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 Letting Go

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Aryll Hyuuga
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PostSubject: Letting Go   Tue Aug 01, 2017 9:52 pm

The winds atop the three wolves mountain were quite distinct. On a particularly windy night, one would swear they heard the howl of predators in the distance. The massive rock formations, taking the shape of a canine’s maw, was quite difficult to scale. Kazuo had made the journey once before, during his final test from Miyamoto. This time, he did not waste his time scaling the mountain. In a way, this task he presented would be a test to each and every member of his group. The first of many tests for his new subordinates.

And speaking of tests, one was just about to come for the wandering swordsman himself. Kazuo Kemuri, wrapped in his cloak, appeared out of thin air, in a flash of purple light. The swordsman stood for a moment, staring dreamily out towards the setting sun upon the horizon, his face against the bracing winds. For a moment, he looked as if he were not real, such was the stillness of his form, and but for the billowing of his cloak in the winds of the blizzard, he did not move.

Then, as if reality suddenly took notice of the figure and sought to punish it for its treachery, he doubled over, a pained expression on his face as he reached to his neck, his blades clanking against one another in their scabbards as he dropped to his knees. Kazuo Kemuri shouted in pain, his voice lost to the winds as the curse mark grew and spread across his body. Doubled over in pain, he felt the mark festering and spreading. Before him was an apparition of Yomi, set upon him with a maniac scream, gripping the sides of his head and lifting it to face her.

Let go, Kazuo, let go! She shrieked, watching the heaven seal overpower Kazuo and cover his form. You’ve starved me of chakra for too long. I won’t let you slowly kill me. She said, slowly standing, lifting Kazuo by the throat, one hand still gripping his hair. I think you forget that I am the source of your power. I am the one that has allowed you to live thus far. I think you need a reminder of who runs this show. Yomi shouted into his face, her rage clear. Kazuo could practically feel the warmth of her breath.

”This isn’t real…” Kazuo choked, gripping one of her arms to hold himself up for air, and reaching out towards her face, grasping Yomi’s own neck. She laughed, long and loud, at this attempt, turning and hurling him away. He slid across the snow of the barren wasteland, rolling to his feet, still sliding from the force of the throw. One hand on the saya of his blade, the other on the grip, he dug his heels into the snow, until he felt gravel grinding under his feet. Glancing down, he saw that he was mere inches from the edge of the cliff.

He tried to activate his meigan, as was practically a ritual for him in combat, but found that nothing happened. Yomi shrieked with laughter as his face contorted with confusion.
You forget where your power comes from, Kazuo. She cried, stomping purposefully towards him. Without me, you are nothing! Without me, you’d be long dead, killed in that miserable village you called home on your blind quest for revenge! She taunted as she approached.
What good will this accomplish, Yomi? Kazuo thought, not bothering to speak. Hie expression was stoic. If we are not careful, this seal will consume us. If we are not-

His words were cut off by the searing pain in his neck as the curse mark burned, bright red upon his skin, now covering his flesh. He desperately tried to suppress it, and felt the mark of the devil draining his chakra quickly. Yomi paused, as if to savor the aroma of a fine wine, her eyes rolling back in pleasure of the sweet chakra that seemed to flow through her very veins, like a drug through a needle. Kazuo, teeth gritted with effort, suppressed the seal, and the marks began to recede across his body, lessening more and more as the tax upon his mind decreased. Yomi frowned, opening her eyes and glancing around. Her bright pink eyes were a window into her soul, at times, and Kazuo could tell when those windows of light settled upon him that they were not pleased.

Shrieking in anger once more, Yomi began to stomp towards Kazuo, her fists clenched tightly in anticipation of her attack. Yomi, you need to stop. You know full well why I’ve stopped feeding you-
I don’t give a damn why you’ve been starving me! You are not going to deny me this any longer. She screamed. Kazuo grimmaced.
If we are not careful, this curse could kill- Protested Kazuo, interrupted once more by Yomi.
You were perfectly fine with killing me. Now, it’s time to face the music. Let the seal unleash itself, or I will destroy you. I’ll destroy your mind and leave you nothing but a hollow shell of yourself. You won’t die. You’ll suffer a fate far worse. Let. Go. She demanded. Kazuo shook his head.
If I let you have this power, I know you won’t spare a single soul. I’ve laid my life on the line for others in the past, even against my closest allies. If I have to sell my very soul to stop you, so be it. Kazuo boomed, his voice stoic and prideful, carrying on the wind itself. Yomi bared her teeth, fingers clenching into tightly balled fists once more.
So be it… She huffed, advancing towards him. Kazuo collected himself. Yomi was no skilled fighter. She was his own raw power incarnate, one of the most powerful manifestations of the Abyss, but he lacked any formal fighting experience. No, she would have absorbed what she knew about combat from Kazuo, but she was unarmed and he had a blade. In a battle of fisticuffs, he had the upper hand. However…

Yomi lashed out at Kazuo, sending a wave of raw Yuumei careening towards him. He inhaled and blasted it with a ball of fire, satiating the Yuumei and dissipating it. He knew that was a warning shot. Yomi was much more powerful than this.
Stop resisting, Kazuo! You can’t win this. Yomi commanded. As if stirred by her very voice, the seal acted up once more, overtaking Kazuo’s form and glowing red, burning his skin and attempting to make him break. He stood up slowly, suppressing the seal, and Yomi’s anger grew as she neared him as he fought back this mark of the devil from spreading and overtaking him for the umpteenth time, Yomi was within a few steps of him. Kazuo subdued the blade, dashing fast and drawing his blade in one smooth motion, swinging it in a clean, wide arc towards his foe, and his friend, Yomi. His blade passed clean through her, and for a moment a look of shock crossed the face of his own personal demon. The corners of her mouth twitched in grief and agony as her eyes rolled back. Kazuo resheathed his blade, now standing behind Yomi, who fell to her knees.

”I’m sorry.” Came the sad voice of the lone swordsman, now truly alone atop this mountain. The cursed seal faded, returning to its slumbering state. There was no blood on his blade, for his opponent was not truly there. He wondered where the monster was, now. Had he truly killed her? Had it truly been so easy? Emotions rattled within his spirit as he wrestled with what he had just done. Should he have killed her? His one and only true ally, now dead and gone for good? No… She was a monster. She was a murderer. Was she really even his friend? As if triggered by the sentiment, a memory came to the mind of Kazuo, vivid as the day it occurred, and surprisingly lucid…

”Damn.” Kazuo muttered, in awe of the sheer carnage she had inflicted. They stood before a field of corpses, a bandit camp overtaken by the wrath of Yomi during her last excursion into the physical world. This was a rare occasion where Kazuo allowed her to use her powers freely, for he knew the lives of these petty criminals were inconsequential, without value. Still, he was dumbstruck by the ruthless efficiency at which she created this field of corpses. He knew he was powerful, but… Holy shit… was that really all done with just his body? Yomi had been paying attention to his studies after all, it seemed.
”That was the most fun I’ve had in a very long time. They never even knew what hit them.” She cooed. Kazuo sighed.
”Sometimes you scare me, Yomi.” He said.
”It’s okay Kazuo, you’re the only one I WOULDN’T kill.” She said reassuringly.
”That’s what worries me, Yomi.” He said, sighing. Yomi merely shrugged in his mind’s eye, returning to her slumber, sated and filled to burst after her feast of chakra.


Like a rush of light, the present returned to the forefront of Kazuo’s eyes and mind, the blinding white snow beginning to drown in the darkness around it.
”The only one you wouldn’t kill[…” Kazuo muttered. ”Yomi, were you a liar, or were you really that far gone?” He asked the wind, which said not a sound. It was beginning to sink in upon Kazuo Kemuri just what he had done. A tear glistened across his eye, quickly beginning to freeze in the cold winds of the three wolves mountain. Kazuo looked to the snow. He hadn’t moved, as there were no tracks. This entire fight had occurred in his mind, and in his mind alone.

Sighing, he slung his bag from his shoulder, setting it upon the snow and retrieving his tent. He set about setting up his camp. He didn’t expect any of Hitsuyo Aku to come tonight, as it was quite the hike here from the land of shadow, where many of them were currently based. No, tonight, it would be just Kazuo, truly alone for the first time in nearly five years. He cleared the snow around where he would set the base of his tent, guided by the light of a lamp. He attempted to use his meigan to aid his vision, but found that it still was not working. Thus, the lamp. As he worked, it was hard not to think about what he had just lost, and what it meant for him. Yomi was not an evil being, merely a sinful one. The sin of gluttony was her only crime, and while her crimes were horrible, it was hard for Kazuo to stomach putting his dear friend down. He drowned out these thoughts by focusing on his work, making a space for his tent before setting the poles into the hard dirt, digging hard to get them to stick. He hoisted the canvas up until he had a suitably sized refuge, then staked it into the earth with ropes tied to kunai knives. He then dug a firepit outside the tent, nearby enough to generate heat but not so much as to set his tent ablaze. He lit the fire with a quick breath of flames, and sat there for a moment, warming his hands at the fire. His tent was beside a snowbank covered rock formation that blocked the prevailing winds and granted him some small refuge from the cold, but truthfully, it was in penitence that he had chosen this place as his refuge. It was miserable here, but the cold air was bracing and made one honest. Honesty was something everyone these days needed.


Kazuo prepared himself a dinner now, setting a pot before the fire and filling it with snow, which quickly melted into water, which eventually came to a boil. This water was filled with bits of dried meat and vegetables that Kazuo had brought along for rations. Tomorrow morning, he would return to a village for supplies, but for now he would be fine with this meager feast. One night of hunger was not such a bad ordeal for the samurai, especially when he had so much else on his mind. A rumbling belly distracted from the pain in his heart.


He glanced around camp as he watched the water boil. This was a good spot, shielded from the prevailing winds, and hard to spot. It even offered a decent view of the horizon, and when his associates arrived, they would have space to set up their own camps. Thankfully for them, Kazuo would come prepared for them as well. He’d retrieve the supplies they needed in the morning. This place would be a home to soldiers in training soon enough.


As the food finished cooking, he quickly poured the broth into his bowl, making a hearty portion of the thin broth and quickly drinking it up, letting it warm his body and restore his strength. His hands were no longer shaking from his earlier encounter with… With Yomi.


His camp mostly complete, he set about the last few tasks to make this place livable. Upon the canvas, Kazuo laid animal hides, the furs of bear and wolves, thick and well-insulated. Within the tent, he prepared a cot, laying out his bedroll upon it and tossing the heavy sleeping bag that he still had from his days as a samurai. Kazuo was used to sleeping and traveling military, and the routine was refreshing for him. It made him begin to feel like his old self again. He sat there upon his bunk, reading the book penned by Yozora Shinkou by the light of the fire. He wondered what struggles Yozora faced when discovering her Yuumei. The book said little to nothing of her shinkou heritage or her bloodline, so Kazuo was left to guess what she experienced. He knew every Shinkou’s Yuumei took on a different form, and indeed, a different soul. No two were the same. He wondered if they were all as malevolent as Yomi had been. He wondered if they all were as cruel, or as caring. He wondered if any had been forced to take their own Yuumei’s life, as he had.

The thought sent Kazuo’s hand to the curse mark upon his neck. The mark of the devil had cost him his closest friend, a parting gift from their leader, who was either a traitor, a tyrant, or a fool. Kazuo did not know which of the three was the worst to follow, but he felt much like the latter for trusting a stranger as easily as he had. Still, it had not been without gains. He now had an army, to wage war with as he pleased, and he intended to train them here, to hone them until they were precise and deadly instruments, the best soldiers in the damn world. Then, they would march. Kumogakure appeared to be their best bet at the moment, but Kazuo Kemuri was a patient man. He had waited years to rise to power, and he could wait years more before he struck. He needed to get these men and women into fighting shape before he could even dream of waging this war.

Noise outside the tent stirred Kazuo from these thoughts. He rose slowly, reaching for a blade, and stepping out into the cold. The flap was open slightly already, and Kazuo had no recollection of opening it. Drawing the blade, he dropped the saya to the earth, placing his second hand upon the blade into a strong and defensive stance, one that did not much suit Kazuo’s fighting style, but in this moment he truly did not care. He stared out into the darkness.
”Who’s there?” He called. Not a sound but the howling of the wolves met him in reply. He took a step forwards, past the fire. ”Show yourself, or I’ll set you ablaze.” He commanded. A foot appeared from the darkness, small and wrapped in fur boots. Another foot, and the figure was exposed, a silhouette in the light of the fire. Kazuo recognized the form of a woman, and a familiar blonde head of hair stepped out of the darkness.

I can’t believe you… Came her sweet, sad voice, tears dripping freely from her face and to the ground. She was covered in blood, though Kazuo did not think the blood was real. He sensed no malice from Yomi now, only pain. He contemplated dropping the sword and going to her, but knew that letting his guard down so easily was a surefire way to get him killed. He stood his ground, unsure of what to say or do. Why do you hate me so? After all this time, all I wanted was for you to stop starving me and let me live! She stammered, her voice shaky.
You killed people, Yomi. Kazuo replied curtly. Yomi looked up quickly, her eyes shut as if she was afraid to face Kazuo
So did you! You’ve taken just as many lives as I have! She shrieked, falling to a huddle of wet hair and bloody limbs. Kazuo lowered his sword.
It ain’t like that now. He told her. I was full of rage, and vengeful. The lives I took were not innocent ones. You, on the other hand…
I only killed one innocent, and he was a filthy shinobi, fodder of the very villages you claim to hate! I did it to protect you!
Yomi, you and I both know that was not all. Kazuo replied.
It’s my nature! What can I do to stop myself from being who I am? She cried. Kazuo set the blade aside, cautiously setting himself beside her.
Yomi, I…
You didn’t kill me, Kazuo. Not yet. She interrupted. But I am dying. That much I can assure you. I’ll be gone by morning, and then you’ll have me out of your hair forever. I just… I just wanted to say goodbye.” She muttered. Kazuo put an arm around her, hugging his friend. He felt salty tears across his own face now.
No… He shook his head. There has to be another way. He told her. She shook her head.
That seal on your neck is the only thing that can keep me alive, now. I won’t force you to release it. I know you think I’m a monster. Maybe I do deserve to die…
Yomi, don’t say that. I-
I know what you think of me. Yomi interrupted.
Then you know that despite our quarrels, I still consider you a friend. Kazuo rebutted.
You’ve killed your friends for less in the past. Yomi sighed. Kazuo hesitated.
 
It’s fine. I understand. I just… I just wanted to say goodbye. You won’t see me again. Yomi said, standing slowly. The blood was quickly intensifying.
Yomi, don’t… Kazuo said, rising quickly. She just turned and began to walk off into the snow.
”Stop!!!” Kazuo shouted, his voice carrying over the dark mountain and into the surrounding fields. Yomi halted, and turned slowly to face him once more.
Goodbye, Kazuo. She sighed, smiling weakly.

In that moment, Kazuo Kemuri’s heart broke for the first time in many years. He had seen horrendous things during his time as an outcast, but the look of shame and sadness upon Yomi’s face was too much to bear. He didn’t know how, but he felt himself grasping the seal upon his neck, begging it for chakra, pleading for the life of his friend. The seal happily obliged, quickly covering his body once more until the face of Kazuo Kemuri was enveloped with coils of black fuinjutsu markings, and he felt a surge of power course through him. Even in this state, he felt exhilarated. He had never felt anything like this, and he could sense that this was only a fraction of what this cursed mark had to offer. He knew that if he allowed it to guide him, this seal would grant him far more power than he could ever dream of. All he had to do was submit. He would not give easily. This power felt dirty and made Kazuo feel impure, as if he had forgone a piece of his soul. All the same, he had put his life and soul on the line for those he cared about before, and would do the same now. Yomi would not die tonight. The monster stopped, turning once more to face him, tears in her eyes.

Kazuo Kemuri had compromised himself for his friend, the one that might well be the death of him and everything he stood for. If that was to be, than so be it. Kazuo was tired of watching his friends die. He had done so quite enough in this lifetime. Yomi took one step towards him, the wound upon her chest seeming to sew itself shut. Another step and the wound was nearly gone. Three more and there was nothing but dry blood, and she leapt upon her friend, hugging him. Kazuo smiled, staring out into the distance past the monster in his arms with his glowing, crimson eyes.


(Exit)
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PostSubject: Re: Letting Go   Wed Aug 02, 2017 7:36 pm

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