A Situation That Was Panda Dire

Yamato - 39 - -9 - 0

So.. a few things. Asuna never really invites anyone with her to anything. Not even quests. She's a ronin. Not just the class, she's got a major in pushing others away with an emphasis on being remote. Not just figuratively, but literally. So... why did she send Uta a friend request and why she invite her along for this?

She hasn't a clue..

    "You know, I was thinking maybe along the way, we might find some forest slimes or something unusual like that for your collection."

That's her explanation. But she seems awkward about it. It's way cooler than suggesting Uta seems weird and nice enough to be an actual friend.

And yes, less pathetic, too. She has an image to maintain.

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"Hopefully!" Uta exclaims, cheerful, while looking all around, up and down, to admire the growth, the undergrowth, the sky, the ground, and any little creature that might appear. And then there is some silence. "...uh, out of curiosity, er...", she starts, embarrassed, twiddling her fingers. "While I have quite some experience -handling- monsters, uh... I... must admit I... am not really good at capturing them, and... well..." Look down, lower voice, "I might need some help with the actual capturing. Most of the slimes in my lab have, in fact, been captured and donated by other people."

She looks up again, suddenly, as she keeps on walking, and looks straight at Asuna. "But I'll make up for that! I can help with the handling if you ever need help with the handling! Wait, do you handle monsters?" Pause. "Or maybe you're some sort of exceptional master monster handler that could teach me the ins and outs of the job?" She looks down again, "Oh goodness, I've been offering to help without even knowing if people -need- help..."
Yamato - 39 - -9 - 0

    "I'm decent at capturing and handling, but I'm no expert."

Asuna's happy to have the conversation go to stuff like this. Stuff is easy! She is paying attention to their surroundings, too, of course. She's always wary, especially these days. She even occasionally climbs a tree too look around. And to look for..

    "Claw marks! Something big was climbing up in this tree!"

She sounds pretty excited by it. Granted, she's no tracker, but at least the claw marks seem like a good thing. And with a bit of effort, maybe they can get on the right path.

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"I wrote a book about slimes once," Uta mentions. "An Encyclopedia of slimes. I don't bring the subject up often, because I'm afraid that people will assume that I'm trying to sell them encyclopedias, and, well-"

Interruption. Rush over. She runs her fingers in the grooves left in the wood. "These are some serious claw marks. It's in moments like these I'm happy I'm not a tree," she comments, getting wherever the marks are, be them up a tree or at ground level. "I suppose that if something is that big, we should see broken twigs or compressed grass or something like that. Pretty obvious?", she hazards, scratching her head. "I am no tracker myself, but, hopefully, something this big that has no qualms leaving marks...", she says, gesturing at the recent findings.

That is when she scans the ground, walking all around the tree. "Hm. Broken twigs and compressed grass this way." Circle 180 degrees, end up on the opposite end of the tree. "Also broken twigs and compressed grass -that- way...", she points.


"Okay, we know that it came this way and went that way, or the exact opposite. We have even odds of ending up where wherever did this is now, or where it came from."
Yamato - 39 - -9 - 0

    "Yeah, we're both awful at this part, aren't we?"

Asuna laughs softly, then, and lets out a sigh. She looks first back down the hill, and then towards the incline. She's debating which is best. She has, notably, nothing at all to go by.

    "I've got it!"

She closes her eyes, spins around, then stops, and points. She nearly puts her finger right in Uta's ear. It doesn't exactly align with either path, but the closest one its to is uphill. So.. that is the way they go! And look, the trail does keep going, and there are even some fresh droppings.

    "They are warm!"

A pause. Asuna wrinkles her nose.

    "Oh my god that sounds gross."

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Uta is already wearing gloves as part of her nurse's outfit, but right now, she swipes her menu and replaces them with a second pair that looks more disposable. She swipes her finger through more options, selects one...

...and then squats down goes to poke the droppings with her finger. Poke, poke poke.

That is, of course, for a Handle-Monster plus Pharmaceutical inspection (pretty much... a 'Monster veterinarian' inspection), although it would take some guessing to understand it, since one's menu is visible only to oneself, and not to others.

"Ooooh, this specimen is an interesting one," comments Uta. "Healthy, eats a good amount of fiber... hm. Could use a bit more exercise perhaps, but, hey, given the kind of monster it is-" She blinks and turns to Asuna. "I mean, uh..." She stands up, swipes her menu open, and shimmers her temporary gloves away to restore her main ones. "Let's go, that way!", she says, pointing.
Yamato - 39 - -9 - 0

Asuna isn't grossed out by Uta doing it. I mean, Uta is a nurse. Maybe even was one in real life before here. Not that it's any of her business. She listens with interesst to the diagnosis.

    "Wow, you know all that just from the poo?"

Sure, it's not the most scientific way to refer to it, but Asuna is hardly a scientific mind. She does know how to move, though.

    "You're the boss! Onward!"

She grins as she goes. Just from time to time. No explaining it. She probably doesn't have to. Uta knows how exciting it is to get something you like.

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"Stool samples are widely used in medicine," Uta rattles off. "They are in the outside world, and they do seem to convey information to our interfaces through inspection."

"What? The boss? Me? I- I don't think I'm qualified to do this!", she exclaims, rushing to catch up with Asuna.

After some rushing, she stops. "Oh, wait, I almost forgot-" She looks all around. "I'm in the middle of a training program to improve my physical prowess, and- yes, yes, that will do!" She bounces over to a moderately sized rock, bednds her knees, and- NGHHHHHH! Lifts it. Freezed mid-way. Readjusts her weight. Lifts some more. Readjusts weight- last push!

She scuttles after Asuna, stone lifted over her head. "I'm ready!"
Yamato - 39 - -9 - 0

Asuna casts a look back at Uta and chokes on a laugh, nearly falling the process. Uta is a doofus in all the best of ways.

    "If you wanted a physical workout you should have said something earlier. You could have carried me up the hill!"

Another glance back. She's not going to take that seriously, right?

Of course not.

    "Ohh, wait a sec, what's that?"

She skids to a halt. The area is quiet. Quiet in a way it wasn't before. And not just because Asuna and Uta are trampling up the hill like a pair of stampeding goofballs. Everything is quiet.

    "Ohhhhh... Uta... we are being /hunted/!"

See, normal people don't get excited by that kind of thing. Like, yay! Something is about to try to kill us!

Yamato - 39 - -9 - 0

"Eh? What?!", Uta stumbles at the suggestion that she takes Asuna up a hill. Her arms tremble a little, but she stiffens them again. All that red in her face is obviously effort. Not embarrassment. Not at all.

Uta freezes when told to. Silence. Listen. Listen to the sound of nature. Listen to the announcement that they are being hunted.

"Is that... supposed to be a good thing?", she asks, with a concerned frown.
Yamato - 39 - -9 - 0

Asuna nods a lot at Uta. She's a mirror of Uta's slime enthusiasm right now. She looks around. Deciding she needs a better vantage point, she helpfully ascends.. Mt. Uta! And perches on the rock.

    "This is the best!"

Asuna is looking carefully around. And around. And around.

At some point, though, Uta can see a large shape approaching. Asuna never looks in the right direction. It's not even quiet. It's shaped kind of like a dire tanuki, only it has a long, bushy tail held out behind it and a kind of red-orange fur with white face markings, ears, and a black, fuzzy coat of fur on the bottom half of its body.

Just as it gets close, it reacts. As if it never saw the adventurers until just now. It rears up on its hind legs. The front paws of the dire red panda are raised. It appears to be threatening. Threating with the biggest, warmest hug ever.

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Uta makes strained sounds as the weight she's carrying over her head is increased by one person's worth of mass.

But this is training! No pain, no gain! Never skip leg day! And all that!

Uta, stoic, continues to tolerate the weight, distracting herself by looking at the shadow in front of her that keeps getting bigger, and bigger, and bigger- wait.

Uta turns her head. Slowly. Slooooooooowly.

And sees the Dire Panda behind her. "AaAaAaaaaAaaaAaah....", she squeaks, unable to complete Asuna's name.

"....Aaa-ahh...", she whimpers, barely audible, voice partially caught in her mouth.

She begins to sweat as she's unable to call the attention of her hunting partner, and the mosnter gets menacing.

Panicking, she does the first thing that comes to mind: hurl the large rock at the Dire Red Panda, Asuna and all.
Yamato - 39 - -9 - 0

This is why Asuna's first view of the Red Panda is upside down. She doesn't even have time to react.


Okay, she had some time to react. And then she just THUDS into fuzzy, exposed, dire red panda belly. This is not at all what the monster expected. Judging by the very dim light in its eyes, it doesn't seem quite able to form much for expectations or plans. So in that moment, confronted by this strange enemy that can split itself in half, the beast panics. And runs. With Asuna clinging to it.

It doesn't run in a line, though. It is running in a big circle around Uta. And then it's climbing trees. And leaping from the tree. And climbing the next.

While this is going on, Asuna, the level-headed, expert of monster capturing (well, relatively?) is showing just how composed she can be when the chips are down and things are in danger of spiralling out of control. She gives Uta a clear and very specific instruction.


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"Let me hold it still for you!", Uta exclaims, as she rushes forward and swipes her menu open while running. A staff shimmers into her hands, and clasping tight onto it, Uta intones a bouncy tune- is that J-POP?! With every leap and skip, sometimes flipping in mid air, she causes a circle of light to appear in the ground, and when the terrain is strewn with pastel colored polkadot, the verse is already over, the bridge has just hit the last note and the dramatic silence, before the chorus: "SE-WER CALL!", she announces, in music, and SLAMS her staff to pierce the ground and blast a magical shockwave that lights up all circles as it washes over them -- and all of them shoot out a different slime, as soon as they're activated, slimes meant to bounce against and overwhelm the Red Panda with not only physical attacks, but sensory input as well.

Also, the musical number continues, with Uta tapping more summoning circles and shooting out slimes as she proceeds.

That should keep the target occupied for a while.

"Now, A-su-na! Do your thing!", she urges, incorporating the words as part of the lyrics.
Yamato - 39 - -9 - 0

It does work! The Red Panda's eyes go wide. Okay. Really the pandas eyes are always wide. It maintains a precious look of constant startlement. Only now there's a reason to be startled.

Aided by the slimes, Asuna is able to turn the fur into her own climbing wall and get on top of the monster. Which is just in time, since its response to all the music and lights is to rear up again. For a while, it seems that the monster isn't sure what to do other than rear up. Eventually, it kinda.. falls forward and paws at a slime that easily bounces away from the.. attack?

Positioned in just the right place, Asuna is able to get control of the creature. By bapping it the nose.

    "Stop it! Be a good girl, Tomoe! Relax!"

She's digging in her heels a bit to assert some measure of control over the dire red panda motions. And... it works! Barely. Plus, more importantly, she pulls out a long stick with a big piece of sweet-smelling fruit hanging from it on a string.

Yes. This is truly masterful monster capturing technique.

    "I think.. she's captured!"

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"I have no idea!", exclaims Uta, tossing her hands in the air with balled fists, in a gesture of victory. "There's only one way to find out, I guess?", she offers, as the short lived slime summons slowly disappear from the area.

"I suppose you... try handling it, and then, uh... I don't know, we handle it in case it doesn't behave?", she offers, head sinking among her shoulders, clenching her staff in a way that is possibly meant to look threatening, but makes Uta look more scared of the monster than the monster would be of her. "So, uh, Tomoe it is, huh?"
Yamato - 39 - -9 - 0

    "Tomoe Gozen!"

Asuna exclaims that, as if the legendary onna-bugeisha badass of her most embarassing fanfics were common knowledge.

She's excited. Practically squeeing. Okay, she really is, it's continuous. And as for Tomoe herself, she is wandering forward, perplexed by this elusive fruit that floats in front of it, ever out of reach. It's not the most advanced technique, but it's keeping the monster from attacking!

    "You gotta hop on, Uta! We got this!"

Oddly enough, it appears to be the case. Tomoe seems not to be hostile. For now.

Yamato - 39 - -9 - 0

"Tomoe Gozen? The legendary onna-bugeisha of the Genpei War?", Uta frowns, and then- the Shenanigans! They ensue!

Uta is caught by surprise. The aloof Ronin is suddenly excitable in a fit of adrenalin. Can she be trusted with the handling of that monster, who is charging around at- well, okay, 'charging' is probably overselling it. But still, is it SAFE?!?

"I'm in!", Uta exclaims, and jumps to grab a free bit of fur as if it was some sort of Dire Totoro they were dealing with.

"THIS. IS. AMAZING!", she exclaims, holding on for her dear life as the creature... just wanders about on her hind legs?
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Asuna looks back over her shoulder at Uta. There's this sudden, emotional expression. She doesn't know how to articulate it, but it's right on her face.

Finally someone gets me.

Tomoe tumbles back on all fours and Asuna looks forward again. Having it under her control, now, she lets the fruit get eaten by her new mount, then sends the stick back to her inventory.

    "Forward, brave knights! To adventure!"

Asuna is so into this. And.. she's not done!

    "We got my mount. Now we gotta capture a rare slime for my new best friend! I've heard there are some in caves near the top of the hill here!"

Yamato - 39 - -9 - 0

"To Adventure! Woo-hoo!", exclaims Uta, with the excitement of a child on a kiddy ride at the luna park. Which... is pretty much what Tomoe effectively is at the moment, given how not-really-threatening a monster it is right now.

"Giddy-up, Tomoe! Giddy up!" Uta's words sort no effect in getting Tomoe to go any faster, but they do seem to make the Spriggan happier, and that's what matters.

"Oh? You have a new best friend? And they're into slimes too?" Uta downright beams. "That's amazing! Can I meet them some day?"
Yamato - 39 - -9 - 0

Asuna laughs softly. She knew Uta wouldn't pick it up. Somehow that's more endearing. She looks back over her shoulder and grins.

    "I hope so, anyway. I mean, you are the slime girl, right? And we're friends. I think? I mean, you are my best friend now."

Sensing the mood, she spurs Tomoe to top speed. Which is remarkably fast, considering. This place is really the dire pandas element and she seems to know it perfectly well. When steep ground would stop an adventurer, Tomoe simply climbs one of the huge trees and turns their limbs into the highway to the next adventure.

    "I'm not sure how useful Tomoe will be against a slime, but the caves are supposed to be huge, spectactular, probably not toooo dangerous for us."

Yamato - 39 - -9 - 0

Uta looks stunned for a few seconds. Or perhaps distracted. "Oh, right! Slime girl! Yes, that would be me!", Uta exclaims, like a student who's been caught daydreaming and suddenly asked a question by the teacher. But it's a student who, at least, can give a sensible, if delayed, answer.

"B-best friend?" Uta looks even more stunned now. "...wow...", she mutters, under her breath. "I... I'm flattered!", she exclaims, floored by the compliment. Floored only metaphorically, though -- she does not let go of the hair, not even for a moment, and she does enjoy the adrenalin rush of riding on a -fast- monster through such a varied environment that requires nontrivial navigation, feeling the wind on her face before it ruffles her hair, holding tight during particularly jerky motion, and instinctively opening her wings, along with a thrilled squeal, during the occasional drop.

When her fellow monster handler mentions that she's not sure how useful Tomoe wil be, the Spriggan answers, "Well, I suppose there's only one way to find out..."