Date: June 4, 2011
Still recovering from her near-death experience after a mission, the recently-promoted Chuunin, Kaguya Chishio, encounters a Jounin of Kirigakure who does not ACT like a Jounin of Kirigakure… Or anyone else from the Mist Village, for that matter.
"I Won't Carry You"
Cold Springs - Kirigakure
It is a grey morning at the cusp between spring and summer. The sun just starting to threaten the near-eternal fog cover which settles over the village. Though it is not so early that training is unheard of (does such a time exist?) it is approaching the time that most set aside for breakfast. The Cold Springs have long been a favored training spot in the village, but that is, ultimately, secondary to the purpose that Chishio has come here for. Yes, she'd like nothing more than to train… to feel like she could make up for the shame and embarrassment she feels by testing her body. But, she's still injured. Would be for a few more days. To train now would be foolishness of the highest order.
Still. She couldn't sit at home feeling sorry for herself all morning.
Which is why we now find the recent arrival sat atop one of the training poles. She's managed to haul herself up here, despite the bandages wrapped around one leg and her stomach, and she is rhythmically sharpening one of the very, very sharp, very fine knives which she uses in place of the bone weapons her clan are famed for. Sparks from up high drifting down towards the cool waters. She's not in the way of anybody. At least, not yet.
A young man, seeming to be not quite out of his teenage years yet, descends the path that leads from the Village Hidden in the Mist proper and down to the Cold Springs training area via a series of switchbacks and narrow trails that cling to the side of the cliff. The dark-skinned male has white-blonde hair on his head — short and spiked. Only very faint traces of eyebrows of a similar color lurk over eyes so dark-blue they look black. His skin tone, his well-muscled and fit figure, his uniform that only partially matches the 'standard' uniform of a Kirigakure Jounin… It all comes together to form a rather strange sort of person to see in the Land of Water. Saying that dark-skin is uncommon here would be an understatement.
But he wears the hita-ite of Kirigakure. He has not been accosted by ninja intent on discovering his identity. Though he may LOOK like either someone from the Land of Wind or a member of the Yotsuki Clan of Kumogakure, he probably belongs here. Any concerns to the contrary are baseless.
That aside, Ryuutai pauses about half-way down the series of trails when he sees the Cold Springs are in use… Even if only by a population of one. He hops off the specific ledge he is standing upon a moment later, falling the thirty feet or so to the ground and sending up a splash of cold water as he lands in a puddle. Yotsuki Ryuutai approaches the pole where the teenage girl who looks little younger than he himself does is seated, and stands a few feet away. He says nothing at first, but then manages to remember the appropriate behavior. If he is not greeted first, he is the one who offers the greeting. "Good morning," he says at conversational volume. Manners? In Kirigakure?
Okay, now it is clear he really IS a foreigner.
Chishio eyes the stranger with a kind of suspicion. This, is probably not anything new. Paranoia is a finely honed survival instinct. All the more true because of her injuries. She half expects her psychotic mother to ambush her every moment she's awake, and more when she's asleep. That hasn't actually happened yet, thank the Kami, but it is only a matter of time, she's sure.
When the stranger actually addresses her with something like common courtesy, suspicion gives way to guarded approval. She nods her head, once, those strangely dull red eyes focused on the boy. Hm. Well. She's hardly one to stick to approved dress codes, her forehead protector is proof of that, but she's quite sure that if the boy *wasn't* a Jounin, he'd have been 'gently encouraged' to dress differently. With a sword. In uncomfortable areas.
"Good morning." She replies, sliding her wetstone into the pocket of her dress, and holding the knife up to the dim morning sun, to check the edge. That satisfactory, the blade disappears about her person, too.
"I am Kaguya Chishio." She says by way of introduction. "If you would like to use the poles, I can move. I'm afraid I am injured, so joining in any training is … not advised at present."
Ryuutai lowers his gaze to the surrounding area when the knife is put away. Allies or not, armed people should be paid attention to as a general rule. Does he really expect to be attacked? Half-yes, and half-no. He is used to Kirigakure under the rule of Mitsuo. Back then, extreme violence… Ambushing other Mist ninja as a 'training exercise' or even just 'because'… That sort of overzealous bloodlust was common. With Hikan in charge, things have settled down greatly. But old habits die hard.
"I am Yotsuki Ryuutai. As I am not affiliated with the Clan whom I share a family name with, however, addressing me by my given name is fine with me." He pauses for a moment and then looks back up at Chishio. Even if unsolicited, he offers an explanation. "The bad feelings between the Mist and the Cloud are not trivial. I have never been a shinobi of the Cloud Village, and I never will be. Please do not judge me by appearance or name." With that out of the way his eyes track across to a different pole. He leaps up swiftly and lands easily atop one of them, both feet finding purchase on the narrow surface without any indication of balance issues. "There are many ways to train. Pushing one's limits is admirable. Harming one's body is recklessness. If the body is unable… The mind will rarely be likewise impaired." After offering this 'sage wisdom', he tilts his head to the side, and the otherwise emotionless mask he has been wearing since he first appeared cracks when he smiles faintly.
"I sound like an old man, don't I?"
"Yes, you do."
The words probably aren't meant to sound as harsh as they do. She soon clarifies things. "I do not mean that as a bad thing, though." She says, waving a hand vaguely in the air, "Wisdom is a hard thing to acquire. Having it at our age is practically unheard of."
She looks up into the sky, just over Ryuutai's head, as she ponders things. Her expression is hard to read, but with her brow furrowed and her lips pressed together, it isn't hard to imagine that she is, in fact, thinking, rather than zoning out completely. After a few moments of this (likely uncomfortable) silence, she speaks again.
"As to the Cloud." She says, picking her words carefully. "I've been away for two years. Everything has changed. Before I left, I hated my family. Now, I genuinely don't know what to make of them. I've always been outside, and I've never had the guts to strike out on my own. I'll do you a deal. You can call me Chishio, and I will call you Ryuutai. Then, neither of us will have to worry about any baggage our families might have attached to them. We'll let us, speak for us. How does that sound?"
She's fumbling over her words a bit. She's not terribly used to actually talking to people so much any more, and it shows. This is also fairly high level thinking for her. But she can see some similarities here… some common ground, and it seems like the more experienced ninja might even have a sense of humor. Hers has grown a little strange from disuse, but it is nice to smile again.
Ryuutai considers the words offered, but not for terribly long. There is not much to consider. This is not a life-or-death situation. This young woman is simply offering mutual acceptance and respect. How hard is that to say yes or no to? Not hard at all, really. "That sounds more than acceptable," he answers with a nod. Then he lowers himself into a crouch, and slides his left foot off of the pole he is standing on. The leg is then extended more or less straight out to the side, demonstrating both great flexibility and great balance. After all, he is now resting his weight solely upon the front of his right foot. Almost on his toes, even!
His hands are placed together in front of his body, and then the Jounin closes his eyes… And begins to form hand seals. It should become apparent after awhile, if Chishio is watching, that he is not actually performing a jutsu. He is just cycling through all 12 of the basic hand seals, starting at Bird, ending at Ram, and then starting over again.
Eventually, he says, "If it is not too forward to ask, what is it like to hate your family? Other than the obvious, I mean. Do you reject them? Do you wish they gave you reason not to hate them? Do you tolerate them despite your loathing? I ask because I only had any sort of 'family' for a rather brief part of my life. I remember being… Content. I do not recall if I was happy, but I was at peace. And I remember that I was enraged when they were taken from me. Perhaps they adopted me, but they were all I had. The man who wound up raising me… He taught me how to fight, how to survive, and how to succeed. But I hated him. Was he just doing what was necessary for the times we lived in or did he deserve my hate? I am not sure. And so, I wondered if our situations were similar, or if your family deserve to be despised."
Chishio watches. At first, she's curious what he's doing. But as the signs go on, even though she's not great with them, she recognizes the training exercise. She doesn't get up herself, of course. She's not in any condition to go testing her balance or flexibility. Still. She thinks. And in thinking, she consoles herself that this is a kind of training. Just not one she is particularly used to.
The question still catches her off guard, and she hesitates before she answers. Her brow furrowed deeper still. It isn't an easy question, it is … actually quite a hard one. Hatred is a horrible emotion to feel towards ones own mother. Complicated by the fact that, she… does love the woman. Even if she would never admit it.
"She pushed me into a life I didn't want." She replies. "I almost died trying to meet her expectations. I failed. I've been called weak and useless, and I'm still considered a mark of shame." She says it all so quietly, but there's anger there. Oh yes. Hot, seething anger. Anger which has been refined to a razor's edge over long months of contemplation.
"I'm a coward." She says, at last. "I'm not brave enough to stand up for myself. I am weak. I am a failure. I have just tried for so hard and so long to meet their expectations. Either I have to hate them, and call it unfair… or I hate myself, and lay down and die."
She lapses into silence, then. That's what it is like. She's certainly not smiling any more. The pale girl has left out, deliberately, the third option. The one that she sometimes worries might be closer to the truth. That she hates her family… and herself. Because what good is she, as a ninja that doesn't want to be a ninja, in a village that doesn't want her, doing things that any sane person would call barbaric?
Ryuutai listens to the whole thing. He did ask, after all. The answer is more detailed than most new acquaintances would share, but it is also a summary. There is no doubt specific instances that made this feeling that Chishio possesses a reality, as opposed to just this general overview. The dark-skinned man does not react, not even to nod, throughout the Kaguya girl's answer.
Only after she finishes and goes silent does he… Continue to not respond? Well, there's a lot to think about. This is not a trivial matter to be dismissed with a wave of the hand. When the Jounin DOES speak, it is to say, "I believe that, were I a parent, older brother, or similar caring relative, the 'nice' or 'compassionate' thing to do would be to argue against your assessment of yourself, and to assure you of your good qualities. Something like… 'Oh, Chishio-chan, you are not a coward at all! I am sure your mother did not mean to make you feel that way.' However, I have been rather… Pragmatic throughout my life. I believe in fixing problems, not burying them. So, I will say this instead, though I admit that the hypothetical situation of me being a relative is not true, obviously. 'Your mother sounds like a real jerk.'" A pause as he stops with the hand seals and opens his eyes. "…If you will pardon my saying so. But someone who twists and controls the life of another — particularly a child — simply to fulfill one's own ambitions, one's own need to validate one's existence… That is someone who has earned the enmity offered him or her. Forgiveness is possible, but it must likewise be earned."
Ryuutai looks towards Chishio thoughtfully. "Being beaten down regularly, either literally or figuratively, by someone that SHOULD be caring and SHOULD be nurturing is not a simple thing to overcome. Blaming yourself for being crudely shaped and molded as though you were clay instead of a human being who is still in the process of completing her growth is not an unusual response. But it is also a response that will lead only to more self-doubt and more misery. It took me a long time to realize I could CHOOSE my life. If not for a friend I made in another country… I would still be a slave to my own pain and despair."
Ryuutai rises from his crouch and draws his left leg back so that both feet rest upon the pole once again. "I've been there. I've been at the very bottom, in the darkness. I've been in that place where one can not remember what happiness feels like, or if one has ever felt it at all. And even worse, I have been so deep in that mire that I stopped trying to find a way out. I gave up on ever having an existence other than one of pain. I don't want to see you or anyone else in that place. But I won't try to shape you or mold you to fit my values, whether I believe it is for 'good reasons' or not. You have to pick a road and walk it for yourself."
Ryuutai looks down at the ground, and says quietly, "I won't carry you, but I'll be there at your side, if you'll accept my company." Then he is silent.
Chishio listens, politely. She absorbs the response. She'd opened up because she hasn't had anyone to talk to, especially someone who isn't a Kaguya, for far too long. That said, her fingers hover near her bandaged mid-section. A phantom ache as she indulges in a little more introspection. It is comforting, at least, to know that she's not alone if she doesn't want to be. The notion of self-empowerment is a powerful drug as well. She's quiet, too. Quiet longer than it takes for him to finish and make the offer. Turning possibilities over in her mind. She's only just met the guy, but he does seem genuine. That is worth a lot.
"We sacrifice control for safety." She replies, eventually. "That's, what I think, anyway. I choose to live, but living means doing things I don't want to do. Death is, frightening. I've been too close to it to want to go back."
A ghost of a smile touches at her lips, and she shrugs her shoulders. "Life, is not so bad, though. I am accepted. I have rank! A Chuunin! Me! Why, I could lead missions, form a team. I could help others grow. I could do so many things." The smile falters, and fades as quickly as it had begun.
"You are right, though. We have to choose our path. And I don't know where I want to go. I want to live. Perhaps, I would like to find something I could believe in." She looks around her, at the training area, and gestures with a hand. "Perhaps I should try to believe in the village. Or in myself. But I haven't seen anything which makes me think there is any part of me, or any part of the village, which is worthy of respect. We are both simply willing to lash out for our own survival. To be, animals. That is what frightens me, Ryuutai-kun. Is that all there is?"
There's a shrug of her shoulders after her little speech, and she laughs, softly. "A bit indulgent, wasting time with so much philosophy. I'm sure, in the end, life will carry on… and when it doesn't, I doubt I will be in a position to care, eh?"