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Old 04-05-2018, 02:48 AM   #1
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“Oh, don’t you worry, I’m sure they’re just running late!”

Hana shot a confused look toward Kioko, watching the vulture wave her wings for emphasis. Kioko was a large bird, a fact made clear as she expanded her wings and hobbled over to the newly promoted chuunin, wrapping her in an awkward hug. Rather than return it though, the girl kind of just shied away, smoothing down a couple wrinkles in the baby blue sundress she was wearing.

The park that the two were in was empty, save for a few children playing nearby. Hana watched them closely with envy while sat at a picnic table with a various assortment of dumplings scattered across it in an intricate display. In the middle was a strawberry cake that she had baked herself, more than enough for the few people that she had sent invitations to.

It was weird, holding a new title. Her mother had died as a chuunin, and Hana couldn’t help but to wonder if she would be next despite her attempts to banish similar thoughts. At first, she had felt happy, glad that her hard work had been recognized. Happy enough to try and plan a little party for herself, even though no one had showed up. It had almost been an hour – after thirty, in a sad attempt to have some form of companionship, the chuunin bit into her finger, drew blood, and summoned the perkiest creature that she possibly could.

Kioko was a little relief, though Hana felt childish for doing what she had – the vultures were mercenaries, and here she was forcing one to keep her company. Not that Kioko minded, she had eaten her fair share of dangos!

“Everyone’s gotta be fashionably late these days, especially to parties! They’re just making sure that you had enough time to set everything up. Yeah, that’s totally it!”
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Old 04-05-2018, 03:01 PM   #2
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Hyuuga Yuu was late.

The series of events that lead to him being late, on this most important of days, weren't important to him. The fact that he was letting down that most precious friend of his, Hana-chan, was. A carefully folded cloth held a delicately wrapped box, strapped to his arm as he flew across the rooftops of Konohagakure, sliding across thick cabled power lines and ducking and weaving between the branches of the great trees that gave the village its name.

He slid to a stop atop a platform, a delicate wooden affair that jutted over a cliffside that dropped down to a residential area below, and cast his vision out to peek for landmarks. Konoha had been his home since he was born, but the sprawling layout and the twists and turns confused even him. Finally, his vision settled on his favorite companion and dearest partner, and he let out a sigh as he noticed she was alone.

As usual.

He flipped forward off the observatory and a few minutes later, came jogging into the park, sweat trickling across his forehead.

"Hana-chan!" He held out his hand for her patience as he took a few deep breaths. "Hana-chan!"

He offered a quick salute to the vulture, to be polite, and then locked eyes with Hana, holding his hands out to shake hers with his characteristic awkwardness. "Chuunin! You did it! Finally!"

He smiled at her, shifting the pack off of his shoulder and producing the cleverly wrapped box to her with a bit of pride.

"I had to wrap your gift, you see...and then on the way here, some kids had a cat in a tree---and..." He shook his head. He was always late, lately. A habit of picking up errands around town and feeling the burden of responsibility ever since he had been told his great flaw--hesitation--had made him more and more likely to be proactive, to the detriment of deadlines. Still, he was beaming at her, embarrassed and proud all the same. "It's ribbons and new ninja tools. I was in Hidden Sand recently, they had your color and I thought of you! Lucky you got promoted while I was gone, or I'd look too eager."
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Old 04-05-2018, 07:20 PM   #3
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Hana turned, her curse broken as a childish grin overcame her features. She could recognize that voice anywhere – her favorite, LIVING teammate, Hyuuga Yuu. The two had been through a lot together, or rather, survived a lot together. From the frigid wastes of Yukigakure to the junglelike depths of the Forest of Death, the duo’s bond had grown strong enough to where Hana considered him one of her closest friends. Late or not, she was exceptionally glad that he had showed up. Kioko was too, given how she squawked and did a little dance, even beating her wings to lift off the ground in a strange display of excitement.

“See, I told you!”

“Yuu!”

Despite her sad, tired eyes, the rest of her face had lit up, the cheeky grin bringing some kind of life back to her face. He offered his apologies, and she moved to give him a hug, at least until he brought up a hand. She shook it awkwardly while Kioko returned the salute, before turning her back and reaching with a talon for a knife laid on the table.

“Oh, don’t worry about it. I’m honestly just glad that someone came.” She paused, taking her other hand and clasping it around his already outstretched hand. She gripped it with both, shaking it a little before letting it go. “That you came.”

She looked toward the box in her hand, a soft blush overcoming her. “Oh, you didn’t have to get me a gift, but, uhm, thank you! I really appreciate it.” She moved to sit it on the table, carefully unfolding the wrapping paper. She refused to rip into it, but rather, she removed the corners with tape and left the entire piece of wrapping intact before opening the little box. New, expensive looking ribbons, and high quality kunai and shuriken.

Her grin seemed to intensify.

“Thank you! I should have gotten you something while I was in River Country. Or Valley, or Bird Country for that matter, but uh. I was too busy trying not to die.” Her grin waned, turning a bit sheepish.

“So how was Sunagakure?”
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Old 04-05-2018, 07:37 PM   #4
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"Hot."

He said it simply, but the strain on his voice exaggerated it, as if the exhaustion from the desert heat still carried on him. He rolled his pale, alien eyes at her and spun around on his heel to sit next to her. He was dressed as he was normally -- far too formally for the occasion, decked in robes that would cost some a quarter's salary, the Hyuuga clan's fire symbol proudly resting on his shoulder. Sweat still lined across his forehead, underneath the ridge of his headband, his chest heaving from exercise and excitement. He was beaming at her.

"I did a joint operation with this crazy Chuunin named Sosu, he was way too excited to punch and not nearly as interested in investigation as I was." He rolled his shoulders as he relaxed a bit. To an outside observer, this interaction might be strange -- the normally passive and eloquent Yuu rarely showed this level of familiarity to anyone. But Hana was his blood sister -- he trusted her entirely with his life, and any misfires on mannerisms would go forgotten. It was the only place he truly felt himself, next to this kunoichi. "I was supposed to use Byakugan to help investigate a murder but instead watched him punch a reaper-ninja a few times in the face."

His face held a strange smile, somewhere between bewilderment at his own story and an impressed admiration for people like Sosu, who trusted their own skills more than their own sense. He held up his palms to the sky in an offering of apology. "He thought it was really important that the people of Konoha knew his name, so I guess I did my part by telling you the Legend of Sosu the Gallant."
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Old 04-05-2018, 10:13 PM   #5
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“People like him get killed.”

Hana stated the fact clear as day, apparently unperturbed by her own statement. She had witnessed it firsthand in Metsubishi. “I worked with another sand shinobi, two actually. One was a chuunin, the other was a genin – I actually had went with another shinobi from Leaf as well. We were supposed to be working on a beneficial trade deal in River Country, but… It went sour.” She furrowed a brow. “One was a genin, Eiko. Me and her – we were the only ones who made it out alive. The two chuunin had a similar mentality to the guy that you’re describing, a kind of false belief that their strength made them immortal.”

She let out a long, exacerbated sigh. “The worst part was that they didn’t die protecting us. They died because they didn’t use common sense, leaving me and her to fend for ourselves.” Hana mimicked his shrug, as if she were trying to push the memories away. “We made it though. I always do, for some reason.”

Sensing the somber nature of the discussion, Kioko shuffled further, hurriedly slicing away with the knife she’d picked up. After a few moments, she presented the two shinobi with cake, beating her wings so she’d be able to offer them both a plate at the same time.

“Cake sounds lovely! Hana made it… Yuu, was it? You should try it, it smells so good!”

The chuunin shot the bird a look, taking a plate if only to keep her from beating her wings any more. The gust she had generated beat the ground with enough strength knock up dust and push away grass – something Hana preferred to avoid. She didn’t want there to be a mess.

“But, it’s definitely an interesting story. Yours, that is. Maybe I’ll see this fabled chuunin in the line of duty.”
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Old 04-06-2018, 08:28 PM   #6
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Yuu deftly maneuvered his fork across the plate, eyes narrowed at the vulture as he tried to work out how exactly it made careful slices of cake with its talons, thoughtfully tasting the cake. Too sweet, too much sugar – not to his admittedly sensitive palate, but he smiled all the same. He was radiating a type of warmth that was in poor supply in the world of shinobi, that of friendship and deep relaxation. A rare opportunity to feel safe, protected by the walls of the village and next to someone he cared about. Despite the struggles they had been through, both together and apart, they still had the ability to share moments like this.

Cake reminds me of you,” He said, not bothering to mention the sweetness. “I hope I get assigned to missions with you, taichou.

He squinted his eyes at her as he said it, teasing and playful.

Wind sung through the trees around them, bringing a respite from the spring sun, billowing through the boy’s robes as he politely finished the cake slice -- well out of his diet’s budget for the day – and sat the fork and plate down. There was words he wanted to say, but he couldn’t find them, so he continued to smile and looked up at the Hokage Monument, imposing and protecting all at the same time.

He had thought they would have been promoted together, maybe side by side at the Chuunin Exams, but instead had managed to fall behind. Her own struggles allowing her to shine and grow, his protective family keeping him from the meat of the action. It was bittersweet, imagining the world between them growing because he couldn’t match her stride. He shook his head, shaking thoughts away.

Oh, uh...I went on a reconnaissance mission with Pockets-sensei. That...reanimation of Higure-san appeared again, like back then.” He looked over at her, eyes penetrating as always. “Like being haunted by a ghost.
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Old 04-12-2018, 12:25 AM   #7
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“I remind you of a fruity, high carbohydrate pastry?” Hana’s humor was dry, though still poignant. “I don’t know whether to be flattered or offended.”

She offered him a simple laugh, leaning back on the bench and kicking her legs out just a little, hands braced on the back of the seat for balance. Hana stared past him for a moment, or rather, through him, seeming to analyze how he had grown since she’d last seen him. As he spoke about their previous mission – the one where’d they had encountered their dead relatives, the one where she’d seen her dead grandmother – her hair picked up with the wind, auburn tresses billowing like the ribbons the two women adorned themselves with.

“I need to go visit her grave soon, my grandma’s, that is. It’s been a while, but… Iron Country is so far away.” She sighed. The mere notion of such a journey made her cringe – she was still recovering from having to go all the way to Valley and then back.

She shrugged meekly.

“…Have you heard anything about Kannon?” She shuffled her feet awkwardly, adjusting her posture so that her hands rested in her lap, back arched, feet firmly on the ground. It was a sensitive subject, just as sensitive as the one the two had just been discussing. Hana barely knew Kannon, but the two had accompanied one another on several missions – and he did buy her ice cream.

“We… We also went on a mission. Ama… Ama’s sensei, he’s the one that came after us. I’m really not sure how I made it out, and he didn’t.” The girl folded her arms, staring hard towards the ground. While her icy blue gaze didn’t pierce through people like a Hyuuga’s could, there was still something ephemeral about them, like they could see emotion rather than chakra points.

“They never found a body after, though. Just his arm. So, I mean… I’m hopeful.”
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Old 04-16-2018, 07:24 AM   #8
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The assumption is that he’s dead.

He said it flatly, but his eyes suddenly didn’t match hers. He was looking off into the distance, so that she couldn’t read his face. He rolled his shoulders a bit and lightly stretched out his muscles.

Kannon is a bit of a survivor, though, isn’t he?

The official statement was MIA, but the mission objective was Corpse Collection. The unfortunate reality of being an active combatant with a kekkei genkai was that your body, if collected by the enemy, would be no doubt subjected to experimentation...or even simply just torn into portions and sold on the black market. It was a great shame, to only have an arm to bury...Yuu let out a long sigh and took a few steps away from the picnic before spinning around on his heel to smile at Hana, leaning over as he did so.

The ghosts of the Hyuuga clan was a bit painful to think about.

You’re really strong now, right?” He smiled in his weird way, again. “I wonder if you’re too strong for me to take on, now.
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Old 04-22-2018, 08:44 PM   #9
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“Surviving a fire and surviving a dead guy trying to kill you are two completely separate entities.”

Kannon had never told Hana much about his past, but she could piece it together. He wore a fake skin over his face, one that had been torn or at least cut up a bit when the two had gone on assignments together. The latest one, the one that landed Kannon an MIA status, she had seen his entire charred figure. It put things into perspective for her: Things could be a lot worse for her. But, at least he still had his family.

She let out a long huff, slumping against the picnic table, resting on her elbows as she stretched out her powerful legs. Hana stretched them, squeezing the muscles tightly together, enough to where her legs shook ever so slightly. Still, Yuu was good at changing the subject. Her eyes seemed to glaze over for a moment as she turned towards him. The two had fought one another previously, but that felt like eons ago. Part of her was curious about the matter too, but another part of her was worried.

“Taijutsu has never been my thing, you know that.” She looked the Hyuuga up and down, shrugging. “At least with Taijutsu, you can practice, train with others, you know. I feel like if we fought, I’d actually have to try and kill you if I wanted to win. You can’t really pull your punches when it comes to ninjutsu, you know? Punching someone is completely different than breathing fire.”

She shrugged, turning her head to look back towards Kioko. The vulture seemed preoccupied with her own slice, or rather, slices of cake. Cautiously, she reared her naked head up like a deer caught in headlights, icing covering her beak. Hana just laughed and turned her attention back to Yuu.
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Old 04-24-2018, 08:52 AM   #10
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I’m sure Kannon is fine.” Hyuuga Yuu cracked a wide, goofy smile at Hana, his chest swelling up with the action. “He has a way of pulling himself back together. The grisly reality of his dismemberment isn’t enough to stop a Hyuuga, is it?

To be honest, Yuu felt like he was going to vomit just talking about it – but he wouldn’t show that weakness to Hana. His goofy grin and casual posture was a careful tool to help comfort this dear friend of his, no matter his own misgivings. The reality of the world was that people with kekkei genkai could be hunted and sold piecemeal, experimented on and used as power for other people. This wouldn’t be the first time a Hyuuga was dismembered, and it wouldn’t be the last. The clan history was completely filled with stories like that. Finding a living Kannon wasn’t likely...but it was nice to hope.

Yuu pulled his arms into his sleeves, clenching the fabric in his fists and swinging the loose sleeves in the air towards Hana. “Fire? I’m more afraid of your girly ninjutsu!

His ‘ribbon ninjutsu’ sleeves fell harmlessly on the table as he made soft, mock battle sounds, complete with explosion noises. “Fire burns, but being beaten by hair accessories hurts a boy’s pride, Hana-chan!
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