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Kanpai’s Adventures With Pancake

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**Scholarship Submission**

Kanpai sat in the middle of the forest, criss­cross and with her eyes closed. She felt the breeze caress her skin, carrying with it the smell of the ocean. She inhaled deeply and a smile graced her lips as she heard the sounds of the forest, her mind taking her back to when she first met Akito and all the events that followed thereafter, a few tears touching her cheeks. It wasn’t easy to say goodbye to her friends, but she knew it had to be done even though she didn’t quite know why. She hadn’t had friends in a very long time, but now that she had tasted the beautiful thing that was friendship, she was abhorrent to let it go and she wouldn’t forget those who helped her through her small adventure. She giggled as she heard someone plop down next to her and she opened her eyes, glancing at the features of the attractive marine she had picked up after breaking a few of his bones­­okay, not a few, she broke his hands and his ribs, that was definitely more than a few. She looked at him for a minute or two, her eyes taking in the strong jawline, the lean muscles that graced the marine’s body, and the bright eyes that spoke volumes to anyone who dared glance in their direction. Pancake turned to look at her and he smiled a half­smile at the girl, his eyes dancing with mischief and challenge. Kanpai looked surprised for a moment before she grabbed her hammer from where it sat on the ground and stood. Pancake laughed heartily and hopped up, closing his hands into fists and standing in a manner that said “come get me, small fry.”

“Pancake, you know that I will just end up breaking you again, right? I don’t want to do that! We should find you a weapon!”

Pancake only chuckled as he rushed the small young woman, landing a punch to Kanpai’s right arm. Kanpai looked at him incredulously and a smile began to form on her features as she whipped her tail back, nailing the marine in the side as he made a dash to escape the oni and her hammer. She giggled when Pancake came to a standstill and smiled at her, allowing his face to soften the tiniest bit as he repositioned himself and waited for her counterattack, ignoring any pain he felt from the mace­like tail hitting his side. Kanpai obliged as she dropped her hammer to the ground with a thud, deciding it was not a fair fight if he didn’t have a weapon­­besides, she knew she was much stronger than him and could easily beat him in a fist fight. Pancake smiled widely at her and prepared himself for her attack, excited to see what she would do with only her fists. Kanpai darted forwards, chuckling a little when Pancake dashed backwards to escape. She lifted her fist and her tail whipped out, hitting his left leg as she went in for an uppercut to his jaw. The marine moved just in time to avoid being hit by the uppercut but cried out when he felt the tail jab into his leg, removing just as quickly with a little blood trailing after it. He heard Kanpai growl a bit in frustration from him moving and he took the chance to bonk her on the head, causing the girl to stumble and fall on her face, her tail darting out at hitting him in the knee before she allowed herself to fall completely. Kanpai jumped back up and smiled brightly at Pancake before she dashed forwards and hit him rather quickly and thoroughly in the kneecap, forcing him to take a knee. She giggled and went in to punch the marine’s face, her eyes dancing with thrill. Pancake only laughed a bit as he dodged her fist by rolling away, his eyes glancing at the aftermath of the ground as bits of rock and grass flew up around them. He frowned slightly and looked at Kanpai, who was beside him in an instant. She laughed at him as she took a seat on his stomach, planting him firmly to the ground.

“Oof! That’s not fair, shorty!”

Pancake let out his disapproval at this new tactic but laughed heartily when Kanpai turned and stuck her tongue out at him. He watched as the young woman laughed and smiled at him, her eyes crinkling at the sides and her smile as wide as could be. He smiled at her and tentatively raised his hand to stroke the black feather she wore in her hair, his eyes asking for permission to touch the keepsake. Kanpai nodded her head as her giggles died down and he gently stroked the feather and the soft hair underneath it, his mind racing with how beautiful the girl looked in the moment­­with her long blue hair that held bits of red, the black feather that graced the long hair and the eyes that she stared at him with were just heavenly to gaze into. He gently traced his hand down her cheek and stroked his thumb over the flesh, smiling ever so slightly at the girl, who now had her eyes closed and was leaning into the touch. He thought back to when he first met her and how strong she was­­how she had easily broken his hands and ribs with a twinkle in her eye. He couldn’t believe she wanted to be his friend and yet here they were, on an adventure to meet the people who made Kanpai’s live worth while and train along the way. He was terrified of the pirates at first and yet the way Kanpai spoke about them made everything seem alright­­as if they were people that were more sensitive about things and people than the marines themselves were. He was pulled out of his thoughts when Kanpai touched his hand with her own and smiled down at him, her small hand stroking his larger, more rough hand with her thumb. He chuckled as he removed his hand and put both his arms behind his head, looking up at the sky as Kanpai got off him and lay down next to him, mimicking his movements.

“Kanpai.”

Kanpai felt herself shiver in delight when Pancake called her name and she looked over to him, noting the way he was gazing at the clouds as if there were no cares in the world. She smiled and responded with a small “mm?” her eyes never leaving the marine.

“I don’t regret leaving the marine life behind to go on an adventure with you. You know that, right?”

Pancake looked over to the young woman and smiled softly at the look of delight on Kanpai’s face.

“Good! Because I don’t regret keeping a marine!”

Kanpai laughed at the face Pancake made and scooted a bit closer to him, resting her head just on the crook of his arm. Pancake sighed in surprise but moved his arm so she would be more comfortable and he looked back up at the sky, watching the clouds dance before them in peace. He was content to sit there forever, but they still had a long way to go before they made it back to the island and they needed to find shelter for the evening. He chuckled when he looked back to see Kanpai breathing deeply and her eyes closed, sleep overwhelming her. He brought his hand up and lightly pushed some stray hair back behind her ear, smiling gently at the small smile the young woman gave him in her sleep. He leaned down and ever so lightly placed a small kiss at the side of her temple, whispering her name once before informing her he was going to pick her up and find somewhere to sleep. Kanpai didn’t respond and only smiled happily as Pancake lifted her and picked up her hammer, slinging it onto his back. He began the trek to a town and chuckled when Kanpai spoke about the Tombstones in her sleep­­something about Marlon­sama needing to arm wrestle her again, about Cadence­sama needing to stitch Pancake up because she accidentally may have brutally injured him with her tail, and about how Cold­san really needed to learn how to smile because she didn’t want people to run screaming when he smiled at them. Before she stopped speaking, she whimpered and spoke the name of the other Oni she had met, her whispered “Akito” almost breaking Pancake’s heart. The poor girl had lost her brother and now she had had to leave the man who had in a way replaced him and Pancake was at a loss for what to do­­all he could do was smile and encourage her in the way he knew best and train with her, helping to achieve the goal of traveling the world and becoming one of the strongest Oni to roam the earth. Pancake nuzzled Kanpai.

“I’ve gotcha, Kanpai.”