Date: May 3, 2013
Meruin is summoned by Sachiko and they talk about what happened with the first vial of serum he gave her before he gives her another… but not without its consequences.
Poster's note: foul language filtered in obvious places.
"Curiosity and Trust"
Sachiko's hotel room in Kirigakure proper
Sachiko had been quick to take a trip to the administration dome at the earliest possible time… which had meant not sleeping at all after the drug-induced sleep incident. And once she'd been there — given them her name and the address to her simple hotel room rather than a temporary one for the meeting like had been suggested — she'd spent the day wandering around in hopes of coming across him earlier instead… to no avail. Now it was the next night and she was not sleeping.
She was considering it, but between the rather terrifying idea of waking up to the feeling or sound of scuttling arachnids (not to mention the pupilless eyes of the Jounin hovering over her face if she left an eye active) and the fact she was far too curious, she had yet to even attempt sleep. Instead, she was draped across a chair and was fiddling with a disconnected ear just to keep her occupied. It was only then she started to wonder if she'd actually /missed/ Meruin by trudging through the village when she should have been waiting for him. She growled at the thought, closing her eyes and just resolving to wait it out.
Tap, tap, tap…
Meruin sits against the outside wall of the inn, none of his body visible through the window. It'd be pure stupidity to sit in front of the light and made his form so easy to make out. There was a reason one takes windows rather than doors. It is better, perhaps, to avoid being seen. And it was nearly always his choice. A stray breeze catches the man, sending his hair moving in a sudden flurry that was stopped as abruptly as it began, every strand freezing as though caught in time. They slowly move to rest on his back as he keeps his senses open, awaiting the opening of the window.
Sachiko tensed and for a moment, didn't move. She'd been waiting for the noise, but it still caused instinctive fear to crawl up her spine. As soon as she reminded herself that she'd been waiting, she rubbed the bridge of her nose in agitation with herself. Moving to a stand, she moved toward the window and unlocked it, sliding it open before turning and walking back to her chair. Draping herself over the arms again, she resumed fiddling with the extra ear. Once he was in, she'd wait until he stepped in and/or shut the window before saying, "Welcome to my make-shift home."
Once the window opens, Meruin takes a final moment to scan his surroundings. If any were watching or following, this would be the moment they would move, tense, make a sound, something. The moment when the trap is primed to spring. Shadows shift, a bat takes wind, but noone gives themselves away.
So the Okumo slips into the room, the pupiless nature of his eyes hiding the fact that they move to Sachiko before checking doors, other windows, corners, what he can see of under the bed and the ceiling. He closes the window behind him. Slows his escape but helps prevent them being overheard.
"Thank you," is his reply with a dip of the head, almost oddly cordial. He steps into the room, off to the side — more away from the window, were one keeping it in mind. "You chose your actual abode," he said, no question in the tone. "And you were gone for quite some time after requesting my presence. Why?"
Sachiko let him look over the room without interruption, waiting until he spoke to say anything more. "Indeed I did," she answered, very obviously unabashed by this fact. As he mentioned her being away, she shifted to look in his direction, though due to blindness, didn't focus directly on him. "I'm impatient. I was looking for you. Stupid, I know; you don't need to say it. At any rate, I made a new… "friend" in that search so I don't necessarily regret it." Shifting to sit correctly in the chair, she leaned forward to set her elbows on her knees and tossed the ear to the floor. "Are you upset with me for not being where I should have been?"
"No," Meruin says, looking down at the bodiless ear for but a moment, dismissing it thereafter. "You were the one searching for me. It proved to do little harm to my schedule for the day. I'd simply left a sentry in your room. I knew when you returned. Once I was free and it became clear that you were not going to sleep quite yet, I'd decided to answer your summons. So I am here." His head tilts slightly, watching Sachiko from his slowly swirly green mists.
"What may I do for you?"
"Mm," was her only, thoughtful answer to his response. "Fair enough," she added after a moment. Then Sachiko considered. It seemed like such an odd question to her. She couldn't pinpoint why it was strange, but it was. "What was that liquid? Why did you choose me — even if I was a seemingly secondary choice?" Then she paused, furrowing her brow. "And is there more?" Leaning back in her chair, she took a moment to think about what sentry he could be talking about. She figured it was probably one of his spiders… and that would make an excellent sentry, really. The Iga wasn't one to kill animal visitors if they didn't bother her.
"The serum," says Meruin, a filled vial appearing in between his slim fingers, "Is the tentative result of years of study into the various effects of certain plants and chemicals." The vial begins spinning, sifting smoothly through his fingers. "I chose you for a number of reasons. Now, keeping the terminology and information simple and brief, the serum sends one into a state near lucid dreaming. Closer, in truth, to hallucination. It is entirely reactive but for the initial effect it causes, stimulating various parts of the brain depending on which chemicals it releases and where brain activity flares." He arches a brow, the vial vanishing with a flick of the wrist. "To put it's effects in the simplest terms, it creates a world within your mind — closer to a maze — that you traverse with the intent of gaining knowledge. it is, of course, only useful for information that you hold within. But it can, of course, be altered to produce various effects. A serum to make a world of bliss, one of pain or perpetual fear, even one of simple… nothingness. What it does is provide you insight. What it can do is whatever you ask and are willing to pay for."
The woman listened, appearing polite for once. "Pay for, you say…" Sachiko mulled that over and took a deep breath. "And how exactly do I pay? Rather… what would I be paying with?" There were plenty of possibilities… and she had to wonder what she'd have to pay /him/ with if she wanted more. Then she shook her head. "More importantly, I'd really like to know just one of those many reasons you chose me." Then she squinted, almost a wince. "Please," she added, moving to stand.
"Payment can be determined whenever payment is due," replies Meruin. "A favor, you might say. A debt, more appropriately. When it is time, you would know. I would require a viable method of contacting you without having to hunt you down, and any limitations that you would like to place on your payment can be discussed before you receive the costly serum." The Okumo's hair lifts from his back, the platinum strands beginning to braid themselves in slow sweeps. "As for one of the many reasons why you were chosen…" He inclines his head slightly.
"You are unhappy."
"Now." The vial comes to his fingertips once more. "This vial of the serum is free but for a single exception. I have to be here to examine and document the effects on your body while the serum takes effect. You are, in essence, what we hope to be the final section of our testing phase. What this means is that you do not have to discuss terms now, if you do not wish to. But the next vial will bring the debt into effect. As such, if you should wish to take it, you'll have to discuss your terms then or lose the right to have them."
Sachiko listened to him and took a slow breath. "I'm not—" She wanted to argue that she was perfectly happy… but she couldn't. Even if she tried, she knew deep down that she'd lose the argument before it even started. So instead she cut herself off and simply grunted at him. "Well then…" She cleared her throat a bit. "If I don't know how I'm goign to need to pay, how can I know I'll be able to pay it when the time comes? That's like… handing someone a rice cake and waiting for them to eat it before telling them how much it costs." Even so, she stepped forward and outstretched her hand, palm up toward him. "Observe all you want. I was going to ask you to stay, anyway," she admitted. "Will you at least tell me what happens after the fact?"
Meruin places the vial in Sachiko's hand in a swift motion, his fingers never touching hers, the vial completely stationary once deposited. Precise. "It will be a task. I will do what I may to ensure that it is something that you can accompish. Your 'ground rules' will aid in this determination." The mists in the Okumo's eyes begin shifting from green to blue, the deep hues mixing and melding with one another. "Tell me, then. Why had you wished for me to stay? And after what fact, precisely, do you wish to know the result?"
Sachiko's fingers slowly curled around the vial and she rubbed it somewhat thoughtfully. When he began to question her, she focused her attention fully on him and chewed her lip a bit. "I don't know, really. Seemed like a good idea when I thought of it. I guess it mostly has to do with the fact that I have no idea what's going on here while I'm in that state… I was curious to know. I just want to know what's happening to my body while I'm… hallucinating, as you said. So this," she held up the vial between her fingers, "is the fact I want to know the result of."
Fact. Clearly, she had no qualms about drinking it again and entirely planned on it before he even arrived.
Meruin's hair finishes braiding itself, hanging down his back to his thighs. And now, that braid simply begins to come loose, unraveling as slowly as it was created. "I see. This vial is simply a longer laster version of the trial run you were given previously. It will take you through the same experiences and further. Though, be aware that you are fully able to make different choices. The concoction should run it's course in a few hours. I will document. You will wake. I will leave. And should you decide that you wish to take the next vial along with the debt, you have a method of reaching me."
Nodding her head at the information he gave, Sachiko sighed lightly. "Well…" It seemed she wasn't really sure what else to say. "I guess that's enough talking, neh? No need to waste your time," she murmured and shifted to sit at the edge of her bed. Staring blindly down at the bottle, she fiddled with it somewhat before taking the stopper off and lifting it as if to toast. "Let's see how useful I can actually be." Then she drank it, shifting to set the vial and stopper on the bedside table and lay down before it took full effect. In truth, she was a bit anxious knowing he'd be examining her, but at least she could trust that, while he had a use for her, he wasn't likely to harm her drastically.
Meruin nods, silence his accompaniment as he watches the woman drink the vial. As she settles back down on the bed, he begins trecking a silent trail around it. A second pair of eyes blink open in his forehead as he stalks a semicircle around the bed, preparing himself to mentally record all that happened to be written down and fully thought on at a later date. The four eyes rove across Sachiko's form, purely clinical, examining it for the most minute details. Sweat, change in hue, a twitch, anything. "Close your eyes," murmurs the Jounin. "Let the visions take you.
"You can't fight them, anyway."
The Iga listened to his footsteps, despite the near silence of them. It helped to focus on something as the serum took effect, but the focus quickly switched to her situation as the heat rose, then spread, as the pain increased, as last time, and she fell into the dream-like state of hallucination. She briefly wondered if her body moved during this whole episode, but she hoped she'd find that out pretty quickly after she woke again. As he had told her, she didn't try to fight it as everything overtook her, instead focusing on where she'd been last… Falling.
The effusive heat washed away all that was the world around the woman until there was nothing. Nothing but the feeling of a light breeze brushing against her face. As before, the feel of the wind against her strengthened and spread to the whole of her body, feeling as though it were lifting her up. And then the darkness recedes, showing that Sachiko is freefalling from the furthest heights of the sky. The only clouds lie on the horizon, painted by the colors bled by the setting sun. Down below lies the dark blue of the ocean, covering the other half of the world. Only sky and sea exist but for that familiar dot below the falling girl.
Sachiko steadied her breathing against the strength of the wind, trying to see ahead. Meruin had mentioned that she could, at least to an extent, control what happened while she was here. So she attempted… by creating an eyeball and willing it to fall before her. If this didn't work… she'd wait, hoping desperately that she'd be able to read it from a great enough distance to read the door before opening it. It wasn't as if she had a choice of whether to open it. Surely it wouldn't go well if she 'died' in this hallucinatory state.
Sachiko would find her powers summoned at the behest of her will, body crafting an extra eyeball. The world responded by broadening, the clouds pulling to the further edges of the world like grease met with soap. And the eye, small as it is, flies upwards, seemingly denying her attempts at willing it to descend faster than she, showing her views she hadn't asked for. But that pinprick in the distance had already become a small rectangle. Brown. Wooden. A door, placed between her and the ocean many miles beneath, apparently floating on air.
Disappointment and some frustration settled in as Sachiko dismissed the eyeball, letting it melt into the sky as she fell. Instead, she just focused on keeping her descent as slow as possible, her arms and legs outstretched. The closer she approached, the more she tried to read what the door might hold. She would be forced to open it, no doubt, but she wished to know what the door held. It could be the same door she ignored before… and she dreaded that possibility. If it was something different… she was somewhat curious.
The door rises comes closer. The woman falls lower. The illogically floating piece of wood gets bigger more and more swiftly, a black smudge soon visible on the upper portion of the door. As Sachiko nears it, the clouds in the far distance begin to grow darker and thicker, approaching rather than fleeing. A storm approaching. The smudge can be recognized as words now, but the door is so much bigger, so much closer.
It becomes clear, now, if not before that she is falling at a great speed, that by the time the words become clear, it'll be too late to open it. A flash of lightning in the nearer clouds. They give a rumble of hunger. Closer now, that door. Bigger. The sea far beneath begins churning, the start of a whirlpool brewing and tossing choppy waves away from it. But she's falling so fast — Abruptly, the words become clear. 'The Most Potent Fear' adorns the door, now too close. If she doesn't make the choice at this point, she'll crash into the door with the full force of her fall.
Sachiko glanced toward the clouds, annoyed at the sudden storm brewing. She had to focus however, and her eyes settled back on the door that approached far too fast. The words became clear too late and even as her mind reeled, struggling to make such quick sense of the words, she willed it to open. Even if dying here would just send her back to her body… it was too soon. She needed it to open; every part of her screamed for it to do so as she raised her arms to hopefully cushion any impact. The words didn't even have time to settle, to be understood, before she was willing the door to open… What waited on the other side was a mystery even to her at this point.
There was… nothing.
No light. No darkness. No sight, no sound. No sense. Just…
But nothing cannot last forever. Always, something will come along. And behind the door of the most potent fear, something does.
A wooden door sifts through the fabric of existence, standing before Sachiko as she would gain a sudden sense of her body once more.
A shadow spread along it's upper surface, soon morphing into text.
'The Most Important Person.'
Sachiko looked toward the door as it formed there, taking a deep breath. She watched as the words formed and glared at it. She hated this door. She hated those words. Walking closer to the wood, she reached out and set her hand upon it. If that was possible, she'd slowly move to set her head against it.
'Do you hate me that much?'
No… She didn't /really/ hate herself, but she didn't love herself either. She wasn't important. Was she? Families loved their own, but did that make each person important at all? Did being a messenger for Maikeru make her important? Did being an experiment for Meruin make her important? Temporarily, fleetingly, maybe… /Most/ important? She didn't think so.
"Fine," she whispered, "Open." She focused, willing it to open. To get it over with.
At her behest, it did. Slowly, silently, the door opened revealing the same thing that was on her side of the door.
Limbo. Nothingness. Nonexistence.
And a young woman.
Long red hair falls to about mid-back with most of it tied into two, low pigtails. The rest of the hair, consisting mostly of bangs with some noticibly longer pieces, is rather purposely hectically placed.
Bangs themself differ in length, the longest stooping to just below the eyes, while two clumps frame her face. These just barely touch her shoulders and are almost never seen behind her ears, always in front.
The eyes previously mentioned, while very obviously blind in their milky blue, are framed by ovalish red glasses.
Her skin, while fairly pale for Sunagakure standards, is a light tan. She's in the taller range of average, standing possibly around five feet and six or seven inches.
While she's quite thin, she also gives the sense of being rather lazy, noticable in some fat on her stomach if one is looking closely.
She wears a long-sleeved, baggy shirt; a skirt, a little on the short side but not above mid-thigh; spandex shorts beneath; a pair of close-toed sandals finish the ensemble.(EDIT)
She is Sachiko.
Sachiko kept her eyes closed for a few moments as the door opened and only slowly opened them a few seconds after it had completely opened. Gazing at herself through the doorframe, she shook her head lightly. She simply stood there, staring for a long few moments before slowly stepping through the doorway. She watched herself and said nothing. The woman licked her lips, averted her eyes, and closed them. "What is this?" She wasn't sure how else to ask… or what else to say. This was… ridiculous. At least to her.
"A problem," replies herself.
The Sachiko behind the door shakes her head, putting a fist to a hip. "You've been putting me last in life for years now. And you know what? It kinda snoops. And now you're stuck here with me."
"And you need to stay." She lets out a little sigh, giving her counterpart a tired look.
"Because we need to work something out."
The woman shook her head as well, taking a deep breath. "I couldn't stay here forever even if I wanted to… and there's nothing to work out. We /are/ last. You should have realized this by now." Sachiko turned her face up to look at herself, eyes narrowed in something of a wince. "We've failed /countless/ people. We failed our family by not doing good enough. We failed the village and all the villagers in it. We failed Shun… and Maikeru. We're going to fail Tadashi and you know it."
Sachiko considered the man she mentioned. He had said he could make her useful if she did what he said, but she'd been avoiding him as much as possible. Even when she wasn't purposely doing it, he didn't seem to be anywhere. "The only reason we're not going to fail Meruin is that all we have to do is lay there… and argue with each other. At least we're good at two things: prying people off and taking the punishment for it."
"Peep you for saying it and peep me for thinking it, but you're right."
The girl behind the door steps closer to the frame, gesturing towards Sachiko. "But… Sachiko."
"I don't want it to be that way forever."
"It doesn't have to be that way forever." She drops her eyes, hands coming together as she plays with them for a brief moment. "That's what life's about, right? Getting better? Ending off as more than you started?"
"I know you don't like me much, but…" She looks back up into Sachiko's eyes, her own clear and imploring. "But we've got to do something. This isn't enough."
Sachiko listened and gulped weakly at the questions. Even after her counterpart had finished talking, she grit her teeth. "You're wrong. Life is about taking what you're given and making do. Life is about surviving as easily as you can. And sometimes it's /not/ easy. Not at all." She hated this too, just like the door itself to begin with. She hated trying to convince herself that she was worthwhile… and vice versa. The woman just… hated. She didn't want to be here anymore, but she couldn't leave, either. Not right now. Being of /some/ use to someone was worth staying. Meruin would appreciate her cooperation, even if he wouldn't necessarily directly show it or say as such. "I'm fine," she murmured, "Fine the way I am."
"You lie," whispers the girl behind the frame, a hand laying against the wooden outline.
"You're talking to yourself," she says, bringing her face near to her own, head tilting. "Noone here but you and your thoughts…"
"And still you lie…"
The woman behind the frame who was Sachiko, faded from existence, the same with the doorframe. She didn't need to give voice to her disgust. It was self-disgust. Something Sachiko knew was there.
Again, there was nothing. Nothing but Sachiko. All, truly, there ever was.
Sachiko said nothing, letting her image fade along with the door. A door she still believed was wrong. Indeed, there was self-disgust. Even hatred for herself. A large part of the reason she went around trying to piss people off. Physical pain was easier to bear than emotional, after all, but she wasn't so low as to hurt herself… most of the time.
"What now, Meruin?" She muttered, though she knew he wouldn't answer, even if he could. That made her wonder if she /could/ hear the real world while she was in this state… but she dismissed it and continued her search of the nothingness around her… as well as anyone can "explore" nothing.
Eventually, abruptly, Sachiko stands in a single floored room. Circular, the walls white and adorned with unornamented pillars. Between every pair of pillars was a door. A choice to make. There were seven doors, each titled. The Greatest Vulnerability. The Greatest Hope. The Greatest Desire. The Greatest Hatred. The Greatest Weakness. The Greatest Pleasure. The Hardest Choice.
Seven doors. Seven options. One chance.
The Iga gazed around at each door, taking them all in before looking back at each.
The Greatest Vulnerability could be many things, including her inability to cope, her hatred of herself, or her resistance to improving.
The Greatest Hope, she could presume was the chance to get better, given the conversation with herself…
The Greatest Desire… To be accepted and succeed? Or her insatiable masochism?
The Greatest Hatred. Herself.
The Greatest Weakness. Herself… The refusal to improve, just as her vulnerability.
The Greatest Pleasure could be quite a few things as well… Pain? Being complimented or praised? She sighed.
The Hardest Choice…
Sachiko stared at these doors for a long time. She wouldn't find them again… not like this, at least, she knew. She had to face facts… face her fears, even.
The Hardest Choice. This was a difficult choice, but what lay beyond this door could help her strengthen herself. Many of them could, but if she could face this choice, then she had hope she could make better choices.
She willed the door to open, stepping toward it uneasily.
The door slides open on silent hinges, revealing an ivory statue of Sachiko before a white wall in the distance.
Rather than wait for the woman to walk through it, the doorway seems to rush at her, speeding in her direction until she's through it and sees…
A circular room, the walls white and adorned with ivory statues of the woman whose mind crafted this place. Between every pair of statues was a door. A choice to make. And there dozens of them.
The Greatest Vulnerability. The Greatest Hope. The Greatest Desire. The Greatest Hatred. The Greatest Weakness. The Greatest Pleasure. The Happiest Moment. The Love Who's Passed. The Love to Come. The Sanctuary. The Darkest Path. The Way to Fulfillment. The Favored Food. The Firstborn's Name. The Reason Why. The Faint Smile. The Way Out. The Joy of Martydom. The Door to Revelance — And more. So many more.
What does one choose among so many choices?
Sachiko sighed at the same doors from before, but as she looked over more of them, she paused. Staring at the door marked 'The Love to Come', she filed through people she knew already that she imagined could be behind that door. It was more likely she hadn't met such a person yet, though…
The Joy of Martyrdom made her chuckle lightly as she looked over the rest. The Reason Why… it made her curious, but she was more interested in the first that snagged her attention. Silly, juvenile, even irresponsible to even consider opening that door rather than finding out something that could aid her in improving herself… but she /was/ silly, juvenile, and irresponsible. She did consider The Love Who's Passed, but… even before, when she first considered who could be behind 'The Most Important Person', she'd decided to avoid seeing Maikeru again.
She willed the door to open, taking a deep breath and steeling herself against what she'd see within. Once the door swung open, she merely peered into it, not daring to step within. At first, she saw nothing, but then white. Dim, at first, like simple gray accenting the nothingness. Then she saw more — hair. She squinted, realizing that she was seeing whoever this was from the back. Long white hair, wispy. So long that she could hardly tell anything else about the person. Judging from the thin ankles, it appeared to be a thin form.
The longer she looked, the more confused she became. This door was unlike the first. It made sense, really… She probably hadn't met this person yet and too close a look could make it untrue. After several moments, she stepped back. She /did/ know someone who looked like that… She closed her eyes, groaning at herself. "No… No, no, no." She sighed, reaching up to rub her fingers into her eyelids and shaking her head. "Don't think about this. Just move on."
She knew the other doors had almost certainly vanished once she'd chosen that one, but she couldn't dwell on the possibility she'd just exposed herself to. It /had/ to be someone else.
The sense that the person behind the door is aware of being watched suddely fills the area, a light tension.
The door opens wider…
He or she turns their head, beginning to look back towards Sachiko…
And then the freeze, a crack running through them from shoulder to opposite waist.
They shatter, falling to the ground as a jagged, broken memory. The opened door gains a crack of it's own, soon following — the whole of the many doored room begins cracking, groaning under the sudden stress of it's death.
The world breaks. All that is collapses.
And she awakes.
Sachiko awakened, but kept her eyes shut at first. That image felt frozen to the back of her mind and she was a bit afraid to open her eyes… entirely forgetting, for a moment, that she was blind. Slowly, she opened her eyes and sighed at herself. Then she took a deep breath, too aware of his scent in her room. Shifting to sit up slowly, she gulped and just reached up to rub the back of her head. Then she started to chew lightly before spitting out an eyeball. Regardless of any attempts for him to speak, she simply outstretched her hand with the eyeball in it.
"Communication… You can keep it in a dark pouch or something so I'll never see anything you don't want me to. It'll always be active, but will never move on its own. Whenever you want to meet with me, just show me your face and then where you want me to be. I'll be there as soon as I can." She had her gaze averted from him the entire time… as if she was embarrassed, regardless of sight. Of course, the eyeball she was handing to him faced him anyway, which she concluded was incredibly stupid of her as she felt the heat of a soft flush in her cheeks. Stupid indeed.
When Meruin notes Sachiko's subtle changes in breathing and posture, he lets the secondary pair of eyes fade away, leaving no sign behind. He is still and silent, watching her from the chair at the foot of the bed, his long platinum hair currently unwinding from a tight dutch braid. He sits up straight as she breathes deep and does the same, inclining his head as she begins chew. He knows the significance.
He looks down at the bodiless eye gifted to him, taking it from her in a smooth motion, his fingers never touching hers. A glance down at it, a cursory examination, and then a nod. It vanishes into his robes, hidden in them. He rises to his feet in a single supple motion, beginning to walk towards the window. He opens it, letting the cool night air in. He doesn't look back.
But he does tell her to come with him.