A walk in the woods

The mission details would lead Masuku to arrive at the edge of what looked like a simple camping ground, surrounded on two sides by dense forest. There was an early-morning feel to the air; it was cool, and dewy, with the remnants of morning fog hanging over the area.

The open field where, presumably, navis could camp out, held several small tent-like structures, but most of them were locked to a private setting. There was a shelter towards the middle of the area, in the form of a large hexagonal pavilion, made of solid stone, with an angled thatch roof. There looked to be hot plates and coking facilities underneath it, too.

Behind where Masuku would show up, there was a narrow pathway that led deeper into the woods, though it was winding and the trees obscured it before very long.

One of the few tents in the area that wasn't locked off had a young lady sitting cross-legged in front of the entry way, with a book in her lap. She had the appearance of a young woman, though some would still call her a girl, probably. It was hard to gauge her height while she was seated, but she probably wasn't tall. Her hair was short-cut at her shoulders and a deep mahogany black, while her skin was a rosy pink. She was wearing a white blouse top and a pair of jeans that looked like they'd seen better days. When Masuku arrived, she looked up, and waved to him with a grin.
"Uh...hi. I'm looking to the NetNavi who issued a mission. Are you the person who issued the mission or do you have any idea who did? Masuku asked as he warily waved back, almost blushing as he looked around, looking for a way to distract himself.

"Come on, Josh. Help me out here" he whispered to his Operator, who hadn't spoken since Masuku had arrived at the camping ground.
When Masuku approached, the young lady closed her book and tucked it away into a small satchel at her feet, then stood and brushed herself off briefly. Her grin was accompanied by a brief nod and she shouldered her bag, then extended a hand towards him.

"That's right, I'm Narcoleptina. Pleased to meet you." whether he opted to accept the handshake or not, it would only last a moment before the girl blinked a few times, pulling her arm back so that she could stifle a yawn behind the back of her hand. She shook it off after a few moments.

"Sorry about that. You're the one who responded... Masuku, right? We just need to make our way through the woods here to the home of a friend of mine. I'm bringing her some things, but...." Another yawn overtook the lady for a few seconds and she paused to rub at her face. A closer look would show that, despite her sunny appearance, there were dark marks of sleep deprivation tracing her eyes.

"Sorry... But, none of my other friends can come with me, and I really don't feel safe travelling alone, whenever I'm going somewhere that might have viruses. There isn't a big chance we'll run into any, but I'd just rather not take the risk, you underst—" Her words trailed away without warning, and the young woman's eyes lost focus. Her body swayed forward, then crumpled over, collapsing bonelessly at Masuku's feet. The catatonia only lasted a few seconds before the girl stirred, and quickly began picking herself up again.

"I'm alright, I'm alright.... that happens, sometimes. There's something wrong with my somatic paralysis protocols, and they trigger sometimes, even when I'm not actually asleep. At least... it seems like something wrong. I've always had it, my whole life, so, maybe it's been broken from the beginning. I know it seems a bit frightening, but I'm fine, really." She had to stifle another yawn once she finished picking herself up and resettling her bag. At least it was probably becoming a bit clearer why she didn't want to risk travelling alone. She grinned at him again, to show she was fine, then reached out a hand as though to take hold of his.

"So... shall we get going?"
"Ok, yeah, lets get going. And Narcoleptina is a nice name" Masuku said , shaking Narcoleptina's hand when she offered to shake his hand, and it is ok that none of your friends can help out, since I love helping people anyway!

"And anyway, that whole sleeping thing is kinda cute in a way.....D-did I just say that out loud?" Masuku sighed, as he began to blush and began looking for something to distract himself with again.
As they started towards the wooded path, the young lady gave her companion a slightly cautious side-on glance. Being told that your body's habit of reducing you to paralysed helplessness, while you were still awake and aware to experience it, was 'cute', was ever so slightly creepy, after all, but she grinned and let it slide, doing her best to take the comment as a compliment... he looked kinda nervous after all.

"Ah, thanks, um... anyway.. it's this way. Just through the woods, really. It's not terribly far." The trees closed in around them only a few steps past the edge of the field, and the light faded to a surprisingly deep shadow. The path, at least, was distinct and clear, if twisting and Narcoleptina began to hum softly to herself as she walked alongside Masuku, swinging the hand that she was holding onto his with back and forth a little. It was an attempt at a bright tune, but overall the delicate voice only gave a greater impression of how deep and silent the woods surrounding them were.

"So, Masuku..." Her humming stopped as the girl glanced to her companion again, then immediately had to lift her other hand to stifle a yawn. "So, what leads you to taking work from the GNA? If we're going to be travelling together, I—" another protracted yawn made her blush and shake her head slightly. "Sorry. Was saying... I'd like to know a little more about my company today, hehe. Tell me about yourself!" Her smirk made it all the way to a soft giggle this time, before becoming another sleep-deprived yawn, and she tilted her head, looking over at Masuku with an intrigued expression.

So far, as they walked along the winding path, there seemed little else to do but talk, for now at least. The silence would be quite deafening otherwise, and the girl seemed eager to fill it with something.

"Um...well...I accepted the mission because I like helping people and I am quite good at battling...and...when I said you sleeping thing was cute...I didn't mean it. It's just that when I'm nervous and around new people, I say things differently to how I'm thinking them. I don't know if it is a condition, or a bug. But, yeah...I also haven't taken up a mission before...so yeah, don't take that sleeping thing to heart." Masuku sighed as he looked to the ground with a somewhat worried and upset expression on his face.

"Also, and don't judge me on this, but because of that speech thing, I only have one friend, my Operator..." Masuku sighed, expecting her to laugh at him or possibly attempt to move away from him slightly.
While they walked, Narcoleptina looked over to her companion, listening to him talk... or at least, stumble cautiously through an apologetic reassurance. Her head tilted as she hid another yawn behind her hand. He really did seem to be very nervous, and it was making her wonder why; surely it wasn't the forest, or the prospect of having to fight. The concept that he might actually simply have been nervous because of her didn't occur to the young woman until he mentioned his own fairly sparse friends list. What he said did intrigue her though, and as they walked she raised her free hand to bite slowly at one fingernail, thinking.

"So, when you're worried or nervous, you tend to say aloud things that are more or less the opposite of what you're thinking or feeling? That's—" The intermittent breaks for long yawns were probably becoming a normal thing by now. The girl herself didn't seem overly perturbed by them, at least. "That's kinda fascinating, really. It sounds similar to a form of tourette's, I suppose, but that would be different, of course. Hmm... hehe, please don't mind me, I like hearing about things like that. Physiological abnormalities really interest me!" If Masuku was concerned about what sort of an impression he was making on the young woman, she certainly seemed to be treating him friendly enough, though that could just as easily have been her sunny outlook and general bubbliness, underneath the sleep deprivation.

Their walk had carried the pair far into the dark woods, and the silence of the forest pressed in on all sides. Narcoleptina paused as they reached a split in the trail, letting go of Masuku's hand and delving in her bag for a moment. She came up with a small note, and peered at it, then turned it sideways to see if it was any more legible.

"Ughh... Sorry, I'm not sure whether we're supposed to take the needle road or the nail road. I have a note, but my operator, she, ah... she's be a bit too fond certain plants that means she can't really communicate with me at all right now. What do you—" Unfortunately, at that particular moment, as she was part way turning towards Masuku again, the girl simply collapsed, crumpling to the ground with a small sigh of breath, crumpled note still just barely in the fingers of one hand.

This left Masuku functionally alone, for the moment, though exactly how he might handle this situation was anyone's guess.
"Oooooohhhh God!" Masuku sighed to himself as Narcoleptina hit the ground, unconscious. He looked around as he pulled out a Pyre Pistol and looked around him. "Well...with Narcoleptina out cold, all I can do is wait here. And when one of us is unable to fight, that would be when viruses attack...if viruses are capable of that level of thought." He said to himself as he checked on Narcoleptina before scanning the surrounding forest and preparing for a battle.
While his charge remained prone on the ground, Masuku dutifully scanned about, weapon at the ready. What happened next, though, was probably a bit more unexpected. While the dark and the silence pressed in, a voice slipped out of the shadows, smooth and confident.

"It's not safe to wander the woods unprepared, you know. Your friend doesn't look well. Best be getting away from here before anything can happen to her..." The voice was masculine, with a hint of deep rumble to it, and if Masuku followed the sound of it, he'd find another navi leaning nonchalantly against the tree that marked the divergent point in the path. He hadn't been there before, certainly, but now he was leaning back against the tree with his arms folded across his chest and one foot crossed easily in front of the other.

As he watched the pair, his head tilted slightly and a grin revealed long, sharp canines that stood out from the rest of his smile. There was a clear ring of gold around the irises of his eyes, too, bu this most pronounced feature was that protruding from his otherwise smart suit-pants and waistcoat, the navi seemed to have a long, slightly bush tail that swayed back and forth behind him as he spoke.

"I'll give to you straight, because you look green, kid. I live around these parts, and normally, I try to make life a bit more interesting for folk that come through here. You'd be surprised what folk drop when they're running for their lives in a panic. But you don't look like you've got much, and your girlfriend doesn't seem like she's in great shape, so, I'll cut you a break..." with a small sigh, he gestured to his left, Masuku's right.

"This one's the needle road, it's a straight path, more or less, and it'll get you through the woods in short order. More likely to find a virus or two there, of course, but nothing worrisome." Pointing in the other direction with a jerk of his head, the strange navi continued. "Nail road's a bit longer, easier to get lost on, easier to end up in the middle of the woods with no clue where you're going... but if you stick to the path it'll lead you through as well. Not many go that way, and you won't see much in the way of anything viral down there, I shouldn't think. You decision, champ, but you may want to take care of your girl first..."

With a low chuckle, the odd character tapped one finger to his nose, then swiftly darted off the path between the trees and out of sight. With more or less classic timing, Narcoleptina stirred a few moments later, beginning to pick herself up.

"Ugh... He sounded like a nasty piece of work. Which way did he say was which? I can't see any signs, and this note is illegible..." She yawned again, looking hopefully towards Masuku for guidance.

"He...he said apparently the road on the right is the needle road and it is apparently shorter, and strait, but with more viruses. And this one on the left is the nail road. This one is apparently longer, easier to get lost on and has less viruses but...I'm not sure I trust him..." Masuku sighed, as he helped Narcoleptina up before telling her "I'll let you decide which way we go, but he gave me a 'wolf from a children's story' kinda vibe...so...be careful with your decision."
Glad of the hand, Narcoleptina gave her new friend a smile as he helped her up. Once she was on her feet and dusting herself off, the girl glanced between Masuku and the note in her hand while he relayed which direction was which. By the end she was turning the scrap of paper around again and pulling a face at it.

"You too, huh? I couldn't see what was going on, but he sure sounded creepy to me! But..." she paused to bit her lip, rather than yawn this time, and glanced between the two paths they might take. "But, well, if he'd actually meant us harm, that would have been a great time for it, and he just left... I don't like it, but, maybe he just comes off that way, and doesn't mean to?" She shook her head and re-shouldered her pack, giving up on her crumpled note and sticking it back in her pocked.

"Well, I'd rather avoid viruses if we can, and I guess it doesn't matter if it takes me a little longer to get there. So long as we stick to the path ,and we're careful, we should be fine taking the longer road, right?" She looked across to Masuku to see if he objected at all, but since he'd given her the choice it was mostly just a polite glance, before she took hold of his hand again and began heading down the path of the nail.

As they'd been warned, the nail road began to weave and curl quite a lot as it passed around denser patches of woods and darter through small clearings, only the wind again further on. There were places where thick roots broke across the path, or encroaching trees destroyed parts of it, and the deepening dark of the dense woods didn't make matters nay easier, but just as they'd been warned, the pair didn't come across a single other being in the woods, navi or virus.

Narcoleptina tried to keep humming as they went on, but the heavy press of silence quickly unnerved her to the point that she gave up. Instead, she kept stealing short glances across at her companion to how he was doing instead. He had looked nervous before, but for the moment she was the one feeling timid, it seemed. Desperate to break the crushing silence, she grasped for something to talk about.

"So, ah, Masuku... have you been around long? I've been with my operator for a few years now, but I can't remember anything before that. Do you have any plans? What're you—" Another long yawn captivated her words briefly, but she picked up again right away. "What're you hoping to do with your life, like, in the future, you know?" She had half turned towards him as she chattered, and stumbled over another root. Still holding one his his hands, the girl almost fell, leaning heavily on him to catch herself, then ducked her head with a short giggle, half in thanks, and half apology. When she looked forward again, though, the girl paused, stopping her steps with a worried expression. "Ah... Masuku... where'd the path go?"

A few times so far, the pair had had to pick their way across a patch of ground where the path had grown indistinct and covered by leaf-litter, and though this patch had started out as one of those, actually picking out where the path itself was supposed to be, in the dim gloom, had grown nearly impossible now. The girl cast about worriedly, trying to work out which way to go.

"...I...have no idea where the path went. Should we go back and take a different path?" Masuku sighed as he checked his Pyre Pistol, expecting the situation to turn sour very quickly, anticipating all the possible angles they could be attacked from. His expression also became quite serious despite his voice now carrying a hint of worry, and he wondered if he was expecting the wolf NetNavi to attack them, or if he was just paranoid that the wold NetNavi had planned to get them lost so they could be attacked by viruses and he could take their stuff later on.

"If I say to get behind me, then please do it, Narcoleptina. It could just be me...but something seems wrong" his voice sounded stern, worried, and gentle all at the same time as Masuku told his Operator to prepare a battlechip for if they got attacked.
Alongside Masuku, his escort frowned softly as he completely ignored her conversational questions. Maybe the woods were getting to him as well? She couldn't exactly blame him, as the unfriendly air of the place pressed in on them, but it would have been nice if he'd been a little more companionable. Oh well, it was always a mixed bag with the GNA anyway. He was quick to ready his weapon, anyway... she found herself thinking that her companion was probably more used to acting like a bodyguard, and for him it was a mission after all.. so maybe being friendly wasn't on his list of priorities? She didn't say anything aloud, but a small sigh did manage to escape her in between searching for the way forward.

The girl was slightly mollified by his more cautious attention a moment later, even if it confirmed her earlier thoughts that he was mostly acting as guard, and she nodded to him, moving in a little closer. Masuku's instincts proved to be quite accurate this time, as well. While they looked for the path, a low chuckle broke the silence of the woods.

"I did warn you, little ducklings..." The voice shifted about between the trees, though it was hard to pin it to a person, amidst the moving shadows of the woods. Beside Masuku, Narcoleptina huddled against him, glancing about. Her grip on his hand had slid upwards to become a rather more complete two-handed clutch around his arm, and he'd be able to feel her chest pressing firmly against his back and shoulder. Any thought that the character from before had been honestly intended had clearly fled her mind. The voice was the same, but now it sounded nothing but sinister.

"Still... slim pickings, aren't you both... let's see what you've got here..." There was a brief blur of motion from the side, far too quick for either of them to get a bead on, as something raced across the gap in the trees, brushing close enough against the two to jostle them roughly. Narcoleptina herself cried out, though mostly from shock rather than anything else. Masuku would have felt a tug from her as the fast-moving shape passed, but when it was gone, the girl seemed fine... except that her shoulder bag was gone now.

Across from them, now casually leaning on a tree, the tailed navi from before had the satchel in his hands, and was rifling through it quickly. When she saw this, the girl let go of Masuku's arm and took a step towards the villain.
"Hey, give that back! That's—" she managed two steps, before ill timing saw another of her episodes send the young lady sprawling to the ground, loose-limbed. The other navi glanced up at her, one eyebrow raised curiously, but then returned to going through her things.

"God.... What is your problem with us? All we are here to do is to deliver something to someone, so nothing of importance to you should be in there!" Masuku shouted at the navi, angry at both the situation, and how the vibe he got from the navi was sort of correct. "Plus, it isn't right in any way to look through the possessions of a young girl, especially when she is unconscious" he added, trying to buy himself and Narcoleptina more time. He also added "And especially if she is a friend of mine....or somewhere close to being a friend" after that, sighing to himself due to him having the intention to think those words, not say them. Masuku then readied his Pyre Pistol and got prepared to fight the NetNavi.
For the most part, the sinister navi seemed unperturbed by Masuku's chastisement, and he continued to rifle the young woman's things. The book she had been reading when they met got dropped on the ground, as did a second, smaller one. A pencil case followed, left to fall to the ground, as did a thin volume that was decorated with transfer lettering and looked far more like a diary than a novel. For a moment, the creep looked at a short, thick-bodied pink texter that was separate from the pencil case and seemed like it had a switch on the base, and then chuckled to himself, before dropping it on the ground with the other things.

"Right and wrong are flexible things, in the woods, kid. I'll do as I please and look where I want. Your girlfriend doesn't seem to be objecting now." This led to a somewhat creepy laugh as the navi looked up in time to see Masuku readying his weapon. He raised an eyebrow but didn't make any other moves.

"Points for bravery, kid, but you really don't want to pick a fight with me. Trust me on that, you won't like what happens." He looked back to what he was doing a moment later, apparently unconcerned for whether Masuku actually tried to take a pot shot at him or not. Next to get thrown out were a series of well-sealed bags of different herbs, before the well-dress but not well-intended navi held something up with a more contemplative eye, thinking to himself. The last item was gift-wrapped, and he turned it about in one hand for a moment before shrugging.

"Might hang on to this. Could be worth something." He pushed off the tree and began to walk forward, but only stepped near enough to drop the now empty cloth satchel so that it landed more or less on Narcoleptina's back, where she was still lying prone. The girl began to stir again as the nasty character turned to leave, dragging the bag off of herself and beginning to push herself up. Chances were the girl herself wasn't going to want to let the villain leave the clearing with her gift, but for the moment while she collected herself, Masuku had the better opportunity to act.
Masuku helped Narcoleptina up before asking the wolf navi "If you want that package, how about we have a fight, could be a bad move, I know...but I will do anything to protect the belongings of someone I consider a friend...and them in general." He then prepared his Pyre Pistol, hopping the wolf decided to show why NetNavis usually ran from him.
As he helped Narcoleptina to her feet, the girl began to quickly gather up the things that had been thrown out of her bag. She grabbed the thick texter that had been separate from her pencil case much more quickly than anything else and stuffed it into the bottom of her satchel while a delicate blush raced over her features, but the moment was gone again a second later.

While this was going on, Masuku called out his challenge, weapon at the ready, and the wolf-like navi paused. He had been simply walking from the clearing, but with Masuku spoiling for a fight, he turned slowly back around. With a casual slowness, he put his hands together and cracked his knuckles.

"Brave is one thing, boy. Stupid is another. I think when I'm done, I'm just going to take your girlfriend instead. Probably the most valuable commodity here, really." A dark snarl exposed his too-long canines again and he let the package drop to the ground as well as he crouched slightly, flexing both hands to the side and holding his fingers wide in a way that suggested claws.

A moment later, the navi... blurred. There was sense of movement, true, but the first thing to really register for Masuku was the impact. Something struck him with enough force to spin him around and throw him roughly to the ground, and depending on how responsive his pain senses were, it sent a hurt like no tomorrow all over his body. (-90)

By the time he was able to pick himself up, the wolf was on the other side of the clearing, leaning on a tree again. He was focused entirely on Masuku, and he didn't seem pleased.

"You're way out of your league, runt. Go on, try it on, I'll even give you a free go. Do your best. Maybe you'll learn something." He stood upright and held his arms out, presenting the easiest target he could, clearly unfazed by the idea of letting the other navi attack him directly. Behind Masuku and a little to the side, Narcoleptina had gathered most of her things again and was making her way, slowly and at something mostly resembling a crawl, to the edge of the clearing while their attacker was distracted.

-=A Wolf In Gentleman's Clothing=-

[Unknown]: ???Hp [Unknown Status Effects]

-=Picking a Fight=-

Masuku.Exe: 10hp

-=Wanting to Get Away=-

Narcoleptina.Exe: 100hp
"I don't care if I die here, I will protect things important to me, no matter what" He sighed as his fox mask appeared on his face and he prepared to attack, knowing that he had no chance. "Its funny how a cornered dog fights, isn't it...sure to die, sure to fight...and if I lose will I also lose my life, I wonder" he thought aloud.

Via the microphone within the mask, you could hear Joshua saying "Yeah, and lets not name our attacks this time". Both of their voices seeming less lively, and seemed like they accepted the apparent mistake as their responsibility.

Joshua then slid the HeatShot Battlechip into the P.E.T., as Masuku's weapon glowed red, as he fired a ball of fire in the direction of the wolf navi, praying that it hit.

Joshua then whispered "If he comes in up close, use the shield Battlechip and then if he does any attacks afterwards, try to dodge those, as he then slid the Shield Battlechip into the P.E.T., hoping that they were in luck.

Turn Summary:
1. Battlechip: HeatShot (40fire + spread1 x 1hit)(+5 fire from Navi Type?)
2. Battlechip: Shield (1 Hit Shield) + (Reflect(up to 60 + Piercing + Line Attack): On Hit)
3. Dodge
The well-dressed wolf watched Masuku recover from his initial pass, and his dark expression broke for a moment as the other navi's words brought a chuckle to his lips. His wide-armed gesture didn't falter as he continued to give Masuku his free opening, but he did tilt his head slightly.

"Strong words, pup, but there are dogs and there are wolves, and a cur should know his place. So are you going to bite, or stand there barking?" She snarled at the end, his words becoming something closer to a more bestial growl, and it seemed he wouldn't wait around for the other navi much longer. Masuku did, in fact, choose that moment to bite, however, and let loose his HeatShot with little warning and sufficient aim.

The burning strike flew true, certainly, but before it reached the wolf, it collided with the curved shell of an invisible barrier that flared into sight as it dissipated the attack. At a glance it seemed as though the shot might actually have eaten through the barrier successfully, but it was hard to tell. Even so, his opponent let his arms drop and smirked.

"Much better. Always show your teeth, kid. The world will never hide hers for long." As though he felt it important to demonstrate this fact, the navi darted forward again, not quite as impossibly quick as his first blur of motion, but still intimidating. Masuku managed, just to duck out of the way, but the wolf followed through for a second punch that saw him driving his fist in a crippling upper that crumpled cleanly through the shield and sunk hard into Masuku's midsection. The impact of it was enough to wind him badly, and leave the temporary body-guard on the ground, but his opponent left it there with a dark laugh.

"Good. Still a pup, but good." There was the sense of the other navi dropping to one knee beside Masuku, and putting a hand firmly on the back of his head. "Now stay down while I—" The wolf looked about the clearing, only to discover that while he'd been busy exercising his dominance on Masuku, his actual prize, the girl and her things, had gotten away. He let out a curse and growled under his breath, giving the fire navi another rough shove before standing.

"Brats!" He flexed his claws a few times, looking around, then darted away into the woods, apparently seeking Narcoleptina.

This left Masuku alone for now, saved from an early jack-out by his undershirt, and with a moment to pick himself up. The wolf was gone, but it seemed as though Narcoleptina was as well. He'd bought her the time she needed to collect her things and get away, but what was he to do now? It was while he was collecting himself and assessing the situation, the the seemingly abandoned navi might begin to hear something that sounded vaguely like sniffling, coming from the edge of the clearing off to his right.

-=A Wolf In Gentleman's Clothing=-

Large Dreadful Canid: ???Hp [Fled]

-=Picked a Bad Fight=-

Masuku.Exe: 1hp [Middle of the clearing]

-=Wanting to Get Away=-

Narcoleptina.Exe: 100hp [Nearby?]
"Good luck, Narcoleptina, you're gonna need it..." Masuku sighed, as he used a MiniEnergy subchip and his mask disappeared. After checking he was okay, Masuku began walking in the direction the wolf navi went in before muttering "I'm a fool...It's surprising what love, or anything close to it, can do..." Fully aware of how this was essentially a suicide mission, Masuku still struggled through the forest, not even sure which way he was supposed to be going. Masuku realized that Joshua hadn't spoken a word since the battle against the Wold Navi. He shouted "Hey, Josh, got any idea of where to go?" wondering about what the Navi would do to Narcoleptina.

"N-no...What you said back there got me thinking...What would I do if you got deleted..." Joshua sighed, the happy-go-lucky tone he unusually had, absent from his voice. Instead, he had a serious and worried tone, that made him sound like a whole other person.

"Let me guess? You wouldn't be able to go anything." Masuku sighed, beginning to run before shouting "Narcoleptina...wait for me, and I will come...Give up, and I will still return!" He also hoped he would run into a virus or two that would yield a heal chip to act as a last resort.