Date: October 4, 2010
For the first time since Ankoku Cave, the core, original members of the Tao Shih have gathered in one place. They have come to discuss recent events, and plans for the future.
"Broken Memories Pt. 2 - No Rest For The Wicked"
Sweet Blossom Inn - Kusagakure
Kusagakure is not quite a bustling metropolis, nor really a busy city. It is a Hidden Village, and thus home to ninja. But it also has its civilians as well. People trying to make a living in ways that are not necessarily catering to the ninja population. Thus there are structures of living wood and buildings of stone everywhere, serving a variety of purposes. And every last one of them is adorned with plants. Flowers and vines, some common and some exotic, decorate everything in sight. Even the streets seem to be uneven with very durable grass and some tough vines. They are trod upon routinely and yet never seem to have failing health.
Right now, in what would be considered a 'commercial district' in a city or other Village but here is more like a very subdued market and various businesses, there is a meeting underway. A high-profile Inn — possibly the >most< high-profile in Kusagakure — is currently playing host to the vaunted Lady Ryoko, and some 'friends' of hers. No longer is Lady Ryoko just pretending to be a famous or popular diva, whisking into small no-name places in the Land of Grass and then vanishing the next day. The rumors and tales have spread in the Land of Wind and Land of Fire, but >especially< here in the Land of Grass, where she made her first appearances. Word has come back to the Daimyou of the country, who doubles as the leader of Kusagakure.
Even with the excitement of the celebrity's arrival in the Grass Village, the chatter outside and around in the street's is… Quiet. Pleasant. Not shouting and clamoring. This is a restful place. Perhaps just the place some of the Tao Shih need to recover from their missions…
In the most expensive and popular room of the Sweet Blossom Inn, the Tao Shih are gathered in the main room. Technically it's just a very large bedroom, but the sleeping area can be cordoned off with reed curtains. Amuro is not standing for once. He is seated on or in whatever piece of furniture can accomodate him. He is not 'lively' at the >best< of times, but he also just seems more… Tired than usual. World-weary, if you will.
Tomoyo, the adopted child of the leader of the Tao Shih has been venturing about in the world for some time now. Seeing many of the small villages and town that the Land of Grass has to offer, but not really getting to see the larger cities of the world, places like Konohagakure and Sunagakure. Places that have been visited by her Papa most likely. Paying visit to the central village where the shinobi of the Land of Grass operate out of was met with much anticipation and excitement by the sight seeing enthusiast.
Upon arrival of the village, Tomoyo was left breathless at all the pretty plants that were used to decorate nearly everything in sight. Buildings made out of what nature had to offer along with regular stone structures as well. It was all very pretty, and wasn't congested and loud like she would have thought a major city would be like. One would guess that since Kusagakure isn't quite as prominent as the other villages, this would explain why it wasn't so 'busy'.
Once again she found herself traveling in the company of her fellow comrades under the guise of being part of Lady Ryoko's entourage. As far as Tomoyo knew, she was just an acting body guard, hiding in plain sight. Not many would consider her a threat at first glance. For the time being, they had taken up residence in an Inn that was supposedly the best inn in the village! It sure beat sleeping out in the woods in a sleeping bag or something lame like that.
Taking up space in the room that was being used as their meeting room, Tomoyo was seated near Amuro on a recliner. Her legs were tucked into one another in a pretzel fashion with her hands resting on her knees while she waited around for stuff and things to happen. Every so often, she'd toss a worrisome glance over at Amuro, who could tell that he was not feeling his usual lively self. But she didn't say anything aloud.
The diva had banished her staff either to their rooms or to remain outside of the inn until her and her 'friends' were done 'catching up', thus ensuring that they wouldn't be disturbed by one of the dancers or stagehands wandering through the common room as they discussed sensitive matters. A few of the hired bodyguards stood in the upstairs hallway to ensure that the 'curfew' as it were was maintained. As the fame and fortune of the Lady Ryoko increased, so too had both her hiring standards and control over her entourage. None of them had any idea what their true purpose was for, but all of them could tell that they were gearing up for something big.
The Lady herself, sporting red hair falling freely to her shoulders and clear, amber eyes, sits in a high-backed chair, a cup of tea cradled in both of her hands, it's accompanying saucer in her lap. She was dressed lightly, a white kosode over a somber green, silk kimono, much less gothic than her usual appearance when she wasn't moonlighting as a performing starlet. But then, it had likely been quite a while since anyone had seen her dressed in one of her 'usual' outfits. She had to admit that surrounding herself in suedes, velvets, and silks was almost tempting enough to make her want to forgo leather and vinyl forever. Clinging unseen to the bottom of her low-seated chair, eight glistening eyes staring out at the legs of the others in the room, was an arachnid the size of a grown man's outstretched hand, covered in thick, coarse hair. Unlike her permanent residence in the city of Fuuma Alley, her rooms here lacked huge numbers of spiders. And yet they could still be found, the ones that normally remained unseen beneath floorboards and in the cracks of walls seeming to instinctively migrate slowly from their normal cover to converge on places the young woman lingered most often.
Her appearance was diminished somewhat by a slightly haggard look, though the dark circles beneath her eyes and the pale shade to her cheeks (even more so than usual) were expertly covered with light touches of makeup. She no longer boldly sat with one leg crossed over the other, smirking her smug, self-appointed authority over others. Instead, she was quiet, a trait not usually associated with the natural blonde. Her legs were pulled up under her to one side, sitting on a hip, her small frame curled into the large chair as if seeking shelter from it. The tea is brought to her lips intermittently, drinking done as if more out of a need to DO something than for thirst. Every now and then a yawn had to be stifled, as if sleep were a commodity that she had not been allowing herself. And then she looks up, her neutral gaze seeking out their leader's mask.
"Well… we're all here. I'm assuming you haven't come to wish me well on my upcoming performance, and you're not dying to see the 'breath-taking, heart-stopping performance that has the critics in an uproar'. So let's hurry this along, please. I'm dreadfully tired."
Datura knew the word 'please'. Who knew!?
Kanami has witnessed this transition from 'Datura, Queen of the Vampires', to 'Ryoko, Lady of Grace' first-hand. She is still not entirely certain what is the cause of this change, but it is very interesting to her. Is this the real Datura, then? Or is this merely a 'role' that Datura is playing for the moment — perhaps without realizing she is doing so? All very interesting. Kanami has been watching the rogue Yamanaka very closely of late, staying as near to her as possible most of the time. She is not sure why the sleep is lacking. She thought her presence in Datura's bed would help her rest easier. But it hasn't.
Maybe it's the fact that a certain snake has to keep being told not to eat the spiders that flock to Datura… Kanami is standing next to the chair that Datura is seated in right now, but as the request to begin is made, she leans down to massage the currently-red-haired woman's scalp with one hand as she turns her yellow-irised eyes on Amuro.
"Yes, Amuro-sama. What is the purpose of this meeting? It has been quite some time since we were all together… The last time was…" She does not say the name 'Ankoku Cave'. She does not need to. People do not forget places like that, or what happens when one goes inside of such a place. Cinching her kimono shut — she is dressed like a miko (a shrine maiden or priestess) at the moment — is an odd obi. It looks normal to casual glances, but up close it is revealed to be leather of some kind… Like a snake skin. Weird.
Mune has not been QUITE as close as Kanami has been. Nowhere near, really. But she has accompanied the other two women during their travels from Fuuma Alley to the Land of Grass, and she is with them now. It was difficult work, fixing up Okumo Ra. In the end, she is not sure if she properly repaired him. He was old, and had lots of injuries. He probably does not have much longer left no matter what. But he will live long enough to fulfill his purpose. Whatever that is.
Now she stands in her 'normal' clothes of an open white longcoat with high collar, white pants, boots, etc. Still no shirt. What Mune's objection is to wearing a shirt may never be known. Maybe they're itchy? Either way, she looks over everyone assembled for the first time since that… That cave. She closes her blue eyes briefly. They used to be red. When did they change color? It's not a henge. They're just blue now.
Her eyes open again, and she looks at Amuro. She doesn't need to perform a proper examination to tell something's wrong with him. "Are you feeling alright, Amuro-sama?"
Amuro could almost be asleep as he sits and offers silence in response to everyone's comments. Datura's request is not responded to, nor Kanami's agreement a moment after, nor Mune's question—"I am fine. Just somewhat tired." His voice is always the same deep tone, and it's hard to hear inflections because of this. But he does not >sound< tired, regardless of how he looks. Or maybe he does, but no one can tell? Either way, he sits up a bit straighter and says, "There are multiple reasons for this meeting. First of all, congratulations on the success of your mission so far, Datura. The timing has worked out just as I had planned." He barely caught himself in time. He almost said, 'hoped' instead of 'planned', but it did not transfer over to his voice, probably.
"Congratulations are in order as well for Kanami and her part in organizing the bandit groups of the Land of Wind. I was occupied elsewhere and was thus unable to meet with them all myself. Kanami did it all in record time. Now, on to business." No congratulations for Tomoyo or Mune, apparently. "What progress have you made in regard to the ultimate objective of your mission, Datura? The lead-up is out of the way now, after all." He turns his head to look at the red-haired diva for the moment, though whether he actually needs to look at anyone to see anything is unclear. No eyeholes in that mask.
Sitting there in the rather large room, Tomoyo felt a little excluded from the group. Having been sent away during the majority of the campaign in Sunagakure and left to wander around an underground facility for a while wasn't her definition of a fun time. This left her not knowing her comrades as well as the others seem to do. She doesn't look like it, but she's actually fretting over these things constantly whenever she's around her peers. With everyone gathered in the room, she cycles her gaze to each face in the room, starting with Datura. She looked more visibly weary than papa did and something was different with her it seemed. In time she figured she'd gain more insight about it.
Then there was Kanami who was seated right next to Datura, those two were awfully close every time she saw them together. However, the real story behind it eluded the girl and she just figured they were becoming close friends despite everyone just being something like a co-worker. Lastly there was Mune, who was somewhat of a mystery to Tomoyo. The two never really talked to one another. She hoped that this would all be remedied one day! Some day soon.
After everyone brings up some sort of comment or another to Amuro about the meeting, or his current state of health… the alluding to that cave causes her to wear a blank expression on her face as a few flashbacks emerge and send chills down her spine. Quickly, she tried to banish any further thoughts of that place from her mind. Instead, focusing on when her papa started to speak!
Turning her head to fixate on him while he spoke, he gave some congratulatory words to Datura and Kanami, but none for Mune or herself… Well, she didn't really do much worth praise really… so she understood it for now. But! This just made her want to stand out more, somehow or some way. And now they were talking about Datura's mission, the reason why she was disguised as Lady Ryoko. This should be interesting! She leans forward in her seat just a little, as if that'd make her listen even better.
As a delicate hand strokes through her falsely-colored locks, the outcast Yamanaka's eyes drift shut slightly, a fist appearing in front of her mouth in a vain attempt to ward off another yawn, covered politely, as is ladylike. Manners had been the hardest part of the 'role' she played to teach Datura, and she had gone through four tutors, one forever mentally scarred, two dead, before the final one had managed to either get through to her the importance of the lessons, or simply managed not to press whatever button the previous ones had pushed that drove the young woman to engineer their 'dismissal' from her service. But those manners had only carried over to the public, and the ones displayednow seemed not to carry any of the young woman's usual haughtiness and overbearingly demanding nature.
It was likely only a temporary reprieve from the starlet's exhausting display of arrogant selfishness.
She glances in the group medic's direction, taking note of her profile with a small frown as they wait for the masked male's response. Then her eyes flicker towards their leader's lap-dog, or 'daughter', or whatever else she was supposed to be. They don't linger very long with a guarded expression before returning to the lone male of the group as he begins speaking. A slight raising of her eyebrows is the only recognition of the congratulatory words, her hand coming up to wrap around Kanami's bringing it from her hair to her shoulder, hanging onto the appendage lightly as she brushes it with her thumb. After a moment her lips part, releasing their captive words.
"I will be performing for His Lordship later this week, barring unforseen circumstances. Arrangements are already being made to ensure I will have a seat near his side within two weeks afterwards at another of his elaborate functions, this one to be held in the palace. That second meeting will be my window of opportunity to tie him to me irrevocably. Every piece is in place and the hidden performance has virtually no chance of being detected."
Kanami bows her head and upper body slightly in a way that is polite for recognizing praise. Then she straightens as Datura moves her hand from scalp to shoulder. She permits this. The tenderness, the seeming closeness and affection… She finds it a pleasant part of the character she plays. Whether she truly believes Datura or any of the rest 'exist' is irrelevant. If Datura is part of the 'fake universe', she is a very pleasing one and in a life as short as this, one must take one's enjoyment where one can get it. She enjoys being close to the younger woman. She enjoys touching her and being touched. The tactile nature of their relationship is just the distraction she needs from all the bad memories of that cave.
The explanation from Datura, of course, does little to explain anything to the out-of-the-loop Hyuuga in the room. Maybe her 'papa' will tell her later. Or maybe she will grow a spine and ask. It depends on the motivation. She is inclined to think she will have to be told. She does not push matters unless Amuro is not present, nor does she push herself unless it is necessary.
Mune… Well, she is an attractive and intelligent dark-skinned, well-formed, and shirtless woman who can probably kill her with a touch or any number of chemical concoctions. What else is there to say? Kanami will settle for watching her and taking her pleasures somewhere… Safer. "It is good to know that you have developed your skills so well, Dat-chan. Your advances demonstrate your 'will to power'." She then leans her head down next to Datura's ear, stroking some red strands away from it, and whispering something to the disguised diva.
What is she whispering? Unless others present have enhanced senses of hearing they can just imagine.
Unconvinced by Amuro's act, Mune continues to watch him. He has previously seemed to be a powerhouse of Jutsu, knowledge, and energy. However old he is, he is a battery of Chakra that seems to know few limits. And yet here he is, looking ancient, spent, and tired. Is it just age catching up with him? She does not know, but she intends to find out somewhere private when Amuro does not have to worry about revealing weaknesses to the others. Too much rests on Amuro to let anything happen to him now. He made a promise to her. She won't LET him die without fulfilling that promise first.
She darts her eyes towards the others to see if they recognize the signs of fatigue and sleep deprivation, only to once-again spot the same in Datura. The eyeing-up she is getting from Kanami goes unnoticed or at least unremarked upon. Tomoyo. She is closest to Amuro. She probably knows. One look reveals that this is the case. The concern on her face until Amuro begins to speak speaks volumes. This is not normal for her adoptive father.
Crossing her arms under her chest, she simply says, "I have made progress as well, Amuro-sama." Perhaps she feels a bit miffed about not being congratulated, but that is not why she said that just now. She is more looking for a reaction from the masked man. Will he show interest or remain stoically silent?
Amuro sits through Datura's 'report', seeming either unaware of or uninterested in what Kanami may be whispering to the currently-red-headed 'Lady Ryoko'. "Good." When Mune confirms she has made progress as well, he inclines his head slightly in acknowledgement. "How fortunate. I will be interested to hear the technical details at a later time." His voice does not demonstrate immediate interest, but his words at least show that he wants to know more. Whatever Mune has 'made progress' with, it is at least enough to obtain a response.
"Tomoyo-chan," he says suddenly. His head is still directed at Datura and Kanami, rather than his adopted daughter. "My sight is not as keen as it once was, and my other senses may be misinterpreting something. I would like for you to use your Byakugan for a moment and tell me if there is anything you find 'odd' about this room, its contents, or the people in it."
After a brief pause, he then adds on, "Kanami, please move away from Datura. Just so that each of us has a distinct presence in the room that will not interfere with any other's."
Seeing as how none of the others felt the need to speak to her about anything, Tomoyo remains silent as stone as she just listens in on the conversation taking place. For now, she wasn't to concerned about being left out but it still left her feeling a little injured about it. Instead, her attention stays fixed on Amuro as everyone reports their progress to him. Datura and her performing campaign and Mune who seems to have made progress on 'something'. Whatever that was.
Her focus on it all started to wane a little as the chatter started to get toned out as she started thinking about other things, like touring villages and meeting people. At least, until Amuro called out her name which snapped her to attention right quick. Her response also giving hint to her being startled by the sudden call out. "Y-Yes!?" she says, staring at that black mask with the red question mark on it.
With Amuro asking her to use her Byakugan to examine the room due to his 'failing' eyesight, she unconciously smiles at being needed. "Maybe you'd be able to see better if you weren't always covered up with that mask." she says jokingly before nodding. "Alright."
With that, the Hyuuga girl brings up her right hand and curls her fingers to create the seal of the ram with her one hand to focus her chakra. Tomoyo's lavender colored eyes seeming to strain as her normally invisible pupils appear. Veins along the corners of her eyes begin to bulge visibly now that her Byakugan is active.
With her eyes at full power, it's like the world is drained of color and she can now see the chakra networks of everyone in the room and anyone else within range of her eyes. Her eyes drifting from one person to the next as she examines them each rather carefully. Since Amuro was the one who requested the information, she stays silent with her mouth and instead communes with the seal placed on her. - Papa, the only thing I can tell is that Datura's chakra is very… weak, a bit unstable. But that might be due to fatigue. And your chakra is in the same condition. You should rest some more… - broadcasting what she thought to Amuro's mind before speaking. "Nothing out of the ordinary." she says rather plainly before lowering her hand and deactivating her Byakugan.
The smile that adorns the blonde-turned-redhead's lips at Kanami's almost-condescending praise has a little of the smug satisfaction anyone who spent time around the young woman would come to expect. Her thin eyebrows raise ever-so-slightly in preening acceptance of the compliment as she glances up towards the older woman. Head turning slightly to the side as she brushes a few long strands of dark hair away from her ear, she listens to whatever it is the Nogakujin is whispering to her.
Whatever it was, it causes her eyes to widen and a giggle to be stiffened, for a moment her dominatingly girlish attributes overcoming her practiced womanly grace. Pressing her lips together to stifle any more giddiness, she lifts a hand over her mouth, touching fingertips to lips, before she looks back towards the older woman, nodding her head in small, quick motions in unspoken agreement with whatever was being communicated. After several seconds tick by, her attention returns, with seeming glum reluctance, back to the matters at hand, the somber cloak of business and a horror unseen settling back around her shoulders.
At their leader's abrupt change in subjects that to scouting out the room, Datura betrays no change in emotion, though her hand leaves Kanami's, located at her shoulder, to rest on the arm of her chair, a single finger tapping at the plush, cushioned fabric. Not a moment later, a large, eight-legged arachnid begins to languidly creep up the side of the chair, emerging from beneath it, heading for the young woman's hand. Upon reaching it, the red-haired diva doesn't seem to react until the tarantula-sized beast is practically covering her appendage with it's body, at which point she cradles her hand, and the insect, to her chest like a frail or injured pet. Slowly, her legs unfold and she gets to her feet even as Tomoyo's kekkei genkai pours over her, her own eyes staring back with a quiet smoldering, almost daring her to say anything aloud.
And then it's deactivated, with no outward sign of cause for alarm. She wasn't sure if she should be relieved or worried. Softly, she bows. "Forgive me, I grow tired. I'll be in my rooms should any find cause to visit me. …Kana-chan?" The starlet turns a tiny frown on the older woman, setting her half-empty teacup down on the chair she was previously sitting on in order to free that hand, which is held towards the Nogakujin. "Will you take me?"
Kanami's reddened lips are pulled upwards in a slightly snakeish smile, though an attractive one, rather than one of those 'i eat your entire body by dislocating my jaw nom nom nom' smiles. This one is more about being pleased with something, and yet being sly about it. The clever, trickster-type snakes of myths and legends, rather than the genuine article. The seductive power of the serpent combined with its dangerous allure… These features and attributes seem to be more and more present in Kanami's expressions and mannerisms with each passing day.
And from Datura's reaction to her warm breath whispering in the rogue Yamanaka's ear, she can tell that the younger woman LIKES it.
But then the world of intense, promised pleasures and the eventual release of nervous energy that has been building up in the redhead's body, denying her proper sleep, comes crashing down when Amuro addresses her. She turns her attention from Datura's ear to the masked man, tilting her head for a moment and arching a slender black eyebrow before standing up straight. Datura's quiet but enthusiastic agreements still ring in her head, however, and she will not be abandoning this subject for long.
"Of course, Amuro-sama." She then steps aside, away from Datura, as reluctant as she may be inwardly. She waits for the inspection to be completed, and then when that is settled without incident, she smiles in a much more human manner — a polite, pursed-lip smirk of supposed relief that all is well. But inwardly, she wonders if Amuro has detected the change that is taking place in Kanami… The energy she is building and shaping within…
'Does he know about the Mask somehow?' she thinks momentarily. And then Datura is asking to be escorted to her quarters. She smiles snakeishly again, and offers psuedo-sibilantly, "Of courssse, Dat-chan. I would be more than happy to take you." Then she moves closer to put an arm about the posing-diva's narrow waist, and leads her to her bedroom. All the while, her slightly-longer-than-human-normal tongue teases about near Datura's right ear inadvertently as she resumes her whisperings.
She turns her head briefly to say, "Please excuse us, but Dat-chan and I have some catching-up to do while she rests." She looks at Tomoyo in passing, and for an instant, the Hyuuga girl may see what appears to be a snake's eye in place of Kanami's right eye. The cold, calculating look directed at the adopted daughter of Amuro may seem to go on a bit longer than it actually does, but it is a fraction of an instant only. Then she and Datura are sweeping past, and vanishing into the bedroom.
The door closes with a distinct *click*.
Mune does not detect the level of interest Amuro usually displays on this particular subject. She has made significant progress in his quest for an Immortality Elixir, and he just wants to know the 'details' 'later'? This is not like him. Not at all. He must really be tired. That or there is something else on his mind—
Then Amuro asks THAT of Tomoyo. To use her Byakugan just to 'check things out'? Something is wrong here. She doesn't know what, but she's going to find out. When Datura and Kanami excuse themselves, Mune says, "…I'll be downstairs. Let me know when you're ready, Amuro-sama. Nice seeing you again, Tomoyo-san. We should talk later. We REALLY should." She doesn't pick up the glare from Kanami directed at the Hyuuga girl, because she's headed towards the door.
As soon as she's out, she nearly slams it behind her.
Amuro hears both the audible report from Tomoyo and the mental one and grunts non-commitally. "I thought perhaps we had someone here who did not belong… But it appears I am merely imagining things. There is no one in this room that can go undetected by the combination of Tomoyo and myself. Thus, we are secure after all."
Why is he saying all that? Trying to explain his concerns? When has he ever bothered to explain >anything< when he did not have to? He resumes his normal behaviors soon enough. He does not respond to Tomoyo with the Open-Mind Communication Seal, but he does say outloud, "Rest well, Datura. Much depends on your continued well-being." Then he nods to Kanami and Datura, and Mune, when the three depart in two different directions. So much to do. So much to think about. So much resting on his shoulders after a century of pain.
Is that what his entire life is going to be about? Pain? It wasn't always this way. There was a time when he was happy. He remembers that time. Will he sacrifice any hope of happiness in order to ensure this plan succeeds. "Tomoyo-chan," he begins. Then he pauses. He changes what he was going to say and instead says, "Let us go join Mune. That last time I was in this Village, they had some excellent mint chocolate chip icecream made locally. Real mint and real cocoa that they grow in the Village. I am sure you will enjoy it." He thn rises from the only piece of furniture large enough to accomodate him and begins striding towards the door. He would rather not be around when Datura and Kanami are trying to rest. They will both need their rest for what is to come.
Amuro wishes he could sleep as well. It would let him recover faster. But the fact of the matter is that he can't sleep.
And he hasn't.
Not once in more than seventy years.