Date: February 23, 2013
Rinako takes her apprentice on a simple C-Rank mission to protect merchants from thugs. But nothing is ever that easy.
Poster's note: foul language filtered in obvious places.
"Sand and Knives - Two Tails Appears"
Ishibari, Land of Wind
It had started off as such a nice, pleasant day, too. The former jinchuuriki had taken the current jinchuuriki out of Sunagakure on a mission. A /C-RANKED/ mission. She'd told the little teen that this was her first real mission, and that she was going on a C-Ranked one, and not a D-Rank, because Rinako believed in her abilities. The truth was that a single Jounin would quite easily be enough for a standard C-Rank assignment, so if anything came along that Suki couldn't handle, she was, of course, expected to deal with it. And given that it was also a chance to train the young shinobi further in her abilities, the Councilwoman had elected not to take the typical three-man squad into the field.
The mission? Quite simple: a pair of merchant princes were planning to expand their trading empire into the impoverished city of Ishibari. This hovel had long been known as the desert city of knives, sin, corruption, smuggling, and just about everything else since the destruction of San Sara-Daruta. But the cash-flow from this joint-venture would bring thousands of jobs to the City of Knives, giving many citizens much-needed jobs and a way out of the poverty that was so often the cause of crime around here.
So, while these two and their entourage toured the desert city and the factories and warehouses being built here, they needed protection from the cartels who would undoubtedly fight to take over, corrupt, or drive out any outside influences on 'their turf'. Individually the thugs these people could hire wouldn't even be much of a match for a genin. Even a group of them would simply cause a low ninja to break a sweat in handling them. However, combat was expected in this mission, and there was danger. Therefore, it was a C-Rank mission, which a genin wouldn't ordinarily be assigned.
But being a Councilwoman had its advantages.
The first two days had gone without incident, and Rinako had done her best in the time leading up to, and during, the mission to prepare Suki mentally for what was ahead. Combat WAS going to happen, she WAS going to see it, and she WAS going to have to hurt people. She'd tried her best to explain it gently to the girl.
"There are times when all shinobi must fight. Only fools hurt others for pleasure, but whether you like it or not, this is a responsibility that must fall to you, Suki-chan. Because if you don't fight, someone else will have to fight for you. Someone else will have to fill your role, to step into danger, to risk getting hurt. We fight to protect, yes, but we also fight so that others don't have to. We take violence into our lives so that others may live without it. That is the sacrifice every shinobi must make."
But until Suki saw it for herself, firsthand, fighting someone she knew was trying to kill her and the people she was sworn to protect, she doubted she'd understand. They'd simply been walking along, the two men they were to protect (Hatobi-san and Jinsei-san, neither of whom were very nice and both of whom treated their shinobi bodyguards like servants) were with them, simply passing through the city. And that's when Rurohashi Rinako had died, with a hand on Suki's shoulder and a smile on her face as a kunai had taken her in the chest, then a second from a different direction taking her lower in the torso. Finally, a masked assailant had leapt out from cover and run her through with a sword as she shoved Suki back with a gurgled cry to protect the two men.
And then she'd fallen to the ground… and not gotten back up.
The male sheathes his sword, grinning around a toothpick in his mouth, one eye forever closed from some kind of scar as he places a foot ON Rinako's body. "Legendary shinobi, huh? PAH! She went down easy enough. Now kid, get outta my way and lemme kill those two and I just MIGHT let you live. Don't even think of running… my friends will kill you in a second!" On his forehead was a headband with the Sand village icon on it, but with a deep scratch running through it. He also wore a flak vest, and carried three swords, grinning lecherously at the suddenly-alone teenager.
Well, except for Hatobi and Jinsei-san, and both of those old men seemed as if they were ready to bolt at a moment's notice!
Suki is not really keen on all this. She is fine with protecting people… She'll even fight to do so. But only to the extent necessary for a given situation, and she has no intention of taking a life. She has never killed anything bigger than a spider (which was on accident, and she was very sad about it). She is a vegetarian. She would prefer to run than fight, to keep dodging rather than to attack in turn, to seek a diplomatic solution whenever possible. She understands she will, despite her distaste for it, have to do violence on people's faces. But she has no intention of killing. That's just too far beyond the teachings of the monks who raised her.
You can not take back either a stroke of the pen or a stroke of the sword. Undoing the loss of a life is not something mortals are capable of… And certainly not something to be sought after. Many legends and stories speak of the ill-consequences of those who sought to violate the laws of nature — to interfere with the great Wheel of Transmigration. Suki believes in reincarnation. But she also believes in living and allowing others to do the same.
Still, she does not talk back to Rinako. Her trust in the older woman, her desire to be like her, to be able to speak her mind… Does not extend to saying something so clearly at odds with the Jounin's own philosophy, or the apparent meaning of being a ninja, or the lesson that is being taught to her. To talk back would be disrespectful. And if there is anything she wishes to make sure of, it is to show her respect for her sensei. They met less than a week ago, and they're already so close! She doesn't want to risk losing that. As they walk, she makes sure to lean into Rinako, to always have a hand on the tan-skinned kunoichi even if it's holding the corner of her shirt between two fingers. She tries not to be more than a few feet apart at any given time.
When Rinako is stabbed repeatedly and Suki is shoved backwards, stunned, she is rather close enough to see the whole thing. Purple-red eyes wide, Suki just half-sits, half-lies in the sand. Her new ninja outfit she put together, that she thought she looked SO COOL in, is not making her feel cool anymore. She doesn't feel confident. Just scared. But then she looks at Rinako. She looks at this woman she has grown to love so quickly. She looks at her, sees she is dead, and unless something happens to change that… A horrendous, stabbing pain in Suki's lower belly makes her bend over double arms wrapped around herself. She hurts. She hurts so much.
She has lost friends. She lost her father. But it feels more keen this time somehow — the pain of loss, that is. It's so sharp that if she were thinking more clearly, she might consider perhaps she had been stabbed without noticing. Perhaps the man was just too fast. Tear-filled eyes look up at the man. And a voice she has heard a few times before whispers in the back of her mind. She feels herself being drawn in… Drawn DOWN… Down into some deep darkness… A realm of shadow and smoke and… Something is down there with her.
She isn't sure if she wants to resist. She's too scared to be in the normal world anymore. Too hurt to look at Rinako's body. So… No matter what happens after that, Suki just remains sitting there, hunched over, arms around herself… And listens to the voice that seems to have a suggestion of what to do about all this pain of hers.
As Suki withdraws into herself, the former shinobi smirks to himself and finishes cleaning his blade. He draws it up and slings it over his shoulder (the dull side, of course, he doesn't do anything so helpful as cutting off his own arm). He then offers the child a heartless grin and steps over the body of her Sifu, lying dead in the sand, dismissing her with nothing but a mere snort. He simply begins to walk past her and towards the two cowering men.
Hatobi was the taller, a reed-thin man with no chin, but a beard that was as thin and wispy as it was long, reaching down to his waist. Jinsei was shorter, more portly, with a tiny little moustache that was barely more than a prepubescent boy could grow. And right now they're backpedaling as fast as they can. Jinsei falls right onto his large, round butt, and windmills, reaching for the taller man as he does so. Hatobi is brought off balance and down on his rear end, too, by the action.
"P-Please! Spare us, we'll pay you anything you want!" The fat man begs. But his business partner merely glares, finding his backbone after all.
"I won't pay you anything, you monster! You work for the despicable drug cartels, don't you? Do you hate these people so much that you would destroy their only chance at having honest, decent work!?"
"Heh." The former Sand shinobi grins. "I don't care at all about these people. I'm only after the money." The grin grows wider, more sadistic as he points his sword at them and begins to advance.
"DO SOMETHING!" Jinsei screeches at Suki.
"What do you expect? She's just a kid." Hatobi retorts. "Our fates were sealed the moment her teacher was killed."
*FLASHBACK TO THE FIRST DAY*
Rinako stands before the two clients, smiling, a hand on Suki's shoulder, forcing the younger girl to stand next to her when formally accepting the contract. "Look, I understand your concern. But the local drug cartels aren't anything we can't handle. She looks young, but she is a shinobi of the Hidden Sand. No matter what you think about the way she looks, I have faith in every ninja in our village. She has hidden depths you can't imagine." Despite the two men sharing a disbelieving glance, Rinako just offers a conspiratorial wink to the younger kunoichi.
*BACK IN THE PRESENT…*
"Now, old men! TIME TO DIE!"
Somewhere in the distance, someone screams.
Suki hears. She sees. She understands. But she doesn't recognize. She doesn't think. She doesn't feel. It hurts too much to feel. So she lets herself be pulled down, until she is face-to-face with blue-black flames in the darkness. Flames that bear a striking resemblance to some large beast. A beast that sits within a circular series of prison bars, overtop of which is a concrete slab lined all around its edges with seals.
Suki sits there in the smoke and the darkness. She hears the beast's breaths and the burning of its body of flames. She sees its yellow right eye and green left eye, and its two flaming tails. The Two-Tails says, "You suffer." Suki has no words to say to that. She just stares. "Your anguish 'tis understandable, Suki-san. Your soul skinned to the bone out of sorrow. This world holds responsibility for it. Power may be lacking for now, but you can wield it still, Suki-san."
Suki hesitantly pushes herself up off uneven ground. She can't see what the nature of the ground is, but it shifts and clatters and snaps with her movements. Perhaps wood of some kind. Branches and twigs. She doesn't care. She hurts too much to care. But there's hope here. Hope she can gain the power to fulfill what Rinako desired of her…
The power to take one life to save another, and not feel the pain that results. If it's the Two-Tails that does the killing, it's not really her fault right? Then there will be no more pain.
Suki hears, she sees, and she understands.
The Bakeneko holds out one paw to the bars, allowing some of its flaming Chakra to flow out into the air and towards Suki as the young teen approaches. Suki holds up a hand to accept it and it engulfs her. Suki's eyes close, and then when they open they are pure black where once was white, and yellow with cat's irises where once was purple-red rings of innocence, fear, and pain. Eyes that see only the end of pain.
The Two-Tails says, "My eyes see the crack of law within this world, Suki-san."
"Let us cleave it right again."
Suddenly a wave of power flows outwards from Suki — Chakra intense enough to send sand expanding in a ring that sweeps over the others in the area. Chakra intense enough to be SEEN with NORMAL EYES. Chakra that seems to be burning little Suki's skin right off, replacing it with a crackling black with shimmering curves and flame-patterns of bright, supernatural-blue throughout. Patterns that crawl across the new skin as though they really were flames. Suki's body seems to burn away until all that is left is black with 2-D flames of blue that remain animated upon its surface. Her high, long ponytail falls, the clasp melting right off, and that long hair then splays out in a curtain that seems to grow longer and longer until it too catches aflame.
The hair winds together into a single corporeal 'tail' of blue-black hair that burns with an aura of Tailed-Beast Chakra that bubbles and seethes.
Suki's eyes open and look upon Rinako's killer. One is yellow, and the other is green.
She screeches out like the monstrous cat that is presently fuelling this transformation. Suki has not given over total control, but she is letting the Two-Tails keep one paw on the reins of her body. She follows its advice, and follows her instincts. One arm suddenly stretches out greatly, very quickly, clawed fingertips attempting to grab the rogue ninja by his face, possibly even burning it with the searing Chakra-hand, and then whip the arm to throw him away across the sand.
She has not yet decided whether to let the Two-Tails kill him or not. That will depend on what happens next, and just how much greater her pain grows as she remains hunched over Rinako's body.
"Wh-What!?" The sudden surge of blast and chakra can be felt by the ex-Chuunin, causing him to whip his head around for his one good eye to see behind him, the two old men forgotten for the moment. "What is this chakra!?" That single eye grows wide at the spectacle before him. Any people already in the area have already fled, stampeding out of the immediate vicinity. They run away from the people with weapons and strange superpowers like anyone with a brain would. Except one kid who thinks it's 'so cool' and has to be drug out of there by his mother.
The male spins around, dropping his sword as his hands come up to flash jutsu seals, but the power of the bijuu reaches him faster. With a strangled grunt of pain, he is wrenched up by his face, and flung across the sandy street, tumbling first through the air, and then across the ground. He recovers his feet almost instantly, wincing in pain, but maintaining a steady stance benefitting his former rank and experience.
"It can't be! That dead **** was the only one with this kind of chakra, and she lost it! I don't know who you are, kid, but I'll kill you just like I did her!" Fingers flash through several handsigns and then he rears his head back. "FIRE BLOSSOM JUTSU!" As he snaps his head forward like a striking viper, several small balls of fire spew forth from his mouth, each one aimed at the jinchuuriki, ready to explode on whatever they strike with deadly force!
Rurohashi Rinako turns her head in the direction of the sudden blast of chakra emanating from what can only be her student. Each bijuu was different, but there was no mistaking the chakra of a tailed beast. Her hand tightens in the cloth she's holding as sudden relief at her student not having gotten herself killed yet and concern over her losing herself to her power war within her.
"Heh, sorry." Though she smirks at her opponent, her expression can't be called anything but malicious. "But I'm going to have to end this in a hurry."
Fireballs. Ordinarily quite deadly and bad. Maybe even in this case, cause Suki doesn't seem inclined to just let them hit her. Instead she sends out her other arm as the first retracts. Long, flexible, made of Chakra… And apparently able to spawn additional arms out of itself. The first lashes out just underneath the fireballs, punching into the street with its claws a short distance from the enemy ninja's feet. Then two more arms of Chakra branch out from the wrist and forearm, respectively, of that first arm, attempting to grab the man by his own wrists and hold them up above his head to keep him from forming more handseals.
While that's going on, Suki is retracting her first arm while it remains planted in the ground, resulting in her tiny, light-weight frame being pulled along by her own strength — or rather the strength of the Two-Tails. So she comes flying directly into the fireballs coming at her after all, howling in pain at the harm inflicted. But that nearly-elastic arm with all that strength causes Suki to coming flying in like a blue and black flaming bullet with a tail and cat ears and trying to slam her right hand — the one she had already retracted before — directly into the enemy's chest, claws extended.
Suki doesn't think about it right then, but at the point where he chose to attack her instead of running, she was willing to kill him. But she doesn't quite have the control or the base power to make good on that.
…Not unless she gives in just a LITTLE bit more.
The fireballs explode on the Two-Tails, causing obvious pain, but failing to stop her. Thankfully, by her tanking them, they're stopped from reaching her clients, however unintentional that protection might have been. The newly-sprouting arms catch the male shinobi just as he's forming a follow up jutsu. "Huh!? Impossible!" He shouts as his arms are forced apart mid-seal and stretched out, his toes just barely scraping the ground as he's held up.
"No! NOOOO!" He struggles, fruitlessly as the bijuu-empowered chakra-monster comes flying at him. This was supposed to be a harmless little girl, all their reconaissance had said so! They had even been sure the Jounin hadn't seen them, much less this brat. So meek, always hiding in her teacher's shadow. This couldn't be the same girl!
The claws are closing in on the defenseless male, nothing but his flak vest to protect him, he watches his doom come upon them.
There's a thundering crash as the side of a building gives way, stone breaks and a cloud of dust is kicked up, obscuring vision as Matatabi-Suki reaches her prey. Her claws find and strike something, something hard, but the feel of blood sprays her hands.
The world seems to stand still as only the wind blows, the male ex-Sand-nin widening his eyes in shock and surprise as the dust blows away to reveal…
She stands with an unconscious shinobi under one arm, another having been dropped at her feet, and a third currently being stepped on by her sandled feet, as if she'd ridden him in like a surfboard. Her other hand is held up, blocking Suki's claw, blood seeping out from where one of those claws had stabbed a bit into her hand, which was much harder than skin and bones had a right to be.
"Suki-chan." Rinako says with a smile as her arm struggles to hold back the enraged bijuu's power. She smiles, the same smile she'd given her when she'd invited her to dinner with her and her sister. The same one she'd given at the Academy when introducing her to the other children. When she'd bought her the dress that day at the store. "You can't let her control you, Suki-chan."
And just then, with a smokey *POIT*, the 'corpse' of Rinako vanishes and is replaced with a statue of a wooden panda, two kunai sticking out of it.
Suki is frozen there, staring at Rinako, pained breaths rattling out of her mouth that seems to have become little more than a series of jagged triangles made of Chakra. Those eyes don't have the same coloration as Suki's, but they're still human enough to recognize the world around them. One eye is yellow, one is green… But as Suki looks upon Rinako in shock, and then back over her shoulder to see where the 'corpse' used to be, those inhuman eyes shed tears. Tears that spill upwards instead of downwards. Globules of glowing-cyan, liquid Chakra that float up into the air in defiance of gravity.
Suki's right hand quivers a few times before she manages to pull it back, possibly leaving Rinako with some Chakra-burns from that toxic, corrosive energy, but no more than that and the small amount of blood. Suki's voice echoes like it's coming up from deep mine shaft or a metal chamber of some kind, as she says, "She is not in control, Sifu Rinako. She is guiding me to the place where the pain is gone." Suki speaks without moving her mouth. But then she retracts the two extra arms back into the wrist of her left arm, and then that shortens back to a more normal length too. Maybe the jerk behind Rinako will have nasty burns on his wrists — nastier than anything Rinako will suffer by far — but he'll live.
Suki's 'tail' of hair lashes back and forth behind her as she backs up, huddling down into an animalistic crouch, and closes her eyes. The liquid Chakra bubbles of her tears 'pop' one by one, releasing a static charge in the air from their concentrated energy with each one. She closes her eyes and just breathes slowly, painfully, as the flames all over her body start to dissipate into the air, gradually leaving a young girl where a monster was a moment ago. A youn girl with skin so burned by her own Chakra that it's hard to tell if her skin is red or if she's drenched in her own blood. Her hair clasp is still melted away into nothing, and her hair is still very long — longer than it normally is — but it at least hangs down naturally now, no longer being supported by a Tailed Beast's Chakra.
Suki falls over on her side once she's back to normal. She falls over and whimpers quietly, crying at the physical pain that has replaced the emotional pain. Is she relieved to see Rinako? Yes. Absolutely. She's happy about that. But the fear of what she almost did, and the pain of her own body having been corroded by the Two-Tails's power, has left her quite unable to do much else.
At least the transformation of a Bijuu's Cloak doesn't mess up one's clothing. Suki would be very sad if her new outfit was ruined.
"It's a trap, Suki." Rinako says as the easy smile fades from her face. "She will say anything to be free."
The moment the male is let go, he cries out, grabbing at his wrists as he backs away. But he doesn't try to attack again. Instead, his hands come together to form another seal… and he vanishes, escaping with the Body Flicker technique. Rinako just lets him go, ignoring his absence as surely as she did his presence, letting her arm drop, blood dripping from her fingersteps steadily, to be swallowed by the sand. She ignores that too, as she drops the third shinobi assailant to the ground to join his comrades.
As Suki falls to her side and begins crying, Rinako approaches, glancing at the two men who are still on their butts in a stupefied shock. "Forgive me for worrying you, client-sans. We need to return indoors as soon as possible." The men, both speechless, nod numbly and regain their feet as Rinako kneels down next to Suki. Softly, taking as much care as she can, she puts her arms under the other girl's knees and shoulders, and lifts her.
And then she begins leading the wordless procession back to the inn where they are staying, and can send for a medic to tend to the girl's wounds. Of course, if she knows bijuu chakra at all, that'll do more to heal Suki than the medics will be able to. At least non-shinobi doctors. But they can probably put her in less pain!