The blades of vengeances have fallen swiftly. The shinobi are no more as 'Absolute Justice' has returned...now, it is the Samurai that rule the Five Major Nations!
But at what cost? Have they become the very thing that they despised the most...? Heroes and villains seem to change roles every day, but one thing is for certain - we yearn for our freedom, for days gone by where we flew the skies unhindered.
N A R R A T O R As the two of you continue to speak, the flight continues to descend slowly from the sky, gaining speed with every passing second. Before too long, Fusaju dives downward, and maneuvers his form deftly amidst the scenery of the island-- a lush and tropical jungle, boisterous with birdsong, and filled with the fragrance of fresh rainwater. A plethora of vines hang from the thick dark wood branches you both pass, and-- from time to time-- you swear you spot gigantic creatures hidden within the flora.
"You should ask him yourself." Fusaju answers, in response to your latest inquiry. "The Dovahkiin and I have only been in each other's company for the past few weeks, you see. After the day he remembered how to call upon the members of my family." Ahead of you both, a wall of mist can be seen, obscuring the other half of the island from sight. But, before Fusaju enters the realm of this fog, he does something you fail to expect.
In a rapid-fire display of aerial acrobatics, perfect timing, and swift accuracy, the yellow-eyed beast sharply turns sideways (and upwards), throwing you up in the air like a rag doll with its powerful paws. For a second or two, you're hopeless in mid-air, arms flailing as the current of the wind creates ripples throughout your clothes. Then, before you know it, you land roughly on Fusaju's back. Safe from the impending fall atop a sturdy passenger's harness, but your privates a little worse for wear, due to the impact.
Chuckling deeply, the dragon swerves deeper into the jungle, a swoosh of air resounding as your forms enter the vicinity of the mist. "Hold on tightly to the reins, Rovaanzeymah." He requests, his chuckle dispersing into a curt rumble. Despite being able to see only what is immediately five meters ahead of him, the mighty dragon still manages to easily evade incoming trees, and even shoot through the gaps between vines, in some instances.
Before the Hiraishin formula placed on one of the many ivory pillars (the one at the far right of the picture, facing the staircase), we instantly emerged, a gloved hand holding onto Blanche's marked wrist. But, before I can say anything, a sharp pain overwhelms my senses, and I stumble forwards, releasing her wrist from my grasp. "Ah-- damn!" I curse in growled agony, palming the side of my head in a wasted effort to ease the intolerable suffering. Since we'd last seen each other, the symbiote had integrated itself deeper into my system. And, my endgame was coming soon.
The pain subsides after a moment, tensed up by the recent warp I'd performed, but returning to its usual status of underlining aches. Aches that, for the past week, have prevented me from getting a good night's sleep. Had Hirihi not been there to aid me ease such constant torment, I doubted I would have had the strength to retrieve Blanche today. But, I did, and I was resolved to muster the vigor to bring this affliction to an end today-- one way, or another. Perhaps, the thing that inhabited her eye was causing me to lose sense of my own mind... but I wastired of living with it.
That much was certain.
Composing myself, I turn to the blue-eyed belle I'd transported, my hand still caressing the ache on my head. "Sorry if I startled you," I apologize, an uncertain smile crossing my exhausted expression. "As you can see, things haven't exactly gotten any... better." My statement is followed with a light sigh, turning away from her, and towards the spiraling staircase ahead. Surely, I think, she's wondering where we are. After all, the long hallway we are currently in cuts through several foyers, and the architecture of this place is quite regal, with no sign of any medical equipment or staff-- yet.
After the third heartbeat on the wrist issued, however, you soon find that waiting is not a worry. For, as promised, you are instantly whisked away-- your form blinking out of existence, then reappearing in a land far, far away.
Atop the highest peaks of Kaminari no Kuni-- and under conditions that would categorize it as the epitome of secluded in any dictionary-- there exists a large, bygone manor. Built into the side of a mountain, only miles away from its frosty summit, this elegant super-structure overlooks a vast tapestry of clouds on a daily basis. Its architecture, though archaic in appearance, has proven to be very resilient. Like the lord (or lady) who once lived here, however, knowledge of this pre-war palace has been lost to time. Until now. Serving as one of a handful of top-secret facilities for interrogations, imprisonment, high-risk surgeries, and witness protection, the government of Kumogakure no Sato have since laid claim over this old world estate.
At the center of this manor house is a beautiful atrium, the large open space it creates allowing the rainfall of the colder seasons to ritually fill the decorative pool below. Rectangular in shape, this pool is surrounded by many intricately carved statues, each of them depicting a different armored angel. Attesting to the sheer enormity of this palace, the atrium is surrounded by elegant foyers at all directions, which precede the plethora of rooms, dining halls, and stairways in the rest of the structure.
Long hallways on the ground floor precede doorways into rooms such as parlours, libraries, and studies. Thick ivory pillars border these hallways, as do wooden benches, and ornate pieces of furniture are placed against the walls, overlooked by beautiful paintings-- and sometimes even entire murals. Some of the doors on the ground floor lead into mysterious places, with a few of them granting access to stairways that lead into the dungeons underground. Others lead to entrances into tunnels-- that burrow into the depths of the very mountain this manor is built upon, and lead to even larger chambers.
Although the exact scope of these underground facilities is yet to be truly known (by anyone who isn't the Raikage, at least), the upper levels of the palace are a different story. There are three stories in total, each with as much space and complexity as the ground floor, and their own plethora of rooms. The second floor specializes in housing medical equipment, surgery rooms, and interrogation chambers. The third floor is reserved solely for debriefing rooms, high profile meetings, and temporary housing for any form of detainees (not including prisoners).
One interesting fact about the manor: for a place so ideal for festivals and luxurious parties, there is absolutely no way to get there by any standard means. No paths, or massive stairways, built along the mountain to speak of. No elevators, or tunnels, available for passage. And, to this day, the agents of CROW struggle to imagine how it was built. Did the manpower required to build this place actually climb the mountain's treacherous side? And, if so, how did they get supplies up here? The mysteries behind this place are abundant. But, the lack of human presence really does create a substantially peaceful and serene setting.
Outside of the manor, small plots of land are devoted to pleasures such as small gardens, conservatories, sunrooms, and outdoor shrines. Majestic statues, much larger than those found in the manor, grace these recreational areas-- their artistic beauty only in competition with the glistening water fountains scattered throughout. At the edges of the property, the only thing keeping someone from falling off the edge-- and to a seemingly endless drop downward-- is an ornately carved stone wall, reaching up to the mid-torso. Like the rest of this palace, the stone bears an ivory shade, and depicts images of war amongst the clouds.
This locale is strictly private. A faction of CROE (alt. CROW) guards this palace when the Raikage is not here, or when an important matter of business is being attended to.
OOC: For the sake of reminder, here's the map of the tomb: LINK. N A R R A T O R
Fusa was, despite her cool and unconcerned facade, a sweetheart at the core. Relationships she made with individuals she liked-- they weren't just for show, or for concepts such as duty, honor, or privilege. No, when she actually bonded with someone on a personal level, the white wyrm was truly in it for the long haul. Through bad times or good-- until one of them died, or betrayed the other in some manner-- she would be there for a person she cares about. It was just that, through all of her years of life, this particular year had been particularly strange-- meeting humans left and right.
Despite her age, which was incredible by human standards, she was still a young one compared to the others in her family. In fact, the only difference between her and the baby (a little scamp they called Doju) was that she could fly. Until she completed her rites of passage-- exploring the human world, fighting alongside them honorably-- she was always going to be considered nothing more than a child by her seniors. And, she knew no top speed or flight maneuver of hers was going to change that. She needed to prove herself-- and it was going to be far more dangerous than just flying.
So, needless to say, she felt some sense of security with companions such as the Dovahkiin and you-- the young Odkiir-- by her side. She cared for you both, although she didn't make a habit of saying so publicly, and it was nice for her to know that you both returned the sentiment. Whether you chose to fight alongside her, or simply provide emotional support from time to time, she truly cherished these bonds. And, she would continue to serve proudly. So, when you voice your inquiries, a glimmer of this heartfelt camaraderie can be seen past the slits of her eyelids.
"I can't be sure." She answers, eyes closing yet again. "But, tell me of these places you would like to see. I haven't seen much of this world myself yet. I'd like to."
N A R R A T O R Just as Yukiko finishes speaking, a nurse steps in, the door creaking as she enters. With a smile (that doesn't nearly compare to the one Sozin bears at the moment), the petite blonde politely bows. "I'm very sorry for intruding, but I'm here for Mister Hallstrom's check-up, and our visiting hours are coming to a close now." Holding the door open for the two, she then quietly waits for them to say their last goodbyes for the day, before attending to her patient.
Sozin, in the meantime, can't help but continue on with his proud smile. "Thanks, you two. That's good to hear." He utters, eyes shifting between the two brightly. The world was, after all, a bit less dangerous with someone watching your back. And, knowing Yukiko and Kai could see past their differences, he was reassured that they would remain a squad, even without him there to see it. And, even with the devil at their doorstep.
And so, with the visit coming to a close, all that remained for the intact members of Gunjin was the meet-- at a place called Athena's Vigil. Awaiting them there: a mysterious new member, and an infamous agent of Kumogakure no Sato, next in line to be their squad captain. What triumphs (or tragedies) await Gunjin in their next chapter? And, how will it play a part in Kumogakure no Sato's evolution? Well... only time will tell.
N A R R A T O R Fusaju's flight takes a sharp turn downward suddenly, the currents of air passing by whipping your hair about, and threatening to relieve you of any exposed items on your person. The thrill that comes with such a movement makes it seem longer than it actually is but, eventually, the yellow-eyed dragon regains a steady altitude. And, below you, the detailed majesty of the land of lightning is finally (fully) revealed.
Having broken away from the thick mantle of clouds above, you can now see that Fusaju is flying along the coastline, over steep cliffs that precede the stunning, primeval pine forests. You're still not sure where he is headed, and you know Kumogakure no Sato is inland, so it is entirely reasonable to be worried. That is, until the dragon answers your inquiries, his booming voice easily heard, despite the roaring winds that assault you both.
"The Dovahkiin," He starts, as a giant crater within the forest passes beneath you both. It would seem that the forest was touched by the terrors of the First World War after all. "It translates as 'Dragonborn' in your tongue. It is the title which the Dov have chosen for your kin-- the man known as Atlas." There is a brief pause, as something is appearing in the distance, just offshore.
A large island-- half engulfed in a thick mist.
"I was asked to scour these lands in search of you, Rovaanzeymah. 'The Wandering Brother'." Fusaju continues, pointing his snout, and promptly thereafter his body, towards the giant island afar. "It would appear I was lucky to have found you when I did, ja?" Though you can barely see it, you notice a shark-like smirk appearing on the side of his reptilian face.
N A R R A T O R Your statement is followed by a momentary silence, nothing but the sound of the wind to accompany this unorthodox flight of yours. Then, with a mighty and wise rumble, the dragon carrying you actually speaks. "Fusaju." The beast answers, never once turning its head down to look at you, on account of its precisely coordinated flight posture. "This one's name is Fusaju."
The dragon's wings straighten as he glides downwards slightly, breaking through the veil of clouds below, so that you can now see glimpses of the mountainous terrain below. Pine forested regions sprawled out over rocky hills, calm lakes hidden within mysterious vales, waterfalls cascading down from the frosty alps. The land of lightning is truly a magnificent sight to behold, and it would appear as though it were never touched by war.
Before you can comment on the beauty of the terrain below, however, your unconventional 'ride' speaks once more. "You are the Dovahkiin's kin. Yours is 'Aota', is it not?" It asks, no obvious sense of haste in its voice. "Your name?" It continues, sensing that you didn't quite understand its foreign-accented wording in the previous statement. This beast seems to know more about you than you'd have thought. But what does it mean-- the Dovahkiin?
N A R R A T O R Long ago, before the Great Flash consumed the world, your older brother used to narrate tales of dragons to you. Stories of Seven Kingdoms, and iron thrones, and honorable kings, that-- to some extent-- took both your minds off the tragedies of the First World War. He'd also promised you, one cold and dreary day in Konohagakure no Sato, that he'd find a dragon someday, and he'd let you ride it. Now, to a small boy with a wild imagination, such a promise is completely believable. But you never foresaw this.
Seconds after you fall, you feel a great force tug at the back of your clothing and pull you upwards-- moments before your forehead strikes a sharp stone. The dodger-blue creature has captured you, and you can see the mountainous terrain beneath you rapidly departing, as the winged reptile ascends higher and higher into the sky. Grasping you firmly with both of its feet, you find that it is not hurting you. In fact, a sense of exhilaration sweeps throughout your body, specks of cold water dotting your face.
Needless to say, the cold air so high above is exhilarating-- and refreshing. But, that doesn't discount the fact that your life is in the hands of this supposedly man-eating beast, and you have no idea where it is taking you. For all you know, it could be feeding you to its young in a couple of minutes! Without much of a chance to escape at the moment, considering the current setting of your situation, you find that struggling against this isn't worth the effort. For now, with the emptiness of the clouded sky all around you, there isn't much you can do, but enjoy the high altitude ride.
Then, you remember something crucial. In the stories your older brother once told you, sometimes the dragon's could speak.
N A R R A T O R The skies overhead are covered in a great and primordial grey, moisture-laden clouds compelled to swirl into each other by the cold and bitter winds. Today was, quite obviously, a bad day to sail in from the south. And, as you continue to climb the rocky slopes of this mountainous incline, it would appear that Mother Nature is going to best you soon. The winds don't appear to be calming themselves down any time soon. And, it looks like it is about to start raining. Not a downpour, mind you, but a drizzle.
Then, suddenly, the very air seems to tremble with a loud and rapturous roar. A primal fear instantly strikes at your core, lingering for a moment, as the powerful echo produced slowly dies out. What, in the name of the seven hells, could that have been? Your eyes may scan the airspace behind you, trying to pierce through the veil of cloudy fog obscuring the direction from whence you came. You can still hear the ocean nearby, waves pounding against formations of rock. Then, through mere chance, you see it.
A dark silhouette, so large your mind struggles to believe it is real, flying through the clouds. That inherent survival instinct kicks in again, and you might find yourself scurrying to escape by now. If you do, the creature hidden in the skies issues yet another deafening roar. It sees you. And it'd be smart to get yourself on more solid ground as, within a second of releasing its second roar, its ocean blue form explodes out of the clouds in all of its fierce glory! A dragon! A real dragon! And, its yellow eyes are focused on you.
With its wings extended, and its seemingly clawless feet open wide, it seems to be attempting to pluck you up off the ground like an eagle capturing a mouse. And, at the speed it is going, it is reasonable to believe that it will succeed. This dragon, whatever its intent, is obviously determined to get you. With such a startling and stupefying find still fresh in your mind, electrifying your nerves while pumping rhythmic doses of adrenaline with each heartbeat, it's hard to imagine that it eventually won't.
NPC Sozin Hallstrom Reassured by Kai's response, but then promptly disheartened by Yukiko's own, Sozin's smile dipped into a slight frown. After all, what other expression could he expect, when reminded with the possibility of their deaths over the next few weeks. Without him there, Sozin felt as though his newfound companions would simply slip away, just as many others had done so before-- through death, or moral decline. These two... unlikely teammates, these students of his, had become two of his most treasured comrades. The trauma they had all gone through as a squad created a strong bond between them, but it wasn't just that. These two represented, in Sozin's view, any hope for the new generation. For Kumogakure no Sato's future.
And he had to believe they could make it.
So, urging himself to push those thoughts of death away, he regained his false grin. "Well then," He spoke. "I suppose you should both get going now. No need to keep the 'Spectre' waiting, hm?" Aware that the nurse is about to arrive anytime now, to inspect his slowly healing wound, the grey-eyed veteran would prefer that his teammates weren't here to see it. After all, it wasn't a pretty sight. And, it would most likely serve to remind them of that day again, giving their minds a visual representation of the toll it took on Gunjin. He'd saved Yukiko's life that day and, though he would have done it a million times over, it had come with a cost. He'd been forced out of the engagement, and so had she. And people had died, because of it.
But he couldn't let that obscure his plans for the future.
So, satisfied with the fact that he had said all that he had to say to them, he gives his young students an affirmative nod. "You both should know that I'm always open to your visits. If you need advice on anything, or if you're just looking for conversation, I'll be here. Otherwise, I'm assuming headquarters will contact you both when I'm out." With that, he extends a single hand towards Yukiko, grasping hers reassuringly should she accept. Then with a bow of his head, he pecks the top of her hand lightly. "Stay safe, Miss Fuyumori." He utters, his raspy voice suddenly so smooth. Then, after slowly releasing her dainty paw, he extends the same hand towards Kai-- looking for a firm hand shake. "Take care of each other, Kai. And never forget."
Eyes hardened with determination, he still manages a smile.