Date: January 14, 2015
True to his word, Kiyoshi assists Kiji in her hunt for a rare plant said to grow upon volcanoes.
Poster's note: foul language filtered in obvious places.
Unknown Island in the Land of Water
Kiyoshi's head fell with a dramatic sigh. All he had done was jogged onto the beach from the ocean after a decent run from the main island, stretched out his arms to pop his joints back roughly into full alignment, and let slip a yawn before the call went out. Apparently one of the beach-goer kids got freaked out, though whether or not it was because of his huge physique, overlarge canines, or the fact he came from the sea remained a mystery to him. A glance around showed some wary looks from the few other folk scattered about the beach. "You'd think they never saw a shinobi." The Kirryu says jokingly before turning his attention to his companion.
After perhaps days of research finding a volcano that might house the plant Kiji was after, the duo were finally there. Both sea and volcano seemed calm on the surface, but Mother Nature could hardly considered truly predictably like so. At some point or another Kiyoshi offered to carry Kiji given the distance they had to travel. It wasn't meant as an insult, but for them to arrive before noon, leaving the full traveling arrangements to Kiyoshi would be better. Otherwise they'd be stuck with perhaps less than half a days worth of daylight to work with before having to resort to other means.
Kiji had indeed agreed to let Kiyoshi carry her on his back but really only die to the time. So when they approached he beach she had slid off his back to walk the rest of the way since she could sense people ahead. But that did nothing to help the inhabitants from getting freaked by Kiyoshi. Kiji chuckled and shook her head at the fleeing civilians. "Actually… They may never have seen one simply walk off the water before.. Most people still use boats…" She looked around the beach and up at the volcano for a moment then looked at a map she'd copied from an old map. "There should be a path to the volcano … " She looked up and around then pointed. "There. That one goes through a swamp or something but avoids local villages. Otherwise…" She pointed at another path. "That one goes through the village but avoids anything really dangerous." She looked to Kiyoshi for what path he would prefer.
"Mmm… True." Kiyoshi admitted grudgingly. The Moto had forgotten that not all were as "progressive" as other parts of the world. Oddly enough, he found himself envying such folk, and wondering if he could convince Kiji to try and settle — 'Enough, Kokuo-sama.' He thought, tapping his head with the heel of his palm. "Hm?… Mm… Is.. it a bad thing that I would rather put both of our lives in danger for the sake of avoiding contact with other people?" He asks with a wiry smile. Although his tone conveyed mirth, he had also been quite serious as well.
Kiji chuckled and folded the map, tucking it into her pack. "The swamp it is." She headed for the path that would take them through the swamp right up to the volcano's western side. This volcano had a single section ont he southern face that almost constantly oozed lava that trickled into the ocean with little real damage to the world around it. It was when the volcano actually built up pressure that the fireworks would happen.
So Kiji headed for the appointed path and smiled lightly to Kiyoshi as she did so. "Kokuo-sama must have a lot of extra energy.. Or was that the result of Meruin-dono's training?" She meant of course him carrying her like she weighed nothing.
It wasn't exactly the answer he had been hoping for, but Kiyoshi refused to look a gift horse in the mouth. He followed along after Kiji and adjusted his senses to filter out any pointless ambient inputs. Although still a ways off, the sound of oozing lava kept Kiyoshi on edge. He didn't need a closer more personal look to see the thing to know they'd be better off elsewhere. Nevertheless…
"I'd say its more of a little of both. From what Souta-oniisan was wiling to share, my seal was designed to siphon off a bit of its energy and add it to my own reserves. But… the original set weren't all that good." He admits despite knowing the trouble it mind place both of them in. Then again, it wasn't as if their situation could get any real worse. Between the pits incident, their recent mission failure, AND the Boneyard incident as well, the duo could /not/ get in any more trouble than they already were. Well, at least short of an assassination attempt of some kind.
Kiji could tell that Kiyoshi was being distracted by something but since she couldn't sense anything major around them, she assumed it was something farther off only he could hear. He was their ears, she was the sensor. The worked well together. Kiji was trying to forget about the training she'd been set to the last week. She was on a short vacation and had snuck off to go herb hunting with Kiyoshi. She bet even Tsiro would have a hard time tracking them the way they went.
"When we get there we need to find a place that's away from the lava to look for this thing.." She pulled out a sketch of a mossy looking plant that snuggled up against the volcanic rock.
Kiyoshi rubbed at the back of his neck as he leaned over to look at the sketch. It was an odd little thing, and definetly not something he has ran across before as far as he could tell. But then, it wasn't as if his job or day-to-day tasks took him around volcanoes often.
"Guess that depends on where volcanic earth is softest, though.. I'm not an expert on those things." He states, wishing now he had paid more attention to the ramblings of some of his 'employees'. "Did you draw that yourself, Kiji?" He asks curiously.
Kiyoshi lofts a brow, then shakes his head and pats Kiji ont he shoulder. "Don't go selling yourself short." He states, offering Kiji a brief but soft and encouraging smile before focusing his attention ahead of them. He meant what he said to, seeing as how many of his training and subsequent nights spent in the ruins of the Hidden Oasis provided ample enough opportunity to see some minor difference. Though of course, his memories could be just as well playing tricks on the poor genin.
"I remember, and I'm still holding your responsible for showing me more." Kiyoshi says off-handily without breaking his pace. Gradually, the titan began to slow his pace and concentrate more heavily on their surroundings after sensing territorial vibes. The seriousness about the Kirryu wanes a little from surprise at the comment. "You hope?" He asks, smiling wirely. Just what could that have meant…
Kiji looked up at the path and then at the drawing again. She flushed a little but nodded to his question. "Yea.. It's not a great sketch but the book wasn't leaving the library. That jounin librarian was making sure of that." She sweatdropped remembering him arguing with her about the book. Still hse had sketched the plant out and the basic habitat and taken that with her.
"I.. try to draw sometimes." She kept walking along the path as they talked, but soon enough they came to the swamp and Kiji could sense many chakra signatures there. None like a shinobi but plenty of animals would have lots of sharp teeth. "Well here comes the hard part.. i hope.."
Kiji blinked and peered at the sketch again as if she might have missed something… Then she caught onto what he was saying. I twas pretty good apparently. She blinked a few more times then turned to follow. But when he suggested curiosity as to what could be the 'hope' in her statement she turned to him and in a serious expression and tone said "Well I suppose the volcano could just explode on us." She held that serious expression for a long moment before she shook her head. "This one is pretty mild. It hasn't erupted for like 500 years."
The swamp had brought her to more awareness as well and she started to coil the blood about her wrists. Suddenly she stopped and with a wince that spoke of pain she retracted her blood and looked around. "'A'a." She couldn't use her blood unless they wanted hungry animals to swarm them.. not to mention mosquitoes…. She hadn't thought of that…
When put the way Kiji had placed the perspective, things /could/ be a lot worse. But then, they were still far enough way to escape if need be. Albeit, then the price would more than likely be not enough time given in regards to warning the villagers. Kiyoshi grimaced and inclined his head at teh thought. "But it could still erupt at any time." He murmured absently.
He meandered among his own thoughts until the scent of her blood brought him back to the present. Kiyoshi looks up sharp and scans there surroundings more closely, expecting some kind of danger to be already upon them. A curse from her elicits a sidelong glance from the Kirryu. "What-…" He starts, only to be silenced by the feeling of one of those said mosquitos; a big one at that. While he hardly need fear it enough, the mild irritation is enough to try and teach the creature a lesson. The skin about his forearm shifts rapidly, and seemingly attempts to swallow thing. Of course it is too fast for that, but hopefully the lesson stayed with it.
"Just keep your senses open, and warn me if something comes up." He states.
Kiji watched Kiyoshi deal with the mosquito and chuckled. She herself would be practicly devoured by the end of this mission. They made their way into the swamp carefully and Kiji opened her senses to be sure they were on watch for possible threats. Nothing but small pests seemed to be the order of the day, though.
Until Kiji suddenly snapped her head to the side and pointed. "Large animal." Probably big teeth… She stepped back to let Kiyoshi take the lead, but she was ready to rend her arm and throw her blood around if she had to. The creature in question was a rather nice sized crocodile, peering at Kiji, the smaller of the two as if it had found a snack.
Kiyoshi had already made a point of straying closer to the lead, so when danger is sensed, the man does not have to step all that far. Although large for its side, it paled in comparison to some of the monstrosities the Bloody Marshes back home offered. Still, the Kirryu err'd on the side of caution and reached carefully for his Zan — Right, it wasn't there anymore on account of his offer to carry Kiji earlier.
Luckily, there was still an augmented meat cleaver dangling from his side. What it lacked in range, it made up for by being actually useable in real combat most of the time. "Kiji.. if you can, take to the trees. I'll follow." He whispers as his hand slipped down to his side.
Kiji eyed the crocodile and looked up in the trees. Large animals in the water or snakes in the trees… She sighed but nodded and in a flash, she was up in the trees. She moved several paces away much to the crocodile';s annoyance. It looked at Kiyoshi, scented a bigger animala nd slowly backed off. Kiji would not move on until Kiyoshi was up with her in the trees then she began to move. She wasn't fast for a shinobi but she was precise on where she landed.
"I've seen bigger int he marshes." She laughed. Yes she'd been int he marshes… No she didn't have permission. "There's a white one! you should see him!" She laughed… and true to form, slipped.
Kiyoshi meant to follow swiftly, but lingered on the ground, staring down the beast and taking its full measure. Respect or instincts — He honestly wasn't sure what drove him to do so. The titan is only thankful that the beast didn't try challenging him, offering the Kirryu his chance to join Kiji in the trees. While they needed not fear quicksands or gators, the canopy offered its own, and sometimes inescapable dangers. So, moved as quickly as possible in hopes of traversing the area quickly, but also slowly enough to avoid the consequences of haste.
As it turns out, it is not who faced the dangers first, but Kiji instead. That small smile he wore was wiped away quick at the sight her slipping. Kiyoshi is there in a matter of heartbeats, an arm stretched out to his side, stopping her backwards fall towards the ground below. He rights after a taking a brief moment to calm his heart, then sighs quietly in relief. "Let's.. just stay focused on getting the moss first, Kiji." He says, sounding exasperated.
Kiji squeaked and when she blinked she was in his arm. A bluish crept across her cheeks. Both at the sudden proximity and at the stupid reason she'd ended up there. "Sorry." She kissed him on the cheek and found her footing again. A look at the tree she'd slid off made her shake her head. "That looks like part of the tree." Still there was more going on and she turned to start moving agian. She made certain to use herr chakre more precicely to cling to the trees and they made it out of the dangerous parts of the swamp with little more incident. A snake surprised Kiji at one point but before she'd thought about it she'd already shredded the thing with blood needles. Luckily only mosquitoes were attracted and then only to the discarded blood.
She leapt out of the trees and landed on dry land, dusting off her skirt. From here they could scent the sulfur of the lava rock. She opened the drawing again and once more memorized the image.
Kiyoshi frowned, feeling a little bad in hindsight. Before he can backpaddle and apologize for being, well, agitated before, the kiss stops hims short. He stands there for a good few moments flustered, and only capable of nodding to whatever it is she says afterwards. He hadn't heard it. Belatedly, the moss-haired giant follows after her, gradually reawakening his senses in preparation to catch Kiji should she fall again. Their luck held for the most part, though by the end of their jaunt, Kiyoshi is annoyed with himself.
If he had JUST been a second sooner the snake would've been diced in larger chunks then what Kiji left it in. He shakes himself, dusting off both negative thoughts and swamp bits that managed to cling to him before digging around in his pouches for something to cover his nose. "Where to next?" He says nasally thanks to the hand cover his nose.
Kiji watched Kiyoshi land beside her and smiled lightly as he did what she had anticipated.. he covered his mouth and nose. Kiji chuckled (well it was almost a giggle) and reached into her pack, pulling out a large respirator, just Kiyoshi's size. She held it out to him. "I figured you would be bothered by the smell so I brought you this." She did not have one for herself. Partially because she needed a pahoehoe child sized one to fit and second she wasn't expecting to be bothered by the smell.
The question about where to next made Kiji look around them. They were on the low end of an old stream bed by the looks of it, but if lava were to erupt it would follow the bed and not harm the swamp so either it was a stroke of luck or it was man made. Either way… Kiji looked up at the mountain. "I think we go that way.. the flow should be to the south so…" She started up that way and sure enough there was a cave toward the mid level of the volcano. It was just a simple hike really… So when they got tot he cave's entrance Kiji peered inside.
It was hot and stank of sulfur, clearly too hot for anything to grow. But Kiyoshi would scent a more moist environment and something that scented like moss further up the path toward the canopy level.
Kiyoshi had a half-hearted glare waiting for her for the giggle. Mild annoyance is quickly replaced with surprise, and in time, melancholy. "That's…. Thanks, Kiji-chan." Kiyoshi replies softly while passing fingertips absently over the surface. It was different from the kinds he was used to wearing. A simply 'little' thing that he set almost reverently in place before taking cautious breathes.
The giant quickly shook off the nostalgia when Kiji spoke, and belatedly followed her gaze. Without a reason to argue against her suggestion, the Kirryu simply nodded and followed along behind her until they reached the cave. Against his better judgement Kiyoshi pulls the mask away long enough to pick apart the path ahead. The smell nearly overwhelms him, but it was either that or straining to do so through the mask. "Follow me." He says, sliding the mask in place as he picked his way up the path.
Kiji saw the odd expression on Kiyoshi's face s he looked at the respirator, but she did not pry. Now wasn't the time and if it really wasn't much of a problem for him, there was no reason to press him. When he sniffed at the air she backed out of the cave and peered at him. His order to follow him got a nod and she fell into step behind him. She was happy to be doing something with Kiyoshi that didn't involve getting yelled at or told she wasn't working up to others' expectations.
The moss was plain to see when they got close. Kiji perked and moved toward it. "Nice." Bending wiht a container in hand, she filled it with the moss, leaving enough for it to regrow to be harvested again. She looked up at Kiyoshi and smiled at him, relaxing more as she worked. "This should make a tonic that increases chakra production in the body." Then, standing, she tucked it back into her pack.
There were several moments during the short trip in which Kiyoshi had to pause and check the air again. Each time the man cringes or even sways towards fainting on the spot from the smell; but every time he recovered and moved on, adjusting their course as necessary. The giant breathes a little easier once they finally arrive at the site, and murmurs a "Finally!" before plopping down a few feet away from the thickest patches. He would've of course assisted, but.. no container for him. There was also just the simple matter that he didn't know if there was some sort of special technique to gathering this particular plant; so, he observes Kiji in action.
She seemed almost at peace harvesting her future pet project. More so, in fact, than the past few days. A grin wormed its way to the surface as he watched, content to wait until demanded or requested otherwise. "Kiji.. This might not be the place for this, but… there's something I've been meaning to ask." Kiyoshi admits as he layed back, ignoring the heat rolling off of the earth.
Kiji watched Kiyoshi drop to sit down and watch her in turn. She was concerned for a moment then relaxed and focused on removing the moss without destroying the roots or the habitat. It was something she had learned and paid close attention to. So once the container was tucked away, she was able to turn her attention on Kiyoshi completely. She tilted her head to the side eyes shading into a light purple.
Kiyoshi wanted to know something. She would answer. It was that simple. She moved over and set the pack down before bending at the knees to get lower. "What's that?"
Aside from some slight discomfort from laying down on what vaguely felt close to a bed of coals, Kiyoshi was fine; surprised by how quickly her work seemed to end, but fine otherwise. "It's… kinda of silly." He admits, growing flushed in cheeks and ears. "Just… something Sorako… -san, said." Kiyoshi goes on to say, catching himself just in time to keep a less kind title for the original from spilling out. "She mentioned you… dyeing you're hair or something. You don't have explain, but… I've been mildly curious about it from time to time." He said, then thought with a grin. 'Like now, cus' I'm dumb.'
Kiji tilted her head as Kiyoshi spoke, but the light seemed to fade a bit from her eyes and she looked away when he mentioned her 'mother'. She had been curious and happy to possibly answer some odd question or other for kiyoshi, happy even that he was interested at all. A blush crossed her face when he finally came out with it, though and she looked down. For a moment she stood there, silent, then she knelt down beside him and bent forward, her head down, and she parted the back of her hair so he could see the roots there. The hardest part to reach when dying your own hair. They were as white as Meruin's hair. Her voice showed embarrassment over what might be considered lie but she finally sat back up. "I'm an experiment. They got a few things wrong. Because of how i was made my hair changed colors. Or..well.. I guess it lost all color really…"
Kiyoshi watched Kiji carefully. The blush gave him hope that he had not erred, but her hesitance kept him from letting it prosper in his heart. If at any moment it looked as if she didn't want to talk, or… was hurt, the Kirryu would be quick to wave his hands, dismissing the line of inquiry altogether. But it doesn't come to that.
Kiyoshi is only taken aback for a moment before he leans in out of curiosity. For a brief instance he is reminded of Yuriko, and even briefly of Yuuka. However, a closer look reveals it to be closer to Meruin's. He wondered briefly in perhaps the Okumo's genes may have had been introduced as well, and barely reigned in the desire to growl in response to the thought. Still, Kiji would catch a flicker of Kiyoshi's anger before his gaze softened into his usual easy-going look. "I… get that, but not what made you decide to dye your hair."
Kiji did indeed spot tht flicker of anger and for a second thought it was aimed at her. But the speed with which he rid himself of it made her relax a little. This was going to take a bit of thought… Or well, explanation anyway. "I.. wanted to look more.. normal. I was made from someone with black hair. I should have looked like her. So I dyed it when iw as younger and …. Well I never stopped." She ran a hand through her hair then looked at Kiyoshi again, her eyes calmer, more a serious blue than anything. "Would you prefer my hair white?" Platinum,… white.. whatever.
Kiyoshi visibly winced from a mental kick by his subconscious before belatedly nodding in understanding. He couldn't blame her for wanting to look normal, but after meeting Sorako himself, the man was less inclined to believe she really wanted to look more like her 'mother'. Her other qualities had certainly not endeared the woman to her, so why go further? The bitterness of his thoughts left him scowling and coming a hand roughly through his bangs, displacing the curtain that usually kept his eyes permanantly shadowed, if not outright hidden at times.
What was a quick, absent-minded glance became a more worried one at the serious look in her eyes. Kiyoshi prided himself in not scaring easily, but seeing the look in Kiji's eyes produced a shiver. "Huh?.. Hmm… I-…" He looks away, furrows his brows, and narrows his eyes in deep thought. The answer was simple, but the look she gave… he had to be honest. "I.. think you'd like nice.. beautiful even, not that I don't now. But… I'd prefer you stuck with whatever it is you're more comfortable with. Surumu-niisan told me once that a girl's hair is a big thing, so… yeah. Whatever you prefer." He says before looking back from the corner of his eyes, and guage her reaction.
Kiji tilted her head, she saw the anger on Kiyoshi's face and for once didn't misunderstand it. He'd met Sorako. He knew what kind of person she was. So it made sense not to imitate Kiji tilted her head the other way and then stood up. "Let's go…" She headed down the path ahead of him and for a moment he might wonder if she were upset but he would find that she was heading for the village route not the swamp. About half way there she diverted and there was a rocky face then a cool blue lagoon. Kiji set the pack down and pointed at a place for Kiyoshi to sit. He wouldn't see her where she was headed but he could scent her and tell she was not in danger.
Assuming he complied, it would take her about 15 minutes or so of heavy chakra use to achieve her goals. She panted lightly by the time she was done, but she wasn't in any perceptible danger. Finally she called out. "O..okay."
Kiyoshi had indeed wondered if Kiji was upset; and for a brief moment, he was tempted to grab her wrist with the intent to apologize before she stormed off on him. But either curiosity or cowardice stayed his hand, resulting in the somewhat downtrodden Kirryu following behind wondering how he might make up for it. The man pays no real attention to the route they took until Kiji abruptly diverted paths. He trips over his own lengthy legs, but recovers quickly and corrects his course. Once there he glances at the offered spot, then whips back about to regard her. Again, he is tempted take her hand, and even hug her from behind until she either kicked him into the Lagoon or 'settled' down. But Kiyoshi gritted his teeth, and sat down as ordered.
Throughout the entire wait the man fidgets in his seat, and sniffs at the air after removing his respirator; seeing as how the rotten egg smell wasn't nearly as bad anymore. The panting made him both worried and confused. So much so, he rose from his seat to try and take in more. She wasn't in danger, but — "Al.. alright." He replies sounding clearly confused, yet nevertheless the giant followed the route he last saw Kiji took.
Around the corner stood Kiji, a small person with.. platinum hair. Her eyes were faintly pink, a color of nervousness or embarrassment and she chewed on her lip as she watched Kiyoshi come around the rocks. A blush tinged her cheeks and she shifted back and forth on her feet a few seconds. "So… What do you think?" It made her seem more delicate, almost smaller than she was to start with. She watched every move he made…
With a great deal of trepidation, Kiyoshi cleared the corner. The Jinchuuriki had not placed much merit behind his brother's statement about a woman's hair beyond it being, well, important in some way. Which just goes to show how little he paid attention back then when all that mattered to him was when the embarrassing or simply disturbing stories being told would end. Now he knew differently.
Kiyoshi is struck speechless with his mouth partially agape. Unless she made some sort of move within the minute or so of his standing their staring, the man remained in that shocked state. It is pain blooming in his chest that thaws the man out otherwise. A feeling spurred on by an overwhelming desire to protect Kiji. He wanted to hold her close, but at the same time his fear of hurting her again returned with a vengeance. Nervously, he shifted about, blushing madly even after he couldn't stand to look any longer out of fear of caving in to desires.
"Y-y-you look… *gulp*.. good." He finishes quietly.
Kiji thought for a brief moment that Kiyoshi's reaction was a negative one. Maybe hse did look better with black hair… But then he got that look on his face that reminded her of how old he /really/ was and she blushed too. She could read in his muscles the arrested movements toward her and after a moment she herself couldn't restrain herself. She moved forward, closer to Kiyoshi and touched his fingers with hers, looking up at him with hopeful pale blue eyes. She even smiled when he managed to tell her she looked good. "It wasn't too hard to figure it out… But it took some time." She looked a bit tired from the ordeal, but she also looked more relaxed. Once Kiyoshi had a positive reaction everything was fine again.
It did not matter how much Kokuo grumbled about the Kirryu's obnoxiously loud thoughts. Kiyoshi just kept on cursing his hormones, and just about everything related to them for making him sound so childish again. After glancing upat Kiji for the third time, the giant forced himself to stop by clenching his eyes shut. Thus, he does not catch the fact that she moved until her fingers touched his own, startling him a little. He returns her hopeful look with one of embarrassment, nervousness, but also affection. The smile that inevitably wormed its way to the surface is more subdued then her own at first, but hearing her speak brightens it. "Will.. you be sticking with it from now on?" He asks curiously.
Kiji thought about it for a moment then shrugged. "If you like… I.. I don't want people thinking I'm trying to be like Yuriko." Not after what happened between them. But ever since that last mission Kiji had been a bit more tolerant of Yuriko in general. Granted she had other things to think about… "Do you like it? I don't mind trying it for a while… Besides, I didn't bring any dye with me so.. you're stuck with me this way for now." She tried to laugh but it came out awkwardly. "So… you want to head home?"
"Yeah… That is true." Kiyoshi grudgingly admits as stroked his chin thoughtfully. Considering Kiji was under enough stress as it is, the risk of adding more made it seem less worthwhile. Upon realizing this Kiyoshi regarded Kiji's new appearance as if it would be the last time he might ever see it. Though he would never voice it, his expression gave away his saddness over the thought.
Kiyoshi perks up at the question, and after a hesitant moment smiled again and nodded in agreement. He even chuckles at the awkward laugh. "Home? Mn… 'less you have room for more.. Heh… Sorry, for dragging you away. Here I promised to help you, and I wound up distracting you instead." He says, grinning sheepishly. All the giant needs then is the slightest hint at a no to a return trip up the volcano to scoop Kiji up and take off for home without a second hesitation.