Date: January 17, 2013
While out on patrol, Ishino is approached by a strange "actress" who has heard rumors of his skill with "the arts of deception".
"The Arts of Deception"
Path Through The Mist - Land of Water
Ishino wasn't sent out on a mission outside of the village, so he got assigned to that patrol of the local area. Quietly, he'd walk along the paths of the forest, keeping alert of his surroundings. Every now and then, he'd pull out that gold watch, opening it to check the time, for most that might be to see how long until they were off work, for him it was simply a judgement of distances relative to the time to travel them. The mist would swirl about him, something he was at ease with, considering he'd lived in Kirigakure most of his life, he was quite use to such weather, the noon sun a simple glimmer in the sky above.
Familiarity with the environment is a good thing. It makes one aware of what belongs and what does not. That is usually true, at least. But for those who become distracted, or complacent in a place well-known, there is always the hazard of something being overlooked. Right when Ishino finishes checking his watch, it may well be his familiarity and his ninja reflexes are all that keeps him from steeping on a snake that blended in with the colors of the terrain and has risen itself up to hiss.
A snake? Out here in the Land of Water during winter? How is it even active? Most snakes would be hibernating at a time like this, in highly unpleasant holes in the ground known as 'snake pits', where hundreds of snakes all wind together in ball to share body warmth. So very unusual. And so very ready to strike if that footfall is not checked before it lands and is withdrawn. But then Ishino may realize there's more than one snake in the area. The sounds of leaves and foliage being disturbed, the rasping of scales on stone and tree bark, the hissing of many serpents all around…
And then a humanoid figure making its way up the path, barely identifiable through the dense fog. The female silhouette, bearing a bamboo umbrella, might even be overlooked for a little bit in the face of being surrounded by quite-possibly-venomous snakes. But eventually, a woman in a white kimono with the pattern of snake scales calls out from beneath her umbrella, "Doihara Ishino?" She continues approaching, walking right through the midst of all the snakes, without them doing anything more than moving to avoid her feet peacefully. She eventually stops a couple dozen feet away, and the snakes all around begin to give Ishino room as they start slithering towards the woman with the long black hair and not-quite-visible face en masse.
It is indeed that reflex that stops him from stepping on the snake. While some might get complacient, Ishino is generally observant enough to avoid simple mishaps. Luckily for him, this is such a situation. He moved slow. It was one thing to have a snake ready to strike and having to deal with that, another to be surrounded. Passively, he'd watch as the woman approached. Already gathering chakra, although not enough to cause an immediate attack response. Being approached and his name known from someone he did not know was of course enough to put him on edge. The watch would be kept out, open, beside his side while he'd nod in response. "Indeed. I am Doihara Ishino. May I ask who I am adressing?" There was something that didn't seem to be clicking for him. He needed to be ready, just in case.. especially with snakes out mid-winter, this person did have a strong control it seems.
The woman answers, "Just an actress who has heard rumor of a shinobi gifted at the arts of deception…" All those serpents keep swarming towards her and then… Slithering underneath the hem of her kimono, and up underneath. Their bodies moving beneath the fabric is even visible for a ways before they seem to just vanish. It's kind of unsettling, to say the least. When all those snakes have vanishes, the 'actress' says, "I am interested in seeing just how skilled one whose renown has travelled to distant lands actually is, and if he might be suitable for certain lessons in the work of the stage." The woman tilts her head to the side under the umbrella, the shade continuing to shield her visage, though there is a glimpse of a pure-white face with seemingly slits for eyes and a fixed, smiling, lipless mouth. A mask? "Will you indulge me with a demonstration? It will likely not take much of your time."
Ishino would raise a brow, studying her curiously. He was quiet while the snakes would.. vanish. Well, its obvious that she had manipulation of them some how. Although if it was illusion or reality would be hard to tell without further evidence. Looking about slowly, a final nod was given. "Alright. I do not see how that would be a problem. I did not know that my capabilities had travelled so far. You do honor me so." Ishino would smile with a small bow, although he didn't take his eyes off of her. Straightening back up, the watch would be looked at, before being put away. That chakra gathered, he'd start with as minimal hostile as possible. The subtle flexing of fingers, had that surrounding forest fill with the hypnotic ticking of an old grandfather clock that might sit on a mantle within a warm house. Each tick was precise, exactly marking the passing of one second.. until they started to slow down. Time itself was being bent, at least to her perception as everything she did, even breathing, suddenly put a stress on her body as it took more, longer, to do even a simple action. It seems Ishino was just feeling out his opponent for now, but this would be a first that he's been approached for a fight, afterall.
The fact that this actress came here knowing her foe was a Genjutsu user aside, her own experience with Genjutsu combined with the powers of her Clan allow her to pick up fairly quickly on the fact that Genjutsu is being attempted by sensing the Genjutsu Chakra attempting to infiltrate her Chakra Network. She shakes off the first, but was not expecting two follow up Genjutsu attacks of the same kind. Such a barrage… Either her opponent intends to wear her down quickly, or he is confident that such an expenditure is not significant enough to influence his resources if this 'demonstration' is dragged out.
Either way, this kunoichi does not give off any impression of being concerned that two of those Genjutsu assaults bypassed her defenses and have caused her perception of reality to seem slowed down. Instead, she simply remains where she is, lowering her umbrella such that it obscures the view of her upper body and head entirely, and focuses her own Chakra. This is not entirely subtle, as there is likely a crackling sensation in the air, a sort of 'pressure' that weighs down on the area. Further, it even feels 'dark' and 'cold' somehow. Ordinarily only those who are sensor-nin are likely to get any real feel for a subject's Chakra nature. But the winter air definitely feels even more harsh and perhaps even menacing.
Then there are stomach-churning noises of bones creaking, joints snapping, muscle and viscera rearranging itself, flesh slurping and liquids squelching. The actress's kimono even seems more ragged than before, her posture hunched forward. Twitching and quivering is evident. Whatever is happening behind that umbrella does not sound pretty. Then she just stops moving entirely.
Seconds pass, and the silence drags on.
He'd pause at the sounds.. well.. that was.. different. That was for sure. Shaking his head slightly, he'd finally press forward with the attack. She was gathering for.. something. Potentially he could stop such a thing. From within the forest's edge, a trio of senbon, green tinted, would be launched at Kanami from her left, revealing where the puppet that had been ticking away was at finally, while Ishino himself used the amplification of the puppet to hit with that next chakra gathering. This time, the world would indeed slow again, finally coming to that solemn moment of silence. Reality continued on of course, the illusion simply delaying the response that Kanami could give due to that moment in time held on to. This was definitely a most unusual fight, Ishino was even tempted to go with the powerful shot.. then again, he didn't want to kill her.
The puppet's needle barrage tears through the bamboo-and-paper umbrella, leaving behind a splatter of some black, viscous substance on the ground. Ishino's Genjutsu assault finds nothing. It's like his target isn't even there anymore. The holey umbrella goes wheeling across the forest path and off into the mist, coming to a stop somewhere at the base of a tree.
The mist swirls all around. The sound of a branch snapping in the distance. Cloth rustles as something moves quickly behind Ishino. If he turns to look, he finds nothing there. The cold and the dark may seem to close in…
The entire forest nearby is suddenly as dark as though it were night, with only the dim moonlight to provide any illumination at all. Several seconds pass, and then a pair of emaciated, skin-as-thin-and-white-as-paper arms lunge out of the darkness and attempt to wrap themselves, vice-like, around Ishino's throat, and proceed to try to strangle him! The hands are cold as death.
Ishino would shift his feet slightly, the noted changes rapidly assautling him would indeed leave him without a target. Most unusual. Time Keeper would fade into the surrounding forest as well, leaving Ishino to respond to that attack from behind. As the limbs came at him, he'd narrow his eyes. This was a genjutsu fight it seems. Focusing himself, that seal was made and just before the limbs would contact his neck.. they'd be dispersed by that charge of chakra he did within himself. Still, the area was altered and he did not have an initial target. This was proving to be an interesting match to be sure. The ground under Time Keeper would suddenly crumble, as it tunneled its way underground, seemingly vanishing from immediate sight and into the earth. At the very least, it'd be an attempt to throw off the lady he was going against, although Ishino was quickly coming to realize he was probably out matched here.
The Puppet tunnels its way underground. However, as it is only Ishino who is surrounded by mist and darkness at the moment, a pair of reptillian eyes observe the Puppet hiding itself, tracking the disturbance of the dirt unless it moves deep enough that such is not viable. The eyes stare out from a pale-white face. The mist and the darkness recede, and Ishino would find himself fae to face with that awful face. A pair of empty eye sockets, black, jagged, like someone shredded the flesh around where the eyes used to be. A wide, jagged-toothed, black-lipped maw, stretched to such limits it doesn't seem like it should be able to fit on such a narrow, hideous visage. Stringy black hair, unkempt, hangs about this pale monster. Hunched over as it is, vertebrae visibly protruding through the skin, there are few things more nightmarish one might find to have been standing inches away for who-knows-how-long after leaving a world of ghosts and mist.
And then Ishino may realize this forest is not the forest he was in before. The 'trees' are composed of corpses bundled together with barbed wire. Bones tied in similar fashion compose the ricketty branches. The ground is a mass of swarming insects, carriers of disease, pestilence that feeds upon rot… All mixed with the stench of death that is chokingly thick. Rotten meat that has come from some unidentifiable source writhes with foot-long maggots along the sides of the path. The sky overhead is dark red, with a bright-red full moon that appears to actually be some bestial eye, darting rapidly back and forth, casting a baleful crimson light across the landscape at random, like a search light.
The creature that stands inches away from Ishino opens its mouth and rasps out maliciously, "Boo." If Ishino does not defend against this jutsu, wooden posts burst from the ground around him, barbed wire whipping out from such, and wrapping around him. Then the insects would begin to crawl up his body, beginning to burrow into any flesh they come across with pincer-mouths, and many-fanged orifices, and claws designed for eviscerating helpless prey — whether living or dead.
"Are you ready yet? Ready to give up? To admit you are not as strong as you thought you were? That you have much to learn? If so, I can end this before it gets any worse." The rasping voice offers. Then the wretched creature leans in close, long, black tongue, dripping with blood, attempting to lick up Ishino's cheek slowly, leaving a deposit of cold, coagulated life's fluid thereupon. "And it WILL get worse…"
While she could indeed track where Time Keeper was at within the ground, it didn't stop that ticking from continuing to eminate from below. Indeed, Ishino seemed surprisingly calm considering the world went as twisted as it did. When the.. thing, went Boo, at him, he'd form that gen kai seal again, shattering the grip that it'd have on his reality, to immediately lash out with his own. That time stuttering to try and force Kanami into repeating the same actions she's been doing over the last few moments.. only in a matter of seconds. While the time acceleration loop started fast, it'd grind into that quiet halt, for her at least, the ticking going silent if he'd wrap her within his own genjutsu. It seems that Ishino isn't quite ready to give up yet.
This boy is tricky. Perhaps even better than she thought he would be. Though the horrible new forest melts away like blood running down the walls of reality itself, the monster remains right in front of Ishino. Her mask warns her of the Genjutsu, and she successfully breaks it before it can take root, but the other leaves her grounded after she made a leap backwards, to land in a crouch, black saliva running from her mouth. Kanami remains there, inhumanly thin, ribs visible through the holes in her kimono, rippling beneath too-thin flesh. On all fours, she simply remains where she is and waits, trapped in the illusion for the time-being.
Then her tongue extends out of her mouth, long, long, long, places itself upon the furrow-browed forehead that seems so REAL, like it's not a mask at all, and Kanami attempts to induce a Chakra short-circuit to break free. Perhaps it seems as though time has stretched out to complete silence and stillness for a minute, but that doesn't mean she can't keep trying to move her body… Right?
The mask she's wearing does strange things to her brain. It makes her think and function differently than she would if she were operating 'normally'. It's time to see just how unnatural her mind's functions have become if her tongue can move independently to break her free of a genjutsu based solely upon her willing it to do so.
Ishino would consider the tongue in that solemn moment, seconds ticking past. A small nod was given and once again that attempt to cause the time loop to play would reach out for Kanami. Once more, the last few minutes of time, everything she did, was compressed down into that six seconds. The end of it seeming to reset back to the beginning of that time, a dual hammering at stressing her body out as he worked to control the fight and drain her some of that energy she had to cause such vivid images. This wasn't a lethal fight, this was a judgement from one genjutsuist to the next it seems and just maybe, he was going to make her see that he was at least a contender, although far from the best.
No such luck. Hm. Is she out of practice? Is her opponent just better than she had heard? She isn't sure. But as she finds herself reliving everything from the past few minutes, even as parts of her brain are immersed in sensory input and so on, there is a part of her mind, kept seperate by the splintering of her consciousness, that observes Kanami's own self as though no more than a spectator. She thinks about what she sees, and she decides trying to win here today is not a worthy objective. She only came to scout this boy for a project… And if he was unworthy of having wasted her time on such a trip, she'd simply leave and leave him off her 'list'. If he needed some work before he could become worthy, she would perhaps leave him with something pleasurable to remember her by. But as it is, she is fairly certain already that he has potential and skill already. She might even be able to learn some things from him herself. She is not sure he needs her help.
And if she gave it, he might become a problem rather than an aid.
All of this is come up with as she is trapped in the illusion.
The time loop played over and over, until all of the genjutsu faded away. Ishino had a sense that he had pushed her pretty far, although of course he wasn't able to judge exactly how far. Either way, He'd be back, Time Keeper once again before him as the solemn moment ended, that time unraveling for Kanami to allow her back in to reality. He'd be prepared, a bit winded, but otherwise quite able to continue on it seems as he'd watch her patiently, the ticking from that puppet continuing it's onward spiral. "3 minutes, 42 seconds. We can continue if you wish."
Kanami straightens up from her all-fours position, bones cracking, joints twisting, until her long black hair once again falls over those sightless, empty eyesockets. Given she has been breathing and giving indications she was on her last legs the entire time following her transformation, it's hard to tell how much is her warped body and how much is actual exhaustion. But in the end, her umbrella rolls back out of the fog, and stops at her feet. She bends to pick it up, and as the umbrella passes over her, her body changes. Her kimono changes once more, to one of red and gold, with maple-leaf patterns all over it. Her figure is slender but no longer gaunt. Instead, she has the curves and suppleness of a healthy Japanese woman.
Her flesh is still pale, but not as pale as before. And when the tattered umbrella is lifted over her head, one hand holds the face she wore before in the form of a hideous mask — but clearly just a mask now. She has a different mask on instead. The one from the start. Simply a noh-theater mask of a woman's face. "I have acquired what I came here for. At least, I have learned part of that information I sought after. I believe we will meet again. You are indeed a gifted wielder of the illusionary arts. I had thought to perhaps take you on as an apprentice… But I see there is no need for that. You will continue to progress just fine on your own. Still…"
The actress then throws her umbrella into the air, and it swirls, letting out a profusion of golden-brown and red leaves to match her kimono. A veritable storm of such. Then her voice, which has transitioned from rasping and harsh when she wore that ugly mask, to melodic and soft now that she is wearing this other mask, finishes with, "…I look forward to a serious test of skill when next we encounter each other."
There is no one there when the leaves finish falling from the air and settle.