Desired Rewards: LP
Length: 5.5 Pages
“So… you been up to much lately?” asked Jin Teal, Riki’s father. Presently, the boy was reading a book in his bed, the lights on due to the time of day – it was nearly midnight, but the book was good, and he couldn’t bring himself to stop now. Outside, rain poured down in a steady pitter-patter against the roof of their precisely middle-class abode. Something about the rhythmic sound of small drops of precipitation beating against the tiles of the roof brought an equanimity to the young Genin; as though Riki knew that if he was outside, he would hate it, but since he was inside – nice, warm, and comfy – he liked it all the much more. Realizing this about himself, the boy smirked inwardly, wondering exactly why he acted the way he did sometimes.
“Not really, dad,” he replied distractedly; he was reading, after all. “Same old, same old.” Riki’s father was a short man (which explained Riki’s own diminished height), around 5’9”, but he more than made up for it with his wide shoulders and huge, burly arms. He was every bit the mechanic that was his profession, a stocky, imposing man if he wanted to be, but otherwise a nice fellow with a ready smile. His features were square and cut, but wrinkles upon his forehead showed that he had undergone a lot of hardship in order to get where he was. As a child, Jin was very impoverished; it was only through intense hard work and a lot of sacrifice that he was able to enter engineering school and become a mechanic. For reasons that Riki never dared discover, Jin did not speak of his parents.
“I see,” said Jin, sitting upon the end of his son’s bed. “So you plan on taking the Chuunin Exams soon?” At this, Riki’s attention instantly snapped from the book towards his father; this conversation was one that he knew was inevitable, but it wasn’t anything to be taken lightly. Riki knew that his father cared about him, and as a shinobi, he put his life on the line every day. Somehow, he had to convince his father that the job he did was the job he not only did best, but the job that he wanted to do.
“That’s right,” replied Riki carefully. “It’ll be about three months, and by that time, I’ll be more than capable of passing.”
Jin’s chest heaved a sigh, the exhalation both sorrowful and resigned. “I know you’ll do fine, Riki. But you know, as a Chuunin, you’ll have a lot more dangerous missions ahead of a you.” Jin paused, as though weighing his words. “I just want you to be careful out there, all right? The life of a military man is not an easy one, and I’d like you to really keep that in mind.” When Jin was a young man, he joined the army in order to pay for his tuition at engineering school. Now, then, and forever, he hated the entire experience. In fact, Jin had probably killed more people than Riki would in a long time, but as a foot soldier, it was his job to be violent.
Riki’s case was just a bit different: as a shinobi, he could undertake espionage missions exclusively, and the boy certainly had a much larger capacity to avoid killing. Using the myriad techniques available to him, it was a simple thing to disable an opponent rather than outright kill him. This went both ways, however – Riki’s adversaries would also be highly skilled, which made his job that much more dangerous.
Still, there was one main difference that set the two careers apart. As a footman, Jin was battle fodder, nothing more. By contrast, Riki’s job was one of specialized skill; the Hokage could not afford to lose a single man, and as a result, Riki’s jobs would be low risk a large percentage of time. The Hokage wouldn’t send the boy out on a mission unless he really thought there was a large chance for success.
“I’ll work hard and be extra careful, dad,” said Riki obediently. And he would. Without a doubt, dying was the last thing the boy wanted to do, and he wasn’t exactly a moron either. Rushing into battle like some of the other foolhardy individuals he was in close proximity with was unlike Riki to the extreme.
At Riki’s assurance, Jin seemed to relax visibly. Despite this, a furrow of worry marred his brow, and his eyes looked a bit strained. “Just so you know, Riki, I’m very proud of you. I don’t think I could ever do the things you’re doing at your age; just remember, though – you’ve gotta fight it out. Always.” That was the Teal Family Phrase: “Fight it out!” They were fiercely proud of their never die attitude, but they were also fiercely proud in general. Riki knew all too well that his father’s small compliment was extremely hard for him to get out, and the fact that he said it all spoke volumes about how much he cared.
“Thanks, dad,” he said readily. Then, after a short pause, he added, “I love you.” If the first bit was tense, this last part was worlds more difficult, and both of them knew it. But both of them accepted it, too. Although it was clearly awkward, they acknowledged each other’s towering respects for each other.
Getting up from the bed, Jin left the room, leaving Riki to his own thoughts…
“Shoufuu!” The sky above was bright, blue, and cheery. It was one of those days where Riki really felt great. Just great. Something about the way the sun sent sparkles across the river he trained by… something about the way the clouds in the sky met with the trees on the horizon… something about the sounds of the wind rushing through the forest… something about it just made him feel lighter than air. He could train all day, because it wasn’t a chore anymore – it was fun!
“Shoufuu!” Sweat glistened off his shirtless chest as he tore apart some hapless cement bricks. His feet were dancing across the green earth like so many leaves across the wind, and he knew at that moment that no one could touch him. Ever.
“Shoufuu!” Maybe it was euphoria. Maybe it was something else; but right now, nothing could make him happier than bashing cement blocks to gray, gray dust to be picked up by the breeze and scattered to the four corners of the world. Every motion, every muscle flexing and stretching – it all felt so natural, so wonderful, so perfect. Speed, like lightning, was burning through his body like no stimulant could ever simulate. He was fire, he was ice, he was lightning, he was every bestial element that could be ascribed with power speed, and prowess.
“Shoufuu! Shoufuu! Shoufuu!” And then it stopped. The energy that once consumed him flew from his body in the final Shoufuu, and all the bursting vigor and force dissipated with the breeze. The beast that was in him was gone. Now he stood.
Breathing… breathing… steady, slow, easy… just breathing. His eyes swayed lazily to and fro, looking at nothing and everything at the same time. The air was cool now, and his body was recovering nicely from the work out that he had just committed it to. Now that he was out of his pseudo-bloodlust, he began to think.
Dad seemed pretty worried last night, he thought, wiping sweat from his face with the back of his hand. I hope he doesn’t get too worried. I won’t let him down. From there, his mind drifted to other things; the Chuunin Exams were coming up, and he had to get stronger. I’ve got to improve faster if I’m going to stand a chance against the other Genin. Thought processes weren’t exactly linear, and he began to think of something else entirely. I’ll bet Danae is going to try to take the Chuunin Exams too. I wonder if she’ll do all right.
Danae was Riki’s older sister, a girl with decent looks and decent talent in the field of Ninjutsu. A gifted user of Katon and Fuuton, her combined fire and wind attacks were a thing to be feared, as she could use one, Fuuton, to manipulate and amplify the other, Katon.
“Yo, Riki!” Without warning, the boy’s reverie was snapped by the appearance of an old friend of his, Lon.
“Lon! How’ve ya been, buddy?” It was always good to see Lon, and this was no exception. Whenever Lon was around, things went down.
“Great, man,” he replied, running a hand through his long, mostly straight, golden-brown hair. His eyes were an odd, dark shade of blue, but his facial features were mostly generic. He was a good two inches taller than Riki, which he perpetually commented upon, but otherwise, he was of a fairly strong build. “Big things are going down, though.”
“Oh yeah? What’s up?” asked Riki, perturbed. Whenever Lon referred to “big things going down,” it usually meant that Armageddon was about to occur.
“Yeah man, we’ve got a new kid from some obscure village making a lot of noise. He’s picking fights with everyone, saying how he’s so much better and stronger than everyone. Let’s go check him out, huh?”
“Oh man! You know I love messin’ with these arrogant types. Let’s get out of here, yeah?” With that, Riki put his shirt back on and followed Lon towards where the offending kid was supposed to be. It was a short walk to the training grounds, where a huge crowd of Shinobi had gathered to presumably witness this newcomer’s supposed talent.
“My name is Kayin, and I’m going to be the best shinobi of all time.” Wow, that guy is full of himself, thought Riki to himself. Taking a place between two other Genin, Riki examined Kayin with a critical eye. He stood about 5’11”, which was ridiculously tall for what appeared to be a fifteen year old. Furthermore, the kid wore the most garish clothing; what looked to be very expensive pants and a matching shirt were covered with bright colors that clashed before the eyes like towering waves in a tempest. Beyond that, the kid was clearly foreign: his dark skin and gelled hair marked him as someone different, as well as his accented features.
“I’ll bet he can’t do anything,” muttered a Genin beside him.
“Yeah,” agreed another. “He’s probably just full of hot air.” The second Genin seemed to have more initiative, however, and shouted, “If you’re so great, fight me, and we’ll see if you’re really all that.” All eyes immediately swiveled to the Genin in question, and he walked out with his head high, clearly confident of his imminent victory.
As if by some unspoken signal, a circle formed around the two Genin, who now faced each other. Kayin was all about nonchalance, as though he knew that victory for himself was assured, and that there was no way this other kid was going to even touch him. Meanwhile, the other kid was all business, his face serious and his body bobbing up in down in a fighter’s ready stance.
Furthermore, he was young. It was clear that this guy was a rookie, a new kid on the block ready to prove himself in any way possible. Of course he was ready to pick a fight, and what better way to win accolades that to beat the crap out of a cocky newcomer?
“Who the Hell is this kid?” asked Kayin with no sign of respect. “He’s not worth my time.”
“I’m gonna kick your ass!” the Genin shouted, his brow furrowed in anger. “Let’s go!”
Without warning, Kayin performed a series of seals, his hands a blaze of movement too fast for the eyes to see. “Katon – Goukakyuu no Jutsu!” So he’s got some skill after all, thought Riki to himself. An immense ball of fire exploded from Kayin’s mouth, nailing the Genin directly. With a shout of pain and anguish, the Genin was knocked to the ground, knocked out in one hit.
“See? None of you can stand up to me,” proclaimed Kayin, his face a mask of intense arrogance. That really made Riki’s blood boil.
“So what? You beat one rookie, a kid who’s a fraction of your age and probably has more potential in his left pinkie than you have in your entire family,” said Riki icily, moving to the fore. His voice was frozen with animosity. “Fight me, and we’ll see if you’ve really got anything.” Now all eyes were on Riki, whose eyes were daggers. “Come on, buddy.”
“Heh.” The kid smirked once more, and once more, his hands formed a series of seals faster than anyone Riki had ever seen. But this Genin wasn’t going to be caught off guard. “Katon – Goukak – ”
“Shoufuu!” Even as the fireball exploded from his mouth, Riki burst upwards, his leg causing a ripple of wind that sped towards the oncoming flames. The strength of the wind literally forced the flames back into Kayin’s face. Heh. The guy might be talented, but he’s got no idea when it comes to strategy.
Kayin crumpled to the ground, clutching his face in pain. He was clearly hurt, but when someone tried to help him up, he swatted the hand aside and ran away at full speed rather than fast the shame of defeat. Not exactly a trooper either, observed Riki. Meanwhile, the Genin that had been beaten earlier approached Riki, a sheepish look on his face.
“I should’ve been ready. You did really well, Riki.” The older Genin smiled, slightly embarrassed. Oh shit! I don’t know this kid’s name! Such was the price of fame.
“Umm… thanks, buddy!” He said with a big smile, although he had no idea who the kid was. Wow this is awkward… “You’ve gotta watch out for those underhanded moves next time. As a shinobi, constant readiness is your greatest weapon.” The kid seemed to get very excited, clenching and unclenching his fists in pure ebullience.
“That’s right!” he shouted, leaping into the air and pumping his fist. “I, Shibamari Eiji, shall be the greatest shinobi of all time!” Phew… I got his name. Thanks God. Suddenly, Riki realized something. That kid’s shouting was frighteningly similar to Kayin’s just a moment before – with one main difference. This kid was all positive glee, while the other guy was nothing more than spineless arrogance. Although the two have similar ambitions, the other guy is just an asshole.
Patting the boy on the back, Riki gave him a bit of encouragement. “All right kid, I’ll see you at the Chuunin Exams!” And with that, he grabbed Lon by the arm and they beat a hasty retreat.
“That was badass, buddy,” complimented Lon as they pair ate at a local restaurant. A steaming pile of House Special Fried Rice lay in a massive bowl between the two, and they weren’t slow in ladling piles and piles of it onto their respective plates. Pieces of shrimp, beef, and chicken lay amongst vegetables of all kinds, and the restaurant’s “Special Sauce” topped it all off. Cliché it might be, but it still tasted mind-bogglingly good.
“I know dude. I’m awesome.” He replied in faux arrogance. “Nothing like being a total badass to make a guy hungry, though,” he said as he ladled more fried rice onto his plate. It wasn’t long before they had finished their entire meal, but in that time, their conversations roamed from Kayin to girls to shinobi to everything in between. Eventually, though, it went back to Kayin.
“I wonder who that guy is,” voiced Lon. “He’s… mysterious, to say the least.”
“Yeah,” agreed Riki. “I’ve never seen anyone move his hands that quickly, but the guy was an idiot to think that I would fall for the same trick he used on the other kid.”
“I wonder who his parents are. I wonder where he came from. Why is that guy such a freak?” At the last remark, both of them laughed uproariously, which drew a few stares. Both of them smiled broadly for the onlookers, then returned to their conversation. “But yeah, that’s definitely not the last we’ve seen of that kid. I can already tell that he’s gonna be a pain in the ol’ side, as well as the source of much amusement. He might be really talented, but he’s got the look of a spoiled dumbass to me.”
“I agree wholeheartedly, Lon.” Both of them laughed again. The day was over, that was for sure, but had it been a waste? Thinking back to his conversation with his father the night before, Riki realized that if nothing else, he needed to be preparing for the Chuunin Exams. Yet what had he done today? Not really anything.
I need to focus from here on out… thought Riki to himself. A big part of my life is coming up.