Date: May 7, 2011
Fuyu reports to the Hokage about the results of her mission to the Land of Rivers with Team 5.
"Broken Memories Pt. 3 - Chasing The Nothing"
Hokage's Lookout - Konohagakure
The office of the Hokage was in its usual state of orderly disarray. Scrolls and papers and missifs and messages were all present in abundance, as were several messenger shinobi, and a Jounin of the Yamanaka Clan. The sun was just now starting to peek over the horizon, casting long shadows across the village as morning began to break. The craftsmen and laborers of the village had all been up for several hours, beginning to ply their trade, investing themselves into the perfection of whatever it is that they did. For the Hokage and most of her principle assistants, however… they had not even gotten to bed yet. And it did not seem as if they would, either.
As much as for political reasons as anything else, the Hokage had her personal staff made up of a Chuunin from each of the prominent clans of Konoha. Theoretically, they were loyal to the village and Hokage first, but she was aware that not all of them were the 'assistants' they pretended to be, and were in reality little more than spies. Keep your enemies closer, as they say.
The dark-haired Senju was currently leaning forward in her high-backed chair, her hands folded under her chin, elbows on her desk, her eyes heavily-lidded, as if she were only half-awake. Or perhaps a hooded cobra waiting to strike. The Yamanaka male was standing passively before her, his hands casually folded behind his back. It takes a long moment of a seeming staring contest before either speaks. When they do, it's the woman who talks first.
"…I see. If the shinobi from Kirigakure continue to act in a manner that is aggressive to our envoys, they have full permission to engage them as deemed appropriate by their team leaders. I want you to head up our efforts there personally, and stay in contact with me. Do not engage first under any circumstances. Take a team of three with you, including a medic in case of emergency. Leave by midday. You will have your commission orders before you depart."
With that, the dark-haired woman unfolds her hands and leans back into her chair with a dissimissive nod. The male's long blonde hair floats about in a seemingly-gravity-defying after-image as he makes a quick bow and then departs. Almost before she can even blink, Hashiramako's Inuzuka aid is practically leaping forward to shove another document under her nose. "The latest reports on the rebuilding efforts in the Land of Whirlpools, Hokage!"
After a moment of trying to get her eyes to focus on the too-close words, the woman reaches for it. "…Okay."
Uchiha Fuyu has returned a short time ago with the other members of Team 5. Ordinarily a mission report can be filed in writing or at the team leader's convenience, provided it is done in a timely fashion. But some news is urgent enough that it can not wait. The news that Fuyu bears is of the type best delivered immediately, if not sooner.
Thus, once she arrives outside the doors of the Hokage's office, she knocks to announce herself, fighting the urge to just push the doors open and walk in. It is not just a matter of respect or lack thereof for the Hokage that makes her want to ignore manners in this instance. She just needs to tell someone in charge about this. Someone other than herself, that is. Going to the Uchiha Elders first on this matter would be idiotic. The value of containing the spread of information would be completely subverted by the fact that others will eventually find out what she and her team did, and then the news will spread either way. Further, if it is discovered she did not report this directly and immediately, she would fall under (more) suspicion about her loyalties.
So for now, the ebony-tressed woman waits.
The door opens as the Yamanaka Jounin is leaving, though he pauses in momentary surprise to see the Uchiha leader there. After a few heartbeats, he nods his head in quiet recognition and holds the door open for her. Provided she accepts and walks through, the blonde-haired male then quietly shuts the door behind her and departs. No sooner is the first report set aside, than another is shoved three inches from the Hokage's face, by the Hyuuga branch male standing on the other side of her, causing her eyes to cross slightly trying to read the small print before she even has a chance to see who's now coming into her office.
A hand comes up and swipes it away, snatching the paper and setting it on the desk, first squinting her left eye at the Hyuuga, and turning to squint her right at the Inuzuka. Both of them seem bright, alert, and expectant, as Hashiramako had been allowing her aides to sleep in shifts, a luxury she was not affording herself while the entire world seemed content to allow itself to go to Hell and beyond. "Place the papers…" She begins calmly, setting the paper down and placing both of her hands on either side of it, looking at the male. "ON THE DESK!" Both aides jump as she smacks her palms down and shouts, whirling her head around to scowl at the female. They both nod a bit stupidly. Reaching deep for inner reserves of calm, the Senju leader turns to eye the male, repeating in a much calmer tone. "On the desk."
Finally, she allows herself to glance at the other woman who has entered, or is standing in the doorway at least, before dropping her eyes to read. "You've returned. …Looking like Hell. Run the whole way back? I'm guessing it's not good news, then."
Fuyu casts a brief nod of acknowledgement to the Yamanaka and then enters the office, waiting less-than-patiently for the instructions on how to provide reports to be given and then for Fuyu herself to be addressed. The moment she is asked about the speed at which she travelled, she speaks up without waiting for the Hokage's assessment of the nature of Fuyu's news. "Yes, we did. The 'Twilight Village' is gone. We found no trace of its inhabitants, those who frequent it for 'business' purposes, nor its self-proclaimed 'ruler', 'Lord Rain' — better known to us as Uchiha Yau. I do not know if he is responsible or if he was a victim as well, but not even wild animals would approach the site. Infact, the forest for miles around appeared to be empty of animal life of any kind — whether it be humans or insects. Only at the outermost edges were there even very small animals, and they were all hiding. I could see in what little Chakra they had that they were terrified."
Fuyu looks around for a moment at the others in the room, and then takes a deep breath. Her resolution to share the news immediately is being tested by the presence of so many non-Uchiha… But, again, they will find out eventually anyway. "When I say the village is 'gone', I mean that not only are the buildings and people no longer there, but neither is the ground it was built on. Or the air that flowed through it. Or the light that shone upon it. Or anything else. There is not even a HOLE where it once was. There is, infact, some sort of… Anomaly. I am not sure how else to describe it. A 'void', perhaps. At the point where it can be perceived at all, it looks to be an area of complete emptiness. The edges bear what used to lie beyond Higure — the 'scenery' or 'background', if you will — upon distorted, winding… 'Space'. It looks like the area surrounding the void is a two-dimensional surface with a painting on it, essentially, and towards the center the wall collapses inwards, into a darkness… A 'cave', perhaps." Fuyu rubs her forehead. She may or may not be as tired as Hashiramako herself, but she is, in addition to being tired, scared by what she saw. Even days after seeing it, her mind can make no sense of it.
"I'm… Sorry. I don't have the vocabulary to describe it. I'll try generalizing. What I and the rest of Team 5 saw in the Land of Rivers, in the place where the Twilight Village once was, looked as though someone had attempted to use a Space-Time Ninjutsu of Kage-level or higher, and messed it up very, very badly. It was like someone or something just came along and took a huge bite out of the universe itself, and left 'nothingness' behind. That is as close as I can get. When I tried to look at the center, where there truly was absolutely nothing… I had to let my Sharingan sleep and look away. I felt as though I was being pulled inside, both physically and mentally."
Fuyu goes silent then. After a moment, she starts to say, "Hokage-sama…" Then she pauses and starts again. "Hashiramako." Addressing the Hokage by her given name? Very forward, but perhaps formalities are less important in this situation than at other times. "I do not get easily frightened. I am not as cold and calm as I would have people believe, but I keep my nightmares where they belong — in my dreams. My duty and my mission supercede personal problems like fear. But I have never, EVER seen anything even REMOTELY like that… That THING, except in the depths of Ankoku Cave, and even that was not identical to this void. I will openly admit that whatever the cause of that void, the void itself scares me very badly. If you or anyone else in the Leaf Village has secret resources, contacts, or knowledge that can help us somehow… This would be an ideal time to for their use."
The Senju leader leans forward as the Uchiha clan head begins to launch into her wild tale of a mission report. Her elbows come to rest on her desk as she holds up a hand to forestall the next report the Inuzuka Chuunin was prepared to hand-slash-shove in front of her face. She doesn't interrupt, interlacing her fingers just in front of her mouth, propping her chin on her thumbs as she quietly watches the younger woman speaking. She waits and listens, and when Fuyu finally finishes speaking, she remains silent, almost as if waiting for her to finish.
The silence lingers, perhaps uncomfortably for the pair of aides, who look across the desk at each other, then avert their eyes and shift nervously in the tension, caught somewhere between not wishing to eavesdrop and wanting to hear even more. The Inuzuka girl in particular seemed to make quite the show of not really paying attention. Finally, Hashiramako breaks the silence.
"…I see. Were there any tracks? Any sort of sign that anyone else may have been in the area at all? Is there any danger from this… 'void' swallowing people?"
The Hokage drops her hands and pushes up from her desk and her seat, the wooden legs groaning in protest against the floor as her seat slides back. She turns to the right and begins to rapidly close the distance to the enormous map of the known world on her wall, taking quick, precise steps until she's standing so that the /FORMER/ Twilight Village is directly before and above her on the wall. The way she was glaring into the writing seemed as if she could see what has happening in that very location. Sadly, that sort of cognitive manipulation was beyond her.
Fuyu says, "We did not see any recent tracks, either on the way there or on the way out. I admit that we departed rather hastily, and may not have been very attentive when we were confronted with the void, but Hinotori did notice there were thin smoke columns rising from nearly-dead fires in some of the ruins. From that, I believe that the rumors of a major battle that are what we were investigating to begin with were accurate. There was a battle of some kind fought there, and it damaged at least SOME of the structures of Higure. But the degree of damage inflicted to the entire settlement, if anyone escaped, and so forth… I couldn't tell. It didn't look like anyone else had been there in at least a week. No wild animal tracks either. For the four or five miles immediately surrounding the former village's location, there was no wild life at all. The silence was unnatural, and is what caused us to be on alert in the first place."
Fuyu follows the Hokage with her eyes, watching as she moves to the map. "While I did not test it in any way, and while I did not observe it expanding… I do think that it can swallow up anyone or anything that gets close enough, or possibly even just looks at the center for too long. I felt it happening to ME. I also couldn't really accurately judge its exact dimensions. Higure was not a small village, though it was also not the size of a city or even on the same scale as Konoha. However, the size of the void appears to remain the same, regardless of where one is in relation to it, both direction-wise and distance-wise. Everything else around it behaves normally. So, while it appears to just be a rather large darkness with complete emptiness at the center, the fact that only remants of the structures on the edges of Higure remained behind for us to see means that it was actually much larger. Almost the size of that entire village. If we send anyone else to investigate, they should keep that 'boundary' in mind. If the void is still there, and there is no sign of wreckage, then it is bigger than it was before. I have no idea if it is possible to get rid of this thing, or fill it up, or seal it away, or… Anything. Your sister is supposed to be proficient with Space-Time Ninjutsu. She might have some insight for us."
Looking at the Hokage's desk in front of her, Fuyu rubs at her eyes as they itch, and realizes her Sharingan has activated itself on its own again. She really needs to find out why that keeps happening. "I do recommend against trying to study it more than is needed, if we even try. Weaponizing such an anomaly would be a great advantage, but then again that may be exactly what Rain was trying to do… And if so, look what happened to HIM." She frowns as she remembers their last interaction, in Kusagakure. "A weapon that will consume its wielder is no weapon at all. It's just a trap for fools."
"There are enough weapons of devastation in this world without us adding to the piles of devastation and suffering. Even years after the clan wars, the world continues to tear itself apart. It seems peace will forever be an illusion to us."
The Hokage speaks without turning from looking at the singular spot on her map, a spot which will soon have to be erased from it. After a moment, her shoulders slump down slightly as her head bows, her eyes closing as her body tenses. Every decision she made weighed her down with the lives they affected, and this one was no less so. "An entire settlement just… gone. With all of its people. We can't just let this happen. We will investigate."
Finally, the dark-haired woman turns from the map, lifting her head and opening her eyes as she points at the lone Hyuuga, and lone male, in the room. "Get Tobi. And find Shuihara and Ren. I'm leaving for the Land of Rivers."
"But Hokage-sama, there are matters that-" The Inuzuka female begins. But she's shortly cut off by a harsh look from the Senju, as well as her verbal interruption.
"And that is why I have adjutants! I will not just sit in this damned office while the entire world goes to hell around us. Just because it is beyond our borders does not make it a problem we can ignore. People are dying, and I am going to find out why and stop it." The dark-haired Senju stops short to turn from one of her principle aides, snapping her gaze onto the Uchiha Clan leader. "Is there anything else that you can tell me about this 'void'?"
Fuyu nods in vague approval of the Hokage's decision, but most of her thoughts are on the subject of the void and what it might mean. Is it connected to Ankoku Cave? Is it a relative of that darkness and the unseen entity that Rain was speaking to within? Fuyu had not been able to perceive whomever it was… But he or she or it had managed to cripple two of Fuyu's temporary team members with pain without even being seen and with no indication of foreign Chakra. Infact… She thought she saw the Chakra of the Hyuuga girl and the Senju boy being 'pulled out' of them…
Then she remembers one last detail about the void. "Yes," she says in response to Hashiramako. "It has no Chakra of any kind, nor does such exist in the area around it. If you're bringing a Sensor-Nin of any kind, even the kind that can see Chakra itself, they will not be useful for detecting the anomaly. If it is where it was when Team 5 was there, then fine. But if it has gotten bigger… You probably won't see it until you're right next to it — or IN it. Especially if it's night." Fuyu closes her mouth, opens it to say something, closes it again, and then turns around to face Hashiramako. She hates the Senju. She hates Hashiramako. But there is more at stake than herself or even the Uchiha Clan. So she MEANS it when she says, "Be careful out there."
The Uchiha hate her, the Hyuuga mistrust her, the Inuzuka, Akimichi, and the Aburame are wary of her, and even the mild-mannered Yamanaka have their misgivings. The entire village was stitched together by nothing more than a thin veil of unifying weariness of death and warfare. But that was a problem that wouldn't be solved by their generation, something that needed the newer and upcoming heroes of the next age to solve. It was something that only the Academy could fix. For now, they simply had to survive. And make sure as much of their world survived with them as possible.
The Hokage's eyes narrow as the barest hint of a smile touches her lips. "Always. Tobi will be with me. And since she doesn't want my job, she'll ensure nothing happens." The older woman is already gesturing her two adjutants towards the door. They bow and begin to depart, the young woman holding the door open for the male, and then closing it after they have left.
"Find out what you can about this phenomenon. Search the kinjutsu archives for anything that might even hint as to the purpose or creation of this void. I need to know what I'm walking into. Send a messenger bird if you find anything." She hesitates. "Order the restriction of travel to and from the village for non-shinobi until further notice. I don't want anything or anyone we don't know getting in."
Another pause. "That will be all."