An Appalling Lack of Dragons, Resolved.
Crossover with: Dragon Age Inquisition
Summary: Team Kei manage to land in Thedas during a supposedly routine mission. Thedas wishes they hadn't.
Because if there was one thing Inquisition failed to instill in an irreverent soul like myself, it was a sense of drama once I got to level 14.
Look, if they wanted to call it Dragon Age, they need more dragons.
The funny thing is, Kaito thinks later, when the flaming wreckage of a would-be conqueror falls around them like hail, like the ashes of his dying ambition, I don't think this even makes the top five of "weirdest missions in Konoha history." Not when Sensei is involved.
Sensei didn't tend to like it when missions went to shit. Most shinobi didn't, because inevitably the risks to their lives were multiplied tenfold, and Sensei in particular would need to start using her jinchūriki powers to bail everyone out. Which, Kaito figured, was probably not something ordinary teams got to say often. "We were kinda fucked, but then Teammate X blew everything up and we lived" made for real weird mission reports, and Kaito spent enough time pissing off Konoha's bureaucracy to know that got under their skin the fastest. Lack of formality, mostly.
"Well, fuck," were the first words out of Sensei's mouth after looking up at the giant hole in the fucking sky, which Kaito agreed with. He jerked his gaze away from it to cut off the sense of vertigo.
"Are those chunks of mountains?" Aiko asked, hands shading her eyes as she peered at the thing pretending to be a green not-sun. "And I have to ask… Does that look like a bathtub drain to anyone else?"
"Yes," Roku answered promptly, but he wasn't actually looking up any more than Kaito was. Dark rings surrounded his eyes as he peered around at the snow-covered landscape. "And this doesn't look like the Land of Iron. Too many mountains, and none of them stand out to me 'sides one."
"Compared to the three-headed monster," Kaito muttered, thinking of Three Wolves and its mysterious ability to not flip over and crush the capital beneath itself. But he also knew Roku meant an entirely different sense—there wasn't much point in using Magnet Release unless the user could find iron to manipulate, and hearing the area was a bit short on resources was a little worrying.
"Thoughts, Kei?" Obito asked, while Sensei shook her head to clear it.
Her expression tightened. "This had better not be what I think it is."
Obito put a hand to his chin and made a show of thinking the situation over. He even let his Sharingan show for a split second, green light reflected in red. "It's kinda looking like a disaster."
"Exactly." Sensei scowled. "Three to one odds we end up having to get involved."
"No bet," Obito shot back instantly. He holds her stare for a second longer before the implied challenge goes out of him. "Look, technically we're in a wilderness survival exercise now. And the first rule of that is…?"
"Make it not one," Kaito suggested. He knew civilians were generally told to stick close to the point of losing contact with the rest of the world, whether roads or shipwrecks or whatever, but shinobi had better overland speed. By a lot. And anyway they had Roku, who moonlighted as a compass with opposable thumbs. "So, what are we waiting for?"
Aiko, already ahead of the group, takes three big steps before pausing, spinning around, and saying, "Directions?"
They did manage to find the village eventually, and then shit got complicated.
There wasn't a single tangentially-Asian person in the entire settlement. Kei figured her group could get over the local attachment to chainmail and straight-edged swords with fullers, the nigh-ubiquitous British accents, and even the air of constant religious fervor, or at least write it off as "foreign weirdness." But even before elves and dwarves came into the picture—of whom there were many—the perpetual sense of "we do not belong here" was stronger than it had even been before.
It didn't even manage to get worse when they met the eight-foot gray guy with bull horns, but Kei figured that was more a sign of locating and planting a flag in rock bottom. Only place left to go was up, really.
Oh, and for some reason everyone could speak English. Kei would have brushed it all off as a conceit of the genre if Obito hadn't immediately belted out a "Hello, how are—?" before cutting himself off in horror at the unfamiliar syllables.
Kei heard everything as people said it, so it had taken her a little while to notice the problem. And that the problem in question only popped up when they tried directly speaking to someone in the little mud-village.
Something was screwing with their brains.
That something would rue the day it made the decision to mess with them, Kei decided. Isobu's reinforcing growl made it a promise.
A few months later, when the Nightmare dies screaming under the jaws of a monstrous seafood buffet of a monster, that promise was fulfilled.
But that's a longer story.
Meeting the Inquisition goes like this:
"Hey, I have a question," Kei said, to the blond man directing soldiers to train.
"Can't you see you're interr—" was his initial response, before turning to look at her and her funny-accented voice. "…Who are you?"
"Was gonna ask you the same thing," Kei answered, one eyebrow raised. She knew she'd heard that voice before, but couldn't pin down exactly where amidst the cold, the snow, and a lifetime's acclimatization to an entirely different language.
Blondie looked at her like she'd crawled up out of the unknowable abyss. Racism wasn't new, and xenophobia was a human classic, but seeing the beginnings of it is no less annoying than it'd ever been.
"Keep making that face and it'll stick that way," Kei said lightly, and stuck out her right hand. Gloved, sort of, but without claws or anything as terrible as she suspected he was expecting. "Name's Kei. You?"
Blondie eyed her hand for a second, proving her suspicions correct. Unlike the majority of the people in town her team had scouted before, she was neither raggedy, starving, desperate, or beaten-down by whatever fresh hell had descended on this village. She saw his eyes flicker to the odachi across her back, to the katana at her side, and the obviously-artificial cloth of Konoha's standard winter cloak.
Kei was possibly the most obvious foreigner on the planet, and she was including the misplaced gray giant in that number.
Oh, well. As somebody said once, "Go big or go home." That second one wasn't an option until she punched a demigod in the face, probably, and there was a distinct shortage of viable targets around here.
And that was how Team Kei was arrested for suspicion of espionage.
It didn't take, but the Inquisition got an A for effort.
That encounter probably set the tone for the whole thing.
Cosmic Escape Velocity (preview edition)
Crossover with: YuYu Hakusho
Summary: During Kei's Hell Year, weird things happen.
I suspect your personal fate and fortune may be… Isobu paused, clearly trying to come up with a single word that would sum up the disaster of Kei's life. All of his tails swayed uncertainly in her mind.
Unlikely? Hilariously broken? Kei's suggestions, as always, went over like a fleet of lead balloons. She didn't react at all when Isobu mentally swatted at her with those tails in irritation, keeping her hands behind her back in perfect parade rest. At most, she paused before she continued with, An absolute clusterfuck?
We are standing in the office of a thousand-year-old spiritual being that has a pacifier in his mouth, said Isobu, angling his palms as far up as they'd go without breaking his not-at-all-physical shell. He just didn't have the limb rotation range. I am not sure there is a way to sum up this latest catastrophe without stretching the language.
Kei shifted her weight from her right foot to her left. I mean, there's nothing wrong with just screaming.
I do not scream, Isobu huffed.
Too much dignity?
Not enough lung.
It was Kei's turn to roll her eyes as subtly as she could.
"Are you even listening?" asked the baby, standing up in his chair to loom as far as he could over the top of his desk. The two mountains of paperwork to each side of him did not care, and in fact made him look even smaller. Despite the added weight of his spiritual energy— not chakra, as had been specified a few minutes ago—Kei didn't take him much more seriously.
Look, she had the equivalent of a nuclear reactor implanted in her chest through spiritual surgery. He was going to have to try a little harder than that to rattle her cage, even if he was supposedly some sort of diminutive god.
And wasn't that just peachy?
Still, what Kei actually said was, "Of course, Koenma-sama. Sorry for the interruption."
The baby sat back in his chair, frowning around his pacifier. "Then as I was saying, I can't send you back to your starting point." As Kei's hopes for a quick resolution took a dive, he went on, "Going by your spiritual signature, you arrived from a world that has a different wavelength pattern from our own. Forcing your way through during convergence must have cost tremendous amounts of energy—"
Well, it wasn't like I passed out in a bush on purpose, Kei thought despairingly, silently cursing her circumstances for the umpteenth time. Koenma's attendants had picked her up, dusted her off, and plopped her in front of their boss with barely any time to react.
"—but once the intersection period passes, that cost skyrockets. By a factor of a hundred." Koenma laced his pudgy baby fingers together as far in front of his face as they'd reach, a contemplative look crossing his expression as he observed her. "How well do you understand the concept of a leyline?"
Kei considered. Then she unfolded her arms and brought her hand to her chin, to facilitate her thinking. It was probably a placebo effect, but it made her feel better. "I don't know if you're going for the 'weak point in reality' or the 'source of magic' version, but I think I get the basic idea."
She'd only read enough fantasy novels to fill a small library. Once, anyway.
Koenma stared at her with his eyes narrowed almost to slits, as though trying to decide if she was being facetious or not. "Well, you must have found a leyline from your home world at the exact moment the waveforms met. And whether you knew it would happen or not, using any kind of spiritual energy near something that volatile has…consequences."
Of the wormhole kind, Kei thought.
Your luck is atrocious.
"But this is no time to give up hope," Koenma said firmly, wagging one pudgy finger. "Your world's wavelength is appreciably short by human standards! The best time for sending you home could be anywhere in the next year to the next four. It's certainly better than the half-century for some worlds. Some others haven't come back in my entire lifetime!"
Kei shot a mental glare at Isobu. You were saying?
I stand corrected. It is worse.
Kei took a careful, meditative breath to steel her nerves. No time for freaking out. She could have her moment of wordless panic when she could find a corner to cry in without being observed. Even the emotional deadening of the last few months couldn't stand up to this. "I see."
Koenma's face scrunched into a frown. If it was ever going to be less strange hearing fully-formed sentences coming out of that face, Kei didn't imagine it'd be any time soon. Then: "In the meantime, would you like to have a job?"
Kei's thoughts screeched to a halt. "I'm sorry?"
"It's not the same as a solution; just a stopgap," Koenma explained patiently. "But if I understand humans, it's better to have something to keep your hands busy than to sit around in despair until a miracle falls into your lap."
"What kind of job?" Kei asked, careful to keep the suspicion from seeping into her voice. She'd had more than enough contracts go bad in the midst of her long deployment to learn a little caution. Sensei filtered what he could, but now Kei was out of his reach.
And she hadn't said no, so Koenma leaned forward in his seat with full lecture mode engaged. "I have a new spirit detective—a boy a few years younger than you—undergoing training with a renowned psychic. But while he's busy getting whipped into shape, I don't have anyone to handle his workload." Koenma's half-hidden eyes gleamed. "Are you interested?"
"What does the job entail?" Kei asked, as most of her sense of humor dropped right out of her body. Even if she didn't know where she was, some things never changed. It wouldn't be her first time being hired halfway through a contract, though it was always at Sensei's discretion. There had to be a reason why a person whose agents had found her in a bush under a purple sky, in the land of the dead, thought she would be useful for his purposes.
Koenma replied, "In your case, it mostly means completing any minor missions he can't. Stamping out trouble caused by apparitions of all kinds, but especially demons. Your duties will change after he returns."
Something in the back of Kei's head started itching, like a thought she'd forgotten sometime over the last seventeen years. The blanket of emotional exhaustion was too thick to avoid smothering it.
I will look for it.
Kei's gaze roved slowly around the room, from the stacks of paperwork to the employer offering her busy work. Then it dropped to the top of the desk and nearly stuck there from the force of her apathy. "Let me read and edit the contract before I sign anything. I'd also like any reference material you have on apparitions, and maybe an assistant if you have one to spare."
Something in Koenma's expression softened, at least as far as Kei could tell. Babies did not have terribly suitable faces for adult emotions. "I'll send for Ayame-san. She'll also be your contact if you do decide to take me up on this offer."
"Thank you, Koenma-sama," Kei said, because it didn't hurt to be polite to a god who administered the afterlife. Sure, Kei was a little corporeal to be a resident, but that could always change.
Kei barely paid attention as the oni attendants bustled around the pastel office and eventually escorted her out into a waiting room. While blue- or red-skinned humanoids registered as unusual, the sheer number of them running around like headless chickens cut down on the unfamiliarity quickly. They were just barely clambering up the slope on the uncanny valley in their tiger-skin loincloths, and most of them ignored her presence entirely. Bureaucracy at its finest.
I wonder if that is a self-preservation instinct.
If any of them can tell you're here, it is. Kei, sitting in an armchair no more comfortable than those plastic abominations in a waiting room at a hospital, mostly let the world pass her by. She picked at a hangnail. Do you think anyone's realized we're gone?
I doubt the nearest jōnin has, Isobu muttered resentfully. Then, more thoughtfully, he said, The crane might have.
Kei's hand shot to her mouth before she'd even articulated her thoughts. Using her kunai would be more sanitary, but hell, she was in the land of the dead. She bit down on her knuckle with one canine, drawing blood for the contract. Then her hands flew through the hand signs with barely enough time to name them: Boar, Dog, Bird, Monkey, Ram.
For a split second after she slammed her hand into the nearby coffee table, Kei's nerves jangled with fear. What if this doesn't work? What if I do this wrong and Tsuruya gets hurt—
Chakra-derived ink spread across the wood in a familiar pattern. Sure, the drain behind the technique was an order of magnitude higher than anything she'd expected. And sure, that usually meant bad things, and she was probably breaking several interworld rules in one fell swoop.
But Kei didn't care.
Because, amid the sudden burst of white chakra smoke and the terrified screaming of oni office workers, she heard a familiar voice say, "Keisuke-sama? Did you call for me?"
Tsuruya beat her wings once, sending paperwork flying through the air along with the rapidly dissipating smoke, much to the dismay of the oni audience as they flailed after their disrupted files. Once she could see, she jerked her dark head to see Kei better with one eye, then the other. Then she folded her huge wings against her sides and bowed low.
Kei launched herself out of the chair and hugged Tsuruya's three-meter bulk with enough force that her crane companion let out a startled honking noise.
"I missed you too," Tsuruya said once she regained her balance, dropping her beak to rest against Kei's back. Her wing looped around Kei, shielding them both with metal-edged feathers. "Though if you do not mind my asking, where are we?"
Kei said, "Probably the afterlife?" but was so muffled by her summoned friend's feathers that it probably wasn't even Japanese.
"My apologies, but I do not think I caught what you said," Tsuruya said. When this, too, failed to incite an audible response, Tsuruya changed tactics.
By hitting Kei in the head with her beak, just like old times.
It was at this point in Tsuruya's fussing that they were interrupted by a polite cough. Kei kept one arm slung around Tsuruya's neck as the two of them turned to face the interloper.
A dark-haired woman stood amid the chaos of the oni attendants' panic, expression placid. She wore a black kimono and carried a centimeter-thick stack of paper bound neatly with gold thread, along with an oar strapped to her back.
"Can I help you…?" Kei prompted, after managing a half-assed bow despite her stance.
"My name is Ayame, Gekkō-san. I have your contract." When she straightened, Ayame added, "If you'll come this way, there is a side room where we can discuss terms in private."
"Are you helping represent my interest or those of the spirit world?" Kei kept the obligatory lawyer joke tucked well inside her skull.
"I only want to help both parties come to a compromise."
Well, that was helpful. "Thank you, Ayame-san. Please lead the way."
An hour later, Koenma received the modified contract and began to read it, while Tsuruya, Kei, and Ayame all stood around. Of the three, only Ayame seemed perfectly in place.
Ten minutes after that, the oni outside his office were startled to hear a cry of "How many thousand yen per month?!"
Kei stared down his fury with patience born of entirely too long spent alone and nail-biting desperation. "I'm still human. I'll need to pay rent, buy food, and obtain supplies while living in whichever city I need to cover. And I know what my expertise is worth."
Koenma gaped at her for a moment longer, only avoiding the goldfish impression by dint of his pacifier, then glared down at the contact. As he perused it with increasing fervor, he muttered under his breath.
Kei caught the words "unbelievable" and "never in my life" and "not made of money."
Over Koenma's shoulder, Ayame smiled faintly.
"FINE!" Koenma burst out at last, throwing down his fountain pen in defeat after almost fifteen minutes of desperate rereading. "It's legally sound, and you have a point about living world expenses. But when the call comes, you need to be ready to fight! Is that clear?"
Kei bowed in full shinobi style, dropping to one knee with her head angled toward the floor. Koenma didn't need to know she was hiding a smile for, however tangentially, managing to frustrate a god. "Of course, Koenma-sama."
Oh, he may regret that.
"Then get out of my office! Ayame, show her how to get everything organized so she can start as soon as possible!"
Ayame swept Kei and Tsuruya out of the room amid the god-child's impending tantrum. While Kei sat sidesaddle on Ayame's oar as they took flight, Tsuruya pumped her huge wings and trailed in their slipstream with deceptive ease.
"I look forward to working with you, Ayame-san," Kei said, though even she wasn't sure how sincere she was. "Please take care of me."
Still, Ayame replied, "Like one of our own, Keisuke-san."
It wasn't until they'd landed in some human city that Kei realized, however belatedly, that she'd never told anyone her name. And that to be in the spirit world meant she'd been separated from her real body. Which was, of course, also lying in a bush.
All she could say to that, once she was again on her own two feet, was, "Well, that figures."
Dead twice she could remember, and all she got out of it was a job.
Ninja Maid the Bed (And Now She's Got to Lie in it)
Crossover with: Genshin Impact
Summary/Context: Pre-canon, a seventeen-year-old Kei and eighteen-year-old Obito have a joint bodyguard mission which would put them in the Dawn Winery. Basically, this is mostly an excuse to have Kei stare down the personal nightmare scenario that is "the maid outfit" and make (￣ ￣|||) faces.
"That's the housekeeper's uniform?" said Kei. Her expression didn't change much, aside from a tiny furrow between her eyebrows that carved itself just slightly deeper. What gave her away instead was the flat skepticism in her tone, hardly hidden at all by the question.
Well, that and her best friend taking one look at her face and doubling over in hysterical laughter.
Kei stepped back from the proffered uniform like a live snake, turned slightly on one foot, and shook her hyena of a teammate by his collar until the laughing stopped. Then she turned again to the clothes and said, "With all due respect, is there another option?"
Minato shook his head. "Not if you plan to blend in at all."
That drew a faint "ugh." Confronted with raised eyebrows and one-and-a-half questioning stares, Kei crossed her arms stubbornly. "Everyone knows I'm not a good liar. This is pointless."
"It's not about lying," said Obito, sitting up and looking at her imploringly. It might've been genuine. "It's about not being noticed by anyone outside the household. Inside's a super lost cause pretty much instantly."
"Stop trying to make it sound better."
Sensei didn't roll his eyes, which was…kind of annoying in its own way. He looked at her earnestly, as though this mission wasn't full of difficulty modifiers she hated already.
The uniform was just the easiest thing to pick on.
In his defense, Kei supposed, the entire concept of her in a maid uniform broke the brain a little bit. The outfit was comprised of a knee-length black skirt with a lacy top layer, stockings and that little headband and a frilly apron. It even came with black shoes Kei vaguely remembered having a person-name, which were already sized properly. Someone had even gone to the trouble of actually tailoring the damn thing to fit her wide shoulders and muscle mass, probably to downplay both and make her seem more harmless.
Kei didn't really remember what it was like to be actually harmless.
Were you ever? Isobu asked.
Factually yes, emotionally no.
"Hey, you're the one who says you're boring to look at. This'll just make you more boring." Funny how Obito's idea of consoling her was basically mockery all the way through. Maybe it was the frills. "Rich people are weird about their hired help."
Kei sighed. "Experience, I take it."
Still. "I hate wine, I hate these clothes, and I can't lie. Why am I on this mission?"
Obito glanced at Sensei for permission, though Kei had basically agreed already. She didn't really turn down missions without having put in for leave beforehand and all of them knew it. Sure, the last couple months had been pretty nonstop, but she could deal with that. Fatigue meant nothing to a shinobi.
Obito leaned from side to side with his hand thoughtfully on his chin, physically acting out his waffling, then grinned. "Weeeeeell, there's a pretty good chance whoever gets it will have to punch a dragon." Obito waved both hands like "ta-daaaah."
"…how many dragons?"
"Well, just one so far, but it's harassing people and it's totally in your weight class. I'm gonna be making sure the punching happens." Obito swirled a finger in the air, miming Kamui. "You know, in case a certain someone needs a boost. No fair if the other end of the fight just flies away."
Kei sighed. "I want to see a dragon more than I want to punch one."
"Good news: You can do both."
Ugh. She'd end up with this mission either way, but at least Obito was trying to sweeten the deal a little. Cajoling usually worked on Kei sooner or later, and this time there were dragons… "Anything I need to know about what the client knows going into this? Or are we actually supposed to keep them looped in?"
Sensei finally flipped open the folder. He'd been waiting until Kei got the dramatics out of the way, apparently. "So, here's the situation—"