Date: October 9, 2010
Four days before the mission to Ankoku Cave, Fuyu calls upon Taji for "special training". Three days later, after being attacked by a fellow Konohagakure ninja, Taji receives a test of his training.
"Darkness Rising - Before And After"
Hokage Mountain - Konohagakure
Fuyu stands at the area that is just below Hokage Mountain's surface. The face of Senju Hashiramako looms above, carved from stone, and looking down upon the village in the cold, expressionless, uncaring manner that only stone can do. The indifference of the face as it stares down at Uchiha Fuyu, and she in turn stares up at it with hatred, does little to diminish that emotion. 'I certainly could have picked a better place for this,' she thinks to herself. 'But hindsight is 20/20.'
It is evening, and the stars in the sky above are not fully blotted-out by the lights of Konohagakure. But they are not as visible as they would be out in the wilderness, far from civilization. The air is chilly, as befitting autumn, and a brisk wind blows through occasionally, rustling leaves and sending Fuyu's hair streaming out to her right side. She has requested (nor ordered) that Taji meet her here for special training to prepare for the mission in four days' time. She does not know for certain he will be here, but she imagines he will be. If not, he would have tried to contact her somehow. Right?
Taji is nothing if not prompt, and attentive to such requests. He arrives with that over sized pack he seems to take everywhere he goes. It is kind of sad, as if the kid takes his life with him wherever he goes. At least he usually has what he needs but, he doesn't seem to fight with it, shedding it as soon as combat breaks out. Despite the size the thing can't weigh all that much, it's not comically large, just big for a kid his size. He arrives about 5 minutes early from the time requested, slightly out of breath as he makes his way up to the base of the mountain. "Fuyu-sama." He calls out respectfully as he enteres the area and gives a small bow. "I hope I am not late?" He ventures as he unslings his pack and gives a little stretch, and glances back towards the village. "I'm afraid your note… um, said special training, but I wasn't sure what to expect so… I brought anything I could think of that I might need." He says as he gestures towards his pack then looks back towards Fuyu.
Taji really is an odd bird, a taijutsu expert (apparently) without the power or strength of most of them, who seems to move oddly gracefully with even minor moves. He steps up before Fuyu, then looks up at the face above her, "Huh, not… used to seeing it this close." He shakes his head, "Seems kind of…" He shrugs, not finishing what he thinks it seems like as he turns his full attention to Fuyu and awaits orders.
Fuyu pacifies her anger — at least outwardly — and turns to face Taji. "Good. You made it. From what I've seen and heard, your focus is Taijutsu, and your specialty is dexterity and speed. That may be useful ordinarily, but in close quarters, such as the cave we will be going to, there will be little room for dodging or any sort of complex acrobatic maneuvers. Little room to maneuver, and it is unlikely one can even draw a weapon if it is not stored properly. Your smaller size means you have some leeway in that department… But all-in-all, you have two options in terms of what I can teach you."
Holding up two fingers, she ticks them off as she names each option. "Option number one: We focus on close-quarters defenses. Things that will work at melee range, with or without the ability to make full use of your speed. Option number two: We focus on teaching you one or more attacks that can aid you when an opponent has as little room to dodge as you do. Grappling, let's call it. But this is NOT the same as 'wrestling'. Wrestling requires a combination of strength, stamina, AND the knowledge of specific techniques for pinning or disabling an opponent. Grappling can involve joint locks, pressure point strikes, and attacks at sensitive locations. For instance… Turn so that your left arm and shoulder are facing me, and have your head in my direction as well. Both feet should be an even distance apart. You can have your arms in any position you desire." She then takes up a similar stance to what she just described, left arm loose at her side, except for the forearm, which is bent forward and down slightly. The right arm is crossed partway over her chest with her hand in a two-knuckle fist.
Taji listens then tilts his head, "My… defensive style is a bit unique. I don't believe I would be limited by a lack of space. It focuses on flowing with an attack, and around an attack with minimal movement. At least, that is the goal. But I don't use weapons, mostly. I sometimes have used a ball, like the one I attacked that criminal with, but that is only as a distraction I'm afraid. As for joint locks, I know some already." He tries to explain. But even as he explains he moves as instructed by Fuyu, not wanting ot resist any demonstration. He moves so that his left arm and shoulder are facing Fuyu, and head as well, while feet are spread as instructed. He tenses a tad, just a tad, as if fearful of what may be coming.
As Taji readies himself, he watches Fuyu's motions, style and all, analyzing it as best as he can it seems. "The last time we were in the cave there was no obvious physical threat, only a… well, a mental one. Clearly something had killed the ninja we found there though, but we saw no sign of the killer, be it man or beast or… other." He notes even as he awaits the demonstration. He does seem a tad nervous as he waits.
Fuyu was going to demonstrate how to distract an opponent in melee range with an apparent powerful blow or other fierce attack, only to use the hand not being focused on to strike at a sensitive location. Like the upper arm, where there is a very sensitive nerve bundle. Just about anyone, tough or not, will reflexively respond to a strike in that location. It hurts, yes, but it also causes the body to react automatically. And that automatic reaction can be all the opening one needs…
But when Taji assures her that his style allows him to defend against attacks in melee range with or without room to maneuver, she shrugs and relaxes from her stance. "Alright. If you know how to disable most normal enemies in close quarters, then that's about the extent of what I can teach you with Taijutsu. It's not my specialty." She ponders for a moment, before saying, "…But what I CAN teach you is something that many Taijutsuists overlook. There are many who are skilled enough at Taijutsu that they can also train their senses and awareness further than most… This allows them to detect stealthy foes. But it can't detect when a Genjutsuist is attempting to establish a mental link with you."
This is her specialty. Genjutsu. She is pretty darn good with Ninjutsu too, but Genjutsu is where she excels. So she explains with authority, "When a link is established, you are at the mercy of the Genjutsuist utterly. And if you have no way to break the link, then you are doomed. Only one way to get out of it if you can't break the link, and your best defense against Genjutsu fails, and that's to have friends nearby that can mix their Chakra with yours. Generally, one can always stab oneself in the arm or break a finger and so on… But while that MIGHT break you out of a Genjutsu, there's nothing stopping a new link from being formed. And if you keep that up, then eventually you'll kill yourself without the enemy having to so much as swing a fist. Understand?"
Once Fuyu has confirmation of Taji's understanding, she continues on to explain further. "So this is what I am going to do. I am going to teach you something that anyone of Genin-level or higher can learn. A skill that is common… And yet not all ninja possess it. Some Jounin do not even have this ability. And all it is… Is the ability to sense large concentrations of Chakra in your vicinity." She smirks slightly. "With it, you can detect Genjutsu links when they are first attempted, instead of realizing much later on that you're trapped in an illusion or hallucination." Raising a finger, she says, "We only have four days until the mission, so we'll need to work hard to improve your sensitivity to Chakra. We'll start easy, but before the trip to Ankoku Cave I expect you to be able to at least detect one of my Genjutsu Links, if not block it entirely."
She then puts her hands together in a seal and begins to focus her Chakra in a large amount. She keeps going, higher and higher, and says, "Let me know when you can FEEL it. Not just see that I'm channeling Chakra, but KNOW it without using your eyes or other senses! That's the point we will start from!" Dust swirls out from Fuyu, spiralling away in a wave…
Three days later, in the same place. But the cirumstances may have changed…
Taji nods, "That sounds very useful. Genjutsu is tricky. My teachers didn't study it or know it, so they didn't teach defenses for it either really. I am sure some higher ranked of them would know such things but they never taught me." He admits. He listens carefully to the instructions and nods at the warning about having only 4 days to prepare. "Considering the chakra signature of the 'thing' we were working against, and the fact some of the others thought there was Genjutsu at work, it sounds like a very good idea." He nods to himself really, as he focuses, trying to sense the building chakra. Sadly Fuyu has to focus quite a bit more than she might have hoped before Taji thinks he senses it and calls out. The session goes a bit like that, Taji slowly working on sensing it bit by bit for the afternoon.
…Several days later…
Taji returns to the spot indicated by Fuyu-sama. He had been working hard on this chakra focus sensing ability. It… was actually kind of similar to another thing he had heard about but it seemed to work differently, and to be honest, Taji liked learning how to sense chakra a lot. However as he comes back to the training spot Taji is limping, favoring one foot badly. He spent a lot of time working on sensing the world around him, and chakra, trying to do his best to work on the ability, hoping he's mastered it enough for the day. Getting up here with a limp has slowed him down enough that he isn't actually late but he's right on time, which is late for him. Finally he manages to get up to where he is supposed to meet Fuyu, and looks around, expecting she will beat him here, ready to practice again, he hopes.
There is a faint scent of smoke on Taji's clothing, acrid and bad, but no signs of burns on him. He looks a tad tired, maybe from the climb but that seems odd considering last time he didn't seem tired. That combined with his limp hints that perhaps Taji had a bad fall or got involved in some serious combat.
Fuyu is around, though this is not strictly evident. She has progressed from simply using a lot of Chakra to get Taji's senses to wise up, to actually sending basic mind links against him at random during normal conversation. She then tallies up how many times she could have made him walk off a ledge or something else unhealthy due to him missing an attempt to detect and block a link, and reports it to him. For only four days, and a total absence of prior familiarity with Genjutsu and Chakra, Taji is doing remarkably well.
But Fuyu can't let on to that. She has to keep pushing him until he is able to use his expanded senses properly. That's how she was trained, and that's how she has trained everyone else. So when Taji limps his way up to the pre-determined meeting location they have used the past three days and nights, Fuyu is nowhere in view.
This is because she is standing atop the roof of a building situated nearby the path, but not necessarily right next to it. She focuses her Chakra, only a portion of what had to be used on the first evening when Taji was just becoming familiar with sensing Chakra. But hopefully still enough for him. Then she simply attempts to link her Chakra with his, and gain access to the Chakra in his head. Nothing beyond that yet.
Taji glances around, and not seeing Fuyu sighs and looks for some where to sit, to get the weight off of his sore ankle. He finds a stump at the edge of the forested area and moves to sit down, reaching down to rub his ankle a tad, then looking up and around. He frowns, as something tickles his senses a bit. What was that… what… He pauses, and blinks, focusing his concentration. He's not quite so naive about his senses these days, trusting them more and heightening them as well. Since Fuyu summons enough chakra, he knows something is amiss. His eyes narrow slightly. He's had enough of being attacked suddenly for one day to be honest, and he's already not in good spirits. He concentrates his chakra and tries to defend from the link, the way Fuyu has taught him, and even though it is unlikely he's able to manage a full defense against what Fuyu could do if she really tried, it should be clear to her he is working on it, and has been practicing. His mind seems a tad 'soft' as if he's used chakra up some earlier, that and stamina, leaving him a bit more vulnerable than he perhaps would be if fresh.
"Alright, where are you? I can sense you… some where out there…" He glances around, trying to find the source, "That better be you, Fuyu-sama, because if it is Daichi-san or Tosai-san or one of those… I warn you, I am NOT going to be happy right now." He warns, a bit of iron in his voice, an odd tone from Taji, something unsual to say the least. Clearly the kid is in a bit of a state. Still, with all that he is trying to put up a valid defense.
Fuyu had thought a fitting final test would be to present the following illusion:
Suddenly, a robed figure with a hood over his head, and white bangs hanging over his forehead, hiding his eyes, drops down from somewhere above. Where does not seem to matter. Because judging by the pale skin, and the weapon currently in his right hand as he remains crouched on the path before Taji following his fall, this is Serin — otherwise known as Shima Sami.
That is what she had planned. A nice little test to see if Taji could break out of a Genjutsu once it was established, and perhaps give her insight into what connection Taji might have with that criminal… But in the end, she never gets the chance to try. Taji deflects the link attempt. Only barely, but that's better than it would have been a few days ago. The combination of tiredness and injury must be weakening him, so Fuyu determines that she has taught him well… And that he has trained himself nice and hard. That's the best way to prove to her that one is serious. If one will not try one's best in all things, that means in at least one area one is weak. Weakness cannot be afforded. This does not mean one cannot show compassion, or one cannot have friends, or anything like that. It just means that when one loves another, one must devote oneself fully to that cause. If one has a friend or ally, one must stay true to that friend or ally at all costs.
Fuyu thought she would lecture Taji about this tonight. But he has passed her test and succeeded beyond her expectations. So there is only one lesson remaining, and that one might be best for a different time. She wants it to really sink home, and if Taji is injured then he could potentially blame a failure on being weakened already. He must be healthy when the final lesson is presented.
So, though she cannot hear what Taji is saying, she can see him searching for her. She stops focusing Chakra, and instead leaps across roof tops until she makes it to the side of the mountain trail. Running up the side of the cliff, she pops up on the path two dozen feet away from Taji. She didn't try to hide her approach, and gave plenty of room so he would not react instinctively to lash out.
Seeing Fuyu, and not the illusion thanks to barely deflecting it, Taji frowns. He seems worried this might be another illusion, you can see that on his face. Taji concentrates, sensing, pushing back, trying to find a genjutsu link he might have missed, but finds nothing because apparently there is nothing to find. Still his efforts would be noticable, and the frown makes it clear he thinks that he may have missed a secondary link. The kid is a tad paranoid tonight. He watches Fuyu approach. As she does, he digs into his bag, pulling out a Kunai, something odd for Taji to carry from your experiences.
Taji tosses the Kunai to the dirt in front of him, "Hey, don't suppose you know who would be best to report a genin acting like an idiot or training gone too far?" He asks, irritation still evident in his voice. He's unaware of any 'secondary' or 'final' test that may be to come, in fact he seems unsure if he's even passed this one but he's going with things as he sees them, for now. As Fuyu gets close, the smell of the smoke in his clothes is stronger, not that of a camp fire but that of maybe a building burning down. The smell is quite different, the scents of furniture and prepared goods that have gone up in flame, rather than the smell of clean wood burning. In a sign of respect, despite his obviously sore ankle, Taji makes an effort to stand as Fuyu approaches, and he gives a small bow. "Sorry if I'm out of sorts today. I mean no disrespect." He says, calming himself with a moment of meditation perhaps.
Fuyu rises to her feet and says, "I do happen to know how best to do it. And that's to tell the ones directly in charge of that Genin. However, I suppose telling me is a close second." She narrows her eyes at Taji's ankle and can clearly detect the smell of smoke on him "Who does that kunai belong to? And if yet another fool tried to use the Great Fireball Technique in a spar…" She seems to radiate a bit of violence and anger for a moment before bottling it up. "Who was it? I can't afford to have the only one with experience in that cave that's available laid up on account of an injury."
Taji gestures towards the kunai, "That belongs to a genin named Daichi. He and Tosai and a few others have decided my combat style of focusing on not killing people is inferior and a danger to others. I had helped put out a small fire in town, a small house burnt down. Family got out, but a dog died. I was sitting there pondering how to rebuild, alone, and Daichi came by. He talked to me then after a while said that he was going to attack me, and I had better defend myself. I refused to hurt him. I defended using non-lethal techniques while he threw kunai at me, used full force fist attacks and countered one of my blows successfully, hitting my foot. But this is nothing new. Tosai pushes me this way. He wanted me to be on his team but… it is clear that won't work. They want me to become something I'm not. I won't embrace death to be a ninja. But apparently this idea so threatens those who do that they feel they have to attack me to show me their points." He shakes his head, "People are fighting far too hard for spars, for… anything. They basically are trying to kill each other and get surprised when someone gets hurt."
Taji sighs, "If this is what it means to be a genin in the land of fire, perhaps I should just stop. Death stalks me already and I have no desire to embrace what they want in this way. They call me a risk to a team. Funny, not one of my teams has been hurt because of my efforts and in fact I've actually helped in most cases. And yet…." He shakes his head, "Still, I won't give up so easily. But I have to say, something here has to change. It hardly shocks me we were so easily taken over by Rainos with what I've seen. We fight among ourselves more than outside foes."
Fuyu has never had much fondness for Akimichi. Hearing that Tosai is some sort of bully and incompetent does nothing to improve her opinion of that Clan. Daichi, she knows next to nothing about, but she doesn't approve of this either. "Then it would appear," she begins in an icy cold tone, "that some changes will need to be made. There will need to be disciplinary action. And Akimichi Tosai?" She shakes her head.
"He can probably forget about having a team at all. There are many professions that ninja are useful in that have nothing to do with combat, let alone killing. To attack a fellow ninja of Konohagakure for choosing one of those other paths is beyond incompetence, beyond stupidity. It shows a complete and utter lack of regard for the lives of one's allies. No one like that is fit to tie his own shoes. Leading a team is out of the question. And 'Daichi'? Well, I'm sure the Hokage will want to hear about this, and then we can all sit down and have a nice little chat about whether they continue to serve as ninja or whether they are redefined as civilians and forbidden from practicing or pursuing the PRIVILEGE of being a ninja ever again."
All of this because of the incompetence of the Senju. How can people like this exist in Konoha without anything having been done about them before now? This is ludicrous! Oh, Fuyu will inform the Hokage alright. And she'll make sure this isn't covered up either. People will know what a Konoha under the rule of a Senju is like. It's full of mentally imbalanced children that are being permitted to run around pounding the daylights out of those who cannot defend themselves. Not. Acceptable. Ever. PERIOD.
"…Let's get you to the hospital. You've passed our training session for today, and completed your mastery of sensing Chakra. For the time being at least. There's always a higher level to reach for, but this is not the time. You'll need rest before tommorow's mission. I would excuse you from participation, but whatever is in that cave is a threat to more than just you or me. If it's gone, then nothing will happen. If it's still there… We'll need all the help we can get."
The words at first seem a relief then… a worry, for Taji. He frowns, "This… could get messy. Tosai is liked by a lot of people. They play it off as 'playing rough'. And Daichi…." He shakes his head, "It is clear they think that it is I who should not be a ninja if I am not willing to learn more lethal methods. I've tried to respond as my masters would have. About how if all the tools in your tool box are hammers, then every problem looks like a nail, whether it is or not. I have tried to explain how embracing destruction can destroy you. I'm not one of my masters. I don't know the right words always. I study what I can from what I saved of their teachings but…" He shakes his head, "If you make a huge deal of it, and bring me to the center of it… it will not end well for me. I know you wish to make an issue of it. I see things. I know you do not get along well with the Hokage and probably see this as a weakness of her's. Maybe it is, I don't know. Someone is letting these things go on, but… the problem is so much more epidemic than just Tosai. He's not an exception, he's the rule. And we can't just end up with no ninja if we punish them all."
Taji shakes his head, "Daichi had no right to attack me for simply not wanting to be more violent. He should be punished, but as for Tosai, this is a problem that needs to be addressed across the board, not just against him. Making an example of him will win you few allies. Tread carefully here." Taji sighs, then frowns, "I need to get this foot healed before we go, it's true. But don't portray me as someone who is unable to defend himself. I did end up stunning and leaving Daichi behind. I could have done far worse to him if I had to. But… the village is large. Not all ninja need to be 'the scourge of evil' and true power shouldn't be measured in how fast you can beat someone else up. Perhaps long term if there was a way to reward those who use their brains instead of their fists? But that is a very long term goal I suppose." Taji seems to have a bit of 'diplomat' in him as he speaks and clearly sees far more than he says most times.
Fuyu was previously furious mostly at these two blundering wanna-be ninja, and also at the Hokage because… When is there ever a bad time to be mad at Hashiramako? But when Taji starts talking about things like he knows her… Like he thinks he can read her mind… The focus of her anger is sharply and suddenly redefined.
She stares at Taji, enraged, and scarcely manages to not bare her teeth at him when she speaks. "You should not speak on matters that you don't know anything about. I took down Rainos when he may have been the hope of the entire Uchiha Clan to take control of Konohagakure through force, and do it without losing a single life. -I- took him down. ME. Whether I like Hokage-SAMA or not, she will hear of the inconsiderate and dangerous actions of her ninja, whether they be Akimichi, Senju, no-names, or even my own Uchiha. Corruption begins when exceptions are made. Everyone must be held to the same standards, or it will begin the slow road of decay that will lead to us all falling together. I will not simply turn a blind eye to favoritism, whether it is in my Clan or another's or none at all, if it harms the Village as a whole or as individuals."
She then looks rather pointedly right at Taji's ankle. "And I think that you know fairly well by now that it is at LEAST hurting individuals. Still, I will take your advice into consideration. I will present the facts only, but I will not spare Tosai due to being popular. If he must be re-educated instead of merely punished, so shall it be. But Daichi had no excuse. He will be taught the difference between opinion and fact. His opinion that you are dangerous does not excuse the fact that HE attacked YOU."
The rage of Fuyu being focused at Taji is not something Taji seems very comfortable with at all. He takes a stumbling step backwards as she unloads upon him verbally. "Please, understand…" He protests, "I was not… I mean… the problem is that I can't afford to be the center of attention or the mark of what is going to happen. If you bring me to the center of this… if I am the evidence you bring forth, what will happen to me? You think this ankle injury is the limit to what can happen?" He squeaks out, clearly uneasy. "I understand that it is hurting people, of course I know that, Fuyu-sama." He says, trying to calm her down and perhaps re-direct the anger if he can, "But… please don't use me to make your point. I'm effectively hiding here, in plain sight. That works, only so long as no one looks too closely. It is no secret my teachers were wiped out. That others may be after me. I told the Hokage this when I came here, mostly because I wanted no pretenses of why I was here, or the potential risks if someone comes after me to finish the job." He explains, "So if you put me in the center of this fiasco, this disaster, it would draw a lot of attention to me, attention that could leave me far worse off than a simple ankle sprain." He says, almost pleading with Fuyu for understanding as he speaks, definately being respectful but also fearful of her, that much is obvious. The light layer of student/teacher friendship seeming to be yanked away leaving Taji feeling off balance and even more vulnerable suddenly from the looks of his reactions.
Fuyu relaxes slightly. And that just means she's no longer glaring at Taji. She takes a deep breath and lets it out. "I understand. I never intended to parade you about or even mention your name unless pressed on the matter by the Hokage. If she already knows, then that resolves one thing. But there will need to be confirmation of events from your own mouth at some point. You'll have to tell Hokage-sama about what happened. She does not trust me any more than I trust her. I was trained by Uchiha Madara, her greatest enemy. Rainos is but a shadow compared to him, and he trained me personally. I may not have been his greatest pupil…" She looks down at the Village below, as though to keep her eyes off of any expressions of pity, or understanding, or disgust, or anything else that Taji might be displaying.
"…But as you said, power is not everything. What is power without knowledge? What is dedication without wisdom? I plan to see that this Village succeeds. But leaving you behind, or treating you as a stepping stone on the path to something greater… I will not do that. You are not my friend, but you are my ally, and I suppose I am now your teacher — at least in part. That means I would be betraying everything I follow and believe in if I throw you to the wolves now for the purpose of some petty 'revenge' or 'proving myself'. You'll be safe. Or as safe as I can keep you, at least."
Taji lets out a slow sigh of relief, but there is no look of pity or understanding. Concern perhaps, or attempt to understand, but he doesn't push. "As you say…" Is all he manages, definately grateful to no longer be the brunt of things, "And at least you were here… when…" He trails off, implying that the current Hokage perhaps should not have gone away, leaving things such a mess. "Anyway, I will head back to the village and the medical bay. If you can keep my name out of things, I would appreciate it. If you need me to speak to the Hokage herself to confirm things, I will do so. I just hope not to be the stick that is used to try to beat sense into the less sensible of the ninja." He says softly, as he follows Fuyu's gaze down towards the village.
"I came here because of what I think this place can be, and what it should be. We aren't mercenaries bought and paid for to do /any/ task. We aren't meant to be thugs, bullies, or worse. And if we can't keep the peace among our own, how can we possibly be what we need to be?" He says thoughtfully, thinking out loud mostly. Then he shakes his head, "We are not friends but we share a goal, you know. And I am your student, in part, and I am better for it. Other than that, what else is there to say?" He asks, as he gestures to the kunai, "At least that Kunai of Daichi's is some proof. For what it is worth at least." He looks back to Fuyu, "Know that there are those who appreciate what you hope to do for the village. It isn't much, but… it is there." He says, waiting a moment for any response Fuyu might want to offer, but clearly getting ready to hobble back down to the village.
Fuyu nods vaguely in Taji's direction, but seems to have said all she intends to say for now. She thought she had been less obvious about her loathing for Hashiramako. It seems another demonstration of her loyalty is in order, then. Perhaps something to make her seem less antagonistic to the Senju. It's hard to contain her hate for them. They have cost so much for her Clan. How can she not hate them? But she has to maintain her discipline. This is not the time for internal warring. There are other enemies in the world. She will seek them out.
For now, however, she merely turns suddenly and walks towards Taji. "I'll help you to the hospital. Walking on it will just make it worse." She then kneels down in front of Taji with her back to him, apparently offering to carry him on her back. Perhaps a bit embarassing, but… If Fuyu can swallow her pride and serve the Senju, then Taji can do the same for five minutes until he can be gotten a cane or something.