This article, A Hermit From The Past, is property of SoloStar2.

This article, A Hermit From The Past, is property of Dragon Lord Erin.

The article A Hermit From The Past is a part of the Embers of the Waterfall storyline, a closed storyline including specific characters.

"Find the man known as Hougou. If you're to get strong enough to take on our enemies and liberate our village from the clutches of a villainous leadership, it will have to be under his training."

That was what Kenta Kanata's mother had advised him to do, and that was what he felt he needed to do to. Kenta had never heard of this apparent hermit figure, who spent his days fixated on his own closed world, rarely seeing the need to participate frequently in village matters. But Kenta's mother apparently he,d this wise man in great regard, and she felt that her son would benefit somehow under his tutelage. So Kenta would follow her wishes, for once. The revelations of the true poisoned Takigakure that his mother had revealed to him were taxing to his mind, but he knew she was right. He had served them, made them respect his loyalty beyond doubt and now, he was about to conspire against them. What the hell, anyway.

He stood in front of a large waterfall, which based on the information (however limited) that he had gathered, was the abode of this sagely Hougou. As his brow curved upwards in curiosity, he adjusted his Fuma Shuriken, loosening the strap that kept it upon his back before he approached the waterfall; a habit he always followed when visiting the abode of others. As an assassin of the Waterfall, the young man knew about the importance of caution.

As the young man entered the cave behind the waterfall he would soon be surprised to be lifted by his ankles to a hanging position from the ceiling. In the darkness of the cave a light flickered ominously revealing small things as it appeared an disappeared. A flash of pale brown eyes reflected by the light, a stitched mouth, and looking closely a stitched up arm and hand from which the light was emanating. As the figure moved closer the light finally sprung to life as a roaring flame within the man's hand. His full body revealed as a figure robed in mostly a long black cloak that coated his body, and his dull white hair stood strong in the shimmering light. "Well well what do we have here." The man spoke as he eyed the suspended boy before taking a sip of tea from the cup in his other hand. "How did you find my cave and what is your purpose. Speak now or you won't ever again." The stitched man spoke with an unwavering glare.

As a movement caught the corner of his eye, all Kenta could do was hiss a curse, as he was lifted upwards towards the ceiling of the eerie, foreboding cave. Almost instinctively, he tensed the muscles of his abdomen, whipping his body upwards and getting a grip on the snare that held his ankle; but just as the kunai emerged from his sleeve to cut his bindings, Kenta noticed a face eerier than the surroundings. The mysterious figure spoke, and Kenta had to reply. "I would have knocked, but you don't have a doorbell, so pardon my intrusion." He cleared his throat, "I'm Kenta Kanata, a Chūnin of this village. I was sent here by..." Kenta lashed a moment, not sure if he was supposed to reveal his mother's identity and her part in all this to the mysterious man, but since his mother trusted him, Kenta decided to share this trust. Even if the man's home had snares. "Before I reveal anything else to you, I must know, are you the one known as Hougou?" He asked, his hand still gripping the snare tightly as he looked into those pale eyes.

As soon as Kenta spoke of the village Hougou dropped his tea and within seconds held his hand like a gun at the child."If you're an ally of the village you're no friend of mine Kenta Kanata, remember that." The man spoke with a sneer as he released the threads that had trapped the boy and dropped him to the ground. He lowered his hand as he began to speak again. "Kenta Kanata son of the alcoholic and Minatsuki the traitor. It's a good thing the traitors are the good guys then isn't it." The man continued as he snapped his fingers as small torches lit up revealing a long path deep into the cave system and the shining light highlighted the pale brown eyes staring at Kenta. "I assume your mother sent you then."

Kenta's eyes widened as the man's words reached him, "So you are Hougou, and apparently you already know why I'm here, as you know of me, but not of my face." Kenta said as he stood up, brushing the dirt off his clothes as he straightened and tightened the straps which held his giant Shuriken. "My..." He hesitated before saying the word 'mother', one which he had held in the lowest regard for almost two decades until a few days ago, "...mother, told me to seek you out. Since you apparently get the gist of it, she told me that you would help me get stronger to face the upcoming challenges." He inhaled sharply and exhaled softly. "She said you'd train me." He stated. For all these years Kenta had never doubted his own skill, he had ought glowingly of his own abilities, the model middleman ninja of Takigakure, a team player, no pushover. But it had become apparent to him after witnessing his mother's own vicious skill that day, that if push came to shove, the true elites of Takigakure would steamroll him in seconds. There was still so much that he didn't know, and Kenta was wise enough to realise that one had to fear the unknown more than the known.

Hougou looked at the kid closer, he truly didn't seem like much but maybe that was just because Hougou had seen so many that looked better than the boy. Hougou's senses told him the boy was well equipped and could actually hold his own, of course against anyone above his rank he doubted the boy would stand much of a chance. "If you want to be my student then listen well Kenta. I have only had one other student that has managed to complete my training and he became a truly great man. If you see my help I shall provide it but know this, I will not tolerate quitting. If you ever feel like giving up either try harder or curl up and die." He spoke while glaring at the kid. He then broke into smile and shouted in much happier voice. "However we will have lots of fun provided you're willing to take this seriously and I assure you that you'll be able to scrub Takigakure clean of its grime."

Kenta knew such conditions would possibly arise, but taskmasters always made great men out of heir apprentices. This would be the second taskmaster in his life, but Kenta would not let mere vigour and rigour stop him from fighting against the warmongering plans of the corrupt in his own village, who sought to propel Takigakure to a mighty pedestal by means of employing great violence and strife. "I haven't been one to quit in my life," Kenta stated, inhaling deeply, recollecting each struggle he'd been through leading up to this very moment. The silence seemed to radiate a presence of its own between the two men in the cave, but it let Kenta listen to the silent voice of his own heart loud and clear. He had been lost once, but he had finally been given the chance to make a change, to choose his own destiny and also shape the destiny of Kirigakure. "I accept your conditions, Hougou-sensei," he stated, cool unrevealing voice masking the determination that radiated from every fibre of his very being.

As Kenta spoke the words Hougou-sensei his smile skyrocketed as his eyes lit up with a brown shine. "Alright then Kenta let us waste no time then." He called as he began to walk down the long hallway into the cave system. As they walked down the seemingly never-ending path Hougou paused before turing back to Kenta with a look of deep thought written on his face. "So Kenta before we go any further I want you to tell me about yourself, strengths, weaknesses, elements, special powers, food preference, and so on." The man stated enthusiastically as he waited to hear all about his new pupil. I can't believe I got another student they usually all run crying after my speech or faint. I hope this one proves to reach and even surpass my previous one, If he makes it there I might just have them meet. The man thought to himself as he smiled at his new pupil.

Food preference? Kenta thought to himself quizzically. Truly this man was...eccentric. "I have no true strengths, I only sharpened whatever would help my team during missions. My only element is Water, for now. I'm not picky with food." He stated as he walked forward through the cave. "As for weaknesses..." Kenta scratched his chin with his thumb. "Probably my lack of mastery in any given field."

Hougou grabbed Kenta's shoulders and shook him as he spoke those last words. "Don't get down on yourself Kenta." Hougou spoke as he removed his hands from his shoulders. "Think of it like this, you specialize in nothing and have no shape. You are an un-molded ball of clay that can take whatever shape it desires, I'll mold you into a strong ninja." The man spoke with a sincere smile. "Now back to your strengths, you say you are good with basic techniques so we can work off of that. As for your element water release is my original affinity so that should be no problem for us." He spoke as they entered a large cave. The ceiling towered above them like a giant dome, a small stream ran though the cave that seemed to provide fresh water. A smaller cave branched off from the large one that seemed like a house, it contained every necessity and even a few luxuries. "There's two beds in there so don't worry." Hougou spoke as he walked to the center of the massive cavern and turned to Keanta, swinging his outward he shouted. "Welcome to your new home!"

Kenta followed the man and scanned his surroundings. A truly queer man, Hougou was turning out to be. As Hougou exclaimed the words stating this to be Kenta's new home, Kenta noted that he'd expected worse. So this was actually comforting for now. The reason Hougou secluded himself still eluded Kenta, but he just nodded on to each of Hougou's words, not wanting to start stringing in questions. Sometimes, one could gain as much knowledge from silence, as one did with questions.

"You're quite the quiet one for someone who comes seeking my help." He spoke as he stared at his unmoved face. "You need to relax a little kid, seriousness will only get you so far." He spoke as he walked over to the stream and looked to the wall where the water entered. With a few movements of his hands the riverbed that the water flowed through widened and deepened as the place where the water entered grew to let even more in. He then sat by the newly created river and began making small constructs out of it.

"Oh," Kenta stated, aware that his silence had been taken the wrong way. He bowed briefly, "Pardon me. It's just that I enjoy taking in my surroundings before I pass words." He stated in a mildly apologetic tone. He watched on curiously as Hougou began crafting constructs by the river. Now it was time for words. "What are those constructs, sensei?"

"It's no problem." Hougou spoke as he waved Kenta over "These constructs are a great way to test your ability with water." He spoke as he motioned to the two constructs, they were basically a replica of a human with every detail on them. They were currently having a sword fight and as they clashed sparks made of water flew off their swords, it was as if a real battle was taking place. "Anyone can make a big fish out of water but those who are masters can sculpt anything to an realistic degree. This is your first task." He spoke as he continued to sculpt.

Kenta raised an eyebrow as he stepped forward. Anything eh? He breathed slowly and gathered his chakra, flowing it through his left Palm. He stepped forward and placed it on the stream, and the water immediately started to swirl, reacting to his spiritual energies. However it continued to merely swirl, not forming into anything in particular, despite gradual furrows appearing across Kenta's forehead, signalling immense pent up concentration. Though he possessed the skill to use certain water related techniques on a whim, shape transformation was apparently nowhere near his forte—thus without adequate practice in this field til then, Kenta was unable to mould his own affinity instantly. But he kept at it, forcing the water upwards gradually, but surely.

"Good good I can see progress already but you need to relax more." Hougou spoke with a smile as he stood up and walked to Kenta. "Your a water user from Takigakure so it's only right to assume you can use the water blade right? Well using that logic all you did was shape and condense water. This is the same thing but on a more detailed scale. Water is malleable and can be bent to your will as long as you can bend it. Just use the same principles you did for the sword and expand upon them." The man spoke as an aura of wisdom radiated from him.

Eccentric as he is, he knows his stuff. Kenta thought, noting the man's confidence behind his basic explanation. The water swirled higher even more, but Kenta knew that was about how much he would achieve that day. "So Hougou sensei, what led to you isolating yourself here? Your name has never been mentioned openly in the village, but yet it seems my mother was acquainted with you. You don't seem to be on very good terms with the village either, what happened?" Kenta finally decide to start asking, as the water stopped swirling. His curiosity was peaking, eager to unravel the identity of his eccentric teacher, to gain insight into his soul. Some things wold never be deduced by observation, anyway.

Hougou laughed a little before his face became serious. "Well..." His voice was cut off by shouts from the front of the cave "I KNEW WE COULD FIND IT!""LETS LOOT THIS PLACE!" Hougou just sighed as he stood and waited for the people to enter. Three men walked inside and upon seeing the two drew their blades. "Hey get out of our cave." One shouted, without a word Hougou extended one hand and the threes movement stopped. The one who had spoken swiftly drew his sword and decapitated the other two before decapitating himself. As Hougou walked over to the bodies the same black threads that had trapped Kenta emerged from his hands. "Water, water, and earth." He mumbled as there threads shot from his hands and embedded themselves in the people before returning with three hearts. Hougou then walked over to a door and walked into the room. He emerged after a minute and looked at Kenta who seemed to be confused at what he just did. "Now we can talk." Hougou spoke.

"Those threads you just saw were my kinjutsu, ever heard of Kakazu the man who stole Takigakure's kinjutsu, that was my creation. I was born during the warring states period and move from where Suna would be established to the village that was here." He stopped to get some water from the stream and then went on. "Most of the information during the first ten years is irrelevant, eventually though I got tired of the same place and traveled the world. That is how I met my first pupil, Jouman Gankai. That man is truly something now." Hougou spoke with obvious pride. "Anyways after that and the rest of my travels I finally came back to see the pitiful state of this village, everyone forgot about it and it simply grew worse during the fourth war. I would've helped but there was no longer anyone worth saving, everyone here was filth as far as I knew. One day though I found a barrier put up on a hill a mile away from my cave and investigated it, it was there that I met your mother and the rebels. Despite their pleas I had given up on that place long ago but offered to lend them money and possibly help on a few things if they truly were dedicated to it." Hougou finished as he drank more water. "Questions?"

Kenta nodded, satisfied by the explanation. He then stood up, his gaze shifting to the corpses with gaping holes in their chest, and then back to Hougou. His blue eyes shone in the darkness, as he allowed his thoughts to settle. Everybody in Takigakure knew about the infamous Kakuzu, a legend whose infamy and lust for money was preceded only by his legendary and frightening reputation. A reputation for being unkillable. The bastard had met his demise when the current Hokage of the Leaf plowed through him, many years back—thus ending his bloody, fearsome repertoire ingloriously. But Kakuzu was still, in a way immortal.

Mothers had always raised their kids to be good citizens, using Kakuzu as a boogeyman if their children acted against the acceptable norm. "Do that again and the Kakuzu will come by your window tonight, the threads of his body will absorb you into his body, and there you will stay forever, until time meets its end," Kenta's own mother had told him all those years back. Upon seeing these threads with his own eyes, Kenta finally knew what they were; and he began to have a slight inkling that Hougou was truly very much more dangerous than he seemed—probably on a whole different level altogether. There existed two types of dangerous shinobi in the world. The known—powerhouse goliaths of international, titanic renown like the Kage, and those of their level such as the enigmatic inventor Makaze Kantoku, or the former special ops investigator turned diplomat Densetsu and so on; and the Unknown. The Unknown were the roots that grew within the darkness, and they were to be feared more than the known.

Hougou probably qualified under the Unknown.

"Just one more question Sensei," Kenta muttered, folding his arms. "Those guys, they came in here like they knew something was in here. Is there anything?" He asked quizzically. Part of him also wondered what the man had coming for him next.

Hougou smiled as he walked over to a wall and landed against it. "Kenta I am the man that created that kinjutsu and ever since it was stolen I am the only one that has the notes. What treasure hunters wouldn't see immortality as a valid reason to storm caves and kill for themselves." The wise man spoke as he walked forwards. "Now Kenta I want to tell you one more thing. Remember when the three killed themselves without me touching them, that was water release." He spoke calmly.

"What?" Kenta asked, the surprise evident in his tone, his back straightening like a ruler. His eyes shifted to the corpses and then to the hermit ahead of him again. "But how...?" He trailed off as he thought back to the brief, one sided exchange. He couldn't think of anything significant that had even suggested his tutor using the water release. "I'm sure if that's the case, you probably used a form of Genjutsu—no I'm sure you used some Genjutsu either way, but I expected it to be via eye contact, or hearing your voice. But how did you eliminate them without openly displaying any water?" Kenta asked, scratching his head as he shut his eyes briefly, trying to make something out of the revelation. Kenta had never been the smartest among his peers, but he hadn't ever been the stupidest either. But this bugged his head.

Hougou's smile just grew wider as he looked upon his puzzled student. "Oh come on you can get it." He spoke again only to be met by the silence of the cavern. Kenta's face was wrinkled in thought, his mind attempting to wrap around the idea of utilizing water release to that extent. "Fine I'll tell you, it's not genjutsu thats for sure." The man sighed as he began to reveal the truth of what he could do. "The body is sixty percent water and as a master of water I can create it and even control existing sources of it. I can simply take control of the water in a person's body to do as I please. It is what I view as the ultimate form of water release." The man stated with certainty.

"Incredible..." The younger lad trailed off, head shaking in mild disbelief. He hadn't even seen Hougou make contact—so he reckoned that the ancient man had somehow mixed his own chakra in the air and then manipulated it when it entered the enemy's bodies. Which made the technique all the more incredible. "My mother was right, you truly do possess great skill sensei." Kenta admitted, before his eyes zoomed into the gaping holes in the chests of the dead men. "So the legend of Kakuzu's kinjutsu was true. The user consumes hearts." He acknowledged to his sensei.

"Not consume, use." The man replied. "This kinjutsu is a medical process that changes the very makeup of the user, our bodies are now filled with an almost infinite amount of threads. We can add multiple hearts to our body that still make it function. It's quite an insane process." Hougou spoke as he reached into his body and pulled out a heart. "This is one of my seven hearts, each lets me use an elemental release or Kekkei Genaki based on the chakra of the heart." He spoke as he placed the heart back inside him. "Now Kenta I know you finished training but I have one more task for you. "Create a dome of water around you so that lightning release cannot get to you but will simply be channeled into the water and you will not be wet." He spoke as he waited for the kid's response.

Kenta watched the man's antics with a slight churning in his stomach, like any sane man would feel, but he masked it with a poker face. Just like any shinobi worth his or her salt would. Upon hearing his teacher's request, Kenta decided to give it a try; despite never actually having used his Water Release to create a dome shaped defence before. Another attempt at shape manipulation, which was Hougou's apparent focus that day. Clapping his hands together, he expelled a torrent of water from his mouth, shooting it ahead of him and willing it to curve around him, with great difficulty.

"Good good." Hougou shouted with glee. The man extended his arm and fired off a bolt of lightening into the swirling mass, to his delight it simply got caught in the sphere. "Perfect, step one is complete Kenta." The man spoke as he turned towards the bedroom and began walking. "Get some rest cause tomorrow is training day." The man spoke maliciously as he turned back towards Kenta and gave him an evil smile.

Kenta lay awake for a long time that night—his first stay in a cave. Especially such a labyrinth with beds of all things. The fact that robbers had their eye on the place also ensured that Kenta had taken several precautions of his own, in case his sleep happened to be too deep. A lone kunai was strapped to his upper left arm, ready to be called into action by his dominant left at a moment's notice should the need arise; and his Fuma Shuriken lay beside the bed frame on the ground, connected to his index finger by two very inconspicuous wire strings. He had also booby trapped his luggage with a flashbomb, should an intruder attempt to pry hiss rucksack open. Having now changed into a black singlet and shorts, he stared up into the blank ceiling of the cave, as moonlight leaked inside from a hole somewhere across the higher portion of the cave. His sky blue eyes peering into the darkness, Kenta's thoughts shifted from his new, eccentric master's abode to the task that lay ahead of him. It was easy to accept a task that ensured the wellbeing of the greater good, but upon further meditation, one would realise how truly difficult such an endeavour would be. Training would help lessen the load, Hougou's experience would prove to be crucial if Kenta were to be able to succeed in his mission.

He would also have to focus on gathering Intel as well as acting as normal as possible, to avert suspicion; all in addition to the training. With a soft hiss of exhaled hair, Kenta closed his eyes and sank into his world of dreams—providing a brief respite from the violent world he lived in. A moment of rest before the new day.

Hougou got out of his bed and smiled at the sight of Kenta's various protections. "Well he's smart that's for sure. Might as well not tell him that I'm on watch all night, it's good training." Hougou thought to himself as he walked to the long hallway and incinerated the four bodies of some robbers that he had killed that night. Hougou then walked back into the room and grabbed Kenta without waking him before setting up their training. When Kenta would wake he would find himself dangling over an extremely large pit of electrified water and was hung to the ceiling by razor sharp wire strings. "Kenta hey." Hougou shouted up to him with a small wave. "So this is your first test, the water below you is electrified. You can only use the single kunai on your arm and the circle of water I taught you yesterday." Hougou told Kenta as he stepped back. "If you fail this it's over and you will die. You have five minutes."

"Holy sh—!" Kenta sputtered as he found itself strung up by wire strings. "How the hell did he get me while I was asleep? I specifically set up traps for robbers, they should have worked against him too, but no matter, time to focus on the task at hand." Stopping the internal monologue, Kenta acknowledged Hougou's words. Death would meet failure. While shocked, Kenta wasn't surprised—all this was within range of Hougou's eccentricity after all. As the wire pressed into his flesh, an exaggerated movement drew blood from his calf; drawing a curse from under Kenta's breath. Sliding out the kunai, he slipped it between his teeth, as his fingers formed a few hand seals. Spitting the weapon onto his left hand, he arched backwards, expelling a stream of pressurised water downwards from his mouth towards the electrified water below, slowly but surely expanding outages and now backward into the shape of the circle. Without even casting a look back, he flung the kunai towards his bindings, slashing through several of the wire strings, allowing him to plummet to the death trap below; just as a sphere of water began to close in on him as he descended, separating him from the electrified, fatal water below. The orb closed in around him at the right time, as the electricity surged though his own water defence; but not entirely. Kenta was now manipulating the electrified water itself, adding it to his spherical defence.

He touched down on a dry surface in the centre of his still swirling sphere of electrified water, knowing that he'd have only brief window of opportunity to get out, before it all came cascading back down. Closing his yes, he charged a jump and finally leaped, willing the dome to disperse sideways just as he shot upwards. As the water crashed back into the pit, Kenta landed on the dry bed, panting. "That was...close." He gasped, as he recollected his calm. "Were you trying to fucking get me killed?!" Kenta's mind screamed out, but he held his tongue. Politeness and some form of respect still shown to Hougou, his teacher, despite the time being little past the devil's hour and having his own sleep brutally get interrupted.

Hougou smirked as he watched Kenta awaken and realize where he was, his face told his whole story. As he maneuvered his way through the small test Hougou had set up the man smiled. Not many have made it past a day with me, hell they usually try to do something stupid during the night and die. Well at least this kid gets the just of it, reminds me a bit of Jouman except more screaming and lighting. The man thought to himself as he watched Kenta finally land. Just by watching his face as he landed and contemplated what just happened Hougou knew he was upset. "Hey you're not dead, that's wonderful news. Most people would be dead if they attempted that but hey I like the risk taking." Hougou spoke happily before leaning over to Kenta and handing him a towel. "Alright whenever your ready you have the day free but just keep in mind that at the end of the day I'm going to shoot lighting at you and if you can't redirect it well you know what happens." Hougou spoke with a wink. "I'll be in the library if you need me." Hougou spoke as he walked off into a large doorway.

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