Date: January 30, 2011
Rinako has been found and the team makes it back to shore, where a few of the mysteries behind the adverse weather and natural disasters are revealed.
"Paradise Lost, Part IV: Exposition"
Local Hospital, Mother Island, Land of the Sea
The storm was in full swing by the time the airborne craft of Kara's reaches land, carrying Sunagakure's Team 01 off of the exposed ocean and to the relative safety of the sheltering mountain of Mother Island. The few remaining buildings were being used to house the population of the main town after the devastating earthquake. Men hugged their wives and children to them, comforting them with words of how everything would be okay while old men huddled in corners and whispered about the end of the world. The howling winds and torrential rains were doing their best to rip these few remaining sturdy structures off of the face of the planet, the walls and very roofs of these buildings seeming to shake precariously at times. The only ones who were not seeking shelter in these last few safehouses were those who were still lost from that afternoon's devastating earthquake and those captains which were brave, or suicidal, enough to set sail and try to reach other, calmer harbors.
The four kunoichi, one male, and one feline which comprised their group were also huddled in one of the buildings: the hospital. Ruri had been carried in by her sister and placed upon one of the available cots around which the team was now more or less likely huddled. The cot hadn't actually been available, but a less-wounded man had been forced to vacate after the doctor had told him to. …And then the elder Rurohashi sibling had threatened to make him injured enough to need the bed. The group likely had all manner of questions for their formerly-missing comrade, not the least of which probably involved Kokonotsusegarekabutomushi.
Kokonotsusegarekabutomushi was a rhinocerous beetle a little larger than a tall human from the tip of his horn to the end of his carapace. He had arrived shortly after the Sunagakure residents had themselves, which had caused quite a stir among the residents, half of whom believed him to be a demon and wanted him killed, the other half of whom seemed to think he was some sort of guardian spirit incarnation. Apparently, he was the ninth child of Boss Beetle. And he knew Rinako.
Crouched low near the foot of the cot on which lay the younger twin, he and Rinako had spent the last half hour talking in low, troubled tones while the doctor had set about rousing the unconscious team leader, which was finally accomplished with the use of smelling salts. The lighting was poor, made by oil lamps, and fluttered frequently from chill drafts as almost all of the windows had been smashed in due to the storm. Finally, the jinchuuriki turns away from the beetle prince and kneels back at her sister's side.
"How are you feeling, Imouto-chan?"
Ruri's hitai-ite was likely in the boat when they began making their way back to shore. Kara was tired from all the Chakra she was spending. Shemri and Nai seemed to be okay, but even they may have been at least mentally fatigued by their experience. Nai had been bitten by one of the creatures rather severely. Rinako probably has tons of energy as usual. Ruri was utterly wasted physically AND mentally. The period of rest she obtained was not very restful psychologically, though her body has regained some of its strength at least. Her sleep was full of dark dreams and twisted memories. Like her 'self' was being assaulted in an attempt to rewrite all that she was.
When she is awakened via smelling salts she tries to sit up but doesn't even make it off the cot by an inch. Coughing a bit, Ruri blinks blearily, looking back and forth until she finds Rinako with her left eye—her right eye shoots open, exposing an inhuman eye with a yellow coloration to the sclera and a baleful gaze. It looks like a wolf's eye, nearly. Rinako has seen it before. Ruri smiles slowly but widely, showing off her teeth. Her eyes bulge a bit in a disturbing manner.
"Never better," she says in an inappropriately cheerful tone that somehow sounds… Off. Like it's not really Ruri saying those words. Then the eye closes and Ruri clutches at it with her right hand. Her smile turns into a grimace of pain. "Uu-uugh… What the… Hell…" she grumbles out. Then she rolls onto her side, facing Rinako and curls up. "Nee-chan… I was so worried about you…" she mutters as she looks up at her sister. "…Stupid fish. Were those things for real?" She wants to ask how they got back here, what's going on, what all that noise is, why it smells like FISH in here, and so forth, but as she gradually comes back to her senses Ruri realizes she is in a bad situation and needs to make an assessment or three.
"What's the situation?" she asks as she sits up, pulling her hand away from her eye and brushing her hair away from her face. "Ugh. Another storm? And it's being caused by an outside source, right? Not natural?" Looking around the room, Ruri finds herself face-to-face with a beetle. A big one. "…." she offers as she stares fiercely at it. "Hi," she says eventually.
WET. This is the primary thought pressing continually upon Shiikaa's feline mind. ^>.<^; Cats are not MEANT to be wet, it causes them bedragglement and chills. The arrival of another unnaturally large Small Nom Critter doesn't improve anything either. Ironically, this one's worse than the really REALLY big one—he's more likely to take notice of Shiikaa. ^c.c^; Not that Shiikaa needs any more reason to hide than looking like…well, something the cat dragged in. Which technically he is, seeing as he had to drag himself.
…What's that? Shemri? Oh, you humans and your preoccupation with non-feline animals. :P Fine, Shemri's just being her usual stoic self. And wringing the water from her sashes so that they're not weighed down too much should the need to use them arise. e.e
Kara is over in a corner. She has her Puppets stored away in their scrolls, and is trying to make sure nothing was damaged too much by the storm. Just because her scrolls are supposedly water proof doesn't mean they're tear proof as well. Unsure of the situation, unsure of what she can do in the face of such a monumental disaster and such a huge threat, she can only tinker with her machines and contraptions, and hope that Ruri and Rinako can lead the team out of this mess.
Along with Rinako and Kokonotsusegarekabutomushi, Nai has been one of the few to remain right next to Ruri throughout her period of unconsciousness. He has declined any attempts to examine the injuries gained from that huge beast or to treat him, to the point of claiming he escaped unharmed just to keep the doctors away. He cannot allow himself to be examined.
He also cannot allow himself to give in to his hunger. Watching the unconscious Rurohashi twin for hours from behind his bandages and goggles, Nai may seem to be a dutiful ally and loyal friend. Inwardly he is struggling with shame and resignation, trying to resist the mental images and cravings wracking his body… Cravings for raw human flesh.
When Ruri awakens, Nai kneels down quickly and waits to hear her speak. The initial words are not quite what were expected. Eventually, however, Ruri seems to be herself again. "The storm came swiftly and strongly. We know not what causes it — unless Rinako-san has discovered something. The creatures dissolved into Chakra when slain, but they were tangible enough. 'Real' is a different question with an answer I do not know," he rasps.
"Yeah, I know, kiddo." Rinako uses a finger to trace her sister's bangs away from her forehead for a moment, managing a subdued, forced smile. It was the best she could manage, so shortly after the narrow-eyed glare of suspicion at the ill-omened yellow eye and the direness of their situation. "I was coming back. You should have just waited." But of course her sister wouldn't have. She wouldn't have waited had it been Ruri gone missing. "I guess I should have left a message."
"Hey, yourself. So you're Rinako-chan's illustrious sister of the ill-temper, mm? …I don't see the resemblance. But all humans look alike to me." If the beetle was returning the fierce stare, it was impossible to tell. Carapace didn't allow for a lot of facial expressions.
The elder of the Rurohashi twins clears her throat briefly, before shifting in apparent discomfort, rubbing at the back of her neck. "Yeah, something like that. How much do you guys know, exactly?" The dark-haired kunoichi sucks in a breath and then lets it out slowly. "These quakes and storms have been getting more frequent. And worse. There's something causing them. Something… really big."
"Those creatures were dreams. Manifestations of will." The large insectoid chimes in to answer the male shinobi. "Babies, if you prefer. They are nothing but the lesser spawn of our enemy."
"Right. These islands are," The brunette looks around briefly, then lowers her voice, as if afraid of being overhead. "-being targetted. We think it has something to do with overfishing. Maybe this thing is running out of food, or maybe it's 'offended' by these people. I was down in the water this time when those things attacked me. I didn't think all those sea-monster stories were true, but you can't argue with what can bite you. By the time I got back to the ship, they'd destroyed it. I tried to go back under, and… I think I saw it."
"It was…" The young woman holds her hands up and starts spreading her arms apart. "Big. I was trying to find an underwater cave or something, somewhere I could hide in in this giant reef or underwater mountain or whatever it was. Well, whatever it was, that mountain-reef moved."
The beetle's head bounces up and down in an imitation of a nod. "The beast is said to be so immense that it's very dreams become reality, its movements shake the water and the land and disturb the sky with its passing."
Rinako settles an arm on her sibling's back, as if afraid she might tip over without help. "I can almost believe that. But it doesn't matter. If we don't do something, everyone who lives on these islands is going to die. Everything here just," she makes a leveling motion with her other hand. "Wiped off the map like it never existed."
Ruri listens to what Rinako says, what Nai says, and what the giant roach says with a stern expression as she looks down at herself and makes sure everything is where it should be. She still feels drained and weakened, but she at least can sit up. That's good right? …Right? She gets the idea there was a trade-off for her quick recovery time at some point, but can't remember what it was. She also can't recall what exactly HAPPENED at the end of that confrontation.
Ruri reaches for Rinako and attempts to gently grip her clothing or anything else that makes a convenient handhold, and pull her in close as Ruri leans over to whisper in her sister's ear. "Not to put too fine a point on it, but so what? We found you. We're all alive and safe. If we don't leave now, that might not remain the case. I heard everything you said about the islands and these people, and that's very sad, but it's not our problem. Based on what you said, it's their own fault too. Overfishing means they can't be too wise. Is it really worth it to risk ourselves for these people?" She lets go and sits up straight. "Your loyalty is to our Village, like you always say. Does it serve the interests of Sunagakure to get more involved? We live in the desert. And this island is… Not in the desert." She shrugs.
Looking around and making sure all her allies are in the room, she nods to herself and starts struggling to her knees, apparently preparing to get up. "We can't bother with a ship. We'll have to make use of Kara's boat again… Or…" She looks at Rinako meaningfully. "We can also try to evacuate Boss Beetle and his friends if you like. They seem to be smarter and more useful than some others I could name…"
Is Ruri really saying this? Just write off the islands and all the people on them because they aren't affiliated with Sunagakure? She's just going to sign their death warrants and walk off!? What she said makes sense, however. This isn't their problem.
"Then do something we must," Shemri responds, unable to overhear Ruri's whispering. "What did you have in mind?" Shemri's a practical person, but practical logistics come /after/ deciding what the goal should be. Especially when those logistics are somebody else's job to come up with. n.n When Ruri raises her voice and starts talking about ships and evacuations, Shemri nods agreeably. Sounds like a better plan than taking on a mountain-sized critter that dreams up bitey gator-fish and makes the weather throw tantrums. "Very well. Hoi, Kokonotsu…sega…eh, there is no time for this now. How many people do you believe you could carry, and how many relatives do you have that could help?"
Kara looks up when she realizes Ruri is awake. There are people huddling around scared, muttering, assuring each other it will all be okay, and so forth. But Kara — while not oblivious — seems to be rather upbeat. "Don't worry. We've survived bad weather before. Like remember that time with the blizzard? And then the earthquake and sandstorm that we just barely missed? And there was >another< huge storm in Kusagakure during the tournament! It was apparently strong enough to wipe the Village off the map if it hadn't been stopped! We've survived all of that. We can survive this time too! Rinako-chan can just do her Gamera impression and beat the stuffing out of the giant creature while we evacuated everyone else. Then we'll come back and help finish it off! If we can defeat a Sheex mountain, then we can defeat this… Other kind of mountain!"
Hopping up, Kara picks her way carefully through the crowd, trying to make her way to the door, even as it rattles from the extremely powerful winds outside. "I'll see if the storm is still going strong or if it's dying down," she offers. Then she unbars the door and nearly gets knocked down. Struggling forward, Kara manages to get it shut again through a momumental effort and possibly the aid of some nearby people. Once it's barred again, she brushes her water-logged hair out of her face and says, "It's still raining," she announces glumly. "Are the western docks still intact?"
Nai takes in the information. He does not have super hearing and so cannot make out Ruri's whispers, but the general way she is speaking is… "I recommend against confronting the cause of this storm without a better plan, Kara-san. We need to know if it is weak against anything, if it has any desires beyond destruction that we can appeal to or exploit, and we need to have at least one back-up plan, if not two or three. Simply fleeing alone will not be enough either. Somehow supressing the storm, possibly by weakening or wounding the monster, is necessary to ensure anyone survives departure long enough to get to the mainland. The weather is too violent otherwise. We would lose lives."
"Further," Nai continues, "I have heard rumors, including words from one of the Council Members, that the power of a legendary man, called the Sage of the Six Paths, may have been responsible for the storms that assaulted Sunagakure and Kusagakure both. Someone may be engineering all of this. If that is the case, the creature may be the means by which the storms are being created or controlled… Or it may be responding to the disturbances made by such storms. Cutting off its senses or somehow blocking its ability to feel other sources of Chakra may be enough to end the threat without unnecessary struggling…"
"It's just that easy, isn't it?" Rinako frowns as her sibling begins to work towards standing, offering her own arm for support as she does the same. "Just go home and forget all about this place and these people and let whatever happens happen." But the jinchuuriki is already shaking her head. "Not this time, baby sis. I'm through just walking away because it's more convenient. I'm not going to leave these people to their deaths. I'm not going to just let this happen."
"Aye, I can carry two in flight, three if they're small. We've a small colony here throughout the isles, but where are you expecting we're to go with this storm? The fellow has the right of it, there'll be no flying through this." The bug wiggles his body two and fro so that his head will shake in the negative, his voice agitated. "And I'm thinking she means to get us out and leave the squishy folk to themselves. Forget it. You'll not get a single of my brothers to lift a finger for such a cowardly plan! We will save these people, or we will share their fate, eh Rinako-chan?"
"I wouldn't put it that grimly, but…" The elder twin looks at the younger. "That's about the size of it. This thing, Kar, it isn't something I can just overpower. I don't think I've quite explained how large it is very well. It's…" She spends a moment searching for the appropriate words. "…very, very big." And fails. Meanwhile, a man that had helped the kunoichi get the door back shut from her folley glares at her, then shakes his head.
"Fergetit, lass. What that wave n' the quake ain't torn down, this storm will. We'll 'ave to rebuild 'em after."
"I won't just leave this land to be destroyed," she reiterates, with a casual sidelong glare to her sibling. "But we don't have a lot of options as to how to confront it. Only one of us has the ability to fight with any ease underwater and I'm telling you right now that I can't take that thing alone. Above water is our best chance. It will attack sooner or later, and when it does-"
"I and my brothers will stand against it with you! The power of many may yet fell the beast! It is a valiant plan, one sure to work. Justice will prevail, right will lend itself to our cause and we will be unable to waver." Kokonotsusegarekabutomushi says it so simply, as if it were a certainty.
"Right. I'm sure it will. …Because if it doesn't, we're screwed. What about what he said," she gestures at Nai. "About weaknesses?"
"I…" For a moment, the beetle looks down, then back up, seemingly at a loss. "This is the first I have ever heard of it awakening. Before now I thought it a mere myth. It is said to be a creature of pure chaos, destruction to equal the creation of the world, to return the world to the depths from whence it came. Who knows at what level its mind may operate at? I simply don't know. My father might."
Ruri sighs. "Well, it was worth a try. I don't know why these people matter to you so much, but you know where MY loyalties lie. I'm not going anywhere without you. And you better not go anywhere without ME again or I swear I will beat your steel-hard skull into the DIRT!" she offers loudly. Then, crossing her arms and fuming, she says simply but in an irritated tone, "I know how to stop it."
…Wait, she knows how to stop it? But didn't she want to LEAVE just a moment ago!? "It won't be fun or pretty, but I know how to get rid of this freaking stupid monster." She points at her presently-closed right eye. "Sheex intended to suck your Chakra dry with that summoned thing of his. The Mountain of Flesh. He wanted to drain your strength and then invade your body and take you over. We all know how that turned out. But I think my Tomogan retained that capability. I think that if we work together and use some distractions… I can at LEAST chase the creature away, if not actually hurt it. Killing it… I'm not sure. I doubt I can kill it without more resources available to me and more ninja on our side. But I can sure as hell take a bite out of its Chakra that it will NEVER forget."
Smirking a bit, Ruri says, "But I can't do it alone. I'm going to need every physically capable individual in this room, and NOT just my team, if we're going to save the lives of the people on these islands — and the islands themselves!" She turns her voice and her attention on the others in the building. "Are you going to sit around cowering and waiting for death, or are you going to take the fight to the enemy and show it why they don't mess with the people of Mother Island!? This is YOUR home! This is the home of Boss Beetle and his son, the great and honorable Junior!" Ruri points determinedly at Kokonotsusegarekabutomushi.
"If the guardian spirits of these islands are willing to lay down their lives to protect yours without asking for anything in return, are you just going to let them die!? Rise up, you men! All we need are three things from you to succeed: lots of statues, boulders, anvils, and anything else heavy you can find — condition is irrelevant, just weight; any and all writing surfaces and writing implements you can find; and lots and lots and lots of fishing bait. Fish, worms, spinning doo-hickeys, glittering doo-dads — anything like that! You don't need to face this demonic creature from beneath the waves with weapons in hand to strike a blow for the sake of your friends, families, and neighbors. You just need to have the true, most important aspect of any shinobi…"
Ruri bends over and picks up her hitai-ite in one hand and then sets in in place, hanging over her right eye. "…The guts to never give up!"
Shemri frowns. "Ah. Aha. That is most unfortunate. Escape is nearly always the best option to survive against a predator." Shemri folds her arms and thinks deeply. "Bringing it up upon the land shall almost certainly be better than trying to attack it under the water, yes…if there is enough land here to bring it /onto/, and if it does not destroy the island in the process. As for weaknesses…I have never seen such beasts before, but their mouths…" Shemri smirks. "Fish with long jaws such as that usually have strong muscles for snapping them shut, but not so much for opening them. If we could find a way to bind them shut, they would be much less dangerous. That should help us to deal with the small ones."
Shemri listens to Ruri's speech and nods sagely. This should be an interesting defensive. "And ropes," Shemri adds. "Those shall be useful too." Shiikaa pauses in grooming the moisture from his fur to add a hiss to the general air of militant defiance. There shall be filets TONIGHT! ^>.<^
Kara listens thoughtfully to Rinako's explanation of what they'll be doing, the reasons behind it, the assurances from Kokonotsusegarekabutomushi, and then the explanation from Ruri. She isn't sure she understands all of it, but she understands that they intend to force the creature to surface. "Uhh… I don't think we want it on land, Shemri-chan. We just want it to come above the water for a bit so we can strike at it more easily…" she offers with a sweatdrop. "Otherwise, it sounds like Ruri has a plan! Tying the mouth shut seems… A bit much, though. And given that it can spawn those horrific creatures just by >thinking< them into existence… I'm not sure it would help much. I mean… Couldn't it just >think< itself a new mouth? Or at least dozens of creatures to free it? We'd run out of rope way faster than we could beat it down!"
Nai rises from his knee to a standing position now that Ruri is up as well. He gazes around the room to see what impact — if any — Ruri is having on the people of Mother Island. Then he looks at Ruri herself. For a moment, his hunger had gone away. It was just… Gone. He felt a strange warmth inside of his withered body. For a moment, he almost felt alive again. Then the gnawing hunger begins to seep back into the pit where his stomach once was.
He will NOT allow this hunger to master him. He has a chance to save lives for once, instead of ending them. He has to take that chance. "I will do all that I can," he rasps out. Whether that will amount to anything is another story… But at least he can provide heavy things in the form of Earth Clones and other mounds of mud and stone.
"Never again, Imouto-chan. I promise." Rinako allows a grateful, if small, smile to slip through her guard as she places a hand on her sibling's shoulder. The rest of the crowd merely seems to stare frozen at the other young woman, deathly silence hanging bleakly in the air in the aftermath of the Sunagakure kunoichi's rousing speech.
"AYE! If ye think it'll stop these damned storms and monsters from eatin' these folk, ye'll have all the help this ol' carcass can give ya!" From out of a nearby doorway the grizzled old doctor steps forward, folding his arms over his burly chest as he withers the crowd with a disparaging glare. "Aye, I'll fight fer ya families, even ye won't."
Slowly, a few of the men begin to let go of their women or children and stand up, looking unsure towards each other. A few more stand up, and then most of the rest. Soon almost every able-bodied man, teenager, and even women are on their feet, looking steely-eyed and ready to face down the skull-faced visage of Death himself. "Just tell us what you need us to do!"
"I'm not sure it can think itself into new mouths. At least, I hope not. We should be prepared for anything, but if it's here, living in this reality, it has to at least exist according to a specific set of rules, right? It can't just be invincible! Right?" Rinako looks towards their insectoid companion for reassurance.
But the beetle only lifts two of its legs, the bug equivalent of a shrug. "I can not say other than that if it lives, it can die. The only one of us who knows anything of this beast is my father. He will not be able to come here until the storms abate. Let us hope it is soon." He turns slightly to encompass Nai in his gaze. "We thank you for your brave assistance. Many of us may not make it, but those that do will carry our memories forever!"
"Okay, drama queen," Rinako interrupts, walking over to lay a hand on the beetle's head and leaning heavily upon it to force his head down. "Let's not get ahead of ourselves. We still need to figure out-"
"Hey… HEY! You hear that?" A man dares approach one of the windows. "Is the rain letting up?"
Indeed that seemed to be the case. The wind has almost ceased its furious howling, muting itself to a dull whisper outside, though still strong enough to cause one to squint one's eyes. The rain still fell, but no longer in horizontal slats which stung on contact. A glance outside would reveal that the devastation was large, but that the storm had abated… for now. An eerie silence seems to follow, before a few half-hearted cheers begin to break out, people beginning to regain their feet and a few of them tentatively heading towards the door.
And then the water comes.
It smashes through parts of the roof in a torrential flood, pouring through the windows as if the entire building had been mysteriously submerged. A section of the wall gives way down the hall, breaking stone and wood followed by screams as several people are slammed by the sudden influx of seawater. Children are swept from their feet, parents grabbing towards them as the water invades, and then recedes towards the door, sucking those too weak or injured to fight against the current outside in a torrentially strong undertow. Rinako keeps her feet by virtue of clinging her chakra to the bottom of her feet and the floor, one strong arm reaching out to grip Ruri, another grabbing for a section of wall for added support. "WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON!?"
No sooner does this cry ring out from the elder Rurohashi sibling than the corner of the building collapses, screams sounding as rubble falls on a few people, some injured. The waters are rapidly receding, but judging from the scaly-skinned, overly-large tail that withdraws from the collapsed portion of the building, it had brought some things with it that it had neglected to take away. Sounds come from outside, horrified screams, and then the feral roaring of something very large, the thrashing of huge bodies.