DECAY: Crack: BLOSSOM

[Westlands | Coast | Greater Wind Country]
From the eastern desert plains, to the infamous Westlands and the southern coast with its neighboring islands, the Wind Country covers an array of changing landscapes and other settlements. The people who live there are as diverse and powerful as the lands they live on.

Re: DECAY: Crack: BLOSSOM

PostPosted by Uchiha Sasuke » Sat Feb 19, 2011 3:43 am

Two bandit skulls shattered immediately on contact with Shota’s fists. As tall and powerfully built as he appeared, the raw strength he could release on a whim still surprised even the most cautious of foes.

The majority of BLOSSOM’s shinobi had assembled on the eastern edge of the camp under Kai’s command and were busy repelling the first wave’s of the attack, but a handful of the more tenacious bastards had managed to scale the opposite end where the Commander had been busy herding civilians to their assigned ships.

After quickly dropping the last of them, he formed a hand sign, extending the entire western wall of the camp higher into the air, nearly three times its previous elevation. It wouldn’t be a perfect defense, but being able to focus on only one battlefront at a time would be essential. They were buying precious time right now, nothing more.

This attack, it was far too sudden. Had the two bandit groups met in the desert and joined forces immediately, rather than distracting each other as the leader of the reinforcement group had theorized? If those Suna shinobi didn’t arrive here with those pilots…then his decision had cost every man, woman, and child within these walls their lives.

What worried him more immediately was the explosion preceding the attack. The only ones outside at that moment would have been Homaku, Lanai, and the men they had taken to retrieve the last group of refugees they had spotted in the distance. Lanai’s explosives…?

No, it couldn’t be. He wouldn’t think it. He didn’t have the luxury of letting those thoughts consume his mind and cloud his judgment. A leader never let shock or sorrow threaten the safety of his subordinates. Focus on the present. The lives he could still save.

He rushed through the camp until he reached Ichigo and a ragtag group of young and wounded shinobi assembling and loading the final airships. There was no turning back now. The refugees would either escape through the sky or die trying. Where were those damn reinforcements?

Sansei, good work! If it’s possible, get them all into the air as soon as each one is loaded! We can get the pilots aboard as soon as they show up!

The boy nodded and returned to the task at hand, but Shota was already well away from where he had just been standing. The defenders were lined up near the eastern walls, fighting off any assailant who made it inside. Luckily, the casualties seemed low or non-existent at the moment. He quickly found his advisor leading from behind.

Kai, there’s something strange going on. If the kid was right about his team trying to lead the bandit groups here after leading them to each other...it doesn’t seem possible that they were overtaken so quickly. If this was a massive horde of thugs, they would be piling in her endlessly until the task was complete. The number of these guys is definitely limited.

Commander Kigo drew in a deep breath and watched another pair of attackers fall to a shuriken barrage. No, it was too early. The pilots would be here with the reinforcements on time, and all of the refugees would escape safely. He had to believe in that until the end. To his dying breath if necessary.

If his theory was incorrect, this would probably be a final, suicidal attempt to buy a little more time for everyone else to act. Otherwise…he was probably about to save a lot of effort and casualties for his men at just a slight cost to his chakra and stamina reserves.

Stand down, soldiers. Kai, take a few of them and sweep the camp to look for anyone who might have slipped through. The rest should spread out and watch the other walls. Leave the gate to me.

The younger male opened his mouth to speak and suddenly thought better of it. He nodded and systematically assigned the shinobi to different coordinates and assignments. The chuunin could be stubborn and opinionated like any other, but his loyalty was genuine and absolute.

He charged into the gate’s minimal chokepoint and clashed with the next wave of the disorganized mob that was still attempting to break their way through. Even in disarray, the attackers had the numbers of a small army on their side. Unfortunately for them, Shota’s kill count vastly exceeded that of a small army, each of his opponent’s fallen corpses robbed of the hearts a Kigo would never possess themselves.

Now, all the combined power of the dead would awaken for a single battle, all united for one single purpose. Crush anyone who stood between his people and their path to safety.
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Re: DECAY: Crack: BLOSSOM

PostPosted by Klee » Fri Feb 25, 2011 3:12 am

"Hanae Saihoushi...she's yours, Pantsu. Your daughter."

He didn't register her words at first. And then Pantsu didn't hear the explosions. Or Kohana's entrance and exit.
He didn't hear Chiaki scream.

His hand fell into her lurching, shrieking clutch, numb to the feeling.
Nothing was making sense.

His...baby?
This could only be a dream. A trick.
His mind spun in circles, putting time, place and reason into every context to prove the insanity of her claim. How? Was it...that night? No. That was only once, the very first time either of them had even tried that. What were the chances that every last factor that went into creating a life had just happened to line up? It wasn't possible. It couldn't be.

He couldn't be a father.
After every last sin his life had amounted to, the only thing he had any desire to do was leave the earth one day, and not leave a trace of his presence behind.
He couldn't abandon her, he didn't want to be any worse a person than he already was, but he couldn't take her either. Children grew to be like the parents that raised them, and he couldn't allow for himself to shape another life to be akin to his. But then...if they weren't raised, if they were neglected, then the consequences were at risk of almost certainly running more dire. Birth as a result of an illegitimate partnership would do nothing to improve matters, either. He was proof of that, even if Mom had given so much to correct it. He shuddered to think of it. The sound of the baby's name, Hanae Saihoushi, forced the cold through his bones, reminding him of every last reason why he couldn't accept any of this to be true.

He'd made a lot of mistakes in his lifetime. Sometimes he thought about it, and realized that his own existence had been a mistake.
But this was undoubtedly the greatest mistake he could have ever made.

But the denial continued to run through his head. His searched as he looked back at Chiaki, seeking in her face even a sliver of validity behind what she was saying.
But all he could see in those beautiful features was pain.

Chiaki was suffering, and this was all his fault.
She could have had this child with any other man, somebody who was capable of being the loving father her baby needed. This could have happened at any other time, when she was older and stronger and no longer a girl herself. But thanks to their mistake - no, his mistake - she'd been bound to him alone, perhaps forever, with this daughter he didn't think he could ever love as their cornerstone.

Didn't...think? No. This was more than just thought. This was a certainty. There would be no more mistakes, he'd have to walk away.

But a large part of him wished that he already had.

Gripped in hers, his hand tingled. Not from her touch, but from the persisting sensation of his daughter's fluttering kicks. No matter how hard he tried to focus on the bitter reality of their situation and what he had to do, the feeling was impossible to shake. It was only now that the realization was catching up, but for those brief, fleeting moments, with just Chiaki and Hanae, he'd felt almost...whole.

He'd never felt that before, and now it tore at his subconscious.

But for better or for worse, it wasn't left to tear him for long. The thrashed stomps that sounded through the tent were unlike the other sounds of the battle he'd heard in the minutes before. Direct assault.

Pantsu stood, forcing himself from Chiaki's grasp without realizing it for himself.

He didn't know what triggered him at first. He would have given anything to claim that this was a response to the imminent attack on the defensive Chiaki and Hanae, but he knew better than to label his dormant reflexes as that.

Chakra seeped through his veins. His hands flew together without thought, foolish fear of suffering death plaguing his mind, worsened yet by the lingering sights of the Kyoumougan.

But there would be no more mistakes.

The earth beneath the man's feet rumbled and sank, ensnaring him to the spot in a blink. Underground, the soil moved like razors and shredded at his skin. The face melted to grit out the pain, the man struggling to tear his feet from the chasms and converting the effort into furious momentum, hurling his weapons at Pantsu in the same motion.

He threw them fast, but not fast enough for a man who had brought down an entire civilization.

Wind burst around him, forming a wall which repelled the shuriken as effortlessly as if they were flies. Manipulated, the stars soared back to strike their master, slashing and crossing through the man's unprotected face to leave a gaping, 'X' shaped incision which ran from brow to corners- of mouth.
The shuriken clanked to the floor, and the blinded man screamed, reaching for fistfuls of extra weapons.

Even after months of disuse, Pantsu's defensive instinct was too fast for him.

Nunojutsu: Constriction

Kunai were the first to fall from fingertips as sleeves locked the rogue's arms in place. Then the torso and neck froze and the mouth cracked into gargles as the man was suffocated by his own garments. The maimed ankles finally buckled and the hefty body gave way, colliding with the ground with a dust raising thud.
He was still, his assault over seconds after it had begun.

And minutes before Pantsu had realized what he'd done.

He stood back and observed the damage, a shudder rocking his bones.
From here, he couldn't gauge if his assault had been fatal, but it hardly mattered. A few minutes or one stab, and it would be regardless.
His own power terrified him, even after so much time without use.

And he hadn't even resorted to the Kyoumougan there. Or worse yet, his own logic. He'd sworn to never fight again, and yet in the face of one small and trivial threat and he'd lashed out without thought, his latent fear of defeat consuming him in moments.

That was all there was to it. This...could not have been father's instinct, could it?

Hnf, what was he doing, already thinking like that?

His eye sought out Chiaki, half craving a fearful response, or just something which showed that she understood what she was condemning herself and Hanae to. But through her twitches and flailing and screams of his name, he got none of that. He continued to wonder, could she have really forgiven him for everything? Could he repent for all his sins?
Could he turn this around?

Again a violent sound deviated his silly thoughts.

The crash rumbled from the outside, sound of another weight tumbling to the floor. Kohana stepped through the space where there had once been tent fabric.

She looked worn, and pants escaped her breath. Maybe it was the shock, or her fight which had tired her. He didn't know.
But she couldn't keep this up.

Whatever was going on outside, it had caught her only a yard away from the tent. There was no way Kohana would be able to go as far as gathering just what they needed.

An idea swam over him, and he clung to it.

"Kohana. This is too dangerous. You tell me where to go, I'll retrieve the supplies. I'm stronger and I'm faster, I..."

...I need to get away from here.
That was what he wanted to tell her. He needed time to think this through in a place away from them, his mind uninterrupted by these conflicting emotions of guilt and hatred and attachment.

Only then could he ever figure out how to get through this without making another mistake.

He spun around to look at Chiaki one last time, chewing on his lip. What if there was another attack, and this was...the last time he saw her?
Between Chiaki's pained spasms and his hesitancy, locking into eye contact was impossible.
Pantsu tore his gaze before they managed it anyway.

Affection had been at the crux of most of his mistakes. No need to have it blind him now. This was the only option he had, even if he just wanted to help.

He seized Kohana by the wrist, and nodded into her eyes with all the seriousness he could manage.

"Just...just make sure nothing happens to Chiaki. Both her, and...Hanae."

His voice still faltered.
Was this just...another mistake?
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Re: DECAY: Crack: BLOSSOM

PostPosted by Tsuneo » Fri Feb 25, 2011 4:35 pm

It was over before she arrived.

Pantsu stood over the fallen body of the attacker. The enemy's body was torn to shreds, killed by a masterful display of ninjutsu.

Kohana had forgotten how powerful he had become in his time away from her.

"Kohana. This is too dangerous. You tell me where to go, I'll retrieve supplies. I'm stronger, I'm faster, I...Just...just make sure nothing happens to Chiaki. Both her, and...Hanae."

Kohana blinked at the names. So he did know them. But the name of the child too? The suspicion that was dancing in the back of her mind, the one that seemed to be the furthest one from all possibility but the one that she was most afriad to acknowledge - was it true?

Was this child Pantsu's?

There was a groaning horn throughout the camp.

"That was the all-clear. The first wave hsa been defeated and we're safe. For now. But we need to get ready to move. The civilians are being evacuated with some of dad's airships, but we can't put Chiaki aboard, it's too cold and too exposed. We'll have to transport her by foot along with the rest of the defense team."

Kohana's hand slipped into her medical pack and drew out a syringe. She slipped off the protective covering and took Chiaki's arm.

"This will help dull the pain. Not by much but it should help a little. Just keep breathing until we find Doctor Homaku, okay? Stay relaxed. We'll get through this."

Chiaki nodded frantically. "She's...Hanae, she's...your niece."

Kohana managed a smile and folded her hand into hers.

"I know. I'm looking forward to meeting her. Just stay calm okay? Pantsu, with me, outside."

The two stepped just outside the tent. Kohana flicked out a scalpel from her medical kit and dragged the blade across one of her knuckles, merely knicking it. She took the small smear of blood and folded it into her handsigns.

Summoning Technique

Shoji and Koji had been young rams, but had reached a new stage in their long-lived maturity. They were both proud and tall now, with the size and strength of horses, their horns twisting in regal power. Instead of running around in a frantic frenzy as they used to when Kohana summoned them, they stood, awaiting orders.

"Something wrong, Kohana-chan?"

"I'm going to need you to help me carry something. Hope you don't mind a bit of a harness."

"Ha! A harness. As if that would be enough to slow us down."

Kohana pulled out another equipment scroll and laid it across the sand, jolting chakra into it. A large medical sand sled appeared in a burst of smoke.

"Okay. Help me attached these to the rams and let's get Chiaki inside. We can't afford to carry her ourselves, we'll need to defend it if the bandits start to catch up to us. We need to hurry."

Brother and sister set to quick work. Kohana managed to catch Pantsu's eye, just once.

"It's a pretty name. Hanae."

- - -

The first dirigible began its ascent. Ichigo let out a long sigh of relief.

"Okay, let's keep it up, just like that! Get them all up and make sure someone's guarding the tethers! We can't let them be severed!"

The second and third airships began their climbs as well. Each had three ropes tied to their hull, which were attached to pulleys jammed into the ground. There were five total; one was being loaded still while another the last was in its final phase of construction. Each could comfortably carry about thirty people; 150 civilians and doctors, soaring back home to Suna...

He'd probably have to be on the ground-defense team, but he knew that coming in. The difference was how large the ground team was going to be. They had underestimated the number of wounded and refugees at the camp; just about all of the Suna-nin who could still walk at all were going to have to evacuate on foot.

He scrambled over to the west gate where the Commander was just returning from his sortie. He signaled a Suna-nin, who let out a bellow from a curved horn. The all clear.

"Commander, we're just about ready to send up the last two airships, but we're not going to have enough room for all the partly wounded Suna-nin...I know we're supposed to track the airships from the ground, but the configuration doesn't support slow-moving ground troops, sir. The dirigibles are quick and have to be defended by fast-moving teams. I...I think we're going to have to split up the remaining ground troops. Um. If that's what you think we should do."

It felt odd to try and be authoritative with the Commander. Ichigo was just repeating what he knew about the situation and the plan, but his words carrying the fate of living, breathing people was too much for him to truly handle. He just wanted him to decide and then follow the orders. Damnit, why did she send him back here alone...

"Commander, east wall is secured, we've raised the earth barriers up and closed off the perimeter." Kai stepped to the two of them, his body humming with restlessness. "We examined the remains of the first wave, sir. They're armored. All of them. Well-armed and by my guess, well-trained. Their tattered exterior clothes were just to throw us off, but these men were not simple bandits. Something else is...oh God..."

Ichigo turned to follow Kai's gaze. Walking through the west gate were a team of Suna-nin, each carrying a bagged body.

"Doctor Homaku...no, damnit, Lanai...damnit damnit damnit..." The color drained out of Kai's face, his fingers dragging into his forehead. "All because of the damned dirigibles...if we had gone with the irrigation escape instead of flying we'd have been out of here already...she'd still be alive...oh God..."

Irrigation escape. Ichigo had nearly forgotten. They could split the remaining ground forces into two, send the wounded through the irrigation route while the others followed the airships...he was too cowardly to say it aloud though. Watching Kai's shock was rattling him, and what little scrapes of confidence Ichigo had about giving the Commander orders were gone.

What if he suggested the wrong thing, like Kai had? What if someone died because of something Ichigo put forward...hell, in a way, this was already his fault, his fault for brgining the airship options in the first place...

"Commander! Signal flare, about a mile out! I think the reinforcement team is almost here!"

Ichigo let out a breath.
Finally...
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Re: DECAY: Crack: BLOSSOM

PostPosted by Uchiha Sasuke » Fri Feb 25, 2011 11:53 pm

KAI! Shut the hell up and pull yourself together! Everyone knew the risks of each plan when we were discussing them. Lanai knew them. She died trying to save more refugees and to safely escort the ones we have in our care back to the village. Now get ready to receive the reinforcement group and get those damn pilots up into the ships ASAP. MOVE!

The pale chuunin used the energy of the order to move unconsciously, rushing off to carry it out. After the recent ambush, it would be too dangerous to send anyone out to meet with the reinforcements halfway, but they could prepare to open the gate swiftly and allow them entry into the camp. Hopefully the large bandit hordes were not right on their tail, or this whole operation could end very quickly in a bloodbath.

The Commander closed his eyes and inhaled deeply before slowly releasing the air through his pursed lips. His suspicions about Homaku and Lanai had been confirmed, but there was no time to mourn or regret now. His decisions would always cost lives, no matter how much he planned. It was his job to accept the losses and keep moving, making the calls that would minimize the risks and limit the deaths. This particular loss just happened to hurt a little more.

Sansei…you’re right about splitting our ground forces. But the slower group with the injured won’t be staying on the ground for very long. They’ll be going under it. We can’t all use the irrigation system, but if we send a few of our earth users down with the injured, they should be able to escape completely under the radar.

Everyone who can keep up with the pace will remain up here and follow the airships’ route. When our convoy catches the attention of the bandit groups, there will be no reason to assume that anyone is missing. And even if they do, it is highly unlikely that they will figure out where they are, at least not before it’s too late. We’ll do everything we can to keep their attention on us while we defend the ships and the refugees.


Maybe this tactic wouldn’t work. Perhaps the bandits or the other attacking faction in the vicinity would figure it out and crush the irrigation system and the weaker group with it. Or maybe the defense team would be unable to adequately protect the ships. But all he could put his hope in now was the plan that had the best possibly odds of saving as many people as possible.

His gut instincts weren’t always perfect, but so far he had lives this long by relying on them. And considering his profession and the warfare-dominated world they all lived in, that was an impressive feat. Focus on the present and the future. He couldn’t do anything about past failure.

Shota glanced at Ichigo for a moment. The relief brought upon by news of the approaching reinforcements was visible in his expression, but he could still see the fear and hesitancy. He had only known the kid for a couple hours, but he could see that the genin had his head on straight and his heart in the right place. He was the type of person who could help him carry the burden of Suna’s protection in the future. The well-intentioned warriors who would fight for the good of the world, just as Kyuudaime would have wanted.

We’ll get these people out of this desert, Sansei. Now why don’t we go prepare to greet our guests before we all get the hell out of here for good?
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Re: DECAY: Crack: BLOSSOM

PostPosted by Klee » Tue Mar 01, 2011 4:12 am

Fastening the sled was a simple task, one he could accomplish without Kohana’s help. The rams were steadfast and his strength still capable. Once they’d raised the heavy bed atop Shoji and Koji, Pantsu took the rest of the job as his own.
The entire time, he kept his back to Kohana.

Just minutes ago, she had been one of the few whom he could trust in and divulge every emotion around. But...this was no more.
He knew she knew. And it didn't matter to him,
He felt very alone here. His predicament was one that nobody could relate to, not even the sister who shared every part of his flesh and blood.

"It's a pretty name. Hanae."

Pantsu’s body froze, his fingers subconsciously lacing the harness. The sound of the name still sent raw angst up his spine, but that wasn’t the source of all his demons this time.

Bitter reality had hit him like a brick.

What had he been doing, thinking he could hide his mistake from anyone? And of all people, his own sister? Even if by some miracle he managed to escape the twisted responsibility of supporting Hanae, he knew the truth would haunt him to the grave. The fact that Kohana already knew was irrelevant, she would find out eventually. Gossip spread. Maybe the guilt would one day affect him to the point that he would tell her himself.
Either way, it wasn't right.

There was nothing pretty about any of this.

"I can't do this, Kohana."

He hid himself in his work, evading her glance, but like a hopeless fool, he let the words escape him anyway.
It was selfish, but he couldn't resist the chance to vent but a fraction of his pain and set her straight. Especially in the presence of somebody whom he knew would listen, and not condemn him.

He was an idiot.

"Why? Why does it always have happen like thi-?"

He stopped quite abruptly, trying to control what had quickly become his sharp breathing.
His tone had escalated from hesitant lament to growls shaped through gritted teeth, all without him realizing it.
Inside, Chiaki panted quite audibly. His shouts barely disguised it.

"Listen to her, can't you hear her screaming? She's sixteen, Kohana, sixteen, and she has to go through all this agony because of what I did to her, and there's nothing I can do to help her. I can't ever bring myself to raise Hanae, not after the life I've led. I won't bestow all my crimes upon anybody else's shoulders, least of all my own daughter's."

The word's hollow sound still caused his heart to lurch with disbelief.
Daughter. His daughter. He was going to be a father.

The phrases pounded repeatedly against his brain, giving their all and still failing to break through his towering wall of denial.
He let a moment pass, trying to focus all his attention on the the harness he was fitting.

"She...was conceived the night before I killed Mom, did you know that? I don't remember anything of it, except that I was hungry. Hungry with lust and wrath and power and envy, and I just wanted to unleash it all. It's so disgusting to think about, and yet what comes of it? This isn't fair. Not on Chiaki, not on Hanae, not on...me."

Pantsu raised his arm to adjust the positioning of the sled across the woolen surface. His sleeve fell, revealing inches of white, bony arm marred by networks of scars and slashes. Somehow, he was shocked by the sight. His breath quivered.

He held the limb close to his eye, surveying the tattered wrist for moments as though he had never seen it before.

Then he covered his skin with sleeve, and his face folded into a frown.

How could he call himself a father?

"I lied when I told you that I hurt my leg in an accident. In truth, I tried to kill myself. It's not the first time - I've attempted suicide on more occasions than I can even count. But I fall short every single time because of that stupid promise I made to Moxie. I don't deserve to be here, Kohana. I don't deserve the chance to cheat my way out of this life either...but I'm really starting to wish that I'd succeeded by now."

Pantsu didn't meet his sister's eye. He was ashamed of how weak he was. Of how the monotonous remarks were slowly rising into bitter spits of the words grinding at his soul.

"I don't know what to do. Do I just leave them both? Chiaki is beautiful and kind, she'll find someone else, somebody who would love her and be willing to play the role of Hanae's father a million times better than I ever could. But..."

His voice was about to crack, so he paused. For the fleeting moments before he'd begun, Pantsu had thought that sharing his fears with one of the few who understood even a fraction of his life would relieve the strain on his heart. He was starting to realize that he'd been wrong here.

Speaking about it only made the truth seem more real. It pained him to continue, but if he couldn't accept the foul truth, how could he ever come to resolve it?
Pantsu pressed on.

"What if that's a bad idea too? I've been wondering for a while now...would I have turned out any different if I'd known the care of my own father? Would abandoning Hanae just transform her into a person worse than the one she'd become if I raised her myself? I don't know anymore. I'm fscking trapped and can't bring myself to make either ch-choi-"

He shuddered with remorse and hatred, bent over the sled. His speech crumbled into nothingness.
Pantsu knocked the tears from his eyes with a full fist.

What the hell was this? He couldn't cry. This was all his own fault, and he had no damn right to cry.

He felt the ache stretch down to his stomach as he tried to suppress his collating emotions. Was he...really this weak?
Pantsu tried to calm himself. To shut himself up, to accept the fact that this was his problem and not hers.

He wasn't going to sink to the level where he had to reach out to another.

"All I can do is protect Chiaki, and make sure nobody else dies as a consequence of my actions. That's the most I can offer here, I've already made the worst mistake. When she gives birth, I...don't know if I want to stand there."

He cursed himself with every word.
This was his problem. He wanted to stop. Shut up. Run away or face it, but not bring her into it.

Why was talking to her so...addictive, though? So difficult to stop.

His voice was nothing more than a shaking whisper on the final few words. But he was certain that she had them.
Was this the 'bond' mom had spoken about, all those years ago?

No, there was no such thing. This was him being a coward.
His heart burned.

"When that time comes, please help them...for me."
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Re: DECAY: Crack: BLOSSOM

PostPosted by Tsuneo » Wed Mar 02, 2011 1:01 am

Her arms shut around him. Tears splashed across her cheeks, but she didn't cry.

"Do you think mom would want you to leave her little granddaughter alone?"

She held him tighter, if that were possible.

"Pantsu...you don't have to make these decisions on your own. You won't raise Hanae on your own. You have me. You have us. This is what family is supposed to be here for, to help you carry all of your burdens when you feel like you can't. You need to try, Pantsu. A girl needs her father...I know, believe me, I know. And maybe you don't know what it means to be a father yet, but Chiaki doesn't know what it means to be a mother either. I don't know what it means to be an aunt. But we can figure it out. Together. You, Chiaki, me, Mox, grandma, dad...she'll have so much love."

Kohana slackened her vice-grip on her brother, their eyes meeting.

"I know cause...when I think about Hanae, even now, I feel so happy. And I haven't even met her yet."

She smiled and sobbed at the same time.

"So try. Try your hardest. Even if you don't love Chiaki, you have to be there for Hanae. Otherwise she'll always wonder."

The ground shook. A kunai sprung into Kohana's hand, and she took off immediately.

"Get Chiaki into the sled! I'll be right back!"

- - -

Ichigo vaulted to the top of the defense wall. He couldn't see the reinforcement team just yet, but he didn't expect to. There were plenty of dunes between the signal flare and BLOSSOM, and if they were moving by protocol they'd stay in the crevices of those dunes until they arrived. Out of sight. Safe.

On the horizon, red light flashed across gathering clouds.

He turned to the west. Afternoon was rapidly turning into evening, and they'd be out of light soon. All the better, he supposed. Darkness would help both teams escape. Still, there was something unnerving about the darkness in the desert. Something he had never quite grown accustomed to.

Maybe it was the loneliness. He didn't like being alone. Never did. Always had to be around people, always had to find someone to talk to, always had trouble to find. He wasn't sure why that was. Never thought about it. Didn't like to think about it.

There were still moments when he missed Kimi and Taro.
Moments where he missed the lie, the simplicity of his life back then. It would never come back, and he supposed he was better off for it.

Didn't feel like it, at times.

He rubbed his eyes. Now wasn't the time. He had to be ready to get the pilots to the airships and get all of these people the hell out of there.

The ground shook.

He spun around. Splitting up the center of the camp was a long shaft of earth, spearing diagonally for twenty feet. Two more shot up in other portions of the camp, then simultaneously, burst at their ends. Enemies fell from the debris, moving swiftly into the camp.

"Breach!"

Ichigo vaulted off the defense wall and onto the back of the shaft. His hands folded into signs as he approached the end of the shaft. As he expected, another enemy was emerging from the opening.

The shafts were tunnels.

Fire Release: Great Fireball

Ichigo was upside down, flipping over the edge of the shaft to point himself at the opening. He flooded the entryway with flame for a split second, halting it to right himself and land onto the ground. He snapped out a kunai and spun to face the tunnel, waiting for his flaming prey to emerge.

"Behind you!"

Ichigo spun, only to watch one of the first attackers spasm his arms and lose his footing, his own cloak yanking against him. Ichigo's kunai split open his throat before he hit the ground.

Flame-red hair swept past him, shuriken spinning from her form. Ichigo turned again, watching one of the three throwing blades impact the charred attacker in the arm. He fell to the ground, overwhelmed with the combined pain.

Kohana's back pressed to Ichigo's, forming a basic defense.

"We have to find the Commander!"

"No, the reinforcement team is almost here, we just need to hold these guys off!"

"We can't afford to do that, we need to go now! The injured, the-"

The earth shaft in front of them shifted. Not upward, not outward, but down. It churned and groaned, and after a moment, condensed into a solid spike, crushing the hollow pathway. Then it squashed itself back into the ground, as if remembering its place beneath the sand.

"They made it."

A crouched figure on the defense wall was draped in a cloak, seeming to be made of a hundred different shades of brown that melded into each other. The new camo gear Ichigo's team had been assigned. The figure motioned with one hand over his ear and five more appeared. They sprung over the wall and swept into the camp, the lead figure reaching Ichigo and Kohana within a second.

"Sorry for the delay. Got held up."

"Where's everyone else?"

"Pilots are already on their way to the airship. What you see is the rest of what you get, save for the second-in-command, she's right behind us. Captain stayed behind, trying to hold them off a little longer with Ajite and Watari. Damn suicide mission if you ask me. Better clean up the rest of these pillars, wait here her."

He rushed off as quickly as he arrived, handsigns flipping, his chakra already working on the next earth pillar. Ichigo turned to Kohana.

"We better get moving. I'll wait here, you head back to the airship. I...I'm not sure if there's space, so-"

"I'm staying with the ground force. We have a pregnant girl that needs transporting."

"Right. Good luck, then."

She smiled. It was a beautiful smile; Kohana was a beautiful girl and Ichigo hadn't missed that. He was frozen by that smile, stunned, he supposed. And he wondered if he hadn't been stunned if something would have been different.

He moved before he understood what he was doing. The attacker had burst out from the ground, the dust and sand parting for him under the influence of his earth technique. His blade was too long for a kunai, too short to be called a sword, but long and narrow and wicked nonetheless. It speared at Kohana, aiming to puncture her side.

Ichigo was faster. But not fast enough.

Kohana stumbled to the side and Ichigo's left side caught the blade instead. He swiped down with his kunai at the attacker's weapon arm, hoping to open up his wrist before he retracted it, but he was too quick. Before Ichigo's swipe was complete, the attacker had already pistoned his weapon from Ichigo's left side and plunged it back into his right.

He felt cold. The desert drank his blood, the pain overrode his control, and his fingers turned to mush, letting the kunai slip from his hands. Idly he put his hands together, trying to remember a handseal, any handseal at all.

A third strike. This one hit him in the shoulder, his flak vest cushioning him from instant death like it had the first two strikes, but not enough to prevent more blood from gushing out of him. He stumbled back. The world was closing in, darkness tunneling around him.

Darkness.

The damn darkness was finding a way to get him, even now, even though his last minutes were going to be lived under the cruel desert sun. He wanted to swear. Or to cry. Or yell something, say something, do anything at all to remind himself he was still alive. And surrounded by medics...this wasn't the end, this couldn't be. Everything had been so short. So quick. So sudden. So unfair.

A fourth strike. This one would hit for sure, this one aimed right at the center of his chest. But it missed. He wasn't sure why, maybe he was stumbling back and fell out of range. He was moving further away from his attacker, his feet scraping against the ground, looking for a way to remain standing.

Light poured into his vision now, fighting back the darkness. He wondered why. Was this the afterlife? A shimmering emerald world that made him feel warm and happy and alive?

He managed a smile. He shut his eyes.

An elephant trumpeted.

...wait.

"God damn, Ichigo, I can't leave you alone for one second can I!"

His eyes shot open. The emerald light was brighter than ever, but he could see the source clearly now. The coldness washed away, and he could feel the pain of his wounds in increasing awareness.

Arms were wrapped around him, hands were on his body, healing chakra surrounding him.

He was released and shoved in one quick motion. He stumbled forward and bumped into an elephant made of ink, which had one foot standing firmly on the flattened chest of his murderer.

"Sensei..."

Kyuuen glared.

"Stop screwing up!"

- - -

"You don't have to love me."

Chiaki grit her teeth. Her weight settled into the mattress set inside the sand sled. She was exhausted. Every sensation in her body that wasn't pain was fear. Every explosion, every crash, every cry of death made Hanae kick. She was afraid. She was afraid because Chiaki was afraid, and she didn't know how to feel any different.

She only seemed to calm at all when Pantsu was around.

She held onto his arm again, clenching it greedily.

"I...I know this is a lot, and I know we're so young but you don't have to love me. If that's something that's bothering you. I...I don't know, there's no time to talk, ah-"

She seethed her way through another contraction. The shot Kohana had given her had helped, for a time, but it was already wearing off.

"...I just need you to love her. I...we can figure out the rest later. Just promise you can love her, please, promise me..."

She squeezed his arm again.

- - -

"Move, now! I don't want those airships moving in an orderly fashion in a minute, I want them moving now and as fast as possible! Don't just stare at me, cut the lines!"

Kyuuen wiped the last bit of Ichigo's blood from her hands onto the camo-cloak, glaring the whole time. The unit was at their last straw, she could tell. Exhaustion, fatigue, injuries that they weren't reporting so that they could keep fighting, keep helping the other refugees. They were good men stretched way too far.

The tethers started snapping. Her people were aboard the airships now, their rear propellers starting to turn. One lurched forward, lumbering its way with perfect grace toward Suna.

She wanted to let out a breath of relief but was too pissed off to do so.

"Hold it there! I don't care if you're part of the reinforcement team, we can't start disobeying orders! We need to secure our path out of here before we make a move with the airships! Our defense team hasn't been chosen or assembled yet." The Chuunin was older than her, and looked like he was worse than the rest of them; perhaps malnourished as well as fatigued.

"Stow it. We only left three people trying to fend off a horde of enemies, and as amazing as those three are it won't give us much time. We need to move now. Anyone at a combat readiness staus of three or above goes with the airships. The rest of us move for the irrigation canal. I have a few tricks that'll force them to split up their pursuit party, but we're going to have to rely on swiftness and darkness from this point out. And a whole hell of a lot of luck."

The Chuunin took a long, measured breath. "While you're assessments are accurate, they're sitll in violation of our Commander's orders..."

She grabbed him by the flak vest.

"Listen here, lackey! It's your Commander's dumb-ass we're out here in the first place! If he hadn't pushed his luck and stayed out here way beyond his orders, then there'd be a lot fewer people dead today. We lost a lot of people and I'm sure you did too and we can't even give them the common decency to bury them. So either shut the hell up and stay out of my way, or I'll "reclassify" you to combat readiness 2. With my fist."

She could see his eyes shift from her glaring gaze to over her shoulder. Kyuuen released him and turned, standing square in line with the Commander.

He probably heard all of that.
Good.

"We ran across a pregnant girl on our way to engage the enemy." Kyuuen stood straight and met Shota's gaze directly. "Where is she?"
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Re: DECAY: Crack: BLOSSOM

PostPosted by Uchiha Sasuke » Tue Mar 08, 2011 1:56 am

Without batting an eye, the Commander raised his right hand and struck an open palm against the side of Kyuuen’s face with enough force to send her stumbling back a step. He crossed his arms over his chest, a dark expression fixed upon his visage.

I don’t know how things are run in the squad you’re assigned to, but don’t expect to walk into my camp, lecture my subordinates, and override my orders without consequence. Luckily, our ground force is nearly assembled, so beginning the airships’ flight now will not cause any harm.

You are correct that my decision to stay here this long has caused several deaths, mainly of the shinobi assigned to my care. However, how many hundreds of these refugees do you think we’re going to spare from the horrible massacres taking place in this desert every day? What purpose will Suna serve when the country collapses around it and the majority of its inhabitants are slaughtered? No one wants to see comrades die in the field, but that’s our reality right now. We need to use the precious time we’ve been given and move forward.


Shota separated his arms and raised his hand again, this time gesturing behind him with a thumb. The camp was abuzz with movement, a sense of desperate hope beginning to permeate the residents now that the reinforcements had arrived with the pilots.

As for the girl, a medical sled has been prepared to transport her out of here with the rest of us. We already have someone with medical experience looking after her, but you’re welcome to accompany her if you’re that worried. That’s just two more of the lives we would have thrown away had we left weeks ago as Suna so quickly demanded.

He could see the storm still brewing within the girl, but she brushed by him without any backtalk. It was good to see that kind of fire still burning in the shinobi of the sand. Even if it did need to be…refined a little in some cases.

The Kigo stepped forward and gave his relived advisor a slap on the back. Poor guy had barely a second to breathe since this whole thing had started, and he could see the fatigue hidden beneath his professional exterior.

Relax, Kai. The ships are leaving, the troops are ready, and everything is going smoothly. I’m going to have a last word with some of the guys before the groups separate. Gotta make sure everything is in order, even in the midst of chaos.

He saluted the younger male and turned, casually strolling back towards the launching point of the airships. So maybe this whole operation wasn’t going according to their original plans, but it still seemed to be working with some well-timed tweaks. Improvisation was essential in the world of shinobi after all.
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Re: DECAY: Crack: BLOSSOM

PostPosted by Klee » Fri Mar 11, 2011 1:20 am

"Stop talking. Forcing yourself to...to believe all this, it's only going to strain you worse."

Like Chiaki, Pantsu was speaking through gritted teeth. He was hesitant to speak, almost afraid of the anguish that would wash over him when he did. But how else was he supposed to set her straight? Every time he tried to reckon with his tangled and tearing web of feelings, she and Kohana would come up with just the words to twist it further. His heart was balancing on the end of a knife, and he wanted nothing more than to stab right through after every last word. His face no longer bothered to conceal the train wreck of emotions burning inside. He responded to her pained clutches with tears, quivers and numb stillness all in one.

She made this so difficult for him. He couldn't even approach this kindly any more. Not to her, nor himself.

There was no more denying the bitter reality.
His plea was loud, oblivious to the world around him and the dangers.

"You keep talking like this is all my personal choice. Not just you, Kohana as well. You're offering me all this comfort and support in the event that I do decide to go through with all this, and I appreciate it all, but the thing is, I'm not deciding anything. It just has to be this way."

On this final, firm note, he tried to wrangle himself from her hold, but Chiaki didn't relent even in the brief moment. Pantsu stopped his struggle.

He closed his eyes, and sighed.
What the hell was he supposed to do?

"Kohana wasn't there, but you were. You saw what I did that day, that week, with your own eyes. And I'm trying to forget it, Chiaki, I'd give anything to eradicate every last memory of my life up until now, but it's impossible. No amount of promises and good deeds will ever let me run away from it. Especially since...it could happen again. How can I pledge that I'm in a position to love my daughter or that we can work this out when I don't even know if I can control myself? Just minutes before I saw you, I removed my eyepatch for just a few seconds and even then I completely lost it. It's not that easy!"

As his voice jumped with desperation, Chiaki's grip lurched into an almost painful iron clench. Her face scrunched up, as what he could only guess to be the most agonizing of contractions overcame her entire body in a heartbeat.

Pantsu fell silent, his eyes wide.
Did even his shouting and agitation...frighten Hanae? Why was her behaviour mirroring him so closely? She feared when he feared. Cried when he cried. Screamed when he screamed.
The connection unsettled him to the very bone, and he didn't want it.

He traced Chiaki's belly again without even asking, almost as though to test. Her face relaxed as the throbs melted into flutters once more, and by this point, any possibility of mere coincidence had departed his mind.
For a moment he trembled in frustration and remorse, but then the shakes stopped.

No, all of this no longer surprised him.
Again he tore his hand away, the motion almost as reflexive as flesh to fire. His fingers folded to a fist.

He stared into the horizon, his voice just as distant.

"M-maybe she does need me. I...needed my father too, once upon a time. But I'm scared to give her that, Chiaki, and you have to understand how hard I'm trying. Trying to...to love again. No, to...love for the first time."


In one movement, Pantsu hoisted himself up atop the ram. He leaned across the sled until he was completely at level with her and looking into her eyes. He wanted to meet her beautiful glance just one last time as he said this.

"Think about it, after everything little thing you've seen me do. Wouldn't you say that trying to distance myself is an act of love in itself?"


Their eyes rocked, but somehow he maintained the contact. He had to, he wanted to get this message through to her and ensure that if one person understood what he was doing and why, it would be her. His...his beloved.

His face hovered inches apart from hers, misty tears stinging their way down his cheeks.

He could have kissed her. He wanted to kiss her.
But none of this was about his choice.

"Please...just say yes."


Pantsu stroked her womb, just one last time.
He forced a smile, wondering if the notion would help her through this.
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Re: DECAY: Crack: BLOSSOM

PostPosted by Tsuneo » Fri Mar 11, 2011 11:19 am

Chiaki shut her eyes.
Yes. He was right. Of course he was right. But she couldn't say it.

"You're alive! And still conscious, good, hold still, let me take a look."

Chiaki was stunned to hear the voice. "Oh, you made it! Thank you. You were right, they came to find me right away. This outpost is well-run..." She trailed off as another contraction tightened. The tattooed girl with the compact face hardly nodded to Chiaki's words, focusing her attention on her pulsing belly.

"Listen, remember when you said you were feeling sharp pains and I told you that it was fine?"

Chiaki nodded. "Y-yes, I-"

"I was lying. Sorry, I didn't want you to panic. There is a pretty severe complication here...I was hoping that we'd get back here before they collapsed down all the equipment, but it looks like our luck isn't holding this time. Don't worry, I can still save you and the baby if I start working now, but I need you to keep calm, okay?"

Chiaki sat upright, breathing as fast as she could. Calm? Calm!? How could she keep calm in a moment like this, in the middle of hell trying to give life to her daughter? The girl's hands blazed green. Chakra poured into her body and began weaving amongst her flesh. Hanae stirred.

Pantsu's sister appeared next, with another young man on her tail. The two women spoke in hushed, rapid tones, with only handfuls of medical syllables audible amidst the rest of the din.

"Pantsu, I..."

This time when she looked at him, she felt different. Her hand didn't reach out to his. Her heart didn't lurch for him.

Thunder roared. Chiaki could feel it in her bones while light filled the world for a moment.

"Kohana, now! Get these smelly bastards moving! And you, blondie, get off! Cover our retreat, do something!"

"Whoah, wait a second, Kyuuen-senpai, we can't! He's!"

Chiaki met Kohana's gaze. Chiaki's thoughts must have been clear on her face. The shock and realization spread across Kohana just as Kyuuen shoved Pantsu from the back of the sled. Chiaki looked at him.

"Go. If that's how you can love her...go."

More pain seared through her body. The sled slid through the sand.

- - -

Fire burned on the second airship. Wind jutsu howled against the flames, trying to suffocate it with force while the passengers screamed. One Suna-nin managed to unhook his canteen and toss it in while his teammate used a water technique. The fire vanished.

The airships were sitting ducks.

The amassed "bandits" had proven to be too much to hold off any longer. With the remaining two of the reinforcement team dead, the Captain could do little more than stare at the carnage, perched on the edge of a rocky spire.

Chakra released. The sky split with light and roared with thunder, and another group of attackers fell to the ground in burning husks.

They were no longer afraid of the lightning. Or at least, not afraid to fight it. They had worked themselves into a death-frenzy, a holy war against Sunagakure. The only way to stop them now was to kill them.

The Captain's camouflage cloak twisted in the wind. She darted off the spire and across the desert floor, rushing to the top of BLOSSOM's first meager defense wall. Everyone was already in full retreat. The airships were rising fast beyond the reach of the ground attacks, while the remaining refugees fled through the rear entrance. At the moment, the attackers were too busy trying to break their way through the side of the wall. Demolish BLOSSOM's defenses entirely and overrun it like ants to a stray strawberry. She was glad the goal was the supplies within the walls, and not the people.

She caught the odd movement out of the corner of her eye and turned to investigate. A young blonde man stumbled on the desert floor while a medical sled shot off to the rear exit. A sled pulled by rams.

Interesting...

She pounced from her wall and darted through the tents. Empty, as she expected. Could be useful when things got worse. She spotted the boy first.

"See you kept up your end of the bargain."

Moxie pulled back the hood of her cloak. Her brother turned and stared, his single eye widening at the sight of hers. Both gold, both completely in control, without the usual glow that accompanied them when she tapped into her curse mark. Would he completely understand the significance of it?

If he didn't, he would soon.

"Things are about to get pretty bad in here, Kyon." Odd how easily she switched into one of his middle names. "But this is a good opportunity. That girl, Chiaki...I remember her. I killed her, or so I thought. Looks like mom saved us again...and saved her, too. Your daughter. Her granddaugther."

She laughed, crossing her arms. "She'd hate that, wouldn't she? Being a grandmother at her age. Even now you're pissing her off, Pantsu."

A chakra thread lanced out of Moxie's fingertip and onto his eyepatch. Before he could so much as flinch, the patch burst into threads, showering around him. His single, golden eye, twitched and he fought to cover it with his hands.

"Don't."

She grabbed his wrists and yanked them to his side. He was so thin and weak, it shocked her.

"So what'd Kohana do? Give you the long run around about forgiveness and family? Yeah, she tried that on me too. Sent me a damn letter, if you can believe it. But you and I know it's not that easy. I...I've made my peace with mom. You haven't. You can only do that at your own time, in your own way. I get that. But there is one thing you can do now that'll help you through it."

Her own pair of Kyoumougan reached into his. She wasn't too adept at the doujutsu's genjutsu properties, but Pantsu's mind was so familiar to her that that the task was easy. The gold of his eye stained into black, the iris bleeding red. He tried to struggle but his mind's commands were suddenly mute.

"The second level, Pantsu. The second level is so different than the first...no more visions constantly berating you, no whispers of death and trauma. You can turn it off. Completely. See the world like you used to. But it's hard to unlock. You have to be in such deep danger that your very survival rests on it...good thing you're here, isn't it?" She gave a grin that would've made Supaiku-sensei very proud. Her control of his body slackened, and he was able to move, though the eye was still transformed.

"That wall is going to break down any second. When it does, fight. I'll cover your back. Fight, Pantsu, fight with everything you have and then let the eyes do the rest. It's the only way you'll ever feel normal again. That's how it was for me."

She wanted to tell him more. So much more. About Toya, about the Syndicate, about Konji, about mom...but there was no time. She could only hope now that he would do what she asked and fight for his life.

A single figure approached. Moxie bowed slightly.

"Commander Kogi. Sorry for our...ineffective help. I thought we would be more successful than we were. At least everyone's away now...my brother and I are staying here to hold off the advancing forces, give the rest a little more time. If you can offer a hand, I'd be more than willing to take it, but if you want to head with your people, I understand that too-"

Time was up. The wall crashed down and the first group started their blind ransack. Pantsu moved forward to the crowd, preparing his initial attack. Moxie formed quick handsigns and released her own chakra.

Scarlet spindles drilled into the earth in a neat circle, ten in all at seven feet tall a piece. The red light scorched with fire and danced with lightning, containing elements of both and yet far more potent than either alone.

Moxie turned to face her prey.

"Did you think no one would notice, Commander? Even if part of my orders hadn't been to eliminate you, it would have been obvious. This shoddy defense plan, the blatant inaction, the terrifying lack of priorities...if you weren't a traitor, then you would most certainly be a fool of the first degree."

The Commander stood encricled in the crimson cage. More red lightning erupted from Moxie's hand, wrapping around her arm and gathering in intensity.

"Sorry, but you didn't leave me any choice. Treason against Suna is death."

She snapped her hand forward. The spear of energy screeched for Shota's chest.
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Re: DECAY: Crack: BLOSSOM

PostPosted by Uchiha Sasuke » Sat Mar 19, 2011 1:09 am

The Commander disappeared a moment before the lethal bolt struck its mark, the earth below swallowing him up before his life could be claimed. The first group of bandits to breach the wall had their hands full with the Saihoushi boy for the moment and would ensure the purity of the duel until one side gave way.

A slight rumbling of the ground gave Moxie the split-second warning she needed to leap backwards out of harm’s way. A massive stone hand emerged from the sand and snatched at empty air, unable to snare its intended target. A second hand breached the surface and gave the golem enough leverage to pull itself up out of the abyss and tower five meters above the skirmish below at its fully extended height.

Shota surfaced on the opposite side of the girl, but made no threatening moves. The stone beast mirrored his posture. Both man and construct remained in a solid, but unmoving stance.

You know that by your logic just now, the entirety of Suna’s leadership engages in treasonous activity on a daily basis. Week in and week out, they do nothing but make the situation in this country worse. If its inaction and ridiculous priorities you seek, then look no further than your pathetic Council. Those old geezers think that holing up in the village center and letting the chaos destroy everything around them, slowing working its way inward, is the solution.

Who is that going to protect, aside from themselves? This land needs real leadership that cares equally for civilian and soldier alike. Maybe I am a traitor to the idea of Sunagakure that you hold, but I’m acting for what I believe as well. I come from a world ruled by warriors, and I do not wish to see my new home slowly decay to nothing under a blinded regime of fools.


A slight gesture of his right hand triggered his stone giant to action. The colossus brought its hands together and slammed the rocky mallet into the ground, the mighty blow sending rippling tremors outward from the source of impact.

The Commander’s body did not shift in the slightest, his feet firmly planted in their original position. He rested the backside of his right hand against his lower back and raised his left arm in front of his body. No tools or weapons. Just his body and the nearly limitless power is still contained. It would take a lot more than a few brief battles to deplete the strength of an entire army.

Unless you think one of us can strike the other down with words, I believe we’ll need to resolve this disagreement through force. I will not cherish killing you or your siblings, but I will do whatever it takes to restore what I believe this land needs. I’ve come too far to surrender here.
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Re: DECAY: Crack: BLOSSOM

PostPosted by Klee » Mon Mar 28, 2011 2:28 am

Finally, Pantsu found himself unneeded here.
The new doctor was brash, but he knew she meant well. What good was him being here going to do Chiaki now? Especially after she herself had admitted that this…this relationship, that the idea of the pair of them bringing up their daughter together would never work. The only thing he could do for now was hold off the intruders until Hanae was born, and then cover their escape. He should have left without hesitation.

He would have, if he hadn’t been unfortunate enough to have heard one of the doctor’s earlier statements.

“There is a pretty severe complication here...”

The sound of one, simple word, and he’d been engulfed in a feverish panic. One that left him standing in the same spot for too many moments after the sled had departed.
Complications? He didn’t have any near enough medical knowledge to know realize precisely what that entailed in Chiaki’s case, but he didn’t need it. He’d heard enough stories. Enough horrific tales of women losing their lives in their very attempts to bring new ones into the world. Most of the time, nothing was to blame but pure bad luck. Even Mom, the finest medic Suna had ever known, had been forced to shatter her own soul in the process of safely delivering Ayame and Chuu. Next to her, how could he even begin to believe that Chiaki would be alright. The doctor’s reassurance washed over him, leaving nothing behind but his own guilt and fury. He wanted nothing to do with her upbringing, but the thought Hanae dying here was unbearable. And he knew he wouldn’t be able to live with himself if he ever learned that Chiaki had again suffered to the brink of death as a result of his own actions. She wouldn’t be pregnant if it wasn’t for him. This…it was all his fault.

Pantsu felt physically sick. Like he wanted to throw up everything hadn’t even eaten. What was he supposed to do? They’d forced him out, could he go back and apologize to her for the millionth time? No. What good would that even bring to either of them? The damage was done, and there was nothing he could do now to fix it. If anything, he could ensure that Chiaki would never have to see him again, in whatever moments she had left.
Moments…she had left? No. Why was he being so negative?
What had that doctor said? There…there was still a chance, right?

Chiaki’s last words echoed through his head.

"Go. If that's how you can love her...go."

She must have known what the implications of the doctor’s statements were, when she’d said that. And yet, she’d urged him to move on and fight. To protect whatever chance his beloved had left.
He could still honor that request, couldn’t he?

Fight off the hoards, or die trying. And wouldn’t the latter be nice after all this crap?

He began to walk, following the sound of commotion without so much as a reason. There’d be something to do there, he presumed. Something he could use to pretend that he was able to equate for everything he’d done. Something to make him feel better.

He didn’t get very far before this already false dream was shattered further.

"See you kept up your end of the bargain."

It was almost ironic how, this whole time, one thought had been tugging at the back of his mind as perhaps the only factor which could possibly make his entire predicament worse.

The thought of seeing his sister again.

As always, he was completely immune to the rest of it. Her inexplicable presence here, the unflattering haircut, her jeers. All of it was drowned out in the glow of Moxie's golden eyes. Both of them.

What the heck was this? The fabled second level? Something wasn't right. There were no signs of their father's curse mark sprawled across her body...could it be that she'd somehow accessed this power without him?
He really couldn't think straight about it. The glow entranced him, spurring up a familiar irritation which had little to do with her taunts regarding Hanae.

"Moxie...what the hell are you-"

His voice shook, and he faced a fleeting compulsion to tear the eyepatch from his face, before he caught himself.

No...he was being silly now. He was hear to protect Chiaki, and he didn't need the Kyoumougan to do that. So what if Moxie was here? She could control the damn thing, couldn't she.

He moved to tell her something, to refute her cheery and cavalier comments about Chiaki and Hanae with the bitter truth of his hardships. None of these words made it out.

As always, Moxie was faster.

A flurry of falling fabric, and she'd let it loose.
He witnessed the same burning as before, only in more detail.
Scenes of him burning. Chiaki burning. A faceless baby. Suna. Kohana. All burning.
Many of Moxie.
Some by his hands. Some by masked intruders.

These weren't just flashes. They were constant.
He didn't just see snapshots of final destinations. He saw how he would come to arrive at them, and it made the visions all the more traumatic and simultaneously enthralling.

He had to cover it up, but he couldn't. His clammy hands slipped from his face whenever he tried, caught in the lure of his sister's eyes. He wanted to admire them, and yet he wanted to lash out and strike her.
Moxie said something, provoking a dozen more visions. Apparently he could reach her level too. Something about a near-death situation. The power to turn it off.

Could he really?
No. No, he wasn't going to use it, why was she-

"Stop it, you bitch I-" he shuddered, realizing what he was saying, "Sorry, but I won't ever-"

He stopped.
It was like his own eye was forbidding him of his right to speak the truth. Every time he tried, a wave of scenes numbed his mind with tempting sights of him wiping that stupid grin off her face with force. Or better yet, it left him with hopes that he could in fact accomplish what she was telling him about.

He didn't want that foolish hope.
But he didn't have the time to deny it.

The wall broke.
The Kyoumougan warned him of the danger.

Pantsu didn’t know exactly why he jumped at the attackers like he did. Was it this bizarre father’s instinct at work again? A more dormant desire to beat Moxie to the punch? Or was this his reflexive response to the threats his eyes perceived as too real?

Ten men hurtled at him, not faltered in their charge by their success destroying the barrier.
Their armor was steady. Weapons elite. Frames titanic. The Kyoumougan showed him no victories if he was to face them head on.
Still, he caught them halfway. And phased right through their wall.

He phased his threads of chakra, bypassing the metal and loosening the cloth bindings that cushioned the steel against skin as he moved through the bodies. The plates guarding neck and chest fell away, clanging soundlessly into the sand.
Before the men had even realized, a wicked wind had erupted around them. The gale slashed beyond the limits of flesh and maimed insides, sending all ten to collide with the ground in bloody fate.

Pantsu spun around, facing his own destruction.
Harsh, maybe. But the most certain path to victory, according to his own eyes. And Moxie wanted him to listen to them, right? If he just kept at it, he wouldn’t be upsetting anyone. He could even prove

A distant statement uttered by Moxie to her captive snapped him back to his senses.

"Sorry, but you didn't leave me any choice. Treason against Suna is death."

For a moment, Pantsu even laughed as the reality of what he was doing caught up with him. It was as though making a joke of his sister's quote would relieve the irony which sickened him. His cackles were hollow, not unlike Moxie's words.

What utter bullshit. If death was the true price to be paid for treason, then why the hell had she left he himself alive?
Hah. He wasn't even sure why he was surprised. Since when did that...that fool ever know what the concept of justice was really about?

She'd always thought she had. Ever since they were small. Moxie was always the one to judge, and in the eyes of every person who wasn't him, Moxie was always right.
But he knew better.

Did she really think unleashing the wicked madness of his Kyoumougan was the right thing to do? That the distant, unattainable result justified her cruel means? Idiot. She knew that he couldn't control it. He didn't know why he'd just used it.

He rounded on the sound of her voice, seething. Why did she always do this? Find him whenever his life had hit breaking point and try to tear what was left of him apart with her stupid philosophies and broken promises.

He already saw her perishing, didn't he? And not even by his own hands. Thanks to her, he could see every last twisted, morbid future in front of him, and yet justice didn't exist any of them.

"Ngh..."

Pantsu struggled to clap his hands to his eye again, his own muscles tearing at themselves to pull away.
What the hell was he thinking?
Moxie was his sister. He'd promised that he would never hurt her again. That promise wasn't to change, even if this accursed eye saw it broken.

He had to focus on the task at hand here. On Chiaki. On Hanae.
This...this whole fight had worked hadn't it? He wasn't hurt. Nobody he cared about was. And he'd stopped the whole wave. He...could keep this up, right? If he tried.

She'd done something. He couldn't shut the eye off. Or cover it. Or anything.
He had to fight. And he was going to.

Pantsu had been deluding himself. He'd never fix his...problems enough to be able to truly live as a father, but he was going to fight for his daughter's sake regardless.

He turned when he heard the next sign of an approaching army.

He turned to confront the next onslaught, but didn't relent in his ability. There was no need to place everybody around him in such a dangerous situation just so he could activate the second level of the Kyoumougan, tempting as it was.
And besides, if he was going to place himself that close to death by this point, why not just die?
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Re: DECAY: Crack: BLOSSOM

PostPosted by Tsuneo » Mon Mar 28, 2011 3:10 am

Stone warrior on one side, flesh warrior on the other. Moxie stood between the two of them, her mind tranquil. Strong as Shota was, this was not the assembled hordes of the Hana Syndicate's most desperate men. There were no lives of young girls at stake. Only her own. And that was something she could protect.

Her mind wandered to thoughts of Konji, his words mingling amongst Shota's. Her golden eyes sharpened.

"Equality amongst common men and soldiers alike...that's the banner all governments wave. Even a warlord cares for his people. The problem lies in how they are cared for. If your superiors are willing to attack injured men and women and let loose bandits onto unarmed civilians, then they are not people to be trusted."

Her hand arced down to the small of her back. Raikenkire slipped out of its scabbard and flashed in the waning light. Shota moved and his golem followed, a precise kick, followed by a sweeping punch. Moxie spun around, keeping her blade at her side and backed away from both attacks, clearing them by several feet. She realized that the attacks were meant to coral her closer to Shota so that he could attack directly, but she was already prepared. She spun again slicing her blade through the air. Scarlet lightning crackled, sliding along the blade and clawing at Shota.

She could see the future so clearly in her mind that it melded with the present. One was the other and the other was one, no difference or delay, no other option. They both moved with seasoned precision. The golem punched, Moxie exploded her body upward and onto the back of its wrist, jamming her blade into it for grip. The golem swung again, this time bashing the ground to shake her free, and Moxie let it, using the momentum to hurl her at Shota, more lightning swirling around her foot in red tangles. A wall of earth rose to block her, but Moxie let the chakra pierce it, and her, through it. Shota was already gone from the other side, and the golem plowed through what remained of the wall, swiping with remarkable speed and accuracy at Moxie.

Fight with the impossible.

Chakra surged through her. Her body's form vanished amidst the light that engulfed her body. She shot through the golem like an arrow, bits of molten rock raining down in an orange storm. The chakra flow through the creature was ruined, and the remaining stones collapsed in a heap in the center of the camp. Moxie released all of the red lightning from around her, sweeping chakra threads from one hand to snag onto a tent, tearing it from the poles. Two spiked columns of earth had risen and were sweeping across the ground to slam into her, but the tent engulfed them both from their flank, first swarming then crushing the pillars into the dust.

She looked over at Pantsu. She could see the images that would be haunting him; temptations of death and revenge and freedom. Images that she could do nothing about. They were possible futures, just like the rest of them. All she could do was believe that he was strong enough to make the right choices, and strong enough to keep the other bandits off of her while she dealt with Shota.

Or she could finish him off now and help her brother. She refocused on her enemy.

"You can't use the suffering of a people as an excuse to depose those in charge. No matter who rules, mistakes are made and people die. Even the kindest man trying to save his daughter will ruin his son in the process!"

The tent released the crumbled bits of earth and then tore into two. The thread golems ran straight at Shota, each with a fabric blade for an arm. Sadly the commander was too well-versed in Saihoushi techniques to attempt to fight them hand to hand and opened pits beneath their false feet, entombing them a moment later. But the deception was already done; Raikenkire pierced into the ground beside him.

A bolt of scarlet lightning tore from the sky, crashed into the sword, and spread out electricity and fire for a hundred feet.
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Re: DECAY: Crack: BLOSSOM

PostPosted by Uchiha Sasuke » Thu Mar 31, 2011 1:13 am

Having no time to interfere with the sword itself or hinder the technique’s activation in any way, Shota turned and dove headfirst into the sandy ground, his chakra-coated hands and arms tearing a new tunnel into the earth. He managed to save most of his body from the wave of destruction, but the lower half of his legs from the knees down had not escaped unscathed.

A horrifically uncomfortable tingling sensation ignited his nerves. A numbness spreading in his limbs prevented him from moving as freely as he would have liked, and yet it still burned like hell. That was just unfair.

After a brief lull, another crevice opened in front of Moxie. Shota rocketed up from the depths of the earth and seemed poised to attack, but his opponent had already anticipated this particular ploy. A second and third Shota emerged from behind. She spun to face the new threat, realizing the full implication of the tactic a moment too late.

The one and only real Commander emerged almost directly beneath the girl, just inches to her right. This same action had failed on its own just minutes earlier, but even the best moves were not executed perfectly every time.

This time the man’s elbow struck true, slamming into her gut and sending her lighter figure several feet in the opposite direction, the wind certainly knocked clear out of her. His full strength could have ended the duel in that single blow, but something had stayed his hand. The clones crumbled into loose piles of rocks as he stepped over to his fallen enemy, pausing a few steps away from where she fell.

I never said that anyone’s rule could be perfect. But certainly the number of mistakes made and people killed will be much different based on those in charge. I don’t take any joy in preying on wounded men, but it is not always avoidable in warfare. As for defenseless civilians, well, they would have all been captured alive if you and your team hadn’t shown up today. Most of them will still escape safely in those aircrafts, but I will mourn every innocent life taken by either side today.

Shota crossed his arms and sighed, still looking down at the recipient of his speech. Amidst all his deceit, his previous words in regards to the Kyuudaime and her children had not been contrary to his actual feelings. Hana could have led the village and the country to greatness. A pity they would never get to see the kind of future she might have created for everyone.

And as selfish as it sounds, the truth is that people do whatever they must to protect themselves and what they care about. Even if that means bending personal morality a bit to justify certain actions. Maybe if I could have modified my leaders’ orders however I wished, this wouldn’t even be happening right now…but I don’t have that choice right now.

He unlocked his arms and began the process of forming a hand sign when a shrill voice broke his concentration. He quickly turned his head to get a glance at the ongoing exchange between Pantsu and the advancing bandit horde, allowing himself to become distracted for a moment too long.
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Re: DECAY: Crack: BLOSSOM

PostPosted by Klee » Wed Apr 06, 2011 2:35 am

Slashing winds and rumbling earth came to a still, and an army fell to knees and clutched at hearts as its bodies crashed against the fractured soil. This time, Pantsu fell to his knees with them. And one hand tried to settle his own heart.

The other forced itself to conceal the Kyoumougan. Just…for a moment.
Just until he regained his composure.

Why was this happening? This eye…it should have made him stronger, not crippled him faster.

W-what was he thinking?

This…incompetence shouldn’t have been a surprise. He was weaker than before, and he knew it.
Not just physically out of practice and malnourished, either. His period of inactivity had taken its toll on his mental state. Controlling himself in the wake of the Kyoumougan’s gaze was proving to be a more taxing effort than ever before.

His patterns were growing rampantly more desperate, as he exerted every tactic and sliver of force he could manage in mad attempts to minimize the visions of his own death, the number of which would treble as his strength with every passing second in a viscous circle. It wasn't just his own death that he saw, either. The other nightmares were there too - the ones that he truly feared as opposed to crave - scratching like knives into the back of his mind and tempting him to turn from his courses of action.

And then there was Moxie.

Any prospect of maintaining a grasp on his reality had diminished in her presence, as it always did.

Half the time his stream of thought lay predominantly with the attackers before him, and his obligation to foil them, be it to show off to Moxie or protect his daughter. Through the rest he found his mind plagued with the drifting tones of his sister's voice, and frighteningly familiar desires to hurt her for it. His eye provided him with the gruesome flashes of how. He felt a disturbing, tremendous satisfaction rock through his bones when he saw her at Shota's mercy.

She deserved it, didn't she? For how wrong she was.

“Equality amongst common men and soldiers alike...”

There was no such thing as equality. Just strong and weak.

Perhaps Moxie was directing her speech at the ‘traitor’ before her, but it didn’t stop him from scorning her for uttering it. His personal definitions of the two sole headings may have transformed since mom's death, but the almighty distinction remained entrenched within his mind, and he hated being reminded. He was a weak man, one that had never had the power to control even his own mind. Moxie had been dealt strength and yet she dared to argue equality? That idiot...she'd never known how to live the life of somebody who wasn't granted every last gift of power and character on a silver plate.
He wanted her to feel it, to experience the nightmares that tormented his every night and to know that he had no choice but to suffer them as long as he lived. He wasn't strong enough to control the eye's power beyond the present level. He wasn't her.
He never would be.

Pantsu was on his feet now, and had no recollection of how he'd climbed up, except for the sights that preceded his visions of pursuit. Again his fingers scampered over his face to blind it and suppress his savage thoughts to urge Shota to finish her, for he himself never could.

N-no...why was he still thinking like that? Moxie was his sister. He didn't want any more harm to come to her, as possible as this accursed eye told him it was. But there was nothing he could do to help either. If Moxie couldn't handle this, neither could he. This was probably only a low point for Moxie in a back and forth exchange, anyway. She wouldn't lose.

And if she did, what did he care? They were all going to die eventually. She and her eyes probably knew that better than he did.

No. Just forget it. Don't think like that.
He had to calm down. Get a grip and dismiss Moxie’s statements as further bouts of her idiotic theories of how the world worked. She’d always been like this. There was no reason for him to react, to crave to experience the burning sights of his sister in both eyes.
She could finish Shota on his own, and he had no reason to dwell on their battle.

He had to set both eyes back on his own task.

Crash!

The roar of another approaching wave of soldiers shuddered through his ears, and he felt his body twitch with it as he and his eye returned to terms with his own physical state, and mission. He didn’t have much left in him, and if he kept giving into his eye’s illusions like this, he definitely wouldn’t be able to fight like this much longer. That wasn’t acceptable. He had to focus here, and keep at this approach for as long as he could hold his own, before he finally granted himself to death.

Forget Moxie, ignore her. Let her win her battle as she always did. This…this was about him protecting Chiaki and Hanae for as long as possible, so that they could have a chance at a future. The Kyoumougan was just a tool he was using to achieve that. It had nothing to do with matching up to Moxie.

He broke into a sprint. He’d catch the next hoard before they struck him here, and get away from Moxie.
He didn’t need to hear her, or find himself tempted to fulfill her stupid requests.

He already knew that this wasn’t the last of the mobs that would strike the camp, and that he wouldn’t be able to finish every intruder on his own. But he’d brushed off any chance of his personal survival a while ago. His death was inevitable now.

Every vision ended in a life lost, be it that of his or Moxie or Hanae or Chiaki or every last person involved. When the time came, he would pick an outcome that would hopefully cost only his own.
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Re: DECAY: Crack: BLOSSOM

PostPosted by Tsuneo » Thu Apr 07, 2011 1:54 pm

It was never easy was it?

Had she ever battled a true enemy in her entire life? Was anyone truly evil?

She had fought for her life. She had fought her father, her brother, her mother. She had fought the misguided, the confused, the desperate, and the lonely. But had anyone she ever raised her blade to been evil?

Maybe such a thing didn't exist.

Sadly for Shota, there was no time for Moxie to try and learn why he had become so lost. There was no time to reach an understanding, no time to reach a future that was beneficial for everyone. They only had time for death.

She swung her arm upward and a strip of her sleeve snapped along with it, turning into a thin blade that arced at Shota's shin. The older shinobi stepped back, regathering his position and chakra, determined not to let Moxie back onto her feet and regain any stability. Moxie shoved chakra through her limbs, propelling herself into the air, just in time for her torso to meet the next boulder shot at her. Her cloak constricted and hardened around her out of instinct, lessening the force of the attack. It carried her through the air.

Somehow her toe caught the sand and she used it to pivot around the boulder, letting it continue on while she turned an odd oval into the ground. Her eyes painted portraits in her mind. Pantsu was losing his control over the oncoming soldiers, and they would be on her in seconds.

Her wrist snapped out, five chakra threads snagging onto three pant legs and yanking their owners into the ground, tripping thier stampeding comrades behind them. One tumbled forward with a dull katana in his hand, and Moxie pried it from him with swift hands, hefting the imbalanced blade over her shoulder. She unleashed her attacks without grace or form, relying on hacking brutality to keep the oncoming soldiers off-guard, chunking away at their armor and chipping away their weapons.

The crowd of soldiers circled around the barricade and started to engulf her. Her sword took longer and longer strikes now, each one covering half a revolution in order to protect her from prodding spears. This defense wouldn't last long. Scarlet lightning leapt up the blade and into it, filling it with super-heated power. The cheap metal was unable to hold in the energy and glowed bright orange.

When she struck it against another sword, the blade sprayed. Molten steel clung to the enemy faces, scraping flesh from their skulls and flooding the air with the smell of roasting meat. The screams were primal and terrifying.

The earth pistoned beneath her, launching her in an arc over the closest enemies and toward a clear spot. Moxie's eyes sharpened, looking for Shota's trap, wondering why he had chosen to propel her.

No. He hadn't.
Pantsu had.

She rolled through her landing, feeling the ground rumble behind her as a half-circle of jagged rock rose to protect her. Her and Pantsu's battles had merged. Moxie's chakra threads slithered through the camp, hooking into tents and hurling them into the air above the largest mass of bandits.

Remember, please remember.

A gust of wind swept down into the tents, shredding them.

Be enough. Please be enough.

Twenty chakra threads plunked twenty scraps of fabric from the floating pile and turned them into razors.

It was an old technique, one they had practiced before they were even Genin, but performing it was as easy as breathing. Each knew the pattern, each knew how to toss the fabric back into the air after they had used it to cut so that the other could snag it and cut again. Soon the green tent scraps were soggy and crimson.

She jumped just in time. The protective wall betrayed her, bursting in hefty chunks. She landed on the other side, skidding herself into the center of the injured and dying. Pantsu was approaching from the other side.

He was weary. His mind and body weren't used to the combat anymore. Moxie had forgotten how taxing fighting could be. She had made a mistake thinking Pantsu could hold it all off on his own.

Were they safe here in the crowd? Earth techniques were notoriously wide-spread, and if Shota was as sincere about saving lives as he had claimed, then he wouldn't needlessly mash away at his allies to get to Moxie. He'd draw her out. He was a commander, and strategy was part of his mind.

The Kyoumougan took control of her actions. Her taijutsu skills gained preternatural speed, her body weaving in and out of attacks before the attackers had even formed them. She managed to snag herself another sword and unleashed the blade with reckless abandon. The attacks didn't need to be pretty. Just lethal.

The earth shook again. This time walls stretched out all around them, thin but steep leaving only a small circle at the top. Moxie pointed her blade toward the mouth, preparing for the next attacker. Instead, spines hissed from walls, lashing toward them. Then they stopped, wriggled, and burst back to their smooth lining.

Pantsu was keeping up.

But she wasn't sure for how much longer. She was feeling the hollow where her chakra was supposed to be; hours worth of fighting finally catching up to her. Pantsu wouldn't be faring much better. They had to leave, and now.

"Pantsu, we-"

The walls flattened back down. Where injured men and the dead had been before were now fresh soldiers, their armor unbloodied. They loomed and breathed as one, savoring the triplet's aroma of exhaustion

Moxie grasped her brother's arm and threw him to the ground. Her body dropped on top of his, shielding him while her fingers danced.

Her eyes shut.

She could not see the scarlet lightning cracking out of her body, but she could taste it. She could hear the screams amongst the sizzles of their bodies cooking in their own armor. She could feel the searing burns amongst the cold prickles in her arms. She could envision it as her chakra lengthened and sharpened and grew hungry and cosumed everything it could touch.

And then that was it. She was out. Out of chakra, out of concentration, the lightning fizzled, limped and died. She shoved herself to her feet, hands raised to fight despite lacking the strength to do so. She surveyed the field.

Dead. All of them.

She reached down and hefted Pantsu to his feet.

"We need to get out of here, now. I'll take point, follow close behind me. Sorry, I wish we could wait longer but I'm just about out of strength."

Her eyes fell shut again for a moment. She reached inside herself and fumbled for the opening and reluctantly but frantically pulled it open. The curse mark on her chest warmed her and new chakra poured into her. She hated borrowing the energy, but for now it was all she had.

Then it was gone.

It was worse than when the seal shut, that sense of a door being slammed. It felt as if the door was completely destroyed, and that the place where the door led to was destroyed with it. It was a shock to Moxie to realizze how connected she had always felt with that mark, how it had been a presence to her even when it was deactivated. For one clear moment, she felt profoundly alone.

And then came the languid pain. She buckled, dropping to her knees. Her body felt cold and distant, and yet the warmth of her blood still cascaded over her torso. Her eyes finally opened, her right hand absently fumbling across her torso.

A spike. Made of earth, so smooth and so sharp that she hadn't even felt the impact. Four inches in diameter, the piece of molded stone had entered through her back and pierced out her chest, just above her breast and below her collarbone. The flesh which had held her curse mark as completely gone, flayed out in pieces across the ground. And with it, the curse itself.

She tried to grab at the spike and felt instead another hand gripping it, sliding it from out of her body. Blood gushed instead of leaked now, draining her. She felt tired. Confused. Her vision was a tiny circle, showing her foreign hands covered in scarlet. New pain scraped through her mind as pressure was applied to her wound. She felt the nunojutsu-manipulated cloth attach onto her skin, compressing around the wound tightly to control the bleeding. She felt herself stumble to her feet and then somehow maintain a lopsided balance. She felt Pantsu's shoulder under her arm, felt him support her weight while she stained him blood.
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