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[X] Use the tunnels to escape.
For a moment, he thought to himself. Then, with a huff of breath he looked at the stone wall.
“Alright, get out now, Gen!” he heard, and he slammed his fist into the area Aomu had told him would open this cave up.
[ ♫: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJz9N3odqGg ]
Cold air spread over him surprisingly gently as the rocks parted (the inside of Aomu’s hideaway hadn’t been terribly warm), and he squinted to the light his eyes had begun to forget while inside. As he’d asked, Aomu had given him a moment to leave while no other kappa could potentially spot him. He slipped out, and looked along the column-marked cliff face. In it were several holes of varying sizes. He picked one which seemed large enough for his body, and flew to it with speed.
“Listen up, Aomu:” he addressed his companion, “keep an eye on the tunnel entrances for your sisters—let me know if I should be worried considering which I’m entering now.”
”Sisters”... he thought, I wonder where are the kappa men?
“The tunnels!?” said Aomu. “Do you even know the way!?”
“I’ll figure one out,” he replied, grabbing the edge of the entrance he had bound for and looking back to where he guessed Aomu might be.
“Do your best, crazy human,” she answered, and with a nod he entered the caves again.
There were no lights within, and he debated grabbing some from outside to bring with him, but thought against it for the potential trouble it could cause. He stepped softly, crouched very low and moving careful through the system. Not long into this tunnel, he had a thought and touched the gloved hand he’d been using to feel his way ahead against his cheek.
Damn it...! he thought, flinching at the sensation and pulling his hand away. Wet! How could I forget!?
He had somewhat known this: that the earth itself contained water, and some might either condense on the walls, or worse, run within them through kappa designs. After all, Aomu had cast some liquid at him from a wall while they were discussing the Incident in her place. He stopped and worried how much could potentially be drawn from them this source, and then worried more on the realization that in a worst case scenario, the kappa could flood the system and drown him with ease. Perhaps this hadn’t been the best choice.
He swallowed, and proceeded, keeping a frequent eye on the mapping device Aomu had given him. He was thinking: if the worst case, or any bad, came to pass, how could he handle it? What magic could he use? Would calling to the earth be its own danger? Could the air be useful at all? And no light in these tunnels... What could he do?
There were few sounds within this passage. Nothing dripped, and there were no echoes. It became pitch dark, and he began to try to hear whatever he could. Cramped, dank, scraping, slow movement defined his trek, and he so far could only move forward.
After a minute, his heart leapt at the feeling of almost falling, and he stopped again. He turned the monitor of his handheld map downward, and with the little bit of illumination it produced saw that this was a drop. He cast the faded light elsewhere, and saw that the path continued one way right and another upward. He looked at the monitor directly, wincing. Below him were two kappa, along the way right was another. There was nothing close above, but...
He put the map aside briefly and tapped the headphone on his ear. “Aomu,” he whispered, “there are three paths ahead of me here. What do you suggest?”
“Go to the right,” she answered promptly, “and then down, and then left. Call me again after that.”
“Right? There’s a kappa that way.”
“Up from there is a dead end. If you go down, there’s another way through, but it’s longer.”
One kappa, or two... he considered, mouth turning around in vexation. He looked at his map again, specifically to the kappa below his position. They’re close... he thought, are they chatting?
He crept closer to the edge and lay flat as he could, ear facing down while he clasped the other. He pulled the communications device from his ear slightly, and simply listened.
... A small scuff, the vague noise of moving water... and a voice, perhaps? Was he just imagining it? He brought his head down the hole a little more, and sure enough: it sounded as though the pair were relaxed by conversation.
“... ope.. ready... en... som... ing.”
He heard something strange and became confused, but quickly realized these broken words were coming from his communications. He pulled the phone back over his ear and begged, “One more time, Aomu?”
“There’s someone coming. Did you already get moving?” she asked.
“I... I’m going down,” he answered.
“Be careful,” she warned.
Getting back onto his feet, he slowly floated his way down the pit, and as he did so he saw a dull glow become clearer and clearer, as did girlish voices come to his ears. He landed in a small chamber before another, somewhat lighted tunnel. He quickly placed himself against a wall beside the way in, and eavesdropped.
“... bend, but would it really when she built it out of iron parts?”
“Something more pliable, huh.”
“That’s what I’d do.”
The human inched his way to where the wall broke, turned his face and eye a little past it, and spied on the kappa.
“You mean you’d make it go spinning, then blow up.”
“Convection’s a good idea, so shut your mouth.”
“Have you gotten anything to not boil over and explode?”
“Then it’s a scary idea.”
The two kappa were sitting in a space he imagined they must have crafted themselves. One had goggles on her forehead and aquamarine hair tied into a pair of braids, the other had hair about as dark as Aomu’s though it was much messier. The two of them were sitting on stones, the dark-haired one not facing him, while the other was somewhat turned to her left. They had the place lit with a number of small lanterns, and he could see a large boulder he could potentially hide behind and try to slip past. He looked up, hoping whichever kappa had followed his path into the tunnels would not come down.
“Aomu,” he addressed, very quietly, “would the lanterns you use here have firelight or something else?”
“Lanterns? As in handheld, portable?”
“We use electricity to brighten a wire we call a filament and light is produced that way.”
“Huh...” The kappa really are something incredible, he commented to himself. Electric light; if this was the case, he didn’t know what words could be invoked to wield it. Furthermore, summoning sun or moonlight here would be a risk. It was an annoyance, but he couldn’t obscure their sight with visual illusions.
So, he whispered to the tunnel air instead.
Gathering it into his hand and swirling it repeatedly, he created a compressed cyclone in his palm. He called for a few others (totaling six), crouched down, and aimed his sight all the way down the darkened tunnel behind the engineers.
In quick succession, he cast two gusts down the way, one setting off in the rest area, and the other setting off in the tunnel’s shadows. The two kappa immediately had their hackles up, and looked where the second wind had erupted. He glided in, and put himself behind the wall-like boulder.
“T-Tengu!?”, the goggled kappa stated, her voice shaking.
“Do they think we’re keeping winter like this!?” the other asked. “We’re not the ones stealing spring!”
The two of them looked at one another, while Gen secretly looked at them. The one with goggles nervously offered the explanation, “Maybe it was just the wind,” and at that the magician tossed another spiral of air, at the entrance of the tunnel he wished to go down. The two kappa leapt at the gust, and so he threw another.
“I-I can’t believe it! Let’s go topside!”
The girls tripped over themselves dashing the way Gen had come, and while they fled he went straight into the hiding shadows of the tunnel which gave progress.
He now had more of a sense of urgency, and his advance was done with less care and more rapidity—even though light soon left the path. He paid the map attention, and kept in mind that the two he’d frightened would likely alert the Ravine of tengu presence, and possibly even come into the tunnels to find and meet with the seemingly angered youkai. There were quite a few of Kappa above him, it seemed. He needed to contact Aomu again.
When he thought this, his covered ear perked up to sound.
“-mu!” he heard.
“What!? What is...” Aomu’s voice faded after a scratching noise; he imagined she must have hid her microphone in surprise.
Eventually he felt his way to another crossroads, leading either right or left. Remembering Aomu’s directions for another path and knowing her to be indisposed, he turned to the right without asking and continued on.
Suddenly, his eyes on the surface shouted “Gen!” into his ear and his head was banged on the tunnel’s roof.
“Oww...” he moaned, “what?”
“There are tengu in the tunnels! Everyone’s freaking out! I said I’d keep lookout, but...”
Gen looked at the map in his hand, noting quite a few kappa seemed to be leaving the caves.
“‘Twas no tengu, I merely cast some winds,” he explained, looking toward his chest where he was keeping a spare two cyclone orbs (not that he could see anything). Ignoring Aomu’s voiced disbelief at this revelation, he next said, “I went right at another split in the tunnels. Do you know where I should go from here?”
“Huh!? I, uh, what!? Uh...” He could imagine her pawing at her face in a flurry of emotions. “K-Keep your hand up and feel for a tunnel upward, fly into it, and stay in the hangar you find.”
“H... what? Hangar?” he briefly dropped his whisper in saying this, and quickly held his mouth.
“Just stay there! Keep an eye on your map! A bunch of us are going to look through the tunnels now!”
He thought to himself, Goodness, I’ve really underestimated how scared the kappa can get.[/]
The magician’s apprentice did as he was instructed, soon enough finding a way up and flying ascent. He approached light again, and found the hangar.
[ ♫: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sO3_dMt0ZSc ]
“... Hello now...” he commented reflexively, standing to his full height. [i]So many machines...
The hangar, or cavern, he now stood in had most of its space dedicated to a large construct of crisscrossing metal in a black, heavy matrix some four or five stories tall by comparison to a building in the outside world. This thing, surrounded and segmented by walkways, held in place what he wagered must have been over two hundred small aircrafts, watercrafts, submersibles, and other brands of vehicles. At its base, he paced ‘round the thing, looking at propeller-devices, what seemed to be rockets, wheeled things and so on. He touched a few in interest, and noticed many hoses and cables snaking their way through the mess of metal, making it all that much more confounding and messy, connecting into the walls. But, fascinating. He looked around the cavern more, and saw ways he thought the machines might be carried out of the underground and into the Ravine: on tracks, it seemed, and through wide circle doors that lined the wall behind him. Above, in the ceiling, was a very large and closed access. He wagered that was where many kappa would come from shortly, and so was why his friend wanted him to stay put and hide.
He took in this place some more, and saw a few nice places to hide. He settled on crawling beneath a worktable, and obscuring himself behind some nearby toolboxes, taking this time he knew himself to be alone to scrape the things along the floor and clatter them carelessly. With this done, he bid attention of his friend again. “So, Aomu, this is where you all keep your vehicular experiments and inventions?”
She was quick to answer with, “Where most of us do. Are you hiding?”
“Everyone going in’s rallying by the rock wall. They’re going to enter soon.”
“How do I get out of here? Through the ceiling access?”
“You could, but I wouldn’t...” she answered in honesty. “You should find the vents and go through those... Just make sure you keep your mouth covered, and after a while you should get outside.”
“Can’t I just go through these vents now?” he asked.
“They’re going to flood the vents,” the girl revealed, to which he responded with:
“They want to make sure nothing is hiding in them. They won’t flood the whole system since that would use too much water, and a lot of it’s frozen today.”
“Well, aren’t I lucky.”
“They’re starting,” said Aomu, “And they’re going in. Don’t get caught or die, okay?”
Gen did not answer. He heard cacophonous rushing and the noise of several blasts, and looked out from under the table for a moment to see flows of water from where the vents of this cavern must have been, far above him. The giant gate began to screech open, and more lights dazzled the room.
Watching the map screen, he saw perhaps a count of twenty five kappa converging on this place, and even more elsewhere within the tunnel system. They voicelessly moved through the hangar, and he remained still.
Cold water reached him, and he held his breath to stop the reflexive noise he would have made on his contact with it. Three kappa splashed down to the floor, and he saw their boots from behind the metal boxes. From the way light dashed along the walls, he figured they must have all donned cave-diving helmets, or at least something similar. While he kept still, he watched as they mercifully decided to not check beneath the table.
The water eventually drained, falling down the hole he’d used to reach here, and many of the kappa in the cavern began making their ways through other tunnels. The hangar now had six of the girls patrolling it.
Gen was thoughtless for a minute or so. For whatever reason, he had expected them all to leave this room, so now with kappa patrolling... he was concerned.
Eventually shaking his head, he decided: he would move.
He could slip past the toolboxes hiding them without any noise unless he flinched. From there, however, he wasn’t sure what to do.
From what he could tell, two of the kappa were stationary: one at the floor, another at the ceiling. Two more were monitoring the walkways, and the final two were rogue elements, moving seemingly without pattern.
Still, he at least knew where they were moving...
He had two winds left to cast, and whispering for any other magic would be too great a risk with them on alert like this.
 he would make a distraction and escape.
---- Where would he cast the winds?
 he would simply sneak.
---- Where would he go?
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