Date: August 21, 2016
While practicing a new method of perception that would not require use of his brood, Naoya is interrupted by familiar face, the somewhat mysterious teammate.
"Sensor Practice: Feeling with Mist and Fog"
Land of Water, Kirigaure
With the morning hours just arriving, Naoya could be seen several meters from the lake's banks, allowing himself to surrounded by the rolling mists. 'Good, good.. this will do just fine. To think, of all things.. those children would show me a weakness.' A light smirk appears on his lips as he starts to take in a slow breath and bring his finger together, forming one seal after the next slowly and keeping his movements minimal.
With his focus on the mist Naoya was rapidly becoming distracted, unaware of his surrounding. In exchange for his focus the mists around him steadily expand outwards, while it wasn't thick it would creep low out and into the forest. 'Texture is different.. Tsk, doesn't feel right at all,' is grumbled though with the wavered attention the mists already begin to die down once again to his annoyance.
Life can be strange. Perhaps Hayase has done some training. But if so it's in deadly secret. And it looks suspiciously like she's trying to live a life of ease. Shinobi duties are mandatory, but Hayase has shown an uncanny ability to avoid all but D and C-rank missions of the most menial level. For the past few months she hasn't broken a sweat. But for once she's visibly out and searching for someone. She needs to find that person.
Instead, she finds Naoya. She doesn't smile or shout a greeting. She approaches silently, and when she sees he's quite distracted she continues to do so until she can be close as possible. And then she shouts in a voice that scares the frogs from their logs, and hopefully blows his eardrums out. "NAOYA-SENPAI! THIS LOWLY SHINOBI RESPECTFULLY GREETS YOU!" And when she got his attention she'd say, "Is that how your students greet you?" with a smile.
Slowly regaining his focus, Naoya was beginning to build up the mists, improving the distance between himself and their reach before he was once again distracted. The shout of his name causes his eyes to partially lid, drooping down into a mildly annoyed glare, glancing in the direction of the source. "Hay-chan.. If one of those students began to greet me like that I would question how poorly were they planning to hide the other part of their trap."
Lifting his right foot, Naoya shifts to quickly form several seals and turns towards Hayase, to suddenly stump. When striking the water, chakra runs down his legs and pulses causing a three meter tall wave of water to appear. "Now.. 'little genin', if you want to try to kill me for your promotion, you have to do so on the academy grounds," is said with a raised tone but it wasn't annoyed though it was said in a teasing chide.
Hayase grins at Naoya's words. "Yes well…I suppose my brother doesn't greet me with 'honored sister' like I tell him to," she admits. "He calls me Hay-chan too." She gives him a suspicious look, as if Naoya might be behind the whole thing. "As for killing you for a promotion…I couldn't possibly do that." Her blank smile leaves the meaning of that open. Either she doesn't have the physical ability to kill him, or the willingness to kill him, or in all likelihood both.
She looks at Naoya as curiously as if he were some riddle she's trying to figure out. And then she asks quite seriously: "Does it make you a happier person? Each time you attain a higher rank?" She walks over to him close enough to touch him. Or take a go at his life in lieu of a promotion.
Smirking faintly as he watches Hayase not bother trying to defend herself against the water and letting it just wash over herself. "Now now, I've never spoken to your younger brother while you were near.. not that I know of. You are hard to follow at times." Closing his eyes, the amusement on his face fades as the question flows into his ears, seemingly giving it quite a bit of thought.
Shaking his head gently, "It had nothing to do with happiness. I hunted, I killed for the first promotion.. The second I was tasked, I acted unquestioningly." Turning slightly away, Naoya kept his eyes onto Hayase for a moment but all the while his hands begin to come together. "They give me status.. That in turn gives me freedom.. I want more, and so I continue grasping for more. Even if it means gaining 'praise' from the Elders."
Taking in a breath, Naoya holds it for a moment and when he lets it go a misty wisps flows from his lips sparking the mists around them to ride higher to neck height. "I should ask you, does hiding and blending into the lowest ranks bring you happiness when you could become more? Are the expectations that much of a burden?"
Hayase looks thoughtful at Naoya's reply. She doesn't even get worked up when he talks about her overly mundane lifestyle. She says, "From an ordinary person's perspective it would be a burden. The expectations of being a shinobi. Training, going on dangerous missions, upholding the village's honor." She pauses. "You say you want to attain your freedom and make your own choices, but I already got mine a long time ago. My family doesn't even care whether I'm strong or weak." Again she pauses, but this one longer. "I'll grow stronger and get a higher rank. Eventually." She says those last words with complete unconcern, as if she's floating serenely through water. Speaking of which, she wipes some of it out of her face.
"The more danger, the more risk.. the more the purse swells." Closing his eyes fully, Naoya controls his breaths, making it shallow and lessening the impact at disturbing the mist. "The coin in turn pays for equipment, supplies, rebuilding costs, replacement costs.. The experiments continue, the advancement continues." The more the young man spoke, the softer his tone became but then he moves a hand forward, waving the mists lightly before turning to Hayase. "This time you seem thinner than what I remember from your examination?" Opening an eye, Naoya peeks at the young woman, examining her briefly, trying to see if what he could feel was accurate compared to 'what was'. "I'm starting to wonder if this is that accurate to feel though.."
"All those things aren't forward progress," she says. "Training, advancing, gathering resources. It just keeps the wheel spinning. Because the other great shinobi villages advance in the same way as well. Growing stronger. Growing weaker in many ways too." She shrugs. She'd said that with indifference, not anger or sadness. It's just what she believed. Though she looks confused when Naoya mentions that she's thinner. "I am," she says. "If you want I could always put on a few pounds. Right here, right now." Her smirk is brief. "Why do you point that out though?"
"Consistency. I am checking through my memory of how you are and how you seem with this.. experiment." Opening his eyes partially, Hayase would notice even though Naoya was manipulating the mists his eyes were bright amber in color. "I am trying to see without the brood. Understanding how things feel is.. odd. It feels muddled, though you are right.. that isn't forward progress alone. I'm.. not comfortable admitting the details of some of these trials. Not to anyone, especially not you." Closing his eyes, Naoya slowly manipulates his fingers and with their shift, the mists begin to thicken around Hayase but they don't become anything more. "Failing and learning why you failed is progress, don't you agree?"
Hayase looks a bit hurt when Naoya says he doesn't want to share about his trials. Then she says, "Naoya-kun. There's not a single thing you could say to me that'd lower my opinion of you. You're an important guy to me. And I think you feel pretty much the same way, right? At the same time I don't resent you keeping secrets. Secrets aren't bad. Except the ones that cause you too much pain. If I can help in any way, then tell me." She tilts her head. "Would it help you if I did that? Failed and learned, and got as strong as you and Yuriko-chan?" She sounds more curious than anything, as if she's asking whether he prefers his sake chilled or hot.
"Failing on purpose doesn't help anything. Your own pace is what matters, if I press you and you end up rotting from it, I'd fail you." Lowering his tone, it would be easy for Hayase to see the discomfort in Naoya from how he stood which was beginning to slacken some to a more unfocused look. "Not even Yu-chan know, or rather I don't think she wants to know. When I practiced some of my techniques, I've refined them on the living." Shrugging a shoulder, he turns to look at her face to gauge reactions when he admits, "During some of them lives are lost. Over the last summer and fall seasons I've hunted down, pinned and consumed over half a dozen lives. Not with a blade, not with a simple bite.. consumed and left a husk in my wake.. Can you really say your opinion of me, right now, is just as high as the last time we were united?"
Hayase isn't composed at all when she listens to Naoya. If he expects a calm reception to what he tells her, he'll be sadly disappointed. Her face ranges from "that's so gross" to "oh my gosh!" throughout the story. Afterwards, she frowns. "You do know I've always found your techniques freaky and gross, right? I've never hidden them from you." She even flinches when she sees his spiders crawling on him, regardless of whether they're making husks of people or not. "But that's why I asked if you were happy. My power is to remain concealed. And I can peacefully, bloodlessly improve that. And yours, regardless of what either of us thinks, is to cruelly kill. I've always known that. It's not going to break me. But what /would/ break me is if I saw you using that to betray your friends. The people who are precious to you. If you had to choose between someone you loved and this village, which would you, Naoya-kun?"
"I only have four I would call friend, another I would call ally.. I think you know the answer to the final question." A faint smile returns to his lips, despite the looks she had given him just a moment before hand. "While my methods are cruel at times, they are effective.. The growth the village will reward me for, though right now, just like this I am growing. Experimenting. Not with my fangs, not with my blades.. but with these mists." Bringing his hands together suddenly, Naoya slaps sharply, the blow seemingly forcing the mists to separate, making a void around the pair for several meters before returning to normal. "Not everything I do is obvious any more. Not everything is internal, knowledge.. knowledge is all I want from these trials."
"Yes I do," Hayase admits. "I suppose I wouldn't ask it if I didn't know the answer." She relaxes a bit though. She watches with interest as he parts the mists. She glances over her shoulder to see that he's made quite the space around them. She laughs softly. "At your age you're supposed to be Chuunin. Not attaining more mastery, knowledge, and surpassing normal Jounin. Did you know most shinobi don't advance beyond Chuunin level?" She huffs. "You're a troublesome guy," she sums up. "I guess I do mind after all. I can't call you or Yu-chan my friend if I'm still a Genin. So I'll become Chuunin and then Jounin and then stomp you into the ground. You won't even see me coming."
"I am a Jounin because I sided on the winning side of a coup within my clan and that I was prepared to level a blade towards the throat of the elders.. and Mizukage Meruin if things turned truly sour," is explained softly. Turning his head slightly, Naoya gazes some what lazily towards Hayase before shrugging one shoulder faintly. "After being within this 'role' the freedoms have become a chain as well. I don't 'have' orders to follow most of the time, yet I am expected to not stop. Not faultier. It's very tiring, don't let how I seem tell you otherwise."
Parting his hands, Naoya extends his right arm out towards Hayase saying "If rank mattered with our bonds then that would be news for me. As for the part about you managing to 'crush' me.." The smirk on his lips widens as the tone shifts, turning to a more teasing nature while musing, "I wonder how much trouble I'd be in if I 'played dead' for a little while?" Letting his finger continue wiggle, it was clear he was waiting for them to be taken.
"Even Meruin-sama," Hayase says, with a faint smile. She leans forward. "I want to know. You say you're expected not to falter or tire. But it seems to me you impose those expectations on yourself, more than anyone else does. Or if they were imposed on you, you seem to have taken to them. When I first met you, you seemed so reluctant and resistant to many things. Now you've made the difficulties you've undergone your own. You're no longer a victim, and no matter what you say, you're proud of the power you've attained." She's using some big words, but then ruins it by saying, "(They're pretty cool, anyway. Even if they are morbidly disgusting.)"
Her eyes gleam when he speaks of rank and power. Her fingers drum against her palms, as if she's considering taking him up. Then she sighs and raises her finger. "The next time I hit you, I'll land the blow and knock you on your butt," she promises. She doesn't promise that it won't be an underhanded sneak attack, or some other unfair scenario.
"Maybe.. maybe. Recently, I've begun questioning what makes me different than the Elders. I'm not sure any more." Looking away from Hayase, Naoya turns and glances towards the village for a silent moment but eventually his gaze turns skyward, focusing on how high the sun had grown since they began talking. "I'm truly not, the the fact that difference doesn't disturb me or even disgust me worries me the most, even if I don't dwell on it for long." Withdrawing the offered hand, his fingers sink into his ivory locks, scratching at his scalp and messing up his hair rapidly.
"Too much to think about.. Though, if you keep make promises like that, I might not be so easy to get hit as I was." Tilting his head slightly to one side, Naoya motions towards Hayase. "Remember 'rival', you were one of the main reasons I steadily crawled the extra meter, snuck in the additional millimeter. It's my turn to repay the favor." While the smile on his lips wasn't as wide as this amused smirk has been, the young man seemed relax, if not content as he began to walk towards the edge of the lake to step back onto dry land.
Hayase frowns at Naoya. Not in worry, but as if she's thinking over something. After all he was talking about contending with the Mizukage. Then, a smile breaks over her face. One of complete slyness that doesn't bother to hide she's probably thought of a clever (and unscrupulous) way to bring her promise about. And then it's gone, to be replaced by exaggerated innocence. It's hard to tell whether that show was deliberately open, or she couldn't hide it. "I'll remember you're on high alert," she says.
She turns to look out at the lake, not meeting his gaze. "At my brother's age, my powers as a shinobi started to manifest," she says. "His haven't. It's strange that you're in a clan where power means so much. But it's possible no one in my family will be shinobi, besides myself. And I find myself wondering. Do I want him to become a shinobi? He may have a more peaceful and happier life if he's normal. Yet there's so many things a person can do, often for the better, with power. Just as you said."
"Let him stay as a member of the village, not a shinobi," is said with a slightly raised tone. Not turning around, Naoya places a hand onto the side of his neck, supporting it as he slowly twists it realigning several points along his upper spine. "I recently advised and guides a Kaguya girl to field work, not 'our' field work, but within the wet rice fields." A light shrug of his shoulders was done lazily but Hayase would notice that the messy ivory locks were beginning to untangle and straighten without aid of his hands.
"You, hopefully you will bear the burden, and wear it much better than your father did for your mother's sake, and for the sake that your brother never learns it." Lifting a hand, Naoya waggles a finger towards Hayase saying "Though you should teach him the basics of Taijutsu. No need to let him be weak and needing his sister to baby him." Turning away, he motions for her to follow him as he starts to head back towards the village. "Class will be starting soon, I can't be late."
Hayase smiles. "He loves ships. Maybe he'll become a captain of one someday, or a merchant? But you're right. Anyone, shinobi or not, can learn how to be a fair hand to hand combatant. I can train him at home." She frowns. "Which you've never seen." Nor has he met her family. She lets out a huff, but her breath catches as his hair seems to straighten out. Her own pale blue hair is pulled into two long pigtails, which at the moment hang like wet mops around her shoulders. She sighs and shakes her head. "You and your…well, nevermind." She sounds a bit pouty. "Have fun with your students, Naoya-kun." She lopes back down the path, towards the village.