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 This Town Ain't Big Enough for the Two of Us

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Katsue Hyuuga

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PostSubject: This Town Ain't Big Enough for the Two of Us   Tue Jan 15, 2013 3:25 am

Damn that Hajime...Every time, every damn time...She wondered why she even still bothered to follow the man. Sure, he was her mentor and all, but the title was starting to stretch lately. She taught herself for the better part now, be it sword fighting or earth wielding. He just faffed about like they were on a sightseeing trip, giving her philosophy lessons or forcing her to ''meditate''. The worst part was, now and then he would send her on an assignment, ''field work'' of some sort. Each time, he would disappear while she did his bidding.

She remembered strongly her passage in Sera, a few months ago. Her first self-assigned task, that had satisfied her need for violence for quite some time after it. At least, her master had let her be that time. She couldn't get rid of him, in any case; he was her ticket everywhere. Her wallet, as well. She wouldn't get very far without him. Also, even if she loathed to admit it, she liked the bastard sometimes.

Not right now, though. Not with this particular mission of his.

Sending her to Terra was possibly the worst thing he could do to her, and thus the best way to make her hate him. With all the past she had here, it was like putting her in a dark cell for a year. Her mere presence here was enough to make angst build up in her stomach and her mind fill with dark, broody thoughts. She felt like pulling out her katana and going on a killing spree.

Not here, though. Not in this particular place.

She was in a small village, North of Terra. A village ravaged by the war that had ended a year ago. Because of its location on the border, it was still in a sad state, as opposed the inner cities, that had been given more attention. No, this place was just the portrait of misery. Emaciated people that walked like the living dead, hunched over and with empty eyes. Striving almost mechanically towards the goal of—what exactly? Rebuilding their village? They didn't even seem to care that much. The point was that while Katsue was violent and ruthless at times, she would not raise her blade on such despondent - not to mention innocent - people.

Especially since, according to Hajime, her job was to help them rebuild. It will give you a good lesson on life, had he said. You need to connect with your peers, feel the power of community, had he added. If you never learn to reach out, how can you ever expect to reach your goals? He had concluded by saying that if she didn't show satisfying results, he would stop being her teacher. She didn't even know what he expected of her, but the remark itself had scared her enough to agree. Although she whined a lot when it came to him, she couldn't imagine losing him as her teacher. What's more, she felt like he hadn't yet taught her the essential of what he knew. He was just waiting until she was ready. Probably.

Right now, she was busy taking the potentially dangerous objects out of houses. Shards of glass, broken items, even spoiled food. Some places really had gone to Hell, and they were now impossible to live in. The residents stayed with other families whose homes were in better condition, until their own were restored.

''Good work, everyone. Let's try and have this one done by this hour, then we can move on to the next house. These people want their homes back!''

Chirped the little ''young humanitarians'' leader. Apparently, a group of do-gooders had beat her to the place, and she had reluctantly joined her efforts to theirs. She rolled her eyes, shutting the man out. Her mind was already drifting away, into vivid memories. Her mother, the last days spent in this country...She shook her head. If she started to dwell on thoughts like these now, she would never get her work done. She kept everything pent up, frustration building.

As she was now, she would most likely snap at the first person who looked at her funny. Yup.
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PostSubject: Re: This Town Ain't Big Enough for the Two of Us   Wed Jan 16, 2013 1:02 pm

There was something perfectly mind-numbing about digging through rubble, salvaging the valuables that families hoped had been saved, now that the war was over. That thought alone was something that Haruna could not wrap her head around -- that the war was over, that people could get back to trying to live without fear of either Terran or Ignis soldiers co-opting their homes or resources. Those soldiers that had been training in Ramkarn had been almost as bad as the Ignese themselves: Northern Terra was the food basket of the country, filled with peasants and nobodies, so of course it was alright to secure resources from them to fill soldier guts.

Haruna was not particularly sympathetic to any one human being these days. She'd been down to the coast about a week ago, passing over her friend to his freedom and taking back, in his place, three Terran prisoners of war, and she felt awful about placing more value in an Ignese spy than in her own people... but it was hard to shake that feeling of being left all alone in the world. She'd long since clammed up about that sort of emotion, though, so when people tried to interact with her, she didn't give much to work with.

She did, however, sometimes invite trouble when it seemed to be brewing. It was easier to stand her ground when she knew that she was righteous in her infuriating circumstances. There were some people, for example, who were working on the humanitarian crew that Haruna had fallen into who weren't local -- weren't even from the rest of the Northern half of the continent. The Young Humanitarians leader was obviously a sheltered Ramkarnese snot who'd been shipped up here to impress his parents, now that it was safe to do so. So were half of the other awful human beings who'd come with him.

Haruna had taken a moment, thrown out of her happy-place, to squat and watch the leader of this group toss his pep-talk propaganda to the rest of the team, and, scowling, she turned her gaze on some of the others. There was one young woman a little older than Haruna who seemed so insufferably spoilt that the ex-guerrilla fighter had been all but itching to get some words in with her... but so far the opportunity had not presented itself. Now, however, she caught Katsue visibly looking put out, probably because she'd chipped a nail. or gotten dust in her lovely copper streaks. The curl in Haruna's lip could have just as easily been a sneer as it had been a smile at Katsue's unfortunate circumstances.

Haruna had no idea that Katsue was trying to clamp down on painful memories -- for all she knew, the woman was part of the Ramkarn elite who simply didn't realize how awful it was to live in the real world and was now about to throw a temper tantrum over it. As much as Haruna's training had suggested that compassion was required across the board, she couldn't quite help shake the feeling of schadenfreude she was having at Katsue's expense.

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PostSubject: Re: This Town Ain't Big Enough for the Two of Us   Wed Jan 16, 2013 5:30 pm

With time, and with the group leader’s relentless chatter, Katsue's anger did not recede. She was bent down, carefully picking up shattered pieces of a plate and putting them in a bag. She really didn't mind the task itself. It was so mindless she could eventually slip into a trance and block out bothersome thoughts. She was getting up when her eyes met someone else’s.

A native Terran; Katsue could tell. Most likely still a teenager, despite the composure she tried showing. She’d caught her eye earlier. She seemed somewhat smug, but it all felt like just a brat gunning for attention to Katsue.

All that didn't matter though. Because the brat was giving her a dirty look. Katsue turned squarely towards her and snapped : ''Something you want?''

She’d spoken loud enough for the other volunteers to stop and listen. They were bored out of their minds with the job and eager to let anything distract them, so they clung to the potential scene with zeal.

Unfortunately for them, the leader had left momentarily and when he came back, clapping to get everyone’s attention, he announced :

''Alright, since we’re just about done with this house, we’re starting on something else. We need to be more efficient so we’ll divide the tasks in teams of two.''

He scoped the little troop of eleven people, including Katsue and the other girl. Katsue nearly glared at him when he pointed at her. ''Katsue, right? You’re new to the team, so why don’t you pair with Haruna? You two head on to the river outside the village and bring back some water. The containers will be waiting for you outside, and take this map.''

He motioned at the Terran youth. Katsue let out a gruff chuckle. How unexpected. Not that she wasn't pleased. Teaming up with this girl simply meant she could give her due in peace. She realized she was being childish; taking her frustration out on a teenager because she had looked at her the wrong way. However, she had pent up anger, a need to fight it out, and she was the closest thing she had to an enemy right now. So there.

She walked up to the humanitarian leader and practically ripped out the issued map out of his hands, before exiting the house. On the way, she had locked eyes with Haruna, in a way that clearly meant I’m not waiting for you. She spotted the containers; those typical double baskets joint by a rod that were to be supported by one’s back. At least she’d be getting a decent workout, carrying those around. She took one and swung it around so it rested on her shoulders. She started for the river, knowing her partner would follow soon enough.
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PostSubject: Re: This Town Ain't Big Enough for the Two of Us   Thu Jan 17, 2013 7:01 pm

'Well, look at that,' Haruna thought to herself. 'The princess wants to prove that she can be a real person like the rest of us.' The younger woman rose to her full, gangly height, stretching in an understated fashion as she turned her attention towards their leader. Did the man realize how facile he sounded, tossing airy aphorisms around as though a hand-wave would make life easier? What a dick-bite.

That charitable thought in mind, Haruna followed Katsue out of the house, ambling at a pace that allowed the older girl to keep a clear lead. Shoving her hands in her over-sized pockets, Haruna watched her quarry half-ways from under a veil of long hair that had escaped its bindings. It was a matter of sizing Katsue up -- not because Haruna had any particular intent to take a spoiled noble (or at least rich) type on, but because Haruna sized everybody up as a matter of course. She kicked loose pebbles ahead of her as they went, perhaps even hard enough that one or two might bounce off of the back of Katsue's ankles.

Partly, Haruna was feeling asinine on principle. Partly she was testing the woman to see if she would throw the much anticipated hissy fit that Haruna was expecting. She wondered why it was that Katsue was so bent on looking as though she was being useful. There must be a long and tragic history, there, waiting to be unleashed in a high-pitched whine.


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PostSubject: Re: This Town Ain't Big Enough for the Two of Us   Sat Jan 19, 2013 2:16 am

Katsue twitched slightly, her patience slipping away fast. The pesky sound of Haruna kicking the pebble was the cause, especially since the girl was clearly kicking it in her direction. Now, for all the difference it made that she was the oldest of the two, it didn't mean a whole lot. Katsue could sometimes be as mature as a ten year old. Thus, that little sending-the-rock-in-her-direction was irritating her. Not enough to get her katana out, but...

''Hey, brat'', she hissed. ''You're going to have to stop that.'' There, a statement, simple as that. She was the kind of person who would get her point across with as few words as possible. She didn't like talking. She spoke with her blade most of the time. She was on the verge of communicating with the teenager. She glanced back at Haruna, sizing her up. Could she hold her own in a fight? On quick evaluation, the younger girl seemed in fact in great shape, muscles showing off her arms. But putting up a good fight and keeping up with her were two different things.

Calm down, you're not going to fight. Just relax. Breathe. Remember you're supposed to stay good on this trip...If she made a mess of things, Hajime would stop teaching her. She tried concentrating on one of her master's meditation exercises, to no avail. The river was near; Katsue could hear the sound of water running in the distance. She jostled the container on her back to relieve her shoulder of the tension. Just let this job end quickly.
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PostSubject: Re: This Town Ain't Big Enough for the Two of Us   Sat Jan 19, 2013 3:05 am

There were a few moments of tension as Haruna and Katsue regarded one another, the uncomfortable sensation of sizing one another up evident between the two. Haruna did not feel especially endangered just now, as Katsue looked more like a bully than a true threat, but that didn't mean that Haruna might be wrong.

The thought of the yolk-wearing woman bearing down on Haruna made the teenager want to laugh, so she did. It was a short, raucous noise, and one that Haruna stifled quickly. Even if her water-retrieving partner was a twit, it didn't do well to belittle someone else. Still, Haruna just couldn't help herself. Tossing her head to free her vision a little better, she retorted, "what, you're going to tell your dad on me?" She could imagine Katsue writing home about wanting to be put on a ship and then, perhaps, a horse-drawn carriage all the way back to Ramkarn, right this instant. This little mental character assessment satisfied the young woman so well that signs of Katsue's very real distress appeared simply to be being ignored. Whatever the case, Haruna didn't even perceive that there was ice to be stepping on, here, let alone that it was thin. The ugly twist of her thin lips into a half-a-smile made that clear enough.


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PostSubject: Re: This Town Ain't Big Enough for the Two of Us   Sun Jan 20, 2013 12:48 am

For a second, her mind went blank. No, that's not right. It filled completely with red, screams and thorns. She came to a stop; she couldn't keep walking. Her eyes shut as she took in slow, shuddering breaths, trying to still her heart hammering away in her chest. Memories came rushing back and suddenly she was back in the mansion in Ignis, her tiny fingers reaching for that big, callous hand. Or the fallen daughter in the servants' ward. Or the beggar in the streets of Terra.

She balled her fist and spoke with a raspy voice: ''don't...ever mention my father.'' Then, she resumed walking. Just put one feet in front of the other, she kept instructing herself to do so, while suppressing her urge to lash out at the girl. It was a good thing she'd left her sword with Hajime. Even then, she wouldn't have done anything to her companion. Her spite wasn't directed at her anymore, if she could still use the word spite. Right now she was just...Doesn't matter.

Fortunately, they arrived at destination; the river was in front of them. She knelt down and brought down the container to fill it. She then got up, jostling it until she felt comfortable with the weight. It was heavy, even for her. But carrying this back to town was exactly the mindless task she needed.
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PostSubject: Re: This Town Ain't Big Enough for the Two of Us   Sun Jan 20, 2013 12:40 pm

Haruna watched the woman's eyes glaze over. She'd seen it a hundred times -- no, a thousand. That was the look of someone who was suppressing the shit out of a memory. That was a serious case of the crazy eyes. Even from a few feet away, Haruna could see it, and so she bit her lip. The facade of a spoiled brat was cracking in her mind... and that made her curious.

She followed Katsue until they reached the edge of the stream, at which point she settled her rump on a boulder near the water's edge. Watching Katsue dunk the buckets in the cloudy water, Haruna took the time to undo her hair and then rebind it. Loose strands annoyed her, and working on this gave her the excuse of looking busy so that Katsue didn't have to feel like the younger girl was lingering and staring at her.

It was a trifling thought to ask -- or even demand -- that Katsue hand the buckets over. Now that Haruna was aware that her prejudgment might be false, she was curious to see what else about Katsue was different from her imaginings. For starters, the woman seemed especially intent on shouldering that load all by herself. Haruna knew those buckets would be heavy, streaming that much water, but the way that Katsue rose when she had finally settled the load over her shoulders suggested that the woman at least was familiar with hefting. With hard work.

Leaping from the boulder to follow Katsue, this time at a closer clip, Haruna folded her hands behind her back. "What's your name, again?" she asked, blunt, but a far cry from the mean-spirited snarl she'd used earlier.


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PostSubject: Re: This Town Ain't Big Enough for the Two of Us   Mon Jan 21, 2013 12:22 am

''What's your name again?'' The question calmed Katsue's nerves down a little. Mainly, because it pulled her from her thoughts. She glanced harshly at her companion; it didn't mean she felt like answering her. Her need to fight had vanished within the past few minutes, but she wasn't about to make peace with her.

But then that nagging voice came back. Her master telling her if you don't learn a lesson from this trip, I can't teach you anymore. A lesson to be learned, huh? It was always riddles with that man. Well, here there was this girl handing her an olive branch, Katsue wanted to ignore it, but in the end, she saw the obvious thing to do was...

''Katsue. Hyuuga.''

It was so rare she actually introduced herself. She had to when she registered to help the humanitarians, but before that the last time was to Stian, months ago in Sera. It was a given since she stayed away from people altogether. She didn't want to forge relationships, or just tie herself to people in the slightest. It only came with burdens, and chains. She was even more adamant about it before she'd met Stian. That had turned out to be a good experience, but she was still reluctant to get close to strangers. Something simple as telling her name was a bother.

Then again, maybe this was all part of Hajime's master plan.

''So, Haruna...'', she mouthed with effort. ''You're from Terra?''
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PostSubject: Re: This Town Ain't Big Enough for the Two of Us   Tue Jan 22, 2013 8:02 pm

With only a grunt of affirmation, it seemed as though Haruna was going to leave the conversation hanging at that. It was ironic, perhaps, that the two least talkative young women in Terra had been forced together. At least their task didn't require a charismatic presence. It seemed obvious to Haruna that Katsue was struggling to make small-talk. Now that she was walking in step with the other woman, it seemed clear that the other woman was struggling with more than just words. Something was going on behind her angry black eyes, and it didn't seem as though it was merely the suppression of bad memories.

Haruna was only familiar with this sort of behaviour because she'd seen it so often in her neighbours. People she talked with had ticks, or ways of speaking, that called to active battling with grief or inner demons from the war. Haruna herself had bouts of grief or rage that made it difficult to interact with others and, at times like those, she'd either pick up and leave, or she'd seclude herself to practice the kind of meditation that had been an active part of her childhood. Perhaps that had been what kept her as stolid as she was, these days.

Figuring on Katsue's current condition, Haruna had been spending the last quiet minute or two in deciding on how to proceed. Her interest in baiting Katsue had boiled off now that she was getting a better picture (so she thought!) of where Katsue might be coming from, but even still, she got the impression that Katsue wanted silence. Wanted solitude, even. Seeing as how Haruna was sort of along for the ride, she may as well put another foot forward. "I'm from North Terra, the province, Darkurr... but I've been all over the northern half of the continent in the last couple of years. What about you?"

Haruna recalled the dusty canyons in Darkurr, which had become a second home to her after she'd fled Haikar with her family. The Temple that had taken her, her mothers, and her siblings in had also spent a good deal of time preparing Haruna for the bloody, sneaky work that needed to get done to prevent Ignese, (and later, even Terran,) soldiers from raiding crops and flocks and otherwise terrorizing villages... but the strange blending of guerrilla training and Elementalist harmony had been the foundation of Haruna's teenage years, and even now she felt that the arid interior of Darkurr might be the closest place she could come to calling home. She had trouble seeing outside the lens of her own upbringing, hence the easy generalization that someone like Katsue could be a spoilt Ramkarnese brat.


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PostSubject: Re: This Town Ain't Big Enough for the Two of Us   Wed Jan 23, 2013 12:45 am

Though it was somewhat tense and uncomfortable, Katsue welcomed the silenced that followed her question. Haruna's answer, while short, had been enough to dispel the awkward atmosphere left by the older woman's outburst. Thus, there was nothing else to do but to finish their mission peacefully, without any more altercation. However, even Katsue knew that wouldn't do, she had to reach out somehow. She had to have something to show for herself when Hajime would evaluate her. Luckily, Haruna did the reaching out instead.

''I-'', she trailed off. If she was honest with this girl, and a part of her believed she should be, otherwise this 'lesson' she was supposed to learn wouldn't feel right. ''I was actually born in Ignis.''

Once she'd said it out loud, she felt lighter. Cheesy? Perhaps, but she did in fact feel better after. It was only part of the truth, but it was just perfect that way. She wasn't ready to admit the resist, to anyone. She was born in Fuitann, a wealthy suburb near the capitol, Searik. It was there that her father, upcoming army general, found it best to further his career. Katsue had heard that since their home had been destroyed and Lucius made general, he had moved his new family to Searik.

She realized, after a moment, that saying she was from Ignis might not have been the smartest idea ever. Haruna was Terran, and though Katsue didn't want to generalize, it was most likely the girl hated Ignisians. That's why she quickly added:

''But I spent most of my life in Terra. North of Freol.'' In other words, the ghetto. The town had its more fortunate side, where Hajime lived. She was thankful for that much. ''Lately, I've been everywhere. It's the first time I've come back here in years.''

She was almost sick of the sound of her own voice; she'd spoken way too much as opposed to usual. It took some getting used to. Before that, they had arrived back at the village. Looking at it, Katsue suddenly thought of something. ''What made you come here?''
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PostSubject: Re: This Town Ain't Big Enough for the Two of Us   Thu Jan 24, 2013 1:41 pm

'Ignis, you?' Haruna wanted to ask, casting a stark look at Katsue after the admission. It seemed that the other woman was busy with her own thoughts, however, for she didn't seem to notice the glare. It wasn't that Haruna immediately lumped the water-carrying lady into the same group of Ignese that she'd lumped most of its soldiers into, it was more that she was surprised. Katsue looked Terran, and Haruna wasn't much used to seeing people who crossed continents. Then again, she was mere peasantry. She felt justified with her own foibles of shortsightedness.

Before she could say much more, or even answer Katsue's question -- she'd been meaning to answer it with the exact same question in reverse -- Haruna noted that the humanitarian leader was gesturing for the two of them to come over. She pointed it out, saying instead, "it's a long story."

"Look at you two," the man clasped his hands together as they approached, taking in the sight of bonded friends with a contented sigh. His work was good work; he was healing the people. Haruna and Katsue had left this space as sullen wrecks, and they returned with the water of life as... well, sullen wrecks. But they hadn't gone missing after a fight to the death. Baby steps. The man gestured to a great big tub that was currently sitting over a bed of gathered grasses and twigs that others were gathering. "We're putting on a supper for these poor souls, a sort of stone soup," he chortled. "We'll need about thirty more buckets-worth. Do you two think you're up for it? I'm sure you can take turns."

Haruna looked at the metal vat, thinking of all of the days that she'd gone hungry when eating was a lower priority than surviving. She loathed this leader -- his tone was as asinine as is was saccharine -- but she couldn't fault the idea of feeding the people. This village was a work in progress and the people who'd been digging out their houses and trying to regather their surviving beasts of burden could always use a free meal. Haruna only wished that it didn't have to come with the sullying tone of one who condescended so thoroughly.

Whenever Katsue went to empty the buckets, Haruna would offer her hand. It was a demand, really. "Let me take a turn," she told the older woman.


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PostSubject: Re: This Town Ain't Big Enough for the Two of Us   Fri Jan 25, 2013 12:12 am

''It's too heavy for you'', Katsue deadpanned. Then, she smirked. ''But, if you insist...'' She handed Haruna the bucket, already full, letting her go empty it. Meanwhile, she went to rest against a wall, sitting down cross-legged. All the heavy lifting of the day had tired her and she appreciated the rest her partner allowed her. She was still at a distance where she could help if needed. As such, she kept a lazy eye on the teenager from afar. Not that the girl couldn't handle herself, in fact she seemed in tip top shape. Of course, Katsue's cocky nature made her add to herself not as much as me.

She glanced at the other volunteers using one of the last functional stoves. They were huddling around it, stirring the soup. She payed closer attention to their faces, their expressions. They were concentrated, with a faint look of, what was it, humility? She had always believed volunteering was only something people who wanted to feel self-satisfaction did, but there was true solidarity in their eyes. Only the leader seemed obviously disconnected, doing this solely for his own sake.

She should have felt the same; pulled in by their work, humbled. However, while she didn't mind helping, she could only focus on the pain being here brought. The only thing driving her was her master's threat.

If she wasn't going to have an epiphany volunteering, then it had to be with this girl. Haruna had everything it took to be her enemy, yet somehow they had managed to avoid killing each other. She always fished for a fight wherever she went, so maybe there was something to find below the surface. Or maybe it was just wishful thinking. She'd go for anything that could pass on as self-improving. Because that's what Hajime wanted, naturally. He wanted her to work on herself, solve her 'issues'.

Well, even without the ulterior motive, talking with her fellow countrywoman wasn't so unpleasant. Ok, so it felt kinda forced, but not unpleasant. Speaking of Haruna, she was coming back with the bucket. Katsue got up and took it from her, with another smirk. ''I'll take over; you look tired.''
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PostSubject: Re: This Town Ain't Big Enough for the Two of Us   Mon Jan 28, 2013 12:02 pm

Haruna had given the older girl the glowering of her life when she suggested that the yolk was too heavy for her -- she'd meant that she'd take the next shift of hauling water up from the river to help fill the large pot, into which the water would be boiled and the soup prepared, but that was a challenge if nothing else. She wound up hefting the yolk over her bony frame, swinging one shoulder so that the bucket clunked against the side of the pot, and helped to up-end it, there. A quick mark of arm-work kept the full bucket from unbalancing the frame from her shoulders, and soon enough Haruna had finished emptying the buckets out. It wasn't the best way to empty buckets from a yolk, but it was the fanciest.

She gave Katsue a look that wasn't... well, it wasn't smug, per se, but it was certainly satisfied. She turned around with the yolk still on her shoulders, enjoying the sensation of the curved bar resting over her muscles. Without much to say, the two girls made their way back to the river -- they had fifteen trips in total if they wanted to fill that pot up, and they were only on the second.

Haruna allowed herself to slip back into thoughts prompted by Katsue's remark about her origins. She'd never been to Ignis before, had never even been to South Terra with its lush valleys and majestic ocean-side capitol. She'd just been a North Terra bumpkin after she'd made the move from the Haikar city temple. Dust and scrub were all she really knew. Yet her mind had been drawn to Ignis much lately. It wasn't because the soldiers who came over from the islands had been terrorizing her people up until about a year ago, it was because a few months after that, word had come that it was time to exchange the prisoner she and her group had been beaugarding.

Scowling to herself, Haruna kicked a rock out of her path as they neared the village again, buckets full near to sloshing on either shoulder. The bite of the wood -- now much heavier -- against her frame was painful, but when she was in a mood, the distraction was lovely. When Katsue stood and made her casual remark, she therefore got a truely vicious stink-eye.

Haruna waited until Katsue had finished emptying the buckets and taken the yolk up again, choosing to follow the woman out to the river instead of lazing around in the town. She rolled one of her shoulders, stretching it a little after the weight of the water, before asking, "so what do you know about Ignis, anyway?" Her vision of the place was tempered by stories that she didn't want to remember right now. She wanted to learn more about the place, but thinking of the person -- the prisoner -- who'd told her about it originally was putting her into a foul mood.


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PostSubject: Re: This Town Ain't Big Enough for the Two of Us   Mon Feb 04, 2013 8:03 pm

''Not much. The stuff everyone knows'', Katsue answered. She was actually speaking the truth. While her dream of vengeance should have encouraged her to read up on Ignis as much as she could, it didn't. Mainly because she wasn't meticulous or wise and thought it was a waste of time. Secondly, studying – and reading – wasn't her forte. The basic knowledge she had was from Hajime's teachings. The only thing she did keep well-informed on was the army. Recent deployments, strategies, standard issue equipment...The command chain as well, of course. She knew every single high-ranking officer; the ones who's decisions made a considerable difference, by name and position, with detailed information on their military record. Then again, that was possible for anyone who could read.

''And I know some people...personally.'' She had seen Queen Julianna with her own eyes. She had visited the Trancy mansion once, back when Lucius, her father, was still gunning for position as general. Although knowing her was a stretch: Katsue had poured her tea. She hadn't even been meant to. She had done it of her own accord and her father had sent her away quickly, afraid the Queen would notice the resemblance.

Why was she running her mouth? That last sentence went way over enough. Granted she was willing to small talk a little, share a few anecdotes, but not tell her whole damn life story! She clenched her fists. No more. Screw Hajime's 'moral journey'. She was fed up, at herself and at Haruna. Mostly herself. She was supposed to keep to herself. It was all part of her grand plan. Not to mention it had worked just fine for her until now.

A scary thought suddenly struck her. What if this girl was a spy? What if her father had traced her somehow and sent Haruna after her, fearing for his life? Doubtful. Lucius was the general of the great army of Ignis; he had nothing to fear from a lone, if vindictive little girl like her. Still, why else would she be asking those questions? Maybe she was just sent by someone she'd pissed off before. It was more likely, with the personality she had. Her paranoid mind made her believe the former explanation more. ''Why do you ask?''
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PostSubject: Re: This Town Ain't Big Enough for the Two of Us   Wed Feb 06, 2013 11:19 pm

"It's... it's a long story," Haruna replied, feeling hesitant moreso than reticent. Besides, she was still pondering Katsue's one-word-too-many. Just who did Katsue know... personally? Was she familiar with Ryan North? That was certainly a stretch -- just because Haruna was Terran did not mean that she knew every single other country-person. That wasn't to say that the last few years of travel hadn't given that stereotype a run for its money, Haruna realized. She had been going from town to town with such frequency that she probably knew more faces than she had a right to. All of them peasants, of course, save for the few scholars who had run her home Temple at Haikar, and a few spiritual gurus in Darkurr Temple. If Katsue was paying close attention to Haruna, who was currently kicking pebbles into the water again, she'd hear the younger girl snort at herself for possessing the irony of comparing her own experiences with introductions to Katsue's likely socialite experiences, regardless of the fact that the Terran knew nothing of Katsue's brush with royalty.

She had placed a hand behind her back, playing with the end of her long pony-tail as she waited for Katsue to heft the buckets on her shoulders again. When they got to moving, she spoke up again, but only haltingly, as though she felt foolish for asking. "Do you know any soldiers?" She really wanted to ask, 'Do you know the North family?' but she was, truthfully, afraid. She had been talking with Ryan on that last fateful trip down to the docks before they had parted ways. He said that he didn't know if they'd ever meet again. He said he didn't know if he'd even be in the army after this. He'd failed his country, and his family, he explained... what worth did that leave him?

Frankly, Haruna could not imagine a family who held compassion hostage based upon performance... but Ignis and Terra were different. Even if Katsue did know the North family, would that bring the girl any solace?

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PostSubject: Re: This Town Ain't Big Enough for the Two of Us   Thu Feb 07, 2013 12:12 am

It was like her entire body had instantly gone cold. There was no more forest around them anymore, no more birds chirping, no more water running. There was just silence and the girl behind her. The girl who now appeared as a shadow; deceptive, sneaky. A threat. Her suspicion had been confirmed in the most unexpected, sudden way, just as it had began to form.

Did she know any soldiers? The question was almost ludicrous; they didn't come as much more forward than that. Save for something like 'are you Lucius Trancy's daughter, Katsue Hyuuga?' It all fell into place. Obviously she knew soldiers! She had grown up watching them come and go. Her father led a whole armada of them, and the brother she never met was amongst their ranks. There was no room for pondering the possibilities. Katsue could even try to think up a decent explanation, although Haruna could have offered her one.

Now, the fear and anger she felt both fought within her for first place. Needless to say, anger won.

In an instant, she flipped around, flicked a short dagger – the only weapon she had on her – out from her sleeve and pressed it against Haruna's throat, right arm fully extended. It was a sloppy move: she had no leverage and her enemy could simply back away at any given time. In which case, Katsue believed she would react faster. She hadn't the mind to carefully plan out her attacks anyhow. For now, this would do. She was only questioning. For now.

''Who sent you?''she hissed. ''Spit it out! Was it a man named Lucius Trancy?''

It could've been anyone in the family. They all worked together like a pack, or so she thought. The new wife, Cecille, or the son, Curtis...She didn't know the latter by face nor by personality, but if he was a viper like his mother a dirty move like this wouldn't surprise her.

It may not even have been someone from the Trancy family. Perhaps it was someone else from the military. Her paranoia knew no bounds. Problem was, what was the culprit after? To silence her – in other words kill her? To extract information? Both? None? She'd find out soon enough.
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PostSubject: Re: This Town Ain't Big Enough for the Two of Us   Tue Feb 12, 2013 12:08 am

The fact that Haruna's hands had been behind her back, engaged with her own hair, gave Katsue the chance to drop the wooden yolk at her shoulders and get her hidden dagger all the way to the younger girl's throat with only an impotent hiss of surprise on Haruna's part. Her eyes had gone as wide as saucers, her mouth pressed to a thin line as she realized the danger she'd gotten herself into. She'd have taken a step back, but the water that sloshed from the buckets at Katsue's feet was making the ground slippery, and the young Temple-trained woman did not have the solid footing she needed to escape while the opportunity was there to do so.

Just when she'd begun to think that Katsue was a moderately acceptable human being, there came this... this! Haruna had trained for years in how to escape from situations like this, but somehow, she'd dropped her guard. She hadn't seen this coming. She had to buy herself time.

"What do you mean, 'who sent me,'" she growled, intensely aware of the sensation of sharp metal on her skin as she spoke. Her hands had frozen out at her sides as the blade kissed her throat, and now she feared to move them any further. She was well aware that she was at a disadvantage here: she had nothing but an eating knife on her belt, and her own long-reaching weapon (her preferred tool for fighting) was dismantled, safe in her pack near the picket lines where her horse had been tethered. Her outfit was too tight to shed a layer of fabric to foil Katsue's blade, and Haruna suspected that the older woman could slit her throat faster than she could push backwards, out of reach. She might not kill Haruna with such a weak stroke, but the native Terran did not want to mess around with throat injuries.

Katsue was not entirely imagining things when it felt as though the world had gone very still; it had. Haruna's intent focus and leaking adrenaline spike was pulling the air down around them like a ferally intent audience. Even the chuckling of the stream behind her seemed to have faded away, the wind unwilling or incapable of carrying outside sounds around them. Haruna watched for an opening to allow her to back away -- if Katsue tried to push her, the younger woman would be forced to take action, but if her verbal gambit paid off, she might just be able to get some space... and to regain better odds of her own survival.

"Don't play coy, spy. Trying to feign ignorance after you've already given yourself up? You're insulting us both." Katsue paid no heed to the genuine confusion - hidden behind fury - in Haruna's eyes.

Katsue felt the squishy ground beneath her feet, consequence of her own careless action. Should her opponent make a sudden move, she'd be in a bad position to react, where she stood. She had to move forward, where the ground was dry. Flipping her blade so the flat side pressed against Haruna's neck, Katsue pressed it harder to her skin, to usher her backwards. At the same time, she drew closer to a tree trunk, where she would be able to corner her enemy. There was still a good meter between it and them, though.

As she moved, she realized how actually dangerous her manoeuvre was. Using the flat of her blade meant Haruna had an opening. Should she move, Katsue had to flip her blade again before attacking. That small window of time was enough of an opening. Problems were one, Katsue was arrogant and two, she underestimated her adversary.
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PostSubject: Re: This Town Ain't Big Enough for the Two of Us   Thu Feb 14, 2013 12:30 am

It was laughable, or perhaps tragic: Katsue's comparison of Haruna's Ignese prisoner was a very near match. The events of the past year were never far from Haruna's mind, and under the current circumstances, they bubbled up, impossible to repress. The girl's face was red from nose to ear-tips, her freckles nearly invisible against the flush of fury and... and some other emotion that she couldn't name, plain on her face at Katsue's accusation.

She remembered the night that she'd caught North outside the hovel that he and the spies had been using, preparing the signal that had been carefully contrived over the past few months -- the very signal that would call down Ignese troops on Haruna's cell and wipe them out. The conversation that had come of that particular discovery had been nearly as harsh and immediate as this one, but Haruna had been in Katsue's shoes, and Ryan had managed to talk the young Terran out of slitting his throat, at the cost of his compatriots' lives.

The problem here was that North had had the advantage of building trust between himself and the Terrans before the boulder that was his true nature dropped among them. Haruna had no such advantage with Katsue.

The wind controller made to back up, placing one foot behind her and gambling that it was going to fall on drier ground. Never removing her glare from Katsue's, the girl thrust her center of gravity backwards and kicked out, hoping to place her foot in Katsue's gut and cause the elder girl to slip in the mud. She didn't want to initiate a fight; she wanted space to better assess whether to run away or not!

At the sight of Haruna's flushed face, Katsue second-guessed herself for a second. Why would she be angry? Maybe because she had been caught? Or was it at being called a spy? She could've been reddening from the shame of having her plan be foiled so quickly, too. Katsue much preferred that explanation, so she hung on to it. She expected her adversary to do everything to throw her off, after all. She wouldn't waver that easily, she thought, almost taking offence in the idea.

Despite all her mental preparation, the kick came as a surprise. She evaded it so narrowly she felt her clothes move from Haruna's foot brushing past them. All she could think of is that she couldn't risk toppling over from a blow to the gut; she'd be vulnerable. However, as soon as her heel made contact with the wet ground, she slipped. Contracting her abdomen, she was able to keep herself partially balanced, but she still had to stagger backwards to where the earth was dry. She had held her dagger so tightly the whole time her joints were white. A though occurred to her when she was safely on firm land. She could have simply moved a patch of earth to cover the soppy area.

Scratch that. Her element was pretty much useless with her skills, and there was no way she could have done that while trying to keep herself from falling. Still, a few ideas popped in her mind.

The two girls were now facing each other, a good distance separating them. Katsue glowered at her enemy. It had seemed like improvisation, but nevertheless it showed Haruna had some sort of combat training in her. Made sense. Her father wouldn't hire anyone who couldn't handle their own in a fight.

Her options were few, but she still had the advantage. If Haruna tried to run, she'd have to turn around first. That would give Katsue time to close the gap between them. The other woman could also try a direct, frontal approach, but that would be insanity. Then, there was her idea of having dirt fly into Haruna's face if ever she tried anything funny. Having the upper hand gave Katsue a bit of patience. She lowered her dagger and tried to speak calmly. Violence wasn't the key if she wanted answers.

''Let's start with something easier; why did you ask me if I knew any soldiers?''

Even to her, the question didn't make sense. It was like Haruna had been trying to confirm her identity, but it couldn't be just that.
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PostSubject: Re: This Town Ain't Big Enough for the Two of Us   Fri Feb 15, 2013 3:00 pm

Hajime would probably have been proud of his pupil if he'd been privy to Katsue's reasoning. Haruna, however, didn't have the age or the inside track to her opponent's mind, and the sudden attack had left her skittish, almost panicked. She had trouble balancing her childhood training of compassion with the years and years of experience that told her that trusting too easily would be rewarded with violence or betrayal. The only thing that kept her from running outright was that Katsue could probably throw her dagger just as easily as push it to Haruna's throat, and the tree -- the only nearby shield of any sort -- that Katsue'd noticed earlier was out of Haruna's reach. If Katsue could throw dust up to blind Haruna in a fight, the younger girl didn't even have that to say for herself. She wasn't thinking with her control right now, anyway.

Her mind was racing ahead, in any case, and hopes or thoughts of catching a bit of information on her Ignese friend were superseded by an overwhelming need to disengage from Katsue -- to hop on her horse and high-tail it out of the village, if possible. There was no way that Haruna would be sleeping here tonight, as she'd previously been hoping; her connection to the rest of these villagers was too tenuous right now to give her any reason to stay. "You said you came from Ignis when you were young," Haruna spat, visibly taking a deep breath, though she was still rattled and angry and entirely distrustful. If she couldn't control herself, she'd be worm food. "One of them infiltrated my cell and -- and why the fuck did you just try to kill me, you crazy fucking bitch?"

So much for control. Haruna felt as though she was shaking so hard the tip of her braid must be jangling. Her balled fists were certainly going white at the knuckles with the fervour of her adrenaline rush.

"The war is over, I'm sick of fighting -- put your fucking knife away, I don't want to fight you!"

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PostSubject: Re: This Town Ain't Big Enough for the Two of Us   Thu Feb 21, 2013 10:49 pm

Well that...was certainly unexpected. Katsue had just lowered her blade in some sort of truce offering when Haruna had totally flipped her shit. The older Terran stared in disbelief and shock at the sudden fit, mouth slightly agape. The outburst itself didn't call for such a surprised reaction from her, but the emotional blockage did. Nothing was easier for her than go from neutral to enraged, but backtracking and doing the opposite was a different story. In this case, Katsue was the one fuming before the teenager starting her tantrum, causing Katsue's anger to recede against her better nature. Hence her lack of word or gesture. One might say, she was in loading process.

''W...''

A scowl.

''Why don't you stop whining, you damn baby? I already put my fucking knife away!''

At least, Haruna's bout made things clearer. Either she was an ace actress, or she was actually telling the truth and had nothing to do with the people looking for Katsue. If there were people looking for her. And she was positive there were. Somewhere. For good measure, she placed her dagger back in her sleeve with a quick flick of the wrist. She lifted up her arm to show it.

''There, see? No more knife. I can still make you choke on a rock, so don't move. I'm not finished with you.''

Not the most encouraging words she could say, but this wasn't an after-school program. She wasn't about to shake hands and apologize to her potential nemesis. Her suspicions weren't completely cleared. Haruna had mentioned meeting an Ignisian soldier, in a cell. So, she'd been incarcerated at one point? That definitely severed all ties to her father. He wouldn't hire a con. Or would he? She couldn't predict all his moves. She had to find out who this girl was, at all cost. For that, she'd have to do something she'd never done before. Taking a deep breath in, she sighed:

''I'm sorry. There's a reason why I attacked you when you mentioned soldiers and Ignis. Let's just say I have a past that makes certain subjects...touchy. I thought someone sent you after me. I still have doubts. So you're going to have to explain yourself clearly.''
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PostSubject: Re: This Town Ain't Big Enough for the Two of Us   Sat Feb 23, 2013 9:38 pm

If anything, Katsue's explanation only served to stoke Haruna's frustration -- half of Terra had a past with Ignis, with Ignese soldiers... with Terran soldiers, too, when it came right down to it. What in the spirits' names did Katsue think made her so special? The younger girl had gone red right to the tips of her ears, freckles lost in the flush of rage that masked her face. "You have no right to take a knife to someone's throat and then demand answers of them," she spat. "I don't care if you put that bloody thing up your sleeve or up your slit, it's still there and ready to use." She made a rude gesture, one that suggested how she thought about Katsue's interrogation. "You're obviously crazy as fuck; I'd call the nearest authority on you if it weren't more likely that they'd just take what's left of the village over there and beat me for my trouble. You want to settle things like a real Terran? Leave me alone, I'll leave you alone."

Haruna had shifted, settling back on her heels. It was a distinctly Earth-manipulating pose, one taught to her by her mother and the other Consulars of the Haikar temple. Though Haruna was no Earth controller, most of her own elemental techniques derived from similar maneuvers -- this one was a defensive posture that suggested that she was making ready to block any attacks that Katsue might think up that weren't on the blade of a knife.

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PostSubject: Re: This Town Ain't Big Enough for the Two of Us   Sun Feb 24, 2013 12:01 am

Katsue looked to Haruna's feet, then to her face, lips tugged slightly back in irritation. The teenager had shifted to a defensive position, one her opponent recognized all too well. It was meant for countering Earth attacks. It could be used by both Earth users or Wind Users, since both used the same movements to deflect projectiles. The only difference was that Earth users assumed control of the projectiles themselves, while Wind users merely blew them away. So, which one was it? Either way, if they fought with their elements Katsue was bound to lose. Unless Haruna was as inexperienced as her, but Hajime had always taught her to overestimate her enemy.

Nevertheless, showing hesitation during combat was unacceptable; insuring a sure-fire loss. If Katsue couldn't rely on her element, she would rely on her speed and agility. She parted her legs, bending them a little to allow fast reaction time. The stance would normally require for her to protect her face with her fists, yet Haruna had no weapon worth of mention to strike her with. It was unnecessary. Instead, she kept her hands hovering at her sides, ready for quick swiping movements.

It didn't have to come to this. Or did it? Katsue had actually been willing to talk things out with Haruna, get her answers the non violent way. She's only on the defence. As long as she doesn't attack, there's still a chance for that. Katsue wouldn't put it past Haruna to suddenly charge at her, so she didn't ease up. And there was no way in Hell she was discarding her knife. At the moment, the two girls, fellow Terrans, merely locked eyes harshly.

''I don't care for patriotism, nor for my country, so you can take that remark about settling things like a real Terran and shove it. There's only one thing I care about...and you're the only lead I've got so far.''

The only thing linking her to Lucius. Because, had she really been 'crazy as fuck', she would simply face her father and his almighty army head-on. However, since she remained partially sane, she knew she had to attack him indirectly. Or figure out a way to. Weaken him, by cutting off his associates, for example. Thus, back to Haruna.

Although, with each passing minute Katsue's suspicions shrunk. If it turned out Haruna was innocent, Katsue didn't know if she could take it. She couldn't handle being back at square one, after tasting hope. Sure, at first she had panicked and flown off the handle, but now she welcomed the potential trail. She had to press on. This girl had to know something. If not, perhaps there was still...

''This soldier you mentioned, who is he?''
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PostSubject: Re: This Town Ain't Big Enough for the Two of Us   Wed Feb 27, 2013 4:52 am

It didn't take too long to put two and two together. Like Haruna had scoffed earlier to herself, every Terran -- patriot or not -- had a beef with Ignis in some way or another. If Katsue wanted revenge, it was likely due to some clash with Ignese soldiers. What name was it that the older woman had mentioned? 'Lucius Trancy?' Haruna felt as though it rang a bell, though if it did, it was only because it was amongst names either gathered through her guerrilla cell or through one of North's occasional intelligence sessions. Haruna had gathered a good deal of names of those in charge when she was made to deliver messages between different groups in the Terran underground... but as yet she had no inkling of what Trancy meant to Katsue.

Instead, she focused on the question that the older Terran had asked. She seemed less likely to fly off the handle again... but Haruna didn't handle threats very well. She was ready to dump a bucket of heavy air across their battlefield if Katsue hoped to flick dust in her eyes to catch the upper hand. In fact, if Katsue had any passing knowledge with Haruna's background, she might even recognize the ragged braids of grey rope hanging like a shoulder sash as those of a wind manipulator from a rather orthodox brand of Elementalism. If it came right down to it, the short haired woman would find out soon enough just how Haruna fought.

For now, however, the girl chewed her lip. She'd been willing to speak of her friend earlier, but she was willing to bet that any slip-ups now would put her life in danger. She considered Katsue's intents before finally answering, "He was an infiltrator from Ignis, sent with his friends to rat our fighting cell out to the troops... He would've died with them if he hadn't proven to be more useful as a prisoner." Better to play this more adversarial with another Terran, as apathetic as Katsue was to her own country. Haruna didn't want to have Katsue thinking she was chumming around with North if it meant that she'd form connections about this Trancy fellow.

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PostSubject: Re: This Town Ain't Big Enough for the Two of Us   Fri Mar 01, 2013 12:51 am

Since Haruna was young, what she described couldn't have happened too long ago. Katsue's father was definitely of service at that time, but was the soldier Haruna talked about under his orders? Lucius wasn't general yet; it wasn't like he controlled the entire army. Moreover, this didn't enforce the possibility that Haruna was associated with her father. She fought during the war and crossed paths with this particular Ignese soldier, one she now was looking for. Perhaps he had escaped and was now a danger to them, or they just wanted the spoils of a hostage again. That was all. Katsue could easily recognize lies, and she knew the other girl was telling the truth.

She sighed. There it was; the reality check. Off went her lead and the only trail to her target. She let her head droop, bangs falling over her face. She could almost picture Lucius mocking her and her fruitless efforts to catch him.

She lifted her chin, standing up straight. She wouldn't allow herself to slip up, to fall into despair. She had a mission. It was easy to get back up with a goal in mind. Or, at least, it was easy to convince herself of that. As long as she focused on her objective, and didn't stop to think about the obstacles, the setbacks and the failures, she would keep striving. Eventually, she would succeed. Throw her life away in the process, maybe, but she didn't mind that in the slightest. Not when she hadn't let go of the hatred that fueled her.

She had thought of moving on to the man Haruna was searching for, but the idea had been brief. If he was a mere soldier, it was useless to track him down. Dead or alive, he wouldn't get her far. She had only one option left: to go back to her former quest: training and gathering fighting experience.

She stared at Haruna, coal eyes veiled over. Katsue had falsely accused and attacked her; she probably hated her guts. The ghost of a chuckle escaped her lips. Like she was meant to make friends on this journey. Pathetic. Pathetic of her to feel like apologizing and parting on good terms, simply because...because...

She went and picked up the yolk, now empty. She was done with this job. She would return the yolk to the village and return to Hajime, whose judgment she would face. She had no doubt failed his test, but she couldn't go on anymore. If he chose to abandon her as his apprentice, so be it. She would find another master, or stay on her own. She could manage alone, it was the opposite she had trouble with, in fact.

''Thanks. I don't need anything else'', she said as she walked past Haruna.
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