Date: September 23, 2016
Hakumei learns more about her shapeshifting comrade, and about a plan Reikoku has to make them both stronger.
"Contract Assignment Pt. 1"
Motai Theater - Sunagakure
Amaro Kuchibiru is seated in the Motai Theater in Sunagakure. She is taking a break off from helping out around the Village, treating the injured, prescribing and mixing medications, trying to deal with the mosquito infestation… And also, because the true being within the identity that is Kuchibiru wants to take in some culture. Nano, after all, has a very distinct interest in theater.
As well, however, Kuchibiru is here to have a certain talk with a member of the group that is not yet clued into her team mate's true nature as… Well… A shapeshifter. The sensor was informed to meet the 'mummy woman' here, the dark-skinned lady wrapped up in bandages, with Land of Wind markings on her 'clothing' (such as it is) and a Sunagakure medical corps insignia imprinted on such as well. She may not be an official Sunagakure ninja, but there are records of her as an ally and agent of Sunagakure…
…Because the original Amaro Kuchibiru was, before Nano killed her and took on her identity, wearing her life and form like a suit. Just a mask it takes on and off as-needed.
She's going to need to explain all that to Hakumei. Because the next part of their mission here in the Land of Wind will be a rough one. They need to petition certain beings for access to certain powers. Reikoku believes Hakumei has the potential for it, and Nano as well. But they have to maintain certain appearances while they do it. Sunagakure is not a foolish Village that lets unknown ninja wander around free after all.
Hakumei knows only the barest amount about the ronin she knows as Shinrin, but a certain stop at a caravan made her aware that her ally was capable of looking like any human form, at least. Reikoku mentioned it in passing. And the way it was phrased didn't seem to indicate it was just the Transformation Technique either. When Shinrin vanished in the middle of getting the Kazekage's attention, and Reikoku didn't seem worried about it, and then told her to go meet the mummy lady at the theater, she figured something was up.
She wasn't sure what, but she had ideas. When the now white-robed and white-hooded woman enters the theater, sucking on a lollypop as she strides down the aisle looking around at all the empty seats, it doesn't take her long to spot Kuchibiru or to make her way over to her.
She shifts her candy to the other side of her mouth as she stands there looking at the desert native that is clearly not Shinrin. Then she asks an open-ended question that could be taken many ways, and could a lot of information depending on how it's answered.
"Who are you really?"
Kuchibiru looks over when Hakumei asks that question, aware of her approach since long before. One didn't need sensor capabilities to detect bare feed padding down the aisle or the noisy sucking on a lollypop. The green-haired woman, all wrapped in bandages, tilts her head and says, "Shouldn't you introduce yourself first before asking another their name?" She's teasing the girl, though her voice tone is sedate, calm, almost monotone.
Unlike Hakumei, Nano enjoys subtlety, word games, and manipulation.
Hakumei frowns at that answer, her tiny, slender eyebrows coming down. No, she has no patience for such games at all. She plays along for now but she wishes they could just get to the point. "I was told to come see you. I'm Hakumei. I'm sure you're aware since I was, like, specifically told you had stuff to tell me. To explain to me, even." She pops the lollypop out of her mouth and points it at the mummy-woman. "And if you don't get with the talking, I'm going to go back and say you wouldn't."
The fake Amaro leans back in her seat, putting her arms across the backs of the chairs, and then says in the same dull tone, "Oh-hooooh? Told to come talk to me, eh? By whom? And why should your threat bother me?" She is only going to tease her a little while longer… Really! Kuchibiru isn't the teasing type at all, however, though Hakumei doesn't know that. If she did, she'd realize she's already talking to the true personality inside of the form that sits here.
Eventually, however, she says, "Well, you've introduced yourself, so I suppose I should too. The form I'm wearing is named Amaro Kuchibiru. She was a medical ninja of Sunagakure who did a bit of freelance work. She was on contract, so that she could wander around seeking new medical knowledge to benefit the Village, without actually being in their military forces. That meant she didn't have access to any confidential information, of course. No classified records, no special clearance… She had to go in and out through the front gates like everyone else. I found out a lot of things about her before I killed her."
A hand gestures down at the curvaceous, and apparently stolen, body. "But this isn't me. This is a shell. I am a member of the organizaiton called Fall, the same as you. We've been interacting with me in the guise of Shinrin. But that, too, is just an identity. A character, whose part I am playing. The real actor behind those two identities, and many others, uses a different name… But that, as well, I can not vouch for the validity of. Though for different reasons."
Kuchibiru glances around the theater, glad to have taken the time to set up sensor traps everywhere, both to keep sound from traveling outside of the barrier set up with scrolls, and to alert her if anyone approached. Okay, so she detected Hakumei by more than sound. Sue her.
The point is that no ANBU are listening in. And if they try, Kuchibiru will know instantly. Otherwise she'd never be discussing something of this nature within enemy territory. "I will not say that identity's name here. Let's wait until we're somewhere… Safer. But you needed to know what ground you and I are standing on."
Hakumei listens. The details are more gruesome than she had anticipated but she doesn't seem bothered by it. Odd, for someone who considers herself a pacifist. But maybe she just doesn't like doing the fighting, rather than finding it morally unpalatable. At the end, the thing she says isn't about the being within Kuchibiru's practices, or questioning how it is able to do all this, or what other faces it may have been wearing around her, or anything like that.
No, she just asks, "So you've been deceiving me all this time? Wow, thanks. Some team mate you are." She huffs and puts her candy back in her mouth, propping her hands on her hips and shaking her head in dismay. "Can't even be trusted by my own comrades with their secret identities. What's the world coming to?"
Hakumei finally folds her arms and asks, "Okay, and? Who are these beings and what is this contract thingy?"
Nano, for all its adeptness at reading behavior, analyzing psychology, memorizing behavioral traits… Is caught completely by surprise by what Hakumei chooses to focus on, how casually she accepts the explanation, and what she moves on to. The shapeshifter slaps a presently female hand to its presently female face and laughs out loud in unexpected mirth at the sheer absurdity of the situation.
It feels good to laugh again. It's been so long. Too long. Nano wishes it could laugh longer, but the hilarity fades from its fractured consciousness more quickly than it desires.
Letting out a sigh, the bandaged woman says, "You are truly a wonder, Hakumei. She has been tight-lipped about what YOUR story is, and what makes you so unique, but I'll find out in due time, I suppose. The mystery that is you, I will unwrap slowly. That makes for a better story anyway. In the meantime, I will enjoy your presence."
Kuchibiru shakes her head. "No, sorry. What I mean is, it was not my intent to deceive you. Or rather, one must first deceive one's allies to deceive one's enemies. By wearing many faces, I avoid linking any individual identity's actions to you too closely. Not all of them are on strictly-speaking 'legally favorable grounds' with various authorities."
She tilts to the side, squinting at Hakumei from between face-wrappings. "To answer your question, these beings are ones we do not yet know the identities of. But they may have power to give if we placate them. If we are seen favorably with them. Reikoku had at least three former companions, she told me, capable of using the Summoning Technique. It is a valuable jutsu. Having more ninja capable of such, she believes, is crucial to our efforts. And she thinks you and I may earn the trust and contracts of such beings."
Hakumei blushes bright red when the mummy lady starts laughing at her. "Sh-shut up!" Hakumei demands, turning her back on her comrade in embarrassment. When she's called a 'treasure' though, and Kuchibiru explains it was for her safety, rather than just to tricky her… The whole 'lots of identities' thing… Well, Hakumei takes a moment longer to cool her cheeks as she listens before turning around again.
"I'll take that as an apology then! Just find some way to let me know it's you in the future, okay?" Hakumei looks around the theater and says, "I don't know anything about any summoning technique… But if we don't know who we're summoning how are we supposed to do so? And do I need to pack my stuff or something?" Despite her confusion and prior embarrassment, she feels a small flush of warmth inside. She feels happy that Reikoku apparently thinks so highly of her, and believes she has 'hidden potential'. And also that she now knows a bit more about a comrade who had thus far been rather distant with her.
It wasn't because he — or she now? — didn't like her, but because it was an act. To keep her safe. Her cheeks are warm for another reason now. Because she feels like she belongs in this 'family'. Her real family… She can barely remember. Only the Chakra of her parents lingers in her mind, not even their faces, voices, or anything else. She was so small back then. But now? With Reikoku and Whoever-This-Shapeshifter-Is and those twins she assumes are with them as well? Maybe even Kazekage-sama?
She feels like she's part of something bigger and better than just herself. She wants more of that feeling. A lot more.
…And gaining the power to summon things on demand would be nice too.
Kuchibiru grins behind her face wrappings and says, "Soon, but not yet. We have to help out around Sunagakure first, so that our departure doesn't cause suspicions. Then we'll head north. Supposedly, there's a place there where we can find what beasts we align with…."