Lights at the Top of the World [Dual Search]

Kanagawa Nozomi

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Nozomi had a heavy pack filled with climbing and survival gear, bundled up in her heaviest winter coat. Her and Maikeru stood at the base of the monstrous peak known only as Momentum Deo. She was tasked to show them the full extent of what it is to be a shinobi in the Land of Thunder. To show him what he will be protecting and to show him what he will be fighting for. There wasn't a better place to do this than atop the highest point in the world! The Spine of the World, which Momentum Deo resided. She looked up towards the peak, seeing nothing but dark clouds obscuring her vision. Her lips tugged a bit with a grimace before readjusting her pack and turned to look back towards Maikeru. "Let's go!" she shouted out, competing with the winds, cold weather, and lack of oxygen. With a single step forward, the two made their way towards the mountain, ready to ascend this monster.

She had been on this trek once before; as child having returned to Cloud. Her mentor was the one who took her on this trial to show her everything that she was about to show Maikeru. The beauty and splendor of the Spine of the World captivated her -- gave her a new-found love for the land she was born into. The view reinvigorated her, pulling her up by the bootstraps after having been emotionally and physically tortured as a child-soldier. This journey gave her a reason to live! Those were hard-times but the trial proved to be one of her most cherished memories of her homeland. It was her wish to bring that light back into one of the Leaf Refugees; to light a fire under them that'll give them something to hold on to -- something to ignite their fires in the Land of Lightning. Not as shinobi of Konohagakure, but as potential shinobi of Kumogakure.

After reaching the face of the mountain, she removed her packs and put her cleats upon her boots. Long spikes sticking out of the toe and the heal of the boot, meant for penetrating rock and ice, so she could get a good grip while climbing. She also pulled out a long, one-hundred foot rope that she will be using for the two of them. She also pulled out 5 anchors so she could anchor these into the mountain as a 'save point' of sorts in the event either of them fall, they could fall back onto the anchor and not all the way down the mountain. She placed those upon some carabiners strapped to her belt. She also pulled out an ice pick and sealed her backpack shut. The removal of all of this gear made the pack much, much lighter than it was. Strapping the backpack over her back once more, she tapped her foot upon the snowy ground and turned to look back towards Maikeru.

"You can turn back now, but this will be the your final chance to turn back," she said before moving the facemask over her mouth and nose. She awaited his answer briefly before walking over to him and wrapping the rope around him. "It's gorgeous up there, believe me," she said with her voice muffled by the mask upon her face. Afterward, she walked over to the mountain and stuck the ice-pick into the side of the mountain and began their ascent. There was enough ice on this portion of the mountain that she was able to penetrate the ice with the pick and her boots. The two only had a half-mile of a treacherous climb remaining before reaching the apex. There was a reason they were ascending the mountain like this instead of expending chakra. Using chakra to climb the mountain was TOO easy for a trip like this.

"Remember! Don't use chakra on this trial! Doing so will make you look weak! And I'm sure Uchiha aren't weak, are they?" she shouted out, making sure Maikeru heard down below. She was going to watch Maikeru as he climbed up the mountain. If he used chakra, or not, will determine his character. Not only as a potential shinobi of Kumogakure but as a man. She continued to climb up the mountain, making each of her movements deliberate and with purpose; not a single move was wasted.

The two got about half-way up the mountain before Nozomi spotted a small cave. Regardless of how much Maikeru wanted to rest, the journey was only half-way over. They can rest at the apex. She tugged at the rope and continued to make their way up the mountain. A whirring sound could be heard as the winds started to pick up. A stiff wind from their right, blowing left, could be felt. An icy wind bit into them, but the rest of the climb happened with any problems.

Nozomi's pick struck the top of the mountain and she pulled herself over and laid upon the apex of the mountain, laughing in victory. The air here was extremely thin, but they made it! They made it to the top. The dusk sun painted the skies a blood-red, coloring all of the land before them in the same crimson color. As if, by divine providence, all of the clouds overlooking Lightning Country dispersed, leaving behind nothing but Lightning Country as far as the eye can see. She stood up, took a deep breath in and just looked on. There wasn't a lot of room at the apex of this mountain, but there was more than enough room for Nozomi to have a seat to take a breather and for Maikeru to walk around if he needed.

As Maikeru took the time to soak up the scene, she pulled the facemask down and started to speak. "I was in your position about six years ago. I had recently become a Genin and I was losing focus, losing heart, because of the things I had done in my past. But my mentor brought me up here and showed me all of this and it lit a fire within me. A passion to protect the place I call home. A passion to lean on the village that took care of me, cared for me, have forgiven me," she said as she looked over the painted skies before it descended into darkness. Celestial bodies lit up the night sky; the sight of the very galaxy they were in appeared like a road of milk, streaking through the black abyss of space. The stars twinkled as if to congratulate the two for defeating the mountain.

An influx of colors streaked across the sky. Glowing in brilliant hues and shades, showing a dazzling display for all to see. The lights captivated her, but these lights didn't seem normal. She stood up and cleared her throat. "Those lights aren't normal, Maikeru. Ready yourself," she said as she set the pack down and reached into her parka to pull out a pair of matte-black throwing knives, holding them in the inverted position in her hands.

WC: 1180
Total: 1180

[Contract Search begins! Will post request after Maikeru posts]
[Let's keep a running total of our WC and total WC to make this easier on the CMods, Maikeru! Let's do this!]
 

Maikeru

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When Maikeru was woken from his bed in the early hours of the morning and told he would have an opportunity to train amongst a high ranking cloud shinobi, this wasn't exactly what he was expecting. Maybe they would test the new shinobi, see if he really deserved to be carrying a blade, or if he had the genjutsu mastery that was famous in his clan. Instead, he stood at the base of a small ledge, heavy woolen and fur clothing wrapped all around him. With a sigh, he hefted his climbing gear once again, following behind Nozomi as she called out to him.

Honestly, he thought that all cloud shinobi were insane. It was far too cold to be doing things like going outside, or living, and the way some of them dressed? No, they were absolutely crazy for deciding to live in a mountain like this. Then again, he had knowingly chosen to come here and live amongst them. What exactly did that say about him? Probably more than it said about them.

At the face of the mountain, the two had stopped and begun removing gear from their pack. While Nozomi began to remove picks and other safety equipment, Maikeru simply left his bag at the base of the mountain. Cracking his neck side to side, he checked the spikes on his boots, having chosen to wear ones similar to Nozomi's. She was right, even if she didn't know it. He did have something to prove, and he had always been one to over correct.

As she continued to speak to him, he listened intently. She was a Jonin, after all, she probably had good insights on this sort of thing. Still, there was one line that she spoke that really struck Maikeru.

"And I'm sure Uchiha aren't weak, are they?"

As she said those words, Maikeru pulled down the mask that had been protecting his face from the biting winds and cold. His blue eyes stared into hers for a moment, before he placed his mask back upon his face, looking up at the trek in front of them.

"The Uchiha are cowards." He said simply, taking a step ahead, placing his gloved hand against the sheer ice of the rock face. "They murder and lie to get what they want, and hold no empathy for anyone outside of themselves. But, I'm not an Uchiha. Not any longer, at least."

He looked back to Nozomi for a moment, before giving her a small smile under his mask. Looking back to the rock wall, he pulled the glove from his right hand, revealing the mess of burned skin and chakra burns beneath. As disfigured as it was, his new arm did give him some small benefits. Taking a deep breath, he prepared himself for the climb, before taking a small leap upwards.

He brought his right hand down, using his sharpened fingers to dig into the ice, his other hand finding a small crevice to wedge themselves into before his boots dug into the hard surface of the ice. He would be doing this climb without a harness or the aid of much external climbing gear. As she said, he didn't wanna look weak, did he?

The climb was hard, it was really hard, and he took him a bit longer than Nozomi to reach the top. When he did though, his heart was racing. It wasn't only the physical exertion involved, but the rush of adrenaline and panic every time he felt his boots loosen, or he couldn't find a good grip for his left hand. Panting, he laid on his back in the snow at the apex of the mountain.

His hand rested against his chest as he turned his head sideways to look over the apex. It was as Nozomi said, it was truly spectacular up here. It felt like he could see all of the lightning country from this one spot as if he could just reach out and grab it. He finally managed to wrestle himself into a sitting position as Nozomi began to speak to him. She spoke of her past, and how this peak had helped her view the cloud village as a home.

"Sounds like you had a rough childhood." he said, rising to stand next to her. "But, you made something of yourself, climbed out of that hole that life had dug for you. That's all my friends and I are trying to do."

He returned his gloves to his right hand as he talked, looking between Nozomi and the bright, beautiful light show that had begun. He gave her a curious look before his inner smart ass came out.

"You know, it's really sweet you'd bring me up here to see this, especially the light show. You're also really pretty Nozomi, but, I have a girlfriend so.." He began before he was interrupted by Nozomi mentioning how strange the lights were. "Oh.. well. I'm just gonna activate my Sharingan now. Cool? Cool."

And he did, his eyes spinning into the red-hued kekkei genkei of his heritage, looking out onto the lights and whatever may come of them.

[866 words]
 

Toraono Kuro

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my deepest apologies for not seeing that there was already a thread initiated.

The sounds of screaming winds surged toward the two nin as six large beings streaked across the sky. The high pitched whistle of heavy objects falling from the sky grew closer. Two of the massive objects broke away at 90 degrees revealing themselves to Maikeru and Nozomi's enhanced eyesights to be giant armored birds being chased by four missiles. As the massive birds zipped between the giant trees below the mountain climbing duo the missiles changed directions in a much slower fashion as a plumes of multicolored smoke emerged from their back ends. Three missiles went after the larger armored avian while one missile shot after the second smaller armored avian. The first and most massive bird landed upon the ground near the base of a mountain he swiftly spinned around until he sank into the soft sand-like earth beneath his taloned feet as he waited for earth shattering kaboom. The 3 missiles struck shortly after he slipped into earth beneath him. He slowly re-emerged using brown feathers of varying shades that adjusted to the weather and location he needed nothing extra for camouflage.

The final missile closed in on the second armored bird. It was even managing to weave between the trees of the ever darkening forest as the trees seemed grow thicker and closer together the further into the forest she went. With a swift spiralling lurch upward the smaller armored avian caused the final missile to blow up after striking a giant tree barely leaving a smudge mark. Darkness shrouded the second bird of prey as she closed her eyes amidst the massive branches upon which she now sat the shadows of the forest and small vines aided her in concealing her presence. With feathers that mimicked the tree's bark she turned her face into her left wing and slipped into a light slumber as she listened to and felt the winds themselves waiting for slumber to claim her or warn her of another attack.

Noizomi and Maikeru having been on high ground had seen the entire attack and the skill at which the armored birds evaded the attack. What they had not seen is where the attack on the birds had come from or why the birds were being attacked in the first place.

If they were to ascend in the direction of the attack they would find a remote yet prosperous village. It was there they would find flyers offering a huge bounty. The village would often find the remains of deer, bears, or unlucky criminals that had tempted the fates as they wandered near the forests along the icy mountain.

A bounty was posted there for the capture or death of these massive birds of prey that scared the villagers there. Whomever had posted the bounty was paying over 2 million yen. It was a severely large amount of yen for such a hunt. Something or someone else with advanced technology was hunting the massive birds as well.
 

Kanagawa Nozomi

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Six streaks of light filled Nozomi's eyes as she raised her rifle up and looked through the scope. 2 armored flying creatures were being chased by four 'missiles'. She adjusted her aim from the 2 armored creatures towards one of the missiles trailing behind. She calculated, with a rough estimate, the speed of the projectile and aimed ahead of it and she saw them jink at a sharp ninety degree angle. She couldn't keep up with their movements nor with the missiles. "Crap!" she said as she moved her positioning to look towards the timberline. She saw the larger one crash into the ground as the three missiles followed it, colliding with a big explosion. The explosion was massive, big enough for her to feel at the top of the world. Her eyes fixed upon the smaller one who started to fly through the wooded area. She trained her sights on the missile following it and fired a shot, trying to hit the missile. Her shot, however, missed wildly.

It wasn't until a moment later that another massive 'boom' could be heard. She turned her eyes towards Maikeru for a moment before returning to her pack and placed it upon her back. "It's time to go, Maikeru. I don't know what those things are, but they were being chased by something; something man-made. We need to go investigate," she said as she loaded on the and placed her rifle on her back. Nozomi cleared her throat and took a step forward, looking over the edge of the highest point in the Lightning Country. After taking a few steps back, she jumped down, off of the mountain and started to plummet. She threw her arms and legs outwards to slow her descent back towards the tree-line. She continued to fall and just before impact, she threw together a series of handseals, causing her body to come to a sudden stop about five feet from the ground before dropping down onto her feet. The anti-gravity ninjutsu was extremely useful for times like these. She waited for Maikeru to do the same and to cast the same jutsu on him so he didn't become a bloodstain upon the mountain.

Once the two were back on the ground, she noticed a village nearby. In order for the two to go towards the birds, they'd have to go through the village. Re-adjusting her pack, she started to make the trek towards the village, removing the ice-spikes from her shoes before going into town. After a short walk, the two finally enter the town and there were wanted posters all over the place with pictures of the two birds that they just saw on it. Walking up towards one of them, she ripped the poster down and looked at it. "What do you think these two did to warrant a bounty? I bet those things chasing after them were bounty hunters; but what, exactly, were those projectiles? I wanna know for..." she said with a bit of a pause. Her cheeks had a blush creep over them and she had a strange, almost scary smile upon her face. "Research! Ahem. Yes, for research!" she said before rolling up the wanted poster. There was no way she intended on developing a weapon like that. No way! Not at all! Who would fathom making a weapon with such explosive power into a weapon?!

Nozomi looked around and then towards Maikeru. "Who would you say would have information about this and the weapons we saw earlier?" she asked, fishing for Maikeru's opinion. This, too, was part of a test to see the boy's ability to think for himself. She cleared her throat and placed a finger upon her chin in thought. This is quite the pickle! Not only did they encounter two extremely rare creatures, discovered that there was a 2 million dollar bounty on them, but she got to see a brand new weapon that was being used. Whether or not she would take this job depends on what the people in this village would say. "Lead the way, Maikeru," she said, giving him a leadership position for the moment.

WC: 692
Total: 1872

[Let's keep a running total of our WC and total WC to make this easier on the CMods, Maikeru! Let's do this!]
 

Maikeru

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Maikeru watched with a bemused curiosity as the missiles chased, and ultimately failed, to catch their prey. With his Sharingan, he had a much easier time tracking the trajectory of the missiles than his non-Uchiha partner, though with little experience with projectiles he was as in the dark about where they came from as she was. With a shrug, he followed behind her as they jumped from the mountaintop, using his right arm to slice inside of the mountain and slow his descent, at least until the jutsu Nozomi cast on him took effect. He gave her a thankful nod as his feet lightly touched the ground, grateful for the peaceful landing.

Her hunch was a good one, the village seemed to be the only place nearby, and the likely source of the missiles. Her hunch was only proven more feasible as the two of them came upon the wanted posters. Taking one off of a wall, and examining it, he let out at a low whistle at the price at the bottom of it. Two million yen? For overgrown roosters? Well, some people really did have more money than sense.

"I don't mean to interject, Nozomi, but, isn't this more of a job for the monster hunters?" He asked, folding the wanted poster and placing it in his back pockets. "I'm already in the village on a probationary period, the fact that they let me out for this field trip is amazing enough. I can't imagine they'll be too happy if the new Med-nin in training starts stepping on the toes of the main branch after only a little bit of time in the village."

Still, it was an interesting case, that much couldn't be denied. Two million yen was a lot of money, and if they were just handing it out for the capture or death of these creatures? Well, there had to be something rather special about these birds if they were willing to dish out that sort of coin for one of them. Shaking his head, he took another look around him, taking in his surroundings. The village didn't seem to be a shinobi village, so where would they have gotten this kind of technology?

"I dunno, maybe they took a crap on the mayor's cart or something.." He said, answering her question about what the birds could have possibly done. "Could you imagine cleaning something of that size? I mean, just proportionally speaking.."

Trailing off, and pretending to be deep in thought at that notion, he gave her a small smile to indicate his jest. Scratching the back of his head, he took a final look around, before pointing towards the center of town.

"If I had to guess, then.. probably the town's law enforcement. Only thing that makes sense to me, shinobi are the first place I'd look in Kumo after all." Rubbing his arms in an attempt to shake off the cold that was slowly forming in the depths of his bones, he breathed into his hands to warm them afterwards, giving Nozomi a nod with this head. "Either way, let's get out of the cold. If you don't wish to go to the cops immediately, the bar might be a good place. Drunks like to talk, and in a town this small, not much can really be hidden..."

[556 words, 1422 total]
 

Toraono Kuro

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As the duo approached the mountainside town, things began to stand out almost immediately. Everyone in the town was somewhat well off. People were using phones with long cables nonchalantly. Steam pipes perked and couples sipped latte's and spiced teas. Slate stone streets with steam warmed rocks kept the roads warm and ice free. The town was brimming with bike riding, glasses wearing, well dressed, excessively slim yet not quite fit adults that moved about in a gentle business like hustle and bustle of men and women. Business suits of varying makes abounded, some were leather, some were tweed, some were silk but all in all they were business suits.

The ground began to thrum as three massive samurai walked down the middle of the street. Two of them seemed extremely off until both Maikeru and Nozomi noted that the two behind what appeared to be the leader weren't wearing masks their faces were metallic. It was as if someone had simply put human eyes inside of armor. The lead samurai could have been an overly muscular sumo wrestler but his arms were prosthetic as well. The third samurai had massive launchers on his shoulders. It seemed he was the source of the missiles at the very least. It became obvious now that those weren't basic projectiles. They were chakra guided giant bullets. As the three massive pseudo mechanical men marched by a normal samurai walked even further behind them carefully walking in a very distinct manner as if he were on parade. He looked at no one but everyone stayed out of his way. a beautiful scabbard graced his right hip. The crest of the sword sheathed in it carried the sigils and markings of the crimson hawks. Something about that sigil spoke to Maikeru, it made his sharingan ache, if he stared at that sword too long something terrible might happen to his eyes. At the center of the town was a map depicting major tourists attractions such as the hot springs, the blacksmith lanes, the sake refineries and the wood work district. Everything else was housing and sparse rice farming. Whatever was going on steam tech prevailed and the town practically boomed with it. The Police station could be seen down a massive set of hills to the far right. The bar district however was on their immediate left and very well lit.
 

Kanagawa Nozomi

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Nozomi looked at Maikeru with the 'really dude' look on his face. She rolled up her left sleeve to show the tattoo of the Ryoshi-no-Kaibutsu (Huntsman of Monster). She was careful to not show him the tattoo of the Merces Letifer. Not too many, other than those within the sub-division, were privy to see it. Thankfully, the tattoo artist that made it didn't know what it meant so that kept her and the other agents clear of all suspicions. As far as they knew, it was probably something involving a unit in the shinobi military service; and that is all they'll know about it.

"Well, consider it a mission from the Guild. I'll just have to state this in the report later on," she stated in a matter-of-fact fashion. She remembered teaming up with Maru to take down the 'critter' which served as her introductory 'test' to join the Kaibutsu Hunters. That thing was a complete pain in the butt to take down, having realized that she couldn't have taken it down without Maru's help. "About the village, don't worry about it. I'll handle the paperwork. I did take responsibility for you and the other two right? Just consider this part of the trial from earlier," she mentioned. Granted, Maikeru passed the trial going up the mountain and listening to what he was told, but she also decided to add this little hunt as part of the trial to see how he'd react.

It wasn't really the monsters that she was interested in or was worried about. What she was more worried about, and curious of, were those missile-like weaponry. Something like that shouldn't get into the wrong hands as that can be an extremely powerful and devastating weapon used by the shinobi. Granted, a single Shinra Tensei would easily clear out the missiles, but on unsuspecting towns full of civilians, it can be a terrible weapon of mass-murder. If hunting these birds down would lead her to learning more about these weapons, she will do that. And 2,000,000 Yen isn't a bad thing to put in her purse; even if the more dangerous assassination contracts give roughly the same amount.

"I don't think something like that would be a good enough reason to want to shoot them out of the sky like that. If that was the case, then I'd rather help the creatures than the humans," she said bluntly. Let's hope that what Maikeru said wasn't true and that there was a good reason for the careless actions. Strange how she cared more for animals and their well-being than she was for humans and their well-being. She never, once, questioned why she had to kill a person. But when it came to monsters, she required all the reasons in the world to kill a monster. Just a different way of thinking for different things she found value in.

She nodded her head at his suggestion of going to the bar. It was very obvious that he was chilled, even with the coat he wore. She wore an extremely thick parka, knowing full-well how cold it got, that rest upon her shoulders and covered the most valuable part of her body -- her core. One could say that it didn't cover much of her rear end or legs and one would be correct. She intentionally wore very little there due to needing the mobility. It was insulated, but not nearly as much as her parka was.

"I'll buy you something warm to drink," she said as she looked around and took the scene in. She never realized it, but this place had a strange aesthetic to it. This wasn't what she was used to in Kumogakure, using heat from coal wasn't something she was used to in the particularly modern world that she knew as Kumogakure. She had much less in the means of comfort when she was younger, but this place and it's relatively 'primitive' technology had it's charms.

"This place looks rich," she said as she noticed strange technologies and business attire running rampant. What, exactly, did these people do to make so much money? It seemed that the per-capita in this little village was EXTREMELY high. The ground began to rumble as if massive creatures were walking. This caused Nozomi to turn to where she believed the source of the vibrations came from only to notice two massive men. Their skin was completely metal and behind them was an equally large man, the man the size of a mountain, moving along with a pack bearing missiles on them. Seems like divine providence brought the source of the missiles to them.

"So, you must be the source of those explosions from earlier, huh?" she asked, knowing full-well that he was most likely the culprit for shooting off those missiles. "Hunters, I assume?" she asked before catching a glimpse of the Crimson Hawk. It looked too much like the branding upon her stomach, causing her lip to curl a bit. If these people were still members of that group, she had some killing to do. "Perhaps I can treat you to a drink or two? Somewhere a bit warmer, hm? My colleague also wished for something to drink," she said as she turned her eyes towards Maikeru for a brief moment.

WC: 881
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Maikeru

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Maikeru listened as Nozomi spoke, but his attention was elsewhere admittedly. Perhaps it was his close connection to Reicheru, a natural born Nanjirou, or the spirit of his blade being a ronin, either way, his eyes were drawn to the metal Samurai who appeared down the street from them. The blade at one of their hips particularly appealed to the blacksmithing side of Maikeru's interest. Cocking his head to the side and squinting to get a better look, he activated his Sharingan, hoping to study perhaps some weird chakra natures permeating from the blade. Instead, what he got was a pulsing headache emanating from just behind his eyes. The closest comparison would be to the sinus infection he got when he first arrived in Cloud from the immense change in climate compared to Leaf.

Deactivating his kekkei genkei, he placed a hand over his right eye and turned to Nozomi as she finished speaking, and looked ready to approach the strange men. Although it was obvious they were the ones who shot the strange projectiles at the birds, they made him weary. Though he hadn't traveled much in his short life, he had spent too much of his childhood in a library to be proud of. He had never once heard of anything, besides excessive use of the Mangekyo, that caused pain like this in the Sharingan.

"Wait." He said to Nozomi, placing a hand on her arm to stop her. "The man in the lead, his sword. It's... I don't know, but when I looked at it with my Sharingan it hurt. A lot. That's not really supposed to happen, I recommend caution when speaking to them. I know you probably don't put too much stock in the Uchiha clan's kekkei genkei, but it got its reputation for a reason. If they have a way to neutralize it, it's something to be cautious of."

Releasing the woman's arm, presumably from her pulling away, Maikeru went back to nursing the throbbing pain in the back of his optical nerve. Just who the hell were these men? He hung back a bit as his senior spoke to the men, questioning if they were responsible for the attack they saw earlier, and asking if they wanted a drink. He nodded in agreement at her assessment of him.

"Aye, not too much for this cold weather myself, could use something to warm myself up. My friend here so kindly said she'd buy, and we'd be happy to drink with men who clearly have some interesting stories to share." Removing his hand from his eye, his blue eyes once again drifted to the sword at the man's hip. Just what the hell was that thing? "I'm also something of a blacksmith and I am fascinated by your sword, it would be a real honor if you'd let me inspect the craftsmanship for a bit, see what I can learn from it."

Taking a final look around town, he took note of several things. Quick paths for exits, places to hide bodies if it came to that, and of course the nearby guards or police officers. It would be helpful if he could use his Sharingan to quickly memorize their paths, but, with that blade around it was a risk he just couldn't take. Were these men one of the Sharingan hunters he had heard so much about as a child? He had always thought that they were just ghost stories his father made up to scare him and his sister, but, maybe they were true.

The thought made him shudder, forcing him to play it off as another shiver from the cold. He had a lot of questions, but, the issue with the projectiles was much more pressing. If he could get the man away from his blade, a quick Tsukuyomi would answer all of the burning inquiries within his young mind. For now, he needed to play it cool and collected. He didn't need Nozomi thinking he was getting weak at such a small roadblock.

[672 words]
 

Toraono Kuro

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(This is not my art) ArtStation - Cyborg Samurai, Eriko Pedojan

The largest most non human of the Samurai stopped and kneeled before Nozomi so that they would be eye level. When he spoke his voice sounded like that of a wise old Grandfather happy with being addressed. "I thank you for the kind offer but while we await the retaliation of the Fukurou Clan we cannot take time away from patrol for personal reasons or partake in drinks outside of negotiations. Again, I do thank you for the kind offer." </GLOW></COLOR><i></i> As he had kneeled before her Nozomi could hear that his trachea was intact and still human but much of his body was not. By estimate only twenty percent of his original human form remained. He smelled like spices and oil, cinnamon and light motor oil to be exact . It wasn't unpleasant but it was new to her. His armor was however top of the line. There were no obvious gaps and it moved fluidly. She did notice that he what appeared to talon marks on his right shoulder pauldron. The other large mechanized samurai kneeled as he did and nodded that they too had no time to drink but took heart in her greeting them with kindness. They were all genuinely happy to be offered drinks by a lady of all things. Times were changing but it warmed what remained of their hearts.

The Crimson Hawk lord however had been addressed by Maikeru with a common enough request. Many wanted to see his sword to admire the craftsmanship but few understood he could never fully draw his weapon outside of battle nor could he hand it over. However just showing the hilt and the first six inches of the blade outside of the sheath could reveal enough to a blacksmith of any skill level and not defy the edicts of his family. Turning to face Maikeru he responded in a voice of nobility and authority. <COLOR color="red"><GLOW glow="orange">"My elder warrior is correct we cannot partake of sake while patrolling but I can show you the edge of my blade without disgracing its honor. Please look upon Taka-gosai's edge and know that she is the finest blade ever made by my clan."

Maikeru would be able to notice there were active seals and circuits within the hilt and the blade with just a blacksmith's glance. This close to the crimson edged blade he could feel its anti-ocular ability without his sharingan. This blade prevented direct line of sight attacks from anyone and if he missed his guess Maikeru might imagine the blade was anti genjutsu sealed as well. To have made such a weapon, the original smith must have faced Uchiha or other similar ocular jutsu in the past. Not quite an Uchiha Hunter but too close for comfort. The Crimson Hawk family man bore a strong resemblance to a hunter nin of old whom had defeated many Uchiha in centuries past but for him to still be alive would be impossible, or would it? Also the demeanor of the samurai although friendly and not unkind in the least spoke clearly that he was highly skilled and capable of dispatching shinobi of possible jounin level. It wasn't just his confidence or manners, it was simply the way he stood as if he could cut them both down without either of them able to reach their weapons in time to stop him. That was the impression the young master gave off.

With his ceremonial gesture to Maikeru completed he slowly and reverently resheathed the remainder of his blade and bowed before the duo before the mecha samurai all stood with courtesy and fluid motion.They all as a group without any thought or obvious pattern moved in a synchronized and smooth motion as they all stepped off leaving a slight tremor in their wake but they moved as a unit so well that their movements masked each other's movements allowing anyone nearby to only feel or hear the footsteps of the largest elder samurai.
 

Kanagawa Nozomi

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She took the warning from Maikeru. "No, the eyes of the Uchiha are formidable," she said before shucking off his grasp. "Just keep yourself ready in the event they want to start something stupid," she said, turning her eyes towards the hulking red-giant and his mechanical escorts before beginning her approach. "Do you think they have jamming abilities?" she asked Maikeru quietly. It was, indeed, very strange that just looking at the blade would cause intense pain to the holder of the Sharingan. It sounded like something she needed to get a hold of, herself.

She ran her fingers through her long pink hair, turning her only good eye back to Maikeru. Her Prussian-Blue, almost purple, eye looked him up and down. An Uchiha that can't use his eyes is certainly not a very effective shinobi. That'd be the same as if Nozomi had lost her weapon. Her soul was bound to that weapon so she had to be near it at all times. She can't do anything without it being in close proximity; even having to bathe with it nearby. It was now time for them to play pretend and perform niceties around these bulky hunters.

The hulking monster in red seemed polite (enough) in his demeanor by turning down her offer for a drink at the local pub. He was of a monstrous stature, not one to drive any fear into Nozomi's heart, but it appeared to her that he was tough, rugged, and someone that shouldn't be taken lightly. Something about his voice, the way he looked, and the way he smelled was strange. He didn't seem to be completely human, almost like those gunpla models that she put-together in her spare time. The smell of oil and cinnamon threw her off. Either he enjoyed the flavor of cinnamon or he used the scent to cover up the smell of engine oil. She had only smelled engine oil once before when performing an assassination inside of a factory. A strange smell that she'd never forget.

It was then that Maikeru's request to see the blade had been fulfilled, allowing Maikeru to bear witness to fine, elegant, and strong craftsmanship. Something about the blade, that she saw at the angle she was at, looked off. It didn't seem to be made of pure metal and hard-work like others blades. Something outlandish and otherworldly could be seen from it; as obscure as her viewing was at the angle she was at. Before she had a better time to look-at and admire the blade, it was quickly sheathed. As quickly as they appeared, the two started to stomp off. They didn't seem to answer her questions about the explosions, causing her to step forward and just bit her lip. She wanted to shout out towards them, but she felt something she hadn't in a long time; indecision.

Normally, her judgement would lead her to interrogating the men, whether through charm or by force, but something inside of her told her not to. Ever since obtaining her new power, she started to hesitate more, not be able to keep cool and level in times of stress, and question her own decisions; not something a cold-hearted assassin should be feeling. No. Maikeru's words rang into her ears and she relaxed her shoulders and took a sigh outwards. "Proceed with caution. Right," she said before turning to look towards her partner in this endeavor.

"Something about them doesn't seem right. One of them even smelled like a factory," she commented. She wouldn't jump to conclusions that the man was more machine than man. She had nagging thoughts that it might be true, but she didn't have too much evidence to say otherwise. "Good call to ere on the side of caution," she said before looking around once more. She did remember there being a bar around here. "I don't think that's the last time we'll see those guys. If they are hunting those two creatures we saw earlier, I'm sure we'll cross paths with them as well. Let's get a drink," she said, winking at him with her dead-eye; which is now replaced with a gold-colored glass-composite eye. She held her hand out, "Lead the way."



WC: 701
Total: 3454

[OOC: Yes, i'm retconning my character to what she is now. Sorry if it seems --- awkward]
[OOC: Oh, right.. For context on character -- which I didn't mention -- Her skin also gives off light]
 

Maikeru

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So, it seemed that the blade really was made for countering those with dojutsu based kekkei genkei, how fascinating. The seals were intricate and foreign to Maikeru, he had never once in all of the books he had read and practice with the forge he had acquired seen something quite like it. The pain seemed to get more and more intense as the crimson blade came closer to his pupils causing the young Uchiha to grimace and squint his eyes to relieve the aching just behind his pupils. Even as the men sheathed the blade, and began to make their way past the duo, his eyes still ached greatly for a while after the blade was brought away from them.

As they walked away Maikeru cocked his head to the right in order to study them a bit more. Sure, he might not be able to use his Sharingan to perfectly mirror and memorize their stances, but, he was still a former Jonin of leaf. To say he hadn't picked up a few things in that time would be folly. Still, he was going to be at a serious disadvantage if they ever came to blows with those men, making him suddenly aware of how much he really relied on his families bloodline limit. Running a hand through his mess of white hair, he let out a tired sigh before returning his attention back to Nozomi.

"Well.." He said in response to Nozomi's request to move towards the bar. "We're shinobi, aren't we? They're samurai. We have something they never will and that's the ability to blend in and stalk our prey, their honor won't allow them to do such a thing. Thankfully, we don't quite have that hang up do we?"

He would shoot her a small smile before turning to watch the man walking down the path again. Nozomi did have a point, though, they didn't seem very human-like and Maikeru had no idea what sort of tracking abilities they would have. This could be incredibly dangerous if done incorrectly, one misstep and they could upset men who were clearly at least at the same league as himself and probably Nozomi as well. Without his Sharingan he had his doubts about them fighting uneven odds, even if he still had access to Kusanagi and the spirit within the blade.

"You're the ranking shinobi though, so I'll leave the decision to you." He said, sticking his hands in his pockets to try and keep them even a bit warmer. "We should decide quickly though because they're getting away quite quickly."

Whatever Nozomi decided, Maikeru would follow close behind her. There wasn't much he could do on his own after all, especially without the use of his Kekkei Genkei. There was absolutely no doubt in his mind, however, that following these guys would lead them towards the technology used to hunt the birds. He wasn't exactly sure why he cared so much, but, technology like that couldn't be trusted to just anyone. Even Cloud would have problems finding someone who would be able to have that responsibility, let alone a random civilian village.

With a sigh and a tap of his toes against the stone to clear snow from his shoes, he waited for Nozomi to decide. No time to waste.

WC: 551
TWC: 2665
 

Toraono Kuro

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The Samurai team bowed as a single unit. It seemed they were all in perfect synch. The elder giant one indeed was no longer fully human. The steam system of hydraulics and vegetable based oils did give off an odd factory like smell but it also gave off the smell of a quick set kitchen operation where they fried noodles and vegetables. These men save the obvious leader had been through many wars and as obvious had lost limbs. Their replacements for their damaged limbs had been specially made technology that any puppeteer could truly appreciate. According to their words there was an ongoing feud between two clans, The Crimson Hawk clan and the Fukurou Clan were definitely at odds but it seemed the Crimson Hawks were also sponsoring the village and keeping things going. Their tech was not only warming the streets, it helped run textile factories and tend rice paddies that defied the weather. It wasn't smoke that was rising into the air, it was steam. They also made synthetic hot springs and powered the village with electricity using the nearby waterfalls and the ice that melted in the area to create the most brilliantly efficient water filtration, purification system that any non-industrialized country had ever seen. The efficiency was off the scale which made one of shinobi talents wonder where was the excess energy going and WHY were the Hawks and the Owls feuding?

Children of all ages followed the Samurai from corners of the town mimicking their movements with play swords and home made kimono's or patchwork armor. They greeted everyone with a sincerity and kindness that bellied their actual combat prowess and the danger of the weapons. Such were Samurai... few Shinobi would walk about with their weapons in the open for all to see.

As with any village there were areas where the general usage of tech and its acceptance was still held back and things were done in a more traditional fashion if only for posterity. The bars in this portion of the village still used oil lamps for light. They weren't too far away and they were near the farms of the area but the farm nearest this portion of the village was still tended by farmers of all ages. The villagers in this part of the village looked far more muscular although just as civilized as the tech savvy portion of the village.

Would they follow the Samurai?
Would they look elsewhere?
What would the shinobi do now?
 

Kanagawa Nozomi

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The young ninja made a good point. These half-machine men lacked something the two of them had; the ability to use chakra and to form ninjutsu. Her only issue was, she didn't know if these creatures still had a humanoid brain in order to use genjutsu against. That could be a problem for both of the shinobi, but one can only hope it doesn't come down to that. Nozomi paused and thought of Maikeru's proposal for a moment. She noticed children along the path of the samurai were mimicking their behavior and that the entire town bellowed in white steam the same way as one of the samurai did. She leaned in towards Maikeru, keeping an eye on the samurai that proceeded forward, and spoke into his ear. "We need to get high-ground and follow them. You'll have to take the lead since I'll stick out like a sore thumb," she stated. The fact that she glowed made stealth extremely difficult for her, so she will have to rely on Maikeru, a 'non-glower' to take point in this situation.

Nozomi quickly formed handseals before reaching up to her yellow eye, plucking it out of her head, and gently tossed it into the air. The glass eye started to float and move around similar to the 'Crystal Eye' Ninjutsu. Doing this didn't harm Nozomi in any way as she was just using her glass eye to perform. If she still had that eye, she'd still be using her trusty rifles and ranged weapons. She directed the eye to follow the Samurai at a bird's eye view, having it follow them from up above. While the Crystal Eye was following the Samurai, she looked around for a safe place to ascend to the rooftops. She noticed an alleyway that was dark and devoid of any of the locals. She hooked her head to beckon Maikeru to follow, dipping into the alleyway and quickly ascended the walls up to the rooftops. Upon reaching the rooftop, she took a knee and waited for Maikeru.

Once Maikeru arrived, she whispered to him. "I'm going to need you to take point from here-on. If you have yourself a headset, put it on now," she said before rummaging through her 'Bag of Holding' item and pulled out her headset and placed it into her ear. "Channel 2," she simply stated before pausing and letting Maikeru take point in this operation. Stalking prey wasn't something new for her as she used to do it quite often when she had full use of both of her eyes; back when she used to hunt prey as a long-ranged sharpshooter. Once Maikeru took point, she followed behind outside of whisper distance, but not too far away in the event Maikeru got ambushed. Hopefully, the Samurai don't look up.


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Maikeru

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"Yea, yea.." Maikeru muttered, pulling his long coat closer to his freezing form. "Just.. make sure to back me up. If I get caught, well.. I'm good. But, I don't know if I'm quite that good."

Weaving a few hand signs he stepped into the shadow of a nearby building, concealing his form from the outside world. Maikeru wasn't ANBU, nor did he feel he ever would be. He wasn't a master of subtlety and subterfuge like they were, but, he knew a thing or two. Ending on the rat sign he felt a surge of chakra building in his core as the jutsu transfused inside of him. With a shimmering effect the form of Maikeru would seemingly vanish from sight, leaving him free to walk from the shadows with measured steps.

"Ninja art: Active Camouflage." He muttered beneath his breath, taking a massive leap to the nearby rooftops. He may be invisible, but they were still in the mountains. Snow, and foot tracks specifically were the bane of one trying to live in the shadows.

Landing next to Nozomi he took stock of the situation. The town was small, that much was for sure. Although modern enough, the low standing buildings would make parkour more difficult and impede his path. Well, hopefully these mechanical samurai weren't in too much of a rush. Activating his Sharingan he was obscenely careful not to look at the sheath of the man with the strange blade. He needed to track their movements efficiently, not give himself a migraine in the process.

Taking two quick steps he leaped to the next building, grabbing the edge with two hands and quickly heaving himself up. Trailing someone was an art that the leaf, and he presumed cloud, taught at a very young age at the academy. After all, this was the cornerstone of all shinobi work. It didn't matter if you were ANBU, Main Branch, or even Medical. A time would come in your life where you had to trail a target and you needed to know how to effectively do so. Keeping his distance he would follow behind the men, every so often steeling himself to get close enough to try and listen in to the men in question. Perhaps they would give some hint as to their purpose with all that heavy armor, and give some insight to the strange projectiles that were seen in the sky.

One leap, two leaps, three leaps, he was quickly trailing the three Samurai. The most confusing part was how well these Samurai were liked. He had walked down the streets of two seperate shinobi villages wearing their headbands, and he had never received the type of reception that these men did. Perhaps the birds were the real menace here, and these Samurai were actually in the right for shooting down the majestic creatures. But, then again, he remembered his home.

"Sometimes, even evil men are greeted with a smile.." he said silently to himself, shaking his head to clear these unimportant thoughts.

WC: 505
 

Toraono Kuro

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As they followed the samurai they noted that the people of the small steam industrialized town considered them beloved. Children would run up to them and save for the leader with his anti ocular jutsu blade many young children and even a few teens would climb upon them and sit on the Samurai's shoulders. One lady ran from her shop to give the passing master a sweet bread confection. People waved from all corners, very few people looked away from the samurai and those that did were blatantly complacent they were as used to the Samurai patrolling as they were a street sign. They made their rounds and dropped off children at various areas before heading into the open gates of a large entryway on the Northern outskirts of the town. Many steam pipes ran to and from the moderate compound but they were all well made and well grounded. It seemed that the industrial efforts were very waste and energy conscious. As they observed both shinobi could easily note that there was no excess or wasted energy or water. Even the sewer lines flowed into various tanks separating and cycling the waste into compounds that could be used in labs or factories.

Cables were set deliberately and carefully from structure to structure which obviously provided energy to other buildings and structures. This place was truly clockwork.


As the samurai entered the gates closed behind them. There was no easy way in to follow them further. The compound was rather open, samurai of all ages could be seen training from porticulli's in the walls at various points. It seemed the reason for these openings was to allow for breezes and wind through the training and rest areas.
 

Kanagawa Nozomi

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"Of course, I got your back," she said as she followed behind Maikeru at about 10 paces behind him. With a few handseals, he just vanished from sight. It was then that he leapt forward. She wasn't able to track him with her eyes so she had to rely on where he was rather than where he is at that very moment. The footsteps in the snow and the lingering of his breath in the air made things much easier for her to track the former Leaf Nin. She tracked behind him, making her moves very deliberate due to her 'cursed' condition of glowing as bright as the sun. She tried to follow his footsteps, attempting to step her foot into his to avoid slipping and causing too much track-pollution. It got to the end of the building, a large jump for any normal shinobi. She cleared her throat and took a couple steps back before taking the leap of faith.

She jumped a bit short, but she concentrated chakra to the tips of her toes to remain on the building, kicking off with her feet upon hitting the wall before eventually making it back on top of the building. If this was normally stealth, she'd be completely in-the-zone, but due to being a big and shining beacon of light, tracking and remaining hidden (when it seemed impossible to do so) left her in the cold. She was out of her element, playing second-fiddle and sticking out like a sore thumb; something she'd have to get used to while she suffered from the solar ailment of her's.

She would do anything to be the tip of the spear on this operation, but she had to relinquish that to the budding shinobi; one who had yet to prove their loyalty to Kumogakure, to lead the way. She followed him leaping from building to building. The tracking, however, slowed down as the small town started to give those they were tracking praise. She had to stop her pursuit to keep a safe-distance, letting her Crystal Eye do all of the observing. Sticking her head out now would only give away her position. The more she picked up with the crystal eye, the more she began to doubt the strange non-human's capacity for evil. It was strange. To be so beloved by a community and to be evil? Perhaps her perception of them being evildoers was misplaced, but she still needed to get to the bottom of this mystery on why they were chasing those birds and what horrors the birds did to be attacked. Perhaps they were doing it for glory or those birds posed a threat to the village.

The two would find themselves, having followed the mech-samurai, to a gate-like structure leading to the outskirts of the town. Everything looked so high-tech and efficient. Where did this level of technology come from? The gates to where the Samurai went appeared to be a dead-end when it came to how many buildings they could climb on. Nozomi moved her thumb up to her mouth and started to nibble on the tip of her thumb. She didn't know what to do. Following them there, into the compound, might be suicide. There was a training ground with people of all-ages training. She continued to nibble on her thumb to think of what to do next. She was at a loss here. Perhaps this was truly a dead-end.

While she was nibbling upon her thumb, she sent the Crystal Eye forward into the training area, keeping it far overhead and pointed down like a surveillance drone. "You can drop the camouflage now, Maikeru. I don't think we're going to go in there. Shit," she said lamenting this situation. She wanted to go to the tavern or pub and get information on the birds' bounties there, but something was nagging at her to continue to pursue these creatures. "Did you notice anything weird about these guys when you talked to them?" she asked as she continued to lightly nibble upon the tip of her thumb, looking towards the training camp. She seemed a bit annoyed that they encountered a dead-end. Breaking into the compound could be seen as hostile, resulting in them being attacked as well as gaining the anger and frustration of the entire town.

"We should sit and wait until nightfall to track their movements," she said before rummaging through her Bag of Holding to pull out her stealth-suit, dropping it on the ground. "Look away," she said before she started to get undressed, all the way down to her underwear. She removed her bright white clothing and replaced it with her black and purple suit bearing a mask. She kept an eye on Maikeru to make sure he didn't look. If he did look, he'd notice there was a branding of a hawk upon her stomach with several knife-scratchings going through it; almost as if she was trying to carve it off of her body. Her back, the back of her legs, and her neck had whip-scars over it. Though, he'd probably ignore all of that for her larger-than-average back-end anyway. After getting dressed, she turned to look towards Maikeru, stuffing her white gear into the bag of holding. Now she didn't glow.

She hated this outfit. This outfit was made to help her with her ability to snipe people from long distances. Just wearing it gives her bad memories. She wanted to retain her ability to shoot properly, but fate had different plans for her. She finished putting the gear on. Tada, no more glowing.

WC: 933
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