The Hunter №9: Wildmother

Jomei

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Kaji Okada’s Hunter Chronicles, Entry №9
Wildmother
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There was a time where Kaji Okada hated to go more than a few days without sleeping beneath the stars. It is funny how time brings a change in you, even causing you to abandon the practices that defined you for so long. His service as the ANBU Grand Commander had driven Kaji into the tunnels of the Sileo Tempestas for what felt like decades. The sea of stars had become endless corridors of worked stone, devoid of light or wonder. From his station he was directing the faceless servants of the Great City Shrouded in Clouds; it was an important task, or so he felt. Often busy, Kaji only surfaced to either visit Umeko at the hospital or make a run for personal supplies he couldn’t order through the ANBU supply stores. As you can imagine, there is very little that he couldn’t obtain through his resources in the ANBU, but there were requests that would seem uncouth coming from a Sennin.

Sennin. The title was the sum of a shackled life— or so he had realized as everything he loved about being alive was seeming so distant. There was no one who could approach as quietly and unseen as Kaji Okada, yet when he stalked through the woods in search of the bluebird, it always fled, forever out of reach. And to her bluebird, he was the blackbird caged with no key.

“City walls built to protect, built to detain,” bitter murmuring came from the salt and peppered Kaji as he strode through the luscious greens of the Ancient Forest. His hair was tied back in a loose knot, dull obsidian with sable streaks reflecting the sun’s glow when it broke through the dense forest canopy. His beard, trimmed. The clothing he wore was casual and a bit careless for Kaji: a black t-shirt with the sleeves cut off with a wolf clenching a dagger in its mouth design. Around his neck, he wore a low hanging black rope necklace with a beaded charm that functioned as a communicator in case he was needed. On his wrists were mundane leather straps which deceptively hid summoning brands— for the Eelspine saber and his tool pouch, if things ever came to that. He had initially worn a baggy green track jacket with white stripes running down the sleeves but tied it around his waist in lieu of the fine weather. Grey sweatpants met a pair of Air Ninja sneakers that left no footprints behind. In the distance he saw his destination; the old bungalow he called home for the years since immigrating into the country.

In the months since their little family unit had abandoned life in the bungalow, the place had become subject to the poor treatment of the reckless youth who often came into the forest for practice and debauchery. There was red graffiti painted on the side of the house, depicting a scribbled tag. Stray shuriken was lodged into the once lovely home in loose groupings. Vines had grown thick around the exterior, some fresh and others withered by past bouts of winter. The garden was overgrown with weeds and wildflowers. But all of this paled in comparison to the alerting sight of the front door hanging open.

At first, Kaji imagined that someone must have left the place insecure after the investigation into Yuii's attempted murder. Kaji slid into the home hurriedly but without a sound, stalking in search of a potential intruder. His form was tense like a beast on the prowl, ready to unfold any sort of maneuver or jutsu to punish whoever dared to… ransack the place. Kaji’s eyes opened wide with incredulity as he took in the sight of his home’s interior smashed and looted. In truth, he and his wife weren’t much of the collector types; there were no treasured baubles to be found by whoever had done this. It was more a matter of sentimentality; smashed portraits of a young family still budding. Kaji stepped over a picture frame that was broken on the floor but didn’t pause to brood, not until he was sure the home was clear.
“If anyone is here,” he said allowed with controlled anger coiling around his tone, “I’m giving you a chance to explain yourself if you come out right now.” With the Eelspine saber absent, Kaji resorted to a quick flurry of hand seals and formed a blade of kinetic chakra in his main dueling hand. The energy blade reverberated, causing a slight rattle to anything he brought close to it in passing. “Make me find you and I might act... irrationally.” He continued his walk into the hallway which led to the three rooms and bathrooms which remained in the small home. The rubber-soled shoes crushed glass and debris, giving up his stealthy stride in favor of beats warning of his approach. These were tight quarters— Kaji expected the intruder to rush him through a room entrance with a weapon drawn, or possibly a short range jutsu if they were reckless enough. There would be three steps— parry, step, counter, delivered in two beats. It would likely be a human, late teens to mid-adult if desperate. In truth, too many years of bloodletting left him simmering, but too wise to believe that he’d harm anyone but the worst threat he might find within the house. He wished someone clad in black and with a devil’s eyes might pop out of a room with claws slashing, or even a sword to clash against. But his instincts read the path of destruction and with just a glance it all seemed uncoordinated, old, and likely the result of several different intrusions. If anything, it would be an animal seeking unorthodox shelter, but even that was unlikely with the scent of humans still so present in the home. Kaji sniffed, attempting to single out the odor of a beast’s hide or the filth of a nest, but the scent of some broken perfume was blinding him. Slimming himself against walls, Kaji used reflections off of a fractured portrait hanging askew in the hallway to check around a corner but found no one. He stepped across that portal and continued to the hall’s end.

After a long silence and Kaji’s arrival to their old bedroom, he was certain that the home was clear of intruders except for a familiar guest laying on a flipped mattress. Furry orange eyes perked and yellow eyes blinked as a cat stared at Kaji. The cat meowed in a familiar way and arose from its napping pose. Kaji’s form relaxed and his energy blade turned into vanishing wisps of chakra.
“Ooh hey, little guy” Kaji called with a sweetening tone. He remembered this cat, it was one of several feral cats who tended to appear around their home back when he could have really called it one. “So you were the one who scared off the bad guys that did this, huh?” He approached the cat and reached with an open hand ready to pet it expertly, but the feline hopped down from its perch and walked by Kaji, passing through his legs and walking out of the room.
“Wow, even her cats won’t deal with me” scoffed Kaji in a defeated tone, though he managed an accepting chuckle afterward. “Whatever... I’m a dog, er uh, lizard— person anyway. Eh, that term doesn’t really apply well for lizards.” After a moment of contemplation and a hand combing through his beard, Kaji went to move the nightstand by the bed and knelt down. His fingers felt along a seam in the wallpaper until he reached the bottom and he dug into a small lip. He pulled it, peeling up a detachable strip which revealed a compartment in the wall.
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- Kaji has entered the thread
- This is a private and solo thread
- To be continued.
- wc1303
 

Jomei

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<FONTFACE fontface="georgia">“Lizard guy” he muttered. “Nah.”
He pressed the compartment, which made it click and unseal, then he opened it outward, revealing a few weird baubles, some neatly kept and others tossed in like junk.
“Lizard buddy. Lizard— lizard friend.” Then he pulled out a small velvet satchel in royal purple with golden embroidery. Within was another plastic baggy which revealed dried herbal components, kind of like the sort he used when mixing poultices. They were a variety of exotic flower buds in vibrant colors. “Sunan Dunsai, Pineapple Kami, and some Raijin Sensimilla… Everything needed for a vision quest.” He revealed a small grinding device shaped like five golden standard coins stacked, with a removable lid and teeth that minced the flower into a fine dust once Kaji mashed it in. seeming quite familiar of it all, Kaji packed the grinding tool with each strain of his exotic herbs, and spent a few moments cranking away. He took the dust he created and carefully lined it across a sheet of thin paper that sort of resembled a sealing tag, if you will. Nimble fingers rolled the herbal spliff carefully and tightly, ensuring that no extra air or uneven spots might ruin the consistency.

Kaji slid the spliff above his ear, tucked in tightly beneath the top of it and his hair, then put away the rest of the contents in his hidden compartment and resealed it. As Kaji then left the room he found the same catch watching him from the doorway.
“If you don’t fuck with me don’t sit there with that judgy face” said Kaji as he walked past. The cat followed him as if it were bade to come along by his commentary, likely confusing it for a promise of food. “I gotta clean this place up, but first, to deal with this” he said, looking down to the observing cat. He pulled the spliff from behind his ear with one hand, and rubbed his index and thumb together with the other until a spark of chakra created a mote of fire dancing over his fingertips. Mindful of his home despite its disrepair he stepped outside before lighting an end of the herbal roll with his flame. A purple plume of smoke rolled out from his herbal spliff, practically luminescent in its thickness and brightness. Kaji inhaled deeply, hardly parting his lips to include more oxygen as he consumed the noxious gas. The orange cat was sitting by his feet and looking up curiously, squinting those sensitive eyes at the stinging smoke. “No no little guy, you don’t want any of this— it’ll make your little head spin.” So Kaji closed up the home and proceeded to take a walkabout in the forest with a trail of smoke wafting behind him.

“I haven’t done this in a long time” Kaji admitted to the cat, who seemed adamant on following him from a distance. “Just haven’t needed to, or wanted, gato. But, long ago, I used to use the dreaming herbs to clear my mind. They served as a conduit— I was able to commune with nature— to find myself within the mess of layers painted onto me by the world. To be alone, away from all the noise and interference of meddling mankind. Little gato, it is the gift of yours and my lizard companions to achieve this naturally, but for man it is a status that must be attained.”

The purple haze crept behind Kaji as he strode through the luscious greens of the ancient forest. His perception was flooding with the vivid colors of Kumogakure’s last great host to nature. The light breeze was brushing him, dancing around Kaji and the many trees in tandem. It was pressing against him, urging him in one decisive direction, deeper into blanketed woods. It appeared that this destination came to Kaji as no surprise when he found a collapsed structure made from stones and corroding logs. With the spliff still burning and infusing smoke in every breath, Kaji began to rebuild the structure which he had built years ago: an altar to the Wild Mother. His blunt seemed as if it could burn for an eternity as he dirtied his hands, rebuilding the altar. The work felt great in his hands, simple and fulfilling as he toiled. And as he did so, it was as if the denizens were gathering as spectators to marvel at the creation. First came many white-furred deer with ethereal glows, glistening and filling the forest with light. The White Stag was the very symbol of the force of nature when her attention was focused; her eyes in the world when she wanted sight beyond her infinite feeling. Kaji had seen them many times in his years on the road, often emerging in his darkest hours without fear. Wherever the beasts strode nature grew without a need for the natural orders of life to evoke it. Wild weeds and flowers grew beneath their every hoofprint, and new life sprang forth from their shadows. Rare birds in every color flew in pairs and landed on branches. They began a chorus in a wild song, and were soon joined by the sounds of wolves howling in tandem from some solitary place, far from there. But when Kaji placed the very last stone atop the altar, he somehow knew it was done. A rush of all sensation came over him, washing away all other sights sounds or feeling… Light in every hue spread in a vast glow that encompassed Kaji, swallowing him in its presence. It was warm but not enough to burn, just enough to eliminate the endless chill that nipped at you in the mountains of Kumogakure. This sensation was overwhelming as Kaji knew what it was… it was all-powerful yet gentle, and it was as pure as the truest love. The sensation was resonating through every molecule of his being as raw power and the force from which all life sprang. Kaji’s eyes were shut hard at first as he fought to hold the tears back, but as the joy entered him he let them fall. Wet streaks ran down cheeks who were previously gaunt from aging, but were filling out suddenly. The fine marks were vanishing, and the streaks of gray peppering his raven hair were ebon once more. “The man falters and yet you bless him still…” Kaji said, utterly amazing. And then he felt a force press lightly upon his shoulder before the depression materialized as a slender human hand with flawless skin the colors of honey, and fingernails made of fine cut diamonds. Kaji’s head bobbed with both joy and sorrow: the joy from the answering of his call to his Goddess, but sorrow for the pitiful reason why. “Of all these beasts you’ve chosen me, but I do not understand… Why?”