Date: February 18, 2013
Getting back into the swing of being ninja, Rinako is given a mission to test her judgement as a Council Member! …And her younger sister is given a mission to test her loyalty. Neither is expecting what they wind up uncovering.
Poster's note: foul language filtered in obvious places.
"Blood Red Sandman - Book of Horrors"
Kazekage Administration Dome - Sunagakure
Ruri has received a secret sneaking mission to help out her sister at the office. Naturally, her first thought was she was being asked to henge into a secretary or something and spy on her own sibling. NATURALLY. Ruri still has a bit of a paranoid streak. However, it turns out the mission was, infact, to help out her sister at the office. So, here the two of them are at the Administration Dome… Dealing with something rather unusual. Ever since the disappearance of Hone Nai, the Records Department fell into disarray. Measures have been taken to correct this, and over the year or however long it's been since Nai went missing, the staff have actually become quite adept at handling records in an efficient, organized manner. And they did it all by just following Nai's example.
This is how they discovered the books.
The extensive, excrutiatingly detailed notes that Nai kept on which books were kept wear in what condition and who had them, who had them LAST, and who was waiting in line for them next, and so on, led staff to discover there were books that didn't exist in the registry amongst the others. Very worrying books. Books bound in and seemingly made from human skin. They were mixed in with the books that DID belong, and written within were page after page after page of rambling, insane, gibberish. Some parts seemed legible or semi-lucid, but most of it was the writings of a madman. No one knew where the books came from.
But they didn't belong there, and so the task of Ruri is to gather up these worrisome tomes, and to deal with them in a manner decided upon by Rinako. Yes, this may seem to be a sort of 'test' for Rurohashi Rinako — to see what sort of judgement she makes. But ultimately, the test itself is rather simple. Make a decision about what to do with these disgusting, horrifying journals, and then make sure that decision is carried out. It's also a test of sorts for Ruri. One of obedience.
After all, Ruri is not exactly a fan of dead things. Especially not dead things that were once living human beings. Ruri isn't sure why she's being tested in this manner, but her paranoid instincts tell her that's what this is — a test. So here the two are in the library, with records staff discretly looking for the other books atop ladders and step-stairs or simply on foot, and a box half-full of the loathsome things lying on a table that is being guarded by a couple of Sunagakure ninja. Ruri looks a bit green as she keeps her distance from the box. She wishes now that she hadn't decided to dress in a secretarial vest and skirt after all. This is not the wardrobe she wishes to be in while dealing with books made of skin.
Rurohashi Rinako had no problem with dead things. After all, she had been dead once, trapped in another dimension for an entire year (for her, anyway, barely a couple days for everyone else) that was filled with the walking dead, and she'd made a lot of things, well, dead. If she hadn't been inured to dead flesh by now, she never would be. So she treats the disgusting bound things the way she would a dead body: with cold, clinical precision.
The dark-haired elder of the twins sits on the edge of a table with her feet in a chair, which earned her a few dirty looks from the clerical staff. But they didn't have the rank to tell her to cut it the eff out anymore. Even so, as Rinako sits there in her plain black ninja garb that she never seemed to go without wearing and had loads of in her closet, a thin, reedy voice rings out: "RUROHASHI! GET YER *** OFF MY TABLE, YOUNG LADY!"
Instinctively, Rinako jumps up from the table, almost dropping the book she had been perusing through, her sandaled feet hitting the floor as 'Mama Hana' came around the corner with her evil, beady little eyes and her too-big glasses that made those eyes look enormous, the permanent scowl, the bent back, the cane. Oh god, the cane! Hanarima Hana was the terror of the Administration Dome, a hag so old and crabby that schoolchildren feared her very name and dared each other to try to approach her house.
But she knew more of what was in all the books on the shelves than anyone else since Hone Nai's departure. Grumbling to herself, the old crone wanders off between the stacks of shelves back to whatever pit of Hell she inhabited when not in sight.
Rinako leans towards her sister, muttering out of the side of her mouth as she turns another page in the skin-book, her eyes still on the passageway between volumes that she'd disappeared down. "If she's here, who's eating lost desert travelers?"
Ruri, despite herself, jumps a bit when she hears 'RUROHASHI!' But when she ascertains it's her sister getting yelled at, she just scowls at 'Mama Hana'. …When the old witch isn't looking, at least. Ruri opens her mouth to say, "She should know better than to yell in a li--" but then chokes when Rinako asks her question. And not because she thought it was funny. Her eyes get a bit wider and she looks around fearfully, "What, you think that the… The Ghoul is involved? N-nah. It's probably still out there in the desert waiting to ambush me--I mean people. People in general. Yeah, why would a monster like that be in a library!? That's stupid! Don't say stupid things like that, stupid nee-chan!" Ruri snaps at her sister, then tries to settle herself down. She feels a bit faint, so she seats herself down in a chair.
"Ugh… What are we going to do with these things? I don't understand. We could just burn them. Or better yet, SOMEONE ELSE could burn them, and leave us out of this. What do they want from us? Dig graves for the books? Exorcise demons from them? I sure hope they don't want us to try to decrypt what's in them. All I heard was they're full of some lunatic rambling to himself. This isn't a mission we're needed for!" Ruri stands up quickly, raising a hand and pointing a finger in the direction Hag Woman went off in, announcing, "I'm going to file a complaint!" Then she stays exactly where she is, and turns a bit so that her hand is pointed away from Hana and back in the direction of the Admin Dome's lobby, up the stairs. She's not going to agitate that wrinkled old bag of hate.
Rinako frowns for a bit as her sister loses it momentarily at her, her eyebrows raising in surprise. Then she looks down at the book, then back up at her sibling. Book. Sister. Book-sister. One can almost SEE the lightbulb going off in her head as she holds up the human-leather-made literary piece. "Well, this DOES look a bit ghoulish, doesn't it?" She wiggles the book at Ruri for emphasis. Then she turns her eyes back to it, squinting and holding it sideways as she tries to read what's in the margins.
"No, we're not burning or burying them, Ru. Whatever these things are, it's obvious Nai was mixed up in it. And whatever 'it' was, was not something good." The pony-tail-wearing Councilwoman shakes her head reluctantly. "As much as I'd like to get rid of these perversions, our best bet to find out what happened is to put together a team to decipher these things and try to pull whatever relevant bits are in them out into a single compiled cliff notes thing."
"As far as we know, these things could be dangerous, so we can't have them just falling into anyone's hands. But we can't simply discard them as unimportant, either. So that means reading. I though you liked reading?" Rinako looks back up, and grins as her sister abruptly changes her pointing finger on the off chance The Hag might come back and verbally scour their backsides again.
Ruri hisses between her teeth and skips back as the book is wiggled at her, looking like a vampire that's just been offered holy garlic bread. She folds her arms over her dress that she so carefully selected to be professional and yet show a hint of decolletage. Now she just feels woefully underequipped for dealing with this situation. She thought she'd be organizing files or something, not… THIS.
She is exceptionally unhappy, but at least agrees they need to be learned more about. "Nai was mixed up in—Well, he disappeared, right? I hate to say it, but what if someone… Did something to him? What if these books are… Are… You know?" She just swallows down the rising fear and nausea. Barfing in the library is unlikely to help the situation. She takes a deep breath to calm herself, and then lets it out slowly. "We can study them, but I'm not touching them with my bare hands. Preferably not at all, but… Ugh." She unbuttons her shirt by a couple buttons, revealing both more of her chest, and a tattoo just below such. It looks like a tattoo of a crate. Ruri touches it with her fingers and releases the seal. The tattoo flies from her smooth skin, expanding into a full-sized crate amidst a puff of smoke, and then floats down to the floor to land smoothly.
Ruri quickly buttons her shirt back up, because no reason for the whole library to see THOSE parts of her. Then she leans down to crack open the crate and say, "Can you make anything out at all?" Once she has pried off the lid, she searches through various boxes inside until she finds one in particular. Opening THAT box, she pulls out and puts on a pair of heavy-duty steel-plate gauntlets with leather grips. Why does she even have those!? Ruri answers the unasked question with, "Incase I need to touch something unhealthy to be touching." Then she very reluctantly reaches into the box of books, tilts her head away, squints, makes a 'bleeeegh' face, and has to put one hand on top of the other to force that other to make contact with one of the completely disgusting books.
She eventually picks one up, but holds it as far from her face as possible. "Ugh. Seriously, how do we know Nai is involved in this? If Nai had no records of them, seems more likely they appeared after he was gone, right? Maybe old Hana knows something about it. ***, maybe she even put them there!" The younger of the twins quickly looks around to make sure no one else heard her say that. Then she peels open one of the books and the sound it makes when she does so has her 'eeeeeeee'ing and 'ewwwwww'ing all over again. "Blaaagh… This writing is atrocious and none of it makes any sense. 'Moon sings the black path torn of wings to oblivion'?" She flips a page. And then another. And another. "Six pages of 'No way out' repeated over and over. Then on the next page, 'Poison veins and dust blood are eating of the fruit of the dark day in winter when vomitting earth and oneself'. What. The. ****."
"Are the reason he was killed and/or abducted? Yeah, I've thought about that. That's why we need to keep them under guard. So far they all seem to BE here, so I don't think that whoever or whatever was behind all this managed to get them, assuming these are what they wanted in the first place."
Rinako watches the chest-crate pop out of her sister's cleavage like a cartoon joke with a barely-concealed laugh as she uses the disgusting book to hide her grin. "Not much." She answers at last. "Some words and phrases here and there, but most of this is chicken-scratch or some kind of code that someone much smarter than me will have to decipher. Like my baby sister!" She watches her sister handle the book for a minute with a frown. "You're not gonna act like this at my funeral, are you? If so, I think I'll put in my will that you aren't invited to the wake."
But then she manages to get serious again, for the moment, putting down the one she was reading. "No dates, no times, no indication of what order they were written in. This could take months to go through depending on how many there actually appear to be. Maybe Old Hag Hana really did see Nai with these books or something. But I doubt they predate him, or were put here after. They were HIS notes that led to them being discovered at all. I'm more worried about finding out who MADE them." She says, fingering the fleshy covering.
Ruri shakes her head, but says nothing further. She certainly doesn't voice that what she'd actually meant was, 'You don't think these books are made out of Nai?' No, she'd rather just… Go with what Rinako said. Somewhat less disturbing. "Well… I'll do my best to figure it out. But no, I don't like handling dead things. I've made corpses before. But I don't like touching them or what's left of them afterwards. And… Please don't talk about dying. I've almost lost you twice now. I'm more terrified I won't be able to prevent it if it happens again than I am of these horrible, disgusting books, or all the zombies in the world."
Ruri sighs and flips a bunch more pages quickly, not really expecting to get much out of it. But she sees something on one page near the back that catches her eye. The younger of the Rurohashi sisters tries to find it again. "Wait a sec…" Finding the right page, Ruri looks at the page and tries to figure out what grabbed her attention about this page. It only takes a dozen seconds or so. "Rinako… I think these books had more than one author." She turns the book around to face her sister, and shows her. Full-on insane rambling across one full page, and half-way into the next. Then the writing style changes completely, and the words make some degree of sense. Sense that would only be made to people like Ruri and Rinako.
"'I have been to the other world to find my opposite.'" Ruri says outloud as she turns the book back to face herself. She narrates, but she does so quietly enough that only she, Rinako, and the two guards should be able to hear. "'Is he who I will become? I know he has my name. If this danger exists, I must find out now. I am already at odds with them. The errosion progresses. I recognized one of those on the team, but he was not the man from our side. For one, he seems to lack the power to possess.' Then next paragraph is back to the other writing-style. 'The cold gets into my bones and gnaws away the heat of Chakra flesh devouring ripping so good and salty and red and'--Uh. Point is…"
Ruri clears her throat, seemingly becoming aware of the curious looks from the two guards, and then deciding discretion is called for here. "I think at least one of this book's writers has been to… That place that our team went to. The one where it was always winter. And I think I know who he met over there." She does not elaborate, and just trusts her sister to put it together the way she did. "We need to ask Hana what she knows. And then we need to report this to the Counc--Oh, wait, you're on the Council."
"Doooooon't be so dramatic." Rinako quips as her sister goes on about her fears, rolling her eyes and resisting giving the younger Jounin a one-armed hug. After all, they were in public and such condescending displays of affection would probably hurt the grumpy one's pride. But she cuts off with a 'Huh?' as her sibling apparently finds something interesting on one of the later pages in the book she was studying. Rinako closes the volume in her possession and sets it aside as her twin reads.
And as she reads her eyebrows go higher and higher on her forehead. "Two authors? Only four of us went to that place. How could someone else have purposefully gone there at all? Unless… they were the person who caused the rift that sent us there in the first place?" Rinako plucks at her lower lip in thought. "But that's impossible. The entire time I was there, all those months, I never met or heard of anyone else from our world crossing over."
She paces a distance away, and then comes back, only to turn and pace again. "But it's not like we had exactly a grand information network. All that running and fighting and it was a pretty big place, you and I- I mean, me and her could have just missed them. But how many even knew about that place?"
She starts to tick off on her fingers, "You, me, Kara, Shem, the Council, and the Kazekage. And, if he'd read these journals, probably Nai, too. But why is that one passage so clear? Were two people collaborating on this? How did the book get back to the original owner for more added writing?" Rinako shakes her head agitatedly. "This just raises more questions than it answers. I think if that crabby old beast had known anything about these books, she'd have told the Council right away. Whatever else her problem is, she at least has a sense of responsibility." She glances at the guards, but they were chosen for their ability to keep their mouths shut, despite being 'only' Chuunin. "I think the fewer people that know about this, the better. I'll inform the rest of the Council and see what they and the Kazekage have to say."
"In the meantime, we should see what else we can find in these books. Skim through and try to find more of that second person's handwriting."
Ruri moves to tap her chin, her brain working into overtime as she keeps looking, but stops herself when she realizes her hands are still covered in gloves that have been in contact with human-skin books. She shudders and puts that book down. Nodding, Ruri sighs and puts the current book down gingerly — less out of care for it or respect for whom it was made out of, and more due to not wanting to risk it crumbling or spewing skin-dust at her or something. She reaches for another book, but then… She has an idea. "I think I know how to speed things up. Get all the books out and lay them out on the table." She then puts her hands together and focuses her Chakra. It takes a little while to build up enough Chakra — enough time for Rinako to either refuse or do as she is told. Ruri is still so bossy!
"I think when we speak to the Kazekage about this we should be…" Ruri trails off as she continues building Chakra, searching for the right words. To those ignorant, it appears that ink is starting to spread on Ruri's forehead, or more accurately, as though she has a tattoo under her skin that is seeping up the surface. It's the Flesh Seal tattoo she uses to access the alternate spatial environment inside her head. There's no more Sheex in there, and her right eye is fully intact and her own again, so she found another way to use the All-Eye's power.
Once the tattoo finishes emerging, it glows and the ink turns to a mix of white and black. An eye lies in Ruri's forehead. An eye soon joined by another two, and then those extend out from her forehead on tendrils of gently-glowing white tentacles — more like some kind of phosphorescent deep-sea jellyfish than the organic horror that used to come from the slightly-younger woman's right eye socket. These tendrils then spawn more glowing eyes of their own, and these in turn branch out, forming new tendrils. In the end, it looks like Ruri has turned into some kind of super-angler-fish of sorts, with a dozen or so 'angling balls' coming out of her head, all hanging suspended over the table. She finally finishes what she was saying. "I think when we speak to him, we should be… Uh… 'Prepared'." Keeping their mouths shut or not, Ruri does not want to say things in front of these two Chuunin that could be taken as speaking-ill of the Kazekage or traitorous. She's beyond that now. She still doesn't like Sousa, but she doesn't have to like him to accept him as her leader and ultimate-authority for Sunagakure-related matters.
But what she thinks is that if Sousa knows about the other world, he might have either done something himself or sent someone to research it. And since that second writer in the book Ruri saw before seemed to know what Sheex was like on THIS side… That narrowed down the number of people who could have known about this by a lot. If the books get laid out, Ruri prepares to use Tomogan tentacles to flip the pages while reading them all at the same time with multiple eyes.
Rinako wasn't really bothered anymore by the tentacle eye-ball stalks that Ruri could produce anymore. She knew her sister was in control and had faith in her ability to handle whatever weirdness her spatial head-space distortion or whatever it was could throw at her. She just really, really sometimes wished that the things didn't have to come out of her twin sister's FACE.
'Cause it was kinda freaky-looking.
Instead, she begins to gather the books, motioning for the pair of guards to help her, and laying them out flat, opening each of them to their first page, side-by-side and out in a grid pattern before the dark-haired Jounin. "Gaining more information couldn't hurt, but the others might have ideas about this that we don't. I won't delay telling them for long, Ru." As she lays out the last book they've found so far, she gives her twin a meaningfuly look.
She knew how her sister used to feel, and probably still kind of does, about the Kazekage. Essentially the exact same way she felt about their parents: resentment, lingering bitterness. As soon as she'd come to in the hospital and found her parents had been visiting her while unconscious, she'd demanded that they leave her, that only Ruri had the right to visit her as her family. She somberly watches as her sister begins to flip through the tomes, and then turns to see if she can help the others look for more volumes.
But what she sees when she turns makes her blood run cold and her hackles raise. Mama Hana was standing on a chair behind her, nose to nose with Rinako, one wrinkled, moldly old eyebrow raising with a scowl. "Crabby old beast, am I!?" The old crone shrieks, grabbing Rinako's ear in one hand and jumping off the table, pulling her down into a bent over position as she does so. She then begins yanking the former jinchuuriki along, by the ear no less, while muttering. "Young'uns have NO RESPECT fer the elders these days! I'll teach you, Rurohashi! I'll teach you to be useful and put you to WORK, young lady!"
"Ow ow ow ow ow ow, my apologies, Hana-sifu, but I'm very busy with something impor-"
Ruri's tentacles flip through the books, a good dozen-plus eyes all reading and transmitting the information they see to Ruri at the same time. It's amazing that she can comprehend all that, rapidly scanning through multiple books, each with page after page of insane rambling with only occasionally sane — and yet vague — portions… But when she finishes, retracting all the eyeballs and tentacles into her forhead seal and that seal then vanishing back beneath her skin, Ruri staggers as though she'd barely been holding herself up throughout. She turns around to find her sister's ear being twisted and pulled, opens her mouth, closes it, and then shakes her head with a sigh.
Eventually, Ruri says wearily, "We need to talk to the Kazekage immediately. I think I know who the author of these books is. But I don't want to jump to conclusions before we talk to the one who knows the answer. However… If I'm right… Nai-san is in a lot of trouble." Ruri stands there after that dramatic announcement, then she kind of rolls her shoulders awkwardly, and starts to walk out of the library swiftly with only a brief call out to her sister. "Catch up when you can, nee-chan. I'll go on ahead."
Yeah, she's not going to get inbetween Hana and Rinako. There are some situations a former turtle just has to handle on her own.