"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.
~ GM Post ~

Events in the known world.

This GM post serves to bring news and rumours of what happens in the world. While some events might be vague rumours, twisted by the many mouths that spin the tales into something unimaginable, there are many more occurrences that will impact the clans and nations across the known world. Some events might be orchestrated in secret or openly by nations and clans, in a bid to weaken neighbours or rivals. At the same time, some events are the result of decisions (or lack thereof) in any shape or form.

The current year is 477 ADS,
The current month is July,
This GM post is not without plots and secretive actions of others.~

* ADS = After the Death of the Sage.

In the West.

[ Wind Country / Sayyadian Kingdom ]

The conflict between the Sayyadian and Fang has taken an unexpected turn. The arrival of a large horde of Galassians has taken the Sayyadians by surprise. A few border forts along the dark woods where these barbarians hail from being overrun and razed to the ground. This situation can be compared to a wall collapsing and allowing a massive stream of water to flood the land. The Galassian have already spread out, setting a large amount of land ablaze. The few survivors tell the tale of laughing barbarians who put everything on fire that they can't take with them or what interests them. With the Galassians speaking in their crude language, the survivors have been unable to explain why they have been allowed to survive these attacks. At the same time, the Galassian raiders murder everyone else.

The Sayyadian counter-attacks have been somewhat successful. Various raiding parties have been successfully put down before they could execute their attacks. Sayyadians operatives have been dispatched and attempted to take out essential and influential Galassians leaders. However, these attempts have met very mixed results, and it can be witnessed as the large horde of Galassians is still venturing forth. Towards the east.


[ Earth Country ]

The conflict ongoing in the Earth country hasn't deescalated to any level. The arrival in the south has upset the balance in some regions. Disciplined and fearsome, a mercenary force of Tokugawa and some Hons has been discovered. There are some assumptions by the Dragon's Servants that this is simply another Akinian plot. Others assume that this mercenary force is merely to enjoy the chaos and bring wealth back home. Whatever the intentions, the Dragon's Servants have pressed harder to claim the throne for who they believe is the rightful monarch of the nation.

These attempts to shift the balance in their favour, with a contingent of Northerner stock mercenaries, have been in suspicious timing. Several attempts have been made on the only son of the late lord Daimyo. The assassinations have all been thwarted but have caused some problems for the Dragon's Servants. Many commoners are horrified by the action, and it seems that the support for the Dragon's Servants is wavering.
The Dragon's Servants claim that these assassination attempts are merely a plot constructed by the opposition to put them in bad daylight.
Not soon after, various villages have been decimated by what is rumoured to be forces of the Dragon Mother.

Altogether, it seems that this civil war hasn't reached a climax or have an end in sight yet.


[ The Empire of Akino ]

[ The Tokugawa Clan ]

The turbulent situation within the centre of the Empire is continuing. Unrest has been quelled largely for now as the Tokugawa leadership has deployed troops to settlements at the border. This development has reduced the local unrest for a while. The continued work of the Tiger Claws has quieted some of the turmoil. However, the Tokugawa leadership has demanded the Senju to withdraw their troops from their shared border. This demand has given cause for more people to see a nasty consequence. Many, if not all, Tokugawa nobility are behind the demand of Leo Tokugawa.

The Tokugawa has allowed to Uchiha envoy to travel further southwards, allowing them to enter the western sphere of the Senju land for whatever business they have in mind.
Another curious development is the reduction of random violence and murders. The previous violence that has constantly been escaping the Tokugawa security has cooled down. It isn't entirely sure what is going but many locals are happier for it.


[ The Hyuuga Clan ]

Investigations have started immediately, after the odd silence. It didn't take long after that for several messengers to be found - already decomposing but messengers sent by the Taterari nobility. The discovery has led to unrest in the Taterari region, as ordinary folk are worried about demons creeping in the night. Merchants have been more concerned about these developments, suspecting that it is an increase in banditry. Whatever the cause is, the economy of the region is being affected and suffering already for it. Most are worried that if this isn't resolved soon, it can have dire consequences for the area.

More investigations have been launched since. The local Hyuuga forces have adopted a stricter schedule of patrols and guarding various villages and small towns. A more interesting report has been sent to the Hyuuga brass regarding the messengers and their demise. It seems that each messenger has been shot down with arrows. Some of the messengers had money on them, but that hasn't been taken away. This discovery allowing the dismissal of the theory that banditry has increased in the region due to the unrest. The investigations are still ongoing as preparations are made between the Hyuuga and Unkei leadership to come together for an exchange.


[ The Senju Clan ]

On the side of the Senju, things have been busy. The Senju have undertaken several actions on their side as well. Aiding wherever they can, the Senju have allowed the Tiger Claws to conduct their investigation and peacekeeping.
Some aren't sure if it is due to the Tokugawa demand, but the Senju have reduced the number of forces with the Tokugawa border. Those that remain are a mixture of Senju troops, aided by their Inuzuka subjects. The specialised units with trained hounds provide extra and well-needed security over the long border and scarce Senju forces. The patrols have even decreased.

An envoy of the Senju has been sighted, travelling northwards around the border of the Tokugawa. Some people speculate that the envoy is heading towards the Uchiha clan - for there is no other possible clan that direction the Senju could request for. But the cold relationship between the two Taika clans has also made some people doubt if this is true.

The presence of the Unkei and their missionaries have managed to gain a calming effect on the local populace. The Senju authority has given the Unkei aid allowance to continue their work - unless they encounter any local that doesn't desire to be aided by their work.


[ The Cho Clan ]

Festivals are being organised in the name of Ergir, the Chonobi deity of the sea. For the Cho have managed to achieve their ambition of regaining a good fleet of their own. The longships of old have been replaced with sturdier and better vessels. These vessels do bear a resemblance to the Taika galleys that dominate the sea. However, the Cho vessels bear a different style and seem just as seaworthy. With sufficient vessels underneath their command, the Cho have spread the word amongst themselves. They declare that they won't accept a foreign power to dominate their shores. While the Royal Navy of the Empire has acquired some resources they had reserved for building and expanding their fleet, the Cho continue to increase their fleet.

Already, Cho vessels proudly bear their clan's sigil as they head out to the southern waters. Still outnumbered by the Jirian merchants and vessels, the ambition of the Cho clan is becoming clear.
Once their people had mastery over the waves, they now desire to claim a portion of that mastery back.

The Cho clan also has been sending various envoys towards the north. It is unclear which clan or clans seem to be targetted for an exchange. There are speculations that Cho's interest within the Tokugawa-Senju unrest has been piqued. A violent development would see trade becoming difficult between the Cho and Tokugawa. Something that many expect the Cho won't tolerate.


[ The Fief of Mitsuokan, Riojin Clan ]

The good news has reached the Riojin clan. For word has reached them that the Imperial Crown has listened to the demands of the Omari clan. However, instead of demanding the Riojin to court, the Imperial Crown has rejected the Omari's demands. A small Sworn Swords unit has been sent to investigate the matter, but this is nothing more than to ensure that the Omari nor Riojin will do anything to upset the Imperial peace.

The Imperial fiefdom of Mitsuokan has been prospering further. The local populace has become more friendly to Riojin rule and governance. With the Tamiyo aid, there seems little to trouble the Riojin or their Imperial fief.


[ The Fief of Matsukotan, Miyazato Clan ]

The Imperial fief of the Miyazato clan has been more lively than most others. The locals have gained an answer to their question regarding taxation on their wealth and resources. The Miyazato have been improving infrastructure, housing and more important matters to help develop the region.
This honest answer seemed to have surprised the locals but in a pleasant fashion. The ordinary folk have even managed to acquire some noble steeds as a gift - bringing some of their wealth together to obtain mounts of noble descent.

Assemblies have been organised by the Miyazato, allowing locals to have a platform to voice their concerns, gain options or even come to an agreement with each other or the governing Miyazato clan. These town hall meetings have provided valuable insight within the Imperial fief for the Miyazato, allowing them to settle various village feuds that have been going on for some years or even decades.
A portion of the locals has agreed to volunteer and undergo the same schooling and training given to the converted Earth mercenaries, to become bailiffs and sheriffs one day.

A messenger has been sent to the Imperial court regarding the precarious situation with the 'Kotaku clan' sudden arrival and occupying one of the largest mines in the area. A prospect report has been presented, just making it out before the 'Kotaku clan' occupation.
Another messenger has been sent to the closest Imperial garrison to provide aid.
For both, a quick response has been given back. The first was the Imperial garrison that is part of the First Imperial Division. Roughly one hundred twenty troops have been sent on horseback to meet up with the Miyazato and strengthen their security quickly.
The word from the Imperial Crown has been short and direct. The Miyazato clan is tasked with ending the occupation of this so-called 'Kotaku clan' and attempt to capture some of them alive. All so that the Imperial Crown can question them and figure out their motives with their resources. Furthermore, the Imperial crown has added a decree to their message. The Imperial fiefdom of Matsukotan is, from now on, permanently owned by the Miyazato clan. This development allowing the Miyazato to govern further and develop the region - as new terms and taxation will be later discussed between the Imperial crown and Miyazato clan.

Despite some of these tensions and concerns, the Miyazato clan has accepted the various marriage proposals of the local nobility. Preparations are being made as various exchanges are still undergoing to discuss how to strengthen the Miyazato clan's hold on the region.


[ The Fief of Bellenau, Yamanaka Clan ]

The Yamanaka clan has started various projects in their Imperial fiefdom. Investments have been made in housing, agriculture and infrastructure. Both with the fief's income as investing from their coffers, the Yamanaka clan has gained some loyalists in the region.
However, the most curious project has been for the Yamanaka to map out the amount of Yakimara and Taika in the region. The majority turned out to be Yakimara that worship the Vetei but live in peace with the Taika that follow the Way of Fire. As a response, the Yamanaka clan has been prioritizing the needs of the Yakimara locals first. Of course, this has upset the residing Taika, who feel they are put in second place for something they didn't do or can't change. Interestingly enough, the Yamanaka clan has offered these Taika specific schooling to allow them various positions as officials in their villages - where they are with more significant numbers than the Yakimara.

This delicate balancing between keeping their Yakimara brethren content and the residing Taika from growing too unhappy has been a growing concern. Some of the Yamanaka clan have pointed out that such an approach has cost them more than they could profit. However, the leadership of the clan is adamant in their approach and instead focused on other matters.

One of those matters is to send an envoy to Vindex. Nobody is entirely sure why the Yamanaka desire to speak with the Tokugawa. A few people speculate that the Tokugawa-Senju tension might have awakened the Yakimara clans and people, causing them to grow most wary that they will have to pick a side.
However, the known disdain that the Yakimara holds for the Taika people has caused many to reject this theory.


In the North.

[ The North | Dominion of Lightning ]

[ The North ]

Various clans are already arriving within the city of Ranzaki. The clans are provided with luxurious lodging and servants appointed by the administration of the Daimyo. Though the clans are allowed to have their guards, the Honour Guard is present and deterring any hostility between rival clans.
A deterrence that is required for it holds most true to the nomadic clans that have sent representatives. Already tension has been raised between various nomadic clans that accuse one or the other of multiple crimes - during the Ranzaki crisis.

Further, the North is undergoing a steadily change. The Daimyo's Guard has undergone a transformation and reformation. This development has some people curious, but nobody has dared to question it - though there are suspicions that the Hojo are behind this reformation to gain a steadier grip on the nation's leadership.
Investments have also been made in various regions. Bridges have been and are under construction to make travel easier. Another change has been that the crown has decreed for estate management. Land not owned by clans is being surveyed and split into sections to receive someone to oversee its development, which means interaction with the settlements and local people spread over this large amount of land.

Another interesting decision from the country's leadership has been in the investment of ships. Both vessels meant for war and trade have been ordered and constructed in various places. Interestingly enough, this has included the Great Clans of the Alaricus and Sanosuke.


In the South.

[ The Jirou Authority ]

[ The Jirou Authority]

Various changes have gone through the Jirou Authority as well. The first has been the change of title of the leader. Instead of being referred to as the title of dictator, the leader of the Jirou Authority shall be addressed with a new title of 'Roju'. This change seems small, but most ordinary folk have grown more accepting of this change. Some individuals even would claim that this title change has allowed a more benign image of the previous dictator. A few opponents that reside in the shadows still attempt to remind people of how their current leader has obtained power and his office by shedding his countrymen's blood. However, most people continue with their life.

The country's leadership has started to invest in economic matters. They have decided to send several government officials to look into existing naval jobs. This action meant to set up new naval employment involving a new small fleet escorting vessels that transport wares and whatnot.

A more curious decision of the Jirou Authority has been to send two envoys. One towards the Akinian Empire and another to the Dominion of Lightning. The reasons or nature of these envoys is unknown, but enough speculations are already being formed.


[ The Three Great Clans ]

The three Great Clans of the Jirou Authority have awakened, as many people would whisper. And these whispers have some merit, for the few assassination attempts have maddened the giants of the Authority. But without a clear culprit other than the vague 'Shadows', the Great Clans are just wary and keep tight security.
Some merchants have expressed slight concern for this tight security as it may harm trade. However, these merchants are few as most don't dare to speak up against the actions of these heavyweights in Jirian politics.

However, one of the Great Clans have opened up slightly and invited the leaders or representatives of the other clans. This clan is the Mizuno clan, who has suffered first at these 'Shadows' hands— inviting the Hayashi as Akechi clan for a serious meeting.
Such a meeting hasn't taken place ever in the history of the archipelago. Many people are curious and afraid of what may come out of such a meeting. For if hostility would spark, it will bear grim consequences for everyone involved. Some people even worry that the Jirou Authority won't do anything if the Great Clans would go on a rampage, seeing the large number of troops deployed eastwards.


In the East.

[ The Joint-Allied forces ]

[ The Spoils of Balagan ]

The victory at the large fortress of Balagan has allowed the Jirian forces some respite. Aside from expanding further east and bringing more defeats to their Rongese enemy, the Jirian army under general Yuuki has set up shop in the fortress after clearing it of Rongese occupants.
The last of the Rongese resistance was an old priest together with his red-cloaked guard. But the overwhelming number of Jirian forces was the cause for a quick and decisive victory.

The spoils have been interesting. Aside from the luxurious alcoholic beverages and fine food that have been taken until the general's decision on who is getting a share, there have been a few artefacts that are quite strange.
One of these artefacts has been a bone finger engraved in obscure glyphs and signs. The bone finger was located in a small chest, brought in by the remainder of the 13th Imperial Brigade to convince the local garrison that they were actual red-cloaks. The odd artefact seems to hold enough importance that the priest held on to it until its capture. There hasn't been an interrogation yet, for the priest only speaks Rénese, and no order has come from the general yet.

Another artefact has been a mirror. However, when one looks into the mirror, one doesn't see themselves. It has been a confusing item that has made many wary when acquiring it.
The last curious artefact has been a dagger of some dark metal. It has an odd humming whenever someone approaches it. The soldiers, who secured the artefact, reported that they feel miserable and cold when in the presence of the dagger. But now, the artefacts are secured in a small building and guarded sternly by veteran troops.
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I am... Who am I?
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Sci-fi, Fantasy, Horror, Thriller, Modern, Fandoms
[ The Siege of Bagalan | Sevudia, Eastern Continent ]
[ The Jirian Army of General Yuuki ]
[ A collab between @DeliciousFood , @Nim and @Oetje ]
[ The aftermath of the siege of Bagalan. Nishi and her pupils start to tend to other matters, which in turn allows the team to understand each other somewhat better. ]

[ Part #3 ]

The passionate response was enough to cause Nishi to appear surprised, not expecting the girl to be so passionate about it. Remaining silent and listening to what Alsanna said, Nishi kept her opinion to herself, for now.
"You already surpassed me in being a turd that is way too passionate about something," Nishi said, this time a smirk appearing on her lips. "I hate to break it to you but kinjutsu is kinjutsu. Then again, I just desire you not to try to ‘improve’ or ‘alter’ me in any kind of way. I already find it most invasive on how you tend to use that one technique. The one where you can sense in someone, you know? I don’t like that one. Nor the idea of you creating some abnomation clone out of me."
Despite her words, the smirk slightly turned to a small smile.
"But, I do have to admit. I admire you willing to pursue a path that others avoid and curse. It won’t be easy though if you continue down this path. But," feigning a tired sigh, Nishi continued on, "I suppose I already threw my lot in with you. So perhaps I could even later teach you some stuff I know. Nothing that is incredibly secretive but that can be handy. Perhaps prevent you from creating those horrors, with some luck."

You wanted to know about goals. People tend to have some degree of attachment to those, yeah? One would be a turd for not having some passion over them.” she clicked her tongue, her index going to wrap itself with a strand of her hair. “And the sun is yellow until everyone starts saying it’s green. Your earth ability can be branded a Kinjutsu tomorrow and there’s nothing you can do to change that. Bite me.” the spinning of her hair around her finger reached its limits, which brought her to tug on the strand repeatedly, “I’ll work on you if you want me to. Otherwise, you can drown your sorrow in booze all you want. And that ability is for, and pardon the sinister undertone, your own good. I figured out your spleen was ruptured instantly thanks to it, which you’ll thank me for when tomorrow you’ll be fine except maybe for those slightly dislocated hips.
Alsanna chuckled, “You know, I love it when you announce you’re going to do teacher stuff as if it’s some sort of new conviction of yours.” actually she started to downright laugh a little bit, “Now … Ahem. Tell me what YOU are passionate about. Or were. Given your recently revealed habit, I’d assume hollowness is probable.

The idea that people would suddenly call the sun green was idiotic beyond belief. But Nishi understood what Alsanna meant. Even if she felt like going against, for some reason. "That isn’t something you request your sensei to do. Ask someone else, you pest," she replied regarding to Alsanna’s ‘bite me’. "But you have some truth. It is the brass that can decide if suddenly an ability is considered legal or illegal. And then there is nothing I could even do. Which is ironic and quite bothersome," Nishi thought out loud.
The last comment and question of her pupil made Nishi silent, as she actually considered it.
"Well, you already know I am a drunkard. And sometimes when I haven’t been drinking, I remember that I got to teach you and Hikari stuff. Even if Hikari can be dumb and you an absolute torture. But," frowning, Nishi briefly seemed frustrated as she raised her right hand and flexed her fingers. A follow up answer didn’t seem to come immediately, as if the woman was struggling with something.
"I suppose I have lost what I have been passionate about. Maybe I have grown out of touch with myself? Or just been drinking too much because I had to deal with pests and idiots," the jounin threw a sideways look now at Alsanna. "Maybe I will one day tell you what I have been passionate about. I can’t just tell you everything in one go, can I now? I don’t want to risk some nuisance like you becoming bored."

Alsanna sat up, and delivered a tap to Nishi’s calf, “Bullshit you think of your pupils outside drinking hours. I’m not going to torture you if that’s what you’re afraid of.” with an eye roll, she pushed herself off the bed and did a little stretch. Nishi’s hesitation seemed to be something she expected as she patiently let the woman formulate her response while the physician stretched and yawned her way back to a fully standing position. The light burns on her skin appearing to have lightened up already.
Here’s a suggestion. How about … If you can keep yourself from drinking like some dementia-ridden homeless for an entire week, I’ll be a model student and as obedient as an imperial servant for a month. But if you fail-” she peered down toward the woman with quite the impish smirk, “you tell me what you have repressed in that deep, pathetic mind of yours~

Nishi realised that she would have not taken this kind of behaviour from previous students. Punishments would have followed near immediately after a student uttering such a ‘deal’. However, something did compel Nishi. She knew what it was but refused to acknowledge it for now.
"You? Being obedient and a model student? By the Divine,” Nishi did not even attempt to hide her amusement and surprise. "You are on. Even if I do suspect that you have some motives for this, okay. I hope you’re ready to start behaving like a true model student then.”
Getting somewhat tired, the woman gestured to Alsanna that she could go. "Now I need to do something else. Give me a break from your torture and tell Hikari to come back. I suppose a talk between her and me has been postponed for a long while.”

She grinned wide, “Hehe. Good. And yes, I do have a motive. Literally what I just said. Know what garbage you have stacked in that psyche of yours that makes you the way you are.” a couple more stretched, more so for the arms and neck, “But one thing you should know,” her index was pointed right at Nishi as it seemed Alsanna was indeed preparing to leave, “you won’t be able to fool me if you fail. No matter how good you are, I do best you in ONE thing.” the pointed index turned to form a ‘One’ sign, “But yeah, this’ll be fun!
Equipment gathered and burned covered by her vest, Alsanna seem reinvigorated as she prepared to depart, “Right, in half an hour you should be good. In the meantime, one Blondie coming riiiiiiight up.

While Hikari had not remained stationed outside, she was still in the area, helping to move supplies as requested by the higher-ranking medical staff. Alsanna wouldn’t have much difficulty in finding her, and upon hearing about Nishi’s instruction to come see her, Hikari had half a mind to just ignore them and keep helping others. She had understood, loud and clear, what Nishi thought about her earlier thoughts on what she considered doing. But after contemplating for a minute, she ended up heading into the building where Nishi was, and stepped towards the bed Nishi was in, just looking at her as she stopped just after entering the space.

Patiently waiting, Nishi threw a sideways glance as Hikari approached. There was a silence lingering briefly between them as the girl arrived. Nishi’s expression did little to betray her thoughts and emotions, as per usual.
"Good, you are here. Take a seat,” Nishi said, gesturing to a nearby chair that nobody was using anyways, "please, that is.” Nishi added, as if she remembered that would come over friendlier.
"I think this talk is long overdue, anyways.” The treated jounin stated, her voice awfully calm as she awaited for Hikari to take a seat.

Hearing the jounin’s request, Hikari kept glancing at her as she added the please. Now she was being polite. The genin remained still as the jounin kept talking, mentioning a long overdue talk. She took another full minute of just silently looking at Nishi, before finally going, grabbing the chair, pulling it away from the bed and then sitting down. She kept her silence and distance away from Nishi, quietly making it clear what she thought of the jounin right now.

For a second, Nishi wondered what was more annoying. Hikari’s dumb silence or Alsanna’s torturous talking without an end. Raising a hand, Nishi pinched her nose bridge for a moment. As she lowered her hand, she began talking.
"I am going to be honest. You can take it for what it is or deny it. I frankly don’t really care.” The jounin stated calmly, "You are no prodigy. In fact, you make dumb decisions from time to time. Decisions that I literally question if you are actually worth any salt to do this job.”
The so not ‘inspiring’ words were followed by a short silence before Nishi continued on.
"However, the truth and facts are also that you have shown that you can follow most orders. You have experienced some shit and managed to get out of it. And I actually don’t hold you responsible for the murder of those 200 sailors back then. Don’t get the wrong idea, I am not giving you a pep talk. I want things cleared out of what I think and have seen as a jounin.”
Locking her eyes on the genin, Nishi didn’t frown as per usual or give a cold glance.
"You also proved that you are capable of keeping some calm. Despite me being hurt and unable to command the situation, you made a somewhat solid decision on your own. Which does show that you can perhaps grow and become something better than what you are now.” Nishi stated, coughing slightly afterwards. "Not to mention, thanks. I do suppose I owe you one now. Even if I hate to show it or be in any kind of debt.”
After those words, Nishi inhaled slowly and exhaled in the same pace before saying the last comment.
"As such, I will speak with the general. To arrange your promotion to become a chuunin.”

Listening, Hikari kept a serious face as Nishi spoke. She already knew what Nishi thought about her decision making. When she got to the next part, the things Nishi brought up did surprise her, but she maintained her expression. The mention of being in her debt, and the thanks given did start to crack the expression, as Hikari lowered her face to conceal this, allowing her hair to drop forward. After the mention of the promotion, however, Hikari shook her head.
”You’re a dumbass then. As much as I am a dumbass with making decisions, you’re a dumbass too.” Hikari started, and Nishi would be able to hear her voice shaking ”You don’t owe me any debts. And you don’t need to give me any goddamn thanks. The only thing you need to do is really think for a second.” Hikari glanced up, frustration clear as day on her expression.
”Me? A chuunin? You already mentioned it yourself, I don’t know how to make good decisions yet! And a once in a while decision barely cuts it! And the only reason I survived all the previous times is because of you! You literally guided me through those. So I can hardly count those as worthy mentions of surviving, when you basically held my hand. And you might not consider those deaths on me, but I still goddamn do! I could’ve tried and stopped that Yuki! Their deaths are still on me, and I’ll need to work the rest of my goddamn life to try and ever atone for those.”
Shaking her head some more, she glanced downwards ”I don’t deserve a goddamn promotion from the general or anyone right now. But if you want to do anything, then start with working with me on what you just said are my weak points. If you think you’re in my debt, then that’s how you can repay it.”
Taking a few deep breaths, Hikari wiped away some hair from her brow and looked at Nishi once more, now silent once more.

While listening to Hikari, it dawned on Nishi that she once more allowed a pupil to fully talk to her as if she was their equal. Had she become softer? Normally, she would have silenced the girl whenever she strode to a point or spoke in a fashion that was clearly not acceptable in Nishi’s book. However, she simply sat there and listened.
"Huh, alright, duly noted. Though it's too bad that you’re a genin. You don’t know or see things how I do them.” Nishi replied and raised her hand to prematurely dash in any attempts of the girl, perhaps to try to argue back.
"The truth remains that I have more experience. I have seen chuunin that haven’t earned their promotion and I have seen genin perish that should have been promoted and gain the investment being poured in those undeserving. However, such injustice is just something that can’t always be fought. Anyhow,” Nishi lowered her hand slowly, "you may have a lot to work on, becoming a chuunin doesn’t mean that you immediately become stronger. Or that it should be expected that you act to the full responsibility. That is counter-productive and just dumb. I expected a lot from Yuki because she was chuunin for a while. You becoming one? I won’t be harsher or scolding you like I did with her. Unless you really aim to give me a reason to. Which, judging from your actions and last response, you don’t. So, good.”

For once perhaps in their entire time working together, Nishi’s lips tugged slightly upwards. She shook her head as her tone became lighter. "Besides, me holding your hands? Kinda gross. But as a manner of speaking? Yeah. That is my job. I have years of experience with you. Do you expect that I allow a genin with barely any noteworthy missions underneath her name to act on her own? I wouldn’t even let that Yuki roam free during missions, no matter how much she sprouted on how experienced she was. Besides that? You have seen what a bad chuunin is like. I expect you to have learned from that and will prevent you from doing the same. Something easier, due to you not having some bloodline ability, so far I am aware.”

As Nishi spoke, Hikari had considered talking back, only to see the gesture from the jounin. Remaining quiet as she kept on listening, her glance turned downwards once more. If this bit was showing Hikari anything, was the difference in experience already. Years indeed.
Her sensei mentioned Yuki twice, which she did see the chuunin perform some questionable actions during her time with her. If she had one intention, it was to make sure she didn’t make any such actions herself. After the jounin finished speaking, Hikari glanced back up at her.
”No bloodline ability as far as I’m aware either. Even my initial worry, if you remember, barely holds true since the shift to the Authority.” Hikari said, her expression turning a bit calmer, but a conflict of emotions was still slightly present ”I definitely learned what not to do from Yuki.” She added, briefly thinking back to the 200 lost souls once more, and that moment.
Letting silence drop for another moment, Hikari sighed ”I’m still pissed off at your behavior. You’re the one who told me multiple times of how chaotic battlefields can be, and then you acted like I was a shithead for losing track of Alsanna. Especially when there were those beasts there too that only made things worse. I was lucky enough to have found you in the chaos. Well, lucky and some of your basic movements with the tanto helped defend myself.” She told Nishi, finally offering a sign of a smile.

"Of course, my training is worth more than people can even imagine. The mere fact a numbskull like you survived is only proof of that.” Nishi said, her tone remaining the same as before. "And it is fine to be pissed at me. It is going to happen several more times. I am not here in the first place to be your friend, Hikari. And I'm never going to be having that aim. I am here to do my job. Making sure you don’t become a fuckup like a certain Yuki. Which I seem to so far see working out. Partially due to my excellent leadership and guidance. And partially due to you not being so dumb as I may call you,” the woman calmly stated as if it was a fact and nothing else.
"So, this is now cleared out. I have said what I have been thinking about you. You have also cleared some thoughts. Once I have recovered fully, I will begin training you and Alsanna. Hopefully, together if you two don’t start flinging dirt and what not at each other. Perhaps we will even manage to survive all this crap then.” Nishi said, a sigh escaping her as if the thought alone exhausted her.

Nodding once at what Nishi said, Hikari’s thoughts briefly moved to Alsanna ”Well, I cleared my issues with Alsanna. At least, on my side. When I explained how I saw things, along with what I did before, she let me know she’ll never trust me. Can’t blame her, considering how I acted.” Hikari let out a sigh ”She did say she’ll work with me and fix me up, but to never expect anything beyond ever. And I don’t want you to mention that I told you. This is something I need to work on. Just figured I’d let you know.” Hikari stated, before taking a more proper look at Nishi ”So, how long until you’re all better, according to Alsanna? Because you seem to be doing alright.”

That was intriguing. Then again, Nishi had some suspicions towards the half-Sayyadian. But that wasn’t of any concern to Hikari, Nishi thought to herself. That and the bond between the two? It didn’t really worry or interest Nishi. That was between them.
"Good. I only expect that you two work together when we are summoned. What happens outside the team? That is another matter.” Nishi stated. She briefly thought back to what Alsanna had told her, regarding her situation. Which immediately put Nishi in a less positive mood - because the genin had a reason to be cocky, due to discovering that her spleen had been damaged.
"I will be fine soon. I seem fine. But I don’t have the energy to do much else than talking and berating you or the other numbskull.” Nishi answered, "But seeing that we have taken the fortress, we are likely to be put in downtime anyways. Which is good for my recovery and the impending training.”

Hearing the response, Hikari nodded once more, before standing up ”If that’s the case, then I’ll let you rest a bit more in silence. I started helping move supplies around to where they were needed before you called for me, so I’ll probably get back to doing that.” She said, turning halfway towards the exit, before speaking up again ”And I’ll be sure to keep up the work, in any situation, just to show you that even if I’m dumb, I’m at least a dummy always willing to learn.”
With that, Hikari left the room, going off to continue helping around the now conquered fortress.

Watching Hikari take her leave, Nishi remained silent. There wasn’t anything else she could do now. The jounin couldn’t deny that she longed for some alcohol, to perhaps help to induce a good nap or even sleep. A loud sigh escaped Nishi’s lips as she moved to lay on her back. Though they had gained victory, Nishi felt it was hollow. But perhaps something had come out of this all, seeing her exchanges with her students.


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[ The Siege of Bagalan | Sevudia, Eastern Continent ]
[ The Jirian Army of General Yuuki, Siege Towers ]
[ A collab between @Nim , @Sakayanagi Selko and @Lilly ]

[ The Jirian force clash with the defenders of Bagalan, intending to take the fortress as chaos spread among their ranks. This is from the side of the Siege Towers that went up to the Fortress walls. ]

As the Siege tower moved ahead, Hisao glanced towards Yuyuko and Bashira ”Remember the rules given to us. No ninjutsu. And remember to utilize your weapons well. Bashira, if you use your bow, then be careful with your shots. People will be moving without stopping, and it will be crowded. Yuyuko, try and keep your back against other Jirian soldiers, if you find yourself split from me. It will help cover you from attacks from behind. And either way, be extra vigilant, both of you.” He told them. He doubted they could fully comprehend what they will be facing, but this was at least a small piece of advice he could give them.

Yuyuko took in a deep breath as she made sure to try to pace herself as she decided to focus on looking around the siege tower. While the now chunin knew it was a war zone, the news of their attack was rather sudden especially since she had just recently gotten the promotion to chunin.
"I understand, and i will try my best to keep close. Thank you for the advise." she said as she readied a few shurikens in one hand while the other gripped her katana, Fuurai with confidence as she remembered cleaning and sharpening it, now Yuyuko was ecstatic that she can finally use it in a real battle, a fact she tried to at least tried to not think about due to needing to survive.

Bashira nodded as she took in the situation, and decided if she needed to she would use her bow. She would do her best to provide support, and back up to her team as they underwent this mission. “Understood, I will focus on supporting the two of you. Does the ninjutsu apply to medical ninjutsu as well?” She asked, not trying to ask stupid questions. If she wasn’t able to even use medical ninjutsu then her ability to support her team would be mostly on short range attacks with her senbon. “Be sure to let me know if you need medical assistance,” she added after a minute.

Yuyuko’s response prompted a brief nod from Hisao, while Bashira’s question brought a frown to his expression. Did she not understand what the ninjutsu in medical ninjutsu stood for? It was a silly question, but he shook his head in response ”It applies to that too.” He gave a brief response. He wasn’t sure how else she had planned to support them, but it did mean for him that he needed to be a careful eye on her. And if they’re both still standing when this is all over, then also teach her to wield some kind of close-range weapon.

The Siege tower came to a halt, and soon enough, what was a wall in front of them was released, turning into a bridge that landed against the wall. The first rows of soldiers before them charged forward, starting to clash with enemies as soon as they got onto the wall itself. Hisao also moved forward, and seeing a rongese soldier try to push a Jirian soldier off the bridge, he leaned forward, raising his Kama and then stabbing the soldier’s right hand with it, before forcing it away from the bridge as Hisao got off. Releasing the soldier’s hand, Hisao quickly made another side stab at the soldier’s leg, causing him to fall onto his knee, before making a slice against the soldier’s exposed neck. Raising the Kama, he glanced in Yuyuko and Bashira’s direction, aiming to make sure that the two were keeping themselves safe.

All around them, Jirian and Rongese soldiers would be clashing against one another, and it felt incredibly chaotic all around. It was also very hard to move due to how many soldiers were present, with more soldiers from both sides trying to get onto the wall. Yuyuko and Bashira would also see that at least three other soldiers were trying to push Jirian soldiers off the wall.

Yuyuko on her part breathed hard as the siege tower gave a hard lurch and there was the sound of the wall opening up.
"So this is begins." she said nervously as her grip tighten around Fuurai while trying to relax her muscles as she knew that it was better to fight without any stiff muscles or else her aim on her weapons may go wide.
As the battle commenced with the Jirian forces charging to take the wall, Yuyuko keeping close to Hisao as he pushed forward drawing her sword as her sensei begun to fight with one of the Rongese forces.
Following his lead, she too moved to help trying to slash at the closest of the three Rongese soldiers trying to push Jirian soldiers off the war while keeping as close to Hisao and other Jirian soldiers as she could as in this battle of attrition, the more soldiers that can get in, the more easier it will be to take the wall.

Bashira tensed as the fight to overtake the wall commenced, and readied herself to attack any soldiers who came after her teammates. She figured their sensei was capable of handling himself so she focused on staying near Yuyuko, and when the occasional Rongnese soldier got too close she sent her senbon her into their neck. She took out a kunai, and went to help fight off the Rongnese soldier trying to push off their soldiers. Shira dug the kunai into another of the soldiers back which caused him to turn out, and lash out at her. She gritted her teeth and rammed a senbon into his neck before he could notice it into her hands. The constant clashing of swords, and sounds of battle made it easier for her to blend in unnoticed. It was a skill she had perfected long ago.

As Hisao saw the two beginning to move forward, staying close to him and also moving to deal with the soldiers that were attempting to push their fellow soldiers, the Jounin turned his gaze to the enemy soldiers surrounding him. Several were fighting Jirian soldiers, a couple trying to push their way through. But overall, it actually felt like there was a pretty significant overwhelming amount of Jirian forces compared to the Rongese forces. Despite how it initially looked like, were they actually not that prepared?

A few arrows went over his head, and Hisao turned to look as two flaming arrows hit the skin that covered the siege tower, and one hit a soldier that was just making his way over the bridge, making him stumble sideways and fall to his knees, and couple others that appeared to completely miss. Of course the enemy had archers somewhere ”Bashira, enemy archers. Find them and take aim. Me and Yuyuko will cover you.” He instructed her, moving along with the other two to a spot where Bashira would be capable of getting a bit higher ground on the wall, while making sure his Kama was prepared.
Looking around, it honestly felt like they were very much overwhelming the Rongese. The Jirians were pushing the Rongese out very easily with just sheer numbers, as more got on, and with how the Rongese felt disorganized.

Yuyuko at where she was took a moment to catch her breath trying to focus on what was in front of her but the chaos of the battlefield did begun to get on her nerves. While she knew it was rough, the sounds and chaos really made it hard for her to think as she continued to at least force the Rongese men to disengage from pushing off her fellow Jirian soldiers, slashing a few unlucky ones who did not notice her blade. However the gap was soon filled by other Rongoese soldiers who came to replace any of their fallen comrades, though from Yuyuko's perspective, the genin was not sure if they were winning yet.
Yuyuko then got a scare as an arrow landed near her causing the genin to disengage from the frontline as Hisao called to Bashira to have her try to counter-snipe the enemy archers while he and Yuyuko were to cover her.
With that, Yuyuko nodded and followed closely while keeping her eyes on the lookout for any enemies preparing to attack Bashira

Bashira kept stabbing, and dodging swords as she saw the flaming arrows coming towards them. She swore, as Hisao-sensei instructed her to locate and take out the two archers. She immediately stopped her stabbing, and found a good position that allowed her to look out over the tower until she spotted one of the archers. She quickly took out her bow and, notched an arrow as she took aim. Her former sensei's words ringing in her ears as she aimed for the torso, and let the arrow fly quickly sending another arrow in the same place to follow up.

She took a minute to make sure that she hit the enemy archer, and it was confirmed by the scrambling Rongnese soldiers on the ground she turned her attention to searching for the second one. Shira found the second one, and took aim while aiming for this one’s torso again. This time she would send a third arrow slightly above the torso with hopes it hitting the enemy archer closer to the neck. She notched her arrows, and let them fly one after another. It seemed like there was more panic down below again, and she nodded to her sensei.

As Bashira took her shots, the first enemy archer would indeed be hit, but this would also cause the other archers to immediately scramble and drop onto lower ground, vanishing into the growing mass of people fighting, causing her other two shots to miss.
Hisao glanced around, seeing how the Jirian force was now beginning to have a strong grasp over the wall. Some of the force started making its way to one tower, and others began making their way to the tower closer to them ”Both of you, we’re going to help take over the tower directly to our south. Stay close.” He instructed them, waiting a moment for Bashira to get off her elevated ground before beginning to make a push along with other Jirian soldiers.

Moving towards the south, Hisao found himself with a lack of enemy soldiers to hit, as those who were at the front were managing to push the enemy back, who by now were at a complete disarray. He still kept a careful eye out, but for all accounts, it seemed like for them it would be smooth sailing to take over the towers. At the very least, the difference in numbers made a big impact for them.

Bashira nodded as their sensei gave them direction, and got down off her spot as she followed after him. She noted the decrease in enemy soldiers compared the amount before. This was a good sign, and it made her slightly less tense. She kept a kunai out in her right hand as she followed Hisao Sensei towards the south as they prepared to help take over the tower. She glanced back at Yuyuko, and got the sense that she was not injured or at least that she was not seriously injured.

Yuyuko smiled slightly as she saw Bashira take out one of the archers and caused his companions who plagued the group to have to retreat to a more difficult position to attack them. With that, the genin breathed preparing to rejoin the fray but by that time the Jirian troops had begun to push inwards and so it seemed like there is reasonable headway being made.
As such, it allowed Yuyuko to quickly respond to Hisao's call as she joined up with her sensei and Bashira, her hand on fuurai's hilt as the team headed to the south tower, ready to fight if needed, granted she doubted it since even she could tell that their forces alone are overwhelming the rongonese defensive line which also meant it was not much longer till victory was theirs.


Fortunately for the team, with the disarray, the fortress walls have been cleared, and the towers captured without much issue. The area was now being secured by the Jirian forces, allowing Hisao a moment to turn and look at his team ”Seems victory is ours. Good job. Neither of you seem harmed, so you are both dismissed. I will state, however, that if either of you still have the energy, that you can go and help with setting up within the area.” Hisao informed the two, before walking away.

On their side, at least, things had gone quite smoothly. But from what he was hearing about the people who went at the gate, Hisao started having a bit of concern. Beasts apparently attacked there, causing numerous injuries. He had heard rumours about their enemies having all sorts of creatures under them, but this sounded like wild beasts that attacked everyone, regardless of the side. Did they now need to consider the wildlife too and hadn’t done so? He hoped it would be something the General would account for next time they encounter the enemy. Hisao had little desire to come face to face with such a beast.

Autumn Song

Armed with a trusty baguette!
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[ The Aegean Republic | Operation: Dark Insight ]
[ Miyoshi Yuki | ANBU of the Jirou Authority]
[ Miyoshi's Investigation ]

The Aegean Republic, the shining beacon of the south. Wealth, knowledge and culture are abundant. All this and more was contributed to the country that Miyoshi stayed in. Surprisingly, gathering intel had been far from a challenge. Miyoshi suspected that even a team of decently skilled chuunin could do the job.
What she had discovered so far was that the Aegean Republic wasn't all that great. From a military standpoint, they were a decadent power. The significant revenue from trade meant it was easier to hire muscle and mercenaries from all kinds of businesses or origins. However, these mercenaries were mercenaries; their loyalties belong to wealth, not to a nation or people. It also disgusted Miyoshi that even important or strategic locations lacked the necessary protection. She imagined that if any of the Great Nations decided to send three teams of ANBU or other elite operatives, the Aegean Republic would fall into disarray and chaos within a week. In contrast, such a force would be too small-scaled to put a dent in another nation on the western continent.

First, Miyoshi had gone into the 'first level of the Aegean Republic. Hittite bustled with trade and business. Vessels from all kinds of directions seemed present. A marvellous sight would greet foreigners. Establishments were catered to any visiting foreigner needs and desires. The wide variety of luxuries and entertainment provided respite, keeping the foreigners from wanting to go further into Hittite, for not everyone shared in the wealth and prosperity that was attributed to the nation. The working force of Hittite could be found in various obscure districts - too far from the port and behind various large constructions to be noticed by foreigners easily. Living in squalor, bad hygiene and criminal gangs running rampant, life in these districts wasn't easy. It was nothing special; Miyoshi knew that such districts also existed in cities of 'lesser advanced' nations. There would always be poor and rich, from what she understood. However, it was just more ironic that the Aegeans prided themselves to be better.
The only real sense of security was a significant barrier team, mixed of natives and 'trusted' mercenaries. This barrier team protected against the weather and placing a particular illusion on the island - so that it couldn't be easily spotted from afar.

Learning of this, Miyoshi had various thoughts about it. The first was, why would someone even try to hide their island anymore? The location of Hittite was known to many and mapped out already. A belligerent force or nation could easily access such knowledge without being fooled by such a foolish attempt to appear clever.
It was a waste of resources and could lead to various problems. How much trade and wealth was the Aegean Republic missing if the city wasn't that easily discovered? Not to mention, how could so much trade even flow into a nation that wasn't 'easily spotted' by a barrier?
No, Miyoshi was convinced that the Aegeans were pounding their chest but lacked understanding of things; advanced technology or understanding was certainly a boast - not a truth. Even the claim that they had chakra-powered airships did little to impress Miyoshi. The Northerners were a bunch of filthy horse-loving people that prided themselves in various matters. And despite Miyoshi's disdain towards them, the Northerners also knew how to utilize as build airships. So if those barbarians could do it, what was the worth of the Aegean boast? Nothing, Miyoshi concluded.

But perhaps the other two 'islands' of the Aegean Republic were any better?
First, the security that was set up was dreadful. Half of it was mercenaries that were meant to pick out foreign operatives. But they were mercenaries: bribes were far from uncommon. The logistics and means to travel to the other Aegean islands were by airships. From what she had discovered from her investigation, there were various vessels - but nearly none of them had any significant advancements that impressed her. It was common knowledge among those who travelled to the other islands that the wait was long and dull - for the lack of a shinobi academy, or anything of the sorts made the pool of chakra users immensely small.
For Miyoshi, this fact meant that she was stuck in Aegea only longer - something she found horrible.

When Miyoshi managed to arrive at Lygos, things seemed to be better managed. Then again, this was where the industry of the Republic was located. And once more, Miyoshi found herself dumbfound why so many believed that the Aegeans were culturally and technologically advanced. The Aegeans picked a floating island as the centre of their industry? It was dense, to the point that the squalor was unavoidable. It wasn't a miracle, seeing that they had picked a location with minimal space for a large population. Then there was the question of logistics that the Aegeans didn't seem to understand. For Lygos being the centre of industry meant that it was required to send supplies and wares to the two other parts of the Republic. With the small fleet of airships that Miyoshi had spotted, this bottlenecked the entire economy. It was even a Divine's blessing that these people had some wealth to boast about.
Then there was the problem that Lygos even suffered more bad hygiene and criminality than the obscure districts in Hittite. Several criminal gangs dominated the surface, preventing efficiency in taxation and production. Smuggling in both wares and people? Was this indeed something befitting the nation that claimed to be culturally advanced?

Imagining that the last island could perhaps redeem some of its apparent flaws, Miyoshi had to suffer staying in Lygos for several days before she could board an airship towards Panna.
Her first impression was positive. The floating city was beautiful. The isle was the political heart of the Republic, which finally made some sense to the more pragmatic ANBU operative. The location made it hard to access meant that even an invading force would have trouble taking it over.
Yet, once more, Miyoshi couldn't go around the Aegean Republic without being immensely disappointed.
With the already large strains on the logistics and economy, the wise Aegeans found it smart to have a skyport - from which they send airships to other parts of the world.

Staring off in the distance as the ship crashed through the waves, Miyoshi indeed couldn't form any report that painted the Aegean Republic as positive. The interest of the Jirou Authority should be directed at something else as this southern republic was nothing worth the effort. If it would suddenly burn down and vanish, becoming a mere footnote in history, Miyoshi wouldn't even care.
All that mattered was bringing the information back to Kirigakure. Hopefully, this would be the first and last time that she visited the Aegean Republic.


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[ To the Whisperer | Kirigakure Port ]
[ Team Mika | A collab between @BlueFlameNikku , @Oblivion666 , @luelle and @Aliceee ]
[ Rallying her team, Mika has set a destination most unknown for her pupils. Having arranged what is required to travel from Kirigakure to the mysterious oracle known as the Voice of Bergjlot or the Whisperer. The true purpose of this journey, however, seems to be still a mystery. ]

[ Part 1 ]

Mika stared at the waves. The question of Sugi was answered but for a moment, an eerily silence dawned on the world, following the pitch of Kayleen’s turtle. The crew was busy steering the ship away from the site where the large beasts had vanished in the waves. Their shouts revealed the mixture of excitement and rightful fear.
Out of nowhere, the smaller of the dragon turtles moved out of the water. It's hard shell slamming against the ship - nearly threatening the ship and its crew to capsize because of it.
Managing to keep her balance, Mika saw how the large reptile’s eyes peered on board - fixated briefly on Kayleen’s turtle. The large eye had something ominous to it, at first, before it widened in what Mika’s horror seemed like joy.
”Ah, fuck,” the woman mumbled, just before the second heavy rumbling was delivered to the ship - the younger dragon turtle slapping itself or one of its limbs against the ship. Opening its jaw, it produced what appeared to be a pitch - its volume loud and almost painful, but having something whining to it.
Turning to Kayleen and her turtle, Mika had to shout to make herself audible.
”Make your turtle shut up! If that thing keeps up, we will be swimming to the coast!”

Only then she realised. The most nearby coast would be the Empire. But what was worse, they would be stuck in a region that she knew that they wouldn’t be welcome. Or would survive for long - if they would survive the swim, that was.

The deafening shouts of hysteria and splashing of waves against the ship, seemed to fade into the background as Kayleen’s awareness sank into her own mind. Since I’ve known him, Kazua has never made a peep… Kayleen couldn’t believe her ears at the sound her turtle made; her disbelief, distracting her from the slam to the boat that would knock her from her feet. She landed hard onto her bottom, sliding a bit from the wet surface of the deck by the sprays of sea water. Kazua never broke his gaze off deck where a colossal eye now leered toward them from the side of the rails.

Kayleen’s eyes doubled in size upon making eye contact with the massive pupil, and nearly span around in a circle from the second slam that came from outside the ship. The unsettling, yet alluring melody from the sea monster, creeping into her ears. Kazua slowly began to drop open his jagged beak once more for another tune, but it was instantly closed shut by Kayleen’s two hands at the sound of Mika’s commands. Kayleen’s face remained frozen in disbelief. The beastly turtle's song stirred a feeling in her heart that she could not explain. Her heart began to feel a squeeze and progressed into a near forceful choking.

Sugi Masageru - ”Dragon Turtles?” Before Sugi could finish processing that, Kazua started making that sound when he felt the ship rock from the collision, teetering to keep his balance. The chaos of everyone on board had the genin looking all around himself until his gaze froze on the large reptilian eye peering curiously over the side of the ship. His own eyes opened wide with worry as the second crashing happened, followed by the loud pitched tune emanating from the creature.

He instinctively covered his ears and looked away only to see a crewmember unable to keep his balance, was falling over towards the downward tipped railing. Sugi was about to weave signs but stopped, remembering Mika’s orders. In the next second the genin took off sprinting down the length of the tipping ship and tackled the crewmate down onto the deck of the ship. Sugi kept a hold of the man and pushed his feet up against the ship’s railing to prevent the both of them from sliding further. These things were on a whole another level from that serpent.

She simply stared in silence only covering her ears whenever this thing decided to start singing, only one time Kayleen’s turtle decided to sing back to it. This seemingly prompted the muchhhhh bigger turtle to slam against the ship and look at Kazua rather curiously. It was both the most impressive and terrifying creature she has ever seen, and oddly enough it was rather cute to her. It however took her all just to keep hold of the railing, while Sugi went and played hero it seemed. So far their trip seemed to be trying to kill them, which made her wonder if the ANBU that were watching were crapping themselves or not.

The large creature's eye briefly blinked, the motion mesmerizing as it seemed slow and almost sad. Another large tremor went through the ship. The shouts of the crew and captain tried to overwhelm the cracking of the wood and the loud sound emitting from the dragon turtle.
As if it couldn’t be worse, the much larger entity jumped out of the water near the ship. Its gaze seemed to search the deck for something before it splashed into the water - the aftermath sending a large wave of salt, cold water onto the deck.

Mika slipped as the water eroded her footing, causing her to slide towards the railing of the ship. Managing to place her boots firmly against the wood, she didn’t think about attacking the creature. The stories of enraged dragon turtles were terrifying enough that Mika didn’t want to see curiosity develop into a rage. Managing to get back on her feet, she threw a glare in the direction of where the parent dragon turtle had vanished. Perhaps they had a chance if it was just a baby - driving it perhaps away. But the larger entity was a major problem.
”Kayleen!” Mika had to yell in order to make herself somewhat audible for the genin, ”Take your turtle below deck! Now!”
Whistling hard, Mika signalled to Aya to watch the other side. Throwing a look, Mika saw that Sugi was helping someone without using ninjutsu. A silent appreciation moved through the woman’s mind as she hoped that the younger dragon turtle would lose its interest and just go away.

”Holy….. fuck.” Aya mumbled as she looked at the now slightly airborne Dragon turtle jumping part way out of the water right near the ship. The turtle thankfully missed the ship but sent a large portion of the ocean water onto the deck of the ship. Blasting Aya with enough force to send her sprawling on the deck and right through an opening on a rail. Luckily she was pretty alert because she grabbed the railing with one arm planting her feet on the side of the deck as she gripped the wet railing with all her might. ”Holy fuck!!!” Aya yelled as she tossed her sword over the railing and pulled herself back up onto the ship. Grabbing her sword as she took several breaths, looking at Mika’s signal and giggling nervously as she made her way to the other side. Unsure what her looking would do against…. anything of that size. Then again if you had an inkling of when you were about to die. She guessed being ready to die was something to want to know.

Sugi’s eyes opened wide with despair as he looked over to see the large wave of salt water splash down from the opposite side of the ship. With no good options the genin tucked into himself and braced as the wave crashed against him and the crewmate he’d helped. They are both sent over the railing. The crewman and Sugi both yell in unison on the way down before they both splash into the ocean.

Having sunk beneath the waves Sugi frantically looked around and bore witness to the true size and presence of these dragon turtles. His eyes darted to the crewmate he seemed to be drowning and sinking. Could he not swim? Taking another look Sugi could see the real reason was that he was caught up in the rough currents made by the younger dragon turtle. ”He’s a goner.” [/I]Spurred on by an overwhelming amount of fear that the same would happen to him, Sugi turned around and feverishly started swimming away and up towards the surface. The briefest tugs of the beast made water currents tickling his heels egging him on to swim harder.

Then Sugi’s face came bursting out from the water, gasping for air as he bobbed around with the waves. He looked on over to the ship and the baby dragon turtle still perched up on it. But where was the mother? The hair on the back of the young man’s neck stood up as he turned towards the shore and began swimming away from this nightmare scenario.

Kayleen could feel the warmth of her tears slipping down her cheeks, luckily unnoticeable due to the ocean sprays upon her face... The dragon turtle’s song threatened to rip open a wound in her heart where she buried her sorrows, but she held her face neutral through the aching. The sounds of splintering wood began to bring her back to the present, but not soon enough for her to avoid a forceful splash of water that sent her rolling backward with Kazua slamming against her chest. The impact sobered her into her present awareness and she instantly used a free hand to unsheath a single sai. Through the wave of scattered water, Kayleen stabbed down into the floor of the deck to stop herself from being flung overboard.

Coughing up the strong salt water, Kayleen gasped for a breath and ripped open her eyes to see through her wet lashes that stung at her waterline. She tilted her head sideways to clear her left ear, just in time to hear the shouts from Mika. Her heart stopping upon realizing that the weight of Kazua against her was no longer present. She attempted to hobble upward but quickly slipped back down to smack onto her chin against the damp wood. Choking out a shout, “Ka-Kazua went ov-over!…” For a moment she felt no concern with the sea being his home, but her heart jumped at the idea of him becoming dragon turtle food. Were the monstrous turtles in the water cannibals? One thing she was uncertain of from what she read was their diet. For now, she could barely manage to stand on two feet much less to go dive overboard for a suicide mission for her turtle who was now in his natural element. Kayleen squeezed shut her eyes as the panic began to sink in, and she then sucked in a breath and held it as the grip of her hand loosened around the hilt of her dagger… The massive splash disorienting her from even realizing the predicaments of her teammates.

The ship rocked once more. The moaning of wood being slammed and destroyed was loud enough to briefly drown all other sounds. Some of the crew shouted in panic as the captain attempted to keep the order. However, it seemed that the situation was barely savagable.
Muttering a curse, Mika would wait as the ship rocked heavily. Only to whistle hard and gesture to Aya to follow suit. Instead of holding herself against the railing, Mika would jump over it - her eyes desperately moving her gaze to find anything that could resemble Kayleen or Sugi.
Plunging into the deep, Mika didn’t move herself to the surface immediately. The dark waters blurred her vision and made it near impossible to spot anything. Mentally cursing the dragon turtles, Mika swam to the surface as she gasped for air. Throwing a look back, it was clear that the ship was sinking. Some of the crew started to climb on a pinnace - a small boat that could be rowed.

Then the water nearby rose as Mika caught sight of the larger dragon turtle. Water was spewed high by the large nostrils as it surfaced. On top of its nose resided Kazua, unharmed. But Mika couldn’t see any sign of the Akechi. Swimming to the edge of the shell, Mika noticed how the immense creature was just still in the water - as if it was waiting for something. Climbing on the shell, Mika cupped her hands near her mouth.
”Aya! Kayleen! Sugi!”
Shouting the three names, Mika’s heart skipped some beats. Were they still on the ship?

On the other side of the sinking vessel, Sugi would feel how the water started to prevent him from gaining distance. If he looked behind him, he was going to witness a horror scenario - the wide gaping open maw of the smaller dragon turtle. Despite being smaller, its mouth could have easily swallowed two to three adult men with ease.
To make matters worse, the creature moved forward but when it started to gain fast on Sugi, it closed its mouth. The mere sound of the powerful jaws closing produced a racket that was the stuff of nightmares.
A loud vibration echoed from the beast’s throat as it moved its head slightly - the large eye observing Sugi with a certain glint. The nostrils widened for a mere second, water being jetted into the air.

The fear that instantly filled Sugi’s soul upon turning around made him feel as though his heart would burst out of his chest. He let out a long panicked scream and covered his head with his arms reflexively, almost resembling a fetal position. This was it his end wouldn’t be from some burrowing creature deep underground but out in the sea that he loved. The sound of the jaw snapping shut sent otherworldly shivers down the young man’s spine. With closed eyes Sugi dared not look out into the bellow of the beast that he was surely in now. He waited one second after the thundering jaw snap; then two seconds turned into five. The genin patted himself down to make sure everything was still there and then opened his eyes just in time to hear and see the giant creature make noise and snort some water in his direction.

He flinched in fright and was shaking at the eyeball just about as big as he was. It seemed curious like any child would be of something odd in it’s backyard. Well, it hadn’t eaten him immediately so that was good. There wasn’t much more comfort than that much to Sugi’s dismay. He stared back at the creature as it did at him in pure silence aside from the crashing of water against the turtle's shell. After a moment Sugi started to picture the kids in his neighborhood. They were curious, playful and unruly at times but innocent for the most part. Was that all this turtle was being, a rambunctious kid?

Hardly being able to hear Mika’s callout due to the proximity of the large living thing in his way the genin just continued staring until he blurted out…”Y-you know, you’re w-way cooler than that overgrown sea snake.” He chuckled nervously. It helped quell his fear a little despite being aware he was talking to a giant turtle. The genin worked up a nervous smile, even pointing at it with a shaking finger. ”But ya know, destroying the boat wasn’t cool. I--I bet we’d be willing to forget about it if ya gave us a lift to shore.” ”God dammit, listen to yourself Sugi. YOU”RE TALKING TO A GIANT BABY TURTLE!!!”[i/]

The ship violently rocking with each wave only made her more and more certain that this was going to be her grave. Sugi was overboard, Kayleen was now overboard and…. Aya turned her head at the whistle too see Mika now jumping overboard. Aya sighed as he grip on the railing only grew with each crash of the water slamming into the vessel. Aya then stared at the deck and saw Kayleen’s dagger plunged into the board of the ship. Aya knew how it felt to lose something from home and even if they were to die. The odds they didnt and she had lost something close….

Aya sprinted towards the weapon and gripped it’s hilt, ripping it from the board. She then shoved it into her bag as she heard Mika calling for them. ”I’m alive!” Aya said, cupping her hand to her mouth and shouting. Another violent crash sent her sprawling on her butt and sliding with the water towards the rails which she clung onto. peering over she now saw Sugi seemingly talking or begging is what it more looked like. She growled to herself before mumbling a curse as she dove over the railing. She swam back to the surface and swam towards Sugi while looking at the Baby Dragon Turtle. Once over to him she gave a gentle smack to his face as she looked at him.
”Sugi. I’m going to start pulling you now okay? Don’t. Freak. Out. It might think…. you want to play. We're going to swim away like it's normal now okay?”

Aya said as she held onto his shirt and start pushing herself and him through the water, attempting to make it to the other side of the now sinking ship. She still kept peering at the Baby Turtle yet hoped it took this as a sign of no more playing.

The mere moment that Aya arrived and gently smacked Sugi, a loud sound erupted from the juvenile dragon turtle. It seemed briefly in distress as Aya attempted to pull Sugi away. A jet of water was spit in the air before the dragon turtle’s head moved towards the two Jirians. In what could be described as a gentle motion, the head of the giant animal moves underwater and fished both Sugi and Aya out of it.
The shouts of the men on the sinking ship was quite disturbing but did little to stop the dragon turtle from swimming away. A noticeable change was that the beast was much more gentle with the two humans on top of it.

Mika frowned as the large animal seemed to search for something, its large head stretching out by the long neck. Only to appear with Kalyeen gently held at the tip of its beak. The girl seemed to curl up, shaking as she held her turtle tightly.
”By the Divine…”
Mika whispered as the huge creature gently placed Kayleen at the shell before starting to move away - staying to the surface. It produced a loud sound, followed by more as if it was time to produce some unknown song known to dragon turtles. The smaller and younger specimen responded in kind as the two turtles started to swim away. The screams of the crew, moaning of wood being torn apart by the water pressure, started to ebb away as the team was carried away by the large beasts.


The trip continued at a reasonable pace. The dragon turtles continued without any halt to carry their claimed humans away. For that reason, Mika had ordered the genin to try to find some rest. Even if the incredibly hard shell wasn’t the easiest to find sleep on - together with the uncertainty if the dragon turtles would either forget or be done with their humans, diving to the deep blue.
Yet, the only interaction that the dragon turtles provided was singing whenever they heard Mika or her team. Despite the loud volume, there was an odd gentleness in the sounds produced by the beasts.

Sitting on top of the shell, Mika hadn’t been able to see any coastline during the day. The night even provided less vision as they continued to carry off to some unknown location.
Not an expert on the beasts, she couldn’t help but wonder if this was by some awkward design a natural habit of dragon turtles. It could explain why they were avoided by everyone.

The look of discontent Sugi gave Aya for gently smacking and pushing him was short lived as it was replaced by sudden surprise when they were fished out of the sea by the younger turtle. [color=ed3d3d]”I don’t think it liked that.”[/color] Sugi breathed out before trying to balance himself on all fours as the two were raised upwards. The genin, not wanting to stay on top of the bobbing head of a massive turtle, leaped and climbed up onto the top of the shell and looked out to the sight of the crew scrambling to stay afloat anyway they could. The sight and sound of them fading as they all got further and further away. [color=ed3d3d]”Doubt they deserved a fate like that.”[/color] Sugi conceded knowing there wasn’t much they could do about it, merely watching the crew until they disappeared from sight over the horizon.

With the day past and night having come, Sugi remained seated in a criss-crossed leg fashion and let his palms rest on his knees with a slight hunch of his back in thought. He sifted through any books he’s read or any stories the old folks have shared with him to garner a semblance of why this was all happening. Sadly most of his reading leaned more towards historical events rather than creatures, let alone ones as rare as dragon turtles. The closest related story he’d heard was from an old fisherman who spoke of sea creatures taking interest in humans and stealing them away never to be seen by family or friends again. Of course the thought wasn’t at all comforting. “I...really hope that old man was lying about that sea monster story.” He spoke softly which was still retorted by the baby turtle with the loud yet still gentle reverberating. “Hey, it's not like I actually believed him, ok.” It was rather illogical but talking back to the massive turtle pretending they understood each other was comforting in this rather bizarre situation. Besides, if Kayleen’s turtle could understand her, who's to say other animals couldn’t by chance. He even gave the younger dragon turtle a name, Kabuto. Again, it helped calm his nerves but he dared not refer to it with a name for fear of ridicule from the Oda. All in all, he was just relieved they were stranded out at sea like the rest of the unfortunate crew. One could almost say Sugi was more friendly with the destructive turtle than his teammate Aya. He hadn’t bothered looking in her direction whenever possible, figuring he’d just receive disapproving scowls or the like for what he was doing.
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Fierce Rebel
Invitation Status
Posting Speed
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  2. Adept
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Fantasy, modern and magical.
[ To the Whisperer | ???? ]
[ Team Mika | A collab between @BlueFlameNikku , @Oblivion666 , @luelle and @Aliceee ]
[ Rallying her team, Mika has set a destination most unknown for her pupils. Having arranged what is required to travel from Kirigakure to the mysterious oracle known as the Voice of Bergjlot or the Whisperer. The true purpose of this journey, however, seems to be still a mystery. ]

[ Part 2 ]

She indeed didn’t get very far with Sugi before the baby decided to lift both of them up onto it’s head. Aya squealed a bit before she was sitting on her butt on top of it’s head high in the air. Taking a few deep breaths before laughing a bit at the way this Dragon Turtle behaved. She even opted to stay on it’s head as it swam over to its mother. Aya gave a wave to Mika and Kayleen while the Turtles deemed to take them somewhere they could never guess. Bright side was they were at least safe. Bad side was they were completely at these two Dragon Turtle’s mercy.

The day would go on until it was nighttime. Mika told them to rest while they could but honestly Aya couldn’t sleep very well. It was a little too discomforting knowing that if these guys went underwater it meant they were screwed. Also while she didn't mind them singing now it was still pretty loud enough to keep her very much awake. So awake it was, besides it was kind of refreshing in an odd way staring up at the sky with a giant turtle singing. Aya could faintly hear Sugi talking and Aya just giggled as she pet the top of the turtle’s head, where she still resided.
”I think Sugi’s going a little crazy Flippers. He just needs to learn to live a little right? You are just a cutie who sings like an angel aren’t ya buddy?” Aya said to the Turtle with a smile as she would hum along with the turtle’s singing.

The dragon turtle baby raised its head, throwing a look at the two humans on its shell. The big eye seemed to hold a glint of curiosity as the two humans spoke to it. It then changed its tone, sounding more curious in a sense to what Sugi spoke - almost like it wanted to learn more about the stories. When Aya remarked that the creature was a cutie with the voice of an angel, the eye narrowed in what seemed to be delight. Almost like it understood it was being complimented. A large splash erupted behind them as one of the limbs of the dragon turtle slammed against the surface for a moment.
Only it turned its head back to the direction they were heading. Once more the large creature continued its song as the journey would continue on.

Mika observed the dragon turtles. It was in her opinion strange but she couldn’t either question the creatures. For she believed that they were just beasts that acted on some instinct. The idea that there was something behind it did drift in her mind but why them? Mika remained silent as Kayleen held her turtle close. Now and then did the adult dragon turtle communicate with Kayleen’s turtle, which piqued both Mika’s interest and worry.


Slowly, the light of day started to arrive. Warm rays of the sun touched down upon the team as they still continued to travel on the large shells of the dragon turtles. In the distance, land slowly became visible as the creatures seemed to grow a bit more restless. Yet, they continued on as Mika and her pupils were able to discern more land - indicating that they were approaching a formation of islands.
Suddenly, the adult dragon turtle seemed to come to a halt and spew a large jet of water in the air. The motion betrayed some caution or wariness from the creature before it continued on, whereas the younger dragon turtle continued on without any worries visible. In fact, it started to sing again and threw repeated looks at its humans - as if it was trying to fish for some kind of compliment again.
As they came closer to the land, the dragon turtles halted for a few minutes to swim to the beach. Mika would rise cautiously as she gestured to Kayleen to follow. The dragon turtles became silent and motionless in the water, as if they were waiting for something.
”Okay, it is time to get on land. Move cautiously, so that these two don’t get any funny ideas,” Mika shouted, so that Sugi and Aya could hear her. Starting first, Mika would dive from the shell of the adult dragon turtle in the water. Swimming to the beach, she threw a look over her shoulder. Kayleen followed closely, holding a firm grip on the turtle Kazua.

Maybe she could convince Mika into getting one of these, cause Flippers was just so darn cute! Aya couldn't help but marvel with how excited and happy it seemed when it was complimented. Was she tired? Sure she was, it has been a bit since she was able to rest properly but Flippers was worth it. She would keep enjoying the singing until they seemed to have gotten closer to some land.
The bigger of the turtles seemed to halt while the baby continued singing which made Aya giggle as she petted it’s neck. ”Love it Flippers.” Aya said with a small smile as it seemed Mika was getting ready.

Aya was slightly upset over having to leave her new friend but did understand it. Although they seemed to understand them, she wasn’t quite sure if shouting was the right idea. Aya wanted to give Flippers a hug goodbye but that might make the parting even harder. Jumping from the shell into the water, Aya would start swimming towards the shore a bit behind Mika but following.

Admittedly the singing started to grow on Sugi after a while. He’d begun to follow suit with everyone else vacating their giant turtle companions. He caught up with Aya just before she leapt off to swim, overhearing her talk to the baby dragon turtle with a name she’d given it. The genin’s eyes opened with a surprised look. [color=ed3d3d]”Wait wha---Flippers?! Oi!”[/color] He shouted as Aya leapt off to begin swimming away. ”I bet it prefers Kabuto!” He turned to look at the dragon turtle. ”Sorry Kabuto, gotta go. Be seeing ya.” Sugi finally jumped into the water swimming after Aya and the rest of the group with haste.

The young dragon turtle didn’t respond immediately to the departure of Aya and Sugi. However, as the two genin seemed to make headway to the beach, a loud whining sound pierced the air. Extending its neck a bit further, the young creature unleashed a song that seemed to emit pain and frustration. Yet, the youngling made no attempt to chase after its previously claimed humans.
Instead, it shot one last look as its parent already went back to the deep blue. Slowly the juvenile turned its back on the team of Mika, only a jet of water being sprayed high into the air before it too sought sanctuary in the waves.

For the team, it wasn't long till they were back in civilization. Encountering a small village, Mika managed to arrange some lodging and food. Despite the quality not being on par with a most prestigious inn, the odd and rather tense journey meant that none of the team made any complaints regarding their situation. In the next day or so, after all, they would travel one by one to meet the Whisperer. The whole reason for their journey.
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A Messenger
Changing Perspectives

[ Konohagakure | Áki’s Mindscape]
[ A collab between the amazing @Lesli and @RedFox ]
[ After his encounter with The Empress herself, Áki decided to pick up his training again. Despite his best efforts, success still eludes him. A meeting with the Nine Tailed Fox might shed some light as to why. ]

Áki was falling through the darkness, and he felt his stomach twist slightly. He recalled his last meeting with The Nine Tailed Fox.From all the times possible, now? This question resonated in his mind as the darkness pulled away. He landed on the ground with a mild splash and as he moved his legs, his ankles felt the cold from the water he was standing on. Light started to illuminate the room from his back and he looked into the vast darkness into which the room was disappearing. He took a deep breath and turned.He braced himself for the thundering voice that was about to fill the room, but decided to change things around for this time.” What is it, Nine Tails?”

It remained silent for a few moments, the grim darkness revealing nothing of the infamous demon fox. But then two large eyes slowly became visible, opening and staring at its jinchuriki. A breeze seemed to pass Akí, despite no possible way for the wind to find its way inside the ominous place.
”Ah, yes, Master Hon,” the deep voice thundered in its modicum of politeness, amusement and sort of mockery. ”I have taken note that you spent time with the jinchuriki of that miserable being. My, so called brother, the Nibi. I just couldn’t stop pondering. What is your opinion of being the pet of another pet, Master Hon?”

Despite being prepared for it, expecting it, the voice still shook him to his core. He did his best to hide it, but only the Nine Tailed knew the result of his efforts. His mind flashed back to his meeting with the Empress and he pondered upon the matter. ” Yes, I met her. I am sorry that you think about your relatives in this way, Nine Tails. As for being the pet of another pet, I am not sure I agree with how you put it. I don’t think the Empress views the Nibi as her pet - far from it, I think. I think they are more - companions. Not on the best terms,” He recalled the words of Kiyomi Homura and they resonated in his mind now.”, but they’re far from that dynamic. Why, Nine Tails?”

”So young, so naive,” the Kyuubi stated, almost as if he was enderead by Akí, ”You seem to misunderstand, Master Hon. You are the pet, of a pet. I didn’t think you needed to hear it from me. But it seems that even I understand the situation better.”
In the corner of the looming darkness in which the giant beast resided, slowly the tip of two tails came in sight - almost like the Kyuubi was playfully inviting Akí to walk past the pillars, straight in the darkness.
”And sorry? No need. We have fought, struggled and murdered each other for centuries. Much like you humans, but then with more elegance, I fear.” The eyes narrowed slightly, though without seeing its expression, there was no telling if the creature was displeased or otherwise. ”Beside that, why else? It is not like I have much else to do or ponder. You refuse to release me and seem more focused on believing this so-called Empress and all. Tell me, don’t you miss home? The familiar places and people? Being able to speak in your tongue without outsiders frowning at you? Living a life without being forced to be somewhere?”

He clenched his hands into fists at the reply of the Nine Tails. He felt amazement, fear, dread creep up on him. And a certain, weird sense of admiration. Upon seeing the tails wag up in the air, he had to force himself to stay in place as the fox continued, and Áki felt as if he was sinking deeper into the water he was standing in.”Experience comes with age, Nine Tails. Being a few centuries older than me, it’s granted you have more of it. It would be a shame for me to ignore the possibility of learning from someone so experienced, don’t you think?” He pondered a few more seconds before continuing. ”Maybe I am her pet, maybe I am her servant. Maybe I am merely a tool to be used and discarded. Who knows.” He shrugged. Feeling that honesty would get him further than faked confidence, he carried on.” I haven’t heard much about why you were murdering each other, Nine Tails. Maybe one day, you will educate me. ” Its last words were touching on some pretty sensitive matters and Áki took a few steps forward, towards the enormous bars.” I cannot release you, and you know that. As for believing The Empress, she is the only one who understands the situation I am in. And yes, you are right. ” The Hon looked at the water at his feet, swearing he could see the reflection of his home village there, the folks of the village gathered, with his mom in front of them all. He smiled and then looked up into the enormous eyes staring him down.” I do miss home. I do miss my mother, my friends in the village. I do miss the waterfalls of Bjarnafoss, the mountains surrounding it. I do, more than you can imagine. ” Another small step towards the bars.'' But this is what I was dealt, and this is what I will deal with. I either succeed, or fail. What do you miss, Nine Tails? ”

”Such a simple question.” The beast became silent for a moment. ”I miss freedom, Master Hon. And dealing with someone that can provide more of a challenge.” Another breeze passed Akí, followed by a low grumble. ”If you were only more open, I could teach you how to be that experienced. And how to release me without sustaining damage. Though, the longer you keep me inside, the less time there is for a happy end. Didn’t they tell you that, Master Hon? That my chakra is slowly corrupting your body. And soon, you can’t survive without it.”

He felt his legs turn into stone, the air leaving his lungs. As if his body was entering itself. He clenched his fists and than released them, giving the Nine Tails a somewhat bleak smile.” If that’s how things are, Nine Tails.” Another small step towards the cage.” I will have to deal with you, sooner or later. And if what you said is true - and I have no reason to doubt you, I’d rather do it sooner. But there’s a catch to it. How do I know if I can trust you? If this isn’t just a plot of yours to be freed from me? Or completely take me over? Because both scenarios sound like a death sentence for me.”

”Oh? Dealing with me? Big words for a small one, Master Hon.” The beast’s eyes widened, the voice seemingly more amused. ”You speak of trust, Master Hon. But I am a simple prisoner. Why should I lie? If you are so adamant that I am the lying one, why don’t you figure this out then? Question your benign Empress or others. Besides, you asked for what I miss. Freedom. I don’t think I can call being in here equals that. Nor do I desire to take over a weak vessel to experience it. If I want freedom, I want it without being you or any other limitations.”

A deep sigh followed the words of the Nine Tails. Áki narrowed his eyes and looked back into the foxe’s eyes.'' Call it as you want, Nine Tails. We will have to learn how to get along. If not getting along, at least tolerating each other. ” He than shrugged and nodded his head.”I might be weak, yes. But you will have to deal with this weakling to get what you want. I will question her about this, sure. But she’s not here now. It is only you and me. Now I could just give you what you want, here and now. ” He admitted this and felt slight relief upon it.'' But where’s the challenge you crave in that? ”

A loud, thundering laugh trembled the place. The snout of the so-called demon fox came into the light. A grin was revealed, once more revealing the rows of fangs and teeth that could easily rival the long spears that the royal guards had in size. ”Dealing with you? You are mistaken, Master Hon. How long do you think you are going to live for? Your lifespan is nothing more than a blink for the likes of me.” The grin became bigger as a claw would originate from the darkness, pointing an index finger at Akí. ”You speak of challenges but you forget that I am not like your kind. You can’t comprehend what I think or feel. Your viewpoint is jaded compared to mine. Even when I am imprisoned, for now.”
The red pupils seemed to light up more than before as the claw retracted back to the darkness.
”By all means, ‘confront’ the Nibi and his pet about it. Let us see who the real liar is. The imprisoned ‘demon fox’ or the benevolent guardian of the realm. You naive beings are so easily misled by that blue-flamed cretin.”

Almost being swept from his face, he somehow managed to stay his ground - even in face of the fangs that made him look like a one bite snack for the beast.”Maybe yes. It is merely a blink for you. And that is why I will have to make the most of it. I cannot afford to dwell on the past like you. ” He felt a shiver down his spine as the claw pointed at him. Once again, a single had movement and he could have been swatted.'' No, I cannot. You are right. But maybe you cannot comprehend what I think. What I feel. Nor do you have a reason to try. I’m just a fleeting moment in your life. But you will be the defining aspect for the majority of my life.” As the claw retreaded, so did Áki advance again, few small steps in what he considered a safe distance from the bars.”I will do my best to ask those questions. Once I know more, I will be ready to re-evaluate my opinions. ” Another step forward and he raised his right hand, pointing at the Nine Tails.”But it will have to be on my terms. Not during an encounter you decide to call on your whim. I want you to teach me how to contact you on my own, Nine Tails!”

The eyes narrowed, the grin clearly showing signs of amusement and mockery at Akí being bold enough to even dare to point back. ”Why should I teach you now? You have accused me of lying and trickery, Master Hon. Neither do you seem willing to believe anything in what I say. In sharp contrast to others, whose words you happily swallow like a hungry wolf.”
The beast’s snout moved back into the darkness as the eyes continued to stare at Akí. ”If you have nothing to offer, then why should I bestow any more knowledge on you?” The Kyuubi asked in return.

” You’re spot on again, Nine Tails. I did accuse you of these things. And in turn, I received information that will allow me to change my stance towards you. Along with an incentive to learn, to obtain something to offer to you.” He remained silent for a few seconds and dropped his look, pondering on whether to say what he had on his mind. Taking a deep breath, he raised his head again.” I am acting based on what I heard from folklore, from what others said. About you, Nine Tails. It is all crumbling. Right in front of you. Why should you bestow your knowledge upon me? A gesture of goodwill. Proof that I can trust you. ”

A loud scoff, was followed by a gust. ”You are a strange one. Requesting a gesture of goodwill from your prisoner, who has been nothing but truthful.” The beast paused, the eyes shutting as nothing but darkness stared back at Akí.
One eye would half open again as the beast’s voice thundered the hallway again.
”That isn’t a gesture of goodwill, Master Hon. It is called extortion. I shall remember this but very well. You desire knowledge to come to this place? It is relatively easy once you grasp the fundamentals of it.” Pausing once more, the claws of before made a return. It pointed upwards while the Kyuubi explained the matter to Akí.
”You merely focus on my chakra. It will be a sort of searching and locking on it. But not impossible seeing that my chakra is slipping into your system. Then you imagine this place. That ought to be enough, Master Hon.”

Áki lowered his hand and thought about Nine Tails’s words. There was a resemblance of truth behind its words and he was sure it would cost him dearly in the future. As for now, he deemed it a price worth paying.” It was not my choice to imprison you, Nine Tails. You are as much my prisoner as I am yours now. But yes - you are right. I see it and I have no doubt that when the time will be right, you will make me pay for this. Just don’t tell me that you told me.” He added with a chuckle, expecting for the fox to remind him of that. Being shared the means of contacting the fox on his own will, Áki memorised its words and nodded.”Yes, I will be able to do that. I will approach The Empress about what you mentioned and see what I will learn. Until then, we will need to endure this situation. Afterwards, we shall see how things will change. But as for now, I thank you, Nine Tails. ”

The half opened eye didn’t shift nor did the voice of the Kyuubi as it responded in return. ”We shall perhaps see indeed, Master Hon. For now, my curiosity is sated once more. I request you to leave me to my boredom and prison.” The words seem to trigger an invisible force to pull Akí away from the bars, as the eye slowly closes. ”Beware though, for it is easy to present one beautiful thing and make it better than the ugly truth, Master Hon.”

Before he could react to the Nine Tail’s words, he was being pulled back to his room. The place where the Nine Tails resided vanished and a second later, he was back on the floor of his room. His mind filled with questions, his breathing rapid by the sudden ambition and the ominous parting words of the Nine Tails. His head turned towards the window and looked out from it. The way things were would lead to nothing good. He thought about the fox and really, really honestly wanted to find a way to improve its conditions. After all, now he was the one who had a debt towards The Nine Tails. He let out a sigh and closed his eyes. He could only think about one person to meet right now.

If only we could meet right now, Your Majesty.


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I like a lot of genres such as magical, modern, fantasy. Anything with an interesting plot.
[ Battle of Jingseong | The Axebiters Company ]
[ Third Imperial Akinian Division | Eastern Continent, Sevudia ]
[ A collab between @RedFox , @Nim , @RoranHawkins and @Oetje ]
[ The battle of Jingseong has started. The company, Axebiters, has taken their position to ambush a Rongese detachment. A fierce battle breaks out as the Imperial Akinians attempt to prevent the Rongese unit from reinforcing their wretched comrades in other positions. ]

Once Meilin had managed to calm her platoon down, she would instruct them to meet up with the rest of the company that they were apart of. Disappearing for some time, Meilin was in time to meet up with the company of captain Eòin. Marching out of camp in order, Meilin’s heart skipped a few beats. She remembered the battle that she had been a part of; with the Blackroots marching against the Zealots and their mercenaries. Then she had been alone, separating herself from her team. Now? The odds seemed better in her and her allies favour.
Eventually, the company seemed to march into some woodlands as the captain ordered the company to hide and stay hidden among the foliage. Comfortable wasn’t really the word for it but leading her platoon, Meilin made sure that everyone was crouched and hidden from plain sight.

Kneeling down on one knee, Meilin leaned on the round shield. Peering through the foliage to the clearing up ahead did little to show anything that betrayed that they would dive soon into a heated clash with the Rongese. Shifting her weight slightly, Meilin threw a look over her shoulder at her platoon, all waiting for the order to charge forwards.
For a moment, Meilin considered instructing Madoc to establish a telepathic link. But it was for the best if everyone could keep their focus on the imminent battle. Seconds painfully moved by as the expected orders or sounds that heralded a need for them to charge didn’t arrive.
With the seconds becoming minutes, Meilin narrowed her eyes as she had to suppress her worries. Thinking if something was horribly wrong wouldn’t do her or anyone else any good. Pushing herself to remain focused, Meilin focused on her breathing for a bit.

Focus on what Sensei told you. That was the only thought on Mamoru's mind during the marching. He didn't say a word, his eyes were jumping around everyone. Men and women with whom he trained for this occasion.I want to protect them all. His heart ached at this thought, because he knew that to be impossible. His hands started to shake at the realisation and he really hoped Madoc was not in his mind right now.I can't even protect myself. His mind flashed back to his previous and he had to shake his head to snap out of it. Focus on the mission at hand. Dwelling on the past is a sure way to lose your head, Mamoru, he reminded himself. He managed to get his focus back to the present as they stopped.

A forest. How interesting that most of my favourite memories are from one, and now I'm here, he thought. The coming battle was almost tangible in the air. He placed his hand on the ground. His hand ran his fingers across the ground, brushing against the grass.This feels nice. He focused on the feeling for a moment, seemingly finding a moment of tranquility in the face of looming death.

Clearly the rest of her team had understood what that message was about. To Hideko it just seemed like what her mother had warned her for, and she was beginning to fear that she had been right all along. She tried swallowing to hide her fears, and nodding along with everyone else, but the illusion didn’t last. She was afraid. She absent-mindedly prayed to her mother: ”Hiroko, get me out of here.” she thought.

It was rather sudden. The sounds were faint but became clearer. A soft rumble in the distance would pick up pace as the silence was driven away. It all seemed to happen rather fast but the process still took minutes before the contingent could be certain that the Rongese had shown up.
The foliage made it hard to see the dark banners that bore the dreadful serpent of the east; the symbol that represented their enemy. The sound of hundreds of boots marching in cohesion was slightly intimidating. But that all rapidly changed as a familiar voice shouted a simple but effective battlecry.

“Akino Victor.”

The battle cry was repeated by others as the foliage itself seemed to come alive - the Akinians charging forwards and slamming into the side of the Rongese column.
Sprinting forwards, Meilin drew her blade as readied herself for the imminent collision. Ramming her shield into the nearest Rongese, her sword already was in full lunge forwards. The sharp steel easily drove through the man’s cloth and bit in his flesh eagerly. Jerking her weapon out, Meilin kicked her first victim aside as she readied herself for the messy fight.

Hideko knew what happened to those who abandoned their cause. She had even joined a group of like-minded teenagers pestering some of them, saying that even she could do it better than him or her. Oh, how she regretted that now. On her first mission, she’d almost abandoned her team. Luckily, they forgave Hideko, but that didn’t mean that it all was solved now. She still feared. So she screamed the loudest, more shrill than any of her compatriots. She kept screaming as she put the shield in front of her, and hoped for the best.

Mamoru kept his fingers on the ground, running up and down on it. As a rumbling was coming from the direction of the Rongese attack, he raised head to look at them. He clenched his jaw at the sight and his fingers dug into the ground he was kneeling on. He looked around himself for a moment, wondering if anyone else experienced what he was right now. If they were, they did a much better job at hiding it than he did. Why hide it? Being afraid for your life is normal,, he thought to himself. As everyone around was readying for what was to come, his hand clenched into a fist, grabbing a fistful of the clay he was kneeling on. Raising it, he placed it into his hair and stood up. Unsheathing Oak, his other hand reached for the shield on his back, grasping it firmly.

"Akino Victor!" He shouted the battle cry at the top of his lungs, feeling invigorated by it. As one, their unit charged forward and Mamoru did not hold back. Fear filled his mind as they neared their ranks. The way they crashed into each other shook Mamoru to his core. Clattering of metal, screams of hatred, anguish, pain and agony filled his mind. One Rongese soldier charged at him and Mamoru raised his shield in the last possible moment.Fight! Fight for your life! His mind screamed at him and with a roar of defiance, he slammed his shield into another coming attack, deflecting it away. Bringing his shield back, he slammed its edge against the neck of the Rongese soldier, causing him to stammer back. Mamoru kicked him into his chest, causing him to fall and land on his back. Mamoru pointed Oak and his shaky hand thrust forward, piercing the man's heart. Pulling out his blade, he almost threw up as he looked around for possible openings or attackers.

Standing among the back rows, Kuni took deep breaths. She had been quietly following before, and now it was almost time. Looking ahead, even her, with her shorter stature, managed to see the banners of the enemy being raised high, indicating the arrival of the enemies. She could see the soldiers around her all preparing, before the battlecry came. And everyone around her called out, making her call out as well ”Akino Victor!” As loudly as she could, raising her sword and shield and beginning to charge along with the rest. She knew that being in the back rows, it would likely take a moment before she encountered any enemies, but she was also glad for that.

The struggle between the Rongese and Akinians went much in the favour of the ambushers. Imperial steel bit and drove deep into Rongese flesh, tearing through their ranks. The ambience of battle was enough to drown out many individuals but a clear sound resonated through: trumpets sounding in a particular fashion.
Roars started to erupt through the field of wounded soldiers as the Akinians locked shields. Trained and eager, the Imperials started to relent some ground to provide each other more cover as officers shouted orders.
The Rongese combatants started to reform, unsure what to do as they were facing the well armoured and armed Akinians.

The single word was uttered by officers, causing the Akinians to step forwards while they repeated the command. The wall of Akinian wood, steel and flesh seemed intimidating enough to force some of the Rongese combatants back - the confusion on how to deal with the sudden threat still lingering.
Before either side could respond, shouts erupted from the other side - over the nearby hills and woodlands. Storming out of the foliage were more Akinians that slammed into the other side of the Rongese column.

The command was followed with the Akinians storming forwards, effectively sandwiching the desperate Rongese contigentent.

Slamming the rim of her shield against the first Rongese in her path, Meilin thrusted her sword forwards to impale the stumbling foe. Raising her more defensive weapon, Meilin blocked a jab from a Rongese spear. Grunting, Meilin pushed back with her shield but kept the weapon in between her and the enemy.
As the battle seemed to go in their favour, Meilin noticed a shadow that slid over her. An icy chill ran down her spine as she tried to catch sight of what soared through the air. A rather large creature circled high above the battle.
”Fuck--” the word slipped past Meilin’s lips before the shadow dove down and slammed into the midst of battle. The force that slammed against several Akinian soldiers was enough to produce a sickening crunch of bones and flesh being forced in unnatural positions as screams of terror started to mix together with a shrill roar. The cloud of dust prevented immediate sight of the beast. However, the unknown creature seemed to turn rapidly and used a tail with various spikes to slam various Akinians backwards.

”Dagrún,” Meilin shouted from the top of her lungs as she pointed at the roaring wyvern, the beast seemed to easily dwarf men, ”Kill the ormur!!” Raising her own sword, Meilin tried to usher a battle cry before leading the others into the fray - in hope to prevent the Rongese soldiers from utilizing the presence of the nasty beast to break through.

As the battle progressed, Mamoru got used to the sickening feeling from his stomach. He deflected several attacks, counterattacking whenever possible. His shield resonated with hits he could not have blocked without it, each sending a shock through his hand. He grit his teeth after each hit, groaning. When the signal came, he wasn't one to break formation - he took a few steps back and locked his shield with those around him. From the corner of his eyes, he noticed faces - some bloodied, filled with determination. As one, they stepped forward each time the command to do so was issued, intimidating the Rongese with their advance. When the Rongese became surrounded, they charged forward. An unstoppable wave of Akinian steel now chewed away at their adversaries, savaging them.

He charged forward without any hesitation this time. He locked eyes with a Rongese soldier and what he saw shook him to his core. He expected to see at least some sort of fear in them, perhaps even slight remorse. What he saw was cold, utter hatred aimed at him. Feeling his hands starting to shake, Mamoru raised his shield, blocking a strike that was aimed at his neck. He raised Oak and swung it in a downward arc, slashing across the chest of his adversary. The man didn't seem to as much as flinch. Mamoru's eyes opened wide in shock, and he tried to bring Oak up again. His hand was grabbed by the Rong, and Mamoru raised his shield to stop another strike aimed at his head. He slammed the man's head with his shields edge, than he slammed it against the arm holding his blade down. He brought it up, slamming him into his head again. He finished it with a thrust aimed at the man's neck, easily piercing through it. He pulled the sword out, allowing the lifeless body to hit the ground.

He was alerted to another scream coming from his right, and he turned to face it, as shaken as he was. Before he could clash with his new enemy, the ground near them shook as the wyvern landed, immediately changing the flow of the battle. Akinian ranks seemed to be momentarily disrupted, but they held. Mamoru blocked the coming strike with his blade, his fist blocking a fist coming at him with a loud thud. Not looking around it, he made a piercing stab with Oak, rewarded with a scream. He slowly backed away from the wyvern, trying to put some distance between themselves. He heard Dagrún’s name being called and turned to from where he heard it.Sensei! He made his way towards her, blocking several strikes. As he assumed positions on her right, he echoed her battle cry, charging into the fray again.

In the back rows, Kuni watched as the fighting began in the front rows. She hadn’t encountered any enemies to fight yet, but seeing so many fellow Akinians charge forward and fight this enemy, several feelings started to sink in. Anxiety over clashing with the enemy, discontent with not being able to clash and fight for her country yet. But the strongest feeling came with a realization.
A realization that many of these men and women were here, for several months now, and had been fighting for the safety of the country all this time.
The realization made Kuni feel like the same months she had spent back home had amounted to nothing. Like nothing could compare to these people, who risked their lives in each battle such as this. And she saw very well just how much they were risking.

As she started charging forward, she saw Akinians who were among the first to fight, and how some had already been injured. The ones who went first were the ones who took the brunt of the force. And the feeling of being useless just grew inside her. She didn’t want to feel useless like this. She didn’t want to just watch. Kuni felt more determined than before to fight. For the people back home, and for the people here. Every Akinian here deserved to keep on living.

The fighting became fiercer. The Rongese had regained some ground and confidence, making it harder to hew them down. The quality of the Akinian troops allowed them to still gain an edge, the renewed charge starting to chip down the Rongese numbers quickly.

Raising her shield slightly, Meilin caught the jab of a Rongese with one of their distinct swords. Feeling the heavy vibration moving through her shield, Meilin acted merely on instinct and practice - using the shield to shove her opponent’s weapon aside as she thrusted her own forwards. Ignoring the man’s screaming, Meilin quickly twisted her weapon to let the sharp steel shred flesh and clothing before she yanked it out.
Feeling a twinge of exhaustion, the young lieutenant noticed that the battle was going in their favour. Dagrún and the others were dealing with the damned wyvern that had shown up.
Distracted by trying to gauge the situation, Meilin only noticed an attacker in the nick of time.
Her newest opponent wielded a shield and mace in a more cautious fashion than most of his comrades.
The heavy blow of the mace slammed against Meilin’s shield. Much to Meilin’s dread, she noticed cracks forming but she was forced to defend herself against another blow, putting the shield between her and the impending blow.
A piece of wood was slammed on the shield as the metal rim buckled underneath the weight of the mace’s blow. Attempting to push backwards with the shield, Meilin released the grip as she noticed that her opponent avoided her attempt.

Gripping her short sword tighter, Meilin was looking for an opening. The mace wielding foe kept his shield wisely in between them as he kept his mace hidden behind it. Lashing out with her sword, Meilin wanted to attempt to lure out a counter-attack. But her opponent didn’t budge and patiently waited as Meilin hew and jabbed with her weapon.
In a quick reflex, the opponent lashed out and attempted to slam his mace against Meilin’s exposed side as the Cho had made another jab attempt.
A loud cracking sound resonated, followed by the man’s surprised expression. Before he could react to the fact that his mace had been held back by some surface, Meilin grabbed his wrist with her free hand. Pulling the man forwards, she managed to move her weapon over the shield and drive the sharp steel in the man’s neck.
The awkward position that both were in lasted for nearly two seconds before Meilin pushed the dying Rongese aside. Placing her hand on the visible cracks that seemed to cover her left side, the jounin waited only for a second as the cracks of her crystal armour started to disappear.

Focus! Focus! This was the only word resonating in Mamoru's mind as he made his way across the fight, dodging attacks and countering whenever possible. As he neared Meilin, he observed her struggling with a Rongese soldier. He felt as if needles and shattered glass circulated his veins and grit his teeth in anguish. As he saw an opening that would allow him to get to her, an enemy soldier blocked his path, his savage eyes piercing those of Mamoru. In his clouded state of mind, he let out a battle cry from the bottom of his lungs and charged at him.

He raised his shield at the last moment to dodge a thrust aimed straight at his face and tried to push the blade away. He crashed into his foe shoulder-first, sending the man tumbling back. Taking the advantage and pressing forward, Mamoru opened himself up to a counter that he merely blocked with his shield. He looked around for Hideko or Kuni, expecting support from them - but they were nowhere to be found. Letting out a frustrated groan, Mamoryu deflected another blow with his shield and then shoved it into his opponent. His body was pressed against the shield, giving Mamoru no hope to push him away. Grasping Oak tightly, he grits his teeth and pushed the blade into the man's rib cage from the side. An ear-shattering scream followed as he pierced both of his lungs and pushed him away with his shield." Where are you when I need you?!"

Blood spurted out of the wound, a scream leaving the Rongese that Meilin faced. Driving her weapon further in the screaming Rongese footsoldier, Meilin didn’t waver as she twisted the sharp steel - allowing it to rupture the insides of the enemy. A grim expression shifted over her features as she kicked the dying man, jerking her weapon free.
A quick glance around revealed that the Akinians were overwhelming the Rongese again - the company of Dagrún and the others having managed to bring down the large wyvern.
Releasing a soft sigh, Meilin rested the flat side of her blade against her shoulder. This was going to be a long day.


Secret Shadow
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Anything with a good plot or twists to it.
[ The Illustrious Gem of the Dragon Realm, Capital of the Earth Country ]
[ Yumi Hasewaga | Scholae of the Akinian Empire ]
[ ~ Mere Snakes ~ ]
~ Part 1 ~

A high pitched sound tore through the obsidian of night. Only the sound slowed down, followed by a muffled explosion that spread an array of brilliant colours. More projectiles shot upwards, bringing radiant light and colours to the night's sky.
Watching through the window, Yumi remained silent. The whole city of Hayabetsu seemed to be far from worried about the ongoing civil strife within the realm. A vast parade was going around the streets as everyone celebrated. Food and drinks were given to those who partook in the festive event while the music rang from near countless bands, silence becoming a rarity within Hayabetsu.
"It started quite early. Some rumours are going about that this will last a few days," a masculine voice spoke. Entering the small room, an old man in commoner's clothes came into Yumi's view. "Honestly, I didn't expect a damn Scholae and a pack of Sworn Swords to my place," the old man continued as he casually strode forwards and took a seat at the table where Yumi resided.
"So, to what do I owe you lot the pleasure of providing my hospitality?"

Yumi threw a sideways look at the man. The journey to the Earth country had been long but without any hazardous experiences. A shame as she had been curious about the pirate activities that had surfaced not too long ago. Arriving in the Earth country, she had considered making herself known to the local authorities - which would provide more comfort. Yet, Yumi had decided to travel as far as she could without making her presence known. She wanted to learn and observe how the civil war was going, knowing all too well that the Imperial crown wanted to get their investment out of this mess.
While being more accustomed to travelling alone, the Sworn Swords had proven their worth - both in executing tasks not giving any headaches for being talkative or, God forbid: trying to enforce a sort of friendship like the typical, hopeful genin scum.
"You have information that I require," Yumi calmly replied. She wouldn't let the man's appearance fool her. The man was part of the Zero teams. Appearances were something they could shift and adapt to better their chances of succeeding in their covert missions.
"I need to know, for example, why there is even such a festival going on. What news comes from the front?" Yumi asked further, fully turning to the old man.

The man shook his head lightly, clearly disappointed. "The festival is regarding a key battle the Dragon Mother's forces won. A tactical victory but not a strategic victory, " the Zero member began, "The Dragon Mother's forces managed to take a couple of fortresses. However, they lost so many troops that they were bound to surrender ground until reinforcements. All the while, their enemies gather and killed many without too many losses on their side."
The Zero member gestured to the sky, being lit by the fireworks. "Worse is that they are likely aware that these small victories will be followed with crushing defeats. But I haven't gained too much information on knowing who and who doesn't reside in their war council," the man concluded.

Yumi took the words in. She wished that more was known regarding the Dragon Mother's court. Already she suspected that intrigue was going rampant if such desperate actions were taken. That or the Dragon Mother's court didn't include a keen military mind that would allow such mistakes or failures to become a reality.
"So, that means the war will shift in the balance of the enemy then?" Yumi decided to ask, leaning slightly back in her seat. "That is problematic. I doubt that the crown wants to lose its investments."

A chuckle escaped the Zero member. "It is going to shift for sure. A large force has arrived to support the opponent of the Dragon Mother. While some think they are mercenaries, we already uncovered that these are Northerners. The North has chosen to back up the pretender and may be capable of winning more legitimacy."
The Zero member indifferently shrugged as he continued to explain the situation to Yumi. "Granted, this capital is still controlled by the Dragon Mother's and those loyal to her. But if more horrendous losses are going to be sustained, I sincerely doubt that they will be able to hold it. Losing the capital will be enough to cripple the Dragon Mother's legitimacy and that of her son." A pause followed before the Zero member continued. "Unless some changes are going to happen, I can only advise that you return to the Imperial Crown to inform that this is a lost cause."

Yumi crossed her arms out front of her chest, and a heavy sigh escaped her lips. Just her luck that the side Akino supported was likely infested with idiots that didn't know what they were doing. Yumi considered her options, the easiest way to pass on the instruction that the Zero Teams operating in this area should reform and go underground - to avoid them being rounded up when the capital would fall to the Dragon Mother's opponent.
However, Yumi knew Kiyomi. Such a decision would provoke her anger and frustration. An undesirable fate, Yumi mused, even for those who had earned Kiyomi's adoration or loyalty to ascend to the rank of Scholae.
Then a plan hatched in Yumi's mind.
"How likely is that you can help me infiltrate the palace?" She suddenly asked, "I suppose it is time to introduce myself to the benign Dragon Mother, herself."


The festival in Hayabetsu continued in all the glory and splendour that the Dragon Mother and her supports could muster. Fireworks were launched in the night as if the population desired to bring back the light and drive the obsidian coloured sky with radiant colours to the next night.
Yumi was flanked through the streets by two Sworn Swords - their identity masked behind a dull, brown cloak with hoods.
The walls of the city's inner citadel, where the palace and other critical political facilities could be found, was still heavily guarded - from what Yumi could spot on her way. Soldiers and shinobi alike were posted on the battlements, and already a number of them had a stern gaze as the three hooded figures started to come more in view.

Raising her hands to her hood, Yumi released a sigh as she pushed the hood down. Coming to a halt as one of the citadel's guards harshly told her to wait, Yumi's gaze almost lazily rested on the approaching security.
It didn't take too long for them to pose questions. Yumi was told to wait and deliver her weapons to the guards, only to answer who she was and what business she had.
She and the two Sworn Swords complied without any problem. While someone alerted the guard's superiors, Yumi and her companions were brought to the courtyard.

Patiently, Yumi and the Sworn Swords awaited what would be decided. In the meanwhile, Yumi already scanned what security was present around them. Without a doubt, she mused to herself, they were using sensory and perhaps even sealing techniques to keep a careful watch of them. The visible amount of guards were too much to do anything anyways, Yumi reckoned. Even if she and the other two had their weapons back.
A guard with several servants came back, informing Yumi that lodges were prepared for them and that the Dragon Mother would receive them the following day - with all proper decorum befitting an Akinian emissary from the Blue Flame Empress.
"Inform your Lady that I desire to see her now," Yumi just coldly replied, with a certain air of authority. "I already have rested enough."
The response seemed to irk the guard and servants, judging by the subtle changes in their features and body language. But Yumi didn't mind. She wasn't going to let them dictate when the meeting was going to occur.
This response caused Yumi to wait for nearly an hour before more guards and servants returned, stating that the Dragon Mother would receive her.

Guided by the guards and servants, Yumi and the two Sworn Swords were led in the palace. Yumi badly received the richly decorated complex. Following her guides, she just felt that it was out of place. Their country was wrecking itself with a succession crisis, a civil war. And instead of focusing on taking out the problems they were facing, it seemed they were happier to ignore the issues, celebrate, and launch fireworks.
Eventually, Yumi was led to a spacious hall. The space was populated by many people, aside from the apparent guards positioned in strategic places. Judging by their clothes, the majority of the present individuals were nobility or esteemed guests.

At the other end of the spacious room was a mere boy sitting on a tall throne. He seemed out of place, in silk woven colours in bright colours but a pale complexion. Seated to his right was a woman who had a stern look fixated on Yumi and her flanking Sworn Swords. Yumi had no doubt that this was the reputed 'Dragon Mother', judging by her position, clothes, and demeanour.
A herald shouted through the hall, announcing the many titles that the young Daimyo of the Earth country held. The herald then follows it with the various titles bestowed upon his mother - the long list of titles giving cause for Yumi to wonder: how many she had earned in merit.

Silence dawned and plagued the throne room as the attention stayed on Yumi and her Sworn Swords. They approached a line of guards that separated most people from even getting near the throne and selected few individuals.
Knowing that she was expected to speak up, Yumi defiantly waited as she kept her eyes locked on the Dragon Mother. She was ignoring the sight of the supposed and rightful Earth Daimyo. Not that she imagined the child would care. Yumi figured that the child was likely tired or even sick from the constant political pulling that happened to him.
"I am Yumi Hasawaga," she calmly stated, not even raising her voice, "Scholae of Akino, one of the Blue Flame Empress guardians and emissaries." Yumi then paused, deliberately to frustrate the Dragon Mother, "I have been sent to see how the conflict has been going for the Dragon Mother and those loyal to her cause."

The Dragon Mother didn't rise or speak. Instead, one of the men near the throne rose from his seat and gave Yumi a wry smile.
"Welcome to--" he began, but Yumi threw a frowned look at the man as she cut him off.
"I think you need to sit down, sir. I am here to speak with the Dragon Mother. Even if my station is higher than a mother-regent of a torn nation."
Yumi's word caused whispers and even hostile grumbling to arise at the nobility behind her. But the Scholae didn't mind. She revelled even in jabbing at the pretentious elite that was present.
The man was shocked as he shot a sideways glance at the Dragon Mother. He turned, his lips already parted, but once more, Yumi cut him off.
"Please just be silent. I have no desire to talk through proxies, sir," Yumi said as she fixated her attention on the Dragon Mother. "The Akinian Empire has answered your call, Dragon Mother. My benevolent Empress has funded you. The Imperial Crown has allowed you to use the funds without any supervision to allow you to crush the opposition."

Before Yumi could continue, a different man - likely another advisor or sycophant appointed by the Dragon Mother - rose as he sternly addressed Yumi.
"And we have defeated a large force of rebels. It is only a matter of time before we--"
"Before what? Are you going to throw another festival? Partying that you managed to defeat one force? Is that how peace is brought to this nation? By just shedding blood?" Yumi asked, not masking her disgust as she raised a hand and shook her head - clearly indicating that she was also done with that advisor.
"The Empress is curious about how the war goes. I have travelled for some time now in this torn country. And what a pitiful state I have found it in," Yumi said.
Now the public behind her rose in an uproar. The two Sworn Swords turned around, their focus to guard the Scholae against anyone that dared to come close - even if they lacked any weapons, that did little to deter the two.
Slowly, the Dragon Mother rose as her eyes narrowed.
"The Akinian ruler indeed---"
"Empress, miss," Yumi corrected the Dragon Mother loudly, "It is best to remember that."
The uproar once more began before the Dragon Mother subtly gestured for the loyal nobles to become silent. Yumi noticed the trembling at the woman's lips that gave away her frustration and anger.
"The Empress of Akino indeed has graced my son with her funds. But I fail to see why she would send such a rude envoy? Has she decided to side against the rightful ruler of this mighty nation?" The Dragon Mother folded her hands as she took a few steps forward, looking down upon Yumi.
"Tell me, Yumi of Akino, what have you come here to do other than to rile us up?"

Yumi's cold gaze kept locked on the Dragon Mother.
Then very slowly, a smile cracked on her lips as her head slightly tilted to the right. Almost sinisterly, the response of the Scholae was calm, but the undertone was having something hostile.

"To bring order."


That One Grumpy Pants
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[The Blue Raven]
[ Battle of Jingseong| Sevudia, Eastern Continent ]
[ The Gwade Rangers]
[The Gwade Rangers and Kazumo lay in wait to ambush a force of the Rongese, They are outnumbered but must eliminate them in order to join up with the main force. ]

Waiting was a principle he was taught at a young age. Animals were twitchy and very keen, a sudden move and everything you were aiming for could be lost. Yet patience and waiting was something that would go the distance. Yet it was more heart pounding during this moment. An animal he could wait for, an army detachment full of hundreds of people? That was enough to make him doubt himself. Kazumo however did not allow this thought to pester him, he remained focused on what he was taught and patience brought reward. The Rongese would march along the pathway geared much better than he's ever seen the enemy equipped with, even though they were overshadowed by this giant grey beast. The Bazelguese was larger though and looked more dangerous, so that kept his mind calm yet whose to say this thing didn't have a unique property.
Then came the call of a sharp whistle to unleash hell, and with his arrow already notched Kazumo took aim and fired.

The hail of arrows rained down on the Rongese troops taking out dozens of the enemy as they fell to the ground. The Grey beast roared in pain or defiance as arrows stuck out of it’s hide. Thankfully the confusion allowed another volley of arrows to rain down on the detachment that would outnumber them. This was when they started to scatter out more, taking shots when they could. With the enemy now more alert and they could start retaliating, which meant they had to switch up their firing spots to keep the enemy guessing. The problem children were the ones on that beast, and that beast itself was a big issue. As evident when it cared very little to grab a dead comrade with its trunk appendage and hurl it right into the trees. Managing to slam one of the rangers with the dead body, which all could be heard from below was the sound of bones cracking from below.

The enemy began making attempts to counter the onslaught of arrows, guarding themselves with shields, while their archers attempted to retaliate the best they could against the covered rangers. Some shots snuck in hitting some members as they continued moving and shooting. An order however was called out as the large grey beast wrapped it’s trunk around a smaller tree limb and yanked it out of the ground. Kazumo stared at this display of strength with a bit of shock and unease, and right he was to have some worry as the beast then swung it like a club slamming it through other trees, shattering the few trees in half. When it’s tree broke it simply threw it with force into the layer of trees to cause a bit of chaos. At this point a certain loud whistle was made to inform the rangers that some were to go into melee while others stayed behind as archers. Kazumo was one of those to go into melee, Unsheathing his sword and readying a throwing axe he charged with the rest of the front line against the opposing Rongese.

As he neared he threw his axe, the blade slamming into the shield the man raised to prevent it from slamming into his skull. In the moment he raised it though, Kazumo took advantage and thrust his sword into the belly of the man. Hearing a gasp Kazumo would grab the handle of the axe and yank it out of the shield, the force causing the man to lose his grip as Kazumo kicked him off the blade and followed up with a quick slash cutting a deep gash in his throat as the man clutched at it falling backwards. No sooner was he on the offense did he have to switch to defense as another man swung his sword, with Kazumo slapping each blow away with his sword and axe. Another ranger shot him in the hand on a swing causing his grip to let the blade go, allowing Kazumo to swing his blade cutting through the man’s right arm with ease as blood spurted out while he yelled, just to be silenced when Kazumo slammed the axe down on his head.

Thankfully because of close quarters engagement they made a call to not have that beast attack, probably due to friendly casualties they would receive if it went on a rampage. Yet the men on top however had prime picking to shoot at the Rangers that were close, Kazumo being one. As he finished another man off, He took a deep breath in and from the corner of his eye, he saw a glint. Raising his left arm, to raise his axe to stop a blade, would instead find an arrow pierce through his forearm. Biting his lip as he saw red starting to slowly pool around the wound, his arm now feeling all sorts of pain as it raced up the entirety of his left arm. If this is what he did to people then he understood the agony if he didn’t kill them on the first shot. Another man, seeing Kazumo’s left arm trembling, ran towards him. Tightening his grip the best he could he pulled back and tossed the axe hitting the charging man in the neck. Just as he did though another arrow hit him this time, in the right shoulder. The pain now spread from his left arm into the entirety of his chest. Biting his lip as he gazed towards the grey beast, he saw it packed with arrows yet still standing. Those archers though had cover from range attack, while able to shoot off their own. As he gazed at them one was already notching another to try and take him out.

Glaring Kazumo smiled though, as an archer he knew when the best time to fire was. These men were also firing at prime opportune times as well. Only battles were unpredictable, a shot might be easy when you fire. Yet from when you fire until it connects, everything about that shot can change. He just had to bide his time, grunting through the pain he charged another Rongese. Who looked a bit surprised that Kazumo was picking fights with two arrow wounds, might be why he seemed to drop his guard. Playing this out though he swung weakly which the man swatted away with ease, the force of which sent his arm swinging wildly to the right. He could feel the arrow tip grinding against his bone, everytime he moved it or it was forcibly moved wrecked pain through his body. For his plan though it was worth it, allowing the man to believe he had the upper hand as he easily blocked Kazumo’s swings. He would go in for a rather open overhead slash to Kazumo, who then sidesteps the attack. The look on the man’s face said it all, Kazumo however grabbed him and pulled him in front of him as an arrow pierced the man’s head. Grabbing the man’s sword Kazumo grinned, as he motioned to his fellow Rangers that he was going to the beast.

They simply gave a nod, as Kazumo began to drag the dead body to the back legs of the creature. Gripping the man’s sword he would plunge the blade into the man and slam him into the creature’s back leg. Effectively sticking the man to the leg, with his own fire chakra he lit the man’s clothing on fire and ran back. Seeing what Kazumo did, a call was made in Chonobi to fall back slightly. Arrows helped to cover this as they couldn’t properly follow the Rangers under covering fire. It took a few minutes for the fire to build but when it did the Beast noticed alright. It turned its head and like any animal would do when fire is introduced so close to it, it started to panic. Trying it’s best to grab at the burning man but also not wanting to touch it, it started to thrash about and stomp about trying to put the flame on it out. In doing so it slammed through its own men as the ones on top due to all the thrashing had their cover damaged enough for arrows to pelt the men. At this point all the rangers opened fire, taking out what they could during the rampage. The body would eventually cease burning as all that was left was a charred body and a slightly charred leg of the creature. Just as it was calming down an arrow would hit right below it’s eye only to swap places with Kazumo who already had his sword pulled back. With one motion he rammed it through the eye socket and further into its skull, the beast bellowed for a moment raising it’s trunk only to halt as the trunk went limp. With his sword up to the pommel in the head. Kazumo would pull the red covered blade and his forearm out of it, only to stab into it’s flesh again as it started to fall over. The beast would land with a solid slam that vibrated the ground. Kazumo, breathing heavily as he was luckily on the side that was top side up, would pull his sword out as the other rangers finished up the rest of the Rongese troops.

Some would run over to begin treating his arrow wounds, only being able to do small fixes until the battle was truly over. As they were tasked with rejoining the main force, which meant Kazumo wasn’t done yet. Pulling himself together, he shook off the tingly feeling in his left forearm. If he continued using it he wasn’t sure just how much damage would truly be done to it, his job wasn’t done yet though. He planned on doing far more than killing some giant grey beast.
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A Messenger
[ The Battle of Jinseong | Sevudia, eastern continent ]
[ A collab between @GlitchyBugger, @BlueFlameNikku, @ChromeHound amd @RedFox ]
[ Kyoi, Junko, Shikaroku and Masam share a moment before the Battle of Jinseong commences. Loyalties are affirmed, love is suppressed and a new friendship promises to rise. Enjoy! ]

Everything was one huge blur for Masami since the capture of The Rongese officer. When they returned back to their camp and handed him over, they were repeatedly told that no questions were to be asked about what happened during the mission. Knowing better than to press the matter with Kyoi-sama, she instead went for a quick shower- as crude as the conditions were, it felt great. Getting a scant few hours of sleep before they were woken up to the camp in uproar, she quickly got into her combat gear. She noticed her hands shaking slightly as she braided her hair and bandaged her arms and fingers.It's just fatigue, she tried to convince herself as she finished. Getting out of their tent, the camp was bustling with activity - the kind that was electrifying the air.

Opting not to rely only on her fists this time, she visited the armory and acquired a single shortsword. While she was no expert with the weapon, it was better than going in with bare hands. Grabbing a quick bite along the way to their gathering point, she almost threw it back up by the time she arrived. She greeted the rest of her unit with a polite bow, especially Hiron. Shortly after her arrival, the rest of Team 9 gathered up as well, just in time for Hiron's speech that was whipping the unit into an almost tangible frenzy. She frowned, feeling slightly uncomfortable being surrounded by the emotion. Despite that, somewhere deep inside, even she felt spurred for the battle. When her unit moved out, she marched with it - there was only firm determination in her steps.

After the mission, Junko went about cleaning the fresh cut on her cheek. It was minor, only bleeding so much for being a head wound. With all the commotion going on in the camp it seemed like a major conflict was soon to take place. Many rejoiced and while the genin remained reserved she caught the sound of two men conversing about the coming battle in a nearby tent. Two rather skinny men, scouts of sorts by the look of them with stubble and short hair whispered to one another.

“I don’t like this. I mean, scouting them and skirmishes here and there are one thing. But I’ve seen their numbers, they’ve always got so many more troops than us.” The other man chimed in. “I ain’t gonna die out on that field. I say, we lay low or get out of dodge just before everyone starts marching off.”

They were both sitting on a log on an outer edge of the camp, their backs towards where Junko was eavesdropping. The young girl started to move towards them. Her father’s daming words echoing in her head. Cowards, deserters, traitors… they are a disease to be cut out. Junko slid a kunai into her hand from within her sleeve and continued closing the distance in silence. She raised the weapon up over her head once she stopped right behind the two. One of the men felt the murderous aura as a soldier does who’s seen combat and swiftly turns around in a haste. Only to see the white haired girl standing there, looking down at him with her hands bare and at her sides.

“Wh---what the hell are you looking at---” Junko cut off the end of his shouting with…”A couple of deserters.” The man’s eyes opened wide with anger as he turned around and stood up, roughly grabbing the girl by the front of her shirt. He pulled a knife as well and held it to her throat. “You eavesdropping little brat. You didn’t hear anything. As if a kid like you knows what real war looks like!” In that instance, Junko smiled as she looked at the man threatening her expendable life and slowly began to raise a hand up towards the man’s wrist. The man had another surge of his battle sense. He felt his hairs stand on end and his heart sank, a feeling he’d felt a few times before. That threat of imminent death. The man abruptly let Junko go and took a defensive step back. The girl’s smile faded away to a dower look. “Kyoi did say to be nice to the people around the camp…” She paused before turning to one side, watching as troops were starting to assemble. She spoke in a neutral monotone voice. “If I don’t see you two on the front lines I’ll assume you’ve deserted. After that happens...I’ll make you wish you’d died in that field.” After that Junko simply walked off to join her unit like nothing had happened.

The genin stood in with her unit, right next to Masami in fact. While everyone else cheered loudly at the commander’s speech, Junko opted for her silent anticipation. She looked out across the field of battle looking at the rows of Rongs as nothing more than dead men walking.

She couldn’t help but notice her teammate’s frown and repressed nerves, not to mention the shortsword the Hyuuga was sporting now. “Father always said to stab under the armpit.” The genin started off out of nowhere while looking at her. “Less armor there and you hit their heart that way. Did you want to make them bleed Miss Masami?” Junko asked innocently, as if on a Sunday stroll.

Things moved quickly upon their return, something Shikaroku was thankful for. The questions were what he dreaded most. Luckily, Kyoi was pulled away upon them arriving in camp, delaying their ‘talk’. Shikaroku had separated himself from the rest of his teammates as soon as he could, feeling guilty, but needing the time for himself. When he was alone in his tent, Shikaroku collapsed onto his cot, exhausted and afraid. He lay, curled in a ball, for several minutes before finally turning his gaze to the pack at the foot of the cot.

Sitting up, Shikaroku rummaged through the pack for a few moments before he found the dark tome he was looking for. Pulling it from his pack, Shikaroku laid back down and stared at the closed tome for a long moment. Resting his hand on the cover, he felt a familiar sensation in the mark on his shoulder. Withdrawing his hand, Shikaroku closed his eyes and tried to calm his mind. This is the only way you’re going to find out what’s happening to you, he reassured himself. Letting out a sigh, the Nara finally opened his eyes, steeling himself. Reaching out, he flipped the cover open and turned the pages to where he’d last left off. Shikaroku could feel a slight chill at the back of his mind but ignored the sensation, forcing himself to focus. Resting his eyes on the page in front of him, Shikaroku began to read.

Some time later, the Nara opened his eyes to the sounds of chaos around him. The tome lay shut beside him and Shikaroku quickly stuffed it in his pack and got to his feet. The sounds were coming from all around outside the tent and it took a few moments for Shikaroku to realize he’d likely been asleep for a while. Grabbing a change of clothes, he moved as fast as he could, swapping out the blood soaked clothing from their last mission with a relatively fresh set. When he was finished, Shikaroku gathered his equipment and exited the tent.
People were rushing back and forth, most appearing to be headed towards the front. Realizing what it must have meant, Shikaroku hesitated before disappearing back into the tent to grab his dual scythes. Disconnecting the chain from between them, he sheathed the two blades behind his back and stepped out of the tent once more.

It took some time for Shikaroku to catch up with the others. He saw Masami first and then Junko, with Hiron standing in the background. When he approached, Shikaroku did not make eye contact with Masami, still ashamed from the previous mission. He nodded once to the Hyuuga and to Junko before turning his attention towards Hiron. His mentor began his speech and Shikaroku felt himself filled with a deep sense of dread. It wasn’t that Hiron was not inspiring, far from it, but Shikaroku knew what was coming and there was a large part of him that just wanted to run. He didn’t want to be a part of this. All that would come next was blood, chaos, and death. Hiron would have told him it was his duty, and Shikaroku knew the man would be right. That didn’t mean he had to like it, far from it.

Moving one hand to the pouch that held his pills, Shikaroku paused. Taking one or two may numb him completely and make him forget what was about to happen. But… he couldn’t risk not being in full control, not here and not with those he cared about being around him. Moving his hand away, Shikaroku let out a quiet sigh. Quit fretting boy, His eyes widened at the sudden voice in his head and the Nara stiffened. A little killing never hurt anyone~ Closing his eyes, Shikaroku took a breath and exhaled slowly. He wanted to respond, to tell whatever it was to get out of his head, but Shikaroku was too afraid that he’d simply draw the being out again and put everyone around him at risk. Kyoi had thankfully dispatched it relatively easily the first time, but Shikaroku had a sneaking suspicion it wouldn’t be so easy should there be a next time. So, instead of responding, the Nara turned his attention back to his team, trying to ready himself for what would come next.

Unlike her juniors, Kyoi’s time between the end of the mission and the beginnings of a battle were unremarkable as she had to spend it writing a report for Hiron later. She’d mostly finished it after deliberating on whether to include Shikaroku’s strange technique in the report, but decided against it so she could get some information out of Shikaroku and relay her findings to Hiron in person.
The sound of soldiers amassing and preparing for war was hard to miss, so she had to set her report aside with a sigh and prepare. This was going to be trouble, she could feel it.

Kyoi fell in line as the army assembled, right beside her three charges, it was easy to tell that there was unease clouding the couple whilst Junko practically blended in with the rest of the rank and file. ”This is the unfortunate reality of war, Shikaroku, Masami. If it makes it easier, stick together and defend one another. Killing to protect a loved one is a better reason than just killing for the sake of killing. I’ll do what I can to make sure you all survive either way.”

Having listened to Junko's advice, Masami nodded at her and turned to face the white haired girl, giving her a somewhat tired, but honest smile." T-thank you, Junko. That will come in handy." She than thought about her second question.Do I want to kill them? The Hyuuga answered out loud."I just want to keep them from killing anyone I care about, Junko. If I have to make them bleed to do it, than so be it." She than reached out to Junko and gently patted her shoulder, her gaze shifting to Shikaroku. Gritting her teeth to keep herself steadied, she pulled her hand back and returned the brief nod to Shikaroku. A moment later, Kyoi arrived and she immediately went to address their concerns.

I'm so lucky you're my teacher, Kyoi-sama, she thought to herself." T-thank you, Kyoi-sama. I'm - I'm more worried about the frenzy that seems to get hold of some of our men. I - I was taught to remain calm and level headed during combat, so I can't really understand it." Her face remained tense as she replied. And look at yourself, Masami. You're not in a frenzy, you're in something far worse. And your level head disappears as soon as he appears. This thought made him look at Shikaroku again. She wanted to hug him, kiss him, promise him everything will be alright. Knowing how upset that would make their leaders, she stayed in place and gave him an attempt at a smile, but her eyes betrayed her. Before anything more could happen, the order to march came out.​
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That One Grumpy Pants
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[ Balagan, Sevudia | Jirian Army of Yuuki ]
[ The Commander's tent | A Dreadful Meeting ]
[ A collab between @Oblivion666 , @Gerontis and @Oetje ]
[ Experimenting with one of the found artefacts, after the successful siege of Balagan, Kiro Oda meets something that he decides to nickname Ignis. However, Ignis already makes it clear that it isn't playing around. ]

”So that was when I just spewed lava all over those things, hey are you taking notes? Very important information I’m giving here. Its not everyday you get to hear me explain in depth how I easily killed those toys you all had. Like honestly? Probably didn’t even need lava. Things were dumb as shit, but hey pets take after their owner am I right?” Kiro said jabbing the mirror a bit before snickering as he sat down in a chair in front of the mirror.
”You know, Y’all are really good listeners. No one ever lets me just talk and vent and honestly it gets to me. Maybe that’s why I try to be a playboy… Maybe it’s just the connection you know? ….. Nah it’s one hundred percent cause I’m a brutal nightmare to deal with. You know I’ve been looking at those toys that were left here, and not the ones I melted. The finger thing and dagger. First of all, I understand why you all are being all aggressive and attack this and attack that. I’d be pissed off too if I had these shit fucking toys to play with. A Finger that makes a portal to fuck knows where? Also a Dagger that makes people mindless servants until they basically become nothing more than a piece of shit like those beasts you left here.”

Kiro simply shook his head as he walked over to a shelf all while still talking. ”Hey want to hear about my first ever mission I did? Shit was fucking littttt.” Kiro said grabbing a bottle off the top shelf as he walked back over to the chair, popping the cork and taking a swig. ”So there I was surrounded by like ten guys right? They said “Get on your knees!” And I was all like, I’m not your mother last night! ….. They took exception to this and I killed all but nine of them. Cause the last one pussied out like a bitch!” Kiro said as he took another swig and poured some on the mirror and laughed. ”So for real you gonna ever say anything back? You’ve got to be getting all these annoying messages. I mean if you want I can start talking about my sex life, but I promise you that will be so uncomfortable for you.”

The reflection in the mirror started to shift, very subtly, as if the last sentence had crossed the limit of whoever could be listening in or be on the other side. But the colours and contrast started to darken rapidly, replicating what could very well be smoke and fire. In mere seconds, the light in the room started to darken - as if the mirror itself started to suck in the life and light from all in the room.
A deep rumbling would briefly emit from the mirror, shaking the large object itself before something like a distorted gurgling could be detected.
”No need to indulge me,” the deep voice replied, yet no face or feature presenting itself. Once more, the room seemed to tremble as the air became heavier - difficult to breathe.
”I wondered who could be on the other side. Tell me,” the voice had a mixture of politeness and amusement present as it addressed Kiro, ”what is your name?”

Kiro briefly stopped speaking as the room started becoming darker and darker by the second, the image on the mirror altering a bit but nothing really noticeable yet. Kiro simply smiled even though the air in the tent somehow seemed to lessen.
”Well you got the first part right. Dark and hard to breathe.”Kiro said before taking another swig and placing it somewhere on the ground of darkness.
”Someone thats getting real fucking bored in this war. And I start getting more violent when Im bored. Besides! I’ve been doing all the talking, so before my name there…. whatever you might be, cause ain't no man got a deep voice like that. Why don’t you either tell me your name or show me what you are?”

The loud gurgling seemed to reoccur again, vaguely resembling a human chuckle - if the human was probably huge and shaped differently. The voice spoke again, its Taika with an accent that seemed near alien to describe.
”My, now that is something we may share in common, my good friend. Perhaps it is good that you have acquired this artefact. It certainly has surprised me, in a pleasant way.” the other responded, before enlisting a brief pause, ”My name is one that can’t be produced with your tongue, I fear. As for what I am,” Another pause followed.

The smoke seemed to whirl, as if an invisible force was driving it away to reveal a big eye staring back at Kiro. The large eye seemed to resemble that of a lizard, as the nearby skin revealed dark scales that overlapped each other perfectly.
”My beauty is perhaps not something that may pique or inspire stories of copulation, as you so wanted to start,” the large eye said, ”but not to worry, my dear friend,” the eye widened as Kiro would feel something vague starting to happen.

”I am most polite and friendly.”
The Jirian commander would feel a sense of immense dread, accompanied by yet something in the voice that seemed to be seductive - in its own particular way.

Wait what? Shared in common? So far all he met was weaklings and this person got violent when bored? Kiro had a small smile growing, not fully believing the words yet. After all, he met a lot of people that boasted about themselves. A curious eyebrow raised at him having a name that couldn’t be produced with his tongue. Kiro then sat up a bit as the smoke started to swirl around seemingly being dispersed before all Kiro saw was a giant eye staring at him with dark scales surrounding the pupil. Normal people would be taken back but instead Kiro’s smile turned to a giant grin as it spoke of it’s beauty not really inspiring stories.
”I beg to differ there. To me, anything strong is beautiful. Combat is a way of life for me. Could be the definition of ugly but, if your strength is what I think it is… then god damn.” Kiro said with a wicked grin, before a pressure started dawning on him.

Kiro could feel a sweat starting to form on him as this moment was like when he came home after his one mission. Only to see it burning to the ground and with all his family and clan dead, a feeling of dread as to what he would do going forth.
”So far I agree, so I return the kindness you are giving me. I won’t even bullshit you with my fake name. You speak to Kiro Oda.”

The words of Kiro seemed to provoke another dreaded chuckle from the beast’s eye. "Oh, I am aware, my dear friend. I have a gift to read your kind. But let us not tarry too much on that, for it may ruin our friendship,” the beast replied, "so you enjoy combat, Kiro of the Oda? I assume that you had much pleasure when you took this artefact from those dull robbed idiots? Do I guess this correctly?” The beast asked but it didn’t halt with speaking just yet.
"If so, I would be happy to bestow you with knowledge and power to gain more violence. To shed more bloodshed. That is if you can handle what I can offer you, my dear Oda.”

Kiro sat there and reach down for his bottle, feeling around before he grabbed the handle and lifted it up and took a swig. He listened to the words and laughed a bit, before he shook his head. ”Those weaklings? Oh hell no they were trash. I more so wanted to fight one of those things that are being called Vrykyls. They get hit and swing back, lots more fun. Yet I suppose that for a moments entertainment it was enjoyable.”Kiro said before spinning the liquid in the bottle as he stared at the mirror.
”Going to have to be more specific there…. I’m just going to call you Ignis for now. I bet you breath fire anyway. If it was the simple act of seeking out combat then I can just go start marching the armies and take out this Rong leader. Yet you probably are aware of that. So what are you offering me there friend.”

"Vrykyls? How interesting," the beast responded, "not many attempts to fight one and dare to speak of it. Perhaps, my good Oda, you are capable to bear a mark of my alliance and blessing." The eye narrowed slightly as it seemed to observe Kiro. Once more, the man would sense as if something was attempting to invade his mind - the sensation of a thousand insects crawling through his ears in his head, scavenging for something.
"Ignis is a name that perhaps I can take a liking to. As for taking out the leader of Rong? You certainly are a bold one. I like that, Kiro of the Oda." A clear hint of amusement became clear, as if the beast was speaking to a mere child claiming it could reach the moon with a stone. "What if I could tell you the location of many more intriguing foes to combat? Ones that will give you more pause than mere sacks of soft, red meat?" The question was followed by a chuckle before the beast continued.

"Though, in order to receive my blessing, you’ll need someone that can apply it. I can’t find any knowledge in your mind that seems to be orientated on, let us say, sealing techniques. Do you possess a pawn that has acquired such a specialism, by any chance, my dear friend?"

Well maybe a normal person wouldn't speak of the dead surviving death. To him that was an achievement, killing something that even death wouldn’t take. Yet a mark of an alliance and blessing? Well that sounded like he was talking to a god if it gave blessings out. Then suddenly a pained sensation started to grow on his head and a creepy feeling of bugs crawling in his skull, as Kiro simply took a deep breath in and out.
”Well they are probably the strongest no?” Kiro said with a slight shrug before Ignis started speaking more of his tune. Locations of powerful foes, more importantly ones that would make him actually break a sweat.

Then he stated in order to receive the blessing he would need someone with sealing techniques, as he searched Kiro’s mind and found none. Kiro rubbed his forehead as he sighed.
”Do I? Yes. Getting them to actually attempt anything on me? Much harder, they lets just say. Buy into the story about me and probably wouldn’t do anything I commanded them. Does it have to be sealing?”

"The leader of Rong? My dear Oda, you are a competent fighter. But even a whole legion of Vrykyl would be destroyed in mere seconds by the might of Rong’s true leader,” briefly the voice of Ignis seemed to sound spiteful and yet respectful before returning to its previous tone, "Ah, that is your first hurdle then. Without anyone capable to place my marking, you can’t receive my blessing. And without it, I can’t allow you to keep fighting powerful foes. For I can bestow a grand gift on those who desire to keep fighting. Even death itself won’t claim you until I decide that you’ve grown too weak for my blessing.”
The large eye narrowed more as it seemed to inspect Kiro, once more a dreadful experience waving through the man. "But you got potential, my dear friend. If you truly believe that strength is the pillar of life, then what is it to convince a mere pawn? The reward will be worth it. Certainly seeing that I have taken notice that you’re already dying. Curious, most curious.”

”Oh buddy, that only makes me want to fight this leader more.” Kiro said with a laugh but now only wanting to rush this war to fight this leader to see just how skilled they actually were. Yet he then groaned that this was indeed the only way. Sealing and only competent one he knew would probably try to shank him. A grand gift to keep fighting, where even death wouldn’t claim him unless Ignis deemed him too weak.
”Wait So I’d be one of those guys that just gets stabbed and doesn’t die? Well that takes the fun out of fighting, if I know I won’t die.” Kiro said with a low grumble, as another feeling of despair kept hitting him. This thing was one hundred percent the cause of it, and if it made him feel like this then anybody else with a weaker will would probably have fell to whatever it was doing.

Kiro did eye the… eye as it mentioned the poison. ”Huh, you are a snoopy guy aint ya? Give me a few minutes. I’ll go get her, I doubt she will just go along but who knows.” Kiro said as he stood up and walked right into a table. ”Ow! fucking Ignis turning the lights off.” Kiro grumbled as he would exit the tent.
A few minutes later Kiro came back holding the tent flap open as he had a look in his eyes like he was being lectured the entire time. ”I knew I shouldn’t have slept during the sealing course” Kiro thought as he pulled another chair to the mirror and sat down. Waiting for Nishi to also sit he sighed, before speaking.
”I’m back Ignis.”

The mentioning of the name conjured once more the spectacle of before. The small fires of the candles flickered as the light was once more leeched by the arrival of a monsterous eye staring at the two Jirians.
"Ah, my good friend returns,” Ignis stated as the eye seemed to shift its gaze, searching and observing the new arrival. "With the promised pawn. Excellent. The pawn that has knowledge of sealing techniques, I hope?” The question was followed with the eye narrowing slightly, both Kiro and Nishi experiencing an intense dread flowing over and in them.
"Oh, how peculiar. This pawn has seen a lot. Much violence and bloodshed. Delightful. I may take a liking to your kind, after all.”

If it weren’t her pupils that bothered her, it had to be the brass. To be truthful, Nishi wasn’t sure what to think of their army commander. She was bound to follow his commands but, at the same time, he was a renowned missing-nin. Her oath to her country demanded that she took his head and returned it to the top.
Not inexperienced to the playings of the brass and politics, Nishi decided to see what had made Kiro come personally to nag her to return with him. Something had piqued her interest, to see what had made the man come request her personally. Already, her left hand rested on the handle of a knife, ready to wreak havoc if Kiro gained any funny ideas.

"Dear Divine," escaped Nishi’s lips as she bore witness to Ignis arrival in the mirror. It was near impossible to move her attention away from the eye. Feeling the dread flooding her, the woman froze - unable to resist what entered her mind. Worse was that she was capable of knowing what it did. A cold shudder ran across her back as Ignis spoke again.
"Pawn," she repeated, her voice venomous as she shot a sideways glance at Kiro. "Ignis or whatever you are. I think you are quite mistaken. I am by no means this idiot’s pawn. Now, what are you and what do you want?"

Kiro simply raised his hands when Ignis called Nishi, Kiro’s pawn. Which resulted in Nishi already rebuking that and asking what Ignis was. ”Yeah…. probably should have said that Ignis buddy…. Women or well most people hate being called pawn. So far though, all that I can tell is that Ignis here has information about well. A lot of stuff, wether it’s from prying from their minds and snooping. Or if he just knows. An example is he knows I’m poisoned. Didn’t mention it once but he knows, and now so do you. He also informed me that the Rong’s leader is well strong enough that a legion of undead would be wiped out in seconds.”

The response of Nishi seemed to give cause for delight as Ignis once more unleashed its distinct chuckle, the eye briefly narrowing even more. Patiently, Ignis seemed willing to wait till Kiro was finished before it spoke to the two Jirians.
"Ah, my earnestly apologies,” Ignis eye blinked slowly, for the first time, "But it is true. I am a curious being. And I sadly must admit that I haven’t been able to converse with many. But that aside, I am aware that our dearest Kiro is getting impatient to receive my blessing. Now, Nishi,” Ignis began, focusing its attention on her, ”I will bestow upon you how to deliver my mark. Be most careful though with the procedure. It can sting,” nearly was Ignis finished or Nishi would experience a wave of pain in her mind. Images seemed to swirl in her mind as a thousand whispers began to overwhelm her senses.

Grunting, Nishi nearly fell to her knees. Her hands shot to her temples as she felt the intense pain. Yet, there was something that soothed her mind. The knowledge bestowed upon her left her speechless. Even with the horrors she had seen due to her work, Nishi wasn’t sure if anything could topple what that thing had ‘gifted’ her. What scared her truly was that it wasn’t around and could affect them that easily. What were they dealing with?
"What are you?" Nishi managed to bring out as her expression shifted to utter disgust and fear, feeling far from confident of confronting the mysterious being.

This would sting? Kiro raised an eyebrow as Ignis focused on Nishi only for her to seem to be in pain. Kiro stared at the mirror not fully knowing what was going on before Nishsi seemed to have nulled the pain. Yet what he did know was that she seemed perfectly fearful of this creature. Something he could understand, his warrior side would love to fight it while the common sense in him knew for a fact it would kill him easily.

Once more, Ignis seemed most happy about what it witnessed. "What I am? I fear that would be spoiling the fun. But I won’t mind to give a hint. I am something that knows your Divine. Even though I am not on good terms with her, I fear,” the eye shifted its attention to Kiro, "she has what she needs to know. Once you gain the mark, I will bestow my gift in time. Keep me entertained Kiro of Oda or else I will find a way to entertain myself.”
The eye widened as the last few words carried a different tone. Smoke started to swirl and cloak the eye of Ignis. Slowly the candles seemed to radiate more light as the tension would vanish as well.

The answer of Ignis was anything but to Nishi’s liking. But instead of running away, she couldn’t do anything. With Ignis' presence, it felt like someone had anchored Nishi to the spot she was standing on.
Slowly breathing became easier as whatever it was seemed to be done with them. Using her left hand Nishi wanted to check if she hadn’t a gaping hole at her temple - the sharp pain aching, only slowly retreating.
"Please, do tell me that you’re not considering this," she said, turning to Kiro, "even the likes of you should recognise what kind of threat that … thing poses."

Kiro simply waited as the light returned, so he was slightly right. Possibly not a god but has connections to them. Keep him entertained or else he would find his own way huh? Kiro softly chuckled as Nishi would speak to him, he would scoff at her comment.
”The likes of me huh? It’s precisely because of knowing what kind of threat he is…. Hey walk with me for a moment.” Kiro said as he opened the tent flap. ”Think we both need the fresh air, that and.” Kiro said, motioning with his head to the mirror.

One didn’t need to be a genius to understand what Kiro meant with the gesture and words. Even though Kiro disgusted her, she rather spent time with him than to be near that damned mirror. Muttering a soft prayer, she would quickly walk to the flap and exiting the tent. The warm rays of the sun were most welcome. The fresh air helping her to ease up somewhat.
Waiting for Kiro, she threw a frown look at him. "It knows the Divine and has a bad relation with it? Isn’t that worriesome enough? Or the fact it could invade our minds, without even being present, then it is best that we burry that mirror. Or even sink it to the bottom of the ocean."

”And have it still haunt us? The mirror is just a communication device. If Ignis wanted to, he would simply pester us without it. Besides a bad relationship with the divine, well anybody that does right by themselves and wrong by their deity would have a bad relation with them. Perspective Nishi.” Kiro said rubbing his head as he walked, more so staying out of earshot of any onlookers.
”He made it perfectly clear he doesn’t need the mirror, and if he's on a level that he can commune with the gods. Well I don’t think he needs a mirror to make us miserable.”

Kiro would stop for a moment as he looked at her. ”Look I get you dislike me, I can tell you the entire story if you really wish. Yet I do what I do for our people back home, even if some may think its forced with the whole poison that runs through me. Yet if I hated our country why wouldn’t I just let the poison off me? Cause I care. So if this Rong leader can smack legions of shit that refuse to die and win. Then we need a new gambit. This could very well be it. Now I’m not so dumb to think this wont have drawbacks, hence a backup plan. You place another seal on me, so should the worse come to pass you can then seal me to something, forever.”

Walking alongside with Kiro, Nishi’s mind was still with what she had briefly experienced. The mere fact that they had met an entity that could pull the impossible was haunting. Nishi would have been happier if she had never learned of Ignis' existence - blissfully ignorant.
Frowning upon Kiro’s words, Nishi didn’t respond with wit or sarcasm. Instead, she remained quiet for a while before answering.
"This seal is something entirely else," she began, finding it awkward but horrifying that she understood what kind of seal this Ignis had shared with her. "A backup plan against such a seal that this Ignis shared won’t have a large chance of succeeding. It isn’t even a seal as I know it. It is a mobile… kind of portal. A sort of pathway allowing that thing to you."

Pausing, she ignored the cold beads of sweat that rolled over her back. "I really need to stress that there is no way out of this. I know a lot of sealing and what it can achieve. But this is beyond my comprehension. Yet," she shook her head, "I do. It is confusing and scary. In a way that I can’t explain."

Kiro would stay silent as he let her speak, informing him that this backup plan would have a large failure rate. A portal to him was well unnerving, he would look up at the sky before speaking again.
”I understand I do. Yet at the same time I also wish to do something that could save lives. Trying to weasel out of this? It might just incur it’s wrath and have it kill us all anyway. So if being a test for this thing is what's required to save lives then I’m willing to take it. I plan on doing this far away from the camp. Just in case obviously.”

Kiro said, sitting down on the ground and continuing to stare at the sky. ”Humor me, when they told everyone about me and added my name to that Bingo Book. They said I slaughtered my entire clan right? That the only survivor Aya Oda informed them of what Kiro Oda did correct? Truth is Kiro Oda killed the rebelling clan members. Upset at how it was being led, they struck while I was out. In one day my family was killed and all loyalists were left dead in the streets. So why lie and pretend? So Aya didn’t grow up thinking her clan and people she greeted everyday would try to kill her just like that.”

Standing back up he gave a shrug. ”So I chose to be the bad guy. Aya was taken care of after everything happened, she should have been fine. Then one day this woman stops me. Well more so I helped her from some scum harassing her. Turns out she was a pretty scary woman, who laid a trap just for me. Poison drank, and now I'm a secret operative. So what I’m getting at is, i’m already a person marked for death. If this works out then great, people can be saved. If it doesn’t and I die? Then Kiro Oda the monster was finally killed.”

Nishi listened to what Kiro told her. During the whole story, her expression remained the same. There were certain parts that seemed unlikely, judging from what she knew from her time in the ANBU. Yet, unbelievable stories were one of the methods to keep the masses from learning the ugly truth. A truth that could move mountains and destroy whole villages, creating angry mobs and seeing blood drown the streets.
Once Kiro finished, Nishi made no attempt to showcase if she believed him or not. Her eyes narrowed slightly as she seemed to wait for something.

"I will study a counter-method. It may take me some time but perhaps I can get something done. Just don’t expect any miracles from me," Nishi replied, her voice cold but a modicum of respect resonating alongside. "For now, I think I have seen enough mirrors for the coming year or two. That and I suppose I have to get ready to prepare this business, before your friend Ignis will get impatient or wants to motivate us to work faster."

”We just spoke to basically a deity. I think I’m all out of expecting miracles at this point.” Kiro said with a simple nod to her as he chuckled a bit to himself. ”Well now that I know it can literally mess with my mind, I suppose I should stop taunting the mirror everytime I walk by it. To think I was almost about to tell him something realllllly private.” Kiro said chuckling as he stretched his arms out.
”Well you know where to find me when you are ready.”

"Or a terrible demonic entity," Nishi mumbled, yet audible enough for Kiro to hear her. Whatever it was, Nishi made a mental note to stay away from the place that held the mirror. "I sadly will, yeah." Nishi said, not eager to conduct what they now had planned.
  • According to Plan
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I like a lot of genres such as magical, modern, fantasy. Anything with an interesting plot.
[ Fortress Balagan | Sevudia | Jirian Army ]
[ Team Nishi | A collab between @Nim , @DeliciousFood and @Oetje ]
[ With some peace returning, the Jirian army sets Balagan as a base of operations. While many are attending to mundane tasks, Nishi rallies her team for a well-needed training it seems. ]

[ Part 1 ]

Peace had returned to Balagan. The conquest of the fortress was perhaps an odd transformation for the greener members of the army; changing from a war camp to a fortress. Yet, despite the change, the fortress provided somewhat more comfort than the previous army camp.
That didn’t stop certain activities or plans though. Such as Nishi readying herself for her team training. It had been a few days, allowing her to fully recover from the aftermath of the successful attack.
Stretching, she didn’t feel an ache or twinge of pain going through her limbs. Not that she was planning to compliment or reward Alsanna. It still bothered Nishi that she had been dependent on that loudmouth. No, instead Nishi planned to perform some training with Hikari and Alsanna.

The site was rather dull. It was outside the walls of the fortress. Inside Balagan, there was some space but not for what Nishi had in mind. Her training today required space eventually, without her pupils causing any damage to nearby building or worse: to other people.

Fuck you, and fuuuuuuck you!” two youths, slightly under Alsanna’s age, were being flipped off at the exit of the recently conquered fortress. Both seemed to lower their heads in shame as the Sayyadian collected a couple of boxed goods from them that she’d then pocket into her trusty hip pouch. The ‘loudmouth’ was so loud in her insult that Nishi could potentially even hear her from the selected grounds despite the ongoing noise from the commuters.
When she’d arrived to join Nishi, she’d be chewing something. Her breath smelled like mint, and could be smelled from quite a few feet away as she had no intention of getting handsy with the Jounin at this moment. “Hey hey hey, Nishi-Sensei. Any splitting headache yet? How’re the bones?” she smirked, arms crossed as her azure eyes almost condescendingly checked out Hirashima’s figure, “Is the sleeping going okay too?

While Alsanna had been very loud with her exit from the fort, Hikari was the opposite. In the previous few days that Nishi used to recover, Hikari either tried finding work to help around the fort, or train the tanto movements she had learned from Nishi some more.
Making her way towards the outside of the fort, Hikari thought she could hear Alsanna a bit ahead of her, cursing very loudly. While she was a bit confused at what would cause her to curse like that, she didn’t have time to stop and ask around. Arriving at the place a moment after Alsanna did, the chuunin approached the two and offered them a small bow ”Hello Hirashima-sensei, Alsanna.” She said, before raising from the bow ”Hope you’re both doing well.” Hikari added, before looking towards Nishi, hoping her sensei had properly recovered.

Nishi’s eyebrows slightly perked up. Coarse language wasn’t uncommon, certainly not in the military. Sighting two youths, who weren’t her pupils, the situation rapidly changed as Alsanna appeared. Nishi’s expression shifted, one that was speaking clearly of mixed curiosity and already disapproving of whatever had occurred.
”No headaches, just yet,” Nishi replied, once more feeling a twinge of annoyance as she remembered being dependent on a mere genin. ”Things are fine.”
With Hikari joining them, Nishi nodded simply in return to the chuunin’s polite bow.
”Good, both of you are here. That means we can skip pleasantries and focus on what is important.” Nishi started, ”Today, we will be focusing on an aspect often overlooked or ridiculed by many shinobi.”
Placing her hands at her back, Nishi paused. She wanted her students to think about what it could be.
”The art of remaining subtle. It is grand to be able to spit or conjure large elemental attacks. Smiting your foe in half. Or explode a house with the snap of your fingers, whatever crosses your mind.” Nishi’s tone became sterner as she continued. ”But the most frightening nin aren’t those who just can do such bland things. The worst and scariest to face are those who don’t give you a chance. Or capable of doing techniques or pulling off tactics without you being aware of it. It sounds easier said than done.”

Once more, Nishi paused as she gauged briefly how her students reacted. ”Hikari. You have already some knowledge on facing off against such a foe. The Crystal release user that we had faced before, had everyone tricked several times. Not with large or over the top techniques. But with subtle and tactical decisions.” Raising her right index finger, Nishi continued. ”Today, you two are going to work together. You have some time to discuss and figure out a way to defeat me in a straight fight. If you can’t come up with a good theory? Then you will be punished. If you can? We will put it to the test.”
Gesturing, Nishi would turn half around and take some distance from the two - allowing them to speak with each other, with less pressure.

Well, well, well,” a toothy grin greeted Hikari along with an exaggerated, whimsical tone of voice. Alsanna’s arms extended a little in celebration, “why if it isn’t the freshly produced Chuunin. Mmm, almost as fresh as Rongese cabbage.” a brief chuckle escaped her before her optics slowly veered back to the sensei, once again scrutinizing rather obviously many of the adult’s features, especially the facial ones. “And boy do I have a surprise for you, because this is certainly an occasion we can’t just go all mundane on.
Now came the part where work was required. Sucking in her cheeks to make odd faces, she kept her fixation on Nishi, observing every subtle change in demeanour as well as potential variations in tone. She was definitely looking for something, and it amused her. “So you want me to operate as usual, gotcha.” she said with the expected condescension. One arm coiled around her core, right under her chest while the other had its hand raise to her chin as she began tapping, “And we’re even re-visiting our first assignment! I didn’t expect amnesia as a symptom so early ...” another, impish titter escaped her, before she finally peered over at her colleague, giving her a silent stare with a very amused grin on her face. For a moment, she just stared, her cheek leaning over her own shoulder with her head turned.
Are you going to go full alpaca on me if I actually use my fancy abilities? Just as I know if this becomes a battle royale or not.

Listening to Nishi, Hikari nodded at the mention of their crystal user opponent. She could understand what the jounin had meant, considering how things went back then. Another failure in her eyes. After the Jounin finished explaining things and walked away, Hikari turned to Alsanna. Hearing her question, the chuunin shook her head.
”No, I have no intention of going full alpaca on you. You did explain your side of things back then. And if it does turn into a battle royale, then Nishi will have us both down with ease, most likely.” Hikari stated, glancing in the direction of the jounin briefly before looking back at Alsanna ”I reckon you have something in mind if you asked that? I’ve got my own thoughts on how we could go at Nishi, but you can go first.” She said, letting Alsanna give her thoughts, or plan, first.

As a matter of fact, I do.” she once against began chewing, and the odour of mint became stronger in the air around the two, “She’s injured, a slight dislocation of her hips. That’s already one thing to exploit. Keeping a highground in particular will make her exhaust faster.” she peered over at Nishi, smirking.
You’re also going to make sure I mark her. Which luckily, you can do with one of these,” Alsanna whipped out one of her feather-like kunai. After a little bit of dextrous showing-off, she’d fling it over to the newly made chuunin, “just don’t take too long, I don’t have loads of chakra on it.” again, she sucked in her cheeks as she mused for a moment, “And how quick are you with that blade? Think you can capitalize on a one second window?

So she was going for a method to mark her. Hikari started to wonder something briefly, catching the kunai that got tossed to her as Alsanna kept explaining things ”I’m not too quick with it. And Nishi will likely counter me either way, seeing she’s the one who taught me the movements I know. With that said,” Hikari looked at the feather kunai ”I can certainly get that Nishi will probably want to avoid close contact with you. Specifically to avoid being marked.”
Hikari put the kunai in her pouch, to ensure Nishi won’t spot the exchanged tool, before continuing ”You could try and help create an opening for me, if we use that train of thought. Maybe we could even try and trick Nishi into thinking we’re discoordinated?”

Really? All that training and you can’t make something happen? Not even if I spoon feed a grand opening?” she replied with a raised brow and a hand on her hip, “The moment I get a mark on her, the clone will be on her, gnawing, scratching, humping its way to a very quick grave. She will be in a bad spot, which I’d call an opening. Especially with her injury.” chew, chew chew, and then spit, she’d leave a small puddle of saliva that was green in colour, matching the grass, with bits of a herb swimming in the fluid. “And I don’t want her near me. She’ll beat me down before I can say ‘Darn’.”
Howeeeeever, your second suggestion is actually pretty good.” she snapped her fingers before the blonde’s face, being lowering her index to just barely reach Hikari’s snout, “You’re not that dumb, then. Alright. Let’s use that discordance to create an opportunity for you to mark her.

”Alright. Let's agree on some kind of signal to indicate we are making the move to mark her, and until then, we can go at her however we feel is right. I’m thinking that if you insulted me with something specific could pass over her head as just the two of us still being incompatible. Dumbass, perhaps? Or whatever you feel you’re likely to call me.” Hikari said, closing her eyes and ignoring the finger right in front of her face.
”I’ve got in mind what I want to do before the signal.” She said, before proceeding to ponder quietly on how well she could actually make those attempts before the signal.

For a moment, Alsanna got silent. She seemed to be thinking of something, perhaps the signal Hikari had mentioned? Her arms crossed as she peered over at Nishi, and then back at her colleague. “She’ll see through it. We’re underestimating her intelligence and sense of observation.” she clicked her tongue, “However, there is a second thing going on. She’s undergoing the beginning stages of withdrawal, even if she’s hiding it well. So ...” very suddenly, she went for a sudden guttural punch toward Hikari, very much aiming for those abs. It would hurt, albeit very slightly, but there was clear restraint while also a sneaky attempt to mark Hikari herself in her abdominal area. “She’ll never expect irrational, blind trust. No code word, just seize the day and trust in me. I’ll have your back.” she whispered.
Now we’re square, yeah? No more whining about the past? You got to spit on me, I get a punch in. Good. Just follow my lead, blondie.” whipping out her parasol via her wrist-seal, she’d point it at the direction of her teacher, “It’s not like one needs much teamwork anyway when I know the enemy’s weakness. Right, Sensei? What makes ya’ so sure I didn’t set a little curse in that spleen of yours? It could go all … Kaboooooooom!” she arrogantly grinned.

Hearing Alsanna out, Hikari understood what the genin meant. Even if she suggested it, Nishi is a trained and very experienced jounin. As she started mentioning the withdrawal, the chuunin’s train of thought indeed went there, only to be caught completely unaware by the sudden punch. Coughing a bit, Hikari remained bent downwards for a moment, glancing towards Alsanna as she listened to what she said.
”That’s true.” She muttered quietly, remembering her own words to Nishi about the state between the two of them. After a moment, she slowly straightened herself, simply offering a brief nod before looking towards Nishi.
”Don’t need much teamwork? Just because you think you know her weaknesses doesn’t mean you can actually get to use it against them! And you keep calling me the dumb one.” Hikari said, rolling her eyes a bit.

Half turned to her pupils, Nishi seemed far from interested in eavesdropping on her students. Checking the nails of her right hand, her sight was torn and thrown as a sideways glance at Hikari and Alsanna. ”And the big mouth starts running, as expected,” Nishi stated out loud, audible for the girls - as if the jounin desired it so.
Turning fully to the girls, Nishi would calmly return to her previous spot as she placed her hands behind her back.
”You two had a chance to conjure a theory on how to fight me. I am now all ears. Come on, let me hear what kind of well-thought stratagem you two have managed to construct together.” Nishi instructed, waiting to hear what they would bring up.

For a moment, Alsanna just stared at her teacher before conferring the stink-eye to her colleague and then veering back to the jounin. An eyebrow was raised, “You want me to tell you my secret ingredients just like that? But then if we have to put it into practice, it won’t work. Sounds a little ... ” she gestured about as if finding her words, “Smooth brained.” with the unpleasant expression chosen, she pointed her index finger in the direction of Nishi.
Why not just execute the plan? If we agree to no blood. Or at least, very little. Although,” a stare was directed toward Hikari, “I fear my stratagems tend to be easily foiled by incompetency.” her parasol was readied and set over her shoulder while he free hand had two of her feather-blades locked between her fingers, “We can discuss theory after, I’ve already got my hypothesis.

Returning the stare back to Alsanna, Hikari briefly remained silent as her teammate finished talking ”Trust me, you haven’t seen the true scale of incompetency that we have.” The chuunin remarked, looking at Alsanna ”Or perhaps it's more of a scale of idiocy. Either way,” Hikari turned to look at Nishi.
”As much as I am annoyed by her right now, Alsanna does have a point. What she suggested is more of a show and don’t tell. Though if that fails, we’ll be moving onto my suggestion. And you know me, I’m not the most strategic person.” Hikari said, moving her gaze between Nishi and Alsanna as she spoke.

Nishi didn’t respond right away but just allowed a few seconds of silence to dawn in before she gave her answer. ”It is because if your plan is a mess, I can intervene without us all wasting effort on something that is bound to fail anyways. Unless you desire to gain bruises, I won’t mind providing those. However,” Nishi stated, ”Neither of you have proven to be competent in conjuring strategies. Or in any case, haven’t convinced me that you’re capable when facing an opponent that outclasses you.”
Performing a vague gesture to her pupils, Nishi continued, ”it also allows me to correct you two in any mistake. And point out why it is a mistake. You may have seen me in battle. But do you know how many techniques or abilities I possess?” Nishi shifted her focus briefly on Hikari before already turning to Alsanna as the answer was obvious. ”Your technique allowed you some insights. But you are still grasping at straws, despite your constant show of bravado. Clever as you consider yourself, you are inexperienced when it comes to facing someone like me.”

Now the woman crossed her arms out in front of her chest, as if she was done schooling the two of them and wanted to get down to the results. ”Besides, I am most disappointed. I never said you are prohibited to lie, if you are so certain you can deceive and fool me. We aren’t samurai, must I remind you two? Honourable conduct isn’t something we need to adhere to or are expected to. So,” Nishi’s right eyebrow perked up slightly, ”are we still going to question my teachings and enter a debate that will eat away your precious training time. Or are we going to follow what I set out to help you improve you two?”

Bruises are fine.” she dryly responded before hurling one of her feather-blades with a flick of her fingers. It would actually miss Nishi no matter what happened unless she purposely got in the aim, although the blade would aim to cut a couple of strands of hair if she remained immobile. “You haven’t had a chance to show any strategies yet, rendering your remark null. Besides, my crowd-control methods worked wonders on the chaff.” with that said, she flung the second blade into the earth, right between the duo and the teacher, leaving it planted there for no discernable reason.
Put me at the edge of death if need be, but I’m not going to learn shit by more dogshit theory. I won’t know most of my enemy’s shit, and you certainly do not know the extent of my stuff either, Sensei,” the dragged her tone when mentioning ‘sensei’, making the sarcasm and taunting more evident, “so here’s a compromise.
Suddenly, the parasol she’d twirl around her wrist would disassemble itself, taking on its notched-whip form which she’d immediately crack and direct toward Nishi, aiming to actually bind one of her lower limbs with it, “We do both! Save a fuck-load of time, we debate while we try to outplay ourselves! Like an educational fiiiiieeeeeeld trip!” she snickered, blue eyes peering over to Hikari to see if she’d follow through.

Keeping her attention on Nishi, the blonde chuunin remained silent, letting her teammate also talk. While Alsanna seemed to suggest one thing, Hikari didn’t entirely feel it was the right way.
”No, I don’t know all of your capabilities or techniques. Same about my teammate here.” She began speaking, moving her gaze between the two ”And I won’t go beating around the bush. I would rather follow through with Nishi than waste more time. I personally want to learn and improve any judgement calls I make and understand better why and how something can work better or worse.”
Moving to fix her gaze on Nishi, Hikari continued speaking ”The tactic I had in mind was one that would be reliant on you avoiding close contact with Alsanna. Seeing the techniques I do know she has, and that you are aware of too, I imagined you would try and avoid direct contact with her. So while we are both ‘attempting’ to go at you, I would also be setting up a trap, by having your focus be on Alsanna. Simple trap, beginning with a pair of blinding tags to impair your vision, either by you blocking it or by being caught in it, followed by shuriken with wires to wrap around you and bind you that way. As soon as that is done, ensure your arms are separated, cover your mouth and eyes with cloth.”
After she finished explaining her own tactic, she turned her gaze to Alsanna, trying to make it clear with just her eyes that she felt this was the right thing to do.


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[ Lord Uchiha's Gardens | Kanazawa, Uchiha Clanlands, Empire of Akino ]
[ Hirasuke Uchiha and Resu Senju ]
[ A collab between @Oetje and @Nim ]
[ The Senju Envoy arrives at the Uchiha capital, to have a meeting with Lord Uchiha's representative. A couple of matters are discussed, with some proposals being made, before the meeting is concluded. ]

With a calm pace, Hirasuke walked towards the meeting place. The gardens of the Lord Uchiha were a sight that provided a soothing sensation for Hirasuke. Over the past month, many meetings were held within this prestigious place. Today, however, it wouldn’t be a meeting with other Uchiha nobility or influential individuals within the Uchiha heartlands.
The Senju envoy was received with the proper decorum, befitting an old ally of the Uchiha. Nothing that betrayed what some of the Uchiha thought: if an alliance with the Senju was actually still feasible with all that had occured.

The fact that the envoy wasn’t led by the Senju leader meant that the meeting should be placed close to the entrance - for how higher up the garden and hill, the more prestige the Uchiha were willing to bestow on the visitor. A certain sentimental arrangement had been considered but Hirasuke had denied it.
Nearing the place, Hirasuke inspected it with a small smile. A table was set within the shadow of a large plum tree. Luckily, the weather was pleasant and temperatures were far more tolerant than the cold winter.
Taking a seat, Hirasuke subtle gestured to a servant that the Senju’s diplomat could be retrieved and guided to the tranquilant setting. Not to mention, that tea and other warm beverages could be prepared now - in order to prevent them from getting cold.

The travel to the Uchiha heartlands had been a rather peaceful trip for the Senju envoy, and they would arrive with a very visible gift. One that appeared to be numerous barrels, all containing either olives or olive oil, the finest of the most recent batch the Senju had produced.
While the gifts were handed over, Resu was escorted to the garden, and was led to a tree plum near the entrance. There he saw Hirasuke and the table that had been arranged for them. While he had seen the man in previous meetings, both in the Taika and Imperial clans, he did not talk to him privately.
After approaching him with the servant, Resu offered a respectable and deep bow towards Hirasuke ”Thank you for agreeing to meet with me and offering this breath-taking place to meet at, master Uchiha.” He stated, before raising from the bow and taking a further look around, taking the view near them in. Looking back at Hirasuke, Resu sat in the other seat ”I hope things have been well for you and your clan in recent times.”

Hirasuke patiently awaited the arrival of the Senju. Upon the Senju’s arrival, a disarming smile flowed on the Uchiha’s lips as he said nothing. A subtle hand gesture summoned forth a few servants with silver plates - on which various beverages were readied, together with some refreshments to stave off any hunger.
"Master Senju," Hirasuke began, with a polite and respectful tone, "The Uchiha clan is most pleased with your arrival. But before we begin, I must state that we have inspected your gifts. And it is the wish of my lord that you take them back when you return to your lands," Hirasuke calmly picked a glass filled with water, sprinkled with some lemon. Taking a small sip, he would elaborate further afterwards.
"I understand that your people and leader desire a healthy relationship with the Uchiha. However, many powerful individuals within our clan have our doubts of the Senju. Certainly seeing how our last few exchanges have been concluded." Fixating his gaze upon Resu, Hirasuke offered once more the disarming smile of before.
"After all, I think you understand that it isn’t a fair relationship if we aren’t honest with each other, correct?"

As the servants brought forth the various refreshments, Resu opted to go for a gentle mint tea. Taking a small sip as he kept his eyes on Hirasuke, he nodded, understanding what the Uchiha had meant. His clan, specifically, was the one to blame for how things had turned out. Putting the teacup on the table as Hirasuke finished, Resu offered his own smile in return.
”Perfectly understandable, master Uchiha. Once we conclude our talk here, I will do as you requested. And indeed, our last few exchanges have not gone well, particularly due to my people's deeds and words.” Resu spoke, shaking his head slightly as the smile went away, with Resu’s expression turning into a more neutral one ”That is the main reason this envoy has been sent to meet you, as I reckon you have already determined. It is very unfortunate how things have unfolded. And it comes of no surprise to hear of the doubt within the clan, regarding the Senju, due to these actions.”
Resu took another sip from his tea before continuing ”While the gifts have been one additional attempt to have a show of good faith from the Senju, I do come with the blessing of my lord to seek other ways in which we may work together to once more reaffirm our alliance of old. I do not believe anyone expects this to occur overnight, but to at least begin talks, and see where we can go.” He said, fixing his gaze on Hirasuke.

Hearing Resu out, Hirasuke took another sip of his drink. Slowly and softly, some music would resonate and bring calming tunes into the spacious gardens.
"I and others within Lord Uchiha’s court have managed to guess some of your intentions. Not to mention, we have been watching from the sideline on how the, hm, how to call it," pausing Hirasuke seemingly pondered, his gaze for a mere moment cast to the sky before moving back to Resu, "Scuffle with the Tokugawa clan. A most unfortunate affair, I believe. Certainly seeing the fact that my Lord has entered an alliance with them."
Letting the news sink in, Hirasuke would slightly frown.
"Alliances of old, you say? Master Senju, back in those days we were forced to survive. Nowadays, alliances are mere formal statements of corporations. Besides, correct me if I am wrong, but how many times has the Senju come for the Uchiha?" Despite formulating a question, Hirasuke raised his left index finger to indicate that he wasn’t done yet.
"I think I can count those events on a single hand. Whereas my kin have bled and died for Senju ambitions, fighting the likes of Chonobi without any hesitation. Even though it was a necessity to put those barbarians to the sword, we have no quarrel with them. Let alone be ruled over by a young pup. So, if we are honest, how will we be equal allies?"

Taking in what Hirasuke has said, Resu drank a bit more from his tea. The music in the background that began playing was a pleasant addition. Once Hirasuke asked his question, Resu lowered his cup.
”Indeed, back in those days things were different. Now we are all under a single realm, a single ruler. And while things are less than calm with the Tokugawa, we have started to work to show we do not wish to continue our scuffle with them, as you put it. Now, as for the question about being equal allies?” Resu put the cup back on the table, his expression remaining neutral, but his gaze still fixed on the Uchiha ”If we are being honest, it is likely something that will take much effort from my clan, my people's side. As a clan who have gone through several things in recent months, we certainly need to rebuild many things..” Resu nodded once before continuing to talk.
”There are many things I can offer, on behalf of my clan, but none would matter if the Senju cannot rebuild the trust that was lost first. That is why, as a first step to be seen as equal allies once more, I wished to propose an idea. One which will have the Uchiha and Senju work together, and promote the Taika culture.”
Taking another sip from his tea, Resu smiled once more ”A college, one dedicated to the many different things that are under the Taika culture. To be managed by the Uchiha and built by the Senju, with the design of the structures worked upon together by both. This will not only be a show of trust by the Senju towards the Uchiha, but also a way to strengthen the Taika status in the land, and by working on this, stand together as equals.”

Once more, Hirasuke took a sip from his beverage. While he had his thoughts on the response and ideas of the Senju, Hirasuke politely waited for the other to be done. "It is an interesting suggestion, Master Senju," Hirasuke began, "But one that I fail to see as a way to promote our clan’s cooperation. Or removing the doubts from some of my kin, that your clan is simply out to enjoy our services for free."
Pausing, Hirasuke then shook his head lightly. "I don’t think I can support such an idea, nor will my Lord, without a doubt. Allow me to propose something else," Hirasuke started. "Your lord is young but too young to serve as a pupil of proper political upbringings. If your clan is truly willing to be a friend of the Uchiha, it would be much more fruitful for your ambitions to offer your lord’s heir and other children to be raised in my Lord’s court. We will, obviously, take well care of them. But if we are given such a responsibility, we can be certain that your clan isn’t simply enjoying our labour. Your clan’s future leader will be able to understand and more efficiently negotiate with us. In return, we also have a value that you don’t desire to lose."
Hirasuke enlisted yet another pause before continuing.
"Obviously, I am well aware that this is a steep… price, to suggest. But in order to see our clans being remotely close to what they once were, steep hurdles need to be conquered and dealt with."

Listening to the proposal, Resu certainly felt it was a rather steep one. But without any shift in his expression, he simply nodded once ”Allow me to first state that as this proposal is about the children, I will not be able to simply accept it on the behalf of my clan. It would be remiss of me to do so. But I certainly see what you mean.”
Taking a sip from his tea, Resu fixed his gaze upon Hirasuke once more ”It would likely only be better if I were to hear more details about the proposal. How long do you wish to look after them? Will they be able to see family here or to go back home? Every small detail can aid me with selling this proposal to my lord and the clan.” He stated.
”And if I may, the idea of the college should not be completely dismissed. Perhaps my presentation of it currently has not been the best, but I do believe that if we were to discuss it further, we can yet develop it into something that will help push both sides, cooperation and trust, forward.” Resu said, before putting his cup on the table once more, and picking up a small biscuit from a plate.

Allowing Resu to respond on his turn, Hirasuke had his own thoughts regarding the matter. However, he had to follow the guidelines that Lord Uchiha had put up for him. And disappointing Shozo Uchiha was a peril that Hirasuke wasn’t keen to explore.
"Of course. I reckon you don’t have the authority to decide for your liege’s heirs or children. Nor do I reckon that my own lord is in a hurry to receive a response in return,” Hirasuke replied, the disarming smile of before dawning once more on his lips.
"They will remain for five years in our care. Perhaps a bit longer if they desire so or if there is a cause for it. Naturally, they should be allowed to receive family. They aren’t prisoners, Master Senju. We have no need to keep Senju as wards or prisoners. After all, we offer one of the best educations that can be found on the mainland. Your lord should be reminded of that, if he has forgotten that the Uchiha have proven their worth and skills.” The last sentence was paired with a subtle tone of disappointment, as Hirasuke even frowned to emphasise that he wasn’t keen on being questioned by someone of inferior status or clan origin.
"Frankly, regarding the college, I see no worth. We have our centres of learning. To invest money in another that is shared with someone that isn’t our equal wouldn’t be fair, for us. It is one thing to cultivate trust and education but it is a total different creature to request money and support to grant you a centre of learning. I highly doubt I can sell anything of the sort to Lord Uchiha.”

Eating the biscuit as he listened to Hirasuke, Resu was a bit disappointed at the end note, regarding the college, but kept his expression neutral ”Very well. And I apologize if it was inconvenient for you to answer my questions. It is simply so I will be capable of going back and presenting this as the more open and welcoming option, compared to another one which was proposed to all the clans not long ago.” He explained.
”If there will be any further questions, I am certain it will be Lord Senju himself who will come to ask them. He was unable to come to meet you at this time due to meeting with one of the Empress’s operatives, from the Tiger Claws. Trying to help calm things down between the Senju and Tokugawa.” Resu said, nodding a bit as he approved of his Lord’s choice of priorities at this time.
Looking at Hirasuke, Resu seemed to ponder on something briefly before speaking up again ”There was something else I was hoping to discuss with you. As you know well, the Senju silk farms have suffered at the hands of the still unknown assailants. While we are already doing our best to rebuild, I know my Lord has been worried. And knowing how well your clan is doing with the high quality silks, I was hoping to ask if the Uchiha would be open for trading, or selling, some of the silks. Any specifics would not need to be discussed at this moment, I am simply inquiring to see if the option would be available for us.” He asked, maintaining his neutral expression as he spoke.

"Lord Senju is most welcome to visit us. In fact, it would have given a better representation of the Senju’s desire to rebuild relations as you have stated, Master Senju,” Hirasuke replied calmly. Emptying his cup with a last sip, Hirasuke released a satisfied but soft sigh.
Noticing that Resu was pondering something, Hirasuke awaited to hear what the other had to say. When the proposal was offered, Hirasuke shook his head subtly.
"No. I regret to say that we wouldn’t. You are a commercial rival, Master Senju, regarding the silk trade. While we Uchiha are most sorry for your losses, it isn’t something we desire to resolve either. Even if we have gathered some information and gained some knowledge regarding the whole affair. Alas, Lord Uchiha has strictly forbidden us to share our silk.”

”And that is perfectly understandable. Nevertheless, I had to try. For the sake of my people.” Resu said.
Finishing his cup of tea, he put it back on the table and looked at Hirasuke ”Well then, I believe that concludes all the matters I had needed and wanted to bring forth to the Uchiha. Any other topics will come with my Lord, as soon as he is capable.” The Senju told the Uchiha, before standing up ”I thank you and your clan for the hospitality and for this meeting, Master Uchiha. Should we meet again, may it be under happier circumstances.” Resu said, offering a respectable deep bow as he did.

Hirasuke remained seated, even gesturing to a servant with his empty cup. As the servant abidded and refilled Hirasuke’s cup, the latter watched as Resu rose from his seat. Deciding not to remind the Senju of etiquette and what breaches had just been made, Hirasuke found it more curious that the Senju didn’t even attempt to question more about what evidence had been found. Perhaps the Senju had lighted their own farms, in order to something equal to a publicity stunt? Hirasuke flashed a smile to the Senju, only subtly lowering his head as a returning bow.
"Indeed so, Master Senju. I wish you good luck with your endeavours.” Hirasuke politely replied before taking a sip of his tea, watching Resu taking his leave.


"Teddy Bears never forget."
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[ The Battle of Jinseong | Sevudia, eastern continent ]
[ The 10th and 12th Imperial Brigade | Holding the crossing ]
[ Hiron Hon | Major General of the Third Imperial Division, Leader of Team 9 ]

Hiron grunted as he raised the round shield. The heavy vibration went through his arm but didn't deter the Hon from pushing back as in a fluid motion; his blade thrust forwards. The sharp steel drove deep into the Rongese chest. A pained gasp escaped Hiron's foe's lips before he collapsed to the ground as blood started to pour out of the deep wound.
Panting, Hiron glanced at the scenery in front of him. The enemy ranks were crashing upon them - their numbers outweighing the Akinians by far.
Wounded and dead started to fill up space on the ground, the majority being the Rongese as the Akinian shield wall held firm. Several times a group of Akinians bravely pushed the Rongese back to recover one of their wounded before falling back.
Arrow volleys filled the air, whizzing past as angry wasps. Shouts of officers from both sides filled the air as the grim fighting continued without a clear winner.

Hiron noticed plums of distant smoke up in the air, a grin split the sweaty, and blood covered the face of Hiron. Hopefully, that was the 13th Imperial Brigade doing their job.
"Slowly," Hiron shouted, slamming the flat of his blade against the shield. "Slowly!"
The odd command was repeated as the Akinian frontline started to bulge in the centre, backwards - the Rongese eagerly pushing further with all their might. The ground was surely but slowly being given up as the wall of Imperial steel, wood and flesh. Chants from the enemy side started to fill the air as a frenzy seemed to occur in their midst.
From his position, Hiron noticed something amid the brutes charging with their crude weapons. Figures clad in red cloaks, in a circle like formation, halted just outside the river bank.
"Fucking arseholes," the major general softly cursed as he pointed at the formation. "Captain Drent," Hiron shouted as he already started to jog forwards. "With me! Take those fuckers out!"
The stern Yakimara captain shoved a dying Rongese from his shield as he noticed Hiron moving forwards. Raising his spear in the air, the captain shouted orders to several of his subordinates before following their leader.

The ranks of Akinian soldiers made way for their general and Drent's soldiers as they came charging through. Hiron was the first to slam his shield and weight in a Rongese before swinging his weapon around. Slowly, a breach was made in the Rongese formation - the fierce counter charge taking them back for a mere moment.
"Kyoi," Hiron shouted as he blocked a mace blow. "Red Cloaks! Fuck 'em!" The Hon ordered as he pushed his attacker back and immediately retaliated. "Don't let them fuckin' finish their shite!"

The Rongese started a renewed attempt to push the sudden Imperial saliant backwards as more of Drent's soldiers moved in to provide some cover for Kyoi's squad. The circle of Red Cloaks started to turn to each other as each Red Cloak formed a handsign, an eerie sensation radiating from them.


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[ ??? | Sevudia ]
[ The Foot Companions | A Battalion of the 13th Brigade ]

[ Koike Hon | Scholae and colonel of the Foot Companions ]

Sitting slowly down, Koike released a soft sigh. For the past few days, the Foot Companions ironically lived up to their name. They had travelled northwards and hadn't encountered any noteworthy enemy. Granted, the scouting parties had reported tracks going eastwards - which indicated that the enemy was either pulling forces away to prepare for a counterattack. Or it could be some other kind of movement. In truth, Koike wasn't sure what to think anymore.
The sudden disappearance of the other detachments of the 13th Imperial Brigade was odd. Nobody had raised the question, but Koike was certain; it was on everyone's mind. Where were their brothers in arms? And why had they left without letting them know?
Taking in the sight of his men set up camp, Koike wondered what he could do. His options weren't grand, either way.

"Another day of just marching forwards," Katsu's voice resonated before he came in sight and sat next to Koike. A heavy sigh escaped the Uchiha as he also glanced at the scenery in front of them. The ambience of the environment around them is a familiar matter by now. "So, how long before we reach the others if we keep this up?"

Koike thought about it for a moment. "Roughly a week if we have some luck and aren't slow down. That's if we go further northwards," he replied. The answer brought a moment of silence between the two as Katsu then broke the silence.
"You aren't thinking of going eastwards, are you?" His voice betrayed his thoughts; he didn't like that option.
"I am," Koike replied, calmer than he had anticipated himself. "It is all great and all to reunite with the others of the division. But I want to know where the other parts of the 13th went, and it is odd that they just left."

Katsu huffed as he crossed his arms out front of his chest. "Screw them anyways. If we go back, we can reunite with Aiko-sensei. Why would we not do that instead?"
Koike didn't reply immediately. Katsu's doubt and prefered choice wasn't a bad one. Reuniting with Aiko did sound much better than going into unknown territory. Perhaps he could catch up with the likes of Kazumo as well. That wouldn't be too bad, Koike mused.
But something was compelling him to prefer the east over the north. The fact that the honour of the 13th Imperial Brigade was at stake. The others had expected that they would aid the Jirians in taking over the fortress of Balagan, which they did. Now it was up to them to find and understand what happened to those who had left.
"We go east," Koike stated, and he shot a meaningful look sideways, already spotting Katsu's lips parting and a frown forming on the Uchiha's brow. "And that is it."
Katsu's lips were firmly planted on each other, his eyes narrowing. Without saying a word, the boy rose and walked away, leaving Koike alone.

Throwing a look over his shoulder, Koike felt somewhat wrong. He understood that Katsu wanted to reunite with the others and perhaps know how they were doing. But there would be, hopefully, a better time and place for that.


The following day, the men were eager to break up camp. Koike waited as the few captains rallied at his tent to learn what the decision would be. In silence, they waited for their colonel to state what direction they would go.
"I know the question has been on your mind for a few days now," Koike began as he moved his gaze over the present captains, "And I have thought what would be best. Seeing the odd situation, I have decided the following."
A pause was enlisted as Koike realised that this was his last chance. Slowly nodding, he then spoke up.
"We go east."
No protest came from the captains, and they even seemed visibly relieved and eager. Especially Skuli, the burly man, was grinning widely as his thumbs were hooked behind his belt.
"Captain Torrad. Send some of your men to hurry northwards quickly. Inform the Major General of our business and what we are aiming for."
Torrad subtly moved his head to emphasise he agreed or understood the order. However, captain Hallr cleared his throat before he spoke.
"Colonel, what about our supplies, though? If we go east without establishing contact or gaining approval of the Major General, we won't receive anything from the 9th."

Koike sighed as he was aware of that conundrum. "We will have to make do with what we can. I want foraging parties to be made by our best. The bulk of our force will remain together. Now," raising his right hand slightly, Koike locked his eyes with captain Hallr, "I understand that I am asking a lot from you all. Any man unwilling to come with us can travel northwards. But I intend to figure out why Erling has left us. And if need be, safeguard the honour of the 13th. Are you with me?"

A silence dawned among them for a second before they all stepped forwards.
It was decided then. They would go east.


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[ The Battle of Jinseong | Sevudia | Eastern Continent ]
[ Saki Yamanaka ]
[ Second in command of the Tiger Claws | Specialised Jounin | Captain Major of the Guardians ]
[ "I will allow it." ]

The Tiger Strikes with its Claw.

Saki's eyes narrowed. The grip on her bow tightened as she remained in the shadows. A cold rage was burning inside of her, a monster that demanded Rongese blood to be shed. To tear their hearts out for what they had taken from her.
The Tiger Claws underneath her command were waiting for her signal. It was true; their numbers wouldn't amount to a battalion or even a full-strength company. However, they weren't ordinary soldiers. Each of the Tiger Claws of Saki had a reason to hate the Rongese. All of them were ready to give their lives happily if it meant to take at least two dozen of the bastards with them.
Seeing through the foliage, the pale blue eyes of Saki spotted the column of Rongese troops. The enemy's plan was clear - to safeguard their flanks from not allowing the Imperials or Senju to push. However, they weren't aware that the Imperials had already circled them - as a hungry vulture saw its dying prey.

Picking an arrow from her quiver, Saki notched the projectile. Patiently she waited till more of the Rongese came in sight. Though their enemy marched in a long column, their lack of discipline was noticeable. Many weren't even marching at the same pace or held tight formation. Some even sludged and seemed far from motivated for the imminent fight they were expecting.
Cries suddenly pierced the air as arrows plunged in various individuals. Arrows continued to pierce the air, pelting the column of Rongese soldiers.

Drawing another arrow, Saki narrowed her eyes. Unleashing the projectile, she didn't even bother to watch if it would hit. Notching another, she already aimed at another Rongese that seemed confused by the sudden rain of death upon him and his comrades.
Various Rongese did manage to find shelter and attempted to fire arrows back. But the desperate attempts yielded no success as they missed or the armour of the Tiger Claws did their job, deflecting the missiles.

Firing another arrow, Saki noticed how the Rongese started to scatter as they shouted in their abysmal tongue. The cold anger wanted to drive Saki to go on the hunt - to keep the rush going.
Raising her right hand, Saki made a few gestures that heralded a sharp whistle - followed by more. The rain of arrows halted as figures clad in dark grey armour rushed forwards. The foilage briefly rustled as the scattered Rongese searched for their assailants.
Shouts then emerged as various Rongese were taken down by Tiger Claws, storming from multiple spots. The attacks were short and lethal, not allowing the Rongese soldiers to retaliate before the responsible Tiger Claws seemed to vanish in nowhere.
Confused and afraid, the Rongese soldiers started to run, but death seemed to close behind them - relentless and ruthless.


Saki looked down on the man. The wheezing betrayed his pain, the desperation apparent in his features as he attempted to crawl away still. The Rongese soldier dragged his legs behind him as Saki had cut his tendons. Somewhere she felt wrong for enjoying the suffering, but more so, she felt justified.
Calmly Saki walked next to the man as he shouted something in his tongue. Knowing precisely the words that he cried for help or salvation, Saki didn't end him. Enjoying his attempts to find some sort of aid in his last moments before she was going to send him to the Abyss, Saki crouched next to him, her blade in a morbid gesture to halt his motion.
"Go on, cry out," Saki softly said in Rénese, a soft smile crossing her face. A smile without any absolute joy. "I will allow it."
The soldier's eyes widened as his lips parted, pure fear visible in his eyes. Before he could, Saki rose and used her blade to carve a gash in his throat in a fluid motion.
"I am waiting," she stated, watching how the man struggled as blood flowed in his trachea, the ironic death of choking in his lifeblood.

"They are all dead," the voice of Hilde resonated, blood and mud covering her armour. More Tiger Claws became visible as they awaited what the following command was going to be.
"Ready for the push. More Rongese blood will be shed today."


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[ The Battle of Jinseong | Sevudia | Eastern Continent ]
[ Aiko Cho-Hon ]
[ Brigade General of the 11th Imperial Brigade | Leader of Team 8 | Cho Clan Leader ]

Plums of smoke started to become visible. The signals that the detachments of the 11th Imperial Brigade and Senju clan forces had achieved their goal. Seated on her mount, Aiko felt a wave of relief as her gaze fixated in a particular direction. A direction where she knew Kazumo and the Gwade Rangers had to take out their targets. Her stomach turned by the thought that he could be wounded, perhaps even worse. The mere thought made the corner of Aiko's lips twist downwards. Her right hand moved to the hilt of her blade. Slowly she drew her weapon as others behind her did the same.
It was time now for the final push and corner the enemy, to shed their blood and claim victory.

Spurring her horse to move forwards, Aiko leaned slightly forwards. No battle cry left their lips. The ground tremored softly as the hooves of the formation of horse riders picked up their speed.
Racing through the fields, the cavalry of the 11th Imperial brigade fanned out. Their banners held high, proudly rippling in the pace of their riders.
Charging over the hills and through the small foliage, Aiko and her riders saw the camp of the Rongese. Suddenly the air was pierced with their battle cries as the Akinian horse charge slammed into the large encampment.
Swinging her blade, Aiko's steel sliced a helpless Rongese in the back. Throwing a look at her right, she watched how more enemies got trampled and hacked down. Various Akinian riders used a technique to start a fire before riding on.

Soon enough, however, many of the Rongese attempted to fight back. More and more Akinians started to drive their foes further into the encampment, leaving a trail of destruction and death behind them.
Deflecting a jab from a short spear, Aiko held the reins with her left hand firmly. Using her blade, she slammed the enemy's following up spear jab away to prevent it from reaching her mount.
Before either could respond, the Rongese spearman was slammed to the ground and trampled by a charging Akinian horseman. The result was earning a soft sigh from Aiko as she glanced once more around her to observe the situation.
Raising her weapon, she shouted a command in Chonobi that her officers repeated. Not soon after did the Akinians start to withdraw from the Rongese encampment, vanishing into the smoke of their fires.

Driving her mount back to the hills and woodland, Aiko threw a look over her shoulder. Various horns were blown to alert the main force that their camp was under attack. If all went to plan, that meant the Rongese facing off the 10th, and 12th Imperial brigade would detach a portion of their forces to defend their camp.
And then the other contingents of the 11th, as the Senju clan forces, could launch their attacks.
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[ Kirigakure | Capital of the Jirou Authority ]
[ Operation: Grey Falcon ]
Miyoshi Yuki | ANBU operative ]

[ "For your cooperation~." ]

Situated at her desk, Miyoshi placed the few folders down. A light sigh escaped her lips as she sat down on the chair. She hadn't been too long back in Kirigakure after her last mission, or a new one was assigned to her. However, this one was somewhat intriguing. She was to find a whole team back - a regular unit with not so ordinary folk being part of it.
Light steam gently rose from Miyoshi's bowl of donburi. The scent of simmering meat, fish and vegetables together served with rice in a bowl was soothing.
Enjoying a bite from her meal, Miyoshi dug in the first profile. The leader of the missing team was nobody less than Mika Hayashi. A renowned kunoichi, having served in the ANBU during the more grim regimes. Also, the person who initiated the Revolution brought down the previous administrations, which was used as a springboard for the nation to reform itself. Interestingly enough, public knowledge was spread that Mika was imprisoned or executed for various war crimes against her fellow countrymen. But now that Miyoshi was aware Mika was likely alive, she figured it was done by the brass to ensure some sense of security.
Reading upon what Mika's profile stated about her combat skills and known techniques, Miyoshi softly whistled. It wasn't any surprise that the woman was an extremely skilled kunoichi, and there was a reason why she had been ranked as an ANBU captain and was entrusted with a jinchuriki. Miyoshi held no doubt in her mind that crossing Mika wasn't something many would survive.

Proceeding to the next, Miyoshi couldn't help but frown a little. Aya Oda, the supposedly remaining Oda that was loyal to the Jirian Authority. Then again, she and her brother Kiro Oda were the only ones left from the Oda massacre. In terms of skills or progress, there wasn't much that impressed Miyoshi. Which was fair, she mused, as the girl hadn't likely been given a genuine chance - being the jinchuriki of the Six Tailed Bijuu a significant factor. Miyoshi then remembered something.
"Oh yeah, that one went on a rampage. Curious," Miyoshi whispered after clearing her mouth. Taking another bite from her donburi, Miyoshi continued reading.
There wasn't much else that piqued Miyoshi's attention in Aya's profile. Save it that she had survived a kidnap attempt before. Perhaps Aya's luck would run out soon? With the girl being a jinchuriki, Miyoshi was confident that it made it easier to relocate and track the team. Bijuu chakra wasn't in abundance, luckily.

Passing on to the next member, Miyoshi was surprised to see that an Akechi was part of the team. Certainly, with a Hayashi being the leader, Miyoshi continued. An even bigger surprise was finding out that this Kayleen Akechi was nobody less than the daughter of Lord Akechi. Was Lord Akechi brought up to date that his daughter potentially was missing or worse? Miyoshi doubted it. Likely the brass wanted to spin little white lies while they sent out operatives to ensure the girl was alive and could be brought back.
"Perhaps even getting desperate, pfft," Miyoshi mused out loud, slightly amused that she could very well be the one to rescue the top from a furious Akechi clan retaliation. As if there wasn't enough pressure to relocate and perhaps bring back the unit, with a jinchuriki being present.

Going on, Miyoshi read the profile of Sugishimo Masageru. The guy wasn't a jinchuriki or part of any noble lineage. Born and raised in a more simple setting, Miyoshi felt it was a tad endearing if he was surrounded by individuals from known clans and having something that already made them exceptional.
The only curious part was that Sugishimo had been apart from another team that had been under the leadership of another Hayashi. Some Neime, Miyoshi read. Nevertheless, there was nothing in his profile that made Miyoshi condemn him. Just a simple genin caught up in the machinations of more considerable powers. Nothing out of the ordinary, sadly.

Continuing her lunch, Miyoshi closed the profile of Sugishimo. Pondering how she would try to locate the team, the first step was to go after the few hints that the operation briefing had given her.
The team had last been spotted boarding a vessel that was bound northwards.


Arriving at the docks, it was per usual busy. The commerce that flowed in Kirigakure from the port was a location never suffering a dull moment. Large and small ships sailed in and were inspected, trade wares carried out, or specialized cranes were utilized to aid in the process.
Soldiers, sailors, merchants, day tellers and prostitutes occupied the streets as they went on their business. Blending with the crowd in more casual garb, Miyoshi found one of the individuals who inspected and recorded where ships came and went.

"Yes?" The man was older than Miyoshi, the grey streaks in his hair betraying this fact.
"I would like to know where a certain vessel went," Miyoshi began as she gave the name and waited for the details. However, the man threw a wary look at her.
"Sorry, dove, but I don't have time to search in the logs for a random ship. If you want someone to be bothered, go and visit one of the offices so that,--"
Miyoshi flashed a polite smile as she pulled out a sort of badge. The symbol of the ANBU division was quickly recognized, causing the man's skin to turn pale. "Please, I don't have much patience today. Your cooperation would be appreciated, sir."
"Y-Yes, of course. One moment, ma'am."

Although the ANBU division was less cruel nowadays with the current regime, there was plenty of reasons why the common folk still were wary and terrified of them. The past wasn't that easily erased, despite the best efforts of some individuals, Miyoshi thought to herself.
Placing the badge away, Miyoshi patiently waited as the man went through his logs.
"This is all I know. I am hoping it is enough to sate your curiosity, ma'am. I can else take a---" he said, but Miyoshi calmly raised a hand to cut him off.
"It is okay. I know enough. Thanks."
Turning on her heels, Miyoshi halted mid-motion. Turning half towards the man, she flashed another polite smile. "For your cooperation~," she said, tossing a coin towards him before taking her leave.

It seemed that she had to travel northwards....​

This rice bowl dish is almost as popular as ramen in Japan and a common lunchtime choice among busy Japanese workers. Donburi is made by preparing (typically by simmering or frying) various meat, fish and vegetables and serving over steamed rice in large bowls (also called 'donburi'). While donburi can be made using just about any assortment of ingredients, the most common types include oyakodon (simmered chicken, egg, and green onion), gyudon (sliced beef and onion simmered in a soy sauce soup base), tendon (fried tempura pieces drizzled in tsuyu), and katsudon (breaded and deep-fried pork cutlets, or tonkatsu, simmered in tsuyu with onion and egg).


Peace is a lie, there is only passion.
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Fantasy, Modern, Horror, Combat, War
Sugi and the Whisperer
Location: unknown Island cave

Being on the island proper now, Sugi looked around curiously at the scenery of the beach gently meeting the flora proper. At first he thought it was just a nagging feeling as he looked upwards towards the mountain that adorned the island but it was like a faint whisper. It was like when you mistake an internal thought for someone speaking. Curious, Sugi felt drawn to a nearby path that appeared to trail up the side of the mountain. He aimlessly trotted the path, looking around as that faint whisper got louder. It became clear that he was not imagining it now for it wasn’t even his voice. The genin looked left and right but all he could see was vibrant hues of flowers and shrubbery and the varied sounds of living creatures.

He eventually came upon a cave after vaulting up a short ledge. It was pitch black as if light wasn’t allowed to enter. Sugi’s heart raced, he dreaded going underground in any sense and a cave fit the bill. His legs twitched, trembling but he pressed on. The whispering grew louder and louder still as he entered the wound driven into the cave, sounding as if they were bouncing off the interior walls. After a few fearful minutes the darkness was betrayed by a far off light down aways. Sugi focused on that and continued towards as the whispers suddenly stopped once the light touched his skin.

The light would eventually reveal a spacious round room. On the walls numerous glyps, runes and other signs were drawn into the wall. The red stone room was illuminated by various candles placed in various locations that provided a pleasant atmosphere. There was some furniture present that provided some comfort for whoever dwelled in this site. Interestingly enough, in the centre was a pillar that seemed to support the whole room. Around the pillar one could see various altars being placed. Some had the same unknown signs and symbols that adorned the wall. However, Sugi would be capable of recognising a few that belonged to one of the two dominant religions that was present within the Jirou Authority, that of Miku’s Light.

"Welcome," a friendly voice resonated but nobody was still in sight. Suddenly a young girl would hop in sight from around the pillar. Her ragged clothing was also adorned with many symbols and signs. Her pale complexion also seemed to be inscribed with various tattoos that gave a tribalistic impression. Yet it were her pale eyes that locked on Sugi and seemed to try to demand most of his attention.
"Don’t be shy now, Sugishimo Masageru," the girl said as she gestured to him to enter the sanctuary. "Unless you plan to keep me waiting longer."

Sugi scanned the room, the sight of it all calmed him...slightly. The pillar supporting the room doing most of the calming. He would take note of the few symbols he did recognize before the young girl showed herself. Despite her friendly tone Sugi held her in contempt with a healthy dose of scepticism as he did with any new face and made no attempt to hide that. He stepped into the sanctuary proper as asked but gave the girl a once over, paying attention to the symbols that adorned her. Even still he was always drawn back up to her eyes, wondering if he’d developed a new nervous tick or something. The young man chose to stand around where there was furniture and finally spoke up. ”I take it you were the one whispering in my head then? So, why did you bring me here?” He got right to the point, or tried to in any way. Sugi wasn’t much of a fan of the current situation and wanted out of it as soon as possible. Which again would be obvious given his cross armed posture.

The question caused the girl to grin from ear to ear. Placing her hands on her back, she seemed far from the ordinary idea of a wise oracle. Walking towards Sugi, she would gesture to one of the chairs so that he could take a seat. She would size him up before taking a seat on an opposing chair.
"Me? Whispering? If you desire, I can do so. But it would become quite awkward fast if we would condone a conversation. Seeing that I don’t think you can speak in my mind, can you?" She didn’t wait for him to respond in return to her question. "And bring you here? Oh silly Sugi, no no." The girl crossed her arms out in front of her chest as her legs bungled, her feet not able to touch the ground, "How do you get such silly ideas? Do you think I would force people to come visit me? Do you think I have such power?"

Sugi already felt a twinging pain in his head. He hated when the elderly answered his questions with more questions and it was worse still coming from this little girl. He audibly sighed but did take a seat. ”Listen, I was brought here by two massive singing turtles. I don’t know what’s silly anymore. I don’t know you but you somehow know who I am. I’m going to assume you’re not some normal little girl like the kids in my neighborhood.” It was as honest and as logical as Sugi could muster. ”I’ll ask again...why am I here?”

The grin turned into a wide smile when Sugi brought up the two singing turtles. "That is quite silly, many would say. Being brought to anywhere by two dragon turtles, no?" Pausing to let something sink in, the Whisperer spoke again, "some would say that the Gods are guiding you. Or the Divine? Who truly knows?" The tone of the girl gave away that she was liking to play around with knowing answers to the questions brought up.
"I don’t mind talking with people, Sugi. But for some questions? You need to pay a price. You want to know why you are here? You’ll need to pay a price. Are you willing to learn why you are here? What is your destiny? Or are you willing to face the unknown and just," gesturing to the both of them, the Whisperer grinned again, "humour me with a conversation?"

Sugi looked at the girl with a cold gaze. ”If the so-called divine could truly guide people then why is the world filled with so much evil.” The girl’s playing around clearly having pushed one of Sugi’s buttons as he retorted. He took each question that was thrown at him as if they each were a handful of salt. It all put him on edge, not quite sure whether this price she mentioned was in fact to simply have a conversation. He stood up from his chair before speaking again, this time with a much more stern tone. ”I don’t know why you brought me here and I don’t care and I already know what my destiny is, whatever I make of it!” He shouted the last part, clearly agitated as he was having known of this. Deep down his biggest fear was the unknown of this whole situation. He didn’t trust making seedy deals like how all this sounded, the divine lining only agitated the feeling that much more. At that he’d turn to leave. ”As if two people asking questions could be considered a conversation.”

The Whisperer placed her hands on her knees and leaned slightly forward. The smile of before vanished as Sugi spoke, his tone becoming sterner. For a moment, the candles flickered despite the lack of a wind but nothing else seemed to spark a response to Sugi’s mood.
"That is true. However, you are the one who came in with the accusations. I would love to have an actual conversation. But I can’t have one if you are so angry." the girl responded, her tone betraying a sadness, "I simply am doing what one could say is their job. Yet, you corner me with demands and questions. Am I to respond differently, Sugi? Or am I allowed to even ask why you are angry with me?"
The expression of the girl shifted as she tilted her head slightly to the right. "You can’t expect to have a conversation without giving the other a chance, nay?"

Sugi stopped at the edge of the room just before it turned into the cave proper. He frowned, hearing the saddened tone of the girl. He relented and answered one of the questions. ”I’m angry cause I’m in a place I find uncomfortable in more ways than one.” It was a half truth in all honesty. ”I can’t imagine a little girl’s job is to sit in a creepy cave and ask people questions.” It was Sugi’s attempt at a more humorous jab. ”I also don’t trust you, no offense cause I don’t trust a lot of people. When you go around asking a stranger for a mysterious price I’m going to not trust you even more.” He did turn back around to face her at this point and tried not to think of any questions this time, trying to just answer her questions. ”No, I suppose a one sided exchange of words is not a conversation.”

Still remaining seated on the chair, the expression of the oracle became much more sad when Sugi attempted his jab. "And I can’t imagine what it is like to have the freedom to go outside and have a life of your own," she answered to the humorous attempt, relaying some information about her occupation back to him. "That and I am what you merely see. Some see an old woman. Or another form. I don’t decide what you see or do, Sugi. I am merely someone that knows and can provide answers. Though I must admit. Playing with questions is one of the few fun things I have for myself."
Pausing for a second, she shrugged lightly. "I wouldn’t trust someone right away either. That is just silly and naive. Then again, I am not just a person. I am an oracle. I am not your usual person on the docks or around the neighbourhood, I fear. Hm," considering something, the girl would hop off the chair and once more gesture to the chair that Sugi occupied before.
"Would it make it easier if I offer you else some beverage and what not? I don’t have much but I can prove that I hold no malice towards you."

Sugi whispered...”It's not that much more freedom I assure you...” Thinking back to the dictatorship he hailed from as he retook his seat. His tone softened once more. He didn’t know what to make of the shapeshifting the girl was expressing. It was almost like some form of forced technique. He gestured with his hand.”No, I’m fine thanks.” The boy who had quickly grown agitated and loud was now quiet and a little saddened himself now having found some level of mutual ground.

A smile returned to the girl’s lips as Sugi retook his seat. Doing the same, the oracle observed him in silence for a few seconds. "So, let us commence with a conversation then. You did mention that you were brought here by dragon turtles. How was that like? I imagine it must be terrifying to travel by creatures you haven’t seen before. Only for them to bring you and your team where you travelled towards originally anyways. Were you scared? Or perhaps intrigued?" Once more the legs of the girl bungled as she leaned slightly forwards, her eyes locked on Sugi.
"If you answer truthfully, I will even be willing to try to answer a question. One without payment. How does that sound, hm? Generous, nay?"

Sugi groaned again at the mention of a payment. ”I’ll do with just the conversation, thanks.” He thought about the whole ordeal that brought the team there, curious if Mika did actually mean to bring them here. ”It was really scary at first. I thought I was gonna die, end up as turtle food. It wasn’t until I started thinking of the younger turtle as a kid did I start to more or less calm down about the whole thing. I um...even started talkin to em a little.” A bit of Sugi’s accent leaked out as he grew more relaxed.

The smile of the oracle grew larger as she listened to Sugi’s answer. "You thought of a dragon turtle as a child? That is… unusual, I must say. I don’t think I have heard anyone doing that before," she replied in turn, shaking her head in amusement. "Though, I must admit that I am aware that this encounter isn’t the first time that you met a large creature from the blue depths. But this one must have been much more pleasant. Seeing that the dragon turtle didn’t attempt to devour you or act on someone’s orders." The oracle became silent for a few seconds before she posed another question.
"Has the experience with those dragon turtles changed your viewpoint on them? What do you think now of them, seeing that they didn’t cause you any harm?"

Sugi smiled wearily at the mention of the sea serpent he’d helped fend off in the past. ”By a long shot, yeah, much more pleasant. Well, I’d never met a dragon turtle before. Heck I hadn’t even researched them before. Admittedly I may look into them now. Dragon turtles seem...” He paused before changing his words. ”I think they’re cool.” He stayed focused on simply answering the girls questions and reassuring other points.

She scoffed, the gesture betraying the amusement of Sugi’s answering that he found the rare creatures cool. "They are interesting creatures, from what I know. Not the brightest, from what I have heard and learned, though. And who knows? Maybe you’ll get another chance of experiencing them. Hopefully, without a ship being sunk. I imagine that was less fun regarding the journey."
Frowning slightly, the girl leaned back in her seat. "Though, is this just becoming a dull conversation? You have no questions you want to ask back? Not every question will have a payment as a requirement for you to learn the answer. I can try to answer stuff you want to ask."

”Yeah, the ship sinking was unfortunate.” The girl was right, the conversation was just lopsided in the other direction now. But every question Sugi could think of was either likely too personal, vague or would likely cost something as she kept saying. So, he came up with an easy one. ”What’s your name?” He wanted to ask more but he feared this price even still.

Noticing that he was struggling, the girl seemed content to wait and give Sugi space and time. When he asked what her name was, an amused expression flowed over her features. She placed even a hand on her chest, appearing to be more dramatic as she provided her answer in return.
"I am the Whisperer. Some call me the Voice of Bergjlot. The Tongue of the Divine. God’s Voice or something. Really, it depends on who you ask. But I assume you want to know if I have a personal name?"
She seemed to visibly ponder on it before shrugging her shoulders lightly. "If I ever had one, I don’t recall it. I am always addressed with one of those titles. Or simply as an oracle. I don’t remember if I ever had a name."

Sugi looked at the oracle curiously and with a hint of pity. ”I guess it isn’t as relevant anymore, being stuck here with only the occasional visitor and...not looking the same to others apparently. What if you could remember it, would you use it?”

"I guess not no. That and I am used to what people call me. In fact, I do still have names. It entirely just depends on who visits me or how they desire to call me." The oracle said, clearly not bothered by the lack of having something so personal as a name of her own. "But if I ever had one or could remember it? Hm, no. I wouldn’t just use it. Names give power. I know your name, for example. I can call you. You are going to respond to it as it is bound to you. In a way, I thus have some sort of freedom. Cause you have no name to bound me by." The oracle smiled once more. "Or perhaps we are all being just silly, nay? After all, are you happy with your name?"

She made some good points. ”I am happy with my name. I know I didn’t choose it but my folks gave it to me. Doesn’t sound all that dissimilar to your numerous titles and names. I don’t believe it’s silly to have names. It’s an important part of civilization, order and individuality. A name gives someone identity and I’d be fearful of a world where those in power were given another excuse to see someone as less than. Sure, you could argue that a person of power has gotten there because of a name but if titles are exempt then it could still happen. Then those without titles would be left to suffer without a means of power.” Sugi would shake his head, having almost confused himself with philosophy. ”Gah, names are a good thing to have despite the bad that comes with them.”

"Hm, yeah, I suppose you are right," the girl said, clearly amused by Sugi’s answer. Her eyes slightly narrowed in mere delight upon his response. "You don’t seem so dull after all. Or angry, huh," she further stated, clearly as a humorous jab back at Sugi. "But what good does your knowledge and opinion do? You do still seem to distrust and willing to question sources that seem intangible. Or what others seem to accept. Much like you question the presence of so much suffering and evil, while what others near you worship as a benign being. Is that why you were so angry? So defensive, hm?"

”I became angry because so much of the world's problems are relied upon to be fixed by so-called divine beings that they worship. If they were so powerful and wise then why do they allow their subjects to starve or die from disease. The divine are used as an excuse to commit genocide and go to war with other people’s simply because they don’t believe in the same divines. Why would the divine allow evil men to hold power over others if they cared so much. My knowledge and opinions are rooted in the experience of those who’ve lived in the real world rather than faith in a greater being that may exist but clearly doesn’t care.” Sugi took a breath and apologized for ranting a bit too much but he was being honest. ”The world is shaped by the will of man and not the desires of would be gods and that’s exactly what I plan to do.”

The girl remained silent, clearly intrigued by the answer. Even to the point that she leaned further forwards, her pale eyes fixated on Sugi, as if she wanted to make sure that she took in every word he said. Once Sugi was done, it seemed that his answer sated the Whisperer’s curiosity.
"Interesting. Some would clearly debate back but I feel that there is some information lacking in your knowledge, if you don’t mind me saying." She leaned back and a playful smile crossed her features. "You question why the Divine allows this or that. But some, if not most, of the evils you state are by the will of man. The Divine doesn’t seek out hurt or want suffering, if we are to believe the teachings, correct? But it is also man that provides those teachings. Those men provide the voice of the Divine. So it is the fault of the Divine, who tries to act in certain ways with the world, if we have to believe the priests and their explanation. Or is the world manipulated by people with the free will to make what they desire out of it?" The oracle’s head tilted slightly to the side. "After all, if the world is shaped by the will of man, what does that make me? Am I simply then a remainder of when the Divine had more force? How do I fit in your answer, Sugi?"

”I’d never go far as to say that man is all good, far from it in fact and I’m no exception. People are capable of great good and evil. People have the free will to make what they desire of it whether the divine has a say in it or not.” Sugi paused in thought once the subject got back to the oracle. ”I...don’t know what to make of you. Maybe a group of people forced you here and covered you in those sigils. I can’t disprove that there isn’t a technique that allows you to see and predict things far from where you reside. You are in every sense, an unknown factor to me. You obviously fit in somewhere since you're sitting there talking to me. Even the mouthpiece of a forgotten instrument still produces a sound.”

The girl whistled as she feigned an expression of disdain. "Did you just call me a mouthpiece or old instrument? Sugi! You hurt my feelings," the girl dramatically replied before she snickered and shook her head.
"Okay, so you can’t disprove that I am held here by some man-made technique. Or that I am a construct of some bygone age. And it is clear that you won’t trust my word either that I am not held here by some man-made technique. For that would require what? Sealing or even kinjutsu, nay? Hmmm."
She seemed to size Sugi up and then shook her head again. "You aren’t also a competent sensory user. So you can’t try to investigate that possibility. Instead, I got a way to prove to you that I am real. And that there is nothing wrong with a bit of faith,"
the girl said, raising her right index finger upwards. "And I said faith. Not religion. Religion is what seems to be disturbing you. It is what people use against each other. What is causing distrust and horrible things. Faith? That is something else. I just need you to close your eyes and extend one of your hands forwards."
Already, the oracle hopped off her chair as she visibly awaited Sugi to comply. Her smile betrayed some excitement as she hoped he would cooperate.

Sugi didn’t apologize for what he said and opted to continue listening. The oracle was right as there weren’t many ways Sugi could investigate her or much of the world for that matter aside from the base senses he was born with. He wasn’t born with any innate gifts after all. The way she made it clear to separate faith and religion got the young man to comply. He slowly closed his eyes and held out his hand, palm facing upwards.

When Sugi complied, a soft sound of excitement escaped the oracle. She would approach Sugi and stand at his side. Placing her index finger on Sugi’s palm, she would press it gently while whispering to her guest.
"Some cats can actually be allergic to humans," stating the absurd and random fact, the oracle would step backwards as she placed her hands on her back. A wide grin was plastered over her features as she awaited Sugi’s response.
"Heh, though I got you. You were willing enough to comply in order to figure out if I am real or not. Or perhaps you were willing to have enough faith?~" The tone gave away that the oracle was having some amusement and merely fooling around. "But for real, I can’t disprove what you won’t believe, Sugi. Though there is no harm sometimes to just take things for what they are. Caution is good but too much can deprive you of the good."

”What does that have to do with---” He stopped as her finger gently touched his palm. He wondered if that absurd fact had some deeper meaning. With the lack of information it wasn’t good to think too hard about it. Sugi did give in a little with a smirk and a sigh.”It’s like you said though, you’ve presented no hostility thus far so why start now?” Not a true question more than it was still holding onto his ways. ”You could still call it a calculated risk on my part.” She was right, she couldn’t disprove the young man of how he viewed and dealt with the world but it did come with negatives.

”I could never root for an underdog ya know. I couldn’t trust a teammate battling something clearly stronger than themselves. I couldn’t possibly have faith in a movement knowing half of my family line would end up dead. If I’m ever going to command others I’ll refuse to tell them to have faith that they’ll survive the day. I’ll believe in facts and a plan. I’m fine with depriving myself of the good in life if that means I can obtain absolute victory. I can’t allow myself to have faith in the little things, it’ll weaken my resolve and cost someone their life for my weakness one day.”

Sugi would interlock his fingers and look down at the floor, speaking softly. ”I’m too weak and can’t afford the luxury of faith.”

The young looking Oracle placed her hands on her hips as she heard Sugi out. Patiently, as if she wasn’t a mere child, the girl didn’t interrupt when Sugi spoke. Instead, she went back to her chair and took her place again. When Sugi looked at the floor and spoke his last comment softly, a more saddened expression appeared on the Oracle’s features.
"Having faith isn’t easy. Sometimes things go bad or you just find yourself in a place or having so many emotions. It isn’t like facts, that it stays the same. But perhaps,” a sad smile crossed her lips, "that is why it is so much harder to have as keep it.”
Letting those words sink in, the Oracle shrug lightly. "At least, you can care for a side. I can’t. I know stuff that goes on. But picking a side? I just don’t feel obliged in the slightest. That doesn’t mean though that I don’t keep myself open for new ideas and people. I am an Oracle, after all. It is my job, kinda, heh.”
The sad smile turned more into a grin that fitted a mischievous girl.
"And yeah, you are immensely weak. Comparing you to the likes of already infamous, famous or even legendary people. Shinobi, soldiers, heroes and the like. You are a mere speck that can’t change anything.” The girl calmly stated, as if she just didn’t notice that her words could crush Sugi’s spirit further. "However, those people also had to start their journey. They were at one point weak, with the desire to become strong or talented. Some of them didn’t even have a team they could try to have faith in.” The last sentence was spoken with the same grin as a few seconds before. "Honestly? Knowing what I know? I think you are too hard on yourself and the world. Understandable, knowing what I also know of you. But have some faith in what I will say next.”

She leaned slightly forwards, the grin still present as a glint appeared in her eyes.
"Having some faith in someone or something can be really rewarding. Just try it out with something super insignificant. Like, ehm,” glancing around, the Oracle then raised her right hand to point at herself with her thumb, "believing that I am here and being real. It won’t hurt you having some faith in that, right?”

Sugi kept quiet, letting the Oracle’s words sink in while still looking down at the floor. He didn’t need to look up to know she was sad, he could hear it in her voice. At the comment of him being immensely weak the genin didn’t feel like the comment pierced him like an arrow, more so it felt akin to someone locking a door. A confirmation of what he already knew to be true. He would comment on the topic of those legendary heroes and soldiers. ”But it’s common for the likes of them to have started with gifts that helped make them strong.” It wasn’t a stab at the Oracle but more so at those so called legends themselves. Most of them hailed from nobility and clans after all. However, what the Oracle said to Sugi after that would bring out a response in the young man. By the time she started saying he was too hard on himself and the world to the end of having a little faith wouldn't hurt, broke Sugi down. He covered one side of his face with his left hand and fought back tears trying to shove his words out past his sobbing. ”No no---the world is a cold, hard and unforgiving place, I’ve seen it. Yo--you said it yourself that I’m weak, I have to be like that or the world will chew me up and spit me out.”

He looked back upwards so he would be looking at the Oracle once again, still partially covering his face. Sugi had a hysterical look about him as if he was having an internal struggle with himself. Sugi didn’t have to outright say it, he had faith that someone, something was sitting there in front of him and that horrified him now. It chilled him to his core that someone was seeing this peeled back side of him.

Once more, the Whisperer did little to interrupt Sugi. It was almost as she was expecting to crack and open up. A disarming smile dawned on the oracle’s lips as she remained seated.
"Not all tears are evil. Nor do you need to bottle up all your emotions and fears. I am here to listen. You can have faith in me, Sugi,” the girl replied in a calm way, "You have seen and experienced some horrible things. The world can be like that but from what I know, it is also a beautiful place. Wasn’t that adventure with ‘Kabuto’ not pleasant? It doesn’t need to be always bad but without some evil, there can’t be no good. Joy can’t have a positive value without some misery.”
Folding her hands together, she would let her words echo and perhaps sink in the boy’s mind before she continued.

"You may be weak now but it doesn’t have to be that way forever. True, some people have a gift. But you have talents of your own. They just need to be worked on and polished. I can’t say your destiny without a price but that is also a hard truth. Hard work does pay off.”
Pausing, she would wait and see if Sugi was going to recompose himself or open up further. Only for the disarming smile to shift to a playful grin as she winked at Sugi.
"Besides, some of those almiiighty heroes and what not came to a figure like an oracle first. A journey has to start somewhere.”

Sugi went through a flash of memories. All his hate and fear showed him the times he’d seen nobles and those in power abusing their power. The wars, the extinctions and the strife, even down to his personal unfortunate times at the academy. Then a bright light came forward bringing his cherished memories to the forefront. The smiling faces of his family and neighbors...and Neime. The fishermen down by the wharf making ends meet, the old sitting contempt on their porches having lived a fulfilling life and the kids running about the street full of innocence. His own beautiful little slice of peace and happiness in the world. They were his treasure and they reflected in his eyes at this very moment as Sugi began to wail.

The boy inside was on full display now as Sugi could no longer contain his emotions. He let everything go as he cried his heart out inside this cave in front of this little girl. All this time he convinced himself he’d be ok with becoming a horrible person if that meant he could change things for the better. Overcome your weakness with ruthlessness. Defeat those gifted in front of you with your brain. He couldn’t respond to her question, he didn’t have to; she was right after all. Despite the fear at the start he’ll never forget his interactions with ‘Kabuto.” You can’t experience joy without first suffering misery. It was all true.

Now the little girl would hop off from her chair. Approaching Sugi slowly and carefully, she first placed a hand on his shoulder. Softly squeezing, she gently hushed while wrapping an arm around him - pulling him in a hug. Providing what little comfort she could, the girl continued to hush and pat Sugi’s back - so far her arms could allow it.
After some moments, she would step back and keep a hand on his shoulder.
"There, there. It is all okay. You bottled a lot up. Not really that healthy. I have nasty stories of people actually getting hurt. Apparently, it can even cause constipation. Truly awful,” trying to cheer him up, she flashed a smile. "You okay?”

The comforting helped a lot as after a short few minutes Sugi started to calm down, the light joke helping immensely as it got a stiff chuckle out of the genin. He was still sniffling but more composed than a moment ago. ”Y--yeah.” He meekly answered back. Sugi turned to look at the Oracle with a hopeful expression. He wanted to ask one question. He didn’t care about becoming the strongest, crazy wealthy or well renowned. He’d be contemptuous with his weak, poor, nobody self if he could have this one thing. ”How do I---can I keep my treasured slice of the world safe?”

The previous smile of the oracle shifted into a wry one. "That depends on a lot of matters, all weighing together.” Pausing, she seemed to weigh her next words a bit more carefully than she had done before.
"If you want to make a difference, try to open up. You can’t make a stand against the world alone. You are, after all, part of a team. Even if you dislike clans, try to open up. Hear your team out. You may learn what I know. And you may be very surprised. In fact, well, I already know you will, hahaha.”

Sugi expected the first half of her response. A lot of factors could play into that at any one time. The second part caused him to look at the Oracle with a surprised look. She was of course well aware of his team. His hands clenched nervously upon his knees. He was wary of opening up to them too much. Simply because he’d gotten burned for doing so plenty of times already. But, maybe this time could be different. If it gave him a better chance at bringing his dream to reality a little more pain was worth it. [color=ed3d3d]”Well, I can at least try.”[/color]

”You could. That is the beauty of it all, my Sugi,” the Oracle responded, with a playful grin, ”free will. You can try. They can decide to turn your action down or open up. Unless you can do what I can, you won’t know. And sometimes pleasant surprises are all the more fun and rewarding, nay?”
Pausing for a moment, the Oracle would let her words sink in to further encourage him to think and reflect more. Only for her to hop from her seat.
”But as delighted as I am, you need some time and space of your own. To ponder and weigh your decisions. For every decision can impact if you will manage to achieve that goal. And sadly, unless you are willing to pay the price, I can’t offer you anything else.” Already she half turned to the exit to give him a polite goodbye. Yet, the grin of before was replaced by a familiar smile as a wink when stating the last. ”Of course, needless to say, I enjoyed our conversation. I wish you good luck on your endeavours, Sugi. Just remember, to have a little bit of faith.”

This oracle must really have no freedom of her own. It was all sinking into Sugi now. Truthfully this whole conversation still left him shaken. Opening up to people, it’d take some time but at least he could make that choice. He quickly stood up and turned to her after fidgeting for a moment, more relaxed than before but still uneasy. [color=ed3d3d]”I won’t say sorry for not accepting your offer nor did I enjoy the conversation like you did. But...thank you. Cause you did offer me something and so I have paid a price in a way.”[/color] At that the red head smiled before walking out towards the exit waving the back of his hand in goodbye. Where he was sitting the oracle would be able to see a small brush and a few small containers of paint sitting neatly on the chair.