Date: December 5, 2014
The "spar" proposed by Isobu as the price for the status of master Jinchuuriki is over. After a full day's sleep in exhaustion, tended carefully by Kenta and Atsuro, Takeo returns to consciousness feeling "two boulders less weight" on his chest. Still, Isobu is his friend. After sharing with his two friends his gratitude and feelings toward them, the trio returns to Takeo's mind and establishes closure with the Bijuu. In return for oaths, Isobu trusts Takeo's safety to the pair, and Isobu agrees to preserve the friendship between Bijuu and Jinchuuriki. He will watch closely, but so long as Takeo remains a devoted student of his, Isobu opts for now to not stand in the way of a fair victory. Even when faced with steel, water always finds a way through, and so did Isobu's clever pupil.
Poster's note: foul language filtered in obvious places.
"Takeo's Mastery - Part Four"
With the help of Atsuro and Kenta, mate and best friend, Takeo had emerged victorious and become a master Jinchuuriki. It was a battle won not through brutal conquest, but via cleverness. Simply put, the young man knew of a weakness in Isobu's defenses simply because he'd /been/ Isobu - albeit in a much smaller form.
After sealing away both Isobu and the separated chakra, the trio returned to the world of flesh and blood. Takeo would've been seen to still bubble with the patterned, waterlike chakra symbolic of his new status. That is, until he fell back in exhaustion. His mark remained visible, a curiosity of sorts.
Since that time one day ago, Kenta has cared for Takeo's exhaustion while receiving periodic visits from Atsuro. He's been unconscious, but otherwise seemingly unharmed but for the taxation on his body.
Kenta's arguably the least affected by the ordeal, mainly because he didn't need to exert himself as much as the other two. While the young medic-nin felt some fatigue afterwards, it was the type of fatigue that comes after a hard day's work or an energetic spar. It didn't hamper him from looking into Atsuro's and Taizen's injuries. Nor did it keep him from tending to Takeo's unconscious form. A few protein bars and a few hours of good sleep snatched between inspections is enough to energize him for the new day. He didn't even need to move anywhere, since a deeply sleeping Takeo is one that's not going to bother him.
Even though Takeo still isn't awake yet a few hours into the following day, Kenta remains unalarmed. Some gentle diagnostic probing with medical chakra indicates that the other Chuunin's hadn't slipped into a coma overnight. Takeo will be waking -soon- and he'll need sustenance. With some help from Atsuro to get a fire going, Kenta starts preparing a meal with some supplies that he brought back to the cave from his own house after the confrontation the day before.
Although they sustained some "injuries" in the mind battleground, Atsuro and Taizen have recovered by now, after making sure to get plenty of rest and food. Since their recovery, they've been occasionally dropping by to check in on Takeo and Kenta — the former to see if he's woken up, the latter to make sure he hasn't worked himself to death. As they walk in this time, they greet Kenta. "Hey," says Atsuro, "How's he doing?" When it's requested, he uses ninjutsu to make a small fire to help Kenta out. Taizen sits on his haunches by the bed and sniffs at Takeo a couple of times. "I hope you are doing well, Kenta," he says, "Will Takeo wake up soon?"
"Soon enough," says Takeo, his voice more of a groan at first. Atsuro's current visit is a timely one, it seems. Care, tending, and the scent of a cooking fire being prepared brings the young man around. As his eyes slowly open, the seal upon his lower stomach gradually fades from sight at long last.
Combing his mussed hair from his face as he sits up, the Jinchuuriki looks around inquisitively. "You kept coming back here? That's going way out of your way, you two." A pause. "… But, I appreciate it. I've come to see that I appreciate a lot of things, but I haven't said it often enough."
A simple question follows, "How long was I out, and what's going on the fire? Something burnt, I hope."
Kenta immediate leaves his cooking to check on Takeo. He's frying up some bacon to go along with eggs, porridge and fruit. Bacon doesn't burn -too- easily and Atsuro must also know enough about meat products to keep Kenta's meal plans from failing in Kenta's absence from the makeshift hearth. "Don't worry, Takeo. I only left for a short time to bring back some supplies. I've been staying in here the whole time otherwise, so you don't need to worry about me wasting traveling time," Kenta says while he checks Takeo's vital signs. Eyes are dilating fine. Blood pressure's normal. Reaction speed to external stimulus is good. "You were sleeping for almost an entire day, but your chakra reserves are recovered now and your fatigue's mostly gone. You do need to eat something though. Your body's been through a fair amount of stress."
Hearing Takeo's voice, Atsuro turns away from the fire, back to Takeo. "Gosh," he says sardonically, "Now, what would make us keep coming back here when you're in a coma. Sheesh." He turns back to the fire to take over food-cooking duties. "I'd say Kenta went way more out of his way than us, anyway. Maybe you oughta thank him… Anyway, you forgot to mention the small matter that you'd sleep for, like, twenty hours after you got the agreement. That something Isobu did, or what?"
Taizen wags his tail happily. "I am glad you've woken up," says the dog, "We did't realize that you would be unconscious for so long afterwards. Especially since the rest of us were fine. How are you feeling?"
Takeo tolerates Kenta's medical mothering, no doubt knowing that he'd never hear the end of it if he refused. However, a smile graces his tattooed features when he hears of how devoted the other youth's been to his care. "Kenta," he says as he brings up a hand, tapping his fist upon the med-nin's shoulder. "You're a good man, you know that? I chose well when I picked my lieutenant, not to mention my best friend." With a sniff, he brightly comments, "Bacon, too! I love crunchy bacon." Takeo might well have lost the Inuzuka nose, but he hasn't lost the nose for favorite foods.
The moment shifts when the Jinchuuriki shifts his attention to Atsuro and Taizen, brandishing his canines. "I see my mate wasn't quite as determined to stick around and watch my every breath, but I'll let that slide. You, too, are owed some words I should've said a long time ago." There's a moment during which Takeo holds meaningful eye contact with Atsuro, breaking away only to acknowledge Taizen. "I actually feel … It's hard to explain. Different, but not in a bad way. It's like there've been three boulders on my chest, and someone took two of them off." Looking back up to Atsuro, he says, "I don't think Isobu did it. Actually, I usually see him in my dreams, but I don't remember anything this time. Maybe he's been as exhausted as I have?"
Blinking once, Takeo quickly looks between all three parties. "Beak, I'm asking the wrong questions. What about you three? Are you okay? Did you get hurt at all? I admit, I didn't know what'd happen to you here if wounds happened in there."
"Takeo wasn't in a coma. He was just experience an extending state of sleep," Kenta reflexively corrects Atsuro, not noting the sarcasm there. He hovers for a little longer before drawing back, but only a little, so Takeo still has no trouble reaching out to bob his shoulder. The young man's expression turns grave. "I'm only doing what any medic and friend should, Takeo. You were vulnerable in your exhaustion. I couldn't risk having anyone come in here and injure you while you can't fight back. I was also worried that you might be confused when you finally wake up and hurt yourself accidentally." A small smile softens his features. "And if you worry about any of us, it should be Atsuro-senpai and Taizen-senpai. I didn't manage to do much while I was in there facing Isobu with you guys. I wasn't in danger the same way that the three of you were."
Once he's given everything a good stir, Atsuro looks over his shoulder at Takeo. "We've been in and out," he says, "Geez, you take part in some weird forbidden ritual with a guy, then he thinks you're just gonna drop everything and watch him sleep all day." He exchanges glances with Taizen, "Sheesh!" He turns back to tend the food again. "I don't get it, then. How come you were out for so long? Anyway, don't worry about us. We were hurt in the… mind world thing, but we're fine now. Especially compared to you."
He looks over to Kenta, "Actually I thought you might have some medical explanation for it all. I don't really see the difference between a coma and sleeping for a whole day, though, so it might be over my head anyway." He shrugs, "And we feel fine, by the way. If you wanna give us an examination sometime in the next few days to make sure we're okay, though, no objections."
"The ritual isn't forbidden. It was just, you know, taking initiative." Takeo lifts his chin defensively, and then bares his fangs once more at the pair. "That's a good point, though. You two have been /inside of my mind/. That makes you closer to me than anyone else in the world. Even a new level for you, Atsuro!" The question can only prompt a shake of his head. "I think I was initially unprepared for the level of control I had. It's a kind of … freedom, which I hadn't had before. In that instant, I had to seal off the chakra I'd taken and lock the seal on Isobu again. It might've been like taking in a little too much drink on your first time."
Takeo scratches lightly at the back of his neck. "Strange thought, that. Freedom. Control. It's not perfect, I mean, but I can manifest the tails now without fear. Even turn into Isobu, albeit a much smaller form. That's how I knew that little tipping him over trick might work, by the way." With a sigh, he admits, "I almost feel a little guilty. Isobu's my friend, and there was no other way of doing that. I think I should go back in and make a fair agreement with him, even though I've separated what I need. If he /is/ my friend, it's the right thing to do. Just stopping now that I've achieved mastery, that'd be wrong."
Takeo takes a long look between Atsuro and Kenta, his grin subsiding into a more meaningful smile. "It isn't everyone who'd dive into a friend's mind to help outwit a Bijuu. You two really are great, you know."
Kenta stands up and walks over to help Atsuro separate the food into four proper portions. Obviously, everyone else has several times that amount that he does. While he works on this, the young man answers Atsuro's question. "Well, the difference is that a person in a coma literally can't be woken up. I can tell that Takeo was in an extremely deep state of sleep only, because he was reacting to external stimulus much more than a comatose patient would have. He reflexively moved every time I gave him a quick physical examination to determine his condition, showed signs of dreaming even if he probably can't remember them, and shifted to get more comfortable several times during the night."
Kenta picks up the plate of food meant for Takeo and walks back over to set it in the Jinchuuriki's hands. "Going back in to cement your friendship with Isobu is good and all, but you need to eat -first-. You won't have enough energy to do it otherwise, especially since you didn't eat for so long. You understand the situation best, but I don't want Isobu to surprise you while you're more vulnerable than usual. He might not be as powerless as you think he is, despite taking so much of his chakra. Even though I'm not very useful, I'm going to go in again to watch your back too."
Atsuro lets loose a very exaggerated sigh. "/That/ set of statements was a new level for /you/," he shoots back, "I wonder if I can persuade you to never say anything like that ever again…" Since Kenta's taken over the food, he walks over to Takeo. "Anyway, you don't think Isobu thinks the agreement is fair? You only beat him in a… spar. You never forced him into anything. And I'm unclear how the terms could have been unfair to him. Did you offer him less than the market value for his chakra?" At the last statment, he nods, "No problem." Then he clears his throat loudly and nods his head towards Taizen.
He looks back over to Kenta. Well, there's always a medical lesson just around the corner, eh? "So we could have just shaken him awake then? Hm, that would have been way more convenient. I should just done that the first time I came here." He looks over to Takeo and shoots him a grin.
Takeo certainly isn't one to refuse a plate of fresh, unhealthy food. The young man's appetite is voracious even by his standards, such that he all but shovels up the mixture of different dishes as soon as they're in his claws. "Fis is delificus," he says to Kenta through his teeth, hopefully legibly enough despite his full mouth. After swallowing, Takeo gestures briefly toward Atsuro and simply notifies him, "No, you couldn't persuade me to. Now that I feel safe enough, why wouldn't I ask you to become my mate? You know, officially. Before the elders."
He then carries on as if he'd never said anything exceptional, having kept an ear on Kenta's medical and personal explanations. "Was I really dreaming? I swear, I don't remember a bit of it, and that's really unusual for me. I've found that it's the easiest time for Isobu to get through to me." Another shovelful of food finds its way into his mouth, shutting him up for a second.
Fortunately, the complexities of Isobu are explained without a stuffed mouth. "Think of it this way, Atsuro. You need your best friend's sword, a friend you literally spend every moment of every day with. It's nothing personal, but you really need it, and he's not so inclined to give it up. Sure, he lets you take it in a match, but you still had to beat the flipper out of your close friend for a … thing of power. Wouldn't you feel the least bit bad? Especially if he had to live behind bars all of the time?"
"You'd probably need more than shaking. Stabbing him or tossing ice water into his face would be much better against that deep a sleep," Kenta tells Atsuro absently on his way to retrieve a dish for Atsuro and Taizen. He quickly adds, "Not that I recommend ever doing something like that. If a person's that exhausted, the sleep's necessary."
Maybe all that talking about mating has distracted Atsuro anyway and prevented the Jounin from noting Kenta's comments. It's definitely attention grabbing enough that even Kenta doesn't have trouble following along. It's not something that the young man wants to butt into, so he picks up the last plate for himself and sits next to his friends to start eating after everyone else is served.
Kenta does break his silence a few times to address Takeo. "I'm not surprised that you didn't remember. Most people don't when they're exhausted to the degree that you were." Several bites later, he's nodding slowly to the Jinchuuriki. "I can definitely see why you want to go back in. I still think you need people to watch your back like last time."
Atsuro takes a scoop of food into his mouth, and then nearly chokes on it. Once he's swallowed, he manages to speak again. "Oh, I don't know, because you know that this isn't the time or place to be discussing it?" he says, giving Takeo a meaningful stare, then nodding to Kenta and Taizen. He shrugs. "I'd feel like he already gave me terms for lending you his sword and that they must have been acceptable to him, because he chose them. What is there to renegotiate in this contract, exactly? Anyway, can't you just talk to him from here? I'm starting to think you enjoyed being in there or something…"
He looks back to Kenta. "Really, people can sleep for that long normally, and it's the best thing to let them do it? Wow, next time someone complains about me sleeping in… Kenta, you're so smart!" He scoops up some more food. Taizen says, "If we were going to go back in, when would we do it? How soon will it be safe for Takeo to do it again?"
"Do you enjoy yelling at me from far away, or do you like looking me close in the eye? I can say the latter, at least." Takeo gestures with an extended claw toward Kenta and comments, "See? My lieutenant understands, but he's a sensitive man." He leans back a bit, back propped against the wall where crystals aren't scattered, but that doesn't stop him from eating. "There's really nothing to renegotiate, exactly. It's an Uzumaki seal, so I doubt he could break out unless I let him. Still, I want him to know that he's closer to me now, not further way. That I haven't forgotten my promise to treat him as a thinking being, a friend, rather than a tool or weapon. A few other things, too."
That he could get the Jounin to react so to his casual proposal makes him grin, and that lingers. It's a good look for him, actually, and one he hasn't worn all that often since he took on the burden of the Tailed Beast. Tilting his head back, he scoops the remainder of the food on the place into his mouth. "Plate, that was good. You should cook for me more often, Kenta."
Takeo perks up. "In fact, that was energizing. I'll bet I could go back in right now. After all, there's no fight to be had this time around. If you two want to come along, you could. It's important to me that Isobu knows you're anything but enemies of his."
Kenta's the last one to start eating, but he had the least food on his plate to start with, so he finishes around the same time that Takeo does. "You'll need someone to cook for you regularly, if you keep working yourself like this, Takeo," the medic-nin comments after he swallows the last bite. "Atsuro-senpai, are you sure that you don't want me cooking regularly for you? I can make additional food for all of you at the same time when I do my cooking." He dabs at the corner of his lips until he sees no bits of food coming off. "Ummm… anyway, I'm done eating and I wasn't that tired to begin with. I guess that you're well enough now to try it again, Takeo. You seem very confident about that seal of yours… You can't overdo things though."
Atsuro smirks. "Trick question," he answers, "You never listen to me, so neither method will have any effect." He gives another loud sigh. "See? Just like that. Fine, fine. I'll go with you. I think we already said everything that needs to be said though. Just for the record. Which I'm going to read back to you when I'm proven right." Taizen adds, "I will go too."
Atsuro looks back to Kenta and shakes his head. "You know I can't ask you to do that," he says, "You've already got enough work to do. And I'm perfectly capable of cooking myself, you know. Not cooking myself, but… like, I can cook too. In addition to you being able to cook for me. Um, I think that's as clear as I can make that thought."
Takeo leans forward, at first a bit stiffly. "Oof. I'm actually not used to sleeping very much. Feels like I've been down for … Well, for a day." He gives himself a good shake, a rather doglike echo of his bloodline, in order to work the kinks out of his muscles. "Right, then. Who's ready to take a trip back into the world's most fascinating mind?" The youth makes light, but for him, this is an awkward encounter to come. Forgiveness and terms settled with a friend from whom you've taken power.
Clawed toes kick the furs covering him back before he hops up, relocting himself to the heart of the soil island at the cavern's core. "It shouldn't be any different than last time. I know the path to Isobu, and if you focus on me to the exclusion of all else, you should follow. It'll only work here, though, I'd say. Strange place. Peaceful."
A clawed hand comes up to either side, one for Kenta, one for Atsuro and Taizen. "Whenever you're ready. Any questions first?"
Kenta looks at the hand that Takeo offers and starts fidgeting. Despite feeling that he must help Takeo, he's still not comfortable with being so close to a Bijuu in its natural state. The young medic-nin stares at the offered hand for a few seconds before he hesitantly takes hold of it. Then, he swallows all of his misguides and sucks in a deep breath. Kenta closes his eyes to start focusing his thoughts inwards. He breathes in and out slowly while running his mind through some familiar meditation exercises until calm takes hold. Then, the rest is up to Takeo, since only the Jinchuuriki can grant access to that deepest part of the mind where Isobu is imprisoned.
"I'm just dying to," Atsuro says drily. "Going to meet a Bijuu for the second time in as many days. Hoo boy." He follows Takeo over to the meditation area, with Taizen following shortly behind him. They sit down beside Takeo, then Atsuro takes Taizen's paw with one hand and takes Takeo's hand with another. "No questions," says Atsuro, "None you haven't already refused to give a satisfactory answer to, at least…" Taizen adds, "I have no questions either." They close their eyes and wait.
Takeo still tries to keep up a good front as he finds familiar hands now resting upon his. "Don't pretend like you don't enjoy it," he jests before closing his eyes. "Alright. Time to get serious. I'm going to open the way, and you two know what to do from there …" For him, this is habit. Takeo closes his eyes and draws deeply of the cave's crisp air, focusing inward. Deeper and deeper he goes, until he finds that place in the recesses of his mind.
The first thing to be heard is a droplet of water striking the puddle covering a rock floor. As one figure after the other becomes aware, the vast cavern that is Isobu's prison takes on physical form. On one end are the bars of the great gates. Far to the other end of the cavern, like a speck in the distance, are four torii seals surrounding a large ball of contained black and blue chakra.
Takeo's feet settle atop the water, rather than within it. He gives his friends a moment to collect themselves, but he's facing the gate from the moment he arrives.
"Isobu-boku," he offers. In response, a red and yellow eye suddenly opens within the shadowy depths behind the gates. The radiance it casts off illuminates an armored visage.
With a voice which rumbles throughout the seemingly boundless expanse, Isobu answers, "Takeo-kun … No, Takeo-san. You have learned well the ways of water. It always finds a path, even if blocked by steel. You found your path to fair victory." There's a hint of unhappiness there, but also timidness. He can, at moments, appear childlike in demeanor.
As soon as Kenta feels the water gathering around his feet, he knows that he's back in the Bijuu prison of Takeo's mind. The young medic-nin swallows and opens his eyes. Seeing Isobu behind the bars makes him stiffen, but doesn't make him forget his manners. Kenta takes a step forward to give the Bijuu a respectful bow. "Konichiwa, Isobu-sama. It's nice to see you again… hopefully under better circumstances." That's the most attention that he's willing to bring on himself at the moment, so the medic-nin quickly retreats again. He places himself a single step behind Takeo, where he can almost literally watch the Jinchuuriki's back.
When Atsuro and Taizen open their eyes again (at least that's how it feels to them, but who knows if their eyes are open in the real world), they find themselves once again surrounded by darkness and shallow water. And there, in front of them, Isobu's eye can be seen. Once they've moved up nearer to where Takeo is standing, Atsuro and Taizen stay silent and let Takeo do the talking for now, as they did before. He's the one who knows how to speak to the beast, and he's the one who knows what it is he wants out of this conversation. Like before, though, Kenta's bow reminds Atsuro to do so as well. They step up to Takeo
Isobu's already acknowledged Takeo's victory through cleverness, through finding a path beyond shell none of them could have hoped to shatter. However, he didn't accomplish that alone, but with the strength of comrades augmenting his own. The eye shifts first upon Kenta. "You are clever," he says, timidness briefly giving way to a mixture of disdain and mild respect. "Poisons I could not help but breathe in. Barriers strengthened at just the right points to make my final blow futile. I can see why Takeo-san respects you. He sees strength in you where you see weakness."
The eye then shifts to the right, to Atsuro and Taizen. It's the human of the pair he speaks to. "In you, he sees more. Feels more than he does for others. Still, I will admit …" There's a pause. "Under different circumstances, I would have destroyed you easily. Here, where Takeo-san could execute his plan, you were formidable."
At last, the circle comes back around to the Jinchuuriki. "You have what you sought, Takeo-san. You've mastered my chakra, taken what you need of it. Why have you returned?"
Takeo's quick to take a step forward and answer. "That's a ridiculous question," he states most boldly, before softening. "I've returned because we're friends. Didn't I promise that'd always be so? Always friends, fellow outcasts both? Besides, this is just a first step. There's so much more I can learn from you about the water, and later, the waves. Don't you want me to continue as your pupil, with strong friends like these to protect the Jinchuuriki?"
Isobu is silent, but for a long, rumbling 'hrrmrm' of contemplation.
Kenta's shaking his head already at the very beginning of Isobu's speech. "I'm not a strong. I'm nothing like Atsuro-senpai, Taizen-senpai or Takeo. The only strength that I had to give was my deserve to protect my friends and keep them safe. It's my friendship's that's strong…" The young man voices quietly, maybe so quietly that Isobu can't even hear what he says. It won't be hard for Isobu to overrun his words with the Bijuu's follow up comments. Kenta sucks in a deep breath and blows it out again. He repeats again in a much louder voice. "It's my friendship that's strong." A pause. "What I feel for my friends allows me to do things for them that I couldn't otherwise. It's the same thing that Takeo apparently feels for you, Isobu-sama."
Atsuro closes his eyes, listening as Isobu addresses him. "If I was 'formidable,' it's because I had my partner — whom you haven't given due credit, in my opinion — at my side and two friends I wanted, needed to protect. And I knew they needed me too. We came here in the first place because of that. That's all." He gently pokes Taizen in the shoulder and the dog woofs, then speaks in human speak, "Takeo has come here asking you for a partnership much like the one Atsuro and I share."
Isobu still seems to be thinking even as he looks down at the nin-ken. Perhaps saying nothing at all is its own form of respect. After all, one could receive far worse from a beast possessed of such anger at the core. Beastly respect, if an entity made of chakra has such a thing?
"I remember when they first forced me into your mind. Another prison, like Nara Kaito's," he says. The timidness is, for the moment, gone. "I thought you were a brash, ignorant boy. They came to you and you took me into yourself without any thought but for that /village/. You had no fear, and when the loneliness followed, you bore it."
The sound of shell grinding against shell follows, Isobu's lower jaw working against the upper aspect. "You bore it, and well. The loss of your blood rights, the loss of your kin. I know these things. Were it my choice, I would be free, but I am not. Instead, my chakra has been mastered by someone who never lusted after it. You took it when you needed it, when you were ready. The water always finds its path."
Shifting so as to rise upon his front legs, Isobu speaks now to the other two present. "You are his closest. I will not resist his use of the chakra he has taken, if you will swear to protect him. You follow him. I expect you would." That last part's said to Kenta. To Atsuro, the turtle states, "From you, he desires more. Now that he is less likely to lose control - to give me the advantage in error - you are safe in his arms. Will you guard him with your power."
Again, back to Takeo. "And you, Takeo-san. You, most of all. If I must be in this wretched place, defeated, will you make good use of what you have gained? Will you learn well from me as you always have, mind yourself in the learning, and continue until the water becomes the waves? Until the cloak becomes my tail, my arms, my legs? Until your flesh is my shell, and my body is your body?"
Takeo offers in response to that, something which he extends to precious view people. A full, proper bow. "You're still my master in the ways of ninjutsu, even if I've mastered your chakra. I give my oath to respect your teachings, to use well your knowledge and power, and to become a great shinobi worthy of being remembered as your Jinchuuriki. The Jinchuuriki of Isobu, not of Sanbi."
"What you ask of me isn't even a real request," Kenta says softly in the silence that comes right after Takeo finishes speaking. He looks the Bijuu in its single eye and doesn't look away despite feeling a strong desire to. "It isn't a real request because it's already something that's done. I will protect all my friends to the best of my ability. Friends are as important to me as family… as important to me as Konoha… and I already said that Takeo's a friend. You shouldn't even need to mention it to know that I'll never leave him in a time of need, as long as I'm around and able to guard his back, Isobu-sama."
Whether or not he interprets Isobu's response to him as respect, Taizen doesn't seem to mind Isobu's silence, simply looking back up at the great yellow eye. Atsuro also stays silent as Isobu addresses him again. There's a brief pause before Atsuro speaks. "Well, Kenta said it better, but it's just the same for me. It's already my duty to guard Takeo. I made it my duty some time ago. But I guess what you're looking for me to say is… yes, we will ensure Takeo's safety. More because of our own inclinations than your request, frankly."
"He expects more of you," Isobu rumbles a bit more loudly towards Atsuro. "As do I. If you are to be his, then you will be at his side. It is the way of you humans, to pair, and you bear knowledge he has lost. You are still more powerful than he, save where I have taught him. I take your words as an oath to guard him with your life."
The eye then slides left, once again upon Kenta. "You underestimate the value of your friendship to him. If my mind is to be constantly wracked with the boy's inane thoughts, then I at least seek to understand them. He sees in you not the love for the Inuzuka, but the love for a friend unlike his others. Something I once …" The Bijuu cuts off with a rumbling sound. "I take your words to be an oath, as well."
Isobu lowers himself slowly, so that he can center his eye squarely upon Takeo. "You are my friend, as you say," he says, timidness slipping in before sternness returns. "For that reason alone, I will allow you my power. If you can command it, I will allow you my form. You will remain my student in the water and the waves, and you will heed me when I speak to you. In return … My power is mastered, but I am not. You commanded equality when we met, and I will accept that equality. As the Inuzuka says, as much to yourself and I as to Taizen and Atsuro."
To all three, Isobu says whilst sinking back to the floor, "Fail in your oaths to me, and my anger will be great. I will have my due." Perhaps he's not entirely firm on that, as the timid boyishness returns. One never knows, though; this being isn't actually a turtle or anything nearly the like.
Kenta watches Isobu sink deeper into the waters. He nods slowly, but stays silent for once since the meeting started. There's nothing more that he can add, as he had already said what he needed to say. Maybe all of Isobu's speeches have all been sincere… Maybe they're not. Whatever the case, Kenta's going to stay true on his side. And if Isobu's the one that turns out to be a danger to Takeo, the young medic-nin will guard Takeo against the Bijuu like he would any other enemy.
Atsuro folds his arms lightly and taps a finger a few times against his elbow. "We're quibbling over semantics," he says, "I will guard him." Which also means guarding Isobu, convenient that, and possibly an explanation for why the Bijuu was so particular about how he said things. He relaxes again and lowers his arms to his sides again. "Well," he says, "I guess that's that." He looks around. "How do we leave, exactly? This situation is a little different from last time."
Isobu merely looks at Atsuro for a long moment. Perhaps he's offended by the man's seemingly arrogant responses, or maybe it's something more. "Whatever he sees, I can see. I will know if ever you betray your oath," he rumbles. "Takeo-san, continue your studies now that you have what you have come for. The friendship is not broken, but it is closely watched. Learn next the ways of the water prison, and the waves will be nearly within your grasp."
That seems to be the last of what the lumbering turtle has to say. Slowly, heavy lids close over the orange-red eye, and the light it sheds is thus diminished. Eventually, the Bijuu fades entirely into the shadows. Takeo takes in a breath as the conversation ends, looking at the bars for a moment longer. His concentration's broken by Atsuro, whose question prompts him to look over his shoulder. "Oh, right. Sorry."
The prison darkens entirely, and with the sound of one last droplet of water striking the floor, the world of flesh and blood returns. Takeo nods his head as he lowers his hands, saying, "Seems I'm going to live after all. We all are, and better than before, maybe."
Atsuro frowns. "It's almost as if you expect me to betray him," he says, slowly. "I don't understand why. Because the rest of the clan turned their backs on him when he first got you? In any case, I'll do everything I can to keep him safe. You have my word." By this point, he's speaking more to the place where Isobu once was. He shakes his head and waits for Takeo to do whatever it is he's going to do.
Then they find themselves back in the real world. "Well," he says, "That was quite an experience." He lets go of Takeo and Taizen, then gets up and stretches.
Takeo exhales that long held breath as they return to the world of man, beyond the bounds of his mind. "Don't take it personally. He's not just a big turtle who can talk. He's, well, something we can't quite fathom. And he's really pissed off at the core, no matter his attitude." With a faint gesture of a clawed hand, the young man says, "You try being locked up time and again for being what you are, and then you come back expecting humans to be trustworthy. Then again, he's practically the ultimate shield. Maybe he's trying to protect me from what he was talking about, in his own way."
Dusting himself off, the young man rises and comments, "He expects I'm going to follow through with taking you as my mate. It's up to you whether you want that to happen. This is a new time in my life. Hell, the second new time, a little less worse than the first one. I wouldn't mind taking advantage, even though there's going to come a day when I have to die for this village. That's something else you have to decide whether you're prepared to face, if we go ahead."
"He kinda singled me out," Atsuro points out. "I'll just assume he wanted to make extra sure, since he decided I was the most powerful one. And Kenta and Tai are too cute to lie to him. I think that might be a more forgiving response than is warranted, though." He walks away a bit and leans against the wall. "I don't see how you giving your life for the village fits in with me guarding you with all my strength. But then, I guess Isobu isn't too keen on the idea of you giving your life for anything to start with." And now for the subject he's been really worried about. "I need some time to think about it," he says after a moment. He quickly adds, "Having just visited the demon in your stomach hasn't really put me in the right frame of mind for making life decisions. And, actually… we need to get going. I hadn't really planned on you waking up, and I definitely hadn't planned on visiting Isobu again." Taizen walks over to his side and he pushes off from the wall. "Get some rest, and we'll see you later. You too, Kenta." Taizen says, "Goodbye, Takeo. Goodbye, Kenta." Then they turn and walk back down the tunnel.
Takeo shakes his head once. "He didn't decide that you were just more powerful, or that you had to be pressured to be the guardian just for the sake of guarding. He was talking to you as my mate. Isobu perceives you as I do, with his own bent on that; he can't read your mind like he can mine."
The reaction he receives as to visiting the 'demon' in his stomach isn't quite as hoped, but he watches Atsuro go with a rise of his shoulders. "It's your choice. I have a duty, one way or the other, but now I can also have a life without always being afraid of hurting those closest to me. I'm gonna live that life while I can. Hope you'll be in it."
A rather bittersweet note on which to become master of anything. With Atsuro and Taizen so abruptly leaving, the young man turns to settle down upon the ground, no doubt to spend the rest of the evening being monitored by Kenta for any lingering health issues.