All Work and No Play - Redux
The howling of the wind and the clashing of steel mixed in the air as Miria went through sword drills with them yet again. Helen had taken a seat on a nearby rock anxious to do something other than swing the stupid sword again. It was not that she didn't see the importance of it, but she was wishing for something far more exciting than drills to occupy her time.
As many of her companions would tell you – Helen being bored is a dangerous thing. Not only does she think of weird pranks, she also has the drive to see them through. So when the seven hid their youki and stayed up in the virtually abandoned Northern lands, Helen became extremely bored. No more bars and pubs to drink her worries away, no making silly faces at kids as she passed them on the road, no more flirting with young men who struck her fancy.
No, it was now just Miria, Deneve, Clare, Tabatha, Cynthia, Yuma, and Helen now - all one big, blonde family out in the middle of freaking nowhere with a graveyard full of lost comrades, empty hearts and a collective desire for revenge upon the people who threw their lives away to be sacrificed. Man, she'd kill for a nice warm pot roast right now or even better, some ale. At the least she could pretend to be drunk.
As Miria called a halt to the practice session, Helen sighed loudly, drawing some whimsical design with her boot in the snow as Cynthia, one of the three newer additions to their group, came over and sat down on a nearby rock.
"Bored as usual, eh Helen," Cynthia smiled at her, pulling her pigtails back from in front of her face, blown there by the unruly wind.
"Geez, like you wouldn't believe," Helen muttered in reply, putting the finishing touches on her little drawing in the snow. "I mean, other than the occasional wandering Awakened one we find, what are we gonna do? Train until our blonde hair fades?"
Helen glanced over to see Cynthia's face. Of course, Pigtails was smiling at her. Helen grunted, shoving snow over her little drawing in slight agitation at the unfairness of it all. Didn't that girl ever get mad?
It was kinda hard to see how the ever-smiling Cynthia was ranked higher than Serious Face Deneve, especially since the girl never displayed a single instance of anger or ill will against anyone. Only when Cynthia and Deneve sparred was the difference made known – Cynthia was just slightly better at swordplay than her friend. Deneve acknowledged it from the beginning, but it was the first time Helen had seen Deneve go against someone near her level. It was quite a sight to behold actually. Cynthia was surprised at how strong Deneve was, but Helen was not, as were Clare and Big Sis. Despite the difference in swordplay, Deneve beat her in the end. After their partial Awakening, Miria had told them that their base strength should have increased by a lot and during the battle in Pieta, they began to see that when they easily rivaled the Claymores that Miria had put in charge of the different squads.
And now, the Old Four had the task to train up the New Three to match them in combat. Unfortunately, the only consistent sparring partners available were each other and the occasional Awakened Being that made its way up to the Northern Lands.
"Hmmm, I guess we are all just surviving right now," Cynthia looked back at the group that had splintered off. Clare and Yuma were watching Deneve display a particular technique while Miria was with Tabatha off to her left, pointing to the east. "Surviving and growing stronger. Is that not good enough?" She watched her breath hang in the air for a moment, feeling quite peaceful at the moment.
"Tch," Helen brought her fist down against her knee, startling the twin-tailed warrior. Damn it, she was even more agitated by Cynthia's passive remark. "Hell no!"
"Eh?" Cynthia was honestly surprised by the other girl's outburst. She had grown accustomed to Helen's rather boisterous nature but sometimes the former rank 22 still surprised her, like so. She was still getting used to her and on more than one occasion, thought that she and Helen would never be good friends. She wasn't stupid, she saw just how much closer the four of them were around each other. Tabitha, Yuma, and herself were the outsiders to their little group – intruding on the bond that they had already established.
Helen blinked and glanced over at her companion, her expression telling all. She over-reacted again, didn't she? "Achaa, sorry 'bout that Cynthia," the bob-haired blonde put a hand behind her head apologetically. "Guess I'm just worked up over this, hee hee."
Cynthia couldn't hide her smile in return. This was the part of Helen's personality that she admired, and secretly was jealous of. Her ability to say any and whatever thing was on her mind and mean it wholeheartedly. Sure, she was a bit 'abrasive' but that only added to the inherent charm in Cynthia's point of view. Looking at the other girl as she lazily kicked her feet at the snow reminded her of a child, honest in their way of thinking and way of life, refusing to let the circumstances change who they were inside and out.
Suddenly, an idea sprang into the former ranked 22's head and she grinned. Oh, did she grin. Helen leaned down and began gathering a ball of snow, packing it in a tight little ball. "I want to live a full life, not one cowering here up in Snow White Land just training." She quickly made another one and plopped it into Cynthia's unresisting hands. The former rank 14 gave it a bewildered look before looking back at Helen.
"Um, what is this?"
"Duh, it's snow," Helen gave her a 'did you really just ask me that' look, tossing her snowball up and down a few times, getting a feel for it.
Cynthia just blinked. "I know that, but what is it for?"
"Oh geez, c'mon Cynthia," Helen rolled her eyes as she raised her arm back behind her, "Aren't you bored too?"
"Well...I," Cynthia began but Helen was not waiting for an answer. Without preamble, the resident troublemaker lived up to her title and chucked her snowball right at Tabatha's back.
Tabatha took a surprised step forward and whipped her head around, her eyes immediately falling to the snowball held in Cynthia's lap and narrowed. Realizing that she was immediately suspected, Cynthia quickly whipped it around behind her back despite it being too late to hide it from their youki sensor.
"Leave her, it was probably Helen anyway," Miria told her, giving a small glare at Helen's general direction, to which Helen just smiled and waved back.
After Tabatha gave the both of them a wary look and turned away, Cynthia let go of a breath she did not realize she was holding. "Why did you do that," the girl squeaked, still holding her snowball behind her back.
Helen gave her another one of those 'why are you asking me this' looks before it fell into a grin as she gestured around them. "Why wouldn't I throw a snowball? Look where we are! The snow isn't going anywhere, might as well make use of it. It would be a shame not to!"
Cynthia slowly brought the snowball from behind her back and regarded it for a moment as well as Helen's words. It was true; it was rather boring up here. Even though she loved how pretty the snow made everything, not seeing green was beginning to affect her. Still, the pristine whiteness of the snow seemed to speak to her and her lips thinned slightly in new-found boldness and determination. Why couldn't they have a little fun? The snow was harmless and it wasn't doing anything either… Maybe, just maybe, it was time to change that. She raised her arm back, feeling a tingle of reckless excitement in the realization of what she was about to do, and threw her arm forward, released the snowball. Cynthia couldn't help the smile on her face as she felt the snowball leave her fingertips. She had done it! She had thrown a snowball! The act, while simple in of itself, was the same as having chains broken from around her small little captive heart hidden deep within her. This new freedom was wonderful! This, wait, at this angle, the snowball was going to hit …
The snowy projectile smacked Deneve right in the back of her head, leaving a bit of snow clumped against the short hairs of her head. Cynthia's eyes flew open, her moment of ecstatic liberation vanishing just as quickly and she covered her face in embarrassment with her hands, but Helen...
"BWAAAAHAHAHHAAAAA!" Helen was crowing at the top of her lungs and holding her sides, nearly falling off her rock seat. Her jovial laughter ended abruptly as Deneve, ever the astute one, retaliated quickly with a snow clump, hitting Helen in the face.
"Hey," Helen spluttered, "I didn't throw that one! Cynthia did!"
"I know but you were laughing," Deneve replied matter-of-factly, shaking her hair free of the snow. Damn, the snow didn't hurt but it sure surprised the hell out of her, and to be thrown by Cynthia of all people. She regarded the Claymore in question with a stony expression, who managed to glance up right at her at that moment. Seeing Deneve's face put Cynthia's head right back down against her hands, hiding her face from the world. Deneve raised an eyebrow. Was this retaliation for losing the sparring match? No way…
"Fine!" Helen gathered up some snow quickly and threw it back at her friend, who nimbly dodged out of the way this time. Clare, having seen the entire incident, quickly sidestepped the wet projectile but Yuma was not so quick to react and got hit on the arm. Turning back around, Clare was very surprised when she was face-to-face with a snowball. Even her reflexes weren't enough to completely dodge it and it harmlessly impacted her temple. Tracking the trajectory, she found that its point of origin was none other than...
Cynthia gave a little wave with her free hand, the other hand holding yet another snowball. "Um, got ya," was all she offered by way of a response. Whatever embarrassment she had felt earlier was long gone - she wanted to feel more of that reckless excitement again. Was this how Helen felt when she teased someone or hid their clothing when they were cleansing themselves? It felt...incredible...! Clare dodged the other snowball completely again...leaving Yuma to get struck. Again. Cynthia yelped when a bunch of snow was heaped upon her by Deneve, who had gotten close enough to hurl the armload of the wet stuff at her.
"Don't think that you're getting away scot-free, Pigtails," Deneve's face held a faint, rare smirk, which dissipated immediately when twin snowballs found their mark on her back, courtesy of a now running Helen, who was now attacking Clare while Cynthia introduced Yuma to some more snow. Deneve eyed her friend as she soon had Clare covered in snow and stooped down to gather more of her own...
Miria could hear the squeals of the girls behind her and she bit back the urge to sigh. "Matte ku, what is wrong with –" She managed to angle her head out of the way of the incoming snowball but once again, Tabatha was not spared. Concentration broken, Tabatha wheeled to face the others, her eyes flaring with annoyance.
"What the hell are you all doing," the former rank 31 roared, her surprising temper getting the best of her yet again. "Stop causing trouble for Captain Miria, Rubber arms!" Miria merely raised an eyebrow at Tabatha's outburst and nickname for Helen. While Tabatha acted very serious and professional most of the time, she was almost too easy to get worked up over anything that annoyed her, and with Helen being, well Helen, it was all too easy.
"Oi oi, can't you tell? We're playing!" Helen yelled back, tossing two more snowballs at her. Tabatha caught them and returned fire immediately, running right at Helen but was tackled by a now giddy Cynthia into a snow bank with Helen cheering all the way.
"Alright! Way to go Cynthia!"
"Clare, watch out!"
"Ack! Helen! No fac - whuck"
"Ahaaahahahahaha! That's what you get for now paying attention, Golden Girl! Gyaaaah, that's cold, Yuma!"
"She said no face shots!"
"Then how 'bout a snow dunk eh!?"
"Eh? N-no! Wai- Kiyaaaah!"
"Leave her alone Helen, your battle's with me!"
"Alright, since you won't back down Clare! Here I come!
"Double Sword technique – White Barrage!"
"That's cheating Deneve! You got me too!"
"Fine, have it your way! Windcutter revised – Snow Blower!"
"Augh, thanks for your big mouth, Rubber Arms! Now who's cheating! Both of you using swords! Gaah, Cynthia, again!?"
"Less talk, more snow! C'mon Yuma!"
"She's corrupted Yuma now!"
"…" Miria had no words for the scene in front of her. She was positively dumbfounded by the amount of silliness going on. Weren't they supposed to have some dignity left? Were they not out here at extreme peril to themselves just to survive up here in the icy North? The burden that they all had placed on each other, the lives that were at stake… Miria continued on her silent berating until she perceived that it had gotten very quiet – too quiet. She slowly looked around to see all six girls staring right at her, snowballs of various sizes and shapes in their hands.
Even a half-brained Youma would have figured out this situation...
"You wouldn't…" her eyes narrowed as her feet subtly adjusted to allow her a more stable stance in the snow.
"Ah, is fearless leader afraid of some snow," Helen challenged, tossing a snowball up and catching it teasingly, the other girls also had various predatory smirks and smiles on their faces, regarding their lone target in this sudden group hunt.
Miria took a quick moment to regard them all. The stress and worry lines on their faces had significantly dropped, if not disappeared all-together. Even on Deneve's face, it was plain to see the change they had undergone. They were relaxed and smiling – something they had not done in a long time. 'All work and no play, makes for a bored Helen' eh, she thought. Maybe…just maybe playing around once in a while wasn't so bad. Besides, she was becoming slightly put out by their daily routines herself. Just a bit mind you.
The leader of the Northern Campaign suddenly gave her ponytail-bound hair a nonchalant flip before placing her hand on her hip, her pose tauntingly relaxed. "What makes you think that you could touch me even if you wanted to, rank #22," she replied coolly, the ghost of a smile appearing at the corners of her mouth.
Challenge accepted, Helen grinned, hefting her arm back. "'Cuz this says so!" She threw the snowball as hard and as fast as she possibly could. A split second later, the other girls released their barrage of snow at the warrior known as 'The Phantom'. Miria's mouth curved upwards into a smirk as she brought up her right hand quickly and caught the first snowball then blurred, the other snowballs flowing right through her mirage. The girls all glanced around their immediate space but Miria had but one target in mind. She appeared right behind Helen, arm held high and paused, letting the situation fully register in Helen's mind before she brought the snow down right into Helen's hair, mushing it in for good measure. Just as quickly, she vanished again as a sudden snowstorm - courtesy of Clare's new 'SnowBlower' technique - ripped through the space that Miria occupied just a moment before. With the intended target gone, there was only one place for the snow to go - all over Helen.
"Clare! Watch it with that! You trying to turn me into a snowwoman!?"
"Um...sorry," Clare offered as Helen gave her an evil eye before shaking herself free of the mush.
Clare barely had time to react as she suddenly saw white in her vision courtesy of a snowball directly in front of her face from Miria's outstretched hand. In a rare show of pure agility, Clare bent backwards as fast as she could to avoid Miria's attack as the latter leapt past her, headed directly towards Cynthia's position.
The pigtailed warrior threw her arms up to defend against the impending attack but a rush of wind a second later caused her to open her eyes and peer around her block. Miria had not released the snowball she had used to get Clare to duck and had thrown it at Tabitha, scoring a headshot that knocked the former 31 off balance. For her part, Tabitha still managed to throw her snowball but due to the earlier impact, the aim was slightly off and it passed harmlessly right behind Miria's head as she kicked the snow up right in Cynthia's face.
Yuma…? Angling her head, she saw that it was indeed Yuma and throwing a surprisingly familiar snowball at her. That was Tabitha's… Ah I see. Yuma jumped and caught it mid-air and threw it in the same motion. Very good, you two. Miria allowed a small smile before she ducked with incredible speed, almost to the ground. Both hands scooped up a handful of snow each and she vanished right as Deneve's new White Barrage attack slammed a heavy portion of snow in her place.
Deneve tried lifting her swords but found them curiously weighted down as a cloak seemed to materialize just above her head. She barely managed a knowing smirk before Miria slammed both palms full of snow against Deneve's temple, stunning the dual-wielding warrior for a moment as she leapt back in a high arc to avoid two more snowballs, landing just behind Yuma. As expected, the girl froze for a split second, allowing Miria to sweep her ankles from under her and plant her right hand beneath her chin, slamming the girl into a snow pile.
A slight change of wind pressure was her only warning to Clare's attack and Miria slid herself around Cynthia to her back, shoving her forward into the sudden wall of snow head on while she leapt away, unscathed.
"…that was mean, Miria," Cynthia's muffled whine was heard as Clare sheathed her blade. The two strongest warriors of their group were now staring each other down – the prelude to their showdown.
"Just you and me now Clare," Miria stood off to the side of where Cynthia was effectively buried beneath snow thanks to Clare's attack.
"It always ends up this way for some reason," Clare smiled. "I wonder why."
Miria smiled lightly as her body seemed to jump around sporadically, the visual sign of her new Phantom being activated. "Let's end this."
"Very well," Clare agreed, her grip tightening on the pommel of the sword, licking her lips in anticipation. The rest of the girls watched as the air was thick with tension of the coming clash. A random branch from a nearby tree suddenly snapped beneath the weight of the snow on it and fell to the ground. That sound began the fight.
"Snow Blower!" The amount of snow Clare stirred up was daunting to say the least but nothing that Miria couldn't avoid with her speed. She gave a small gasp as Clare fired off another one right at her while in mid-movement. She's getting so much better with that, Miria noted, invoking her new Phantom once more. Appearing at Clare's right side, she was forced to dodge again as Clare was upping the speed of her attacks. The two went back and forth, with Clare firing off rapid bursts of snow at Miria, who found it harder than she had first anticipated to weave through her opponent's attacks as she wanted to do. The rest of the girls stood a respectful distance away from the last two combatants lest they get caught up in Clare's mini snowstorm. However, there was one who did not wish to take her defeat lying down.
"No way, I'm getting beaten like this," Helen gave a playful snarl, suddenly leaping into the fray.
Helen?! Clare was momentarily distracted by Yuma's cry, only to see Miria suddenly appearing at her back, her hands holding two snowballs at the ready. "Che," she gritted her teeth as she unleashed a particularly strong SnowBlower attack at her.
I got her…?
"Almost Clare, almost."
Clare couldn't even raise her head in time before Miria shoved a snowball in her face, startling her badly. Shaking the snow off, she looked up to see Miria standing beside her, casually tossing her remaining snowball up and down. She gave a slight frown as she looked at the newest snow pile that she created. "So that's…"
"Yep," Miria nodded. "You buried Helen again." With that, she casually walked over to where Helen had just freed her head of the snow with a loud gasp.
"Damn it –," was all she got out before Miria mushed her last snowball atop the former rank 22's head again, a sweetly saccharine smile directed at a now-glowering Helen.
"Still a long way to go, 'Rubber Arms'."
Ah, decided to finally add some more onto the end here. I hope this is a good change~