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Hyuuga Kaito
06-03-2015, 04:06 AM
Sennou no Shi…

Its seclusion had given this country somewhat of a mystic quality, one where you didn’t really want to believe the rumors were true. By landscape alone it painted a stark contrast to Hi no Kuni, the latter owing much to its temperate climate and mild seasons. But here, in Sennou no Shi, the elements seemed far less forgiving, and so it forged a people equally as hardy.

The sun had just barely risen above the horizon when Hyuuga Kaito had already completed one solid lap around the City of Kings. Not that there was any real path to follow freely in this mountain city, but what was that in the face of someone who could literally walk on walls? Striking his own route, he had passed many citizens eagerly starting their own daily routines before the sun even rose. Industrious to say the least, Kaito also noticed that much of the city’s standing military were attending to duties around the city before trouble even had a chance to get out of bed.

The whole scene put his mind at ease, which was a welcome state to be in considering he hadn’t had a real moment’s peace in quite a long time. There was almost too much backlogged hardship, enough for a lifetime or two. It had all started back when…

Stop it. Just leave the past where it belongs…

Having relinquished much of his status and position in Konohagakure, Kaito was nothing more than a simple ninja, following orders wherever they may send him. He hadn’t the heart to even be stationed in the village proper anymore, and spent months away on surveillance or other intel gathering. In truth, much of his faith had been upturned and even his noble lineage was something of a sore reminder to him.

But now it felt like almost the entirety of Konohagakure was present in the City of Kings. There were a few familiar faces in the crowd as they arrived with the Hokage at the head of the battalion. All those dark grey vests and hitai-ate made him feel a little homesick, but it was the sight of a choice few that had caused him to retreat from the festivities. A gathering this large could only mean that something momentous was afoot, and Kaito certainly had no interest in making any splashy entrances or exits anytime soon.

During all this time, then, Kaito did his best to avoid those from the village. Not that it was particularly difficult; the city was pretty massive, after all. And since he wasn’t scheduled to return for another few weeks, he didn’t feel a particular need to make anyone aware of his being in there in the first place. He was just going to lay low and let the summit conclude without incident, and he would be well on his way back to Konoha by then anyways.

His brow heavy with sweat, he stood atop a building overlooking much of the city. In this particular district, there was heavy noise from the passing of the underground trains that conducted much of the traffic here. Looking out and seeing the bustle of a place that was not his home made him, again, feel a little nostalgic, but he admired the view for what it was. More importantly, he was nothing special to anyone in that moment; he wasn’t ANBU, he wasn’t a Hyuuga, and he wasn’t even himself.

If anything, he was remarkably unremarkable: just the way he liked it.

Will of Fire
06-04-2015, 06:04 PM
"I hope you don't intend to avoid all of your countrymen," Kiyoko quietly said as she stepped out onto the rooftop where she'd spotted her cousin. Rarely did she harbor any concern for 'startling' a member of her clan. It was part of the benefit of their shared blood, after all; they were generally aware of what and who lurked nearby.

The teen offered a deep bow to the young man she'd greatly admired growing up. He'd always been strong and noble, serving as a shining example of what the village and the clan expected of its shinobi. There weren't many years separating the two, but he'd been able to accomplish much in his career, for better or worse.

"I trust you're well," she said as she straightened, giving Kaito a discerning look. It certainly seemed as though he'd changed, but that was hardly surprising, given what he'd reportedly been through. She couldn't have claimed to have remained the same girl he'd known months and months ago, either. "As well as can be expected, anyway."

"I was hoping to get away from the chaos of the summit and the city for a little while. I couldn't help but notice that you'd found a perfect little place up here. Mind if I join you?"

It was good to see her cousin, though she didn't intend on pressing him for information or making him chat. She did want to give him the opportunity to reconnect with a familiar face, if he chose to do so, however. He'd been wandering beyond Fire Country for a long time, and his return trips home had a tendency to be brief indeed. There was nothing on her agenda after seeing him out beyond being able to verify that he was, in fact, still alive and reasonably well. The other Hyuuga back home would certainly appreciate even a brief update.

Hyuuga Kaito
06-06-2015, 04:44 AM
"Not all," Kaito replied in regards to who he was avoiding, "Just most."

Turning to meet eyes much like his own, it had been close to a year since he had been in contact with Kiyoko; and yet nothing about her presence made him uneasy. The same could not be said, however, of any conversation with his father or other elder members of the Hyuuga clan. Terse and mostly impolite, it was well-within their range to disavow any person whom they deemed unworthy of their nobility. In this case, both Kaito and his mother seemed to fit this description, which explained much of his own aversion towards the village at this time.

Kiyoko, as mentioned, proved to be a little less judgmental. Or, if not less so, than at least less obviously. Kaito himself was well-versed in both the attitude and the facade one assumes when in a position of privilege, and yet he had learned from a young age that adhering to it posed its own set of challenges. He wondered if Kiyoko felt the same, but put the subject past any other immediate thoughts as he continued.

"I wouldn't mind the company, no. So long as you don't mind if we don't ask too many questions about why I'm here."

Normally, Kaito wouldn't be so defensive. But due to the nature of his own mission, as well as his general introversion, he just wasn't in a place to talk about himself. Likewise, he wasn't quite sure Kiyoko was the type to pry, especially since she was already exceptionally perceptive. But perhaps he just needed to stop thinking so much, and at least attempt normal conversation for once.

A small garden was centered on the rooftop, with flat, sedimentary slates used to mark a path around the grass and flowers. It was simple, yet beautiful, and served as a small sanctuary in this bustling city. In carefully selected areas of the garden were log stumps that acted as pseudo-benches. Most mornings (and evenings) spent on the rooftop included balancing on one of these and meditating for long hours. And though he was in the middle of preparing to calm his mind and his heart for another session, Kiyoko's arrival changed things. Taking a seat on one of the logs, he asked,

"So tell me how you've been, Kiyoko. Why the need to escape the chaos?

Will of Fire
06-07-2015, 09:12 AM
"As you wish," the kunoichi responded with a slow nod of her head. She was, admittedly, very curious about what had befallen her kinsman in the months he'd been away, but understood that this was probably not the best time to ask. Perhaps she would never know. Technically, it was none of her business, but that hardly satiated an inquisitive mind.

Of course, Kiyoko acquiescing to her cousin's preferences meant that if they were going to talk, it was going to revolve mostly around her. That didn't hold much appeal, either. Still, it was obviously better than being overstimulated by foolish people plaguing the city at the moment. The teen felt comfortable enough to stop the conversation straying too far in to the realm of things she was not ready to discuss.

She cleared her throat, preparing to, shockingly, talk about herself. It was something she generally avoided whenever possible, but with a cousin who had separated himself by distance and time, it seemed somehow appropriate. "I've been busy. There's been plenty of fighting and travel, but that all comes as part of the work, right? I'm here as a bodyguard of the Hokage now, but I've grown rather weary of having to watch so many people at every waking moment. I felt the need to get away. I require quiet time or else I get... cranky."

Kiyoko found her way to one of the makeshift benches and took a seat. Despite the fact that she was perched atop what was essentially a hunk of discarded wood, she still managed to carry herself with that same ingrained grace that her clan demanded.

"So, I suppose I've just been seeing a bit more of the world, learning a lot, and-," the kunoichi paused, not sure how she wanted to word her thought, or if she wanted to say it at all. "Finding my path."

Hyuuga Kaito
06-09-2015, 06:46 PM
Despite their common ancestry, Kaito and Kiyoko came from very different walks of life. The dignity and poise she made look so effortless was not something they both grew up valuing. To put it in mild terms, Kiyoko’s parentage was a bit more traditional than Kaito’s. His mother, after all, was nothing but a common woman; talented, but not particularly special. Even that Kaito’s eyes were not completely cloudy white like Kiyoko’s set them in different camps, and it was a little obvious in the way they were now interacting with one another.

In truth, the two Hyuuga were not very close. And although he was older, he hadn’t spent much of his youth mentoring those younger than him or even spending much time with his cousins to begin with. This was perhaps part of the reason why this conversation felt slightly strained, that it felt like it had terms of engagement rather than being natural and comfortable. But as he contemplated this, Kiyoko spoke rather candidly. A short laugh even escaped his lips as she mentioned the stresses of her duties here in Sennou no Shi.

But as he looked at her, the sun crowed over the mountainous ridges of the city and illuminated his view for a brief moment. He was lost in it momentarily, but remembered that someone was talking to him.

"Mornings really are quite something in this city, aren't they?" he asked, somewhat absently, before he continued, ”But anyways, I think the hardest part about finding our path is that we may not always know when we’ve found it. Or maybe, it may also be acknowledging that we may not find one.”

Will of Fire
06-09-2015, 08:51 PM
"Hmm," the younger Hyuuga responded, turning her pale gaze to the horizon. In all honesty, she'd paid so much attention to her duty and the people swarming the City of Kings that she'd largely ignored the sights, if that made any sense. It was a case of being unable to see the forest for the trees, as it were.

She considered her cousin's words, pondering them in silence for a long moment. Here he was, remaining abroad for extended periods of time, largely beyond the influence of the clan or the village. While he, to her keen eyes, appeared troubled by some aspects of the situation, there was a small pang of envy in the back of the kunoichi's mind. Kiyoko often felt as though the weight of responsibility was nearly ready to crush her, and she'd assumed that Kaito had endured something similar despite their many other differences.

"I think it's important to have the freedom to try," the teen said even before she'd been able to stop the words tumbling from her lips. Whether she stayed the path set out for her from infancy, found a new one, or reserved herself to understand that no path would work for her, Kiyoko was tantalized by the prospect of choosing for herself.

The kunoichi took a deep breath, settling her stomach after inadvertently hinting at her innermost concerns to a fellow Hyuuga of all people. "There's little harm in being curious to see where life might take you naturally, as far as I'm concerned. If we were meant to live the privileged life, embroiled in politics and posturing on behalf of the village, then we'll end up there regardless. Then again, perhaps there's some other purpose out there."

It was clear that Kiyoko spoke of her clan and the expectations placed upon her and, likely, many of her kinsmen. This was perhaps not the best time or place for such idealist thought, but the peace, quiet, and beauty of the quaint rooftop garden in the breaking sunlight inspired intrigue.

Hyuuga Kaito
06-11-2015, 04:09 PM
The issues of choice, freedom and destiny were not lost on Kaito. As a shinobi of Konohagakure, these were ideals instilled at him from a very young age. Indeed, the ideology of his village was so far steeped in these three tenets that he was having a hard time separating them or finding other values worth comparing them to. Even at her (somewhat) young age, though, Kiyoko displayed a subtle understanding of these values, and how she worked within their frameworks.

It was something reminiscent of his own recent journey. Some might call it exile, and for the most part Kaito would not disagree, but for the most part he liked to refer to his time as ANBU as something of a revelation. Although he had never been so naive as to view his chosen lifestyle as cut from simple shades of black and white, he hadn’t been prepared for when the two had been switched. When everything he had known had been thrown into stark contrast, and his own role in it all suddenly became bleak and unconvincing, it certainly did not make his eventual homecoming seem very pleasant.

But that’s all in the past now, isn’t it…?

It was unfortunate that this dialogue with his cousin was becoming such a painful reminder of those few months he spent on the run, but it did so all the same. His expression did nothing to betray his inner tumult, but he was still struggling.

Although he wouldn’t be surprised if Kiyoko was perceptive enough to peel past the veneer anyways.

”Well I hope you’re not confusing ‘curiosity’ for the lesser of two evils. Not that I’m judging. Just providing another perspective.”

He didn’t want it to seem as if he was pushing an agenda one way or another, but this was fairly representative of how Kaito worked through his own problems. In an effort to add levity to his pointed statement, he continued,

”But you’re right. There’s got to be more to all this,” he gestured to the their secluded rooftop, ”Than a life of privilege. I suppose it’s one of the benefits of having been born into it, though. Ironic, isn’t it?”

Will of Fire
06-11-2015, 09:41 PM
"While I certainly acknowledge the fact that I'm still learning, I assure you that I'm no fool." Kiyoko had always chosen her battles carefully. It could have been considered a familial trait, as a Hyuuga was generally aware of the fights that could be won or were even worth the effort. They applied the precise amount of pressure needed to meet their goals. No more, no less. The teen intended to make it clear that she was still considering all angles of the challenges she faced, and wouldn't act rashly.

Her gaze drifted to her cousin's form, silently wondering why he seemed so... disenchanted? Distant? Demoralized? The kunoichi couldn't quite put a finger on the right description for the feeling she sensed when she looked upon Kaito. Certainly something was bothering him, though it could have been any of a myriad of issues, including being pestered by an unwelcome younger relative.

"Have you had much interaction with foreign shinobi?" Kiyoko asked, deeming it best to change the subject before her kinsman had the chance to get too upset. "It's easy to forget that not all villages operate the way ours does, I suppose."

She'd already met many shinobi from across the map since arriving in the City of Kings. The teen could only assume that the same could be said of Kaito, depending on how long he'd been in the area. Then again, he could have encountered them in the field wherever he'd wandered in the past many months. It seemed to be happening more and more lately, though it hadn't always turned out to be a terrible, detrimental thing as she had often been led to believe in her youth. Truthfully, she found it fascinating, and she couldn't help but inquire as to her cousin's thoughts on the subject, if he had any opinions at all.

Hyuuga Kaito
06-12-2015, 04:45 PM
”Actually, I haven’t met much anyone else besides a shopkeeper here or there. It’s hard not drawing attention when you have eyes like these, after all.”

His lips lifted into the curves of a handsome smile as he spoke, not one to let a lighthearted moment slip past him if he could help it. Such was how Kaito preferred to live his life these days: concentrating on the here and now. It was very easy for him to slip into the despondency of his isolation, but as it was self-imposed it was also relatively easy for him to focus in on what was more important. His missions aside (which were as vague as they were pointless), he found the most comfort in simply admiring the views. It was such a refreshing change of pace compared to having to use his expert vision for glory of the chain of command.

”When I first got here I was met with such stares. I felt like more of an outsider than I probably would have anywhere else. But the thing about this city is that they forget easily, because they have just so many other things they have to worry about it. They live their lives at a pace I definitely don’t envy, but it’s not without its perks.”

Kaito stood and stretched, his shirt still slightly damp from his morning exertions. Being more aware of his present surroundings left him in a sort of odd position: in the one hand, he tried not to dwell too much on his past or even on future prospects, but in the other he still liked to keep a relatively stable schedule. For instance, he was supposed to having breakfast right around this time. Kaito wasn’t used to setting a table for two, but current company dictated he at least make an effort.

”Care to join me for breakfast? The loft I’ve got has a really sorry kitchenette, but if you’re not busy I’d love to whip something up for you.”

Taking steps towards the rooftop’s utility stairwell, Kaito waved his cousin over to follow him. A few stories later and they were located in the quaint loft he had come to call his abode this past month or so. It was sparsely decorated, but it was in good order. Kaito had learned long ago that the state of your room and board reflected on the state of your mind. And although he wasn’t always in agreement with clan creeds and traditions, this was perhaps the one he was most ingratiated in.

Welcoming his cousin to a high wooden table that barely sat two people comfortably, he dragged over a stool with his foot, insisting that she have a seat while he set off to his mini-fridge to scrounge for breakfast. Producing a few eggs in a bowl with some chives and a bright-red tomato, he placed them on the table in front of her while he set off to light his wood-burning stove. The kettle still on from the previous evening, he poured a little more water into it and set that aside as well.

”I hope it’s not too cozy for you?” he remarked, setting to cracking his eggs and whisking them diligently.

Will of Fire
06-15-2015, 10:07 AM
The teen nodded in understanding of Kaito's plight when it came to being stared at by strangers. She could never be sure if it was simply the strange look of their eyes, the way the Hyuuga tended to carry themselves, or something else entirely that compelled others to gawk. Most of the time, Kiyoko elected to actively ignore unwanted attention. It was just less trouble for everyone that way. Fortunately, her cousin was correct and she'd noticed it as well. No sooner had the locals seen you than they had forgotten altogether.

"Well, it sounds as though you've found a good place to rest for a while." Kiyoko didn't believe that her kinsman was really resting in the City of Kings, as she was sure he had work or training to do, but she could recognize it for what it was. He needed some time and space away from his clan or his village... perhaps both.

The kunoichi offered a small bow of her head in acceptance of Kaito's invitation, and followed him to his residence in this foreign place. Kiyoko couldn't help but gaze upon his abode with appreciation. It reminded her very much of home, Somehow it gave her comfort to see that he didn't live in a manner completely detached from his family.

"No, no. It's very nice," she said as her pale eyes meandered around the space. In truth, if she ever found herself in a similar situation, she could see herself settling in a small, comfortable space like this. In a way, she was a bit envious.

"Will you be staying here long, then?" It was, perhaps, a question that pried a little further into Kaito's business than he'd wanted, but she was genuinely curious to know if he planned to return to Konoha for any notable period of time. "Honestly, of all the places that I've traveled, I wouldn't mind staying in this city for longer periods of time if the need arose."

Hyuuga Kaito
06-21-2015, 05:35 AM
Turning the egg whites softly in his pan, he watched the sizzle closely and paid closer attention to the smell. As remarked upon since the dawn of time, cooking was as therapeutic a venture as there ever was. In his mind, as Kaito tilted his wrist and dipped his fingers into a bowl of salt, even the simple act of seasoning was a conscious way of preparing one’s taste buds for the upcoming meal. Everything about cooking (or even watching cooking) was a tried and tested method of enhancing one’s pallet, of making the food all the richer in taste or texture.

And yet so much about cooking was about structure. Freshness, weight, and complimentary flavors: all these and more. While an individual meal had the opportunity to exceed the sum of its parts, it still very largely depended on them. Even when made from the heart, something as simple as eggs-over-easy could be overdone, burnt, or wore. It was in this in particular that Kaito took the most pleasure in his culinary pursuits (if you could even call them that). He had a deep appreciation for the process itself, and with that came respect.

Sliding the eggs carefully one by one on flat metal disks, he sliced some day-old bread and quickly tossed those into the pan with some butter. Chopping the chives thinly, he sprinkled those on top of the eggs, and finished by slicing the tomato into quarters before giving them a few seconds on the pan after clearing the toast.

Moving their plates onto the high table, he nodded politely and insisted that Kiyoko begin without him. Returning with glasses of orange juice, he had been listening quietly to her remarks about his humble abode, considering how he might address the fact that he would not mind if he called it home for the rest of his life.

“I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be staying, to be honest,” he began, taking a seat just next to her, “I’m still trying to figure things out… just like you, I guess.”

It was almost more than he was willing to say, but something about sharing this small space with his cousin suddenly made him feel less vulnerable. Everything from the fresh scent of their breakfast right down to the clear day shining through his window made him feel lighter somehow, even less evasive.

“I’m due back home in the next week or so, though. From there, who knows? Maybe I’ll be able to come back here and carry out the rest of my life in relative solitude, away from… everything.”

Will of Fire
06-23-2015, 01:30 PM
There was some fascination to be had in the way Kaito seemed to concentrate and revel in the simple act of cooking. It was a skill or diversion that Kiyoko herself had overlooked, quite honestly. Being brought up as she was, there was little emphasis placed on the more traditional arts of home-keeping. It wasn't the first time she'd ever witnessed anyone take pleasure in preparing a meal, but when she had, it involved people that she respected very deeply. Kiyoko found it intriguing. She might just have to learn to cook!

There was a glimmer of amusement in the teen's pale gaze at the thought. Next, she'd be teaching herself to mend clothing and garden. The ongoing challenge of changing her perspective on life in general made such mental images difficult to conjure. It was no longer "completely ludicrous"... perhaps only "quite ridiculous" now.

The kunoichi bowed her head graciously. "It will be good for you to return, even if only for a little while. Now that everything is rebuilt, you might be surprised if not lost." The smell of the freshly prepared breakfast reminded Kiyoko of how suddenly and surprisingly hungry she was.

"I imagine that you're mother would be pleased to see you at home for a bit, if nothing else," the teen commented as she began digging into the simple but delectable meal placed before her. "She's been rather integral in the recovery. I'd hate to think of where we'd be without her. Without them all." The thought of the centurions having never returned stirred dark images in the teen's mind. She wasn't so sure that there would have been much of a village to speak of now.

Kiyoko sighed quietly. "It's been a bumpy road, but I think it can only get better from here."

Hyuuga Kaito
06-24-2015, 03:25 PM
The idea of emphasizing the difference in their age had not been on Kaito’s mind as he and Kiyoko had sat down to their meal. It had never been an issue before, though especially so because their walks of life had been quite different growing up. Kaito had always been, at the very least, considered in the elite of his clan despite also being subject of its purist scrutiny. Meanwhile, Kiyoko had been born unto those who had drawn such ire onto their kinsmen. It was only natural that the two were not exactly close, or that their perspectives were different by several degrees.

Yet here the young Hyuuga found it difficult to take comfort in his cousin’s kind words. He was even beginning to think it naïve of her to presume this much about his relationship with his mother. Suffice it to say that, despite what it seemed on the surface, there was much tension between them at the moment, and doubly so considering all he and the rest of his team had had to endure during their exile. The world was such a wide and terrifyingly unknown place when all you’ve ever lived for was the glory of your respective village. And during those months, whose phantom itch remained with him long after his “return” to the village, the things they had to do to survive…

Some things you just can’t afford to forget.

But this wasn’t the time nor place, and Kaito began to think more reasonably about Kiyoko’s statements. It was easy, after all, to presume that she didn’t know what she was talking about because of the gap in their age. What Kaito had not taken into account, however, was that maybe she was genuinely optimistic about the future of Konoha and that the sacrifices it had taken to build the village up to this point was worth it. He had once been starry-eyed, and so he empathized with her slightly.

”That’s the funny thing about roads, though. It all depends on who builds them.”

He smiled, but it was mostly empty. All this talk about paths and roads were really starting to put things into perspective and he sorely wished they weren’t.

Will of Fire
06-24-2015, 07:27 PM
Kiyoko looked at her cousin curiously. He seemed so detached from everything now. His phrasing was so cryptic and distant that it appeared he was coming at her from an entirely different world. Within the depths of her being, however, she could understand such a sentiment. It arose within her from time to time, too, though perhaps for slightly differing reasons.

The kunoichi found it strange that she could feel so segregated and distinct from a family member, having essentially spent the entirety of their lives apart, but at the same time come away from their individual situations with what she guessed was a similar note of discord. The timely return of the ANBU and centurions, for example, was a very different experience for her than it was for him, but it clearly left a mark. She, in the aftermath, wanted to distance herself from the chaos. It was the exact reason she found her cousin's hideaway so appealing.

The realization that they may have had that connection made the rumored ice crack just a little.

"May I share a little phrase that's helped me through all of this and keep things in perspective? When the village was spiraling out of control, when our enemies had the upper hand, each time there's been a squabble within the clan that has reached my ears, when I'm reminded of the expectations that I may not agree with but am to meet regardless, and when I've found a path that works for me..." The teen took a sip of orange juice, incredulous that she was even sharing this much.

"For now." She paused, folding her hands in her lap for a moment before continuing. "For now. It will change. Everything changes, for better or worse, and I choose to prepare myself for it. I won't be complacent or unaware. I can survive, endure. For now."

Hyuuga Kaito
06-30-2015, 05:54 PM
Kaito relieved his cousin of her plate and loaded it into his meager sink. Otherwise empty and dry, he let the water run over his hands and onto the dishes below, the grating sound of the faucet filling the space around him.

It was unusual for the Hyuuga to be so despondent. He had spent most of his life aspiring to great things, and worked very hard to achieve the rank and privilege he was afforded. When it had been taken away, it had been as if that thin veil of ignorance had been lifted from before his eyes. And it wasn’t necessarily that he had lost so much, but rather the way in which he had lost it all that caused him such existential woes.

Even now, as Kiyoko found herself stationed in Sennou no Shi to guard the new Hokage, Kaito had the nagging feeling that it was nothing more than a front. There was some secret agenda at the heart of it, whether on Konoha’s part or anyone else. The whispers he had heard from distant lands had prepared him for such an occasion, but none of it was dire enough to alert the Hokage at this time. It would be for his mother, the Centurion who gave him this charge, to attend to anyways.

But as he turned to sit with his cousin, hopefully in anticipation of hearing her talk about basically anything else, she suddenly became much more serene. What she was saying was profound for her age (which really shouldn’t have surprised him), and Kaito felt ashamed for having doubted her in the first place. Why should he have to hide from these emotions? Why should he continue to burden himself what his life has been, rather than what it could be? Why pretend?

Kiyoko was telling him that he didn’t have to.

”I suppose you’re right, Kiyoko. Thank you for sharing that with me.”

His reply was simple and modest, but true. Kaito wouldn’t sully her short visit with anything like tears, but he was genuinely touched by her words. It would take him a little longer yet to fully accept them, but he knew deep down that she was right.

Will of Fire
07-03-2015, 10:31 AM
It was absolutely possible that Kaito was simply thanking her in an effort to get her to stop talking, but something in the way he moved, the tone of his voice, and the thoughtful glint in his eyes suggested that he'd heard it. He may not have agreed, but he'd listened to the words. It wasn't a popular viewpoint in her village or clan, and she was aware. Just revealing that much of herself had the potential to cause problems down the road, but she'd opted to do it anyway, just in case it might help him recover. Blind loyalty seemed to be preferred over anything else, and that simply wasn't something that Kiyoko possessed.

She was not blind by any definition, but she was loyal. For now.

The very thought was so scandalous and dangerous, the kunoichi had held it very close to her chest until this moment. She could see a similar struggle in her cousin, even if they'd arrived here in very different ways. She could only assume that the situation was much more devastating for Kaito than it was for her, as he was older and had held a much more notable position within the village than she had.

"I want you to know," Kiyoko began, cutting into the silence again whether it was wanted or not. "I'd always viewed you as something of a paragon of the family. The expectations made of me were somehow attainable because you'd already done it all and survived. It was possible. You were someone to strive to be."

Her eyes strayed around the room and out the window for a moment as she considered her youth, the ideals she was raised under, and the devastation that had occurred in the last year or two. "That hasn't changed."