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Location: The Classroom of Hatake Toshiro, Konohagakure, Morning





Although she had said not a word in response to his greeting, Shunpei had always known Mitsuko to be quite quiet. He couldn’t say it was a trait shared by he and his usual company, but it was one he could appreciate, like coming home for dinner after a long day of play. He wasn’t concerned about her silence.

What he was concerned about, however, was how she had so suddenly become flush with color! Usually Mitsuko was all pale and light, like a Hyuga ought to be, but right now she was more like a beet.

Despite Shunpei’s social intuition, Mitsuko had always been a hard one to read. Her emotions were like a tranquil sea, and even after years of being her friend, he couldn’t be completely confident in his ability to pierce the depths of her heart.

He was also kind of dumb, which might have played a not insignificant role in what he did next.

When the farm boy saw his friend’s face flushed a deep red, he did not think about the possibility she was simply embarrassed. He did not think about the possibility this could all have been his fault. What he did think about was today: the day they graduated, the day they met their sensei, and the day that began with torrential rainfall.

“Are you sick or somethin’?” Shunpei asked innocently, “You’re lookin’ awful red there…”

The farm boy would have continued pondering on the exact nature of Mitsuko’s condition if it weren’t for Tsume’s... not-inaccurate-but-also-not-accurate introduction of the two to their sensei. He’d even caught the side comment, unfortunately.

"Erm... Tsume-san, uh... My name's not Shunichi..." the Hatake pointed out, “It’s Shunpei.”

Now, even though she hung out with Fukushu and he hung out with Tensai, Shunpei didn’t have anything against Tsume. Sure she was loud and reckless and couldn’t read a room for the life of her, but she wasn’t a bad person as far as he could tell. Heck, Shunpei could even appreciate her attempt at keeping her snide thoughts between the sensei and herself (which in and of itself was indicative of the issue she had pointed out).

But it still really hurt knowing that one of his beloved classmates couldn't even remember his name even after several years. It just went to show how much of an impact he had made in the minds of his peers. How utterly depressing.

“Haha...! But don’t worry about it,” Shunpei laughed. It was an awkward, anxious and inelegant, but it nevertheless held a touch of sincerity. “I reckon you’ll remember real well when I become Hokage. Then ya can be like sensei over here! Heh… Heh...”

He let that statement stand, partially because he couldn’t think of anything else to say, but mostly because he couldn’t possibly belt out another line like that. He really just wanted to curl into his stomach. It was too embarrassing now that he heard it out loud!

Shunpei promptly turned to watch the other teams depart, which gave him time to smile and wave. The fact it meant he was looking away from his team was a happy accident. Once the heat had left his face and his last former-classmate had left the building, Shunpei directed his attention back to the team.

According to the jonin, they were going to the hospital, which was weird. Everyone else was going off to training grounds, which made sense. What business did they have at the hospital?

At the risk of seeming like Kimura, the Hatake began speculating.

Surely their sensei wasn’t planning on having them train there; that would cause such a ruckus! Maybe he was planning on having them help out there instead, but as far as Shunpei knew, Mitsuko was the only one on the team who knew much about medicine. Tsume was always more a punchy-type, and his own talents were also not (in generous terms) medically-inclined. Were they really that strapped for people?

Oh! Maybe they were going to visit an injured shinobi contact and go off on a super cool mission! That’d be sick--not the same kind of sick that Mitsuko was, but sick sick.

But that was putting the cart before the horse. First they had to find somewhere to eat that was relatively close to the hospital. But where?

At that moment, Shunpei hammered his palm.

“Oh! Kitanai-sensei!” the genin bounced, eager to be of use. His had arm shot into the air as if he were going to wait for his sensei to call on him, which he did not. “I know a place we can go. Follow me!”

And so, Shunpei sprinted off into the rain-soaked streets of Konohagakure.



Location: “Food Stall”, Konohagakure, Late Morning


As excited as the Hatake had been, the destination was not very impressive. Shunpei’s path brought Team Kitanai to a hole-in-the-wall ramen stall in Konohagakure’s minor clan quarter. Most people going about day to day business in the village wouldn't stumble across this place unless they knew what they were looking for, and the design reflected this. The prices advertised were hilariously low; one could live off of the food here on an orphan’s stipend if they so wanted to. The stall only had enough seats for six people total, one of which was occupied already. Emblazoned on the dirty noren was red kanji spelling the shop’s name.

Ramen Ichiraku.

Shunpei pushed aside the noren and stopped in his tracks. He cast a look over his shoulder to see if the other two were still behind him, which they were. But if that was the case, then this was really weird!

“What in tarnation?” Shunpei scratched the side of his head, ”Kitanai-sensei, what’re-- How’re you able to get her so quick? I didn’t even say where we were goin’!”



Location: The Classroom of Hatake Toshiro, Konohagakure, Morning



Fortune had never favored Hatake Shunpei, but against all odds, he was going to become a shinobi of Konohagakure.

It was not that he was a bad student. Far from it. But despite his efforts, he was not a good student, either. He was, however, the last student--the last in theory, in training, and in general competence as a shinobi. This was no exaggeration, either; he had seen the results scroll (no doubt planted by his uncle and sensei, Hatake Toshirou, to guilt him into improving) yesterday with his own two eyes.

(It was working, by the way.)

The genin-to-be was worried he would be held back like Uchiha Ria, but it turned out that was not the case. He would be graduating quite literally surrounded by all his best friends... Sort of. One of them, Hyuga Mitsuko, was in her favorite corner seat in the back despite being invited to sit with the rest of them up front. It was a shame she had rejected their offer, but he understood. His mom always told him not to force people against their will. He knew she was up here in spirit.

Next to him was Inuzuka Kimura, writing in her journal with her trademark eagerness. Shunpei peered at what she was so fervently inscribing into her journal. It was in some strange, illegible code, but based on the scrambled array of diagrams, it seemed to have something to do with his household. A new trap formation maybe?

She flipped a page. This time she was writing about Tensai's hairstyle. Although he couldn’t really understand the content (but he could make a decent guess), her writing movements were soothing, and the sound of turning pages and charcoal on paper left the feeling of static running along his scalp. He only stopped watching once Uncle Toshirou manned the podium and drew everyone’s attention to the front for his big farewell speech--and the announcement of the class’s top ninja, whose identity came as no surprise to Shunpei.

After all, who knew Uchiha Tensai better than Shunpei himself?

He looked past Kimura (which wasn’t difficult at all, considering the height difference) to the other end of their table, where the prodigy himself sat. Tensai looked more distant than ever. Not once--not during the announcement, not during the chaos, not during the resulting silence--did he express any joy over this announcement. He just sat there, thinking the thoughts of one who had just been blinded and orphaned

Although Shunpei had been spared the finer details of the incident, his mother had filled him in on the broad strokes after returning from Uchiha compound one day in a terrible state. Apparently his mother had tried, and failed, to invoke her right as Aunt Narumi’s appointed guardian to take Tensai into their family. It seemed the will of the clan trumped even the will of the dead.

Shunpei couldn’t imagine the kind of pain he’d been going through, all alone in that clan compound (they wouldn’t even let him in when he’d tried), but seeing his best friend like this was troubling and frankly depressing. And the silence was deafening as Uncle Toshirou waited for Tensai to do or say something to kill time while waiting for the third sensei.

The young Hatake began rising in his seat as well, fully prepared to do something stupid and senseless (as usual) to take the attention off Tensai and the awkward silence, but fortunately he didn’t have to. In that moment, a convenient interruption occurred: the arrival of the last sensei, a dirty-looking man with a bearing not unlike that of a Hatake shinobi.

Now that all of them were accounted for, Uncle Toshirou introduced the three jonin. The dirty one was named, fittingly enough, Kagetsu Kitanai; the disapproving, well-muscled brunette was Sarutobi Matsuoka; and Tensai’s aunt was, in fact, Tensai’s aunt Shinatobe, eyeing the class like a crow would eye carrion.

Of course, with introductions out of the way, Uncle Toshirou began assigning teams, which was as exciting as it was nerve-wracking. Especially as it became very evident Shunpei's name was not showing up any time soon.

The first team to gather all its members--Sarutobi Matsuoka’s--was an eclectic bunch. As far as Shunpei could tell, their formation lacked an obvious specialty. He didn’t know anything about the sensei, but Enma, Inokikue, and Ria didn’t have any obvious commonalities in their three skill-sets, especially taking into account things like kekkei genkai and hiden.

In Shunpei’s mind, they were either going for a generalism or nepotism. Inokiku under a Sarutobi was as close to an InoShikaCho formation as you were going to get in a class without any Nara or Akimichi, and the Sarutobi clan were historically linked with the Senju. Why Ria had been placed there and not with her aunt was beyond him. Maybe it was supposed to use the Senju-Uchiha rivalry to create additional motivation, or maybe it was just rich folk looking out for other rich folk.

By Shunpei's reckoning, Inokikue certainly seemed pleased with his state of affairs (despite being on the only team with another guy), but Ria was less so. Was she that displeased about not being assigned to an Uchiha, or had something happened between her and Inokiku? She was kind of glowering at him and muttering strange things.

The second team to assemble the brunt of its members was Kimura and Fukushu’s team, the one lead by Tensai’s aunt. Though it had not been completed, there was no doubt the remaining member was Tensai himself. He had gone from clan outcast to clan treasure in something like two weeks. Shunpei would eat his bonsai if the Uchiha clan would let anyone else teach “their” prodigy, especially now that he was blind.

Now if it weren’t for Fukushu being assigned to that sensei, there would have been a real solid chance Shunpei could have been with his closest friends. They could have totally been a thing, like InoShikaCho, except they would be TenShuKimu and they would be 100x cooler. But maybe in another life. Unfortunately, it would be all TenFuKimu all the way down.

Shunpei’s prediction was proven correct when he was assigned to Kagetsu Kitanai.

“Oof,” Shunpei winced. Seeing something coming didn’t mean it made the secondhand cringe any less painful. They really did just put Fukushu and Tensai on the same team--underneath Tensai’s aunt, even! If he could switch with the poor guy, Shunpei would have, but even he knew full well the Hokage doesn’t take complaints from kids like him. At least Tensai had Kimura to keep him sane.

The second-to-last student took the long, inconvenient way around the table, which conveniently let him pass by Tensai.

“Reckon that means you’re on her team, huh?” Shunpei took Tensai by the hand and gently pulled him out of the seat. To everyone else (except maybe the jonin, those-in-the-know, and the exceptionally perceptive students) it was just some brotherly, if awkwardly executed, gesture. Considering they were normally inseparable, this wasn't nearly as weird as it ought to have been.

Tensai only made two faces in response: one of confusion, and one of realization. Given the circumstances, Shunpei didn't expect Tensai to be super talkative, but Shunpei could talk enough for the both of them.

Once Tensai was upright, Shunpei threw his arm over his shoulder and grinned. “Ya know, I think this gettin' split thing just means they couldn’t handle all of us at once,” he half-whispered, leading him down the steps, “But hey, at least ya got Kimura. That's a plus.”

After hitting level ground, Shunpei pulled his arm back and faced Tensai head on. “Looks like this is where we part,” he said, scratching the back of his head.

“Guess I'll see ya 'round,” Shunpei said. He had almost reached out for a fist bump back then--a bad move to execute with a secretly blind kid who could hit better than you, for sure. Instead, he gave Tensai a single, powerful pat on the shoulder, as if it were the head of a majestic lion or the neck of a horse, “If ya ever need a hand, ya know where to go.”

With that final exchange, Shunpei and Tensai parted ways and headed to their respective teams.

The team led by Kagetsu Kitanai wasn’t nearly as much of a powder keg as Uchiha Shinatobe’s. As far as Shunpei knew, there shouldn’t be any Fukushu-Tensai-level conflicts. After all, his teammates were Yakushi Tsume and...

“Ah! Would ya look at that: we’re on the same team,” Shunpei greeted Mitsuko, “Ain’t that great, Honey Bun?”

Why she had insisted on being addressed in such a way was beyond him, but he wasn’t so impolite as to deny such a request. Perhaps she would grow out of it now that they were debuting as proper shinobi.

“Ah! Right! Where’re my manners?” Shunpei exclaimed, the tips of his ears taking on an embarrassed pink tint. He turned to properly face his team.

Now that he was up close, Shunpei was able to get a better read on the man. His sensei didn’t seem nearly imposing as his height and build might have suggested--and what a build he had! There was no doubt this guy knew his stuff when it came to taijutsu, which made sense considering the team composition. Were they planning on developing Shunpei's taijutsu skills as well, or was there something else?

Still, the most significant thing about the man was not in his form. It was in his eyes. Shunpei decided that they were like his mom’s: bright and world-weary. Compared to the other senseis’ eyes, the difference was like the sun and the moon.

“Kitanai-sensei!” Shunpei bowed deeply. “I’m Hatake Shunpei. Hope we can all work well together!”

:mousedab:

Shinto Streets w/ @King Cosmos@Floodtalon



"Y'know, I heard on the History Channel that quiet like this usually means aliens are gonna probe us." William stopped and looked above, tilting his hat upwards to get a clearer view of the ugly crimson staining the sky. He shook his head. "Honestly? Feel like aliens'd be a lot more welcome than--"

Suddenly, a metallic crash tore through the silence, hearkening the arrival of one more faceless soldier.

"--well, that."

With practiced speed, William drew the big iron on his hip and sighted his enemy with deadly aim. The enemy didn't seem to be after him, specifically, but that didn't mean he'd just let this ambush slide!

"Saber, buddy. If this don't work, I want'cha to cut that shifty fella in half for me," he said before firing two rounds into the soldier's unarmored... Face? Hole? William didn't know, but he was still open firing on it anyway.

BANG! BANG!
It ended with the sound of shattering glass.

The final monster had fallen in a maelstrom of ice and fire, and with it came the iconic sound of lifepoints rapidly reaching zero. Smoke and steam lingered over the battlefield, creating a dark cloud concealing the two duelists within.

The first to come into view within the slowly dispersing mist was a boy with monochrome hair and blue eyes.

"Five turn checkmate," he said, allowing his arms to fall limply at his side. A wry smile played at his lips.

Then, finally, the digital haze cleared, revealing the final score for all to see.

Coach Yoshiwaru Go: 3400 LP
Applicant Kyouka Yutaka: 0 LP

The boy ran a hand through his hair, letting out a loud, bitter laugh at the sight.

"And here I was thinking I make it just a little further than that!"


𝖪𝗒𝗈𝗎𝗄𝖺 𝖸𝗎𝗍𝖺𝗄𝖺

Yutaka was not looking forward to hearing his results.

Honestly, his performance out there was just embarrassing. That was some absolutely degenerate gameplay on his part--he'd have to fix that next time. In hindsight, he shouldn't have gotten greedy and committed all of those resources into that third turn combo. And that Sphere Kuriboh save? Not actually a save; it would have been one two turns later, though. But who the hell expects a counter-play like that?

'Probably a better duelist than me, lol.'

But what was really embarrassing about losing here was that he'd promised his ride back that he wouldn't. And then he did. And now he would definitely roasted for it, especially if it meant having to get yet another letter of recommendation from the guy. All in all, it was definitely a ride back home he wasn't in any rush to get to. Not that he was ever in a rush to go home in the first place.

At any rate, as one of the final contestants, Yutaka did not have to wait long for the duels to finish and the final judgement to begin. In a way, this was both a blessing and a curse. Whether the lack of gathering dread was worth the finality of judgment remained to be seen.

The old man went on about bonds or heart of the cards or effort, hard work and victory or whatever. He'd tested for enough dueling schools to last him a life time; he'd probably heard just about every permutation of that presentation. Instead, he spent the entire introduction brazenly reading new manga chapters on his phone.

Yutaka only started paying close attention once names were called. He didn't expect to hear his name in the upper echelons of the graduates. He didn't even expect to hear it in the middle. Yet he listened to these most intently of all.

It would be impolite not to know the names of your future opponents, after all. And there was the possibility, however slim, that he would be recognized in this category.

Of course, Yutaka would not be recognized in these categories, and it seemed that he wasn't being recognized in the lowest bracket either. For what seemed like aeons, names were called again and again for Uriel Scarlet. But the most important name of all refused to show itself. It would be a lie to say he wasn't getting a little on edge at that moment; he was wound tighter than a spring.

But then he heard it.

The one thing he had been waiting for.

The words that made an old man's badly-amplified voice sound like the choirs of heaven.

"Kyouka, Yutaka."

And at that moment, Yutaka leapt from his seat and roared.
"AHA! FUCK YEAH!"

He had, against all odds, succeeded in getting one school acceptance out of the dozens he had applied for. He pumped his fists triumphantly. He beamed like an idiot (which he was). He did a little jig. He...

...took a seat.

Because it was dead silent now. And people were staring.

...

They were still staring when he sat back down.

Yutaka coughed and leaned back, intertwined hands cradling the back of his head like he was a cool guy out of some trite anime. "...What're you all lookin' at?" he quipped to nobody and everybody, nudging his chin in the direction of the stage, "Old man's talkin'. Respect your elders. Pay attention."

Ironically, he was too excited to pay much attention as the rest of the names were called and the judgement drew to a close.

Once the gym had cleared out, Yutaka withdrew his phone and dialed a familiar number.

"Sup, aniki? Sorry to disappoint, but it looks I'm gonna have to cancel that ride back."




"Velvet, huh?" William said as he took the magus' hand and gave it a firm shake. "Gotta say, I'm more for leather myself, personally."

He snorted and grinned like he thought that was actually funny. Which he did.

"Just a little joke to liven the air. City's already doom and gloom enough what with all the, uh..." William placed his hands on hips and looked around the area. "...Yeah."

He decided to refrain from answering any questions for now, and simply waited until Rider returned to give a brief scouting report. After receiving the appropriate information and considering Saber's input, William piped up.

"Sorry, big guy," he apologized. "Much as I'd love to let'cha off the chain, Mr. Velvet and myself would be mighty vulnerable if some unsavory fella like Assassin or some such wants to play while Caster's busy setting up in the church."

An idea struck William at that moment.

"Hey Caster, maybe you wanna send some of your winged friends there to help out Rider?" he suggested, making little flapping motions with his hands at the mention of wings, "Gauge their strength, get some recon done, that sorta thing? If familiars can take them you no problem, that's one less thing to worry about."

With his input on tactics out of the way, William turned his attentions back to the magus in green. "Great! Now that that's outta the way, we can mosey on down to this church and get our little Q&A session going."

The Chinese cowboy threw his arm over Waver and marched off in the direction Rider had directed.
Shout out to Raijin copying the Wind Pillar’s marechi status before the author came out with it



It took a bit more time--he was not nearly as quick as a Servant, after all--but William finally arrived.

"Whew! Glad to see that was done quick and easy! Great job, Rider," William stroked the pegasus' mane, then surveyed the scene of the battle. The soldiers Rider had shot down were strange. If they had just been soldiers, he would have figured wraiths; if it was just mud, he would have assumed them golems. But these were something else.

William would have investigated further, but the way that mud was strewn all over the place like monkey's dung rang too many alarm bells.

"You got a name, stranger?" he asked the pale-looking kid, eyeing his form for anything that might present itself as a threat. Quickly, William's gaze settled at the pool of vomit at the stranger's feet. He relaxed immediately.

"...Aw shucks," he rubbed the back of his head, "Sorry about that, I ought'a tell you mine first, huh?"

He offered his gloved hand. "William. Pleased to meet'cha! By the by, is that Lupin guy one of yours? ...And why the heck's there mud everywhere, anyway?"
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