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Old 11-04-2018, 01:15 AM   #11
Junge
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When a baby chick is fresh born it resides in the nest for about three days. In that time it learns quite a bit. It must memorize the soft calls of it's mother hen. It must learn to walk. And just as quickly, it must learn to run.

The hawk walked clumsily towards Ichi's green mat. The rooster fluffed himself up, but otherwise remained unflapped. The test. This was part of the test. He must follow the orders given by his master!

In the last few weeks his master had thrown him to the wolves in a fairly literal sense. Dogs, cats, rats, any animal his master could find, she had thrown them into a cage with Ichi. Humans, or at least the ones Ichi interacted with, didn't seem to possess the same level of hard-wiring beasts did. How had these strange, lanky animals gotten so powerful, anyway? They could look at a hawk and not freak out, even though it might kill them at any moment! Just like right now as the hawk's steely blue-eyed gaze locked right onto Ichi's fragile body. He couldn't control the feelings that welled up inside him.

The hawk made a wide circle around Ichi. Ichi's head moved only slightly, tracking the predator's movements with one eye at all time. He completely forgot about the human standing nearby. His tiny skull was only filled with visions of his sleek, brown-winged hawk. It stood at least a foot taller than him and looked very muscular (for a hawk). Ichi guess from the creature's movements it must be a male. Was Ichi in this hawk's territory? What a horrible misunderstanding!

Without warning the hawk's head shot forward and plucked a feather from Ichi. The rooster's beak opened as if he was about to cry but nothing came out. “Whoa, hey.” The human harshly spoke. “Too rough, buddy. Keep it civil.”

Oh no. One of those animal instincts bubbled up from deep inside Ichi's genetic code. He thought this hawk's master was the human. But it became apparent to him now that the hawk was independent. Every time the human's gaze headed down towards the clipboard, the hawk snapped forward again, painfully pecking and scratching at Ichi. The surgical precision of the predator was amazing. Though Ichi's flesh screamed out with each bite, no blood was released. The hawk was covering his tracks.

Yet! Ichi remained silent and tall. Despite it all, his master was worse. No, better! This hawk was a lightweight who didn't understand torture! Ichi would not be cowed by such an infantile understanding of pain and suffering. So as the hawk's attacks became more bold, Ichi became more resolute. He would bear this indignity for his master. He would do anything for his master. That's what loyalty meant!

A mood came over the hawk's that only birds would understand. This wasn't a territorial defense. The hawk didn't want to eat Ichi. It didn't view him as a threat, or as competition. Their eyes locked and Ichi understood at once the beast's motivation. It was doing this for fun.

Ichi felt his blood boil as the hawk turned around. What a rotten test, what a no good, mean spirited, terrible animal to put in a position of power. His master long ago had broken Ichi's instincts to assert his dominance but now he felt it rising up inside him. This hawk was so full of openings! He could slit its pretty throat in a single motion. His talons twitched.

No. Master would not be pleased. Loyalty, loyalty, loyalty. Nothing would break this rooster's pride, not even cocky, psychopathic birds of prey.

Then the hawk lifted it's tail feathers and Ichi snapped.

Last edited by Junge; 11-04-2018 at 01:28 AM..
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Old 11-04-2018, 01:27 AM   #12
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The squawking and crowing and screaming drew the entire crowd of genin all at once. Even the chuunin could be heard screaming. Ringo, following orders, stayed back in the waiting area as all her comrades rushed to the scene of the crime. She wouldn't go. She didn't need to. Ichi was her best product, a masterpiece of training. What could they possibly have done to him that Ringo hadn't already?

As she stood with her back against the tree she started to fiddle with the buttons on her uniform. It was still far too big despite her constant hemming. The cuffs went out too far, and the belt didn't have enough notches. She shook her head and felt the hairs in between her fingertips, trying to gauge if they were all the same length. Everything would be fine. Confidence.

“Hey, Ringo!”
At once the genin stopped her anxious ministrations and her eyes shot towards the sound of the offending voice. “Ringo, your chicken!” It was coming from behind her. Back from the testing area. “Ring-”

“Kurusu Ringo.” The energy in her rote response had faded, replaced with a mumbling sort of grumble instead. “Call me Kurusu.”

“Kurusu! Your pet!”
The tall boy from before was huffing and puffing as he ran up to Ringo. “You need to go get him, he's in trouble!”

“That's against the rules.”
Ringo held a stiff upper lip and folded her arms. “I am to wait in this area until-” A particularly vicious sounding crowing broke through the air. Ringo's eyes squinted. Ichi never called like that normally. “-until notified by the examiner. Doing otherwise might cause me to fail the test.”

“What? Do you hear that?”
The boy flapped his arms in exasperation. “There's no way you're passing with what your bird did-” Another ear piercing cry shook the air. “-is still doing to the examiner's pet. It's a bloodbath!”

Ringo bared her teeth but held firm. “...how bad was it?”

The boy threw his arms out wide. “It's bad!”

“Hm.”
The genin frowned as she felt her life force drain away. There was no silver lining to be found here, was there? She only needed to know one more thing before making her decision.

“Was he winning, at least?”
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Old 11-04-2018, 01:41 AM   #13
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Bloodbath wasn't a good word to describe the scene. It looked more like a pillow fight had broken out in the middle of a nosebleed epidemic. The examining table was in disarray, with the carefully placed green mat now torn up into shreds. The genin and their animals formed a half circle around the area as if to prevent anyone inside from escape. That was silly, of course. Ichi could fly. He chose to stick around because he was loyal.

And because his foot was hopelessly tangled inside the hawk's once pristine feathers. Every ten seconds or so the two birds would resume their flailing and aggravated crying but by now they were far too exhausted to draw more blood. Ichi's white feathers were stained dark red, while the hawk's own feathers were matted down with the freshly inflicted wounds. Ichi thought he did pretty good work given his available tool set!

It helped that the chuunin held both birds by the neck. Human grip was something else. His master arrived on the scene behind another young human. He could tell from her expression that she wasn't happy. That's how she always was, though!

“Team Lambda! What is the meaning of this!”

“It appears as though we have failed the socialization test, Sir!”

What was that in master's voice? A hint of disappointment, mixed with regret? No, Ichi couldn't place this emotion. It was one of those weird human things.

“Failed! Look at this mess! What kind of foul tempered beast do you have?”

“Ah, well. How is your animal, Sir?”

“Do you still have eyes, genin? I recommend you use them.”

“Oh, I apologize. I meant, well, can I retrieve my pet?”

Ah! It was acceptance. The alone time must have given his master some time to come to terms with the whole thing. Wasn't that nice?

“You are lucky I'm not snapping this dumb rooster's neck right now.”

“Of course, Sir.”
With that his master pushed her way through the throngs of enraptured genin. She gave Ichi a look only a master could give their pet. Today wouldn't be a snack day, Ichi guessed.
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Old 11-05-2018, 01:49 AM   #14
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Wave after wave slapped up against the rowboat and sprayed a salty mist into the air. A swarthy shirtless man wielding a whip struggled to keep his balance at the front of the boat. After almost toppling over a sixth time he finally lost it. “Hey! You dumb kids! Row with each other! At the same time! Stop this choppy back and forth garbage!”

“Yes Sir!”
Shouted Ringo. The other five genin in the boat only sort of groaned an affirmation before picking up the oars again. It'd been a whole three and a half hours of this, and the island still wasn't in sight. For beach-goers and fair-weather swimmers today's weather would have looked perfect. Having to row several weeks of supplies across an ocean made that beautiful shining sun more like a red-hot poker wielding torturer.

But, there would be no guff from Ringo! For this was her fault and her fault alone. Her and five other failures were taking their pets to a remote islet off the coast of the main island. This was the remedial class for pet ownership which the village required she took in order to acquire her permit. Sure, she had to pay out of pocket for it, but it was special ninja training nonetheless! Maybe when it was all over she'd come to appreciate what flunking the test had done for her.

From beneath the seat came a pair of agitated hisses and chitters. One of the other genin yelled something obscene at his pet beneath his feet. No wonder he'd failed. That animal didn't respect his owner at all. “Keep it up, boys and...girl!” Their navigator lifted his telescope again to scan the horizon. “Put some muscle on those bones. The sea won't tolerate slackers!”

“Oy, hey.”
A greasy boy immediately to the left of Ringo nudged her with his elbow. “Switch spots with me, my butt is sore.”

Ringo grunted out a half-response. “Bring it up with the captain if you want to change the seating chart.” The boy sighed but resumed his rowing. Ringo was closer to the side of the boat and kept a much faster pace than he seemed comfortable with, but so what! Life didn't wait around for slowpokes.

“Oh, oh!”
The voice of their navigator rose up over the splashing waves. “I see it! Keep it up, laddies! Shellshine Island is only a few lengths away!”
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Old 11-05-2018, 02:01 AM   #15
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After a tense half an hour of navigating the dangerous shoals of the island the wayward rowboat pulled into a rotten looking dock in a small sea cavern on the western side. “Boys and...girl, take note.” Their navigator pointed out the rocking outcroppings bordering the shore. “Shineshell Island is known for being bad lass for sailors. Wicked currents can dash even a Navy warship to pieces if you don't pay attention. It's easier for small outfits like ourselves to squeeze in, of course!” He patted his bare chest with pride. “Be glad you had such a great serviceman like myself at the helm or you might have be sleeping with the coral tonight!”

“Thank you, Sir!”
Ringo was the only one to respond, but the guy took it well enough.

“Aye aye aye aye! Let's get this dinghy anchored in port. Follow the red markings, kids.”

The deeper into the cavern they floated, the calmer the waters got. Eventually it grew dark enough that their navigator pulled out an oil lantern. “These caves were once used by smugglers to get contraband in and out of Seagull Country, you know. Hey, port side, slow down!” He jerked the light around, illuminating the wet black rock of the cave. “Some say you can still hear the sounds of drowned smugglers when the moon is full...” His voice dropped an octave as he attempted to sound ominous. “I even heard from a buddy that the ice-cold hands of the dead will reach out and grab unsuspecting swimmers who don't pay their navigation crew well after a voyage...”

“Sir!”
Ringo shouted out in her usual oblivious way, causing any possible creepy mood or atmosphere to evaporate on the spot. “Should we be rowing towards that light back there?”

“Aaaah!”
A frustrated curse burst from the navigator's lips. “Don't interrupt me, whelp!” He cracked his whip at nothing in particular, as he'd done several times on the journey. He wasn't allowed to hit anybody with it but that wouldn't stop him from trying to intimidate these lowly children!

“...but, ahem. Yes.”
He rubbed his nose as the group of genin collectively rolled their eyes. “Full steam ahead, towards those two lights. Welcome to Shineshell Port!”
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Old 11-05-2018, 02:14 AM   #16
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That little fanfare was the only greeting the kids got as they rocked the boat up to a rotten looking short pier. Two white torches burned at the far end, but otherwise there were no other signs of the dock being used, at all. There were no boats, no moors, no fishing supplies or other various instruments of naval importance. It was discrete and out of the way, like a little inoffensive food cart tucked away where nobody could find it. Ringo thought it looked quite cozy. A few of her cohort seemed to find it suspect.

“Oy, old man, you can't really mean we're throwing anchor here?”
The whiny voice of the boy next to Ringo echoed through the cave. “That wood looks rotten to hell and back. There's bloody barnacles on it!”

“Don't back talk me!”
The navigator snapped back. “I make this trip twice a month. You're welcome to swim back to Kirigakure if you can't handle a little bit of sea salt. Now!” Another chest thumping signified the sailors confidence. “Just ram this old thing right up against it and tie her up like she threatened to leave you. On my mark!”

One near capsize later and the rowboat successfully slammed up against the wooded structure. The navigator was the first out, leaping across the gap like the boat was going to explode at any second. Someone tossed him a rope and he set out to work. “Get the big packages off first, and don't drop 'em! That's the only supplies you kiddos are getting for three weeks!”

Though none of the children knew each other they quickly worked out a system of offloading the cargo. The pets had to wait until the very end before getting onto dry land, something more than a few of them were not happy about. Once the backbreaking work finished Ringo snatched up Ichi's cage and squinted inside. The cave was dark but she could make out Ichi's white feathers all bundled up in a protective fluffy ball. The dumb bird was asleep!

It was probably for the best. Ringo found her own small travel pack and bed roll and threw it on her back. The other genin were sorting their things as well, a few having disappeared to go deal with the call of nature. Ringo recognized one of the other genin, not because she wanted to, but because that particular boy was really tall and harassed her a bunch a few days ago during the exam. He was busy talking to the navigator.

“It's, oh, like this big?”
The boy spread two fingers. “It's not for me, it's for Hoshimaru. His nails get so long-”

“Kid, I ain't seen your make-up.”
The navigator huffed as he pulled out a cigarette. “You're going to have to search the boat again, but I'm guessing it got nicked by one of your other friends.”

“Nicked?” The boy looked confused. “Like, damaged?”

“You sweet child.”
The navigator chuckled and put a hand on the shoulder of the kid. “You're going to die out here.”
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Old 11-05-2018, 02:25 AM   #17
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The trip up the cavern was at least as harrowing as the ocean voyage. The slippery rocks at their feet hadn't been carved or even marked off, necessitating a trial and error approach to scaling the obstacle. Most of the cargo they'd left on that dark dock. “Someone will get it,” promised their navigator. It wasn't clear who and their leader didn't feel it necessary to divulge that information.

“I bet it's squid people.” A bandanna wearing boy with a pale complexion nodded in affirmation to his own unsolicited opinion. “You've heard the rumors, haven't you? About the witch who lives here and curses people with horrible mutations?”

“Do I know you?” Ringo grunted as she tried to safely make her way up a particularly troublesome rocky outcropping. “Why are you talking to me?”

“It's information gathering!” The boy acted offended as he pulled himself after Ringo. “We're ninja in training, you ought to be doing everything you can to get intel on your enemies.”

“This is a remedial animal handling course.”
Ringo tested a rock, found it too loose, then plucked it out and tossed it behind her without caring. “We are here because we failed the village mandated permit test. The village wouldn't send it's genin to a witch.”

“That's what you think, but it's actually deep than that! Hey, watch where you throw that junk.”
Bandanna boy let out a little high pitched yelp as Ringo's haphazard rock climbing technique showered him with debris. “It's a conspiracy, you see! We're disposable, so the village sends children here to get tested on in the hopes of making a super soldier. Proof number one!” He held up a finger in preparation to go into a tirade. Ringo found a good foothold and disappeared into the cavern's shadows before he could get started. “Seventy percent of all genin are...hey, hey! Are you listening?”

Up above the light grew less dim. A soft but chilled sea breeze blew upwards from the cavern. As the group moved closer and closer to the top of the sea cave the sounds of the waves grew fainter. Ringo stepped off of the black cavern rock and into the sunlight again, squinting as the raw rays hit her dilated pupils. Here it was, the wilds of Shineshell Island!

“What the hell!” The greasy boy from before screamed. “It's just a bunch of bloody rocks!”
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Old 11-05-2018, 07:29 PM   #18
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Yes, bright and balmy Shineshell Island was really just a giant outcropping of volcanic crust thrust out into the surface. There were no palm trees to climb, no sandy beaches to enjoy a nice cold drink on, and certainly not even a shred of shade to take refuge under. What it did have was lots of sharp rocks to cut your feet on, a nasty salt smell, and gnats. Lots of gnats.

Ringo stood in awe at the bleak landscape before her. It was empty, devoid of any comfort or aesthetics. In other words, it was perfect. “Hm. Hmmmm.” She hummed in satisfaction. “No distractions and a harsh environment. It's a good place to train!”

“Shut it, brat!”
The whining, greasy boy moaned. “I can't believe my parents paid for this.”

“Like I said, lad.”
The navigator crept up behind the genin slammed a hard palm down on their shoulders. “Swim back if it's not to your liking!”

The complaining boy hissed out a “Sure thing, boss” before twisting away from the man's grip. The remaining kids all pulled themselves from the sea cave a little while after. Each one got to experience the naked, lifeless island for themselves, and needless to saw the response was underwhelming.

“Alright, kids!”
The navigator rubbed his nose and spat. “You got about half an hour of hiking due east before you reach your, heh, 'accommodations'.”

“We're sleeping on rocks, aren't we?”

“Don't ruin the surprise.”

“You can sit around and bicker like children, or you can get your butts moving like soldiers.”
The navigator crossed his arms as if unhappy, but he was clearly enjoying this. “At any rate, I'll see you all in three weeks. Best of luck to you scrappy bunch of hooligans.”

“Hey, wait a minute.”
The tall boy was taking heaving breaths from the hike up. “There's only one boat, how are you going to get back?”

The navigator held a finger up to his lips. “Trade secret. Now, off with you!”
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Old 11-05-2018, 07:45 PM   #19
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Everyone needed a few moments to rest after the grueling trip up the cave, except for Ringo who stood around looking displeased. After their navigation expert disappeared back into the abyss the genin found themselves in an awful quiet place. The pointy and jagged rocks that made up the landscape made it hard to find a place to sit so most opted to just stand and sweat under the midday sun.

Eventually one of them spoke up. This genin had a shaved head and some kind of weird facial tattoo going down his cheeks along with a nose piercing. Ringo thought it made him look like a clown but some shinobi really got into the whole 'my body is a canvas' thing. He spoke in terse little bursts. “I'm letting my friend out.” The boy put his pack down and unlatched the cage door. The greasy boy let out a low whistle.

“Man, you're cruising for trouble.”
The whiner stretched and squatted on a perilously thin piece of rock. “I've heard the taskmaster here looks for any excuse to crack the whip. Literally.” He made a throat slitting gesture with his thumb. “You should just keep your animal tied up until we get there.”

“How would you like being stuck inside a tiny box for six hours?”
The tattooed boy scoffed, reaching into the cage. “Have a little empathy in your sad little life.”

“Just trying to save your skin, bro.”
Leaving the children to their own devices Ringo decided enough was enough. She gave Ichi's cage a little rattle to make sure he wasn't misbehaving, then looked east. There was no path or other notable landmarks, but the island wasn't that big. If she kept her nose down and took her time, then she'd find the training grounds no problem.

She got to take about four steps before a familiar breathy voice caught up to her. “Hey, Ringo, wait up!” She bared her teeth out of impulse then shut her mouth just as quick. This nonsense never ended!

“It's Kurusu.”
Ringo turned her head to watch the lanky boy fumble over the rocks after her. “You may call me Kurusu. We are not on a first name basis.”

“Kurusu, jeez.”
He panted. “Why are you so old fashioned? Nobody does that these days.”

“You are free to shirk whatever traditions you want.”
She tugged at the straps of her pack and turned her attention away from the boy. “But I won't have anything to do with ne'er-do-wells who can't follow protocol.”

“Ne'er-do-well!”
The boy's words came out in a half-laugh. “What century did you come from?”

Ringo didn't dignify the question with a response and instead chose to march forward. Involving herself with people like that wouldn't end well, and she had no obligation to be friends with a bunch of failures. Ringo would rise above this street trash!
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Old 11-05-2018, 08:05 PM   #20
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Unfortunately her body didn't possess the same level of physical ability as her spirit would have liked. Her short, thin frame fumbled over the rocks at a clumsy pace and despite her shinobi training she found herself moving much slower than she anticipated. This wouldn't have been such an issue except that the tall boy quite easily kept pace with her, meaning she was in for an hour of harassment.

“Kurusu, hey Kurusu.”
His voice was higher pitched than most boys his age and every third syllable seemed to crack. Puberty hit some people young. “Don't you think it was weird how you failed the permit exam? I mean, those were some dumb reasons to disqualify you, don't you think?”

“The rules are the rules.”
Ringo clambered up a particularly big rock after a great deal of effort. “I broke the rules and got punished. That's how society works.”

“Yeah, but, I mean, oof.
” The boy's long legs easily cleared the rock Ringo struggled so much with. “Some of those rules are stupid, aren't they? You don't have to agree with stupid rules.”

That earned the boy a harsh stare of death from the girl. “Yeah, like those silly laws against murder and theft, right? I shouldn't have to follow those if I don't want.”

“Ooooh come on, Kurusu.”
The boy groaned. “You know I didn't mean it like that.”

“No?”
Ringo waved the child off with her free hand. “Well, then maybe you shouldn't have said it like that. Choose your words more carefully.”

The pair continued to make their way across the barren face of Shineshell Island, though every few minutes the boy came up with a new interjection. “Hey, Kurusu, hey. Do you need a hand?”

“Watch out for that crack down there, it looks nasty!”

“Are you sure this is east? I don't see anyone following us.”

“Oh, you know, I don't think I've introduced myself yet, my name is-”


“Oh my God.” Ringo took a heavy breath both out of exhaustion and exasperation. “Do you not have any friends? Is this why you are bothering me?”

Her clear insult flew over his head as he latched onto the chance for a conversation. “I'm glad you asked! Kurusu, did you know, I know your brother!”

Ringo stared hard at the now proud looking boy. Seizing the moment he kept going. “That's right! I'm friends with Masato, who I met at a-”

“I don't have a brother.” Ringo's brow was furrowed in annoyance. “And even if I did, it wouldn't mean anything if you knew him.”
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