Date: January 27, 2014
Meruin meets Akane within Kirigakure's floral oasis; the line of questioning he subjects her to yields some interesting results.
"Losing Sight - First Words"
Floral Oasis in the Land of Water
Akane had been in the Land of Water for a couple of days longer than usual. As she'd told Sei, she wasn't going to try walking out of the country in a thunder storm and one had hit the town she'd been in. So she kept her room at the inn and spent the day trying to keep herself occupied. By chance she'd been drinking tea downstairs when she'd run into someone, a conversation had occured and they'd told her about an oasis they had heard of. Curious and certainly interested in the various plants that would be there, Akane had set out to search for it.
Now that she was here she felt the beauty of the place just as keenly as the threat. She recognised several plants from books she'd read and others she had no idea about. However, she had heard of one flower, a purple blossom on a green vine with 5 petals and tiny thorns… The Amethyst Rose was said to house both a strong poison (in the thorns) and a rejuvinative (in the petals). So here she was, wearing her usual outfit, a leather bustier with black pants and a jacket, twin kodachi at her hips and kunai and throwing daggers around her belt. She bears no marking from any specific village. When she'd run into that child shinobi, Sei, she'd told him that she had grown up in Fuuma Alley and he'd accepted it. She preferred to leave it at that. Her long hair was done up in a tight but elaborate weave and she has six hairsticks apparently keeping it together and out of the plants as she moves. Perhaps while she was here she could collect more potent Water Grass for that nasty tasting tonic she was making for herself.
As she moves, she keeps her eyes close around her, The jade green orbs focusing on things near her easily. But when a snake slithers down a tree in plain sight ten yards away, she seems oblivious of it's presence or movement, though she's facing the thing directly.
Those who traveled to these lands and happened upon a chance to overhear about this floral oasis were not the only ones who saw fit to enter it. There were natives who knew of it as well, natives who frequented it even. And one denizen of the Land of Water has seen fit to come upon the area.
Okumo Meruin entered from the space across the stream, the young, pale auraed man's stride long and smooth. He was clearly a Kirigakure shinobi, his forehead protecting sitting plainly across his forehead. He doesn't seem equipped with anything to use for carrying anything he might harvest, so perhaps he was here purely to enjoy the beauty and fragrance of the place. Or perhaps he was there for Akane herself.
He was heading in her direction, if effortlessly silently.
Akane had found a lovely flower and though not an Amethyst Rose, she marveled at it's orange and black striped petals. She wonders to herself if it would be safe to pick it just for the beauty and scent.. she can't resist leaning down and taking a soft sniff of the flower. Lucky enough for her, it was only a component in a possible poison so she would not be harmed by it, but for one who works with herbs, she should have known better. Lush areas like this oasis tended to carry a high chance of danger if any part of the plant is ingested. But like many, she could not resist the beauty of it all.
As Meruin strides across the stream, the girl does not notice and as he is being silent she cannot hear. A shift of the wind and a long strand of her crimson hair flies loose of it's binding. She reaches up and lets out a small 'che' before weaving it back into place. When Meruin move within a distance of 20 feet from the girl she notices the movement and turns her head toward him. Her green eyes narrow but are unable to focus fully. She keeps her eyes moving, though, emulating the movements of someone who sees lots of things around the area. As Meruin's shape goes from motion to shadow to a faint impression of a man Akane stands up slowly.
She wanted no trouble and as he stepped just a bit closer, the light glints off his forehead protector and though she cannot see the symbol just yet she assumes that he would be from Kirigakure. She offers a bright smile to the man. "Good afternoon."
As the Okumo approached, he examined the woman enjoying the flowers. Crimson hair, long and well taken care of. Expressive brows. Soft, smooth features. Hazel-grey eyes, pale, vertical scar on the left. Somewhat snug clothing, exposing various areas, including the sign of a seal or a tattoo on the right side of the mid section. She is looking at him now. Black shinobi sandals. Spiked armwear. A pair of kodachi. Three belts holding multiple kunai. No signs of any village's affiliation and not one he's ever recalled seeing within the bounds of Kirigakure.
He offers an inclination of his head as she gives him a sudden smile and a greeting. "Good afternoon," he spoke in return greeting, the shifting mists within the black orbs of his eyes growing a deeper purple. He comes to a stop a scant seven steps away from the woman, looking down at her. "This is not an often traveled area. Not by outsiders. What has brought you here?"
Akane keeps the friendly expression on her face as the man comes closer. She could feel him appraising her silently and does nothing to possibly rile him. He speaks to her, returning the greeting and she gets her first good look at his eyes and they give her pause. Such a unique appearance, the colors shifting within his face remind her of a storm cloud swirling away to reveal the setting sun's colors behind it.
Mentally she shakes herself back to the present. The man was more than another lovely flower to look at and surely he would be far more deadly. His question about what she was doing here is met with a simple but truthful answer. "I heard of this place at the inn I was staying at and had to come see it. I was hoping I might find some herbs as well in such a lush place." She tilts her head a little and chuckles in an open manner. "I seem to make the local shinobi curious. You're the second one who has asked me what I was doing here."
Meruin nods his head in understanding of her answer, his austere features unshifting. "That would make sense. We have suffered a recent attack from a foreign shinobi from around this area. It is likely that the shinobi are still a bit wary of faces they do not recognize."
A pale brow arches over one of his eyes, a quiet complement to his words. "And this place is a location very, very few but shinobi would be able to reach. One would have to locate the entrance to the dark caverns, traverse their lightlessness, and make the journey through the forest to this place." He tilts his head slightly.
"What is your name, shinobi?"
Akane makes an 'ah' sort of face when meruin tells her that there had been an attack from outsiders recently. Of course that would make the shinobi wary. So perhaps her timing had been the cause of so much attention. But then he points out that it wasn't exactly a simple walk in the woods to reach the oasis garden. Mentally she winces. These Kiri-nin were quite perceptive, of course she was shinobi… Who else would carry weapons like hers and go through dangerous places just for the off chance hse'd find a rare plant?
When he asks her what her name is she smiles again and bows politely. "Fujikujo Akane. Nice to meet you." She tilts her head in a mimic of his own motion toward her. "And what are you called?"
"I am called Okumo Meruin." Jounin of Kirigakure. Winner of the genin bracket of the first ninja world tournament at 9 years of age. The killer of the shinobi that had attacked Kirigakure's citizens here. Prevalent in each of Kiri's wars, and for a fair number of other feats besides. There were many that his name would effect. There would be many who have never heard of him. He allowed only half a beat to see and examine her initial reaction to the name, if she would betray any foreknowledge of him. "You collect herbs, then. Do they heal or do they harm?"
Akane 's reaction is well covered with her seemingly friendly behavior. The only indication that she recognizes any part of the name is a suprised blink. There is nothing else visible in her face. Her green eyes do grow a bit harder, more serious when he asks her about the herbs. She'd already told the boy she'd met that she was a medic, had already had a conversation about various poisons in the area. She was not conceited enough to think she could lie outright to this man just as she had not even attempted to lie to the boy. It seemed she was attracting Okumo lately , though…
So her answer to Meruin's inquiry regarding the herbs she answers truthfully, though simply. "Both. Though I came to this land originally to get Water Grass." An herb only found int he Land of Water, one that could be used for both poison — as the boy Sei had pointed out — and for an herbal treatment for trouble in the eyes. "But when I heard of this place I thought I might get lucky and find a few more rare plants before I went on my way again."
There were some answers that simply rang truth, a very difficult quality to fake, and hers did just that. It felt something like a submission to the Okumo and he did not question it. "I assume that you've acquired your water grass," he spoke. "And there are items here that may be of interest to you. I shall point you to them with the expectation that you will not overharvest them to the point that they no longer continue to grow here."
A finger lifted without his eyes following them, about thirty feet away there's a small patch of brown petals amidst a field of green leaves. They looked as though the petals were made of tree bark, the grouping clear once caught. "Flamethrowers," he said. "The brown petals amidst the green. The roots of the flowers are known to create a fever burning hot enough to kill within two days if mashed into the paste and introduced into the body of the victim. The petals can cleanse the eyes of ill humours."
Akane offers him another smile as he tells her he will show her some items in the area she might find interesting. "No one with any sense would over harvest even in someone else's territory, rest assured." But when he points in the direction of the Flamethrowers it becomes apparent to the watchful that something is off about the girl. Though she looks in the proper direction and nods, absorbing every word he speaks about the plant's various properties, her eyes are unfocused and she's actually looking above the plants. She steps in that direction a little before stopping, not wanting to simply walk away but clearly wanting to get closer to the plant in question. Her interest peaks when he tells her the petals can be used to cleanse the eyes. In that moment she looks much like a child being taunted with sweets.
Meruin's head cants slightly to the side as he watches the woman see yet not see, leave and yet stay, have but behave as though she did not. The Okumo looks towards the flamethrowers, then beyond them before looking back to Akane. His platinum hair slips over his shoulders, long strands beginning to weave themselves into a braid as though guided by invisible hands. "You are young to be blinding," he spoke, voice smooth. "Overused Dojutsu?"
Meruin's words about her being young to be blind brings her back to reality with a thump. She'd lost just a touch of control when she'd reacted to the plant and it's possibilities and that was something she doubted she could verbally slither her way out of. So she turns with a kind of sheepish expression instead, her eyes refocusing properly on the closer Meruin. She looked about to speak when she notices his hair moving apparently of it's own accord… Nah, couldn't be. She took her thumb and forefinger of one hand and squeezes at her eyes before looking at him again. But his hair was still braiding itself. It was kind of hypnotising, the color and the movement adding to the mystical display.
So it was in her moment of distraction when she had to answer him or seem more suspicious than she already did that she showed a hint of something else inside her. Her green eyes deepen just a bit and grow hard, the exact opposite of her thus-far friendly appearance, her lips set in a line, her tone is flat and cold, she says, "Yes, though it was far from my choice to use the Sharingan."
The Okumo was quiet and still but for the movement of his self-efficient hair, simply examining the woman as she reacted, betraying inner thoughts and emotions. Sheepishness. Disblief and curiosity. Proper depth and some darkness. Cold in the voice and the use of the sharingan.
He arched a brow, head tilting further akin to a curious bird.
"You are an Uchiha?"
Akane lifts her eyes from Meruin's hair and blinks a few times at his quetion, realizing that she had possibly set herself into a hole. "N..no.. I'm not an Uchiha." She forces herself to focus and meets his eyes head on. Just on the side nearer to the colder harder side of her, Akane sighs once then folds her arms loosely under her chest. "It is a very long story but the climax was that I fell into a curse-trap while trying to help a friend locate an artifact. The curse was designed to test him and used me as a conduit. Somehow this curse or spirit activated Sharingan in my eyes and used it against him. Unfortunately, it blinded me entirely for several days. I've been working on ways to heal them and I can see things in a certain distance around me but not far…" She frowned, knowing that she had easily told a shinobi that she was vulnerable in a very real way. She had come alone as well so few would miss her if she lost an encounter here. She turned to regard Meruin with a stone faced expression, waiting for his reaction, muscles preparing to engage if he was hostile. For though she might not be /able/ to protect herself, she would gouge out any part she could reach rather than go quietly.
"Calm thyself…" Meruin says with a raised hand.
That gesture turns into one pointed at Akane as he says, "There is no defense you could pose that would enable you to either survive or harm me, poisoned weapons or no." His hand falls down to his sides. "More important is the fact that I do not currently intend to bring you any harm. You have yet to do anything warranting violence. Attempt to ensure that this remains the case." He steps in closer, hands at his sides as he looks into the herbalist's eyes, saying, "Eyes open wide. How has your vision improved since you regained it?"
Akane remains stoic when he tells her to calm herself and she thought it was an odd demand as she felt entirely calm. His next statements that she could neither escape him or harm him despite her poisoned weapons if he decided to attack. Having grown up ont he streets of Fuuma Alley she had a natural self confidence that doubted his words, at least she could wound him before he killed her surely. No, this wasn't the time to let her ego get the best of her. She just nods her head when he tells her she has done nothing to warrent violence — Yet — and to keep it that way, a silent acceptance for now.
Her resolve to behave was tested a bit when he stepped closer and ordered her to open her eyes and then about how her eyes had improved. Once her initial shock was over she does as told, opening her eyes wide for him and tilting her head a bit to allow more light to fall on her face.
It's been months since it happened and I can still only see about fifteen feet in front of me. Several days after the fight i regained a small amount of my eyesight. All I'd done was a healing jutsu on myself. I had to make my way …home…. alone. I'm a med-nin. I tried my own healing jutsus, I tried letting others heal me. I've been using herbal mixtures designed to heal various things… It seemed to be working. I regained about 25% of my sight… But it has plateaued there it's been weeks since anything has changed and when I strain them everything goes black again."
She did not know why she was going along with this, perhaps it was just desperation…. But she steeled her nerves and resolved to be still and cooperative for now. Her arms fall loosely to her sides as she waits.
Meruin dips in close as Akane presents her eyes to him, remaining to the side to avoid blocking the light, his own gaze unblinking. He examined the whites of her eyes, the irises and the colors within them, the frayed edges of her pupils, the blood vessels visible in the eyes and the tear ducts. And then he shifted, purposefully blocking the light as he examined them all again, nodding to what she was telling him. A few moments after she stops talking he nods and takes a step back. "I may be able to help.
"Have there been any differences in your ability to cry since the incident and has your eyes always been a mix of grey, green and brown?"
Akane blinks several times as he steps back again, suggesting that he might be able to help. She quashed that rising feeling that comes with hope quickly, not wanting to struggle with it right now. Her first words sound taken aback. "I.. don't really cry so I don't know…I've had to use eye drops more to keep them hydrated so possibly, yes." Then she puts a hand to her chin, considering his second question before she shakes her head a little. "I don't think they weere ever brown but they like to shift between green and greyish." Why would you..help me? I'm not one of your village."
Meruin nods, "Your current eye color is a mixture of grey and hazel — green and brown. The brown is not very pronounced, however. It may have simply escaped your notice." In this era, there are some who've never seen their reflection in anything other than murky waters and he did not know from where she's come. "But it may be an effect of the sharingan changing the composition of your eyes.
"As for why I would help you," he said, hair flaring as it suddenly pulls itself from its braid to lay settle down his back. "It is not because I am a generous man. I am not. But I am fair to those I make dealings with. I reward those who give to me and punish those who take from me. Being given the chance to study your eyes will give my clan the opportunity to further study the sharingan. I consider it a fair trade to give you fully functional eyes in return for the information."
Akane watches his hair randomly come undone as he explains about her eye color and it is entirely possible that she had never noticed some brown in her eyes. However, the second option is also just as valid. Her medical training told her that. Dojutsu were well known to harm those who were not born with the ability and going blind from it was not a suprising result. But she felt hesitation well up in her as he goes on to explain why he'd 'help' her. She was being offered an exchange. Meruin would fix her eyes for her in return for allowing him — or his clan — to study what had happened to them, the damage and any possible changes….. It did seem like a good deal…
The girl looks down, frowning as she contemplated her options. She wasn't sure how this man would react if she refused him. She wasn't being told up front exactly what or how they would study her eyes and it could be entirely possible that they could damage them beyond repair. But as she considered her options she came to find she felt it was worth the risk to agree for several reasons…. So she lifts her head and nods. "Very well. That sounds fair."
Meruin nods his head at Akane's decision, hands loosely gripping his own wrists behind his back in a fairly relaxed authoritarian pose. "You find this to be a worthwhile endeavor when you wake up able to see more than 10 to 15 feet in front of you. I assume that you are not prepared to come immediately for various tests and things. As such, I expect you to meet me at the hidden entrance of the Dark Caverns two days from now at two hours past midnight. From there, I shall lead you into the demesne of my people and we shall begin our examinations, experimentations, and postulations on your ailments and their cures."
Akane watches his posture change and for a moment she wonders what she'd just agreed to. But he answers that for her soon after… Her attention is caught by the word 'experimentations' and she rubs at her forehead idly as she decides to just accept it once again. She nods as he instructs her to meet him at a specific location at a certain time. "Alright.." She looks around her, comming back to Meruin's face then asks the question she'd been dying to ask since he told her he would point out plants and herbs for her. "You wouldn't happen to know where I could find an Amethyst Rose… do you?"
Meruin had drawn in a quiet breath through his nose to speak but withheld, seeing that Akane had something to say herself. Or, as it turned out, something to ask. "An Amethyst Rose," the Okumo repeated, head tilting slightly as he examined the woman just a little more closely. "A fairly rare plant. I suppose it should lie right within your realm of interest, however, being that you are both a poison crafter and a medical shinobi."
He nodded affirmation. "It does grow within Kirigakure. But it does not grow here. Not any longer. After this place grew more popular it was removed and planted elsewhere as it was too easy for its thorns to deliver a too potent venom. I shall acquire some samples of the herb for your use to be delivered along with your eyesight as completion of our agreement."
Akane listens to Meruin, nodding as he identifies the plant she was lokoing for and looks professionally curious when he says they dont grow int eh oasis anymore. His reasons are sound, though. "I had heard it was hard to harvest because of the toxin in the thorns." She had brought gloves but he offers to aquire a sample for her and she smiles with a nod. "Why thank you."
"Come to think of it…" Akane reaches behind her and opens one of her belt pouches, digging in it for a few moments before she pulls out a small flask and a piece of folded paper which she eyes closely before bringing the flask to her ear and shaking it. Judging by the sound, it was about half full. The crimson haired girl offers Meruin the flask and paper. "As a sign of good faith for the next 2 days I'll give you this. It's the recipe and a sample of the tonic I created to help heal my eyes. I had to travel to three of the five great countries and the Land of Grass to aquire the supplies but perhaps it can help you develope a stronger version." She then feels the need to explain further. "I believe that when it comes to the health of people such medical concoctions should be shared, not hoarded. If my research can help someone in your village it will have been worth it."
Meruin simply dips his head in response to the thanks, remaining silent on it. When she reaches behind her and slips her hand into a belt pouch, he cants his head once more, more intently watchful than his expression would suggest. But what she pulled out was something that seemed far more helpful than it may at first have been.
He extends his hand as the flask is offered, the palm of it darkening to blackness as it is covered in a chitin. Far less permeable than skin, it woud protect him from any contact poisons placed on it. As a poisoner himself, he knew that it would often be prudent never to trust one whose profession involved murder through toxins.
He took the flask with a nod, slipping it into the sleeve of his robe, that seeming to be all that was necessary to tuck it away. "Excellent. I shall turn it in for examination tonight. Perhaps we will have some directions to step in by the time we bring you into the compound in two days." His chin lifts slightly.
"Are there any more matters you need discussed?"
Akane blinks as the spiders come out to protect his hand from any possible poison on the flask. Of course there is none, but still, it was a curious thing to see. As with Sei's spiders Akane shows no discomfort with the creatures, but more of a fascination with how these Okumo work with the arachnids. She made a note to remain vigilant and to remember anything she could about the clan which seemed quite similar to the Aburames of Konoha. At his last question, however, Akane shakes her head no. "I believe I have all the information I need…"
Meruin inclines his head, "In that case, consider negotiations over. After today, the next we shall meet is two days from now, two hours after midnight." He turns away from Akane, stepping over towards a graceful flower, its petals striped orange and black. "I would recommend being as well rested as you can when you meet me," he murmurs as he crouches down. A quick motion sees him taking cutting through the healthy stem with a pinch of his thumb and forefinger, "I cannot say how long it will be before you can sleep or how exhaustive the tests will be." He rises, slipping this flower into his sleeve as well and leveling a final nod towards Akane before starting off the way he came.
"Until then, be well."