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  • #16
    “What do you want?”

    Here came that infuriating smile again. Liam tipped her beverage over precariously, as though threatening to spill it on the girl. “Is it true? Do you have a contract with that monster beneath the sea?”

    “All worthy soldiers of the Village have a blood pact with the Leviathan.” Ringo kept her temper in check by repeating the words she memorized from the cadet handbook. “The extent and scope of the contract vary based on the individual.”

    “Soooo,” Liam lowered her head to rest on the counter, bringing her eye level with Ringo. “What 'extent' does your contract extend, child? Enough to spit shine the shoes of your precious captain?”

    That earned a lip twitch from Ringo. Badmouthing her was bad enough, but to drag Captain Hideki into this! But, but, there might be a light at the end of the tunnel. This was the most livid Ringo had seen the tavern owner, and unlike their first meeting she seemed genuinely curious as to what Ringo had to say. It meant the girl possessed a bit of leverage, however slight, on the conversation. “Enough to get my job done,” she responded. Ringo's tiny eyes fell on the liquid sloshing around in Liam's cup.

    “I think you're a liiiiiar,” Liam whisper croaked again. “That's just what the Village tells its child soldiers to make them feel special, isn't it?”

    Prepared for just such a response Ringo feigned her own nonchalance and held up her hands as if giving up. “I have nothing to prove to you. The Leviathan may only be called on to perform work for the Village. If you can't provide that then...” Ringo looked up at the ceiling to deliberately avoid making eye contact. “Really, this is just a waste of time.”

    For a minute the two simply stayed silent. The rather isolated White Clamshell Tavern stood a distance away from the heart of Seagull's capital city, but it was still close enough to hear the waves of the ocean and the bustle of the settlement. After what might have been an entire minute Liam finally broke the stalemate. “Entertain me, child, and I'll tell you a juicy rumor I just heard.”

    Ringo allowed herself to drop her gaze just enough to barely meet one eye of the woman. This was still incredibly fishy. But it was the best lead yet, and the alternative was to sit in the rented room until her teammates got back...and this was work related, so there would be no issue calling on the Leviathan just a little bit, right?

    “Write it down,” Ringo tossed her pad and pen to the woman. “And maybe we can work something out.”

    The biggest smile yet crept across Liam's face. “Certainly.”
    (Rain Chuunin) Oichi Josuke | (Sand Chuunin) Sawamatsu no Motonubu | (Leaf Chuunin) Hyuuga Kannon
    (Retired Grass Chuunin) Shinshi Gemmei | (Snow Genin) Gonnohyoe | (Mist Genin) Kurusu Ringo
    (Brigade of Light) Chosokabe Muneshige | (Leaf Chuunin) Hong Feiyan
    Shichou Clan GM - Shichou Mission Thread Here!
    Brigade of Light GM - Missions and More!
    I will do any thread, anywhere, anytime. Just PM me!
    Wizlab | Swaps | (AP) | RIP

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    • #17
      Without missing a beat, as soon as the woman scribbled into the notepad Ringo darted forward. So suddenly the girl approached that Liam was taken aback and stumbled, retreated from the counter as if under imminent threat. Ringo's palm covered the lip of the woman's cup while her other swung out to snatch the paper away. Fast! So fast! The diminutive, doll-like girl possessed the limbs of a child but moved with the practiced precision of an athlete. Even if one knew how the Village trained its cadets, the reality was nothing short of stunning.

      “Hm.” Ringo regarded what the woman wrote with a look of contempt. “Just kidding, huh? Figured as much.” Liam let out a breath she hadn't been aware she was holding and gave a condescending shrug.

      “You're a soldier, right? You should be used to getting tricked.”


      “Oh, yeah.” Like water running out of a sieve Ringo felt the anger building up inside her drain away. The woman probably didn't see it the same way but this information was still somewhat valuable. Rather, Ringo would think of a way to make it so- after all, using the Leviathan's power for no reason was the most unforgivable of all sins.

      Just as suddenly as the girl attacked, she retreated. Ringo's fleet feet carried her back towards the tavern stairs and wordlessly away. Liam listened intently but couldn't hear the girl's tiny footsteps from downstairs. Was that the skill of a Village cadet, or did the girl simply not weigh enough to cause the wooden floorboards to creak? Either way the smug satisfaction on the woman's face made it clear enough who the winner of this little exchange was. With a confidence swagger she went to take a sip of her beverage. When the liquid touched her lips she let out a surprised yelp. The whole thing was frozen solid!
      (Rain Chuunin) Oichi Josuke | (Sand Chuunin) Sawamatsu no Motonubu | (Leaf Chuunin) Hyuuga Kannon
      (Retired Grass Chuunin) Shinshi Gemmei | (Snow Genin) Gonnohyoe | (Mist Genin) Kurusu Ringo
      (Brigade of Light) Chosokabe Muneshige | (Leaf Chuunin) Hong Feiyan
      Shichou Clan GM - Shichou Mission Thread Here!
      Brigade of Light GM - Missions and More!
      I will do any thread, anywhere, anytime. Just PM me!
      Wizlab | Swaps | (AP) | RIP

      Comment


      • #18
        Eventually the day grew later and Seagull's regulars began to filter into the establishment. Nestled in the shadow of one of the island's towering peaks the sun disappeared much earlier than elsewhere in the country, and the darkness attracted just the kind of people who like to sit in the shadows at 4 in the afternoon. That included, at the moment, Captain Hideki and his loyal companions.

        “-all the way to the horizon!” Unmei could barely seem to contain her excitement as she recalled the findings of her interrogations. “The Glassmaker is the real deal, for sure. Nobody but someone with the Leviathan's contract could do something like that.”

        “Breakfast is served at sunrise,” Ringo flatly contributed. “And the third to last step is hollow, so don't step on it too hard.”

        As his cadets shared their fascinating information Hideki took a moment to chew at the end of his pipe. There was no tobacco in it- oh, no, not for an old man like him. The lungs couldn't take it. Leviathan or not a Village soldier's body was just as vulnerable to the ravages of time as any of the other patrons of the tavern that night. Evening. Late afternoon. Whatever.

        “Yeah, and, you know, look here!” Unmei proudly spread out a sheet of parchment on the table. “I mapped out the city square, with potential areas of investigation...and persons of interest, here, and here!” Her eyes looked up at Hideki for some sign of approval. The captain merely nodded his head.

        “Sure. You can start on that tomorrow.”

        Talk of the future brought Ringo out of the dismal present, and she leaned forward in her chair at once. “And me? What will I be doing?”

        “Guard duty.” Hideki shifted his gaze towards the tavern entrance, either because he heard something or because he was trying to hide a smile. “Someone has to watch our luggage.”

        “The doors have locks!” Ringo held up her note pad and shook it as though her meticulously detailed survey of the tavern would fly out. “The windows are barred! Everything is secure?”

        “I can pick a lock.” Unmei grunted while pulling apart another peanut.

        “We can all pick locks,” Ringo snapped back. “But Seagullers don't go to the Academy, they wouldn't know-”

        “Anyone can pick a lock, Sailor Kurusu.” Hideki turned back and placed both his fists on the table, giving the small girl a stern expression. “The only safe way to keep something safe is with a warm body. Or a safe. Oh, that's good. I should write that one down. Unmei, get on that.”

        “Is that-”

        “An order, Sailor Kurusu? Yes. Yes it is.” Hideki rolled his pipe around with his lips, keeping his eyes locked on the distraught cadet. “Are you going to challenge me on it?”

        A quivering anger rippled across Ringo's otherwise youthful face, the kind that causes veins to pop and teeth to grind. But, then, just as soon as it arrived, the emotion faded away. “I understand, Sir.” She let out a long, breathy exhale through her nostrils. This too was a burden a proper soldier must bear! For her mind was too small, too inexperienced, too immature to understand the deep machinations that unfolded inside the intellect of Captain Hideki. To be loyal to one's country, one must always assume their superiors knew best. The pecking order existed for a reason!
        (Rain Chuunin) Oichi Josuke | (Sand Chuunin) Sawamatsu no Motonubu | (Leaf Chuunin) Hyuuga Kannon
        (Retired Grass Chuunin) Shinshi Gemmei | (Snow Genin) Gonnohyoe | (Mist Genin) Kurusu Ringo
        (Brigade of Light) Chosokabe Muneshige | (Leaf Chuunin) Hong Feiyan
        Shichou Clan GM - Shichou Mission Thread Here!
        Brigade of Light GM - Missions and More!
        I will do any thread, anywhere, anytime. Just PM me!
        Wizlab | Swaps | (AP) | RIP

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        • #19
          “Oh man, stuffed lobsters!” Hideki's voice shot up and he started enthusiastically waving towards one of the food servers moving back and forth between the tavern's many full tables. “I thought those were out of season. I'll order us all some!”

          From out of view came the stark rattle of plates and silverware as a tray of food clattered onto the table. All three trained expert professional soldiers jumped at the unexpected interruption.

          “On the house, esteemed guests!” Liam gave the group a toothy grin, which was returned by Hideki and Unmei. Ringo did her best to not make a face but failed. “Yellowscale fillets, with a lemon glaze, courtesy of your pals down by the docks.”

          “Ha! See, look at that!” Hideki quickly pulled the plates off the tray and moved the steaming cuts of meat right under his mouth. “Good deeds are rewarded. This is the will of the Leviathan, Sailor Kurusu! Partaking in the bounty of the sea-” He cut off a large chunk and stuffed it in his mouth with zero decorum. Even Liam, who dealt with rowdy slobs on a regular basis, didn't seem ready for a uniformed officer of the Village to eat in such a savage way. “-what could be a better way to honor our patron saint and protector?”

          As Unmei pulled one of the plates towards herself Ringo gave both her venerated and respected teammates a look of incredulous disbelief. Liam excused herself, though Ringo was certain she was lingering somewhere close just to overhear their conversation. “Here, lass.” Hideki moved the last heaping pile of food towards Ringo. “Eat up, we got a big day tomorrow.”

          That buttery, milky scent that assaulted Ringo's nostrils made her stomach rumble, but more than that it made her blood boil. “Sir,” Ringo stared down at the plate, then up at the stuffed cheeks of her superior officer. “Yellowscale is off season. This was hunted illegally.”

          “Yeah, well,” another giant piece of fatty meat found its way into Hideki's mouth. “It took a lot of energy to move it today, right? This is just quid pro quo. Something for something,” he added, looking at Unmei.

          “It's a protected species. Protected.” Ringo looked to her teammates, wondering if she needed to define the word for them. “Enforced by the Village in all our waters. Enforced by the Leviathan.”

          Sensing the conversation taking a turn for the worse Hideki pointed his fork at Ringo like one would level a cannon at a ship. “If the Leviathan didn't want us to eat this, then it wouldn't have let me use its power to move the thing in the first place, right?” He looked to Unmei for support but she was too busy with a bottle of hot sauce to pay attention to the hundredth time Ringo was complaining about something. “And- look, I'm the captain, right? Leader of this squad.” He swirled his fork around in the air and Ringo instinctively followed it with her eyes. “I say it's good to eat. Are you going to disagree with me? Your captain?”

          That earned a tight lipped reply from the frustrated cadet. “If I have to choose between you or the Village, I choose the Village.”

          “What a loyal soldier.” The way Hideki said it felt more disgusting than praiseworthy. “My old, dear, departed grandfather used to say something. That which will not bend, will break. That's a good one too.” For emphasis he grabbed his fork with both hands and bent it slightly. “See, Sailor Kurusu, if you have a little give, if you're a little flexible, then you can get more work done.” He released the fork, causing it to snap back into place and send some residual bits of food flying off into the shadows. “And look at that! When you're all done you can just snap back into place, good as new. Nobody even knows you bent the rules a little. It's a win-win, you know?”

          “That's a fork.” Ringo pointed out to those who might not be clear on the concept. “Our sworn oaths to our people are a bit more important than common kitchen cutlery.”

          “Are you going to be difficult about this?” Hideki picked up another thick slab of meat and pointed it at the girl.

          “Yes.” Ringo nodded. “I will be.”

          “Great!” Hideki crammed the food in his mouth and swallowed the tender flesh without even chewing. “Your unshakable resolve is a wonderful thing. It'll serve you well when you're guarding our luggage.”

          Unsure of how to respond, Ringo got as far as “Thank you, Sir” before the rest of the sentence came down.

          “As well as performing the night watch.”

          “Night-”
          (Rain Chuunin) Oichi Josuke | (Sand Chuunin) Sawamatsu no Motonubu | (Leaf Chuunin) Hyuuga Kannon
          (Retired Grass Chuunin) Shinshi Gemmei | (Snow Genin) Gonnohyoe | (Mist Genin) Kurusu Ringo
          (Brigade of Light) Chosokabe Muneshige | (Leaf Chuunin) Hong Feiyan
          Shichou Clan GM - Shichou Mission Thread Here!
          Brigade of Light GM - Missions and More!
          I will do any thread, anywhere, anytime. Just PM me!
          Wizlab | Swaps | (AP) | RIP

          Comment


          • #20
            “...watch.” Seagull fireflies floated like motes of dust through the still island air. Every now and the none would land on Ringo's rigid, unmoving body, and she wouldn't react. A waning crescent moon illuminated some of the tavern's compound but as one would expect in the dead of night there were all manners of suspicious shadows one could lurk in. Ringo was in one of them, and she'd already inspected all the others. Apart from a family of snails there was nothing to report, nor had there been anything to report for the last six hours.

            A trial. It was all a trial. Captain Hideki was testing her. A twig snapped and Ringo slowly moved her eyes, but not her head, towards the source. Some kind of bird fluttered away into the sky and disappeared. Yes, it was all a test. The Academy often had courses such as this, classes in espionage and guard duty. To protect against the unknown, one must be familiar with all the tricks of the unknown. In school Ringo had always been treated as something of a joke- for many reasons, one of which was how good she was at the 'bad guy' skills, rather than the 'good guy' ones. Stealing, sneaking, even their rudimentary courses on assassination, Ringo was always picked to be the example...and, unfortunately, that had snowballed through all six years of her training. When you were always the mouse, you didn't get much time to practice being the cat.

            Wait, did that metaphor even work? Literary studies was another subject Ringo did poorly in. A soft breeze carried off the sweat building up from the last few hours of squatting motionlessly beneath the shadow of a lamp post. Despite it all Ringo couldn't deny feeling in her element here. Unlike the Village uniform she had been wearing all day, with its suffocating excess of buttons and stiff collars, her current outfit much more befitted a soldier (or her imagined version of one, anyway). It wasn't quite the full armor sets worn by the Village's elite soldiers, or the brilliant scaled protection equipped by the Leviathan's handpicked Knights, but it was standard issue for everyone from Cadet to Captain who found themselves in battle. Simple tanned shark leather, wrapped snuggly around each limb to protect from the scrapes and falls of combat. The sandals on her feet were black rubber with soles that dulled noise even more than usual. A layered fabric vest dubbed an 'anchor jacket' weighed comfortably on her small frame, as she paid extra to have it custom fit. On top of that she took comfort in the gravity of each of her carefully selected tools.

            On her hip were a pair of long, slender ironwood batons, with taped handles for easy handling. Across her chest lay the standard issue Village survival knife- to be used only in emergencies, of course! Cadets like herself weren't allowed to have heavy armor, but a pot-lid like steel buckler pressed down on her back that she could use just as well. There were a few other little bits and pieces she carried with her from the farm back home as well- stuff Ringo hated relying on, but couldn't deny the use of. A slingshot, a flask ('for the tough times', her father said), a disassembled fishing kit...and, one day soon, a pair of iron manacles! Today she might be Sailor Kurusu Ringo, but tomorrow...well, next year...some time in the next five years she was sure to become Enforcer Ringo! Oh, what a fantasy that was.
            (Rain Chuunin) Oichi Josuke | (Sand Chuunin) Sawamatsu no Motonubu | (Leaf Chuunin) Hyuuga Kannon
            (Retired Grass Chuunin) Shinshi Gemmei | (Snow Genin) Gonnohyoe | (Mist Genin) Kurusu Ringo
            (Brigade of Light) Chosokabe Muneshige | (Leaf Chuunin) Hong Feiyan
            Shichou Clan GM - Shichou Mission Thread Here!
            Brigade of Light GM - Missions and More!
            I will do any thread, anywhere, anytime. Just PM me!
            Wizlab | Swaps | (AP) | RIP

            Comment


            • #21
              A slow rumbling stomach reminding Ringo that reality still existed and demanded more than idle thoughts. The night would be long but so was life. She wouldn't starve from one night without food, nor would she become a great soldier from simply standing guard. Little bits, one step after the other- that was the path to success!

              The deepest part of night crept over Ringo before she knew it, and her eyelids snapped open as the sound of footsteps drew near. Like a dog she stiffened and her hair stood on end. Each quiet thud she counted, measuring the seconds between the steps to determine the gait of the stranger. Steady footsteps indicated this wasn't some drunk wandering off the tavern path. And there- unmistakable- three people? Even adjusted to the dark her eyes could not pick out any silhouettes or shadows, even as the noises grew louder. Was she bad at her job? Incapable of finding a bunch of untrained Seagull vagrants wandering through the tavern courtyard?

              Or, she thought as the idea twisted at her gut, was it more likely that these three individuals were HIDING from plain sight? That they were hostiles, enemies of the Leviathan, their lives forfeit and deserving of no mercy...or maybe it was any one of a dozen other reasons why a group of fellows wouldn't want to be see sneaking around at night. Rushing to judgment was a good way to get in trouble. Instead Ringo stayed as motionless as a gargoyle and listened to their approach, and then departure, as they walked right past her hiding spot.

              Her team slept in the room farthest from the entrance, on the second floor. A ground approach would be pointless. These strangers couldn't possibly pose a threat, especially if they wanted to climb up an entire wall and try and open a locked window while a Village Captain slept inside. Yet when she heard the noises move closer to her comrades location Ringo's muscles twitched with anxious anticipation. This was her job. Her order. To guard the night. She needed to do something.
              (Rain Chuunin) Oichi Josuke | (Sand Chuunin) Sawamatsu no Motonubu | (Leaf Chuunin) Hyuuga Kannon
              (Retired Grass Chuunin) Shinshi Gemmei | (Snow Genin) Gonnohyoe | (Mist Genin) Kurusu Ringo
              (Brigade of Light) Chosokabe Muneshige | (Leaf Chuunin) Hong Feiyan
              Shichou Clan GM - Shichou Mission Thread Here!
              Brigade of Light GM - Missions and More!
              I will do any thread, anywhere, anytime. Just PM me!
              Wizlab | Swaps | (AP) | RIP

              Comment


              • #22
                Light feet brushed past the foliage as if it wasn't even there. Not a blade of grass nor broken spider web trailed behind Ringo as she slipped across the yard. Her approach stopped when one of the figures spoke in a quiet, but distinctly masculine voice. “One of the girls is missing.”

                Every cell in Ringo's body frozen solid. Even her breath stopped.

                “You can tell that from here? I can't see a thing.”

                “Draw your weapons,” the knowing voice wheezed. “Don't underestimate her because she's a child. Village soldiers don't give second chances.”

                “Maybe she went to the bathroom,” suggested another hesitant voice. “We should wait, just in case.”

                The silence that followed seemed to agree with the last voice. With her brain firing off in overdrive Ringo tried to piece together a reasonable response. These men absolutely must be talking about her team, right? There couldn't be a doubt about it. One of them must be getting a signal from somewhere about who was in their room- but Ringo checked for just that very thing that afternoon! Her wide eyes looked up towards the stars, then flew across the roof of the tavern. Was there a lantern lit somewhere? A wind chime ringing in a precise, coded pattern? Her attention turned to the faint, black and white outline of the window leading to where her fellow soldiers slept. A sense of helplessness grabbed her throat.

                What if there were more hostiles inside, just outside the door to their room? There must be, if these men received information from somewhere. Ringo could jump out and threaten (and, time permitting, beat up) these strangers but that would do little but alert the rest that whatever nighttime heist they planned wasn't going to pan out. Waking up Captain Hideki had to be the priority.

                “Jobs done,” said the voice with all the answers. “They're being loaded now. Chief says everyone is to stay alert, they're sweeping the tavern now for the girl.”

                A heavy guilt rolled over Ringo like a wave. Oh no! Whatever was supposed to transpire was already happening! Her lungs filled with air as she prepared to shout, rousing her team from their slumber. Whatever was happening Ringo was going to put a stop to it!
                (Rain Chuunin) Oichi Josuke | (Sand Chuunin) Sawamatsu no Motonubu | (Leaf Chuunin) Hyuuga Kannon
                (Retired Grass Chuunin) Shinshi Gemmei | (Snow Genin) Gonnohyoe | (Mist Genin) Kurusu Ringo
                (Brigade of Light) Chosokabe Muneshige | (Leaf Chuunin) Hong Feiyan
                Shichou Clan GM - Shichou Mission Thread Here!
                Brigade of Light GM - Missions and More!
                I will do any thread, anywhere, anytime. Just PM me!
                Wizlab | Swaps | (AP) | RIP

                Comment


                • #23
                  Light feet brushed past the foliage as if it wasn't even there. Not a blade of grass nor broken spider web trailed behind Ringo as she slipped across the yard. Her approach stopped when one of the figures spoke in a quiet, but distinctly masculine voice. “One of the girls is missing.”

                  Every cell in Ringo's body frozen solid. Even her breath stopped.

                  “You can tell that from here? I can't see a thing.”

                  “Draw your weapons,” the knowing voice wheezed. “Don't underestimate her because she's a child. Village soldiers don't give second chances.”

                  “Maybe she went to the bathroom,” suggested another hesitant voice. “We should wait, just in case.”

                  The silence that followed seemed to agree with the last voice. With her brain firing off in overdrive Ringo tried to piece together a reasonable response. These men absolutely must be talking about her team, right? There couldn't be a doubt about it. One of them must be getting a signal from somewhere about who was in their room- but Ringo checked for just that very thing that afternoon! Her wide eyes looked up towards the stars, then flew across the roof of the tavern. Was there a lantern lit somewhere? A wind chime ringing in a precise, coded pattern? Her attention turned to the faint, black and white outline of the window leading to where her fellow soldiers slept. A sense of helplessness grabbed her throat.

                  What if there were more hostiles inside, just outside the door to their room? There must be, if these men received information from somewhere. Ringo could jump out and threaten (and, time permitting, beat up) these strangers but that would do little but alert the rest that whatever nighttime heist they planned wasn't going to pan out. Waking up Captain Hideki had to be the priority.

                  “Jobs done,” said the voice with all the answers. “They're being loaded now. Chief says everyone is to stay alert, they're sweeping the tavern now for the girl.”

                  A heavy guilt rolled over Ringo like a wave. Oh no! Whatever was supposed to transpire was already happening! Her lungs filled with air as she prepared to shout, rousing her team from their slumber. Whatever was happening Ringo was going to put a stop to it!

                  Barely a puff of breath cracked out from Ringo's chest before one last incriminating sentence tumbled out. “Wouldn't the drugs have knocked her out?” Her throat burned as she choked off her battle cry.

                  “Maybe she didn't eat any of the yellowscale.”

                  “Liam said all their plates were clean!”

                  Because, Ringo realized, Captain Hideki ate her share after she refused it.

                  “Could it have not worked on her?”

                  “The Captain was out like a sack of potatoes, there's no way a girl her size wouldn't be completely out of it.”

                  Every word Ringo's straining ears picked up brought more and bad news. If she had yelled for help...if she had moved at all...! But such thoughts she pushed aside. The advantage was hers right now, so long as she stayed concealed. Her team was in danger but this was the very thing the Academy prepared her for. To be ready to die for a fellow countryman, that's what it meant to be a Village soldier!
                  (Rain Chuunin) Oichi Josuke | (Sand Chuunin) Sawamatsu no Motonubu | (Leaf Chuunin) Hyuuga Kannon
                  (Retired Grass Chuunin) Shinshi Gemmei | (Snow Genin) Gonnohyoe | (Mist Genin) Kurusu Ringo
                  (Brigade of Light) Chosokabe Muneshige | (Leaf Chuunin) Hong Feiyan
                  Shichou Clan GM - Shichou Mission Thread Here!
                  Brigade of Light GM - Missions and More!
                  I will do any thread, anywhere, anytime. Just PM me!
                  Wizlab | Swaps | (AP) | RIP

                  Comment


                  • #24
                    Whatever else the men would say fell on deaf ears. One did managed to mumble out “Hey, do you guys hear that?” seconds before any intelligible words became garbled alongside shouts and screams of pain. Maybe the night's darkness hide their faces, but Ringo's training prepared her for just such an occasion. As her club smashed across the knees of one target the other hand was swinging her buckler to intercept any possible counter attack. Nothing came and as the first man crumpled she quickly brought her weapon up through the darkness and sunk it deep into the bridge of where his nose ought to be. A gut churning crunch more or less confirmed she hit her mark.

                    The other man couldn't even get out a full sentence of disbelief before Ringo fell on him with equal fury. Judging from the first man these hostiles weren't wearing armor- plainclothes, if she was forced to guess. She put their size around that of the dock workers from that morning- muscular, but the kind of body built for hard labor and not combat. Her new target took a few swings and as she drew her buckler up to defend herself something sharp and metal scraped across it. Not a sword, too small...just a common machete, if she had to guess.

                    No reason to guess, though! Her tiny arms wrapped around the man's wrist as he withdrew the weapon and with a surprising strength twisted the handle out from his grip. Something shattered- not bone, but frozen flesh. “Agh!” The target tried to withdraw but seconds within getting disarmed Ringo thrust the tip of her club into where she estimated his throat would be. Another soft squish and the panicked garbling of the shadow in front of her confirmed another bullseye. Just like they trained her in the Academy!

                    As expected the man doubled over, either in pain or trying to breathe though his pummeled windpipe. It didn't matter now that the man stood at probably close to twice her height. Still working off instinct and guesswork Ringo's buckler hand reached out and caught her target by the collar, and by throwing her entire weight into her grip she sent the adult tumbling forwards. A little bit of fancy footwork and a trick with her grappling hook, and she had herself a makeshift prisoner at the end of a short, tightening leash.

                    A commanding, breathless shout ripped from deep inside her. “Identify yourself at once! I know one more of you is out there!” The man she attacked first sounded as though he was still curled up on the ground with a broken nose, and the second trapped in her noose couldn't talk on account of the whole being asphyxiated thing. “You have threatened Village citizens and encroached on the will of the Leviathan! Surrender now, or-” She stopped, because the official line she was supposed to use here was 'or we will respond with lethal force'. Technically she had already done that, so...

                    “Or I'll respond with even more lethal force!” There we go. To emphasize she drew the noose around her prisoner tighter, causing his coughing, choking sputtering to increase. “Who sent you? The Glassmaker? You have ten seconds!”

                    “H-help!” The man on the ground regained his composure, and could be heard dragging himself away. “Boss! Help!” Ringo let out a sharp exhale from beneath clenched teeth. Her muscles burned with an eager fire, and her head kept darting from side to side looking for the remaining target. Captain Hideki would have surely heard all her screaming, and as dim lights flickered behind the windows through the tavern building she was positive that these criminals wouldn't get away so easily. Even if this had been an inside job that double-crossing Liam couldn't possibly have the entire tavern booked with thugs. Mortal enemies or not, the people of Seagull would surely not stand for nighttime ambushes against children!

                    “I'm out here!” The man wheezed through a bloodied, crooked nose. “Help! The girl is out here, she killed him, oh gods, she killed him!” Ringo made a face at that even while she kept a firm grip on her leash. The man wasn't dead yet! Although now he stopped clawing at the makeshift garrote and seemed to be falling limp, true asphyxiation wouldn't hit immediately. His growing weakness did provide her a chance to react, though. The hazy yellow lights, dim as they were filtering through the room curtains, gave her just enough vision to make out everyone in the courtyard. The third man was nowhere to be seen and, given their sizes, she couldn't see anywhere for him to hide. She hadn't heard the frenzied footsteps signaling an escape, either. Where had he gone?
                    (Rain Chuunin) Oichi Josuke | (Sand Chuunin) Sawamatsu no Motonubu | (Leaf Chuunin) Hyuuga Kannon
                    (Retired Grass Chuunin) Shinshi Gemmei | (Snow Genin) Gonnohyoe | (Mist Genin) Kurusu Ringo
                    (Brigade of Light) Chosokabe Muneshige | (Leaf Chuunin) Hong Feiyan
                    Shichou Clan GM - Shichou Mission Thread Here!
                    Brigade of Light GM - Missions and More!
                    I will do any thread, anywhere, anytime. Just PM me!
                    Wizlab | Swaps | (AP) | RIP

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                    • #25
                      One of the windows adjacent to her team's room slide open, and a very concerned looking woman peaked out from behind it to see what the ruckus was about. Seizing opportunities was part of being a good soldier too! Ringo let go of her prey, not really caring whether or not the job was finished, and dashed towards the brick wall of the tavern. Along the way the previously wounded assailant took a furious kick at her but she easily side-stepped him and cracked his skull with a flick of her baton. Right as she approached the sheer face of the tavern wall the woman above let out a tiny yelp and hurried to close the window again.

                      All things considered, it was a reasonable response! Ringo, after all, must have looked like the bad guy here. The arc of history was long and bent towards absolving the just of all sins, though, so she didn't take it to heart. Instead she quickly stowed her weapons and took a mighty leap upwards, planting both her heels on the edge of one of the first floor windows and boosting tiny body up just enough to wrap her fingers around the lip of the second floor one. She shimmied her way up what looked like an impassable barrier so quickly one might mistake her for a particularly feminine cockroach, or maybe a black-clad monkey.

                      She tried the first window and found it locked, and knowing that Captain Hideki would have his locked as well she opted for a different approach. Now most of the tavern tenants seemed awake and the whole row of room windows lit up with dim yellow lantern lights. A few didn't, however. Those few almost certainly wouldn't be occupied. After all, who could possibly still be asleep after all that screaming?

                      Hopping from window sill to sill Ringo leapfrogged her way towards one such empty room. The White Clamshell Tavern featured heavy iron bars across all their glass windows, which could be slid out for those wanting a bit of fresh air. Ringo threw her weight against the bars and slammed them against their hinges as they rolled along the interior metal track keeping them in place. The reverberating shocks rattled her bones as she moved to push the glass part of the window open, and with ease she disappeared though the room's curtain and into its interior.
                      (Rain Chuunin) Oichi Josuke | (Sand Chuunin) Sawamatsu no Motonubu | (Leaf Chuunin) Hyuuga Kannon
                      (Retired Grass Chuunin) Shinshi Gemmei | (Snow Genin) Gonnohyoe | (Mist Genin) Kurusu Ringo
                      (Brigade of Light) Chosokabe Muneshige | (Leaf Chuunin) Hong Feiyan
                      Shichou Clan GM - Shichou Mission Thread Here!
                      Brigade of Light GM - Missions and More!
                      I will do any thread, anywhere, anytime. Just PM me!
                      Wizlab | Swaps | (AP) | RIP

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                      • #26
                        Now the alarm really blew up. Footsteps, some pounding, some scurrying, others pacing, bounced around the stonework interior. Doors were being locked, thrown open, and slammed shut as various patrons made their own judgments about what horrors might be transpiring outside. Ringo's own feet swiftly tiptoed to the peephole located on the room's entrance. The night's darkness still swathed most of the hall in impenetrable darkness but a few dim distant glows let her know that someone was out there holding a lamp or light of some kind. A disgustingly familiar voice yelled out from down below.

                        “Guests!” Liam shouted with an emotion in her voice Ringo couldn't quite place. “Please stay inside! A thief is loose!”

                        A thief! Ringo! A soldier of the Village, oathsworn to the Leviathan, upholder of the natural law of the sea! Thief! Were her sense of duty not driving her back towards her team, Ringo would have stormed down there and taught that vile woman what it meant to cross paths with a Village cadet! But now was not the time for that. Revenge would not serve her people the best. At least, not right at this moment.

                        Taking no chances Ringo threw the door open and scampered out into the hall. Nobody could be seen on either side of the hall, nor did it seem anyone was standing outside her team's room. Odd. Very odd. Had they all run away already? With a silent speed she darted to the door and held its cold cast iron handle in her hands, not turning it just yet. In her off hand her trust club found itself once again. She closed her eyes and took a slow, long inhale.

                        Coat rack to the left. Dress, full length mirror to the right. Three futons laid side by side on top of six two-and-a-quarter bamboo mats. Captain Hideki's equipment stowed along the north wall, Unmei's at a right angle to it and facing the window. Before that evening Ringo took the imitative to rearrange all the furniture to minimize the number of possible hiding spots for any lurking enemies, and the whole layout flashed in her mind like someone rifling through a deck of cards. Nowhere to hide, nowhere to take refuse. Anyone inside would be at the mercy of Ringo and her justice stick!
                        (Rain Chuunin) Oichi Josuke | (Sand Chuunin) Sawamatsu no Motonubu | (Leaf Chuunin) Hyuuga Kannon
                        (Retired Grass Chuunin) Shinshi Gemmei | (Snow Genin) Gonnohyoe | (Mist Genin) Kurusu Ringo
                        (Brigade of Light) Chosokabe Muneshige | (Leaf Chuunin) Hong Feiyan
                        Shichou Clan GM - Shichou Mission Thread Here!
                        Brigade of Light GM - Missions and More!
                        I will do any thread, anywhere, anytime. Just PM me!
                        Wizlab | Swaps | (AP) | RIP

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                        • #27
                          Taking no more than a second to collect these thoughts Ringo then turned the knob and forced her way in. As expected the door's lock had been tampered with, and the deadbolt thrown open. How their foes managed that would have to wait for another day. She raised her club and swung it towards her blind spots, where she anticipated enemies lying in ambush. Attack where they will be, not where they are, her Academy teachers used to say!

                          In this case she did neither. Despite some fancy footwork and a few rolling dodges, it became rapidly apparent the room was empty. Reaching down Ringo scooped up one of Captain Hideki's match books, which held the matches he used to not smoke the pipe he didn't use. Nervous fingers flicked the top up and scraped the entire group of matches across the floor at once. The room lit up in a blinding red blaze.

                          Yup, there was no denying it now. Both Unmei's and Captain Hideki's futons were a mess and their bodies (hopefully still alive!) nowhere to be seen. Ringo's futon, still unused, lay neat and tidy. In fact everything in the room sans the things Ringo smacked by accident or bumped into during her ambush looked unaffected. There were no signs of struggle.

                          A growing sense of being alone rolled over Ringo as she stood panting in the empty tavern room. It was not a new feeling, but this was a new context for it. It was one thing to be unpopular in the Academy, or to be far from home without the support of your nine siblings and too many aunts and uncles to count. It was another entirely to be embedded deep in enemy territory without a single clue as to what in the blazes was going on.

                          Footsteps pounded up the spiral staircase just a short distance from their room, and Ringo heard the voices roar out from the still open door to the room. “She's small, but don't hold back! She'll kill you if you get careless!”

                          What did her teachers say about a time like this? To reflect on one's past mistakes, and learn from them? That wasn't going to do any good here. No, Ringo needed to take a page from the chickens she used to raise on this one. It was time to run.
                          (Rain Chuunin) Oichi Josuke | (Sand Chuunin) Sawamatsu no Motonubu | (Leaf Chuunin) Hyuuga Kannon
                          (Retired Grass Chuunin) Shinshi Gemmei | (Snow Genin) Gonnohyoe | (Mist Genin) Kurusu Ringo
                          (Brigade of Light) Chosokabe Muneshige | (Leaf Chuunin) Hong Feiyan
                          Shichou Clan GM - Shichou Mission Thread Here!
                          Brigade of Light GM - Missions and More!
                          I will do any thread, anywhere, anytime. Just PM me!
                          Wizlab | Swaps | (AP) | RIP

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                          • #28
                            Far, far away, a whole few minutes walk from where the night's violent first act was unfolding, a pair of irate donkeys took turns nipping at each others' ears. It was far past the time that donkeys should be working, and the smell of fear hung heavy in the air. Two women worked quickly to load up the wagon which both animals were reined too, each lifting up a large object wrapped in cloth and strapping it down firmly with pairs of heavy iron chains.

                            “Good gravy.” One of the woman panted as she rolled the smaller of the two loads onto the wagon. “What a waste of some perfectly good rugs.”

                            The other woman seemed more preoccupied tying down their cargo than responding to quips, and focused right in on the heart of the matter. “There are supposed to be three. Where's the third?”

                            The first woman threw up her arms in a guilty shrug. “Ain't our concern, is it? We gotta get moving as soon as possible, Chief's orders!”

                            Rattling a chain threateningly the second woman spat back. “Getting all three was Chief's orders too. We can't do both!”

                            An unmistakable set of agonized screams tore through the night and both woman looked up, perhaps expecting some demon to leap from the moon's shadow. Through the rowdy cries bits and pieces of info could be picked up. Girl...my eyes...on fire...out the back window...into the woods...

                            “Sounds good to me.” The first woman leaped up into the wagon and snatched up the reins. “Let those weirdo shamans deal with their escapee. We gotta move!”

                            Another grouping of piercing wails brought the second woman back into the present as well. “Righto. Let's get moving, then.”

                            Donkeys weren't particularly fast beasts of burden, so the getaway wasn't quite as spectacular. With a clipclopping laziness the wagon prattled its way onto the main road and into the night, with nothing but the moon to guide the way. Both woman sat back to back, each watching for signs of some kind of trouble in the branches of the oaks and acacias that bordered the road.

                            “It's just the three, right?” Now they spoke in whispers as the noise of the tavern fell farther and farther away. “Don't theVillage usually send more?”

                            “Nah.” The other gripped a spiked mace in one hand, hidden down load below the edge of the wagon. “They are scared of causing another incident. Already got egg on their face from the whole Glassmaker thing.”

                            “Bloody hell, ain't that a kick in the teeth.” The woman snapped the reins to force the donkeys to stop their incessant nipping at each other. “Lot of good it did them, didn't it!”
                            (Rain Chuunin) Oichi Josuke | (Sand Chuunin) Sawamatsu no Motonubu | (Leaf Chuunin) Hyuuga Kannon
                            (Retired Grass Chuunin) Shinshi Gemmei | (Snow Genin) Gonnohyoe | (Mist Genin) Kurusu Ringo
                            (Brigade of Light) Chosokabe Muneshige | (Leaf Chuunin) Hong Feiyan
                            Shichou Clan GM - Shichou Mission Thread Here!
                            Brigade of Light GM - Missions and More!
                            I will do any thread, anywhere, anytime. Just PM me!
                            Wizlab | Swaps | (AP) | RIP

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                            • #29
                              The night went on unabated by the events transpiring behind them. The getaway, minus the missing member of the Village trio, couldn't have gone cleaner. Donkeys weren't exactly race horses but traversing the road between the tavern and into the countryside wasn't a marathon. By the time they reached the fortress the first tickles of dawn could be seen coloring the starry night sky. The wagon rattled as it transitioned from the smooth graded dirt road to the fortress's brickwork, and the woman guarding the cargo began growing agitated.

                              “How long are these drugs supposed to work, exactly? Cause I swear I saw one of 'em twitch.”

                              “Have a bit of faith in the chemist, eh?” The worry was apparent in the other kidnapper's voice as well. They waited silently outside the rusty iron gates. “Faith, faith!” She said again, mostly for her own confidence.

                              “We got here early, didn't we?”

                              “How should I know? You were driving.”

                              “Maybe we should knock.”

                              “There's no watchman, all you would do is draw attention!” More time passed without anything but the early morning songbirds beginning to tweet. Somewhere very distant, a rooster crowed.

                              Then a rattling, rickety noise shook out from behind the entryway to the massive stone fort. The donkeys brayed inconsolably as the woman driving them quickly began urging them forward, as if at any moment the little heist may be discovered. The cart shuddered, then the wheels began to turn. Just as quickly as the caravan started, it disappeared into the darkness of the fortress gate. Seagull's Swamp Garrison had swallowed them whole.
                              (Rain Chuunin) Oichi Josuke | (Sand Chuunin) Sawamatsu no Motonubu | (Leaf Chuunin) Hyuuga Kannon
                              (Retired Grass Chuunin) Shinshi Gemmei | (Snow Genin) Gonnohyoe | (Mist Genin) Kurusu Ringo
                              (Brigade of Light) Chosokabe Muneshige | (Leaf Chuunin) Hong Feiyan
                              Shichou Clan GM - Shichou Mission Thread Here!
                              Brigade of Light GM - Missions and More!
                              I will do any thread, anywhere, anytime. Just PM me!
                              Wizlab | Swaps | (AP) | RIP

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                              • #30
                                Nearly two hours later the first of the fortress's mighty parapets peeked out over the foliage. Ringo hadn't been sure what she was looking for but this certainly looked to qualify. Sweaty and covered in not a small amount of blood, most of it not her own, she maintained her distance from the main road and slowed her approach down to an almost literal crawl. The sun cast the mighty structure in a blinding yellow light, its normally brown sandstone walls looking positively radiant. Seagull's eastern shore could be heard nearby as well, either from the gulls or from the crashing waves. What must have been dozens- maybe even over a hundred portholes dotted the side of the fortress and pointed outwards towards the sea. Oaken shutters kept every point of access closed, though. Not that Ringo (even with her small size) could have fit through any of those boreholes, anyway.

                                As Ringo drew closer her mind reached back for what she learned about this place in the Academy. Called the Swamp by the locals, the fortress stood on the only access point into Seagull's eastern shores. Everywhere else was too rocky or the currents were too strong. The Village in the past three decades tried to claim it twice. Both times resulted in large casualties and no lasting damage to the fort.

                                It seemed the last ten years of peace dulled the Swamp's impenetrability, though! Gone were the pitfalls, nets, and traps that once surrounded it on all sides. Well, maybe that was only along this old supply road Ringo stuck close to. No doubt the beach itself was still littered with land mines. One of her Academy teachers only had one arm, having lost the other trying to storm these very shores. Being in the presence of such history gave the girl chills. Ten years of peace wasn't quite the way to put it after all, was it? It was ten years of ceasefire, with increasingly friendly relations...

                                ...which might all go out the door now. In pursuit of the Glassmaker Ringo now stood in the face of a Seagull military operation. Coming to the clearing where the fortress began in earnest Ringo took the time to covertly walk back to the dirt road to check again- and sure enough, she found the trail that set her out on this trip in the first place. Just a little bit of blood stained the dirt.

                                Was it Unmei, or Captain Hideki, who left these breadcrumbs? Ringo only barely caught a glimpse of the wagon before it left the tavern and without much else to go on after giving her pursuers the slip, she followed it. Despair just as quickly turned to hope when in the moonlight she caught sight of slight patch of discolored earth along the road. Maybe neither of her teammates were alive anymore, and she was simply following their bleeding corpses into danger. Maybe this was all a huge mistake.

                                No, even if was ninety-nine percent certainly a mistake, and that didn't matter! Ringo steeled herself and readjusted her armor as she looked again at the daunting, legendary Seagull fortress. There was no cavalry to call on. Nobody to call for help. She could possibly hide in these island forests for ten days, wait for the Saint Kagusama to arrive, and escape that way, but abandoning teammates was unthinkable. Technically, it was illegal, by the Cadet Oath she swore just a few months ago! More than that Ringo already did the math. Her life was nothing, but Captain Hideki's life was by far more important. To sacrifice one for a chance at saving the other was just being a good patriot, wasn't it? And hey, if Unmei wasn't already dead, she could come too. Ringo's generosity knew no bounds!

                                ...which was all well and good. But as she reassessed the situation that sinking despair began to creep back into her. From her vantage point in the tree line she could squat and think but before too long the sun would rob her of any shadows to hide in altogether. The gate was just the first checkpoint to the fort, there were still bridges to cross and soldiers to overcome. The men and women stationed here would be trained fighters completely unlike the thugs back at the tavern. If Ringo was going to go in, she needed a plan, and she needed one that eluded the Village's finest military minds for the last five decades.
                                (Rain Chuunin) Oichi Josuke | (Sand Chuunin) Sawamatsu no Motonubu | (Leaf Chuunin) Hyuuga Kannon
                                (Retired Grass Chuunin) Shinshi Gemmei | (Snow Genin) Gonnohyoe | (Mist Genin) Kurusu Ringo
                                (Brigade of Light) Chosokabe Muneshige | (Leaf Chuunin) Hong Feiyan
                                Shichou Clan GM - Shichou Mission Thread Here!
                                Brigade of Light GM - Missions and More!
                                I will do any thread, anywhere, anytime. Just PM me!
                                Wizlab | Swaps | (AP) | RIP

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