"Alright, what am I doing wrong?" Kenzo looked around again, his eyes passing over the same sandy stone within one of the training caverns in Sungakure no Sato's village wall. Nothing stirred from the lifeless earth to answer his internal query. He'd been meditating for two hours, focused intently on the chakra flow exercises he'd learned his first year in the academy. Try as he might, he couldn't shake a nagging feeling of ineffectualness. These drills used to leave him exhausted after half an hour, so why did he not feel strained even? He stood up from the cross-legged position he'd been in, breaking the handseal of the tiger he'd been holding since he started. He took a breath, releasing the frustration he could feel building at the base of his skull as he exhaled. As he pondered his situation, he idly began his stretching routine.
"Ok, it's just an exercise. Don't overthink it, you've been doing it right. Maybe you've just outgrown it. Sometimes you have to up your two mile run to three." He chuckled to himself as he touched his toes at how inadequate the comparison was. "What's the three mile run of meditating?" He wondered aloud, having transitioned into a cross-body shoulder stretch. Duration had seemed inconsequential, one hour no more strenuous than the next, so doing it longer was a waste of time. It was standard for the exercise to put as much effort as possible into channeling chakra through his meridians, so just putting more effort in couldn't be done. The only logical option was to train using more intense techniques.
"But you don't know any other chakra training techniques. Are you really going to walk all the way back into the village to admit you don't know how to properly train as a Genin?" It was hard enough to get respect being a recently graduated Genin at his age, if word got around he didn't know how to train appropriately for his rank he'd never live it down. He'd just have to find his own way to advance. "What's my three mile run? What's gonna push me past my limits?" He closed his eyes in relaxed contemplation as he rolled his neck. An idea formed in his mind. "My hardest jutsu, obviously."
As he finished the last handseal, a brief flash of chakra enveloped him. In it's wake was left the wrinkled, venerable form of an ancient sage. Kenzo's clothes were transformed into plain brown robes, which contrasted quite nicely with his now waist length white mustache and beard. He could feel his chakra straining to keep up the disguise. "It's always harder transforming into someone who doesn't exist." He sat down cross-legged again, and focused on channeling his chakra, feeling the familiar rush like blood pumping hard through his veins as a sheen of energy rose from his skin. Now there was difficulty, his focus divided, and a small smile crept onto the young man's wizened face. He steadied himself for however long it'd be until his reserves were exhausted.
Not fifteen minutes later, it appeared it wouldn't be long at all. Beads of sweat formed on his brow before making their agonizingly slow journey down to drip from his nose or chin. Sometimes they'd flow all the way down to his upper body, but they were quickly lost in the sheen of perspiration that had become a constant dampness from his neck down. He could feel the transformation becoming unstable, but dared not try forming the jutsu's signs again for fear of losing focus. For now there was only the flow of chakra, and him. As his chakra reserves neared empty, his world grew smaller. His vision blurred, the sensation of the hard cavern floor beneath him fading with each heartbeat. His body screamed for release, a desperate pressure building like a breath caught in his throat for too long. Still, Kenzo perservered, determined to test his limits. And as the world narrowed to a pinhole, he didn't feel his head hit the ground.
Kenzo awoke an hour later to a beetle crawling on his cheek. He idly swatted the small creature, sending it sprawling on it's back, segmented legs kicking at nothing. He slowly sat up, and upon noticing the helpless creature, righted the bug. He watched the insect scramble away, and felt the weariness that permeated the whole of his being. The transformation was gone, and it had left an emptiness on multiple fronts. Thirst scratched his throat with each swallow, and he could feel his stomach growling in annoyance. "Guess it's time for a lunch break."
Pork dumplings sated his hunger, and mineral water quenched his thirst. But only time could soothe the soul deep tiredness he felt. He was trying to relax and let his chakra replenish, but a nagging thought kept his mind from unfocusing. "I can do better, I know it. I just have to figure out how." But nothing came to mind. Transformation was the most intense continuous jutsu he knew. There simply wasn't anything better for this, not at his skill level. His eyes wandered while his mind chewed on the issue, coming to rest on the beetle who had so graciously awoke him. It was crawling up the cave's wall now, and as he watched the insect's ascent, a inspiration slowly trickled into the young man's brain. "No single jutsu is more intense, so I'll just have to use two."
The Sun was now low enough in the sky that Kenzo could see Her through the cavern's mouth in all Her glory. It was almost like She was peeking in on his efforts, and his confidence in his new training technique nearly doubled with Her watching over him. He opened his eyes slightly, careful to only see Yuumagure through his eyelashes, and said a small prayer of thanks to the upside down Sun. He was on the ceiling, transformed into the sage again. His hands were pressed together, with one leg lifted and bent at an acute angle so the bottom of his foot pressed against the side of the opposite knee. He was also rapidly approaching his limit, and had no intention of repeating his earlier black out. "Release it early, busting your skull open in training is far too embarrassing a way to die." Just as the edges of his vision grew hazy, the transformation was dispelled in a puff of smoke and he fell from the ceiling. He flipped midair, landing with a roll before coming to a stop on one knee, panting like a dog. He took a moment to catch his breath before standing up, gathering his things, and beginning the long walk back into the village. He paused at the cavern's entrance, and raised a weary fist in triumph. While there was no one inside the cave to see it, the sight of Kenzo's fist silhouetted by the Sun through the opening out made it almost seem like She too was sharing in his victory.