Date: December 30, 2010
As a reward for saving an old man named Songi, Kanami is going to be taught how to summon snakes to her aid. Or is she?
"Serpent's Servant - Turnabout"
Northern Desert - Land of Wind
"Hnngh, almost there, almost there."
The old man had a habit of muttering to himself. In fact, he talked to himself quite a bit more than he talked to the woman traveling with him. Given his rather advanced age, and general surliness, the male seemed less than interested in the fairer sex, which likely made him much more preferrable to travel with than smelly bandits who obeyed only the urges to eat and to mate. Despite his age, and a few liverspots on the backs of his hands, the aged shinobi stood ram-rod straight and was able to travel as fast as the average Chuunin, though he needed frequent breaks in order to rest.
A lonely mesatop seemed to be their destination, set apart from one of the canyon walls lining the Land of Wind by several hundred meters. The rocky outcropping seemed to be perched precariously atop a stone pillar, looking by all rights as if it should simply fall and tumble into the harsh sands below, having been carved out by a river and once been an island millenia ago. The elderly shinobi points a skinny, shaking finger towards the faux-mountaintop.
"There. Hmph, one could search for a hundred years and never find it. Crags, caves, crannies, and nooks! You could never search them all. Well, let's hurry up then. I've a powerful need to get back to my original task, young lady. I'll show you the basics, the rest will be up to you."
Songi spreads his arms out from his sides slightly, leaning forward once more to continue the run. The burning daylight had ceased to be, falling to twilight, and finally to night. The moon was near to full, illuminating the cool desert, but had not cooled enough to it's near-freezing temperatures yet, the sand still radiating back some of the warmth it had absorbed during the day. The tiny grains kick up into the air with each step, and try to slide from underfoot, as if purposefully attempting to impede their progress. The elder shinobi continues speaking as they run.
"You will need to sign the contract in blood, so if you are the squeamish sort, best to be getting over it. Harumph! It will take much, much chakra. But you look the capable enough sort, I suppose, for a kid. After ya've signed, we'll go over how to summon a particular fellow I think you'll find most intriguiging." A grim smile displays on the male's face as they run. "Yes. Most intriguing."
The base of the steep column nears, sand mounded about the base like a gentle slope, before rising up into a steep dropoff several hundred meters high. For any climber, even with the proper equipment, it would be a daunting task. But shinobi have a simple, if rather elegant, solution to most climbs.
Kanami keeps quiet for the most part, aside from making various neutral or vaguely curious noises in response to things said. Occasionally, when she feels something more definite is needed she will turn around something that Songi has already said and make it a question. "In blood, you said?" for instance. She is listening to everything said, while keeping her expression schooled and calm. Even after much exercise in the form of running across the desert, the Nogakujin is not that weary. Though she is uncomfortably dirty. Deserts: they are bad for personal hygiene.
She has reclaimed her desert-appropriate clothing from the floor of the tent that once belonged to Shun but is even now being looted by his minions, most likely. Because running across the desert in silk underpants is simply not a good idea, even with the sunscreen-like flesh-tone-altering make-up she has made use of. Also, she needs a place to keep her Masks.
When they finally arrive at the column, Kanami looks up at it, and despite herself nearly falls over backwards from tilting her head too far. She manages to regain her balance, however. Maybe she looked foolish just now, but she is likely never going to see this man again afterwards, and no one else is around, so what does she care? Beside that, the opinions of fake people are beneath her concern.
She follows after Songi, and when they reach the surface of the column, she applies Chakra to her feet and runs up it. Moving vertically takes more effort than moving horizontally, so hopefully this won't be an extended trip.
"Yes, yes, I just said that, didn't I? Harumph! The young never listen. Youth is wasted on them."
Unfortunately for Kanami, the climb isn't so simple as going a few feet up and plucking a scroll out of shadowed crevasse. No, they have to keep going up, and up. Every time it seems that the old geezer is about to stop, stooping down, it turns out to just be him collecting his breath and gathering more chakra, rubbing the sweat from his balding head. It takes several minutes before they're nearly a thousand feet up, only a dozen feet from the top, before a large, tubular cloth parcel is lifted out of a small cave that was little more than a deep depression beneath an overhang.
"Ah, here we are. Up to the top, then." The male coughs as he cradles the covered scroll protectively to his chest, dust rolling off of it. Apparently it had been stored here for quite a bit of time. Perhaps for safe keeping, or perhaps simply out of negligence and a desire to not have to carry it around. Maybe even a mixture of both. It's mere moments before the outcast elder and the Nogakujin are standing atop the relatively flat mesatop.
Songi kneels down onto the bare stone and carefully removes the cloth covering, unwrapping it so that the scroll is wresting upon the dull, brown, worn strip of fabric. He looks up with a frown, squinting in the high moonlight at the dark-haired young woman. After a moment, he gestures her to come closer. "Here we are, kid. There's no turning back now, of course." He speaks as his knotted fingers begin untying the twine that keeps the wrapped parchment in its tight roll.
"Do you need to rest? You're going to be needing your strenght for what's to come!"
Kanami is, infact, a bit tired. She may have stamina levels equal to a Chuunin, but she has not rested most of the times that Songi has. Now her legs are sore, and she feels winded. Breathing a bit harder than usual, she nods to Songi and says, "I should rest, then. I do not wish to perform this wrongly. There might be… Negative consequences." She seats herself slowly and carefully on the stone platform, and then waits expectantly. A moment later, she attempts to coax more information from the old man. "…There ARE negative consequences, correct?" She is not leaving this up to chance. No way in hell. If there is any possibility of a 'misfire', she wants to know in advance. Her experience with being cast in voids has left her… Cautious.
"Then get to it. Sit down, sit down." The old male leans low over the parchment as he partially unrolls the scroll, revealing written scriptures, followed by dozens of signatures in faded brown ink. The words, by contrast, are still a crisp black color, the faded signatures likely having been drawn in very old blood. The covering has kept the scroll safe from dust and wind, and yet despite the parchment showing no signs of age, the outer cover reveals just how old the document actually was. Songi snaps the fingers of his left hand and a small, pale pink light floats over his hand. With his other appendage, he digs into his vest and pulls out a pair of armless spectacles, perching them upon his nose.
Once done, he leans over, tilting his head up and looking down his nose at the writing as the elderly inexplicably tend to do. "Hrm!?" His eyes glance up sharply, bushy gray brows drawn low, then back onto the paper with a wrinkled scowl. "Of course! Any jutsu worth learning comes with risk, you will find that out someday. Maybe even today. Just do as I tell you to, kid, and everything will be all right. Mess up and who knows what might happen to you. Serpents are notoriously… finicky."
Finally, the old geezer looks up again, releasing the light from his hand and pulling out a small knife, slightly lesser in scale than a letter opener, the blade so thin it could almost be a senbon. He holds out his other hand expectantly. "Well, let's get it signed, hmm? Give me your hand, just a small prick, nothing to be scared of. You can not look, if you like. Then sign your name. Then we can get to the real lessons and I can get back to what I was doing. I haven't all night, you know."
Kanami finds the reluctance of the man to define what sort of risks there are other than the potential unpredictability of the Summoned entities in question to be suspicious. A lot about this man is suspicious, really. But Songi has not actually taken any action to harm her so far, so perhaps she is just being overly concern—Oh, wait, he wants to cut her.
Sighing, Kanami rises from her seat and moves closer, and says, "I can do it myself, thank you." She attempts to take the knife from his hand. If allowed, she then cuts her right thumb without even flinching and bends over to write her name on the contract scroll with her right hand. "What is the next step, Songi-san?" she inquires. Just as he does not have all night, neither does Kanami.
"Eh? Yourself? I didn't think ya had it in you, kid." The male allows the small knife to be taken, pointing out the spot intended for Kanami to sign, right underneath an aged brown signature bearing his own name. The scroll is only unraveled part of the way, most of it's vast length completely blank, save for the lines dilineating the seperate 'pages'. Once the deed is done, the male doesn't even bother to wait for the blood to dry before he begins to roll the scroll back up, tying it off. He explains as he begins to cover the contract back up beneath it's cloth.
"Kuchiyose no Jutsu is not like other techniques. It requires a blood sacrifice each time it is to be used. It may also require massive chakra, and this one certainly will. The serpents, you see, they typically require payment for their assistance." The kind of payment? He doesn't say. Once the scroll is bound, Songi stands up once more, holding up a hand with well-scarred fingertips. "Cut the hand that you used to sign the contract. Boar, Dog, Bird, Monkey, Ram. Then touch the ground while visualizing the one you wish to call. The stronger the being, the more chakra loss you must endure, got it? Good!" Songi huffs as he folds his arms in front of his chest and scowls disapproving, as if already expecting Kanami to fail abysmally. "The one you wish to call first is 'Quetzalcoatl'. …Well? Get to it! You were listening, weren't you!?"
Kanami moves back when the scroll is rolled up and offers the knife back to Songi — handle-first, of course. She watches carefully, expecting a bit of a demonstration as she listens to what is said. "I see. A blood sacrifice… And it must be my blood? Hmm… Perhaps I should start 'saving up' and keeping my blood in vials with me." But that is a concern for another time. When Songi starts ordering her to try to Summon without any demonstration, she sighs and turns to her thumb that is already starting to heal a bit. She bites it to draw more blood, and then focuses her Chakra. She tries to imagine this 'Queztalcoatl' in her head. She doesn't know what he or she or it looks like, but she knows the individual is some kind of serpent. So she finally says, "Kuchiyose no Jutsu!" and slams a palm onto the ground. A cloud of smoke erupts. Then a small egg is left behind when the smoke clears.
"Hmm… I imagine this is not what you had in mind. Could you please describe this 'Kuuetsukotoru' so that I have a more clear image to focus on?" She attempts it again once the description has been provided. Then she focuses more Chakra and tries again. *Poof* Not an egg this time, but it is still a very young snake… Almost newly-hatched! "…Hm." *Poof* A slightly larger snake the next time. About as long as her index finger. "…Hm." *Poof* By the time Kanami gets an actual good-for-something serpent she is breathing heavily from the Chakra use. "A-aahh… Is this him, Songi-san?" Kanami asks of a reptile about the size of a garden snake. He has squinty eyes, grey eyebrows, and a Confuscious-style beard. For some reason. He looks around, startled. "Wh-wha-hey-what—Where is this!? Iiyaaa! I was just about to sit down to read my monthly issue of 'Cute & Hot: Kunoichi Monthly Magazine'! Who would dare to Summon me during my free-time!? This is deplorable! Songiiiii! I will consume you whole for this!" The small reptile opens his mouth and hisses at the man, though a careful look in his mouth reveals he has apparently been defanged.
"Harumph! An egg!? Were you even trying, kid?" The old man snaps at Kanami's first attempt to bring about the desired result. After the egg has vanished back from whence it came in a puff of smoke, he waves his hand irritably, providing the asked-for description. "Green! Long. Very long, very large, like this column. And with wings, great leathery wings. Now try again!"
The scond attempt certainly fails to impress Songi, causing him to wave irritably at Kanami in a gesture to hurry up and try again. The next attempt actually illicits an audible growl from the male, narrowing his eyes towards the Nogakujin in impatience, malice, or perhaps a mixture of both. And the fourth attempt brings forth an animal that can actually speak. The elderly shinobi squeezes his eyes shut and groans in audible exasperation. But then the snake calls him by name, a specimen he hasn't seen in quite some time, though one he often used when he needed to pass information on to the bearded serpent's masters.
Immediately, Songi leaps forth, a hand that is suprisingly strong for its frail appearance clamping over the snake's toothless mouth to cease him from talking. "Harumph! Nevermind him. It's obvious you're the kind of kid that needs to be shown, rather than told. I'll only do this once, so watch carefully! And then you must summon Quetzalcoatl. And be quick about it!" With one hand still firmly keeping the other serpent from talking, the aged shinobi brings his other hand up to his mouth, slicing open his thumb with a fierce bite, before smacking it into the bare stone.
"Kuchiyose no Jutsu!"
The writing spreads out in concentric circles and lines from its place of origin beneath Songi's hand, going out almost two feet in the usual summoning, and a puff of smoke appears several yards away on the surface of the bluff. …But never forms into an animal. Just as the summoner is beginning to show a confused scowl, thin yellow tendrils form from the lines of words, leaping up, wrapping around his wrist and twining upwards, clamping around his forearm all the way to the elbow. Startled, the male tries to jerk his arm back, losing his grip on the bearded snake in order to attempt to pull his arm free. To no avail, it remains anchored firmly to the stone, and the pull of chakra being drained from him is almost palpable in the air, leaving him sweating and gasping. After mere seconds, the yellow serpentine tendrils vanish, as does the writing, leaving Songi to fall backwards and scramble to his feet, sucking in ragged breaths.
The smoke is gone, but now the earth is rumbling. Of course, keen senses would pick up that it was not the earth, simply the mesa upon which they were standing. Stone cracks beneath their feet, solid structure spiderwebbing, reaching close to the breaking point. And then, over the rim, outlined by the pale moonlight, emerges what is likely the largest snakehead at least one of them has ever seen. It keeps rising and rising, like an enormous serpent towering over a ship at sea, until it towers almost thirty feet overhead, the rest of it's body hidden by the lip of the dropoff, coiled around the column of earth and stone below. Twin, reptilian yellow eyes, each easily as large as a human head in profile stare down from above. A baritone rasp comes from above, a whisper that could almost be felt as much as heard as a pair of large leather wings partially unfold, blotting out a few stars.
"Ssssssssssssongi. You are latttttttttte. Agaaain. And thisssssss, the flessssshy payment Lord Manda wassss promisssssed? Ohhhh, humaaaan, it issss too ssssssmall."
Judging from the look on Songi's face, this had NOT been his intended result!
Kanami is disappointed by the results of her Summoning attempts, but she really does learn better through observation than speech. It is simply part of her nature. Movement and signs of life draw her attention. She can feel the pulse of life in a being in motion. But a static being holds as much intrigue for her as a plain, unadorned, bland rock amongst a billion other rocks of the exact same kind. So when Songi attempts his Summoning, Kanami watches carefully. The way in which the lines spread outwards is far different from when Kanami tried the same. "The Summoning circle… The writing that composes it… And that specific level of Chakra… Hmm… I see—" then everything goes to hell.
Kanami is non-plussed as yellow energy whips come leaping out of nowhere and snare Songi. The tiny bearded serpent DOES seems pleased at first when his mouth is released. "Aaa-haaah! You are in for it now, Songi! You should have not assumed that I would not have made preparations for being summoned! Always underestimating Bannin the Great Serpent you humans are!" He then tries to breathe fire on Songi, but aside from a tiny spark and a puff of smoke, nothing issues forth from his wheezing snake-lips. The ground and the stone column they are on top of begins to shake, and NOW Bannin is unhappy. "Aiyaaaa! Wait for me to return home first, Quetzalcoatl-samaaa! I am not readddyyyy!"
Kanami stares throughout this, and seems vaguely displeased by the tremors though she mainly just keeps her feet beneath her to the best of her abilities. Turning and looking around for somewhere to hide Bannin spots first Kanami's feet. "Oh?" He looks further up at her hips. "Oh!" Then he focuses on her chest. "Ohhhh~!" Kanami clears her throat as she alternates watching the giant serpent that comes rising up from the edge of the stone mesa, and the smaller serpent. She is not quite sure what is going on, but she is fairly certain this was not intentional.
"Err… Quick, conceal me beneath your clothes! Your rewards shall be vast!" he promises over the sound of the enormous, winged, emerald snake simply BREATHING. Then he lunges at Kanami and tries to wriggle up her pant leg by squeezing through the slightly-loosened ankle cuff opening. Kanami comes to a decision. She ignores Bannin and drops to one knee as she lowers her head. "Oh, great Kuuetsukotoru-sama, I have brought you this unworthy man as an initial offering to confirm my status as a signer of your valued Summoning Contract! I realize he is a paltry payment, but it was not my intention to plead for the aid of the noble serpents until I returned to the place where I have already made certain there will be many dozens of sacrifices ready and waiting. It was the desire of Songi-san that I attempt the Summoning here and now, and it was he who called upon you before I was prepared. Please do not pass judgement upon your newest servant because of the indiscretions of her teacher. Permit me to proceed with my original plan and I assure you that Lord Manda shall be most pleased… And with you as well, Kuuetsukotoru-sama, for your wisdom and foresight." She then bows even lower, keeping her head down and trying to ignore where Bannin is lodging himself inside her pants.
"Hnnn, out of my sssssssight, tiny ecchiiiii." The great serpent's bone-shaking voice tinges with annoyance as its eyes close briefly and its enormous head, a head easily able to consume a human standing upright without having to unhinge its jaw, sways side to side in a serpentine shake. Then those eyes, those unfeeling, reptilian eyes, refocus back upon the aged male, who swallows hard yet, to his credit, does not take a step backwards. Instead, he lifts his chin and stands straight.
But they are both soon looking at Kanami.
Songi's gaze is one of unconcealed malevolence, one that said if circumstances were different, he would likely have tried to murder her immediately. Quetzalcoatl's gaze is cool, unfeeling, with a general aura of disdain for them both, as if a particularly unappetizing meal had been placed before him. The great head swings back to turn its yellow searchlights upon the male again. "Sssssso, Sssssongi. You have ssssshared what wasssss not yoursssss to givvvve."
"Do not speak down to me! I have the favor of Lord Manda, and I was merely-"
"You meantttt to sssssacrifice itttt in your placccce. But it hasssss turned the tablesssss on youuuuu firsssssst." An expression comes over the snake's face for the first time, one that could be construed as a sneer were it on a human face. "I havvvve been looking for youuuu for a long time, Ssssssongi. And ssssshe hasssss brought you to meeee. Lord Manda isssss no longer amusssssed with youuuuu."
"You have it wrong! It was I who-" But the snake was already letting out a low, sinister laugh which shakes the pebbles underfoot, the stone eliciting another precarious cracking sunder which threatens footing as it's coils constrict around the pillar. "I-I'm sure Lord Manda will forgive, if-" The elderly shinobi holds up a hand to forestall his fate, his voice cracking with the beginnings of panic.
"Youuuuu have been gone for to lonnnnng. We do notttttt forgivvvvve." There's no warning, no windup, no further words. The colossal serpent's lips merely part and small ball of liquid is spat out. It strikes Shongi along the upper chest, stomach, and arms. Immediately, he begins screaming, backpeddling in panic and trying to wipe the sizzling liquid off of his body. But his hands have already begun to liquify and melt off. His clothes are gone in seconds and his flesh soon follows. Layers of skin, then mucles, bones, then organs, all disintigrate before the eyes. He becomes a pile of twitching shoulders and legs in a matter of moments, dead eyes staring up at the night sky, mouth open in horror, the acid having chewed all the way to his spine, yet leaving the stone unharmed, apparently only dissolving organic elements.
The huge swamp-green head swivels towards the kneeling Kanami. "Youuuuu have given meeee sssssomething I have been sssssearching forrrr." A brief, tense pause. "For thattttt your life sssshall be ssssspared. For nowww." The serpentine gaze turns towards the side. "You wisssssh to sssserve, but youuuu have sssssigned what wassss not offffffered. You will come withhhhh meeee." A tongue the thickness of a human torso streaks out, wrapping around the contract and drawing it into his great maw.
"Do not thiiiiink on it toooo looooong. It wasssss not a requesssssst." As Quetzalcoatl apparently eats the snake contract, his coils squeeze the mesatop once more, breaking solid stone with a loud sunder, small cracks turning into fissures as the ground between Kanami begins to disintigrate beneath her. The stars above begin spinning and the horizon begins to melt away, the world she knows starting to fade from view.