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Old 06-10-2016, 04:47 AM   #1
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"There are too many refugees and deserters," Takuma said, rubbing at his stumble and staring at the sky. He had a face that could have been handsome if it were not so haggard; the mercenary had the sparse, thinning hair of a man too old to lead any real expedition and a face too soft and boyish to be trusted too far by the sort of band who roamed Bird, favoring rugged scars and thick chins and furious faces. Takuma looked like someone's secretary dressed in leathers with a sword strapped to his waist. "Since the skirmished died down, more warriors are turning to banditry. We'd do best to avoid this road completely."

He squatted in the center of a circle of silhouettes, sharp shadows obscuring their features as the lantern in Takuma's hand flickered. With his other, he speared a point on a map pressed against a broad stump. "It'll take another few days but if we follow this . . ." Takuma drew a winding path through the woods, unmarked, before sweeping his finger back up onto the main road. "If we follow this, we can get back to the main road and avoid any trouble." He turned his face up, glanced about the crowd, but his eyes caught on someone and frowned. "Something to add, Kijutsushi?"

"You're so cautious about men. That's wise enough, but you forget the rest too easily." Miyu said. She pulled back her hood and fell to her knees, hair tumbling over her shoulder as she stepped forward. "A storm is coming. If we aren't careful, we'll be washed away. How sturdy are your side roads, Takuma? And are you ready to pull your wagons through the mud?"

"A storm," Takuma mouthed something foul. "When?"

"Two days. I will know more when we are closer."

"Could be worse." He indicated another point on the map. "I know a cave we can use to ride it out. We can deal with the mud later. Hana!" Takuma turned to the littlest mercenary in their party. "You have the best eyes. Until we go off the main road, you have the night watch. Got it?"
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Old 06-10-2016, 05:55 AM   #2
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“Understood, Takuma-sama.”

The honorific felt foreign on her lips, after all, how was one supposed to address a caravan master? The entire matter seemed quite perplexing, for Hana wasn’t normally one to be so hung up on pleasantries, yet something about the entire situation felt incredibly off. This man simply could not be her superior. He could not. Rather, he was the first person in line, charged with navigating the caravan’s journey towards Valley Country. But seemingly more often than not, Hana followed closely behind him, very rarely switching her position amongst the ox-pulled carts with the other mercenaries.

As the only shinobi tasked to this particular group, part of Hana felt out of place. She had often tried to reassure herself that she had been assigned singularly because Konohagakure trusted her to conduct herself appropriately, but she didn’t really believe that. Having a girl that could breathe fire was a very evident deterrent to any potential hostiles, and it was rather obvious that any force which appeared to have the might of a shinobi village behind it could spook any would-be attacker. However, it wasn’t like the caravan was carrying anything of supreme importance either. In fact, most of the cargo consisted trade records and other files that, in the wrong eyes, were completely and utterly unimportant. However, to the taxing Valley Country, everything last scrap of paper was very important.

The young kunoichi couldn’t help but let out a sigh as they continued forward, her eyes peeled, repeatedly checking her six, nine, and three. It was rare that Hana directed her gaze forward into the darkness; rather, she expected an ambush. Bird Country was not a safe place, and the genin had grown accustomed to readying herself for combat at a moment’s notice. Between the mild skirmishes and scares she faced on her journey to the caravan, the genin had entered a state of perpetual uneasiness. The preteen was in a foreign place, away from everyone that she knew.

It was hard to make the most of the journey, knowing that she had to be wary, or risk losing her life at a moment’s notice.

After a good amount of time passed, Hana broke the trio’s silence, turning her gaze toward the Miko. “How can you sense the oncoming storm?”

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Old 06-10-2016, 06:37 AM   #3
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To steal glances would seem suspicious and wary, so instead, she turned and studied Hana openly, up and down, one corner of her lip turned up just so. She was a child; Miyu must have been only a few years younger than her when the Magician found her. Yet already she had potent power at her disposal. Shinobi! What a novelty. Her sorceries could never hope to match the raw, military might of the shinobi arts, and it had put her somewhat ill-at-ease to know a child half her age could burn her to cinder if she had a mind to do so.

But she could read the gentle fear and unease on the lines of Hana's face, something. Powerful she might be, but in the end, no matter her power, nothing could deny the truth; Hana was a small, frightened child. And Miyu knew how to handle that.

Miyu gave Hana a friendly smile. "It is somewhat difficult to describe," Miyu said, though the trick she had used to figure that out had been the simplest thing she had ever learned to do. "But I will do my best."

"Ours is a world full of gods. The Kami, in the numberless thousands, are all around us. The fire, the trees, the shadows, the reflection you see in a mirror . . . There are spirits everywhere. A sorceress must ask the kami to come to their aid. That is how our arts work."

Unless, of course, you were among the 'heretics' who had moved past asking nicely. Who would demanded the Kami fall in line and serve, as was their place. "Divination is simple enough. You ask the Kami a question, and they may bring you an answer. Or they may not. And sometimes, their answer is not as clear as we would like. Every sorcerer speaks to the Kami in their own way."

A thought snakes up Miyu's spine, and she smiled. An opportunity! She placed a hand on Hana's shoulder. "Little Hana, when we next have the opportunity, would you like to watch my ritual?"
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Old 06-10-2016, 07:40 AM   #4
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The concept was intriguing to say the least, but not something Hana particularly cared for. The only thing she was concerned with, to put it simply, was having someone to talk to and keep her awake. It truthfully wasn’t an uncommon occurrence for the genin to become less attentive as the day progressed further into the night, although the kunoichi could usually prevent tiring out quickly as long as she had some form of company. Either way, Hana figured that it didn’t hurt to make casual conversation with her holy companion. She did need some friends for the rest of the journey, and the kunoichi figured that there was also a slight chance in which she'd learn something useful.

Even still, to Hana, the Kami made no conceptual sense. She wasn’t one to believe in foresight and the gods and the spirits and divinities communing with people - honestly, it all sounded like works of fiction to her... but then again, a twelve year old shooting fireballs out of her mouth might sound like the same thing to someone else. Regardless of any proof, Hana was still skeptical, even though the priestess’ past predictions had come true.

The way the young kunoichi saw it, science was the only thing capable of predicting the weather, and that was as close to the future as people could get. And despite her not seeing a weather instrument on the priestess’ person, Hana still couldn’t help but to search for one during her time off duty. Snooping, after all, was a totally valid way to pass the time as long as you didn’t get caught.

“It sounds to me like you priestesses are chosen. Kind of like shinobi; our chakra systems are more developed than civilians, but are influenced by genetics. But only with you guys, it’s the kami that choose who they want to communicate with, yeah? So if I wanted to try out divination, it wouldn’t work, right? A spirit wouldn’t just up and tell me the forecast for next week, would they?” Hana couldn’t help but chuckle. The mere thought of a baby cloud with a face floating next to her head, whispering sweet nothings about how clear the skies were going to be in a week seemed quite comical to say the least.

Kijutsushi’s offer had come off almost insincere to Hana. It felt like a cruel joke, almost like the woman was wanting to waste her time, but the more the young kunoichi thought about, the more apt she was to take her up on her offer. The preteen was curious, regardless, of exactly how priestesses sought to commune with their spirits and deities. But most of all, Hana was just wanting a good story she could tell her friends when she got home, and more importantly, good laugh when everything was said and done.

“That sounds simply divine, Kijutsushi! When will the next one be?”
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Old 06-10-2016, 09:59 AM   #5
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Hana might have laughed at the thought of it, but Miyu certainly didn't. "Some shinobi dabble," she said, flatly. "But none can match the expertise of a dedicated sorcerer. I understand that some deem it useful, anyway." The line between shinobi and sorcerer was . . . fuzzier than Miyu would like. It reminded her of her Master. Somehow, he had learned to plunder some part of a shinobi's power, which should have been driven by their alien 'chakra' and subvert it to his own purpose. Once, she had dealt with a rogue Samurai who had dedicated much of his time to mastering witchcraft. He had been one of the most terrifying individuals that Miyu had ever met.

The secret, if secret there had been, hadn't helped him. Her smile was slow, sly and hidden by shadow.

"Well, well, little Hana, I can hardly give away all our secrets, can I?" Miyu laughed. But the simpler truth was, she didn't know what made a priestess. Some seemed to learn it by doing, from books and through ritual and practice. She had been born with the capability, unharnessed. It was what had drawn the Magician to her. It was what had buoyed her power and stamina beyond the garden variety temple Miko that so often tried to hunt her down.

"I will perform my ritual the day before the storm starts," Miyu said. "The closer we are to the time of the storm, the less will be left uncertain, and the easier it will be to get information." And the more time Miyu would have to figure out how best to alter her regular rituals to help her get the rest of what she needed from the gullible little flower.
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Old 06-12-2016, 03:48 AM   #6
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Hana, in situations like this, often liked to imagine that she was being sincere, but the sad truth was that she had learned to fake a multitude of similar traits quite some time ago. She found herself thanking her recently deceased sensei for that - no matter how bitterly sarcastic she was inside, the genin was always capable of appearing genuine when she needed to. It was probably one of her better strengths, come to think about it.

The thought made her let out a sigh as she rolled her eyes. The very fact that she even regarded fakeness as a “strength” made Hana cringe a little bit as she let her gaze shift from her three o’clock towards Takuma, who was quite easily ignoring the two women that were following close behind him. It was evident that his mind was wandering elsewhere, perhaps on getting the caravan to shelter. Hana wasn’t too sure, but she couldn’t help but hope that she’d get the chance to sleep soon. All nighters were not something that she enjoyed.

Irregardless, the miko’s explanation for the timing of her ritual wasn’t exactly something Hana cared deeply for. However, she could fathom that the construct of time mattered greatly to those who divined for information. Using spiritual energy to commune with spirits, and then convincing them to do a favor for you sounded quite taxing actually, provided that was actually what happened. Thinking about the entire situation made Hana’s brain hurt. She decided to turn her attention back to her duty.

Her gaze continued to shift for quite sometime, and among the blackness, she could see faint wisps of smoke to her west. She debated her options; it was far enough away to where the caravan wouldn’t have to worry about a potential run-in, but if someone else saw and reported it, Hana figured she’d wind up getting yelled at.

“To the west, a few wisps of smoke from a dying fire. It’s far away; we should be fine. I’ll stay on alert for scouts, Takuma...sama.”

It still didn’t sound right.

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Old 06-15-2016, 07:18 AM   #7
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Some heard as far as 'priestess' and started eating right out of Miyu's hand. It would have been simpler if that was what she was encountering now, but no. If she was reading the air right, Miyu was pretty sure that Hana was humoring her. Hm. Well, curious and bored might be enough to do what Miyu needed to do. The kami did not require faith. Neither did Miyu. The world would dance regardless.

"I enjoy your company," Miyu pulled her hand back and turned her face to the road. "I do not need foresight to say, this trip will be very long. We could both benefit from a little companionship."

~o~o~o~

And long it was. Takuma had understated the slowness of his chosen road. The reason, Miyu began to realize, that no bandits would patrol here, was that this trail was not made for any parties that carried valuable goods whatsoever. Whereas the main road, while made of dirt, was wide and acceptable for travel, this route was narrow, winding, barely wide enough for their wagons to travel through and incredibly uneven. Wheels got stuck in holes in the road daily, again and again, and their pace slowed to a crawl.

As a priestess, it had not occurred to anybody to ask her for help when the wagon got stuck, she she was left with a great deal of free time. At first, she welcomed it. For once Takuma was not pestering her to uncover trivial things when she needed her spiritual power topped off. Yet, with nothing else to do, she found herself restless and bored. She missed her wagon, burgeoning with books to pour through, but her purpose here had made traveling with it unacceptable, and so it was still tied up in the woods of Bear somewhere, under the protection of an old friend.

The countryside was nice enough, she supposed. The rolling hills and trees spread over their heads, casting elaborate, mosaic shadows across in the world around them. It was, perhaps, quite beautiful, but there wasn't a great deal to do except mediate, coast through physical exercises, and talk. Miyu found that, in spite of everything, she truly looked forward to her moments with the little Hana, other motives aside.

They had stopped for the night, and the sun was perched just so over the horizon's edge, painting the countryside in vibrant oranges. Miyu had built a small fire along the edge of their camp, her tent perched up behind her. "—And he is so certain that someone has been stealing into his house and robbing him. So I set up, settle down, meditate and watch all night. And sure enough, I see it. 'Who is stealing from me?' He demands to know, and I say, 'I don't know about theft, but perhaps you should put a lid on the jar so your cat can't get into it.'"
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Old 06-25-2016, 02:41 PM   #8
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Hana had not prepared herself properly for the length of the mission. As progress slowed and everyone set to repairing wagons, she found herself watching the workers irritably. Yet, like the miko, no one asked her help. Instead, Hana offered to assist the members of the caravan by using her chakra enhanced strength. And at first, things progressed smoothly, but as the wagons found themselves trapped in deeper and deeper holes, strength became less of an issue as much as a skilled touch did. That, and the fact that Hana’s last endeavor had wound up in her breaking one of the wheels clean off a cart.

So, for much of the journey, the kunoichi found herself sulking next to Kijutsushi, always shifting her gaze from one cardinal direction to the next. It was taxing, almost impossible. Part of her wished that she had Yuu or Kiyoko’s eyes; being able to see almost the entire way around her would be quite helpful.

Throughout the journey though, Hana found herself growing closer to the Miko in question. Kijutsushi, as she was referred to, possessed an unconcern about everything, and the young genin felt drawn to it. It was as if she knew what was to come, almost as if she could predict her very death. It was relaxing, being in her company, and it was something that Hana hadn’t prepared herself for. Everytime she decided to close herself off, she met someone that changed her outlook.

For the first time in what seemed like forever, she found herself laughing around a campfire with people she trusted and regarded as friends. It didn’t take much for the naive girl to open herself up, but at the same time, she felt a nagging feeling.

Something told her not to trust the Miko she had grown so attached to in the past few days. But that couldn’t possibly be right; Kijutsushi was a kind miko, full of stories and tales that Hana would never experience herself. Regardless of her intuition though, the kunoichi didn’t falter, instead she jovially partook in the merriment of the days end. Yet, she found herself turned to the west, gaze often focused into the distance, like she expected enemies to besiege their camp.

That was it. Just nerves. It was a new set of scenery, after all.

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Old 12-04-2016, 11:40 PM   #9
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Miyu looked at the sky. It looked clear, with scant, thin clouds hanging high in the air. "It's almost time." She said, and smiled. "The storm will be here soon. I will need to perform my ritual to find somewhere safe." Miyu turned toward Hana and smiled. "I will need your help as well."

"Draw me a depiction of a thing that you find beautiful, with your own hands." She said. The smile fell from her face. "I cannot overstate how important it is that you do so. In fact, more than one would be preferable." And it was important, of course. Just not for this ritual. The corner of her mouth quirked upward. "Meet me outside my tent this evening, an hour after we make camp."

~o~o~o~

To prevent gawkers, Miyu had set her tent up away from the rest of the party. She had the pleasure of a tent to herself. She had set up a table in front of her tent, with a roll of parchment pinched up in leather string set upon its side, next to a bottle of ink. To the right of the table was a bucket of water, and a fire with a brand warming inside it, warping the air with distorted heat.

There was one chair, facing the tent. In front of the tent stood Miyu.

She was dressed in a long, brown, hooded robe, a staff in one hand and a brush in the other. "Htron htuos tsae tsew" The arcane words Miyu's master fell easily from her mouth, and she felt the kami of the world around her sit up and take noticee.

One by one, she drew a rune at each edge of the table, until she had reached all four. Miyu set the brush aside and grabbed hold of her staff with both hands. "Deeh em sllarht sa I kram eht sredrob fo eht dlrow" She slammed the staff against the table with a sharp, loud crack. She heard the Kami shriek, scream, beg. But Miyu was no miko, she would not listen. "Sevals" she said, quiet, before raising her voice to a shout. "UOY LLIW YEBO" She brought her staff down harder. The table creaked. Her sorcery chained the kami to her will and forced them to fall in line. Miyu's runes began to glow bright, steady silver.

"Hana," Miyu said, not looking up, holding an empty hand toward the genin. Here.
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Old 12-07-2016, 08:32 PM   #10
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Hana nodded meekly in response to the miko’s demands. The request was odd, and as she trailed alongside the caravan in mental seclusion, the genin found herself explaining away any weirdness. After all, as two of the most power members of the camp, it made sense that the kami would express in interest in Hana as well, as a leader. The mere thought made Hana crack a confident smile and abandon any caution that continued to plague her, now replaced by positivity and an inward debate of what exactly she defined as beautiful.

It did not take long for them to stop and make camp, with Hana pitching her tent between Kijutsushi’s and the rest of the caravan. Despite being involved with the priestess, the genin liked to think that she took her post seriously, and as such, sat propped against a fallen log, gazing into the distance for any potential signs of danger. Coming up with what she found beautiful was not entirely difficult, but rather, finding a manner in which to express it was. After much thought, Hana took a brush, smeared it in the ink the priestess had given her, and drew a simple emblem.

At the exact moment Kijutsushi said her name, Hana stepped out from the foliage, a simple etching clutched in her hand. The genin had been watching, not doing much to mask her presence, but she had obscured herself well enough for the miko to not question her training. It was from the shadows that she became visible, and the drawing became clear: Konohagakure’s symbol.

“What exactly is the purpose of this, Kijutsushi?” The girl’s voiced wavered, like she still didn’t entirely trust the woman. Doubt plagued her mind, but Hana had felt a connection with the woman previously, and it was something that the little genin wanted to hold onto more than anything, even if those reasons made no sense to her.
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