Date: December 23, 2013
Kiyoshi is taken out on his first training session since being assigned to Okumo Meruin's team. It is an unexpected lesson plan yielding unexpected results, the latter leaving the young Moto much to ponder on.
Hidden Hot Springs
Meruin climbs an upward slanting tunnel in near absolute darkness, eyes turned upwards towards the exit that he could not yet see. His body was low and steady, movements fluid in in their continuous progression, always aware of the weight of the silken rope at it's back. He was tethered to another, to Moto Kiyoshi, so that he may lead him through the shadows of the caverns the Okumo has grown up in.
This was to be their first training session since he'd made the announcement of their team's creation. He had met with the boy just outside of the village gates and they had walked here. Their journey was nearly at an end, now, the Jounin silent as he saw the slight light that heralded the nearing of the entrance to the next room.
It was warming.
A few good night's rest had done the boy a world of good; thus, when he next met Meruin he was more receptive of his sensei's words and prescence. Anger still burned beneath the surface and was unlikely to fade away for some time yet. However, his hatred for the Okumo had died down to a 'great dislike' of the man, so there was at some progress. Sort of.
Distracted by such thoughts, Kiyoshi maneuvered across the land on auto-pilot the entire time. Then came the darkness that engulfed them both. Fear readily slipped to the surface, but after a few minutes within the black embrace the boy calmed down considerably. It helped to focus back on the training he put forth the extra effort in out of the hope of ensuring a certain other Okumo wouldn't so easily escape his grasp next time.
Warmth in the darkness. A vaguely familiar thing for the Moto.
Soon, the hint of light further ahead grew into something that couldn't be mistaken as a shadowminded mirage, the end of the tunnel growing illumined enough to see where it dropped off into sudden air and steam. Meruin kept the pace until it took him over the edge of the tunnel and through the short fall that it took to hit the ground, the tether between himself and his student breaking as it did so.
It was a hot springs.
It was not a bright place, the light only as noticable as it was due to the world they'd just left having none at all. With the steam filling the air, lazily shifting with the movement of the two newcomers, and the dimness that seemed almost a living blanket itself, the springs took on a hazy, ethereal quality as though the Okumo had led them through a tunnel into a dreamscape.
First heat is felt followed by a light. There were a few possibilities that could've explained the sources, but Kiyoshi remained adamant about one particular theory that flitted to mind. As a precaution the boy kept his eyes trained more closely to the ground and ears on sharper alert. If this happened to be one of Meruin's tricks then…
Thankfully, his fears were unfounded, for the elder male had lead him to a hot springs. Like last, the steam seemed to cling to everything it touched, and yet no amount of grasping at it would allow for one to take hold of it. No more waiting. "Why are we here, Meruin… sensei?" He asks hesitantly, eyes locked solely on the Okumo now.
Meruin paused and looked over his shoulder towards the young genin.
And then he continued on, winding between the smaller pools in the area, ignoring them as he drifts through the veil hovering above them. Soon, he finds his way onto the single large hot spring in this cavern, walking upon its surface like the change from earth to water did not exist to him. Within its center he turned towards Kiyoshi and lowered himself into a seated position, legs crossing into the lotus position, feet on his thighs. He beckoned for the other to join him.
Kiyoshi lofted a brow and frowned, giving the jounin a "Are you serious?" look. Meruin never joked. The man probably did not even know how to genuinely smile for that matter.
After a momentary pause, Kiyoshi followed in Meruins wake every step of the way. Occasionally his eyes would drift away to make sure there were no hidden suprises or to check his footing; but beyond that, his eyes were glued to the backside of the elder male. Again, Kiyoshi hesistates. Albeit this time it is at the edge of the large hot spring pool Meruin chose as their meditation ground. He never mentioned having learned water walking, let alone from who. The youngest Moto also went to great lengths to ensure that any practice put into the technique was a secret.
Meruin had been spying on him in one fashion or another…
The bottom lip is bitten as he maneuvered into a position three feet away from Meruin, subdueing the feelings of indignation that rose to the surface. Once settled in — though there really is no such thing on such a boiling hot surface — Kiyoshi starts to close his eyes, only to leave them half-lidded and focused upon the Okumo within the peripheral. He was awaiting some form of signal or explination.
Meruin was still and silent, simply watching the boy until he made his way before him and took his own seat. And then he inclined his head to him, the words, "We are here because of two reasons. The first is that you must understand yourself, know yourself, before you can do the same with the five tails. We will be meditating towards this goal fairly often. The second reason is because within the realms of the team, I will be counting on you to keep them from harm they cannot handle. You are strong. You are extremely sturdy. You are swift. You are much like myself in capabilities. It makes you the most apt to take on your role. You are their protector. Yuriko's, as of now.
"To do this," he spoke again, voice beginning to deepen, words beginning to lengthen and suffuse into the space behind and between the mist. "You must maintain the ability to be calm even when under duress. You must make the correct decisions when they are difficult to decipher, must take action and remain in control throughout pandemonium, as if you cannot think, how can you act? If you cannot see the danger, how can you protect them from it? If you are swept in the confusing tumult, how can you pull your team out of it? You will grow to be their fortress and their sanctuary. You will be their safety.
"You already have a protector's instinct," spoke Meruin, voice now taking on an almost rumbling, throbbing quality. "But it is something that must be honed. Something that must be built upon. There wlil be times that your team will rely upon it, the same as you will rely upon them. So close your eyes and steady your breathing. We will work upon centering ourselves, first. Now tell me. Have you meditated before?"
Kiyoshi's gaze never wavered or ears grew less attuned to Meruin's words. All personal thought were suppressed without a command on his part; for that was the power carried behind the Okumo's words. The only visible change to overtake the boy as the words spilled forth were so brief, it would seem as if they never happened at all.
Eyes widening when Yuriko's name is mentioned.
Jaw set more firmly in regards to his ability to remain calm..
Body bowing a degree or so forward as if a great weight was set upon his shoulder near the end…
The words slipped out barely above a whisper as he focused his attention forward before letting his eyes draw to a close. As what tended to be the norm with the young Moto something was being witheld. He daren't speak of his efforts garnering more mixed results than clear ones, be it success or failure; especially as of late. Nor did he dare elaborate because of the simple fact that he was ashamed of himself and solely himself.
"You speak few words, but hold many thoughts and even greater emotions," speaks Meruin, hands coming together in a simple dragon seal that remained within his lap. There was a vaguely perceptible shift in the air of the place, as though it drew closer and slid more smoothly against the skin, a warm blanket and caress. His words began to take on a cavernous quality, a slight echo pulling at their edges. "Releasing them, airing them is your decision. But know that you will someday have to confront them, no matter what you do. Your only choice is whether or not you do it alone."
The Okumo voice lowered further, quieter but no more difficult to hear. "You do not close your eyes," he spoke. "You allow them to close. You do not force your breathing to slow, you relinquish your hold over it. As in sleep, the mind floats, and the lungs go on without it. And then you simply listen to it… Listen to it… Listen to it…. Listen.. to it… Listen… to it… Listen… to… it… Listen.."
"Follow it down…"
Kiyoshi gritted his teeth behind his lips, protecting himself from the retribution that was bound to follow whatever tongue lashing he might've administer as a reply. Once more he was forced to swallow a bitter pill. Once again the persona that acted as both a shield and sword for so long was held in check. This… angered him to no end, causing his breathing to become heavier. With even greater difficulty than moments before, Kiyoshi reigned it all back in as he steppled his fingers together in his lap and reopened his eyes as bidded.
If he noted the changes in the Okumo's voice or the minute actions made and seen from just within his peripheral, the youth gave away nothing to hint at that being the case or otherwise. "Your asking for-…" Whatever else he intended to say falls away from forefront of the mind. What was he was about to say again? Something about… No, he needed to stay focus. In control or… or what? What!? He… It was very… important that…
Slowly but surely as the seconds or… minutes tick by, the boy conscious becomes unhinged. Well, not uhinged persay, but less focused moreso…
Meruin's head tilted slightly as he continued speaking, murmuring for Kiyoshi to follow his breathing. It seemed that the other had a somewhat moldable mind, likely a side effect of sometimes having another within it. The genin was likely to be fairly susceptible to genjutsu, a weakness he would have to see erased. And he would not be surprised if the Five Tails has taken advantage of it, or perhaps even been the cause of it. He had wanted Kiyoshi in a more manipulatable state, more open to suggestion, but he hadn't used genjutsu or even performed true hypnotism. Perhaps it was the earlier fatigue from sleeplessness.
Regardless, this was what he'd wanted, so he pushed such thoughts out of his mind to be dealt with at a later date. Kiyoshi had eased enough and had mentally loosened. Now he needed to give him focus, and this state of being should make words turn to images with little issue. So he said, "See her. She is there. Resting. Peaceful. She looks happy. At ease. All is well. All is right. The sun shines. The air is comfortable. Now feel yourself. Your breathing, it is easy. Your chakra, it is steady, keeping you afloat. It will not fail you. Your heart, it is steady. Strong."
While rest from the perspective of the mortal race was not the same for the beast, the Gobi had been in a similiar state up till now. Aroused from its slumber by the mental disturbance within its host, the beast trekked to the sole pool of water within the mental space that confined its being and cosigned it to potentially decades worth of time imprisonment. As it peered into the eternally still waters of the pool, ignoring the seal that floated at its very center, an image creeps into view beneath its surface…
»… What have you gotten yourself into this time, Geki.«
And so the ephermal one had said, let there be light. Or so it was from the boy's perspective upon spending what felt like hours falling down into darkness. On some level he may have realized that none of what was happening was real; and, all that need be done to escape was to put up an actual fight. The vague feeling of being 'watched' certainly gave him more than enough reason to do so, and yet…
He murmured something too soft to be heard but nothing except the keenest ears. A name. Then, a few moments later his breathing started to grow more at ease, though, it takes a lot longer still for his heart and chakra to follow suit. The reasoning differing for both save for one interconnect aspect.
He couldn't catch it.
Over the sound of his own voice, of the subtle passage of the air about them, he couldn't decipher the sounds of the word that came out with Kiyoshi's breath, and his lips did not give clear explanation either. He pondered on going into a hunter state, but he did not want to utilize the chakra, not yet sure how sensitive the Kiyoshi would be to it. He had an inkling that he was an inherent sensor and now was not the time to test theories.
So he simply continued. A response was a good thing. It meant that Kiyoshi could react. And reaction was what he'd wanted to incite, able to use a specific name or no. "There's a sudden change, Kiyoshi…" His echoing voice hisses through the air. "Something is wrong, as it was not just moments ago. You can feel it. What is it? Is something coming? Is something /here/? Is she safe? Are you safe? What could it be? Where could it be? Why can't you see it? Are your paranoid? What's happening? Something is wrong. Fix it. Fix it. Before something bad happens, fix it. Fix it. Before she gets hurt, fix it. Fix it, Kiyoshi."
It was all an illusion.
A trick of the mind..
Thoughts like those were like gnats buzzing around the boy's projection. Just as he considered swatting at the air near his ears in the hope of dispelling them, something or some/one/ disrupts the peaceful atmosphere. His actions are sluggish at best, but eventually he manages to work himself up into looking about the area. Nothing reveals itself as out of the ordinary in his immediate view. Still, he cannot shake the feeling that threatened to overwhelm him. Is… Is he safNo!
'I am no coward! Let it'
Another interruption. Another option. Something… He needed to protect her. He needed to fix something. Fix it. Fix it. Fix it! He couldn't just stand there waiting for trouble to come anymore. He needed to —
Something rumbles behind him with a familiarity and hostility so shocking the boy froze up in place.
While all of this has been happening inside, outside the boy had begun to tremble. Subtly at first, then gradually so intensly that the water beneath him began to ripple as if a large stone had been dropped. Just as it seemed the boy might've awakened at any moment, the trembling abruptly just… stops.
The source came from the one direction he had subconsciously refused to look: behind him. He starts to turn his head to look, eyes clued to the direction he turned…
Meruin's eyes remained locked on the boy, taking in everything he could and committing it to memory. He did not know precisely what was occuring, why the boy trembled under so much duress, but he knew he would work to find out. The scientist within him said 'Provide the stimulus, document the reaction.' And so he simply continued on, effusive voice reaching him from all directions, echoing.
"She is afraid. She feels it too, know's something is amiss. Something is amiss. It has attacked. She fights. She battles. She struggles. What do you do? She is hurt. She fights. She battles. She is bleeding. She is losing. What do you do? She stumbles. She breathes hard. She will not last much longer. She needs aid. But it is also in front of you. What do you do? It is vicious. It is dangerous. It is bloodthirsty. It is between you and she. What do you do?"
He stops just short of being able to glimpse no more than the edge of a silhouette of some large 'thing' before he feels a change in the air again. He tries to turn, to see, to face that which dared to endanger 'her'. Moving felt like trying to swim through the muck of the blood swamps, but Kiyoshi kept on fighting his way to turn away. The world blurs…
Outwardly, the boy jaws grew more set…
She is under attack. 'Move..' Her movements are graceful, strikes accurate and powerful, but still the 'thing' fights on. 'Move! Quit—' Blood is in the air. It is hers. 'MOVE!!' She falls to the earth, unable to do no more than lift her torso up off the ground. For a moment, it seems as if she senses his approach. Or was it just a trick of the light? No, she had to hear him running to the conflict, but like the good shinobi he knew she would one day become — even if it meant the sacrifice of innocence — she kept her eyes trained on her attacker. It's attention wavers.
It turns to him…
Bloodthirsty? Dangerous? It radiated these things in spades, slowing him down even further once its full attention seemed upon him. The terror brings tears both within and without. He wanted to run away. He needed to get away! How the hell was he supposed to defeat something that made short work of Yuriko. A girl more braver and stronger than he? Something he never gave her credit for but the truth was always there. Besides all of that, He is /just/ a kid! Just an ordinary…
The rumbling behind him returns. It was virtually unchanged in just about all ways except one: Quiet Strength.
What does he do? Five painfully long seconds are given for the fear to do what it wished. Five seconds. No more. No less. After that the mental projection bore down onto all fours. Its visage blank of any emotion, any feeling except for one…
Only a few minutes have passed since Meruin last spoke. In that time the boy has gone from tearful and vaguely fearful through those subtle tics in visage and person, to nothing at all. If the Okumo did not know better, it would seem as if the boy reverted to the state he started off from the begining. But there are more than enough lingering clue to suggest otherwise.
Things now too important to miss, Meruin sent chakra into his brain, the breath he took in filling his mouth and lungs like cold electricity for the piece of a moment it took for his brain to calibrate to its enhancements. His eyes wider, every facet of the boy popping out to him, he simply watched and recorded, examined and deciphered. He'd intrude no longer, simply waiting for something more to happen whether it was simply him coming out of his trance or something more unexpected.
Both and more.
The tension in the air never eased up. Nor would it so long as those two opposing stared at one another, face to… whatever it had for one. As if in response to his thinking along those lines, the unknown adversary begins to coalesces into a more defineable form. Knowing that it had probably not waited for Yuriko to prepare for an onslaught, Kiyoshi offers it no mercy. He merely bore down just a little more before taking off. This time there is nothing slowing him down, holding back, or trying to manipulate his emotions. There is only fury contained scarcely contained beneath a mask of tranquility.
He hits the 'mutating' thing full in a hastily forming mid-section, tackling it to the ground. Without wasting a second more the youth scrambled his way up into he's straddling the appariation and lets it hail fists of fury! Every punch disperses the shadows that cling to its face, chipping away at the 'armor' until the face beneath it can be recognized.
"Kiyoshi, sto.. Stop!!"
It could've been his tenth, or perhaps, even double that amount of punches he was going for when he stops after fully cocking his arm back for the blow. Nothing now obscured his view of what lay beneath the viel; but still, he found it hard to make out what was beneath it. It kept shifting from one face to another, between his own visage… and Akio, elder brother and former host of the Gobi.
Meanwhile, back in reality…
Every muscle tensed, sweat-soaked as if he's ran for miles, and breathing just on the verge of breaking its rhythmic pattern of the trance are the changes that overtook the boy during those long few minutes, or perhaps even hour that passed. They were to be but the only warnings Meruin recieved before the big suprise. BUT as luck would have it, Kiyoshi eyes only snap open with a gasp, then close as he starts hacking and coughing.
Meruin was intimately attuned with his student's every change. Every muscle that shifted, every bead of sweat that arose, every ripple of tension that flitted through the boy's body as his equilibiurm fluctuated. The Okumo's own body was subtly loosened, ready for movement, a natural reaction to stress that had been instilled in him to combat muscular tension.
But then Kiyoshi's eyes flash open, his chest heaving in raucous coughs and the slight tension Meruin felt within his core eased. Placid faced, he continued watching the boy for a few moments as he tried to recover, fingers unlinking to settle on his knees. He nods.
"I believe that is enough for now."
Control is eventually re-established, though it hardly brings the boy any sort of comfort. He could still feel it all echo about his mind, distracting him from any attempt to focus. Focus does inevitably return for the boy. When it does, Kiyoshi first priority is to splash water in his face. That act yields not the rewards he desired beyond feeling even hotter than before. It was all just self-delusions, Right?
"What is next, sensei?" He says softly and without letting his gaze drift from the water; especially that of his rippling reflection.
"You will disrobe and enter one of the hot springs," spoke Meruin. "You will spend time in contemplation and consideration. Think on what has happened today and before. Think on what may happen tomorrow. Think on whatever you must. And then on whatever you desire. And afterwards, stop thinking. Push those thoughts from your mind, let the heat into your body, and relax. And then go about your way."
Meruin rose to his feet with an easy movement, smoothly coming out of the lotus position. "The man who attacked you children is dead. You need not worry of him any longer. He is no longer a danger." He stops feeding chakra into his brain, letting his senses dull back into his normal range. "Now then. Guide me. Do I stay or do I leave?"
Of all the things Meruin could've said, it is the last bit about taking it easy (essentially) that gets to the boy. However, as much as he did not wish to be left alone to stew in his own thoughts at the moment for once, the boy wasn't going to stick around Meruin either if he could help it. So in answer to the all important question from the Okumo, Kiyoshi held off on answering until his body wanted to cooperate long enough for him to rise back onto his feet.
The process is painful due to what felt like a charlie horse coming on, but the boy refuse to show little more than a grimace under such duress as he proceeded on. "Leave," He says softly without so much as a glance in Meruin's direction. Then walked his way to shore to begin properly setting his clothes aside as directed before. He would try to do as instructed, but the chances of his success in being able to relax after boiling his bottom for so long were slim to none.
Meruin inclined his head to Kiyoshi at the directive, turning and starting towards a corner of the natural crafted cavern. "When you are prepared to depart, you will come to this corner. It will lead you to the oasis, from which you are able to find your way." And he soon reached that corner himself. He said only the words, "Rest easy," before he took a final step and seemed to be swallowed up by the ground.