Date: February 8, 2016
While on her way to join up with a unit of Rain ninja on the border, Kokoro encounters some suspicious foreigners.
Poster's note: foul language filtered in obvious places.
"Rain in the Rain"
Border Breaker - Fire / Rain
A Genin of the Hidden Rain is transferring to a border patrol unit between the Land of Rain and Land of Fire, she is being escorted by a Chuunin, and is one among three or four other Genin who are all traveling together. They have taken a brief break from running across the soggy terrain, with its puddles and mud and beaten-down slippery grass, in a small ramshackle town made up of modest houses and some scrap-frame dwellings. As the water drums on a sheet of corrogated metal above her head, Kokoro is crouched outside one of those make-shift dwellings, trying to dry off a little, even though she knows how pointless that is sicne she'll have to go back out into the never-ending rain in a little while.
Still, a barrel-fire is nearby, and it's some small comfort. A chance to recharge her batteries for the rest of the trip. The rest of her group is scattered around the town, though the Genin are mostly together. The Chuunin is inquiring with the town leader about something or other. Probably some confidential business regarding who has come through here. Whatever.
In a country like this, foreign ninja infiltrating the country is always a concern. They're inbetween so many others after all.
"Hotaru, don't go far. We're not welcome in this land." Called the baritone voice of none other than Watanabe Kohaku. An Elder on the Council of the Brown House of the Watanabe, his red slitted eyes gazed down upon his little girl, as a hand reachs up and strokes his white beard. The rain patters down on them both, as they close in on the Village of Eternal Rain. Both Hotaru and Kohaku wore large brown and unassuming cloaks. "We are travelers, today. Today we are not nobles of the Land of Earth. Today, our money means nothing, because our lives are worth more than any money we could pay. No matter how many chests of Ryo we brought, it would not save us. Beyond this city, we will be on the road to Takigakure. There, your mother rests. Do not join her." This was a trip to visit her mother's grave in Taki. The grave of a woman who died right after Hotaru was born. Young, she fell prey to the same disease as Hotaru.
Hotaru, whom carried a red-iron cane forged by murasame. The young blue-haired Watanabe pulled her cloak over her head. In that moment, she blinked her slitted eyes. "Father, why did you become a shinobi?" Being a shinobi had been painful so far. Seeing the lives of people slaughtered by her own comrades, who could have easily been saved if there was no conflict in the first place. The lives of people who were butchered just to provoke she and her comrades… "If we weren't shinobi, people wouldn't be looking to kill us…" Kohaku would pat Hotaru's head. "When we get to her grave, I'll tell you what inspired your very own mother to do what you did, despite the fact that she had the same problem as you. Now… I trust you will be safe alone. I have to procure and prepare a room for sleep. Remember. Do not tell anyone."
This rain was awfully dreary, and along the way she had even seen corpses of people who had been killed along the way. Rain is not a happy place, but the constant pitter patter of light rain made things… soothing… Hotaru would break off from her father for the time being. There was few places to go, but her age made her seemingly inconsequential. It was cold, and she could not use jutsu or arouse suspicion… There was a barrel of fire nearby, though. Maybe they would let her get warm?
Though he had taken his time to actually get to the business of truly investigating the state of the Land of Rain, Rain himself would finally prepare an expedition of sorts in to the down trodden yet still rebeliously vigor country. It shared a border with his own, and he had slight concerns that his efforts to eliminate much of the violent and illegal activities within his land may one day be compromised by the relatively cold chaos that was the Land of Rain's situation. He knew very well how much they had endured, as he was once fighting wars on their soil as well. One of the reasons he even decided to be independant was the atrocities and disregard that the Land of Rain recieved during the wars of others simply because it was "in the way" of something the other countries found to be more important than who they tread upon.
Inpa was not inexperienced in things, but he really could not know what it was like in those days of constant, unedning violence that came not from need or necessity but simply from greed and the pursuit of power. Those clans and now villages that prospered and united thanks to the sacrificial lambs of other countries and peoples like this one had never even attempted to pay them back in any way for using and abusing them for all of those generations. Looking to his secretary, Rain would say, "This land… which coincidentally bares my name… may be more revealing to you about who and what I am than you may at first realize. That however… is no coincidence. Part of me was forged here. The part of me that decided to ensure a place like the Land of Rivers could thrive after the battles of shinobi tore through it. This country however… has its defenders… its own people and ways. I honestly do not think anyone could truly become their leader without having been born and bred here and proved beyond a doubt that they were unquestioningly for the betterment of the Land of Rain. And any who would try… would be foguht to the last shinobi." He almost said all of this with a pride that wasn't even his own.
Their travel route was not exactly straight forward however. They had taken a long way around, mostly skirting the border in order to assess thel and before trying to penetrate it with a political agenda. Rain would not estimate these people just as he would not underestimate himself or Hanpa for nearly the same reasons. Luckily, despite his tenure as a Daimyo and a leader for so long, Rain did remember how to live in a world where scraps of food were fought over and blood spilled as easily as water. Their garb was that of wanderers, as it should be, and as it was prior to Hanpa. They were more "Takokujin" at the moment, and that thought would allow Rain a small smile of his own even in this soaking rain.
The small town on the very edge of the border between Rain and Fire may not have much in the way of hospitality or inns, and it may be quite a lenghty walk still to Amegakure, but it is at least a marker that the cave in Miati Forest that in turn led here has indeed resulted in reaching the right place. The lawless territory between nations, guarded only to keep other ninja out rather than to maintain order, where bodies are left to rot in the mud… That is behind the travelers now. They have now reached the outskirts of the Land of Rain, and thus the territory patrolled by ninja. It should be safer.
Unless they're identified as foreign ninja.
Kokoro looks up as a little girl seems to be approaching, considering her far-too-rich wardrobe. What is a child dressed like that doing in a slum like this? The kunoichi narrows her eyes slightly. She isn't aware of Rain and Inpa arriving yet. It may be a very small town, more like a refugee camp that has built up around a handful of permanent structures, but there are still plenty of visual obstructions in the maze of tents and lean-to shelters, and the sound of the rain interferes with picking up even the sloshing of footsteps in unpaved streets and rain puddles. And even if she heard such a thing, so what? Everything sloshes here.
"Are you lost?" Kokoro inquires politely. A reasonable question, that could have a variety of subtle meanings, such as, 'Are you sure you want to be here?' or 'Why are you here?' but by itself is innocuous. One does not just see people in such fine clothing in places like this often. If she is the daughter of some visiting dignarity who was separated from her entourage during a bandit attack… She should probably contact her Chuunin team leader and see about investigating.
Is Hotaru lost? There are many forms of this definition. Hotaru seems happy to hold her hands over the fire, even as she is asked the question. She remembers that as long as she isn't a shinobi, right here and right now, she is safe from being cut down where she stands. "I'm okay." Hotaru would say as she brings her heated hands to her face and presses it against her head. "My dad an I are visiting my mom's shrine." It seems as if she is rather brief with how long her hands are not holding that particular cane. Surprising things come in small broken packages. Hotaru is a broken package. Kokoro might have noticed her struggled to walk up to the flame. She was effectively crippled. Her legs barely work, and she relies on the implement in her hand to move. Move slowly. "I'm going to visit my mother in The Land of Waterfalls. She died when I was litte, and now all I remember her by is her tombstone." Hotaru rubbed her face for a few moments, sighing. "My papa says that I look a lot like her, that she was very pretty. I'd like to think so too." Yet, she doesn't know. Sharing all this with a stranger… It's rather glum. Yet, there was no better way to answer that than with the truth. Her rich-looking clothing certainly makes her look out of place. Very few merchants traveling through Rain look this way. It could mean any number of things. A family fallen on hard times?
Maybe, maybe Kokoro could help her justify being a shinobi. This woman in battle armor, that even though she could not see a Hitai-ate, she knew was probably a strong Kunoichi. "Ne, miss… Why do you fight? A long time ago, I wanted to be a shinobi. I really did. I don't know anymore. I don't think I want to. I want to protect those close to me, I really do, but I don't think I could ever be strong enough. What does… shinobi mean to you?" She asks the woman. "Is it… fun?" It certainly isn't for her anymore. Those days spent at the academy. She only spent months before she became a genin. It was supposed to be fun, she was supposed to protect the people she cared for. She never suspected that the person she truly cared for would have nearly died in front of her face, while she was helpless to stop it. Is that being a shinobi? She had to know from someone else. Someone who wasn't her loyalist father. What does it mean?
Rain and Inpa both did and did not attempt to blend in. Places like these did see their fair share of travelers, but they also had some permanent residents that knew who was from here and who was not. Ambiguity, like in many situations, was the best way to blend in. Deception was only useful if you had contacts or covers ready to make it work, and that was both against the purpose of their visit, and out of their reach currently. So, they were travelers. Travelers who, aside from being two men of relatively young to middle age at most in appearance, wore and had nothing to stand out. They did not look too poor, nor did they look too well off. As plain as plain could be, aside from perhaps certain people's opinion of their attractiveness.
Rain would slip in to conversation with a few of the locals, Inpa mostly watching and learning just a bit more of these things. He was more than aware of how to life in such places, but he was not as practiced as his master. When it came down to it, you simply had to meet them on their level. It was not about manipulation, it was about a mutual understanding. People tended to be on guard with the unfamiliar or with people who seemed to have less or more than themselves. Appearances dictated far too many things in life as far as reactions were concerned. Eventually, they would find their way to the local heat source. The one closest by any how. Rain took note that the Miati forest was near by, so they had swept that far east during this trek. What he learns here should be good enough this time. Of course, when eavesdropping, you tend to hear the strangest things. In this case… a girl wanting to know what it truly meant to be shinobi. Rain would simply listen to the reply from a bit away.
Kokoro listens silently to the little girl, only 6 years younger than Kokoro herself, talking about her mother and her problems and the purpose of her trip. She files the story away, taking note of minor details of dress, manner of speech, the nature of the tale. It's all just subconsciously being memorized for later. When she is asked about herself, however, though suspicious, her eyes face forwards, and she just stares hollowly ahead from behind her goggles for a while, as though she isn't going to answer.
Eventually, she says, "Being a ninja means survival to me. I am putting my life at risk on the battlefield, but if I hadn't, I would have starved to death or died of disease. I was one of the lucky ones, who showed a talent for Ninjutsu. Many other children like me never made it out of the rain."
Her elbows are resting on her knees, with her hands dangling down in front of her, loose and ready to use. But she clenches them into fists, as she continues staring ahead with eyes that are both seeing and not seeing the downpour and rusted scrap metal that passes for a country. "In the short-term, that's all it means. Survival. In the long-term, however, I suppose I would like to make sure that this becomes a country where children orphaned by war don't need to choose between risking their lives to fight for the problems created by the foul-minded adults who run this world, or perishing in obscurity before getting much older than you are."
Kokoro lowers her head, not aware she's being listened in on by Rain. Her memory is eidetic. But her perception is still a work in progress, only as good as an average Genin's. "But it was also shinobi from other nations who made the Land of Rain like this in the first place. So I suppose…" Kokoro raises her head, cold fire burning in her pale-blue eyes behind the lenses of her over-sized goggles. "…I would also like to give them a taste of the pain we have gone through. Then maybe we can reach true understanding, and achieve peace. I will become strong enough to protect all the children of the Rain, and change this nation. Make it strong enough to stand up to the foreigners who use us as a staging ground for their wars. None of that is what it means to be a shinobi to me."
Kokoro stands up, stretching herself out. "But it's the dream that an orphan like me is allowed to have, because I was lucky enough to get the chance to fight for it." She looks towards the girl then, hands on her hips. "Look after your father. Cherish him while he's here. No one's parents are around forever."
Perhaps that answer will tell Rain what he is hoping to hear, if he is hoping to hear anything. Or perhaps it means nothing to him. But it is Kokoro's truth, as she is understands it. Things won't be equal between the nations until someone has the strength to stand up to them and show them that they can't just walk all over smaller nations and then go home when their battles are done, leaving broken families to pick up the pieces.
Hotaru has yet to find her truth. As impressionable as she is, and as lost as she is in this world that she has yet to grasp and find meaning in, she finds Kokoro's story relieving. It might be noted that Hotaru carried herself like a pompous spoiled shower, but even spoiled showers have something that makes them the way they are. Hotaru lost her mother, and her legs are terrible and nearly kept her from acheiving the status of shinobi she once desired, but she at least didn't have to witness the collapse of her country all around her. "You're a good person… If someone hurt my friends, I would hurt them too." Hotaru closes her eyes. Her blood truly started awakening when she saw the caved in skull of her friend. Sometimes, it just takes that push. "Kaneko…" She softly mentions, rubbing her eyes a moment. It wasn't tears, it was the rain. She looked back at Rain now. "If someone hurt my friends, I wouldn't stop until they were dead… … … Gomen…" She apologizes for being somber, but there was a little rage behind her eyes. She looke between Kokoro and Rain. "Ano… Who… Who are you?"
Rain would hear her truth, and accept it. This girl in the rain, not quite a woman yet but due to her life, perhaps more of one than most ever become, understood what it was to be a Shinobi. A real Shinobi. It was, very much, about survival. It has only been twisted in to power and security for just "those I care about" by those who had gained the power to claim it was so. Those born in affluence or those who were granted title or prestige for the slaughter of someone elses enemies. Shinobi had long since forgotten…. that they served under others to do deeds that had little to do with them. That their fate had always been linked to those who saw themselves as superior, even while in most cases, they were literally weaker in every way aside from political power. That was until the greatest mistake of this age: The Great Shinobi Villages. The turning point in history when the tools of war would claim not their independence… but a more officially binding servitude than ever before. Now it was not about family… but about village. Now it was not about community, but about nations. And yet it was still about the Daimyo… the one who never got their hands dirty. The one who gave the orders from atop the throne.
Rain felt it close to ironic that he himself was a Daimyo now. But to him… the Daimyo were not the problem. It was the Shinobi who could not see past their service to what the world truly was. The ones who lived in essentially paradise while others suffered and scraped by. That… was the problem. This young woman of the Rain… she reminded him of himself likely on a battlefield that looked a lot like this one. A rained out reminder of everything that was lost, as well as everything worth fighting for. "There is nothing wrong with a dream, as long as you actually strive for it instead of merely think about it." Rain would say to her at first, having Inpa stay where he was as he drew closer. "But, I hope that you understand that Peace is a Lie. Or rather… that peace is an ultimate form of something. It is unattainable by its very nature. By our very nature. If I may… I would ask for you to refine your dream with the wisdom of a stranger. Do not aim for peace. Aim for balancing the equation. Understand that there will be losses, but that you can still strive for and create opportunities for gain. Understand that suffering is part of strength. Even the truly gifted go to utter waste without trials that push them beyond what they know. But suffering should be proportionate… equal… so that the commodity of experience and strength that is earned from it is equally respected, instead of cast aside as your luck being worse than anothers. As for me… I do not pity you. I cannot pity you. I can only admire you. I can only admire the look in your eyes and the wear of your soul as testament of what you are truly made of instead of merely some tale you may tell me."
Rain had been moved to say this… reminded of exactly what he stood for… and why. Where he had been, and where he was going. "I apologize for interrupting, but I could not remain silent in the presence of such words. As for who I am… it is best I be honest. I am called….Rain." he would introduce himself, at least to some degree. It is very possible Kokoro would not enjoy such a revelation however as she may think that he is attempting to appeal to her and her words by personifying her struggles with his name or some such. However… he may be lucky and she might think nothing of it.
Kokoro is quick to turn to face Rain when he begins speaking, startled by his sudden voice and appearance but not wasting time on being frightened. She listens to what he has to say, noting that he had been eavesdropping on them, and that from the way he speaks, he seems to be familiar with what it is to be shinobi as well. He isn't dressed like a ninja, and he isn't wearing any symbols that she can see. His speech has her nodding her head slightly and saying, "That's fine. It's a public place, and people like to gather where it is warm and dry." She neither dismisses nor embraces Rain's suggestion to not seek peace. She doesn't even verbally acknowledge it. She is being carefully neutral right now, because she doesn't know what kind of person she's facing, and she doesn't want to take action that could cause a problem. "Rain, desu ka? <Rain, is it?>"
The kunoichi remains right where she is, not making any attempt to introduce herself in turn, just staring back at Rain with… A quiet tension. She doesn't LOOK like she's tense, but she is watching him and ready to move if she has to. And in her head, she's thinking how if he's at all capable, she probably doesn't stand a chance if this Rain decides to take hostile action. He hasn't shown a sign of such intent thus far, but that doesn't mean anything. She's still not even sure that Hotaru is safe to dealt with… Bu she'd rather trust her for now, over this new guy. She may have to buy time until her Chuunin supervisor returns. She doesn't know why the other Genin she was with aren't stepping up at all, and are still huddled in the shack behind her, but she is sort of glad too. If they aren't getting in the way, they're less likely to get hurt if something happens. They might even be able to provide her with surprise back-up.
"She was right." she says eventually. "Someone who hurts us needs to be punished. But killing them all isn't going to bring understanding. They won't understand pain when they're dead. When they die, their problems and pain are over. It's the living left behind that will have to suffer." She tilts her head slightly and says, "You are also right. Total peace might not be possible. But it's not total peace I'm after. That's an impossible dream. That's why, at least for this nation, I want to make sure our enemies know exactly what we have gone through first hand. When we've all experienced the same pain, then, and only then, can we begin communicating from a position of mutual understanding. Their 'peace' that they have bought with our lives is an imbalance that will have to be corrected eventually."
Kokoro's hands hang loose at her sides, near her shuriken holster. "But you seem to already know a lot about this, Rain-san."
The Great Shinobi Villages are the arms of the Daimyo, the military might that keeps the rich richer, and the powerful more powerful… Those without this strong arm, are left to suffer. Hotaru wondered why these people did not pledge allegiance to a greater power, if their suffering was so bad. Alas, Hotaru does not understand what 'pride for one's nation' was, when it came to places like this. Hotaru naturally sees the movements that are defensive. She has seen this already on the battlefield. The Land of Earth had recently gone under a massive revolt, where clans were turned against each other. As a result, she had become a genin younger than children of other villages, to help bolster the ranks. She knows what people moving for weapons is like. She looks between the two a moment. "… No one should die today. We should just… enjoy the fire." Hotaru puts a hand up over the fire. "… It's awfully cold.."
Her caution was admirable to Rain. Had she simply let her guard down because some random person agreed with her views, after overhearing them, she would have obviously not learned enough from her life of suffering. "I do… which is why I will give you one more piece of my wisdom. People who live in comfort, away from pain, suffering, trials, punsihment… seperated from reality as they are, forget very easily. Unless you can prevent them from returning to their placid and easy lives, they will simply forget the suffering they have been through. Well… I will be fair. Forget is not entirely true. They will forget /why/ they were made to suffer. They very well may remember… to blame everyone but themselves, if they care to remember at all. So, they may simply seek revenge on who has given them a minor bruising of the ego… or they may decide to insult you even more by forgiving you for being too fragile or helpless to know what you were doing. But what is unlikely to happen, is for them to understand the lesson of that pain they feel for a mere moment, that you and yours have felt your entire lives."
Honestly, Rain didn't want to explain that to her. It was a cruel joke in the end… that unless they were systematically dismantled and dragged through the mud and deluge and rot of the reality that they themselves helped to create… they would not actually care about their short term discomfort. "Despite my name, this is not the land I was born in, nor the one I come from. I have traveled here to see this place again…" he would say with a slightly somber tone. "To… check on it. My suffering here was short compared to yours. Only several years. Long enough for me to despise the sight and smell and taste of a rained out battle field that had nothing left but corpses and destruction. It is the worst vision I have witnessed as there is not even the chance of hope in an image like that. It is final… cold… and without purpose. It cannot be grown from…" Rain would shake his head. "My apologies once more… you know this more than I ever will. Anything else I have suffered through is entirely removed from that reality." he would admit humbly. "So if you do truly plan to bring the world down to your level so that they can all see you eye to eye before everyone stands back up… just remember that the mud and muck of the Land of Rain that I remember is neck deep… and a mere dip down to the ankle won't do anyone any good. I have tried and it clearly did not work." Yes, Rain admitted to having attempted or succeeded at what most would consider an act of terrorism. He did not specify when, where, or to whom, or if it even actually worked at all, but he did confirm, at least through words, that he may be very dangerous. Nodding to Hotaru, Rain would nod as he would outstretch his hands. "We should enjoy the fire indeed." he would agree.
Both Hotaru and Rain have given Kokoro plenty to think about… And to investigate. But for now, Hotaru has the right of it. A girl even younger than Kokoro, who shows such simple wisdom. For now, this is not a time of conflict. Or at least not open conflict. "Yes. Let's enjoy the warmth for now."