Footprints in the Snow (Ryuuchi)

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Footprints in the Snow (Ryuuchi)

PostPosted by Raika » Tue Jan 21, 2014 10:08 pm

Aoi yawned softly before shivering and rubbing at her arms in the silent snowfall, the heavy fabric of her winter cloak failing to keep in all of her heat as she followed along after the figure ahead of her, blue eyes studying his back when she wasn't watching the path.

Even the way he moved seemed to show his strength and skill.

It was something she hadn't noticed the day they met, or perhaps she'd noticed it unconsciously, but in the time she'd traveled with Onigami Ichigo--well, really more like followed without asking--the gap between them had become more and more obvious.

She could make splints, bandage wounds, treat minor illnesses....

But her blade was so dull in comparison, no matter how she cared for it.

A soft sigh created a puff of steam as she shifted the large pack on her narrow back, attempting to both make it more comfortable and rid it of accumulating snow that the trees around them did little to prevent, before catching up the distance she had lost in her momentary pause, thinking briefly of the second white-haired Onigami she knew, envisioning him trailing after Ichigo-dono ahead of her. Where had Ryuhou-san gotten off to, anyway?

"How much farther before we reach shelter?"
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Re: Footprints in the Snow (Ryuuchi)

PostPosted by Ryuuchi » Wed Jan 22, 2014 12:54 pm

The cold never bothered him, in fact he always preferred the cold winters over the hot summers. It was always his logical reasoning that when you're cold the only thing you need to do is add another layer to your clothing but when it's two hot, even removing clothing might prove useless. It's a simplistic way of thinking but one that always kept with him, even during the times when he was homeless, a fugitive from his own people and forced to sleep in the streets or the middle of nowhere with nothing but the clothes on his back. Even then he viewed it in this simplistic manner, though he sadly lacked the means to add another layer. But it also helped him overcome the cold in other manners, learn to survive and persist. Nobody really becomes immune to the cold, it's physically impossible since no matter how fine your mind is about it, your body will react differently...but one can grow stronger and more resistant.
That is what life experiences give you, not immunity but resistance.

He wore nothing but a brown cloak around his body, draped over his usual sleeveless hakama, yet he was fine like that. His breath clearly visible as it went trough the collar that covered his mouth and dissipated in the cold air. His feet sunk into the snow with every step but even that did not seem to slow him down, he had grown used to walking on snow, it had become easier over time and now its nothing more than a minor annoyance.

"..."

He paused when the girl following behind him called out. Aoi stuck with him even after what had happened, even after he committed what the Onigami called the gravest sin in the clan's history, ignorant of how he actually saved them from damnation. It made sense that nobody else knew, the few that were aware of the dark truth behind the clan's power were either slain while keeping it or while trying to bring it to light. Few were left alive still knowing the truth, his former disciple being one of them but even he was still a criminal in the clan's eyes and went to walk his own path, away from his master's. Aoi was the only that followed him, out of her own volition, he never once asked for company...he felt better when he was alone.

"We should be seeing something soon."

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Re: Footprints in the Snow (Ryuuchi)

PostPosted by Raika » Wed Jan 22, 2014 3:17 pm

Aoi nodded quietly, glancing out at the white landscape.

It reminded her a bit of the orphanage, way up north in the snow country.

And then her gaze returned to Ichigo-dono, trailing after him, a faint smile gracing her lips.

At least he didn't seem to get annoyed at her anymore. Their travels were usually quiet, except for if something unexpected happened, and she still hadn't really learned anything new unless she could see Ichigo-san moving slowly enough in battle, which... didn't really happen much. Still, though... the company was nice, even if she could never approach the rest of the Onigami clan like this to learn more about her heritage.

The only thing that had happened in all this time was her mother's soul, and konbuki, being bound to her. She still didn't even know how it had happened... just that it had, not long before Ichigo-dono had returned. It was so strange, to finally truly have something of her family other than her own konbuki.

Then they crested a hill, a small village nestled below them, and a ridge which looked like it might have a cave in its base further on. A village of that size probably wouldn't have anything to spare, but perhaps the cave would at least be dry.
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Re: Footprints in the Snow (Ryuuchi)

PostPosted by Ryuuchi » Wed Jan 22, 2014 6:46 pm

As the small village came into view Ichigo's first reaction was the same as every time he came upon an unknown location, check what who or what was ahead of them. Even though he had become severely weakened when it came to spiritual energy after the battle with the demon, Hunting was a technique that required not power but skill, allowing him to still use it to its full extent while at the same time expending an insignificant amount of energy. Some say that the Onigami's ability to sense energy around them is one, if not the best weapon at their disposal. It is with this weapon that the samurai clan became capable of countering the ninja's stealth and ambushing tactics by knowing where the enemy is at any time.
Being a wanted man for most of his life had made him paranoid, causing Ichigo to always check an area before entering it, however it was due to this paranoia that he ended up developing one of the widest yet most precise Hunting techniques in the clan's history.

Then he noticed something.

"I'm going on ahead."

There was no waiting for a reply from the girl, Ichigo bent his knees, arched his body forward, placed the tip of his left hand fingers on the soft snow and the next moment he was in the air, leaving behind a hole in the snow where he stood before. Ichigo gained quite a bit of altitude and distance from his launch position before his body began to give itself to gravity, however the moment he began his descent Ichigo kicked off the air, releasing energy as he kicked and propelling him forward with enough momentum to reach the village.

He landed with a muffled crash thanks to the snow that covered the whole area as far as they eye could see. The moment his feet sunk into the snow and hit the ground the wooden houses around him shook slightly, enough to make snow slide from the roofs and perches. Yet despite his entrance, there was no reaction from the locals at all...because there were no locals around to react to anything, the village was completely empty.

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Re: Footprints in the Snow (Ryuuchi)

PostPosted by Raika » Wed Jan 22, 2014 9:50 pm

"Eh?"

The next moment she was stumbling back a step and spluttering softly, wiping her face to remove the cold flakes that had been kicked up by Ichigo-dono's sudden departure....

She opened her eyes to see the older Onigami standing in the middle of the village in the distance, some snow having been shaken off from the surrounding structures by the impact.

For a moment she was irrationally worried that the white-haired man was about to be attacked or that he'd frightened the villagers, but... even with the muffling effects of the snow, no sound reached her perch, no movement aside from Ichigo-dono reached her alert gaze.

A frown crossed her lips as she scanned the area as best as she could, still incapable of whatever he had done to notice the situation, before carefully picking her way down the hillside, one hand on her sheath, ready to draw at a moment's notice... however little help she would be able to give.
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Re: Footprints in the Snow (Ryuuchi)

PostPosted by Ryuuchi » Thu Jan 23, 2014 12:35 pm

Using part of his cloak to wipe the windows in order to make it possible to see inside one of the houses, Ichigo noticed a few things. By the time Aoi was able to finally reach him, Ichigo had already checked three of the houses in the same manner. It was already very odd that the village was completely empty but what seemed to make matters worse was that every door was locked, the insides seemed completely untouched and even in one of the houses he saw a table set up with food and chairs pulled back as if someone had been sitting on them.

"No signs of struggle..."

Ichigo mumbled to himself as he closed his eyes to focus and see if there was anything he had missed with his Hunting, but found nothing noteworthy in the surrounding area. It looked as if one moment people were in the little village going about their daily lives and the next they were gone without a trace. It would have made sense if there were any sings of a struggle, it could have meant that they had been attacked and/or kidnapped by someone or something but there weren't even any evidences of people leaving the village, although the snow made it impossible to find tracks anyway.

The bottom of his foot crashed against one of the doors, blowing it wide open with little to no effort. As he walked inside the house he made his way to the table with food on it and placed one finger on a bowl of soup, it was ice cold. His hands then made their way to the loaf of bread and broke it in half, it was a bit hard but not that stale. Obviously with the cold weather it was hard to pinpoint just how long the food had been sitting there but considering it was still early in the morning...

"Hasn't been too long..."

Again, he mumbled to himself.

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Re: Footprints in the Snow (Ryuuchi)

PostPosted by Raika » Sun Jan 26, 2014 11:30 am

Aoi had trailed after him into the house after making it to the village, glancing around as he mumbled to himself, probably forgetting that she was here....

"Ichigo-dono, what do you think could have happened to the people who lived here?"

She was thinking back to all the stories she had been told growing up; spirits and demons that could devour without a trace or spirit you away somewhere, shinobi that could disintegrate someone with a single touch....

The girl shivered slightly, tightening her grip on her sheathed katana as she looked around again, slowly pacing.

She didn't know how much of that could possibly be true, but after the chaos of the day she met Ichigo-dono, anything was possible.

Bump

"Ahh, sorr--"

Warm and firm and behind her and Ichigo-dono was standing a few feet in front of her and looking over her head.

"Eh?"
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Re: Footprints in the Snow (Ryuuchi)

PostPosted by Ryuuchi » Sun Jan 26, 2014 2:13 pm

His hand grabbed the wooden bowl filled with cold soup laying on the table right next to him and with a single swift motion threw it like a disc in Aoi's direction. The bowl flew past her with incredible speed and power behind it despite how leisurely he seemed to have thrown the thing and made contact with the face of the one next to the girl. Aoi had bumped into a man, a rather large and muscly man nearly twice her size and with arms as thick as both her legs put together. In the man's hand was an axe which he swung down toward her head but was stopped by the wooden bowl crashing into his face. The bowl was completely destroyed from the impact but the force it carried was enough to send the man flying right out of the house and into the snow covered road.

Ever so casually, Ichigo walked past Aoi without so much as a glance in her direction and stepped outside the house. In the middle of the road was the large man from before, completely out cold already, but around him was a group of men dressed in warm clothing and carrying weapons in their hands. At a glance Ichigo counted six, including the large unconscious man, which was confirmed with a little scan of the area along with their strength. They were nothing special. Another glance allowed Ichigo to spot a group of six horses off to the right, which he had sensed as well. The group of men, stunned by how their much larger companion had been knocked out so easily, began to fan out around the house and Ichigo.

They were not worth his time, but they were maybe worth hers. Ignoring the five man, Ichigo stepped inside the house again and walked past Aoi as he headed into the kitchen.

"You have until I finish making something to eat. No weapons and leave one alive."

He told her as he really did go into the kitchen area and began searching around for any decent food he could get from the poor looking place.
The guys were probably bandits, Ichigo knew they were weak enough that even an Onigami trainee would be able to handle one or two while using their konbuki so for someone more skilled yet unarmed like Aoi it would prove to be a challenge, a winnable one but a challenge none the less.

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Re: Footprints in the Snow (Ryuuchi)

PostPosted by Raika » Sun Jan 26, 2014 3:05 pm

Bumping into a large man that Ichigo-dono knocked out with one blow, trailing after him in shame at not having paid more attention, being told to take out the remaining men with her bare hands while he went back inside to find something to eat, she dropping her pack from her back with a loud thud....

"So... I doubt any of you are going to be peaceful about this, right?"

She scratched at the side of her head before sighing softly, quickly jumping to the side as a large sword hit the snow where she had just been, her good eye sharpening as she took another look at the situation.

Five men, not counting the one Ichigo-dono had knocked out.

Two were burly and probably more strength than speed, one being the sword-user who just attacked her while the other had a rather wicked-looking axe.

One was a scrawny man who had a knife and a hungry look that sent chills down her spine.

And the other two were more average in build, one with a mace and the other with a chain and sickle.

Her nose wrinkled. "When did you lot last bathe? You should really take better care of your HYGIENE!" Her foot cracked square into the swordsman's sternum despite the difference in height, sending him flying and crashing into one of the nearby houses where he lay twitching.

A few quick steps brought her out of the arcs of the mace and axe, hand reaching up and guiding the mace onto the axe-wielder's hands, crunching bone an eliciting a cry and curses before she kicked him into the approaching knife-wielder, crushing the smaller frame beneath the bulk as both screamed, smoothly switching into a rough throw of the mace-wielder to send him into the man with the scythe, though not without managing a cut to her right side in the process as she failed to completely dodge the latter's attack as it slipped into her blind spot....

One hand was covering the wound as she leapt after the two, slamming two quick punches down into the mace-user's and scythe-user's throats before jumping back to survey the situation.

The swordsman had stopped twitching; she had probably managed to interrupt his heart's rhythm and damage a few organs, which it looked like he wasn't going to recover from.

Blood was pooling under the axe-user, his eyes open and glazed in shock, while a thin arm desperately clawed at the earth from under his bulk.

And the other two... she had felt a snap when she punched their throats, so she doubted they would get up ever again.

That left the one Ichigo-dono had knocked out and the shrimp of a knife-wielder.

She walked over to the scrabbling hand, grabbing it at the wrist and easily pulling the man out from under his dead comrade, swiftly stomping his knifehand with a sharp crack so that he screamed and dropped it, curling up to cradle the injury as she kicked the weapon away.

"Stay put and you might live."

Aoi glanced down at her injury then, frowning at the sight of blood covering her hand from the wound; she couldn't drop her guard and bandage it until Ichigo-dono was back.

Instead, she moved among the corpses, gently closing their eyes and offering brief prayers while keeping an eye on the two survivors and keeping one hand pressed firmly against her side to staunch the bleeding.
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Re: Footprints in the Snow (Ryuuchi)

PostPosted by Ryuuchi » Tue Jan 28, 2014 9:11 pm

Ichigo came out of the house the moment it was all over, in one hand he held a sandwich made from stale bread, a bit of lettuce, a couple of tomato slices and some strips of jerky, it was a bit salty but heavenly on an empty stomach. On his right hand was an opened and already half empty bottle of milk, the cold weather had made it quite chilled which was just how he liked his milk.

He had kept track of the whole fight trough sensing their energies but upon exiting the house he allowed a few moments to read the situation with his very eyes, taking a bite of his sandwich which was immediately followed by a sip of milk, mixing it all in his mouth, barely chewing it and swallowing it all in one go. It honestly didn't seem like a half bad job considering the girl's aptitude for combat, of course her Onigami bloodline played a major role in it, which was something he never liked to rely on, but it seemed like a decent enough job. As an Onigami, overwhelming strength and blinding speed was something that came natural to them, few were the times where an Onigami was actually overpowered by someone of a similar level so they had become complacent, relying too much on their physical advantages. Ichigo's philosophy was that if you can't beat your enemy without relying on your natural born abilities then your victory isn't one to be happy about.

He made his way to the girl holding her sides and noticed the ripped clothing and blood staining both cloth and hands. As his hands were full Ichigo moved one of his feet, pushing Aoi's arm up and the hand away from the wound so he could get a better look at it. It wasn't fatal or anything of the sort but it was a disappointment. Ichigo lowered his foot and turned his back to her, facing the only thug that was still in a condition to talk.

"No lunch for you..."

He said to her just before taking another big bite of the sandwich and yet another large sip of milk, all the while making his way to the conscious man. In truth, she should count herself lucky, had she lost and survived or won by a narrow margin then he'd just leave her behind without another word.

As he reached the man he swallowed the food filling his mouth and placed his boot over the man's wrist, pressing it so hard that he felt like the bones would crack at any moment, prompting the man to release a painful cry.

"Don't like interrogations so you have three seconds to answer. What happened to the villagers?"

The man didn't respond, in fact all he could focus on was the pain shooting through his arm. Ichigo pressed down, easily snapping the man's bones and while taking another bite moved his boot from around the wrist to the elbow.

"Three seconds, same question."

He said with his mouth full and this time the man responded with tears in his eyes.

"We don't know! One of our guys passed yesterday and saw that it was empty too, so we figured we could make some easy money! I swear, it's the truth!"

He swallowed, yet again barely chewing the sandwich in his mouth and continued with the questioning.

"So it happened in other villages?"

He asked, referring to the man's use of "too" in the previous answer. The man nodded frantically and responded.

"Yea! At least three other places in the area. People just up and vanished! We have no idea why!"

Ichigo looked down at the man for a few seconds and then, without a hint of hesitation, placed his foot on the man's throat, put the last bit of sandwich and milk in his mouth and casually snapped the man's neck right then and there.

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Re: Footprints in the Snow (Ryuuchi)

PostPosted by Raika » Wed Jan 29, 2014 3:12 pm

"No lunch for you..."

Aoi grimaced briefly, pressing against the wound again as she turned away to care for her injury, glancing around until she found a spot where the fallen snow was still clean and fresh, carefully pulling her shirt up enough to reveal the wound before wiping a scoop of the snow against it to 'wash' off the blood, hissing softly at the cold as she shivered, repeating the same with her hands before walking back to her pack and retrieving a small jar of something with an odd smell that she wiped on the injury before tightly bandaging it and letting her rather worn, patched shirt fall back down to cover the bandages aside from the tear; she'd have to sew that back together later. She was putting things away by the time she heard the snap of the man's neck, glancing over her shoulder at the scene.

"Well. Glad I didn't tell him that he would live."

She stood then, glancing towards her injury as she slowly twisted her torso back and forth to see how her range of movement would be restricted now, wincing briefly.

No lunch... was something she had dealt with often in the past, back in the orphanage, but that was usually while uninjured and while not traveling.

She hefted her pack onto her back then, looking to Ichigo-dono.

She'd just have to deal with it until food was available.

"So... villagers in different villages are disappearing and we have an unconscious man on our hands. What do we do?"
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Re: Footprints in the Snow (Ryuuchi)

PostPosted by Ryuuchi » Wed Jan 29, 2014 11:34 pm

His boot stomped down as she spoke, crushing the unconscious man's throat without a hint of hesitation. In Ichigo's eyes keeping those men alive had no effect on his future, they were pretty much too insignificant to pose a threat to him if even Aoi could take them out with moderate effort. However, they were thieves and killers, there was no doubt in his mind that they were criminals with blood on their hands as it was easy to not only smell it on them but also see it in their eyes. Their actions toward Aoi were further proof as they would have killed her, if not worse, given the chance. Nobody would shed a tear for them.

"Let's go."

He bluntly said, flipping the hood over his white head of hair and then began to walk in the opposite direction they had come in.
The whole deal with the disappearing people was more than odd, he wasn't necessarily thinking of the people that vanished or how safe they were but rather how it was done, such a meticulous vanishing act done what appeared to be in several different areas, it intrigued him immensely. The sun was still up high, judging by its position he figured it was around noon so they still had a few hours before nightfall and if he was not mistaken there was a slightly larger town a couple of hours away from the village. While the disappearance of the people in a small village would take a while to be reported, if it happened in a larger town it would make sense that it would have been found and reported quite soon after the fact and considering he hadn't heard anything there was a fair probability that the town had not been effected.

Ichigo walked in silence the whole way as per usual, he had nothing to talk about with Aoi, nothing worth wasting spit over at least. After a a solid four hours of walking on the snow, which didn't seem to slow them down at all, they finally came upon a cliff and with a little peek over the edge he saw the town. It was actually a bit larger than he expected, a town overshadowed by a tall cliff, buildings mostly made of wood but many were scattered around the large area. Without even needing to resort to his sensing ability he noticed the presence of people going about their lives in the streets bellow...he had been right in that the town was safe for the time being.

"Find a place to stay, I'll find you later."

He said before jumping, from a cliff that was around 200 feet high instead of taking the long way down via a set of stairs carved into the cliff itself.

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Re: Footprints in the Snow (Ryuuchi)

PostPosted by Raika » Thu Jan 30, 2014 7:17 pm

She nodded quietly, trailing after him through the snow, her side aching all the while though she stubbornly kept up.

And when they were looking over another town, this one still populated, off he went down the cliff while she carefully took the long way, adding about another hour to her personal travel time before she was wandering through the town, quietly stocking up on supplies while she had the chance before bargaining her way into a dry pile of hay in someone's stable, horses snorting and pawing at the ground at the odd scents clinging to her before she soothed them with gentle hands.

Her stomach was growling at this point but she ignored it, setting down her pack and unsheathing her konbuki in a small empty space meant for storage, training her swings while she waited, the blade rising over her head before coming down swiftly, the point stopping around the level of her neck and chin.

This was the only thing she had just about perfected with her katana; simple, repetitive swings, done over years and years, ever since she could remember being able to lift it. All she could remember learning from before her parents' deaths.

And still her side ached and her stomach growled, until her arms were shaking and she had to stop, sheathing her konbuki and settling atop the pile of hay to rest.
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Re: Footprints in the Snow (Ryuuchi)

PostPosted by Ryuuchi » Thu Jan 30, 2014 11:18 pm

The shabby old pub was a lot bigger on the inside than it looked to be from the outside, Ichigo had made his way there for two reasons, the first being a need for nourishment and the second was a need for information. It might sound clichéd but bars and pubs really were the best places to gather information, both willingly and not since both force and alcohol were excellent tools to loosen a man's tongue. Not to mention that in a small town like the one he was in, the working men often end their days at a pub, talking amongst each other over a few cold ones, increasing the probability of finding someone with worthwhile information.

But it was empty...
Ichigo reached the pub around five in the afternoon but even after a few hours of sitting by the counter with an empty plate and his third order of orange juice, he was still the only costumer in the joint. Not only was that the case but the bartender just sat back reading a book and occasionally glancing at Ichigo when the man thought he was looking, as if he was dying for him to leave.
Eventually it was night outside, Ichigo had been in the lonely bar for nearly four hours and for the first time since taking his order, the bartender spoke to him.

"We're closing up in a few minutes."

He said, expecting Ichigo to take the hint and start gathering his things to leave, however Ichigo didn't move and instead took a large gulp of the rest of his juice.

"Kind of early for a pub to close isn't it? Shouldn't business start to pick-up at this hour?"

As Ichigo spoke, his eyes were locked to the older man's which in turn made him quite uncomfortable, enough to look away and respond while pretending to gather some thing from under the counter.

"You're new so I'll tell you this: Go to wherever you're staying, lock the doors and don't leave until the sun comes up. Once it's morning, just leave the town, it's better for everyone."

Ichigo paused for a moment, taking the man's words in and checking his pockets for money to pay him. The man's tone of voice had changed as he explained what Ichigo's course of action should be, he noticed a hint of fear and worry in his voice however, the change wasn't that odd considering the content of his words. The man made it sound like something bad would happen to those outside at night. Could it be linked to the missing people from the other villages?

"Fine then, but first I want to order something quick."

There was no point in interrogating the man any further, Ichigo was sure that he would be able to make the man talk quite easily but whatever it was, he would likely see it for himself later on. There was never anything wrong with a little surprise to spice things up every now and then, especially when one reaches the levels of power that he has...everything that doesn't provide a challenge becomes boring and few things provide any challenge at all.

A few minutes later Ichigo entered the barn, sensing Aoi's energy was as easy as following a big bright light amongst clusters of much smaller ones. After entering the barn he shut the big doors behind him but ignored the locks entirely and made his way to a pile of hay close to Aoi. Ichigo removed his coat and dropped it next to the hay before dropping down onto it himself, crossing his legs and pulling the hood of his hakama over his head, the konbuki pendant around his neck dropping over his shoulder in Aoi's direction.

"Here, eat."

He said, throwing the girl a sandwich he asked the owner of the pub to make before leaving.

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Re: Footprints in the Snow (Ryuuchi)

PostPosted by Raika » Fri Jan 31, 2014 1:42 pm

Round and round, in and out, weaving and unweaving a tiny basket of hay to pass the hours and keep her alert and focused despite the pain in her side, each new weaving producing a different style, the horses quiet but for the occasional nicker.

She looked to the door moments before he entered and shut the opening.

Aoi dropped the tiny basket of hay in her hands as she caught the sandwich, nodding to Ichigo-dono, offering him a brief "thank you" before hungrily biting into the sandwich, carefully taking the time to chew each bite before swallowing in order to avoid choking herself.

She didn't bother saying anything until the sandwich had vanished into her stomach, the growls finally quieting as she sighed softly in relief before looking to the older Onigami.

"Did you find out anything?"
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