Path of Hope - Pass/Fail


Sanshouuo (as Kaito and Shiwa), Goh

Date: March 14, 2011


Goh is sent to the Temple of Earth to learn Senjutsu. But it may not be as easy as he thinks it will be…

"Path of Hope - Pass/Fail"

Temple of Earth - Salamander Caves

After almost a week of travel through the vast underground domain of the Salamanders, Goh and Kaito have both arrived at a place known as the 'Temple of Earth'. Much like the rest of this place beneath the planet's surface, the area that the Temple exists within is huge. Further, the Temple itself is likewise huge! If one tilts one's head back to try to look up at the top of the Temple, one is likely to wind up tilting so far that one falls backwards onto the ground!
Right now, Goh is riding on Kaito's back, so as to conserve energy for the training that lies ahead. As they approach the Temple of Earth, no one comes out to either greet or challenge them. Sure, they may be a few miles away from the start of the stairs, but given how tall those stairs are, spotting Goh and Kaito from a distance should be easy.
When they finally >do< arrive, however… Kaito stops before they reach the stairs and says, "You may get off now." It is not really a suggestion. The stairs that lie before them start off straight, but after the first thousand or two-thousand, they appear to turn and start to wind around a central column made of the same mix of differently-colored marble that the entire Temple is. That's a lot of stairs to climb…

Goh had no idea that this adventure would involve so much … walking. Not that it has upset him at all. On the contrary! He became a Wanderer because he enjoys a good stroll. Having taken a bit of the distance on foot, the ex-Jounin of Konoha had soon opted to scale the back of Kaito. Simply because he could traverse quicker, and with smaller amounts of effort. And indeed — to conserve his energy.
Reaching the Temple and gawking, Goh looks up. You'd think that seeing so many GIGANTIC things lately would allow Goh to accept them more easily. It doesn't. He just sort of stares at this huge Temple. Amazing.
Rolling forward, they approach the starting point. As instructed, Goh slides off — landing solidly upon his feet.
"That's .. uh, a lot of stairs." Even for Goh, who considers his stamina to be quite high, this could get tiring. But still, it had to be done. "They look pretty enough. What am I meant to do when I get to the top? Is there a time limit or anything?" His blue eyes are cast over to the big form of Kaito. "Do I do anything special, or just wait at the top?"
At this moment, the male drops down onto one foot, stretching out a hamstring. He proceeds to do the same for the other leg, before standing up straight and stretching his arms high above him. He takes a few long breaths. Sucking in as much oxygen as possible. Getting his lungs ready.

Kaito looks at Goh as though he had just asked whether Salamanders taste like chicken. "'Get to the top'?" he asks in that same incredulous tone. Then he sighs. The large, grey and black lizard says, ">We< are waiting for one of the Sages to greet us. >You< are not going to take a single step within the temple unless you are >invited<." Some muttering about humans and manners may be heard. Kaito seems content to just sit and wait, unless Goh has further questions. He may or may not answer the questions even if Goh does have them, though!
So they wait. And wait. And wait. Eventually a faint noise like wood striking stone becomes clear enough and close enough to be identified as an actual sound. The echoes are coming from somewhere up above. And they keep repeating. And repeating. And repeating. Eventually, like thirty minutes later, the one producing the noise comes into view from around a bend in the stairs high overhead. He (or is it a she?) is a Salamander that walks >upright<, and carries a wooden cane. The reptile pauses. He or she is still far enough away that the individual is barely discernible as more than an outline, but still, the voice of an ancient-seeming male calls out, "Helloooooo!" The call echoes and echoes and echoes, even as the Salamander continues speaking. "Welcome, to the Temple of Earth. I will be right with you!" Then he turns to face forward again and… Resumes his slow, gradual descent from high above to where the stairs begin to curve initially.
Now that he is closer, it is evident that this Salamander is probably very old. Maybe not as old as Sanshouuo, but whatever species of Salamander he is, he is definitely in the latter years of life. Whatever mottling he may have once had has become uniform grey, and further, his flesh is lined with wrinkles. His eyes are a milky white, as though blind, and yet he clearly spotted Goh and Kaito previously. He stays where he is, for now, at the top of the stairs. He probably had to climb down a lot of them just to get to where he is now, so it is probably understandable that someone of his advanced years would need a break.
He doesn't >sound< out of breath when next he speaks, though. "Aa, little Kaito, is it?" Kaito is far larger than this ancient one, but perhaps he is just remembering the large Salamander from his younger years, when Kaito was no doubt much smaller. Kaito hmmm!s affirmatively. "It is I, Shiwa-sama," he says. Then he glances towards Goh and says gruffly, "And a human." The old Salamander just stands there and keeps smiling vacantly. Kaito lifts a large foot and nudges Goh in the back. Which is a lot like a powerful shove from another human! Is Goh supposed to say something!?

"What?!" Goh replies, as if almost as surprised as Kaito just was. "I don't show my amazing strength and worth by running up the stairs in a super dramatic fashion?" Goh almost pouts, before he falls onto his rear — crossing his legs and folding arms across his chest. "Well, you're the boss. I guess we wait then."
And so they indeed wait and wait. Waiting. For the first few times that Goh hears the noise, he believes that he is infact hearing things. Waiting for something that long can play tricks on you, after all! But once he has drawn the conclusion that the noise is real, he cants his head up to squint. At a Salamander walking /upright/. Goh boggles.
He doesn't greet back, instead choosing to just gawk and watch as the ancient lizard walks down the remaining steps. How would this old dude get back UP the steps? The blonde frowns, looking at the new arrival carefully. Definitely … old. When Kaito speaks his name, the blonde peers up, getting to his feet before he is shoved! Taking a few steps forward to balance himself, Goh clears his throat.
"Old Salamander Shiwa!" He declares, a grin coming across his face. "My name is Goh. Konoha's Number One Pickled Vegetabler. Number Three In The World." A big title, no doubt. Tipping his head in respect, he continues.
"The Elder Sanshouuo requested that I undertake training in Senjutsu. So here I am!" Was that was he supposed to say?

Shiwa just stands there, using his cane to let him walk on his hind legs. His bent spine probably helps in that department, allowing him to travel in a manner that other Salamanders, with their straight spines, could not. When Goh calls out to Shiwa with the address 'Old Salamander Shiwa', Kaito looks like he cannot decide whether to eat Goh's face or faint. Shiwa just keeps standing there and smiling blankly throughout the introduction. It is not until Goh informs the ancient Salamander of why he is here that Shiwa shows any sign he is even paying attention.
"Oh-hoooh!" he lets out mildly. "Soo ka? <Is that so?> Well, then! It has been quite awhile since we had any new students. I have almost forgotten how to begin!" Kaito shifts from foot to foot. Shiwa seems not to notice, and just says, "Well, I suppose we should get started." Then he leaps from the top of the stairs all the way to the foot of the thousands of steps, landing lightly to Goh's right. He then starts walking off. Slowly.
"This way, Goh-child," Shiwa calls out behind him.

"Y…yeah!" Goh gets out, stuttering a little bit. He shifts a nervous gaze up to Kaito. Can this old Salamander really teach him something as amazing as Senjutsu? The blonde frowns a little, before looking back up to the stairs. His eyes snap open, watching as the creature LEAPS down the remaining steps in one go, landing with minimal effort.
"W…woah." Even for a normal figure, such a leap is difficult. But for such an old guy? It was nothing short of impressive. The grin of the ex-Jounin returns, as he lifts a fist to clench it in excitement. "Lead the way! I'm right on your tail." Get it? Haw haw.
Lifting a hand to wave to the much bigger Salamander, Goh falls in behind. Walking … slowly it seems. To the location. "I'm surprised that there hasn't been any new students in so long. Isn't this something really amazing you're going to teach me?"

Shiwa seems not to 'get' it, no. Kaito is apparently not welcome to follow at this point, so he stays where he is and waits. As Goh follows after Shiwa, the elderly Salamander answers lightly, "Oh, yes, Senjutsu is quite amazing. But not everyone is cut out for it, sadly. Only a very few are able to master the skills of a Sage… I am one of the last. Three others live in the Temple of Earth with me, but we have not had any successful students in a hundred years or more!"
Walk. Walk. Walk. Eventually, Shiwa stops and indicates with one hand (foot?) the area they have arrived at. Many stone pillars stand in the area. Some are toppled, some broken, and some remain intact. All appear to be quite ancient, and probably weigh a lot too. Standing amidst the pillars are many ash-covered statues of rough stone in the shape of Salamanders. At least two that are immediately visible appear to be human-shaped. "This is where we start. You see each of these statues, Goh-child?" Well… Kind of hard not to, but Shiwa does not seem to truly expect an answer.
"These are previous students who tried and failed to become Sages."

"A… a hundred years?!" Goh retorts in a surprised tone. Man, they shocks just never keep coming. "That .. must make you really old, huh? Anyways — old Salamander Shiwa. You don't have to worry or anything about Senjutsu dying with you. Because I'm way different than any of your other students." His eyes light up with determination, the youth clenching his fist hard. He shows a toothy grin. "…I'm going to nail this training and succeed."
Continuing to walk along, Goh makes sure to take in all the sights and sounds. Getting to the area, he does spot the human-shaped creatures amoung the collection of dusty statues. He looks at them carefully, before turning his gaze back to Shiwa. "…previous students? Who failed?" Goh frowns a little, as if not completely confused. "So … those who fail this training become statues?" Sounds like a life or death training regime. The blonde swallows audibly.

Shiwa just keeps on smiling throughout Goh's proclamation he will 'nail the training'. At the question, however, he answers, "Sore wa soo desu. <That is so.> Was Natural Energy explained to you yet, Goh-child? The 'Chakra' of the world around us, that so few can detect, let alone make use of?" He turns around, taking at least three steps to do so, and then looks up at Goh. "I am blind. My old age has robbed me of my sight. But I can see you as clearly as I ever could — even with the youth of two-hundred years ago! Better, even! I can do this because I can detect the Natural Energy in the environment, and in those around me. I can sense your Chakra and your very life force. If you plan to be able to use Senjutsu, you must be able to do the same!"
Turning around again, Shiwa faces the statues. "The danger, however… Is that once one is able to draw in Natural Energy, it must be mixed evenly and perfectly with one's Spiritual Energy and Physical Energy to create Senjutsu Chakra. If the mixture is not balanced, one will begin to overheat. If the balance is not correct, one will be consumed in a pillar of fire! Finally, if the Natural Energy is not knocked out of the student at that point… Then one will turn into lava rock and ashes! I can not reverse a student who has progressed to the point of a statue. But with my cane, I can safely return one to normal at any stage prior."
Shiwa tilts his head. "Of course… Unless one has an enormous amount of Chakra to begin with, one would be overtaken very quickly by the Natural Energy. No normal human has that much Chakra, and very few Salamanders do either — even among the ancient ones! Some sort of 'aid' would be helpful… But if all else fails, we can simply have you undergo endurance training!"

"Sort of." Goh replies, shrugging honestly. "It was mentioned that it's natural energy, and just like you said. Few can detect it, but it's the chakra of the world." With the revelation that this Salamander is blind, Goh is hardly surprised. But the fact he can still see the ex-Jounin with Senjutsu causes him to blink a little. "So you're using .. Senjutsu, right now? Even as we're speaking? And can see me with it?" It seemed a lot like some form of byakugan, or sharingan. Just without the redness of big ugly veins. The ability to see the normally invisible chakra.
Goh gulps nervously again, hearing about the story of turning into statues. Or lava and fire. Sounds … er, dangerous? "So long as I train with you then, I guess I should be safe. The .. uh, whacking sounds painful! But if it stops me from becoming a swirl of fire, then I can live with it. I hope you guys have got bandages and stuff though. Even with my amazingness, I'm probably not gonna get it first time, right?" His head tilts a little.
"You know, I have .. well, quite a lot of reserves already. Even by normal shinobi standards, I can convert heaps of chakra! It's all thanks to my pickled vegetables. And you're saying I need more? And endurance training?!" Like, push-ups or something? Ugh. He hates push-ups! Did he have time for this? The blonde frowns a bit.
"I guess if I need to do it, then it must be done. I don't have any aids to help me along. I don't suppose you guys have got any chakra batteries just hanging around? Heh."

Shiwa 'hm's! "I can see you. However… It is not quite Senjutsu — just the ability required to be able to perform Senjutsu in the first place. If one cannot sense Natural Energy, one cannot use it. In order to sense Natural Energy, one must remain >perfectly still<." The old Salamander considers Goh's words. "Well, I suppose we should start by testing you." He then plods over to one of the towering pillars and pushes it a little bit with one hand as though to make sure it is stable. Then he nods to himself and says, "Now that I think of it… We Sages >did< have something like a 'Chakra battery' in the Temple of Earth… Until recently, that is. It suddenly vanished. 'Poof'! The World Pillar would have made this training much easier… Or perhaps harder. It is a fickle thing, just like nature herself! Here, Goh-child, try to push over this column with your strength."
Then he turns and moves to stand a few feet away so he can watch. The column is at least 200 feet tall, and maybe 12 feet wide. And Shiwa wants Goh to knock it over with nothing but his muscles!?

"I…see." Goh replies to Shiwa, trying to get his head around the idea of Senjutsu and Natural energy. "Staying still? That's it?" The pickler could that on the best of days! Considering some of the training he's done, staying still shouldn't be too much of a problem at all. "No sweat!"
"The World Pillar?" Which one was that, again? These Stones have way too many names. "The Stone of Nature turned into some girl called Gaia, and is right now in Konoha. If that's what you mean by the World Pillar. I have the Stone of Spirit in my possession, but that wouldn't help though. It sucks out my chakra moreso than anything else! Even if it grants me huge amounts of power and destruction."
Hearing the task at hand, Goh just leans back to peer up at the pillar. He … couldn't quite see the top of it. But oh well. Turning back down to look in front of him, he rushes at the pillar! Slamming his fists into it, the ex-Jounin digs deep to try and heave the thing forward. "…HURRRRRGGHHH!" His feet skid on the ground, even as Goh adjusts himself so that he's pushing his /back/ into the thing. "…ORIYAAAA!" Heaving and huffing for a good few minutes, he ends up sliding down the thing and hitting the ground — huffing and puffing. Did he fail already?
"…alright. Can't move it."

Shiwa just stands nearby and watches. Goh's revelation that the Stone of Nature/World Pillar had become a human girl named Gaia seems to have little effect on his countenance. He just keeps on smiling his lizardy smile. "The Stone of Spirit, is it?" he asks finally, after Goh fails to knock over the stone column.
"Well, first I suppose I should demonstrate the difference between a person who is not making use of Senjutsu Chakra, and one who is. But before that, an explanation. One who can use Senjutsu Chakra is called a 'Sage'. But while it is possible to use Senjutsu Chakra sparingly, and still be a potent force in the world, if one is able to perfectly balance Natural Energy with one's own Chakra, one can enter a special state known as 'Sage Mode'. That is very hard, however, and those who have failed to achieve Sage Mode are the ones most prominent here as statues. They reached too far, tried to achieve too much… If they had been satisfied with one or two Senjutsu then they might still be alive today!" Shiwa gestures for Goh to move away from the pillar.
"I will now make use of Sage Mode to demonstrate the potential physical power to be gained," the old one offers. Then he walks up to the pillar, and places his hands (feet? Whatever they are!) together. Closing his huge, milk-white eyes, he then just stands there for several seconds. After about ten seconds have passed, he opens his eyes and lets out a mild noise of 'hm'. The next thing Goh would see is the towering pillar tearing up out of the ground and going flipping end over end through the air, its mass creating deep, powerful 'WHOOSH'ing noises with each revolution. Seemingly hovering about sixty feet up, Shiwa is still in the position of one who has just delivered a kick. When did he get way up there!? He lands, finally, right next to Goh. "That was a rather blunt and obvious example, but you seem like a blunt and obvious person, Goh-child. Trying to explain it in complicated terms would just confuse you."
Then a resounding *BOOOM* echoes throughout the vast cavern, along with a tremor through the ground being felt, as the pillar finally lands a few miles away. "So," Shiwa begins, turning to face his newest student. "You going to be satisfied with the ability to use a couple Senjutsu at a time, or will you seek the greater power granted by Sage Mode?"

Huffing and puffing, Goh can only watch and nod slowly at the explanation. "Right .. I think I get it. So to use more at once, Sage Mode is needed?" He's having a hard time listening right now, mostly because his lungs and working over-time to try and collect his breath back. Yeah, he had HEAPS of stamina. >_>;
His breathing shallows, and his eyes nearly /pop out of his head/ when he spots what happens next. If it was possible, he'd perform an expression that's akin to 'OO'. Just … boggling as the huge pillar is sent … away. He winces a little when it CRASHES into the distance, hoping that no-one was under that when it hit the ground.
Slowly getting to his feet, Goh just watches, pondering these events. "So … I can learn to obtain Senjutsu without going into this 'Sage Mode'. But … by dipping into it, I gain incredible strength like the one who just demonstrated. But if I fail and you're not around, then I turn into a statue." He seems to take a moment to think this through, before his teeth clench. He shakes a little. Was he going to decline?
"Bring it on, old Elder Salamander!" He cries. "I'm not afraid of this training! Whatever I need to do to master Sage Mode, I'm going to do it. Not only for me, or for Mushi. But for my family, the Salamanders. And anyone who needs help! I don't have a choice. I must!"

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