast’s attention. Instead, it merely continued to act like it owned the place and the two humans were nothing but toys in its possession - to be played and observed with, unless it was going to grow bored.

Chuckling at the question, Hayate nodded. “Absolutely you can reverse summon your dragon. As highly intelligent creatures, they are more aware of your intentions than other summons may be. If you wish to send your dragon back to its own realm, you simply need to send your chakra to the mark and express your intention through your thoughts and emotions.” Hayate decided not to mention that the dragon could refuse if the bond was not yet strong enough, hopefully the situation would not require that yet.

“As for whether or not it would come to a fight? Kuromu can be a proud beast and he takes a bit of getting used to, but we’ve mostly gotten past the point of him being openly hostile for no reason.” Watching how the dragon was responding to Hylli’s attempts to gain its attention made Hayate quite curious about something. Keeping his thoughts to himself for now, Hayate took a step back and placed his hand against the ground. Concentrating his chakra, the young Hyuzu completed the summoning technique and a second large cloud of smoke appeared in the clearing, before dissipating slowly to reveal a large black dragon, similar in stature to Hylli’s own dragon.

Kuromu flapped his wings once, causing the smoke to quickly disperse and sending a small rush of wind through the area. Taking a moment to observe his surroundings, the dragon tilted his head curiously before glancing down at Hayate. “He only looks big because of his horns,” the dragon muttered grumpily. Fighting back a chuckle, Hayate shook his head. “Now now Kuromu, no need to be petty. And they are Antlers, not horns, if I’m not mistaken.”

The mere appearance and presence of another dragon seemed to bring a change in Hylli’s dragon. It raised its head, attempting to look down on Kuromu. Unlike before, the deep vibration of its breathing became louder, causing Hylli to feel most uncomfortable. Far worse, the soft hue of blue turned into a bright red in her mind. Causing her to throw a glance as the lips of her dragon started to curl - revealing more of the lethal teeth.
To add to its intimidation, the dragon beat its wings, whipping up dust towards Kuromu.
”Quit that,” Hylli tried to order the dragon but once more it simply raised a claw - pushing the girl with ease to the side. Only to slam the claw down on the ground as its scarlet eyes now fixated on Kuromu.
Frustrated, Hylli wanted to walk forward to stand in the dragon’s path - but the tail latched around her and pulled her further back. Finally, she noticed some recognition from the beast but it was far from what she desired.
The beast’s head twisted to throw a sideways glance. But if anything, it seemed a mere mockery of a bored glance before it focused back on Hayate’s dragon.

Instead of making a threatening display as well, Kuromu scoffed and shook his head. “Does this insolent beast not know that I’m royalty?” he asked, sounding truly insulted. Turning his attention away and back to Hayate, Kuromu lowered his head so that it was almost in line with the young Hyuzu’s. [color=]“This wouldn’t happen if I had a crown you know. This feral creature has more headgear than I do, of course he thinks he’s important. How many times have I told you I need a crown?”[/color]

“Including this time? Once,” Hayate answered, amused. “Now get over yourself and start acting nice. This is not an enemy, he or she is a newly bonded dragon.”

Kuromu reeled back dramatically. “Nice? I’m always nice! It’s not my fault this petula-”

“Kuromu!” Hayate cut him off, his tone a little firmer than before. “You of all dragons should know what it’s like for the first little while after a bond is formed. This is a new experience for both of them. I brought you here to help, not to make things worse.” Letting out a long and overly dramatic sigh, Kuromu sent a glare towards Hayate before turning to face Hylli and her dragon.

Stretching slightly in an intentional effort to try and make himself look just a little bit taller, Kuromu flared his wings and began communicating to Hylli’s dragon with a series of low guttural growling sounds. Hayate still wasn’t fully used to hearing Kuromu speaking in his own language. He had witnessed it a few times when Kuromu communicated with Jora’s dragon, but it had been a long time since then. Offering a slight smile towards Hylli to reassure her that Kuromu was not attempting to threaten her dragon (or at least he hoped Kuromu was not trying to utter any threats), Hayate waited curiously to see what would happen.

The mentioning that Hayate’s dragon was royalty would have sparked Hylli’s interest. But the mere fact that her dragon had wrapped his tail around her, keeping her away from the front of the still name unknown dragon made it hard.
The stance of Hylli’s dragon didn’t seem to change much in terms of attitude. It clearly was posing itself to appear more intimidating and powerful than Kuromu. Yet, the hostility wasn’t backed up with anything else than the confident pose, making Hylli wonder if it was genuine. As Kuromu engaged her dragon, there seemed to be a pause before the antler-crowned beast growled back. The speech seemed more akin to rocks being grinded against each other than genuine, civilized speaking to Hylli. Yet, suddenly, Hylli felt how she was moved forwards as the tail would release her. A loud like scoff escaped Hylli’s dragon as a sort of finishing conclusion.

Confused by the whole matter, Hylli threw looks between the two dragons. The jet black dragon of Hayate and her seems like complete opposites. And she feared that it didn’t seem to take much else than a small misunderstanding or incident for the two beasts to duke their differences out.
Suddenly, Hylli’s dragon growled, his gaze moving between Hayate and Kuromu. The loud vibrations felt slightly different before it used a claw to gently push Hylli forwards.
”Yeah, very helpful,” Hylli stated, clearly annoyed at the whole situation. The fact that she couldn’t understand what was being said and that it involved her was really ticking her off. ”So, what is the deal now?”

Listening as the two dragons interacted, Hayate could see that Kuromu’s attitude had not fully shifted. His dragon was still trying to keep his air of superiority which caused Hayate to sigh inwardly. Arrogance was not a great trait to display during initial introductions…

When he heard Hylli’s dragon scoff, Hayate glanced at Kuromu, an eyebrow raised. He could feel a flare of anger and something else coming from the dragon that was quickly tamped down. Kuromu responded with something else and then leaned back slightly, turning his head to glance at Hayate. “He’s a fiesty one,” the dragon spoke through their telepathic link, “I think he’s somewhat impatient that he waited so long for this girl to finally show up and connect the bond.”

Nodding slowly, Hayate looked at Hylli and then back up at Kuromu, “The Trial is not always easy for participants. Though I never knew a dragon would actually wait for the one they were to be bonded with. That is quite interesting indeed.” he replied through their link, before Kuromu flashed a sarcastic retort. “Interesting? More like foolish… Waiting for a silly human. Hah! You can’t even fly by yourselves.”

Their silent exchange finished, Kuromu shook his head and stepped forward as Hayate concealed a laugh. “You have a rather… unique partner,” Kuromu started, staring directly at Hylli. “While he is a strange looking creature, it appears there may be more to him than simply meets the eye. ” Throwing a glance at the dragon, he tutted slightly before shifting his gaze to Hylli once more. “There are certain things that would be best for you to discover on your own, however, such as his name. This is an important part of the bonding ritual and shows your partner that you actually care to get to know them.” Part of this was true, but Kuromu figured Hylli did not need to know all of the details.

Stepping forward as well, Hayate added, “Every partnership is unique and I will be happy to help wherever I can, but I believe what Kuromu is saying is that, for your bond with your dragon to grow, it is important to first get to know each other. Taking the first step can sometimes be the hardest, though it can also be the most rewarding.”

It was actually hard to wait and just be on the sidelines, while she was actually fully involved. But pacing herself, Hylli waited. It allowed her time to take in the features of ‘her’ dragon. The proud beast was much larger than she had anticipated. It even seemed royal, now that the others remarked the antlers. If its attitude would turn a bit more softer or less hostile, she would perhaps actually be totally okay with it. Or him? Reminding that Kuromu’s words, Hylli wondered if he had a name. Or was she going to name him?
Her thoughts were broken as Hayate’s dragon spoke up. Turning to Kuromu, Hylli listened and took in his words. Learning that he had a name made Hylli happy as worried. How was she supposed to learn his name? Dragon language? Remembering the growling and vibrations, she was absolutely convinced that the human throat wasn’t meant for such productions.

Hylli’s dragon seemed to calm down somewhat, even content to a certain degree. The wings were lowered to his back but his attention seemed to flicker constantly back to Kuromu - as if the other dragon was still a threat.
”His name,” Hylli planted her fists against her hips, half turning to the antler-crowned dragon. When Hayate spoke, she twisted her head to throw a look at him. His words provoked a friendly smile to appear back on Hylli’s lips.
”Thanks, I really appreciate your aid. Oh,” turning towards Kuromu as well, Hylli made a deep bow before speaking again.
”Of you as well. Thanks for your aid and advice.”
The bow provoked a loud scoff from her dragon, which simply half turned - as if the presence of Hayate and Kuromu was something he could ignore now, them being simply beneath him.
Rising from her bow, Hylli half turned to throw a glance at her dragon. If anything, she was going to make him adjust his manners - if such a thing would be possible.

Smiling and nodding, Hayate threw a sideways glance towards Kuromu and took a step back. “You are very welcome Hylli. I am quite happy to see that this was a success for you. ”

Seeing Hayate’s reaction, Kuromu took a second before nodding his head and replying to the girl as well. “You are welcome, a final word of advice,” tilting his head to the side, Kuromu smiled, a relatively awkward looking smile, “Try not to let him eat you.”

Hayate shook his head and sighed, though it did illicit a small smile from him as well. “I will let you two get acquainted for now. Please let me know if you need anything. This field will remain empty for as long as you require.” With that, Hayate nodded to Hylli and made another small, respectful bow to her dragon before he would turn and gesture for Kuromu to follow him.

Nodding and still having a smile on her face, Hylli watched as Hayate and Kuromu took their leave. The advise of Kuromu made Hylli snicker but then she realised that it could be a very potential thing. Turning back to the antler-crowned dragon, Hylli had to look upwards as the dragon lazily looked down upon her. A colour moved into her mind, a soft hue blue.
”Yeah, I noticed that you are now the one with these,” she vaguely gestured to her head, ”colours. I don’t know what they mean, but don’t worry. I will try my best to understand them. Now… your name...”
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