Date: March 5, 2011
A long overdue talk between adoptive father and adopted daughter occurs in the Tao Shih's secret base.
"Gentle And Firm"
Level 7 - Location Unknown
The underground facility that the Tao Shih use as a base of operations is vast indeed, and seemingly constantly expanding. Perhaps the majority of Level 5 is seemingly >gone< thanks to Amuro's use of the Munashiigan to seal away the corrupted section of the medical facility, but there are many more levels where that came from. Thankfully, with the removal of Level 5's contaminated portions the overall feel of the underground base is less… Hostile. It gives those who live and work here more of a sense of calm, peace, and being safe, rather than the unpleasant sensation referred to colloquially as the 'creeping horrors'.
One of the levels, Level 7, is a massive underground lake. It has such a vast amount of fresh water in it that, even though human beings have been drawing from it for centuries or >longer<, the volume of the lake has >not< suffered a noticeable or measurable decrease in content. It is like people have been taking >nothing< out of the lake for the past 700+ years.
The current purpose of Level 7 is simply the testing of hydro-electric power generators, as well as a source of fresh, drinkable water. There is no hidden purpose or strange experiment going on here. Just an underground lake with underground rivers and underground waterfalls, all criss-crossing the entire Land of Grass and with a depth so great that so far no Sensor-Nin or technological device has been able to reach bottom.
This is where Amuro is. He is standing on the shore of the lake, electric lights situated all around the area turning the otherwise-black waters into shimmering, dark-blue. The distant sound of mechanical humming from a hydro-electric power plant is the only artificial noise in the area. The rest is just waterfalls cascading down from above.
This seemingly ever expanding underground facility was just so much to take in it'd probably take quite a while to get familiar with every portion of the place without forgetting some nook or cranny. Level 7 however was possibly one of the few places that was considered a sort of Haven by at least one person. That person was Tomoyo. An underground lake that wasn't some ground zero for strange experiments, but just a simple lake for drinking water and possibly its recreational value. Though since it was underground in the first place, that means it was naturally dark without the aid of a light source or sources in this case.
This entire area situated with enough lights to provide easy enough visibility of the area around you. Tomoyo oft times frequenting this particular level just to take a walk around the lake when she's feeling a bit antsy. Which was the case for today's little venture around this level of the facility. Tomoyo had been observing one of the waterfalls that fed into the lake while the hum of the hydro plants provided a constant almost soothing sound.
Deciding she had spent enough time examining the waterfall, she pulls her attention away from it and begins her walk once again, spotting a familiar figure in the distance. A smile lighting up her face almost instantly as she raised an arm to draw attention before shouting, "Papa~!" and flailing the arm a few times before she began to jog her happy little self towards Amuro.
Upon reaching the quietly standing father figure as he was probably peering out into the dark blue waters, she stops only a few feet away. "Hi Papa. What brings you down here on this quiet day." she asks, glancing around. There wasn't that many people afoot. Slow time of the day perhaps? Curiously, her gaze is drawn to the arm that isn't really an arm anymore on Amuro.. that strange replacement that gave her the chills after she tried to look at it with her Byakugan.
Amuro turns his head to look at Tomoyo long before she greets him. Maybe he has vision like Tomoyo's that lets him see through things? That has never really been clear. He just seems to be… >Aware< of things without actually seeing or hearing them. When Tomoyo is closer, Amuro says in his deep voice almost >wearily<, "Hello, Tomo-chan." He then looks back over the lake. "I had hoped to see you down here."
He waits silently long enough that Tomoyo may feel he is not going to say anything further. And it seems he is not, unless prompted.
It was a pleasant thing, being able to stand near Amuro like this in a quiet setting. These instances were few these days with all the activity going on around the world. She didn't know everything, but she heard people talking and that seemed to be enough. When he speaks, that weary tone pricks at her ears and causes the smile on her face to waver slightly with a pang of concern. It made her remember that Papa wasn't exactly feeling one hundred percent lately, and that made her feel worried.
When he continues to speak, her easily contented heart soared at Papa hoping to find her down here, smiling as bright as the sun for a few moments. The lingering silence that followed though gnawed at her until curiousity got the best of her and she spoke up finally, "Was there something you needed, Papa? Or were you just missing me that much?" she says kiddingly, giving him a slight nudge with her elbow. Though the size difference probably only equated to just a poke.
Amuro is nudged. After a moment he answers, "A little of both. We have not spent nearly enough time together of late." He is quiet for another long moment. Then he says, "I need to tell you something about your family." Whoah, wait. Her 'family'? Isn't Amuro her only family? Or does he mean… The Hyuuga that abandoned her…?
Amuro's general calm tone was usually enough to sedate Tomoyo from her usual high spirits. Which generally kept her from making a fool of herself around others when she wasn't watching her own behavior closely enough. She smiles at first and nods, "I think so too." she says, turning her head away from the lake to look up at her ginormous father. - Why aren't you getting better… - is what she thinks when she looks him over. At first the mention of having to talk about her family just flies right over her head… She nods her head at first, happy to just talk to Amuro about things! But then it comes back to her what was said. Family?! "Oh?… Do you mean like… relatives of yours?" she asks, not even considering the family she actually came from.
Amuro waits another several long seconds. Then he answers, "I suppose that is one way of putting it. Many years ago… About 90 years ago, infact, I had a wife." He glances over to his right. Maybe it's just hard to talk about and he doesn't want to be facing Tomoyo when he does it? But no. He is staring at a red-haired woman much shorter than him, standing just a few feet away. She is not transparent or spectral-looking or anything like that. But appearances aside, if ever there was such a thing as a ghost, this woman was it. But only Amuro sees her.
"Her name was Uzumaki Natsu. She was murdered by a Senju and an Uchiha in the process of their search for one of the Stones that we have been working to recover. At the last moment, to save her as a person, I had to absorb all of her memories — her entire life's experiences — into my own. For the past 90 years, she has been a part of me, both mentally and spiritually."
He turns back to face Tomoyo, as Natsu just watches Amuro and smiles encouragingly.
The young Hyuuga was rather captivated by the notion that Amuro was going to tell her about his family! Which meant more family for her in a sense! This made her quite happy. At least until Papa continued with the story. A time that spanned over 90 years ago!? Could people really live that long?… It was hard to swallow, but Papa wouldn't lie to her would he? Never. And the thought of him having a wife at one time meant she was gone. This made her feel sad almost instantly. She couldn't imagine losing someone that close to her and having to live so long with that kind of pain.
Tomoyo's eyes were pretty much glued to Amuro, even if he was looking away from her as he spoke, not knowing of what it was he was staring at exactly. "U…zumaki.. Natsu…" she murmurs. "Mama..?" she says to herself, trying to picture the three of them together, but she had no idea how she looked. "M-Murdered?…Senju and an Uchiha…" repeating these things like a parrot as she felt a bit of anger welling up inside of her. Why was it an Uchiha and a Senju?… It only provided a focus for her. Konoha? But the villages didn't exist back then…
Her mama was killed over a stone? "I'm sorry papa…" she says as if that would console him somehow. Though he then goes on to say he had absorbed all that she was into himself. She had no idea what that would even be like. "R-Really? Like still alive inside you? Or.. just all her memories?" she asks, not even sure about it in the first place. Even though Natsu was a person she never met, she still felt sad. Two little tears standing in her eyes as Amuro turns to face her once more.
Amuro nods and offers an affirmative 'hm'! "Yes, she is still alive inside of me. I can copy the memories of others at will, as you may know, thanks to the Seal on my right hand… The Hand of Lore." He shows Tomoyo the hand she has seen countless times before. The kanji for 'memory' lies on his weathered palm, dull and inactive at present. If it flares to life, he can make anyone forget anything… Or remember things that never happened at all. "…But only one time have I ever been able to actually absorb the entire mental and spiritual content of another human being. That time was with Natsu. She has remained with me, unchanged, for almost a century now. She has advised me, argued with me, consoled me, and shared my joy and my pain both. But I am not going to live for much longer." He raises his hand again after having lowered it, at though to forestall any protest.
"I am sorry to spring this on you suddenly, but it has been a long-time coming. I have prolonged my life well beyond what is natural. I probably could have lived another few decades if I had not used the Sum of All Mankind Seal on the Yin Beast from Ankoku Cave… But instead, I expect I will die within the year. My body is withering and my Chakra is bleeding out of me on a daily basis. I do not know what awaits me when I die, but I do not fear it. Not even if it is oblivion."
Turning completely to face Tomoyo he places his right hand on her shoulder — leaving his left at his side, perhaps to make sure she feels comforted rather than terrified. "What I fear is leaving my business in this world unfinished. There is still so much to do… So many things I want to teach you and show you… And I know I do not have the time. So I am going to have to impart to you a lot of knowledge in a very brief period of time. And something else."
Hearing that her mama was still alive, in some form or another seemed to make her feel slightly better.. But not being able to see her personally brought her back down. She nods when the Hand of Lore is mentioned, looking down at the large palm with the kanji etched onto it. As Amuro goes on about how Natsu seems to remain a seperate being inside of Amuro, being able to converse with her and such!? It made her a little jealous. Her emotions were rolling around inside her like the spin cycle on a washing machine right now. She seemed to laugh slightly at the mention of someone actually arguing back at Papa, but stopped cold in her tracks.
Not live for much longer!? Tomoyo's eyes widen with what seems to be terror, disbelief.. anger that he'd think about leaving her alone in the world. She couldn't even speak just now as all this tumbled around in her head.. not even once did it click that Amuro's age was catching up to him at last despite just being told he was almost a century old. Hearing Amuro's estimate for his remaining time left was even worse.. it was like being given a time limit on living life. Her own life and Papa's. The bleeding chakra, she could believe.. since his chakra reserves didn't seem to be recovering at all after resting enough. "W.. What if we give you more chakra? Some of mine?" she asks, as if that would solve things. The vast stores of Chakra that Amuro had put her own to shame. Like comparing a cheap AA to a huge generator.
All the while the tears in her eyes continued to well up and slowly drip down her face. Papa was dying, and she felt powerless to stop it. Despite staring up at Amuro, she had sort of gone out of it and was only brought back to reality when that huge hand of his was set on her shoulder. It startled her and caused her to sniffle. She wanted to be strong for Papa, but she was afterall still who she was. "P…Papa…" she finally manages to sputter out after her lame idea about chakra transplant. Just what was it he wanted to impart to her? She didn't think she could follow in his footsteps.. he was to great of a person in her eyes.
Amuro sighs. "I am sorry. I wish I could have been gentler in telling you this… But gentle only goes so far in this world. Though you have been trained in the arts of the Gentle Fist, you also have to know when to be >firm<. There will be a time for tears and compassion. For now, strength is what is required. The life of one person or the life of two people or the life of a hundred, weighed against the life of the planet… Is a trivial thing. There are people out there that I refer to as 'Life-Breakers'. They want to break nature itself and remake the world in their own image. A world where the dead walk amongst and feed upon the living. A world where the ocean is fire and the sky is blood. A world of constant warfare, and constant hate… The Life-Breakers, regardless of their reasons, see only what they want to see and ignore the consequences of their actions. They must be stopped. And you and the others can stop them if you work together."
Sighing again, the towering, masked man says, "I am not leaving you without aid, however. The reason I brought up family is that… Before Natsu was killed, she and I had a child. A daughter. It was a dangerous time period, and where we lived in the forest was not very well-guarded. We had to send her to Uzushiogakure to live amongst the other Uzumaki. I suppose you could consider her your older sister, but at this point she is old enough to be your grandmother. I have not had the courage to visit her, but I have seen her from afar. She does not look her age." Amuro seems to be wandering off the subject mentally for a moment, but he quickly rights himself.
"There is another. A brother. He is much younger than your 'sister'. He is older than you, but not to the same degree as I or others are. His name is Hei-Long, and he seeks to end war in the Southern Lands. He will learn from what I leave behind for him, but he will need the guidance of the rest of the group to become the person that will lead us all to peace."
"Do you understand? He is not my replacement. He is new to the world of ninja, and needs help to understand what we have been trying to do… What the Tao Shih have been trying to do. Can you promise me you will do your best to show him how to help people?"
Tomoyo couldn't help herself, sniffling again as she tries to pull herself together when asked to be strong. Her face grows tighter as she tries to control the muscles in her face to keep her from trying to cry. Instead trying to put on a smile, but her muscles rebelled against her and she just looked like she was wavering at a frown. She didn't trust herself to open her mouth just yet, afraid it would put her one step closer to resuming her descent into crying. The mention of these people known as 'Life-Breakers' just confuses her, a term she has never heard before. But as it is defined to her, she deems these people as bad people. The mere thought of the dead rising to consume the living sends a chill down her spine as she shivers just a little.
She didn't want to live in a world consumed by death, hate and war… If Papa tasked her in ridding the world of these people, that is what she would do. As Amuro continues sharing things, now about family again. This time about an older sister?! Tomoyo's family was getting larger by the minute it seems. Though the fact that this child was had long ago and that she was now old enough to be her grandma unsettled her. Was she supposed to seek out this elder sister?… Before Papa could leave her, she would be sure to try and drag him to see his own daughter, a daughter that shared the blood in his own veins.
All this new information kept piling up inside her head, swirling around and almost overwhelming the poor girl. Luckily for her, training with the Byakugan made her resiliant to things like information overloads.. For she now had an older brother as well!? Though he lives in the Southern Lands.. somewhere beyond her reach. She never learned of that place.
Tomoyo remained silent the whole time, trying to keep up a bold face. She would have to seek out both her older brother and sister. Wherever they are, her eyes will find them. When asked if he could rely on her to promise to help her elder brother, she nods her head. "H..Hai…papa." it was just so much to take in. Would there be even more? Of course.. things that Amuro would be imparting to her eventually. Hopefully she was strong enough to handle it all.
Amuro is adept at reading people, not just based on body language but also by the fluctuations in their Chakra. He can see the distress he is causing in Tomoyo… Even without any eyes to see with. So he decides to call it done for now. "The rest can wait until another day. You need time to acclimate to all this new information. If I gave you the last remaining piece… Well, it might damage you rather than help you. I wish you no pain, even though I know I have caused it by telling you all this."
He sighs. "I am sorry, Tomo-chan. If there were some way to keep living another century or two centuries or >more<… I would take it. Not so that I could continue to live, however. I have seen and experienced so much pain my entire life that it will be a relief when it is all gone from me — or I am gone from it. Whichever is the case, I only regret not being able to stay and help you and the others more. We saved Datura from becoming a very bad person. We saved Kanami's life. Mune is learning more and more every day, and Shinji… Well, he is Shinji. Not very bright, but he is loyal. You and the others will be standing in for me until your brother can join you. When he does, he will work alongside you and he will learn the lessons I leave behind for him. Memories Sealed away in containers and objects… He need only touch them to obtain my memories. When he has them, he will know what I knew. It will be as though I am reborn in his body, if you wish to think of it that way. So do not fear my departure. Do not mourn my death."
"I will return sooner than you think."
It probably wasn't very hard to read Tomoyo like a book to a perfect stranger at this point as most of her emotions were practically written all over her face as they emerged. If only she was more calm and collected like her Papa… but it was hard enough to control herself enough to hold back what she was, let alone everything else like he is able to do. When told that the rest of the conversation will be saved for another day, she simply offers a nod with another sniffle. Being told all this, about Amuro only having maybe a year to live.. it was also good in a way. Allowing her to come to terms with it before it actually happened. Letting her steel her heart for the rough times ahead.
"It's alright Papa, I'll be stronger for you. You don't have to worry." she says, though she doesn't mean it. She wants him to worry, but only because that means he cares… She is quite incapable of being able to even fathom the amouth of strife someone in his shoes had to endure over the years. She only gets the sentiment of not wanting to leave them alone. "They're good people, aren't they Papa?" she asks with a bit of a smile. Despite the first impression one might get of the group, they all had their good sides. And Tomoyo was glad to be able to see those sides.
Taking in a deep breath, she tries to master her own emotions for even a short while and exhales, as if breathing out all the bad feelings. "Hai! And even if that's not the case, you'll stay alive inside of me Papa. Inside my heart." she says, placing her hand over it. As long as you keep someone there, they will never leave you. Right? Right.
Amuro nods and, evil arm of nothingness or not, he puts both arms around Tomoyo and hugs her gently… But firmly. "Home is the place that you can return to at any time. As long as there is someone thinking about you somewhere… That is your home." Natsu says in the touching silence that follows, "I still don't agree with not telling her about her real parents, Nagato." Amuro doesn't answer out loud. He answers in his head, because that is where she is. 'I said not to call me that anymore,' he reminds his ghost-wife sternly. "I know," is all she says. Then she is gone, leaving adoptive father and adopted daughter to consider the future.