Date: February 27, 2013
Ruri and Rinako confront the Kazekage about what they found out from the journals in the library of Sunagakure… Journals made of human flesh, written in blood. Journals once in the possession of Hone Nai — aka the Ghoul of the Desert.
"Blood Red Sandman - Lies and Secrets; Death and Demons"
Kazekage Administration Dome - Sunagakure
So, Ruri used her Tomogan to read through like a dozen books composed of human flesh. The pages and the covers both. She thinks maybe the 'ink' is blood too. They were assigned to 'take care of' the matter, but after discovering some crucial facts, the Rurohashi sisters are on their way up to the Kazekage's office. And if he's not there, then they'll go looking for him elsewhere. This is kind of an emergency of sorts, so getting an appointment isn't looking like an option.
Ruri is scared to even consider what she discovered might be true. Or rather, what she THINKS she discovered. She is dragging along her big sister for multiple reasons, thus. One of them is because Rinako is more of an authority figure than Ruri now, another is to keep Ruri from lashing out in anger if what she fears is confirmed, a third is because she is indeed very scared of what answer she'll get when she asks and needs the moral support, and the fourth is because if Ruri's paranoia is in any way accurate (and it has been on more than one occasion)… She suspects the Kazekage may attempt to have Ruri 'silenced' if she's alone. This is a man who can seal Bijuu into human hosts. Who knows what he could do to her if he didn't want her to talk? She's a seals expert herself, but she's no Kage.
So Ruri stalks through the Adminstration Dome, heading for wherever she thinks Kokoroe Sousa may be. And when she finds him… She'll say, "We need to talk, Kazekage-sama. It's about Nai-san." That should be all she needs to say to make sure they get some privacy and the Kazekage's attention.
Rurohashi Rinako simply follows along in her sibling's bossy little footsteps. To her, 'who was in charge' didn't matter in a situation they both agreed on. After all, who the message came from wouldn't change it's meaning, and this wasn't a combat situation, so she lets her little sister take the lead. It made Ruri happy to be the one in charge. And who was she to deny her sister happiness?
Of course, she has to be reminded to quit stopping and chatting all friendly-like with every familiar face they pass. And she has trouble getting her own two assistants to go off and do assistant-y things without her for a while, as the pair tried to latch onto her every time she entered the Administration Dome in order to make sure she didn't dodge her duties too much. It was almost as if SHE worked for THEM!
So after she's drug away from chatting about shoes with the receptionist and pulled away from her conversation about punching with one of the shinobi on watch-duty and forbidden from gushing about water and baths with her favorite second-floor Chuunin, Rinako is entering the Kazekage's presence with her little sister. Though she does a much better job of looking less alarmed by what they might find or be subjected to.
After all, the former jinchuuriki didn't see conspiracy theories under every rock and genuinely believed in the decency of the average person. After Ruri makes her introduction, she tacks on, "It's about the books we discovered. Y'know. The gross ones."
Those who work in the Administration Dome of Sunagakure know, getting an audience with the Kazekage is a tricky affair. It's not so much that you need to convince his underlings that you have an issue important enough to merit an appointment, although there is that. He just has a vexing way of disappearing just before any engagements which he judges less important than his own pursuits. So you either have to catch him at a time when he doesn't have anything 'better' to do, or wait until your issue reaches such critical importance that he does deem it sufficiently urgent to merit his attention.
When the Rurohashi twins arrive, it turns out that Sousa is sitting in his office, exactly where an administrative leader ought to be, quietly working through some paperwork, with a remarkable amount of open time in his visiting schedule.
Sousa looks up with a polite smile as the sisters speak up. "Ah, yes, I was hoping that might lead to some clues. Please, sit down, both of you." Sousa gets up and walks around to close the door behind his vistors. And turn a knob which causes some soft, sound-absorbing material to poke out of the doorframe and settle over the cracks around the door. "I'm sure it may have occurred to you that this conversation may be best kept private." ;) Sousa returns to his desk. "So, what have you discovered?"
Sousa's reaction makes the hairs on the back of Ruri's neck stand on end. «He knows. He KNOWS.» she thinks. One of the rules of being a ninja, one that she has frequently failed to follow, about never showing one's true feelings… For once, she maintains her composure, actually seeming to become much calmer as she moves to the chair, and remains standing next to it while the Kazekage closes and locks the door. She actually hoped a little bit that maybe she was mistaken. But now she feels this cold pit in her stomach. The Kazekage already knew about Nai… Is that why they were put on that mission? To get them in on it without him having to tell them personally? To make the two women part of the secret through their own research, thus not arousing suspicion? Her mind blazes with possibilities, some logical, some the leap in logic that only a ninja mind could be expected to be able to make, some just around paranoid suspicion.
But, at least outwardly she seems calm. Much calmer than when she entered. She does turn her head and give such an uncharacteristically cool and uncaring look upon Rinako that her sister should notice something is off readily. Though figuring out what is another matter that it may be up to twinpathy to resolve! The younger of the twins seats herself carefully. Then she says, "I have reason to suspect that Hone Nai travelled to the Other-World — the Land of Winter — and there encountered 'Dead King Yane'. I further believe that the Dead King has used the same toxins he used to corrupt the 'Other-Rinako' to alter Nai's mind and personality. It seems that Nai has developed a split personality and has taken up certain…"
Ruri pauses almost imperceptibly. "…Worrying habits that are reminiscent of the — Ahem. The Ghoul of the Desert. That is what the books appear to say. I recognize Nai's hand-writing in those books, but ther is a second style of writing that composed much of the rest. I do not recognize the second style. This is what I was able to surmise from the books." She then sits there in silence. She hadn't stopped to explain all this to Rinako. She doesn't know how her sister will take it. Nai saved their lives multiple times. He covered for Team 01 during the conspiracy investigation with the Wind Sasaki. He fought alongside them, risking his life in the Land of the Sea… They might not have known him WELL, but there was nothing forcing him to go to such extreme measures.
Hone Nai is someone Ruri thinks of as an ally, if not a somewhat distant friend. Which is why it hurts her to keep talking. It hurts her and it hurts her double because she doesn't want to hurt Rinako either, as she asks, "But that's not really the case is it, Kazekage-sama? The Wind Path Sasaki that were involved in that conspiracy. Some of the Elders were investigating Nai because they suspected he wasn't just Hone Nai. And then all this… The journals… The words give one impression. But for those who know better, there is another possibility." Ruri is shaking a little bit now, some of her calm melting away. "Is it true?"
The elder of the twins looks towards her sister as they're asked to explain. Sure, she might be one of the village's most influential people now, but Rinako wasn't elected to that position for being the 'brightest'. No, she had other qualities required for leading, and wasn't stupid by any means, but no one would ever accuse her of being a genius in the intellectual pursuits. Maybe a genius when it came to water, though.
She takes a seat when she's asked to, much easier and at rest than her sister, whom she glances over. The powers of twinpathy meant she knew just how insane her sibling's head could get, the layers upon layers of mistrust and suspicions. And as Ruri goes on, Rinako becomes even more convinced she may just be talking herself up into another fit of paranoia. But then a piece from the past slips into place. A missing puzzle piece. The elder twin sits upright and forward.
"That's what she was talking about. That Sasaki girl whose face I crushed. She was alluding to Hone Nai being the Ghoul." She turns towards Ruri. "When we confronted them in the village on the way to tell the Council. I don't know if you heard her, since we were fighting. If this is true… then we may have been duped during that entire mission." She wasn't happy to admit this in front of the Kazekage. But Rinako wasn't one to hide her failures, either. Honesty, best or not, was her policy.
And the thought of an ally, one they'd fought for and with, having betrayed them so thoroughly… But Rinako disconnects her personal feelings from the problem. She would feel hurt, anger, and all the other things that came with betrayal later. For now, she had a job to do.
"If it's even partly true, or if he even just has a connection with it, he may well have set us against the Sasaki 'conspiracy' as a way to cover for himself. We didn't believe a word they said at the time, not when they were obviously the ones who had something to hide."
Sousa leans back in his chair and steeples his fingers, tapping the tips of the index fingers against his lips. "…An intriguing theory. It hadn't occurred to me that you might concoct alternate explanations. But no, while he did mention visiting that…other place, his condition precedes that by far." Sousa stands up. "I imagine that if I simply reply 'yes', I would be accurately confirming the ideas you are now contemplating, but as I cannot be certain of the exact details you have in mind, I will explain in detail. The Ghoul of the Desert, or at least the truths upon which that legend is built, is and has always been Hone Nai-san."
Sousa goes on to reveal everything he knows about Nai: how they met, the story he'd told Sousa about his origins, his failed struggle to maintain humanity, even the alternate-world connection with the Dead King, Misu Yane. To Sousa's knowledge, the only other who knew about the Ghoul's identity for certain was Watanabe Itami. Now the Rurohashi twins were added to that circle. Sousa circles slowly around his desk while he talks, and finally sits down on the edge of it. "Now then…having filled in the gaps in your knowledge as best I can, is there anything from the books you've been perusing which you are seeing in a fresh light?"
Ruri sinks more and more into the chair throughout the explanation. She might WANT to kill her emotions, but… Fear is strong in her. The reason she fears the undead so much, hates touching dead things, is because of the stories of the Ghoul of the Desert told since before she was even born. To find out she had been working alongside, fighting alongside, laughing alongside the same monster that horrified her so badly — that had caused her to abandon Kara and Shemri and just FLEE when they met the Ghoul on the mission to capture or kill Seishukuni Kureno… For a native of the desert, she has become very pale.
But Ruri keeps her voice stable, even if she reaches a hand out and attempts to place it over her sister's for comfort and stability. "Yeah. In the most recent journal — and they don't have dates on them, so it took a bit to figure out the order — which I believe was put there near the time you had that incident in the library yourself. He thinks all the people who have ever died wrongful deaths are talking to him and urging him to do something. The book didn't say what, but he seemed to be reluctant to do it. And one other thing." Ruri looks up from where her gaze had fallen, and though still pale, there's something other than fear and betrayal in her eyes. "I think there's still some of Hone Nai left in the Ghoul. Because he mentioned the members of Team 01 as people he wished he could have been accepted by. He mentioned Rinako and former Councilwoman Watanabe Itami. And he stated in these exact words, 'I must seek them out. The elder Rurohashi or Itami. Perhaps they can end it before I do.'"
Ruri tries. She tries really hard to keep her emotions deadened. She takes in a breath and lets it out. "Do you know where he is, Kazekage-sama? I think he wants to die. And I think we'd be better off obliging him."
For a while, Rinako is simply stunned speechless. That something like this could have gone on under their very noses, without even the highest jounin being aware of it. The elder twin's mouth works for a while as the tale goes on, and then finally snaps closed with a click. "…Why?" She finally gets out, shaking her head. Then she scowls darkly. It wasn't an expression that often crossed the easy-going young woman's features. "Why would you have taken in and sheltered a murderer without even alerting the very people who could have taken steps to ensure he couldn't cause any harm!? If even half of the stories of him are even partially true, then we've harbored a murdering criminal of the worst kind!"
The elder twin, heedless of her sister's hand, hurls herself out of the chair to whirl and pace behind it. Finally, she turns as her sister speaks and holds up a finger. "If it's true, then we have a /duty/ to put him down. We cannot allow a monster who feeds upon others to continue thriving. If this village is to ever MEAN something, then this is a wrong we must right."
"I'm asking for a mission to be commissioned for our Jounin, Kazekage-sama. A-Rank, to track down and eliminate this 'Ghoul'," Which she had never really much believed in until now. "At the very least to avenge and answer for the crimes which he has already committed. But also to prevent whatever else my sister suspects he may be planning."
Sousa quirks an eyebrow at Rinako's demanding query. "I would think that you, of all people, would understand the wisdom of containing a dangerous entity when destroying it seems to be an unlikely endeavor. In my first encounter with the Ghoul, I was able to subdue him, but he proved extraordinarily resistant to full disposal. Fortunately, that was how I discovered Nai. I was faced with the choice between two uncertain paths, and took the one which seemed more hopeful. These paths reappeared every time Nai lost his struggle with the Ghoul, and each time I chose the same."
Sousa sighs. "Now, of course, there remains only the one path. And a murky one at that. I'm afraid I do not have any solid information regarding the Ghoul's whereabouts. I was hoping your research into the journals might provide such. There is some possibility that the 'voices of the dead' Nai claims to have heard is connected with the rumors of beings from 'Diyu' escaping into the Southern Lands, but that too is a very broad matter to investigate."
Ruri just nods, suddenly feeling very tired. A hand moves to rub her forehead, but instead lands upon her right eye. When Sheex was finally evicted for good, her right eye grew back. Her OWN eye, not an artificial replacement that requires Chakra to maintain. But she spent so long with her eye missing that it still almost feels like it doesn't belong there sometimes. She's not sure why that's on her mind now. Why she's focusing on that instead of all… This.
Sighing, she says, "I agree with you, Kazekage-sama. But I also second Councilwoman Rinako's proposal. If he can't die, then he needs to be contained. However, he must be contained in a way that he can never hurt or kill anyone ever again." Then she blinks, frowns — a familiar expression on her face — and says, "Diyu? Hell? There's DEMONS from HELL roaming around the Southern Lands? Wha — No. Okay, nevermind." She raises her hands in a stalling gesture. "I'll hear about that more later. I've used a bit too much Chakra reading all those books at hyper-speed, and I imagine it will take awhile to organize a proper search team. But we need to find the Ghoul, or Nai, or whatever he's calling himself now, and we need to put a stop to him once and for all. I highly recommend we get a good Earth user on our side. If we can contact former Councilwoman Watanabe Itami, she might be able to help. Nai is a specialist in Earth Ninjutsu from what I saw. I have no real counter to Earth Release. So someone who at least knows what kinds of things Earth can do AND has sufficient power to take that mons — criminal in a fight would be a good idea. He seemed to think Itami or Rinako could kill him. My sister might not have the Three-Tails anymore, but she's still, as far as I'm concerned, the 'Lord of Water'. And I…" Ruri looks down again. She doesn't want to fight Nai. She doesn't want to fight the Ghoul. She doesn't want to be anywhere near them. She doesn't even want to walk on the ground anymore for fear hands will emerge from it and seize her ankles. "…I'm a Seal specialist. If I can return life force to a dying woman, I might be able to devise a reverse of that. A Seal to make the life that remains in a dead body depart."
She said that but is not confident at all she can do so. She could only help Rinako because she knew her sister's life, Chakra, and body so well. But… Maybe there's something.
"For now, I think we should go home, sleep on all this, and make plans. I think Rinako was going to take her new student on a mission anyway. This matter will have to wait until we have the tools to kill something that can't die." She then bows to the Kazekage and moves to leave, even if she's not dismissed. She agrees with everything her sister said. But it's not 'duty' that makes her feel she MUST face Hone Nai. It's guilt for running from him to begin with. She thought she'd never be able to make up for that failure. Her first and so far ONLY failed mission. Now she can make it right again. And she feels that she has to, even if she doesn't want to face the Ghoul.
Perhaps this is a form of duty after all.
Rinako, of course, wants to punch something. But then, that wasn't unusual for her. When she didn't want to take bathes in the middle of the afternoon or nap, she usually wanted to punch things. This time was because she was angry, though. Eventually, she settles down, folding her arms and cocking a hip. "Neither his possible redemption, nor his remorse, excuses the crimes he's committed, or what he might do. There are times when one runs out of second chances."
She motions towards her sibling as she finishes talking. "Yes, I'll be taking Suki-chan out of the village on a mission. I'm still not sure she understands that fighting is something that all shinobi must do eventually. A real mission will do her some good, let her get out and see what we do in the field, and how necessary violence sometimes is. She's just… naive in a lot of ways. And there are things she needs to be exposed to, like dealing with people, clients, and how to assert herself. Hopefully this will help with that."
"I expect to be back within a week, two at the outside, depending upon these merchants. But when I do, I want to organize a team to head to the Southern Lands." And oh how badly she wanted to abandon her post to LEAD that team. She hated sending others into danger. "I hear 'demons' and I can't help but think 'powerful shinobi'. Regardless of if it has to do with Hone-san or not, it's probably not something we can just remain ignorant of if we're hearing about it all the way up here."
Sousa chuckles. "Yes, there are of course many possible explanations for these rumors, shinobi being among the more plausible…ordinarily, at any rate. My own experiences in what some might call death indicate something perhaps a bit more…straightforward." Sousa walks over and turns the knob to retract the sound-dampeners on the door. "Please do look after Suki-san carefully, Rinako-san," Sousa remarks. "I begin to suspect a large part of my purpose in being 'sent back' had to do with being there to seal the Bakeneko within her…and if that is the case, she may be targeted by more than just those with an interest in jinchuuriki." e.e Sousa opens the door and gives a bow. "Thank you for your report, Rinako-san, Ruri-san. Please contact me should you learn any more details."