Age : 27
Posts : 1836
|Subject: See No Evil, Hear No Evil... And That's It [Training] Fri 27 Mar 2015, 6:51 am|| |
Training | Special Characteristic | Skill | Black Ops Stealth
At his core, Masquerade was a coward. Or at least, someone who valued his safety before all others’. Avoiding injury, death, or anything else that he saw as detrimental or perilous was paramount to him. Endeavors that had a high probability of harm - whether physical, mental, or otherwise - were generally treated with a great degree of analysis - analysis that helped determine if the pros outweighed the cons. And in his eyes, the chance of injury was an indisputable con. A grown man he may be, but Masquerade was not a fan of any kind of pain; he preferred to avoid such discomforts, as well as situations that could result in them. Did it make him a wimp? Possibly. Did it make him a coward? Most definitely.
But, why was this worth mentioning? Well, the Nukenin’s aversion to pain was one of the prime motivations in his endeavors to… step lightly. For many years (almost a decade, in fact), Masquerade had strived to maintain a level of invisibility. Stealth was an essential part of his life. A necessity, one might say. A criminal such as he was in constant danger of assault and/or capture; to evade his potential hunters - to prevent detection from them - a proficiency in stealth was vital. By learning to hide himself better, the Nukenin could increase his chances of survival. And his survival was an aspect of his existence that he prioritized in preserving.
To ensure this, he had to continue improving his skills. Currently, his stealth was noteworthy, but it was not satisfactory. He needed to be quieter, more light-footed. Like the fly on the wall, he had to remain unnoticed until he wished otherwise. Not just to the untrained civilian, but to all he came across; such as, shinobi of exceptional caliber, and in particular, those mysterious, masked hunters that were tasked with apprehending his kind. The menacing Black Ops Shinobi, whose mastery of stealth evoked an uncharacteristic wave of envy in Masquerade. And an equivalently untypical desire for improvement.
In the depths of a forest, surrounded on all sides by dwarfing trees, stood Masquerade. The masked Nukenin’s arms were folded behind his back in his habitual pose; the hooded head was turning slowly from side to side every now and then, but only far enough to expand his field of vision by a few degrees. His surroundings were still and quiet, save for the sounds made by the various woodland creatures. The day was approaching its end: the Sun was due to set in a little over an hour, and a soothing, orange glow was already beginning to bathe the environment around him. The shadows crept closer and closer to the Nukenin, the darkness deepening as the minutes ticked by. Masquerade did not move from his spot, remaining stationary whilst observing, as if he was waiting for someone. Or keeping an eye out for someone.
A sudden twitch of his head, and the shinobi had spun around to face… himself. A few feet from him, crouched and frozen in midstride, was a mirror image of Masquerade. A Bunshin. Except, this was not a Bunshin. The first Masquerade was the Kage Bunshin; the second was the original. The clone raised a gloved hand with the index up, and wagged said digit at the other Masquerade. The latter rose up to his feet at the same time, the face with the smiling mask aimed at the Kage Bunshin.
“Ah ah ah,” remarked the doppelganger. “Detected, my friend.”
The original sighed heavily, his obscured expression clearly one of frustration. “What gave me away?”
“I sensed a speck of chakra - miniscule in magnitude, but not enough to go unnoticed.”
“Tsk. Of course.”
Raising his own hand, the real Masquerade rubbed his index against the side of his mask, as if he was massaging his temple. The futility of such an action seemed to be lost on him, though; as was the peculiarity of it. But this was not the time to dwell on his odd quirks. After a few seconds, the original sighed yet again, at which point he and the Bunshin both whistled loudly in unison. The high-pitched call seemed to reverberate through the air and between the trees. The call was soon answered, for less than a minute later of waiting, two figures dropped out of the treetops from opposite directions. As one, they stood up to reveal themselves to be copies as well. The two, newly-arrived Kage Bunshin stepped closer to the third copy and the original.
“Again?!” one of the newcomers hissed exasperatedly, throwing his arms into the air as he approached the other Masquerades. “We failed again? How many times has it been so far?”
None of the Masquerades answered the grumbling Bunshin, as they were all equally annoyed. For the past few months, Masquerade had been undergoing this training in the hopes of achieving further mastery of his stealth. The process was rather straightforward: Kage Bunshin were generated and told to spread themselves out over a considerable distance. The original would then attempt to sneak up on each copy, and silently dispel them through injury. The obvious condition was to do so without being caught. The Bunshin were constantly scanning their surroundings, keeping an eye - along with other body parts - out for the “hunter”. This meant that the Nukenin had to be silent and cautious as he approached his Bunshin, lest their diligent senses detect him before he could incapacitate them. Since the Kage Bunshin also possessed his chakra-sensing capabilities, the need to suppress his chakra was just as paramount. If there was one person who would know what signs to look out for when he was sneaking up on his target, it ought to be Masquerade himself. Hence why he thought it was a good idea to use himself as a test subject. Through this training regime, Masquerade hoped to further eliminate all traces of his presence as he moved. All he needed to do was take down every Bunshin without being noticed.
There was always a “but”, though…
The training thus far had been tedious, and frankly, not very satisfying. As the lamenting Bunshin’s words implied, the Nukenin had been at this for a long time, and he had been failing more often than succeeding. After several tries, he had managed to reduce all sounds, along with other physical telltales, that could be relied upon to detect his approach. However, suppressing his chakra had proved to be a difficult task. He was not sure if it was because his chakra reserves were so vast, or if he (and by extension, his Bunshin) were so proficient at sensing chakra, or if it was for some other reason entirely. All he knew was that it was a pain in the posterior for him to conceal his chakra. Luckily, there had been some progression as of late. Following copious attempts and failures, the Nukenin had learned how to reduce the apparent magnitude of his chakra to a minute amount. But, there was still a need for further improvement. As the first Kage Bunshin had said, Masquerade’s chakra was not undetectable just yet.
“It would appear that we have reached a stumbling block,” the first Bunshin noted thoughtfully. He held a hand out to his side, palm facing upwards. “Perhaps we should attempt a new approach?”
A snort issued from the original, causing all eyes to focus on him. “What new approach? This is the only routine we can follow. We have no other strategy to rely on to accomplish this goal.” Masquerade folded his arms across his chest, growling in an animal-like manner. “And it is not as if we can simply ask someone with a mastery in stealth to instruct us.”
“Hmph. Indeed. Such a person would probably be trying to kill us anyway.”
The third Bunshin, the one that had greeted the others with his complaining, clapped his hands together and looked at his copies. “Well, then. If I’m done talking to myself - shall we try once more? Who’s up for Round One-Twenty-Seven?”
No verbal response was given, as none was needed. All four broke off into abrupt runs, simultaneously heading in opposite directions to vanish into the darkening woods. Once out of sight, the four Masquerades got into position. None of them knew where the other was, but that would change once the trial began proper. The Bunshin would not be suppressing their chakra, thus allowing the original Masquerade to pinpoint their locations, and hunt them down. However, since they would be on the lookout for him and his chakra signature, he would have to make sure they did not notice his presence at all. Extreme care had to be taken here; every step had to be watched, and every action had be planned out before the previous three were even performed. Such was the thought process that he had been going through for the last 127 tries (it was actually 153, but who was counting?). Hopefully, he would not have to go through it again.
While crouched on a tree branch, Masquerade had his eyes closed behind his mask, his hands having adopted the seal of concentration; he had assumed the position so as to focus, and mentally prepare himself for the arduous task ahead. His breathing was slow and measured, his body still, his thoughts centered on one thing. Complete silence on the physical level was no issue; it was metaphysical silence that he was aiming for. That was all that impeded him from mastering this most essential skill. This integral part of his life.
Green, insect eyes opened behind the unclosing, green lenses of his mask. Without so much as a ruffle of clothing or the creaking of stressed wood, he leapt off the branch and began his search. His senses had already determined the location of all the Bunshin, and he was currently headed for the nearest. He flitted through the trees, leaping from one branch to another; silently, acrobatically, and gingerly. His whole being was focused on getting to his target as swiftly, quietly, and invisibly as possible. And most importantly, his mind was centered on the task of keeping his chakra at an imperceptible level.
The first target stood on a branch, hands in his trouser pockets, masked face sweeping the area around him vigilantly. For now, the Bunshin could not sense any signs of the original. Just like the other clones, it had no knowledge of the real Masquerade’s position. In fact, this Bunshin was not even aware that it had been chosen as the first target.
It found out soon enough.
An arm wrapped around the Bunshin’s chest and arms without warning; before it could react, another arm came into view from its right, and mercilessly jabbed a kunai into its throat. The Bunshin did not cry out, having no time to do so as it vanished from existence. Behind where it once stood was the real Masquerade, but he was there only briefly. As suddenly as the Bunshin had been dispelled, the original disappeared from sight as well. He had retreated into the cover of the trees’ shadow, moving as quickly as he could without sound. Once ample distance had been put between himself and the location of the eliminated Bunshin, the crouching Masquerade looked down at the kunai in his hand. The smiling mask tilted to the side in apparent amusement.
Well. That was promising, he thought to himself. And… inspiring. This was literally the first Bunshin he had taken down since the clones had been permitted to sense chakra. In other words, this was first time Masquerade had actually succeeded in over a hundred attempts. “Inspiring” was a very fitting description, indeed. Reinvigorated with a sense of determination, the masked shinobi returned the weapon to its place of storage, and resumed his noiseless advancement through the trees.
The second Bunshin was not far; therefore, it did not take long to reach its position. This one was situated on the forest floor, in a clearing. This was not where the Bunshin had been initially positioned, though. The clones had been instructed that, should they learn that one of them had been incapacitated, they should immediately shift to a new location. This was merely to make the task more challenging for Masquerade (as if it had not been so already). When a Bunshin was killed, the transmittance of its memories to the original and the remaining clones would obviously mean that it had fallen; not to mention, there would be one less chakra signature to be detected.
And speaking of detection: as with the first, the second target did not appear to notice Masquerade’s approach either. In fact, the original was able to remain perched and hidden in a tree over the Kage Bunshin’s head for a full minute. During this time, he was pondering how to dispel the clone. In the end, he came up with a simple solution: a senbon was simply thrown at the Bunshin’s feet. The needle reflected the sunlight, drawing the Bunshin’s gaze in that direction; and thus, away from Masquerade as he dropped down from above to kick the clone in the back of the skull, and send it face-first into the dirt. A kunai was then rammed brutally into the same spot on its head, removing the second clone from the equation.
Two down; one to go, Masquerade noted mentally, straightening up to his full height. He was actually feeling quite confident in himself - not something he tended to do often. Grinning to himself, he began to focus on determining the location of his last target.
A sudden yelp of pain escaped his lips as something cold and sharp cut through his back. Surprise, more than anything else, caused him to lose his balance and topple forward onto the exact spot where his clone had dispersed. Hissing angrily, Masquerade lifted himself off the soil into a kneeling position, and whipped his gaze around to glare at his assailant. His anger diminished slightly, replaced with confusion as he spotted the third and final Kage Bunshin standing before him. Said Bunshin was lazily twirling a bloodied kunai in his hand, the smiling mask directed at the crouched original. Its body language conveyed the content it felt, and the smirk that was surely dominating its hidden face.
“So,” the Bunshin began slowly and smugly, ”would this be counted as a victory, or a failure?”
It took the original Masquerade a moment to comprehend what the Bunshin meant. Once he understood, a chuckle issued from him as he stood up from the ground. This Kage Bunshin had sneaked up on Masquerade - while he was trying to sense its chakra. In other words, the Bunshin had succeeded in suppressing its chakra signature to a level where the original could not sense it. That, surely enough, could be seen as “a victory”. Masquerade himself had just managed to dispel two Bunshin undetected, which was just as excellent a result. Even if Masquerade had not been able to take out the third clone, the latter had made up for it, by succeeding where the former had failed.
“I would say “both”,” Masquerade answered with an unseen smirk of his own. Stepping forward, he raised his hand and “high-fived” the Kage Bunshin, which was its cue to disperse. As its memories flooded into his mind, Masquerade learned how the last Bunshin had found him. The final clone had decided to head to the second Kage Bunshin’s location, with the idea that Masquerade would go after that one because it was closer to the where the first had been dispelled. Upon arriving at its destination, the third Bunshin had seen Masquerade take out the second copy. It had been a simple task for the Bunshin to sneak up on its unaware target.
Masquerade chuckled to himself as he “relived” the Kage Bunshin’s memories. His masked face then looked down at his gloved, spidery hands, the long, bony fingers of which were splayed out.
“Practice will make perfect,” he drawled. “But for now: this is sufficient.”
Word Count: 2694/1600
~ Topic Concluded ~