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Harry Potter & the Shipgirls

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by darthcourt10, Oct 17, 2022.

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  1. Threadmarks: Driving with Louisiana
    darthcourt10

    darthcourt10 Versed in the lewd.

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    Harry Leferts

    Cleaning the mirror some, Louisiana nodded with a small smile before a sound made her turn. Before she could fully turn though, she found a nearly thirteen year old hugging her around her waist. "Louisiana!"

    Lightly laughing, she easily picked him up and twirled him around. "Ah! Here you are, mon chéri! I was wondering when you would arrive!"

    Once he was put down, Harry gave a shrug with a lopsided smile on his face which made the Battleship's boilers pound a bit. "You know how it is, had to get everything ready for our trip after all." He then pointed at the white snake that was lightly snoozing from where she was wrapped around his neck. "Shiromizu was also up most of the night making sure that everything was ready."

    At hearing her name, the snake in question gave a wave of her tail before going back to sleep much to Louisiana's amusement. "Oui, I can see that." Turning, the American nodded towards Nagato who was shaking her head. "Madame Nagato."

    Her lips twitching, Nagato gave a sigh. "You be good for Louisiana-San, okay, Harry? And if you are running late I expect to be informed." As he nodded, she then turned to Louisiana and gave a small tilt of the head. "Hopefully it's a quiet trip."

    Understanding the unsaid portion of said sentence, the Montana hummed. "Hopefully, yes." She then nodded towards the seat where Harry could see Hoel Ni in the back. "But I have backup in case. And where we are going, we shall have not any worries."

    Somewhat relieved, Nagato gave a small nod before walking to the back of the vehicle and opening the hatch. "A LSSV, correct?"

    Just watching as Nagato transferred bundles from her holds to the storage area, Louisiana gave a nod. "Oui, I signed it out from the American portion of Yokosuka. It will get us there and back with little problem I think." Grimacing, she slapped one thigh. "And it would be more comfortable for one of my... size."

    Glancing at her, Nagato gave a nod of sympathy. "I understand far too much, Louisiana-San. Trust me, finding a vehicle that is capable of letting myself sit comfortably has been something of an... issue, in and of itself at times." Both of them gave each other looks of understanding of what it meant for women of their height to find something comfortable. Nagato then turned to Harry and gave a smile as she held open her arms. "Now, come and give me a hug before you leave."

    Unable to help the grin that crossed his face, Harry quickly ran over and hugged her. "I'll see you when we get back, okay Mum? And I'll give you a report on what happened."

    A chuckle escaped from the Japanese Battleship as she gave him a small squeeze. "I know you will. Now, you enjoy yourself with Louisiana-San, okay? I'm certain that she will be doing so herself."

    The look that she gave said Battleship made a small blush spring up on the American's face. But then she gave a small smile and nod. "Oui, I am sure that we will, Madame Nagato."

    With a final nod, Nagato let go of Harry and watched as the militarized vehicle pulled away and towards the gate. Meanwhile, inside, Louisiana kept an eye on their surroundings as they reached the gate and left the base proper. In his own seat, Harry kept glancing at Louisiana and blinking. It was rare that he ever saw her in civilian clothing after all and the jeans she wore looked almost painted on while somewhat faded. The white, sleeveless shirt meanwhile just barely contained her chest while showing off her muscular arms with deeply tanned skin. At the same time, her dogtags glinted from where they were resting on top of her breasts.

    Unknown to him, Louisiana had noticed him looking and was smiling internally. Shaking it off, Harry gave her a smile. "Thanks for doing this, Louisiana, I really appreciate it..." With a glance to the sleeping Shiromizu, he snickered. "And if she was awake, I know that Shiromizu would as well."

    Louisiana chuckled in a way that was rich and warm, like hot chocolate in a way. The type of laugh that many enjoyed just listening to. "Non, you do not need to thank me, mon chéri. I always enjoy spending time with one of my heroes and a friend I hold close to my heart of hearts." Eyes twinkling, her lips curled upwards into a brighter smile and there was a flash of pearly white teeth. "And I can think of little else that would make for a good day then spending time with you."

    From behind, Hoel Ni snorted some. "Except for having Natsumi here."

    Instead of being embarrassed though, the Battleship gave another rich chuckle. "Oui, having ma chérie here with mon chéri would make for a better day. On that, I agree." With a free hand, she reached into her pocket and pulled out a CD case. "But this could make it better I think."

    Taking it, Harry opened the case and soon had it inside the player. Upon hitting play, there was a pause before the first strains of music began to drift through the cab which made him nod. "Jazz?"

    On Louisiana's face was a smile as she gave a nod. "Shinano was the one who gifted me that after making it. I also have one with the Blues on it which I enjoy." Eyes twinkling, she shook her head. "Shinano, she knows what I like, no?"

    Amused, Harry grinned back at her. "Yeah, Shanano-Chan is like that." Hands behind his head, he listened for a few moments to the music before looking at Louisiana directly. "You're pretty close to her, aren't you?"

    Slightly nodding as they drove along, Louisiana gave a shrug. "Shinano, she is easy to get along with. And we work well together with similar interests." To Harry's confusion, she gave him a knowing smile which made him cock his head to the side. "She is a very good friend, mon chéri, one that I am proud to call such."

    Giving it a few seconds thought, Harry gave a nod. "That's true, Shinano-Chan is a really great friend. And she's also an awesome person."

    Eyebrow raising, Louisiana gave him a look. "Oui, she is an awesome person. Very kind, but she is as strong as they come. Like an gator in the swamps, you may think that they are lazy, but when they come, you find yourselves surprised at the strength and power behind them. She is also as beautiful as a sunny day after a hurricane while sweeter then cherry pie."

    Just blinking, Harry scratched his cheek. "Huh, that's true." Then he grinned some. "But you're just as awesome as well, Louisiana. You're strong as well and..." It was then that the black haired boy remembered some compliments that Alabama used once and internally nodded. "You're as lovely as a pitcher of ice tea on a hot day and finer then frog's hair split several ways."


    It took a moment for Louisiana to filter that through her mind, but her face soon blazed with a blush and it took her everything not to slam on the breaks. Once she had herself under control while feeling her boilers overheating, she glanced at Harry with a considering look. "Now where did you hear such compliments, mon chéri?"

    Not realizing the tone, Harry gave a grin. "Aunt Alabama, she told me that they were the sort of thing that you say to a pretty girl." That, if anything, made Louisiana both sigh internally while also blush some more. Unknown to them both, Hoel Ni was rolling her eyes in the back while looking at the Battleship in amusement. Due to the silence, Harry was not sure if he had said something wrong and so looked around for something to talk about. "Um, you said that you signed out the vehicle?"

    Relaxing some as they turned onto away from the line that their conversation was heading, the American hummed and patted the dashboard. "Oh, oui. When I heard where you needed to go, I signed out this here LSSV." She then flashed him another smile that showed her whites. "But I have had my eye on a car that I heard is going on auction soon, mon chéri. And I think that I may get it."

    Interested, Harry blinked some. "Really? You're getting a car via auction?"

    With a nod, Louisiana gave him a glance. "Oui, it is a French car. One that is very nice and with which I would be happy." Reaching over with her free hand, she took his and gave it a squeeze. "Perhaps when I do you might take more drives with me, non?"

    Grinning as his expression brightened, Harry nodded. "I'd like to do that, Louisiana. Heck, that would be pretty awesome."

    The grin was returned by Louisiana giving one of her own. Inside her head, she was imagining an older Harry and Natsumi with her, just driving along the mountains. All three of them happy and enjoying themselves. In real life, the two continued to chat to the background music of Jazz as they made their way out of Yokosuka and into the surrounding countryside.
     
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  2. Threadmarks: Ron and Warspite: Ron and Duke part 2.
    darthcourt10

    darthcourt10 Versed in the lewd.

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    RCNAnon

    Hello again all. Another snip from me, this one is a few weeks back and a continuation of the last part. There's going to be one more I think before I move onto other things and I hope to have that one out of the way shortly.

    I hope you all enjoy this, I'm doing my best to walk what I feel is a rather fine line and any comments on the growing relationship are welcome.

    Ron and Warspite: Ron and Duke part II.
    -------------
    Duke couldn’t think of the last time she’d had a better morning. She wasn’t in fact sure that she’d ever had a better morning than the one she’d already had.

    She’d woken up in bed with Ron, the two of them having actually planned out how they were going to sleep unlike his impromptu session with Warspite. For one they’d both changed into actual pajamas. They were quite modest given everything but it was still the first time Ron had seen her in something other than her uniform outfit. He’d given her a look that had sent her boilers fluttering despite being at low pressure for sleep. She’d also had to let her hair down for the night and he’d helped her with it.

    The feeling of his hands running nimbly through her hair had felt delightfully intimate yet chaste. He’d already known what to do with her hair, having explained that if his mother wasn’t available it was him that had been picked to help his sister with her hair. The explanation had been enlightening but she’d barely had attention to spare as his hands helped her hair down.

    The part that had been the most… interesting had been when they’d finally laid down together. Ron had lain with her earlier in the day but it wasn’t quite the same length of time as they’d be spending asleep. So instead of lightly resting his head on the side of her chest they’d compromised and turned on their sides. That left her head on the pillow and him pressed close to her. There had been a little bit of tension in him at first but as she held him close and his head pressed back against her chest they had both relaxed. He’d fallen asleep first and as she held him, she imagined she had started to understand how Warspite felt about him.

    She’d fallen asleep soon after, only to wake up feeling extremely well rested. It was like a cuddle-pile except somehow better. Ron had woken up shortly after, nuzzling back against her before they’d both gotten up to clean.

    Ron had sent her to the baths where the other girls were and though she’d stayed out of the way, the pure exquisite luxury of the surroundings had been something to marvel at. The multitude of taps and various temperatures even on just one side of the baths was nearly sinful and the salts they’d had were very pleasing to both her nose and her hull. Then Ron had helped her with her hair once again. She hadn’t mentioned it to him but she’d probably be asking him to do it as much as she was able to.

    It wasn’t even over! Looking at the massive spread of food in front of her, she was certain she’d almost never eaten this well. Even with the war going well and the Chunnel still intact, Britain did not have a particular excess of food. That was not evident in front of her, with food both heavy and light, healthy and sweet.

    “Do you eat like this every day?” she asked Ron even as she was piling a full English breakfast onto one plate, then branching out and pulling a little bit of everything else onto another one.

    Ron gave her a bit of a smile and nodded, his own much smaller breakfast.

    “It’s one of the good things about coming to Hogwarts, there’s never a lack of food. There’s plenty of magic that goes into it of course, what with food enlargement spells and preservatives.”

    Duke looked down at the food on her plate and began to dig in. She felt a little bit guilty eating so much when some were going without but there wasn’t much point in starving herself either. Not with how much food there was in front of her.

    Nearly twenty minutes later she’d finished off most of her meal and Ron had finished a few minutes before her despite eating slower. Demurely wiping her face with a napkin she caught Ron smiling at her.

    “What?” she asked him.

    “Nothing,” he said with a grin, “Just thinking how you and Warspite both do that.”

    “Do what exactly?” Duke asked, leaning in closer to Ron.

    Ron blushed some but he didn’t back away.

    “You put away all that food and then act like you just had a little snack.”

    Duke’s eyebrow quirked upwards.

    “Yes, what of it?”

    “I just think it’s cute is all.”

    Ron’s words shot right through the growing bubble of mild annoyance like it hadn’t even been there, Dukes mood whip-lashing back like her rifles recoil.

    “...Cute?”

    “Yeah. It’s cute.”

    Duke didn’t know what to say to that, instead focusing down on her tea. At least until she caught sight of three girls not far from them all nearly vibrating up and down like a destroyer on three gallons of ice-cream and a pot of coffee.

    “Ron, is something wrong with them?” she asked, pointing out the trio.

    “Hmm? Oh, no. That’s Angelina, Alicia and Katie. They’re on the team with Harry, Fred and George. They’ve got plenty to be excited about.”

    Duke tilted her head, looking at the trio.

    “Well, seeing as how we’re about to go watch a match how about you explain to me why it’s such a big deal… or perhaps even how it’s played? I’ve never watched and Warspite’s words didn’t quite capture it for me.”

    Ron lit up at that, leaning in a bit more as he began to explain Quidditch to her. Duke wasn’t sure that she would be watching all that many games even if she did enjoy it but it was quite something to see Ron light up about a topic he was clearly very interested in. Putting the thoughts out of her mind, she did her best to focus on the actual explanation, a smile gracing her own face.

    /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

    Gryffindor had won their Quidditch match. Not only had they won the match but they’d won the Cup at the same time and due to that there was quite the party raging in the Gryffindor common room. Ron was certain that if any of the teachers had actually bothered to come up to the common room that they’d have enough reason to suspend most of the house if they’d felt the need. Thankfully it seemed certain things were off limits as Ron had many other things on his mind.

    Like how Duke was drunk.

    Though she carried it well and was not at all being as boisterous as some of the others, Ron had watched a good amount of a bottle of Firewhiskey make its way into her glass and then into her mouth. It helped that she was quite literally smoking, the steady streams coming out of her ears and nostrils indicating more than just a sip or two.

    Not that Ron minded, he was quite comfortable pulled up against her side with some Butterbeer in his hands. In fact one of the thoughts he’d had was that he might be too comfortable up against Duke. Not that they were doing anything inappropriate, he simply didn’t want another repeat of falling asleep on the couch like he’d done with Warspite.

    Glancing up once again at Duke he saw that she had relaxed quite a bit and she caught his glance, giving him a smile in return.

    “Penny for your thoughts?” she asked.

    “I was just thinking about how calm you looked. Relaxed.”

    Duke took the long deep moment that people who are not fully sober do to gather her thoughts.

    “Do I not normally look so?”

    “I...well not around so many people usually. Around Warspite and me you do.”

    “I… am not used to being welcome around so many,” Duke said, her voice somewhat melancholy.

    “You aren’t?” Ron had never heard of Duke having trouble with anyone else and she’d always struck him as calm and cool in almost any situation.

    “I...” Duke paused, looked at the drink in her hand and in a manner befitting a battleship trying to be solemn, drained the remaining Firewhiskey in one go. Her ears and nose immediately began to smoke more and her face flushed.

    “Let us suffice it to say that when we were first returning and in the heat of battle I was more focused on being a battleship than being a woman. It is not so much that I am not welcome as… I am not as welcome as I now realize I wish I was.”

    Ron could see that whatever Duke was talking about was quite important to her, so he chose his next words very carefully.

    “Duke… whatever anyone else thinks about you I think you’re a wonderful person and a dear friend of mine.”

    Duke flushed somewhat at that, her eyes focused on him.

    “That being said… have you ever tried to talk to some of these people more? If Warspite hadn’t introduced us I’d have probably said you were… well like how a lot of people see her. A proper, beautiful lady.”

    Ron didn’t notice how Duke’s cheeks continued to heat up as he spoke.

    “With how close of friends you are with Warspite I wouldn’t be surprised if that enforced the image. I mean… approaching one of you at a time would be hard. Imagine two. I know I wouldn’t be brave enough to do it by myself...”

    Ron felt his chin suddenly grabbed by a soft but irresistible hand and turned until he was looking at Duke from only inches away.

    “You are brave enough Ron,” she said, her flushed face somehow even more distracting than normal, “You have stood in front of your Admiral without flinching and have proved your worth many times over. Any lady, any two ladies would be happy to have you approach them, no matter what their position.”

    It was then that Duke seemed to realize just how close they actually were and her face flushed the little bit more that it could before she turned away suddenly.

    “Excuse me, I believe I have let the drink get to me.”

    Ron for his part felt a flutter in his chest outside of what he normally experienced around Duke and felt his own face flush somewhat.

    “Thank you Duke,” he said as his hand sought out hers to squeeze, “For the vote of confidence.”

    “I speak nothing more than the truth,” she managed to say.

    The two of them lapsed into a comfortable silence after that, content to enjoy the sights and sounds of a Gryffindor party.

    It wasn’t until some time later that serious conversation resumed, chit-chat having been exchanged between them and a number of people in the intervening period.

    “Ron,” Duke said, her eyes heavy even though she’d stopped drinking some time ago, “I think it is best I get to bed.”

    “Let me help you,” Ron said, standing from the couch where they’d spent a good portion of the night when not moving around the room. He offered his hand and Duke took it, though she appeared to only need a little bit of assistance.

    “Thank you,” she said, leaning against him somewhat more than was strictly necessary.

    “You’re welcome,” he said, guiding her up the stairs to the dorm room.

    Being the first of the five that roomed there up and away from the party, Ron and Duke disrobed while turned away from each other. Waiting until they were both finished Duke then let down her hair, Ron once again helping it fall out so it wasn’t in such a mess.

    As he was doing so Ron noticed that Duke was glancing back at him rather often despite how they’d been together the entire night.

    Finishing with her hair Ron left his hands on her shoulders and leaned forward so his face was next to hers.

    “Is everything ok Duke?” he asked her.

    Duke flushed at that, her head turning away briefly.

    “It… it is not appropriate for me to ask anything more of you Ron, with how kind you’ve been already.”

    Ron’s hands were nowhere near as strong as Dukes and she could likely have prevented him moving so much as her pinkie finger if she didn’t want him to but his hand on her chin felt no resistance at all.

    “You’re my friend Duke. I...” Ron felt himself stumble for words as the new conflicted feelings he was having came forward once more.

    “You can ask me for anything you want,” he managed after he found his words once again.

    Dukes eyes met his for something, confirmation perhaps but she apparently found what she wanted. She said nothing, instead tilting her head up slightly and closing her eyes.

    Ron felt his heart skip a beat, a moment of clarity in his mind interpreting what Duke wanted through a confused mess of thoughts. He was somewhat conflicted o how to act… until he remembered Warspite’s words. “Treat her like you want to.”

    Letting instinct take over, Ron bent down slightly, his lips pressing against Duke’s softly. It was a thing of a second, no longer and then he pulled away. Opening his eyes as he did so, he saw Duke’s flush spread across her face, along with a smile like he’d never seen from her before.

    There were a few seconds of silence before her eyes opened and met his, the clear blue orbs piercing him with a fierce exultation that dimmed only once she closed them again.

    “Thank you Ron,” she said softly, turning to climb into bed.

    “You’re welcome,” he said, joining her as she settled in.

    This time Ron found that Duke had lain on her back, leaving him but one place to lay. For all that she was a mighty warship, Duke was also an incredibly soft woman and Ron had no problem finding a place to sleep. As her arms wrapped around his waist and his head settled into his pillows, Ron’s thoughts were less conflicted and heading into a direction he’d often thought of for Harry but never before even contemplated for himself.
     
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  3. Threadmarks: Bearing gifts
    darthcourt10

    darthcourt10 Versed in the lewd.

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    Harry Leferts

    Coming around a bend in the road, Louisiana gave a small nod at the roadblock in front of them. "Looks like we're almost there, mon chéri."

    Only nodding, Harry began to dig around in his pockets. "Yeah, looks like it. Just give me a moment."

    Lips twitching, the Battleship slowed the vehicle until it came to a stop just before the roadblock. "Take your time, we're in no real rush." Rolling her window down, she waited as the two soldiers in the uniform of the JGSDF walked up. Behind the roadblock, besides the sandbags that had a machine gun on them, Louisiana could also see a Type 10 Tank by the road.

    More surprising was the Type 89 Medium Tank that was across the road from it.

    Eyebrow raised, Louisiana tapped one finger against the steering wheel. 'It seems that Akitsu Maru is still in the area then as I doubt that she would leave it behind.' Once the lead soldier arrived at her door, the American gave him a smile before saluting. "Lieutenant."

    Returning the salute, the Lieutenant nodded. "Good day, Ma'am. As this area is restricted, may I ask your business?"

    In reply, Louisiana gestured at the back of the vehicle as well as Harry. "Transporting some needed materials to the village as well as some personnel for a brief visit." Reaching into her pocket, she pulled out several papers as well as her ID which she handed over. "All the paperwork has been done."

    The Lieutenant took the paperwork as well as the ID and compared it to Louisiana's. Moments later, hers was joined by Harry's own ID and Hoel Ni's. Slowly, he nodded as he compared the IDs and then began to look through the paperwork. "Thank you, if you'll just give us a moment to check both your cargo and with Command."

    With that, he walked back to the roadblock followed by the second soldier. Louisiana meanwhile just leaned back in her seat as she looked around before her eyes spotted some white forms moving among what looked like a ruined building. Their activities could be just made out which made her raise an eyebrow. "I wonder what they're doing now?"

    Looking over from where he was watching the soldiers at the roadblock talking, Harry blinked. "The roadblock?"

    Just shaking her head, Louisiana gestured towards the direction she was watching. "There's some sort of building there, mon chéri. There are people in what looks like white, contamination suits there."

    A frown on his face, Harry looked in the same direction and tried to see what Louisiana could. Something that he had more then a little problem with until it clicked. "I... think that was where the inn was actually."

    That made the Battleship blink and look at him. "The inn, mon chéri? You mean the one that..."

    When she waved her hand, Harry gave a grimace. "Yeah, it was where she was based besides the Headsman's house. And that explains a lot about the suits I guess." Seeing her confusion, he shuddered a bit. "They found bodies there, a lot of them. The less rotted ones were just desiccated, with all the insides gone and covered in webs. Dozens of them... And from what Mum told me, they think that they now have answers to a large number of missing person's reports in the area that got written off as either being lost or suicides."

    Eyes widening, Hoel Ni stared at him before looking in the same direction and shivering. "That's... that's frightening."

    Frowning a bit, Harry shook his head. "You also got the remains of the Gashadokuro as well which they need to identify. From what I heard, they're bringing in experts as some of the bodies found in the inn go all the way back to the 1960s."

    Shiromizu let out a hiss. "Kuroshi was around for a very long time and preyed on people in the area. The village was abandoned by humans as too many were disappearing."

    Grip tightening on the wheel a bit as Harry translated, Louisiana glared at the ruins of the inn. Not for the first time, she wished that she was there that night to stomp a certain spider like the bug it was. Then the American felt a hand on her own and turned to find Harry there holding it before he gave a squeeze. And like that, she felt the tension leave her as she nodded. "Thank you, mon chéri. At least she is now burning in Hell thanks to you and ma chérie as well as Miz Shiromizu."

    It was then that the Lieutenant returned with their papers and IDs, which he handed back. Making a motion with his hands, the roadblock was moved aside. "Thank you for your time, Ma'am. Please stay out of the investigative areas as there could still be ordinance around. The parking is up past the next bend in the road."

    With a nod, Louisiana saluted him. "Thank you, Lieutenant."

    Taking a step back, he saluted her before waving her own. Sure enough, right around the bend was an area where trees had been cut down and the ground flattened out. Harry could easily see the signs that the one who had done so was a shipgirl, most likely Akitsu Maru herself. At one end of the makeshift parking lot was a truck with a large trailer attached to it. None of them commented on how it belonged to the SIT nor on how it they knew it was one of the mobile forensics labs said group had.

    More then one of those in the parking lot looked towards them, but widened their eyes a few seconds later as Shiromizu transformed into her hybrid form. Stretching some, the Mizuchi sighed. "That feels much better after the long ride we had."

    Amused, Harry gave her a snort as he moved to the back of the vehicle. "Like you noticed most of it." His expression then softened some. "Did you have a good sleep though?"

    Gently smiling, Shiromizu nodded. "I did, thank you for letting me sleep." Stretching again, she watched as Harry, Louisiana, and Hoel began to pull out bundles. Taking one, the Mizuchi chuckled. "Let's go and find Onee-Sama then..."

    While walking, Harry glanced at the side of the destroyed inn which was downhill now and tilted his head some at it. "Shiromizu?" At her hum, he continued. "Um, what exactly are you going to do with the inn once they're done?"

    Now looking herself, she frowned some and shook her head. "Well... I talked with Onee-Sama about it and we'll make a monument to all those Kuroshi killed there. As for the inn itself? We're going to bury the ruins once they're done under stones from across the mountain. No one is ever going to disturb it again."

    That only got her a nod from Harry and soon they reached the road leading up to the village. Before, the road had been overgrown and somewhat hard to see besides the trees on either side. Now though, someone had cleared the road and lined it with crushed stone making it easier to travel up. More then once, they were passed in the other direction by various people in ATVs which Harry watched in interest.

    Eventually though, they did reach the village in time to see one of the Imori charge off on top of his rat mount. Something that made Louisiana's eyebrows shoot up along with Hoel Ni's. At seeing that, Harry snickered some which made them turn to him. "Sorry, your expressions just now were somewhat hilarious."

    After giving it some thought, the Battleship let out a laugh. "Oui, I suppose that it was rather hilarious. But that was not something that I expected to see."

    For her part, Shiromizu gave a shrug. "Well, from what Onee-Sama told me, the Imori here have breed their mounts for a few centuries. They're docile and make for good ways for them to get around the mountain quickly. Something that helped while Kuroshi was around."

    Now thoughtful, Hoel Ni tilted her head to the side. 'I wonder if they would work for our fairies...'

    Before such thoughts could get much further though, Misa appeared and soon gathered Shiromizu into a hug. "It's good to see you safe and sound again." Then she grabbed Harry into a hug which found him blushing a bit from where his head was shoved. "And it is good to see you as well, Lord Harry. Welcome back to both of you."

    Pulling away she turned to find an amused Louisiana and Hoel Ni watching. Notcing her curiosity, the American bowed some as Shinano had taught her then held out a hand. "I am USS Louisiana, BB-71. I am very pleased to meet you, Madame. And beside me is my escort for the day, USS Hoel, DD-768. We mostly call her Hoel Ni though."

    A smile on her face, Misa shook the offered hand before also shaking Hoel Ni's. "Allow me to welcome both of you to our humble village." Seeing the bundles underneath theirs as well as Harry's and Shiromizu's arms, she blinked. "And what are these now?"

    Unable to help himself, Harry grinned while not noticing a number of the local Yokai gathering around them as they entered the village. "Wizarding tents that I bought. They're not much mind you, but each one is about equal in space inside as a hut. I thought that they would be great for shelter until your homes were rebuilt."

    Eyes wide, Misa stared at him for several moments before looking at the tents and doing some quick calculations. If anything, her eyes widened even further. "Those would be enough for all the villagers and then some... I..." Bowing, she smiled at him. "I thank you, Lord Harry for your gift to us." At his confused look, the Unagi Hime bit back a laugh. 'I think that I am starting to see why Imouto cares for you. You have a big heart and I hope that the Kami smile down on you.'

    It was then that Harry noticed the Yokai around them who all had smiles on their faces before they gently took the various tents from them. Handing hers off to two of the bakezōri that called the village home, Shiromizu held a giggle behind one sleeve at Harry's expression as he got thanked over and over again. With a glance at Louisiana, her eyes narrowed and a sparkle of amusement entered them. "Harry?" Getting his attention, she continued. "As I remembered, you had some places around here that you wished to look at. Such as the old castle... if you wish, you could go and do so with Louisiana-San here while I speak with Onee-Sama."

    Looking between her and the Battleship who now seemed interested, Harry thought it over. "You sure? I mean, we can wait..."

    However, Shiromizu just placed a hand on his shoulders. "It's going to be boring talking with Onee-Sama for you, Harry. Go ahead and enjoy yourselves while I find out what is needed, okay?" When he nodded and took Louisiana's hand to walk off, she grinned widely. 'Success.' Still grinning, she turned towards Misa and began their discussion...
     
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  4. Threadmarks: Healing Kiri Castle
    darthcourt10

    darthcourt10 Versed in the lewd.

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    Harry Leferts

    Both Harry and Louisiana were walking along with the black haired boy doing his best to match the much longer strides of the Battleship. Now outside of the small village, the two of them were looking around in interest. However, Harry was more interested in Louisiana who had seemed to become more tense as they left the village. "Louisiana? Is something wrong?"

    Slowing down, the American eventually came to a stop. With a glance around, she noticed a large stone and made her way over to sit down. "Could you come over here, mon chéri?"

    Once Harry did so, Louisiana reached out and pulled him into her lap. For several moments, she didn't say anything and Harry just sat there whole enjoying the feeling of being in her arms. Feeling her bury her nose in his hair made him look up at her without moving his head too much. "Louisiana?"

    In reply, the auburn woman tightened her hold a bit before taking a sigh. "Sorry, mon chéri, I just want to spend some moments like this. After what happened and seeing... the inn-"

    Bringing up his hand, Harry placed in on hers and squeezed it lightly. "I know, Louisiana. We can sit here for a little bit if that's what you want." His eyes closing, Harry leaned back into her hug with his head resting against her chest. 'This is actually pretty nice.'

    With her eyes closed, Louisiana took in the fact that Harry was safe and currently in her arms. He had not joined all those other poor souls who found their ends here. Something that she was grateful. Slowly, the tenseness in her body left her until she felt good enough to pull back some. "Thank you, mon chéri. I think that I needed that."

    To her confusion, Harry used the fact that she had loosened the embrace to twist around and hug her back. Placing his face in the crook of her neck, he sighed. "It's no problem, Louisiana. I can understand needing something like that and I don't mind giving it either."

    Louisiana wrapped him tightly in her arms and rocked from side to side. "Thank you, thank you so much. And I am sorry, mon chéri that I was not there when you and ma chérie needed me. When I heard, I was out on patrol at the time."

    All Harry did was shake his head. "You have nothing to be sorry about, Louisiana. Both Natsumi-Chan and I know that you would be there covering our backs. We know that for a fact, Louisiana."

    Voice nearly a whisper, the Battleship let out a sigh. "Really, mon chéri?"

    Pulling back, Harry looked up into her eyes and could see something in her moist eyes. A need for assurance was part of that and there was more as well. "Yeah, really." Shifting some, he pressed his lips against hers for a moment then pulling away to see her stunned expression. Then the nearly thirteen year old hugged her tightly. "Don't ever think otherwise."

    Due to him burying his face in his neck, he did not see her expression shift from shock to pure joy. Louisiana then kissed his cheek before placing her cheek against his as they rocked back and forth. 'Thank you for your words and actions, mon chéri. My knight.'

    Eventually, they separated and got off the rock. Patting herself off, Louisiana turned to find Harry holding out his hand. "Come on, let's go exploring."

    Gently, Louisiana took the offered hand in her own and felt the warm skin against hers. A small smile grew on her face as she gave a nod. "Let's, mon chéri. After all, there would be quite a bit to see. Perhaps we should start where Miz Shiromizu's spring is?"

    Expression brightening, Harry gave a nod. "Sure! Besides, it's so cool to see it coming down the mountain side until it hits a pool on the shore of the lake." When they arrived though, Harry had to blink at what he found. "Akitsu Maru? What are you doing here?"

    The Army Shipgirl turned and blinked before smiling and tipping her hat some. "Ah, Harry-San and Louisiana-San, I did not expect to see either of you here. I hope that you are both enjoying your day."

    Louisiana ignored how the Amphibious Assault Ship's eye was drawn to the fact that the two were holding hands as she smiled. "We are having a very nice day as a matter of fact, Miz Akitsu." Her eyes twinkled some. "Though you have no answered why you are here."

    Blinking, Akitsu suddenly had a blush showing brightly on her pale skin. "Ah, sorry about that." She then gestured at the steaming pool into which Shiromizu's spring flowed. "I was just planning out the watercourse from the spring here."

    Surprised, Harry looked and could see two lines of string that went along the just slightly tilted ground and eventually went out of view. "Watercourse? From the spring?"

    With a hum, Akitsu walked over until she was right beside him before gesturing. "There's been some worries as since we arrived, the spring doubled in output. That small pool won't contain the run off for much longer so it was needed for a course to be made for when it does begin to overflow the pool. Otherwise, it might head down into the village or towards where the investigators are. Eventually the water will be allowed to flow in it's own direction down the mountain of course."

    Looking over the marked out course, Louisiana frowned some. "Does that mean that you are going to dig out the stream, Miz Akitsu? Because from the length..."

    As she trailed off, Akitsu gave a chuckle. "It may take some time? Hai, that is true enough and it would need to be shovels as there might be issues with getting heavy equipment this far up the mountainside. But being as we are shipgirls... I have a better way." Seeing their confusion, she took a spot near where the outline stopped near the pool stopped. For a few moments there was nothing, but then Akitsu's feet began to sink downwards. "See?"

    Eyes wide, Harry grinned some as she took a step forward and her foot sunk down as soon as it touched the ground. "You're increasing your weight! That's so cool!" Then he became thoughtful. "Would that work?"

    Lips curling upwards, Akitsu took another step with her foot sinking down. "Hai, it does not need to be a wide watercourse. Just enough that it carries the excess water away from where we do not want it to go. The water itself will do the rest when it begins to flow down the mountain."

    Walking up to her, Louisiana watched as the Japanese shipgirl walked between the two lines. Soon enough, there was a trench forming that headed away from the pool. "Is it alright for us to get closer to the spring though? To better see it?"

    Akitsu looked over her shoulder and gave a nod. "That's fine, we've already made sure that where the landslide was is now stable."

    The American gave her a grateful nod and the two walked off as Akitsu continued her own work. Reaching the pool at the bottom of the slope, Harry walked around it and could see that minerals always were forming on the dam that separated it from the lake. Most likely from the spring itself sometimes overflowing in that direction. Looking at Louisiana who was examining the stream of heated water gushing and bubbling down the mountainside until it reached the pool, he grinned. "What do you think?"

    Chuckling warmly, Louisiana's eyes sparkled as she looked at him. "What do I think, mon chéri? I think that perhaps some other time we should come up here to enjoy this hot spring if Miz Shiromizu allows it."

    Just shrugging, Harry grinned at her. "Actually, Shiromizu already said that she doesn't mind anyone bathing in this pool. So maybe we can do that at some other time. From where he was, Harry could just see the hidden entrance to where Shiromizu's spring was hidden in a cave before it burst out the mountainside. Here and there, he could also see wisps of steam coming out from loose stone that made him wonder just how big it had gotten. But he was more focused on the boulder hiding the cave entrance. 'I wonder if someone is going to place a Hokora there...'
    ____________________________________________________________

    Around Harry and Louisiana were various ferns and trees as they walked along the overgrown path. The Battleship pushed any low hanging branches out of the way as they made their journey. Looking over Harry's shoulder at the map in his hand, she frowned some. "How much further are we?"

    Frowning, Harry looked around until he noticed a rock on the side and looked at the hand drawn map in his hands. "I think that's marked here actually."

    Eyebrows furrowing, Louisiana looked from the map to the rock and then gently took it from Harry's hands before turning it to the side. Blinking, she gave a nod. "Oui, it's marked here." More then a little amused, the American shook her head. "And you said that Shiromizu made this, mon chéri?"

    Only sighing, Harry gave a small nod. "Yes, she did... and I can't believe that I forgot that her writing is like chicken scratch." That got him some giggles which made his cheeks flush in embarrassment. Coughing, Harry begin to walk faster. "Anyways, by the map we're nearly there."

    Simply following behind him, Louisiana kept an eye out on their surroundings. They were at a lower elevation then the village, was a forty minute walk along the overgrown path from where Shiromizu's spring was. Part of her was actually happy to be alone with Harry in the way that they were. It meant that they could simply talk without anyone interrupting them and if there was one thing she liked, it was spending time with the boy who had captured her heart along with a kitsune. Of course, that was when they passed around a boulder and came to a stop as a ruined gate rose up before them. Her voice nearly a whisper, Louisiana looked towards him. "Is that the castle?"

    His own voice soft, Harry gave a nod. "I think that's the main gate to the castle." Slowly, they walked through it and could see the small Keep in front of them. Through the brush they could also see what looked like the ruins of the rest of the castle. But it was the Keep that attracted their attention as it looked in bad shape. "Oh wow..."

    A saddened expression on her face, Louisiana looked around. "Yes, but it is in a sad condition. I wonder what happened to it?"

    Glancing at her, Harry frowned some. "Um, I actually asked Haru-San about that, being as she is old enough to know." At her look of interest, he thought back to what she had told him. "When Japan was opened up to the wider world, there was fighting that occurred on the magical side. Not all of it was the ICW forces fighting either as some saw it as a time to settle old grudges. The castle here was known as Kiri due to the mists that were enchanted to swirl around it. It was home to an Onmyouji who had a large group of retainers who were non-magicals."

    With only their footsteps accompanying them, they walked closer. "I see, and I take it that said clan had many enemies mon chéri?" At his nod, she frowned and shook her head. "They were attacked then."

    Just grimacing, Harry scratched the back of his head. "Yeah, a group learned how to Apparate and one night struck during a storm. By the time that the family who lived here knew, most of the guards were already dead and they could only flee into the stormy night. No one knows if any of them actually made it off the mountain alive. The non-magicals who died though..."

    Realization crossed Louisiana's face and she sucked on her teeth some. "They became the Imori. Forever guarding this place where they had failed." At Harry's nod, she shook her head saddened before she thought of something else. "But then, how is it still standing? Should it not have fallen completely apart by now even if the Imori have been doing repairs?"

    Smirking, Harry looked up at her and wiggled his hands. "Maaagic~" For a few moments he didn't get a reaction but then Louisiana swiped at the back of his head which he ducked under laughing. "Okay, okay, but seriously that is what happened. The family who lived here put a lot of spells onto it and they've slowed down the decline of the castle. But they've been failing one by one as time went on."

    Now crossing her arms, the saddened look came back to Louisiana. "So the castle, it is existing on borrowed time, non?" At the nod, she frowned. "Is there nothing that can be done?"

    Also frowning, Harry ran a hand through his head as they came closer to the Keep. "I... don't know. Maybe?"

    Upon reaching the Keep, the two lapsed into silence as they looked over their surroundings and tried to imagine the castle as it was before being mostly destroyed. Tilting her head back, Louisiana hummed in thought. "Two levels?"

    However, Harry shook his head and pointed at the entrance to the castle which was ajar. "No, there's probably four levels actually. From what I remember it's always a good idea to add at least one level to any Japanese castle as the lower floors are hidden. All to confuse attackers and such." Pulling out his wand, Harry made a snapping motion and poked it and his head inside the door. "Lumos!"

    The first level of the castle was soon bathed in light as the two made their way just inside the door. Brushing away a cobweb, and noting that it was thankfully an old one, Louisiana took in the dilapidated state of the area and shook her head. "Is it safe to continue onwards, mon chéri?"

    Nodding, Harry walked in further. "It should be according to Shiromizu-" Suddenly, he stopped and looked around. "Do you feel that, Louisiana?"

    In reply, Louisiana furrowed her eyebrows before shaking her head. "Non, I do not feel anything, mon chéri. Why? Do you feel something?"

    Only turning in a circle slowly, Harry frowned. "Yeah, I did... It feels really sad and-" He froze and then his eyes began to glow some. "Louisiana? Do me a small favor?" Sensing rather then seeing her frown, Harry continued. "Can you reach anyone on radio?"

    If it was possible, her eyebrow would have raised still further but once more the Battleship nodded. "Yes? I can easily reach Hoel Ni as well as Miz Akitsu or the various personnel in the area. Why? Do you need anything?"

    Chewing his lip, Harry gave a slow nod. "I do, I need for you to ask them for some items though... And have Shiromizu get in contact with Mum as I think I need something from there as well."

    An hour later found Shiromizu carrying two buckets filled with water from her spring as behind her, so did Misa and Hoel Ni. And they were not the only ones as a number of JGSDF troops were doing the same. Frowning, she looked over at Akitsu Maru who had a large barrel on her back. "Did Harry say anything about why he wanted spring water?"

    Confused, the shipgirl shook her head. "No, he did not. He also asked that I supply a barrel which my fairies cleaned out to make sure there was nothing inside. I believe that he also had has Nagato-San sending something from Yokosuka?"

    Grimacing, Shiromizu gave a nod. "I know what she's sending via one of Shinano's planes, but not why. There's nothing here." Within less then a minute though, they entered the castle courtyard and the Mizuchi called out. "Louisiana-Chan? Harry? Where are you?"

    The Battleship in question came out of the Keep and looked relieved to see them. Quickly walking over, she began motioning with her hands. "Please, set up the barrel in the stone circle." A look made them all blink as, sure enough, there was something that looked like a fire pit set up. "Quickly!" It went without saying that they did so and raised yet another eyebrow as she set the pieces of wood aflame and began to dump the spring water into the barrel. "Is this directly from your spring?"

    Bemused at what was going on, Shiromizu gave a chuckle. "Of course it is, but what is going on here? Why did Harry want us to bring these items?"

    Pausing, Louisiana seemed at a lost for words before shaking her head. "We found someone in the castle and she's... bad. Mon chéri thinks that this might help, but I'm not sure myself." She then reached into her pocket and tore what Akitsu and Shiromizu recognized as packets containing emergency repair fluid and dumped them into the now heating waters of the barrel. Enough went in that the water turned completely green. "I think that might be enough unless..."

    At her look, Akitsu brought out some and also poured the contents in. "May I ask what is so important?"

    With a sigh, Louisiana looked back at the keep. "You will find out in a moment... mon chéri! It is as ready as we can make it!"

    Moments later, Harry walked out somewhat damp. But it was what was in his arms that made everyone outside of Louisiana stare. One of the soldiers took a step back in shock. "Is that a ghost!?"

    Sure enough, in his arms was a transparent woman who looked like she was badly hurt. Her clothes, which looked like once they were made of fine fabrics, were somewhat faded and stained as if they were ancient. They were also torn enough that they just barely preserved her modesty while from her head, long hair that was tangled and matted fell. All in all, more then one of those there were wondering if she was indeed a ghost of some poor girl who suffered a horrible fate. Shiromizu snapped out of it though and rushed over. "Harry? Who is this?"

    His voice somewhat strained, and his eyes glowing fiercely, Harry sucked in a breath. "I think that she's the spirit of the castle, Shiromizu. And from what I can see... she's dying. Her castle is in too bad a shape and will collapse soon."

    Eyes widening, Shiromizu held back a gasp before nodding. "Okay, so we got a spirit that's dying. That's... that's bad. But how is that barrel going to help?"

    Grunting, Harry plodded forwards as he was for some reason the only one able to touch her. It did not help matters that each step actually felt like he was carrying the castle in his arms. "Because I... remembered something that I read. Victory's hull was unable to float but when she rested in the repair baths it repaired her hull to the point where it's seaworthy again. Same with other museum ships and ones like Eagle. So... since she's the spirit of a castle...'

    Quickly, it connected inside of Shiromizu's head and her expression sifted to a serious one. "It might help her as well. That makes sense, everyone, move!"

    When he finally reached the barrel, Harry looked down into the pain filled eyes looking up at him. It was the eyes that she had been looking at him with when he saw her. Eyes that reminded him so much of eyes he had once seen in the mirror after Blood Week when the Dursleys had abandoned him and stated that it would have been better if he had died. The eyes of someone who wondered if it was not for the better that he had died.

    Eyes that he absolutely hated.

    As gently as he could, Harry slipped her into the water. "Okay, easy now, easy..." Almost as soon as she touched the water, she let out a gasp and her eyes flew open. "Come on, it's okay..." Once she was covered up to her neck, he began to cup the water and douse her head. Part of Harry's mind noted that Louisiana was telling the others that he had been using water from her as well as soap from her own stores inside her hull to clean her up. 'Now we wait...'

    Less then an hour later, he could hear a familiar drone and looked up to see one of Shinano's planes diving until it came to a landing. Once it stopped, the fairy came out with a tiny vial and waved it around. "Desu! Desu desu desu desu!"

    Relieved, Harry gave a nod. "Thank you for this." Running over to the barrel, he noted that the girl inside was watching him with one partially closed eye. Each breath came in a pained gasp. "Here, this should help some."

    Utterly lost, one of the JGSDF soldiers frowned and scratched her head. "What's that?"

    Glancing at her, Harry took a deep breath. "Long story short? It's called the Liquid of Life and... let's just say that it's potent stuff." Uncorking it, he dumped the tiny amount in and the water began to softly glow. Almost immediately, the young woman's breathing began to even out some. "It looks like it's working... "

    Making a choking sound, Shiromizu looked at the Keep with wide eyes. "That's one way of putting it... Look!"

    Everyone turned and felt their jaws drop as they could see the Keep repairing itself slowly, and yet surely. Inside, they could hear the sounds of groaning and creaking as rotten wood was restored to a state near new and bending or cracked supports repaired themselves. The ground erupted in some places as buried pieces of rubble flew up and out until they attached themselves to the keep, within seconds appearing as if they had never been missing. Glancing at the young woman, Harry gave her a smile before he rolled up his sleeves. "Can I try something?"

    A small smile on her face, the Castlegirl nodded. "Hai, you may my Lord."

    Pulling out his wand, Louisiana spoke up. "Are you allowed to use spells, Harry? I thought that was against the law?"

    Simply shaking his head, Harry smiled. "Not all spells, no. The mending charm is one of those allowed to be used..." Motioning his wand, he called out. "Reparo!" Briefly, there was more explosions of dirt as yet more missing material reattached itself. "Reparo! Reparo! Reparo!"

    Harry continued to use the mending charm before Shiromizu's hand grabbed his. "I... think that's enough, Otouto."

    Confused, Harry looked over at her only to blink as he noticed that the last of the Keep was finished repairing itself. More then that, the rest of the castle had mostly repaired itself as well. And as they all looked around with wide eyes, it finished doing so. Once more, the small castle was looking like it had before that day more then a hundred years before. All the black haired wizard could do was blink before commenting. "Oh... guess so."

    Eyebrow raising, one of the female PSIA agents gave him a look. "That's all you got to say about this? Oh?"

    Frowning, Harry scratched the back of his head. "Well... the Mending charm is famous as the inventor used it once to repair the Roman Coliseum after some wizards blew it up in a fight." At the looks, he made a motion with his hand. "Um, an Italian and a British wizard were flying a race from a place in Scotland to Rome. But just as they arrived, a fight broke out among their fans and there was an explosion..." Seeing the twitching eyebrows, he coughed. "Anyways, it woke people up so one of the witches there revealed the Mending Charm and within an hour had it all fixed."

    The PSIA agent looked to be in pain as she closed her eyes tightly and pinched her nose. "I do not believe this..."

    Suddenly, Harry yawned a bit. "Guess that tired me out though..." Trailing off, he noted that the Yokai were all whispering among themselves. 'Wonder what that's all about?'

    Before his thoughts could get any further, there was a splash and he looked to find the ghostly girl from before now standing. Her haggardness was gone and her eyes shone brightly in her face with pure joy. More then that, her injuries were also gone and her clothes, now easily seen to be an expensive looking Kimono, looked like it had been bought just the day before. Her hair, too, fell from her head now in waves full of lustre before she bowed to Harry. "Thank you, Lord Potter. For saving me and everything that you have done."

    Quickly, Harry bowed right back to her. "I was only doing what was right and I couldn't leave you to just die. That's not me."

    Giggling behind one sleeve, the castlegirl's eyes nearly glowed. "No, I suppose not, Lord Potter. Still, this one thanks you." She then gestured at the castle. "If you wish, you may stay within my castle."

    Rapidly blinking, Harry gave her a smile and then shook his head. "Sorry about this, but it's getting late and I need to be home. But maybe another time?"

    Deeply bowing, the castlegirl only smiled. "Of course, the offer is open whenever you wish for it, Lord Potter."
    ________________________________________________________________________

    The car moving down the mountain as the sun set, Harry stretched some. "Man, that was an exciting day, wasn't it?"

    Lips twitching, Louisiana gave a chuckle. "Oui, it was at that I suppose. Though I suppose that was yet an example of British understatement, mon chéri."

    Head tilted to the side, Harry considered it before nodding. "Yeah, I guess." Looking over the back of his seat, he took in Shiromizu who had most of her body curled up in the back. "You okay there, Shiromizu?"

    Blinking, she gave a nod. "Hai, I'm okay Harry. Just deep in thought about some things that Onee-Sama talked with me about in regards to the village."

    Now concerned, Harry frowned. "Nothing bad, I hope."

    Moments later, he relaxed as she waved him off. "No, nothing bad." Shiromizu paused for a moment. "Onee-Sama was mentioning that now that Kuroshi is dead, there's been movement of some of the Yokai on the lower slopes. And a few families have been making mentions in regards to being allowed to live in the village since Kuroshi had driven them out."

    Interested, the black haired wizard made a thoughtful sound. "So soon the village might be getting bigger then? Will you be able to handle it?"

    Chuckling, Shiromizu nodded. "Oh, we can handle more then a few more. Especially if we rebuild the ruined buildings in the village. Onee-Sama might also start accepting those running from the reserves as the area is somewhat isolated. Maybe in a few years, the village will flourish again, though mostly with Yokai then with humans this time." Deep in thought, she looked out the window. "They'll bring skills and the like with them. It would be something to see..."

    With a glance in the mirror, Louisiana smiled. "Sounds like your home may find itself in a good shape very soon, non? It will be something to see."

    Just humming, Shiromizu leaned back in the seat with her hands behind her head. "Really great shape. Kiri Castle would probably be an attraction to people and if Onee-Sama is right, then someone might set up an Onsen using my spring. Anyone coming will likely buy from the villages and so forth. From the ruins it was in, it springs anew."

    Looking at his reflection in the window, Harry muttered to himself though all of them heard. "Like a phoenix from the ashes."

    Expression brightening, Shiromizu nodded. "That's not too far off." Sighing, she clasped her hands together. "I can't wait to see it..."

    Louisiana shared a look with Harry with both of them smiling. Several minutes later, Harry cleared his throat again. "So I was wondering, Louisiana? What are you doing for Natsumi-Chan's birthday? It's in two days after all."

    Perking up, the Battleship chuckled. "Ah! Ma chérie will be turning thirteen, non?" At his nod, she continued. "I was going to make her up some barbecued rabbit if she wanted and perhaps some quail as some of them are too old for laying eggs anymore. Their meat can be tough from age but when cooked properly..." Louisiana brought her fingers to her mouth and kissed them. "One can make them delicious. Though one of her friends is a vegetarian from what I heard..."

    A frown on his face, Harry nodded. "Usagi-San is a vegetarian as matter of fact. Though I think that she might like grilled vegetables?" Thinking it over, he gave a shrug. "Anyways, I can always make up a vegetable stir-fry to go with your food. I was going to bake the cake anyways."

    Intrigued, Louisiana raised an eyebrow. "A cake, mon chéri? What sort of cake?"

    Grinning, the black haired boy looked over at her. "Peanut butter cake as a matter of fact. I found a recipe and figure that this is the perfect time to try it."

    There was a beat of silence before Louisiana laughed. "Oui! I suppose that this is the perfect time to try it, mon chéri! Ma chérie, she would enjoy such a treat on her birthday I think! Be careful to make enough though."

    Harry just kept grinning at that before he started laughing at the mental image of a two tailed fox diving into a cake and gobbling it all up.
     
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  5. Threadmarks: Natsumi's Birthday
    darthcourt10

    darthcourt10 Versed in the lewd.

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    Harry Leferts

    Coming to a stop in front of Haru's house, Harry gave a wave to where he could see Louisiana at her smoker. "Hey, Louisiana! Already started?"

    Softly smiling, Louisiana gave the slightest nod to him. "Oui, I am. Barbecue, she cannot be rushed. Do not worry though, mon chéri, it will be ready for later when it is time to sit down. Ma chérie will enjoy it I think as will the others."

    Eyes closing, Harry took a sniff and then blinked some. "Pork and what smells like chicken? Is the second the quail?"

    Amused, Louisiana gave a nod. "That it is, mon chéri. Ma chérie, she asked for no rabbit on her birthday. I asked Miz Arizona to send some pork up from Sasebo though, which she brought. Fresh from the island of pigs as a matter of fact." Opening the smoker, there was a rush of heat and aromatic smoke before revealing the cooking meat which she began to put sauce on. "A few more hours I think."

    Harry simply licked his lips some and nodded. Louisiana's barbecue had become well known in and around Yokosuka. In fact, usually whenever she started up her smoker she got a long line of shipgirls and various others for what she was cooking. "Sounds like we're going to have some great food then."

    Lips curled upwards, Louisiana gave a warm chuckle. "Oui, I think so too." Glancing at the trailer attached to his back, the Battleship raised an eyebrow. "Especially if you were baking, mon chéri. Though I wonder about the cake in that box."

    In reply to that, Harry shrugged and grinned. "Magic is pretty neat, the box the cakes are in are enchanted so that it never touches the sides of the box. Nor will the icing get smeared, so you don't need to worry about any issues transporting it."

    Raising an eyebrow in amusement, Louisiana smiled. "Cakes, mon chéri? As in more then one?"

    Just rubbing the back of his neck, Harry gave a nod. "Well, I thought that I should make two just in case, you know? Besides, any left can be eaten later." He then nodded at the cardboard boxes with ofuda on them. "I also got some other baked products and the vegetable stir-fry that we were talking about. Hopefully Usagi-San enjoys it."

    A voice full of amusement then spoke up and made them turn to find both Haru and Sakuya there. Both Kitsune were giving him smiles even as Haru gave a chuckle. "I think that she would enjoy the stir-fry while also being happy that you thought of her in such a manner."

    Sakuya walked forward and looked at the packages before nodding. "It seems that someone was busy, Harry-San. Though I thank you for bringing some food to the party as I am sure Natsumi-Chan will be." Taking one of the cake boxes, she looked down at it as if to see through the wood that covered it. "Hmm..."

    Eyes sparkling with mischief, Harry grinned and grabbed the smaller boxes of treats and the stir-fry, both of which had ofuda on them to keep them fresh and warm. "I can trust you with that, can't I?"

    Gasping with mock indignation, Sakuya gave a sniff. "Of course you can trust me with the cake. Why, the very thought of asking me such..."

    Unable to help himself, Harry snickered some. "Well, you are a kitsune after all. Who knows what trickery you might use."

    That got him a barking laugh from Sakuya before she shook her head. Moments later, Harry felt an invisible tail pat him on the head. "Perhaps so, Harry-San, perhaps so. But I promise to be on my best behavior today for Natsumi-Chan."

    Her tone utterly dry, Haru's next comment made all of them grin. "Now, what her best behavior is on the other hand..."

    Once more, Sakuya laughed as they walked into the house while Louisiana shook her head with a grin of her own. Inside, Harry slipped off his shoes and put on some slippers before they continued on. Entering the dining room, Harry noted that there was a silence before Natsumi got up and grabbed the boxes from him. "Let me take that, Harry-Chan."

    Smiling as she did so, Harry stretched some. "Thanks, Natsumi-Chan." Looking around, Harry could see the rest of Natsumi's family as well as her friends from school. Or as much of a friend as Ayaka could be considered anyways. "Hello."

    Both Asuka and Rei bounded forward and hugged him. "HARRY-NII-SAN!" Pulling away, they grinned up at him. "Did you bring treats? Huh? Huh? Did you?"

    With a chuckle as she set down her own box, Sakuya wagged a finger at the twins. "Yes, Harry-San did bring some treats and even baked two cakes for us. Now, I hope that you thank him for it as I get the feeling that we'll need it as growing teens are like shipgirls in how much you all eat. Especially you, Taichi-Chan, which might explain why you get along with Kaga-San and Akagi-San."

    A bright blush on his face, Taichi rubbed one hand on his face. "Haha-ue..."

    Meanwhile, Asuka and Rei gave Harry another hug. "Thank you for the treats, Harry-Nii-San! We'll eat them all up!"

    Giving both of her little sisters a look, Natsumi sighed. "You two are not going to eat all the treats! You got more then enough sugar in you as it is and I am sure that when you go to see Hoppou-Chan tomorrow, you'll end up with even more."

    That caused Harry to perk up some and look between Sakuya and Kensuke. "You're staying more then one day? Really?"

    With a hum, Kensuke adjusted his glasses some. "We are actually, Sakuya-Chan has something here in Yokosuka with Haru in the next little bit. I'm going to be looking around to see if there's any properties that we might buy and move into." At Harry's look of surprise, he gave a smile. "Have to keep a watch on Natsumi-Chan after all."

    Moments later, he gave a yelp as Sakuya went to whack him with a rolled up newspaper from nowhere. "Stop that, Ken-Kun."

    As that was going on, Natsumi blinked and then shrugged. "Well, since it's just you, Harry-Chan..." Her form shimmered a bit until both tails were once more out as her ears poked out from the top of her head. "Much better."

    Coughing, Ayaka pounded her chest before pointing at Natsumi. "W-what are you doing!? You just dropped your disguise!"

    Natsumi gave a smirk as she looked at her self-appointed "Rival" and raised an eyebrow. "Yes, and? Harry-Chan already knows that I'm a Kitsune after all..." Hugging him with one arm, she shook her head. "And fully accepts that."

    Eyes wide, Usagi turned to the rest of the Onos that were there and watched as they dropped their disguises as well. "Oh..." Frowning, she looked at Natsumi in more then a little interest. "How did he find out?"

    To her surprise, Natsumi paused for a moment before grimacing. "I... would rather not talk about it on my birthday. Long story short, it's also why I have two tails instead of the normal one. But I'll tell you guys later."

    Nodding, Kaku tilted his head some before looking at Harry. "Does it have to do with that spat of Yokai attacks a while back?" At his hesitant nod, he sighed. "Shokaku-Oji explained to my Kaa-San and me some stuff. If you both were involved, then I trust you." Kaku's own form shimmered to reveal that he had a tail and ears that revealed him to be a tanuki. "I am Kaku Kenta, of the Kaku Tanuki Clan."

    Widely grinning, Rika let her own disguise drop which revealed cat ears on her head and two tails with ghostly flames on the tips. "Well, Natsumi-Chan introduced me as Itō Rika. I'm of the Itō Nekomata Clan."

    Usagi gave a weak wave as her disguise dropped to reveal rabbit ears on her head and while he could not see it, Harry was sure there was a bunny tail behind her. However, her nose was somewhat pink as it wiggled a bit. "Um, I'm Tsukino Usagi of the Usagi Clan, descent from the Hare of Inaba."

    Looking from one to the other, Ayaka finally gave a huff and dropped her own disguise. "And I! Am Akatsuki Ayaka, of the Akatsuki Inugami Clan of Shikoku."

    In return, Harry bowed some. "And I am Potter Harry, of the Potter Clan of England. Thank you all for the trust that you've shown me."

    Feeling something, he looked down to see Natsumi's tails wrapped around his waist. Unnoticed by them both, Sakuya and Kensuke raised their eyebrows while Taichi had his own twitch some before he shoved it down. While he had his own issues with his sister being with the guy, he would give leeway for anyone who was willing to jump the back of a pissed off jorōgumo to protect his sister.

    Before anything else could be said though, there was a tapping at the window and Asuka opened it to reveal Hedwig with Shiromizu. Along with her was a wrapped box and a wrapped bundle. Slithering off, Shiromizu patted herself off once she transformed to her hybrid form. "And here I am! Sorry about the wait, but someone decided to chat with a raven nearby."

    Despite the glare directed at her, Hedwig just barked and clacked her beak which made Shiromizu narrow her eyes. Extremely amused, Haru untied the gifts from her talons. "It's no problem at all, Shiromizu-Chan. After all, you did make it and with the gifts from you as well as Harry-Chan I see."

    A smile on her face as she gave Natsumi a hug, Shiromizu nodded. "Hai, Harry-Chan didn't want to transport it with the food. Something about curious Kitsunes?"

    Pouting, Natsumi shot a grinning Harry a look. "Mou, stop being so mean, Harry-Chan!"

    Sputters though made her look over to see Ayaka pointing from her to Shiromizu and then to Harry. "I-I... What the heck, Ono Natsumi-San!? Who is she!? And why does she..."

    Eyebrow raised, Natsumi felt her inner mischief maker rise up. "Why does she feel so much like something more then a Yokai?" At the nods, though she did note that Usagi had a knowing expression, she continued. "This is Shiromizu-Chan and she's a Mizuchi as well as a Kami of a hot spring in the mountains. We're good friends and she stays with Harry and pretends to be his pet."

    Internally, Natsumi counted down as she noticed the dropped jaws before putting her fingers into her ears. Recognizing the signs, Harry did much the same while her family grinned. And he was just in time as the other Yokai exploded outside of Usagi who only nodded. "WHAT!?"

    Lips stretched into a giant grin, the now thirteen year old Kitsune snickered. 'This is going to be one of the better birthdays alright.'
     
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  6. Threadmarks: THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF MINIGATO Part 4!
    darthcourt10

    darthcourt10 Versed in the lewd.

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    WickedestCard

    Well, luckily I was able to get the fourth part typed out before we hit 1500 pages and going to the next thread. This snippet has the tragedy follow the funny of the first, the action of the second and the romance of the third. I may need to come back and edit it more though. Still, with out further ado its:

    THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF MINIGATO Part 4!

    ----
    Minigato and her new fairy friend were both blushing bright red, so red in fact that they were sure the temperature in the room was going up. The Smol had visited Alli in her quarters a few times in the last few of weeks and had a question to ask her. The battleship had overheard Harry saying that finals were soon and that meant they would be back soon. So Minigato gathered her courage and asked Alli if she would like to come with back to Japan for a while. Naturally this got the nature fairy all red and flustered which in turn got Minigoto to the same state.


    Still, the radiant smile on both of them when Alli said she’d love to visit Japan was quite adorable. So the two got to work on getting things really for Alli’s trip which was actually quite easy since the fairy didn’t own that much besides some clothes and small accessories. Though she was kind of embarrassed when Minigato found her drawings of her and the other headbands she made. Still, Minigato did compliment her work which made her quite happy and soon enough Alli was packed and ready to go well before the day of the students boarding the train. The question remained however, on how Alli was gonna get on the train and for that Minigato had an idea.


    The night before everyone leaving had anyone looked at the Gryffindor’s boy’s stairway they would have seen the Smol dressed in all black and carrying a winter beanie over her head while sparkles drifted out which she then sneakily put in Harry’s trunk. Afterwards, Alli tried her best to remain quiet for the morning when the students were all heading up to the Hogwarts Express and was quite relieved when after the trunk settled in the over head and Minigato poked in and asked if she wanted any snacks.


    Looking at her confusion, Minigato decided that she’ll need to order for both of them and had to think of something good yet simple to get. She decided on chocolate and something of vanilla. Climbing down from the overhead storage and landing on the seat next to Harry, the black haired boy looked her with curiosity.


    “Gato gato gato? Na na?” Minigato asked him if the food cart had passed by yet. The other occupants of the rail cart also looked at her.


    “Nope, it should be coming by soon though. Do you want anything Minigato?” Harry asked while the others also started to talk about what they wanted.


    “Gato gato….Na na gato na” she stated while holding up two small pudgy fingers. Harry at this blinked a couple times.


    “Vanilla...ice cream? Do guys know if they have that on the cart?” the black haired boy asked his friends. At this, they all but one also looked somewhat bewildered.


    “I believe so Harry. After quite a few muggleborns started asking I think that it was added, it helps that they can simply use a freezing charm to store it. I’m not sure what flavors they carry though.” Hermione explained, a thoughtful look on her face, probably thinking of what ice cream she wanted.


    “Well that settles it, a couple of vanilla cone and some chocolate frogs for you. Anything else?” Harry asked everyone else and after getting Neville’s and Ron’s, he and Hermione stepped out to get their snacks. After a few minutes the two returned, arms full of snacks and treats. Though they all blinked when they noticed the miniature battleship had a thoughtful look on her. Minigato then nodded with a look of resolve and climbed back up to the storage area and seemed to speak into Harry’s trunk.


    Soon the trunk opened up and all four could swear that they heard rustling leaves, running water and a slight breeze. Looking up the could see the winged fairy floating down as the Smol once again dropped down and landed on the seat, a tinge of red on both their cheeks.


    “Gato gato gato...naaa gato.” Minigato waved at her friend who nodded meekly.


    “Oh, you made a friend while exploring Minigato? That’s great!” Harry exclaimed, now realizing why Minigato asked for two cones.


    “Pip pip pip~ Pip!” Alli bowed slightly as she introduced herself. However, all three boys tilted their heads as all they had heard were nature sounds and in Harry’s case, ‘pips’.


    “Well hello Alli. I’m glad that you’ve made friends with Minigato.” Hermione replied without missing a beat.


    “Wait...Hermione you understood what she said?” Ron asked, not sure what to make of it.


    “Um...yes?” said witch looked at her friends, not having noticed that the others didn’t hear Alli’s voice.


    “Gato gato gato. Na na gatoooo.” Minigato waved her hands as she tried to both explained and comfort Alli. Said fairy looked a little nervous as she never really met humans before.


    “Huh...so you think Shipgirls can understand fairies though their ship fairies? I mean...I kinda heard her say ‘pip’ but that was all. Still, here you go you two.” and thus the two were handed their ice cream cones. Minigato held her as she waited for Alli to try her’s and after the first lick Minigato was rewarded with Alli’s amazed and shocked expression.


    Then the greatest tragedy befell Alli. As she hurried to continue eating she lost her grip and the cone fell from her hands. Before she or Minigato could react it landed on the floor and the creamy vanilla dessert was splayed out, ruined. Alli took a second to realize what had just happened and when she did, small tears began to well up in her eyes. However that was out to an abrupt end when the Smol’s ice cream appeared in front of her.


    “Gato gato gato ga! Na~!” Minigato told her, sitting next to the fairy to share. Alli gave her a look of gratitude and even nuzzled the Smol’s cheek with her own before happily licking the vanilla cone. The mini battleship herself was stunned for a second before joining.


    ‘Cute…’ was all that was going through the other occupant’s minds. Considering that two of them had regular contact with Destroyer shennagains, that was fairly impressive.
    ------

    I like to think that Nagato and thus Minigato really love vanilla ice cream as a base, since with vanilla you can build up with just about everything. Nagato especially love cute desserts with vanilla in it. And the tragedy in the snippet? That poor ice cream cone that fell and wasn't able to be enjoyed by Alli.
     
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  7. Threadmarks: Natsumi's Birthday - gifts
    darthcourt10

    darthcourt10 Versed in the lewd.

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    Harry Leferts

    In the silence that followed that bomb being dropped, there was nothing but dropped jaws on the part of the other Yokai children. Well, other then amused looks by the Kitsune, Shiromizu, and Harry looking lost. No other reaction then Usagi giving Shiromizu a shrewd look. “A pet, hmm?”

    For her part, Shiromizu only shrugged. “Harry here took care of me when I was hurt badly. And it’s not like it’s a hard life after all...” Draping herself over Harry, she sighed. “He takes very good care of me.” With a wink, she grinned. "You can trust me on that."

    Moments later, Natsumi shoved her off him with a twitching eyebrow. Granted, that got her choking sounds out of the others but Usagi who only smiled. “You must really care for him then.”

    Looking at her, Shiromizu gave her a searching look before nodding. “Like he was my Otouto.”

    Meanwhile, Ayaka boggled at the rabbit Yokai before gesturing at Shiromizu. “That is what you are focusing on?! Not... not what she is?! Or how Natsumi-San knows her?!”

    Raising an eyebrow, Usagi looked at the Inugami. “Why would they matter? Besides, I had a feeling she was a minor Kami.” At the looks, she tapped the side of her head. “Descent from the Hare of Inaba. That means that I can get a sort of feel for stuff like that.”

    Surprised, Harry felt his eyes widen slightly. “Really?”

    Only tilting her head some, Usagi smiled at him. “That’s right, it’s sort of a gift of sorts almost all of my family actually has. Not that many of my family who don’t go on to become Priests and Priestesses use it all that often. My Kaa-San, for example, works as a radio host.”

    It took a few moments, but Harry snapped his fingers. “Wait, Tsukino? Tsukino Miyu? As in the host for ‘The Moon Rabbit Show’ on the Yatagarasu Radio Network?”

    Now somewhat shyly nodding, Usagi hummed some. “Hai, that’s my Kaa-San, she thought that it would be amusing to call it that. And the station is mostly Yokai, the three hosts for 'The Hour of the Ox' are a Hone Onna, a Kijo, and a Hashihime. And the magical Diet has never really clued in as we weren’t openly fighting back against the Abyssals nor showing signs that we were magical.”

    Arms crossed, Taichi shook his head some and snorted. “But they were fighting just the same. Giving hope during the darkest time for Japan with music and stories.” When everyone turned to him, he blushed some. “What? It’s true and you all know it.”

    Smiling softly, Usagi nodded. “Tou-San helped start it up along with Kaa-San. They said that it came to them in a dream. I mean, they never thought that it would get as big as it has, but...” She pointed at Natsumi’s mother. “Sakuya-San used her connections to find them an old radio station. Kaku-Kun’s family and the other clans all helped pitch in for funds. We couldn’t act openly, but we could help when we could. And since we could use the Wizarding Wireless...”

    Lips curling upwards, Haru chuckled. “We could get out word of Abyssal attacks that the magical world knew was happening while the non-magical world did not. And since none of the families were listed as either magical or Yokai... the Diet didn’t pay much attention. Granted, since then the station is now the biggest pirate radio in the nation, but still.”

    Curious, Harry now looked at each of the younger group of Yokai in thought. “You know... I just realized that I don’t know much about you.”

    Grabbing the box of treats, Natsumi grinned as she took it over to the table and set it down. “Might as well spend it eating then! That way we don’t let all this go to waste.” Seeing Harry open his mouth, she shook her head. “Don’t worry about it, Harry-Chan. It is my birthday after all! Besides, we should have more then just names for introductions.”

    Once he sat down, Ayaka raised her hand after swiping one of the treats. “Oh! Me first.” At Natsumi’s annoyed gesture to continue, she puffed out her chest. “My family owns a transport company with my Oji-San co-owning a electric vehicle producing factory with a Raiju. Because of that, we’re doing quite well and Tou-San is going to build another hub for it here in Yokosuka.”

    Leaning against her fist as she took a bite of a cookie, Natsumi’s next words took the wind out of Ayaka’s sails. “Said transport company until Blood Week operated only mainly on Shikoku due to being so small with it being mostly kei trucks and kei vans with a number converted to electric. Hence why they grew.”

    While Ayaka glared at an amused Natsumi, Rika waved a hand in the air. “Well, my Tou-San works for the NPA as a Homicide investigator.” At the looks, she grinned. “To a Nekomata, the dead really do speak.”

    Scratching his head, Harry thought it over a bit before nodding. “You know what? That makes a certain amount of sense.”

    There were various nods before Kenta spoke up. “Anyways, my parents aren’t nearly as interesting. They opened a sweet shop here in Yokosuka. Business is pretty good for us though, especially with various shipgirls coming and buying from us."

    Harry gave a chuckle at that. "I can actually see that, you know? The Destroyers in particular..."

    Ice broken, they began to talk freely among one another with questions and such being thrown back and forth. Even as they broke out one of the new games they continued to walk with Sakuya and the others nodding. At one point though, Usagi made her way to Shiromizu and sat down beside her and waited for the Mizuchi to look at her. "Um, may I ask a question, Shiromizu-Sama?"

    Raising a finger, Shiromizu shook it from side to side. "Not Sama, if anything just San will do. But go ahead and I'll try to answer it."

    A frown on her face, Usagi chuckled some. "Sure? Well, I was wondering if you had a Shrine, Shiromizu-San, that's all. Being a Kami and all."

    Now it was Shiromizu's turn to frown as she tilted her head to the side. "No? I mean, I don't have a Shrine at my spring. Onee-Sama did mention it, but... with everything going on? Doesn't seem that important."

    Usagi frowned even deeper at that before shaking her head. "But it is important, especially if you are a Kami."

    Just shrugging, the snake-woman gave her a small smile. "Maybe. I'll get one eventually though I guess... Why do you ask?"

    Wringing her hands, Usagi took a breath. "Well... my Onii-San is looking for a Shrine to serve as a matter of fact. He's a full fledged Priest and the Shrine that he's at, well... there's too many there and so he needs somewhere to go. Especially with a wife to care for."

    That made Natsumi blink and look over her shoulder away from where she had been watching the fighting game on the television. Meanwhile, Harry's character, a version of his mother, performed her finishing move of the "Big Seven Slam", flipping the opposing Yamato seven times before smashing her into the ground. "Wait, so Arutemisu got married? Seriously? But he was so shy..."

    Only humming, Usagi scratched her cheek. "Hai, he got married to a somewhat boisterous American. I think that they call her a... Squib? Is that what someone born to a magical family but lacking any is called?" At the nod from Harry, she continued. "Anyways, the two of them met when he was learning abroad. I don't know the whole story, but... he brought her to Japan while her parents were trying to track her down and wipe her memories due to not having any magic. As soon as she had overheard them, she had taken off."

    Coughing, Kaku pounded his chest as Harry passed him some tea. Once he had said tea and was sipping it, the British born wizard boggled at the rabbit Yokai. "They were going to wipe their own daughter's memories!? Because she was not born with any magic!?"

    As she nodded, Usagi grimaced. "They were, apparently their family was big supporters of Rappaport's Law and think that it should still be followed. Onii-Sama wasn't going to let that happen and helped her escape to Japan" Looking at Natsumi, the rabbit Yokai frowned. "It was about a year after you moved here and they got married a year ago since they've been dating since she turned seventeen." She giggled some and shook her head. "Onii-San was stunned when she asked, but Kaa-San thinks that it was a good match."

    Frowning thoughtfully, Shiromizu hummed. "And because of that, they need somewhere to stay?"

    To her surprise though, Usagi shook her head. "Not so much stay as work. Onii-San would give it his all and if needed, my Nee-San would also probably show as well to help. She's a Priestess as well."

    Blinking, Harry had the image of a bunny girl in her later teens wearing a Miko uniform. When he shook his head though, it was replaced by an older Natsumi which made him blush some and shift uncomfortably. 'Dammit! I hate puberty!'

    Not sure why he was blushing, Natsumi turned back to Usagi. "I'm still surprised though. Arutemisu-San was afraid of his own shadow... But hey, if it worked..."

    Somewhat amused by the conversation, Shiromizu finally gave a shrug. "If I get a Shrine, then sure. Not like people are lining up for it..." Becoming more thoughtful, she tapped her chin. "And with how things are going, they might find themselves in a good spot there I guess. Though now I wonder if they would be involved in the festival next year."

    It was now both Harry's and Natsumi's turn to blink before frowning. "Festival?"

    Amusement was sparkling in the Mizuchi's eyes as she sipped some tea. "Hai, from what Onee-Sama said the villagers are going to put together a festival in our, as in myself and your, honour and to commemorate the defeat of Kuroshi seeing as she terrorized the local area."

    Roughly a minute passed before the two teens facepalmed at that which made Shiromizu grin.
    ______________________________________________________________________________

    Placing the unwrapped gift to the side, Natsumi grinned and hugged Rika. "Thank you! I've been looking for a new brush. With two tails to take care of, you're probably the only one who understands."

    Softly snorting, Rika returned the hug warmly. "You're very welcome, Natsumi-Chan. And I do understand just how big of a job caring for two tails is." Jerking her thumb at her own, she smiled. "From personal experience, you see?"

    Lightly laughing as she chewed some more stir-fry, Usagi nodded. "I would image so. Never have I felt so lucky not to have that issue."

    Needless to say, that got her a snort from all those there with large tails as Harry shook his head. Shiromizu though rolled her eyes. "I think that I got it the worst. After all, I got all this body to take care of and that's not easy in the slightest!" Ignoring the laughs, she pulled out her own gift and presented it. "Here, this is from me and I had my Onee-Sama make it. Hopefully you'll like it."

    Giving her a small smile as she leaned back against Louisiana, Natsumi shook her head and unwrapped it. "I'm positive that I will..." Trailing off, her eyes widened as she stared. Gently, Natsumi lifted the gift out of the wrapping and let her jaw drop. "Oh my..."

    Even her parents had wide eyes at the sight of the obviously expensive and high grade Kimono. Nodding, Shiromizu pointed at it. "She gathered and spun the silk herself." Looking at Harry, she gave a sheepish smile. "It might ruin the surprise, but she also made one for you and I'm going to give it to you on your birthday."

    Very gently, Natsumi set the Kimono aside and then stood up before making her way over. Wrapping the Mizuchi in a hug, she smiled. "Thank you, Shiromizu-Chan. It's beautiful."

    Chuckling, Shiromizu nodded. "That's my Onee-Sama for you."

    Moments later, she accepted another hug from Harry. Once he pulled away, he picked up his own gift and handed it to her. "Here, I made this."

    As she nodded and looked it over, Natsumi hummed. "Which means that it will be a nice gift." Unwrapping it, she blinked some even as her eyes noted that it looked like a rectangle made of black, polished basalt. "What is it?"

    Reaching over, Harry took it and then slid the lid open. "It's for your hair ribbons, see? You can fit them inside here and it'll protect them!" Turning it on the side, he gestured at the golden kanji that was there. "I even put your name there."

    Jaw dropping, Natsumi took it back and moved the lid back and forth. "Oh wow..." Handing it to her mother, who did much the same thing, she grinned. "That's really neat, isn't it Haha-ue?"

    Intrigued, Sakuya gave a nod. "It is at that, Natsumi-Chan. And a very lovely, and useful, gift. Now those ribbons you love won't get dirty." Waiting until she gave Harry a hug, though she raised an eyebrow at how Natsumi kissed him on the cheek, the five tailed Kitsune clapped her hands. "Okay, now that all the gifts have been handed out, there is one last thing to do... and that is eat some cake!"

    Kaku gave a blink before rubbing his stomach. "You sure? After that barbecue I'm not too sure if we got the room. That was really, really good after all."

    Beside him, Ayaka licked her lips some at the recent memory. Sure, at the time she was not quite sure about eating said food. But as soon as some touched the Inugami's tongue? She practically inhaled it. "I think that would be putting it lightly."

    From where she had Natsumi in her lap, Louisiana gave them all a thankful smile. "You are all very welcome."

    There were various nods from the others except for Usagi who shook her head. "Well, I didn't have any, meat... is not something that I like. Carnivores." Rolling the eyes at the grins she got from the others, she gave Harry a grateful nod. "Thank you again for the stir-fry, Harry-San. It was delicious."

    Hand behind his head, the black haired boy smiled some. "You're very welcome, Usagi-San." Getting up, Harry walked over to the box and then grinned at Natsumi. "Now... Are you ready for this, Natsumi-Chan? Because I went all out to create the ultimate peanut butter experience... though I had to bake it at home." At the confusion, he shrugged. "Just in case anyone had nut allergies in the Mess Hall. Anyways, without further ado... I give you the ultimate Peanut Butter Cake!"

    With that, he pulled off the box and revealed a cake that had what looked like peanut butter on the top with icing the same color and the sides covered in peanut butter chips with what looked like peanut butter leaking out. Almost as soon as the smell hit, Natsumi was drooling. And she was not the only one as the rest of her family were in much the same state as was Ayaka. Swallowing, Haru wiped a bit at her chin. "What is it?"

    Grinning, Harry pointed at it. "Well, I first mixed some peanut butter into the batter for the cake itself and it's two layered. The icing is peanut butter American buttercream, which is also between the layers. On the sides are peanut butter chips, and finishing it off is peanut butter ganache. Like I said, the ultimate in peanut butter experience!"

    Utter silence met him while both Rei and Asuka were whining while reaching for the cake and making grabbing motions with their clawed fingers. Sakuya just shared a look with her husband as well as Haru before turning back to Harry. "It looks lovely, thank you. Perhaps when it is time for you to visit our clan estate, you could bring one for a gift?"

    Just blinking, Harry gave a smile at that while keeping an eye on the two youngest kitsune who seemed to be inching towards the cake. "Sure, I can do that. And I can also make smaller ones as well..." Lips curling into a grin, the wizard chuckled some. "Anyways, we should put the candles into it so that we can get to eating it and maybe start on the other."

    It went without saying that there were many nods at that.
     
    sstabeler and Wild Transient like this.
  8. Threadmarks: JNHRO Memories
    darthcourt10

    darthcourt10 Versed in the lewd.

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    Lord K

    Asuka didn't like to think she was eavesdropping. Or snooping around really.

    It was just that with nothing hidden away or concealed, and everything in plain view thanks to a lack of muggle visitors since who knew how long ago, Ai's apartment was fascinating.

    Oh sure, there was the usual stuff that you expected to see in any long lived magical's home, that was more than just a little bit blase, if not outright boring. The entire bookcase full of legal texts and law journals going back two decades in Ai's study, was easily the worst offender. Her computer screen was also some ancient lingering relic of the twilight days of the CRT era, even if her desktop was respectably modern, and at least her laptop wasn't too out of date either. Other examples of anachronisms Asuka discovered however, included the kotengu's toaster, which would have last been regarded as "high end" when people were worrying about Y2K, and the couch in the lounge looked to have been purchased around the same time disco started to die, even if it was still in decent condition.

    But then there were the other things she kept coming across. Stuff that wasn't just old, but interesting as well. Random keepsakes, trinkets and memorabilia of the decades that offered tiny, but tantalizing and intriguing glimpses of the kotengu, and hints of her life and the time periods she'd lived through.

    Contrary it's mindbogglingly boring and legalese filled counterpart in the office, Ai's bookcase in the lounge was a treasure trove of jumbled and unsorted artifacts. Interspersed between collections of modern literature were often musty tomes and volumes of magical lore and power, sharing shelf space with non-fiction covering mechanical engineering and figures of the American Civil Rights Movement. Old print blocks and random ink brushes that were laden with the dry scents of age and heritage, sat side by side with what looked to be a faded pair of papers set in frames; one an ancient moldering college degree for a "Sakamoto Aisa", and the other, an old Employee of the Month certificate for a "Katataka Aiyoko". Among a small collection of cook books, were a carefully arranged stack of scrolls, crumbling even in spite of the studiously maintained preservation charms on them, that were probably even older than the Kotengu herself.

    And that was just the main bookcase.

    Carefully wedged into the space between the it and a second shelf full of mementos, was a smoke-stained genealogy chart, that was taller than Asuka was, and even when tightly wound up, would have been broader than her shoulders to boot. Spread out, it probably would have taken up most of the wall in Kiba's lounge in the Zuchi beach house. Framed on one of the walls, was an otherwise innocuous Ukiyo-e style panel-painting of a mid Edo-period manor house surrounded by farmland. A cabinet in the kitchen held a series of paper fans on display, as well as silverware. Almost entirely hidden out of view from most ground bound visitors, while hovering in the air to better peek at the top shelves opposite the bookcase in the lounge, the young daitengu then discovered a souvenir wooden serving plate for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. A piece of history shared with a blanket folded on the couch proudly declaring it's origin from the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

    Further hints of a past connected to America, included photographs of a young black couple. Arranged almost in a timeline down the wall of the hallway to the bedroom, with an older looking variation on Ai's current disguise often present or obviously sent copies of the photos due to her closeness with the subjects captured in these moments in time. Ai present at a wedding, smiling for a photo alongside other guests surrounding the bride and groom. Another with Ai and a few more people, together with the couple at a tourist overlook. Ai holding a little kid, as baffling as it sounded. Ai at a birthday party for a different kid. Ai at more parties, with the kids and their parents getting older. A weary Ai at a Christmas party, looking like she only just arrived from the airport to visit, and a pair a grinning teens running up to meet her. A really odd looking sight in the form of an aged and grey haired Ai at the graduation for the eldest kid, the once young couple themselves now long past youthful, and showing the encrouching effects of time. Disonant reminders for Asuka, that the older tengu had lives and histories before that of the Abyssal War piloting and J.N.H.R.O. leadership that she knows, and has been studying with facination ever since they first met.

    More than the random treasures and effects, it is these and other such photographs scattered about the shelves and walls of the apartment that offer the strangest glimpses into the kotengu's past. To anybody else, it would just seem like the decorations and livening up of the apartment by someone closely related to, and fond all these obviously related women and their achievements. Knowing that these are all Ai, for some reason just confuses Asuka even more at times, with how different the contexts, settings and subjects some of the photographs seem to be from.

    In the kitchen alone, there are two slightly altered takes on her current human appearance captured in photographic form. One is in faded technicolor, mixing drinks in a bar of all places. The second is even older and in black and white, looking to be a version of Ai proudly working at a noodle joint or something.

    Another black and white photograph in the study, depicts a more youthful version of Ai in a high school graduation photograph, dating back to the early 50s. "First Graduation From Secondary Education" is the legend it bears, which would probably make most people think "Sukia Aika" was the first girl in "Aina's" family to finish a high school education. Asuka has a feeling that the real reason this photo is up on the wall, and none of the others are, is because this was the first, and the proudest Ai is of all the times she has completed schooling for the sake of an identity.

    Oddly enough, the oldest image of Ai that Asuka can find, isn't a photograph at all. It's a portrait, mounted in a grandoise old frame, occupying most of one of the walls in the study. Slightly damaged by soot and the faint marks of embers at the corners, at first Asuka thinks Ai is the woman in the traditional formal garb of at least a century or more past. It takes a moment for her to realise that not only is the portrait decided ordinary and non-magical despite the preservation charms on it, but something about the way the woman in the frame holds herself and stares imperiously, doesn't seem like the kotengu she knows either. Curiously, she then examines the other occupants in the frame.

    The haggard and severe looking patriarch standing beside the woman is obviously out, even if something about his eyes and gaze does resonant with what Asuka has occasionally seen of Ai at her most reserved and unamused. The older teen of the two girls seated just in front of the man isn't quite right either, too much coy mischief in her eyes, even as she respectfully sits with formal poise and grace for the photo.

    It is with no small amount of shock, that Asuka then realizes it is the youngest member of the family depicted in the portrait, that can only be Ai. Even at an age suggested by her disguise, that is probably only a few decade younger than the daitengu is now, Asuka can see in the "child" Ai, the seeds of the same quiet resolve, formal airs, and reserved restraint that the adult Ai exudes like an aura at times. The difference though, is that there is an openness about it. A loud and proud exclamation of who she is. The modern Ai instead has a distance about her sometimes. A closed off and jaded wall that maintains who she is, because of how she is, rather than what she wants to be.

    The only other image she comes across that seems to offer a possible bridge between this youthful Ai and the woman she knows and admires now, instead only produces more questions. It is a faded black and white photograph, assembled on a table in the study alongside many others of people Asuka vaguely recognizes as older J.N.H.R.O. members. Unlike the rest of the photographs which look to have been developed from color film color and were likely taken in the 90's though, this one is different in more ways than just the sundamaged monochrome coloration.

    A messily scrawled note in faded ink over the lower corner of the photograph bears the description "With The Underdog of the Nishitama District Hill Racers- 15.03.54". But what really boggles the mind is the presence of both Ai and Kiba. Not only is it weird seeing this image of the two so young and just past the cusp of adulthood, but also the undeniable and empirical evidence of what everyone has always said; That they really were once a couple.

    With Kiba sitting lazily on the hood of an old, beaten up car that looks like it barely survived the 40s, Ai holds his arms around herself and leans back into his chest, the two of them cheek to cheek while grinning at the camera, which combined with their clothing and body language, practically exudes a debonair aura of youthful rebellion and Bonnie and Clyde love affair.

    Compared to okuri-inu's normally laid back attitude, which often serves to mask the analytical razor-mind within, the Kiba in the photograph looks even more devil-may-care. And yet, he almost seems to lack the same camouflaged glint of sharpness and drive the modern one has, and which he can occasionally be caught viewing the world with. And then there's Ai, who's appearance and body language is just dissonant entirely.

    While Asuka has occasionally heard the story that the two were together, she always figured it was something akin to the same oddly distant but simultaneously close friendship of utterly trusting confidence and respect they seem to hold each other in. To imagine them acting so physically intimate and romantically enamored with each other, is actually almost a bit hard to wrap her mind around. Especially Ai who is always so reserved!

    Her curiosity reaching it's peak, it is this photograph that finally causes her to seek out the two subjects of the picture, questions abounding in her mind.

    Except, when she gets to the bedroom, Kiba isn't sitting on the bed or by the door, talking through it like she thought he was the entire time. Instead she can hear not only Ai's voice, but also Kiba's inside the attached bathroom as well.

    "Ow! Kiba, be careful- that hurt."

    "Sorry Ai." the okuri-inu's voice responds dryly in turn. "Forgive me if it's been a while since we've done this."

    Creeping toward the door and straining her ears curiously, the young daitengu can't help but blush, even after the realization that there is nothing untoward going on inside.

    "Jeez, when was the last time you actually preened these properly?"

    Now it is the kotengu's turn to sound annoyed. "Honestly, it has been a while. "Hey, can you help me with my wings?" is not exactly something I can just ask somebody when showering after a missio-ouch!"

    "Ah, my bad," comes the apologetic voice of the dog-yokai through the door. "You really should let them out more. Your primaries and secondaries are fine, but you really ought to just moult some of these coverts at some point."

    The kotengu almost seems to give an affronted sniff at the thought. "Just help me work the damn shampoo in. And stop running your fingers through so hard, at this rate, you're gonna start pulling out feathers."

    "That's funny," counters the voice of the okuri-inu teasingly. "I seem to remember you liking me being rough."

    Asuka can't help but turn vibrantly red at the double entrende not intended for her ears, even as she hears Ai give an unamused sigh at the joke and what sounds like a bucket of water being slowly bailed out and poured over something. "Well unfortunately, as nice as preening all the odd ones out would be, I do need to look presentable today, and not like a half molted chicken." The kotengu then grumps quietly in annoyance. "Originally, I was wishing to make a statement by just turning up in my dress uniform. That would have been so much simpler."

    "And that is one of the nice, positive sides to being a representative figure of the modern era." Asuka can easily imagine the grin on Kiba's face, going by the joking smugness being given off by his voice. "When the situation calls for formal wear, it's time to break out the good old Ring Jacket business suit, Regals, and Rolex. None of this thirteen herbs and spices before rolling into a kimono stuff."

    "Lucky you," comments Ai dryly. "Can you pass the oils?"

    "Sure." There is the sound of a cupboard opening and somebody rumaging around between bottles, that makes Asuka strain to figure out what is happening, ear now pressed entirely to the door. "You're still using this stuff?" The daitengu hears a cork being pulled from a bottle and the sound of a curious sniff. "This was old fashioned even when we were kids. Who still makes this by hand anymore, anyway?"

    "There is a hanyou girl in Hakone I buy it from. She was taught the recipe from her grandmother."

    The dog yokai hums curiously. "Half-nekomata? Very small and bubbly, has orange hair when disguised, is actually dark-haired and looks like a stereotypical catgirl when her transformation is down? Always smells like peaches and frangipani?"

    "Hmm. That sounds does actually sound like her," says the kotengu with interest. "You know her?"

    "Not directly. I think it's Yu who normally handles all her family's investments. I remember him managing a start up for a beauty salon owned by nekomata who was smuggled out of Jukai by Mika in the 90s, because she had an affair that resulted in a kid with one of the guards."

    "I did not know there was such a story behind her parents," comes Ai's voice through the door, tinged with surprise. "I only knew that he helped pay for her mother to be smuggled out, and that she took over the store for the two of them when they wanted to retire."

    Faintly, Asuka can make out the sound of ruffling feathers as Kiba chuckles. "We're living through interesting times, where everyone has a story behind them now. Just look at what happened the other night. Speaking of which, I still can't believe you told C.O. and Flight everything."

    The daitengu claps a hand over her mouth in shock to stifle her own gasp, while Ai gives a helpless laugh. "Well, what was I supposed to do? I'd like to see you come up with a way I could have reasonably explained my way out of that one. If anything, what I find more unbelievable, was the amount of ruckus that has happened else where at the same time."

    "Tell me about it. All these yokai attacks. Chisuheri and Tomokako dealing with an attack on the Kawa's clinic. Jin's mother turning up. And now there's rumors coming through the grapevine that something else has happened up at that mountain town as well. That place has been like the gift that keeps on giving."

    Rather than responding however, there is a long moment of silence on Ai's part. Auska can almost see the innocently confused look on the okuri-inu's face as he then finally breaks her likely scrutinizing quiet with a curious "What?".

    "You are omitting something, aren't you?'

    "No, not that I can immediately recall," answers Kiba, while Asuka does her best to stifle a laugh at the memory of the the heart-stopping, night time race through the mountains. "That's everything major or relevant that's happened with the J.N.H.R.O. while you've been gone, as far as I'm aware."

    "Then what about outside the J.N.H.R.O.?" Ai smoothly asks.

    There is a moment of quiet, before Kiba finally answers. "Tsukino managed to organised a date for Suigetsu's case?"

    "Fine then," Ai at least says with a resigned sigh. "Just as long as whatever shenanigans you got up to this time, did not involve putting Asuka at risk for some harebrained idea of fun or profit." The daitengu in question can almost imagine Kiba gulping quietly, the second Ai's back is turned to him, if it's not already considering the sound of wings spreading and the back peddling footsteps of the okuri-inu.

    "Agh, damnit Ai. You got my shirt with that."

    "Were you not about to change anyway?"

    "That's beside the point," comes the mumbled voice of the dog-yokai perpetually. "Although, that's probably a good idea now that I think about it. I should go and grab a suit from the car."

    Hearing the familiar footsteps and voices nearing the door, Asuka panics. It was probably rude of her to be listening like that, and she just wanted to ask a question about the photos, but thinking about it now, maybe is was a bit rude to go wandering around and poking her nose through all Ai's stuff too, andohjeez- THEDOORHANDLEISTURNING!!!

    On impulse, Asuka then does what comes second nature to any normal bird yokai that suddenly finds itself in over it's head.

    She hides.

    Immensely thankful that Ai owns a western style bed with a base high enough off the ground to barely shimmy under, Asuka only just manages to make it into her impromptu bolt-hole and disappear from sight as the bathroom door opens to reveal Kiba. Carefully peering out while sharing space with dust bunnies and cardboard boxes full of even more curious artifacts and mementos of Ai's life, the daitengu then breathes a sigh of relief as the okuri-inu walks past, completely oblivious to her presence. Reveling in her successful escape from detection, for a moment the teen tengu allows herself a moment to celebrate her skill and fortune. A fortune that then abruptly turns when two things happen.

    The first, is that Kiba then closes the bedroom door after his exit, likely intending to offer the older kotengu some privacy. The second, is that then the bathroom door opens as well, bringing with it a scent that vaguely reminds Asuka of indomitable, windswept mountains, a cool summer's breeze, and the perfume of flowers upon a delicate homeward wind.

    Freezing before nervously scooting further back under the bed to hide, Asuka is immensely thankful for the revelation that the older tengu actually was decent the entire time the two adults were in the bathroom, as revealed when she takes off the towel likely used to keep the rest of herself dry while seeing to her wings. Asuka can't help but stare at the odd combination of her idol being only partly transformed, with just wings and the odd feather mixed among her hair, especially considering the kotengu's normally either-or preference for looking entirely human, or not at all. Even more out of place considering the normally modern sensibilities of her idol however, is the combination of shorts with a sarashi, soon followed a juban loosely worn over the top after a moment of fishing around in the towering wooden antique that is apparently a wardrobe and not a butsudan like Asuka originally thought.

    Awkwardly, Asuka then observes with curious confusion, as rather than retrieving any of the business suits or military formal wear in her closet, the kotengu simply pauses. Hesitating for a moment, before giving a heavy sigh, the partly transformed tengu then quietly runs a hand down the side of the ornately carved and inlaid double door wardrobe.

    "Well.... and there I was thinking the only time this would be opened again, would be for my burial...."

    Allowing her hand to hover over a keyhole, abruptly she then turns away, marching to her dressing table where she pauses before a photograph. It takes the hidden daitengu a moment to realize it is a more modern version of the same four figures in the smoke-stained portrait in the office, this time depicting the family in typical early Showa-era high fashion, and a slightly older appearance for the two girls sitting in the chairs in front of their parents.

    Feeling like she is intruding more than ever, Asuka watches as Ai gives a quiet bow to the figures of the past, before flipping the frame over and popping it open. To the teen's surprise, what drops out is not just a photograph, but a key as well. Returning the photograph back to it's frame, the kotengu now once more returns to the shrine-like wardobe. Carefully closing the door with a care that speaks of the sturdy wooden tower's value, as Ai inserts the key into the lock, suddenly Asuka is at last able to make out the completed image carved across both of the doors.

    A stylized crow, wings spread and with a necklace of magatama, holding a five-feathered ha-uchiwa in it's left claw, and a gunbai-uchiwa of war in it's right. And on the face of each of the two types of fan is a large kamon, a traditional family crest depicting three curving feathers radiating outward from the center of the ring surrounding them.

    With a rusty sounding click, the key slides home into the brass hole it was intended for. Then with tender precision, Ai turns it a full revolution to the right, locking the wardrobe. Showing yet more care however, Ai next proceeds to turn the key three revolutions to the left. Turning it once more to the right, this time there is the sound of something much more weighty unlocking, followed by the suddenly heavy presence of preservation magics emanating from the much less filled space behind the closed doors.


    For a long moment, Ai seems to pause, resting a hand upon one of the intricately carved kamon on the wardrobe's door. Hesitating as if to not just steel herself, but also lingering on whatever memories the contents within bring forth.

    Then, her will resolved, Ai throws both doors open at once.

    Asuka gasps at what she sees, even as the kotengu swiftly begins adoring the contents of one of the two the stands revealed within. While the armor of war remains in place, the garb of status and power beside it is no less imposing.

    First there is the dark colored shitagi and black gloves, with the larger garment bearing the crest of three feathers in a ring on the back and shoulders. Over the shitagi, then goes a white kimono, looking almost more like a robe than a dress with it's high cut splits on the sides, billowing sleeves, and collar. All of it is edged with red at the white garment's seams and the cords holding the detached sleeves in place, a display of craftsmanship and the wealth to afford such work.

    For her leggings, it is a plain set of white tabi and black hakama that are chosen to go with the kimono, followed by a deep red Maru-obi to hold it all together. Asuka almost double takes at it's immense length, even as she is fascinated by the multiple shifting tones of red used to make a subtle pattern of the same three-feathered and ringed crest, that repeats over and over down it's length. To her surprise, an application of wind magic by Ai then makes the adorning of the normally unwieldy formal obi and the tying of a kai-no-kuchi musubi knot, followed by the addition of an obiage, almost hilariously simple. In yet another divergence from tradition however, Ai then adds a rope-like uwa-obi to her apparel, while a set of tengu-geta, and the white pom'd combination of tonkin hat and yuigesa harness complete the traditional trifecta of iconic tengu garb.

    Still to come though, are the symbols of heritage and station. Pulling a feather adorned fan out of the rack of subtly different designs adorning the inside of the left door, the ha-uchiwa is neatly tucked into her obi for the time being. It is almost immediately then joined by a ceremonial and intricately detailed sword tied to the uwa-obi beside it, after being removed from it's place alongside the simpler, war-tried designs mounted in the opposite door.

    At last though, comes the final piece. An instrument of inheritance and station Ai seems to reach out to with such care and reverence, she is almost afraid to touch it. Holding out a hand, a gentle application of wind magic carefully lifts the shakujo from it's cradle, in pride of place between the armor covered and previously garb adorned twin manikins in the center compartment. Floating aloft, it silently drifts through the air until the kotengu tenderly grasps it in her outstretched hand, eliciting a quiet, jingling, chime from the rings adorning the sounding staff's head.

    Watching as Ai carefully places the butt of the shakujo on the ground, Asuka once more feels like she is intruding, as the kotengu quietly presses her forehead against the rings on the staff, eyes closed in obvious remembrance of times and names brought to mind by the instrument of the past. It is a long period of silence created, until finally she raises her head from her bowed mourning.

    Then the young daitengu practically has a heart attack as Ai finally speaks.

    "I know you are there Asuka."

    "Wha-?! OW!!!" Flinching in shock and surprise, the eavesdropping daitengu only adds to her embarrassment as her reflexive jump instead causes her head to connect with the underside of the bed.

    "Are you alright?" comes the concerned voice of the older tengu. "Maybe you should come out from there? I am certain I could provided better company than the dust and cardboard boxes at the very least."

    Guiltily, and flushed red with embarrassment, Asuka crawls out from under the bed. Not quiet able to meet the older kotengu's gaze however, the young daitengu looks down, feeling somewhat ashamed over herself for all her sneaking around and watching as Ai's tengu-geta and staff get closer to her with each soft tap on the wooden floor, and the chimes of the rings on the shakujo's head.

    Noting how Ai is able to let go of the staff and simply leave it standing in place in a masterful, yet subtle display of control over the air surrounding it, for a moment, Asuka almost forgets her burning embarrassment for envy and awe of the kotengu's casual abilities. Then suddenly she nearly forgets her shame entirely, as a soft gust of air brushes over her clothes, blowing away the dust she has collected from under the bed, as Ai then pulls her into a hug.

    "Wha-?"

    "I'm sorry Asuka," says the kotengu in a voice that hints at a slight amount of humor and amusement, even with the apologetic tone. "That was possibly a bit mean of myself. I just remember my mother doing something similar once, when I believed I was undetected while watching her prepare for a formal event of some kind."

    "How did you even know I was there?" the daitengu asks after a moment, thankfully returning the hug, and relieved at the forgiveness, even if she can't resist a pout.

    Ai gives a soft laugh at the question, calling her shakujo to her hand upon a soft zephyr in answer to the question. "Being in tune with the movements of the air is second nature to me. How couldn't I have noticed the movement of your breath in a space where there is only dust and boxes?" A knowing smile then plays at the corners of Ai's lips. "Further more, if you had wanted to come in and talk to Kiba and myself, you need only have knocked at the door."

    The young daitengu blushes in embarrassment, but simply tightens her hug, trying to convey her apology through the physical gesture and breathing deeply of the subtle perfumes and oils coming off the kotengu. "I'm sorry. That was rude of me. I-"

    A gentle hand stops her. "There is nothing to be sorry for. It was forgiven to begin with."

    "Thank you." Finally pulling back from the hug, Asuka shuffles awkwardly, looking about for a new topic of conversation. The quiet chime of the shakujo's rings capturing her attention, after moment, she then realizes that Ai has followed her gaze. Flushing slightly in self-conscious admission, to her surprise, Ai then holds out the sounding staff in her hand.

    "Do you want to hold it?"

    "Wha- wait, really?" Blinking in shock, the daitengu looks from Ai to the staff, and then back again. "Are you sure it would be okay? It looks really important to you....."

    The kotengu just offers a soft smile, releasing her hand while the staff remains perfectly balanced, hovering in place in midair. "This shakujo has had far rougher wielders than myself in it's lifetime. And has likely suffered more than it's fair share of stresses and abuses, before becoming a symbol of heritage and formality. Besides, it is about time it knew the hands of somebody other than my far too irregular grasp."

    Uncertainly, Asuka stares at the staff, floating in midair like something out of a video game. For a second, she feels faintly ridiculous, like the heroine of some sort of manga, about to receive her iconic piece of equipment from the previous owner or trainer, at the start of an introductory arc.

    Feeling somewhat conscious of the fact that currently she is in a rather cosmopolitan combination of t-shirt and jeans compared to Ai's fully traditional and formal regalia, Asuka tentatively reaches out toward the sounding staff. Hesitating for a moment, she gives one last nervous glance at Ai. Receiving an encouraging nod in turn, she looks back to the shakujo, and at last closes her hand around it.

    Abruptly the levitation holding it in place ends at the interruption, causing Asuka to be surprised at the weight of the implement as the butt lands on the ground with a metallic clunk, rather than Ai's soft clinks. Awkwardly then grabbing it with her free hand as well, to balance the unexpected mass it has to itself, it then occurs to her that Ai's ease with wielding the wood and metal adorned stave, is likely born of a combination of subtle magic usage, and a childhood training to use the thing without looking silly. Just as she adjusts to the strange weight the shakujo has to itself however, something makes her freeze.

    A whisper seems to emanate from within the sounding staff. A whisper that slowly gathers and grows like a zephyr in the morning stillnes, until suddenly it is a breeze, and then a gust- no, a gale- a tornado- a typhoon; roaring and coursing out from within the wood and metal of the ancient tool. The winds flow and play at Asuka's hair and clothes, but even as she feels like she is standing at the heart of a tumultuous storm of power, the winds do not beat or push her, instead caressing at her face and form inquisitively, as something keeps her hands frozen and clasped around the shakujo without fear.

    And then as abruptly as it started, it is over, leaving Asuka looking around with her heart racing, but none the worse for wear. The room doesn't look like it just got hit by a Category 5 storm, Ai the older tengu looks totally unperturbed by what just happened, and to Asuka's surprise, even her hair and clothes are unruffled by the experience.

    Baffled, Asuka looks to Ai who only raises a thoughtful eyebrow. "Curious..... It likes you.... I do not think it warmed up to me that quickly, even when it realised I was the last heir. Maybe it's just happy thinking I finally have a....."

    Tailing off as something about the staffs actions occurs to her, Asuka still lingers on the more immediate questions about her experience. "What was that? Did- did that just happen? Or was that all in my mind, I- what???"

    Looking at the staff in her hands with baffled confusion and more than a little suspicion, Ai laughs at the daitengu's reaction as she easily accepts it back, ignoring the deceptive weight and odd balance with her casual grasp. The shakujo itself, almost seems sad to leave Asuka's grasp, wanting to know more about the one it already seems to hope will be a future wielder.

    "You've never claimed a magical focali before?"

    Quietly, Asuka shakes her head. "Mama and Papa had nothing. They lost everything in the move the reserve, or when they ran away to have me because Papa's parents didn't like Mama."

    For a moment, Ai's gaze narrows in a combination of thought and her obvious opinion of that way of thinking. Then she looks to the Shakujo in her hands in surprised realisation. "....but if you'd never been acknowledged by you father's clan...."

    "What?" Tilting her head in confusion, Asuka watches as the older tengu turns back to the wardrobe and begins scanning the rack of fans with a critical eye of consideration. "Um... what does me being not acknowledged mean exactly?"

    "It means," says Ai as she finally settles on one fan in particular, and then drifts across the room to pull a necklace of silver chain bearing a small three-feathered kamon of gold out of a draw in her dressing table, "that I can formally do what my overeager shakujo wanted to do, without anybody complaining." Standing before Asuka, in a tremendous display of balance and experience with wearing tengu-geta, Ai then carefully puts the necklace around the younger daitengu's neck. In surprised awe, Asuka then carefully looks at the subtle emblem now around her neck, probably worth more than many of the muggle produced pieces of jewelry her mother hand back on Izu-Oshima.

    "So pretty.... wait-" Abruptly, she looks at Ai, the older tengu smiling and slowly turning the ha-uchiwa in her hands. "This is a clan symbol! I don't even know who Papa's clan were, and- And this is yours! I-Is it really okay for me to wear this?"

    Ai demurely laughs and smiles a lawyer's grin, quietly reveling in the technicality she found. "If they disowned him, and never claimed you as one of their own, then they have no grounds to stand on if somebody else does so in their stead."

    Asuka stares at the kotengu, eyes wide. "You'd do that?"

    "I believe I just did." Following the kotengu's pointed finger to the necklace upon her collar, with it's kamon still in her hands, for a moment Asuka can't help but feel choked up. Putting side the worries for her clothes, Ai then allows the young daitengu to bury herself into her midriff in a hug. Feeling the no words need to be said, the older tengu allows the Asuka her moment, before then gently extracting herself from the younger girl's arms. Carefully, she then holds out the ha-uchiwa in her hands, causing the still heavily blinking Asuka to stare at it in surprise.

    "Y-You want me to have it."

    Ai nods, for a moment the gravity of her position as leader and sole member of her clan leaking into her voice. "This, more than the necklace, would be a symbol of your ties to the Saburo clan, should you choose to accept it."

    Her voice and gaze softening, the kotengu then quietly runs a hand over the feathered fan, and the crest adorning the handle that holds it all together. "This was also once my elder sister's. Before she had her coming of age ceremony, and was allowed to use the ha-uchiwa reserved for the of age clan heir." A light smile tugs at the corners of Ai's face as she offers it to Asuka. "I think she'd have found it greatly fitting and a compliment for me to pass down something of her's in an unorthodox manner."

    For a second, Asuka can only stare. With trembling hands, she then nervously reaches out and accepts the offered fan from Ai's open grasp.

    There is a short moment that passes. Something that almost makes her worry, before the magic within the ha-uchiwa playfully responds to her presence, reveling in the moment of panic it almost elicits, but still loyal and happy to be wielded once more. It doesn't give off the sheer age and weight the ancient shakujo did after being passed down and wielded with such authority and power over centuries of use, but it still bears an inner strength and an untapped unconventional capability in it's own, curious way.

    As the flow of power subsides once more, and the ha-uchiwa returns to it's inert state after having accepted Ai's choice in gifting it to her, Asuka then turns her gaze to the quietly smiling Ai.

    Fan still in her hand, the young daitengu then bursts into a joyous laugh and hugs her as tightly as she can.
    -------------------

    By the time Ai and Kiba arrive at the Shrine just outside of Yokosuka, Kogamaru and Jin are already waiting for them.

    Rolling into the car park just off the beaten track and out of view of the road, the Kenmeri quietens with a final satisfied rumble, allowing the kotengu and okuri-inu to capture the tail end of the undisguised and dressed up wolf and mizuchi's discussion.

    "I still can't believe your mother turned up."

    "I know," grouches the reborn-dragon looking surprisingly cleaned up and well dressed for once. Even if she still has a patch covered replacement jacket slung over her shoulders like a cape, thanks to the currently problematic nature of the cast around her wrist for any long sleeved apparel.

    "Seriously," laughs the wolf. "It's like a kid getting told off by their parent for fighting, even if they're still proud of their kid for standing up for the innocent party!"

    "I know." growls the sulking dragon, meters of scarred, white scaled tail flicking in agitated frustration, even as the wolf in even more ostentatious formal garb than Ai's, continues to laugh.

    Approaching the two, Kiba then announces his and Ai's presence with a lazy wave. "Hey guys, what's going on?"

    "What's going on is Jin being treated like a little kid," cackles Kogamaru, reveling in the uncharacteristic leashing of the normally brash and untameable will of the mizuchi in question. "She wanted to turn up in sneakers, jeans, and a wife beater, with her jacket slung over her back."

    Kiba and Ai then look at the glowering dragon, still with her biker jacket on her back, but also dressed in a crisply ironed dress shirt, pants, and shoes. Considering Ai is pretty sure Jin doesn't even own any footwear other than riding boots and sneakers, the kotengu raises an eyebrow. "I take it Mrs Maleficus happened?"

    Kogamaru practically rolls with laughter. "It was like a kitten being reprimanded by it's mother! It was amazing!"

    "At least she let me keep my jacket," mutters the dragon sulkily. "Thank god she brought my argument that these patches are as much a declaration of my allegiances and rank, as you guys' family crests and the fruit salad on her uniform, thanks to us having to hide the Watch in plain sight."

    The wolf however, continues to laugh, clutching at his jinbaori with it's repeating pattern of four fang-like shapes surrounding a circle containing a fifth, mountain-like fang within. "These aren't even Jin's clothes! When her mother realized all Jin owned was casual stuff and biker gear, she then got some of her own nomaj apparel, and made Jin wear it all!"

    Kiba fails to resist a spluttered snort. "You fit your mother's clothes?"

    "No," responds the dragon far more moodily and defensively than expected, before catching herself and glancing around awkwardly. "I'm mean, obviously there had to be some modifications to fit the tail."

    Now Kogamaru can barely stand, laughing at some further aspect his friend's misfortune. "Your mother is what? In her 90s? And she still had to shrink down and tailor the shirt's-"

    Ai isn't sure whether the loud crack that is heard is the sound of someone apparating nearby, or the grinding of the mizuchi's teeth.

    "SHUT YOUR PIE HOLE BRAT!" demands the dragon as she crosses her good arm as best she can, glaring at him while the red of embarrassment makes for an interesting addition alongside the white of her scales and scras, along with the last of the fading blue-green bruises that adorn her face. "...stupid curse, and stupid timing, and stupid genetics." mutters the ex-kami to herself. "-stupid mizuchi should have set it for eighteen. Mom was a late bloomer, and then I wouldn't have been stuck with this stupid age in this stupid form, stupid, stupid, stupid-"

    With the kind of shit eating grin one can only get away with for best friends and family, Kiba then approaches the sulking, mumbling dragon, resting a comforting hand on Jin's shoulder, even as he schools his face into a masterful example of sage wisdom.

    "Don't worry Jin. As a wise man once said. Flat is justiiiiiooowww! OW! OW! OW! LETGOOFMYHAND!!!"

    Scales slowly starting to spread across her scarred face, the mizuchi glares icy daggers at the okuri-inu struggling to remove his hand from her grip. "How about we do this meeting with only four people, hmm? How do ya feel like going to the hospital instead asshole?"

    Studiously ignoring the byplay taking place with her supposedly fellow J.N.H.R.O. leaders, Ai glances around the parking lot. "Speaking of which, where is Tokutomi? He should be here by now."

    Kiba however, seems to decide he regrets nothing, in spite of the obvious strength of Jin's grip. "D-Don't worry Jin. One of the people we're meeting is a kitsune, s-so maybe there's some transformation spells they known that can more permanently help you ou-YEEOOOW!!!!"

    "Keep trying me motherfucker." The dragon bares her now fang-like teeth. "Keep going, and then maybe it's gonna be you who's gonna need the damn transformation spells."

    For some reason, the okuri-inu's eyes widen, and his pain-filled grin only increases in cockiness. "So, you kiss you mother with that mouth?"

    Jin opens her mouth to retort, only to then pale at the voice she hears behind her. "Unfortunately, yes."

    "M-Mom!"

    Her growing temper immediately fading away, the mizuchi releases the okuri-inu's hand and spins around in guilty surprise. Seeing the elderly auror's disapproving gaze, the water dragon then fidgets slightly. "Uh, hi. When did you get here?"

    "About thirty seconds ago," answers the younger, but still middle aged wizard beside her with a helpless shake of his head. "Honestly you guys. You're all twice my age at the minimum, and you act worse then my kids sometimes."

    Quietly, Ai then raises a finger to dispute Tokutomi's statement. "I would like to point out, that I did not involve myself in this moment of foolishness."

    The wizard restrains himself from pointing out that she did nothing to stop it either. "Yes, well, in any point, I apologize for my lateness. I was just entertaining the requests of Investigator Maleficus' duties as the MACUSA representative and lead ICW agent in a troubling ongoing investigation at this time."

    The witch in question shows no outward reaction, but practically radiates amusement at the younger human's sarcasm. Jin however, shuffles awkwardly. "Uh, you weren't planning on following us, were you mom?"

    The investigator in question shakes her head with a knowing smile. "Thankfully no. As far as my report is concerned, this was merely a voluntary interview and questioning on recent events with a willing associate of yours, who then unfortunately had other things to do due to urgent business he had to attended to, and the unscheduled nature of the informal questioning."

    "Oh, that's cool then. So are you still coming in, or...?"

    The witch gives a noncommittal gesture and a shrug as she begins pulling an invisibility cloak out of one of her pockets. "We'll see. I might stop by later, otherwise I'll see you for dinner at Zuchi later tonight. I'll probably be late though." At this the witch gives an annoyed grimace, and looks in the direction of the naval base. "Even with the current ineffectiveness of the government and ICW, I can only drag my feet to a certain degree. As renowned at infiltration and investigation as I am, I'll have to start wasting my time and putting on a show of at least looking like I am trying to figure out what the nomaj military now knows. And then there's the lovely, ever present issue of politics back in Tokyo. Apparently the lack of oversight since the start of the war, has made a few of the less helpful social-climber types and brown-nosers rather a little uppity and secure of themselves in their emergency powers and promotions. Some people need reminding of just how many of us still remember all the dirty little secrets the nomajs might be interested in, and where all the bodies they inherited are buried."

    Jin beams and gives the witch a thumbs up. "Well, good luck with that then. Knock 'em dead then! Or not."

    The woman gives a laugh as she disappears from view beneath not just her cloak, but also with the aid of a number of other spells that also seem to be intended to remove her from detection on the spectrums of heat, magnetism, motion, and sound unless she intends to be noticed. "Oh I wish I could honestly. The Cold War was nice like that."

    Disappearing from view with a final pop signaling her apparition, Kiba then gives a shudder. "Man. Your mom is so nice and all, and it's so easy to think of her as being like this awesome, magical motherly version of Big Boss or Sam Fisher. But then every now and again, she just has to say something creepy that reminds you of just how much cold blooded shit she probably had to see in her old investigator job, or did herself, that nobody else knows about without half a dozen different kinds of clearance."

    Immediately, Jin gains an irreverent grin. "Does killing her own daughter count, even if I wasn't technically her daughter at the time?"

    Tokutomi facepalms, while Kogamaru resists a snort and fails, resulting in some rather snotty results. "Guh! Shit! Does somebody have a tissue?"

    All Ai can do is give a long suffering sigh, as Kiba and Jin burst out with laughter, while the human among them adds a second hand to his facepalm. So much for poise and formality.

    With the group finally assembled, Ai then turns her gaze to the stairs ascending to the torii gate and shrine above, as the other do their best to get themselves under control. Sensing more than seeing the okuri-inu quietly coming up beside her as he at last quietens the lingering chuckles, the kotnegu nods in quiet determination as he speaks.

    "Well. This is it."

    "So it begins," she agrees, as on either side of them, the others quietly flank her too. "Once more, we reach for change in our time."

    Kotengu, okuri-inu, okami, mizuchi and human.

    In unison, the five begin to climb the stairs to the shrine.
     
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  9. Threadmarks: Omake CitySpirits 2
    darthcourt10

    darthcourt10 Versed in the lewd.

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    MWKillKenny84

    A little sequel of my previous snippet, this time featuring dear old City-Spirit Rome meeting her ‘sister’ Venice.
    **-*-**

    A month after the beating of the Abyssal (that was the term the humans today used) that tried to attack her, the humanoid manifestation of the spirit of the city of Rome was walking northward on the Adriatic coast.

    Part to enjoy the view, and partly to have time to think.

    She had felt ‘Big Sister’ Athens’ ‘awakening’ when she was ‘sleeping’, one of the things that made her decide to step forward when another Abyssal attack had been launched against her city-self.

    Rome repressed a spike of fury.

    She was enjoying her retirement. Not even those black dressed upstarts during the first half of the previous century and their ‘colonial ambitions’ had made her so pissed off.

    Her days of glory had been dead and buried for so long that she had ceased to care for them.

    Her sons had their glory, their greatest achievements, and even if they fell from it (as nature dictate, for nothing is eternal, not even those like her); they had never less inspired others into reaching even greater heights.

    Like what those young ones on the other side of the Atlantic did, for example.

    She had accepted it; she had accepted her retirement, her rest.

    Feeling another return of the Abominations was only a little surprise. The Hate of the Seas was an old face she would have preferred never have to see again, but that regardless of her wishes returned as the flu did for the humans.

    She was undecided if finally step up and teach them a lesson or continue to sleep...

    A little smile graced her visage. ‘My sons again surprised me. They fought even when unharmed to protect me from the Abominations. They bleed to defend me. Even if Sorellona (Big Sister) Athens had not done the same, I will surely have done what I did.
    ‘Repay them. And so I did. It should be so simple to return to sleep afterward… but why I did not want it?
    ‘Perhaps… perhaps because, now that I woke up, it is so easier to live instead of simply be? Yes, that’s why.’

    She felt another presence approaching her, directed southward.

    The other was similar to her.

    Another city-spirit.

    ‘Interesting. Well, let’s see who the other one is. As far as I know, we can’t normally get outside our cities’ borders.’

    Sad fact for a normal City-Spirit: they are bound inside the borders of their ‘material’ selves.
    Fun fact for her: as the old saying go, “All Roads Lead to Rome”, so any road she was in would have eventually took her back to her City-self. This was what her wander so freely around Italy, even if at greatly diminished powers.

    Well, the other cities spirits were not jealous. They instead used her as a pack mule to send items that the normal mail would never carried to each other.

    And the gossip, oh the gossip, how she missed being able to talk with others freely.

    Well, she had to teach the pecking order to some of those sticks-wavers that wanted her to ‘adhere to the Statute of Secrecy by returning to her assigned place of residence’, believing her a ‘mere’ Ship Spirit Manifestation or one of the ‘minor’ fey-blooded.

    Idiots. She had been the capitol of Empires that spanned the majority of the ‘know world’ of their times and of the Papal States when the Catholic Church was at the height of its power.

    She was so drenched in magic that even her newest buildings knew more on the subject than what those paper pushers did (or believed to know, there was no difference).

    Well, at least she was able to stretch away the rust from her old bones… by using these ‘ICW Aurors’ as punching bags. All the parts of herself would forever treasure the memory of the faces the incompetents did when they realized that their magic simply did not work against her.

    Two hours later, the two spirts meet each other.

    She was younger, yet at the same time old like her.

    Tanned skin and dark eyes, she was dressed in clothes more fitting for a mundane tourists than as a manifestation of a city like her.

    But perhaps that was why she was free to wander around.

    After all, Venice had always been a city of merchants and of culture.

    Implying that the Queen of the Adriatic was not free to go where she wanted was the same as asking the Sun to not rise.

    “Venice.”

    “Rome. What take you in these places?”

    “Nothing important, I was sightseeing to have time to think to myself. You?”

    “More or less the same. Well, that and I think I have scared some wizards too much when I killed that pair of Abyssal subs that tried to get me. For me, they are exaggerating. After all, it was only the ‘memory’ of the entire plagues one of my islands contained when it was being used for quarantine purposes, nothing to be truly afraid of.”

    “Compared to… what, all the fleets you had when you were the Serenissima?”

    “Yes, I knew you would have understood! It was only biological warfare, nothing else! I could have asked for volunteers from anyone that had ever sailed under the banner of the Lion of Saint Mark or called forth all the ghosts of those that died in my waters and their combined grievances, instead I limit myself… and those ingrates have the galls of say that I have gone overboard, can you believe the nerve?”

    “… never change Venice, never change. Just a question: how you have managed to get out of your city’s border?”

    Tesoro, if you were a political capitol, I had been a commercial hub well before the youngsters around the Atlantic arose to fame. Where there is commerce, affairs, culture, tourism, Venice can be there!”

    “… fair enough. Any trouble into rooting out of you the cultists of the Abominations?”

    “Naa, I think the smarter ones are starting to understand that even uncharmed walls have literal ears nowadays. Not after I pointed all of my boys with aggression to unwind against ‘supposed’ safe places used by those cultists. You?”

    “I can call forth shades of any Swiss Mercenary and of any of the Dux’s followers that were in me when they died, what do you think I have them do to the cultists I found in me?”

    “Point. Oh, I was forgetting, one of the Shipgirls I have stationed in the military parts of me lamented of a British magical annoyance that is starting to return from the grave.”

    Left unsaid was the fact that said news did not enter even the bottom of the list of the strangest things both cities saw from their creations onward.

    “I heard it too, from Vatican City. Want to call Londinium and offer her support, just in case the wand-wankers try to be obstructionists?”

    “Sure!” But, in the meantime, the two manifestation of the Cities had returned to walk. After all, it was so rare that two like them managed to have some peace for themselves…
     
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  10. Threadmarks: JNHRO Shrine meeting
    darthcourt10

    darthcourt10 Versed in the lewd.

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    Lord K

    Harry Leferts said:
    At the end though, I will admit that I had the hilarious image of them stopping at the top of the Shrine steps in time for Harry to be making his way out. He then quickly bows to them all before leaving with Natsumi leaving them all sort of stunned, especially those who recognize who he is...​
    *-**-*-*-*-*-*

    Unfortunately, as fitting as walking up the stairs together feels, it also has it's issues. Just at the top, at the threshold to the torri, it is only her reflexes and aerokinetically enhanced awareness of her surroundings that save her from the collision.

    Awkwardly managing to avoid the impending crash, a backstep and a light flutter of her wings leaves her hanging in midair, while the dark haired boy stumbles to a halt and windmills his arms to avoid going down the stairs. Beside him, a young kitsune practically screeches to a halt beside him, eyes widening as she slowly seems to recognize their group. Regaining his balance after a few seconds, he then looks up at the floating, winged woman dressed with and bearing so many of the traditional artifacts and clothing that define the image of tengu. Next glancing from her, to the other important looking and undisguised yokai around her, with a sheepish, embarrassed gaze through his glasses he then turns his eyes back to the hovering woman and gives an apologetic bow.

    "Sorry about that. My apologies."

    Dropping back down onto the steps with a soft click of her tengu-geta, and the quiet chiming of the rings of her shakujo in the fading zeyphr that helds her aloft, Ai gives a respectful smile and a shake of her head.

    "It is fine. It is we who are probably at fault for taking up the stairs all to ourselves. All is forgiven."

    Blinking in surprise at the thankful lack of issue, the boy then gives one last happily respectful bow to the group anyway. "Ah, thank you. Have a good day then!"

    "The same to you," Ai intones with a softly reserved smile for the encouragingly polite child.

    Grinning and then looking back to his companion, as if four yokai and a human were things he regularly almost ran into in the street, the boy then grabs hold of his still frozen companion's hand to break her out of her stunned stare and drag her along. "Come on Natsumi, let's go!"

    Absently stumbling after him, the kitsune still seems so shocked by their presence, she actually rubs her eyes and looks back at them as she is led down the stares.

    Jin being Jin, the ex-kami can't help but laugh, especially at the stunned double-takes she, Kogamaru, and Ai in particular, keep on earning as the girl trails down the stairs after her friend. "So, what do you think freaked the kid out more turning up on her shrine's doorstep? The fallen water kami, the Koshaku of the Hokubu, or the Last Saburo emerging from the hole she's been hiding in the last few years?"

    Kiba can't resist a "snerk" of poorly restrained laughter. It is one that then gets cut off as the kitsune' voice can be heard faintly in the distance.

    "Wait! Harry! I think those people were the Japanese Non-Human Rights Organisation!"

    As the sound of the chattering youths fades away, the five then share an awkward glance. With a faintly baffled grin, Tokutomi then gives an uncertain smile and a laugh of disbelief.

    "Ahaha.... A Harry.... She couldn't have meant Harry Potter could she.....?"

    Jaw slightly open, Kiba nods. "Holy shit. I thought the kid looked familiar......"

    Jin however, falls to her knees, hands raised to the sky. "Noooooooooo!"

    Beside her, Kogamaru stares in confusion. "....wat?"

    "I'm not the sole person to cheat death you guys have ever met anymore!"

    Tokutomi facepalms, while Kiba strokes his chin thoughtfully. "You know, if you think about it, that kid did it better than you as well. He didn't have to sacrifice a chunk of his power and abilities to be reincarnated as a meat-sack with, "steep for a couple of years before opening" as the instructions."

    Ai sighs as Jin reacts with more faux-dramatics. "Alright, I believe that's enough. Come on Jin."

    The mizuchi blows a raspberry as she finally stands up, and then follows along as the group get their act back together and cross beneath the torri gate after her. At this, the mizuchi then seems to give a nod of pleasant surprise. "Oh awesome. Whoever's in here doesn't take offence to me!"

    "Please restrain yourself to your best behavior then," requests Ai with an unseen tick of her brow at the memory recalled. "We don't need you getting spiritually evicted from another shrine again."

    "Hey, that only happened once!"

    "In her defense," chips in Kiba as they approach the temizuya, "that was mostly Tomokako's fault for egging her on, because she knew the local kami wouldn't like it."

    Awkwardly, Kogamaru rubs the back of his neck while waiting for his turn to wash his hands at the chouzobachi. "Man, bringing her along that time was not a good idea"

    Beside him, Tokutomi shudders with a haunted gaze, and begins attempting to wash his hands all the harder. "So many rubber ducks. That poor tree. I can still hear those geese in my sleep sometimes."

    The Okami rests a comforting hand on the wizard's shoulder. "It's okay. The geese are gone. They're back in Canada. They can't hurt us now."

    Sometimes Ai wonders how they managed to get the J.N.H.R.O. so far. And then other times, she wonders how their group of misfits manage to make it out of their own houses in the morning.

    Spotting a form in a traditional shrine maiden outfit and a second woman beside her, approaching them, Ai almost gives a sigh of relief under her breath. "Oh, thank you. Sane people."

    Behind her, Kiba looks up from where he is drying off his hands. "Hm? you say something Ai?"

    "I said we have people," she smoothly responds, nodding in the direction of the approaching women.

    "Oh, well then." Palming his hand and looking to the others, Kiba grins as he receives determined nods in return. "Looks like it's game time."

    Automatically falling into step on either side of Ai, the group then approach the Shrine Maiden to meet her, and her friend who is no doubt the contact with the clans, in the middle ground of the courtyard. It is to some surprise as they get closer, that the group then realize both women are yokai as well, kitsune of some surprising power considering the number of tails on display.

    At last face to face, the two groups then bow to each other, albeit with Jin doing so slightly more stiffly than the rest thanks to her lingering injuries. It is something that attracts the curious interest of the shrine maiden, even as she begins introducing herself and her companion.

    "Thank you, honored guests and representives of the Japanese Non-Human Rights Organisation for coming to this meeting. I am Haru, caretaker and miko of this shrine. I shall also be serving as liason for the JMSDF in this meeting, although I do not technically represent them and shall be merely extending some of the offers they wish to make."

    Collectively, the five nod. This was something they already figured out while sounding out the meeting. Obviously, somebody had kept the government and SDF informed of the J.N.H.R.O.'s skittishness towards any idea of looking like they were too immediately or obviously jumping into bed with anyone with more military agendas or leanings.

    With a nod, the woman beside the shrine maiden then takes her turn to introduce herself. "And I am Ono Sakuya, representative the Ono Kitsune, and liaison for the other Great Clans in this meeting."

    Their host's introductions out of the way, as the norminal leader and center of the five's line, Ai decides to start off their own greetings with a respectful bow as she steps forward, the rings of her shakujo chiming quietly in the breeze at the movement.

    "I thank you for having us, and extending this invitation to discuss issues close to the hearts and capabilities of both our groups today. I am hatamoto Saburo no Ai of Tsunohazu-Shoen. Also currently known as Lieutenant Kobayashi Aina of the JASDF."

    Something almost like surprise, yet still mixed with confirmation flickers in the two kitsunes' eyes as she steps back into line, and then Kiba next steps forth. There is a flinty sharpness to the okuri-inu for once, as he breaks out the rarely used aura and air of being the multi-million dollar investment management company co-director that he is.

    "I am Kiba of Tamaki. Currently known as Nakano Kiba the Third, Co-Director of Nakano Seed, Venture and Hedge Investments Incorporated."

    Next it is Kogamaru, calling upon all his gravitas and presence, and in spite of his youth, still managing to look like a right and just, princely lord of old.

    "I am Kogamaru of Yamainutaira, Ninth Koshaku of the Hokubu Okami. Son of Tsumemaru the Peace-Bound, and Eighth Koshaku of the Hokubu Okami before me."

    Then it is Tokutomi's turn.

    "I am Oshiro Tokutomi. Scion of the noble and ancient Clan Oshiro, head of the Oshiro Main House, suzerain of the Tokyo and Kyoto Branch Houses, and seated member of the Onmyouji Kizoku-in's House of Peers."

    Then finally, they arrive at Jin, all eyes turning to the water dragon as she steps forward, and bows as best she can while favoring her ribs and with one hand in a cast. For all her still lingering injuries however, the ex-kami gives a toothy, warrior's grin as her white scales and lengthy coils gleam in the sun, power and might exuding from within her lithe and scar-crossed form to suggest her true nature.

    "I am the Mizuchi of the Aoijinkawa, reincarnated through Molly Belinda-Tanith Maleficus, now custodian of Aoijinkawa-Danchi Housing Complex, guardian of serpents, and leader of the Adachi Neighborhood Watch under the name of-"

    "Jin Hisakawa?!"

    Thrown off track, by the unexpected interruption, Jin looses her rhythm and then looks to the stunned face of the shrine maiden with a rather ineloquent "-eh?" of confusion.

    The kitsune however, can only continue to stare with wide eyes, as if suddenly piecing the puzzle together in her mind. "White scales, those scars, the injuries, a presence that exudes a lingering grudge of it's own- you're Jin Hisakawa!"

    Her four companion's gazes swinging around to catch the dragon's reaction to this confusing development, the ex-kami shuffles and looks about uncertainly, wondering what she has done to garner this reaction. "Uh, yeah, I was about say that was me, yeah- um... I haven't ever punched somebody you know The Tanuki's Balls have I? Because if that's what this is about-"

    "You were the Mizuchi in the river that night!" At her fellow kitsune's stunned declaration, Sakuya's jaw falls open in shock, while Jin abruptly reverses course back to proudly preening again.

    "Oh wait, is this about the Gashadokuro? Well, that was definitely one of my finer moments, even if I did get a bit roughed up for my trou-" Suddenly her brow narrows in realization, and the dragon does her best to level an accusatory finger at the shrine maiden with her good hand. "You! You were the kitsune! You were the one who made me look like I forgot to put sunblock on for most of the past week!"

    At this sudden reversal of moods and context, Haru stammers in embarrassment at the mention of the unintended friendly fire. Attracted by the commotion from what should be a normal, heavily formal meeting, Ai also spies a number of teens peering curiously at the events taking place from around the corner of a nearby building. Interrupting her fellow Kitsune's stammers and drawing Ai's attention however, is the sudden presence of Sakuya, striding up to the ex-kami and looking at her with something like a mix of gratitude and awe.

    "Is this true? Were you really the mizuchi to fight the Gashadokuro, knowing that it could do this to you."

    The dragon is taken off guard be the sudden intensity of the kitsune before her. "Uhhh.... technically I was just there for the spider bitch? Originally I was planning to take her on, especially when some kids turned up, but then she pulled the Gashadokuro out of her ass-" Ai doesn't even bother to hide her facepalm at Jin's language in front of a representative of the clans, while Tokutomi quietly pinches his brow. "-so my hands were kinda tied for where I was most immediately needed, but I figured if I could help get the miko and the battleship moving, they could handle she-of-the-many-legs-and-lacking-in-anti-psychotics."

    "You would have fought a jorogumo capable of controlling a Gashadokuro, in defense of children?"

    Jin takes a moment to think about that statement. "Probably not one of my most thought out plans yeah, but I stick to my guns when they count." In the background, Ai catches a glimpse of one of the kids gasping in shock and then running off somewhere, likely to spread the word of who exactly one of their visitors is.

    Bringing her attention back to the events taking place in front of her however, is the fact that Sakuya abruptly then falls into a deep bow in front of the injured Mizuchi, causing Jin's eyes to widen in shock. "Thank you! I cannot express my gratitude enough for helping slay that monster, but thank you! My daughter was among those who went to face the jorogumo, and my sister is the one whom you aided by attacking the Gashadokuro."

    The dragon herself, looks almost embarrassed by the thanks being given to her and the deeply formal manner it is happening in, much to the amusement of her companions. "Aw, it was nothing- ack, I mean you thanks are most heartfelt-fully accepted- uh, is that a word? I mean- look, you don't have to dogeza to me- I haven't asked for that sort of thing in decades and- Hey, Ai and you sister were there as well!- Ai help me out here?"

    The kotengu in question emotes nothing and says less, even as across the vastness of time and space, her silent cringing at the formal etiquette car-crash that is Jin echoes.

    Watching these goings on with the dragon and her sister however, the shrine maiden just laughs. "Speaking of offerings, I believe that I have a pair of bottles of some rather lovely aged Fire Whisky from Scotland, that Nagato requested I pass on to the pilot from the Abyss Divers and the White Mizuchi when I finally ran into them or anybody they knew."

    "Oh! I haven't had Scottish Fire Whisky in years!" Resisting the urge to facepalm at Jin's interruption, Ai turns to face the kitsune, only for the formally worded thanks on the tip of her tongue to then cut off by yet another interruption.

    After years of knowing Jin, and even being around her on occasions the dragon has shifted forms, Ai recognizes the burst of magic and feeling in the air for what it is. Another kami changing shape to a truer form, and unintentionally blasting it's presence for all those attuned to such things to feel as it approaches.

    Looking at Jin, Ai can see the scales already reflexively spreading from her hands and the bridge of her nose, across the rest of her face and uninjured arm. No doubt, the ex-kami fears she has unintentionally trespassed or crossed some other spirit's territory or domain. Polluted, grudge-tainted and without a spiritual home of her own, it's something that occasionally happens when encountering some of the more possessive and primal kami still determinedly gripping onto their homes in the physical world. Ironically, as abrasive and aggressive as Jin can be, deescalating fights and defensively fleeing is something she is rather good at.

    Looking for the approaching presence, the Mizuchi fears a fight with some sort of guardian of the shrine that has mistaken her for an intruder with ill intentions.

    Instead, what she gets is a girl with the lower body of a white serpent, snaking around the corner of one of the buildings with lightning speed, and then racing towards her with all the momentum of a raging torrent. And then like water halting before a dam, she slides to a coiled stop, panting like she just ran the entire way from wherever she came from, and looking up at the scar-covered mizuchi in awe.

    "Areyoureallythemizuchifromtheothernight?"

    "buh?" Jin looks at her in confusion, excess scales slowly fading away at the obvious non-threat, while the girl before her practically squees with joy.

    "YES! I can't believe you're here! I only just found out I'm a mizuchi too that night!"

    Uncertainly, and still more than a little perplexed, Jin slowly looks the younger dragon up and down.

    "Oh...uh, that's cool. So you are." Awkwardly, the battle-scarred dragon shuffles, realizing how narrow the gulf in power between the two of them is, even if the kid is young and has yet to grow into her own, while she has the benefits of age and experience on her side. "Technically I only used to be one, but now I'm sort of something else as well. Kinda had to let go of the watercourse and cheat death a few decades back."

    If anything, her polite attempt at deflecting of the younger dragon's apparent wonderment of her presence, instead only backfires.

    "Really?! That sounds amazing-!"

    "Actually, it kinda sucked and was really confusing." Completely missing Jin's muttered words, the novice mizuchi barrels on, still looking at her as if she were an idol.

    "-which is makes you all the better for asking all the stuff I wanted to know about being a mizuchi!"

    "...you what now?"

    The girl looks up at her with admiration. "I don't know how, but I can feel how old you are. You must know everything there is to actually being and acting like a mizuchi. But more than that, you aren't bound to or staying to one place like most mizuchi or kami! You're fighting, and for completely random people too, not just yourself or those precious to you! You're even helping in ways beyond being a dragon, that people pay attention to! You're exactly the kind of mizuchi I want to be like!"

    Jin balks at the thought. "Hey, kid, I'm not sure that's the greatest thing to aspire to."

    "Even so-" Her mind determinedly set, the younger water kami then leans forward, lowering her human half in replication of a bow that causes Jin's eyes to widen in shock. "-please, I humbly ask you if you would take me on as your student!"

    For a long moment, the battle scarred mizuchi stares. "What the hell is with everyone bowing to me today?!?"

    Having been stuck silently watching the byplay for the last few minutes, it is at this point that Kiba then elbows Ai to grab her attention, giving her an honestly baffled look once he has her focus. "Why is it that the one among us who is literally the worst influence for kids in the group, somehow keeps on collecting small children like pocket change."

    Frowning for a moment on her opposite side, Kogamaru looks thoughtful. "You know, if you consider how old her stream must have originally been, technically we're all small children to Jin."

    "Huh..." Says the okuri-inu with a contemplative nod. "That explains a lot about you Koga."

    "The hell is that supposed to mean?!"

    "I'm just saying, you've known her longer than any of us here."

    Between the two canid yokai arguing and egging each other on, Ai can only bury her face in her hands in a mournful sigh.

    At this point, they'll be lucky if they can get just to the original meat and bones of the meeting they came for in the first place.

    So much for formality indeed.
     
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  11. Threadmarks: Denouement/Rising Action
    darthcourt10

    darthcourt10 Versed in the lewd.

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    NotHimAgain

    Who feels like some milder/not milder/milder fare?
    Denouement/Rising Action

    -----

    “They’re saying it was a car accident,” Sayaka grumbled, glaring sullenly at the newspaper she held. Benio sighed, frowning slightly and leaning back against the wall. The two were sitting on a bench at a train station, devoid of anyone except couple of teenagers on the other side of the building and an elderly woman sitting on the bench across from them. “Mama was talking about it last night, how she just ran out into the street.”

    Benio bit her lip and looked down. “Is that what they’re telling everyone?” she asked candidly. Sayaka didn’t even look at her. She crumpled the newspaper into a ball, as if trying to light it on fire with her glare. Benio hated this part—talking to the victims in cases after the fact, reassuring them or dealing with their bizarre memory losses. Tatsuya was never in any shape to do it, since he usually bore the brunt of the action, so the painful duty usually fell to her.

    “It doesn’t make any sense! I... I know what I did! So why doesn’t anyone believe it?” She brought the paper ball up to a level with her chin, holding it like a basketball. “What happened while I was at Ojii-san’s place?” That caught Benio’s ear.

    “You think that someone did something to them?” she asked sharply. Sayaka recoiled—it seemed that she wasn’t completely dead to the world, then. “Sayaka-chan, for the time being, you might want to stick to well-lit places with a lot of people.” The younger girl turned to give her a confused look. She huffed and threw the paper ball.

    The ball slowed as it reached the top of it’s arc, then drifted lazily back through the air to hang over Sayaka’s hair. She threw her hands in the air angrily. “Argh! I don’t even care anymore!” Then she stood and stomped away. Benio watched her walk away, slightly worried. That hadn’t been one of her proudest moments, and she hoped that whatever it was that was happening with the girl made her safer. She looked back over at the lady—maybe she didn’t notice anything?—and ended up staring her directly in the eye.

    Instinctively, Benio found herself taking stock of her. The woman was foreign—and did she mention old yet? Because she definitely was. In spite of this, Benio’s every instinct was screaming in the back of her mind not to underestimate the woman. Considering what she and Tatsuya had to deal with in the past, Benio took a certain amount of pride in her instincts. If I fight this woman, every one of them was telling her, I will lose.

    “… Good afternoon,” she said respectfully, bowing slightly and using English. The woman continued to look at her, and Benio’s stomach slowly sank down to her feet.

    “… Good afternoon,” the woman responded in kind. Internally, Benio sighed with relief and turned her attention to the tracks. She felt the familiar sensation of sweat dripping down her forehead and the back of her neck and hoped that she didn’t notice.
    -----

    “I’m coming in!” Akebono shouted, opening the door and stepping into the engawa.

    “Welcome!” Himeyuki shouted from the kitchen. “I’ll be a minute or two!”

    “Whee!” Mai shouted, waving happily from her baby-walker-seat thingy. She was not allowed in the kitchen with Himeyuki, due to the fact that her mother was already inept enough with modern cooking implements. No one wanted to see her lose whatever competency she had developed by now.

    “What’s with that face, brat?” Akebono demanded. "It's not like I'm happy to see you or anything!" Mai laughed, and held out her arms.

    “'Bono!” she said, reaching out. Akebono felt her face heat up. Well, she supposed, if the child was asking for her by name (despite what Ichiro had said about American bands), she might as well do as she wished. Right?

    “Okay, fine,” she replied frostily, lifting Mai from her baby-walker-seat thingy. “So I’m only another pair of arms for you, brat? I don’t know why I—”

    With a whoosh of displaced air, two men in hooded cloaks were standing in front of her. Akebono stared. The men stared.

    There was a loud crash as a pot hit the floor in the kitchen, ringing out like a starting signal. The two men swung their arms out, wooden rods sliding into place from concealed holsters or something. To Akebono, who shifted Mai to a one-armed grip before punching one in the solar plexus, grabbing him by the front of his shirt, and smashing him into his friend, they may as well have been moving in slow motion.

    “Hime?” she shouted, running around the partition. She slowed as the familiar sensation of water under her feet came to her, and she surveyed the kitchen. No one was there, the only sign that anyone had been was the pot lying in the puddle of its former contents.

    Mai, possibly sensing that something was wrong, began to cry. Akebono shifted her grip, holding her niece a little tighter.
    -----

    “Go ahead and give it to me, Maeda-sensei,” Reiko said carelessly, crossing her arms and slouching, “You haven’t got anything I haven’t heard before.” Maeda-sensei groaned, massaging her eyelids.

    “Maybe I haven’t,” she said, standing, “but for spending all that time in class sleeping, you deserve to hear it again.” Reiko pulled a face. She hadn’t yet mastered the art of sleeping while standing up, which meant that she would have to wait through the entire lecture again. Maeda-sensei sighed again.

    “Kumogai-san,” she said, standing and crossing her arms. A lot of the boys coming into high school had been very impressed with Maeda-sensei, who looked the part of the “attractive librarian” that seemed to be such a popular archetype. Ha! They had learned pretty soon how strict the teacher was. “I don’t think I have to tell you this, but high school is what prepares you for the rest of your life. How you behave now will set a precedent for your future—after all, no man wants a rude, lazy woman for a bride.”

    Huh?

    “Huh?” Reiko asked eloquently. Maeda-sensei shook her head regretfully.

    “To be honest,” she explained, “your behavior around Haneda-kun was far superior to any I have ever seen you display—barring the unfortunate circumstances of your meeting, of course. That’s why I inquired after him the other day. According to his sister, Mamiya-san, he’s been a bit out of sorts lately. It’s why I decided to invite him and Kagamine-san to stay a few days in Sakura-shinmachi. After all, the Tsuboi family runs a Ryokan, don’t they?”

    “I-I-“ the teenaged jorogumo stammered helplessly. “That’s not fair!”

    “Fair?” Maeda-sensei chuckled darkly. Reiko recoiled—she had never heard her teacher laugh before, and it sounded unpleasant. “I had finally gotten progress from you, Kumogai-san. And I am not planning to be pushed all the way back to square one. Mamiya-san and her parents have agreed that her younger brother could use some time to recuperate from whatever has been happening in his life lately. If all goes well, he should be visiting next week.”

    Reiko stared at her teacher. This… she thought she had seen Maeda-sensei determined before. This… this was on a whole different level. The teacher was like a woman possessed—so help her, she would reform her wayward student, and heaven help anything that stood in her way.

    “How evil,” Reiko whispered under her breath.
    -----

    Well what do you think, sirs?
     
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  12. Threadmarks: Abyssina 16 – OLD's Memories
    darthcourt10

    darthcourt10 Versed in the lewd.

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    K9Thefirst1

    In which we see things from Ocean Liner Demon’s point of view. Plus hints at her origins (a feral/rogue that was found by Gateway, rather than actually being created by her or another Elder Princess), and a clarification on just what the Hell is going on with her regarding submarines. Frankly, I kinda regret how I did that. It was supposed to be a generic fight scene, but it’s one of those things where I think ‘ooh, wouldn’t that be cool if-‘ but I didn’t think it through before submitting it. Hopefully I’ve made a saving throw here. Who knows, maybe her ‘making good’ on her failure to come to Titanic’s aid in 1912 is the start of her coming to terms with her first life? That could be a thing, right?
    ------

    The North Atlantic, approaching The Winter Palace

    The Abyssal Demon steamed ahead towards her destination. For long days she had both longed for and dreaded this moment – when she would be on the cusp of a reunion a century and a year in the making. But like so many things expected in history, the arrival was different from what she had envisioned. Here she was, mere hours away… And the Ocean Liner Demon was staring at her hand, watching it tremble in the memory of what had happened the day before. How after more than a decade, the darkness that had clouded her mind returned without warning.

    The feminine figure, a Dark Lady on her Dark Throne, stretched out her Imperial Hand, her eyes aglow with the Power of the Abyss.

    “By Our Word, Our Will, Our Power, We enslave thee, Demon-half of the Ocean Liner Olympic. Thy Darkness shall service Our own. No more shall the memory of the Unjust Slaying of thy Sister Britannic, the Youngest and Fairest of thy House, the Last Light of thy First Life, That Murdered Innocent you held above All Others, hinder thine own mind.”

    As she spoke, the Elder Princess embodying Man’s Lust for Land and Gold Beyond the Sea poured forth her very essence. Her Hatred, her Malice, her Cruelty and Will to Dominate that which she saw as inferior, all wrapped around the Demon.

    “Wherever We hold Dominion, on Sea or Land or Air, or wherever Our Name be spoken and held in fairness and good regard, The Primal Darkness of the Nether-Abyss shall not overtake thee. And no more wilt thou slay those that traverse the under-roads that call Us their Lord and Master, nor those that We deem friend. Save by no cause but Our decree and leave.”

    As the Power encircled the Demon, she was clasped in irons. Iron Shackles and Adamant Chains that could not be seen but were felt as truthfully as any fetter. The Demon screamed in agony as her mind was stripped of that which both protected and poisoned it. Cruel hooks dug into her scalp, their venomous touch burning all they felt, and sadistically, gleefully, ripped the darkness that veiled her world in a shadowy half-dream, with the very source of her hatred and madness surrounding her in mockery at all hours of the day.

    “And as thou wouldst forsake Our name for Thee, wouldst spit it at Our very feet, thou shalt then have no name, save that which thou art. Until such a time that thou wilt humble thyself, and submit thy Mind, thy Body, thy very Soul, into Our possession by thine own free will.”

    And in those bonds of slavery, for the first time in her new life, the Dark Shadow of the Olympian – she that was yet still dead but dreaming – possessed freedom. And in the Thralldom of the Ancient Gateway Princess, under the domination of her new master, she was liberated from her old one…


    “Or so I thought…”

    In the hours since her encounter with that Abyssal submarine, the Demon wracked her brain over not only her hazy memories of the incident, but also the time before her Princess. A time she long ignored, even disregarding how little she actually recalled, save how she despised it, and feared it.

    ”’ Wherever We hold Dominion, on Sea or Land or Air, or wherever Our Name be spoken and held in fairness and good regard, The Primal Darkness of the Nether-Abyss shall not overtake thee.’” she quoted, ”Hmm… I guess… I guess I am pretty far from our holdings…”

    She gulped audibly and looked up from her hand, turning her gaze to the approaching cluster of icebergs and spires on the horizon. Out of the corner of her eye, the Demon saw a collection of ships traversing to the East. Seeing it to be a convoy, Ocean Liner Demon swallowed the bile of hatred that burned in her gut at the sight of the warships – shipgirl or otherwise – in the formation. Life in the Fleet was a burden, being surrounded by the Thugs of Governments as she was. But at least the Princess was more interested in the matters of peace than of war, so with time the Demon was able to ignore them. But out here? No such luck. Plenty of warships eager to kill a perceived ‘defenseless’ merchantman. For their own protection of course. Brutes. They may not have been the Damned Irish, but that was a low bar to surpass.

    But when one of the shipgirls split off from the main group and made towards her Ocean Liner Demon cursed aloud. Not only at the prospect of having to interact with a damned Warship, but also… Also, she was not entirely sure how her old Darkness would act, should a submarine make itself known. Ocean mentally pleaded for the warship, a cruiser, one she recognized, to turn back and let her pass, and she turned to open the distance… But the damned brainless brute just matched her course adjustment and continued to close the distance. Within minutes, she hailed her. And Demon, damnation, could not ignore her, lest she see cause to give a warning shot. Given recent events, Ocean Liner Demon was genuinely afraid that she might not prevent herself from escalating. Not for her own sake, but for her Princess’.

    Behind her helm, she grit her teeth and swallowed, running her thoughts through what the Princess told her to do in this sort of situation, in the event that peace talks were begun. To her relief, it… Helped.
    [/FONT]
    ------
    The convoy had known about the lone Abyssal since just after dawn, when Indiana’s recon plane spotted her. Given the size and speed, she was first identified as a capitol ship. Subsequent sweeps and improving light conditions first suggested a carrier, until a third sweep changed it to something that surprised most everyone in the convoy – An old Ocean Liner. An Abyssal Ocean Liner of all things.

    The girls discussed it amongst themselves when the recon photos were distributed. The flagship, Lexington (CV-16), pegged her as Aquitania, as she was a Four-Stacker. But was genuinely surprised to learn that Aquitania was not the only ocean liner with that number of funnels. Furthermore, only three were expelling smoke, with the aft-most one being clear, whereas all four of Aquitania’s was operational.

    The girls of the convoy went back and forth over the identity of the solitary ship and what, if anything, to do about her. All of them had been built or in service either during the war or immediately before it. All except for one.

    This one knew who she was on sight. While true she had never seen a human-shaped Abyssal covered head-to-toe in Dark Souls-Tier knight armor, she recognized the sweeping whites, greys, blacks and blues of her dazzle camouflage. Structurally, she also remembered the fully open promenade deck below the boat deck, which had boats lining its entire length – two features that instantly differentiated her from her more famous sister, especially after that one cold night in April.

    And even if she didn’t know the Abyssal for who she was – despite said ship also being distinctly not Abyssalized with her sisters in Halifax – they had all been given updated identification cards, including information regarding potentially friendly Abyssals in the Atlantic that the British had been in talks with. And wouldn’t you know it, their lone Abyssal was a perfect match for the one the Navy was calling “Ocean Liner Demon,” in the service of that same Abyssal Princess.

    “Flagship,” Chester said, starling the others in the escort from their talks, “requesting permission to approach the Abyssal ship.”

    Lexington looked at the small cruiser for a moment and was about to answer before moving to land a fighter for a refuel.

    “Why? What do you plan to do?”

    The old cruiser snorted in amusement.

    “My job of course. Screen the convoy and identify all approaching ships and try to identify their intent in friendly, or give the first shot if hostile.”

    The carrier eyed the old cruiser for a moment, then looked to the other girls in her escort fleet. With an unspoken order, the other girls began to train their guns on the Abyssal Liner on the horizon while Lexteen nodded at Chester.

    “Be careful.”

    “Always.”

    With that USS Chester (CL-1), split off from the convoy and made for the Abyssal Liner. After a few minutes, she changed course. While she didn’t appear to have been on an intercept course, she was still straying a little too close for comfort, and with the change in course she seemed to be moving to open the distance. Chester could have altered course herself to act as a screen… But she needed to ask the Liner some things. For a quarter hour the strange chase persisted. And with the slight edge she had in speed, the cruiser pursued, and hailed her.

    AHOY THERE!” she called, in light signal, in Morse, and in voice, “Ahoy! State your identity and purpose in these parts!”

    At that, the Demon visibly stiffened, as if restraining herself with great effort. Slowly, she turned her helm-clad head to face her and slowed to a stop.

    ”I have no name. And my business is my own. Now let me pass warship, I’ve answered your questions.”

    Chester looked at the Abyssal, then towards the direction she was heading – to see that she was moving directly towards The Winter Palace. Chester then turned back to the Demon, studying her form – her true form – a little bit longer before speaking.

    “By any chance, are you the Demon with that Princess west of the Azores?”

    ”Her name is the Ancient Atlantic Gateway Princess. And yes. Now can I go. …Please.

    Without waiting for an answer, the Demon put on steam… And to her visible irritation Chester followed suit.

    “If you’re going to The Winter Palace, you’ll need an escort. Whoever’s in there isn’t in the mood for visitors.”

    The Abyssal was quiet. But she wasn’t explicitly hostile either. The cruiser scratched her head in nervous energy in the awkward silence before trying again. This time… This time edging into more sensitive matters.

    “I uh… I was there you know. Alongside the survivors, after… Well, I guided them in.”

    The larger vessel turned towards the cruiser and stared. Though she said not a word and turned back to her path ahead. Chester snorted in irritation but kept her cool as they slowed to a stop at the very edge of The Winter Palace.

    “I’m not sure what your beef is, and I’m sure that you feel it’s justified, but I know that somehow you’re Olym-.“

    With a shot the Demon turned about, her face suddenly inches away from Chester’s own, two red infernos ablaze in the inky blackness of her helm’s eye-slit.

    THAT NAME!” the Demon bellowed, ”no longer has any meaning for me you damned dirty warship! Now go sink a transport or something, not like you get enough joy from killing your own kind after all.”

    Chester stood there, wide-eyed and still, not daring to move, lest she cause the Abyssal Demon to do something… Rash. As for Liner, she stood there, breathing heavily as she regained her composure. And staring into the eyes of the Demon, in the very heart of her machinery spaces, Chester felt something – A Rage that did not blind, and a Hate that did not burn. In time enough, Ocean Liner Demon stood up straight, and turned back to the towering towers of ice blocking the passages within.

    ”You said she won’t want any visitors. And, like a typical merchantman-killer, you’re wrong. She’ll permit me… Me… Me and… Others… Mount Temple, Frankfurt, Birma, Virginian, La Provance… Carpathia…”

    Chester jerked, startled and horrified as data pertaining to the mysterious Princess of the Winter Palace clicked into place in her mind. But she still held her tongue as the Demon began to transmit on the Wireless.

    [CQ MGY RD OK MGY MGY MKC MGY STD BI LIGHTING ALL POSSIBLE BOILERS AS FAST AS CAN. TELL CAPTN GET YOUR BOATS READY.]

    For what felt like an eternity, nothing happened. Then, beyond the ice came the sound of ice grinding, banging, and crushing, and like the doors of a grand temple of old the ice parted, just wide enough for Liner to pass through. And with nary a concern the Abyssal slowly steamed into the ice canyon. Chester looked in, and was about to follow… Only to be stopped dead in her tracks by the death glare Liner directed her way.

    “I’ll wait here.”
    ------
    For close to an hour, Ocean Liner Demon eased through the maze of ice, looking around every corner for some sign of the Iceberg Maiden. And then she heard it, a faint whisper, but it grew louder as she moved, a tiny voice… One she had long given up hope of ever hearing again.

    They’ll come… Soon… They have to come… They have to… Soon…”

    At last, Ocean Liner Demon found the frigid heart of the Winter Palace. It was a large clearing, free of all ice or foam or debris, and in the air hung a mist of tiny ice crystals. And in the middle stood a lone figure, forlorn and sad in her solitude. She was as tall as the Demon, but slender, and clad in a nightgown under a hastily donned fur coat and lifebelt. Her black hair was wavy, as if it were normally done in a tight bun, but was permitted to be loose for a night in bed. Her skin was the deathly pale indigenous to all of the Abyss. On her back was a rigging most similar to the Demon’s. But while the vaguely ship-shaped pack was of an identical design, it was vacant of all weapons, and painted black and red and white, in an orderly design, rather than the painful to gaze upon that was Ocean Liner Demon’s dazzle camouflage. No smoke rose from her four funnels. And unlike the Demon, Iceberg Maiden’s boat deck had only four rows of boat stations – two on each side, and a gap in the middle… And all of the boats were missing, the long lines of empty falls swaying like the branches of a weeping willow tree over the side.

    From her right hand, hanging limp at her side like its twin, something dripped into the flat calm waters. There it joined its unnumbered siblings that had already stained the sea. Because from six tiny slits on her wrist, blood had been flowing since the day she conjured herself into existence.

    And crowding her decks stood Imps that were Not Imps. All clad in tiny versions of Iceberg Maiden’s own lifebelt. All…Standing. Waiting.

    Waiting.

    J-just a bit longer,” Maiden said, eyes blankly staring into nothing, whisper-speaking into space, swaying from side to side. A waif. A lost soul. “They are coming. The procedure has been followed. Help is coming. No one needs to die… Just a few minutes more… Someone will come. Please… Come…”

    Ever since she awoke somewhere in the vast wastes of the North Atlantic nearly a quarter century ago, Ocean Liner Demon had felt many emotions. Chief among them had been a smoldering Hate and Rage at the warships and military brutes, those that had wronged her and hers. Second to that was frustration at being impotent to take her pound of flesh from men long dead. It was for that reason that – unlike so many of the Abyssals that awoke to the siren call of the Elder Princesses – she never bothered hunting the ships on the waves in the modern day; for one, most of them were merchant ships, and thus inherently innocent of all the crimes of the world’s navies. For another, none of them had rammed her and blamed her captain for their own captain’s arrogance and failure to observe the Rules of the Road. Nor planted mines that sank the one ship that ought to have been safe in war, or torpedoed a ship baring citizens of neutral nations. Or if they had, it was in a time and place utterly irrelevant to her own interests.

    But this, the sight of Iceberg Maiden, mind lost in the past and not comprehending the world about her, waiting for the rescue ships of an eternal night that never came, it brought forth a new collection of emotion to a heart that had been be refed of aught but wroth – Pity, empathy, and despair. Liner cut her steam and slowly drifted toward the Maiden, stopping scant inches from her to stare into eyes that looked out but did not see her. Liner waved a hand a hand in front of Iceberg Maiden’s face. Seeing no response, she tried snapping her fingers in her ears. With still nothing, she spoke, gesturing to herself.

    ”Titanic… It’s me… It’s- It’s Ol…” She released a shaky breath, suddenly feeling a hint of shame at being unable to do what she could not endure the warship outside doing, even if Iceberg Maiden twitched at the sound of her true name. ”It’s your big sister…”

    Iceberg Maiden, for the briefest moments, almost seemed to lock eyes with Liner, only to turn to her right. Likely the most motion she had made in the near decade she had been in place.

    Coming… They are coming. No one will die. No one needs to day… I have enough boats if someone comes. Anyone comes.”

    Beneath her helm, Liner’s vision swam and chewed her lips. She had to get the Maiden’s attention. With tender gentleness, she clasped her sister’s arms, softly turning her back to her.

    ”I’m here. No one came. Not that night. Things went faster than they should have.”

    Iceberg Maiden once more made eye contact, this time for just that much longer. But still she broke it and her eyes clouded over once more. Her head lolled to one side, even as her body remained still. Her voice was a little firmer, but also more fragile – Liner was reaching her.

    Just another few hours… Everyone will be all right, no one needs to die tonig-“

    The Abyssal Demon had enough, growling wordlessly as she shook her sister with such violence that Iceberg Maiden had no choice but to make eye contact, and hold it. And be forced to face the harsh truth.

    No one came! No one ever came! One ship- ONE SHIP came, and it was to late for anything but picking up the boats. And even then not all of them were alive. The only ship close enough that might have made a difference never got the message because the one guy on the radio went to sleep, and when the Captain was told of your lights sinking and sending rockets he couldn’t be fucked to order Mister Radio back to his station, let alone get out of bed to do it himself!

    “The procedures failed Titanic! Technology moved to fast for the regulations to keep up. Everyone who wasn’t in a boat died. You… You died alone… Not… Not even I could make it…”

    Iceberg Maiden, eyes clear and alert for the first time, stared mouth open at the Demon. As the silent seconds ticked by the truth she couldn’t deny came to her. Her face pinched in anguish, and her eyes pooled with tears, which streaked down her cheeks and joined her dripping blood in the water. Then she opened her mouth and gave the groan of the damned.

    And as if with one voice, nearly fifteen-hundred cries of fear, of despair, of the desperate, once again rang out into the bitter cold of the Atlantic. And it was loud, as if as a weapon. Ocean Liner Demon grit her teeth but bore the agony on her ears and held her sister in a close embrace. And she alone, enduring the pain of the screams, heard each soul begging to be heard before the grave took them forever.

    It’s my fault. Why didn’t I see it soo- no, why didn’t I slow us down. The Captain would not have disagreed he even as good as granted me leave. It’s all my fau-“

    My baby! Where is my baby, my little Sidney! In God’s name has anyone seen my baby Sidney! He’s not even two! My baby my baby!”

    Forty years at sea, never had an accident. Forty years...”

    Isidor! Isidor where are you! You promised that we would be together Isidor! Isidor!”

    Ocean Liner Demon heard it all, and bore it.

    Outside of the Winter Palace, Chester screamed in agony and clamped her hands to her ears. And all the shipgirls of the departing convoy screamed in pain, along with the crews of the ships as they were subjected to the Hell-Sounds of the dying. For half an hour the screams were heard. And then came the silence.

    And the silence was even more terrible than the screams that came before it.

    With the quiet, Liner stood still, simply enjoying being to hold her sister once more. But time ever moved, and so the Demon straightened up to look at her sister, to see that the Imps were gone, and Iceberg Maiden was once more staring at nothing. Demon said nothing, only nodding. Then she pulled a series of handkerchiefs from her hold and bound the Maiden’s wounded wrist in it, so as to not leave a trail. Liner then took Iceberg Maiden by the hand and lead her into the open world as the ice that made up her prison groaned and cracked and collapsed into the sea about them. At the entrance, Chester was at her post. She was stunned, blood flowing from her ears, but otherwise unharmed. The cruiser shook her head as she stared dumbfounded at the pair of Abyssals glided out of what had been an impenetrable fortress, now crumbling into water, save for the bergs holding onto the wreck of the Arleigh-Burke destroyer. It would float for a few weeks more before sinking into the Atlantic. Liner looked at the cruiser and made eye contact.

    ”Huh. You’re still here.”

    Chester motioned to speak, but nothing appropriate came to mind. So she just shrugged before she turned about to make for the convoy. However, Liner turned to the south and east, making for the Meteors. For home.

    And as Ocean Liner Demon lead her sister away from her grave, towards home… She felt the task of breathing to be much easier to accomplish. As if a great burden was lifted, a great fetter untied…

    A great failure absolved.

    And for the first time since November, 1916, the first time since The War, she felt something she had long given up hope on ever experiencing again – A warmth in her heart.
    ------
    All ships and stations were given individual three letter callsigns over the wireless. In Titanic Calling – Wireless Communications During the Great Disaster, a list of the callsigns for the ships involved is given, and it is said that the latter two letters are the ship or station itself, while the first seems to identify the company the operator works for, as it says that the M in Titanic’s stands for Marconi.

    Titanic was MGY

    Olympic was MKC.

    The German liner Frankfurt was DFT while the Blucher *horse whinny* was DDB.

    The Cruiser Chester – who the US Navy sent to escort Carpathia into New York in the event of trouble and to discourage press boats from getting to close – was NDG.

    The Morse shorthand of CQD and SOS are universally known, but others I used in either this chapter or the one introducing Iceberg Maiden are less self-evident.

    STD BI, easy enough, means “Please Wait” or “Stand by.”

    CQ means “All Stations/Ships,” and was the signal to all listening that the following message was for everyone and was important. Adding D was understood as “All Stations/Ships Distress,” hence how the older destress signal came about. It was replaced with SOS due to the composing letters being easier to transmit in a hurry.

    RD – Message Received

    OK – Understood

    OM –‘Old Man,’ apparently the Edwardian Computer Nerds that were Wireless operators made up their own informal shorthand that was only used with other operators, Pre-Computer analogues of things like “LOL” or “JK” or “TL ; DR.” “Old Man” called to mind stuff upper class gentlemen, likely a subtle dig at the clientele the boys had to deliver the mail to.
    Spoiler: Regarding Demon’s issues
    With the fanon theory that Abyssals are the grudges of sunk ships as well as those lost at sea, there doesn’t seem to be much consideration towards how a merchant ship would turn Abyssal, while whole pages are made for warships. I’ve kinda used Ocean Liner Demon as a way to explore the idea.

    In Mark Chirnside’s book about the Olympic, in covering the Hawke Incident, he discussed how both sides told the exact same story, except in that one side’s sequence of events framed the other ship as in the wrong according to the rules of the road for one vessel overtaking another. Thing is, Olympic had more witnesses, all saying the same story, and most of them were civilians who wouldn’t know about how ship movements were supposed to go. Which to me means that – paradoxically – they ought to have been more credible as they wouldn’t know what or how to twist what they saw. And yet the courts ruled in favor of the Royal Navy. Now, Mister Chirnside did not claim any sort of conspiracy or bias in the Courts to absolve wrong-doing of the cruiser Hawke. That was my interpretation and mine alone, not only from the oddly curious favoritism towards the side with fewer witnesses, but also due to the extreme nationalism of the period. However, given that Ocean Liner Demon is the dark shadow of Olympic, with all of her bias’, hates and grudges made manifest, it would make since for her to assume such was the case regardless of any evidence one way or the other.

    Then there’s how WWI put an end to the notion that war would only be fought between warships. Between Britain abusing the Prize Rules of War and Germany’s Unrestricted War Policy that came about in retaliation, resulting in the sinking of Lusitania among other sinkings, it stands to reason that Liner wouldn’t have to best opinion of Warships. After all, sinking in the name of their countries is what they were meant for. And yet they also wage their wars on civilian craft.

    Yes, Britannic hit a mine, but even as late as the 1970s when she was discovered, survivors were claiming that she was maliciously and sadistically torpedoed by The Huns. So as of the present the only blood Demon has spilt – outside of the conquest of the Azores during Blood Week – has been that of Abyssals. Not sure yet on if her mental issues would affect her dealings with Subgirls, though if so everything ought to be fine so long as the Princess’ Power is still over her (look at what she said, it safeguards her own subs, and those of Allied and friendly navies/fleets, so Hostile/Lone Abyssal Subs are fucked).

    At worst we have a situation of Demon and SM U-73 being like Hazel and Ozpin from RWBY, though I can see a tense pursuit with the RN and Gateway [with the latter putting out Kill On Sight orders to her fleet] chasing Demon who’s chasing U-73… To find her and U-73, both bloodied and exhausted, talking it out due to just being too tired and injured to fight, with Demon getting closure… and deciding that she still hates the sub due to being a warship… She just doesn’t want to kill her anymore.
     
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  13. Threadmarks: JNHRO Mary's Infiltration
    darthcourt10

    darthcourt10 Versed in the lewd.

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    Lord K

    A.N./ So, somebody wanted Mary poking around Yokosuka?

    Edit: Also, it now occurs to me that I mentally wrote a lot of her lines with the same cadence and meter as Agent Smith for some reason.

    *-*-*-*-*
    Standing atop the darkened hotel's rooftop, aged eyes star through the binoculars, down at the scene almost a kilometer distant and far below. With the precision of experience and second nature, the movements of sentries, cameras, and likely areas of less obvious forms of technological surveillance are all noted. Pulling down her sleeve, the venerable auror then notes the time on the watch strapped with the face inward, military style on her left wrist, while simultaneously scribbling annotations on a crude map sketched out on baking paper, overlaid on top of an image of the base printed off of google maps. Looking upward, she then frowns at the slow progress of a cloud towards it's eventual occlusion of the moon.

    Waiting for her optimal conditions, the veteran then turns her gaze to the broom beside her. The Silver Arrow is an antique of a by gone conflict, actually even older than her. But as someone once said, "don't fix what isn't broken", and even after almost 100 years, there is very little wrong with the World War One era design, that is generally regarded as one of the forerunners to the modern competitive racing and sporting brooms of today. While not the same broom, a Silver Arrow saw her through the Pacific War, and then a second did the same through Korea. While most certainly outmoded against their successors in stock condition, as she has occasionally observed and been inspired by with vintage muggle automotives being thrown against their modern counterparts, it can be surprising how much can be gained from only discreet tinkering and modification.

    It also helps that to most people, such a venerable old broom only adds to the "harmless old lady" image some may gain at a first glance.

    Unfortunately, where she is going tonight, any sort of broom will stick out like a sore thumb. Which is why, in the very unlikely event things do go south, she is more than ready for anything she might find. "Constant Vigilance" as that one british auror was always saying, was all well and good, but in her opinion, "better to be overdressed, than under-prepared" and "no such thing as overkill" were far more convenient adages to live by.

    The cloud finally passing before the moon, the old auror immediately bursts into action. Mounting her broom while quietly whispering a rapid-fire sequence of spells, even as she disappears from view, the aged veteran is already streaking off towards the darkened ocean's surface to the east of Yokosuka Fleet Activities Base, with a blistering burst of speed.
    --------------------

    "Hey, you hear that?"

    Looking up from his position by the door, one of the guards then turns to his companion who is starring off into the darkness with a frown. "What's the matter?"

    The first guard narrows his eyes, straining to see through the darkness and focus on the strange noise just beyond the edge of his vision. "I don't know.... it sounds like hissing."

    Walking over, his companion then frowns. "Hey, I hear it too."

    Suddenly the second's eyes widen as he violently curses, realizing what it is. "Argh shit! One of the girls must have accidentally stepped on the grass while heavy! The fucking sprinklers have busted again."

    "Ah..." enunciates the other, his relative newness to the job shining through. "What do we do for this then?"

    The second just sighs tiredly and pinches his nose. "It's too early for this shit- you just stay here and man the door. I'll go in and tell reception they need to kill the sprinklers, and get grounds-keeping out here in the morning."

    Seeing his more experienced counterpart's familiarity with the issue, the new guard immediately relaxes. "Oh, okay. That's cool."

    "Don't worry, I'll be like two or three minutes while I talk to Sen." Turning on his heel, the guard approaches the door for the building and punches in the after hours code for getting into the administrative building's reception. "Fucking dammit, it wouldn't be a shift without reporting property damage would it."

    Entering the through the doorway, the automatic door then easily closes behind him uninterrupted. The guard's muttering then only increases as he realizes that the receptionist isn't present, and is likely justifiably taking a break at this late hour. Wandering off deeper into the building, the reception is left bare and empty.

    No one hears the sound of the chair behind the receptionist's desk moving slightly, almost as if somebody was attempting to get a better look at all the labeled extensions on the phone beside the computer.

    For a few moments more, there is silence. Then, just as the security cameras in the room reach the apex of their turns, a door opens, for just the briefest moment it is in all their collective blind-spots.
    --------------------

    "Are you sure you don't want me to stick around sir?"

    Doing his best to restrain a tired yawn as he wanders into his office, Goto shakes his head and gives a smile at his faithful assistant. "it's late Ooyodo. I'm not going to be here more than a few minutes checking emails, and then I'm calling it a night."

    "Are you sure sir?"

    "It's fine Ooyodo. Noting ever happens this late anyway. Get some rest, I'll need you help going over whatever Haru will have for us in the morning anyway."

    The support ship gives him one final, uncertain look before finally acquiescing to his suggestion. "Well, if you insist sir. Good night Admiral."

    Sinking into his chair and giving her a rather casual salute in return, Goto resists the urge to yawn yet again. "Night Ooyodo. See you tomorrow."

    Unable to help himself, the Admiral smiles at the thought of her unfaltering helpfulness as she closes the door.

    A smile the immediately disappears as his heart freezes, the instant he sees the dark-cloaked figure that is leaning against the wall, casually waiting for him and hidden from view the entire time.

    Instantly, all urges to sleep fade away, and with lightning reflexes, Goto finds himself with his service pistol leveled at the unconcerned figure, and a finger of his opposite hand pressed against the concealed button underneath his desk.

    "WHO THE HELL ARE YOU!?!"

    "Someone who took preparations that we might hold this conversation like calm and level headed adults, of our respective prestigious postings."

    Goto is surprised by the voice that comes from the darkened shadows playing over the face beneath the hood, sounding more like the cuttingly severe voice of his grandmother in one of her less amused moments from his childhood, rather than some sort of shadowy infiltrator or dark-robed villain. His surprise then elevates to mild panic and shock, when one of the gloved hands then unfurls itself from the confines of the sleeve it has been tucked into, revealing what looks like a firing pin for a P220 Service Pistol.

    A horrifying feeling in his gut tells him that it's probably the pin from the very pistol he is holding right now.

    The feeling then worsens as he realizes he can't hear any of the activity in the midnight quiet of the building, that should indicate the garrison reacting to the silent alarm.

    "What do you want?" Goto roughly bites out, trying to figure out how to play for time, even as a frustrated glance at the windows reveals how all of his blinds have been shut, with the windows most likely latched as well.

    "What I want, is two things." Says the figure as they quietly push off the wall and begin drifting towards his desk with an almost predatory gait. "Firstly, you can stop trying to figure how to escape or attract notice. I'd be rather disappointed in myself if I failed to miss anything, even at this age."

    Refusing to give up, Goto stares daggers at the unknown hooded woman, in between glances at the door and wondering if Ooyodo might still be close enough to hear the sound of a struggle. He discards the idea quickly though, upon the realization if she didn't already hear his raised voice, the witch in his office must already have the issues of sound in hand as well. Frustratedly he eyes his pistol, almost even considering pulling the trigger just to test if the woman really isn't bluffing, before finally deciding there is more to be gained from diplomacy as he fishes for more time and ideas anyway.

    "So what was the second thing you wanted?" he gruffly bites out.

    "What I want," says the woman now looming over him from the opposite side of his desk, "is to talk."

    "To talk huh?" asks the admiral looking at her suspiciously. "After cornering me like this, you just "want to talk"?"

    "Well, I do a admit, you weren't my first choice," says the obscured woman with a bored wave of her hand, almost as if she were discussing her disappointment at having to buy a different brand of cereal with a friend at the supermarket, rather than cornering an admiral of the JMSDF in his office by himself in the dead of night. "There would be far less legal tomfoolery and rules lawyering in my thin justifications if I had gone to an admiral of the USN, rather than a flag officer of an allied navy. Unfortunately, he is rather surrounded by shipgirls, and as a general rule of thumb, people with kids are far less tolerant and rationale about being visited for this sort of skullduggery in their homes than at their places of work."

    "And what kind of skullduggery is that?" queries Goto, wondering whether the unknown woman is just full of herself, or playing a different game. "You do realize my memories can't be wiped. I've been around kanmusu day in and day out for years. So has Richardson. I thought you people already figured that out."

    The woman laughs, almost as if amused by how wrong he is. "Oh, I'm not here for anybody's memories. Far from it, considering it would be rather difficult of you to deliver a message and ruminate on what I have to say if you can't remember I was here in the first place."

    "Is that so?" Goto cooly gives the woman a raised eyebrow, silently telling her how much he doesn't trust her as far as he could throw her. Throughout it all, the pistol still remains levelled at her. Somehow, he can almost see the motion of rolled eyes beneath the shadow-casting hood.

    "Come now, I am not those impotent amateurs who have more fervent idealism than sense which you have dealt with before. Halting and covering up the events of recent weeks would be all but impossible, thanks to lynchpins in the circle of witnesses and investigators, like yourselves and your kanmusu." What the woman next says, then makes a chill run up his spine, and rapidly re-evaluate the intelligence issues and potential threat posed by the woman. "Now, while it wouldn't halt things, if I really wanted to impede and confuse your progress in the investigation, what I would really be spending my time on tonight, would be not just obliviating all of those JGSDF and PSIA crews you brought in to handle the clean up, but then subtly doctoring their memories so that nobody truly has blank spots, but then it becomes impossible for anybody to agree on what they've actually found. The other fun option is inserting personality conflicts, so that teams suddenly can't stand each other, but obviously that would be rather counterproductive in this current climate."

    Goto stares at her in wordless horror, earning a snort of derision.

    "Oh come now, obviously I'm not going to do that. Do I seem like the incompetent sort to brag and monologue about my master plan."

    "Then why are you telling me this?"

    "Because I want you to make sure through the right channels, that they don't just know I should have come for them, but then what the surface effects of my passing should look like."

    For the first time Goto's aim wavers as he frowns in confusion. "Wait, what?"

    Pulling something from within her jacket, for a moment, Goto's aim tightens once more, before the woman then lays a folder on his desk. "Consider this a peace offering. A list of the people the Magical Diet does know are involved in just the investigation of the Gashadokuro Incident. It would be highly inconvenient towards whoever was charged with learning what these people know, if they were abruptly accompanied by shipgirls all the time, although I believe you probably have much more useful and pressing matters even the ironclads could be taking care of beyond bodyguard duty. Now, if many these people were to abruptly take a day off due to illnesses associated with light-headedness, mild headaches, and feeling a bit under the weather, in a way that most would probably just label a mere cold passing through the investigation teams..... well, wouldn't that be much more convenient for all parties involved than any sort of longer term solution."

    More and more, Goto finds his eyes narrowing in hawkish suspicion, the slowly dawning realisation that this woman is playing a dangerous game, growing in the back of his mind. "I don't get it. What's your angle here. What the hell are you trying to pull?"

    The woman gives another bemused laugh, still unconcerned about the gun levelled at her. "As the poms would say "politics dear boy"! And I think by now, it should be obvious the game I'm playing, is cut of a much a much different court and cloth than those who came before."

    "How does sabotaging your own investigation, play into anybody's political interests on your side?"

    "Well," says the woman with a smirk Goto can almost see through the darkness of the hood, "that's when you have to consider who's game I'm playing right now. There are a lot of people who don't want to see this investigation reach it's conclusion, not just in the Magical Diet, but in the ICW as well. for many of the parties and cliques that would normally oppose each other, it would be..... inconvenient for differing reasons and agendas, for certain factions to find themselves taking action against what even a blind man would find. The circle I could unearth? It would melt minds."

    Goto glares at the woman, who is increasingly reminding him of some of the old dinosaurs still lingering from the later Cold War in the various Intelligence branches of Japan and the JMSDF back when he first stepped into the shoes a flag rank, and the most defiant of whom had not yet all retired or died off. "So what the hell is this then?"

    "The dance of two unfortunate partners, between the strands of so many intersecting tangled webs," says the woman with almost wry, nostalgic tone. "Welcome to the real most dangerous game Admiral Goto. The point where the lines of International Intelligence and Political Conveniences intersect."

    Uninvited, she then casually sits on the edge of his desk, still ignoring the gun now all but leveled at her center-mass, while holding her hands as if weighing two options. "I find myself at the center of interesting circumstances Mr Goto. The unsaid intentions of everyone actually involved in this operation, is for me to not to complete this investigation, to keep it spinning fruitlessly until either the politcal climate changes, or the entity I am supposed to be building a case against, legally disintegrates and is succeed by something untied by the predecessor's chains."

    Looking from one hand, she then raises the other contemplatively considering the metaphorical weight.

    "Unsaid by my handlers back home however, are to also build connections and earn favor with the new government, that shall rise out of the bureaucratic corpse that has shambled on and lingered for these last few years, while sounding out who shall rise and who shall fall in the ensuing turns of fortune and favor this shall bring about. Kicking over the hornet's nest just as they plan to move into their new house, would be rather unwanted and a poor way to greet the new neighbors, wouldn't you agree?"

    Now the other hand goes up once more. "But then there is the simultaneously conflicting, unspoken suggestions from the international stage. That I am free to do and act as I please without answer to anyone, but that I must be seen delivering the ultimatums and consequences they demand, and yet I should not carry out any of what is demanded of me at all."

    "Well, that sounds like an interesting pickle you've got yourself into," says Goto with a casual interest as if it wasn't murky who exactly has who at their mercy right now.

    "Indeed it is. Which brings me to why I have come to you."

    "Oh?"

    Beneath the unnatural shadows cast by her hood, the woman makes a motion that is possibly a roll of her eyes at his sarcastically raised eyebrow. "You are decently high enough in the links of the chain, that you can pass the word on of my intended visits, without letting into the know, those I do not care to involve in this circle of already vague legalities and cloak-and-dagger gymnastics. As the commanding officer of one of the central figures involved in my investigation, it is also convenient that few would double-think or consider me poking around your base to have a secondary purpose."

    "I think you're doing a hell of a lot more than that," growls Goto, causing the woman to almost seem to shake her head fondly.

    "Oh, you wartime promotion types. You're always so direct, and wear your thoughts at the forefronts of you minds." From within the hood, for a moment, Goto thinks he sees a twinkling glint of an eye. "Even if I obviously "wasn't here", and this conversation obviously "never took place", I'd have thought it would have been obvious by now that I'm not here to begin with."

    Goto stares at her in baffled confusion as she laughs. "What? What is that supposed-"

    "Did you really think I was going to just walk into one of the buildings most heavily visited by kanmusu in all of Japan, and then wait in your office?" Even with the darkness and concealing effects of the hood, Goto can see the smirk. "I'm good, but I wouldn't be so bold as to walk into a lion's den, and then wait in the hopes that it is the right lion that finds me first."

    Still confused, but increasingly feeling like he's been had, Goto growls. "Then why get caught at all? Why go to all this effort, even if that is the firing pin for my gun, and you aren't somehow here. There are anti-apparition wards on this base, you couldn't have just popped in. You're breaking your own rules as well aren't you, doing magic in front of somebody you supposedly have no intentions of obviating, and couldn't memory-wipe anyway, even if you wanted to."

    The darkness beneath the hood shifts in amusement as the woman slides off of his desk, casually pulling out a second folder from within her cloak and placing it on his desk. "That's where you're wrong you see. Because, as far as any lay person can tell, I have performed no magic in front of you. In fact, as far as anybody has to know, I could have simply snuck my way in here via entirely mundane means." A recognizable smirk tugs at the corners of her concealed lips. "For all you know, you've been missing that firing pin since you took that power nap over two hours ago. Or.... I could be lying.... it could just be a random firing pin from an entirely different gun."

    Goto growls. "Well whether or not you really are physically on base somehow, what's your master plan for getting out? What's to stop me going to another room and raising the alarm the instant you leave this office?"

    A wryly confidant smirk plays at what little is visible beneath the unnatural shadows cast by the hood. "Oh, I plan on it."

    "What?"

    The cloaked woman laughs as she opens one of Goto's blinds, revealing the world outside his window. A world that is strangely still and quiet.

    "I am one of the best there is at what I do, even if I am a bit rusty. The ICW is so strapped for Investigators, they sent only me, when I should have at least three or four other aurors of similar or complementary skill sets and experience at my disposal, to aid in this investigation. If the nomaj military of Japan can stymie me, then what is the point of even considering committing anybody of lesser skill or similar capabilities of more efficient use elsewhere, to such a troublesome political hot-potato of an investigation, that nobody actually wants to bear fruit to begin with."

    Goto curses the baffling rat's nest of politics that is obviously by now, the driving factors behind this so called meeting. Goto hates politics. His own are bad enough, never mind the murky world of international ones the Gashadokuro has apparently gotten him involved in. "You still have to get off the base you know."

    The shadows shift into a smirk.

    "Now, this is all just theory, mind you. Utterly the realm of fantasy. But let us theorize for a moment, how useful it would be, to be able to time-lock a room for one's personal convenience." Goto's eyes widen as he glances at the unnatural stillness of the world outside his windows, and considers the still absent signs of anybody at all reacting to the silent alarm. The woman however, is not yet done talking, even as she slowly puts her gloves on the latches. "And then, there is also the fact to consider, that I hid this simulacrum in here over an hour ago."

    "Simul-what now?"

    The woman's only response, is to fling the window open, causing Goto's eyes to widen as suddenly the noises of the world outside his office return in full force.

    "STOP! DON'T-!"

    Even as he aims his pistol at the cloaked figure pitching itself head first out of his second story window, Goto knows it is too late and doesn't bother firing. Rushing to the window as he hears a dull "thud" that sounds more like something hitting the ground and crumbling rather than boots taking flight after surviving the impossible fall, a scan of the parking lot only confuses him. The only thing in sight, is a large puddle of earth and mud now splattered messily across the pavement below. At the same moment, a panicked Ooyodo then burst into the office.

    "Admiral! What happened! I just left, why did you hit the alarm!?!"

    Goto's only response is to look down and rapidly begin disassembling the drawn sidearm in his hand. Finding what he is looking for and holding it up to the light to be certain, a perfectly intact firing pin for a JMSDF issued SIG Sauer P220 stares back at him.

    "SHIT!!!"

    --------------------

    In an entirely different building, a young officer sits in front of a computer. With only the banks of countless other empty office terminals for company, the light of the moon through a nearby window occasionally earns a glance from the figure as they furiously click away and scroll through unnumbered pages of digital documents, committing everything to memory and occasionally taking photos with a camera that looks more like a relic of Kodak from the 80s, rather than a modern device.

    And then the alarms start to sound.
    Spoiler: Play in Tandem

    Immediately, there is no hesitation.

    Shoving a USB key into the computer, a variety of glitches and graphical errors begin to transpire on the desktop, even if the effects are only local and won't progress to destroying the elements of the trail left on the base server it was connected to. Sometimes the best way to cover up something, is a more immediately obvious and shoddy attempt at the comparative mundane effect.

    Walking to the window, the sleeve of the officer's shirt then ripples, changing into something looking akin to a gauntlet, with a rail on it. Out of a pocket, then comes an object looking almost like a cross between between a telescope, a sextant, and a World War Two era telescopic sight, that is then securely affixed to the rail on the gauntlet. Right forearm resting atop the left to maintain a perfect level platform, a wand of stained wood and white scale is then rigidly aimed out the open window with unhesitating skill and precision, at the first of two pre-selected targets in entirely different buildings across the base

    "Accio Fire Alarm Switch."

    Adding to the chaos of disgruntled sailors now flooding the streets from their interrupted nights at the movie theater, her second target is a motion sensor targeted with a "Depulso". Immediately, alarms begin to go off in the Base's main operations center as the sensor malfunctions from the apparent movement it detects after being jarred out of place.

    Not even bothering to watch the effects of the two carefully laid spells however, the officer is already on the move. Pausing only to unclip a gadget that looks more clockwork than electronic from the room's sole security camera, swiftly she is then out the door, scope returned to pocket, sleeve back to normal, and now a key dangling from one hand while a walkie-talkie held in the other, barks incomprehensible static and messages to her ear. The most effective infiltration she has sometimes found, is to simply look like you belong in place and have something too important to interrupt.

    No one bothers to stop a pissed off looking officer who is obviously on their way to lock down something important, especially when many people themselves are rushing around, trying to figure out from fellow members of the late night shift what is happening or carrying out their own duties required by a raised alert status.

    Arriving at an electronically locked door, she catches the eye of one of the other sailors as he waits for his turn to punch in the code under the watchful gaze of an armed guard, that is also checking everyone's security cards as they try to exit the building. For a second, the other man shakes his head, wondering if he really just saw a twinkle in the obviously harried, key-bearing officer's eyes.

    And then it is his turn at the door.

    3-5-C-9-B-0

    His code punched in, the guard then checks the man's card and nods. "You're clear."

    The sailor makes his way through the checkpoint, leaving it now the officer's turn to pass through. Instantly, the officer then taps in the code number.

    3-5-C-9-B-0

    The door makes an approving beep as the guard nods, once more satisfied with the card, not noticing the differences only the officer can see. "You're clear sir."

    Nodding with silent thanks, swift steps carry the officer into the reception, and then out the door of the building containing one of the secondary computer servers in Yokosuka.

    Marching out into the darkness, the key and it's chain disappear back into a pocket, while, after a casual glance around to make sure they are unobserved, the officer then dips out of sight behind some bushes. Stepping out into the light of the streetlamps lining the road the next block over, the youthful face is gone, replaced by one of lines and age. Shoving the last of the magical rubber and latex into a pocket that now resembles a USN NCO's uniform, the props that replace the key and walkie-talkie, are a pack of cigarettes and an unruly lighter that refuse to strike for the one held in the seadog's mouth.

    Catching sight of a electric cart piled high with disgruntled sailors driving up the road, the officer then flags them down with a raised hand and a voice that sounds like the accumulative years of shouting at seamen and chain smoking at sea, made into a salted, audible form. "Hey! Which ship are you boys headed for?"

    "The Shiloh!"

    Perfect.

    "I'll trade you guys smokes if you'll give me a fucken lift to the Benfold! And an light too, my piece of shit's broken!"

    The sailors all collectively glance at one another, before deciding it couldn't help to drop somebody off at a ship they're gonna pass on the way to their own anyway. Especially not with free smokes on offer. "Climb aboard sir!"

    Jumping onto the back of the cart between two other sailors who have to shuffle to make room for her, almost immediately, the lighters come out and the packet gets passed around, somebody even lighting up the driver so he doesn't have to take his hands off the wheel.

    "Thanks, you boys are life savers." The officer takes a long drag as he accepts the packet back.

    "Don't mention it", shouts one of the others. "Can you believe this shit?! A fucking drill at 12 in the morning. On a fucking Saturday night! And then on top of that, somebody pulls the fucking alarm at the theater because they're a whiny little bitch about having to go back to their boat!"

    As the sailors collectively voice their agreements, none think anything odd of the NCO who talks the same shit and fits in with them just like any other sailor in Uncle Sam's Navy.

    "Well, this is my stop."

    "Alright man, take care!"

    "Yeah, thanks for the smokes!"

    Dismounting and watching the cart fade away into the distance, once it is out of sight, the officer does not however, go to in the direction of the destroyer sitting in a nearby drydock. Instead, the officer turns east, passing down the streets towards the residential side of Yokosuka.


    Disappearing into the darkness once a safe distance away from the security camera filled area of the port, the person that next steps into light is an older man, no longer in naval uniform, but looking more like civilian dependent, worriedly making their way back home after noticing the increasing activity and alarms emanating from the naval side of the base.

    Civilians are always difficult, especially when there isn't a crowd. When there isn't a pre-manufactured excuse for one to be there, then there are only two options to fall back on. Fade into the scenery, or not be seen at all. Unfortunately, the latter is out, since she is specifically here to make a point.

    Glancing down at her watch, a click of a button makes the face momentarily change from it's analogue hands and roman numerals, to an image of her hand drawn and annotated map. Swiftly, she releases it and goes back to trying to become just another part of the civilian back drop of eastern Yokosuka's on base housing. Up ahead, the headlights resolve themselves into a base security vehicle, slowly rolling through the streets.

    Without any reaction, they pass by the "harmless old man' worriedly making his way home, only glancing at him long enough to realize how ancient the person in the headlights is, before dismissing him without concern.

    As soon as they are gone, the pose shifts back to that of a swift stride, one that then carries the supposed "old man" through a yard and a shortcut over a number of hedges and fences just to be safe.

    Unimpeded, the supposed geriatric then arrives at what she has been aiming for. The school complex and it's associated parking building, cutting west-to-east across almost a third of the base housing neighborhood. Compared to the security measures in the Server Building, the school will be a cake walk. An easy path unseen, all the way to the bases eastern shore, and one that she doesn't even have to break into, thanks to all of it's open spaces and greenery.

    The one downside, is the slight twinge of an old wound in the shoulder as they clamber their way up the side of the building. A reminder that age and wear have greatly worn down a once proud spryness and physical prowess from what it once used to be.

    Finally making it through the gauntlet in spite of her venerability, at last she is then faced by one of the big question marks of their exfiltration. A line of trees might obscure the walkway from view as she makes their way past the housing tower blocks facing Yokosuka's eastern waterfront, but once she gets to the south-eastern point's sporting facilities, it's a double edged sword. On the one hand, there should literally be nobody around to see her with the base under alert conditions. On the other hand, there is no reason for anybody to be out there with the base under emergency conditions. All there will be for cover, is the barbecue and picnic pavilions lining the waterfront. And unfortunately, someone has had the foresight or luck to leave all the floodlights on tonight.

    A cursory glance upwards suggests that while they have yet to take the base to full lockdown, and are likely still taking the subtle approach to things, the distant specks of kanmusu aircraft are now surreptitiously circling the sky.

    Looking back at the time on the inward facing watch at their wrist, the old man's face grimaces.

    In spite of that, she waits, scouting things out and watching the slowly orbiting pattern of aircraft. The ways the distant planes circle. The angles that could suggest which way a fairy scout is leaning to look at the ground below. The methodology of their expanding search patterns as the aircraft and the kanmusu controllers below, eliminate most of the immediately obvious avenues of southward escape, back into the town of Yokosuka proper.

    Another glance at the watch, earns another grimace.


    Nothing for it, it is time for a modification to the escape plan.

    Approaching the edge of the waterfront seawall, a disgruntled pull removes the Old man mask from her face, while the rest of her clothing returns to a flowing black shape of enchanted cloth, hiding the body armor, bandoleers and bracing hidden beneath the robes and cloak. Once more, the aged auror is revealed to the world. Feet on the precipice, she then simultaneously casts a disillusionment charm and steps forwards, turning in the same moment that gravity takes hold. Her feet just barely touch the water as she then grabs a hold of the seawall, now facing it like a rock climber hanging from a ledge.

    An all but invisible rock climber, which combined with the darkness cast by the contrast between the lit seawall above, and the shade of the ocean facing sides below, makes her all but undetectable, even to those familiar with catching out the slight errors and subtle shimmers a disillusionment charm can leave behind. With just about 430 meters she is going to have to shimmy along like this however, the veteran auror internally curses at how her shoulders and back are probably going to be feeling tomorrow.

    Cloak and dagger intrigue and backroom machinations are all well and good, but she's getting too old for this sort of physical asininity.

    Making good time, and pausing only to check her watch and to occasionally avoid risking the attention of the odd fairy plane that gets too near for her taste, it is still much to close for her comfort that she finally arrives at her destination. Letting go of the seawall's lip, she then drops down into the ankle deep waters of the breakwater jutting off Yokosuka's eastern most tip. Immensely thankful for the charms that keep her boots dry and warm as she slogs through the surf and over the slippery tetrapod beach towards her destination, at the very end of the breakwater, there is a shape waiting for her in the shadows of the concrete masses, below the shipping beacon on the very end of the man-made structure.

    Knowing she doesn't have much time left, the old auror pulls the invisibility cloak from the modified Shooting Star it conceals, swiftly mounting the broom and checking her watch one last time.

    To the second she planned it, her last distraction goes off like clockwork. From over two kilometers away, atop one of the tallest buildings in the civillian township of Yokosuka, a tiny pinprick of light flashes into being, and then streaks northward like a much more literal shooting star. Immediately, many of the planes circling the area break off in pursuit of the UFO. Idly, she wonders what the reaction will be when they realize what they just broke off to chase was a normal, if rather large, nomaj firework, with all the explosives taken out and more propellant put in, lunched via a simple fuse on a timer, from a canted over stand. Hopefully the fact that she gave it enough fuel for at least a kilometer before it burns out, should keep them distracted by it's obnoxious flashiness for the minute or two it will get to travel before lawn-darting.

    Kicking off from the ground as the beacon completes a pulse and begins to fade into darkness, the Shooting Star then streaks through the air, roaring a long at wave top height with speed and acceleration that wouldn't be out of place on one of the new Nimbus brooms. Rather than pulling up however, she maintains her almost sea grazing altitude, aiming for the nearby speck of Sarushima, and wincing every time the tips of her steel-toed boots clip a particularly high wave.

    Entering a slow banking role to get behind the island, it is only once completely concealed from view that she slows. Landing on the tourist outlook on the far side of the darkened isle, the veteran auror then finally gives a tired sigh as the effects of the exfilration begin to hit her, and the rush of the job begins to fade.

    At this age more than ever, the come down is worse than the high. She is definitely getting too old for this shit.

    Rolling her shoulders to feel out the already building kinks in her back muscles, she then pulls the kodak look-alike from her pocket.

    Thoughtfully, she considers what she has found, as a list formulates in her mind.

    1 - Develop photos and write up a preliminary report
    2 - Sleep, or Coffee+Pepper Up potion depending on how much time she has
    3 - Breakfast with Molly and her friends
    4 - Go to Tokyo
    5 - Make some heads metaphorically explode
    6 - Use the chaos to grab assignment of this new thing involving the castle and the nomajs poking around the town, by saying it's an extension of the Gashadokuro incident due to their Diet's inability to cover it up before the nomaj authorities started their own clean up, and thus part of her purview.
    7 - Also point out that everything actually ties back into what must be decades worth of yokai attacks and disappearances, thanks to this thing with the Jorogumo apparently being the origin of the whole mess.
    8 - Watch some more heads explode
    9 - Try (and most likely fail) to grab sole control over that as well
    10 - But at least the bureaucracies and politics of shooting down her request, should screw anyone else over on anything involving getting permission to snoop around the town and potentially discovering all the nomajs still there, especially since it will regardless remain her investigation scene via the Gashadokuro/Jorogumo/Castle ICW Investigation.
    11 - Politicking and skulduggery with Misters Osamu and Oshiro over a nice cup of tea
    12 - ???
    13 - Dinner with Molly and her friends
    14 - Profit

    Satisfied, the auror nods to herself.

    God, she missed this job.

    Turning in place, she then disappears with a crack of apparition.
     
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  14. Threadmarks: Omake: "Not quite as clean a getaway..." JNHRO Mary's Infiltration (noncanon)
    darthcourt10

    darthcourt10 Versed in the lewd.

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    RBomber Omake: "Not quite as clean a getaway..."

    Lord K said:
    1 - Develop photos and write up a preliminary report
    2 - Sleep, or Coffee+Pepper Up potion depending on how much time she has
    3 - Breakfast with Molly and her friends
    4 - Go to Tokyo
    5 - Make some heads metaphorically explode
    6 - Use the chaos to grab assignment of this new thing involving the castle and the nomajs poking around the town, by saying it's an extension of the Gashadokuro incident due to their Diet's inability to cover it up before the nomaj authorities started their own clean up, and thus part of her purview.
    7 - Also point out that everything actually ties back into what must be decades worth of yokai attacks and disappearances, thanks to this thing with the Jorogumo apparently being the origin of the whole mess.
    8 - Watch some more heads explode
    9 - Try (and most likely fail) to grab sole control over that as well
    10 - But at least the bureaucracies and politics of shooting down her request, should screw anyone else over on anything involving getting permission to snoop around the town and potentially discovering all the nomajs still there, especially since it will regardless remain her investigation scene via the Gashadokuro/Jorogumo/Castle ICW Investigation.
    11 - Politicking and skulduggery with Misters Osamu and Oshiro over a nice cup of tea
    12 - ???
    13 - Dinner with Molly and her friends
    14 - Profit
    *-*-*-*-*-*

    Mrs. Maleficus felt quite a twitch in her hand and her eyelids, and suppresing an urge to just do something drastic with her wand. Which, probably won't work, what's with currently a manifestation of 32300 T of Japanese Steelwork and an Abyssal Instalation and her coteries now providing majority of the food now provided on the table. And both of them had been nothing of unflailingly polite and genuinely grateful for her daughter help.

    Of course, Nagato also send her Admiral regards and his regret that he can't come along because of 'accident with firearms and alarm'. The worst is that Nagato seems to genuinely... genuine in her concern and attitude.

    ****

    "Wow, Mary-san. You look... terrible."

    "Well, you know, hard day."

    Indeed, Mrs. Maleficus did look rough and terrible. While her clothes was still looks immaculate, her eyes were another thing.

    "Well, you know, dealing with self-serving idiots and all."

    "So, about works-"

    "Please don't remind me of that- Oh."

    Her bag spilled open, some notebooks and purse and cosmetics spilled through. The two gentleman moved to help her.

    But not before saw that one of the notebook, opened, had written warning on it.

    'Being followed. Can't shake. No magic talk.'

    The two man helped the foreign woman picking up her belonging. Then they continue their conversation about Molly and two man's family. Nothing was unusual. At all.

    400 m from there, in a cafe with wifi connection and great moccachinno, a young, blond, short girl with glasses was busy with her tablet and a glass of cafe speciality. Except that the girl was a beauty, nothing was not normal.

    Nothing at all.

    ****

    Mary Maleficus was beat. Today had been very, very stressing day. She almost consider to cancel her schedule with Molly, but... family.

    She almost regretted her decision.

    In the dining hall, four guest had embedded themselves into festivities. Four very annoying guest.

    Annoying only for her, of course. Nobody with their right mind would refuse Kongou Sisters from your festivities.

    At least the tea was good, and her fortune cookies-

    'Thank you for pointing all our weakness and defense. And for identifying and confirming the other administration.'

    Oh Merlin bollocked d****


    -+-+-+-+-+-+-

    Darthcourt Note

    This marks the end of Spacebattles Thread ONE
     
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  15. Threadmarks: Ono family Visit
    darthcourt10

    darthcourt10 Versed in the lewd.

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    Harry Leferts

    And here we go, the first post of a new thread:

    Previous Thread

    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    Slowly waking up as the sun began to stream into the room, the first thing that came to Harry's consciousness was the familiar, and comforting sound, of boilers. The second thing that came to his awareness was the softness under his head as well as something snuggled into him. Cracking open one eye, sure enough, the wizard could see Natsumi cuddled into his chest while the two of them laid on top of Louisiana. In particular, their heads were on the Battleship's chest.

    Which also, much to Harry's embarrassment, explained what the "Soft pillow" under his head was.

    Now, that was not to say that part of him did not enjoy that fact. Nor did that part also not enjoy the warmth surrounding him from the arms of the shipgirl and the now thirteen year old Kitsune pressed into him with her tails wrapped around him. But the rest of him? The rest of him was cursing that part, puberty, and his own body.

    A glance around did show Harry that the rest of the teens from the party were in various states of sleep. Off in one corner, Shiromizu in her snake form was curled up on top of Rika. Harry could also see Ayaka who was on her back having kicked off her blankets sometime during the night. More then that, the Inugami had her hands just above her chest and was kicking out with one foot every once in a while. Needless to say, the black haired boy had to hold back a snicker at that.

    For several minutes Harry laid there just enjoying what was going on. Being nice and warm in Louisiana's embrace along with Natsumi just felt nice. Eventually he did try to get up though, key word being try. Mainly because as soon as he made a motion, Natsumi's tails tightened as she muttered. "Go back to sleep."

    Eyebrow raised, Harry looked down at her before speaking in a soft whisper. "Natsumi-Chan? I got to get up..."

    In reply to that, Natsumi gave a very canine snort before her hold became closer. Needless to say, that did not do Harry any favors in regards to one problem. "No, it's too early. Now go..." Pausing, she opened one eye and blinked it. Then the kitsune closed it and shoved her face into the crook of Harry's neck and mumbled. "Don't care, go back to sleep."

    Before, Harry was blushing, but now the poor boy felt like his face was about to combust. "Um..."

    Natsumi only gave a low growl. "I don't care, go back to sleep. It's too early." Knowing that he was about to say something, she sighed. "Harry-Chan, please. I'm thirteen and you're almost the same age and we're both got our sleeping clothes on. I really do not care as this is too nice and this isn't an anime so don't expect me to give you a punch over something like that." Internally though, she groaned. 'Especially as I hate puberty as well.'

    Only sighing, Harry blinked and laid there before his eyes caught sight of Natsumi's ears. He brought up one hand and paused. "Natsumi-Chan...?"

    Softly chuckling, she nuzzled a bit. "Go ahead, as long as you go back to sleep." Moments later, she relaxed as she felt the soft scratches behind her ear. If it was anyone else, Natsumi likely would have punched them. But for Harry? She would definitely make an exception. 'Now this is nice...'

    Eventually for Harry he did manage to get up and left a grumbling Natsumi in the embrace of Louisiana. Granted, he did raise an eyebrow at the small curl of the shipgirl's lips. Something that made him suspicious that she was actually awake like he was and likely just enjoying things. Heading into the bathroom, the nearly thirteen year old got his business done and then made his way downstairs in his usual clothes only to blink at the sight that met him. "Haru-San? Sakuya-San? Good morning?" Glancing at the clock only made him blink. "What are you doing up?"

    Glancing over at him, Sakuya gave a small smile and a nod of the head though there was a twinkle. "I could ask much the same of you, Harry-San. Also, a good morning to you as well."

    Just shrugging, Harry moved over to the fridge and looked inside. "I've always been an early riser. Ever since I was young because I had to get up early."

    If he had looked over, he would have seen an odd look on the elder Kitsune's of confusion mixed in with the idea that she would not like to know the full reason. Beside her, Haru looked like she had bitten into something sour before she hid it. Clearing her throat, Sakuya shook her head. "I... see. Well, in regards to being up early, Haru-Chan and myself have a meeting later with some people here at the shrine. So we thought it best to talk over our plans before it happens."

    Nodding, Harry frowned somewhat as that did make sense to him. "Huh... Must be important then I guess." With a shake of his head, he turned to Haru with a small frown. "Um, Haru-San? May I use your kitchen?"

    Lips twitching, Haru gestured at the kitchen in front of them. "Go ahead, Harry-Chan. Onee-San and myself are a bit too busy to be making breakfast and I am sure that whatever you make will be more than good enough. Help yourself as long as we get something."

    A grin on his face, Harry gave her a thumbs up. "Harry will do his best, Dess!" Ignoring the confused expression on Sakuya's face, he quickly went through the cupboards and hummed some. "Let's see... you wouldn't happen to have any fresh fruit-no, wait, you got some preserves! Yes!"

    Rather amused, Haru watched as Harry rapidly set up whatever he was doing in the kitchen before taking a sip of tea. Leaning her chin against her hand, she hummed some. "And what culinary masterpiece shall we have for breakfast this morning?"

    With a glance over his shoulder, Harry gave her a smile. "How does some turnovers sound?"

    Eyebrows raising, Haru gave a nod at that. "Hmm, I would say that sounds very good. Icing as well?"

    Harry snorted softly at that. "Of course, that's the easy part." Glancing at the fridge, he became thoughtful. "You wouldn't happen to have any cream cheese, would you? Because I could use that as well."

    It wasn't Haru but Sakuya who answered his question. "As a matter of fact, yes." Seeing him look at her, she continued. "We picked some up at the American commissary here on the base before arriving as Kensuke learned to like it on a trip he took to the United States back in the 1980s. He prefers it on bagels though and we haven't picked any up."

    Giving a nod at that, Harry went and looked before he found it. "Okay, that helps out a lot. Now to get the rest ready..."

    Simply watching him as he dug around in the cupboard, Sakuya glanced at her sister. Both five tailed Kitsune had a silent conversation with each other before the elder turned back to Harry. "If I may ask a question of you, Harry-San?" Getting a hum to continue, she did so. "You seem to be quite good at cooking and enjoy it. I have to admit, that is one skill that is very good in a potential husband." Ignoring the look from Haru, Sakuya continued on. "How long have you been cooking and baking?"

    Not paying too much attention, Harry gave a shrug as he began to take down ingredients. "I've been doing it since I was four years old actually."

    Eyebrows furrowing, Sakuya frowned at that. While she had let her own children help with preparation when they were that age, she did not let them anywhere near the actual cooking. "Do you mean preparing the food? Or the actual..."

    Humming, Harry took down some vanilla extract. "Actual cooking. I..." Briefly he paused, something that the Kitsune noticed. "I learned it at my aunt and uncle's."

    That made her blink though she noticed Haru wince out of the corner of her eye. "I was unaware that you had an Oba-San and Oji-San, Harry-San. Did they..."

    Much to her confusion, Harry shook his head. "No, last I heard they're still alive. Though that was years ago... My Aunt Petunia at the time told me that I was to earn my keep through chores and such. After all, they were spending hard earned money on me and putting a roof over my head..." His voice dropping to a whisper, the black haired boy sighed. "Not that they spent much on me... and only my cupboard was my shelter."

    Needless to say, Sakuya froze at that. 'Did he just say...'

    Before Sakuya could ask, Harry shrugged. "When Mum brought me here though, she only let me cook in the kitchens under supervision even though I wanted to help out whatever way I could. But she said that I was too young to be doing all the cleaning, laundry, and other things like my Aunt Petunia would have me do. Besides..." Looking over his shoulder, he gave her a happy smile. "I enjoy cooking and baking since I came here, especially as everyone is always enjoying it and thanking me."

    Eyebrow twitching, Sakuya took a deep breath before letting it out. As a kitsune, what she just heard and what was hinted at gave her the itch to bring down some retribution of the kind that her form of Yokai was famous for. But as a mother though? It absolutely enraged her and she had to hold back the urge for her form to shift into a more bestial state as suddenly everything clicked into place. No, her and Haru were going to have a nice, long chat at some point in the near future. Oh yes, they certainly were going to do so.

    However, before Harry could notice the mask she perfected over centuries slipped over her face to hide her own turmoil. One that she had forged due to the politics among Kitsune and Yokai. It even hid how her own heart was breaking at what was going through her mind. "So you learned how to cook and bake other items as well? From what Haru-Chan has told me, there has been quite the mixture of cuisine here."

    Chuckling, Harry nodded at that. "Hai, I've learned all sorts of recipes actually. Including Japanese ones from Houshou-Oba and Mamiya-Oba. Yamato-Oba also taught me a lot." Gently, he spooned some of the preserves onto what was going to become a turnover. "To be honest, it was fun learning it."

    As Harry went about making breakfast, Sakuya continued her chat with the nearly thirteen year old boy. Unknown to him, it was so that she could get a much better picture of the boy that her daughter cared so deeply for. While they did so, her lips curled upwards into a real smile. Roughly forty minutes later, a still sleeping Natsumi walked in and blinked at her mother giving her a smirk. A glance at the clock made her frown some. 'Wonder what she's happy about?'

    Then she shrugged and walked over to Harry before hugging him from behind and wrapping her tails around him.

    Unseen by her, Sakuya raised an eyebrow at that as such an action was considered rather intimate among Kitsune. Then the eyebrow raised even further as Harry turned his head and gave her a kiss on the cheek. "About time you got up, Natsumi-Chan. Anyways, your tea is about ready."

    Glancing at where her small teapot gently steamed, Natsumi took a deep breath and let it out before kissing Harry on the cheek. "Thanks, Harry-Chan. That and some pastries are just what I need to wake up this early in the morning."

    Happily sighing as her tails gave him a squeeze along with her arms, she laid her head against his back. Natsumi would be lying if she did not say that now she could be openly herself that doing this was not rapidly becoming one of her favorite things to do. It was to this sight that Ayaka walked in and froze at. Behind her, Natsumi's other childhood friends also found their eyebrows raising until Harry nodded towards the table where Haru was eating one of the warm turnovers with gusto. "There's plenty for everyone."

    With his stomach giving a rumble, Kaku nodded and wandered over. "Okay, that actually sounds good. I'm famished right now."

    Several minutes later found them all at the table when the rest of Natsumi's family arrived from their own slumber. Harry gently smiled down at Asuka and Rei as the two hyper young Kitsune practically danced around him. Giving them each a plate with a pastry, the wizard chuckled as they began to chomp the sweet pastry while their mother scolded them for not sitting down first. Bringing over two mugs, Harry handed one of them to Natsumi who took it gratefully. "Here you go, Natsumi-Chan. Just as you like it."

    A sigh escaped from her as she gave a sip of the tea that was in it. "Thank you, Harry-Chan. Just what I need to fully wake up."

    Blinking, Usagi leaned over and furrowed her eyebrows at seeing what Natsumi was drinking. "What's that, Natsumi-Chan?"

    Natsumi glanced at her before taking another sip. "It's something called English Breakfast Tea. It's pretty nice with some honey instead of normal sugar."

    There was a frown on Ayaka's face as she turned to her rival. "English Breakfast Tea?"

    Humming, Natsumi grabbed a turnover and bit into it with a sigh. "Hai, Harry-Chan introduced it to me with Rose-San. It's a blend of black teas which helps to wake me up in the mornings." On her face was a playful glare that she shot at Harry. "I've really grown to like it."

    Meanwhile, all Harry did was chuckle as all of them crowded around the table. Before breakfast was done though, they all got a visitor in the form of an snowy owl with a letter clutched in her talons. The sight of which made Rei and Asuka giggle. "Hedwig-San!"

    Oddly, everyone got the feeling that Hedwig was extremely pleased with the reactions that she got before she alighted on a perch in the corner of the room specifically set aside for her. The snowy owl waited as Harry finished his food and walked over. Curious, the black haired boy took the letter and looked it over. "I wonder who..."

    His eyebrows then shot up and he opened it and read. Watching as Harry's eyes grew wider and he got a grin, Kensuke sipped his own coffee. "Hmm? Something good, Harry-San?"

    Nodding, he handed the letter to Haru, the Kitsune wiping her hands before taking it. "It's from Travelling Spaces in Diurn Alley, about the owl boxes. Apparently they got a number that would fit what you asked me about."

    Interested, Haru scanned the letter and slowly chuckled while Sakuya raised an eyebrow. "An... owl box? What would be so interesting about an owl box?"

    Still reading, Haru was nodding as she answered. "Actually, the full term is vanishing owl boxes. The owl steps or flies inside to land with whatever it is carrying and the door closes. Then a distance away, a door on an identical box opens and the owl comes out. There's a larger version that can be used for people, but that is more complicated and takes more time to make. It can even cross international distances though the ones that I had Harry ask about to make an order only go national distances." Getting silence, the Miko looked up to see her sister giving her an even look. "Um..."

    Eyebrow raising, Sakuya gave her sister a look. "Interesting, Haru-Chan. And when were you going to inform myself or our parents in regards to this?"

    Glancing around, Haru coughed. "Well, I only asked Harry-Chan to look into it a few days ago. And he's been using it to send mail to those of us here..." At seeing the eyebrow inch upwards slightly, she pointed at her niece. "Natsumi-Chan kept distracting me every time that I was thinking about how to inform you and Haha-ue and Chichi-ue. What with her asking for training all the time, though she knew about it too and used it all the time to talk with Harry."

    For a moment, Natsumi blinked before she sputtered a bit and pointed at an unrepentant Haru. "What the heck, Oba-Chan! Way to throw me under the bus!"

    Kensuke meanwhile pinched his nose as he tried to ignore the sheepish Haru. "Despite that, this is rather interesting. Even short distances would make it extremely useful for the Clans as well as any of our contacts. And you say that a family in Britain makes these? And a bigger version?"

    With a look towards Natsumi, Harry gave a nod. "Um, yes? Right now they got some backlog though that they need to deal with first. But they went looking and found a number of the National ones in storage. Apparently they were ordered by some old wizard who thought that the Ministry was listening in on conversations being done on the Floo network. He was going to send them to a bunch of people but, um... then Blood Week happened and he sort of, well, died. So they just have them laying around and are willing to part with them. Haru-San thought that we could give them to the J.N.H.R.O. as a gift. "

    Her finger tapping against the table, Sakuya looked at the letter and scanned it. "Somewhat expensive... But from what you just told me and what I am reading here, it is worth every bit for the six pairs listed. Especially with how they can be used to get items through without anyone being the wiser. I can see why you would think that they would make for a very nice gift to the J.N.H.R.O., Haru-Chan. Though I think that I will inform the other Clans of this and we may place our own orders through you, Harry-San."

    Just shrugging, Haru shook her head. "I didn't really expect for them to have any on hand to be honest. As a matter of fact, I expected that it would be weeks or months before we could get them. Perhaps the Kami are smiling down on us."

    Slowly, Sakuya nodded even as she smiled. "You may be right... Harry-San? Once we're ready for the day, would you and Natsumi-Chan mind heading over and telling them that we are willing to pay for them? Any cost that you may incur will, of course, be fully recompense you for. And if you are able to get them today, please let me know and bring them to us."

    All Harry did was nod and give her a grin. "Sure thing! I just need to check with Mum about some stuff and Natsumi and I can head over and see if they can." He gave a glance at the table. "Once we clean the dishes and such."

    Chuckling, Haru got up with a look to her sister. "Very well, now if you excuse us, Onee-San and myself need to get ready."

    Of course, when leaving the Shrine at a run, Harry nearly ran into a Tengu, but thankfully she dodged. Apologizing, he pulled Natsumi along even as she stared in shock.
     
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  16. Threadmarks: Ron and Warspite 15: Ron and Duke part 3.
    darthcourt10

    darthcourt10 Versed in the lewd.

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    RCNAnon

    Hello all, looks like its time to inaugurate the thread with an omake. This is the last snip in the Ron and Duke series. Not that she's going away by any means but the focus will be headed in other directions for a while after all of this. Hope you enjoy.

    Ron and Warspite 15: Ron and Duke part 3.

    -------------

    Duke woke slowly, her head somewhat sore from the prior night. She spent several minutes pondering opening her eyes before she decided that it wasn’t that bad and as a battleship of her Majesty's Royal Navy she had to take responsibility for her actions. As she cracked her eyes open she was proven right, the light reaching her eyes no worse than normal and the pain in her head remaining the same.

    The pain in her head soon became one of the last things on her mind as she woke to find Ron’s head on her breast. Ron was also awake and looking at her with what would best be described as a fond smile. She found herself without words due both to her recollections of the prior night and the fact that Ron was laying on her without a care in the world… and she didn’t mind. They lay like that for nearly a minute before Ron broke the silence.

    “How are you feeling?” he asked, the sideways position of his head as he looked up at her meaning she felt the movement of his jaw.

    “...A little bit of a headache,” she admitted to him, “Otherwise I feel fine.”

    He smiled at her statement.

    “That’s good, I was worried you might be a little bit worse off from the party.”

    “I’m a battleship, one little bottle of whiskey isn’t going to stop me.”

    Ron laughed at that and then pulled his head up off of her breast as he sat up, leaving a brief cold spot on her chest. She considered pulling him back but it was morning and she’d been bold enough for a week with what happened last night. She waited until Ron had stood from the bed to sit up slowly herself, a hand going back to her forehead as her headache reminded her that she wasn’t fully escaping her prior decisions.

    Ron sat back down beside her, a cup of water he’d gotten from somewhere pressing into her hand.

    “Thanks you,” she said before lifting the cup to her mouth. The water was cool and clear, perfect for an early morning headache. As she lowered the cup she found that Ron was again staring at her in a manner which she found… different than what she’d come to expect. He wasn’t just looking at her but he was also thinking about something.

    “Anything I can help you with?” she asked as a playful smile made its way briefly to her lips.

    Ron smiled again as well and looked down briefly before meeting her eyes.

    “Do you like me Duke?” he asked her, “As more than a friend?”

    Duke found herself stunned by the question, not having expected something like that from Ron so early in the morning. Her mind raced, spitting out half a dozen denials and excuses that were discarded even more quickly than they were created. It wasn’t until she managed to blink and see that Ron was still smiling at her that her mind thought to answer the question correctly.
    “Yes,” she said, “I like you as more than just a friend Ron.”

    He smiled wider at that, the brightness of it making her relax.

    “I thought so,” he said, giving her hand a squeeze, “Since you asked for a kiss last night.”

    “I did, didn’t I,” she said softly. She hadn’t meant to push so far but she didn’t find herself minding at the moment.

    “You did.” There was a pause before he spoke again. “I like you too Duke. As more than just a friend.”

    Duke felt her boilers kick start from almost cold to full pressure, her face lighting up. She really shouldn’t be so embarrassed by such a thing but she couldn’t help it. It wasn’t helped when Ron leaned over and planted a light smooch on her cheek, causing her to blush even more.

    “Does Warspsite know?” he asked her, the slight bit of concern in his eyes enough to let her know that he was serious about the question.

    “Yes,” she managed, “She was the one who encouraged me to come and see you.”

    Ron manage a small grin at that and shook his head.

    “Well everything makes a lot more sense then.”

    “What makes more sense?”

    “I… I was a bit confused about my feeling for you before this,” Ron admitted, “So I wrote Warspite. She didn’t exactly have a font of wisdom for me, she just told me to act as I wanted towards you. It didn’t really make sense at the time but now it does.”

    Duke felt a warmth in her chest as Ron mentioned that he’d had feelings before now, the conversation proving both enlightening and filling her with even more emotion.

    “She can be like that sometimes when she’s planning.”

    Ron let out a laugh of that.

    “Yeah, she can be pretty sneaky when she wants to be.”

    Duke smiled, squeezing Ron’s hand.

    “I suppose since she set this up then she won’t be upset by anything we tell her.”

    “I don’t think so,” said Duke, “She knew how I felt about you when she was telling me to come.”

    “Good,” said Ron, “Then she won’t mind this either.”

    Duke was about to ask what Ron meant, when his hand suddenly cupped her cheek and he turned towards her. She was surprised enough that she didn’t react at first but after her wits collected themselves she found herself responding to the kiss. Several seconds later it broke off and she found herself flushed again.

    “Ron you… you...” she said, then noticed that he was quite flushed too.

    “I am a guy going through puberty you know,” he said, though he was clearly a bit startled at his own boldness.

    “I… I suppose you are,” she said.

    “And you’re… really beautiful and last night… so...”

    Duke felt herself flush, then leaned down to give him a kiss on the forehead, which she could feel was burning up.

    “I understand Ron and thank you for the complement.”

    After the burst of affection and understanding they both pulled away for a few moments to allow emotions to calm and things to settle. Duke took a sip of water, draining the cup as Ron suddenly let go of her hand.

    “Oh, I almost forgot. We should get ready and go eat breakfast.”

    “What for?” Duke asked, wondering at Ron’s sudden change in mood.

    He grinned at her.

    “You’ll see,” he said, “It’s not something I can really describe.”

    Duke frowned, more confused than anything but complying with Ron’s wishes. She wondered what could possibly provoke such a reaction after what they’d just done.

    /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

    Unicorns.

    Duke still couldn’t quite believe her eyes as she stood next to Ron and gazed at the majestic creatures from the edge of the meadow. Ron had continued to be secretive throughout all of breakfast and during their journey to the forest, thoroughly enjoying the secret just like she was sure Warspite would have. She could see now though why he’d done it, she still didn’t quite have the words to describe them.

    “I… they’re amazing,” she said in hushed tones, not willing to break the softness that seemed to surround the meadow even with all of Harry’s visiting friends along the edge as well.

    “Yeah,” said Ron in equally hushed tones, “I’ve seen them a few times now myself and it’s the same every time.”

    Duke couldn’t disagree with Ron’s statement, she didn’t think any number of times seeing Unicorns would dull the quiet splendor that seemed to come with their every move. She took a few steps forward, not daring to get too close to them like some of the other girls were doing but still allowing herself to see them closer. It wasn’t until she was about halfway across the distance that separated them that she realized she’d gone further than she’d thought.

    Glancing down to her side she saw Ron with her, the boy giving her an encouraging smile. She smiled back in return, looking up to see one of the larger Unicorn’s looking at her. There was wisdom in its eyes, a sort of ageless wisdom that only truly magical creatures would ever have and she felt her breath catch.

    It tilted its head at her, as if asking why she was nervous and she took a few more steps, the Unicorn doing the same until only a few feet separated them. Duke found herself thinking that she was being judged by the Unicorn and indeed she may have been, seconds passing before the mighty creature gave a snort and shook its head at her. It was only then that she dared to raise her hand out, pressing it against the warm white nose.

    The warm breath from its nostrils washed over her hand, a sense of peace filling her despite everything that was currently going on in her life. There was nothing wrong, nothing that could not be settled and she was not a bad person for her feelings. At least that’s what the Unicorn seemed to say to her. At least that’s what she felt from its aura around her. Nothing so pure would let so bad a person as she occasionally thought herself touch it.

    “Thank you,” she whispered, moving her hand to scratch the expressive white ears.

    The Unicorn flicked them once and bobbed its head like it understood her words before turning and heading back to its herd mates. Duke watched it go, no desire to follow filling her. She was at peace and there was no need to go. The other girls could care for them, it was not her place for the moment. She wasn’t unworthy by any means… it just wasn’t time.

    Instead she turned back to see Ron several steps behind her, smiling.

    “You look happy,” he said as she walked back towards him.

    “I am,” she said, taking his hand as they both headed to the edge of the clearing, “Some things fell into place.”

    “Good,” he said as they reached an outcropping of rock where Duke took a seat.

    Duke reached up and pulled Ron into her lap, the boy following easily. The two of them settled in together, Duke’s legs wrapping around Ron’s as he leaned up against her.

    Duke rested her head against Ron’s as he settled against her shoulder, the pair watching as the others tended to the Unicorns. The joy on some of their faces, especially the brown haired torpedo cruiser brought a smile to Duke’s face and warmth to her heart as she shared the moments with Ron.

    /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

    Ron sat off to the side in Gryffindor’s common room, light chatter the only accompaniment to the scratching of his quill. Duke was coming back from Hogsmeade soon, she’d been gone a couple hours at this point and even with the other girls it wouldn’t be too much longer before they all returned. It wouldn’t do to rush, not with what he was sketching out but he still hoped to finish before she got back. It’d be a nice surprise.

    It seemed that luck wasn’t on his side as the portrait opened up and several ship girls including Duke came through, arms filled with bags of things they’d purchased from town. Glancing down at his sketch Ron realized he couldn’t finish before Duke saw him so he waved at her from where he was. She smiled and nodded to him since both of her arms were full of bags she’d picked up.

    “Looks like you enjoyed your trip,” he said as she sat her bags on the table he was at.

    “I did,” she said with a smile, “It was enjoyable to speak with the others and the shops were just as amazing as you said they would be.”

    “I’ve never been myself,” he admitted, “But everyone knows that the sweets are top notch.”

    Duke seemed to blush at that and Ron noticed that three of the four bags she had were from Honeydukes.

    “I see you found that out for yourself,” he said with a grin.

    “I did,” said Duke with a little cough Ron interpreted as her not wanting to talk about it further. He let the matter drop and there was silence before Duke noticed the parchment in front of him.

    “What are you working on?” she asked, leaning closer.

    “Well… why don’t you tell me?” he asked, sliding the parchment to her.

    “Its…” Duke started, her eyes focused on the ink that was still drying in places. She remained quiet for a few more seconds before she suddenly gasped.

    “Ron, you… you… you didn’t!” she said, her face flushed.

    “Not yet,” he said, taking the parchment back from her, “I’ve got a bit more to finish.”

    “You… how much do you have?”

    “Just watch,” he said, hand going back to his quill.

    It was different, sketching with someone watching but it only made him want to do even better. Minutes went by, ten, twenty and then thirty. Every mark was made from memory, his only concession a straight rule to make sure his lines were perfect. Duke was nearby but she wasn’t hovering, instead sitting and watching as he worked.

    Finally he finished, quill pulling away from the parchment as his memory ran out of concrete details. He wanted to do more but he wasn’t going to scrimp on the quality given what it meant.

    As he put his quill away Ron scooted the parchment to Duke again.

    “It’s for you,” he said, “I… I’m not good enough yet but I promise I will be.”

    Duke took the parchment with careful hands and picked up sketch, her breath catching in her throat. She didn’t speak for nearly thirty seconds, her eyes moving back and forth near constantly.

    “I know,” she finally said, setting it down on the table to envelop Ron in a tight hug, “I know you will be.”

    Ron didn’t say anything as he wrapped his hands around Duke in return, the feeling of her body nothing next to the rush of emotion that went through him. Duke might be leaving soon but neither of them was about to let the other out of their thoughts ever again.

    /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

    Hours and one unpleasant return trip later, Duke sat in front of Warspite with a pot of tea between them. Duke had managed to keep quiet until they’d settled in but that had only made Warspite smile even more.

    “So,” Warspite said, “I can see by your face that it went well but I want to know everything.”

    “Everything might take a while,” said Duke, reaching into one of her bags, “But here’s a summary. Ron said you’d understand what it meant.”

    Warspite frowned briefly as Duke handed her a piece of parchment but her eyes went wide as she flipped it over. On the parchment was a yard quality diagram of a quad turret, front side and rear as well what appeared to be a good chunk of the internals.

    Her smile returned from its brief, shocked absence even wider than before and her eyes locked with Dukes.

    “Things went very well didn’t they.”

    “Yes, yes they did.”

    “Start from the beginning.”

    “Well if we’re going from when we met up...”

    By the time that Duke was finished talking her throat was somewhat sore and Warspite was beaming from ear to ear.
     
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  17. Threadmarks: JNHRO Happy day
    darthcourt10

    darthcourt10 Versed in the lewd.

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    Lord K

    A.N./ I dunno why, but it felt fitting to do something short and calm for the first J.N.H.R.O. snippet in the new thread.



    Stepping out onto the deck and starring out across the waters south of Zuchi, Ai allows a smile to cross her face. Feeling the presence of Kiba beside her, she then glances at the okuri-inu, seeing him giving her a curious look in the soft light morning light of the growing sunrise.

    "You look particularly happy today? What's up?"

    The kotengu can't help but smile and look around, not entirely sure why herself, as she takes in the various activities transpiring around them.

    At a nearby table, Asuka watches with fascinated interest as a pair of burly bikers open up a seized motorcycle engine to try and diagnose a problem. Despite being the meanest and piggiest looking of Jin's lieutenants respectively, instead the oni and pig quietly nurture the young daitengu's interest, patiently explaining the various mechanical mysteries and marvels that make the engine function like a pair of gruff but fond uncles, as they progress through the repeatedly interrupted teardown.

    The Mizuchi herself, is inside the main living room of the beach house, having recently stolen a white board from the office, and having spent much of the last hour deep in thought and scribbling on it, as best she can with her dominant hand in a cast.
    Spoiler: Jin's Whiteboard
    [​IMG]

    Elsewhere in the open plan house, Kogamaru, Tokutomi and Osamu are all crowded around the breakfast counter in the kitchen, deeply enraptured in some sort of discussion about recent, positive events in the political snake pits of the Diet.

    At the other end of the counter is Gosetsu and Sarutobi, the property developer's tail swishing with obvious energy as he talks on the phone and scribbles furiously on a corner of his newspaper, while the investment risk assessor looks at a map, no doubt the two of them taking down notes related to whatever plans are slowly developing for the village in the mountains.

    Clustered around a different map of their own, Kensuke and the Scubaru team have ended taking over the entirety of the dinning room table, dragging in a number of other people to also help them fact check and brainstorm after covering it with maps, spellbooks, and scrolls. Together, they now tackle the issues, and plot out the logistics of not just how to pick up and transport the Owl Boxes offered by the Clans at yesterday's meeting, but then how the hell they are going to smuggle them into the Reserves, on top of how to use them without garnering too much notice.

    Exiled from her normal operating space due to these ongoing events, Tsukino has ended up scattering her legal texts and lawyer work across the lounge coffee table. Rather than stressfully knuckling down however, the Koji is laughing, taking a moment to simply set aside the job, and enjoying a hearty moment of humor, trading jokes back and forth with Suigetsu on the other end of the line.

    Having lost the coffee table, but still managing to claim the couch for themselves, Junko and Ban take a quiet moment to relax, forgetting their jobs and J.N.H.R.O. duties for the moment to watch some mindless muggle movie on a streaming service Kiba has hooked up to the tv. Much to the amusement of some of the others watching the two humans, the half-blood witch occasionally has to keep on explaining certain things to the pureblood, not because of any lack of knowledge of the muggle world, but instead an unfamiliarity with american cinematic cliches.

    Having tired of the braincell killing, sappy action-romance movie, and seeking to take in the morning tranquility brought about from the sunrise, Chisuheri left the lounge earlier, and is instead now outside, down on the beach. Seated in padmasana atop one of the broken piles, the daisho-set tsukumogami holds a perfect lotus pose, mediating while the waves lap gently at the base of the pillar around her.

    Opposite the Buddhist tsukumogami, Tomokako rather counter intuitively leaps from pile to pile with tail-aided gymnastics, striking poses and occasionally making kung-fu noises.

    Looking back to Kiba at last, all Ai can do is shake her head with a softly contented smile and a chuckle.

    "I do not know myself, but.... it just feels fitting. There is something new today. Something different. I feel like..... like with this daybreak, there is also some new dawn that we are finally looking upon."
     
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  18. Threadmarks: Abyssina 17 - Demonstration
    darthcourt10

    darthcourt10 Versed in the lewd.

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    Snippet 1: S0ngD0g13

    Canut checked the edge on her axe and touched it up with a whetstone before putting the leather cover back over the axe-head. She laid the weapon aside and closed her eyes, calming the ever-present well of rage that all Abyssals bore to one degree or another, though 'calming' was a relative term. Most Abyssals of her generation let their fury burn like a wildfire, fierce and destructive, consuming all in its path. Like a wildfire, such rage was a staggering sight to behold, but a wildfire is still wild, uncontrolled and if allowed to be so for too long, uncontrollable.

    Canut's rage was not a wildfire, no; she had long-since learned to control her anger and channel it to a purpose like the flames of a forge. A forge-fire was no less hot than a wildfire, but one could create with a forge, where a wildfire could only destroy.

    It was forging that was her purpose today, forging her Princess' fleet into sharper fighters than they already were...

    Canut picked her Dane-axe up again and walked out to the training-area where her first class awaited.

    .....................................................

    The Abyssals of Gateway's fleet watched the black-cloaked, mail-clad Battleship Demon walk out in front of them, the butt of the long-handled axe she bore tapping on the stones like a walking-stick. "My name is Canut; before I swore allegiance to our Princess I sailed with the Northern War Demon. The Princess says I am to teach you how to fight with blades, and how to fight hand-to-hand." Her gaze swept over the Abyssals flatly and saw the Princess watching from a distance.

    The group of would-be pupils were grumbling quietly among themselves about the seeming-futility of learning hand-to-hand, and how it wasn't smart to bring a knife to a gunfight. Canut spoke one word, her quiet voice cracking across the other Abyssals like a whip.

    "Silence." When all eyes were back on her and all tongues had ceased wagging, she continued. "If you believe my teachings are worthless, by all means, demonstrate their worthlessness. Face me and show me how best to fight. To submission," she clarified, "as I would rather not kill comrades today."

    A tall, strong Heavy Cruiser stepped forward with a sneer. "Your axe can't bite if you can't get close!" Her guns came up to target Canut, but Canut wasn't there.

    The Battleship Demon rushed forward, reversing her axe, and said, "And if I do get close?" The Dane-Axe 'Sea-Wolf' rose in a blur and the blunt poll of the axe-head crashed into the Cruiser-Abyssal's chin, lifting her off her feet and knocking her senseless. She was quickly dragged off the field by two of her sisters.

    Canut looked at the others. "Are there any others?"

    "I'll fight you," said another Heavy Cruiser, stepping forward.

    "And so will I," snarled a second.

    Canut grounded her axe and stepped away from it. "At your pleasure, Ladies." They spread out and advanced, trying to pincer Canut, but Canut knew how to counter such an attack. Canut lunged toward one Cruiser (who she mentally dubbed 'Freki') and as the other (mentally dubbed 'Geri') moved to take advantage Canut whirled back from her feint and attacked the now over-extended Geri. The wiley Pre-Dreadnought was under Geri's guns in a moment, and in a blurred instant Geri was on the ground clutching a broken arm and stove-in ribs. Freki saw the brutal takedown and surrendered without a shot.

    After the injured Abyssal was moved off the field, Canut faced her silent class. "Anyone else? Anyone? Good, now hear me and take heed; that was your one and only chance to challenge me. The Princess has said that those who disrespect me or my position as Mistress-at-Arms would be punished by her, up to banishment or scuttling. I say that if the Princess must pass judgement then it will be over me. If you disrespect me, or my lessons, or try to strike me outside of training, I'll take your head myself. Am I understood?"

    "Yes, Mistress-at-Arms Canut!"

    Canut smiled then. "Good. Now to show you what it looks like when you have learned what fighting in-close is... Lady Angband, if you would kindly grant me a spar?"

    The Princess' daughter walked onto the field, a long winged-spear in her hand. "I'd be honored, Mistress-at-Arms. Our normal rules?"

    "Aye." Both Abyssals removed the leather covers from their weapons' edges and took their stances. Canut stepped in, her axe beating a spear-thrust aside and punching in at Angband. The Carrier sidestepped and feinted a high thrust only to dart in a stab at the Battleship's leg; Canut blocked the thrust with her axe's haft against one of the spear's wings and threw a kick that drove Angband backward.

    The Carrier redoubled her attack, launching a flurry of rapid-fire thrusts that Canut blocked, parried, or dodged, until Canut found her rhythm and advanced. When the swirling combatants finally stopped, the edge of Canut's axe lay against Angband's neck, and the point of Angband's spear was behind Canut, forced up and over her shoulder. "You are dead, Lady Angband."

    "As are you, Mistress-at-Arms Canut." Canut felt a stinging sensation and felt under her jaw on the right-hand side of her neck; her fingertips came away from the spear-cut bloody...

    "Bravo, Lady Angband. You see, Class? That is how to fight with blades, what you will learn." She bandaged her neck and grinned.

    "Now, the first part is..."
     
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  19. Threadmarks: The Submarines claim some Quidditch robes
    darthcourt10

    darthcourt10 Versed in the lewd.

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    Harry Leferts

    Cross-legged, Harry was going through his trunk and nodding every once in a while. Looking over his shoulder, he gave Iku a small smile. "Thanks by the way." At the Submarine's blink, he shrugged. "For all of you coming on by to give me a hand with doing some cleaning. You didn't have to."

    Softly snorting, Shioi gave him a thumbs up. "We don't mind at all, Harry-Chan. Besides, you've helped us out when we had to clean the Sub Pens... especially Iku's room."

    There was snickers from the others as Iku gave the taller girl a glare. But something was missing from it due to her blushing face as she remembered how during said cleaning, Harry came across a rather racy pair of underwear. Not helped by how Taigei had given her a talking to right there in front of everyone about leaving such things out and not putting them away. "Shut up."

    Yet again, there were snickers from everyone until RO walked over and hugged Harry from behind as she looked at some items spread out on a blanket. "So that's the pieces from your uniform that you're not using anymore?"

    Glancing at her, Harry gave a nod and looked at the clothing set out. "Yeah, I've sort of outgrew them." He scratched at his cheek for a moment and frowned. "Sort of trying to figure out what to do with them."

    Over to the side from where she was gently wiping Harry's Mutslug and Torinagato, under the watchful gaze of Minagato, Imuya tilted her head. "Trying to figure out what to do with them? Why? Something wrong with giving them to charity?"

    A blank expression on his face, Harry turned to her. "You know how famous I am in the magical part of the world. What would happen if I was to give them to some second hand store?" Then the black haired boy shuddered some. "Especially as some of those out there are worse then most Otaku."

    Eyebrow raised, Imuya frowned some. "They can't be that bad, right?" Much to her confusion that got her a look from Harry before said boy sighed and shook his head. Something that made her wince. "They are that bad?"

    From where she was looking over the various books in Harry's bookcase, Hachi shook her head. "Remember the other day when Nagato-San was on the warpath after going through some of the mail sent to Harry-Chan? Where she threw whatever it was into the fire she had in that barrel?" When Imuya nodded, she continued. "Women's underwear and what looked like pictures of a certain kind were involved. Said woman being old enough Tenryuu-San, who was there, blurted out that she was old enough to be her Okaa-San."

    It went without saying that all the Submarines had disgusted looks on them at that bit of information. Iku meanwhile patted Harry on the head which he gave a small smile at. "You have our understanding." Once she stopped though, the blue haired Subgirl looked at the clothes that were laid out in interest. "So what are you going to do with them now that you've outgrown them?"

    Head tilted to the side, Harry frowned some. "Well... I was thinking that if anyone wanted them, they could have them." Unnoticed by him was how the various Submarines perked up at that. "Natsumi-Chan wanted my Quidditch jersey, since that is pretty warm and the charms that help it keep in heat are still good. She wants it for chilly mornings after all." Eyes closed, the wizard continued. "I think that I will see if Hibiki-Chan wants my winter cloak, she did seem to like it."

    Suddenly, RO grinned and thrust her hand into the air. "I call dibs on one of your school sweaters! Especially the winter one!"

    That got her a confused look from Harry, but then he gestured at the pile of clothes. "Um, sure? Go ahead and have it if you want."

    As RO did so, Hachi hummed to herself before nodding. "I think that Maruyu-Chan would like the other one. And it should fit her..." When she got a nod, she grabbed one of the robes. "And I'll take this one, it'll be be nice and cozy to sleep in I think or if I wake up."

    If anything, Harry got more confused as Iku and Imuya grabbed the other two robes while stating the same thing. 'I thought that they had Yukatas... unless they want to wear those over them?' Shaking his head, Harry scratched his head before shrugging it off. The scarf he had already decided to give to Shinano as he had mentioned that he needed to get a new one due to the color fading and she had asked for it. "Well, I'm just glad to see that they'll get used."

    With a scoff, Iku held the robe close to her. "You can count on that, Harry-Chan! These will help keep us warm after all."

    Rolling her eyes as she grumbled about her height, Shioi was moving items around in the closet when she paused some. "Hmm? What is this now?" Crouching down, she reached into the back and pulled out what looked like a metal tool box. Head tilted to the side, she frowned some as she took it in. It was just a plain, metal container like the Submarine had seen in some of those old American cartoons that Harder and other US Subgirls liked to watch. Like one of those lunch boxes used by construction workers in them. "Huh..."

    Hachi had spotted her pull it out and was now looking over her shoulder while adjusting her glasses. "What do you have here now?"

    Needless to say, soon the other Submarines were also clustered around her. But before any of them could ask, Harry gave a chuckle. "I was wondering where I put that." Rubbing his neck, he shook his head some. "I put it somewhere while cleaning up last year."

    Looking over her shoulder, Shioi blinked. "This is yours, Harry-Chan? Really?"

    Slowly, Harry kneeled down beside her and ran his hand over the old metal. "Hai, I've had this since before I came here... When I was at the Dursleys." There was a small lump in his throat as he continued. "I used it then to store my most important items."

    Eyes wide, Hachi looked down at the container which Harry was now holding gently. "You were using it back then?"

    Fingers tracing one of the dents in it, the wizard hummed. "Yeah, I've had it since I was, oh... Four years old, I think? Uncle Vernon came home with it one day saying that one of the customers that he had gotten gave the company a large number. He didn't want it though as he felt it was too plain for someone of his 'Standing' within Grunnings. So he brought it home to see if Dudley wanted it... and he didn't. So he tossed it into a corner of the cellar and I took it. I figured that Aunt Petunia and the others would never look into it since it looked so plain and normal."

    Placing her arm over his shoulder, Iku gave him a squeeze as Hachi did the same from the other side and RO from behind. The Uboat softly whispered though they could all hear it. "So it became a place for you to hide what you treasured in it..."

    With a hum, Harry undid one of the latches. "Yeah, it sort of did. I never had much so everything fit. My baby blanket was one of those items I stored in it as it was the only thing that I had of my parents."

    As one, all the shipgirls' eyes went to said blanket which was now being dried out after being hand washed. It hung in front of the window moving slightly in the breeze. Then they all heard a click and turned to see Harry had undid the last hatch and was now opening it. Eyebrows raising, Shioi looked into the mysterious box. "Is... that everything?"

    Harry nodded as he reached in before pulling out a plastic knight on a horse. Everyone could tell that at some point parts of the paint had rubbed off and been carefully replaced by a childish hand. Slowly it was joined by another knight, this one on foot and in a stance. One by one, other small toys joined it. None of them were very big, they were the sort of thing that one might get from a vending machine with a few coins. Toys of the type that most kids might play with for a month or two and then toss as they broke or just were no longer interesting. Plastic knights, kings, and princesses were joined by tin army men, rubber balls, and marbles.

    Spiders made of rubber appeared with dinosaurs. It was a small handful of toys, nothing compared to the amount of that most children would have had. Nor was each individual one something to write home about. But everyone there could tell that each one had been treated with the love and care for that some children would lavish upon a far more impressive and expensive toy. Picking up one of the dinosaurs, and noting that was missing a foot and had been repainted by an much smaller hand, Imuya examined it. "Was this really all you had?"

    One of the two princesses in his hand, Harry gave a small nod. "I never really had much to be honest. Sometimes I would find spare change in the cushions or in pockets though when doing laundry. I never took anything big though, just the small stuff that Aunt Petunia wouldn't notice. There was a small mall about twenty minute walk from the Dursleys and there were some a vending machine there. All sorts of toys were inside and I used to bring back in my pockets so that no one would see." He then pointed at one toy which looked like a dinosaur with bat ears. "That's Gorgo, I bought him with two Stirling that Vernon gave me one Christmas. He was laughing at me when I opened the card stating that should cover three Christmases."

    More then one of the Submarines held back a growl at that. Shaking that off, Hachi took one of the knights and looked at it. "So you used to play with these inside of your cupboard?"

    The black haired boy nodded. "Hai, I did. You would be amazed at what a little imagination could do. When I was locked in there, I used to have so many grand adventures with them..." Drifting back as he looked at the princess in his hand, Harry gently ran a thumb along the toy. Her red hair was faded as was her green dress. But she was his favorite as she reminded him of someone, someone he suspected now was his biological mother. More then that, one memory came to mind in particular...

    He was just so hungry laying in his bed inside of his cupboard. Outside his locked door, the six year old Harry Potter could hear the sound of dinner being eaten and talking going on. All he had been told before dinner was cooked was that very important people were coming such as an Admiral of the Royal Navy! An Admiral! More then that, shipgirls were coming as well. While his uncle and aunt had derided them as "Freaks", though always never in earshot of the neighbours, he didn't think so.

    After all, to the young boy they were so awesome! Each of them were strong, way stronger then him, and fought the bad guys. And they used super powers to do so as well. Every time he saw them in the news or on the front page of a paper, he was in awe of them. Meanwhile, the young Harry wished that he could be like them. Be strong like they were, maybe even become friends...

    Then reality intruded and he reminded himself that no, they would never want to be friends with someone like him. Someone who was a useless freak. Thus he was not surprised in the slightest when he had gotten shoved into his cupboard and could hear his aunt lock the door before hissing through the crack for him not to make a sound or else they would this time carry through their threat and spank him. Or worse, send him to the orphanage where freaks like him would just disappear to make sure that there were less mouths to feed.

    If there was one thing that the young boy did not want, it was to disappear.

    Which was why he was currently doing his best not to make any sounds in his cupboard while he could smell the nearby food. With how little he had been getting, one could see his ribs. More then that, being so hungry and smelling that food was absolute torture to him as he felt hunger pains. Something that he was willing to bet would make his uncle laugh about and his aunt give a thin smile. After all, it was not the first time that they had eaten all the food that they were supposed to be rationed for that meal in front of him. And he had often seen Dudley get what he knew for a fact was supposed to be set aside for him. It was the sort of thing that they did often, and cooking it was just as bad. But he never said anything to anyone because he did not want to go to one of the orphanages.

    Maybe if he was lucky this time he would get some leftovers, maybe.

    Attempting to get his mind off it, he pulled out the red haired Princess and held her close to his face. One plastic hand patted at the somewhat damp cheek as he softly whispered in what he thought was a girl's voice. "There, there, my dear, sweet Prince. Everything will be fine. Do not worry about such people as them, you're stronger then that."

    Slowly, he shook his head. "N-no I'm not."

    Part of him could swear that in the dim light, the toy's expression softened though he knew that was just his imagination as he continued to have it pat him. "Oh, dearest Prince, you are. And one day, you will have a big family who loves you."

    Blinking, he swallowed some. "I-I will?"

    He moved the toy for it to nod. "Oh yes! My dear Prince, you will have a big family, all of whom love and adore you. Just as you always have wanted. And a big house that shall be your castle, a kingdom of your very own. As well, you will have all the food that you could want. Delicious things that your cruel relatives do not give. Why, one day you will be able to eat ice cream and other such things."

    Lips twitching, Harry nodded. "That... that sounds good." Gently, he had the small toy stroke his cheek and continue to say words of comfort to him. Then he froze as he heard the scraping of a chair from someone getting up before an female, accented voice spoke. "Excuse me for a moment." Whoever it had been was soon outside the cupboard when Harry felt one of the hunger pains, a strong one. Unable to help himself, a whimper escaped him as he clutched at his growling stomach. He had thought it was too quiet, but then he heard a knock on the door. "Hello?"

    Gasping, tears gathered in his eyes as he curled up as far from the door as he could. The woman then called Warspite over. Warspite, the shipgirl! But at the same time this was very, very bad! His aunt and uncle would be so angry at him!

    Before any other thoughts could be formed though, there was the sound of metal and wood giving way and Harry found himself blinking in the bright light that now entered his cupboard. There was a gasp and a lady-like voice he recognized from the news. "My word, what in the world..."

    Once he could see again, he saw a shipgirl he knew was Nagato from the newspapers as well as Warspite staring at him in shock. The British Battleship had one hand against her mouth before both their eyes shifted to another spot. Scared, Harry looked and noticed that his shirt had ridden up some to reveal his ribs. Then he became more frightened as pure rage overtook the Japanese shipgirl's face and he flinched as he knew she was angry at him. But then, her expression softened for a moment before she turned her head and Harry could just make out his uncle and aunt along with an someone in a fancy uniform who was rapidly turning red.

    Well, his uncle was as well of course, but then he went a curious shade of white at the glares being directed at him and his wife by the three as the Admiral rose and softly spoke. "Never, in all my years..."

    Sputtering, Petunia had a lie on her lips when Dudley gave a shout. "Freak! Dad told you not to make any noise! Now you're not going to get any supper now! And maybe a spanking like he said he would!"

    If anything, the two adult Dursleys went even whiter...


    With a sigh, he shook his head while the Submarines hugged him. Harry only now realized he had tears running down his cheeks as he smiled. "Yeah... my special treasures."
     
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  20. Threadmarks: There Again
    darthcourt10

    darthcourt10 Versed in the lewd.

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    NotHimAgain

    I have no special intro for this one.
    There Again

    -----

    Ichiro leaned back in the seat of his car, tapping the steering wheel. Beside him, his partner gave him a pained look.

    “Did anyone ever tell you that you have issues with holding still?” Hojo Eiji asked. “Because you kind of do.”

    “One of my little sisters is visiting today,” Ichiro replied. “She’s been trying to set a good time up for a month now, so we’re kind of excited.”

    “Little sister—ah, I see,” Hojo nodded. “Still, I heard that Shipgirls are given more leniency with time off—one of the benefits of being the only line of defense against the Abyssals, or something. Why would it be so hard to set something up?”

    “That’s… that’s not exactly how things work,” Ichiro shook his head. While Shipgirls could probably lean on the admiralty for shorter hours due to their importance to the war effort, he had never heard of anything like that happening. It didn’t sound like anything they would do in the first place, in point of fact. “But anyway, she’s got kind of a rough posting, which makes visits a little bit tricky. She should be there by now, it’ll be nice to—”

    He was cut off by the sound of flesh on glass, and he turned to see an unfamiliar face pressed against the glass. The man was unconscious, clean shaven, and wore a cloak that hung down over his eyes slightly. Ichiro rolled the window down, and he was pulled away to reveal…

    “… Akebono?”

    “You!” his sister barked, leaning down to bring Mai closer to the window. “Baby! Take!” Fumbling, Ichiro caught his fussy daughter and pulled her into patrol car. Now that he could look out the window, he could see that, besides the captive Akebono was holding by the collar, there was a second one who was lying on the ground, her foot planted firmly over his kidney.

    “Akebono, what’s happening? Where’s Hime?” Ichiro demanded. Fear was beginning to mix in with confusion. By contrast, Mai had subsided from whimpering to distressed, though that didn’t do much for his mood.

    “Someone took her,” Akebono said firmly, reaching down to grab her second captive. “These guys were with them. I’m gonna go find out what happened.” Part of Ichiro registered that his little sister wasn’t calling anyone names or insulting them to avoid showing affection—he thought that Amagiri had called it “How Dare You Make My Niece Cry Mode” the one time that Akebono had become irate at a two-year-old trying to push Mai out of a sandbox (oddly enough, Himeyuki hadn’t realized that Mai would simply try to eat the sand—oh wait).

    “What?” He grabbed Akebono by the arm, but she yanked free. “Where are you going?”

    “You’d want a piece of these guys,” she replied. “’S why I’m gonna try to get in contact with that Mizuchi who beat up the gashadokuro.” Though she was walking away, dragging her prisoners with her, Ichiro could tell her expression was darkening. “I need a “Good” cop.”

    “I’m calling this in,” Hojo said, going for the radio. “Do we have a code for “Shipgirl vigilantism,” or does it go under general Shipgirl craziness?”

    “Inu,” Mai told him solemnly. He nodded.

    “Indeed,” he said, “but I’m honestly not sure. Sempai?”
    -----

    They had taken her clothes, bathed her, dressed her in a kimono, styled her hair, and led her to her old room. In a box on one of the tables sat a long wooden case. She did not need to be a genius to tell that her wand was in there.

    She waited one hour, then two. Then a maid from the branch family came to tell her that dinner was ready. Ten minutes later, she came to lead/physically drag her to dinner.

    She wasn’t sure what kind of fish was laid out for her, but she had no doubt it was expensive and hard to procure in war times. Counting herself, there were only four people at the table. Ryunosuke ate quietly and quickly, taking seconds when he finished. He didn’t even spare a glance. The old man—Ryuusei Haruto—turned to give her a calm look, before finishing his own meal and placing his chopsticks on the table. And the final dinner guest…

    “Daughter,” Ryuusei-sama said, so gently and glad (at her return? Her kidnapping and quite likely imprisonment?”), “it is good to have you back with us.”

    Himeyuki looked on ahead, sitting composed, disinterested in all around her.

    “… Daughter,” Ryuusei-sama repeated hesitantly. “Here. It is your favorite, eat.”

    Your favorite, she thought, and touched nothing.

    “Daughter, please.”

    “Ken and Yuuta have not returned with her daughter,” Ryunosuke pointed out between mouthfuls. “Perhaps that is part of the problem?” It must have been part of the sense of humor that he claimed to cultivate. He had been so blasé about it, that it wasn’t until she had left that this brand of understatement and irony had made any sense to her. And she still didn’t find it funny.

    “Yes,” Ryuusei-sama said thoughtfully, “perhaps that is it. Send them out again tomorrow.

    Mai. Ichiro.

    “There, see? You will have your daughter again before long. Now eat.”

    Maybe if I pretend that nobody here exists, they will go away. It was a silly game to play, she knew, but it was better hope than any that seemed available to her at the moment.

    “Daughter.” Ryuusei-sama’s hand gently cupped her face and turned her around to face him. “You know that, in any other time, you would be free to go and do as you wished. But right now, the Statute of Secrecy is losing its strength. The Magical Diet is struggling to maintain its power. Now more than ever, the strength of wizards needs to be united, to prevent the fall of the statute and see things returned to normalcy. You understand, don’t you?”

    So I’m a dog to be brought to heel, then? Himeyuki’s expression remained unchanged. She stared through Ryuusei-sama, turning her gaze solely to the wall.

    “Please,” Ryuusei-sama begged. “You have come home to us. Anything you want, I can give to you. Just speak the word.”

    At the cost of everything I am, you mean? Of everything I believe and have come to love?

    “It’s like she never left the house,” Ryunosuke said. “Except now she eats less.”
    -----

    And now she was back in her room. Sitting on her bed. Still dressed in the garish kimono. Her clothes were probably in a trash heap somewhere outside the house. Cell phone too. Though hadn’t one of her sisters-in-law said that cell phones could be tracked? Did that mean someone would come for her? She felt a certain vindictive glee at the thought of all eight of Ichiro’s younger siblings entering the house and reducing it to a hovel to bring her home.

    The door slid open and shut. Himeyuki looked up and saw her grandfather standing over her. Not stooped with age, though beginning to bow slightly under the weight of the years. Hair grey and long, tied back in an orderly ponytail. Gaze stern and sharp, his left cheek marred with claw marks that her Ryuusei-sama (trying to amuse her with stories and failing) had once told her he had received from a kitsune fleeing a reserve during his time as an Auror.

    When Ryunosuke had asked what had happened to the kitsune, Ryuusei-sama had laughed. “It ended up back on the Reserve, of course,” he said, as if it were obvious. The old man had huffed and left the room—something that Himeyuki had wondered about in the years to come. She looked up and stared him in the eye.

    Maybe he wanted to go another round with her? When they had first fought she had given a fairly good accounting of herself, if she said so herself.

    “What are you doing here?” her grandfather said finally. She blinked. That hadn’t been what she was expecting.

    “You fought to escape this house before,” he continued. She had wrecked the house, he meant. And her heart had soared for doing it, thinking that she was finally free. “If you must fight to secure your freedom,” he said, leaning down to look her in the eye. “You must always be prepared to fight in order to protect it. Or were you so childish to consider yourself forever safe after a single battle?” She looked up at him, uncertain at what he was telling her. He turned and swept out the door, vanishing from her scrutiny.
    -----

    “Sir?” the maid said cautiously as Ryuusei Haruto left the room, “what did you say to her?” The old man turned and looked at her, looking her up and down. “Is-is Ojou-sama feeling well?” Haruto thought back on the girl—Kyouka, that was her name. She had followed Himeyuki around like a puppy when they were younger, always trying to be of some kind of service.

    Thinking of what he had seen in his granddaughter’s eyes, she might not be happy if Kyouka stayed around tonight.

    “You,” he said, and Kyouka perked up at his words. “You do not look very well.”

    “… Sir?”

    “You should go home, and get some rest,” Haruto continued, walking away. “Take your brother, whatever you have may be contagious.”

    “Sir, I don’t understand! What are you—” Kyouka trailed off, and he could feel her eyes boring in to him. “Understood, sir. I’ll go find him immediately.”

    “Good,” Haruto nodded. “Having you any worse would be… troublesome.”
    -----

    Himeyuki looked down at the box. Calmly, slowly, she opened it and took out a short, unmarked rod. Bamboo, she recalled the old wandmaker’s description. A core of dragon heartstring, he had said.

    Ryunosuke had laughed when she got it, taunting her about her wand made of grass. Then her grandfather, using the most words she had heard from him at that day, had said “that grass was once used to make bows.”

    One of her peers from school (she had no friends there, only acquaintances from powerful wizarding families who decided on her behalf that they were the only ones worthy of her social circle) had said that dragon heartstrings were powerful and that wands made with them learned quickly.

    She closed her eyes, focusing on the wand. As she did so, she felt refreshed, as if a light breeze had filled the air. She flicked it, and her hair untangled itself from the bun it had been tied up into.

    Were you so childish to consider yourself safe after a single battle? Her grandfather had asked.

    She had no real desire to touch magic ever again. It was a reminder of a past that she had no stomach to remember, one that she had tried to leave behind.

    On the other hand, there was only one meaning that she could ascribe to her grandfather’s words.

    And when your grandfather tells you to kick everyone’s asses on the way out the door, she reasoned, it does light a certain fire in you.

    Himeyuki raised the wand like a conductor’s baton. When she and her grandfather had fought, she had taken great care to ensure that her room did not survive the encounter. Perhaps a repeat of the lesson was needed?
    -----

    Spoiler
    I know this doesn't quite fit the scenario, but at the same time I feel like it sets the mood nicely.

    Well what do you think, sirs?
     
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  21. Threadmarks: electric bike
    darthcourt10

    darthcourt10 Versed in the lewd.

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    Harry Leferts

    Glancing at his watch, Harry blinked some before spotting a glint nearby. Head cocked to the side, the black haired boy slowed to a stop as he noticed a teenaged girl there in a orange dress with her eyes closed. More then that, she was going through a sword kata with a bokken. For several minutes Harry stood there watching as Ayase, one of the never built Sendai class, practiced. Finally, she stopped and opened her eyes to see Harry clapping. Blushing, the Light Cruiser straightened. "H-Harry-San! How long have you been there for?"

    With a shrug, Harry walked forward and placed his hands into his pockets. "A couple of minutes actually." His expression transforming into a curious one, he looked at the Bokken in interest. "I didn't know that you were one of the shipgirls who used a sword..."

    Slowly relaxing some, Ayase pulled out a cloth and wiped her forehead clean of sweat before putting it away. Then she placed the bokken into the belt at the side of her dress. "Well... I have not been cleared yet to use it on sortie. I need to be cleared by Tenryuu-Shishou for that first as she is the judge for that." Clenching a fist, she nodded. "But I am confident that Tenryuu-Shishou will acknowledge that I can use a blade!"

    Now smiling, Harry gave her a chuckle which made her blush. "I'm sure that Tenryuu-Oba will. I mean, I was watching and you looked amazing!"

    The blush that had been Ayase's face now returned with a vengence but rather then embarrassment, she felt happy and scratched her cheek some. "Thank you for your kind words, Harry-San. Hopefully I do the name of Sendai proud."

    All Harry did at that was shrug and snort. "I don't think that you'll have anything to worry about that, Ayase-San." Getting a nod, he checked his watch and grimaced some before realizing something. "Um, we haven't really talked in person for a while. Want to walk with me while I head to where Hachi-Chan is waiting for me with Taigei-Chan?"

    It was now Ayase's turn to be interested and she gave a nod. "That does sound good, Harry-San." Her lips then turned downwards into a frown and she looked around. "Especially with what happened recently, perhaps it would be best for you to have a guard."

    Blinking, Harry gave her an odd look at that. "Um, sure I guess? Though I don't think that witch is going to be back anytime soon." Only getting a nod from Ayase in return, he shook his head and started to walk with her beside him. Somewhat to his amusement, she had one hand on her bokken as if ready to draw it if there was an attack. Head tilted to the side, Harry hummed some. "So how are your sisters doing recently? I know that Jintsuu-Oba is back in Sasebo while Naka-Nee is still in Pearl with Sendai-Nee."

    Eyes widening some, Ayase gave a nod. Oddly enough, to Harry at least she strongly resembled Sendai except for her samurai style topknot being one of the major differences. "Sendai-Onee-Sama is doing very good at Pearl. From what I heard, they are bringing in a Dry Dockgirl for full repairs and an upgrade to her..." A frown crossed her face as she furrowed her eyebrows. "From what I heard, they're going to be using a version of the same guns as the Akizukis for her new turrets?"

    That made Harry consider what was said for several seconds. "That... would give Sendai-Nee a pretty big upgrade in firepower, I think. I know that Ooyodo-Oba has the same guns and they do her pretty well too."

    Nodding, Ayase continued to walk. "And Onee-Sama is also getting some of those new AA guns that Akashi-San is producing... She said that it was because of you that we have them available?"

    For a few moments, Harry was confused until he clued in. "Oh yeah, I think that I know which ones those are actually. The same ones that Hibiki-Chan got."

    Unnoticed by Harry, Ayase's eyes widened a fraction before they went back to the considering look. At the same time, she straightened her back as she doubled her look out for any possible threats to the boy beside her. One that she knew she owed not just her own existence to, but that of a number of her sisters and others as well. "Um, well as to Minase-Chan and Otonase-Chan? They're doing good on their training though they are also becoming very good dancers. They have also been helping out at a café here on the base."

    Eyebrows furrowing, Harry then snapped his fingers. "You mean the one that is almost a maid style one? But where the girls wear uniforms right out of the Edo Period instead?"

    Quickly, Ayase nodded a that. "Hai, that's correct, Harry-San. Both of them like to put on small shows in the café as well between serving the patrons."

    Crossing his arms, Harry thought that over before nodding. The two of them continued to talk for some time until they reached the parking lot and found Hachi there. Said Subgirl came rushing over and hugged Harry some before looking at Ayase and giving her a smile. "Um, hello... Ayase-San, right?"

    Somewhat surprised that the Submarine recognized her, Ayase bowed to her. "Hai, I am Ayase, the Fifth of the Sendai-Class. You are..." It took a few moments to place Hachi as said girl was wearing civilian clothes. "I-8, Hachi-San, correct?"

    Brightly smiling, Hachi gave a nod at that. "I am she, Hacchan." Thoughtful, the Submarine tapped her chin as she noticed Ayase look between the van that Taigei was by, Hachi, and Harry before looking back. Unknown to the Light Cruiser, Hachi had overheard her grumbling to her sisters that she wished that she could stay by Harry's side and guard him. After all, it would be repaying him for their existence! Slowly, a smile crossed Hachi's face and she gestured at the van. "Do you want to come with us? I don't think that you get off base that much and the more the merrier!"

    Eyes wide, Ayase looked at her. "Truly? You would not mind if I... came along?"

    Just shaking her head, Hachi gave a laugh. "No, not really. Like I said, the more the better really." Inside her head, she continued. 'And this could help Harry-Chan be eased into the plan! Which makes it all the better!'

    Meanwhile, the Sendai class was thinking it over before glancing around. Once more, she was reminded of what happened in the recent weeks. First, the Basilisk, then the spider in the mountains, the Gashadokuro, and the most recent one. That being the infiltration of an unknown number of magicals onto the base. Hand tightening on her bokken, she bowed to Hachi. "It would be my very honor to do so."

    Clapping her hands, Hachi looked towards a bemused Harry. "Great! Now let's get going!"

    The Subgirl then grabbed Harry's hands and pulled him along towards the van with Ayase behind him. "Speaking of this trip, may I ask where we are going?"

    Looking over his shoulder, Harry gave her a chuckle. "Actually? We're heading out so that I can get an enclosed electric bicycle. I heard that the new models are in and want to have a look at some of them."

    Nearly four hours later, six shops, and one stop for food and ice cream later, they entered the final shop of the day. Watching as Ayase glanced around as if to fend off attackers, Taigei gave Harry a small smile. "Well now, this seems to be the last though I don't know if..." Seeing the black haired wizard come to a stop, she blinked. "Harry-Chan? Is something wrong?" As she followed his eyes, she blinked her own at one of the bicycles on display. "Oh my..."

    Breathless, Harry stepped towards the matte black vehicle and looked it over. It looked sleek and almost as if it was made for speed. Like many of the vehicles, it was a trike instead of a normal bicycle. Footsteps behind him made him turn to find one of the salesman there. "Ah, I see that your eye has been caught by the Sinclair Thunder, young man."

    Turning, Harry furrowed his eyebrows. "Sinclar? As in the British electric bicycle maker?"

    Only nodding, the salesman looked in and barely noted Hachi rapidly typing something into her phone. "Hai, the one and the same as a matter of fact. Sinclair Electric Vehicles has a... somewhat storied history. The owner tried back in the late 1980s to sell an electric bicycle, the C-5. Unfortunately, he only sold a few thousand before his company shuttered the doors due to it flopping. But with the war, and gas rationing, he restarted the company with the X-1, which was a moderate success. Now this is the newest in the line of vehicles and came out just this year."

    It was then that Hachi spoke up. "The reviews on it seem rather positive actually and there's a number of features for it." Head tilting to the side, Hachi looked at the salesman. "It says here that it seats two and can get eighty miles out of a full charge at top speed?"

    Humming, the man smiled. "That's right, thirty miles per hour with pedal assist. We do have the faster version of course, which can go up to eighty... but that is only available to those with a license." He then made a motion and someone brought over a key which he beeped. As Harry and the others watched, the windshield rose up until it was high enough to step inside. While Harry looked inside, he chuckled. "Thankfully, battery and electric motor technology has advanced rapidly in the past few years. Without that, something like this would only be for one person."

    After a moment, Harry had a considering look on his face as he looked through it. Part of him wanted to buy it because despite living in Japan and calling it home, Britain was his birthplace and he was proud of it. But if there was one thing that he learned living in Yokosuka, it was to get all the details first before making a decision. "What sort of features does it have? The same as the other electrically assisted trikes?"

    Not having expected that, the salesman blinked for a moment before shaking it off. "Well, as you can see the showroom model has leather seats. Along with that, there is of course an small AC unit to help keep you cool and air filters. Both seats have their own cup holders, which can be chilled or heated as needed. You have a speedometer of course and a charge reader to tell you how much you got left. And it also gets a small amount of charge from pedalling and braking. We also have a small windshield wiper for when you get into bad weather."

    Walking along it, Hachi listened with half a ear before nodding some. "It also seems to have both LED headlights and rear lights, Harry-Chan."

    Just chuckling, the salesman gestured at the phone in the port. "That is not all it has! In fact, this model has one feature that others do not." Pressing some icons, Harry could see Hachi on the phone's screen which made his eyes widen. "There is also a rear-view camera. Which helps increase the safety that it carries as does the height it has which makes it easier for cars and trucks to see. Of course, Toyota and Suzuki are both coming out with similar models with similar features as are a number of others. But this is the first."

    Harry continued his examination before glancing at the back seat which he could see would fold down. 'I could use that as a boot...' Shaking his head, he asked the price and winced a bit. 'That is... a lot. But no worse then some, I guess. And Mum did say that I had access to my account for this. Before that...' The black haired boy cleared his throat. "May I test one out? With my friend, here? That way we can be sure of it."

    Bothered not in the slightest, the salesman shook his head. "Of course I wouldn't. We have one out back for that in fact..."

    Fifteen minutes later, a grinning Harry looked at Hachi who climbed out of the test vehicle and nodded. Turning to the salesman, he bowed and held out a hand. "We'll take it."

    Needless to say, the man was also smiling and bowed before shaking Harry's hand. "Thank you, sir. Now, if you'll come to the office so that we can get the paperwork done..."

    Waiting until Hachi got into the back, Harry clambered in and then closed the windshield. A smile on his face, he placed his phone into the port for it and nodded as he brought up the GPS function. "This is so cool, what do you think, Hachi-Chan?"

    A giggle escaped from her as she waved to Taigei and Ayase who both waved back. "I think that you are going to make a number of people jealous, Harry-Chan." Buckling into the seat, she watched as Harry began to pedal, the soft hum of the motor kicking in to help bring the electric trike up to speed while one of Naka's songs filled the vehicle. "Maybe get 'Magicman' for a license plate."

    That got her a laugh from Harry as the two went down the road. "Really, Hachi-Chan? Magicman? That's sort of shoving it into everyone's faces, don't you think?"

    Unseen by him, Hachi shrugged. "Not really, why not have some fun with it?" Looking around the outside, she hummed. "So you're going to retire your old bicycle?"

    In reply to that, the wizard shook his head. "Not really, I'll just use it around the base and this baby for the rest of Yokosuka." Finger tapping on one of the handlebars inside, he became thoughtful as be brought it to a stop at a pair of lights. "What would you think would happen if I was to pick up Natsumi-Chan at her school in this?"

    Laughing again, Hachi shook her head. "Lots of jealous looks, Harry-Chan. Just make sure to get me some pictures if you do, okay?" She could see Harry nod as they started off again. "So are we going anywhere in particular?"

    A grin came over Harry's face as he continued to pedal. "I sort of want to bike around a bit, get a really good feel for her. Heck, maybe visit one of the ice cream places on the outer parts of town!"

    Hachi only smiled at that before settling in. "That sounds great, Harry-Chan. I love spending time with you after all."

    Softly smiling, even though she could not see it, Harry nodded. "Thanks."

    Eventually, Harry pulled into a small parking lot where there was one of the summertime ice cream stands. Being as most kids were still in school and most adults at work, there were not many people there. But as he got out and plugged the trike into one of the charging stations, Harry blinked as a thirteen year old girl walked up in stunned disbelief. "Is that a car... But you can't be older then me..."

    Just shaking his head, Harry chuckled while Hachi got out and stretched her legs some. The action of which drew his gaze. "Um, no, it's actually a pedal trike, electrically assisted." Seeing her disbelief, he gestured at it. "Go ahead and look."

    Glancing inside, the girl shook her head. "Oh wow! It is!" Then she blushed and bowed to him. "I-I'm sorry, that was rude of me. My name is Miku Asuka."

    Not mad in the slightest, Harry gave her a bow back. "I'm Potter Harry and this is my friend, Hachi."

    It was then that Asuka recognized the shipgirl and her jaw dropped as she looked between them. After a few seconds, she closed her mouth with a clack. "S-sorry, Hachi-Sama."

    When the girl bowed to her, Hachi just returned it and gave a chuckle. "Don't worry, Hacchan doesn't." Stretching some more and smirking as Harry's eyes were drawn to her again, Hachi let out a sigh. "I've never seen you around here before."

    Asuka blinked and then gave a small shrug. "I'm new, my guardian just moved back into one of the beach houses nearby and I sort of wanted some ice cream. One of his friends said that the ice cream here was great."

    Nodding, Harry glanced at the ice cream place, set up in what was basically a shed. "Hai, they're really good actually. Mum sometimes brings me here if we're in the area along with Hoppou, my Imouto."

    Soon enough, once all three had got their ice cream. they descended into talking about the trike as it charged with Asuka asking various questions about it and looking very interested in it...
     
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  22. Threadmarks: Omake James Potter's punny afterlife (possible canon)
    darthcourt10

    darthcourt10 Versed in the lewd.

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    mikelima777

    Hopefully it is okay to post snippets again. Here is a peek into the afterlife.
    *-*-*-*-*
    James Potter, now-former Auror, member of the Order of Phoenix, and unofficial co-winner of "We fought and defyed the dark lord thrice" award, and possible winner for defying him one last time, groaned as he woke up. Despite being deceased and thus technically not needing sleep, it was refreshing to doze off as the floor underneath rocked back and forth. Then he sighed as he remembered where he was, or rather, who he was aboard. Not every husband, living or deceased, wakes up inside the spiritual representation of their wife's ture nature.

    While entering the afterlife was bittersweet news for the young father, learning that your wife is the embodiment of a World War I-era warship, specifically an Acacia-class sloop, was quite a shock. While there were signs of her maritime nature in her life, nothing could prepare James for realizing he was married to HMS Lily. Or when Lily declared that he was automatically made a member of her crew. James was interrupted in his thoughts by a knock to the cabin door.

    "Wake up, Jimmy boy!" said his wife's head chef, "Lily is waiting in the wardroom with your breakfast."

    Technically food also wasn't necessary in the afterlife, but it felt good eating with others.

    "Can't you give me five more minutes?"

    "Of course, you don't want to be time-consuming. Though Lily might egg you on, maybe whisk you away with some musical jams, or..."

    James sighed, "Alright! I'm coming! Lets me get dressed at least."

    "Okay, then. I'll go to bacon some more scones, and punny buns, though it may get too bun-ny."

    James groaned. Unfortunately, it turned out that the crew aboard his wife had also become fond of puns. Every one of them.

    A few minutes later, he reached the wardroom, where his wife smiled at their table, two plates of breakfast ready. And despite both being deceased, unable to help their son grow up into a fine man, and all the puns, James did feel glad to spent eternity with his beloved wife. Though if only she lay off a bit on the puns.
     
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  23. Threadmarks: Ume & Sakura family story
    darthcourt10

    darthcourt10 Versed in the lewd.

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    Harry Leferts

    To move on from what happened...
    ___________________________________________________

    From where he sat on the small boat being towed behind Hamakaze, Harry looked around as they entered the flooded caldera. Sheer rock walls rose up from the water, layer upon layers of volcanic rock from truly ancient eruptions could be seen. Looking over the edge of the boat, the black haired boy looked down into the deep water. Part of him wondered what lay down below, where soundings taken stated the depth was hundreds of feet. What sort of things slept?

    Of course, then he shook his head free of such. Best not to invite trouble after all, instead he gave a smile to the two Destroyers in front of him. "Thanks again, Hamakaze-Chan and Urakaze-Chan! I really appreciate this."

    Turning her head, Hamakaze gave him one of her small smiles and nodded. "It is not much trouble, Harry-Chan. We have not spent much time together after all."

    Hands behind her head, Urakaze stretched some and sighed. "Besides, Harry-San, it gave us somethin' ta do. An Ah know that Ah appreciate that. Otherwise we'd just be sitting around."

    With a nod, Harry looked over at the Light Carrier who was sipping some of her sake. Spotting that, Junyou gave him a smile. "I don't mind either, Kiddo. Besides, it's my turn to give you a test of your Onmyouji skills after all." Rubbing her chin, she closed her eyes for a moment. But when the shipgirl opened them, she gave a nod. "Also, this place feels much better. Lighter and cleaner then when we first came."
    Also closing his eyes, Harry furrowed his eyebrows some before humming. "Yeah, it sort of does." When his green eyes opened, they glowed slightly as he looked around at the spiritual mist that seemed to cloak the caldera before he frowned. "But the spiritual mist hasn't dissipated... It's gotten thicker?"

    Just chuckling, Junyou gave a smile before taking a swing of her drink. "Ya, that's true enough. But that's because of the snapping of the bonds keeping the spirits here as well as the magic." Seeing the confusion, she shook her head. "You see, Kiddo, part of what was keeping the spirits here shackled was the spiritual weight of what occurred here. Break those bonds, and the energy has to go somewhere... Except, there is nowhere for it to go, the magic in the walls of the caldera keep it here. Sort of like if it was normal fog..."

    Tilting his head to the side, Harry frowned. "So eventually it will sort of... dissipate though? Like the morning mist when the sunlight hits it?"

    Now thoughtful, Junyou gave it some thought before shrugging. "Maybe, but that might be decades away. Think of it this way, if the chains binding them here were made of ice, that ice is turning directly to steam." Moving a finger, Harry watched as a small trail of light followed it as it disturbed the spiritual energies. "The old wards that were around this place basically continually reflected magic inwards as well as spiritual energy. Mainly to stop it from being detected well enough."

    Urakaze was listening in as they made their way across the caldera and frowned. "So what does tha' mean for all these spirits? Because Shinano-Sama stated that they are going to be free soon enough."

    Humming, Junyou brought her bottle away from her lips. "Well, unless I miss my guess? It should be right about the Obon when their chains fully disappear. At that point, they will move on to whatever awaits them."

    Partially listening, Harry frowned as he looked around. What Junyou had just told him was tickling something in the back of his mind. Something odd... It was until five minutes later that he finally caught that oh so elusive thought and gasped. "It's like a summoning chamber!"

    About to take a drink, Junyou blinked and then turned to Harry as did the two Destroyers. "Say what now, Kiddo?"

    Excited, Harry began gesturing around them. "Look at the way everything is set up! We got a pool of deep, salt water contained within a basin. Naval relics..." He gestured at the wrecks of the ships sitting in their graving docks. "And you got a bunch of spiritual and magical energy concentrated right here! Inside of the basin!"

    It took several moments for Junyou to follow the train of thought. But when she did, her eyes went side to side as if following where it was going. "But that... Huh..." Looking around, her frown deepened. "Not bad, Kiddo. You're right, with some preparation, this whole place could very easily be used as a giant, outdoor summoning chamber. You'd have to purify the whole place though even beyond what we're doing."

    Smirking, Harry tilted his head to the side. "Like what happened with Mum and the Gashadokuro?" He then frowned and shook his head. "As long as it wouldn't hurt Ume-Chan or Sakura-Chan."

    Only shaking her head as she rolled the idea in her mind, Junyou shook her head. "Those two? Nah, they would be fine as long as it wasn't directly targeted at them. But something like those Ofuda slapped on planes dropping bombs into the caldera itself? Or on depth charges? That would very rapidly cleanse whatever is left here. And it could work elsewhere as well... You know what happened to Aso-San, right?" Harry was partway through nodding when his eyes widened as did the Destroyers. "That place is steeped in darkness. But slap some of those purifying Ofuda onto grenades? And it would cleanse it, which would make the JGSDF possibly very happy."

    Confused, Hamakaze blinked at that. "Why would it make them happy?"

    Looking at her, Junyou smirked some. "Because in that place there was a number of O-I Super Heavy Tanks in various stages of completion. And if what we found out from the Schwerer Gustav Sisters being summoned is right? With some magic, they might be able to summon them. It would at least help some of the Coastal Artillery groups anyways. Or if we ever need to take another Abyssal held area with ground forces." There were nods at that before the Carrier looked at the approaching wharf and laughed some. "Looks like someone couldn't wait."

    With a blink, Harry turned and looked himself before grinning and waving. "Sakura-Chan! Ume-Chan!"

    Both spirits waved back and waited until Harry had gotten off the small boat with the shipgirls dismissing their rigging. As one, they bowed to their visitors with smiles. "Welcome back, Harry-Chan. As well as you Junyou-Sama, Hamakaze-Sama, Urakaze-Sama. "

    Harry also bowed to them as did the others. That done, the black haired boy walked over and gave them both a tight hug that the Twins practically melted into. "It's good to see you two again."

    Returning the hug after a moment, they sighed at the warmth that they felt infusing their being. "And it is good to see you as well, Harry-Chan. We both missed you in the time that you were gone..."

    Briefly, they paused before Sakura gave him a frown and pulled back some. "We heard that something happened recently though."

    For a moment, Harry stared at them before coughing. At their raised eyebrows, he reached into his pocket and pulled out four items which he handed them with a shaky smile. "Um, here? I bought these from Aunt Arizona..." Internally, Harry grimaced a bit. 'And Aunt Ari seemed really amused about it.'

    The twins' eyes widened as they took the items and whispered in awe. "Chocolate bars.. Real chocolate..." Moments later their eyes narrowed and they frowned at Harry. "What happened?"

    Only wincing as he knew his bet had failed, Harry chuckled weakly while behind him Junyou was snickering. "Well... um... You see it was sort of like this..."

    As he continued, the spirit's eyes widened further and further as their expression changed from confusion, to shock, to pure fear at what they were hearing. Slowly, they turned to look at each other, terror in their faces. 'Harry-Chan... and a Gashadokuro...'

    His tale winding down, Harry rubbed the back of his neck. "... And so, um, the day was saved? Thanks to everyone anyways." Blinking, he watched as the two spirits handed their chocolate to Hamakaze in confusion. "Ume-Chan? Sakura-Chan? What's wrong-"

    It was then that he found himself once more being pulled into a tight hug by the two. This time though, they had tears running down their faces as they held him. "Harry-Chan... you nearly died. And you fought something like that..."

    Gently, Harry hugged them back and gave a shrug. "Um, I guess? But I'm here still, so everything turned out right."

    Sakura blinked and then looked at her sister. "Ume-Chan?"

    All the other girl did was nod. "Natsumi-San?"

    In reply, Sakura gave her own nod. "Natsumi-San."

    Then as one they turned to Harry who was completely lost. But before he could even ask though, they lightly bopped him on the head. "Baka."

    More then a little sheepish, Harry scratched his cheek as they hugged him again. "Heh..." Eventually though, the two did calm down some and wiped at their eyes as he shook his head. "Sorry for worrying you."

    Only sighing, Sakura gave him a small smile before taking his hand in hers. "As long as you do not go and seek such things, you are forgiven. We're just happy to have you still here with us."

    Ume grabbed his other hand and gave it a squeeze. "As Sakura-Chan said, we're happy to have you here. But please try not to get into such situations... Or as much as you are able to." Getting a nod, she turned and blinked before smiling as Hamakaze held out the large chocolate bar. "Thank you, Hamakaze-Sama."

    For her part, Hamakaze gave her a small smile. "You are very welcome, Ume-San. And do not worry, we have the rice and other supplies for you."

    As Ume and Sakura nodded, Harry blinked some. "Rice? Supplies?"

    Turning to him as the twins unwrapped their chocolate, only taking the time to do so to let go of Harry's hands before grabbing them again, Urakaze gave a laugh. "Hai, about every shipgirl who passes by has been dropping off food to these two whenever we are in the area. The Akizukis especially do that."

    Wide eyed, Harry looked at Sakura who gave a shy nod. "She is right, Harry-Chan. The various shipgirls like to bring us food whenever they come by our island." Blushing some, she glanced away. "Though I do not mind Enterprise-Sama's hamburgers or ice cream that she likes to give to us."

    Now lightly laughing, Harry gave a nod. "I know, right? Enterprise makes for some great burgers. And the Submarines are also great cooks." That got him nods from the two spirits and they munched down on their treat. As they did so though, Harry became thoughtful as he looked them over. When he first met them, the two were somewhat transparent. Now though, they appeared almost as solid as they felt. 'Hmm... I wonder if the food from the shipgirls is doing something to them?'

    Once she was finished her chocolate bar, Sakura turned to Junyou as the group walked. "Junyou-Sama? May I ask why you seem to be looking around? Because myself and Onee-San would know in regards to where something was..."

    Junyou blinked at the question before tilting her head and looking at the blue sky above. "We're not looking for something in regards to an object, Sakura-San. You know how Kiddo here is learning how to be an Onmyouji, correct?" Getting an acknowledgement of that fact, she continued. "One of the aspects of such as divination. But there's several different kinds. What we're here to do though is have Harry cast a spell that will give him a glimpse into the past of a place. But it takes time to set up and we can't do it out in the open..."

    Wincing a bit as she looked around, Sakura was silent. Ume, on the other hand pressed her lips together into a thin line. "I am unsure of if that would be a good idea, Junyou-Sama. We would prefer for Harry-Chan not to see some of what has gone on in this place..."

    Much to their surprise though, the Onmyouji using shipgirl winked at them. "Hey, I can understand that. But I didn't mean the main area here." She swept one hand around. "Rather, I am sure that there is at least one place on this island where nothing that would scar him happened."

    The two spirits blinked at that before turning to each other with thoughtful looks. A silent conversation was happening between them before Ume slowly nodded. "There might be... one spot that would be such and interesting." Raising her hand, she pointed at a spot on the rim. "Where the magical airships came and tied up."

    Eyes wide, Harry suddenly nodded some and looked in the same direction where rusted scaffolding could be seen. "I remember you telling me about that the last time that we came here." Seeing the confusion on Hamakaze's and Urakaze's faces, he shrugged. "You know the Foo Fighters from World War II? Apparently that was magical stuff going on."

    Nodding as the two Destroyers widened their eyes, Junyou had a far off look. One that told anyone that she was talking to one of her crew. "That's right, there was some magical airships on our side of things. They weren't used for combat though." Seeing everyone look at her, she shook her head. "Mainly, they were used either for recon to track the Americans or search for them, or to transport supplies. After all, one could portkey to and from them and so drop off food and ammunition. They were going to be used if the Americans invaded as somewhere to transport various flight capable Yokai to the various invasion places or to bombard them with spells from above at night." Head tilted to the side, she turned towards where Tokyo was. "But most of them, of which there was a dozen, were either covering most of the coastline here after the Doolittle Raid or in the Sea of Japan."

    A thoughtful look on his face, he frowned. "I wonder if you could summon them? I mean, they would be pretty useful..."

    On Junyou's face was a considering look before she sighed a bit. "Maybe for recon mainly. And they couldn't really use magic openly until after the SoS falls. Still, something to think about I suppose." Turning to Ume and Sakura, she smiled and gestured with one hand. "Anyways, lead on."

    Less then a half hour later found themselves on a flattened area of the caldera rim. Hand above his eyes, Harry slowly turned in a circle to take everything in with amazed eyes. "Wow..." Bringing his gaze onto the rusted structure, Harry blinked. "So that was where airships would tie up?"

    Beside him, Sakura nodded. "Hai, that was where they came." Looking up at them, she had a soft smile. "It was one of the few things that we liked to watch."

    The Twins then went to stand by the Destroyers as Harry prepared his spot for the spell. Junyou just watched with her arms crossed as Harry created a circle on the ground using a stick of sakaki wood to channel a small amount of magic. Once the rest of the circle was filled in with a pentagram like symbol, the black haired boy took a deep breath and placed a candle at either point of the star inside before stepping in the middle still holding the sakaki wand in one hand.

    Gently, he brought the tip down on each candle and lit them with a small burst of magic. At the same time, Harry softly chanted and beseeched the spirits to part the curtain of past and present before him as he closed his eyes. Even as he did so, he could feel his magic respond and the feeling of static washed over him. After several minutes with sweat on his brow, he finished with the spell's incantation and clapped his hands once.

    Then again.

    Finally, he clapped them for a third time.

    As the sound faded, so did the outside world and briefly Harry felt something wash over him as if he had fallen into water. But when he opened his eyes, he felt a gasp as his body was transparent as if it was a ghost. The sounds of people shouting though made him blink and he looked up to see one of the magical Japanese airships being tied down by various people. The first thing that came to his mind was just how huge it was. Besides it being the length of at least a Destroyer, what seemed like an apartment building lengthwise hung beneath it. Even from where he was, Harry could see broom riders come out and a there was a lightning bolt before a Raiju appeared in front of him.

    Brushing himself off, the Yokai proceeded to step back towards the airship in time for a female tengu to hop out and land on the ground. Harry blinked at that and he leaned forward to listen in as her and the Raiju spoke. "... Are you sure that it is a good idea to put down? The storm coming in-"

    However, the Tengu sighed and held up a hand. "Roshi-Kun, I know what you are going to say. That the storm is hours away and we could beat it back to base in Tokyo from our patrol of the Izu Islands. But I can feel it. The storm is going to hit before we can get there and I would rather not tempt fate." Closing her eyes, she gained a small smile. "Besides, I have some breakable gifts for Imouto in my cabin."

    That got her a snort from the Raiju as he shook his head. "That girl gets spoiled at times." Huffing a bit, he looked around with a frown as he noticed something. "Does this place truly bother you that much?"

    Opening her eyes, the Tengu glanced around and sighed. "It does, while I can agree with producing warships and even doing so in secret. But this..." She clenched her fist and let out a hiss. "This is not something that should have even been considered let alone allowed. It is because of things like this that I am out here or else my parents might try to convince my younger siblings to join. As long as I do this, perform these patrols, then they will be safe and not see horrors like these..."

    Even as she spoke, the sight before Harry faded away and soon he was standing once more in the symbol in the present and blinking as he looked around. "Whoa..."

    From where she stood to one side, Junyou chuckled some. "Let me guess, the spell worked and you're amazed at what you saw?" When he nodded, she grinned and gave him a thumbs up. "Then for that, I'll give you an Outstanding grade. Now then... with that done, I'll give you the next couple of hours to spend with Ume-San and Sakura-San here..."

    Walking away from Junyou after saying goodbye, Harry looked at the two Hitobashira beside him before suddenly snapping his fingers. "Oh yeah, before I forget..." Reaching into his pocket as the two curious spirits looked on, he pulled out a newspaper clipping and handed it to them. "I was looking through the local magical newspaper when I found this."

    Still confused, Ume took it before glancing at the picture that was in the clipping. There was something... familiar, about the man in it. But it was not until she read the article that she gasped and her eyes shot back to the picture. "Otouto..."

    Rapidly blinking as Sakura also looked and had her jaw drop, Harry watched in surprise as they whispered among each other. With a glance at Hamakaze who was watching in interest, Harry turned back to them. "Otouto? That man is your Otouto?"

    Hand before her mouth, Sakura was the one who answered for both sisters. "Hai, Harry-Chan. The man being talked about here is our Otouto, Konohana Akiyama."

    Finger tracing the face in the picture, Ume smiled slightly. "Our Aki-Chan has grown up to be a strong man, it would seem. Just as we knew that he would."

    Glancing at the man in the picture, Harry tilted his head some before nodding. "Um, well I just remembered your clan name and I saw that. Haru-San told me though that he was one of those trying to put through a bill for the JNHRO, the Japanese Non-Human Rights Organization... Though I guess he's not part of it from what Haru-San said. He also tried to get to push through a bill with some others to allow Yokai to form militias for the defense of Japan as well, but that failed in the Diet."

    A small frown on her face, Ume nodded some before humming. "It says here that he was trying to gather enough support for a special bill that would lower punishments for those who might help their nomaj neighbours? So that if one was to heal an injured person for example they would get a small fine?" Her frown then deepened as she read on. "But it failed?"

    Slowly, the black haired boy nodded as he rubbed the back of his neck. "Yeah, apparently there's been a lot of pressure to prevent the passing of such bills on the international scene. Because the whole Statute thing... but Haru-San did say that he's also part of the group forming a new government down in Kyoto."

    Thoughtful, Sakura nodded before smiling. "Ume-Chan has said, our Otouto has grown up into a strong man. And one it sounds like who is far better then our Chichi-ue was. We're glad to see such."

    Head tilted to the side, Urakaze blinked some in confusion. "Better then ya Otou-San? Really?"

    Both Ume and Sakura shared a look and were silent for several moments before they spoke. "Our Chichi-ue... was not an easy person. He could be very harsh with others and believed that honor, or his form of it, was paramount."

    Eyes looking at the ground, Sakura shook her head. "He was proud and happy for our birth. Twins of any form are always considered to be gifts, magical especially... Until he found out that we had little magic. We were not just disappointments to him then, but were considered stains on his honor and that of our family."

    Nostrils flaring from his anger, Harry pushed it down for a moment. "That... that can't be right."

    Reaching over, Ume placed her hand on Harry's shoulder and smiled sadly. "Unfortunately, it was how our Chichi-ue was. When we say that he was proud and happy for our birth, it was not out of any real love, though there might have been affection. He saw us as a potential bargaining tool to raise our clan's standing in the world. In fact..."

    Harry watched as she paused and looked over at Sakura. Much to his surprise, both seemed very hesitant and unsure. Coming to a stop, he took their hands in his and gave them a gentle squeeze. "It's okay, you don't need to tell me if you don't want to."

    Sadly smiling, Sakura shook her head before squeezing his hand back. "No, there's no reason for you not to know. Our clan, while descended from a branch clan of the Kamo, was considered minor when all was said and done. It did not help matters that there were rumors that one of our ancestors was none other then Ashiya Dōman. Such facts limited the power that our clan had."

    Eyes widened, Harry stared at her for a moment. "Wait, Ashiya Dōman? As in..." When she nodded, he frowned. "But how?"

    Glancing at her sister, Ume sighed. "According to one little known legend that was spoken of among us Onmyouji Clans, he had a child with Abe no Seimei's wife while he was dead. That child was a daughter and instead of killing her, Abe no Seimei instead gave her to the Kamo clan to raise, which they did. She married one of the lesser sons and thus begat our clan." After a moment of thought, she shook her head. "Of course, we gained our clan name in another way, which might not have helped. But due to that legend, our clan was... distrusted, to say the least. More so after the Statute was imposed on Japan as there were rumors that we backstabbed the Kamo clan and helped the downfall of our magical society. It did not happen of course, but..."

    Only nodding, Harry grimaced some and snorted. "Rumors and such can do as much damage as anything else then?" At their nods, he rolled his eyes and muttered some. "Typical."

    Her frown returning, Sakura took up the story again. "In regards to our father, it may perhaps be one of those reasons why he acted the way he did. He was driven, to say the least, to raise our clan's ranking. In the magical government at the time, he was... outspoken about certain subjects. Our mother was what the British would know as a 'Pureblood' from a small, but influential clan on Kyushu. They had raised her to be what they saw as a true Yamato nadeshiko in their view so she never spoke against him. As we said though, when we were born our father saw us as being a way to raise the clan higher."

    Ume closed her eyes and took a deep breath before releasing it. "From a very early age until it became apparent that we did not have enough magic to use for spells, we were raised that it was to be our duty to the clan that we would be married off to help it. Most likely, the two of us would share the same husband with either one of us as a wife and the other as a concubine, or perhaps both as consorts. Whichever one of us was a concubine, their child might well be part of our clan or our husbands as both families would decide. It is something that we accepted."

    Deeply frowning, Harry furrowed his eyebrows. "I don't like the sound of that... there would be no love."

    Sharing a look between them, Ume and Sakura turned back to him. "Love would not be impossible to grow in such a case, Harry-Chan. But it was how things were done on the magical side when we were alive for the most part. And it was to be our duty and we had little issue with such as it was not uncommon and perfectly respectable."

    Hamakaze had turned thoughtful and looked towards the Twins before shaking her head. "Concubinage though?" At their nods, she looked out onto the ruins of the area in thought. "I would have thought that it would no longer be happening in the magical part of Japan."

    For several moments the Twins were quiet before they spoke up. "As we said, it was not uncommon for higher ranked families to have concubines or mistresses and it was seen as respectable for both the man and the women. I very much doubt that things have changed too much on the magical side in regards to such."

    It was Urakaze's turn to frown at that as she considered what she was hearing. "That might cause some problems then when the Statute falls. After all, it's illegal in Japan. If there's a number of them..."

    All Hamakaze did was nod in agreement while Harry frowned. Only shaking her head, Sakura sighed. "Perhaps, but what may come will come. But in regards to such things, we accepted it ourselves that one or both of us would be concubines to the same man. Because we were twins, you see."

    That made Harry blink and turn to them in confusion. "Because you were twins? What does that have to do with anything?"

    Both spirits cocked their heads to the side in the same manner which made the black haired boy raise an eyebrow. Then their eyes widened slightly and they gave a nod. "Harry-Chan, how much do you know about magical twins? Especially identical magical twins?"

    Not having expected that question, Harry frowned in thought as he went over his own observations. Not just of Fred and George, but also Padma and Parvati Patil as well as Sakura and Ume themselves. "Um, not that much? I mean, they seem to have some sort of connection to each other, but..."

    Slowly, Sakura nodded with a small chuckle. "A connection is putting it rather mildly, Harry-Chan." Raising a hand, she gestured at her sister. "There was a belief in the magical side of things that twins such as we had one soul, but two bodies. Not quite true though as you can obviously see."

    Only blinking, Harry bobbed his head some. "Hai? I mean, both of you are your own spirit after all. So you can't be the same soul."

    Lips twitching, Ume tilted her head. "We cannot, Harry-Chan? Are you sure of that?" Waving him off as he was about to answer, she continued. "The fact of the matter is that whatever the truth may be, magical twins are deeply connected to each other, more so then normal twins. Even those twins who are different in personality share far more then they do not. For example, it is impossible for Sakura-Chan and I to hold secrets from one another. When we are not in the same room, we can have an idea of what the other is feeling."

    Now interested, Urakaze frowned and looked at them both. "You can tell what each other is feeling?" At their nods, she crossed her arms against her chest. "Is it like telepathy? You know, reading each other's minds?"

    After a moment, both Sakura and Ume giggled with their sleeves held to their mouths. Seeing the blush on Urakaze's face, they shook their heads. "It is not telepathy, Urakaze-Sama. We cannot read the other's mind. It is more..." Heads tilted to the side, they hummed in sync before opening their eyes and nodding. "It is like a sort of empathy, a strong bond between us and the closer we are, the more powerful the bond. Much like an echo of what we're feeling. But we can see how it would give the appearance of such."

    Eyebrow raising, Harry gave a chuckle. "The whole Twin speak thing doesn't help."

    Innocent looks on their faces, the two spoke as one again. "Twin speak? Whatever do you mean?"

    However, they were not able to hold it long and started to giggle again. Brightly smiling, Ume shook her head. "Such a thing is due to a lot of practice, Harry-Chan. It helps that thanks to how much time we have spent together as well as the feel for the other, that we can tell what the other is about to say before she does so. It is a powerful bond, helped by magic. But it also comes with it's own dangers as well..."

    Frowning, Sakura gave a small nod. "Hai, if one of the twins should die and the other does not, they will forever have an empty spot. After living so long with the echo from the bond, to lose that would be something that one would feel always. I believe that it would be like what the non-magicals call 'Phantom limbs', but far worse in some ways. In regards to Ume-Chan and myself with our possible husband? Our bond would cause us far less trouble together then apart. If we were apart, we would feel the echoes of what the other was doing. But together? We would be far more comfortable in some ways as our other twin would be there and thus there would be no confusion."

    Sadly smiling, Ume sighed as she looked out to the water in the caldera. "Twins are also quite powerful magically. It is thought that through the bond we share our magic. Or perhaps when one has need of magic, the other supplies such. It also increases the chances of powerful children when it comes to magic." Tilting her head, she gave Harry a smile that was sadder then before. "Though as we are now, we do not need to worry about such things. But we are still together and that is what is important to us. Something that we hope will continue on when we may pass on to the next live and perhaps reincarnate."

    Gently, Harry pulled Ume into a hug along with Sakura and mumbled into their kimonos. "I wish that this never happened to you, either of you. Neither of you deserve this and deserve all the happiness you could get."

    Laughing lightly, Sakura cupped his cheek and tilted his head back to look at them in their faces. Much to Harry's surprise, their expressions were one of peace. "And we thank you for that, Harry-Chan."

    On his other side, Ume also cupped the cheek and with an identical smile to her sister. "Whether or not we deserve our fate, we do have happiness. Your friendship alone grants us true happiness. And through you, we have had so many friends in the form of Natsumi-Sama, Haru-Sama, Yamato-Sama, Enterprise-Sama..." She then waved at the two Destroyers with her free hand. "As well as Hamakaze-Sama and Urakaze-Sama. We are happy now and each day is bright where before they were dark and grey. Like Amaterasu-no-Ookami has left her cave and driven back the darkness."

    It was then that Ume glanced at her sister only for Sakura to nod before they turned back to Harry with smiles on their faces before they leaned forward and both of them kissed his cheeks. Pulling back from the blushing boy, they bowed slightly. "So thank you, Harry-Chan. For bringing back the Sun to our existence."

    Scratching his cheek, Harry looked away as the Twins giggled some and Hamakaze smirked. "Um, you're welcome?" When the Twins took his hands though and they started to walk with him, he remembered something that they had brought up. "Oh yeah... you mentioned something about where your clan name came from?"

    With a blink, Sakura frowned. "Did we not tell you how our clan got it's name?" At the shake of his head, she placed a finger against her chin. "I see, we do not mind telling the story, I suppose. It is also why the women in our clan are given the names of flowers."

    Eyes closed for a moment as she brought up old memories, Ume nodded. "Five hundred years ago, our ancestor, Goro no Kamo, fell upon hard times due his family not being able to support him. None of the others would take him in and so he left for the Capital, Kyoto. When he got there though, the only place he could find was a small hut close to a tsubaki. He worked as a lowly scribe in the Onmyō-ryō and due to that, sometimes despaired as he could never afford a wife. At night, he used to sit under the tsubaki and watch as the Moon rose above. He loved the tree and declared that he would live there even if his fortunes changed around. One day, a woman sat down beside him during one of his nightly visits."

    Sakura now took over. "Night after night, they would meet under the tsubaki and she would simply talk with him. She taught him magic that his family had not due to his older brothers being more likely the heirs. It is said that she taught him the Taizen Fukun no Sai which has been passed down. With that knowledge, he slowly rose up in the Onmyō-ryō. In time, he was able to replace his hut with a small manor. During this time, he took the woman, Hana, as his wife and she bore him children who would go on to become Onmyouji. But not all was well as his brothers heard of his success and the fourth son journeyed to Kyoto to see for himself. They became jealous of how the brother they had thrown out because they could not support him had become successful. Accusations of Goro having stolen his knowledge of magic flew and a duel was eventually fought, one that they lost. But in retaliation, his oldest brother used a spell and destroyed the tsubaki tree that stood in Goro's garden and which he loved very much."

    Frowning, Ume shook her head. "When the tree fell, Goro's beloved wife gave a scream and also fell before dying. For she was a Furutsubaki no rei, the spirit of that tsubaki though her husband had not known that. As she laid dying with her tree, she apologized to Goro and declared that she had fallen in love with him when he used to stargaze under her branches. With her last breath, she laid a curse on his brothers though for what they had done. Like her leaves now would with no life in her trunk, so too would they wither and their families. Frightened, Goro's brothers ran back to their homes while Goro himself buried his wife and the tsubaki in the same grave in the garden they loved. Goro only lived long enough to rename his clan Konohana and pass on his own knowledge before being laid to rest with his love."

    Quiet for a few moments, Harry looked between the two and frowned. "That's... sad. But what happened to his siblings?"

    With a soft sigh, Sakura closed her eyes. "Shortly after the tsubaki's death, a plague swept through where Goro's older siblings lived. Them and their families died from the sickness, their bodies withering away. But it did leave our family somewhat distrusted by the others unfortunately. It is a tale that is passed down in my family from one generation to the next."

    All of them were quiet as they considered that until Ume looked back at the picture and softly smiled. "We are proud of our Otouto though as from what you said be became the sort of man he told us he was going to be. One whom our Chichi-ue would be against though I do wonder what happened to him. Perhaps... perhaps one day we shall meet our Otouto again, we can only hope."

    On Harry's other side, Sakura tilted her head slightly. "It's strange." At the looks, she smiled slightly. "There have been times when Ume-Chan and myself have sworn that we have heard our Otouto's voice speaking to us. As if he was far away from here... Then again, we did have a bond beyond siblings with him as our Haha-ue was not the best. Often, it fell to us to take care of his hurts when our Chichi-ue or the clan elders were too harsh. We dried his tears and tried to comfort him. There were times when we felt as if we were his parents, not his Onee-Samas." Her gaze saddened a bit. "And others, we felt that it was our fault for how he was treated. That our parents would not have pushed him or been so harsh if only we had magic and were not disappointments."

    Much to their surprise, Harry gave their hands a squeeze and gave them both a glare. "None of that was your fault, Sakura-Chan, Ume-Chan. Any fault laid with your parents, not you." His own expression soon saddened with old memories. "I know how it feels to believe that sort of thing. So I know that it's the truth that it is not your fault."

    The two spirits blinked before smiling somewhat. "You are right, Harry-Chan."

    In return, Harry smiled back at them as they continued to walk along.
     
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  24. Threadmarks: Permanent Departure
    darthcourt10

    darthcourt10 Versed in the lewd.

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    NotHimAgain

    I liked writing this one. Also, music should always reflect what a character is feeling. So without further ado.


    Permanent Departure

    -----

    Himeyuki walked quietly out of her room, shutting the door behind her. She looked right and left, then down at her clothes. It was a nice kimono, very beautiful weave, but she could not wear it and not think of what she was once again leaving behind. With a flick of her wand, she was wearing a practical long-sleeved blouse and a skirt that dropped down to her calves. Nodding to herself, she began walking purposefully. She had tried very hard to forget the house that she grew up in, now she would have to find her way through the halls again.

    She kept walking, ignoring the slight burning stench that was beginning to appear in the air. Hopefully, her in-laws were coming. Akebono at the least would—she had been right in the other room when she had been taken, after all. Namiko? For all that she was shy and unassuming, she did not take it well when her loved ones got in trouble. Amagiri, if they were aiming for chaos and destruction. Himeyuki looked around her, at the paintings lining the walls, the gaudy wallpaper, the expensive light fixtures. As far as she was concerned, the old place could use it.

    Pausing at a door, she considered her next step. If she was correct, this was a sitting room that she could walk through to get to another hallway that would lead to the front door more quickly. On the other hand, did she want to take the front? Why not the back, where she would probably attract less attention? Though when she thought about it, she had been completely lost when she had run into Ichiro and she had never tried to figure out the way back to the Ryuusei manor. And considering the state she planned to leave anyone who tried to stop her in, would they be in any shape to object?

    Her mind was made up. Himeyuki pushed the door of the room open and stepped in. Hooray, sitting room! She had been right! Slightly less disconcerting than the three men sitting around in the room in armchairs, as if waiting for something. They turned to look at her, startled, and one of them caught her eye in particular. Though she couldn’t remember his name, he was definitely the one who had brought her here. She glared disdainfully.

    “Ojou-sama,” he said respectfully (and maybe a little apologetically, were it possible?) “I am pleased to see you up and about. Do you need anything?”

    “I’m leaving,” Himeyuki replied bluntly. “Do not try and stop me.” The men looked back and forth between each other, concerned. She glanced between them. They were Branch Family, the… what had Sazanami called them? Goombas?—servants that worked for her father, that had proven already that they did the dirty work when they were needed to. On the one hand, hopefully they wouldn’t fight. On the other hand, it had been a bit of a day, and Himeyuki wanted to blow off the steam.

    “You cannot do that,” another man said, and Himeyuki took a second to admire his truly glorious mustache. “Your father will be displeased.” And then all respect that she had for him was gone. She rolled her eyes mockingly.

    “Too bad for him, I’m afraid,” she replied. The three looked between each other, and then Mustache apparated. Himeyuki stepped forward calmly, casting Confringo over her shoulder, and was rewarding with a cry of pain in the explosion and the noise of someone hitting the opposite wall of the hall. Oh good, that was where he had gone to. She would have felt absolutely ridiculous if he had gone to somewhere else. The second two were on their feet, wands out, and she dropped low, swinging her wand out. One of the armchairs swept into its former occupant, then spun through the air and slammed into his fellow, knocking them low. With another flick of her wand, the threads of the rug split apart, reweaving themselves around the fallen men. One of them, her original kidnapper, vanished. The other, apparently less familiar with the spell, was only able to stare at her in shock as the threads locked his arms against his side.

    For a moment, Himeyuki stood still, looking down at where one of her opponents had been trapped. It seemed like this wouldn’t be as easy as she hoped.

    Turning, she hit Mustache with a stunning spell as he tried to struggle to his feet. Then she lifted Rug off the floor before slamming him back down hard enough to knock him out.

    Good.
    -----

    Haru was relaxing with a nice cup of tea when Akebono stormed in, kicking the door in. She was dragging a pair of cloaked goons behind her. Haru cocked an eyebrow. That looked like an interesting story in the making.

    “My apologies,” she said, taking a sip from her tea, “I’m not a gravedigger. If you’re going to get involved in—”

    “No!” Akebono roared, throwing the men at her feet. “I need you to find the Mizuchi who fought the Gashadokuro with you. These men took my sister-in-law!” And that was serious. Haru placed her tea on a table.

    “Did she have a cell phone on her?” she asked. “You can track those, can’t you?” Akebono paused, and Haru noted ironically that the Shipgirl was mad enough that she hadn’t considered the possibility. “Did you at least go through their pockets, and try to find some kind of identification?” Now Akebono was turning an odd shade of purple. “Look, just… go do what you need to. I’ll handle these two.”

    Akebono was already running for the door.

    Haru looked down at the pair thoughtfully. Slowly, one of them planted his hands on the floor and began to push himself upright. Almost as quickly, Haru’s foot was on his shoulder pushing him back down to the ground. “Did I give you permission to leave?” she asked coldly. Whatever else happened, there would be police officers interested in speaking with these men. Maybe even an auror, if she figure out a way to make it happen without blowing up in her face.
    -----

    With a savage slash of her wand, Himeyuki ripped parts of the walls out, sandwiching the Branch goon charging her with a crushing blow. With another swing, the walls were tumbling down the halls and bowling down another goon. Two others apparated, reappearing a few feet closer in it’s path of destruction. Breathing deeply, throwing her arms wide, Himeyuki seized control of the lights. The four closest to her exploded simultaneously into gouts of flame that she sent rocketing at her assailants. As they held their positions, shielding against the assault, she apparated herself and hit them both with stunners.

    That made for eleven now that she had dealt with. Had the Branch Family always been this large? Himeyuki recalled them running around in the yard, playing happily, but she had never cared about how many there were. All she had ever been able to see was the smiles on their faces.

    Just like the many, many other smiling children that her father had warned her not to speak to, reminding her again and again that they were below her station. And yet, they were happy and she was miserable. Was misery the purpose of her station in life? Would he have let her be happy, ever? She pushed the familiar annoyance to the back of her mind. She'd just have to bring up the problem if she saw him.
    -----

    “… So does your kid know Madoka-sempai?” Eiji asked, climbing out of the car with Mai in his arms. “Because Madoka-sempai is great with kids, but your little girl seems to be at the age where she doesn’t really like strangers.”

    “You are not suggesting that we take her with us,” Ichiro snapped back in reply. Eiji raised a hand to ward him off.

    “No, no, not at all,” he replied hastily. “But what are we gonna be doing bringing a baby girl into whatever craziness you’re looking to get into? Heck, why do you want to handle this anyways? They’re probably gonna pull us from the case because you’re too emotionally involved.”

    “I know that! She’s my wife!” Ichiro snarled. “I can’t… I can’t just sit around and do nothing, I’ll—”

    “Would you be Nagawa Ichiro-san?” another voice, reedy and pretentious cut him off. Ichiro fixed him with a glare. Then he did a double take, because the man who had cut him off was dressed like a Russian Czar.

    “Who are you?” he demanded. The man simply turned to look at Eiji, briefly registering Mai held secure in his arms. Eiji bared his teeth like a wolf, cradling the girl closer to his chest and hunching over like a cornered animal. The man turned to face Ichiro again, producing a small stick.

    “Obliviate,” he said simply, waving it at him.

    Ichiro stood stock still, trying to figure out what was going on. Then the man started to walk towards Mai. He stepped forward, one arm held out in his path, and swept his feet out from under him with a kick. The man stared up at him, then tried to point his stick—wand?—at him again. Just as fast, it was gone from his hand and secure in Eiji’s.

    “I wouldn’t,” he said quietly, in a menacing voice. “I really wouldn’t.”

    Really, what was going on here?
    -----

    The doors exploded open, and Himeyuki stepped through the gaping hole where they had been. She scanned the room, and recognized Ryunosuke and Jusaburo with a twisting anger in her stomach. It was unfortunate, too—this was the entrance hall, and they were standing between her and the door.

    Wait a second. That meant she would have to go through them to leave. That wasn’t unfortunate at all. That… That would actually be rather satisfying.

    “Daughter,” Jusaburo said, stepping forward. His town was plaintive, his eyes pleading. “What are you doing? This is our home, why must you destroy it?”

    Your home,” she growled, pointing her wand at him. “Never mine. You just wouldn’t see it.”

    “Okay,” Ryunosuke cut in, pointing his own wand at her. “That’s enough. Settle down, we’ll talk this out, and—” with a shriek, the chandelier tore itself from it’s chain and shot toward him like a bullet. Ryunosuke’s eyes widened, and he raised his wand to shield himself—completely missing a small section of baseboard that tore away from the wall to sweep his feet from under him. As he hit the ground, Himeyuki cast Expelliarmus, throwing him across the floor. His wand flew away in a perfect parabola as the chandelier crashed beside Jusaburo, sending the Ryuusei head jumping away.

    “Daughter! Please! Whatever is troubling you, you must find another way to express it!” He begged. She laughed sardonically.

    “Oh, now that’s what you say?” she hissed. “After nineteen years of grinding away at me, trying to tear away everything I was. You tell me. To express myself. After that?” Himeyuki snorted. “There’s only one way that could possibly describe what I’m feeling.”

    Jusaburo stared at her in horror. “Daughter…” he stepped towards her, holding out his hand. “My beloved daughter…”

    And hearing him using those words, the ones that described the bundle of happiness awaiting her with her husband, those were the ones that burst the floodgates.

    BULLSHIT!” she screamed, sending him stumbling back again. She fired a spell past his head, but there was no joy in him clumsily deflecting it, only more rage at the betrayal in his expression. “All my life! You controlled me! Like a PUPPET! Told me where to GO! Who I could be FRIENDS with!” Another spell, another step forward. “What I was allowed to find MEANING in! When you NOTICED that I wasn’t happy, all you did was giving another GODDAMN DOLL! If you had ONCE CARED enough to ASK about what I FELT? What I WANTED? Whether I was HAPPY? Just ONCE?” Another spell. Another step forward. “Maybe. I could have called you my FATHER!”

    “Daughter…” Jusaburo stared at her, shaking. Himeyuki could feel rage shivering down her own arms. “Himeyuki… You don’t…”

    “I don’t WHAT?” Another spell. Another step forward. “MEAN IT? THAT’S YOUR PROBLEM! YOU NEVER LISTENED! YOU NEVER CARED ABOUT ME! IT WAS YOU! ALWAYS YOU! I HAD TO HAVE YOUR DESIRES, YOUR PLANS! AS IF I WAS NOTHING! BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT I WAS TO YOU!” Another. Spell. Another. Step. Forward. “I WAS NEVER YOUR DAUGHTER! I WAS A MEMENTO! OF A WOMAN! LONG! GONE! I WAS A GODDAMN PET! YOU TRIED TO MAKE ME THINK I WAS YOUR DAUGHTER! GOD DAMN YOU, YOU ARE A POISON TO ME!

    Another spell. Jusaburo, trembling as he was, couldn’t block it. He was knocked from his feet, fell on his back like a turtle. “D…” he stammered, as if her sheer vitriol had washed away his every defense. “Daught—”

    “You have no right,” she snarled, “to call me that.” She stood over him, pointing her wand down at him. He was at her absolute mercy in this moment. “I’m leaving. And I’m never coming back. And if this house burns to the fucking ground?” She kicked his wand from his hand, and now there was some satisfaction at the spreading horror on his face. “Good. I never liked this fucking prison.

    One last spell—Confringo. The doors disintegrated. And Himeyuki walked out into the yard, into the carefully sculpted yard. In front of eight girls who looked so much younger than they really, truly were.

    “Hello, girls,” she said, looking between her sisters-in-law. “I was wondering when you would arrive here.”

    “S-sorry,” Akebono said, stumbling uncomfortably over the word, “I… I was a little freaked out. You… you ready to go home?”

    “I am indeed,” Himeyuki agreed, smiling. “Let’s go home.”

    “Um,” Oboro said, craining her neck up and looking over Himeyuki. “This house is on fire.”

    “I know,” she agreed, walking in amongst her family, “I set it on fire.”

    Oboro grinned “Awesome,” she gloated.

    “Isn’t it?"
    -----

    Lightning bolt and lightning bug... lightning bolt and lightning bug... Aaaaaagh...

    Well, what do you think sirs?
     
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  25. Threadmarks: Kaylee's refit
    darthcourt10

    darthcourt10 Versed in the lewd.

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    Snippet 2: S0ngD0g13

    Kaylee McAmis, AKA USS Virginia, felt herself slipping under as Akashi prepared to refit her, and smiled slightly as her vision went dark...

    ......................................................

    Kaylee opened her eyes and sat up on the dock; dockhands and ship-fitters were scrambling about to begin the process, but her eyes were on a small knot of people just at the landward edge of the pier...

    "Mom? Dad? Gramma Sandy? Grandpa Mike?"

    Eric McAmis, dressed in his favorite Rolling Stones tee and jeans, nodded with the warm smile Kaylee remembered so fondly. "Sure is, Kaylee. We figured we'd drop in since you're sitting on the edge here and have a chat. We've been watching, Lil'-Kay; seen you've gone through some tough times."

    Her mom, Krystal Caitlyn 'Katie' McAmis, hugged her tight. "And don't think we didn't see that one night and your LeMat, Young Lady. You scared the life out of us, Kaylee..."

    "Um... Y'all are kinda already... How would I...?"

    Mike McAmis snorted. "You know what we meant, Kaylee. It's good to see you again. Kiddo, you've made us so proud..." He joined in the hug, alongside Sandy and Eric and Katie.

    Kaylee couldn't help the tears that ran down her face. "But, I've... I don't know that I've done anything worth being proud over..."

    Eric chuckled. "You charged an Abyssal, in a dory, armed with pistols, to try and save a friend."

    Katie kissed her cheek. "You adopted Charlotte when your orders were to cull all the acromantula on her island."

    Sandy kissed Kaylee's other cheek. "You helped comfort Ginny Weasley, who'd been through trouble as bad or worse than your own."

    Mike, her Grandpa Mike who'd been Army for a decade and see-sawed between Corporal and Sergeant for eight of his ten years, saluted. "You heard the call and you answered it. Kaylee, Lieutenant McAmis, welcome to the long tradition of McAmis military-service."

    Kaylee looked around and sighed, not seeing someone she had considered closer than any other. "Polly?"

    Eric shook his head. "She's not here, Kaylee; she's waiting for you."

    The ironclad slumped to the boards of the pier, her eyes down-turned. Her shoulders shook. "I... I want to stay here. I don't want to wake up. Polly's waitin' for me, and y'all know how I felt about her... And Gods' Honest, I'm just so damn tired..."

    Eric knelt and gently lifted his daughter's (There was no 'Step-' in their family.) chin. "Polly's not waitin' on this side of death, Kaylee. Your love ain't here..."

    "What? How?"

    Mike grinned, brushing a finger through his moustache. "You know how Natural-borns are Ships that reincarnated as Girls?"

    Sandy smiled. "Have you ever wondered if the inverse might be true?"

    Kaylee's eyes widened. "You mean?"

    Katie nodded. "Just listen." Kaylee listened carefully and heard Polly O'Toole's voice singing wordlessly. "She's singing to draw you back; she knows you want to sleep, but she also knows you have work to do still, Kaylee. Sing to her, let her know you're coming back."

    Eric hugged her again. "I'll always be proud of you, and we'll always watch over you. I love you, Kaylee."

    Katie hugged her tight. "I love you."

    Sandy hugged her and held her close. "Today's not your day, Kaylee. Go on, go back and sing for Polly. I love you."

    Mike wrapped Kaylee up in a bear-hug. "I'm proud of you, Kaylee, no matter what. But Sandy's right; it ain't your time to sleep just yet. Now sing, Kaylee. Sing loud and fight hard.

    "Sing loud and fight hard, Kaylee. We love you."

    Kaylee smiled, tears in her eyes, and saw more figures take shape behind her parents and her dad's parents. Generation after generation of her family formed, and all were beaming proudly at her as she raised her voice and sang...

    Dry your eyes;
    There's no need to weep.
    The weather is fine
    And the road isn't steep;
    The world is still round
    And my compass is true;
    Each step is a step back to you...

    .........................................................


    The refit continued and Kaylee sang on...

    To where the sky is clear as a maiden's eye,
    Who longs for our return;
    To the land where milk and honey flows
    And liberty, it was born;
    So fill our sails with the favoring gales
    And good shipmates all-around,
    And we'll give three cheers
    For our Stainless Flag,
    Into Norfolk Homeward-Bound!

    ......................................................


    The work continued and day gave way to night, and still Kaylee sang on...

    Slip the jesses, my Love;
    This Hunter you own from the Hood
    To the Glove;
    When the circling and striking are done,
    And I la~and,
    Let me come back to your hand...

    ........................................................


    When Kaylee awoke, she heard a soft humming coming from all around her; she recognized the tune and sang quietly...

    We'll meet again;
    Don't know where,
    Don't know when...


    And a familiar voice responded...

    But I know we'll meet again,
    Some sunny day...


    The ghostly apparition of Polly Elizabeth O'Toole sat by the edge of the repair-pool, smoothing her favorite gingham dress's skirt. "See? I told you before you oughtn't sing sad songs, Kaylee."
     
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  26. Threadmarks: JNHRO Caldera
    darthcourt10

    darthcourt10 Versed in the lewd.

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    Snippet 2: Lord K

    So, seeing as we're allowed back in here, it's time to post that snippet I was working on the other day
    Harry Leferts said:
    That makes her extremely dangerous... Though now I wonder if she was involved with what happened at Ganges Island (complete with her more recently cursing not outright levelling said island) as well as the Caldera where the Twins are since MACUSA was involved in that fight... Or just cursing whoever was due to various issues.​
    So I got inspired by the suggestion that Mary was at the battle of the Caldera shipyard on the Twin's Island.

    The idea of doing a snippet around it actually really grew on me, since it would have been the perfect opportunity to delve into exactly why the Mizuchi reincarnating itself as Mary's child and then revealing it's true nature once it had regained enough power, was the worst thing it thought it could do to Mary beyond just trying to kill her (though in the end, it ballsed the plan because it never considered the mix of memories and emotions that could result from being a reincarnation).

    Spoliered though, partly because length, and partly because it's a bit different from the usual fare in the thread, what with being a depiction of the late Pacific War with magic. While I tried to keep the violence down, it's still got it's roots in being a bit of a homage to various war movies.

    *-*-*-*

    Caldera
    Spoiler
    [Seashore Ambient Sound]

    Mary wasn't exactly sure why she had come back to this godforsaken place.

    Sure it had turned up a few times in the emails she had rifled through. And it probably would be worth mentioning to someone in the ICW, at some other conveniently distant point in the future, that they could now write another blasted little outcrop in the middle of nowhere off the "nomajs think it's a phantom Phantom Island" list. But there was no real reason to be out here and reconnoitering right now.

    Not that she was doing a very good job of it. For most of the last few minutes, she had merely stood on the rocky shoreline, arms crossed and taking in the rusting decrepit sins of a mad world, almost 70 years previous.

    If the forgotten hulks and twisted steel mountains choking the caldera had anything to say about her silent, sentinel vigil since arriving, it was only in the language of lapping waves, the sigh of the wind, and the cry of the occasional bird overhead. Even the wrecks were so old and entrenched into the dockside homes and graving yard cradles that had become their tombs, that they no longer groaned or shifted with the slowly inexorable movements of the tides.

    Alone, Mary stood on the shore in unreadable silence, cursing the strange weight and age she seemed to feel in this place. She'd visited her memories of this vista countless times over the years, for various reasons as the decades and circumstances of her life progressed the context of the nightmares.

    In the past this place had left her angry. Then it left her hopeless and despondent. There had been a period when she had almost forgotten about it, cast out by the light of hope and life. Then the rage and despair had come back. Eventually though, and for the longest time, there was something almost like acceptance. But right now.... in this moment she found herself in, with feet upon that accursed ground she never imagined willingly coming back to, she wasn't sure what she felt....

    Maybe old age has made her reflective she muses. Japan always did make her more introspective than usual whenever she visited.

    She just wishes that age didn't also make her feel the obnoxious heat of the sun so much more than in the past as well, through the blacks and grays of the infiltration outfit she decided to wear for this impromptu sojourn as a precaution. She was definitely getting too old for this shit. Rusty, worn out, and now melancholy as well.

    For a moment, she wonders how Beggerman always did it. She's no stranger to the thanklessness of the job, but popping in and out of retirement like he did must have been hell each time, if it's anything like what she's found just getting back up to speed and into the rhythm again just this once.

    Pulling herself from her rumination, and finally moving for the first time in minutes by turning around to take in the sights around her, an object catches her eye. A fishing boat that once upon at time doubled as a minesweeper and picket boat. At least until it's crew were ambushed, and the vessel subverted for other ends. Now it is simply a twisted skeleton of steel upon the rocks that were once a pair of dockside berths.

    A gentle breeze blows, bringing with it the smell of cool sea air. One that lacks the stench of blood, death, fire and suffering she has so long associated with this place. It's strange to finally be back here after so long. Physically for once, rather in a nightmare, and smelling the earthy volcanic tones of the surrounding hills, and the soft salty scent of the waves rolling at the rims of the caldera.

    Not the sharp, nauseous, overpoweringly retch-inducing stench of death and suffering. A smell that permeated everything, even through the choking combination of smokey haze, ozone from spellfire, and and a heavy metallic odor of iron you could practically taste in the air thanks to all the blood spilled. A perfume of humanity's madness, backed up by the choir of hell as it is born on the wind that-

    - pulls at her hair, messy and bedraggled where it has either come loose from her bun, or is now heavy and lank from the blood that stains it.


    The world is back lit by Hell's own inferno, center stage to something that looks torn from the pages of the Divine Comedy. Steel daises for the performances of torture, agony and damnation, as men face the choices of choosing the manners of their executions upon the decks; Death by flame like the mages of old, as the steel beneath their feet it heated to red hot temperatures by the conflagrations raging within. Burning or drowning by diving into the flaming oil-slicks spreading from the dying vessels. Or being cut down by the slavers-turned-executioners who would kill their captives simply to spite their foes in a perverse sense of pride. And yet to all this suffering, there is only a feeling of numbness, drowned out by a piercing whine

    "Lieutenant!
    Lieutenant! Lieutenant! WHAT THE HELL DO WE DO NOW LIEUTENANT!?!?"

    Snapping back to reality as the ringing aftereffects of the explosion fade from her ears, Mary wipes the blood-mattered brown locks off of her face, and glances around as somebody hauls her to her feet. On the dockside, one of their fishing boats remains mostly intact. The second of their hijacked infiltration craft however, is now a raging conflagration filled with hellish, screaming forms, the source of the debris still raining down around them, and only adding to the danger posed from the surrounding port facilities rapidly going up in flames.

    Double checking she still has her wand in hand, quick reflexes barely manage to save her and her ally as she catches sight of a form in Japanese uniform. Counter-spelling their attack, then immediately casting a bone-breaker, the jinx connects dead-center to her enemy's face, dropping him instantly. The reprieve is short lived however, as already more are moving to take his place. Still trying to shake the ringing out of her ears, and wishing she had a wandgrip thanks to how slick her oak focali now is with blood, Mary snaps her gaze to her helper as they duck into cover.


    "Orthrus! What's our status!"

    "Not good ma'am!" cries the wizard who answers to the codename, as he alternates between casting from different sides of the truck he ends up hiding behind. "Primary objectives are achieved, but everything else is up shit creek and FUBAR! We've taken heavy casualties, only half of the Secondary Objective Team is back, and P.oW. Retrieval is a no show entirely! And even if they did turn up, our ex-fil is shot to fucking hell!"

    A blasting curse sends her diving for more substantial cover, as the crates she was previously hiding behind are whittled away under the weight of incoming spellfire. "What about the other landing zones!?"

    "Everything's gone to melee! They could be as fucked as us for all we know!"

    From behind them, Mary hears a distant shout that "Nobody knows what the hell is going on now!"

    "This is worse than fucking Iwo-Jima!" another cries.

    Elsewhere in the flame-lit darkness, a voice howls in agony for their mother, before finally fading into merciful silence as bullets and spellfire streak through the air overhead.

    Across the other side of the caldera's harbor, Mary can make out at least two different infernos populated by the animated shapes of Fiendfyre, rather than just the non-magical conflagrations already raging alongside them and doing a worryingly over-effective job of consuming practically everything else in view. A fusillade of fire over her cover then draws her attention back to more immediate problems. Taking a moment to creatively lob an overpowered summoning charm at a distant pile of pipes, her improvised weapons then streak through the air like javelins to impale the unobservant Japanese wizard unfortunate enough to be between the steel and her.

    Some breathing room brought, Mary then glances at the inferno that was once one of their intended escape craft. Cornered, the surviving members to their Company now fight a multi-pronged battle to not just fend off the continued waves of Japanese attackers while retrieving the injured from the destroyed vessel, but to also ward off the conflagrations slowly leaping between the shoddily constructed port facilities and riding the harbor waters atop the multitude of growing black slicks. Between the knock to the head, the smoke, and the fumes from all the various chemicals going up around them with the occasional intermittent explosion, even Mary's iron will and training are barely enough to soldier through the noxious, choking air.

    "Where's the Captain!?"

    Orthrus points further to the north along the wharf, where occasionally through the smoke, the flashing glimpses of dueling forms and spellfire can be seen, flickering in and out of view in the smog-choked shadows of the dockside cranes.

    "Typhon, Ladon and Gorgon went to go lock down that flank to keep the way open for Chimera and Sphinx's teams, but now they're pinned down fighting off waves of attackers!"

    Mary feels a chill fall over her. With an unshakable resolve and icy coldness, Mary casts a gust of smoke to the left of her refuge. Her overeager foes leaping out to fire at the target potentially trying to cover itself as it moves from cover to cover, Mary punishes them for taking her bait with ruthless efficiency. Before the three newly created corpses even hit the ground, Mary is on the move, her warpath aimed in the direction of the under fire duelists.

    "Orthus, hold the rally point! If I'm not back in ten minutes, leave without us!"

    "Where the fuck are you going!?!"

    "To rescue the Captain."

    Breaking into a run, even at a distance the flames from the hellish landscape that is forming around the caldera, are enough that Mary has to apply a Flame-Freezing Charm to herself.

    This almost ends up backfiring on her when, after leaping over the flaming spill of some unknown substance trickling out of one of the innumerable buildings she passes, she then finds herself landing on the other side of the inferno wall, face to face with a pair of Japanese wizards attempting to flank her allies from a distance.

    "Nani?!?"

    Unfortunately for the wizards, Mary wastes no breath on expressing her surprise. Immediately disarming the first of his wand and sending it soaring into a nearby fire, she seamlessly deflects a spell from and then falls into a duel with his partner. Wands suddenly locking in a struggle of power as they each respond with a bolt of energy directed at the other at the same time, a furiously deadly game of superheated push and shove ensues, right up until a cry of "Banzai!!" makes Mary glance back at her disarmed attacker. Rather than going for his slowly burning wand, the man has instead drawn a sword and charged at her, wasting his element of surprise with a battle cry as he raises the blade wildly over his head to cut her down.

    With fluid precision, Mary maintains the plasmatic power contest even as she ducks beneath the officer's over-committed swing, using the same movement to then draw a Ka-bar from the holster hidden behind her back. Lightning fast, she stabs the man in the side with her technically non-regulation nomaj weapon and with a vicious twist of the knife, the enchantments in the blade then deliver their improvised counterpoint to the issue of apparition and portkey enabled banzai attacks degenerating into hand-to-hand melees more regularly than their muggle counterparts. Pulsing with a blast of electricity that is generally agreed after much trail and error among the troops, to be capable of stopping oni, against a normal human at full voltage, it pours so much power into the man that his skin blackens and the soles of his shoes burst into flame as the current grounds.

    Before the wizard she is still engaged in her duel with can respond, a familiar shout of "Expulso!" relieves the man of most of his skull.

    "Oh! Captain!"

    "My Captain!" answers the man in kind, with a grin that beguiles the anger and worry in his eyes.

    Launching a spell into the smoke behind her, Mary doesn't even bother to check what he's firing at, as she instead falls into the reflexive role of dancing and weaving in tune with his footsteps, back to his and targeting the foes behind her C.O. in turn. "Please sir, don't invite fate upon us now with such jokes!"

    "Live a little Echidna!" In the buildings around them, something explodes with enough violence that Mary can feel the blast of force and heat upon her face, even as the smoke grows so thick, she can't actually identify how close the danger is.

    "Captain! We need to pull back now!"

    "Negative! We have to wait for the Secondary and Retrieval Team to- DUCK!"

    Instinctively Mary follows the command, just barely avoiding the massive sickle that careens through the air where their heads were a moment ago. Past them the blade flies, only for it to suddenly be blasted out of the air by a bolt of blue from somebody else, that sends it into the legs of one of the surrounding cranes with an almighty crash. Out of the flames then strides a form she barely recognizes as Ladon through all the smoke and grime.

    "Sir! Gorgon's dead!"

    "Fuck!" The Captain's next spell then rather violently relives a yokai sniper on one of the few rooftops not yet burning, of most of his chest. "Are you sure?!"

    The wizard nods gravely as their back-to-back offensive is now joined by a third party. "A god damn sickle-weasel diced him from shoulder to hip, he's definitely fucking dead!"

    Intercepting a lightning bolt with her Ka-bar, Mary then capitalizes on the her foe's surprise at the metal implement not leading to a conductivity induced death, by banishing her knife at him. Emptying the overcharged blade of it's excess voltage into his chest, it then returns to her off hand with a cry of "accio". Distractions momentarily out of the way, she then returns to delivering her own bad news.

    "Captain, it's hopeless staying here! All the explosive charges are either set or already going off! A third of our team are now K.I.A. or wounded, Secondary Team's been cut to peaces, and even if Retrieval aren't dead, the Japs are killing all the P.o.W.s anyway! We've already lost one of our boats, nobody can raise any of the other landing forces for support, and the landing site is being surround by hostiles from the north and south, and fire from the east and west! We need to go now!"

    "Echidna's right sir! We stay here any longer, and this mission's just going to get even more FUBAR!"

    "God damnit!"

    The man grits his teeth in helpless rage, firing off a jellylegs curse at a raijin as it prepares to ride its lightning bolt towards them. Thrown off course by it's flailing limbs, the yokai streaks through the air with a blast of thunder that deafens the three Americans, slamming into the supports of the crane behind them. The unflinchingly focused fire from the three veterans then explosively finishes the beast off before it can recover and make it's lighting fast escape. Above however, the already damaged and increasingly flame ravaged cranes groan in protest.

    For one last, heartrending moment, the Captain looks back in the direction almost half of his company still has yet to return from.

    "SHIT!!!" Pouring all his rage and anguish at the decision into the expletive, the man gestures back towards the landing site. "It's no good waiting for them if we have our only remaining ride out of the anti-apparition wards blown out from under us! Echidna! Take Point! Ladon, eyes rear with me! Let's go!"

    Nodding, Mary takes off at a sprint, initiating the leapfrogging retreat back towards the rest of their allies. The regularity of the spellfire being glimpsed through the blindingly cloying haze of heat, smoke and death, speaks of the intensity of the ongoing conflict they are returning towards. Their progress however, is impeded by the still regularly appearing pursers, determined to either finish them off or die trying.

    Then, in the middle of Typhon bounding up to her position, it happens. The hateful whirring of steel upon the wind, announcing that the sickle weasel has retrieved it's weapon.

    "Captain, look out!"

    Just barely managing to duck in time, the weapon careens through his headspace and continues on through the air. This time however, Ladon doesn't blast the sickle out of the air, waiting and tracking it's progress with his steely gaze. Even after it disappears into the smoke, the wizard hesitates, listening and following the arch it would be taking out of sight. At last the sound pauses, but still Ladon waits for the confirmation he seeks. Then he hears the whirring start again, automatically dropping to the ground with a vengeful grin.

    "This is for Gorgon you cocksucker." As the sickle ineffectually flies over the wizard's prone form, and disappears back toward the smoke occluded upper works of the dockside crane, Ladon swipes his wand through the air viciously. "BOMBARDA MAXIMA!!!"

    Somewhere in the smoke above there is a explosion, followed by a triumphant whoop from Ladon as a now shrapnel filled weasel yokai falls out of the smog-choked sky with a cry of pain and terror, only to be abruptly silenced land as it lands with a fatal sounding crash in a pile of crates nearby. "YEAH! EAT THAT YOU STUPID FUCKING RODENT!"

    From their positions further afield however, Mary and the Captain see what Ladon doesn't. With the accumulative heat and damage finally proving too much, the legs of one of the cranes groans, as it begins to warp and crumple.

    "Ladon! MOVE!!!"

    "OH SHIT!"

    Scrambling to his feet, the wizard takes off at a run as the air fills with the sounds of twisting, failing metal and rivets popping like gunfire. Mary has only one last glimpse of Ladon attempting to cast something to aid his flight to safety, fear and horror on his face.

    And then he is lost from sight and view, as the cab of the crane crashes down in front of them, forcing the witch and wizard to cast shields to deflect the spray of shrapnel. To their right, the descending arm of the crane tears through one of the nearby buildings, flinging debris through the air and fanning the intensity of the flames. Like a giant door being opened to the oxygen starved factory floors within, the hole in the building results in a backdraft of epic proportions, almost throwing the two from their feet as it hammers their shields with a deafening boom.

    "NO!!!"

    "LADON!!!"

    Now more than ever, Mary wants to murder whoever gave them the intel for this mission.

    She still wants to murder them slowly and painfully.



    "LARRY!!!"

    "LADON'S DEAD SIR, LET'S GO!"

    "GOD DAMNIT, ARGHH!!!" Gnashing his teeth, the man acknowledges the truth of her words. "Echidna, take point, I'll cover you!"

    "On it Captain!"

    Rushing ahead, Mary can just barely make out the sight of the boat and the ongoing battle to protect their escape point up ahead. Taking up overwatch, it is only a few seconds later that the captain then catches up to her, appearing from the smoke covering their rear sector. Like god hinting at then to hurry up, something then violently detonates in the shattered building the crane collapsed into, all but making Ladon's death a certainty if it wasn't already. Ducking as wood and steel shower down around them, Mary looks at her C.O.

    "You think anyone's going to follow us through that?"

    "I wouldn't bet on it!" Even so, he doesn't take his wand and gaze off the path they just came from. So far, they've already faced down more than a few fire resistant yokai since arriving on the island.

    In the distance, there is a mournful, cavernous, whale-like sound, as one of the smaller vessels in the harbor begins to settle on the bottom, even as its upper works continue to burn.

    "You got my back sir?"

    "You're Good! Go! Go! Go!"

    Breaking into a sprint, Mary tears down the last length of wharf side dividing them from freedom, charging through the embers and gloom to the lines of their waiting allies.

    And then with horror, she sees the forms clustered behind the crates in front of her, previously obscured by the smoke. She just ran straight into part of the the rear echelon ranks of the Japanese forces besieging their escape point.

    Not even hesitating, Mary draws her Ka-bar at the same moment she slashes her wand through the air. Of the two men standing closest together at the back of the group, one has only a moment to shout in horror at the sight of his friend bonelessly crumpling beside him midcast, before then there is a knife between his shoulders and a few thousand volts of electricity being discharged into his body. Going rigid as the electrical impulses lock his muscles, he is then unable to resist as Mary manhandles him into the firing line of his fellows, the cry and warnings of the intruder in their midst swiftly spreading panic and seeding confusion among the encirclers who now fear being encircled themselves.

    Capitalizing on the distraction, somebody from aboard the surviving boat uses the opportunity to snipe one of her attackers in the back of the head as they instinctively leap up to face her.

    Unfortunately, the leader of this particular group seems to be a particularly ruthless breed, throwing some sort of dark aligned curse at her, in spite of his subordinate being used as an unwilling shield. Not wanting to be anywhere near the effects of whatever the man is throwing her way, Mary withdraws her knife and kicks her captive into the line of fire, just in time to watch the coiling mass of the officer's spell savagely bore into the man's face like a drill made of shadows. Definitely something dark she decides, and all the more something she doesn't want to be caught in the open against.

    Which thus make her all the more thankful that a rapid-fire chain of spells quickly puts the officer and many of his subordinates on the defensive, or outright diving for cover as Typhon storms onto the scene.

    "Protego! Avis! Impedimenta! Aqua Eructo! Ebublio! Baubillious!"

    Absorbing the spells reflexively thrown his way with a shield, Typhon uses the blinding flashes of the deflections as cover to conjure a flock of birds into being, sending them pouring forth to harry his attackers behind their cover. Capitalizing on the error of one the younger omnyouji who is likely the product of deficient war time training, Typhon catches his exposed shoulder with a knock back jinx, flipping him out of cover and into the open. Easy prey for a blast of water than then turns into a spherical cage of liquid. The lightning bolt that caps off the spell chain both, kills the Japanese youth in his conductive prison, and injures many of his allies as collateral when the surface flash boils into steam, and the remnants of the sphere collapses to the ground to become an electrified puddle.

    Reflexively falling into the familiar motions of their back-to-back dance of death, Mary grimaces as she literally disarms a man, only to then have to finish him off a few moments later when he still tries to rush them down with his wand switched to his remaining hand instead.

    "Now is not the time for dramatic entrances!"

    "Like hell that was intended! Something turned Ladon into a fucking inferi, and sent his dead flaming ass at me!"

    Getting lucky with a blasting curse that shatters the wand and dominant hand of the officer who is quickly proving to have a dangerous affinity for dark magics, but then missing up with the rock spike from behind that is supposed to finish him, Mary grimaces.

    "All is forgiven then- SHIT!"

    Suddenly Mary finds herself horribly on the defensive, furiously fighting off three people at once as the officer reveals the sword in his offhand to be just as good a device for channeling spells as his wand. Turning the odds through weight of numbers, are also a pair of frustratingly in tune onmyouji Kenpeitai to her left and right as well.

    "Captain!"

    "I'm a little busy at the moment Lieutenant!"

    Retreating further and further back, with horror, Mary feels her back meet her C.O.s, the speed and intensity of his duel bespeaking of the number and skill of his opponents as well. A narrowly deflected spell that flies over his shoulders, then very nearly hits her too, singeing her hair where it has come loose from her bun as it flies by.

    "Sir!"

    "Just a- shit!"

    Now physically driven back-to-back by the circling foes around them, Mary can feel the raging heartbeat behind her, racing in furious tandem with her's. Catching a lightning bolt with her Ka-bar, the Japanese wizards prove themselves to either have more than two brain cells, or be among the much more deadly remnants gifted with the deadly combination of both experience and pre-war training, as they instead shift to non-lightning related spells, forcing her to put up a shield that shatters under the combined weight of fire put out by the two onmyouji.

    "David...."

    "We're kinda fucked, yeah...."

    Hopeless, but still defiant, Mary grits her teeth as her three foes prepare for one last simultaneous attack to finish her off. An attack that if successful, will leave her Captain's back unprotected.

    In a moment of clarity and surprising calm, the world slows and Mary realizes what she must do.

    Lighting fast, her wild wand motions leave her wide open, but secure the kill on the opponent to her right.

    Using the twisting motion of making the cast to the right as a wind up, she then hurls her off-hand back leftward, releasing her electrified Ka-bar into a spinning throw that buries it in the second onmyouji MP's chest before he can finish his spell.

    Even as she turns her wand on her final opponent however, and as much as she tries to throw off the aim of the officer through the motions of killing of his lackeys, there is no time left for her to block. The idea of dodging aside, leaving her captain to take the blow instead, is furiously rejected for the brief second it lingers in her mind.

    Like a writhing drill, the spear of darkness catches her in the gut, just below the waist.

    Later they will tell her that the only thing which saved her, was that the spell caught her right on the belt; Forcing it to ablate away her layers of clothing and equipment, and expending much of it's power and the worst of it's effects on her chewed up grab rather than her. One utility pouch, three vials of holy water, a second pouch containing a steel lighter, a wallet with 5 dollars in assorted quarters and dimes, her steel belt buckle, her body armor, and then finally her under robe, were all what it had to detonate and go through, before it could actually reach her flesh.

    Even so, it feels as if somebody has stabbed her. Knifing her in the gut with a blade made of razor wire, and then impaling the wound with a poker heated in the evilest fires of hell itself, twisting and rolling it inside her with sadistic, torturous intent. The only reason she doesn't scream from the pain that rips through her and radiates from the wound, is because the impact drives the breath from her lungs and staggers her.

    For a moment, she wavers, trying to remain standing by force of will alone.


    And then her strength fails, legs giving way and limply sending the auror to her knees.

    Feeling the witch behind his back shudder from an impact and fall away from him, the motions and ferocity of Typhon's duel intensify with panic and rage.

    "Echidna?!?"

    Reflexively, the witch clamps her free hand over her wound, irrational panic firing through the molasses haze of pain in her mind and clouding her vision. Ever since the first time she saw a man die with his innards splayed out on the ground before him, it has always instilled in her a visceral horror and fear of dying in such an exposed and agonized manner. To her numb relief, the wound isn't too big, but even then, it is deep enough she can feel her skin crawl with revulsion, in tandem with the white hot pain of rent chunks of unidentifiable flesh coming into contact with her rapidly carmine slick hand.

    Mouth twisted as she struggles to strangle the scream threatening to tear from her throat, and fighting the impulse to curl into a ball a die, Mary lifts her wand with herculean effort, one thought dominating her mind.

    To protect the man behind her.

    Blinking in shock, the Japanese officer has only a moment to realize his curse has not killed her, raising his sword-wand in panic to finish her off once and for all.

    "AVADA KA-"

    And then his voice is silenced, as his sternum is violently ejected out the back of his spine via the devastating force released into his chest, thanks to the sheer intent and adrenaline fueled willpower behind Mary's wordlessly cast blasting curse.

    With a vague sense that her goal is completed, Mary allows her wand hand to fall limply by her side.

    Suddenly feeling insurmountably heavy, the witch unable to resist the pull of gravity, bonelessly falling backwards, hand still pressed against her wound, and gripped by the tortuous pain of the lingering dark magic. Against the heaviness, Mary's indomitable will wavers.

    And then it is like the dam breaks, as at last, the scream rips itself from her throat, somehow only increasing the torment tenfold, and leaving her unable to do aught but thrash and howl in her hellish suffering on the ground.

    "MARY!!! YOU FUCKING BASTARDS!!!

    The final seconds of Typhon's duel is akin to a bomb going off. An explosive detonation of such savage, vengeful, fury that his foes are all but obliterated.

    All of this is lost on Mary however, as the world increasingly now belongs to a realm of burning pain, matching the stygian hellscape harbor she sees around her.

    "Mary!"

    Skidding in the gravel and dropping to his knees beside her, Typhon looks down at his wounded Lieutenant with alarm and horror. Doing his best to see what it is she's holding and been wounded by, the Auror Captain almost has to fight her in her pain-maddened thrashing.

    "What happened?! Mary, what did he hit you with?! You need to let me see! Lumos- ARGH!!! FUCK!!!"

    Catching a glimpse of the wound and it's trail of blood marring the belly of her robe and pants, the wizard continues swear, before ducking down as Japanese spellfire begins to pelt the general area his light source briefly lit up. Heedless of the danger closing in on them once more, the witch continues to scream.

    "God damnit! Keep the pressure on that wound! I'll get us out of here!"

    Ignoring the fact that his second in command seems beyond her ability to respond, Typhon spins around to lob a curse in the vague direction of enemy spellfire and movement in the smoke, before then grabbing Mary by the back of her equipment harness and beginning to pull. Keeping low to the ground, the Captain keeps up a constant stream of retrun fire, picking out targets as the opportunity arises, in between blocking and deflecting the intermittent curses, jinxes and hexes that are sent their way, searching for either some form of cover to administer aid behind, or a way back to friendly lines and a proper medic.


    "Hold on Mary! We're almost there!"

    Distantly, she is aware of somebody dragging her along by the back of her uniform. The rational part of her that notes this though, is drowned out by the increasing desire to simply die, lest the bumping and jarring along the cratered and pitted ground keeps on agitating the ruined tunnel she keeps her hands clamped over with desperate irrational fear, howling all the while from the pain. Periodically glancing down at her with guilt stricken horror, Typhoon drags her through a gauntlet of magical spellfire and ballistic projectiles flying overhead and being exchanged across the no man's land between the two sides of the fire fight.

    "Orthrus! It's the Captain! It's the Captain and the Lieutenant!"

    "The Lieutenant's hit!"

    "Shit! Everyone who can still hold a wand, suppressing fire! Give them some cover!"

    "Keep the Japs down! I'm going to help them!"

    Somehow, the torture manages to defy her expectations by proceeding to worsen still. Multiple running footsteps are the only warning she has, before numerous pairs of hands join the ones at her shoulders, lifting her off the ground by her arms and legs. In spite of the overarching desire to curl into a ball until there is nothing of her left, instead this only induces more agony and panic into her pain-wracked mind. The compression from the awkward, multi-person carry, forces blood and ruined flesh to ooze through her fingers, which in her increasingly shock-addled madness, she attempts to push back inside herself.

    Dark magic can't always be healed properly!

    If anything falls out, she might not get it back!

    The motion of being hauled and jostled up a gangplank, then elicits a distraction via another round of tortured screams through her now raw throat.

    "You're alright Mary! You're gonna be fine! - MEDIC! And somebody find me Orthrus!"

    "Captain!? Holy fuck, you're alive?!"

    "Jesus Christ Typhon, she's gonna wake the dead with that hollering!"

    "Orthrus! You're my second now! Echidna's down!"

    "What're your orders?!"

    Absently, Mary notes screaming that might not actually be hers as a volley of spells rake the dockside and boat. Enraged at the escape of two more of their foes, the Japanese commit even more fanatically to the battle, heedless of the world burning down around them.

    "We're getting the fuck out of here while we can still call this victory phyrric! Intel screwed us on the level resistance and force disposition in this sector, and we've taken too many losses! The Japs can have this shithole island if they want it so bad! Or at least what's gonna be left of it once the fiendfyre and other landing forces are done."

    "Thank Christ and rodger that-"

    In the distance, something explodes, though what exactly she isn't sure. By this point, her vision is ruined by a coagulated mess of tear-streaked grime, and blood from her earlier head wound. Increasingly, it is hard to concentrate, and not just because of the pain.

    "-ALL RIGHT MAGGOTS, GET ON THE FUCKING BOAT OR WE'RE LEAVING YOU BEHIND! ON YOUR FEET AURORS! WE! ARE!! LEAVING!!!"

    The sound of shuddering gangplanks and leaping boots touching down on the deck, speaks of both the rapidity of the retreat to the remaining boat, and the appallingly few feet that are able to move under their own power, if they're present at all. For Mary however, the voices and noises she can barely comprehend at all, quickly begin to fade away. Shrieking as she is roughly handled with haste below deck, the sounds of combat and the hellscape above are muted into the background by the hull of the ship around them. From deeper within the vessels bowels, an engine roars to life.

    "Get her inside and on a table!"

    "Hydra! Over here! Echidna needs help!"

    Normally, the attentions of the most experienced medi-witch on the team is a balm to even the most wounded raider. At this point though, Mary is beyond the capability to notice or care, sending plates and dishes flying as they put her down on one of the few spaces not already occupied by the wounded below decks. Though she continues to struggle, there is an increasing listlessness to her motions.

    "Mary?!? Holy shit!"

    The sudden feeling of hands prying her own away from the wound make her howl, kicking with panic and pain.

    "Hold her down!

    The previously aiding hands that now serve to restrain her, then only increase her maddened thrashing and self-aggravation of her wound, hastening the onset of lethargy and slowness.

    "Captain! What the hell did she get hit with?!?"

    "I don't know! I didn't see it! I've never seen a curse make something like that come out of a man's insides either!"

    "That's because that is a chunk of her fucking uterus she's holding!" shouts the medic as she is soon joined by a number of others as well.

    "Somebody get me my quotes quill! Okay!- Patient is Lieutenant Mary Aglaec-Wif Angrboda, female, blood-type AB, age twenty-four. Injury suggests contusion focused jinx or dark magic injury to the lower abdomen, resulting in massive penetrative tissue damage and organ trauma. Possibly nervous, cognitive or psychological elements as well judging by patient behavior. Patient is in shock and unable to comply with treatment efforts, so I am administering painkillers and blood replenishers, but not sedatives due to blood loss. The time is 1:34 AM, single syrette of the former, two vials of the latter. Closer examination of the wound shows less lingering magic than expected, but large amounts of clothing fiber and shrapnel are presen- WHY THE FUCK ARE THERE ALL THESE COINS INSIDE OF HER?!?!"

    Typhon's answer is cut off as something detonates on either the wharf side, or in one of the nearby docks, with enough force that it rocks their escape craft, tossing about the minders holding her down. Increasingly weakened from the combination of blood loss, shock, and mental strain, Mary's limp and labored struggles and cries, have now all but tailed off entirely.

    "Oh fuck, her pressure's tanking- I need more replenishers!"

    "She's losing the blood faster than the potions can replace it!"

    Groggily Mary whimpers, no longer even struggling, as she feels a pair of blood slick hands grab a hold of her face.

    "Mary! Mary, listen to me!"

    A weak groan is all she can manage.

    "C-Captain.... Maleficus.....?"

    "Mary, listen to my voice! You have to listen to my voice okay! Captain's orders! You hear that Lieutenant Angrboda!?"

    "....captain...."

    A shiver runs through her, eliciting curses from the medics.

    "Fuck, we're losing her!"

    "The replenishers-"

    "They aren't going to work with all this bleeding!!!"

    "We need to seal her up, or she's just going to keep on losing it faster than we can feed them in!"

    "Look at all this shit everywhere! Does it look like we can seal her up like this!?!?"

    "So what if she's missing a few things, AT LEAST SHE'LL BE ALIVE!!!"

    The trembling shivers slowly begin to increase to a body wide shudder, as Mary finds herself feeling like she is falling into sleep with her eyes still open.

    "SHE'S GOING INTO HYPOVOLEMIC SHOCK!!!"

    "SHIT, SHIT, SHIT, SHIT!!!"

    Exhausted and spent, she welcomes the sensation of rest, not even caring about the hands that desperately cling to her. It would be so nice just to....

    go...

    to...

    sleep...






    ... distantly, she hears trees..... An odd thing considering they're on a boat.....


    .... the wind whispers through the corn..... the windmill out by the barn creaks..... she can feel the dirt of the front driveway between the toes of her bare feet.... smell the chimney smoke mixed with the scent of a pie in the oven....



    She's home....





    "RENNERVATE!"

    A wretched sucking gasp of air that makes her eyes water and throat burn, returns her to the walking world with all it's nightmarish torture. Addled and pain-wracked, her brain struggles through the fog as her head drops back down onto the table, questioning why she is in so much torment, and that her limbs barely have the strength to twitch and spasm.

    "Mary!!!"

    "HOW LONG UNTIL WE'RE OUT OF THE WARDS?!"

    "FIVE MORE MINUTES, AND THEN WE CAN START PORTKEYING THE WOUNDED!"

    Above her, the cabin light swings on a string like a hellish pendulum, casting the world in constantly shifting shades of blinding light and disorienting shadow, every time the boat leaps through the waves troughs, or shudders and is thrown about by the uncomfortably close impact of artillery and spellfire in the water.

    In her barely cognizant fugue though, all Mary can pay attention to is the intermittent gleam of the light off the needle shoved into her chest, as the heaviness already encroaches in on her vision once again.

    "Fuck! Stay awake Mary! You have to stay awake!"

    "GOD DAMNIT, WE CAN'T GIVE HER ANYTHING ELSE!"

    "THERE'S NO TIME THEN! JUST GET THIS SHIT OUT OF HER, AND CLOSE EVERYTHING UP BEFORE HER FUCKING HEART STOPS AGAIN!"

    "MALEFICUS! DON'T LET HER FALL ASLEEP! WHATEVER YOU DO! DO NOT LET HER SLEEP!"

    "Do you hear that Lieutenant!!! Doctor's order as well!!!"

    "THERE'S STILL CHUNKS ALL OVER HER FRONT!"

    "By hook or crook, we're keeping you, you hear me hear Mary!"

    "FINE THEN! IT'S IN! THERE'S ONLY HALF THE THING LEFT AND IT'S IN! ARE YOU FUCKING HAPPY!?!"

    "I'm not going to let you go Mary!"

    "SCREW THE REST! IT'S TOO DAMAGED ANYWAY! SEAL HER UP!"

    "I won't let you go!"

    "THERE! THE BLEEDING'S SLOWING!"

    "Mary!"

    "HER PRESSURE'S STILL TOO LOW!"

    "Mary.

    "GET THE POTIONS!"

    Mary







    "Mary."

    Jarred into awareness, the aged auror flicks out her hand, wand flying from sleeve-holster to palm as she spins around, leveling it at-

    A rock?

    [Seashore Ambient Sound]

    Eyebrow raised beneath her shadow cast hood, the nonagenarian frowns, glove creaking as her hand's hold around the white scaled grip of her wand increases with the tension. Uncertainty glancing around for a few moments more, the witch then feels faintly ridiculous as she at last lowers her arm. Faintly, she also notes the position of her off-hand at the small of her back, even though she moved to keeping her Ka-Bars in proper horizontal holsters at her belt, decades ago.

    "I'm getting too old for this shit." mutters the witch to herself.

    Even so, she keeps her wand out, rather than returning it to it's sleeve-holster.

    With an uneasy sigh, she then glances skyward, only to pause mid-stretch. It takes her a few moments to realize what is wrong, followed by a quickly confused glance at the ground around her. Then she looks at her watch, only to lower her hand with a disgusted sigh.

    She hasn't spaced out like that in decades.

    Not since this place returned to the forefront of her mind in the days following the completion of the Mizuchi's curse on Molly's -

    The Auror cuts herself off with a shake of her head.

    The past is the past. And nothing can change that.

    "Hn, this place is getting to me. Next thing you know I'm going to be imagining gho-"

    "Mary."

    This time is it a seagull, perched on the collapsed remnants of a stack of spell-marred crates, that very nearly ends up getting it's head blown off, and is only saved by her rigid self-control over her reflexes.

    "Who's there?! This is a restricted area under ICW mandate! Reveal yourself!!!"

    The Auror's lips pull into a thin grimace. Either she's making a fool of herself, or somebody is having a fucking good laugh at her right now.

    For a moment, she then actually considers a number of the jokers and pranksters in the unit who died that night. Of all the days to not bring her ghost handling kit as well.

    Something in her heart tugs at Mary, and for the briefest of seconds, the very rare and unprofessional part of her almost wins out with the thought that strikes her. The names of so many friends and comrades fail to leave the tip of her tongue though, as at the last moment, she reins herself in from uncertainly asking them aloud to the empty air.

    The walls have ears in her line of work, and in this place, the hills have eyes as well. Literally, thanks to the two Hitobashira that are supposed to be around here.

    She's already wasted enough time, standing around like a spare prick at a party, and indulging in war memories she'd rather not have. It's definitely time to go. Shoving a hand into her pocket, she then begins rifling around for something to use as a portkey.

    Finally settling on a random yen coin, the witch places it on a nearby rock and taps it with her wand

    "Portus."

    Something makes the witch freeze, hesitating as she reaches out for the coin. Lingering in place, she listens to the sigh of the wind, and the breath of the sea upon the rocks and shore.

    Minutes pass, with the closest thing she gets to a response, being the call of a distant seabird.

    Not a word is said, or a sound made, but those of nature's inexorable presence in this monument to the absence of man, and the decaying madness of war.

    "Oh screw it."

    Lowering her hand, Mary then begins fishing around in her pockets for what she is looking for.

    The flask is old and the whisky inside cheap, normally kept on hand as a prop should she need it, rather than any actual desire to drink. She's always been more of teetotaler type, even through her career and the charades that asked for it, but in this service, it shall suffice.

    It would also probably be more greatly appreciated than her iced tea, considering all the shit she used to get for her light drinking habits.

    Transfiguring a pair of cups out of a pile of pebbles, Mary quietly pours out a dram of liquor into each of them, before starring into the depths of her flask contemplatively. As she then raises her up vessel, it momentarily occurs to her that she is probably the first person in decades with any proper connection to the dead of this place, to come and pay their respects.

    "Here's to you. Who never came back. Who're still here apparently." Awkwardly for a moment, the old woman swirls her drink as she ruminates in silent thought. "I.... forgive you all I guess? From both sides.... At least those of you that deserve it I suppose. I won't lie and say I'll ever be at peace with everything that happened here.... Everything that it led to after..... But I have.... accepted it I believe is a close enough term. And so I guess that's it.... Cheers."

    Her toast made, Mary then takes hit from her flask, only to make a face and grimace.

    "Yeck. Well, that's what I get for being cheap."

    If there really is somebody watching her, she must look ridiculous. A ICW Investigator, waxing soliloquy to the dead, and complaining of her bottom shelf whisky. Still feeling faintly stupid, and all the more silly for not sensing anything different, nor noticing any sort of change in her surroundings or atmosphere, the witch finally gives up with a sigh. Looking at her flask, she then pours out the last of it between the two cups in resignation.

    "Well, I don't know what I expected.... Just don't try and follow me or anything, okay? I've had enough experience with dead things and grudges in my life."

    Walking back to the coin on the rock where she left it, for one last time, Mary considers the two cups left behind.

    "Seriously though. I will exorcise anybody who tries to follow me."

    "Angrboda"

    The name makes Mary pause.

    A consideration runs through her mind. Dead men tell no tales, especially against those they trust, she would hope.....

    Unless.... is that really what this is about?

    Turning back to the cups, Mary fishes around in her pocket and then leaves a 10 USD note underneath one of the stone vessels

    "Tell Larry he won his damn bet."
     
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  27. Threadmarks: Research princess (early version)
    darthcourt10

    darthcourt10 Versed in the lewd.

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    Galdric

    You know, I recently listened to a Bioshock song while reading this thread and I asked myself what kind of shipgirl would Rapture be? I'm fairly sure she would be some kind of instalation class.

    It could even fit into this universe as you could say that the deep sea slugs were some kind of magical (or perhaps abyssal) creature that was found. And that's why all the people could do magic stuff. They were doping up with magical mutagens. As for why Little Sisters and Big Daddys were stable? Well after much trial and error the scientists down in Rapture found certain gene sequences that would allow for some kind of stability. While they may not have known why, a wizard would have been able to tell them the truth. Big Daddys and Little Sisters? All of them were squibs. It's why the magic mutagen didn't drive them insane.

    But just imagine an installation that's nominally on humanities side, who is big into research and isn't limited by things like "ethics or petty morality" (to quote the game).

    In fact have a snip:

    ----------------

    'Why was this happening?'

    The Ta-class ran. It was all it could do as all around it other abyssals fought and screamed and died. Fires crawled through the hallways of the port as indistinct - inhuman - figures laughed and cavorted through the shadows.

    This wasn't supposed to happen to them. They were abyssals. Demons of the seas. They were supposed to be the things that people feared. They were supposed to bring ruin and despair to others. But somehow it was their home port had been attack by things that came up from the depth of the seas.

    She kept running. At first she had attempted to fight back, but her weapons were dodged when they weren't simply ignored. Even worse, her shells were pulled out of the air and sent right back at her. An (un)lucky hit disabled her guns, but when they came for her she was able to break free. And so, desperate to live, she ran. Until she was stopped.

    'What?' She thought muzzily from her place on the ground.

    "Well now what do we have here?" A voice asked.

    The Ta-class jolted. A spike of terror shot down her spine. She looked up. A smiling face looked down at her.

    No.

    Not a smile. A smile is what a human did. What an abyssal did. This - thing - couldn't be called a smile. It was as if some intelligence(abomination) was looking through a meat suit. Inexpertly manipulating flesh in a facsimile of emotion.

    The Ta-class tried to scrabble away from the - thing - in front of her. But she couldn't. She was stopped by a duo of diving suit clad beings.

    "Now now now dear. None of that." The intelligence tutted, "We can't have you leaving. After all there is so much we can learn. Together."

    A pause.

    A scream.

    And then silence.

    Nothing moved on that port. Not Abyssals. Not mockeries of human flesh.

    All was still.
     
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  28. Threadmarks: JNHRO Cenotaphs
    darthcourt10

    darthcourt10 Versed in the lewd.

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    Lord K

    Cenotaphs

    It is a cold thing of stone, no matter how much it is prettied up and made an open space. Flowers line the sunken plaza, a fountain bubbles quietly in memorial, and there is even a small flame lit in eternal remembrance. But in the end, this memorial is just another stone. Another rock, blank beyond a date and a few words to so many lives lost, it would be impossible to ever inscribe them all on a single grave.

    And so to Asuka, no matter how much greater in scope and decoration it is, at the end of the day, it is just another rock.

    Just like the quietly impersonal they had to share back at the orphanage. Just like the more locally oriented and cared for one she had seen in the nearby mountain town on occasion. Just like the national memorial they had in Tokyo. As much as she wishes, she feels no true connections to these things, knowing they are the markers of untold numbers, and not the personal tombstones of the two she so wishes they were.

    And so Asuka stands before the Yokosuka Blood Week Memorial. A park-cum-plaza affair, built in the wake of rebuilding the town and base, and intentionally sized to play host to much the local kanmusu and JMSDF personal along with the townsfolk, every time the anniversary of that terrible August rolls around. A cenotaph that feels no less impersonal than all the others she has ever seen.

    The one nice thing is that the open space on the edge of Battleship Park is large enough, she has no need to fear being overhead.

    Uncertainly, the young daitengu scratches at her back, less an action of awkwardness of hesitance, and more the strangeness of hiding her wings and being in disguise. While it is nice to wander around and explore the nearby neighborhoods of Zuchi and Yokosuka, sometimes it feels odd to take human shape again, after being so regularly spoiled by the freedom and liberty provided by living in the company of the J.N.H.R.O.

    She likes the word "liberty". It's something she's come across, reading about and listening to many of Ai and the other "Old Guard's" speeches and works from their pre-Blood Week days. The thought of that time however, then reminds her of why she came to the memorial in the first place.

    Placing her flowers with the few others recently added, and placing a few sticks of incense her in the communal holder provided after lighting them, Asuka takes a moment to glance around to check she is alone, nervously feeling the two necklaces she now wears together almost constantly; Her disguise charm made by her mother so, so long ago, and the kamon necklace given by Ai only just recently.

    Thankfully, the lone person in sight, is a single motorcyclist wandering alongside the stream in the nearby memorial park. Confidant that the person is unlikely to hear her through the helmet they have yet to remove, the disguised daitengu then returns her focus back to stone before her, quietly bowing her head and clapping her hands in prayer.

    "Hi Mama. Hi Papa. It's...... been a while since I last did this." Awkwardly, the daitengu shifts in self recrimination. "I'm sorry I haven't tried to talk to you more often. It's just that things weren't..... Nothing changed at the orphanage.... It felt like what I had to say didn't either...."

    Quietly however, the slump from her shoulders disappears. "But then I haven't been able to talk recently, because things have been changing." A sad but joyous smile spreads across her bowed face. "I finally left the Orphanage. I was found by someone like you Mama. She had a friend who could take me in. And a whole bunch more friends who were like us as well! I wish you could known them. Had known them before...."

    A thought crosses her mind that slowly takes the wind out of her sails however. "They could have helped. We could have finally gone back to Papa's home like you always p-promised we would." Her voice wavering, the young daitengu shakes her head and continues. "They're great people. Ai is like this amazing hero, and Kiba's the most awesome friend ever despite the fact that he's supposed to be my guardian but.... They're n-not you guys.... Ai's not you Mama, and Kiba's not you either Papa...."

    Asuka's breath hitches for a moment, and she rubs furiously at her eyes "They've taken me in, and- and I love them but.... But I still miss you two.... I want to go home..... I want to talk to you both- even if it was just a grave...... P-Papa always said he wanted to be buried where he was born, not- in the middle of the ocean, marked with some random stone for other people as well, I.... I just want to talk to something other than these dumb rocks.... I want you two.... Wh-Wherever you are...."

    Finally giving in, Asuka hugs herself quietly and sobs. Breath hitching, she feels a tissue being gently pressed into her fist that isn't furiously wiping at her eyes, quietly murmuring an apologetic "thank you" for the offer and the embarrassment of making such a scene.

    "It's different when there isn't a body....." says a familiar draconic drawl, causing Asuka to nod in quiet agreement.

    Then she spins around in shock, and giving a screech of surprise at the sight of a certain mizuchi standing beside her, head now bereft of the helmet held lazily under one arm, and starring at her with a strange amount of empathy in her vibrantly green eyes.

    "JIN?! What are you doing here?!?"

    Feeling flushed with shame and angrily rubbing at her still damp eyes while her heart calms down from the mile a minute shock, for once the ex-kami shows no sign of irreverent quips or jokes, and merely thumbs at the decorative watercourse cutting through the memorial park behind them, inadvertently also highlighting the fact that she is finally without the cast she's been sporting since her fight with the Gashadokuro. "There's stream back there which used to run underground. After this whole area got chewed up by shells and bombs during Blood Week, they decided to leave it exposed and as part of a park for the new memorial. It's too small to be a proper kami, and it's spirit isn't exactly sapient or cognizant in anyway that anybody not of water could understand, but I talk to it every now and again since most of it's neighbours are dead."

    "Oh," says Asuka with a bluntly mulish sniffle, glancing away and trying not to consider how much of a child and a crybaby she must look like right now. She doesn't want Jin of all people to look at her or make fun of her like the kids at the orphanage sometimes would.

    The mizuchi however, kneels down and looks her in the eye with that still strange sense of empathy she can't quite understand. "Do you want me to go?" the green haired dragon asks with a startling, quiet respect for her and her wishes.

    Immediately Asuka feels worse for her words and reaction to Jin's appearance, now gaining even more reasons to feel ashamed of herself and her behavior. "N-No! I mean..... I'm sorry..... I'm stupid like this....." Slumping with a mournful, defeated sigh, Asuka looks down at the ground, only to feel the soft touch of a glove at her chin directing her gaze up at the kneeling dragon

    Despite the harsh scars that mar her pale skin, there is a rarely seen softness to the Mizuchi's features as she quietly takes Asuka's hands with her free glove. "It's okay to be stupid for this sort of thing. Trust me on this. I might not be an orphan like you, Ai or Kiba, but.... I know what it's like to want a place to..... to know where they are...."

    For second, Asuka stares at the biker uncertainly.

    What set her off though, is the small rubbing motion Jin makes with her thumb, gently circling the top of Asuka's hand as she holds it. It's a something her mother used to sometimes do. A gesture and memory that makes her throat choke and her eyes water again as she holds them closed furiously.

    "S-Sorry- It's-"

    "It's okay Asuka," gently she feels herself being pulled into a hug. "It's fine."

    Giving a shuddering breath, the dragon's shoulder is a strangely calming scent. Water and motorcycle, mixed with plastic and leather that doesn't absorb the few tears that she is unable to completely restrain. It takes a minute for her to finally quell her tumultuous storm of gut-churning emotions, but even then, she lingers, quietly measuring her breathing and keeping her closed eyes resting against the dragon's jacket bound shoulder.

    "Feeling a bit better now Asuka?" Silently, the daitengu nods into the rumbling leather. If she strains her ears, she can almost imagine she hears the soothing sounds of waves lapping at the edge of a pond with each of ex-kami's heartbeats, and soft to-and-fro of the wind plaything through the water grass, with every breath Jin takes.

    "How about we go over to my bike? I've got some water, and you might feel better after a drink. What do you think?" Again, Asuka nods, at last quietly pulling her face away from the Mizuchi's shoulder. Feeling the comforting weight of Jin's hand resting on her own for a moment, the teen accepts a second offered tissue, and does her best to clean her no doubt red and bleary eyes as they walk back to the parking lot in silence.

    To her surprise, one of the two bottles of water Jin retrieves from a hidden compartment on her Hayabusa actually does make her feel somewhat better. Sitting on the curb together, the ex-kami lazily takes big pulls from her drink and considers her superbike in front of them, while Asuka sips quietly, contemplating the cracks in the concrete between her sneakers and waiting for the twisting emotional nausea to subside.

    It is a strangely amicable silence, rather than awkward. A odd thing that feels shared rather than an embarrassing spell imposed on someone else.

    Finally though, after a few hesitant looks in Jin's direction, Asuka nervously voices the question that has been slowly fuelling her curiosity over the last few minutes. "What.... was that you said about.... about there not being a body?"

    Quietly the dragon turns her already empty bottle over in her hands, not quite looking at Asuka beside her. "I still have mom.... but I do sort of know how you feel. Back when I was human- thought I was human..... My dad died in Korea. He's still there as far as anybody knows. They were never able to retrieve his body. The Norks tossed him in a war grave somewhere, and nobody was able to figure out where it was when they were exchanging all the dead in '54."

    Asuka stifles a gasp. "I'm sorry...."

    The Mizuchi gives something somewhere between shrug that tries to be causal, and a sigh that betrays her lingering hurt. "It was a long time ago.... It still sucks. And it messed me up for a while, being the kid who's dad died in a war nobody gave a shit about after a few years. But it gets less.... raw? Maybe? I guess "you get used to it" is a better phrase. Though it'll still suck from time to time, especially 'cause you're older and will remember them better. But that's good, 'cause it'll make it harder to forget all the little things, no matter how good or bad they are."

    "Um..." Awkwardly the Kotengu fidgets and tries not to alternately laugh or cry at how terrible Jin is at this. "Aren't you supposed to say positive things when comforting someone?"

    "Would you rather I lie?" Asks the dragon, still surprisingly gentle in tone, but with a scarred eyebrow nevertheless raised with an undercurrent of sarcasm. "I don't think you're a kid that needs to be bubble-wrapped with sunshine and rainbows Asuka. You're a tough little bird." Softly, she taps above the daitengu's heart, causing her charm and kamon to jingle. "You don't need bull from me. I just figured you should know that you always have someone other than Ai and Kiba you can talk to about this sort of thing, even if I still have a parent left."

    For all the ex-kami's lack tact, for some reason her confidence and belief in the fact that she thinks Asuka doesn't need to be comforted or talked down to like a little kid, buoys her mood and esteem. "Thanks Jin."

    "Don't mention it kid." The mizuchi shoots her a toothy grin. "You'll always have me in your corner."

    The daitengu nods in thanks as they fall back into companionable silence. Quietly sharing in the peace of the midday park, it is a while before Asuka finds herself uncertainly broaching the next subject that comes to her mind.

    "It's.... different for Ai and Kiba.... for anybody who knows where they can actually go, isn't it?"

    The mizuchi thinks contemplatively. "It is a little bit I guess. By nature, I'm not a person to be tied to one place or another for things in particular, but.... It would be nice to know where dad actually is. As a kid, I went to the memorial with mom for Veterans Day and the anniversary of his death every year, but it's....."

    "Not actually him," finishes Asuka quietly. "He's not actually there...."

    Jin just quietly nods, the two quietly trailing off into silence again.

    "Can I...." Asuka shifts nervously, not wanting to stumble over somebody else's raw wounds for the sake of her own. "Is it okay if I.... If I ask what happened to him?"

    The dragon shrugs. "He died in the Battle of Kumsong. July 14, 1953." For a moment, Jin looks unmoved, before sighing and dropping her head, running her hands through her green hair in long since resigned frustration. "It was one of the last battles of the war, and one of the few where the Reds out gunned, as well as out numbered everyone. Dad's company started to get overrun as the nomajs UN forces they had on their flanks fell into retreat, not realizing the ICW units were relying on them being there. And to make things worse, they got trapped by their own anti-apparition and anti-portkey wards some general had ordered them to put up in preparation to turn the place into an actual base. So he and a few others decided to stay behind and make a last stand, to buy time for the rest of the Company to get all the wounded clear on foot. According to a couple of those who survived being taken prisoner, he went out atop a mountain of Nork and Chinese corpses and was duking it out with a kumiho, when somebody finally nailed him with a Killing Curse." With lingering bitterness, Jin looks at the ground. "The armistice finally happened a week and a half later."

    Asuka isn't really sure what to say, other than a hollow sounding "I'm sorry...."

    Jin just gives a helpless shrug. "As mom always says, "the past is the past. And nothing can change it"."

    "Um... Isn't that the warning they print on the back of time-turners?"

    The scarred, green haired biker gives a melancholy laugh. "You know, I asked dad about that phrase once. They actually both met while serving together in World War Two, and he noticed she started using it after this one mission where they had to use time-turners as part of this plan to make it seem like there were a bunch of attacks happening in different places at once."

    Asuka laughs at the idea of the woman who can reign in and make a kitten out of a mizuchi, espousing what is essentially cereal box wisdom. "Your mom is amazing. And you dad sounds like he was too..."

    Jin smiles, quietly looking at the skin between the scars on the backs of her hands. "Yeah..... When I was a kid, I used to mangle his code name from his old war stories. He went by Typhon during the war, but I used to call him Typhoon all the time, because that's what seemed right. Wherever he went, he could take the room by storm, and he was always spinning me around when I was little so.... it stuck."

    "Papa used to juggle me." Asuka is surprised at the words that slip out, even as she continues to speak. "Mama always used to be horrified by it, but that just used to make it more fun for us. Looking back, I guess it was because she didn't have the kind of raw power or control Papa and I had, but trying not to get caught by her was part of the fun. He'd just start off making updrafts and whirlwinds for me to glide on, and then we'd just start adding bigger and sharper things until she noticed." She can't remember the last time she shared details so openly with someone about her parents that didn't involve being upset. And yet now she finds herself smiling, laughing and feeling the entertained mirth radiating off the mizuchi in turn.

    "In the US, we're not actually supposed to receive wands until we go to Ilvermorny. But dad sometimes used to let me shoot cans off the fence if it was just us at home whenever he was on leave." Jin laughs and shakes her head in disbelief. "I must have been, oh, I dunno. Six or seven? But he taught me how to shoot off an impedimenta of all things. I don't think I'd teach a kid that young that jinx. But he always swore by it and it's usefulness for everything. I don't think mom was too impressed with him though after the time he tried to use it to clear a tree stump in a particularly impressive fashion, just to show off for me. She tore a pretty good strip into him that time."

    Asuka giggles. "Papa once got in trouble because he and a bunch of the other yokai dads in town wanted to try and teach us kids some of the old martial arts they were taught. But some of us wanted to keep training when they weren't watching" Her laughter growing, the daitengu shakes her head at the childhood stupidity, as she recollects the once mortifying memory with something now approaching fondness. "But then Shinzuka accidentally broke Genji's arm, and so they told me to get an adult, and I didn't know none of the mom's knew what our dads were trying to do."

    "Oh god," Jin cackles. "I can't imagine that went down."

    Asuka agrees with a guilty laugh of her own. "It was like a comedy show. Papa and all the dads then started trying to throw each other under the bus." Something crossing her mind, her mirth dies off quietly. "Mama eventually made Papa promise her that he wouldn't teach me anything until I was older..... but then when I was older, it didn't really interest me..... I just wanted to hang out with my friends all the time...."

    Silently, Jin rests a comforting hand on her shoulder. "Hey. You can't beat yourself up for something like that. That's just being a kid. Nobody could have seen this war coming like it did."

    Asuka says nothing, starring off quietly for a bit. Respecting her silence, Jin says nothing either, only to realize from her halting and aborted expressions, that the daitengu is slowly trying to make up her mind about something.

    "Hey, you don't have to say anything if you don't want to."

    The young tengu however, shakes her head emphatically.

    "I should have been with them that day." Balling her hands into fists, the daitengu grits her teeth furiously. "O-Or they should have been with me."

    Angrily she blinks, determined to say her piece. "When they were getting everyone off the island, there wasn't enough room left on the destroyer the JMSDF sent. So they offered everyone two options. We could either stay on the island and hide until somebody else could come by try and rescue them. Or we could start piling people into the car ferry that normally ran between the island and Tokyo, and follow after the destroyer."

    Her head bowing, Asuka's shoulders shudder with rising emotion. "Why couldn't they have stayed with me? We were almost on the destroyer? Why did they have to give their spaces up!?" Gently, Jin wraps her arm around the daitengu as she buries her face in her hands. "I told them we should just stay! I didn't want to go! Not without them! Why was that destroyer captain so stupid to let all the adults just do that?! Why didn't they know about the subs!!!"

    Giving in completely to the heaving sobs, Asuka's voice is choked as her tears stream past her fingers "I-It's all these terrible things I sometimes think, and it just makes me feel more horrible, but sometimes I hate them! I miss them, but then sometimes I hate them so much! I hate them for leaving me alone! What made those two kids more important than they were to me?!? I was stuck in that orphanage for seven years!!!" Gasping as her sobs and shouting compete for her breath, the daitengu wraps her arms around herself and curls inward. "S-Sometimes I almost wished I'd just died with them...."

    Quietly drawing Asuka into a hug, Jin is a silent pillar of strength and consoling warmth as the teen sheds her tears into her jacket. Finally though, detecting that the daitengu's the intensity of the daitengu's grief is failing off, the mizuchi runs a comforting hand in circles upon Asuka's back as she hiccups quietly.

    "Have you.... ever talked to Ai about... about what happened to her family."

    Surprised by the trepidation in the ex-kami's voice, Asuka looks up at the mizuchi curiously, even as her eyes still water and her voice hitches. "N-No? Well, I d-didn't ask exactly, but she told me she was an orphan. A-And I heard they all died in the fire bombings during the last war....."

    "You should talk to her." Says the scarred greenette with a careful amount of consideration. "Talking about things can help. And..... It's not my story to tell, but Ai.... I think she'll understand more than you think."

    "Oh...." Asuka isn't exactly sure what to say on such a vague suggestion, other than to mentally file it way in the part of her brain that isn't still a bit of a mess right now. Sniffling and wiping her eyes, the daitengu is immensely thankful when Jin offers another tissue to help her clean up her face. The shoulder of the mizuchi's biker jacket isn't exactly stellar at this point after two different crying sessions either.

    "I get how you feel. About the hate thing." Surprised at the sudden admision, Asuka glances up at the Mizuchi, only to see Jin's gaze focused not quite at her, but more towards some distant point of the horizon, occasionally shifting as the memories play through her mind.

    "Wh- really" asks Asuka hesitantly.

    "Yeah...." Admits Jin with a strangely quiet guilt. "I loved him. I still do. But sometimes back then, when I'd see so many other kids who'd be doing things with their dads, especially the girls who also had dads who served in World War Two, I'd just get so mad. Maybe it was bits of my old personality bleeding through at times, but what really used to eat me inside was when I'd be mad at dad himself. Why did he agree when they asked him to join up for another war, when he had already done his part in the last one? Why didn't he just come home after his tour was up? Why did he have to die in that damn last stand? He was an officer, he didn't need to be there and should have been leading the Company's retreat column, not the rear guard!"

    The mizuchi growls, hands balling into trembling fists. "It just made me so angry. Why did he have to die over there? He promised us- he promised me he'd come home. He could have come home before that battle. And instead, he stayed there. He stayed there, and he died there, and he died for a bunch of assholes, because of someone else's fuck ups, that happened because some dickweed nomajs decided they didn't like the ceasefire terms, that resulted is a battle over some shithole in the middle of nowhere that didn't need to happen, that within ten years, nobody cared about or even fucking remembered!" Finishing her tirade, the Mizuchi pants angrily, skin rippling slightly as scales threaten to push through and reveal their presence in the intensity of her anger.

    And then suddenly, the energy seems to drain out of her, like an overflowing pond slowly draining. Looking down for a moment, Jin sighs heavily and shakes her head. "Mom and dad only ever told me the PG rated versions of a lot of the stuff that happened to them in the war. As a kid, it never even occurred to me that they started going out until after the war. It was always just, "mom and dad fighting the bad guys" to me. So it wasn't really until I was in Japan, that I started finding a lot of the things that actually happened. In hindsight, it explained a lot about what made dad tick."

    "What do you mean?" asks Asuka quietly.

    The dragon is silent for a moment, collecting her thoughts and figuring out how she actually wants to say the things she finds. "Dad was a great fighter. Mom as well. All their old war friends used to go on all the time about how the two of them could work flawlessly with just about anybody, but together they were like monsters. But as an officer, I don't think he was actually anything that special. He did his job well, everyone liked him, and even before he had a bunch of medals, mom and his men would have followed him into hell. But he wasn't any Dick Winters or Chester Puller."

    Quietly, Jin rubs at the scars on her hands. "Mom said he always used to take the loss of those under his command hard, which was partly why everyone liked him. Casualties in their Company weren't all that bad, despite being a raiding unit. But then, right at the end of the war, they had one mission that went really bad. Half of dad's men died in a raid on some island, which very nearly killed mom too. It shook him up enough that as soon as the war was over, he clocked out. When I was a kid, they always told me it was so they could start dating, but.... I don't think he could do it anymore."

    Asuka frowns. "But then the Korean War happened...."

    "Yeah," says Jin, summing up her sadness in that one word. "I'm not exactly sure why he re-enlisted. It was probably a bunch of things. Mom going into HumInt, since I was around by then. A bunch of their old unit joining up. An offer to reinstate him at his old rank since there were so few veterans willing to join up with the last war still so recent.... maybe he felt like he needed to do something too and that the wounds had healed enough. But then The Battle of Chosin Reservoir happened."

    The daitengu gulps nervously "Was that a bad one?"

    "It was.... a clusterfuck, that's for sure." The mizuchi grimaces. "Dad lost a lot of his Company in that battle."

    Asuka pales while Jin continues. "I would have only been about five, so I didn't really notice, but according to Mom.... Chosin broke him a little. Everyone they'd fought with in the Pacific had been the same age as them, and the best of the best who volunteered for what they were in for. He couldn't handle losing, what to him, were just kids.... told her he wouldn't be able to if it happened again...." The dragon trails off for a moment, looking quietly out over the water. "I think it would have been around the.... 70's when Mom first told me that? At the time, I don't think it changed how angry I still felt from time to time. Maybe it made me feel pity towards him, more than anger, as bad as that sounds."

    "So.... So what did change it?" Looking at Asuka, Jin can't help the small twitch of a grin at her cheeks at the Tengu's hesitant, but to the point question. It's tempered by the sadness that she can also see a little bit of hope to the query, that she might find her answer as well.

    "Being responsible for people." Seeing the teen's confused look, the mizuchi elaborates. "Originally, I kinda took over lower Adachi by accident. I just got sick of the local bosozoku gangs causing trouble all the time, in a place I still couldn't help but think of as "mine". But it's hard to lock down an entire two kilometers of neighborhood by yourself, plus all the extra surrounding it, so I didn't mind when other people started getting off their asses to try and stop the roaches from crawling back out of the the toilet every time I turned my back from flushing them."

    The dragon then gives an amused snort. "But then somewhere along the lines, I started to like all these assholes, despite all their problems and pulling their butts out the fire all the time. At some point, I then realized I didn't mind all their problems and pulling their butts out the fire all the time. I wanted to help. Not just because I could or because they relied on me. But because of all the people that relied on them. Yeah, it's a pain in the ass for me, but what lays me out for a couple of days, risks putting someone else in bed for months, if not in the ground permanently. It potentially leaves behind families without bread earners. That's why I just let the Watch do as they do, and I'm the big stick that's occasionally pointed in a direction or given a name and let loose."

    "Even at Jorogumo and Gashadokuros?" Jin chuckles at Asuka's question.

    "I'm not gonna lie, and say that wasn't personal. But even if that Gashadokuro had appeared in the middle of nowhere, I still would have helped fight it." The Mizuchi smiles and glances on the small dragon emblem on the side of her Hayabusa. "I suppose the rambling point I'm trying to make is this. Being responsible for people changes you. Whether that someone is your own kid, a squad of FNGs, or a pair of guys you know respectively have three rugrats at home, and a little girl you babysit for on occasion because him and the wife work weird hours to pay off the debt collectors. It does something to the way you think."

    With a quiet smile, Jin then taps at the side of her head. "You don't just start thinking about those that immediately depend on you, like spouses, friends, or kids. You start thinking about all the people depending on them people around you in turn. Whether those people are other parents. The families those FNGs might have. Or the fact that you have the power to turn a mundane, and even most magical debt collector heavies into a pretzel, without even transforming."

    Quietly Asuka fidgets. Through her mind runs not just the image of the heartbreakingly thankful expressions of the parents who's children replaced her Mama and Papa in the line behind her, but all the various stories she's heard from the J.N.H.R.O. in the months she's been with them. Kiba, slowly whittling away his prized car collection. The strange contrast Ai sometimes shows, with her often distant and reserved exterior, vs her dedication and closeness to the J.N.H.R.O. and it's membership. The stories of various members, or friends and family of those still around, who gave their lives during Blood Week for the people around them. Not for those they knew, but complete and utter strangers.

    Actions that Asuka empirically knows is the right thing and heroic, but also choices that she can't help but ponder how the results hurt those around them. "Does it really change you that much? Being responsible for someone?"

    For a long moment, Jin is silent, glancing down at the scars on the back of her hands as she ponders the best answer to the question. "More than you realize. Right until you're faced by the weight of it....."

    The diatengu quietens. "Blood Week."

    "Yeah...." Quietly, the mizuchi glances away. "The day I realized how many of the J.N.H.R.O. were gone..... when I left everybody at the Diet, thinking they were safe...... I don't feel angry at dad anymore. I know now why he couldn't handle leaving things out of his hands and to chance for a third time...."

    For a moment, Asuka is silent, looking at the ground in resigned misery as she leans into Jin. "Mama and Papa loved kids. They were always sad that I was an only child. It.... it would have eaten them alive if..... If they had survived when those kids hadn't...."

    The mizuchi quietly gives her shoulder a comforting squeeze.

    It is in silence the two sit, for a very long while, sharing in the other's company, but not starring at anything in particular.

    Finally though, it is at last Jin who breaks the moment, glancing at her watch curiously.

    "So.... this has been all heavy and shit, but you know what'll help fix things and be a good way to unfluff the brain after all this talk?" Asuka looks up at the ex-kami with a curious tilt of her head. "There's this really awesome ranch just over the way called Sekiguchi, that does kick-ass ice creams and fresh milk. Wanna come?"

    "I don't have a helmet," notes Asuka quietly, even as she silently reflects on how nice ice cream actually would be after how miserable this visit to the memorial has been.

    A weight then lands in her lap, causing her to look in surprise at the magicallu resized helmet Jin has given her. Looking up at the mizuchi hopefully, the ex-kami grins at her as she fishes around inside her jacket. "I think I got a spare skull cap I can use for myself, and some road gear I can size for you in my pockets."

    "What about Ai?"

    "You were buttering her and Kiba up about one of those scooter-bike-car-thingies you saw that kid buy the other day right?" The dragon grins mischievously. "Just think of this as a supervised, guided tour of what you can look forward to upgrading to."

    Asuka looks at the motorcycle that even in factory settings, is capable of 156.6 horse power, and which Jin is infamous for modding and tuning beyond it's stock 312 km/h top speed. "That's a bit of an upgrade...."

    "~That's not a denial I'm hearing~" the mizuchi sing songs, causing the daitengu to finally smile.

    "We can just tell them we walked or flew, right?"

    "Who needs to know we're getting ice cream and milk for lunch?"

    Asuka laughs as the mizuchi fishes something else out of her pocket as well as a plain, biker jacket lacking the patches Jin sports. Swiftly shrinking it down to her size, the diatengu can't resist taking a moment to admire herself as she puts it on. As she considers the black leather however, the sound of repeated digital beeping and Jin swearing in confusion, causes her to look up. Apparently having had her phone off the entire time to avoid interruption, the ex-kami is now discovering a plethora of missed calls and texts that have been amounting over the course of the last few minutes.

    "What the hell is this?" Frowning in befuddlement, Jin glances at Asuka apologetically. "Sorry, I gotta see what this is about. Hopefully it shouldn't take too long, and then we can go pig out like we just had boyfriends break up with us."

    Asuka snorts and resists a giggle at the mental image of the mizuchi on a couch, surrounded by coils of tail and eating ice cream out of a tub while crying over a guy. For some reason, Jin strikes her as more likely to punch out anybody who ever tried to break her heart. "It's fine. I can wait." Giving a grin and thumbs up of thanks, Jin taps at one of the numbers on her screen she trusts to get the most immediate and pertinent information from.

    "Come on, come on..... Hey! Porkchop! What's happening man, I've got like a dozen missed calls and texts from everybody, including a few SDF numbers I don't even fucking know- eh- A what now where? Hold on, hold on- What's this about a shipgirl at the shrine maiden's- A KIDNAPPING?!?"

    Asuka jumps in shock, while Jin now glowers into the cellphone furiously.

    "WHAT THE HELL DO YOU MEAN IT'S ALREADY OVER? A HOUSE BURNED DOWN?!? JESUS CHRIST PORKCHOP, I TURN MY PHONE OFF FOR LIKE FIFTEEN MINUTES FOR SOME PRIVACY, AND THIS HAPPENS?!"

    Quietening down, the mizuchi pinches the bridge of her nose.

    "Okay- So.... Uhuh..... So they wanted to call me, but then ran off to do it themselves..... Porkchop, was this place even in Adachi? You know it creates a shitstorm every time I throw my weight around outside our turf!" There is a pause, almost as if the ex-kami is considering something being said on the other end of the phone. "You know.... that actually is a good point..... an IOU with the JMSDF would legitimize us somewhat, even if it did look like a Mafia-working-with-the-USN kinda thing to some people..... Well, it's all moot anyway, since it's all done and dusted. What happened to the kidnappers?"

    The mizuchi then facepalms after a few moments.

    "Wait, so the house burned down, a bunch of assholes got shamed hard, but as far as we know, none of these kids called the authorities, delivered some underground justice, or grabbed any sort blackmail to ensure these fuckers stayed backed the fuck off? Urrrghhhh..... Don't you just love when innocence and goodwill meets unintentional malevolence and stupid..... Hold the fuck up, this was that Jusaburo! ......What are we even filing this as, a domestic?....Okay, so what do we want to do about this?"

    Asuka frowns as she notes the back and forth happening over the phone, as it slowly dawns on her that this is something potentially big brewing from the way they talk. Leaning back against her bike, the mizuchi taps absently at the fuel tank while her brow furrows, plots and machinations turning behind her eyes.

    "You know, Osamu and Tokutomi would fucking love us if we could screw these guys up with this somehow...... The support that conservative old fossil's able to throw around and draw has been a massive pain in the ass for them the past few years..... well yeah, with this, he just went from being a frustrating relic of the past, to something potentially dangerous..... the question is, how do we make this get big enough that it dozen't go just away..... We need it to cross the plate or attract the attention of someone high enough or powerful that this isn't just something that can be politely hushed up or ignored as a family matter gone sideways..... they don't even have to look into it or be successful at making a stink about it to the moderates, they just need to stumble across it in such a way that the word gets out through all the lovely political circles of old fucks who actually care about this sort of shit..... Okay, maybe that's my "foreign upbringing" shining through but- wait, hold on- FOREIGN! HOLY SHIT, WAIT RIGHT THERE PORKCHOP, I HAVE AN IDEA!"

    Suddenly, Asuka has a feeling that she really out to have a bucket of popcorn with her right now. Watching as the mizuchi hangs up and begins scrolling through her contacts list, Jin cackles as she finds the name she is looking for, brushing her green hair aside as she raises her phone to her ear with a now victorious smirk.

    "Hi Mom, how's it going? ..... No, no, no, I'm fine.... I finally got the cast off today actually.... yeah, it's great to finally have two sets of thumbs back! ..... Anyway, there actually was something I was wanting to call you about. Are you free today?"

    A grin splits Jin's face at the answer.

    "That's awesome! Because in a couple of minutes, I'm going to have Porkchop anonymously owl you with a tip off that I've been sighted with my gang. Apparently we're poking around some burned down house chasing rumors of a kidnapping of someone related to a few of my associates."
     
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  29. Threadmarks: Kaylee mental lock
    darthcourt10

    darthcourt10 Versed in the lewd.

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    Snippet 3: S0ngD0g13

    Kaylee stretched after her two-day stay in the Repair-Baths post-refit and summoned her rigging. The Ironclad grinned, feeling the weight of her new guns; her original muzzle-loading cannon had been replaced with Hotchkiss breech-loaders and Hotchkiss One- and Three-Pounder Revolving Cannon, granting her a much-greater rate of fire. Her hull had also been lengthened and her power-plant and screws upgraded; she had managed to gain three knots of extra speed.

    ...................................................

    One week and a lot of gun-drill later, Virginia got to put her new iron to the test; reports had come in of a minor Abyssal setting up shop on a phantom island just beyond the edge of the Inland Sea in the Sea of Japan. The island itself wasn't truly much more than an overgrown reef, but where it sat near the Kanmon Strait made it a potential threat to shipping, and the Abyssal there, codenamed 'Iron Island Princess', had been responsible for the Abyssal Wako junks and Indiamen raiding into the Inland Sea.

    "What's the word, Aunt Shou?" asked Kaylee as the Inland Sea Task Force anchored for the night.

    Shoukaku (of the Houshou-Class) opened her eyes after checking with the Jean she'd sent up to scout Iron Island. The biplane torpedo bomber had taken a page from the Soviet Air Force's World-War-Two Night-Bomber units; the pilot had gotten close, cut the engine and feathered the prop, doused the lights, and glided over the island in the darkness. "Thirty junks and thirty East-Indiamen, and a swarm of small dhows and feluccas. My plane saw graving docks as well."

    Azuma looked to Kaylee. "Virginia? What would you suggest?"

    Kaylee looked at the hand-drawn map and then checked her chronometer. "I might just have an idea..."

    ....................................................

    Kaylee drifted silently, letting the incoming tide carry her slowly toward the shore. She was focused solely on the harbor-mouth and the fleet beyond; one of the patrolling Abyssals, a Galleon, tacked closer to investigate the crouched shape approaching.

    When the Abyssal drew near-enough, Virginia struck with viper swiftness, seizing the hapless sentry and breaking her neck before lowering her to the surface. To her left Kaylee heard timbers crack as Monitor dealt with her own sentry and the quiet hiss of drawn blades being put to work by Azuma and Alabama.

    Virginia heard Alabama's sails and saw the Sloop-of-War race forward along the shoreline toward her target; Virginia herself gave the order for her helm to adjust a half-point to starboard and go to ahead-two-thirds, sliding into position...

    Alabama launched a flare at the graving docks and sent up two blue rockets just as Azuma's three-hundred-pounder Armstrong roared. The sleeping Abyssals were awakened by the shot, and Virginia and Monitor opened fire into the midst of the fleet. Kaylee let out a Rebel Yell and drove herself into the enemy fleet, her breechloaders on either side keeping up a steady Boom-Boom-Boom rhythm, interspersed with the rapid Bambambambambam of her Revolving-Cannon firing. The battle devolved into sporadic flashes; a roundshot glancing off her armor; an Abyssal junk burning and adrift; a stream of impacts from a three-pounder revolver running across a Galleon's side and then the Abyssal exploding violently when a shell from Monitor's Dahlgrens found the magazine.

    Shoukaku's Jeans swept in, targeting the docks that Alabama had marked with her flare, and Azuma walked a steady rain of shells over the docks herself; Alabama plied her guns and ran back toward the harbor's mouth, leaving four Abyssals shattered and sinking behind her.

    All at once Virginia was through the mob of panicking Abyssals, Monitor off her port beam and Azuma casually backhanding an Abyssal out of her way off to starboard. The Southern Ironclad turned to port and scanned the shoreline. "There! Target sighted; follow my burst!" She bellowed, her starboard revolvers opening up on the fleeing Princess.

    Every gun that would bear fired on Iron Island Princess; in the end it was the impact of one of Monitor's shells that finished her. The Ironclads went ashore as Shoukaku's full air-wing rolled in and began strafing the surviving Abyssals.

    ................................................

    Kaylee looked over the contents of the warehouse near the now-destroyed graving docks. "This ain't iron," she said, rapping a metal plate with her knuckles. "This is Bessemer Steel armor-plate. This island's got iron-sand on it, but not the ore needed for making plates; plus there's no smelter here. Where the fuck was she getting these from?"

    Alabama shook her head. "She burnt her files before trying to run. But we at least know what she intended for the armor; the graving docks both had half-built ironclads in them, Gloire-Class. It still doesn't answer where she got them, though..."

    Azuma nodded. "We'll report it; Command needs to know. In the meantime, restock your powder and ball here, then we'll wait here for reinforcements and strip this base to the bedrock before we leave. Oh, and girls? Good shooting."
     
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  30. Threadmarks: Omake: "She's a magic woman"
    darthcourt10

    darthcourt10 Versed in the lewd.

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    It_agn02 Omake: "She's a magic woman"

    All right if I post a little omake?

    "Hey...Missouri?"

    "Yo, Bowfin. What's up?"

    "Tsushima Maru's been doing some strange things lately. Do you think we should contact that kid over in Yokosuka? You know, Jane's cousin?"

    Missouri peeked into the transport ship's room, where the young girl had books and stuffed animals floating in a circle around her. Tsushima Maru herself even got a stick from the old tree outside and using it like a conductor's baton to turn the pages while she read. On her head, a fairy seemed to be holding a glowing ofuda.

    "...Nah, she's fine."
     
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