One Day Previous
"Sir, I'm fit for duty." "That wasn't the issue, Jestre. Take a break."
"Sir-""Take a break, Gouka!"
Gouka visibly flinched back at the mention of his name. No one used his real name anymore. No one was left that really knew it, knew him. Crow, his captain, had risen from his desk at the last word before catching himself, audibly sighing as he sat back down, pulling a ream of paperwork towards him. "Your dedication and willingness, nor your ability to serve, are not in question, Jestre. This is my personal advisement; Take. A. Break."
He raised his hand, cutting Gouka off as he tried to protest again. "Rest assured, you will be back in the line of duty soon enough. Suffice to say, you've just returned from a very high profile mission, and we have something else in mind for you. But until that lines up, you are on leave; we want you at your best."
Gouka frowned sourly behind his mask, but he grudgingly raised his fist to his chest in salute. "Sir."
With a nod from Crow, he turned, leaving. Alone in his office, Crow shook his head. "Dammit Mongoose, you always did have a soft spot for him..."
He sighed, pushing aside the unread document before him. "He'll make a fine captain, but damned if this place isn't going to kill him if he can't find something to look forward to other than his next mission."
It still chafed the KYOBU, being sent on "forced leave" like this... But, orders were orders. Besides which, whatever was coming up, had to be something big. So to that end, he'd follow his orders precisely. No training and straining, just... Relaxing. As relaxed as a man could be when he had no hobbies outside of "training," and no recreational skills outside of "kill, butcher, maim." Owning but three books and little else, he'd stared at his own wall for an hour before deciding he'd go insane if he didn't find something to do; even if all he did was find somewhere outside his apartment to sit and stare for hours until sundown.
Moving more by muscle memory than conscious will, he'd wandered around the village for a bit, no doubt frightening a fair portion of the populace with his masked visage (KYOBU, as a general rule, tended to conceal themselves around civilians to avoid precisely such reactions). Carefully avoiding the general vicinities of his father's old shop, and the former Ningen residence, his feet had eventually carried him out of the village; it didn't take much paperwork for a KYOBU to get out the gates. In a trip that would have taken a civilian the better part of a day, but only mere hours for a trained shinobi, he'd eventually "come to" as it were, here... The Great Geyser.
He wandered the general area, giving the actual bathhouse portion a wide berth; he wasn't terribly interested in a hot bath here. Being declothed so made him tense and nervous; he all but slept in his mission gear. Moving through the pools, and giving the geysers wide berth, his mind idly drifted back. He could remember himself, still more child than man, using the springs for training. It had been a... Terrible idea, to say the least. It had been months
before he could tolerate anything more than a lukewarm shower; even boiling water for meals and drinks became a chore.
He glanced around. Something seemed... Oddly familiar, about the area. Moreso than just having trained and relaxed here before, so long ago. Downslope from the main area, a few small streams trickled along the hill, pooling into a single, large pool near an outcropping of boulders. A cool breeze blew through, sweeping away most of the steam. Something about it tickled a faint, faint memory in his mind.
"Takeshi Gouka! Where the fuck have you been?! It's been -years!-"'Ah.'
Comprehension clicked as the memory sprung forth, his hands tightening into balled fists. What seemed like another life time ago, he'd first re-met with his childhood friend, Hanzoku Kirima, in this very spot. Fought her, even. Lost himself in the sorrow and misery of the events that'd cost him his sister, and nearly killed her. He scuffed his boot along the ground. Not a sign of trace of the fight remained, but then, mere genin couldn't really alter the landscape with a mere scuffle. It'd been after that meeting that'd they'd met up again more properly, catching up over a couple bowls of ramen.
He shook his head, shaking off the wistful memories. That had been... What, five, six years ago? Another life time, as far as he was concerned. Another person entirely, as far as the connections went. Whatever closure they had gained over those bowls of ramen, they'd lost it again almost immediately; an ill-fated mission to recover the remains of his father had left him comatose, and by the time he'd awoken, an ill-fated mission after a rogue nin had lead Kirima along a circumspect path to their last, final meeting; a terrified, amnesiac woman who could only remember enough to damn her as a traitor in the eyes of the village, and a cold, hard KYOBU, who had for the first time in his life, forsaken his duty, and let her walk away.
It still hurt; still felt like a knife to the gut. In the end, she remembered less than nothing of him; hadn't wanted
to remember any of him. He'd left no more impact on her life than their genin scuffle had left on this battlefield, than he'd left on anything else in his life; just a passing shadow, remembered by no one. Unchanging. Ceaseless. In the quivering moment before his hands started flashing through the seals, Gouka recognized what he was feeling, the first genuine emotion he'd felt in a long time; raw, impotent, helpless rage."Raiton: Denji Satsujin!"
Bursting from his hands, the massive, powerful bolt of lightning tore a burrowing path along the stone ground, sending a spray of dust and grit into the air before impacting into the outcrop of boulders. It tore into them, splitting and sundering the entire lot, spitting more rock shards and dust into the air. But the Jounin KYOBU was far from done, already launching into another flurry of seals before the dust had even begun to settle. "Suiton: Ja no Kuchi!"
Erupting from the relatively shallow pool, the large water serpent arced up into the air, maw opening wide as it came back down, crashing into and pulverizing the boulders even more. Hot, steamy water sprayed everywhere, splashing all over the place, soaking Gouka thoroughly from head to toe and bludgeoning down the rising dust cloud. By the end, he stood there, quivering helplessly; the temper tantrum, for lack of a more fitting word, had done nothing for him. All he'd accomplished was to utterly destroy the outcropping of boulders, leaving the pool half-drained and himself entirely soaked in hot spring water.
He fell down to his hands and knees, masking clattering down off his face with a splash, panting harshly as he stared into the blank, white porcelain visage. 'Is this all I am? Just a fucking pathetic wreck who can't even tolerate comprehending how little he means, how little effect he has on the world beyond his job? Just some child playing at KYOBU, waiting for it all to end?'
The mask, if it had any answers to his unspoken questions, remained silent.