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Kokuei Nara
Kokuei Nara
Citizen
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Village : Vagabonds
Ryo : 1000

Lasting Shadows Empty Lasting Shadows

Sat Aug 25, 2018 12:05 pm
Kokuei took his seat atop a severed tree trunk. Looking around, there were quite a few trees that had been cut. This was intentional, of course. Over time, trees could become mangled, infected, weak. A strong gust of wind could blow them over, damaging the other trees in the area. Same with infection, it could spread or lay way to dangerous insects or parasites to infect yet other trees. Sure, there were probably ways to aid the tree and cure it. But, was it a waste of time? Why spend the man power and time all save a single tree? Aside from sentimental value, there did not seem to be a good reason. To save the tree, or kill it. A single living thing did not some not worth it. This is what Kokuei drew from the dilemma. What of people, then? Were they worth saving? The effort and time and energy to help someone back from an illness? Especially when the issue was deemed incurable, Kokuei imagined no one would save the sick person. That was Kokuei's current mindset, driven from the experiences he had been through thus far. The question that he wrestled with still was would he save someone when they needed help? If they answer was "yes", surely others would do the same for him if his time of illness came.

There was an upside to the cut trees, however. Even though in appearance they seemed dead, many of these tree stomps were properly coppiced. In a few years, new growth may emerge from the wooden stools that littered the smaller forests of Konoha. That was the amazing ability of life: shear off the bad parts and the injured being can thrive again with time. Kokuei wondered if he were to turn down an infectious route, would a cure be as simple as chopping off the nasty bits? Hoping that he could be grown anew, free from plague?

The Nara boy exhaled, hands clasped tight in his lap. A day of training awaited him, and he had to first clear his mind and meditate. He could just jump right into it, get right to the training, but he was not in the right mindset quite yet. He had to brace himself, clear the bad thoughts, and be open to the grueling tasks that he had set before him.

To ready himself for today's task, Kokuei needed to be as free from mental burdens as possible. He had to learn, properly, the Shadow Imitation Technique. He managed it, briefly, in the past. But it was always weak, or short-lived. Now that Kokuei had achieved the rank of Genin, he had been working hard on perfecting certain jutsu. Being a Nara clansman, this task in particular was important. What was a Nara shinobi without an arsenal of Nara jutsu? Sure, he had the name, the typical tied back hair, the Nara brand on his clothing, darker eyes and calculating personality—but that was all that Kokuei had to show himself as a clansman. He didn't really have the right stuff to call himself a Nara; he had a ways to go to master the jutsu but he was dedicating these recent weeks to starting the process.

Kokuei's father, Kurai Nara, was a respected and powerful Jounin of the Hidden Leaf Village. His son had made Genin, and was ready to begin his duties to the Hidden Leaf, but had already experienced several failures. Kokuei had chased down Crane, his former teacher in the academy, as he was defecting from the Hidden Leaf. Kokuei chased after him rather than immediately seeking out an authority figure, simply because he was acting on emotion and poorly directed instincts. Kokuei managed to reach him, but Crane gave him a sucker punch, a harsh lesson, and a deep pain of betrayal and abandonment. The boy managed to briefly catch Crane in a weakened shadow imitation jutsu, but it was hardly effective enough to contain the defecting Chuunin. That was Kokuei's next failure—he was never able master the Shadow Imitation Technique. He had graduated into the ranks of Genin, but still had not completely learned the quintessential Nara technique. Those were two glaring failures as far as Kokuei was concerned, and he was determined to correct them. Hopefully his father was able to see how hard he was working to turn things around.

Kurai would not say it directly to his son's face, but Kokuei could read between the lines. Perhaps Kurai's peers had spoken to him, asked about his son, why he wasn't as talented as his old man. Kokuei hoped that Kurai saw his son in a higher light, for his potential, but the boy had a sneaking suspicion that he was always a bit disappointed. Just a boy wanting to make his father proud—Kokuei could not possibly realize how typical his story currently was.

So that was Kokuei's drive as of late. He wanted to correct his own personal mistakes for himself, to prove himself in the eyes of his father, and ultimately retrieve the missing ninja and his former sensei Crane. The last task in particular boiled within Kokuei's stomach, he felt a much deeper burning passion. For the boy, it was an extremely personal vendetta. By bringing Crane back to the village, surely that would be a sure fire to prove his worth as a Nara clansman? At the very least, Kokuei hoped it would.

The quiet sounds of the forest seemed to fade to the background as Kokuei stood from the severed tree. His mind was clear, and the thoughts that once churned was now replaced with passion and intensity. He channeled the the aforementioned feelings into a desire to grow and fight, rather than letting them bounce about without reason or purpose. Letting such things stew inside one's head was never productive. While it was easy to just focus on negative thoughts and let them take control, to direct them for a better purpose was so much more effective. Albeit, such a feat was much more difficult.

Kokuei wandered forward, eyes glancing between the various trees of the forest. He was looking for a living creature to practice his Nara jutsu on, but that could come a bit later. First, Kokuei had to go through the basics. As a vital lesson he learned in the academy, the basics were the foundation of any good skill set. The Nara clan jutsu were no exception.

Getting down on one knee, Kokuei's grey eyes honed in on a tree not more than 20 meters off from his position. "Rat," Kokuei whispered, clasping his fingers together to forem to the aforementioned hand seal. The boy's shadow quivered for a moment, reacting to Kokuei's surge of chakra as the darkened mass beneath him lunged forward. It moved with speed and purpose, branching off and curling through the warm grass as it extended toward the tree that Kokuei had indicated as his target. The shadow pulled forward, slowing to a stop a few meters from the tree. Kokuei winced, tightening the grip of his Rat hand sign as his shadow struggled to inch forward, shaking tremendously as the boy struggled to keep control over his jutsu. "Come on, come on, damn it." Kokuei hissed, feeling his focus slipping. Then, Kokuei dropped his hand sign, his shadow whipping back toward his position. Kokuei let his arms fall to his side as he exhaled sharply. Maintaining such a high level of focus and chakra control for so long was not easy, but it was necessary.

The Nara remained on his knee, taking a minute to recompose himself for another attempt. In combat, in a real scenario, he would not have the grace of a minute to recollect himself and refocus. Currently, however, he also did not have the grace of a perfected technique. "Rat," he whispered once again. Naming the hand seal helped him to focus on his action, the flow of his chakra, the task before him. And same as before, Kokuei's silhouette leaped as the chance to prove itself. It moved from underneath Kokuei and lunged forward toward the tree, weaving through the short grass and stretching itself to its limits as it stopped just a couple meters shy of the massive oak.

Sweat beaded on Kokuei's forehead, the boy ignoring the falling drops as it trailed down his face. His chest moved in and out as he clenched hard on his hands to maintain the Rat hand sign and his focus on the tree. His shadow moved, ever so slowly, toward the tree. It shook and shivered, pieces of the shadow curling into itself as but a single tendril of shadow remained pointed toward the tree. Kokuei felt a fire in his stomach, spreading to his whole body, as he did not loosen his grip on his attempt at his shadow imitation technique. He felt his eyes burn, an intense warmth flush his face, and his limbs on the brink of giving out.

"Kokuei? Is that the best you can deliver? Son, I thought I taught you better." A voice rang out, sounding just like Kurai's.

Kokuei broke his concentration, and technique, as he fell forward, hands just barely catching him before the ground did. Kokuei's head whipped around him, sweat obscuring his vision as he searched for the source of the voice. His shadow silently crept back to his side, assuming its original mimicking position. "I'm losing it." Kokuei shook his head, reorienting himself again. It felt like every part of his body was tense, but he couldn't stop now. He felt close, so very close.

Another hand sign, another stretch of the shadow, Kokuei maintained his position. The shadow had less enthusiasm as before, but Kokuei gritted his teeth and kept his focus tight. He held his form as long as could before, once again, the shaking shadow pulled back to his figure. This was how the majority of Kokuei's training would proceed, slowly plucking away as his limits for the Shadow Imitation Technique. It seemed like with every attempt he would closer, at the cost of mental and physical energy. It was tough to perform and upkeep. The Nara jutsu were about strategy and optimization, and Kokuei's current methods were anything but. However, to use them so strategically meant that one could actually perform them. Kokuei wasn't at that point yet, so brute force training was currently the only way to go.

The hours passed, the Nara boy taking many different approaches to an optimal way to perform the jutsu. Different stances, altering the shape of his shadow, all to push it toward its maximum peak. The furthest distance he could manage it. There were small increments of improvement that Kokuei saw as he performed the technique again and again. But it wasn't quite there yet. His father told him that 20 meters was the optimized length of his shadow. So, Kokuei was determined to practice until he got there. 20 meters.

A shift of position, a few steps of movement, and Kokuei planted himself down once more. The sun had changed position, no longer overhead but heading off toward the horizon. Kokuei had to constantly adjust his distance from the tree to account for the sun's position in the sky. Kokuei did not want to cheat, he had to make sure he was honestly pushing himself to his limit and not because of the sun giving him an extra few centimeters.

"Rat," he hushed. Kokuei clasped his hands together, and his shadow then curled around him and darted forward toward the same oak tree. His chakra felt like it burned as it coursed through his body, pushing himself to his absolute limits, as it whipped across the forest floor. Kokuei's eyes widened, a final clench of his hands, as his shadow tendril sprawled across the floor was just touching the oak tree. Kokuei held his form, keeping his shadow outstretched as a smile curled across his face. He felt a semblance of a connection to the tree, but it had no will or power to resist. "There. Finally." Kokuei exhaled, a chuckle coming from his throat.

He let his hands unwind, though he remained still on the ground. His shadow moved back underneath him, warped slightly from the sun's slow descent to the horizon. Kokuei let himself breath and relax for a few minutes. Kokuei had perfected one part of the Shadow Imitation Technique: how far he could stretch his own shadow out. The next task to accomplish was maintaining possession over a living thing. Not... that a tree wasn't living, but it had to be something with proper sentience.

Kokuei stood up, briefly using the sleeve of his olive tunic to wipe the sweat from his brow. His eyes scanned the area for something he could utilize for his technique. There weren't any people around—though he didn't think anyone would be a willing participate for such a controlling technique. These Nara jutsu were very invasive in that way. The victims gave over most control of their body, submitting themselves wholly to the Nara who then commanded them. A part of Kokuei enjoyed it, having that kind of authority over whomever he chose. He hadn't yet been able to utilize such techniques to their full potential, but the idea always had drawn the boy in. It was a darker, shadowy part of himself that he had not fully admitted to. He wasn't sure what it meant of him and his future, so he elected to tuck it away for the time being. He had a pursuit of knowledge, and a fondness for the Nara techniques, surely that could only be a positive thing?

"Croak, croak!" A guttural call caught Kokuei's ear. The boy looked to a branch of a nearby tree. There sat a black bird, feathers glistening slightly from the thin coat of oils that naturally clung to it. A raven hopped along the branch, glancing about, looking for... something.

"You'll do just fine." Kokuei whispered, approaching the tree very slowly, closing the distance between it and the vertically aligned raven.

The Nara pressed his hands together to form the Rat seal, and his shadow sprung into action, moving up the length of the tree and connecting with the raven. For a moment, Kokuei's eyes dilated, feeling the connection establish between it and the black bird. The raven remained still, quivering slightly, the sound of its croaking filling the air as it found itself stuck and trapped. The raven didn't have the same parts as a human, so it could only do so much to mimic the boy's movement and actions, but it certainly had an uncanny look to it now.

Kokuei let his hand sign drop, and carefully walked parallel to the bird. The raven in turn moved slowly along the branch. It tiptoed, very unlike a bird, as the Nara carefully kept the bird's balance on the branch so as to not have it fall. A smile crossed the boy's face, oblivious to the raven's innocent cries for help, as the Nara toyed with his victim. It wasn't until the intensity of the calling increased that Kokuei was snapped out of his controlling trance. "You're just fine, you'll be alright." He said with a smirk.

"Croak! Croak! Croak! Croak!" The sound of other shrieks flanked the Nara boy. A small flock of ravens approached the boy, some landing on the tree with the captured bird, and a couple more on the ground beneath the Nara. They hopped about, the ones on the ground flapping their wings and moving closer.

"Whoa! Back off!" Kokuei shouted, whipping his hand toward them—the captured raven following suit—but the raven's refused to back off. Kokuei didn't want to do any rash that would cause the raven to fall off the branch, as simple physics would cause it to topple to the ground regardless of shadow possession. Letting the technique go early would be a waste of training. Rather, this was the perfect chance to test another aspect of the Shadow Imitation Technique. "Alright. You asked for it." He hushed.

Forming the Rat hand seal again, Kokuei's shadow branched off, keeping the original connection with the first raven, but smaller tendrils now reached out to attach themselves to the other birds. As they bounced about, flapped their wings, and generally moved around; they would soon find themselves unable to move at all. One—two—three—four—five and then six. The small flock each had a small shadowy thread beneath them that connected themselves to Kokuei. The Nara boy breathed heavy, his shadow quivering slightly, but he maintained the connection. Doing such a feat on actual people would be much harder, but the ravens had little will and strength to resist the imitation technique, so Kokuei was free to spread his shadow thin. "Gotcha," he said, victoriously.

The shrill cries of the ravens didn't stop though. Instead, it became a cacophony of croaks as the seven ravens each called out into the sunset sky to alert potential allies to their situation. Kokuei winced, unable to take the awful constant sounds of the black birds. "Alright, alright, I get it. Give a moment." Kokuei sighed, feeling a twinge of guilt for the ravens' capture. They were innocent creatures, though still they were mindless. Did they actually feel pain and fear for what Kokuei had done to them? Or was Kokuei simply projecting his emotions onto them? Him letting the raven's go prematurely was certainly not of a lack of empathy on his part.

Kokuei briefly reformed the Rat hand sign, as the shadows bound to the raven's reacted, as Kokuei willfully returned his shadow to his side. All the while, he backpedaled away from the black birds, eyes bouncing between them to see what they would do.

Free now, the ravens bounced about, whipped their wings, and lowered the sounds of their calls. Then, they grew eerily quiet. They looked to the Nara boy, beady eyes focused on the young boy after their initial capture and final release. Kokuei froze, feeling their vision fall upon him. Moments passed, the quiet of the forest a most unwelcome one, before the ravens took flight. Kokuei jumped, not sure of their trajectory, but they took off upward, briefly circling overhead of the Nara boy, before taking off in a seemingly random direction. Likely toward the greater Fire Country region. Kokuei heard ravens were quite intelligent and unforgetful creatures. Hopefully their interaction with the Nara boy was not seen as a negative one.

Kokuei breathed heavy again, letting a hand run down his face as he cleared the sweat from his eyes. He was properly exhausted from a day of training. "I did it," he let himself say aloud. "I finally did it. I properly did it." A smile crossed his lips as he hung his head back to look at the warm colored sky.

The boy walked back toward the stump he originally sat on. He placed a foot on it, leaning forward to stretch his tight limbs. Kokuei had down little but remain still and operate his shadow. A day of training would usually leave one's limbs sore, but rather they were stiff from maintaining the same positions for so long.

He would have to show his father what he accomplished. With the amount of chakra Kokuei utilized, it would likely have to be a different day. No, it would have to be today. He could push past his exhaustion once more to show Kurai the mastered technique. It was one failing that Kokuei could try to scrub away. It may have taken Kokuei longer than he wanted, but he was on the proper route to becoming a full fledged Nara clansman.

Kokuei pushed off from the tree trunk, and made his way back toward the clustered buildings of the Hidden Leaf. The boy slipped his hands into his pockets, moving slow to enjoy the cool air and the pleasant feeling of the mixture of tiredness and accomplishment.

His eyes peered up, for a moment, drawn to something that he couldn't have known was there. In the distance, perched atop a building, a raven looked down to the Nara boy. He felt a shiver cross his spine as he made eye contact with the black bird. Kokuei turned his head back along his path, ignoring the raven that seemed to stalk him.

[End]

[Word Count = 3,413]

[Claiming: C-Rank Shadow Imitation Jutsu (2,000/2,000), and 1,413 words to Shadow Sewing Technique (1,413/4,000), and 17 Stat Points.]
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Village : Konohagakure
Ryo : 20970

Lasting Shadows Empty Re: Lasting Shadows

Sat Aug 25, 2018 12:08 pm
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