Date: July 14, 2012
A Genin - seeking the loneliness of a mid-winter, mountaintop retreat - finds himself in unexpected company, and falls (rather literally) head over heels.
"Epiphanies Pt. 1"
Jagged Desert Path - Sunagakure
Soft winds bustle through the afternoon, caught in a warm winter day along the mountainside. The grassy plains of the valley below shimmer and gust in the cool sunlight. Down below, in the verdancy, squirrels bound through emerald blades, and birds swing in the skies. Yet there is no such sound up the mountain, no such glee for being. The world is quiet here.
The usually trackless path up and around the alp is even more free of intrusion today, for in the summer, the trail is hard; in the winter, it is onerous to say the least. There are, however, a single pair of footprints left in the dust and gravel, trailing a young Genin who is slowly making his way along the trail. His footsteps are sure (lest he slip here and forget his life entirely), but the boy himself seems not so, such is exhibited by his cautious, leisurely pace. Kazeodori, wrapped tightly within his clothing, has brought himself here on purpose, but to what thought does such danger desire?
It's been sometime since Itami has left her print on the jagged mountain path. She's been stuck in the village going over papers upon papers of numerous things, most of which were common complaints that could be handled with ease. A great amount of ease, as in…DIY type ease. Alas, some of these people are lazy, the large majority of them being wealthy folk. The common people are always doing something themsevles and more power to them if they manage to solve the problem of a rich individual. At least they get paid well for something incredibly simple. She doesn't and hers is incredibly complex.
This was her chance at escape and she's going to take it. Lazy had its perks and if it took leaving to a dangerous trail to achieve peace, she'd take it.
As the turn of the mountain crests upon a particularly prime vantage, Kazeodori stops, tucking his robes tighter about himself, and looks into the distance. The path here is wide enough to accommodate a relaxation of surefooted faculties, and so the Genin - upon taking a thick, deep breath of mid-winter air, a cool gush into his lungs - drops slowly to a seat, his legs dangling over the side of the trail. The boy, it seems, is completely at ease up here in his lonesome, trapped amongst nothing but the endless stretches of sky and the forever bounds of earth. It is no wonder that rulers built themselves castles and fortresses on high — for up here, the world is impossibly small, and your self infinitely great. A soft smile breaks the tight face Kazeodori was holding against the strain and the wind, his eyes wrinkling a smidge, his heart thrusting a few healthy beats forward. It is now, in his own silence, and of the mountain's ribbed quiet, that the Genin hears the intruding footsteps of Itami. His face immediately tightens again as his neck beats to the side. His eyes find the woman, but his lips remain sealed. She is a stranger, after all.
Itami didn't expect to see someone so young up here. She returned a smile and a wave of uncertainty. He didn't seem like he was looking forward to company. "Hello…" She offered to the boy while making her way forward. "How are you? Also, why are you all the way up here?" She wondered. "It's just a thought, you don't have to answer the question if you don't want to." Shrug. Now that she's here, she's still going to get her rest in, so she finds a high point, always closest to the sun you know, and decides to rest there. It may be mild today, but the sun is still the sun and it provides enough warmth for her to be satisfied.
Kazeodori peers at the woman.
"You talk a lot," says the boy, as languidly and fierce as an alligator curling through the water. The Genin eyes the girl a moment longer, his face tensing further and further with each moment that goes by. But not far do they go, for a hard exhalation comes, and Kazeodori's face turns a soft, relieved countenance.
"I'm sorry," says the boy, in nearly a whisper. Another exhalation slides from his lips, and he casts his gaze back upon the stretch of open plains before him.
"I don't mean to be rude. I… just didn't expect anyone to be up here."
At this, the youth stands, brushing the dust from the back of his robes before offering a palm to Itami.
"My name is Sasaki Kazeodori. Pleased to meet you."
The words come out stiff, practiced, seemingly something taught but not often utilized. One could probably tell - from even the dusting of his butt before the proffer of his hand - that the boy is not the most enthused with proper manners and the finer points of etiquette.
"Ah…a Sasaki, of course." Itami chuckled. "I would have been irritated with your remark earlier, but I see you were only seeking some alone time. That's something we happen to have in common today." She rolled around on the rock she was on until she was in a comfortable position, though to someone else it might look like she'd be in the worst kind of pain. "My name is Watanabe Itami and the pleasure is all mine. I'd bow, but as you can see…" she gestured with her arm in an awkard manner from her perch on the rock, "I'm tied up." She paused. "You can relax now."
The Genin grins, admiring Itami's awkward position.
"I should say the same…"
The chuckle that follows (not to mention the comment itself) would certainly allow Itami to surmise that the boy is more relaxed than he was moments before.
But even rain-filled clouds float.
Thus is Kazeodori's face, though perked with a smile, reminiscent of the spitter and spat of a hard storm. There is certainly something brimming beneath the dark swim of his eyes, like the murk of a great lost beast. However, all of that emotion, and expression, and facade, is wiped away in a moment of recognition and truth. Kazeodori's eyes widen, and a shock of a smile overcomes his visage. He points a finger at Itami. "You're on the Council!" Past that, mind you, the boy doesn't know much.
Itami smiled, "I am, yes! But don't tell anyone. It's supposed to be a secret," she shushed softly and lifted a finger to her lips in a joking fashion. "I sometimes have to climb out of my window and run away from administration. You wouldn't believe how many people watch me often, but it's a fantastic challenge to see how many different ways I can sneak away from those eyes. I want to relax too, but they don't think I should," she huffed and folded her arms. "I think I deserve some time away. What do you think?"
The grim whisper of thoughts kept not in the moment pass as a change - a tuft of a smile - along the Genin's face. His eyes canter themselves away from Itami, back to the endless lengths of the valley beyond.
As often does when one's comment connect with the ponderation of another, as the tip of a finger touches the flesh of the heart, is Kazeodori so burdened by his want to share himself, but shackled as it is by the bounds of unfamiliarity. Thankfully - as was perhaps noticed before - the boy's reach of manner is not farther than the most minuscule of midges. He sighs.
"I'm just so tired of everyone fighting all the time. Everyone wanting to the greatest warrior, the best fighter, no matter how blood is spilled by that. Is that what we must do? Kill, and then die?"
Kazeodori's eyes immediately widen, and his hands smack over his lips, behind which a muffled word can be heard.
Itami was a little confused by this one, but she's beginning to think it's a trait present in Sasaki in general. Imota was like this for a time and now Kazeodori. She finds it amusing to see this repeated behavior.
She hummed at the remarks he made. She's heard them before from a number of people, including herself. She often thought that ninja weren't exactly capable of living what is considered a normal life. They are, as much as she'd hate to admit it, tools to be used by their respective countries however they please and yet, things do not always have to happen as designated by their respective Daimyou.
"I understand what you feel. I've had those myself and it's present even more so in me now. I don't know why everyone wishes to fight for greatest warrior, best fighter and not care about what blood is spilled, but I believe shinobi have a greater purpose…" She flips around then and rights herself. Besides, it was about time for her to flip so her back could get some sun action.
"I think—" She paused. What was the 'omagos' for? "Err…are you alright?"
An exaggerated laugh stretches the Genin's mouth, his eyes nearly shut, his hand rubbing the back of his head.
"Ah, yes! Yes. I'm all right. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to blurt that out."
Kazeodori offers Itami a small bow, though this honoring seems more fluid, more genuine, than his etiquette of past. The boy rights himself, digesting, as he does so, the words of the sun-bathing woman. The 11-year-old (for he is still young, but already so inquisitive of his existential life) scratches the back of his neck, his face screwed into a question mark that will certainly punctuate the end of his words already spilling forth.
"But what purpose?"
An inquiry vague enough - easy enough, perhaps - but often such simplicities bear not the weight of complexity which lurks around the answer. Before Itami can answer, before her lips and tongue may bring themselves to words, Kazeodori lets fly another question, this one a dart of wonder.
"Have you ever killed anyone?"
"I like to think that shinobi are more than just tools. We have much more to us than just being fighters. We serve much greater purposes. Even around the village. We have lives, we are…people. I make glass for a living but more than that, I'm an artist. How can that be recognized when all someone sees me as is some sort of warrior? I don't approve. While at home, I'm a council member, glass smith, teacher…" She could run on, but she decides to end it there. Besides, she'd just been questioned on if she's killed anyone. She went silent for a few moments and simply stated, "I have." The silence lingered after this as she didn't have much else to say to defend it. "I fought in a war not too long ago."
The Genin contemplates Itami as she gives her response, his gaze unwavering. Wind rolls along the mountainside, ruffling the boy's robes. The sun - which but was a warmth a time ago - has matured, as Itami certainly knows, into a full spread of heat. (Even in the winter, it seems, the desert around Sunagakure is ready to cook.) An eagle whirls through lofty gales, highlighting the joy of its flight with a resonant call into the wild. The day seems to but trickle by, a fitting metaphor for the process by which Kazeodori absorbs the information offered by Itami.
The boy is obviously too young to have known of such a thing personally, but his study of history is perhaps a more endearing infatuation. Kazeodori blinks. And, with the coarseness of tongue as only an unmannered 11-year-old can generate (coupled with the attention span of the aforementioned midge), asks:
"Well… what could I do?"
It's unclear whether the boy is inquiring if he can help with overcoming the scars the war left behind, or if he wishes to know what Itami thinks him best suited to do outside of killing. Oh, the obscurities of youth.
Itami grinned. "About the war? Nothing. I wouldn't have wanted you to anyway. Buuuut…" She then lifted up from the rock and flipped over once more. She seemed to have a certain glazed look in her eyes that suggested relaxation. She places her cheek up against the rock and allowed her eyes to roll to the back of her head while taking in the warmth with greed. "Ah, where was I…?" She remarked while trying to gather herself out of her snap-slumber. "Ah! Yes. You need to be the best shinobi I have ever seen. In your /own/ way. Not what I want you to be. You protect your village with your life and you aid people where you can. Be more than just a warrior and greatest fighter. Achieve higher than that."
Kazeodori throws his arms in the air in exacerbation, his own eyes rolling into the back of his own head. Ah, all the angst and fury of children who, unknowingly, think they know it all. The Genin scoffs, and with a nimbleness of tongue that often goes unchecked, rapidly returns fire for Itami's helpful advice.
"Yeah, but what do does that mea-"
His words, as it were, drop off suddenly, for the boy, relaxing his guard perhaps a bit too much, relaxing his concentration, his understanding of his surroundings a bit too much, also drops off suddenly… from the side of the mountain.
Itami was about to answer the question, but a much more dire activity caught her attention. Kazeodori was falling from the mountain! Without hesitation, she jumped from her perch. She didn't calculate the jump, so this might get a little ugly, but that wasn't important right now. Once she landed on an unstable set of rocks, she slipped, but used what time she had on solid ground to flicker from them and capture Kazeodori on her shoulder. This way, she had her hands free to make handseals and use the wind to slow her descent and land in a moderate jolt.
With nary a stich of awareness as to the heroics of the sun-bathing woman, Kazeodori tilts through the sky a moment before arising on the Councilor's shoulders, Itami's hands flickering and finding the precision they need to have a gust of wind lift the pair from below, helping add a layer of inflation to their fall. That said, the impact is still jarring and abrupt, and leaves the duo atop one another, the Genin finding himself face to face with Itami. He stares at her a breath, a sphere of time no more than that, his eyes finding her pupils, red as his beating heart (from the fall, naturally). He can feel her heart too (surely, also from the fall), thumping beneath his own, thumping as a user of his own element, and though his toes just reach her shins, the boy mutters, with nary a thought to his words:
"I love you."