Date: May 5, 2014
After a somewhat disastrous first meeting between Yuriko and Kiyoshi since the aging seal was removed from the latter, the young Moto and Kaguya meet again by happenstance. What went unspoken last is finally brought to the surface. But can their friendship survive the truth?
Hidden Hot Springs [Land of Water]
To get to this area takes some serious perception skills because the tunnel that leads to it in the cavern is particularly hard to spot in its dimness. One has to crawl up along an upward-slanted tunnel of rock for a good fifty feet before finally coming into a more open room. While much light doesn't escape down into the tunnel, there is some light in this area, enough that one can see he or she has found a natural hot spring within the cavern. While not the size of the springs located in many of the villages, this area does have a few small pools and one fairly large one, providing a clean water source for one who managed to make it here.
In one corner of this room, there is a hole one must be careful of in the dim light, as it it large enough for a body to fall through to wherever it leads.
Friday afternoons are normally more lively throughout the village of Kirigakure. Families, couples freely move through the streets, now that the weekend is about, to populate the marketplace and restaurants. The hot springs, however, is more or less taken over by Yuriko. The sole occupant intently focused on a tray that floats on the surface of the water due to some sort of special chakra seal, steadying the tea pot, cups, and cookies so that they miraculously never get wet. The young girl studies this with silent curiosity and fascination, not daring to pick it up to inspect the seal underneath with further detail. Content instead to enjoy cookies and tea while soaking in the larger hot springs pool.
Kiyoshi was unlike most folk that call the larger villages and cities their home. Although aware of how strange it would seem to others that a youth of his size and stature should be spending his free time toiling away, the thought hardly bothered him by much. All that did matter to him were the burdens. One such burden required an almost daily sojourn to the Hidden Tropical Oasis; the present day being no different. After another partially successful attempt at restoring the damage wrought by Mushi weeks prior, Kiyoshi was finally ready to free himself of the excess burden caking just about ever few inches of his body. To that end, he endured the painfully long stretch of dark enshrouded tunnels until he reached the hidden hot springs. The petite little thing in its largest pools doesn't even register to him upon entering. He simply stood in front of the entryway, soaking and breathing in the warm air, and enjoying all it had to offer first.
Sensing the approaching presense rather than hearing him first, Yuriko pauses for a brief moment before bright blue green eyes instinctively glance upwards, towards the entrance of the cavern. Seeing the towering figure though causes her shoulders to tense subtly, bringing a waterfall of mixed feelings that could never be waded through. Silence is offset by the constant churning of the waters, and there's hesitation in her eyes before the young girl glances down at the tea cup in her hands, held aloft above the surface of the springs while the tray begins to drift on it's own accord.
Mud brown eyes draw slowly open; their owner still reeling from the nigh intoxicating promise of a nice roam soak. He has just unzipped jacket when he first feels the tinge that something was off with the area. When scanning the are the first time around yields nothing, Kiyoshi takes off the hood, causing the bushy ponytail bound by string and ivory to spill forth. "Mmn.. Odd, I thought-…" Kiyoshi trails off into silence as Yuriko's form finally comes into focus. "Yuriko-chan?" He asks uncertainly after canting his head slightly to the side.
"Hey Kiyoshi-san." Yuriko murmurs quietly in reply. Uncertain of the shaky ground they now stand on. Her tiny hands clutch the tea cup just a lightly bit tighter before she releases a small sigh. "You want a cookie?" she asks, the rim of her cup then pressing to her lips as she takes a sip of her tea. That with the heat of the springs, it spreads pleasantly through out her tiny form.
Kiyoshi — much to his own personal chagrin — picks up the -san part. Hurt flashes in the giant's eyes, though he quickly buries it behind false tranquility. "Mmn." He replies hesitantly before shedding his jacket and tossing it to the side, then approaches the girl and takes a kneel. "Thank you." He says should she hand over one, only this time without so much awkwardness behind his tone. He'd even offer up a genuine smile of appreciation. A stark change to the eeriness of his more youthful past.
The young girl hadn't noticed the brief flash of hurt in his eyes, as her own stare into the surface of her tea cup. He soon approaches and takes a cookie for himself from the wandering tray, she notes this more or less. A tiny bit older now since she's had another birthday, her hair is a little longer. The wavy ends teasing at her shoulders, snowy bangs still in her eyes as Yuriko occasionally pushes them back so she could in the very least see out of one bright aquamarine eye.
The giant's intent had been to simply enjoy the cookie and Yuriko's company, even though it meant putting off the concerns from his last visit with the Kaguya. Instead, his mind absently flitted to an oddly more comforting topic; conflicting in its own way, but still the lesser of several evils. She was older… which meant he missed another birthday. The more disconcerting feeling however was that his heart still raced a little the longer he looked at her. He snaps his eyes shut and inclines his head, trying in futility to try and puzzle out the odd feeling as he had in the past.
A defeated sigh eventually escapes his lips. "You really couldn't recognize me, Yuriko-… -chan." He says bluntly, though the last part has to be forced.
Her bright eyes glance up at him, something flickering through her eyes before she lowers her gaze once more to her hlf-full tea cup. "I hadn't…" she murmurs, feeling shame that she hadn't recognized what she thought of as her closest friend. He probably hates her because of it. Because he thought she was going to remove the seal as well. And worse, because this formed a crevas which she feared would never be bridged. Yuriko exhales another small breath, but leans her weight forward to wade towards the drifting tray, setting her tea cup on it's flat surface.
By the way his head visibly sunk further, the admission brought him naught the relief he thought — hoped it would. It was a foolish thing to do so, but still…
An eternity would seem to pass before the Moto found the willpower to ask the more pertinent question, and endure the truth. "Do you hate me now?" Kiyoshi asked quietly as he idly stirred the pool water, tainting it with the earth caked fingers.
"No." Yuriko murmurs softly, arms and legs drifting with her small body weight. Still she can't seem to glance at him. "You're just as old as my mom now." That, more than anything, disturbed her, and she didn't know why. It just felt so weird to her, there was no real way to put it into words. Other than to simply state the obvious.
Kiyoshi inhales sharply. Soon after, his head snaps up so that he may regard Yuriko properly. "You—"'Really mean that?' He thinks, but dares not to say aloud. Besides, more was to follow her latest admission, even though what does is frankly laughable. He holds back the worst of the torrent that threatened to spill from his mouth…. Buuut a chuckle still slips out incidentally. "So?" He asks simply, and against his better judgement Kiyoshi reaches out to pet Yuriko atop the head. Even he's not successful, his next question quickly follows the first. "Yuriko-chan and Kiyoshi-tan are still friends, right?"
Darkness flickers across her features for a moment, though still she doesn't glance at him. Even as he pets her head. Like a child. Pain pangs through her chest at that thought. "'So?' It's a big deal." she murmurs. "You can't hold yourself back because of me. You're an adult now, not a kid." He lived in a different world than she did now, and Yuriko recognized this. And knowing that he had more in common with her mother now than he did with her, it felt weird. "Friends." she
His own arm prevented him from seeing the darkness overtake her briefly, but he still yanks his hand back instinctively. Confused as he was, Kiyoshi withdraws the hand together and regards Yuriko more closely. "Hold myself back?" He parrots softly in confusion. It made so little sense. As a jinchuuriki he's always had to hold himself back. Why would his being older change that fact?
"I just don't get it." He murmurs as he lowered himself so that his chin rested against the edge of the pull, and forearms were completely submerged in the waters. "Meruin-sensei has never treated me like a kid… or Souta-onii-chan… or anyone for that matter, so… Kiyoshi is still… Kiyoshi?" He asks, resting his cheek now against the rim and making a weird face in the process.
Yuriko feels her jaw clench instinctively. He really didn't get it, and confirming that he was as dense as ever. "You're a /grown up/." she stresses the words. "Grown ups don't experience the world like kids do. And you skipped over allot. The seal may have been removed, but it also took time from you too." Didn't he see that? "And you only think that now." It's only a matter of time before he'll see the difference between his two lives, being a kid and how he is now as an adult. "You're going to go on different missions, start a family of your own." And he'll probably forget about her. And Yuriko didn't want him to wait for her to grow up either.
Exhaling a small breath, she pushes herself up to sit on the edge. Water dripping from the ivory swimsuit that crisscrosses and wraps around her neck with a bow in the back, decorated with frills. Fewer frills than she's done in the past, when she was much younger. "You know, you should tell your fiancee about your changes." Yuriko murmurs softer, pushing herself to her feet to find a towel.
Kiyoshi's attempt at humor backfired so severely that he ends up shrinking behind the rim reflexively, and remain there for a brief moment or two. Although fear lingered in his heart, the Moto listened and tried to take it all in without interjecting or closing his heart. The effort becomes a strained one at best over time however, because what Yuriko spoke of wasn't news at all to him. Past experiences have long since taught him that his life was to be shortened in one form or another upon taken up Akio's burden and returning to Kirigakure. It is in part what prepared him to accept the circumstances that followed that decision; including the age seal. Granted, he still felt murder in his heart whenever he thought of the bastard that placed the seal upon his friends in the first place.
Then, there was life as not only a shinobi, but the life of one of the future Yondaime Mizukage personal genin squad that came with more responsibilities and hardships that no 'kid' should bear. As far as Kiyoshi was concerned, whatever childhood he was supposed to enjoy died long before the present. So…
"Huh?" He murmurs, blinking away the fog of thoughts at the mention of starting a family. When it belatedly does sink in, Kiyoshi can't help being embarrassed by the comment. As if he had any desire to do what THAT entailed. He's floored not long after by the fiancee comment; and thus, can only stare at Yuriko with a mixture of disbelief and utter confusion for a good while yet. Rather than try to puzzle out where that came from, Kiyoshi turns to grasping at straws to at least keep Yuriko around longer, if… if only for a little while longer.
"… I did… but, she didn't even recognize me. And even now, she keeps talk'n bout how 'Grown ups don't experience the word like kids do' and 'Different missions', and 'Starting a family'." He sighs in exasperation. "She probably even thinks its better to forget about her too." Kiyoshi is only joking about the whole mess, but again, desperate measures…
Taking her towel, Yuriko wraps it around herself as she glances over her shoulder back at him. At an adult that's supposed to have so many years on her, but lacks the experience those years may have given him. Her expression hardens briefly before she glances at her feet, silence for a fleeting moment. "She's probably from a wealthy family, right? I doubt they will really care about the age difference. They usually don't." she's heard about arranged marriages after all. Some of the girls in the village want that if only so they can marry into fortune or prestige or both.
Whatever. It wasn't her business anyway. These are adult problems that he has to deal with on his own. Yuriko resigns herself to this as she pushes away the used towel and begins wrapping the white kimono around herself, over the ivory swimsuit that beneath the edge shifts and changes to become a flexible body suit, hidden under the fabric. Her back towards him, her hands pause at the powder blue sash around her waist. "I'm going to miss hanging out with you and Sei-san." she murmurs. It's too late now. Yuriko shakes her snowy head once as she starts to make her way out.
Kiyoshi is both attentive, and not at the same time. The fact that the main point he was trying to make went over her head prompted him to turn about and keep smashing his head against the rim of pool. The stone starts to give long before he feels even the slightest bit of pain, though the fact that it begins to is enough to snap him back to full attention.
He turns in place to rest his back against the pool, and folds his arms across his chest, meaning to gather himself while she finished getting dressed. Unfortunately, the last statement on top of her leaving scatters his thoughts, as well as forces the first thing he can latch onto to come sort of flying out of his mouth. "I'm not gonna let you break our engagement that easily."
At the mouth of the tunnel, Yuriko pauses there, willing herself not to glance back over her shoulder at him. The words clench at her gut. "We're not engaged." they never were. He always claimed that he was in n arranged marriage. But it didn't matter now. Now they were barely more than friends, and more than anything she was determined not to hold him back from his life. To keep him from waiting for her. Yuriko shakes her head hard to herself and lifts a small hand to rub the back against her nose, pushing forward into the tunnel to begin her descent.
The last shot was a failure as well. Kiyoshi could only look on at that point, watching her disappear as it all truly began to sink in completely. In that moment, he wanted to lose himself in anger, hatred, pain — anything to stop the numbness creeping up his spine. A rumbling in the back of his mind kept him from being lured into such oblivion, but would not free him as well.
In the end, Kiyoshi rid himself of just about ever inch of clothing, cast them aside, then carried about the very thing he intended to do from the start. Albeit now with a bitter taste on his tongue and little desire to see what more troubles tomorrow would bring about…