Date: March 12, 2011
The night before the final confrontation with the Land of Water forces and their golem army, two sisters have a discussion about a potential threat in the future… Or is it all just paranoia?
"Path of Hope - Better Halves"
Leaf Village Camp - Land of Fire
The world does not care about the wars which are waged upon it's surface, other than the scars it leaves behind. It does not slow down or weep at the death of men. It does not feel compassion or sorrow for those who lose more than anyone should ever have to bear losing. Senju Hashiramako, first Hokage of Konohagakure, though this was a horribly unfair attitude. The sun should not be so bright when so many were dead. The sky should not be so clear when so many had been ripped from their homes and their lives, taken, murdered, or oppressed. Reports came in of marshal law instilled in the occupied villages, of men and women ripped from their homes seemingly at random for 'crimes' against the Water Country. Refugees in uncounted numbers continued to pour in from the eastern provinces. Yet the bright sun and chirping birds of this otherwise beautiful morning didn't seem to care about the Land of Fire's troubles.
The Hokage was no longer in Konoha. She had left her adjutants in charge of the village, moving instead to the war front. She was now amongst the largest of the armies gathered against the Land of Water forces, camped just to the northwest of the greatest concentration of enemy forces. For now, the Water troops and Kiri-nin were contained, but she and the generals knew this was only for as long as they CHOSE to be contained. They no longer had a continuous supply of golem soldiers, and it would take many weeks for them to set up another facility. Yet they still had the numbers to cause great damage, and even win, if the situation were not properly contained.
The dark-haired Senju had her own tent from which she coordinated her village's efforts. It was to this she was returning currently, from a meeting with the Fire's top military leaders, sending out orders to deploy both soldiers and shinobi in the optimal positions. For now, neither side was advancing, though proposals were continually being drafted and rejected. The war was at a standstill. But Hashiramako was NOT going to allow that to continue! These bastards would be driven back into the ocean and her countrymen freed!
The Senju leader bats aside the tent flap and ducks into the interior of her modest field accomodations. She didn't need a huge tent like most leaders, as she never had more than three or four people, a single team, inside at a time. Larger meetings were held outside. Hashiramako did not feel the need for 'secrecy', nor of separating the shinobi overmuch from the regular army. Such could only lead to an adversarial mentality, and right now it was UNITY they needed.
It took awhile to get from the Salamander Caves, or 'Hitokage Hora', back to Konohagakure. Unlike a certain 'master of time and space' salamander, Senju Tobiramako is not able to teleport around at will. Infact, without aid she can not teleport at all. That is a very advanced sort of jutsu, and despite her skill with Time-Space Ninjutsu, there is >vast< room for improvement in this extremely complex and difficult branch of ninja arts.
Still, she managed to make her way back to the surface and then to Konoha only to discover that her older sister was not there anymore. As the sibling of the Senju Clan Head and one who works very closely with the Hokage (who is also that same sibling), it did not take a lot of work to find out from those available where Hashiramako had gone. Now, a day and a half later, Tobiramako has arrived at the war camp.
Just as Hashiramako is entering her tent, the younger Senju woman is approaching from behind. Maybe the raven-haired woman does not care about 'secrecy', but the white-haired one most certainly >does< — at least for this matter. "Hashi," Tobiramako calls out to draw attention. Whether she is heard or not, she moves to enter the tent, ducking through the flaps.
The dark-haired woman is already inside when she hears a too-familiar voice calling out an abbreviated version of her name. She turns, pulling the tent flap back and holding it open as she frowns out towards her sibling. As can be expected, fatigue was taking it's toll on the Senju leader. Dark circles were under her eyes, and her posture was slightly more stooped than it usually was. The last time she'd slept was long enough ago that she couldn't remember it clearly, and she was pretty sure she hadn't eaten anything in the last twenty-four hours, either.
She waits until her sister has entered the tent, before letting the flap fall closed. "Tobi. I wasn't expecting you to be here, but I'm glad you are. We need you."
The Hokage skulks across the room as if she'd love for nothing more at that moment than to drop like a sack into a heap and fall unconscious, to the table piled with maps and reports and orders. She throws herself into the chair, leaning forward, her elbows coming down to rest upon her arms, her fingertips rubbing harshly at her eyes. She lets out a pent-up breath, before darting a glance up, her look almost suspcious, as if she were ready to accuse her sister of something.
"You aren't bringing more bad news, are you?"
Tobiramako waits until the flap is closed, noticing easily the change that has taken place in her sister. The both of them used to be able to go days without sleep or rest of any kind rather easily. They were fit enough and determined enough to overcome the weaknesses of the body. Food and water were usually plentiful enough for the Senju that they did not have to go without such, even when they went without rest. The Clan Wars were rough times that required people to be tough if they hoped to survive. Now another war has cropped up — the second since the Clan Wars ended — and Tobiramako fears that neither she nor her sister are as 'fighting fit' as they once were.
Or perhaps it is simply that the stakes are higher now. The >lives< that the both of them are responsible for number far greater than what they had to safe-guard during the Clan Wars — even when the Senju Clan was at its peak in terms of population. And all because of those damned Mist Ninja and their obsession with power and killing… They're almost as bad as the Uchiha. At least a Kirigakure ninja can always be trusted to act in the same way and to do so openly. The Uchiha are vipers in Hashiramako's garden… They cannot be trusted for even an instant. Which brings her thoughts back to the present. She realizes she has been standing there silently for awhile now, as her sister looks expectantly and… Suspiciously at her? "I have news. Some of it could be taken as bad. But what I see in the information I'm bringing is… Opportunity. First, though, I have to ask… How are you holding up? I can tell you're tired, but do you need anything before I start unloading this news on you?"
"Unless you've got a few dozen more shinobi or a couple spare legions of soldiers in your pocket…" Hashiramako shakes her head as she leans back against the chair. "No. What I need are more hands. We're attacking tomorrow, I'm going to need you in the battle. The greatest bulk of our forces are going to be committed. More soldiers cannot be levied in time and it will take a generation or more to replace the shinobi we would lose if we fail. I will need you at my side to help put another dent in the enemy forces."
The Hokage turns away from her sister partially, towards the table and its piles upon piles of papers. She leafs through several of them, before coming up with a few leaflets covered in red markings. They appeared to be orders and folded maps. "What opportunity?" The dark-haired woman shoots her sibling a look. "I'm hardly in a position to grant any men to something that isn't a military endeavor at the moment. So whatever it is, I hope it's something you can do on your own, or it will have to wait until after this conflict is decided."
There's a long pause as she drags a hand down her face, as if she could rub away the fatigue. "But I'm jumping ahead of myself. Lay it on me, before I change my mind."
Tobiramako nods understandingly. "I'm not going anywhere for now. I'll be here tommorow and I'll be at your side. But I just came back from the home of the Salamanders several days ago… The ones that your friend, Goh, has a Summoning Contract with. I learned some very interesting things… But before I get into that, I need to provide a warning. I went missing for awhile, as you know. I came back relatively quickly, and no alarms were raised. But for at least a few days, I vanished from the face of the Earth itself. I haven't explained what happened, but I'm going to do so now."
Tobiramako crosses her arms and closes her eyes. "I was taken from where I was and put somewhere else. I don't know how. I just know that someone intentionally placed me in a Space-Time Prison. Further, I encountered an… Well, it's complicated. I'll skip that part. But essentially, I would have been trapped there permanently if I had not been joined by another prisoner. We're still not clear on why or how she wound up there. But with her aid, we both managed to escape, only to find ourselves in — please brace yourself, because this is going to sound ridiculous — the future. It was April 2nd. Further, according to the Leaf's local newspaper, I had just been made Hokage recently, and you were in the hospital — paralyzed after a 'training accident' between us."
She sighs. "I know this sounds impossible, or like a dream or something… I'm still not entirely convinced it wasn't one, despite what I have been told by others since. But the important part is that before I and the other who had been trapped with me could get to the hospital to try to heal this 'future you', an explosion erupted from the Hokage's Lookout. If a former student of mine had not detected my companion and I and come to rescue us…"
Tobiramako shakes her head as she looks at her sister in an attempt to gauge her belief in this story. "The explosion was massive beyond anything I have ever seen. Not even during the Clan Wars was something so immense and devastating unleashed. I don't think that there was anything was left of Konohagakure in that future. No one would have survived. We need to prevent this future from actually happening. If we are not prepared, I firmly believe that on April 2nd, the Leaf Village and all who inhabit it will be destroyed. But it's not too late. We have the better part of this month to find out how it is supposed to happen and stop it. And further, I think I have a clue as to who may be responsible. If we stop him or her when he or she shows up, we may prevent this… 'bomb' as well."
Tobiramako looks apologetically at her sister. "I know that this may not seem like good news… But it really is. Because we have advance warning now. We can prevent it from ever happening. And further, since the Leaf Village was intact in the future, and you were still alive — along with everyone else in the Village, based on the number of people I saw in the streets — I feel it is safe to assume we >will< win this war."
"Why do you manage to make 'good news' sound so ominous?" The Hokage leans an elbow on the table, rubbing a hand tiredly across her eyes as she digest the information her sibling gives her. "So… You injure me in the future, and then someone blows up the entire village with no one noticing or being able to stop it despite the barrier placed around it."
"Tobi." Hashiramako stands up, pushing away from the table. Her look is not unkind, rather sympathetic really, as she takes several steps towards her sister, reaching up to place her hands on her shoulders. "I didn't know you were in such trouble. It must have been awful. But… all this talk about Space-Time prisons and traveling to the future? Tobi, I think you're being manipulated. Your mind was likely under the influence of genjutsu while you were captured. One of the salamanders talked about some… painting of 'Konoha on fire', and on some levels it might seem the two are connected."
Her hands drop, and she takes a step back, sucking in and then expelling a deep breath. "But it's all guesswork and grasping at straws. I can't commit village resources to a threat that appear to only be in the minds of a few while we have a live enemy here on our doorstep. An enemy who is still winning. I'm sorry, Tobi, but this sounds simply too incredible."
She spreads her hands helplessly. "You have to see that I can't simply assume we will win this war, or that we need to send our shinobi out to prevent some sort of destruction that we have no actual facts about. We don't even know who is supposed to do it, where they come from, or /WHY/ they wish us harm. I have to deal with the threats that are here and now. Bring me proof and I can act. Without it… I can't help you."
Tobiramako sighs tiredly and looks down. Perhaps she is not as tired as her older sister, but she has been through a lot as well. "I somewhat expected you to respond this way. And with the rest of what you have to deal with… I'll leave the other matters until after we have sent these Water scum back where they came from. But I will say this: We do not have to send our forces anywhere to look for anything. Searching for a phantom threat is unnecessary and, I wholly agree, a fool's errand. That is why I came to you about this >now< instead of waiting."
"I think I know who your attacker was in that future I saw. I think I know who was >really< given the position of Second Hokage. I do not know his or her true name, nor do I know for certain >what< he or she really is. But I know how this individual plans to get to you. After all, who is the only person you can think of that could get as close to you as I am right now?" Tobiramako looks her sister in the eye and says, "Your attacker is a shapeshifter. And he, she, or it will be wearing my face and form when he, she, or it comes for you."
The younger of the Senju sisters says quietly, "If I was the would-be assassin instead of your sister, I could have already disabled you. It hurts me to say that, because I know that this is not the time when you need to be questioning whether your own sister actually >is< your sister… But we have time until this 'training accident' occurs. We can >prepare< for this impostor. And whomever he or she is, this assassin will >not< be expecting the genuine article to be walking free instead of trapped and unable to warn her big sister."
Tobi puts her hands on Hashi's shoulders — if she can be trusted to do so after this warning — and says, "The fake-Tobiramako will come to >you<. No one needs to go anywhere. We just need to set up a password or something… Something only you and I would know, but >not< something from our past. Something more recent. If this impostor can mimic my behavior well enough to fool you, then we have to assume >some< degree of knowledge is possessed…"
Tobiramako adds on quickly, "And if the day comes and goes with no mysterious attackers, no explosions, or anything suspicious at all, then I will admit to being a delusional dreamer and not bother you with this again."
"Now where would I be if the day came when my little sister didn't bother me about every little thing that came into her head?" The Hokage allows a small smile. But it soon enough leaves again. "Would you have me suspect everyone around me of treachery based upon a few illusions? You claim you don't know who this assassin is, and then in the same breath that you do. The fact is that you have very little information and none of it is reliable."
Hashiramako folds her arms and leans back on her heels. "But at least you have the exacting confidence in your sister to know that she will fall to the first henged assassin that comes along." The dark-haired Senju turns away with a sigh, sauntering back to her seat to throw herself back down in it. Both of her hands are brought up, and then subsequently drug down her face. For a long moment, she just stares at her sibling.
"Okay. Fine. If it will ease your mind of these troubles, the next time I see you, I will ask you who you have returned with. Your answer should be 'Uchiha Hinotori'. The password will change each time you leave and return to the village. Take care to not let it be stolen from your mind. There are rumors of missing Yamanaka, after all."
Tobiramako nods, wondering if she really is getting worked up over nothing. She does not argue further. She does not thing 'Henge no Jutsu' is the extent of the disguise… But she has to admit that she is beginning to doubt her own theory as much as her sister apparently does. "Thank you, Hashi. I'll be staying here tonight and I will be at your side tommorow. Thanks for humoring me." Then she turns to leave, only to pause and look over her shoulder. "And try to get some sleep."