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.