[Some amount of time ago that maintains continuity]
The warrior-monks of the world were renowned in their own sort of way. With nearby communities, they were heralded as protectors and heroes—saviours of the mortal bodies and immortal souls of all those they graced with their presence—and were treated with the same reverence with which other men might treat their gods. In truth, Kyōsuke knew, they were no better than shinobi. He had thought the warrior-monks of Daikōmyō-ji worse, traitors, when they had turned to those under his and Konohagakure's command with promises of support against their homeland. They had given over what he had imagined were secrets of Kumogakure's plans for movement. They had given over what he now knew were lies. Never had he given them his trust, but he would grace them with his wroth for trying to abuse the respite that he had granted them.
Mount Zaō was too kind a mistress to the two-time-traitors. Even if they deluded themselves with the notion that they were protecting their country with their duplicity, they had still involved themselves with what must have been a wilful sacrifice of the lives of their countrymen to no true end. The most sickening part of the facade, considering the matter retrospectively, was that none of the teams that Kyōsuke and his team had ambushed seemed to be aware that their lives were being used as a ploy. Perhaps he'd consider the tactic in a different light had it been successful. Nonetheless, they had doomed themselves with each step they had taken, for and against Kaminari no Kuni, and they would meet with his fury whether or not the entire Jade Dragon saw fit to send squall after squall of biting wind and frigid snow screaming down on top of him. Perhaps the mountain didn't favour them, but reviled him instead. Kyōsuke sneered at the notion of a spiteful mountain.
He and he alone had come to deal justice to the turncoats, as had to be done. Having informed his shinobi or those of Hi no Kuni would have both been too slow a process and would have required him to divulge their betrayal at best in a place where they could hear him doing so, and at worst in front of them. Having left suddenly with little explanation even to his own men gave him the best odds he could expect, and even then he did not presume that he would catch them unawares.
he decided, "the blizzard is for the best, then."
The darkening of the day's light he was less certain about. He had dared only keep an open flame to the treeline, necessary though it might not have been, but had only done so because he had forgone the trodden path altogether. Thankfully, Mount Zaō was sloped such that, from any given point at its base, it would not be outlandishly difficult to climb all the way to its summit without coming within a direct line-of-sight with the monastery. Its slopes were, on occasion, so steeped that it would not be a far-fetched thought to have that the mountain belonged in Unraikyō rather than the Jade Dragon. Of course, Mount Zaō's edges were far more jagged than the rock columns of the coastal valley, and many times taller.
As treacherous as the combination of steep slopes and the break of twilight could have been for a novice, especially when thrown under the cover of a snowstorm, Kyōsuke found himself most preoccupied with management for the possibility of being noticed or followed, despite knowing the event's improbability. Taking every precaution available to him, he made certain to coat his hands and feet were coated in sufficient chakra to allow him to just barely impress upon the surface of the snow. In the whiteout, the indentations he left vanished in seconds behind him, though he suspected that at this altitude on the mountainside any footprints that one might leave would be likely to disappear quickly whether or not it was snowing, given the intensity of the wind. This sort of assurance made him much more comfortable in his use of Koharubiyori rather than thick layers of clothing. Though he didn't expect to find any shinobi among the monks, he knew it to be entirely possible, and had designed the route of his approach with that in mind.
Given that the mountain, barring Daikōmyō-ji itself, was both uninhabited and isolated, there existed no perfected maps as to the topography or layout of the area. From the image that Kyōsuke had constructed piecemeal from the various reports that his and Konohagakure's team had delivered to him over the course of several years while in the area, he had been able to determine that an approach from the monastery's north, while requiring him to scale a cliff face, would allow him to approach unseen and from outside of the range of the vast majority of even specialist sensory-type shinobi.
Cresting the final ridge on his trek took him back to the task at hand, as a biting flurry caught him by the chest, staggering him. The experience was quite unique; feeling the cold lick across him for the first time during the ascent found him a little off-guard, but his radiating heat shielded him from the brunt of the chill. A shiver went down his spine before the gust passed, allowing him to find his footing once again. Looking out over the cirque whose edge he had just mounted, he was able to catch the faintest glimmer of torchlight scattered into the undulating waves of snow in the air. In another moment, the light was gone, hidden by a curtain of white. Kyōsuke began moving again.
When he reached the base of the valley's headwall, he put his hand to the stone and began to haul himself upwards. In order to properly approach undetected, his chakra would have to remain suppressed until he had actually vaulted the monastery's walls. The cold would have to seep back into his bones, and the ascent would have to be done entirely by hand. The sensation of touching something truly cold once more was strange. After his second shove up from the ground, the last wisps of steam were snatched away from around his chest and shoulders, sent trailing into the grey. The colour of his surroundings had solidified now into a true grey rather than the white that it had been, and he knew that within the next half hour it would turn a deep brown-orange for but a handful of minutes. After that, within the blizzard and away from the monastery and its path, the world would turn pitch black.
The cliff's height, though advantageous for a discrete approach, meant that Kyōsuke, who for all the merits he knew himself to have would never consider himself the strongest or most resilient person, would have to scale the roughened surface as quickly as he could manage in order to avoid frostbite. Though the process would likely be precarious, and certainly felt as such, Kyōsuke knew himself to have low odds of injuring himself in the climb; knowing that, were he to slip or to move too slowly, growing too cold, he could instantly rectify the problem set him well enough at ease. The only downside to his ability to prevent himself from falling or succumbing to the frost was that it would no doubt alert a sensory-type to his presence.
Hand over hand, he continued up the rock.
Frigid and stiff, when he felt the smooth surface of carved stone, Kyōsuke let out a soft sigh of relief at the arduous portion of his task having been completed without major incident. Letting his chakra flow freely, the crystals of ice that met his body began to heat and boil away from him. Closing his eyes, he allowed his mind to open to the environment around him, attempting to feel first for the presence of the nearest person. Noting that none appeared to be patrolling the wall, likely due to the nonexistent visibility of a sky cloaked by snowstorm, he set foot flat to the stone of the wall and let his shoulders roll back as his next foot followed. Walking perpendicular on the wall, so much more natural than climbing by hand to Kyōsuke, felt like taking the first breath of fresh air in hours, though he knew that the climb had not quite taken him half as long as a single one.
Turning over the parapet and stepping down onto the roofed walkway along the wall, Kyōsuke took a moment to ensure that none of the signatures of others about the monastery were nearing him before kneeling to the ground. As he did so, he weaved a short set of seals with his right hand as his left braced to greet the ground. Without a sound, the mark of summoning spread across it, leaking out a shadow as viscous as oil that took the shape of a man.
Katsuyori rarely spoke to Kyōsuke. He did not do so when Kyōsuke motioned to be followed, as he turned to walk along the wall. Though the kitsune had been called upon for service in Kaminari no Kuni before, never had Kyōsuke asked him to follow him into battle in weather as bad as the blizzard they used to mask themselves as they stalked into the monastery. Though only just barely, Kyōsuke was able to hear the spirit draw his blade over the wind.
Though the walkway was lit, the world continued to darken as the greys of the world began to tint with orange and brown. The greatest affect that the flames of the lanterns had was to cast confusing beams of bright red-orange light and shadow onto the rolling waves of snow in the air that passed them. One shadow from among those sent scattered into the unknown cast over an smooth-looking but uneven surface to Kyōsuke's left. He took it to be a rock, and stepped off of the stone of the walkway to confirm a suspicion as to the rock's presence.
The pair moved through the karesansui slowly. Unlike the hisashi-styled walkways along the wall and those proper hisashi that branched off from it that no doubt led directly to the other buildings of the monastery, the garden was uncovered. From Kyōsuke's experience with other monasteries, he suspected that passing straight across the garden would take him directly to where he needed to be, so he did not hesitate to step across the snow-covered gravel to its opposite side. If Daikōmyō-ji were anything like what he expected it to be, the hōjō, where the head priest would be at this time of night, would be directly overlooking the garden. The calm, cold flame of chakra that he could feel across from them would be the oshō. If it was, he was alone.
Stepping up the stairs layered in snow, out from the karesansui, the pair passed under the cover of a building's eaves once more. Visibility returned to some sense of semblance, giving the two of them clear sight of the building's simple structure and style. The walls were shuttered with amado, rendering the building opaque to the naked eye. To their right, the shutters that covered a door were made distinct. The steam wreathing Kyōsuke from the snow striking his body calmed to a steady shimmer of heat. Kyōsuke took this to mean that the building was warm. With Katsuyori over at his side, he moved to the door. Behind it, and perhaps through a room or two, the calm flame waited.
When Kyōsuke slid aside the shutters, he waited to see if the man would react to the sound or if it were muffled by the constant drone of the wind. When he didn't make to move, Kyōsuke slid open the shōji and moved into the room. Empty, tatami-floored, and unadorned, the inside of the room he entered could easily be mistaken for a thousand others. After taking a couple of steps in, he waited again for the man to move. When he did not, Kyōsuke motioned for Katsuyori to follow. If the dimensions of the room that sat before them were identical to the one they were in, then the oshō were seated at its centre.
Exchanging a glance with the spirit before he approached the thin washi door that separated them from their quarry, Kyōsuke motioned for the kitsune to enter the room first. Katsuyori moved to the door's edge, ōdachi raised in a poise to strike. In a single breath, the door had been thrust to one side and Katsuyori had crossed the room to the seated monk, slashing downwards and across his body.
Perhaps the oshō was so lost in meditation that his sense of the world around him had fled. Perhaps he had found enlightenment and left worldly things behind. Perhaps he had simply heard them arrive and had already accepted his fate. In any case, the slice of the sword had cut across his back, cleaving clear through his shoulder and through his spine. When the tip of the blade flicked out from his body just above his hip, blood shot across the floor in a fine spray. The sound of the monk's slump across the floor was satisfying to Kyōsuke.
"A fitting end for a traitor."
"Don't make a mess of the other ones. I want it to look clean,"
he commanded, joining Katsuyori behind the man. Kneeling, he grabbed the man by the hair to pull him back up to a seated position. He did not appear to be quite dead. From the groan that weakly escaped the man's limp mouth, he determined that the cut had not actually struck the heart, even though from the sound of it, it had collapsed a lung. He felt a small amount of regret at giving a man who had likely been doing little more than what he saw as protecting his country such an unclean death. "I've this one,"
he said quietly, voice tinted with the grace of mercy.
To the barely-conscious oshō, he knew, he'd seem the opposite of mercy to his pain. He was dressed as the ANBU leader that he served as in Kaminari no Kuni. He was clad in the steel grey jacket, shin guards, arm guards, black form-fitting hood, black gloves, and was bore no mark of village. Most eerily, and what he expected most to be in the foreground of the monk's vision, he bore a white mask, completely featureless beyond the horizontal slits it had for eyes. With his height and with the aura he gave off, he expected that he would completely eclipse the sights of the man's last moments. Kyōsuke brought his left hand to the man's face and took it from him.
He let the corpse slump to the ground once again when he stood.
"Nehan Shōja no Jutsu for the remainder, I think,"
he suggested, assuming them to be in meditation as their master was. While the oshō might not frequent the zen-dō, he had no doubt in his mind, from the lack of others that he sensed walking the paths of the monastery, that they would be gathered there.
Leaving the bloodstained room behind them, passing through the monastery grounds went swiftly and quietly. Kyōsuke had no doubt in his mind that when he removed his mask upon entering the room, the few monks at his feet that managed to turn their their heads towards him would feel as much a sinking sense of confusion as they did the thick layer of dread from looking into his eyes. Not even those who strained against the pull of sleep resisted the genjutsu.
Kyōsuke and Katsuyori made short work of the room. Cleaner than the first, though bloody still, Katsuyori tore a strip of cloth from one of the monk's robes to clean the blade as they stepped back out into the grounds. It was properly twilight now, and the lanterns about the monastery cast real light into the dark orange backdrop of the sky.
Kyōsuke sighed, noting that the last flame other than he and the spirit had been extinguished. Closing his mind's eye, he took in a deep breath and donned his mask once more, before crouching to sit on the edge so as to sit on the edge of the hisashi.
"Should we wait the storm out, then?"
he asked of the spirit, expecting no real reply.
Chakra Yokusei no Jutsu
Kanchi no Jutsu
Kuchiyose no Jutsu
) - A-Rank
Shōshagan no Jutsu
Nehan Shōja no Jutsu
Strength - Masterful
Constitution - Proficient
Stamina - Masterful
Dexterity - Masterful
Agility - Epic
Wisdom - Masterful
Stamina remaining: Kyōsuke - 79.16%, Katsuyori - 87.50%]