Date: December 8, 2014
The call for ex-Takokujin members that live is sent out. Ayumu answers…
Poster's note: foul language filtered in obvious places.
Road to Nothing [Higure]
There was once a small village known as the Twilight Village to the north. It was a more-or-less neutral settlement, though it also was under the rule of a wanted criminal and was making attempts to be considered a Hidden Village in its own right. Now, however, where there were once gates leading into 'Higuregakure', there is simply… Nothing. A Void of indeterminate dimensions has replaced the entire village, seeming as though some massive being had simply punched a hole in the universe with its little finger, revealing that what was once thought to be real was no more than a facade, and that BEHIND the reality that human beings live in, there is simply a vast emptiness. It is not a hole, except in shape. Though darkness exists about the edges of the anomaly, the Void itself is not simply dark. What it is…
…Is NOTHING. Those who venture too close or spend too much time staring into the Void have a nasty habit of being drawn in and ceasing to exist. Thankfully, every instinct that people possess warns against such foolish actions. Even LOOKING at the Void is difficult, as eyes tend to naturally shy away from the center of the horrifying abyss. The forest surrounding the Void is uncomfortably quiet, as any animals who had the ability to do so have long since fled from this disturbing phenomena.
When it arrived, it would have felt like a strangely familiar presence. A light warmth in the spot where the mark had been left, but primarily the feeling of a presence not felt in quite some time. The summoning of all of those who still bore the mark had begun, and with it, only one message could be understood with great clarity, "Return home." How course, that could many many things to many people, especially now. Those who remained were dispersed across the world, even from each other. But if they remembered why they were marked, and by whom, it would be easy enough to understand the message.
It likely took days for anyone to truly find a way to get away from their current lives, maybe even longer, but regardless, little would change. The area, shrouded in the half darkness of the early evening, was entirely barren for at least a couple of miles in diameter. A crater was all that remained, deeply gouge out of the ground as if scooped up by the heavens. Within the center of the crater, who knows how long he had waited. But he was there; A masked man that was covered in hood and cloak. He seemed to be waiting for something quite patiently… or someone.
Ayumu could hardly recall clearly the events that led to his abrupt appearance of a nigh forgotten road in the middle of nowhere. There was a deal struck, a few promises made, and some advisory note about not to leave without at least talking things over for once. Advice he refuse to listen to, knowing it could not be followed through. Shun still insisted on at least accompanying her younger cousin using the "old lines" and promised to remain with the caretaker stationed in the Land of Rivers until called.
A call they both knew would not be given, and yet Ayumu briskly nodded his ascent before moving on down the path. His steps are heavy but purposeful, though one phantom or another tried to distract him at every step. The Iga allowed his mind to drift back to the past, but no more. Back to the days of casual wanderings, whimsical adventures, bartering through promises and information, and sampling life beyond the great sand expanse his kin called home. It may or may not come as a surprise to the summoner that the Iga — the lesser cog in the Takokujin — is one of the first to arrive; especially given where he made a life for himself.
Ayumu only begins to slow once only a few meters seperate him from the lip of the crater. Where were Konoha's watch dogs? Or for that mattered, the other villages? Why did he no longer sense the disturbance? Did they finally managed to seal it? Was the defeat of the crawler somehow resulted in this side-effect? What sensor organs he can spare flee from his hair and do whatever they can to scavange the place for an answer. Though they search, the desire to find the answer becomes background static upon reaching the lip.
There's only a momentary pause there before he proceeds inward, ignoring whatever self-preservation instincts may be screaming at him.
Adjusting his gauntlets a bit, perhaps simply out of boredom, the man standing at the epicenter of the crater where this village and the hopes it aspired to abruptly ended would raise one of those covered hands. The reflective protection of the gauntlet caught the remaining light of day as twilight set in, fingers curling to beckon Ayumu further. "Ryoji." would be stated loud enough to hear from the distance as it echoed through the area. He did not know who would answer the call, which was part of the reason that he made it in the first place. It would allow him a very telling status report of multiple pieces of information, though not an entirely clear picture.
Swooping from the night sky with a caw would be a raven that began to circle the perimeter as if it were anticipating death, or perhaps watching over it. In either case, it was obvious that this man was animated and thus at least alive enough to do so as well as speak, so perhaps the raven indicated something else entirely. He did not seem to have any provisions… nor anything resembling comfort like a chair or shelter… so perhaps something was truly unnatural about the man that stands where there was once quite literally nothing.
Ayumu paid the raven no obvious mind, but a few sensor organs were rediverted to track the bird. Those on examining the area at larget that is. Every sense — be it natural or supernatural — stays trained on the man, examining him as thoroughly as the distance would allow. Though his recollection was far from perfect, Ayumu could no more forget the taste, sound, and smell of his ex-leader's chakra and natural being than he could forget the fact that he was blind.
"Heh. Ryoji… Still has a pleasant taste on the tongue doesn't it, Smexy-dono?" Ayumu jokes, but there is no real mirth behind his tone. He could've mustered it if he really wanted to, but he was far too divided at the moment to even want to try.
The raven was a bit odd, considering the fact that it had chakra and plenty of it. Beyond this however there was nothing out of theo rdinary about the bird. The figure however, Rain as it was, his chakra was not quite the same. The void had touched it, even at one point consumed it, and the taint remained within the recognizable aura. "I assume it has changed then?" Rain would state as he kept his orientation towards Ayumu. "My name has changed as well. Something Tessen once said… upon visiting me here with Odo. Hanpa is what I am called… for now. It is quite fitting… all things considered." Raising his gloved hands to his helmet, he would remove the mask slowly, first pulling it forward and out, and then lowering it. His long, raven-black hair would spill out a bit first, not held back by the mask any longer, but soon enough, his face would be revealed.
Rain had not aged a day since he disappeared in to the void. Well, that wasn't quite true, he'd aged a couple of weeks now, but that is all. Still, it was a bizzare situation within an even more bizzare possibility that might make one question the reality that they see and hear and smell and taste. Brushing his hair back behind his ears, he would wave Ryoji over more familiarly. "It has been quite some time, as I understand it." he would begin to explain. "But it had to be done. The ancestor was not something most would have been able to fathom, let alone handle. But in the end, I survived and that spectre of the ancient past did not. Though funnily… according to …"The Silence", others from the past simply keep showing back up any how." Rain lightly joked.
There is no faltering of steps or in beats of the heart as one truth after another enters the light. None of it truly surprised him, or at least not in the same as it might have another man in his place. Rain had and always would be a rather unique individual that drew rather unique things to him, intentional or otherwise. The touch of the void in the man's chakra was also not an unexpected surprise. How could anyone — god or man — expect to leave its embrace without the slightest of change?
"That is one perspective to look at it from." He grins foxily. A grin that is not fated to last long. His senses were sharp, but even the Iga had his limits. So, the first and true shock to his system is the man's youth. His surprise is fleeting, but no less obvious in expression and the first faltering to his pace. Ayumu picks up the pace readily, though now his mind is racing once more. For an instance he entertained seeking an enlightened state just to process it all, and almost carried out the impulse. Almost. But there were far too many variables for the less devil may care persona that command the body of the Iga.
"You survived, but not without a great many sacrifices milord… Sacrifices you reek of more now than back then strangely enough…. You've been awake for some time haven't you." He says just as he slowed to a stop short of a meter away from Rain — Hanpa.
Hanpa's eyes, as Ayumu came closer, he would note that they were covered by a part of the cloth that was under the mask. It was strange that it was hard to pick out, but the shadows of his hood made it so that it just seemed like more shadows and hair. But his eyes were literally blinded behind the black cloth as he kept his attentions on Ayumu. Still, he would almost feel Hanpa's rage and sorrow glaring at him through the coverings as his lips turned up just a bit. "You would be a fool to dare imagine what had to be sacrificed for me to return to the present and pursue the future. I will not discuss it." And that was that on the topic at hand.
Hanpa moved along as he would tap his eye covering. "For Natsumi… who taught me what the world truly looks like when the distraction of eyes are removed. I am sure you can attest to a different perspective yourself, given your heritage. The rest however… the only part that I will explain at this time… I have lost my power, Ryoji. I have my memory, and my over all skill… but this body is… more like a reflection than reality. This corporeal cage is new and fresh… it has not earned the scars and burns and tears and rigors of life… thus it is not able to perform any where near the level I am used to. I have not been this fragile since… since before I unlocked the secrets of my blood…" Hanpa trailed off then, as if just not realizing that was the case. He would then chuckle and out right laugh. "I see…"
He gripped his fists tightly then, head lifting slightly. "That pompous mansion… that arrogant ghoul… how dare he. How dare he underestimate me! Hahaha… he wanted me to learn… some sort of lesson about what I truly am. "What is Rain without his Sharingan? What is he when he has lost his village, his wife, his country, his group, his allies, his history, his power, his son…" Hanpa stopped there, cringing a bit as he'd strain the leather and metal of his gauntlets with his clenched fists, hands shaking. However… in a moment he was calm again. He had regained his composure and control in mere seconds despite the suffering he had to be enduring. "Ryoji… did your dream ever come true? The reason you became part of the Takokujin? The goal you aspired to… were you able to achieve it?"
Ayumu no longer bore the same defenses as he did in the past, the strength to shrug off or feed off the emotions of others with nary a thought to the consequences. He sealed the door to them long ago, and even the fear of the risk of his core being shaken was not enough to goad him into reopening it again. Truly, the lesser of two evils was to bear it all, and silently at that as penitence.
The rest that is said is given the same respect, though moreso due to pure curiosity over anything else. THere are moments however in which he cannot resist lofting a brow as his curiosity grew or canting his head to the side slightly at Hanpa's drift towards momentary lunacy. "The spoken one? No. The spark for it remains, but these hands of mine are conflicted over it, or at least feel so more these days then back when guided by youthful exuberance. I do enjoy the unexpected fruit of its pursuit of course though, so that might have a little to do with it…. I… I cannot reign in this curiosity of mines regarding why ask this? From one perspective, my dream with its fruition may have very well be in conflict with yours and others someday. Success in my lifetime is not likely to bear the desired fruit with this current crop or future ones for some time."
"It matters because… that was the point of it all, Ryoji. Even if our paths conflicted in the end… being able to grasp the desire was the whole reason for it all. I believe Odo may have achieved what he desired in the end… so I had hopped perhaps you had as well. Though, desires do change." Hanpa would state, considering his own change towards the former end of his existence. "My own dream, as it were… is quite far away now. Though coincidentally, this Silence as it is known seems to be very haphazardly following in my footsteps. I will never understand why genocide is always the choice in these situations however. It just seems so… lazy. Uninspired even. But I suppose it has gotten some form of result. Which… is entirely why I will assist in sabotaging it outright. All it is doing at the moment, is unifying the villages. Luckily, not solidly or lastingly, but enough to get them to set aside differences and work together. So be it… the faster the better."
With a roll of his shoulders, Hanpa raised his mask once more, applying it to his face again and securing it. "I have new plans. But first, I need to see if the world is still chaotic enough due to Hashiramako's dream in order to pluck up those who wish to find a path of their own. And then… I need to regain part of what I have lost. What will you do, Ryoji? You came at my beckoning, but as always it is your choice whether to stay or not."
"Regretably milord, while I'll pledge my assistance once more when I can, the time for such is not yet ripe. But soon, this shall change." Ayumu chuckles hoarsely. "Roughly two months time is what I request, and in the meantime, what debts that have yet to be collected by my lowly self are open for you to do so… One in fact might even be… Mm… Mah-ee, It shall be looked into soon enough." The Iga grins sardonically, then abruptly frowns and folds his hands behind his back. "Whatever you intend milord, do try… Heh, what impudence in this one's heart there is… What I shall without it's touch is to keep in mind that your victory against the ancestor and the void may not be as truly won as it may seem. The taint…. Its familiarity is troubling."
"It is your time to utilize as you see fit. But… I will need assistance in order to turn this… reminder of the past in to something note worthy again. My self, and this place. But in the mean time, I will garner a few more favors from the powers that be in order to have a bit of… insurance for the future. As far as the taint that remains… it is a consequence of becoming so intimate with a darkness such as that. We shall see how it manifests itself, but I do believe that the majority of that struggle is finished. I am stained, but I am not truly altered." Hanpa would reassure Ayumu. "I shall be going to Kirigakure in order to speak with the current Mizukage… a little spider who survived being stepped on by giants. Someone worth speaking to. Unfortunately… with Mitsuo having passed so long ago, I cannot guarantee my success. I will just have to be conviencing." Outstretching a gauntleted hand, Hanpa would pat Ayumu's shoulder. "If you find anyone else, have them find me. And if you need something… inform me. I do not have anything else for you at this time."
Ayumu starts to breathe easier upon hearing his proposal's acceptance, only to be put back on guard a second later. After hearing what followed the Iga admonished himself mentally for jumping the gun, and then smiled tenatively as he nodded his acceptance to the terms. Although it promised to re-awaken a morbid desire of the former wanderer, the group could not hope to survive without a leader that was not as physically fit as he was mentally. At least that was one perspective Ayumu chose to see things from.
As for Hanpa's reassurance, Ayumu does not appear entirely convinced. Nevertheless, he held his tongue for once, and nodded subtly in acceptance. "Meruin will be an interesting opponent for you, to say the least. So do try to enjoy the challenge. I… That aside, I will do what I can, but as always I offer no promises; especially given the nature of the Land of Winds residents." Ayumu grins ruefully. And with that said, he bids Hanpa a goodbye with a mock bow before taking his leave. Although everything about him radiated nonchalance as usual, he was anything but. Already Ayumu could feel the reawakening of old desires — obsessions — creeping up his spine, infecting his mind with madness kept in check before by bleeding its tangled mass. Unlike then, he no longer held on to the confidence that such actions would be enough. For once, Ayumu may very well have to truly stop playing the observer.