Date: December 26, 2014
Meruin is greeted by the man chosen to be his teacher in the art of shadow clones, their first steps taken in the pursuit of understanding.
"Meru's Shadow Clone Training (1)"
Within the Dark Caverns
Deep in the network of caves that held some of the secrets of the Okumo clan, there was a spacious grotto. A stream of clear water ran through one side of it, falling into a waterfall, though there is no sound of splashing as the water falls into a seemingly endless crevasse. On the walls and all around the sharp rocks and outcroppings is a more clear area in the center. A circle of several torches have been placed, emitting light that glistens off the silken webs and smooth stone in the grotto. Okumo Meruin had made it known that he desired power. Okumo Giroshi had been chosen to aid him in this endeavor. But the elder of the Okumo clan is not in the circle of light, nor is he visible in the surrounding area. He had sent Meruin a message with a time and date to meet in this cavern. The time approached and in the shadows it seemed only the place's spiders moved…. Abruptly, the emptiness was filled. Meruin stood within the ring of torches, his pale form cast red and orange by the flickering flames. Only the shadow his presence brought moved as he stood there, both light and darkness the domain of the fire, but his flesh beyond its control. The signal had been given, his attendance broadcasted to whomever was going to be his teacher for this lesson. His only job now was to await. To stand in this place until it gave him something to react to. Meruin's arrival was not unnoticed. Giroshi had secreted himself against the ceiling of the cave, just within the realm of shadows, held there by the silk webbing his skin secreted. He watched the boy below him silently for a long moment before he allowed himself to descend at a good pace, though not quickly. Once his feet touched down on the stone floor just outside the circle of torches, Giroshi allowed the silk suspending him to retreat once more. The elder man stood there with his arms crossed over his large chest. One eye was covered by an eye patch that seemed to be part of his hitai-ate that was tied about his silver haired head. He was not greatly advanced in age, though he was easily twice Meruin's. But he had lost all color in his hair long ago. He gazed at the boy before him with that one grey eye before he finally stepped into the circle of torches. "You are prepared?" Giroshi asked simply, his voice gruff. Once Giroshi began descending from the ceiling, Meruin's head tilted just a hair, taking a moment to get the direction the sound was coming from oriented in his mind and discerning whether or not it was a threat. He could tell the sound was getting louder, but not swiftly enough to be dangerous. A descent, then, rather than a direct launch at him. He waited for it to finish, for the elder to find his way to the ground, and listened to the silence that awaited afterwards. When the man finally entered the light of the flames, the Mizukage leveled a bow to him. "Blessings, Honored Elder." He arose, back straight and bearing confident as it always was. "I am prepared." Giroshi nodded once in response to Meruin's bow and greeting. He kept any indication of approval from his features. They would see how bright the boy was shortly. Since Meruin claimed to be prepared, Giroshi simply said, "Observe." And slowly went through the proper hand signs for the shadow clone technique. He followed this by making his chakra motions more obvious than they would normally be… The first time through anyway. A large cloud of smoke appeared and when it cleared there stood a second Giroshi. Both folded their arms over their barrel chests and one speaks. "Let us see how you fare." The second Giroshi waved his hand for Meruin to try and emulate the technique. As Meruin is told to observe, he falls even further into stillness, examining the totality of the man as he sought out the movements of the man with his senses, the chakra work too… esoteric for him to properly decipher. But as he looked to the second Giroshi, he knew that he would simply have to make do anyway. And soon, the order came. Luckily, he was not completely unaware of this technique, having become intimately aware of it through both combat and written scrollwork. Taking this information and the clone technique into account, making his own approximations, he moved through the handseals at a steady pace, deliberately molding his chakra. And on the final seal… The clone smoke arose beside him, not thick enough to hide form of the chakra construct the Mizukage created. Beside him stood a second Meruin, standing at a little over 9 feet tall and properly proportioned. "Unlikely that it was too much chakra, considering the specifics of the technique," spoke the man after a moment of examination. He looked back to Giroshi. "I suspect it to be too little control of the vast levels of energy." Giroshi watched Meruin's face and eyes closely. Silently he approved of the boy's awareness. Meruin had done his homework it seemed. Good. Giroshi would not have to waste his time with the basic concepts then. The Elder allowed the clone to disappear in a poof of smoke as he studied Meruin and his towering clone. He almost chuckled. Almost. But Meruin was already critiquing his own work and Giroshi found that fundamentally he agreed with the young Mizukage. He waved a hand to have Meruin dispel the clone. "Not a bad first try, but I know you can do much better, Mizukage." He intentionally stressed the title just a bit. "Pay close attention. You are dividing your chakra rather than projecting it." He went through the hand seals once more, deliberately, steadily, his one grey eye never leaving Meruin's face. He split his chakra off again, creating a shadow clone of himself once again. The second Giroshi simply stood there for the time being. The original spoke gruffly. "Try again." He did not add 'do better.' Though he wondered to himself if the boy would see the subtle variance on that final seal…. Meruin gave no outward reaction to the subtle goads, simply nodding when told to pay attention and taking the advice given without an prejudice. Once the elder began sifting through the hand seals, the Okumo's eyes dropped from that one grey one down to the hands, scanning them as the seals were made. The command came to try again and the Okumo nodded. There was a brief hesitation, the small difference only now making itself apparent to the man's mind, nearly missed. He immediately when through the seals once more, changing the concept of the jutsu in his mind. Rather than simply creating a construct with a large portion of his chakra, he made one that /drew/ the appropriate amount into itself. Soon, in the place of the giant clone was one that was the appropriate size. It inclined its head just the slightest bit and the Mizukage spoke, "Closer, it seems. But too little chakra within it." His own chakra levels informed him that he had been a little reserved in how much the clone would draw from him into itself. Indeed, given another four or five seconds, the clone will simply cease to exist. Giroshi nodded slightly as Meruin caught the final seal properly, though he can tell the boy is a bit too hesitant with his chakra. There was no indication as to why he had hesitated, whether because of a miscalculation or just a simple distraction, Giroshi could not tell from his inscrutable pupil, but he would capitalise on it. The clan had never been gentle with the boy…. Giroshi crossed his hands over his chest and took a single step backwards, leaving his shadow clone standing alone. "Defend with a shadow clone." The shadow clone moved just perceptibly for the Mizukage's awareness — assuming he was paying attention of course — and launched himself forward. His hands shot out toward Meruin's face and chest, a multitude of attacks, the talons under his nails exposed for the attack secreting a burning poison with each strike.
As soon as the man spoke the word 'Defend' something changed about Meruin, a subtle accentuation of the fierce tones within his mien, not a creation of them but the enhancing of something already present. When the shadow clone began moving, he moved himself, moving through handseals that were long familiar before a clone of himself appeared, already running to meet the other. The Mizukage-clone met the Giroshi-clone head on, hands rising to divert each of the strikes as they came in. But it looked like it had to put too much effort behind the actions, as though it didn't quite weigh enough to move the blows away without extra momentum. Still too little, clearly. Dispelling that one, Meruin simply made a third, gesturing to it in a fairly confident 'try him.' Giroshi watched the clash of clones carefully. Meruin had not reacted with quite enough strength as he should have, though most of Clone Giroshi's attacks were diverted, there were still marks on the clone's face where the poison had gotten through to skin. Giroshi had watched the affair with a hard expression on his face, that one grey eye watching Meruin specifically. The Elder never forgot, however, that he was tutoring the Mizukage. He took advantage of the unique trick of accepting the clone's chakra back into himself to garner more information, namely to have watched the clone during the fight as much as Meruin himself. He took a moment to absorb the information he'd gleaned — the weight being wrong and so forth — then quickly went through the seals to create another clone, sending it forward with a slightly different attack. This time the clone used spider webbing as whips, a burning poison on the strands, testing the third clone meruin had motioned that he try out. The Meruin clone stepped up without reservation to defend its creator, arms lashing out to send whips of spider silk out to counter those that came him. The webbing rebounded and reconnected, twisting around eachother and releasing eachother with abrupt motions up until the point the Mizukage's shadow lifted an arm and took a lashing, the poisoned length wrapping around the forearm. It was on purpose, a demonstration of how it persisted through the attack, and sent a swift lashing towards the clone in informative retaliation.
The original Giroshi watched the clones clash, a nearly perfect dance between he two very differently made creatures, but his face remained stolid, even hard. When Meruin caught the lash on his arm, though Giroshi quirked an eyebrow. The clone watched him take the hit willingly, holding him in place so he could attack. Clone Giroshi mirrored Meruin's movements, allowing the lash to wrap around his own arm in the same way it had around Meruin's. The pain was ignored but the clone grinned, nearly smirked at the Meruin clone. "That is enough." Giroshi's gruff voice came across the cavern and he disengaged his clone before allowing it to disappear. The Elder stepped back into the circle of firelight and nodded to Meruin, the only suggestion that he was at all satisfied with the session. "Continue to practice this and we shall move on to the next lesson." Meruin's own clone disengaged as the other did, webbing rescinding into its arms, the burn on its arm soon fading away entirely and swiftly covered back up by the reforming silk of his robes. It wasn't until the other's clone vanished that his own did the same. The true Meruin inclined his head and the clear dismissal was met with a bow that said his will would be done and a simple… vanishing.