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Harry Potter & the Shipgirls

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

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  1. Threadmarks: Summoning Habbakuk
    darthcourt10

    darthcourt10 Versed in the lewd.

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    Harry Leferts

    The sounds of shoes against the tiled floor could be heard as two people walked down a hallway, both of them women in Naval uniforms. Different ones, but very similar to each other. Hands in her pocket, the first one in a RN Admiral's outfit gave the other a raised eyebrow. "So how have things been for you lately, Diana?"

    Sighing, Rear Admiral Diana Lombard ran a hand through her hair and shook her head. "The same old things pretty much." Then she paused before giving a shrug. "Well, before this happened anyways. Even for me, this is weird shit."

    Eyebrow raising at that, Collingwood hummed. "Yes, well, I think that we all have been dealing with such. Especially in recent years."

    Needless to say, that got her a snort from her old friend. For a few moments, Collingwood looked her over with a small frown as her mind drifted back. The Royal Navy Officer remembering how they met in Edinburgh at the university there with Diana studying abroad. The other woman was always quiet about her past, never really saying much except that she needed a change of scenery. But they had become friends over their university years with Diana heading into the Royal Canadian Navy after being told that Collingwood was heading to the Royal Navy.

    Which also brought to mind one of their conversations roughly two years before Blood Week occurred. The two had met up as the vessel that Collingwood was on had come to Halifax and both of them were walking along the waterfront when they had begun to talk about their jobs. Much to her surprise, she found out that Diana had become the captain of her own ship well before she had. Said ship being the old HMCS Endeavour which the Royal Canadian Navy had bought back before she could be taken to the US and modernized with new equipment. Diana had revealed to her that the RCN was concerned with various disasters happening at sea, boats and ships disappearing without a sign of what happened to them.

    Because of the small size of the RCN at the time, they were stretched thin and thus decided an older vessel, with a smaller crew would be capable of trying to find out what was going on unlike larger navies such as the USN and RN. Both of whom simply spread the task throughout their respective navies to cover more ground. Due to various things, Diana only mentioned that there was some real bullshit going on out on the waves from what she could tell. At the time, Collingwood had laughed and asked her if aliens were involved only for Diana to chuckle and shake her head. Then her smile had turned sad and she mentioned that her brother would have loved to have been in her shoes.

    Diana then dismissed whatever ghosts of the past there were and gave her a serious look after glancing around. The words she had spoken then rang through Collingwood's head years later after she found out about wizards and witches. "There is something going on and it's big. But what it is? I've got an idea or two in regards to it, however do me a favor? Look at any reports that you see of what happened to other vessels in regards to sinkings, especially military witnesses. And look at multiple reports from said ships and you might see why I am not saying anything."

    At the time, Collingwood had laughed it off as her friend being too paranoid. That was, until she did go and have a look. To her shock, in many cases some of the reports disagreed with each other. Usually in small details but ones that made no sense when one considers that they were looking at the same thing. But sometimes if two ships witnessed whatever happened, they reported entirely different things.

    It was then that she felt a trickle of fear go down her neck.

    However, she did get permission to send said reports to Diana which she did, with the other woman thanking her. In return, Diana sent her information she passed on to the Admiralty, all done through unofficial channels that both navies knew about, but did not speak of. For the next few years the two did their back and forth. Collingwood always did suspect that whatever Diana found was cause enough for the RCN to begin building more warships, modified versions of the previous Halifax class that was only seven years old for the oldest. Granted, she also knew that her old friend had gotten plenty of criticism for her mission, with some calling it the RCN X-Files.

    Less then a month before Blood Week though, she received an Email from Diana. In said message, she stated that something really bad was about to happen and was going to do so very soon. Diana didn't go into how she knew such, though she included graphs and the like that showed a giant spike in missing person's on the waves. She also mentioned that she had unofficial sources elsewhere who knew the seas far better then anyone else. Who those people were, she would not say. But Diana was trying to convince the RCN Admiralty of the danger and asked for her to do the same with the Royal Navy while she was in contact with someone of the USN to do the same there. With the RCN, all she got was patrols to be stepped up.

    The message ended with her asking for Collingwood to stay safe and that she will see her soon.

    And then, three weeks later, Blood Week occurred while Diana's ship was out in the Pacific far from land. Despite the chaos going on, when she heard that the ship was considered lost with all hands, Collingwood had mourned her friend. Then, four days after Blood Week was "Over", the Endeavour limped into a still burning Vancouver, most of the crew still alive despite the damage the ship had taken. And she was badly damaged, bullet holes throughout the ship, one engine lost, and taking on water. But she had gotten home with the injured Diana there. More importantly though, they still had data that they had collected which proved invaluable in the months ahead in fighting the Abyssals until the shipgirls began being summoned in force.

    Of course, Diana threw herself into the RCN Shipgirl Program and eventually through various actions rose up to be a Admiral herself, much like Collingwood had. Granted, usually she was in the Pacific which was why when Collingwood was invited to Montreal by Diana as the RN representative, she was more then a little suspicious. Shaking those thoughts off, she gave the brown haired woman beside her a look. Despite the somewhat haggard look, the green eyes in her face still shone brightly with intelligence and care. It was much the same sort of look that many shipgirl Admirals, the good ones, had. "So... am I to take it that this likely involves some sort of, ah. magical bullshite outside the norm?"

    Lips curling upwards, Diana gave a laugh. "As a matter of fact, yes. How could you tell?"

    Her tone dry, Collingwood snorted. "Because you are involved and I am pretty sure that you are the go to person for weird shite for the RCN." Instead of getting any verbal reply, all she got was a smirk. Expression turning serious though, the RN Admiral frowned. "You knew about wizards and witches before now, didn't you?"

    Frowning, Diana sighed and glanced around as if to find any listeners. "Not... directly, no. If I met any, I don't remember which is normal. But I do know of them from certain other sources."

    Now giving her friend a look, the Brit crossed her arms. "Oh? Am I to assume that some of these sources might be a certain group of mythological beings in the sea? Such as mermaids?"

    Diana gave a laugh and there was a twinkle in her eye. "Got it in one. I knew a couple and they were passing on information to me. Same with some selkies that were in the Gulf before Blood Week. A couple of others as well I won't mention. But I couldn't exactly be open with that before now for obvious reasons."

    Simply nodding, Collingwood watched as they reached a locked door with two Canadian soldiers standing to either side. Diana then put in a code as well as swiping her card before gesturing for Collingwood to do the same. Once that was done, they were through and into some place that the Royal Navy Admiral recognized as a small hospital wing. It was only when they came to one room that her eyes widened at the three women that were in modified tubs filled with repair fluid. "Are those..."

    With a slow nod, Diana frowned some and glanced at her friend. "Queen Elizabeth class Battleships? As a matter of fact, they are." Her own arms crossed, she frowned as she noted how they were softly breathing. "We've identified them as the three Battleships that Canada was going to fund under the Naval Aid Bill of 1912. In which case their names would have likely been Ontario, Quebec, and Acadia. But..."

    Leaning forward, Collingwood nodded. "You already have shipgirls of that name and they might have different ones."

    Her lips twitching, Diana turned her friend. "There are some fighting to have two of them named Nova Scotia and New Brunswick as there's no ships with that name. But since they are Queen Elizabeth class..."

    Only nodding, Collingwood went through what information she had. "You'll need to inform their sisters to have their crews train them. That makes some sense and I'll ask Cunningham which ones are available. It might be a few weeks though."

    All Diana did was shrug in reply to that. "There is more though..." Gesturing for Collingwood to follow, she began to walk away. "We'll likely station them on the Pacific coast as we do need some firepower there. Quebec and the three Prince Sisters try their best, but..."

    The British Admiral grimaced but nodded. "Understandable, the Pacific is more the battleground where Battleships do better in after all. The Atlantic is more Submarines and Merchant Raiders." Frowning, she furrowed her eyebrows. "How did you come across them?"

    Still walking, Diana let out a sigh. "Believe it or not, it was on July first that we got a signal coming from an old barn on Île d'Orléans. Inside, we found them in what looked like sarcophaguses filled with liquid." Seeing her friend about to say something, the Canadian shook her head. "Yes, the same liquid that the Japanese reported. We're... going to attempt something with it in a little bit. If it works, the RCN will see a nice boost, if it doesn't? Nothing too much lost." Head tilted to the side, she continued. "There was a letter there from Jean Pierre Lavallée. A historical sorcerer from Canadian legend."

    Eyebrows raising, Collingwood knew that surprise was written across her face. "He openly stated who he was? Considering things, that is... surprising."

    Waving her hand around, Diana snorted. "Hence the current security. According to the letter though, he was giving it to Canada as a whole as a... birthday present." At that point, they came to a stop in front of another door and turned to Collingwood. "You don't mind cold, do you?"

    About to say something, Collingwood stopped as a wave of cold air hit her and the breath of both women misted in the air. Upon entering though, Collingwood's eyes were drawn to the massive tub that dominated the room. At the gesture from Diana, she walked forward and blinked at the massive woman who laid in it. Said woman was at least eight feet tall with her silver hair in the repair fluid. "She looks like she's Inuit?"

    Leaning over to look as well, Diana gave a nod. "As a matter of fact, she does. Notice anything else?"

    Just about to comment, Collingwood blinked. "Wait... the repair fluid, it's frozen?" Turning, she gave a look to the other Admiral. "Who is this?"

    Her lip curling upwards, Diana rubbed her arms a bit. "Say hello to HMCS Habakkuk, the largest Aircraft Carrier ever designed..."
     
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  2. Threadmarks: JNHRO ambush
    darthcourt10

    darthcourt10 Versed in the lewd.

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    Lord K

    They're somewhere outside Hakone, just on the edge of Kanagawa prefecture, when the magic begins to take hold.

    The lead drivers in the three car convoy, looks at the wizard in the shotgun position and frowns. "Is it just me, or does the engine feels a little bit light on the gas all of a sudden?"

    "Maybe we should flag the others to pull over for a second?" Considers the second uncertainly.

    Suddenly, the driver glances at the wing mirror, his eyes widening at the terrible realization that suddenly hits him. "The other cars are in trouble too!"

    Not leaving anything to chance, he blinks his lights and floors the accelerator, the signal for the other two vehicles to do the same. Rather than responding to his wishes however, the three cars only continues to become more sluggish.

    "Screw this, let's fly!" Nodding in agreement, with his co-driver, the wizard's activation of the flight charm and invisibility booster instead only produce similarly negligible effects. "What the hell?!" Panicked punches of the invisibility booster, instead only produce brief ripples of invisibility before the device fails within moments of each activation. A glance in the mirror shows the other two vehicle's attempts to flee meeting similar ends.

    In the midst of the rapidly growing panic and confusion, the driver then at last realizes where they are, and where the last lingering traces of momentum are about to deposit their three car convoy. In the center of a single lane bridge, crossing a river in the middle of nowhere. Apparently, their surreptitious flight from Tokyo via the mountain back roads with their precious cargo, has backfired on them in the worst way.

    "It's a trap!"

    "No shit Sherlock!" responds his second as the two sedans leading and tailing the van between them, both roll to a final halt. "You scout out ahead, I'll go back to the van and see if the others-"

    "What the hell is that!"

    Spinning around to follow his driver's gaze, the wizard's gaze narrows in confusion. Out of the darkness, with a slow and confidant pace that is more swagger than stride, a human form confidently approaches. Immediately exiting the vehicle, the two wizards are joined in tandem by numerous others, pilling out of the front of the van and all four doors of the other sedan. Nervously, the wizards whisper among themselves.

    "What the hell is going on?"

    "I don't know, but they have a lot of fucking nerve stopping us," growls one.

    "You don't think they're related to whoever Ojou-sama ran off with do you?" considers another nervously.

    "I heard she was with a muggle boy," hisses another. "We just got stopped by some sort of ward or enchantment that killed our cars, so no, I don't think so."

    "Whoever they are," intones another gravely, "they brought friends."

    Slowly, it then dawns on them, what the sharper hearing of their friends has picked up. Echoing throughout the hills and valleys around them, is the muted sound of engines. Motorcycles, powerful ones, slowly turning over and noisily spluttering to life with increasing number at either end of the bridge.

    And then, the illusions fall away, masterful examples that could only have been made by either something like a Kitsune, or a Tanuki, or likely even both working in tandem. It is like someone has suddenly turned on flood lights, illuminating the wizards trapped in the center of the bridge, like prisoners caught in the spotlight of a guard tower during an escape attempt.

    "Fuck, it's an ambush!"

    "They have us surrounded!"

    Some cow away from the lights and the odds against them. A few however, yet still square themselves, and face the lone figure that is actually approaching them, looking down at her with defiant pride and self-assuredness. Something that only increases as the combination of glare behind her, and the headlights of the lead sedan she slowly walkes through, now serve to completely illuminate the form of their apparent attacker.

    "It's just a fucking snake hanyou and a pack of yokai!" One of the less observant wizards declares.

    Grin spread wide at the poor choice of words, Jin's teeth gleam with a predatory glint in the high beams shinning upon her, scales already snaking across her face and spreading from her claw tipped hands.

    "Oh, you are so off the mark, it isn't even funny."

    One of the nominal leaders of the group glares at her. "Move aside yokai! I don't know who you think you're messing with, but you picked the wrong family to try this little highway bandit gig with!"

    Rather than being intimidated by the wands slowly being leveled her way, the scaled biker laughs, looking at them as if they were pre-schoolers threatening her with safety scissors.

    "Ahahahaha! Oh, that's cute. No, actually, you see...." Affixing them with an inhuman green gaze, the growing lengths of white tail behind her swish in anticipation. "I think you people happen to be exactly the family I was looking for. Or at least three of you are."

    Heedless of the wands now being leveled at her with much more determined aims, the woman gives a feral smile. "I'm looking for three rather unintelligent fellows, who were involved a very questionable attempt at keeping someone precious to a recent defacto business associate of mine, in a certain now-very-barbecued place, when they made to take their leave of those stealing all the oxygen that the rest of us need." Across the bridge, numerous fists tighten on the wands in their hands. "The rest of you, I have no place to impede. Turn over the three dropkicks I seek, and the rest of you will be free to go."

    Out of the van, a new wizard stumbles, urgently rushing toward the group having their staredown with the mystery woman. Not noticing his approach however, the leader of the group snarls at the yokai who seems to think she is in any position to order humans such as them around, even Branch Family that they are. "You've got a lot of nerve making demands like that! Maybe we ought to just put you in your place for disrespecting your betters!"

    "Hah! Try me," says the white scaled biker with an infuriatingly self-assured grin. "For someone talking about respect and betters, you're doing a shitty job at recognizing who deserves it in this conversation. But then, your family head was a dipshit, and you know what they say about "shit" and "down hills". I bet you guys are the kind of traditionalists who's family tree looks like a circle as well."

    With a vicious snarl, the wizard, and more than few of his more hot headed cronies raze their wands.

    At the back of the group, the runner finally catches up, only to realize too late what is going on. "WAIT-!"

    "Learn your place half-breed!"

    "NO! STOP! SHE'S A-!"

    "DRACONIFORS!"

    With a screech of steel and metal, the lead hamstrung sedan lurches, not just into automotive life, but then into a much more animated motion as well. Shifting and reshaping itself as it hurtles down the bridge, the heap of metal that was once a one ton vehicle, resolves itself into the form of a charging western dragon the size of a small car. Not giving the green-haired yokai any time to dodge, it spreads it's jaws wide, catching her around the waist with a vicious mechanical crunch.

    To the wizard's shock however, the yokai is entirely unfazed by this turn of events, giving a manic cackle as she then viciously punches and carves her clawed hands into it's mechanical headlight eyes.

    "BAD! FUCKING! DOG!"

    The automotive dragon roars in agony, opening it's jaws to reveal that half it's teeth are now bent, and the few that have found purchase, are now rusted and stained from contact with the black, sludge-like ichor the yokai bleeds. Blinded and in pain, the mechanical construct thrashes and writhes, doing it's best to remove the unphased monster from it's face and mouth. A process that is of dubious effect, right up until it's tail then takes out a section of the bridge's railing.

    Still blinded and flailing, the western-style automaton doesn't even notice the danger it is in, right up until it's back peddling rear feet go over the side. Giving a mechanical roar of shock and anger as gravity takes hold, the yokai in it's jaws finally attempts to dislodge herself. He efforts at leaping clear however, do not go according to plan. Clamping like a vice onto one of her legs at it's masters command, the metal monstrosity's teeth sink into her ridding boots and pants legs, even if it fails of find purchase in her scaled flesh.

    With a yelp of surprise, the yokai ends up on her back, and slowly being dragged after her foe.

    "YOU LITTLE ASSHOLE!"

    Furiously she kicks at it's jaws with her free leg, ruining the construct's face, but having little effect on it's death grip upon her, as it continues to carry her towards the edge gravity is inexorably pulling it over.

    "THAT WAS MY GOOD SET OF BOOTS SHITHEAD!"

    Fruitlessly, the scaled yokai scrambles for purchase on the asphalt, but there is no resisting as finally, it carries her over the edge to what will surely be a watery grave.

    "OH MOTHERFUCKEEEEEEEEER"

    From the darkness below, the incorrigibly irreverent voice of the yokai is finally silenced by a loud splash.

    What more pressingly draws the attentions of the wizards however, is the reactions of the bikers waiting at either ends of the bridge. Or to be precise, the pointed lack of one.

    Nervously, the wizards begin to close ranks around the van protectively, increasingly wary of the fact that their supposed foes have scarcely even battered an eyelid at the demise of their leader.

    "What the hell are they waiting for?" whispers one of the wizards to another.

    "I dunno," offers another. "But I bet you they're the ones actually keeping the wards up that killed our cars."

    "They don't look very much like fighters," considers a third. "What do you think our chances are that we could rush them?"

    "No, no, that might be what they want us to think," mutters the second. "If they put all their hopes on the hanyou who just went in the river, then they're best bet now might be to go at us with number with her out of the fight.

    It is at this point, the runner from the van just moans in horror, much to the disgruntlement of their leader. "Oh come on man, what the hell is it now?"

    Pale faced, the man shakes his head. "That woman isn't out of the fight. And she wasn't a snake hanyou either...."

    "Well what the hell was she then?" Abruptly, the abrassive wizard pauses, frowning for a moment in confusion. "Hey, does anybody hear that?"

    Rapidly, the sound grows into something like the churning roar of a raging torrent or racing flood waters coursing beneath the bridge they stand on. In shock, the other wizards then looks to the despairing gaze of the runner from the van.

    "That.... was a Mizuchi you just crossed."


    Suddenly, there is something almost like an explosion of water in the river, a massive column of white spray rocketing into the air to their right. Streaking up into the sky, it is too their horror that they realize the column of water does not descend. Rising and rising, it roars out of the river with a sound and volume almost like a freight train at only a hair's breadth away. And even when the tower at last seems to stop on it's upward path, the gigantic, spray coated coils seem almost unending as they continue to rush out of the darkened water below, answering what is really a change in direction instead.

    The wizards scream and dive for cover as the long-tailed meteor of white and water now arches down at them, only to miss, descending past the other side of the bridge, before looping underneath, and rocketing upward once more on the other side. Round and round the beast goes, until finally, it is as if they are in the center of a monstrous constrictor's coils, a snare that could snap shut at any moment, crushing the bridge like a match stick with them still upon it.

    Then, as the last of the spray falls away, they finally get a glimpse of not just the massive scarred head of the beast, but the revealed form of their leader's mechanical western dragon, now facing a dramatic reversal of fortunes. Giving one last plaintive engine block roar, as it struggles against the crushing jaws biting down on it, with a final screeching crescendo, teeth the size of swords sheer through automotive metals in a spray of shrapnel and motor oil.

    Lifelessly, the remains of the dragon crash back down to the bridge in separate shattered halves, while the train-length mizuchi bellows it's victory.
    [​IMG]


    No one says anything, too gripped by terror as the true dragon, clad in scarred scales of stone-white, and wreathed in it's flowing mane of green, rises above them.

    It is an image of the wrath and fury, born by the kami of old. The atmosphere is choking, almost drowning them in the poisonous grudge and wroth it exudes, talons the size of men's arms clacking together as it's furious emerald gaze sifts between them, not caring for the automotive fluids and mechanical gore that drips from it's hungry maw. It is a gaze that finds them wanting.

    As the fallen kami then fixates it's piercing vengeful eyes on him and two of his fellow wizards in particular, a puddle quietly grows beneath the legs of the wizard who cast at her.

    "YOU HAVE TWO OPTIONS!" Roars the beast, in a voice like raging flood waters tearing away a house and treacherous rapids dashing a victim against the rocks with thunderous, elemental power.

    "SURRENDER AND PREPARE TO BE FUCKED BY THE LONG DICK OF THE LAW! OR SURRENDER AND PREPARE TO BE FUCKED BY ME!"
    -----------------

    It's only ten minutes later, that Mary arrives at the bridge.

    The location where yet another "tip off" had told her that her current target had been caught trying to administer some vigilante justice, in response to recent events she'd already been taking great pleasure following up for most of the day. Apparently there were "stragglers".

    What greets her is two vehicles with their engine blocks torn out, and the shredded remains of what might have once been a third.

    The thing that most dramatically captures her attention though, are the dozen wizards all handcuffed to a nearby railing, their wands all locked inside one of the near by cars along with the keys still in the ignition. It isn't the "gift" wrapping that is the oddest thing of all though.

    It's the fact that upon realizing the noise in their midst was the crack of an auror apparating onto the scene, three of them in particular, immediately look at her like she's their saviour come to their rescue.

    "PLEASE! WE SURRENDER! ARREST US!"

    "I'LL CONFESS! I'LL TELL EVERYTHING! W-WE NEVER MEANT TO OFFEND A KAMI!"

    "M-ME TOO! I'LL TELL AS WELL! JUST DON'T LET IT EAT OR CURSE US!!!

    Blinking owlishly for a second, Mary then facepalms.

    It takes everything she has to hide her grin.
     
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  3. Threadmarks: kaylee crew removal
    darthcourt10

    darthcourt10 Versed in the lewd.

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    Snippet 4: S0ngD0g13

    After their return from the Iron Island operation, Azuma's flotilla put into port in Sasebo, made their reports, and then set about dealing with a task much more unpleasant than fighting Abyssals...

    "You need to borrow one of my Fairies?" Arizona asked Virginia with a raised eyebrow.

    Kaylee nodded. "Just one particular Fairy, Arizona. You see..." She explained, and the Fairy in question was piped aboard the Ironclad. Kaylee thanked Arizona and departed in search of Nagato, who was visiting Mutsu and John, to borrow a particular Fairy of hers...

    ............................................................


    A large group of Fairies dressed in Confederate uniform were escorted into a brig repurposed from one of Jane Richardson's old dollhouses, and guards placed to keep them within. In the meantime, three desks, exact miniatures of the desks of Admirals Goto, Shimada, and Richardson, were carried out and set up. Three Fairies, grim-faced, sat down behind those desks.

    "Bring out the first one," said Admiral Franklin Buchanan. A pair of Marines from his ship brought out a Fairy from the brig, Carpenter's Mate Barebones. "Carpenter's Mate Jonathan Fitzwilliam Barebones, you stand accused of attempting to shoot United States Navy Admiral John Richardson, and after having been taken into custody for said attempted-murder, have attempted to escape confinement no less than four times. The evidence in your case is incontrovertible and as such we of this tribunal will now reach a verdict. All in favor of 'guilty'?"

    "Aye,"
    said Isoroku Yamamoto.

    "Aye," said Isaac Kidd.

    "And I agree. Jonathan Barebones, you are hereby found Guilty as charged. This tribunal will now pass sentence..."

    One by one, each prisoner was lead out, evidence presented, and their case tried. Some were Scourers. Some were accused of other crimes, dating back to the Civil War. A quarter of the crew of Alabama were brought before the three Admirals, including Raphael Semmes himself.

    There were some (including Captain Semmes) who were judged innocent of their crimes, coerced or compelled by others through means mundane (a Bosun's Mate blackmailed by his older brother) or magical (Semmes, it had been found, had been under the effects of several potions his First Mate had slipped him); these individuals were released to duty. Those who were found guilty, however, all heard the same grim pronouncement from the drumhead court-martial.

    "The sentence of this tribunal is that you be henceforth stripped of all rank and position, put ashore and barred from further service aboard any ship or shipgirl, and your name be Stricken from the Roster of the Sloop-of-War Alabama."
     
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  4. Threadmarks: Ryuujou Date, Tunnel under the Sea
    darthcourt10

    darthcourt10 Versed in the lewd.

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    Harry Leferts

    Opening her door, Ryuujou frowned as she stepped out of her car. The breeze ruffling her blouse as she turned to her passenger with a raised eyebrow. "Not the normal sort a place ya'll take me, Takaru-Kun." Suddenly, she smirked some and leaned on her vehicle as her boyfriend got out his side. "'Course, with how we're all alone here..."

    Lightly laughing, the young man grinned back at her. "Down dragon. Besides, if I wanted that there's some hotels in the area." Scratching his head as he ignored Ryuujou's grin, he glanced around and then at his notes. "Anyways, I think that there's something that would interest the government."

    Her eyebrow raising as she looked around the run down area, Ryuujou coughed. "Here? In Fukuoka? Now what could be so interesting fer the government here?"

    Shutting his door, Takaru hummed some. "Well, let's go see, shall we?" As they began to walk, he placed his hands into his pockets and hummed some. "You know how I'm a folklorist, right?"

    Just nodding, Ryuujou locked her car and placed an Ofuda on the hood that would deter would be thieves. As she caught up to him and looked up at his face, she frowned. "Ah know that. But what does tha' have ta do with anything now?"

    For a moment, Takaru gathered his thoughts. "Well, folklore is more then just ancient stories, more recent ones can be folklore. Including urban legends and so on. It just so happens though that this is the site for one of those urban legends." Gesturing around him, he shook his head. "Way back during the war, there was an odd story that circulated in the area. About the only ones who know it though are the elderly who heard it from their parents and grandparents. See, according to them they used to see trucks and such heading out from here loaded down with earth and stone."

    Eyebrows furrowing, Ryuujou slowly shook her head. "Trucks full of earth and stone?" Now looking around herself, her frown deepened. "That is mighty odd, Takaru-Kun. Cause I don' see where it could have come from."
    In reply, Takaru smirked some before pointing downwards. "Don't you?"

    At that, Ryuujou's eyes widened some and she looked down at the ground as it made sense. "Wait just a moment, are ya tellin' me that they were digging underground? For what? Tunnels?"

    Tilting his head to the side, Takaru waggled a hand. "Well, that is where it gets odd. I did do my research when I first heard about it. I mean, it was pretty interesting to hear about, but... nothing made much sense. Outside some rather odd movements of trucks and such, there was no large earth moving equipment. Nor were there reports of the effects of explosives nor of people heading underground to dig. And as you know..."

    Ryuujou crossed her arms as she looked around. "Ain' no way that you could move enough people for a tunnel complex and it not get noticed... Unless magic was involved!"

    Only nodding, her boyfriend then pointed at a nearby warehouse. "It was not until I found out that magic was real that I went over my notes and looked over some of the rest of the information about the area. That warehouse was built in the 1940s but has been unoccupied since the war ended. It's as if the world just sort of... forgot about it. Even when the rest of the area was demolished and new buildings came up, it just sat there. Talking to people, they just avoid it and can't tell me why. They just do."

    Coming to a stop, Ryuujou opened one palm of her hand and revealed an ofuda there. After a few moments it glowed and she could see an almost ripple in the air which made her eyebrow raise some. "Huh, now tha's strange. Wards to make normal people stay away, except it makes it subconscious. Sort of like feeling like something bad is going to happen and leaving the area. Not a bad piece of workmanship." Glancing at her boyfriend, she grimaced. "Ya got the spell tha' Ah made fer ya?"

    Takaru gave a chuckle and then lifted a small bag that was attached to a cord out of his shirt. "Always, Ryuujou-Chan." Expression becoming serious, the two continued on. "Which did make me wonder... What could they be doing here that would require so much work?"

    Upon reaching the main door, Ryuujou tensed for a moment as she scanned for alarm spells. The only ones that she did find were so degraded that they would not set something off. With a grunt, she pushed the door open with one hand which as always, made Takaru impressed. One would never guess the sheer strength that his girlfriend had in her small body. Granted, he never had an issue with that...

    Almost as if she had noticed him, Ryuujou gave a throaty chuckle. "If ya want ta stare so much, we could head to one of those hotels ya were saying." Wagging her eyebrows, her eyes became hooded. "Ah wouldn' mind much."

    Yet again, Takaru only lightly laughed as he shook his head and entered the large warehouse. "Like I said, we got time for that later, Ryuujou-Chan. Especially if I'm right about this as it will be something to celebrate."

    Tilting the brim of her hat, Ryuujou stepped in after him. "Well then, Ah am pretty interested in what ya think we got here." Her eyes scanning the floor, she noted a rusted steel plate and walked over. "This looks about right."
    Simply reaching under it, concrete breaking around her hand, Ryuujou easily lifted the hunk of steel and pushed it to the side before looking down and giving a whistle. Beside her, Takaru also crouched down and shone his flashlight into the murky darkness. "Pretty deep."

    With her eyes narrowed, Ryuujou manifested a searchlight and had it shine into the tunnel illuminating several hundred feet of sloping tunnel. "More then deep, Takaru-Kun. Mah searchlight can't see it all even though it's straight or there abouts." Eyebrows furrowing, she shook her head before pointing at the wall. "See those marks? Those are from gouging spells. Defintely a number of wizards dug this... but why?"

    Lips curled upwards. Takaru hummed. "Which direction does it head in?"

    Not sure where he was going with this, Ryuujou frowned and thought it over before summoning a shikigami. It wasn't a full plane, more a flame that shot down the tunnel. Eventually, it disappeared into the darkness and her eyebrows furrowed further. "Seems to be heading west-northwest."

    Humming, Takaru stood up and for a moment admired his girlfriend before smirking. "West-northwest? Say, in the direction of Iki Island?"

    Confused, Ryuujou consulted the maps she had and slowly nodded. "Hai, it's heading for Iki Island. But why, and how, would ya know that?"

    Just chuckling, Takaru reached down and helped Ryuujou to her feet. As she dusted herself off, he looked down into the hole. "Because back in the 1930s when Japan was preparing for war, there was an idea floated around of an undersea tunnel from Japan to Korea. That way you wouldn't need to use ships to transport troops, supplies, and equipment." Pulling out a map, he clicked on a small penlight and held it in his teeth. Unfolding the map, he nodded at a red line. "The tunnel was planned to go from here Fukuoka to Iki Island, and from Iki Island to Tsushima. Finally, a last part would go from Tsushima to Busan. They did a lot of surveying and the like for it. But with the war..."

    Rubbing her chin, Ryuujou nodded with a thoughtful look on her face. "With the war, they never had the material or the supplies. Or at least, the non-magical side of things didn'. But the magical side... a group of wizards and witches could tunnel out several hundred feet in a couple of hours of work. How far do ya figure that they got?"

    After a few seconds, Takaru shook his head. "No idea, maybe as far at least as Iki Island? Possibly Tsushima? Doubt that it was all the way to Korea as anything would have started in 1944."

    With a grunt, Ryuujou nodded some. "'Bout right, I figure. Maybe a year of construction since by 1945, they were gettin' ready for an invasion of Japan. Though I suppose that with the fact that Japan needed supplies from the rest of Asia they might have worked harder on it... Hard to say without finding the entrances and exits."

    Crossing his arms, Takaru looked at her with a smirk. "So, was this worth it? And maybe worth a reward?"

    In reply to that, Ryuujou laughed and grinned back at him. "Ya could get a reward for much less then this, Takaru-Kun." Moving the plate back into place, she shook her head. "Might as well inform some higher ups though. Ah'll do that though."

    Eyebrow raised, Takaru pointed at himself. "And what will I be doing?"

    Her own eyebrows waggling, Ryuujou snorted. "Figure tha' one out fer yourself. Shouldn' be hard ta find someplace fer the night. After all, Ah got a few more nights of leave..."
     
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  5. Threadmarks: mansion Burnt down
    darthcourt10

    darthcourt10 Versed in the lewd.

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    NotHimAgain

    World Turtle said:
    I'm also going to assume the ICW are having a failure to communicate with one another about certain important details like how people exposed to ShipGirls and Abyssals developed resistance/immunity to Obliviation. Like someone who lives with eight of them.
    He doesn't live with them, they're his sisters and they like to drop by and visit.
    Lord K said:
    Also, even if she wanted out and was more than willing to wash her hands of everyone, I can't help but wonder what Himeyuki (and Akebono) will think when they realize the fallout the aborted attempt to contact Jin still ended up having anyway.​
    Akebono will probably be a little embarrassed--she was so focused that she forgot about her attempt entirely. Himeyuki would probably enjoy a recording of the fallout and popcorn.
    -----

    Ryunosuke stood gazing at the burnt-out husk that had once been a residence and pressed a chunk of ice he had conjured to the back of his head with a hiss of pain. Historically, that had been the problem with his younger sister. When she took issue, she did it in a most destructive way. Admittedly, he had only seen her that way once—when she had tried to defeat Ojii-sama by collapsing part of the house on him.

    Fortunately, it seemed like everyone had gotten out. Himeyuki had missed several Branch family members on her little rampage who had been able to locate and escape with the injured. Looking down, Ryunosuke could find a woman fussing over her husband who was covered in soot and burns. Turning to his left, he saw his father. The proud man stood shaken, staring at the remains of the family manor.

    Ryunosuke tapped his foot, turning away from the charred house. “The question,” he said quietly, “is what do we do now?” In recent years, his father’s hardline stance had bought the Ryuusei support in the Diet like they hadn’t seen in almost a century. If this got out—a seemingly low-risk in and out plan that had soured so utterly—their support would be gone, his fiancé’s family would cancel the marriage, and within a generation, the Ryuusei name would be extinguished after a long, long history.

    “… A poison…” his father whispered, and Ryunosuke glanced over at him. The man stood with head hung, hands clenched, and Ryunosuke worried that he would start to weep. It was understandable, in this case—with the loss of a home so long in their family, not to mention the repeated loss of the family’s sole woman, a few tears would not be an impropriety. “What does that girl think she is saying? I clothed her… raised her… She was my heart… How could she…”

    “Well,” Ojii-sama said, and now Ryunosuke spun on his heels to turn to face the old man who had not been there a moment ago. He was looking out over the house himself, face little changed from its usual stoic expression. “That is a mess.”

    The sheer carelessness of the understatement saw Ryunosuke’s feet fall from under him, dropping him on his butt in the remains of the lawn. “A bit of a—Ojii-sama, this is a disaster! We need to do something about this, or—”

    “And what do you propose we do?” Ojii-sama cut him off, giving him a warning look.

    “Father…” Jusaburo said, his voice shivering into a growl. “We must rebuild. Discretely and carefully, play this off as a family squabble. And when we are ready, we shall have to bring Himeyuki back. We shall use the Imperius, perhaps, or some drug that dulls the memory. They exist—”

    “No, actually,” Ojii-sama said, “you won’t be doing that at all. Himeyuki’s first departure was a family squabble. This is a warning to never come after her again. Never do anything to make a scandal worse.”

    “S-scandal?” Ryunosuke stammered. “Ojii-sama, what are you talking about? This isn’t—”

    “Will the newspapers see it that way?” Ojii-sama asked. “Or did you think you might be able to conceal this somehow?” Ryunosuke began to get a sinking feeling in his stomach. "Or do you think that her new family will care?"

    “Wh-what are you even talking about? Where were you last night?” he demanded, shaking his fist. Ojii-sama looked completely unimpressed.

    “I spent the evening at the house of an old friend,” he replied. “In any case,” he continued, ignoring any possible protests, “I must congratulate the both of you for tearing down everything that I managed to achieve. It seems the kami are mocking me for my retirement.” He turned and walked away, down the path that lead out into the forest surrounding the house. As he did, he passed one of the maids—wait, wasn’t that the one that had said she was feeling sick? She certainly looked it now, gaping at the destruction. As Ojii-sama walked past, she started, and began to follow after him.

    And passing them on the path, pausing as Ojii-sama greeted her politely and the maid bowed deeply and frantically (it would have been amusing if the day were not so ludicrously horrible), was an old woman who continued up the path. Ryunosuke squinted at her, uncertain if he’d seen her before or not—Western, perhaps from MACUSA—oh.

    “Auror Mal… Maleficent?” he asked nervously. He had to be careful. Had to watch what he said.

    “Maleficus,” the woman corrected him. Ryunosuke gathered his thoughts, trying to put together an explanation for the circumstances (and whatever the reason she was here in the first place was). He was going to have to be smart about this.

    Auror Maleficus, as it turned out, didn't particularly care for him being smart.
    -----

    Well what do you think, sirs?
     
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  6. Threadmarks: Omake: "What does it feel like to be..."
    darthcourt10

    darthcourt10 Versed in the lewd.

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    Lord K Omake: "What does it feel like to be..."

    gaea said:
    I'll admit, this name was the only one I wasn't vaguely aware of. (What do I read to become familiar with these concepts.) I'm just never sure if an author wants these little gems in their stories brought up.

    Well, we know Jin's sometimes Halloween costume for sure.​
    I'm a great fan of picking meaningful names for characters, and sometimes spend far longer than I should coming up with creative ways to work hints and references to traits into characters aliases.
    [​IMG]


    I also just realized I forgot to mention the intended irony/foreshadows of Mary and David's wartime code names of Echidna and Typhon; the "mother of monsters" and the "Great Serpent/Dragon of the Deep" in Greek mythology, of whom one of their children was the The Colchian Dragon.
    Harry Leferts said:
    It will be interesting, yes. Granted, I imagine Mary shaking her head and asking just how big of idiots they are.​

    *-*-*-*
    With a coolly professional and apathetic calm, Mary listens to the story of the latest wizard to find himself on the other side of the interrogation table. At last the man's tale come to an end, as the ICW Investigator quietly glances over the reams of short hand notes she has been jotting down, having left him to ramble and explain his side of the story first, before she begins asking questions. Flicking back and forth between the pages, and underlining a few statements in particular, finally the severe looking veteran auror tears the pages out of her refill pad, and adds them into the latest in a growing pile of manila folders beside her.

    The wizard gulps as the auror then leans forward, hands clasped as she considers what she's heard, and obviously ready to begin the serious questioning if the steely eye'd glint in her gaze is any indication. The first thing she asks though, is not the question he expects.

    "What's it like being an Order of Merlin recipient?"

    "What?"
    *-*-*-*
    Harry Leferts said:
    Dammit, I was about to make the same comment. Hilariously, in Japan Halloween is mostly known for costume parties and not stuff like trick or treat.

    Also, Maleficient is coming out in a year or so in story...
    [​IMG]
    Now I can't shake the mental image of Mary doing the classic "parent showing embarrassing photos" thing, and one of the photos in her wallet is a 13 year old Molly dressed up as Maleficient for Halloween in 1959 (the year Disney's Sleeping Beauty came out)

    Jin will still probably dress up in cosplay when the Maleficient (the movies) comes out though, just for the hell of it.
    World Turtle said:
    In other words: Politics.
    wildredlifer said:
    Or as the Head of the Opposition he was a possible threat to a soft landing others can see is needed.
    If the Hardcores had a leader to gather around when the Balloon goes up for the Collapse and
    Reformation of the Japanese Magical Government.
    A Civil War is Very much in the offing,What better way to avoid it by destroying the possible nexus of said resistance to Change.​
    That's basically why Jin was all aboard escalating and dragging Mary into things, in exchange for the opportunity presented.

    It makes it impossible for the discrediting effects to go away any time soon, and pretty much ruins a political opponent of Osamu and Tokutomi, both inside the Diet and in outside social circles.
     
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  7. Threadmarks: Ron and Warspite 16: Swimming in it.
    darthcourt10

    darthcourt10 Versed in the lewd.

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    RCNAnon

    So, final update of the school year for Ron, meaning I'm only like a month behind now or something.

    Just Ron this time around, though next time will be the big one we've all been waiting for.

    Ron and Warspite 16: Swimming in it.
    ----------

    Ron did not like potions class. Mostly he didn’t like potions class because they had it with the bloody Slytherins. That and he thought that Professor Snape was mostly a slimy git who picked on the Gryffindors because he could. Nor did he really like the fact that it was in the dungeons but there were only so many good open places where you could have so many open cauldrons indoors.

    As an actual class for skills and such, Ron had to quietly admit to himself that it was a good class. As much as Snape was a slimy git he was also a slimy git who was good at his job. When he’d started to pay more attention to the important bits of what Snape was saying and not getting angry at him taking snipes at anybody who irritated him, he’d discovered that he could almost respect the man. He was just a bit too much of a slimy git in Ron’s mind for that though.

    Which made the fact that he needed to ask the man for help something of a trial for the young redhead.

    If Snape had been friendly enough like Flitwick or even boring like Professor Binns then he wouldn’t have minded asking. It was just that it was… Snape. Thoughts like that kept running through his mind as he waited for class to finish and be dismissed. He’d finished up his potion just after Hermione this time and while Snape hadn’t liked it, he’d said it was “passing”. Which in Snape to Gryffindor meant it was pretty good.

    Finally the time came for class to end and Ron stayed in his seat. Malfoy made some snipe at him, at least he thought it was at him, to Crabbe and Goyle. He didn’t bother to reply, Malfoy was increasingly becoming more of just an annoying little… person, than anybody whose words meant anything to Ron. If you believed anything Malfoy said he would’ve been ruling the world by now and Ron knew enough from his father that Lucius Malfoy wasn’t nearly as secure as he used to be.

    “Uh Ron, aren’t you coming?” asked Harry.

    “No, I need to talk to Snape about some stuff,” Ron said, “You go on ahead and I’ll catch up.”

    “Alright, don’t take too long,” said Harry, glancing at the Professor and then looking back at Ron.

    “I won’t, promise,” said Ron. He knew what Harry was implying, as he did have a bit of a temper sometimes but he knew that he could keep it under control for this. At least he was pretty sure that he could. For this at least.

    Ron managed not to fidget when everyone else finally left him in the room, leaving him alone with Snape.

    “Mr. Weasley, did you perhaps create a Deafness Drought while I wasn’t looking or did you simply decide that you like your seat too much. Class is over,” said the oily voice of a slimy git that… Ron fought with himself and stood up.

    “No Professor,” he forced himself to reply calmly, “I needed to speak with you in… I suppose you would call it a professional capacity.”

    Snape actually looked up from his desk at that, his shadowed eyes searching at Ron.

    “A… Professional matter Mr. Weasley? I assure you that if you’re attempting to insinuate anything...”

    “Not at all Professor. I should say that uhm… I need to consult with you as a starting professional to an experienced professional.”

    That actually caused Snape to blink and frown at Ron.

    “You have a … professional matter to deal with?” The tone was still oily and somewhat dismissive, in Ron’s ears at least, yet he was listening.

    “It has to do with the Royal Navy and Shipgirls,” said Ron, “I created something for them.”

    Snape seemed to consider that for a moment and then finally sighed and stood.

    “Let us go to my office then Mr. Weasley. It seems you do have something to discuss.”

    Ron followed Snape into his office, glancing about at the multitude of strange items that supposedly were all used for something. He wouldn’t have put it past Snape to have one or two things on the shelves just to creep people out but… he shook himself, taking a seat in front of Snape’s actual desk.

    “So Mr. Weasley,” Snape said, leaning forward, “What exactly do you have that interests the Royal Navy and its Shipgirls?”

    Having foreseen at least this much, Ron pulled a vial of the massage oil out of his bag and placed in on Snape’s desk. The potions master took the vial and looked at it, then pulled out the stopper and sniffed at it.

    “Metallic overtones, separator… undertones of petroleum. It certainly smells like it belongs on a ship Mr. Weasley, what exactly is it supposed to do?”

    “Well, honestly it was just supposed to be a sort of therapy oil. Warspite in particular has a number of issues with her… well the issues are with her engines so it hurts her legs. I thought it might be a nice thing to help her relax. Then Resource… that’s HMS Resource one of the repair ship girls, said it took lots of wear and tear off or Warspite’s engines. So they want me to produce it for them in larger quantities.”

    Snape looked as if Ron was telling quite the fish tale… but the vial in his hand was solid proof.

    “So, your questions on the process Mr. Weasley? What exactly are you looking for? It seems that you are the creator of it and...” Snape dabbed a tiny bit of the oil onto his finger and touched it with the tip of his tongue, “It seems to be made of perfectly ordinary materials.”

    “Well it uses only pure resources Professor. Which are very expensive. I’ve only ever gotten my hands on small amounts of them so I haven’t had time to experiment. I was wondering if materials expansion would work on them and if you had any suggestions for mass production. You always stress ingredients, so I wanted to make sure of what I was doing before I tried anything.”

    Snape gave Ron a look he couldn’t interpret, then sealed the vial and handed it back to him.

    “Normally I would say that you should never do what you’re suggesting Mr. Weasley. However, given that what you are working with is not truly magical but simply incredibly pure materials, I would say that some enlargement would be appropriate. Not to the extent that you can do it with food but perhaps one and a half to two times. I would still suggest you contact your friend in the Royal Navy to secure an appropriate supply.”

    Ron nodded as Snape paused, clearly pondering something.

    “As for mass production, I think we should go see a separate expert for that.”

    Ron frowned, not quite following Snape. Snape stood in a swirl of his robes, already heading for the door, causing Ron to hurry after him.

    “Come on Mr. Weasley, we’ve no time to waste and I assume you have much to do if you’re attempting this along with your schoolwork.”

    Ron managed to match Snape’s pace only a few steps behind him and then keep up. He wanted to ask where they were going but the potion’s master seemed in no mood to talk in the first place. They went up and up from the dungeons, to places Ron was pretty sure he’d never seen Snape before. Finally he recognized their destination as they closed.

    “Why are we going to the infirmary?” Ron asked the back of the Professor’s head.

    “We’re headed to the infirmary because Madame Pomfrey is one of the few people in the castle who approaches my expertise in potions and is an expert in the field of medical potions and salves. Which is what you are working with Mr. Weasley, not true potions.” There was a pause. “Admittedly the distinction is quite fine at times.”

    Ron didn’t have much time to question that, as they were already at the infirmary. Snape showed a modicum of decorum in slowing down and stepping in like he respected it, which given his description of Madame Pomfrey he probably did since it was her workplace like the dungeons were his.

    It seemed that nobody was currently injured, as Madame Pomfrey was at her desk when they stepped in. She looked up from whatever she was writing with the instinct of a trained medical professional, focusing first on Snape, then on Ron.

    “Professor, is something wrong?” she asked.

    “Nothing is wrong Madame Pomfrey,” said Snape, “Mr. Weasley is getting up to some things that require professional consultation.”

    “Oh? What exactly is Mr. Weasley getting up to?” Madame Pomfrey leaned back slightly.

    Snape turned towards Ron and Ron pulled out the vial that he had in his bag, explaining what he was doing and what he was planning to Madame Pomfrey. She did much the same as Snape, sniffing the vial and dabbing a little on her skin, though she didn’t taste it.

    “I brought him up to you because it’s more of a salve than a potion,” Snape said after Ron finished explaining, “And Mr. Weasley is interested in mass producing it. I believe there’s somewhat of a demand for it.”

    Ron noticed a half a pitch change in Snape’s voice… did he just make a joke?

    “Yes I believe there would be,” said Madame Pomfrey, a small curl of the corner of her lip making Ron think that he’d just heard the impossible, “Since I don’t think Mr. Weasley would come and talk to both of us if it didn’t.”

    Ron shook his head. He might’ve come to talk with Madame Pomfrey if he just had an idea and had thought to speak to her. He’d never have gone to Snape just to brainstorm.

    “Well then, I’ve a few ideas for you, if you’ll come this way.”

    Ron nodded, only to be stopped by Professor Snape.

    “Mr. Weasley.”

    “Yes Professor?” he said as evenly as he could.

    “Two points to Gryffindor for inventing a new salve and knowing to ask the right questions.”

    Ron knew his face must be showing confusion as he felt nearly speechless but managed to fumble his way to a response.

    “Thank you Professor,” he said, several seconds later.

    Snape didn’t say anything else, simply turning and walking out of the Infirmary.

    Ron remained standing there several seconds later as the door shut.

    “Mr. Weasley,” said Madame Pomfrey from behind him, “Are you coming?”

    “Yes, coming,” he said, spinning around and heading towards the back area of the infirmary. Snape had given him points. He wasn’t sure he could be more shocked.

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

    Several weeks later during the end of the term and exams, Ron found himself with something even more shocking. He’d managed between classes and studying to created several gallons of his salve, which he’d then sent to Warspite via post to give to Resource. The idea of payment had actually left his mind when a big tawny owl swooped in and almost dropped a large envelope into his porridge.

    Blinking at the offending item, he barely remembered to give the owl a piece of sausage before it big his thumb.

    “Who’s it from?” asked Hermione from across the table.

    “Looks like… Resource, via Warspite,” Ron said as he ripped the package open.

    “Resource? The repair ship?”

    “Yeah… I sent her some stuff and she said she was going to...” Ron paused as he was reading the letter in front of him. Then his head tilted to the side as if he was confused.

    “Ron?” asked Hermione several seconds later.

    Harry, sitting next to Ron and having been listening in on the conversation, leaned in to see what Ron was staring at.

    “Poi,” he said a few seconds later, surprise clear in his voice.

    “Harry...” Hermione said, her tone getting a little frustrated.

    In response Ron just leaned over and handed Hermione a smaller, rectangular piece of paper.

    “You see five zero’s too, right?” he said.

    “Five zero’s on…. oh. Oh my. Ron what exactly did you send Resource?”

    “A couple gallons of some oil I came up with. I mixed in the same stuff they stick in repair fluid just in lesser amounts and you can rub it on your skin.”

    “Dare I ask what else is in that folder?”

    “Uhm… looks like she took out some patents in my name for the oil and… wait what? Apparently the oil works well if you stick in on an oversize bandage and seal it properly for first aid. Which she put my name on as a co-inventor even though I never thought of it.”

    “So you have two patents for items that are going to sell hotcakes to every country that has a shipgirl?” said Hermione.

    “Yeah,” said Ron, “Resource says the first one is so nobody tries to steal my idea and the second I would’ve thought of it anyway so if I try to give her the other half of the money she’ll… uhm… Yeah I don’t even want to figure out how that might happen.”

    Harry leaned over to look at the line and grinned.

    “She’s almost as inventive as Akashi-oba when she’s upset.”

    “Yeah… I think it’s a repair ship thing.”

    “Well, I can say one thing for certain,” said Harry, “It looks like the Dr. will be swimming in... it.”

    Ron and Hermione just stared at him.

    “That was bad even for you Harry.”

    “Poi.”
     
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  8. Threadmarks: Mai-chan in the future (possible future)
    darthcourt10

    darthcourt10 Versed in the lewd.

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    NotHimAgain

    Harry Leferts said:
    I can oddly see him just spending his time with nature in some mountain home. Maybe asking, obliquely, if he could see his great-granddaughter sometime.​
    Considering how family is a bit of a button for Himeyuki, she'd probably balk at the idea, though...
    -----
    "Hey! Guys! I'm over here!" Mai yelled, jumping up and down and waving. The group of fourth graders ran over, yelling and waving in return.

    "Mai-chan! You made it!" Akane squealed, hugging her friend enthusiastically. "Yuuichi-kun was scared that you wouldn't come!"

    "N-no I wasn't!" one of two or three boys in the group stuttered. "I was more scared she was gonna bring Mikoto along! That kid's crazy!"

    "Hey!" Mai flounced. "Don't make fun of Mikoto! It's not her fault she's not good with people!"

    Himeyuki stifled a snort. The odd little girl that had become a permanent--if not quite adopted--fixture in the Nagawa house was still slightly hostile to everyone except her eldest child. Indeed, Mikoto was oddly obsessive with her prospective sister, to the point where she sometimes attracted the ire of Mai's friends (and aunt Akebono). The girl so reminded her of a cat that Himeyuki sometimes wondered if she was not an orphaned yokai or something. However unlikely, it would explain a great many things.

    "Are we just gonna stand around here," Natsuki complained, "or are we gonna go find a good place to watch the fireworks?" The black-haired girl tapped her foot impatiently, belying that for all her airs of maturity, she was still ten years old. "Sh-Shizuru-chan's waiting for us!"

    "Ooh, you wanna see Shizuru?" a new voice entered the conversation. Midori, a local high schooler, leaned down and ground the heel of her palm into Natsuki's hair. "Could this be young l--"

    "NO!" Natsuki shrieked, jumping away and trying to fix her mussed-up hair to the laughter of her friends. "It's not like that! Whatever you're thinking, it's wrong!"

    Midori laughed. "Don't worry, Mrs. N," she called out, "I've got this. Come on, little people! We don't wanna keep Yukariko-chan waiting, do we?"

    "Can't we get something to eat first?"

    The small crowd of children, chaperone towering above them, began to drift away. Himeyuki sat down on a bench, sighing deeply and closing her eyes. For a moment, she was immersed in the sounds of the festival.

    "So that was her?"

    Her eyes snapped open and she looked to the side, finding someone she never thought she'd see again.

    "What are you doing here?" she demanded, voice low and nearly a hiss.

    Ryuusei Haruto made no motion of a shrug, or any similar action. "I was wondering how you were doing," he admitted in the same calm tone of voice she'd always heard from him. "And I was a bit curious as to how the great grandchildren that I never met were doing. Kyouka tells me about them, but I wanted to see for myself." The two of them were silent, watching the children fade into the crowd. Himeyuki caught a glimpse of Mai's face, smiling and laughing, arms wrapped around Yuuichi's neck to the boy's protests. All that she knew of her grandfather's current situation was that he had placed himself in political isolation following the disastrous (for the Ryuusei family) investigation into her attempted abduction. She had never sought out information, nor had she felt any desire to. As far as she was concerned, she had other people to worry about.

    "You did a better job than I," Grandfather admitted.

    "Do you really think so?" Himeyuki asked, looking up at the night sky. Against the festival lights, the stars were dimmed--even if still present--and she wondered sadly at how their light took so many years to reach her eyes. How many of them were long dead, she wondered. "Sometimes I wonder."

    "I never understood Jusaburo, on some level," Grandfather said. "We tried for many years, but there was always some level that we could not reach each other on. His relationship with his mother was far better, but she was sickly and weak, and lacked the ability to curb the worst of him--much like your own mother." Himeyuki was silent, a moment of respect for two women that she never knew. "I feel that he passed it on to Ryunosuke, too. He visits, sometimes, out of some sense of obligation. He married some woman with a name and a bit of money..." His eyes grew distant, and for a moment she thought that she saw a flash of pity in them. "Perhaps she will help him somewhat. One can pray."

    "Sometimes I wonder if I understand Mai," Himeyuki replied, more quietly. "All I know is that I don't want her to grow up the way I did." Grandfather was silent another moment, nodding as if to himself.

    "Will she learn magic?" he asked. Himeyuki grimaced.

    "I honestly don't know," she confessed. "She's as enamored with it as any of the children her age, but I've never seen if she has any in her. Even if she did, I would still want to hide it from her. Whenever it comes up, I feel like the worst thing in my life is trying to take the best away from me. And yet... I still want her to be happy." Suddenly, a half-remembered thought came to her. "I never asked... That kitsune from the story. The one that scarred your face. What happened to it?"

    Grandfather was silent for a moment. "She escaped. She was little more than a child, terrified beyond belief, desperate enough to run, and smart enough to ambush me from a hole that she dug. There was nothing gained from keeping her locked away, so I let her have her victory."

    Himeyuki raised an eyebrow, giving him a disbelieving expression that had become almost natural to her over the years of parenthood. "Did you really?" she asked dryly. Grandfather glanced over at her, and the corner of his mouth twitched upward in a smirk.

    "What would you like to believe?" he asked. He stood, and walked into the crowd, the loud noises, laughter, and bright colors that seemed so opposed to his very existence. Under her eyes, Ryuusei Haruto vanished into the crowd.

    "That's a good answer," Himeyuki admitted.
     
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  9. Threadmarks: Never Melting Chocolate
    darthcourt10

    darthcourt10 Versed in the lewd.

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    Harry Leferts

    There was a far off look on Naka's face before she felt a poke and turned to find Harder there holding out a cup of something. "Here you go, Naka. Figured that you could use something to perk yourself up while waiting for Artisan to be finished with Sendai."

    Smiling even though she didn't feel much like doing so, Naka nodded and took the offered drink. "Thanks, Harder-Chan." After taking a sip, she smiled a bit more. "Iced coffee?"

    With a shrug, Harder raised an eyebrow. "Well, that is the sort of thing that you like." Briefly, there was a look of nervousness on Harder's face before she wrapped an arm around the Light Cruiser. An action that made Naka raise an eyebrow. "Come on, you staring at where the Repair Docks aren't going to make it go any faster."

    Just chuckling weakly, Naka gave a nod as she let the Submarine guide her away from where she had been standing. "You're probably right."

    Harder gave a snort at that before shaking her head. "No probably about it." Giving the waist of her fellow shipgirl a squeeze, she gave her a smile. "I'm always right."

    Maybe for the first time that day, Naka gave a laugh that was actually happy. "Like hell, Harder-Chan." Leaning subconsciously into the embrace, she sighed. "But thanks." At the look she got, Naka smiled a bit. "For just being there, I can't imagine how annoying it was dealing with me the past while."

    On Harder's face was an almost insulted look before she shook it off. "You're not annoying, Naka... Most of the time, anyways." Getting a snort, the American smirked even as she felt Naka's arm reach around her own curvy waist. "Besides, it's like I said, us Subs don't have a general hunting area. And it's not like the two of us have not been busy recently. SecNav knows how useful those Floatplanes of yours are when I'm hunting. Heck, just last week you guided me to where there was that Heavy Cruiser with escorts waiting to ambush the next convoy."

    Sipping her iced coffee, Naka gave a shrug. "That's true enough, though as much of that is me needing to busy myself as much as anything really." A small smile on her face, she turned towards Harder and nodded. "Still thanks." While the Subgirl just shrugged, Naka looked her over out of the corner of her eye before internally nodding. She had to admit, at least to herself, that her friend looked good. As per usual Harder was wearing shorts while wearing a silk shirt, said shirt open to reveal the swimsuit she wore underneath. It may have been tomboyish, but Naka thought that her friend made it look good.

    Not even a moment after turning, Naka missed Harder give her a once over as well. Said Light Cruiser was simply wearing a skirt and sleeveless blouse. Just the same though, Harder had to shake her head in disbelief. 'How the fuck does that Traffic Cone make something like that look that damn good? Seriously?' Shaking off the thoughts that entered her head, Harder smirked as she took a sip of her own iced coffee. "Anyways, we're talking about Sendai here, we both know that within hours of getting out from the docks, she's going to be trying to sneak around and bothering Destroyers about Yasen." When the Japanese shipgirl gave a laugh, Harder blinked. "Didn't think that it was that funny..."

    However, Naka only shook her head. "No, no, not about that. Sendai-Nee already stated that her and Nevada are going after that boyfriend of hers. And this time, she's not taking no for an answer."

    Closing her eyes, Harder held one hand in front of her face. "Then I shall pray for his hips."

    Once more, the Light Cruiser gave a laugh as the two continued to walk around, arms around the others' waists. At one point, Naka paused from the conversation that she was having with Harder and raised an eyebrow. "What the heck are those Marines doing over there?"

    About to say something, Harder turned and blinked at the sight of the Marines standing around a picnic table. What confused her though was the fact that a number of them were holding mirrors and reflecting the hot, Hawaiian sun at a spot. "... That's a good idea and, wait, is that Hate there?"

    Eyebrows raising still further, Naka nodded. "With the magnifying glass? Um, yes?"

    Sharing a look, the two of them headed over. As they got into earshot, one of the Marines was scratching his head. "Hooooley shit. What the fuck?"

    Beside him, one of the Marines was shaking his head with a disbelieving expression. "I don't know, man. That is some sort of black magic of the highest order if what I heard is true."

    The first one just snorted and pointed a finger at him. "And I am still calling bullshit on that. Ain't no way that's true."

    Waving a hand, the second glared at him. "I'm telling you, I heard it from my cousin."

    Finger jabbing into the chest of the other, the first Marine snorted. "And I call them full of shit! I mean, look at that!" By this point, Naka and Harder could see a brown rectangle in the middle of the focused sunlight. "There's is no way on God's green Earth that shit is chocolate and tastes like it. That is fucking bullshit."

    Arms crossed, the second scowled. "And I'm telling you, it is. Jeff wouldn't bullshit me about this sort of thing. It's chocolate that does not melt until it's in your mouth and you can actually chew it without much trouble. It's from that island, Brandon's something, out in the Atlantic. They were testing it in 29 Palms for fuck's sake and it did everything it was supposed to. Hell, they took samples out to fucking Death Valley and left them there in the open sun and they did not melt until they actually started eating them!"

    Just as the first was about to say something, Hate growled. "Both of you, shut the fuck up. Whatever this is, it's not melting." Grabbing it, he shook it around from the heat on it before breaking off a piece and tossing it into his mouth. After a few moments, he stopped chewing and blinked. "What the fuck..."

    Eyebrow raising, one of the others leaned in. "So? What is it?"

    Hate looked up with disbelief on his face. "I do not fucking believe this... it's chocolate. Actually goddamn chocolate." Still chewing, he pulled off his hat and scratched his head. "Never melting chocolate that's just like what you get from the fucking store."

    One of the Marines backed off and crossed himself. "Black magic. Someone had to have sold their damn soul to the Devil to get something like that."

    Shrugging, Hate grunted some and broke off another piece. "Well, whoever did that, I commend them. Shit's pretty good."

    Unsure, the others reached over and grabbed a piece before trying. The result being them shaking their heads while Naka and Harder walked off. At the look from Naka, Harder shrugged. "Marines."

    All Naka did was tilt her head back and snort. "So... how much money do you figure that Saint Brendan's is going to make? Especially from that chocolate."

    Looking at her, Harder took on a dry tone. "How much money does the US military got to throw?"

    Naka just had her lips twitching at that. "Quite a bit, I imagine..." Frowning in thought, she tilted her head to the side. "You know... now I wonder if Hershey's or one of the others will try and set up a chocolate factory there? I mean, considering how many people live hot places... It could be worth a lot to them."

    Head tilted to the side, Harder shook her head. "Judging by what I just heard? The Marines and probably the Army would offer to pay for one to be built as long as they get a lot of the stuff for the first couple of years. Hell, throw the Navy and the Air Force in there as well."

    With a small smile, Naka started turning over some thoughts of her own. After all, some parts of Japan were near tropical as well...
     
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  10. Threadmarks: JNHRO Reserve Trouble
    darthcourt10

    darthcourt10 Versed in the lewd.

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    Lord K

    From the moment Jin opens the door, there is a newspaper shoved into her face, and the sound of Kogmaru's elated shouting.

    "Holy shit, Jin! Did you actually set your mother loose on Ryuusei Jusaburo!"

    "Jesus Christ Koga, not out here! Can't a girl come inside first!"

    Stepping over the threshold and finally reveling in a prospect on a nice nap on Kiba's couch, something about one of the articles the okami almost beaned her with then catches her gaze. Swiping it from the wolf, the mizuchi then frowns at the headline of "ICW Heavy Handedness, or Further Failings of the Diet?". It's not actually the front page headline, but a half-page spread on the lower half still isn't nothing to sneeze at, especially considering the larger-than-muggle-broadsheet dimensions of the Shikigami Messenger, and the sheer size of it's reader base. Upper half of the page is dominated by an article titled "Street Justice and Shame - Extrajudicial Clan Quarrel Ends in Violence and Vigilantism".

    Ignoring the later article, Jin scans the lower part of the page with a frown.

    "What a load of bull," mutters the ex-kami with a disgusted frown. "She's within her jurisdiction. She's chasing me and making reports on the failing of Japanese handling of Statute Breaches for the ICW. Prosecuting the kidnapping is up to local authorities. If the Conservatives got a problem with her uncovering and airing all their dirty laundry in the process, maybe they ought to stop fucking around and doing the things making themselves look like dipshits."

    Behind Kogamaru, Tokutomi then appears, a second paper held in his hand and a grin on his face. "A point I spent much of the morning making in the House of Peers, albeit with slightly more polite and diplomatic language." On the front page of the Ayaayamaru Shinbun is a political caricature of a wizard in a captain's uniform, standing on the deck of a burning ship yelling that "everything is fine and that there is no need to remove the blind folds". In the foreground, a group of traditionally dressed wizards comply by continuing to juggle fireballs while blindfolded and smiling beatifically, even as a pack of rat yokai and muggle garbed magicals jump from the sinking "SS Statute".

    Kogamaru only continues to stare at her, looking like he's stuck somewhere between awe and wanting to celebrate "Holy shit, YOU DID?!?"

    Ignoring him, Jin frowns at Tokutomi. "Hey, where's Osamu? I'd have thought he'd be hear considering you two look like you're just about ready to crack open the bubbly?"

    "He's still in Tokyo," answers the wizard with a grin. "There's been an unofficial meeting called between not just the Shadow Cabinet and Kyoto-reformists, but quiet a few of the independent centrists, and even some of the less hard-line conservatives in the House of Representatives." There is an entertained and scheming gleam that now comes to his eye. "I think Jusaburo is about to find out just how many friends he really has. There's a lot of people who stand to gain from seeing some of the Ryuusei's allies go down with them, and everyone in their little circle knows it."

    "Have they even pressed charges yet?"

    "No clue." Says Tokutomi with a laugh. "But even if they aren't technically in custody yet, Jusaburo, his son, and a shopping list of other family memebers are now down at the Auror's office and being summoned for statements regarding the Breach. The line spills out into the main hall, and everyone can see it. And where the house is, is now an absolute circus thanks to all the press rubbernecking. Even if the Diet weren't to immediately press charges, and your mother has to wait on the ICW bureaucracy to get all it's ducks in order, I don't think you could make them fall any further. Between the daughter burning the house down, your vigilantism, and your mom dragging ecerything out into the light of day, the three of you have blown this already embarrassing scandal into the limelight in the biggest way possible, regardless of whether a single charge gets laid."

    "I can't believe you," breaths Kogamaru, still in disbelief and shaking his head.

    The mizuchi grins and preens. "I know right? Sometimes I even surprise myself?"

    "I don't know whether to facepalm or kiss you for all the applecarts you've upset."

    Jin laughs and tousles his hair. "Sorry brattling, but you're too young for me."

    "Bullshit you are! Maybe physically by a few years, but certainly not mentally!"

    "Young in body, older in soul, remember?" says the mizuchi with a grin.

    "Maybe that explains why you feel like an old fruit-cake of an aunt sometimes?" counters Kogamaru.

    "Alas!" Cries Jin with faux-dramatics, clutching at her heart. "He wounds me!" The ex-kami then gives the okami a knowingly amused smirk. "At least this old fruit cake can always take pleasure in living vicariously through her young nephew. Tell me, are the Elders getting on your case about picking a wife and producing an heir again?"

    Kogamaru pales to such a degree, that even Tokutomi can't help but join in with Jin's laughter at his sudden fear of yet another round of inter-clan political tight-rope walking, politely declining betrothals, avoiding nakodo, and breaking off suggestions of omiai. For Jin, the most hilarious part of it all is that very often, many of the Hokubu girls he ends up getting set up with, don't actually want to get married to him. And even those that do and aren't cheesed off by the regimented of traditionalism of wolf politics or spurned by his polite rejections, often ended up being swayed by Kogamaru, joining the ranks of the liberal canid youth that form the core support base for the Koshaku on the magical political stage, and his mayoral cousin Ryougamaru, on the local muggle district electorate.

    They're still laughing at the matrimonial allergic wolf, and the irony that the head of one of the most controversial and political clans around is a hopeless sod who believes in marriage for love, when a stony faced Kiba appears. Immediately all three straighten up when they see dissatisfied and carefully considering wheels turning behind his eyes.

    "We have a problem."
    -----------------------------

    They're all crowded around the dinning table. For the past few days, it has been the unofficial headquarters for the operational planning of the smuggling of the owl boxes into the Yokai Reserves around Japan. Stacked high with books, tomes, maps and lists, the place has been a shared space between the combined forces of Mika's smuggling ring liaisons, contacts serving as intermediaries between Suigetsu and his associates around Japan, and of course, Kensuke and the Scubaru crew who have been nominally in charge of the most central aspect of the whole operation; Actually getting the owl-boxes into the reserves in the first place.

    Which is probably why the four yokai youths look the most annoyed and disheartened of all those currently present.

    "We can't use the Scubaru," announces the tanuki, almost as if he is tearing off a painful bandage, and getting down to the heart of the matter behind the abrupt brainstorming session between them and most of the major J.N.H.R.O. figures currently in the house, now taking place.

    A murmur spreads through those already not involved in the planning, while Ai tilts her head curiously. There's no anger or demand for them to find a way to make it work, or asking of what is needed. Simply the acceptance that they've hit a snag, and the much more preferable polite questioning to understand what is the nature of the problem in the first place, before leaping into action or making a decision. "What exactly is the cause of the issue?"

    "It's an enchantment conflict," responds the tanuki with a grimace. "Between the methodology of the owl boxes transportation charms, and the way the spatial swapping and enlargements on the Scubaru works."

    "Conflict in what way?" On the screen of the webcam equipped laptop somebody has hastily brought to the table, Suigetsu frowns contemplatively. If there's anybody else (technically) present at this meeting with more experience in the questionable transportation of goods, and the kinds of charms and wards that could help with such things, it's the kappa communicating from his home and house arrest.

    Looking at the twin Itachi beside him, the two weasels who have been primarily versing themselves in the nature of the owl boxes nod. "The problem is how the space inside the owl boxes may react when under the influence of the spatial shunting effects of the Scubaru," starts Mitsuko as she adjusts her glasses.

    Flipping open one of the instruction manuals the received along with the boxes, Natsuko then points out number of lines regarding the nature of the charm on the owl boxes. "It isn't a constant tunnel that they create. It's more like a room where you change where the door opens too, or a pair of doors that take turns sharing the same room that has only one entrance."

    "But," continues her mirror image, "the issue is that by it's nature, this space needs to be "flexible"."

    Now it is Natsuko's turn to adjust her glasses. "When closed, it is neither "here" nor "there". Not until you choose which box."

    "Schrodinger's box might have been a more appropriate name had the man been around when they were first invented," considers Mitsuko offhandedly, while Kensuke now speaks up.

    "The charm conflict comes in due to the fact that, in order to avoid such issues when carrying objects enchanted with more commonly used methods of resizing or expanding spaces in the Scubaru, and to also make organisation of goods to be offloaded at each destination easier, Pops and I went with a variety of more esoteric charms when putting together the trunk and the cabin. The two biggest problems are the spatial swappers and the warping I went for over traditional folding and enlargement methodology. Whenever something is inside the Scubaru's trunk or interior, that makes it definitively in one place outside normal space, so that the charms and wards on the vehicle know where it is, in the event I switch to offloading another trunk, or move to one of the normal sized interior disguises for traffic stops."

    Seeing Jin raise her hand at that back of the crowd, Mitsuko sighs, knowing what the question is. "In laymen's terms, If we put the owl box in the Scubaru's trunk, the owl box's interior space is then also shunted to being definitively outside normal space, and then could stay outside normal space, even though the the second box will still tie it to a place that is neither where it is, and where it is not at the same time."

    Jin raises her hand again. This time it is Natsuko that sighs. "It's basically like a less destructive version of D&D's putting a portable hole in a bag of holding."

    Jin raises her hand for a third time, causing the first twin to facepalm, before speaking very slowly and with gestures as if to a small child. "If we put the box inside the car. It will either break the enchantment. Or cause the second box to eat itself."

    Jin lowers here hand. Hesitating for a moment however, she then raises it for a fourth time. This time Natsuko grabs one of the heavy volumes from the table and bodily hurls it in the mizuchi's direction.

    "ARGHH!!!! MOTHERFUCKER!!!!"

    Everyone pointedly ignores the byplay between Jin and the Itachi twins as all eyes turn back to Kensuke. "So basically that's the gist of it is. We can't use the Scubaru, and now need to figure out some other method of getting the three trial boxes we planned to do, into the reserves we picked out."

    "Why do we need a car anyway?" asks Kogamaru. "Can't we we just sneak or smuggle them in on somebody, or in plain sight like all the other stuff we used to?"

    The tanuki shakes his head. "We can't shrink the boxes. And obviously putting them inside altered spaces is out. The other issue is that the enchantments mean the things are constantly magically active to a certain degree, so they might trip most ground level sensory charms meant for detecting if there are magical presences crossing in and out of the reserves. We have to go in via the air, underwater, or underground."

    From the side, Kiba frowns in thought before postulating an idea. "What about the Toybota? It's not yet finished, so what if we just rushed it to "complete enough", and skived on the expansion charms for now? We could just turn it into a dedicated owl box runner. They're not that big, so you could get away with it."

    Quietly, Kensuke shakes his head and shoots the idea down. "Pops is in the middle of rebuilding and enchanting the suspension right now. And I'm not sure we have the time to wait until it has all four wheels and it's flight charms re-layered again."

    "What do you mean?"

    This time it is Suigetsu who answers, his face grimacing on the screen. "We're.... facing some issues at one of the reserves we're sending these things to. Hopefully the presence of an owl-box there and the influx of supplies it could provide, will be enough of a balm to keep anybody from doing anything stupid, especially for the sake of the smaller yokai who might be able to use it to get out."

    "Which reserve?" queries Kiba.

    "Jukai."

    Looking down with a the maps on the table, the okuri-inu frowns.

    The Ryukyu Islands Reserve has always been a given that it would receive one of these things first. Though Abyssals are rarely the issue they used to be, even before Blood Week, the place had always been problematically crowded. Though the bad times are long past, the fear of abyssals, continues the physical damage done to what little remains of the island's fishing fleet. Often trapped ashore and to scared to go out on waters less regularly patrolled by the USN or JMSDF, food on the agriculturally poor and heavily crowded island is constantly spread thin.

    The mountains of Yatsugatake on the other hand, are host to more than just the Reserve. Always home to a tragically high number of yokai who couldn't cut it in the discriminatory world of modern Japan, hidden within the mountain range and straddling the borders of the Reserve are a number of "yokai towns", originally founded by those unfortunate enough to leave the reserves, but then find themselves unsuccessful in the world beyond. Despite this, the towns never actually used to be that bad, in spite of being barely more developed than the Reserves those who wound up there, sought to escape. Ever since Blood Week though, Yatsugatake and the it's rural sprawl had become unofficial dumping grounds for yokai. The occupants of a number smaller reserves based on islands or at the coast were folded in when their homes were lost, while registered yokai that signed up for resettlement plans often ended up in the surrounding towns, with government stipends that wouldn't be able to afford much else. And yet in spite of it all, according to the government, Yatsugatake was supposed to have been one of the better options.

    The overcrowding rapidly changed things. Over the years, the increasing failure of the government to acknowledge anything was wrong, versus conditions actually inside Yatsugatake and it's surrounding townships, meant that by the finally the time they finally did admit to the humanitarian crisis in the area, it was too late. With it's history of lies, and it's connection to Gensokyo of the Touhou series, many morbidly refered to the place as "the Land of Illusions". Whether the illusions were that of the government, or the poor fools who went to Yatsugatake hoping to start anew, was unsaid.

    And then finally on the list of selected sites for owl boxes, was Jukai.

    More specifically, "Jukai-B", one of a number of different "sub"-reserves making up a larger network of reserves on the edge of Aokigahara. Jukai-A was originally intended for a combination of flight capable and higher status yokai, while Jukai-C occupied a lake, and a number of underground waterways and caves to provided residence for aquatic, nocturnal and underground dwelling yokai. Jukai-B therefore, ended up becoming a catch-all destination for the vast majority of the ground bound hoi polloi, including many who should have actually been assigned one of the other two sub-reserves. Such attitudes were what had eventually lead to the Jukai Reserve Complex quickly becoming the most populated in all of Honshu, with it's establishment often being talked of in the same vein as the American's Trail of Tears. Long before the beginning of the 21st Century, Jukai-B had already been the second most populated reserve in the whole nation, despite barely making the top six for area actually covered. An issue that then worsened after Blood Week, in spite of an ever increasing outflow of escapees and revolving door breakouts from each of the three sub-reserves in the ensuing years.

    There was only one other reserve in the entirety of Japan with more yokai, and that one wasn't on the list.

    "I'm still surprised you guys picked Jukai over Daisetsuzan."

    On the screen, Suigetsu grimaces. "Daisetsuzan's a hole, but it's a big one, with far too much border for how few people they have left to patrol it. Almost a third of the remaining guards are indifferent or sympathetic, if not out right on Mika's payroll at this point. Smuggling Ops and breakouts up there get easier by the month. Hell, if this keeps up, we might have to start breaking some of our own people into Daisetsuzan, so that enough of the bureaucracy and basic services remain, that the place doesn't instantly go to anarchy and shit once the nomajs are faced with the prospect of taking over until they can completely dismantle the place."

    "Why not Nikko then?" asks Kogamaru. "Weren't you just saying there's an epidemic outbreak happening there, and that they needed medicine the other day? Jukai is overcrowded, yeah, but leaving aside the unique constraints imposed by the owl boxes, we've known the ways in and out of the sub-reserves almost as well as Daisetsuzan for years. Food is not exactly an issue there either, seeing as with the amount of poor fools who wander into Aokigahara thinking that it's the hangings and pill over doses that are going to kill them, even the people-eaters are rarely all that short of sustenance."

    "Because", says Suigetsu with a weary sigh. "Full bellies make for idle minds. And idle minds don't always produce good ideas."

    Frowning for a moment, Jin moves through the crowd to stand at the forefront, gaining Suigetsu's attention as she glances at her fellow founders. "They aren't planning anything stupid are they?"

    "Probably not," admits the kappa. "But there's enough mutterings going around, I want to give the more hot-headed ones on the inside something useful to focus on and put their energy into, before those bandying about the stupider ideas can get caught planning or doing anything that might get them in trouble."

    Ai frowns at the ominous tone suggested. "Stupider ideas such as?"

    "A revolt and takeover of Jukai-B."

    "WHAT!" Kiba boggles at the image of the kappa on the screen "Where would they even get the numbers or resources for such a thing, never mind holding it in the long term?!"

    Suigetsu nods and grimaces in agreement. "As I said, it's a stupid idea. It's a fucking pipedream, even if they could muster up enough support for the idea among the general population. Most already recognize that the best thing at this point is to just wait out the fall of the statute, but I guess some are impatient and want to help the event along in their own half-baked way. Considering the sources I'm hearing from, there's less than half a dozen of these wackos seriously suggesting the idea, but the thing I'm worried about, is that people might start listening to them rather than waiting. I want to nip this in the bud, rather than taking a risk on hoping it'll die on it's own. Mika's crew dropping off supplies and taking people out every now and again is practically rote at this point. It's normal and expected to the degree that people complain when smuggling shipments are late. The other issue is that people know the situation out here is changing, but they don't really know how. I want to up the ante of the J.N.H.R.O.'s foothold, and our ability to communicate, so they know that we know what we're doing. It also adds an impetus for people not to do anything stupid, for the sake of keeping the heat and attention off the general population, lest the Administration and Guards realize that the escapee-rate will have no doubt gone through the fucking roof for anyone and anything small enough to fit inside those boxes once they're delivered."

    To the side, Jin shakes her head in disbelief. "I've always heard people bandying about the idea of taking over Jukai-B, even back in the 70s. The overpopulation has meant the yokai-to-guards ratio's always been sub-optimal in the Diet's opinion, even before Blood Week. But I've never heard anyone actually seriously putting stock in the it. It's a fucking fantasy! What makes you so worried about these idiots, that they might actually be able to convince people to try it."

    "Because of you guys." Says Suigetsu, pinching his brow and sighing at his screen. "Because of what we've been up to the past few months, but in particular, because of you Jin."

    "Wait, what?" The mizuchi blinks owlishly.

    "At this point, we're easily as big as we were pre-war, if not bigger," elaborates the kappa. "Word's gotten out about the move back to Zuchi, and the rumors have only increased as the activity's picked up since then. In the space of a few months, we've had what many see as a prophetic return back to our old headquarters. Mika and Kensuke's crews have rapidly upped our pace of smuggling operations. J.N.H.R.O. and Adachi Neighborhood Watch members are known to have been involved in protecting a number of community locations across Kanto during the yokai attacks a while back. There's rumors abounding that we're cooperating with the other yokai Clans now. It's increasingly an open secret that Jin was the Mizuchi that fought the Gashadokuro. And now Jin has once more blatantly thumbed her nose at the government by throwing her weight around outside her little fiefdom over Adachi, in an incident that has also seen the downfall of one the cornerstones of conservative political circles. An event that was also orchestrated thanks to the entanglement of an ICW Investigator into the incident, one who is only here in the first place thanks to the maneuvering of an House of Representative Member who is a known card carrying member of this organisation."

    Leaning back at his chair, Suigetsu gives a troubled frown out of his screen. "People are increasingly seeing this as "The Return of the Japanese Non-Human Rights Organisation". I was all aboard for coming out of the shadows to meet the Clans, but as we make of presences known, we are rapidly gaining a double-edged amount of limelight as well. People are hearing about us, seeing us taking action. We're growing beyond our ability to be subtle. And eventually, if we don't keep taking the lead we've created and that others will want to follow, someone else less capable or not as intelligent might get it into their heads to try instead."

    There is a carefully considered silence in the wake of the Kappa's statements. Many watch as a variety of looks are shared between the founders and leaders of the organisation present.

    Eventually though, it is Kensuke who does his best to politely break the silence. "Um, not to interrupt, be being as politics is not the forte of many of us here right now, we still have the immediate problem of needing to get these damn owl boxes into the reserves in the first place. Jukai in particular, is the big problem."

    Kiba nods in agreement that the conundrum at hand takes precedence, even as he and the others share a look that is obviously an agreement to table the issue Suigetsu has mentioned for a discussion at a later date. "So, the Scubaru is out. What else do we have in the way of enchanted vehicles? Can we use any of mine?"

    Kensuke shakes his head and begins counting off fingers. "For our infiltration, we need something that can either fly really, really fast, or can swim. The Kenmeri doesn't swim, and it isn't fast enough. Your FC does swim, but the engine's fucked and would need to be re-enchanted once replaced anyway. The Fairlady is fast enough, but doesn't have a good enough invisibility booster to get past where we need to go."

    "How fast would you need to be going for the invisibility to not be a requirement?" asks Kogamaru curiously.

    "If we were to do this loud? We'd have to blitz through at over 240 km/h for them to simply not be assed, due to their brooms' inability to keep up."

    The okami swears. "That faster than most racing brooms! And wouldn't they then know you'd dropped something off somewhere?"

    "Yeah, that is an issue, but there's a second aspect to it fast as well," adds the Tanuki. "There's a weakness in the wards, dating back to air defense issues during World War Two. Near as anybody can tell, someone must have gotten lazy, or just been sick of the wards being triggered every time they detected intercept and training aircraft taking off from airfields nearby Aokigahara, so there's a blindspot purposely modded in the system that we've only recently realized. Any mostly metallic object that weighs more than 1.5 tons and crosses Jukai's boundaries above six thousand feet, and at a speed of more than 150 kilometers an hour, is not flagged by the wards."

    It takes everyone a moment to process what this means, as Ai blinks in realization.

    "If you load up a car on cargo, and cancel any weight negating charms at the right moment, the wards won't tell the guards there's an intruder, because they think you're an aircraft."

    Kensuke nods. "In the past, we've mostly avoided exploiting that method, and mostly snuck in using the underground rivers and aquifers to enter the wards at Jukai-C, before going overland to Jukai-B. It's supposed to have been our ace in the hole, should they figure out our more convoluted ways in, or we need to be in and out in a hurry, but the Scubaru is the only enchanted vehicle we have that can fly at that speed."

    To the side Kiba loudly swears, muttering something about his NSX and cursing his tendency to avoid enchanting vehicles or modifying them beyond stock condition.

    "Well surely there's got to be something we can come up with to match those requirements?" considers Kogamaru aloud. "If they're a vaguely conditional clause in the wards meant to adapt to wide variety aircraft, there must be loopholes in the generalization of those criteria we can spoof, especially if they're not part of the original array or charms, and been tacked on later."

    Kensuke nods. "It's definitely exploitable. That the Scubaru gets through is proof enough that you just need to match those criteria, and not actually be a World War Two aircraft, or even any sort of plane at all. But that still leaves the issue of being fast enough or subtle enough to avoid the guards." Something about the Tanuki's wording triggers something the back of Ai's mind, the start of a thought taking form.

    Humming contemplatively, the wolf then looks at Jin. "Here's a crazy idea..... what if we were to cover Jin in corrugated iron sheets, and then have her dive-bomb through the wards from high altitude? I mean, it's just the owl box we need to get in, right?"

    For a moment, the mizuchi actually looks like she's about to disagree, before her frown changes to a grin at just how awesome that sounds. Kiba however, shoots the idea down, even as a plan begins to take root in Ai's mind. One that is easily even more insane to think she is seriously contemplating.

    "That won't work," says the okuri-inu with a shake of his head. "A car smuggling stuff in is one thing, but a known and infamous mizuchi looking like it just went for a roll in a scrapyard is going to be too big to pass off or ignore. And there would be so many moving parts and joints needed to give her flexibility, it would be impossible to completely armor her in with surfaces covered in Disillusionment or Invisibility Charms."

    Somewhat disheartened, the mizuchi also speaks up to highlight another flaw in the plan. "The other problem I don't think we're considering, is how would we even hand over the box with such an entry? With such a flashy entrance I'd have no time to stop if I planned to get away, so what would I, or anybody else making such a speedy entry do? Just lob the box at the handover site and pray it doesn't smash or get noticed?"

    On the laptop screen, Suigetsu strokes his chin thoughtfully. "What about those containers we came up with for Ai's aid drop to the Ryukyu Reserve? What if we came up with something similar for this?"

    "We'd need to come up with a proper guidance system this time though," considers Kensuke with an uncertain glance at the twins, who already look intrigued and lost in thought at the concept. Raising a hand, he then begin's counting off fingers. "Without Ai's flying skills to make a blind drop purely via computer, and the targeting systems of an aircraft to piggy back off of, we'd need to build our own entire method of guiding a JDAM-style kit onto a target location."

    Hesitating for a moment, Ai steels herself and speaks up. "What if we could use somebody with flying skills almost as good as mine, and something with proper targeting systems, to drop a container attached to an actual JDAM kit?"

    There's a pause as everyone attempts to process what she's saying.

    Finger still raised, Kensuke looks at her with confusion. "What, like a modern plane?"

    "The ward edits were intended for aircraft, and they let the Scubaru through." Ai shrugs thoughtfully. "Why wouldn't they let an F-15J(S) through?"

    Kiba frowns at her, curiosity mixed with a growing suspicion at what she plans.

    "I thought you said it would be a few more weeks until the JASDF had another F-15 converted for you to use."

    The kotengu grins. "Remember when we did the math for Ryukyu? I made that drop at cruising speed, using only the computer and theoretical data points we previously worked out by hand, that I had to manually punch in and keep adjusting for, while maneuvering to enter a holding pattern. Nobody ever suspected or noticed anything, because it was from outside the wards, including the muggle repelling ones."

    Kiba's eyes aren't the only ones to widen as he realizes the entirety of what she is suggesting.

    "I don't need to be the one to make the drop."
    -----------------------------

    "Well.... this is certainly the fanciest mission briefing I think I have ever turned up for."

    Standing beside the van they have hired for the day, and examining Gyaru and the rest of his friends beside him, Kudzu also can't help but consider that this is similarly one of the weirdest mission briefings he has ever experienced too. The amount of cloak and dagger involved in covertly packaging them off to this suburb just over the hill from Yokosuka, under the pretext that they're all on leave and headed out for a beach day, would be ridiculous if he didn't known that this somehow involved Tengu.

    Also in civilian digs and out of uniform as they join him and the Okinawan pilot in staring up the driveway at the address given to them, Taikomachi and Kero whistle, while Boke does his best to stoically raise an eyebrow and not give away his own surprise and awe. The pilot of Umiu 2-4 though, is the one who eventually sums up what everyone is thinking.

    "That is a nice house."

    "That's some pretty fucking nice cars and bikes too," chips in Kero as he takes a closer look up at the vehicular display choking up the driveway and garage. "Impreza, GT-R34, Silvia S12, Hayabusa, FJR1300, Tiger Explorer, a Kenmeri- wait, hold on!" Blinking and rubbing at his eyes upon confirming the black and white vehicle is still there, Gyaru's wingman then glances at the rest of the group. "Didn't that guy Tengu was always hanging out with have a Kenmeri?"

    Eyes widening as he confirms that is the identical vehicle as well, Kudzu shakes his head in disbelief. "No wonder she was always meeting that guy. He must be a yokai too."

    "I think you'll find most people here are yokai."

    "HOLY SHIT!" Kudzu isn't the only one to lose his cool and jump at the sudden presence behind them, something that is then worsened when he sees the garb. Long flowing robes of black and greys. A hood that casts the face in naturally deep and concealing shadows. A cloak that occasionally shimmers and shifts to the tones of it's surroundings at the edges.

    There are only two things that stops him from out right shouting "Cloaked Man!" at the figure that has caught them from behind.

    The first is that the voice is tinged with the unmistakable overtones of matronly age, a possibility that is added by the slight traces and wrinkles of lines he can make out through the shadows occluding the figure's face.

    The second, is a startlingly familiar shout of "Umiu Flight! Mozu Flight! Glad you could make it!"

    For the briefest moment, Kudzu breaks his confused gaze away from the woman. And then he finds he can't bring it back, leaving it stuck on the three figures now standing on the front steps of the beach house.

    The dragon girl(?) he doesn't recognize, nor the black winged and feather-haired woman in some sort of traditional ensemble, but what he does recognize is the portly man in floral print shirt, shorts, and sandals, obviously amused by their disbelief as he stares at them over the rims of his sunglasses.

    "....Major Ugeki?!"

    Apparently their C.O. doesn't do things by halves when it comes to a mission requiring them to turn up at a location under the pretense of a beach holiday. Practically the only thing he is missing, is the cocktail in a coconut and the straw ha- oh, he does have a straw hat. One that only becomes visible because the man is laughing at their obvious disbelief.

    Seemingly taking this as her cue, the dragon girl then makes to leave, giving a casual wave to the staff-bearing winged woman on the doorstep. "Well, you look like you got this in hand! See ya Ai, I got a dinner scheduled with mom tonight."

    Walking past them, the dragon girl then shoots the five of them finger guns and winks. "Heya brattlings, thanks for the help the other night, and making sure featherbutt never pasted herself!" Brain still struggling to process everything as the girl's scales and other draconic traits begin to fade away mid way through walking out the gate and then off down the street in search of someone, all that comes to Kudzu's scattered and bamboozled mind is the thought that the elderly auror woman has completely disappeared in the scant seconds they weren't looking at her.

    Then his brain finally reboots, at just about that same moment Gyaru's does.

    "Wait a moment-" snapping back around, he at last notices what he initially missed underneath all the traditional trappings and the much more confusing and attention grabbing figures flanking her. Beside him, Gyaru immediately breaks out into a run, and practically tackles the figure in what is on closer inspection an outfit with all the aspects of the iconic garb born by some of the most well known yokai in Japanese mythology.

    "TENGU!!!"

    "OPHFF- Gyaru! what-?!"

    "OH MY GOD, THESE ARE REAL?!"

    "OW!"

    "OH SHIT! I'm sorry!!!"

    "Please don't apologize and keep on touching them."

    In spite of the reprimand, Ai finds herself smiling and shaking her head with a chuckle as Gyaru looks at her wings in fascination.

    As the other four finally make their way up to the front door and the enthusiastic meeting between the two women, it is inevitable that Taikomachi makes a quip, one that resolves itself in the form of a quietly comforting pat on Boke's shoulder.

    "I'm sorry man. I know how much you were hoping for F-15J(S)-chan IRL."

    This time it isn't just Boke's hand that dope slaps him. The ringed staff that has been standing in defiance of gravity while the pilot has been dealing with Gyaru's embrace, then floats into the air with a quiet chime, and raps him over the back of the head in tandem with Boke's own palm. For a second, the five pilots stare at the floating object, before then looking back to the feathered woman in their midst. Allowing herself a grin that speaks of just how long she has wanted to do that, with a gesture, the staff then floats back to her hand, causing the group to break out in laughter.

    "Oh great, now nowhere is safe!" bemoans Kero jokingly to his fellow wisecracker.

    At last though, it is Kudzu who asks the question all of them have been wondering since arriving, grin still on his face.

    "Tengu, what the hell are you doing here? What's Ugeki doing here? The hell is going on, that we're here as well?"

    Laughing slightly guiltily, Ai looks at her fellow squadron mates fondly and, to their surprise, with obvious hope.

    "Well, remember that group I told you I was a part of?"

    "The rights organization?"

    The kotengu nods, and looks slightly sheepish.

    "Well, as it turns out, we really need a plane for something."

    Kero can't resist the humor and irony of the situation.

    "And you wrecked yours."

    "Yeah, that is a bit of an issue." The Kotengu's voice now grows more confidant and determined as she obviously latches on to her plan in mind, just like the stoically unflappable and madcap pilot they all know. "But you five know about magic now. And since the Gashadokuro, there's been a certain degree of cooperation and leeway offered to us by the SDF. So now we are calling it in, and raising the stakes a notch."

    Looking to Ugeki, their commanding officer grins.

    "The Lieutenant's already run this by me and all the people who need to be in the know, and everything's been signed off. The gist of what's going on is this; We need planes, and more importantly trusted pilots who know about magic, to make highly classified aid drops, containing special, high-value packages at specific locations around the nation. You will be doing these drops from high altitude, entirely off a combination of mental math and using neutered targeting computers to get around the fact that these drop zones will not register to you or your sensors. It is entirely doable, as the Lieutenant herself has secretly done similar drops in the past under even more constrained circumstances. If all goes according to plan, the contents of the packages may help at least somewhat alleviate a number of humanitarian crises taking place in Japan at this time."

    Behind his shades and flower print shirt, Ugeki looks at them proudly. "So pilots, who is willing to volunteer?"

    None of them ever need to look at Ai, or see the hope hidden behind her normally impenetrable aura and reserved exterior.

    "You can count on us sir!"

    "I'm in!"

    "You couldn't keep us out of this!"

    "Where do we sign?"

    "You always get the best missions for us, don't you sir!"

    Unable help it, Ai laughs, looking almost lost from the thankfulness she feels. "Damnit you guys!"

    "Whoa!"

    "Hey!"

    "Tengu!"

    In a rare moment of uncharacteristic expressiveness, the five suddenly find themselves being pulled towards the kotengu on a wind, and drawn into a feathery, winged hug.

    "It is hard to explain right now, but you have no idea how much you are about to change so many people's lives for the better."

    From the side, Ugkei shakes his head. "She's right you know. Having seen the numbers these people have run..."

    Looking at the five pilots as they untangle themselves from their winged flight lead, the major can't help but grin at his Abyss Divers proudly. "When the real fight is over, and all this Secrecy codswallop falls away? When we're able to declassify all this stuff? Well, you kids are going to be on more wikipedia pages than just the 13th/7th's, that's for sure."
     
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  11. Threadmarks: Rose's Wedding D(r)ess
    darthcourt10

    darthcourt10 Versed in the lewd.

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    Harry Leferts

    Sitting in the small bridal shop, Harry was deep in thought as Kongou glanced at him. With a thoughtful look, the Battleship leaned forward a bit. "Is something wrong, Harry-Chan?"

    Harry blinked as he was brought out of his thoughts and then turned towards Kongou. "I... was just thinking of something. Not about this, but... well, I was reading the Daily Prophet the other day..."

    Eyebrow raising, Haru gave a snort. "Harry-Chan, I would not pay much attention to what that rag says."

    All the nearly thirteen year old did was chew his lip before letting out a sigh. "Um, well... it's sort of big news and something that I should know about." Seeing the confusion, he took a deep breath. "According to the Prophet, Sirius Black escaped from Azkaban."

    Utter silence met him at that for several moments before Natsumi boggled at him. "Sirius Black, your Godfather?" At the nod, she blinked even more. "I... He escaped from Azkaban? Did he have help? I mean, from that book about the first war, wasn't there a number of breakouts?"

    Grimacing, Harry shook his head. "Um, no? He broke out all on his own and the Ministry is sort of going nuts at the moment. They're talking about using Dementors to hunt him down once they get a sighting of him."

    Only pinching her nose, Haru let out a sigh. "That is going to end well."

    There was a frown on Nagato's face as she consulted her maps. While Azkaban was unable to be placed on a map due to being unplottable, there were ways around it. In this case, she had a circle around the general spot of where that island sat in the North Sea. "If he was not broken out then he would need to swim that entire distance. It's not the Channel, but..."

    Eyes closed, Harry gave a nod. "Chances are that with how cold the water is as well as the fact there might be Abyssals in the area, chances are he didn't make it. I even asked Hermione and she stated that the shipgirl patrols in the area hadn't seen him anyways." Opening his eyes, he sighed. "One of the last links to my parents."

    Reaching over, Natsumi hugged him around his shoulders. "I'm sorry, Harry-Chan."

    Gently patting her hand, the black haired boy shook his head. "Yeah..." Quickly shaking off his thoughts, he let out a sigh. "But, what is done is done, I guess. If he turns up, it'll make it in the news."

    For her part, Kongou patted him on the head. "That is true enough, Harry-Chan. Perhaps we should turn to happier thoughts now though, Dess? Such as what we're here for today."

    With a deep breath, Harry gave her a smile. "Yeah, today isn't the time to worry about it. Today is all about Rose."

    Haru suddenly perked up some and looked towards the changing room. "And I think that Rose is about to show up." As the door opened, her eyes widened. "Oh my..."

    Coming out in her wedding gown, Rose was all smiles at the looks she was getting from various people gathered there. Once she got up onto the pedestal there, she looked around. "Um, so what do you think?"

    A smile on her face, Kongou clapped her hands. "You look wonderful! Haruna-Chan is going to be knocked off her feet by you, Dess!" Her smile widened at the blush her next words got. "A dream in lace and silver."

    Brightly blushing, Rose looked down though she had a happy smile on her face. "Thank you, Kongou. I truly appreciate your words."

    From where she was, Nagato shook her head and got up before gesturing for Rose to turn. As she did so, the Battleship nodded. "Kongou-San is right, Rose. You really are lovely in that dress."

    While the others were talking and complimenting the tsukumogami on her dress, Harry had his head tilted to the side. The dress that Rose had chosen was perfect for her figure in that it showed that, yes, she was a woman though very slender. Besides the lace though which for some reason reminded Harry of the lace for her teaset, there was also silver embroidery on the bodice. Suddenly, he smiled a bit. "There is only one thing that is missing, Rose."

    Head coming up, Rose blinked at him in confusion. "Something missing?" Looking herself over, her eyebrows furrowed some. "I... don't know, Master. What seems to be missing?"

    Standing up, Harry reached into his pocket and pulled out a small box before he took several steps forwards. "Really? You don't know what is missing, Rose?"

    Just frowning, Rose shook her head. "Um, no?" Glancing at the others, she turned back to Harry who was now in front of her. "What is missing?"

    In reply, Harry pulled the top off the small box and smiled as Rose gasped. "Well, for one thing? You're missing this?"

    Everyone craned their heads to look into the box with Natsumi's eyebrows furrowing as she gave Harry a look of confusion. "Um, it's some sort of necklace?" Seeing the look on Rose's face, she looked back and forth. "Okay, I'm missing something. What is the issue with the necklace?"

    With a look at Harry, Kongou leaned in to more closely examine the necklace. "It's a cameo, a very old one. It's lovely though, I will say that... but what is important is what cameos were used for."

    Bringing her hand down, Rose swallowed thickly. "T-that cameo belonged to my previous Mistresses. It was passed down from mother to daughter on... on their wedding day. Each daughter would wear it with their dresses when they were married..." Tears welling in her eyes, she looked down at Harry in pure shock. "B-but why...?"

    A smile on his face, Harry took one of her hands and gave it a squeeze. "Because Rose, like I've told you before? You're a part of my family. Now, lets make it complete."

    Quietly nodding, Rose bent down as much as she could while crouching while Harry gently took the necklace from the box before handing it to Haru. Unclasping the necklace, the young wizard placed it around Rose's neck. And as the tsukumogami stood, the cameo came to rest just above her chest. Placing her hand against her chest, Rose closed her eyes as she felt bubbling deep in her chest. Joy and sadness were both present.

    The sadness came from all the memories that were brought up first by the sight of the cameo. And now, as she closed her wet eyes, Rose relived those memories. Weddings going back almost a hundred years. Her mistresses and other members of their families as they made new lives. And each time, she was there gleaming in the light of at first candles, then gas lights, and finally electrical lights until Lily's own wedding. That wedding was magical in many ways and not just because of the fairy lights that softly shed a glow over it. A wedding that lead to her newest Master. One who had given her such gifts and now had placed the same cameo around her own neck as she is preparing for her own wedding. A wedding to a wonderful Battleship who had captured her heart.

    Some of the sadness of those memories were from the fact that all of those women were gone. Each of her beloved Mistresses had passed on while she was still here. Memories that she carried within her very soul, and in a way helped keep alive. The very cameo that she now wore around her neck seemed weighed down with them.

    But the joy? The joy came from the fact that she was now being given that same cameo to wear at her own wedding. That, more then any word, told Rose just how much Harry thought of her being part of his family. Sniffling, she smiled some as she placed her hand against the cameo, feeling it against her skin. "M-Master, I... I don't know what to say. Are... are you sure?"

    Eyes cracked open just a touch, Rose could see Harry nodding up at her with a bright smile. "I'm very sure, Rose. As you said, this is passed down through our family. Besides. I'm sure that my biological Mum, my grandmum, great-grandmum, and the others would agree with me. And that they would like for you to wear it as well."

    Opening her eyes fully, Rose was about to say something when she caught sight of something in the mirror. All the tsukumogami could do was freeze at the sight before her as she was surrounded by a number of women. Each one she could recognize as one of her previous Mistresses. The women were all see through and wore clothing from their era, but on each of their face was a smile as they placed their hands on the Rose's shoulders. In fact, she could almost feel the pressure of their hands even as her eyes watered. Even though the women did not say anything, Rose could almost hear their voices telling her that Harry was correct. That they did want for her to wear it on her wedding day.

    Because all the women in their family who wished it would wear it on their happiest day.

    Then before Rose's eyes, each of them faded away one by one as tears dripped down her cheeks. But she did not feel sadness, but a sort of acceptance and a knowledge. While yes, her beloved Mistresses were no longer alive, that did not mean that they were gone. In a way, they still lived on through her. When the final one, who she recognized as Harry's grandmother, faded away she sniffled some. "Thank you..." Then turning to Harry, she pulled him into a hug. "And thank you, Master..."
     
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  12. Threadmarks: Kaylee missing crew
    darthcourt10

    darthcourt10 Versed in the lewd.

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    S0ngD0g13

    "Virginia?"

    "Yeah, 'Bama?" asked Kaylee groggily, sitting up from her nap against Polly's starboard gunwale.

    "My Skipper's missing. So's a lot more of my crew."

    Kaylee's eyes widened in surprise. "The Hell? We're two days out at sea; they picked a helluva time to go walkabout." Kaylee sighed. "Okay, any clues? And how many's 'a lot more'?"

    Alabama shook her head. "No clues I've found, but half my remaining enlisted-crew and the greatest portion of my officers are gone; the three senior-most officers I still have aboard are the Assistant-Surgeon, the Marine-Detachment Lieutenant, and the Fifth Lieutenant."

    Monitor, having overheard, whistled. "What in the world..."

    Alabama's Fifth Lieutenant, Arthur Sinclair, emerged onto her shoulder with a sheet of foolscap. "Y'all y'all y'all, y'all y'all y'all."

    "A letter from Captain Semmes?" the Sloop accepted the paper and read it in silence, then slumped to the deck with tear-filled eyes.

    "Alabama? Alabama, what's wrong? Talk to me," said Kaylee, moving over to sit by her friend's side.

    "He, he resigned his commission and put himself ashore; took 'such like-minded fellows as would accompany' with him. He said he couldn't be my Captain anymore, because he never wanted to be my Captain in the first place! He called what we did during the War 'legalized piracy' and 'an indelible blot' on his honor!" She broke down in tears then, and Kaylee held her close.

    "McCaffery?" Kaylee said quietly. The Fairy in question, one of her Marines on loan to Alabama, came above-decks and saluted. "Sergeant, my compliments to Alabama's Fifth Lieutenant, Marine Lieutenant, and Assistant-Surgeon, and kindly have them report to me and my Skipper at their earliest convenience."

    As she held Alabama and let her cry, Kaylee stilled her mind and walked her mental decks, consulting with Franklin and Catesby...

    ....................................................

    It was barely fifteen minutes later, after 'Bama had cried herself to sleep, when three Fairies emerged.

    Kaylee watched as they saluted, and listened as Franklin talked to them.

    "Gentlemen, I want to preface this by saying that you bear no responsibility for the departure of your former shipmates; their desertion, and that's what I'm choosing to view this as, is entirely on the heads of those who chose to abandon their posts. It is no fault of yours or your ship's, and Virginia will make that abundantly clear to Alabama when she wakes.

    "That being said, you three are the most-senior remaining officers, and are now faced with having to crew Alabama while drastically short of hands. The other ships will happily loan you what crew we can spare, but it still won't be enough to bring you up to full-complement, however. In the meantime, there is one final detail to address. Lieutenant Sinclair, step forward."


    The Fifth Lieutenant took two steps forward, and Franklin Buchanan removed one of his own epaulettes, then pinned it on the shoulder of Arthur Sinclair's uniform. "For the remaining duration of this patrol, as you are the Senior Officer aboard her, I am placing you in command of the Sloop-of-War Alabama and brevetting you to Captain; do well at the job and I'll talk to Admiral Kidd about getting the promotion confirmed."

    "Thank you, Sir,"
    responded Sinclair, otherwise at a loss for words.

    Buchanan nodded and watched as the Marine Lieutenant, Becket K. Howell, was appointed Acting-First Officer, and Assistant-Surgeon David H. Llewellyn was elevated to Ship's Surgeon.

    That having been done, Franklin walked into the pilothouse and up to the sailor manning the radio. "I need to use the wireless, Signalman Cunningham."

    The petite human Petty-Officer looked down at the Fairy and nodded, pulling out a pad. "Hey hey hey, hey."

    "To Admiral Isaac Kidd, Commanding-Officer (Fairy) Seventh Fleet (Shipgirls), from Flag Officer Franklin Buchanan, Commanding-Officer Ironclad USS Virginia. Large number of Crew and Officers of Sloop-of-War USS Alabama have deserted, including her Captain; current crew at approximately half-complement of the enlisted sailors and full-complement of the Marines, and Senior Officer aboard currently Albert Sinclair, Fifth-Lieutenant. Have placed Sinclair in command and brevetted him Captain, Lieutenant (Marines) Howell to be Acting-First Officer. Between the courts-martial and this mass-desertion, Alabama is severely undermanned and combat-ineffective until replacement crew can be trained.

    "Isaac, Alabama's taken it hard; Semmes was a worm of the lowest sort, even without the potions drugging him, but he was still her Captain and the letter he left stated he never wanted command of Alabama at all and considered his Captaincy of her a dishonor. We'll do what we can for her, but she's taken it hard. End of Message."
    He looked to Cunningham. "You have it transcribed?"

    "Hey, hey."

    "Send it, and thank you, Signalman."

    ....................................................


    A/N- Historical Trivia: Raphael Semmes, most-famous for being Captain of the commerce raider CSS Alabama, was quoted in 1851, a decade before the Civil War, as saying,

    "(Commerce raiders) are little better than licensed pirates; and it behooves all civilized nations [...] to suppress the practice altogether."

    Also, Assistant-Surgeon Dr. David Herbert Llewellyn was posthumously awarded the Confederate Medal of Honor for his actions during the Battle of Cherbourg when Alabama was sunk; he steadfastly remained at his post in the Wardroom tending to the wounded until the 'Abandon Ship' order was given, and when he was helping load casualties into one of the two functioning lifeboats, an able-bodied sailor attempted to board a full boat, putting it in danger of capsizing. Doctor Llewellyn pulled the sailor back and told him, "I want to save myself as much as you do, but let the wounded be saved first." One of the officers in the lifeboat saw that Llewellyn was about to be left on the stricken ship and offered to make room in the boat for him, but Llewellyn told him, "I will not peril the wounded." Doctor David Herbert Llewellyn was aboard Alabama when she sank, and having never learned to swim (unbeknownst to his shipmates), was drowned.
     
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  13. Threadmarks: Hermione claims her inheritance
    darthcourt10

    darthcourt10 Versed in the lewd.

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    Harry Leferts

    Frowning, Hermione looked at the cast iron gate in front of her before looking through the bars to the property beyond it. Said property was not the largest one that she had ever seen, but it was still a large enough one. And there, at the end of the drive, was a Countryhouse right out from one of the romance books her mother sometimes read. Not that Hermione had ever read them, not at all.

    Of course not.

    With a deep breath, she turned and looked at the elderly witch beside her with a frown. "Madame Longbottom, I hate to ask, but..."

    There was a soft smile on the normally stern woman's face as she shook her head. "Miss Granger, I understand why you might be... unsure, at the moment. But this is the perfect time for you to claim this if I am right. Between what has happened in Japan as well as with Sirius Black, any news about a Minor House being reclaimed will very rapidly be buried and forgotten if it is even noticed." Frowning, she shook her head. "The eyes normally who would notice such are looking elsewhere thankfully."

    Hermione though shook her head while pressing her lips together thinly. "It's not that, Madame Longbottom, but..." Looking at her hand, she sighed some. "Are you sure that it would work even if I am related to them? With how my blood currently is... well..."

    Placing a hand on her shoulder, Neville gave a smile. Something about the boy had changed, though Hermione was not sure what. However, she did suspect that it had something to do with the attack on Portsmouth that had occurred. "Hermione? It won't matter much, from what Gran said Medea set the wards so that you only needed the blood of the Dagworth-Grangers."

    Simply nodding, Augusta looked out at the property and took a deep breath. "It is because I knew Medea when she was alive and was one of those who spoke to her ghost. She set it so even if the next member was a werewolf or even a vampire, they could enter and claim the property. Granted, there are those in the Ministry who were against such and would like to try and keep said people away, however, the spells here would accept them. And so I very much doubt that they would not accept you."

    Chewing her lip, Hermione glanced around at the rest of her group. Her grandfather was muttering to himself as he pulled the cap off his head before scratching his thinning hair. Both of her parents had their jaws dropped as they looked out and Cleo was rapidly whispering with Bellona. But the final member of their group just smiled at her and puffed out her chest. "Huzzah! Do not worry Hermione, loveliest since Troy herself! Thou should not worry about such things as it is sure to accept one such as you! Truly, this is verily a worthy quest!" Upholder then spread her arms a bit. "For are we not here for a Lady to reclaim her heritage! A knight's tale if there ever was one!"

    Eyebrow twitching a bit, Hermione wondered once more why she invited Upholder. Briefly, a memory from when she was petrified came up before she dismissed it. 'Because if you had not invited one of those damn Submarines around, you would never hear the end of it.'

    Granted, she ignored why she chose Upholder of all people...

    Closing her eyes after bringing out a knife, she took a deep breath. I'm a girl, I'm a girl, I'm a girl, I'm a girl...' Inside her head, she continued that mantra as she felt herself slide more and more towards the "Girl side" instead of the "Ship side". Once Hermione was as far in that direction as possible, sweat gathering on her brow as she could almost hear her heartbeat. Quickly, she slashed the knife across her hand and pressed it to where the Coat of Arms on the gate was. Smearing the blood across it, she opened her eyes and pulled away. "That... should do it."

    A moment later she felt her hand being grabbed and turned to find Upholder already cleaning the wound before she wrapped it.Part of Hermione noted that the cloth was already soaked in Repair Fluid which made her wonder where it had come from before she heard a gasp from her mother. "Look!"

    Everyone turned to the gate to see the blood, with only a bit of oil mixed in, ripple. Then slowly, it was sucked into a keyhole that was there. For several seconds there was silence as they all held their breaths and then there was a loud click followed by a groan as the gates slowly opened. Jack Granger let out the breath he was holding and shook his head in disbelief. "Well, I'll be... My father was not lying with those tales of his..."

    Taking a step forward, Hermione looked around at the quiet estate before they began to walk up the drive towards the house. As they did so, her mother pointed at a low building. "Look at that! It's a stable house!"

    Only humming, Augusta nodded as she also glanced around. "Indeed, however there are no horses anymore. But I do believe that they have a number of cars." Upon reaching the door though, she produced a key which she handed to Hermione. "If you would."

    For a small amount of time, Hermione looked down at the key in her hands before taking a deep breath and nodding. Slowly, she placed the heavy key into the keyhole and then turned the lock. All of them could hear the tumblers inside the door click into place before Hermione grabbed the door and opened it. Even though there was a lot of dust, the one time and future splendor of the home shone through. Wood paneling lined the halls along with what had been polished stone floors. Above them, gas lights in brass holdings that had to be at least from the 1800s lined the hallway. "Oh my..."

    Movement out of the corner of her eye caught all of their attention and they turned to find a ghostly woman in clothing from the 1930s walking down the stairs. "What is going on here? No one is supposed to be able to enter until..." Coming to a stop, she stared at her guests. But one in particular caught the ghost's attention as she stared at Jack Granger. "Johnathan? Is... is that you?"

    A sad look in his eye, Jack shook his head before bowing at the saddened ghost. "I am not, I am sorry to say... Auntie. I'm Jack Granger, Johnathan was my father."

    Floating closer, Medea looked him over before softly sighing. "Yes, I can see that now. You have so much of my little brother in you that..." Sniffling, she had tears coming from her eyes before a hand was put out with a handkerchief. Without thinking, Medea took it and dabbed at her eyes before stopping and looking at it in awe. Turning, she found Hermione smiling at her having given it to the ghost. "How?"

    Even as she rubbed the back of her head, Hermione chewed her lip some. Unknown to her, Medea was amused at the sight as it reminded her so much of herself when she was thinking things over. "Well, that's sort of complicated..."

    Upholder then spoke up. "Our Lady here means to tell you that she is a Shipgirl, the Light Cruiser Hermione and thy great-great niece! The most lovely shipgirl that one could come across and loveliest since Troy!"

    Bemused, Medea turned to where Hermione facepalmed with the sound of not just flesh meeting flesh, but steel meeting steel. Head tilted to the side, she hummed some. "A... shipgirl, you say? I believe that we may need to take this conversation to the sitting room, but-"

    Clearing her throat, Augusta glanced around. "It might be a bit dusty." With a respectful nod, the Longbottom Matriarch smiled. "If I may be allowed, I can summon some of my house elves to clean?"

    All Medea did was clap her hand some. "That would be wonderful, thank you." Roughly an hour later, and after one explanation, found the ghost sipping some tea. A fact that she was still in awe of. Thinking what she had been just told, Medea placed her cup down onto the table and furrowed her eyebrows in thought. "So ships have souls then? And there has been a war going on where corrupted versions of these souls have been attacking the world, in return for which the souls of ships have been summoned, or awakened in those reborn as humans? One of which happens to be my dear brother's great-grandchild who is also a witch?"

    Slowly, Hermione nodded some even as she kept an eye on how Cleo was looking at various items in the now cleaned sitting room. "That is what has happened, yes." Much to her confusion, Medea started to cackle which made her blink. 'I wonder what is so funny?'

    Not even a moment later, she got her answer as Medea walked over to a portrait of an old man and pointed at him. "Ha! Not only is the last of the Grangers descended from my brother! But! But the witch in question is something that you would dislike! Your prejudiced corpse must be spinning in it's grave, Grandfather!"

    Grumbling, the portrait scowled before walking out of it's frame. Softly chuckling, Hermione's father set down his own tea. "I take it that you did not get along with him?"

    Only softly snorting as she floated back over, Medea picked up a scone. "No, Grandfather was likely why my brother went missing. He was... of a certain opinion of such things. Very elitist I believe that the word might be. I have no doubt that he is likely very put out by this, same with my parents. Which, of course, makes me quite happy." Sipping some tea, she sighed as she was once more able to taste food after so long. "But enough of such things. I wish to get to know more about my family as it is after all. And perhaps later, we can perform a tour of the house though the library might take some time as it is well stocked."

    Suddenly perking up, Hermione looked at her with a glint in her eyes. "Library? Well stocked?"

    For a second, Medea blinked before a large smile grew on her face. "Oh yes, we have a very large library." At the similar smile on Hermione's face, she chuckled. "I do believe that I will be getting along with you quite well, Hermione. Very well indeed..."
     
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  14. Threadmarks: Ancestral Gambling Debts
    darthcourt10

    darthcourt10 Versed in the lewd.

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    Harry Leferts

    Shiromizu looked up from several papers and blinked as Harry was reading a letter with a look of interest on his face. "Harry? What's caught your attention now?"

    Glancing up, Harry shrugged some and furrowed his eyebrows. "Just a letter from Professor Dumbledore about something I came across."

    Eyebrow raising, Shiromizu slithered over. "Oh? And what sort of something is it?" At his look, she gave him a smile. "What? Can't I ask?"

    Rather amused, the black haired boy glanced at the paperwork that was on the table. "Is it that you are interested? Or is that interest more to get out of work?"

    After a few moments, Shiromizu sighed and slumped her shoulders. "Can it be both?" Hearing his chuckle, she groaned. "You got no idea just how much work I'm doing, Harry." Making the rest of the way over, the snake woman playfully slumped her body over his shoulders and made the twelve year old squawk. "It's tiring."

    Huffing a bit, Harry gently shoved her off. "Can't be that bad, Shiromizu."

    Just laying on the floor, she pouted up at him. "You got no idea... And did you need to shove me off?"

    In reply to that, Harry rolled his eyes. "Yes, yes I did." Looking down at her, he raised an eyebrow. "Still not seeing how it could be bad."

    Sighing, Shiromizu placed her hands behind her head. "Well... Onee-Sama keeps asking for my imput in regards to the town. There was the whole question of if we owned it or not, but the government handed over the deeds as they could not find anyone who owned the land since it was abandoned in the 1960s. Which means needing to know the land use laws. Then you got the various Yokai nearby moving in as the town is slowly being repaired." Rubbing one hand against her face, she shook her head. "Which is a mess all it's own."

    Harry blinked at that and looked down at her. "That bad, huh?"

    Only shaking her head, she snorted some. "Remember how I told you that most Yokai moved away from the town and were hiding elsewhere on the mountain from Kuroshi? Because if she caught them, she would eat them?" When he nodded, Shiromizu continued. "As well as how now that she is dead, they're moving in?"

    Interested, Harry nodded. "I remember that. From what you and Misa-San were saying, there's a number of them."

    Tone dry, the Mizuchi snorted and shook her head. "That's putting it mildly, Harry. Since we were last there at least a dozen more have come stumbling out of the woods asking for a home there. Most of these have been living the past forty years in the woods in their animal forms because they didn't have anywhere else to go. The ones who didn't had moved elsewhere in Japan and found out about what is going on through various means. Needless to say, those tents you brought are getting a lot of use."

    Leaning against his fist, Harry shook his head. "I didn't think that they would get that much use, really. Mainly, I bought them because I figured that it might be a while until the homes were rebuilt."

    Yet again, Shiromizu gave a snort. "Harry? Those homes are being rebuilt and they're now looking at the ones that were uninhabited. The government is helping, but there's only so much that can be done at the moment. Hopefully Kiba-San and the others come through with help. And that is not counting any possible issues with food."

    As she got up, Harry frowned some. "I thought that was solved already?"

    However, Shiromizu shook her head. "The nearest town with a store is outside the forest, Harry. And really, only those good at disguising themselves can get there and bring back food for everyone until the Statute collapses. Right now though, Onee-Sama got a hold of some chickens though and quails. And there's an email about maybe using greenhouses to grow some food..."

    Closing his eyes, Harry furrowed his eyebrows. "Greenhouses? You mean like those ones I read about that use heat from hot springs to keep them warm?" Not getting an answer, he opened his eyes to find Shiromizu looking at the laptop she had been using in interest. "Shiromizu?"

    Slowly, the serpent woman blinked and shook her head. "There wasn't anything like that in the email. But... if needed, I don't mind helping there. And there's also warming charms and the like..." Chewing her lip, she became thoughtful. "Something to think about." After a few moments, Shiromizu shook that off and turned to Harry. "Anyways, enough of that. What is it about the letter that you're waiting on?"

    About to say something, it was that moment that Hedwig chose to walk out of the owl box and hold out one leg. "Bark!"

    Lips twitching, Harry gave her a small nod of the head. "Thanks, Hedwig." Taking it, Harry opened the letter and began to read. "Well... it has to do with my Great Uncle Charlus, remember what I told you about him?"

    Shiromizu frowned before noddding some. "He was the one who took over his father's business in buying houses and selling them on the magical side, right? What's so interesting about that unless you found something?"

    Finger tapping against the table, Harry shook his head. "Well, I was reading through my family history book and found out that he had been in Japan just after the war." At the look he got, the black haired boy shrugged. "It was before he took over the family business and wanted some excitement. From the notes, he was part of Wizarding Britain's contingent that was here. There wasn't much in the book about it though except Professor Dumbledore retrieved his journal from that time."

    Glancing at the leather bound book beside Harry, Shiromizu turned back to him. Once he gave her a nod, she took the book and began to flip through it. At one point near the end though, she raised an eyebrow. "Who's Malificus? Is that spelled correctly?"

    With a shrug, Harry shook his head. "No idea or not. But according to that they owe him either five hundred Galleons worth from card games or some fine alcohol... Though it was mentioned that when really drunk once, the two joked about a marriage contract between any kids they might have. That being before they were knocked out by some witch and Charlus woke up naked in a marketplace." Seeing the amused look, he smirked. "Well, he stated that Malificus was joking anyways, not so sure about my Great-Uncle. Apparently my Great-Uncle was something of a card shark. There's a whole slew of notes there of who owed him what from card games. As well as payments. Some of them got pretty weird to be honest."

    Just flipping a page, Shiromizu blinked and then leaned in with an odd look on her face. "Who the heck would pay someone... with fifty melons?"

    Softly snickering, Harry gave her a grin. "Tell me about it. He did note that they were great melons though." Getting a snort from Shiromizu, he chuckled. "It's stuff like that I love, the little stories about my family that helps me get to know them, you know?"

    Reaching over, Shiromizu gave his hand a squeeze. "I know, Harry. And it's great that you can actually get to know them."

    Harry smiled at that before he looked back at the journal. "There was one bit though that did catch my attention." At her hum, he took the journal and flipped through several pages until he came to one in particular. "Here."

    Eyes running over the words there, Shiromizu frowned and then furrowed her eyebrows. "This can't be right... It says here that one of the American wizards handed him a bunch of swords as payment? Where did he get them?"

    For the first time, Harry looked thoughtful. "Now that is the question and Charlus did get the story from him as one of the other Americans dragged it out. Something about not wanting thieves or trouble coming from it. Apparently the wizard in question had heard about the Japanese non-magicals turning in swords as ordered and figured that since us Potters supposedly 'Liked the shinies', he could use them as payment. So he impersonated a US Army soldier at one of those checkpoints and this one guy turned in a whole bunch of them. Which he was now giving to my uncle to pay off his bets."

    One eyebrow raising, Shiromizu glanced at Harry. "Wait, someone handed over their ancestral swords to a person they thought was US Army, but was a wizard. Said wizard only was there to get some swords, to give to this Charlus to pay off a bunch of debts. All because your family can be as bad as magpies?"

    Chuckling weakly, Harry gave a nod. "Basically? Yeah... He did accept them though as payment."

    The only thing that Shiromizu did for that was facepalm and sigh. "I... don't know what to say to that. Honestly... that's too complicated for what he did." Then she perked up some. "Is that why you sent that letter to Dumbledore-Sensei? To find out if he knew what happened to them?"

    Slowly, Harry gave a nod as he became thoughtful and looked at the letter. "Well... I thought that maybe we might be able to track down the family they belonged to and return them. According to Professor Dumbledore, they're in the attic at Godric's Hollow as Charlus' son died about three months before my parents and with the house destroyed... that was where they were placed in a trunk with other items."

    Now scanning the page, Shiromizu gave a snort at the name of the American in question. "What sort of name is Coldy Bimore?"

    All Harry did was shrug as he was reading the letter. "Apparently the first part was his nickname because he liked using ice related spells. Huh... Professor Dumbledore says that he'll send someone to pick them up and send them here when he can."

    Just continuing to flip through the book, Shiromizu nodded. "Someone will be happy then."

    In reply, Harry just shrugged.
     
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  15. Threadmarks: JNHRO Scaredy cat
    darthcourt10

    darthcourt10 Versed in the lewd.

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    Lord K

    A.N./ Obviously crack-flavoured omake

    "So where exactly are we going again?"

    Sitting in the backseat with Chisuheri and her swords, Tomokako glances at Kiba and Jin in the front seats, the former of whom resists the urge to plant his face in the wheel or accelerate into the nearest lamppost.

    "For the last time Tomo, there's a kid returning a bunch of World War Two era swords to Japan. A few of them are old enough they just might have Tsukumogami that could have appeared while locked up, so we want you two to check if there's anybody with spirits and to help them aclimatize."

    In the back seat, the daisho tsukimogami frowns. "If these really are the blades taken by the elusive Coldy Bimore, I wonder if Honjo-san will be among those present."

    Kiba shrugs. "I dunno. The kid himself doesn't seem to know who exactly he has, as everything's all just scribbled down in some old notebook from a relative was squaring gambling debts. It explains why nobody was ever able to find her so long though. We were always looking on the wrong side of the pond the entire time."

    Chisuheri raises an eyebrow curiously. "She ended up in Britain?"

    "Yeah, some guy named Charlus Potter ended up with all the swords."

    Suddenly, the daisho set's face goes pale. "We're meeting with a Potter?!?"

    Looking at the tsukimogami in the rear-view mirror in confusion, Kiba and the other two occupants of the car watch in baffled confusion as the sword set begins urgently winding down her window. "Uh, yeah..... This is Battleship Nagato's adopted son we're going to see. His original name when she adopted him from Britain was Harry Potter, remember?"

    "I refuse!"

    Unclipping herself from her belt, the Tsukimogami hurls the swords that are her true form from the moving vehicle. Her human image lingers for a few moments longer, before abruptly disappearing and re-materializing alongside her blades in a ditch, one they are now rapidly leaving behind.

    The three stare in stunned silence for a moment, before Tomokako abruptly whoops in excitement.

    "DYNAMIC EXIT!"

    Watching in his wing mirror as the enigmatic kitsune's self-ejection out the same window takes out a road sign, yet somehow leaves her none the worse for wear, Kiba wearily sighs and turns his gaze back to the road.

    "Well Jin, at least I still have you for this."

    The mizuchi's silence is damning. Glancing over at her, and seeing the ex-kami attempting to sink into her seat, Jin then gives him an awkward smile.

    "Whatever you do, please try to avoid mentioning to the kid that my reincarated last name is Maleficus."

    Looking back to the road, Kiba feels one of his eyes twitch.
     
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  16. Threadmarks: old school analysis
    darthcourt10

    darthcourt10 Versed in the lewd.

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    Harry Leferts

    Besides the hum from the florescent lights above, the only sounds that could be heard was that of boots against tile as both Victory and Dumbledore walked down the hallway. Glancing around, Albus made a hum that conveyed his feelings. "Rather impressive set up here."

    Lips twitching, Victory gave a small nod. "It may not be the Central Government War Headquarters, and there is a place that must be seen to be believed since the upgrades since the war began. But it is impressive." Glancing around, she raised an eyebrow. "Since the Abyssal War, this place was built out of a series of an old quarry. However, we have a more important use for it."

    Frowning, Dumbledore only sighed at that. "Which you have not told me, Vicky." Ignoring the growl from her, he raised an eyebrow. "I do wonder why you have brought me here."

    In return, Victory raised her own eyebrow. "Oh? I know that you have been busy recently with what has happened in Japan and what is happening closer to home."

    The elderly wizard looked every bit his age for a moment and shook his head. "Busy would not be the word that I would use, Vicky. Cornelius has been panicking and has even mentioned the possibility of placing Dementors of all things around Hogwarts."

    Even the ship of the line had to stumble at that before she boggled at her friend. "Dementors!? At a school!? Please tell me that you are joking, Albus!? He cannot possibly be that foolish!"

    Dumbledore just looked at her over the rims of his spectacles. "Unfortunately, that is not the sort of joke that I would make, Victory. I do believe that I see the hand of Dolores in this, though I cannot be sure. But the idea that he can make the announcement that he is doing something to protect the school from Sirius, despite the foolishness and possibility that he is innocent, is one he cannot let go of."

    Furrowing her eyebrows, Victory sighed. "So it is true then? He never did receive a trial for what happened?"

    Yet again, Dumbledore looked every bit of his age. "Alas, he did not and that I think will be counted among my personal failures. I also looked over the evidence from the incident in question and... I brought a copy of one bit I think that you should look at." Reaching into his robes, he pulled out a picture and handed it over. "Here, this is the only bit remaining of Peter Pettigrew."

    Just frowning, Victory took the picture and boggled. "Bumblebee? This is just a finger. I have seen my fair share of when people have died from explosions and I can honestly say that even a direct hit would leave more."

    Glancing at her, the old wizard raised an eyebrow. "Oh? But the street itself was blown apart."

    Softly scoffing, Victory internally frowned as something was bothering her about the picture. "Even a direct hit on his torso would leave more then just a finger, Albus. Parts of his extremities at least. Such as other fingers and his toes. There also would have been more blood then just this."

    Head tilting to the side to give her the point, Albus nodded. "However, there is the small issue of proving such."

    Just snorting, Victory shook her head. "Would you be against using a non-magical method of giving proof?" At the look he gave her, she continued. "Pig flesh is the closest to human flesh I believe. It is why human flesh was sometimes known as 'Long pig' among certain groups. If you were to take a pig and recreate what happened with it replacing Pettigrew..."

    Deep in thought, Albus stroked his beard before frowning. "That could, perhaps, work. Yes, though I will need to find someone who is willing to, ah, test it out and put forward the results. Perhaps Alastor, it would tickle his fancy I believe."

    Briefly, everything clicked and Victory looked closer at the picture before a fairy came out with a magnifying glass at her silent order. Her voice nearly a whisper, she boggled. "We may have another issue, Albus. This was not blasted off, but was cut. I have seen enough injuries to tell the difference."

    Looking over her shoulder, he grimaced. "I was afraid of such." At her narrowed eyed look, Dumbledore shook his head. "I wished to see your own thoughts without my imput."

    After a moment, Victory grunted and passed him the picture. "Aye, I can understand that and even agree with it. Though that means that he may well have survived and still be out there." When the elderly wizard beside her told her he had a theory he needed to confirm, she snorted. "I see, well if you need any help just inform me. But what about the ICW? How are that bunch doing?"

    That brought a sigh from Dumbledore who looked like he needed some headache medication. "Alas, the ICW has been in an uproar over what has happened in Japan though thankfully Harry's own actions are still unknown. It was all I could do to back the idea of sending one Mary Maleficus from MACUSA. Alastor began to cackle madly when I told him, which does make me believe that I made the right decision there." He ignored the snort from Victory before continuing. "I do believe that she understands what I could not say and we only need to hold out a few more years."

    A frown on her face, Victory narrowed her eye at him. "For the new government to rise? Or for the Statute to finally fall?"

    Looking at her seriously, Dumbledore took a breath. "In a word? Yes." There was a far off look in his eyes as he stared ahead, seeing something that only he could. "I very much doubt that the Magical Diet will last more then a few more months before it collapses, though I could be wrong. But the Statute? I believe that we may be less then four years away."

    Grimacing, Victory scratched the side of her head. "A right mess that is going to be, no matter how soft we try and make it, Bumblebee." Then she blew out a sigh and looked around. "But then, that is why we are here."

    Bemused, the old wizard looked down at her. "Something that you still have not explained to me, sadly. Though all this cloak and dagger work does make me feel a small bit younger."

    On Victory's face was a smirk. "Oh? So twenty or so years younger? Or would it be closer to forty?" She pretended not to see the glare on Albus' face at that. "As for why..." Coming to a stop before a window, she looked inside. "There is your answer, Headmaster."

    Coming to a stop beside her, Dumbledore looked into the room and frowned some. Inside the room at various tables were men and women, all of whom were rather old. In fact, the youngest looked no younger then fifty years of age. "And who are they now?"

    Simply standing beside him, Victory gave her friend a glance. "I stated that I would help you in regards to Voldemort, Albus. And so would her Majesty's government as he is a threat." Nodding at the window, she smiled slightly. "In this room are various retired persons who would be of great help. Analysts, profilers, and the like. We provide them with the information needed and they will put together dossiers of each Death Eater and dear old Tommy boy himself. We'll have a good idea of what he may do depending on the situation which will make the coming war much easier to prosecute. With some though we may need to take... action before hand though."

    Hands behind his back, Dumbledore considered those words. Once, long ago, a much younger Albus Dumbledore would have taken issue with what he was hearing. It was not proper nor right! Morally grey at best, and a dark grey at that.

    That Albus Dumbledore though was in the past.

    In the present, Dumbledore only sighed and closed his eyes. "I do wish that such methods would not be needed." At the look from Victory, he shook his head. "I wish that they were not needed, but I do understand why and accept that fact. More then once I have bandied around the idea of MacNair suffering an accident for example. After all, executing magical creatures is dangerous if one was to get loose. It is also known that he is a hunter for dangerous magical creatures as well, rather like a... what is the muggle term? Big game hunter? More then one wizard or witch has died doing such. Alas, his luck has held out."

    Victory gave a smile that was nice not in the least. "Well, that is rather interesting. And yes, being a big game hunter can be very dangerous. One wrong move or screw up and you find yourself mauled or even gored. Quite dangerous." Her smile then fell away and became a frown. "We have retrieved paperwork regarding Riddle from his old orphanage, by the way Albus. Even though it has been demolished, the files were still around. That should help us in this business."

    Nodding, Dumbledore relaxed a bit. "Perhaps I can even provide my pensieve. While it is impossible to use the interactive portion, there is a... projector portion which should allow them to see memories and such. I will also look for another to see if I can find it and provide memories of battles with Death Eaters and Voldemort as well." The Headmaster then reached into his pocket and pulled out his watch and opened it before humming. "Ah, good. Plenty of time hopefully for other business." At the interested look from Victory, there was a twinkle in his eyes. "It seems that Mister Potter wishes to return some items that his Great Uncle Charlus received while in Japan."

    The old ship rolled her eye at that. "Bloody Potters, I would say that they were the British Squaddies before they were Squaddies. But that might make said Squaddies proud and declare him one of them... And then go and steal something to one up the Potters."

    All Dumbledore did was chuckle at that before they headed to the door and walked in.
     
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  17. Threadmarks: JNHRO Operation Geocache
    darthcourt10

    darthcourt10 Versed in the lewd.

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    Lord K

    Operation Geocache

    Starring downward as his strike fighter lazily banked and held it's waiting pattern, Kudzu couldn't help but reflect that from so high up, it really did look like a "Sea of Trees". Far below, the forest of Aokigahara stretched for unbroken kilometers in all directions, tumbling and crawling about the landscape, from the foothills of Mt Fuji to the south, all the way to the edges of the lakes to the north. To the east and west, scant traces of civilization could be seen, but even that was little more than rural farmland. The only other sign of anything other than nature's dominance in the area, is the barely perceptible road, an unnatural break in the treeline running east to west.

    There's a car park down there that is officially their target today. The intended landing site for the canisters slung beneath the aircraft of Umiu 2 through 4, with Mozu 1 also standing in for the still absent Umiu 1 so that they have a full flight of four. Off to the side, Mozu 2 orbits them in turn, a sensor package mounted beneath Kero's center line, rather than one of the JADM fitted containers everyone else has. On paper, they're here as part of a joint operation between the JMSDF and JASDF to test a new form of equipment. Air droppable supply pods, underslung beneath some of the fastest aircraft in the JASDF's arsenal, capable of being rushed through the skies above hostile areas, and then delivered with pinpoint precision to JMSDF coast watchers on the ground. No risk of planes giving away their locations, slowly drifting parachutes being spotted, or supplies being blown off course. Just a GPS guided package that would be more akin to a HALO drop than a low altitude insertion.

    According to the mission briefing, there's a sizable car park down there that they need to land their prototype drop-pods into, or at least within a respectable distance of. It would be a shame if one of these newfangled, bleeding edge prototypes and it's supposed "dummy weight" were to "malfunction" and completely miss the target zone surrounding the car park. A car park that just so happens to be within a few kilometers of the border with the reserve known as Jukai-B.

    Glancing back down at the forest, Kudzu can't help but feel his skin crawl.

    What is really down there he wonders. What kind of a world is hidden behind this illusion of untouched nature?

    He thinks back to the pictures, brought out when Tengu and her comrades were first bringing them up to speed on what exactly was the nature of this place, and the horrifying history that goes along with it. An imposing, wrought iron gate flanked by a pair of towers, set into a high wall of painted stone, with the phrase "In Secrecy, There Is Freedom" spelled out in steel across the top. Seeing how the words set into the entrance made the hairs on the back of his neck stand, the winged pilot had idly commented that it was a condensing of a once larger slogan.

    "In secrecy, there is security. In security, there is protection. In protection, there is freedom."

    It disturbed Kudzu.

    Ever since Blood Week, he'd always known there was something not right going on in whatever shadowy corners of the world that existed. But it was different learning exactly how the various generalities of what he had often theorized or thought, were actually true or functioned. It was one thing to take in the recorded information, the photos taken, the facts written down, the films smuggled out. That could be approached in that same distant and somewhat dis-associative way one could pick up a history book or watch a documentary, and still understand or comprehend how people could do horrific and evil things to one another out of prejudice or indifference.

    It was another to hear stories from not just a trusted comrade and friend, but then numerous others as well, of what exactly was taking place in the shadows of the darker side of the masquerade, which he had for but a moment glimpsed behind.

    Tales of prejudice, abuse, exploitation, poverty, injustice, and tragedy. Everyone seemed to have their own stories and experiences of a strange racism and culturally ingrained ideas of supremacy, that was so prevalent and internationally dominated, it was hard to wrap his mind around the fact that they were talking about Japan at times. It was startling to realize Tengu was one of the luckier ones, and shed a new light on her decision to spend decades primarily working and living in the magic-less of world baseline humanity, no matter how constraining it must have been for her.

    It took Kudzu a while to actually figure out what about all the stories disturbed him so. It wasn't until they were back at the hotel room, during a quiet conversation with Gyaru, where the Okinawan absently mentioned that the yokai they met almost reminded her of how her great-grandfather used to talk about Okinawa in the pre-war days, and Boke mentioned a similar vibe from a Korean grandmother, that things finally clicked for Kudzu.

    What disturbed him most, wasn't the facts in writing. It wasn't the photographs and video of the gate with it's iron words, that practically reeked of despair through a picture alone. Nor was it the others of the crowded agricultural landscape dotted with shanty towns inside, that looked like it was still stuck in the late 19th or early 20th century. It wasn't even the stories heard straight from the mouth of those who experienced it, or the injustices of the world outside the reserves.

    It was the manner everything was presented to him with. None of them accepted it per say. Tengu and her friends all spoke with varying degrees of defiance, hope, determination, and unbroken pride and respect for themselves, each other, and the many who they often personally knew who had experienced far worse things than themselves.

    But beneath it all, what disturbed him the most, was the normalcy these people saw their pasts with. Even if they recognized and railed against all the injustices and the wrongs, knew how the world could be better and strived for it, few saw their experiences as unique on the overall scale. It occurred to Kudzu, that for pretty much all of the Japanese Non-Human Rights Organisation, this culture of subjugation was all they would have known in their youths.

    And that right there, told Kudzu how bad things really must be. That regardless of how many outliers they had, the median age for the majority of the group's membership was in the range of the lower 120s to the upper 200s. For the vast majority of these people, all they had ever known or could properly remember, was a life of slowly crumbling rights, increasingly downtrodden peoples, and being treated with a second-class, discriminated status. It made him wonder what kind of world and culture allowed this sort of thing to exist.

    Things like Jukai-B.

    A place that to him, didn't sound like any sort of "reserve" he knew of, and made him think of something more to an institutionalized system of American Indian Reservations, crossed with the 18th Century versions of internment camps and forced farming collectives. A system that had apparently been operating this way since the fucking 1880s, with little opposition or challenge in all that time.

    Or at least, not any that managed to be heard.....

    Darkly pondering what kind of circumstances must face the people hidden from view, behind the lie of untouched nature so far below, Kudzu's radio abruptly crackles to life, signifying that the main event of the test is finally coming to a head.


    "This is Test Control to all Stations. Confirm Ready State for test."

    Switching his radio frequency, Kudzu glances at the formation they are currently arranged in. Gyaru, Boke, Taikomachi, and then himself, each separated by about a kilometer at 20,000 feet.

    "This is Delivery Lead, Delivery Flight has a Visual and is ready for Bump-Up. Radars are Mapping and Target Site is Captured, waiting permission to initiate Action."

    Across the airways, numerous other voices begin chipping in.

    "This is Air Monitor One," comes the voice of Kero, following along on his own, wider ranging orbit around them. "All cameras and instruments are tracking and ready to record."

    "This is Target Site Two," announces another voice. "All instruments confirmed ready for test deployment."

    And then comes the voice who's presence is not where it is listed on the official mission brief or any future reports. For a moment, Kudzu almost feels jealous that Tengu and Ugeki get to do their parts from Yokosuka, and didn't even have to leave the comfortable, energetic bustle of the Zuchi beach house, for the airport hotel the rest of them have ended up with for the test.

    "This is Ground Observation Three," says Tengu in a tone that really does sound like a grounded pilot, bored out of her mind and who would much rather be up in the air with her flight taking part in the test. "All spotters confirm they are in position to record Drop-Pod fall patterns."

    After a few moment's pause, the voice of Test Control crackles back to life across the open bandwidth. "All units, prepare for Test Drop. Delivery Flight, you know have permission to begin Action. Launch run is to proceed as outlined in pre-mission briefing."

    "Delivery Flight Lead Confirms." Glancing at the distant speck of Gyaru some three kilometers distantly ahead of him, Kudzu then opens his mic once more. "Delivery Flight, initiate launch run on Target Site. Maintain one click following distance. Delivery 1-2, you have the lead."

    "Delivery 1-2 confirms, initiating run." Up ahead, he watches as Gyaru's plane momentarily rises up, before nosing over, dive-brakes deploying even as she is shortly followed by Boke initiating the same movements. Then comes Taikomachi as well, and there is only a few seconds divide before Kudzu follows after. Watching as the world drifts out of view and the sky fills the cockpit, only to slowly be replaced by the all consuming green as gravity inverts in tandem with his plane, g-forces drive his back into his seat as the dive begins.

    "This is Delivery 1-1. I am initiating my run."

    Mind racing as dive-breaks deploy to counteract the rate of the rapidly decreasing numbers on his altimeter, Kudzu then begins the final part of the run that applies only to him. There was a lot of discussion as to who should be given the job of carrying and launching the "dud" drop-pod. While the obvious choice was between Gyaru or himself, as the two most experienced pilots of the five with planes available, in the end, the decision had been narrowed down by one of technical reliability. Gyaru had the kind of instinctive skill that allowed her to keep pace a respectable distance behind Tengu's magically-enabled ridiculous kill count, but Kudzu was the more technical and instrument proficient flier.

    Which is what allows him, even in the middle of a near maximum G drive, to rapidly beginning punching in the data required to reset the guidance package for a new Target Area. Something that will be scrubbed from the later report and official logs of the test. The fact that a number of sensors and screens immediately begin spitting out ground reading errors is actually a good thing, as it proves that the drop-pod's computerized brain is now looking at an area that is producing discrepancies between what some of it's cameras and inputs must be seeing.

    The thing that really matters though, is that the re-programmed GPS coordinates are still locked in and that the data uplink reads fine. Thumbing the release button, the dull "clunk" heralds a sudden shudder, immediately followed by a shift in weight and responsiveness of his F-15J(S), milliseconds before he begins pulling back on the stick and crawling out of the dive.

    "Drop-Pod Away!"

    Even as he is driven back into his seat and the edges of his vision dim thanks to the force of the pullout, Kudzu strains his ears to listen to the voices cropping up over the radio, charting the fall of the "dud" drop-pod and it's precious cargo.

    "This is Air Monitor One, I have a visual on the drop-pod. Be advised, drop-pod looks to be diverging off course."

    "Target Site Two copies, we see it, and it's definitely veering off to the south."

    "Test Control here, instrumentation confirms drop-pod guidance or computer error, be advised for target landing."

    Leveling off and then rolling into a banking climb so that he might catch a glimpse of his supposedly "wayward" gift, as he begins ascending back to cruising altitude, Kudzu counts himself lucky that he does so. Just moments after his eyes manage to catch sight of the falling glimmer of steel that is the drop-pod on a far more angular course than everybody else's, the drop-pod then literally disappears. One moment it is falling through the sky. The next, it is lost from view entirely.

    "Target Site Two to all, we have lost tracking on the drop-pod."

    "Air Monitor Otne, we have lost visual as well."

    "Test Control copies. We're reading a number of errors on our end and most of the sensory inputs have crashed, but telemetry is still transmitting."

    Now that is interesting considers Kudzu. The drop-pod's sensors might not be able to detect where it is, but it's computer can still figure out where it's been, and extrapolate where it needs to go from there.

    "Test Control, data uplink says parachute has deployed, does anybody see a parachute?"

    There is a moment's pause as everyone scans the ground below, even though many of those involved know that there will be no such sighting outside of the one party that will receive it.

    "This is Ground Observation Three, we have visual on the drop-pod." In the background, Kudzu can almost faintly hear something like another radio crackly faintly, rattling off some sort of report before Tengu speaks up once again. "Spotter teams report parachute failure, drop pod has just gone into Aokigahara's tree line."

    Kudzu does his best to surpress his own whoop of triumph over the barely heard beginings that he hears in the room surrounding Ai, before she preemptively shuts off her mic to avoid raising questions.

    They've done it!

    With the use of the phrases "spotter teams", "parachute failure", and "Aokigahara's tree line", they have succeeded perfectly! The "dud" drop-pod, with it's precious cargo of an owl box, plus other assorted supplies added in to cushion the package and make use of the container going into the reserve, has landed directly on top of where the smuggling team inside the wards was waiting. And even better, the landing and interception of the pod was entirely unobserved by the reserve guards.

    "Test Control to Ground Observation Three, data uplink loss confirms destruction of drop-pod, likely upon landing."

    Throughout the airwaves, there are a number of mildly disappointed reiterations and confirmations of the general gist of the point that will become the test's cover story. For a moment, it actually makes him a little guilty how some of the more genuine reactions sound, from the people who aren't in the know about the true purpose of these drop-pod tests and the "failures" that will periodically happen.

    At least they can eventually console themselves with the good these tests will do. The justification and real reasons behind it all, that they will hopefully one day be able to learn. One day, when this ridiculous Statute of Secrecy falls, and the truth of places like Jukai-B are revealed to the world. An illusion lifted for all those without magic to see, and finally help the good, the just, and the decent shut down.

    "Test Control to all, good show people. Nothing we can do but pack it in and try again. Maybe we'll have better luck next time, and work out enough of the kinks to get four-for-four at Yatsugatake."
     
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  18. Threadmarks: Mind Set
    darthcourt10

    darthcourt10 Versed in the lewd.

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    NotHimAgain

    I'm gonna be completely honest, I had no idea what I was doing with this one.
    Mind Set

    -----

    “You wanted to see me, Admiral?” Miyuki asked, shutting the door behind her. Goto nodded, gesturing down at the papers resting on her desk. Her report, then? She had completed and filed it properly, hadn’t it? What could possibly be the problem?

    “Your report on this weekend’s… incident was disturbing on a number of levels,” he admitted. “According to what Haru tells me, Belen No-Last-Name-Given is a political dissident from England, and he’ll be facing fairly serious charges.” He made a face. “Dumbledore referenced the Wizarding version of Alcatraz. Seems the Magical Governments have a little bit of justice left in their hearts. Common sense in the least.” He flipped through the papers, before resting on the last one.

    “Your notes on Haneda-san’s behavior were… I’m not going to lie, I don’t like it one bit. In the very least, he’s unstable. He and his friend have also been a line of defense against the supernatural that we, until recently, were completely unaware of. The only ones defending a little patch of Tokyo from an unceasing legion of threats were a young boy who is apparently so traumatized that he’s a borderline psychopath, and his best friend who until maybe last month was battling a health problem that would have rendered her ineffectual on a summer day. I will be bringing this up in greater detail next time…” he peered at her face. Apparently, her misgivings were showing through. “Permission to speak granted?”

    “That would be a very bad idea, Sir.” Miyuki admitted. “Given Harry-chan’s comments and things that Tatsuya-kun himself said… he is extremely distrustful of authority. Placing him under any level of government scrutiny could be seen as some sort of declaration of war.”

    “A war that he would more likely than not lose, but point taken,” Goto agreed. “Add to that the point that he’s apparently something of a civilian expert when it comes to combating threats like this, and he seems a very useful person to have around. Which brings me to… the suggestion that you added on at the end. What exactly is “Harry-Chan Therapy”?”

    Miyuki blinked. That was an odd question. All the girls—oh, right. Admiral wasn’t usually around for those conversations. Oops. “It’s a request for Harry to spend more time around Tatsuya-kun,” she explained. “He’s helped to smooth out a lot of issues that the girls have had. Some of us have come to consider spending time with him as a sort of therapy.” Goto hummed, going back over the report with this information in mind.

    “Not completely doable, I’m afraid,” he pointed out. “Harry is enrolled in Hogwarts, remember? For most of the year, the best they’d be able to do is maintain a level of correspondence.” Miyuki blinked. Why hadn’t that registered? She couldn’t figure out how to refute, but… but still…

    “They can hang out during the summers and winter vacation, can’t they?” she pleaded. “Tatsuya-kun... he’s hurting! He’s just so torn up inside that he can’t even tell anymore, I-I can’t—”

    “Miyuki,” Goto cut her off sternly. Oh, she had been out of line, hadn’t she? Her heart sank, and she looked down at her shoes. Helplessness had always been a feeling that tore at her from the inside out. All she could do was go out and shoot at the monsters, but running into something like this? Helping someone get better wasn’t something she could do. It was something that, as far as she knew, only Harry was good at. And this…

    “Hmm,” Goto mused, rubbing his chin. “Where was the Haneda residence again?”

    “Sir?”

    “Oh, nothing. It’s just I think there was a cake buffet somewhere in that general area that Kongou dragged me to a while back. She seemed to like it—if I could only remember where it was…” He glanced up at Miyuki. “I’d like to discuss this again at a later date, perhaps next week.” he said. “Until then, you’re dismissed.”

    “Sir.” Miyuki turned and walked out the door. As she walked past Ooyodo’s desk, she began to run, faster and faster. She needed to talk to Kongou.

    She couldn’t bring Tatsuya the healing that he needed. But if she had an excuse to be in the area…

    Couldn’t she lighten his load, just a bit?
    -----

    Goto smiled as the sound of footsteps sped up and retreated away. He hadn’t exactly been subtle, but Miyuki needed the suggestion. And to be honest, there was something that he wanted to look into. For some reason, that specific Ward had been subjected to recurring attacks by the supernatural on a near weekly basis for what bordered on six years, now. Even with the Statute of Secrecy falling as it was, that appeared inordinate compared to what Japan as a whole.

    Was there something about the town, or Haneda Tatsuya himself? The idea was a worrisome one, and he would rather not entertain it.
    -----

    Tatsuya sneezed.

    “Someone’s thinking about you,” Benio mumbled through her doze. Tatsuya rolled his eyes and twisted a little. Benio shifted into a position leaning against him that was slightly more natural, with her neck in better alignment with her body. At least now, she wouldn’t be as sore when she woke up.

    Mamiya had been insistent that he go on this little vacation, but part of it made his skin crawl. He was going to be staying in a town filled with yokai. In a ryokan that was run by yokai. While he liked to think he knew better than painting every one of them with the same brush, Tatsuya was on edge on his “relaxed” days. On the other hand, he had an “in” with Kumogai Reiko (and hopefully, the Maeda woman) and he had hooked up the leadership with Haru. Though he wasn’t sure how good the two of them were or how they considered the Ono family a big deal, that might help keep him safe.

    “Be nice, Tatsuya,” Benio whined. “You’re getting tense.” Tatsuya sighed, resting his head against the back of the car seat. Benio was right. He was letting bad experiences influence his thinking again. That had gotten him in a lot of trouble before with some of the less friendly fae and was a behavior that he desperately needed to rectify. If the yokai here were able to live in harmony with their human neighbors, then it was unreasonable to think that they were like the feral killers that he usually encountered.

    On the other hand, vacations were a special kind of hell all of their own. And after crashing that Cessna in the waters off of Dun Scaith, and the insanity that had followed, well. Tatsuya was in no way thrilled with the idea of attempting another vacation any time soon.

    And the worst bit? He looked at the driver’s seat. Mamiya was going to drop him off. Drive directly into this hiding place for yokai and their friends and family. While the reasonable part of him remembered that the people of Sakura-shinmachi had probably dealt with this kind of thing before, the idea of his older sister driving into a town so completely consumed by a secret that she wasn’t meant to know was something that was eating at him.

    “Tatsuya, you’re still tense!

    Darn it. This is why he hated vacations.
    -----

    On the one hand, I'm not entirely happy about how Tatsuya came through here. On the other hand, its important to keep in mind that Tatsuya is more than a little messed up.

    Well, what do you think sirs?
     
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  19. Threadmarks: Introducing Yokai Shipgirls 1
    darthcourt10

    darthcourt10 Versed in the lewd.

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    Harry Leferts

    Attached to a hand at the end of a well muscled arm, the fingers danced out a rhythm of sorts on the car door that they rested against. Inside the car, the owner of said hand closed her eyes before letting out a sigh. Wiping some bangs away from where they were stuck to her forehead from sweat, she looked at the guardhouse by the gate to Yokosuka Naval Base with a frown. "What's taking them so long? All of our paperwork is done and they were expecting us."

    Mutters made her turn to another young woman who was her identical twin, except the first had a few scars here and there. "It could be that they are just being thorough you know, Moriko-Chan."

    Leaning back, the now identified Moriko snorted. "Yeah, yeah, I know all that, Suzume-Chan. But I want to get going and close this damn window. The temperature here is broiling and there's no wind at this entrance." Taking a sniff, she wrinkled her nose. "Not to mention the dust here."

    Behind the two seats there was a small sound and then came a mumble. "Sorry..."

    Just twisting in her seat, Suzume frowned and looked at the back seat of the van they were in. Seated there was a young woman who was obviously the sister to the two. But where they were healthy looking and well muscled, the younger passenger looked waifish and somewhat sickly. It was not helped by how she wore a surgical mask over her mouth or how she gave a cough every once in a while. "Hey, what did Moriko-Chan and I tell you, Sachiko-Chan? You have absolutely nothing to be sorry about."

    Glancing in the mirror, Moriko nodded. "She's right you know, you've done nothing wrong so don't sweat it." A grimace crossed her face and she wiped at her forehead again. "Or do, considering the weather."

    Small giggles came from Sachiko before she coughed again. "It, um, is sort of hot."

    With a sigh and leaning against the armrest, Suzume nodded. "Could probably bake an egg, you know. Might get worse come August from what I hear about the humidity, but I also heard that most of the places got air conditioning. We'll set up an air purifier for you and we'll be set once we settle in."

    Playing with her shirt, Sachiko hummed some as one could tell she was smiling behind her mask. "Thanks..." When she looked up, there was thankfulness in her eyes. "I know that I'm a bit of a burden."

    A growl escaped from Moriko for a moment and her ears seemed to length a bit before she took a deep breath. "None of that now, Sachiko-Chan! You are not a burden and I will punch anyone saying that in their face."

    Lips twitching, Suzume nodded before stage whispering. "And you know that the Ibuki Oroshi would knock them out with just that punch. She was one of the better fighters in Mixed Yokai Martial Arts."

    On Moriko's face was a savage grin before punching her palm with one fist that had scars on the knuckles. "HA! I'd kick all their asses for you, Imouto. Ain't no one going to diss you on my watch. Hell..." Waving a hand around, she chuckled. "I had to leave to give someone else in my weight category a chance to win. No one could beat this big bad wolf!"

    Head tilted to the side, Suzume giggled. "And here I thought that it was because you decided to take a break after you and that Oni beat each other bloody."

    Snorting, the other twin gave a playful sneer. "Bah! I just gave him a good chance! Besides, a long soak in those hot springs and I was good to go..." Quieting down, she frowned to herself. "Which, considering things, makes sense."

    The van descended into silence at that while Sachiko looked from one of her older sisters to the other. Then she looked down at the floor as she whispered to herself. "I just wish that you didn't have to do this for me..."

    Unfortunately, Suzume and Moriko did hear her and glanced at each other before Moriko scratched her head. "Look, Sachiko-Chan? We don't mind doing something for you. This? This is going to make our lives better. Sure, Suzume-Chan and I will be out there fighting, but we're fighting for you. We both love you and this will only help you. Sure, they didn't know about you when that shipgirl stumbled across Suzume-Chan and I at one of her Kyodo tournaments and made the offer to us both. But as soon as I saw that there's free medical care for dependants? I was not going to turn that down."

    Nodding, Suzume gave a smile. "She's right you know."

    Chest puffing out in pride, Moriko grinned. "Damn right, I'm right. I'm always right!"

    Simply ignoring that, the other twin continued. "With medical care provided, you'll get better. Maybe we can even find out what seems to be wrong using specialists that they can get us. Then? Then we can treatments that actually work." Eyes misting, Suzume smiled at her younger sister. "And all three of us can go and do everything that you want, Sachiko-Chan. Anything at all once you're healthy and better."

    Perking up some, there was movement behind Sachiko's mask that told them that Sachiko was thinking. The hope on her face was nearly heartbreaking to her sisters. "L-like going to the beach? O-or mayb..." Pausing due to some coughs, she continued. "Or maybe some snowball fights?"

    With a soft smile, Moriko gave a laugh. "Hell yeah, Imouto. We'll have the best fucking snowball fights that you can imagine. You'll probably kick our asses to be sure. And the beach? Heh, you won't have to worry as Suzume-Chan and I will need to beat the boys to keep them from bothering a lovely little wolfess like yourself."

    Suzume then nodded and jerked her thumb at Moriko. "She's right you know. And then there's also the education opportunities as we'll finally be able to put you through school. You'll go way further then either of us will ever go and we'll make sure of it. Just put your trust in your Onee-Sans and things will get better."

    Brightly smiling behind her mask, Sachiko hummed some as she thought back. Part of her always found her name as being ironic as it was given to her after a hard pregnancy of her mother on one of the reserves. Born small and underweight to a pair of wolf Yokai, her health had never really improved. Even though both parents were disappointed and showed affection and love on her healthier sisters, said sisters showered it on their sick imouto. To them, she was the best thing that happened.

    One night, the two sisters, just twelve years old, overheard their parents talking. About how they could not support such a sickly daughter and what would likely need to be done as the harvest had been bad for the second year in a row. The twins had looked at each other with steely expressions. While their parents were both out during the next few days, they gathered what they could as they overheard that there was a breakout. And that night, they bundled their little sister up in as much clothing as they could and swaddled her with blankets before they rushed out and escaped the reserve. Taking turns carrying her, they ran along with the other escapees as far as they could. The whole way, they kept their sister's spirits up and did not complain even as their muscles ached.

    When they did reach the destination for the escapees, they had hugged Sachiko as tightly as they could. Later, they got some help from some of those who would later become founders of the JNHRO. Mainly with identities and such. In order to support their sister, Moriko entered into the Yokai fighting rings to make money. Suzume meanwhile used her skills at Kyudo and entered various countryside competitions for the prize money. Despite everything though, the three only had love and care for each other.

    During Blood Week though, the town where they were staying got attacked and while getting her to safety, they got ambushed by some Abyssals and Sachiko had a front side look as Moriko, covered in blood from her wounds, beat a Light Cruiser to death before drop kicking an Abyssal Destroyer after caving in its head. The other being torn apart by Suzume who viciously ripped it in half.

    Really, that should have been the first sign that neither of the two were normal Okami Yokai.

    During her most recent competition though, Suzume had been sighted by Souryuu who identified her as a Light Carrier of all things. When she came by with a JMSDF officer to their home, Sachiko was in her room listening in as the second shock came when Moriko turned out to be a Natural Born as well. Both of them being the two sides to the Heavy Cruiser, later Light Carrier Ibuki. Ironic considering the last name that they had chosen for themselves. Neither the shipgirl nor the Officer had known about her while her older sisters checked out all the information. The free medical care had cinched it along with the offer of education for any dependants. Sachiko had been there when her sisters had called and accepted the offer, along with telling the JMSDF about her.

    And now, as she watched the JMSDF gate guard hand back the papers to her sister and salute her, Sachiko could only let out a breath. Hearing the sigh, Moriko looked in the mirror and gave her a smile even as they drove through the gate. "Hey, we'll be okay. We got orientation and a few months before they Awaken us. Besides... Suzume-Chan and I got our lucky charm in the form of you."

    That made Sachiko blush even as the sickly female Okami nodded. The next words from Suzume, delivered with a teasing tone, only made her blush further. "Besides... I heard that Kogamaru of the Hokubu Okami is staying somewhere nearby. Maybe we'll get to see him again, I'm sure that you'd like that~"

    Sinking a bit even as she felt like her face was almost on fire, Sachiko mumbled a bit. "Onee-San..."

    Just laughing, Moriko shook her head. "Man, remember how you used to blush when we met his Otou-San after the breakout? And he was there just behind his Otou-san watching? I never saw you blush like that for a boy before. But, hey, at least we can say that you got some good taste and he would be lucky to have you."

    At the mumbles, both twins grinned. Several minutes later, they pulled into a parking spot and Moriko nodded at seeing the form of the famous Light Cruiser, Tenryuu standing nearby. "Well, it's show time." Hopping out, she gave a bow to said shipgirl. "Tenryuu-San, I presume?"

    Grinning, Tenryuu chuckled and gave a nod as she bowed back before shaking Moriko's hand. "Hai, and I take it that you're Moriko-San? The Heavy Cruiser Ibuki? And your sister is Suzume-San, the Light Carrier Ibuki?"

    Only nodding, Moriko watched as Suzume brought out a wheelchair and rolled it around. "That's right." The back door was opened and her twin helped Sachiko into the wheelchair, something that always made her grimace as she felt her sister should be able to run around. But her sickness prevented that to her anger at it. Out of the corner of her eye though, she noticed how Tenryuu was staring between her sister and the clipboard in her hand. Growling, she glared. "Is something wrong about my Imouto?"

    Rapidly blinking, Tenryuu scratched her head and looked at the clipboard. "Uh, no? But this is the first time that she's been around shipgirls, right?" At the confused nod, she let out a sigh. "Huh... guess I need to apologize to Naka next time I see her, dammit."

    Having come up, Suzume frowned. "Apologize to... Naka-San? What about?"

    Expression flat as her tone, the Light Cruiser sighed. "Because when I brought in Aki and Ami, my daughters, to be awoken as the Destroyers Ikazuchi and Inazuma? They had two shipgirls listed until Naka looked at me and realized that I was a shipgirl as well. Considering my reaction to that, well..."

    Utter silence met her as the all three sisters widened their eyes and Sachiko whispered. "What..."

    Scratching the back of her head, Tenryuu looked over the youngest of the three before flipping up her eyepatch. "Yeah, you're a shipgirl as well. Can't tell which one though as for some reason I can only really see the keel and some of the hull and nothing else but... shadows? Looks like it's going between a Heavy Cruiser and a Light Carrier? The fuck?"

    The jaws of the sisters just dropped at that.
     
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  20. Threadmarks: Jaw enlists
    darthcourt10

    darthcourt10 Versed in the lewd.

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    Snippet 6: S0ngD0g13

    Jaw slowly folded his clothes and packed them into a faded green seabag with 'McAmis, J., Plt. 3080 Co. M' stenciled on the bottom, and sighed. I'm gonna miss Kure... No, I'm gonna miss Zuikaku... Gonna miss Akizuki, and the rest o' my racing-buddies, too...

    The teen set the bag aside after closing it and securing the top with a padlock. "Becoming a Naval Aviator's what I've always dreamed about, so why do I feel like I'm ridin' for a fall?" he asked himself quietly.

    "Might be that you are, Son," said James from the doorway. The elder McAmis stepped into the room and wrapped an arm around the younger's shoulders. "Might be that you're not; neither one of us has any way of knowing. Mike was the same way before he shipped out to San Diego for Basic; I was the same way before I shipped out to Parris Island, and your Uncle Eric was the same way before he went to Fort Benning; your Grandpa Mike felt the same way you do now, before he went to Fort Sill. It's a life-changing thing, putting your hand up and swearing that Oath; if you weren't nervous I'd think you were addled in the head."

    Jaw nodded. "Still, bein' so far from home, so far from all y'all..." he said, his accent thickening. "It's hard, Dad. What if I tank? What if somethin'-"

    James cut him off. "Jaw, if 'If' was a fifth, we'd all just pull us a cork an' get tight. Up or down, pass or fail, whether you end up flyin' jets, moppin' floors, or come home with nothin' but a story to tell, we're all proud of you, we always will be."

    By this point, both McAmis men were teary-eyed. "Th-" Jaw swallowed thickly. "Thanks, Dad."

    After the two dried their eyes, James helped Jaw pack and then they went downstairs to the kitchen where the others were waiting...

    .....................................................

    Three weeks later, Jaw stood at Attention, raised his right hand, and spoke clearly.

    "I, James Aubrey Wilson McAmis, do solemnly swear to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God."

    As he lowered his arm, Jaw felt the stinging of the new tattoos on his arm, a hand-poked half-sleeve that depicted a hound and a phoenix, a crane and an onna-bugeisha in gray armor, under an autumn moon...

    Back in Japan, a Carrier and a Destroyer traced feather-light fingertips over a name written in their Crew Rosters in a familiar, scratchy hand...
     
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  21. Threadmarks: JNHRO Making bets you can't cash
    darthcourt10

    darthcourt10 Versed in the lewd.

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    Lord K

    A.N./ This is why I love this story. So many great ideas off random lines and background events.


    David knew he'd fucked up.

    But when he knew he'd really fucked up, was the morning after the day of loud noises and his C.O. incessantly reporting to him for every little thing, usually using a slightly-above-but-not-quite-unreasonably-loud voice. Teetotaler and stickler that she was, but also given to her own, often surreptitious and sly sense of humor that took a while to notice, David had initially brushed off her briskness and constant aggravation of his hangover the previous day, as simply his Lieutenant expressing her displeasure at not just her Captain's drunkenness, but also his potentially unwise actions, had he and their Tommy attache been unlucky enough to be any drunker, or have had any paper or quills on hand.

    So unfortunately, the lightbulb moment never happened until the next morning.

    Manning his rarely visited desk, and idly making his way through the paperwork between bouts of procrastination by shooting the shit with his NCOs as the morning went on, it is then rather alarming when his Second in Command turns up. Regimented and punctual as usual, the aura the Lieutenant brings with her is somehow even more frigid than yesterday. Gently placing the latest stack of requisitions on the table, David can't shake the idea that she couldn't have made more of a point than if she had outright slammed the stack on his desk. Five minutes of perfectly expected and work related conversation later, where what is more worrisome are the inane topics and irrelevancies that aren't brought up, the Lieutenant then briskly salutes and with a impeccably professional and respectful nod of "Captain", she then leaves, passing by Sergeant Bimore as she exits.

    Glancing curiously as she passes by, the infamously light-fingered ice mage then raises an eyebrow at his increasingly worried captain in turn.

    "Dude, is Mary still mad at you?"

    "Yeah... I think she is...."

    But it isn't like Mary to be angry for this long over a night of drunken shenanigans, no matter how foolish he or the guys had been. This is over something else.

    Which of course, means that he'd double-fucked up for not noticing.
    ------------

    In David's experience, there were usually four places one could find Lieutenant Angrboda, each one tying to successive levels of irritation in her current mood.

    If she was happy, she'd usually be wandering around camp in her free time, keeping an eye on things and lending a friendly hand or word of advice to any who might need it. If she was annoyed or irked in someway, she might be located in whatever passed for their current off-duty mess area, devouring books in an attempt to distract her mind, or searching for some inspiration to stumble upon within the pages of whatever magical tomes or literature had arrived from home, or were available on base. If she was feeling the need to decompress or clear her head by burning off anger and energy, she then might be found out on the training field, either working on her spell repertoire and casting speeds, or PT'ing herself into the dirt. Whenever she was really furious though, she'd be working on her close quarters combat skills. Venting her emotions into physical sparring matches with whoever was brave enough to tangle with her, or more likely decimating the hapless training equipment, as she productively channeled her fury into running drills and sharpening her already well honed and battle tried skills in hand-to-hand and knife-fighting.

    So it is of course the latter setting that David finds her in.

    Savagely driving her knee into the "gut" of a golem, over and over with lightning speed.

    A second of the human stand-ins is already thrashing on the ground, clawing at it's brutalized "wind pipe" with it's arm that isn't dislocated at the shoulder. Tossing the golem in her hands at a third, a sudden draw and flick of the knife that finds it's way into her hands, then shocks both of them into submission when it sinks home into her first target's chest at the moment of their collision. Violently delivering a boot to the first's head as she passes by to keep it "stunned" long enough for the ventral directed electricity to do it's job, her third victim has no time to react before the Lieutenant is upon it. Grabbing it by the back of the head and neck as it struggles to get off the ground with "muscles" still spasming with the electrical after effects, it has only a moment to raises its arms in an instinctively futile effort to get her off it, before with a vicious twist, there is a sound like snapping substitute bone.

    Released from her hold, the stand-in of mud and stone then lifelessly drops to the ground, neck now kinked out at an unnaturally odd angle.

    Having watched all this from the side, David nervously approaches, feeling immensely bereft of the courage and daring that has seen him through four years of cut-through Pacific combat.

    It's not what has been done to the golems that has him worried though. What has him stumbling is the uncertainty of how to apologize. A slight he has only recently realized he may have unintentionally made, and struck the often closed off and inscrutable titan of a lieutenant far more sharply than he realized.

    Seeing his approach, and safe from the eyes of any of their subordinates and potentially liquor-loosened lips, Mary for the first time that day gives him an openly baleful glare, staring him down as she adjusts her top from where it has ridden up slightly during her fight. Catching a glimpse of the knotted, twisting edges of the scar where they peek above her belt line, David can't help but feel his own gut churn in in a double dose of guilt.

    "So.... I came to apologize.... for being an ass and not realizing, as well as talking stupid shit."

    Mary however, gives him a look that could melt steel, stepping over the golems to retreive her knife, and then leaving them to pick themselves up and return to their start positions.

    "Oh, good. Congratulations. Really though, you shouldn't have to apologize."

    "Mary-"

    Angrily she stalks over to a nearby punching bag and begins delivering a regimented stream of low-kicks to it with increasingly fraying control and power.

    "I mean, it's not like Potter knew."

    Wham!

    "And I bet at the time, it seemed like a fun joke with all the alcohol flowing around in that head of yours."

    Wham!

    "Hey I know!" she grounds out in a falsetto imitation of his voice, heavy in sarcasm. "I'll cheat the card shark!"

    Wham!

    "Promise him my first born!"

    Wham!

    "After all-

    Wham!

    -it's not like he knows-"

    Wham!

    "-that the girl I like-"

    Wham!

    "-might not ever be able to have one!"

    WHAM!!!

    Wincing as he sees a seam beginning to split on the poor, abused bag, David quietly approaches the valkyrie who continues to blitz her wrath upon the training equipment. The woman who, ever since the days in the hospital after that terrible night on the island, he has slowly found a new bond shared between them. Something more than just Captain and Lieutenant, that has grown in the quiet moments of weakness shared between the two in the aftermath, and forged a connection far greater than any born of simple camaraderie, loyalty, trust born in combat, or even blood shed together or memories shared around campfires and dugouts in the lonely hellholes of the Pacific.

    Neither of them are naive teenagers though. And especially as combat veterans who have seen how fighting has effected the personal lives of many of their friends and comrades over the course of the war, part of what has somehow allowed things to work is the shared expectation and allowance for moments such as this. Mary may wear her scars more visibly than he does, but that doesn't mean she isn't without her own "wounds without blood" either.

    "You know that isn't a definitive "no" Mary. The docs said-"

    "Fuck that!" The force behind a particularly ferocious kick widens the split some more, with an impact that jars even the machines next to it, while he winces at the uncharacteristic curse from the witch. "You don't get it David! When they talk about stuff like that- Damnit!"

    Another titanic impact widens the split, revealing the tiniest trickle of sand.

    "Kids aren't something that magically happens! Still-births and complications happen often enough for normal women and-"

    Cutting herself off, David cringes as the witch switches to an even more punishing rhythm, completely in silence.

    It's something he's come to understand about Mary, increasingly so after the caldera. Silence and action for her, is control. Many often confuse her intensity and overbearing presence, as simply being either a consummate officer or an unapproachable ice queen outside of combat, but slowly picking his way through the prickly outer shell and learning the pieces that make her tick over the last four years, David has come to understand a surprising amount about the woman who is his not-really-official-maybe-girlfriend-yet, even before the strange relationship upgrade and closeness they now have.

    As a kid growing up with not just foreign parents, but a supposed family ancestry of proudly going to Durmstrang before immigrating to the US, Mary's time at Ilvermorny has left her with three modes. Making sure to hold all the cards or carefully orchestrating interactions she has with anybody she meets. Being aggressively defensive enough that no one messes with her. Or closing off and fading into the background, seething and biding her time until whoever or whatever upset her is resolved, or she can find the answer to solve or circumvent whatever she needs to surmount herself.

    Unfortunately, there aren't really any answers to losing an ovary and most of a womb from irreparable dark magic damage.

    "I got an owl from my mother."

    The growled out tone, and the fact that her next kick widens the split in the bag just a little more doesn't bode well. Knowing her preference for cutting straight to the heart of painful matters, David decides not to bat around the bush, lest tip-toeing upset Mary even more.

    "I'm guessing she said something uninformed?"

    "She was going on about potions! And herbs! And charms! LIKE IT'S JUST AN ISSUE OF INFERTILITY!"

    Watching as the split now seriously begins to widen and pour forth with sand, David takes an uncertain step forward, even as he mentally kicks himself for how poorly timed his comments to Charlus the other night had apparently been as well.

    "Uh... Mary? The bag-"

    The witch however, misses his aborted comment, too lost in the advent of her rant that spills forth, revealing what is likely days of bottled up venom in a berserking stream of kicks with even a few punches thrown in.

    "SHE'S NOT LEAVING IT ALONE! I JUST WANT HER TO SHUT UP ABOUT IT! I'M NOT EVEN MARRIED YET! SO WHAT IF I WANTED TO DO MORE THAN SETTLE DOWN STRAIGHT OUT OF SCHOOL! THAT DOESN'T GIVE HER THE RIGHT TO ACT! LIKE! I! NEED! TO! FIX! THIS!"

    "The Bag!"

    "RARGGHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!"

    Turning on her heel, the witch then delivers a round house kick with such furious force behind her blow, the abused fabric of the punching bag finally gives in. With the sound of tearing cloth and shifting sand, the bag separates in half and lands on the floor with a heavy thud.

    One that David barely hears compared to the near silent hitch of Mary's breath that momentarily escapes her. It lasts less than a second, but it is a glimpse of what is really hidden beneath her rage, masked as she pants raggedly and stares down malevolently at the ruined pile of cloth and sand. Breif though it may have been, while most might have even doubted they heard it at all, it is enough that David non-verbally casts the reparo charm himself, then quietly pulls the witch into a silent embrace. There are no tears, there never are with Mary and her iron cast self-control, but knowing her as long as he has, the forced evenness of her breathing speaks of what she is really suppressing within.

    In the end, David doesn't bother with words. Things that don't need to be said, shouldn't be said, and after four years of being perfectly in tune with each other, there is little either of them need to voice, to understand the other. Ever since BCT, non-verbal and silent communication has been what the two of them were praised for. Whether it was in the heat of combat, the silence of lying and waiting in ambush, or the unsaid decision making the two would make while observing troops and concocting plans in camp, neither of them have ever had much need to openly query the other's intentions or thoughts.

    And now it is in moments such as these, when words would fail most other people, that both of them are thankful for their each of respective natural ability and aptitudes at reading others.

    It's when Mary's breath finally begins to grow uneven, and the near imperceptible tension she holds herself with finally begins to fail, that David allows himself to relax as well. Face still buried in his shirt, Mary then gives a ragged sigh.

    "Mother and I had a blow up back when she first found out I signed up without telling her or dad. We made up before I deployed, but.... now- now I can't get it out of my head. At one point, we were arguing about me finding a guy, and if I got injured but- I told her I hated kids and never wanted to have them anyway, butnowIcan'tstopremeberingthatIsaidthatand-"

    Putting a finger to her lips, the witch quietens and looks up at the wizard holding her in her arms. Awkwardly, David holds her gaze, refusing to look away or dance around something that he acknowledges will always follow them if they want to make this work.

    "Are kids.... Do you really want them?"

    "I.... I don't know. Maybe....."

    Uncertainly, Mary turns away hand drifting to her belt line and the scars hidden both upon her skin and within.

    "Maybe I'm just realizing what I'm missing.... Now that it's something that's no longer available to me."

    After a few moments, the witch then sighs. "Why are we even talking about this. We can't even officially date yet. Not while both of us are still in the service."

    "Why shouldn't we talk about this?" asks David with comforting gentleness, as he quietly takes her hand and places it upon his heart instead. "Why isn't that all the more reason to make sure we both know where we stand and feel?"

    Mary hangs her head, even as she draws strength from the beat beneath her palm, and the other hand that then rests over the top of her's.

    "You know I plan to leave. This whole Occupation gig isn't for me. And it's not like we're trapezing around between storage closets in the dark of the night."

    For a moment, Mary gives a depreciating laugh, even as her hand slowly closes on his shirt. "I bet you'd like that though. You not only got yourself a girl who has to follow you everywhere, but you got yourself a girl you don't even need to buy contraception for."

    David just shakes his head, recognizing Mary's humor for the wall it is. "And yet neither of those ever entered into the equation for what made that girl such an amazing woman."

    "Was it the scars?" she asks in self-critical jest as she glances away quietly. "The sunny, winning disposition? The perchance to, as the troops say, be an ice-cold bitch?"

    Gently, he turns her face back to his.

    "I think it was being the, strongest, bravest, most amazing friend I have ever known, and saving my bacon and doing my job more times than I can count."

    Quietly, Mary shakes her head, even as she steps closer to him.

    "That's a lie.... I.... I don't feel like those things.... Especially not now...."

    "Neither do I," he whispers quietly, suddenly aware of how each of their free hands are holding onto the other and drawing their positions nearer still.

    "Does that make us liars?"

    "I think that means I need to tell you you're wrong."

    The slightest beginnings of a smile tugs at the corners of Mary's lips.

    "Then maybe that means we both need each other.... to tell who's wrong and right...."

    David isn't exactly sure when he started leaning down.

    "Who's brave or not...."

    Mary isn't exactly sure when she started rising up onto her toes.

    "David...."

    Her breath tickles his lips

    "Mary...."

    Which is right about when the door to the training room is thrown open, revealing Orthrus as he obliviously strides in.

    "HEY MARY?! YOU IN HERE?!? I NEED A- A..... uhhh.... oh.... shit...."

    A mortified pause ensues. One where David is for a moment, almost certain that Mary is about to draw her Ka-bar, and then slowly and painfully skin the second lieutenant alive. Awkwardly drawing away from each other, the witch then practically growls through her teeth at the other wizard.

    "What is it Samuel?'

    Apparently realizing the wrath now being directed his way, for a moment Orthrus actually stammers.

    "Ah, yeah, about what I need.... well, you see.... I was gambling with Potter again... and well... I promised him "something amazing", and I was kind hoping that I could....well, get you to.... amaze him.... with the thing...."

    The lieutenant's gaze could cut diamond. "With that?"

    "Y-Yeah... that...."

    For a moment, Mary stares, making the second lieutenant quake in his boots.

    Finally however, she turns to her captain, bearing a fake smile that is more terrifying than comforting. Which is right about when she draws her ka-bar, twirling it in her hands like a baton.

    "David.... let's go blow the socks off that fucking Brit. And then maybe kill him."

    Striding off in silent fury, an avalanche on the warpath, for a moment, the two men are left in uncertain silence. Finally though, it is the Captain who looks at Orthrus with a strange grin. It is the expression of one who recognizes an amazing trainwreck that is moments away from happening.

    "Okay, this is gonna be good."

    Jogging off after her, Orthrus however, remains behind. For a few moments, all he can do is stare at where the Lieutenant and Captain were standing, caught by surprise when he stumbled upon them. Brokenly, his brain struggles to process the facts it has been presented with.

    Face to face.

    Holding each other.

    Gazing deeply each others' eyes.

    Finally, he slaps his forehead in disbelief.

    "Fuck me, Larry was right!"
     
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  22. Threadmarks: Introducing Yokai Shipgirls 2
    darthcourt10

    darthcourt10 Versed in the lewd.

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    Harry Leferts

    Leaning back in her chair, Moriko was frowning as she watched her youngest sister. From where she sat in her wheelchair, Sachiko was looking around the meeting room in pure awe at what she was seeing. Meanwhile, Suzume's attention was on Goto who was quietly talking with Ooyodo. Neither of the two hid the subject of their talk which also happened to be their younger sister. When she looked at Moriko though, Suzume could see the same thoughts in her twin's head that she knew were running through her own. Mainly, what to do now?

    Before either of them could speak up though, the door opened and Akashi quickly walked in followed by a five tailed Kitsune in Miko garb. Said Kitsune gave the three Okami a nod before closing the door and sitting down. Suddenly, Kongou popped up as well and placed a cup of tea in front of the surprised Sachiko and smiled at her. "Some ginger tea with honey, Dess! It should help you feel better."

    Just blinking, Sachiko slowly nodded before she pulled her surgical mask to reveal a face much like her older sisters. The difference was how withdrawn and pale it was as well as the small circles around her eyes. Closing her eyes, she took a whiff of the tea and smiled. "Thank yo..." Briefly, she coughed before clearing her throat. "Thank you, Kongou-San."

    All the Battleship did was softly smile and pat her on the head. "You're very welcome."

    Moments later, she bounded over to beside Goto while Sachiko sipped the concoction given to her with a sigh. Akashi meanwhile gave them a sheepish smile. "Sorry about all this, I had to put together a presentation along with everything else."

    Her arms crossed, Moriko scowled. "I just want to know what is going on with our Imouto."

    Leaning back, the Admiral held his hands in front of his face and gave a nod. "As would I, Akashi. From the report, only Moriko-San and Suzume-San were shipgirls and now I hear that Sachiko-San is one as well."

    With a blink, Sachiko put down her tea and tilted her head as she softly whispered. "I'm wondering that myself. How can I be a shipgirl when I'm..." Gesturing to herself, she swallowed. "When I'm me?"

    Just turning on the television, everyone was greeted with a mostly complete ship in an old black and white photograph. Something about the photo made both Moriko and Suzume gain a shiver down their backs and they stared at it. "Okay, first a bit of background which might help to explain quite a bit. On the screen behind me is the Ibuki as she appeared unfinished in her conversion to an Aircraft Carrier at the end of the war."

    A strangled noise came from Moriko while Sachiko blinked. "That's what my Onee-San's looked like as a ship? Back during the war?"

    Smiling, Akashi gave a chuckle. "Correct, that's their hull..." For a moment, she trailed off. "She was laid down April 24, 1942 and would be launched in May, 1943 with the conversion to an Aircraft Carrier happening later that year. However, due to various reasons, she was not complete by the end of the war and ended up being... scrapped, in September 1946."

    Moriko gave a shudder as did Suzume as they both felt a moment of dread. But then they felt two cool hands grasp theirs and give them a squeeze and they saw Sachiko looking at them with love in her eyes. "You're here now, Suzume-Onee-San, Moriko-Onee-San. That is in the..." Coughing, she shook it off and gave them a weak smile. "Past."

    Only squeezing the hand back, Suzume nodded. "Hai, that is in the past. And we leave the past behind."

    Giving them a moment, Akashi blew out a breath and motioned with a hand before bringing up another slide. This one showed a sketch of the Ibuki from the side with a Mogami below. "Now, design wise the Ibuki class was developed from Mogami class with a number of modifications. Mainly in the form of not having the compromises that the Mogamis had when they were designed. It allowed for the ships to be quickly designed and laid down."

    That made Goto straighten up a bit. "Ships? As in more then one?"

    With a sigh, Akashi grimaced. "Hai, there were to be two in the class. One, of course was the name ship. The other was Warship number 301." Glancing at Sachiko, the Repair Ship frowned some. "It took a lot of work during the examination, but we identified you as being the incarnation of that ship."

    Blinking, Sachiko stared at her before Moriko gently nudged her. "Heh, see? Sisters in that life and this one. We'll always be family."

    The youngest of the three Okami blushed at that before playing with her shirt some. "That's pretty nice and I like that. Always sisters." A thought occurred to her and she turned to Akashi. "But... I was never named as a ship? What happened?"

    Just running her hand through her hair, Akashi shook her head. "You were laid down on June 1, 1942... And you were cancelled and scrapping began on June 30, 1942."

    Wincing, Sachiko was about to say something when Moriko growled. "Those damn bastards..."

    Gently, patting her sister's hand, the youngest of the three turned back to the others. "So I... was scrapped before too much was laid... laid down?"

    All Akashi did was sigh at that. "Unfortunately, yes. At the time, you were not much more then a keel and maybe some hull at the time."

    Haru then spoke up with a frown. "Which may also explain your current state of health." At the confused looks from the others beside Akashi, she shook her head. "The thing to remember is that us Yokai lean much more to the spiritual side of things then humans. Your hull as a ship was so incomplete at the time of scrapping that it may have directly affected you in this life via the spiritual side of the equation. No engines, a weak heart and respiratory system. No real hull, a weakened body... It would affect a Yokai more then it would a normal human."

    Pieces clicking into place, Sachiko crumpled into herself. "Oh..."

    Eyes narrowing into a glare, Suzume began to snarl. "So that's it? Nothing can be done for our Imouto because of some... SOME DAMN BAKAS WHO ARE DEAD AND GONE?! SHE HAS TO SUFFER BECAUSE OF THEM!?"

    Quickly bringing up her hands, Akashi waved them around. "Whoa, whoa, calm down. We didn't say that this was not solvable. In fact, we might have a solution."

    Sucking in a breath from surprise, Sachiko coughed for several seconds before she got it under control. "Y-you might be able to make me better?" The amount of hope in her expression was enough that it was painful to see. Here was someone who, through no fault of their own was suffering due to actions taken long before they were born. "Really?"

    Goto raised an eyebrow at that. "How?"

    With a glance at him, Akashi closed one eye and smirked. "How else? We finish building her hull. Won't be easy, but it is doable."

    Lips turning downwards into a frown, Kongou leaned across the table. "Finish her hull? Is such a thing even possible, Dess?"

    Eyebrows furrowing, Ooyodo held back her response before letting out a breath. "I don't see how, the amount of resources needed would be immense. We're talking a full blown Heavy Cruiser sized ship."

    Shaking her head, Akashi's smirk turned into a grin. "Actually? It is doable. Not easy, but perfectly doable."

    Moriko rose to her feet and narrowed her eyes as she held her sister's hand in her own. "Name your price and we'll do it. Want us to kill a Princess barehanded and bring back her head, we'll do that."

    On Sachiko's other side, Suzume rose to her own feet with her sister's hand in her own like with her twin. "Want us to be awoken as soon as possible and sink a entire damned Abyssal fleet? We'll do that and more. For our sister, we'd give anything for her to be better. Name your damn price and we'll sign it away."

    Blinking away her tears, Sachiko blushed some. "Onee-Sans..."

    Now looking at her directly, Moriko growled. "You're our Imouto, to us, no price is too high as long as you are not hurt."

    Her lips curling up, Haru gave a chuckle. "Thankfully, such methods will not be needed." Once they were focused on her, she tilted her head towards Akashi. "Especially with the method that we have devised."

    As they were looking at her, the Repair Ship only smiled before reaching into her shirt and bringing out a small pill bottle and sliding it across the table. Taking it, Moriko furrowed her eyebrows in confusion. "Iron supplement? Why would this be needed?"

    Gesturing with one hand, Akashi shook her head. "In Germany there is a shipgirl who has been slowly awoken, Hipper Hanna. The data from that has been invaluable in this case. Among other things that they kept an eye on was how being eased into becoming a shipgirl has affected her physically and mentally as well as spiritually. It turns out, that just being around shipgirls near constantly will cause a Natural Born to awake. Said awakening happens in stages with the one of the first ones being a hunger of sorts for metal supplements. Ikazuchi-Chan was much the same way when she was close as she felt hungry for, and ate, aluminum foil."

    Surprised, Goto made a thoughtful sound. "Does that actually work though? I would think that there would be too little. And what about any dangers?"

    To that, Akashi smiled some. "We'll be monitoring her the whole way and slowly upping the dosage of the supplements. Depending on what happens, we might be able to graduate to intravenous supplements as well. Lots of red meat when possible would also be good, though fish would be fine. I would advise that she also visits the repair baths once a day for a nice long soak. It should help the process along at the least and at the worst, it would improve her health some."

    Quickly nodding, Suzume smiled. "We can do that, i think." Looking at her sisters and getting nods, her smile widened. "Yes, I think that won't be a problem at least."

    Nodding, Akashi pulled out what looked like a brown, metal bar. "This is a cast iron ingot, if you're cooking something like ramen or such, put it into the pot with it. Slowly iron in it will leach out as well and once she's ready, she'll be able to eat it like a chocolate bar."

    The only Kitsune in the room gave a small laugh. "At least she won't need to worry about those chompers of hers when she does. As for the spiritual aspect? Just being here in Yokosuka will help it slowly strengthen as she absorbs it from around her." She then frowned and sighed. "I'm afraid though that it will not happen quickly. We don't want to rush this on either end and make a mistake. As Akashi-San said, we'll need to monitor how she is doing as Sachiko-San's safety is paramount here. We're most likely looking at months before seeing any improvement in her health and much longer before she is resembling normal health for a Okami."

    Only swallowing as she blinked away the tears in her eyes, Moriko's voice was thick with emotion. "We waited this long to see our Imouto happy and healthy. We'll wait as long as it takes and be with her every step of the way."

    Much to their surprise, Sachiko slowly rose to her feet as her body shook. When Suzume was about to gently push her back, the Okami shook her head. Still shaking, she deeply bowed to the group. "Thank you... Thank you so much."

    When she almost crumpled when Goto, Haru, and the three shipgirls returned the bow, Moriko grabbed her before placing her back into the chair. Sniffling, the muscled Okami hugged her now crying sister, tears running down her cheeks. "What did we tell you? Things were going to get a lot better and now they are! J-just like we said!"

    Also crying, Suzume let out a sob as she hugged her little sister close. "Way better, Sachiko-Chan. Y-you've been our lucky charm for so long, you deserve so much and now it's in reach." Looking up through her tears after nuzzling Sachiko, she gave them all a bright smile. "Thank you, you have no idea what this means for us. We can never thank you enough."

    On Goto's face was an understanding expression. "You don't need to thank us. It is our honor to help you and Sachiko-San in any way that we can." A look at Akashi made the Repair Ship nod, which Goto returned. After all, the pink haired shipgirl was known for managing the impossible at times. 'Good.'

    Meanwhile, Akashi wiped away a tear of her own before speaking up after a few minutes. "There is the question though of what sort of ship you'll be once you get far enough along. At least three possible choices really."

    Confused, Sachiko tilted her head to the side. "Three choices? I know that Moriko-Onee-San is a Heavy Cruiser. And that Suzume-Onee-San is a Light Carrier, but what would be the third?"

    Akashi just shrugged some. "There had been talk of the Ibuki being converted to a Fast Oiler, but nothing ever came of it. In that case, you would be support really." Chuckling, she gave them a wink. "But that's in the future and not something to worry about. Just stick to the plan and you can eat as much as you want, Repair Ship's orders and you'll get there."

    Heart swelling her chest, Sachiko gave her a bright smile. "Hai, in the future."
     
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  23. Threadmarks: JNHRO Gaslighting
    darthcourt10

    darthcourt10 Versed in the lewd.

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    Snippet 9: Lord K

    David couldn't help but stare.

    With the kind of look borne by somebody without a single shit left to give, Hydra and two of her fellow doctors starred back.

    Sitting in the "appropriated" US Army jeep they have just rolled up to the base in, David eyes not just their apparel, but also the contents of their ride. The vehicle's radiator hisses as water leaks out of the holes created by a number of bushes and fence posts that have been caught in the grill, the cracked glass of the windshield is plastered with Japanese ofuda, and most of a washing line and it's assort clothing, trails from where it has become caught on the rear bumper. The three medics themselves, are dressed up like muggle doctors from the USN, but even more baffling, is the sight of a dead pig, dressed up in an Army-Airforce major's uniform, replete with bomber jacket, hat and aviator sunglasses over it's glazed eyes. And then there's the fact that all of the occupants of the jeep are sitting up to their waists in loose water melons, one of the doctors in the back seat is holding onto something that looks like a Christmas tree in a vase that caught that wrong end of a fireball recently, while the other medi-wizard appears to have been involved in a brawl in the past few hours, and periodically punches at a hemp sack that releases the odd, demonic sounding "honk" every few minutes. And to finally cap it all off, the already butchered pig has an arrow through it's head. One that pins it's aviators in place, and aligns pretty neatly with one of the holes in the windshield.

    His inspection finished, David can only stare as Hydra opens the car door and gets out, amid a waterfall of melons escaping the confines of the Jeep.

    "Do I even want to know?"

    The medi-witch shakes her head.

    "You do not want to know."

    David nods, coming to the conclusion that this is definitely going to be one of those things his unit was most certainly not involved with.

    "Where's Bimore?"

    "He didn't like our plan." At that moment, one of the Jeeps tires gives a sad sounding pop, and begins to deflate, causing the medi-witch to cringe. "He said he had his own idea for paying off his debt, and then fucked off into town on his own."

    "Oh? Well that's too bad for him."

    "Why's that?" asks Hydra curiously.

    "Because Orthrus just convinced Mary to help him pay off his debt."

    Following the direction her Captain thumbs in, the medi-witch's jaw drops.

    "Is she going to show him the thing?!"

    David grins and nods in turn.

    "She's going to show him the thing."

    "And he's never seen the thing before?"

    "Nope."

    The witch stares for only a moment, before very nearly tripping over one of the numerous melons loosely rolling about, as she breaks out into a run for the table by the fire pit that has been the location of the nightly tournaments these past few nights. It is also usually the most common place people go, when searching out Charlus Potter to square their debts.

    "Holy shit, I need to see this!"
    -----------------

    "So..... Lieutenant Angrboda"

    Staring down unreadably at the grinning raven-haired man at the table before her, Charlus Potter grins unrepentantly back at the Lieutenant who has graced the gambling table this night. Mischief sparkling in his gaze behind his glasses as he shuffles the cards in preparation for the latest round of tonight's games, the British wizard looks between Orthrus and the witch who has turned up with him, in amusement.

    "You know Samuel, when you said you'd recompense me with something amazing, I didn't think you'd somehow manage to convince our resident teetotaller to drink or play. Color me impressed!"

    Ignorant of the real reason behind the look in her eyes, and likely just writing off her expression as irritation at being roped into the card games and gambling, the British observer is thus completely unsuspecting as Mary gives a frigid smile.

    "Actually, I am not here to play."

    Charlus raises a curious eyebrow. "Oh really? Then please, what does bring you here to our illustrious table tonight, at Samuel's beckoning even."

    "I have come to settle his debt."

    The eyebrow rises higher. "Oh? You have come to show me something amazing?"

    "I have come to show you a thing."

    Unnoticed by Charlus, is how immediately many of the other Americans freeze. Cigarettes fall from mouths, spittakes are made, and someone even starts choking on a ration bar. More than a few now look among themselves nervously. Others get ready for the show. Surreptitiously, a camera is brought out and a reel of film hastily loaded in by it's owner.

    The British wizard misses all of this, already a little too deep in the drink and slightly high off the atmosphere of yet another night fleecing his opponents for all he can take them for. Instead, he continues to look the unreadable witch up and down in amusement, searching for whatever on earth she could have brought or be planning to do.

    "A "thing", you said?"

    "A thing."

    "And it's supposed to amaze me?"

    "I would like to think so."

    The wizard gives a cocky grin and spreads his arms wide.

    "Amaze me."

    For a moment, Mary continues to stare down at the wizard impassively, an unamused gaze of withheld vengeance lurking below the surface. One Charlus realizes too late, that she actually plans to act upon. The witch glances at two of the corporals on either side of him who had been his opponents in this latest hand, and then nods towards the Tommy between them.

    "Hold him."

    "What- Hey!"

    Off guard and surprised, but still cocky and fearless, Charlus gives only a half hearted struggle as the two men spin his chair around, and then hold him in place with one arm upon the table.

    "Bloody hell guys! What are you-?!"

    Suddenly there is a form behind him. A distinctly feminine presence that leans against him, laying arm hand with the sleeve rolled up over his left hand and forearm, so that both are perfectly silhouetted against the other. A breath tickles his ear, as he hears the witch speak from behind him in a whisper that is more of a growl.

    "Whatever you do, don't move. Incarcerous."

    As rope shoots out from the wand tip held in the right hand that appears in the opposite side of his field of vision, to bind both their left arms together, Charlus looks over his shoulder just in time to see the witch trade her wand for a ka-bar that she then stabs into the table.

    "Hey, this might be the kinkiest game of five-finger fillet I've ever played, but you're going to need to do more than that to impress me!"

    Ignoring the wizard, the witch glances at the growing crowd around the table.

    "I need ten nickles." An elated cheer goes up at her demand, and there is a more than willing donation from the eager crowd who seem to have an inkling of where this is going. With the aid of her helpers, Charlus watches curiously as the coins are interspersed, not just between the six traditional points one stabs at when playing the knife game, but with the four extras also placed to flank their tied together forearms, two either side.

    "Oh, that's a neat variation. Confidant enough to hit the same spot every time and switch up the pattern in the game."

    The witch ignores him. "Do you have a knife?"

    "Belt, left side," offers the wizard with a grin, even as he now feels mildly curious. There is already Mary's own knife on the table. But then it is not just joined by his, but then a third that is also appropriated from someone in the crowd as well.

    "Are we still playing five-finger fillet?" he asks cheekily, watching as the witch doesn't just retrieve her original ka-bar, but then much to his confusion, places her wand in her barred teeth, and holds it like a dog would a bone.

    "Shut up, and whatever you do, don't panic," she grits out past the wand.

    Through the fog of alcohol, Charlus' survival instincts finally consider the possibility that this might not be any traditional form of knife game he recognizes.

    "Panic? Why would I panic?" Some of the other Americans already titter and laugh at the question, as Mary raises her knife, giving it a little twirl as she does so. Then for the briefest moment, Charlus sees what almost looks like a tiny arc of electricity upon the blade.

    Something that is then confirmed when she brings the knife down, stabbing the point dead center into the first of the nickels laid down. The reaction is one of power, producing a spray of sparks and for the briefest moment, a lingering arch between the coin and knife point as it rises up again, accompanied by an ear grating crackle of live electricity.

    "BLOODY HELL!"

    The witch doesn't stop there however, launching full speed into not the normal 1-2-3-4-5-6-5-4-3-2-1 order, but straight into a much more complex pattern of 1-2-1-3-1-4-1-5-1-6-1-5-1-4-1-3-1-2.

    And all of it, with each tap of a penny, is accompanied by the hair razing flashes, sparks and terrifying cacophony of lighting striking the coins with each stab of the knife between his fingers.

    "FUCK! ALRIGHT! THAT'S COOL! JUST BLOODY STOP!"

    "Why so soon, this is just the opening act!" someone in the crowd shouts, while others begin to laugh and pick up a chant. A Growing ditty, in time with the miniature electrical storm bouncing between their fingers and occasionally diverging to dance over their joined forearms as well.

    "Ohhhhhhh,
    LT has all your fingers!
    Her knife goes chop-chop-chop!
    But if you lose your cool, well then,
    your fingers might come off!"

    "Oh, chop-chop, chop-chop,
    chop-chop-chop-chop,
    She's picking up the speed!
    And if you flinch, you will get cooked,
    your fingers will more than bleed!"

    "So grab your fire whisky!
    Find that FNG!
    It's time to show this game we play,
    She does more than up the speed!"

    Barely following along with the song, and cringing in rigid fear as he struggles against all instinct demanding he flinch away or attempt to escape, the last line of the song before it loops around once more, almost makes him pause if not for the fact that he already is frozen in an agonizing rictus to avoid getting stabbed or electrocuted.

    "More! What the hell to do they mean more?!?!"

    The witch's answer is to mutter an incantation around the wand in her teeth. One that then sends an arch of lightning from the wand tip, just inches away from Charlus' face, to the tip of of the ka-bar at the apex of it's travel above their fingers. Only then the power to proceeds to arc once more anyway, splitting and branching like a cage, to touch the pennies between their fingers for a mere millisecond before disappearing.

    "JESUS CHRIST! YOU'RE INSANE- FUCK!"

    Again and again, the lightning arcs into temporary cages around their fingers, and with growing horror, Charlus realizes the imperative importance of the timing and positioning of it all.

    One wrong move or ill-timed use of the incantation when the knife is at the height of it's travel, and rather than arcing down around their digits, the current could bolt through their hands and fingers instead.

    "YOU MAD BINT! STOP!!!"

    Mary does not stop.

    In fact, seeing the growing fear and focus on the movements of her knife and lightning, with Charlus now completely distracted, the witch instead moves onto the next part of her routine. Her voice masked by the wand in her teeth and the constant crackle of electricity, Mary slips a new spell in between two sets of bolts of electrical terror.

    "Temporisensus."

    It's an interesting spell she's occasionally found use for in setting up ambushes. Most people use it to mess with the perception of foes in combat, making them feel like the world around them or their foes are slower than things really are. Mary on the other hand, has occasionally found some entertaining benefits of subtly doctoring perception in the other direction.

    Such as say, making it seem like her knife routine is slowly growing even faster, more and more rapid with each pass until to Charlus, she is barely touching the border of superhuman speed and the edge of disbelief. All round the table, the crowd of veterans and friends who are in on the joke now slow their chant, dragging out the words to sound like they are still singing at a "normal" speed to his racing perception, and that the nightmarish speed Mary is putting their fingers at risk with, is entirely born of her own humanly failable efforts.

    "STOP! STOP!! STOP!!! STOP!!!!"

    The terrified Brit's screaming is all the more entertaining to the crowd, who from experience and hazings of their own, can see how with just a little duplicity and slight of hand to lay her illusion, Mary has utterly duped the man. Despite barely going any faster than she was to start with. Maybe later, he'll realize there was magic involved and the spell she used, but in the moment, as steel and lightning dance above their digits with apparently blistering speeds, Charlus has brought the trick entirely.

    Unfortunately for him, this isn't the end of the routine.

    Suddenly and without warning, Mary flicks her ka-bar upwards. With horror, the British observer watches as the blade spirals higher and higher into the air, only to look down in terror when he sees Mary has now grabbed his knife from where it was buried in the table, and is once more stabbing it's point into the pennies between their fingers with blistering speed. Then, as the ka-bar descends, Mary snatches it out of the air in the same movement that now sends his blade skyward in turn, somehow not getting neither of them shocked, stabbed or cut in the process. As close together as they are, one wrong move or mis-timed catch, will result in the both of them being electrocuted in tandem, not helped by the fact that Mary is still firing off arcs of lighting from the wand in her teeth, and even switching things up by occasionally bouncing electricity off her ka-bar when it's in the air, as well as when it's in her hand.

    The final straw, is when she then adds the third knife to her high-powered, fiver-finger fillet, juggling act. All of which, to Charuls' perception, is not happening at the even and sedentary pace Mary is actually moving at. Just for the hell of it, she also changes up the pattern to an even more difficult one as well.

    "AGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

    At the sight of the Tommy who has been collectively sweeping them clean for the last few days, now screaming in unbridled terror, many of the gamblers present revel in the reversal of fortunes and karma, howling with laughter and mirth.

    In a final, deft display of knife control, Mary then finishes her routine as all three blades find their way into the air. The loaned knife from the crowd ends up slitting the ropes binding them without leaving even a mark on her flesh, before a flicks sees it landing in the table in front of the audience member who donated it. Her ka-bar ends up back in her own holster. And then with a lightning fast grab to retrieve the last blade from the air, Mary twirls Charlus' F-S patterned knife, before abruptly driving it into the man's seat, planting it in the wood between the legs of his pants and eliciting one final shriek of the terrified wizard. For more than one of the Americans present, it is simply the cherry on the cake, and a few begin outright falling from their seats from laughing so hard.

    Trembling in his seat, and gazing from the knife between his legs, and then at his fingers with the blackened and smoking pennies between them, it takes the British wizard a moment to realize that Mary and her helpers are no longer holding him down. Shakily raising his hand and checking in disbelief that he is okay, the rattled Potter then glances around with nervous dread. With a jump, he then sees that Mary is now leaning against the table, looking down at him impassively and almost looking bored.

    "So. Were you amazed?"

    Trying to speak, Charlus instead finds that his tongue is dry and heavy.

    The witch faux-frowns at him in silence, even as something like cruelly victorious amusement dances in her eyes "Hmm.... you don't look very amazed. Maybe I should show you the other part to that."

    The prospect of experiencing another round of that allows him to find his tongue quickly enough.

    "N-No! Th-That was amazing! The debt's paid!"

    "Good." Mary smiles demurely, before learning over and appropriating one of the bottles of muggle whiskey Charlus had been intending to add to the pot in the next round, before the insane witch's interruption. Swiping a cup somebody else had also been intending to add to the pile, Mary casually pours herself a drink before getting off the table, shooting the wizard one final glance in the process.

    "A word of advice Mr Potter." Quietly, she takes a sip of her acquired drink and leaves the rest of the bottle on the table. "Don't make wagers, for things you can't accept."

    Turning on her heel and striding away from the table, many of the wizards whoop and cheer at someone finally getting one over their unit's adopted king card-shark, with more than a few wagers exchanging hand over this result as well.

    "Aw, he didn't piss himself like Marconi did!"

    "Fuck you asshole, at least I didn't cry!"

    Ignoring the peanut gallery and commentary from the rest of the troops around the campfire, Mary quietly makes her exit, diverging only to cross paths with the familiar figure she catches sight of, just on the edge of the group.

    Walking up to David, the Captain gives her a look that almost makes him seem caught between wanting to hi-five her, or embrace her. Finally though, the wizard settles for shaking his head and giving her a cheek-splitting grin.

    "You have no idea how much I want to kiss you right now."

    Smiling at the wizard, Mary makes sure to take another sip from her appropriated beverage and cup, before quietly closing the distance between them, checking that no one in the crowd is paying attention. Then she presses the cup into his hands, a wry grin of her own in place.

    "Considering we were interrupted, how about an indirect one to make up for it?"

    David laughs, even as he raises the accepted cup to his lips.
     
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  24. Threadmarks: Introducing Yokai Shipgirls 3
    darthcourt10

    darthcourt10 Versed in the lewd.

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    Harry Leferts

    Almost as soon as they entered the mess hall, the noses of all three Ookami began twitching at the smells that hit them. Swallowing the saliva in her mouth, Moriko glanced around. "Suzume-Chan? We were told that the food was free... right?"

    Just nodding as she looked around from beside her sisters, Suzume also swallowed. "Hai, as long as we get the meal from the mess hall. If we get it elsewhere though we still need to pay. Like how it would be on a ship... " Then she became thoughtful. "Well, as long as we eat the amount of portions given to us? There seems to be different amounts depending on what ship you were..."

    She trailed off as Ryuujou walked past with a plate that Moriko knew had enough food on it that some of her old competitors in mixed martial arts would find hard to finish. From where she was in her wheelchair, Sachiko raised a finger. "Um, I don't think that will be a problem..."

    Blinking, Moriko only nodded. "Yeah, I don't think that will be a problem. At least until we actually become shipgirls." With a shake of her head, she pushed Sachiko's wheelchair along as they entered the line. Upon coming to the first section, the soup section, they blinked at the sight of a foreign boy there. "Hi?" Glancing at the name tag on his apron, her eyes widened at the name she recognized from some news reports a few years earlier. "Potter-San?"

    A smile on his face, Harry gave a small bow of the head. "That's right."

    Confused, Sachiko tilted her head to the side and frowned behind her surgical mask before giving a small cough. "Er, aren't you a bit young to be working here?"

    On Harry's face was an amused expression that told just how often he was asked that question. "As a matter of fact? Why yes, yes I am."

    Shaking her head, Suzume glanced at the pots before one caught her sight and made her frown. "Um, Scouse?"

    Harry brightly smiled at that as he looked at the pot in question. "Yeah, scouse. It's something that I started making back in England and it's really popular here because of rationing. Some call it Yokosuka Stew though since I modified the recipe for vegetables around here." He began to tick off on his fingers. "Besides vegetables, there's also meat like beef, though usually mutton is good and we got a lot from Hokkaido." The black haired boy did not notice all three young women lick their lips. "And hardtack for a thickener."

    That last bit made the Ookami grimace as they looked at the stew. After all, hardtack was one of the most common rations during the really bad times after Blood Week and for years after. Suzume tilted her head some. "Hardtack?"

    Chuckling, Harry gave a nod. "Yeah, I know. But it works as a thickener and makes the stew even better. Used it in other soups and such as well."

    Despite how her sisters were unsure themselves, Sachiko took a sniff and raised a hand. "Um, can I have a small bowl please? I-I guess I'll try some?"

    Only nodding, Harry ladled out a small amount into a bowl and placed it on one of the trays. As they walked off, he gave a wave. "Hope that you have a good meal."

    With that, he turned to Ooi who got a grin on her face and had him ladle a large bowl out. As they walked away, Moriko glanced at the stew herself which got her a smile from Sachiko along with a small teasing tone. "Maybe I'll let you try a spoonful."

    Softly snorting, Moriko shrugged some. "Maybe... Hey! Look at that, they got hamburger steak! And katsu!"

    Both her sisters shared a small grin at that as she pushed Sachiko along.

    Roughly an hour later found Moriko leaning back and patting her well muscled stomach. "Okay, that was a good meal. I was expecting worse considering things, but that was a lot better then I thought."

    Suzume sighed as she set down her glass. "I know, I remember some of the smaller places and this was up there." Leaning forward, she smiled. "Looks like we won't be worrying about hunger anytime soon. What about you, Sachiko-Chan? I could ask if you enjoyed your meal, but..."

    Blushing lightly at the knowing grins, she sank in her wheelchair best that she could. However, there was still a small smile on her face. "It was pretty good, especially the mutton stew. Reminds me of when we stayed in Hokkaido after breaking out from the reserve and the first time we went for a meal."

    Just humming as she picked at a piece of food between her teeth, Moriko gave a nod. "I remember that. As a matter of fact, that was the first time that you saw Kogamaru-San... or should it be Sama?" Part of her was amused at the blush that covered her sister's face at the reminder. "He along with his Otou-San organized a feast which had mutton and lamb. Damn, that was good."

    A far off look on her face as she thought back, Sachiko remembered that night. It was in one of the more isolated areas and there were campfires around. The flickering flames shone light on the feast as both Tsumemaru and Kogamaru helped give out food to them. In particular, she remembered the younger of the two wolves as he gave the stunned, though sickly even back then, Ookami more food then she had ever gotten in her life despite her sisters slipping some. Then he had given her a pat on the shoulder and given her a smile while telling her "Welcome to freedom" before moving on.

    It was something that stuck with her ever since.

    Her thoughts though were broken as Moriko leaned in with a giant grin. "You were thinking of Kogamaru-San again, weren't you? How handsome he looked the few times you saw him... Not my type, but I can see why you would like him."

    Needless to say, Sachiko's blush deepened at that before looking away and mumbling. "He probably doesn't even remember me."

    Suzume gave a snort at that and shook his head. "Maybe not, but that's his problem. Like we told you, Imouto, anyone would be and should be honored if you were to be their wife. Even one as highly ranked as him."

    Reaching over and stroking her head, Moriko nodded. "Exactly. And so what? He was young back then like you were. But I did mention that he was seen hanging out and from what Haru-San said when I asked, he's actually spending a lot of time in Yokosuka. So who knows? We might stumble across him or something."

    Even though her blush had deepened as far as it could go, Sachiko smiled as Moriko continued to stroke her head. For all that her older sister was strong and rough, capable of beating even Oni bloody, she was always so gentle with her. Sachiko never had to worry about anything, and felt safe when wrapped up in those two arms or those of Suzume. "Maybe..."

    With a smile of her own, Suzume also stroked her head for a moment before reaching into her pocket. "Now that we're done eating..." Noticing Sachiko look at one last plate, she gave a laugh. "Okay, almost everything but your dessert. But you should have those supplements that we were given after you eat."

    Tapping her on the head, Moriko nodded. "Then you can have that dessert square thing that you picked up. First up is the iron and then the magnesium..."

    A small smile on her face, Sachiko held out one hand into which Suzume dropped a small pill. Looking at it, she tilted her head to the side and considered it. With it, her journey to eventually being as healthy as her sisters began. Picking up her glass, she placed the pill into her mouth and washed it down. 'The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step...'

    Meanwhile, Suzume only smiled back. "And after you have dessert, we can head to the repair baths for a soak. Its been some time since the three of us shared a bath together after all instead of taking turns."

    Sachiko nodded at that with a smile of her own and her eyes practically sparkling as she took the next in the group of supplements she was supposed to. And that night, when all three laid asleep and cuddled up with her in the middle? The wolfess had a dream of her, strong and as hale as her sisters between them as all three skated along the surface of the ocean, a bright smile on all their faces.

    And outside the world of dreams, the smile was reflected on her own face.
     
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  25. Threadmarks: Abyssina 18 – Gateway's rule during blood week
    darthcourt10

    darthcourt10 Versed in the lewd.

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    K9Thefirst1

    In which we learn what sort of rule Gateway had over the Azores, how she got her sword, and a glimpse into what her relationship with the other Elder Princesses, her sisters, was like.




    Seven Months After Blood Week, Occupied Azores

    For over half a year, the citizens of Portugal living in the Azores island chain lived under the rule of a being claiming to be a Princess. And given her command of the sea demons that had been ravaging the world’s oceans, none that found themselves stranded on those specks of rock in the Atlantic could contest her claim. Her conquest had been as quick as it was brutal. The few soldiers stationed tried to repel the landings and invasion, but they were all killed within the day, and the campaign brought to mind the Blitzkrieg of France in how futile resisting the black tide was. The police had even taken part, either out of selfless defense of their neighbors or desperate conscription, it was of little matter as the result was the same: The Azores fell to the Abyss, and the Azores Princess established it as her base of operations for raids against Iberia and Northern Africa as her sister-princesses commanded. Weeks later, the ships of the Portuguese navy that tried to dislodge her were utterly demolished, and the few survivors were taken prisoner.

    But compared to the horror stories of many similarly occupied areas, the rule of their new Overlord was shockingly gentle. Soldiers that were wounded or otherwise unable to fight were not only spared, but were given every consideration for their medical treatment, and those that surrendered and laid down their arms were similarly spared, provided that they submit themselves as Prisoners of War while their fallen comrades were permitted to be given a proper burial with full honors if the living so desired. And so, it was not an uncommon sight to see such imprisoned men and women in uniform in chain gangs alongside those already serving prison sentences working as laborers to enact repairs to infrastructure or whatever else the new government required, side-by-side civilians employed with local contractors or construction crews. Once her rule was firmly established across the islands, their new Princess published a decree in every functioning newspaper, outlining her identity, her claim to the islands, as well as a detailed manifesto outlining the new laws of the land. To the surprise of all, there were very few genuine changes outside of the slightly archaic language used. All that was really changed was the nature of the punishments for the more serious crimes.

    A month after what became known as Blood Week, a band of resistance fighters established themselves, and proceeded to engage in guerilla tactics. Supply depots were bombed, bridges sabotaged, and finally made an attack to assassinate the Princess. And it went poorly. Had she and her Abyssal underlings been human, the attack would have worked. However, their natures meant that the bullets didn’t harm them, and those that were not killed by the return fire of naval artillery were taken captive. If they expected to inspire an uprising, the insurgents were sorely disappointed. For their attacks had disrupted, harmed, or even killed dozens of their fellow citizens, citizens who had found that, so long as they didn’t look up to the flags now flying, or ignored the fact that each street corner now had a sea monster standing watch, or try to communicate with anyone in the outside world, there was no genuine difference from how life had been before Blood Week. And so, across the islands, the citizens turned on their televisions, or their radios, or even made for the capital, where the trial of the Insurgents’ crimes against the state was held.

    But first, the criminals were tried for the murders of their unintended victims, civilians that had been caught up in their own private war. Such as those driving vehicles over bridges rendered unable of supporting the weight, or a janitor caught in a gas explosion after they had tampered with the pipes at a fuel depot, and civilians caught between the insurgents and their targets on the day of their assassination attempt. The trials, to all accounts, were fair enough for a justice system under an Authoritarian Autocrat, in that the accused were permitted a team of competent defense lawyers. However, as they were not attempting to hide their doings in the hopes of inspiring a rebellion, the weight of evidence against them made it little more than a formality. After that came the trial for their acts against the state. And it was here that their Doom was sealed. For under the Princess’ laws, they were found guilty of Vendetta, and thus would have been fined with the equivalent of two-years wages of the innocents killed to pay their kin for each adult killed, plus an additional werguild of thirty-thousand American dollars for each child. If they could not pay then they were go to debtors’ prison to work of their debt to the bereaved, with the faces of the dead they were specifically paying off at the time constantly on display in their prison cells. After that they would begin their prison sentences for the murders.

    But for the attacks on the Princess and her property? Under her Law, they were defined as Terrorism: Any act of violence resulting in the harm or death of any persons in Our Lands and/or damage or destruction of property of State or Citizen committed in the intent of bringing about social, religious, political, environmental or technological change are defined as Terrorism. Any found guilty of such crimes are to be sentenced to be publicly executed via Death by Immolation for the followers, with the ringleader(s) to be sentenced to Death by Oubliette.

    And so, with the very actions of the insurgents being nothing but Terrorism, their guilt ought to have lead to a most blatant display of the costs of defying the new regime. However, there remained the number of civilians killed in their guerilla campaign, and the families of the victims bereft of bread winners, or homemakers, or children. Ergo, Her Royal Highness judged that the execution of the majority of the cell, some twenty men and women in all, would be postponed until they had worked off their debts. The ringleader, on the other hand, would not be granted such a boon. On the outskirts of the city, before those curious or vindictive that wished to watch the proceedings, the ringleader, a man by the name of Hugo Martinez, was commanded to break ground on what would become his grave. Once the ceremonial first shovelful of earth was moved, the Princess commanded a proper oubliette dug, some ten feet deep, four feet wide at the base, and with cement sides. Once it was complete, Martinez was thrown in, and the hole capped with a concrete slab with only a hole five inches wide in its center, to permit fresh air and rainwater. And there Martinez was left to die. However, the cell members’ friends and family were not, as many feared, similarly punished for their relation to the criminals, but were left in peace, provided that they did not similarly act out.

    After that, the Azores Princess re-instated the court system as it was on the local level before her arrival, however she reserved the right to retry any case appealed or deemed of National Importance personally. Then, she permitted the police officers she held captive to be released to their families and to return to work in preserving Law and Order across the land. Then the Azores settled into an uneasy acceptance of the new Regime. To resist meant a painful and public death. And with friends and family returned, daily life only slightly changed, and the Princess’ transports bringing in imports almost daily, there was little reason perceived to rise up. Their personal liberties to were unrestrained, they could still vote for local officials, and after six months the citizenry began to grow used to their new Monarch, and some even began to grow bold enough to come before her and petition the Crown. A fact that the Princess was much pleased with.

    And so, after seven months, an incident occurred that, had events gone differently, would have established once and for all that all living on the islands – human and Abyssal alike – were equal before their Princess’ eyes. A cruiser had taken produce from a civilian’s garden. When he complained and demanded payment the cruiser grew agitated and crushed his skull. His wife, high on grief and fury at her sudden widowhood, took her case directly to the Princess. Within hours the culprit was identified and tried, to the cruiser’s indignation.

    ”This is horseshit!”

    “No,” Gateway replied, ”This is Justice. You committed murder of one of Our subjects after you had stolen from him, thus you must endure the consequences of that act. It’s something new from the Continent: It’s called Cause and Effect.”

    The cruiser made a rude sound at that.

    ”It was a worthless meatbag, not worthy enough to lick my shoe!”

    “The only thing completely devoid of worth is your opinion.”

    “And he wasn’t an It!” the woman, still borderline hysterical even after almost a full day of the incident, “his name was Juan! He was my husband and you killed him you monster!”

    “Oh shut up!

    Finally having enough of what she saw as an utter farce, the cruiser moved to fire one of her guns at the woman, only for it – and the hand it was attached to – to explode. While the cruiser writhed in agony at her ruined hand, Gateway slumped on her throne, rubbing her temple as one of the cannons on her throne smoked. Judging by the vein pulsing where her fingers rubbed her head, one could get the idea that Her Highness was suffering from a migraine.

    ”Right. We’ll just add ‘Attempted Murder,’ ‘Attempted Assassination of a Witness,’ and ‘Unlawful Use of Weapons in Court’ to those charges of theft and murder. Demon, take this worthless pile of scrap out of Our sight and put her in the Penal Division.”

    Ocean Liner Demon nodded and dragged the cruiser out of the Throne Room (after shooting her in the knee, ‘purely to ensure an inability to resist,’ obviously). Gateway didn’t bother to watch or comment on the proceedings. Once her second-in-command cum bailiff and the criminal left, the court was silent, save for the low rumbling of the witnesses, human and Abyssals all. After a few moments, she looked to the widow, who had fallen back in her chair when the murderer turned her guns on her. From the shocked look on her face, the attempt on her life put what she had been doing, and what had happened, into the forefront of her mind. Gateway took her in, and her face turned thoughtful. She wordlessly rose from the throne and descended to the floor level. She took the woman’s hand in her own and turned her to face her Regal Features. Then she kneeled on one knee, so that they were both looking eye-to-eye.

    “We are not without a heart woman. This cruelty ultimately rests with Us, for We did not properly educate Our creations as to how We intended our two peoples to co-exist under a single Law. Please, seek out Our Treasurer. He shall compensate you for your loss with two-years of your late Husband’s wages, to help you readjust your finances. And due to the murderer being one of Our fleet, We shall ensure that his funeral expenses are paid in addition, along with a waiver of tax for this year and the next. It will not bring back your husband, but We do not wish to see the actions of one of Our fleet bring undue harm to one of Our subjects.”

    The woman was lead out, and the Princess returned to her throne and addressed the court.

    ”We shall not be taking any more petitions this day. If you have business with Us, please return on the morrow. To those that do not live in the city, seek out one of the nearby hotels and display your admittance pass. You shall be granted a room for the night with the cost forwarded to the court. Dismissed.”

    After that, the crowd dispersed, and the Princess left for the rooms she had repurposed as her own. And as the sun set, she felt a familiar presence over the eastern horizon, and approaching fast. And it filled her with dread. Not the dread of something that brought death and destruction, but the dread of something far worse: Family. Minutes later Demon entered her chambers and nearly fell over trying to get out of the Princess’ path.

    ”Princess?”

    “Brace yourself Demon – Middle World is coming.”
    ------

    It was close to midnight when the other Elder Princess made landfall. And the term was rather apt. While Middle World Ocean Princess, known amongst the humans as the Maltese Princess, was not crawling, she was hardly the pristine image of Royalty expected of her station. Over the horizon, light could be seen from an oil slick aflame, which trailed to the sinking wreck of her throne, adrift and listing to port just five miles off shore, its lights flickering, the oars of its trireme-inspired design unmoving. Out of a fleet whose number far exceeded Gateway’s own when last they met, Middle World was utterly alone.

    And then there was the Elder Princess’ person. Her hair, normally done up in a bun in the style of the ladies of antiquity, was unkempt, strands flying free in the nighttime breeze. Her left ear was missing a chunk and bleeding, her breathing was labored, and her eyes bloodshot, glinting with a crazed light.

    Gateway looked utterly apathetic at the display, resigned to suffering the presence of her sister.

    ”Middle World. You are here. In my territory.” she said, ’And not being a nuisance to anyone else.’ She didn’t.

    Middle World Ocean Princess stood, hands on knees, sucking in deep breaths to recoup her strength. When she recovered enough to gather her wits and stand straight, the differences between the two Elder Princesses were stark. Both were deathly pale with hair as white as ivory. But whereas Gateway Princess was of average height with more than above average curves, and facial features as lovely as they were regal, Middle World Ocean Princesses was tall. Tall and slender, and her face had a Cleopatran nose without the beauty, and cheekbones prominent enough to give her a skullish visage. The older Elder Princess ignored her youngest sibling and scanned the coast, noting the construction equipment repairing the damaged infrastructure, and the lights of the nearby city. Middle World closed her eyes and sighed in exasperation. Likewise, Gateway rolled her eyes, knowing exactly what the next words would be out of her sister’s mouth. The beach was abandoned – save for the two Elder Princesses and Ocean Liner Demon – the result of her declaration of Marshal Law until hostilities were ceased. Thankfully it would spare Gateway of the embarrassment from any of her subjects – human or Abyssal – seeing their sovereign being talked down to like an errant child.

    ”The humans here are alive. Gateway, why are the humans here still alive.”

    “The Azores are the seat of my power. That makes them my subjects, and thus worthy of serving me.”

    “Child, you were told to conquer and dominate these islands to serve as a springboard for attacking Europe and Asia. You were not to- To make pets out of these… Things!

    “I have done as you all told me – against my better judgement. Frankly I still don’t understand why we even needed to do this invasion nonsense! My occupation here is proof enough that our peoples can co-exist, and make it profitable too! We are still in a position of strength, even with the losses we’ve taken, we just need to enter peace talks and make a settleme-!”

    The night air was cut with a crack as Middle World backhanded Gateway, a glare of distain on her features. The younger was silent. Not out of being shamed and cowed as Middle World presumed, but at being shamed and infuriated. Liner stiffened at the strike and was sorely tempted to open fire on the cretin who would dare to smite her Princess, damn the consequences. It was only the knowledge that neither Elder Princess needed to even fire a shot to end any attack on her part that prevented it.

    ”There you go, bringing such meaningless tripe as ‘trade,’ ‘peace,’ and ‘profit’ into this again. How many times have we told you? The land beasts are undeserving of the gift of being in authority of this world. They serve no purpose, save to die and be crushed under our heels. How can you, an Elder Princess of the Abyss, possibly see them of having lives deserving of life? Of even being our- Our equals? This is the last time I will be telling you this Atlantic Gateway, so listen well: You have a responsibility to your fleet to see them to victory, and to eradicate all that stand in our way. So stop being such a selfish child, stop this nonsense about peace, and do as we have decreed. We are the superior beings of this planet. It’s high time you realized that.”

    The night breeze and the crashing of the surf were the only sounds on the beach for the longest time, and none of them moved. Liner Demon in impotent rage, Gateway in indignation and silent wroth, and Middle World in self-assured superiority. In time, the Elder Princess grew irritated in her little sister’s silence and reached into her holds.

    ”Perhaps this will get you to see reason.”

    Yes,’ Gateway thought, ’and maybe Atlantic could have enjoyed a quiet afternoon without fantasizing about slaughter.’

    From her holds, Middle World pulled out a sword. An ancient sword. The kind that seen centuries of military use even as the Pyramids of Giza were but foundations. At least, the design was such. But the metal it had been forged from had no place amongst the likes of Herakles or Gilgamesh. Rather, it would be more commonly seen making up the guns and armor of the Abyssal Fleets…

    “I found it,” Middle World whispered, that mad glimmer returning to her eyes as she held out the sword for her sister to hold, “I finally found it! Proof that we are the Once and Future Rulers of this world! On the coast of the Levant, I found a tomb, and inside it were the bones of one such as us! An Elder Princess of the Abyss!”

    With shaking hands, and eyes wide in shocked wonderment, Gateway took the sword and held it up. She turned around and made a few practice swings with it, to Middle World’s misplaced delight. The blade, Gateway felt… It felt… Right, in her hand. As if it was seeking out a wielder and found her to not be in want. But still… this sword had been found in a tomb. An ancient tomb, thousands of years old…

    ”There are no records that such beings existed so long ago. No evidence of a nation being present. What… What happened to them… These ancient Abyssals?”

    The faintly pleased expression on Middle World’s face fell to disappointment as she scoffed at the question.

    ”Honestly, what a meaningless question. What does it matter? We are stronger, more powerful than they ever were.”

    Ah, right, of course. None of my sisters ever were capable of seeing beyond what was right in front of them.’

    Middle World placed a heavy hand on Gateway’s shoulder, rousing her from her thoughts.

    “Now come, we have much to do. My fleet somehow got the idea that they were deserving of being without my rightful leadership, and the land dweller fleets are in pursuit. I suspect that they should be arriving in a few days. You need to reroute your resources to repelling the trash so that I can re-establish m-urk!”

    Middle World found that should couldn’t breathe, and that there was a sharp pain and furious heat in her gut, lower chest, and back. She looked down and found that the ancient sword was embedded in her abdomen to the hilt. A third-party observer knowledgeable in medicine would identify the stab as impaling the liver just below the ribs, and with the inclination of the weapon it would have pierced the diaphragm before going on to slice the lower end of the right kidney, and finally exit out the back of the Elder Princess. The sword was still in the now bloody hand of Gateway, who in a flash had turned around and used the momentum to give extra force to her thrust. On her face was a look of disgust and disdain, her right eye twitching.

    “Stop. Making. Mouth-noises. You. Insufferable. Moistened. Bint.”

    Even if she could find the ability to draw in the proper breath to speak, Middle World Ocean would not have been able to string together two syllables together, so utterly confused as she was. All she could do was groan in pain as Gateway twisted the blade ninety degrees before pulling it out. Middle World sank to her knees as Gateway walked behind her. And the Elder Princess embodying the First Ocean that Man Conquered could not resist as her younger sister gripped her hair, pulled her head back, and sliced her throat. In seconds it was over, and Middle World Ocean Princess was dead on the beach.

    Ocean Liner Demon watched the proceedings, her thoughts on the matter unreadable beneath her helm. Meanwhile, Gateway paced around the cooling corpse, tapping the flat of the Naue II sword against her knee as she fumed and mind raced.

    ”Well… That escalated.”

    “Demon, how many are in the Penal Division?

    Liner turned from the body to her Princess, her posture telegraphing her confusion at the leap in the conversation. When the silence dragged on, Gateway turned to her Second.

    Well?

    “Er, with the cruiser today, that makes it some eleven ships. Six destroyers, two battleships and three cruisers.”

    “That’ll do. I want them mobilized at the port immediately. Also, I want Mordorim, Tartarus, Kallah, Ruritania, Chitter, Ripper, Neeros, Hel, Sorain, and Yomi in my chambers for a mission briefing in forty minutes. All patrols are to RTB and prepare for an immediate evacuation of the Azores Island Chain.”

    Liner was struck dumb at the sudden pronouncement and stood still even as her princess walked past her from the beach and made her way inland. Almost to late the Abyssal Demon turned about and called to her.

    ”You’re Highness! Wh-why? We’ve only just managed to pacify the people here!”

    Gateway stopped at the question and slumped her shoulders in fatigue.

    ”Because, Demon, this position is untenable. Since I had the opportunity to try I didn’t see why I shouldn’t, but I never really expected to hold it long enough to do anything other than put some theories into practice. So long as the humans had one of my sisters to focus on, I could nation build in peace and negotiate a settlement from a position of relative strength. But…”

    Gateway turned back to the Demon, and stepped closure. Satisfied that they could talk without needing to raise their voices, she continued her explanation plainly.

    ”But, in half a year, our number has effectively fallen to me, and me alone,” then she raised a hand, ticking off the fates of her sisters with a finger, “First was Nordic Horde, who got her bitch ass killed the first bloody day of the war because an RAF pilot with missiles armed but jammed in their bays and a plane shot to Hell and thus unable to make it home decided ‘Fuck it, ramming speed.’ Next was Central Atlantic, who thought pulling back to rest and heal in between climactic battles was for suckers and so got taken down by a golden torpedo after running free for three months. Sub-Continental Ocean, and our Pacific Sisters, haven’t made contact with any of us in five months, and so are likely dead as well…

    “And then there’s this hot mess,” she said, gesturing to the dead body of Middle World Ocean, ”Who, clearly, was too busy looking at where we came from to realize what was going on around her. And now, with these… ‘Ship-Girls’ popping up everywhere, The Mediterranean is likely to be cleared within the month. With that and the Baltic free the humans can provide a unified front against the Atlantic. Against me. I figure that I can replace our losses as fast as Europe United inflicts them… But that is only holding. And when – not if – the Americans punch through Atlantic’s fleet remnants, I’d give us… A day, if I were optimistic. But realistically I’d peg total military collapse and conquest of the Azores in about seven hours, give or take.

    “It’s time I stopped playing, Demon. My sisters are dead, finally, and so I can finally stop doing what they wanted and do what will actually work. Otherwise, all our efforts will be wasted, and hope for trade and peace will never come to be. My fleet stands at seventy-seven strong, not counting the transports my sisters ‘generously’ supplied me. I have an obligation to not squander then needlessly.”

    Ocean Liner Demon stared at her Princess, and what her words meant – War, not for empty glory at the cost of those unaffected by the battles, but ultimately for Peace, where the merchantmen need not fear the mine or bomb, shell or torpedo. And while before she was loyal out of the Princess’ Power, for there on it would be Loyalty of the truest sort. And so, Liner bowed, then genuflected, and held a hand over her heart in salute.

    ”As you command, my Princess. After the fleets are recalled, what are your orders to cover our retreat?”

    Gateway looked at the Demon in wonder. Despite the enthrallment, Liner Demon never bowed. It was a spell to gain her obedience and industry, nothing more. So, to have such a blatant display of loyalty bestowed upon her from the former feral Abyssal meant something significant. The Princess smiled warmly, and genuinely, before taking on her more composed expression. There was work to be done.

    ”The Abyssals of the fleet that I mentioned will fight alongside the Penal Division when the Humans arrive, and are to by as much time to permit our escape as they can, to the death if needed. Meanwhile, we need to make sure the humans think I’m here and dead, not elsewhere and alive.

    “Therefore,” she pointed first to the burning hulk that once was Middle World’s throne just off shore, ”either sink that eye sore, or better yet drag it up here and see about disguising it to look like my throne.”

    “And the late Princess?”

    Gateway looked at the corpse on the sand between them. Then she kicked it.

    “Find a telephone pole or something and some baling wire. String her up. Then rig up some radio equipment to broadcast some garbage that might sound like code. Let the humans cremate her. Then we leave.”

    “As you command, my Princess.”
     
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  26. Threadmarks: (Hawaii) yokai under the bed
    darthcourt10

    darthcourt10 Versed in the lewd.

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    lt_agn02

    Another Tsushima Maru and Bowfin-related omake:

    Opening her eyes, Bowfin spotted Tsushima Maru at the edge of her bed. "...Tsushima? What's the matter?"

    "...There's a yokai under my bed."

    "...A yokai. Aren't those only in Japan?"

    Tsushima Maru nodded. "So? There are some here too."

    Sighing, Bowfin pushed herself out of bed and grabbed her pistol. "Fine, I'll take a look. If it attacks, I'm killing it."

    Making her way to Tsushima Maru's room, Bowfin opened the door and called out. "All right, if anyone's in here, come out with your hands up!" Grabbing her sidearm, she cocked it and pointed it at the bed. "If anyone's under the bed, come out now and I won't wake up the base by pumping you full of lead!"

    Immediately, a whimpering came out from, where else, underneath the transport ship's bed. "I'm sorry! I'm sorry!"

    A small pair of arms extended from underneath the bead, followed by the head of a young fox-eared girl. Tears ran from the kitsune's face as she looked up at the obviously grumpy submarine that needed sleep. Said submarine that had her pistol pointed directly at her. "P-Please don't hurt me...please don't hurt me..."

    Bowfin lowered her weapon. "...Jesus, I did not expect that."

    "...Mama, you can be scary at times..."

    "Please don't call me 'Mama', Tsushima. It's embarrassing." Holstering her weapon, the sub glared at the young kitsune girl under the bed. "Come out, you. What are you doing under the bed?"

    "I...I..."

    Tsushima Maru stepped forward. "You're a kitsune, right? Are you a bad one or a good one?"

    The kitsune shook her head. "I'm not going to do bad things! Honest!"

    "Then why are you hiding under the bed in the middle of an active military base?"

    "...I...I was running from a manananggal..."

    Tsushima Maru looked up at the submarine. "A what?"

    "It's a Filipino vampire-like creature," the young girl explained. "That's why I'm hiding here."

    Bowfin groaned a bit. "Fine, I'll get an extra futon for you. Next time don't scare us like that. Jeez."

    "I think you scared her more than she scared us."

    "...Just go to sleep and we'll deal with this in the morning."

    As Bowfin turned around, she suddenly felt a chill roll down her spine. Grabbing not just her sidearm but also her five-inch gun, she drew the weapons and blindly pointed them at the window and opened fire. The screams of two children followed, then the blood-curdling screech of something...inhuman. The sub opened one of her eyes, seeing something fall from the window to the earth below while the unharmed Tsushima Maru and kitsune girl hugged each other in terror.

    One by one, lights came on, finally illuminating the courtyard below the window. Bowfin took one peek at what she shot and immediately grimaced. The upper half of a torso and bat-like wings.

    "Well...shit."
     
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  27. Threadmarks: Charlus Potter's hoard; Discovering the blades
    darthcourt10

    darthcourt10 Versed in the lewd.

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    Harry Leferts

    Scratching his neck, Harry grinned up at Shinano who was beside him. "Um, thanks for this, Shinano-Chan. I really appreciate the help."

    In return, Shinano smiled down at her friend with a small blush on her face. "You don't need to thank me, Harry-Chan. I don't mind helping out at all and, um..." Her blush deepened a touch. "I'm interested in what your Ōoji-San brought back from Japan."

    A chuckle from behind them made Harry turn to where Tenryuu and Verniy were both walking behind him. "She's not the only one, Kiddo. Heck, I want to be able to see what sort of thing he brought back. Old swords are just awesome in a way that new ones are not... well, outside of Waterline."

    Harry gave a grin at that and nod. "Trust me, Tenryuu-Oba, I know that. From personal experience even." Looking at Verniy, he gave a glance to the sword that was at her side. "So how has Zhar-ptitsa been working out?"

    Glancing at the blade in question, Verniy gave a small smile. "She has been working out very well, Harry-Chan. And has felt more then her share of Abyssal blood among others."

    Just as Harry was about to ask, Tenryuu snorted. "Long story short, Kiddo, Hibiki-Chan here on a walk came across a Nure-Onna about to attack someone and fought it. About two weeks ago, she left it in a hotel room when some baka tried to run off with it... and got a crushed hand in return." Her grin widened a touch. "As soon as he picked it up, the sword dropped to the floor and increased the weight until his bones broke. Luckly, Ami-Chan had to go back and picked up the blade or else it might have just kept getting heavier and heavier and crushed his hand to powder."

    For her part, Verniy gave a small smile. "We played it off as the sword being a shipgirl equipment piece."

    That got a shake of the head from Harry. "Probably for the best, I guess. Though it is sort of neat that it now has an anti-theft ability." Giving the sword an interested glance, the black haired boy frowned in thought. 'I wonder what sort of secrets that sword has?'

    Before his thoughts could get much further though, they reached their destination which had a smiling Haru standing right outside the door. Pushing off the wall, the Kitsune smiled down at them all and clapped her hands. "Right on time, the others are waiting on the inside." As they entered, she gave the trunk that Shinano was carrying an interested look. "Is that Harry-Chan's Ōoji-San's trunk?"

    Simply nodding, Shinano smiled. "Hai, Harry-Chan got it just this morning."

    While the Carrier and Kitsune was talking, Harry was bowing to Kurosawa as well as Daichi and Osamu. "Thank you for taking the time to be here and help me. I really appreciate it."

    Chuckling, Daichi returned the bow with a small smile. "You are very much welcome, Harry-San." Internally, he shook his head. After so much time spent with the young boy, he was now able to call Harry by his given name instead of his family name. "I am always willing to help in such matters as is Osamu-Kun here."

    As Shinano set down the trunk, Kurosawa was already examining it. "So the items are in here, Harry-Chan? Really?"

    From where he was searching his pockets for the keys, Harry nodded some. "Hai, it's in there." Seconds later, he pulled out the key in question and held it up. "Anyways, the inside is an expanded space so we have to enter it to see what is inside. I guess it's about the size of a large living room?"

    Only humming, Haru did a scan of the trunk before nodding. "Well, the trunk itself seems to be clear of any real nastiness. So I suppose that it should be safe to enter it." Taking the key from Harry, she placed it into the lock before turning it. Moments later, there was a click and slowly the lid lifted to reveal a ladder heading down. "Who's first?"

    Everyone shared a look with each other. Not even a minute later, Tenryuu hit the floor on the inside of the trunk and looked around. "Okay, everything's clear in here." With a glance around, she shook her head. "There's a lot of stuff here."

    Climbing down the ladder, Kurosawa also looked and her eyes widened. "You're right, Tenryuu-San!" Once everyone was done, Kurosawa began to look at various items on display when she came to several items set up in cubby holes that had a glass door to them. "This is amazing! Look at these models!"

    Just blinking, Daichi turned away from what he was sure was a Chinese jade figurine. "Hmm? Models you say?"

    While he walked over, Kurosawa gestured at what was inside the cubby holes. "Hai, and they're so detailed! I can identify a Zero and there's a Zuiun! Oh! And there's a B-24! More then one actually..." Then she pointed at some of the other items. "There's also some tanks and jeeps and such."

    Having reached her, Daichi checked the items for several moments before pulling off his glasses and cleaning them. When the sight did not change, he closed his eyes as if in pain. "Kurosawa-San, those are not models."

    Confused, she looked over her shoulder at him. "Yes, they are. What else could they be."

    It was Haru who answered with a very dry tone in her voice. "Actual vehicles shrunken and apparently preserved via magic." She then turned to Harry along with the others. "Correct, Harry-Chan?"

    Rapidly flipping through the diary in his hands, Harry furrowed his eyebrows before stopping at several places. "Huh... Um, yes? I mean, he mentions how the non-magicals were just going to leave the B-24 for scrap among others and figured no one was going to miss them? Same with the other items... From this, he mentioned that he figured that with the bombers he could expand the inside and use them to get around. The others was because a friend of his back in England was obsessed with muggle stuff."

    Utter silence met him before there was the sound of a number of hands greeting faces warmly. From behind her hand, Tenryuu groaned. "That... Did he actually do that, Harry-Chan?"

    Once more flipping through the pages, Harry reached the end and blinked. "Nope! From this his wife wouldn't let him and there was some changes in laws that prevented that sort of thing with the Bombers. Because it would be too obvious I guess... and the other items the guy's wife got involved. So away into storage they went. But it does mention that the preservation charms and such means that they could all be started up like they were put under just yesterday." Then he shrugged. "The rest were just souvenirs."

    Sighing, Verniy simply shook her head as she rubbed the side of her head. "Harry-Chan, sometimes I wonder about your family."

    Harry hummed as he looked at the cubbies. "Yeah, so do I. But you know, there's enough tanks there and with some charms? We could probably pull off real life Girls und Panzer..."

    It was Shinano who sighed then and gave Harry a frown. "Um, Harry-Chan? I don't think that your Kaa-San would be very happy with that."

    From where she was standing, Haru gave her own nod. "Indeed, a better thing to say is that she would kill anyone who allowed it."

    Simply shrugging, Harry shook his head. "Would be pretty cool though."

    Everyone stared at him before shaking their heads and turning back to what they were doing. Somehow, they all had the thought that they just had an insight to how Potter minds worked.

    And it scared them.

    It did not take long for them to come across the swords that were on a table though. All of them were on a stand and as they got close, they could feel the spiritual weight. Looking at them, Kurosawa adjusted her glasses. "They're in amazing shape just from what I can see. More preservation charms, Daichi-San?"

    This time it was Osamu who motioned with his hands before shaking his head. "There's some, but it's mostly attached to the stand. The only charms on the swords seem to be anti-corrosion as well as dust and dirt repellent. Amazing..."

    Verniy pointed at one of the swords though with a frown. "That one though is drawn some."

    Leaning closer, Haru narrowed her eyes for a few moments before jerking back with a hiss. "The Hell!? That's a Muramasa blade!? What is one of those doing here?!"

    Now examining it closer, Daichi blinked after a minute. "Not just any Muramasa, this is Juuchi Yosamu." Grasping it, he tried to sheath it fully only for it to resist which made him nod. "Someone must have drawn it some and been unable to sheath it." Movement made the Tanuki turn to find Harry holding out a finger. "Hmm?"

    Weakly grinning, Harry shrugged. "Um, does anyone have something sharp? I mean, a drop or two would let it sheath itself, right?"

    Five minutes later found Verniy placing a small bandaid on Harry's finger while Daichi dapped a kleenix with some blood on it on the blade before sheathing it fully. "There we go. Now for the others."

    Thoughtful, Haru glanced at the other blades and then at the Juuchi Yosamu. "I wonder why none of them have manifested as Tsukumogami? Is it because of the stasis charms on them, or something else?"

    With a glance at her, Daichi frowned in thought. "I would not say that it is impossible for such a thing. No, it's quite possible in a manner of speaking, though that also means that once removed from the charms said tsukumogamis may well manifest again. It would take some time though for them to do so." Looking at the other swords, his frown deepened. "But now is not the time to do so as some of these I am... unsure of and would rather have someone nearby just in case with enough room..."

    As him and Haru turn back to examining the swords, Kurosawa turned to Harry. "So, Harry-Chan? Your Ōoji-San received these as... payment, from an American wizard? For bets?"

    Only nodding, Harry rubbed the back of his neck. "Hai, he did. Apparently the wizard in question ran up quite the tab in regards to his bets and so decided to pay off my Great Uncle Charlus with some swords he got from where they were being handed over. Hopefully, whoever they belong to will be happy."

    Suddenly there was a gasp and everyones' head whipped around to find Daichi with a pale face while clutching his chest as he boggled at one sword. Beside him, Haru had her face in both hands and muttering various things which made Harry blink. Thankfully, Tenryuu raised an eyebrow and leaned in to look at the sword. "Huh, that sword looks great, but... familiar. Like I should know it?" Eyebrows furowing, she frowned. "Or some of my crew have seen it?"

    Behind her hands, Haru sighed some before lowing them. "Hai, and well that they should." Rubbing the side of her head at the headache that sprang up, she let out a groan. "Because this sword happens to be the Honjo Masamune."

    At that, Tenryuu's jaw dropped as she pointed from the sword to Haru and then to Harry before back to the sword. At the nod from the Kitsune, Tenryuu punched herself in the head. "Ooooh, boy. Okay, you got a damn good reason to be acting like that then."

    Slowly, Harry raised his hand with an unsure look on his face. "Um... I'm not going to be in trouble over this, am I? Because, um..."

    Daichi's lips twitched as he snorted. "In trouble, Harry-San? No, trust me on this, you will not be in any trouble at all about this. Especially as you are returning it to the Japanese people..." Giving him a searching look, he frowned. "You could ask for quite a bit in return for it and such prices would be paid."

    Eyes widening for a moment, Harry shook his head. "Yeah, but that's not right. I mean, this is something that belongs to Japan, not to me. And I wasn't going to ask for anything anyways. Well... besides it being placed where people can see it."

    Glancing at the blade, Osamu chuckled weakly. "I don't think that there is going to be any problem with that, Harry-San. No problem at all..."

    While chewing his lip, Harry tilted his head. "Um, Haru-San? Would you mind helping me with writing a letter of apology? I mean, for what my family did and also for taking so long to find it. And I just want it to be good...”

    As Haru shook her head, Daichi glanced at the boy and sighed. 'Unfortunate that there are already too many trying to catch his eye. My daughter would have been quite happy with him if he continues being this way.' Then, turning, he brought his attention back to the swords as there was still a bit of work to be done.
     
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  28. Threadmarks: The Once and Written Ship, Part 1
    darthcourt10

    darthcourt10 Versed in the lewd.

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    Azzaciel

    Ok folks. Here we are. Except, perspective shift. The following is the start of the next arc I cliffhangered you all on last time. It's a retelling of some wizards experiences of the 3rd crusade. The "Memory" spoilers are locked to his bloodline and only are in the original. Anybody not his descendant or anyone reading a copy won't get them.

    I know this might be unnecessarily complex, but it's how this worked out.
    So, with all that being said, time for

    The Once and Written Ship, Part 1
    __________

    With my childhood and education at Hogwarts finished, i knew that as a third son i would not inherit great wealth or lands. It was never talked about in the family, but we all knew. Grandfather was still in good health, and father still had more than half his life before him.

    And yet let it not be said that our parents would not support us. After Haydn finished his degree in alchemical potioneering, they had given him research funds for two years and provided a workshop with every tool he could need. Once that time was over and he told us that he would like to travel and see if someone of his skills could find employment in some foreign court, they once more made sure that he had new travel gear and funds to cover times where he couldn't have reliable income.

    I wasn't jealous of him, for I knew that they would do the same for me. Harold, as the eldest of us three, received some land and funds to see if he could manage to cultivate plants not usually found in Britain.

    And then there was me. Perfect marks in all theoretical subjects, abysmal performance in most practical magic, saved from being labelled as a squib by the thinnest of margins. I knew i would never be able to make a living normally, so I kept looking for opportunities where even I could strike it big.

    Not four months had passed and opportunity came. Not in a way I expected, but in one that would spell death to thousands. War.
    Or rather, a crusade for Jerusalem yet again. It was mostly a muggle thing, but the muslim magicals certainly would not stand idly by as thier new lands were taken back by christians.

    As Henry II called his vassals to arms, his court wizard called for wizards and witches to volunteer. Many were drawn to that call, some for religion, some for exotic riches, some for glory, and some for foreign knowledge of alchemy, runes and spells.
    In the end, those would be empty dreams, and my fortune would come from elsewhere. But at the time, I was young and naive, like many that answered the call

    Despite asking me not to go like the fool I was, my parents made sure that I had the best equipment they could acquire on short notice.
    Once everything was ready and I set off, the entire family was there to tell me their goodbyes and to wish me luck. Only later did I realize that they didn't wish me luck to bring back glory and riches, but that they wished me luck to return at all.

    I met up with the other magical crusaders at a designated tavern in Diagon Alley, where we would then be assigned to ships. Unlike the muggles, who would sail around Portugal and Spain to english terretory in southern France, we would cross the channel and head there overland, since the convenience of magic would allow us faster travel.
    This split was mainly done to avoid unfortunate incidents between uneducated and overly religious serfs and us.

    Our journey was uneventful until we were somewhere in the middle of France, when our leader received an owl that the King had died and Richard I ascended to the throne. With that same message, our orders were changed and we set out on our new route, heading southeast to Genoa, then further East into the Balkans and Constantinople, where we would join up with other magicals from France and the Holy Roman Empire.
    We had also been told to accept anyone, magical or not, if they wishedto join up with the crusade, but had no army to attach to.

    At the end of our march we had gathered up some eccentric people, even if nothing could ever top the centaur who had convinced himself to be just a cursed human who in his search for a cure had turned religious. To this day I am unsure if he was serious or if he was that dedicated just to see peoples faces when he told them.

    As we neared the gates to the city, a guard approached and told us in very firm words that we would not be allowed to enter, on the grounds that other crusaders had made trouble repeatedly. Furthermore he warned us that we should not loiter around and head to the northernmost point this side of the strait, where the French and Germans had made camp.

    Once there, we settled in and sent an owl with a request for further orders now that we had grouped up with our allies.
    As the days went on and we didn't receive a reply, most of us grew tense and wary. When asking our allies turned up that they were also unable to reach thier main armies, most of us agreed that something must have happened, even if nobody was sure what.

    That evening we gathered up representatives for the smaller factions and independents of our own camp, as the designated scribe of this meeting, i can say that it was an unproductive farce filled with posturing between people from rivaling places of origin. That is, until one of the independent representatives stepped up and told the assembled people that she would continue to Jerusalem without orders and invited everyone along.
    Spoiler: Memory
    "Fools!"

    The silence that descended on the assembly after someone shouted that word was palpable. Slowly everyone turned to the speaker, who had stood up from her seat. A white cloak over silver armor, an impassive face framed by golden blonde hair. Tall enough that she was taller than any other person here, even if most of them hadn't been sitting.

    "We are at war, and yet here you are, squabbling about who gets to be the leader while we wait for anything to happen. Have none of you considered what it could mean for all of us when no messenger can get here? When all our own messenges are answered by silence? Again, we are at war. The most likely option is that the owls are getting intercepted."

    None spoke up, for everyone here knew or suspected, but had not dared say it out loud.

    "We are on the border to enemy territory, so a few intercepts are expected, but every single one? No, most likely we are not next to enemy territory, but already inside of it. The French and Germans have been chased out of Constantinople under the pretext of being troublemakers, but instead of letting them make camp just a few miles outside of the city, they had been told to come all the way to the north here, where boats or ferrys to cross the strait are unavailable.

    Since the majority of our other forces should either be south at sea, or southeast where they already landed. All owls would take the most direct routes, right over Constantinople.
    We have to face the facts. Byzantium has, most likely, sided with our enemy. Therefore the best choice we have is to independently cross the strait, march southeast across Anatolia to the edge of the Mediterranean and then to meet up with our forces in the south.

    Tomorrow night, i will cross the strait and ensure that everyone who follows me will have safe passage. Make sure to conjure or transfigure enough transport for everyone. Prepare yourself and rest well during the day."

    With that, she turned and left. In her wake, all were silent and unmoving.
    Only when the first drops of rain started falling, did people turn and leave aswell.

    That night it started raining. By morning all unenchanted tents were abandoned to the elements. By noon, the wind had picked up. By evening, the ground was a swampy mess instead of of the dried out earth from yesterday.

    When that knight left the camp in the direction of the waterfront, the entire English-Independent forces followed. Our movements weren't unnoticed however, and the French and German camps attached to us. I assume some of ours told them what happened, or they had spies in our camp. Well, we also had some in theirs.

    On the edge of the strait she stopped and told us to wait until she was in position, then cross over as fast as we could.
    Spoiler: Memory
    Howling gale force winds, a downpour of such proportions that it was difficult to see more than sixty feet. A figure in white, unaffected by the weather, a mere few steps away from a cliff above the raging waves below. Ten feet inland stand the foremost of an army, all in dry dark cloaks, as if the rain were unable to touch these figures. The white one speaks.

    "As soon as I'm gone, make a ramp down to the water, as wide as possible. Once I'm doing my part, dry it to prevent anyone from slipping. Then make boats and cross the strait as fast as possible. Keep the lights down as much as is feasible to work with. No need to make it easy for possible lookouts."

    When none respond with anything but a nod, she turns and steps to the edge. From under her cloak she pulls forth a shield of royal blue, embedded golden lines glowing with unnatural, yet gentle light.
    She throws it into the storm, to the raging sea beneath her.

    "How do we know? How do we know when to beginn?"
    One of the other people had taken a step forward.
    White has since bend her knees to prepare for her jump, leaning slightly forward. She stops moving when the question reaches her. She stays that way for a scant few seconds, then speaks.

    "You'll know."

    She jumps, far faster and with far more force than should be possible for any human. The cliff beneath her, weakened by the heavy rain, shatters under her feet as she pushes off. It collapses and the loose stone and earth falls into the waves below. Left behind is a steep incline, but it is already easier to turn into a ramp than it was just moments before.

    They wait. Soon, some start to fidget as they look in the direction the white one disappeared in. But even restless as they are, they stay silent.
    Then, the monotony of the storm gets broken, as a quiet tune reaches the shore. At first, only a few notice, but soon they all hear the calm and tranquil music. Someone in the crowd identifies the instrument as a harp.

    Slowly the rain and wind lessen in strength, until both are gone completely. Some look up at the now clear sky, the full moon surrounded by stars. Some have their eyes drawn to the distance, where the calm is abruptly cut of by a towering wall of rain and clouds. The rest look at the dark waters of the strait, unnaturally still and even.

    Then one of the wizards throws off his hood and pulls out his wand.
    "Stop daydreaming! We don't have all night! Go! Go! GO!"
    And starts transfiguring the earth. He is soon joined by others.
    It is not long until the first boats and rafts are on their way, the originator of the memory in one of them.

    In the distance, there is a white outline atop the waters, and as the crusaders come ever closer, their only obstruction are barely perceivable ripples on the water, striking the front of the transports in tune with the music.

    When they pass their white companion, they see her standing wither her feet halfway submerged in the water, playing her music on what looks like an oversized silver bow with a dozen strings. For once her face shows the smallest bit of emotion, as she stands there with closed eyes and a reminiscing smile. In the shadow between her feet is a small shape with faintly glowing eyes of blue. Everyone feels the gaze, even those that merely watch the memory.

    Soon they leave her far behind and close in on the other shore. All but one occupants of the boats stands and waves their wands in that direction, to pave the way for their followers.

    __________

    I hope I'll get the next part out with less of a delay this time, but I make no promises I can't be sure to keep.
     
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  29. Threadmarks: Abyssina 19 - Canut forging weapons
    darthcourt10

    darthcourt10 Versed in the lewd.

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    Snippet 7: S0ngD0g13

    The sound of a hammer rang from Canut's quarters as Angband approached the door; the Battleship Demon had holed herself up within and not emerged for six days, citing 'a pressing personal matter' as the reason for her seclusion. Angband was concerned, and so sought Canut's chambers. "Canut, are you well? May I enter?" she called through the stout oaken door.

    "I am well, Lady Angband; enter at your pleasure," came the reply. When the Carrier opened the door, a blast of heat so intense as to be almost a physical blow struck her and staggered her back half a step. Canut stood at an anvil, her hammer rising and falling steadily as she shaped a piece of metal. "I am almost finished with the last piece, Lady Angband; I apologize if my absence was cause for concern."

    The Carrier frowned. "You've been in here for six days, Canut, and all anyone's heard the whole time is constant hammering; of course it was cause for concern, especially given Ocean Liner Demon's recent preoccupation with her sister. Just what have you been forging in here?"

    The Pre-Dreadnought quenched the sword-blade she'd beveled and and then put it back into the forge to heat up for tempering before she replied. "Weapons. Weapons for certain others, though not of the same quality as my axe. Arms of that make are for later, though these are worthy of names."

    Angband, fascinated by the artistry of Canut's forging, watched in silence as Gateway Princess' Mistress-at-Arms tempered the sword, sharpened it, and engraved the broad, straight blade before fitting it to an S-shaped guard and a grip of carved wood. "What does the engraving say?" Angband asked, looking at the runes that ran down the fuller.

    "Sie, die mich ausübt, ist die Wildkatze, und ich bin die Klaue der Wildkatze." Canut set the katzbalger aside. "She who wields me is the Wildcat, and I am the Wildcat's Claw."

    "Who is it for?"

    "For Freyja, the Chi-Class whom I met on the border. Her sword is a katzbalger, a 'Cat-Gutter', and her name is 'Klaue', 'Claw'." Canut showed her liege-lady's daughter each of the others, then banked the forge-fire. "Now all that remains is to give the weapons to their wielders."

    .....................................................

    Freyja had loved her sword, and now Canut knocked on the door to Liner Demon's chambers. The Abyssal Liner opened the door and Canut nodded respectfully to Gateway's Second-in-Command. "Pardon my intrusion, Ocean Liner Demon, but I wished to bring you something, as well as to let you know I am finished with my personal matter and able to return to my duties." She extended a cloth-wrapped object to Liner Demon.

    Liner Demon unwrapped the object and took hold of the dark-stained haft of the warhammer presented to her. The head's striking face was engraved on either side with eagles'-heads that transitioned into jagged lightning-bolts that ran down the length of the long spike opposite the striking-face. "A hammer..."

    Canut nodded. "More than a hammer; a warhammer fit for a Princess' Champion. The spike is a 'Crow's-Beak' for piercing armor, and both eagles and lightning were symbols of Olympian Zeus. I confess, I've not named her; I couldn't find a proper one, and perhaps she was meant to be named by her wielder."

    Olympic stared deep into Canut's eyes for a long, silent moment, then she nodded, and said simply, "Thank you, Canut."

    ......................................................

    After Canut left Liner Demon, she made her way to the Training-ground and began practicing with her axe. When Skadi had named her 'Battle-Cry', so long ago, it had been with no small amount of irony. She never shouted, never sang, never raised her voice...

    Canut never sang, but she did dance, a dance as old as Life itself, and one she knew by heart and yet constantly learned new steps to. As Canut glided across the practice-field, she whirled and pirouhetted, graceful and fluid yet powerful and forceful, and her feet drummed the ground beneath her. To Canut, combat was a dance, and the drumming of her steps and the whistling of her blade were sweeter music than ever a bard had played...
     
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  30. Threadmarks: JNHRO Champions
    darthcourt10

    darthcourt10 Versed in the lewd.

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    Lord K

    A.N./ It occurs to me that Moriko might have her own J.N.H.R.O. member she could really want to meet. If she's been in the Mixed Yokai Martial Fighting Syndicate, then she's more than likely heard stories of Sarutobi's old heyday in the predecessor organisation/earlier versions of the fighting rings, back before Oda and Shika cleaned things up, and when they were more akin to "dog-fighting for petting-zoo people".

    And even before that, she could have possibly followed his exploits as a kid, which might have been what got her interested in pit fighting as a career post-reserve escape in the first place.

    Champions

    One of Moriko's earliest memories growing up, was the Wizarding Wireless. Even among those living in the Reserve, they never had much, and more often than not, they had little, but one of the few things they could proudly claim to own was a Wizarding Wireless set.

    Even if it was a horrendously older model, likely already ancient in the pre-war era, constantly on the fritz, and with a garbled sound quality that even on a good day, was only a few degrees above incomprehensible static.

    But her parents would never have been able to afforded a new one. Not when they have her and Suzume, and especially not later when Sachiko came along. And so the old, half-busted set remained.

    Old and half-busted, but fondly looked after and cared for by the three sisters.

    Because for the three young wolf girls, the radio was more than just an occasionally malfunctioning source of entertainment or music. When tuned to the right frequencies, and if the weather wasn't too bad, sometimes they could catch the airwaves of stations far beyond the walls of the reserve. Not just magical, but even the dearth of muggle ones popping up in the post-war era.

    It was a window. An escape, into the strange, almost mythical world beyond the impoverished life they lived. There were news articles and biopics on people and places that may as well have been as far away as Timbuktu, for how accessible the rest of Japan was to them. There were radio dramas and stage plays, where fact and fiction mattered little and were almost in distinguishable to children who had never seen the outside world with their own eyes. The increasing popularity of music stations and disk jockeys added an all new, and weirdly lyrical way to learn about life beyond the realm of the reserve, snatching fragments of fashion, pop culture, world events, and whatever ingrained itself enough upon the youth to be mentioned in the singles and chart toppers of the day.

    And then there was sport. Suzume loved listening to recordings, or even just the after-match results of more zen-like and concentration filled disciples. Things like kyuudo, marks-spell casting, and even muggle shooting sports, though without the visual component, Moriko personally found it rather boring. Sachiko on the other hand, seemed to have a tragic love of the faster electives out there. Quidditch, swimming, even running. If people went fast in it, and it got the crowd's hearts pumping as athletes displayed their physical peaks, Sachiko was hooked on listening to it. But hearing her little sister's heart break, when her mother once had to tell their younger, sickly sibling that it would likely be impossible for her to ever competitively swim or run, was honestly one of Moriko's worst memories of her childhood home.

    As for Moriko herself, she liked quidditch too, and was thankful she shared that interest with Sachiko. She also liked to listen to Sumo tournaments they sometimes managed to hear from Tokyo, and even the occasional muggle boxing match. The things she occasionally heard and picked up, were unfortunately skills that tended to come in handy, growing up with the kids in their community.

    Suzume normally used her words to deflect confrontation, but when diplomacy failed, it was often Moriko who waded in with her fists to deal with the local bullies that picked on her and her twin sister, and then could be especially horrid towards the sickly and confidence lacking "dead-weight" of Sachiko. To be entirely fair, sometimes the war of words hadn't even broken down or reached the point of goading, before Moriko already found herself bearing in like a biting, clawing, missile.

    She ended up being the one in the dirt more often than not, especially when outnumbered and when the more cowardly bullies started to get their older siblings involved. But even when left slinking away bruised, bloody and with the needling barbs of the kids in her ears, she could at least take solace that she hadn't taken their acid words lying down, and that it was only she who ever came home with the lingering marks of such childish bust ups, not her precious sisters.

    It was because of this, that her favourite sport she liked to listen to on the wireless, wasn't quidditch, or sumo, or even boxing. In fact it barely even counted as a sport at all.

    What Moriko really liked to listen to most, sometimes getting up in the middle of the night and listening with strained years to the near muted set, were pirate-radio Wizarding Wireless broadcasts of underground yokai fighting ring matches.

    -----------------

    In particular, there is one fighter that Moriko idolizes and adores above all others.

    The first couple of matches of she catches, the young che-wolf, like the rest of the live audiences sometimes picked in the background by the microphone, is impressed but not exactly intrigued.

    But then, as time goes on, this rookie from the north, a young, brutal sarugami, begins making waves. Match after match he wins, never staying down, never giving up, and often simply outlasting the rare opponents he can't put down. After the fourth time he takes on a fighter well outside his weight class and phenotype, but yet again pulls off an impossible win, people start calling the young Yamazaki Sarutobi "The Dreadnought Destroyer of Dewa".

    Like so many other fans, Moriko finds herself taken in and enraptured by the exploits of the increasingly considered "future contender". The Dreadnought Destroyer is relentless, angry and vicious, but he is also indomitable, unfaltering, and regularly defies belief in just how much punishment he can take, seemingly going beyond the impossible to win matches on sheer willpower alone.

    Every hit that sends him to the dirt, just makes him get right back up all the angrier. Every time he's driven back into a corner or against the walls of the cage, he fights back all the harder. Every attempt to knock him out or pin him, just makes him rise all the more defiant and resolved. Even the rare loses he takes, are merely crucibles that leave him reforged, wiser and stronger for it, by the time of each rematch.

    Upwards and upwards he climbs, on an almost undefeated streak, rarely losing or being knocked off the ranks for long, and all while gathering scores of enraptured fans along the way.

    For many, Yamazaki Sarutobi is the power fantasy and idol so many yokai kids of Moriko's generation want to be or emulate. He takes nothing from nobody. He makes naysayers eat their words with his victories. He makes the trash talkers pay for every pre-match barb, when he puts them into the dirt of the arena floor. He faces down the unfair bookings made by organizers who want to prove the hero stands upon a pillar of sand, only to them make fools of them and win anyway.

    But most importantly of all to the young Moriko, is that he never gives in to the unfairness of anyone, or anything. Not just in the ring, but outside of it as well.

    -----------------

    One late June night in 1958, Moriko finds herself glued to the Wizarding Wireless in rapt awe.

    "I can not believe these two animals! HOW are they still going?!?

    This is it. The match everyone has been waiting for.

    "The Destroyer is back on his feet! But wait! So is Cruciatus Jack!"

    Doing her best to remain silent, Moriko practically vibrates with nervous energy as she listens to the set.

    "I've seen Yamazaki take some real hits in my time but- OH SWEET HELL, I DO NOT BELIEVE THIS! NO! NO! HOW MUCH CAN THIS MAN TAKE?!?"

    Grabbing the Wireless, the Okami pre-teen almost has to restrain herself from shaking the ailing device.

    'What's going on!? What's happening?!?'

    "AND OH, WHAT A REVERSAL BY YAMAZAKI!!! A reminder to all you folks out there listening in, that this monkey isn't just big and tough! He is sly and fast as well! It takes a special kind of genius or madness to let yourself get caught in a wani's coils on purpose, just so you can trap it in a knot of it's own making!"

    Moriko is almost breathless with excitement as she listens to the play-by-play.

    "But Cruciatus Jack isn't down for the count yet, and he SMASHES The Destroyer across the arena with a MASSIVE tail-strike! But it looks like Yamazaki just took one of Jack's horns with him!!! Dear gods above, the amount of blood in this match! If this keeps up, we're going to be seeing one of these men going to the morgue, rather than the hospital! Biting, clawing, bludgeoning, casting and cursing, we've seen it all folks, and now it's down to being a drag-out-slobberknocker for the history books! The question is, how much more of it can these men take? Yamazaki, so well known for simply outlasting his opponents, is now struggling to get back off the ground. Jack, normally no slouch when it comes to pain and endurance either, now looks like he's now reaching the bottom of the tank too."

    Anxiously, Moriko bites her lip "Come on Sarutobi...."

    Over the radio, a cheer sounds out that almost drowns the voice of the announcer in the fervor.

    "And The Destroyer is back on his feet before Cruicatus Jack!!! I DO NOT BELIEVE THIS!!! THIS SARUGAMI IS TOUCHING THE UNTOUCHABLE, AND WINNING STILL!"

    The young she-wolf has to slap her hands over her mouth to restrain her elated shout, even as she jumps up and down in excitement.

    "Go Sarutobi! Go! Kick his ass!"

    "He's in with a right! A left! A right! A left- it's a fake out! But Jack counters and goes to the air to get some distance, but here comes Yamazaki with an axe-kick! Cruciatus dodges, but his altitude is reduced! Yamazaki is grabbing is tail and- OH MOTHER OF MERCY! THE DESTROYER JUST HURLED CRUCIATUS JACK AGAINST THE WALL OF THE ARENA! HE IS BEATING THAT DRAGON AGAINST THAT WARDED CAGE WALL LIKE IT'S AN OLD TAMATI MAT! JACK GETS LOOSE, BUT THIS SARUGAMI IS WITHOUT MERCY! HE WON'T LET UP! HE IS NOW HOLDING CRUCIATUS' FACE AGAINST THE CAGE BY HIS REMAINING HORN AND DELIVERING A FLURRY OF RIGHT HOOKS INTO HIS JAW! YOU CAN SEE THE CAGE STARTING TO BEND AND THE WARDS FLARING WITH EVERY BLOW, JUST TO KEEP THIS BRUTALITY CONTAINED!!!"

    Caught up in the rush and excitement mirrored by the crowd in the background, Moriko is estatic. In her tiny, ramshackle home so far from Tokyo, for the briefest moment as she dances and emulates the movements the announcer describes in her living room, Moriko imagines that it is she who is in the ring. Unbowed, unbroken and on the cusp of victory, fulled by the roar of the crowd, and standing in The Dreadnought Destroyer of Dewa's shoes, delivering the most unholiest of beatings to Cruciatus Jack.

    "OH! BUT CRUCIATUS JACK FINALLY COUNTERS! HE CLAWS ONE OF THE DESTROYER'S EYES!"

    Moriko abruptly stops dancing and gasps in horror, as the outcome of the match swings into uncertainty once more.

    "AND THERE'S THE FOLLOW UP PUNCH!!! Well, there's not much you can do when you get punched by a fist almost half your size! The Destroyer goes SAILING across the arena, but I don't know if Jack has it left in him to get out of this corner! He's barely able to get up, leaning and holding onto the cage wall for support! Yamazaki may have been struggling with the bite to his left leg for most of the match, but oh boy, I honestly doubt Cruciatus even knows where he is anymore after that many hits to the head!"

    Dropping to her knees in front of the wireless, Moriko strains her ears to make out what's happening.

    "Both these men are in a serious bad way! Whatever momentum Yamazaki has seems to have had, has been lost, and his face is awash with blood as he struggles to get back up. But Cruciatus Jack is gone! He's off with the fucking fairies! Somebody needs to stop this before one of these two ends up killing the other! The referees are all looking at each other, but- wait! What's-!!! I DON'T BELIEVE THIS!?!?! YAMAZAKI IS GATHERING KI!!! HOW ON EARTH DOES HE HAVE ANYTHING LEFT TO GIVE AT THIS POINT?!?!? THE DESTROYER REFUSES TO LET THIS DREADNOUGHT GO!!! WHAT DOES HE EVEN- WAIT!!! NO!!! NO YAMAZAKI, DON'T DO IT!!!"

    Suddenly, there is a squeal of static over the wireless, that causes Moriko to flinch away. People in the crowd shriek, scream and burst out in a cacophonous uproar, while the microphone catches a further incomprehensible crescendo, which bursts and crackles like a symphony of explosively shattering magical protections and twisting steel. Even in the safety of her living room, Moriko feels her heart jump into her throat.

    Finally through the mess of noise, she is at last able to pick out the voice of the announcer again

    "-THAT KILLED THEM!!! KAMI ABOVE AS MY WITNESS, THEY'VE KILLED EACH OTHER!!!"

    In horror, Moriko cups her hands over her mouth feeling sick.

    "YAMAZAKI SARUTOBI JUST HIT CRUCIATUS JACK WITH A KI ENHANCED SPEAR TACKLE HARD ENOUGH TO PUT BOTH OF THEM THROUGH THE DAMN CAGE!!! GOOD GODS!!! IN ALL MY YEARS DOING THIS, I HAVE NEVER SEEN ONE OF THOSE CAGES BREAK!!! I DON'T KNOW IF EITHER OF THEM ARE ALIVE!!! BOTH OF THEM LOOK LIKE THEY JUST GOT HIT BY LIGHTNING BOLTS, AND ARE NOW LYING MOTIONLESS BY THE ARENA-SIDE IN FRONT OF THE STANDS!!! THE AIR SMELLS LIKE BURNT FUR AND COOKED SCALES! SOMEBODY NEEDS TO GET THE DAMN MEDI-WIZARDS DOWN THERE NOW! OFF TO THE SIDE, THERE'S TODACHI GENRO WATCHING- WAIT!!!"

    Suddenly the emotional roller coaster twists once more, and Moriko feels a jolt of joy and hope.

    "I DON'T BELIEVE IT!!! YAMAZAKI IS MOVING!!! HE LOOKS LIKE HE'S GOT ONE FOOT IN THE GRAVE AND CAN BARELY USE HIS LEFT ARM, BUT HE IS MOVING!!! THE DREADNOUGHT DESTROYER HAS LIVED UP TO HIS TITLE ONCE AGAIN, AND IS NOW MOVING FOR THE PIN BEFORE CRUCIATUS JACK CAN WAKE UP AND- WHAT!? WHAT THE HELL?!?! WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON DOWN THERE?!?! TODACHI GENRO IS ARGUING WITH THE REFEREES AND- AND HE'S SAYING THE PIN NEEDS TO BE IN THE ARENA????"

    "What!!!" Moriko isn't the only one that in angered by this unfair call, judging by the slowly growing shouting from the crowd, and even some of the refs and support staff, as captured in the background of the announcer's broadcast.

    "GENRO, YOU MADMAN!!! JUST LET THEM END THE MATCH!!! CRUCIATUS HAS LOST!!! HE'S- OH FOR THE LOVE OF-!!! CRUCIATUS IS NOW BACK UP AS WELL!!! AND OH SWEET MERCY, HE DIDN'T JUST BREAK OUT OF THE PIN USING HIS SUPERIOR SIZE, HE'S HIT YAMAZAKI WITH SOMETHING! THE SARUGAMI IS STAGGERING AND WEAVING EVERYWHERE- HE'S PUKING UP BLOOD! WHETHER THAT'S FROM THE WANI'S LATEST CURSE, AN EARLIER INJURY, OR HURTING SOMETHING INTERNAL WHEN BREAKING THE WARDS, I HAVE NO IDEA AT THIS POINT!!! THESE ARE DEAD MEN WALKING!!! CRUCIATUS CAN'T EVEN GET OFF THE GROUND AND- WHOA, WHOA, HEY- NO!!! STOP!!!"

    With a surprising loudness and clarity that speaks of just how close the action now is to the announcers booth, Moriko hears the sound of other voices shouting and wood splintering as something grabs hold of it with too much force, swiftly followed by the whoosh of a heavy mass sailing through the air. This latest calamity then finally ends with the sound of shattering wood, and what is almost certainly the sound of breaking bones.

    "YAMAZAKI JUST BUSTED THE AMERICAN ANNOUNCER'S TABLE OVER CRUCIATUS JACK'S HEAD!!! THAT THING MUST HAVE BEEN 65 POUNDS OF SOLID WOOD, AND HE JUST BROKE IT OVER THAT POOR DRAGON'S SKULL LIKE A BASEBALL BAT WITH ONE HAND!!! JACK IS BARELY MOVING, AND THE DESTROYER'S LOOKING ON HIS LAST LEGS AS WELL!!! BOTH THESE MEN ARE NOW COVERED IN BLOOD AND BURNS, AND WHO KNOWS WHAT THEY LOOK LIKE INTERNALLY!!!"

    Enraptured, all Moriko can do is listen to the Wireless and pray.

    "BY ALL THAT IS HOLY, SOMEBODY STOP THE DAMN MATCH!!! ENOUGH IS ENOUGH GENRO!!! JUST END IT BEFORE ONE OF THEM DIES!!!"

    Even with the distance between the announcer's stand and where the pit fighters are, Moriko then hears the bone rattling impact of what sounds to be a very drunken exchange of blows.

    "THE DREADNOUGHT DESTROYER IS STILL ON HIS FEET!!! BY SHEER WILL POWER ALONE, HE IS ATTEMPTING TO END THIS MATCH!!! HE'S TRYING TO DRAG CRUCIATUS JACK BACK TO THE HOLE THEY MADE IN THE CAGE!!! BUT WHILE CRUCIATUS IS BARELY AWARE OF WHAT'S GOING ON AND NO LONGER SEEMS ABLE TO WALK OR FLY, HE STILL REFUSES TO GO QUIETLY!!! YAMAZAKI'S HAVING NONE OF IT! HE IS KICKING THE HOLY HELL OUT WHAT'S LEFT OF CRUCIATUS' FACE! MY GODS, THERE IS SO MUCH BLOOD ALL OVER THIS RING SIDE NOW, FROM BOTH THESE FIGHTERS! AND OH MOTHER OF MERCY! YAMAZAKI HAS JUST RIPPED OFF CRUCIATUS JACK'S REMAINING HORN, AND NOW SEEMS INTENT ON BEATING HIM TO DEATH WITH IT!!!


    Riveted to the wireless, Moriko finds herself unable to turn away of be anymore disturbed, strung with the tension of wanting the match finally brought to a definitive conclusion

    "ENOUGH YAMAZAKI!!! THAT DRAGON HAS A FAMILY!!! WHAT AN UNBELIEVABLE AND HORRIFIC NIGHT THIS HAS BEEN FOLKS!!! THEY'RE GOING TO NEED TO LEVITATE CRUCIATUS OUT OF HERE AT THIS POINT!!! AND NOW THEY'RE FINALLY BACK INSIDE THE CAGE! YAMAZAKI JUST FLIPPED CRUCIATUS JACK BACK THOUGH THE HOLE THEY MADE IN THE WALL! THE DRAGON IS BARELY BACK UP ON THE RING, BUT I DON'T THINK THE SARUGAMI HAS IT IN HIM TO TOSS THAT DRAGON ANY FURTHER! NOT WITH HIS LEFT ARM THE WAY IT IS! AND NOW YAMAZAKI IS BACK INSIDE AS WELL!!!"

    Glued to her seat in front of the wireless, the young she-wolf vibrates with barely contained excitement. Surely this is it!

    "I DON'T KNOW IF THAT POOR DRAGON IS EVEN CONSCIOUS AT THIS POINT! YAMAZAKI IS GOING FOR THE PIN! ONE! TWO! THREE! FOUR! FIVE!-"

    Even before the announcer has finished, Moriko is already leaping to her feet in elation and victory. Sarutobi has done it! He's won!

    "-NINE! TEN!"

    In the background a victory bell rings out. Outside her house, Moriko can hear more than a few elated shouts, echoing from a couple of the rare households elsewhere in the village that also follow the yokai fighting rings as well.

    "HE'S DONE IT!!! I CAN'T BELIEVE HE DID IT, BUT HE'S WON! THE SARUGAMI WHO TOOK ON A DRAGON HAS WON!!! THE DREADNOUGHT DESTROYER OF DEWA HAS DONE THE IMPOSSIBLE TONIGHT!!! HE'S BROKEN THE UNBREAKABLE, SIMPLY TO BEAT THE UNBEATABLE!!! YAMAZAKI SARUTOBI IS NOW OFFICIALLY THE FIGHTING CIRCUIT CHAMPION OF JAPAN!!!"

    A rolling roar rises up from the crowd at this confirmation. A victorious explosion of voices and cheering at a match that will surely be remembered for decades, not just because of the violence of the fight, but also the conquest of the trials, obstacles and machinations thrown the underdog's way, only for him to beat all of them in turn. With wild abandon, the crowd celebrates for their new champion, as competing chants of "Sarutobi", "Yamazaki" and "Destroyer" begin to drown out any further words from the announcer. Outside in the distance, there is the burst of light and sound accompanied by the elated cheering of someone setting off fireworks in their backyard.

    So infectious is the atmosphere of victorious elation, Moriko herself notices to late that she is caught up in dancing around the room and shouting at the top of her lungs.

    For waking her parents and being discovered cheering "Sarutobi Won!" at the top of her lungs while leaping about on the furniture, Moriko is banned from the Wireless set for three weeks in punishment for being up so late, and listening to such "despicable" late night programming.

    Moriko doesn't regret it one bit.

    -----------------

    It's only a few days later that she ends up the thick of another bust up, defending the honor and name of her younger sister from the other kids again.

    Then the big kids get involved, and despite feeling confidently proud she knocked a few teeth loose this time, Moriko finds herself in the dirt once more.

    Initially, she plans not to do anything else. They've had their fun, she's got her licks in, but they won as usual. It's time for her to let them wander off, mocking her youngest sister, her family's poverty, and her fighting skills. Then she can scurry away with her tail between her legs, and do her best to hide the bruises and scrapes before her parents get home.

    This time however, something stops her.

    The thought, of the match the other night, and how no matter what happened, Yamazuki Sarutobi, the Dreadnought Destroyer of Dewa, refused to stay down.

    If a sarugami can take on a wani and win, what does she have to fear from a bunch of dumb bullies?

    Gritting her teeth, Moriko pushes herself back up, rising unsteadily to her feet. Her opponents have their backs to her. As far as they known, this is the usual rote. They think she's beaten and cowed, just like she always eventually is. The first sign they get that this time, and forever more, something is different, is the battle cry.

    Turning around in shock, the leader of the group and chief tormentor of her precious little sister, is then just in time to catch sight of Moriko practically throwing herself at him, eyes blaze with some new, previously unseen fury and defiance.

    The crunch of his nose with the impact of her fist, produces the kind of elation that even years later, most people would consider corporeal patronus worthy.

    -----------------

    They still beat the tar out of her in revenge for her surprise attack.

    But it's a start.
     
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