Date: Month Day, Year
Aishio comes to Meruin in search of training and is faced with a question she needs to find the answer to.
Poster's note: foul language filtered in obvious places.
"What Lies Within"
Konohagakure Training Grounds
The Chuunin Exams continued on whether Aishio truly accepted its existence or not. Being stuck with one of her siblings the entire time made this trip lame. Though with enough whining she managed to get a day to roam a little free, on the condition that she stayed in the main part of the village.
Of course, Aishio would not do that. After mentioning she was going to see some shops with a friend, she promptly ran off in a direction she saw plenty of true ninja turn off to, but her family didn't allow it and soon she'd find out why.
Obviously… her family hated everything remotely cool.
The further Aishio traversed into the training areas, the more interesting the practicing ninja became. Sadly, none of them were Kirigakure ninja and they all looked pretty intense so… for once Aishio used her brain and kept far back or to the trees to try and absorb some of the abilities they were using as she moved along.
At this exact moment in the afternoon? Aishio is found at the outskirts of these open training grounds, sitting down and observing some lamer Genin while she rested her sore feet and pondering if she should go any deeper.
The lack of Kirigakure shinobi was not to last.
Okumo Meruin came, his stride long and his gait smooth, movements holding the odd grace of extreme precision. On his heels came the others. A crowd of, perhaps, 25 Kirigakure shinobi, their dress and demeanor marking the pack's homeland just as clearly as their headbands. There's a marked separation between the Jounin and those he leads, however.
He doesn't seem to pay very much heed to those around him, though the pupiless nature of his eyes makes it impossible to tell just where his gaze rests. Still, he reacted to noone until he stopped at the entrance of training area #26, turning around. He pointed to one person. "Genin grounds." Another. "Genin grounds." Another, "Chuunin grounds. Genin grounds. Chuunin grounds. Jounin grounds." And so it continued, the Okumo assigning the various people to their training groups and stations.
Aishio's focus on the Konoha Genin was easily broken by the sound of many approaching. "Ah?" Leaning back, she'd watch upside down, hair falling over just enough to reveal a bit of her eyes, she'd squint at the group and upon realizing they were people she's seen around Kirigakure, she'd do some sort of awkward roll and, eventually end up facing them on her backside. She'd sit there in silence as he started clearing out the group with assigned training areas, getting up and shuffling her way over quickly as the crowd thins and managing to line herself up so that when the last person takes off, it reveals Aishio standing there as if she was there the whole time.
Of course, the girl rocked a large grin in her attempting to play casual. Not a word was uttered as she curiously awaited her assignment.
Meruin looked down at the awaiting Aishio, the only movement from his form stemming from that of his eyes. Those dark orbs contained ethereal mists, their shifting hues turning from purple to deep greens and blues, and they regarded the girl. Still as stone and silent as an unturned grave, he stared at the Hozuki with a scrutiny that hid the contents of the thoughts that lay behind them. He was waiting.
Aishio's grin starts to falter as he does nothing in response, she should've known better and now she was a bit uncomfortable. The weird spider kid causes her to shift a bit in her position. "Ah, ahem. Good afternoon." Right as that is said, Aishio tenses and looks to the floor, "That didn't make any sense." She slowly looks back up, though doesn't actually look him in those things he calls eyes, "So uh, big training thing happening huh? You know…" She'd begin to shimmer with sweat as her face became a shade of red and there was another moment of silence before another strange step, her hands shoot up into the air and flail, "I need to learn some crazy new awesome super techniques! And I saw what you did way back when you fought that sword dude and I thought you were super strong, I mean you seem super strong… er I know." The hands drop and her volume gets unreasonably high, "You pointed some Jounin to places just now so if you're telling them what to do then that proves it but you also were crazy fast and I want to learn the bitey thingy or at least something sort of awesome cause I need to get better I can't be losing to a nerd!"
Meruin arched a brow at the greeting of good afternoon and the subsequent self admonition. He was still silent, however. Still waiting. If you were patient enough, the young ones always either left, their wishes too unimportant to be worth bothering with, or they eventually came around to their main point. And Aishio was no different.
The Okumo's calm atmosphere was a stark counterpoint to the student's excited one. "You desire power. But the path to obtaining it is through diligent training. From what I have seen of you, skipping classes to get lost in places you should not be or to watch fights you've no reason to see, you lack the dedication and discipline to put in the proper levels of effort required to reach levels of ability that would make you worth my time." These words said, but he did not turn to leave, not yet.
Aishio looks a bit startled when he gives such a simple response initially. For some reason she took that as acceptance. A sigh of relief comes too early as he continues on. As he continues to pummel her training etiquette she shifts to a pout and eventually develops pursed lips, teeth faintly audible in their grinding. Her right fist clenches as she tries to control herself. "You don't know." She points at him, "You don't know at all!" She starts jabbing at the air with that pointed finger, not daring to actually touch Meruin though she started getting a bit close. "I do all that stuff because everyone else reclines. I don't need to train all the time, because I was better than all of them. If the Academy didn't make things so easy then maybe you'd see me training. Though there's someone better and younger and everyone thinks she's a nerd."
Aishio stomps her foot, "That's not fair, I gotta be better. I can practice and focus better than everyone else, I just don't need to!" The brattiness is further amplified as she alternates between stomping and tossing her arms about as she goes on.
Meruin is silent throughout the girl's ranting. Throughout the jabbing at the air, the approach, the aggravated tones, there were no words. He simply watched, the colors of his mists growing darker and darker in their hues until they nearly melded with the black of the rest of his eyes. As she began stomping her feet, his hair began moving of it's own volition, braiding itself as though it were guided by invisible hands. But it wasn't until she'd said her piece that he spoke. And when he did, it was calmly. Quietly.
"Hozuki Aishio… Stand at attention."
The silence was really irritating, she somewhat wanted him to get angry with her or something. All it did was get her more amped up, she was about to continue the rant… repeating it with different words, though Meruin decided to speak up. Attention? Aishio rolls back in her memory trying to remember and then… "Right." She was still very much flustered, it was obvious with the shade her face was and the bit of fidgeting she did, but her arms were at her sides and she stood up somewhat straight. She didn't look very stable though, who knows how long this standing at attention would last.
A beat. A small pause.
And then he spoke. "You do not deserve the strength that you crave. Not only have you done nothing to earn it, but your reasons for desiring it are inferior. I do not believe you own the will to find it, the talent to keep it, or the drive to improve upon it. You have become spoiled and like many who have no reason for pride, that very lack of reason has made you prouder. And now that you see what your pride and laziness have brought you — shown up by a five year old who practices often, I suspect — you are discontent. You desire more. But I will speak this to you, Hozuki Aishio."
His chin raises slightly. "You are entitled nothing. The world, the village, your comrades, your clan, your friends, they owe you nothing. All that you get in this world must be earned, and the more valuable it is, the more effort you can expect to have to expend to obtain it. Now you have a choice.
"At this time, I am disinclined to giving you any sort of training to help you in your endeavor to improve your ability, student. However, I offer you the opportunity to prove to me that I am incorrect. That you have enough of a drive to actually learn what it is you have asked me to teach. If you accept, fall out and follow me. If you decline, be about your way."
And with those words, he heads towards the 26th training area.
Aishio's smugness was barely being kept in check, she was certain she was set for the training. Then, /that/ happened. "Ah." Aishio tried to form words to instantly defend herself though had nothing. The Hozuki's arms fall a little loose as she begins to slump. "But…" She looks up to Meruin, so glad that her eyes were somewhat hidden now. The light tears she was struggling to hold back being caught up in her hair. He doesn't even stop he continues to go on and it rattles Aishio even more, she was about to plead for him to stop and it finally all ends. No one ever talking to her like that, she was always given high fives or nods of approval. When she did actually do things on there'd be a facepalm or something.
Though this time, her faults were placed in front of her on a platter and she couldn't eat that. It'd leave her standing awkwardly, even when Meruin turns away and heads off. Why would she want to learn from a jerk like him? Her feet adjust as she plans on just going back to the main part of the village. Her annoyance with the boy increasing with every passing second and then it clicks.
Walking away? That'd prove his point. "No… no no no." She quickly turns around, lips pursed and nose sniffling as she steps towards the training area. Her shoulders would raise as she puts on a tough look to try and hide the bit of crying she just did.
Meruin walks until the river runs beside his path and the clearing of the 26th training area is in view. It is there that he stops beside a large tree, turning about to face the girl who had followed after him. He only nods to her, not acknowledging her tears either because he does not care about them or any thoughts he does have on them were best kept to himself.
He gestures to the tree beside him. "Climb to the lowest branch of this tree and hang from it." The only words he utters, neither sparing the breath nor the time for what was unnecessary. He watches, the mists of his gaze still near black, mostly only discerned due to their slow shifting.
Aishio comes along, sleeve rubbing across her nose. The crying seeming to be less as helpful to herself since she noticed it garnered no attention. She just stays quiet now as he gestures. His first request gets an odd look, though it wasn't hard. She moves forward and latches to the tree, chakra coursing through her body. With the chakra enhanced muscles she starts to slowly make her way up with a bit more ease before reaching out to the branch one hand after the other. "Um…" This was, weird… she'd eye him looking a bit concerned as she now had the thought that he could potentially just be messing with her.
Once Aishio had made her way out to the branch, Meruin leapt up, landing lightly upon it himself. The Jounin ignored the girl's hesitation just as he had her tears, saying only, "You will remain here, Hozuki Aishio, until I return from training the troops and grant you permission to come down. These are the simple terms of our arrangement. If you allow yourself to fall to the ground, climb this branch, or jump into the river before I give you your permission, you fail. Do not be here in such a case. I will not expect to hear of you requesting my aid again."
His hand falls, fingers touching her temples. Immediately, spider silk slips from his digits. They wrap around the young girl's head, forming a light but effective blindfold, cool and smooth to the touch. And that was all. The Okumo slipped from the tree branch, landing with a quiet sound. He then departed towards the 26th training ground's clear, spiders leaving his body to climb the tree or secrete themselves in a hiding space.
Aishio's eyeing shifts to genuine worry as he was now above her and it shifts to blindfolding after the challenge was set forth. Her mouth opens to speak, though she continues to fail at words, her mind too scattered to respond appropriately. So she just takes in a deep breath an accepts it, it wasn't as if she could do much more at the moment. So she just hangs out, at first thinking thoughts of hatred towards Meruin, then shifting to hating herself. That would last for quite some time and then, in this weird darkness, she'd just transfer into a whole other world.
Her arms somewhat forgotten, subconsiously aided by chakra here and there. Thinking back on Itami at first, at the time Aishio did not fully take in the fact that she was hanging around an official of Sunagakure, she was much too happy go lucky, she could've easily taken care of those thieves herself but instead left it to Aishio. For someone of that rank to just let a little girl run around and fight criminal adults, there must of been faith there somewhere in there…
Then that giant Konoha guy, taking the time to show her how to properly lift despite just meeting her, pushing aside the girl's goofy antics and giving a serious lesson. Followed by Yoma, who could've easily told her how to catch those fish, but let her come to conclusions on her own and even gave an advanced demonstration. None of them handed anything to her, they all just guided her and observed and she came out better for it.
Aishio glared into the darkness. This, right here was the hardest of trials, simply because it was physically taxing coupled with the emotional strain previously placed on her. She'd think on this, the adults generally knew what was best and the harder things were the more she got out of it. "If you really think this is gonna get you out of training me…" Her hands grip harder, not even sure if Meruin was still there to be spoken to.
"Better get comfy." She then starts to focus, without anything to see or really focus on she was slowly getting more in touch with herself and if she wanted to last here all day she'd better make sure that she properly regulated chakra through her body.. it'd be the only thing keeping her up as the pain started to kick in.
There is no one there to hear Aishio's words of determination but the trees and the spiders Meruin left behind. It seems that she has found some drive, a will to succeed, but time would be the test to see if it could sustain her throughout the time the Okumo was gone. If she could hold for just one more minute, time and again, while limbs shook and burned with their fatigue, demanding that she let them free of their service.
But before that time would even arrive, she would be faced with a trial. One to test if she could even keep her focus long enough to reach that point. Eight of the spiders that Okumo Meruin had left behind on the tree. Whether by command or by their own will, they made their way to the Kirigakure student… and atop her. They stepped onto her hand and began migrating down her arms, their many hairy limbs scratching as they began traversing the girl.
Aishio does not get a response, not unexpected though still a bit demoralizing. Well, all the more reason to drift off in her own thoughts, just pondering on if this was a sign she'd be just like her siblings. Did they all act that way? No, K is too lame to be confident… Though the others maybe? She didn't want to be like any of them at all, though this was just getting worse and worse, the blindfold making it difficult to tell how much time passed. In fact, she was beginning to worry little time passed at all.
Doubts were further fueled as a weird tickling combines with the burning sensation through her limbs. "Hnng." She'd start to wobble on the tree a bit, making everything worse. "Wh-wha?" Her mind would race she couldn't handle this, and it led her to burning through a lot of chakra as she forces some into one arm, freeing up the other to dust the spiders off and flail some off of it if she could.
This couldn't hold out for long so she puts the hand back up, her body falling apart on her, it was starting to feel like her arms would just pop out and she starts to slip away from the branch. At this point, spiders were forgotten as she is more concerned on her arms being functional after this.
The spiders would be shaken off with relative ease from the chakra powered flailing and swatting, most of the arachnids falling to the ground far below, though a pair of them had managed to catch hold of her, one landing on her fleece, another on her sandal. After a moment for recovery, they started climbing her body. And there was a single spider on the tree that walked over towards her hand across the limb and bit her finger.
But on the ground, sounds were rising that told Aishio that she was no longer alone. The sounds of conversing kids. There were three or four by the sound of them, walking towards the 26th training grounds, the subject of their discussion unclear with how they spoke over each other until their focus found a new subject. "Hey guys. Look over there." A beat. "Ha. She's just hanging out?" "What the heck is she doing up there?" "Why is she blindfolded?" "I don't know. I just know she's not from here. Too weird. Do you see her hat?" "Haha. I'm trying not to. It hurts a little." "Pretty stupid. It's spring time." A snort. "Almost as stupid as her training."
Aishio fidgets in her position, these spiders were getting out of control though she figured she'd might as well get used to them just crawling around. Of course, right when she gets that idea she's bitten. The pain causing her to tense up more than anything, causing a bit of strain on her muscles though it tightens her grip once again. "Erg…" Aishio could barely tough it out any longer and then things get even worse.
The kids come along, pointing her out and despite Hozuki being known for being able to laugh at themselves or even going out of their way to make fun of themselves, Aishio was not in the mood anymore. So she instantly snaps back at them. "Shut up!" It was sort of weird shouting out at someone you couldn't see, though she'd imagine they were all weak and stupid looking. "You idiots don't have a clue how awesome my hat is, you're so dumb, this isn't training, this is to prove something. Something you don't understand just making fun of someone in the middle of something, I bet you wouldn't even bother if I was down on the floor with you right now."
Aishio's heart started to race, her mind getting violent. "You know what." There was a mental break, as a smile creeps onto her face. She'd wait. Yes she'd wait, "Keep it up, tell me how dumb my clothes are, or whatever." With every word, it'd make this sweeter, getting through this then personally taking the time kick their faces in. If it weren't for all these spiders she would drop down and do it right now… though she's had a taste of how the Okumo work.
Aishio's words were met with laughter by the group of kids heading to the training ground. "Right. Because we're the ones hanging from a tree to prove… what? You weren't too short to climb to the lowest branch? If you were on the floor, I wouldn't even know you were there to bother with!" "Hey guys. Look at that creepy smile she has on her face." "Oh no. I think she's gonna get us, Kaizen." "Oh Kami! What if she comes down?" Mock horror. "We run for our lives…" The last words are not as loud, the kids clearly continuing on their way towards the training grounds. More important things to do. "Where do you think she's from, anyway?" "I don't know. Maybe from Kumogakure." "Psh. She's probably a water rat."
And by the time the kids were gone, other spiders had joined the one that had bitten at her finger. The each of them began biting her, not injecting any poisons or tearing flesh but sinking their fangs into her again and again and again. The one that'd fallen onto her sandal was making its way higher, biting it's way up her calf. The arachnid which had fallen onto her fleece was climbing upwards, swift moving legs taking it towards it's own patch of flesh to abuse.
Her smile stretches across her face. "PUNKS!" The branch itself starts to crack under the increasing pressure that the girl was adding as more and more forms of punishment continue to hit her. It was all Aishio could do, squeeze the tree to get out her anger and then, things got a bit overboard as a chakra infused hand closest to the trunk actually manages to break through the branch enough for it to snap under her weight.
Scrambling her hands about blindly she'd manage to grip the branch and hang on for dear life. "Stupid spiders, stupid kids… stupid trees." The branch crackling as it lightly swings back and forth somehow managing to keep together and she starts to try and scoot her way up. Gently, which was going surprisingly well given how agitated she was. Of course, just when she was about to get to safety, a synchronized bite party began.
Getting bitten in multiple locations at the same time would've been enough to make her twitch in pain but, it was the bite on her lip that causes her to freak out jumping and giving a light shriek before the branch gives way and she falls down, lacking any sense of direction she just flat out crashing into the ground.
Whether it was because they had all gotten hurt or killed in the fall or because Meruin had recalled them, after the branch broke and all tumbled to the ground, the spiders were nowhere to be found afterwards. There were none around to see the girl's fall but for the spiders in the area and the trees. No arachnid harassed her any further, their interest in her gone.
'If you allow yourself to fall to the ground, climb this branch, or jump into the river before I give you your permission, you fail. Do not be here in such a case. I will not expect to hear of you requesting my aid again.' The words of the Okumo and the terms of their agreement. The results were unmistakable.
After all that the branch went and snapped. Aishio could pretend it was nature's fault, though she was aware it was her own it was either she broke that branch out of frustration or she dropped down and got into a fight with those kids. Either way she would've failed, the blindfold is ripped away as a sore Aishio decided to just lay there for now. She didn't care about him finding her here at this point given she already failed it all. So she takes her sweet time getting up, gingerly reaching for her lip that had been swelling up worse than any of the spider bites. None of that was worth it, she began to tell herself as she strolled off, wondering why ask him she knew how weird he was. Eventually when she felt she was deep enough in the forest to be cleared from the training grounds she just dropped down on the ground and shut her eyes. Losing lounged, severely and she was doing it a lot lately.
A little more than two hours past the time Aishio fell, Meruin left the training grounds, his stride the same as it ever was, oddly elegant in the precision of his every movement. He walked by the tree the girl had been at without ever glancing in its direction, knowing full that she was no longer in its branches. She had failed, as he had told her she would. Her lack of drive and concentration sent her plummeting, and should she never see this corrected, the same thing would happen to her over and over again. The Okumo put the girl out of his mind as he turned towards the village proper and other duties. She would either mature and focus or she would not. But for now, she was not his issue.