Today was the day.
As Takashi left the world of dreams behind, that was her most immediate and frantic thought. Today is the day.
Her heart raced and her pulse quickened and her breathing intensified and then she couldn't contain her excitement any longer and she was wide awake and some unholy cross between a giggle and a scream had left her throat and her lips before she had even realised that she'd spoken. Today was the day that she graduated, and became something more than she was now. She walked further along the path that she'd set for herself, following gradually behind Kinuko and catching up to her and being one day closer to seeing her again.
Then, she took a deep breath in. She gathered up all of that excitement that was roiling around inside of her and balled it up and with a slow, purposeful motion exhaled and let it all out of her body. Each breath in to gather that energy, and each breath out to remove that which could not be focused and disciplined. It took her a good five minutes of breathing exercises before she was ready to even consider what she actually had to do in order to prepare for the day ahead of her. She went through her usual morning routine with a vim and vigour so rare among the Yuganori clan's household that many of her female relatives made a point of asking if she was really that
excited to become a Genin--to which she responded with an exuberant "Yes!" each time--and continued about her business of getting ready. For most of her classmates, she imagined that presentability was at the forefront of their minds. It was a special occasion, so they had to look special--full formal ninja garb for the first time in any meaningful capacity without so much as an errant hair on their head. They dressed this way not so much to convince the academy or their sensei or their parents or even the Amekage that they were fit to take this step on their journey, but to convince themselves. To will their perceptions of their shinobihood into reality by finding the right garb, the right actions, the right words--and taking that rightness for themselves. The graduation ceremony was as much an assignment as any other day in the academy, but it was one that took place entirely in the mind.
When Takashi had gotten herself ready, she held her scarf Omoiyari in her hands and pressed it close to her chest. She had debated before today whether or not she should wear it to the ceremony, flitting back and forth between yes and no, and in truth she still wasn't certain whether or not it would be appropriate to wear it. Not in an official sense, but for her to claim her own sense of purpose--for her to draw her perception into reality. Kinuko had been the one that had set her heart and mind on being a shinobi in the first place, and this scarf was the physical manifestation of that commitment. It was her path forward, in a metaphorical and literal sense, but the doubt that weighed most heavily on her mind was whether or not it was holding her back from achieving her potential. Kinuko had always told her to live in the present without regretting the past or anticipating the future if she wanted to be happy, and she felt like she was still too stupid to understand exactly what that meant. She had never really felt like she could apply it to herself at a moment's notice like her sister had always been able to.
If she was to become a shinobi today, she would simply have to make the choice and live with its consequences. She wrapped the silk around her neck, adjusted it so that the large overflow on either side draped itself around her body in a helix for convenience's sake, and waited patiently in her bedroom for two hours and forty-six minutes until it was time for breakfast. Breakfast was, as usual, a dull affair. Rice with furikake, a bowl of miso soup, and as a little bit of a luxury a grilled fillet of salmon--she enjoyed the meal with as much focus as she could manage between the fussing and grooming of her mother and the other various women of the clan, and the silent resentment of the clan's elders - each reminded of a person they would rather have forgotten, and each not bothering to even thinly veil their contempt of the eerily similar situation. Takashi paid them no mind as they all ate, but took some time to discuss the upcoming events with her mother. Kaori had only ever offered Takashi the utmost support and love, so it came as no surprise that she offered her most sincere well-wishes and beamed with joy as the prospect of attending the graduation. Her father, Yuuto, gave her a firm handshake and told her to represent the Yuganori well and return to them as a more fully realised asset.
The actual affair of graduating proceeded exactly as Takashi and her classmates had been taught that it would, and Takashi listened to Yogensha's speech intently. Their cohort was the first to have its individual groups selected by the Amekage rather than by the jōnin who traditionally chose their own teams. As she listened, it made Takashi think of how this was
more of a beginning than an end, as Yogensha had stated, and she had to fight the urge to get lost in her thoughts in order to maintain focus. Takashi was surprised at the Amekage--even in their own village, little had actually gotten around about her, and being addressed by her personally felt like stealing a secret glimpse into an enigma that had been hidden from everyone. The more Takashi listened and observed, the more she thought it was a good thing that Yogensha had hidden her presence from the world. There was something so compelling
about her--the quiet confidence with which she spoke, the grace and authority with which she moved. Even to one as uninitiated in the wider aspects of combat and the potential scale of ninjutsu, Takashi was utterly awed by what she imagined the Amekage capable of. She was reminded, in some ways, of her departed sister - and that mental connection served to plant the seeds for further admiration and respect in Takashi's mind.
When the rain began to fall, and the graduates instructed to don their headbands for the first time, Takashi wrapped hers around her scarf--causing the symbol to show just above her solarplexus--and looked back up at Yogensha. “the Rain weeps for you and the suffering you are to receive and cause.”
Takashi heard the words echoing in the back of her mind as they were granted a momentary reprieve from the ceremony. Others around her chatted to one another, basking in the glory of their accomplishment, but Takashi's mind was sobered by the words. Suffering was integral to a shinobi--for every sacrifice required suffering by virtue of its nature--but there was no reason that the sacrifice could not be made sweet. Takashi resolved in that moment to use her burden as a way to focus herself, to focus not on the hardship ahead of her but on what that hardship preserved and protected. She lifted her head up to the rain and let the droplets of water run down her face, her smile broadening as she exulted in the feeling of her dedication. Was this how Kinuko had felt, when she had graduated? Was this how the others were feeling? Did they look past the fleeting moment of the now and into the uncertain future, as she was? Did they consider the gravity of what had just happened, of what they were
now?'No,''and neither should I.'
As the male shinobi's voice abruptly ended her reverie, Yogensha assigned to them their teams. Takashi did not even try to hide her giddy excitement at the fact that her name was spoken first--despite knowing that it was simply coincidence--and listened intently for the names of her new teammates. Furaribi Akane and Shiru Metsumi were spoken just after hers, and she impressed those names into her memory. There would be time to become acquainted with them later, however, as Takashi's next focus was on the gleaming smile of her mother from beneath the shelter. Takashi bounded over to her and wrapped her arms tightly around her midsection in a quickly returned embrace. It was an intimate moment of bonding, free from the judgements of the other Yuganori, and it was rare. The pure, unconditional affection that she received from her mother gave her her first tangible reason to bear the Rain's hardships, her first real consideration as a shinobi of the Rain, and she only hoped that that resolve would be just as warm and strong within her in the years to come as it was now.
Takashi had spent the better part of the week of free time she'd had weaving with her father, helping to fulfil commissions and practicing her technique for the upcoming meeting she'd be having with her sensei and her team. Yuuto had congratulated her sparingly upon her return, choosing to acknowledge her graduation as a sign that she was ready for more responsibility whenever she was at home and not on a mission. Takashi happily accepted all of the work that he gave her, both wanting to please him and wanting to improve her technique, and was taught new and interesting weaving techniques for her troubles. On the sixth day, in the evening just before she retired to bed, Takashi received the message from her sensei asking her to be present at the "Kazami Clan Entrance" in the morning. Takashi recognised the name--vaguely, at least--and spent the better part of an hour wracking her brains trying to work out where she'd heard the name before. Now that she was a shinobi proper she didn't want to just ask someone else, wanted to work out this enigma for herself, but as she paced the halls of the Yuganori clan compound muttering the name "Kazami, Kazami..."
beneath her breath, one of the Elders shot her a disparaging glance and asked: "Kazami? Are you working on the order for the theatre?"
The moment of epiphany hit Takashi like a metaphorical truck--of course! She'd seen the name and the symbol when she'd gone over the clan's ledgers with Yuuto. She couldn't believe that she hadn't recognized the name earlier - though a modest clan by even Amagakure's standards, the Kazami had long been customers of the Yuganori for the various outfits they required for theatrical performances. Many of the articles they provided were only loaned, as the Kazami would not be able to afford the Yuganori's frankly extortionate prices for the entire outfits they produced, and as it was so easy for the Yuganori to repurpose any garment they created into any other garment, the outfits usually ended up being comprised of the various scraps and cutoffs of their more elegant and refined pieces. Of course, even with this practice in place the quality of their goods was so high compared to any other potential vendors (none of which had even remotely been competition in the past decade) and their ability to manipulate fabric was so proficient that fashioning the remnants of better materials into bolts of high quality cloth was something they did regularly. She immediately went to the clan's ledgers and looked up the relevant information for the Kazami clan's compound, taking a moment to recognise her sensei's name and her measurements.
Somewhat on a whim, Takashi decided that she would make a kimono for Miyako. She knew that the performers at the theatre typically performed elaborate dances, and that the weight of a kimono--especially the type that the Kazami could afford--was significant. It would be a labour in and of itself to get used to the weight of such a garment--Takashi knew from experience that it was a great strain over time--and that was the reason that she preferred to wear a men's kimono. She took the cloth she needed, infused it with the requisite Wind-natured chakra necessary to render it virtually weightless, and stayed up for a few extra hours putting the finishing touches to the garment. While she was by no means a master weaver by the Yuganori clan's standards, Takashi was more accomplished than any mundane weaver could ever hope to be and the creation of what was, by all means, an exquisite kimono was fairly standard fare for her. She slept knowing that she would have a gift that her new sensei would appreciate, and knowing precisely
where to find her.
Over the course of the week, her family had bothered her less and less at breakfast time. Now that she was a shinobi proper she was afforded a degree of respect she simply hadn't as a student, and she ate her breakfast in relative peace for the first time she could remember. The usual breakfast of rice with furikake, miso soup, and a salmon fillet was on the menu - but her sensei had sent her an umeboshi (which she generally did not eat with her breakfast due to having miso soup) and requested that it be eaten, and so Takashi partook. It was a different kind of saltiness that tasted good, in small bites, with her rice and salmon. She ended up drinking very little of the miso soup, but found herself more satisfied with the change than she thought she would be. After the meal she made sure to box up the kimono she'd made, slip it into a backpack, and leave the clan compound bright and early for her meeting with Miyako.
Takashi wandered to the entrance, vaguely recognising one of the other two ninja as a distant relation (a second cousin, perhaps?) and not recognising the one he was walking with at all. They didn't get a chance to be properly (or even improperly) acquainted before they were ushered in to witness a performance. The theatre wasn't exactly somewhere Takashi had ever been, personally, but as the show started she felt a certain sense of homeliness from the outfits the performers wore alone. She recognised them individually, having assisted in some regard with all of them, and found herself focusing less on the symbolism of the play and more on it as an aesthetic device regarding the outfits. If nothing else, it was certainly a beautiful display--and Miyako herself was particularly resplendent. She was possessed of a fluidity and a grace that even a lot of shinobi could not boast, and she gave off an easy confidence that Takashi took a shine to. Even if the nuances of the performance were lost on her, she watched with rapt attention and fascination in her eyes.
Then it was over, and she was escorted alongside Akane and Metsumi to a small lounge where they proceeded to have a few moments to actually
introduce themselves to one another. Metsumi gave her a formal and cheerful (if a little disingenuous, in Takashi's mind--she knew precisely
her clan's reputation and relationship with the Shiru clan) greeting, to which she responded in earnest:"I hope so too, Metsumi-chan!"
Takashi started, opting for a less formal honorific than Metsumi. They didn't know each other at all at that point, but given the earnest desire they both seemed to have to get along, it seemed appropriate to remove any unnecessary formality."I'm so glad you enjoy the products we make! I know that we're certainly... urbane,"
she repeated in her closest approximation of Metsumi's tone, "but I'm confident in their quality! If I can help you with anything at all, please, let me know."
Akane didn't greet her, so Takashi didn't greet him either. From what she remembered of him (or more accurately his clan) they tended to be firebrands in the most literal sense possible, so she was certain that he'd do something to initiate a conversation around sooner or later. Until then, she was happy to take a seat and reminisce about the earlier performance. When Miyako arrived, Takashi immediately stood and gave her a quick but respectful bow before resuming her seat. As Miyako surveyed her three students and spoke to them, Takashi listened to what she had to say with a look of intense focus. She nodded along gently with every word, eyes bright with understanding, until Miyako had finished. She blushed a little at the compliment paid to her clan (and indirectly to her, she supposed), though the same look of understanding darkened her otherwise bright features as her clan was mentioned. It was exactly the same look she had given Metsumi with her earlier compliment, and though it was largely hidden behind a bashful smile this time it would not take a great deal of acumen and insight to recognise Takashi's simultaneous pride and resentment towards her clan--particularly when complimenting them was concerned.
She took a breath in as if to begin speaking, but was interrupted by the door opening and a few of the other Kazami bringing in plates of food. As each dish was set down Takashi offered a gleaming smile, a nod, and a quiet murmur of thanks. Takashi waited until everyone else had taken a portion of the available food for themselves before taking a steaming pile of rice and a few ladlefuls of thick broth and mixing them together in a bowl. While everything looked and smelled wonderful, Takashi had eaten salmon earlier in the day and did not feel like doing so again, and decided that leaving the meat for Akane seemed to be the wisest option given his apparent voracity. As Metsumi began offering insights about herself, Takashi took a cup and the steaming pot of tea, and nodded to Miyako first to see if she wanted any, then did the same with Akane and Metsumi respectively. After pouring tea where appropriate, she picked up her own cup and took a tentative sip before lifting the bowl of food in front of her to her mouth and spooning the gloopy mixture of broth and rice into her mouth with her chopsticks, barely taking the time to chew the homogenous mixture before shovelling more in with her chopsticks.
When it came to her turn to divulge information about herself, Takashi put the bowl down and took a sip of tea to cleanse her palate and throat before speaking up."Well, Miyako-sensei, I'm Takashi of the Yuganori clan! I'm sure I don't need to touch on my clan and their reputation with you. I enjoy learning about anything and everything, really, and of course I'm interested in weaving... I'm not sure how much I can really tell you about myself, sensei, when it's going to be easier to just show you as we get to know each other! I don't think you can really simplify a person down to a collection of hobbies and desires and expect to know them, you know? I want to improve my mastery of my clan's kekkei genkai and learn the secrets of the silken scrolls that have been lost to us for hundreds of years, and just... Generally improve as a shinobi? I'm not sure I've experienced enough to really tell you what I want to focus on specifically right now! I guess I just want to follow in my sister's footsteps."
Takashi beamed as her turn came around, her thoughts flowing out in a steady rise until she realised she'd talked too much and tapering down."Oh, and I made something for you, Miyako-sensei!"
Takashi exclaimed as the memory of her gift camr crashing to the forefront of her mind. She took the package out of her backpack and handed it to Miyako, taking the lid off as she did so to reveal a sheer black kimono not unlike the one she was currently wearing. The tailoring was, compared to an ordinary garment, stunning--but it fell short of the majesty of traditional Yuganori clan garb. Still, it was perfectly proportioned and clearly made with a great deal of care - which, in this situation, counted for more than quality on its own."I know how heavy the full kimono are, so I infused this one with fūton for you! It weighs basically nothing, so you should find it easier to dance in it when you next get the opportunity!"
Takashi smiled bashfully, hoping that she'd appreciate it for its practicality if not its craftsmanship.
Regarding the mission, Takashi read the scroll and shrugged. It didn't seem like there were really any questions that she needed to ask--it seemed simple enough.