Date: September 20, 2013
Meruin takes Sei out into the woods beyond the Dark Caverns containing the Okumo home and the hidden oasis, where he continues his assessment of the boy's combat capabilities and reveals to him his next brush with death.
The Hidden Wood
Thick Woods [Land of Water]
This is one of the more heavily wooded areas of the Hidden Tropical Oasis. Trees of all sizes are seen, some slightly in early stages and some stretching toward the skies. This is an ideal ground for those used to living in forest areas. While not as large as a normal forest, it does provide a large enough area to allow for stealth and mid-air combat atop the trees. There doesn't seem to be any sort of path made through the trees, unmarked due to the area being uninhabited for quite some time.
West - (W) [Hidden Tropical Oasis]
South - (S) [Stream]
The chuunin exams had come to a close, the festivities ended, and the invitation to stay within Konohagakure's walls expired. As such, all who had no further business being there had left, returning to their respective homes. But many of those of the great shinobi villages were returning home to prepare to leave it again in the defense of it. War was brewing, and none yet knew whether or not it would come to fruition. So on the side of individual shinobi, at least, preparations were being made.
It was the reason that Meruin was here, leading Sei through this forest. Personal preparations were too few to require any particular amount of time, and village preparations could wait until clan preparations were finished. And that meant seeing that this experiment was in the best shape possible for coming through this potential war alive and sound.
"If you had made any particular plans for the rest of the day, I would consider them cancelled," spoke the older to the younger over the sound of the birds chirping their greeting to an early spring morning. "You will be too unwell for it to be wise to do anything but rest until tomorrow. For a few reasons. One of which will be the second combat assessment that will take place here, today. I do hope you have been examining your surroundings for potential terrain advantages. It is a habit you must form swiftly and use no matter your location."
Sei followed along with Meruin, lead on as he desired. There was a simple whistle with a nod of understanding. Yes, he figured his plans were cancelled. Not that his plans didn't involve him basically doing what Meruin mentioned, training. Sei had also been tracking his surroundings, the brood, hooked into Sei as it was, used chakra to keep up with where they walked. It was a cloud of arachnids, that brood in pace with child and elder, focused on the surroundings and what was going on. Thin strands, silken threads, were left here and there, but nothing was focused. This wasn't attacking, this was setting up potentials for the future.
Meruin nodded at the affirmative whistle.
"Before your assessment begins, however, there are a few things that I will explain now in the case that you are unconscious by the time we finish." He doesn't have to look at the spiders to know that they travel about the pair, spreading their threads about in a tactical preparation. "These matters will be of future abilities we will be attempting to imbue you with, and at a more accelerated a pace than expected due to the war potential."
He stopped beside a singularly unremarkable tree appearing no different than the thousands of the other ones within the forested area. "Have the scientists in charge of your experiment before now told you of just how our clan develops the various toxins its members produce?" He lowers himself into a crouch, looking towards Sei in case the answer requires a written answer. Black chitin forms spade blades stemming from his wrists.
Sei listen as Meruin talked. Well, he wouldn't be surprise if he was knocked out, after their last engagement of abilities, after all. Thinking for a moment, Sei gave a slow shake of his head with a click of his tongue. The pad was pulled out to unfold and held towards Meruin. Quickly those spiders spread across the pad, settling into the spider script smoothly. ~I was deemed a low potential of finishing social adaptation due to innate flaw in vocal communication. As such, I have not been told much of advanced concepts. Most current attack patterns I have, I developed against other broodmates of my experiment group.~ Sei would wait, letting Meruin read the answer before the spiders would return into his sleeve and the pad folded away. It was a simple answer as well as tell Meruin exactly where he was at, overall.
Meruin takes the time to read the answer before nodding, turning once more to look down at the earth he began digging up. Without preamble, he begins explanation. "The human body has the ability to make some remarkable adaptations, depending on the trials that it is put through. It can heal wounds of all natures, grow durable in areas that were weak, reinforce itself where it was broken — it changes in reaction to what it faces in the effort to improve upon itself."
There was already a fair sized pile of loam at his side, though he seemed to be digging carefully. "It will do the same with toxins. The human body has the ability to gain a resistance to various toxins. There are some that say it will gain immunity, but this is untrue. There are a number of things that make up the human body. One of them are things we call proteins. They are necessary for a vast number of things. There is a certain type of protein that will bind itself to various harmful elements introduced to the body to reduce the damage these things will cause."
He finishes digging, reaching into the earth, hands fiddling. "What happens when one frequently introduces a particular harmful element is that the body reacts by producing -more- of these proteins. And not always. Keep in mind, for the sake of others, that this is not always effective and many toxins will end up being stored within a body's fat tissue, increasing the levels held within their form and eventually ending in fatality. But for the times that effect does come about, it is by no means an immunization. It simply allows them to take greater quantities of the harmful agent before the symptoms it provides become severe."
It is now that he pulls what seems to be an unadorned jewelry box from the ground, lifting it gingerly up to the earth and dirt from it. "The Okumo, long ago, began reworking the DNA of it's members to make themselves for Arachnid and more than human." He looks towards Sei, now. "DNA is the blueprint of the a being. It is what decides it's fundamental traits. Species, size, height, build, intelligence, how prone it is to certain diseases and far, far more. Every Okumo has their DNA altered to suit what their purpose is believed to be. You and I, as you are aware, are no different."
He does not seem inclined to pause in his lecture. "Now. The Okumo clan has altered the DNA of every clansman to augment and advance the process allowing for a resistance to harmful substances. We do not yet have the ability to grow immune to poison, no. But our resistances are more effective and we can gain them for any toxin we can gradually introduce into our system. But it goes beyond that."
He lifts the box. "Our DNA has been changed in such a way that binding to these substances not only allows us to grow a resistance to them, but allows us to adapt them for ourselves, producing them within our body. This is how an Okumo can improve the toxins they have, mix the properties of various ones, and given the right body, create entirely new toxins from the properties of those already within them."
Sei listened attentively, standing there while Meruin spoke and dug. Interesting. Adaptation of external sources to create internal reserves. It did make sense. The brood of Sei's would get tighter. They were still all around, as should be the case for any Okumo who isn't forced to 'behave' like normal people. Another nod with a whistle was given. He understood. This was also in part why he was going to be tired he assumed. The injection of poison.. then the combat to speed up the spread and adaptation. Or death. Both were possible alternatives.
"It should be noted that due to this process being highly individualized, the make up of the Okumo's toxin being effected by the makeup of the Okumo themselves, there is not a single clansman that will be immune to another's poisons. So while the Okumo themselves can inject themselves with their own toxins — a byproduct of the absorption and adaptation — and come away without any side effects, that same toxin will cause the regular symptoms to arise within any other Okumo. This will be true even if the both of them developed the same toxin by metabolising the same substances. Again, because while the make up of the initial poison is the same, the makeup of the Okumo themselves are different. Cloning should provide an exception to this, but as of yet, has not. There are investigations as to why not, and speculations that are not, as of this time, of your concern."
He rises, setting the box down against the tree and extending a hand towards it. Webbing shoots from it, starting to cover it. "What does concern you, however, is that you will be undergoing this process after our assessment. Within this box is a syringe containing my own poison developed from various animals and herbs found within the deserts of the Land of Wind and later advanced with various toxic matter found in various other locales. What is within the syringe is enough to kill you approximately seventy one times. It is too lethal to safely inject in more than minute amounts at once. I would prefer to work this in over the course of the next month and a half. Instead, we will use approximately a week. Higher doses. But not the full syringe. You will be able to develop far more toxic substances, though not as toxic as this. And the price on your body will be high, but not permanent."
A thick casing of webbing now covering the box with the syringe on it, the Okumo crouches down and reaches for it. A coating of black chitin soon covers the spider silk, leaving it protected by a durable shell. He rises once more, looking to Sei. "Your odds of survival are acceptable at approximately 60 percent. Your odds will improve if you do better in this assessment than the last, as the more energy and less damage your body has, the better your chances of keeping the side effects of his toxin from lethal levels. So keep this in mind as we begin." He raises a hand to beckon, gesture saying that that time was right at that moment.
Sei nods in understanding. Accelerated focus on the ability to improve his toxin. Well, considering he started with an estimated 32% chance to survive and he's still standing.. 60 isn't that bad! Sei took a step back as Meruin mentioned the second combat assessment. That spark of chakra flooded his form, spreading out to his brood to intensify that hive mind grouping between them. Eyeing Meruin, another nod was given. From Meruin's left, a massive ball of web was shot at his leg, seeking to drag him that direction, into the hole he himself had dug. That, however, was a feint. From above, a mass if web and spiders was launched at Meruin, a slingshot of rustling leaves from the tree branches that had been bent back with the webbing. It'd be aimed right for Meruin's face, an attempt to blind and with the heavy group of spiders in the web mass, start to bite at sensitive things like eyes, inside nostrils, inside the ears. Anything to disrupt as the poison would spread from there. Sei had been prepping the strike the whole time it seems, the threads left behind were previous points where the attempt was readied as they reached it, then abandon as they moved on.
Just as the Okumo had been expecting. An immediate assault as soon as the opportunity presented itself. An attempt at gaining the early upper hand — important, and a very useful habit to keep if he was going to become what Meruin hoped for him — and a fairly effective one.
But he was not here to simply allow the boy his success. He vanished from the spot he stood at, reappearing behind the other Okumo shinobi. Despite moving with the full intent of avoiding the attack, it had nearly caught him, a scant foot separating him from the slingshot and inches from the attack at his legs.
But he was there and free and going to make full use of that fact, running towards Sei. He opted for a frontal assault, direct in his approach and his completion. He'd reach the genin, leveling a simple but powerful kick, leg swinging to hit the boy in his side, enough energy behind the blow to move him a distance. A quick toss of the limb saw a pair of shuriken following after.
Sei expected it. After the last time they matched? of course he'd expect it. Moving forward even as Meruin missed, he'd bring both hands up, a dozen spiders shooting web at the leg to attempt to knock it off course. It didn't work, too much speed into the hit that sent Sei skidding, but it had soften the blow some. The web clung. Those shuriken were snagged out of the air as if flies, slamming into trees around where Sei stood. The entire area around where Meruin stood suddenly sprung upward. A carpet of webbing pulled taunt by the brood of Sei's to try to collapse up about the other Okumo, wrapping him up within the silken confines even as spiders would descend on the mass to seek to bind him further, tighter. Hold him in place. While those spiders went to work, others would assault Meruin from different sides, to hide both those whom tried to bind him as well as deflect his own brood from stopping that cocooning effect. Sei moved. He started off further into the forest, back the way they had come. He had plans and this area was much more akin to what he was use to, it seems.
Meruin's eyes narrowed slightly as the trap was set and sprung, the binding of the webbing rising up even as further spiders fell from above, seeking to entrap him. Sei had gotten much better than their last encounter. The Okumo vanished, reappearing closer to the initial tree, escaping the bindings that Sei had once more attempted to entrap him in. A quick jerk to the aside allowed a grouping of launching spiders to leap past and a pivot saw him moving out of the way of ano— these spiders caught him on the hip, quickly catching hold and sinking their fangs into him, doing some damage.
Before they could do too much more, it looked like that section of his body simply bulged beneath his robes, sending the spiders off of him. Immediately, he whirled, sending a ball of chitin flying Sei's way, trailed by a large column of spider silk. Should it strike, the webbing would come up and encompass him allowing the Okumo to jerk his student back and send him flying into a tree behind the one he'd dug the box up from. And id the initial strike didn't land, his plan was to simply redirect it with a swing of the arm, using it as an abusive flail.
The effect of Meruin shacking off the spiders was immediate, a heavy, thick barrier of webbing, Sei's brood working at that heighten speed due to the chakra he gave them, would close off the club completely. Deflected first, the spiders would grab it out of the air with further webbing, to bind it down to it's own tree. Sei crouched, gathering himself as he'd launch silk upward, leaping up into the trees. There, behind the curtain of silk that had originally deflected Meruin's attack, Sei went into hiding. He had to be careful, last time this backfired. There was no ceiling to drop on Meruin this time.
The Okumo took a step towards Sei as the boy launched himself upwards into the webbing he'd seen spread about the area. His eyes searched but they didn't fall on the boy's form or shadow, not yet able to catch him. But rather than follow him up, Meruin decided to attempt to pull him down. Black shuriken suddenly exploded from his robes, tossed by the silken strands of it, the chitinous weapons streaking in many directions. But they weren't aimed for him. Instead, they were aimed for the many spiders in the surrounding area that were a part of his brood, the each of them a potential pressure point of pain, panic, and death.
And spiders died. The rest of the brood was more careful, careful to not give Meruin any further easy targets. But they didn't stop, it didn't seem like they even slowed down at the deaths. Pin pricks, one of many. Sei frowned at the results, but in the end it didn't matter. As the robe fluttered up for the shuriken to hit, there was another launching of that mass of webbing. A secondary slingshot in one of the bushes off to Meruin's right. The opening of the cloth was aimed for, that hole at the arm pit, to slam into Meruin's side, to try to knock him off balance from impact even as the spiders would spread, spreading silk and spreading poison across him. Sei would be seen then, further beyond it, the trigger given while he watched the shuriken going. He was using any opening he could. The face was an easy one, probably expected. The arm pit though? pain point, pressure point and easy access to arteries. It'd just be dependent on if he could get the strike home before the cloth resealed.
Meruin noted that even as the lights in his mind's eye of Sei's brood began to snuff out, the rest moved as though uninhibited and there was no disturbance within the boy himself that was great enough to give away his position. Instead, he found himself in danger of another slingshot mass of webbing sent his way, likely filled with spiders as the others had all been.
It was… swift. Well timed and perfectly aimed. So rather than evade it, Meruin simply brought chitin to the surface of his skin, letting widening his stance to ensure its force didn't disrupt his balance. It burst against him, covering the area in spiders that bit uselessly at his chitin for a moment before it grew serrated edges and bulged off, sending the spiders flying from him as the shifting edges cut through whatever webbing they'd tried to make in their brief time, also grinding a spider or two.
Robes sound once more, The Okumo rushes towards Sei with a sudden enhanced speed, tearing through the bush and reaching the Okumo in moments. "You've reached a higher caliber," he said as he began launching a series of undamaging strikes at the boy, rushing a grass raising circle around him. "Fairly swiftly." The number of strikes, of shoves, of jabs would soon have Sei's body numbed into slowness and lifted off of the ground if not defended against. And this would allow the webbing lined with caustic acids to find Sei and wrap tight around him, burning as Meruin would toss him in the direction they'd been walking down.
Sei stumbled under the assault, dropping to a knee as the silk would suddenly grab him, launching him back the way they had gone. Gritting his teeth against the pain, he focused himself, pay attention to details. Webbing used to catch himself, he'd swing up into a tree, rather than land on the ground, crouching on that tree branch as he'd look back at Meruin. It only took a moment, passing from one tree to the next that had Sei launching himself at Meruin, it might only be after the fact that he'd realize it was a clone as it'd hit, seeking to push Meruin back. The push, more than the attack for damage was the focus of the attack it seems as from the surrounding trees of where he was caught at, the brood of Sei's would react, a net swinging down and through of spider silk in an attempt to capture the potentially distracted Meruin by the clone. Using it's silk, plus the weave to try and bind Meruin up. Once again Sei's own spiders fighting to keep Meruin's away from the web that would let him free.
As Sei's clone launched at him, Meruin rushed forward to meet it. Arms raised, legs pumped and then, adversely, contact was evaded altogether, the Okumo spinning around the clone and leaping out of reach of the web trap that had been sprung for him. The young man landed on a tree trunk and simply crouched there, awaiting, looking to the clone. It was Sei's move.
With Meruin on that tree, it gave blind spots. That's where the spiders came in at. The only thing that might give them away is it's the fact that it's the spiders. But that is the medium Sei works in. They'd land onto Meruin from behind, the side, there were cracks, there were points the carapace didn't cover sometimes. Those were the points that they sought, to inject poison into. Attempting to draw Meruin into dealing with the immediate threat, a mass of webbing from the side would suddenly seek to throw into Meruin's face, trying to intercept his view, while more spiders would come in for the follow up attack, to strike and poison more, face, ears, anywhere they can reach that looks vulnerable. Sei was using all directions to effect this attack, not allowing any slow down, nor any real line of escape. Sei stood further off, one hand on a web, holding him in the tree as he'd watch Meruin with the attack. Yes, still plotting.
Meruin nodded just before the spiders came in before simply launching from the tree, pushing off of it into the air and turning around. An arm extended, shooting a rope of webbing onto the tree trunk, the other Okumo's shot of webbing slinging past. A jerk of the arm changed his direction and he used his spider silk rope to swing around the tree. Should the spiders attempt to use it to travel onto him, they'd find their chitin starting to be eaten away by the caustic poisons lacing them. But he wasn't on it long enough for them to reach him, anyway, soon letting go of the rope and flying towards the hanging Sei, feet first.
Sei didn't move. He watched Meruin coming in at him, feet first. It was one of those moments.. do you break? or do you stand?
Sei stood. The webbing, 200 spiders at once, would latch onto Meruin's ankle and with a pull of spiders using leverage much akin to what a person would do, the drop down in the trees, pulling up on Meruin. It'd launch him into the foliage, breaking that hold on the ankle immediately, but it made him miss Sei. Sei dropped to the ground lightly, landing in a crouch. Eyes narrowed in concentration, he'd fuel more chakra into his brood. This was pushing him. That was to be expected. The question was, would he make it to the point that Meruin thought was acceptable?
Meruin's eyes narrowed slightly as webbing wrapped around his ankle, the spiders with the hold on it tugging to pull him up and off course. Swiftly, he reached down and cut their tether to him, removing it from his ankle as he was still flying upwards. He landed on the underside of a tree branch and stayed there, looking down at Sei as he dropped to the ground. His hand whipped about, sending a number of black shuriken out, the bladed chitin whirring. But none but two took a straight path to the boy, the rest moving through their own arcing paths through the trees to strike where Sei was or in escape paths that the boy could try to take from the assault. As always, those misted eyes of his watched in their calm assessment.
Sei stood to his feet, the rustling trees, even with no wind, showed his brood was still quite active as the shuriken would get snagged with that same webbing that had caught Meruin, causing them to fly off course and bite into the wood instead. Sei rushed at Meruin, or so it looked, as Sei also stood there. It wasn't until Sei was almost on top of Meruin, just outside of that melee reach for the genin that he'd skid, suddenly dashing off to the side. The Sei that stood behind had been the clone, his brood quickly wrapping branches to bend and flex them, creating that impromptu sling of wood and silk to launch the clone forward, turning it into that mass of binding webbing, the spiders getting to work on trying to catch Meruin in that assault, knock him over with the potential surprise round so close behind the genin. He was getting tired, the brood was notably slowing down in actions, but even then, Sei was plotting, thinking as he'd start up a tree, hands and feet to get up above.
As Sei's clone rushed at him, Meruin braced himself, widening his stance against the underside of the tree branch he was atop of. He watched. Waited. Observed. And then just before the time for contact came, the clone threw themselves to the side… nay… the real Sei moved to the side, revealing the arachnid round sent flying his way. Definitely a surprise tactic, for the risk it'd meant to the Okumo himself, and one that proved effective.
Not effective enough to land a blow, but enough for Meruin to resort to utilizing his high speeds to simply vanish from before the assault, reappearing on the trunk of the tree that he'd dug the poison up from. "That is enough," he spoke out, voice carrying far enough for Sei to hear but barely so over his breathing. "You have shown an ability to hold your own in combat with the general chuunin population, and enough tactic to for an approximate Tokubetsu level of skill. The assessment is over. Come, let us proceed with your training."
Sei would slide to a halt. Having been in motion just to make himself a harder target for Meruin. Panting heavily, a nod was given. The brood relaxed the attacks, starting to disassemble further traps as Sei walked over to where Meruin was at. He'd bow formally to Meruin then, still panting, recovering his breath as he'd watch Meruin intently. Most of his brood would return to him, the normal group that was his 'awareness' sphere out in the trees as he'd pull the pad out, prepared for communication if need be.
Meruin would slip from the tree's trunk, landing lightly on the ground as Sei arrives. He'd incline his head to the boy before turning about, crouching beside the webbing and chitin covered package. His hand buried into the ground to the wrist, and a few moments later the protective cap would shift and then jerk, raised from the ground. The Okumo then removed his hand from the earth, taking the poison box's protection and moving it to the side.
Soon enough, he had the syringe that was within it in hand and was looking towards Sei. No preamble. Right to business. "You will experience a number of symptoms including fatigue, fever, bleeding from the lungs and subsequent cough, thinned blood and minor arterial damage which will cause radiating pain and potential internal bleeding, reduced clotting effectiveness, with a potential of other undiscovered side effects. Expect and account for them." He beckons to Sei.
"Present your arm."
Sei caught his breath, straightening up as he'd square his shoulders a moment. Finally, a small nod given in answer, and Sei stepped forward. The sleeve moved of it's own, the spiders below revealed as they'd pull back the silken sleeve, leaving his arm bare. While Sei mentally braced himself, his body stayed loose. It was important to simply be ready, instead of tensing up and making things worse. He was going into a fight for his life with this.. even after just having a knock down drag out battle with Meruin. Silently he watched and waited.
Meruin's unencumbered hand reaches out, fingers curling around the boy's arm just under a section of skin irritated by the caustic poison he'd used in their combat. He held the limb still, grip squeezing tighter and tighter until a vein presented itself. A quick stab of the needle, in and out, was the whole of the injection. Sei would barely even be able to tell that he'd injected anything, wouldn't if not for the slight pain that would begin to grow and radiate from the injection site. And so it would begin, the continual poisoning of the boy for the sake of cultivating him into something of strength. The risking of his life so that he might serve his clan as it demanded of him.
But such is the way of duty and destiny.