From Whence You Came [Plot|Solo]

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From Whence You Came [Plot|Solo]

Post by Roku on Fri Feb 09, 2018 1:01 pm

Though the red, circular clock hanging on the wall indicated the sun had barely even begun to set, a quarter to 19:00, Rokumaru knew he would need to be ready before the time he was told to expect. On his shoddy-wooden coffee table lay his weapons, a handful of shuriken alongside several kunai, Rokumaru’s hitai-ate laying on top of a crisp brown scrap of cloth as the polish rubbed into it began to dry. Taking a kunai in hand the redhead carefully dragged a smaller scrap of cloth against its sharp steel edges, wiping away his fingerprints and angling the weapon to reflect the light cast by his dim fluorescent wall lights against the wall. Many of instructors at the Academy warned against polishing your weapons and armor to a pristine condition as a shinobi was not meant to attract attention in such ways. Then again, there was no explicit regulation against the practice, and Rokumaru was not a covert sort of ninja. The boy dragged the shiny weapon in his hand against the edge of the table slowly, feeling the sharpened edge displace the wood beneath as he added the slightest pressure. The table bore dozens of these scars from Roku’s constant weapon maintenance, but the blades themselves carried only the nicks and scratches that accompanied being thrown into wooden training dummies and cacti.

When each weapon was shined to his satisfaction they were carefully placed into their respective pouches meant solely for the purpose of carrying them. The five kunai went into place tip-down into a pouch, his fingers slipping them into the loose straps to keep them in place and not jangling against each other, before the pouch was buttoned close. The same was done with his ten shuriken that went into the slightly smaller pouch, these weapons held much more securely against each other to fit so many of the small projectiles inside. Rising to his feet Roku tied the kunai pouch around his right thigh for easy access, the shuriken pouch occupying a place just below it, and the boy took a few steps before adjusting both to a suitable comfort level. The clock chimed seven times, marking that the time to be ready was passed, but no one stood at his door yet. Going to the single bedroom of the apartment that he technically was now responsible for paying for Rokumaru retrieved his go bag, placing a single set of clothing bundled into a tight, small package inside along with several water bottles frozen from the ice inside and a single book, hidden under it all. This bag was placed by the entrance; he was told to pack light, but he was almost worried this wasn’t light enough.

Ready, but forced to wait for the late arrival, Rokumaru thought again to the rent he would need to pay at the end of the month. From what the landlady had said- a horribly slouched old woman that was actually rather energetic and boisterous for her age, especially when it came to collecting overdue rent- it would only be equivalent to a few D-Rank missions, but he would need to apply for them immediately after he returned if he did not want to be stuck with the worst missions. He had seen more than enough young ninja throughout the years doing such menial tasks that they had to be some sort of punishment; sweeping the sand from store entrances, for example, was one exercise in futility that stood out in his mind.

A single, but by no means quiet, knock was what announced the arrival he was waiting for and glancing at the clock revealed he was only ten minutes late, the near-punctuality putting Rokumaru’s nerves on vibrate. Standing up, taking the now-dried Hitai-ate from the table and wrapping it’s black straps behind his neck, he strided over towards the door and opened to greet the man he was to meet.

“Father”, the redhead said with a nod towards the much taller, much tanner man that looked down at him with an impassive face, Roku’s eyes on the man’s dusty grey pants. Katsuo actually returned the nod, sharp-grey eyes studying the headband around Roku’s neck that glistened in the dim light, stealing only a small look at the twin red braids of hair on each side of Rokumaru’s head before sweeping pst the boy into his apartment. The boy closed the door behind him quietly, unsure of what to expect from this short trip.

It had been a few months since seeing the man, and Roku used the man’s silent observation of his son’s residence to stare at his form. It was only when standing close by could anyone see the resemblance that frail, pale Rokumaru shared with his father, standing over six-and-a-half feet with skin a dark bronze that his son was incapable of mimicking. From his father Roku received a sharp facial structure with angular features, eyes that seemed blank until they bore down on you with an alien intensity, but much more intimidating steel-grey orbs occupied his eyes rather than the warm brownish-red of Rokumaru’s.

From there, nothing else about his appearance had been inherited from his father; certainly not his impressive build and stature, or even the strong immune system that allowed the man to grow so strong. Instead, the rest of his appearance were from another region entirely: whereas Katsuo was born from hundreds of generations of desert-dwellers, tan and robust from the unavoidable heat and danger of the dunes, Rokumaru shared the much less-refined blood of those from Hi no Kuni, courtesy of his beloved mother. The boy’s hair was her own deep-crimson shade rather than his father’s black that was beginning to form silver strands, and the two braids he wore were a perfect imitation of the ones she had once worn. He had spent around ten minutes earlier today tying and untying them just to find the perfect length and braid, something he did every time he expected to see his father.

Katsuo had apparantly finished his brief glance around the boy’s home and moved back towards the door, standing beside it with crossed arms as Rokumaru grabbed his go-bag and shouldered its straps. The two Suna-nin left the small apartment together, Rokumaru taking a few moments to lock the several deadbolts on his door, before hurrying down the street to catch up with Katsuo.

Normally it was frowned upon to leave the village for anything that was not mission-related, especially when Genin were concerned, but Roku expected few were willing to protest when Katsuo requested permission for this short event. Thinking about how much political power the dark-featured man walking just ahead of him had was nearly as frightening as the Ninjutsu the skilled Jounin could perform; even now Roku could feel its influence from the sheer heat his father radiated, the only kind of heat that actually made Roku break into a sweat. It was some sort of private game to Katsuo when it came to that aura of heat that he let wrap around him, a tool in and of itself used mostly for intimidation. Had he not seen it used for much more than simple intimidation in the past, Roku would have been vocal about it being used in his presence. Never when the two were around each other that a sickening heat wouldn’t creep itself into his lungs, wrapping around his pale frame, actually requiring effort to simply breathe sometimes.

“What have you brought with you?”, Katsuo questioned the redhead, having gave him no idea of what was needed for a trip like this.

Rokumaru shifted a strap that was falling back into place before answering. “My kunai and shuriken, frozen water and a spare set of clothing.” A book, as well, but saying so would have that distraction burned to a crisp in seconds.

“You’re wearing clothes. Why would you need another set? Do you think someone in that desert will give a second glance to dirty clothing?” For a moment that cloud of heat seemed to churn, warming itself even further, before suddenly evening out, and Rokumaru nodded his head to show he had heard.

The gates of Sunagakure were ahead, several small lines of people being sent through by Suna-nin checking their identification and belongings, but Katsuo moved past the queue entirely towards a Chuunin holding a clipboard, writing down the names and merchant’s inventory items his fellows were reporting. None of those waiting in line looked at the huge man cutting the line with irritation, either looking in some random direction or talking quietly between themselves. Rokumaru knew the were wrapped in the same heat that he felt, and did not blame them for their cowed behavior.

Katsuo exchanges a few short words with the Chuunin, the Gate-Guard seeming hesitant before something the Jounin said made him immediately apologize and grant them both passage through the gates. Katsuo exited the village without a look back towards Roku and the boy followed quickly after.

They walked until the tall, ochre sandstone walls of Suna were obscured by a distant dune before his father stopped suddenly, turning to Rokumaru. “For nearly eight years you have hidden behind those walls you adore so much. Eight years of coddling, having your every need taken care of like some spoiled noblewoman.” Katsuo had dropped his impassive demanour, his temper making itself known immediately. “Eight years, and like a stray dog given scraps and attention you’ve become a lapdog.”

Faster than he could react Katsuo reached out a heavy hand to grasp the headband wrapped around Rokumaru’s neck, pulling it just enough to make the boy choke and stumble before wiping his thumb across its polished metal. Oily trails of fingerprints marred the once-perfect hitai-ate, and with a shove the taller man knocked his son to the ground. “Do you think that is your home, Rokumaru?” hissing his name in an almost mocking way. “No. You remember your home.”

And, pulling himself back to his feet and silently wiping his eyes, Rokumaru remembered everything. It was impossible to forget everything he had seen and felt while wrapped in the same blanket of heat that surrounded him now, and just like back then, the boy began to shake.

“A man is like metal ore, Roku,” his father droned in a flat voice as he stood over his son, encroaching on his personal space. “Only through fire, sweat and blood can it be crafted into a weapon. And you’ve not been in a forge for nearly eight years.” Turning on his heels Katsuo again began to walk away, and with shaky legs Rokumaru hurried after.

Even then, the man did not stop his lecturing. “Hidden Villages have their uses, but they protect their inhabitants from the world outside. From themselves. What is the point of growing stronger yourself if there are dozens of others to take your place? What does someone learn from the comforts of civilization? When those walls fall, what becomes of those who cowered in its shade, hidden from the world outside?” Throughout his words Rokumaru walked silently behind him. “I will not allow my seed to grow fat and complacent. Nor will I allow it to play at being a shinobi.”

“So you’re going to make me watch another massacre or two?” Roku bit back. Instead of another blast of heat, to be expected from provoking his father’s temper, a shiver ran down his spine from the genuine chuckle that escaped the huge, tan man. He received no answer.

The two walked for hours through the desert towards the north, not a word being spoken between them. There was a feeling of deja-vu as the two traveled in silence; years past, before they became citizens of the village, they had walked countless miles of these ever-shifting dunes. Thankfully, this time, it was not done while accompanied by a warband.

It was only when the moon had reached it’s zenith, beginning to descend back down behind the horizon did Katsuo finally stop on a seemingly random dune that barely rose higher than its neighbors. “You will make camp here. I have something that must be done, and will return for you in the morning.”

He turned to leave, but Rokumaru called out to him. “What are we doing out here? What game are you trying to play!?” He was being told nothing of the current situation, and any time he was ignorant of something it began to stoke his temper. Apparantly it was enough to even make him demand more of his father.

Turning around, and stalking back over to his suddenly meek son, Katsuo’s face twisted in what he would call a smirk but the redhead would call a sneer. “Sleep while you can. Tomorrow you’ll find yourself in a forge.”

This time, Roku said nothing. He dug a small hallow into the sand and lay inside, letting the walls trail back into place until he was mostly buried in the dune itself. The night was silent, a full moon leering over the desert, but Rokumaru was unable to calm his mind enough to fall asleep.

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Re: From Whence You Came [Plot|Solo]

Post by Roku on Fri Feb 09, 2018 5:29 pm

Rokumaru’s father was a difficult subject to think about, for many reasons, and he dwelled on those as he lay back on the lone dune he was left on and stared up at the setting moon. The day before was spent resting at home, knowing whatever his father wanted to do with him would probably be a bit uncomfortable, mentally and physically. Not tired enough to squeeze a few extra hours of sleep in, Roku spent the time in thought instead. Dreams were always too vivid after spending even a short time in the cloud of Shakuton that it’s users could emit.

After coming to this village, it was a shock to discover that life could have been more than a bleak life of survival in the deserts, taking what you needed or just wanted at will. And so, with a newfound perspective, it was hard for the child version of Rokumaru to think of why his father had lived a life of war and sin instead of a calm, peaceful life in a settlement. The man was strong enough to defend himself and his people easily from the common sort of bandit and shinobi that could be found among the dunes of Kaze no Kuni, and could have built a village similar to those that hugged the coastline and the borders.

Years later, now actually educated enough to know about the world and what kind of people it could produce, it was clear to Roku that Katsuo was simply a nihilistic hedonist; without a single life goal or purpose beyond satisfying his most basic whims and needs. The man had been born in a time of disunity, where justice and law was decided by the strongest person around, a time when it was beneficial to be selfish and violent. Hopefully people like this were a relic of that past age, despite how much they tried to force their worldview onto others.

Katsuo did not like Rokumaru for many reasons, whether warranted or not. The most glaring was the sheer resemblance the boy had to his mother, a woman who did not return his love and instead gave hers to someone else. Perhaps he just desired a pretty plaything and found it in a fragile civilian, or perhaps the man had truly loved that red haired foreigner and spared her life because of it. His reasons were known only to him, but his thoughts were apparant; Rokumaru was a byproduct of his failure at love, and a constant reminder of that shame.

There were many other reasons, of course. The man was rather prejudiced against those who came from more hospitable regions, such as Hi no Kuni, and thought that they could not hope to survive the rigors of life that he himself had. Having a child with pale skin that refused to darken, constantly sickly and shy to the point of invisibility, was just a confirmation. But still, Katsuo made some small effort to cultivate the boy into something stronger than he was, and perhaps had the boy lived through childhood while still traveling with that group Roku’s outlook on life would have been as bleak and selfish as his own.

And then the Kazekage had come, his arrival putting an end to the lifestyle Katsuo had known since childhood. Even inside the village, surrounded by luxuries and friendly people, he would satisfy his primal urges through a career as a shinobi. Plenty of Suna-nin were capable of creating the Shakuton element, but those who used theirs with restraint were admired and respected. Those who did not were widely known, and among them all none could claim to be more cruel than Katsuo. His few friends were holdovers from his old gang, the number thinning through the years as they inevitably died or began to reform into productive people, and having a reputation for violent behavior along with antisocial tendencies made the man almost a pariah among his peers. Thankfully, for him at least, the Kazekage respected power, and had no qualms about his methods so long as the law of the village was followed to the letter.

In contrast, those who did know of Katsuo also knew of the son who was his near opposite. The boy was meek and polite, garnering plenty of pity when his past was known, but what stood out was his enthusiasm when it came to the village. Rokumaru made it clear who his loyalty belonged to, and it was not just to himself unlike his father. A weakness, in Katsuo’s eyes, as no one should be dependent on other people, nor should the weak be taken care of by the strong.

Adding in the fact that the man had given his mother an embarrassing, very painful death, a large part of Rokumaru despised the man with a passion that could end lives.

Yet, there was a part of him deep down that idolized the man’s strength and power. Whether people looked on him with hatred or fear, it was undeniable that they still acknowledged that he was someone important. A frail and weak thing himself, Roku had known nothing but acceptance at best and disgust at worst, and sometimes he wished he was born as the man his father wanted. Strong, confident, willing to take what he wanted.

There was also the very real chance that it would have resulted in him becoming just like the man; as a child he craves attention like everyone else, and had found it with his mother after being rejected by his father. Instead of sitting quietly with his mother, listening to her sing and tell stories of what her life had been like, he could have been training with his father in Ninjutsu and Taijutsu. Learning how to kill and take, instead of clinging to what childhood could be found in the desert.

It was for the best, in all seriousness. His father’s cynicism had not failed to pass down to him, but rather than lash out at the world for being flawed and living only for himself, Roku instead saw what was important in life. Peace; a calm and serene life where everyone deserved a chance to find happiness.

Unfortunately, for some people, happiness was a charred carcass that was once a fat merchant or a writhing and screaming woman pinned beneath them. The world would never know peace so long as there were strong people that took advantage of their weaker peers, all while others who were strong looked on and were thankful it was not them being taken advantage of. A world like that was possible, even today, if only those who were strongest could actually enforce law and order to those who would harm others.

Senju Hashirama could have subjugated every Bijū with his powers, and alongside the newly-formed Hidden Leaf Village conquer the known world in its entirety. Instead, the man allowed rivals to grow their own power, hostile villages to sprout up over a span of years and threaten his influence. And at the end of it all, Hashirama believed that all it would take to unite the world in peace was love.

But was it love that a shinobi used to defend them self from attack? Would love shield a defenseless family from the horrors of the world? Obviously not. Violence could only be stopped with further violence, and only the threat of punishment would ever keep the dregs of society in line. The Will of Fire was a philosophy admired by scholars worldwide and there were several books on the subject itself, that Konohagakure was a close family that looked out and cared for one another.

The problem was that there existed a type of person that will simply take advantage of kindness and love. And when respect and understanding was no longer sufficient, more noble and respectable people can only hope that their strength and power is enough to match up against their opponent; what did love matter if the people who loved others were corpses made by those who only loved themselves?

That was where Katsuo and Rokumaru were alike and different in so many ways. The son believed that the strong were obligated to defend the weak, whereas the father believed the weak would not have to bow to the whims of their betters if they were better themselves. Sunagakure to the son was something to be protected and nurtured, while the village to the father was a means to several ends but only that.

Rokumaru trailed his hands through the cool sand as he thought of the future he would create. Through the power of chakra, a strong chakra reserve the only gift his father truly gave him, he could become just as strong as anyone else was. Then, when no others could stand against him, Rokumaru could give those people that dragged society down the leashes they deserved. Families could grow in peace, people living their entire lives without having to worry about invasions from foreign lands or criminals in their own. Where one would serve to better society, creating a better world for the generations that would follow, or they would be punished until were repentant for their deeds, and given a painless end.

An end to pain; that was what Rokumaru desired above all. And until those that lived only to cause pain were able to be controlled and disposed of, there could not be a world that lived in peace.

There were likely thousands of others that thought like he did, that they knew what was best for the world. But was it best for the world, or for themselves? Too many would simply be corrupted by the control they had over others, believing themselves better without question. The clans of shinobi were notorious for this: until recently it was them, and the several Daimyo, that were looked up to for guidance and protection. Instead they selfishly cultivated power for themselves, seeing the world only for what they can take for themselves.

Roku knew the path he must walk, and all those that must be dragged into a new era kicking and screaming. Only until the power of the five villages were consolidated into one, with that power unrelenting in its protection to the good and dealing justice to the wicked, could something like the Will of Fire become a reality.

The boy never mentioned these aspirations to anyone. He was expected to simply absorb what knowledge he could and produce something of worth with it all, to serve his village and make his success its success, and for now that was enough. The whole entire world could not be protected solely by him, just yet, but the home that had given him everything he had will one day be rewarded with his protection and guidance.

His father more than likely brought him here to remind him of what the world was truly like, as if such a thing could be forgotten after several years of peace in a village. Still, the man thought of Rokumaru as someone with potential, ore ready to be shaped by a willing hand. Katsuo wanted Roku to be strong, only for himself, but strong nonetheless.

Despite his critical behavior towards the boy, constantly pushing him to meet his expectations, he still viewed the redhead as his responsibility. One day he would respect Rokumaru for his power, regardless of how he chose to wield it, and one day Rokumaru would forgive the man for his way of life and deficient character. Perhaps, now that they were both shinobi, the boy could show his father just what potential he truly had. Ninjutsu was Katsuo’s prime source of power, and it would one day be Roku’s as well.

Hours passed by as Roku lay on the dune, deep in thought, but before long a heat began to make itself known that was not from the sun that just began to rise. And, lo and behold, Katsuo arrived soon after with a noticeably more cheerful attitude in the way he carried himself.

Katsuo gave a rare, genuine smile, sharp white teeth bared. “It’s time you learned what being a ninja for a village is really like.”

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Re: From Whence You Came [Plot|Solo]

Post by Roku on Fri Mar 02, 2018 9:37 am

Katsuo and Rokumaru sat on the high dune and broke their fast as the sun began to rise behind them, its radiant heat that would begin to warm the sands little more than a warm breeze in the face of Katsuo’s shroud of heat. From his pockets the tanned man retrieved several scraps of dried, unidentifiable meat before handing a few to his son, taking a thawed-out water bottle in return before the two ate in silence.

From another pocket the Shakuton user pulled a frayed map inked on thick canvas, a holdover from the time before the villages came into being. Rokumaru scooted closer, as close as the warm cloud of Shakuton would allow for comfort, and tried to follow his father’s eyes to see what locations he was looking for or at. Katsuo held his finger on one spot that Roku assumed was where they sat now, his other hand tracing straight lines on the map toward the northern border of Wind Country.

Seemingly satisfied, Katsuo carefully folded the canvas map into a small, tight rectangle and slid it back into his pocket before taking a deep sip from his water bottle and tossing the empty container off the side of the dune and standing up; Rokumaru drained his own container and placed the empty back into his bag, standing up as well. Katsuo slowly began to make his way down the dune in what seemed like a random direction, feet sliding and carefully stepping down the falling sand, and his son followed behind with a scrap of dried meat hanging from his mouth.

They walked for a short distance in silence, at a relaxed pace, before Katsuo broke the silence. “You aren’t curious where I’ve been these past hours?” His mouth was a thin line, face set in an unreadable expression.

“Of course I would want to know where you went. That doesn’t mean I’m going to ask,” was the redhead’s indifferent reply. He felt much better after having some food and hydration, and so he would remain cautious.

“Then I’ll tell you. There are many sources of information among the local population and many of those belong to Sunagakure, but I have my own network of contacts as well. I trust that you remember my dear friend Kurou?” At this Katsuo turned to his son, smiling, before continuing on his way.

Unfortunately, Rokumaru remembered Kurou with far too much detail, and he nearly tripped at the mention of the man’s name as all relevant memories flooded his mind. “Yes,” the redhead muttered in a quiet voice as he caught up to his father, “how could I forget?”

A mirthful laugh was Katsuo’s reply, likely remembering things himself. “And he remembers you quite fondly,” he said with another strange expression that was likely his amusement. “He has a daughter these days, you know. Two years your junior and already a head taller than you.”

Rokumaru nodded absently, his eyes glued to the spot his feet would land on before finding the next one. “I hope she doesn’t suffer too much.” Katsuo hummed, as though he agreed, but said nothing.

The tanned man scratched his neck, the shaved stubble making sounds as he dragged his fingers acrossed it. “Anyway I spoke to him; he lives a few miles from the border to Rain Country. He is the one I needed my information from for this mission.” At the mention of a mission Rokumaru stopped, staring at his father with an expression of confusion, but his father waved him off. “It barely qualifies as an A-Rank, and I have permission from a buddy in Administration so long as you do not interfere and only observe, and that I don’t let myself be distracted. But, that being said, what’s the point in dragging you along if not for the experience?” Katsuo gave the boy a friendly pat on the shoulder, gripping it and pulling the boy along to continue their walk.

“An A-Rank?! I can’t be out here with you on this, I’m just a Genin!” Rokumaru was frightened about the prospect of his father dragging him along on a dangerous mission, likely to ‘harden his heart’ or something similarly macho.

But his father merely shrugged, seemingly unconcerned about the whole idea. “You can go back to your D’s when we return. But right now, I sincerely believe you need to know of what I do and what will one day be expected of you. I will hear no more complaints.” With that all discussion was over, and the two continued on their way with different levels of comfort.

“So, what kind of A-Rank were you given?” Rokumaru asked, not entirely happy about being in the same area that one was taking place but also extremely intrigued by the possible objectives of the mission. “It can’t be too extreme if you don’t have to leave the country to perform it.”

His father nodded, staring off into the Hiruzen, before a grin that was too broad and perfect to be genuine. “I chose one that was guaranteed to bother you. In fact, this is likely the best one for that.”

Rokumaru rolled his eyes. “Right, yeah, but what specifically do you have to do? Assassinate some noble of Kaze no Kuni for the Daimyo?” His right hand trailed down to his weapon pouches, ensuring that they remained in the position he had tied them in yesterday.

His father shook his head. “No, the nobility prefer the smaller villages or the Sabaku Port. There is nothing out here in the wilderness but bandits and settlers. Guess which demographic is our target,” and gave a small, satisfied smile at the boy’s confused face.

Quickly the confusion turned to real fear, and Rokumaru shook his head in denial. “I’m...I’m sure there are more than enough rogues around here to qualify for an A-Rank,” but he could feel from the way the heat around him twisted from air flow that his father was shaking his head. The redhead’s legs slowed to a full stop and refused to move, the boy looking at his father who still walked on. Rokumaru wanted the man to stop and speak with him, reassure him it was not what he thought it was. Instead the man grew smaller in the distance, and he was forced to run to catch up.

He fell into step at his father’s side after catching up, and walked in silence beside the man who seemed to have a bounce in his step. “I’m sure every bandit claims to be a simple civilian, and there can’t always be a way to make sure before a mission is issued,” Rokumaru said in a quiet voice, hoping this was the case.

His father shook his head, his throat making sounds like unescaped laughter. “If it makes you feel any better, these are not citizens of Suna.” He smirked again, looking at the internal struggle Rokumaru felt that made its presence clear in his expression and tense body language, before sighing. The man reached his massive hand to grip the boy’s satchel, pulling Rokumaru to a stop with him, and forced to boy to face him.

“I will explain it to you simply, then. We will soon be arriving at a very small village that, until a few months ago, was a desolate valley nestled at the foot of the mountains leading into Earth Countey. Due to its remote location we have only learned of it from Kurou who has been spying on them for the village, and it was he who brought this to the village’s attention.” Realizing he still had a grip on Rokumaru’s satchel strap, he let it go before continuing.

“They are settlers from Rain Country, farmers and miners, and they have found very rich deposits of silver in the caves where the desert meets the mountains. And through all of this, they have not requested permission from the Kazekage nor the Daimyo to immigrate, and have given zero in taxes from the profit these metals give them despite taking these resources from our land.”

Rokumaru felt much more relieved after hearing this explaination, and spoke up. “It’s obvious that they are in the wrong, and should either leave or pay reparations and taxes. Why is Suna sending you?” In his mind this was a task for a diplomatic Jounin; instead they sent one that had no use for anything beyond combat.

Katsuo nodded in understanding, and motioned for the two to continue their walk as he explained. “The problem is that this village now has a nobleman from Rain Country that is sponsoring them, and in exchange for their mined goods they receive supplies and protection.” The word ‘protection’ brought a crease to Rokumaru’s forehead, not liking the sound of it.

The older man nodded at his reaction and continued. “Twelve days ago the Kazekage dispatched a Jounin and his Genin squad to speak to these people and write an agreement, to allow them to continue living and working there in exchange for a certain quota of iron and silver each month as well as a percentage of the profits they had already made, in exchange for being recognized as a settlement under Suna’s protection.”

Rokumaru nodded, agreeing with what he’d been done at this point, and listened silently for more. Katsuo cleared his throat, and now he had a small smirk on his face. “Two days ago our Jounin returned with several major lacerations and a missing hand, and informed our dear leader of their ‘firm refusal’, claiming to be citizens of Rain Country with no obligations to the village of Suna or its Daimyo. And when told that they were occupying land under the control of Sunagakure and to immediately evacuate, they became violent.” His smirk was now a full, genuine grin, as he continued. “That noble had mercenaries brought in to protect the village and apparantly that Jounin overestimated himself. Two of his Genin are missing and one is a likely causality, and so our Kazekage has ordered the complete destruction of the village and the execution of every single inhabitant, down to the child.” Katsuo raised a calloused hand and ran his fingers through Rokumaru’s thick red hair, enjoying the way his son was now walking as stiffly and awkwardly as a puppet would. “That is the mission, and our dear leader is well aware that I would enjoy performing it. I hope you’ll enjoy yourself as well.” His hand left his son’s head and instead reached behind his back, ushering the boy forward into a faster walking pace.

Currently, Rokumaru was doing his best to justify the deaths of these people. They had already taken the life of one Suna-nin, and could possibly hold another two hostage, so they obviously deserved to be punished for their mistakes. What bothered him was that not only were the perpetrators to be killed, but everyone inside the village who had defied the Kazekage and Daimyo as well. If it was a mining community then there would be the miners themselves as well as their wives and husbands, as well as children. There would be the mercenaries themselves, and they could also have their families in the village if they were expected to provide long-term protection. His father had called this a small village, but it was only small compared to the hundreds of thousands of citizens the Hidden Villages could boast. That meant there could still be hundreds who lived there.

Katsuo had obviously expected the boy to have conflicting feelings, because when his son looked to the man in distress he held no ounce of his usual displeasure or disappointment. Still, he did nothing to comfort his son’s troubled thoughts.

They had walked for little more than an hour since they had eaten breakfast and set off, and now the dunes of sand began to give way to solid soil and stone. It was a strange feeling, walking on solid ground after being so used to the shifting sand beneath your feet, having to make tiny adjustments on the fly to keep your balance, and it took a few moments before Rokumaru’s gait was steady and even again. His father did not need to inform him that they were close to their target, for his Shakuton already did: it mirrored his emotions rather closely, flaring with excitement and cooling when he was calm or unconscious, and right now it was bringing beads of sweat to his son’s face.

They reached the base of the mountains, at which point Katsuo began to travel west. The village in question was technically a part of Kaze no Kuni but the land more closely resembled the Land of Earth with its rocky terrain, and Rokumaru imagined this furthered the village’s idea that it was a separate entity from the Land of Wind. There was no sand, no cacti. Only stupid goddamned rocks. Oh how Rokumaru hated loose stones beneath his feet.

They came to a place where the mountains split into a valley and Katsuo motioned for them to stop, the hand signal for ‘halt’ easily recognized and followed by the studious redhead trailing behind him. Now Rokumaru could see how worked up his father was; the heat surrounding them was still rather even in its intensity but the man practically oozed excitement, his hands trembling despite the confidence he held himself with. There was even the look of pure need in his eyes, like a dog having a sausage dangled in its face, but as the man turned to his son his eyes held more in them. Rokumaru was never socially-adept enough to recognize the feelings his father went through before a massacre.

His father gestured towards the valley they stood in front of, as though he was a merchant presenting his wares. “The village is through there,” Katsuo practically mumbled the words but they were clear enough. “There are no reports of anyone in that village being capable of Ninjutsu, including the mercenaries; just weapons and Taijutsu.” His hands came together quickly and formed a hand seal, and instantly a cloud of smoke popped up around the two of them. Katsuo waved the cloud away, Roku coughing and doing the same, and in its place revealed a flawless clone of Katsuo; a Kage Bunshin.

The clone crossed his arms, looking much more displeased than the original, and it was likely displeased about being corporeal and not being allowed to partake in the attack. The real Katsuo grinned at the clone, who just scoffed in response, and turned back to his son. “My Clone will remain here to intercept anyone attempting to flee. You’re welcome to stay and assist.”

“No,” Roku shook his head, “I don’t want to watch the helpless being killed.”

“Stay here and watch those who escape be killed, or come with me and watch those who fight be killed. You can choose,” his father said, before turning without another word. Rokumaru stood in place, silent, his father’s clone with him as they watched the man disappear further into the valley. The Kage Bunshin crossed its arms and leaned against a fallen boulder, making itself comfortable, before turning its gaze to its creator’s son. “Well?”

Rokumaru scratched the back of his head, removing a knot of red hair that had twisted itself up. He pulled the satchel straps off and handed it to the clone, who took it without a reaction, and followed after his father.

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Re: From Whence You Came [Plot|Solo]

Post by Roku on Thu Mar 15, 2018 5:46 pm

Katsuo had waited just a bit ahead of where the mountains split and he had given Rokumaru his choice, busy wrapping gauze around each of his forearms when the boy had caught up. The tanned man regarded his son with a happy grin, quickly tying the gauze until it stretched tight and dug into his skin shallowly.

From another pocket Katsuo pulled a sealing scroll, much smaller than most others that the redhead had seen being barely larger than a paperback book, and set it on the ground before him. After a few hand seals performed at a slow, relaxed pace a small cloud of smoke wafted away to reveal a thick stack of paper. Taking the stack in one meaty hand and the scroll in the other, he stowed the scroll away before approaching Rokumaru with the papers.

“I was going to have a clone do this, but you could make yourself useful. These,” he held the stack out with both hands, Rokumaru looking at them for only a moment for recognizing them and taking them with careful hands, “are to be placed on the perimeter of the settlement as well as scattered around the various buildings.” He showed Roku the hand seal needed to activate them. More or less ready, the two continued down the path further into the valley.

From the state of development the path they walked was in- little more than a beaten path where the soil was more worn, lacking any true paving- the mining community was no older than a few months, at best. Zero guards, or anyone really, stood at the entrance of the valley to watch for travelers, which was quite suspicious considering Sunagakure had reason to retaliate against the community. He voiced that thought to his father, but the man waved him off.

Looking at the stack of papers in his hands, Rokumaru felt like any misstep could set them off and was carefully articulating his steps as they walked. “Why are you using paper bombs for this? Won’t this place be taken over and run by people from Suna?” To him, it seemed counterproductive to level the site when most of the necessary infrastructure for mining was already in place, waiting for Suna folk to take the place of these foreigners.

Katsuo’s hands made popping sounds as he cracked his joints, eyes on the path ahead. “The boss has plans for this place, but they are well in the future. For now what’s important is making it clear to these people, and any who learn about this, that Suna owns this desert. And anything it may contain.” The redhead trailing slightly behind him nodded, able to accept that.

From the entrance of the valley to the village itself was less than a mile, yet the many twists and switchbacks made the path seem to stretch on for several. At one point Katsuo created another clone that walked up the face of a cliff to the mountains above, sent to scout the village and dispel when finished. Several minutes later the man nodded to himself, mumbling under his breath, and walked just a bit faster down the trail as his son followed silently behind.

Gradually, there began to be signs that this path through the mountains was being developed further; the hard packed soil slowly gave way to somewhat fresh cobblestone paving, rudimentary torch sconces lined the stone walls and the stone itself was being carved into a more uniform, neat facade. It appeared that the miners were renovating the pathway beginning at their settlement and moving outwards from there, which seemed like the best option given their remote location and limited labor and resources. Given a single year, it was likely they could have transformed this mining community from a middle-of-nowhere village to a major settlement along the border, a final stop before beginning the journey through the desert. Unfortunately, for them at least, they would not be the ones to succeed in doing so.

Katsuo stopped suddenly, Rokumaru bumping into him, but the older man did not give any indication that he noticed. His eyes were fixed on a depression in the stone beside them, which Rokumaru quickly realized was not a simple depression, but a hole. The Shakuton user approached the unnaturally created crevice and peered into the pitch-black darkness inside, humming to himself with interest.

“Now that is sloppy intelligence gathering...” Katsuo muttered to himself, amused with what his targets had done. He turned to Rokumaru and gestured at the hole, smirking. “Kurou was wrong about the mercs being unable to use Ninjutsu.” This, to the redhead still cradling the paper bombs in his hands, sounded like a very dangerous headache to deal with, but his father very much felt the opposite; down the path he went with a bounce in his step, eager to begin, and the son followed behind with weary eyes searching the stones around them for anything else out of the ordinary.

The two Suna-nin rounded a bend in the stone corridor they walked through to find a crowd of people completely blocking the path ahead, large adult men from what Rokumaru could see. Numbering just over a dozen they stood around speaking amongst themselves, waiting, until they noticed the two individuals who had just arrived. A silence fell over the group as they all stepped onto the path together.

A single man stood at the forefront of the group, his fine clothing ironed and starched to an immaculate crispness; his brown hair that was sheared to less than an inch long held thick streaks of gray in contrast to the vibrancy of the younger men behind him, and on the braided cloth belt that held his black trousers in place was a short sword hanging in its sheathe. Currently the man- the leader of the mercenaries, perhaps, or the village leader himself- held a rolled cigarette to his lips, the ember quickly blazing through the contents inside as he finished it off, and exhaled a thick cloud of smoke towards the two new arrivals as he tossed the roach aside. The scent of tobacco was pungent as the cloud dissipated before them, Rokumaru’s nose creasing as he tried not to irritate his lungs with the offensive smoke, his reddish-brown eyes staring at the man’s icy blue orbs.

Katsuo motioned for his son to stay where he was and walked forward a few steps, the crowd of men watching with their hands rested on various weapons but waiting for an order from the man they stood behind. Katsuo crossed his arms, his demeanor professional despite his missing headband, the smile he wore previously missing as well.

The leader of the gang ahead of them was gazing at the hitai-ate tied around Rokumaru’s neck, nodding. “We expected someone from the Sand days ago,” the leader said to Katsuo. “And we expected them to come at night. Not in the morning.” His eyes fell on the shortest person there. “We certainly didn’t expect more children.” He eyed the stack of papers in Roku’s hands, frowning at what he recognized.

Katsuo shrugged his shoulders, his grey tank top clinging tightly to his torso. “Life moves slowly in the Great Villages.” He scanned the crowd of men behind the leader, looking for anyone that was not an athletic adult male with a weapon ready to brandish. “I was informed that three of our Genin were separated from their squad leader after your encounter. Do they still live?”

The man ahead nodded twice. “We had them taken into custody immediately after your Jounin fled for his life. They’ve been evacuated with the others.”

The two Suna-nun frowned, Rokumaru looking at his father to see what he would do next. Katsuo did not let the new information evoke any visible emotion; he continued to watch the crowd before him. “And they were taken to Rain Country?” The leader of the group nodded again, making Katsuo sigh and drag a hand over his face.

The man spoke a few words to the men behind him, various affirmative responses too quiet for Rokumaru to hear, before turning back to the outsiders. “I am Captain Ōsugi Takehada, tasked by my own noble lord to defend this settlement from hostile entities.” Then, inclining his head a bit to look into the taller man’s eyes, Takehada spoke further. “Identify yourself, if you could.”

“Kazan Katsuo, Jounin.” Pointing a thumb over his shoulder, Katsuo continued. “That’s my son.” Rokumaru shifted the paper bombs into one hand to raise the other in greeting, his face blank to hide his mixed emotions inside. “The ones you represent have taken advantage of Sunagakure’s slow development to claim land on the borders of Kaze no Kuni, and this is something that cannot be allowed to continue.”

From behind Rokumaru hears footsteps against the cobbled path, his father’s clone that was stationed at the base of the mountain walking past him to stand beside the original. Katsuo uncrossed his arms as he spoke again. “I am surprised to see you realize this as well, having evacuated and halted any further development. There is still the matter of your attack against a shinobi acting at Lord Kazekage’s behest, and the imprisoning of three Genin.”

“The one before you, and yourself, have no claim to these mountains nor what they contain. It is clear where the border of Kaze no Kuni ends and Ame no Kuni begin, and this place is located in the latter.” Takehada spoke well for a simple mercenary commander, making Rokumaru believe he was more than a simple mercenary commander. His clothing, while utilitarian, was finely made from leathers and threads the redhead could not immediately identify; it was also likely that this was the one who was capable of Ninjutsu, as his men had builds that emphasized physical strength and endurance over anything else. “Upon being told of Suna’s claims being illegitimate your Jounin attacked, believing me to be so easily killed.”

Takehada rested a hand on his shortsword’s hilt, fingers curling around it gently. “The man was lucky I did not desire his death. He was tossed into the desert and we took his charges into custody.”

“What kind of a fool would do such a thing?” Rokumaru voiced his thoughts, his comparably softer voice surprising the men who had disregarded his presence. Katsuo and his clone both looked back with a dark look, eyebrows knitted together and mouth frowning in a way that clearly spoke of his irritation, but Roku didn’t care enough to stop speaking. “No minor lord in the Land of Rain could ever have the wealth or power to stop a Hidden Village, no matter what treaties and laws say otherwise. You know it’s suicide, so why defy us?”

Captain Ōsugi did not speak for a few moments, his disappointment for the redhead making itself known in his frown and eyes. The pale chips of ice locked on Rokumaru’s fiery brown, and he spoke his words slowly. “A storm brews in the Land of Rain, boy. The shadows of the Five Hidden Village stretch far beyond their borders, and they obscure much with their radiance. The silver in these mines are needed, and we cannot allow you to put this operation in jeopardy.”

Katsuo, looking again at Takehada, nodded at the conviction behind the man’s words as he scratched the dark stubble on his chin. “Very well. I can respect someone that stands up for what they believe, in spite of overwhelming odds.” With that said, the ebon-haired man I crossed his arms and gestured at the group of men standing behind the Captain. His clone nodded, looking much more pleased to be here than guarding the base of the mountain pass.

Katsuo dug into his pockets again, pulling out scrolls of various sizes before putting them back, and patted his empty pockets when his full ones were searched. “Oh, damnit...” he mumbled to himself as he palmed his face again. He turned back to Rokumaru, the boy sweating profusely from the heat that wafted off the man. “Lend me one of your kunai.” The redhead shuffled the papers again before digging into his kunai pouch, pulling one free and tossing it underhanded to his father. Katsuo caught it in a reverse grip, wiping the grip off with his gray tank-top before pinning it to his side with his bicep.

Immediately the man and his clone began to form quickfire handseals, Captain Ōsugi taking his hand off his sword to do the same while yelling for his men to move, and the group behind him took this as the signal to attack. Blades emerged sheathes as the mountain pass echoed their yells and their speed was much better than their frames would imply; almost immediately after moving they had managed to cross half the distance between the two groups, only around 30 feet.

It was not fast enough to stop Katsuo and his clone from finishing their hand seals, and the two raised their dominant right hands to their mouth.

Red flame erupted from the clone’s mouth as it blew a steady breath out, the fire ball ballooning outwards as it met the stream of condensed air Katsuo was blowing. The mountain pass acted as a funnel for the white hot flame that combined the two Jutsu as the path ahead was enveloped, Rokumaru turning his back to shield his face from the overwhelming heat and holding the bombs securely against his chest. The Suna Jounin and his doppelgänger continued their streams of Katon and Fūton for a few moments before tapering off, the flames cracking loudly as it began to die out, until they went out completely.

The mountain pass ahead was black with ash and soot, the only remaining sign of life being the orb of cracked ashy stone that stood where Captain Ōsugi was before. Realizing simultaneously that the most dangerous opponent was still in the fight, the two Suna-nin and clone immediately moved; Rokumaru retreating back the way they had came while the clone moved to guard him, Katsuo jumping a single meter into the air just as a hand emerged from where his foot had been a half-second before.

Rokumaru stood far away from the confrontation between the two as he watched his father take the kunai in hand, Takehada emerging from the ground with his shortsword stabbing upwards at the still airborn Suna-nin. Metal clashed against metal as the kunai clanged against the Captain’s weapon, Katsuo pushed away by the force of the block and landing on his feet nearby. The Captain continued his assault as he tested his opponents guard with stabs and slashes, feinting every so often but without result. Katsuo did nothing but push aside the man’s sword as it cut towards him, parrying the blade with his kunai while his left hand was twisting in seals. The temperature in the pass reached well over 110 degrees Fahrenheit and continued to climb as Katsuo mixed together Shakuton chakra in his body.

Captain Ōsugi had apparantly seen enough of his opponent’s defensive ability, for he took a step back and seemed to sink into the earth once again. Katsuo stood in place, his little finger holding the kunai by its loop as his right hand joined the left in making hand seals, but was forced to jump aside as the ground below him collapsed to reveal a pit of sharp spikes made of stone, then again as more pitfalls made themselves known.

Rokumaru stood beside his father’s clone, the chakra construct watching the battle with its arms crossed. He watched as Takehada again emerged from the ground below to attack his father with kenjutsu, making a surprised sound when the Captain feinted a blow before moving into another that left a gash in his father’s wrist, the kunai dropping into the ground which quickly swallowed up the weapon.

Without a means to fend off the steel arcing towards him Katsuo was forced to dodge, dip, duck, dive and dodge around each blow, his hands still forming seals despite the blood flowing down his right arm. He jumped back several feet, and Takehada moved to follow after.

Instead he stepped directly into the path of a floating orb of white-hot flame, his body coming to an immediate halt as pinkish-red flames licked his burning face. The pain was so sudden that it forced Captain Ōsugi to gasp, his mouth burning from the sucked in heat that blackened his lungs and robbed him of his ability to breath. His body was struck with the force of several more balls of Shakuton that floated in the air above him, patiently waiting their turn as they one-by-one incinerated his clothing and clung to his dried skin like napalm. In seconds the man’s body had began to shrivel even as it burned to black; a soft thud accompanied the corpse finally losing its ability to stand, the singed blade standing upright as its grip was melted into one with the hand it was once held in.

Katsuo held his cut hand above a white orb as it cauterized the cut he had received, the skin on his hands already to burned for his nerves to cry out from the heat of the flame. This was an application for the advanced element that Rokumaru was unfamiliar with, watching in fascination even as he let his father’s clone drag him back to where they had stood before. He had no resistance to the flames of Shakuton like his father was allowed, and even standing within 5 meters of an orb felt like standing on the surface of the sun. Eventually, the temperature began to descend back to the stifling heat of a mountain in a desert climate in early morning, but it felt like a cool breeze to Rokumaru. His skin glowed red from the first-degree burns that covered his exposed skin, and he managed to find his normal breathing rhythm again.

Katsuo sighed as he flexed his hand, a burst of smoke signaling that his clone had dispersed itself. He looked around for the kunai he had dropped, bending down to dig into the ground retrieve a bar of metal that somewhat resembled the melted weapon. “You’ll have to replace this,” he said as he handed the chunk to his son. Then, as if nothing had happened, he ambled down the ashy mountain pass with the redhead following behind from a distance.

The two continued on unhindered, the sounds of their footsteps striking the paved stone beneath them. “Hey,” the redhead said after a few minutes of walking, “how do those scrolls stand up to Shakuton? I remember you once burned one in your pocket.”

Katsuo laughed to himself, pulling one and unfurling it before pointing to a small abstract design inked into the corner. “They have seals that locked their temperature in place, not allowing the atoms that make each scroll up to lose or gain energy. I met an Uzumaki few months back.” He grinned at having Rokumaru’s full attention, the redhead hoping the man would go on without asking.

When he didn’t, Roku had to indulge his curiosity. “Did they join Suna? I hadn’t heard about someone from a clan like that being around.”

“And you think some two-bit Genin would hear about everything happening around here?” Katsuo had frowned at his son, but it quickly broke into a smirk. “But no, she didn’t stick around. I had to do all I could to get her marked as a potential spy, just to keep her from leaving so soon.” His smirk grew into a full grin as he reminisced, his son groaning.

Rokumaru kicked a loose stone down the path they walked, the slight incline making it roll back down to his foot where it was kicked again and again. “Is that all you managed to get from her?” Katsuo puffed up with pride, the redhead groaning again. “You know exactly what I meant.”

His father nodded, still amused with himself. “She did a few seals for me, and a few other things. She also mentioned there was some sort of gathering being planned between the village’s that takes place in Kumo.” Roku looked at him inquisitively, but the darkly-tanned man waved him off. “That’s more than even the Suna informants have picked up on. When we find out more I’ll tell you if it’s necessary.” Knowing that was the best he could hope for, the redhead nodded.

The two had walked for several minutes since the battle earlier and arrived at the end of the path. Ahead of them was a small mountain valley carved by an ancient river long gone that stretched just a few hundred feet, with several stone and wood structures scattered. Just as the Captain had said before all of the people were gone, evacuated under threat of Suna retaliation, and were likely going to return one day with a more defensible garrison. At the base of certain cliffs were pits dug into the stone that descended into the earth, likely still teeming with silver ore.

Katsuo took a look around as well, focusing more on the buildings scattered around. “I’m going to take a look around. Start to place the bombs around, but don’t collapse the mine tunnels.” He walked off and Roku did the same.

He had nearly 3 dozen separate bombs in his hands, worth more than he’d make his entire time spent as a Genin. Roku began by placing several around the entrance to the valley where the mountain pass ended, hoping to cause a rockslide. He walked the edge of the valley, placing a paper bomb every so often when a mine entrance was not close by, and eventually moved on to the buildings with half of his supply remaining.

There was a cluster of residences that was situated close to a few shops and other buildings that acted as the main square for the settlement, and Roku started with those. The inside of every building was completely devoid of any furnishing, food or other signs of life, as though the people living here packed their entire livelihoods up and fled. He wondered if they had stashed anything in the mines, and made up his mind to check when he had finished placing the bombs.

He walked towards the main square after finishing with the residences to find Katsuo collecting various clothes, weapons, papers and foodstuffs into a pile, taking liberal sips of a bottle filled with clear liquid. “Mercs didn’t have much on them; must have been a temporary assignment. The man tossed a stack of photos onto the pile and set the bottle on the ground before making a Tiger seal and burning the pile with a fireball, Roku moving into the other buildings to rig the explosives. His father had cleared out pretty much everything besides the trash and furniture, and the redhead wished he had grabbed some fruit from the pile before it was burned. Eventually he had distributed all of the paper bombs.

He came outside to see his father being approached by various clones, all but one dispersing themselves as the remainder carried a box of scrolls in its arms. His expression of interest matched that of his father and the two hurried over to the clone, Rokumaru taking it as Katsuo pulled one out and unrolled it.

His expression fell and he looked rather disappointed, rolling the scroll closed before checking the contents of another, and another, and another. “Damned Doton, now I see where he got his Jutsu from.” He sneered at the box that Roku held, unhappy with the find.

Then, he looked at Roku, before reaching out and patting his shoulder. “These are yours, now. You could use an element that lets you shield yourself, hide and run away. Learn them.” Rokumaru looked confused, but Katsuo had moved away. “That was the late Captain’s stash in the mines, so I think we cleared this place out.”

The redhead nodded, shifting the box in his arms as he followed his father back to the mountain pass. The man was always so calm and friendly after a battle, it made Rokumaru want to enjoy it while it lasted.

“Did you remember to activate the bombs too?”

Rokumaru’s expression soured, placing the box in his irritated father’s arms as the man sent him off to finish his job, both of the Suna-nin grumbling under their breath as he went.

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