Paradise Lost, Part VI: Extinction


Rinako (as herself and emitter), Ruri, Nai, Shemri, Kara

Date: February 12, 2011


The team literally goes into the belly of the beast in order to save the islands from destruction.

Warning: Contains foul language.

"Paradise Lost, Part VI: Extinction"

Mother Island, Land of the Sea

The night passes in discomfort for the inhabitants of the island and five Sunagakure shinobi. Mountain caves did not make for good sleeping arrangments, particularly when none of the typical comforts afforded to humans was available to them. Upon fleeing for their lives, the villagers had neglected to bring such luxuries as mattresses and pillows with them, as well as blankets and such to keep warm. Such petty things had been forgotten in their flight for survival. The intermittent rain in the eye of the storm, which seemed content to settle directly over the group of islands, as well as the terror of what has happening to their homes and loved ones, kept most of the people awake.

The team from Sunagakure had stayed up into the night, speaking with Kokuoukabutomushi and his son, coming up with a plan and learning the true nature of what they faced. Beetles of all shapes and sizes had been arriving throughout the night, and now, here in the morning, which didn't look all that different from the night with the roiling clouds overhead, there was a veritable army of insects ranging from the size of a human fist to almost half the size of Boss Beetle himself. The plan had been laid out in painstaking detail, the only one which had even a chance of working: the team had to be eaten.

The great rhinocerous beetle had tried to properly convey the size of what they faced to the group, but felt he wasn't doing it justice. Rinako had been the only other one to have ever seen it with her own eyes, but 'a million-billion times bigger than Boss Beetle' wasn't very informative. Nor was the elder of the Rurohashi twins spreading her arms as wide as they could go and saying 'like this, but times infinity.' Quite simply, there was no way to hurt the beast from the outside. It was too large, there is too much of it to be more than an annoyance. It would be like bacteria trying to take down a person; it could take days. Days they did not have. Attacking it from the inside was the only way.


The plan was simple: The beetles would hold off the waves of lesser creatures and do what they could against the colossus, while Team 01 and Hone Nai move towards the creature's mouth and either attempt to slip in, or get the monster to swallow them in one bite. 'Well, what about it's ears or nose or gills?' They weren't certain it had any. And no one really wanted to go in any of it's OTHER orifices. The mouth was the quickest way. The organs of the creature are what would be the most vulnerable. The objective was to avoid being crushed by tooth or tongue, landing in gastric juices, cut their way through the beast, find something vital, and hurt it. Badly. Of course, they had no idea what being inside the beast would actually be like.

Rinako had slept only fitfully during the night, alternating staring out of the cave mouth and speaking in low tones with Kokonotsusegarekabutomushi. And finally, the morning had come, and everyone was gearing up. The villagers who were well enough to were equipped with what makeshift weapons they could hold and set up near the cave entrances, to ward off anything that came that far. No one bothered to tell them that if the creatures made it that far it would already be too late to stop them, but from the looks in their eyes, they already knew.

The rest of the team was assembled in the drizzling rain and blowing wind along the coast. The beetles had taken up their own stations, like warriors preparing for an oncoming wave of enemy soldiers, strung out along the beach, standing on top of the rubble of what had once been buildings, ready to take flight across the water and meet their enemy. No one knew when the final assault would come from beneath the waves. All they could do was wait.

And the waiting was the worst part.

Ruri didn't assume that the beetles would be able to hold off anything at all. She didn't want to assume that these creatures wouldn't make it up to the caves or anywhere else. So she didn't. She has been resting as well as she can given the situation, but only in brief periods. She is mostly trying to 'recharge' her stamina enough that she can then produce Chakra with it, and then use this Chakra immediately to set up more traps. Traps and traps and more traps. Ruri is by no means a Seals expert beyond her Flesh Scroll and Flesh Seal techniques, but she has enough knowledge to set up traps. Mostly these involve Explosive Tags. Lots of them.

Every beetle has been given orders (though they might need to be relayed through Boss Beetle in the event that a given beetle is reluctant to obey some random human) in regard to the upcoming battle. Sealed containers have been stuffed full of Explosive Tags, which have then been planted all along the coast. Some float in the water, others are scattered around on the land, others are weighted down to lie on the silt and sand beneath the waves. It may seem like overkill, but against this opponent… It's really not.

Ruri plans to make approaching Mother Island from the ocean as much like suicide as possible.

The ruined buildings have been shored up, rearranged, reinforced, and otherwise prepared to act as improvised fortifications. With Kara's help, thanks to all the various things she can store in her scrolls, a variety of non-explosive traps have been rigged throughout the area. Each area where there is a trap has been marked with red paint. If an area is safe to pass through, it has blue paint. Only the defenders would be privy to this detail. Thus, the creatures — intelligent or not — will not know how to navigate this death maze that was once a town. Super-tensile wire traps are set up to entangle large monsters but allow small beetles to fly in and around them without difficulty. Shrapnel grenades are set up in buckets and baskets to be thrown from a distant into the monster hordes. Bags loaded with shuriken, senbon, kunai, or even sharp rocks when the real weapons run out, are all being flown overhead in makeshift weather balloons, or hanging from kites, or just equipped on those beetles capable of flying in this weather.

And when all the tricky traps and jutsu run out, the beams from buildings, the timbers from now-ruined or simply incomplete ships, and all other manner of wood that can be sharpened on both ends, have been planted in the sand and the dirt, with the sharp ends pointed out to sea. Smaller monsters might be able to run amongst them without injury, but even allowing oneself to be carried in on the current can be enough to result in impalement. Triply so for the huge, long-mouthed creatures.

The mountain paths have boulder traps and rockslides set up. Most of the rocks are also plastered with Explosive Tags. And finally, one last protective measure… Foliage has been gathered from the mountain and the land below, and piled up in front of the cave entrances in ways that are hopefully convincingly realistic. Camouflage, essentially.

It is amazing what one can accomplish in a short period of time with thousands of strong and willing workers, and a battleplan. Only one route has been left open and free of traps for Mother Island. A single path between two buildings, that Team 01 is to head down once they are ready to infiltrate the monster's body. It can be sealed off with a huge boulder, rolled into place by Boss Beetle if necessary, once the ninja are beyond the passage.

Ruri has done everything she can. But she feels horribly exhausted now. She feels like she is running on empty… And she feels like none of this will be enough.

Shemri doesn't much like this plan. c.c; No matter how much courage in the face of danger and respect for one's prey one has, a hunter lives by a very stark principal: eat and do not be eaten. To be eaten is to lose, to have one's run in the game of life brought to a sudden and irrevocable end. Granted, with this plan they'll be going in whole and with the intention of coming back out again…but still, it goes against the instincts Shemri developed growing up. Not that it changes what they have to do. u.u;

Traps, on the other hand, are something Shemri can get behind. She doesn't know much about seals, but she's very proficient in setting traps of the old-fashioned, mechanical type. Thankfully, the village being a fishing community, there was plenty of fishing line to be scavenged from the ruins. Any further monsters that come crawling up the mountainside are going to find lots of wire-triggered impaling, crushing, and pit-dropping impediments in their way. "If we return from this, none shall ever believe our story," Shemri remarks. "Killing a beast larger than an island from within its belly? Even Fukanzen shall think I am exaggerating."

Kara keeps tons of stuff in her scrolls, but equipping an entire island for repelling an invasion is a bit beyond her. Thus, she eventually runs out of her 'reserve' of weapons and traps and poisons and so forth. She only has what each Puppet is equipped with, and no more. She doesn't really like this fact, but it's what she has to work with, sadly. Standing out with the others in the rain, Kara has at least provided ponchos for each member of the team. Except Nai, because he already has a cloak and hood and Kara didn't think to bring more than four ponchos. "Well… They believed us about the Other World. Right? Next to travelling to an alternate universe, beating up an enormous monster that can dream smaller monsters into existence and causes hurricanes just by moving around is almost mundan—Okay, no. It's not really. But they're both pretty unbelievable!"

All three of Kara's Puppets are out and ready for action. She'd have to be a total tard not to be ready at this point.

Nai sought out and found the child whose mother he had eaten. He broke the news as gently as a socially inept and inhuman being could. It went about as well as expected. It is not every day that one finds out one's mother has been devoured by a sea monster after all.

Nai almost convinced himself that the story he was telling was true. The lies that it had not been him. But then it comes rushing back… The smell of blood; the taste of raw meat; the warmth gradually leaking out of the body; the crunch of bones; the sweet marrow within those bones — all of it refused to leave him. He felt guilty, as he always did. He knew it was his fault. He knew should resist feeding this hunger from now on. But he also knew he would eventually give in. He sat out in the rain while everyone else was inside. He sat and repeated to himself, "Never again. Never again. Never again." But in the end, no matter how much he wished otherwise, he knew he was a slave to his hunger.

But there was an opportunity here. This monster had an enormous amount of power and had lived throughout countless millions of years. Nai had come here hoping to find another 'False Immortal', as the Kazekage had called them, among the islands. Was this the 'deity' that the islanders worshipped? Was this monster a False Immortal? If so, perhaps he could gain some knowledge of what he was now and how to be rid of the infernal hunger forever!

Of all the people going into the monster's belly, Nai was the least reluctant. 'If we fail in our mission… At least I will not be able to kill anyone else,' he consoles himself with. It is really a win/win situation. Now he stands with the others, and yet apart from them. He keeps his distance, but remains close enough to contribute if necessary. If Kokuoukabutomushi is around, Nai asks politely, "Kokuoukabutomushi-sama, how vulnerable do you suppose this beast is to poison?"

The elder of the Rurohashi girls puts a hand on the younger's shoulder, looking at her with concern bright in her eyes. Even Rinako's nigh-inexhaustible supply of energy has been taxed by the trials of the past few days, and the near-constant battling that the entire team has had to go through has likely left everyone, beetle and human alike, feeling a bit numb in every limb of the body. She gives her twin a little squeeze, communicating through touch rather than words.

"If any of us make it through this, human," Boss Beetle's ninth son looks sidelong towards Shemri. "I think the tales told by the inhabitants of these islands will certainly spread to the farthest corners of the earth."

"I am not sure, little Hone. I have not laid my eyes upon it since I was but a wee mite. Wait. Quiet." The largest of the beetles intones from his position as the centerpoint of the defensive measures. "…Something is happening."

All gazes turn out towards the water, murmurs of discontent running through the assembled ranks, probably not unlike German forces spying the Allied Navy on D-Day in some distant future in an alternate universe. The water stirs, but that is an understatement. Large waves begin many miles out on the relatively calm blue in this eye of the typhoon. It soon turns into a huge maelstrom, large and powerful, likely to suck down anything foolish enough to get close to it. Lightning splits the sky as a small, brown island appears where before there was none.

Waves come towards the shore, high and large. The island moves, and the waves become larger, threatening to over-run the beach, the defenders holding their collective breaths. Then the island grows, and the next way is nothing small. A large tsunami, nearly twenty feet high, slams into the beach, and leaving behind several prehistoric reptiles. Explosions begin going off in the harbor, kicking up geysers of water, tinged with pieces of animals that quickly melt into bits of green chakra and evaporate. Mosasaur- and pleisiosaur-like creatures begin to surface, swimming quickly towards the shore. Beetles begin to take flight, carrying large canisters ready to ignite the seals within them. Others hurl explosive-seal-laden debris from the shore, while others hurl themselves down the beach to meet the first wave head on.


Two primal forces of nature collide in an awesome display of destruction as waves continue to bring with them more, and even stranger creatures of the deep: thirty-foot fish with no eyes, icthyosaur-like monsters and crocodiles with fins rather than legs. They are not as adept at land combat as the insectoid forces are, but there seem to be no end of them in sight. Above the carnage erupting all around, and in the face of yet another tsunami preparing to crash into the shore, thunders the Boss Beetle's voice, even as he tosses aside several reptiles with a single sweep of his horn.

"GO humans! The head is almost visible! We cannot hold forever!"

Rinako, reluctantly resisting the urge to battle the monsters alongside the large insects, awaits Ruri's orders to act. Several miles out from the harbor, the mobile island is drawing closer, and getting larger, topped with ridges and spires, covered in barnacles and aquatic plantlife.


Ruri leans when Rinako puts a hand on her shoulder. Not because she's trying to lean away, but because she's so tired that her legs nearly give out under the gentle pressure. She manages to recover quickly, however, and is soon standing straight and steady. Ish.

Placing a hand over Rinako's, Ruri says, "I wish I had time to do more… And the KNOWLEDGE to do more. I'm going to have to spend some serious time working on new jutsu back home. Not to mention studying you and getting inside your body, Nee-chan." She pauses and furrows her brow as though she thinks something about what she said was wrong but can't quite put her finger on it. "…I'm so tired. I just want to sleep. But I also feel really 'wired', you know? Like half of me is exhausted and the other half just wants MORE." She gestures vaguely with one hand while looking up at the sky with her left eye.

"More… More of…" Then she turns to face Rinako, stares at her for a moment with a frown, and then she smiles in a weird way and lunges at the elder of the two. Ruri puts her arms around Rinako if she can get close enough, and then kisses her deeply. The kiss may go on a bit longer than what is proper for two sisters. Whenever they might break, Ruri just smiles much more faintly and tiredly than before at Rinako and says, "I love you."

Meanwhile, Ruri's right hand sneaks up towards the hitai-ate over her right eye, as though she planned to remove it. She never makes it that far, because Boss Beetle speaks up with his massive voice. Ruri blinks in confusion and moves away from Rinako with a frown before turning to face the ocean. She is having trouble remembering why she did what she just did. It seemed like a good idea, so she did it. But there are more immediate concerns. The island that appears, the waves bringing in hundreds of monsters, the explosions, the fighting, the STORM… It's all rather cataclysmic.

Taking in a shuddering breath, Ruri holds a hand to where her right eye used to be as the socket throbs painfully. Then she says, "Kara: boat. Everyone: aboard." Once the Puppeteer as followed these directions, the flying papyrus boat should be ready to carry them out over the water, well above the crests of the waves. During the trip, Ruri says, "I love you, Rinako." Didn't she already say that? But this time, it's more like she's affirming it. Trying to make sure that her sister knows for absolute certain how she feels… Just incase they aren't coming back. "When we get close enough, please blast the shit out of this thing until it opens its big, fat mouth."

Oh joy, thinks Shiikaa. Back on the floaty thing to go out over the Big Wet again. ^-.-^ And we're planning to jump down some collosal Scaly Nom Critter's gullet. Forget a week of kitty treats, there'd better be a month and a personal garden of catnip. Sigh. Well, here goes nothing. Shiikaa hops aboard the Good Ship Inexplicable Flight, followed by Shemri. "I hope we shall find something vulnerable to steel in this beast…if I risk so much to go inside it and find I cannot be useful, I shall be very disappointed." :P

Kara gets big watery eyes at the adorables as Ruri and Rinako kiss! "Awww!" she lets out. But soon enough, the action begins! …Not >that< action! The action down on the >beach<! At the order, Pharaoh spits out his Papyrus Reed Boat, which expands into a full-size flying vessel. The Puppets get onboard once everyone else is. It's kind of crowded.

"I can't see where we're going, guys! Ruri-chan, please move your head! Shiikaa, don't get sea-sick please! Cat barf is really, really gross, and I'm not cleaning it up! Pharaoh-kun, just sit still! We'll be there soon!" The mummy just turns his head from where he is sitting perfectly still at the front of the boat, and looks back at Kara blankly. Because of the lack of skin to make facial expressions with, you know.

Soon, they are approaching the island, as monsters run amok below, fighting with giant insects, and getting blown to bits by all the traps that they set up. Jars floating in the water are ruptured by the multi-ton behemoths, and the water-triggered Explosive Tags detonate. Dozens of >domes< of water come rising upwards before turning into columns, as the masses of tags go off beneath the waves.

Impaling logs and timbers stab into the creatures. Beetles rain down kunai and shuriken and explosives and maybe even some acid and poison provided by Kara. There are four kinds of >Hell< being unleashed down there. Maybe the creatures are just dream manifestations of the >real< monster, but she >almost< feels sorry for them. Almost. But then remembers that one of those things fried Sekhmet so badly that Kara isn't sure the lioness-headed Puppet can >ever< be fixed, and she loses all sympathy immediately.

As they close in on the island, Kara speeds up. "Pharaoh-kun, please get its attention so that Rinako-chan can put one of her medicine ball things in its face, okay? <3" Pharaoh stands up regally — for a mummy — and moves to the front of the vessel. Then he opens his mouth and leans forward, and a ludricously large >cannon< pops out of his face that can't possibly have fit inside of him! The cannon begins to whir as it winds up, and then it begins doing a rapid-fire version of Pharaoh-24: Pulse Cannon. Basically, it's a chaingun + railgun that is firing toxic, molten metal so fast that is breaks the sound barrier. If this doesn't get the damn thing's attention, nothing will. "Pharaoh-31: Overdrive Heat Cannon!" Kara calls out, just so everyone knows what that attack was called.

Nai nods to Kokuoukabutomushi and rasps out, "I suppose we will find out, then." When the fighting starts, Nai stays out of the way. It is not his mission to get involved in the melee. He is supposed to get inside of the monster and then kill it from the inside. So he climbs onboard the ship, and sits down next to Pharaoh. The two emaciated figures look oddly similar, despite being garbed completely differently. Nai has no long-range attacks that would be effective right now, so he waits for the right time to strike. For now, he will have to sit tight and let the others do their own jobs.

'I hope the cure I seek lies within this thing…' he muses to himself.

"You said that already. I love you, too, baby sis." Though Rinako had been a little too stunned to respond properly on the beach before the entire world had gone to hell all around them, she returns her sibling's sentiments after they have clambered aboard the puppet-user's chakra-powered craft. She then makes her way towards the front of the boat, making a hand-seal over the seal on her stomach, beginning to draw in large pieces of her chakra, preparing a blast that just might make the damned creature that was 'a million-billion times bigger than Boss Beetle' take enough notice of them to want to swallow them whole.

The molten supersonic needles begin pelting the top of the island, melting through vegetation and earth- earth that turns out to be made of scales! Many of them embed in the scales, but few actually penetrate the several-meters-thick hide of some great beast. It does, however, cause the enormous creature's head to fully rise. And now perhaps the group is capable of seeing just why the older of the twins had a hard time describing it's size.

Two pair of eyes, two on each side, surface just beneath what was visible of the island, each large enough that one full-grown man could have stood upon the shoulders of another and still not reach the same height as those vast, black pupils. The head keep surfacing, which sends tsunami's larger than any other up onto the island, carrying with it yet more seaborne abberations for the defenders to hold off, the sounds of exploding shrapnel and creatures dying, insectoid and reptilian, barely audible over the noise of displaced water just caused by this creature moving. The head surfaces fully, roughly the same size as the //ENTIRETY/ of Mother Island itself. It is vaguely humanoid in shape when viewed from a great distance, flat in front, rounded in the back and on top. It has no discernible nose to speak of, and it's mouth is covered by a pair of crustacean-like mandibles. Up close, it's skin could almost appear to be made of an aquatic environment, vegetation, corals, and barnacles clinging tightly, smaller crustaceans crawling about it's outside. Only after digging past this do the enormous, overlapping scales become apparent.


The beast doesn't even seem to see something as trivial as the miniscule boat flying about it's head, its eyes locked upon the chain of islands it has come here to destroy. Then comes the manta rays. They come leaping out of the water, each nearly the size of a house, several dozen of them, using their flat, leathery wing-like bodies to glide through the air for short distances and attack the airborne beetles before falling back beneath the waves and repeating their stunning jumps. Rinako, in the front of the boat, does her best to ignore this new airborne threat, the changes inherent in her bijuu-mode beginning to come over her.

…Until Rurohashi Rinako gasps loudly and leaps from the papyrus boat.

She collides mid-air with one of the enormous rays, slamming into it moments before it can crash into the boat itself, the creature's jaws snapping shut around her torso as the two begin falling towards the waves hundreds of feet below.

There's no more time, the mouth is opening, those large mandibles separating, revealing a pair of lipless rows of teeth, which then open as well, large enough to swallow a medium-sized mountain. The beast moves forward, revealing rows upon rows of teeth, either purposefully, or perhaps inadvertently through sheer size, encompassing the boat with the first few rows of teeth as it lets out a roar. The sound is simply too immense to hear, can only be felt painfully in the bones, the air currents from it immense, trying to tear the paper-boat apart and rip those within it from their perches. The mouth is beginning to close, the teeth certain to crush the transport and all of its occupants if it isn't driven deeper inside quickly!


Ruri nods to Rinako's response, smiles briefly, and then turns all-business. Which mostly means hunkering down and staring wide-eyed at the monster as it emerges. It's really, really, really, really, STUPIDLY big. Like, really. But there's no time for really taking in the scope of the thing. Rinako leaps overboard, and Ruri tries to quickly grab her with a rope or something! …But she's already gone. The snare loops around nothing. "RINAKO!" she yells out.

She is drowned out a moment later by the creature roaring. Her entire body is shaking. She can't hear it, but she can FEEL it. She wishes she had thought to use the bathroom before coming out here, because her bladder is feeling weak. She just points repeatedly and emphatically at the monster's throat, hopefully where Kara can see, as a means of communicating. They need to go in there. NOW.

…Wow. Willya look at that. Scaly Nom Critters that fly. ^c.c^ Or are they Feathery Nom Critters from under the sea? This whole mission has been like a menagerie of things that should be edible, but are too big to pounce on and turn into nothing when they die anyway. It's totally not fair, they're trying to eat everyone but they don't even have the common decency to let themselves be eaten when they die. :P Well, maybe the Crunchy Nom Critters don't do that, but their shells are too tough to bother breaking open and anyhow they're on our side, right?

While Shiikaa is philosophizing to himself about this, Shemri is doing much like Ruri: hanging on for dear life and waiting for the chance to do something useful. When Rinako jumps overboard, Shemri almost has such a chance, but Rinako's out of reach before she can even extend her sashes to 'long mode'. Probably wouldn't have been able to reach her even if they'd been ready. On the bright side, is Rinako-san really in any more danger outside of the boat than the rest of them are inside it? c.c They're heading literally into the belly of the beast, after all. Maybe she'll be able to do more good with her giant turtle trick from the outside, even.

Meanwhile, there's a more immediate problem: getting swallowed whole as opposed to properly chewed! Fortunately, Shiikaa sees the trouble and is able to contribute to the solution. He clambers over to the aft of the boat, faces back in the direction from whence they came, and blows out a TREMENDOUS BLAST OF WIND CHAKRA. >O Ninja jet propulsion! Good thing it's only needed for a boost, though.

Kara tries to have Sekhmet grab Rinako. The lioness-headed Puppet is in a perfect position, and Kara reacts quickly to things like this beside. The Puppet doesn't even budge. Kara freaks out, using one hand to continue piloting the boat while her other attaches Chakra Strings to Rinako instantly. For a moment, the Jinchuuriki might dangle a bit. But when the huge creature's weight suddenly starts pulling downwards, the young woman would simply be wrenched free of the invisible threads holding her up.

Given that the Chakra is as strong as Kara wills it to be, this failure has nothing to do with the weight itself. It's more Kara lapsing in concentration when the monster roars. She let Rinako fall. She >let< Rinako fall! She completely screwed up! Now they are without their greatest weapon, one of Kara's Puppets doesn't work, Ruri needs to pee, and they're about to be >swallowed<!

Kara sees Ruri pointing at the monster's throat, and for a moment she considers ignoring the clear order and swooping back to try to find Rinako. What can they expect to do without the elder of the twins? None of the rest of them have the raw power necessary to do heavy internal damage. Maybe under normal circumstances that wouldn't be the case, but right now… They're all tired. Very, very tired. They can't use their best jutsu. They can't fight for hours. They're humans (mostly) and they can't last forever. Eventually they'll fall down and pass out and that will be the end.

Rinako has the power to keep on going, even when the rest of them would be unable to. They need her! But the massive mouth is already closing, it seems. The deafeningly 'unheard' roar is too much to think over. Her brain is failing. So she just does what Ruri wants. She'll hate herself for it later. The boat tears forward at full speed, and Shiikaa's wind blast pushes them forwards even faster! They dodge around at >least< on titanic tongue, avoid teeth, and—what the hell!? Were those >bats<!? Regardless, Kara dodges >them too<!

Eventually, after flying down this thing's throat, they will find themselves in a very unpleasant situation… But right now, Kara has only one though in her head:

'This thing's breath smells like gross.'

Nai is sitting down. He stays sitting down throughout all the chaos. The appearance of the giant monster, the roaring, the loss of Rinako, the diving into the mouth and throat, and all the rest. What can he do? Nothing. So what is he going to do? Nothing. Rinako has already shown she can survive against those things. Maybe she can keep the monster distracted from outside by transforming. All that the recordskeeper knows is that this is a very risky plan with no guarantee they are coming back out.

Nai hopes that if he never comes back out, the monster will have the courtesy to knock him unconscious somehow. He is not sure he can die, he probably cannot eat any part of this monster, and he would rather not be trapped in perpetual agony. Again. Nai turns around as they dive towards the throat in the paper boat. He gets what might be his last look at the outside world.

Then darkness engulfs them.

The loss of Rinako overboard is taken harder by some members of the team than others, but adrenaline and the situation at time doesn't allow for an abundance of grief. The team had travelled knowingly into danger before, even into another realm of reality entirely, but never before so obviously into the actual mouth of peril. The tongue tries to crush the boat, even with the tiniest of it's movements. It's likely that if the creature tried to swallow right now, the mere reflexive movement of it's oral muscles would destroy the boat and all within it. The teeth, as large as they are, are wide enough apart to steer the craft through. The people themselves could probably fit into the cracks in the gumline.

And there are indeed creatures living within the giant maw of the colossus! It seems as if it were an entire aquatic ecosystem living in here, with creatures found in this impossibly-huge mouth that could be found nowhere else on earth.

But the group doesn't have time to dawdle, and the boat moves swiftly pass the tonsils and down the throat, which was rather large and cavern-like itself. Unlike human mouths, however, there was no access in the throat to the windpipe, the only path down led into the stomach. Traversing through the lower throat is much calmer than it was in the mouth, much like spelunking in the world's slimiest cavern, with no hint of the deadly combat going on outside. Every now and then the walls shudder with the feel of the great beast's movements.

Illuminating the walls of the throat lining would reveal more creatures, parasites, symbiotes, and some that were just swallowed and hadn't quite been forced all the way down yet, clinging to the slick walls. Worms, anemones, and even barnacles clung to the sides of the passages, the worms alone so thick and large in some places that they hang down across the boat's passage like thick moss made of long, slimy vines, in bunches so opaque that the boat would have to scrape the bottom of the throat interior and all of it's occupants would have to lie flat just to avoid them. When any of them are touched, they immediately try to wrap instinctively around what comes into contact with them, seeking an anchor. While the grip is mostly benign, it can prove troublesome with pulling people out of the boat. But unless many of them attach at once, the hold is weak enough to be broken by the average male, much less a shinobi.

The writhing mass of worm-larvae on the floor might deter some from venturing too close to there, however, as the four-foot slug-like creatures crawl around, seeking ot attach their circular, sharp-toothed maws to anything. Many of them already climb the walls, seeking to join their parents, while others grow larger feasting on the dropped carcasses of the fallen older ones. Or any creatures unlucky enough to make it all the way down the throat already.

Finally, the walls break away, detailing an interior cavern unlike any other: the stomach. Toxic fumes capable of causing nausea and who knows what else if breathed in for too long spew upwards from a bubbling lake of causitic gastric juices. Piles of refuse and half-dead creatures writhe in agony in the lime-colored cesspool, and the only illumination in this horrific-smelling darkness is whatever the group has brought with them. Everything from fish bones to half-dissolved whales to partially-crushed ships can be seen floating in the quagmire, sometimes creating artificial islands of filth-heaps.

A hazy mist hangs in the air, subtle and insidious in its presence, likely unnoticed at first other than how gross it may feel. But clinging to the skin for any length of time would reveal that it, too, was merely the presence of the caustic stomach acid in the atmosphere, and if left on long enough would eat not only through the paper boat, but the people, too! What's more, from the ceiling drops with frightening regularity and unpredictability yet more of the dissolving slime. If the mist is capable of causing a terrible rash and persistent burning, a concentrated dose of that stuff would likely eat a hole through anything even remotely organic in moments!

Well, this is it. The hunter's nightmare, the ultimate game-over of the one who lives by eating others — to experience BEING eaten. o.o; It's about what Shemri was dreading, and then some. Darkness, stench, a lack of proper air to breath, even other critters down here that would like to eat you s'more! Of course, most hunters, even amongst beasts, have the common decency to kill their prey before ingesting them. :P Not that the collosus they're in now can be exactly blamed for that, seeing as they jumped down its throat without it even noticing really, and they avoided the natural defenses that would've killed them…but in the big picture all of this is the creature's fault for wanting to consume Mother Island! >P So Shemri feels quite justified in getting down to the business of looking for a way to gully this thing's guts. "Hoi, does anyone have some light?" Shemri asks, throat tight against the fumes. "I shall only need a little to take a look around…"

Nai is no stranger to 'bio-horror'. The horrors of the body have been ones he has experienced for over a century. But even with this in mind, he finds being inside the body of someone else instead of vice-versa to be a disturbing experience. The worms, bats, fish, anemonae, and all the rest, barely register. He has similar creatures living inside of his own body after all — though less aquatically-themed. But the fact he has been EATEN ALIVE is very much bothering him. He rises from his seat and slashes at any worm-things that come near with some sort of… Blade of bone or stone or something that has just torn through the bandages on his right arm and seems to be protruding from INSIDE his forearm.

He makes sure to cut away anything that looks like it has a mind or instinct to interfere with this mission. But gradually, something else is overtaking his disgust and his determination.


'Not again… Not yet… Why so soon?' he thinks to himself as he continues doing his best to keep his companions safe. Then he realizes why he is feeling hunger pangs again already. He is surrounded by vulnerable flesh. He can feel the low hum of blood (or some equivalent) rushing through veins. He can smell the distinct scents of internal organs. Even if there is no light, he can see perfectly the slick, moist, soft, chewable inner-body of this gigantic beast. He can hear its heartbeat. Only one sense is left untended to… And the longer they remain within, the more likely it will be that he will attempt to make use of his final sense… He will want to see what an ancient monster tastes like.

'This is not the time!' he reprimands himself, shaking out of a trance. Turning to Kara, Nai says, "Everyone, please remain seated. There are things that would like to saw through your flesh with their teeth hanging above us, and they are inclined to wrap around anything that touches them. Kara-san, unless you have a light source, allow me to navigate." He then looks forward and says, "Down 5 feet, please." If that instruction is followed, they would drop just out of reach of a gathering of the worm-things that are particularly closely bunched together.

Unless light is provided soon, he continues to call out instructions, hopefully easing Shemri's concerns, until they reach the stomach. The recordskeeper can smell the fumes, but being offended by them is an impossibility. He just stops breathing. He does not need to breathe anyway. But the others are not so lucky, and there is gunk dripping from the ceiling that looks very volatile.

"I assume we are seeking out the heart or another vital organ. I do not know if the rest of you can hear it, but I can guide us to the closest organ that sounds like a major part of the circulatory system, I believe. This creature is like nothing any of us have ever experienced before, so I cannot be certain what might be vital… But we can always destroy everything we come across until there is nothing vital left."

He then says more quietly, "Of course, we do not want to stray too far from the exit, unless we are consigned to the idea of dying with the enemy." Pause. "To the left about eight feet." Acid still dropping on them from above. Wonderful.

Ruri cannot see in the dark like Nai can. Though she has ninja-trained senses, her only way of seeing in the dark is with the Tomogan. She is oddly no longer as reluctant to use it as she once was. She is almost… EAGER to use it. But she knows she should conserve her Chakra. She needs to have energy to try to kill this monster.

For a moment, none of it seems to matter. Rinako fell overboard. No… She LEAPT overboard to SAVE them. And Ruri just went on without her? What if she succeeds in this mission and comes back to find out her sister didn't make it? What then? She left her sister behind. She put the mission ahead of the only one who truly matters to her above all others.

What kind of worthless 'leader' is she?

She sits there and agonizes over her decision, barely aware of what is going on around her. She becomes more and more agitated, convulsing even, until she winds up throwing up over the side of the boat. Right as they reach the stomach, too! At least now she won't have to worry about vomitting from the SMELL. Ugh. When she has recovered, Ruri wipes the tears from her left eye and says haltingly, "Y-yeah. Lights please, Kara. And… Yeah. Head for whatever seems important. The sooner we kill this er, the sooner we can get back to Rinako."

The fact she probably has SOMETHING that would suffice for light purposes stored in her Flesh Scroll tattoos doesn't dawn on her. But she knows Pharaoh has tons of stuff stored in him. Kara tries to plan for every occasion. "D-do any of us have any poisons? Anything explosive? Something that can be propelled forcefully — preferably something sharp? We can't just pick at its insides. All kinds of creatures and people have been doing that since who-knows-when. We need to do major damage in a very short period of time."

Kara is not quite as distraught as Ruri, but now that they are beyond the point where roars can shake them apart without even being heard she has time to realize how screwed they are. She does as Nai instructs, to the best of her ability. Judging distance in the dark is not easy by any stretch of the imagination. She hears things nearby being cut. She hears Ruri getting sick. She hears Shemri choking on toxic vapors. Kara is choking now too, but she can still speak a bit as they burn at her skin. "O-Okay, like Nai-san said, please stay down. As for light…" She sends Chakra to Pharaoh, who was left to sit alone at the front of the ship once Nai got up.

Pharaoh's empty eyesockets and open mouth suddenly blaze with light so intense that one kind of has to wonder where Kara got light bulbs with a wattage level of a bajillion. Everywhere Pharaoh turns his head, things are lit up plenty brightly. None of it looks very appetizing. "U-ugh!" Kara coughs out.

"I have poison, explosives, and Chakra-propelled poison senbon. My arsenal is really running low, though. I had to use most of it to set up Mother Island for defenses… But I have >some< things left at least. Just point me at the target!"

'Nothing worth doing can ever be counted on to be easy.' And so it seemed to be the case here.

Despite having some blood vessels that were likely large enough for the team to traverse down, being inside of something this large was not as easy as it seems. The many parasites, as well as the dangers posed by the digestive juices, are testament to that. The team begins moving in the direction the False Immortal has indicated, Pharoah's beams shining like a searchlight in the darkness of the stomach interior. A drop of acidic substance lands in the boat, perilously close to Ruri, and another near Shiikaa, and immediately begin to eat a pair of small holes into the craft. Nothing life-threatening for now, but if it continues for too long, it's only a matter of time before the vehicle loses integrity or a drop of that stuff lands on someone!

But Pharoah's beams don't just allow the team to see, they disturb other things, things that, having gone their whole lives without the use of their eyes, are suddenly very bothered by the bright intrusion! The grotesque, acidic sludge beneath them roils, and then churns as a very large version of the parasitic worms encountered before rears part of its body from the quagmire. Like a cross between a tapeworm and a leech, it's circular rows of teeth were designed to latch onto stomach lining or skin and suck blood and nutrients from its host. The creature's head, or what is assumed to be its head given that its the end of the body and has teeth, reels about noisily, emitting high-pitched squealings that fill this section of the stomach's interior.

Its children roil about in the gastric liquid below, moving in and out of it like miniature sea serpents, only a fraction the length of the large one even now moving across the bay that comprised the innards of the enormous creature's stomach towards them. It certainly appeared to be long enough to reach them, as a normal parasitic worm could reach ten feet. This one was hundreds. But more than its size and rows of sharp teeth, the acid it was covered in would likely prove the greatest threat! And anything which wrecked Kara's chakra-craft would plunge the entire group into the toxic lake below. A protracted fight in these environs is definitely not in the team's best interest!

Shemri pats her shinobi pouch to feel the items therein, even though she already knows there's nothing special in there. She must've rooted through it five times before they started this venture, looking for anything that might do large-scale damage. "I have only Shiikaa," Shemri sighs. "His wind may cut through quite a bit. If we can locate something vulnerable enough, I should be able to drive some kunai deeply into it, but it would be like splinters to this thing." Which, y'know, can be effective in just the right place…but none of them are particularly medically knowledgable. Except maybe Nai? But like he said, this thing doesn't exactly have textbook physiology. :P

Shiikaa does a typical cat-startle at the plip landing next to him. He leans forward briefly to examine the drop, then pulls back in revulsion. What?! Now there's wet that UNMAKES stuff?! ^>.<^; Clearly, somebody has it out for felines. Well, at least it seems to be coming at a relatively managable rate at the moment. Shiikaa summons up his chakra and exudes a light, steady breeze in the upward direction, just enough to shunt aside any falling liquid. Can we go someplace without killer wet, plz?

Nai is not terribly worried about the acid. It may do damage, but he is keeping an eye out for any large glops of the stuff. Still… Even droplets appear to be quite potent. Perhaps a revision to his defensive strategy is in order. He focuses some Chakra, pulls down the bandages over the lower half of his face and then spits out a large amount of mud and earth. Shiikaa hopefully as the acid issue handled, but that worm is going to be trouble.

Quickly putting his face wraps back into place, Nai shapes the mud into two Earth Clones of himself. The remaining earth then solidifies to the point of becoming stone as moisture is forced into the air by Nai's Chakra, and out of the mud. Quickly, the two Earth Clones heft their boulders out of the boat, since all that extra weight would slow down the vessel, if not sink it into the acid.

The Earth Clones then jump out after their boulders, and land atop them after they splash into the acid below. The boulders… Float? What kind of stone is THAT? Maybe they're allow? Maybe they're more like pumice than granite? Pumice is the only naturally occurring type of stone that can float in water, thanks to its molecular structure and all its many air pockets…

Theorizing aside, the two clones of Nai begin trying to zoom around in the digestive miasma, knowing full-well that their transportation will not last forever, and that they will eventually either be destroyed along with the boulders or be 'killed' by the worm-things down there. However, they are also being controlled by Nai. So they do their best to keep the largest of the worms distracted. They have no true consciousness of their own, after all. They are expendable.

Look around from behind his tinted goggles, Nai continues navigating them in the direction he believes leads directly to the heart… This leads close to the wall of the stomach, unfortunately, but if they can punch a big enough hole through it, they can take a 'shortcut', essentially. "Explosive tags go there," he rasps out as he points at the stomach wall.

"Sharp things you can throw, anything you can use to cut without getting close enough to be melted… It does not matter. Just make a hole in this thing's stomach right in front of us." Meanwhile, likely on rapidly-dissolving boulders, the two Earth Clones create a length of spiked chain made of stone from both their own bodies and from their Boulder Platforms, and then try to encircle the mother worm, going opposite directions while holding the chain between them. The general idea is to cut into the creature's flesh… Or possibly slice right through it like a big, fat, disgusting, parasitic sausage.

Ruri has already thrown up everything she has in her stomach. But the sight of those parasitic worm-things… It makes her want to be sick again. Still, she manages to straighten herself out. She rises to her feet and faces the point lit-up by Pharaoh's spot-lights. "…Shemri, I'm going to need some help. About how strong are you these days? Physically, that is? If you had to, could you carry me and still be able to evade attacks? If it was necessary, could you actually THROW me a fair distance?"

Ruri has an idea. For now she just grabs a kunai bomb and prepares to throw it where Nai has directed them. She can't afford to use anything large-scale.


"Because if you can do both of those, I need you to do so once Kara blows open a hole in the stomach wall. We need to get through the hole quickly and keep on blasting until we reach the heart. The problem is that I need time to prepare for what I'm going to do next… I have to gather all the energy I have left. I can't do a repeat of what I did when R-Rinako was in danger…" She stutters for a moment, as though saying her sister's name is painful. "…But I'm sure as hell going to do something BIG. This thing is tougher than all of us. Even attacking its insides might not be enough to kill it. We need to make sure it has no energy left to crawl away and lick its wounds. We need to take away the very force that lets it keep on living. I'm going to drain as much of its Chakra as I can while the rest of you make sure it dies on the physical end. Nothing should be left to heal and come back at a later date. Ready?"

When she gets confirmation, she throws the kunai bomb and yells, "GO! KARA, BLAST IT!"

Kara has all her Puppets out already. Sekhmet remains unresponsive… But Pharaoh is well-equipped for blasting. To save time, basically he unloads a third of his remaining weapons into the stomach wall. Poison senbon, flesh-eating insects that will go right ahead and commit suicide on acid-skin as long as they get to devour prey like flying pirannha, oil and fire, super-sonic senbon cannon, and so on and so forth. Kara pours everything she has into tearing that wall open but still leaving enough ammo and energy left to blow up the heart when they get to it.

She's humming to herself while she does it. Some sort of 8-bit videogame themesong. The relevance to the current situation would probably be lost upon anyone who can even hear it, but it's called 'Alien's Lair'.

Shiikaa's impromptu air-barrier manages to keep the dripping acid from landing on the boat, but only for as long as the cat can continue to produce both wind and chakra. The moment he ceases, the group will again be exposed to the caustic substance all around them. Of course, by now the entire group can feel that acidic mist beginning to do it's job. A mild itching goop that clings to the skin at first, but soon beginning to burn and create small patches of rashes that are certain to get larger with prolonged contact. Especially irritated are the eyes and lungs, made of much softer and more vulnerable tissue than the rest.

When the boulders hit the liquid roiling below them, they immediately begin to sizzle, much as Nai had predicted they would. They won't last long, but might just last long enough. The earth clones spread their chain, looping it around one of the humps of the enormous worm-creature's body as it swims through the miasma, and pull… cleaving it in half, spraying thick, brown goo out if it's innards, a high-pitched screech of alarm coming from somewhere under the gastric juice lake. Of course, cleaving such a parasite in two is only likely to create two parasites, but for now, the enormous worm does not surface again.

The much smaller bretheren-slash-children aren't bothered at all by their 'mother's' injury, and they swarm over the low boulders like long, writhing locusts in numbers too great to count. With the rapidly-shrinking material to stand on and being assailed from all sides from the 'water' by sharp-toothed creatures covered in yet more acid, those clones likely aren't long for this world!

The unleashing of Pharoah's energy and arsenal against the wall, as well as Ruri's own addition of her kunai-bomb, tear through the stomach lining with enough concussive force to break through the thick, veiny flesh, though it's like trying to shoot through several brick walls at once. The team has just given the giant aquatic monster an ulcer. Quick piloting would have the boat through the newly-made hole even as the entire stomach shudders, shaking loose many more drops of the falling acidic slime!

Once outside the stomach, things begin to look very different. Flesh, bones, blood vessels, and organs abound, but each blown up to enormous proportions, some as big as the island chain they were trying to save themselves. But the sheer size works to their advantage in some ways, allowing them to traverse through areas that would otherwise be impassible were the creature any smaller. It's like one of those movies where the people shrink down to the size of molecules to enter someone else's body and go an adventure…

The immediate danger of the stomach is bypassed for now, but who knows what other.


Something rocks the boat ever so slightly from below. A quick look overboard would reveal something white, sticky, and pulsating clinging to it's bottom. …And it's EATING THE BOAT! More of the flying protoplasms begin converging upon their location, revealed by Pharaoh's lighting trick, each about the size of a human head, though a bit amorphous in shape. It's the creature's immune system, coming to break down the foreign organisms on the molecular level!

Shemri smirks. "I carried Megumi-chan for nine months. Carrying you a few hundred meters should be easy." ;) Okay, so it's hardly a valid comparison. :P Whaddaya want, comedy gold in the midst of a suicide mission? Be grateful that Shemri can muster combat humor at all. Shiikaa looks suspiciously upward as they pass out of the stomach area. Okay, no more killer wet for the moment, it looks like…just WHATTHEFUZZLIVINGWET!?!?!? ^o.O^; SRSLY!?!? YARLY!!! THEYBESTEALINOURFLYINBUCKET! OHNOES! INVISIBLBAZOOKA!!! (LOLspeak translation: Shiikaa is freaking out and firing off little wind bullets at the encroaching blobs.) Shemri grasps a kunai with her sash and swings it around to stab at the ones that have already managed to attach themselves to the boat. "At least these things are small enough for me to deal with," she grunts.

Nai guides them, but now that they are in some sort of… Cytoplasmic mini-universe, he finds himself a bit lost. He says at much. "I have no idea where to proceed from here, and dawdling will likely result in all of you—us, dying." He snaps back to his senses, realizing his slip-up. Maybe the others won't notice in a situation like this. "Let us begin by staying on the move." They can see better now, probably. Or is it still dark? He can't tell. But he knows they're getting closer to the source of this thing's life. Ruri's plan is remarkably similar to his own… Though where she just wants this ancient behemoth to die, Hone Nai wants to keep a PIECE of it alive in the hopes it might wind up 'curing' him. He will need to bring it back to Sunagakure for Sousa to study, of course. But he has high hopes that a creature that has lived this long may hold the key to ridding him of the abominable hunger pains he suffers from.

Speaking of hunger, he stabs his forearm-blade into the protoplasmic entity — or one of them at least — that is attacking. He starts to feed on it through the weapon of bone and stone. As long as it's not some alien thing that does not respond to having all the moisture and energy sucked out of it forcefully and violently… It may soon start to shrink, wither, and then just die. And Nai will feel a bit better. The 'edge' of his hunger has been blunted for now. But it won't last forever, and neither will those fighting for their survival outside.

"Turn left 30 degrees," he orders suddenly. "I can feel the core of its life nearby. The heart is that way!" He points the direction he wants Kara to go and trusts that she will do so. And in the meantime… He gathers his Chakra, using up the energy he just gained from that white blood cell or macrophage or whatever it was, and then aims his head away from all of his allies. "Pinch your noses and cover your mouths, if you would," he rasps out a few seconds in advance. Then he pulls the bandages about his mouth down and a massive wave of rotten earth, poison, and… And… Things that don't fit into either of those two categories but are similarly horrible and putrid-smelling just ERUPT from his mouth!

An entire river of toxic waste is sprayed all over this monster's innards. Bones, organs, blood vessels, the creatures living in and around the area, and anything else in sight. It smells worse than anything that anyone present has ever had the displeasure of experiencing before. But thankfully, Nai aims at things as distant from the boat as possible, to minimize the effect on the team.

Ruri is nonplussed by the fact they have anti-bodies or something trying to kill them now. "Rinako is going to laugh at me forever if I tell her we got beaten up by blood cells," she mutters. She is about to give more orders, but Nai is already doing so. Before she has a chance to guide them, someone else is taking charge. She isn't bothered by that specifically… But the fact it is the quiet recordskeeper that is doing it… Well, it makes her wonder. She wonders why Nai seems so EAGER to get to the heart. Why is he so intent on helping them that he will step forward and assume command? What does he have to gain personally from all this?

Ruri shakes her head. Her left eye is inflamed, her nose is stinging, and her flesh feels like it's itching and burning at the same time. Maybe they're out of the stomach, but its taint lingers. Ruri allows Nai to lead for now. He knows where they're going. She isn't going to get defensive or jealous or whatever because there is more than one competent person on the team. "Okay… Shemri-chan, if you could, please pick me up and keep me up. I'm going to go into a bit of a trance, so don't worry if I don't respond immediately. Listen to Nai, or do whatever you all need to if you feel it will keep us alive!" Those are her last orders.

Assuming Shemri picks Ruri up like a really, really, really big baby, she just closes her eye and—*COUGHGAGWTF* Ruri starts choking and quickly pinches her nose shut and covers her mouth with one hand as was suggested. She doesn't know what the jutsu is that Nai just used, but she is glad that she already threw up everything she has in her stomach and THEN some. That is truly a foul odor. Almost to the point where she suspects it could kill by fumes alone…

Realizing Shemri may have her hands busy now, she uses one hand to pinch Shemri's nose for her. Then she closes her left eye again and tries to breathe shallowly and focus INwards…

Unfortunately, Kara's hands are both busy. Chakra Strings cost basically no Chakra. She is not actually >expending< Chakra by forming them. She is just extending them from the Chakra that exists within her already. Along this line of thought, the Kugutsu no Jutsu technique is more like Chakra Shaping than Ninjutsu. It is only when one sends extra Chakra down the Strings to activate a Puppet's weapons or what-have-you that one starts losing Chakra.

And Kara has been spending Chakra continuously to keep this boat in the air, on top of the massive weapons-fire from before, and the activities of the past couple days beside! She is getting tired. She can't pilot the Papyrus Reed Baot one-handed as she might be able to otherwise. She can't even do anything to get those protoplasms off the boat! She has to leave it entirely up to others!

Gritting her teeth, Kara does her utter best not to get sick at the smell. She can't pinch her nose. She can breathe through her mouth instead of her nose, but that has limited value as protection. She can >taste< the poison in the air. She wonders for a moment why Nai couldn't wait until they were on the way >out< to do this!

Maybe he is trying to distract the immune system by forcing it to go after the more heavily damaged parts of the body or something? Either way, she does as directed and turns the boat. She then sends them flying forwards. She can't stop. She can't take a break. She has to keep everyone moving. A leader is a great thing, but right now it is Kara's concentration on the task she has been given that is keeping them all from dying.

She is weary, but she will not allow a lapse in concentration to kill her friends. She already failed to save Rinako. She won't do the same for her team!

Shiikaa and Shemri's combined attacks are managing to more or less handle the small white blood cells. The attacks slice through their thin outer membranes, leaking out the protoplasmic mitochondria and other cell-stuff, causing the cells moving to attack the boat to cease functioning as each is targetted. But it seems as if for every one that is struck down, two more leap forward to take its place! They come from all directions, seeming to ooze out of the very darkness around them, seeking to attach and disintigrate the foreign objects invading the enormous body they inhabit.

The sheer amount of toxicity that Nai dumps into the creature's system is about like… well, a river flowing into the ocean. The immediate area is polluted, the skin withering and shuddering, many, if not most, of the immune system cells seeking out and breaking down the deadly toxins rather than the crew. The reprieve will be brief, as more and more of the thinly-membraned cells begin converging on the area, but it is there and will allow a mostly-clear path in the direction Nai has indicated.

Kara's quick piloting, though wearying, speeds the team along. But it is not a short ride though the creature. Covering the distance from the stomach to the heart takes almost as long as covering half of one of the islands that made up the country they are trying to save would take! But her efforts, and the constant vigilance of the team, keep the boat intact throughout the journey, surging them through narrow passages between bones and organs, dodging and sometimes smashing through waves of attacking white blood cells, to finally reach their goal.

And what a goal it was.

The massive beating heart seemingly defies comprehension by size alone. Shaped more or less roughly like a human's, one could fit the entirety of Sunagakure within the colossal beating organ, with room to spare for Konohagakure as well, and maybe another of the smaller villages. Each beat of the organ sounds like thunder, and the electrical signals sent by the brain down along nerves to tell the heart to beat each time can be seen as blue-white waves of lightning. The very noise here is enough to cause permanent hearing damage from prolonged exposure.

But there it lies, and not far behind the group are the pursuing protoplasmic terrors, as well as others coming in from seemingly every side! They seem to ooze out of everywhere, with the only light sources coming from any jutsu that may be being cast, one of Kara's puppets, and the electrical discharges of synapses.

Upsy-daisy! Shemri hefts Ruri in her arms and tries to settle her weight into a comfortable carrying position. Oof…not that Ruri's too heavy a load — Shemri's a ninja, after all, and one who specializes in bodily ability — but it's amazing how much heavier something can feel when it's awkward to hold. Okay, got it now…and just in time, because the new stench would've caused Shemri to drop Ruri otherwise. x.x "Many danks," Shemri mutters through clenched teeth when Ruri pinches her nose.

Poor Shiikaa, meanwhile, has no opposable thumbs with which to pinch, nostrils not particularly pinchable anyway, and a decent sense of smell to boot! ^x.x^ His only defense is to blow some wind in the direction of the necrotic mudflow to keep the smell mostly away from himself (and to a lesser degree, the other crewmates) until they escape its influence. Good thing the living wet seems to be distracted by it, or he couldn't afford to stop blasting them away.

When they finally arrive at their destination, Shemri is at a loss. Can they even make something like that BLEED worth anything?! Well, guess the only thing to do is find out! Let's see now…aim for the main heart wall, or try to sever one of the ingoing bloodlines? Well, if it were feasible to do the latter, it might be more effective, but since those are the size of canyons themselves, the heart itself is probably a better target, is Shemri's guess. Maybe all that lub-dub pulsing will enlarge whatever little tear they manage to make in it. And by that strategy…up there, in that 'corner' where it's pulsing out the most! "Prepare yourself," Shemri murmurs to the entranced Ruri.

The next moment, Shemri leaps from the craft and starts climbing through the network of stringy stuff surrounding and supporting the heart. Her sashes do most of the work, reaching out to their full length and swinging from the web. Nearby immune cells take note and pursue, but Shemri's deft maneuvering and speed manages to keep them off…for now. Two kunoichi are a less noticable threat than a flying boat, but a general alert seems to be slowly spreading ahead of them as more cells respond and move to close off the paths. Soon Shemri perceives a cloud of them ahead, shutting them in…except for a slowly-closing hole through which the heart can be seen. Shemri puts on a final burst of speed and leaps for a horizontally-oriented length of webbing. Her sashes latch onto it like the ropes of a trapeze, and Shemri DROPS Ruri just for a fraction of a second, grabbing onto her ankles as they swing. "GO RURI-SAN!" Shemri yells, heaving Ruri toward the hole at the apex of her swing.

Shiikaa, meanwhile, remains on the craft, waiting until it's as close as it can get before unloading the full fury of his wind chakra at the heart. Eat slicey air, ginormous pumping muscle! >O

Nai does his best to ward off the incoming attackers. This generally involves cutting them down with that arm-blade of his… The Ravenous Blade restores his Chakra even as he spends it, keeping him going longer than would otherwise be the case. He is feeding on the monster's Chakra one speck at a time… He already feels a bit different. However, this vague feeling vanishes each time he uses a jutsu, and he is using up the monster's Chakra faster than he can acquire more. Odd how he keeps mentally calling it 'the monster', given what HE is…

But in the end, that IS what seperates them. He knows what he has done and wants to stop. This thing… If it is even aware of the deaths it has caused, it does not appear to care. No. He is not a monster. He is just a man laboring under a curse.

And so, having convinced himself that he is in the right, he tilts his head back, unbinds the lower half of his face, exposing his jagged teeth and receded, blackened gums. Kara is too distracted to notice his face, probably. Plus he is facing away from her. Shemri and Ruri took off already. And who is the cat going to tell? He smells like a human, thanks to the spices he uses to preserve his own flesh. Perhaps a rather fragrant human, but still a human. And don't all humans look more or less the same to a cat? That settled…

Nai's jaw stretches upwards and downwards, straining and cracking and creaking, until it is well beyond the limits of a human skull. Then, what appears to be smoke rises from his throat. This winding stream of smoke spins and twists, gradually revealing it is opaque not because it is dense smoke but because it is… Fluid stone. Marble that moves like a liquid… A liquid that flows AGAINST gravity!? It continues to rise upwards, broadening, enlarging, and shaping into a humanoid statue with bird-like wings on its back. The statue continues to rise, grow, and expand until it becomes a giant not unlike the 'Tomogan-Ruri' that helped save Rinako before, in terms of scale. The marble statue spreads its wings and starts flying to cover the distance between Nai and the heart.

Nai is no longer aware of his own body or what's going on around him. If white blood cells are coming after him or the boat, he is completely defenseless to them as long as he uses this jutsu.

But the Angel is where Nai's consciousness is centered now. And as Ruri is thrown at the heart, the Angel attempts to simply smash right through all barriers in its way, sucking the lifeforce out of all it touches. Only when it is close enough to the heart does it hold its arms and wings out wide, as though to embrace the incomprehensibly large organ… And though it does not touch the monster, it starts to FEED.

It tries to absorb as much lifeforce and Chakra as possible from this ancient evil. It may take more than one try, but Nai is willing to keep trying until he has taken so much power into himself there is no change that Sousa will not have enough to work with.

Will this work at all? If it does… Nai may forget momentarily that he is planning to try to get cured. The level of power that the primordial one possesses is very enticing…

Ruri is inside of her head again. In that 'inner space' created by Sheex's jutsu and left behind when he tried to possess her and failed. The pillar of flesh that was once Sheex is withered, pale, dead-looking. The cancerous, psychic 'tissue' she used to kill him is also dead. The red and purple landscape of flesh is far too similar to the innards of the beast. She has never liked it here, but now she finds it repulsive.

And yet, another part of her doesn't want to leave. She pauses in the middle of her task here in this dimensional void, wondering why she should bother coming back out. It would be best if she told them all to get out. She is sure they can just go somewhere far away from the ocean… Pick up Rinako along the way… Maybe use her as a replacement vessel for her essence…

This 'Ruri' vessel is used up. She has weak, tired, and has squandered all of his power. A Jinchuuriki would really be best for starting over. Then he can seek out the other eight, and absorb their powers as well, and then he will reassemble the Ten-Tails and become a true immortal! The Sage is long-dead. Nothing can stop a monster of that level! Ruri tilts her head back and laughs joyously and insanely. It all worked out after all. He knew if the little girl sampled his power she'd eventually come back for me. They always do!

Sheex looks around at the mind-scape of Ruri. The soul fragments he tore from past vessels are still here… Mostly. Ruri released some of them. Oh, well. He can always find more.

He turns to look at one particular flesh-cocoon and finds Ruri within, staring sleepily out at him. Sheex is still in Ruri's form for some reason, and yet… She's over there? "Whatever!" he lets out in her voice, still grinning that wide, tooth-baring, insane grin of his. "Not even I know all of what happens in here!" Then he starts looking for a way out. He pauses as an idea occurs to him. It wasn't previously possible due to retaining his male form regardless of the body he took over. But he is now a 'she' biologically… Sheex wonders if he can reproduce himself. Turning back to Ruri, Sheex says, "You've been far too much trouble. Making your mind give birth to a copy of me that will then remain behind to control you… Pure genius! That way I can leave this useless vessel, but retain control of you… You'll be ME even as I am me SOMEWHERE ELSE!" He cackles insanely with Ruri's voice.

Then he approaches the coccoon that Ruri lies dormant within, and prepares to violate her mind and soul until there is nothing left but HIM. Sheex's hand reaches out for Ruri. She doesn't react. His fingers stretch and twist, elongating into branch-like tentacles that will stab right through Ruri's psychic form and replace her rapidly with his own personality. There will be nothing left of her in a matter of seconds.

He wishes he could drag it out properly, make her suffer, and enjoy making her his fully and completely, but he needs to get out of here and finish killing the great beast with the others. "Your memories were right, Rurohashi Ruri! Your sister's kiss is delicious! I wonder how her soul will taste—WHAT THE HELL!?" he screams and reels back as Ruri teaches out and grabs his tentacle-hand. Both eyes are intact, wide, glaring, eyebrows angled down, teeth bared, an expression of utter rage on her face. Parts of her mental self have already been replaced with Sheex's psyche. But she very quickly changes that.

"YOU TOUCHED MY SISTER!?" she screams out louder than is possibly in a physical world. She screams not just with her voice but with her will. She is WILLING her voice to be so loud that it matches or exceeds the ancient creature's on the outside world… And yet it can very clearly be heard by Sheex. Physics don't matter in here.

"NO! NO!" he insists, but Ruri doesn't care what he says, or what he denies, or how he pleads for mercy. She. Is. Utterly. Fucking. Pissed. "NO ONE TOUCHES MY SISTER!" she screeches at that impossible loud volume again. She is not just grabbing Sheex's hand now but squeezing it into a pulp that squishes out in a pulp around her fingers. The flesh bubbles as steam rises from the mashed-up flesh. "NOOOOOOO!" Sheex wails in horror. The pain is great, of course. But it is the despair that is getting him. Locked in here for so long… Finally free… And now being overpowered again!? Will he be locked up once more!?! When will he finally get OUT of here!? Ruri roars, "NEVER! YOU WILL NEVER GET OUT! NEVER NEVER NEVER!" She tears free of the cocoon and bitch-slaps Sheex so hard that he is thrown clear of Ruri — mind, body, and soul. He hurtles through an endless blackness until he suddenly finds himself coming to a halt. A void surrounds him. He can see Ruri's mindscape in the distance. He can see Ruri's fury. But there is another presence nearby. A new body he can take over! He turns quickly and dives towards the new vessel!

The ancient monster's utterly inhuman mind obliterates Sheex utterly. He is not absorbed. He is not 'overriden'. He just stops existing.

And the monster probably wouldn't even have noticed.

Ruri snaps out of her meditative state. Sheex wanted to put her there so he could complete his take-over. But now she's awake, she's alert, and she has some ass to kick alongside her team mates. Then she's going to go find her sister and hug the hell out of her.

She tears off the forehead protector over her right eye as Shemri throws her at the heart, and Ruri sends out a wave of Tomogan tentacles that try to wrap around, lash across, impale, and otherwise harm the pulsing organ. It is unbelievably large. But Ruri isn't alone.

"Give me your Chakra so I can kill you with it, you stupid asshole!" she yells at the monster as she tries to absorb its Chakra like Nai is, and then use it immediately to make her tentacles larger, stronger, and more death-crushy.

Kara stays behind. For once, she isn't the one left standing. She isn't the one left unharmed. She isn't the one with tons of weapons left over, all kinds of energy to pretend to be happy with, or to think up silly jokes that are totally inappropriate. She is exhausted. Further, she can't do anything to help. All she can do is wait until Shemri and Ruri and Nai are done, and then try to get them all out of here. Her Puppets remain where they are. Sekhmet remains unresponsive. Anubis continues standing guard. Pharaoh continues serving as the focus for the Papyrus Reed Boat's control.

Nai is using some incredible jutsu… But it feels… >Wrong< somehow. Whatever it is, it just… Feels… Wrong! She can't describe it any other way. But if it will kill this monster… If it will get them all safely home… She supposes maybe they have no other choice but to use their full arsenals. Ruri is trying to seize the ancient one's heart and crush it. Shemri is stabbing it and tearing it, using strategic attacks to make it harm itself with minimal effort.

Even the cat is doing more than she is, by both blasting the heart and shielding the boat whenever those cell-things get too close.

What can Kara do?

"…I'll wait for you," she mutters. When as much damage as possible has been inflicted, she'll pick them all up, fly them out of here, save Rinako, be the heroes of Mother Island, and then they can all go home. Another job well-done. As long as all her friends make it out okay, she can't really wish for anything further than that.

Shemri's leaping and dodging keeps her one step ahead of the attacking cells, and also away from any seemingly-random discharges of electricity. She hurls the kunoichi she is carrying towards the weakest part of the heart, that can be seen from this location, anyway, as it is simply too massive to see all of it at once. But soon enough she must take to the defensive, striking out and defending against the protoplasms that seek to unmake her. Though she may have drawn relatively few of them, they are plentiful enough to warrant concern.

Unfortunately, the current monster they are facing does not have a 'soul' by any human standards. There is nothing for Nai's Angel to withdraw, no spiritual essence to drain the energy and lifeforce from. The heart itself seems much more imperiled by the stone creature's hands, however relatively small and insignificant they are, against its surface. For all its enormous size, a heart is still a delicate, vulnerable organ, and it fibrillates a bit unsteadily as it comes into contact with a foreign object. Many of the white blood cells target and cling to the stone construct, attempting to disassemble it as it made quite the nice, large target.

Ruri's tentacled attack is a lot like mosquito pricks against buffalo hide: very little against very much. And the amount of chakra she can siphon from the beast, the stores she can feel, even her sibling's seemingly endless supply is a drop in the bucket. It is too much for any one being to hold, likely too much for ten, fifty, a hundred. Touching the essence of its chakra is like setting foot in the sea for the first time and seeing how truly vast it is. There is no way to drain it all… But she doesn't need to drain very much to be able to poke holes in it's heart. With it's sheer volume, the outer heart wall has the thickness and rigidity to touch of a brick wall, but a brick wall can be pierced by the Tomogan. Holes are punctured in it, which causes yet more abnormal fibrillations along with those caused by Nai's soul-stealing jutsu, giant red-colored cells falling out of the new tears in its vital organ.

They are giving the creature a heart attack.

The whole world begins shaking, convulsing, squeezing. It is TIME TO GO NOW!

There is no TIME to travel back down the body and through the stomach. A shortcut is devised, that shortcut being to continue upwards. A path is followed with a mixture of Shemri's knowledge and Nai's blood-sense, and the group is forced to expend what is likely the rest of their remaining arsenal against the seemingly endless supply of the creature's immune system. A new hole is forced to be blasted through, with a mixture of explosive and just ramming the base of the throat tissue with the boat. Time is of the essence. It's as if they are in an erupting volcano, attempting to beat both the rising bile in the monster's throat AND the increase in pressure that is surely making the ears of all biological creatures pop. The monster is diving, and if they don't exit soon, the pressure of the water alone will kill them when they do, even if the caustic throw-up would not!

The mouth is closed, a diversion to the gills, and then the veritable *CRASH* into a mountainous wall of water as they are flushed out along with carbon monoxide. There is nothing left for it but to swim, they are already over a hundred feet down, and the fear of the bends is likely only outweighed by the fear of rapidly-depleting oxygen. Finally, the surface is broken, the storm is still raging, but seems to be lessened. Even so, they would soon find themselves battered by waves too large to swim through until…


A voice from above, looking up would reveal a dozen or so large beetles, the smallest the sive of a horse, the largest a little bigger than the mosasaur-like creatures that should be plaguing these waters… but aren't. It's a short flight back to shore.


The water-logged shinobi, puppets, and cat, are despisted on the bank in a light drizzle surrounded by over a hundred of the surviving beetle-kin. The true cost of the battle can be measured in the number of insectoid carcasses littered across the beach, and untold more which now lie beneath the waves. The cheer for the return of the champions is geniune, if brief and subdued. Kokonotsusegarekabutomushi is there, so is his father, Kokuoukabutomushi, both standing over a red-stained blanket covering a still form. The expressions of insects are hard to read, but neither of them looks at Rurohashi Ruri.

"Friends, you are back!" The booming voice of Boss Beetle resounds, if a bit subdued. "It warms my heart that you have made it. Our victory was costly, too costly. …But we have succeeded. Those in the caves remain unharmed and islands still stand above the waters."

The struggle to survive was not for herself. It was for her friends and allies. Ruri fought back to the surface and did her best to help get Kara's heavy Puppets to those who could carry them. No point in letting them sink to the bottom of the ocean. So much has happened in so little time, it seems like! But she rejoices when she is back on land. She is smiling. She never smiles. Not for a long anyway. But right now she looks happy — really, truly happy.

The sight of all the dead tints her happiness with sadness, but even then her smile only dims and does not vanish. "Thank you for your bravery, Boss Beetle. All of you! If we had succeeded against that demon only to come back and find we had lost the ones we were protecting…" Her voice quavers for a moment and she has to stop and swallow at this intensely emotional time. When she resumes, she clears her throat and says, "We'll be staying here until the town is rebuilt, I think. Our home Village can wait a little while for a report. Before that… I recommend that we construct a monument to the fallen… And for those who will continue on to tell their stories to future generations."

Ruri turns to look around the devastated island. She wonders if the creature will truly die or not. She hopes it did. She doesn't know what happened to Sheex after he left her mind. She just felt a sudden weight lift from her soul that she hadn't even known was there. She thinks he might have tried to take over the behemoth. And that's why she hopes it died — so that he died with it.

That's a concern for another time, however. For now, she says, "I think that once he has rested, we all know someone skilled with Earth Release Ninjutsu who may be able to assist in the construction of this monument! Nai-kun…" She turns to the recordskeeper and asks, "…Will you do the honors?" She gives him a thumbsup, and then turns and heads towards Boss Beetle and his son, Junior (or so Ruri has dubbed him).

She is weak, wobbly, exhausted… And yet one thing drives her to keep on going for the moment. When she is closer, she asks, "Hey, Junior! I know you're all pretty tired, but can you take me to Rinako?" She pauses for a moment. "Actually, if you can just point me in her direction I'm sure I can make it there myself. I have some things to talk about with her." She really doesn't want an audience when she meets up with her sister again. There are some very delicate topics to be discussed.

Nai may not have taken its life or its soul. But he tasted something. It wasn't Chakra per se… But the monster they had attacked was alive and yet not. Like himself, it was too strange to the natural world to be quantified by any terms a doctor or scientist would use.

Not even Nai knows what he is, exactly. "False Immortals," he mutters to himself darkly once he is ashore. He moves with the others, but remains apart from them. 'They think that by giving us a name that means they understand us… That hey can control us… None of them understand. They don't know what it is like to be cursed in this manner! They do not know what it is like to always be alone! Being discovered means rejection… Or worse. We want to reach out to them, but they are so close-minded to our plight, willing only to see us as monsters…'

Nai stands in the general area as Team 01 is welcomed back, but he no longer has any delusions. He is not a member of their team. He is not a friend. He is not even a human being anymore. He can no longer deny the truth.

'There is no cure,' he admits to himself dully. 'I am going to be like this forever. I can not call myself Misu Yane anymore. I can not call myself Hone Nai anymore. I can not call myself anything. I am nothing. I do not belong in this world.' He stands right next to all of those celebrating the victory over the primordial beast. But he feels like he's a million miles away.

He watches Ruri, Kara, Shemri, and even that damn cat receive praise. Anything directed at him is ignored. He is too busy hating them all to consider for even a moment that the gratitude might be genuine, rather than an attempt at placating him — trying to make him feel better about being a monster.

He twitches a bit when Ruri turns to speak to him. She asks him to build a monument to the fallen. Once again, the work falls to the sub-human. Who cares about what the monster feels? He's already dead, after all. Sure, he will build a monument! It is not as though he has anything more important to do, right? He has no family to check on or let know he is still alive. He has no friends to tell of his exciting adventure. He has a job handling the stories, deeds, and details of other people's lives without a word of thanks, a single acknowledgement of gratitude, or an ounce of recognition!

He is nothing to these 'people'.

As Ruri gives him a thumbsup, he just lifts his voice to the point where it can be heard and rasps out, "Certainly," as coldly and hatefully as he can. She probably won't even notice.

He touched something when he tried to eat that monster's soul. It wasn't the soul itself… It wasn't its life, or its Chakra…

It was its loneliness.

"No wonder it wanted you all dead," he whispers and then stalks off into the ruins.

It's just like Kara had hoped. They made it back alive and (mostly) unharmed. All of them! They're all okay! They >won<! …She thinks. They really would have died without her. No one else had a method of transportation that could get them where they needed to be quickly enough. She doesn't want to think of herself as the 'lynchpin' that holds the team together… Because she isn't. But this time, and >only< this time, she may have been the only reason that they succeeded where all others would have failed.

She is tired, but she is on >land< again, and her Puppets didn't even sink to the bottom of the ocean, thanks to Ruri! She beams happily, for once not having to pretend she is enthusiastic and enjoying life. For once she can shed her guise of the air-head. She doesn't feel the slightest impulse to make light of the situation in order to shield herself from the impact of it. There are many dead insects around here… But they are not the 'bugs' she is familiar with back home. They are people, for sure. Appearances mean nothing in this case.

They fought and died to protect a people they could have left to be obliterated. They are truly heroes! The suggestion from Ruri is a good one, but Kara thinks there may be a better way to go about this than asking Nai to do more work. "Actually, if it wouldn't—" she starts, but then Nai responds. And she turns slowly to face him, wide-eyed. No one else is likely to notice. His voice is always raspy and hard to define the emotional content of. It sounds the same no matter what. But as someone who fakes emotions all the time, Kara can tell that the words being spoken by Nai do not match the 'feel' of how they were said. It's a subtle thing.

"…Nai-san?" she asks. But he is already walking away. She is confused, but thinks perhaps he is just very tired. Everyone has his or her limits, after all, and perhaps he took Ruri's request a bit more harshly than it was intended to be. She'll talk to him when they get back home. For now she just needs to sleep, and then see about fixing Sekhmet.

"Hey, before we start celebrating and building monuments and all… Is it okay if I pass-out, maybe?" she asks the nearest beetle that looks like he or she can understand human-speak. "I don't know what kind of energy drinks you guys run off of, but weak humans like me need to sleep every once in awhile or we're no good for anything!" she smiles lop-sidedly. She already feels well enough to make lame jokes. Hurrah! Doesn't mean she doesn't need sleep though.

"Ahem, yes, a monument. That may be fitting, but this is not our home to decorate. The humans that live here will have to give voice to that. Some of my children are guiding them down the mountainside even as we speak." The largest of the beetles looks sidelong towards the False Immortal as he begins to depart with his cold statement. The Boss Beetle hadn't lived so long without gaining a great store of knowledge, some of which pertained to humans.

The creature that Kara speaks to, looks left, then looks right, then begins making clicking and hissing noises at a smaller bug closeby. This one turns to Kara, responding in a female voice. "Yes, noble human warrior. You may rest as much as you like in the caves up on the mountain. It would be my honor to carry any who wish to go there."

But the newly-dubbed 'Junoir' seems to flinch, in his own beetle way, when Ruri calls his name, glancing sidelong towards the bloody, lumpy blanket, and then towards the younger twin herself. The human-sized insectoid clears his throat and steps forward. If he had hands, he would likely be wringing them together nervously.

"Brave Rinako fought so valiantly, so full of the life and tenants that we ourselves guide our civilization with before she fell." A small cough. "But fall she did. She partially blinded the great beast saving many lives from its wrath, but it only took a single, angry swipe of one of its hands to smash her into the water. We… We managed to recover her body, but please," and now the insect does its best to interpose itself between Ruri and whatever movements she might make towards the blanket-covered form. "It is best you not look at her now! This is not a memory that you want."

"Hmmmmm…" The booming voice of the enormous rhinocerous beetle intones once more. "Death is a part of life, sister of Rinako. We all must return to the earth from whence we came some day. …But it does not have to be today." This, of course, causes a great many insectoid eyes to turn on the king beetle.

Ruri keeps smiling. Yes, she saw the blanket covering a body. She told herself it was someone else. Some villager who got lost or caught in the fight or… Something. Rinako is too strong to die. Not even to a monster like that! Rinako dead? It's practically blasphemy to combine the two in the same sentence! "Please don't lie to me," she asks with a faded smile on her face as Junior explains. "I just want to see my sister. If she's pretending to be… Dead… So that she can jump out and surprise us all… I'm sorry, but I'm just not in the mood." She tries to move around the son of Boss Beetle to throw off the blanket, but he moves to block her. For a moment she feels like striking him. Instead when she raises her hand it goes immediately to her right eye, covered once more by her hitai-ate.

"…." she stares as though she could see right through the seventh son of Kokuoukabutomushi. "…I can bring her back. I know I can. I have this thing that can regenerate from ANYTHING. Maybe I can… Seal some of it in her and…" She realizes how desperate, stupid, and crazy she sounds. She is done trying to pretend to be confident. She is done playing fearless leader. She doesn't HAVE all the FUCKING answers!

Tears gather in her left eye AND her right. She wanted to show Rinako. She wanted to show her sister what happened to her eye now that Sheex was gone. But now it's too late. Before she can do anything crazy or overly-emotional, Boss Beetle begins to speak. She turns her focus on him slowly, in a sort of dazed state. She feels sick inside. She feels like she was on some stairs and thought there was one more step left, but when she tried to plant her foot on it… She found it wasn't there. It's a lurching sensation, like the ground has been torn out from under her. It's the feeling of losing someone one loves.

If it has happened to one, then one knows what it's like.

If one has never lost a loved one?

Then one cannot possibly understand.

An awful, horrible notion occurs to Ruri about what Kokuoukabutomushi might be planning to suggest. "…Please don't take this the wrong way, but if you want to bring my sister back as a zombie, I will kill you before I let you try. …And if that's not your idea, then please ignore what I just said and continue explaining." The faintest glimmer of hope is still there, but she wanted to get that out of the way first, just incase.

Kara hears some of the discussion, but isn't close enough to hear all of it. She turns and heads towards where Ruri is standing. The blanket… Kara may pretend to be dumb, but she really isn't. She was just… Hoping maybe she was mistaken about the obvious conclusion. Unlike Ruri, before the explanation from Junior is even completed, she has accepted it as true. She feels hollow inside. Maybe she's in shock.

Either way, when Kakuoukabutomushi starts to speak on how death is inevitable and blah blah blah, she is wondering if she should tell him to keep his dayjob. As a counselor for the bereaved he kind of sucks. But this is all going somewhere, apparently! "…." She considers something for a moment. "…Uhh. I can't use that jutsu." A pause. "I've barely even started developing it. And it… It's kind of dangerous to use." Perhaps realizing no one here is likely to know what she is talking about, the dark-skinned woman shifts from foot to foot nervously. "…Nevermind, I thought you wanted me to… To use a Tensei Ninjutsu. I started working on one to bring Pharaoh-ku—…Randi-kun back to life." She looks to Pharaoh. The Puppet raises his head to look back at her. She barely even realizes she's doing it these days when she makes Pharaoh respond to her like a living person.

Taking in a shuddering breath, she looks back up at Boss Beetle and tries to pretend to be light-hearted about it. "I almost died trying to use it! It doesn't work. And I don't think you were suggesting I sacrifice myself to bring Rinako back anyway, so… Just… Forget I said anything. What was your idea?"

"Rest easy, child." The Boss Beetle's voice is probably meant to be soothing, but it's just… loud. Really loud, even when he's trying to make it quiet. "I would never pervert the sacrifice of Rurohashi Rinako in such a manner. No, no, nor is there any need for you to unleash techniques forbidden for good reason. It may do more harm than good to attempt such things you have no practice in."

Kakuoukabutomushi appears to be smiling, if a giant insect the size of a large building can smile, as he breathes in and then out deeply, as if he were a very patient parent lecturing children. "Many consider beetles creatures of death, you know. Carrion feeders. They don't realize that we give life by breaking down what is old and used, turning it into something new and beautiful. Just as we shed skins, so too do we help create something for nothing. In this way, we are the guardians of life."

"Father, you don't mean to," the much younger, and smaller, beetle begins to interrupt.

"Hush, child. Rurohashi Rinako has paid the ultimate sacrifice in the protection of life, as have many here. So much death has taken us today that it seems a most cruel victory. Yet without her, without all of you, there would only be water where we now stand. The eldest of our kind have kept close to our hearts the power to give back that which was wrongly taken. Perhaps this is why there are so few of us left."

A long, heavy, clawed limb extends out, coming to rest over the blood-soaked blanket that hid the dead woman's form. "Her spirit has not gone far. There is still time. But hear me now, my children! I will leave my mark upon this creature, and should she ever need your aid in the protection of life, you will give it! This will be my last order."

"I… I understand, Father." Another enormous beetle, two-thirds the size of Boss Beetle himself speaks up, presumable his first-born son. "It will be so."

The enormous eyes close. "So I will now shed this form, and bring about new life. Rurohashi Ruri, you will have your sister back. See that she always remembers those who fought and fell here with her today. Tell her that I shall miss our conversations."

A brief glow, blinding, a flash like that of a light shined directly into ones eyes, and then… Kakuoukabutomushi is gone. The only trace of him left behind is the enormous footprints in the wet sand. Silence engulfs the beach, not a sound other than the light pattering of rain disturbing the moment.


Gingerly, 'Junior's' legs scurry forward, a clawed leg reaching out to peek beneath the blanket, only to fall back with a small startled cry as it's roughly shoved apart and the one under it sits bolt upright! Rurohashi Rinako looks pissed, and also confused, but mostly pissed, glaring around as if she expected she might have to punch something at any moment. "Wha-? Did we-…?"

Boss Beetle was gone, Rinako was back. Another ultimate sacrifice had been made that day.


Ruri feels ashamed when she realizes what Boss Beetle is going to do. She may have been 'in shock' herself before, but now she puts it together. She and her sister are roughly equal in terms of intelligence. They are genetically identical. There is no difference in the functionality of their brains. And based upon what Ruri saw of the 'Other World'… She could have just as easily wound up being the 'stupid' one of the pair if circumstances had been different. Rinako isn't dumb. But the two of them have been shaped by their experiences and their environments until they have distinctly different personalities.

But now, Ruri thinks she understands why her sister trusted and cared for these… Bug-people. They're worth the meager trust that Ruri possesses and usually refuses to fully extend to anyone. Even her sister has not been fully given the younger of the Rurohashi sisters' trust. But that is a complicated issue and this is not the time.

Ruri looks around briefly, making sure the Three-Tails isn't about to show up and kill them all. She thought she read that if a Jinchuuriki dies, a Bijuu can still potentially escape in some form. If the Three-Tails escaped and is even now lurking beneath the waves somewhere out there… 'Let it,' Ruri thinks. Then she turns back to Kokuoukabutomushi, still blushing in shame for threatening him.

"I'll do what you asked… But please know wherever you're going, that I wish you could have gotten to know me as well as you know my sister."

Then there is a bright flash of light. Ruri flinches a bit, squinting involuntarily. But when the giant beetle is gone, she just takes in a shuddering breath and stares at the blanket. She waits until Junior is scared away from Rinako by her sudden, furious revival. Then she walks forward calmly and drops to her knees next to Rinako. "Nee-chan…" she places a hand on Rinako's shoulder. "You were right. Sheex wasn't gone. Further, when I tried to rescue you before, I undid the seal I thought had totally absorbed his essence. He got loose. He was IN CONTROL of me when we went inside of that monster. And he almost won. You were right the whole time. I should have had experts try to get rid of him from the beginning. Because he took 100% control over me. Mind, body, and soul. And he wanted to leave a copy of himself behind to control me, so that he could get close to you in my form, and then have both of us at once."

She is using past-tense, but… Really, this is a lot of information to take in after being dead. Why is Ruri doing this? "I… I'm sorry. This is probably a bit much, right? Heh. Hehehe!" she wipes at her left eye with her finger. "I have no idea why I'm laughing! Hell, I'm even crying. But I've got some good news for you." She lowers her hand from Rinako's shoulder and reaches up to the hitai-ate over her right eye. "Sheex is gone permanently. Mind, body, and soul. He's out of me for good. And I have proof!" She removes the forehead protector and tosses it aside on the sand. Her right eye sits there, tears streaming from it as they never did at any point after that mission to the Land of Waves. There were no tear ducts after that. "I'm not using the Tomogan. My right eye is back. A-and… Y-you know somethin'?" she gets out haltingly, fighting to keep the smile on her face even as salt water pours down her cheeks and she shakes all over. "I g-guess th-that we're t-t-twins again!" Then she lunges forward and wraps her arms around her likely very bewildered/stunned sister and hugs the hell out of her, just as she promised she would.

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