Date: January 14, 2012
Hone Nai steps in temporarily to act as the Kazekage's unfortunately indisposed secretary to remind him of an appointment with the Shinigami — "Death-san" himself.
"Blood Red Sandman - A Case Of Death"
Kazekage's Office - Sunagakure
So many things to do when you're a high-ranking public official. e.e Sousa usually manages to blitz through his responsibilities (at least, the ones which he regards as important) in the final-hour minutes between his frequent escapes to check on running experiments, make himself seen by the public, observe the frantic behavior of his staff while he's gone, and just evade the less pleasant and fulfilling duties of the Kazekage. Lately, though, things have been particularly demanding, what with the promotion exams he plans to host in Sunagakure. It should be a bonanza of interesting occurrences when it arrives, but there are so many preparations to be made. Sousa hasn't had time to visit the garden, or confirm the measurements of weather-guaging devices, or…what was that series of off-the-book appointments? Something to do with psychiatry and unique life processes…oh well. Sousa focuses his mind on reading through the documents sitting on his desk, making certain that all the details are being taken care of.
A buzzer sounds in Sousa's office from his secretary's desk. That is to say, it's from the desk of his personal secretary, not the secretaries in the office that is OUTSIDE of the waiting room that seperates Sousa's office from the hallways of the Kazekage Administration Dome. Those other secretaries are more for managing appointment-making, any files or registration, correspondence that isn't confidential or known to be critical, etc. Those other secretaries are also one of the 'lines of defense' against those who feel it is 'urgent' they see the Kazekage and yet don't seem to have an appointment, are not on the 'allowed' list, or cannot speak their business openly. If it's really that urgent, most such people know that as they enter and pass through the lobby on the ground floor, they can simply use an inconscpicuous handsignal or seemingly trivial action like drumming fingers on the reception desk without stopping to send up a notification to the offices above that will leave the secretaries aware someone is approaching on urgent business.
Even then, however, there is the personal secretary. She is rather self-sufficient, and knows fully well by now (if she didn't already know before being hired) how to do her job without pestering her employer over every minor thing. Thus, if she buzzes the Kazekage in his office, it is typically either something of sufficient importance that even Sousa himself would be interested or it is simply a notification that someone he already knew was coming has arrived. Based on whether he responds immediately or not when it's a matter of an appointment, this experienced woman informs the person that the Kazekage will be with him or her in a moment, and to please have a seat.
Surmising that Sousa is too busy with an experiment or something to jump at the command of an annoying little bell is 'not exactly rocket surgery' to use a quaint turn of phrase. However, Sousa can also give coded replies of his own in a variety of ways, including SILENT messages if it's an emergency or Sousa simply doesn't want to see a particular person. In the latter instance, Miss Secretary can make up a plausible-sounding excuse as to why Sousa can't see him or her right then, including simply not being in the office right then. 'Out on business'. Things like that.
The woman is efficient, reliable, and requires minimal supervision. All wonderful qualities in an employee in her position. Unfortunately, either she has had an attack of incompetence or the buzzer is broken because when it starts sounding in the office it keeps going and doesn't stop. It just keeps sending out that jarring, tooth-acheing, electrical ZZZZZRRRRRRRRRRRR noise indefinitely. This goes on for quite awhile, infact. At the point where Sousa may be about to either reply from his own end of the contraption or see what's going on in the room outside his office, the buzzer abruptly clicks off. Then nothing.
Sousa absently places a hand on the affirmative-reply switch, waiting for the initial buzz to stop. After a few seconds of it not stopping, Sousa pauses in his reading. His hand shifts to the vocal communication switch. "Michi-san? What's going on?" After a few more seconds, the buzzing stops. Sousa sighs through his nose. "You know, it's very vexing to lose competent employees. I do hope you haven't done any permanent damage." Sousa leaves his desk and goes to find out what's happening outside his office. e.e
Sousa moves across his office, heading towards the door. Suddenly, however, the wooden barrier itself BURSTS open with such force that it splinters the door frame! Before it can potentially strike the wall, however, it stops by virtue of the one who forced the door open still having a hand-hold on the knob or handle or whatever Sousa specified for his door (if anything). Standing in the doorway now, with only a darkened waiting room lying behind it, is a withered, dessicated corpse. This corpse still has eyes despite appearing to be so dry and ancient that any moist flesh like that should have rotted away long ago. The eyes are of two different hues of red in the pupils and irises, and a yellowish tint lies in the sclera around those. The mirthless, fixed, skeleton-grin of a half-bared skull, with very unusually sharp teeth, remains in a firmly set expression of… Expressionlessness. The dead thing stands seemingly of its own accord, as no one is present to hold it up.
Sousa has seen this thing before, even if not necessarily recently. Then again, there's only so many creatures it COULD be in a situation like this. However, visual perception of the creature may quickly become rather stymied by the fact that any light from the window appears to be getting cut off as something rises up from outside the building, gradually cutting off contact with the outside with a wall of… Sand?
Diffused clouds of dirt and dust in the air, carried on the currents of the Ghoul's sudden entry, move through Sousa's office inconscpicuously. Yet the floating is not random, and is moving with a purpose all around Sousa and the office, seeking out any artificial light sources and attempting to cut off their power, smother them, or snuff them out in the very earth that composes this undead monster.
Unless Sousa acts to prevent this or does something else, the deep, nearly-aristocractic baritone that is the TRUE voice of the Ghoul says into the utter darkness, "Michi-san won't be answering you, sadly. She appears to have contracted a case of death."
Oh yes, that's what those appointments were. How did Sousa manage to forget about them for so long? Well, even the greatest minds can let things slip when there are so many demands upon them. Sousa begins to gather up his chakra, gazing into the eyes of his visitor even as the darkness cloaks them from view. "Hmm. I shall have to eliminate the vector before it spreads," he remarks. "You know, considering an alarm hasn't been raised, I'm presuming nobody living besides myself has seen you here yet. We could possibly cover this incident over, even now. But I imagine you aren't interested in that." Sousa shifts his feet to a ready stance. "So then, what is your interest in coming here, Nai-san? Or would you prefer a different name now?"
Nai — or the Ghoul, or whatever it would best be considered right now — doesn't interrupt Sousa while he speaks. That would be rude, after all! However, he DOES speak when the Kazekage finishes. "'Eliminate the vector'? You 'imagine' I would not want my presence here concealed? Would I 'prefer a different name now'?" The tone of the speaker in darkness is incredulous and yet not necessarily upset. More politely confused, or vaguely amused somehow, infact. "My, my, my. How things have changed in my absence. A number of assumptions appear to have been made without objectivity or logic as a guide! Further, these rather rash and, dare I say, EMOTIONALLY BASED assumptions are being made by none other than a fellow scholar, researcher, and intellectual! And here I thought we were -friends-…" The tone of hurt in that last word is feigned, and yet might not entirely be false. Or maybe that undercurrent is not pain but —
Whoops, no time to linger on the subtleties of vocal communication right now! The voice seems to be moving away from the doorway, crossing the room — but heading 'right' relative to Sousa and not towards the man at all. "Here I came to speak with you on a matter of great urgency despite some considerable risk to myself, and the implications of your words upon my arrival are that you suspect ME of being responsible for some form of… 'wrong-doing'. It APPEARS that you may have in your head the notion that Michi-san is dead from my actions. It APPEARS you think perhaps the person you have worked alongside, conversed with, studied with, and built the Hidden Sand itself with, has somehow magically become someone else simply because he is not concealing his appearance beneath many layers or skulking in shadows, lest he offend the delicate sensibilities of your test subjects — Oh, pardon me, I meant 'citizens'." The mocking sarcasm is layered on so thickly throughout this that it can almost be heard to DRIP from the words spoken.
"Yes, the HIDEOUS abomination who was so GENEROUSLY offered a second-change by you, the noble Kazekage, the man who unified the Land of Wind's scattered peoples in peace instead of war, can only be trusted as long as its hideousness is kept from view…" The voice has, by this time, seemingly moved to Sousa's right-rear position, near the window and on the far-side of the desk — unless he has turned to face there. Despite the words being spoken, Nai or the Ghoul, seems to be nearly cheerful in his negativity. Then he asks suddenly, "Or am I wrong? Perhaps, in my inferior intellect, I have mistaken your intentions. Perhaps I have taken innocent words to the worst possible extreme of potential meaning, because of how damaged, deranged, and inhuman I have become! Perhaps, even now, I am so busy lamenting my fate and projecting my inner turmoil onto the one who has stood by me where no one else would have, that I am simply MISSING the whole POINT of what you have said?
A 'heavy' seeming pause follows after this, as though Sousa is not really INTENDED to answer quite yet and is meant to KNOW that. Then, without noise of air intake from the one without need for air, the speech resumes. "Am I wrong, Sousa-san? Have I simply missed the POINT?" Less than a second after that last word, a sudden, jarring sound of something STRIKING the wall that would have been to Sousa's left while facing the doorway Nai came in through, but might not be somewhere else — perhaps behind him — if he has since turned. It sounds like the wall may have taken significant damage from the blow. "After all, I asked for your help as a human being… As a FRIEND… And you helped me by… Hmm… What DID you do to help me again?" Then something strikes the same wall again, but this time on the opposite side of the room. It sounds like this something was not quite solid, or more like many smaller somethings striking all at once.
"How strange… I just can't seem to REMEMBER what you did… Even ONCE…" The nearly deafening sound of the desk being smashed in half fills the room for several long moments, unable to travel anywhere else.
Finally, the sentence is completed. "…To HELP me." Another lengthy silence, this time with perhaps a sense of growing tension, like there's something bad coming very soon. The temperature in the room has been dropping steadily throughout this, until a chill may even be starting to induce numbness in Sousa. Eventually, the Ghoul's voice comes not from where it was last heard, but from a different corner of the room. "Say it." Then from the opposite corner immediately after. "Tell me I'm wrong." Then from the corner near the door. "Say you're my friend." Then from the final remaining corner, "Tell me you've been on my side all along."
Then from all four corners at once, and even scattered other locations, all at once, "-Say it-." The voice in that last pair of words are no longer necessarily the Ghoul's no longer necessarily Nai's no longer necessarily… Human or even something that was ONCE human. It's more like the very desert itself has spoken with the sound of the shrieking wind and shifting sands.
At the same time it almost feels like a hand of air, dust, and the cold of death itself is clutching at Sousa's throat, waiting for the wrong answer.
A few different things run through Sousa's mind. He could note that despite his own love for knowing and thinking with a high degree of correctness, even he acknowledges the need for a little heuristic assumption in social encounters. He could say that suspicion is not outright accusation. He could attempt to mollify the ghoul with words he doesn't really mean. None of those seem like useful options, though.
Instead, Sousa simply gives a straight answer. "You are not wrong," he states. "I do assume that you have killed Michi-san, I do believe that your decision to come here without your usual guise indicates a radical change in your personal goals, and despite what efforts I did manage to make to understand your condition, I have done nothing which resulted in practical help to you." Sousa holds up a hand and creates an arc of electricity between two fingers, giving the room some flickering illumination. "Whether I am your friend depends on your definition of the term, but I am one of a very few people who would have made any attempt to assist you."
As Sousa speaks into the now-freezing darkness, does not try to deny the accusations (though perhaps not technically being accusations if the words were taken literally, except perhaps by context or the situation they are being spoken in), and in fact CONFIRMS some of them… It is one of the last things Sousa says, as he raises his hands and produces an electrical arc, that may be taken as the 'wrong answer' judging by the response he receives. The fitful light that is cast by that arc reveals that the Ghoul of the Desert is standing directly in front of Sousa, perhaps less than a foot away, staring directly at the man with unblinking, unliving, lidless eyes. Perhaps more disturbing than the visual image as the light casts some form of unstable luminance upon parts of the Ghoul's features and throwing those aspects into strobe-like, too-vivid, nightmarishly erratic clarity from below while leaving other portions in darkness, is that there may not be any real way to tell just how long the undead creature has been standing there. It can clearly move about the room at will without sound unless speaking… And the potential exists that it may have been 'throwing its voice' literally flawlessly, in defiance of accoustics. That would mean it could have been there the whole time, able to see every single twitch of a nerve, every tensing of a muscle, every drop of moisture as the cold causes condensation and then ice to form on Sousa's skin, and every most minute body language indicator of what the Kage is really thinking and feeling. Hone Nai, or whatever he is now, is clearly unimpeded by the pitch-black at all.
Sousa may even have known this already, though the fact that the last time he spoke to Nai about his sensory abilities, it was in relation to an enhanced affinity for perceiving and recognizing BLOOD, not being immune to utter darkness. If so, he might have been intentionally controlling himself outwardly… Perhaps he is a sophisticated enough actor that externally there is no way to tell from sight alone what he may be truly thinking or feeling. However, unless Sousa also has the ability to dictate the functions of his own body by force of will or some other means, right down to making his heart beat only as he wishes or refusing to allow adrenaline to flow or any so-called 'fear chemicals' to be released from the pores of his skin, then it is unlikely that nothing at ALL was revealed to the monster known to some as 'The Flesh Stalker'.
In the end, however, there he is. Or it is. Easily within arm's reach. Easily able to strike. The electric beam produces sufficiently bright light that it pains the undead monster. Without blood of its own or functional nerves, or similar, its eyes have neither dialated nor 'undialated'. Still, the yellow sclera of each putrid eye seems to become a bit more glassy, much like the eyes of a fish do when it is being cooked. The Ghoul does not move out of the light despite the pain. Instead, without moving its lipless maw, it says, "It's ironic, you know. When I previously appealed to you as a friend, if you had at that time, any time prior, or any time following, ever given a verbal indication you considered me your friend as I believed I was back then — even if you had lied… I would have believed you if you had claimed to be my friend just now. Then again, if you had done that back then, we might not have come to be in this situation. It's almost funny when I think about it. Almost funny…"
Then the Ghoul steps back finally, retreating without turning, claw-tipped fingers upon thin hands hanging loosely at its sides. "…But not quite THAT funny." Once it is nearer to the wall the door is set in, which apparently at some point gained a barrier of sand of its very own after the former Records Keeper entered (meaning if Sousa had simply darted for the door, perhaps thinking with his Kage-level speed and such he could put some distance between himself and the Ghoul if he ran in a straight line, he would have instead charged directly into a rather dense-looking obstruction without knowing it was there), the Ghoul says, "I came to inform you that I have had an ephiphany." A pause as the creature leans its head and some of its upper body forward, gesturing with its left hand to emphasize the next words it speaks. "I. Don't. Need. You." 'Relaxing' again, the monster once known as Hone Nai says, "I don't believe I ever did. But you might have continued to fool me into thinking I needed you if you had sought not only a great understanding of the people around you but had acted as though you cared. Alas, opportunities lost…"
The Ghoul finally backs up until it is pressed against the wall seperating Sousa's office from the waiting room. "You see, I came to a realization some time ago. The reason so much of this universe of ours doesn't work the way we'd like is that the universe isn't working properly at ALL. At first, I thought the world was simply 'broken'. The truth of the matter is that it was not truly 'intact' when it was MADE. Whatever entity may have designed the cosmos or whatever circumstances led to its existence without interference from 'higher powers', the universe as it exists now is fundamentally flawed in a way that can not be corrected from INSIDE the flawed structure, lest of all by flawed components of the problem who work with flawed tools. The 'Dead King' from that 'Other World'… I went to his world and confronted him. I thought he was an alternate version of myself originally, that I had the same potential to be as monstrous as that fiend…"
"I was mistaken. The thing that inhabited the same undead body that I do now, though in a future time and a different 'version' of our own universe was not me at all! Why… It was a certain individual who you may have read reports about. A certain 'Sheex', infact. You see, in that OTHER world, Sheex met his version of Misu Yane — or 'the Ghoul' if you prefer — and offered an exchange. He wanted immortality badly enough that he would even accept being undead. The Other-Yane wanted to be free of his terrible hunger, his hideous physical state, and so on, even if it meant not being the man he was all those many, many decades prior. I think you can see where this is going already, but for the sake of dramatics, I'll say it anyway."
The Ghoul moves slightly to the side, turning but keeping its eyes on Sousa as it nears the doorway. "Sheex and Yane traded bodies. The 'Dead King' was Sheex, a normal human who covetted power and immunity to death itself. He used Yane's name, and Yane used Sheex's as he inhabited the living ninja's body. Yane eventually became part of the very resistance to what would become the Land of Winter with the emergence of 'Dead winter'. So, you see, it was never I who was responsible for those atrocities… For INFECTING that other world's Rurohashi Rinako such that she betrayed her own sister when she attempted to act as a spy. For condemning hundreds of thousands of people — regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, beliefs, or anything else — to all manner of horrendous death. Sheex turned those that willingly gave themselves over to him into somewhat lesser abominations, though still akin to their master…"
The Ghoul stands before the doorway now, though still obstructed by the sand barrier. "Yes, it was human avarice, human selfishness, human cruelty, human EVIL that created that foul world. And it is human avarice, human selfishness, human cruelty, human evil, and human sTUPIDITY that will damn this one as well. I couldn't see that before. It took realizing that no human can possibly comprehend the solution as long as he or she is part of the problem. No human can stop being part of the problem until he or she is no longer among the living. However, only the living can convey the solution to the other members of the living or act upon that solution… An inescapable trap, yes?" Raising an index finger, the Ghoul says, "But not so! You see, for the first and — as far as I am aware — ONLY time in the history of the planet, there exists a being who has the means to pass on the messages of those who have THE answer to THE question of how to end the hatred, pain, ignorance, and conflict… Other False Immortals may exist, but none of them are like I am. None of them are simultaneously undying… And yet DEAD."
The Ghoul waits a moment after this lengthy monologue. Then it tilts its head to the side and says, "The dead know the answer. I've heard it. I am between life and death, and yet in danger of falling towards neither. Where did you meet 'Death-san'? When you were dead and yet not, correct? I've discovered the way to listen to that existence beyond the living world, to peer into its depths, and hear the whispers of those who have already passed from this plane… They have the answer. They have the solution to everything. The FINAL solution. In order to fix this flawed universe, it must be remade from the beginning. And in order to do THAT… Everything presently within and part of that universe must be… Well, to put it delicately, 'removed'."
The Ghoul steps backwards once more, passing through the sand barrier half-way, but leaving enough of it still in the office to speak. "In summary, the dead have told me the answer. They have told me their secrets. It is simply this: 'Everything has to die.' I'll be back for you relatively soon. I'll let Death-san know you're coming hm? Wouldn't do to be late for an appointment…" Then he is gone. Through the sand that continues to stay in place as though cemented there… And then the sand and dirt and so on all just collapses in a rain of earth and debris, and the alarms throughout the Kazekage Administration Dome suddenly begin sounding a 'Code White' to indicate the Kazekage is under attack. The power to those alarms was apparently being prevented from working due to some sort of obstruction… Sand. Odd thing to find in the desert.