Date: August 15, 2015
A few days after nearly being assassinated by her own grandfather, a fearful Tsutsuji looks towards the Mizukage for advice that will set her path in the Kirigakure
"Finding My Way in the Mist"
Kirigakure, Mizukage's Office
"Send her in…"
Meruin's voice filled the air as though it held dominion over it, low and smooth and clear. The Mizukage turned his gaze to the window of his office as his secretary bowed and left the room, door clicking closed. Afternoon light through the mist, the sun from beyond cliff and see lending the haze a celestial glint. Time had been moving swiftly for him this morning. Perhaps too much.
But his musing was brief. The Mizukage's gaze soon returned to his desk. His hand slid along its top, gathering the papers that adorned it in a practiced movement and secreting them away behind his desk. There was nothing there that either he or his next appointment needed to see.
All he would need would be to see her. To hear her. Kaguya Tsutsuji expressed a desire to leave to Sunagakure for training. What he saw of heard and heard from her would determine whether or not he would send her over sea and across desert to their allies.
All that was left was for his secretary to open the door and usher her in.
It takes only a few moments for Tsutsuji to be informed that the lord-Meruin will now see her. The almost freshly graduated genin was sitting upon a chair in the waiting room, hands clutching a scroll tightly as she sat looking at the floor with her knees together. It was clear that the genin was worried, her face outwardly showed no expression, but subtle hints of worry spilled out of her family-trained 'game-face'.
It wasn't once that she was asked to move to the Mizukage's office, but twice as the secretary snapped her out of her thoughts. Tsutsuji stands up slowly, shoulders slumped as she silently moved down the hall towards the Mizukage's office. Standing outside the door for one moment, the young Kaguya cleared her throat and mumbled to herself. "He can't be any more scary that grandfather after a night of drinking." She says with a deep breath to assure herself.
Rolling her shoulders back, standing up straight and tall, and forcing her face into a polite unsmiling yet unfrowning expression, as she reached out slowly to open the door, the very creaking motions causing her to shudder as she walked in. "Mizukage-sama… I am present." The vividly dressed girl places her hands upon her lap and bows her head deeply.
As the door opened to reveal Tsutsuji's presence, Meruin's gaze settled upon her. Black, pupiless orbs with the mists of Kirigakure slowly swirling within them, there was no physical way of knowing precisely where he looked, but the force of his attention was a tangible thing. A weight upon the skin.
The Mizukage was fully present and intent on the Kaguya.
"Kaguya Tsutsuji," he spoke. He took a moment to incline his head in thanks to his secretary, who bowed and closed the door behind the girl with an audible click. "I had not expected to see you again so soon." He raised his closed fist to his chest in salute, pressing it into the Kiri symbol of his platinum robes before gesturing to a seat on the other end of his desk. "Take a seat."
Tsutsuji begins to slowly saunder over to the seat. "Hai, Meruin-sama. We… saw each other a week ago, when you personally handed me…" She trails her hand up to her forehead, a red band bearing a steel plate with the village's symbol. "This…" One of her proudest moments, he could see it in her eyes then. Tsu's eyes could barely keep contact with Meruins right now, unlike that moment. "Meruin-sama, I… I first what to tell you that it wasn't my idea… It was Hyou-sensei's idea." Hyou-sensei, whom is actually an instructor at the academy named Hozuki Hyouka, was an important figure in Tsutsuji's days in the academy. It was he who wished to teach her Ninjutsu against the will of her clan, and was nearly killed.
"I initially just wanted to move from my clan's housing, but… Mmmh." She looks at Meruin directly now. "… It's complicated, but… Perhaps I should…" She looks away again, the conflict on her face very real as a neutral expression turns into a frown. "If it would please you, I wish to personally tell you why my elders and I are at blows." She certainly moved straight to the point, she seemed she had a lot to say… and few to say it to.
Meruin inclined his head at the mention of the girl's graduation day, the ghost of a smile adorning his mouth and eyes. The spectre soon fades away, leaving him solemn-faced as he listens to the girl further. And indeed, there was never a need for a word to pass his lips so one never did. A brow rose at the mention of this study abroad being another's idea and lowered with a simple nod in hearing just who that person was. The time had swiftly come for understanding and he received it.
His unhurried dip of the head murmured, 'Speak your peace' to the girl.
Clearly it was a bit uncomfortable to tell Meruin of her past. "It… Starts like this… Most of what my clan might have told you about me is made-up, because the secrets of the clan are important to them… I wasn't actually born of two Kaguya. My mother is still Kaguya Akiko, but…" Tsutsuji looks at the floor as she remembers. "My mother revealed to me recently that she had me when she became pregnant in another nation. She… was on a mission in the Land of Fire when she fell in love with a wanderer. She still hasn't told me who it was, or why she risked everything to do it, however… My clan punished her by making her and I outcasts of the clan. Life was hard for us, until It was learned that I had the gift of Shikotsumyaku…"
Tsutsuji continues to become uncomfortable. "It was only then that I was allowed some sense of decency in my clan. I still have issues trusting my clan, you see. They took me and trained me rigorously in their Taijutsu style, and kicked my mother to the curb. They didn't let me join the Academy until I was a little older than the usual age, so that they could ensure I was loyal to the clan before the village. When I joined the academy, I met Hyou-sensei, who saw that I had potential to learn Ninjutsu." She looks up to the Kage as she squeezes her hands upon her knees. "I truly have always wanted to learn Ninjutsu, but the elder who I was tasked with refused it. At the Academy, though, my clan did not hold a blade over my head… Yet, reguardless, my grandfather… attacked Hyou-sensie and nearly killed him because he wished to divert me from the path my clan wished to set for me… Then, one evening…" She sort of choked up, as if she was ready to cry.
"Apologies Mizukage-sama, I.. It's not the entire clan's fault that I hate them… You must know that I remain loyal to Kirigakure, but I have not heard from my mother in a while now and… A few nights ago…"
Meruin never interrupted the girl as she spoke, not with word, body, or aura. The air about him spoke only of attentiveness as he listened to the girl's history. A judgement never crossed his face, positive or negative. Precisely what he thought could not be known but for the fact that he considered this conversation important enough to forget about everything else. And as she paused…
He gave 3 solemn nods, an allowance to continue.
Tsutsuji didn't know how to say this properly, so she merely ended up showing the Kage. She stood up from her seet and turned her back on the Mizukage, before lifting the back of her vestment. She still had bandages around her torso, but it was clear there was a large amount of red on one particular area. Blood. Older blood, but blood nonetheless. Tsu holds it up for the Kage to inspect as she attempts to slide the bandages down slightly and move her hair out of the way to show the clear thrusting-wound in her back. Clearly meant to kill. it appears as if the blade was aimed at the heart, but the girl was clearly skilled enough to move out of the way just enough that it slid between her ribs far enough that it wasn't fatal. Right now, it looked as if it was healed, although the scar is still there. "Kyou-sensei knew what was going on when I told him I had lost contact with my mother. He was there to stop my grandfather before he struck a second time…"
And that was all. The Kaguya would attempt to right her bandages, letting her shirt and hair fall back as she turned to slowly sit once more. "… Our clan can be very secretive Mizukage-sama… Although I don't wish to leave the village, for any length of time, I don't know what else to do…" The Kaguya has clearly dropped her former emotionless face, and was now wiping tears away from her eyes. "It's a clan matter, that cannot be dealt with in the normal way… My grandfather is innocent in the eyes of the elder who raised me up. I ask you not to seek action against my clan, Meruin-sama, I beg you to forgive them."
A low rumble emanated from Meruin's chest at the wound.
It was at this point that he nodded, decision finding its way into his aura. He had heard what he'd needed to hear for now. "You have been through many troubles," he spoke. "To the point that you have even had your first Bleed. I can see that you have found it difficult to take hope. I see that it has driven you to flee from your troubles, and flee from home."
Meruin's long platinum hair lifts from his shoulders of its own volition, beginning to braid itself as though guided by invisible hands. "Here is what I would have you know. The first is that you grandfather will be arrested. Not for what he did to you but for his assault on your academy teacher, whose duty it is to make sure all of our genin have a basic understanding of all shinobi talents. How this trespass has never reached me, I do not know, but I will find out and blood will nourish our earth for it. After he is arrested, I will speak with Kaguya leadership to determine whether I will hand him over to allow them to dole out punishment or see it done through the village.
"Second. I will have you speak with Kaguya Yuuka, Seven Sword and another elder of your clan. She will hear your story and speak with you about any efforts that could be made on your behalf.
"Third, your timing may be fortunate. I have just instated a new protocol that gives our shinobi a housing stipend indepenent of their usual pay. Should you wish to stay but leave your clan, you will be able to find housing away from them, paid for by the village.
"Your situation strikes me as an odd one. There are a number of things that have happened that should not have. These continual mistakes end here with me. But there are two things I must know from you. How is it that you do not know the fate of your mother — Do you not live with her? And is it still your desire to leave here for Sunagakure?"
Tsutsuji grunts as she tries her best to not show weakness in front of Yondaime Mizukage. "Hai. I live with her." Her mother was already a mess as it was. "… I wanted to tell her that I discovered what my element was. She wasn't there. I didn't stay long, because I saw blood. Mother…" She sniffles and rubs her eyes. "If grandfather did what he did to me, he might have…" There was a clear sniffle heard, before the young girl broke down and cried right in front of the Mizukage!
Her little fit lasted for less than a minute, before she finally steeled herself. "I-I don't know what to do, Mizukage-sama. If I stay, will it all happen again?" The girl looks to the Mizukage, rubbing the tears from her eyes with her sleeves.
Can you guarantee her safety?
There is silence from Meruin as he watched the girl cry, extending her no warmth for her pain and distress. Instead, all he had to offer her was strength and guidance.
"Shore yourself up," he told her as she wiped her tears away, voice smooth and strong. He waited for a moment, ensuring that she had a slightly better hold on yourself. That she would not burst back into tears.
"You ask me if you stay here, will everything happen all over again. And I will tell you this. It depends entirely on you." The Mizukage's gaze is direct, the slowly roiling mists within them implacable as falling snow. "To date, you have been passive. You have run; you have submitted. A victim to a rule whose purpose is unworthy. In this situation, now that you have brought it to someone who can and will act, there will be a change. But no matter where you go, if you play the victim then you will be victimized. In one form or another, this situation will exist time and again within your life.
"What I urge you to do is to grow. To decide to be a shinobi who can act rather than react. If you can find the purpose and power within you to stand your ground when it matters, then we will see this handled. So I want you to tell me.
"If you stay… will this all happen again?"
The sniveling girl tries to rub the tears completely from her eyes, as she listens to you as you turn her decisiveness back upon her. Clearly, she wants to be a strong shinobi. It's why she begged her mother to sign her up for the academy, against her elder's original ruling. Clearly, she didn't want to run. Was she going to run away from her problems, and hope they go away? She could spend years in Sunagakure, as her teacher suggested, and train under people ignorant of a Kaguya's potential while developing a talent she is honestly no-good in. She could become a shinobi, but she would never become a fine shinobi.
She could stay here, too. She could risk having the elder send another lesser member of the house to have her killed under the nose of the Mizukage. She could totally break away from her branch of the Kaguya clan, and do it proudly. She could continue to learn her Taijutsu, though she may have to postpone her wish to learn Ninjutsu for a while. Maybe she wasn't ready to leave fully, even with permission. "M-meruin-sama…" She says as the question eats her to the bone. She hasn't had anyone ask her to make her own decisions before. It's always ever been doing what is for the good of the clan, or what Kyou-sensei suggests would be the best course of action, yet the leader of the village was giving her a clear choice. "N-no I don't want to leave…" She wants to stay and persue her hobbies and interests. "I want to stay…" Even if she was convinced to stay, she still didn't have the confidence. "Y-you're right, Meruin-sama. If I leave, I've let my branch win. They'll have gotten rid of their embarassment…"
After a moment, Meruin gave Tsutsuji a nod. Approval.
"I take care of my own," he told her, "As repayment for the gift of leadership you all give me. I will do for you what I may and we will see this situation resolved here at home. Just remember this moment. Now, tomorrow, and at the end remember that the only way to have control in your life is to make this decision time and again. It is the only way to ensure those things most important to you stay with you."
The Mizukage's now braided hair slipped back over his shoulder, sliding down his chest. "Today, as the day I proclaimed you genin, I offer you my respect. Nothing is ever easy, and this is harder than most. But whether you feel it or not, you have just made another victory."
A beat. A separation.
"Is there anything more you wished to speak of?"
… "Iie, Mizukage-sama…" Tsutsuji says taking a deep breath and exhaling quickly. She stands up quickly and bows slightly. "Thank you for your help." Tsutsuji feels straightened out, somewhat, but where she goes from there isn't known. Tsutsuji would turn away for just a moment, "O-one more thing, actually, Meruin-sama…" She turns to face the leader of her village. "A-after everything that has happened, I know this sounds self-centered, but after the genin exams, I was the only one of my team to not die at the beast's hand… As a result, I… don't have a genin team. If it pleases you Meruin-sama, please consider me if there are any others with my same problem…"
At the mention of something more, Meruin cants his head just slightly, listening for what else was on the girl's mind. It was not a topic that surprised him.
"We will do so," he assured her. "There is a process for such a thing and once everything is in place to see you on an official team, it will be so. We prefer to have this done as quickly as possible, especially for new genin, so expect it to come to pass."
He lifted his chin slightly, bringing an air of finality.
"Now then. I will see to it that you are sent a missive detailing when you will meet with Kaguya Yuuka to explain to her your predicament. We will also investigate into the status and whereabouts of your mother. If there is nothing else, then you are dismissed with my wish for your best."
Tsutsuji nod her head in acceptance. "Thank you once more, Lord Meruin." The Kaguya will sort her worries with meeting a high-level member of her clan later, she turns and exits the Kage's office.