Date: March 2, 2011
Fuyu returns from her mission only to find the Land of Fire being invaded. Goh comes to talk to Hashiramako after a long time only to find her very stressed out. The Hokage tries to deal with all this only to be assaulted with more and more bad news.
Warning: Contains foul language.
"The Legion March - A Burden Of Knowledge"
Hokage's Lookout - Konohagakure
The Land of Fire was in chaos, and Konohagakure was virtually a ghost town. A handful of Chuunin remained to guard the village, with genin bolstering their ranks where they were needed to ensure village safety. Students were still in abundance, though many Academy lessons had to be suspended as their chuunin teachers were sent to other, more vital duties. Jounin were in extremely short supply, and virtually all of them had been dispatched to handle the growing crisis.
By all accounts, the Land of Water forces and Kirigakure shinobi arrayed against them were a fraction of what the Land of Fire was putting into the field. But the unending supply of strange stone soldiers were quickly turning the tide against the defenders. Each soldier lost in the Land of Fire would take a generation to replace. These 'golem' creatures could seemingly appear in massive numbers from the shores of the Land of Fire without pause. Swarms of them covered the countryside, and the reports she was receiving indicated that if something was not done to stem that tide, everything but the western provinces would be over run within a month.
This did not make Senju Hashiramako happy. She had fought ferociously for peace, twisted and manipulated and bribed to settle the clans within easily-defined borders, and even managed to finally see an uneasy truce between her clan and the Uchiha. And now it was all threatened to be undone in four short years because that Kirigakure science bitch had figured out how to make an unending supply of renewable troops.
Messengers came and went, dashing into and out of the Hokage's office at all hours. Hashiramako could not remember the last time she'd slept, and did not know when she next intended to do so. Even her usual messenger-nin had been repurposed as frontline combatants, being replaced by the lower genin who were simply too inexperienced and useless to place anywhere else. Her shoulders were stooped as she bent over her desk with a few of her senior advisors, former Jounin too aged or crippled to continue active service, but still prized for their sharp minds. Her eyes had dark circles under them as she studied a map of the Fire Country that had been spread out, with small cubes, rectangles, and cylinders denominating the approximate number and placement of both their forces and their enemies.
"If they come through this forest, there will be no saving the village." An elderly, one-eyed shinobi, a retired Inuzuka, in a wheel-chair points at a prominent settlement on the eastern side of the country. "We should evacuate it and find a more defensible position for a stand."
"The forest will give our men cover from which to launch an ambush! It is an advantage!" A woman argued.
"There are no men close enough to spare for that and to guard both roads. We would have to lure them quite convincingly to take only the paths we desired. And if we are wrong, one of our detachments would be flanked as well as the village lost"
They were both looking at her, the Senju soon realized. They expected her to have all the answers. She should have all the answers! But just one mistake could cost… The Hokage closes her eyes and sucks in a deep, healing breath. She just needed to think, to breathe through this weight settling in over her chest. If only the enemy wasn't so many…
Having recently returned from rescuing Ai from the evil Tsun, the blonde haired Pickler had scarcely taken a break. From there he had gone on to encounter Kirin and some other person, escape a battle and then return to Konoha.
The village was empty, but at least it wasn't on fire as the painting he had seen projected it would be. Thus far, it was alright… well, not alright. But not terrible. No doubt his long time friend the Hokage was stressing out! As such, Goh had taken it upon himself to go visit personally. He had yet to really see her, after all. They had sent messages to each other, but no face time was given whatsoever. Not for several months, anyways.
With the front door opening in a sudden motion, Goh takes a bold step forward into the Office, his muffler swaying slightly by the forward momentum. "HASHHIIIII!" He cries out aloud in a very happy tone, arms up in a welcoming embrace. "It's been ages, babe! How've you been?"
Clearly he's not keen on bringing up that Konoha is under fire. Seems he has yet to notice that she's already in a serious meeting too.
Until his eyes better focus on the picture before him.
"…oh. You busy?"
Fuyu has filed an official report on the journey to the coast, of course. Certain details were left out, but Fuyu intends to clear up some of these right now, in addition to finding out what her orders are for dismantling this invasion before it can get off the ground. Some people might say it is already well beyond that point. Those people have no idea what it is like to fight back an entire army from a single fortified position. When 90% of one's territory is overrun, THAT is when things seem truly hopeless. But Fuyu would fight anyway in such a situation. And she has. More than once.
Right now, things are far from hopeless. Or maybe she just does not fully grasp the enormity of what they are facing. That should be resolved shortly. Uchiha Fuyu enters the Hokage's Office — or tries, because there is some goon standing in her way. She clears her throat and tries to lean to see around Goh. Anyone who looks at her would likely notice rather immediately that she has her Sharingan active. Is she planning to fight or something? The Sharingan is a combat tool! This may lead to some tension in the room. Or not.
Either way, Fuyu rather pointedly says, "I'm here to report to the Hokage."
The entire group huddled around the desk turns towards the door as it is flung open with looks ranging from wide eyes to irritation. And then almost every single look in the room matches the one that was irritated. Such an entrance had obviously left them expecting some new, horrific news, but to find only a grinning blonde looking like he wanted a hug, an awkward silence hangs in the air as no one speaks. At least, not until the Hokage herself does.
"We're only at war. How could I be busy? Idiot."
The others look towards the Hokage, clearly expecting her to dismiss this loud, impetuous youth. But then another prominent member of the village arrives, earning more stares. At least Fuyu's aren't quite so irritable-looking. The Hokage turns towards the gathered elders with a frown.
"Please excuse us." She motions towards all of them in a sweep that encompasses the group, and then the door. "Get a bit of rest and allow me to confer with my visitors. We will meet again in two hours." Meet again? It was already late in the day! But there was no rest for the weary at this point.
The elders begin ambling their way out of the room, around six of them in all, muttering to each other in pairs, bowing slightly towards Hashiramako as they file out. One of the retired Uchiha shinobi, out of action due to the loss of most of his fingers and part of one leg, gives a lop-sided smile towards Fuyu and a bow of his head as he moves past. Soon, there are only three people left within the office of the village's leader.
The dark-haired Senju beckons both the man and woman into the room in the same motion she uses to turn away from her chair and sink slowly into it. A moment of silence lingers as the Hokage leans an elbow on the map on the desk, in between a number of little wood blocks representing some of the Fire Daimyo's forces and some of the Water Daimyo's. "…Okay, who's going first. I don't have much time."
"Huh?" It seems that Goh isn't even aware of Fuyu's position right behind him! Turning around a bit, one can only imagine his surprise to see the Uchiha clan head right here! The Hokage and Fuyu. No doubt, two of the most respected people in this entire village. In the same room, no doubt. "Fuyu? I didn't even notice you come in. Nice eyes." He remarks with a grin.
Taking a step to the side and letting her pass, the Akuu clan member seems to be a bit less encouraged to come forth. He takes a few steps forward, looking at the gathered old people. That Inuzuka guy looked as if he was about to bite the big one just sitting there.
But then, Hashi dismisses them. Goh's smile fades a bit. "Cya, old men." Suddenly becoming cheery out of no-where. He even throws a wave to the ones who looked particulary irritated.
"I can, I guess?" He replies to Hashiramako. "I'm not really here to report anything. I figured I'd just come and cheer you up a little. I guess we know what the Salamanders were talking about now, huh? At least we haven't reached the painting level yet. Jeez Hashi, you should have seen it." A pause. She looked pretty serious right now.
"…hmm. I guess we probably should talk about plans and stuff though." Goh says, coughing a bit. "I just bailed a Hyuga girl called Ai out from Kirigakure capture. And with other shinobi getting hit hard, I can't be everywhere." He frowns, before looking over to Fuyu, then to the Hokage. "…with new swordsman on their ranks too, even I don't know their capabilities. We need to plan some sort of counter-offensive. Push them back. Where do you want me? Fuyu?" His blue eyes go over to the Uchiha.
"You've got a squad out on the field too, right? You must agree."
Fuyu eyes Goh suspiciously. She clearly doesn't recognize him in the slightest. She nods in acknowledgement to the elderly Uchiha, and passes on through into the office proper. 'Nice eyes? Is that goon hitting on me? If he is I am going to break his face,' she thinks to herself irritably. She starts to report, "Team 5 is ba—" then she stops to peer at Goh. "…No, I have no one in the field. Nor do I have to agree with you on anything. Who the hell are you, anyway? What do you know about my movements or anyone else's?" Her peering is progressingly rapidly to 'lethal glare'.
And with three-tomo'd Sharingan, that glare can be quite intense indeed.
"Thanks, I could use some cheering up. …Unfortunately, seeing you never seems to do the trick." The Hokage's biting sarcasm could practically chew through stone! "Don't worry, Goh. Nothing about that painting will come true while I am Hokage." Bold words, but Hashiramako had already chosen several other locations in the western provinces to evacuate the villagers, students, and weakest of the genin to should the golem hordes ever make it this far. But they wouldn't. They wouldn't, on that note she was utterly determined.
Her eyes snap to the blonde male. "Thank you, I have the report here. I'm sure the Hyuga are grateful for your intervention. From the information received, the invasion is being spear-headed by Samominoryuu Kei. You may recognize that name from over four years ago when she devised a number of questionably-ethical weapons. When she disappeared, we'd assumed she'd been killed. Apparently this is not the case. The actual number of Kirigakure ninja in the field is quite small, and I have no reports of any of the other Swordsmen of the Mist being involved."
"Stand easy, Uchiha." The Hokage's attention turns towards the other woman in the room as she finishes sharing what precious little intelligence she had with Goh. "He's a… friend." Though the way she was squinting at the blonde seemed as if she were using that word rather uncertainly. "Why is your Sharingan activated? Is there trouble in the village? They couldn't have come this far already!" …Or could they?
"Oh Hashi, you wound me. So much." Goh almost fakes a little pain there, grinning a bit. "You don't?" Goh replies, sounding almost surprised. "Colour me surprised! I'd have thought you'd have people out there and such. My bad. And relax." The blonde shrugs a bit, sticking hands into his pockets. "I'm Goh. Konoha's Number One Pickled Vegetabler. Top five in the world." He quickly tacks on. "If you haven't heard of me, then you mustn't be a fan of Pickled Vegies. But that's only probably because you haven't had mine! Heh."
The stare at which she looks at him with is sort of met with a confused look from Goh himself. Although with her sharingan, she just may see a slight irregularity with his forehead. Something … almost off with how the chakra is collected there. "I'm not here to get in any fights with you."
"Yeah, see? What Hashi said. I'm probably the best friend you never had." Something tells him that she's the super serious type. "When I was on the Great River Bridge," He begins, as if sucking in a breath to do so, "I saw … something. Someone. It was hard to see in the mist, but it was definitely a Kirigakure shinobi who could use ice techniques. But other than that, you're right. No other swordsman around." Pause. "Kei, huh? Yeah … you're right. Even when I was in Kirigakure, I didn't even hear that name. She must have come back just recently I suppose. Maybe got recruited into the group when the new Mizukage was appointed."
Then his attention goes back to Fuyu. Why /did/ she have her Sharingan activated?
Fuyu is confused, but tries not to show it. She takes in the information about Swordsmen and Ice Release and rescuing Hyuuga and all that… And she even recognizes Goh's name. But one thing stands out from the rest. "My what?" she asks. Her brow furrows, she seems honestly perplexed. It almost feels like these two are playing a joke on her or trying to trick her or… Then she realizes she is looking at Chakra, not faces. She raises her own right hand to look at it. After a few seconds, she closes her eyes. When the open again, they're normal. "…It's nothing important," she tries to assure both Hashiramako and Goh. Not that she cares what Goh thinks.
Then she is silent for a moment before continuing. "Team 5 has returned from the coast. We didn't progress very far with the investigation into…" She looks towards Goh briefly, and then back to the Hokage. "…The thing we were sent to check on. The entire coastline has been destroyed. The extent of the damage is unknown. We didn't get a chance to look. An island was spotted off the coast — an uncharted one. It was within swimming distance, and we managed to walk across the water without much difficulty. I had a Shadow Clone active, and some sort of free-floating Chakra in the environment managed to take control of it away from me. It knocked out and took hostage one of my team members, and then lead us on a chase across the island."
Crossing her arms, Fuyu closes her eyes and says, "To cut things short, we encountered a man who was supposed to be dead and had somehow been incorporated into the island itself. Further, he knew a member of my team… Taji. He was apparently once a member of an order of monks known as the Gentle Mist Monks. This man was the Head Monk. He triggered a volcanic eruption on the island to cover Taji's escape. Everyone died. But he survived by merging with the island."
Fuyu opens her eyes. "He revealed some interesting things to me. The Dark-Light Stone that I recovered from Ankoku Cave is just one of six. He called it the 'Stone of Yin-Yang'. There was another, the Stone of Nature, that was buried deep beneath the island. I am not sure how much more I should mention without a thorough check for observers and bugs and such. I'm not even sure it's safe to talk in front of…" She looks towards Goh with a frown. "…Your friend. If I hadn't found out he was the one who brought the first of the 'Sage Stones' here, I would have insisted he leave before speaking on it.—And don't be too surprised that I found out. I was acting Hokage for awhile. I had to go through a lot of classified information to keep this Village safe against any further attacks by Rain." Is she smirking? Almost.
"I don't know. We have very little information on Kirigakure at the moment other than their troop movements in our own damned borders." The Hokage looks frustrated at the admission as she responds to Goh, her fingers drumming restlessly on the desktop. "They're so bold and blunt, like they feel they don't have to hide what they're doing or where they're going because we can't stop them. …So far, they've been right."
She pauses, digesting the information provided to her, deciding which to address first. "The ice-users aren't a concern. We know some in Kirigakure are capable of it, so it's to be expected." Then her attention focuses back onto the clan head, so recently having just lowered her Sharingan. And not even realizing she was using it. Unusual, but she didn't have the luxury of mulling it over very long.
After a tense moment of silence, her cool gaze appraises one of her village leaders and sometimes-rival. "I'm aware of all you have done to keep the peace. But these stones, this island, they are a distant concern at the present. We are failing in our duty to defend this nation's borders. The Daimyo's forces cannot hold these unending stone soldiers. They're like clay locusts, they just swarm over everything in their path. The only thing that makes a dent in their advance are our ninja. And I've already emptied our village, we're stretched too thin to contain this situation."
Hashiramako pushes herself to her feet, forcing the fatigue out of her posture, even if she couldn't force the dark rings from beneath her eyes. "What I need is more information. Goh, you might not part of this village any more, but Konoha is still your home. I need you. I need you to join a squad to hit these fuckers back and get what we need." She turns. "Uchiha, I need you to lead this mission. There's no room for error here, and I need someone I know can get the job done."
Moving around to one side of the desk, away from her chair, she motions them closer to the map on it's surface.
This seems to get Goh's attention, his eyes widening when Fuyu brings up the mention of the Stones. For a moment he just stares, unable to hide his surprise. Not that he's ever been good at that anyway. "Y… You found a Stone? Where did you say this island was?" A glance to the Hokage, as a sense of urgency fills his eyes. "The Stone of Yin-Yang is a name that's unfamiliar to me. I haven't heard of it before." He comments, before taking a few steps away from the duo and turning to face away from them.
"…but the Stone of Nature…" He begins, almost too dramatically. "That belonged to the Salamanders. It has for… well, years. Decades. Longer even. It was recently stolen."
Performing several handsigns, the blonde thrusts his hand down into the ground. Out from the white poof of smoke explodes Wanpo! A six foot long, three foot high Salamander critter. Right in front of him. His D-Rank creature.
"Wanpo, you're the fastest Salamander I have availble, with Reiko in possession of the Stone of Spirit." Wanpo nods, almost stupidly. "The Stone of Nature is deep within an island. You have to inform Sanshouuo at once." Of course, this information wasn't just good on its own. He turns his head around, looking at the pair. "I don't care that you were Hokage or whatever," He says to Fuyu quite bluntly. "Which island was it? Where? Off the coast of what?" A glance goes to Hashiramako. "…you must tell me. It's super important that it's returned to them as soon as possible." It seems to Goh, the Stones pose just as much threat to him as Konoha's destruction does.
Alas, already, Hashiramako is intent on moving on with the plan! Giving a small nod to Wanpo, the Salamander dissapears in the same manner in which it arrived in. Wanpo could at least inform everyone that the Stone of Nature had been found, and prepare to get it back. Goh could find out the specifics soon and relay that information.
Goh sort of slinks over to the map. He didn't really like the idea of joining a squad … it's why he left in the first place. But a one-off can't hurt. His blue eyes peer at the map carefully.
Fuyu's almost-smirk fades away. "Actually, I mentioned this for a reason. First of all, Mister Jumps-To-Conclusions, the Stone is not in the island anymore. Because it has been given a physical form. A HUMAN form." She takes a deep breath and lets it out. "Her name is 'Gaia'. She was called by the title 'Earth-Child'. And she came back to Konoha with us. Taji is supposed to teach her the good traits of humanity and show her why we should be helped and protected. If he fails, then, as an embodiment of nature itself — a piece of the very planet — she may decide human beings aren't worth saving — or worse, that we should be wiped out."
She lets that sit for a moment, then says, "I think if we could control her power, we could disassemble the entire golem army in an eye-blink. But if we try to turn her into a weapon we run the risk of her seeing humans as scum. It would only take one encounter with this Samominoryuu to realize that humans can be a vile and detestable species. So we need to consider some things… Like where we should be keeping her and if we should ask her to help. We don't want her to be in Konohagakure if this army arrives. Seeing us fighting and killing each other would be more than enough to scar a woman with the innocence of a newborn."
She looks over the map briefly and then says, "I had limited information on the situation previously. But I think I already know how to deal with it. Are these golems self-aware? It seems like it would be very expensive and risky to produce tens of thousands of thinking soldiers… If they are, as I suspect, mindless automatons being directed by someone else, then it would behoove us to find whomever is doing the 'directing'… And perhaps convince them to direct their endless supply of soldiers in a different direction." Pause. "Like back where they came from and preferably smashing every Kirigakure soldier in the way."
"Uchiha will relay that information to you after- Wait, human form? And this is a piece of the 'spirit of the planet'. And our lives are in her hands if she decides humans are a menace. …Riiiiiiight."
For the second time in one week, the Hokage of Konohagakure has been given a rather large, implausible story to swallow with little to no fanfare. For a moment, she looks towards Goh, then towards Fuyu. "You can't secure someone from the selfishness of humanity. It's everywhere, in every city or settlement that has crime. In every man that cheats another in a business deal. She may see the Kirigakure soldiers killing innocents and decry us. Or she may see our soldiers fighting to protect those lives and desire to intervene on our behalf." A pause. "If this person is who you claim she is, then we gain nothing by lying to her. And if all she can is the bad in humans in this war, then again, there's really nothing we can do."
"We could try to secure her in the western provinces, or to another country, but that might only expose her to danger. The salamanders need the stone, this woman was born of this stone, so have her brought to them. See what they can work out. Whoever you assign to it, have them try to impart whatever good they can, explain that humans as a whole can't be classified one way or the other. Just like everything in nature, there is balance."
"…Now if that satisfies you both, we could get back to the large mason-built abominations destroying our homeland."
"We don't think they're intelligent." The Hokage stresses the word as if she weren't really sure. "We have reports of seeing the occasional one alone, by itself, unmoving. We've captured one or two but can't seem to ascertain how they operate. They reportedly are inactive until an enemy force approaches, at which point they will arise again. They may be controlled like some sort of hive-mind-network. They may have a central point they are controlled from. They may not be controlled at all. That is where you two come in."
"The enemy is beating us because they seem to have infinite resources. We must cut those off." She points to the south-eastern portion of the country. "This is where the largest portions of them are. They are sending out divisions north, northwest, and west. They are staying within our borders, likely realizing that their overwhelming numbers would be less overwhelming with other countries involved. Uchiha, I am giving you orders to capture any Kirigakure shinobi you can get your hands on. You will deploy here," She points. "Where their thickest concentration of actual, living soldiers are. Halt their advance north if you can, if not, get your objective and get out. The more, the better. We need to know how these things are being made, how they're controlled, and where they come from."
Hashiramako leans back. "When we have those answers, we can act to cut them off from their supply of these things, or summon our own, or turn them against their users. Anything. If you fail, you will have to try again. Without this information, the Daimyo's palace will fall within a month."
Upon hearing that this Stone has taken human form, Goh nearly melts into a puddle. "Uuuwwauuuughhh! Why do things like this have to be so tricky!" He proclaims almost too loudly. "Do Stones just not like being regular rocks anymore? Sheesh." Slapping a hand on his face, he just shakes his head in protest at the sheer notion of this all. Good thing Wanpo heard that before he poofed away. With a dramatic sigh, he tries to let things process.
The Hokage's words certainly do help a little bit. Goh can agree that the notion of 'controlling' this girl however, seems a bit much. "Maybe not control her, and more convince her that we're awesome? I mean, it seems clear enough that we should show her the awesome parts of humans anyway." Who knows WHAT is going through his mind when he comments about that. No doubt there's something about pickled vegies in there though.
"…but should she really be in Konoha right now? I mean, when the army arrives, that will be bad for sure, like Fuyu said. But in the mean-time, this place is a ghost town. Those who are left are probably freaking out. Should she be moved somewhere?" He shrugs, seeming to pass on that idea when Fuyu brings her second idea into action. In the mean time, Hashiramako offers the solution that she return back underground. Stuff to consider. Later, anyway.
"I…guess that makes sense. Instead of getting the puppets, get the puppeteer." Goh's blue eyes focus on the map before him. The south-east part, really. Goh squints. "Jeez Hashi," He begins, hearing the plan. "If I knew that you didn't love me so much, I'd think you were trying to kill me. Sending us into the heaviest part of live ninja. Lucky for you, I'm super amazing. I'll have some of my pickled potato right before I leave. Fire me up some. Fuyu, I haven't got enough for both of us." He seems genuinely apologetic. "Sorry."
A glance is given to the Uchiha, seeing what she thinks of it. Then back to the Hokage. "I guess we should try and take the senior shinobi, huh? I wouldn't think that the Genin would really know how everything works. They're more being sent to do the bidding with no understanding. But still. Anything is better than nothing."
The continued referral to Fuyu as 'Uchiha' seems to be making her more and more displeased with this conversation. Has she been away that long? She doesn't comment on the 'solution' for the Gaia situation. She just says, "As you say, Hokage-SAMA." Then she inclines her head. "If that is all, I will begin making preparations to depart."
Fuyu also glances in Goh's direction briefly. "I don't want any of your food," she says plainly. "But if you have any skill at subtlety whatsoever then you can help me. If not, you can attack somewhere else to draw their attention. I am not going to be openly confronting the enemy."
"Yes, I love you Goh. Love you like an itchy rash in a sensitive place." The Hokage pushes back from the table, ignoring the exchange about food. The other brunette clearly did not like the blonde. She probably didn't like Hashiramako, either. But she didn't need the Uchiha leader to like anyone in order to work with them. "I'm afraid you're going to have to take your food quickly or on the go. I need you both to leave tonight. I'll have your official orders written up within the hour, and your team picked out."
"Everything's counting on this, Fuyu. As for who you should try to capture…" She frowns towards the blonde. "I'll leave that to the team's discretion in the field. I don't know exactly what you'll find out there. If you can only capture a genin, then do it. The higher the standing of the one you take, and the more you manage to get, the more likely we are to get the information we need. And don't neglect the standard army officers, either. If you can snare a top leuitenant or higher, they may know a lot about troop movements and such. I doubt any of their real leaders, their Swordsmen and their generals, will be that close to the front lines."
"We can't act decisively until this mission succeeds. Without it, we're lashing out in the dark. One more thing, Fuyu: I want to meet this Gaia person before you leave. But you've been with her this whole time, I'm going to trust her handling to you. If you decide not to take her to the salamanders, I'll accept that. But they apparently need her help greatly. If you can solve their problems, they may even assist us in this conflict." A curt nod is given both to the Clan Head and the former Jounin. "Dismissed."