Date: June 9, 2014
A simple D-rank mission brings together estranged friends, if but only for a brief time…
Boneyard Gardens & Out Skirts of Kaguya Village [Kirigakure]
As you enter the gardens from the street, you realize that the curved white fence-posts with the strange-seeming cross-baring between them are large, curved rib bones; Likely from a whale, if their size is any judge. Within the walled off area, however, the ground is rich and lush; Tall fruit trees, staggered so that during any given season at least a few of the barrier-ring of trees would be in bloom and part giving fruit, rest covered with a network of creeping vines along the trunks. The ground seems almost carpeted by herbal beds full of mint, garlic, any number of things that one can imagine are likely here, growing.
The area seems to be a large, circular space; Trees at the far outside, concentric rings of herb beds, and then a ring of low to the ground fruit-bushes. Where the ground is visible, it seems that the dirt has a strange consistency, like light, bleached woodchips. In the center of this large garden is a grassy field, perhaps 60 feet across, at the very center of which is a water fountain; Upon the fountain's central pillar, in very small text, lists of names are written. When you find the name of someone who you had heard died within the last few months, you realize the morbid truth; This place of lush, nurtured growth is a graveyard.
A visiting Maneshi named Tsume has come to Kirigakure to train a new, and large litter of Higureneko kittens in water and jungle maneuvers. While she's out scouting a new location for their next training session, making sure it is safe enough for use, she needs someone to watch the oft impish kittens. Someone, more like. "Be sure to take count often." Tsume warned and threatened Kiyoshi and Yuriko before her attention turns to the Higureneko sat, thus far, obediently at the genin feet. One could only assume she was warning the seven kittens to stay out of trouble by the way she looked and the sound she made.
Only once she was good and satisfied did she form a hand seal and disappear in a column of smoke. She'd return around sun down. Meaning the giant and princess were stuck with the kittens for a good six hours at least with them, and a choice to make. They could either try to keep the kittens hold up in the Boneyard Gardens (the meeting point desired by the client), OR try to take them someplace more secure-ish. Kiyoshi sighs heavily through his nose and worriedly towards Yuriko.
Sitting at the edge of the fountain, Yuriko frowns to herself as she glances over the oversized kittens. Considering the number of them and equating that into the mission at hand. She knew they weren't like normal household cats, but… how exactly were they supposed to do this? "Hm." She lifts a hand to lightly rub a tiny hand at her snowy head. "I guess we should go somewhere recluse and outdoors? To give them room to play and stuff?"
Kiyoshi opens his mouth to speak, hesitates for a second, then closes it as his attention turns from Yuriko to the cats. All six of them were still rigidly sitting in a line as if awaiting orders. Odd considering how intense their trainer was about keeping count of — Kiyoshi's eyes widen, then narrows as he recounts the kittens again. Six when there should be seven. "Where is-… Oh…" He murmurs, seeing the last one rubbing along against the hem of Yuriko's kimono. "Hmph… Your house, then?" He asks evenly on the surface, but there's a wary edge to it.
Yuriko blinks once as one of the kittens rubs at her leg, having taken a liking to her it seems. Which probably means more with these kinds of cat than normal household cats, since they're intelligent. A part of the young girl hopes that the higureneko kitten doesn't accidentally become bonded to her, but being a little girl, she couldn't help but giggle and lean down to pet at the back of his furry ears. "Yeah, my house works. There should be plenty of room there in the garden."
Kiyoshi starts to nod in agreement when a 'look' from the cat Yuriko was petting grabs his attention. The look is gone a second later, but Kiyoshi could've sworn there was something almost sinister about it. A shudder passes through him just thinking about it. However, beyond chewing on lips for a few moments, the giant shook off his worries and murmured a yes before turning his attention to the other five kittens.
"Uh.. Yuriko.. I think—" A small, half-meow, half-yawn from above draws Kiyo's eyes upwards. One of the smaller and darker one's appearantly decided to claim his headed as its personal bed. ".. Bothersome." He deadpans before going to scoop up at least three or four of the other ones; now also starting to break their rigid formations upon realizing mother wasn't around anymore. "Wanna lead the way?" He asks dryly.
Nodding quickly, Yuriko scoots herself forward a couple of inches before hopping off the edge of the fountain, rising to her feet as she glances up. Just as Kiyoshi had. The sight of another kitten laying on top of his head makes her cheeks puff, trying to contain the short burst of laughter that wanted to escape. Taking a moment, she manages to contain it, attention turning back to the small gaggle of kittens. "Alright." Yuriko claps her hands together. "Everyone follow me. If you get lost, there's no treats for you when we get there. Got it?" She doesn't wait for them to stand back at attention. Turning on heel, she begins to lead them northward, to the Kaguya village.
Even without her having allowed so much as a giggle slip free, all it takes is a chance glance in her direction for him to read her amusement over his bothersome situations. His gaze shoots back to the arm full of kittens squirming, shifting, and even clawing in an effort to try and get a firmer position. Needless to say, they didn't like the way he held them, and probably would've gone into a frenzy had their attention not been gathered at ounce at the sound of Yuriko's claps. Both the kittens and Kiyoshi looked towards one another.
The former then turn towards the largest of the group — the same one Yuriko was petting earlier — already right on her heels. With the exception of Miss Sleepy atop Kiyoshi's head, the rest are quick to do whatever it takes to catchup to Yuriko. Even though ultimately that meant a rather miffed and scratched up giant in their wake, grumpily following with his hands dug in his pockets.
Yuriko doesn't mind the kitten that's following at her heels. It's probably something to be expected. Nor the the Kaguya girl glance back at the rest of the pack to check of whether or not they're really following as instructed. Either she knew that they were, or she had some sort of six sense that told her the kittens (and Kiyoshi) were following. So she walks at an even pace, enough so that the group catches up with her and has no troubles keeping up.
Turning westwards, the scent in the air becomes metallic with the lingering fragrance of blood on bones. Through the streets, the path turns from cobblestone to worn dirt cutting through the forest, turning steadily northwards through the trees. After a few moments of walking, the forest parts into the manor's grounds. "Here we go! You can play anywhere in the garden."
The lead cat never wavers in the least along the way. Either the higurenko really did bond with Yuriko or the promise of treats was just to powerful. Regardless of which, the rest of the litter were a little less content with the promise. A growl from Kiyoshi and the occasional step up manage to keep them in line, but otherwise the trip wouldn't be entirely uneventful.
Ultimately, they all manage to keep up more or less, and as soon as their given the go ahead, all but the lead cat scatter within seconds. Well, him and the one still sleeping on Kiyoshi's head. "Been too long.." Kiyoshi murmurs aloud as he looked about Yuriko's home.
The moment the pack of kittens scatter, Yuriko giggles to herself with some amusement. Leaning down she scratches at the back of the neck at the one still at her side, earning a content little purr for a moment or so before the little girl straightens again. Moving forward through the well-tended gardens, she plops onto her backside under the thin branches of a winter tree.
Kiyoshi keeps on drinking in the sights, slipping out of sync with the present as time passes on. That was until his freeloader decided to turn about a little and leave his tail dangling before the giant's eyes. With a heavy sigh through his nose, Kiyoshi pushes aside the tail before refocusing back on the present. Dark eyes widen for a second in panic upon realizing Yuriko is nowhere in immediate sight at first, though a few steps and closer inspection sets him back at ease. Mostly. He hesitates only for a moment more before he sits down a good foot or so away from Yuriko. "I… How have you been, Yuriko-chan?" He asks, though the honorific comes out a little awkward and strained.
Yuriko blinks her bright eyes up at Kiyoshi when he takes a seat as well, not too far from where she sits under the winter-bare tree. She pauses a moment to consider the answer. "I guess good. Takahiro-kun has been trying hard to catch up to me I think, but that will probably be a long time coming." the Kaguya girl murmurs. "And Hissori-kun finally started talking to me."
Kiyoshi listens respectfully and even nodding or "Mming" where it seemed appropriate. ""Wait… Hissori-kun has never talked to you before?" He asks, brows furrow as he mused over that very thought. The kid was quiet, but he didn't think him to be >that< quiet. Kiyoshi looks over to Yuriko with a look that border on worry over curiosity now.
A small frown touch the little girl's brow, thoughtful for a brief moment. "Well, he has, but ever since the seal was placed on him he's been kinda… out of it." Yuriko murmurs. "I'm not sure if he was just depressed, or what's wrong with his head, but this past year he hasn't really tried to talk. Not really…" Clearly she had been concerned about it. Still is in some aspects. Her small fingers absently pet at the neck of the kitten, purring like an engine the more he's petted.
Kiyoshi shifts a bit around to look at Yuriko more fully after catching the frown. The cat tail ends up flopping back before his eyes again in the process, but this time he doesn't bother shifting it out of the way. He only observes her until she stops speaking, then turns his attention towards the house and wonder if even now the kid was resting inside from whatever had him depressed. Without even a second thought, Kiyoshi reaches over to ruffle Yuriko's hair. Turning, she would see him smiling, if albeit weakly but encouragingly. "He'll be alright, Yuriko-chan… The seal is just a little harder on folk like him and-.." Kiyo catches himself there and withdraws a little. A frown now staining his features as he averted his gaze.
Yuriko blinks her vivid aquamarine eyes once when Kiyoshi ruffles her snowy head, quickly making a face and reaching to brush her pale locks back into place. Her bangs naturally fall into her eyes again, despite her efforts. "Well, I hope so. There's only so much moping I can take." And it's been a year. Her eyes glance back to Kiyoshi and sees the change in his demeanor, averting his eyes from her. "The seal has been hard on allot of us."
The moss-haired giant idly began petting the cat atop his head as continued, listening and accepting her opinion, if albeit not clearly so. Afterwards, so long as he is not pressed to speak, Kiyoshi slips back into his habitual quiet moments; aggravating, perhaps, but inevitable in a way. Dark brown eyes flicker from one spot to the next, tracking the kittens exploration progress throughout the gardens. So far, they haven't gone beyond its boundaries, but that was only a matter of time given their nature.
"There was no fiance, you know." He states abruptly and evenly, eyes remaining locked on the two kittens now leering at one another. There's been no hissing or other signs of a dispute on the rise. Yet.
Blinking once with mild surprise, Yuriko turns her snowy head to give Kiyoshi a glance, frowning to herself for a longer moment still. Absorbing the significance of his words and their layered meaning. He had lied to her, more or less, but still felt compelled enough to tell her now. Of all times. "Oh." she murmurs.
Kiyoshi allows his gaze to wander back to his snow-haired friend, wondering with a loft brow if that's all she had to say on the matter. Technically, he had not lied the first time. And, the second time was a jumbled mess of desperation in hindsight. Nevertheless, he remained at fault for it all, so…
"It was a bad joke." He murmurs after turning back to look at the kittens at play again. An awkward moment passes by before dares to speak again. "But you know… I was refering to you last time at the end.. Ab.. About the fiance part, I mean.." He adds.
The young girl remains quiet as she listens, her fingers absently rubbing at the back of the kitten's ears as he continues to purr deeply like a motorboat. A joke. A bad joke. Another small frown faintly tugs at her delicate pale brow, further confused perhaps. It's several long moments before Yuriko exhales a sigh. "Even grown up, you're still stupid." she mutters. Why tell her now? She can't do anything about it. She doesn't even understand most of what she feels when it comes to him anyway.
He tries to hold in a chuckle at first, but the statement was just too amusing. Mean, perhaps, but still amusing. The chuckling dies down quickly as another feeling slipped its way to the surface. Sadness at first, then guilt soon after. Kiyoshi manages to keep the feelings out of his expression. Tries to, in any case, only to be betrayed by his eyes reflecting them regardless. Even turned away as she was Yuriko may still pick up on the feelings. "Yup… Kind of makes me wonder why you put up with me in the first place sometimes." He says, feigning an easygoing air as he leaned back to rest against the tree.
Yuriko turns her snowy head just slightly to glance at the man, hearing the chuckle, seeing the shift of his guarded feelings. There's a long pause before her vivid aquamarine eyes lower to the kitten under her fingers. "I already told you." she murmurs. "Because you are the type of guy that would catch someone if they're falling." That's when she knew at least, she knew then he was a good person.
Kiyoshi manages to murmur an "I know." after a moment's pause before the cat's shifting about on his head disrupted the remainder of his thoughts. In that moment he honestly considered tipping his head as far forward as he could to get the miniature nuisance off. Tiny pricks in his scalp reminds him just why that may not be the best idea.
"… For what its worth, I'm glad I have you as a friend. And…. I'm sorry for not behaving like a good one in return these past couple of weeks." He says softly, as he look towards her. It wasn't quite the words he had been meaning to say — needed to say, but they may suffice…
The small girl just shrugs her shoulders to herself, reaching out to pull the languid cat at her side into her lap. It only purrs louder. "You should grow up already." Yuriko murmurs. Not an insult, but matter-of-factly. "Make new friends your age. It'll be better for your head." It would be better for him over all, though she can't seem to convince him of it now that he's so much older than her.
He winces from her matter-of-fact tone, but doesn't try to counter her point or avert his gaze again. The latter would not have lessened any further blows, or so he figured. "… And what if I don't care what's good for my head?" He asks, adjusting himself as need be to look at her more full on. Without waiting for an answer, Kiyoshi impulsively goes on to say, "Your-…" The rest catches in his throat. He still didn't understand the other feeling he had for Yuriko, and may never figure it out. Even so, he forced himself a few seconds later to say what felt the closest to right. "You're my best friend, Yuriko-chan.."
Meeting his gaze, Yuriko narrows her eyes with a flat look. Even if he didn't care about what's best for his head, she did. Did he not get that? She keeps her glance on him as he turns in his seat to look at her further. The girl blinks once, and after a long pause a gentle amount of blush touches her cheeks, her gaze lowering to the cat at her lap. "Not fair, Kiyo-kun." Yuriko mumbles. And it wasn't.
The giant is not the least bit deterred by her words. If small grin that broke out meant anything it would be the simple fact that they spurred him on instead. More so, in fact, considering the light touch of a blush reddening her cheeks.
The giant is not the least bit deterred by her words. If small grin that broke out meant anything it would be the simple fact that they spurred him on instead. More so, in fact, considering the light touch of a blush staining her cheeks. "I can't be nice all the time." He admits by way of explanation before turning back about so that he rested more comfortably against the tree again. One would think with all the shifting about he had been doing the kitten would finally grow tired of it and move on. But no, the higureneko was determined to maintain its perch and rest. "… Does Kiji count?" He asks off-handily, more curious than anything regarding just how she'd respond to that; especially regarding rather or not said Shimizu revealed her secret…
Yuriko mumbles something under her breath, but doesn't glance back up at him. Staring intently at the kitten in her lap as it purrs itself to sleep. The silence fills the air again as he gets comfortable against the tree once more, though the comment snaps the girl's bright eyes up at him. Something flickers through her gaze, a scowl crossing her young features as she looks away again. Irritable. "Probably." Yuriko murmurs. Kiji was old after all. She probably does count if Kiyoshi's made friends with her.
The crossed look earns a lofted brow, but the irritable murmuring and her looking away elicits more earnest surprise from the giant. Was she not friend's with Kiji? Or maybe she was still sore about the deception? The latter question more than anything left him quiet from musing it over a bit more before pushing it all aside in favor of being rather straight-forward as promised. Something Yuriko may come to regret having asked of him at this time.
"You don't approve?" It was a statement more than a question, but he waited for a response just the same.
"She lied about being a boy." Yuriko murmurs. "If she lied about that, what else could she be lying about." It probably sounded like a stupid reason, considering she had lied too. About a less serious reason, but she still did. The Kaguya girl grumbles. "Whatever. Do what you want." Not like she can stop him anyway.
Kiyoshi snorts, then started to interject about her own little slips as well. Lips part, but not a word leaves them due to another thought that occurs to him. Two to be more precise. The first of which required that he rolled onto his feet, earning himself tiny daggers pressed into his skull in the process, then rose wincig well after straightening out. Luckily, the kitten eases up once he's stable again, though its determination to stay adhered to his head aggravates the giant a little.
The bothersome freeloader aside, Kiyoshi closes his eyes and preforms a sealess transformation technique. A slightly older phantom of the past now took his place, and without a word of warning chose walk over and squat down before Yuriko, invading her personal space further by leaning in and sniffing about her if he can get away with it.
"I smell jealousy." He states, joking despite not conveying as much in tone.
Yuriko faintly lifts her bright aquamarine eyes through her wavy, snowy bangs to narrow on the giant of a man when he suddenly moves, rising to his feet. She's caught off guard when he performs the Henge jutsu and becomes a younger Kiyoshi. One that she knew a few months ago, before the aging seal was removed from him. Her vivid blue green eyes blink again as he squats down in front of her and the Kaguya girl instinctively leans further against the tree at her back when he leans in to sniff near her. His suspicions make her turn a brighter shade of cherry as she scowls at him. "I bet you smell allot."
Kiyoshi leans back, and then looks up towards the cat still situated atop its head. When no answer is forthcoming from the feline after a good solid few moments, the spring green-haired boy turns his attention back to Yuriko. "And what is that suppose to mean?" He asks, canting his head slightly to the side, curious but grumpy sounding a little too before it clicks in mind. "Oh! Mmm… Well… yeah… Anger too.. but you still smell nice." He states innocently.
The young Kaguya girl continues to scowl as she crosses her arms, her bright eyes turning away from him if only to avoid his gaze. His unorthodox retaliation only further brighten the color in her cheeks, with no real way to counter. "Whatever." Yuriko mumbles, trying to shrug it off. He was making friends his age, and that's what she wanted for him, right? "Why did you bother henging like that?"
Against his better judgement, Kiyoshi smiles toothily, both amused and teasing Yuriko's further should she dare to look at him at the time. He was starting to understand why folk seem to always go to great lengths just to tease him in turn, if only a little. The smile falters then expression shifts all together into a more pensive one in response to the question. "Mm… There's a lot of reasons. But mostly-…" He looks towards hands, noting just how much they shrunk and seemed so less callus. "It's more comfortable." He murmurs, then looks towards the Kaguya girl. "Don't you agree?"
Seeing that grin of his out of the corner of her eye makes the flush brighten a shade or two, but otherwise the girl remains silent, keenly aware of him though her focus is on the slumbering cat in her lap. When he glances at his hands, Yuriko couldn't help but instinctively look at them as well. They were familiar. Comfortable. She knew them better, though she also knew that it was a lie. Her gaze lingers on him for a longer moment before looking away. "And if I did?"
"Well-.." He starts as he carefully lowers himself onto his bottom, avoiding for the time being having the transformation disrupted by another bout of the kitten clinging for life. Kiyoshi may be tough, but even he couldn't deny the sharpiness of a nin-cat's claws with a straight face and complete focus. "Then you can't complain about us hanging out." He finishes, smirking a little.
Yuriko literally bites at the corner of her tongue at his logic, her darkness flickers through her expression, if only for a moment. It was a lie, they both knew it, but he still uses it anyways. Still disregards that she wanted him to grow up and move on. "Not like you would listen anyways." She uses a single fingertip to scratch behind the sleeping kitten's furry ear. "You never wanted to hang out before."
Whatever sense humor leaves Kiyoshi's expression following the last statement, and is replaced by a scowl. Immediatly after, he looks away, knowing he had only his stubborn and past distrustful nature to blame for things. "Like you said, I'm stupid." He states glumly. Belatedly at this point does it occur to him that they were on a mission still, and so he shifted about for a better view of the gardens. Better to watch them have fun than continue to muse over missed opportunities and past mistakes.
She makes a small sound in agreement, but doesn't comment further on his stupidity. Barely glancing at him out of the corner of her eye when he shifts to get a better view of the gardens. He was more concerned about the kittens than she was, evidently. A longer moment passes before she dips her chin, her eyes hidden behind a curtain of snowy bangs as she mumbles something under her breath, sounding something like 'I miss you'.
They couldn't be trusted, or so he kept telling himself. The one still nestled atop his head was proof enough of that. At one point he looked up, wandering if perhaps it was sick or something. His ears twitch at the mumbling, but for an extended moment nothing more happens. After which point he turns to look at Yuriko, passing concern with the kittens all but gone from his mind at that point. Lips part, tremble, and close repeatedly a few times before he finally finds the courage to reply in kind, unabashed and warmly.
"I missed you too."
Yuriko faintly presses her soft lips together, avoiding glancing up at him still as she dips her chin with another faint nod. It was hard for both of them, she realizes this. But it doesn't make things better. But that doesn't mean she has to like it. "Have any of them headed into the forest yet?"
Kiyoshi smile just a little in response to the nod. His gaze never wavering in the least afterwards. He intended to wait for however long it took her to meet his eyes and… he honestly did not know what then, but figured seeing her bright aquamarine eyes might inspire him or.. something. He jolts at the question, then turns to check as requested. "Two." He states after catching the literal tail end of the duo disappearing into the surrounding foliage. Following a heavy sigh and a shake of the head, Kiyoshi forces himself to a stand and dusts off his pants.
If she looks up or perhaps senses it, she might pick up on his being on the verge of asking something. And yet, not a word leaves his mouth (unless prompted) before he turns to leave and to retrieve the rogues, entrusting the care of the rest to the little Kaguya with his silence.
Yuriko turns her gaze up just slightly to peek through her pale bangs, looking past Kiyoshi in the direction of the mentioned kittens. The twins. Figures. She blinks slowly and glances at the younger vision of Kiyoshi when he pushes himself to his feet. When he starts to take off, she asks: "You gonna take your passenger with you?" Mentioning the one still lounging on top of his head. Not that she minded.
Always the twins. It was something he should've accounted for given his familial situation. Kiyoshi slows to a stop and turns back with a befuddled expression in place. "Oh… right. Probably safer." He murmurs before making his way back over to Yuriko, kneel, and take hold of the freeloader. Thankfully, she doesn't put up nearly as much of a fuss as she had with his moving about so much, and simply curls up next to Yuriko. A weak smile blooms as he looked upon the little fur ball, though it doesn't last for too long. "Tut," He emits as he fiddled with the back of his head until Yuriko's loosened gift — a sliver of bone on a string — is pulled free and turned into a bracelet again like the good old days. He doesn't give it much thought once it is in place, but instead pops up and starts to jog away to play catch-up before his prey got too far.
The kitten is lifted from his head and Yuriko reaches out with both hands, taking the second ball of fur in her arms before gently lowering the fluff to the soft grass beside her. Her gaze lingers on the kitten briefly before glancing up at Kiyoshi again, catching sight of the necklace as he pulls it from around his neck to instead wrap it around a wrist. Yuriko stares at it briefly, just before he turns to take off after the escapees.