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 Hitting the Mark

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PostSubject: Hitting the Mark   Fri May 08, 2015 3:57 am

"Bye Mom," the young girl called out as she hurriedly put on her shoes.

"Heading out dear?" Called back an older voice that was slowly drawing closer.

"Yeah Mom, I'll be back in time for dinner," the young girl replied again as she finished shrugging on her shoes and grabbing up the bulging backpack nearby. As the footsteps became audible, a slightly panicky expression dawned on the girls face as she turned towards the door and threw it open.

Hearing the door open, the footsteps seemed to increase in frequency as their owner picked up speed. "Seresana wait, where are you going?" the voice called out, now just down the hall from the entryway.

Seresana however was already at the door, grabbing up the stick bow before shutting the door and running off towards the woods despite her mother's continued protests. "Geeze Mom, you always worry too much," Seresana thought to herself as she put more distance between herself and the house where her mothers protests resounded out from. It wasn't long before the protests faded out entirely, and Seresana didn't know or care if it was because she'd simply got too far away or her mother going back inside. Either way, she had the whole day to herself and the forest she was running into. The sun shone brightly overhead, gently warming the day and keeping her just a tad on the warm side while running deeper into the woods. Scattered clouds offered some shade, but were outdone by the abundance of trees that surrounded Seresana, though the gentle breeze that pushed them along and rustled the foliage provided a very welcome respite from the heat.
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A while later, Seresana finally arrived at her destination. It was a small clearing that still held a decent amount of shade and coverage thanks to the thick trees all around. The sounds of rushing water from a small yet steady stream echoed out close by, only just barely out of sight from where she currently stood. At the far end of where Seresana currently stood, a very large and tall tree stump stood with a thick and aged wrap of rope around the base. Numerous scars ran up and down the five foot tall pillar of wood, varying in size from tiny scratches to one massive gash that made the rope around the base almost seem like it was all that was holding the stump together. Contrary to that appearance though, Seresana knew full well that the aged piece of wood was still very strong and very solid, a fact she'd found out more than once at the expense of a bruise.

Seresana knew this clearing well, from each tree to every rock, she was familiar with her surroundings and it set her at ease as she sat down the large and heavy pack. She'd been so worried when first picking the thing up, that it'd slow her down too much to actually escape her mother that morning.

A content sigh escaped her lips and Seresana took a moment to roll her shoulders as the burden of the pack was finally relieved. Taking in a deep breath then, she set about unpacking to be ready for the day. Item after item were withdrawn as she sat each piece out on the ground, partially so she could make sure she remembered everything and partially for the ease of access to all of it throughout the day.

A prepackaged meal was sat on the ground first, and it was quickly followed by 3 instructional scrolls, 10 Kunai, 10 shuriken, a thick roll of bandages, 3 water bottles, a small jar of red paint with a brush, a mix of 15 different feathers, 5 roughly triangular stones, a spool of string, 2 small washcloths, and a length of thicker looking string.

Seresana wiped her brow absently as the last of the items she'd packed were retrieved. "Phew, looks like I remembered everything," she said to herself while smiling happily at the prospect of not having to try and sneak home for anything. Feeling quite pleased with herself, Seresana then turned her attention to the greenery around her, or more specifically, the sticks on the ground. Seresana was scouring the ground and bushes for any fairly straight fallen branches, and after roughly 20 minutes, she had a good 8 sticks that might prove up to the challenge.

Then came the act of cleaning the sticks of of smaller twigs, leaves, and breaking off the ends to make sure they were about the right length. Her first three sticks gave no trouble in this, but the fourth snapped halfway down the length as she tried to break off one offshoot, rending the whole thing useless to her. With a sigh of minute disappointment, Seresana discarded the useless stick and went on preparing the other remaining four. She then took the now somewhat straight sticks, grabbed up one of the kunai knives, and got to work with the hardest part of the whole process. Carefully, Seresana set about making as thin a cut as she could on one end of each stick, a process that claimed another two of her sticks as the cutting broke off half of the back of one and split the other almost the entire length of the stick. When finished though, Seresana set about sliding a feather into the newly created groove and tying the back tight with the thin string for each stick.

Seresana grinned down at her work as she looked at the five now feathered sticks all laying near each other. Before beginning the next part, Seresana grabbed up a bottle of water from her supplies and had herself a long drink. The cool liquid was wonderfully refreshing in the still ambient warmth of the sunny day and after drinking about half the bottle, Seresana recapped the bottle and went back to here work. She seized the Kunai again and made another, smaller, slit in the other end of each stick. Then she grabbed up the roughly triangular stones and got to work setting each one in a groove of each stick. It was going great until the last one where the groove she'd cut just wasn't quite deep enough. When Seresana tried to force the stone farther back, the stick suddenly cracked and it too was rendered useless. She focused a displeased look at the stick, but let out a sigh as her gaze drifted back to the other nearly finished improvised arrows she had.

Discarding the most recent broken stick, Seresana got to work using more of the string to make sure the rocks that were serving as stone arrowheads were secured onto the arrow shafts. When the last one was finished, she beheld the surviving four arrows and grinned at her work. "One more than last time," she said to herself again before reaching over to get the small jar of red paint. This had been a tip from her father and while not entirely needed given these circumstances, she wanted to keep up the practice. Seresana unscrewed the jar of paint and dipped her little brush in the red liquid. Then she pained a red ring around the back end of the arrow, just below the feathers as her father had shown her.
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A few years ago, a larger hand directed a smaller one as they both held onto a similar brush, only the bristles held a light blue paint. "Now you see, we paint the backs of our arrows to make them easier to find and so we can tell them apart from each others," an older voice said to Seresana. She recalled the comforting grasp of the older figure that surrounded her as he taught, and the bushy beard that tickled and sracted her forehead.
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The memory was fleeting, but still set the smile on her face as she recalled that early experience. A smile that turned strained when she looked at her own very crude, stick arrows and was easily able to see how poorly they measured up to her fathers arrows. "Well they'll work for this, I hope," she said before reaching for the larger stick she'd brought from home and the thicker piece of string she'd gotten out of her pack. That stick had taken a long time to find, but it was one of the best she'd found. It was almost a full three feet long, with only a slight bend and a natural split about halfway up that formed a nice little arrow groove. Seresana strung the stick with the smooth practiced motion she'd seen her father perform with his own bow many a time before, and once it was on, she tested the draw while listening for any new creaks or cracks in the slowly aging stick.

Pleased when it's bending didn't show any signs of weakness, Seresana grabbed up the arrows and turned towards the stump several yards away. Leaning the arrows against a nearby tree, Seresana picked up the first arrow and set it to the string while resting the shaft in the groove, but didn't draw it back just yet. She stood there for a moment and looked at stump that was serving as her target. As Seresana raised the bow, she inhaled and drew back the arrow until the feathers were near her cheek. Exhaling slowly, Seresana aimed and released the arrow only to watch it fly wide to the left of the stump, and plant itself in the ground yards behind it. Without a moments hesitation, Seresana picked up her next arrow and repeated the procedure motion for motion, only taking an extra second to adjust her aim so that she was sure to not repeat the first shot's mistake. This arrow sailed forth and actually managed to nick the stump, ricocheting off the outside edge of the stump, and shooting upwards before landing head first into the dirt near the stump. Then the next arrow was picked up, drawn, aimed, and released, but it flew over her target this time and actually got stuck in a tree a short ways behind the stump. Down to her last arrow, Seresana took her longest time yet in making sure to adjust her aim so that it wasn't too far to the left, right, or above. When the arrow was loosed, it flew again a little high and to the left, but managed to hit the stump and stuck in the old wood. Seresana couldn't help the grin she had on her face as she laid her bow down against the tree and ran over to collect up her arrows and shoot again.

This process of Seresana shooting her freshly made arrows, running over to collect them, and then shooting them again ran it's course six times before she stopped. Wiping the sweat from her brow, Seresana glanced towards the sky and could see the sun was just past the overhead position, a clear indication it was time for lunch. She left her arrows where they were for the moment, two of them buried in the stump, one laying on the ground after having bounced off the stump, and the last a short ways behind the stump and laying at the base of another tree. Seresana cracked open the small prepackaged box lunch she'd brought with her and quickly devoured the meal while drinking the remaining half of her first water bottle and half of the second one. When it was finished, Seresana put the spent items back in her pack and then went about to recollect her arrows again to resume her shooting.

Hours passed by and Seresana recollected and shot her arrows dozens of times, but the afternoon was still a couple hours away when she saw her third arrow break in half after hitting a hidden rock on the ground. She'd lost two other arrows throughout the shoot, one disappearing into the woods to a point where no matter where she looked, the thing continued to elude her and the other had split down the shaft after breaking against the harder wood of the stump. Now down to her last arrow, Seresana wanted to make sure every shot was a hit. Partially just so she wouldn't have to go as far between each shot, and partially because she really wanted to be improving. She breathed slowly, focusing on the target, the wind, and her own exhaustion before drawing back her last arrow, but something felt off as she loosed the arrow. Before she could fully realize what had happened, the stick that was serving as her bow gave up it's long battle against the strain of use and snapped right where she was holding it. The two halves flew apart, one just hitting the ground, but the upper one swinging back and whacking Seresana on top of her head.

"Ow! That hurt," Seresana cried out as one hand went to rub her pained head. A few tears sprung to her eyes as she tenderly rubbed the top of her head before a new pain surfaced, a pain coming from her other hand. Slowly, Seresana looked at the protesting limb and saw a large, nasty looking splinter stabbing into her palm. With a grimace, she slowly grabbed the shard of wood and pulled it out with a quick tug. Wincing slightly, she slowly opened her eyes again to see the extent of the damage, though luckily it hadn't gone deep and only a small amount of blood was present. With a sniff, Seresana went over to the bandages she had brought along and quickly wrapped a little around her hand. Then she looked over at the broken remnants of her bow and her sad expression compounded while another sniff escaped her. With a sigh of defeat as the day wasn't over, yet it seemed like her training was, Seresana began to pack up most of her things when the sounds of the water reached her ears again. It was still hot, she was certain she was alone, and a nice dip in the cool waters of the stream would feel really nice. Seresana slowly stood up and let the backpack stay on the ground, but while turning towards the stream her eyes fell upon the stump again, and her arrow buried fairly close to the center, her best shot of the day.

That was enough to return the happy grin to Seresana's face as she strolled over to the stream. The little waterway was more like a steadily flowing creek in most spots, even getting fairly wide but rather shallow with the water lapping about hundreds of small stones just a few feet down from where Seresana now stood. The specific part she was standing over now though was one of the deeper sections, over three feet deep in some parts and with a slow enough current that there was little worry. The clear waters looked more than inviting and Seresana wasted no time in taking off her shirt and pants to duck into the waters. Sure enough, the cool water sent an initial rush of shivers along her body, but she adjusted quickly and was happily wading out more towards the middle of the water. Once there, she'd sit down so that everything but her head was submerged in the relaxing stream and for a few moments, that's all she would do. It wasn't too long though before boredom crept in and she stood back up. Seresana's eyes began scanning the bed of the stream, searching for anything of interest, especially new rocks to use as arrow heads. After finding a few stones she deemed worthy, a couple salamanders that she played with briefly, and particularly shiny rock, Seresana noticed that the sun was finally starting to get close to setting and if she wanted to be able to dry off in the heat of the day, she'd need to get out soon. So she climbed to the shore only to just then realize she'd forgotten the little towels with her pack. With a chuckle at own expense, Seresana scooped up her clothing and proceeded back to the clearing where her pack sat waiting silently. She paused though once it came into view for something new was resting against it.

It took no time at all to recognize her father's hunting bow, already strung, resting with a quiver of 5 fresh arrows and rolled up sheet of paper. Instead of inspecting it though, Seresana's face flushed red as she brought the clothes to feebly cover her form while desperately looking about to make sure her father wasn't' around. After a few moments of panicked searching, Seresana let out her tension in the form of a sigh. "He must have showed up while I was at the stream and already left," she said before wandering over to her pack at last. It only took a moment for her to retrieve the little towels, dry herself off, and then redress herself. Finally Seresana looked towards the rolled up piece of paper and curiously unrolled it only to behold a large target pattern to it. Glancing towards the stump, she could still see her last improvised arrow buried in the hard wood. Then she looked towards the still slowly setting sun. A determined expression appeared on Seresana's face then as she walked over to the stump and extracted her arrow from it along with picking up one of the broken arrow pieces that still had it's head.

"I'll only leave when I hit the red dot," Seresana resolved silently as she used the last of her improvised arrows and the broken arrow to fix the target to the stump. Not wanting to waste any time, Seresana ran back over to her father's quiver, and threw the shoulder strap over her head. The thing was still adjusted to his size and so it took a little fiddling with the straps until it fell comfortably against her back and the arrows could be drawn from it. Then she lifted her father's old bow. It was much larger and heavier than her little improvised one, but the well worn grip felt good in her hands and the taunt string looked powerful. Curiously, she tried to pull back and wasn't surprised to find a significant difference between it and her improvised bow. That done, Seresana drew her first arrow, and nearly pulled out another two in the process, but managed to avoid a total spill before nocking the drawn projectile. With a sharp inhale, Seresana drew the string back and took aim. It was a harder to keep the more powerful bow drawn, but determination drove her to steady her arm as she held it. With a 'whoosh' and a sharp cry of pain, the arrow was released, though the outburst came from Seresana. She wasn't used to such a powerful bow, and in the struggle to keep the bow steady, she'd accidentally let her arm draw too close to the path of the string where it scraped across her bare arm.

The eruption of pain on her arm caused Seresana to drop the bow as she cradled the pained limb, and she fought tears against the burning sting. After a few moments, Seresana hesitantly reached back into pack and withdrew the bandages from her pack. She gingerly wrapped the bright red wound in her bandages, hissing in pain as she did so and making the wrap several layers thick. "Why did I have to make that determination?" Seresana thought to herself as she looked angrily back towards the stump and the un-touched target. Her shot arrow had managed to hit the stump, but it just barely caught the top of it, a few inches above the paper. With a grimace, and a few extra moments of cradling the still strongly stinging arm, Seresana slowly stood back up and drew her next arrow. This time when she drew, she was extra careful to make sure her arm was well out of the path of the string, perhaps a bit too far since when she released that shot, the arrow flew wide. Luckily the trees were fairly thick around here and the arrow was left sticking out of one only a short ways back. Seresana's third shot managed to clip the left edge of the paper at least, and the fourth actually got into the second outer ring out of the 5 on the paper, if one included the center dot in that count. It was then though that her fingers she'd been drawing with started angrily protesting the punishment they'd endured as well. On her little stick bow where the power was much weaker, it wasn't any trouble, but with the stronger bow with the heavier draw weight and thinner string, it dug all the more into her already worn fingers. With her last shot for this round, Seresana once again managed to bury the arrow in the paper target, but was hissing as the stinging in her fingers spiked.

Partially because of the pain she was feeling and because she still wanted to be pretty careful with it, Seresana gingerly laid the bow against a tree while she went to retrieve the arrows. It took considerably more effort trying to extract the proper arrows, yet luckily these were proper arrow with a straight, smooth shaft, and well made arrow heads, so it wasn't impossible. After some almost comedic struggling, tugging, and yanking on the arrows, Seresana had them all back in the quiver and she took back up her position with the bow in hand. "I'll do it, I'll hit that bulls-eye before I have to go home tonight," she said steely before drawing, nocking, and readying her shot. Two shots in though, Seresana had to stop again as she looked down at her back hand and saw a bit of blood dripping from her finger tips. With a grimace, Seresana drug out the bandages again and set to wrapping up the injured digits as well as the ones that were still only just red. When that was done, she started shooting again and was fairly consistently hitting the target paper, with over half of those shots actually scoring hits on the target itself.

After finish another four rounds of shooting Seresana's fingers were starting to bleed through the bandages, her forearm stung horrendously from catching the string again, and she was panting with the exertion, but she was so close with her last round of shooting that it was frustrating the young girl as she yanked the arrows from the target and stowed them in the quiver. As Seresana took up her spot again, she finally noticed that she was having a hard time seeing the target because of the lack of light. "Oh no, Mom's going to kill me," Seresana said with a grimace and she thought about just packing it up and leaving right then. But then her eyes fell on the target again and she saw how close she'd been with that last round. Forcing herself to continue, Seresana drew the next arrow and aimed the projectile as carefully as she could while her arm started to shake. Loosing the arrow, it flew low and to the left, burying itself into the bottom corner of the target. The second arrow was low and bounced off the stump, but it hit closer to the center. The third arrow went just a little high and to the left of the target, and buried itself deep into the wood. The fourth arrow ended up similar to the first as her shaking and unsteady hand couldn't keep it straight enough, resulting in the arrow hitting the stump but not the target at all. Down to her last arrow, Seresana nocked the arrow and began struggling to draw back the arrow. She had to force her arm back, struggling to fight the draw weight of the bow, but she just couldn't seem to steady herself enough to release it. Just as she was about to give up, a warm embrace surrounded her, and almost caused Seresana to let the arrow fly then and there, but a larger hand clasped hers and made sure it kept a firm hold.

"Keep your arm up, and hold it steady," said an all to familiar voice into her ear, and she was too shocked to do anything other than nod and obey. "Control your breathing, and shoot on the exhale," the voice said the same instructions Seresana had heard so many times before as the other arm went to help hold her forward arm steady. Seresana wanted to relax into the embrace but a light jostle as the figure removed itself forced her to re-focused her eyes on the target, now very hard to see in the almost gone light. She breathed in, kept her back arm steady, aimed with her lead arm, and released the string with her exhale. The arrow flew forward as she fell back and watched with amazement as the arrow struck the target just on the bare edge of the big center dot.

Excitedly, Seresana turned around to look up with a wide grin at her father who was looking right back down at her with a broad smile as well. "I.. I did it," she said tiredly but happily.

"That ya did sweety, now let's get ya home before Mom strings us both up by our toes," he said in the deep comforting voice she was so used to. Seresana nodded and with her father's assistance, retreived the arrows, the target, and her pack. Though when she started to walk, Seresana found herself picked up and carried back, a gesture she hadn't experienced in some time, but one she found herself just too tired to really protest.

As the two arrived home, they were greeted with the angry sounding calls of "do you two have any idea what time it is? Dinner's already cold," but all either could do was chuckle and apologize before sitting down to enjoy the cold meal, and struggle to set at ease Seresana's mother's concerns over the bandages and blood she could see. Seresana was so glad her dad seemed to be doing a good job of it though for she was too tired to tell the tales of her day and after eating, she hugged them both before going to bed.

[Word count: 4408 for EXP]
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