This was it!
Moxie landed deftly on the slick deck, letting the water glide her across, one hand on her hilt, watching narrowly at the single figure guiding the chain that was torturing Kyuuen.
An old shinobi, probably S-rank. Wouldn't matter, she and Toya would have him cut down in less than-
Her toes pressed on the deck and spun her around, gliding the golden blade out to intercept another. Two crewman were trying to flank them, one shoving his sword against Moxie's while the second ducked low trying to lunge beneath the crossed blades to pierce her torso.
“Won't be that easy!”
The fabric around her torso tightened and stiffened easily under her practiced nunojutsu abilities, the treated fabric amplifying her abilities. The second crewman's sword bent to one side while Moxie shoved the other blade to one side.
Her shoulder slammed into one while her hand caught the other, gripping her fingers into his shirt. The three slid head-long across the deck and into the open hatch.
They tumbled in a pile of limbs and swords, Moxie stiffening her entire suit to prevent accidental cuts. It even provided some modest protection from bouncing down the steps and crashing onto the next deck. As soon as the world stopped spinning, she shoved herself to her feet, taking her golden sword with her. The other two were still disoriented and clearly more damaged from the fall than she was.
She swung her head around to the other end of the corridor, her hair whipping around and slapping onto her neck as she did. For a brief moment, she realized that she was relieved to be out of the wind and the rain and the chill of her entire body.
The door at the farthest end of the corridor squealed as the spoked release spun open, two more crewmen with clubs emerging and charging, brandishing their weapons as high as they could in the narrow passageway. Behind her, the two first crewmen were getting back to their feet, collecting their weapons – bent or not. Moxie reached behind her to withdraw Raikenkire.
She actually smiled.
The four enemies came at her simultaneously. The clubbed enemies had shorter reach, which meant Raikenkire would meet them in combat, while the golden justice blade resumed its duel with its original two attackers. Moxie's patterns were simple, but practiced: parry the incoming attack and immediately counter-attack with a stabbing motion to send them backward. Once the two sword crewmen lunged at the same time, forcing Moxie to sweep her gold sword across both of their paths and lean them into the bulkhead. One clubbed attacker was out of position, letting only one to try and bash his weapon onto Moxie's head. She raised Raikenkire to block, then snaked the gold sword away from pinning the other attackers and along the inside line of her body, stabbing it at the clubbed crewman.
It took everything he had to dodge back and away.
She leveraged her advantage here, using the longer-reach weapon to gain several strides down the corridor before the sword attackers could regroup themselves. Moxie now found herself standing beside another door immediately to her left – but it was sealed like the others, with a large valve, that would require her to have at least a handful of seconds to spin open.
And two empty hands.
Instead, a panicking crewman from the other side decided to start turning it open.
Moxie acted on it immediately, shoving her legs against the opposite bulkhead, striking hard with both weapons to give herself a few extra inches, then shoved.
The door slammed into the crewman's face, flooring him. Moxie stumbled back, positioning both weapons in front of her, waiting for them to tumble in behind her.
She took one glance around her.
The room was long and wide, lined with beds of the wounded. This was a medical ship.
War or not, battle or not, Moxie was not about to have skirmish in the middle of a room full of wounded. She quickly hauled back her left hand and hurled Raikenkire straight at the doorway. All four crewmen hurled themselves aside, letting Raikenkrie slam into the bulkhead and bite into it.
“Come on, give it up! You're not about to fight here in a hospital wing are you? Put your weapons down!”
“No, you're right, we can't fight melee in here and a lightning burst, even a controlled one, might leap into the medical equipment.”
“Right, so put it down!”
“Unless the lightning had some sort of conductor, something to keep it steady until I wanted it to leap around you. Too bad I don't have something like that.”
Moxie wiggled a finger, showing the thin thread that reached out to the end of her finger to the end of Raikenkire.
The bolt was a blue-violet spike of light that obeyed the thread perfectly until it was beside the four. It leapt out like a pack of ravenous snakes, swarming their bodies and sending them into convulsions. The remaining electricity zipped back onto the line and followed it all the way to the end, where Raikenkire's lightning steel would eat it up hungrily.
Moxie retracted the thread and took a look around the room. No one had been hurt, outside of the targets. Perfect.
The word made Moxie freeze.
She turned slowly to see Lady Hazama laying in one of the medical beds, bleary-eyed and weak. A tube rose from her wrist and into a bag of fluid. Moxie pressed a clammy hand on her forehead: she was burning up.
“Hello, Lady Hazama.”
“Hm...always saving me...Hana-chan.”
Moxie furrowed her brow, then brushed a lock of hair from her forehead.
“Just rest now, okay?”
Three more crewmen stumbled through the door, though they were unarmed. They gasped at the scene of their fallen crewmen, eyes fixated on the tall, dripping girl. Moxie raised her golden blade at the first crewman.
“You're going to take me to your captain. Now.”
He gulped audibly and nodded frantically.
She felt more like a guest than an invader, swords perched on her belt, being escorted by three crewman. Her mind kept leaping back to the top of the deck, wondering if Toya was all right, wondering if Ryou had gathered Kyuuen, but she had to shove away her need to blast her way back to the top to make sure.
She needed to secure their way out. It would do none of them any good for them to be safe unless they could get back to the ground.
The bridge was filled with crewmen, each of them tense, nearly to the point of breaking. The captain was younger than Moxie would have assumed, with bright eyes but a face weighed down with weary. He looked at her with a mixture of terror and anger, his fists balling.
“What do you want? What is this, what do you think you're doing?”
“Surrender. It's over. I can light this entire ship up like a book of matches, but I'd rather not. Fly your white flags, throw your flares and we can defect right now, and nobody gets hurt. And don't underestimate me.”
Moxie raised her fingers and snapped them.
Then she drew in a sharp breath.
It felt like there was a hole inside her soul, and everything warm and powerful left insdie her was sucked through it. She felt it burning on her chest, right at the mark below her collar bone.
Her chakra. It was gone. Ryou had taken all of it.
It was a bittersweet sensation. Ryou was a live, which meant Kyuuen probably was too. Had Toya been successful in defeating the man on the deck? She had to believe so. When had Toya ever let her down?
But now it meant her threat was suddenly a lot more empty.
- - -
Her body was limp, the muscles overloaded from the shocks of electricity, but Kyuuen was very much awake.
Through all of it.
Through the hurtling toward her death, through the saving of her life, through every twitch of Ryou's muscles, every breath of his words, and every touch of his lips.
But that last line was enough to make any girl snap wide awake.
Her eyes burst open, locking onto Ryou. He looked so scruffled in the rain and sweat and exhaustion of it all. But he felt so warm, so determined.
She kissed him back.
She pulled away and leaned up to his ear.
“Thank you then, Hero of Suna.”
“And I suppose, Hero of Me.”
They clung to each other, sliding into sitting on the deck. The rain was starting to die down now, only a hissing mist falling from the sky, and the winds settling. She glanced over to Toya – he had made quick work of the magnetic enemy, his blood diluting in the rainwater.
She stopped, watching as he knelt on the deck and started to form handsigns.
- - -
The crew stared, wondering. No one moved for a weapon, which was a relief, though she noticed one particularly young and pretty crewman staring at the ever-growing puddle at Moxie's feet.
The captain shifted in place, but said nothing.
“I...I don't want to start like this. The goal of this war was to eliminate Suna and to take over the Wind Country in one rule...it became our goal too. But one of a new future, a Republic to unify all people. I hate that the right to earn that Republic has forced us to spill blood. Every dying citizen there is a citizen of Wind. Our brothers.”
She reached for the sword of justice, the sword of love, and set it down in front of her. She did the same with Raikenkire.
“This war is over now. There's no more need to fight. Now we have to start to task of rebuilding...and I want my first task to be bridging our old enemies into one.”
She held out a hand.
“So please, captain. Let's start. Right now.”
It was a bluff, in part, and she knew it. Without chakra, they could have her down in no time.
But it wasn't all bluff. She did believe that. She knew that it was unlikely the world could be like that. That there would be a beautiful way to start this new Republic. No, it's birth would be like any other: filled with pain, covered in blood, and heavy with uncertainty.
As if on command, a flash of light erupted from the port side of the airship. The scroll detonated, tearing the communication tower in half, leaving a smoldering remains of what had been. The coordination for the rest of the forces were doomed now.
The captain actually let out a sigh of relief when he saw the explosion. The communications started to go haywire, a angry hissing sound blaring over the speakers. The captain made a motion across his throat, and the nosie was gone.
“To be honest, I'd love nothing more than surrender. Set the flags, use the flares.”
Moxie felt her heart rise like a balloon. The two shook hands.
“You're her, aren't you? The Kyuudaime's daughter? '
“Good. I hope this new government of yours sees what a great leader you're becoming.”
“If I could get half of what she did done, I'd be very happy.”
- - -
The three of them sat in the gleaming sun.
The thunderstorm was gone. It, like so many other things, was consumed too quickly by the desert and the sun. The world was shining with wetness, but Moxie knew it wouldn't last the hour.
It never did.
Moxie stood silently, staring at the heroes.
Toya leaned back on his arms. His jumpsuit was peeled off of his torso, the wet garment hanging limp behind him while his bare chest and arms soaked up the warmth of the sun. Moxie wanted to hold him, to trace each muscle with a finger, but instead she stared at Ryou and Kyuuen. The girl had her sleeves and legs rolled up and her head resting in Ryou's lap. Ryou didn't seem to mind.
She sat down on the deck beside them, handing them each a thick wool blanket from the ship's supplies. Each wrapped it around them firmly, soaking up water and trapping in as much heat as possible. Moxie slid hers behind Toya and the two joined hands and leaned against each other.
Everything smelled clean. White plumes of smoke were erupting from every part of the city – the signal for surrender. White flags replaced the crests of the royal family, and the fighting below drew to a complete stop. No jutsu. No kunai.
No extra lives lost.
But the City of Seven Valleys was scarred. Like Suna, so many buildings were demolished beyond recognition. Moxie wondered how many of them had flattened the people inside. She wondered if theose who survived would rebuild. Or what they would think of all this.
She shook her head. This was a happy day. Let tomorrow worry about itself. Right now, she had earned a moment to sit with her friends. A moment to celebrate the Republic's birthday.
Moxie laughed, a delightful bouncing laugh that shook all of her friends from their stupors.
“Today's my birthday! I can't believe I forgot...”
Her amber eyes shot across the battlefield and down into the medical camp. Kohana was there, sharing her birthday. She wondered idly if she were okay. If dad were okay. But somehwo she'd know if they were injured or dead. She'd always know that, especially with Kohana.
That was what a triplet meant.
And then she looked to the horizon. Pantsu was out there, somewhere. Would this change his mind about Wind Country? Would the Republic make more sense to him now that he changed? Could this bring him back?
She shook her head again, droplets spraying in every diretion. Not the time.
She smiled and looked up at Toya.
“Well darling, what'd you get me for my birthday~?”
She couldn't say it with a straight face.