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Generated: Sep 23, 2019 7:29 AM
Post last updated: Sep 23, 2019 7:29 AM
If You Give an Eldritch Abomination a Sacrifice...
A Decima summons Eldritch Ira to the Naruto-verse
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She found the old tome behind a new wall in the family shrine. It'd been bricked in. Hidden

Of course Hisame can hardly resist such a delightful temptation.

She skims through the book, pauses, then reads more thoroughly, a grin growing on her face.

Maybe it's nonsense. Sacrifices and blood and dark chants all for show.

But it was hidden for a reason. And maybe it's something more.

Maybe her way out of this damn Hidden Village.

Decima is good at stealth, and good at killing, no matter how Konoha keeps trying to shackle her. Finding an 'innocent' no one will miss in the next twenty four hours isn't actually that hard.

The symbols are fun to paint - she's never been allowed to play with blood properly - and she lights the sacred incense, carefully recites the chants, maintains the proper atmosphere within the shrine's sanctuary - 

And tries to summon a god.

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Well. She certainly got something's attention. Possibly not a god, but something ancient, and unknowable, and curious.

This thing is definitely curious about the creature who dares to summon it, like it's some kind of straying pet.

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The someone is a very excited preteen girl! She laughs, claps, and says, "Oh, wow, you're beautiful!"

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-Wait. What?!

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-And here is another barely-teen person. "I know, right?"

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"Oh, hi, you don't seem like a mind-shattering terror," she says to Ant. "No offense. Who're you? I'm Hisame."

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"Oh, I'm not. I'm Ant. This one's just taken a liking to me." Ey jerks eir thumb at the probably-a-mind-shattering-terror.

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"Neat! I found the book with the ritual bricked up, it was a horrid shame, so I just had to try it out!"

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"Oh yeah, that's the best kind of stuff, the stuff other people don't want you to find or use!"

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"No one ever hid something because it was too boring!"

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"Yeah. I love finding hidden stuff people hid. I used to hunt around my house for stuff. My parents didn't like that."

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A tentacle has reached over to poke at the sacrifice, almost thoughtfully.

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"I've had a lot of time to explore this place, and it's old and has a bunch of secrets, which's neat. I live on my own, don't have to worry about parents telling me what to do - my sister took care of that problem - but the village keeps trying to restrict me. It's annoying."

To the abomination: "You can have that! He's for you."

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Tentacle: grasps corpse and pulls it back into what is probably the maw of this unspeakable horror.

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"Oh, Ira here - that's what I've been calling her, her name has far too many weird sounds that a human throat can't cope with - took care of my parents for me as well. What's with the restrictions though? That's boring."

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"I know! It's dumb! They don't want me leaving the village without permission, and I need to have my teacher with me, and I need to do what he says on missions, which're all no fun. I won't be allowed to do the interesting ones for forever. We're doing chores still, even though my year-mates are doing slightly less boring stuff. There's a really long list of rules, and it has stupid stuff like not showing emotion, not contradicting a superior officer..."

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"That's all just dumb. I mean. Ira keeps an eye on me, but she doesn't stop me doing stuff. And like, her only rule is 'don't die'. And like, she mostly takes care of that. And you should always be able to contradict people. It's important to be able to tell them when they're being idiots."

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"And they're idiots so often! That's a very good system, too. I'm not afraid of dying, but I think I would like to do a lot more things first."

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"So why do you stay if they're idiots?"

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"It's dangerous to leave. Missing-nin are hunted, and unlike my sister I'm not strong enough to kill all the hunters yet."

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"...Why are they hunted?"

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"For being traitors. Villages want to discourage soldiers from leaving. Even genin like me. Civilians just aren't allowed out. Konoha would send hunters after me, to bring me back or to kill me, and if that didn't work, or if I committed 'crimes' outside Konoha, they'd put a bounty on me."

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"-They think you're a traitor just because you don't want to listen to them? Are you at war or something?"

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"...We haven't declared war on anyone recently but we don't like our neighbors? And there's always some fighting. I thought it was normal for soldiers to have to listen to their leaders?"

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"Well. Yes. I guess. But kids aren't soldiers."

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"Twelve's the normal graduation age? And I'm not a kid."

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-That is a not-very-happy noise from the eldritch being.

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"It's not the same," Ant says to the horror. To Hisame: "No, you're not, but where I come from you're not supposed to be a soldier till you turn eighteen."

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"...That's a long time. Is there a lot of training to do where you're from? And what's not the same?"

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"I mean...there's school? Not...training as such. Not unless you're like...an athlete, or in military school I suppose? Are you in military school?"

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"I graduated a month ago. Where you're from people my age can't fight?" Might not be best opportunity for her to get out of here, then, if they're going to object to her murdering people...

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"I mean. We can't fight in wars, but loads of us fight anyway. Gangs and stuff. It was pretty cool the time I took over a gang because I didn't like what they were doing."

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Oh, that's alright.

"That sounds fun! I don't like it here. If I did that, I'd have to hand over control to some approved spy."

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"Have you considered doing it and just...not handing it over?"

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"They might try to seize control anyways. And they'll know. It's very limiting, being here."

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"That sucks."

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"Would you like to try?" The woman who is now stood there is utterly unnatural - her appearance a little too perfect, her voice not quite coming from her, her lips not even moving.

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"Try what?"

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"Getting away. Fighting them. Winning."

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"That would be delightful."

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"Then that's what we'll do."

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"Oh, I don't know whether I want to vanish mysteriously in the night or cause some mayhem on my way out."

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"Mysteriously vanishing gives you a head start, but mayhem sets the tone."

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"It's a very tough decision! My sister caused quite a bit of mayhem - albeit contained, so she could flee easily - and I don't want to be seen as derivative, is another consideration."

"Hm. Is it at all possible to do both - or to cause mayhem in the course of mysteriously vanishing? Even just destroying these buildings in some strange way will cause concern..."

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"Oooh. How about taking the buildings with us? Leaving this spot empty?"

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"Hm. That's not impossible to do with chakra, but it'd be difficult, and would be noticeable..."

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"What would be impossible?"

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"Hm! Not much. Some things would be prohibitively difficult - like making the buildings move in ways they shouldn't. Someone could mimic that with Mokuton, but no one has that anymore. Unfortunately chakra can do many, many things."

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"Sounds like we need to figure out something impossible! But for now: let's steal these buildings!"

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"Yes, let's!"

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"Take us away, Ira!"

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The woman laughs-

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-and the red headed avatar vanishes, her more betentacled form returning.

There's a weird moment where perception is almost impossible: she's in the building, she's around the buildings, she is the buildings, and then-

It's freefall.

It's feeling everything.

It's standing still.

It's feeling nothing.

They can see the entire universe, layer upon layer of worlds, overlapped and interconnected, squashing each other, and breaking-

And they can see her. In as close to her true form as their human minds can comprehend-

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And then it stops.

"Here we are," she declares. "I found an empty spot. It's quiet here."

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She laughs, and looks around, spinning as she does so.

"That was wonderful!"

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"I'm glad you enjoyed it."

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"I'm really glad I found that book! Can I hug you?" She only hasn't already because sometimes shinobi don't react well to that. 

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A slightly confused look, and then a not-quite-natural nod. "If you wish."

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Hugs!

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She's clearly not good at hugging, like someone who's only recently started having practice at it, but she does a passable job of it.

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Decima can provide her with lots of practice!

She will eventually break the hug though in favor of bouncing off to get a proper look at their surroundings.

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Ant appears to be looking around as well. They've been put down on a cliffside, in a space where the feasibly shouldn't be enough room for the buildings, and yet: none of them seem to have fallen away. Ahead of them, there's ocean as far as the eye can see.

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Hisame looks around and behind them. "I don't recognize where we are. Too warm for northern Lightning... Must be pretty far south."

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"Far enough away that you've got a good headstart."

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"Hm. Might return, especially if I can grow my power... I do like Fire Country. It's a nice climate."

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"Sensible, make sure you've got the strength to take on those hunters you mentioned!"

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"Exactly! I'm going to need to train a lot, especially without a shinobi teacher, but it should be doable when I'm not being held back."

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"Well, I think Ira brought all the contents of the house, so... you have any books you already had?"

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"Shinobi don't write much down, but at least one of those books was quite useful."

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"...That seems like a surefire way to lose things when someone cares more about keeping their secrets and all the power than making sure it's passed on. Although that's also a reason not to write things down, but still..."

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"I think the concern is for - your opponents not getting your techniques, and if you're dead your clan probably is and people don't... Care about others outside their clan usually."

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"But if you're powerful enough, and your security is good enough, your opponents won't get their hands on that unless you're dead?"

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"No one's that powerful, and no one's security's that good."

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"Yours is now. No-one's gonna get past Ira."

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"That will certainly change quite a bit."

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"Uh-huh." Pause. "Do you think I could learn?"

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"I think some people can't use chakra? But there's always learnable stuff. Like, weapons, and taijutsu."

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"Sounds like my world. There's witches and wizards, but I'm not one. But there's something I can learn! What's taijutsu?"

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"Most people here can use chakra, even if they don't learn how. And taijutsu is bodily techniques - martial arts, excluding weapon-centered styles."

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"Ooh. Sounds fun. And who knows? Maybe I can use chakra as well. But it isn't like I'm losing anything by trying."

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"Yeah! I've never taught anyone before, it'll be interesting!"

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Ant bounces delightedly. "We're gonna have so much fun."

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She laughs. "Though I doubt anyone else will!"

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"Well. They're just boring then."

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"No taste whatsoever."

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"It's shocking how little taste everyone else has."

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"Absolutely unacceptable."

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"We simply must fix it."

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"Introduce them to true fun!"

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"So where do we start?"

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"For chakra? Meditation is a classic. Help you feel the energy inside you."

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"Well. I guess meditation then? I'm not sure I'll be very good at it..."

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"I can help guide you! But it does take a lot of practice."

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"Well. No time like the present to start practicing right?"

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"Right!" And she'll walk em through the basics of meditation and sensing.

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Ey's restless, but ey proves a quick enough study at the theory, if not so great at the practical aspects.

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She'll place her hand over em's, channel her chakra in a warm burst through eir hands - "It feels like this."

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-Oh.

Oh.

"I- yes, I feel...something?"

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"That's chakra! It might feel a little different in your own core, though."

Decima's is warm and sharp and almost spicy, if spicy was a texture and a color.

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-And back to focusing and-

Yes, there. Ant's is a little cooler, more mint-flavoured, if ey had to put a name to it, and softer somehow, more curves than points.

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"That's great!"

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Ant grins happily. "That's really cool. So I have the thing right?"

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"Yeah. Next step is usually trying to move the center of feeling around your body - like a you're pushing gel in a bag into different places."

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And back to trying to follow instructions. The sensation is weird, and Ant keeps giggling at it, and occasionally whispering: "this is so cool".

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Their friendly neighbourhood abomination appears to be spectating.

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She'll very quickly move Ant onto basic exercises - sticking lightweight things to your skin, mostly.

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Sticking lightweight things to skin: surprisingly enjoyable.

It might just be that Ant is doing magic (in eir understanding), but they're grinning, even when they're not entirely successful.

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Teaching people: surprisingly fun!

If you do this you can cause the light stuff to shoot off or catch on fire (which is a common thing to do when learning). Decima's figured out if you do this other thing you can stiffen the leaf or paper, so if you're good at aiming you can shoot leaf knives at people! If you're good at timing they can be on fire leaf knives!

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Oh, this is so much fun. And Decima is awesome.

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She still hasn't figured out exploding leaf knives, sadly, but she bets she could do that with seals.

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Oooh!

Wait- has she mentioned seals before? What are seals?

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So there's two main types of magic writing - seals, and inscribed techniques. Seals store things. Sometimes 'things' can get kind of complicated or esoteric. Inscribed techniques are like normal techniques, but with writing instead of hand-signs.

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"Huh. I think magic in my world needs a wand or something. Ira wouldn't let me too near the wizards."

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"All we need is your own body and intent; writing does require a way to channel the chakra externally to your body - inks are often made with blood, for instance."

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"Huh. Does it have to be your own blood? Or does the blood of anyone with chakra work?"

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"Anyone's blood. I'm uncertain if some types work better than others."

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"We should do science and figure that out!"

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"Yes! And I wonder if we could carve a very large seal - filling the channels with blood would run into clotting problems, but a blood-derived ink..."

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"Do we have to do the carving? I'm pretty sure Ira can carve it for us..."

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"Efficiency!"

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"It's really for the best. Efficiency makes everything better."

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"Means we can do more, too!"

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"And that is definitely of the good."

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She giggles and flops backwards. "Hm... I don't know it'll help much to keep moving on. You're supposed to get your foundation right before working on stuff like transforms and clones."

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"-Wait. Clones? You can clone yourself?"

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"Basics are just illusions. Some people can make them out of earth or water or pure chakra, though."

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"-Oh the things I could do, even with just illusions."

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"Illusions are one of the best parts about ninja techniques!"

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"I am so happy I get to do this!!" Ant bounces.

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She bounces back! "I'm happy too! This is amazing, I'm so glad I found that book!"

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"So am I! Ira's great, but I've missed having people who understand being human to talk to!"

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"That does sound like it'd get lonely, yes."

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"It did. On occasion. But it's better now."

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Hug?

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...Yeah, actually, ey could use a hug, that would be nice.

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Hug!

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Hug! It is a good hug!

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Hisame is out of practice with hugging but she's very enthusiastic about it.

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That makes two of them! But hey, enthusiasm can make up for a lot when it comes to hugs!

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Indeed it does.

"I'm feeling better," Hisame says after a few minutes.

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"Me too," Ant agrees, but doesn't immediately pull away. "Hugs are good for that."

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She laughs. "I don't think anyone's hugged me since my sister."

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"Well that's just wrong. I'm up for as many hugs as you want!"

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"I'll take you up on that."

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Ant bounces. And then yawns.

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She giggles, says, "Don't start that!" and yawns too.

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"Oh, gosh, yeah, let's not get caught in an endless round of yawning--"

Ant manages to stifle the next yawn that wants to emerge.

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She laughs, and finds a nice patch of grass to flop on.

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Ant flops down next to her, staring up.

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"Today's been good. Thanks."

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"No. Thank you. You brought us here. It's a nice change."

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"Nice all around, then."

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A tentacle drapes a blanket over the pair of them.

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Happy wiggle. Then a sort of quiet yawn, and she starts to drift off.

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No-one will disturb them certainly.

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She'll sleep lightly, but without dream nor internal disturbance.

Nobody bothers them in the night.

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Ant sleeps a little deeper, but wakes early, even if ey tries not to disturb Decima, should she still be asleep.

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She'll wake up when Ant starts to stir, and almost immediately hops up to start stretching.

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Ant takes a moment to wake up properly, and seems a little reluctant to leave the warmth of the blanket, but after a moment, gets up to join in the stretching.

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Hisame is apparently a morning person, going by how peppy and energetic she is right now.

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Ant is not precisely a morning-person, but ey certainly isn't not a morning person.

"So. What's the plan for today?"

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"Obtaining food?"

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"-Oh. Yes. Food is definitely a thing we need. Is it weird how easy that is to forget?"

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She snickers. "Well, since we stole the buildings, I still have what's in my fridge."

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"Fridge-raiding is a time-honoured morning tradition."

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"We'll probably want to eat what's in there soon. I don't think the electricity will keep working."

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"Well. I'm ravenous. So let's go make a dent."

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She smiles, and leads the way.

Most of her food is in fact non-perishable, but when she's home from missions she likes a lot of luxuries and nice foods.

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Ant: not a picky eater. But ey will be delighted by nice foods.

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Hisame can eat a good amount, given the opportunity.

While they're eating: "We should try to find books on sealing. They would've been too dangerous for me to steal on my own, but..."

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"Oh. I'm sure Ira can get us somewhere. And she can deal with any attempts at attacks."

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"That's great! Then the only problem is where to start..."

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"Where would you normally find these books?"

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"With seal masters. I only know of one by reputation. Jiraiya of the Legendary Three Ninja. But I know the Hokage Tower in Konoha has a bunch of scrolls."

She giggles. "They'd freak out if we stole the whole tower, I bet."

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"Would you like a tower? I wanna tower. Towers are cool."

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"Towers are awesome! We can make it into a library tower!"

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"We should definitely get a library tower once we're done with breakfast. And we can fill it with all the books and scrolls, and I can get Ira to bring some of the books from my world, and-" Ey cuts emself off, realising ey was getting overexcited by the idea.

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"The Hokage might be in it during the day. I don't know what'll happen politically if Ira eats him. Possibly not the fun kind of chaos."

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"Possibly better to wait until nightfall then? We can do more practice in the meantime?"

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"That sounds good! I can teach you so much!" She's bouncing. "Maybe how to walk up walls! Or breathe fire!"

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And now Ant is bouncing again as well. "Oooh! That'd be so cool!"

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"I can show you them!"

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Ant claps eir hands together, and can barely contain eir excitement through the end of eating.

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Eir excitement is contagious!

And, once breakfast is done, Hisame runs up a wall, rushes through handsigns, and sends a fireball at a rather rundown building a bit separated from the rest.

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Ant laughs delightedly and claps eir hands again. "That's amazing."

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"Thanks! The fireball was the first full technique I learned. Sensei only taught us the wall-walking recently."

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"Which one's easier?"

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"Probably the tree-climbing, honestly, it's just a chakra exercise."

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"Start there then?"

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"Probably reasonable, yeah."

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To that then?

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To that!

It's a bit of a frustrating exercise, and will probably involve Ant either falling off or breaking a lot of assorted walls.

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Ant is surprisingly enthusiastic about both of those things as a means to an end!

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It is fun!

Ey probably won't get up to the 'definitely has this' standards by the time ey gets tired, since ey doesn't have prior experience molding chakra nor notably small reserves.

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Nope! But Ant still collapses back into the grass, elated. "Oh my god. That feels so good."

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She giggles, collapsing beside em. "I love it! My second favorite part of being a ninja."

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"Ooh, what's your favourite?"

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"Fighting! I'd say hunting, but they wouldn't let me do that enough to get more than a taste."

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"Guess we can add that to the list of things you get to do more of?"

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"That sounds marvelous."

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"Then we definitely need to make sure you get to do it."

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She giggles. "There's this girl in the year above me... She'd make a fun target to play with."

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"Ooh, is that a vendetta I sense?"

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"Heeee, no. She's cute, though, especially when she's yelling."

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"...Oh!" Ant says with a giggle. "I see!"

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"She uses knives! And swords, and axes, and spears - she has a whole bunch of weapons sealed into scrolls..."

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"Ooo! Jack of all trades?"

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"Yeah! She doesn't use a lot of ninjutsu or anything, I don't think, but I bet she could wield any weapon she saw."

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"-Okay, I definitely need to meet her I think. I think weapons training would be cool as well. Think we could convince her? After you've hunted her of course."

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"Dunno! She seems loyal-ish? But a lot's flexible."

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"I think we can at least try. Show her all the fun we're having, and all the stuff we have that she's not got access to once we have our library?"

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"Bribery! If she's into sealing I bet she'd love that access."

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"So sealing library, and then hunting her down!"

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She bounces. "Sounds like a plan!"

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"So. How much longer before we can hit the tower and steal it?"

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"Hm! I'd give it a few hours? Midnight is an appropriately mysterious time anyways."

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"...Sounds good. Mind if I take a nap? Think I wore myself out throwing myself at wall."

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"I don't mind at all. I'll probably spend some more time training, but I'll move so I'm not disturbing you."

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"I sleep pretty soundly, to be honest, don't worry too much."

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"Alright! Have a good nap, then."

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"Enjoy your training," Ant nods, and settles down to nap.

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She quite does!

And, as midnight draws close, she wakes em up.

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"Mmm. That time already?"

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"Yes! Time to steal ourselves a tower!" She pauses, then: "It might have people in it. Ira can eat them. The girl I like shouldn't be there right now, so."

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"Give Ira her name, Ira can just drop her on the ground once the tower's been stolen if she is."

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"She's Tenten!"

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"I'll make sure not to eat her," Ira assures. "Shall we?"

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"Thanks! And yes, can I come, I want to see the looks on their faces - "

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"I was assuming you were coming," Ira assures them, already shedding her human avatar. The movement is the same as before, although on a slightly smaller scale, and then they're in the tower.

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Hisame starts cackling as people shout in alarm, and people in white masks lunge for them -

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Tentacles have a variety of uses. Including hanging people trying to attack them upside down.

Anyone else I shouldn't eat?

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"My old team. Naruto, Sakura, Kakashi. I like them well enough."

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The people Ira's holding start to vanish as yet other tentacles start to wind their way through the building, throught the very walls.

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Ant is busy looking around, excited. "This is so cool."

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"Should we stay here for safety, or can we start looking for books?"

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"Oh, we can start looking for books. Ira's basically everywhere."

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"Sweet! Come on, I bet they keep some cool stuff near the office... Ira, we might end up tripping over some seals, and they might cause weird stuff like explosions, as a heads up."

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Don't get caught in them.

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"We'll try not to!"

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"Well then: lead on!"

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She does.

Anything interesting in the Hokage's office is protected by seals, but there's a library that was mostly relying on being next to a lot of scary people for protection. Hisame starts cackling when she figures that out.

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Well, to be fair, lots of scary people is quite a good protection. But Ant is laughing delightedly as well about that particular turn of events.

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"I wanna see Ira scaring people," Hisame says once they've confirmed there's sealing stuff. "It's fun to imagine but I wanna see their faces."

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-Ask and ye shall receive.

While there's still a sense of tentacles, it's Ira's redheaded avatar who flickers into existence nearby, crouched down so that her fingers can curl around the edge of one of the white masks - the person is still hung upside down.

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She leans forward, grinning and then laughing at the man's snarl of "Traitor!"

"Oh, an ANBU! They're the most fun, like to act like they have no emotions at all," Hisame says.

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"Ooh. This should be fun then."

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Ira's visage shifts and morphs, and there's a sense of whispering at the edge of Hisame's consciousness. Ira holds human form, but her skin bleaches and her eyes seem to widen, darkening, galaxies spiralling deep within them, dead stars and broken planets.

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The man makes a strangled sound, making Hisame laugh. "Oh, can I see his face? I want to watch him struggle."

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Ira shifts the man, so that Hisame can see his face with ease, her own body giving way to half-decayed muscles, clinging to a skeleton.

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His careful facade is crumbling into sheer terror, to Hisame's delight.

She taunts him a bit, about how she's against Konoha now - and then, as he breaks into pleas: "He's boring now. You can eat him."

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Ira laughs and dissolves-

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-and the tentacle flips the man into her gaping maw.

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She laughs. "Have you been having any trouble at all?"

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No. But they think they can stand up to me. It's fun.

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"Have they tried anything interesting? The Third Hokage is said to have all sorts of powers."

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"Not yet. Should I hang around in case they do?"

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"It's a bit past what we were planning... But this is fun..."

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And there's a sudden chill in the air, like the grave breathing upon them, and the world goes black-and-white -

And a masked, skeletal being appears floating before them, scythe raised.

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...Oooh.

Ira turns to them, "Are you going to be a challenge?"

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"Popcorn?" Ant offers Hisame. (And when did ey even get popcorn?!)

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"Popcorn!"

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The shinigami, being the local god of death and one of the world's few remaining gods, is indeed a challenge, scythe capable of cutting through even concepts -

It's not quite prepared for Ira.

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She toys with it some, lets it think it's going to get somewhere with trying to destroy her.

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It, unfortunately, doesn't have a noticeable emotional reaction to this.

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Pity.

She abandons her avatars and resumes her true-er form.

Except it feels like she isn't quite fitting in the world this time. Her tentacles start to wind around the shinigami, drawing it inexorably towards her maw.

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It attempts to flee, mostly trying to jump across dimensions.

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Except there doesn't seem to be a dimension that Ivh'otl'ra isn't in. Except it feels like Ivh'orl'ra is the dimensions. It's hard to separate, hard to work out where she (it?) ends and the dimensions begin.

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Everything in its general vicinity starts to cease existing.

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Ivh'otl'ra stubbornly refuses to cease existing. Or perhaps fails to notice that things around it are ceasing to exist.

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That was kind of its ultimate power!

It intensifies, but - 

It's merely the one who ushers the living to the Pure Land.

It is not, in fact, The Ending Of All.

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Ivh'otl'ra isn't sure it's The Ending Of All either, but it is sure it is the end of this shinigami.

It gets the thing into its maw and then-

-then it is done, and Hisame and Ant will bear witness to what appears to be a very content eldritch horror.

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Hisame is too delighted for words.

She has no idea what eating death's going to do but it promises to be hilarious.

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"If you're done, you could move this tower back to our base?" Ant suggests.

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Well yes, Ira can indeed do that thing. And does.

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"Let's look through our books now!" Hisame suggests, grinning.

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"Oooh! Yes! Let's!"

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To the books! There's not really an 'Introduction to Sealing for Absolute Beginners' book, but Hisame knows enough about technique theory to piece together. This one's a technique scroll, contains that massive shadow clone technique her teammate Naruto likes... Oh there's the death god summoning one... Oh hey that's a summons scroll! Neat! She has the cat one, though now she's curious what this one does....

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...Cats? You can summon cats?

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"People can summon just about anything, if there's a summoning realm willing to sign a contract. The Uchiha have one with some nin-cats, and I inherited it. Wanna meet them?"

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"Yes!!"

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She runs over to a more properly cleared area, excitedly explaining summoning techniques as she goes. You give the summons some of your chakra, and the bond between you and them is sealed in blood (which carries chakra), and you can pull each other into one another's dimensions...

A bitten thumb and some handsigns later, and five cats appear in a cloud of smoke. All of them are wearing little blue and black vests.

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Ant squeaks and claps a hand over eir mouth in an attempt to muffle the sound, but that is adorable.

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They regard her in the way only cats can, and then the smallest strides up and says, "Pet me."

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Gladly!

"Hi," ey greets, running eir hand over the cat's head.

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Purr purr purr!

"You are a good petter."

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Ant smiles. "I'm glad you think so. You are a very good cat."

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That is one smug cat! "I am gorgeous and fluffy."

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"You are. You are both of those things."

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A tentacle lifts slightly and blinks at the cats. (...When did the tentacles acquire eyeballs? Did they acquire eyeballs? It's hard to tell.)

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Cats solemnly blink back.

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Apparently eldritch abominations approve of cats. Or at least this one does.

A slightly less potentially-eyeballed tentacle reaches out to pet one.

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She will soon have four cats clamoring for attention (the fifth is enjoying Ant pats).

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Upshot of tentacles: she has many of them. And she puts them to use with the four cats clamouring for attention.

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Ant grins over at Hisame. "They're awesome. Thank you!"

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"Thank you! I usually don't have enough hands for all of them..."

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"Thankfully, when you have Ira around not having enough hands is not a problem. ...Well. Tentacles, but same difference."

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"A very delightful side-effect!"

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Ant frowns thoughtfully, first at the cats, then at Ira. "...Do you think Ira could learn to summon?"

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"Dunno! It's unlikely to hurt us to try!"

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"Might hurt someone else," Ant does not sound too concerned about that.

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"And that's my problem - ?" She giggles. "We'll have to ask the cats, of course - unless Ira wants to try an undirected summon. That usually sends you to whichever summons realm fits your chakra best."

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"Oooh. I wanna try that. But I think Ira would like the cats."

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"If she wants to learn, I can teach her chakra and then summon the boss cat!"

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-Ira's avatar is abruptly sitting next to them, although the tentacles are still busy stroking cats.

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Hisame giggles. "Were you paying attention to me and Ant's chakra lesson?"

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"Some. But perhaps cover the basics again."

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She will! And, once Ira's up to speed: "Do you want to talk to boss cat now?"

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"Yessss."

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She flashes through the handsigns, and sways a teensy bit as she summons a cat approximately twice as tall as a horse at the shoulder. He's a sleek blue-grey with wide, luminous eyes and a sharp grin.

"Well, it's been a while, Hisame. What do we have here?" he rumbles.

"A friend! She wants to sign the contract!" says Hisame.

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Ira makes a facial expression that is probably supposed to be a smile. "Hi," she greets, raising one hand.

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He tilts his head, tail winding about his paws. "You're an odd one," he comments. "Still, you seem to have chakra, which is enough for the contract. Traditionally it's signed in blood, though - your own, not someone else's. And whatever you sign it in, you use as a medium to summon us."

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"I'm not sure I bleed, but I assume ichor would work in the place of blood?"

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"Probably."

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"Then where do I sign?"

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He takes a large scroll off his back - easily the size of Hisame - and unfurls it, tapping his paw on a blank box.

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Ira plucks a...quill?? Out of one of her tentacles, already dripping with ichor.

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"Oh my gods, Ira, seriously?! A quill? What is this? The- uh, I actually don't know what century quills were the major writing tool in..."

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"Seemed appropriate."

And Ira signs with a flourish - although there's not, precisely, letters in her signature, and the ichor glows.

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"Very appropriate!" the boss cat says, sketching a half bow. "And welcome to our new summoner."

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"Thank you," Ira grins. "I am very happy with this contract."

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He purrs. "We are pleased as well. May our alliance be fruitful, and enjoyable to all involved."

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"Oh, I'm sure it will be."

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That gets a laugh. "Good hunting! Be sure to summon us for the fun parts."

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"Oh, I promise."

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"She really will," Ant agrees.

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He nods, smiling, and says he has business in the cat's mountain before dismissing himself. (Ira can, of course, practice summoning other cats).

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(In which case, they're likely to have a very happy eldritch abomination who is stroking multiple cats.)

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"Okay, cats are cool, but I just wanna see where trying to summon something takes me."

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Cats are very pleased with this!

Hisame grins at Ant. "That'll be neat! The sequence isn't any different for a new summons if you don't already have someone - you'll probably be pulled to their realm, though, but they'll be able to send you back here."

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"To be fair, I've got coming back from other realms covered with Ira. Okay then. Do I have to pick something, or can I just attempt a generalised summoning?"

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"Generalized! I'm not sure if they pick you or if it's some kind of mutual best fit thing?"

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"Well. Let's find out!"

And Ant sets about setting up a generalised summoning!

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The chakra surges - and ey is distinctly somewhere else, now.

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This is so exciting. Ey looks around eagerly for any clues.

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It's a forest! There's a slightly large red panda hanging out in a tree over there, and a smaller one comes bumbling out of the shadows, looking curiously at em.

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Ey crouches down and holds out a hand. "Hey," ey greets.

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Bumble bumble bumble closer. Sniff sniff.

"Who are you?" calls the red panda in the tree, moving to see em better.

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"I'm Ant," ey introduces emself. "I was trying out this summoning thing."

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"Oh! A new summoner! We haven't had a new summoner in forever!" exclaims the red panda, standing on their hind legs a bit. The small one by Ant bounces excitedly. "We should tell the boss!"

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"I'd appreciate that!" Ant agrees, smiling widely.

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The panda bobs. "I'm Kouyou, and that's Kintoki! He can't use the human tongue yet, but doesn't mind if you carry him. Follow me!" And they jump down to the ground.

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Ant holds out eir arms to Kintoki.

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Armful of snuggly small red panda!

Kouyou starts bumbling off.

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Ant cuddles the red panda and follows after Kouyou.

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Trees! Red pandas peering curiously! Stone steps, eventually, covered in moss, beside stone walls decorated with carvings of animals and plants and odd symbols. And an enormous stone temple - inside, a red panda larger than all the others combined, her face sunken into her skull, red lights like fire shining from her eye sockets.

"Who are you?" she rumbles.

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"Ant," ey says, staring up at her. "You're the boss then?"

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"Yes. Do you wish to sign our contract?"

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"Very much so, yes."

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"There is a test..." she begins, tilting her head. "We must ascertain you are right for us."

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"Oh, yeah, that makes total sense! I'm up for that as well!"

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She nods. "You must go to that mountain in the distance, and retrieve a certain object. I will send with you my granddaughter, to lead the way."

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Ant nods. "Understood! Where do I start?"

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A very tiny and floofy red panda waddles up, and chirps. "My granddaughter doesn't speak the human tongue yet," the panda boss explains. "Her name is Akachi. Follow her."

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Ant nods seriously, and will follow the tiny, floofy red panda.

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Tiny floofy red panda is capable of scampering, and keeps running ahead of Ant and then doubling back for em.

The path is not really meant for humans - it's plenty wide, but no particular effort's been made to level it, or reduce the numbers of steps or hills or weird bends.

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Ant, thankfully, is in fairly good shape, and has youthful exuberance in eir side, although ey can't keep up with Akachi, ey can at least normally keep her in eir eyeline.

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Then: mountain climbing! There's luckily a hiking trail. This small red panda has very little respect for cliffs and heights, but so far seems to be keeping her balance.

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Ant keeps a close eye on her, having a little more respect for cliffs and heights - ey's pretty sure Ira will intervene if ey falls, but ey'd rather not fall.

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They come to large, stone steps, leading to a massive temple. Akachi climbs to the top of a tall panda statue and looks around, then scampers back down and nods into the dark depths beyond the open stone doors.

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Ant narrows eir eyes at it. "You coming with me?" ey asks.

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She hops a bit into the dark and nods.

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Alright then. Into the dark they go.

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Long, narrow walkway with no handrails over a drop of indeterminable depth, leading to a massive landing before a grand staircase, leading to a maze Akachi keeps darting out of sight in...

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Ant picks up eir speed, not happy about losing sight of Akachi, because ey doesn't know what risks are in this maze.

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The maze widens into an enormous room, with what looks like a puzzle cube at the center.

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Okay. Ant looks around for any clue as to what ey's supposed to do now, and also where Akachi's gone.

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The cube's a bit taller than her, but seems to have grooves for moving things, and some things stick out and have deeper grooves around them. 

Akachi is climbing some of the carvings on the wall. The carvings are in the same style as the puzzle cube; their relationship otherwise isn't immediately obvious.

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Alright. Ant can try and work out the puzzle cube - if it turns out to be one of those cubes from Hellraiser...

Wait. Ira'll just eat the Cenobites. It'll be fine.

Ey considers the wall carvings - does it look lik ey can move the objects on the cube to resemble the wall carvings?

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It's hard to tell in the gloom, but possibly.

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Well, with a lack of other ideas to try, ey'll try that then.

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The stone shapes are heavy and hard to move, and it really doesn't help how Akachi keeps scrambling over the wall carvings. When Ant's gotten into one series of steps that seem to require quite a lot of quick motion and balancing, Akachi starts to slip.

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-Nope. Ey can start this again. Ey lunges to catch Akachi.

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The puzzle cube shudders and things click into a place they hadn't been before.

Akachi is caught! She squeaks.

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Okay. That's...not good. Can Ant get Akachi out?

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Akachi will cooperate with being carried.

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Good. The small red panda is getting taken out somewhere safer, and the test be damned.

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Getting back out, at least, is somewhat faster, the path far more obvious from this direction.

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Typical. Still. Ant can...maybe make eir way back without Akachi, but she wants Akachi somewhere safe first.

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The mountain outside the temple has very slightly fewer things to fall off of, or at least the trees are likely more familiar to Akachi.

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"Are you going to stay here?" ey asks Akachi seriously.

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Innocent chirp.

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"-I know that sound," Ant says, suspicious. "That's the sound I make when I'm not gonna do what someone wants me to do."

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Who, Akachi, disobey??? No, that is the very face of innocence. 

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"You are trouble aren't you," Ant says, almost playfully. "Please stay here? I don't think it's safe for us both to be in there?"

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Dramatic flop.

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"I'll be back soon? And maybe we can play some when I'm done, huh?"

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Sad chirp.