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 A Wolf and the Fox

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DualThrone

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PostSubject: A Wolf and the Fox   Wed Jun 17, 2015 1:05 am

First light dawns over the shinobi academy and falls across the still form of Rosemarius as the sun itself prepares to rise, starting the day. The only indication that faint light falling across her eyes had awakened her was a slightly deeper intake of breath before her breathing resumed its relaxed former cadence. First will be setting the day in motion with minor perfection of the smallest things, she says to herself as she lays still, unmoving from the splayed position she'd adopted while sleeping. Effectively, make the bed, take a small snack of fruit, morning invigoration, cleanse, and prepare to move into the realm of greater things that simple yard exercises.
She'd have never admitted it to anyone no matter how hard she was pressed, but Rosie was feeling unusually excited for this day. She'd been making excellent progress, at least in her mind, in her formal instruction and with library research, and she was feeling increasingly satisfied with her demonstrated capacities while doing vigorous physical training in the yard, followed by meditative contemplation while bathing after exercises. Learning to touch her chakra in a formal way seemed to open a thousand and one different doors all at the same time and although she maintained a stoic and stony exterior, she was self-aware enough to realize that her inner balance had been thrown askew by the admittedly pleasant progress towards the next level of being a shinobi. To restore it, she'd laid down plans to take full advantage of an upcoming expanded weekend when she would have no educational obligations to leave the village walls for the three-day period. She'd learned from Gin-sensei that her plans were permissible, and then made sure that the guards posted at the village gate were aware of her intent, and knew roughly where she could be found and how long she intended to be outside the walls. With the appropriate authorities informed, she'd moved on to planning all the particulars of her excursion, down to what food and implements she would need to take and devise at least two contingencies for something unexpected happening. But actually implementing this plan would take place later in the day and so, Rosemarius opens her eyes and spends a moment to look up at the ceiling before slipping quietly out from under her covers and rolling such that when she exits the bed, she's rising to her feet at the same time.
She tucks a foot behind the other and pivots precisely in a full one-eighty before lowering herself to her knees and starting to work on her bed. She first swept the covers off entirely and began the process of straightening the mattress cover. A tuck here, a pull there, another tuck and pull, and one corner hugged the mattress with neither overt slackness nor overt tightness. A minute saw the opposite corner so straightened, and then each of the others got their own minute... and then she returned to the first corner. To achieve perfection in the large, perfection is needed in the small, she said to herself, smiling just a little as she added the sheet and gave it identical treatment, making it perfectly smooth, perfectly lax, and perfectly tight, at least as much as was possible without sinking the entirety of her time into simply making a bed. Then came the pillows (made almost square from adjustment so as to fit seamlessly together) placed with their meeting line going down the direct center of the bed, and atop them the final cover made tight and smooth, until only a well-practiced eye could tell that the bed had been touched at all of late. From the making of the bed, to the consumption of the food, to every small movement, cultivating the tiny perfection create a spirit and habit of perfection and this spirit and habit spills into all endeavors like water poured onto a level surface. Giving the bed a satisfied nod, she picks up an apricot she'd saved from the evening meal  and ate it as she walked her way to the yard but even here, her movements would seem unusual to a casual observer because as she goes, she slips from shadow to shadow, remaining out of the light and slipping around the edges of windows and doors even as she calmly eats the apricot, barely even moving eyes or head as she travels. Several times, when her movement isn't quite as graceful as she apparently wishes it to be. She stops and returns to a previous position and tries it again, sometimes repeating herself two or three times until it meets some unknown standard of achievement. When she finally reaches her intended field, the apricot has been reduced to a seed, even the smallest scrap of sweet flesh worried out of the divots and groves by the shinobi. Smoothing her features into visible concentration, she tosses the seed into the air a few inches, catches it, tosses it again, and then smoothly transfers it to a position where it's resting on her cocked thumb. She tilts her wrist a little and then flicks the seed up and into the air on a long arc towards the tree at the center of the yard--and then she's gone. Crossing twenty feet in a second, Rosie is there to let the gently-arcing seed plunk obligingly into an open palm before she transfers it to her thumb again and once again flicks it upwards and in a direction. She continues this pattern of flicking and catching the seed until one last time when she appears at the other end of the arc with her fingers expanding out the pocket of her shorts so that the seed lands within.
The effort of jogging my hardest thus far has had a very satisfying effect, she said to herself as she started on circuits around the yard, rushing along at her full speed which seems to make her blur slightly to someone watching. Eighty feet in a matter of seconds, and she can hardly feel the strain of it. And yet, it's less than I want it to be. The intent is that I should be so quick on my feet that my movements cannot be perceived normally. A maxim of battle that I have heard is that the goal is always to get there first with the most, but I have no host of my own and thus can never be in a given place with more than a rival. But I sh should like to get to where I wish to be with the greatest preparedness, with more alacrity and preparation. Most importantly is the matter of time which can be gained through speed, for while I can recover space, none can recover time and if I have more time than the other person has, if I arrive there first with the most time available, there's no limit to the amount of difficulties I could cause them. One more handsign made, perhaps even a jutsu, maybe the time to draw a weapon or strike with it, or slip around their defense before they realize that they're in danger. So many things can be gained with time and thus it's important that speed is a thing I am highly acquainted with. The running kept her going for several minutes before she started to gently push, pressing against her current limitations and feeling the fatigue push back and embracing the feeling of the burning in her legs, the shortness of her breaths, and the strong urgent beats of her heart. She sustained the burn for exactly five minutes, and then descended into a jog and then a rapid walk, and then finally she went to her hands and knees to start doing push-ups, transitioning to sit-ups, and then to the tree for pull-ups. I need to find out if there're any weights or some other equipment I can use for strengthening arm and leg muscles, she thought as she drops down from the twentieth pull-up. As I become stronger, even vigorous exercises like these tend to be mere warm-ups and help me loosen up but I can feel them loosing their comparative benefits. That said, at least this exercise yard is good for one thing. Taking a moment to catch her breath and work the joints of her hands and fingers to limber them back up after being pressed against the ground for the push-ups and curled around a tree branch for pull-ups, and hopped a little in place and then struck the tree with a naosentou with first the right and then the left, before shifting her body and reversing the order to left-right. From here, she began to rain blows upon the tree, driving knee, hand, and fist into the unyielding bark in rapid succession. It's certain that the taijutsu practice would take place at much higher speeds, but as she punches, Rosie's eyes are half-closed in concentration. She'd learned, through very painful experience, that this manner of practice was extremely taxing on the hands, the joints, and especially her wrists and knees and entire days had been spent practicing slipping little motes of chakra into her striking limbs to protect them from serious damage, before she returned to her mode of doing things. The chakra cost was minuscule and was not strong enough to make the punch stronger or more harmful, but it mitigated injury and let her do her practice without fear of taking herself out of commission for days and thus losing progress towards her goals of self-improvement. Despite the fact that the expenditure didn't technically increase her striking power, however, there was definite evidence that her hands were doing actual damage, cracking bark and knocking it off as she threw punch and kick and palm-thrust at the surface before her. She forced herself to continue the routine long after she was panting and her training outfit was becoming sweat-soaked from exertion, before she finally gave in to her fatigue and stopped. She took a step back from the tree and gave it a stiff, deep, formal bow before turning and making her way to the baths, pausing only to retrieve a fresh set of clothing from her sleeping space, and arriving at the steaming waters quite alone and able to relax without the annoyance of other students around. Relax, and meditate upon her chakra, and practice moving it about with less and less effort.
Even in discarding her sweat-soiled clothing, Rosie catches and folds each article as if she was doing so with clean garments, fresh from drying, even using the small utilitarian ribbon used to keep clothing in a convenient bundle to tie it up neatly and set it beside the tub. She took a moment to study herself in the distorted reflection of the metal vessel, shifting from one foot to the other and stepping closer so she could look critically over the developing muscles on her arms, legs, and abdomen. Definitely more lean than bulk, she noted approvingly. Great! I had hoped that doing more aerobic than strength exercises would have this result but tailoring exercises to results is always a tricky issue. Having inspected her physique to her satisfaction, she steps over the rim and into the very warm water, giving a little sigh despite herself as she got in and slid down so the water would come up to her shoulders. She reaches for the small bar of communal soap and brings it down into the water, working it into a lather and starting to vigorously rub herself down with the suds, sparing no square inch before getting a brush to work on the unreachable parts of her back. All the while, the hand that's not filled with the soap or the brush is resting so that her fingertips just barely contact the surface of the bathwater and she begins to do her channeling practice. Achievement by drops. Capture a mote, the tiniest point of light, and guide it where you want it to go. This one is for the thumb, going up and into the costals, along the clavicle, snaking around the brachial artery--must remember to fix that position in my mind sometime--and down to the ulnar process. Wrist, the bones of the palm, the subphalangeal and then the appropriate phalange and... She smiles as the feels the momentary jet of warm water that shoots from her thumb, the energy of the chakra translating into the water. Again, but with less guidance, less urging, less... specificity. In the costals, along the clavicle, snaking along... no, not the carotid, the brachial... just a touch of control... snaking along the brachial, down to the process, bones of the palm... pointer, no. Again. After several minutes with her left hand, she tries her right, repeating the mental ritual to guide chakra out and into specific fingers with less and less concentration, working the channeling like she would muscle memory, 'training' the pathways so that she can simply want the channeling and it will happen. Then she starts practicing continual channel, lowering her hands below the surface of the water facing one another and causing energy to flow between the fingertips, generating subtle convection currents that cause the water to get warmer, starting to steam as the energy flow heats it. When it begins to get uncomfortably warm, she stops the exercise and rises from the bath, collecting her towel and drying her feet and legs as she emerges from the tub lest droplets of dirtied bathwater drip onto the floor. Getting completely out, she towels off with a will and dresses before letting the water out to be refilled later in preparation for more students arising, exercising, and bathing.
She returns to her sleeping area, passing one of two other early risers as she goes and subsequently quickening her pace a little so she'll arrive well before the students she shares the room with wake up and start being nuisances. She places the package of sweaty clothes in the hamper before sitting down and withdrawing a small wooden case from the drawer of the desk she uses and opens it. Within is a set of makeup pencils, brushes, a wooden tool that looks like something more appropriate to doing potting artwork than applying facial decoration, and several wells of black inky makeup that has a faint sheen to it. The kit shows signs of very regular use, most of the wells completely depleted and the various tools stained with the same black sheen. She faces the good-sized square mirror propped on one of the upper shelves of the desk and examines her face, brushing a few strands of stray hair out of the picture before picking up one of the makeup pens, positioning it near the midbridge of her nose, and starting to trace the lower edge of her lower eyelid. Her stroke is deft and practiced, and her hand doesn't waver as a very precise black line now runs from the midbridge out to just under the outer corner of the eye. From here, she draws a line to follow the outer contours of her cheek sweeping smoothly down to a point of her jawline even with the corner of her mouth. The line then deviates a hair as it retraces its steps, following the shape of the downward line in parallel until she reaches the line arcing under her eye. She reaches for the pottery tool and withdraws a rage from the case to wipe it off several times before placing it against the line on her cheek and pressing down, then bringing the rag up to wipe away the smudges that mar the perfect integrity of the line, and blunt the intended sharpness of the point of the design. She repeats these steps on the other side of her face, now moving very, very carefuly as she seeks to intricately mirror-image the lines from one side to the other. The straightening tool and rag come out several more times for her than they did on the previous side and its some time before she gets it right to her satisfaction. She roundly ignores the chattering of her awakening roommates and start dipping the brushes into the inky makeup and applying it quite heavily, making special effort to hide the lines she'd just drawn with the makeup pencil. She continues to inspect the job very closely as she does it, reaching for the rag every time there's even the slightest apparent flaw until she replaces the contents of the kit and stands up, smiling broadly as she sees her face in the mirror. And with that, I'm ready for the day.

The sun has just risen fully when Rosemarius exits the academy and starts down the street towards the gates of the village. She wears a drab button-and-catch shirt with a utility vest over it visibly full of useful gear and items. Around her waist, she has one belt running through the loops of a pair of knee-length shorts and another belt just buckled loosely above the first, both being exactly as wide as one another  and the same off-white color that looks obviously unsuitable for charcoal-colored canvas shorts. She's clad her feet in tall hiking boots that are firmly laced up and is wearing knee and elbow pads and shin guards. On her back is a small external frame backpack where she has elected to keep the supplies for her three days outside of the walls. So let's see... four days of rations?
Check.
Shelter half?
Check.
Extra belt?
Check.
Basic 10-count weapons?
Check.
Changes of clothing?
Check.
Good, then all the basics are here. Now only to actually travel there. She pauses in thought although not in movement, continuing on as she had. This is probably my first time being out of the village with only myself for company. It's so... so...
Wonderful.
She smiles. Rules that I obey for no reason other than personal honor. Responsibilities I lay on myself. No children at play, no peers to interfere, and most importantly no distractions from what I'll need to do. I'll survive whatever issues arise if any do, and prosper in my ninja art and in further plumbing the depths of Budō in pursuit of my own perfection in that art. It almost seems impossible that I've reached this point in such a relatively short time and yet... well, it's been quite the achievement, hasn't it? I think even Gin-sensei is becoming less unsettled by me, although that may well be attunation rather than being less concerned. In her attitude of reflection, she'd arrive at the gates and make as if to walk passed the guards without stopping when she comes to a halt just short of officially leaving the walls.
"I am Blytraviin Rosemarius," she says to the guard.
"We know who you..."
"I beg your pardon and please forgive me for interrupting, sir, but I know that you're aware of who I am and the specifics of my intentions but there's never any harm in repeating all those specifics so everyone understands one another." She bows apologetically to the guard she interrupted and with a touch of hesitancy, he nods for her to keep going.
"My intention is to be outside the walls of Konoha Village for the next three days, returning within on the evening of the third," she says. "I will not leave visual sight of the walls voluntarily. I intend to remain at the strand of trees one kilometer direct west of the second guard tower from the gates on my present left. If there are any concerns of any kind, I will not stray further than five hundred meters from that location. Are there any other concerns I need to address?"
"No, we hear you." Both guards nod.
"Thank you." With that, Rosie adjusts her course to walk directly to her intended destination, hiking at a stiff but comfortable pace into the underbrush and towards where she knows there to be ample brush and tress to help with her training plans.
"Interrupting the guards is disrespectful and likely unwise."
"I realize that, but I couldn't let them brush me off and possibly leave some important point misunderstood." She hikes for another fifteen seconds or so. "A bit too crowded?"
"By far. Leading Gin to be deeply concerned for your mental health and your physical well-being would be profoundly counterproductive."
"She's already concerned in that way."
"She fears sociopathy."
"Her concern is valid, as far as it goes." Rosie sighs. "It would be more valid if not for that scroll. I can't imagine who wrote it but I've never heard such sensible and wise advice before, not even from my parents and they have ample hard-won experience to impart."
"A side effect of age." There was a pause. "All of what you've seen so far in this school, you needed to see it."
"I know about shinobi and their..."
"You know nothing, as we both know all too well. Reading about them is one thing, becoming them completely different. What you've chosen here, to choose a path of training so very early, is a choice that once made cannot be unmade. You need to go into this with both eyes open, Rose; once started, there is no return. Are you ready to go all the way with this, Rosemarius?"
"I am." Rosie smiles broadly and unabashedly. "Yes, I am prepared to go all the way and achieve all I might." She comes within sight of the strand of trees that will be her training area for the next three days. "We begin."

{Word Count: 3591}
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PostSubject: Re: A Wolf and the Fox   Sat Feb 13, 2016 2:24 pm

"Yes, we begin," the older girl's voice intoned with immense solemnity in Rosie's ear. "Begin this entire thing by being done with all the boring solemnity. Hokages past and present Rose... that entire line about you knowing nothing and needing to see all about the school. I can't believe I said something so inane and such a conscious imitation of a crotchety old woman. I'm being far too influenced by you and this entire insanely serious kick you've been on since you were, like, eight."
"Six," Rosie corrected her as she continues to look over the stand of trees, taking in a deep breath through her nose and savoring the mingling of ozone from recent rain, the cleanliness of the air among such dense and healthy plant life, and the earthy mustiness of mosses and lichens giving the trees color. Greens and browns, reds and oranges, the abrupt spiky shapes of thistles and thorns mingling with the artful conformity of the leaves above her and the utter comforting chaos of the debris-riddled earth beneath her feet. "And it was part of what we decided to do, for the sake of sanity and balance. Incidentally, I think it was you who stumbled upon the insight that a contrast was a necessity and the face being presented to the world at large would benefit me most if it was a serious and focused one, almost sociopathic in its coldness."
"As much as it can be said that I have insights that you do not."
"That should be a topic of discussion between us, now that we're completely alone and no one is going to stumble across me talking to you and think there's something wrong." Rosie stepped over to the nearest tree, feeling the satisfying rustle and crunch of debris under her feet as she did so, and then she undoes the securing straps and lowers the large exterior frame pack to the ground, resting it against the nearest tree as she did. "It's been a while since I could talk openly with you and just as long since it was prudent for me to see you."
"Seeing me would raise very grave questions." She paused thoughtfully. "At least, where there're people who could notice you seeing me. I still remember the incident around the clay pits when you and I were talking along, talking about whether it would be better to try to dig clay from the sides of the pits or slightly more towards the center, and someone practically came out of nowhere and went completely nuts about it. You were much better at talking fast back then, spinning the right lies in the right way and getting people to just get with the program."
"It's simply the good fortune of people who develop their minds well that the most common and ordinary person, the type of person you'll meet by the thousands in your everyday life and throughout your entire lifetime, has a feeble intellect and is easily misled and confused by enough verbiage." Rosie grins. "Still, I was pretty proud of myself. I still am, as a matter of fact, although this discovery of my ability with chakra and learning of genjutsu has made me capable of much better lies than before. It's pretty incredible that with a little thinking and the right movements of my hands, I can lie to their eyes, their ears, and all their other senses at the same time and lock them in the lie unless their mind is strong enough to refuse the lie."
"As most shinobi minds are."
"I disagree." Rosie takes a step over towards the pack leaning against the tree and turns to sit down with her back leaning against it, looking upwards as she did. "You know, I don't remember the eyeshadow Kitty. Is that a new thing?"
The sight that greeted her as she turned and looked upwards was of a kitsune, but not the way that they were typically depicted in artwork or the way that the legendary Nine Tail was shown when records showed the beast at all. Kitty was taller than her by at least four inches with sharp vulpine ears extending a couple inches above that, and attractively lean instead of Rosie's appearance of too little girl stretched over too much height. Her muzzle was elegant, pointed, and always seemed to have a tiny smile at its edges just an instant from bursting out into an expression of cheerful merriment but what would be most interesting to anyone looking at the two of them was that they shared the same facial markings. Kitty's markings were in soft white fur, part of the pattern of her face instead of painted on each morning the way Rosie's were but the odd black design was obviously meant to imitate the flowing and artistic nature of the design. Her hair is virtually identical to Rosie's in every way, right down to the styling and the beads that Rosie puts in her ponytail, even in the same order. Nine bottlebrush tails, the plush fur entirely unaffected by the debris scattered over the forest floor, drifted gently behind their owner, spilling out the back of the very loosely tied kimono Kitty wore, closed just enough that it remained modest but reflecting a completely shameless unconcern with the firm athletic leanness of her torso and the curves of a fully endowed girl on the precipice of adulthood. As if to round out this indifference to the moral mores and fashions of the village, the golden studs of piercings were visible up the full length of one ear, the tip of the other, and just below the middle of her lower lip. And yet with all the nods to rebelliousness and casual flaunting of a very attractive form, Kitty wore fingerless gloves with spiked studs over the knuckles, the belts and straps holding all the fighting gear of an experienced shinobi, and lamellar leather guards over knees, elbows, shins, and forearms.
The kitsune quirked an eyebrow at Rose and smirked a little. "Not all that new, but we haven't seen one another for so long that the makeup would look fairly new to you. If it wouldn't make me look like a painted geisha eager to shed her kimono, I'd do lipstick too."
Rosie shook her head. "I still can't believe you regard being just an inch short of naked as proper."
"I'm not supposed to be proper Rose," Kitty smiled. "That's your job. I'm supposed to be what a young, overly serious potter's daughter can be when she's confident in herself and has no care for the thoughts of everyone else. Or did you forget why I'm a kitsune with nine tails?"
"I don't think I ever actually knew," Rosie admitted. "Of course, I'm starting to think that I'm simply more deeply disturbed than other people because the healthy reaction to mental illness is to get help silencing the hallucinations and putting the clutter of delusion back in proper order. Instead..."
"...you took your first step towards being a shinobi,"
Rosie eyed her. "I doubt that."
Kitty shrugged and walked over, her tails flowing back and forth as she moved, the sway of her hips slightly exaggerated before stepping to a side and taking a seat to the right, the sounds of debris moving under her feet as real to Rosie as if the kitsune was herself an actual living being, and the ghostly brush of silky fur across one of Rosie's arms a sensation so convincing that she unconsciously brushed over her skin with her other hand. "Shinobi are freaks Rose," she said in a voice idly and pleasant enough that the insulting observation seemed like nothing of the sort. "Abnormalities among people, an extreme deviation from the norm so as to make them almost inhuman. There is nothing about a shinobi that is normal, or ordinary, or follows any rational course that would be taken up by the ordinary common folk. The... mental defectives, as you called them."
"Feeble of intellect, but continue."
"Feeble of intellect," Kitty agreed. "As implied by how we see them, how they actually are, the way that they would react to our condition is entirely a moot point. I have come to believe that you are vastly stronger than shinobi just starting their academy training simply because you can shut off any instinct for play without being unhealthy. You're schizophrenic, rather severely so if I'm so incredibly real to you, and yet what voice do you hear but mine? What pretend and delusional phantoms appear before you other than the one with an infinite disposition to better you? And all of this because you're so irrationally stubborn that you refused to regard me as pretend, and then refused to put me out of your head when you've always been able to at whim. You didn't want the silly, childish, petty little brats that pulled your hair so you came up with your own friend."
Rosie chuckles. "It's sort of ironic that I'm sitting in a forest, a real forest, having a rigorous conversation with a delusion version of myself that's both older than me, far more powerful, and not even human. And I'm really doing both halves of the conversation because you're literally me, knowing everything I know and thinking exactly the same way I do. On a bit of a tangent, they are brats aren't they?"
"Quite a few are. I find myself thinking extremely well of Serasena and at least cautiously optimistic about that forest-loving girl Sylvan. She's like you stuck in that time before you made your choice about what your hallucination would be, and decided that the hallucination would help you and befriend you: lost. Except I think that the part of herself she cages is as strong as the person she is outside, and she'll be very broken when it finally wiggles free and conflicts with her." Lovely amethyst eyes bored into Rosie's. "We need allies, Rose. She can be an ally and the cost is negligible. Serasena can also be an ally. I think that sweetness and earnest love for all things cute and soft conceals a staggering degree of power."
"Why?"
"Because we first met her, truly met her, happily going out into the cold and wet so she could train. Moreover, her methods were completely off the beaten path, and that's the mark of an impressive person. If nothing else, she's something you can go over and hug whenever you feel like it, an additional means for you to find and keep your center." Kitty giggles. "Also, weapons-grade adorable."
Rosie grins. "I knew you had an ulterior motive."
"Someone sweet, cute, and very likely powerful is the perfect ulterior motive to have." Kitty stood up and brushed debris that could not actually cling to her over her, and she winced a little as one of her brushing hands caught a tiny stick that had gotten entangled in her fur even with the extremely short time she was down, and took some of her fur with it when it was yanked free. "Back to the subject before. Don't you think it's interesting that you saw what you just saw?"
"It's one of the reasons I wanted to converse with you." Rosie imitated Kitty's gesture, brushing clinging pieces of forest off her clothes as she stood. "I remember something interesting about the occasion where I encountered Sylvan trying to burn a cactus and then accidentally triggered a massive panic attack in her when I talked casually of insanity and sanity: I heard your voice."
"You do that all the time."
"No, I mean that I heard your voice," Rosie says. "In my ear, as sound, as something actually real."
Kitty visibly contemplated this. "I can see that you remember correctly but... that's simply not possible, Rose. You've embraced and shaped me but I'm the manifestation of an illness in your mind that causes you to see and hear what is emphatically false. I can't do what is real, as much as that would be a joy, so there's no way that I could talk in your ear and have it as real sound in real reality."
"Often, the impossible is just what we haven't yet proven to be real." Rose shrugged. "We'll... um..."
"Play it by ear?"
"...play it by ear, exactly. For now, I'll also add something worth thinking about that's been happening a lot while we've been talking."
"And what might that be?"
"My hallucination has spent this entire conversation referring to herself by pronouns like 'I', 'me', and 'my', where she used to use 'us', 'we', and 'our'."
"It seems worth pointing out that you're not six anymore Rose," Kitty said, "so you have a more sophisticated idea of yourself and since I am yourself..."
"...you're more individual seeming because I have more comprehensive ideas about how another person would relate to me, how they'd talk, and how they'd act in conversation." Rosie nods. "I've never heard of a hallucination becoming more complex because the person with the mind sickness becomes more mature and complex, but I guess since you're made of the same mind that's becoming more complex, you'd be more complex too."
"Also, how you relate to me appears to be unusual to an extreme." Kitty grinned. "Not that I mind it. I'm a teenager's imaginary friend created out of a normally life-altering mental illness. Also, her idealized version of herself, although not quite the right... um... species? Race? Kitsunes are divine fox spirits so not really a different race, but the divine and spirit parts don't quite make kitsunes a different species..."
"Let's call what you are a different race, because I'm pretty sure you're the only one that exists, and I'm the only one who can perceive that you do."
"So you can decide what I am without limits."
"Exactly."

"So, to business then?"
"Considering how much I've missed your hallucinogenic company, it's not complete business anymore." Rosie smiles. "Now it's the kind of fun that I like. So then, what should we put on the agenda first?"
Kitty looks around at the stand of trees, and then looks upwards, studying the branches as Rosie imitates her gesture. "I think the first thing we need to do is set up a camp. Two tiers of camp, a ground camp where you can strike flame and do any cooking and the like, and someplace much more safe, using the nest of branches high above the forest floor. It'll also be training because to get up and down the trees so you can make the top part, you need the strength to drive kunai into the trunks to be a ladder, and the hard exertion of actually pulling yourself and the supplies up that ladder."
"The kunai would have to be deep enough that they won't shake loose..."
"...but shallow enough that you can later pull them out when we leave, yes."
"Easy enough." Rosie draws a kunai from where it's strapped on her body. "Well, the strength part isn't easy but knowing where to put it is. If you would?"
"You don't really need to ask." Kitty smiles and smoothly whips a kunai out of its sheath, throwing it in the same motion she withdraws it, the blade sinking three quarters of the way to the handle in the tree and leaving the ring at the end of the handle quivering very slightly. "I think that'd be the first one. Practice a couple of centimeters to the left. When you're ready, I'll bury the next one for you."
"Thanks." Rosie smiles to her and walks over to the hallucinogenic kunai, stepping to a side so she can examine it from a different angle. "How'd you do the drawing, by the way?"
"I took some of the reading we did on how gears get mechanical advantage and combined it with that diagram of a spring," Kitty says, unbuckling and holding up the bandoleer so Rosie could see that the kunai still inside of it had the appearance of being restrained by two tiny metal tabs with another tab protruding in front of each sheath. "As the kunai are pushed into the the sheath, they press against a shaped plate that uses small gears to compress a powerful spring with virtually no effort, because of the mechanical advantage. At the same time, a small wire is pulled that push two tabs over the end of the kunai, which use levers to raise the other tab. When the front tab is given a tiny push..." She reaches over and lightly presses the tab, causing the kunai to spring out of the sheath enough that it flies a bit and clatters to the ground "...it releases the restraints and the spring shoves the kunai into your hand. Combined with the arc of a throwing motion, it means that you can throw a kunai even as it jumps into your hand of your own accord."
Rosie stares at her, slack-jawed. "I'm not... I'm never going to be that clever," she says after several moments.
Kitty gives her a cagey grin. "So how'd I devise it, if none of the ability is inside the mind I'm part of?"
Rosie doesn't reply to this, turning back to the tree. "You're me, idealized."
"So your ideal self, imagined from a hallucination that cannot know anything that you have not seen or heard, that does not have such a sophisticated device by magic but can describe its creation and working principles, possesses abilities and knowledge that you do not?" Rosie feels, knowing that the tactile sensation is literally her mind reporting something that is not actually real, Kitty hugging her from behind gently. "You're not a callow child, unsophisticated and living by magical thinking. When I throw a kunai, you know that it's possible to learn and have formed a theory on how that I report by speaking it to you in a voice audible to you and you alone. When I suggest doing something, it's a thought you have that I speak to you. My bandoleer is your understanding and imagination at work, and I voice your mental concept for how such a bandoleer works. Rose, I am what you imagine you will be when you're older, better-trained, and have done the work to achieve greatness. I am your goal, realized by taking full advantage of a normally crippling mental illness that create visual and auditory illusions that are so vivid that you only know I'm unreal because you're aware that there is no possible way that a beautiful anthropomorphic vulpine with nine tails could be standing in a crowd practically naked without anyone besides you seeing her."
"Well, that's why I doubt you're really me," Rosie says, reaching down to imagine her hands grasping imaginary softly-furred arms and imagining her hands gently pulling those imagined arms apart. "I wouldn't be caught dead flaunting myself like you do."
"But you wish you had that kind of confidence in your body."
"No, I wish I had that kind of body that I could develop confidence in." Rosie chuckles. "I honestly don't know what I'll look like when I grow up, no one does. I'm not quite sure what I based your appearance off of, because I've never seen a woman or an older girl who has your body type, your features, or any of the other things. Not even a photograph."
"Some part of your mind has some idea of what you'll look like, and so you recognize yourself in me." Kitty steps back. "I am your faith that if you are merciless to yourself, if you push with all your might, if you exhaust your mind and body every day in hard work and effort, you will grow from a little pup into a sleek and cunning wolf."
"A wolf, huh?"
"A wolf."
"As opposed to what?" She puts the tip of the kunai she's holding against the tree bark and presses, cutting a tiny divot into the surface. She then starts putting pressure on it, testing herself for how hard she can push the blade in with main strength.
"A bear. A tiger. A shark. A gorilla. Anything that lives by main strength, its paws and teeth strong enough to cave in a skull with a single blow and no particular effort." Kitty nods towards her efforts on the tree. "I know why you're pushing, testing your actual strength, but we know that doesn't really matter, does it? You'll never be the ponderous and invincible juggernaut, laughing off the blows of lesser enemies and then crushing them with a single massive strike that is all power and no sophistication. The wolf takes the hamstring, the tendon, the surface vessels, crippling it, bleeding it, herding it, scaring it, a thousand pinpricks to destroy its prey... and then tear out the jugular. You bother with scrolls like that glorious explanation of Budo because those who lack brute strength refine their minds."
"You think I can't be that strong?"
"I know you don't want to be that strong. You want to be so fast that no one can touch you, so quick that no one can dodge, so agile that no one can strike, so cunning that by the time you attack, you've already won." She leans in to Rosie's ear. "Hold out baits to entice the enemy. Feign disorder, and crush him."
Rosie grins widely, her eyes dancing a little as she pulls the shallowly-penetrating blade free and steps back. "I don't know where that comes from, but I love it." She slips her middle finger through the ring at the end of the kunai and the two fingers around it extend forward to hold it straight to the plane of her blow. "The blow must come from the pain in the heart. It must hurt you in the heart, and from the heart the blow flows outwards to the pain of the hand, and then flows through the hand to where the blow must needs be land."
"And when it lands, your heart hurts for the necessity of the blow and in that pain in your heart, you find the next inevitable strike."
"And each is perfect." Rosie steels herself against the impact, resting the outcurve of the ring against the soft part of her palm, and punches the tree with the blade extended, burying it halfway to the handle.
"And will get more so." Kitty smiles. "Again."
Rosie tightens her grip and pulls backwards against the blade, bracing her feet and tucking the other hand behind her back so that the strength is coming from pure muscle instead of leverage. The first pull doesn't dislodge it, and nor does the second. With the third pull, she lets the pressure increase steadily, pulling minutely harder with every few moments that pass, tightening the muscle of the pulling arm and then tensing against the strain, and is rewarded by the feeling of movement in the kunai. Encouraged, she keeps up the pressure and with a schlunk, the kunai comes free, leaving the wound in the tree.
"Work to do then. Do it again. Try matching the blade this time so that you're not simply shoving the blade into a prepared hole because that would somewhat..."
"I'm aware." Rosie takes a step to the right and prepares herself as she had before, this time letting the tension ripple her muscles in her arm as she had when she was pulling it. She looses another strike along the axis of her blow and is rewarded by the sensation of the kunai burying itself far more deeply. She lets the kunai go and leans to a side to see how it was, smiling as she sees slightly over three quarters. "I guess that it's secure now."
"I tend to agree. Shall I mark the next place, this time with the other arm and hand?"
"Do you even need to ask?"
"No, but it amuses me to do so." Kitty leans over to pick up the fallen kunai from her demonstration with the bandoleer, slipping her middle finger through the hole at the end of the handle and twirling it idly. "It occurs to me that the spot where the next kunai is needed is outside of easy reach."
"It is. So?"
"So I think you'll get more out of this training than we thought. This shall be as much a mental exercise as a physical one because we have to devise a way to place the kunai in the tree in the proper place to the proper depth and although I can do it, hallucinations don't need to play by the rules of physics. So long as you can mentally conceive of an instance where a kunai can be thrown so hard that it embeds itself as deeply as we need it to, it will be done."
"Cart before the horse."
"True." Kitty catches the twirling kunai between two fingers and whips it at the tree where it once again buries itself three quarters up the blade. "There's the horse."
Rosie stands back and looks at the real kunai where it's buried in the tree and the hallucinated kunai where Kitty had thrown it. She starts circling the tree slowly, taking note of where the two weapons are in relation to one another and then the degree of separation. "I can only see two ways to do this," she said. "Throwing the kunai hard enough that it buries itself in the tree, or getting enough of a running start that I can use the existing kunai as a pivot and then whip around to give myself enough momentum to drive the kunai into the tree in the proper place, assuming that the pivot doesn't come out and that I can be even close to precise enough to put it in the right place." She looks at Kitty. "A mental exercise indeed."
"This is training, Rose, Kitty smiles. "The the type of shinobi you wish to be relies almost more on an excellent mind than an excellent body, although I think the body is inevitable if you keep working yourself like this. But there's another factor that I don't think you're seeing."
Rosie thought about this a moment. "Self-injury."
"Unfortunately, yes. The kind of force we're thinking that you need to anchor yourself to that kunai and be flung around fast enough to get the kinetics to bury the other kunai could very well dislocate your shoulder, and there's no way to just recover from that. Plus, it'd end all of this in the very first hour. Second, of course, is that you'll somehow bury the kunai without dislocating anything, only to be slammed into the tree with the same amount of force you're trying to impart to the kunai. Broken nose, kinked back, and broken ribs are just the most likely, and the least serious."
Rosie nods to this. "So what we're saying is that setting up a camp is something I need to achieve by training hard until I can either bear the force of swinging around or throw hard enough to not need to physically place the kunai." At Kitty's nod, she smiled slightly. "Well, the first step in that will be seeing how hard I can throw before we start working on how to improve it."
"Yes. Plus, working on shuriken kage bunshin no jutsu. I know we worked out how to do it, and have done it successfully a few times, but we're still at the point of wasting tons of chakra to do a relatively simple solid duplication." Kitty grins. "What would be truly amazing is if we could admix it with kakezan no jutsu. I know that's the intent, tricking an opponent into dismissing the multiplied objects as illusions and then throwing shuriken kage no jutsu right after so they'll ignore the now actual threat, but doing one after another, doing the signs quickly enough, is one of those things to practice. Have we even done the illusion once yet?"
"Of course we have," Rosie chides her as she idly twirls the kunai on a finger. "Otherwise, we wouldn't know how to do it, and whether we correctly duplicated the hand signs on the scroll. Remember, central tree of my favorite training area, facing east just as the sun begins to peek, aiming it such that the illusion impacted as a cloud? And then, I thought that it would be a good idea to do it a few more times to..."
"...get it to follow the precise form that you wanted instead of impacting as a random cloud of kunai all at the same time," Kitty finishes. "I seem to remember wanting to do specific groupings as the chakra flowed, a progressive flow down and right, then up and left and then a spread of kunai flying at every vital point at once to force them to move." The kitsune raised an eyebrow at her. "Vicious."
"The highly philosophical cant of the Budo scroll aside, Kitty, earnest battle will never be gentle." Rosie takes in a breath and sighs, her face falling a little. "I desperately wish otherwise. The way it speaks of striking such that you put full purpose behind each blow, striking so you do only just enough harm to dissuade without killing, making the blow corrective instead of vengeful, manifesting reluctance each time you need to strike... it sounds all so sweet and harmless and virtuous."
"There will be times you need to tear out the jugular, and you wonder how you can stay on and live by your chosen shinobi way if you use the perfection in and of yourself to kill."
Rosie looked over to give the kitsune a look of appreciation. "There are advantages to talking to myself."
"True, because yourself can then tell you that you're being an idiot."
Rosie gives her a gimlet look. "An idiot."
"A fool, stupid, silly, imbecile, idiot, whichever you prefer." Kitty gives her a sharp grin. "Come on now, Rose, you can't possibly have these kinds of doubts about this. In fact, I have the distinct advantage of knowing that you don't have these doubts but don't yet know that you don't have them, because it's all in your head. Deeply in your head, true, but I'm a deep sort of girl."
Rosie stops and turns to fully face Kitty, looking down at where her kimono falls to just above an ankle, and tracing the hem up to where the loose tie pulled the garment closed just in the nick of time, and then up a toned belly to where the kimono was just barely covering and restraining her breasts, and then finally up to the grinning vulpine's face. "Oh yes, you're so deep," she says as dryly as she possibly can. "You positively radiate depth with all that demure concealment of..."
"...my glorious assets..."
"...your form," Rosie smirked. "OK, miss deep thinking kitsune hallucination of mine, tell me about why I don't doubt myself."
"Because your power has never been about the harm you can do but the harm you can prevent," Kitty's gleaming grin turns into a subtle and close-lipped smile. "And some part of you, the carefree and instinctive part that you represent with a chatty and slutty kitsune, has gradually put together what that scroll was saying in between its lines. You feel the pain in your heart for the necessity of the harm you do because the harm you do is only as much harm as you need to do to prevent more of it. It hurts because the need for violence doesn't come from you, but from someone that's not you. The pain, in essence, is that you are not allowed to choose to do harm, but are obligated by someone else's choices. That pain of no choice deservedly flows to the one who took the choice away from you and because it is right that they bear the pain of taking from you, the blow is much more purposeful, and all that more inevitable."
Rosie blinks. "My subconscious does a lot of philosophizing."
"Your subconscious continues to work on a problem long after you move on to other things," Kitty says. "Side effect of intellect: the active mind never stops seeking out more activity and milking it for all it's worth. I could certainly go on about this, if you want me to."
"I'd like to hear more, but I think we should try to get back to where all this began: with the illusion and what I plan to do with it." Rosie put her thumb to her pointer finger and let the ring on the back of the kunai settle into the low point between the two, idly swinging it back and forth as she spoke. "You were right about the pattern I hope to achieve with the illusion and the order. You're also right that because I haven't been able to fully discipline my chakra flow, practice is both inefficient and exhausting, and I don't see a way to address that in just one three-day training session in the woods."
"A regularly-exercised muscle strengthens."
"I don't think constant exhaustion is going to improve my discipline any more than working myself to collapse makes me all the more vigorous and enduring."
Kitty considered this. "Fair enough, I suppose. So how do you proceed if regularly exercising the chakra control isn't a viable option? You can't very well get better at it by hoping for the best, although that'd be sort of fun to watch."
"I propose to work on it a little each day," Rosie says. "Push to the point where it feels tiring and then pull back, doing so regularly until the tiring point is further away than it was before."
"So basically, what I suggested." Kitty smirks at her.
Rosie frowns as she thinks this through and then scowls a little, getting a wider smirk in response. "Oh, be quiet. And wipe that stupid grin off your face. I'm supposed to be training, remember?"
"So train.
"I will.
Kitty waited a moment. "I don't see you training."
"I just said that I would, and I will."
"Good. I'll just stand here until you get around to it."
"Fine."
"Yes, yes I am.
Rosie sighs and turns back to the tree, spinning the kunai around her middle finger as she judges the distance and the weight, and how much strength she feels like she'll have to put into it to get it deep enough. It takes several seconds but the spin finally feels right and with a flick of her wrist, she throws the kunai at the illusionary one that Kitty had embedded in the tree. The thunk of the blade sinking nearly to the objective point makes her grin. "I think I have my first success of the day."

{Word Count: 5836 | 9427}
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