Age : 27
Posts : 1836
|Subject: A Relaxing Night [Training] Tue 25 Feb 2014, 5:33 am|| |
Training | Special Characteristic | Physical | [Tier II] Enhanced Acrobatics
A scooped handful of water splashed against Masquerade’s face, the cold liquid stinging against the charred, rough skin. A soft, animalistic hiss emanated from behind the hands covering his face, a combined sigh of content and a groan of pain. Veiny hands, with their bony, spidery fingers, were lowered slowly from the hideous visage of the Nukenin. Water droplets trickled down the black-brown face as he gazed down at the face reflected in the swaying, watery surface. Large, green eyes of a lifeless demeanor stared back up at him, embedded in a hairless, skin-covered skull of a face. Slowly, a pair of eyelids closed over the eyes in the act of blinking; the disfigured shinobi then simply shifted his attention away from the reflection and back to his task at hand. A deep exhalation preceded the procedure of removing his upper layer of clothing. The coat, mask, and gloves had already been taken off, and lay orderly in a nearby pile, to which was added a neatly folded hooded shirt, along with a pair of black, leather boots.
Clad only in his trousers, the male stepped forward into the pool of water. The sound that came from his mouth was some kind of primal growl and whimper, courtesy of the wave of the discomfort that was transmitted up his spine when the cold water came in contact with the plethora of scarred, burnt skin coating the skeletal, lithe body. Submerged up to his Adam’s apple, Masquerade reclined back against the bank of the water body, face lifting up to momentarily survey the blue-black sky speckled with innumerable, white sparkles. Focus returned earthwards as the mild stinging continued, eliciting a grimace on the male’s face. A hand emerged from the depths of the water, fingers splayed widely as it was rotated about its wrist; slowly, the fingers were swayed back and forth in a rhythmic, almost eerie manner. Unblinking, insect eyes remained fixed on the hand, the connected mind’s contemplation evident despite the lack of readable expression in the optics. Though bug eyes did not seem to move an inch, it was evident that Masquerade was keenly following the motion of his hand, from the contraction of every muscle, to the contorting of every bulging vein.
It was his hand, but it was different from how it had been just a few months ago. Ever since that incident with the Chuunin Kumoi Juudai and the explosive tags, the Jinchuuriki’s body had been subjected to many an aesthetic change. Prime amongst them was the profusion of scars and burns, but along with that, his body had seen an overall decrease in… matter. He had lost weight that he seemed unable to gain once more, resulting in a thinner, more emaciated frame. Coupled with the significantly lesser amount of meat actually visible on his now very prominent bones, Masquerade certainly looked less physical fit as a shinobi than one might expect – less than he had been prior to his accident. But the change was only on the outside: he was just as capable physically as he had been before. He was no less fit for his duties as a shinobi than he had been before his incapacitation. One could say that he was physically stronger than his body might suggest. Much like an insect.
Suddenly, the water’s surface rippled and shifted.
Masquerade’s eyes snapped away from his extremity and to a new shape that had arisen from the water. Something large and humanoid had surfaced a few feet before him. Confusion and surprise barely had time to register when the human shape emitted an aggressive shriek, and lunged right at Masquerade – as in, literally pounced at him like a predatory cat. Masquerade responded by sliding his back further down the bank of the pond, thereby plunging his head underwater and pulling himself out of the attacker’s trajectory. Said attacker sailed over the spot where Masquerade’s head had been and well beyond, landing several feet from the pond’s edge. Meanwhile, the submerged Nukenin pressed his hands against the rock beneath and propelled himself into the air; he ripped out from the calm surface of the water with a loud displacement of liquid, somersaulting backwards through the air to land at the pond’s edge, crouched and dripping a puddle next to his pile of clothing. A cold breeze bit into his soaked skin, and a mild shiver coursed up his body before he twisted his upper torso around to glance back over his shoulder.
There was no confusion or surprise. Only disbelief.
It was a human being. But it was not a regular human. It was a corpse. A corpse that looked just like one of those from the Town of The Dead. Charred, blackened skin, bulging, lifeless eyes, and a gaping, gawking mouth. Were it not for the few strands of singed, wiry hair and the human eyes, the corpse’s face would have been just as grotesque and disfigured as Masquerade’s. It was unclear who was the uglier of the two, but it did not matter. What did matter was that the corpse was rising to its feet, posture hunched and arms hanging limply as it turned to face the living one. Masquerade, too, stood up and faced it, still eyeing the entity unbelievingly. The befuddlement warped into a grimace as the corpse gave a gurgling, high-pitched bellow and charged at Masquerade with mouth agape. The shinobi slowly and calmly brought his hands together to put them through a set of handseals; his left arm was then extended forward to aim the palm at the rushing figure.
Nothing happened. Masquerade blinked, caught off-guard as his gaze slid from the approaching corpse and to his outstretched palm. There was supposed to have been a jet of acid that erupted from his palm to strike the corpse, but no such phenomenon had occurred. This momentary shift in concentration proved a mistake: unbeknownst to Masquerade, his adversary was upon him, with its burnt, decayed hand clasping firmly around the other’s bony wrist. The moment skin contact was made, a searing pain shot up the male’s arm. Masquerade hissed loudly at the burning sensation, trying to yank his arm free of the corpse’s hold; a fruitless endeavor. The grip proved too strong, and the pain too startling. Before Masquerade could do anything further, the screeching creature twisted his arm, breaking the wrist. The Nukenin growled audibly as the bone was snapped, but more was to come. The corpse tightened its hold to make it more secure, before pulling at the arm and tossing the Nukenin into the air behind him.
The airborne Masquerade spotted the tree he was headed for, and twisting his body in mid-air, gave himself the rotational motion needed to have his feet strike the trunk first. Bare feet absorbed the force exerted by the tree trunk on the human’s body, and then pushed back against it to allow him to backflip onto the ground. He then glanced back at the corpse, who still stood by the pond. Ignoring the smarting pain in his wrist, Masquerade considered what his next course of action ought to be. His hand was crippled, which meant handseals were impossible; and even if he could use jutsu, he somehow could not use the techniques that had proved most effective in dealing with this kind of enemy. For some reason, he could not use his Santon attacks. That was the primary issue here: not the fact that he was facing off against a walking corpse, but the fact that he was suddenly, inexplicably, unable to use a skill that he’d been able to use for so long without complication.
Another hostile screech signaled the mad rush the corpse broke into the next second. Masquerade did not pause to think – he cartwheeled out of the way, using his free hand to continue his rotational maneuver. The corpse smashed into the tree trunk in a rather comical manner, missing its target completely; what was not comical was how it arched its spine completely backwards so that it executed something like a failed backflip, landing on its front and then lunging at Masquerade in the same animal-like manner as before. Arching his own spine backwards, Masquerade bent back low enough to avoid having the corpse slam into his upper torso. As the creature shot past him, the shinobi planted his uninjured hand on the ground, using it to stabilize himself as he twirled around to face the direction in which his opponent was now. The corpse, down on all fours, peered back at its target from under its limbs, empty eyes rolling unfocusedly in their sockets. It came round for another charge at Masquerade, who leaped into the air and onto an overheard branch his opponent even neared him.
The corpse stumbled to a halt below the shinobi, a gargling unintelligibly at him. The unmasked Masquerade snarled distastefully at the creature, before flitting onto another branch, and then another. His adversary followed on foot, apparently able to match the considerably rapid pace at which the shinobi had decided to travel. Masquerade clicked his tongue in dissatisfaction, and his frown would intensify as each aerial maneuver he used to lose his pursuer failed. His speed was not cutting it, and neither was his agility. With nothing but his trousers on his person, he did not have any tools to use on his opponent, and he could not resort to the most sensible plan of using his jutsu. For the moment, he would have to keep moving and maintain his distance from his tail. Just like he had had to in that Town. At least now, there was only one of them he had to worry about, and not an entire town-sized horde.
A black blur appeared in his peripherals, and something smashed into the side of Masquerade’s face; whatever it was, it latched onto the side of his skull and carried him along with its inertial motion. He was knocked off his branch and down to earth, falling through a mesh of thorny branches that ripped through his exposed skin. Emergence from the lacerating trap was followed by a collision with the base of a tree. White spots erupted in front of his vision as his head impacted against the sturdy obstruction, dazing him momentarily. Through the stupor and the pounding in his head, he could feel the stinging of from the numerous pricks and cuts etched across his body.
Heat. Smoke. Burning.
Masquerade blinked, looking up from the dirt at the tree right by him. He jerked in surprise and rose to his feet, watching how a line of orange flames suddenly began to envelope the dark bark. He took a step back from the inexplicably combusting tree, confused more than frightened. In the span of one blink, the entire tree was alight in flames… and so was every other tree around him. Startled, Masquerade’s head whipped around as he witnessed the fiery destruction. The air was suffocating, hot, and dry; the dark forest was now illuminated by the hungry inferno.
A loud groaning wrenched the air as the trees succumbed to structural weakness, and began to tumble to the ground in all their flaming glory. The shinobi leaped back as a branch dropped where he had been standing, but he did not have time to stop. More flaming debris came his way, forcing him to remain mobile. He dashed around the dropping and dropped sections of burning vegetation, using whatever form of movement that his body allowed to avoid being burned or crushed. Slide, duck, roll, tumble, handspring; it was the like watching the most intense game of Olympic gymnastics ever. Certainly worth a perfect score. The shinobi’s agility proved a great asset in allowing him to remain untouched by the flames – at least not directly: the heat and fumes from the burning material was still a major nuisance. Additionally, the forest fire did not seem to have any end. No matter where or how far Masquerade ran, he was always surrounded by the destructive, unyielding tongues of fire.
Which was why it was only inevitable when the Nukenin registered a searing pain on his body. With a yelp of pain, Masquerade tripped and fell to the ground, frantically attempting to douse the flames on his right arm. However, his efforts were in vain, and like a starved, sentient being, the flames grew. They spread up his arm, coating his entire body, setting him alight like a matchstick. Masquerade’s howling echoed through the woods, and he clutched his face in agony. It was just like when those tags had exploded; it hurt just as much. He was going through that anguish again. The anguish that he had put him through…
Despite the pain wracking his body, the sound of footfalls reached his ears, and registered in his mind. All of a sudden, the pain seemed to subside significantly; enough for Masquerade to lower his hand from his eyes, and notice that he was alive, albeit still on fire. The next thing he noticed was the man standing at his head, looking down smugly at the Nukenin, with a black mace resting on his shoulder. Momentary shock was transformed into distaste as Masquerade recognized the man. The black hair and the tanned skin, and the gray markings around those red eyes; he wasn’t about to forget that face just yet.
Snarling, Masquerade’s mouth opened, and in a venomous tone, he whispered two words:
Juudai grinned, and then smashed the mace in his hand down onto Masquerade’s face.
The Nukenin’s vision went dark.
The next second, it returned to the sight of an early morning sky.
Masquerade sighed, sitting up straighter against the tree he was reclining against. He raised a gloved hand to the smile carved on his mask, and held it over the curve as he yawned heavily and loudly. Exhaling deeply, Masquerade stretched and calmly rose to his feet, rubbing the back of his hooded head as he began to walk through the forest.
He hadn’t slept that well in a while. Quite reassuring.
Word Count: 2357/1200
~ Topic Concluded ~