That One Grumpy Pants
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[ Battle of Nangxi | Lagyre, Eastern Continent ]
[ A clash between the Northerners against an unknown Rongese army. ]
[ Miu Sanosuke | Genin of Team 3 ]

A lot of things have changed since the start of this whole war ordeal. She wouldn’t have said she was immature but she certainly was forced to grow up at a much faster rate. She was a sergeant, she had men too lead into battle, men to drink with after a hard fought day. At the end of the day thats what she expected from them all. Too simply make it through the day and be there for their celebration drink. Yet sometimes that one never comes and that night is in remembrance of them. This hasn’t happened often but when it does, it hits hard. She fought with her group time and time again, it only made sense she grew close with her comrades. So today she simply hoped for one thing, that tonight she would be drinking with her comrades once more.

She waited with her group battle paint having been applied prior, with the top half of her face being painted a smoky black. Some of her men made teasing gestures of fear when they looked at her, causing her to smirk and hit them in the arm. Then finally came the moment, Nariko’s calvary was allowed passage as they made way for them to move in, only to close the gap that was made upon them pushing further back into their own ranks. Then came then Rongese who were not prepared in the slightest for the initial onslaught. Being hit with spears as horses were halted and spurring before the charge command came from Satoshi. Looking at her men with a simple nod to stick close and together they would also push into the fray.

Running into the fray with her group, with her right hand she brought her axe up and down into an enemy skull. With her comrade kicking the man in the chest to get him off the blade. Another lifted his shield to block an incoming attack, prompting her to swing her axe into his neck. Yanking it out, she and her unit kept moving forward watching each other’s backs to protect them when they could and to help capitalize on a stronger foe. Miu would grab the belt of her one comrade and pull him back to avoid him getting his head caved in, while he then thrust his sword forward to put the man down. They had the initial surprise and quality to enable them to push forward at a good rate. So far so good.
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[ Sevudia | The Eastern Front ]
[ Meilin Cho and Yoshikuni Sadako ]
A Collab between @Oetje and @Nim

After asking for some training, Meilin helps Kuni understand some things better, before providing some training.

Doing her warm ups on the field, Kuni was waiting for her next training session. She asked Meilin to help her train with her sword, and also other short blades. The sword might’ve felt comfortable the most at the beginning, but that didn’t mean she didn’t want to try and see if perhaps any other short bladed weapons wouldn’t be good for her to use either. Not to mention, it would be a chance to train against a different person in the platoon. And Kuni figured that was something good, to try and train her skills against as many different people as she could.

Taking a bite from the apple in her right hand, Meilin chewed on the bite as she kept walking. The encampment had now several training fields - a change as three entire brigades required more than just one new field.
Arriving at the training field for the 11th brigade, Meilin finished her bite as she threw a look around. Noticing Kuni, Meilin took another bite from her apple as she approached the chuunin.
"So," clearing her mouth Meilin took a second before continuing, "I believe that you requested me to train you today? Something about blades?" Meilin asked, her eyebrows slightly perking up as she took another bite from her apple.

Seeing Meilin arrive, Kuni finished her warm ups, and nodded upon hearing what she said. She quickly offered a salute before lowering her hand and speaking ”Yeah! I was hoping we could train with some short blades today. So far I’ve been focusing on training with a sword as my go to weapon, but I do want to try and experience using other bladed weapons, to be able to better adapt to different situations by being able to utilize a bigger variety of weapons.” Kuni said, before walking to the pile of training weapons that was laying at the side of the field.

Chewing on her previous bite, Meilin listened to the answer of Kuni. Slightly Meilin’s head tilted to the left as she cleared her mouth. Only for a frown to appear.
"What weapon have you mastered so far? And with master, I mean a weapon that you can handle without any supervision or can actually use it against a chuunin-like foe."
Briefly inspecting her half-eaten apple, Meilin seemed to visibly consider to throw it away.
"You are basically asking too much. You say that you’ve trained with the sword and now want to train more variety of weapons? Admirable goals, truly. But not smart."
Taking a smaller bite of her apple, she half chewed but still managed to speak further.
"Dagrún knows how to wield a variety of weapons. But I doubt she went from sword to axe or spear without mastering the weapon of choice. In fact, you are a chuunin right? What so far have you truly mastered as combat skill?"

”What combat skills have I mastered? Well, I don’t know if I mastered it, but I think I’m decent with taijutsu. And I have a good grasp over earth ninjutsu. At least, that’s what my former sensei also told me.” Kuni said, shrugging a bit as she was unsure of how to judge her own skills.
And thinking about what Meilin said about Dagrun, Kuni nodded ”Right, that makes a lot of sense. Master one before moving on to the next. I guess my request should be for you to help me train my swordsmanship then, instead of learning how to use new weapons. But!” She kneeled down by the pile of training weapons ”Maybe you could help me learn different movements that could be useful against different weapons?” Kuni suggested, looking at Meilin.

Chewing on yet another bite, Meilin heard out what Kuni had to respond with. Deciding to not respond or question if the girl was truly capable of taijutsu or her grasp on earth ninjutsu, Meilin subtly nodded.
"Nah," she began, "I won’t. I am going to kick the basics in your head," the Cho casually said, as if the violent implication was normal for them to use. "In fact, I want to test something out. Pick up a training sword. And hold it above your head. For as long as possible."
Taking another bite of her apple, Meilin seemed discontent that there was no following bite. Tossing the remainder up and catching it, only to keep repeating it, Meilin patiently waited for Kuni to begin the first instruction and perhaps swordsmanship training.

Meilin’s response didn’t seem to make Kuni disappointed. She kinda grew to understand things rarely went as she wanted them to when it came to training out here. But any training was better than no training in her mind.
Picking up the sword, Kuni slowly raised it, until it was raised as high as she could, above her head height. Keeping it as steady as she could, she also kept her breathing as steady as was possible for her. After a bit of time she could start feeling her muscles in her right arm begin to ache. But she still focused on maintaining her grasp and breathing. And keeping the sword up high.

For a few minutes, Meilin seemed content to wait. Walking around, facing Kuni’s back, Meilin waited for a second. Then without warning the Cho kicked Kuni’s right leg, in the younger girl’s knee caught.
"Huh," Meilin waited for the other to likely get up. "Let’s try that again. Obviously, I am not going to make it easy to just keep a sword up. That would be too boring, after all, for me." Giving Kuni some time to recover and retake the pose, Meilin walked away to grab a training sword.
"Hm," inspecting the blunt weapon, Meilin seemed to consider something.

Getting hit in the back of her knee, Kuni dropped down, landing with her knee on the ground, and the sword also lowered, meeting the ground to help Kuni stop herself from meeting the dirt face first. Taking in what Meilin said, Kuni just stood up in silence. So Dagrun was the one to beat her up, and Meilin was going to be the one to catch her by surprise. It made her wonder just how the other lieutenants would be like when she trained with them.
Raising her sword again above her head, Kuni this time moved and kept her sight on Meilin, turning slowly on the spot as she seemed to try and keep the Cho in her sights.

"Hm?" Meilin noticed that Kuni turned on her spot. "Turning on the spot, eh?" Resting the blunt blade against her shoulder, Meilin half closed her eyes.
"Ah, afraid I might hit you in the back of the head or something? And here I thought you could take a punch."
After stating those words, Meilin decided to just wait. It was dull but she did nothing else but see how long it was going to take for Kuni’s arms to tremble and the practice blade to wiggle ever so slightly.

When that moment finally came, Meilin used her free hand to indicate that Kuni could lower the blade.
"Now that I am certain you’re warmed up, we can get started. Let’s start with the basics. Perform a basic swing, thrust and hew from above." Meilin instructed. "Watch your footwork, that is all I will say as hint on what we might focus on first."

After lowering the blade and feeling like her hand was aching a lot more, Kuni heard the next set of instructions, and the hint regarding what they’ll work on. It did make her gaze downwards at her legs briefly, before she looked back up and began doing as she was instructed.
”Footwork, huh? So between that and what you did before, should I assume you want to work on maintaining the balance while using a sword?” Kuni asked, wondering if that was indeed the case ”Or just in the habit of making your underlings fall to the ground as you train them?” She smiled as she asked the latter.

"Nah, I just feel like you needed it. Don’t worry, I intend to bash the basics literally in your head," Meilin casually gave as answer to Kuni’s questions. "Your form isn’t great. It can do, so I won’t need to start where I already feared I had to. Before we go on, why did you pick the sword as weapon of choice?" Meilin asked.

The response from Meilin made Kuni wonder if she was intending to really do as she was saying. Meilin’s question, however, wouldn’t take long for Kuni to answer ”Why did I pick the sword? It felt the most stable for one. All the other weapons felt like they were made for either people who fight with more brute strength, or more care. I can’t say I really knew which one was more suited for me, so I chose the sword. It felt like the best middle ground between the two.” She explained as she kept focusing on her sword movements, and also glancing at her feet every few swings, trying to figure out if she was moving them differently each time or not.

Allowing Kuni to give her answer, Meilin waited to share her thoughts until the former was done.
"The sword is sort of the middle ground. But you aren’t entirely right. Wielding a sword of average length also requires strength. How you wield a weapon and its design can entirely decide how much a weapon requires strength or focus on a more dexterous fighting style. An axe can be swift and used for more than just strong hacking away at the enemy. However, let us stick with the sword for now."
Enlisting a pause, Meilin used the tip of her practice sword to ‘correct’ Kuni’s legs in a somewhat gentle fashion.
"When you aim to swing the blade, watch how your body moves. Don’t try to move against the momentum but twist your body to enhance the speed and increase the impact of your blows. It is almost the same thought as when you punch and move your body alongside the motion."

Letting Kuni perform the swings again, Meilin seemed more content.
"Okay, now we are going to focus on sword technique. At least, Chonobi style. I frankly don’t know much Taika sword fighting, so if you were aiming for that, I can’t help you."

Standing in front of Kuni, Meilin would explain what the technique was entitled.
"Now, the idea is simple. I want you to perform a basic swing from above. Perform it slowly, so that you can witness what I am doing, instead of triggering me to slam this blunt piece in your ribcage," Meilin instructed as she would lean backwards slightly.
"First step? Move out of the way of the attack. Don’t try to dodge underneath a swing or slash. Unless you are really experienced and fast, you will just get your head split open. Now that you see I am out of the way, you can notice that I am tilted right side. This is for a reason as I am able to swing harder from the right than the left."
Bringing her blade down on Kuni’s in a calm fashion, Meilin made eye contact to ensure that the girl was paying attention.
"This is the next step. With one determined swing, bring your blade against that of your opponent. The problem that we have, however, is the tip of my sword. See how it isn’t aimed at you but away from you? I can’t literally move forward or backward and slice or slash you."

Performing a step forwards and backwards to introduce the motion, Meilin would take the prior stance and continue onwards.
"To bring the tip of the blade to threaten your opponent, you can shift it. So that the sharp edge of your weapon is against that of your opponents." Doing so, Meilin easily maneuvered the tip aiming at Kuni’s body.
"Now, I can just thrust forwards and skewer your throat, stomach or anything else. Relatively easy and basic maneuver from the Ulfur style. Wolf, in Taika. Now, try it slowly, okay?"

Taking in the explanation as it was shown, Kuni seemed to follow Meilin’s movements with her eyes, paying careful attention. She seemed to take it in well, until Meilin got to the point of the final movements. She wasn’t sure if she got it, but Kuni felt like she should at least make sure she also got the first steps too.
”Right. I’m gonna try.” Kuni said, before beginning with the first step, moving away from an attack. Then she swung, having her sword meet Meilin’s sword. And as she figured herself, the third step would stump her. As she tried to do the steps that Meilin showed, Kuni would end up with Meilin’s sword touching her.
Taking a step backwards, Kuni shook her head a bit ”I need to see that last step again. I was too close when I was trying to do that. I could feel the tip of your sword touching me.” She said.

"Sure," Meilin said as she performed the steps again, one by one in slow motion. By the last step Meilin made sure to explain how she reorientated that blade and shifted the tip towards Kuni’s body.
"Make use of your sword’s guard. We are using these after all. They are there to protect your fingers from getting cut off. Okay, now it's your turn and try again. Don’t focus on speed but on technique. That is the focus, your technique. Speed and force is all for later."

Watching carefully, Kuni nodded as Meilin told her to focus on the technique first ”Right. Technique first.” She muttered to herself, before readjusting herself.
Beginning once more, Kuni took it slower as she did the first step of moving out of an attack, then followed with hitting her blade against Meilin’s using a swing. And this time doing it more carefully and using the swordguard, Kuni started to maneuver her sword. She kept stepping back slightly and pressing her sword forward, pushing Meilin’s blade upwards and away from her, until the tip was aimed at Meilin, and Meilin’s sword was much more upwards, and not aimed at her anymore.
After reaching there, Kuni lowered her sword ”I definitely need to repeat this a few more times to properly get it. This is more than the more basic movements that Dagrun taught me.” She said, looking at the sword, before moving back to her beginning position.

"Dagrún probably taught you the basic motions. I think have those fairly under control. Then again, if you needed much help with swinging a sword, I would advise you to find another vocation." Meilin replied, slightly amused as she made no effort to hide it from her tone.
"Now, we will practice another basic technique. The reason why I picked the previous one is fairly evident. Let’s us move back to it."
Repeating the steps till they were at the point that Meilin reorientated her weapon and directed the tip of her blade back at Kuni.
"There is obviously a counter to this. When you notice that your opponent is about to pull such a technique as I taught you, the counter is relatively easy. You raise your blade upwards."
Letting Kuni do that, Meilin made a gesture with her left hand to gesture the girl to halt.
"See how your upward motion causes the sword guard to push my blade upwards? Now we are in a position that neither of our swords can be a threat. They both point upwards while we are just… well, standing."

Using her free hand, Meilin gestured to Kuni’s body.
"At the same time, you have no weapon guarding your body. And when wielding a weapon without a secondary or shield, people tend to use both hands to reinforce their weapon’s blow and such. In this kind of situation, it is a feasible tactic and technique to kick an opponent."
Without much instruction Meilin would use her right foot to point out where she could kick.
"I can land a kick against your knee, groin or even performing a push. You place your feet against your opponent, like this. "
Placing her boot against Kuni’s, just above her groin, Meilin would give a gentle push to indicate the girl to move slightly backwards.
"If performed right and fast enough, your opponent will stumble back. And now you can just swing your sword down, upon their head or shoulders. Simple and effective. Know what, hang on," Meilin said as she conjured a shadow clone. Tossing the practice blade towards the shadow clone, Meilin gestured to the girl to attempt it.
"Go ahead. Again, focus on technique and just getting it right. Not yet on destroying my shadow clone."

As she watched the counter and afterwards the way to exit the stalemate that occurred from the counter, Kuni made sure to pay attention. Seeing how this, it felt a bit easier to understand, though a question did come to her mind as she moved to face the shadow clone ”In that type of stalemate, both sides are able to use that, right? The kick and swing down? So it could come down to who does it first.” Kuni asked, before beginning to perform the movements taught from before against the shadow clone.
When they arrived at the stalemate step, Kuni once more noticed how it essentially opened up her entire body. She would normally have a shield on, but like Meilin said, both hands were on the sword to keep it steady. Putting her feet against the clone’s knee, she gave it a kick, before performing a slow swing downwards, aimed at the clone’s head, but not hitting it.
”Like that?” She asked afterwards, looking at the clone before looking at Meilin.

"Yes. I will teach you another method of how to defend yourself when someone attempts to pull a similar technique. So don’t worry too much right now. Focus on the motion and memorise them." Meilin answered as she gauged how content she was with Kuni’s performance.
"Like that yeah, but if possible put your feet somewhere it really hurts. Between the legs, a kick will hurt and cause an opening. Or else somewhere to push them backwards to cause them to stumble. The knee is easier to reach and can help but against someone heavier and stronger? You may not have the desired effect." Meilin explained as she gestured to Kuni to repeat the technique.

Once it seemed to go well and more fluid, Meilin nodded in approval.
"Good. Of course, there is more that you can do to counter when someone is trying to thrust their sword in you. Even when you have their sword in a bind," Meilin explained as her shadow clone gestured how Kuni had to position her sword. They moved back to the same step of before; where Kuni reorientated her blade, setting the tip aimed at the clone for a good thrust forwards.
"It is a bit trickier but also very effective. Now, instead of bringing the blade upwards, you take a step to the right. But keep in mind, when I say a step to the right, you just move your right foot. See how my shadow clone does it? It already brings her somewhat out of your thrust. Now she leans slightly further to the side before she pushes the blade."
Meilin gestured to Kuni to move forward in a slow thrust forwards. The shadow clone of Meilin would react in a fluid manner. The clone’s blade would be brought up, to the left side and use the body’s motion to push Kuni’s blade away - the motion of the clone’s body twisting, allowing it to easily push more weight against Kuni’s practice sword.
"Keep that body twist and movement in mind. See how easily my shadow clone could do that? By leaning back and then using that same motion to go in the prior stance, that motion supports your sword’s motion. As you said, sword fighting is a middle ground. Agility is motion in a sense. Not just stupid strength and pushing but using your own motion. That is why people refer to a sword as an extension of yourself."
With the blade still upwards, Meilin’s clone would slowly bring the blade down - the tip now close to Kuni.
"And from there, it is easy. My clone can perform a thrust back while your sword is blocked by my clone’s weapon. Do you see the thumb placement?" Gesturing to Kuni, Meilin pointed at her shadow clone - who remained still in the last motion.
"The thumb is placed against the flat of the blade. Not just for show or protecting the finger. But to provide some more stability and accuracy for the following up thrust. Got that?"

Following the instructions and keeping her eyes on the clone, Kuni was surprised by how even watching it, the movement felt rather smooth. But she still kept a close eye on how everything was done. Hearing the notes and seeing the tip aimed at her, she nodded ”I believe so. But gotta try and see.” She said.
Returning to the initial step the clone showed, with its tip aimed at her, Kuni made the step to the right with her foot, before attempting to push the clone’s blade away as it was shown before, only to fall a bit short from properly pushing the blade. Not feeling happy with how it was, Kuni went back and repeated it a couple more times before she managed to push the blade more properly.
Slowly moving her blade down, she managed to bring her tip down to eventually face the clone, keeping her thumb on the flat part to keep it steady as she saw before ”Whoever came up with all these movements, I hope they got a lot of drinks for all these.” Kuni said, before going back and repeating the movement more.

Watching Kuni repeat the technique again, Meilin remained silent. There some minor points but those could be worked out by just getting adjusted to the motions. Practice was what Kuni required but Meilin reckoned that she wouldn’t need to stay and provide supervision.
"I reckon that they are long dead, though," Meilin replied as she placed her hands against her hips, "in practice, you could aim and execute these techniques with the like of katanas and other swords. Keep in mind that Chonobi sword guards tend to provide more protection, from what I have seen and know. Keep practising these three and you’ll be ready for the following up techniques," Meilin said.

Glancing at her shadow clone, Meilin shrugged with her shoulders.
"I won’t even mind if you want to keep up the practice with my shadow clone. But unless you need me for anything else, I think it is up to you to practise these movements. Eventually, you’ll be ready to learn more and in the future even humour some people with a spar fight. Once you are there, you can indulge in another weapon and start all over again."

Hearing Meilin, Kuni stopped and lowered her sword, paying better attention to the Cho, until she finished speaking ”If I could keep practicing against the clone, that would be appreciated. I feel like it’d be easier to practice against another person, at least until I can visualize some more things better.” She said, before bowing to Meilin ”Thanks for teaching me all these. I’ll make sure to keep practicing, with people and without.” Kuni rose from the bow, before moving to face the clone again, preparing to continue practicing against the clone some more.
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[ After the battle of Jinseong | Sevudia | Eastern Continent ]

[ Kensuke Nimatsu | Scholae ]
[ Hiron Hon | Jounin squad leader, Team 9 - Major General of the 3rd Imperial Division ]

The camp of the 3rd Imperial Division seemed to resemble the qualities that its leaders desired from it. Organised, disciplined and showing its colours. With each present distinct detachment in the same camp, it had been organised in five semi-separate quarters. Three of these quarters belong to the present brigades ranged from the 10th to the 12th Imperial brigade. Another sector was allowed for the Senju auxiliary clan forces, which were allowed to travel east to aid the war efforts against Rong. Roughly in the centre was the command ‘district’. It wasn’t open to all and many guards prevented any curious member of the division or camp follower to get even near the palisade. A mixture of the most elite in each brigade was present and performed guard duties, giving a rather stern and imposing atmosphere to outsiders.

Inside the ‘district’ of the commander, things weren’t that much different. The major difference with that of the rest was the presence of higher-ranked officers and veteran troops. A large tent, guarded by the elites of the 12th Brigade was where meetings were held together with the commander of the Imperial forces.
Today was such a day that many high ranked officers and leaders of each distinct force were present. Seated at a long wooden table, there were wasn’t any luxury present aside from some protection from the weather. Instead of wine or anything alcoholic to provide some respite to the present officers, there was simple water and biscuits - just another testimony to the 3rd Major General’s own quite spartan approach to life.
Seated at the head of the table, Hiron had his arms folded while a stream of men and women came in and took places. There was some soft chatter but a professional atmosphere was present among them.

Kensuke always disliked the presence of the military. Always with their strict laws and order that was imposed upon their subordinates. He found that a certain degree of discipline was necessary, yes, but to go on towards this level? No. After all, it’d been two weeks since he’d arrived inside the 3rd Imperial Division’s camp, and he’d been looked at strange. Both for his taika style as well as his … carefree yet disciplined nature. At least now there would be a change of that. Yesterday evening he’d received reports that his battalion would arrive, and towards noon they arrived here. Kensuke felt a little better knowing that his taika battalion had arrived. Both for the inconveniences in translating, and just because it proved them wrong.

Arriving at the head of the camp, where the commander’s tent was located. Things were put in the highest of orders, as with all things of the military. Kensuke rolled his eyes, and turned towards his two followers, who simply raised their shoulders. Both of them were wearing the same dirty old green cuirasses that made everyone who took a look at them wonder what their business even was following a shinobi, nevermind such a high ranked one. Ah, the hilarity of it all. They arrived last in the tent, and quickly made their way towards their places.

The newcomers received from most present a curious glance but nothing that seemed to amaze them. A few of the older individuals did gain a frown as they saw the state of which Kensuke and his companions arrived at but nobody that spoke a word or demanded them to do better. Only judging and disapproving glances were shown before many returned to their prior source of attention or conversation.
Hiron, however, kept his gaze locked on the tall Nimatsu. Unlike his adopted daughter, his opinion regarding the Nimatsu was low. Remembering how the young man had decided to chase after some low-class Hyuuga, risking too much and gaining too lite, Hiron frowned upon seeing in what kind of state the Nimatsu Scholae arrived. Briefly, the commander’s eyes narrowed as the corners of his lips tucked downwards, a silent response of disapproval but nothing that was made verbal.

Slowly the conversations came to an end between the officers as the commander subtly raised his hand slightly.
"Good. We are all gathered," his hand gestured to the newcomers as he continued on, "I assume introductions are in place. Kensuke Nimatsu, colonel of the Soaring Blades and Scholae of her Majesty. They can join the quarters of the 10th brigade. Perhaps also show them some of the ropes and what not, regarding how we deal with things here."
There was no emphasis that would display any disdain or disappointment but Hiron’s frown had yet to vanish from his brow. Lowering his hand, he opted seemingly to not bother much more with saying why the Nimatsu or his unit were with them. Though his decision to station Kensuke and his men with the 10th wouldn’t be much of a surprise, due to the 10th’s presence of Taika cultured individuals.
"Good. Preparations for the expeditions are on the way. We have received word from the Jirians in the south, that they have managed to acquire some success. Taking a key fortress, from which they will continue eastwards. We have yet to hear something from the Northerners and how they will go on. As such, we will stay in this location and make it our base of operations. There are some small settlements that have shown some sympathy towards our cause against Rong. Naturally, we will keep our dealings professional," Hiron’s gaze shifted and upon the last word, on which he placed a clear emphasis, he looked at Kensuke, "to make sure that no incidents can take place. I have already tasked Lady Cho and the 11th to engage in various tasks to deal with that as tracking down the significant source of Red Cloaks in the eastward directions. The 12th will continue together with the Senju auxilary forces to establish various outposts so that we can keep this territory under control."

Most officers remained silent, aside from some individuals grumbling something in their native language. A certain bald figure scoffed lightly and spoke something in the Yakimara language to someone at his right.
"Other than that, I am certain that the presence of the Guardians might raise some questions. As I imagine that of the Soaring Blades. I do not desire to see any ‘accidents’ take place. While they aren’t under our responsibility, we all are here with the same goal."
Some more grumblings followed but nothing that indicated displeasure or anything that voiced concern. Releasing a soft sigh, Hiron leaned back in his seat as he would let an officer from the 10th stand and speak. Much like the other officers from the respective regiment, the man was from clear Taika origin and spoke with a rather posh accent - betraying his noble origin and heritage without a doubt.
It seemed that there was some concern that no communication with the Northerners made a few officers consider an expedition in their direction to re-establish communication or if they should be wary of any enemy operations from that particular direction.
Hiron shook his head and assured his officers that they should have some patience and focus on their current endeavours. However, some more patrols and scouting parties in that direction would be sanctioned, if it could ease some worries.

The bald man of before rose up, his gear indicating his origin from the 12th brigade. He spoke in a rather cocky fashion but his accent was noticeably different - a light touch of Yakimara present. Explaining that the 12th would do their best to fulfill the wishes and wants of their commander but also detailing a few mundane matters.
Interestingly enough, nobody of the 11th - the Chonobi dominated regiment - spoke or rose up. Most of officers of the 11th brigade seemed rather content with the hint that they would be relied upon with doing the more intensive and dangerous tasks.
"Perhaps the colonel of the Soaring Blades," Hiron suddenly began, "can later arrange a meeting with the 11th brigade general, Aiko Cho-Hon. I believe that you two are acquainted with each other," a short pause was enlisted, "If you desire to aid the expeditions and missions that are focused east of us."

The majority of the 3rd imperial Division’s was wasted on those that belonged to the Soaring Blades. It didn’t matter where they came from, they obviously did not belong in this pack of wolves. Both their low standing in society and their apparent refusal to look ‘respectable’ was most of the deal. But that was outside of Kensuke’s concerns. A nod and then a look of Kensuke told the two officers of him the same as what Hiron had just explained.

"That can be arranged." Kensuke said, when it was finally his turn to speak. "And, you know, you didn’t have to introduce me. I have been here long enough." He said, already with his hand up. "But, as you say, of course."

A faint smile crossed Hiron’s lips as Kensuke attended him that an introduction wasn’t necessary. "Of course not, but it is only polite like Lord Nimatsu. Certainly when some can’t recognise you," Hiron’s gaze slightly lowering, as if he silently gestured to the younger individual’s state of clothing before meeting his gaze again. "I will trust that you’re competent enough, however, to seek out Lady Cho on your own accord. The 11th brigade’s quarters are where you will likely find her," Hiron finished as he nodded for Kensuke to take a seat.

Their relationship had been better, once, and Kensuke did not mind at all. But this time, in front of so many men and women, something in Hiron’s tone enraged him. However, remembering all those meetings with the clan leaders in the West of the Akinian Empire calmed him. Surely he must be striving to command discipline from his underlings, at every cost. Even common decency was below that standard, apparently. He maintained a look of disinterest during the entire meeting, and he was almost sure that even his sister could believe that. "Naturally." Was his carefully crafted reply, while he waited for this meeting to be over.

Content with the response, the meeting continued on without much of an issue or reason of worry surfacing. Eventually, some plans were discussed regarding mundane matters or alterations proposed. When it came to an end, the officers took their leave in the same manner that they had arrived; in pairs or small groups, each of these belonging to the same regiment. However, as the space didn’t allow everyone to leave at the same time, Kensuke and his officers had to wait their turn.

"I have not yet been informed why you’re here," Hiron casually began, despite the presence of leaving officers and the chatter that occurred with them. His gaze wasn’t even on Kensuke but it was clear that he was speaking to the Scholae. "But I do demand that you’ll not give me a reason to see you politely removed from my front." Throwing a sideways look at the blonde, Hiron’s brow once more was graced with a frown. "Her Majesty may have her preferences and favourites, but I don’t abide by them when I can avoid it."

The rest of the meeting was filled with things that didn’t concern his 5th battalion, and was in fact quite boring. So boring even, that he had to resort to kicking one of his officers awake, to keep him from dragging their already feeble reputation through the dirt. When it was time to scamper, his officers dusted themselves off, tired after half a day of marching quickly, but they were stopped by the exiting men and women.

It surprised Kensuke that he was just given a command and that was it, until Hiron had more to say. "Heh. Don’t worry, I did not pick this front either, if that’s what you’re asking. But don’t worry. I’ll behave."

The response of Kensuke didn’t create much of a difference at Hiron’s features. But the Hon didn’t say more as a chance came for Kensuke and his officers to take their leave. Only for Hiron to release a more irritated sigh before rising from his seat and attend to other matters that awaited him.

Autumn Song

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[ The 3rd Imperial Division Encampment | Sevudia, Eastern Continent ]
[ The 'Brave Dragon' and Lady Cho! | A collab between @Lesli and @Autumn Song ]

[ Aiko spends some of her precious free time visiting a recovering Hylli. Checking on Hylli, Aiko also informs the former of something that will change once their exchange has passed. ]

The world was a mess. Every time that Hylly opened her eyes, it greeted her with blurry shapes and painful aching. It made Hylli desire the smooth darkness, yearning for the blissful dark that kept her safe from harm and pain. The worries and anxiety that came with being awake were far from alluring. Being awake only brought pain; she whinged mentally and trying to stay in the dark.
Opening her eyes half and with much effort, the world seemed still too hard to comprehend. The aching and anxiety came back as if someone with a hammer decided to remind her that she had come back barely alive.
Then she wanted to get up, as her memory flooded back. The battle, Kazumo and Ardvir - the first name was making her worried and the second causing Hylli to grow eager. Grunting as she felt a sharp pain moving through her stomach, Hylli still attempted to push through. However, her body either rebelled or was yet too weak. Disappointed and quite frustrated, Hylli moved back to the less painful position of before as she losing her eyes. Hylli's mind raced in a desperate attempt to figure out her options.

"I was told you needed to rest," a familiar voice resonated gently, though a sense of amusement was clear. "Yet, here I arrive, and you trying to get up," Aiko said, taking a seat on a wooden stool. The woman seemed not in the best shape, her complexion much paler than it seemed healthy as dark bags had formed underneath. Yet, a smile graced her lips as she placed her hands on her knees.
"How are you feeling, Hylli?"

Hylli didn't open her eyes immediately upon hearing Aiko's voice, and she was, in fact, scared and happy. The odd mixture of emotions wasn't making it easier to respond as she wanted to inform the woman what had happened. That she was sorry for Kazumo getting wounded and that she hadn't been able to perform better.
"Sorry," Hylli whimpered, refusing to open her eyes but also not willing to turn away from Aiko. "I feel really sorry, Lady Cho," Hylli began after a few seconds of silence. "I didn't manage to safeguard Master Scylding. Or even safe myself from a mess."

Aiko stayed silent. Not because of the mental fatigue that continued to plague her. Or the physical state that she had to deal with. "You came back alive, and you even brought Kazumo back alive. For both, I am immensely grateful," Aiko began, a soft smile crossing her face, "True, I would have certainly liked it a lot more if neither of you guys was hospitalized. But considering what you guys went up against, I am quite impressed. There is already quite some talk going around in the camp of your feat. Taking out the enemy general and escaping with a dragon of your own? I don't think I know many who can say that as a chuunin."
Pausing to let the words and their meaning sink in, Aiko spoke once more.
"I don't have a lot of time. Duty calls, certainly with arranging matters. But I did want to come by and make sure you are doing fine."

Hylli's eyes slowly opened half. Turning her gaze to Aiko's direction, the blurry shape became steadily better. It still hurt to focus her attention, but the gentle contours of Aiko's shape were oddly calming as if the woman's presence was nothing more than a blessing in disguise.
"Chuunin," the word was repeated softly as the realization sank in. A smile found its way to Hylli's lips as she wanted to laugh, but it caused her to wince instead.
"I am honoured, L-Lady Cho," Hylli managed to bring out despite the sharp pain. "But I don't think I have earned this promotion yet."

Aiko frowned as she seemed most amused that the Hyuzu tried to decline the promotion politely. It was always heartwarming but amusing when humble genin tried to do so. As if they didn't understand how much of an offence it could be to those deciding that they had earned the promotion.
"I thought I had gained enough experience and wisdom to know when someone was worthy to ascend to the rank of chuunin. Unless you now want to discuss if I am not qualified enough to make that decision," Aiko replied, slightly leaning back as her arms folded out front of her chest.
"I am most intrigued what you can conjure and point out on where I am mistaken regarding this promotion," Aiko calmly continued, "perhaps I should even make notes, hm?"

Wincing, Hylli felt awful. But there was no escape. Even if she could run, she doubted that there was a way her abilities could outmatch Aiko's. Her lips parted as she became nervous, unsure what to say in response back to Aiko. Feeling miserable, defeated and embarrassed, Hylli couldn't bear to look longer at the woman - her eyes lowering to avoid eye contact.
"Please accept my apologies, Lady Cho. I wasn't... thinking straight," she managed to bring out as a barely audible whispering response.

Raising a hand to make a waving gesture, Aiko chuckled as if she could wave Hylli's worries away. "It is alright, Hylli. You are excused. I shouldn't make too much fun of you right now. Just know that you are chuunin the mere moment I leave this tent. I suppose," briefly, Aiko threw a look around before settling her gaze back on Hylli, "you could use this time recovering to find a way to celebrate this."
Rising from the stool, Aiko winked at the girl.
"You have earned it."

Nodding, Hylli did notice that Aiko rose from the stool. Her lips parted as she didn't want to be alone. But it took a second before she had found her voice again.
"Lady Cho, may I request two things. I understand you are quite occupied, but you would make me very grateful," Hylli stated as she tried to flash a friendly smile. "I would like to request to know how Master Scylding is doing. And if you would honour me with training. Once, you know, I am capable of doing so." Pausing, Hylli tried to also weigh her following words carefully before speaking again.
"I want to learn how to utilize water chakra. And according to from what I have heard, you are a splendid master of water techniques."

Aiko halted as Hylli spoke again. The soft smile of before returned on her features. "Kazumo is doing well. Of course, he needs to recover as he sustained more wounds. But he is most stable and will be like the old in no time, I assure you," Aiko began as she then grew once more amused. "I am a splendid master of water techniques. How flattering," the woman repeated and stated before answering the question regarding training. "How can I refuse after such praise? Once you have recovered, we will certainly conduct such training. For now, rest Brave Dragon."


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[ After the battle of Jinseong | Sevudia | Eastern Continent ]

[ Kensuke Nimatsu | Scholae ]
[ Aiko Cho-Hon , Team 8 - Brigade General of the 11th Imperial Brigade]

Aiko listened as some officers gave the details of the meeting. With how all things were going, she wasn’t entirely discontent. It could have been much worse. Then again, she mused, it could have been so much better as well. Dismissing the respective officers, allowing them to return to their tasks Aiko pinched the bridge of her nose. The damned headache was returning, the subtle pain and irritation not doing wonders to her mood.
The warm rays of the sun were bothering her, which only added to her confusion as she glanced at the sickly pale complexion of her skin.
”I need a vacation, clearly,” she mumbled underneath her breath before spotting one of her guards giving a signal. Directing her gaze to where the respective guard subtly pointed at, Aiko frowned.
”Oh?” Escaped her lips upon spotting the rather tall and familiar Nimatsu. ”Kensuke Nimatsu,” Aiko said, raising her voice to make herself audible as the squadron of elite guards made way to allow the blonde man close in. ”This is a most unexpected visit. I dare say, somewhat suspicious as well.” Placing her hands against her hips, she eyed the other before speaking again. ”What has made you venture to these parts, hm?”

The camp of the 11th battalion was easy to find, especially if you’d spent some time in the military camp before. Finding their leaders, well, all you had to do was find the elite guards and voila! It helped that he wasn’t attacked of course, should he be an enemy. But he shrugged as he entered the tent. He gave a brief smile, but you saw it clear as day that the Nimatsu was overworked.

"Good day, Aiko Cho-Hon. I have been sent towards here by your commander, Major General Hiron, and I have come to offer you my assistance. That is, the 5th Battalion of the first Imperial Division’s assistance." He bowed as he did his entrance, a gesture that was firmly baked into his being.

"The Major General found that you could use my good scouts to identify more targets for missions against the Rong, now that you have beaten them inside a battle. Surely we have plenty of targets that we’re not yet aware of where our skill sets are more of use?" He added surreptitiously. Hmm. Perhaps not too covertly. "Sorry. Hiron and I aren’t the best of friends." He finally admitted, probably giving away all of the sauce he’d included in his previous replies, if that was hidden at all

Aiko’s head cocked to the right upon the first emphasis. When the second one came, her eyes half closed as she remained silent. When Kensuke finished Aiko raised her right index finger.
”You sound like an ass,” the crude words left the lips of the so called ‘Lady of the Cho Clan’ rather brusquely as she lowered her finger, ”I can’t really afford to care who you are or aren’t friends with. Just leave any petty squabbles out of here. I already have enough matters that drive me insane.”

Softly, she released a sigh as she inspected the Scholae in front of her. How long had it been since they had seen each other? Let alone even working, Aiko further pondered for a mere moment. ”Good thing you haven’t grown taller. It would be a drag to hurt my neck or have you tear my tent apart. Anyhow, you and your scouts. Jolly, I can find work for your boys. There are plenty of targets still on the run after the last scuffle. And then there is the fact that we are dealing with a lot of unknown things. Or people. Sometimes, even both. ” A casual shrug followed her words, ”However, that doesn’t really explain why you’re here. Care to indulge me?”

That was fair, he surmised. Army leaders have a lot to contend with. He’d leave his fight with Hiron out of this from now on. But, as was the case with Hiron in his turn, the why part of him being here was the foremost question. That, as a consequence, was an answer that was by now baked into him. "I’m to assist you on the Eastern front, together with my unit." He simply said. "Orders direct from Zakito. Hmpf. Besides, my unit wasn’t doing all too well with the endless patrolling they had to do inside the Empire."

A silence followed Kensuke’s answer as Aiko didn’t reply in return. Instead she turned her attention to the present guards, stating something in Chonobi. The command or comment was rather short as Aiko returned her attention back to Kensuke. The subtle sounds of the guards and their gear moving would resonate until the last one had left the tent.
Folding her arms Aiko seemed rather amused all of a sudden.
”Well said. I assume you had drilled that in your mind before? Of course, people will ask why you’re here. Most probably out of curiosity or some because they are just that polite. However, that lie needs practice. First,” raising her index finger, Aiko paused, ”Zakito would surely inform me if you were to reinforce me. Try to keep in mind personal relations. Not to mention,” raising a second finger, the amusement seemed to flow away from Aiko’s features and voice.

”Why would Kiyomi or Zakito let you have fun outside their range of view? Kiyomi is rather jealously protective of people she is fond of. Zakito? Less so, yeah. But to just send you and your small unit? It is a bit suspicious, rather due to the amount of specialists we have here.” Raising another finger, Aiko continued on. ”I can actually list five more reasons. But that is dull. So I assume you are here because of something secret. Or because of politics. Either reason is not to my liking. If you promise to just be straight with me, I won’t pry into why you’re here with your boys. Do we have a deal?”

From the moment Aiko didn’t buy his lie for being here, his mind was analyzing the situation. Perhaps even overanalyzing, but he couldn’t know that. Could he offer her a bit of the truth? She wasn’t officially part of the empire’s state structure after all? But as she said so herself, she was married to the Imperial Lord Commander. She might be into his ideas, and that was a risk he wasn’t willing to take. On the other hand, of course she saw through his lie, official as it might be, straight away. Zakito had not written to her that he would come, together with his unit. Perhaps the fault lay with Hiron, but he doubted that. Hiron got along well enough with everyone else.

Kensuke looked around, to see if there wasn’t actually anyone else hearing this conversation, hidden or not. He sighed. He’d tell her a part of the truth, but not the entire truth. That would be best for everyone involved. "Hmm. Very well. Simply put, as long as I worked in the field I was ‘safe’ from enemy shinobi trying to assassinate me. Not very much so in the capital. So, I was sent here, surrounded by soldiers who fight for our cause. Not very pretty, I know, but the Empress's safety trumps all."

”That makes a little bit of sense, I suppose,” Aiko replied. She did enlist a pause before speaking again. ”I have questions and some doubts lingering. But I won’t burden you with them. After all, as long as you’re not disturbing my work, I have no reason to bother you. You mention that your unit is capable of providing scouting work, yes?”

Visibly pondering on something, Aiko seemed to come to a certain conclusion without requiring his answer. ”I will have some work for you and yours.I already enlisted my own scouts on tasks. But the multitude of targets is quite large. Too much for just my scouts alone to deal with. If you would aid my brigade with this, we can cover more ground. My plan is to eliminate the threats that managed to escape the aftermath of the last battle. No doubt, the enemy’s troops are regrouping. I want to prevent them from gathering and form an united front. Then there is also the question that we do not have the same amount of knowledge that our enemy has. They have fought, lived and travelled these lands for much longer than we did. I might need to send some more diplomatic envoys to villages. If you could lend a hand with that, making sure that nobody gets harmed from our side, then that is also appreciated. Last but certainly not least,” Aiko stated, a wry smile flowing on her lips, ”there is enough killing. So much that I might need to put myself on it. We have been dealing with a lot of nasty elements. Ranging from people that apparently don’t die, shapeshifters, annoying beasts and some old priests. At least, I heard about some old farts in robes going around. Not sure what their deal is but I don’t want to figure out if we can prevent them. I think I’ll be sleeping better if I won’t be cursed by some old annoying geezer.”

He started shaking yes before Aiko finished speaking. "Sounds like pretty much the tasks I’ve been doing in the past. Except, this time, it’s enemy villages. Even killing all that isn’t too strange to me. Except the beasts, I’ve done, or tried to do that all before." He started shaking his head. "What a world we live in. But agreed. My scouts will sleep better too if those beasts are contained."

”I am glad that we agree on that then. I will have one of my men inform you later who to contact regarding the missions and such matters. Ah, a word of advice,” Aiko said, as if she had nearly forgotten something important, ”you are a Scholae. Which means technically you can boss my troops around. However, they tend to be quite thick in loyalty, if you catch my drift. Strong-headed but good kids. Don’t take it too much to heart when they will challenge or question you. Best is to just remain calm and don’t try to do anything to encourage more reactions. In time, I am sure their curiosity will be sated or dulled.”
Seemingly content with how the exchange so far had gone, Aiko nodded towards Kensuke.
”Unless you have any questions, I think that would be all.”

"That’s fine. I’m not so used to my rank yet. I find the entire ‘kill me’ thing is a bit overstated. But I can’t control what other people think." Kensuke stated, raising his shoulders. "Nevertheless, if we are on a mission and I need to give orders, I’ll make sure to explain beforehand."
When she offered him any questions, he shook his head. "Good luck then. I’ll be in contact with you."
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[ Homura's Royal Palace, Konohagakure | Empire of Akino ]
[ Two Wolves | The Galassian Matter ]
[ A collab between @Aliceee and @Gerontis ]

[ The news that a Galassian horde is approaching the western border of the Empire is something that has caused some powerful people to worry. Preparations and plans are being made but the Empress comes with a different approach. One that doesn't seem to bode well or cause much respite from the thoughts of the imminent clash with the Galassians. ]

Kiyomi's thoughts refused to be distracted by the luxuries and art as she strolled down the spacious hallway in the Homura palace. Where she would usually have a slow pace and take everything in, today was different. It mainly was different from the stream of rumours and reports from the west. While initially not intrigued by the conflict between the Sayyadians and Fang legionaries, Kiyomi's interest had peaked due to the sudden arrival of the Galassians. In truth, there wasn't much known in Akino regarding these people. According to various sources and the very few experts, the Galassians were either half-beast, half-human. Or they were savages who lived far west and refused to civilize to keep true to their traditional ways.
Whatever they were, a horde of Galassians had emerged and greatly upset the situation. Kiyomi had been amused, at first, until she learned that the Galassians were heading eastwards at a steady pace. A few advisors that she had spoken with had given their minds to the ordeal. The Galassians were brutes that lacked sophisticated minds, only dangerous for the unprepared or faint of heart.

However, the reports didn't make her feel quite comfortable. A horde of roughly 80 thousand savages wasn't something to underestimate. Arriving at the room meant for the war council, a present Sworn Sword opened the door for her. Mumbling thanks, Kiyomi was greeted by the sight of several high ranking individuals.
"I apologize for being late. Please, do proceed," Kiyomi said, an apologizing smile crossing her features as she ventured to her chair.

Zakito had his hands behind his back, his attention fixated on the painted table. The situation wasn't entirely great but far from a calamity that they couldn't overcome. Already, he had a plan in mind. But it required Kiyomi's approval as well as learning more about how the Galassians approached warfare. According to the reports, it seemed that the horde also existed out of elderly and children - non-combatants that were fragile and relied upon those able to wield weapons. A drawback that could be used effectively against the Galassians, if they would prove to be hostile.
"Your Majesty," Zakito said, bowing with his head as he then gestured to the painted table. Various miniatures represented the positioning of Imperial Akinian forces as the large Galassian horde.

"We have already set things, according to the reports that are available to us. Our scouts and spies, however, have yet to uncover the true purpose of these Galassians. It seems that they are putting large areas on fire, which has burdened their movement. However, if they continue this pace, then they will pose a threat to the western borders. Most notably, the River province." Zakito paused as he took up a small stick and used it to point at the various elements on the painted table.

"We believe that if you give the word now, we can assemble an Imperial force, strengthened by River auxiliary clan forces that can match the strength of these Galassians. Judging by how they travel and their numbers, they will attempt most likely to cross through these areas." Placing the other end of the pointing stick on the table, Zakito made it run through the border of the River in a valley of rivers and woodlands.
"It won't be the most advantageous site for fighting. Our cavalry will be hampered, but we can use our knowledge of the terrain to tunnel in their horde and separate elements rather easily. That is if they prove to be hostile and willing to invade us." Zakito placed the stick down and turned half towards Kiyomi. Observing how she took in the information, Zakito gestured to the miniatures resembling the Galassians. "But it is your decision, your Majesty."

Kiyomi listened and was confident that Zakito could indeed defeat the Galassians. The man was perhaps the most experienced leader in her 'arsenal' of experts and generals. But she wasn't interested in a fight and not with the Galassians.
"Good. Do indeed assemble a force, as you mentioned. I also want to assemble a reasonable force of my guard," Kiyomi said, throwing a look at the commander of the Sworn Swords. Katashi only frowned and didn't respond right away. His lips parted, but Kiyomi beat him to it.
"I want to meet with the Galassians. It won't do any good if we send them a diplomatic envoy. If someone speaks to them, it will be me." Kiyomi stated, quite sternly, as she had already noticed Katashi throwing a sideways look at Zakito.

Zakito had anticipated that Kiyomi wouldn't easily budge or allow others to do the fighting without her. He easily could arrange something for her to commit to the action. After all, it would do good for the unity within the realm to hear that their Empress was ready to face off against terrifying barbarians to safeguard their prosperity and peace. Not to mention cooling Kiyomi's thirst for battle was a welcome addition as well, Zakito thought to himself. "Your Majesty, I understand your desire. But I don't think that will be necessary. It is of paramount importance that you'll be safe and protected. Which is rather difficult if you are exposed to a whole horde of foreigners, whom we don't know the slightest thing about."

Crossing her arms out front of her chest Kiyomi nodded as if she agreed with her advisor's reply. "Exactly, we don't know much about them. So we greet them with steel and might? That alone will make them ready to fight. They have people with them that they want to protect. The mere moment they feel a slight threat from us, they will respond." Gesturing to Zakito subtly, Kiyomi didn't stop, "You know very well how our ancestors responded. Fair enough, they also came to pick a fight and take turf. But without trying to approach these Galassians, we can't say that we are in the good. If we can set up a meeting, we can also dictate a good site for a battle."

Getting from her seat, Kiyomi's eyes darted across the painted table's spot that represented the border with the Sayyadian realm. Then she leaned forward and managed to place an index finger firmly in a place.
"If we set up a meeting here, we can learn who their leaders are. Who we need to gun for. If they are so tribal, their society is based on strong leaders who keep the peace, right? Take those out, and the rest are hopeless and easily defeated. But if we can avoid a fight, all the better."
Straighten herself, Kiyomi's gaze locked on Zakito. Once more, her arms folded, showing her defiant side to do what everyone had in their mind, seeing the Galassians as a threat.

"In fact, if the Galassians aren't looking for a fight, why not try to make allies out of them? It isn't like we have a swarm of those anyways these days."

Zakito stared at the young monarch, his features refusing to betray his thoughts. But her last words made his right eye narrow. It nearly seemed as if he tried to pierce through Kiyomi, to dig and uncover what she had in mind. "It is indeed a good plan to learn who their leaders are. But make them our allies? They may have been hostile to the Sayyadians, but how do you propose that some random horde of foreigners will become amicable towards us?" Zakito decided to ask instead of going against the stubborn Empress.

"First, we need to learn their goals. Once we know what they are after, we can see if they are a threat to us. If they are, we will lure them in or battle them. If not," Kiyomi's lips formed a smile, "we can see what we can offer. After all," she gestured nonchalantly towards the Imperial fiefs, "I have land that I can bestow them."

The mere notion caused silence to dawn in the room. A silence that made it painfully clear that nobody was ready to agree with that decision. Zakito shook his head lightly. "Even if the Galassians won't be a threat. If the slim chance is there that they will cooperate and not raise a weapon against an Akinian, then you are aware that such a decision will have quite... the impact?" Zakito asked in return.

Kiyomi firmly nodded. "Oh yeah. I am certain that not everyone will be content, and I already know that several clans will be up in arms. However," raising her index finger, as if she could already gesture those respective clans to calm down, "those lands belong to the crown. Not to the clans. We keep those Galassians contained and under supervision. We can arrange that, can't we?" Kiyomi posed the question to Zakito as the eyes of others turned to the Lord Hon.

An answer didn't escape Zakito right away, and he considered the options. While he could applaud Kiyomi's thoughts and decisions, he wasn't so sure if this was a correct approach. Granting some land of the Imperial Fief to foreigners would upset the precious balance in the western sphere of the Empire. Most notably, the Uchiha clan would rear up. And wouldn't he if the Hon and Uchiha were reversed in location? Yes, he would.
"The clans that are now loyal to you," Zakito began as he placed his hands at the edge of the table, leaning forwards slightly, "will not be easily pleased. Administrating and maintaining security for both the people in surrounding territories and for the Galassians, against vengeful or scorned Imperial clans will cost you dearly."

Kiyomi seemed to weigh the options in her head. Only for Kiyomi to lock her eyes with that of Zakito's. "So it is a possible option. Good, let's arrange it. Already," she turned to Katashi, who seemed quite taken aback by the possibility of 80 thousand foreigners being allowed in by his Empress,
"make sure that several clans can arrange an audience. Also start to make sure that the people in these areas," gesturing to the various fiefs Kiyomi continued in a stern voice,
"can be relocated and compensated for their potential loss. I want this done with the highest priority."
Katashi made a profound and slow bow before taking his leave, as Kiyomi dished out several orders to other individuals. Leaving only her and Zakito alone in the room.

"You are a shrewd one, Kiyomi," Zakito started as he glanced at the location of the Imperial fiefs before back at his Empress. "But it will not go easy. What if it comes to a battle? Amid the Empire? It is a calamity we can easily avoid." He began.

"I am aware. But while most are going to complain and point fingers, look at this area. Where is a powerful clan or settlement? Nowhere. It is just small settlements that have been neglected for nearly two whole centuries. If the Senju, Tokugawa and Uchiha protest, I can try to deal with that. Throwing lives away in a battle that is born out of fear for some unknown people?" Her face reflected her disgust at the mere thought. "No. You, Meisa and Hisoka taught me to be different. Now I am going to be different, and you are like the others? Worried and scared of some Galassians?"

Zakito's right eye narrowed. He knew she wasn't entirely wrong. But it sat wrong that she brought up Hisoka. A name that he wanted to keep buried for a bit longer. "I am not worried of them, the Galassians. I am worried that this is going to cost you. I really need to implore you to consider your options. The Uchiha and other Taika will be most upset. It might not be worth it to upset the entire western sphere of your empire."

Kiyomi's lips pursed as if she was ready to face the likes of Shozo and all the other Taika clan leaders. It did somewhat good to not hear Zakito state that the Chonobi or Yakimara would oppose this. However, the Taika did form somewhat half of the Empire. "I granted people the chance to earn these fiefs. If there is going to be complaints, we can solve this as civilized Akinians. Not as ignorant bastards with just swinging steel and then whinging about the crimes of the past."
Placing a finger on the spot where she wanted to meet up with the Galassians, Kiyomi leaned forwards.
"I am not the Fire Daimyo. I am not a Hokage. I am the Empress of Akino. And it is time that I act."


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Writing's on the Wall

[ Fortress Balagan | Sevudia | Jirian Army ]
[ Nishi & Alsanna | A collab between @DeliciousFood and @Oetje ]
[ The time has come to give Alsanna the special attention she probably needs. Attitude, ideas and loads of back’n’forth incoming, with insidious concoctions born from these machinations. ]

[ Part 2 ]
Previous Part -

I do like fucked up. Even more so, dazzling.” she was all ears, a light peak at the carving had her anticipate a new method. Her tongue swirled about in her mouth as she made chewing motions, like she was gnawing at the information fed to her brain. When further explanation was given, she could only narrow her gaze to a squint, before orienting her gaze to the teacher, “Controlling chakra that isn’t yours is a complex and probably inefficient task. Unless you’re suggesting the top dogs keep some special sealing method? Wouldn’t surprise me.” lips pushed out in a perplexed expression, she kept her doubts and crossed her arms.
You know my answer is that anything is technically possible with runes and seals. The issue comes down to requirements and efficiency. Soooo ...” she leaned her visage toward Nishi’s direction, invading her little bubble and continuing to do so with widening eyes, “What’s that you got that you’re hyping up so strongly?

"The brass always has something hidden. That or someone does,” Nishi replied as she found some amusement in the distinct difference of Alsanna before and now. In fact, that amusement was perhaps likely the product of a student willing to delve into matters that were more complex than, say, spitting a ball of fire and imagining that they could beat up someone else with it.
"Look at the engravings. When a circle overlaps another, a new formation is formed between them. This new formation is what can lead to a new sealing. With this knowledge, you could try to keep forming new formations and what not. To reinforce something. Let’s say,” Nishi shrugged lightly with her shoulders, "to make it easier to control someone’s chakra. You are right that it is no easy feat. Not to mention that nearly nobody with a few brain cells is going to stand idle while you attempt to control their chakra or flow of it. In a sense, this is where the thought and development of sealing a bijuu comes from. To create a strong enough formation that captures a Bijuu and yet flexible enough to allow some chakra to pass out in the jinchuriki’s body. A delicate procedure,” Nishi said, her voice being sterner briefly as she voiced those last few words.

"But I am not going to teach you how to seal a bijuu. Though interestingly enough, we can delve later on how to entrap stronger chakra and deal with such foes. No, what I want to start with is to help you, hm, entrap chakra. That is the first step.” Nishi explained as she gestured to the engravings with a soft smile. ”Of course, if you had paid attention, you can see that the schools of thought that I keep mentioning are all brought back in this lesson. A trap to control someone’s chakra would be right up your alley, I figure. But to do so, you need to design it and then realise how you can field it. That’s the first step, you understand?”

I grasp the notions of Bijuu sealing,” a confident response, leading to Alsanna setting a hand on her hip and using the other to gesture her hands that had still been holding a blade, “the melding of chakra pathways unique to a body and the sealing rituals are two things that fit my two specialities, though the actual process is a state secret, huh? Although all this talk about controlling one’s chakra does give me an idea ...” and now something was set in motion, as the student smirked in such a manner that the gravity of potential consequences was known to the teacher.
She performed a little chewing motions as she peered over at the illustration that both parties had drawn upon. A light chuckle escaped her, as she’d then direct her gaze toward Nishi, “Even thought of hijacking someone’s clone? Nice source of intelligence, a means to level the playing field, and ...” a light lick of her lips, “Absolutely unexpected. Fits the idea, no? Control their chakra in such a way that their own creations become my puppets? Certainly fits my already existing talents of forcing out a clone from them.” although as she seemed to have finished, she’d point her blade toward the jounin, “I still want to know your special trump card. That fuinjutsu you’re making me curious about. In exchange ...” for a moment, she pondered, before snapping her fingers, “I’ll tell you how I make the dead do my bidding!

The shift in Alsanna was something that Nishi both dreaded and found curious. Perhaps, even enjoyed it a little. Even as the smirk was something that put Nishi on guard, the jounin listened to what her pupil had to suggest.
"Capturing someone’s shadow clone,” Nishi slowly repeated as she feigned to ponder on the matter. In truth, she hadn’t heard of anyone ever doing it before. The gears in Nishi’s mind started to rapidly progress the possible paths that they had to take in order to conjure a stable technique that allowed such a feat.
"It is entirely possible. You just have to be very cautious to not sever the shadow clone’s link with the real deal. And at the same time put it in a form of statis, to extract intel,” frowning, Nishi looked back at Alsanna, "I wonder if I don’t overestimate you in being able to do that.”

The trade suggestion made Nishi smile, though she didn’t return an immediate response. Truthfully, Nishi had wondered how the genin managed to puppeteer the deceased. Perhaps it was some form of control done with medicinal knowledge, to briefly activate the target’s organs in order to gain the desired effect. But even if she could guess it right, Nishi was aware that she then still didn’t know the full truth.
"You are adorable at times, did I ever tell you that?” The jounin replied, "Maybe in time, when you gain more of my trust I will be keen to share my special trump card with you. For now, I will have to keep you guessing and remain curious. We don’t want you to become bored with me, do we now?”

The blade’s tip was brought to tap the teen’s chin as she was left to muse for a moment, “I’m thinking more along the lines of hijacking mid-combat. Force my own ‘link’ to it, as a sort of parasite- a curse! And have it turn on its master. It would not only display some of their abilities, but stack the odds, even if my opponent may be stronger.” the ambitious Genin smiled, letting the purple-like aura coat the blade she had been playing with, “Feels doable. Especially with the tools I have. It should be extra fun, hehehe. Not for you.
When remarked that she was ‘adorable’, she sucked in her cheeks to make a grotesque grimace, her pupils even derping to emphasize the silliness, “If that’s all you’ve got to keep yourself interesting, then my fuck you are dull. You’re already saving up your sob story, why save up the cool stuff too? Ahhh!” a rough gesture of dismissal followed, “I can’t say the same for me! I’ve always got cool stuff going on! This dead people trick? A SPEC! A crumb of bread in the grand feast I’m preparing!” her arms rose in the air as she took an epic and triumphant air during her declaration.

Sliding her hands down to her hips, Nishi couldn’t resist a grin of her own. "Such theatrics. This is what I meant. If you weren’t some kind of maniac that jumped a few days ago in a pit of lava, I would even reckon you to be some kind of lovely girl. However, knowing the full truth and being the victim of your cheeky comments, I will keep to my dull and grey self. A shame though, for who knows what kind of feasts I could share with the likes of you.” Nishi shrugged lightly as she turned her attention to the engravings.
Her mind steered back to the concept at hand. Controlling a shadow clone even, to turn it against its own creator? That was some fucked up shit, Nishi mused. But just the right kind of fucked up shit that could aid them immensely. Certainly when the enemy was willing to fight dirty as well.
"Capturing and achieving such a feat in mid-battle would not be impossible. Perhaps with some allies to distract the target, you could lay a trap. Seeing that you already displayed a more cunning mind, I don’t dread that you can’t achieve that. Unlike others, you actually tend to use that brain. Even if it is most of the time to produce silly remarks,” Nishi half-half replied and thought out loud before throwing a sideways look at the girl. "What I do wonder is the efficiency. Let us say that you capture a shadow clone or something of the sorts. You need to capture it well enough to prevent the user from dismissing it and yet allow it to remain existing. A tricky matter to balance out,” Nishi said as she waited to hear out what Alsanna had to say on the matter.

If you win the bet, you’ll be seeing that ‘good girl’ notion you’re probably fantasizing about. Then,” she pointed her index toward Nishi, in an almost accusatory manner, “you will tell me if you truly prefer that, or yours truly as she stands~” and with that, a light bow.
I already have an idea of how to apply it. Shadow Clones of any kind are extremely vulnerable. A discharge similar to the one I’m using currently could be enough with the proper cursing method. The real shortcoming would be that once they know about it, they won’t be shitting clones out anymore,” arms crossed, she pondered the issue she had mentioned, but then lit up, “but then again, I can just make more from them, haha. And even better, by virtue of existing, I render clone jutsus obsolete!” arms extended to both sides, she chuckled- no, she laughed at the notion she was presenting, as if she had just figured out something of great consequence. Perhaps she had. “Dispelling a clone you no longer control. That’s like controlling the chakra you’ve sealed away, Nishi. Do you think that’s actually possible, from someone that isn’t versed in curses?” she shrugged, keeping an attentive eye on her teacher.

Somewhat amused by being reminded of their ongoing bet, Nishi actually already had an inkling of what she preferred. But it was always good to see what the ‘good girl’ attitude could do or bring to the team. Hearing what Alsanna said on the matter, Nishi now and then nodded to emphasise that she either approved or agreed with the youngling.
"I suppose it could indeed discourage people from using shadow clone techniques. Or they will find a flaw we are missing, to render the technique less effective.” Nishi said, not a stranger to seeing such developments occurring. Yet, it only made her more curious to work on the concept, seeing its grand potential.
"I think it could be possible. We have yet to see the concept being played out and how strong it can be. Perhaps if you lose focus, it can result in your binding being weakened. Else a technique that cuts your technique can serve as a counter. However, it doesn’t take away the tactical advantage of surprising your foe with taking control of their shadow clone. Even if it's not permanent.”
Pausing for a mere second, Nishi tilted her head slightly to the left.
"Now comes the slightly harder part. We got a concept and know what we want to achieve. Yet, we have to apply our knowledge in order to conjure the effects. You,” Nishi half turned to her pupil, "know how to latch on to a chakra flow. That ‘nasty’ technique of yours, at least seems capable. If you could take that ability, isolate it and then apply it in a different fashion, it could work.”

The ability has an obvious flaw,” she said with a far more monotone voice, as it seemed she had mellowed from her forced dramatization of the situation, “it only works on one ability, and clones aren’t that difficult to destroy. The solution is to merely kill the clone if they cannot recall it, when I’m confident I could block off with an appropriate curse.” with a simple flick of her wrist, the blade in her hand disappeared, and instead Nishi could see static accumulate at the tips of Alsanna’s fingers, with lines of electricity connecting each digit to each other. And then, it’d ‘burst’ out, completely harmless. “Something like this, yeah? A sort of static discharge, similar to this sensory technique I’ve used on you a couple of times.” she then formed the Dragon hand seal, and executed the Palpitating Murmur ability remotely, although Nishi could barely feel a change, and there was one, just very minute, “Clones are overall weak. I would not need direct contact or my blades to hit for them to be compromised. The real challenge ends up being that if I insert my chakra in there, it doesn’t overtake the clone’s and causes it to lose its form. I’m afraid this is an exercise in chakra control and perception.” her lips pushed out in light disappointment, “I’d need a test dummy for this stuff.

"Hm, you are half right this time, my dear,” Nishi said as she lifted her right index finger slightly. "Some people have focused on their clone techniques or amplified them. Allowing them to take a good hit or two. Most troublesome. However, with this technique, it shouldn’t matter anyways.”
There was also the fact that different chakra flows existed, Nishi mused to herself. But how many people knew how to obtain sage mode? Nishi couldn’t even say for certain that sage mode or its ‘natural’ chakra was a real thing. Bijuu chakra would be far harder to curse and parasite from, she reckoned. Yet, there were so few that Nishi wagered that neither she or Alsanna should take it into consideration.
"But yeah, I figured you needed a test dummy. Luckily for you, I can conjure a shadow clone. Just for this mere occasion to be a useful sensei. How about that?” Nishi replied as she conjured an identical replica of herself. The shadow clone would step away from the two and remain standing - facing the wall with a dull expression.

"Now, remember what we discussed. Try to flow the manipulation to the desired effect. But don’t exhaust yourself,” Nishi said, taking a step away to give Alsanna some more space.

Alsanna smirked, lips parted slightly to display some pretty, white teeth, “Excellent!~” she was delighted to see a clone conjured, perfect and obedient. Immediately, she approached it with her miasma-oozing hand and touched it. Instead of actually trying her new idea, she’d curse it with a Cyto-clone and chain it with an actual birthing of a clone of the clone. The result would be … Odd. It wasn’t deformed or even strange. It just looked as though it was a shadow, its features barely visible as if it was in perpetual dark. It just felt as though it was completely hollow. And then, its creator would jab her very hand into its belly, as to not only get a Palpitating Murmur activation, but also to feel its insides, as it would not instantly melt like a normal clone would. “Hmmm. Getting some ideas. The simplistic nature of clones does make this somewhat easier.” she claimed, ripping her hand out half-way through, which caused very small amounts of blood to fall, as clones were mostly devoid of blood beyond the superficial. Before long, the clone of the clone crumbled to dust. “Would you mind controlling your clone, Nishi? Have it do a few tricks and then come to me.

Observing how Alsanna went to work, Nishi remained silent. She didn’t like the sight of the girl’s technique. It looked bizarre and even nefarious. Even after learning some details about the technique, it didn’t make it prettier. "Curious. I never imagined any living being making such a request. But sure, I can humour you,” Nishi replied as the shadow clone started to stretch.
"What’s your thought process right now, humour me in return,” Nishi requested as she leaned against the table. "After all, silly dull me can perhaps even learn something from such an enlightened and elegant mind as yours,” the jounin further said, not hiding her slight mockery and amusement.

When the clone had approached her, Alsanna immediately hit the back of its knee to make it kneel. When it had done mundane motions, she had merely observed, and had come to this violent conclusion. And then, with one hand on the clone’s shoulder, the other readied itself to have both index and major finger jabbed into the base of the figure’s skull. For a moment, it just froze, with a tinge of blood flowing out, before poofing away along with the trace of blood. By Alsanna’s pause and eventual smile, it seemed she was pleased with the result.

What I’m thinking about? That clones are oddly complex for such openly available abilities. Even the lowest of the low can conjure them. Yet they are incredibly complicated creations. It’s like ...” she curled the fingers of her recently solicited hand to prompt a few cracks, “When you give a tool to a simple man, he’ll use it, maybe even master the mechanical use of it, but never truly understand it. That’s how clones are, the way I see it. And just now I’ve had some interesting insight.
Gesturing with her fingers toward Nishi, she’d make it evident that she wanted yet another clone, “Make the best you can muster. The very best. Top chakra control, perfectly refined, as much chakra as you can efficiently put.” it was less of an order and more of a listing, a wish-list of sorts. “Wanna know something particularly interesting? With such a small amount of chakra, you can essentially create a form of life, no matter how fleeting it may be. Have you even perhaps thought of the potential one could have if they could obtain a piece of another’s chakra? Maybe of someone that’s passed? The potential is ... ” she bit down on her thumb’s nail, “Frightening even to me. Heh. It’s like having a piece of one’s soul, and turning it into something of my choosing.

The way Alsanna chose the words for clones was interesting, Nishi mused. Not to mention, the girl’s way of literally delving in the said clones.
"I have considered such matters, yes,” Nishi calmly replied, "I imagine that enough skill or knowledge in sealing could perhaps keep that fleeting form of life and chakra in balance. However, either I am not skilled enough or something else is preventing that from obtaining any form of success. Perhaps it is impossible for us to even obtain control of a soul through sealing techniques. To be entirely honest, I can’t tell you because I don’t know anyone who even came close to such a feat or managed to acquire that skill or knowledge.”
Pausing, a cold shiver went down Nishi’s spine as she then in an almost suspiciously casual way shrugged with her shoulders. "Either way, that is also creating life. And the way I see it? It is more trouble than it is worth. It is the best the way it is now. No tug of war of control to keep said shadow clone in life or allowing it to become independent. Thus becoming a potential threat.”

Who said anything about controlling a soul? What even is a soul? What is the right view to have on something we can’t even see? Is chakra really part of the soul? Or is it something as tangible as our blood, but we can’t realize that?” a shift of her jaw prompted a crack, her wide, blue eyes now fixated on the dummy-drawing both parties had worked on. “Ultimately, if one is capable of capturing another’s chakra, then in theory, they should be capable of creating a clone of them, even if it’d require … Additional steps.
And now she sucked her cheeks in, making a rather strange grimace, “You’ve described everything that hasn’t been discovered and isn’t mundane. There’s always an inherent risk. Binding a clone that isn’t yours to yourself is dangerous, indeed, and yet I already do something similar to that.” and now, her azure gaze was directed to the jounin, “And with clones of flesh, how long until an entirely new body is given to these ‘clones’ of the deceased? Wouldn’t that be just absolutely disconcerting and probably get me killed?! That’d also be so awesome!

Nishi had thoughts of her own when it came to what a soul was. Perhaps more aligned with her religion than perhaps someone as skeptical as Alsanna. The thought process of Alsanna did still provide a source of amusement and intrigue for Nishi. Ironically, Nishi was well aware that the masters of old had explored some similar ambitions.
”Mhm,” Nishi’s head slightly tilted to the right, ”the fact is that there was someone during the Great War that was capable of creating a clone of real flesh. I am sure that with some persuasion I could dig up the name and information,” Nishi stated, already knowing the information but seeing no harm in keeping it from Alsanna, ”I don’t think that I would really consider that awesome. You are right now getting too excited, dove,” Nishi gestured to the mistreated table once more.
”Let us ground you with the possibilities that you can reach out for now. Grand ambitions of delving deeper in what you are desiring can be pursued later. Shall I conjure another clone for you to delve in?”

Huh? Really now?” a look of suspicion was conferred to the Jounin, head jerking back and arms crossed, “A fully physical, resilient clone with everything in ‘em? I definitely need to see this.” nostrils flared, the notion presented to Alsanna had certainly gotten under her skin to some degree. Someone else had achieved something she was aiming for.
Arms extended and she shrugged, “That’s a silly mindset. Why not pursue grand things? The small, incremental steps are merely the milestones. If one had a goal, then at least they know where they are going.” she narrowed her gaze to Nishi, letting a conspicuous silence reign in the room, “And I won’t end up washed up and teaching kiddies while have inebriated.” with that, her hand rose to gesture her approval, “Yeah, toss me another. Or better yet-” she snapped her fingers as she reached into one of her pockets, where a notepad would be nabbed. She then stared at the adult’s figure with wide, fish-like eyes, “Go slowly through the motions of making the clone. Agonizingly slow. Soooo slow. I wanna see it all.

”Oh yeah, though it will be difficult to contact this person. I reckon that something could be arranged eventually,” Nishi replied, her eyebrows slightly perking up as she had noticed her pupil’s suspicion - which did amuse the jounin.
”Because before you are going to leap, it is best to start with running to gain momentum,” Nishi said, casually shrugging, ”Besides,” the woman paused as she placed her hands on her hips - allowing a racking silence to come forth.
”So a shadow clone?” Nishi calmly stated, as if she had forgotten what she wanted to tell the genin. ”Slowly? As you wish,” in the slowest motion possible did Nishi move her hands together to form the sign. The chakra in front of Nishi started to become visible as the technique seemed to shape the being known as a shadow clone.
Despite being used to form it at the rapid speed that most were used to, Nishi couldn’t remember if she had ever tried to do it slowly. The volume of the chakra started to become clearer, resembling the shape of Nishi as it grew roughly to her size. The process of allowing the chakra to mould and twist itself in her image was a tad faster but nothing that made Nishi break out in a sweat. As the product was complete, both Nishi’s placed their hands on their hips.
”There, the slowest shadow clone performance I have ever done.”

An arrow to the left, one curved to end downwards, and then once again one to the left. These bizarre glyphs she was writing down while her eyes were completely fixed on the current progenitor of the clone seemed to mean nothing in particular. They didn’t reflect any sort of chakra flow, nor any hand seals. Yet she drew them as if she were slashing the notepad in her hand.
And seemingly the hardest. Case ‘n’ point, it’s easy to ritualistically use a tool, harder to understand and deconstruct its properties!” and with that, the notepad was put away along with the pen bound to it, and she’d approach the new apparition. With no hesitation, she seized the copy’s hair to force it to bend over, and there Alsanna ‘jabbed’ her fingers into its spine, between the shoulderblades, but didn’t actually stab through. Though the clone would be very much paralyzed and some damage had been made, just not enough to break bone or ligament. “Hmmm, tell me, can you tell if they are capable of feeling pain too? Or feeling anything in particular? Do describe what you experience when controlling these clones. Do you end up seeing what they see? Do you recover their memories once they vanish? Do you feel their experiences? Everything. Tell me everything.

Nishi observed once more the rather grim approach that her pupil took. The questions that followed would for sure unnerve a more rookie squad leader or perhaps someone not used to the rather brusque teenager that Nishi was mentoring.
”Pain is something that a shadow clone will transfer. Not in the sense of physical pain really but emotional? Yes. If they witness something that I would find horrible, I won’t be able to escape it. I won’t really experience it when they are ‘alive’, so to speak. But it is why I am rather careful in using them. An overload of emotions, exhaustion or just everything combined can exhaust a person rather quickly.” Nishi paused as she gestured to the clone that Alsanna was ‘handling’. ”In a sense, I will experience what you are doing to that clone. Of course, it helps that I know why and how. And that I can brace myself for it. But in short? I won’t be able to escape it. It is a downside that many people tend to forget about the technique or variants of it.”

Really, now?” she grinned, although not one that’d be expected from a sadist, but rather of a mind allowed to concoct anything it wished, “Essentially, you ‘remember’ the pain and experience of the clone, yes? It could potentially even traumatize you? Hah. Hah hah.” that grin got toothy as she tittered for a bit, “We spoke of controlling a clone, but why not go further? It wouldn’t be that difficult once control is established, as the clone essentially becomes our plaything.” she ran her index through the submissive clone’s spine, and in turn it could ‘feel’ a slight tension, a sort of electrical charge running through the nerves, “Make the enemy see what isn’t real. Overload their mind with a genjutsu forced upon a clone that has an overall weaker will. So much potential! All in the most commonly used shinobi art in all the nations.
When she was done, she drew a blade from her sleeve and commenced a swift carving of the clone. The back, the hips, the shoulders and finally the neck before it’d poof away. “I assume you’ve felt that, yeah? I also assume this is nothing new to you. Now if we had a genjutsu user around here … We could see how far my theory could go.

The grin was anything but calming for Nishi but she waited to hear out what went through Alsanna’s mind. When the genin posed the question why they didn’t take it further, Nishi gained a frown on her brow.
”Because you are now getting really liberal with using me as a guinea pig,” Nishi stated, shaking her head lightly, ”even if you are right that an effective genjutsu can mislead a clone and what not, I can’t help you with that. My skill in genjutsu is how to combat it. I never delved much in the field myself other than that.”
While Nishi seemed rather composed, the cold shiver that ran over her back as the clone vanished made Nishi pause.
”I felt that, yes. Not the physical pain but more so the unnerving sensation of what you did. And that I don’t like it,” the corner of Nishi’s lips cornering downwards, easily betraying that she was genuine, ”Besides, you are getting too excited. First try to master one step before you are going to take the leap. Why are you even in a hurry to press on while you haven’t even finished this yet?”

Hey, if you weren’t willing to have me tinker with the clones, why even make them? Sheesh. Big war vet baby.” a gesture of dismissal followed, the blade now retreated into her sleeve and she now set that same hand over her shoulder. A few cracks could be heard as she shifted her head from side to side, “If I’m going to push forward with this little theory-crafting we did, I need to know everything about clones. Or at least dig into some layers. Evidently, this leads to a myriad of options. But I’m never content with just learning HOW to use the tool, I want to know the WHAT and WHY of it too. This does lead to the inevitable tangent, yes.” from energetic to more passive and calm, she had made her point.
So! Usurping the clone. What runic structure do you have in mind? I’d assume the medium would be similar to how I mark people, yes? I could think of other ways, but that does seem the most … Sure-fire way!
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[ Sevudia - The Nameless Forest ]
[ Alsanna Shirafuji / Koike Hon - Played by @DeliciousFood and @Gerontis ]
[ Tools are meant to be used, and Alsanna is sure to make some use of her new toy. The reasons as to why remain vague, but she does get quite the chance encounter with someone under a different banner. ]

From Rot to Life

The Nameless Forest

Kyriaki Fungi - Unknown Family
Mushrooms are by far the most peculiar of plant life. And the Kyriaki are eccentric among the outliers. They only grow in a very specific climate, at a very specific season under precise circumstances. They can only grow over the graves of not only fallen men and women, but also of once lush lands, consumed by the tempests of nature and having passed centuries until new life could bloom once more. The Elixir it can produce is intensely concentrated and can cause a wide variety of delusions. But it's more intriguing aspect is its reaction to the chakra of those around it, and chakra that is added to the elixir. I’ve yet to find out more about it, as I’ve only encountered one batch in the entirety of my life …
-Page 94 of Alsanna’s Book on Botany.​

The taking of Bagladan had opened up many new acres of land for the Jirian army. One large patch in particular seemed to be avoided by most. A deep, thick forest with inordinately large trees and frequent clouds of mist made for quite a perilous prospect to consider. And yet a certain Genin seemed dead set on exploring it. There were many other things in Alsanna’s journal that likely had more value than the fungus she sought, but there was something about it that intrigued her. Readied with her messenger bag, a hood’n’cloak and the necessary gear to survive, she parted with the fortress just as dawn came to be.
The Forest had no name, and yet had such a history according to scattered documents and rumors. Although a temperature check and soil study made it a prime suspect for a potential Kyriaki Fungus growth, even if unlikely. The time of year made it perfect to give it an attempt.
When she ventured through the foggy, disorienting forest, Alsanna kept whistling rather loudly. A small, brief tune on repeat. It served to alert whatever roamed this forest of her presence. But she wasn’t alone. A small, bluejay-like avian frequently roosted on branches near her, chirping from time to time and keeping its guard up as would any wild critter.

The fog would cast an atmosphere that seemed near mythical; as if some wise bearded geezer was just waiting to spring forth from his hiding place to bestow knowledge and a queste upon the curious Jirian. However, past any tree was no old nor bearded individual that was waiting for discovery. Time even seemed to avoid the forest, seconds painfully striking by.
Most of the inhabitants also seemed fond of keeping an elusive nature, avoiding contact with this strange intruder that seemed keen on studying and continuing her handiwork. Peace seemed to reign supreme with a tranquil silence following the girl’s expedition deeper in the woods.

An intangible sensation would seem to grow as a soft sound made its entry. The deep sound was far from friendly but not one too uncommon in a woodland scenario. A pair of yellow-coloured eyes seemed to fixate on the young woman, wide open as it moved like a silent shadow. The precious light piercing the canopy of the forest wouldn’t reveal immediately the shape of the predator that slowly threaded closer - its steps barely audible. The aura of killing intent seemed to spike as the creature came in sight, its build betraying the potential to move and kill. A quite large wolf came into sight, its fur black as the obsidian night. Its barred fangs large enough to tear and shred the flesh of its victims.

A masculine voice suddenly erupted, speaking in a tongue different than what would be used by Jirians. The voice caused the predator to lift its head and twist it in a direction, from which the voice came. Throwing a hasty glance at the girl, the predator seemed either unwilling to proceed further or having lost its prior interests. As sudden as it had appeared, the large canine would turn and move back to the shadows.
Roughly at the same time, an adult man would come into sight. The dull brown cloak prevented much sight of his attire while his hood was pulled down.

He flashed a disarming smile and said something, awaiting a response as if his cryptic language would be understood with ease. Only for the man to hastily state something in Taika.
”Ah, Taika?”

A predator was nearing the lone traveller, and in turn an odd coo came from the nearby avian stalker. This prompted the lithe figure to stop in her tracks and peer over to the direction of the beast. Much like the soon-to-emerge older entity, the cloak concealed most of the humanizing features of this female. Her expression seemed to remain adamant, body perfectly still with only a blade silently sliding from her sleeve down onto her gloved hand. Nishi’s little education did have some use.

And then it was made to just leave with the manifestation of a far greater threat: A human. One that seemingly didn’t speak the same tongue as the researcher. The smile only seemed to raise some unseen suspicion in Alsanna. But when ‘Taika’ was brought up, she pursed her lips and rose her hand to reveal her feather-shaped blade, “Who is Taika and how tight is her rear?” she chuckled just as she immediately stabbed the blade into the nearest tree trunk. From there, she seemed to try and peel out some bark, aiming to get a nice, long strand.

Meanwhile, the Akinian newcomer could be made very much aware of a second presence. The bluejay that had been keeping watch would take off and descend, only for its shape to quickly morph into a pristine copy of the hooded Alsanna. It did not hesitate to approach the male and gave a thorough checkup without actually touching him. Sniffing, staring at every angle, and making odd cooing sounds. No sudden movements beyond the rapidly shifting pupils that could just barely be seen from the man’s position. All the while, the curious explorer resumed her whistling during her inspection of the now severed bark.

Surprise seemed to overtake the disarming smile as the unknown individual threw a look at the action of Alsanna. A soft whistle followed as the surprise flooded away, followed by a simple nod.
”I wouldn’t have a clue. Not much rears around these parts, I fear,” the man responded, his brow forming a frown. ”Eh,” he seemed not entirely content with the copy of the hooded girl checking around him. But neither did he present any threat.
”Judging by that, I assume you are one of those Jirians. You’re awfully far from the fortress. I would have mistaken you for a local. Almost, at least,” the man stated, his accent betraying a different heritage and origin than Alsanna. ”What does someone like you do so far and alone? Hardly seems safe with a war raging on, does it now?” He continued posing questions in a friendly tone.
Hmmm. Way too damp.” she tossed the bark behind her to dispose of it, with her free hand gesturing over to the copy. In response, it stopped its scan and scurried over to the original, only to turn back into an avian, although this time it resembled a pigeon that landed on her shoulder. There it ‘whispered’ to her ear, which Koike could hear ever so slightly as oddly human-like, though the contents were intelligible. A few nods in silence before she resumed her attention to the man before her. “No, you’re just confusing the Rong accent with Jirian.” she smirked, “Heh, get it?” though she didn’t laugh.
The blade was retreated back into her sleeve and the bird took flight to keep a decent vantage point on one of the branches, “Isn’t it obvious? I have a crippling addiction to tree bark and can only satiate my sick desires in odd, probably deadly forests. I’m afraid it’s terminal.” she started to pace forward, as if nothing had changed during her adventure. She still had one, specific goal after all.

Alsanna’s first comment did little to provoke a laugh from Koike, yet a subtle hint would become visible that he seemed amused - as the corner of his lips tugged upwards ever so slightly.
”I get it, no worries,” he said, his head slightly tilting to the side as he observed what the other was doing. Once more a soft whistle escaped his lips as his expression shifted - the multiple scars making his expression seem more stern than worried.
”Tree bark, eh? Can be useful to fend off scurvy. Not my favorite ingredient for soup. But to each their own.”

Seemingly curious, Koike threw a look around before he would follow suit - keeping a respectable distance between himself and the hooded Jirian. As if they were old friends, the scarred-faced man spoke again. ”Honestly, I can try to suggest other edibles than what you’re addicted to. Granted, I was out here for wild game. I never enjoyed soup with just vegetables or roots.” Pausing, he seemed to ponder about something. ”What’s your name? I can hardly have a friendly conversation without asking that, after all.”

A little ways ahead, when Koike mentioned the usage of bark to purge ailments, Alsanna replied with her eyebrows furrowed, “Bark? To eat? Ew, gross. What do you people live off?” she said in full-on gaslighting, even giving the newcomer a squint of suspicion. Then, a new stop was made at a different tree. A bigger one than the last and quite intimidating in size too. This one here actually had some rows of mushrooms growing along the wood, which she’d sample and fit into a vial filled with a transparent liquid. A little shake and it started to sizzle into nothing, leaving a transparent fluid completely intact, “Darn.
She had put her unlikely companion at the back of her mind for the moment, though with the test now complete she’d actually address him despite keeping her face forward. Her hand extended to the side and gestured for him to see, “Eh? Me? My name is ...” shifting her eyes from side to side, she had taken a very conspicuous pause, “Yukimi Hirashima. Yeah, that’s my name.” with that response she snapped her fingers, “Bit out of the way to find small or big game. Why so deep and alone, Captain Akino?

”Usually way more tasty food, no worries. That and not all bark is edible. It is just one of those trivia that can be useful when you find yourself starving,” Was the rather amused response of Koike. The halt made Koike observe the girl, before his gaze travelled to the tree. He didn’t make any comments but seemed most satisfied to just observe and let her conduct her affairs without further interruptions or questions on his side.
”Yukimi Hirashima, huh,” Koike repeated as another frown appeared on his brow. ”You didn’t strike me as a Yukimi. Bit too cheeky for such a posh name,” he half-joked, before he deigned to answer her question in return. ”I suppose I like to hunt alone. Or more so in silence. My hunting companion tends to remain silent. Well, most of the time, at least.” The last being added with Koike throwing a sideways glance, despite no sign of the previous large beast.

”Besides, not everyday that I find a bark-addict in a wood. If you would perhaps humour me, I could aid you. Then again, my knowledge regarding flora is most basic. I can recognise certain edible and poisonous elements. Other than that, I suppose I could try to offer anecdotes.”

Teenage rebellion.” she replied with the usual inclination of her tone that oozed sarcasm. And then she started to whistle again as she had done since she entered the forest. Deeper in the grove, it seemed the sunlight had a harder time getting through with how thick the bundles of leaves were getting and how large the trees were in general. “Was that cute dog yours? It had quite nice fur.” she clicked her tongue, her index now wagging toward the east, which she’d then change her trajectory toward. The darker it was, the more likely quality fungi was to be found, especially with how damp the air was getting with this fog.
They were now descending down into a grove, almost completely obscured from sunlight, but instead illuminated by many bioluminescent plants and insects. As awe-inspiring as it all was, it did little to distract the scientist, “Humour someone that hasn’t introduced themselves upon requesting my name. Interesting.” she left that remark at that, as she kneeled to sample a new sort of mushroom. It wasn’t shining like some of the bigger ones, though it caught her intrigue. Small, white shrooms, one was put into the same vial, only for there to be no reaction whatsoever. “Double darn.” the contents were emptied and vial put back in her bag, “One would think a hunter would know their flora too, no?” she peered over at the Akinian, “Leave the sniff out to me, I came prepared, Captain Akino. Although that makes me think of something ...” another snap of her fingers as she’d then wag that usual pointer finger toward the adult male, “Do you like to get high?

”Of course,” Koike mumbled, finding the sarcastic response quite amusing. While trailing behind, the space between him and Alsanna quite consistent in safeguarding a sense of respect and faint wariness, Koike’s features shifted slightly. The path that he followed wasn’t one of his choosing but neither one he seemed to like either.
”I suppose you can call it that, yeah. Obedient if his stomach is full. Less so when it isn’t,” Koike casually remarked.
The sighting of the grove made Koike fall back in silence. Observing the rather beautiful sight, he crossed his arms out front of his chest. Despite being curious, he made no inclination to inspect any of the plants or insects.
”I have to find one way to make myself intriguing. Else it will be hard to find that ‘Taika’, after all.” Was his retort before he became somewhat more serious. ”Perhaps, you are right. Then again, I suppose that I am not that great of a hunter. Eating tree bark and what not, you know.” The last question provoked a puzzling expression before a chuckle escaped his lips. ”No. I sadly had my first bad experience. No need for another. Though, if you desire to indulge, go ahead. I have no bad intentions. Nor do I have any intent to carry your sorry ass back to your comrades, sorry.”

So much foliage would come about as further progress seemed necessary to push on to the task’s end. The blade she had drawn earlier was once again solicited to cleave through some of the vines and branches in the way, “Tsk, bugs. Bugs everywhere. You wouldn’t happen to have some convenient and controllable fire ability, by any chance?” she even got a couple of these small insects in her hair that still remained within her hood. There were just that many.
Yeah but you’re some weird guy following a young girl in a forest. I mean, I think the mysterious aspect may not exactly play in your favour when everything is put into perspective, no?” she stopped to look over her shoulder, the faint glint of her blue eye reflected by the yellow glow of the nearby massive shroom was just barely visible. Consistent rustling could be heard from above too; the bird was still hovering about, just not in this dense maze of plants, “And so willing to leave said defenseless girl all dazed in the middle of a forest! You certainly are a grand inspiration for my next romance novel, Captain Akino. Ho man. I can see it already, you telling the princess to descend from the tower on her own because your wolf requires extra pampering. So manly and elegant.” she continued to nag, and nag some more. Until they would reach a clearing. Well, a ‘clearing’, it was fully illuminated by a sort of blue ‘crystal’ at the center, though upon further inspection, it was actually an oddly shaped mushroom, with the crystalline part being actually a form of gelatine, “Huh, what do you reckon that’s called?

”No, sadly, I don’t,” was his response upon Alsanna’s request of conjuring flames to destroy the bugs. With a subtle movement of his left hand, a small gust was produced that harmlessly blew some of the insects away from himself. ”It sure would be so handy, to rid oneself of bugs wouldn’t it?” He asked, turning his attention to their surroundings. ”Then again, you are eager to indulge in some dubious matters like tree bark. I could even believe you were to consume a bug. But I should warn that I would judge you slightly for such an act,” he added further.

”Precisely,” Koike replied, snapping his fingers upon hearing her nagging. ”It is one big dilemma isn't it? Whatever I would do, it may gain frowns. It is best to just make sure that it is clear that little miss tree bark won’t accidently start to think I am just a mysterious random stranger. Best to leave after I proved my worth, so that you can complain about that instead,” he further replied, his tone revealing he was far from bothered about the whole possible judgement and ordeal.
”Honestly, not sure.” Observing the mushroom, Koike looked at the surroundings. There were less bugs going about, as if they avoided the fungus for a good reason. Becoming silent, he then observed the surroundings from where he stood.

”Honestly, I can say that I wouldn’t try to sniff or eat that. It sure is pretty though,” was his initial observation regarding the mushroom. The amount of light that radiated from the fungus seemed also quite different, not alone in colour but providing a softer hue than the previous fungus or insects.
”Besides, if you aim to write a romantic novel, I doubt that this is the best setting. Maybe it is better to let this one just stay where it is. Before, you know, something will be upset.” Koike further stated, not entirely content on how the blue shroom was presented as avoided by the insects.

Indulge in bark? Me? Are you Akinians all so bizarre in your ideas of people?” taken aback in an overly-dramatic fashion, she’d squint over Koike while walking backwards to close the distance between her and the massive mushroom. As she was digging into her bag to retrieve something she continued to talk, “A lot of words to justify not saying your name. Kind of mega weird. Not even bothering to make one up either. It’s like a triple super ultra insult. Y’know what we do back at home to the tripler super ultra insulters?” whipping out a book, she’d start skimming through pages, though it didn’t stop her rant, “We uh … First cover them in expired fish carcass sludge and uh ...” she stopped the page flipping for a moment before resuming, “We feed them to the man-eating millipedes in Death Island. Yeah. Pretty bad huh? Inconsiderate of you to be this insulting too!” she shrugged in an exaggerated manner as she’d then gracefully direct her index onto the page she had stopped on, and she commenced reading, “The Agros-Complex! Unlike many mushrooms, it doesn’t release spores!” Alsanna added some faux-enthusiasm to her tone, as if she was reading to some kindergarten class.
Instead it spreads its roots throughout a very large area, sometimes taking over a WHOLE forest, kilometers in acres, as a single organism. Of course, one can’t tell if the flora is rooted by the fungus without cutting it open.” she continued to read and then opened to the next page, only to look confused, “Huh, looks like the information is incomplete. Though! It’s marked as non-poisonous and that jelly here is actually ...” she poked her blade into it, only to cut off a small piece of the jelly, “Apparently very nutritive, albeit disgusting to eat.” she motioned the blade toward the Akinian, “Hungry?

”You can’t blame us, to be honest. It is practically the fault of you Jirians,” Koike retorted casually, ”I have enough dealings with your superiors to know that I wouldn’t be able to just trust a girl from the islands.”
While Alsanna closed in the distance to the shroom, Koike remained where he was. He shrugged lightly when she addressed the situation that he hadn’t even given a false name.
”You never bothered to ask. I was even growing used to ‘Captain Akino’. Perhaps I should get myself a fitting outfit, so I will be easier to recognise by that title. But if little miss is insulted, then I suppose I can try to offer a fake name. How about,” his right hand raised to his stubbled chin, striking it as a serious expression flowed over his face. He even enlisted a long pause before even responding in return, letting her exclamation and statement of the strange fungus linger and echo.
”Lee? Then again, that is so dull, I wouldn’t even like to be called Lee. Just keep using that grand title you bestowed upon me earlier. It has a much nicer ring to it,” he nodded to emphasize his conclusion.

Turning his attention to the small cut held up by her blade, Koike made little effort to hide his dismay at the suggestion.
”No thanks. I have some rations with me. I think I will resort to those if my stomach aches then, well, that stuff. But please, ladies first if you have to.” He replied, only to have his head twist to the right. A more genuine and serious expression came visible but no words parted from his lips.

”Perhaps, we should leave it be. Maybe you can talk more about how you strange islanders treat misunderstandings better? What was that about man-eating islands or whatever?” He asked, his right gloved hand slowly descending to the handle of his blade.

Suit yourself.” she let the piece of goo drop to the ground and wiped her blade against some of the nearby leaves. “I did ask when I noticed your conspicuous lack of reciprocity. But now you’ve had to make it all ‘Ahhh, bad Jirians can’t be trusted’ when I’m pulling your leg with all this bark bullcrap. No wonder you’re all up your own ass about giving your name.” for a moment she hummed the tune she had been whistling for a while as she circled the massive fungus. There wasn’t what she was looking for, nor would it grow on another mushroom. It had to be on a tree or other living being that was parasitic, “Lee. That’s also a typically … Ugh I’ll never get used to that appellation, but it’s Jirian. Doesn’t fit. Maybe Zeno? No, too original.” heading to the ‘back’ of the shroom, she kneeled down to take a look at the crown of this ‘crystal’. An earthen bed of sorts, with very much some mushy, organic tissue below it. Curious as even, she’d actually pass her blade over it, and sought to slowly open up the the ‘core’ of the mushroom, “So you’re following me around, but treat me as though I could use your name for nefarious purposes and then end up in some very strange mushroom nest. Well, hope you know what you’re doing with your time, bud.” a titter escaped her lips, though from her position she was actually hard to see beyond a light reflection of her through the crystal.

No response came from Koike. He glanced around, as if he had lost something or required to find what had him on edge. A pair of yellow eyes seemed to once more fixate on Alsanna, creeping ever so slowly from her right side. The difference with the previous pair of yellow eyes was that this beast wouldn’t be halted by a mere whistle or warn both humans with a low growl. The pupils also seemed to betray a more feline nature before it dashed forwards.
Before the sharp claws or fangs could embrace and pin the rather talkative Jirian to the ground, a powerful gust slammed in the side of the large feline.
Releasing a sigh, Koike observed the shadow-black feline. It managed to get on all fours relatively swiftly. Its features allowed it to blend much easier with their surroundings as faint white stripes seemed to cause a vague resemblance to that of a tiger. The predator hissed loudly, curling as its gaze shifted between Alsanna and Koike; keenly deducing that it wouldn’t be able to just attack the shorter humanoid without the taller one moving in its defence.

”See what you made me do, little miss,” Koike complained loudly in a sarcastic fashion, pointing with a short blade at the dangerous creature, ”I had to attack a perfectly innocent critter for your safety. Perhaps before it will make another attempt, best to leave its likely nest in peace?”
However, Koike made no attempt to move or attack the likely dangerous beast - a soft hissing radiating from his weapon.

Like before, when a predator got close and was in Alsanna’s blindspot, a familiar caw could be heard from above. Despite the leaves, the owl’s duty remained. Although it would be a bit of an improvised move, she would still reach for her wrist and prepare to conjure her parasol to at least serve as an object to put between her and the beast. But it seemed it would not be necessary. Still, the beast paced about, which prompted Alsanna to conjure her umbrella anyway and open it over herself. She seemed bigger and taller now to the creature, added to the fact that she stood straight as well, “An animal lives by a creature that feeds off other living beings? Kind of odd, even if the goop here is nutritive.” the ‘bigger’ Alsanna leaned in a little to get a look at the darker creature as to see if anything out of the ordinary stood out, “Hmmm. I’ll sample the core, then yeah sure, let’s leave this odd anomaly.” which she would do if the kitty didn’t get too fussy, a decent piece of the shroom’s core taken and stored in a jar.

”Odd is quite a natural occurrence today, ain’t it?” Koike remarked as questioned, his gaze fixated on the hostile creature. It easily rivalled his direwolf in size, which meant that the beast probably was more than capable to hunt rather than to thrive on jelly or carcasses. ”You intend to go a tad faster? I have more places to be, sadly,” Koike stated as the feline’s eyes widened when Alsanna would make an attempt to turn to the large fungus. The white markings on its ravenblack fur would almost seem like it wore a certain mask in the strange lighting of the large mushroom.
It continued to pace for a bit before it suddenly turned tail and disappeared with a rather eerie but remarkable silent stride in the shadows. Lowering his drawn weapon Koike waited for a few seconds before sheathing the blade as dispelling the wind chakra surrounding it.
”You know, no need for a thanks. Just another ordinary day for Captain Akino, saving little cheeky misses from impending deaths.” Throwing a look at Alsanna’s direction, Koike considered briefly if he could perhaps not take some of the jelly with him. Perhaps it would be intriguing to conduct some experiments with it, he considered in his pondering.

Alsanna seemed far less perturbed now that the threat was assessed, and she did keep an eye to her side while sampling. Though with the critter’s disappearance, there was a bit less tension in the air. “Uh-huh.” would be her answer to the little rant from Koike, the closest thing he’d get to a thank you, as she’d reach for some of those mint herbs she enjoyed chewing from her bag. No proposal to share, likely because this was her last batch, but at least her breath was now minty, “Can’t rush this sort of job. It’s like expecting someone to fish faster. It just doesn’t happen,” she snapped her fingers despite the gloves, “like that. Same for hunting, I suppose. How can you hunt faster if you’ve got nothing but a barren land? You came here for that, actually, so I can only assume you’ve got nothing but time!” a bright, shit-eating smile was dedicated to Koike!
This big thing is nice, but not the novelty I’d venture into this hole for.” with that, she packed up, with her parasol vanishing the same way it appeared. Before she’d decide where to go, though, she whipped out what seemed to be a mercury thermometer, and paused for a moment, “We’re certainly at the right temperature … I would assume a little deeper and it should be fine.” she mostly spoke to herself, and with little warning she started to walk one direction, one that was different from the feline’s, of course.

Despite his previous comments, Koike waited for Alsanna to finish her affairs. His gaze almost lazily moved over their surroundings, still remembering that the danger of the black-furred feline could be lurking in the shadows and observing the grove’s intruders. ”Hm, you are quite the bugger aren’t you?” Koike replied, throwing a look at Alsanna. ”I would even be okay with sharing a hunt with you, if you wouldn’t already send me to this miserable island where… I forgot it already,” he stated, visibly pondering on what she had told him again how they dealt with people that insulted her or such. Shrugging, he hooked his thumbs behind his belt. ”Right temperature,” Koike repeated, quite puzzled about it and only more so when she would walk in a direction.

”Gods, why,” he mumbled in his native tongue before striding forwards to catch up with Alsanna, this time closing the distance between them with a brisk pace. ”You could, you know. Say something like, hey shall we go?” He casually stated, throwing a sideways look at the girl. ”Besides, what do you mean with the right temperature. At least, try to humour me with that.”

Death Island. I know, it’s hard for you to remember, very advanced Jirian lingo and all. Fear not, I’ll spare you the gruesome fate.” a gaze wasn’t even conferred to the Akinian as she was already wrestling with foliage again now that the clearing was abandoned for a different game. More humming came about, even when an answer was expected of her, Alsanna just seemed a bit disconnected from everything. There was something on her mind and it superseded manners or even any semblance of a good idea. But she’d eventually reply, “The right temperature. As opposed to the left temperature, of course. The left temperature is particularly cursed and revolting. We must stay on the right path, that leads us to the right temperature.” she rambled on with the nonsense, keeping her eyes open for what she was looking for.
Before long, they’re actually reach quite the lineup of trees, and where sunshine could have some beams pass through, which in turn lowered the quantity of shining flora, “Plant growth of many sorts depend on temperature, humidity, lighting, fauna, quality of soil, and most of all, nutrients below us.” and so the course began now that she seemed a bit more focused, “This is especially true with fungi, and why they’re uniquely difficult to cultivate, some practically impossible and instead the wild areas are ‘preserved’ and ‘worked’ to yield as much wild mushrooms as they can.” another row of strange, flat mushrooms, and they too would fail the test, “Did you know that this land has actually experienced three different wars? Or rather, that is what my trusty little book says. Three wars. Three generations of bodies feeding this land. And three different landscapes. A lush, tropical forest, to a more barren tundra, albeit not as cold as the North, and now this forest. Can you imagine just how much decomposed food is below us? The quality of it being eaten and shit out so consistently for centuries?” she continued her scan, until they got to quite possibly the biggest tree they had seen in their lifetime.

The corners of Koike’s lips tugged downwards as he provided no banter in return, this time. Drawing his short blade from before, he would start cutting the fauna in front of him with minimal effort to carve a suitable path for himself.
The answer that finally came made him shake his head, though he had to hold back a hint of a chuckle. The nonsense had its charm but he wasn’t sure how long his patience was allowing him to endure it. For now, he saw little harm to venture further and oversee what Alsanna had in mind. When the more genuine answer came, Koike did pay attention as they continued through the rather troublesome pathway.
”I haven’t actually,” he replied, sounding genuinely curious, ”it would explain a few things I had encountered before. Though, come now,” he briefly halted and seemed to wait, ”you can’t expect me to be your guard if you don’t explain what you’re looking for exactly. Intriguing as this trip is or as amusing as I find you, I rather not,” using the blade’s tip to point at nonchalantly at Alsanna while stating what held him back, ”get too much delved in saving you from whatever may lurk further here or there. Perhaps you should consider getting, I don’t know. Your babysitter or teacher to aid you? Team members?”

I’m looking for a mushroom, if my flora descriptor wasn’t sufficient enough to indicate my motive. Although, I never did ask you to come.” she was quite dry on this one, just as she started to thoroughly inspect the whole area of the tree, at least up to her height. A big fat circle was made to see what sorts of fungi had grown on the bark. Most seemed to be ‘failures’. “Huh? I see these people way, wayyyy too often, why would I bring them during my time off in my little adventures? Awful idea. Instead, I have a bird and a stranger. That sounds more fun now, doesn’t it?
It was there that a strange row of shrooms caught her attention. About ten feet upwards near a branch. A little chakra wall walking was in order to get a better look. They were flat fungi, of course, and looked as brown as any other. The only unique element about them how they formed a perfectly straight platform, no irregularity like nature would normally have, “Why hello there.” a small piece was sampled, and when it was dropped into the vial, and in a flash, the fluid would ‘explode’ and splash all over the place. Harmless, of course, it seemed to be the intended effect, but still messy. She smiled, wide.

”Yeah, the quest for the special fungoid. But for what end? You can, at least, try to tell me that.” Koike stated as he watched her walk up to a tree. Once again his arms folded as he observed her inspecting some fungus again. ”Huh, I suppose if you bring it like that it nearly seems like a compliment,” Koike replied, rubbing his chin as he waited a second. ”I suppose I have no better alternative, rats.”
Watching her scale the tree to just observe a different fungoid, Koike started to absentmindedly ‘play’ with his short blade. Tossing and catching the weapon, he threw a look upwards to see what Alsanna was up to. ”Have you,” the second word trailed off as Koike closed his eyes. The fluid splashed on his cloak as well on him, resulting in a heavy sigh escaping his nostrils.

”And to think I was charmed by your display of knowledge, ugh,” raising his left hand, he snapped his fingers as the fluid would be sent with a sort of shove from him. A few stains remained on his cloak that earned more and softer grumblings from Koike. ”I suppose that was an accident? Or a mere mistake?”
The smell of the fluid made it obvious that it was pure ethanol. Alcohol in its purest form, and yet it had such a bizarre reaction to many things. There was also chakra laced with it, though the subsequent explosion had nullified it due to the odd reaction the mushroom had with chakra. Alsanna was anything but displeased by this, with a toothy grin reigning on her expression. The vial was put away and she immediately went to carve the bark out of the tree, careful to properly sever the roots of the fungi so as to not damage them. This wasn’t too difficult, but then came the careful process of taking out a specific container, one about half the size of her pretty hefty messenger bag, and very cautiously setting the fungus-riddled bark into it. Once sealed, a seal designed for preservation was activated. Certainly more advanced than the mass-produced stuff, which would indicate this individual inclinations for the art. “Nay. Exactly what I wanted.” she responded once the box was carefully set back into the bag and she’d descend down, all giddy.
What makes these so special, you ask, Nameless Akinian Captain?” she kept her mouth agape, eyes peering diagonally upwards for a moment, “They make the best fuckin’ stew ever. But they need super prep. Nothing I can do in some shitty camp.” she tapped her bag, clearly energized by this sudden success.

Pursing his lips, Koike seemed ready to deliver something back at the address of Alsanna. However, he kept his ‘cool’ and sheathed his blade. Inspecting the various stains, his mood didn’t improve much further. Not that he was overly fond of the cloak but the scent wasn’t much to his liking. Glancing upwards again, the other’s grin did little to make his disappointment ebb away. Witnessing the seal, Koike’s eyes narrowed for a mere moment but then seemed like he ignored the action. ”Oh? Really?” He began, the sarcasm almost tangible, ”Actually, no, now I am slightly curious. But I do fear that your countrymen won’t really appreciate it if you bring a completely nameless Akinian back for dinner. Imagine the gossip, dear gods, the gossip would be terrible.” He scoffed, turning half around to inspect where they came from. ”Then again, a stew would be quite great to remedy my sour mood. Too bad that neither of us have anything to boil. That and,” turning back to Alsanna, his eyebrows knitted a frown on his brow once more, ”I hardly doubt you came all this way to find a fungus to brew a stew. Unless, you actually did. That would actually amaze me.”

There was this blissful ignorance as to how much Koike’s reaction could be taken the wrong way, the young adventurer was completely absorbed by her achievement. That and, well, nobody knew what to do with this mushroom. However, she’d raise her index, as she often did, to get Koike’s attention, “It also serves as a powerful hallucinogen, though you can find plenty of mushrooms doing that. Cooked right and … It is more than a mere narcotic, I’ll say.” she tittered at that part, peering down at her bag with unending glee over the fact that she had obtained some Kyriaki, “Now of course what kind of stew I’m talking about is up in the air. But! It is a very, very special ingredient. And, the best part is, few people in the world know of its value! So, minimal competition.” with that bit of information, her foxy gaze rose up toward the Akinian, “Are you going to mug me or is it about time we leave this shithole forest? I’m afraid one may make the other difficult.

The question was met with silence, that bred tension briefly. Then Koike chuckled as he shook his head lightly. ”Mug you? That would be a waste of time, I fear. You also are a strange one yourself. I also had venture to hunt different quarry, so no. I won’t mug you. Quite strange you would be suspecting me of that,” Koike replied, turning already to the direction they came from. But that also meant once more threading in the turf of the previous angry kitten. Not the best of ideas.
”I will help you get to the forest’s edge. Then I will return to my own affairs. How does that sound?” Koike asked but already turned to another direction as he utilized his chakra to carve a path, the blue hued energy sharp enough to cut through branches without much resistance. A soft humming sound radiated from the manipulated energy as Koike continued forwards. After some distance, Koike would speak up again. ”You actually remind me of someone. Shame you are a Jirian. I suppose that I could have been okay with doing these little ventures with someone that actually seems knowledgeable about what they are searching for.” He stated, though no hint of regret or other sad emotion seemed to surface with the statement. ”Who is your mentor, if you wouldn’t mind sharing that with me?”

Oh, well, when I flaunt shiny stuff like this, people tend to want them. And well, it’d be pretty funny, since the seal wouldn’t last long without me around. And did you know these mushrooms release quite a bit of spores when they start to decompose? You’d have quite the trip! And … Probably die from the dose I’m carrying.” she went from giddy to nonchalant as she justified her reasoning, once again starting to chew the minty goodness she had kept in her cheek, “We are going the same way, so yeah, ‘help’ me until the end, captain no name.” a gesture forward, it was time for them to retrace their steps.
You won’t give me your name but you want me to give up my mentor’s? Tell you what. Tell me of the person I remind you of, because I find it hard to believe there’s a second Yukimi out there,” she almost snorted there, “let alone in Akino. And I’ll tell you my mentor’s nickname.

The chakra of Koike continued to pave a way for them until they seemed to return to less dense vegetation that didn’t warrant such a method. Dispelling the manipulated chakra, Koike threw just an amused glance at Alsanna upon her answer. ”Hey, you nicked me as Captain Akino. I already told you that I had taken a liking to the name. The ring is just so… heroic? Hmm,” he didn’t answer right away to her suggestion as they would continue onwards. ”You remind me of someone I used to work with. Granted, she is less cheeky than you but that used to be quite different. Saki is her name. I doubt you two are acquintated.” He decided to indulge the other. ”And indeed, I don’t know a Yukimi. Doesn’t sound like a name belonging to a rather splendid individual anyways. Much like how I probably wouldn’t expect much from the likes of anything too posh. Though, you mentioned a name before? Zeno? Huh, perhaps I should use that one as a cover name. Zeno.” Repeating the name as if it provided some satisfaction over his pallet, Koike nodded before he turned his attention back to Alsanna. ”So, your end of the bargain.”

Saki. Saki, Saki.” she repeated the name a few times before stopping in her tracks, eyes wide and breathing intensifying. Fingers wiggled as if they were ready to seize something. And then, she started walking again, “Yeah you’re right, no idea who that is. But she sounds amazing and deserving of a lot of stuff. And did I tell you I’m very much like myself and thus very much like Saki? Yes, indeed.” she nodded thoroughly. Now came her time to deliver and she sucked in her cheek before delivering, “Well, she is quite the individual, known under many names and aliases, but the one I think fits the most would be ...” lips pursed, she rubbed her chin a little bit before giving her answer, “Super Hardass Bitch Sensei. Or some mild variant of this. Tends to depend on the region. Very up for interpretation, thus is the magical strength of the Taika language in the Islands. One word can mean many things ...” her voice was silky smooth, and obviously taking the piss.

”I suppose I should feel a bit dumb for expecting someone like you to be serious,” Koike replied, not sounding all too sour that Alsanna took the piss with her end of the bargain. ”I already feel sorry for your mentor. Or any stranger that has the unfortunate fate to cross paths with you,” he further added while they moved to the forest’s edge. The vegetation became sparcer, indicating that they were nearly there. Coming slowly to a halt, Koike half turned to Alsanna. ”Well then, I suppose this is far enough for me to guide you without suffering any complaints from your side. I guess this was most,” considering the word effective to describe the situation and encounter, Koike seemed genuinely entertained, ”educative. I wish you well with your stew and future expeditions in these woods. Do try to stay out of too much trouble. I already fear that whatever tries to gobble you will suffer a horrible stomach aching afterwards.”

Alsanna raised an eyebrow, “Yeah, see, if you knew her, you wouldn’t be questioning the seriousness of my claim. And the best part is she probably doesn’t disagree with it.” and finally they had made it to the ‘safe’ part of the forest, where Aristedes could be seen hovering in the air without much issue, “Uh-huh. Cool. Was fun picking mushrooms with Captain Kumo or ...” she smirked while snickering, “Oh, yeah, think fast, buddy-o.” just as she was walking beyond Koike’s limits without even looking back, she’d actually toss a fresh water bottle backwards, landing approximately his way. Approximately. It was cold and preserved. No signs of tampering. “Ah fuck, who shit there?!” she wailed out, looking as though she had stepped on something unsavoury.

Catching the bottle, Koike glanced at the not so significant object. Shaking his head, he would store the item away as a large shadow seemed to appear from his flank. Panting with his tongue outside, the dire wolf seemed to stare at the wailing Alsanna with an expression that could be described as neutral.
”Well, back to business,” Koike mumbled as he turned back and headed once more into the woods. The dark-furred canine didn’t follow immediately, almost as if it required taking in the sight of the girl trying to get rid of his ‘trap’. Then it turned its large head and followed Koike back into the vegetation, out of sight.


A Messenger
The King Shark and The Wolf
[ The Tokugawa-Senju Dispute | Empire of Akino, Senju-Tokugawa Border ]
[ Hiroshi Hon continues his investigation of the Senju-Tokugawa case ]
[ A collab between @RedFox and the amazing @Oblivion666 ]
[ As part of the ongoing investigation, Hiroshi gets an audience with Leo Tokugawa himself. The pair discusses the ongoing matter and Hiroshi gains a new perspective about Leo. Some questions are answered, some still remain a mystery. Enjoy! ]

He had been requested a visit which he was all than happy to oblige. After all, he had nothing to hide from anyone. A room was prepared for Hiroshi in case he arrived late and wished to speak in the morning when he was all rested. He would find no hassle in his Agnarr guards escorting him to the residence that Leo Tokugawa and his family resided in; he would be led to his own office where he was allowed to keep weapons and guard if he so wished.
Sitting in his chair he would greet Hiroshi with a smile. ”Well well it’s a pleasure to meet you. I’d offer you drink but I feel like you are a busy man and would rather get to business am I right? So what did you wish to ask me?”

Hiroshi was surprised by the promptness with which his requests have been agreed to. Still trying to wrap his mind around the meeting with the Unkei representatives as he made his way to meet Leo Tokugawa. He was a bit warry about the meeting as he was escorted to the residence he resided in. Dismounting from Hirudora at the stables, he patted the tiger at the side of his head and the tiger disappeared in a puff of smoke. He turned to his guards, nodding at them." Follow our hosts and their instructions. I'll meet Lord Tokugawa alone." He handed them his pouches with his tools and unstrapped his tanto from his back, handing it to them as well.

Separating from his guards, Hiroshi was led to the room where he would meet with Lord Tokugawa. Upon entering the room, he was greeted by a polite smile.This has to be Lord Tokugawa. Let's hope this will go better, he thought as he sat down." The pleasure is mutual, Lord Tokugawa. Thank you for agreeing to meet on such a short notice. And yes, you are right." Hiroshi took a moment to gather his thoughts.I could use a drink though, he thought with a sigh." I wish our meeting would be under more pleasant circumstances. I was sent here by The Empress herself to investigate the recent border dispute that is causing unrest. Lord Tokugawa, can you, please, tell me your thoughts about the matter?"

Leo couldn’t help but chuckle a bit, with a small smile on his face. ”Ahh the situation where everybody thinks i'm the guilty party once again. My thoughts? That this whole ordeal is just more attempts to waste my time by the Senju. They refuse to see that we are both victims in this whole mess. Yet of course because of events that happened a century ago, all my fellow...” Leo paused before raising his hands and giving air quotes. ”Taika. See that something happened near my border, reports indicate my men went and killed Senju men. They hear this and just like that!” Leo said with a snap of his fingers. ”Everybody is convinced! Just like that! Clearly I'm evil and bloodthirsty!” Leo said while making plenty of over exaggerated hand gestures.

Leo would sigh and slouch a bit. ”While I enjoy politics and the games that comes with it, this is just becoming old. Something happens and people are quick to point and blame the Tokugawa, when lo and behold we’re oddly enough minding our own business.” At this point Leo called in a guard and had him get a servant with refreshments.
”I doubt you will care but let me give you an idea of what I normally do. You are a smart man no doubt, wouldn’t have earned your position just on a whim. I have numerous villages and towns and cities that require my attention, all jokes aside, when they say I’m a greedy shark that is one thing I wont deny. The more money the more profit, it’s how I’ve grown the Tokugawa Clan into the economic powerhouse it is today. I make trade deals with those that don’t just label me a traitorous cunt, I focus and build upon that infrastructure to then produce more and then gain more profit. I make deals and spend money on resources to build up places that will in the long term get me a net profit gain.”

At this point the servant came in with two glasses and a bottle, pouring both men a glass of Bloody Victory. Taking a sip, Leo would lean in on his desk, as he would continue his talk. ”So going based on all of that, everything I have done for the Tokugawa clan itself. I’ve built and protected its revenue, its exports, its imports. It's why I have a city dedicated to the studies. So that more people with the intellect can help benefit the clan’s future. At this point anything I do is just pocket change, an example of this would be the Trade Hub I’m having built, my land is in the center of the Akino Empire. As such this would make tarde a simpler aspect for me and everyone that decided to utilize such a feature. Less travel, cheap price to use the Trade Hub. It’s an overall net gain for everyone. So why? Why would I jeopardize this all over to mess with the Senju?”

Leo gave a confused shrug as he took another sip. ”Silk worms? Sure I don’t have that resource but honestly I make whatever the Senju makes and more. Silk, while nice and comfortable, is more afforded by nobles. So other than that, why would I even bother? I’ve said it to her Majesty, I even said it directly to Senju when he brought me to court. He has nothing that interests me. He's boring, and messing with him is a waste of my time, my resources, and honestly my pride. So this time I decided that no. I won’t humor everybody again, I’m sick of being victimized by, and my apologies this is just my anger speaking at this point Commander, Inferior fucks. If the Senju wished to start something by placing troops and those fucking Inuzuka hounds. The message was well received, and my answer was well delivered, considering he pulled his troops back, granted not all of them but it’s a start. Seriously farms burn down, people are killed and they blame the one clan that didn’t actively fuck with them. No wonder they lost their great clan status.”

Leo then downed the rest of his glass and looked at Hiroshi with an apologetic smile. ”Ahh I rambled on a lot though, sorry I normally enjoy having a conversation. Quite frankly though. I’m sick of all this Senju bullcrap. At this point its a child crying for it’s mother to fix his boo boo.”

Gritting his teeth, Hiroshi braced himself for another soul crushing example of religion and other things forcing their way into a border dispute. What happened next took him by surprise. Leo Tokugawa defies his expectations instantly by the way he expresses himself. And by your words, too. I wish people could leave ancient history just that and move forward, he thought as he listened. What happened has happened and instead of avoiding the things that led to the first conflicts, they were walking in the same treads. The more Leo talked, the more interested Hiroshi was in what he'll say and what will come next. He couldn't help but chuckle at his stand towards politics. A tip of the hat, Lord Tokugawa.

Hiroshi eyed Leo Tokugawa as he continued to talk. A clan leader, a shrewd businessman. Knows what's the best for his clan and goes for it, no matter what. I can respect that, Hiroshi thought to himself. He bowed his head in thanks and grabbed a few bites from the refreshments brought to them and continued to listen. Lord Tokugawa also made no attempt to hide his emotions - another welcome change of pace compared to meeting with Hotaka of The Unkei. Getting this emotional about a case, compared with the words he says - interesting. I'll need to think this through. He didn't want to jump to conclusions yet - but Leo Tokugawa was so far making a convincing statement so far. I wonder how the meeting with the Senju will go.

He politely declined the "Blood Victory" brought, as he was afraid it might affect his judgement. What happened next almost made him choke on the bite he just took as The Senju were granted a - let's say, interesting name. He had to focus very hard to remain neutral as Leo's emotions clearly boiled over. But he also nodded in acknowledgement. Hiroshi believed that people spoke the truth when they get this emotional - something he'll also have to keep out from his analysis of the situation. He straightened his back and took a deep breath." I thank you for your in depth evaluation of the situation, Lord Tokugawa. I also wish people would let history be just that. Or perhaps see it as a warning, a warning not to do. Instead, I feel like some people consider it as a manual. I heard that the past is merely a tapestry of what lies ahead - I do hope we can avoid that." Taking a brief pause, he collected his thoughts before continuing.

" I understand you - at least to some degree, Lord Tokugawa. Doing what you think is the best for your Clan and Empire. That's why I'm here. Their withdrawal of troops was most welcome. I would also appreciate if The Tokugawa could match their presence in numbers as well. I see this merely as a precaution. My men are ready to intervene at the notice of a minute, I can assure you of that. Please consider this, Lord Tokugawa. I believe it could further lead to reduced tensions in the region, and I believe that's a situation that would benefit us all." A moment of silence followed and Hiroshi brought up another topic. He tried to ask as politely as he could. " Another matter I'dlike to discuss is the Uchiha envoy. Their presence here is an enigma for me. Could you shed some light on their presence - and their purpose?"

Leo simply chuckled a bit and smiled softly as he shook his head. ”I haven’t even placed any troops on the border itself. All my troops have been set to calm the tension in the nearby villages and towns, as they feel this is all Senju Propaganda. Basically I’m trying to prevent my people from actually storming the border. So sadly until the Senju back down fully, or even shock the world and apologize for false accusations and riling my clan up for no reason. I will not withdraw my troops from the villages that are near the border. I do understand that you and your troops will step in if needed, however my civilians will feel more at ease with their own guard and soldiers to keep them safe.” Leo responded having to decline Hiroshi’s request for his troops to back off.

His eyebrow slightly lifted as the mention of the Uchiha Envoy, as they were uncertain of their presence here in his land. ”Well… they could be meeting with other leaders? Maybe heading to the Cho for possible trade maybe? I doubt they are heading to meet the Senju, after they sent free aid right back to the Uchiha. Your guess would be as good as mine Commander. Best odds are to ask the leader himself or the Envoy. Uchiha hasn’t caused me any issues”

Hiroshi nodded, fully understanding Leo's position and words. But if the Tokugawa were merely keeping the peace in their villages, why were the Senju pressing their troops to the border. I'll have to inquire with them about this, he thought to himself. He was glad Leo seemed to be on top of the situation - at least on his side of the border. It meant one less thing to keep his mind at." I understand, Lord Tokugawa. I'll make sure to inform my troops to cooperate with yours, should the need arise. As for the troops at the border on the Senju side - I'll inquire about them and will make the same request. Seeing you have the bare minimum at the border, they'll have to obey. I shall inform you about any changes in the matter."

His head started to ache at Lord Tokugawa not knowing about the Uchiha. The Uchiha, again. Either they are important to all of this or it is a mere coincidence. He doubted the second and didn't have evidence to support the first." I intend to do just that. The presence of the Uchiha here is a mystery that robs me of sleep. Should you learn anything about their presence, please let me know. It might be essential to resolving this situation."

Leo gave a polite smile and nod to his words. ”By all means ask away with the Senju, maybe they will take it more seriously if you under our Majesty’s orders have a say in the matter. Then again, a lot of simple questions with simple answers always seem to plague some people the most.” Leo said with a shrug, as Hiroshi would go on about the Uchiha presence being a mystery that robs him of sleep.
”While I don’t know what they are doing and couldn’t possibly guess. From one clan leader’s perspective, although their presence isn’t a bad thing. I would look at underlying hints that are there. They are heading south correct? Towards Senju land? Some might think a simple deal with the Senju yet after the slight they did to the Uchiha? Unlikely. My guess is they have business with the Cho. That is just a guess though, they very well could simply be giving the Senju a second chance. If I learn anything though, I'll have word sent to you. ”

Leo would conclude his talk about his side of the situation, along with his thoughts on the Uchiha and Cho situation. His mind did briefly ponder a bit as he gave a small smile, with a small shake of his head he’d look back at Hiroshi. ”If you had anything else to ask then ask away. Otherwise I must be getting back to my own land issues. I still have construction plans to go through, issues with those strange fights that have been happening in my cities, meetings. You know all the fun that never gets written in fantasy tales.”

Nodding in acknowledgment, Hiroshi listened to Leo’s words closely. Perhaps I am overthinking this, after all. Remaining silent for a few seconds, he decided to ponder upon the matter later. And seeing that Leo was also seemingly busy, he decided not to waste any more of his time. Or his, for that matter."No, no, that is all, Lord Tokugawa. Thank you for your time, and your insights. " Hiroshi than stood up and bowed his head to Leo and as he turned on his heel, he gave him another glance." Perhaps they should change how they write the tales, Lord Tokugawa. Because your efforts, for sure, are fantastic. Goodbye, for now. "

He hoped Leo would appreciate his play with words and turned to the guards that escorted him back to the stables. Quickly performing the Sumonning Technique, Hirudora appeared in a large puff of smoke. Hiroshi reached out to the tiger, gently caressing its chin. He was met with a loud, unsatisfied growl. He rested his forehead against the tiger’s and sighed."I interrupted you before dinner, right? I’m sorry. I promise I won’t bother you for a day or two." The tiger closed his eyes and let out a sound that Hiroshi interpreted as whatever. Mounting his companion, they slowly headed back to their makeshift headquarters.


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[ The Illustrious Gem of the Dragon Realm, Capital of the Earth Country ]
[ Yumi Hasewaga | Scholae of the Akinian Empire ]
[ ~ Mere Snakes ~ ]
~ Part 2 ~

Previous Part

It remained silent. The tension was tangible, to the degree that several individuals seemed to gasp for air. Yumi's head slightly twisted to throw a look over her shoulder. Her cold gaze was enough that several nobles made a few steps back, much to the Scholae's amusement. Yumi turned her attention around; the distinct but soft sounds of weapons being drawn were registered. Looking at the near three-dozen elite guards with weapons drawn did little to faze Yumi.
Various guards had their weapons imbued with chakra, betraying their affinity and likely capability to utilize ninjutsu. Yumi found it slightly endearing as she raised her chin, and the mere gesture gave the woman a more arrogant appearance as she stared down at the opposition.

"You dare," the words were hissed out as the facial features of the Dragon Mother flared with a red blot on her cheeks. "You are nothing but an arrogant stain in this hall. Are you aware you speak to one of the most illustrious dynasties alive? You would do wise to kneel and beg for mercy if you desire to keep drawing breath!"
The elite guards started to slightly fan out, as others came from different directions to cut off Yumi's escape. But she didn't need to escape. The corner of the Scholae's lips was tugged upwards in a wry smile. Slowly, Yumi gestured to the young son as various shouts pierced the throne room.

For one of the elite guards had turned and placed the sharp edges of a blade against the boy's skin. The guard's other hand was covered in lightning. The violent energy lashed out and forced several of the advisors to scramble away - leaving them only with the option to sneer and shout.
"The only lineage I will kneel for is the one I am serving, Dragon Mother," Yumi calmly replied as the other Sworn Swords kept the flanks of Yumi covered. "Arrogant, you say? I am indeed arrogant, which is the product of my pride in experience and capability to do things. My mission here was to survey how the situation was going. If my empress coin wasn't being wasted and could be repaid." Introducing a pause, Yumi would place both hands on her back. In a slow but prideful stride, she started to walk forwards. Nearby elite guards moved away as they realized that they could cause the death of their monarch.
"With ease, I could infiltrate your court. Now with a flick of my wrist or uttering a word, I can end a civil war. A dynasty." The words were uttered with an eerie calm as Yumi reached the throne. Her gaze met that of the boy - their emotions the polar opposite. Crouching in front of the boy, Yumi gently took one of the boy's hands in her own.
"Are you aware how fragile life can be, Dragon Mother? What I could do to this boy?" Yumi asked, feeling the desperate glare of the boy's mother. "I could turn him into a statue. Sever and shred him. Make him die a painful and long death. Or allow the soft embrace of death takes him swiftly."

Shouts erupted from the crowd of nobles as they clearly demanded Yumi to remove herself. Their demands of desiring Yumi to release their monarch was mixed with the pleas of several other individuals begging for the Scholae to show mercy. Yumi wondered briefly how much mercy these fine women and men had shown to the common folk when they armed them and told them to fight, bleed and die. For what? To keep a mere boy on the throne? Pathetic, Yumi thought to herself.
Gesturing to the disguised Sworn Sword that she had it under control, the disguised individual removed his steel and turned to the nearby elite guard - at the ready to fight off the possible threats to the Scholae.

"Do you know what I am?" Yumi asked the boy, who shivered but couldn't move his eyes away from Yumi's.
"Leave him be," the Dragon Mother said, wanting to move forward to pull Yumi away from the boy. However, before she could, the disguised Sworn Sword aimed a blade at her - forcing her to back off.
Yumi flashed a warm smile as she softly squeezed in the boy's hand.
"It is okay. You can answer. Do you know what I am?"
The question provoked the boy to shake his head slowly. The boy's gaze lowered to his hand as he seemed far from thrilled with the current situation.
"I am someone very dangerous. But I won't need to hurt you. What is your name?" Yumi asked, her attention seemingly focused on the boy, who attempted to throw a sideways glance at his mother. But then Yumi squeezed harder in the boy's hand.
"Just pay attention to me. What is your name?"
The boy winced at the harder squeeze as his lips parted.
"Tamotsu," the boy answered, his fear growing as Yumi's smile grew. "Can I have my h-hand back?"

She didn't release his hand. Yumi's eyes narrowed as her lips produced the boy's name softly. Then again, as if it was a chant she tried to master before daring to say it louder.
"No, not yet, Tamotsu. I come from very far to help you. To make sure you won't get hurt. You," Yumi frowned as she slightly tilted her head, "don't like to get hurt, do you?"
The boy shook his head fast but didn't dare to utter a word.
"Good. It would hurt me to see such a sweet boy being... tormented. That is why I am going to need your help. So that I can go home and you can be safe. Do you want to help me with that Tamotsu?"

The rather turbulent scene had created a shockwave. With the declaration of Tamotsu of the Hyuzu dynasty, ruler of the Earth country, Yumi had effectively gained some influence. Many nobles and advisors were far from pleased and had quite the resentment for the Scholae and her Sworn Swords. But Yumi couldn't care less. She went to work and saw the security of the elite guard and the palace. Of course, Yumi made sure that the security became better but not good enough that Akino couldn't benefit from it in the potential future - in case the Dragon Mother and her brood needed to be taken care of.
Another affair that took quite some time was to 'advise' and 'mentor' the council to turn the civil conflict tide. They focused on the conventional options instead of taking creative approaches to winning ground and influence back.

Soon enough, Yumi earned the moniker: the Dragonbane. A nickname born out of resentment and begrudging respect. Within a week or two, progress seemed to be made as Yumi's input allowed for smoother efficiency within the higher echelons of the Dragon Mother's faction.
There was a lot to be done still. The presence of the Northerners aiding the enemies of the Dragon Mother and retaking several key positions was something high on the agenda. But that wasn't Yumi's mission.
For now, her work was done, and she had to travel back to Akino to inform the empress of the civil war.


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[ Kirigakure, Kimi's --- REDACTED | Jirou Authority ]

[ Kimi Iomsaki | REDACTED ]

[ Intrigue and pen pals. ]

There were enough matters to worry about. The isolation of the Akechi clan was an issue not to be ignored or underestimated. The Mizuno clan decided to support them - which effectively meant that the Akechi couldn't be neglected or 'starved' out. Two of the three great clans were essentially at the ready to make the regime of Jirou fall. Kimi so far was quite amused instead of worried. People always thought that dictators were immune or perhaps had some absolute power. But even dictators relied on pillars of influence, wealth and power. Without them, the likes of dictators, kings or whatever one desired to name them wouldn't be able to rule the land. They would be merely angry people shouting and trying to intimidate those who they couldn't either pay or enforce to acknowledge their rule.
But Kimi doubted that she had to worry about it all. The ANBU and Intelligence division were loyal to her. A rather painful fact, she reckoned, with the current situation. More so that Kimi was aware that she could lessen the severity of the condition. However, making herself known and a potential threat to the Great Clans wasn't favourable for her health.

No, instead, she opted just to let the Roju swim or sink. Upon beheading the senators that would oppose him, his bloody reign had started. Of course, she had aided in removing the security, but without any objective evidence, who could accuse her?
Perhaps Takeshi, Kimi mused, but she doubted he would attempt to make a move against her. Not yet, at least. The Lord Commander was too bright to make an enemy out of her, yet.
Kimi played with a pencil in a lazy motion, pushing the object back and forth on her desk. Her thoughts wandered off to the current intrigue that held most of the higher echelon awake at night.

What if the Roju would sink, she thought. Then who would take the leadership? If one of the three great clans made a move, two others would be far from happy. Takeshi? The leader of the Seven Swordsmen was most accomplished and competent. His actions had staved of a higher death toll during the revolution against the last Mizukage. Yet, Takeshi had shown no move to gain more influence and power.
Clicking with her tongue, Kimi dismissed Takeshi as a potential successor. The man would be too good, and he could remove her and end the whole game she was enjoying. No, Takeshi should stay where he was, Kimi thought to herself.
Perhaps someone of a noble or minor clan? That could happen without provoking or angering the three great clans. But then how much influence could a person have if they didn't have the backing of, at least, two of the three Great clans? With Jirou messing up with the Akechi and Mizuno, it was clear that a leader without support was less valuable than driftwood.

The door to her office opened as Nami appeared. The young girl remained silent as she closed the door behind her and proceeded with a deep bow. A smile from Kimi was enough to signal the girl that she could straighten her back and move forward.
"My little bird," Kimi said as she noticed Nami holding a letter. "Oh, you brought me something? Come, allow me to read before I decide to adhere to my foul scheming."
The girl did as instructed without even a hint of fear. The only appearance she showed was a calm expression mixed with humble respect and fear, just as Kimi desired her underlings to be.
"Oh, the brat wrote back," Kimi muttered as she leaned back in her comfortable seat, inspecting the letter of Alsanna. The wax seal attracted Kimi's attention. Even earning a faint 'tsk tsk' upon noticing that the shape and lines represented a rather basic seal, one that would destroy the fragile paper if one would dismiss the easily-missed detail with the wax.
"Clever girl," Kimi said, a satisfied smile briefly touching down on her lips. Appropriately dismissing the seal, Kimi indulged herself in reading the content of the letter.
"She certainly has a spine. I do like that unless she becomes too competent. Then I won't like that," Kimi mumbled as she continued.

As Kimi finished Alsanna's letter, a smile returned on the woman's face. "How delightful. I wish I could meet her. What do you think, my sweet pumpkin?" Kimi said as she placed the letter down, her face supported by both hands as her gaze went to Nami. "Shame she is too far east and not yet intriguing enough for me to arrange her to be brought before me. Pity indeed," a sigh escaped Kimi's lips after her last words.
Kimi deigned it worth enough to indulge in the documents that were provided alongside the letter. Frowning slightly, Kimi never had much interest in the knowledge of medicine or biological matters - that dare delve into the human body. Not unless it was allowing her to scheme in a fun way.
But neither did Kimi feel too overbearing that she couldn't give a silent compliment to the girl upon reading the documents. It showed promise, and that was what intrigued Kimi at the moment.

"Even a cursed seal. Oh, what a delight. She managed to coerce another to bear a cursed seal because they fail to understand the meaning of bringing out their latent potential. A little devil, she is. Oh, don't worry, Nami, you are still very much my favourite." Kimi said, winking at the girl who proceeded to return the 'compliment' with a bow. Turning her attention back at the document, Kimi did wonder about several things. But none of those did matter at the current moment.
"Nami, my sweet little peach, fetch me some paper. I have to write a response to this little devil."

Big A.

Your letter brings me much joy. You may not be aware, but the most troublesome situation is tearing the nation apart. While you slave away, fight and perhaps bleed to fend of Rongese, we face a political threat. Of course, not that I care too much. I am safe, so no need to worry, my little pumpkin. I have survived worse ordeals; let us keep it at that.
Before I continue, it is only proper for me to answer your question. Do you remember what it was? If I ever been in love, hm?

I agree with your clause. Just a simple yes wouldn't suffice. I have already started to appreciate your mind and wit. Even though I usually tend to grow bored and rid myself of potential dangers, like the one you may one day pose, my dear pumpkin. But not to worry. Take this compliment with pride, for I am most satisfied with your results. A cursed seal on another person? Without enforcing it? My, my. You are an evil, harpy. I like it.
Of course, I would conduct the affair slightly different. You have a keen mind for fuinjutsu. But it is best to have a few altercations here and there. However, the deed is done, and your damned guinea pig has to live with it. Unless, of course, someone of great competence and knowledge could help? Your current mentor is skilful. More so than I imagine she would let one, my little pumpkin. If anything, I can reveal that she is on my list of being a danger. Exciting, no?

Oh yes, your question. I tend to trail off as I write down my thoughts, and it feels way more authentic. I am allowing you that glimpse in my chaotic mind that you perhaps so desire. Or maybe it is a mere trick? Who can know other than me?
But yes, I have been a victim of love. I won't give any name yet, for you and I aren't that acquainted yet. Not to forget, you didn't deliver a name either, which is unfortunate. I could easily track this lost love of yours and perhaps... I am trailing off again.~

I still harbour this love and pursue it in secret, for I like to dabble in secrets and shadows. Fitting enough, my love tends to be erratic and evasive and causing me to hunt and speed after it. Sometimes I become exhausted, and he pities me, not too many times because then the game would become dull.
To this day, I have yet to gain his attention and favour fully. But I am confident that with a bit more time and effort, I can make him mine. And only mine.
Perhaps I will share with you what I fell in love with and still desire on that day.

For now, I hope this letter reaches you in good health. I have heard whispers that the fortress of Balagan has fallen to the Jirian army. Splendid news but not yet the end of this conflict, I fear. The might of Rong is still unknown, and we may just be grasping at straws. Or perhaps I am not allowed to tell you what I already know? My little pumpkin, you best remain vigilant. If you aren't, then I fear I might lose you.
And that would sour my mood immensely.

I recall now that you also stated you would keep me updated. If I, at least, managed to keep you satiated. I wondered how I could do that. But as expected from me, this mysterious entity, I decided to do some more research. And, naturally, share some of my findings with you.


Little S.

General Yuuki's Army's encampment

The activities at the fortress of Balagan were never-ending. Or so it seemed, at least. Susumu had just returned from a scouting mission as preparations seemed to be planned and already executed. Not that Susumu would draw any conclusions from them. He wasn't intrigued to meddle with the affairs of his superiours, and he knew what that could bring.
Instead, Susumu would attend to one final task for the day.

The last time he had delivered a letter to the Witch of Sevudia, he was surprised by the glass of water and apple. The small post-it with 'You are FIRE' was endearing, perhaps. But Susumu didn't gain much joy from it. Whatever transpired between the Witch and his superior wasn't his concern, and he cared only for that no punishment would befall his family due to him refusing to carry out orders.
Finding the tent of Alsanna, Susumu observed the surroundings. Nobody saw him suspicious in his soldier's attire, and he had managed to conduct several similar acts of subterfuge before. The actual reason why he was cautious was that he considered the Witch of Sevudia to 'surprise' him. An act that wouldn't go well for him or the girl if his superiors found out about it.

Delivering the small box, Susumu would leave the small tent. He had no intention to stay longer than he needed to.

Oh, curious, hm? Sorry, I couldn't resist playing a little. Enjoy!~

Now, you do know that this could be information not fit for you, right? I wrote this for only two specific people. Hm, what to do with you?
Fine, go ahead.

And yet, I felt like playing.~

The box is diminutive in size. It contains the letter written by Kimi and various excerpts of records that detail various mysterious murders happening in multiple cities within the Jirou Authority. The excerpts detail that victims were strangled or stabbed in their vitals before likely bleeding to death in their house.
There is also a torn off page from a bingo book detailing the Knife of Miyanai, a representation of a very familiar woman present. It clearly states she is an A rank threat and has a substantial bounty placed on her - by several nations in the known world.
However, the box has a very intricate seal placed on it in the form of a tag. The seal is designed in an elaborate style that will harm anyone with an excruciating shock if anyone attempts to open the box without disarming the seal.
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[ Sekigahara | The Akechi Clanlands | The Jirou Authority ]
[ Lord Akechi and Jirou Kanbe ]
[ A Collab between @Oblivion666 and @Nim ]

[ Jirou arrives at the Akechi clan capital, and proceeds to have a discussion to try and clear the air. It ends with Jirou making an announcement to the whole country. ]

As the fishermen’s ship was allowed to dock at the Akechi capital port, Jirou watched as they were boarded by several Akechi soldiers, who spread out to both check the crew and the vessel. One it was deemed to indeed be a completely civilian ship, Jirou was told to come with a few of the soldiers, while the remainder of the crew was ordered to remain on board. Following the Akechi soldiers, Jirou glanced around the city as they walked through it. With the higher alertness of all the soldiers, and how the civilians seemed to be, the Roju could tell quite well how well prepared the Akechi were to remain isolated.

The once beautiful city of Sekigahara was now a place that looked like it was ready for whatever to come at it. Roads were sanctioned off for this delivery of what looked like a prisoner. As the Akechi guards made sure to keep civilians away while, the more elite guards kept their weapons out as they escorted the country leader. Yet as they neared the Akechi Manor they would veer off to the right where he was brought into a building. The room seemed like a normal empty room, except for the two chairs in the middle as not Lord Akechi stood but a masked woman. ”Greetings. Please take a seat. You will be taken to Lord Akechi in a moment. It is however my duty to make sure were on the same page. I do not obey nor listen to you. I listen only to the orders of Lord Akechi. Figured I would say that first before you started to make demands.” The woman said as she would take a seat, looking at Jirou behind her plain black mask.

”I assume you heard by now that lord Akechi is very very displeased with how you…. Held information regarding his daughter. Were you aware of her ship sinking when it did?”

After being led somewhere, Jirou found himself in a rather empty room, with a masked woman standing there, who immediately went to inform him that she did not answer to him. Listening to what she had to say, he took a seat and looked at her ”I only learned that Lord Akechi’s daughter and her team were on the boat that sank down recently. I was not aware of the fact for some time due to the people I have sent to keep an eye on the team having lost their own lives when the ship was attacked by a Dragon Turtle, from how things seem.” Jirou responded calmly. So it was about Kayleen Akechi.
He had in mind to say something about her statement from before, regarding how he was in no position to make demands, but elected to keep it to himself. There was no need to make himself appear hostile.

The woman seemed to cross her legs as she tilted her head at the man. Nodding along to each word. The mask hiding away any emotion that might be coming from her. ”Interesting. Yet you see your words contradict themselves. You did not know they were on it, yet at the same time the people you had watching them didn’t give you updates? Even then if they lost their lives, one would think they would inform you of any movement. Yet you shouldn’t even know that they were on the ship then. Unless… Some did survive. Some did inform you that they were on the ship. While you choose to simply keep it to yourself that Lord Akechi’s only daughter could possibly be dead?” The woman would then lean forward resting her chin on the palm of her hand.
”Something isn’t adding up here. We both seem to have received very different reports at very different times. You claim to not have received word until later and your own words this report came not from anyone you had watching them, while my own reports claim a good amount of people lived in that ship wreck. This doesn’t seem to be adding up here. Maybe you can explain it better for me?”

Listening intently, Jirou nodded. He understood well what the woman had meant with the contradiction. Jirou waited for her to finish before speaking once more”We likely received the reports at different times as I’ve requested multiple reports into this. Not just an investigation of the ship wreck itself, but also sightings from any ships that may have bared witness to the event. It is through those reports that I know it was indeed Dragon Turtles that had attacked the ship, and with some claims that even afterwards, the Dragon Turtles remained near the surface, before swimming away. Why they would not dive back into the depths afterwards was deemed odd, so I prepared another agent to go investigate things further. However, as the bodies were identified and Lord Akechi’s daughter and her team were not among them, the agent’s agenda was to search for them instead. The fact they were completely missing was a severe cause for worry.”

Jirou shook his head a bit ”It is my own mistake for not informing Lord Akechi earlier, certainly. But at the same time, I do not put any life above others. Families had already lost their loved ones in this ship wreck, so I had numerous bodies to ensure that they would arrive back to their families, and to arrange the burial for the agents too.” He said, glancing at the masked woman ”If Lord Akechi intends to come here and tell me that I should prioritize a single life above all the others in the country, then I will ask him to remember why I even brought down the Republic to begin with. I try to think of everyone. And if your Lord or any other Lord ever thinks I am doing something wrong, my own door is open for them to come and discuss matters. No one has ever stated otherwise.” He stated.

She more so seemed to keep quiet as she listened to every word he said, once more being hard to tell how she processing this information. She eventually stood up and moved behind the chair as she looked at him. ”I see. So you admit to delaying word to a great clan leader about his only daughter. Opting to do various investigations into a rather mundane shipwreck. The death toll of that wreck wasn’t as bad as you are stating. Starting to think you went to the wrong ship altogether. What I am trying to process is your step by step. As I don’t understand how it takes that long to send a word. You had time to send multiple investigations, send bodies to families, arrange funerals for these lost agents. Yet in all that time, you couldn’t report the few MIA people.”

She let out a sigh followed by a shrug. ”What Lord Akechi will do is beyond me. I simply know he waited time to see if you would send a word. And your door is always open, yet it seems that door only opens when issues start coming. Yet Politics isn’t my field. I simply dig out the information. Anyway I can~” The last part she said more cheerfully, as the door would open with lord Akechi being brought in with his more elite guard as he nodded to his agent with them moving to the back of the room, where they would speak softly. A couple minutes later Mitsuhide would move back to the chair as she stayed behind him. Mitsuhide simply stared at Jirou silently with anger behind his eyes.

Waiting patiently until Lord Akechi had concluded his discussions with his agent, Jirou just observed the two, until the Lord came and sat across from him. The anger in Lord Akechi’s eyes was familiar to him. He knew it from seeing other fathers of soldiers who had lost their sons during the war. The silence remained there for a moment, before Jirou spoke up ”I came here in the manner you demanded. I obliged and spoke to your agent before seeing you now. And you have heard what I have shared. I already admitted to my mistake. However,” His gaze turned to the agent ”Your agent is mistaken about one thing. She claimed my door is only open when issues arise. However, you nor your fellow Great Clan Lords have never attempted to approach me, instead electing to take these types of actions. You have a clan to lead, I can understand how much that takes. I have a country to lead, and your clans are within that country. You are certainly allowed to be as angry at me as you desire, and it will be anger that is appropriately placed, considering the circumstances. But to claim something when none of you have ever attempted approaching me? That is an insult I refuse to take.” Jirou stated, before moving his gaze back to Lord Akechi.

”Some time ago, you had sent your troops to the Eastern Front. That is something that both me and the country deeply appreciate. And I have done you wrong with the way I acted. I have agents scouting the seas from where the ship had sunk both going eastward and westward, and should your daughter arrive at any port, there instructions to deliver her back to here, to you. Or, if encountered before arriving here, then to your soldiers. However, I would be a fool if I believed that was enough, considering how things are.” Jirou told him, before turning silent to wait and hear what Lord Akechi may have to say.

Mitsuhide allowed the man to speak, the anger only growing in his eyes the more this man spoke to him. When Jirou finished speaking a certain stillness remained in the air with the animosity evidently clear in the atmosphere. ”My agent is wrong about nothing. We leaders cover our problems. You are this country's pitiful leader, why must we come to you for an answer you should give us. The murders happening to Lord Mizuno and my people, we are fixing this issue ourselves. I choose my actions as it seems it was the only method to draw you out of your shell you hide in. So you say it's an insult you refuse to take but it's an insult you’ll be forced to take. You claim that your door is open but it is as we all know. It only opens when something affects you and even then it opens halfway..”

”Yet that door now seems to open as far as possible only when the situation is so far against you, that you need to grasp onto anything you can. Stating that my daughter wasn’t as important as the others that died. Arranging funerals for agents that never died, opting to do everything you could to delay informing me. And now you claim you have agents scouting the seas, something that should have been done when it sunk. Direction they were heading should be simple where they ended up. Probably will find them in Akinian territory. Yet you are barred from even being near her, none of your troops or operatives are allowed near my little girl. At this point might as well call them back if they even are out there, I already have mine waiting at the ports for any return. For if shes in Imperial territory you nor I will be getting close.” Mitsuhide said as he took a moment and paused as Jirou mentioned being a fool to believe that this was enough.
”My troops over East will stay there. I'll be nice and lenient on that. Yet the first smart thing you said, indeed this is not enough. Mostly with all the lies I've been told and all the wasted action. Even my daughter returning might not be enough for me to forgive your transgressions. So I won’t speak, nor will I back down. You claim you lead this country? Then choose. How do you plan to mend this situation, Jirou?”

Hearing Lord Akechi’s words, Jirou remained silent until the man finished berating him. He had nothing to say against the Lord’s words. He took a minute to think once the Lord was done, before looking up at Lord Akechi ”I will call my agents back and leave your daughter for you. This is not part of how I intend to mend this, but rather confirmation.” Jirou first stated.
”As for how I will mend this, for now, I shall offer three things. First, for your entire clan, taxes will be reduced for a period of eighteen months. Second, for one of the islands you control, you will receive full autonomy. They will be under your complete control, without any interference from the Authority’s government, unless you decide to request so. Third, as a more personal note, I will issue a public apology and let the public know of my wrongdoing. By my mistakes, I have greatly offended you. And just as your trust has been broken, the other’s trust in me should be judged by the truth being revealed to them.” Jirou told Lord Akechi. He doubted this too was enough, but he had hoped that this could serve as a first step towards mending things.

Mitsuhide stared at Jirou as he spoke and rubbed his temple as he shook his head. He looked back at his agent behind him whom only gave a shrug. Looking back at Jirou he let out an aggravated sigh.
”I’m not sure if what I’m doing is out of pity at this rate. You need to improve, drastically at this rate. First I won’t accept reduction in tax. You try to appease me by slighting every other clan? Not wise, nor am I the type to try and benefit from a tragic situation. Two I own the land already. It’s already fully under my say so that’s a pointless offer. Third is the only one I shall accept. It’s the only thing you truly could even offer me.”

Mitsuhide stood up and rubbed his forehead again. ”I hope for your sake you improve quickly. I shall rescind my isolation. Yet I say this and I hope you are listening. A leader is one who acts for their people. They make the hard choice because it’s hard. The don’t try to bury the problem away. So while my isolation ends, I will be watching closely so if I feel you straying from what’s right for this country. If I think you are doing my friends injustice, then you won’t have to worry anymore. So do better, you don’t want to enter my book.” Mitsuhide said as he pulled out a black book.

Walking to the door he looked at the guards. ”Walk Jirou here back to the port. Tell the sailors he can sail back on one of our ships. Consider that me being nice. Wouldn’t want that little dingy sinking now.” With that said he stared at Jirou before walking out the door.

Taking in Lord Akechi’s words before his departure from the room, Jirou slowly stood up. So only the apology would suffice for now, and he even gave him a ship to take him back, rather than on the fishermen’s boat he arrived at.
Standing up, Jirou began walking alongside the Akechi guards once more, remaining silent on their way there. The end of this meeting was a kindness he certainly did not feel he deserved. That the Lord would agree to stand down like this was certainly not how he anticipated the meeting would end.

After his return back to Kirigakure, Jirou would quickly come to stand in front of the people. On the same stage he stood where stood and had his show of power, Jirou would now stand alone. His guards would only be preventing people from getting on the stage, but no one stood there aside from him.
Taking a deep breath, Jirou looked at all those that came to hear him out ”This message is one that will also be written and delivered to all in the Authority. I have greatly wronged the Akechi clan, and their Lord. I have withheld information regarding Lord Akechi’s daughter, and the things that occurred to her and her shinobi team. It is something that no one should ever experience, information about their family being withheld from them. And yet I did just that.” He paused for a moment, just looking in at everyone.
Taking in a deep breath, he continued ”There is no excuse. Nothing for me to say to pretend as though there was a proper reason behind it, for there was none. So the only thing I can say right now, is that I offer my deepest apologies to Lord Akechi and the Akechi clan, for my great mistake. And I am doing this, in front of all of you, so that you may judge me as well. Everyone should judge me for my mistakes, not just what I manage to stabilize or improve.” He called out to everyone ”Especially when they are as grave as this. This was my announcement. This was what I came to share with all of you today. And it is what the rest of the Authority will hear as well.”

Once he was done, Jirou departed the stage, and his guards were quick to join in. It took him a bit, and he arrived at his office. Sitting down, he started writing down his own words, numerous copies, and had soldiers go and deliver the same words he spoke out loud to both the other clan leaders and the areas outside of Kirigakure. Jirou was certain the word around the city would spread quickly. But he wanted to ensure that Lord Akechi hears that he is true to his word. Everyone will know of his mistake.

Autumn Song

Armed with a trusty baguette!
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I adore fantasy settings, a lot.
[ The Blue Raven and his Dragon ]
[ The 3rd Imperial Division Encampment | Sevudia, Eastern Continent ]
[ A collab between @Oblivion666 and @Autumn Song ]

{ Hylli decides to seek out Kazumo, to see how the latter is doing. The two begin an exchange that reveals a bit more about them, to each other and you, dear reader. However, the exchange ends somewhat abruptly as Kazumo gain a revelation - leaving Hylli to feel miserable and alone. }

The treatment had been without problems. Of course, there was some scar tissue that couldn’t be attended due to the numerous other individuals that required care. Hylli was honestly okay with it. Then there was that certain development that she wanted to share with Kazumo. For that particular reason she had gotten out of her tent and tried to bear the painful aching at her stomach area.
Making her way to the area where the medical bays were stationed, Hylli had to inquire where Kazumo was laying. It took a bit of effort and patience before she learned where the Scylding was recovering.

Entering the tent, her eyes had to adjust from the brightness of outside to the dim-lighted interior of the spacious tent inside. Her eyes searched for any recognisable sign, such as Kazumo’s blue hair. Noticing him, Hylli sheepishly waved as she would close the distance.
”Hey, so you are still alive,” Hylli said, her tone betraying that she was quite relieved, ”So how badly did you get scolded?” Was her follow-up question as she decided to take a seat on a nearby stool.

Recovery was quite…. boring. They didn't even let him read due to the fact he actually damaged his arm bad enough he wasn’t allowed to hold “excessive weight”. They did also show him the extent of his damages, which was to say several scars later was quite the achievement some would say. Mostly the one on his palm, some were expected like the one on his face, his side, his gut and even his forearm. The hand was an odd one according to the medical team. Well if Hylli wanted too, she could probably actually kick his ass right now.
Speaking of… his eyes moved to the woman waving at him from a distance as she moved closer. A pained chuckled came to her question.
”Yeah still kicking. And it was only slightly bad. I have certainly been scolded worse. How are you holding up there?”

Scoffing lightly, Hylli made sure that her back was straightened and no visible sign remained of her discomfort. ”I had way worse,” the young woman replied, ”but also way better.” Dropping the act, Hylli unleashed a heavy sigh as she placed a hand on her stomach. ”I did get some scar but not in an area that is proper for a lady to show. Then again, if I have to believe the medical personnel, it could have been much worse. Luckily, the bolt didn’t pierce any vital organ or else I wouldn’t be so lucky with just a scar.”
Throwing a curious look in his direction, her head slightly tilted as a puzzled look crossed her features. ”So, how are you? You also got a visit from Lady Cho?”

Kazumo gave a silent nod as he looked at his own stomach with a smile. ”So we got matching wounds then. Well then lucky us avoiding our organs from being ruptured.” he said as his smile then faded as she asked if she got a visit from Lady Cho. His mind did not go to Meilin and instead went to Aiko. An actual fear was in his eyes as she said those words. ”A-aiko is here? How did your talk with her go then? Was she happy… or angry.”

Grinning in a misschievous fashion, Hylli leaned slightly back. ”Oh yeah, she came and I told her everything. That the whole plan was yours. That you are responsible for bringing lil ol’ me in danger. In fact, she did tell me that she had it busy. But, oh, you sir, you are in for it! You should have seen her anger! That rage, ppff,” Hylli’s hands rose up as she then seemed to gesture as if an explosion had happened.
”She is going to shred you! Not even my dragon can probably save you from all of this. If there was a person I wouldn’t want to be, it would be so you right now or when she finds time to kick your behind!” Hylli continued, only ending with a shit-eating grin.

As Hylli spoke kazumo’s worry faded as she was shit liar he stared at her with a glare as she teased him. ”You are so lucky I can’t move or else I risk ripping my wounds back open. So you mean Meilin then. Yes she already came by. Not quite happy I took you for my plan but she isn't too upset either. Yet you mock my fear of Aiko but I assure you she is the sweetest and most terrifying woman that has probably walked this planet. So did you just decide to pay me a visit as respect to a clearly more skilled superior. Or was something on your mind there?”

The grin remained on Hylli’s face as Kazumo spoke. Only for it to fade and a more worried expression taking its place instead. "Oh yeah, Lady Cho is quite… someone. She has this motherly and gentle aura. But I have heard people and the rumours. I am not sure how much is true but seeing I have yet to see anybody challenge her? I suspect that she is a true legend," Hylli said, in a softer tone. Briefly, she gazed at her hands before turning her eyes back at Kazumo.
"And I just wanted to see and talk with you. I, well," a faint red taint came on Hylli’s cheeks as she averted her gaze, "not that there are many I can really talk to. My team members aren’t close anyways. And I don’t think that Meilin or the sergeants really consider me as a friend. So you, well, you are basically all I got right now. Closest in what I consider a friend."
Turning her head to throw a narrowed-eyed look at Kazumo, she already raised a hand and pointed an index finger in the most threatening way possible.
"Don’t dare to mock that. It is not funny."

He smiled and shook his head at her stating to not mock her. ”Why would I mock that? I’d be mocking myself otherwise. I never truly got to consider my team friends. They either died or were so idiotic it pained me to even talk with them. Instead I more so built up a close bond with Aiko. Probably the person I trust most even though she likes to make me worry about her.” Kazumo said as he looked at her with a more assessing look.
”You know, you and Meilin are more alike than you think. Both of you are stubborn and fight for your ideals. You both also have that seclusion presence about you, be surprised. That and she was very upset about me taking you and returning you injured. So a little secret from the top that she does care about your safety.” Kazumo said with a wink and chuckle.
”Yet if you feel more at ease with talking with me, then I wont dissuade you from stopping. You’d be surprised though how many people probably actually like you. Yet if you choose to talk to me I have one stipulation. I won’t give you any advice on boys you might like. I can’t even give myself advice on people I like.”

Surprised by Kazumo’s response, Hylli became silent. First, she was surprised by Kazumo’s words. Somehow, she had imagined that a team would have the tendency to grow together. By trials of combat and missions, gaining experience together and that. Then again, how close had she grown to the likes of her team aside from a few individuals? Not that close, at all.
In fact, his words had made such an impact that Hylli’s facial expression reflected a hint of guilt and pain."I didn’t know that,” the words leaving her rather softly, "I just…”
Her cheeks started to flare up as she averted her gaze, her arms folding as a certain rebellious attitude seemed to grow dominant. "Pft, as if you could even help with such a thing. I bet that you are the real hopeless romantic kind of guy, that likes to woo a girl with flowers and giving compliments all day.” Despite the reply, it was visible that his words had shaken her, in a positive way.
"But, I suppose you suffice now to be the target of my talks. It isn’t like there many that can fill that role.” Crossing her legs, she released a heavy sigh that reeked of irritation as her lips briefly pursed, radiating more of the rebellious teen attitude. "Not that I am actually looking for friends, let us establish that! I don’t need to be the most popular person around! That isn’t my goal.”

”Oh you’d be very wrong on that Hylli. Here is one tip, not everyone cares about some cultural traditions that might be considered romantic. I’m also very picky on my compliments. I did give someone a flower though, yet it wasn’t to woo them.” Kazumo said before Hylli stated he would do for now on being her chosen target for talks. Only to state that she didn't want to be popular nor was she looking for friends.
”Are you trying to convince me of that or yourself? Cause what it sounds like is you do want more friends. Too which I can’t help you. I prefer being more alone, I don’t think you share that same characteristic as I do. You like proving your brave right? Go to the training grounds, pick the most intimidating person there and fight them. Either you will win and get someone talking with you, or you will get your ass beat and people will talk with you for giving it a hell of a shot.”

The features of Hylli seemed to showcase she was displeased with the current talk. "You are a jackass,” Hylli stated as if she needed to insult him for some reason. "I will just prove that I am brave by taking you down without any help.”
Becoming silent for a few seconds, she averted her gaze as if their surroundings suddenly intrigued her. But the facade was given up within a few seconds as the dull surroundings gave no verbal escape from the current topic.

"I was sort of serious though. I don’t need to be the popular girl. I just don’t like to trust people. But I also like spending time around some people. Even if they are like you,” shrugging, Hylli returned her gaze back at Kazumo. "You listening is enough help. Trust me, I don’t think it will look great if you are going to introduce me while holding my hand. I am not that socially incapable. I think, at least. It is just that, well,” frowning Hylli once more seemed to look around as if there was now a feasible escape route present.
"I guess I just don’t like to fail. I don’t mind losing, that is one thing. But to becoming a source of jokes and such, you know? That… well, can we just drop this for now? I don’t feel that much more comfortable at the moment.”

”I bet you will.” Kazumo said with a smile as she did make sure that he knew, that popularity wasn’t what she wanted, but she did like to spend time with certain people. ”Nothing wrong with that at all. Just gotta take that running start and talk to them first. Hell, maybe not even to train, since I've been hearing all so much about that.”
When she requested that they drop the current talk he just gave a small smile in return. ”If I learned anything, it's better to hit the failure head on and accept it and overcome it. Then try and pretend it won’t happen. Trust me. I’ve made mistakes I wasn’t happy with, it’s what made me strive to overcome them. You wouldn’t think it, but I use to fear close quarter fighting. I always felt horribly outclassed. Yet I kept working on it and here I am today, maybe slightly above average at it.” He said with a chuckle before relaxing a bit more in the bed.
”Yet if you wish we can avoid that for now. So did you actually talk with Aiko? Or was that just a joke of yours?”

Kazumo’s words had a visible impact as Hylli seemed more at ease. Not that she would voice that she felt like that. But she did appreciate Kazumo and how he addressed the current topic.
Releasing a soft sigh, Hylli wanted to ask what kind of mistakes he had made. To tell her about his past experiences, perhaps as funny anecdotes. His question, however, made her frown slightly.
"Lady Cho? I had a talk with her. She promoted me to chuunin. I almost, heh,” Hylli gained a wry smile as she felt a cold shiver running down her spine, "told her that she was in the wrong. But Lady Cho isn’t a person I want to get angry. I do want to ask though. Is Lady Cho always been that pale? Or looking exhausted?” Hylli turned her gaze to Kazumo. "She seem far from what I have heard about her. I didn’t dare to ask but you know her for a longer time? So has she always appeared that… sickly?”

When the words started coming out of Hylli’s mouth, Kazumo at first was calm but slowly the words started fading. Eventually Hylli was talking but Kazumo heard nothing come from the woman’s lips. His mind started to focus on Aiko, when he entered her tent to her being exhausted. Then to the dagger that wouldn’t leave her. Something that won’t wouldn’t understand until it was far along enough, or if they just knew the price. Yet was it just the dagger making her sick? How could it even do that, if it was chakra based she would just need to keep supplying it chakra and…..

Suddenly his pupils dilated as he began frantically grabbing anything for support as he started to forcibly move his body. Biting his lip as pain soared through his body. His mind was racing with thought after thought, like he was flipping through page after page trying to find the word his brain refused to say. Until he flipped that final mental page and landed on the Vrykyl. The being she got the dagger from, the thing that lived off chakra.
”Noo!!!!” Kazumo shouted as he yanked himself from bed, still biting his lip to keep pushing him on as blood started trickling from his lip.

The sudden shift took Hylli by surprise. Her hands shot upwards as a reflex yet being awkward as she didn’t expect him to push himself up. Panicking, Hylli hesitated before she would attempt to place her hands on his shoulders. Attempting to calm him down, Hylli lull the Scylding but the sight of blood trickling down from his lip only made her worries increase.
"Hey, calm down,” the panic clear in Hylli’s voice as she wasn’t sure what to do if he would attempt to press on. Was she supposed to call for help?
"No need to get worked up, right? Right?” She further asked, only betraying her confusion and worries.

Kauzmo forced his body to take step after step, each one sending wave after wave of pain through. When Hylli stepped up and put her hands on his shoulder, his stare turned to a glare as his eyes stared into hers. His right arm then shot up and grabbed her by the arm. ”No need?! You don’t get it! My mistake! My… My mistake will… No no no no no!!!!!” Kazumo began stammering as his right grip tightened as he attempted to pull Hylli to the side but suddenly a massive surge of pain began coming from his stomach as his legs gave out and he started shouting.

Hylli froze immediately when Kazumo’s hand gripped around her arm. Flinching, she averted her gaze and wanted to get away. Her voice became instantly softer as her body recoiled in a reflex to appear non-threatening to Kazumo.
"I am sorry,” she whimpered, a sensation of pain flowing from where his grip tightened. Just when she wanted to pull her arm back and request him to let her go, Kazumo nearly fell face first to the ground.
Managing to prevent that, catching him in her trembling hands, Hylli became unsure. She wanted to call for aid. Perhaps even the physicians to sedate Kazumo. But something held her back.
"Let me help then. I helped you before.” Hylli stated, trying to sound as confident as per usual, only to fail miserably and having her words coming out as desperate and near stuttering.

Hylli supported his fall as Kazumo gasped for air as if he was choking. Hearing her speak only caused him to tremble as he shook his head. ”It’s as I told you. Have to hit the failure head on rather than pretend it never happened.” Kazumo began saying as he sat there on the ground, he was trying to get up but his legs weren’t cooperating with him. ”Sometimes though you figure out your failure far later than you wish. You can’t help me. Not this time Hylli. Can’t ask for help when I don’t even know where to begin.” Kazumo said more calmly, as he just sat there in silence before looking at the bed. His arm reached out and grabbed it. He would slowly yank himself up, veins bulging in his head and neck as if he was lifting a boulder. He would then slump himself back in the bed as he stared up at the ceiling.
”Give me time to think…. and I’m sorry about hurting you.”

Relieved that Kazumo wouldn’t press on, it didn’t yet calm her heart. Giving him some space, Hylli felt somehow guilty. Her face reflected her regret and worry as she even didn’t seem to notice the blue marking on her skin - where Kazumo had grabbed her.
Taking her previous seat, Hylli remained silent for a bit. Chewing on the inside of her left cheek, her gaze sank and noticed the bruise. Covering it with her other hand Hylli dared to speak up.
"It is okay, I guess,” her voice soft, "I am sorry for making you…. well,” her voice trailed off as she failed to describe how she had experienced his outburst. "Should I perhaps call someone else?”

He just shook his head softly. ”You didn’t…. I just… realized my biggest mistake yet. I let it get to my head, cause I’m in this state. The longer I’m like this the more likely that mistake is going to come and…..” His voice began getting more shaky as he just shook his head.
”Just…. let me think please. We can talk another time, I… I just need to think about how I can fix this.”

Suddenly Hylli felt a crushing sensation of defeat. Her lips trembled and briefly parted, a desire to voice that she didn’t want to leave him. But no word left and no protest became reality as such. Lowering her head, Hylli would rise up and just walk away. More so than ever since she had reached the eastern shore, she felt alone and miserable.


I am... Who am I?
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[ Operation: Happy Backpack ]
[ Sevudia ]
[ Team 11 - Team Nishi ]
[ A Collab between @Oetje , @DeliciousFood @Sakayanagi Selko and @Nim ]

[ The team sets off on another mission. And despite its cheerful name, it will seemingly be anything but. ]
Part 1

Despite the cheerful name of the new operation, Nishi was far from an enjoyable mood. There was a lot of activity ongoing but no tasks were delegated to her or her pupils. In fact, they had been left alone as if nobody else had decided they should become victims of mundane tasks.
Mulling over the mission, the unknowns and knowns were far from comforting. Whereas a less experienced team leader would find themselves honoured, Nishi was far from naive. This mission had too many factors that could contribute to a very bad or good ending that Nishi felt far from comfortable.
What made her also wary was the fact that her team wasn’t one that got rid of the green behind their ears. Even the transfer of a chuunin made her not really approve of the timing. But it wasn’t the situation where they could afford the luxury of providing cohesion exercises or training. And neither was Nishi a fan of those anyways.

Standing at one of the gates, Nishi watched how other soldiers and shinobi conducted their affairs. Supplies were loaded on waggons, animals were getting readied and she had already witnessed various scouting parties being sended ahead of the likely vanguard.
Sucking on her cheeks for a second, Nishi’s thoughts dragged her slowly to some previous thoughts she had mulled over.

There was no loud complaining or something whacky occurring in the background. Everything was as mundane as it should be. Emerging from the nearby alleys among a wave of working units would be Alsanna Shirafuji. There were differences to her usual attire, namely she did not wear her red scarf, nor was there any variance to her standardized costume with her usual messenger bag over her left shoulder. It was as plain as ever, and even the boots were polished and cleaned. Her hair in particular was no longer made to flow freely, but was tied into a bun at the back of her head with two red pins planted in the strands connecting the two spheres. Cheeks rosy, any sign of darker shades around her eyes made less visible and a proper gait that made for very discrete footsteps.
Once at the exit, she’d come to find her teacher. A bow was in order, half-way with eyes closed during the motion. Although as she had her visage in decent proximity to the Jounin, she took a quick whiff of the overall odours that permeated around Nishi’s being, before straightening her posture, “Hello, Master Hirashima.” nearly half-lidded, her voice seemed collected, almost reserved. Hands behind her back, torso ever so slightly pushed forward. One could smell the faintest aroma of lavender from the teen’s being.

As the two members met up, there was a trudging in the distance on the road as Yuyuko Takeda walked in their direction, her oni half mask hanging on the side of her head as her hand held onto the hilt of her katana Fuurai.
The past few days while not exactly tough were not exactly nice on the genin with how her original team essentially not like how it was, first due to one of the genins quiting, that led from Kukiko to Karuko and then before the war started and then with transfers here and then from Karuko to Hisao and that now led to her current reassignment to a new team that she was not sure about.
It was not much but now she had to figure out how to get along with this new team….that is if she can even figure out where in the blue blazes was her Jonin, Nishi or else maybe it was just the stress that was getting to her, granted it was not long when she spotted what should be Nishi sensei as what was stated in the letter.
With that the genin headed over to Nishi not noticing Alsanna as she held up.a cautious hand. "Umm, hello, i am Yuyuko Takeda, Are you..Hirashima Nishi sensei?"

While Hikari’s days off were mostly spent training or helping out around the fort however she could, today they had a new assignment. So Hikari arranged according to Nishi’s instructions, before beginning to make way towards the camp.
As she made her to the rendezvous point, she briefly thought back about the last mission they had. The one where she screwed up royally with how she acted towards Alsanna. She definitely was not going to repeat that. She only wondered if they would be receiving another person to join them like last time. Though regardless of who would or wouldn’t be there with them, she hoped that at least they’ll be able to execute the mission well.
Arriving at the gate s few second after Yuyuko and Alsanna, Hikari looked at the two, before glancing at Nishi ”Reporting for duty, Hirashima-sensei.” She stated, offering a nod to Alsanna and the other girl that stood there. So there was a new and unfamiliar face among them, or so it seemed, considering how the question the girl asked was answered by Hikari.

The first to arrive was Alsanna, who received a look that betrayed Nishi’s wariness. The total transformation would have likely caused some amusement or even approval from someone that didn’t know any better. But Nishi did and she wasn’t convinced that the girl’s true nature would be covered up by the mere facade. However, it was more pleasant than the bratty attitude that usually seemed to surface and provoke a cycle of vicious banter.
”Alsanna,” Nishi replied, her tone reserved and even, the woman not breaking her gaze despite the arrival of a second member for today’s mission.

”Ah yes,” Nishi remembered a talk from quite a while ago. Wasn’t this Yuyuko originally a student of Kukiko’s? The student that had a mask, despite the regulations forbidding it?
”The newcomer,” Nishi stated before nodding to acknowledge Hiraki’s existence and arrival. Briefly Nishi’s gaze lingered on the girl’s mask but then she casually shrugged. ”If two competent jounin couldn’t make you drop that mask, I am not even going to try. You die? You die. Anyhow,” Nishi threw a glance at Hiroko but nothing seemed to bother Nishi or caused her to comment further.
”Time to discuss the mission. It is going to be something higher ranked than what you are used to. So listen up,” Nishi started, pulling out a small scroll from a pouch. Crouching, the jounin rolled out the scroll that revealed a very crude map. ”We are going to travel further eastwards. The majority of the forces are also heading this direction. Intel from scouts and whatnot has delivered that there is some skirmish and worse going on here,” placing an index finger on the spot, Nishi glanced up to make sure that everyone was paying attention. ”What really is there, we need to figure out. We do know that there is a lot of enemy presence. However, we aren’t equipped nor capable to deal with those numbers. In fact, our mission is to bypass any enemy lines, outposts and such to reach what we believe is a faction hostile to Rong. Otherwise, a potential ally for us.”

Pausing, to let the information sink in, Nishi gestured to Alsanna. ”This is the order and formation we will work in. Alsanna here is our medical nin. That means she will take the centre position of our formation. Not to mention, our priority will be to safeguard her from harm.” Lowering her hand, Nishi looked at both Yuyuko and Hikari as she continued. ”You two lack any specialism that would make me think of a true goal for you two. Even with the rank of chuunin. As such, you both will take a wing position when we move about.”
Proceeding to store the map back again in its rolled-up version, Nishi glanced at the members of her team.
”I would ask for questions but seeing how simple I have kept things for you guys, I will not even bother. Hikari, you take the right wing. Yuyuko, you take the left. Alsanna,” Nishi glanced at the last named pupil, but there was something about Nishi’s tone that was different. ”You take centre. I will lead from the front.”

A courteous bow was dedicated to the two that had arrived after Alsanna, one hand over her chest and a humble descent to keep things from exaggeration with her eyes closed in this brief gesture with the faintest of smiles on her visage. Her composure was unmoving and calm. When the map was presented, a quarter-lidded gaze was dedicated to the quick planning from the Jounin, hands still behind her back and with only a slight bending of her figure to get a better look at the map, “Hirashima-Sensei,”one hand whipped out and commenced agile and very precise gesturing without the usual aggression or idleness one would usually expect from her, “I must disagree on Miss Takeda’s lack of specialization!” when that name was uttered, a foxy glance was given to Yuyuko before it’d return to the one in charge, “She is very much a destructive and rapid force to behold, with proper backing. Perhaps her place is with you, at the front, and Hikari overs the rear?” she shrugged, tone passive yet flowing with various changes in intonations to keep the speech itself dynamic, “Given my abilities, I can also cover my sides.” with that said, she’d actually present her flat, gloved hand to Yuyuko with her blue pupils clearly shifting between the newcomer’s mask and her own hand. The intent was hopefully clear.

It remained silent for a moment as neither Yuyuko or Hikari replied. Nishi’s eyes narrowed slightly, a common hint that the woman’s mood was dropping. Already there was a fitting response at the ready on Nishi’s tongue, just waiting to be launched from the woman’s mind to be vocalised and become reality. However...
”Thanks for your input, Alsanna. But with specialism people tend to point out some fields. Such as medical ninjutsu, sensory and such. Sadly, Hikari and from what I was told, Yuyuko lack in these fields. For now, we will adhere to the formation I stated. Unless something changes.”

If anything, the travel pace was demanding. Nishi seemed to be in the mood to either test the limits of the girls or uncaring if they could properly keep up with her. The woodlands provided them the ‘usual’ traveling form of jumping from branch to branch. However, Nishi either seemed pressed to increase the pace or felt motivated to cover more ground today. Instead of branches alone, Nishi vaulted over branches or used the tree’s trunks to launch herself with some precise chakra control.

Short breaks were harshly kept short with barely any time for the team to rejuvenate their energy before Nishi instructed them that they had to go on again. As the sky started to show hints it would soon shift over to night, Nishi would instruct that they could take a ‘prolonged rest’, for now. Their surroundings had shifted slowly from dense forest to more plains and hills.

”No fire though. It will give away our position and we aren’t sure how much of these lands are patrolled by the enemy.” Nishi said as she would drop her backpack. Glancing at the horizon, Nishi seemed briefly to look for something. Only to crouch and get some bland rations from her backpack.

Not a single complaint. If anything, Alsanna kept herself exactly in the same position in relation to Nishi. Dead centre from any formation they’d choose. At first, only her wide, focused gaze ruled her expression, though eventually a slightly more gaping mouth came to better ventilate the growing heat in her body from the evident exertion. Still, not a peep. A very discreet yet very noticeable shadow to Nishi’s being.
When it came time to hunker for the night, the Genin of the group adopted her own little space. Everything was remarkably tidy, every fabric properly folded and foliage properly disposed of. Food without fire was the order, which made her direct her attention to Hikari with no hint of hesitation or reluctance. A packed bowl of what seemed to be standard issue stew was presented to the blonde female, “Would you kindly employ a weak flame to prepare this meal? I’m sure a warm meal would give some more vigour to the team, yes?

As the group kept their formation, Yuyuko thought back on Nishi sensei's words which at least meant Kukiko and Karuko had informed her about the now chunin but decided to just ignore making Yuyuko drop her mask, the thought of Kukiko making her wonder how long has it been and hopefully she could meet her again...well, when she is stronger.
In any case, she was not sure what to do with the mask yet as she remembered the curse mark Alsanna granted her but havent had the chance to use it….well for now at least as she mentally went through Nishi's instructions and then later Alsanna's own comments and suggestions for Nishi's formation while she kept pace with the others on the left wing.

While remembering Alsanna's foxy glance, Yuyuko to have a quiet chuckle to herself on how after getting the curse mark from Alsanna only to end up on the same team as her….well at least this meant that she could get stronger as the chunin contemplated ditching her mask entirely...well for now at least. Of course however, she had to worry about falling behind as Nishi's normal pace was either more faster or more brutal than regular ninjas or else was in a hurry as a number of times, her speed dipped slightly but she managed to recuperate it shortly as pacing herself so that the chunin would not fall behind nor accidentally trigger her curse mark.
At least the short breaks allowed her to catch a breath before they had to set out again as the sun dipped slightly and Nishi called for the group to take a prolonged rest as Yuyuko set up her own sleeping area though it was as minimalistic as possible, at least to save up on repacking time if the group needed to leave in a hurry with only a singular mat on the floor and a raincoat, to act as a makeshift blanket.
With Nishi's order for food without fire, Yuyuko shook her head as the chunin always did enjoy a warm meal before she had to sleep. However rules were rules as the girl dug out her rations for some bread and a few vegetables to make an impromptu sandwich salad, not exactly anything special but sustainable. At least, for this trip that hopefully won't be long or would soon take them to a place that would have some hot food. She took a glance at Alsanna and Hikari, unsure on how to approach them….well yet at least...

The pace they went at was one that made it feel that this mission had more than a level of urgency to it. Hikari did her best to keep her breathing in check all the way, until they finally stopped. Darkness was upon them, and they were laying low in some plains. Not exactly a spot where they could hide easily from others.
Listening to Nishi’s instruction, Hikari nodded briefly, as she started taking out one of her rations and began eating it quietly. She glanced towards Yuyuko for a moment, wondering about the mask, before Alsanna came to her with her brand new personality and asked for her to make fire. Hikari glanced up at her before shaking her head
”You did hear the instructions we were given, right?” Hikari asked her briefly, before continuing ”Aside from us being in the middle of an open field, I’d also be using chakra. So double the risk we’d be detected. No fire from me tonight, even if it would’ve helped morale.” She finished whispering her response, and then continued eating her ration as she was sitting on the ground, leaning against her bag.

First a mask and then a fire were denied. In both instances, Alsanna’s lips pursed in evident restraints. The degree of said restraint seemed to grow with every denial too with her features tensing up for just a brief moment before relent. Her stew was not going to be eaten cold. A solution could be found, and yet when blue eyes met the figure of their superior, the young scholar perished the thought with the meal being put away. Instead, she indulged in some recently foraged wild nuts. Rather bitter, little aroma and were somewhat obnoxious to hear when chewed upon, “Is everything alright, Master?” a sudden query posed as she turned her visage back to face the addressed master.

The exchanges and dealings of her students didn’t seem to interest Nishi. Her attention seemed to be held to the horizon, the direction they had been travelling towards. Upon Alsanna’s question, Nishi turned her head to throw a look over her shoulder. In the dark it was hard for both of them to see each other’s features. But Nishi, for once, didn’t frown or throw a glare at the girl.
”Not yet, no.” Nishi said as she gestured to the horizon. ”If the intel is correct, we will travel tomorrow and may see a mountain range. From there, things will become,” considering what she knew, Nishi decided on a proper word, ”interesting.”

Half turning towards her pupils, she noticed that the three seemed to settle in. The sound of Alsanna chewing on nuts did subtly disturb the otherwise peace and quiet. But Nishi didn’t sneer or berate the girl for it.
”You three managed to keep up. I suppose it is a good start,” the words sounding slightly off as Nishi turned back again to peer at the horizon. ”I will keep first watch. You three take your rest once you’re finished with your food.”

Nishi’s answer prompted an obscured raising of a brow from Alsanna. Then, silence reigned once the declaration of a proper resting period was established. No words were spoken, and with a mere raising of her hand, what was once but a small blade that slipped out of the fabric turned into an avian creature that took flight, only to find the nearest elevation to roost while keeping guard. It was an owl, although not as colourful as its original form, but it's nocturnal nature and capabilities as a sentry made for an adequate backup. It would hoot, from time to time, but remained inconspicuous among the myriad of nightly fauna that roamed. This allowed Alsanna to not only sleep with both eyes closed, but potentially avoid sacrificing rest should her turn come up. Bag used as pillow, arms raised slightly and legs kept flexed until her body went numb, this one got quite comfy all things considered.

Once she concluded eating her ration, Hikari tucked the cloth away and listened to Nishi in silence. After hearing the instructions, Hikari wouldn’t give any vocal indications, only moving to lay her head against her bag. She heard the owl, as it flew off and landed nearby, giving off its occasional hoot. It wasn’t relaxing to her or the such, but she still tried to get the best shut eye that she could for the time being.

Yuyuko on her part looked up from her half finished sandwich in surprise as she heard Alsanna address Nishi as master, that probably indicating something of note that she may need to think about later as her meal was punctuated with the crunch of nuts every few bites causing the chunin to raise an eyebrow at whether it was safe to do that. That however was quickly forgotten by Nishi bringing up that thing would get….interesting and that they would see a mountain range assuming the intel was right.

As she wondered about all the things going on, the chunin finished her meal and the rotation of who would take which watch, Yuyuko quickly got her things packed in and laid down to rest after Hikari noting the owl that Alsanna sent off.
While not exactly the what she would call great, it at least meant that the chunin could count the hoots in her rest so that she could then wake up on time for her turn to keep watch.

Still staring at the horizon, Nishi felt her stomach slightly twist. Deciding to push the troublesome thoughts away, she half turned back to look at the three that were part of her team. As each of them attempted to make the best of the situation, Nishi would check her own backpack. Luckily, the night wouldn’t get so cold that they had to be wary of freezing. Pulling out a small scroll, Nishi waited to listen. Patiently, it became clear that the three were likely asleep due to the build-up exhaustion of travelling all day.
Rolling out the scroll, Nishi placed her left hand on the centre. Dark and elaborated lines all amassed to the centre as the jounin poured some chakra through her hand, into the scroll.
Removing her hand, the sight of some blankets appeared.

Without making a sound the jounin would place a blanket on each pupil. The slight comfort and luxury would be a small respite for what tomorrow could bring.


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I like a lot of genres such as magical, modern, fantasy. Anything with an interesting plot.
[ The 3rd Imperial Division Encampment | Sevudia, Eastern Continent ]
[ A collab between @Oblivion666 and @Oetje ]
[ The Two Ravens | Meilin and Kazumo interact as the former patched the latter up. Things end relatively well as the dynamic between the two is further explored ]

Interesting Raven Fact: Ravens, like all other corvids, are monogamous, and the bond typically lasts for life. Ravens select their partners in the autumn, following impressive acrobatic displays. Following pairing, the duo usually supports each other in aggressive interactions with other ravens. ~

She wasn’t sure what emotion was dominant at the moment. Perhaps it was her exhaustion that had numbed her somewhat. But the sight of Kazumo heavily wounded and barely clinging to life was something that had made her panic. A novice had already done the best he could in order to halt the bleeding but the numerous wounds were still posing a threat to Kazumo’s life.
Due to the numerous wounded and many more in an even worse state than Kazumo, meant that the experienced physicians had their hands full on those patients. A selfish desire almost made Meilin consider to apply Kazumo to be given to one of the more experienced physicians, perhaps even the chief medical officer, Corin Mei.
But time wasn’t a luxury that neither she or Kazumo could afford at the moment.

Inspecting the wounds, Meilin’s expression betrayed her worries. The bleeding had been halted but a lot of blood had been lost, together with some internal damage done. Starting with the wound in Kazumo’s gut, Meilin started with what had been drilled into her. Inspecting the wound and cleaning it - in order to understand properly what she could do about it. Her medical ninjutsu would allow her to mend most of it without a flaw, yet not prevent scar tissue from further closing it.
Attending it, the precision and focused task just further added to Meilin’s exhaustion - numbing her mental state even further. The internal damage was mostly muscles and flesh being ruptured but nothing that seemed to damage the organs. Mending with her medical ninjutsu to it, Meilin felt the beads of cold sweat running down her neck and back.
The next wound was the slice in his hand. But upon inspection, it had already been tended to. The gash wasn’t deep but would leave a scar.
"Moron," Meilin muttered as she moved on to the next wound.

A stab in the shoulder. It wasn’t a fatal wound but if left unattended for too long would cause major pain or the worst case scenario: the loss of his arm by an infection.
Carefully cleaning the wound with a diligence that would have otherwise impressed herself, Meilin prepared for the next. Tissue had ruptured and it was much deeper than she had anticipated. Attending to the wound, the amount of chakra required to carefully mend the damage was causing her to feel light in the head.
Done with the shoulder, Meilin would take a moment to breathe in and out. Inspecting Kazumo’s left arm, the corner of Meilin’s lip tugged downwards.
"You are a reckless idiot," she muttered, once more cleaning the arrow wounds. The novice had already carefully removed the arrows in a way that wouldn’t do more damage. One of the arrow heads was, however, still stuck in Kazumo’s forearm - as indicated by the verbal report.
Removing the arrowhead wasn’t a task that provoked much joy, as Meilin had to be careful that the barbs wouldn’t hook behind anything. Utilizing a tweezer, Meilin’s eyes narrowed as she slowly and gently kept pulling the arrowhead out.

"There," she mumbled, her tweezer pulling the arrowhead out of Kazumo’s arm, "I would appreciate it if you wouldn’t give me so much to worry about," she said, continuing her work to mend to Kazumo’s arm.
"Not when I decided to give you a genuine chance," she spoke softly, the green hue of her medical technique dawning down on his wounds. Somehow, talking to the knocked out Scylding was calming her. The worst was over and perhaps soon she could take a break.
"You also prepare yourself. I have heard that Hylli wasn’t in much better shape than you. Also heavily wounded. So I am not done with you."
However, despite her threat Meilin managed to conclude her work not soon after. Being allowed to take a rest, she would head out to get something on her stomach. Only driven by her worry to return back to the medical tent, where Kazumo laid.
With the Scylding still not awake but clearly stabilized, Meilin decided to spend her time reading a book - seated next to the young raven.

His feet would walk along the dark path, despite everything around him being pitch black as the void his feet would keep walking forward. Staring blankly ahead as ravens behind him kept following his every move. He would look back at them every once in a while always seeing the Blue raven at the front of them. He would shake his head everytime it would caw at him, as if he understood what it was trying to do but refused it. ”No. Not my Raven.” he would always say softly. The literal image of himself was his clothes now dyed crimson with his own blood. Suddenly grass started becoming visible, along with the pitch black turning into pure white. Suddenly he was in a massive field as flowers were blooming, he would look down at himself with the crimson color gone and back to normal.

Another caw resonated as he turned his head to see the blue raven perched on his shoulder while the other ravens were gone. ”Huh? No. No. I’m fine.” He said to the bird who only tilted it’s head while staying perched. Walking through the field, he felt as though a warmth was washing over him as he could hear speaking only when it came in, it was muffled. ”What is this? D-did I….” Kazumo mumbled as he looked at the Raven who only cawed before flying in front of him as a green portal opened before him. The bird would then land before shifting forms into a blinding white form.
”In a sense yes. You however are fortunate little bird. Your raven as you say must indeed care to fix your wounds. Not everyday The Valravns call is stopped. I give you a choice though.”

The figure then opened another portal that showed himself in bed. ”You can go back, live to see another day. Or you can go home to your ancestors, your mom talks a lot about you. She also called you a dumbass for doing what you did. Choice is yours though. Do note. You go back. If this happens again, nothing your raven can do to stop our call.” The figure said before vanishing, leaving Kazumo to look at both portals. He stared at the green one, he did wonder what his mom would say upon seeing him again. However he could wait for that talk, he was given another chance, one he intended to not squander. Smiling he would walk through the portal staring at himself.

A few moments went by as he opened his eyes, his body feeling heavy and still aching just about everywhere. Which is in itself a lucky break as it should hurt a lot more. Looking over at Meilin he stared in silence at her before giving a small smile. ”Hey there pretty bird….. I’m in trouble aren’t I?”

Lowering the book slowly, Meilin’s expression seemed to be neutral. Closing the book, she leaned slightly forward. As she was now slightly closer to Kazumo, her eyes narrowed but seemed to search for something. Upon not finding it, a sigh escaped her lips.
"You were," she replied, sounding actually annoyed, "but I am a forgiving person," Meilin added, a wry smile following her words.

"I am glad that you woke up though. Not too glad that you stole and brought one of my platoon heavily wounded. But I suppose you both have an amazing story. Being brought back by a dragon, nonetheless." Meilin paused as she seemed displeased all of a sudden.
"Why didn’t you share this ambition with me? If I had known you were going after the general, I could have aided you."

Forgiving or more so just plotting a more proper place to yell at him more likely. Upon hearing Hylli was heavily wounded, he cursed mentally as that wasn’t the goal. He was hoping she would stay back more, but she was a brave woman. Made sense she wouldn’t back down. Well she did the dragon part as he planned though, then came the questioning on why he didn't inform her of this plan. ”Simple. I would risk a lot for achieving my goals and plans. I didn’t mean for Hylli to get as badly injured as she did, that was my miscalculation. Should have known the girl who's going around training with everyone just to kick my ass wouldn’t stay low. You however? I’m not trying to be sappy, but I have three people I wouldn’t risk for anything. You are one of them.”

"Miscalculation," Meilin repeated, her tone revealing that she wasn’t really pleased with his answer. But what really seemed to bother her was his last comment. Frowning, Meilin didn’t answer back immediately.
"That is very sweet of you. But isn’t it my choice whether I want to help you or not?" She decided to ask back instead of giving the blunt response that came to mind right away. "I will not torment you too much but next time, weigh in how I will feel. And then communicate, before you make a decision for me."
Straightening herself, Meilin crossed her legs. She had several things she wanted to tell him. To actually do more than to just briefly touch upon that he had brought himself in danger. But somewhere, she knew what she would have done if the chance was hers.

"Hylli is alive though. I haven’t been assigned to treat her but last I heard that she needs some rest. If you behave, I will even allow you to visit her," Meilin said, her tone softer than before. ”I didn’t imagine that she could summon a dragon. Or rather," scoffing in an amused fashion Meilin continued, "one large enough that there are already people talking about it. Next time, you should try to arrange something more subtle than a dragon when trying to escape back to camp."

”It is, it’s also my choice too not wish too see you in a more risky spot than needed.” Kazumo said but he would nod, understanding how she felt but this wasn’t really a choice made for her. He smiled briefly upon hearing Hylli was alive and recovering, just needing rest. When Meilin stated the dragon was a surprise and maybe he should arrange a more subtle transportation he chuckled a bit before wincing. ”That was the point though. If they all saw me carrying the Commanders head, they would know we had killed the Rong leading officer. Besides It also got the little dragon some proper recognition I’d say.”

"Ah, yes, that is all dandy. But next time when you share glory, try to do it in a less dangerous way." Meilin replied, at first. She didn’t move or react when he winced, for it was certain that he would be in pain for a while. Even despite her best efforts of performing her knowledge and practice of medical ninjutsu on him.
"But it may please you to hear that we won the battle. I don’t think we would have this talk anyways. Right now, we have grouped together with the 10th and 12th brigades. Some more people joined the camp but I have yet to recognise or learn who they are," Meilin opted to inform him. "And perhaps because I am in such a forgiving mood, I could try to get you something. Unless you want to eat the regular porridge that many get fed. It is nutritious but quite bland in taste," her tone slowly betraying her amusement. "Of course, with your injuries, you won’t be allowed to have any alcohol. A shame, cause that means I can’t drag you to the Grogging anytime soon."

That…. was probably fair, he wasn’t fully experienced and while he knew a safer way. He also knew that him utilizing the Void technique was a very restricted thing. Considering only the Cho clan was supposed to have known it and even then it wasn’t common knowledge that they did know it. When she informed him that they won, he did bite his tongue on having already figured that out as she would catch on, that this conversation wouldn’t have been happening more than likely. ”I think I’ll take you up on your forgiving mood.” Kazumo said softly as he heard about the Grogging. He read up on that custom and didn’t seem very saddened he wouldn’t be allowed. If anything it would move him closer to his death. ”Well… just means when I’m more recovered that we need to drink. Maybe not to a Grogging extent though.”

"Or else we can have our own Grogging,” Meilin replied, though the amusant betraying that it was a mere attempt at joking. ”Chance is high that you’ll be out of commission for a few days,” Meilin thought about something, "you like to stick your nose for long times between books. I will try to get you some interesting stuff. Any preferences about that?" Meilin asked, actually remembering something. Raising the small book she continued.
"You can also read this. It is just some short tales, nothing really about history or politics. Just some stuff to kill the time. Might actually be a nice change of pace from the usual dull stuff you tend to devour."

”So you are trying to send me right back to the medical tent then. What a lovely way to show you care” Kazumo said before his eyes had a small glint when she mentioned reading. He watched as she raised a small book informing him it was mainly short tales. ”I’ll read anything, although history is indeed my preferred genre. So greatly appreciated cause otherwise I feel like I’ll just be sleeping all day.” Kazumo started saying as he slowly reached his arm out for the book, glint still in his eye.

"It won’t be that bad, I wager. But yeah, I do tend to share my care in a peculiar way,” Meilin replied, not even hiding her amusement. Offering him the book, she couldn’t resist a smile.
"Good. I will try to see if I can find more stuff for you to read or do instead of sleeping, eating and well, sleeping all day. But this should keep you entertained for a little while,” Meilin further said, a hint of worry briefly visible as she waited.
"I am going to get some food and drink. I will be back in a bit, okay?”

Taking the book and holding it with his right hand, he felt his left arm would appreciate not having to carry any weight for a few days. he would look at her and give a smile and nod. ”Sounds good. I’ll be here…. and thanks for…” Kazumo paused for a moment as he remembered what would seem like a very vivid dream. ”Thanks for watching over me and healing my wounds.”

Meilin’s expression rapidly shifted upon noticing that he seemed to have trouble. Her lips were pursing already, a big sign that heralded she was quite unhappy with it. But instead of responding to it, either verbally or non-verbal, Meilin seemed to reign herself in.
"Hm,” already half turning, Meilin’s expression became more neutral, "you are welcome. Next time, don’t try to act like a hero. I am already impressed enough.” A softer smile flowed on her lips as she gestured to the exit of the tent.
"I am going to get some stuff. I will be back in a bit.”
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[ The 3rd Imperial Division Encampment | Sevudia, the eastern continent ]
[ A collab between @Oblivion666 and @Lesli ]
[ Kazumo visiting Aiko's tent. | ”I can’t lose another one.” ]

Studying the map in front of her, there were various miniatures present that represented possible enemy forces as well the Imperial forces. The fact that they had managed to break an enemy force should have allowed them to move in deeper. Rong, however, seemed to have resources that dwarfed theirs. Their victories seemed so far based on quality and being underestimated. While that was great, Aiko was worried that it would be a matter of time before the tables would turn for the worse.
The thick material of her tent kept most of the breeze and cold outside. Despite winter being over and the warmer seasons happening, Aiko felt a constant cold. Luckily her nose didn’t seem to suffer and be filled up to the brim the entire time. Mumbling something to herself, she continued with formulating future missions. Perhaps they could mount a large scale operation to sweep a certain area or two clean?

As Aiko studied the map for possible strategies to enact, a sudden blip of green light would appear from the tent entrance. Kazumo appeared out of thin air as he still had his medical gown on and a large stick to hold himself up. It was evident he was struggling to even be standing right now, he looked at Aiko before speaking. ”Just exhausted huh? You say I’m all grown yet you keep hiding stuff from me!” Kazumo stated as he bit his lip again as he used the stick as a cane and walked closer.
”Give me that dagger. I’m dropping it off where it can’t just come back.” Kazumo said as he held out his hand a bit shakily as he stared at Aiko, with an evident look of not anger, but fear.

Aiko glanced up, with a neutral expression shown on her face. Slowly, she shifted her position and observed her pupil. Her eyebrows formed a frown on her brow as she made no motion to do as Kazumo made his demand.
A second of silence echoed before Aiko subtly made a gesture with her left hand yet her gaze was firmly locked on Kazumo.
”I thought that I had taught you proper manners in the time that you have been underneath my wing. As well that there are boundaries.” The coldness in her voice a near tangible warning that the Scylding should be very careful. ”Take a seat.”

The polite phrase had even something threatening to it as Aiko’s gaze became sterner. The green coloured eyes of the woman didn’t seem to hold any warmth that usually glinted upon being with Kazumo.

As she made it clear she wasn’t going to humor his request, his look of fear only grew, not because of her tone or even look she was giving him though. ”You taught me a lot, you also told me respect goes both ways too.” Kazumo spoke as he slowly made his way to a chair and slowly lowered himself into it.
”Did you ever plan on telling me? That it wasn’t just you being tired, that something else was afflicting you? Or was I just going to be surprised one day? I’m sorry for my tone, I’m sorry for intruding. Yet what other way was I going to get answers? The doctors wouldn’t let me leave nor get you, so I only had one option. I only speak harshly because I just… I just worry. When I worry I panic and get angry cause I want to fix the problem but….” Kazumo said as his voice began quivering.
”I… don’t know how to fix this one. ”

Aiko didn’t give an answer right away. Worse, she continued her work while listening to Kazumo. After a minute had passed Aiko finally put the map away and turned her attention to Kazumo fully.
”I had an idea on how to bring it to you. The thing is that you’re on your own path. And sometimes it is best that I let you go on it instead of troubling you with my worries or… problems.” Aiko said, already raising an index finger - the gesture giving a clear warning for Kazumo to not immediately argue back.
”Beside that. I am more than mature enough to attend to my worries without you trying to act as my champion. You are a jounin but a fledgling at the moment. So while I am happy you care enough that you decide to infiltrate my tent and nearly risk my own guard to skewer you and then try to square up, you are forgetting your place.”

The stern tone would fade away as Aiko leaned forward and offered a soft smile.
”Sometimes sweetie, problems aren’t easily fixed. Or can’t even be fixed. But that doesn’t mean that I desire you to be hurt. If it is of any consolation, know that I wish that I could have told you this earlier.”

She was smart enough to know he would have spoken if she hadn’t raised that index finger. Pouting a bit as she continued talking and explaining the predicament. He could only offer a half smile back. Once she was finished talking though he only shook his head.
”That’s not fair. I know I know, life isn’t fair, yet this isn’t…. I had a problem so I worked hard to fix it, then another problem came and once again I rinse and repeat. It’s what I do, I take my time to fix the issue. Then I find out cause you helped me by fighting that stupid freak and took his dagger. That you are just going to keep deteriorating? All because you helped me? I know you said you tried to get rid of it but did you try dumping it in the void? I can leave it there for you if you can’t.” Kazumo said with a couple tears coming down his face.

”Why? Why can’t things just stay problem free instead of one hassle after another? Where do I even begin looking for a solution to a dagger from an undead thing? I want to be selfish. I want you to stay around for everything in my life. I want you to see everything I accomplish, my children, everything.”

Rising up from her seat, Aiko would briefly embrace Kazumo in a tight hug. It wasn’t just to provide a mere second of comfort and assurance but also to prevent him from seeing the crack on her wall - the actual fear and desire to remain alive. To not suffer anymore.
Keeping her hands on his shoulder, she would slightly lower. Gently, one of her hands would slide to his chin and lift it up to force him to look at her.
”My little raven,” a sad smile adorned her features as she fought back to not give in to the tears that attempted to escape her. ”Life isn’t fair. And good kings aren’t born. They are made out of steel and suffer.”

Pausing, Aiko would remove her hands as she tried to search for more words. Words that could offer some assurance and hope, without being lies.
”The truth, however, is also that you’re now supposed to be standing on your own. You have grown so much. From the day that you clamped to my side, you have achieved so much. And despite I long for you to remain longer at my side, it is now your future and decisions. All that I can do is try to support you.”
Returning to her chair, she picked it up and placed it on the side of his. Sitting down, Aiko grabbed one of his hands. Her touch was cold, an awful reminder of what was likely to come. A silent herald of horror and pain.
”I am already blessed. I have seen and experienced an amazing life. To have been your mentor… I don’t need to say it.” squeezing his hand gently, Aiko continued to smile. Now came for her the hard part.
”The truth is also, you are free to make your decisions. I won’t stop you anymore. It is now your journey and story, little raven.”

Her hug was a very welcome one, even though it put slight pressure on his body that was already voicing it’s disapproval with his actions. ”So far it seems like more suffering than happiness.” Kazumo mumbled as she spoke to him again, coming back with a chair and sitting beside him as she held his hand, her touch chilling. Only further making him shake from fear of the possibility of no longer being able to have these talks. So when she stated he was free to make his own decisions, he gave a soft nod.
”And it’s a story you will continue to be in. Once I’ve recovered enough, I’m heading out. I will find a remedy, I have to.” Kazumo stated while he started to choke on his next words.
”I can’t lose another one.”

”You silly, silly boy.” Aiko’s smile grew. ”I am already part of your story. And you can’t lose me.”
Gently, she would poke his chest with her left index finger. ”I thought I was already there.” Retracting her finger, an amused expression became visible. ”Or am I already replaced by that one girl you are so smitten with?” Aiko asked, in a subtle attempt to steer the conversation away. The mere idea that he was going off on to somewhere dangerous, for her sake, was far from comforting.
”Tell me more about her.”

He smiled this time and nodded. ”I know but you know what I mean.” He then smiled and shook his head at her next statement. ”Well it would be odd if I considered her a mother figure like you.” he replied with only to be a bit surprised when she asked more about her.
”You know it’s odd. I never been one to just search for love, or think to much even about it. Yet when I look at her. I just feel so… strong? Not like showing off but like, just her being there fuels me in a way to improve and be better than what I was yesterday. She is also very loyal to Cho traditions, gave me a proper slap when I asked in a Hon tradition for a dance. She’s smart and actually understands when ideas are stupid unlike some others I’ve dealt with. I don’t feel like I'm being a bother when I start going on and on about a topic I found interesting. She even seems to listen to every word of it, and you know how I ramble about certain topics.”

Listening to him, Aiko moved her hands back. A faint chuckle escaped Aiko when she heard of the slap. While that would likely made her frown and anything but happy, the tone of Kazumo had a certain impact.
”You do ramble a lot. An awful lot.” Aiko replied, obviously teasing as she gestured to him to continue on. ”So, she seems like a headstrong person. What more do you like about her?” Aiko asked, the genuine fear that she wouldn’t have the time now to actually witness him being truly happy - and outside a war zone or campaign.
”Though, I don’t need any grandchildren yet. Okay? Just saying already.”

”She is also very driven, like I don’t have to guide her for her to do what she wants. Like when she has her own goals she makes sure that she works towards them. A splendid leader, much more so than I could be. She may find herself bland, but I personally think she radiates beauty.” When her last statement came his eyes widened a bit as he chuckled nervously.
”Don’t go jinxing me now. I want you to see them but I don’t think Im quite ready to be a father just yet.”

Enjoying how he continued on, Aiko did remember what had been arranged before. Her pragmatic mind whispered that this could have happened if he had been a bit more patient and given that option a chance. But her heart was ‘louder’ as it swooned upon seeing and hearing how much head over heels Kazumo was.
”I hope so. She sounds amazing and while I was opposed to it before, I am genuinely happy that you found someone that can make you feel like this.” Pausing, she raised a hand to gently ruffle his hair. ”Perhaps it is good that you are growing a bit stubborn and independent than how you were before.”

He gave a chuckle as she ruffled his hair stating that maybe it was good he became a bit stubborn and independent. ”Well you did have to push me out of the nest eventually. I just might have jumped out of my own will a bit early.. I do think you will like her, she seems to respect you greatly. You two should talk, who knows maybe you will bond over me being too reckless.” Kazumo said as he could hear commotion outside about a missing patient with blue hair.
”Something tells me I might have run out of time.”

Aiko’s head twisted as she shot a look at the entrance of her tent. ”And bond over how you are so silly at times, yes. For now,” turning her attention to Kazumo, Aiko would whisper the next words before planting a kiss on his head. ”You got to fly, little raven. I will try to be around, don’t worry.”
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[ Sevudia | The Eastern Front ]
[ Aiko Cho-Hon and Yoshikuni Sadako ]
A Collab between @Lesli and @Nim

Kuni gets to learn some basic knowledge about genjutsu from Aiko, and also gets to learn something else.

Sitting on the ground and waiting, Kuni felt excited. She didn’t get to see much of Aiko since arriving, at least in a personal manner. And even if she wanted to, she couldn’t just ask to see her every moment. Aiko was busy, being a general and all. But it seemed she was able to make some time to teach Kuni more about Genjutsu. She knew that she could’ve asked Aiko a long time ago, and she did regret not asking back then, but as there was another chance now, she decided to take it.
Kuni stretched her arms a bit as she waited for Aiko to arrive, and looked around to see if she could spot her arriving in the vicinity.

Finding the point of where Kuni had requested her to aid with genjutsu, Aiko had her own thoughts of training the girl the specialism. While Aiko enjoyed teaching other people the rather difficult field of genjutsu, there were certain traits and factors that could make it a success or not when someone attempted their hand at it.
”There you are.” Aiko said, a flash of a smile appearing as she calmly closed the distance. Throwing a glance at the nearby training grounds, it was quite lively around them. But nothing that seemed too troublesome.
”So genjutsu, hm? Why the sudden interest?”

Upon seeing Aiko approach, Kuni stood up and smiled. She had a brief thought of hugging her, but with people still being in the vicinity and Aiko’s rank, she figured it would be better to not do it.
”Well, seeing you use Genjutsu and few others over the years, you could say I was always curious by it, but too dumb to actually ask about it.” Kuni shrugged before she continued ”That and I want to learn more about different ways chakra can be used, beyond what I know I’m capable of. Genjutsu was one style I was weaker at in the academy, so strengthening it can only help, right? Or at the very least, help me understand it better.” Kuni said.
Giving Aiko a more proper look after she came closer, Kuni’s smile seemed to wane. Aiko didn’t seem well.

Raising a hand Aiko released a soft sigh, as her fingers went through her hair. "That is a shitty reason to be interested in genjutsu. Seeing others perform it and only now asking me? Almost should be insulted.” Aiko said, visibly pondering on how to approach the matter. Lowering her hand, she gestured to Kuni.
"What do you know of chakra and how it could be used in genjutsu?” Aiko decided to ask and wait for what kind of answer would follow.

Moving her attention to Aiko’s words, Kuni pondered on the question for a moment ”Chakra is used in genjutsu techniques to affect the senses of others from what I saw. So maybe it’d be more accurate to say that the chakra used by genjutsu techniques is aimed at affecting the minds of the opponents. As for chakra itself, I know that it's in constant circulation in every living thing in the world. If it stops, that living thing will die. And if it’s altered, it can have other side effects.” Kuni stated, briefly putting a hand over where her seal was located, before moving it back to the side.
”So if altering like that can have long-term side effects, do you use chakra to disrupt the chakra of another person in order to cause the desired effect with genjutsu?” Kuni asked.

Patiently, Aiko waited and listened to Kuni’s answer. Once the girl was done, Aiko shook her head lightly. "So basically, you know nothing of how chakra and genjutsu are related. Ai, ai. A shame I can’t shove this off on Eiji. Very well, to the basics we go.” Aiko mumbled, yet didn’t even attempt to make it inaudible for Kuni.
"Yes and no. Yes, genjutsu can in short cause some long-term effects. However, it is rather finicky and often not even worth the tenacious amount of effort to contain a long-term genjutsu. And no, it doesn’t need to impact anybody’s chakra system. There is hard and subtle genjutsu. But you aren’t yet at that level remotely to delve into that.”

Crossing her arms, Aiko seemed to consider something. "Shame that you aren’t like some of my genjutsu students. It is actually quite ironic but those who are well-studied and well-read tend to do better with this field. It requires a lot of study and knowing how various matters work in order to pull off an effective genjutsu. In short, genjutsu is indeed the art of illusions. But it can be so much more. It can be used to manipulate and convey messages to others. To inspire or to sow confusion. The limitations are quite up to your own mind and imagination. Though it is a thing that the depraved tend to come up with some really weird genjutsu. I will warn you honestly, if you start doing that? Then we are done. I am not a fan of those kinds of genjutsu. In fact, they tend to lack the efficiency that I respect and utilize with genjutsu.”

Letting her words sink in, Aiko would raise her left hand. "This may sound familiar but chakra is a complex beast. There are chakra bloodlines, affinities and what not. But to understand genjutsu, there are two important factors that are used in genjutsu. Yin and Yang. These two energies are what can form chakra and as a result, you may already use this concept without really understanding or knowing how. See it as a cook that prepared a recipe in a way without fully understanding what each of his actions meant. Once you actually grasp the basics of Yin and Yang chakra, you can delve truly in genjutsu. The risk is that you may not have what it takes to become really specialised in genjutsu. That is something you need to take in consideration.”

As Aiko explained things about genjutsu and chakra, Kuni did her best to pay attention. Aiko had quite a bit to explain. Her comparison of using Yin and Yang to cooking without knowing why reminded her of when she was just starting to learn how to cook. And it definitely sounded like genjutsu had a lot to offer in terms of usage. And hearing about the risk that she might not be compatible to become fully specialised was a slight concern ”Even if I might not be compatible, I won’t be able to know that if I just give up already.” Kuni stated ”And I don’t think I’d want to make any weird genjutsus. I have no reason to think of anything like that.” She added.
”So, I haven’t known about Yin and Yang. You said the two together form chakra. What do the two do separately?” Kuni asked.

"Hm, we will test later if you got the right mindset for it," Aiko replied as she took a second to consider how to answer the question that was given in return. "In short, Yin is the driving source of illusions. It is what you can see basically and what can be considered as spiritual energy. Yang is the opposite. It is what you can consider physical and what can embody something. Combine the two and you get the ‘normal’ chakra. Something you can mould in your imagination, Yin. And then reinforce it, Yang. It is essential to know that in order to both combat and use genjutsu effectively."
Letting the words sink in, Aiko considered using an example. But she opted against it.
"The idea is that genjutsu is mostly Yin. You don’t need much Yang to embody an illusion. The process is and will get way more complicated but you aren’t nowhere near to understand that. Or in need to understand that, so I will spare you that." Aiko continued. "Now that you know the basics of how it can be formed, you can use this to combat it. Understanding a genjutsu’s yin and yang elements allows you to know how it works. Effectively being able to dispel it or allow it to run its course, tricking your opponent to assume you are still suffering the bad effects fully. A mind game of some sorts, you know?"

Remembering something, Aiko gained a soft smile on her lips. "In fact, you already learn a certain technique that we can consider as a genjutsu basic. The Academy clone technique."
Performing the technique, the intangible display of Aiko would appear - lacking a shadow and unable to make any sound.
"Now, try to deduce what is what of the Academy clone technique."

With the given answer, Kuni repeated silently a phrase ‘Yin is spiritual, Yang is physical’, for a bit, to help herself memorize it, before Aiko continued her explanation. She listened carefully. So letting a genjutsu run its course was also a valid option. As the academy clone was brought up, Kuni raised her eyebrows a bit, surprised by the fact. Looking at the clone Aiko conjured, the jinchuuriki looked over the clone. She needed to determine which was which in the clone.
Looking over the clone, the clone had no voice or shadow. She knew it couldn’t interact with anything ”There wouldn’t be any Yang in the technique, would there? Or an incredibly minimal amount. It’s only an image of you. It’s an illusion. It can’t touch anything, light passes through.” Kuni said, looking at the clone ”It doesn’t have any physical aspect to it from what I can tell.” She stated after another minute of examining the clone.

Aiko waited till Kuni was done with her answer. Once nothing else came, Aiko shook her head lightly. "You didn’t get all of it. It is true that it is an illusion. So most of it? Yin. But you can see it, right? It is embodied right next to me. There is a very small bit of Yang there. Because it is realized. Can you touch it? Hear it? No, but it is still some sort of reality." Aiko explained as she dismissed the technique. "Now, the interesting thing is that the whole Yin-Yang distribution is different with each technique. I know a technique that is called the Advanced Genjutsu technique. I can use some more Yang and with the basics that I explained, it is easy to guess why that clone technique allows such a clone to be able to do more. The composition is what you must understand before we can continue."

There was once more consideration to put the girl in a genjutsu. Experiencing it would be the best way to learn and teach it. The awkward part was that Kuni was a jinchuuriki. Aiko frowned as she weighed some factors.
"Let’s try something else. Chakra control is an essential part of doing ninjutsu. It is what allows a shinobi to use ninjutsu and why someone without any talent can’t become a shinobi or whatever. While everyone states and believes it is hard work, if you don’t have the gift for it? You can’t become a shinobi or use very delicate techniques. So let us test out your chakra control. What is your technique that demands the finest chakra control?"

”The technique that demands my finest chakra control? Hmmm,” Kuni started to ponder on the question. She had a few earth techniques she knew well, but she had trained enough that they didn’t require her finest chakra control. Or at least, it didn’t feel like that. There were a couple of top contenders in her mind, before something dawned on her. She turned to look at Aiko ”It’s the transformation technique, isn’t it? You need to perform it exactly right, or else the transformation will be messed up. It requires the finest chakra control.” She asked. Kuni had forgotten about the technique since she barely used it, but seeing they were talking about illusions and the such, and Aiko also gave the example from the academy, she suddenly remembered it.

Clicking with her tongue, Aiko once more subtly shook her head. "The transformation technique is indeed something that is being tested in the Academy. It is a rather basic technique for someone that should be chuunin, however. If that is your technique that demands the most refined chakra control, you are in for a bad time." The woman paused as she tried to think of something. It didn’t entirely help that she wasn’t specialised in earth release nor that Kuni couldn’t use either wind or water.
"There is another way. Try to focus on your chakra. Make it in a round shape and keep it solid. It will feel odd to just amass chakra and try to keep it in a solid shape. But just give it a go."

Hearing the response, Kuni felt dumb. She didn’t mean from the academy techniques or specifically genjutsus. Once more, she read too much into things. Hearing the instruction, Kuni brought her two hands together and started to focus on her chakra. Round shape and solid. It took a couple of moments, and indeed it felt strange, but Kuni managed to get a rather solid appearing bit of chakra in her palms, being a circle of chakra. She kept her eyes on it to keep maintaining it, only giving off a brief whistle to indicate to Aiko that she got it.

Aiko didn’t respond to it immediately. She continued to observe how the process seemed to go. A few seconds passed after Kuni’s whistle until Aiko spoke up. "That is enough. I would guess that your chakra control is decent enough for the basic genjutsu techniques. It is now just your mindset and understanding. Not a too big problem as I don’t gauge you unable to learn. But much like medical ninjutsu, it requires knowledge and comprehension. Something that I can’t just teach with these circumstances.”
Pausing, Aiko considered a few options. The lack of a place for her to self-study the materials required to delve in this specialism weren’t a luxury that they could indulge in. But there was something that could be done.
"Humour me,” Aiko began, "what kind of genjutsu would you consider feasible with your current abilities and fighting style?”

After Aiko gave the instruction, Kuni released the chakra, allowing it to dissipate, as she listened to what Aiko had to say next. If it required a space more suited for learning things like how you would study medical ninjutsu, then Kuni definitely understood it was far from the ideal place.
When the question was presented, Kuni thought about it for a moment ”Well, my current abilities and fighting style, with and without a weapon, are close range. But for both, I’d likely want something to help hinder the opponent in some way. Probably target either the hearing or vision, seeing how my fighting style is not the most subtle or silent.” Kuni answered ”Consider feasible though? I’m not sure.”

"Genjutsu is for all ranges. But it requires tactics and the insights on how to recognise and use them. Without it, you will hinder a foe but do you know how to time it? How to make it work? Without it, no. I doubt it will be feasible." Aiko explained. "For there are two kinds of genjutsu. There is hard genjutsu. These techniques just place the target underneath a genjutsu. They are crude and right up your face. Sure, they can have some impact but it is a limited field. Subtle genjutsu is far more complex and refined. It requires more knowledge and tactical understanding on how to apply them. But they tend to be harder to combat as well.”
Becoming silent, Aiko seemed to think about the matter.
"Right now? I don’t know if you are up for subtle genjutsu. And hard genjutsu is often not that practical. Unless you are desperate. But then I genuinely recommend another specialism.”

”Hard and subtle genjutsu.” Kuni muttered as Aiko kept explaining things, before hearing the end part of Aiko’s judgement ”Recommend another specialism?” Kuni repeated, looking a bit dejected after hearing that. Looking back at Aiko, she nodded.
”Then I guess I won’t try to learn genjutsu for now. But that doesn’t mean I can’t try to learn it at a later point, right?” She said, clearly cheering herself up.
As her eyes fixed on Aiko, Kuni’s expression turned into a more worried one. She kept herself from saying anything because she wanted to take the training session seriously. She didn’t want Aiko to think she was thinking of this as nothing more than a social interaction for her.
Letting a moment of silence pass, Kuni spoke up again ”You’re not well, are you? You definitely don’t look well.” Kuni’s voice wasn’t loud, rather quieter and filled with concern.

What to recommend, Aiko mused briefly. "You are a curious one. Genjutsu might be too much studying and work for you. However, I reckon that sensory might be a good specialism for you. I don’t know if you can hinder someone with that. But you can certainly do a lot of useful things when you delve in sensory.” Aiko replied, knowing that she had disappointed the girl but it was best to do so now than to let her bump against a wall.
The last question caused Aiko to stay silent for a few seconds. The busy ambience around them didn’t create any eerie silence but it was still there, filling the void after Kuni’s question and before Aiko broke it with her answer.
"I am not, no.” A wry smile crossed Aiko’s lips as she lightly shrugged. "I have something that is not… good. But I am still here. Psh, no need to act like I am a ghost of any kind or going away so soon.”

Kuni heard the response about sensory, and only gave a slight nod, before Aiko answered the question that bothered her more. Upon hearing it, her gaze moved more to the ground ”You might not be a ghost or be going away soon, but looking like that, you just,” Kuni hesitated for a moment before continuing ”You reminded me of how my mom was in her last moments.” She sniffed slightly.
Kuni definitely felt multiple urges to just run again. She didn’t want to see Aiko like this. She didn’t want to hear more about it. But what good would that do? Shaking her head a bit, she looked back at Aiko, before approaching her ”I know you have your own security and everyone, but if you end up struggling with anything, I can help. And I’ll look around the camp for someone who can help me start learning about sensory. I wonder if it would help that I can already sense a bit with the mole technique. Or at least, feel vibrations of objects like that.” Kuni’s mind briefly drifted onto the subject, before looking at Aiko again.
”I don’t know if you can make any such promise, but if you can,” Kuni said, her expression turning a bit more serious ”When you get back home, retire from active duty. Be there for Aki and Kei. Spend as much time as you can with them. Both you and them deserve to have as much time together as you possibly could.” She told Aiko.

Aiko slightly lowered herself to bring herself on the same level as Kuni. The expression and wry smile hadn’t shifted as she replied back to Kuni.
"You can’t help, Kuni. Sometimes, there are matters no amount of force or clan influence can mend. It is best now to focus on yourself. To make sure you learn and develop.” There was a soft chuckle that escaped Aiko by the thought of retiring. "And you don’t know my clan or culture well enough, it seems. Retirement is far from something I desire as well. Right now, I just focus on my duties and that is all I will do.”
Straightening herself, Aiko seemed slightly more amused than before.
"Perhaps you’ll manage to do it better one day. With children of your own.”

Staring at Aiko, Kuni wanted to argue back, but she got a sense that it would only be a waste of energy for both of them. As Aiko straightened back up, Kuni shrugged ”I’ll first hope that I can find someone who won’t just vanish from my life until after I’m dead and my children are over a decade old.” She said, being unsure if she told Aiko about her father.
”And I didn’t quite mean against whatever is affecting you. Meant more if you feel weak, then I can help bring you things, more manual tasks. Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t begin helping with whatever is afflicting you.” She said, shaking her head a bit ”I have no medical experience, as a bare minimum to even consider that.”
”And you’re right, I still don’t know enough about your clan or culture.” Kuni stated as a matter of fact ”But I also get the feeling that there are plenty of other people here I could try and learn from. I don’t need to bother you for that right now, Brigade General ma’am.” She said.

Aiko’s features shifted in one that represented awkwardness and slight disappointment. "Geez, I didn’t know I was looking that bad.” She muttered, audible enough, as Kuni brought up dead and children with a specific age. Deciding not to state that death wasn’t something easy to control, Aiko also opted to state it was something medical ninjutsu was going to help. Perhaps it was just best to let Kuni focus on herself, Aiko thought to herself.
"Indeed. You are dismissed.” The words followed with a curt nod.

Upon being dismissed, Kuni offered a salute ”Take care of yourself the best you can.” She said, before beginning to head away from Aiko and from the field.
With her back to Aiko, Kuni bit her lower lip. It was hard to keep herself from crying. To not just run and give her the biggest hug she could. But they weren’t alone, and she wasn’t a kid anymore. She also wanted to try and show Aiko that.
Moving her thoughts away, Kuni began wondering who she could approach to learn about Sensory jutsu.


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[ The Battle of Nangxi | Lagyre, Eastern continent ]
[ Team Asami in the fray! | A collab between @Autumn Song , @ChromeHound , @Feijão T. C. Speedwagon and @Aliceee ]
[ Situated at one of the flanks, Asami attempts to lead her team as the battle of Nangxi occurs. ]

They had their orders. From the very morning, they had to position themselves at the flank of the route that went in between the tall hills. Crouched, Asami had a good vision of the surroundings up ahead. But behind her was a vast collection of Northerners. The first rows were archers that would lay volleys of arrows on their future victims while behind that the infantry would be ready to rush forwards.
Yet, while Asami applauded the plan, it was just the question if it would work as they hoped. Keeping her team close as she didn’t trust them to not either offend or rile up the soldiers or other Northern operatives, Asami kept staring at the distance.
The troops behind would stay mostly silent. The tangible tension was enough to prevent most small talk between people. If this was some other kind of scenario, Asami would have been able to find some humor perhaps in the fact that so many people together were poised for a fight and yet unwilling to talk.

Then she saw them up in the distance, causing her to narrow her eyes. Spotting the large detachment of Northerner cavalry riding fast, they were clearly pursued by Rongese counterparts. A large and what appeared to be an endless wave of Rongese foot soldiers followed.
Rising up, Asami pulled out one of her axes. Raising the weapon, the gentle yet soft rustling of the troops behind them became noticeable. The moment of battle was nearing and it was moving as fast as the horses could carry the Northerners from their Rongese pursuers.
”This is going to be extremely messy,” Asami said in a calm voice to her pupils. ”Try to stick close to me. Keep your guard up. And don’t hesitate to kill. It is do or die today.”
As Asami delivered her ‘advice’ to the genin and chuunin, a large fireball was launched in the air by someone of the Northern cavalry. Yet they continued racing onwards, delivering volleys back at their pursuers as they received them from the Rongese. Still, Asami didn’t let the signal go that the archers could release their arrows. Patiently, she watched as the Northern cavalry continued to draw in the Rongese horsemen and foot soldiers.

A few words softly escaped Asami’s lips as she let the raised axe fall to the side. Within a second the motion was followed by the sounds of arrows being shot in the air. The projectiles were sent flying high before they started to arc in a descent. Upon falling down, dozens of Rongese would be mortally wounded by the volley. However, another volley rapidly followed and would send more Rongese to the afterlife.
”Ready yourselves!” Asami shouted as she noticed the Rongese foot soldiers starting to disperse a large detachment towards them while the archers continued to shoot volleys of arrows at their enemies.
Despite the advantage of the high ground that the tall hill provided together with the vegetation, Asami could already notice that they were the ones outnumbered. Whistling hard, she started to shout orders to make the Northerners form a wall of spears that should possess a difficult challenge for the Rongese to overcome.

Yet, several Rongese soldiers managed to slip in between, their weapons raised as they attempted to disrupt the Northern formations.
Sprinting forwards, Asami didn’t waver to slam one of the axes in a Rongese soldier's neck. The steel would bite deep and leave a deep gash, to which the Rongese soldier collapsed to the ground with a soft grunt.
”Come on, cover each other!” Asami shouted, meant for her pupils as she fended another Rongese off in the meanwhile.

It felt like a stone had sunk down his stomach, as he heard the hooves of the horses dig the ground and the ground trembling warcry of his own nation that he was mustered with. The breath, the odour of man mixed with musk of nature filling his nostrils, an unpleasant smell that made him feel uncomfortable, uneasy. He fixed his eyes forward, ignoring the negative feeling he felt like fear, regret. boom! Jin’s head shot up, the burning balls of fire travelling across the sky to Rongrese.

After that, time began to move fast, the tightening of bow strings and the sound of the arrows piercing the air, something Jin would wish he could do with their large bows. The words shouted would become just noise to Genin, until Asami’s voice broke through to him. The feeling of fear came back to him as the few Rongrese that broke through the spearwall seeking victims. There was no other way out, he would have to kill or be killed. Without thinking his short sword would be in his hand, weapon in hand the Genin lunged forward towards one of he Rongrese, the blade jammed into his thick abdomen, Jin couldn’t pull his sword out of the man, his abs thick like the bark of a tree.

The man shouted something foreign, ”Dam it.” Jin hissed, he fumbled, trying to reach for his Tanto. Thump Jin could taste the salt of the soil, the taste of blood in his mouth, staining his teeth, his own and others. The “Savage” murmured something, taking the embedded blade from the side of abdomen, with a slight moan.
His shadow swallowed Jin’s view of the sky and time began to slow as Jin’s life would flash between his eyes as he’d be faced with the tip of the blade that failed him. Faced with death Jin would let out a massive shout as loud as he could.

Before the blade could come down to end Jin’s life, someone seemingly crashed into Jin’s foe. Slamming her short blade into the man’s stomach area, Ottome grunted loudly. Toppling together with the enemy soldier - the girl quickly scrambled on her feet as she jerked the blade out of her foe.
Breathing heavily, her heart pounded fast in her chest. Noticing another enemy making his way through the turmoil, Ottome didn’t understand why her body moved out of its own.
Approaching the new opponent, Ottome attempted to feign a hew from the right to create an opening. Either her opponent knew what he was doing, seeing through her attempt, or was just a simple minded brute. With a firm push, he managed to cause Ottome to stumble backwards.

Her eyes widened as her foe lashed out again, causing her to lower herself to avoid the slash. Rising herself up from the manoeuvre, the loud ambience of battle was quite distractive. Despite her best effort to keep attention on her current enemy, Ottome’s mind couldn’t help but shout at her that she should be wary of another enemy.
Able to deflect an attack narrowingly, Ottome had to dodge the follow- up attack. Not feeling confident to strike back, Ottome felt her heart sinking heavily in her chest. Tears started to form in her eyes, as she realised that this could be her end.

The sound of metal clashing against metal rang out as Reyna’s blade met that of Ottome’s foe. The girl wasn’t strong enough to block the man’s attack outright and instead had to rely on positioning to deflect his blow down and away from them both. Gritting her teeth, Reyna slid her weapon free from her opponent’s. As she did so, the Genin twisted her blade and wrenched it upwards as quick as she could. The unorthodox attack worked and Reyna’s sword carved across the man’s arm, drawing blood and a roar of pained anger.

Ducking to the side to avoid the enemy’s now-frenzied counterattack, Reyna lifted her sword again but it was batted aside easily by the rage-fueled zealot. Cursing, she took two stumbling steps backwards, terrified.

Despite the grievous wound Reyna had landed on the man, he was still coming. He was far too strong for her to take one on one, and it wasn’t like she had a lot of room to outmaneuver him. Raising his weapon once more, the man stepped towards Reyna, his eyes ablaze with a single purpose - kill.

Before he could bear down on the Genin, however, an axe flashed out, cleaving into the man’s neck and dropping him instantly. Reyna did not even have time to thank the nameless Northern soldier that had just spared her life when she caught sight of another Rongese soldier charging towards her.

With no time to do anything but defend herself, Reyna gripped her sword tightly and swung it in a diagonal arc, catching the enemy’s blade as it hurtled towards her. The vibrations from the impact traveled all the way down the hilt of her sword and Reyna had to fight to keep her grip against the painful stinging sensation. Uttering a silent prayer, she brought her weapon around once more, instinct taking over. She was outmatched in skill, power, and experience, but Reyna’s tenacity kept her barely in the fight.

She could not die here. She would not…

Before Reyna’s foe could gain more of the upper hand and likely end the girl’s life, an axe would slam in the man’s head. The surprised expression with the widened eyes were a brief sight as a gloved hand jerked the axe from the head, the motion oddly fluid.
”Not the best day to die, you brats,” Asami shouted, to make herself audible. With a stern look, she pointed with one of her axes at her pupils.
”Steady yourselves and stay with me,” Asami nearly snarled at them as she threw a look at the fight.

The Rongese were attempting to break their lines but found themselves entrapped. The Northerners seemed to come charging out of the woods and over the nearby hills. From nearly all sides did the enemy get trampled or charged as volleys of arrows plummet from the sky, pelting and killing more Rongese troops.
Their section was holding off the scum with a grim determination as the Rongese did their best to break their lines.
A few of the enemy managed to break through a small gap - intending to widen it for their foes.
”Time to shed blood, with me,” Asami shouted as she dove first in the danger. Her axes flashed and sang a deadly song of steel and violence, only to slice and slam in the Rongese foes. Despite her smaller frame, the Sanosuke nearly seemed to perform a lethal dance as her weapons continued to sing - the chaotic ambience of battle overwhelming the soft tunes.

A minute felt like an hour, the cold ground comforted the boy, a new home that was supposed to be his grave as his glazed eyes gazed at the sky. The white clouds became darker the longer he stared at them. ”I’m sorry mother.” tears rolled down his stoic face as the clinging over man made weapons swung above him.

Kriisshhhh...... Whoorrreeeee....” The sound of Asami’s voice suddenly brought life to Jin’s body, his eyes felt hot, and body trembled as he answered the call. his upper body sprung up as if he were the living dead. His eyes scoured the ground around him, looking for a weapon, he grabbed the closest weapon to him, a hatchet. ”What happened?”

Ottome was perplexed at how fluid their team leader moved in the chaos, becoming a near whirlwind of steel and death - every opponent gracefully and yet brutally taken down. If the girl had more time, she would compare it with a crazy artist that used axes for brushes and red blood for paint in order to conjure a dreadful piece of work.
”We survived,” Ottome replied to Jin, her attention on where Asami dove in. For a moment, Ottome’s legs refused to follow through. The sight in front of her was terrifying and death was everywhere.
Biting on her lower lip, the young girl grabbed her weapon tighter as she charged fowards. A shriek battlecry left her throat as she aimed the tip of her weapon forwards.

Spotting a Rongese footsoldier, Ottome felt her stomach turning. But she refused to back down now that she was in the fray! In perhaps stupid but brave fashion, she charged the man without any regards for her own life.
”North!” The word was shouted out as Ottome performed a sidestep to avoid the man’s attempt to skewer her on his spear. Dashing forwards, the young girl lashed out with her weapon. The sharp edge of her blade sank and severed several of the man’s fingers - provoking a scream of pain and anger from her opponent.
Before Ottome was able to properly respond, the Rongese slammed the blunt end of his spear against her face. The hit was hard enough that it made Ottome’s whole vision blurry and experiencing the world to shake violently.

Before she even had a chance to thank the woman that had just saved her life, Reyna was stuck watching in awe and mild terror as Asami whirled away once more, carving a path through the tide of enemy troops. Watching for a moment, almost hypnotized by the effortless carnage being dealt out by the Jounin, Reyna couldn’t tell if her admiration for Asami had increased, or if her fear of the woman had…

Instinct kicked in once more as the Rongese soldiers surged forwards, some managing to snake past the whirling dervish that was Asami. Stepping to one side, Reyna managed to just barely avoid a clumsy attack. Her opponent was knocked off balance by another Northern soldier and Reyna took advantage of the enemy’s momentary vulnerability, slashing forward quickly with her sword and carving a deep wound across the Rongese’s neck and chest. The man toppled forward and Reyna stepped past him, trying to reach her teammates who had moved ahead.

She caught sight of Asami, a blur of grace and destruction, moving through the Rongese soldiers. For a moment, Reyna wondered if she’d ever find fighting that effortless, if she’d ever have Asami’s confidence and skill. Her thoughts were brought crashing back to the present as Reyna saw Ottome get knocked back by one of the Rongese soldiers. Rushing towards her teammate, eager to help, Reyna failed to notice one of the fallen soldiers on the ground. Her foot caught on a piece of armour, sending her tumbling forward, arms reaching forward in a desperate attempt to stabilize herself. She felt an intense sting on her cheek and then crashed into something heavily.

The impact steadied her fall, but Reyna felt a brief moment of panic as she realized her sword was stuck in something. Desperately tugging at it, she felt it release at the same time she heard a sickening squelching sound and realized exactly what her sword had been stuck in. Reyna stumbled a few steps backwards, watching as the rest of the blade wrenched free from the spearman’s chest. Somehow she had managed to avoid getting impaled on the spear when she had fallen forward, but she hadn’t escaped completely unscathed. Reaching up with her free hand, Reyna’s fingers brushed against her cheek and sent immediate jolts of pain shooting through her body. Gritting her teeth and biting back tears, Reyna glanced down at her fingers to see them coated in blood. She could already feel the familiar tingling sensation of her Lightning Aura going to work against the wound, but Reyna could tell this would not be repaired quickly. Glancing back over her shoulder towards Ottome, Reyna hoped her teammate was still faring alright.


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I like a lot of genres such as magical, modern, fantasy. Anything with an interesting plot.
[ Battle of Nangxi | Lagyre, Eastern Continent ]
[ The Northern army facing an unknown Rongese host, near the village of Nangxi ]

The tide of battle swayed like the blue deep. The Rongese was taken aback by the fierce Northerners, falling into their trap. But that didn't mean that the Rongese would surrender. Angered by the deceit of the Northerners, the Rongese started to strike back. Each passing minute brought more of the Rongese army to the engagement. Despite the Northerners possessing more quality, the numbers advantage belonged to the Rongese.
The flanks that once had threatened to surround and crush the Rongese were pushed back slowly. Every inch of ground was paid heavily with Rongese blood, but the Northerners started to lose ground.

The wild ambience of battle made shouts faint, and screams for help became inaudible. Steel swung and sung its song before clashing against steel or else deep in a victim. Arrows fired by volleys and hissed like angry wasps before sending men and women plummeting to the ground.
The battle of Nanxing threatened to go in favour of the more numerical Rongese.

Watching from a nearby hill, Miyara Ueda watched his countrymen braving the Rongese opposition. The experienced general had yet to see a sign that the Northerners wavered, that their foes were breaking them.
A smile crossed the man's lips behind the intimidating mask. Slowly drawing his sword, Ueda raised his blade in the air. A few officers shouted orders, and Ueda barely registered the faint sound of armour moving, horses neighing.
His focus was on writing history. To alert the word of what was to come.
"For the North," he shouted, spurring his mount to go forwards. From hundreds of throats, the battle cry was replicated as they also moved forwards.

From various angles, large formations of cavalry rushed forwards. Banners of the North were held high, but it wasn't the only colours held proudly in the air. Seated on mounts of their own, Lagryians charged alongside the Northerners. The ram on the yellow field perfectly represented the shocking force that the cavalry charge had on the Rongese.
The sudden attack trampled dozens of Rongese footsoldiers and sent a sort of shockwave through their ranks. Panic issued, and their morale wavered as the Northerners renewed their attacks.

Bodies covered the field and nearby hills. The chaotic and rowdy ambience of battle was replaced with the eerie tranquillity of the aftermath. Despite their victory, there was no festive atmosphere present. Both Lagyrians as Northerner troops scoured the battlefield to aid wounded and find fallen comrades. Enemies that were found were either put out of their misery or captured.
Ueda glanced at the sight as one of his attendants held his helm for him.
"Alert Lord Sixth. We are to finish our affairs here. Then we will split our forces," Ueda instructed one of his attendants. "It is time that the North bears down on these bastards."


"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, many more occurrences will impact the clans and nations across the known world. Some events might be orchestrated in secret or openly by nations and clans to weaken neighbours or rivals. At the same time, some events result from decisions (or lack thereof) in any shape or form.

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

* ADS = After the Death of the Sage.

In the West.

[ Sayyadian Kingdom ]

The conflict in the west hasn't lessened in the slightest. The Sayyadians have continued their efforts against both the Fang's military and the Galassian horde. The ravages brought by the Galassians have damaged the Sayyadians morale but not enough to make them relent. It has become clear that the Sayyadians are simply observing the path of the Galassian horde. Predicting attacks with reasonable accuracy, the Sayyadians have resorted to a scorched earth tactic to bereft the Galassians of supplies and easy targets.
Subjects of the Sayyadian rule are brought in fortified positions that are well supplied and located in harsh environments - discouraging any sensible military leader from laying a prolonged siege.

The horde of Galassian barbarians continue eastwards, their supplies dwindling as the tension rises among their ranks. While the leadership of the Galassian horde keeps a semblance of unity, the threats that loom on the horizon in the form of starvation and Sayyadian retaliation has many individuals wonder how this will end.
However, as the Galassian horde continued eastwards, aid has arrived from an unexpected angle. Akinian emissaries have made contact with the Galassians. Bringing some little supplies, it is clear that a deal has been made as the Galassians continue ever eager to a new location.

Much to the disappointment and anguish of the Fang's leadership, the Sayyadians have returned some of their dedication to their feud and strife. Renewed vigour has led to more vicious attacks from Sayyadian troops on fortifications on Fang's heartland.

[ The Earth Country ]

The conflict has shifted once more. Whereas the Dragon's Servants were gaining ground, their momentum had come to a crashing halt. The Dragon Mother's tactics have changed rapidly, and her troops have scored various victories that staved off an imminent defeat. Once more, the civil war has come to a grinding stalemate. A stalemate in which neither side is willing to surrender their claim or cause.

The presence of the foreign troops has given cause for more violence, in the opinion of many individuals that are eager to point accusing fingers to the rivalling faction vying for power. If anything has recently halted, then it is the occasional assault and fights at the border of the Iron country - as the country's leadership is more concerned with the ongoing civil strife.

[ The Empire of Akino ]

The peace within the Empire has been kept. Various events are still ongoing such as the tension between Senju and Tokugawa clans. Then there is also the preparation for the case of the Tamiyo dynasty being accused by the Hyuzu clan for various crimes. A matter that has, garnished the attention of different powerful clans and families that are most curious about what the truth is.

There is, however, a rumour that the Empress has been sighted to travel westwards with a large retinue of Sworn Swords. The sightings of Imperial troops being marshalled in various distinct places has made many speculate what this could imply. Some individuals have conjured the theory that the Empress has become bored and desires to venture on an expedition. Various arguments support this, pointing out that the Chonobi heritage must have given cause for the Empress to want glory and earn valour on a battlefield.
Another theory favouring the Empress is marshalling forces to either invade the Sayyadian realm or ready the Empire for a fight against the approaching Galassian horde. This theory has gained more ground and earned much loyalty from her Majesty's subjects. Various songs and tales are prepared of the brave young Empress facing off against the unwashed barbarian scum that dares to approach their realm.

[ The Hyuuga Clan | The Tatetari Region ]

An uneasy peace has settled in the region, allowing for the Hyuuga clan to establish an administration. The various prior decrees and responses have allowed decent cooperation to exist with the people of the Tatetari region and the Hyuuga clan.
A plan was about to be proposed in full, allowing the Hyuuga to cement some more of their influence in the region until various incidents started to rise again.

Various small settlements have suddenly combusted with unrest, demanding that justice be served. It isn't entirely clear who spread the rumours, but the source of the turmoil is that the Hyuuga intend to rid the locals of their customs and traditions. To essentially transfer and assimilate the locals in the Hyuuga's own culture. While some oppose these rumours and intend to protect the peace, the unrest is slowly spreading through the region again.

[ [ Yamanaka Clan | The Fief of Bellenau ] ]

The Yamanaka have acted swiftly. Various units have been deployed to guard the peace as the Yamanaka clan has established various meetings to prevent the feuds from escalating. These attempts have been somewhat fruitful, allowing the Yamanaka to re-establish some semblance of peace and order within the Imperial fief of Bellenau.
On top of it, the Yamanaka clan has started investigations on who could incite the turmoil or gain from it. While a clear answer is lacking, it is evident that the Yamanaka clan is quite determined to find the culprit.

Various signs do hint towards the north. Because of this, the Yamanaka clan has adopted a wary stance but has yet to take a course that betrays who they suspect of being behind the turmoil.

In the North.

[ The Dominion of Lightning ]

Not much seems to trouble the North at this time, and however, much is happening underneath the country's surface. Under careful supervision, the Ranzaki administration is occupying itself with relocating supplies and military units.
With various projects focused on improving the country's infrastructure, trade is flourishing and occupying most people from the likely preparations that the government is attempting.

A noticeable gesture that the North is readying itself is that various envoys have been sighted to travel to the eastern continent. Speculations have led to theories being conjured that the North desires to establish a stronger bond with Lagyre.

[ [ The Sanosuke Clan ]

The unexplained and sudden shift from the Sanosuke clan to recall most of their ships or squadrons back to ports has made many people wonder and grow wary. But before any theory could be born and latch on to the minds of outsiders, the Sanosuke ships have been sighted.
A large fleet of ships has been sighted, braving the rough northern seas while heading eastwards.

These rumours spread fast, making many individuals wonder why the Sanosuke are travelling in large numbers eastwards. Some Taika clans south of the Sanosuke heartlands hope this is an inevitable migration - leading to a weaker and less significant Sanosuke presence.
Others are more sceptical that this is a migration, and various historians have even pointed out that this move has the semblance of a military expedition. The most surprising aspect is that the fleet seems to be sporting multiple Sanosuke clans, which tends to be quite rare.

One thing is sure, however:
The Sanosuke clan is once more on the move.​

[ [ The Alaricus Clan ]

The presence of Hon vessels approaching Alaricus ports has been a sight that caused much of an uproar. Many subjects of the Alaricus were prepared for a violent reaction, ready to make the Hons suffer for what they did centuries ago.
Instead of receiving the order to launch an attack on the approaching Hon vessels, no instruction for violence ever came from the leadership. While security would be established to watch and supervise the Hon traders and their retinue, no harm would be done. Many Alaricus were surprised by this approach as the Alaricus leadership would ensure fair trade would occur and no harm would befall the foreign traders.

This approach seemed to gain the Alaricus some fair deals on various produces brought by the Hon traders, which would somewhat awkwardly thank the Alaricus for professionally doing business. With both sides gaining something, there is some speculation that the feud of the Alaricus is waning. Various radical elements within the Alaricus clan demand an explanation from the top, but these elements aren't significant enough to really reason out.

More pragmatic individuals have conjured the suggestion to the Alaricus leadership to return the gesture - sending a squadron of ships with traders and wares back to the Hon heartlands.

In the South.

[ The Jirou Authority ]

For a moment, most clans within the Jirou Authority held their breath. The mere notion of the Akechi and Mizuno clans opposing the realm's regime would be enough to cause a sort of intangible tension to rise. To bring back memories of bloody revolts and rebellions against past regimes. Recollections of the blood-stained history of their country.
However, no marshalling of war would come. The Roju of the Authority, the highest authority and leadership of the country, met with the Akechi clan. It wasn't entirely clear what was being exchanged between the two parties until Jirou made it public.

The spread of this public knowledge led to little impact on the stability of the realm. Many would continue their affairs as if nothing had happened and they were moving from the brink of another civil war.
In fact, the Mizuno and Akechi clan once more rejoined the fray. As such, the Mizuno clan would agree with sending two-thousand troops to the west to fulfil the Sayyadians for Jirian troops, just in case the Galassians would take a more southern approach and desire to establish a realm in Sayyadian heartlands.

[ [ The Three Great Jirian Clans ]
@Oblivion666 | @Lesli | @Aliceee

It has been a while since any news or event related to the Shadows, who claimed responsibility for murdering a daughter of Lord Mizuno - leading to various disasters that affected the other Great Clans of the Jirou Authority.

Now once more, the Shadows have made a move, causing distress to surface within the realm. Various shady and sketchy figures have been spotted and reported to local authorities but to no success in apprehending any of them. What has really caused some concern is that the Shadows have a letter to the Lord of the Akechi clan. Claiming that if the Great Clans didn't relinquish their claims on the southern vassals, there would be dire consequences.

Investigations into where the letter came from have resulted in no new leads yet.

In the East.

[ The Joint-military campaign against Rong ]

The new successes in the east have allowed the allied forces to push further in both Sevudia and Lagyre- pushing and challenging the Rongese occupation.
The battle of Nangxi ending in a victory for the Northern forces has allowed the Northerners to split their strengths into three detachments.

Two detachments have been sending southwards while a more prominent component has been continuing along the northern coast of the eastern shore - being aided by their Lagyrians allies.
One of the two detachments heading south has linked up with the Imperial forces - lending their numbers and qualities to the Imperial regiments present.

Another detachment of Northerners has been travelling with great speed further south to establish connections and cooperate with the Jirians. The news of the Jirians being able to capture the fortress of Balagan has allowed the Jirian force to venture further. Being aided by the possible Northern forces, it is clear that the allied armies are on the verge to bring some change in occupied Sevudia.

However, the various defeats haven't made the Rongese crumble. Scout reports do return with the sighting of Rongese troops relocating and deploying to multiple vital points. Likely with the intention to defend and prevent the allied forces from pushing further in Sevudia. Some officers from various forces have expressed their worries that the Rongese also be readying a counter-attack, which may advise that the allied force should take precautions to prevent losing ground that they just won.

But various intelligence reports also point out that turmoil is settling in the occupied land of Sevudia. Tales and rumours shared with friendly Sevudian locals or villages tell the allied forces of shadows moving in the dark south of the occupied realm. Of giant beasts in the woods, stirred by the bloodshed and eager to devour those unable to guard themselves in mid-Sevudia.
Various friendly Sevudian locals have already stated that they heard anxious rumours from Rongese about bad omens - further enforced by entire patrols gone missing.
How reliable these rumours and tales are yet to be determined by the commanders of the allied forces.
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