Date: November 29, 2014
Takeo brings Atsuro and Kenta along with him, to his fabled home beneath a tree, a sacred place in which they can meditate and enter his thoughts. There, together, they resolve to release Isobu and help Takeo to pursue mastery. Takeo relies upon the friendship and trust he's developed with Isobu, who insists upon a 'spar' to test him, but will those forces be enough to ensure survival and success?
Poster's note: foul language filtered in obvious places.
"Takeo's Mastery - Part One"
A rather ominous note was left at the doors of both Atsuro and Kenta's homes. It read: "Hey, I need your help. Get off your turtles and meet me at the forest's edge." For once in his life, Takeo wasn't only on time to meet them, he was early. Something was most certainly going on.
With an inviting wave of his hand to the pair, he turns about and starts for the forest's depths. "So, I have a favor to ask of you two," the young man eventually reveals. "A dangerous favor. Really dangerous. So, you can feel free to say no and I'd understand. I couldn't think of anyone better to help me face this than my mate and my best friend, though."
Kenta glances sideways at Atsuro, trying to catch the taller shinobi's eyes to see if Atsuro knew anything about Takeo's request. Whatever he finds there, he still returns his gaze to Takeo's back as he follows his team leader deeper into the forest. "Your note made things sound very urgent and important. I don't know what it is, but if it's something dangerous, you need someone to watch your back, Takeo. Atsuro-senpai is a much better shinobi than I and the perfect person to help you, but I'll still come along to add what little I can." The young medic-nin pauses in his speech, but continues to follow after in silence for a few seconds. "Ummm… what exactly is the favor though?"
Kenta's glances to Atsuro get only a shrug in return. "So dangerous you couldn't even let us know in advance?" Atsuro asks as they walk deeper into the forest. "Would be nice to get some details here. Especially since you want us to decide whether or not to help you. At least what /sort/ of danger it is. Hint hint." Taizen has come with Atsuro as well, and pads along the forest path behind Takeo too. "Is there something in the forest?" the dog asks Takeo.
"I've always told you that I live in a tree. That's where we're going," Takeo says in reply to Taizen. Concerning the curiosities of the other two, he shakes his head. "It's not so much urgent as … Well, I suppose it's urgent in a way, given all of the dangers we face. I've just decided that it's time, now that I can transform into Isobu. Now that I don't even look human anymore when it goes that far."
Takeo explains over his shoulder as he heads through the trees, "The goal of all this training from the start has been mastery over the Bijuu. It means that you can safely be Jinchuuriki. No more fear of harming others unintentionally, or of losing it when you draw upon the Bijuu's chakra."
There's a pause as Takeo heads for what looks like a cave formed from the roots of a gigantic tree, the entrance being easy to miss if one didn't know exactly where to look. "Problem is, it's potentially dangerous. That's why I called upon people I could trust. You can, if you want to, go through this ritual with me."
What Takeo says gives Kenta some pause. "Umm… so this deals with the Bijuu? Is it dangerous because there's a chance that Isobu will break free of the seals or something? Maybe we should have more Jounin around… and Hokage-sama." The young medic-nin sounds slightly nervous, but he's not even letting most of his misgivings show on his face and in his voice. "How exactly are we supposed to help you complete this training that you're talking about? There's definitely not much that I can do if you end up losing control." He adds softly, "At least Atsuro-senpai and Taizen-senpai are here…"
Atsuro's face goes blank for a moment as he spots the tree-cave. "That's not living in a tree so much as /under/ a tree," he points out, "I'm not sure if it's better or worse than what I had in mind…" He glances over to Kenta. "He kinda has a point there, Takeo. If something goes wrong, a forest doesn't do much to separate a bijuu from a village. And I won't speak for Kenta, but Taizen and I don't know a whole lot about jinchuuriki or bijuu or anything like that." Taizen adds, "Does Daisuke at least know you're doing this?"
Takeo answers, "He knows that I've been looking toward doing it for a while now. The Hokage, I mean. Unfortunately, he's decided to not give me the time of day lately, so that means inviting him along was pointless enough." There's just a hint of irritation as he says that, but he's quick in endeavoring to recover. Calm. Much calm. "Wait'll you see the inside, Atsuro. It's something. In fact, it's the only reason you two would be able to come into my mind."
As he starts into the cave, the Jinchuuriki addresses Kenta's questions. It's safer for him to wait until others are out of earshot, after all. "The elders have told me what I need to do and given me the key. Once I - or we - go into my mind, I unlock the seal in there that holds Isobu. Then, two things happen. Either Isobu and I come to an accord, or we have to subdue him until I can take his chakra. The idea isn't to kill him, just to keep him down. He's more timid than the other Bijuu, though, and we've had a good relationship. A friendly spar might take priority over actually trying to kill us."
"Ummm… I hope this doesn't mean that Hokage-sama will be upset about what we're doing here. Or end up arguing with the elders about giving you the instructions on how to do this…" The young medic-nin rubs the back of his head and swallows with more hints of nervousness. "So… you said that we're going -into- your mind? I can do that to a degree with my Mind Body jutsu, but how would Atsuro-senpai and Taizen-senpai do that? I don't have enough experience to link multiple minds together yet. I don't think that I can go deep enough into a person's consciousness to see the Bijuu sealed within either. That's something that the best Yamanaka can do only…"
Atsuro shuts his eyes and sighs. "I'm glad to see so much thought and planning has gone into this." He and Taizen start to follow Takeo into the cave. "You can communicate with Isobu already, can't you? Why not just ask him what he'd try to do before you even… go into your mind and open the gate?" He glances over to Kenta for a moment, then back to Takeo. "Well, let's hope it's a friendly spar. It would be nice to at least have the story of what it was like for Daisuke or something like that…"
Takeo explains largely as he descends into the cave. The ceiling is formed of the thick roots of the tree, whereas the walls glisten with countless crystals jutting out from within. With the exception of an island of dry land at the center, crystal clear water forms a pool through which one has no choice to walk over in following the Jinchuuriki.
"There's no better thought and planning than what I've given you," Takeo says to Atsuro. He turns once upon the island to speak to them both. "You weren't random choices; this is a sacred place. Here, only here, your minds could come into the space within my own. The place where Isobu's imprisoned." He takes a deep breath. "That, and the fact that you're the two closest people to me in this world. The power of that connection should let you in during the meditation."
He parts his hands and says, "I don't demand this from either of you. You're my friends, and this is dangerous. Even if Isobu is timid, he's still as angry as the others about his circumstances. We hope for the best, but may have to face the worst." Cracking his clawed digits, Takeo further explains, "If he doesn't choose a diplomatic option right away, then we subdue him. Either way, my chakra has to … grab hold of his, for lack of a better term. It's like tug of war, sort of. If I win the contest, I can take in what I need and establish the seal again. If I fail, well, it's possible that the opposite happens. He takes in my chakra. You know what happens when someone no longer has any chakra."
Kenta looks around the place with obvious interest. It's all that he can do to wander off to examine one detail or another. Thankfully, all the visual eye candy takes his mind off what they're about to do for the moment. He follows Takeo to the center island, but keeps craning his head back and forth to take in the sights. This distraction causes him to process Takeo's comments a little later than he normally would when his full attention is on the objective at hand. It instantly brings him back to full alertness and snaps his gaze back to the Jinchuuriki.
"Then, it's definitely extremely dangerous. If he takes your chakra, I can only see two outcomes. One, Isobu takes over your body and possibly goes on a rampage. Two, you die and Isobu disappears for a while before reforming again in the not too far future. I don't think that I like either of those options…" Kenta says. His feet twitch and he forces them into stillness to keep himself from pacing.
"If this was a book, the entire middle and end would have been ripped out," Atsuro comments with a sigh. He doesn't seem to be all that impressed by the interior of the cave, and instead keeps his focus completely on Takeo. "Okay, so you're going to chakra battle with him. And we'll do what?" Taizen speaks up, "Will I also be able to fight?" Atsuro adds, "If he can, will it at least work just like if we were fighting normally? It's hard to support you in this when you're not even telling us these fairly basic things, Takeo."
Takeo looks over to Kenta and says in seriousness, "I see a third outcome. A Jinchuuriki who's achieved mastery, who's at one with his Bijuu. Someone who can defend the Land of Fire, who doesn't have to fear that he might harm anyone he gets close to. A man who can even ask to take a mate before the elders." That last bit is said with a rather pointed glance at Atsuro.
"You should be able to come. You're all but at one with Atsuro, and we've known each other as long," Takeo says to Taizen. He then goes on to addressing the other questions. "Except for being inside of my mind, it'll be like a real fight. As I said, the goal isn't to kill Isobu. If all works out well, we duke it out a bit and he decides on a diplomatic solution thanks to our friendship. If not, he just needs to go down long enough for my chakra to take hold of his. After that, it's up to me, not you."
"I don't expect either of you to fully understand, because I don't, either. This is something you only grasp once you do it. If you want out, you can walk outta the cave and I won't hold it against you."
Kenta's lips purse as he considers all the information that was placed in front of him. He doesn't answer for an ominously long time, despite what he said earlier. Eventually, the young medic-nin says in a slow, careful manner, "If you're going to go through this anyway, I'm not going to let you do it alone, so like I said earlier, I'm going to be around to watch your back. With that said, I'd really prefer that we have more people to help you with this. Maybe an entire army… A Bijuu is very powerful, even one that's relatively friendly. If something goes wrong, it could take a lot of effort to hold one off. I hope that a mental battle will be at least go more in our favor…"
Atsuro gives a long, low sigh. "I agree with Kenta," he says, "I know that this is never going to be a /great/ idea, but you sure don't seem to be trying to make it a /good/ one. Would have been nice to at least hear something from Daisuke first." He shakes his head, "But you're obviously set on it, and I can't leave the two of you to handle this by yourselves. I just hope I don't have any reason to say 'I told you so.'" Taizen steps forward, "I will join you too. I cannot leave Atsuro with only half of his team, and you need my help."
Takeo's quick to hold up a finger to Atsuro. "No," he says, shaking his head once. "That's not the way to go into this. You may feel like it's a real fight, but remember that you're fighting in my mind. Contest of wills, whatever you want to call it. Either you believe in me, that I've worked hard enough to become a master, and you believe in yourself if it comes to battle … Or, it's not going to work. Only you can make that choice. As for it being a good or great idea, it's the inevitable idea. Eventually, every Jinchuuriki has to pursue mastery. We can't go around with unsteady control for the rest of our lives."
"Goes for you, too," he says to Kenta. "You're my lieutenant, and I trust you with my life, as much as I do my scolding lover over there. If you're not feeling up to this, though, then you have no obligation to take part. Easy as saying no, boys."
Takeo takes a deep breath and states, "I'm aware of the risks. I'm also tired of being afraid. Afraid of losing control if something like the Silence attacks and I'm needed on the front lines. Afraid of not being able to help the people of the Land of Fire. Afraid of hurting the ones I love, so much so that I feel I can never get too close. I'm ready to put an end to that, and to become one with Isobu."
Kenta shakes his head. "If there's one thing that I learned from studying with my cousins and great aunt, it's that the mind is more complex than anyone ever knows. There are parts of ourselves that's completely hidden and we all have illusions that we voluntarily pull over our eyes… in addition to the ones that we don't even realize it's there. It's easy to say that we should walk into this with confidence, but even the most confident person has doubts and chinks in his mental armor. The only way to know for sure if our will is strong enough is to actually do this thing…" Despite his own nervousness, there's determination in Kenta's voice. If they do go ahead with Takeo's plan, he's going to put everything he has into it, like he does with any other mission, even if he's not sure how much he can help. "Perseverance in the face of doubts is powerful on its own."
"A battle of wills," Atsuro repeats, "That sounds complicated. I have a pretty strong will though." He shrugs. "Anyway. I'm just saying these things because I'm the jounin here. Someone's got to keep you younger ninja out of trouble. That's kinda relative in this case, but at this point, I don'think there's anything I can do to make you stop. So, Taizen and I are going to… add our wills to this, or whatever. I'll be fighting to keep you guys alive… so Isobu better watch his shell." Taizen adds, "I am also prepared."
Takeo seems somewhat relieved to witness a change in attitude on the part of his chosen allies. "If I didn't think you two wouldn't make the difference, you wouldn't be here," he says with a faint smile. Then, the young man sinks to his knees and takes in a deep breath. "Remember, we're hoping that Isobu can be reasoned with in the end. That our friendship counts for something. If it /does/ come to a battle, then we focus on knocking him down and subduing him. Only his exposed and and his underbelly are really vulnerable to actual harm. Oh, there's water in there, but not enough for him to swim in. Big advantage for us."
Another breath is taken. "If you're committed, then we can start," he says. One clawed hand rises up to either side. "Your hands onto mine, and try to clear your minds. Focus just on me. Taizen, I think your paw with Atsuro's would work just as well."
Kenta glances towards Atsuro again and tries to catch the older shinobi's eyes. Water inside Takeo's head? He doesn't expect Atsuro to be any more knowledgeable than him after the conversation showed -lack- of knowledge, but there's a small part of him that still hopes. The medic-nin sucks in a deep breath and nods his head briskly at Takeo. "I'm ready." He sits down to the right side of Takeo and crosses his legs to get into a more comfortable position. Then, he takes one of the clawed hands and reaches deep inside of himself to focus on inner calm, the way that he would start in any meditation.
Atsuro just gives Kenta a shrug. He doesn't know either. "Okay," he says. He moves over to Takeo's left side and sits down, then Taizen comes to sit by his left. Atsuro holds out his hand to Taizen and the dog gives him a paw. Then Atsuro takes a breath and reaches for Takeo's hand. Both man and dog close their eyes and begin to take slow, deep breaths in perfect unison with one another.
Takeo looks to his left, and then to his right, ensuring that all of the parties joining him have begun their meditative efforts. Only then does he draw a deep breath and slowly close his eyes, girding himself for one of the most important events of his life. The Jinchuuriki reaches deeper, deeper, deeper still into the back of his consciousness. If anyone were aware enough to witness it, they'd see that the Uzumaki seal has manifested upon his stomach. A sure sign that he's touching the chakra of the Bijuu.
Where once there was only the darkness of one's thoughts, there's suddenly something else. Another place entirely. The massive cavern in which the quartet suddenly stands has a puddle of water uniformly underfoot, and is dimly lit by some unseen source. Directly ahead is a massive gateway with a paper seal high above, at the center of the gate's two sections.
"Takeo-kun," rumbles a voice from behind the bars. The water underfoot ripples a bit as what can only be described as a huge turtle clad in spiked gray shell rouses from a slumber of sorts. In return, Takeo offers in greeting, "Isobu-chin." An odd choice of honorifics, given that he would be referring to a young boy, yet the Bijuu appears to accept it as if by preference.
"You know why I've come. My friends have come with me. They're your friends, too, just as I am. They want us to join together, so that we can all live together as one. Neither of us will have reason to be afraid anymore."
Kenta's eyes pop open when he feels the surroundings change. He's familiar enough with touching minds by now to realize that he's actually inside Takeo's, but the difference is still startling. Never before had he ended up in such an environment, which tend to for in deeper levels than he can access just yet. The young medic-nin reflexively takes a step closer to Taizen and Atsuro, the two senior most shinobi in the ground. It makes him relax slightly to have them only a touch away. Kenta watches the appearance of the Bijuu with wide, alert eyes. At least he manages to give Isobu a respectful bow when Takeo directs the Bijuu's attention towards them. He opts not to speak and let Takeo carry on with the diplomatic portion of the task.
Being used to working in wet environments, the water at their feet doesn't perturb Atsuro and Taizen as much as it might. Still, their look around the new surroundings betrays some apprehension. This may be in Takeo's mind, but it's also Isobu's domain, and the possibility of danger lies right before them. Atsuro closes his eyes for a second, then looks to Kenta and nods as an attempt at letting the younger ninja know that Atsuro's got his back. Taizen sits on his haunches, attention locked on Takeo and Isobu, his nose twitching slightly. Like, Kenta, he chooses to let Takeo do the talking for the moment. And a fraction of a second after Kenta, he thinks to bow.
"This is Atsuro," Takeo says to Isobu while placing his hand upon the Jounin's shoulder. He does the same for the med-nin and says, "This is Kenta. Our much shorter friend is Taizen. They're all friends, Isobu-boku, as much as you and I are."
The young man takes several steps toward the gates and falls silent for a moment, speaking confidently thereafter. "You and I have been together for a long time, Isobu-boku. I promised you at the start that I'd never treat you as a tool or a weapon, but as an ally and friend to be respected. In return, you gave me access to your chakra, but you know that's not safe enough for either of us. We need oneness in order to protect not only ourselves, but the people of Konohagakure who've accepted us both openly. To protect the friends who love us. I can only go about this by opening the gates, and what happens then is your choice. We can talk this out, we can spar a bit. Hopefully, your anger isn't so great that you'll try to kill me. I've never been as close to anyone as I have to you, after all. I trust you."
Almost gently, Takeo rises up before the gate, headed for the paper seal. Once he reaches it, he tears it away and lets it drift off into the mental landscape. He then extends his left arm, with a complex tattoo taking shape on its underside. After nodding once to Isobu, Takeo places his fingertips to his stomach tattoo and turns his hand as if he were turning a key. The spiral lock previously hidden behind the paper begins to open up, one segment at a time, as Takeo descends back to the ground.
Kenta watches the proceedings with more than a measure of misgiving in his eyes, despite how much he tries to keep the emotion from displaying on his face. There's a sharp intake of breath, quickly cut off, at the sight of Takeo lifting off the ground towards the tag on the massive gates. He keeps holding his breath, not even daring to move, as the Jinchuuriki removes the seal with a single motion and proceed to unlock the final defenses keeping Isobu locked away. At this point, Kenta has to suck in another breath. He also couldn't help stiffening and whispering sideways to Atsuro. "I have a bad feeling about this, Atsuro-senpai. I really hope that this turns out better than I expect…"
Taizen sits there, watching it all unfold, still as a statue. Atsuro isn't moving a whole lot either. Only clenching and unclenching his hands, and occasionally realizing that he's holding his breath followed by slowly letting it out. Even when Takeo puts his hand on his shoulder, he only gives the chuunin a quick glance. But strangely, as Takeo starts to go through the process of bringing Isobu out, they seem to relax. "Be brave," he whispers back to Kenta, "You know we can do this. We'll fight however we have to, as hard as we have to." He looks back to the lock and watches it come apart, his eyes narrowing.
Section by section, the spiral draws inward upon itself, until at last the entire circle has completed the unlocking process. Takeo waits for a moment to see a reaction from the darkness ahead of him, as at this point, the mental seal is undone.
"Takeo-kun," rumbles Isobu from behind the bars. "As a reward for your friendship, a test, instead of crushing you as I would another."
The very fact that Isobu offered those words is diplomatic, in its own way. They offer Takeo an opportunity to leap back before one of the turle's great claws smashes through the bars, splintering them and leaving nothing to separate the shinobi from the Tailed Beast. It has no hind legs, and with the exception of one red eye and an underbelly, appears to be all shell. Perhaps this is a sparring match to determine worthiness. Perhaps it's something worse. Either way, it has begun.