Date: January 28, 2012
On the last day before they're to be released from the Shiren Caves, Hitoshi, a new friend, and Naru sit around (or sleep) around the campfire. A serious issue in Hitoshi's mind is brought to life. In the light of his newfound realization and subsequent freedom it brings, what shall he do?
Poster's note: Profanity filtered in obvious places.
"First Promotion Exams - I'll Face Myself"
Somewhere Inside the Shiren Caves…
Anxiety was taking over Naru at this point, holding close to her two scrolls in her pouch she remained close to a slightly lit fire. Rested in an indian style position she silently kept her eyes on the flames that bellowed before her, almost as if she was lost in a meditative state, in reality though she was listening out to anyone that would disturb the balance, she had to be alert if someone was going to try and take her scrolls again. Nevertheless she kept herself quite and alert, secluded within herself as she waited for these exams to finally be over.
While one remained wide awake, the other slept. Since rejoining Naru, Hitoshi had held to this little rotation when the other would get tired. Curled up in the bedroll and relaxing in quiet slumber, he had his back turned away from the fire and Naru both. From time to time, his arm would slip out of the sleeping bag and flop over uselessly, and he would thus continue his roll until he flopped over completely. As he rolls back over, he opens his eyes slightly, groaning and sighing a little bit. That uselessly flopping arm comes up and his fingers rub into his eyes slightly as he lets his eyes adjust to the campfire light.
And then, he sits up, rubbing the back of his neck and shaking his head. Okay, so maybe that sleep wasn't as sound as he thought it would be. He just shakes his head a little bit, looking around until he sees Naru, and he squints slightly. "You look a little more tired than I do, Naru-kun," he remarks lightly, sitting up a little more and wriggling out of the sleeping bag. He stands, stretching, and he moves to perch himself on a rock that he'd been using as a sitting stool. "Get some rest. I'll take the rest of your watch… Not like I can really get into a deep sleep anyway…"
A day or so had passed since Hitoshi had shared his food with Yuuka, a favor that had not been forgotten as she slipped away in the middle of the night into the depths of the tunnels. Other shinobi were not so much a worry to her at this point, but food that had not been contaminated by poison that had somehow seeped into the earth. It made life even more difficult for those taking the exam. Still, she hunted by the subtle red glow of the glowstick that hangs from one hip, taking her time to extend her senses to her surroundings. In the end she was successful, spearing a pair of decent-sized lizards that would be enough for several people. And better still they were alive, so she could hope that they had yet to be affected by the poison in the water. Yuuka breathes out softly as her bright eyes from beneath the hood of her kimono glance through the dark tunnel, trying to navigate her way northward while the bodies of her catch behind her follow in tow, hovering a few inches above the ground as if by magic.
"I still have quite a bit of fight in me, Hitoshi-san," Naru simply replies back, in reality the Uchiha was feeling rather tired, but she was pushing herself a little longer, just enough for her to stay awake… She really wanted to leave and see daylight again. "We already have what we need, too bad we can't just leave…But not much longer now, soon we can eat something very delicious rather than feasting on scraps and friendly suna-life," Shes goes on, nagging about their current situation. She had no time for this, she needed to train for the next part of the exams. Finally though her ears had twitched slightly at the sound of life, was it foot steps? she peered around intently before finally attempting to get Hitoshi's attention. " I think I hear something…" Naru whispers quietly, simply remaining silent to see just who or what it was.
"I dunno. That spider was pretty good eating, even if I did kind of overdo it when I killed it with the fire." Hitoshi remains perched on his rock, sighing a little bit as he watches Naru with quiet, soft eyes. They reflect just slightly in the light. As she begins to go on about training, he tilts his head a little bit, shaking his head slightly. "I'm pretty sure you'll do fine. Me, though… -I- simply need to disappear and go into hyperactive training mode before the next part. That's if we get a br—"
Footsteps. "I think I heard them too," he remarks quietly. Suddenly, he looks toward the fire, and he considers dousing it. But… what's the chance it could be a legit enemy? And if it's an animal… the light could scare it. Instead, he peers into the darkness, trying to see… which, of course, he -does- make out a faint reddish glow… Eh. No way.
"… Kaguya-san?" He calls into the darkness, squinting… "S'that you?"
Yuuka blinks her bright eyes at the sound of voices up ahead, slowing her steps just slightly as her hand reaches down clasp the red glowstick from her hip. The light shifts visibly as she lifts it out in front of her, nearing the end of the tunnel at a cautious pace. Hearing her name she couldn't help but quirk a pale brow, the red markings on her forehead lifting subtly while a small smile tugs at the corner of her soft lips, "You can call me Yuuka-san if you want to, you know." Yuuka murmurs as she emerges, pausing at the edge of the larger cavern and lit aglow with the red light from the stick in her hand. She didn't want to spook him and the girl, so the Kaguya waited for them to greet her first.
Naru wasn't going to greet the woman, especially since she had no idea who she was. the red glowing stick was enough to make her alarmed, shifting her stance she began to sit up and took a light step back, her fists balling up briefly, she wasn't planning on getting caught off guard any time soon. " Who is this? Hitoshi-san?" Naru asked him curiously, keeping her distance and her guard unwavered, as she got a closer look at the woman she couldn't help but to feel slightly off, didn't she already see this person before? And if that was the case from where….?
There was a moment of pause and Hitoshi considered that voice he heard. He squinted slightly against the dark, and when he saw the little red glowstick bobbing… he was pretty sure. He smiles a little bit, shaking his head toward Naru and raising his hand to gently calm her and to keep her from springing like a trap. "Her name's Kaguya Yuuka," he remarks quietly, "and she's a chuunin from Kirigakure… We're safe from her." He smiles some, shaking his head and then looking back in the direction of where Yuuka was coming from, he motions her forward. "Yuuka-san, it's just me. I've joined up with another one of my village-mates from Konoha here," he calls toward her.
"Counting down like the rest of us, then?"
While Kiri and Konoha may not be thte best of friends after two wars, Yuuka still smiles hopefully to Naru for a quiet moment or so while Hitoshi vouches for her. "I am pretty safe, I assure you, unless you call me a baby-eater." she chuckles onces as she takes a few steps towards the fire, turning just enough to motion to the pair of lizards that she had managed to hunt down. "I think these are good to eat, and I am more than happy to share. Well, we have to make sure it is not poisoned, but that should not be too much."
"I'm fine," Naru spoke outloud, protesting against trying anything the Kaguya had to offer, she made it a point to trust no one except for those she truly did consider her allies, she was slightly hungry but for now she ws going to avoid it. " She doesn't pose any problems…? Hmm if you say so Hitoshi-san," Naru had given in, though keeping her eyes on the woman she backed off a little bit and uncoiled her fist. " So you're in this exam also…? You look a little… more interesting to be a genin, I'm assuming you're going around for the jounin exams?" She attempted to bring up some conversation, brushing her black locks of hair out of her pumpkin hue'd eyes.
"She's on the Jounin side, yeah. Trust me, Naru-kun… she's safe," Hitoshi replies softly, turning his eyes toward her carefully for a moment and watching Naru with a little worry. She'd been so tense. But, like everyone else, including Hitoshi, she was probably going stir-crazy in these caves. Something about a lack of light had something to do with it, probably. They do say sunlight contributes to various nutrients that sort of keeps things going in the body… affecting body chemistry, and neurological chemistry.
It was no surprise they all weren't trying to kill eachother, in that case.
He smiles a little toward Yuuka, raising his hand slightly and shaking his head. "Thanks, but no thanks, Yuuka-san," he replies to her softly, "you're not going to get out of the fresh meal promise that easily," he jokes, grinning slightly toward the woman… "But if you're going to cook something for yourself, allow me."
He looks toward the fire for a moment, and begins to form a few handseals… before locking own, and spewing a small amount of fire toward the pit, lighting it back up anew, flaring slightly as he hits it with the Lesser Fireball. He then looks toward her, nodding. "Help yourself."
Yuuka lifts both of her small hands in mock surrender, "I had no such intentions, I promise. I simply wanted to share is all." she chuckles once, her feelings aren't hurt in the least. Moving beside the fire she lowers the catch to the soft earth floor, glancing from Hitoshi to Naru as the girl watches her with a mix of suspicion and curiosity it looks like. The corner of her lips tugs lightly from the observation, "I will consider that a compliment, but it was only about a year or so that I was a Genin myself. You are correct though, I am in the Jounin exams." She won't mention that usually all Kaguya look a bit interesting, but that really is beside the point. Yuuka glances back to the roaring fire, giving Hitoshi a thankful smile, "You will spoil me if you keep this up." she chuckles.
"Just a year…?" Naru spoke softly under her breath, it caused her to cringe just lightly, if this woman was able to rise through the ranks so quickly in just two years perhaps Naru had to work a little bit harder. " Looks like I will have my work cut out for me then…the training doesn't stop after these exams," She speaks with a light grin, though watching that Hitoshi took the lead and resetting the fire, she decided to calm herself down a bit and take a seat next to it, distance from the others but it was just her cautiousness. "Can't wait to leave…"
"It just gets a little more intense and a lot more interesting as we move up," Hitoshi replies softly toward Naru, nodding a little bit. He, too, was sitting relatively close to the fire, but everyone certainly had their personal space around them, easily. He sits, cross-legged, regarding both of them now, tilting his head a little bit. At Naru's remark on leaving, he nods slightly, sighing some and rolling his neck. "Me too, Naru-kun," he replies quietly, rubbing his eyes a little with his fingers as he watches the fire. "I'll be glad to see daylight again."
As he regards the Kaguya, he shakes his head a little, lifting a hand quietly. "In these caves, even the strong need a little help from those of us who aren't so strong, from time to time." He grins, and winks slightly, before regarding them both, putting his hands together in front of himself. "So, it's coming down to the wire! The fittest of the fit, the ultimate of our villages!" His tone is half-announcer-esque, half mocking… "… and I still have no idea what I'm going to do in the next phase of the exams, whatever they are. I've heard we're gonna have to fight one another, one on one…" A pause…
"To the death." He keeps as straight of a face as he can… before he just begins to snicker… and then laugh. "Surely they're not going to make us try to kill one another, right? I mean… sure, these exams are supposed to, in the end, be the fittest of the fit coming out on top… but they can't just shovel those of us aside completely so far as that we would be -killed.- Right?"
Her expression softens with a gentle smile as Naru does, chuckling lightly to herself, "I became a Genin at the age of twenty, but I am a bit of a special case I suppose." she replies lightly. The Kaguya woman certainly didn't give off that 'killer' vibe that most of her clan is so renoun for, instead Yuuka gives the impression that she's able to soften the hearts of anyone she meets. Settling beside the fire, Yuuka breathes out a long, soft breath as she lifts a hand to absently brush over the front of her kimono.
She then turns over her free hand with a glance of her crystaline aquamarine eyes, watching silently as the center of her palm bulges for a fraction of a moment before the skin splits and stark white bone pushes itself through, a light pool of blood gathering around the broken skin as the most remarkable thing happens. The ivory bone begins to flow upwards into the air like a tendril, fluid without regard of the law of gravity. The bone breaks away from her hand to float in front of her eyes, morphing as if it were made of dough instead of diamond-hard Kaguya bone, into that of a dagger.
Yuuka turns her covered head lightly to the first lizard, lowering her chin as the sharp edge of the blade moves through the air towards it to begin the delicate work of skinning it. "I would not be surprised if they had us kill each other." she murmrus lightly, completely serious, even a bit saddened at the thought. "I hear that is what happens in the academy in my village, the studnents kill each other until there is only one left, and that person becomes a Genin." The woman sighs softly, "And my heart breaks for each young life."
A sweat drop had trickled down Naru's cheek as she peered over at Yuuka at first a n expression of curiosity which quickly had become something similiar to disgust. " Holy fire…" Naru muttered quietly under her breath, perhaps locking eyes with Hitoshi for the moment before finally looking off to the side. " We aren't going to be tossed to the side to die, to many people are watching and will get switched off by that during the exams," Naru spoke softly, " At least during this phase they have an excuse to say why we died," Naru states before finally laying back along her back, with the fire burning over her she yawns quietly. " I don't like Kirigakure… and I don't want to go back there," She states rather coldly, though it seemed as though she was intent on getting some sleep..
Of course, Hitoshi had joked. He meant to lighten the move with the talk. Instead, when Yuuka is quite serious about the fact that it's -possible,- his eyes widen for a moment, then shrink, down to a relatively small size, as he considers that. That's when he locks eyes with Naru, looking genuinely concerned for a moment. "… That's pretty cruel," he remarks slowly, shaking his head a little bit and sighing some. He gulps, then. And now, he kind of sinks into his own thoughts for the time being, drawing his legs up a little bit more…
He knows he's not the strongest Genin down here by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, he's sure that he's probably only slightly better than the one Genin he actually defeated to get one of his scrolls. He had been -creamed- by Tsun… but to be fair… she had been going pretty -crazy- on himself, Naru, and Eremi… And so, he sinks into his thoughts, considering all that for a moment more or two…
"Well. We did know what we were getting into," he remarks softly toward Naru quietly, "and we knew there'd be some pretty heavy risks…" He shrugs. "Hopefully, it won't be like that, though…"
The corner of her lips tugs with alight smile as she glances up at the pair of Genin, "Do not worry though, while it may be possible, I doubt they would do that for the exams. Killing each other for the sake of entertainment to the masses is not an option and I am sure that the Kages would never allow it to happen on purpose." Accidental death is a different matter entirely, but she won't say that out loud. "They just want to test out abilities, so give it your all and if you pass, great. If not, then it is no big deal and you can try another year. At least you can say that you gave it your all." Yuuka glances to Naru at the girl's last statement, not really all that surprised since most of the other countries hated the Land of Water. Her hand continues to lightly brush over her stomach as the last of the lizard skin is sliced away. The bone Kaguya dagger hovers as it is stretched into a long senbon, about an inch thick as it then spears through the meat from one side to the other, lifting a few inches in the air to then move over the fire and slowly spin. "I think the little one is a bit hungry today." Yuuka murmurs, changing the topic with a soft chuckle.
Despite the conversatiosn there wasn't much coming from naru, if anything she ahd suddenly went very quiet. Next to the fire she began to curl up soundly, arms resting behind her head as a way to give her some sort of softness to rest upon. It wasn't long until she had completely passed out, unable to even offer a remark about what was just said, she simply passed out with light snivels, snoring quietly to herself as she made the best of these new sleeping conditions…
At the comment on Yuuka's unborn kid, he smiles a little faintly… but it's wane. Thin, and somewhat forced. He had a lot on his mind now.
Turning his head and watching Naru begin to drift off, Hitoshi shakes his head softly. "Another example of why I'm afraid of what's going to come next. Her and Eremi-kun… he'd been down here… and he left…" He pauses, sighing some. "They both kept me safe for more than half the exams. She's wore herself practically out while trying to watch my back, I feel like," he explains. He just shakes his head again, reaching up and rubbing his eyes, as he settles in and watches the Kaguya cook, tilting his head.
"I knew that it was going to be tough down here, you know? When we came in, I knew we were going to be in inherent danger. But… I feel like I'm completely in over my head, you know?" He pauses, then, clearing his throat a little bit and taking a breath… "Like, maybe if I make it out of here, I need to back out. Even though I have the scrolls… I know I'm not going to stand a chance against everyone else in whatever comes next. And it's surely not going to be an easier task than this… and the possibility of death is.. well. We just talked about that."
He pauses, watching the fire. "I'm rambling. Sorry."
Yuuka lifts a brow as she glances to Hitoshi, quiet for several moments as he talks. Just talks. Of worries he has, aware of them or not they still spill from his lips. She glances to the fire for several moments with only the sound of the fire crackling among the silence. Witha quiet breath she lifts her left hand to brush her fingertips at the edge of her hood, pushing it back from her head to release a waterfall of snow white locks to spill over her shoulders and along the curve of her back. "Fear is a natural part of life." Yuuka murmurs, her hands cupped lightly over one another in her lap, "From small everyday things to life-changing moments, fear is constant. It is what we as shinobi live with." Her aquamarine eyes blink slowly, purposefully as she looks to Hitoshi. "Your friends believe in you. If you back out even with the scrolls you earned, it will be as if they had fought for you for nothing. You owe them to try in the very least, even if you do not have faith in yourself." she murmurs, "True strength is not about winning. Strength is having the courage to face your fear and not back down, regardless of the outcome."
As Yuuka begins to reply to Hitoshi's rantings, he listens intently. He considers her words… and takes a breath, sighing a little bit. He closes his eyes, taking a breath again and slips his fingers together. "My fear… is if I do actually get far enough and I, by some stretch, -pass- the exam and I am promoted…" He looks to Naru again, tilting his head again.
"I take people like Naru's lives into my hands. People like my teammates back home." He pauses, taking a breath. "And I know I'm not strong. I'm afraid of making that wrong decision." That decision that's gonna end up getting us -all- killed… or worse, just -them.-" He sighs, then, closing his eyes and resting his head on his hands. "I sometimes feel like their… their faith's misplaced."
He just shakes his head, though. "I entered this exam for the wrong reasons. I had somethin' I felt like I needed to prove, to begin with. Unlike Naru-kun or the other members of my team back home… or you, Yuuka-san, I wasn't born into a shinobi clan. And there've never been shinobi in my family. My mother's a school teacher and my father's a merchant," he laughs, "and she helps him out a lot on trips…" Gypsy-esque? He takes a breath. "We settled in Konoha when I was… eight or so. Then the Academy came into place… and they decided that an even better way to contribute to the village was to turn me over to be trained…" He laughs again, shaking his head and sighing.
"Most of these people've trained more than half their natural lives for moments like this. Me? Only two, three years…" He pauses. "This wasn't my life and what I was born to do. Sometimes I love it… and sometimes… I absolutely hate it."
"I felt as if I needed to prove to my teammates… to -myself,- that I belonged and that this was what I needed to do. So I signed up to take the written exam," he explains quietly. "Imagine my surprise when I found out I passed!" he exclaims then, with another odd laugh, and he shakes his head… "And I found out what the second phase was. I just knew that I'd be able to use the same smarts I used on the exam to make it through this… and I'd just glide through."
He chuckles… "A concussion, and a healed leg fracture later," he remarks softly, reaching down to pat at his left leg, wiggling it slightly as he extends it to do so… "Such is not the case."
"Even if you pass the exam, it does not mean you have to accept the promotion." Yuuka murmurs without hesitance, "Just coming this far shows what you have in you already. Refusing to quit is what is looked for in a shinobi. But if you feel you are truly not ready, then that is not fear at all." The kunoichi falls silent again as she listens, her blue green eyes focused on the boy while he spills his life story to her. And after, several moment still pass with quiet passing between them. "I may have been born into a clan, but that matters little." Yuuka says softly. "I was imprisoned for most of my life. After seeing my village burned to the ground and my family slaughtered in front of me, for twenty years I lived underground as a prisoner. Never seeing sunlight, caged like an animal and used for experimentation. I have become a freak of nature even within my clan."
She breathes out softly through her nose as she closes her eyes, her hand gentle over the slight bump of her stomach. "Your past may sculpt who you are, but only you dictate who you will become." The corner of her lips tugs fantly as Yuuka opens her eyes, watching the flames as they dance before her. "You have no idea how wonderful it is to have /freedom/. To have even have a /choice/ in the first place in what your life will become." She chuckles once to herself, "Your worries are so small in comparison if this has been your first real obsticle in your life when others have so much harder lives."
As the answer comes forward, Hitoshi listens to the woman's wisdom, and he takes a breath, continuing to hold his head and just kind of watch the fire. It's got him snagged in watching… the words catching him by the mind and tugging him in. After a few minutes of breathing… he finally closes his eyes, and for a moment or two, he stops breathing, having sunk into such deep thought… before finally, he gulps, and when he exhales, what comes out is probably something unexpected.
"I'm a coward. A selfish, game-talking coward."
He breathes normally, then, opening his eyes, which are somewhat red at the thought of what he's admitting. Not exactly teary… but there, to an extent, a couple roll. "I know that I put up a front for show otherwise… but when it comes down to it, I want to follow, rather than lead." He gulps a little, taking in a deep breath as he thinks about this further…
"I'm afraid that me being responsible for others is going to be their downfall because I do something wrong, and I'd honestly rather look out for myself…" He pauses, then, taking in another deep breath, and closing his eyes for a moment, reaching up to wipe his eyes as he does… "Maybe, though… when my decisions determine the outcome, maybe… it's okay to be a little afraid. Because, like you said… that's just human nature. To worry some." He looks toward Yuuka, then, his eyes clearing up. He looks a little… fresher than before, perhaps. A little more resilient. Not quite as wilted. "When those I care for are counting on me, we can learn to count on each other, too… And that's just, in the end, who I really am, isn't it?"
He begins to smile a little bit, nodding toward Yuuka slightly… "I think I needed to hear you say these things, Yuuka-san."
The corner of her lips tugs with a gentle smile as Yuuka watches him, "And that is something in yourself you can change if you want to. Is that not fantastic in itself? Knowing you have that option to improve yourself and become a better person? Even more, that you can grow to be able to protect the people you treasure the most in the world?" She lightly shakes her snow white head to herself as she looks down at the front of her kimono, her small fingers still delicately rubbing against the front with utmost affection. "Its alright to be a little bit selfish, or to have a little worry, so long as you never lose your true purpose. Because being captured by fear is the worst prison to be in…"