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Adventures of the Worm Sage: Worm Sage: Stage Two! How Does It Keep Getting Weirder?

by EnviousWorm

EnviousWorm Now able to harness the nature energy necessary to move through the earth at great speeds, Keito finds he's moving on to the next stage in his training. But, just like last time, he's not crazy about the details he finds out. Maybe he'll just have to re-think what he imagines training is.
Keito woke up refreshed the next day, rising before dawn to wash himself in a nearby spring the Ubon clan had set up for him after his arrival -- no matter how much the young genin found himself thinking and acting like a worm, he still couldn't pass up the desire to take a bath. He wasn't sure what the next step in his training entailed; but he felt good. Maybe too good. Keito had been told many times how difficult this training was, and he'd already passed the first stage in five months!

Even if he just made it a little further, he'd have surpassed his older brother in some way. And Kenji was the best ninja he knew. What more could a young ninja boy want? Well, he decided -- completing the whole training would be nice. Years or decades to do it be damned.

'You seem content, child,' Ubontaba - his Sensei's wife, in a stretch of the sense - said, 'I haven't seen you drift off with your eyes close yet at all, I think.'

"I got some validation yesterday." Keito put it bluntly, smiling.

'Yes, Mr. Ubontobo told me you seem to have a handle on your initial nature energy training. Impressive.' The Worm Lady herself admitted. But that wasn't what Keito had in mind.

He drifted - ever so slightly - off to the day prior, and his unordinary talk with Tomoko, and her reassurance that he seemed like he was better off for the sage training, no matter how difficult or deadly it proved to be.

"Do you know much, about stage two?" He asked.

'I know everything,' Ubontaba advised, 'When I am not just me I am Ubontobo and he is I. Ask any worm in this city and they would remind you so.'

"Right." The genin replied with a huff. He forgot. The Elder Worm Ubontobo divided his body after a day of training, and all those worms made up the city of Ichimimizu. It was so hard to remember, sometimes, when they all seemed so different from Ubontobo.

Then he thought about how he hadn't even heard Ubontaba slither up beside him, and how none of these worms in the Ubon clan seemed to make any sense whatsoever.

Stepping out from the simple spring, Keito affixed himself with his threadbare clothes and went to the training ground he and his Sensei had been using for the past five-plus months. He was serious. He'd been serious when he'd started, but Keito grew moreso each day. Truth be told, he still wasn't sure what his training amounted to. But he wasn't taking it lightly, that was for sure.

Ubontaba followed him, and other worms from the city slithered out of their dirt huts and made the trek, where they would attach themselves to Master Ubontobo, who would grow sizeable enough to crush a decent village, had he the desire to cause such wanton destruction. As they finished, Keito began stretching, both the stretches of a determined trainee, and that of someone who maybe wanted a little more sleep.

'I hope you've been paying attention when I come to full power, Keito,' Ubontobo's telepathic projection flared like an alarm around the genin's brain, unlike his wife's soft hum.

"Yeah, I've seen it a hundred times now." He said, unimpressed.

'Good,' Sensei said, chuckling, 'It's stage two.'

"Excuse me?" Keito asked?

'A worm is their own self, but can be every other worm as well,' Ubontobo explained, 'Like with nature energy we are using a force outside of ourselves to strengthen our whole. Except we do it by combining our selves to form a greater self -- one which functions with a unified purpose. We call ourselves Ubontobo for ease of purpose, but I could call myself the name of any of the thousands that make up this form. And together we all channel our chakra and nature energy together to form a mighty being.'

Without warning and without moving, the earth began to tremble and shake. From the false sky up above, the ground they city was built under came down upon them, first like a terrible kind of hail and then it turned into a vast forest -- a maze almost, but natural, beautiful even. Trees, bushes, shrubs, even stone and other minerals coalesced into a display of the worms' power. Where flat land had stood before Keito, now was dense woods and a cave and even a river feeding into his personal spring.

"Woah." Keito said.

'Thus is our power. The power of one.' Spoke Ubontobo.

"So I have to add my power to that of the worms?" He asked, wondering what that sensation would be like. Maybe the act of becoming one witht he earth was, in a sense, preparation to become one with the worm.

'A human body is the perfect vessel to act as a conduit for our power,' Master Ubontobo said, 'You. individually can channel much more chakra and nature energy than a single worm. So fewer need attach to you for your powers to combine in an exponential growth. Whereas I need thousands or tens of thousands, you might only need hundreds. And the more you can add, and mix with yourself, the more, then, your power will grow.'

He tried not to squirm at the prospect of being covered in hundreds of worms, but that was impossible. They seemed like nice people. but Keito still found them gross, to some extent.

"So what is the first step?" Keito asked, trying to swallow his pride.

'First you will meet and select one-hundred of your first worm companions. From there, you will get to know them as they get to know you. If they own a shop, you will work in that shop. When you train, they will be granted more freedom of input during the process. And so on. When you know them, we will take the first steps of attunement.' Ubontobo explained so calmly, but the last word he spoke gave the young student chills.

"Attunement?" He asked, daunted by the task of getting to know one-hundred worms.

'You and the worms will join for twenty-four hours, your flesh to the others'. You will feed each other by sharing chakra and nature energy in a passive manner. This is usually done by lying in bed for the entirety of the process. Once attuned, you will be able to communicate with your worms as Ubontaba and I speak with you -- using our minds.'

"I'll be a telepath?"

'You will be able to speak to us as such, yes,' Ubontobo nodded, 'At first just the worms you are attuned to. But through time, you will be able to communicate with worms attuned to those you are attuned to in kind. Even in the cases of summoning, your attuning will allow you to call them first and foremost before any other worm.'

"How do I begin?" Keito asked finally, "Are you just going to split up and go home and I'll figure it out myself?"

Even before he was finished speaking, the Elder Worm was splitting himself back into his tens of thousands -- some slithered off back toward the city, some further into the new geography Ubontobo had built just outside of Ichimimizu.

'We'll play hide-and-go seek.' Ubontobo said before laughing.

"What?" The student asked, annoyed.

'Find one-hundred worms and learn their names. Then learn what they do. If you have any time left in the day, pick one worm and one thing and go do it. Repeat until you feel some connection with each of those worms. Whether it be friendship or through work or whatever. After that, we'll talk attunement.'

Like that, Master fell silent and the student was left scrambling. He spent time well into the afternoon trying to find one-hundred worms everywhere from burrowed under tree stumps and hiding under rocks to miraculously atop trees or floating on water like one relaxing on holiday. After each one he found, he asked their name, pulling his journal and a pen from his satchel and writing down each one and their occupation. It didn't help that each one had Ubon at the beginning: Ubontanki, the bartender. Ubonalaka, the florist. Ubonabataba, the rancher. Uboneki, the hermit. Ubongeti, the chef. Ubonubuku, the warrior. Ubonyologo, the dancer. Ubonraiteshi, the musician. Each worm had similar names, and each had a career (except Ubonubuku) that belayed a peaceful and quiet life of pleasure the worms enjoyed.

Lounging with his body curled over a wide, flat stone - acting like a worm in his own right - Keito breathed hard from a long several hours of hunting down more worms than he'd ever imagine having to look for. And his brain cross-wires trying to remember which name was the baker and which name was the comedian and which ran the only market in town.

Keito tried imagining the point of it all. Maybe there was some lesson to be learned about community, and family? That being connected to the world and the people around one only makes one stronger. That was hard to do when instead of people with faces he was picturing earthworms getting scooped out of the sky by hungry hawks after a long rain-storm.

'You're doing well, child,' Ubontobo said, gently, 'Keep going.'

"I know," Keito said, catching his breath, "I was just taking a short break."

'Have you figured whom you'll be spending the rest of your day with?" His curious master asked.

"I was thinking about checking out Ubonyologo's studio," He admitted, smiling "I wanted to see how a worm dance."
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