Date: November 13, 2010
A casual meeting between the warlord Hei-Long and the Kazekage turns into something more dramatic when Fuu Ka shows up.
"Broken Memories Pt. 2 - Finale: Theology And Threats! The End Of Days Draws Near!"
Outdoors Cafe - Kusagakure
In Sunagakure, Sousa has a system which he has been gradually teaching his subordinates. Of course, it only /seems/ systematic to him, and the method of teaching has been one of learn-by-experience rather than specific explanation. The system goes something like this: whenever Sousa determines that a particular administrative task doesn't /really/ require his input, he slips away by some means--misdirection, disguise, genjutsu, whatever--and leaves those below him to handle it, dedicating his own time and attention to whatever scientific pursuits hold his interest most strongly at the moment. Initially, this caused quite a lot of panic and aggravation amongst those seeking the Kazekage's guidance or approval on various matters, and to a large degree it still does. The more intelligent or ambitious amongst his staff, however, eventually began to get things done on their own when the Kazekage went missing, and these individuals tended to rise through the ranks--provided they handled their tasks competently. The administration's secretary adjusted to Sousa's system more quickly than anyone, calmly chewing her bubble gum and working onward while others in the administrative dome rushed around in a panic. She didn't get a promotion, though, because Sousa found her deadpan refusal to attempt contacting him when he was gone a very useful quality in a secretary.
Now, however, Sousa is an important figure in the organization and running of a very large event in another country, and as a result he has quite a few residents of said country temporarily working under him. So as these 'fresh' students to Sousa's system rush about the village, trying to track him down while simultaneously pretending nothing is wrong, a certain little old man with a fake beard sits at an outdoor cafe table and sips at a cup of tea, finding the response to be almost refreshing. Always good to reproduce an experiment for scientific rigor.
Sousa sits at his cafe, drinking his tea, wearing his fake beard, and then the warlord from the Southern Lands, Hei-Long, comes out of the cafe right in front of the Kazekage. He has to stoop and turn sideways a bit to get out the door, but that's him alright. He is wearing armor and so forth, rather than the kimono he wore at the banquet. He looks a lot more like a very large warlord now, rather than a very large warlord stuffed into fancy party clothes.
He does not appear to notice Sousa at first, instead straightening himself and looking across the street. He still has black sunglasses over his eyes, just like at the banquet, and he still has a string with an odd crystal on it… Sort of sea-green and smooth. No jeweler would recognize it for what it was. But maybe Sousa would. Then again, maybe not!
Sousa glances up--way up--at the person who just exited the building. Ah, how very fortunate…not only did he want the opportunity to talk with this person more than he'd been able to at the banquet, but being in his company will increase his psychological invisibility. The average person searching for Sousa will likely have his eye caught by the giant first and think, 'Whoa, that dude is tall--wait, I have to focus on finding Kazekage-sama!' and look away without ever noticing the little old man. "Greetings, Hei-Long-sama," Sousa remarks. "Please forgive my disguise, I was not expecting to be honored with your presence today. I am Kokoroe Sousa, the monk who was in the Daimyou's company at the banquet. Will you not join me for a little while? I would be most grateful to hear news of the Southern Lands and your journey here."
Hei-Long turns his head, furrowing his brow as he hears someone speaking his name. "…Ah, hello, Kokoroe-sama." He considers the request, looks around, and then shrugs. With a smile he approaches Sousa's table or wherever he is sitting out here and seats himself. "Why not?" Maybe the chair is far too small for his frame, but it is better than nothing. "You wish to hear about the Southern Lands? Well… There is much to tell."
Taking a moment to compose his thoughts, Hei-Long eventually says, "War still rages on, even after thirty years. There is almost always a war of some kind going on somewhere amongst the provinces, but this one is a major conflict spanning many different lands under different rulers. Monasteries are being pillaged, villages burned to the ground, defenseless peasants killed or enslaved… Famines, pestilence, plagues, and worse are all running rampant. There are even reports of a doorway to Diyu -- our name for the 'Hell' that some believe in here in the north -- having been discovered in the Forbidden Palace of the Emperor himself. Many believe this may be the 'End of Days'."
Hei-Long waits a moment then casually waves a hand in dismissal. "Which is, ultimately, why I have come north. Word reached me of this tournament, and of the magic walls that can keep the dying from becoming the dead. I have even tested these Arenas personally. Using them to end the conflicts by keeping people from killing each other would be a great boon."
Sousa pours a cup of tea for Hei-Long and nods slowly. "I see…I had predicted that peace might have come by this time, but the opposite outcome is not surprising either. A man is quick to learn, if he is willing, but men are far slower." Sousa takes a sip of his tea thoughtfully. "As for the magic walls, they are indeed useful, and in the hands of wise men, may be used to deter much conflict. Two enemies in mock combat may come to an understanding, if not of one another, then at least of how costly true combat would be. I fear the safety fields will not bring an end to war altogether, though, not on their own. There will always be some who will not be satisfied without blood. Still, I believe it is a step upon the correct path. I would be most willing to sell you the secrets of the walls, as is one of the purposes of this tournament. You will need men capable of learning the ninja magic of these lands in order to use the walls, but I imagine with a few shinobi as tutors the monks of the Southern Lands could pick it up. I managed." Sousa strokes his beard as though he were accustomed to it. "About the gateway to Diyu…do most of the rumors say that it is hot, or cold? Not that we can be certain it is real either way, but there has always been some amusing debate on that point." ;)
Hei-Long nods along to the explanation from Sousa. "A bit more limited than I had imagined then… But still a good first step, as you said. I am likely beyond the age of one whom can learn 'Ninjutsu', but there are many young people who are willing and able." At the final question, however, he tilts his head a bit. "It is only rumors. No one has dared to venture within, that I know of. There are no reliable reports. But there are definitely… 'Things', I will say, roaming the Palace grounds and country-side that do not appear to have been born on any earthly plane of existence."
"As for temperature, I imagine that the Hell of Freezing And Maiming and the Hell of Being Burned Alive are both present if the rumors are accurate. We have multiple 'Hells', seperated into eighteen 'levels' and divided amongst four 'Courts'. Ten Yama Kings oversee the Hells in general. Diyu is not just a place of punishment, but a place of renewal. The spirits are punished according to their sins in life, in order to expunge them of their wickedness. Then they are given the Drink of Forgetfulness so that they do not recall the punishments, and are permitted to be reborn."
Sousa nods thoughtfully. Well, that doesn't sound like the portal to the other reality one of his teams found, hellish as that was. That one had a climate effect on its immediate environment, whereas this thing is merely letting unknown creatures through. That's…comforting? Probably. Hei-Long probably wouldn't be speaking of them so casually if they were laying waste to everything.
"One must wonder," Sousa says conversationally, "If a soul in Diyu found a means to escape into the world of the living, how many would take the opportunity? Quite a few, most likely…and what would their fate then be? Would they be able to do anything here? Would their suffering be less? If they decided they would prefer to return and endure their punishment in order to be reborn, would they be able to?" Sousa shrugs. "Rather academic questions here, though if one could manage to communicate with one of these…otherly things…perhaps solid answers could truly be gained."
Hei-Long shrugs. "The dead are the dead. They would be able to do as much as the living, though they would not age or change -- especially not in regard to thoughts or feelings -- and would be essentially indestructible. But >not< invulnerable. They can suffer immensely for ages, enough to utterly destroy the mind of a human being, and then simply recover from any physical damage. Mental damage, on the other hand… Well, that is why the Drink of Forgetfulness exists. Otherwise a reborn spirit would be a mindless husk, shattered by its experiences in the Hells."
Lifting the cup of tea to his lips with surprising delicacy for one with such large hands, he sips and then says, "Or so it is said. As for communicating with them… I suppose that is one possibility. But it might be better if they were just sent back to where they came from. The creatures that walk the Palace grounds supposedly look utterly inhuman. But I have not seen them myself, so it might all be rumors. Or perhaps some new weapons of war that merely take on the form of monsters."
Ah, now /there's/ an interesting--and familiar--description. Indestructable, yet still capable of suffering…able to recover physically from anything, but not necessarily mentally…in the case which Sousa has in mind, it's amazing that there /is/ anything left. Sousa imagines that one would find the Drink of Forgetfulness pretty desirable. Or would he? Sousa isn't certain this person truly is indestructible…has he ever attempted suicide? Fodder for their next session.
"You know, there will be an interesting question raised once you bring the safety fields back to the Southern Lands," Sousa remarks. "If these creatures do exist, and they are not merely some natural beast somehow altered, what effect will the fields have upon them? I expect those closest to them will be the most curious…and likely the most fearful as well."
Hei-Long is listening with one ear now. His gaze has gone off to the side, and he seems to be distracted. What is he looking at exactly? Well, if Sousa looks in the same direction as the warlord, he would see. A man of approximately the same height as Hei-Long, but with much shorter-cropped hair… Spiked, brownish-grey, rather than the thick mane of black that Hei-Long has. The man is also garbed in a black robe with red clouds upon it, and heavy-duty boots on his feet.
He has a smooth, black ceramic mask on his face, with a red question mark emblazoned upon its surface. No eye holes. The man is standing right across the street, apparently watching Sousa and Hei-Long. "…Friend of yours?" Hei-Long mutters distractedly.
Sousa looks across the street. He glances at Hei-Long, then at the other figure again. So much for the theory they were the same person, although it was never terribly certain. "You might say that," Sousa replies, standing up. "If you'll excuse me for a moment, I believe I should go and greet him." Sousa glances around as he walks across the street. It would be inconvenient to draw attention at this moment, and this other giant is not merely tall, but suspicious-looking. How many people go around wearing masks, let alone ones with the very symbol of mystery upon them? Of course, if the man wants to talk privately, Sousa has little doubt he'll have made provisions for such; the question is, will he want to do so, or make another dramatic scene on the order of trying to destroy a shinobi village? e.e "Greetings," Sousa calls out as he approaches. "I hope we'll be able to have a more leisurely conversation than last time?"
Sousa is right. Many people have already noticed the man. Hei-Long stays at Sousa's table and sips his tea, but he continues to watch carefully. When Sousa is relatively close, the masked man brings up his right hand and aims it at the Kazekage. The kanji for 'memory' is tattooed on his palm, and has now come to life somehow… The black ink has become a mix of glowing, bright molten red, and darker red, like blood. The colors shift back and forth as the symbol crawls across his skin. Then everything seems to just… Stop. Like time itself has frozen. And yet words echo in the mind of Sousa…
'You have done well to try to end war through this tournament. A noble attempt. But it is not enough. The Mizukage does not want peace. He wants bloodshed and he wants victory. He will betray you all if he is not dealt with. Another thing… The two Towers that have arisen so far… Each had a Stone within that possesses enormous power. But they are not the only two that exist. There is another, recently recovered by Konohagakure. The Dark-Light Stone, it has been called by some. It holds power over life and death, reality and illusion, and can make the first into the second and the second into the first. It is too dangerous to be left in the hands of the Leaf. They wish for peace but lack the will to fight for it. They will only fight when challenged to do so for the sake of their comrades. And if a force comes specifically for the Stone, it will be too late. You need to remove the Dark-Light Stone from the possession of Konoha.'
'You have wisdom that the other Kage do not. If you can, obtaining the Stone without implicating yourself would be wise. Making Kirigakure seem to be to blame would be wiser. The Mizukage >will< act eventually, and he will do it at the least convenient time for everyone. You can keep the Stone safe. Whether you study it or not is your own choice. There is much knowledge to be gained, but also much threat in doing so.'
'One more thing, before I leave you. The demonstration I promised I would provide of what can be accomplished with the Beast of Blood… It will happen soon, in the Land of Whirlpools. Inform the other Kage, but take no action to warn the people of that country. If you do, I will change my target.'
'Our next discussion will hopefully be longer and more pleasant.'
Then everything resumes moving. Dozens of people walking the street lurch forward, trip and fall, or simply collapse, all at once. Resounding cries of panic, fear, pain from some who hurt themselves in falling, echo out in a wave of shared shock and confusion. And then there is a mostly silent period as people lie on the ground and take stock of themselves.
The man in the mask is gone.
Sousa sighs through his nose. He knows very well what manipulation looks like, it's his own primary means of getting things done. e.e Sousa has little doubt that the mysterious figure will not trust this third stone to Sousa's wisdom any longer than is convenient for his own purposes, and the other machinations he wants Sousa to take care of must serve his ends as well. Of course, spotting the manipulations doesn't do much good when they're backed up by significant force. The promised demonstration will need to be watched carefully for clues as to its full nature, perhaps there is some way to counter it. In the meantime, though…
Sousa walks back to the cafe. "Please pardon the interruption, Hei-Long-sama," Sousa says, wondering how much of what transpired Hei-Long will remember. "Shall we discuss business dealings now, or would later be more opportune for you?"
As Sousa walks back across the street all those people gradually get to their feet, unsure of what just happened, seeming to be very confused. They don't even remember how they got here or what they were doing, even though no time seems to have transpired at all. Like their memory was just wiped clean somehow. Or such can be gathered from their statements, at least.
Hei-Long is shaking his head a bit, as though he were trying to knock something loose from it. Then he looks up at Sousa with a frown. "That was… Odd. It was like everything froze all at once. I could tell that man was speaking, but I could not hear what it was he was saying. This… I know it was ninja magic, but I do not recognize its nature or its purpose." He rubs his cheek a bit and then says, "Perhaps a later time might be better. I do not feel very safe here suddenly." He rises from his chair and bows towards Sousa. "My apologies, Kokoroe-sama. It was very interesting speaking with you, but this is… Beyond my experience or comfort level. We will have to talk at length another time."
Sousa nods. "That is quite understandable, Hei-Long-sama. Another time, then. Thank you very much for sharing a cup of tea with me. I shall look forward to our next meeting." Sousa gives a bow, then heads off down the street, tugging his fake beard off. Y'know, this Dark-Light Stone really had better have some pretty interesting attributes to it, for all the research time Sousa's going to have to forego in order to get his hands on it. This tournament business has been time-consuming enough on its own. e.e