A stranger languidly approached, emerging from the haze created by the distance between them.
The stranger was equipped with a strange garb. A jacket mid-thigh in length, the material resembling Kevlar and dyed a military green, pants a similar material only black, with a matching shirt.
"That mask sure is unnerving though. He must be a ninja." He whispered to himself.
The nearing strangers' mask was slate white, four small slits, at least two of which allowing for sight and small horns emerging from the top of the mask in a fashion resembling some kind of perverse crown.
The stranger, now within talking distance, had an aura about him. The aura was neither intimidating or oppressive, no, it was more some kind of quiet unspoken confidence, the energy of a man that knew what each and every one of his next moves was going to be.
What did he know though, he was just an old soul who spent too much time in the forest.
"Greetings young man what are ye doing around these parts, a lot of fine folk have been going missing lately just so ye know, thought id give you fair warn so ye don't end up like them other passer-by's." he explained loudly, voiced raspy with age.
The man paused in his strides a few feet from the withered, older man. At this distance the stranger towered over him, shadows cast down over his features. However he had yet deign to look down at him, instead he fixated his gaze entirely on the forest that lay behind, peering within the atrocious thing with an inquisitive expression etched on the almost featureless mask.
A deep baritone greeted him from behind the mask.
"Actually that's why I've made my way down to these parts, I heard that you've been having some troubles with spirits in these woods, I was wondering if you could tell me about it and I'll see if I can help exterminate whatever is causing it." He said, finally looking down toward him.
"I'm not quite sure what ye mean there when you say 'what's causing it', it's a spirit sonny ain't nothing causing it, 'cept it."
"Well I'm sure you're right old-timer, but you know nothing ventured, nothing gained." he leaned in close, exuding mirth. "So you tell me what you know, and I'll see if I can handle it for you eh?"
For such an imposing figure he sure did seem to have quiet the jovial disposition about him.
"Well I don't know much other than some folk, always out of towners, disappear without hide nor hair heard from them again."
"So you never heard or seen anything out of the ordinary when you've been in there, anything that doesn't belong in the woods." He asked, "Or even maybe something that does but hasn't been there before." He continued with his inquisition.
"Yes ?" he leaned in further, now eye level with him.
"Well there has been the soft tone of young singing just a whisper on the wind, I oft mistake it for just the whistling of the tops. It must be that of a young maid luring folk to wonder the forest without aim, though I don't head far enough in for it to affect me I 'spose." He replied, a shake to his voice and face twisting in consternation.
"That all, I mean that's enough, but is it all?"
"Yer that's all I can think of sonny." He answered apologetically.
With a brief nod the stranger stepped passed him and waltzed slowly toward the dark expanse of the forest behind him, a confident stride taking him ever closer to what could only be his end.
Once he passed the threshold of the tree line and became obscured from sight from the outside world his gait shifted from the confident swagger he entered the weald with, to a guarded and weary stance, head shifting and darting from one feature to the next. He needed to be on high alert here, whatever this spirit was it had been feeding for over a year now and had consumed some pretty high profile shinobi at this point if the missing persons report was anything to go by.
"Two B-rank ninja and an A, and dozens of civilians." He whispered to himself. With another cursory look around himself, he identified something else that had his senses screaming at him and his pupils constricting to tight narrow slits.
"There's no fucking animals!" he hissed quietly "It's been fucking consuming the animals too, what the fuck is this thing." His throat tightened and dried and he swallowed thickly.
He could hear it now that singing drifting on the wind, its tone so sweet and soothing, syllabic in nature but nonsense all the same. The world around him started to twist and turn his mind becoming more and more frantically panicked whilst his body and senses were eased into a relaxed almost catatonic state.
He slowly brought his hands together in front of him and gently whispered a word that rent the world currently imposed upon him asunder.
The illusion imposed on him was torn from his mind and reality, as grim as it was, established itself rightly into that domain.
Pale white eyes looked into his longingly, a desperation for something present in the near vacant stare. They were set into a mass of writhing shadow, ever still and solid but always shifting. Clothing, bones, and skin appearing to surface from the liquid like flesh of the creature. It stood, it's outer layer concrete and solid against the ground at its feet and the branch, four meters high, that it grasped above its head.
Without warning or hint of its intention it lashed out with its other arm, the gangly emaciated limb flying toward him with ample speed, intending to end him.
With quickness begetting that of a jonin that he was, he reflexively tensed his legs, flooding chakra into all his limbs and leapt backward toward a small glade, where hopefully he would create some room for himself.
As his feet hit the ground, he skidded before a quick succession of small but very fast steps took him ever closer toward the glade. Never turning his back on the now multi mouthed, smiling creature. Never taking his eyes off this thing that had, in another burst of speed, surged toward him.
Quickly forming three hand signs as quickly as possible, the last sign having his hands clasped together in an imitation of a praying saint he, for the first time since entering the forest raised his voice above a whisper.
"Light style, trailing vestige jutsu!"
The effect of the technique was immediate, from his body emerged ten orbs of pure and near blinding light that illuminated, probably for the first time in eons, the forest around him.
The creature paused in its hasty advance, clearly curious as to what kind of technique this was. that was no good at all, there was no way to tell if it had retained any of the knowledge of those ninja it had absorbed with this reaction.
" Those are some very pretty lights you have there, do you suppose that I would be afraid of the light because of my choice of abode and appearance or were you just trying to get a better look at me." The thing spoke, its voice dripping with condescension and derision.
" Ah so you can speak, you must be a powerful chakra spirit then, may I know what your origin is" he tried to keep his tone as neutral and placating as possible, it never ever hurt to be polite. Even to the giant disgusting horror beast that wanted nothing more than to consume him.
"No you may not, though you may know that my name is maya." its tone now levelled and even, though still hinting condescension. "Now I have a question of my own" it asked, its voice a myriad of tones and vocal inflections, layered above one another.
"Shoot." He replied in as blasé a fashion as he could muster.
"What on earth is a jinchuuriki doing hunting down chakra anomalies instead of passively waiting in his village, huh?" its tone had turned sickly sweet, a giant grotesque smiling emerging on the surface of its turgid stomach. The human teeth presented to him had rotted and grown mouldy, not the smile of someone that had any kind of positive intentions.
Well I guess that answers my question about the previous knowledge I suppose, though, how the fuck can it know that
"If you have to know, hunting down chakra spirits is a damn good source of money." he prattled nonchalantly," And you guys tend to leave little secrets when you're exterminated."
He carefully and gradually brought his right hand up into a single-handed seal. Half of the orbs coalesced and drew into him, spreading over his skin as a second protective layer, dimming as it did so. Lifting his hand further, closer toward his face, he inspected his hand without the horror in front of him ever leaving his field of view. The gentle white glow imbued on his hand made for a featureless silhouette that could only be mirrored over the entirety of his body. A grin, dark and shadowy in contrast to the rest of his body inched its way open, a maw of inky black.
"And those secrets are always a real treat to someone in my profession." The words dripped from his mouth.
He shook briefly, lurching forward. His body stretching and distorting, shifting in different direction before snapping back and moving toward the intended trajectory. With a snap, hiss and a bright flash he disappeared from view, the area he vacated turned into an abyss of saturated, churning black.
In an instant he was standing beside the creature arm outstretched and rigid. His hand resting almost tenderly against the things shoulder.
It screeched in pain and terror as its skin was burnt away, shifting its mass it made to move away only to be met with a rapid sequence of punches to its face, the first two burning away the outer layer to reveal the skull underneath. The following three punches cracked and chipped away at the skull, light sticking to the edges of the gaping wound, smouldering gently like the burning embers chewing away at a leaf. Inside the cavity left behind by his punches and currently illuminated by the weak light, he could see a mouldy and mud rotted doll inside its head.
Good he found the source. First time he had seen one inside an anomaly before though.
Absorbing two more of the light orbs into himself the effervescent glow surrounding is right hand intensified a dozen fold.
"Look don't take this personally but I'm going to have to end you now, I want to leave this creepy place, get a cigarette and a drink." Some strain had entered his voice. "And you're in the way of that right now."
With a quick jerk and another distortion and warping of his limbs, he extended his opened hand, like some facsimile of a blade straight through the creature's head and the doll that lay within it.
The creatures flesh flaked away, turning into little leaves of light that rose into the air only to dissipate if they floated to far away from the fresh and currently visible corpses of the monster's victims.
Taking a knee beside the corpses as the light slowly faded from his skin, he gently moved them aside to inspect the ground underneath. There, etched into the soil was a seal. Intricate swirling patterns presented in a manner both reminiscent of the tides in the sea and the clouds above.
Reaching behind himself into one of the many large pockets on his pant legs, he pulled out a small scroll. Unfurling the paper, he carefully pressed it against the seal on the ground, and with a bit of channelled chakra, the markings, and the dirt around them was rent from the earth and consolidated onto the scroll.
Looking at the seal he had just obtained he couldn't help but be impressed.
"My my my, you were a strong one, if I had left you alone any longer, enough to gain a solid exterior at least, I don't think there would have been anything I could have done to stop you." He spoke to himself.
"Well that's not true, but it would have been a hell of a lot harder for me."
Looking around at the weald that him, and the lifeless bodies occupied he had to wonder how exactly a dead child's toy doll had absorbed enough chakra to become a class A threat. Peering to his left he inspected the faces of the dead shinobi, the B-rank duo were nothing too special, just a couple of young lads from Kumo. The A-rank however had quite the little bounty on his head, enough to set him up for a couple of months at the least. On closer inspection it would appear that he also possessed an absolute abundance of chakra metal.
I mean fuck that much of this stuff is worth a fucking tonne
"though I think I might hang on to this stuff, should test how it behaves with my light and dark release chakra." He whispered tone almost giddy with excitement.
Rising to his feet, he took one last look at the dense forest and the clearing just yonder, and it occurred to him that none of the corpses of the animals were expelled during that whole little fiasco
It must be able to actually absorb those, no clue though, never actually seen one that could eat animals before.
With the 3 remaining orbs of light trailing languidly behind him, he made his way away from the shadowy distorted scar he left on the world back toward the light of the midday fields where he had left the old lumberjack.
Stepping out of the copse of trees at the front of the forest with the sun bright overhead, he approached the old man seated at the small shack where he had found him the first time. As he approached, he could see the man was visibly shaken to see him exit what he was sure would have been a death sentence.
"hey there old-timer, I took care of that small problem you've been having." He said joviality ever present in his tone.
"Yes." He paused. Brow furrowing, eyes narrowed, and mouth set into a thin line. "I can see that. Yer the first person other than meself to exit that forest in just shy of a couple of year now" he spoke with an unidentifiable intonation.
"pray tell what happened to that beast?" he asked that same tone rising behind the words he spoke.
He looked at the old man sceptically, scouring his features with his eyes, observing the small downturn of his lips, the infinitesimal twitching of his narrowed eyelids and the tensing of his muscles. This was the look of a cornered animal. An angry, savage cornered animal.
"I'm sorry I don't remember you saying anything about there being some kind of beast in there, if I recall you thought it was the spirit of a fair maiden," he said, taking a step toward the man. "And I certainly haven't said anything in the one sentence I've spoken to you since exiting the spooky little forest." He said, tone oozing accusation. A smile stretched over his face under the mask, eyes narrowing and directed to the hateful gaze of the man before him.
He flinched minutely before speaking hurriedly.
"aye it was just a guess sonny, merely a guess" he spoke quickly. "I mean, men, ninja, go missing in me forest. I doubt shinobi could be lured by such a thing, so after some thought I could only assume a crazed beast would be at hand"
he maintained eye contact with the man a little longer before breaking it, turning on his heel and making his way toward the mountain range in the distance. The sides a soft glow in the sunlight and the further higher peaks obscured by the clouds they hid behind.
"Fair enough, well I'll be heading over yonder to the mountains for a couple of weeks, I hear there's some kind of oni terrorizing one of the small villages in the area, think I might go check It out" he gestured in that direction while tilting his gaze behind himself toward the man.
"When I'm done with that business, I'll stop by on my way back through make sure you aren't having anymore issues"
"Ain't no need for that sonny, like you said, ye already handled the spirit." He yelled over to him, the distance now requiring it.
Ah I love that desperate tone.
"Can't be too safe though." He yelled back with a wave
Facing forward once more he could only imagine the scowl now on the face glaring at his back.
"Besides, there could've always been more than one."