Date: February 1, 2014
After a small setback, Meruin and Akane finally reach their destination. A few samples are taken, a few tests done, and few words traded.
Poster's note: foul language filtered in obvious places.
"Losing Sight - Finding Light"
An Okumo research facility
Meruin and Akane travel through the many tunnels beneath the Dark Caverns once more, the Okumo carrying the woman on his back as he traverses the sightless passageways. The man's speed is great, the stale air rushing past the ear fast enough to make the hearing of anything else difficult. The effort expended in the travel is paying off as they are growing very near to the compound that has been their destination since they'd entered the caverns far above and to the south. So the Jounin simply kept to the pace, leaping to turns and land on a wall before him, swiftly running along its surface to the side, relying on memory of the places he walked since he was a young child, ensuring his long hair ran off over his passenger's shoulder.
Akane continued to hold onto Meruin's shoulders, a quiet passenger as he moves with near frightening speed. She wondered silently just how he could move so fast in the dark with a fully grown woman on his back… And still he manages to control his hair… Yea that figured. She had not really been told this shinobi's rank in Kirigakure but she was suspicious that he was of the Jounin rank. His speed, the simple confidence that she could do him no harm, his combat abilities…. They were all far beyond any Chuunin she'd known, and she hadn't known Meruin that long. So she remains quiet as she's borne into what she considers an uncertain future. Accepting the possibility of things going very, very wrong, she remains stoic, her expression neutral, her usual friendly appearance set aside while no one seemed to be looking.
Light in the distance?
Light just 4 or 5 hundred feet ahead.
Abruptly, there was light all around the pair, a gentle bioluminescence coming from mosses atop cones attached to the walls like torches. They traveled a short time down the hall before the Okumo slid to a stop, silently crouching to let the woman down off of his back. They had clearly reached some sort of destination, a checkpoint maybe.
The light up ahead caught Akane's eyes and she lifted her eyes toward it, a speck in the darkness around her like a tiny star.. and it grew rapidly. She blinked several times as she found that they were now surrounded by light from some rather intriguing mosses. A look of appreciation slides across her face as she found such things to be beautiful. She looked down as Meruin crouched to let her down. She slid off his back, one hand resting on his shoulder for a moment longer before she squeezes lightly, a silent thank you for the assistance. She had another reason for the touch as well, one she kept quite hidden. The entire time she had been on this man's back like a child in swaddling, she had felt the power in the muscles under his skin. The extra touch and squeeze was a good excuse to verify that he was as strong as she thought, targeting one of the lesser muscled areas of the torso: his shoulder.
After Akane slid from his back, the Okumo rose back to his feet in a single, supple motion, turning. Her hand at his shoulder would find that his body was just as hard there as it was everywhere else. He was altogether a dangerous creature. Of course, much of that could be the fact that once her hand made contact with his shoulder, he'd brought up a thin layer of chitin over it as a precaution. One must never forget, he knew, to take caution with one who uses poison to take down their prey.
At the squeeze, he simply looked at her and nodded his head, his own silent affirmation. And then he lifted an arm before her, looking past her as webbing shot back the way they'd come, tipped with chitin. It flashed out of the range of her limited sight, soon reaching and manipulating one of the biotorches that she could see. And moment's later…
The stone of the wall before them shifted and began to rise. "Shield your eyes," murmured the Okumo as a translucent cap of chitin slid over his own. And it was clear… the light beyond was bright. A laboratory required good lighting, after all, and a little time soon revealed that that was precisely what was beyond the wall. Long tables with various concoctions brewing and bubbling, various people in white coats examining them, some of them four armed. The whole of the place looked white and wholly sterile.
Meruin stepped inside.
Akane had felt the odd hardness under her hand but had not connected it with his use of chitin to protect himself from her. She would be excruciatingly stupid to attack or try to poison him at this juncture. Her point of no return had been the entrance of the dark cavern. So she assumes what she felt under her hand was muscle which only served to verify what she'd hypothesized to begin with: He was certainly not someone she wanted as an enemy.
Akane offered him a smile when he nodded his head and shot webbing at something out of her range of sight. She found it was an interesting dynamic they had developed, Meruin and her. She didn't trust him, though she did her best to act as though she did, so when he did things like shooting webbing out of her vision she instinctively prepared for an attack. Even though she knew it was in his best interests to keep her alive at this point. If he was truly interested in studying her eyes, he would get better information from a living person than lifeless eyeballs. (She did not think for one second, however, that they would not settle for her corpse if she acted out of line.)
And yet when ordered to shield her eyes she simply obeys, closing her eyes and putting a hand up over them as the area brightened around them. She blinked a few times, adjusting quickly to the light, only to be confronted with a laboratory. A chill runs down her spine as she takes in what she could see. The experiments and beakers, flasks and glass coils, the tables and people in white lab coats, all served to make this very real for Akane. But still, she simply follows Meruin into the lab, that same friendly expression on her face. If she showed any reaction outwardly to the lab, it would have looked like curiosity.
Meruin hit a button with the back of his hand as he entered the room, gears silent as they began to lower the wall back downwards, visible from this side of the barrier. None of the scientists currently making examinations looked up from their work to regard the Okumo, but those who were simply awaiting or preparing to leave stopped to bow their heads to the man, who inclined his head back.
But this room was not his destination.
He pushed through to the door on the other end, opening it and stepping out into a hallway that was very much like the tunnel they'd left to get into the compound, walls of stone lit by the biotorches. He stepped out into it, noone else in the passageway as they enter. Interspersed are doors — most of them wooden, some metallic — and it does not take like before Meruin and his ward is passing many of them.
"You are unsure of this. But I shall not betray you."
Akane notes the respect paid to Meruin, adding another layer on her mental file she'd been compiling about the man. She follows him closely through the first room as the door — wall? — closes behind them. The hallway with it's many doors sparks a curiosity in her even as that little voice in her head tells her matter-of-factly that she simply does not want to know. When he speaks about her concern she makes a little note to herself to work on her self control. She was a Chuunin and in her mind it reflected badly that she could be so easily read — even by someone on Meruin's level. When she answers him, her tone is stolid, matter-of-fact, and possibly the most honest she's been with him from the start. "I appreciate the assurance, Meruin-san, but I have jumped into this head first. It doesn't matter how many second thoughts I have, I will go through with it nonetheless."
"I am aware of this," spoke the Okumo as he stopped at a door, wooden rather than metallic. His hand found the doorknob and his gaze found Akane. But he said nothing more to her before he opened this door and stepped through it into the room beyond.
It is largely spare but large as well. 2 of the long walls are lined by a counter top, various paraphernalia, chemicals, agents, and texts adorning nearly the whole length. At the center is a wooden chair with metallic bindings for arms and feet, what you might expect of one about to undergo torture. And there are four other Okumo present that cease conversation and turn towards them, three in lab coats and another in plain green robes.
Akane sees the wooden door and meets Meruin's eyes as he looks at her. If nothing else she was good at acting fearless when she wanted to… Following Meruin into the room she has to get a good 15 feet into the room before she can clearly see the chair in the center of the room and when she does she pauses, glancing around at the four other people int he room. If one was paying close attention, they might notice her eyes deepen in shade just a bit, going from a soft jade green to a more leafy green. Despite the change in her eyes she bows toward the group semi-formally before glancing at Meruin for instruction, though she could guess what that instruction was going to be, she would wait anyway.
Three of the Okumo bowed their heads to Meruin, one in a lab coat only nodding his head. Meruin inclined his head to the each of them, saying, "Tidings. This is she that I had informed you of. Let us be about this business swiftly." He looked to the clansman in the green robes, "I require a 4,500 calorie meal, high protein and calcium and iron, avoid high levels of potassium. Additionally, in crystal cavern #49009 in sector D3 has five Lumbricus Terrestris corpses; send a harvesting team immediately."
He looked back towards the others as he received confirmation and the green robed Okumo took his leave, some of the others looking somewhat curious on the matter. But they said nothing on it. The one who had only nodded to Meruin simply said, "We are ready for her." And the group began to disperse, heading to the counters to gather up whatever instruments they'd need as Meruin gestured towards the chair and told Akane to "Take a seat."
Hesitating only a moment, Akane turns back to the door. Perhaps she had lost her nerve after all.. ah, no, she merely deposited her satchel in a place that was out of the way before returning to her place by Meruin as he speaks. She did a double-take, however when he informed them that he required a 4,500 calorie meal. Just what kind of energy had he expended in the cavern?! For she knew bright well she could never finish such a heavy meal on her own.
Again she notes the respect shown to Meruin. Not for the first time she wondered idly /what/ rather than who she had gotten involved with. But there was no time for that. As the man answers Meruin that they are ready for her and the scientists go to gather their instruments, Akane would wait for the obvious instruction that finally came from Meruin. Quietly she walks to the chair and sits down , aligning her arms and legs with the restraints should they decide to use them.
Meruin watches as Akane heads towards the door… apparently impassive throughout the time it took for her to deposit her satchel and return. As she sits down, he walks over behind her hair. "This is what will happen," he begins as he lifts a headrest from the back of the chair, moving it forward until it clicks into place. A barely present touch has his fingertips against the sides of her head, guiding it back into it.
"You will keep your eyes open while we bring a syringe near to it. We will drop an anesthetic agent into your eyes. You will feel briefly woozy and your vision will blur further before both return to normal. Feelings of intense pleasure will course through you. Your body will relax against your will and you will swiftly fall unsconscious. During this time, you may experience hallucinatory dreams. You will be highly susceptible to suggestion and we will use that to tell you to keep your eyes open or to close your mouth, basic things of that nature. When you awake, you may feel cotton mouthed but otherwise fine. The tests we perform include bloodwork, scleral tissue extraction, some allergy examinations, and chakra presence testing. Today's procedures are all noninvasive with the exception of the scleral tissue extraction."
And then he stepped away with the words, "We begin," nodding to the only female scientist of the group who stepped forward with the syringe. She would bring a gloved hand over to Akane's face, thumb and forefinger keeping an eye open unless resisted in some way. First one eye then the other, drops of a clear liquid onto the eyeball, contact a tingling one. And then she would step back to put the syringe away.
Akane felt the soft touch of Meruin's fingertips as he guides her head back against the headrest and she only shifts to put her long crimson braid over her shoulder so it falls down the front of her and is thus out of the way. His voice is calm as he details what they had planned for her. She nodded her head once to show she understood. When the woman steps forward with the syringe Akane doesn't move in the slightest, her expression calm. The girl's green eyes, however watch the female like a hawk spotting it's prey.
Despite Meruin's explanation of what was to take place, that little voice inside Akane's head just wouldn't relent. The only thing that had changed was the litany itself. Where as it had started by telling her just how stupid she was for agreeing to this, it had changed to warning her about just how much of a danger Meruin was and it expressly told her when he'd had a chance to end her. But now that demonic little voice had stopped talking as much as it was simply laughing at her. So as the female brought the syringe close to her eye, Akane held still… And that voice went silent for just a moment… Long enough for the woman to finish applying the stinging liquid to her eyes. Akane did not even flinch.
As Meruin had said, the liquid made her vision blur , bringing her back for a moment to the time just after the injury had occurred when she couldn't see anything. And that voice finally came back. /You know, he did say you were going to be highly susceptible to suggestion. Better hope you don't have anything to hide./ And it laughed at her again, as though it took pleasure in telling her it was too late to change anything now.
It's not long before the other changes start to occur. to the credit of her past, the only indication that she was feeling 'intense pleasure' as Meruin described was that her hands clench tightly against the armrests of the chair and her jaw tenses up as she grits her teeth, a flush appearing on her cheeks. It's short lived, of course and she is quickly pulled from the height down into the darkness of her mind. Her hands go limp and the tension she carried like armor melts out of her form, leaving her far more relaxed than she'd been for years, eyes half lidded and vacant.
Akane felt like she was falling, falling surrounded by darkness. Suddenly she stops, hovering in the deep dark of her own mind as she's pulled at from different directions. She sees the girl from her village that insists she's a good person and there's a sharp laugh behind her. Turning, Akane blinks to find that she's staring at,…. herself. The other her is different in only her eyes which are a stark deep forest green. The other her continues to laugh at the child's assertion that Akane is not a bad person.
"She doesn't know me well does she? I almost had her the other day too."
Akane glowers. "Leave her alone Don't you dare even—"
"Oh be quiet." The dark Akane flutters down and reaches a hand out to trace the scar over Akane's eye, smirking at her. "I was born that day. You should embrace me more."
The dream plain shifts and Akane's in Fuuma Alley, fighting a boy to the death. It changes again and she's Fighting a man with no face. And then she's standing int he middle of her village, staring up at the academy's front. That day she'd sworn to do her best for the village… She'd begun learning medical ninjutsu and soon after had found that she had a lightning affinity…. Her mind swirls then and she's at the day she was promoted to Chuunin…. Shortly thereafter, she'd gone out with some genin on a mission by the lake, had thrown herself between one of the kids and an attack… And she'd managed to 'rescue' another genin as well… She remembered ruffling hair and she'd smiled. "That's what Chuunin do. Protect you kids." It all happens inside her mind except that last…. that she mumbled aloud as the Okumo continued their work….
Meruin ignores the sound of the door closing behind him as the green robed Okumo departs with the remains of the meal that he'd ordered, the mists of his eyes a slowly swirling green, tinged with blue. He lifts a hand, moving the light shining directly onto her face away and turning it off. The procedures had all been completed without any issues, the each of them at least somewhat routine. It was only a little over an hour since she'd went under: About the time the serum should be wearing off, and they'd seen signs of her stirring. Stronger muscle movement, her murmured words…
Akane came up from her land of memories with what seemed to her to be a jarring momentum. Truthfully she'd come up pretty normally. When she hears her name spoken the second time she opens her eyes and tries to focus on something nearby. That thing ends up to be Meruin himself. She is unable to keep a groan from escaping her lips and she reaches up to rub at her forehead as she pushes the drowsiness away forcefully. The girl then drops her hand, lifting her eyes to look at Meruin again. "I'm here…." /Barely./
Meruin nods to Akane as she comes out of her drug induced state, stepping away from her side and heading towards the door. The other Okumo had already left the room, leaving only the two inside. "The procedures are all finished. It has been sixty-five minutes since you became unresponsive after the drug was administered. The samples we've taken are being taken to be examined. It will take a few days for us to find further answers."
He turns to her from beside the door, looking at her. "Come. We shall return back to the surface. If you need more rest, you can get it while we travel."
Akane stands up carefully, making sure that her legs will support her before she rubs her forehead again. She felt a little sluggish but nothing that should hinder her too badly (she hopes). So she simply picks up her satchel and follows Meruin closely once again. Her mind wanders back to the 'dreams' she had and she shakes her head hard, setting her jaw as she walks. "So everything went well I guess…. No complications?"
Meruin shakes his head, "There'd be few complications to have at this stage in our process of information gathering." He opens the door and steps out, reminding her to close the door behind her before he starts down the hall the way they'd come. "Little besides manual mistakes, which would be exceedingly unlikely, or an allergy to the inertia drug, which is also unlikely and hasn't presented itself."
He looks back at her, "How do you feel?"
Akane nodded to Meruin's words, seeing it was a silly question to ask. In reply to his inquiry, though, she spoke in a slightly weary tone. "I think I'll be fine once I get some ice on my eyes tonight." She considered quietly as she followed him down the hall. "I feel a bit tired like I just came out of an intense fight. I should be able to help if we are attacked again, though." She assures him of that with a smile that does appear somewhat forced. She was tired after all, it took a good amount of energy to keep up that happy-friendly facade.
Meruin examines Akane for a moment before nodding, looking back ahead. "In general, us taking the samples we had shouldn't cause any lingering pain. It could be, however, that your eyes are particularly sensitive in this state, leading to either the sample retrieval or the extended time spent with light shined on your eyes to leave them feeling as they do."
He opens the door to that first, bright lab, starting his way through it towards the hidden entrance. "If you find that the pain persists more than twenty four hours or worsens within that time, inform me of it. Barring that, we will meet again two days from now at the same place, at the same time. We will return here for further research with an increased knowledge base." He reached the other end of the lab, hitting the switch that sends the wall on its journey upward. He looked to Akane. "Will I be paying for your lodgings here within Kirigakure? Depending on our resolution, your stay may be somewhat extended."
Akane nods as she continues following him. "That would explain it probably. It's really nothing." She would keep close to him as they walked through the first labratory again, her hair tossed behind her once more. "I should be able to pay for my own room for a while. If I start to run low on money I'll contact you." She smiled, curious that she was being allowed to stay in Kirigakure itself.
Meruin nods. "Very good."
He then turned and stepped out of the room, walking once more into the land of shadows gently held at bay by the luminescence of ensconced mosses. He stepped out of the spray of light from the lab, an arm whipping out to send that webbing out to shift the biotorch that would send the wall back down after Akane stepped through it. And then he would lower himself into a crouch, wordless.
Akane steps through, watching him close the door — wall.. — again. When he crouches down she would flush faintly but climb onto his back again, wrapping her arms around his neck loosely once more. "I hope I didn't insult you with my caution earlier. Trust is not an easy thing for me. But you have done nothing suggesting that you are not an honorable man." She watches his expression closely in what light there is…
Meruin's arms slip under Akane once she finds her way onto his back, smoothly raising them up. He shakes his head as he starts walking forward, "I've taken no insult from you, worry not. Even if I had, it would not have been enough to cause me to compromise our bargain. Rest easy in that knowledge that so long as you refrain from violence, theft, or sabotage, you shall come away from this with your freedom, your life, and a pair of fully capable eyes if it is at all possible."
That said, he moves up to an easy, ground eating lope.
Akane nods, reassured as Meruin lists off the things that she shouldn't do while in Kirigakure. "I have no intentions to do any of that here or elsewhere." She figured that Meruin already knew that, but felt she should say it anyway. As Meruin would start running Akane would find herself fighting off sleep, lost in the darkness around her, she allows her eyes to fall closed and concentrated on what few sounds Meruin made as he moved once again at great speeds through the caverns.