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Archive for August, 2015

Fanfic Recommendation 36

My Fanfics (Fairly productive month):

Back in the Game: Chapter 2

Advent of the Spiraling Ninja: Chapter 13

Scrya Chronicles: Chapter 3

Fanfics that I have found interesting and have recently been updated:

Cissnei’s Path 10 – 14

A Final Fantasy 7 Fanfic

Summary:  Cissnei wanted to save Zack that night, only to find that it was too late. Though she couldn’t bring him back to life, she could keep his legacy alive. That was why she refused to abandon Cloud on his journey, despite going against her former friends and colleagues.

Lavender Orange 6 – 10

A Bleach Fanfic

Summary: A/U: Victory came at a price. Aizen’s defeat left the Soul Society in shambles, and the balance of souls collapsed. So, Ichigo Kurosaki was sent back in time to stop it from ever happening and arrived that same faithful night that Hisana made the biggest mistake of her life. From there things began anew…

The Arithmancer  81 – 84

A Harry Potter Fanfic

Summary:  Hermione grows up as a maths whiz instead of a bookworm and tests into Arithmancy in her first year. With the help of her friends and Professor Vector, she puts her superhuman spellcrafting skills to good use in the fight against Voldemort.

Junior Inquisitor 33

A Harry Potter Fanfic

Summary:  Before the start of fifth year Dumbledore changes the plans. Unfortunately he didn’t bother to inform Harry. At his trial, Harry realises that it is down to him to save his own skin. To do so his Slytherin side must come out to play, and once it’s out it sticks around turning life at Hogwarts on its head.

Ashes of the Past 132 – 137

A Pokemon Fanfic

Summary: Time travel, based on the Anime.  So, the world ended. That’s bad news. Who best to get to fix it? Well, there is this guy with a track record in world saving…  Not entirely serious. T rating may be overdoing it.

Hakumei: Kakumei

A Naruto Fanfic

Summary: Sequel to Hakumei, it has been three years since the Chuunin Exam War. Now a new mission, separating Hakumei, and the mysterious Akatsuki, who contain old enemies and new ones, will test their friendships and force the team to end what started so very long ago.

From Fake Dreams 40

A FSN Fanfic

Summary: Emiya Kiritsugu was happy living the rest of his short days. He had put his past behind him… until he began to dream of futures that had yet to be. Let it be known that the Magus Killer was not dangerous simply because he was dying and had no plans to fight.

The Return 10

Valvrave Fanfiction

Summary: Post Series. The world falls into chaos. A country struggles to form. The Magius seek ways to remain in control. For his part, Tokishima Soichi couldn’t be happier. They really shouldn’t have left the mad scientist alone.

Straight-Edge 1.f

A FSN/Worm Fanfic

Summary: Shirou Emiya was going to be a superhero, even if it destroyed him.

A Cloudy Path 16.4

A Worm/Supreme Commander Fanfiction

Summary: A Worm Fic. Frustrated with her school life, Taylor Hebert dons an unfinished costume and goes off into the night to fight crime as a superhero. She stumbles across an infamous crime lord, Lung, talking about killing some kids. Taylor decides she has no choice but to act……and Lung kicks her ass. Not because she’s weak. Far from it. Taylor Hebert is hamstrung by being a moral person with an exceptionally lethal power set, one with horrifying and even potentially global implications.

A Tale of Transmigration Interlude – Intel

A Worm Fanfiction

Summary: For Taylor Hebert, death was just the beginning. Reincarnated into an alternate reality version of herself she awakens to find herself trapped in a very familiar locker. Now armed with knowledge of her previous life and the ability to not just control bugs but also manipulate their biology, Taylor sets off to do what she always wanted to: be a superhero.​

Copacetic 31

A Worm Fanfiction

Summary: A continuation fic focusing on Taylor Hebert’s life following the climactic conclusion of Golden Morning and a lengthy recovery period. Taylor has her feet under her now, and grimly prepares to face a world she had thought beyond her, that of a normal young woman.

Intrepid  (Alternative Reading Site)

A Worm Fanfiction

Summary: In the wake of the Locker Incident, Taylor goes comatose. Wracked with guilt, Emma and Madison trigger. Things spiral from there as they quickly go different routes, both seeking redemption in a different way.

Souls Art Online 26 – 33

A Sword Art Online/ Dark Souls Fanfiction

Summary: A fic in which Kayaba decides to put the player’s humanity on test as they try to rekindle the flames, constantly struggling against the Kingseeker system that keep amplifying the difficulty.

Outcry 6.1 – 6.3 (Alternative Reading Site)

A Worm/ Dark Souls Fanfiction

Summary: Nadalia, the Child of Dark, escaped the sovereign’s invasion of the Brume tower, finding refuge in the dark chasm. It was from there that her spirit wandered somewhere else. A place beyond the scope of light. Beyond the reach of Dark.Finding a very special mortal girl.Seek strength Taylor. The rest… will follow.

A Change of Pace: Interlude Victoria – 2.3

A Worm/ Dishonored Fanfiction

Summary: When Taylor went into the locker, she drew the attention of two beings. One offered an absent thought, and a broken tool that wasn’t even meant for her.  The other took a more personal approach.

Weaver Nine (Alternative Reading Site)

A Worm Fanfiction

Summary: Jacob Hebert triggers with the ability to elongate any blade in his possession. Taking the cape name ‘Jack Slash’, he sets out to carve a bloody path through the criminal underworld. His crusade is arrested by the arrival of the Endbringer Leviathan… And the infamous criminal organization known as The Society, which is ruled by a being known only as ‘Weaver’.

A Propensity for Wrath

A Worm Fanfiction

Summary: Taylor triggers with a different power. With the ability to see the auras of those around her, as well as to imbue items with her own emotions, Taylor’s life takes a different direction.

Scrya Chronicles – Chapter 3 [Nanoha Series Fanfic]

Scrya Chronicles – Chapter 3

It was morning when their ship was ready to depart at the docking station for non-military personnel. Yuuno had arrived an hour ago, and was rather spry from the underlying excitement of exploring another archaeological site. It really had been too long. Now he was doing a final check on their supplies for the trip alongside Theisal.

“It’s good to have you back on-board, Yuuno,” he said, rustling Yuuno’s hair as he did when he was younger. Theisal was only three years older, but he was still taller and a bit more rotund than Yuuno. “I was worried you had ended up being buried under books in the Infinite Library or gotten lost.”

“Not me personally, but I have had to dig some of them out from time-to-time.” Yuuno had to sigh. The sad truth was that really did happen to the interns who apply for work there. Not to mention the books with still-active defense programs. “How’s it going with your medical license?”

“Passed my Rank 2 qualifications,” he said, holding up one finger. “On my first try at that.”

Yuuno gave a low whistle. “Nice.”

He chuckled. “Well, all that practice from when you and Carrie were practicing paid off.”

“You mean when she used me as target practice for her shooting spells under the guise of training?”

“Still counts.” Theisal rubbed his chin as finished taking stock of their rations. “I think we’ll be okay with the supplies for the trip, but it might be cramped with four of us here.”

The ship itself wasn’t very big, being a personal craft rather than one meant for a large group. The engine took up a great deal of the space in truth. Having too many people in a cramped space for a long period of time was a recipe for trouble, which was part of the reason Carrie didn’t go on scouting runs often when they were children. She was a bundle of energy, while Yuuno was more subdued.

“I don’t think Arf and I will take up much space,” Yuuno figured. “We can both shift into smaller forms if necessary.”

The rotund medic snapped his fingers. “Right, the Elder mentioned she was a familiar… speaking of which, since when did you know someone with a familiar?”

“Couple of years now, after my visit to UA-97,” Yuuno said. “I thought I would show her how things worked on our end. I had dinner with her Mistress and family, and they agreed. They’ll be here to see us off.”

“So you had dinner with an older woman and charmed her into letting her familiar help you out?” He chuckled. “I didn’t know you’d grown up so much. I’m proud of you.”

Yuuno arched an eyebrow at him. “You do realize that her Mistress is the same age as me, right?”

The amusement on the medic’s face quickly turned to surprise. Not that Yuuno blamed him. A-rankers weren’t excessively common, less so when they were under the age of eighteen. It took him a moment to process that. “And here I thought you were the prodigy.”

“No, that’d be Nanoha,” he amended, smiling as he did so. “She was A-rank when she discovered magic at the age of nine, and she’s only gotten stronger since then.”

That one Theisal really had trouble wrapping his head around. “You’re kidding right?”

Yuuno, your friends have arrived,‘ the Elder said to them both through a telepathic link before he could reply to the question. ‘You’ve finished up there, yes?

Yes, Elder,‘ he responded. ‘We’re on our way out now.

“You were kidding, right?” Theisal repeated.

Yuuno put on an usually smug smile and adjusted his glasses. “See for yourself. They’re here now.”

The pair exited the ship, walking down the metal boarding ramp that extended from the exit and onto the dock. There they found the Elder in a conversation with Lindy, who had the three girls that Yuuno was acquainted with. It was the familiar that noticed his presence first and then waved to him, alerting the rest.

“Good Morning,” Yuuno said, approaching them. “I’m glad you came.”

“In all honesty, I was a bit eager myself and couldn’t really sleep.” Arf set her lips into a playful smile and her tail swayed a bit. He also noticed she had changed her outfit to something similar to her old Jacket, though it had the Scrya family emblem on it. “Amy and Chrono decided to sleep in though. Chrono also said to tell you not to dig too deep or you’d end up in a hole you can’t climb out of.”

Yuuno chuckled sheepishly at that, feeling a mite embarrassed as even the Elder laughed good-naturedly at the jibe. “…one of these days, Chrono. One of these days…”

“Pardon, but I think I recognize you,” Theisal said to Lindy. “I just can’t remember when.”

The Elder filled him in. “She’s visited us before, years ago. It was when the incident with the Jewel Seeds came about. She informed me directly of his involvement, though a great deal of it was censored.”

“His help was immeasurable, and we were happy that he decided to assist us with both that case and the one after that.” She turned to Nanoha, Arf, and Fate. “Isn’t that right, girls?”

They nodded earnestly, with Nanoha placing a hand on the red jewel around her neck. Theisal oddly wondered if it was her device. “If not for Yuuno-kun, I wouldn’t have discovered magic, or Fate-chan, or any of this. I’ll be forever grateful to him.”

There was something about how sincere she was when she said that. Yuuno seemed lost for words, relegated to looking to the side with a small grin on his face as he rubbed the back of his head. “Ah… well… um….”

Theisal, not one to let the opportunity to pass upon seeing his younger cousin’s embarrassment, opened up a telepathic channel. Yuuno could hear the smugness in his thoughts. ‘You are blushing so hard right now. You like her, don’t you?’

Not. A. Word.‘ Yuuno sent back, trying to suppress his blush. He brought a fist up to his mouth and nodded his head toward him. “Anyway, this is my cousin, Theisal Scrya. He’s an independent medic who works with our clan.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet all of you,” he said. “Yuuno hasn’t told me nearly enough about any of you, but I’m hoping that we can correct that on the trip to the site. I also have lots of embarrassing stories I can tell you about when he was younger. In fact, I believe I have pictures stored to the camera-device we’re taking.”

Arf laughed softly, eyeing Yuuno as he brought a hand up to cover his eyes. “I’ll be looking forward to hearing them. I’m sure I know a few myself about Fate and Nanoha that I can tell you, in exchange.”

Lindy herself joined in. “Oh, like that time at the pool that they—”

“We swore we’d never speak of that again!” Fate said, a light pink blush on her face while Nanoha looked aside, rubbing the back of her head.

This is going to be so embarrassing…” Yuuno mumbled. Then he noticed someone was missing. He connected to Carrie telepathically and asked, ‘Where are you?

I’m busy on the inside,‘ she replied, a bit of an edge in her mental tone. ‘Someone has finish the clearance protocols so we can leave without delay.

Yuuno wondered if she was still upset at him and was hoping it wouldn’t cause problems when Nanoha stepped forward and embraced him. Her warmth seeped past the Jacket he wore with their family emblem as she held him tight. For a moment, he swore his heart stopped.

“Take care of yourself, Yuuno-kun,” she said gently. “I’ll be upset if I learn something happened to you.”

He trembled slightly as he raised his arms to her waist and returned the hug, not daring to hold tight. “R-Right…”

Arf spied them for a moment and held back a small chuckle before turning to her Mistress. “Say hello to Erio for me while I’m gone.”

Fate nodded her head slightly, never breaking eye-contact with her beloved familiar. “Of course I will. Look after Yuuno for us.”

Theisal watched his cousin until he spotted something moving in the corner of his eye and glanced over his shoulder to find Carrie leaning against the wall, hiding near the entrance of the ship and just out of view. There was a petulant frown on her face as she looked over at the girl hugging Yuuno.

Hmm… well, it probably won’t go anywhere, he thought. Carrie should know better than to pick a fight as well, so I won’t press the issue unless it becomes a problem.

“Well, let’s not keep you any longer,” said the elderly matron of the Scrya clan. “Good hunting children. Look after yourselves.”

Nanoha released Yuuno from her embrace and wished him well a final time before he boarded. He waved goodbye alongside Arf as the hatch to the ship closed. The pair then joined Theisal and Carrie as they began their process of taking off.

“So,” Theisal started, once they had left the gravity well of Mid-Childa and entered Dimensional Space, “where did you two meet? Yuuno’s been sketchy on the details when it comes to that Jewel Seeds thing.”

Yuuno looked up from his screen and raised a brow at him. “That’s because it’s classified.”

“Only the certain parts of the case details are classified,” Arf corrected. “The circumstances are another story; otherwise Nanoha’s parents wouldn’t have been informed. It was the same with your Elder, wasn’t it? You should tell them something.”

“Maybe….” He spotted Carrie looking at him expectantly and then shifted a glance to Arf and connected to her mind. ‘You sure you want to talk about it? It’s not my participation I’m worried about, but Fate’s. And then Hayate and the knights.

I’m not going into detail about those parts, but look at them.‘ She tilted her head to the two of them. ‘They only know that something happened and that it’s changed you. You grew distant from them and they want to know why. Can you imagine how it looks from their end?

You’re right,‘ he admitted. ‘Abridged version then. No offense, but my family looks poorly on relic and logia thieves and—well, I know you and Fate are good people. I’d stake my life on it, and I have. I trust you and Fate on every conceivable level, but I don’t want them to be colored by your past.

You’re sweet, Yuuno.‘ Arf flashed a smile towards him, and then reached out to pinch his cheek affectionately. ‘If you and Nanoha got together, she couldn’t do better.

He blushed, rubbing the spot as she let go. ‘Uh, thanks… um, so I’ll go ahead. When it comes up we’ll say that you and Fate were there as good Samaritans or something and there was a bit of a misunderstanding because neither of us was officially sanctioned, but once the TSAB got involved it was cleared up.

Close enough to the truth anyway.‘ She then turned to the pair, who seemed more curious than ever knowing they had been left out of the discussion. “I won’t go into any big details, but my Mistress and I met Yuuno and Nanoha on Earth, registered as UA-97.”

“That’s the last unadministrated Type -1a world, isn’t it?” There were thirteen Type-1a worlds on record that budded from a point after the evolution of humans was already set. In contrast, Type-1b worlds were those that held an ecosystem with no intelligent life similar to humans, but were made habitable by other cultures that came through Dimensional Space through terraforming.

Yuuno nodded. “You knew that I had gone off to lead a dig alone, investigating a set of Lost Logia. They were the Jewel Seeds, and they were lost in mid-transit due to a dimensional storm and ended up there. I left the site once I lost the signal to the ship and tracked their trajectory to Earth, so I went to get them back before they could cause problems.”

“Alone?” Carrie turned her seat around towards him, a frown present on her face. Yuuno imagined what little she knew from the Elder had her thinking that the TSAB were involved from the start. “What were you thinking?”

“I found them and it was my responsibility,” Yuuno said. “Earth is unadministrated and has one of the lowest magical populations I’ve ever seen. They have linker cores, just about everyone does after all, but the majority of them wouldn’t even be considered F-rank mages when the average is high E-rank to low C-rank generally speaking. There’s no local system in place to handle problems stemming from magic, and you know the policy on first contact—can you imagine what the effects would be on a world without magic and knowledge of Dimensional Space?”

“Point.” Theisal said. There was still a note of reprimand in his voice. “Taking responsibility is something I can get behind, but why didn’t you call for the TSAB and let them handle it?”

“I did, but they wouldn’t have gotten there in time and those seeds were quick to go off. The first one mutated the local wildlife not even minutes after I had got there by absorbing the ambient mana. I tried to seal it, but I miscalculated and got injured. I had to switch to my Ferret form and broadcast a message for help.”

“But you said that world has an unusually low population of magic-capable people, so they couldn’t heal you…” Carrie trailed off, and Yuuno could process her emotional state by how her expression went from concerned at hearing that, to relieved he was okay now, and then angry about the scenario. “You could have died!”

“I didn’t,” he said. “Nanoha managed to find me. She was a native and wasn’t aware that I was human, so she took me to a vet. That form has organs, so I could process the food they gave me to extract the mana to heal the injuries I suffered while my body was in the extra-dimensional pocket.”

Theisal, being the medic, looked at it from specialized perspective. The severity of injuries he could have been inflicted with to have to remain in that form… well, they weren’t something he was happy knowing. “I’m starting to see why you kept quiet on this.”

“I only had to stay like that until the TSAB arrived and finished healing me on their ship,” Yuuno said. “Until then, I supported Nanoha in sealing the seeds in that form. She was A-rank in terms of sheer power from the start, but Raising Heart, her device, did the majority of the work the first time while she supplied the power. I kept her safe from harm from close-by.”

Theisal frowned. “Wait, how did she get a device on a world that doesn’t have a magical system in place?”

“Ah… that’s…” He paused to think about how to phrase it. “You saw the pendant around her neck, right?” Theisal nodded. “I gave it to her.”

You had a device?” Carrie asked. “How did you get it?”

“It was the prize for a writing competition I entered, the one on the thesis about a fourth possible divergence. I entered it a few months before the dig. I didn’t expect to win it, but I got first place. There was a choice of prizes and the device was one of them.” He grimaced knowing where this would end up going. “They sent it to the Elder and she sent it to me on-site with the last of the supplies, before I got through the wards of the tomb the Jewel Seeds were in.”

“Of all the things you could have gotten, why’d you pick that?” Theisal asked. “No offense, Yuuno, but shooting spells aren’t your specialty. Last time I checked, you could barely pull off a Shoot Barret.”

He looked apologetically at Carrie. “I was planning on giving it to you for your birthday, but the situation came up and Nanoha was a natural with it. It was the only way we had for sealing them, and afterwards it would have been wrong to take it away. I’m sorry, Carrie.”

“You…” She exhaled and turned her seat away from him. “No, I get it. She saved your life and you didn’t have any obligation to give it to me. If I had gotten it but lost you, I’d… I’d….”

Carrie trailed off, running her fingers in her hair as her voice cracked. Then she shook her head furiously and turned to face him again, a self-assured expression there now. “Anyway, I have my own device now and it’s better suited to my affinity.”

“That covers the gist of what led to the situation.” Theisal looked to Arf. “Where did you come in?”

“My Mistress, Fate, and I were there with a sickly relative,” she lied. “She had a terminal illness and wanted to spend the last few months she had there. I was created because someone would need to look after her once she was gone, and Fate could uplift me with her reserves. Much like Nanoha was a native gifted with an unusually strong amount of power and talent, so was Fate. When we sensed a disturbance caused by the seeds we went to investigate, and one thing led to another. Neither of us could get into contact with the TSAB for reasons, possibly due to the storm that knocked the seeds there in the first place, and there was a series of misunderstandings until they did get there.”

Most of it was true without context. They had been there with Precia, who was dying from the mana poisoning she sustained from the accident. They did go and investigate the disturbances to collect them, and they couldn’t contact the TSAB because they were actively blocking them.

“We thought Yuuno was a familiar like myself, and my Mistress was the same age as Nanoha, so they hit it off,” Arf continued. “By the time the issue with the Jewel Seeds was resolved, my Mistress’ mother died and we were adopted into Lindy’s family and joined the TSAB.”

“I’m sorry for your loss,” Theisal said, sympathetically. He only said that because he didn’t know her.

Arf shook her head. “There was no other way it could have ended. She died doing what she set out to do… besides, a lot more good came from it. We’re happy as things are, for the most part.”

“So, what was the other time he left us to go there?” Carrie asked. “There were two cases they needed him for, right?”

Yuuno took a moment to compose his thoughts. His clan knew of the Book of Darkness on an intellectual-level. They had to, given they ran the risk of uprooting something like that. But, given how strongly they reacted to the Jewel Seed story, they’d take it… poorly if they knew that one.

“Another Lost Logia ended up on Earth,” he finally said. “It was found by another native, who activated it without realizing what it was and ended up tripping the defense program. It’s not too uncommon when dealing with ancient artifacts meant to contain knowledge, I mean every now and again someone trips a defense program in the Infinite Library and we have to contain it. But this one was unusually powerful and Nanoha contacted the TSAB, while I was there visiting her at the time since she wanted me to teach her some new spells.”

Arf picked up from there. “Fate and I came with the TSAB, because we were familiar with the area and assisted. Unfortunately, the defense program was troubling to deal with and we needed research done to find a weakness we could exploit. Yuuno volunteered to go to the Infinite Library and fed us what we needed to save the native girl, Hayate, who became a close friend as well. Yuuno did such a good job in sorting things out hired him on the spot and the three of us who were on Earth decided to join the TSAB.”

“That about sums it up,” Yuuno finished. “There’s still a lot of work to be done, but I’ve done a good enough job that they’re considering giving me a better position now.”

“Don’t be so modest,” Arf said, reaching over and pulling him closer to her. “Youngest Chief Librarian in history is nothing to scoff at. Isn’t that right, you two?”

His cousin agreed. “You’ve done well for yourself, Yuuno. I don’t think any of us could be prouder of you.”

“You still should have visited more,” Carrie said, pouting. She couldn’t say he hadn’t done well for himself. Not now, hearing some of the details of what he went up against.

But she still felt so many things about everything—him never coming by the compound, being in danger, that Nanoha girl and the device meant for her, the way she hugged him before they left, and the way the familiar kept getting so close to him. It stewed inside of her, roiling her emotions.

Of course, that because a secondary concern when Theisal clapped his hands and produced the civ-device that had a camera built into it and a projector. “As promised, I give you the first of our embarrassing stories. Observe.”

The projector displayed a picture of Yuuno in his ferret form cowering between two rocks while a much younger Carrie was pointing at him with tears in her eyes. Both of them were covered in what looked to be bits of fruit and their juices. The pair cringed as the memory came back to them.

Carrie reached for the device, only for Theisal to stop her. “Oh come on!”

“I thought you were kidding when you said you had those pictures,” Yuuno said.

Arf looked at the scene with a smile on her face. “I want to hear the story behind this.”

“It starts with Yuuno succeeding for the first time in transforming into his Ferret form,” Theisal began. “None of us could teach him since it was a Rare Skill, but he had a theory and worked at it. He was so excited that he ran around and then bumped into Carrie, who thought he was a mouse.”

Arf chuckled. “Aw, he does look like a cute mousey at that age.”

“I know, right?” Theisal sighed. “Anyway, Carrie’s afraid of mice. So her first inclination was to try and hit it with a shooting spell. She didn’t have a device, so she could barely arrange the vectors and she was a sloppy shot, but Yuuno panicked and scurried around her until she got so aggravated that she started firing them en masse and chasing after him.”

Carrie felt the heat of embarrassment lingering in her face as she crossed her arms. “In my defense, he should have said something.”

“There’s a learning curve when it comes to using that form,” Yuuno argued. “I didn’t have time to think about it when my first instinct is to get away from the girl ten times my size raining down spells at me.”

“You would have been fine,” Carrie said, brushing it off. “That form is more durable than your human body to begin with.”

“Yeah, but I didn’t know that at the time.” Yuuno sighed. “So I ran, you chased me through the camp, we got splashed when you blasted through a whole stack of fruits to try and get me, and then I found a spot to hide in until the Elder came and cleared it up.”

“We had a good laugh afterwards,” Theisal told Arf as he changed the picture. This time it was Yuuno surrounded by other members of the clan, raising cups in celebration while Carrie was there too, eating next to him. “We were already celebrating a successful dig, so we also added to it that one of our youngest had made just as great a personal accomplishment.”

“They’ve always been supportive of me,” Yuuno said softly, looking fondly at the picture. “I really should have stayed in contact. I’m sorry, both of you.”

The apology and picture abated the roiling feeling inside of Carrie, for the moment at least. “You’re here now. That’s what matters.”

“Thanks.” He turned to Arf. “You’re not going to tell the others about this, are you?”

She didn’t bother to lie to him. “As soon as we get back I’m having you cousin give me copies of these pictures. Chrono’s going to have a field day, though I suspect the girls think it’s adorable.”

Yuuno groaned. “He’ll never let me live this down.”

“Cheer up,” Arf said. “How about I tell you the story Lindy was about to mention? See, Nanoha had come to Mid and it was summer, so she wanted to go swimming….”

At the docking station, one of the employees in charge of approving clearance noticed the ship that had been registered to the Scrya Clan had departed with their trajectory path listed. The information was to be used to chart destinations and help with the relocating the vessel should anything happen, such as a dimensional storm brought about by turbulence. It had been useful for saving lives in the past, and it was standard procedure for ships that used the dock.

He found another use for it, memorizing the details with a long glance—eidetic memory was a wonderful thing. There was a buyer who wanted the information, specifically those related to groups that were known to excavate ruins and dimensions where there was a high probability of finding Lost Logia. Once he took his break he’d send it to them and get paid for it.

Extra cash never hurt around this time of the year.

Magneto (2014) #21 Final Issue Review

And so it ends here, with Magneto #21. There’s not a lot to say folks, so I’ll be quick in condensing my thoughts on the conclusion of this series and its perspective on Magneto! Read on!

Okay, the comic opens with a flashback to Magneto’s first fight with the X-Men. In this fight, he pronounces mutants as the new overlords of humanity while handing them their asses, and when we go to the present we find him acknowledging the irony of the situation. The world thinks he’s here to turn a new leaf, a lie the desperate tell themselves as the world is coming to an end.

Another flashback shows when he sinks a Russian submarine because they are preparing to launch a missile in retaliation for him threatening all the governments of the world. He intends to use them as an example. As they die and he watches, he knows there is no redemption and that hasn’t changed now. He sees and himself as a monster, now and forever.

Polaris can only watch on as he does this, having lost her powers. Briar comes up to her and offers her a hand, explaining that he took them because he didn’t want to sacrifice her. Polaris simply states he’s only lying to himself and her believing that. For him, the ends justify the means.

In another flashback her words are proven true as Magneto is talking with Charles and the X-Men, refusing to come to court for laws he doesn’t recognize. Charles warns that the way he does things won’t get the results he wants because it does more harm than good, but then some suits come up to him and tell him they acknowledge Genosha as his land. Not the good way to send a message.

It seems like he’s pushing back the other world back in the present, but Briar can see that’s not the case. His body can’t withstand the power and turns to ashes with nothing left behind, realizing that everything he’d done to this point has taken away everything from him for nothing. The comic ends with the world being destroyed.

Okay, review time.

There’s not much to write home about in the issue. It was the final one and, as we see, Magneto failed in the end. For both the issue and the series itself… well, there was no getting around how it was going to end. This massive crossover crap was always going to ruin it. The art was about the same and we mostly just looked into the final thoughts of a man who thrived on violence and murder to accomplish a goal, only for it to all be meaningless in the end. It’s a shaggy dog story, with the best anyone will be able to say was that he tried.

That’s it.

I give the issue a 3 out of 5, and the series as a whole a 3.5 out of 5. I liked the introspective into it, but the art wasn’t spectacular. The ending was screwed by the crossover, and ultimately everything that was sacrificed for was for nothing.

Advent of the Spiraling Ninja 13

Chapter 13: The Calm after the Raging Waters

Author’s Notes: Damn, it doesn’t even feel like a year has passed yet when I look at the last release update I see it has.

On the Seas

The skies above the ocean were calm, azure-blue riddled with patches of white clouds and squalling seagulls. On the small sailing vessel, riding atop the grand ocean between countries, Kushina’s group made towards the Land of Whirlpools. But there was no joy to be found at their homecoming. The atmosphere itself was somber, even as they left the Bloody Mist behind.

Kushina herself stood against the wall of the cabin, looking at the Maiden of the Sea confined to a wheelchair. Tsunade had been clear. Even with chakra to heal and set her bones, it would take time for them to become capable of supporting her body sufficiently again, something about her biology and the extent of the damage being the major factors.

The Kaima Form had saved her life, yes. But it would take longer to heal as a result. She was warned not to do anything strenuous for what could have been months on end. That included swimming, while transforming was outright forbidden and sealed by Kushina.

Despite everything that’s happened to me, the thought of not being able to swim again when the ocean is right in front of me hurts more than anything,’ she had told Kushina as they rolled her onto the boat, just before they left.

Those words haunted Kushina. She had been a shinobi for a long time, and she accepted that there were risks. But, damn it, that didn’t make it any easier. More so when she thought about how none of the kids should have been there in the first place.

“They survived,” Tsunade said from behind her. It was as if she read her mind. “She’ll recover if she takes it easy, and the blonde brat came out without a scratch. That’s more than what can be said for a lot of others involved.”

She would know. Her little brother and fiancé had been claimed during war, beyond even her ability to save. The fact that these two went against another Jinchuuriki, children who had yet to reach the age of eighteen, and survived… it spoke much about their circumstances.

They were strong. If they survived to adulthood, they could become great shinobi.

“It still shouldn’t have come to this,” Kushina said. “Looking back when Naruto was born, he shouldn’t have had to become the fox’s vessel when I was there. And Isaribi-chan was turned into a killer because of someone else’s machinations… even the Three-Tails and its host….”

“Which bodes poorly, all things considered,” Tsunade noted. “If the Mizukage could fall so easily, so could the rest. It’s a horrifying thought.”

“In an ideal world things like this wouldn’t happen.” Her voice came out low, wistful even. “A world where children could live their lives without violence, where they never had to live with knowing what it was like to stain their hands in blood, or the fear that someone would snuff their life out so easily.”

In contrast, Tsunade’s voice was somber. “Unfortunately, a world that nice doesn’t exist. No matter how much we wish for it. The only thing we can do is try to prepare them for the worst life has to offer, and hope that the next generation can make it better.”

A bitter, if true statement, Kushina had to admit.

That Night

Naruto moved through the motions of what taijutsu he knew, spinning from a back-side kick into a leg sweep. Water chakra seeped out as his leg’s tenketsu, transmuting into water that buffeted his imaginary enemy and knocked them asunder. The water splashed against the surface of the boat, moonlight glistening in it as the chakra slowly eroded and dissipated.

“Couldn’t—” Naruto summoned and flung a kunai on reflex at the abrupt sound, only to realize he was about to kill someone he knew after it left his fingers. Luckily, his godfather caught it and continued speaking as though it never happened.”—sleep, huh?”

Naruto fell onto his knees and assumed a pose of supplication. “I-I’m so sorry!”

“It’s fine this time.” The Sage twirled it between his fingers as he approached his godson. “But you’re going to have to wind down. Had that been your injured friend, it’s very likely you would have killed her.”

“That’s what I’m afraid of,” he said shamefully. “I know we’ve left the Mist behind, but I can’t manage to get to any sleep. The nightmares won’t stop….”

“Well, let’s talk about it,” Jiraiya said, sitting lotus position in front of him. He set the kunai down between them, acting as a line. “Tell me about this nightmare.”

Naruto shook his head, bringing his hands around to grasp his arms before curling up. “I keep having the same nightmare, where those Hunters got their hands on me again and tortured me. Then I end up in a sea of blood, trying the break the surface. But, before I can, hands come out from beneath me and try to drag me down. The blood is thick, suffocating, but I can see bodies of people I’ve killed dragging me down, while the people I’ve seen killed float around helpless.”

“Hmm…” The Sage sighed, scratching the back of his head. “If I had to make a recommendation, since we’re out of danger for the foreseeable future, have a seal applied to you before going to bed that cuts off your chakra flow, and keep any and all weapons away from you. It’s the standard order given to people who return home after participating in war, so that they don’t accidentally kill their family members. It’s happened more than once in the past, more often with shinobi around your age.”

“I never thought it would be like this,” Naruto admitted. “I never thought… I’ve killed a lot of people in the last few days alone, even more than I did when I was traveling. It’s different than what I thought it would be like in the Academy.”

“How did you see being a shinobi back when you were in the Academy?” Jiraiya asked.

“A hero,” he said. “Someone who people looked up to in the village. The Hokage is the greatest shinobi in the village, and I wanted the same.”

The Sage’s brows crinkled in thought before he spoke. “Do you know why most shinobi are enrolled so young?” When Naruto shook his head, he continued. “It’s because of that belief. Most civilians are blissfully ignorant about the full details of what it entails, especially since we’re in a time of peace. Even then, it’s one thing to know about it and another to experience it first-hand.

“Here’s the thing, Naruto. Shinobi aren’t heroes in the sense you’re thinking. They’re soldiers. It’s not to say that they can’t become heroes, but those seen as such are often heroes of war and they earn that title more often than naught by spilling blood or stopping blood from being spilled. Your father would be the former, while Tsunade would be the latter. ”

Naruto seemed horrified at the mention. He had thought the Fourth was a hero and a loving parent from what his Mother told him. Then again, who was he to argue? He left a trail of corpses behind in the Mist and the bloodline woman had told him that it was thanks to him them the country could start fresh. Did that make him a hero in the same vein?

“Sad to say, this is one of the best case scenarios,” Jiraiya continued. “Your mother gave you a choice on whether or not to participate in the last fight. Because you made the choice yourself, you’ll know exactly why you did it and know that it was because you thought it was the best option at the time. Normally most enlisted don’t get that option. Typically, the commanding shinobi issues a command to strike and you obey. That’s when things get tricky.”

“What do you mean?” Naruto asked.

“It starts out hard the first time,” he explained. “At first it’s a usually a choice between whether you want to live or die, have someone under your care live or die, or whether you disobey a command from your superior. In most villages, especially during times of war, disobeying the commander can mean being executed, so that brings you back to the first case. After that, it’s about preserving your life in the battlefield—kill or be killed.”

The Sage looked out to the sea, dotted with rays from the moonlight that gleamed off the dark surface. “When the conflict ends, you receive counseling from either a jounin or specialist to help you rationalize it, turning an act of self-preservation into an act of loyalty to the village and keeping your loved ones safe. Those that can cope remain in active duty, those that can’t usually go into the reserve unit where their clearance and training won’t go to waste. Retiring prematurely is a frowned upon and results in being dishonorably discharged by having your chakra network sealed off and seals are applied to prevent secrets from being leaked. The only time it is truly acceptable is if you’ve had at least ten years of loyal service or suffered a career-ending injury in the line of duty.”

Naruto frowned at the thought of the Old Man doing something like that. “Does that apply to our village as well?”

Jiraiya nodded without hesitation. “Remember, our villages came about during times of war that make what you went through relatively tame. Don’t get me wrong, war is war no matter the era, but at least on the battlefield you can see the enemies in front of you.”

“It’ll never end,” Naruto realized.

Jiraiya, surprisingly, shook his head. “Little-by-little, things are improving. In our generation, Tsunade came up with the concept of having a medic on a squad and other nations adopted similar tactics, reducing the body count. Your father helped end the war sooner by keeping Kumo’s Jinchuuriki in check, which bought the current era of peace alongside countless others. One day, maybe we’ll grow past the need for war entirely.”

“…Maybe,” Naruto agreed, after a pause.

Jiraiya reached into his pocket for a small scroll and unraveled it, revealing it to be a sealing scroll. He withdrew an ink pot and sealing paper and drew on it. “In the meantime, drink some lavender tea to relax and then press this against your chest as you sleep, just beneath your shirt.”

He took the seal without a word.

At the Hidden Mist

The mist felt cool against Haku’s skin as he stood in front of a specific grave, erected hastily but crafted delicately out of solid stone. It was Villa’s cenotaph. How bitter it was that such a simple thing could encompass how short her life had been. Or the fact that there was a number more lining both sides, all people killed for reasons beyond their control and a belief stemming from difference of power.

He didn’t stir when he heard footsteps approaching, soft and calculated. Instead, he remained where he was as the newly-instated Mizukage placed flowers on the grave. Haku had only known the child for so long and felt the weight of her death, so he imagined the pain she felt was as heavy and deep as the depths of the ocean.

“…Kushina contacted me,” Mei said after a moment of silence, breaking the somber quiet. “They made it back to their home. That girl will recover too, in time. It’ll take a few months, but she’ll be able to walk again. I thought you should know.”

“It’s good news,” he said. “Thank you, Ma’am.”

Mei shifted the topic with that. “About my previous offer, have you given it some thought?”

He looked down to the mask she held out with both hands, as though it was an offering. It was similar to the one had worn when masquerading as a Hunter-nin native to their country.

“If you want to say no, I won’t blame you,” she told him. “You’ve done more than your share of fighting, and I’ll always be grateful for you and the others help in stopping Yagura. But I won’t lie when I say that your help would be immensely welcomed. There are so few bloodline users left, let alone those as capable as you are.”

“What rank would I be?” he asked.

“Officially, you’d be a Special Jounin. Zabuza himself felt that it was more appropriate. Unofficially, when the mask is on, you’ll be a Hunter-nin that reports directly to me. There are still rogues out there that need to be taken care of before we can lift the bloody mist covering our lands, and I want it cleaned up fast enough to host the Chuunin Exams in a few months. ”

“Are we really in any position to host it?”

“I plan on making a petition to do so,” she said. “I believe Sand is where it should be hosted this year, but they’ve recently gone through a bit of crisis not unlike our own. I have no doubt that word will get around that we’ve just been through a civil war, and people use the exams as an excuse to personally look into it and learn whether or not we’re vulnerable for a strike.”

It took Haku only a moment to realize where she was going. “But if you’re hosting the exams you can show that our country isn’t divided anymore, that we’re strong, and the exams are a substitute for war to do exactly that.”

She nodded. “The contracts from a good showing will ensure work, and any spies will be subsequently eliminated to send a message and weaken others in turn by taking away their assets. I’ll also be getting in touch with some very important figures from Konoha to talk an arrangement, in secret of course.”

Haku took a deep breath. He never liked the role he had been played, or death and violence. But… but he was needed. More blood would need to be spilled to clear away what was already there. At least for a little while longer.

He took the mask and slipped it on, hiding his face behind its smooth surface. “What do you need me to do first?”

At Konoha

Within a training field in the Hidden Leaf village, the group of Genin continued their collaborative training efforts on behalf of their Jounin instructors. The Chuunin Exam promotions had been canceled, for lack of a better term. There was too much interference for it to have been judged fairly, and they were supposedly still sorting things out. That meant they’d have to excel during the next exams if they wanted to bump their ranks up, barring a private promotion.

It didn’t personally matter to Sasuke, who was held his new sword in a reverse grip. Rank or no rank, he had to be stronger than he was now. Stronger than his brother. Tongues electricity streamed along the edge of his blade in branching forks that seemed to taint the air around him with the scent of ozone.

The sounds of crashing earth and ragged snarls reminded him that he was not alone and drew his eyes towards the others. Some of them were training harder than others. Kiba, for example, was sparring with his transformed hound, Akamaru. Their bodies spun like drills and crashed into each other before being rebuffed and then careening off to the side, only to come around again. Which one was the man and which one was the beast only became harder to tell as they both ended up snarling in the same manner.

Neji was practicing his family’s fighting style against an anatomically correct training dummy, while his cousin Hinata was chatting with some girl that their sensei had brought along, Yakumo something or other. That Tenten girl was experimenting with some kind of weapon that had a seal impressed in the metal, and Rock Lee was… well, being Rock Lee.

Sai was drawing something on a scroll, while saying something that aggravated Sakura into clenching her fist. Sasuke wasn’t really listening over the crackle of his sword. Then the pale boy looked up and smiled with a fake smile, only aggravating her further until the quiet Aburame held her back from trying to hit him.

Sasuke shifted back into his stance and went through the motions of swinging his sword at an opponent. He couldn’t use his brother for image-training, at least not appropriately. He hadn’t seen him fight in years, and he would only be setting himself up for failure when that day did come and his brother moved differently. Instead, he went a single notch above his skill set and pictured Naruto.

He stiffed at the thought that Naruto, the Dead Last of the class, had gotten stronger than him. Despite being on the run and without a village backing him, even accounting for the demon fox that sat inside of his stomach, he was stronger than him. It rankled him from a point of pride and practicality, but his head snapped up when he heard Kakashi dully clapping his hands together to grab their attention.

“Everyone, fall in at the center of the field,” he said as he drew a line in the ground with his foot. “We have a guest here today who’ll be helping you with your training, which will be to avoid getting knocked out or thrown past this line.”

As Team 7, Team 8, and Team Gai stood at attention, an elderly man with grey hair wrapped in a short ponytail approached. He wore a mesh armor shirt beneath a short, tanned sleeveless kimono with worn grey pants. And… was that a giant wok on his back, with a ladle of all things?

“Good afternoon,” he said, dabbing his forehead with a damp cloth. “I’ve been wanting to meet the youngsters of the last generation. Let’s get along for now.”

“This is Kosuke Maruboshi, also known as the Eternal Genin because he’s held the rank for the last fifty or so years. He’ll be your sparring partner for the next…” Kakashi trailed off, looking over his shoulder to Kurenai and Gai. “How long do you think they’ll last? I’m thinking about five minutes.”

“I must agree with my eternal rival on that assessment,” Gai added.

Kurenai gave him a sharp look, as if saying he should have more faith in them. “Ten minutes.”

Kakashi turned back to the other Genin and tilted his hand back and forth. “Ehh, we’ll call it seven minutes. If you last that long, we’ll go and get steak on my dime—the good stuff.”

“Sweet!” Kiba grinned as the older man approached. Sasuke could see it on his face what was going through his mind: an old guy the same rank as them wouldn’t stand a chance if they went all out at once. He crouched down and made a hand seal. “Let’s settle this in a single blow, Akamaru!”

The transformed hound mirrored his partner and chakra surged through their muscles and skin, strengthening them to withstand the intense rotations as they lunged forward and spun. Twin drills cut through the air and in an arch, centering on the old man. “Fang Over Fang!

The old man reached back for his wok, chakra-streaming what looked to be earth-chakra into it, and then swung it left and right, hitting them both with a loud, gong-like sound that rang out both times as it vibrated in his hands. The two spinning drills jerked off their path and careened into the dirt next to him, throwing a spray of stone and earth as they carved a long scar into the ground before coming to a stop more than thirty feet away.

“You shouldn’t be so hasty and headstrong,” said the old—Maruboshi as he continued to wipe his forehead with a damp cloth. “Inuzuka are meant to work in tandem with their allies, blindsiding the enemy while their distracted. Also, you’ll need to tighten your rotations per second to be able to penetrate the most basic of earth-chakra enhanced items.”

“Ugh… Old Dude’s got moves…” Kiba wheezed, accompanied by a whine from Akamaru as they both remained splayed on the ground. The rest decided to take him a bit more seriously after that, slipping into fighting stances.

Sasuke activated his Sharingan just in time to see as the old man change the battlefield. Almost instantly he stomped his foot on the ground and spread his earth-chakra through it in a wave, creating a large cavity beneath the surface barring a single column just below him.

Sasuke jumped away from the area before nature took its course and the cavity filled itself by collapsing the ground above. The rest followed with the exception of Kiba and Akamaru, both still dizzy from the impact and crash. Unable to leap away, the pair fell down with a cry and bark, heavy stones around them getting ready to collapse on top of them while they were defenseless.

Hinata rushed to catch the falling pair alongside her teammate, the Aburame. Sasuke saw the chakra looping around them like a lasso, connecting them to the older man, and tried to warn them. But the warning came too late as the Inuzuka pair was displaced by the Substitution technique and the old man was in front of them with the wok chambered. The hit that came was hard enough that it sent Hinata, who had raised her hands in defense, into the quiet Aburame and then them both flying off. They both flipped over, looking like they would recover and plant their feet on the ground, but he spat out a Water Bullet that caught them in the abdomen and pushed them out of bounds.

Sakura winced next to Sai as he took to the air almost immediately on an ink drawing come to life, his brush working on another masterpiece to join in the fray. That ended when the old man made a few hand signs and pulled a Water Dragon Bullet out of thin air. Seriously, that was some bullshit considering he watched Kakashi go through forty-something seals to get that same result while standing on a ton of water.

The dragon actually roared, lunged, and then swallowed the ink-user and his creation whole. Sasuke could see him inside of its elongated body as the dragon circled around for more. “Move!”

Sakura did as told, leaping out of the way as it came around for the two of them. It missed them, but Kiba and Akamaru weren’t so lucky as it continued on. Even though they recovered enough to stand, they couldn’t move fast enough to avoid it taking them in as well.

The dragon surged past the boundary line before dispersing, depositing the three out of the combat area. Just like that, they were down by five in less than a minute. And he still wasn’t done, flinging a shuriken towards Team Gai and making hand seals.

The one shuriken became one-hundred, all launching towards to them. Tenten unleashed a load of condensed charka to bat aside the ones aiming towards her, Neji released chakra from all his tenketsu and spun around to deflect them, and Rock Lee jumped into the air to go over them all.

The old man targeted Tenten first, appearing next to her in a Body Flicker and tossing her in a swift motion towards Neji, who was still spinning. Hitting the Kaiten would be like hitting a spinning wheel, tearing flesh from bone and sending her askew with several injuries she wouldn’t recover from easily. Neji had no choice but to drop it to avoid hurting her and the old man made him pay for it.

A quick Water Wall technique leapt from his mouth, creating a raging torrent of water that bowled both Tenten and Neji over. She managed to plant her weapon in the ground and held onto it for dear life to remain fixed in place, but it washed Neji away until he was soaked and past the line as well. That was six down.

Rock Lee made himself known again, coming down from his aerial jump with a fist chambered. Maruboshi dodged as the ground beneath him was destroyed in a cloud of dirt and dust with a punch. The Green Beast of Konoha broke through the cloud while rotating, allowing the spinning kick to carry him forward through the motions.

Just as it looked like the kick would land home, Maruboshi sank into the ground as the earth parted beneath his feet from the Hiding like a Mole technique. No sooner than Rock Lee planted both feet on the ground to move again did a pair of hands pop out and pulled him under as the ground softened to swallow him and then hardened again, leaving only his head sticking out.

“This will not hold me—” His words were cut off when the old man tossed an egg that had been hollowed out in his face and the powder inside covered it. The moment Rock Lee breathed it in, he fell unconscious. Must’ve been sleeping powder.

He then turned to Tenten, who didn’t dare use that chakra technique against him while Rock Lee’s head was in the firing line, and drew his Tanto. He began to wave it around and the number of blades increased. It was an illusion from what Sasuke could see, woven from Yin Chakra that wreathed the weapon to copy its image and then spread out into a web of nodes, marking where each illusionary copy would appear.

The feints left her with small cuts amassing from where he landed his strikes, avoiding any major damage but showing. He was fast for a man of his age. The moment Tenten tried to leap back, flinging kunai to get some breathing room, the projectiles hit a log and he hit her from behind with an absolutely brutal kick angled to send here their way.

Sasuke dodged, leaving her for Sakura to catch while he rushed in with sword in hand. Lightning crackled along the edge as he swung it, combining it with kicks and rotations. The old man avoided them for the most part, but he was slowing down. It was only a matter of time.

At least that was what he thought until Maruboshi hooked the tanto’s blade down behind the butt of his sword, preventing Sasuke from pulling back and avoiding the lightning focused on the blade. Sasuke moved to kick him away, but his other hand came up and threw dirt into his eyes.

Blinded and in pain, he lashed out only to be caught square in the cheek. Judging from the smooth metal and the gong-like sound that grew distant as he flew, he assumed it was the wok. Then he came down to earth, feeling the coarse ground grinding against his stomach and chest as he came to a skidding stop.

“Cheap… shot…” he murmured, trying to rise onto to his feet as he wiped at his eyes furiously. A blast of water caught him in the face, gagging him momentarily but clearing out the dirt so he could open his eyes again. He was over the line.

Sakura and Tenten followed not even three seconds later.

“And… that’s three minutes.” Kakashi noted, looking at a stopwatch he pulled out of his pouch. “Okay, so what did we all learn today?”

“I believe ‘Fear the Elderly’ would be appropriate,” Sai said. Kiba, Rock Lee, and even Shino agreed with nods of their heads.

Kakashi also nodded his head slightly. “True, but the correct answer would be not to underestimate someone based on their rank. Maruboshi here has served under virtually every Hokage since the Second, who was renowned for his mastery of water techniques among other things, making him one of the most experienced shinobi in the village.”

“Why the hell is he a Genin then?” Kiba asked. It was a reasonable question.

“Penitence,” the old man said. “I was arrogant when I was younger, and it cost my teammates their lives. I didn’t feel that a promotion was something I was worthy of, but the Second insisted that I continued to improve my skills. Not bad for an old timer who’s missing a foot, right?”

“In short, rank does not determine one’s abilities,” Kurenai said as she helped her students up, knowing the shame they must’ve felt at being dismissed first from the fight. “So even if you don’t pass the next exam, that doesn’t mean you’re less than the effort you put in towards your training.”

“That is correct!” Gai chimed in, Rock Lee slung over his shoulder and still unconscious. “Perhaps you can give them some advice so that the flames of their youth will burn brighter the next time?”

Maruboshi scratched his chin in thought. “Teamwork would be the key here for them all,” he noted. “The young Uchiha spotted my first technique before it had gone off. Had he warned them they would have moved fast enough that perhaps they could have saved the Inuzuka pair. The second mistake was going to retrieve them once the technique was finished and leaving themselves open for me to eliminate them as well.”

“But we’re taught to protect our comrades,” Hinata said. Shino nodded.

“And I capitalized on it,” he pointed out. “Mind you, had the young Inuzuka not rushed in so headstrong they wouldn’t have ended up in that situation, but this was sparring practice so I wouldn’t have permanently harmed them.”

He pointed to Sai, Kiba, and Neji next. “After the more troublesome ones were eliminated, I took out the one who could add to their numbers with his drawings to keep reinforcements from arriving, the other two while they were weak and vulnerable, and utilized the risk of friendly fire to eliminate the one whose defenses would be the most difficult.”

“…an understandable means of battling superior opponents,” Neji reluctantly admitted.

“The rest were orthodox in execution,” he finished, looking at Tenten. “Your focus on weapons is admirable. They’re practical and efficient, focusing on substance rather than flash without being chakra-intensive. But you relied too much on the seal imbued on it to store and release it as a weapon. Such a thing should be reserved as a fatal blow or a surprise, not an impromptu shield.”

“You didn’t exactly leave me with that opportunity,” she pointed out. “And you were already aware of it after that and had Lee in the range of fire, so I couldn’t surprise you with it.”

“That’s what illusions are for,” he said, nodding his head towards Kurenai and the Yakumo girl. “If you’re going to collaborate for group training then you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help in learning a method to get over those weaknesses. Those two are proficient enough with yin-chakra and illusions that they could teach you something similar to my own technique.”

Last he faced Sasuke, who tensed. “Well?”

“The Uchiha are a well-known bloodline with well-noted weaknesses,” he immediately pointed out. “No one who sees those eyes or hears your last name will risk facing you alone unless they have a plan, have no other choice, or are overconfident. I chose the former approach, but in a two-on-one fight or against someone capable of creating solid clones, you’ll be at a disadvantage at best. You need to work on your teamwork skills, understand?”

“Yes,” Sasuke said. “I’ll keep that in mind.”

He nodded his head and then turned to Jounin. “Is that good enough?”

“Yes. I believe the lesson will stick.”

Kiba raised his hand. “So, do we not get that steak or what?”

Kakashi rubbed the back of his head. “Well, you didn’t last very long, so…”

Maruboshi laughed. “How about I whip up something? A wok is made for cooking after all, and you pick up a lot of skills when you’ve been around as long as I have.”

As it turned out, he was a very capable cook too, Sasuke grudgingly admitted. Even as he coped with the shame of being beaten by a wok. It could have been worse, after all.

It could have been the ladle.

Notes: Okay, just a breather chapter after the last arc ended. More to come eventually, looking at things in Suna. And yes, Kosuke is filler, but he’s the good kind that can be exploited for a story.


August 2015 PPGD Update 1

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August 2015 Grim Tales Update 1

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Back in the Game: Chapter 2

[-|Back in the Game|-]

Author’s Note: You can thank Souls Art Online for the inspiration for what happens in the end.

[Chapter 2 -o0o- Start]

Klein found himself fixated on the [Ansyn Blade], having drawn it from its sheath entirely to stare at the reflection of his own eyes. He knew it was improper etiquette for a Samurai. After all, in the days when the warrior-class still held meaning, the only time a blade was fully unsheathed was to kill an enemy or to clean it.

The SAO veteran had been changed during his time in the Death Game compared to how he had been before. It taught him responsibility that he hadn’t known prior to the game, having to weigh the lives of those around him with every decision. It taught him that a leader had to remain calm and in control, so that those he led wouldn’t panic as they looked to him to lead them.

He had honed his swordsmanship in the game in order to keep them all alive as they took to the frontline, and he had succeeded against all odds. However, the lessons he learned there still remained with him after the Death Game had ended. It was one of the few things he was grateful for from that experience. Now, finding themselves in what appeared to be a similar situation as SAO, it was the only the experience he had and friends he had made that served as the reason he was able to remain as calm as he was.

That being said, he couldn’t help but sigh. This happened when he had an interview only a few days from now for a new job. He had lost the old one courtesy of being trapped in the game.

Things had gotten… complicated on game release. They ended up waking up in the hospital, but they awoke to a world that seemed almost foreign to them after two years. Not to mention just about every adult had lost their jobs, and a few had lost their homes. Hell, he had lost both his job and apartment since he couldn’t technically pay rent in a coma.

The landlords couldn’t be blamed, nor could their bosses. What happened may have been an out-of-context problem, but the world kept spinning while they were in Aincrad and they had to accept that fact. Not that a lot of them were happy about it. His friends were just getting back on their feet and managed to get work, though most of them had to move to get it.

Thankfully, the bill for the hospital stay and basic physical therapy had been covered by the Government, so he didn’t have the astronomical debt that two years of constant care must’ve entailed, and his belongings had been sent to his parents’ home. He wasn’t proud to have to go back to living with them after moving out into his own place, but at least he had that safety net. That was more than most adults did.

A chirruping sound drew his gaze from the blade to the dragon pup. It was nudging Silica, who was lying down on the floor with her back to the wall and her head perched on Suguha’s shoulders, trying to rouse her awake. It succeeded as her eyes slowly fluttered open.

Klein sheathed the sword. The blade beneath the hand-guard sank into the scabbard and was sealed with a soft click. “Sleep well?”

“I was hoping it was all a dream, but….” She looked down at the dragon tiredly, bringing her hand up to its head and gently caressing its plumage. “I’m sorry. You’re hungry, aren’t you?”

As she materialized some meat for the dragon to munch on happily, Klein idly wondered if being an NPC native to this world made it so the food didn’t taste horrible to it. How he envied that little monster, gorging himself on delicious meat that would taste like ashes in his mouth.

Truly, the orchestrator of this mess was a devil to deny them the pleasure of eating.

Mm…hmm…” The thought passed as Kirito’s cousin-sister stirred awake as well. She rubbed her eyes as she rose to her feet, looking around blankly. A frown formed on her face. “Where’s Onii-chan?”

“He went out for a bit,” Klein said. “How are you feeling?”

“I… I don’t know.” She looked down to Silica, who refused to look up from her pet dragon. It was the sole good thing she could derive from their situation. “Has anyone learned anything about how to get out?”

“There hasn’t been any grand announcement or anything, if that’s what you mean. I’ve been here the whole time, but maybe Kirito learned something new…” Klein opened his menu and pressed the button for Kirito. ‘Kirito, you there?

A little busy,’ Kirito responded, his thoughts hurried and ragged. It made Klein frown, even more so after his next outburst. ‘Ow! Damn, I wish I wore heavy armor!

What exactly are you doing?

Fighting a Boss.’ The sheer casual way he said it left Klein unable to stop himself from bringing a hand up to massage the creases forming in his brow. He’d expected him to go fight a few mobs or something, but a boss?

That was absurd. ‘And you went alone?

Not alone, exactly,’ Kirito replied.


[SAO -o0o- LH]


With Kirito

Kirito had to admit the Enchanter lived up to his word when he said that he had experience in managing. They were doing well for the most part, with the group having only sustained a little damage. True, part of it was because the four of them were stupidly OP compared to this zone—all of them were three times the level of the Field Boss, decently equipped, and had an assortment of skills they could call upon.

But when you took into consideration that they lacked a dedicated healer and didn’t have the usual party arrangement to clear this sort of challenge, it spoke volumes about his ability to coordinate. The Field Boss was usually fought via AOE spells and attacks from a distance, having Sorcerers spam spells and Summoners buffet the minion-ranked adds with Elemental Shots before the sheer numbers could overwhelm the party. All of them were melee characters besides the Enchanter, and his class was considered underwhelming damage-wise compared to the other mage classes.

The fourth wave is descending,’ the Enchanter warned. ‘Total count is sixty of the same minion-ranked mobs as before, but an additional four of a stronger variety that will descend roughly three-seconds after the normal swarm. I’ll reapply the Gain Immunity spell on Naotsugu first and then follow with a Nightmare Sphere to slow down the majority of them when they’re lured in as before. Miss Akatsuki, Mister Kirito, you should be able to take care of the four higher-level adds left behind within five seconds of each other, and then start on horde from both sides in a pincer attack.

Yes, My Lord!’ the Assassin replied dutifully, brandishing her blade in a reverse grip and lowering her stance. Kirito had to admit she was fast and ninja-like, despite being so tiny and young. He wondered if she was closer to Silica’s age or younger, so she had an easier time slipping into the role of her character.

Then he shifted his attention to the Guardian as he took a deep breath and raised his sword-bearing arm. His armor suddenly shone with a blinding green light while his eyes were like burning gold. Kirito gritted his teeth and braced himself.

ANCHOR HOWLLLLLLL!!!” A tangible wave of force and flaring viridian light billowed out from his stalwart figure along with his voice, washing over the area surrounding them with an almost irresistible pull. Kirito felt it passing through him, shaking his teeth and bones, but he wasn’t the target and wasn’t as heavily affected. The same couldn’t be said for the minion-ranked adds, which began to target him instead.

It was followed by a sphere of purple that expanded and encompassed the horde of adds centering around their tank, leaving them sluggish. It made them more manageable for the Guardian, who unleashed a Cross Slash and began to whittle them down. From the last few waves they learned his armor soaked the damage and prevented the fangs sinking into his skin, but his health still decreased a sliver. Kirito presumed this meant the health system still registered the damage on-contact, if not the pain.

When the larger spawns dropped down, Kirito rushed forward as the Assassin pulled ahead of him on the right. The new adds were twice the size of a horse, but their levels were still lower. They wouldn’t be able to hold up against his blades, and he knew it.

The white blade was swung down, smashing through the exoskeleton of the arachnid and into the innards. Before he realized it, he twisted the blade, adding to the damage as it widened the wound, and then pulled it back out at an angle, as though carving the letter ‘V’ into its body. It seemed even months after his escape he still knew the motions of the Snake Biter Sword Skill from SAO.

Running through the spray of coins and vials of poison, he brought the dark blade around in an arch and tore through the second’s head. He twisted his body, coat billowing as his feet left the ground, and brought the ivory-white blade with him to cut it down the center. Landing fluidly in a crouch, both targets slain, he then looked to his swords to find they were smoldering where visceral fluid lingered.

Be cautious,’ the Assassin warned, even as she spun on her heel and ran towards where the Guardian was being slowly swarmed. ‘The larger ones seem to have poison that eats away at weapon durability.

Got it!’ He flicked his blades to get off as much of the fluid as he could before going back to assist with the small fry.


[SAO -o0o- LH]


With Asuna

Light glinted off the rapier that felt wrong in Asuna’s hands as she thrust it forward for the thirtieth-time. She and her daughter were in what amounted to an empty park, rife with trees and butterflies but devoid of other life. The city was slowly stirring, but not many people were out. They were waiting for answers; much like the rest were in other places she was sure.

“Mama, what’s wrong?” Yui asked, nestled on top of a low-hanging branch of the tree Asuna practiced under.

“It’s nothing, Yui,” she said, the lie stinging her mouth as it flowed into the ears of her adoptive daughter. It was a lie born of pride that she tried to soothe immediately with a half-truth. “I’m just a bit uneasy with everything so far. I need to get back in practice with using a sword.”

She wasn’t relying on outside help to save her this time. SAO and ALO had both left her unwilling to rely on those outside the situation to resolve it. No, whatever this game or world they found themselves in was, she was certain it was something that would have to be resolved by them. And that meant she had to re familiarize herself with how to move, how to fight, how to think like the Clearer she had once been.

Not like a victim. Not like someone who could only beg for him to stop as he—

“Someone’s coming!” Yui said, snapping her out of her thoughts long enough to realize her hand was trembling. “There’s two guys coming. One of them looks like a knight, but the other is dressed weird.”

Asuna kept her blade drawn, but pointed low to not offend anyone without leaving herself defenseless, while Yui lowered herself with her wings until she landed in her mother’s hair. Of the two who approached, one dressed like a white knight with a blade and shield on his back, and the other was dressed like the modern-romanticized Viking, complete with the horned helmet, axe, and red beard. It qualified as weird for the server, she supposed.

“Well, haven’t we found a fine thing this morning?” The Viking chuckled, rubbing his beard as he looked her up and down. “And what’s a lass like you doing out so early?”

Her sword arm twitched and rose a few inches, the blade’s point angled so that a thrust would connect with him. “If hitting on me is the only reason you’re here, I’d advise you to move on.”

“Touchy.” The Viking tilted his head in amusement, a glint in his eyes. “But you should be more careful with that blade, lass. I’m Level 90. You aren’t dressed in what looks to be gear for someone higher than half that, at best.”

She shrugged her shoulders and held the sword up, pointed straight towards his face. “A sword in your eye will hurt all the same, I bet.”

He barked out loud laughing. “I like her. A spine of steel, this one.”

The white knight held his hand out at his side, in front of his comrade, before he gave a slight bow of his head towards Asuna. “Forgive Varn, please. It’s…his way of coping. We’re just a little confused at the moment, and his reaction to our circumstances is to immerse himself in his online identity… badly, at that.”

“…Keep him on a leash,” she warned, after a pause. “I’m really not in the mood, and my patience is limited. The last thing I need to deal with is someone who finds this situation ideal for acting like that.”

Hypocritical, a darker part of her mind whispered. Isn’t that what you’re trying to do? Slipping into the confident person you were in SAO. And yet you broke so easily, your heart—

“Mama?” Yui called.

Asuna’s eyes snapped forward, having apparently drifted to the ground without her realizing it, to see her daughter was floating in front of her with eyes downturned in worry. She could spy the knight looking at her carefully as well, especially how her hand was noticeably tensed on the grip of her sword. She took a deep breath. “I’m okay.”

The Viking looked at her funny. “Why did that fairy call y—”

“Enough, Varn!” the Knight hissed after seeing her eyes narrowing. A sigh slipped out of his mouth and he extended a hand for her to shake. “Let’s try this again, my name is Galatine. I wanted to talk to you about the situation we’ve found ourselves in, if possible. ”

She looked at it for almost a solid minute. Then she switched her sword to the other hand and cautiously shook his. “Asuna. I’m Asuna, and this is my daughter, Yui.”

“Interesting,” he mused, looking at the pair. “Judging from your equipment, I’d say you were a Swashbuckler, but a sub-class of Beast Tamer?”

She gave a short shake of her head. “It’s complicated, but no. I’m a Swashbuckler with a Chef sub-class. Yui is… she was watching me play the game, but ended up in this state when we were pulled into it. She didn’t have an avatar to inhabit.”

“Given the strangeness of how we all ended up in what appears to be the world of Elder Tales, I can understand how something like that would happen. It makes me grateful my little niece wasn’t awake when I was playing. She loved standing by my chair and telling me where to go, pointing at the screen.”

“I don’t know anything about how we got in here, if that’s what you want to ask.” Asuna shifted her legs and crossed her arms. “Neither do the people on my Friend’s List in Akiba, so I won’t be of any help to you. We’re all in the dark.”

“I see…” He looked crestfallen somewhat. Asuna assumed he was one of the ones holding out hope that someone knew something. “If you learn anything new, would you please inform me? The sooner we have a solid grasp of what’s going on, the sooner we can get home… hopefully.”

He sent her a friend request. She stared at it for some time, mulling over the decision. She had a grasp of what it did, and she wasn’t really sure she would like having a stranger being able to monitor her through his map while they were in the same area. On the other hand, he seemed genuine about his concern.

Then again, she had been lied to before. She trusted her Commander in the Knights of the Blood. She respected him, and it turned out the one who trapped them all in his wish-fulfillment fantasy was that very same man. Maybe she was jaded after all she went through, but she didn’t want to be that type of person. She didn’t want to be someone who let her fear of what happened in the past drive who she became.

Asuna accepted with a press of the button, but stared into his eyes doing so. “Information only, no social calls.”

“Understood,” he replied.

“Share it with me too,” said the Viking.

Her response was blunt and to the point. “Not on your life. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I want to be alone.”

She twisted on her heels and walked away, sheathing her sword but keeping her hand on the hilt so that she could draw it in a flash. The few times she glanced over her shoulder they were talking to one another, with Galatine looking upset and the Viking looking chastised like a child being told off. There didn’t seem to be a mirror device like what Kayaba had used, so chances were that he was younger than his avatar looked.

“Should we tell Papa about those two?” Yui asked, floating down and resting on her shoulder.

Asuna shook her head. “No, your father doesn’t need to know. I can take care of myself.”

“Okay….” Yui looked up for a moment and then rested her hands against her stomach. “I’m hungry.”

Asuna resisted the urge to wince as her stomach silently agreed. “Mmm… I am too, but the taste engine leaves a lot to be desired.”

“Maybe if you try cooking it?” Yui mused. “You did something similar in SAO, right?”

Asuna crossed her arms in thought. She had picked up the Chef sub-class, but she wasn’t sure the effect it would have here. On top of that, she didn’t know too many recipes. Most of the time she spent since getting out of ALO had been in rehabilitation and speaking with Kirito, trying desperately to grab hold of the good parts of her life in the last few years and become independent again.

“I guess we can give it a shot,” she finally said. “But it took me a long time to get things working in SAO. I can’t promise anything right away.”



 [LH -o0o- SAO]

With Shiroe

The silvery, argent mist of the Astral Chaff spell seemed to wrap Shiroe like a flowing curtain, preventing him from being targeted as the Boss above warbled at the last of its spawn being killed. It was a precaution he had to take given that the number of adds had exceeded his original expectation, bleeding out past their expected range, but the cost was acceptable.

Regardless, with all the minion-ranked enemies dealt with, the Field Boss for this zone shifted phases. It descended with a thunderous crash, kicking up loose dirt and grass. Its mandibles clicked and vibrated, spewing droplets of deep purple venom that made the grass it came in contact with smolder as it died.

Naotsugu, the boss seems to produce acidic venom from its mouth.” Shiroe warned, casting another Keen Edge of the two attackers of their group. ‘Try to avoid letting it snap down on your shield or armor, block at an angle if you have to.

Got it.’ The Guardian advanced towards the target while the other two circled around with their blades at the ready, right and left. The Boss seemed unperturbed by his presence at a glance, instead warily eyeing the Swashbuckler. Then it moved.

You didn’t really know how fast a giant spider was until it decided to pounce. It was in the air, higher than they could jump unenhanced, positioning its massive bulk as it descended to land on the Swashbuckler. Whether on instinct or a knee-jerk reaction, he rolled out of the way of the attack in time to avoid being crushed.

Miss Akatsuki used the lag after it crashed down to swipe at it with blade, leaving a tinted fluid seeping from a weeping line that was little more than a paper-cut. Mister Kirito, having recovered from the attack before, leapt forward and spun with both blades to cleave a parallel set of diagonal lines in its abdomen. It had roughly the same level of effect.

Naotsugu moved to draw its aggro with an Anchor Howl while it whirred around with an inhuman quickness and lashed out with its two legs at the Swashbuckler. “Anchor—”

The spider sought him out before he could let loose the cry. It fired a thick stream of webbing from its rear at him, and the spout nailed him dead on, clinging to him like a great weight as it bowled him over and anchored him to the ground. He was trapped, and it was coming around to sink its acidic fangs into his stalwart armor.

The Swashbuckler was on the job, rushing in front of him and planting his feet as he raised his swords in a cross to block the damage. The swords ended up between its mandibles, letting the venom dribble down on the white and black steel. It trickled further onto the grass, right next to the sticky spider silk holding the Guardian tight.

Shiroe took a gamble and saw that he had a status effect that indicated he was bound, so he cast Dispel Magic and hoped it would do the trick. The colorless wave passed over Naotsugu and the bindings that pinned him place dried and shriveled, falling to pieces and removing the movement debuff that kept him in place. It gave him time to get back onto his feet and counter-attack.

His shield glowed with a luminous green hue and he pushed, letting the Shield Bash activate and socking it in the face. It freed the swords from its mouth, even if it didn’t stagger the thing back far. Akatsuki followed up by jumping on its back and slashing at it from a blind-spot.

The Boss clearly came prepared for a counter to that. It dislodged her by curling its legs and then rolling around. She was thrown off as it continued to roll about in a circle around the attackers.

It’s lost about a fifth of its health,’ Shiroe broadcasted as it rose back to its feet at a distance. ‘If I remember correctly, it should start spraying webbing in a wide-pattern once it hits a quarter and further it would produce more adds. The game classified the webbing as an Area-Of-Effect binding spell, so try not to get caught when that happens since I can only dispel in a limited range.

Can you bolster my speed?’ Mister Kirito asked. ‘Not just movement, but everything so I can blitz it. You have a spell for that, right?

Shiroe nodded. It was a toss-up between using Haste or Infinity Force. Given they weren’t aware of the effects the latter would have once it burned out, he decided on the former and then pointed his staff at the Swashbuckler. “Haste!”

The head of the shaft shone with argent light before the spell streaked out as a shimmering-gold bolt and struck him. What looked to be a clock appeared at his feet, the hands of it speeding up as they moved clockwise. They circled faster and faster, encasing him with a sort of distortion around his body, and then the Swashbuckler exploded forward while screaming.


[SAO -o0o- LH]


With Kirito

Kirito felt the world around him slow down in turn. His heart was racing, his head throbbing from the speeding thoughts, and he felt the wind howling past his ears as he ran towards the boss. A fleeting thought had occurred after he had performed the Snake Biter. Could he meld the techniques of old into something new?

This was the chance to find out. This fast, he was sure he could do it. He could overwhelm the boss with a brutal blitz and continuous combination—Starburst Stream.

His body remembered what he needed to do. He had went along with the motions for months on end during SAO, going along with the System Assist to familiarize himself it—becoming one with his sword, as the saying would go. It had been engraved into his muscle memory, and he knew the steps by heart.

Driven by that thought, the Keen Edge allowed for a tail of light to follow the strikes. The right sword was swung from left to right and the left came in for an upwards slice. It was when he was in the middle of his spin that the Boss lashed out, un-staggered. A sickening violet fluid seeped from the point of its leg and it shot the limb forward like a spear right when he jumped to bring down both his swords again.

And thus, Kirito learned the true meaning of pain as it speared through his abdomen and impaled him upon the limb, a scream of pure, unadulterated agony involuntarily clawing out of his throat as the poison ate him alive from the inside….

[Chapter 2 -o0o- End]


Notes: Because I don’t feel like dealing with accusations later on about rape being used as a backstory mechanic, I’ll come right out and say it now. The fairy moron turned his mental manipulation on Asuna after she got caught snooping around and tried twisting her emotions towards loving him. It was partially successful and, as you can imagine, this was not pleasant and had consequences that will be explored in the story.


August 2015 Sugar Bits Update 1

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