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  1. Last week
  2. Hallows

    When Violet arrived, she didn't look happy. Winding down her window, she glanced at the toy from the seat of her car, "So, let's bust some heads!" She called out. Opening the passenger side door for her brother, he got in and she returned to the traffic. "Pfft, boring." She muttered, then she angled her rear-view mirror so she could see her hair. Cars beeped their horns all around them, as they slowly lurched forwards through the traffic. Violet took a hand and brushed it through the left-hand side of her hair. The hair that was there fell out and disappeared, leaving her with one side of her head shaved. "That's a bit more interesting." She muttered as an afterthought, "So who d'you think did it?" "The Satyr kid seems likely, at least the murders were designed to look like a Satyr did it." Vincent said as he held the eager little hot wheels car in his hand, the wheels still whirring furiously, "At worst he's our killer, and at best he's a douchebag who goes through girls like a fat guy hitting the buffet. Still, we don't execute supes for being douchebags." "No, but we always have room to reconsider-- Seriously?!" As a row of cars managed to breach with the flash of a green traffic light, it quickly switched back to red and they came to a halt once more. "Traffic jams really stress me out, man..." Violet snarled and kicked back into her seat, then sighed and pushed the frustration to the back of her mind. It was like opening an ancient music box. As the lid opened, a harmonious music played, a little ballerina in black dancing by herself and then the tense, angry, inquisitive emotions tumbled into the music box. It closed. It locked. Then a car beeped it's horn directly behind them and Violet opened her eyes. "Yeah, yeah..." She growled, and she moved the car forwards until they had to come to a stop once again. "That Amber girl keeps popping up in this. Did you ever get to speak with her again?" Vincent asked. He had picked his grimoire out from the back seat and was flicking through it studiously. "Oh, right..." Violet smirked and took her hands off the wheel. She pulled her legs up, placing them on the dash and reclined. Her lips moved silently and then the car seemed to growl to life, the wheel turned back and forth, and then the car accelerated a little to fill the gap ahead of them. "That's better." Violet sighed and then thought about her brother's question. "'Amber'," She said it with air quotations, "Leader of a group of eco-nerds focused on river preservation. Amber's a nymph. So is Jessica. This girl Rachel isn't but for some reason Amber seems taken with her, and while I think there's probably more nymphs in that group than those two, I think there are a number of human girls too." "Well according to his pop, she spread a lot of lies about Lucas and generally stirred things up. Apparently it resulted in an argument between Amber's dad and him." Vincent stopped and mouthed along a little as he read, then continued talking, "He implied Amber was jealous because Lucas wouldn't pay her any attention." "Highschool." Violet muttered, shaking her head. "Kids never learn. They think they're the smartest thing on the planet, but all teens are are a bunch of hormones donkin' into each other and fumbling through life." She crossed her arms and blew at one of her blue bangs. "Highschool was dumb. It was just you, an' me an' then one summer I met D, but it was all messed up and we hardly learned anything." "It wasn't that was an escape." Vincent said, "School feels like a break next to what we had to learn." "If you say so, Vince." Violet licked the inside of her teeth and let out another long sigh, "Look, d'you mind?" Violet pointed at the traffic lights, "Are you gonna give me a lecture about magic if I move us along? We've got somewhere to be, y'know?" "If you can do it subtly... then sure." Vincent said with a shrug. "Our turn!" Violet called, focusing on the lights. She whispered something beneath her breath and the opposing lights switched from green to red. Cars came to a screeching halt. A moment later their lights turned from red to green. "Ugh, at last!" Violet let her shoulders relax as she realised she'd been tensing them, and they drove on. After a few minutes, Violet glanced over at the whirring toy car. "So, how much longer y'think?" She asked with a raised eyebrow before refocusing her attention on the road. "I don't know." Vincent said, and he held the little car aloft, its wheels whirring furiously against the air. "Could be trying to get to Alaska for all I know. It should take us straight to Lucas, wherever that is." It took them a while, driving around Lafayette, but eventually they came to a halt as Vincent's little toy car seemed to tire, and by now, it was obvious where they'd been taken. Just on the outskirts of Lafayette, there was a bottled water factory. It had been tucked away, hidden by the trees, but it was right there in front of them now. Petros Water branded in huge letters along the side of the building. "Right. Water nymphs, bottled water factory, makes sense. Why not..." Violet mumbled as she got out of the car. "Why's the Satyr kid here though?" Vincent asked as he opened the door to the car. He went to the back seat and took out his cane and his gun and strap. "Let's play it safe. This is the Nymphs home turf, their magic will be strong here." "Oh you don't say," Violet teased sarcastically, then walked on through the car park and up to the main doors. Before she could reach them however, the door opened and a speaker system activated with a quiet squeal. "I guess they know we're here." "Honoured guests," The voice belonged to a young woman, it was sultry and confident and held not an ounce of worry, "I am Jennifer Petros, CEO of Petros Water. Welcome to our Indiana factory. Here, we source only the best spring water from across Indiana. In the following--" "Automated nonsense." Violet shook her head and walked into the factory. It was quite dark in the first room, but from what she could see it looked dishevelled, as though it had been long-since abandoned, but she could also hear machinery running in the distance. They pressed on. For a few minutes, they walked in silence, until they saw someone fiddling with a console. "Hey!" Violet called out. But when the person heard her, they ran. "Catch him Vincent!" Violet yelled, reflexively running after the person as they'd already turned the corner. Vincent sprinted after Violet and brandished his cane as they turned the corner. He focused his will into the cane and pointed it at the runner, and then he summoned a gust of wind that crashed down the hall, condensing and moving flat across the floor as he commanded it, before it finally swept under the runner and sent him tumbling on to his back. "What the hell, man!" Yelled a girlish voice. Violet blinked, glancing at Vincent before cornering their fallen runner against the wall. "Alright no--hey!" Violet growled, seeing Amber's face beneath the hoody she wore. "What are you doing, Amber?" "Don't ask me that, you're on my property, Violet! That's my question to ask of you." Amber retorted, standing there with a wrench in-hand. "We were just out for a walk and uh..." Vincent cast his gaze around the room once, "Well geez...we really must have got lost." Amber noticed the man for the first time, "Who's the weird geezer with the stick?" She asked, raising an eyebrow. Violet rolled her head over to Vincent and smirked. "I hate teenagers..." Vincent grumbled. "Ditto. I'm 2,349 years old." Amber replied. Violet's mouth hung open for a moment, "Well... alright. Uh...?" Violet turned to look to Vincent. She was stumped by this revelation in truth, and furthermore she didn't know what to do with the fact that Amber offered it so willingly when she'd been so difficult with her before. "So what?" Vincent shrugged, "Unlucky for you I don't respect my elders, so why don't you tell us what you're doing?" "I've been tending to the rivers, streams and water in Lafayette for hundreds of years. I'm a Queen. I can feel the connection between all the water nymphs in this place, but slowly, over the years, they've been dying, disappearing. So... I needed to fix that." Amber stood up, then brushed down her clothes. "But, how?" Violet asked, "And why is Lucas here?" Amber's face blanched and she held her hand up, "I'm sorry, did you say Lucas is here?" "Well if you trust the intuition of a toy car then..." Vincent inclined his head slightly in mock consideration, "...yes, pretty sure he is." "Amber, how were you going to fix the dwindling Nymphs?" Violet steered the conversation back onto her. "Oh, well..." Amber shrugged, "I was changing some of the girls into Nymphs, of course. Not all of them, mind. Just the ones with real talent, the smart ones, the pretty ones, the ones that know how to get things done." "You can't just take girls and turn them into something they're not." Violet growled, personally offended. This wasn't a far cry off what her aunt had wanted to do to her. To turn her into someone she wasn't. She was outraged, but had to learn more. This wasn't the whole story. "I can!" Amber replied simply, "They want to become something else. Rachel told me herself. I didn't even offer it to her, she just sort of knew." "There isn't a teenager alive that doesn't want to be something else, you moron." Vincent said, "So what about the dead girls, Amber? Didn't like it when they slept with the enemy?" "What? What are you talking about?!" Amber yelled, getting angry. Her face flashed with blue, becoming transparent for a moment. "Slept with the enemy? What enemy?!" "Careful, Vince--" Violet warned, her face tensing. "Uh-oh, is that your glamour failing?" Vincent said mockingly, "You should probably do something about that." He pointed his cane towards her. "Quite a lot of Lucas' girlfriends seemed to have died recently, friends of yours. You spread a lot of rumours about Lucas, care to explain?" "Lucas is my ex, but he's not a killer! So what, I spread some rumours about him, I was mad alright? That doesn't make me a killer either." Amber tried to calm down, the flash of blue transparency vanished and she was a normal-looking girl once more. "If he's your ex, why's he here?" Violet asked. "We still hang out sometimes! It's complicated, alright." Amber retorted, slightly embarrassed. "Right. Highschool." Violet repeated, turning to Vincent, "I don't know what to do with this. I'd normally kick down a door and smoke everything inside. But this doesn't seem that open and shut." And as if on queue, Lucas appeared at the other end of the corridor. "Hey..." Violet turned to face the boy who stood in the doorway, blocking the light behind him. He took a couple of steps towards them, Violet tensed, then a noise ricocheted through the corridor. A ringing that deafened her. Lucas collapsed. Behind him, stood Rachel. She was holding a gun in one hand, and concealed something else in the other. "I finally found it..." Rachel smirked with a look of relief and satisfaction. "I knew I would..."
  3. Konoha ~ Bonds [private]

    [Konohamaru’s Theme] “I just don’t see why we have to walk…” Omi complained. She was trailing a little behind Sora and Kiyoko, a pack slung over her shoulder full of travel gear. “What’s wrong with a walk, Kiryuin san?” Hakirama asked, turning his head back to look at the troupe behind him. He gestured outwards with his hand, “It’s a lovely view.” Omi cast her eyes around. They were in a roaming grassland through wide valleys, with thick forest lands in most directions that went off the path. “Yeah, whatever.” Omi said with a shrug, “But we’re just walking the safe path like all the other travelers. I thought the whole point of being a ninja was to move quickly and out of detection?” “We haven’t even reached the first part of our objective yet. Who, exactly, are we supposed to be hiding from?” “Well…” Omi scratched her head and looked around sheepishly, “bad guys, I guess.” Sora chuckled, covering his mouth with a hand, "Oh, Omi-chan, always ready for a fight!" "There could be bad guys, right?" Kiyoko asked their sensei in an inquisitive and somewhat hopeful tone. “Well…” Hakirama was thoughtful for a moment, “…The client probably just wants a bit of protection from bandits. However we should have little to no trouble with your average thugs, if that even happens.” He smiled, “This will probably just be a pleasant trip…which is why we should enjoy it.” “Enjoy how?” Omi shrugging her shoulders, “There’s only so many times I can be awed by a tree.” “Long journeys can be a time for conversation. You all are comrades, but you don’t really know each other. How about we talk about ourselves?” “Hi I’m Omi and our sensei is the worst.” Omi said, smirking. Hakirama’s eyes narrowed toward Omi. “Let’s start with favourite food.” Hakirama said, “Mine is Nattō.” “Eugh, too sticky!” Omi scoffed, putting her arms up in a cross in front of her. “Sashimi is where it’s at.” "Soy beans and raw fish?" Sora considered both of those. A shiver ran through him. "I would think a nice hamburger, and a tall milkshake would be pleasant." "Where would you get a hamburger around here?" Kiyoko asked, frowning in disbelief. Sora's eyes widened in shock and he grabbed Kiyoko's shoulder. "I will show you when we get back!" Sora clapped his hands together in excitement, "Yes! A hamburger banquet for when we return." “I’ll take mine rare.” Omi said with a toothy grin. “And what’s your favourite food, Hyūga san?” Hakirama asked "Whatever's fine." Kiyoko shrugged off the question, focusing on the path ahead of them. "I guess anything." “Are you for real?” Omi asked with a soft chuckle, “C’mon, Yoko! You must have a favourite?” "Well, I don't." Kiyoko replied irritably. She kicked a stone off the path and into a bush, "My mom sometimes makes Purin after my training sessions. I eat that a lot, I guess. So... maybe that's my favourite?" Melancholy seemed to grip Kiyoko as she fought with something. A memory, or a feeling. Then she pressed on, walking ahead of the small group. "I think," Sora began, speaking quietly to Omi, "That Kiyoko-chan does not have favourites..." “Uh…huh.” Omi said, raising her brow. She smirked and eyed Hakirama, “Good idea, sensei, just look how connected we all are now.” “….Shut up.” Hakirama said with a frown. "Mutually-assured survival. That is a kind of connection." Sora added with a reassuring smile. "I can still hear you all talking back there, y'know, i'm hardly a few feet ahead of you!" Kiyoko called back over her shoulder. “So? Nobody asked you to stomp off because you’re triggered about dinner or whatever.” Omi rolled her eyes. "I didn't stomp off!" Kiyoko called back angrily, "I just... I don't have a favourite!" She growled, adding, "And anyway, I'm out in front so that--" Before she could finish her sentence, Kiyoko stopped and froze, bringing the group to a halt a couple of feet behind her. Sora looked on ahead but couldn't see anything. "What is it, Kiyoko-chan, do you--?" Sora asked, stepping forwards and going to put his hand on her shoulder. "Don't touch me!!" Kiyoko barked, a bead of sweat trickled down her forehead. "I stepped on something, and it clicked..." What little colour existed in Sora's face, quickly vanished. He looked down, and sure enough, there was a small, flat, metal device, lodged in the ground, mostly obscured by the dirt. “S-sensei?!" Sora looked to Hakirama. [Glued State] “Don’t…move.” Hakirama said slowly and calmly. He walked around Kiyoko carefully, before squatting down and examining the pressure plate she was standing on. “…A trap?” Omi asked nervously. “Hmm…” Hakirama stared intently at the device. He took a deep breath in, and let out a long sigh. “An old booby trap from the war, most likely. It’s definitely the craftsmanship of a ninja village…” He looked around the area cautiously. “It’s a wonder it’s been untouched for so long…” “You can fix this, right, sensei?” Omi asked. “Hmm…probably…” There was a momentary glint of optimism in his eyes, but then they became dull again, “Yes…probably not.” "Ah." Sora muttered bluntly. "Oooh, good..." Kiyoko added sarcastically, sweat pouring from her. She felt like her whole body was vibrating. The more she tried to remain still, the more her body rebelled. "Well, could you maybe find a way, before i'm a smudge on those trees over there." Hakirama felt across the ground, searching for a rope net, but instead he found a hidden wire across the ground from the device. “We’ll have to disarm the trap.” Hakirama said, “It’s the only way.” “No sweat.” Omi said and she knelt down, pulling a set of pick tools from her pouch, “Let’s see what’s inside this baby!” She scrambled over to the device with a mad, wolfish grin. However as she got near she caught sight of Hakirama’s face and she recoiled in fear. Hakirama was staring at her with gruesome, haunting expression, his eyes wide and maniacal, his forehead wrinkled, and his lips puckered like a fish. “Wh-what the hell!?” She stammered. “Do not test me, Kiryuin san…”Hakirama replied darkly, with dark shadows looming around him. “Touch that plate and you’ll have my frowny face burned into your retinas for the remainder of your short life.” In the background, as Hakirama and Omi stalked around the device and talked out ways of disarming it, Sora was building a small fire. Then he placed a pot on top of it, and began assembling ingredients from his pouch. "What are you doing?!" Kiyoko asked nervously, her eyes trying to dart down to where her foot was lodged atop the trap. "I need to see what you're doing okay, don't blow me up! Look, I really need you to not explode me, okay? I've got a bunch of plans and I really don't feel like exploding today..." "Yer okay, Kiyoko-chan!" Sora called, waving his spoon at her, before going back to his preparation. A few minutes passed and he walked over with a bowl. "Here, this'll make ya feel better." He held up a spoon with something she couldn't quite see. It was a creamy off-white colour with a brown topping. "No, no I really don't feel like food right now..." Kiyoko growled through closed lips as a spoon was pushed towards her. "Sensei!!" She yelled. “What are you up to?” Hakirama asked, his eyes narrowing at Sora. "I-I made Purin, sensei. Yeh can reassure a friend with somethin' they love." Sora replied, then lifted the spoon to his lips and swallowed it's contents with a smile. "It's good..." “Why do you have baking materials?” Omi asked, but her question was ignored. “How about you save the dessert as a reward for solving this problem, hm?” Hakirama suggested as he stood up. He looked to his three students one after the other. Then he nodded as if something had just occurred to him. “I just solved it.” He said nonchalantly, “Hm…sort of anti climactic…” [It’s the Training] “What do you mean you solved it!?” Omi demanded, screwing her face up. “He mean’s he solved it, idiot.” A second Hakirama said as he emerged from the nearby wood. “Well…we did.” The wood clone turned to the real Hakirama and nodded. “Yo.” “Yo.” Hakirama said with brief wave. The sound of multiple sensei's behind her forced a confused scowl onto Kiyoko's face. "Hey, whats happening back there?!" “Wood clones.” Omi said with a sigh, “He tricked us again.” “I didn’t trick you, I just took action, which is what you all should have been doing.” Hakirama said “Instead of making pudding…” The clone said, eyeing Sora disapprovingly. “So I’ve decided to turn this into a teaching moment.” Hakirama said, and then he sat himself down on the ground and plucked out a pack of playing cards from his jacket. “Oh cool.” His clone said and sat down next to him. Hakirama began dealing hands to his clone and himself. "Excuse me?!" Kiyoko yelled angrily, balling up her fists and dropping her mask of nobility for a moment, "Get me off this damn thing!!" "What kind of game, sensei?" Sora asked, kneeling down and studying the cards. “A game for winners, which you are not.” Hakirama said. “Your team mate is in mortal peril. You should probably go do something about that.” “But you said you figured it out!” Omi protested. “I did…so I’ll sit here and play cards with myself until you figure it out.” Hakirama said frankly. “Could be here for a while.” His clone added. "I'm going to kill you, sensei!" Kiyoko yelled up ahead. "Omi-chan, I think it'd be best if I sent some o' my ants t'check it out." Sora nodded confidently to Omi."They'll never find the body!!" Kiyoko added, letting loose a pent-up snarl. She stood there frozen and blinking out at the path up ahead. Then noticed an old man walking up towards her carrying a large box. "A-Ah, hey!" She called out. "Oh, hello!" The man called back. "Stop! Stop!!" Kiyoko yelled, "Don't come any closer." "Look i'll not bother you, but i've got things to do!" The man replied haughtily, and then strolled past Kiyoko, then past the others, and on his way. Kiyoko watched in silence, then turned her head to one side, showing all the colour had drained from her face. "Please get me off this now..." She said meekly. “Can’t hurt to try.” Omi said with a nod. She thought about how she could contribute, but came up short. “Uh…I think I missed the trap disarming class.” “Shocking.” Hakirama’s clone said sarcastically. “Y’know I think his clone is ruder somehow…” Omi said to Sora. Sora smirked before turning to face Kiyoko. He held his arms up, letting his sleeves drop back and then he slammed his palms into the ground, and suddenly ants were rising from tiny holes all over the ground, most of them concentrated at the trigger of the trap mechanism. Then they dispersed, flying into the air and as Sora stood back up, they vanished into his sleeves. "Alright, I believe there's a series o' pipes surroundin' the trap, an' they're full o' somethin' like a gas or a flammable liquid, I believe. She's stood on a pressure pad, so maybe replacing her, weight for weight, with something else in the exact same moment then maybe we could get away to a safe distance. “Maybe sensei could-“ “Nope.” Hakirama said flatly. “Fine!” Omi scoffed, “If I can find a lake or a pond I can make a water clone. I uh…” She scratched the back of her head, “I need to know your weight, Yoko.” Kiyoko shook her head in disbelief, "I-I've no idea!" She frowned. "Ah--" Sora nodded with a smile but then his grin turned to panic as he looked to Omi. “Don’t look at me!” Omi snapped, folding her arms. “If I make a clone to match her weight I need to use just the right amount of water.” "Hm..." Sora remained sitting in quiet thought, ignoring the calls and threats from Kiyoko. "I have an idea..." Sora looked up to Omi, "What if we increased the pressure?" “So I just need to make a water clone heavier than Yoko, huh?” Omi asked with a smirk. “Give me a minute, I’m gonna go find a river…” She stalked off, but returned after a short time with a water clone of herself in tow. As they drew closer it became clear that the water clone of Omi looked a little unusual. The clone bounced a little as it walked, and while it had Omi’s features, it looked like a version of her where she had eaten a thousand hamburgers in the last hour. “This should be heavy enough.” Omi said, then she smirked, “Just needs the finishing touch…” “TRANSFORM!” The fat water clone cried, and then with a puff of smoke, it was now a fat clone of Kiyoko. "Why are you laughing, Sora?!" Kiyoko yelled out and Sora stopped abruptly. "Kiyoko-chan, Omi is goin' t'place a water clone on the pad, once its stepped onto the pad, ye should get off it, okay?" "I'm not happy!!" Kiyoko barked back, but silently accepted her fate. “e’scuse me!” The fat Kiyoko said as she popped her chubby foot on the plate next to Kiyoko’s. “Alright take it slow, Yoko.” Omi said. Slowly, carefully, Kiyoko raised one foot and let it touch onto the ground beside the plate, then slowly, very slowly, she lifted her other foot. The moment it lifted, she virtually teleported beside Omi and grabbed her, "We have to go, come on!" Sora stood up quickly, awaiting instruction from Hakirama. “Go fish!” Hakirama’s clone cried. “Again?” Hakirama frowned. “Yo, sensei, we need to run!” Omi yelled urgently “Oh?” Hakirama turned his head slightly, “Why’s that?” “Because once my water clone disappears the trap’s going to explode.” “Oh right…” Hakirama said before turning to his clone again, “Didn’t I say? I’m pretty certain it’s defective.” "Morning!" A woman greeted the small group, smirking at them gathered around the piece of metal on the ground, "Oh, guys, don't worry about that thing, it's a relic from the war, just don't trip over it, okay?!" She waved to them with a smile and walked on. Kiyoko took a deep breath and clenched her fists. Her face started to turn red, but eventually it evened out and she stood there waiting. "Alright, can we go now?" Kiyoko spoke through gritted teeth. There was a thump as Omi flopped to the ground, roaring with laughter, occasionally pausing for breath and to point feebly at Kiyoko before buckling over in uncontrolled laughter again. Even Hakirama managed a soft chuckle as he dispersed his clone and got ready to resume their walk. As they walked Omi was still tittering a half hour later.
  4. Earlier
  5. Konoha ~ Bonds [private]

    [Kikyou] "Aaah..." Sora sighed, relaxing his shoulders and leaning back. He studied the contents of his tea cup as Kiyoko leaned over the table and grabbed a sweet bun and started munching. Omi seemed uncharacteristically quiet, and Hakirama was content with the silence that tea and snacks had brought him. The group sat around a large table as the sun was setting. The tea shop owner lit the lanterns outside, nodding to Hakirama with a smile as he went. "Bun?" Kiyoko asked, holding the tray out to Omi. Kiyoko's expression was neutral, as though there was nothing to the gesture but being polite. But it was more than that, Sora smiled at the pair of them and took another sip of tea. "Hm?" Omi said distractedly, "Oh... No thanks." Kiyoko looked down at the tray and shrugged, putting it back on the table. Sora cleared his throat, "Mm, Omi-chan? Are ya alright?" "Nothing I haven't experienced before..." She grumbled, her expression becoming slightly hostile. "Just get it over with already..." "Get what over with?" Sora asked in an inquisitive tone, he punctuated his question with a sip of tea, "Don't ya like tea?" "I don't." Omi replied flatly, "But I meant... Just make your decision already. I know what's gonna happen." She leaned back and folded her arms, her expression defiant. "It's not like I care." "Oh..." Sora was taken aback, his gaze wandered to Hakirama and then back to Omi. "Well, Omi-chan..." Sora put his tea cup down and cleared his throat, "Ya helped us fight Makoto, when we thought we were in real trouble, ne?" He held his palm to his mouth and chuckled, "... sorry." He shook his head, "I didn't need t'question yer loyalty, or ability. So, I can support ya, Omi-chan." Omi's expression faltered for a moment, her features softening. When she realised, she quickly fixed herself with a scowl and pushed her chin out. "Well... I wouldn't have been able to do anything if it wasn't for you and your bugs." Sora gave her a thankful nod and then silence permeated the room. It didn't matter that the chatter of the customers around them, the music playing or the bustle of the owner and his staff kept the tea shop loud enough. For them, there was silence. "Ah-hm!" Sora cleared his throat deliberately, nudging Kiyoko who glared at him in response. "Fine." Kiyoko put her half-eaten bun down and shook her head, "I can't support you." "Tch!" was all Omi could say, and her scowl worsened. Her eyes, however, looked wounded, and lonely. "... Fine by me, Yoko-hime." She said bitterly. "I can't support someone that has nothing they care about." Kiyoko replied hastily, picking up her tea cup again, "Do you care about anything? Anything at all?" She asked, frowning in disbelief. "What do you care about, Sora?" Kiyoko asked, turning to face the young boy. "Oh..." Sora hesitated but then smiled and answered, "My family. I love my mother an' father. An' I love my ants... an' I want t'catalogue all the insects in our world." "I want to be Hokage." Kiyoko replied to him, facing Omi, "I love my mother. I love my father. I love my two stupid brothers and I love Konoha. I even love Uncle Makoto, and the rest of my strange family. But most of all, I want to be Hokage. That's what I care about. That's what drives me. What about you, huh?!" Kiyoko picked up a sweet bun and threw it at Omi with the speed of a deadly kunai. "...Drives, huh?" Omi asked as she caught the bun in her hand, and crushed it, dropping the crumbs to the table. "...I dont have friends, and I don't have a family. All I have is being a Ninja. I want to be... a legendary ninja." Kiyoko looked at Sora and he shrugged. Her gaze wandered to Hakirama, but it was as expressionless as a face could be. The truth was, there were a million ways of defining a person's drive, or what they care about. Without something to drive them, they were worthless in Kiyoko's eyes. A drive to be someone, to do something, or to attain something they had previously found unattainable, is what makes a person. Until now, Omi had been little more than a void filled with sarcasm and bad social skills. "Good enough." Kiyoko said at last, nodding to herself, "Yeah, i'll support you, Omi-san." "Eh?" Omi gasped, suddenly surprised as she stared at Kiyoko. "Oh well that's good." Hakirama said, finally showing signs of mild interest, "It would have been awkward if you had decided not to support Kiryuin san. I'd already decided she was staying, besides... I dont have the authority to exile her from the village even if I wanted to." "EH!?" Omi almost coughed, her face a broiling picture of shock and legitimate rage. Sora chuckled at the revelation, but Kiyoko looked equally outraged. The tea cup she'd been holding shattered into dust under the pressure of her grip, but she sat in silence, staring at Hakirama as though doing so for long enough would bore a hole through his head. "Cheer up Hyūga-san, you've all managed to earn my mild approval. I now estimate you all stand a small chance of not being total failures." He said with a grin. "Today you've shown you can put your personal differences aside and work as a team. I guess I can trust you with your own lives... but can I trust you with the lives of others?" Sora put his hand up, "Sensei... ya already have." Then he looked to either side of himself, clocking both Kiyoko and Omi, then looked back at Hakirama and smiled, "That's not a question any one o' us three need t'answer." He put his hand back down and Kiyoko couldn't help but smirk at the boy's observation. "I guess we'll have to see tomorrow then... Report to the Hokage's office at dawn." Hakirama stood up as he spoke. "Our next mission is a C rank, bodyguard mission." "No!" Sora exclaimed, Kiyoko watched in shock as Sora's eyes widened in surprise for the first time since meeting him. She hadn't thought him capable of pulling that kind of face. She almost laughed if not for Sora's genuine shock. "Oh no!" Sora said again, panicking and holding onto the table. "Do you need to poop or something?" Omi asked, raising her brow. Sora leapt out of his chair and bolted for the door. "I think he might--" Kiyoko started as she took a sip of tea. "KATSU!!" Sora yelled at the top of his lungs as he ran out. A jet of tea sprayed from Kiyoko's mouth, covering Omi and Hakirama. [Beautiful Green Wild Beast] Sora shot through Konoha as fast as his legs would carry him. People darted aside as his speed kicked dust up behind him, and the wind that followed blew through the streets of Konoha, knocking fruit from stalls, tearing things from citizen's hands and removing more than a single wig. An old lady up ahead finally finished putting the final touches on her new stall. She took a step back and sighed, sweat beading on her forehead. At last it was done. Then she heard it. A terrible rumbling approaching. She turned and saw the young fox-faced boy coming at her like an arrow from a bow. Her eyes darted to her stall and she screamed in pained agony knowing what was coming. She threw her hands out, commanding him to stop. "No! No not my--!!" But it was fine. Sora missed the stall entirely, colliding with her instead. The old woman screamed as she held on for dear life. Everything was passing her in a blur. Her old fingers could barely hold on, but she had to, for what would happen if she let go? She screamed for the boy to stop, but it seemed he could barely hear her above the sound of the roaring wind. "Sorry, treasured senior-sama!" Sora yelled back over his shoulder, "Can't stop! Dog in peril!!" The old lady gasped, but then her shock turned to determination and that was that. She'd committed herself. The dog had to be saved! So she continued flapping behind the boy, holding on with white knuckles as his speed seemed to bring them into another dimension. Or, perhaps more likely, her cataracts didn't afford her much in the way of details at mach speed. At last! The river was up ahead. It was the place he'd last seen Katsu. "I'm comin, Katsu!" Sora roared with passion, but saw an enormous fence ahead of him, blocking his way to the river. Buildings on either side. There was no time, he had to scale them. As he threw his arms up, the old lady cheered. "That's it m'boy! CLIMB!!" She cackled but then shrieked in horror as bugs exploded from inside his sleeves and she reflexively let go. Of course, immediately regretting that decision. Sora directed his bugs ahead of him in a wave and they quickly formed in a pool, as he approached he leapt into the air and landed in the pool, braced himself and started to leap once more, but this time the ants carried him up and over the fence until he was able to leap the final stretch and land on the other side. Moments later he heard a muffled, 'Oof!' as the old lady hit the fence on the other side and finally came to a stop. [Konohamaru's Theme] "Katsu!!" Sora exclaimed as he ran up to the little dog with the squishy face. At last, he stopped just in front of the dog and bent down, "Katsu, i'm so super 'specially sorry, how can I ever make it up to ya?!" Large wobbly tears threatened to stream in the corners of Sora's eyes as he stared in expectation at Katsu. The little dog looked as though it hadn't moved more than a few inches since being left. It slowly looked up at Sora, then blinked each eye independently. Truthfully, it was really more like a couple of winks punctuated with little squeaks as it's eyelids moved. Then it stood up and walked over to Sora and after a moment's consideration, Katsu leapt up onto Sora's shoulder and collapsed, so that his legs were hanging over either side of his shoulder. "Katsu!!!" Sora's lip began to wobble, and then a strange noise permeated the air. It sounded like a snare drum was tumbling down a flight of stairs. "Euch..." Sora's lips curled as he held his nose at Katsu's horrendous butt trumpet. Sora's expression returned to normal, "Ya disgust me, little dog." But Katsu took it in his stride, and licked Sora on the nose, and that single, solitary act seemed to smooth things over. [Chichi to Haha] "Mum, dad...?" Kiyoko walked up to the family dining table the following morning. She was dressed, ready to go and stood before her mother, Hidemi, her father, Shiro and her two young brothers, Aki and Taki. The two boys were fighting amongst themselves while trying to shovel in toast and jam. Shiro was reading a newspaper to himself while Hidemi was delicately and expertly breaking up the fight between her siblings. "Hmm?" Shiro looked up from his paper and upon seeing Kiyoko, laid it to rest on the table. "Oh, good morning, Yoko-chan." "Darling?" Hidemi caught Shiro's attention and nodded at the two boys, then as Shiro turned his attention to breaking up their fight, Hidemi focused on her daughter, "Morning, Kiyoko-chan, are you ready for your big day?" Kiyoko swallowed nervously. She could see the look of unquestioning happiness on her mother's face. She didn't want to disappoint her. And - though Shiro would have said it would have been nice - she didn't need a sharingan to notice her father's keen gaze on her as well, despite his involvement as pacifier for the twins. "I-I... think so." Kiyoko smiled and then shrugged, "No... m-maybe not." "That's very honest of you, Yoko-chan." Shiro replied, nodding solemnly, "I wasn't ready for my--" "Dad, please don't call me that." Kiyoko asked, her tone pleading. Her father had called her that for as long as she could remember, and it didn't matter how often she asked him not to, he still did it. Hidemi reminded him with a scowl, and Shiro held his hands up defensively with a chuckle. It didn't help now, that Omi was calling her that as well. "Sorry, sorry," Shiro nodded and then continued, "But, I wasn't ready for my first mission either. Let's just say I--" "Your father threw up." Hidemi interrupted. Shiro's face went pale as though he might go for round two right then and there. "H-Hidemi!" Shiro growled. "Aaaaall over the Hokage." Hidemi smirked as she noticed that Shiro was coping poorly with breaking up the two boys, so quick as a flash she kicked one of their chairs just enough so that it slid a few inches out of reach of one another and then wobbled, settled and the fight was over. "I was scarred." Kiyoko couldn't help but laugh, then found herself choking on it as she looked to her father, only to see Shiro's mortified face. "A-Anyway, i've got to go..." Kiyoko turned and made for the front door. "Good luck, Yoko-chan!" Shiro called, as Kiyoko left. Hidemi jabbed him in the ribs and he winced and apologised. [Hokage] Walking into the Hokage's office was a surreal experience. It hadn't been the first time she'd seen it. The academy had taken her on a trip here once, to learn about how the village functions in it's day to day. It wouldn't even be the first time she'd seen the Hokage, as she had seen her on multiple occasions. But this was different. She couldn't let it show, however. She had to remain professional. This was her first real mission. She looked over to her teammate's, Sora and Omi, and suppressed a reaction as she noticed that Sora was sweating profusely and she couldn't describe the expression on Omi's face, but it didn't look pleasant. Just then, the door opened and closed behind them and the Hokage walked in, swept around the side of her desk, and sat. "All present and accounted for I see", the Hokage said, shooting Omi a glance in particular, "Are you all prepared to be briefed?" "Yes, Hokage-sama." Hakirama said with a respectful bow of his head. "The sooner we're done, the better." Omi said, folding her arms. "Y-Yes, Hokage-sama." Sora nodded fervently. "We're ready." Kiyoko added confidently, "What's our mission?" "Escort mission." The Hokage began to explain, "You will travel to Ryukyu Port, a busy trade port. You will meet with a merchant who has special cargo. You will board the ship and protect the merchant, his crew, and his cargo at all costs, until he reaches his destination in the Land of Water." "Hokage-sama?" Kiyoko stepped forwards, "What is the merchant's special cargo?" "Not our concern. The merchant paid for C rank ninja, which means it is nothing important enough to warrant any real risk. At most you'll just be protecting against bandits." "These kinds of missions are fairly common, Hyūga-san." Hakirama explained. "Anyone travelling with something valuable enough to involve dangerous ninja or assassins would pay for higher ranked ninja." So that was it. That was her first mission. Kiyoko nodded and thanked the Hokage, and the team left with what must have no doubt been a number of conflicting thoughts and emotions. But that didn't matter. For Kiyoko, this was her first big step towards becoming the Hokage. A dream she had held for as long as she could remember.
  6. Konoha ~ Bonds [private]

    tsumetaki-tsuchi] “Whoa…” Omi said as she walked with Hakirama and Sora through the garden outside of the Uchiha clan’s dojo inside their compound. They walked a path of flat stones placed in a line toward the main building. The fenced off garden was brimming with green plant life with beautiful red colored flowering. A tree stood tall to their right, it’s branches shading a rectangular patch of sand, with a sparse amount of stones placed very carefully around the sand. Someone had drawn swirls and lines in the sand, in a flowing form through the rocks. Up ahead the dojo building was lit with warm lanterns. They stepped up the steps and into the wooden building. Inside the dojo consisted of a simple, large open space for training in. However the matts on the floor were well made, and the sparse equipment looked to be of good craftsmanship. The walls were decorated by various depictions of the fan-like symbol of the Uchiha clan, and in each corner of the room stood dark metallic sculptures of tengu warriors with long beak-like noses. “…Whoa.” Omi said again. A door on the other side slid open and Kiyoko walked in, closing the sliding door behind her. She didn't notice them until Omi spoke. "Oh, what are you...?" Kiyoko frowned, looking at her team, "You shouldn't be here--" "I invited them." Makoto interrupted, startling the young Genin from behind as he walked past them and into the dojo. "I thought your teammates could join you in our training session this evening." "Oh..." Kiyoko nodded, but looked less than enthused. “Oh, I don’t think you three have had nearly enough stress to form a close bond.” Hakirama said, “It is very kind of Makoto san to provide an opportunity for hardship for all of you.” “How the hell is training going to help us get along?” Omi asked, raising her brow. “The times that test us are the most defining”, Hakirama replied. “Besides, you were all too happy to fight each other earlier, maybe burning some energy is exactly what you need.” “I don’t see how kicking Yoko’s butt is going to get her to like me.” Omi said, looking unconvinced. A few moments later she yelped and clutched her nose, which throbbed from another nose flicking from Hakirama. “How about you listen to Makoto san and follow his instructions.” Hakirama suggested firmly, smiling. “Fine…” Omi grumbled, still rubbing her nose. "Your sensei speaks from a place of knowledge. You'd do best to listen to him, Omi-chan." Makoto walked into the centre of the dojo and turned to face the Genin. "However," He added, his tone now quite serious, "I never said you were to fight my niece." Makoto stretched, cracking his shoulders and cricking his neck before he rolled the sleeves up of his kimono, "Can I ask, Hakirama-sama, for non-interference? Training such as this needs to be seen to it's conclusion." “My team’s safety comes first.” Hakirama replied, but sat himself down on the floor by the wall. “If I decide to intervene then I will.” “Wait…we’ve got to fight him?” Omi asked, thumbing at Makoto. “How’s that fair?” Makoto stared at Hakirama in silence for a few moments, then smirked, "That... will not happen." It seemed unclear whether he meant that their safety would not be in question, or that he would not allow Hakirama to intervene. "And Omi-chan... it isn't. That is the nature of this world." "Uncle, this isn't--" Kiyoko started, but cut herself short as Makoto charged her. "H-Hey!" Kiyoko leapt back to bridge a gap between them, but he was too fast. He closed it in an instant and threw a punch directly at her face. Kiyoko leaned back, turning into a backflip as her hands touched the mat, and she kicked with all her force, knocking her Uncle's arm up and then as her feet touched the mat, she darted forwards, kicking twice. The first kick struck Makoto in the shoulder, and the second he blocked with his forearm, grabbed her leg and threw her across the room, past Sora and Omi. Makoto then whirled around, formed seals in a flash, took a deep breath, and then a jet of flame spewed from between his lips. "Omi-chan!" Sora shoved Omi as hard as he could, knocking her out of the way, as the flames engulfed him. Kiyoko pulled herself up just as she saw the flames surround Sora. "No!!" Kiyoko yelled, "Sensei?!" She whirled around to look at Hakirama. [The Raising Fighting Spirit] The flames petered out, dispersing until only smoke and a charred body remained. It's ragged black cloth covering the static form on the ground. Kiyoko watched in stunned silence until she heard a strange noise. A grinding, hissing, clicking noise, and then the ragged black cloth dispersed, and Sora stood up, untouched. "What?!" Kiyoko mouthed. "What was that?" "That'd be my clan's technique." Sora replied. Then held his finger up and a tiny black mass began to form as if from nowhere. "The Bakuhatsu Ari." His eyes lingered on his finger for a moment, before looking to Kiyoko and Omi, "Exploding Ants." “Whoa… tough bunch of ants.” Omi said with a smirk. "Thank ye, Omi-Chan." Sora beamed, "Each member o' the Sakai clan are born with 'em. They're a part of us. We give them chakra, they give us a miniature army, full o' all kinda tricks. Plus, they're really useful in medicine and tracking." “Lucky.” Hakirama said, his eyes darkening as he spoke. “Be careful with my students, Makoto san.” “Tsh! Give me a break!” Omi said with a toothed grin. She raised her fists up in front of her and faced Makoto. “C’mon old man, I wanna check you out!” Omi went at a sprint towards Makoto and the pair clashed. She circled him, testing him with quick punches and kicks that he dodged and blocked with a steady grace. Makoto grew tired of her teasing and began to strike back. Omi weaved and dodged his precise swings with the speed and acrobatics of a dancer. Finally she jumped up for a kick, and Makoto drew his arm in to block her. Omi brought her feet forward and pushed off of his arm, sailing up towards the ceiling of the dojo, and she hurled a barrage of shuriken back down towards him. With a quick inhalation, Makoto released his chakra with his breath and blew the shuriken directly back towards Omi, peppering her with her own projectiles. Sora and Kiyoko were quick to react. Kiyoko charged her uncle, leaping into the air to strike him in the back, but he was all too fast. He turned instantly and knocked her aside and then leapt out of the way as a small black cloud flew beneath him. Makoto quickly engulfed the tiny ants in flame, then landed as Kiyoko raised herself back up using the wall as support. "This is too much, uncle." Kiyoko took a deep breath and started walking towards him. "We're obviously no match, you've proved your point.""I've barely begun." Makoto replied, then his eyes focused on Omi as she landed. In an instant, he was behind her. He grabbed her by the back of her neck, and lifted her into the air, "This isn't a game. You are in combat with a powerful enemy. Yet, you stand there explaining your abilities to one another. Asking for clemency when it becomes too difficult. Where do you think you are right now...?" He frowned, and then squeezed harder, choking Omi. She tried to gasp for air, but Makoto’s grip was too tight, and panic gripped her. [GAMA] Unable to draw breath, Omi felt herself getting weaker. Her hands desperately clawed at Makoto’s grip, but with every second she only grew weaker. She felt her vision beginning to swim. Something was beating inside her, it felt so loud to her, like someone hammering right next to her ear. Something boiled inside of her, something primal that was desperate to get out and wreak havoc. Then, suddenly, she gasped as Makoto’s grip was broken and she had fell to the floor. Hakirama stood in front of her, a Kunai in his hand that was slicked with blood, and Makoto’s arm had a small gash on it. “…That’s enough.” Hakirama said with a quiet anger to his voice. "I wholly disagree." Makoto replied with a sad smile. Kiyoko audibly gasped as she watched her uncle's one working eye flash a bright crimson red, circle by three tomoe. This was the Uchiha clan's eye technique. The Sharingan. This was not something that ever needed to be used against an ally. It had the ability to allow it's user to mimic the movement and abilities of anything it witnessed. It could see chakra, see through the illusions of a genjutsu, and was considered one of the most powerful techniques in the shinobi world. Her uncle now stood before her sensei, with a figurative sword unsheathed. "Uncle!" Kiyoko yelled. "You will be quiet." Makoto barked back at her, and then he leaned towards Hakirama. His lean deepened until it almost looked as though he was going to fall over, but then he burst forwards, tearing up the mats behind him as he crossed the dojo in a split-second. Hakirama was just as fast, raising his fists in response, but his movements were clear to Makoto's sharingan eye. He darted between Hakirama's thrusting fist and blocked his kick with one hand and with his other, he thrust his palm forwards as if he was going to smack Hakirama in the chest. But at the last moment, a blade shoved it's way out of the skin of his palm and impaled Hakirama. Makoto pulled his hand back, forcing the blade in deeper until he was able to grab hold of the emerging handle and yank it from his own arm. "Lesson over." He muttered, then shoved the blade through Hakirama's chest until the handle struck his chest. Makoto took a step back, and as Hakirama fell, he kicked him so hard in the gut, that their sensei flew across the dojo and smashed into the far wall, leaving a cracked stone indentation before collapsing to the ground. [Orochimaru ~Fight~] "Now then..." Makoto turned back to face the three genin. "Where were we?" His red eye beating down on them. Kiyoko was speechless. She kept staring at Hakirama's corpse, expecting him to get up. But he wasn't going to get up. Not from that. Eventually, the reality of her situation penetrated her fear, surprise and confusion and she immediately lowered her gaze, "Don't look him in the eye!" She called out to her teammates, "He'll trap you in a genjutsu you can't escape from!" "Kiyoko-chan?" Sora questioned. "DO IT!!" Kiyoko shouted, her eyes wet with tears she refused to allow. Sora nodded, reaching into his kimono and pulling out a pair of goggles. "Should be wearin' these things anyway, daylight's so strong..." Sora pulled the goggles on, and glanced at Makoto. He raised his arms, and black clouds formed around them, a mass of flying ants. "Ah well, looks like we've gotta get real serious now, i'll do what I can fer sensei, if we're still alive..." "Enough talking..." Kiyoko snarled, her face screwing up. Kiyoko and Sora charged Makoto from different angles. At the last instant, Sora's ants flew around the side of Makoto, forcing him away from Omi. He leapt away, blowing fire from his lips as any stray ants came within reach. Then Sora chased after him, spreading his ants thin and wide, so that Makoto was unable to penetrate the insect wall. Kiyoko dashed over to Omi and helped her up. "Are you alright?!" She asked frantically, checking the girl's neck. “He…!” Omi choked as she stared at Hakirama’s lifeless body on the other side of the room. She shivered in fear, then her eyes turned to Kiyoko, seeming only now to notice her. Then, finally, her gaze fell to Makoto, gritting her teeth in a vicious snarl. “…I’ll…I’ll kill him!” She yelled with a sudden burst of energy as she got to her feet. “I’ll…tear his….” She breathed in and out slowly, unable to speak. "Centre yourself." Kiyoko cautioned, "I feel the same way, but we can't allow ourselves... we can't let fear and anger control us." She wiped her eyes and took a deep breath. Makoto tested the wall of insects for signs of weakness using his fire techniques. Every few seconds the room was cast in a brilliant orange glow and a flash of heat as Makoto destroyed more ants. "We're only going to have one chance, when Sora's wall fails, he'll... we have to work together... Omi-san?" Kiyoko raised her arm aloft and held out her fist to Omi. Omi stared at Kiyoko for a moment, and then at her offered fist. Then she nodded and bopped Kiyoko’s fist with her own, giving a single nod as she did. “Alright then, Yoko, you know his weak points, I’ll keep him distracted.” She retrieved a kunai from her belt and placed it in her mouth, before resting shuriken in the gaps between her fingers. “Shhora, don’ schwoo thish up, eh!?” "Enough!" Makoto yelled over the sound of their chatter. For a moment, there was silence punctuated only by the background hum of Sora's insects. Then a flame spread out from the back of the room, engulfing the entire wall. Before Sora could replenish the breaches, a gust of wind blew so fiercely that he was knocked to the ground. He reached out, a black mass of ants swarming from his hand and attaching themselves to the ground so that he wasn't thrown away. While at the back of the room Kiyoko and Omi stood fast, being buffeted by Makoto's gust. "Stop it, uncle!" Kiyoko yelled, and to her great surprise, Makoto stopped his assault. As she walked past Omi, she whispered, "Follow my lead." And walked towards Sora, as she did, she touched him on the shoulder and leaned in, "You've done enough." She said aloud, whispering something immediately afterwards before continuing on to her uncle. Makoto had never seemed taller to her than he did now. He towered over her, his presence and that sharingan, staring her down. "If you can't defeat an old man, then how are you going to become a ninja worth her salt, hm?!" Makoto closed his fist like a vice and held it before her, "You're not strong enough. You're not fast enough. You're not smart enough. At this rate, you never will be. It's better I save you the agony of torture at the hands of our enemies." "It's not my fault!" Kiyoko yelled at him in indignation, "You've trained me my whole life, my parents trained me, the Hyūga trained me! It's not my fault, it's yours! And yours!" Kiyoko's angry gaze turned to Sora, "And yours!" She focused on Omi, marching back to her as Sora began to object. "Kiyoko-chan, i've worked very hard to--" Sora began. "You're a disgrace!" Kiyoko snapped, getting right into Omi's face. "I'm not surprised your parents left you here!" “Watch your mouth, Yoko hime!” Yoko snarled at her, “Don’t think I won’t kick your ass!” "You couldn't if you tried!" Kiyoko bit back, shoving the girl forcefully. Makoto watched in disbelief, confused at the sudden in-fighting of the team that had stood against him just moments before. Sora walked over to join the girls, raising his hands and urging them to calm down. "You're no better!" "Oro?" Sora pursed his lips in surprise. "Bugs?!" Kiyoko growled, "Really?! That's the best thing you can do!?" Sora hesitated, holding his finger up for a moment as though he was going to argue the point, "W-well," He chuckled nervously, "K-Kiyoko-chan..." Kiyoko pushed him. Hard. Sora stumbled back and held his hands out to her, "There's no need for all y'all t'get mad, we have more pressing ma--" Sora was cut short. Kiyoko lashed out. Her punch hit him square in the jaw, and he collapsed to the floor. Sora's lips curled back in anger and he vaulted backwards onto his feet, and without missing a beat, sent a volley of insects flying towards Kiyoko. At the last second, Kiyoko dove to the ground, and the black mass struck Omi instead. Knocking her to the ground. There was a horrible wet squelch as the insects collided with her. "I've had about enough out of you!" Makoto growled irritably, raising his hands together to perform a jutsu. “The feeling’s mutual!” Omi replied as she crawled to her feet, soaking wet and covered in Sora’s ants. She made a bee-line for Makoto, hurling her shuriken at him. Makoto leapt back and dodged expertly, his hands still moving to make the seals. Omi took a shuriken from her belt and threw it forward. Makoto dodged to the side and let it fly past him, and just as he was about to finish he saw Omi’s grin, and sensed the incoming danger. [Breakdown] He abandoned his seals and turned just as Omi came at him with a swinging kick. He dodged and cut through her with a kunai, but her body simply reformed from the injury. Then another Omi swept a kick under him and he jumped to avoid, flipping backwards only to find another Omi waiting for him when he landed. Suddenly the three Omi’s rushed him together, each one attacking him with rapid strikes, all of which he dodged and deflected with unimaginable speed. Makoto finally grabbed and threw one of the Omi’s into another, and the two smashed together and disappeared along the floor in a puddle, before quickly resuming their form. “You can see right?” One of the Omi’s said to him. “Those eyes can see water clones, but I’m close enough now.” Omi grinned, her hands already forming the final seal she needed. She was close enough to Makoto now, and her chakra infused water was all around him in the form of her clones. With a final thrust out with her palm, her clones melted into water and swirled around Makoto, mixing and writhing into one swirling ball of water. It was dense, highly pressured water, stopping the target from moving on the inside. “Suiton: Water Prison Jutsu.” Omi said with a satisfied grin. “Doesn’t matter if you know how to copy it, good luck forming seals in there.” [Isami Aru Monotachi] "Yes!!" Kiyoko cheered, whistling as Sora chuckled, a smile spreading across his face once more, as he rubbed his sore jaw. "I can't believe we stopped him..." "Mm," Sora nodded, approaching Omi and patting her on the shoulder, "Well done, Omi-chan." Kiyoko turned to look at the body of their Jounin leader still lying in a crumpled heap in the corner. She had to take a deep breath to steady herself before speaking. "Alright... i'm going to inform--" Kiyoko stopped speaking as she heard a muted clapping noise. Makoto - still trapped in the ball of pressurised water which should have prevented him from doing little more than blink or breathe - was clapping. Then he stood, and the watery prison was forced to shift into an oblong shape to accommodate his standing position. "Very good." Makoto said, his voice distorted from within the prison, "There's just one thing..." He reached into his kimono and pulled out a kunai. The three genin watched in disbelief as he moved with little restriction from within the prison. "Think fast!" He said suddenly, throwing the kunai. The bladed projectile weapon breached the water prison as though there was nothing there at all. The projectile flew directly at Omi, and she was forced to dive aside to save herself. The prison of water fell apart with Omi no longer maintaining the seal, but as she opened her eyes, ready to deal with the threat Makoto posed once more, she was unable to move. Something nudged her and she looked over to see Kiyoko and Sora bound on either side of her. "O-oro?" Sora looked around, confused. "So fast..." Kiyoko muttered in disbelief, staring down at her bonds. Then she looked over and saw her uncle was wringing out his kimono. "I really wish you hadn't used a water technique of all things, my daughter-in-law made this for me..." Makoto grumbled, patting himself down. "Oh, your friends look rather confused, Kiyoko-chan, perhaps you would explain what happened to them for me, while I warm up?" Makoto smiled politely and then walked over to a small fire that remained from his use of fire jutsu. Holding his hands out to warm himself, he listened with a smile on his lips as Kiyoko explained that the sharingan's genjutsu could be so convincing that he had actually tricked Omi into breaking the seal on the water prison by dodging a kunai that didn't exist. Both Sora and herself had been unable to stop Omi, as moments before, he had trapped them both in their own private genjutsu. So, this was it. They'd lost. They'd lost the battle, their teacher, and now their lives. "We had 'im..." Sora sighed with a dejected look on his face. "We never had him... it was just a matter of time." Kiyoko looked to the ground. “Are you kidding!?” Omi scoffed, “Did you forget he killed Hakirama!?” “I’d prefer if you referred to me as ‘Senju Sensei’, or at least just ‘Sensei’, we’re not that close you know?” The voice came from the doorway of the Dojo. All three students turned round and gaped. Hakirama stood in the doorway, very much alive and entirely unharmed. “Yo.” He said with a short wave. [Konohamaru’s Theme] “B-but…you…” Omi turned back to the corpse on the floor in disbelief. Then she let out a high pitched scream as the corpse slowly sat up and turned it’s head toward her. “Zombie!!” She screamed. "N-No thank you." Sora added, shoving them onto their side. Then, between Omi and Sora, the two started worming the trio along the ground, trying to get away from zombie-Hakirama, while Kiyoko struggled on top of them, staring at the ceiling in confusion. "Hey!" Kiyoko growled, "What's happening?!" Their slinking along the floor was brought to a stop as Hakirama put his foot on them lightly. “You know…I’d hoped to get some smart students…” He said with a smirk. The zombie stepped closer until it was standing next to Hakirama. Then the Jounin placed his hand on his doppelganger’s shoulder, and it’s skin slowly began to turn brown, and then became hard like wood. Slowly the clone of wood began to turn more organic looking, like a tree branch, as it was slowly sucked back into Hakirama’s palm. “Eww….gross!” Omi said, and she made a retching face. “Mokuton is the Kekkai Genkai of the Senju clean. It is not gross.” Hakirama said with a scowl of annoyance. “It kinda is.” Omi said, huffing. "It's unpleasant, sensei-sama." Sora added, as the ropes binding them snapped suddenly and fell loose. Then a black mass formed around the ropes and disappeared into Sora's top. "An' I know unpleasant." The boy smirked as he stood back up, rubbing his wrists from the tight bindings. "You're all speaking like this is fine! This isn't fine!" Kiyoko growled angrily, marching up to Hakirama and jabbing him in the chest with her finger, "What kind of training is this, huh?! Do you think this is alright? Did you think you were being clever?!" Hakirama nervously tried to laugh it off but delicately pointed at Makoto. "You!" Kiyoko snarled, turning on her uncle, flames erupted in her eyes. Makoto looked up from warming his hands with a genuine look of surprise on his face. "Hm? --gah!!" Makoto yelped, as Kiyoko grabbed him by the collar of his kimono and threw him with all her force. Outside, the dojo, was peaceful. Quiet, tranquil, the sound of cicadas calling. An elderly Uchiha clan member raked sand into a pleasing pattern, and just as he was making his final stroke the roof of the dojo exploded and he leapt out of his skin in fright, sending sand flying everywhere. The old man scanned for the source of the sound, and saw a man flying through the sky, screaming, as he became a blip on the horizon. Patting down her hands, Kiyoko turned back to look at the rest of the team, "Well?!" She snarled, looking at Hakirama. “…Scary.” Hakirama said with a haunted expression on his face. “Guy got what he deserved if you ask me.” Omi muttered. “Kiyoko san, perhaps you should calm down. Don’t you think you’ve learned something from this?” Hakirama asked. [Friend] Doubt wormed its way into Kiyoko's thoughts and a frown replaced her anger, "I've learnt I can... somewhat..." She crossed her arms across her chest and licked the inside of her cheek as she nonchalantly tried to validate Sora and Omi's abilities, "... rely on... you guys..." "Yes!" Sora cheered, grinning from ear to ear. He walked up to Kiyoko and hugged her, but was quickly pushed away. "Don't push it, bug-boy." Kiyoko muttered, but a smile lingered in the corner of her lips all the same. Sucking in air like she was trying to draw in a noodle, Kiyoko finally sighed and walked over to Omi. The two girls looked at one another for a moment, then Kiyoko playfully thumped Omi on the shoulder. “I guess you’re not so bad yourself, Yoko hime.” Omi said with a sly grin. She turned to Sora. “Seriously though, I’ll put up with your creepy crawlies any time if they’re always that helpful. Using them to gather water like that…I’d never have even thought of it.” "They've many useful abilities, Omi-chan!" Sora got quite animated at Omi's fledgling interest, "It's not just obvious things like trackin' an' combat, but they have extremely powerful anti-toxin - didja know a single ant can lift over a hundred times it's own weight? Ants live longer than any other insect, an' if every animal was the same size they would be the fastest animal on the planet!" He just kept going, even as Kiyoko's eyes glazed over, "Didja know one ant species has the most powerful venom in the world? An' my ants are asexual, they don't need any males an' can jus' clone themselves, which I can increase by feedin' large amounts of chakra--" Sora grabbed Omi and Kiyoko around the shoulders and started to walk them out of the dojo, "Didja know ants can do more'n swim, they can survive up to 24 hours underwater! There's lots o' things that--" "--help us..." Kiyoko mumbled to Hakirama as they were dragged away. “Ah, to be a Genin again, there’s no feeling quite like when you start to form bonds with your team…” Hakirama went to follow them out of the dojo, “…and the inevitable discovery that they are just the worst.” He chuckled as he walked out in to the evening with his team.
  7. Konoha ~ Bonds [private]

    [Bad Situation] Despite his cheery exterior, beads of sweat glistened on Sora's face. He watched in silence as Kiyoko slowly turned to face them. She was drenched from head to toe. Long dark blue hair, sopping wet with river water, scattered over her face. Her pupils were pinpricks as she snapped the litter picker she'd been holding in two. "Oi... slacker..." Kiyoko's voice was deeper, her tone was authoritative. "Come here..." "Slacker!?" Omi snarled, but then she recoiled slightly, and then with a huff she stayed silent and stomped towards Kiyoko. "...I said sorry, alright?" "Yeah, I heard you!" Kiyoko growled. As Omi stood before her, Kiyoko held out her hand, "Give me that. Now." She added, nodding at the litter picker Omi had left behind. "Fine..." Omi rolled her eyes as she went back to the litter picker and bent down to retrieve it. "I wasn't the one who broke your one but whatever..." She stood up and offered the litter picker Kiyoko. "Yeah, yeah." Kiyoko muttered, snatching the litter picker out of Omi's hand. "About that--" She turned the litter picker around, grabbed it with both hands, then snapped Omi's picker in two, throwing it at the girl's feet. Omi's right eye raised up, her expression perplexed. She folded her arms across her chest and cocked her head slightly to the side. "Uh... as long as you're.... happy?" "Hm!" Kiyoko smirked and mimicked Omi by folding her arms across her chest. [Daylight of Konoha] Her smirk, turned into a little grin and Kiyoko nodded, "Yeah. Good job. Using Jutsu to clear all this trash makes a lot more sense than using these stupid things." "Kiyoko-chan?" Sora raised an eyebrow, "You're making more of a mess..." Kiyoko looked from Sora to the ground in front of her, it was scattered with the splintered corpses of the litter pickers. "Ah... r-right." She muttered, leaning down and starting to pick up the pieces. Sora's smirk widened and he shuffled over, adding his litter picker to her bag of trash. "Uh....right..." Omi said hesitantly, nervously scratching at her arm. "Well... get back to work then." Kiyoko raised her eyebrow with a look of expectation, then turned and walked off. Sora cleared his throat and turned to Omi, "She's a funny one, hm? I know all about her, but she keeps surprisin' me." "Funny? She's down right whacked o-" Omi cut her sentence off and frowned at herself, "I-I mean... not like... not in a bad way but..." She trailed off. "That's a start, Omi-chan." Sora patted her on the shoulder and then bent down to start adding more trash to his bag, "So, where are ya from, Omi-chan?" "Uh, hello, orphan?" Omi said with a roll of her eyes. "I don't exactly know my family tree very well." "Mm..." Sora nodded to himself, "What's it feel like t'be an orphan? I bet it's lonely, ne?" Omi stared at him for a moment, her eyes squinting in annoyance. Then she turned away from Sora, her fingers clenched at her side. "Yeah." She said simply as she stalked away from him. "Omi-chan!" Sora called after her as she left, "Ya don't have t'be!" "Yo, all of you!" Hakirama called over to them. Omi turned to where the Jounin was standing waving them over, and she walked towards him without responding to Sora. He waited until they had all arrived before continuing. "Looks like you're almost done. That's 500 ryō for each of you." "500?" Omi almost coughed. "But... that's barely enough to get the Beef Ramen in the village!" "We've been working for hours and all we get is 500 ryō?" Kiyoko grumbled in disbelief. "Hm," Sora started patting down his pockets, as he and Kiyoko joined Omi and Hakirama. "What did you expect? You're picking up garbage... spoilers; it does not pay well." Hakirama put his hands on his hips, "Why do you think I wasn't participating? I don't need 500 ryō that badly..." "Sensei?" Sora raised his hand, "Shouldn't we do somethin' more fittin' to our abilities as shinobi? Logically, that this mission is only worth a maximum of 2000 ryō, it's a job any ol' guy could do. We may not do high-rank missions. But we should be doin' somethin' more appropriate, ne?" Sora cocked his head to one side expectantly. "You mean C-rank missions like bodyguarding and escort missions?" Hakirama suggested. "That's an excellent idea, sensei." Sora replied. Meanwhile, Kiyoko and Omi had started to watch the exchange between the two boys. "If we were t'get a mission like that, we could make a significant contribution to the village--" And without missing a beat, "--and our wallets." Kiyoko raised her eyebrows in surprise at Sora's sly conversation with their Jounin leader, then turned in expectation of Hakirama's almost guaranteed put-down. "Sadly, I was hesitant enough about trusting you three with people's garbage, let alone their lives." Hakirama replied flatly. "However, you didn't screw this up, so who knows? Maybe we can move you up to dog walking soon." Omi let out a long whistling noise that dropped down in pitch, before she ended it with a fart noise. "Are you really that earnest? I thought it was an act at first..." "Hm?" Sora glanced at Omi, before returning his focus to Hakirama, "Sensei, I feel urged to tell ya there's more than a 95% chance o' Kiyoko-chan an' Omi-chan findin' a way to do a much higher rank mission. They'd be doin' it without'cha. Plus, as their medical nin, i'd be honour-bound t'go with 'em. So, it might be best t'do somethin' that'll satisfy their ambition, under ya supervision." Leaning in to Omi, Kiyoko muttered under her breath, "He's dead." "Persistence, a good quality in a ninja..." Hakirama said with a smirk. He walked past Sora and with lightning reflexes he flicked him on the nose before walking off, urging them to follow him. "However, while I appreciate your tenacity, I would appreciate your respect of my judgement more." He added. "Well now, look at the time. I think we should have some dinner. You said the Beef Ramen was around 500 ryō, right Kiryuin-san?" "Damn it..." Omi whined, following Hakirama in a defeated huff. [Paradise] The sun was beginning to disappear along the horizon. Casting a slight orange glow upon Konohagakure. Kiyoko, Omi, Sora and Hakirama sat in a local open-air ramen shop, enjoying the simple pleasure of a hot meal. "Aaaah..." Kiyoko sighed as she finished the last mouthful of ramen broth. "That's so tasty, I could eat a second--" A long slurping noise interrupted her. Sora placed his bowl down with a contented look on his face. Then placed the bowl atop the other five he'd already consumed. "Eh?!" Kiyoko gasped, her eye twitching violently before she quickly regained her composure. "Hm?" Sora turned to look at Kiyoko and then chuckled, "Oh, my mother says I have a quick metabolism." "That doesn't last forever y'know." Omi said with a mouthful of noodles. She made a final slurp and gasped in appreciation. "If you keep eating like that you'll have a fat ass when you reach the other side of 25." Sora smirked with a knowing look on his face. "Yes, sensei." He replied. Kiyoko leaned back on her stool and stretched, then something caught her eye and she leaned forwards so quickly that she almost fell over the top of the ramen chef's counter. She covered the side of her face with a hand, and leaned down onto the counter. "Uh, what are you looking at?" Omi asked, craning her neck over to see. Quick as lightning, Kiyoko shot out her free arm, and shoved Omi forwards, back towards the counter. "Don't." Kiyoko urged Omi, her expression had genuine need to it. "Just--" "Evenin', Chief!" Sora called, raising his hand. All the colour drained from Kiyoko's face. A man dressed in a black kimono walked over. On the back of his kimono was the red and white paper fan symbol of the Uchiha clan. The man was tall, broad-shouldered, with a scruffy mop of raven-like hair. He had three long scars on his face. One that went diagonally across his forehead, through his nose and down his cheek. The other two scratched down the right side of his forehead in vertical lines, passing through his right eye, in which he was blind, and down through the diagonal scar. He had a touch of grey in his beard and smoked a pipe. "Good evening." Makoto Uchiha replied, nodding to the boy. Makoto was the Chief of Police in Konohagakure. And, as Kiyoko was currently whispering to Omi, he was her uncle. He glanced across Sora and Omi, his eye lingering on Kiyoko for a moment before turning to Hakirama. "Evening, Hakirama-san. I see you've students." Makoto took a long drag on his pipe and blew the smoke up into the air. "Had to happen sometime I suppose." Hakirama replied with his usual, dull expression. He eyed them from where he was sat next to them at the bar. He waited a moment, and then his eyes narrowed. "It's impolite to not introduce yourself, you know..." "Oh..." Omi replied, and then she waved half-heartedly at Makoto, "Yo, big chief. I'm Omi." Hakirama made a weird choking noise, before suddenly coughing all over his food. "The orphan," Makoto seemed to allude to something with his tone, "Yes. I hope you're listening to your sensei, Hakirama is a wise shinobi, and you would do best to heed his advice." "My name is Sora Sakai, Chief." Sora offered a slight bow, "Son of--" "--Koji Sakai. Yes, I know him. And I know you, Sora-kun." Makoto turned his attention to Kiyoko and for a few moments he just studied her in silence. "Sit up straight, niece." "Yes, uncle." Kiyoko did as she was told, but her expression seemed resigned. "Project your voice, or nobody will take notice." Makoto added. "Yes, uncle." Kiyoko repeated, this time focused in both tone and volume. She put her chopsticks down on her bowl and stood to leave but before she did so, she hesitated and turned back to face her uncle and bowed, then hurriedly left Sora, Omi and Hakirama alone with the chief of police. "I expect you'll all be chuunin before long, under Hakirama-san's tutelage." Makoto nodded to them, and started to leave. "Yeah, if the exam has a section on how to get garbage water out of your sandals... I might just become the freakin' Hokage!" Omi said with a soft chuckle. "Apologies, this one seems to have misplaced her manners at some point." Hakirama said to Makoto. "You give me too much credit, Uchiha-san. I'm already beginning to think teaching isn't my calling..." "Stress is bad for the skin." Makoto replied simply, "It will turn your hair grey, Hakirama-san, if you let it." He paused and turned back to face the group, "Should you wish it, however, you are more than welcome to assign your team to my care. Kiyoko already balances her missions with you, alongside training from the Hyūga clan, as well as my own instruction. I'm sure she would welcome the free time that combining my lessons with her missions would allow. Failing that," He turned his attention to Omi and Sora, "Should you wish to train alongside your teammate, you are welcome to join us in her next session tonight." And with that, Makoto left. "Sensei?" Sora raised his hand until Hakirama glanced at him, and then pointed at his teacher's head, "You have a grey hair now..."
  8. Konoha ~ Bonds [private]

    [Sasuke’s Theme] The pair were interrupted by the sound of footsteps in the grass behind them. The man approaching was dressed in the standard dark blue trousers and jacket associated with Konoha ninja, with a tool pouch strapped to his right leg, blue sandals on his feet, and a green flak jacket over his chest. The man walked at a leisurely pace with his hands in his pockets. His hair was a dark brown, shaggy hair that was trimmed shorter at the sides, but stood almost on end at the top, the ends flopping only a little to the left. His face was framed by a metal happuri style forehead protector with Konoha’s leaf symbol branded at the top. The man stopped as he drew close to the two Genin, and his red eyes lazily moved from one to the other. He sniffed once and scratched at his nose, before holding his hand up beside his head with an empty palm out. “Good morning, my name is Hakirama Senju. I will be your Jounin leader. I am very excited to be working with you both.” He had introduced himself with perfect politeness, but had done so without even a hint of enthusiasm, and his eyes were still half closed and bored-looking. Eventually he turned his head and looked around a bit further. “Hmm…Kiryuin san is late. That is, unfortunately, not unexpected. So that means you two are Sakai san and Hyuga san.” He shrugged and gave them both a half-hearted salute. “Nice to meet you both. I’m sure you’ll both do your best.” "Yo!" Sora gave a casual salute, "Nice ta see ya, Teach. The Senju are an interestin' Clan. Honored t'have ya." "Where's the other one?" Kiyoko added, ignoring Hakirama's introduction. She crossed her arms and asked, "Who's this Omitsune anyway? I don't remember anyone called that at the Academy." “Kiryuin san?” Hakirama asked. “Well, truth be told she was expelled from the academy, and is only being conditionally allowed the rank of Genin and to be part of this team due to her mother taking advantage of her position.” Hakirama sniffed again and wrinkled his nose. “Kiryuin san is the daughter of the Sandaime Hokage.” “Adoptive!” another voice yelled. [Lee Dash Lee A branch of the old tree shook as a slender form dropped from it, grabbing the branch on the way down and swinging once, before letting go and dropping to the ground. Omi was dressed in black sandals with fish net stockings covering the length of her legs, with a very short pair of black shorts on, with a single blue stripe at either side, and a tool pouch attached to a belt, positioned at the base of her back. Fish net covered her otherwise exposed midriff, and she had on a sleeveless, short jacket that barely covered her flat chest. Her arms were bare apart from white bandages wrapped around her hands and wrists. She had also chosen to wear her Konoha forehead protector around her neck, tied loosely. “Hm, you were actually pretty well hidden…” Hakirama said, for the first time showing a hint of surprise. “Well yeah, I’m a delinquent, not a scrub.” Omi replied. She turned her attention toward her new comrades, and folded her arms across her chest, raisied her head and pointed her chin out. “Sup.” "Ahoy hoy, Omitsune-chan!" Sora raised his arm in a half-wave, then went back to stroking Katsu. "Nice ta meet'cha." "You're late." Kiyoko added, "And a drop out. Do you think you should really be on this team?" “It’s just Omi, and if you ‘chan’ me again I’ll bite your nose off.” Omi said with a smirk. Then she turned her attention to Kiyoko, and her eyes flashed with a mix of anger and challenge. “You wanna go, Yoko? If I kick your ass that means I get to embarrass two clans for the price of one, right?” She grinned widely, revealing her pointed teeth. "Now, now," Sora chuckled, raising his hands defensively, "You can try, drop-out." Kiyoko retorted. "Aaah haha," Sora stepped in-between them, "Please, don't be fightin', girls. We're all a team now, yeah?" “I didn’t drop out, I got kicked out!” Omi snarled, “Because I kept beating punks like you in to paste. Don’t cry when it’s over, Yoko!” Omi suddenly made a beeline for Yoko, and the girl seemed to respond in kind. As they closed the gap towards each other, both raising their fists to strike, a figure streaked in between them. [Fake] There was a long moment of silence. The grass blew beneath their feet. Hakirama stood in between the two genin, his hands gripped firmly around each of their wrists. His unimpressed, bored expression remained as he let out a sigh. “Hyūga san, Kiryuin san, this is no w-“ Omi’s other fist came flying towards his face. In an instant Hakirama had let go of Kiyoko and pushed her away with a palm press to her chest, then his free arm came up and casually slapped the blow away. He released his grip on Omi’s wrist and she immediately snarled and leapt at Hakirama with a sweeping kick. The Jounin ducked with leisurely grace, and his hands came up and grabbed her leg, swinging her around and tossing her back to the ground quite gently. The ease at which he had done so made Omi’s blood boil. She’d make him flinch, she had to now. In an instant, she had reached in to her tool pouch and retrieved three shuriken. As her hands moved to throw them at Hakirama, she froze as he was suddenly inches from her. He snatched the shuriken from her hands with a single motion, and then threw a punch that stopped just inches from her face. Omi’s eyes were wide with terror. She couldn’t do anything against this guy, he could kill her with barely a breath. “Ow!” she cried as Hakirama flicked her hard across the nose with his finger, before releasing her. She clutched her nose in her hands, and her pale skin began to burn a hot pink. “What the hell!?” “We will not be fighting each other outside of organized sparring matches.” Hakirama replied simply. “Until you are capable of preventing me from doing so, I will decide when and who you fight, and I will not tolerate violence towards your team mates.” He turned his attention back to Kiyoko. “I’m sure you understand, Hyūga san?” "I understand perfectly. But when she loses her temper again, will we be in the field? Maybe in a delicate situation? In a battle?" Kiyoko then turned from Hakirama, to Omitsune, "A team is a chain. You're a weak link. I can't trust you." She paused, and as if as an after thought, she then looked to Sora, "Or you." “Bite me, Yoko-hime!” Omi snapped bitterly, “Like I need your approval!” [Confrontment] “Well…” Hakirama said with a pause to sigh audibly. “Now that introductions are over, it’s time to have an appraisal. I believe in being honest with my team, and so here it is…” He pointed at Sora first. “You, so far, are the only one I’m convinced might make a half decent ninja given time.” His finger moved to Kiyoko. “You seem to be carrying all the worst traits of the two most obnoxious clans in this village. You’re correct, a team is a chain, but you fail to see where your link is. The first thing you did when meeting your comrade was cast doubt as to her being allowed on this team. Not only did you show lack of faith in your comrade, but also in your leader. If you do not trust my decisions, then you are also a weak link.” Omi let out a snort of laughter, but then she caught her breath in fear as Hakirama’s ever-judging index finger fell upon her, and his eyes narrowed when he looked at her, his brow furrowing with annoyance. “Omitsune Kiryuin – the girl who has had each of her tutors give up on her, even the Academy cannot handle you. So much so that the Hokage herself applied pressure to me in order to ensure your place on this team. However, I am not one of her dogs. You are here because I decided to give you a chance, one that you are quickly using up. Out of all the members on this team, you impress me the least.” “Like I ca-“ Omi started but she was cut off. “You should care!” Hakirama snapped, his eyes suddenly fierce, “Every person in this village, be they ninja or not, works hard to preserve what we have. You, so far, are nothing but a drain on this village. If I cannot change that, then you will have no more opportunities ahead of you.” “Yeah, whatever.” Omi rolled her eyes. “I’ve heard this one a thousand times.” “Then hear this; you have until the end of this day to gain the support of your comrades, If either one of them will not support you by tomorrow, then you will be banished from the village.” Omi went to speak, but she paused, her lip quivering, and then she bit down on it and her head sank to the floor. Kiyoko remained silent, listening to Hakirama. When he was finished, she walked over to the table and sat on one of the chairs. Leaning back, she crossed her arms and sighed, "I can accept my mistakes. But not trusting you does not mean i've made a mistake. I don't know you. You might be a Jounin, so you've been given a title that says you're skilled, so what? There are lots of Jounin, and they die every day. Trust is earned, not expected. But..." She glanced at Omi, an expression flashed across her face, if only for a moment. Doubt? But in what? "Pff..." "Give me a reason to support you, Omi-chan." Sora gave her a polite bow just with his head. “I’m sure she will have plenty of opportunity to do so on your first mission.” Hakirama said nonchalantly. “Originally I was going to put you through a traditional bell test, but this mission came up quite suddenly and requires immediate attention.” Omi stood in silence, her stomach churning at the news. A mission? How was she going to be able to prove herself in that sort of situation? What if she screwed up? What would the cost be? "Are you up to it?" Kiyoko asked. Sora made a startled noise, interrupting the conversation as heads turned. Katsu, the little squishy-faced dog, leapt out of Sora's arms and landed on the ground, then waddled over to Omi and sat at her feet. He opened his mouth and started panting - a sound akin to an out-of-breath senior - quietly, with a content look upon his stunted face. "Omi-chan, Katsu supports you! Now you've just myself, and Kiyoko-chan to convince! Yatta!" Sora clapped his hands and beamed at her. "Ah--!" Then Katsu quietly lifted his leg, and emptied his bladder onto her boot. Sora's face drooped, yet somehow he maintained a modicum of cheer despite his mortified eyes, "Ah, sorry...." Omi’s knuckles cracked audibly as her fists clenched in an otherwise quiet rage. Her teeth grinded as she fought to keep herself from snarling. “Don’t…worry about it.” She said finally, her right eye twitching madly as she stared at the incontinent pug with a murderous gaze. “Yo, sensei…what’s our mission?” She asked to keep her mind off her anger. “Well I’m glad you asked…” Hakirama said with a smirk. --- --- --- --- [Fooling Mode] “This sucks!” Omi declared as she jabbed a metal litter picker into the river she was currently standing knee deep in. She pulled the litter picker back up to reveal a sludgy old sandal, and she wretched in disgust, before tossing it into the pile of junk on the bank. “What did you expect?” Hakirama asked from the deck chair he was sitting on near the bank, “Genin ninja are only qualified to participate in D-rank or C-rank missions. Get used to manual labour, you’re going to be doing it routinely for quite a while.” “This isn’t what being a ninja is about!” Omi scoffed, frowning. However, she continued with the work begrudgingly. She had to admit that Hakirama’s threat was serious enough that she had been forced to comply with it. Even though, deep down, all she really wanted was to set his hair on fire and see what he looked like bald. "Hard work is an essential trait of a good ninja, Omi-chan!" Sora waded past her and stopped at a spot that he seemed happy with, "If ya work hard at working hard, y'all will fight fer longer, hit harder an' learn more." Sora held the litter picker an inch above the water and then began jabbing. The flurry of strikes was so fast that he was forced to stop after a couple of seconds because his entire picker had been skewered with trash. Sora grinned at Omi, then dumped all the trash into his bag, pausing to stare at Kiyoko. She was staring at the water, picker in hand, doing nothing. Just... staring. Omi considered Sora’s words. It hadn’t occurred to her to use ninja skills to get the work done. Sora had used his speed and reflexes from Taijutsu to maximize his performance. Perhaps if she could impress them then they’d consider keeping her on the team. With a wolfish grin she tossed her litter picker and trash bag aside, and clapped her hands together. She performed five hand seals; tiger, snake, rat, snake, tiger. She released her chakra and thrust her hands forward. The water of the river suddenly rushed back up the way it came, chaotically flying up into the shape of a wall, the excess water arcing down and around them. “There…now we can see better.” She said with a satisfied smirk. She turned round to see what Sora thought, and then her heart sank like a stone. Kiyoko had been caught in the backlash of her ninjutsu, and was now standing and staring in the same position, only now she was drenched from head to toe in river water. “S-sorry…” Omi managed to squeak.
  9. Konoha ~ Bonds [private]

    [Rainy Day] The morning sun was enshrouded by dark clouds. Rain fell in heavy sheets. In the distance, the sound of thunder followed the occasional flash of lightning. The weather was miserable, yes, but it didn't dampen people's spirits. Stores and market stalls opened as usual, though the stall owners set canopies out to encourage people to browse their wares while escaping the rain. A small crowd of people began to gather, eager to get their daily essentials and run back home through the rain. Two children were playing in the puddles rapidly forming in the dirt streets, while a shaggy black dog darted down the street. Kiyoko Hyūga let her bedroom curtain fall back in place, drenching her room in shadow once more. She'd had enough of watching the morning markets outside her house. After all, she couldn't be wasting time. Not today. Today was the day she became a Genin. She had worked hard in the Academy, and was considered a star pupil, in spite of her 'failings' as some would call them. She was the child of Hidemi Hyūga and Shiro Uchiha. Kiyoko was tall for her age, slender of frame, with long dark blue hair that fell down past her shoulders save for her fringe which was cut short, just above her eyebrows. Her eyes were dark, unlike those of her mother, Hidemi, who had the instantly recognisable white eyes of a Byakugan inheritor. While she shared her father's eyes, and her mother's hair, she had inherited neither of their clan's eye techniques. Both the Byakugan and Sharingan remained well out of reach for her. However, she had not allowed that to stop her climb to the top of her Academy class. "Kiyoko-chan!" Her mother called from downstairs. Kiyoko checked herself one last time in the mirror. She was wearing a white kimono with black trim, long sleeves that covered her hands while at rest and a pair of black form-fitting shorts. Her legs were bandaged, with a single tool pouch strapped to her left leg, and her Konoha forehead protector tied around her waist in place of a belt. "Kiyoko-chan you're going to be late for practice!" Hidemi called again. "I'm coming, mom!" Kiyoko called back, sighing. It was good enough. She took a deep breath, walked to her bedroom door, put her hand on the knob, and twisted it. As she opened the door, however, she felt a presence. Something was coming right at her. She had to move. [Bad Situation] A body came crashing through her bedroom door, blasting it open as she darted out of the way. "Wh--hey!!" Kiyoko growled, turning to see the assailant charging back at her, forcing her out of her room. The attacker was small, but fast. He raised a fist and threw a punch, Kiyoko dodged it expertly, leaping back onto the landing, but as she reached the railing, she felt a pair of hands grab her by the ankles. "Gotcha!!" A wily voice yelled. "Now, Aki, now!!" Kiyoko glanced behind her and saw a young boy, dangling over the side of the landing, holding onto her. He had short black hair and the featureless white eyes of the Byakugan. His name was Taki, one of her younger brothers. The other, who was rapidly approaching her now, was Aki, a boy with dark eyes and long dark blue hair. "I've got her this time!" Aki roared, "CHIDORI!!" As his right arm sparked with electricity and he leapt through the air, leading with his electrified arm outstretched. Kiyoko smirked, leaned back, and grabbed onto the railing. Then with all her strength, she yanked her legs up, pulling Taki up from the edge and throwing him forwards in her place. Taki squeeled as he was thrown into his brother. Kiyoko back-flipped onto the top of the landing's banister, as Aki's chidori struck Taki and they collapsed in a heap. [Kakashi's Theme] "Well..." Kiyoko hopped down from the banister and walked over to her two younger brothers who remained on the floor. Aki had a glazed-over expression on his face. Clearly the amount of chakra it required to form even the smallest amount of electricity had taken it's toll on him. As for Taki, his hair had frizzed out in every direction from taking a bolt of electricity, and his right leg was twitching. "... good morning." "Don't say good morning like you're a good sister!" Aki grumbled. "You're a monster!!" Taki added. "Am I?" Kiyoko raised an eyebrow, looking at her two brothers. "You never play with us!" Aki groaned with a sigh. She leaned down, grabbing each of them by the scruff of the neck and hoisting them up. "Well maybe i'd be nicer if you weren't trying to knock me out every day." "Well how else are we supposed to get stronger?!" Taki asked with a huff. Putting them back on their feet, Kiyoko took a step back and examined each of them, a smirk escaping the corner of her lips as she looked at Taki's frazzled hair. "What?" Taki frowned, looking to Aki. His brother noticed his hair at that point, and burst out laughing. "Alright, well i'm late now, I hope you're happy... later." Kiyoko turned and started down the stairs. On her back, unknown to her, was a small white piece of paper. On the paper, was a message. It read, quite simply, 'Hit me, i'm stupid'. Kiyoko vanished downstairs while Aki and Taki turned to face one another, and shared a fist bump. "Success!" They cheered, in unison. [Morning] Meanwhile, in another part of Konoha, a young boy dressed in a blue hoodie was perched at a wooden feather-board fence. He was crouched in front of a hole just large enough for a small animal to get through. On the other side, he could hear a quiet whining. He took a step back and assessed the fence with a thin-lipped smile. His eyes were narrow, and his grin wide. If you were to describe him, you might call him 'fox-faced'. He had short, scruffy blonde hair and pale skin. His name, was Sora Sakai. The whining increased in volume and urgency. "Right, right, i'm comin'..." Sora replied calmly. Looking to the top of the fence, Sora leapt high into the air, grabbing onto the top of the fence, and using it to flip over to the other side. He landed in a small abandoned lot. For a moment, his eyes didn't detect the source of the whining, but then he saw it in the far right-hand corner, shrouded by a small bush. A little, cream-coloured squishy-faced dog. He couldn't remember the name of the breed. A bug? It was something like that. Bug made sense, it was tiny. As he approached the little animal, it recoiled in fear. "Now, now, i'm jus' here ta help ya, look--" Sora reached into his blue hoodie and pulled out a small cereal bar. He unwrapped it, took a large bite and then knelt down, holding it out for the dog to smell. It took immediate interest in him. The sound of rustling wrappers was obviously familiar. This had to be someone's pet. "Come on now, I ain't gonna harm ya!" Sora tore off a small piece of the cereal bar and laid it on the ground, "There ya are." Then he sat in silence and waited. It took a couple of minutes, but eventually, the little dog stood and cautiously approached him. It was walking strangely. There was something wrong with it's front-right paw. It tried not to put any weight on it, there was clearly something wrong. As the dog approached and put its head down to eat, Sora gently laid his hand on the ground beside it. Once the dog was finished eating, it looked over and smelled his hand, then gave it a lick. "Good doggie," His grin widened and he gently picked the dog up and put it on his lap, where it seemed quite happy. He raised the dog's right leg, careful not to touch the dog's paw. Up close, he could see what the problem was. He just had to use his medical ninjutsu. He took the dog's paw between his hands, and activated his chakra, extending its reach through his palms and engulfing the dog's paw. The dog had a small fracture. After a few minutes work, he released the dog's paw and sighed with contentment. "There, all better." Sora patted the dog on the head, and then put it on the ground. The dog cautiously tried to walk back to his lap, but then realised it was able to put weight on it's paw without pain, and then quickly grew in excitement. It made little yappy barks and leapt up, trying to lick his face. Sora laughed, "Now, now, I--" Suddenly, the dog stopped. It's lips pulled back in a snarl. "Ya gonna bite me, little dog?" Sora asked. But then a figure leapt over the fence and landed a few feet away. Sora was short, and very slender. There wasn't much muscle to him at all. So to say that this other boy was the complete opposite of him would not be an exaggeration. This boy was tall, broad-shouldered and was significantly well-built. Really, he didn't look anything like Sora's age, but he knew this kid was, because they were in the same class. "Hey!" The boy snarled, "What are you doin' with my dog, Sakai?!" "Oh this is yer dog, Taichi?" Sora asked, standing up to face him. "Give him back or i'm going to beat you." Taichi started towards Sora, intent on retrieving his animal. "No, I think he's happier with me, aint'cha?" Sora asked, and virtually on cue, the dog barked, wagging it's tail. Taichi grabbed Sora by the arm and used his other to ball up his hand into a fist, presenting it to Sora as a clearly-defined threat. Sora tried to gently pull his arm back, but Taichi held onto it firmly. The two boys stared one another down. Taichi's face almost red with rage, while Sora remained apparently unaffected by the boy's threats. The same smile remained on his face as it had done throughout the entire exchange. "Ya should be lettin' go a'my arm, now." Sora suggested, pulling a second time. "Gimme my dog!!" Taichi yelled, then brought back his balled-up fist, and threw a punch. Sora moved so quickly, that Taichi wasn't quite sure what had happened. The smaller boy managed to duck under his punch, twist around and sweep out his legs from under him. He collapsed to the floor as Sora reactivated his chakra, channelling it to his hand as he had done before, except this time, it formed a soft point in glowing energy. "Hey!!" Taichi yelled, in a mixture of anger and shock at seeing what Sora was about to do, "Don't--" Sora jabbed Taichi in the knee with the tip of his hand and then quickly leapt back and deactivated his chakra. Taichi roared and tried to get up but found his right leg was completely numb from the knee down. He couldn't stand on it, he couldn't move it. It was as useful as dead wood. "Give it a few days, it'll heal, okay?" Sora said with a smile, and then held his arms out to the dog. It barked again and happily leapt up into Sora's waiting arms where the boy cradled him, studying the little, cream-coloured pup. "I'll call ya Katsu. Come on, Katsu, time to meet the others!" Katsu barked and Sora leapt back over the fence onto the street once more, leaving Taichi to lick his wounds. [Naruto's Daily Life] The rain was finally letting up. She had that to be thankful for at least. Kiyoko stepped out from under the canopy of a ramen shop, thanking the owner for the food before stepping back out onto the street. A few drops were still falling, but it had mostly cleared. Puddles were everywhere, and kids had started splashing around in them. Kiyoko was focused, however. She had to reach the meeting point just outside of the village. She had been told there would be a large, old, dead tree with a table and three chairs laid out beside it. Three chairs, for three Genin. Strange. She was a Genin now. Passing the academy and becoming a Genin was a big step for her. Something brushed her shoulder and it drew her from her thoughts. "Oh, sorry sorry, wasn't lookin' where I was goin'." Said a boy with short blonde hair. "It's fine." Kiyoko replied, noting the dog in his arms. "Name's Katsu," The boy said, "The dog... My name's Sora Sakai." "Okay?" Kiyoko frowned, taking a step away from the strange boy as they continued to walk towards the Northern gate. A few seconds passed and then Kiyoko felt a sharp pain in her right shoulder. She recoiled, clutching it as she saw Sora withdrawing his fist. "Ouch! What's wrong with you, I should--!!" Then she realised. Kiyoko reached over her shoulder and plucked the note off her back, "Mhmm..." She growled, bunching up the paper into a little ball. Just then, she noticed Sora was still watching her with a smile on his face. Kiyoko grit her teeth and tensed up, but thought better of getting into a fight with this kid. She was just about to meet her Jounin teacher, and the rest of her Genin squad. She couldn't be picking fights with every idiot she came across. She was better than that. She threw the paper ball over her shoulder, which soared through the air and landed in a nearby bin. "OoooOOooo!!" Sora clapped. She frowned. Kiyoko couldn't tell if the boy was being obnoxious, or genuine. In fact, she couldn't read him at all. For someone who seemed to show his emotions so openly on his face, he was without a doubt, the definition of an enigma. She didn't like him. She couldn't say why. She just didn't. He was creepy. "Cereal bar?" Sora offered, holding one up to her as they passed through the North gate. "No." She replied. Sora shrugged his shoulders and resumed eating. Around a minute after she'd set out, Kiyoko looked over at Sora and Katsu. They were still walking beside her. They couldn't possibly... was Sora one of her Genin teammates? So who was the third and why weren't they here? Then her eyes darted down to Katsu. The little dog looked her dead in the eye, and let loose a little squeaky fart. "No. There's no way!" Kiyoko burst out as she saw the old, dead tree and the table with three chairs ahead of her. "What's that, Kiyoko-chan?" Sora asked. "How do you know my name?!" Kiyoko challenged him, putting her hands on her waist, "What's your game, huh? And what's the dog about?!" "Yer Kiyoko Hyūga. Daughter of an Uchiha an' a Hyūga. But, ya don't really have any special abilities..." "Wha--" Kiyoko tried to interrupt. "--an' i'm Sora Sakai. I'm gonna be ya medical nin. Then there's Omitsune Kiryuin. She's the third." "She's late. Later than we were, and..." Kiyoko paused, glancing around, "Come to think of it, our teacher isn't here either..."
  10. The future is ours.. isn't it?

    While Yusai was giving the insanely accurate measurements on Steal, the boy himself was huddled in a corner, holding onto his bruised face and watching a few drips of blood strike his robe. It was nothing new really, this was just his father's usual way of handling him. Amusing that he had forgot something like this. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He shifted a bit, waiting for his father and mother to start talking. really more like quite but heated arguing. Selfish, his father called him selfish, but he had no idea just what he had actually gave up. His freedom, his happiness... He sniffled a bit then got to his feet, and stumbled to the bathroom, he had to leave a message, he had to find a way to get himself free again. Insane really when all he had wanted was to let Yusai free. He wrote carefully with a strange pencil he found (eyeliner?) on the back of the material of his hidden shirt. His carefully written letters were a note giving Otto's bar's number and the address of his parent's estate. It was all he could do. He then closed his eyes tight sat on the edge of the bathtub and waited. It wouldn't be long before he was dragged out of bathroom and stuffed into the limo his father would have to drive home in There was no way they would slum it. He gave a small smirk then turned his head when the door opened looking at his father who promptly dragged him out of the room. **** It was about an hour later before they arrived back to the manor, and he was dragged to the secure lock up cell. AKA his room. It was terrible. The computer was the same, the windows were barred and his bed was pretty much the only thing there. The computer didn't seem to be hooked up, it was more of a prop to make him think that he had something in there. It was a bad joke really. None of the staff had the chance to see him and very likely none of them wouldn't even know he was there ever. He sighed weakly and sat down on the bed, wishing he could be anyone but there. In the hall he could hear his mother talking about proper security and how it would have to be beefed up outside. The whole situation was ironic really., He had no idea things would be like this. He had figured his going home would be a bit different, that maybe he would even be given some form of freedom. His parents still didn't acknowledge that he was their kid. He was just a bad publicity risk. He wondered why the heck his parents had wanted kids anyway. One thung had not changed at all though, his hidden gloves, bandages and pocket knife was still under one of the base boards. He slid the familiar gloves on, and settled on his bed again, looking out the window at the darkening sky. **** The investigation into finding Steal was a slow going process, or at least it seemed like one to the staff working with Otto. How in the world could they have lost Yusai's friend? The bracelet had been located and given to Yusai who seemed devastated to have seen it. For the detective that has been phoned though things were even stranger. He had been spending hours researching information on not only the missing young man but the family and he didn't like the scorpion nest he had found. How could a family that prominent have been hiding their son for so long. Other than a few publicity stills there was nothing there, no sports stories, academics, public interests, nothing. It was like their son was a puppet brought out to dance once in a blue moon. Only in the last couple of years had anything appeared. Logan leaned back in his chair and sighed not noticing another member of the agency walking in humming, At least not until he started crowing about closing his case and returning a missing heir to his family. It was all Logan could do to keep himself from throwing a pen at the other man.
  11. The future is ours.. isn't it?

    While Yusai was giving the insanely accurate measurements on Steal, the boy himself was huddled in a corner, holding onto his bruised face and watching a few drips of blood strike his robe. It was nothing new really, this was just his father's usual way of handling him. Amusing that he had forgot something like this. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He shifted a bit, waiting for his father and mother to start talking. really more like quite but heated arguing. Selfish, his father called him selfish, but he had no idea just what he had actually gave up. His freedom, his happiness... He sniffled a bit then got to his feet, and stumbled to the bathroom, he had to leave a message, he had to find a way to get himself free again. Insane really when all he had wanted was to let Yusai free. He wrote carefully with a strange pencil he found (eyeliner?) on the back of the material of his hidden shirt. His carefully written letters were a note giving Otto's bar's number and the address of his parent's estate. It was all he could do. He then closed his eyes tight sat on the edge of the bathtub and waited. It wouldn't be long before he was dragged out of bathroom and stuffed into the limo his father would have to drive home in There was no way they would slum it. He gave a small smirk then turned his head when the door opened looking at his father who promptly dragged him out of the room. **** It was about an hour later before they arrived back to the manor, and he was dragged to the secure lock up cell. AKA his room. It was terrible. The computer was the same, the windows were barred and his bed was pretty much the only thing there. The computer didn't seem to be hooked up, it was more of a prop to make him think that he had something in there. It was a bad joke really. None of the staff had the chance to see him and very likely none of them wouldn't even know he was there ever. He sighed weakly and sat down on the bed, wishing he could be anyone but there. In the hall he could hear his mother talking about proper security and how it would have to be beefed up outside. The whole situation was ironic really., He had no idea things would be like this. He had figured his going home would be a bit different, that maybe he would even be given some form of freedom. His parents still didn't acknowledge that he was their kid. He was just a bad publicity risk. He wondered why the heck his parents had wanted kids anyway. **** The investigation into finding Steal was a slow going process, or at least it seemed like one to the staff working with Otto. How in the world could they have lost Yusai's friend? The bracelet had been located and given to Yusai who seemed devastated to have seen it.
  12. Once, not so long ago, the world was a place of discord and danger. During this long and violent period the countries of the world were uniformly small, and constantly battled each other for control of land and power. So as not to risk their own lives, and that of their citizenry, the countries enlisted the aid of mercantile shinobi clans to fight their battles for them. Shinobi at this time were loyal only to their own clan, and of course to whoever offered them the highest bid. This period was known as the Warring States Period. Of all the clans that participated in this bloody period, in what would one day be called the Land of Fire, three shinobi clans stood out from the rest. The Senju clan were renowned for their balanced skill in all the shinobi arts. The Uchiha Clan were famed for their battle prowess and their unique and mysterious Dojutsu, the Sharingan. The Hyūga clan were known for their uncontested Taijutsu skills, as well as their own secret Dojutsu, the Byakugan. The three clans, being the most powerful, also naturally became bitter rivals. They lost many lives in fierce battles with each other, as well as fights with other clans and other countries. In the end the bloodshed began to take its toll on the world, the strain was tearing every clan apart and collapse of the world became almost inevitable. The Hyūga clan and the Uchiha clan’s feud was becoming so fierce that they ran the risk of destroying each other completely. At this time, the leader of the Senju, Samanosuke, came to both clans with an offer. Samanosuke revealed that his clan had been working to pledge itself with the Daimyo of the country, to swear loyalty to one country in exchange for ensured survival of their clan, and rights for their people. Samanosuke plead for the two rivals to set aside their difficulties and join as one. However, both sides agreed that this was impossible. Samanosuke did not give up, however. The Uchiha were narrowly ahead of the Hyūga in their ongoing feud, and so the Senju made an offer privately to the leader of the Hyūga clan, Hyouin . Reluctantly, with the real risk of losing his clan before him, Hyouin agreed to ally with the Senju. With the two clans fighting together, even the mighty Uchiha stood no chance against them. In the ultimate battle, Hyouin and the Uchiha leader, Retsu faced off against one another, but ultimately Hyouin was the victor. The Hyūga leader went to end the life of his rival, but Samanosuke stepped in and saved Retsu’s life. The result was a three-way fight between the great shinobi leaders. However, in the end, Samanosuke stood victorious over the others. Hyūga Hyouin and Uchiha Retsu both understood Samanosuke actions, and his desire for their clans to be strong and prosperous together. Reluctantly they agreed to ally with the Senju, and swear their allegiance to the Land of Fire. That is the story of how the Warring States Period ended, and how the first Shinobi Hidden Village was born. To this day it still stands, deep within the heart of the Land of Fire, the village hidden in the leaves, Konohagakure. While the clans remained autonomous within the village, it became clear that one true leader would need to speak for all of them. Naturally Hyouin, Retsu and Samanosuke all thought that thy should lead. This dispute went on for a long time, as no decision could be made. However, the Uchiha and the Hyūga were secretive, and distrustful of outsiders. The Senju, on the other hand, went to work at forming new relationships with other smaller clans. In the end, when the discussion of leadership again came to a head, Senju Samanosuke had amassed a large following, and with all the other clans loyal to him, his leadership could no longer be contested. Samanosuke made arrangements with the Daimyo of the Land of Fire, and it was agreed that the Daimyo would have final say upon the leadership of Konohagakure, but that he would heed the advice of village elders and faction leaders. With that settled Samanosuke became the first Hokage, and brought Konohagakure into an age of prosperity. Yet like all men, Samanosuke eventually passed away. In his place came his son, Mifune. Mifune carried on his father’s vision, but he was young and did not carry the same respect that his father had earned by bringing peace to the clans. His relationships with the other hidden villages that were forming became unstable, and the threat of war loomed. Eventually there came a time known as the Great Shinobi War, when the five largest and most powerful villages went to war with each other. During this time Mifune lost his life in a battle with ninja from the Iwagakure and the Tsuchikage. Without leadership Konoha was thrown in to turmoil. The two oldest and most renowned clans, the Uchiha and the Hyūga, once again began to bicker over who should become the next Hokage. When a member of the Hyūga clan was eventually chosen as a candidate, it was though that much needed stability would come to Konoha during it’s time of need. However, the candidate was murdered in the night by an unknown assassin. The Hyūga clan were immediately grief stricken and outraged, and they allowed old wounds to open. They blamed the Uchiha Clan for the assassination, sparking outrage which resulted in a war between the two clans, and Konoha fell into chaos. As the two strongest clans of Konoha warred with each other, Kirigakure saw opportunity. It sent its greatest warriors to lay waste to Konoha; The Seven Ninja Swordsmen of the Mist. [Different Sky] Rain pattered pitifully in the miserable darkness. Smoke billowed from dwindling fires, illuminating the wreckage and devastation. Homes were reduced to rubble and charred wood. Roads and paths were upturned and blocked off. Bridges over the canals had collapsed, and makeshift barricades had been crafted through main streets. The backdrop of the village in ruin was a large mountain, with two proud faces carved in to the stone. Konoha was crumbling under the weight of its own arrogant pride. Blood dripped from the tip of a long, silvery blade that resembled a large needle. The petite, tall woman hid her face behind a white, featureless mask with only the symbol Kirigakure etched in to it. Her hair was dark blonde and fanned out behind her mask in a giant, frizzy main. She was dressed in dark, tight fitting clothing, and stared at her bloody weapon with a quiet sense of thrilled excitement. “Well this has been fun.” She said with a deep, lustful tone. “Hell yeah!” Said the figure behind her, a man with a large broadsword held over his shoulder. He was dressed in similar garb, but his frame was leaner and more muscular. He had three small horizontal, perfectly uniform scars on his left cheek, and his eyes were bright blue, his hair short and jet black. “Been a while since all seven of us hung out!” He added, chuckling heartily. “We’ve never ‘hung out’ ever, Kazue.” The masked woman replied. “Yeah, I know.” Kazue replied, “But that’s what everyone thinks, right? That we’re all a bunch of comrades, right?” “Is that so?” The masked woman replied, sounding amused. “I assumed they would realize the truth; that no two-bit blade wielding shinobi can match even one of us, let alone all seven. Although, this mission almost fulfilled itself. I could have handled this myself, no need to call in the rest of you butchers.” “Says the lady who stitches corpses together like a kebab, eh Yashiko?” Kazue replied, rolling his eyes. “Anyway, you say that but I doubt even you could have handled this on your own. If the Uchiha and Hyūga weren’t busy fighting each other, we’d have our hands full.” “If the Uchiha and Hyūga weren’t fighting each other we wouldn’t be here, idiot.” Yashiko replied. She suddenly whirled on the spot, and moved with unnatural speed as she heard noises coming towards them. She was already brandishing her needle-like sword to strike when another figure emerged from around the corner. “Don’t shit your pants, Yashiko.” The man said with a smirk. He was carrying a peculiar sword on his back with a long handle and a large, curved edge blade that looked like an over-sized cleaver. He was older than Yashiko and Kazue, perhaps in his 40’s. He had greying hair that was likely once black, that was long and slicked back. His face was covered in scar tissue from a variety of small nicks and cuts, and his dark eyes were relaxed, almost appearing bored. “Oh, it’s you Tanabe sama” Yashiko replied, her voice suddenly taking on a respectful air. “I thought you were a clumsy leaf ninja running to their grave.” “Better I announce myself early than accidentally sneak up on you.” Tanabe replied. “Wouldn’t want to get myself cut, hm?” “Y-yes, Tanabe sama.” Yashiko said, her voice wavering. “Where are the others?” Tanabe asked “Geko and Shinji are thinning Konoha’s reserves. Kagutsuchi is leading a strike on the Uchiha stronghold while they are distracted fighting the Hyūga. Saya is leading a force to strike the Hyūga as well.” “Good.” Tanabe replied, “And you two?” He inquired, his eyebrow raising. “Cleaning up the dregs.” Kazue replied for her. “Kagutsuchi said the new recruits don’t get the fun jobs.” “Hmph, he’s right. You two are nothing compared to your predecessors.” Tanabe said. “You should have more faith.” Yashiko replied, her tone defiant. “They say the young are in their prime, so we hold the advantage.” “True.” Tanabe said with a nod. “But youth is always overconfident. It lacks the wisdom and foresight that comes with age and experience.” Yashiko frowned at that statement behind her mask. It didn’t sound like Tanabe. What’s more, hadn’t he received a cut on his cheek the last time she had saw him. Where was the blood? She tensed suddenly as the realization came to her. [Cave] Tanabe barely had the chance to react as Yashiko suddenly lunged forward, plunging her needle through his chest, spinning around him and yanking the thin blade from his other side, a thin wire trailing behind it. She brought it back through his neck, causing him to cry out and gurgle in pain, then she yanked the needle out fiercely, and pulled away from him, the wire cutting through his flesh and causing him to let out a final, blood curdling scream of agony, before his eyes rolled back in his head, and Tanabe fell to the floor. Yashiko smirked behind her mask. “Not so wise now, old man.” She said with a satisfied chuckle. “Damn leaf thought he could get the drop on me with a transformation jutsu, hm Kazue?” She turned to her partner. She paused. Kazue was just standing there, looking back at her. He hadn’t reacted to the fight at all. He was just standing there with his sword over his shoulder, grinning like a damn idiot. Yashiko felt the hairs on the back of her neck stand up as a creeping realization began to dawn on her. She looked around at the ruined buildings, and the empty streets. Nothing was moving, nothing at all. She looked up at the clouds which no longer moved slowly in the sky, and at the frozen droplets of rain. Then she saw it, the giant eyeball hovering in the sky above her. That piercing eye stared at her, seeing right in to her soul. A crimson eye, with three tomoe swirling in synchronized harmony around the pupil. “Sharingan!” She gasped. [Reverse Situation] “Yashiko!” Kazue’s scream finally penetrated her hearing as the genjutsu wore off. Yashiko suddenly realized they were surrounded by ninja, all dressed in black, each wearing white masks fashioned after animals. Kazue was busy trying to fend off five ninja, who were expertly maneuvering around him, each taking turns demanding the skilled swordsman’s attention, tiring him out. “Took you long enough.” The ninja in front of her said. The man was wearing a mask that looked like a hawk. He was an anonymous member over the elite shinobi force known as ANBU. Yet his eyes betrayed his identity as a member of the Uchiha clan. “I’ve got all I need from you now, though.” “Damn Uchiha!” Yashiko spat, preparing herself for a fight. “Shouldn’t you be off fighting against your own allies?” “Hmph, unlike you I’m not very chatty.” The hawk-masked man replied. Then they were moving around each other in a blur. Yashiko’s needle and wire thread twinkled in the moonlight as the pair countered each other over and over, dodging and blocking until finally they separated and slid back across the dirt. The hawk-faced ANBU’s hands moved in a blur, and suddenly a huge ball of fire came surging towards Yashiko. She dived to the left and narrowly avoided the flames, but felt the heat burn her up her right side. Hissing in frustration she made a bee-line for the Uchiha, counting on her incredible speed to catch him off guard. “I can see!” The Uchiha said as he spun to face her, ducking to avoid the deadly strike of her needle. Then Yashiko brought her knee up to his chest, taking the wind from him. The ninja doubled back and she lunged forward, driving her needle through his chest. He whined in pain, but then he looked at her with those unnerving, confident eyes. Then the ninja exploded into a flock of black ravens and disappeared in to the sky. Yashiko shivered in dismay, and then gasped as she felt a kunai blade slice across her exposed neck. “Falling for the same trick twice…I guess I was right about the young.” The Uchiha said from behind her, as Yashiko felt her life quickly slipping from her. She tried to open her mouth to curse him, but all she could do was let out a final gasp, and then her world went black. --- --- --- Hyouhaku] Two corpses lay on the ground, with two legendary swords stuck in the ground next to them. As the ANBU began to sweep the area and prepare for the next fight, another ninja descended from the rooftops and landed with a soft tap. The woman was dressed in a black poncho that covered her entire body, except for her platform-heeled sandals. Unlike the ninja around her she did not wear a mask. She had jet black hair styled in a short pixie cut. She wore a black eyepatch over her right eye, and heavy burn scars could be seen on the skin around it. Despite her grizzled appearance, the woman wore bright red lipstick, and had a distinct, black beauty mark on her cheek. “Taka.” She said with a calm but projected voice. The hawk-faced ANBU came to her without a word. “Report.” She said more quietly as he drew closer. The man relayed the information he had taken from Yashiko, and the woman nodded in understanding. “Trying to collapse the Uchiha and Hyūga in one fell swoop. Konoha’s two strongest clans…how does that make you feel, Taka?” “I…” The man hesitated. “...ROOT do not have feelings on such matters, Asuna sama.” “Correct.” Asuna replied, her eyes narrowing on her subordinate. “We do what is necessary to ensure Konoha’s survival.” She cast her eyes on her surroundings. “Needless to say, we haven’t been doing a very good job. That changed with this success, well done Taka.” “My team deserve all the credit.” Taka said with a slight bow. “Nonsense. Do not deprive yourself credit where it is due.” Asuna replied. She could see the tension in the young man’s posture, the nervous twitch in his eyes. He was such a terrible liar, at least to her. “Do not worry, Taka.” Asuna said finally, a wry smirk forming on her lips. “Kuma’s team is already en route to support the reserves. Your team is tasked with subverting the strike on the Hyūga stronghold, and ensure that no harm comes of our friends.” “The…Hyūga…do you think that’s wise?” Taka asked hesitantly, “Surely I sh-“ “Surely, considering your lineage, a favour from you to the Hyūga clan will go a long way, hm?” “Asuna sama…” Taka replied “Don’t worry, I’ll be ensuring the Uchiha clan are also taken care of.” Asuna said with another smirk. “I will deal with that personally.” This seemed to considerably relieve Taka’s tension. He nodded in agreement. “Thank you, Asuna sama!” He said gratefully. “Thank me by doing your job.” Asuna said, and she motioned for him to leave. He did so without question, and quickly began barking orders and rallying the other ANBU. In moments, they were gone without a trace, leaving behind Asuna, who looked off in the other direction. “Hmm…Kagutsuchi…not a slouch like the three we’ve already taken out, this should be interesting.” And then with a flicker, Asuna disappeared into the night. --- --- --- 13 years later [Kakashi’s Theme] “-and so Asuna defeated Kagutsuchi and he fled back to Kirigakure, along with 3 other members of the Seven Swordsmen. However three died that night at the hands of Konoha’s finest special ops ninja. The Uchiha clan and Hyūga clan were both rescued from their sneak attacks, but the struggle didn’t end there. Only through the debt they owed Asuna and her ROOT, and the surprise birth of a child born of both and Uchiha and a Hyūga, ultimately led to peace among the clans once more. Asuna led Konoha to victory and ended the Great Shinobi War, and that is how she became Hokage.” “Uhuh…” Came a rather bored reply. The teacher, a young man with spectacles and short blonde hair, looked defeated as he stared forlorn at his bored student. The young girl was as pale as a ghost, and had wild, ash white hair that was spiky and unruly, except where she had shaved it bear on the left side of her head. She had three black piercings in her exposed ear, and her bored-looking eyes were a striking blue, almost white. “Omitsune chan- “Her teacher went to say but she cut him off with an annoyed frown. “Omi!” She snapped, “It’s just Omi, got it? Omi. Not Omitsune. Not san, not chan, not kun. Just Omi.” “Er…right.” Her teacher said. “Look, were you listening to what I said. It didn’t look like you were?” “Yeah, kinda, I mean I’ve heard it before.” Omi shrugged, not looking at the teacher. “Everyone knows this story. How mom saved the village and became Hokage. Who gives a crap?” “I do, very much.” The teacher said. “Your mother has tried three tutors before me, and you’ve been expelled from the academy. If you don’t apply yourself how do you expect to get along in this world?” “I already told her to let me join ROOT.” Omi said defiantly. “Don’t need friends to be a top-secret assassin. No name, no identity, no nothing. The village would be happier without me anyway.” The teacher was silent for a moment, but he certainly made no attempt to argue with her. That was nothing new though, she’d already chased off two tutors, not to mention her entire class. She’d noticed that no adult every corrected her when she said that she wasn’t wanted. “Your mother is the Hokage, and she has tasked me with your continued education.” The teacher said, pushing his glasses up his nose. “I will not tolerate this kind of behavior from a child.” “Call her my mother again and I’ll jam this pencil up your nose.” Omi replied threateningly, picking up the pencil in front of her on the desk, and gesturing it at him as she cracked a grin and revealed a row pointed teeth. She watched as the teacher tensed up upon seeing her smile. “I-I..I will not be threatened, young lady.” The teacher snapped back, forcing some confidence back to himself, “If you give me any more back talk your mother-“ The chair scraped loudly against the floor as Omi came out of it like a bullet from a gun. The teacher’s screaming could be heard all the way down the hall. --- --- --- [Survival Examination] Omi sat in a chair in the Hokage’s office, her arms folded in resolute defiance, her chin pushed out and her face pulled to an incredibly exaggerated frown of annoyance. Gentle rings of wavy smoke drifted around the room. The placard on the desk read: Kiryuin Asuna – Hokage. The woman herself was sat behind the desk, quietly reading over some paperwork and smoking from a small pipe. Her was shoulder length and wild, with streaks of grey running through it. “Are you even going to talk to me?” Omi asked impatiently. Asuna looked up with her one good eye and gaze Omi a murderous glare. Omi returned it with childish petulance. Asuna’s eye twitched in annoyance. Clearly, she was a woman used to striking fear and respect from those around her. Not from her daughter, however. “There are no more tutors in Konoha who will have you.” Asuna said finally, and went back to going over her paperwork. “You’ve left me no choice…” “Finally…you’re going to send me to ROOT, like I’ve been asking?” Omi asked. “Hah!” Asuna seemed genuinely amused. “ROOT is a special branch of ANBU specifically for the most focused, loyal and dedicated ninja in Konoha. You are not fit to clean their boots, you insolent little brat.” “Tch! Who even gives a crap about all that stuff?” Omi scoffed, “Just ask my ex-tutor how good I am at inflicting pain.” “Jamming a pencil up some poindexter’s nose does not a shinobi make.” Asuna replied, although she was struggling to conceal her amusement. “You know…when Samanosuke became the first Hokage, his son was so dedicated to his father that he worked night and day to uphold the honor of his family name.” “What a loser…” Omi replied, rolling her eyes. “Yes…yes you are.” Asuna said, shaking her head. “Like I said you’ve left me no choice. I’m sending you in to the field.” “ANBU!?” Omi gasped excitedly, jumping out of her chair. “A supervised genin squad…” Asuna said, her eyes narrowing in disbelief. “Conditionally, I might add.” “Genin!?” Omi yelled, slumping back in to her chair. “I have to hang with the scrubs!?” “Newsflash, kid, you’re not even at the level of a scrub. You got expelled. I am seriously abusing my powers as Hokage on this one.” “Gee, what a swell parent you are.” Omi said sarcastically, rolling her eyes. “I wonder if my real mom would do that for me.” “Your real mom is dead, kid.” Asuna replied coldly. “And your dad. So, you’re stuck with me, and I’m stuck with you. Unless you screw this up, that is.” “What do you mean?” Omi asked, frowning. “You’ve got 1 more chance to make something of yourself.” Asuna said, puffing on her pipe. “Report to your Jounin leader tomorrow for a test. If you pass, you’re a genin. If you fail…then I’m disowning you. No more house, no more food, no more clothes.” “What!?” Omi snarled. “You can’t do that!” “Of course I can.” Asuna said with a smirk, “I’m not your mom, remember?”
  13. Project Guardian

    Heavy black boots thudded against the floor as the man approached. His boots were knee height, crafted from strong leather. He wore dark trousers and a sandy coloured cloak over his body that looked like an odd fusion of a kimono and a poncho, with a wide sleeve over his right arm. His left arm was bare, revealing lean muscle, and the man wore a strange black gauntlet, with long strands of metallic wire, and metal coverings over each of his fingers, slightly pointed to appear like claws. His skin was a light tan, and his hair was a greyish white, tied back in a high ponytail. His eyes were hidden behind a pair of thick, black goggles that seemed to extend out quite far from his face, and they quietly whirred and clicked as he approached. His right arm moved from under the wide sleeve and he held up a long-barrelled rifle with a scope. "Hm..." He said with a calm, contemplative voice, "Can you say 'hello world' for me?" "I have a gun, stay back!" Ai growled, pushing herself back along the floor. She dared not take her eyes off the stranger. She raised the gun back at the man a second time, threatening to shoot him though she knew the gun was empty. "Mine is bigger..." The man replied with a hint of a smirk, although his obscured eyes hid any true expression. He flexed the fingers of his left hand in odd, careful gestures as he watched her. More whirring and humming sounded from his goggles. "Mine is also charged..." He added although he didn't move to point the rifle at her, resting it on his shoulder instead, but his finger rested along the edge of where the trigger was. "C-Charged...?" Ai glanced at the gun in her hand and back at the stranger. Pursing her lips, she lowered the gun. Then, out of nowhere, she threw it at the man and ran into the back of the lab. There had to be something in here she could use against him. As she ran there was a click, followed by a humming noise, and then there was a sudden burst of green light that shot past her and crashed into a nearby shelf, the contents shattering violently and spraying across the room. “That was a warning shot.” The man called to her. “Next one goes through the back of your head unless you play nice…” Ai froze. Without turning back to face him, she called out, "What do you want?!" She asked as she scanned the room for something to use as a weapon. Anything. “Oh, lot’s of things.” The man replied. “What I came to get, however,…is not what I expected.” He paused in consideration, his hollow gaze watching her eerily. “Disappointing, I think…I don’t think I want you…or do I?” He shook his head slightly, “No, no, you’re much too old for her, don’t be a creep. Besides…she’s one of them” He spoke as if he was talking to someone else, but there was no one. “Would he go that far? That Nakamura…” "Touch me I'll kick you so hard you'll swallow your plums!" Ai whirled around, raising her fists as though she was going to fight him. Fist fight a guy with a rifle. Smart. The man’s eyebrows raised distinctly at her threat, and then he cocked his head slightly. He raised his left hand with the peculiar gauntlet, and swiped his fingers through the air a few times, followed by a series of rhythmic tapping motions, like someone playing frets on a guitar. “You…don’t know, do you?” He asked finally. "Know what? That message? Blue something?!" Ai held her fists up yet she wavered, she found herself trying to glance around the room, looking for something she'd missed while trying to keep her attention on the strange creep. The man seemed mildly taken aback by this, but he did not respond immediately. After a while he lowered his rifle to his side, and pulled the goggles up from his eyes, resting them on his forehead. His eyes were a dark brown, and still peered at her studiously, but his overall expression looked far less disturbing after the reveal. “You might want to take a look at yourself, I think.” He suggested. He looked around for a moment, and then gestured to his right, where there was a mess of broken glass shards on a table. "Eh?!" Careful of the man's deceit, Ai shuffled across the room and positioned herself so she could keep the man's body in view while she looked down at her reflection. She saw a face staring back at her. This woman's skin was flawless, free of any acne Ai had always struggled with, she didn't even have the little scar she'd gotten when Takashi accidentally hit her in the lip with a baseball he'd struck just moments before. Her lip had swollen right up, and she'd needed several stitches to sew it closed, but you could still see the scar. But now? Now it was gone. "I had a..." Ai traced her hand over her lip, then her gaze was drawn to her eyes. They were no longer the deep shade of brown she was accustomed to seeing. They were a bright blue, an immediately obvious and unnatural colour for her ancestry. "What...?" She leaned in, forgetting the presence of the stranger. As her confusion deepened with the studying of her face, she drew her lips back and gasped. Her teeth had never been perfect, but at least they were straight, flat and, well... human. The teeth she had now didn't resemble the teeth of a person at all. They looked like they would belong on a shark, or some horrible sci-fi monster. Each tooth was broad, pointed like a fang, and serrated, yet they locked together when she closed her mouth. Pursing her lips together to hide them, she glanced back up at the stranger. "What did you do to me?!" Ai barked, looking around the lab. "Where's my dad?!" “Dad…?” The man cocked his head slightly in confusion. Understanding washed over him in a moment, and he let out a heavy sigh. His gaze fell and he scratched the back of his head before rubbing at the back of his neck. “There is no easy way to say this…how bothersome.” He said finally, and he locked eyes with the scared girl. He stared at her without blinking, a seriousness about him. “The man you think is your father, Doctor Nakamura Satoshi; An unparalleled genius in the fields of biosynthetic chemistry, robotics, and cybernetics…” He paused, and gestured to the aged skeleton on the floor. “…It has been approximately 200 years since the Blue invaded Earth, I cannot imagine he lasted more than a decade after. I…am sorry for your loss.” "W-What?!" Ai stuttered, her eyes darting to the skeleton. She saw a name badge. It read, 'Dr. S Nakamura'. "T-that can't be... I was... I was just..." Ai looked back at the pod she had fallen out of, "W-why was I..." She trailed off, staring at the skeleton. The man turned his back to her, his expression torn between awkwardness and resigned frustration. He pinched the bridge of his nose, his eyes closed as he thought about his words carefully. “That pod is a testing chamber for running diagnostics and simulations. When I arrived the machine was set to run continuously until someone manually overrode it. That someone was me, just a few moments before you awoke.” He turned back to face her. “The world you think you know…it was a simulation. Time within simulations isn’t particularly relevant, you could have conceivably lived over a million lifetime cycles, each one different, each one shaping you. However…it appears as if Nakamura went the other way…he lengthened the cycle. It seems he wanted you to have a single, ordinary life…in the world that no longer exists.” "I-I can't..." Ai felt the need to cry, she knew she would, but being sat there, on the cold, dusty floor of the lab, she couldn't do as much as shed a single tear. So many questions ran rampant in her mind. So many emotions. She was terrified, and confused. In shock, disbelief and she wanted to lash out. Was her father really dead? Could she have been in a simulation? And why? This was her father's lab, would he have really put her in a simulation? What possible reason could he have to do something like that to her? If he was truly dead, would she ever have those answers? "I can't believe it..." Ai said finally. She shuffled across the floor on her hands and knees and slumped down beside the skeleton. She looked at his name badge again. A wave of disbelief washed over her, and she found herself checking over every inch of the skeleton. Anyone can put a name badge on a load of old bones. That's what she told herself. But then she saw it, hiding in his lab coat pocket. Ai reached out and pulled a long, half-smoked cigar. She didn't know the brand, but she recognized the smell immediately. He had a habit of starting them, then stamping them out, only to put them in his pocket for later. It used to drive her mother up the wall. So, this really was her dad. Did that mean... 200 years had passed? And one other thing stood out to her. "200 years... since..." Ai's face screwed up once more, she almost laughed, "Since what invaded?" “The Blue.” The man replied ominously. The name itself didn’t seem the type to strike terror into the hearts of men, but when he said it his tone carried a fearful respect. “Records of when they first struck are slim. It is believed they had surveilled our planet quite extensively on their long journey through dark space. They use organic matter as a sort of bio-fuel to sustain them, but all research suggests they are a technologically based life form, or some sort of bio-synthetic beyond our understanding. They are ruthless, powerful beings who do not hold a scrap of compassion towards humanity…” The man paused as a chirping noise sounded in the small device he had in his ear. He waited, counting the seconds. 5 seconds…10 seconds…15 seconds…18 seconds… Chirp-chirp. “…and they are coming here.” He said finally, through gritted teeth. "Well then we've got to get out of here!" Ai snapped, standing up. Even now, she found it difficult to believe. But as time passed, and she found herself better able to concentrate, it was difficult to argue with this man. The signs of wear and age on the room, the amount of dust on the consoles and floor, the fact that her father's remains were only a skeleton and not a corpse. Her father was dead... she still couldn't process that. But she could hear commotion from outside. "What do we do?!" She asked him, terrified at the idea that creatures from another world were going to tear through the door at any moment and eat them. “We have time, but only a little.” The man explained, as he pulled down his strange goggles again. He made his way over to the pod where Ai had came from and began examining it, feeling around for something. “It must be around here somewhere…” He said as he fumbled around the back of the machine. “Online servers would have been destroyed by this point, surely. Nakamura would have a local drive…where is it!?” He thumped the machine with his fist in frustration. “All that data…we can’t leave it behind for the Blue. 200 years of simulations…on Nakamura’s secret weapon. But where…where would he store the-“ He cut himself off. He whirled around to face Ai and stared at her, before finally sighing. “It can’t be helped.” He said with a resigned sigh. He reached for the clips on the shoulder of his cloak and unclipped them. Then he flung the cloak from himself with a flourish, and it whirled through the air like a phantom and wrapped itself around Ai’ body, covering her almost naked form. From underneath the cloak, 5 small, black orbs surfaced and moved through the air, back towards their master, spinning around his head before attaching themselves to the strap fastened across his chest. There was a space for one more orb, but it was nowhere to be seen. “Nakamura kun, my name is Kyounosuke Masahiro, but everyone calls me Kyouma!” He declared with a sudden pep and authority to his tone. “I am the mad scientist who walks the lonely path of genius! You are the unwitting secret weapon of the Doctor Nakamura, the last hope of standing up against The Blue! Begrudgingly…I accept responsibility. I will be your foster parent!” "You're a mental case..." Ai muttered. A terrible crash came from somewhere outside. It shook the entire room, as though something enormous was tearing through the walls themselves. "What's happening?!" Ai yelled over the terrible screeching as metal beams and blocks of stone were thrown aside as though they weighed nothing. “Stay close to me!” Kyouma ordered as he gripped his rifle and made for the door of the laboratory. He swung the door open and ascended up the stairs which opened out on to a mess of rubble and metal scrap. He gestured for Ai to follow as he navigated through the tight crawl space he had clearly found his way in from. All the while distant sounds of crunching steel screeched through the air. The ground shook as rubble fell, old ventilation pipes hissed as they expelled gas. It appeared as if they were in a vast, dark warehouse full of wreckage. However, as they moved out into the clearer sections there was a slight breeze. Shifts in the darkness revealed tiny rays of moonlight in the polluted smog that blanketed the sky. Kyouma ducked down behind a large shattered wall and pressed his back against it. He put his finger to his mouth, ordering silence, and he waited. Something writhed in the darkness. Heavy crunching sounded so close by, and so suddenly that Kyouma’s breath caught in surprise. An eerie, alien noise echoed through the night. The repetitive clicking noise sounded like it came from something synthetic, but it’s musical tones gave it an almost organic quality, almost like birdsong. Carefully, Kyouma’s fingers moved with their characteristic gestures. One of the black orbs on his belt detached silently and flew off into the night. The motion caught the attention of the creature nearby, and it rounded on them. Something scraped along the wall above their heads, and the stone began to crumble. A bassy thumping beat reverberated in the distance. Whatever it was caught the attention of the creature, and it stalked off in the direction of the noise, crashing through rubble and debris without a care. Judging by the noise, the creature was large and powerful. Kyouma let his breath finally sigh out. He stepped out from behind the wall and looked around carefully. “We should move while the coast is clear.” He whispered, and he turned and gave Ai a reassuring nod. Meanwhile a dark, metallic, tendril coiled around his leg and suddenly dragged him off into the air, disappearing into the dark fog, and the sound of tearing and rending followed.
  14. Project Guardian

    OOC: Private RP, gave it an 'NC-17' for violence, gore and dark themes. Project Guardian Breakfast was always a rushed affair in the Nakamura household. Ai always woke up late, so her father, Satoshi, always had to pick up her slack. Today was no different. She woke with a start, after realising she'd reset her alarm more than a dozen times. It was 8:43am and she had less than 20 minutes to get to school on time. She heard the pop of the toaster ejecting delicious, crispy toast as she fumbled down the stairs, trying to slip-on her other shoe. "You're late!" Her father growled, but he smiled against his temper as she darted past him, kissing him on the cheek as she grabbed a slice of toast. His toast. He rolled his eyes and tried to grab the second slice, but she snatched it from the toaster as she was swallowing down the last piece of the first slice. "OI!!" He made a sour face. "I'm late!" She rationalised, and he found himself unable to argue. She grinned and grabbed her backpack. "I'm working late tonight, so--" "--'kay, bye!!" Ai waved goodbye to her father as she rushed out the front door and immediately collided with a young boy who crumpled to the ground as though hit by a truck. "Ah, geez!" The short brown-haired boy stared up at the raven-haired girl and scowled, "Ai, you could be a little more careful!" "Sorry." She helped the boy to his feet, grinning at him. It took him a moment, but he returned the grin himself. "Come on, we're going to be late, Takashi!" "I wouldn't be late if you didn't run into me every morning, i'm gonna start walking down a different street." He grumbled, shoving his hands into his pockets. Ai grabbed his arm, pulling his hand out and started to run, "Come on!" She yelled, as they sped up and Takashi was virtually pulled along the street. Ai sat on a park bench. School had been a pain. Yes, she was late. It didn't help that the school had an outdated punishment system thanks to the old-school headmaster. Both Takashi and herself spent two hours stood in front of the main gate, holding a bucket of water in each hand, with the sign, 'I am a truant' around their necks. She stretched her shoulders and relaxed them as best she could. "I can't believe we were out there for so long, d'you think they forgot us?" Ai asked, brushing her scruffy hair out of her dark brown eyes. "Takashi?" She looked over, expecting to see her friend. But he wasn't there. She looked around for a moment, but realised he must have gone for snacks or something. Ai got up from the bench and walked over to sit in the shade of a nearby tree. She blinked, and for a moment, she saw a boy standing on the other side of the school fence, staring at her. Then he was gone, just as quickly. Ai frowned, but before the thought could permeate, she saw a can of drink appear in her periphery and she looked over to see Takashi standing there, waiting. "Did you hear me?" He asked, sighing, "Come on, i'm waiting!" She took the can of iced green tea, thanking him as he sat down beside her. "There, that's better." Takashi sighed, enjoying the relief from the hot summer's afternoon sun. "Did you see a boy over there?" Ai asked. "A boy with white hair?" "White hair?" Takashi repeated her question in disbelief, "What a poser... where?" "Right over there." She pointed at the fence. "Well... he's gone now!" Takashi took a sip of his drink. "Well, anyway, I--" "Hmm?" Ai looked over, but her friend was gone. Ai stood bolt upright and looked around, "Takashi?!" She called out, there was no response. She walked around the diameter of the tree, assuming he was hiding from her, but he was nowhere to be seen. He was just... gone. "Like the boy with the white hair..." She muttered. There was a flash of red light. Ai stumbled as she hit the last step on her staircase, "Hey!!" She yelped, and fell forwards, grabbing onto the railing to stop herself from falling flat on her face. She collapsed in a heap and looked around. What just happened? Had she been talking to someone? She remained seated on the step for a few minutes until her father came running past, a piece of toast hanging from his lips. "Come on, Ai! It's 8:45am, you're going to be late!" Her father marched past her, "I'll see you later, okay? I'm going to be working late tonight, so--" "--kay... bye..." Ai muttered, watching as her father ran out the door, closing it behind him. She heard a distant voice, "Morning Takashi!" "Oh!!" Ai exclaimed. She leapt to her feet and ran for the front door, forgetting her backpack entirely. She grabbed the door handle, twisted it open and stepped out into-- Another flash of red light. Ai felt something strange between her toes. She looked down, and saw she was stood in sand. She was on a beach. She recognised it immediately. It was the beach near Okinawa that her father had taken her many times before. They went scuba-diving here. But wasn't she in her house a moment ago? And it was morning, but now the sun was... Ai looked up, shielding her eyes from the full force of the sun. But the sun wasn't a brilliant white-yellow. It was red. Red light thrummed in front of her eyes. She blinked. Something wasn't right. Where was she? She felt something cold touching her skin. She felt cold. She felt like she was standing, but at an angle, as if she was going to be poured out of something. Where was she? She found herself asking again. Ai tried to open her eyes and focus, but it was difficult. A brilliant red light grew in intensity, and quickly dimmed every few seconds. She tried to focus past the light in front of her, and saw that the world ahead of her was distorted, as if by glass. She saw computer monitors, tech equipment, a number of desks with various lab tools scattered around. It almost looked like... Yes. She was in her father's lab. But she was never allowed in her father's lab. Not since she was a little girl and she wandered in from the main lobby, ignoring his instruction to remain in the lobby. She had to get out. If he found her here, she'd be in trouble. That was why she was having weird thoughts about the beach and getting ready, she must have come in, gotten curious about something bubbling away, taken a whiff and passed out. There was no telling what was in here, she thought to herself. She reached out and pressed her palm against the glass. A distant voice belonging to a woman Ai didn't recognise echoed in the coldness of the lab. "Structural integrity is at 11%. Simulation disengaged. Bay door opening. Play Dr. Nakamura message #06." "Hello Ai, I expect you have questions, and I will answer all of them shortly..." Ai felt pressure on her back as she stepped forwards, but the pressure was relieved as she stepped onto the cold lab floor. She took a few deep breaths and coughed, her lungs felt raw. She looked down at herself and realised she was naked. For a moment, panic spread through her, then she realised, she wasn't naked, she was wearing some kind of flesh coloured body suit. Like the kind some Olympic athletes wear. It was stupid. She wanted rid of it, but until she could find her own clothes, she was stuck with it. "...Ai, if I succeeded in imparting to you all my hopes and dreams..." Looking up, Ai searched for the sound of her father's voice, quickly realising it was coming from the speakers in the corners of the room. Everything was so confusing, she found herself stood in silence, listening to her father's message. At first, it seemed like he'd left her a voice message no different from those he often left on their home phone, telling her he wouldn't be home in time for dinner. It sounded dire, because he was going to disappoint her. Again. But no, this was different. "... don't know what they are. We call them the 'Blue'. Life from another galaxy, but not what we were expecting, to say the least. They are voracious. They feed on organic life. In essence... us. I think we are their ultimate goal. I don't know how far they travelled to get here, but it must have taken thousands of years. There was probably a lot more of them when they set off, but they cannibalised themselves until they arrived on Earth, and began repopulating as they consumed the human population--" "What?!" Ai gasped in disbelief. What the hell was he talking about?! "--haven't done enough. I tried to create the perfect defence against the Blue, but it's failed. I've failed... they're coming..." Ai heard a rumbling in the message, then it cut short and was replaced by the woman's voice over the speakers a second time. "Play Dr. Nakamura message #07." "They're coming!" A terrible screech as metal was being wrenched. Ai clutched at her ears, and relaxed as the noise waned. "I've no time, i'm setting the tests to run automatically, dammit why are they always so prompt!" She heard a muffled laugh that warped into a cough, "No time. No time! Come on, hurry up!" She heard the woman's voice again, but this time, it was a part of the message. "Download at 68%..." Terrible, wrenching, screeching noises. "NO, YOU CAN'T HAVE HER!!" Ai recoiled at the sound of her father screaming at the top of his lungs, and then suddenly he was cut short. She heard crunching, and the sound of water dripping, and then heavy footsteps. Finally, silence. Ai was so engrossed with the message, staring at the speaker in one corner, that she hadn't taken any notice of her surroundings. "Message ends." The voice cut the clip off, and there was silence once more. Ai turned and looked back at where she'd stepped out of, it was some kind of escape pod. Long, thick black cables fell in loose bundles, tipped with metal spears that looked like they were made to go in something. Then she felt something. She didn't know how she knew. But she knew she wasn't alone. She found herself focusing on that sensation, and it was then she heard the faintest sound of breathing. Whirling around, Ai saw a figure cloaked in shadow at the far end of the room. Screaming, Ai leapt back. Then suddenly, she was falling. She'd tripped over something. She collapsed to the ground and saw she'd tripped over a small pile of bones. A skull stared back at her, and she screamed again. Then her eyes focused on something else. She saw a gun. Instinctively she reached for it, grabbed it, pointed the weapon at the man, and pulled the trigger multiple times. Nothing happened. She heard a faint whirr as the gun attempted to fire and failed, then a tinny voice called out from the gun. "Cells: Empty." Completely defenceless, Ai looked back at the intruder, and waited in shocked silence.
  15. The future is ours.. isn't it?

    ((sorry for keeping you waiting ive been so busyyyyyyyy)) Logan was in the middle of processing the last of some paperwork for the night when he heard his cellphone vibrate on the corner of his desk. He was tired and already a little out-of-it, but he was even more confused to hear his phone ring so late and on a weekend as well. He picked it up, not recognizing the number on the screen, and answered hesitantly. "Hello, Logan Austin's office," He said, the line automatic even when he wasn't answeing phone calls from complete strangers. He heard some noise on the other end of the phone and then a gruff, thick, but clear voice speak from the other end. "Yeah, hi. My name's Otto Lombardi. I don't know if this is a service you cover or whatever but your name came up on a search for local private investigators. Do you do missing persons searches?" Otto was straight to the point, so much so that it caught Logan off gaurd. "I, uh... Hold on a minute, you caught me in the middle of something here," Logan grumbled. He had to take a moment to put aside some files he had been sorting and then pull out some fresh sheets to jot down information from this potential new client on the line. While he did this, he asked, "Did you already contact the police?" "Yeah, we did," Otto responded, "They said they wouldn't conduct a search unless the person has been missing for 48 hours." Logan nodded at this, but needed more information. "I take it the person in question hasn't been missing that long. Tell me. Do you have reasonable suspicion that there's been some... Ill-intent on this individual? And I take it you've attempted contact with this person to find their location?" "Yes, yes," Were Otto's replies. "He's not anywhere that he would usually... Or UNusually be. He's not answering his cellphone, either. I dunno about ill-intent or whatever, but it's really unusual for this kid to just up and disappear without saying a word to anyone about his whereabouts." Blank sheets finally in front of him, Logan was finally organized to take down some proper info. "Tell me more about the missing person, if you would." He requested, pen-tip readied on the paper in front of him. "Name, age, description..." As he trailed off, he heard some scuffling on the other end of the line and then another voice with--what he presumed was--an english accent began talking. "His name's Steal. Er, Stephen, actually. Stephen Masters," "How old is he?" "He'll be turning 21 in another month. Uh, 20, sorry mate. I mean, he's 20. He's about 170 centimenters tall, maybe a bit bigger--" "You'll have to give me that in 'American' measurements, sir," Logan interrupted, too tired to do the math himself. "Ah, right. Uh, I suppose that's five... foot... Seven? Oi, get the bloody calculator out of me face," Yusai grunted. He cleared his throat and continued, "Sorry. Yeah, he's 5'7, probably no more than fifty-eight kilos wet--ah, that's 130 pounds--has short, silver hair, real vibrant blue eyes, and he's got two red moles on the back of his neck that look like a vampire bit 'im." Logan finished jotting down these details (and was a little surprised at how in-depth the description was), feeling a strange sense of deja-vu as he looked over some of the descriptors of this person. A young man with silver hair, huh? Stephen Masters... Something about the name seemed familiar, too. "All right. Can you tell me a little bit about the circumstances surrounding his disappearance?" Logan asked, skimming his wrist down to another portion of the page. "When did you notice his absence?" There was a pause on the other end, and the sound of thinking through the mouth. Yusai then hesitently explained that Steal must've disappeared just after his show, which was at 9. "Okay," Logan went on, "Did he seem agitated before his disappearance? Did you notice any change in his mood tonight, or prior to?” He heard some long, drawn-out “umms” and “uhhhs”. To clear the obvious confusion he was hearing, Logan continued, “I just want to rule out any possibility of suicide. It’ll rule out some well-known spots for the initial investigation.” Yusai paused on this question, trying to remember Steal’s mood that night. He had been sullen, withdrawn, and quiet up until his show. He sang a very meloncholy song that had even made his own heart sink. Steal was prone to down moods, and if he was making an honest observation, he couldn’t say that Steal was someone he ever considered “bubbly” or “energetic”. And, Yusai remembered Steals suicidal tendencies when he had initially taken him in... But was Steal still that person? He’d like to think that he wasn’t. He couldn’t say for certain. “A... A little, I ‘spose. He um... He’s been a little down lately,” Yusai admitted, his voice becoming low and soft. There were some sounds of more scribbling and then a faint “tap” as Logan finished the last of his notes and set down his pen. He had the pertinent inormation he needed for now. And even though it was late, and it was a weekend, his time was money and he figured if he was going to be up anyway, he may as well do some work. “I’ll come down to investigate the premises tonight. Keep everything in tact, I’ll be down shortly.” Logan instructed, and with that, he was already slipping on his coat and fishing for his keys in his pocket. ** “Allan, that’s enough, for Godssake. You know he bruises ike a peach,” Was the only plea to Steal’s father that his mother made in the boys defense. Her tone was not one that suggested pity, at least not outwardly, but more fatigued and annoyed “Besides, he’s already had a bloody nose and... God, do you see the scar on his head?” Allan looked down at his son, who was on the floor on all fours with his head lowered. He had taken Steal by the collar and given him a firm jostle before pushing him aside in frustration. All the past grievances and irritations with his son had come to surface when he laid eyes on him again, and unable—unwilling—to control his anger, Allan lashed out quickly and fiercely. As was his way. “Get up,” Allan commanded, ignoring his wife’s interjection. “From what I’ve had to hear from outside sources, you’ve spent enough times on your knees. Get up.” Steal feebly made an effort to get up on his feet, but the effort wasn’t fast enough, wasn’t good enough, for Allan. With a hissing intake of breath, the man bent down and grabbed Steal by a tuft of hair from the crown of his head and pulled upwards. Steal wailed and shot upright immeadiately but clumsily. Alan took a moment to examine his son’s expression, his demeanour, and it was not with eyes of compassion he laid on his child, but one of utter contempt. God, what a pitiful creature he was. “Do you have any idea what sort of reputation you’re giving me?” Allan asked in a low tone, his eyes hardening. “The sorts of things your mother and I have to listen to from those snakes on Wall Street? Do you have any CLUE?” He had his hands around the collar of Steal’s robe again, holding the boys gaze. “No... Of course you don’t. You’re oblivious. You’re selfish. It’s never mattered to you how your mother and I stay afload in this economy so long as you were out and about, gallavanting around with your low-life friends.... Leaving us to clean up after you. Leaving ME with a tainted name—a potentially tainted business—because YOU can’t keep it together!” Here he shook Steal violently until he was sick of holding him, and then let him go, not giving a care as his son tumbled on his ass to the ground. “Laura, call our damned valet and have him come pick us up as soon as possible. We’re going home tonight and putting this child in lock-up until he developes some sense.”
  16. The future is ours.. isn't it?

    Steal was so woozy, he wasn't all that sure what was happening. He knew he was being taken somewhere. The guy that had been saying he was only looking for his missing cat was now taking him somewhere. When they stopped he felt like he was still moving for a while. It was as if the car was still forcing him into motion even though he was being pulled out of it. "Wh...?" he stammered a bit and felt like he was about to be sick. Finally he found his feet and blinked owlishly around. It was still a time before he realized just where he was. He noticed then who was with him. His mother, no wonder he was there, this was the kind of thing she would plan for, to take him away from any hope of happiness. Neither of his parents wanted him as anything more than a trophy. Sit, shut up, and let others see you. Nothing more nothing less. He let her drag him into the hotel, walking like a zombie. She didn't even need to physically pull him, he just followed like a lost puppy. Well, he had planned to head there on his own, now that he was here though, he regretted everything. His happiness would be gone forever. Steal walked into the suite and looked at the food on the trade and the glasses that had been set out. The thought of anything made him feel physically ill. He groaned and headed into the bathroom, not really listening to what she had to say. He didn't want to throw away his clothing, he didn't want to loose anything. Closing the bathroom door, he sat down on the toilet and closed his eyes, fighting back a series of sobs. He didn't want to do any of this but it was too late. Stowing away his clothing under the sink to perhaps be found by someone. Finally he stepped out of the room and walked into the main suite sitting down politely but with little expression on his face. Rather than seeming to mind though his mother was actually happier this way. To her he was being the way he should. Dressed in a preppy suit, hair brushed nicely. "Your hair.. it is butchered. The long hair showed your breeding." Soon enough he would be seeing his father though, and then the punishment would start. *** They had looked all over the building for some sign of what had happened to lose Steal and it was only when one of Otto's staff went out for a smoke break that the bracelet was found. He ran inside with it and took it right to Otto. The bracelet was engraved on the back with a notation that it was from Yusai for Steal's 20th. "Shit..." Otto paled a bit and ran over to Yusai with the bracelet. The meaning behind it being there was obvious. There was no way Steal would have left it willingly. He had been taken somewhere against his will. Calling the cops and telling them he had been taken wasn't going to work. They had to figure out where he was now. "Yusai, I am so sorry..." Otto rubbed his hands over his eyes and closed them tight. "Shit... what are we going to do now?" *** Steal watched with a fairly bland look on his face as his father finally walked into the room. The man walked over and grabbed him by the face lifting him that way to his feet. He glared at the young man. "Seems we didn't treat you good enough? You were not getting everything you could want? Well, you have a lot to learn." He dropped Steal back down, watching as his son folded his hands and silently sat in place. Sneering he walked back across the room. "Living with a strange man, going to bars every day.. bringing shame on our family, this is not how we taught you." The elder man paced back and forth. "We will be taking you home and you will start going through training again. I will not have you being like this. We are going to set you up in a different room and start you back into proper behaviour." The words could only mean one thing to him. He would be beaten mercilessly for a while until he repented for all he had done. Still deep inside he would hold onto what and who he was. Maybe some day he would see his friends again. Why had he ever wanted to go back with these people. Oh, for Yusai, this was all for Yusai. ((so sorry.. TnT))
  17. The future is ours.. isn't it?

    Yusai had tried several times in vain to get through to Steal on the phone. There was no answer and he was beginning to worry tremendously. It was unusual for Steal to be -this- avoidant, even when he was in an uncommunicative mood. He wasn't one to make others worry unnecessarily. Otto had suggested that they call the cops, and Yusai responded automatically without so much as a second thought. Lance sat at the bar counter, fidgeting with a shotglass while he listened to Yusai's stilted conversation with the NYPD. He was worried as well, maybe moreso than he had right to be. A small part of him was blaming himself for Steals disappearance, thinking that maybe Steal had run off to avoid him for the rest of the night. He knew that wasn't likely the case, but still, he couldn't help the thought. His other thought was that maybe Steal had been the subject of some blind violence, knowing all-too-well that bigotry--homophobia--wasn't dead in the city, and Lance paled at the idea that Steal could be out there somewhere, bloodied, bruised, or dead. Yusai hung up the phone, a grimmace plastered across his brow and mouth. Otto, arms crossed over his chest tight, asked what the result of the conversation was. "Fuckin' bloody useless, is what they are," Yusai stated, jamming his phone into his pocket. "They won't do a search until he's been missing for at least 48 hours." "That's -insane-!" Otto cried, sharing Yusai's disdain for the law enforcements inepetude, as well as his worry. "He could be anywhere by then... Vermont, Philedelphia... A fuckin' back-alley somewhere half-dead--" "I know that!" Yusai snapped. "There's not a damn thing they'll do about it!" "Well fuck it, then, we'll do something about it. Give me your phone, mine get's shitty reception in here." Otto replied, holding out his hand. Yusai asked him what for, but fished out his phone and handed it to his friend who had yet to answer his question. "I'm going to call a detective or something. Find someone who will go out looking for him ASAP." ** Ian had pulled into the hotel parking lot that his client had specified she would be waiting at. He parked, and he heard Steal make a small, wavering sound somewhere between a whine and a groan. He had made some weak effort to move, open his door, perhaps escape, but the effects of the fumes still had their grip on him and made those efforts futile. Besides, Ian had the doors locked. Ian reached over to the glove box and yanked it open. Some papers inside that had been folded in half unfurreled and fell into Steal's lap. He wisked them up and put the small stack in front of him against the steering wheel, turned the corners of the pages over in his fingers, just barely pulling the papers apart, his eyes skimming over the text on each page. He mumbled some of the words he read half-heartedly, stopping suddenly and saying aloud, "Here we go," and pulling the particular sheet up and placing it on top of the stack. He folded the papers over again and held them tight in his left hand. "All right kid, let's get a move on." Ian said while he pulled the keys from the ignition and unbuckled himself. He opened the driver door and stepped out, circled around the front of his car, opened the passenger door, and looked down at the boy still lolling in his seat. “Can you stand? You better.” He watched Steal struggle to even place his feet on the ground evenly. He sat up and wasn’t able to catch the weight of his movement in time, and ended up thrusting himself face-first into the dashboard, which elicited a groan. When he turned his face to Ian, he saw that his nose was bleeding. Whatever, as long as the rest of Steal was in tact, Ian didn’t care; He had to deliver this kid one way or the other. He sighed, bent over, and reached inside the car for Steal, placing his hands under his armpits. With some struggling, Ian was able to pull Steal upright and lift him out of the seat so he could stand, very wobbly and weak of course. From here, he took one of Steals arms and threw it over his own shoulder to brace him as they walked, the younger man staggering to keep up with Ian’s pace. It took a while, but they eventually made it through the hotel entryway and Ian could already see the silhuette of his clients hair—Steal’s mother—sitting in the lobby, waiting. He called out to her, and she turned to look, her pale blue eyes falling on the sight of her son immediately. “Good God, just look at you,” She said, standing, the tail of her gray-blue cardigan flowing down around her legs. “Just what the hell have you been up to? I’ve been waiting for hours.” “It’s a long story,” Ian replied, still struggling to hold Steal upright. “Anyway, here’s your kid, as promised. I’ll just need your hancock on this paper here, and I’ll be on my way... Also as promised.” He fumbled his hand that was still holding the wad of papers, that had been wrapped around Steal’s waist, and held the papers out to the woman who plucked them quickly and delicately from his grasp. She turned away from them briefly and tucked her hand into the pocket of her beige, wide-leg pants, pulling out a pen, and then going to work signing whatever documentation it was Ian had handed her. As quickly as she had finished, she turned back to them, not even looking at Ian as she handed him back his documents, her silence and judging eyes upon her son being all the instruction Ian needed to get lost. And so, leaning Steal against the back of the sofa in the lounge, Ian turned heel and left. The quiet in the lobby would have been unbearable if it wasn’t for the low hum of a nearby ice machine to act as a small distraction. Though there was no way to tell how Steal was processing the events of the night, his mother certainly had her own thoughts. “Well, you certainly look dreadful. I’ll hope that bloody nose was on account of the dry air, and not because you’ve been up to some incideous activity like snorting coke with your lecherous friends.” Her eyes were half-lidded but focusing here and there on her son, zig-zagging between all the details she cared to absorb. The bloody nose. His short hair. The eye-liner. His—well, his dress was fairly reasonable, if not slightly flamboyant for her tastes. His sluggish demeanour. She processed these things and seemed to be calculating the next thing to say, the next thing she could say to strike some kind of sense into her child, whom she had nothing but intense disappointment for. Still, she was his mother, and in flat tone she asked if he had eaten. “I have dinner ready in our room. You’ll get cleaned up before we eat. And I won’t hear any complaining about the dinner choice, it’s all you’ll be having until we get home tomorrow morning.” With one more judging glare, she turned away from her son and began walking down the hallway to their room. She didn’t have to turn to reassure that her son was following closely behind her. Years of conditioning him in his youth still seemed to have a level of control over him. He knew better than to disobey her, even if she never rose a finger to strike him like his father did. She stopped outside her hotel room and opened the door, holding it open for her son to enter, and she watched him like a hawk as he stumbled inside, her disapproval all too palpable when she entered herself and closed the door behind her. “The bath is in the ensuite. There’s some pajamas and a robe for you to change into. Throw what you’re wearing into the bin—you won’t be seeing your father looking like that.” She said, making herself comfortable on a lounge chair in the living room. There was a table just next to her seat with a bucket filled with ice, a bottle of wine, a corksckrew, and three up-turned wine glasses placed on a gilded tray; she reached over and pulled the bottle out, picked up the corkscrew, and was fast at work uncorking the wine bottle and pouring herself a glass in one of the empty cups while her son trudged to the bathroom to shower.
  18. The future is ours.. isn't it?

    Steal was feeling nauseated. The fumes of the chloroform had not hit him well. When he realized who it was that he was with, he was so confused. He wanted me to help him find his cat... why? Then the other words slowly sank in. My mom. He groaned audibly, not at all sure what this was really all about, he just knew that he wanted to get the heck out of here and back where he should be. The phone was ringing in his pocket and he watched as Ian frisked himself then reached over to try and get the phone from him. He didn't want to give the phone back, that was a clear mistake but then again he didn't really want to be roughed up either. Wait, being roughed up was what was coming to him anyway. Why wait for it? "No..." He said softly, "I will not give the phone to you. There is no reason." Ian gave him a look that clearly said that there is a reason. "Give it over." "No!" Steal said, shaking his head, only to feel as the car pulled over and Ian undid his seat belt, reaching over and grabbing Steal by the neck. "I said that no one cared about the condition you were in." The phone was grabbed from Steal's pocket, and he was half slammed onto the door. "Keep it up and you will not like it." Steal cringed and bowed his head, watching as the phone was turned off and the sim was yanked from it before he pulled back onto the road. ~~~ Lance was terrified, why the heck was Steal missing? His band had finally found out and they too were worried. This was not normal for Steal, who liked to be there to help clean up. Now that he wasn't able to be reached on his phone, they were picking up in panic. There was only one more thing they could do, and they did it. "Call the cops." Lance sat at the bar chewing his lip, it was clear that Yusai was getting worked up. There is only one possible thing that happened, or rather two and both were terrifying. He was taken or he was killed. He started pacing around, who would have done that and why? No one was telling him anything. Otto had clamped up, Yusai was brooding and had cleared the bar out of anyone not needed. The band were doing something close to recon, walking around the bar to see if there was any clues, or rather they had planned to before realizing they may ruin some of the evidence. Was there any? ((this post so sucks... I suck...))
  19. The future is ours.. isn't it?

    It had only been 10 or so minutes since Steal's performance had ended, and he was no where to be seen afterwards. Lance had been the first to go looking for him so he could gush and compliment his moving performance. He approached his band-mates as they were breaking down their set and asked where Steal was. They exchanged glances, quick conversations, and answered simply, "We dunno." Although one of them assured Lance that he was likely outside getting some fresh air or something, and if he wanted to talk to him privately, he should go check. So, Lance went outside and looked around. There was no sign of Steal out in front of the building, but maybe he had left from one of the side-entryways that lead to the adjacent alleyway. He turned the corner and checked there. Nothing. Well, he supposed he'd check the next logical place... The mens bathroom. Lance slipped back inside and hustled to the lavatory only to see a few tipsy men emptying their bladders at the urinals. There was no apparent trace of Steal here, either. Lance was beginning to feel unsettled, but not wanting to give into panic just yet, he figured there was at least one more place he could check, or one last person he could ask: His roommate. Exiting the bathroom, Lance went and approached the bar and called for Yusai's attention. Yusai was slow to notice Lance at first. His mind was in a whole different place right now--even moreso since Steals performance, which had put him in a strange, morose mood--When he did notice Lance, he regarded him very cooly, asking what he wanted. "Hey, have you seen Steal?" Lance asked. "His band doesn't know where he went, he's not outside, and he's not in the bathrooms... I was wondering if maybe he was hanging out in like, the employee lounge or something." Yusai's curiosity was piqued. Did Steal shove off somewhere after his performance without even telling anybody? It would be unlike him if he did, and Lance's suggestion--though unlikely, as Steal rarely liked to hang out in the dingy back room--had some merit if he couldn't be found elsewhere. Yusai promptly finished up an order and told Lance to wait a minute while he went out back and checked for Steal. He was there and back shortly, having found no trace of Steal in the lounge. Yusai looked over the heads of customers and employee's for any trace of that unmistakable, un-missable hair, and saw nothing. "You said you checked outside for him, ay?" Yusai asked, a pit starting to form in his stomach. Lance nodded, a troubled expression starting to form on his face as well. "Checked out front and in the alley. He wasn't there. His bandmates don't know where he went, either." Wordlessly, Yusai pulled out his cellphone and tapped through his contacts until he found Steal. Without hesitation, he began dialing his number, listening to the endless ringing. --- Ian was ashing out his cigarette in his car console when he noticed Steal starting to come-to. The agent he had used to knock him out didn't last long, but that was all right: As long as he had the kid in tow, it didn't matter if he was conscious or not. He turned his attention back to the road. "Sorry there, kiddo. I couldn't do this any other way," he half-heartedly apologized. "You and your buddies didn't make it easy on me." Steal was soupily looking around, piecing together his surroundings, seeming to try and make sense of the world around him. He asked where he was and what was going on. Ian took a deep breath and held it for a minute. "Well," He began, exhaling, "I guess it doesn't matter if you know, since you're about to find out anyway, but your mother wants you back home and asked me to go and get ya. Any means necessary, and all that. Don't know why, so I don't have an answerfor you there." Ian could hear Steal sink into the passanger seat and make a low sound like a groan. He wasn't sure if it was in response to the information he had just divulged or if the fumes he had used to temporarily knock Steal out were having an affect. Either way, he didn't much care and continued driving. It would only be another hour before he arrived at the hotel his client was at, Steal in tow. But then there was an interruption in the otherwise silent car ride. Ian heard a ringing and instinctively fished his own phone from his jacket breast pocket. He gave it a quick glance. There was no indication of an incoming call, so that meant... Shit. He had forgotten to frisk Steal's phone off him before chucking him in the car. He shoved his phone back into his pocket and blindly reached across the seat, patting around on Steal's body to feel for his pockets. "Do things the easy way and hand over your phone." Ian said sternly, although the impact was a little lost as his focus was clearly torn between the busy, chaotic road in front of him and trying to coerce Steal into complying with him. "I don't want to have to do things the hard way. I'm not getting paid nearly enough for that..."
  20. What's up?

  21. What's up?

  22. Poke.

    There are a few of us still alive; we even post now and again as well.
  23. Poke.

    Is anyone still alive? I miss this place.
  24. The future is ours.. isn't it?

    Steal had found himself so busy lately. He and Lance had been hanging out, and Steal was trying to find the other man a boyfriend, someone to relax him a bit. He had done all he could to make it clear that he had someone he liked and was trying to keep it open and available. He made sure that didn't cramp their time though but what it did do, was distance him from the growing tension of Yusai. The other man seemed off lately. Like he had been tense and now he was just distant. Steal sighed and settled down in a chair in the garage studio of his reformed band. They were happy to be jamming together again. When they finally went on break, Steal sat down outside and closed his eyes. Even while playing music and singing his mind was plagued with thoughts. He had been spending so much time with Lance, and he had been kind of hiding from Yusai. With a shake of his head to toss the thoughts away he looked up, just as one of his band mates, Joel came out with his wife. "Hey you two." He waved one hand at them as they sat down on either side of him. "You are pretending hun." Kim said patting his shoulder a little. "We can all see something is still eating you. It doesn't hurt your singing but it does make us hurt a bit. Is there something we can help with?" Steal shook his head and sighed, rubbing one hand over his eyes, his glove worn and soft feeling like a comfort to him. "No, nothing that anyone can help with. I just have to keep moving forward. The gig is tomorrow anyway." Joel nodded and glanced at his wife, both knowing that there really was no way to pull Steal out of the funk he was in. "Gotcha. Well the bar is sold out for the night. It will be a big one." The younger man nodded and looked down at his phone seeing that Otto had called. He frowned and waved one hand. "We are pretty much set, the new song I plan to cover sounds amazing so.. I think I will scoot for the night." He looked again at the screen of his phone and tapped out a message. What do you mean he is in a bad mood? Something wrong? Steal had no way to react to the next stream of messages that covered what had happened and the mistake. He grimaced and sat down on a park bench, his stomach dropping. He would have rather had Otto tell him the truth... With the way Yusai reacted to the thought of Otto being bi, there was no way he was going to take well to Steal. How in the world did Yusai not know anyway? His hands trembled as he lowered the phone to his lap, no longer seeing anything around him. Give him space, give him room, give him time. The suggestions of others didn't seem to work. If anything they just drew things farther and farther apart until it no longer seemed that they were anything more than two people who just pass each other by. ~~~~ The band was set up, the audience was waiting. Steal looked down at his clothing. Tight jeans, well worn and comfortable to move in, a loose button down shirt, with the top three buttons undone. His hair had been styled, slightly spiky by Lance who was out there somewhere now, and he was wearing eyeliner. It made him look more mature and more like a rock star, and the finishing touch, a light powdering of something that sparkled, courtesy of Kim. He walked out and took the mike, singing three songs the audience was used to. He moved gracefully like a wild cat on the stage, all movements practiced, even as he looked around at who was out there, and Yusai at the bar. Now was the time. He started into a song he needed to sing. He tried to meet Yusai's eye as he started: Say something, I'm giving up on you I'll be the one if you want me to Anywhere I would've followed you Say something, I'm giving up on you He was doing the best he could to put all his emotions into the song, his heart bleeding out with each word. And I... am feeling so small It was over my head I know nothing at all And I... will stumble and fall I'm still learning to love Just starting to crawl The world seemed to fade out, it was just him and the lyrics. Him and the message he was trying so hard to pour out to the man who could never seem to understand it. Say something, I'm giving up on you I'll be the one if you want me to Anywhere I would've followed you Say something, I'm giving up on you He didn't even notice as several people in the audience tried to follow his gaze, eyes growing moist. He didn't realize as Ian stepped out beside him and lit up a smoke. He was in his own world. Maybe that was why when Ian reached over with a rag and pressed it over Steal's mouth and nose the silver haired man couldn't react with more than a slight struggle. His hand lashed out, a silver bracelet with his name on it snapping off his wrist as Ian lifted him up and carried him to the parking lot. To anyone who was just glancing over it would seem someone was carrying off a drunk friend. The only evidence of something happening was the bracelet. And I... will swallow my pride You're the one that I love And I'm saying goodbye Then even Lance was in tears, reading the message, that he was pleading with all his might for Yusai to just notice, if even this once that he was feeling something, Say something, I'm giving up on you And I'm sorry that I couldn't get to you And anywhere I would've followed you (Oh-Ooh) Say something, I'm giving up on you The room felt like it was empty to Steal, it was just him and the one person he was singing to, he didn't even care that he was starting to cry himself now. This felt too much like the end for him. Could someone miss a confession like this? Say something, I'm giving up on you Say something... The words trailed off and the music stopped. Once it did Steal turned and walked off stage, not able to continue. He headed out the side door to sit down and think about everything. He didn't realize as Ian walked out and lit up a smoke next to him, fiddling with something else a moment later. With his head down he didn't notice as Ian placed a rag over his nose and mouth, and so was only able to struggle slightly. He lashed out with one hand, his bracelet snapping off his wrist, hitting the ground. Ian took no note as he caught Steal and lifted him, carrying him to the parking lot and his waiting car. The only evidence of something wrong was the bracelet of thin silver with Steal's name on it, something he would not have left behind.
  25. - Ryuzaki - Sophia was apparently paying him no mind as she absentmindedly skipped a couple feet ahead of Ryuzaki. He had considered letting her simply disappear off on her own but even with the recent top up, he felt weaker than normal. Staying with her was probably the best course of action for the moment. Just as the girl started whistling a jaunty tune, Ryuzaki’s senses picked up someone nearby and he dashed forward in a blink of an eye. As it was, the pair was passing some kind of offshoot in the corridor and Ryuzaki pulled Sophia into it, pushing her against the wall before sliding in next to her. She started to open her mouth to protest or applaud, Ryuzaki didn’t actually know with her, but he raised a finger to his lips to indicate silence and she obeyed. Somewhat surprised, Ryuzaki tuned his senses down the hall to what he now realised was a pair of people running in their direction. He thought he somewhat recognised one of them, and a small inkling told him he knew the second; although he couldn’t bring anyone to mind. He focused back around him and turned to Sophia “Keep up.” He whispered and held up his hand with all fingers extended. A second later he lowered one. Then another. Then another. Another one followed and then he exploded out of cover and directly into the path of the front man. Ryuzaki didn’t take time to register the tattered state of the individual before he wrapped his fingers around the man’s throat and with a savage twisting of his shoulders, pulled him off his feet and slammed him into the floor. As if they’d planned the movement, Sophia took advantage of Ryuzaki’s crouched form and used his shoulder as a step as she flipped through the air and landed on the next person. Her mask had contorted and gave the impression of sadness as she rammed one of her unsheathed swords into the man’s throat. The next thing that happened was the pair’s retaliation. The man below Ryuzaki reached up and wrapped his own fingers around Ryuzaki’s throat, a growl escaping his lips as his canine-like eyes stared daggers into Ryuzaki’s vampiric ones. The blade of Sophia’s sword landed on the floor with a clatter and sparks flew as the black blade that was the second man’s left arm grated against Sophia’s chest; although apparently her skin was just as hard now. “Well, fuck you too, Ryuzaki.” The man said as Ryuzaki recognised who he was. “Logan, what are you doing here?” Ryuzaki said as he looked up and realised who the second person was. “Ryuk? What the fuck happened to you?” Ryuzaki pulled free of Logan’s grip and took a step back as Sophia flipped backwards off Ryuk and landed next to him expertly. Now he wasn’t assaulting him, Ryuzaki realised that Logan was ragged, bruised, and injured. He quickly scanned the werewolf from head to toe and figured some sort of torture had taken place and unlike a vampire, he had no way to quickly top up his energy and heal his wounds. But Logan was nothing compared to Ryuk. Ryuzaki looked across to his Order comrade and took in the strange black substance that covered him and the face that his left arm was now some sort of sword-like object. The blood that covered him, that was clearly not his, took very little of Ryuzaki’s interest. “Ryuzaki! I thought you’d be long gone by now.” Ryuk said, stepping forward as his sword-arm became a regular one, albeit still black as night. “This is…just an upgrade courtesy of the bastards here, I suppose.” “I would have been long gone if it wasn’t for this one.” Ryuzaki jerked his finger at Sophia and she curtsied. “And don’t think I’m down here to rescue you are anything, I wouldn’t waste my time.” “It’s true; he was already scooting away when I bumped into him.” Sophia added and spun around on one foot. Ryuzaki noticed that her mask had returned to its natural, blank look. “Anyone, this reunion is boring. I still have to show Ryuzaki what I found; you guys can tag along as well I suppose.” Once again not waiting for a reply, Sophia skipped off, beginning her whistling again. “This place is locked down; does she know a way out?” Logan asked with a frown. Ryuzaki looked at him and didn’t reply as he started off after the girl. Without any better ideas, Logan and Ryuk followed suit. =================================================================== - Sophia Nurnhurst - She hadn’t expected her sword to break quite so easily against the black man but she had smiled when clearly he had expected to cut her with his own blade. After Ryuzaki had realised who they were she pouted inwardly; she had been looking for a good rumble and Ryuk had looked like the kind of man she could go a couple of rounds with. Of course, now she had two more tag-alongs but she looked on the bright side and just thought that it would be even more successful assuming both Ryuk and Logan were of any use. Skipping ahead of the trio has she had been doing, she stopped for a moment to locate an ‘x’ scrapped into the wall; a mark she had left on the way out to remind her which way to go. “Thi~s way!” she called back and moved around the corner and through a broken automatic door into a moderate sized room. When the others came in after her, Ryuzaki in front, Logan and Ryuk taking up the rear, they saw what appeared to be four large stones. “You wanted to show me a bunch of stones?” Ryuzaki said as Ryuk stepped forward to touch one of them. “Strange, I’ve never felt anything like this.” Ryuk said and frowned to himself. Sophia hopped across from where she had been stood and pulled Ryuk’s hand away from the stone. “No touchy.” “What a waste of time.” Logan sneered as he turned to exit the room, only to find his way was blocked by a giant of a figure. The figure in question was big enough that he had to duck and turn his upper body slightly to actually fit through the door. Once he was completely through, he stopped and glared down at the group. The buzz cut on his head was a clean blonde and his eyes were a steely grey. He was wearing a correctly cut suit of light charcoal, clearly personally tailored given his size, with a white shirt and black tie. A vicious looking battle axe hung from a loop on his right side. “Who the fuck is this guy?” Ryuzaki said as Logan snarled and leapt forward to engage this new man. “Oh, Vincent, you’ve arrived!” Sophia exclaimed as Vincent caught Logan by the throat and slammed him against the wall with barely a second glance. “You know him?” Ryuk said as Logan pulled himself to his feet. “Logan, wait a second!” Logan snarled but stayed where he was, crouched at Vincent’s feet. “He’s a grand old buddy, aren’t you Vincent?” Sophia said as she skipped forward and jumped up to wrap her arms around the man’s neck before swing around and ending up on his back. “I wasn’t expecting you so early though.” Ryuzaki frowned and then realised this Vincent was the guy who had been at the meeting with the Fae; the Crescent Moon member. “And how exactly did he get on the island?” “Come on, it’s time to go; have you marked the stones?” Vincent’s voice fitted his body as it was low and grated its way through the air. “Yep! Won’t he be so proud of me!?” Sophia replied as she dropped back to the floor. “I’m sure he’ll be glad you succeeded. Now let’s not waste any more time.” Vincent turned around and folded himself back through the door and Sophia followed suite, pulling a small device from the pocket of her jacket and pressing a button on it before returning it. Ryuzaki glanced at Ryuk, who shrugged his shoulders, before following the Crescent Moon members out of the door. Ryuk and Logan weren’t far behind; the latter was still seething that Vincent had to hardly try to stop his attack. His injuries were obviously slowing him down. =================================================================== - Raphael Ginta - With Sisi back in her room, having fulfilled her role, Raphael was sitting on his throne of stone when a quiet beeping sounded from within his pocket. He pulled the small device out of his pocket and smiled beneath his mask. The information was right, the stones really were held on that island; and Sophia completed her mission. Good. With the Stones in my possession, I will soon be able to begin my plan. Raphael thought as he pulled his feet up and crossed them beneath him. At the same time, the large doors that led to his chamber swung shut and a large bar slid across them, locking Raphael within. He closed his eyes and focused his energy. To use his powers over such a great distance was not impossible for him, but it would be hard work; he would have to sacrifice a part of himself to do it but the tones were too important to waste any time getting them. Raphael had been investigating them for years and so knew the exact size, shape, and weight of them; the three things he needed to successfully take hold of them without looking at them. Of course, without seeing them, he would not know if he had gotten them until they arrived at his door. That being said, he was confident in his own abilities. Raphael created the force bubbles in his mind, closing them around the imagined stones and then began the journey of bringing them to him.
  26. AT LEAST LOOK, WOULD YA?! kthx~

    It's Hemlock ;) Ima do another one that works the same way(2 answers making one word) My first displays the wealth and pomp of kings, Lords of the earth! Their luxury and ease. Another view of man, my second brings, Behold him there, the monarch of the seas!
  27. The future is ours.. isn't it?

    The days ahead that transpired were strange. Yusai was officially better and his mind some-what clearer (especially after dedicating a few more hours to reading the forums he had discovered earlier in the week) He felt like he was normal again. As normal as he could be, anyway. He was at least able to focus on things that needed his attention without the nagging thought of being gay taking the forefront of his mind. The days were strange because there was a distinct change in routine after all the events that had taken place prior. Yusai was waking up to an empty bed and to messages left from Steal mentioning that he was getting out to practice with his band, or hang out with Lance... Things which left Yusai feeling a culmination of happy (because he liked that Steal was getting back into a hobby of his) confused (because he wasn’t sure what had suddenly spurred this on) bitter (because he was being left out) and jealous (because Lance was spending time with his friend). On top of this, Yusai had taken to spending his alone time getting re-acquainted with misses palmer and her five lovely daughters on a frequent basis. And why not? He had the apartment to himself for a few hours in the morning now, and Yusai hadn’t had a chance to express his sexual frustrations for so long... He had forgotten what the sensation was even like, sad as it was to admit. And, he could wank to whatever he wanted and do it without the guilt or shame he had only a week or so before. Not when he could rush to a community of like-minded individuals to confirm that their desires were natural and not at all homosexual afterwards, relieving himself of all doubts and inhibitions of his sexuality... For the time being. The other strange thing was when Steal would return from his outings, how little they seemed to talk lately. It wasn’t that they didn’t talk, but the conversation quality they used to have—bizarre as it could be at times—had definitely taken a dive. They spoke to each other through metaphorical walls, and perhaps for the same reasons: They both had parts of their lives they were not completely comfortable confiding with one another over. Steal with his growing acquiantenceship with Lance, his familial troubles that no one could possibly understand, and Yusai with his mixture of grief combined with this new secret celebration of his sexuality. They were complex issues that could be resolved with talk, but neither of them seemed to know how to start the conversation. Only time would tell if they ever would. Meanwhile, Yusai was back to work again, and it was a slow night coming to a close at the club. Yusai had spent his shift unusually quiet behind the counter: Tonight was a night where his thoughts had been filled with numb remorse, and memories of the friend he had lost several years ago. Strangely enough, the memories that were surfacing in his mind were not the ones he usually turned to when grieving for Richard. In fact, they seemed like new memories altogether. Things he had repressed or thought he had forgotten about were coming back up to light. For instance, he was remembering occassions where Richard and he used to sit on the roof slope just outside Richard’s bedroom window, drinking beers they had secretely smuggled from the fridge and pretended to enjoy. They would sit out there and watch the orange-blue sky fade to the deep purple of night and talk. Not about anything in particular, just shoot the shit the way teenagers did. They talked about their classes, assignments, their shit teachers... One particular conversation Yusai was remembering with bizarre clarity was one they had about relationships. Richard had asked (after choking down a swig of beer and forcing a casualty to his voice) if Yusai had an interest in any of the girls at school. At the time, it seemed like a strange thing to ask because Yusai had been of the mindset that girls were pretty much off-limits. They still had cooties, or whatever. But, he knew he was an outlier: Yusai had overheard many locker room conversations during lacrosse and knew that boys his age were girl-crazy. It was all his male peers could seem to talk about, and were obsessed with. Yusai had often felt left out, or thought himself weird that he didn’t “get” what his friends were so nuts over, and figured that maybe one day he eventually would. But when prompted by his sporting buddies, he had put on a front and talked about girls like the rest of them, pretended he shared the same carnal interest in women as they did. He didn’t want to be labeled weird or a freak, after all. He saw how those people were treated, recalling a few hallway scraps throughout his high school years. Several of his locker room conversations went this way that it had started to become an automatic reaction: to pretend he understood it all, pretend he was one of them. So when Richard had asked, Yusai had instinctively put up his guard and said “Of course!”, then immediately took a long swig of his own beer. Richard had looked at him strangely, keeping his silence for a moment before nodding and taking another sip from his drink. The talk had ended as quickly as it had started, but Yusai couldn’t forget the look Richard had given him in that night. He looked miserable. “Hey, Yusai—You alright?” a familiar voice cut into his reverie. Yusai shook his head and re-focused, seeing Otto staring at him from across the bar counter. Yusai nodded and unfolded a rag from his back pocket and began wiping down his work area, letting one non-commital grunt out before resuming his silence.. This response did not seem to satiate Otto’s conversational appetite, and he reached to take the rag out of Yusai’s hand. “What’s up, man? You look pretty down and you’ve been quiet all night.” “It’s nothin’,” Yusai said, unsure if he could even articulate his feelings at present. “I’m just tired, I guess.” Otto gave him a long look, his chocolate brown eyes seeming to bare right though his transparent lies and see straight into the bullshit. Otto was usually good at reading people, but this particular mood on Yusai was one he was having difficulty deciphering. It was unlike him to be brooding, quiet, and aloof. “You sure? You’ve been pretty ‘off’ lately... Is everything okay at home? Is Steal doing alright?” Come to think of it, Otto hadn’t seen Steal for the past few nights. Usually he’d come in a couple times during the week with Yusai and hang out, but he had yet to see him. He wondered if Yusai’s current mood and Steals absence were related, and resolved to text Steal tonight to check in later. “Yeah, everythings fine.” Yusai answered, his tone a touch short. He didn’t know why but being asked about Steal bothered him. Maybe it was because he wasn’t sure how Steal was doing himself. Well, this conversation wasn’t going to go anywhere, and with a sigh, Otto muttered “Okay,” and pulled his coat up off the edge of the bar counter where he had rested it, and began slipping it over his arms. He didn’t notice the folded note that he had taken from Steal a few weeks ago had slipped out and fallen on the counter and Yusai, who was still in wrap-up-and-clean mode, absent-mindedly picked it up. He was about to toss it in the bin when he happened to notice his name scrawled inside of it. Curious, he started to unfold it a little and saw some more words. A letter? “Yusai, I love you. I always have--” he read, and before he could read any more, Otto had made a loud sound and was reaching across the counter, and fiercely tore the note from his hands. It had all happened in an instant, but Yusai was baffled, curious, and a bit alarmed. “Oi, what’s that note all about?” Yusai asked, suddenly feeling anxious and alert. Obviously it was a love letter of some kind, but who had written it? Why did Otto react that way? It was uncommon for Yusai to jump to conclusions but with his recent habits and thoughts, he couldn’t help but feel paranoid that he was being put under scrutiny. Otto bunched up the note and shoved it in his pants pocket. “It’s—It’s none of your business, dickhead,” Otto shot, vainly attempting to deflect this interrogation into an argument. Yusai couldn’t know about Steals letter, and Otto was doing what he could to protect this secret. “It is so my business, it’s a letter with my bloody name on it. Who wrote that?” Yusai was pulling the cleaning rag he had between his fists, his knuckles clenched tight enough to shine a shade or two lighter than his normally dark complexion. Shit, Otto had to think fast. He couldn’t tell him Steal had written it, it wouldn’t be his right. But then... Ah, he was thinking too fast to come up with a decent lie, and before he could catch himself he answered, “I did.” Yusai’s face twisted from what looked like confusion, to shock. “W... What?” Was all Yusai could think to utter. He felt like he had just been dipped into cold water, buck-naked and in front of an audience. SHIT, Otto had dug himself into a hole. How could he follow up? He was going to have to improvise and play everything off as naturally as he could... For Steals sake. “Yeah, it’s my letter. I wrote it a while ago and just... You know, never gave it to you because I didn’t want to make things weird, I guess,” Otto said, warbling over this explaination a little. It was a bizarre lie he had to tell, which in general, he was not accustomed to doing. He had hoped Yusai would let the conversation drop into awkward silence at the very least, but surprisingly, the next question out of his mouth was one Otto had not expected. “You’re... You’re gay?” Yusai had asked, quietly and with some hesitation. His tone was so earnest, hurt and confused, and it threw Otto off completely. Now he bore the stunned expression, but only momentarily. This conversation was about to take a whole new direction. “No, bi, actually,” Otto corrected him non-chalantly with the truth. “But even if I was gay, what’s the big deal?” Yusai didn’t realize, but his face was twisting into a look as though he was witnessing a horrific accident. What’s the big deal? What’s the big deal? He didn’t have an answer for that. Or did he? He was suddenly overwhelmed with various memories; fights and derrogatory slurs and bloody fists, bloody noses and lips, bruises among his peers that had been labeled freaks, faggots, queers... Richard walking beside him silently, his blood-stained shirt thrown over his shoulder, scratches and bruises mottling his side and ribs. He was overwhelmed by other things, too. This was all so sudden and mind-blowing to hear. His boss... One of his closest friends... Loved him? He was bisexual? This was all new information. It was weird. It was... Too much for him to process right now, in the midst of all his new sexual awakenings that he still was blindly wading through. “Well?” Otto interjected, breaking Yusai out of his thoughts again. Those brown eyes were now staring at him, begging for an answer. “Well—I’m, I’m not gay,” Yusai stated firmly, his jaw tight. “I don’t feel the same way.” “That’s fine, I didn’t think you would,” Otto said. Although something inside him was set aflame. It was rare for Otto to ever get upset, and especially with someone he considered a good friend, but Yusai’s defensiveness and his... Revulsion to the idea of gayness was genuinely upsetting and brushed the part of Otto that was queer the wrong way. What was his deal? But still, he grit his teeth through this. He had started this mess of a conversation, after all. “And anyway, like I said, I wrote it a while ago. So don’t flatter yourself thinking I still got the hots for you.” “Stop it,” Yusai snapped. You could practically see the hairs on his neck standing up. “Stop what?” Otto shot back, now on the defense. “This isn’t funny!” “I’m not trying to be funny, asshole,” Otto retaliated, “Just what is your problem, anyway? Are you bothered by this? The possibility that some half-a-fag had a crush on you?” Yusai was now visibly agitated, unlike anything Otto had ever seen out of him. His face was red and he could see Yusai’s fists trembling around the rag in his hands, his eye darting here and there, but unable to look at Otto. “That’s not it! Just—I’m not gay, so just forget it!” His tone was angry, but his voice wavered, and Otto’s acute ears sensed that maybe there was something more to his friends protesting than he initially thought. His friend looked, and sounded like, a cornered animal. But why, he wondered? There was a pregnant pause, and during it, Otto took a breath to settle his own surge of adrenaline. “Okay, fine, I get it,” Otto said slowly, calmly. He wasn’t sure how to proceed with this clusterfuck of a conversation, but he now had a question he needed to ask if he wanted to continue being friends with the man he had known for several years now, whom he considered a brother. “Can I ask you something?” Yusai didn’t respond verbally, but grunted as he clumsily returned to cleaning things up around the bar. “Seriously... Does it bother you that I’m bi?” Yusai had to process this question, and was running over a million and one things in his head. He felt like he was short-circuiting. Did it bother him? He wasn’t sure. Maybe it wasn’t that Otto being bisexual bothered him, but the fact that he was attracted to Yusai did? The slightest insinuation that Yusai was homosexual—even by extension—made him feel prickly, uneasy. But then again, Otto did say that the letter was written a while ago... Surely his feelings weren’t still the same, right? This was so messed up, he couldn’t think straight. All he could think to say was, “No, just... I’m not gay.” To this, something in Otto’s demeanor changed. It was as if a light went off in his head or that he’d found something that he had lost after a long search. He had a creeping suspicion that Yusai’s protesting was coming from a certain place of insecurity, but it wasn’t like he could point it out to the moron, at the risk of aggrivating him further. Instead, Otto would take a different approach; He raised his hands in solemn protest and said lowly, cautiously, “Okay, good. I’m sorry. But you know Yusai...” Otto trailed, tilting his head and looking at Yusai from the side, who was still nervously buseying himself with wrap-up duties. “...If you were gay,” at this, Yusai froze. Otto continued, “...That’d be okay. I wouldn’t judge you for it. No one at the club would judge you for it. Steal wouldn’t judge you for it--” It was at this point in the conversation that Yusai made a sound, something like a bark, and threw his rag aside. He quickly turned to his coat, shucked it over his shoulders, and stormed out of the club, leaving Otto in stunned and bereft silence. God, what had just happened? Otto shook his head and pulled out his phone, texting Steal the following message: Yusai’s in a bad mood. Best to leave him alone tonight. Text me sometime. **
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