Date: January 23, 2012
While resting, Shintaro happens upon Yuuka and, strangely, asks for her advice.
"First Promotion Exams - Distance Coming Closer"
North Shiren Caverns [Land of Wind]
Welcome to the Shiren Caverns. This place is a maze of tubular tunnels, carved out over the ages by natural forces, some of them of the living variety. As desert locales go, the caverns are a hotbed of life, providing shelter from the merciless sun and collecting moisture. All manner of creepy-crawlies, reptiles, rodents, and even large predators like sand cats can be encountered here.
This area of the caverns features mostly small tunnels in great abundance, enough that exam participants can be sent into the network at different entrances and quite possibly not bump into each other for quite some time. Running and jumping about are limited, but opportunities for stealth and ambush abound.
Recently one of the smaller tunnels leading to the entrance area has been drastically expanded, almost perfectly circular in shape and twice as wide. Burn marks on the rocks themselves indicate this was caused by a great battle.
It had been a day or so since Yuuka last encountered anyone in the tunnels, the network lacing deep underground such a maze of confusion that one has to be careful not to move around in wide circles without realizing it. With a tired breath the kunoichi leans against the hard cavern wall and lowers the red glowstick in her hand, shifting the shadows around her from the movement. Fatigue had settled in and where she once thought she would be able to handle the exams now causes the woman to have doubts. Yuuka lightly brushes her free hand absently over her stomach before releasing a quiet sigh, her weight sliding down to sit on the soft earth with the tunnel wall to her back.
Having finally decided to move from his latest 'perch and kill' spot, Shintaro walks through the caverns casually. He peers around for traps and other examinees as he walks. While he still obviously as the urge to kill some Kiri nin, he is actually just going for a walk right now. No expression shows on his face save an intensity in his eyes. Coming from the opposite direction of Yuuka, he hears what sounds like someone moving, but he makes no effort to rush to meet whoever it may be. If they're looking for a fight, they will undoubtedly set a trap or come for him. May as well wait to see what happens.
The red glow of light stretches out and fades at the edge of the darkness, obscuring who or whatever else lurks in the tunnels at the edge of one's senses. Yuuka shifts her bag from her shoulders to set it beside her, the soft crunch of dry earth murmuring from subtle movement as she leans back against the hard wall behind her. Poisonous water, unknown and very possibly dangerous creatures, they had become more probable threats than the other shinobi presently. And who knows what else could live down here. Her covered head shakes lightly to herself as the kunoichi searches for something in her bag, soon finding the food pellet. Hardly what her body was craving at the moment. Yuuka quietly pops it into her mouth as she glances up to one side of the tunnel, gazing at the darkness for a short moment before looking in the other direction, still nothing.
Hearing the crunching and other sounds emanating from down the cavern, Shintaro continues toward that direction. Making that much does, either someone is tired or wants to be found. "Moving around too much can be quite dangerous," his voice rings out dryly as he nears the source of the sounds. "How can you fight if you're too tired to walk? Being stuck in here this long, you want to conserve as much energy as you can." Not really sure who he's talking to, he peers around as he walks, trying to find out exactly that.
Yuuka blinks her aquamarine eyes up at the darkness as she hears the voice coming from one direction. Or is it the echo coming from the other end of the tunnel? In either case the corner of her lips tugs with a slight smile, chuckling once and glancing down at her almost-flat belly with an affectionate brush of her slender fingers. "Exactly. So it would be better to take smaller breaks to keep from getting too tired to fight and defend yourself." Yuuka murmurs in reply, the amusement light in the tone of her voice. "That and I have a little one to rest for." She might not be certain just who it was that she was talking to, but he sounded friendly enough. Or at least to the point of announcing his presence instead of sneaking up on her.
Hearing a vaguely familiar voice, Shintaro blinks as he comes into view and sees exactly who he is talking to. "… Ah, you," he says rather flatly, eyes narrowing as he realizes who she is. "Little one?" he asks, quirking an eyebrow and glancing to her stomach. She's pregnant and in this exam? Could anyone worthy of being a Jounin be that stupid? "Not that I particularly care for anyone from your village, but would it not be wiser for you to wait until the next Exam to try to become a Jounin? The life of your child seems more pertinent an issue than gaining a rank."
Yuuka blinks again as she sees the figure coming into view from around the bend of the tunnel, the red light of the glowstick revealing his features. The shadow shinobi that had taken her student's life hostage. Her gaze narrows faintly, as does his before he glances down at her stomach. While she might not trust him, she does listen silently to his 'non-concern'. She breathes out slowly as she lowers her gaze to the front of her kimono, her fingers still brushing absently there. "I would agree with you if it were not for precautions taken before the exam, and natural body defenses." Yuuka murmurs softer. "It is very safe, I assure you. If there was even the remote possibility of it being harmed I would not even be here."
Listening to the explanation, Shintaro lifts an eyebrow once again. He brings his arms up and crosses them over his chest, glancing around. As best he can guess, she likely had some sort of Medical Jutsu used on her… "Oh, wait," he says as he looks back to Yuuka again, blinking a few times. "I take it you are the Kaguya Mushi was talking about needing to come help?" he asks, his cold expression breaking with a smile just faintly. "She is amazing, isn't she? If she is the one that prepared your precautions, I'm sure you have nothing to worry about."
Arms crossing over his chest, clearly a defensive gesture. Yuuka silently makes note of that as she watches him out of the corner of her eye. The slight smile, however, almost takes her by surprise since he has done nothing but look at her with seething hatred the few brief encounters they've exchanged. Her bright aquamarine eyes blink once before she quirks a brow beneath the hood of her kimono, curious. A moment or so passes before her expression softens and Yuuka chuckles softly. "Mushi… has been more than helpful since the beginning. She was the one that diagnosed and told me that I was with child. Even more, she has the brilliant insight to figure out that my body had already built a protective barrier around the womb, even before I knew I was pregnant." she murmurs, "She appeared right before the exam began, took me by surprise when she discovered a seal."
The more Mushi is talked about, Shintaro seems to loosen up a bit. Perhaps a bit of affection might be noticeable. "She's a miracle worker. A bit underhanded at times, but she is a very kind soul." He glances around for a moment, checking for other opponents as he reaches into his black Chuunin Vest and retrieves a small black box. "Since you and I aren't going to fight for obvious reasons," he says, looking back to her. "May I get your opinion on something?" The box is a bit bigger than a normal box a ring might come in, though that's not really something one would necessarily rule out with jewelry boxes involved.
"She is. Very kind indeed." Yuuka agrees without hesitance, smiling gently to herself as her fingers brush gently over her covered stomach. She pauses when he reaches into his vest, glancing up carefully to watch him as he pulls out a small black box. The kunoichi frowns at it for a short moment before quirking a brow at him. An opinion, hm? Why would he care about her opinion? Yuuka gives him a skeptical glance and leans her weight forward to get a possible better look. "I am willing to offer my opinion if I have one. What would it be on, out of curiosity?"
"We aren't exactly good friends, but a female opinion could be helpful," Shintaro says with a shrug before bringing his other hand up to open the box toward Yuuka. Once it is open, she will see a Gladiolus flower turned into a hairpin with purple gems along it, its stem black. This one likely took some money to have made. The Gladiolus itself, the gladiator flower, represents things like strength of character and such. "I left Mushi a bouquet of eleven of these flowers and a note that said she would receive the last when I get back from this round. Do you think she'll like this?.. As well as the gesture?"
The young Kaguya woman gives him a speculative glance for a short moment before she looks to the box, silent while he opens the black box. Yuuka couldn't help but blinks her blue green eyes with some surprise at the flower set with amethyst gems. Clearly he had strong feelings for Mushi to have spent a small fortune on the hairpin, and with such a playful and romantic bouquet before it. She looks over it for several moments before her expression softens and Yuuka leans back against the tunnel wall. "I may not be sure what her feelings about you may be, but clearly you treasure her." she murmurs, "You put allot of consideration into this gesture and it shows. If I were her, I am sure my heart would skip several beats."
Studying Yuuka's expressions as she examines the hairpin, Shintaro shows a faint smile. If he can get the approval of someone whose student he threatened to kill during a mission, he must be doing pretty well. "Thank you for your honesty," he says as he closes the box and tucks it back into his vest. "Her feelings can be a mystery and very hard to find out, but persistence seems to be slowly opening her up to me that way. She is actually the one that helped me through the condition I was in when we met during the war. I owe her a lot that money could not pay back, so maybe my heart will do… I just hope she doesn't get too upset when she finds out how I have been acting since I found something out that rekindled my hatred for Kirigakure anew." His eyes cast to the ground at the last statement, a low sigh escaping his lips.
"I offer nothing less." Yuuka murmurs with a light nod to him, returning the hand to gently and absently pet at her belly once more. "Hm, sometimes it is difficult to open up to someone in a world that is clouded by mystery, doubt, and pain. Just acceptance of people for who they are…" she smiles faintly to herself, lost in thought for the moment. "It is what everyone wants, really. Acceptance." Maybe she is just talking to herself, but eventually Yuuka returns her bright eyes back to Shintaro as she listens to him quietly, brow furrowing gently with a hint of confusion. He found out something that reconfirmed his hatred, and he shifted his eyes away from her as result. In shame? Yuuka frowns gently for several moments before glancing down at her belly, at the child that has yet to be born. "Such a wide generalization you must have of us." she murmurs quietly.
"Indeed," Shintaro says with a nod, glancing back up to Yuuka. "I'm willing to accept her, no matter what. It's just a matter of waiting for her to open up. A relationship built over time has a strong foundation, though, so it's all worth it." At her next comment, he lets out a sigh and shakes his head. "I was rather proud of myself for getting past it, but finding that out… It's like someone grabbed a crank and turned all my progress backwards into the pain again. I realize I need to get past it again to have a healthy relationship with Mushi, but it's going to be a rough road."
The corner of her lips tugs with an unfelt smile as Yuuka lifts her bright blue green eyes up at the shadow-user. Whatever this was must be something significant in order for him to feel this hatred all over again. "Whether you grow beyond it for yourself or for her, just make sure that you are truly happy in the end." she murmurs, "Though I am sure that Mushi-san would want you to be happy in either case instead of dwelling on hatred, because a person only feels empty and hallow inside with hatred… Believe me, I know. But… I hope that whatever it is that you found out, I hope you do not hate all of us because of it." Something akin to sadness is seen in her eyes as Yuuka gently presses her lips together. "I would not blame you if you did."
Listening silently for a few moments, Shintaro glances between Yuuka's face and the ground. "I'm trying not to, but giving in to it is so easy…" He stares down to the ground for a few moments in silent thought. "But I can't tarry in such darkness if I hope to be happy with Mushi," he says, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath. After a moment, he looks up and shakes his head. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't take up so much of your time. There is a healer who has a tent setup near the hot springs. You should probably go see her if you continue feeling too fatigued."
"It is an easy path." Yuuka murmurs lightly in agreement, the light smile becoming more genuine. "No matter the reason it just has to be a good one, and Mushi is certainly that." The hood of her clock shakes gently with her covered head, sighing lightly to herself while her thumb brushes against the faint curve of her stomach. "To be honest, I have seen nothing but tunnels and darkness. A hot springs in the middle of an exam would be all too tempting for me." The smile brightens, even positively sparkles in her eyes with mirth, "I am alright, really."
"I completely agree," Shintaro says with a smile. It's rather odd to be having this pleasant a conversation with a Kaguya, but Yuuka doesn't seem like a bad person. However, she won't likely ever get an apology for him roasting her arrogant cousin's face off. That guy was asking for it. "I suppose I need to be moving on to find a new place to sit and wait. Thank you for your advice. I'll see you around." With that, he turns to begin walking the path he was headed down before, spirits perhaps a bit lighter.
It was rather nice to see him with a smile, certainly more pleasant, and Yuuka couldn't help but smile back at him. He was a kid in love after all. "You are welcome. And good luck on the exams." she replies, lifting a hand to wave to him when he turns around to continue on. And he did seem lighter than before, maybe even hopeful. The corner of her lips tugs gently. And if just one more person began to trust their village, it was a step closer to something close to peace. "Yeah, good luck."