Date: January 10, 2011
Following the match between Mune and Tosai, Kaede has a breakdown. Serin and Taji get caught in the middle of it.
Warehouse District - Kusagakure
After the match between Mune and Tosai, a figure was rushing through the streets at a pace he was not familiar with. He had ran all his life, as a child, as an teenager, as an shinobi. He had walked as well, as a child, as a teenager, as a shinobi. As a fugitive, as a wanderer, as a man born from strife and who had seen enough to peg another 40 years, or take away 40 years from his lifespan. But this pace, was something between running and walking. He had wanted to flee, and he had wanted to stop in place and crumple to the ground. Of all the things he could feel, he had felt the one thing he could not afford to feel. Regret.
His bloodshot eye, looked up towards the sky and it was the same as than when he had fought a friend, and an enemy, and himself. It was dark, and the moon was not visible. It looked like it was gonna rain with a crimson sheen cradling the moon in it's well of endless clouds. His vision turned crimson than as well, a piercing headache like a needle probing into his skull. Regret felt like lobotomy to him.
He than looked around himself. No people, and yet he could hear the distant echo of footsteps approaching or going farther away, he could hardly tell. The sound of a bottle breaking shook him up a bit, but he started to think that it was all just his mind playing tricks on him, because he had some anger to vent and it would be most unfortunate to do so here.
His hands pressed together, regardless of the fear as his heartbeat picked up it's pace as well in anticipation and excitement. He had felt regret. And he was more furious than a tempest. The flames of world wars were just a flicker of a candle flame compare to the raging inferno that was his anger and rage.
All because of those words. 'You are nicked' Raiga had said, 'You are broken'.
There was much planning to do. Serin had told someone — the only person who had ever tried to help him without having an ulterior motive — that he would give up on killing. He didn't NEED to be the bad guy for the sake of others. He could be good. His existence could be about MORE than suffering. He told his only friend that.
And here he was, after seeing a single match in a tournament where people cannot die, plotting the assassination of a woman who was supposedly an ally at one time. It was all because of that one jutsu. He had watched how Mune fought, seen the weapons she employed, and determined that if she is the sort of person who would develop a chemical weapon of that scale and lethality OUTSIDE of the tournament, then who knows what else she might be working on? He would need to observe longer, of course. He would need to know more about her capabilities than what a single match could reveal. But the man calling himself 'Serin' has already decided: He is going to extract every piece of information he can from Kishi Mune about her TRUE master and then he is going to kill her. There are too many monsters in the world already. If he has to become one to eliminate his 'fellows', then so be it.
'I am sorry, Ta-kun.' Serin thinks to himself as he advances into the warehouse district of Kusagakure, where he has been living since November of last year. It is unwise to frequent the same place for so long. All of his training has told him that. But he has to wait for the tournament to be over. Then, and only then, can he begin to move on with his life.
Garbed in the same brown robe and hood as from the tournament match, with the same guitar case strapped to his back, Serin does not look particularly special from a distance. The reports of a 'ghost woman' at the Stadium would not be connected to him. For one thing, he has shed his female guise. For another, he appears perfectly solid at the moment. The only ghostly aspects about him are his pale flesh-tone, his stark-white hair, and his featureless grey eyes. Somewhere in this district, there is a building he has been training in. Where was it again?
It was true. There were monsters in this world wearing the flesh of men. But there were far more worse things. Monsters that didn't know they were monsters, and were so believable in their act of doing good to fool people, before they breakdown and do something bad. There was nothing noble about that. There was nothing worth of song about that.
The figure in the warehouse district, wrapped in it's cloak, stood motionless and silent for a long moment. He had everything he ever wanted. He had power. He had strength. He had allies. He had everything he wanted to attain when he still had the goal of freeing his people from the oppression Kaede.. No.. Kureno had seen. But that cause had slipped past him once he returned and found that his people have died for the name of their 'conqueror' and were no longer treated so unfairly.
'So, for what have I made enemies?' Kaede asked himself, and his knuckles were white as he curled his hands into fists.
Silence was the only answer. And than rain crashed down from the skies like waves battering a beach.
Slowly the raindrops falling begin to crystallize and fall slower in a breaking of the laws of physics apparently. How can crystal float? It was like they fell into a cooler temperature and turned to ice, except they were crystals.
Soon, the ground is littered with crystallized raindrops and the very ground starts crystallizing. The poison of crystal started climbing up the walls, and up the rooftops. It seemed to stretch so far and wide it was rediculous.
The air sizzled as if it was charged with electricity ready to lash out like a whip to anyone daring to come close, and in that moment Kaede thought he should perhaps say something. Maybe someone is listening. But his mind felt numb, he could not find any words. And so.. so he crouched down to the ground, and than sat, bringing his knees closer to his body. And he started to hum a song he knew once long ago but forgot the words. And when it sounded like the chorus was gonna hit, something cracked and the air sizzled louder with charged chakra and turned into a myriad of crystals so high and with a point so sharp and deadly as to no doubt look as if capable of slaying Gods. They came from the ground, and from the air. They pierced both without discrimination. Crashing into buildings and tearing out the rooftops, toppling walls and smashing into windows. They uprooted entire parts of buildings from their foundations and shattered them. And they were so many, that from the center, where Kaede was, it looked like a endless field of crystals. And for that matter, from any outside point, it looked like a field of crystals.
If Sami were truely a musician and he heard the humming, he could perhaps recognize the only thing Kaede had to say, or hum if you will, as the song titled 'In a Field of Crystals'
Serin is not as aware of sounds in his environment as he used to be. This is not through any failing of his, but more through an absence of a certain something… Something that used to balance him both mentally and physically. Still, the drumming of something too solid to be water upon the streets and rooftops is enough to make him stop and listen. Hail? No. Everywhere else the rain is falling normally. It splashes against the street surrounding him in fat drops that begin to form into what will eventually become puddles. But something just screams at him suddenly, 'DANGER. MOVE.'
So he moves. Serin leaps backwards as crystal shards begin to tear through walls, plants, buildings, and anything else unfortunate enough to be in the way. Fortunately this area is mostly abandoned. Old warehouses, fallen out of use and into disrepair, have no purpose now. Whoever is doing this is doing Kusagakure a favor. But if it continues to spread, or someone wanders into the area and does not have finely-tuned senses like Serin's…
He starts to reach for the guitar case on his back, but then remembers that what he seeks is no longer there. Sighing, he instead reaches under his cloak with one hand and draws forth a normal wakizashi from its sheath. He has yet to settle on a blade, feeling none of them suit him as well as the one he mastered first, but this one will do for now. Serin makes several leaps quickly enough to render him a silent, dark-colored blur that has moved from the street to the opposite side of the warehouse district in a handfull of seconds. Then he gazes into unrelenting rain of death, and attempts to identify the source of it. Crystallized water… Not ice, but actual crystal. This is not within Serin's experience, but he'll deal. What would be REALLY smart would be to just get out of here and let the local authorities handle it. But he already feels an unpleasnt niggling sensation in his belly when he thinks about how he'll explain to his friend that he HAD to kill. He just HAD to. To have to explain that he could take a life but he couldn't save potentially dozens… That is too much.
So he begins to form hand seals and focuses his Chakra. Chakra has always been a difficult thing for him to mold, but hardship is not new. "Kirigakure no Jutsu! <Hidden Mist Technique!>" Fog begins to form almost instantly, flowing into the area, filling the streets, and masking the buildings that are being destroyed. And hopefully, this will also mask Serin if he needs to do anything… Risky.
The tournament seems to have no end, to Taji. He has so much to do and everything is on hold, thanks to the attack of the Konoha ninja and his team looking after him. Annoying. He has plans! And they are stuck in neutral. But, tonight he has managed to find some time alone, away from his team, away from the matches and he has snuck off to find Serin, here in the warehouse district. He has no idea of the mayhem going on in the vacant and unoccupied district. Who would be out here at night, after all. Things are locked up, security is light, most of the buildings are just… there, empty of people at least.
And it is into this mostly empty area, Taji heads, cautious but unaware of anything but the annoying rain and the darkness. He keeps his coat pulled up, hood over his head, making him seem more like a monk than a ninja at the moment. He moves along, light on his feet through the rain. The sounds of destruction though are hard to miss. Hearing the creaking of torn buildings and all makes Taji pause. He has to see, though, what is going on. It could be trouble with Serin, and if it is, he has to know. He pulls the cloak tighter around his form, grateful for the protection from the rain as the waterproof dark shaded cloak helps him blend into the darkness of the cloudy night.
Moving swiftly through the streets, Taji comes upon the area where the crystal spikes have done damage, and he slows, approaching more cautiously yet still. Then he frowns as fog starts to spread, making it hard to even see where he is going. He was able to make out something from the lights of the village before, but fog makes that near impossible. He mutters softly to himself as he hesitates, and is left observing mostly by sound as he inches forward, to see what is going on or at least try to hear what is going on as he sneaks forward slowly.
If someone were to see the cloaked figure now, they could perhaps see something so vividly portrayed as to make one wonder if Crystal is alive or has thoughts of it's own. Though, that all is just exagaration for the purpose of adding beauty to the image that would imprint on the observer. The figure is cradled, and absolutely unharmed, by the crystals. All the crystals at the epicenter seem to twist and bend, cradling the figure, as if giving him a hug. His neck is neatly nestled inches away from a sharp tip that looks as if it could've decapitated him. The detail on the crystal itself, with nearly invisible patterns, make it appear as if it is moving, rocking the figure in it's 'arms'. Though, even that is just a play of light.
Than the crystal slowly begins to crack, and crack again, and crack further and before long countless miniature shards tear from the crystals, the spikes slowly disappearing like blooming flowers as the shards hit by the moonlight appear like cherry blossoms and float off in the wind, gathering up above and somewhere in the distance into a cloud as the figure falls down to the street, on his back and motionless.
Though, he manages to catch a glimpse of the moonlight shining down through the rain he learns to appreciate it only after the fog settles in and obscures his view to the clouds.
A thought occured to him than, but it was so miniscule and quiet that it slipped past his alertness and into oblivion. The fact that fog was obscuring the area didn't even occur to him on a conscious level as he raised his hand up towards the sky and couldn't even see it when it was fully outstretched. Though, he knew it was there, because he could still feel the raindrops splattering against his palm and face.
"What a strange feeling." He whispered than, and he could feel the chill of the fog than in the tips of his fingers. "Am I Kureno? Or Kaede?" He continued whispering, oblivious of the fact that more people are sneaking up on him, to investigate. And a big part of him could care less if he got arrested. Hopefully, he would surrender quietly. He felt in the mood for surrendering quietly. But what if they said something wrong? "Do I have a heart?" He asked as he placed one hand over his chest, feeling the steady pulse of blood rushing through his veins. And yet somehow distant.
Than his eyes narrowed down. "What the hell!?" His voice than sounded more serious instead of distant. "No!" He climbs up to his feet. His mind felt like it was reeling from a car crashing into a train of sorts. But he felt clarity within himself despite the lack of such outside. The fog was more serious than he first thought it was. "I can do this. I can go forwards. I need to speak to Raig— … fog?" When he realized it was too late. He knew that Kirigakure Nin used that technique, but he has only seen it twice, and both times not from a Kirigakure nin.
"Kirin? Is that you?"
From his perch atop what may have once been a chapel or church of some kind, Serin watches as his jutsu spreads the fog throughout the district. He is perfectly calm. Anger at destruction of property? No way. The risk to others? Get real. The risk to HIMSELF? Don't make him laugh. There is no malice anywhere in what he is doing. He is not committed to a kill or even a fight yet. He just knows that there is someone or something dangerous in the area, and he needs to make it stop being dangerous.
By any means necessary.
As the fog banks continue to roll in, they billow higher and higher, until it even reaches the top of the structure he stands upon. It passes over him. The fog continues on through and Serin is already gone. Then the mist rises even higher, and the decrepit structure is engulfed as well. A figure was seen approaching from the north-west. Serin is keeping the fog thick, but not so thick that nothing can be seen anywhere. Vague outlines, shadows, hints of movement… All are plainly visible within about 15 to 30 feet. The shifting of the clouds of mist may even change visibility for the better at times — mostly not, though.
So when a figure lands on the street as quietly as though made of air instead of flesh, a fair distance in front of the 'monk', the individual would be seen at least somewhat. Gender, facial features, etc. are all unidentifiable at this distance. But the voice should be recognized at least… "…." is all that is offered at first. Then the figure says, "You are not the one responsible for this." It is merely a statement of fact, not an accusation or a question.
Meanwhile, closer to Kaede, his question for a 'Kirin' goes unanswered for several long seconds. Then a somehow 'hollow' and 'distant' voice echoes forth with a one-word answer.
Having gotten close enough by inches to hear things, Taji pauses in the shadow of a building, hoping no one has spotted him yet. If they have, he is unaware of it. He listens through the fog, trying to make out the voices, trying to figure out what is going on. There is something here. The building he is standing next to is half shattered, and that is no small feat. A small frown is etched onto Taji's face as he waits, for what… it is unclear, but he waits. Caution.
It is risky to even stay, who knows what horror is lurking or worse, if that horror might link him to the person he is hoping to meet here, a potentially catastrophic event. Still, maybe there is something to salvage here. Taji, eternal optimist, of a sort. He slows his breathing, trying to remain calm, trying to stretch his senses to observe what he can. A voice… who's voice? A familar voice? Perhaps, but too little is said to be sure. He gives up his corner of the building and tries to move closer, trying to find out what he can about what is going on. Uncertainty tempers his steps as he moves, doing his best to remain unsensed while still trying to spy out what he can. There are too many unanswered questions.
"No?" Comes the answer from the figure and he doesn't even bother to look, his eyes fixed on a distant spot, invisible because of the spot. But this youth's gaze appears as if he can see it clearly. Imprinted over his eyes. Or well, one eye, since the other one is covered by a headband.
"Perhaps you shouldn't be here than." Kaede says, smirking slightly. "It is dangerous." He even emphasizes the word 'dangerous'. It wasn't a threat. It wasn't a suggestion. And somehow it wasn't a warning either. It almost sounded like a plea. Like a general that has fallen in battle, and he gives his last instruction to his men to retreat from the battle.
His head lifts up slightly and he inhales, very slowly, the cool air passing into his lungs. Though, it's moisture makes it hard for him to take in a full breath.
Though, part of him was curious of the people speaking, and his position was most unfavorable to study these people and to decide what to do. He now realized that using that jutsu here, in this district, was stupid. They could track him to it, because there are only so little Crystal Style users. In fact, he only knew of one that was in Kusagakure. Himself.
So, when he turns to look at the source of the voice and try to make some sort of eyecontact, the sound of something shattering so loudly, from somewhere above and behind floods the area and drowns out the noise of nocturnal creatures. It was so loud and devoid of a certain rhytm as to be enough to distract people. And Kaede uses this method to hide his movements as he leaps on a rooftop, and than another one, to look down from a higher vantage point at the ones down in the streets.
There is no answer from the fog. The hollow voice seems to have gone silent without revealing its location… But the quiet is shattered by something other than settling rubble, as Kaede's Crystal Bloom technique makes loud noises of cracking, nearly 'exploding', and then reforming, only to repeat this process.
The Water Clone of Serin that stands much further away has not yet recognized Taji for who he is, just as not being the one responsible. At the noises, however, coming from quite a distance away, the Clone turns his head to face the general direction they are coming from. A distraction? Almost certainly. "It is not safe here," the Clone says without facing Taji fully. "I have no idea who this person is or why he or she is trying to destroy this area…" Well, that is actually a lie. Serin thinks this is happening because someone found out he was hanging out here, or was tipped off, and now an attempt is being made to flush him out… And eradicate him. "…But if you can offer aid, it would be appreciated." By 'aid', Serin's Clone of course means 'take care of this problem yourself so I can slip away and not be identified or involved in any way, shape, or form.
Meanwhile, as Kaede leaps up onto a rooftop, the fog even floats about up there, though not quite as thickly. The tallest building in this district has already become a barely-seen 'island' in a sea of mist. Essentially silently, a pale-white figure in greyish robes comes rising up out of the fog via an enormously powerful leap, and lands lightly on the roof near Kaede. The figure rises from his crouch and says, "You look different." The voice is the same. Hollow, echoing, 'distant' despite being right there. Does Kaede know this man? "Did you come here on your own or were you ordered here, Kureno?" Serin asks. It might just be the fog but he seems to almost be… Somewhat insubstantial? See-through around the edges, sort of…
This is crazy. Taji is getting annoyed as the person speaks to him, or… whatever it is. Then there is bursting and crashing and… he focuses his chakra and senses the area, picking up chakra sources and discarding the clones as it were. He grumbles, and heads towards where Kaede has, both because he knows that is the general direction of at least one person and plus going higher seems like a good idea to get out of this blasted fog.
He leaps upwards, not quite as graceful as perhaps the others but manages to get up on a roof, or what remains of a roof, one building over from Kaede. He is below the mist level, or his building is, as he looks to the island. Basically the mist comes mid chest, leaving him appearing to bob in the sea of fog, near the tallest building that his target is up on. "You… what is the meaning fo this?" He calls out, trying to figure out what is going on and in rather desperate need of some clues. "Stop." He gestures, with his hands, holding them up to show them unarmed, but his hood is still in place and the shadows dance hiding his face in the mist and the scant moonlight and rain.
"I know two others are here. Please, halt. We can… talk." Taji offers. He seems not trying to hurt or even capture anyone, well, other than capture their attentions.
Kaede crouches down to observe the area. His previous technique for distraction wasn't quite up to standard to his usual performance of them. Though, it didn't bother him now. Kaede learns quickly from his mistakes and he knows that every next one will be better than that… failed attempt. Though, did it work was the most important question.
He gets his answer when he hears someone on the rooftop next to him, and he straightens up slowly. He was stabbed in the back one by a spear of lightning, and dying wasn't that bad. Though, it was a illusion so that takes out a few points from the experience. But still.
"You're annoying. And you speak that name as if you know me. Do you know what happened to people who spoke the name of that person?" Kaede turns around slowly, "And you say I look different?" Kaede's lips pull back in a sneer. "Kureno is dead!!" Kaede shouts out, though, this time, he didn't believe it himself. He was still that person, in essence. He turns than slightly and glances towards Taji. "And you bring friends?" He asks the ghostly figure. "Does that mean you're afraid of me?" Kaede laughs as he turns to look towards Sami again.
He than begins to fall backwards, very slowly at first, and as it seems he is about to fall flat on his back a throne of crystal raises and intercepts Kaede's fall.
"Oh." Kaede begins. "I get it. You came to kill me, didn't you?" Kureno looks to the side towards Taji again. "What do you know about me? You know that I am Kureno, a fugitive. You think I am a problem that needs solving, correct?" He looks back to Sami, "You bring friends to do it as well, allies. But you don't seem to realize, Mr, Righteous, that for every problem you solve, other problems become more powerful. Will you 'solve' those problems too? How long will the circle repeat until you realize that you, too" Kaede raises from his throne, "have become a problem?"
Kaede than growls, "I was made by people like you, righteous and justified. And look at me now. I could crush you before you know what happens and I would feel no regr—" He trails off than.
"Call your friend. You'll want all the help you can get."
The ghostly Serin stands there throughout the tirade. "…." Then he looks in the direction that Taji's voice came from. The Water Clone down on the street didn't follow Taji, and has already collapsed into a puddle. Finally, he looks at Kaede again as he finishes. "…Whatever your reason for being here, your reckless use of ninjutsu could have killed a lot of people." Then he turns to walk across the roof — and not towards Kaede at all — and unless he is prevented, he simply leaps off and lands on a different fog-shrouded rooftop, and then from there, he'd make his way towards Taji's position.
He appears to have said all he cares to say and done all he cares to do.
Taji frowns as he watches the little tirade of the unknown man who seems to think he must know him. He does not. Taji stands there, partially hidden by the mists, watching the use of crystal, watching the self destructive rantings of another powerful ninja. All he can do is shake his head. Then his voice calls out, "You don't have to kill, you know." His words hang there. Words that he has spoken before. "There is another way. We don't have to be monsters." He watches, worriedly as he looks at the crystal throne mounted ninja, wary of any possible attacks.
He is fairly sure he knows who Serin is now so directs his attentions entirely to Kaede. "There are other ways. And death is not the solution. You could do great good." He pauses the adds, sounding so earnest, as if he really means this to his core, "No one is beyond redemption." At that he stops speaking, more looking for Kaede's reaction. Will it be scorn? Will it be mockery? Or… will he be open to possiblities. Taji remains tense as he waits, sweat and rain mixing to drip down his face as he keeps his eyes focused on Kaede, the strange crystal using ninja.
Kaede's eyes are half closed as he looks at Sami and his words. They pacified him somehow. Not because of the meaning, but somehow… Kaede thought he heard disappointment. Or was it ambivalence? Maybe he imagined it, but whoever this Sami was… he turned around and left Kaede alone.
But than Taji decides to speak up as well. And it is beyond words to describe how Kaede felt about that piece of wisdom. And not in a good way either.
And than it hits him. Back than, a few days ago, when he was looking at wanted posters for Baasku, a target he intended to take down, he had seen another figure. Though, he doesn't quite remember the face, he does remember something else. That he has the ability to look like a ghost. And the ghostly apparition in front of Kaede just now.. could it be the same man? It was worth a try. If Sami thought he was leading this dance just because he knew who Kaede was, than it was time that Kaede tried to play the same card. Of course, if Sami is in fact /that/ Sami.
"Are you Shima Sami?" He asks than as a myriad of crystal petals flood the area with artwork so well done that their beauty seem like a work of a master. Though, that is perhaps just a cover for the fact that bad things could happen if looked into them. Though, Kaede hasn't used Genjutsu in a while, and he wasn't sure just how well he would do.
Serin lands nearby Taji and says quietly, "We are leaving now. Do not keep trying to speak to him. He is not mentally sound." He fails to notice anything amiss, even when he turns to say briefly, "No." in response to Kaede, barely catching sight of any of the glittering crystals. Then he focuses on Taji again. "I would prefer not to have to carry you away from here, but I will if I have to."
Taji frowns, as the person is not reacting the way he hoped at all. This is… annoying. He tenses up a bit as Serin lands near him. The sudden flood of crystal petals and catching the limited light of the area catches Taji off guard. He immediately tries to block… an attack that never happens. He wavers, unsure, then glances at Serin, "You… sure?" He is hesitating, unsure. "I mean… if he is insane, we can't just let him rampage around doing harm…" But the question, oh the question that is asked.
Taji nods to Serin, "You maybe right, I can't be spotted out here." So far his face has remained hidden and with his feet out of sight it might be hard to even pick out Taji's height. He nods once and then tries to turn to go, retreat is sometimes the best policy, when you have a strict view against lethal exchanges after all.
"Leaving so early?" Kaede asks, voice mocking. "I don't think so." Kaede walks forwards, very slowly at first and claps his hands together after performing several handseals, and the crystal petals floating in the air flare out, making a wide ring.
"We haven't gotten to the main party. You think I'm insane? Well, let me show you something that sanity cannot comprehend." *clap* a few very quick handseals and than two crystal petals appear in front of Sami and Taji, right in front of them. And with the genjutsu link estabilished the crystal petals would appear to grow larger and larger, as if trying to swallow the two whole, though in reality, the crystal petals just float there. It is the refracted light in the crystal that creates that terrible vision, and if one is not careful enough or fails to disbelieve it they'd have a falling sensation as the crystal swallows them. And they would land in a puddle where the moon is red like blood, and the skies are a monochrome color, and not far, is a field of crystals stretching endlessly, their beautiful jade color erased. It's not even a terrifying illusion, unless one were to ponder how long they'd remain there. Alone.
Serin is terrible at Genjutsu and defending against it. He calmly registers the change in the environment, and the crystal petal that seems to grow and engulf him, and then deposit him in some strange terrain after an impact-less fall. More of a drift downwards than anything else. He then just stands there and looks around. Nothing major. Just a Genjutsu. Though why a former ally decided to attack him will remain a mystery, it could probably be summed up as, 'Kureno is a delusional nincompoop.'
Serin waits to see if Taji is going to join him or not. There is not really much else he can do right now.
Taji turns to go, only to be confronted with the petals. They stretch out before him and… suddenly he finds himself alone, in a field of crystals, the warehouse district is gone. He takes a deep breath then lets out a small exclaimation, "Oh crap…." He quickly pulls a small sebon needle from one of his pouches and attempts to self influct a wound, in hopes of breaking what he can only hope is a genjutsu because if he really has been transported to this place, well, that is not a good thing.
"Hello?" He calls out, in this strange place. His figure doing this in the real world as well, acting oddly to any outside observers. "I seem to be lost!" Then in a purely defensive gesture, he makes a quick series of hand seals and… well, nothing obvious happens at all. Very… odd. Very odd indeed.
The endless fields of colorless crystals upon a roiling plain suddenly pulses with a sickly green color and the crystals take on a crimson color, like blood, and start to melt into puddles on the ground. A lightning flash later, and everything is as it was before.
Kureno leaps over to the two and raises a few crystals to cradle them if they fall. And back in the genjutsu Kureno's voice echoes, as if speaking through crystals. "This place is the attempt of my mind to weather all the lies and illusions of a imperfect world." And after another lightning flash, Taji and Sami would be in the same place, as if they were always there, just didn't notice each other. "And to cough the poison of hatred. Hotaru has shown me this place" The voice explains. "and though at first I thought it was the flaw of the crystal style— Hotaru, the voice— now I am not so sure. Maybe I did lose my mind, but this place, the Nightmare, has granted me more power than I could ever imagine. But it demands strife. It demands flames and only one kind can exist. Hatred."
And than the crystals turn into vivid flames that reach to the dome of clouds overhead, and even though Sami and Taji are both far from the flames, the air still burns like the fires of hell. "Without the flames the Nightmare is as cold as a grave or dead dream, and every ounce of hatred I feel burns my skin like hellfire, and I thought for a while that this was a good thing, for I've deserved to be punished." The flames slowly die down and crystallize as everything loses color once again.
"And than you two come along, and you preach to me about some kind of redemption. What do you know of guilt when you've never felt the Nightmare, or the darkness that it brings." The voice pauses as the entire impure world seems to shimmer before it fades and everything returns to normal. Except now Kaede stands in front of the two and he says, slowly, this time definetely a warning.
"I will ask you one more time. How do you know me, and who are you?"
Still in his 'Ghost' form, Serin sees no reason to continue to use up Chakra while trapped in a Genjutsu. So she allows it to slip away. He regains solidity and the color of his cloak and hood return to simple brown. "I never preached anything. I listened to you and then tried to leave. This individual made an ill-informed decision to try to convince you of a different way of doing things based on partial knowledge of the situation. As for knowing you… I thought I knew you from somewhere. I was mistaken. You can call me Serin, if you like, but I do not plan to keep that name much longer. My life will end soon. And you…"
Serin turns to face Kaede completely and then says, "…You are whoever you say you are and I could not care less what you do or where or how, as long as you leave me out of it. Now, if you do not mind, I have to find a different place to sleep tonight. My previous sleeping place is full of holes and it is raining. Can we leave now?"
Taji takes a step back, but only that. It is a little thing, hardly worth mentioning, not entirely out of place considering the situtation and the 'state' of things. It isn't fleeing more fear manifest in the genjutsu. The fire… the flames, the heat. And… other things. Taji keeps his hood down, grateful for his hidden face. He lets Serin do the talking. He simply answers, "I don't know you." A simple and straight forward and truthful answer. His voice is flat, as he eyes the surroundings then looks back to the image of Kaede before him.
Kaede crosses his arms and narrows his eyes. "You say you don't know me.. that you're mistaken.." Kaede turns around to pace for a second, "And yet.. you called me by my real name. Do you think I am stupid, Serin?" Kaede turns to glare at the man his gaze passing over Taji for a short moment after nodding his head in acknowledgement.
"It doesn't matter. You may leave, however, since you know who I am, obviously. You may come to me for help, against this someone who will end your life soon. Farewell." And than Kaede leaps off of the rooftop to the darkness and fog below.