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Wess 03-07-2019 06:38 PM

Cold Water Crossing
 
Hidden within the Country of Waves was a shrine tucked away inside a seaside cave. It held cultural significance for not just the people of Wave but for the majority of mikos scattered across the surrounding the islands. Despite the blockade of ships meant to keep supplies from entering and leaving Kirigakure, two genin managed to slip through the cracks, hidden away on a civilian transport ship launched from one of Kodanetou’s minor port cities. Even the corrupt daimyo of Water Country wouldn’t attack such a small vessel, especially with it housing so many of his “subjects.”

Takumi was surprised, all things considered, with how easy getting out of the country was. Maybe their old Mizukage was slacking, or maybe their new one just had the tactical know-how and resources to conduct out of country operations under his nose. Regardless, the mission that the two genin had been sent on was simple in nature. A group of miko from a local shrine had requested that the village send two genin to help with the upkeep. Takumi hadn’t bothered much with the details, but he figured that the group of women had better things to do than repair the odd holy site. Especially one so sequestered as the one they were sending the two genin to.

He was just glad this mission was easy!

After having docked, the two genin chartered a small rowboat in order to take them to their destination. Despite his arms growing more tired as he and his teammate, Ringo, rowed in tandem (the academy was good for something!), the idea that they just had to repaint a couple of posts was a welcome change from nearly being eaten by giant crabs.

As they reached the shoals, Takumi caught sight of the gateway to the shrine - a large, ornamental structure, since worn by the incoming tides and decay that brine brought.

“Where do you think we should port?”

Junge 03-07-2019 11:46 PM

“Anywhere is fine, Sir!” Ringo panted through heavy strokes of her oar. “Say the word and I'll drop the anchor!”

Some fussing with boat equipment later the vessel was empty save for the chicken keeping watch over it. The tide was at its lowest point at the moment, and plenty of craggy rocks existed for the genin to jump across to reach the shrine's torii gate. Their window to act was limited, as in another few hours the tide would come in and make the area impassable again. Well, unless one could walk on water- a feat Ringo couldn't handle yet. Across her shoulders were several buckets of red, allegedly waterproof paint. It kind of looked like blood, and that got Ringo excited.

First order of business: executing trespassers! Ringo approached the tall structure and balanced herself precariously on the pointy searock that made up its foundation. In one hand, she held the Hammer of Justice. In the other, the Chisel of Judgment. These barnacles had met their match!

For a while the work passed by with little to comment on. The genin worked like children might, talking only to discuss what section of the gate to work on next or what method to use. Above them the tropical sun slowly moved across the sky.

Somewhere around the fourth pound of barnacle carcasses her bird let out a rapid set of clucks that signified 'caution!'. Ringo wiped some slime off her hands and stared out towards where the beast still guarded the boat. His feathers were puffed out and he was trying to look as threatening as possible. Was it a shark? An octopus? A pirate?

“...is that a rat?”
Ringo looked over to her commanding officer for guidance. “Something brown and furry got onto our boat. Should I tell my subordinate to kill it?”

Wess 03-27-2019 02:03 PM

Through glasses perched precariously on his nose, Takumi found an acceptable spot, and he and Ringo rowed a few more times before dropping anchor. The water, though it wasn’t cold, was cool enough to cause the older genin’s legs to prickle. It also didn’t help that he was in the average sailor’s uniform, though he had foregone the white pants for a pair of standard issue shorts.

He grimaced, feeling the salty water enter a few of his untreated cuts from their previous mission, though like Ringo, he couldn’t walk on water yet – something that the majority of his family were apt to express their discontent about as often as they could. Takumi took a deep breath and banished the thought from his mind. He wasn’t with them, and he had made it out of the country without getting caught all by himself, save for the little girl and chicken accompanying him.

While they worked, he cast a glance back towards the rooster. Though he didn’t say anything, he made a note how this one was different than his previous encounter with the girl. It was black, with a missing leg that had since been replaced with a metal prosthetic. He considered bringing it up but decided against it. He didn’t want to make their conversation uncomfortable – what if the thing had died? Talking about dead pets always made him depressed. He didn’t even like flushing his parents’ fish down the toilet.

A bit later, a series of clucks distracted both of the shinobi from their work. Takumi narrowed his eyes, squinting so he could better see what had crawled in their boat. It looked furry. He rolled his eyes and finished prying off the barnacle he was working on while he spoke.

“Only if it’s hostile. Otherwise, have him just chase it off. I don’t want to have to watch a carcass buoy in the ocean for another few hours.”

Junge 04-02-2019 12:20 AM

Trespassing was a hostile action, wasn't it? Ringo tried to interpret her commanding officer's command in some way that would justify her getting rid of whatever furry animal now occupied their boat, but decided against it. Her new chicken Zwei wasn't quite the flier that Ichi had been and was still too weak to really count on in an engagement. Better to not risk getting him killed too quickly!

Tap tap tap went the hammers, and sploosh went the barnacles. Eventually even the fowl calmed down and seemed content to monitor whatever it was that inside the dingy. Ringo completely forgot about the incident as she immersed herself completely in her work. The warm sun beating down on her pressed and pleated uniform, with a potential enemy under close scrutiny by her minion, all while executing these foul crusty enemies of Kirigakure...truly, this was paradise.

Panicked screeching broke her out of her trance. Zwei was a much quieter bird than Ichi so when he was freaking out, you knew it was bad. The chicken squawked and flapped away from the boat, hopping along the rocks awkwardly on his still new prosthetic. “ZWEI!” Ringo shook her hammer and chisel at him. “You get back here and defend that boat with your LIFE! That is an ORDER!”

Frantic chattering distracted her from further scolding. A long, sleek, brown thing dove from the boat and was now flying through the water and headed their way. The way it twisted and turned around the rocks made it clear it was far too nimble to be a rat. A surprise attack! Ringo dropped her barnacle removing tools and made a grab for her baton. She was interrupted by a powerful spray of hot water smacking her right in the face. “Agh! I'm hit! I'm hit!”

“Befoulers! Heathens!”
An angry, but undeniably soft voice bubbled out from beneath the waves. “Calumniation peddling pretenders! Wait until Kirigakure hears about this!”

Wess 04-03-2019 02:47 PM

With the newcomer not appearing hostile, Takumi was happy to continue focusing on his work. The faster they finished scraping off the barnacles, the faster they could repaint the structure and be on their way. Sea rats be damned, the older genin was intent on getting back home before the sun went down – he had things he wanted to do today, like cocoon himself in blankets flip through the latest issue of manga he’d picked up once the duo had reached their first stop.

Freeing the last bit of lower barnacles, Takumi looked back towards the boat, figuring that he’d need the ladder the two had brought to avoid standing on his tiptoes. As he rose back to his full height and wiped the gentle glisten of sweat from his brow, the panicked clucking from Ringo’s rooster drew his attention. His eyes narrowed as the creature in the boat with Zwei dove beneath the waves, speeding right up to Ringo and spraying her with water.

Like her, he reached for his weapon, partially unsheathing it from the small holster he kept fastened to the back of his shorts. Despite Ringo’s cries of pain, it was just hot water – though he doubted he’d not have reacted in a similar fashion. He moved towards her direction, dagger still behind his back, ready to carve through the creature’s eye, until it talked anyway.

“Cal-oom-ina-what-now?” He let the dagger slid back into its sheath, though still kept his hand on its hilt for good measure. Using his free hand, he pushed the base of his glasses back up the bridge of his nose so he could focus on exactly what was in front of him. An angry, talking otter?

“Liars! Naysayers! Untruthful cur!”

Perking a brow, Takumi took a deep breath. Was this a Henge? If he offered up information about the nature of their mission, was one of the Seven Swordsman going to cleave right through the both of them?

He hoped so – maybe it was his nihilistic tendencies, but there were worse ways to go.

“Look, pal. A group of Miko paid our village to send us here to clean this thing. What’s your deal?”

He made a shooing motion at the creature as he addressed Ringo.

“Sailor!” It was always an act with her, given how serious she was, but he’d grown accustomed to it by this point. “Report! How bad are your injuries?”

Junge 04-03-2019 09:50 PM

Eyes squinting something awful Ringo still managed to hear enough to get upset. “We are Kirigakure, villain! Zwei! Zwei, you better hope I'm blind forever now, because when I see you again you are so in for it!”

“Hokum! Bunk!”
The tiny voice continued to bubble out from under the water as the sleek brown shape weaved between the rocks. “The Village Hidden in the Mist doesn't send soldiers so small to perform their holy tasks! And Miko!” A sound not unlike spitting filled the salty air. “Heathens on top of criminals! You are both going to be in so much trouble when Big Sister finds out!” The creature let out a little chirp-like gasp as it swam nearer the torii gate and noticed all the barnacle gunk everywhere. “Vandals too! Curses upon you! Curses!”

“Permission to kill it, sir!”
Ringo sputtered, pulling out her bow and aiming wildly towards the squeaky source of noise. If only she'd done this back when she first saw the thing! Yet despite the righteous rage that roiled within her, she held her shortbow's string taut and did not release her arrow. After all, she hadn't been given permission yet.

Wess 07-11-2019 01:40 PM

“Ringo, if we killed everything that moved, we’d be no better than the Water Lord.”

They’d also have to clean it up. And while Ringo would be all too happy to do it, something told him that killing a talking otter wasn’t a good idea. No matter how angry it was. He let out a sigh and looked back toward the other genin, releasing his grip on his dagger when the otter swam towards the Torii gate. For the most part, the thing just seemed incredibly upset. Not necessarily a threat, unless you counted for the fact that Ringo couldn’t see. Which somehow just made her grow louder.

Though, if the otter had done to him what he’d done to her, he’d probably want it dead too.

“Put that bow down, to hear you talk, you can’t even see to aim. I don’t need you putting anyone’s eyes out. Or clipping your chicken’s wings, he already looks like the barnyard version of a pirate.”

He shifted his stare towards the otter’s direction. More shouting, something about a big sister. Woe was him. Is this is what being a teenaged genin meant? Having to solve disputes between preteens and animals that, if they weren’t so gosh darn cute, he’d be okay with killing?

“Uh, look, uh, bud? Mr… Otter? You’re not a seal right? You have fur and stuff, yeah?” He cocked his head to one side. “Anyway, Kirigakure does send…” He made quotation marks with his fingers. “…’Small’ shinobi like us to handle ‘holy’ business. We’re scraping some barnacles off this thing because the Miko had this great idea to pay the Kirigakure bureaucracy to have us do it. We'll probably get five percent of the profits. But if you don't mind me asking, what’s got you so up in a tizzy?”

More cursing. No, literal cursing. If Takumi heard “curses!” one more time, he was going scream.

Junge 07-20-2019 09:28 PM

Despite, or because of, her commanding officer's order, Ringo stood at attention with eyes tightly closed and an arrow tightly notched. Just because he told her no to kill it didn't mean she couldn't be ready, just in case he changed his mind!

The otter, utilizing its advanced intellect, seemed to pick up on the fact that the girl was somewhat hostile to his continued existence. A trail of bubbles rose up in its wake as it dipped and dived through the seawater. This let it direct its squeaking right at the talkative boy.

“Disgraceful! You bring shame to your ancestors, doing the bidding of infidel Miko!” It chittered rapidly as its agitation only grew. “The most esteemed and divine Kirigakure shinobi would never take orders from those who follow false gods! I'm reporting you...” It paused to take in a few squeaky breaths, having talked too fast for too long. “...to the proper authorities!”

The furry creature dove below the churning ocean surface again but didn't resurface. Ringo, sensing her opportunity to take a prisoner had just slipped away, shouted after it. “WE ARE THE PROPER AUTHORITIES!”

Her vision returned, followed by Zwei. After enacting some feather plucking discipline everything seemed to quiet back down. The barnacles still decorated the gate so there was work yet to be done. Already the girl was pushing the weird little talking rodent out of her mind. A shinobi always did their duty, even in the face of absolute absurdity!

As she re-equipped her crustacean carving tool, Ringo looked to the older genin to see what his verdict would be. “Resuming normal operations, Sir!”

It didn't need to be said, but she said it just the same.

Wess 08-16-2019 02:01 PM

Takumi just kind of stared at the otter and shrugged. Ringo had the right idea. The sooner they finished this, the sooner they could go home. He removed his hand from the hilt of his sheathed blade and set to the working on the post opposite of the younger genin. The barnacles, for whatever reasoned, seemed a bit tougher to get off this time, but that might just have been Takumi’s irritability keeping him from focusing.

“We shall continue on, my most esteemed compatriot!” If nothing else, he could at least continue to fuel Ringo’s delusion that what they were doing was for the good of the village. He figured that the village was running low on actual missions for genin of the caliber and resorted to this. He remembered kids in the academy, like Ringo. Over eager and exceptionally zealous to the cause. They would consider this “paid training.”

He could hear them now. “Nothing works out arm muscles like scraping barnacles off needlessly high religious totems!”

The two continued to work, despite the otter’s near constant protests. After taking a deep breath, Takumi finally looked over in the creature’s direction.

“Exactly what makes what we’re doing so horrible again?”

Junge 08-22-2019 09:17 PM

It didn’t matter what exactly those creatures intended, of course! The world was full of weirdos and oddities and Ringo did just fine ignoring anything that’s purpose wasn’t immediately clear. What was clear was her job: scraping barnacles. She responded to her commander’s question with a ‘Yessir' despite not being sure what, exactly, she was yessiring too. Another feminine voice followed up her own.

“Children!”

It seemed to bellow out from beneath the sea and carried a harsh musical tone, like someone was blowing too hard into a flute.

“I am Mumo, of the Gonseikai! Desist your vandalism at once!”

Ringo snapped back instantly since she didn’t like the disembodied voice’s attitude. “We are shinobi of Kirigakure and have jurisdiction over this place, so bugger off yourself!”

“The spirit of the Giants has guided me here today!”
The voice moved now, as if churning around in circles around the gate. “These are hollowed grounds, not to be disturbed by any mortal hands. I beg you, desist, for your own good!”

Her fingers clenched around the barnacle scrapping tool and her jaw tightened. One simply did not talk to soldiers of the Hidden Mist that way! Yet there, pulling at the back of her mind, floated the doubts. Some instinct or gut feeling made her hesitate. The strange voice certainly sounded threatening, but Ringo couldn't bring herself to do her usual thing and spit right back in its face. No matter how hot her righteous fury burned the girl felt forced to admit the Voice had their best interests at heart.

One thing mattered much more than her own opinion, though. Orders from a superior. Ringo's eyes shifted to her Commander and waited, hoping to hear something that contradicted the emotions that roiled within herself.


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