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Old 11-26-2018, 04:14 PM   #91
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In a wide circle around the bear now stood multiple gray, fuzzy blobs. It blinked rapidly to try and clear its vision but this was no trick. Rather it was a different trick of shinobi. The bear couldn't see Ringo anymore, but in her place had formed what looked to be a dozen taller targets. It was that boy from before! The one whose head the bear had so unceremoniously bit into. Hadn't he retreated?

The tall genin stood atop one of the stone huts and watched his clones as they chaotically ran around the bear. Ringo looked torn up but safe as she continued to run back towards the camp. The bear seemed visibly confused as it swiped at the clones, easily catching and crushing them but unable to discern a good target to focus on. It had taken him a long time to build up that many clones- his skill barely let him make two at once before he needed to wait for his chakra to build back up. Thank goodness his teammates managed to delay for so long!

Nearby a recently freed Kanehisa Hidehiko held onto a combat knife like it was a security blanket. He looked proper pissed but that had been true from day one, so the tall genin couldn't tell if anything had really changed. Somewhere in the camp cowered Raiju who was having his third mental breakdown of the week. Somehow, despite it all, the tall genin breathed a sigh of relief. The team was back together again. Ringo drew closer to the camp as the bear continued to be harassed by the clones, and he opened his mouth to greet her.

“Kur-”

“RINGO!” Kanehisa Hidehiko yelled at her with a voice full of vitriol. “YOU HAVE A LOT OF EXPLAINING TO DO!”

Panting and heaving Ringo could barely muster up a response. “Nice to see you too.”

The darkening sky chose that moment to open up. A powerful downward draft of wind pounded the genin from above and almost knocked the tall boy from his perch. Ringo actually did fall, so strong the gust was, but she caught herself to prevent a painful face plant into the sharp rocks below. It didn't take long to learn to watch your step on Shineshell.

From above the bear descended its guardian angel. A multitude of precisely aimed rocks fell from the heavens and smacked into each clone. They all popped off in poofs of steam without resistance. The owl latched onto the back of the enraged bear and gave another huge flap of its wings. A swirl of water engulfed the two animals, then they exploded into a million droplets of water. Within seconds the pair was gone.

“Ringo!”
Kanehisa Hidehiko shouted and pointed. “You let them get away!”

With half open eyelids Ringo stared at the disheveled genin. Ichi, from somewhere, flew in and landed on her shoulder. He let out little cluck then started to clean his ruffled feathers.

“It's Kurusu.”
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Old 11-27-2018, 05:34 PM   #92
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That night was the darkest yet. All day the clouds had been growing thicker and threatened rain, yet still none came. Now, with the sun gone, a wicked chilly wind was howling across Shineshell Island. Four genin huddled inside one of the still intact stone huts, where their coal fire threatened to go out with every gust of wind.

Ringo let out another huff of discomfort as she pricked her finger with the needle again. Fixing those horrible tears in her uniform was hard enough with her lack of skill in sewing but doing it by coal light just made things even worse. On the other end of the hut sat Kanehisa Hidehiko and Raiju, both bruised and battered from the evenings festivities. The tall genin was busy washing out their bowls from their measly meal. Without Hisao around to cook it the dried fish and rice tasted even worse than usual.

“This is some god awful training.” Kanehisa Hidehiko shivered. “I ain't learned a thing.”

“Don't lose hope.” The tall genin regained quite a bit of his composure over the last few hours and seemed in higher spirits than normal. “If we all stick together, we'll be fine. That's probably what we are supposed to be learning. I think.”

“Oy, Kurusu.” Raiju spoke into his hands. “Is this all in Choei's big master plan, since you seemed to figure everything out?”

Ringo held up her garment looking for additional places to patch up. “I don't know. Ask him yourself.”

Everyone but Ringo jumped when a severed head rolled into the hut. Kanehisa Hidehiko coughed out his mouthful of water and screamed. “Hot damn! Make him stop doing that!”

The severed head rolled up the fire then poofed into smoke, revealing a preening Ichi. He settled down to get warm after finishing his patrol of the area. Ringo paid no attention to him. “He's practicing. It's how you get better at things, you know.”

“Well, tell him to practice outside!”

“Then he wouldn't know if its working or not.” Ringo put down her shirt and frowned at the loud boy. “You have to test disguises to see if they are any good. Ichi never saw a severed human head before. If you bunch had gone down the cliff to see what a mess he looked like, the whole ruse would have fallen apart immediately.” For dramatic effect Ichi poofed himself back into a severed head, this time of Kanehisa Hidehiko. In broad daylight it would have looked laughably fake but in the dim light of the coals it almost passed off as spooky.

Kanehisa Hidehiko threw a rock at the chicken and it switched back. Ringo scowled but didn't stop her work. Everyone was still on edge. Except for Ichi, of course, because roosters simply didn't have edges to be on. It was also probably because like it or not, the little group of genin were operating under strict orders from Ringo herself. She never fancied herself a leader and wasn't liking how it felt. The feelings across camp were mutual.

The facts, however unpleasant, couldn't be changed. Despite the day's many trials and tribulations Ringo was the least injured in the group, and had the most combat experience with the three beasts that now menaced them. The mysterious scroll left that morning which had demanded Ringo be thrown off the cliff seemed to acknowledge this. Every event on the island for the past few days had sought to separate Ringo from the group. If she was any smaller, no doubt the owl would have tried kidnapping her as well.

Tapping the ground nervously with one foot Raiju finally spoke. “One more time. Tell us about the cave one more time. I still don't believe it.”

After another soft vocalization from a finger prick Ringo sighed and set her work aside. “You can check tomorrow if you don't believe me. Though I don't think Choei will let me go back a third time.”
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Old 11-27-2018, 06:00 PM   #93
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Earlier that day...

A speedy white blur zoomed past her field of vision as she fell. Facing upwards she could watch the cliff loom larger and larger as she plummeted. It was a very different feeling than the first time she had been thrown off the cliff, since there was no menacing ocean to suddenly engulf her field of view. In a way it was a much calmer, nicer way to go. After all, when you fell face first, you knew exactly when you would hit the ground. That was a much more terrifying experience.

The shoge wrapped around her wrists pulled taut and just as before her descent ended early with her slamming into the rock cliff face. With more time to prepare for it she managed to catch herself at a good angle, so it only hurt kind of sort of a lot rather than a whole whole lot. A tiny grunt of displeasure escaped her lungs as her bones creaked from the sudden blow. Her shoge shook, and trembled, but held.

Up above was perched the black and white feathered Ichi doing his best to look proud. At his talons rested the shoge's hook, neatly embedded inside a particularly large rock that Ringo marked for him yesterday. Orders followed, to the letter! Ringo hung there for a moment, letting the chains bite into her arm, and considered how nice it was everything worked out. For whatever reason Choei was dead set on throwing the girl off this cliff. She doubted it would be the last time she would be in this position.

Ichi fluttered down the cliff to meet up with his master as she shifted her weight and began to safely descend the rest of the way. He was looking no worse for the wear. Choei, or one of his minions, had been feeding the animals at least. All his items had been taken except his hidden blades but Ringo was satisfied just to have a soldier under her command again. The previous night's search hadn't turned up empty, as she told the other genin. Inside the alcove had been a short, secondary path, leading to a section of the sea cave completely inaccessible by boat. Inside had been a few comfortable looking cages similar to the ones the genin used to transport their pets to Shineshell Island in the first place, with the animals inside.

Specifically only four animals were inside. A bat, a sloth, a lizard, and Ichi. Ringo left with only her own animal for precisely that reason. She could confirm that the chicken was in fact hers- they had a code phrase specifically for this type of scenario after all. The other three animals she didn't know and couldn't risk letting go. And anyway, Ringo could bring the team back tomorrow. What would possibly happen overnight that could change that?

On the way back to camp, with Ichi in tow, paranoia hit her hard. Of course Choei's pets weren't there, since he was the training instructor. Plus that squid probably didn't fit in a cage. But the lack of a fifth pet confirmed her suspicion that he wasn't acting alone. Of the four boys back at camp, one wasn't telling the truth. Ringo needed insurance.

That insurance now sat on her head as she clambered down the cliff face. Under cover of darkness she had ordered Ichi to spend the night hidden by the cliff. He had explicit orders to save her should she tumble off it again, and lo and behold, events transpired exactly as foretold. When Ringo fell, the loyal rooster grabbed her shoge and went to work. A perfect team, they were!

And now came the final bit of trickery. Ringo let out a soft grunt as she jumped from the cliff face to the boulders that made up the 'shore' of this side of the island. They looked a lot more like pieces of cliff that had just fallen off but they provided stable enough footing. Ichi took off and returned quickly with her shoge. It was a bit unfortunate that all her other items were left up in the camp. Those backstabbing genin made sure to strip her of anything useful before dumping her off the side of the island. Proper pirates, that lot was!

But she wouldn't hold it against them. After all, they were just following orders. Now that she was down here in the ocean she could go back to the alcove and rescue the rest of the pets. A glance up showed that none of the genin were even checking on her to see if she was okay. Wow, how courteous! They must have been afraid she was dead. To Ringo, that smelled like opportunity.

Ringo tied up her chain and gave Ichi the hand sign. With a cluck of affirmation the chicken flapped its wings and a swirl of smoke engulfed him. In the next moment his appearance completely changed...into a glassy-eyed, permanently scowling countenance of Ringo herself. Only, just the head part. The part below the neck trailed off and looked like a bloody jellyfish.

Ringo tapped her foot impatiently on the slippery sea rock. What a shame. Ichi only learned the henge technique a few days ago and was not very good at it yet. Anybody who looked up close would be able to tell this wasn't Ringo at all. There were even some feathers sticking out of her 'hair'. She shrugged. It would have to do. This would just be a fun surprise for the group and maybe teach them a lesson about tossing teammates off cliffs. They would come down and get Ichi anyway right? Then they would know she survived. What could go wrong?

Last edited by Junge; 11-28-2018 at 04:09 PM..
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Old 11-28-2018, 04:20 PM   #94
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What was once ink black water now took on an inviting warm blue. What a difference the sunlight made. By now Ringo was well experienced traversing the cliffs of Shineshell and she made quick work traveling to the alcove. Along the way she didn't spot any owls which boded well for her chances. Now, in the glory of the mid-morning sun, she could get the rest of those worthless animals out of captivity.

Unfortunately quite a bit of time had passed since she rescued Ichi from the hidden path. Enough time, in fact, for the cavernous offshoot to now be completely engulfed in water. It looked exactly like it had last night in the dim lantern light but the sea level had risen considerably since then. Ringo wanted to slap herself. Of course it would be higher, when she had come the previous night, it had been low tide. Since then the ocean rolled back in and sealed up the entrance. Everything made perfect sense. The little sea passage was concealed during the day, and only really accessible at night. As expected of a jounin.

Well, this wouldn't be that big of a deal, would it? Ringo could swim. The offshoot's mouth was only a few feet below water and there weren't any currents or waves to worry about. The crystal clear water meant it wouldn't be hard to navigate while underwater either. It would be a bit more of a hassle but if nothing bad happened it should all go smooth enough.

If nothing bad happened being the operative word. Ringo stood perched on the cavern walls for several minutes just watching the water softly lap against the stones. The water's clarity only reached a few dozen meters down. Past that was the usual ocean darkness. Memories of the encounter with the squid were still fresh in her mind. That whole struggle took place above the water, on dry land. Underwater the squid would be far faster, stronger, and impossible to deal with. She couldn't take that plunge without a plan.
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Old 11-28-2018, 04:35 PM   #95
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The chill of seawater washed over her skin all at once. The salty water stung her eyes briefly but she powered through it. Ringo's head popped back up to the surface and she took a long, gasping breath. She could see it! The passageway was so obvious during the day, so long as you knew where to look. A slow approach meant she would not be surprised by any aquatic monsters, but it also meant more time for her to get caught. What would a good soldier do? Ringo's expression melted into a stern grimace. Rush forward? A cautious advance? Some kind of silly half and half mixture?

No, there was only one option. She had to go with the more predictable choice. Choei would expect her to act like a bumbling genin here. Ringo needed to play into and feed those expectations. When she first earned her promotion to genin it was on the back of winning a fight where her opponent made that very same underestimation. Well, not underestimation. In truth Ringo was very much a below average soldier. Other than what she read in history and military textbooks, the eleven year old had little practical experience and often found herself way over her head.

But that weakness was also a strength! Ichi was a weak animal, Ringo was a weak shinobi, but together they made a slightly above average team! At least, that is what she thought as she took the plunge again into the salty sea. To her belt she secured a number of bags of rocks to keep her buoyancy low since she didn't trust her muscles to keep in her place while diving. Her tiny arms made powerful strokes as she headed towards the narrow entrance of the alcove passage. While underwater all the sounds of the ocean only grew louder. She could hear the far-off waves and splashing with a surprising amount of clarity. Though the sun's angle was perfect for illuminating the alcove it didn't pierce all that far down. By the time Ringo was aligned with the mouth of the hidden passage the water around her looked as dark as dusk. Even so she pushed forward. Strike fast and sure, and the enemy wouldn't be able to counter attack!

Unless they did. Not even ten seconds into her dive she felt a very unwelcome sensation around her leg as she tried to kick it. It was tight and rubbery and resisted her movement like an iron chain would. A small stream of bubbles escaped from her nostrils and her heart started to beat faster. The good thing was that since she was underwater, at least her breathing (or lack thereof) would be calm!
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Old 11-28-2018, 04:48 PM   #96
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The squid wasted no time in pulling Ringo back away from the cave. Her head spun around and her short black hair kept getting in her face, but she couldn't see where the animal's main body was. The long gray appendage wrapped around her leg just extended out into infinity, towards the darkness. This looked like a repeat of their last encounter! And, in a similar fashion, her brain defaulted to the same strategy. She had kept herself as close to the passage's rocky ceiling as possible and with a deft flick of her hands she secured her shoge's hook into one of the many crevasses above her. Now the squid wouldn't be able to pull her away!

As soon as the chain pulled taut the tentacle gave an extra hard tug. Ringo's mouth opened in a pained expression but she held onto her breath. What didn't hold on was the rock. The mighty tug instantly dislodged the hook from the rock it was attached too and Ringo found herself being pulled without resistance towards the darkness. She closed her mouth, but bared her teeth. Figured. As she moved her chain trailed behind her like a tail, flailing helplessly as the water grew heavier and darker. Like rag doll she sank, deeper, deeper, until her ears popped and it felt like a person was standing on her chest.

Here Ringo felt a new terror. The terror of the abyss. Yesterday, in the cave, she had experienced a complete darkness. But it was a known darkness, a familiar unknown. Here, in the depths of the sea cave, where the sun was nothing but a dim shimmering star above, things felt much more terrifying. It also didn't help she couldn't breathe or move very effectively. Nightmarish would have been a good way to describe it. Ringo very much wanted to wake up.

But she wouldn't die, right? Of course not! This was training! At worst she might be scarred for life. And all good soldiers had lots of scars. There was nothing to be afraid of!

An enormous eye the size of a beach ball rose from the depths. Its pupils were elongated and utterly alien. The body the eyes were attached too seemed to extend forever into the darkness and was swathed in a myriad of different length tentacles. Some looked as thick as Ringo's entire body. The whole creature shifted colors rapidly as Ringo drew closer. Was it excited? Bored? Hungry? Whatever it was feeling Ringo didn't want to know. The mere sight of the monster caused her to involuntarily choke out a little more of her dwindling air reserves. She vastly, vastly underestimated how bad the situation was.
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Old 11-28-2018, 05:00 PM   #97
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The tentacle stopped its tenacious pulling for a few seconds while the beast gave Ringo a once over with its enormous eyeballs. Now as the time to strike! Ringo forced her arms together and pushed chakra into her fingertips. The warmth of the energy flowing between her hands felt soothing compared to the frigid deep of the water surrounding her. A few bubbles escaped from her lips as she silently mouthed off the names of the hand seals she was performing. Just like in the Academy, this was just like in the Academy. She couldn't afford to make any mistakes!

In response the squid simply shook her around by the ankle. Her hand seals stopped as her body was tossed helplessly side to side. Dizzy, but not discouraged, Ringo's hands moved together to try again. Again the squid amused itself by simply thrashing her around like a child would a balloon on a string. Each time the beast flicked her around, Ringo felt her stomach churn and eyes spin. It took no effort from the squid to harass her this way but each time it tossed her around more air escaped from her lungs. A third treatment of rapid flailing left her arms dangling upwards, completely depleted of energy. Ringo wore a complex mixture of emotions on her face. There was that usual fierce determination, but also a significant amount of confusion and lack of focus. Her eyes couldn't seem to locate where the squid was anymore.

Also there was quite a bit of nausea thrown in there as well, but the less said about this the better.

Content that its ministrations left the girl defenseless, the squid's other tentacles moved in. Like before they aimed to disarm her completely. Predictable! This was a beat for beat repeat of their last encounter. Ringo put up more of a fight before but round two was decidedly in favor of the aquatic monster. One should always learn from their mistakes, lest they fall into a predictable rut. The monster's smaller tentacles wrapped around the infernal shoge Ringo wore at her hip. Once that was dispensed of the girl would have no weapons at all. Victory was assured.
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Old 11-28-2018, 05:13 PM   #98
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Then everything exploded.

Squids can't blink. Giant squids in particular lacked eyelids. In the deepest abysses of the ocean, there wasn't much need to. Of course in the heat of combat with wily, unruly humans, such anatomical flaws suddenly began mattering much more. Ringo's body erupted into a surge of white, steaming smoke, sending ripples of bubbles out in all directions. From fighting other naval vessels during the Seagull War, the squid certainly knew what explosions felt like. They were loud, visually stunning attacks, capable of taking out huge chunks of even hardened steel. Instinctively the beast let go of the child and recoiled, releasing a powerful jet of water as it retreated from the girl. What had happened? Did she kill herself? Unthinkable. Shinobi explosives didn't work underwater.

Could it have been some kind of technique? How was that possible? None of the surrounding water was charged with chakra. It felt completely normal. Squid's eyeballs are also incapable of narrowing down into suspicious glances, but if they were this was certainly what the animal would have been doing. The water was fine. None of its sensitive tentacles felt anything. No shockwave. No noise. No nothing.

Visually the girl was surrounded by a cloak of bubbles but that was it. The squid could put two and two together. A trick! A shinobi trick!

Ringo's arms pumped madly as she tried to get to the surface. Air! Precious air! Around her feet dangled the chains which likewise whipped back and forth with every motion she made. Almost to the surface she hazarded a look down. Multiple tentacles were shooting straight up for her.

The slimy limbs of the squid touched the flailing chain and immediately recoiled. From Ringo's point of view nothing happened. From the squid's every time it touched the weapon a cascade of forceful blasts ruptured from within. This was the shinobi trick of bakuretsu, a purely visual illusion of explosive power. It would only activate when her weapons were touched. That is to say, as long as the squid didn't catch on. A creature of that size and intelligence would eventually figure it out. Even now it seemed to have figured it out. It's whole body was rising up from the depths to meet Ringo as the surface. No doubt the same trick wouldn't work a third time.

Like a glorious marlin Ringo burst back into the sweet tasting air of the alcove. The squid pulled her far away from the passageway and deeper into the sea cave. Still, there was enough light here to orientate herself. While she kicked with her feet her hands struggled to pull the metal shoge back up before it could be used to yank her back down. How many seconds did she have left before getting pulled back down? Her eyes darted across the top of the sea cave as if an answer could be found there. Too far. She was still too far in!
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Old 11-28-2018, 05:26 PM   #99
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The otherwise placid sea cave erupted into a symphony of splashes. All around Ringo tentacles burst from the surface of the water and viciously slapped back down. It looked as though the creature was avoiding touching her shoge altogether, instead going for a holistic approach and just trying to get a grip around her head. Several times the puckered appendages grabbed onto an article of clothing just to barely slip away. It happened one time too many to be an accident. Yet again Ringo was relying on the anrokku technique to keep anything from binding her again, forcing chakra through parts of her body to keep them slick from the repeated grapples of the squid. This wasn't a permanent solution and only worked so long as the creature used its longest, thinnest tentacles. As a genin, Ringo simply didn't have the energy to repel the thicker appendages from trapping her.

Sure enough the beast rapidly caught on to the shinobi tricks again. It rose up even higher, high enough Ringo could see it's huge body right below her own. It was like swimming next to a watch tower! Through mouthfuls of water she shouted something. The squid couldn't hear more than a muffled few words but the action gave it reason to pause. Was the girl calling for help? It's enormous eye couldn't see past the threshold where the water met the air. There was no way she had any help was there? All the other genin were certainly back at the camp. And what good would her chicken do in a situation like this? The sea cave was the kingdom of the squid! Satisfied with its evaluation the beast sent out two enormous tree-trunk like limbs on either side of the girl. It would end this in one fell swoop.

Both tentacles emerged from the water and flew straight up several feet, dwarfing Ringo in size. Either one would have been able to completely immobilize her, without any hope of escaping. Again Ringo's eyes searched the heavens for a solution. Almost. Almost! She was almost there!
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Old 11-28-2018, 05:34 PM   #100
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Down the meaty tentacles fell. They criss-crossed their paths, making sure to lay Ringo smack dab in the middle of their intersection. She was so close to the main body of the beast that there would be no struggling against it from this point out. Failure at this single moment would be the end of her rescue attempt.

At the cusp of defeat Ringo made one last motion. The squid couldn't see what she did, but it did see what she threw. The girl grabbed one of the bags of rocks she had been using to sink faster and hurled it at one of the tentacles. Obviously a bag full of rocks wasn't going to do anything against the rubbery, tough flesh of the giant squid. To even suggest such an action would be successful was laughable. It felt more like what a petulant child would do in the midst of a tantrum. Throwing a bag of rocks at a beast the size of a house! Squids can't laugh either, but here was a moment where it would have been very fitting.

Even so, letting a child get its way was embarrassing for an animal of its intelligence and stature. The squid simply moved its tentacle out of the way in a split second and the bag of rocks harmlessly collided with the rocks above their heads. The squid even heard it plop back into the water with a pathetically little ploop. So much for the last ditch effort of the girl. Its tentacles resumed their plunge to surround and engulf the genin. Hundreds of powerful suckers met their mark and the squid could feel the child squirming helplessly against its irresistible strength. Nothing could be done now! No more shinobi tricks, no more clever ploys, nothing! This was the end!
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