Date: February 17, 2014
The time has finally arrive to begin getting to the root past grievances and… nightmares.
Administration Building - Mizukage's Office [Kirigakure]
This room sports a large wooden desk which sits upon a blue-green carpet, the walls are decorated with scrolls of militiristic sayings and commendations from missions for jounin. A single large chair sits behind the desk and in front of the desk are two smaller chairs. On the wall opposite the door is a large single-pane window which looks off of a cliff and out into the sea.
Meruin stretches out his fingers, misted gaze on the paper down before him, performing this periodic exercise to make sure that his fingers never grow too stiff from long periods of writing. The pen was soon back into his hand and he used it to trace his reading, the utensil traveling swiftly along the page, going across each line in no longer than half of a second.
And then he paused, partway through one. The Mizukage looks out of the window of his office. It was nearly time for the visit from Kiyoshi, just about half past 2 pm. He leaned back from his work, briefly wondering what the boy had thought when he'd received the summons. Nothing was stated as a reason for the meeting, he figured his student would be curious and likely anxious to some degree. With only a small amount of time before he should be hearing the knock on the door, he started judging just where he might find Kiyoshi's mind to be when he enters. Much he didn't know, but it was an appropriate reminder to keeping certain things in mind.
Anxious doesn't even begin to describe the feeling that prevaded Kiyoshi's conscious since receiving the summons. The boy was downright terrified. If not for the full face gas mask and years dealing with keeping his emotions in check — despite what recent events might otherwise say — Kiyoshi might not have even be able to leave home without being escorted by his brothers. As things stood in the present he still would arrive late to some minute degree as result of the issue plaguing his mind. It is but one of many, though if asked to speak of any, he was resolved to keep the root buried.
"Mii-mm…" How does one address one is both leader of their village and their sensei? Does such thing depend on venue? While the nightmares doggedly attack him still, what rest the boy has managed has restored enough wit for innate paranoia to bloom again. Thus, the greeting turns into an awkward silence in which Kiyoshi kept his head slightly bowed and chin cupped by a hand.
Meruin examined Kiyoshi as he entered his office, face ever calm, giving so little from its expression. When the boy stood before him, he nodded to him. He seemed in a slightly better state than he had been last. "Alone and during training, you may refer to me simply as Sensei. At all other times, proper decorum must be adhered to, my title being appropriate in those instances."
Meruin sets his hands on the desk before him, the paper he'd been reading already having been tucked away. His fingers steeple together, long digits smoothly interlinking. "Today, we will discuss your current status regarding the nightmares that you have been having," he said. He had said that this would happen. "We must find the root of them and how best to abolish them from your mind. So when did you first begin having them?"
Kiyoshi jumped a little, and looked up slowly to regard Meruin. One of these days he was gonna figure out just how his sensei read minds like that, or at least, that much his posture bespoke of before the youth nodded hesitantly and shifted his hands into his jacket a pockets. A more relaxed and comforting position while he awaited for Meruin to get to the root of his summons. What follows was anticipated. Nevertheless…
"Th-that…" He sighs and inclines his head. "The same night of my last mission." He states apathetically, knowing or better yet, expecting Meruin to already know which one that was: The B-rank class parasite infected pirate horde elimination mission. By a technicality, Kiyoshi and Sei were assigned for the sake of experience gathering more than anything else. Although that hardly changed the fact that one of Kumo's representatives and a pair of genin were in the hands of a seven swordsman more suited for solo mission than hand holding ones… not that the other participants needed any such assistance.
Meruin nodded his head at Kiyoshi's admission, head tilting slightly. "Aye. The reports of that mission were… troubling. But they were not fully inclusive." His gaze is direct on the genin, cool blues beginning to seep into the mists of his gaze as he murmurs. "Speak to me about that day."
Kiyoshi narrowed his eyes at the news but would refrain from commenting on that. Uncertainty aside, figuring things out at his own pace was what prefered. "Uh.. well… there ain't much to talk about it." He says warily. "Yo.. Yoitsu.. Yomm… *headshakes* Raikiri(Lightning blade)-san snuck the team in this over from underwater. We attacked. Things blew up. And aside from there being a lot more than probably any of us expected…" He trails off with a shrug of his shoulders than pointedly looked away.
Meruin waits a few moments after the trail off to speak. "Hozuki-Kaguya Yoichi, wielder of the Kiba blades," he informed Kiyoshi first. He moved on immediately, not considering that to have been a big deal. "Tell me," he said, "Of what occurs within the nightmares this day has given you." For a mission that didn't have much to discuss on it, it has had a definite impact. The Okumo is silent and still, simply listening.
Kiyoshi merely rolls his eyes at the name. It wasn't as if he was to be paired up with such a guy any time soon. Or was he? That thought stoked more, though with a few short words from Meruin, Kiyoshi doesn't lose himself to them like usual.
A look of idle interest turns guarded the instance Meruin makes the connection. Kiyoshi frowns and grits his teeth behind closed lips, a stormy expression of thought when brows become furrowed as well. No answer is forthcoming for some time. So unless Meruin's patience could stretch for some time, the following words might not be spoken at all.
"All I see… All I can smell… All I hear, slipping, dripping, splashing… is blood." He states quietly, clenching his hands into tight fists in his pockets. "And I… I can tell it ain't even me own too…"
One knows that Meruin has patience befitting stone, the man simply silent and awaiting, gaze steady on the boy that had the whole of his attention. And eventually, only twenty two minutes later, the genin speaks. Tension seeping more firmly into his body, he speaks and the Mizukage listens without interruption.
Just blood. The sight, the scent, the sound, and the feel of blood. And blood not of his own creation. He inclines his head as he hears it, the gesture murmuring the silent question 'What else…?' As there was more. There was always more. Fear or revulsion or anger or more. There was always something more. Just what was it that had the boy waking before he was rested?
"It ain't always the same after… but it always starts the same." Kiyoshi speaks on, needing no further prompting from Meruin now that the nightmare has once again decided to bear its fangs in the light of day. If he were to try and stop — to do anything less than give it his full attention now may very well end promote a disastrous result.
"My hands, my face, the ground around me… Souta's sword… its all covered in the stuff… But that's not even the worst of it." He resisted as best as he could but the body still betrays him. He starts to tremble, and for once he cannot hear the stern sounding growling of the other that usually accompanied a near breakdown. What he wouldn't give to have that to focus on instead…
"There's so many pieces… 'nd I don't even care a lick bout 'em. All I can think of is that's how things are s'posed to be, 'nd then… that's it." Even after finally finding the strength to find the reigns and stop the train of despair at a half-truth, Kiyoshi still doesn't look up to Meruini.
Meruin still didn't speak, didn't seem to react at all to the boy's recounting of his nightmares, not to the trembling or the words themselves. It was abundantly clear, however, that his focus was on the teammate on the other side of his desk. And that didn't change when Kiyoshi finished speaking, though a pale brow rose over an eye. He thinks that that was how things were supposed to be and then… the nightmare ends and he wakes. The Okumo let out a breath through his nose, saying nothing and simply continuing to wait, simply watching. His bearing shifts, going from 'I listen' to 'Give me more.'
With his mind more on the present, Kiyoshi eventually looks up to Meruin, wondering… well, a lot of things at once. Too many, in fact, to try and list them all. 'That's all it gonna be. Day in.. Day—' The youngest Moto took a deep inhale, then a deep exhale, expelling the malignant thought that echoed from the past. It wouldn't be enough though, this much he learned from experience.
"What?" He asks dryly, ignorant or perhaps only feigning such upon noting the 'odd' look about Meruin.
"Do you believe that I will harm you in some way, Kiyoshi?"
It is said without hesitation, the Okumo only now blinking since the genin had first entered his office. The Mizukage tilts his head slightly, regarding the boy with a measure of curiosity, nothing of judgement or anger or any such thing in his expression or body. A simple desire to know the answer. "You do not trust me to aid you," spoke the man. "What is it that you /do/ trust me to do?"
Kiyoshi is taken aback for the moment, so his answer is only silence and an air of confusion about him. The obvious answer and one that would normally be at the tip of his tongue was mired by it all. It is the last question that sparks something within, prompting him to straighten out a little and fold his arms across his chest. "… Why should it even matter rather or not I trust you or not anyhow? So long as I fufill my duties nothing else should, right, Mizukage… sama?" He says almost bitterly.
"Answer my question," spoke the Mizukage, unblinking mists slowly swirling. "And I will consider answering yours." There is a sudden, low-key intensity about him, something in the way movement fled him, leaving him even more still than he tended to be. Very clearly, there is something beneath the surface of his calm veneer.
Kiyoshi goes mute in just about every sense of the word. The air reminded him of the same distinct taste of the bijuu's cage when he first visited. The same taste that persisted even now, though the intensity has become something the Moto is used to by now. That is, so long as things stayed civil. No more games. "….. I trust you'll stick by whatever convictions you set forth.. or try to 'till they become inconvenient." In other words, Kiyoshi trusted Meruin to stand by his own word and desire, but only so long as logically they are a benefit more than an hindrance. Rather or not this included the long term versus the short term or anything beyond that can only be infered by something Kiyoshi did not let be shown.
"In other words, you expect me to be self serving and protective of my own desires."
Meruin nodded his head, that something lurking underneath receding somewhat. "You would be correct in this. Everyone protects their own interests as best they have the will to. Now, I shall tell you how this translates for you."
Unclasping his hands, the Okumo says, "It is my desire, Moto Kiyoshi, that you be happy, healthy, and dutiful towards Kirigakure. It is my duty as Mizukage to see to it that the whole of my village becomes this, to the best of my ability. Kirigakure is not an engine. It will not run simply because it was molded to do so. The same is true with man. Simply because our system has crafted you to fulfil a certain role doesn't mean that you will do so. Human beings must have the proper intrinsic motivations.
"These internal drives are what will decide where a man steps. Why he fights is far more important than the fact that he does because if he fights for the wrong reasons, he may not survive that battle or he may choose not to fight in the next one. This is why it is important that you trust me. My goal is to give all who come here a good reason to work for it, to mold the village into something people recognize as worth fighting for. Into something that will make its people happy and healthy and empowered and loyal. And so, I will always strive towards your longterm health and your happiness, just as I will to your duty, right up until the point you prove that you are not worth the time. That you are harmful towards Kirigakure.
"And if you do not trust me and you continue to hide everything of import from me, then it is more difficult for me to know. The less I know, the less accurate my judgements will be. The less accurate my judgements are, the more dangerous my actions become. The more dangerous my actions become, the more often I guide you towards a place you should not go. And the further from the path I lead you, the more likely and more speedily the day that you become too harmful to Kirigakure will arrive. I like you, Moto Kiyoshi. I would prefer that by the end of things, after however many years we make it, that I will not be forced to turn my back on you. But my chances of making mistakes with you only increase as time goes on, barring a few events. Even now, I cannot be sure that I am making the right choice in saying these words. But I have decided to offer you clearer vision rather than attempt to manipulate you unwittingly. I wish for you to work with me rather than hide from me. It will only be to your benefit."
It wasn't quite as he had thought things to be, but Meruin's assessment wasn't off at the same time. Thus, Kiyoshi made no motion to amend or correct, only simply to stay quiet and listen with as much of an open heart as he could allow. Even then, the effort is somewhat forced given how thrice the Okumo has betrayed him. Not intentionally and most certainly not without it being out of necessity. Nevertheless, those betrayals were instance that could not be so easily forgiven… or forgotten.
He didn't — couldn't believe a word of it. And yet, the impact left behind by those words made him constantly question — to doubt and fight internally over rather or not he should take them to heart. Again, Meruin's seeming infinitismal patience would be tried this day because there were some things even his advance mind couldn't quite process at all, let alone readily. Easier to simplify and stick with the old than try, or so he seemed to consider at one point.
"What do you want me to say now?" He asks softly.
Meruin gave Kiyoshi the time that he needed. This wasn't immature, sarcastic disobedience or open rebellion or any such offenses. This was simply a boy with a burden who needed time to think and sort things out. For something of this import, he would have sat for hours in that chair behind that desk, simply waiting to hear the results.
And when they came in the form of that question… the Mizukage nodded his head, the motion saying 'Very well, then' as though Kiyoshi had given him a firm answer. "Nothing further on this matter," said the man, gaze still on the Moto. "Actions speak for themselves. Instead, I would like to know of the enmity between yourself and your teammate Okumo Sei. Explain it to me."
Kiyoshi narrows his eyes at Meruin in blatant suspicion. He was grateful, perhaps, but the abrupt change was… disturbing. "Ah.. mm… Well for starters, he keeps insisting on writing or having his spiders speak for him instead of just doing it himself. Which is just plain rude." He points out. "Plus… I still owe him a thing or two."
There is a slight pause…
"Okumo Sei is literally physical incapable of speaking," Meruin informs Kiyoshi with a meaningful look. "He was born without a larynx. It is the organ found within the throat that allows one to produce the vibrations in the throat necessary to speak. The method he has devised for overcoming that disability is through having his brood form words over a pad so that people can read what he cannot say. I am sure he has told you this before." He didn't bother to say what it meant that Kiyoshi, for some reason, had refused to believe the boy on that matter.
"Now for what matters do you seek retaliation?"
Kiyoshi's eyes widen to saucers the moment the bomb is dropped. He… had not known those facts. Then again, maybe that was what he was trying to tell him before he lost patience with the other boy's 'antics'? A very, very high possibility now that he thought about it. "They…" He'd start to say, but with a mind still reeling from the unfortunate news it takes Kiyoshi a few moments of scratching the back of his head and pontificating more to really come to a decision on how best to respond. Even then, the boy isn't exactly confident about the first solid answer to come to mind. So with a shake of his head, that too is dismissed.
"None now… sir." He says glumly.
Meruin watched the realization clearly set in on the boy's face after he'd been told this, detecting no deceit in it. This was well. If the Moto had known this information and simply decided to continue as he had for other, more undesirable reasons then the Mizukage would have had much more trouble to see dealt with with. As it was, it was clear that this specific matter at the very least was resolved. The report that all other issues had been dealt with drew a nod from the Mizukage. He was sure there were other things; his hope was that they were insignificant.
The Okumo's hands come together, steepling once more. "I highly recommend that you take the time out to find him and apologize to him for your antagonistic behavior. I believe he will accept the apology and the issue will be eventually cleared between you two. Take from this experience what you can, as with all others, and learn. Miscommunication is a greater cause of war than both pride and greed. It is more easily averted when more than one side is truly Listening." Advice and reminders given, Meruin asks, "Now then. Is there anything you wish to bring to me while you are here?"
The Mizukage's initial response comes as some shock as the boy, but beyond peering at the man more closely the Moto held his tongue in check. The suggestion that followed… well, it was one logically worth considering at least. His pride and past history with the other Okumo in question however lent far too much weight to the side of giving the suggestion even a second thought. Still, the boy was careful to try and keep his decision from reaching his eyes when he next looked upon Meruin to answer his question. "No, sir. I got nothing to offer. Although…" He narrows his eyes in wariness. "Did'ja ever found out why… that man's goal was?" The question delivered, Kiyoshi then started to rub at the spot where the seal rests.
Meruin's head canted slightly at Kiyoshi's question, understanding of the man he was speaking of only coming after the boy rubbed the point where the seal had been delivered. He nods his head slightly. "The matter regarding the spider affiliated shinobi that attacked you, Yuriko, and your compatriot is currently under investigation and the information pertaining to the case is not currently open to the public. As such, I trust that you will exercise proper discernment when sharing this." The Mizukage's gaze was steady on Kiyoshi, mists roiling just the slightest bit more swiftly. "I will not tell you much. However, you may know that I was able to kill him before his plans were completed and you may know that whatever his intent was, it was not centralized on you, Yuriko, or Tokamou Hissori. You were not specifically targeted."
The surprise that lights up Kiyoshi's eyes is momentary at best. Even so, it would be obvious the boy had not expected that his sensei would place so much trust in him after his last act of disobediance. A few moments later it would become clear that the Okumo had not done so, though, for reasons that obviously went beyond any sense of distrust. The fact still remained that the Kiyoshi felt disapointed. A weary sigh escapes the boy's lips, but with a gentle shake that sent curly green locks dancing about during it, the boy conceded. For now. "I know I'm supposed to be focused on other things. I know I ain't ready for it, but…." He grits his teeth behind closed lips, then bows his head and asks, "If that would be all, May I be dismissed… sir?"
Meruin's gaze lays heavy upon the boy across the desk from him, the silence that settles about him a weighty one. His thoughts inscrutable, he examined Kiyoshi in that habit of his, as though he made sure to take the time to notice every detail before they passed away. But while the scrutiny and silence were intense in their own ways, they were also fairly brief. The Mizukage inclined his head.
"You are dismissed."