Date: March 8, 2011
Kanami and Masa return from the mission and the actress receives her judgement. Will she live or die? Will she be granted power or non-existence? This decision rests on the shoulders of one that does not like Kanami in the least. Great.
"Serpent's Servant - Judgement Delivered"
The Green Ward - Location Unknown
Slowly, the mist begins to fade away and the marsh becomes evident again. The overgrowing moss and weeds taking over the broken and half-buried stone. Large pools of water where before there were likely none. Trees having sprung up all throughout what once might have been a large, glorious city, not unlike the one so freshly-destroyed by the unleashing of the earth-serpent, Terrato. With 'eugh', the form of Masa begins to unwind from that of Kanami, as if touching, much less coiling all around, the Nogakujin were something she found distasteful.
Without a word, the large cottonmouth begins to weave her way through tangled brush and pools of water. She moves with the fluid grace of a serpent, winding her way quickly and smoothly through overgrown paths that a human would find tiring and extremely troublesome. When pools of water are encountered, she merely glides effortlessly across them, in the way of snakes. It's until they reach the same stone courtyard where Kanami had been 'sentenced' several days ago that she finally slows down, or even speaks. And when she does, it's not to Kanami.
"I havvvvve returrrrrned, Kyorajiiiiiin." Even as she speaks, the form of human-Masa begins to take shape. Once more, she is the lanky, dark-skinned, white-haired, barely-clad woman she has been for the past few days in the presence of the Nogakujin.
"Ah, yesssssss…" The bearded serpent adjusts his eyes from the collection of smaller snakes that had been holding his attention previously, squinting to make out the form of the two humanoids. "And not a bit too ssssssoon. And thissssss isssss the young human? Oh what wassssss the name again? Forgive me, my dear, when you get to be my age, ssssssome thingssssss sssssslip."
Kanami is not as apalled at the physical contact with a serpent on the tactile level as Masa appears to be with contacting Kanami. But she does find Masa a distasteful burden. Still, she was the instrument by which the performance could be moved along, so Kanami says nothing for now. Her ears ring and her heart beats quickly, having been snatched from the jaws of death — whether she believed she would die or not. She also remains transformed into her semi-serpent form, not having had a chance to change back. And with the journey back to the 'court' ahead of them, it seems that Kanami will hold off on reversing her transformation for the time being. Not until she arrives before Kyorajin does she dismiss her jutsu and remove the Doujouji Mask. She bows her head to the enormous cobra and says, "I am Kanami, Kyorajin-sama." She says nothing further, remembering the opinion of this 'judge' on unsolicited speech.
"Ah, yessssssss. Kanami." A pause. "…" A longer pause. "…" The hooded cobra tilts his head slightly. "…Why are you here again?"
The dark-skinned Masa, for her part, audibly facepalms and sighs with impatience. "She was sent to perform a task as judgement for the signing of the serpent contract without permission from us, Honorable One."
The aged serpent blinks at the transformed one for a moment, then nods his head, as if he had remembered all along. "Quite right. Quite right. And wasssss thissssss tasssssk completed then?" Though he looks towards the Nogakujin, the cottonmouth interrupts whatever she might have been about to say rather forcefully, taking a step towards the cobra as she does so. She also gives the pale-skinned woman a warning glare, perhaps just to be even more disagreeable.
"It is not her place to say! Judgement was given to me to tell of her success or failure!" When Kyorajin blinks at her, as if he couldn't remember having designed any of this, she continues. "This mammal…" Another glare towards the other woman. "Has performed… adequately." The admission seems to pain her no small amount. "Adequately enough to not have her name stricken from the contract. …Or to be dinner." She adds, as if in an afterthought, with a nasty smile.
Kyorajin gives a throaty chuckle as his old, filmed-over eyes return to the actual human in their midst. "I sssssee, I sssssee. And you managed to do it without Massssa-chan killing you, hm? And recommending you at that. Very impressssive. Sssshe hassss failed everyone before, you know." Now Masa was glaring at the older snake. "Very protective of our contract, sssshe issss. Sssshe wassss one of the firsssst to ssssign it, before sssshe came to live with ussss."
"This human does not need to hear such things, Elder!" The lanky platinum-blonde crosses her arms and scowls, as if the outing of her as a natural human was a grave affront.
Kanami was beginning to answer but did not even open her mouth before Masa steps forward. She lets her. She can see how uncomfortable Masa is. She has a much better understanding of the psychology of these snakes than she did before. And she can see something different between the serpents and Masa. Masa has a level of arrogance than none of these intelligent reptiles has displayed. They have certainly been aloof, and self-assured… But the conceit and distate for humans is not something she has seen anywhere else. Masa almost let it slip once before.
And at Kyorajin's words, the last pieces of the puzzle fall into place. She does not allow any surprise to register on her face. Instead she says simply, "It was an honor to serve, Kyorajin-sama." She leaves the matter of Masa unspoken upon. Ignoring her now without actually being blatant about it will rile her up more than picking at her — and have less of a chance of damaging her relationship with these snakes. Kanami has never truly been hungry for power. She has never really been hungry for knowledge either — at least not like Mune is. But even she is eager to have the authority to call upon the serpents as allies granted to her officially. This entire experience has been most tantalizing, but a nice hot bath and some 'alone time' would be wonderful right now. All the better to review her experiences with.
The aged cobra turns his head away from Kanami as the matter seems to be settled, and Masa seems to take this as a dismissal to leave. She abruptly turns on her heel, with an irritable gesture for the Nogakujin to follow. She leaves the courtyard, but only barely, just stepping beyond the edges of the 'court', on the other side of three pillars, just out of easy earshot of the rest of the serpents, leaving them to their snakey business. Considering she turns on her heel as soon as they're clear, she obviously intends to return to them once her business with the dark-haired woman is conducted.
"You can't even fathom what an honor this is for someone like you." The white-haired woman snaps. Then she leans forward, ducking her head down. Her mouth opens wide… then wider… and then she retches. A dry heave at first, then a sound as if something were caught in her throat. The edge of a scroll, a very large scroll appears at her mouth, her jaw unhinging to allow it come further out. Finally, a three-foot long scroll plunks to the ground on one end, Masa clamping her hand down on it with the other to keep it upright. She looks up as she wipes at the back of her mouth. Despite where the scroll had just came from, it was bone-dry! No nasty coating or anything. Considering Masa was far too slim to hold such an enormous object in her, she likely had some means of calling objects up via this method.
"This is our contract. As Kyorajin said… I was one of the first to sign it. And I don't give it out lightly. I still think I should kill you…" The white-haired serpent woman considers, tilting her head to one side. "But I am going to let you live. If you are not worthy, you will be dead soon enough." With strength that belied her small frame, Masa lifts the enormous scroll single-handedly and tosses it lightly at the physically-challenged Nogakujin.
"You will keep it safe. If you fail to do this, your punishment is death. Just because we've allowed you to sign this, doesn't mean anyone is required to aid you. You will have to forge your own alliances. If you are too weak to do that, you are not worthy. And you will die. You will mind who you try to call. Or you may be killed. You will offer sufficient payment for services rendered. Or you will be killed, much as your predecessor was. …It wasn't my idea to even allow him the contract. If you are found weak or wanting in any way… Well, even you can piece it together."
"And if you ever act in interests contrary to our own, or try to trick or deceive us, expect a visit from Quetzalcoatl-sama. I trust you have no questions before I return you to that sand pit you were brought from." Masa folds her arms, her demeanor indicating that it wasn't really a question.
Kanami follows Masa calmly, gracefully, and seemingly complacently. Her expression is serene throughout the list of instructions provided by the once-human woman, as well as the scroll-expulsion method prior. It is not until the scroll is tossed at her that she shows concern, however. She knows she can't safely catch that. If she tries, she may will be injured. Limited time to prepare, her Doujouji Mask is not active, and she does not really have any other jutsu she can use to save herself. She could always Body Flicker, but Masa told her to 'keep it safe'.
It looks like she has no choice, however. In the fractions of seconds it takes for her to put this all together, the heavy scroll continues to fly through the air towards her. She prepares to use her Ninjutsu to flicker away…!
Then the cry of an old-man's voice is heard! "I will save you, delicate oooonnneeee!" Then that one small serpent with no teeth and a confuscious-style beard comes leaping out of nowhere to try to intercept the scroll! Sadly for old Bannin, Kanami has already Flickered back a couple feet, to be just out of range of being crushed. So when the scroll lands, it pins the tiny reptile underneath. He just lies there like a slug afterwards.
Kanami shifts her gaze from Bannin to Masa, as the snake-woman continues to tell her what will happen to her if she does this or that… She steps forward and places a hand on the scroll, examining it. This will be difficult to carry un-aided… Perhaps Masa did not want Kanami to ask any questions, but she has one to ask anyway. "Assuming all the proper requirements are fulfilled, how long would it take before I became like you, Masa-san?"
The white-haired woman watches the scroll hit the ground. Judging from her expression, it did not inspire confidence that Kanami could not even catch it. She takes a step forward at least, and, crouching down next to it, rolls it off of the would-be heroic snake with a mild frown. "You are too attracted to these humans, ecchi-kun." At Kanami's question, the dark-skinned serpent-woman looks up, her white eyebrows slightly raised.
"I'm assuming you mean the ability to shift forms and use the serpent's pass." Masa lithely stands once more. "That all depends on you, mammal. Most of your kind," She says it as though she were no longer human herself. "Are far too attached to their own bodies to be able to learn to take another. I could teach it to you, if I cared to. …I do not at this time. Some day when you have proven yourself…" She leaves off. "You will be going now." A glance down towards the slug-serpent. "And you can take him with you. I tire of finding him in my bath."
The dark-skinned woman makes a pair of seals, one with each hand, simultaneously. The feeling of air pressure suddenly increasing is present, making it difficult to breathe as a gray mist begins to close in. It starts to close in, then begins to recede, only to come back in stronger, the pressure increasing. Judging from the strain on Masa's features, this method was a lot more difficult to do when she was not traveling with the person! But eventually, the marsh is clouded over by the gray mist and it becomes easier to breathe as the air thins and the pressure recedes.
When the mist vanishes… Kanami is back upon the half-broken spire of rock in the Land of Wind that the giant, winged serpent had taken her from that first night. But now it was the height of day, and the heat was oppressive under this sun. She is not alone, though: Bannin and the scroll are with her. If the scroll was heavy before, having to cart it out of the desert was likely going to be worse! Of course, the Nogakujin had several masks at her disposal, and it was likely good to be back in the known world, at least.
Just how was Kanami to go about 'forging alliances' with snakes to summon? Clearly that was something Masa intended her to figure out on her own. Likely another test of her 'worthiness'.