Date: January 16, 2012
Once more Ryoji and Takeshi cross paths; but unlike the time before, the old man has his first wind at the ready…
"First Promotion Exams - Experience Against Cleverness Redux!? Ryoji vs. Takeshi"
West Shiren Caverns [Land of Wind]
The western area of Shiren Caverns is typified by long vertical passages. Narrow walkways formed by accidents of geology wind over deep pits, with stalagmites and columns jutting up all around. A trained shinobi shouldn't have too much trouble climbing up or down these passages, provided they aren't hindered by rivals or the local fauna. Say, isn't that spider web abnormally large…?
It might've just barely been a day since the exams had begun, but already Ryoji could feel himself slipping into madness from being in such a limited space. Well that, AND from the monotony of watching the other competitors duke it out and wait for them to grow weaker. So, he sought to change the pace a little by slipping through the shadows until reaching one of the higher entrances into the one few still viable drinking/bathable areas within the Exam Grounds.
Upon arrival he set to work almost immediatly in putting things in his favor. The moss through redirected probes and a bit of personal work, being removed bit by bit, plus any lighting from the crags and tunnels blocked off until only the thinnest rays remained. The final results? A dimmer cavern with more plentiful places for him to hide, which he immediatly did, while his luminscent moss covered probes danced around the waterhole.
Takeshi had found a nice place up the wall where he could rest, or at least wait until his wounds healed up. He was good at that, the whole natural healing thing, sometimes irresponsibly so. It was almost a scary thing to behold the old man go from beat up to fixed up in no time. Ryoji had sent out his probes again, but the elder remained unmoving, listening to the other chuunin below him prepare. There was a grin on his face.
Finally, once the probes were gone, the elder moved to the edge, looking down upon the scene and grinning.
Ryoji frowned. A curse on the tip of his tongue from finding none who wished to partake of a bit of the life giving juice! And then it hit him what went wrong… Sorta wrong in anycase. Thus, a quick correction is made in which out of the thirty or so glowing eyeballs dancing around the pool, half splintered off to try and bait others into investigating while the others kept up their dance. An exhausting one at that in hindsight, and one Ryoji sought to correct by focusing a bit more of his chakra in preparation of replacing them.
Takeshi was tired of watching, the old man having been a person of action for a long time. So when more of the eyes wander off down the caves he jumps off the ledge and down towards the lake. At first, it's the sound of robes flapping in the wind and then the elder lands, his feet staying above the water thanks to training, but the pool around him splasing up in as the explosive force hits everywhere but where the old man landed. The water comes back down and makes a loud crash as the old man stands up and looks straight towards Ryoji.
"Should I consider you an opponent or a friend?"
Takeshi watches the eyes with interest as they float around, "I do kind of like these techniques. I will give you credit for creativity. I've never seen anything like this in all my years. I've seen living swords, demons, possesed armor. Everything, but never floating ocularies." He reaches out to poke at one whether or not it will let him, but he isn't trying to hurt it, that much is clear from his expression.
"That depends. You were stalking me last night, should I be worried?"
'Floating?' Ryoji thought, risking a glance albiet needless around the rock to 'see' what Takeshi meant. And indeed a few of the eyes had started to mysteriously float up from the ground before zooming off right before Takeshi could touch them into the shadows of the cieling above. Just before he lost connection with those unfortunate souls to be snatched away, the milky pale multiple eyes and the flash of fangs alerts Ryoji as to what just happened. And, gives him another idea once the aftershock of pain dies down from feeling everyone of them perish save those he managed to manipulate -away- from the spider web hooks.
"…. That too depends on rather on your preference of being scouted and directed… Don't tell me as a Kaguya that it does for fear of being.. used?~", He singsonged the last bit before flowing to a new cover..
Takeshi nods at the man as Ryoji floats about the room in an attempt to hide. "So, you claim you were directing me? That's a big claim considering I was the one that ran away." The old man moves over to leave the lake and nods, "But then, I needed to let myself heal naturally, so I found a cavern to sit in until such a time as I was better. Then I saw you. I already have two scrolls, so in actuality, I should have no desire to fight, but that's part of why I'm here."
There's a moment of silence, "And you still can't hide. Why don't you just come out and fight me? That's ultimately all I want, a test. I won't even harm you if you request."
A lie? As much as he wished to believe otherwise, he knew Takeshi's words, at least about being seen, rang true. "Since when did you here me claim that?", He asked curiously, canting his head to the side completely. "I claim being a director, a mediator.. but never of you.. not yet at least." He added on calmly, his hands drawn together to form the tori seal.
"…. No.. Though you seek a test one of brawn and directness is not the full focus of these exams.." The eyes in droves started to roll out of the shadows again, glowing even brighter now thanks more moss being gathered about their form. Their intent? To try and get as close to Takeshi as possible, surround him and stare up at him as they waited. A few even tried to roll up against his feet or even leap at him; persisting even should he try to run until they succeeded or were destroyed.
"Intelligence.. or cleverness.. or experience.. the first and latter you no doubt have.. but the second I do wonder now.. and so do my friends." Without warning, without pause, two giants spiders the size of the average pre-teen human fell from the shadowed cieling. Intent at first on feeding on the glowing eyes until Takeshi's prescence is noted. A third larger one falls freely from the cieling just as the first two try to sink their poisoned fangs into the Kaguya!
Ryoji is not ignored either for another falls down right next to him, poised for the attack but waiting for some odd reason..
Takeshi stares up at the spider as it tries to crash down upon him. He moves to the side and then pets it in a certain spot. Slowly, tenderly. Normally, one would think an animal would rear up at this kind of touch, but it doesn't and then it reaches out to brush against him and bristles. Then it stops moving and just lets Takeshi continue to pet it, the other two noticeably confused, even for animals. "In Kirigakure, there's a clan called the Okumo. They train spiders to assist them in their shinobi adventures. A symbiotic relationship with one of the most cunning creatures in existance. Anyways, one of their members, two now I suppose, Okumo Meruin and Daomi, happen to be a part of me. Okumo more so, as I've known the boy for much longer. The okumo taught me something once, why spiders attack. They taught me how to calm them too."
The elder reaches into his pocket and then produces meat, which is thrown to the larger spider and then some more to the smaller ones. Satisfied, they stare awhile longer and then retreat, having their fill. "What they told me was that a true spider will fight to get what it wants, but not more. They're actually truly humble creatures. So by giving them food, which is what they want to begin with, I am no longer their prey. They have obtained what they sought, now they are satisfied."
The elder turns around to look at Ryoji and his spider, "Clever enough?"
Ryoji listened to Takeshi, but his eyes were focused purely on staring down the critter. A single move on his part spelling desert if he wasn't careful. His lips trembled as if he wanted to say something. And yet, what they produced as the spider seemed to really focus on the Iga's movement is nothing short but a tongue. Seemingly confused, the spider actually relaxes a tad while other similiar organs are produced and crawl over to the creature. Cautious and slowly, the spider snatches up one of the organs.. then another.. then another. Before long over half are consumed or left wringling in the spiders grip by the time it has decided that it has had its fill for now and slink off.
"… Nope. Cleverness involves creativity with knowledge.. You however simply took advantage of experience as fitting the situation." He stated dryly, scattering with a thought, the eyes that had gathered to lure the spiders there. It would seem he would have to take things up a notch and lure -those- there next. "Meruin… ", Ryoji whispered thoughtless, the shook his head rapidly and narrowed focused once more. "Tell me Takeshi-san. For someone whose retired.. why -did- you bother to participate? Surely not just to test the young as well as re-affirm your own strength?"
Takeshi grins, "And that's the grit of it all ain't it? Why is an old man here? An old man that by everyone's standards has no need to obtain a higher position. He is a clan elder, the close friend of the current Mizukage and leader of several organizations within Kirigakure. So then, why is this old man here? Seemingly to fight others, but even that doesn't quite explain it does it." There's a yawn as the old man attempts to bring Ryoji off guard.
Then he's gone, appear behind Ryoji even in his controlled hiding spot, "I'm here because I want to do one last thing before officially retiring." Then he pulls up a leg and sweeps it under Ryoji.
The moment Takeshi's voice reaches his ears at such close range, Ryoji head shot up. And despite his intuition guiding him in reading Takeshi's next attention he still proved too slow to avoid getting swept of his feet. Thankfully, he manages to catch himself just in time and spring off the ground to land ontop of a nearby by stone pillar.
A wince from the pain in his calfs delays his next words, "… What.. is this thing? If not what you said.. if not what I asked?", He asks, stalling a little longer while his hair started to grow out rapidly until the end of it reached three feet behind him while the rest coiled partially around to protect him.
"… For that matter… does it truly require a second scroll?", He asks with a wiry smile as a hand is enclosed with chakra and stabbed towards Takeshi. A second before they are launched, Ryoji's hairs spring into action. Some to attack while others attempt to close off the Kaguya's escape paths except straight forward. All while remaining at a distance..
No scent of blood was Ryoji's first warning sign after his spikes and spears both succeeded and failed. Then came Takeshi speaking once more and not even bothering to answer his question except with to mock his skill level before springing into action. He knew instinctively as soon as the Kaguya stopped speaking the attack was on its way, but still… he was too slow to do little more than get a few hairs around to shield his stomach. And yet, despite being reinforced double time, neither could truly halt the 'double' impact from making him keel forward before recieving a rage fueld punch straight to the face.
Blood, spittle flies out of his mouth as he spiraled away. His jaw nearly dislocated from the blow, but his mind was 'active enough at least to keep him from suffering further. "Geha!", He flipped around mid-air and hit the ground in a slide until finally the back of rock spire kept him from falling further. "… Kaguya.. why even think that? Answer /that/ at least if nothing else?", Ryoji asked dryly, spitting a wad of blood and whipping his lips of the rest with the back of his hand.
Takeshi nods at him, "Because I admired your ability to stare me in the face even if you knew or didn't know how or if you were outclassed. It impressed me. You are strong, so I will not fight you today. Grow stronger and one day beat me. I look forward to it."
And with that he turns to move along and disappear into the darkness.