In the innermost chambers of the airship Graceful Beauty, Neasa sat with her boots kicked off. Two Shibari-kun robots attended to a pantyhose covered foot, gently massaging them as she relaxed. But despite the relaxed air and pleasant sensations, Neasa was anything but pleased.
There hadn't been much to do lately, with no new bounties posted since her last catch had been brought in, nor any promising leads to new heists to pull off on the sly. As much as she enjoyed having time to kick back and relax, she was beginning to get quite restless.
surely there's something interesting to be done today." The purple haired woman said, shifting in her plush chair.
"Ahhhh, why don't you look at the bounty board again today, Neasa-sama!" one of the Shibari-kun's rubbing her feet helpfully supplied. In response, she lightly poked at its 'face' with her toes, humming to herself in thought.
"They haven't had anything new in weeks
I'm beginning to think perhaps we've captured everyone worth going after."
The Shibari-kun attending her other foot, her personal butler and 'second-in-command' aboard the ship, the unfortunately named Butty, pipped up. "Neasa-sama's the best at bounty hunting for sure, for sure! But there's always people out there up to no good, I betcha there's something swell on Chrimwa's bounty list by now~" he sing-songed.
if nothing else, I could sneak into Chrimwa's holding facility and have some engaging chats with past bounties
"Ahhhh! But what if you get caught! They might throw you in a cell yourself!" Butty cried.
"And if they did, I am quite certain that someone of my stature wouldn't be too terribly troubled with getting out one way or another." She quipped, voice filled with confidence. "Still
that would rather hurt my image amongst the worst crowd possible if I were to be visibly captured in front of their own cells."
"No," she concluded, "I suppose I shall refrain from that
for a time. If not bounties, I'm sure the city will have something of interest."
"Understood~" Butty sang. "Shall I tell the others to prepare a Lifeboat for your voyage?"
I'll be there in a moment's time." was her sedate response. She might have been bored and restless, but she wasn't going to let her foot massage go unfinished.
She had found a bounty alright, and a rather personal one at that.
A month ago, she was approached with an interesting contract; steal a priceless artifact from a rich explorer's vault. It was a bedazzled staff covered in all manners of gems
and apparently housed a key component within it they needed to finish an invention her contractors wanted to build.
Having grown up around mechanical devices, she was initially intrigued by what they could possibly need an artifact for
until she learned it was all mystical mumbo jumbo. She never was one for magic, preferring hard facts and hard science thanks to her time hanging around Professor Humboldt. Still, she agreed to their terms, as they had also offered to let her keep all of the gems decorating the staff since they had little use for them.
The heist was a tough one to pull off thanks to the numerous security measures, but it ended in success with her Shibari-kuns departing the manor with treasure in hand. She gave up the goods, got some money and a few gems out of it. All in all, it was a good haul
and a good way to kill time while waiting for more interesting jobs.
Just last week, however, the staff had been reported being stolen yet again for the second time in less than a month. Normally, Neasa didn't care for what happened to delivered goods after depositing them, but this proved to be a special case. Reports indicated that this second thief, presumably under contract from the explorer, was a ninja. There wasn't much that vexed Neasa more than having past work undone by ninja.
As such, Neasa had left the city in haste and returned to the Graceful Beauty. "Alright, listen up!" she shouted after disembarking from the smaller Lifeboat vessel, getting all the nearby Shibari-kun's attention. "We're in luck; they had a new bounty posted up today. And from the looks of things, it's a ninja" she spat.
There were murmurs amongst the Shibari-kun as they began relaying the message to the others through their radio frequency. Even years later, ninja were still a sore spot for Neasa. Whenever a bounty came up for one, she approached it with twice as much determination and zeal. Even now they could register the fire in her eyes and voice as she spoke.
"Here's what our target looks like," she said, holding up the wanted poster in her hands. "She's an earth elemental ninja under the name of 'Sanae'. I want this taken to Capture Crew #17 immediately for them to look over before deploying. This girl shall know my wrath!"
"Hai hai hai~" the nearest Shibari-kun said with a salute before taking the picture and flying off.
Neasa turned to Butty as he floated by. "Don't worry Neasa-sama, I'll watch over the ship for ya!" he cheerfully stated, knowing full well what she was about to ask him. "You go on ahead and get ready to go hunting!"
"Good to see we're on the same page." She said, a feral grin spreading on her face. As annoying as her self-proclaimed butler could be at times, it did prove rather handy that it knew her so well once in a blue moon.
It wasn't long before everything was set, Neasa and her Shibari-kuns working together like a well oiled machine (quite literally in the latter's case) as they quickly gathered what they would need and set off on a Lifeboat.
Their target seemed to have last been spotted in a rather secluded, out of the way forest a few days ago. 'It's as typical of a hiding spot as you can get with their lot,' she thought, 'And with her being an earth elemental, that just makes it all the more predictable.'
She set up shop some distance away from the forest in question, not wanting to openly announce her presence by hovering directly over it. Instead, she instructed the Shibari-kun that comprised Capture Crew #17, a batch of Shibari-kuns she used numerous times against other ninja with great success.
"You guys know what to do fan out and search every inch of the forest from top to bottom, and report back any and all suspicious findings!" she ordered, sweeping an arm out at them for dramatic effect. A chorus of "Hai, Neasa-sama~" rang throughout the Lifeboat, each one saluting. The back of the flying vessel opened up slightly, letting them all slip out to begin the hunt.
Neasa watched them for a time through the window before sitting back down on her captain's chair. She estimated there only being a 50% chance of this Sanae still being in the area, but any information she could glean at all would still prove to be helpful.
Deep within the heart of the forest the ninja known as Sanae sat, deep in thought. Sanae had been meditating for a large part of the day, letting her senses flow in and out of the earth. It was a relaxing act, one that she hadn't been able to do for quite some time thanks to how busy she had been. The past year had been a frenzy of attacks and counter-attacks with so many hours spent striking fear and punishment into the hearts of those who had wronged her. Finally being able to catch her breath in recent times was something even she could appreciate.
Her meditation was interrupted when she heard a subtle rustling in the nearby tree line. She opened her eyes and focused, not detecting anything. But something still nagged at her, as though she were being watched. She slipped back into a meditative state, this time focusing on expanding her senses to take in every quality about the environment surrounding her.
After a few moments, she found what she was looking for. Off in the distance somewhere above her, she could barely make out the faint swooshing sounds of a propeller spinning. The fact that it was so hard to make out indicated it must have been designed for stealth, whatever it was. She was definitely being watched, then, and by a party that didn't want her readily knowing that.
'Never a good combination,' she dryly thought. Still, she saw no sense in tipping her hand just yet. They didn't seem to know that she knew about them, so she would wait until something happened before responding appropriately.
Stories above her, the hiding Shibari-kun had been feeding its visual info back to its brethren and Neasa. "The target doesn't seem to have noticed me
we can take them by surprise!" It said through the radio, "C'mon everyone, let's go~"
The other fourteen Shibari-kuns slowly worked their way to Sanae's position, forming an aerial circle. "Charrrrge~!" they cried, swooping in at the ninja.
Her hands suddenly burst into a flurry of motions as they came at her. Mere feet away from their target, a sphere of dirt formed around her body.
"H-huh? Wasn't she meditating a second ago "one of them cried in surprise before colliding with the thick wall. "Ouchies~" they whined.
"How many times do I have to tell you, stop swooping in at the same time like that!" Neasa nagged over the radio, having already pieced together what happened.
Cautiously observing the sphere, one of the approached it with a taser in hand. It touched it to the morphed earth, sending a jolt of electricity through it. The ground crumpled after a time, revealing
"Huh? Where'd she gooooo?"
"She's an earth ninja, she's probably below groun" Neasa's warning was interrupted as multiple 'fists' formed from the ground, rising up and smashing into several of the Shibari-kuns. Two more were smacked aside as Sanae herself burst from a hole in the ground, delivering devastating punches that sent them flying into trees.
In just two seconds, six of the fifteen Shibari-kuns were out of commission. However, the remaining nine had adjusted to the surprise attack in that time and surrounded Sanae again. She smoothly ducked under one of them as they came at her from her left, smashing it away with a spinning backfist. Another Shibari-kun managed to reach her unprotected back during the motion and pressed the taser it clutched in its hands against the base of her neck.
The jolt caused her to grunt, but she endured it as she brought an elbow back, straight into its face.
"How dare she hurt them like that!" Neasa bellowed through their comms. "She's far too strong on the ground
you need to take her out of her element!"
"Hai hai hai~ Quick, let's drop the pellet bombs~" they cheered. Two of them tossed a couple of pellets they had attached to their sides straight at Sanae. She easily evaded them by rolling out of the way, but warily eyed the gas that was coming forth from each one. One whiff quickly told her all that she need to know they were trying to knock her out.
Sanae performed a few more hand seals before disappearing below ground again. The Shibari-kun, now knowing what to look for, extended their sound sensors to listen closely to the faint noise of upturned earth below the surface. They followed her some distance away and when she came back up, greeted her with multiple knock out gas pellets.
Not knowing how many more of these they had, combined with the distance they were now putting between them, she decided she needed to get to higher ground to finish the last of them off. She made several hand signs and caused the ground beneath her to swell upwards into several pillars of varying sizes, running amongst them as a makeshift staircase.
After a few bounds, she was above the cloud of noxious gas and, most importantly, close enough to strike at her attackers again.
She hopped off the last pillar and leapt at one of the Shibari-kuns, successfully hitting it aside. She had meant to strike at it and land on a sturdy tree branch just below it, but her flight path was interrupted when another swooped in from behind her, wrapping a rope around her left leg. Since she wasn't in contact with the ground, her enhanced strength was cut off, taking away her biggest advantage. The Shibari-kun that she had batted aside finished spinning around, dazed but undamaged due to her less powerful strike. Sanae hung from the snare wrapped around her leg, the single Shibari-kun struggling somewhat to keep her afloat. "C'mon guys, let's finish this!" it gushed.
Sanae reached up to the white wrappings around her left leg, pulling out one of her emergency knives and started cutting the cord. "Wahhhh, she's getting away, she's getting away, hurry!" the Shibari-kun cried in alarm. The six other Shibari-kuns flew up at her just as she finished cutting the rest of the rope, sending her falling down.
She prepared to reach for a nearby branch to swing from only to find her descent halted by four ropes attaching themselves to each of her limbs. Finding herself spread eagle miles above the ground, Sanae had little choice but to struggle against the small robots. She tugged at the ropes, trying to loosen herself out of it, but it held true. No matter how hard she pulled, they would barely budge.
A fifth one flew down to her and wrapped its rope around her neck, tugging her head upwards and holding it in place. The sixth and final one approached her, tiny slots on its mechanical claw hands opening up and pointing at her face. "Say ahhhh~" it cooed, releasing a steady dose of knockout gas directly at her.
Glaring at it, she instead held her breath, tugging harder at the other Shibari-kuns keeping her afloat.
'No other choice
' she thought, before focusing inwardly and letting a stored power flow through her body. Using her newfound strength, she pulled all of her enhanced limbs downwards, sending the four Shibari-kun's crashing into one another, the sheer force of the blows rendering them inert. With the four now temporarily dead weight, she yanked out another knife and sliced away the rope around her neck before it could start to seriously choke her.
The moment before the cord snapped, she grasped at the Shibari-kun, keeping it pinned in her hands as they fell. It strained to keep them afloat, but its efforts only proved to slow down their descent slightly. Spinning around in the air, she angled herself at a nearby tree. Her feet made contact with its side and in two simultaneous motions, she smashed the Shibari-kun against the tree while landing onto one of its branches.
The blow didn't damage the Shibari-kun like the previous ones due to her sapped strength, but its rotor blades had managed to imbed themselves into the side of the tree. "Oh nooooo, I'm stuck!"
She stared up at the last remaining flying Shibari-kun, glaring fiercely at it in challenge. It stared down at her for a moment before swooping in to grab its fallen comrade and lifted the both of them out of the forest.
After staring after them for a while longer, she hopped back down to the ground, pondering this latest development. 'Better not be a bounty on my head.' she thought, wandering deeper into the forest. Whatever the case may be, she would get to the bottom of this
and solve it.
Back at the ship, Neasa was less than pleased with the results. "She got away
.she got away! This is unacceptable; especially what she did to my poor Shibari-kuns! Capture Crew 17 was one of my favorite batch of Shibari-kuns, too!"
"But Neasa-sama, weren't you not expecting to find anyone today?" Butty asked through the radio. "We now know what she can do, so we can come back at her even better next time~" it said, trying to cheer her up.
"I know, I know! But a loss is a loss
and I hate losing to a ninja of all things!" Fuming in her seat, she considered her options. "Alright, first things first! I'll see to recovering the Shibari-kun in the forest and then head back! First thing tomorrow, we'll head over to see the Professor! I think we'll need to upgrade the strength of your ropes for starters
With the battle over, silence reigned in the forest once again. Fifteen minutes later, however, the soft hum of a rotor blade kicking in broke the peaceful air. It was soon joined by a chorus of hums as the fallen Shibari-kun took to the air once again, their programming glitching but keeping them functional.
Regrouping in a clearing, they all whooped and hugged each other's damaged bodies. "Yayyyyy, we all made it~" one of them whooped, pumping its robotic arms up and down.
"Sooooo, now what?" a Shibari-kun with a cracked eye lenses asked.
"Well, I guess we should go after the ninja again
I kinda feel like staying in sleep mode for the rest of the day!" the one eyed Shibari-kun responded.
"But Neasa-sama wouldn't like thaaaat!" one of them whined.
"Neasa-sama complains about not being able to rest as often as she wants too
but gets to do it a lot more than us!" One-Eye complained.
"Wow, I never thought of that before, but you're right!"
"Maybe we can ask her for the day off, then?"
"No way will she let us sleep in when there's a ninja on the loose! She'll just send us back out to work!"
"Well, maybe we can get her to take a break with us too? Stressing over ninja all the time isn't healthy for her, you know! She could use a nice relaxing rest right about now too~" One-Eye suggested.
"Well, I guesssss so. Okay then, we'll all try to get naps! But how do we convince Neasa-sama? Almost nothing will stop her once she gets started on a ninja hunt!"
"Oh! Oh! Oh! That place in Chrimwa, where we were always dropping off people! Neasa always said that anyone there had all the time in the world to relax!" another excitedly volunteered.
"Oh, you mean that prison place?"
"Yeah~ We could deposit her there, then sleep for a while ourselves!"
"Sounds like a plan~ Let's head back!" One-Eye cheered, spinning around excitedly.
"What, right now? But I wanna sleep noooooow, you know! I'm sure it'll be awhile before the boss finds us anyway!"
"Oh, good point! Let's sleep for now~ We can always help Neasa relax later when she wakes us up!" One-Eye relented.
With that, the thirteen Shibari-kuns, all sporting various cracks along their sturdy bodies, entered sleep mode at the same time.
Half an hour later, the two undamaged Shibari-kuns of the squad returned. "Ah, Neasa-sama! We found the others, and they don't seem to be that damaged! Lucky~" one of them happily reported.
"Well, that's a relief! I'd rather not have to have the Professor replace them entirely if I can help it!" Neasa replied, "Bring them back to the Lifeboat immediately; we'll regroup back on the Graceful Beauty and see to having them repaired by the professor at a later date, if needed."
"Haiiiii~" they cheerfully acknowledged, before beginning to scoop up their comrades into the burlap sacks each one carried. Soon enough, the thirteen sleeping Shibari-kuns had been gathered up and were flown back into the Lifeboat.
So focused on figuring out how to approach the escaped ninja the next time they met Neasa didn't spare the sleeping Shibari-kun a second glance after confirming their status. Their damaged bodies only further served to fuel her desire to see the ninja brought to justice.
Neasa was none the wiser about the mutinous time bombs she was bringing back into her own home