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Old 01-08-2019, 09:55 PM   #1
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Ishikawa Eiko and her mission partner, Yasuhiro Isamu, made their way south and eastward of Enkaku, well off of the main roads and those less familiar beaten paths traveled by caravans of shinobi and civilians alike. Their journey from Sunagakure had taken the better part of the day, and as the sun began its descent into the western sky, the pair of adolescent ninja found themselves in a mild yet remote area of desert, caught between the edges of the Eastern Wasteland and the drastically more fertile region known to citizens of Wind Country as the Fringe.

Isamu, also a genin, had several years in age and experience over the girl. Despite the hours they had spent traveling the harsh terrain together, they hadn't shared much by way of conversation. Of course, this was not for lack of wanting – Eiko knew Isamu to be a regular teammate of the girl Ume under the tutelage of the famous Renchishin Hitoko, a veritable legend of the shinobi world in his own right – but she found herself stifling her own curiousity before any sort of question could leave her lips. Admittedly, she saw Isamu as a dangerous combination of handsome and confident – a clean-cut example of the sort that the SUNA division had to offer; tall and chiseled and as blonde as the grains of sand they skimmed across.

Their assignment was a peculiar one. Eiko had heard stories of the accursed lands and its plagues which had ravaged any and all settlers who tried to make them their home since long before she had been born. Despite the efforts of the Tenth to expand usable farmlands in the east, all records of the area in question seemed to indicate that various tragedies had befallen those unlucky enough to attempt to penetrate it. Archival data summoned from Sunagakure's great library suggested that this had been the case for centuries – perhaps a civilization had thrived there, once. And by the Eleventh's hand, perhaps it would again.

Leave it to Enzan to challenge traditions.

Nonetheless, Eiko was determined to witness these so-called plagues for herself. The incidents themselves, where the historical records were complete enough to decipher, seemed to conflict with one-another; no two reports spanning decades documented the same event, which led her to believe that either they were all fabricated stories designed to discourage travelers from stumbling across something they shouldn't, or that they were all, indeed, true accounts. That thought alone was unsettling – for all the girl's limited knowledge of curses, she'd never known a single one to take so many forms... hordes of horned toads rising from the earth en masse, swarms of vermin carrying poisons and disease, catastrophic storms of ice and fire, unnatural darkness which hid the sun from view for months on end, and much, much worse.

Unfortunately, because of the discrepancies, it was hard to know exactly where those stricken lands actually lay. Eiko knew they must be close to their destination based on local landmarks, but with daylight fading quickly, it would probably have been in their best interest to rest for the night. She checked her map once more before rolling it back into its small carrying case and holstering it on her belt beside her pouches of various ninja tools. Parched, she brought her water gourd to her lips, taking a refreshing sip...

Startled by what she tasted in lieu of the water she knew she'd filled it with, she let the gourd slip from her grip. It fell, shattering on the ground in a mess of red. Her eyes widened in a mix of surprise and fear as she frantically wiped the remnants of the thick liquid from her lips. She sputtered, but knew that some of the contents had already reached her stomach.

Blood.

"Isamu..." she began, hesitantly. "I think we're here."
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Old 01-09-2019, 05:31 AM   #2
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Isamu's whole body had snapped to attention at the sound of the gourd shattering against the rocks that had populated the past few miles since leaving the Eastern Wasteland. The mission had already spooked him. It was only due to his work with the priestess Hikoboshi no Natsu that he was on this mission. His eyes ran to Eiko's face, initially missing the splatter of thick blood on the rock and sands below it.

"You're..." Isamu started a half-thought, nearly pointed at Eiko, before their eye contact communicated exactly what they knew to be true. In a flicker, Isamu's hands formed three quick seals, the basic kata of his Glass Element, and pulled a larger gourd from his belt and began to pour a stream down onto the broken shards of gourd and blood. As the sand fell, it began to twinkle in the desert's dusk light. It hardened over the whole mess of blood into a hard glass pool, as Isamu offered Eiko his handkerchief, a gift from his friend in the academy.

"We don't want the scent of blood attracting wolves...." Isamu spoke matter-of-factly, like a mother teaching a child life lessons. The rote, dry tone helped Isamu keep his cool. He had been hoping that the plague rumors were just the result of an unhappy sect of The House of Swarms.

"Blood curses are altogether different." He spoke in the same intelligent tone that Hikoboshi no Natsu had when she had said the same words to him. Isamu knelt down. His heart was racing. He hadn't said anything social to the girl from the Iron Flower generation on the whole trip. He had even heard about her little fight with his teammate and had thought it appropriate to apologize on Ume's behalf, but the right time had never come up. And now it seemed that time never would.

"I suggest you don't touch the glass. And do me a favor," Isamu proffered a lighter from out of his pocket. "Burn that handkerchief."

It didn't matter how special or sentimental the cloth had been. Hikoboshi no Natsu had taught him that nothing was worth carrying a curse for.

Isamu stayed kneeling, looking closer at the bloody rock and sand trapped in glass. He had crafted it like museum glass, and so, only at the proper angles did it even catch a discernible reflection. He watched as the dark red turned deeper black. Before his eyes, the blood beneath the glass pooled, condensed and formed into tiny pools, before stretching out and - "It's moving."

Indeed, trapped in the glass, was a small battalion of centipedes where the blood stain had been. Forced to writhe over itself and the shards of gourd in it's glass vacuum, the wriggling insect legs remained in the general shape of the pool. Isamu pushed his hands together in the bird seal, forcing his chakra to strengthen the glass, mostly out of fear. The glass showed no sign of strain.

But then again, glass rarely did before it broke.

Isamu bit his lip, and squinted. He was on full alert.

"Do you hear something?"

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Old 01-09-2019, 04:06 PM   #3
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...right.

Wolves should have probably been the least of their worries, but Eiko knew that Isamu was attempting to be practical and keep a level head. Something about the way Isamu talked of blood curses comforted her slightly, if and only because it was a sign he'd dealt with their like before and lived to tell the tale. She wondered about the details, but could not bring herself to ask, inspiring and attractive as it was.

In her own efforts to remain steadfast, she could feel herself quivering uncontrollably as she reached our a shaky hand to take the lighter from him. For reasons she could not understand, she felt paralyzed by fear.

Wasn't this exactly what she wanted? The writhing of the centipedes which had formed from the blood in her gourd made her stomach turn over – could the same thing be happening within her?

Eiko held the lighter to the handkerchief, allowing the small flame to lick the corner until it caught and spread. When she handed the device back to Isamu, the wind around them picked up. As her crimson Spartoi cloak whipped and snapped around her body, she let the burning cloth free to sudden breeze, trails of embers leaking behind its path through the air. The winds themselves seemed to become the distant mutterings of some far off chant in tongues that the girl did not recognize, but then, they were almost too quiet to hear.

Isamu and Eiko both heard the next sound, though. She looked over to the boy again and nodded to confirm his suspicions. The sound of the wind had become another sound, a high-pitched droning. The painted orange and purple horizon became cloaked in a darkness so heavy that she would swear she could feel it all the way down to the depths of her very being. It converged on the pair of genin from every direction, the buzzing noise getting louder and louder by the second. The very earth they stood on seemed to groan in response. A violent flash of lightning split the sky above them, heralding their imminent doom.

"Come on!"

There was no more time to waste. Eiko knew they needed to find some form of shelter, and quickly. Mustering her courage, she reached out for Isamu and proceeded to run. Just where, exactly, the girl did not know.

Anywhere else would be better than being exposed in the open.
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Old 01-09-2019, 05:32 PM   #4
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He was halfway comforted to know that the low buzzing in his ear was not something within him. The other half of him was present enough to know that it spelled more of the supernatural. Lightning cracked, as the earth groaned, and Eiko spoke out with the very words he had been thinking.

The pair began a bolt across the rocky outcropping of desert. The darkness that covered the horizon all around them made certain that the best direction was hard to determine, but Isamu recalled a clipping of their initial travel strategy. Among the abundant oases of the lands, there was a particular strip of desert waste dotted with cave systems. This, from Isamu's directional assessment, was where they were now, and had been for a quarter mile. Finding a cave had been his next incentive before the broken gourd of blood had entered the scene.

While the duo ran, another snatch of lightning broke the darkness, and Isamu saw details within the dark horizon.

"Locusts!" Isamu shouted to Eiko as the swarm grew louder. They were not yet in the thick of the wave of bugs that blocked out the remaining light of the horizon. He recalled his journey in Orikomeru, when he had heard the ghost sounds of herds of dogs storming towards him from all directions. This was just another curse. But unlike in Orikomeru, these beasts had real, physical shape.

Isamu reached out and grabbed Eiko's wrist. They couldn't afford to be separated if the locusts overcame them. He spoke loudly over the buzz, no longer so matter-of-fact.

"Remember the map? It said there should be caves nearby." Isamu hadn't stopped running, and was comforted to see that Eiko kept pace without issue. He tried hard to remember what his divine friend had told him in Orikomeru.

"This is just another curse. Believe in yourself, and the curse will have less power, I think." Isamu frowned inwardly. Perhaps this was not the time to say things without absolute certainty. That had been stupid. An easy way to worry the younger girl. The buzzing storm grew ever louder, and closer, until he could feel that the locusts were nearly upon him.

"We just have to find a cave! Maybe we can wait this out."

Or maybe the storm would just wait for them.

Either way, Isamu could barely see in the darkness. If he was going to find a cave, at this rate he would more likely stumble upon it than see it in his surroundings.

From above, another crash of lightning.
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Old 01-09-2019, 08:43 PM   #5
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Eiko remembered the map, alright, but in darkness so thick and palpable, it would be a miracle if they found the caves that were supposed to be somewhere just beneath their feet. Isamu continued shouting though his words fell on deaf ears – the beating of the wings of a thousand insects which surged towards them from every angle drowned out all sound but the roaring storm which shook the heavens and the earth; not even the furious lightning was enough to illuminate their path for more than a single moment.

Despite their impressive speed, the swarm caught up with them. Eiko could feel the locusts landing on her cloak, and in her hair beneath her hood, and on her arms and legs. She swatted frantically at the air all around her with her free hand, still clinging to Isamu's with the other in desperation. She closed her eyes tightly and grit her teeth, vibrating with a scream that she would not allow to leave her lips for fear of the locusts finding their way into her mouth.

That is, until her sandaled foot hit something hard. She whimpered again, reeling from the pain. To her surprise, she felt as though she was sinking. She silently cursed herself for not placing tracking sand onto her partner as she felt herself losing the strength to maintain a grip on the boy's arm as the sand beneath her gave way.

She gasped for air in panic, having held her breath for most of their run. The girl managed the first syllable of the boy's name before –

– she fell, tumbling head over heels into a great void in the earth which sought to swallow her whole. If not for her armor, she'd likely have broken an arm on the jagged chunks of sandstone which lined the walls. She struggled to mold chakra into her feet in an effort to gain traction and slow her rapid descent, tucking her head in and hoping that Isamu realized that she had let go.
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Old 01-10-2019, 05:33 AM   #6
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Dammit. Isamu cursed himself as he felt Eiko's hand slip slowly from his grip. He dared to reach a swipe of an open hand through the air where she had been, but could only feel the skin-crawling sensation of locust carapaces cracking against his palm as the storm thickened.

Isamu had closed his eyes as soon as the locusts had closed in. Still, he felt them battering against his cloak. He could feel them pata-pata as they clinked against his forearms, his shin guards, his metal body-plate. His steps grew shorter and close to the ground. Isamu knew not to yell out for Eiko. He could feel the bugs slapping against his whole face.

It was another minute before his foot caught a hard surface and he fell to his knees. Before his knees could hit the rock, his hands squished locusts against what felt like a set of rocky stairs. Feeling with feet and hands, slowly, Isamu developed a sense of the steepness of each step as he crawled up. Agony lightened as he felt himself ascend into a covered section of stairs. He could tell only by the quietening of the locust buzz as he crossed a threshold. He climbed with his eyes closed until he did not feel locusts battering against his cloak. He had no concept of how long or high he had climbed, but he could feel the cool damp of an underground structure.

I climbed up... Isamu slowly opened his eyes after wiping some sort of locust fluid from his face. But nothing in Wind is ever this chill above ground.

Isamu left his doubts about how far from sea level he was behind him as he patted twitching locusts off of where they had caught on his cloak. In another moment he was flicked his communication device on. The static sounded like locusts.

"Eiko-san. Calling Eiko-san. This is Isamu. Are you there?" Isamu heard his echoes get swallowed up the stairs as his hands searched his pouch. When they returned to the open air, he held a compact pole, tied neatly with cloth. Isamu flicked on his lighter, thankful to have it, and as the torch caught ablaze, his environment was illuminated.
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Old 01-10-2019, 07:21 PM   #7
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Eiko groaned. She picked herself up off of the stone floor and dusted what she surmised to be the remnant wings and legs of the locusts from her person. She looked upwards first – by her estimation, she'd fallen more than twenty feet – and then downwards second – she was thankful that a healthy amount of sand had fallen alongside her as it seemed to break her fall. But the deep darkness played tricks on the mind, and the mouth of the pit which had sucked her in seemed to move further and further away. Without a rope to climb out with, she was not hopeful that she'd be able to leave the way she entered – even if she could scale the wall with chakra, there was not enough room for her to simply walk up the sides.

She looked around again in an effort to get an idea of her current surroundings. Despite not being able to see much, it was clear that the passage she fell through was bored with little precision. Palming the walls around her revealed a narrow chamber that was crafted with far more care.

In the distance, down what appeared to be a very narrow corridor, she saw some source of light. Reluctant to move towards it, she felt around the chamber to first confirm that there were indeed no other directions she could go. Before she could take a step, however, she was startled by a burst of static in her ear. Her reflexive grip on the short hilt of her dagger waned as fragmented bits of Isamu's voice came over the air.

Eiko-sa... th... is Isamu... ar... there?

Raising a finger to the device in her ear, she responded.

"Yes, Isamu-san, I'm sorry. I copy. I'm..." she exhaled, relieved. "I'm here. I'm okay. I'm in some kind of..."

As she took a few steps forward, still palming the wall, her fingers traced over chiseled symbols. At first, they felt like nothing, but upon doubling back, she realized that she recognized them. Well, a few of them, but in any case she was able to fairly accurately deduce where she was.

"...tomb."

She felt her stomach do another cartwheel upon mention of the word.
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Old 01-10-2019, 10:05 PM   #8
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The stairwell filled with a warm orange glow, and reflected upon the sienna tones of rock with a luster. The shadows created by the flame felt at once alive and afraid of the fire. Isamu's heart mellowed, if only for a passing second. He was nearly at the top of the rustic staircase and as he finished his climb, Eiko's words caught chatter through the walls of stone.

...copy... 'm okay... some -kssht- of.... -omb

He held up a hand to focus what he was staring at. Tiers of murals layered both walls beside him. The hallway the staircase leveled to was clearly for public access, yet only enough for three people wide at best. His attention was pulled to the art and away from the length of the hallway. Despite the poor connection, Isamu continued to try his radio.

"Copy that Eiko. Glad you're okay." Crude paintings depicted a history on the rock. Perhaps crude was not the right term, but dated. Indeed the art looked like something he would have seen in a museum, depicting an older art style. Some time of art between the chiarroscuro of charcoal drawings and before the development of saturated color. "I'm in some sort of... royal hall?"

Isamu's hands led him backwards through the history painted on the walls. Here was what could only be the Royal Meerkat family to arrive at a fountain, bearing gifts of numerous bounties. What the gifts were, the art had faded too far to discern. Other sects of the World's history convened. A patch of mural told of a train of shrine maidens making a similar voyage. There, on the opposite wall, The Eagle family. This predates the wars of Meerkat and Eagle, before the Meerkats went into hiding.

Undoubtedly, the hallway was old. Isamu didn't dare touch the wall, as it looked ready to slowly crumble at the slightest touch. It felt sacrilegious to deface such ancient painting. A few patches of mural, as Isamu moved deeper down the hall, were gone. Some parts of mural ceiling looked like it had fallen out in squares, with no sign on the floor of where the patches of ceiling had gone. The deeper he traveled, the more vivid a story was unfolded for Isamu.

The characters and landscape changed as the mural developed, colors fading as it grew older, but the flames that licked the walls continued to illuminate one recurring motif. A fountain, the destination of every royal visit, the centerpiece of fertile lands. Occasionally, it spouted from the top of a miraculous temple. Always, it shone and sparkled, depicted through a white-gold light as it's water.

Isamu could not help but feel that the hallway was once sacred and safe. As the sound of locusts faded with every crumbly step down the hall, Isamu fell quiet. While the hallway no longer seemed holy, or even safe, he could feel that he was the only one in the hall.

"Eiko-san. I don't know how to explain it, but I think I am in a temple." Eiko needed to see this. She had the mind for deciphering these things, perhaps more historical knowledge to back up his assumptions. At once, like a revelation, Isamu pulled a small camera from his pouch. Rudimentary, with expensive film, he rarely used it, except with friends and when his cat was curled up on his windowsill. With a steady hand and an outstretched torch, kept out of frame, Isamu clicked once, twice, thrice.

Satisfied - and certain he only had a few more photos before he would have to develop the roll - Isamu tucked the photo away and started. Down the hallway, his flame projected against something reflective.
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Old 01-11-2019, 12:34 AM   #9
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py that... ad you're... in some sort of roy...


More static and intermittent words from Isamu grounded her once more. Eiko felt less alone in the cramped passage knowing that Isamu was with her, if only in thought. As she continued down its length, the connection seemed to become a bit more stable.

He must be somewhere in here, too.

And her suspicion was all but confirmed by the boy:

...ko-san... on't know how to explai... I think I am in a temple...

"Hang on, I'm..."
the girl replied (unintentionally) curtly, doing her best to commit what little she could glean from the imprinted ancient language to memory while maintaining a separate conversation. No easy task, even for one with such mental acuity.

From what she gathered, the hieroglyphs chronicled the rise and fall of a people known as the Tottori, who made their home in the surrounding land long before Daisai Sougi, who would become the first Kazekage, made his historically famous expedition into the westerlands. The Tottori revered their leader, worshipping him as a God-King. His works were a "boon" for their civilization -- the lands above were once extremely fertile, a "beautiful and bountiful garden, flowing with milk and honey" and teeming with flora and fauna unlike anywhere else in the vast expanse of modern Wind Country. With "gifts," relics or tools from what Eiko presumed to be a form of Kami, the God-King "performed miracles." But one day, pleased with the works which had been done, the God-King and his people "answered a heavenly calling" and were "lead into paradise." Thus, a temple was constructed as a "record of their time in the earth" so that future denizens might pay homage to the God-king, his disciples, and their lands of plenty.

Eiko's heart was racing with excitement. The fear she had felt seemed to melt away, for the moment, until her hand traced over what was not an etched symbol, but something else. She recoiled, jerking her hand away from the raised surface. Enough light from the chamber ahead revealed a human skull where her hand had been. She focused her vision in the low light, and to her horror, realized that the walls ahead were lined on either side from floor to ceiling with human remains of varying size in a macabre mosaic.

A mass ritual suicide.

Paradise indeed.

The girl's pace quickened; Eiko was not eager to dally among the dead. At the end of the hallway where the light came from was a small opening into another chamber, illuminated in an ethereal glow. Even for her one of her stature, it was a tight fit. She squeezed through carefully and dropped down into it.

The next room was fairly plain, cut from the same stone. Other passages like the one she had come through branched off from it in four other directions. A large marble box rose from the center. The sides of the box were unadorned, but the lid featured a vague shape of a man wearing a mask and feathered headdress. The figure's arms and hands, crossed over its chest, had hollow grooves as if it once held some object in each.

A sarcophagus, she knew. The God-King of the Tottori.

Behind it, an inscription in the same hieroglyphic language was carved into a great stone tablet which hung from the wall. Below the tablet rest a bronze basin, not much larger than any regular old bowl. But from this bowl came the source of light which she had followed, which it cloaked the room in dancing white and purple light. Raised symbols in the ancient language on the miniature brazier suggested it was the "third" gift; sacred, eternal flame. It was a curious thing, no doubt some trick of natural gas, or so the girl assumed... or perhaps not. Before she could get a closer look, a tremor shook the whole of the burial chamber.

Eiko watched in a mix of fascination and alarm as fresh, red blood oozed through the porous stone tablet and formed letters in the modern language.

In a trance-like state and song-like cadence, the girl read aloud the Tottori curse:

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Inscription

For whom disturbs my people's slumber;
So too shall they acquaint my wrath;
By blade, and crook, I rend asunder;
Once sacred lands no man shall hath;

I send a pestilence and plague;
Into your homes, into your beds;
Into your streams, into your streets;
Into your drink, into your bread;

Upon your cattle, on your sheep;
Upon your oxen in your field;
Into your dreams, into your sleep;
Until you break, until you yield;

I send the thunder from the sky;
I send the fire raining down;
I send a hail of burning ice;
On every field, on every town;

I send the locusts on the wind;
Such as the world has never seen;
On every leaf, on every stalk;
Until there's nothing left of green;

I send the swarm;
I send the horde;
I send my scourge;
I send my sword
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Old 01-11-2019, 05:07 AM   #10
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What the?

Isamu's heart rate doubled at the twinkle that caught the reflection of his flame. He stood, staring past the range of light down the hallway, and surmised that he could not grasp what he was looking at. At first, he could see that whatever was catching light was moving - hence why he had started and caught his breath. As he looked closer, he surmised it was not a solid or living thing. Liquid, moving constantly, the way a river caught moonlight at night.

"The fountain." Isamu said to himself, not using his radio set. He had heard Eiko say something in response to him, but he had lost his attention for trying to decipher the breaks in the sound waves. Instead, Isamu walked slowly down the hall. More patches of wall painted bodies indecipherable. His folkloric knowledge predating the first Kazekage was nonexistent. In many ways, he could only tell that in this temple, many people followed one larger being, who shone with the same white-yellow sparkle of the fountains painted before. More patches of wall had fallen, always it seemed in patches of rectangles, or whole swaths of mural story, making the tale harder to follow. And yet, no rubble lined the hallway.

It has been a long time... Perhaps, erosion? Or another one of the plagues.... Isamu had closed the gap to the threshold ending the hallway. As he crossed it, he found himself opening up into a large circular room. The ceilings bounded much higher that the hallway, some two stories at least, and ending in a dome. Where there were windows at the top of the dome, the very top, Isamu heard the rattling swarm of locusts yet again. Below the window, a thin trail of sand fell into the room, and a handful of locusts battered crazily in their fervor, yards away from him.

His skin crawled.

Not because of the locusts. No. Yasuhiro Isamu had learned the reasonable ending of the hallway was indeed the fountain itself. It was humble, round, and in the complete center of the room. The thin trail of sand from above landed just outside it's base.

Over the radio, Isamu heard Eiko's voice again, but this time... she sounded different. Playful, or maybe childish?

"Eiko-san?" He sounded worried, but also his tone shifted suspiciously upwards. He desperately needed her attention. But she was speaking nonsense. Words that sounded like chanting.

I send a hail of burning ice;


"Eiko! Where are you? I need you to see this." Isamu stepped closer and waved his torch at the elegant stream of liquid that danced skyward and then fell down, without a splash, into it's fountain base. A stream that had been undisturbed for centuries.

Such as the world has never seen;
On every leaf, on every stalk;


"Eiko-san. Are you there?" Isamu's skin crawled. It was the fountain. The liquid caught the light perfectly, and it was not transparent.

Until there's nothing left of green;


An undisturbed fountain, spewing thick, dark blood.

I send the swarm;
I send the horde;
I send my scourge;
I send my sword.


From the window above, Isamu heard the wind pick up and howl. And then, a new sound altogether, quickly fading in and overcoming the sound of locusts. The sound of rainfall, thundering above.
__________________





| Asuka | Aima | Isamu | Kugo | Etsuko | Nin'hon | Hiroshi |

Engi No Volunteer | Secondary Sound GM

Items - Swaps - AP [19] - Tracker - Works In Progress



Last edited by Based Kiba; 01-11-2019 at 05:10 AM..
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