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Shinako

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Special Jounin
Congratulations on your selection to the Konohagakure Sealing Corps. I hope that you will find this forward informative and helpful in the commencement of your studies:

Not much can be said for what Fuuinjutsu is and is not. The applications of the skill are concrete, though not every Shinobi will find them useful. Not every Shinobi will find that they are capable of performing Fuuinjutsu techniques. It is one thing to know sealing techniques, and another thing entirely to be a Fuuinjutsu master. Fuuinjutsu is born of the notion that the laws of energy governing our physical world are not as separate as they seem. The physical, spiritual, and mental all converge at points that can be manipulated by those who know where to look. This practice takes time and devotion to learn, and requires that practitioners disabuse themselves of common limitations that bind other Jutsu. By their nature, Fuuinjutsu must be executed meticulously to perform their functions safely and efficiently, making the learning of such techniques prohibitively difficult to most Shinobi. I warn you, dear student, that the powers I describe do not come cheaply. There are reasons that Fuuinjutsu curricula are taught as precisely as they are. Misadventures such as skipping around, losing focus, or lack of guidance can all be extremely dangerous. There are certain energies and techniques which are too powerful for one Shinobi alone.

Dear Student: If you do not maintain careful control, your studies in Fuuinjutsu will turn against you. They will consume you, or kill you, or worse. See to it that you stay on the path, or you might be something else when you emerge on the other side.

-Uzumaki Kushina, from The Art of Losing—A Beginner’s Guide to Fuuinjutsu


The scent of old paper and ink pervaded the senses this deep in the bowels of the Ninja Academy building. Down past the libraries where more rudimentary Shinobi techniques were catalogued, deep in the embrace of the dark earth, with only the light of torches to work by, Konohagakure’s summoners and sealers came to perfect their art. Even as the flames blazed, their light seemed to shed no heat. Beneath a layer of protective wards to protect the higher levels from explosion or collapse, the sealing rooms seemed unnaturally still and quiet. Very few would ever see them, and fewer still would master the knowledge contained therein.

This was only Shinako’s third visit. Her Jounin mentor, Hyuuga Hakusho, had informed her that she was to follow the Uzumaki method for learning basic seals, and not to deviate. That catalogue began with Kushina’s book. Of course, Hakusho himself had studied in the hidden Hyuuga method, and would be of little help. This was not unusual. Mentors in sealing were little more than a comforting formality. With few exceptions, the learning of Fuuinjutsu was a largely individual effort, requiring lonely hours spent at practice to learn even the most rudimentary techniques. True, nearly every Shinobi could perform the generic item sealing technique, but this study was aimed at learning how such feats were performed; something else entirely.

Even the average Shinobi of Special Jounin rank was considered highly proficient in a wide array of skills, but it was no great shame to prove unskilled in Fuuinjutsu. Of even the most talented Ninja, few would prove resourceful, obsessive, and unfortunate enough to delve into the art in its true form. Despite being only a few days into her studies, Shinako was already learning how difficult and taxing the discipline could be. Fuuinjutsu required a sense of action and purpose not terribly distinct from her Inton conversions, but with one significant difference. Shadow techniques required their user to ‘feel’ their way into a sustained pool of Yin release. Knowing the steps was generally enough. However, as Hakusho had explained, and much to Shinako’s chagrin, Fuuinjutsu required a sense of clarity and certainty free of emotion. It required a knowledge of physical, spiritual, and mental circumstances with a sense of distance. Inton techniques were an act of the heart. Sealing techniques were acts of sheer willpower. Even an experienced Fuuinjutsu master could go through the motions, only to see their technique fail without the proper sense of volition.

Once the practitioner was of an orthodox demeanor and mindset, the challenging part could begin. Shinako’s past few days had been spent at a heavy wooden desk essentially rearranging everything she knew about casting Jutsu. So much of what she knew about Shinobi techniques was internal; the mixing of spiritual and physical energies to achieve a desired result with chakra. Never before had she been so worried about surrounding circumstances. It was like learning an entirely separate language. Most Shinobi learned powerful techniques, and then endeavored to apply them in a broad range of situations. Such a thing was not always desirable or even possible in the practice of Fuuinjutsu. Even the most minute circumstances could determine the success or failure of sealing and summoning techniques.

Here was a challenge unlike any Shinako had ever faced. Lying on the open concrete floor was a single Kunai knife alongside a scroll. She had but to seal the knife into the scroll, and her initiation into the sealing curriculum would be complete. However, a seal had been placed on the room, blocking her use of the generic sealing technique by ‘breaking’ a portion of the physical mechanic which allowed the technique to function in this area. To remove the seal, she would have to delve into the mechanics of sealing enough to run a diagnostic. Of course, she had tried to simply deploy the technique in the fashion she had practiced before, to test the premise of the technique. It had revealed that the fundamental truth underlying Fuuinjutsu was true: Those who believe in nothing, can have nothing. In these books, she would find something to believe in.

Something about the circumstances of the room had been changed. Circumstances, for the purposes of Fuuinjutsu, could often be circumvented by changing formulae, or by ‘brute force’ with enough application of chakra. For most techniques, however, there were some circumstances which had to be known and accounted for. They were broken down into four categories: Major, Minor, Tertiary, and Quaternary. Somewhat paradoxically, the Major Circumstances were often the least important to know, as they were the most difficult to change. Things like the corporeal nature of the object, its existence on a certain plane, or whether it was subject to the law of gravity all fell under the category of Major Circumstances. Minor Circumstances were somewhat more mutable characteristics, but still relatively broad and readily discernible; material or elemental composition, the weight of a thing, how much chakra it contained, etc. Shinako seriously doubted that Hakusho had been able to change any Major or Minor Circumstances for the purposes of this test.

No. The real art lay in divining the smaller details. Altitude, Age, Position of the Star Signs, Phase of the Moon, and the Nearest Body of Water were all Tertiary Circumstances. Some were more difficult to manipulate than others, and Shinako had studied their effect on the generic sealing technique over the past few days. The results were not promising. She could not, for instance, think of a way that Hyuuga Hakusho had tricked this room into thinking that the Kunai knife was at a different altitude. She had thought of a hidden body of water, but all of the texts assured her that such a thing would have to be at least the size of a notable lake to have any effect on the outcome of her technique. Putting a bowl of water in the corner would not suffice to change the underlying circumstances. Shinako closed the heavy book before her with a sigh.

The Kunoichi rubbed at her eyes to soothe the dull ache that was building there. She tilted her head back and considered breaking for lunch. Many of the instructional texts warned against becoming over-fatigued while practicing, though she doubted that what she was doing could actually be considered practice. The eventual mastery of every technique required a period of research and evaluation. Most of the accidents the texts warned of occurred when Shinobi lost focus during the application phase. The sandwich she had packed would probably provide a welcome respite from the tedium she was facing.

For the first time, Shinako became very aware that her shadow was strong here, against the shifting light of the torches. She thought that maybe all of her prior knowledge was acting as an anchor, holding her down, keeping her back from the objective heights she would need to reach the level of clarity necessary for Fuuinjutsu. Perhaps her understanding was too shrouded in shadow to be of any use. Shinako stood, casting a determined gaze down at the red vellum cover of Kushina’s book. It wouldn’t defeat her. She was determined to succeed at least in this small task, even if her skill did not prove enough to join the corps.

1,500/1,500


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Ninjutsu: S|Genjutsu: A| Fuuinjutsu: B
Inton: A|Katon: A

Shinako

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Special Jounin
The sound of footsteps echoed, almost unnaturally loud, against the walls of the training chamber. Two days later, Shinako still found herself at the mercy of the problem before her. The reading hadn’t helped. The Uzumaki method was brilliant, and more than once Shinako had stumbled upon what she had believed was the answer to the puzzle her Sensei had created. Each time, she had groaned in frustration upon learning that the perceived solution was not correct. Now she stood pacing, tying her hair back and reorganizing her thoughts again, a gesture she had repeated countless times that day alone. As her feet traced their familiar line, a thought crossed her mind for not the first time that day; a perilous thought, that both excited and frightened her.

Throughout the past week, she had read various pamphlets and supplements on the broad details of studying Fuuinjutsu, but only one detailed course-book. The Art of Losing was the text that Hyuuga Hakusho had chosen for her, and yet she often found her eyes falling along the spines of books and scrolls shelved on the southern wall of the chamber. Each time she reminded herself of the stern warnings issued by both her Sensei and the forward of the Uzumaki method. Mixing and matching methodologies in these early stages of training would only complicate things; perhaps even make the process much more dangerous. Full as her head was with the minutiae of the Uzumaki method, she risked confusion or disaster by approaching the problem from a different angle. Yet, the idea continued to spring up whenever she became frustrated.

Covered in ink and chalk, Shinako thought back on the Kanji and formulae she had drawn in the past hour. Circle methods, tag methods, and sacrifice methods were all found in the Uzumaki canon, and she had experimented with each in turn in order to place a simple Kunai knife into a scroll. It was maddening, and it showed in Shinako’s haggard appearance. There were no mirrors in the room for the purposes of vanity, though she sometimes caught sight of herself in one of the tiny summoning mirrors when she opened the large oaken wardrobe for more supplies. By Hakusho’s accounting, she was far more economical than the vast majority of students he had personally trained. Still, she felt like she was constantly burning through ink, scrolls, and various other, more archaic materials. She stopped her pacing and placed the fingertips of her left hand against her migraine-prone temple.

*It can’t hurt to just take a look. *

Shinako bit her lower lip in thought, feeling how raw it was getting from the repetition of just such a gesture. A quick stutter step and a turn of her hips almost saw her start toward the bookshelf, but she stopped herself with a heavy sigh, dropping her hands to her side in defeat. She gripped her hips tightly and shook her head, looking down at the floor ashamed of she wasn’t sure what. Weakness, maybe. Indecision, or ineptitude more likely. Perhaps it was exactly just that uncertainty which kept her attempts from working. It had been a little over twenty-four hours since she had first considered that the only circumstance which had changed was her conviction that she could actually perform this technique. The feeling that she was missing something did not help. She had to remember that the Uzumaki method was complete, and that it worked once mastered.

As she sat back down to her work, the idea that the conclusion of this task was inevitable comforted her for a little while. The texts were very clear that not everyone was cut out for the practice of Fuuinjutsu in its complex forms, even once they had acquired the proper knowledge to lay the foundation academically. As a highly educated woman and one of the brightest members of the Nara family, she was confident that she would uncover the proper theory for solving this problem, even if she might ultimately be unable to apply it as a practical skill. She had faced a similar sense of certainty when she had endeavored to train in Genjutsu. There were concrete reasons why not every Shinobi practiced all of the arts. Some simply did not possess the right stuff. Shinako had always been alright with that until now.

Thinking back on her life, Shinako could not think of one instance in which she had seriously applied herself and failed. The obvious and most glaring failure that came to mind first was the disaster at the Chuunin exams. However, in her reckoning, it was her strengths as a person, not her failures as a Shinobi, which had led her to seek out and to trust Uchiha Maigo. She didn’t regret it. Beyond that, very few things came to mind. She had been told her entire life that nothing worthwhile came easily. Perhaps this was why she had nothing in her life worthwhile. Shinako became aware that she had been reading the same sentence repetitively for several minutes while letting her mind wander.

“Under such circumstances, it may be necessary to use a buffer-Kanji, such as ‘limit’ or ‘chain’ to bind the possible results of any given interaction.”

She read it aloud, and thought of how appropriate it was. An ironic smile touched the corners of her mouth, and she shook her head in disbelief again. It may have been that she had never failed because she had always subconsciously limited herself to the tasks she knew she could accomplish, never fully extending herself for fear of being caught out of position. She had never been one to live her life off-balance. As such, she had surmised before reaching this section that the scope and reactions of Fuuinjutsu could, and should be bound by adding particular Kanji to their formulae. The idea seemed so simple. Many of the most famous seals ever used consisted solely of one such Kanji which reacted to specialized chakra. The famous Senju seal for controlling the Kyuubi could reputedly be performed by masters simply by encircling the beast in wood and drawing the Kanji for ‘sit.’ Of course, as far as she knew, that particular technique had either been lost or taken back into the Senju Hiden.

It was of little importance. That lesson generally applied only to seals dealing with volatile forces. Shinako had ventured into it in a desperate attempt to parse out the implications of a quaternary circumstance. By her reasoning, it was possible that a Kunai knife, by its nature as a weapon, was volatile enough to require such a special formulation to bind it. The underlying logic was specious, and she admitted to herself now that she had only pursued this train of thought to get herself away from the notion of deviating from the planned curriculum. It was highly likely that Shinako had already read over the axioms of the method that she would need to solve this problem in the opening chapters, and that she simply had to put them together. However, the more she learned about Fuuinjutsu, and the probable nature of the puzzle, the more she began to surmise that its solution likely did not lie in any idiosyncrasy inherent to the Uzumaki method. This particular bit of knowledge made the appeal of straying ever more appealing.

Closing the book once more, Shinako thought back on all the formulations she had tried that day, rooted firmly in the rules and circumstances that she knew to exist. It was possible that she was missing something, but she doubted it. A particular circle seal she had devised should have worked. She was sure of it now. Her fingers sifted through the notes she had taken and organized on that particular application, and she began to read them again, checking and double checking them as she had before for both internal and external errors. Her eyes flew across the pages and charts before her with a particular deftness, and she had to slow herself down with a reminder that she was not looking to confirm something which had not worked the first time. Then again, her hypothesis was not about the underlying formulations, but the circle method she had employed and its implications on her intentionality as the caster.

Once all of her proof-reading was complete, Shinako stood and crossed the space to the wardrobe. Circle methods were notoriously complex in their drawings, as they had to take up much more physical space with a higher degree of accuracy than tag methods or sacrifice methods. As Shinako thought of it, the distinction lay in the fact that it was far more difficult to get a subject and verb to agree across several paragraphs and pronoun transitions than it was to reconcile them in a single phrase. Everything from the shape of the Kanji to their position relative to each other was important in an attempt to seal an object using a circle method. This was why, until now, Shinako had been drawing her Kanji circles in chalk. When she made a mistake, she could simply wipe it away and redraft until the formula was perfect.

It dawned on her that this flaw in intention might be the snag in the process. From the wardrobe, she pulled a thick-bristled broom, a bucket, and soap. Firstly, she was worried that the residual lines from her earlier work might interfere with drawing the circle. A short trip down the hallway saw her legs stretched and her bucket filled until the suds fizzed, releasing a clean, piney aroma to her senses. Shinako inhaled deeply, allowing the scent to sooth her as she scrubbed the floor, erasing the evidence of the day’s earlier failure. Before long, she found herself humming. There was a sense of catharsis in this. While the floor was drying, she would ascend into the sunlight and have lunch.

1,650/3,150


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Ninjutsu: S|Genjutsu: A| Fuuinjutsu: B
Inton: A|Katon: A

Shinako

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Special Jounin
Before returning to her studies, Shinako had asked one of the librarians about the books found in the training rooms. A kindly middle-aged man had revealed that they were the contributions of every Konohagakure Fuuinjutsu Master who was considered to have made significant progress in the field, or to have discovered secrets outside of the current canon. Each purported to contain a complete, consistent, and effectively axiomatized system of describing and creating seals. There were 257 of them, though many were considered derivative, providing answers to problems they perceived in the other methods. The man had described a particular volume which devoted a third of its pages to proving the theoretical impossibility of the Muramasa method, a method which had worked flawlessly before the publishing of the later document. As she returned from lunch, Shinako assured herself that she must have misinterpreted the man’s words in her state of mental fatigue.

He had mentioned that the last scroll to be added was published nearly 24 years ago, and that no significant changes to the canon of Fuuinjutsu had been made since then. The texts were arranged chronologically, perhaps for their peculiar tendencies to build upon and sometimes invalidate each other. The thought that she was working with a book from near the center of the shelf made Shinako shiver as she reentered the training room. The scent of a fresh start hung in the air, and helped her to regain her focus. It would not do to approach the next task with uncertainty, so the Kunoichi checked her calculations again. They seemed rock solid; as solid as the floor on which she stood. There was no way to find out but to move forward.

Shinako straddled the Kunai knife where it lay at the center of the room and began rotating her shadow around her like a sundial, using the inky limb to feel the divots and imperfections over which her Kanji circle would have to take shape. The room was exceptionally well maintained for just this reason, but she still discovered a flaw or two in the floor as she extended her penumbral senses across its expanse. She located each one visually, and noted their location on a drafting sheet. If intentionality truly was the problem, it would not be for long. Shinako was feeling more confident about the process already, using tools she had not considered the first time around.

With a pencil, reshaped the Kanji on her draft to compensate for the distortions of the floor, a smile coming to her face. Hyuuga Hakusho had described a sort of obsession which possessed and drove masters of the art of Fuuinjutsu, and Shinako thought it must have felt a lot like this. There were details within details that she would not have considered if not for her overwhelming compulsion to continue looking and working. As she relished the thought that she was moving in the right direction, the young woman stretched her fingers, wrists, and shoulders, preparing for the next arduous task. Her feet carried her to the wardrobe, and instead of removing the blueish chalk she had used before, Shinako found a large calligraphy brush, a cured-leather and wood container of ink the size of her fist, a bottle of turpentine, and some clean rags. This time, drawing the circle in a more permanent medium might change the nature of the seal.

~~~~~~~~~~

Shinako fought back tears. All of her hard work had ended in a moment of excitement and accomplishment purer than she had ever felt before, and then the crushing blow of disappointment. Unlike the chalk lines before, the perfectly-drawn black lines had sprung to life at the prompting of her chakra, taking on a fiery red and orange before converging into more potent internal formulae just as she had planned, all in a beautifully synchronized domino dive toward the center and their ultimate purpose. Her eyes had widened with anticipation as ever Kanji had linked seamlessly with the next, spiraling inward in perfect grammar and syntax, all at the touch of her finger. The moment had taken her breath away before coming to an abrupt halt in a neat pattern on the scroll just beneath the Kunai. Still, the knife remained. The technique had failed.

It hadn’t failed spectacularly. There was no earthquake or similar cataclysm. No sense of fury, or of motion at all, in fact. Seals like this often took energy out of the air. No sense of danger at all. No demon rising from the symbols to take its place in the world, having tricked an unsuspecting mortal into freeing it by inscribing a name. The attempt had been safe and well-calculated, with hardly even a whiff of risk, especially considering the nature of the task. Not only had the technique failed, but it had failed quite unremarkably, and at the last possible moment.

Then again, things like this hardly ever failed midway unless interrupted by an external source. Shinako had certainly not detected any disturbance, and was left to grapple with the more likely reality that, despite the spectacular show, the execution of the sealing Jutsu had been flawed at its inception. The only variable she had not accounted for, perhaps could not account for, was herself. The Kunoichi fell to her flanks in defeat, watching as the Kunai knife danced, mocking her, in the crystaline beads forming in her eyes. She wiped the tears away so that the damned object of her frustration would stay still as she glared. Hakusho had not given her any hard time limit, but had suggested that she would know, when the time came, if she did not possess the requisite talent. As her mind flew back through the formula of the circle, she only became more assured of its correctness. The problem was not with the method she had used. She hadn’t missed anything.

Shinako shook her head in disbelief, looking down at the ink-stained fingers of her left had as though they had betrayed her. She knew, though, that her fingers were tools just like any other, and that no matter how dexterously they moved, the problem likely lay somewhere deeper and more integral. Masters such as Orochimaru had drawn elegant symbols and seals by directing others, completely unskilled in the art of Fuuinjutsu. Orochimaru had used perhaps dozens of bodies, hundreds of fingers, yet his skill and resolve had never wavered. In cases such as this, the old wisdom held true: it was a poor workman who blamed his tools.

Slowly, as though she had just finished running a long distance, Shinako stood and heaved a sigh, choking back a sob. By now, the sun would be nearly setting, and the upper levels would be relatively clear. She was authorized to use the room overnight, but could no longer see the point in such a thing. Tomorrow’s training would end early, with the tender of her resignation from the program to the skillful hands and featureless eyes of Hyuuga Hakusho. Shinako knew it was not the old man’s fault, and yet a certain sense of resentment crossed her mind in the moment. There was no way he could have known she lacked the aptitude, yet it was clear as she looked back on their conversations that he had kept her at arm’s length, as though he did not expect her to be around for very long.

As she gathered her belongings to leave, Shinako’s eye was drawn once more to the unmoved knife on the floor. It gleamed, as though smiling up at her wickedly in the torch-light, and she quickly moved her shadow to cover it, feeling that it was still no more than a regular Kunai. She could not say why she did what she did next.

Dropping her satchel and crossing the room quickly, Shinako grasped the wooden case holding the Leaf Village’s latest sealing method, adorned with black and gold lacquer and adorned with a single Kanji reading ‘Kagerou.’ She removed the plain scroll from inside the case and read the dedication aloud.

“For the ones like us.”

1,350/4,500


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Ninjutsu: S|Genjutsu: A| Fuuinjutsu: B
Inton: A|Katon: A

Shinako

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Special Jounin
“Ladies and Gentlement, ghosts, and children of the state. We are here because I have lost the sense of time. This moment, for instance, would be just like all the others, were it not for the rain falling through the roof. I will try not to be too explicit.

It is no small miracle that you are reading my story, and I have endured great pains to ensure its perpetuation. If you are reading this, the shadows that surround have found my story and my method inextricably linked, as I intended. I learned, too late, that you can spend your whole life in this village doing no more than preparing for life and thinking, ‘is this all there is?’ I learned that my life, and the world in which it took place, was the telling of one big lie, composed of many small lies. That, in essence, is the origin of this method.”


Shinako had been able to gather only scant information about Kagerou. The instructional scroll was not long, but told a tragic story of an injured ANBU Shinobi suffering from dyschronometria, literally unable to estimate the passage of time. This injury had manifested in the strange ability to perceive a system of fuuinjutsu unbound by the circumstance of time, and largely unbound by ambient circumstances at all, as a result. Disillusioned with the village leaders, Kagerou had woven her story into the text of her method when forced to disclose it, binding the two together through some unknown, invisible means. If they wanted her knowledge, they would gain it only at the cost of telling her story. The trade seemed fair to Shinako.

Having discovered the Kagerou method, Shinako had read long into the night, showering and preparing for the next day at the academy’s gym facility. She had taken the scroll with her, perhaps overtired, and irrationally concerned that it would not be there when she returned. In the intervening 14 hours, all of Shinako’s actions had taken on an air of desperation, and she had deliberately avoided the gaze of her teacher and fellow students. Even the tone of Kagerou’s writing conveyed the paranoid sense that she was doing something that she should not be doing. She was not sure if she was one of the children of the state that Kagerou addressed, or one of the ghosts.

~~~~~~~~~~

“All systems of Fuuinjutsu are inherently flawed, relying on many small lies known as axioms. One well-known axiom is the mathematical abnormality of Zero. The most important application of the Zero Exception Axiom is that dividing by Zero does not produce an infinitely large number as a result. The reason is that division must be defined as the inverse of multiplication. In theory, if you divide by Zero, and then multiply by Zero, you should regain the number you started with. However, multiplying infinity by Zero produces only Zero, never any other number. There is nothing which can be multiplied by Zero to produce a nonzero result. Therefore, the result of a division by zero, for Fuuinjutsu to remain consistent, must literally be ‘undefined.’ At first it seems like so small a lie, to defend so much good inherent to multiplication and division. A story, then:

In the days before the founding of the Hidden Leaf Village, Senju Tobirama demonstrated two theorems of Fuuinjutsu at a clan conference to discuss techniques for defeating the recently discovered predictive abilities of the Sharingan Eye. The first one shows, in essence, that Fuuinjutsu contains statements that may be true, but are inherently unprovable. Even a formal system as simple as the Senju method (relying primarily on seals composed of singular Kanji) permits statements that are precise, meaningful, and seem certainly true, and yet cannot be proven true by formal means.

His second theorem, more interestingly, shows that a claim of the consistency of Fuuinjutsu and its underlying arithmetic is just such a statement; it cannot be proven by any means using the axioms of Fuuinjutsu. That is, Fuuinjutsu cannot as a formal system cannot guarantee that it will not produce results such as ‘1=2,’ or ‘Matter is synonymous with Energy,’ or even guarantee the internal consistency of a functioning seal. Tobirama demonstrated formulaically that, while such contradictions had never been encountered in the practice of Fuuinjutsu, it was impossible to prove that they never would be.

19 days later, Tobirama utilized Fuuinjutsu to negate the principles of time and space.”


The Kagerou method did not incorporate by reference any charts of circumstances found in other systems of Fuuinjutsu. When circumstances were discussed, they were viewed skeptically, in light of the aims of calculating them. The circumstances were not exactly unimportant, but Kagerou did not articulate any need to obsess over them.

Of course, accounts of the Haraishin technique were widely regarded as sensational in the modern day. Kagerou had written her method 20-odd years ago, and was no doubt aware of Formulaic proofs some 150 years after Tobirama proving the internal consistency of Fuuinjutsu. In fact, Uzumaki Kushina, in compiling her method, had come to an identical underlying conclusion without formal proof. She had assumed that the arithmetic of Fuuinjutsu was internally consistent because the results were consistent. Shinako could almost taste the disappointment welling in her mouth as she laid the Kagerou scroll down on her desk and went hunting along the bookshelf for Bashou’s Categorical Canon which started with 362 pages proving, in circumvention of Kagerou’s convoluted conclusion, that ‘1+1=2.’

~~~~~~~~~~

After three more days, Hyuuga Hakusho had called Shinako in for a progress report. The man had informed her that she was not in trouble, or being dropped from the program, but that he was concerned that she had missed two days of training. Shinako had informed him that she had taken time off for a family emergency, though the truth of the matter was that she had left the training room immediately after taking detailed notes on Bashou’s theory. She had needed two days to digest it. Hakusho had accepted her excuse with his usual unaffected demeanor.

The problem Shinako was facing was one of intuitive impression. Formulaically, all of Bashou’s calculations made perfect sense. The texts of Fuuinjutsu constantly intermingled, probed, and tested each other, but each text after Categorical Canon, and all of those from before which were still studied seriously, assumed the validity of Bashou’s conclusion because of the soundness of its subject matter. Fuuinjutsu worked. Of course its arithmetic was consistent. All texts but one agreed. Shinako had not finished reading the Kagerou method, but it already seemed so flawed as to lead her to wonder why it was deserving of its place on the shelf. She had even checked the duplicate shelves in the other rooms to make sure her copy had not been placed in error. In the village logs, she could not find one student of the Kagerou method.

Yet, something about Bashou’s proofs did not sit well with Shinako as she returned to the training room to find her materials undisturbed. She would need to dig further into the Kagerou method to see if there was any merit to what she had intuited. In her time away, Shinako had run Bashou’s calculations through her head, step by step, over and over again, reviewing his method. She could not take her finger off of his use of a formulaic technique known as transfinite induction, and had researched the technique vigorously at the library. It was a controversial method, at best, though its use to prove something as fundamental as the internal consistency of Fuuinjutsu’s arithmetic was never questioned. No matter how much she tried to avoid the implication, it became increasingly apparent why Shinako intuitively distrusted Bashou’s proof. Kagerou’s phrase about the accumulation of many small lies continued to echo in her head, as she came to a realization of why Bashou had been so trusted throughout time. People wanted to trust him. In truth, he had set out to prove the obvious by assuming the doubtful.

~~~~~~~~~~

“Kagerou’s guide to common problem-solving:

If you are overtired, a bay of fresh coffee might help. If you become addicted to coffee, teach yourself non-traditional dance. If you are addicted to dance, a crippling injury will cure you. If you hear word that the last loose end alive will be burned to death at sunset, find a scroll and write your story. Then run. If you find yourself addicted to running, try wearing undersized shoes, and if that leads to shoe addiction, try moving to a provincial village where they have none.

If you find your studies lonely, you, like me, might wake up horny. You may become addicted to masturbation, in which case you should seek company. When that company inevitably becomes addictive, seek out starlight and silence. If you are addicted to silence, find guard dogs, foot-traffic, or infants. If you are addicted to infants, remember your chemical sterilization and constantly ask, ‘what is wrong with me?’

If your methods have become too safe and self-contained to function, try recklessness. Try riding an unsaddled horse until you are thrown, laughing, into a bed of gravel. You will become addicted to recklessness, and forget the formula’s spoon-fed disease. If you become addicted to your addiction, visit a city doctor and fall in love with him. If you become addicted to your doctor, revisit the old war that you fled. If you become addicted to that war, then you will be addicted to formula, function, and sorrow, and all my talk of problem-solving will not be of use to you.

If you are caught up in repetition, realize that it is a form of history. If you are addicted to history, try drawing your next circle with a blindfold. Or buy something shiny and new. If you are addicted to the shiny and the new, try poverty. I do not think that anyone is addicted to poverty, but if you happen to be, try wealth, to which you will become addicted. If you are addicted to wealth, you will need money. If you are addicted to money, exchange it for power. Once you are addicted to power, you will need more power. Try that.”


Kagerou was both mad and maddening. As she read, Shinako would often find her pencil tracing figures on a scratch pad, only to look up and find that she had drawn a dragon, or a face she did not recognize. Most disturbingly, she had once drawn the words of the page into a strange pictorial formation that might have served as a compact tag formula, or Shiki. Her mind often wandered while reading, though Kagerou’s meaning was never lost. It was an odd feeling to know exactly where the writer’s looping thoughts would end up. In that same time, Shinako saw a marked increase in the efficiency of her subject-verb agreement in her equations, almost like she knew the connections between phrases before she knew which phrases would be best to use.

A few more days passed, and Shinako had all but forgotten the task at hand. It had been nearly a week since she had made a concrete attempt to seal the Kunai knife. Sometimes, instead, she played a game in which she drew primitive formulae in the Senju method to match the results of more complex circles and sacrifices. Other times, she fell in love with words like ‘tenderness,’ and incorporated them into every equation she wrote. Sometimes the equations made no sense, but more and more that ceased to be the case. Everywhere Shinako looked, doors were opening. When a passage of the Kagerou method led her to earlier texts, she read them skeptically, with an impression that bordered almost on pity, remembering the ultimate problem-solving axiom of the Kagerou method:

“Go outside, and do not simply carry on the whimper of collapsing mouths. Ask the lunatic yard-dog why it tolerates the leash, or the glass of water why it pities the rain.”

2,000/6,500


____


Ninjutsu: S|Genjutsu: A| Fuuinjutsu: B
Inton: A|Katon: A

Shinako

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Special Jounin
It seemed impossible in every way. What Kagerou described was contradictory to the human experience, and yet, Shinako could intuit that it was true even before the formulae showed it. Just as Kagerou had promised, the final proofs of the method served as affirmation of the effectiveness of the system and of Kagerou’s story. Having obtained it, Shinako sat quietly, in awe. The Nara had a paradoxical thought experiment involving the Book of Ages which examined the problem of free will inherent to teleology.

Standing before the Book of Ages, a woman could flip through its infinite pages until she found the very passage that described her reading the book of ages. Moving through the past and into the future, she could read the next column, which describes her eating a meal of soup and dumplings for dinner that very night. However, being a contrary sort, the woman then and there determines that she will eat only rice for dinner that night, in defiance of the future foretold in the Book of Ages.

However, this cannot be. By definition, the Book of Ages must tell the future. It cannot be wrong, as the thought experiment is premised on the idea that the woman has read the actual future, not simply a guess at some possible future. If this were a fable, events would simply conspire in magnificent ways to force her to enact her inevitable fate, despite her best efforts, but prophecies in the fables are notoriously vague. The book is quite specific, and does not say that the woman will be forced to eat soup and dumplings. So, the book must be right, but no matter what the book says, she can choose to do otherwise. How can these two things be true?

The common answer is that cannot be. As free will is readily experienced every day, a volume such as the Book of Ages is a logical impossibility for the precise reason that its existence would result in the type of existential contradiction presented in the thought experiment. Or, given a most generous formulation, the book could exist so long as its knowledge was inaccessible to anyone whose actions were contained therein; perhaps housed in a special collection of the gods, to which no one had reading privileges.

It was apparent to Shinako now, having read the experience of Kagerou, that there was a separate possibility, outside of the traditional binary between volition and predestination. Kagerou was a woman without time, who claimed to have seen into the future, even to her gruesome end. She knew every ounce of suffering which would come her way, and yet walked into them with open arms. She suggested something that would make such a logical inconsistency possible.

What if the experience of knowing the future fundamentally changed a person? What if it evoked a sense of urgency; a sense of obligation to act precisely as she knew she would?

~~~~~~~~~~

“I have a recurring dream about how you and I will meet, and how I will die. I am climbing the sheer face of a red cliff. You are two, the tallest I will ever see you in life, riding astride my back. We are so near the top when I feel your tiny hands and feet begin to scramble on my back, reaching for the safety of the ledge above. I’m so close to delivering you to rest, but you simply cannot wait to reach it. You begin to pull yourself up, while I order you to stop, your shadow falling down across my eyes. You were always so far ahead of where I thought you would be. The spiral pattern of your childhood shoes hovers in my vision. Your left foot on my shoulder, and then your right; flakes of shale cascading down. By now I’m screaming, and I get a hand free to steady you and push you upward to safety. Next, I’m falling into the darkness of your shadow and the distance below me.

Then, all of a sudden, I am in a training room as silent as a morgue. You lift your eyes from the page, as dark and thoughtful as your father’s, and look directly through me, and I see that you’re 23 now. Then I wake up.”


~~~~~~~~~~

Shinako finished the final radial figure in the circle, neatly laid the brush down at the edge of the room, and leaned back against the wall to survey her work. It was smaller than her previous attempt so long ago, and far more elegant, but still took up a substantial portion of the floor. It included several complex mechanisms, and integrated them rather nicely. The Kagerou method lay shut in its case alongside the open Uzumaki method on the desk. Utilizing the fluid principles of the Kagerou method, Shinako had translated the Kanji found in The Art of Losing into a sort of Semasiographic language all her own, consisting of interconnected representations rather than words. It seemed a more appropriate way to take advantage of the two-dimensional nature of the floor’s surface. The symbols ceased to be an appeal to some unknown force moving the underlying mechanics of Fuuinjutsu, and became a substitute for the action itself.

This type of circle was preposterously difficult to draw, and was undertaken mostly by practiced calligraphers with many hours of planning. Shinako had taken an hour, and imagined Kagerou replicating just such a circle in much less time as she became accustomed to timelessness. The ultimate sense of intent was to know exactly where you would end up, from the drawing of the very first line.

~~~~~~~~~~

Even Hyuuga Hakkusho’s pale and featureless eyes showed a hint of surprise as he checked over Shinako’s work. Perhaps he had always been this expressive, and Shinako was just now in a position to perceive it.

“This method worked for you? You didn’t end up using Kushina’s method?”

Shinako nodded silently as the man looked at the odd symbol on the scroll, where the Kunai knife was sealed. She wondered if he had personally read the Kagerou method. Practitioners of certain styles intentionally avoided exposure to other theories, as not to risk polluting their own. The Hyuuga method was one of strict orthodoxy, with dangerous and fatal consequences for deviation. Hakkusho’s cheeks tensed, and his eyes became oddly intense for a few moments before he relaxed again. It was a tick Shinako had often seen exhibited by inheritors of the Byakkugan when faced with something puzzling. She wondered if what he had seen had been illuminating. He looked like he had seen a ghost.

~~~~~~~~~~

As her mentor, it was Hakkusho’s duty to present his test and its formulation to the Council of Examiners, along with his personal recommendation for her continued study. Shinako was not allowed to be present, but Hakkusho had informed her that the meeting would not be routine. He had admitted that the test was one of particular difficulty, as Shinako was a Nara, had formal schooling, and was slightly older than most beginners in the program. The puzzle, however, had been designed to be solved using the Uzumaki method, with which Hakkusho was familiar. He would not be able to make a personal recommendation based on Shinako’s use of the Kagerou Method, and did not have a colleague qualified to perform a forensic breakdown of her work. The Council would have to decide based on the result and the difficulty of the test alone. The discussion was part of a broader meeting, which would take a few hours.

With time to kill, Shinako left the academy for home. It had been days since she had showered away from the gym facilities and dressed in her own clothes. She could tell that the housekeepers had come and gone while she was away, as the daily deliveries had been taken in and cleared away. Still, the house was silent when Shinako entered and floated absentmindedly up the stairs.

~~~~~~~~~~

“There will be a time before my life is winding down, and I am too tired for you to feel my love. You will be one day old, and your father makes a grudging trip to the hospital cafeteria for food. He, like me, finds it almost impossible to leave your side. He is afraid that you will disappear. You are an act of pure faith. I stand for the first time since birthing you, taking the few short steps to your bassinet, already feeling the cost of the bargain I have made.

As I lean over, you seem impossibly tiny to be the same enormous thing that lived inside of me for so long during the pregnancy. Your limbs are still thin, not yet the pleasant baby plump they will grow into; your face still red and contorted from your hard journey into the world. I run a single finger over your belly, and the impossible softness of you, wondering if there is silk soft enough to clad your skin. Then you writhe gently, responding to my touch, twisting your body back and forth to extend one foot and then the other. I recognize the gesture as one I have felt many times beneath my own ribs, and I am instantly all tears.

I feel elated at the correctness of it all, and the certitude that you are exactly the one I have carried and waited for. That is exactly how that gesture is supposed to look; evidence of a unique bond between mother and child. Even if I had never laid eyes on you before, I would have been able to pick you out of a sea of other babies. Even with parts of my mind and body stolen, or blown away, you are here. Air, and light, and time, and space have nothing to do with it.”


~~~~~~~~~~

Shinako stepped out of the shower, leaving behind the strange, looping figures she had absently drawn on the steamy glass between her legs and washing her hair. She had an odd feeling, not knowledge exactly, that Hyuuga Hakkusho was accepting a decision in her case just then. She would not be joining the Sealing Corps, and she was alright with that. Wrapped in her towel, Shinako relaxed a bit, taking a moment to soothe her aching muscles. She twisted her shoulders gently, first left and then right, stretching her legs in turn.

~~~~~~~~~~

Back in the deep training rooms of the academy, Shinako sat opposite an apologetic Hyuuga Hakkusho. He had pled her case before the Council of Examiners, but ultimately they had decided that her training in the program should not continue. However, this was an odd case. The Sealing Corps was expected to work as a team, so the method she had employed to complete the test would be an inappropriate addition. However, as the first and only student to get results from the Kagerou method, her continued study was of peculiar value. Normally she would be debriefed, sign a nondisclosure agreement, and be sent on her way. Instead, the Council was offering the opportunity to continue use of the facilities to perfect the use of the Kagerou method. Her name had already been added to the logs as a provisional student. They expected her to say yes.

Reaching across the desk, Hakkusho presented a black and gold lacquered scroll case; Shinako’s very own copy of the Kagerou scroll, so that she could study it on her own time, outside the restrictive environment of the academy. There were no tests currently devised for the method, so she would have to experiment.

~~~~~~~~~~

“I know all things come from existing things. In this way, our words can come from existing words and divide until our pronouncements develop selves. A woman, desperately pulling at the strings of time has something to tell us about the way we practice:

It is not what you see, but what you perceive that is Fuuinjutsu. Not the noise, but its rhythm; an arrangement of derangements. I will die so you may live. That is Fuuinjutsu.”


2,010/8,510

~~~~~~~~~~Exit~~~~~~~~~~

Training:

Fuuinjutsu Specialization:
Nothing to D-Rank: 1,500 Words
D-Rank to C-Rank: 3,000 Words
C-Rank to B-Rank: 4,000 Words

Total Words: 8,510
Words Used: 8,500
Words Dropped: 10


____


Ninjutsu: S|Genjutsu: A| Fuuinjutsu: B
Inton: A|Katon: A

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