Date: August 4, 2010
Datura continues further down the spider-infested rabbithole, and meets quite a number of interesting characters, eventually receiving her assigned task from the Spider Queen herself.
"Spider Queen, Part 2 - The Spider Princess"
Fukaizan, Deep Mountain
Ra joins Datura after she has passed through, not wanting to crowd her. He leaves the Door Spider or whatever it is in place, and the door itself open. Maybe someone will wander into the room and see the Door Spider or try to enter the doorway, but why should Ra care? The rocky tunnel is initially just a tunnel, without decoration. It appears that paper lanterns are hung irregularly along the tunnel's walls, keeping the passage well-lit. But a closer inspection will reveal that the 'lanterns' are actually spiders, with their abdomens apparently shaped like paper lanterns, and lit from within somehow. Luminescent organic chemicals? Maybe to attack moths or other insects that approach light sources? Possibly. The Lantern Spiders just sort of crawl around on the walls, which accounts for the erratic distances between light sources.
As the tunnel proceeds, the passage becomes more and more thickly coated in spider webs. There are definitely spiders around, most of them small to medium in size, and none appearing to be of the well-known and potentially lethal varieties. But they also aren't swarming all over the place or getting in the way. They stay off the floor, stick to the walls or ceiling, and just keep themselves to themselves.
Eventually, however, the tunnel appears to come to a dead-end -- or a web-end. The entire passage from wall to wall is strewn with layer after layer after layer of webbing. Some of it is the color one would expect of spider webs, but the further back the webs go, and the deeper into the darkness, the coloration becomes more exotic, ranging from grey-violet, to bright red, to neon green. The webs appear to be >glowing in the dark<. Perhaps more of that insect-luring tactic, or maybe just decoration? Ra stops in front of the barrier, and gives no indication he intends to just push through. That would probably destroy all the hard work of the poor spiders who crafted such masterpieces! Also, it would be mega-gross for Datura to have to make her way through webs that might still have spiders on them. Ew!
Ra occasionally mutters to himself during the trip, but now he speaks outloud. "Are we correct in assuming that you are able to leap and traverse walls that normal humans cannot, Lady Spinner Ryoko?" He turns to face Datura as he asks this, and then tilts his head back so that he is looking straight up at the ceiling. There's probably a reason he asked that question. Following his gaze would reveal that the ceiling ceased to be the ceiling some ways back, and there is now a large open space directly above. Almost like an elevator shaft, but much wider, and the walls that compose the shaft are relatively smooth stone. Very few spider webs visible, and those are mostly around the corners, not where they would get in the way.
As they pass down the tunnel, the barely-dressed blonde keeps her hands closely at her sides. She knew enough about spiders to know that touching their webs was generally a bad idea, about along the same lines as running into a bear's hibernating den at the dawn of spring with raw meat hung about one's neck screaming 'Come and get it!'. Except one had to worry less about being mauled and more about being injected with insidious venom. Still, as they traverse down the darkened underground passage, the kunoichi can't help but reach out a hand to try and run a finger along one of the lantern-spider's bulbous, glowing abdomens. Hopefully, this won't cause it to pounce at her and try to fang her face off!
There were a lot of things Datura couldn't stand to touch: dogs, reptiles, amphibians, anything slimey… spiders didn't seem to be amongst her phobias. And yet she could feel the apprehension knotting in the pit of her stomach, and it was evident in the twisting and twining of her fingers together in front of her.
After all, whatever arachnid was large enough to make the webs barring their way was likely large enough to EAT her! And, if not, there were certainly enough to swarm over the defenseless kunoichi. She had no reason to think a spider would consider a large, fleshy, soft-meated mammal anything other than food.
It's why she liked them. And sharks.
Datura's eyes turn up from considering the webs that were now blocking their path, looking up into the vast empty space above. Dropping her gaze again, she affects a small smile of sharing. "Yes, I can." She doesn't elaborate on how such a thing is possible for a 'mere' human. "I suppose it is now to climb? Perhaps it's also a good time to tell me about this, ah, Spider Queen, and ways I can avoid offending her." She leaves off the unspoken addition of 'and being eaten' as she cocks an eyebrow as she places a hand against the wall, channeling chakra into her palm to stick to it, thankful for the lack of webs. The last thing she needed was to be stuck permanently!
Ra lowers his gaze to focus on Datura. Each of his eyes blink in succession. "…To offend our Mistress would be difficult. She is appreciative of clever prey -- especially that which successfully evades a capture attempt through trickery. Those who make a promise or agreement with her and stay true to their word are >usually< safe not only from her, but all others among her people.--Aa, that is something. We recall now. To seek to harm one whom is under the protection of the Spider Queen is to insult and threaten the Queen herself. This extends to all things she considers hers, from her children, to any web she spins, or even just a human-made craft that she has claimed. If permission has not been granted to touch her possessions, it is best to leave them be. She will often grant permission readily if she is asked first."
Ra crouches down on the ground and seems to be thinking as he strokes his chin. "Anything else, anything else… Well, as mentioned, she values those whom are true to their word… But those who renege on an agreement or violate a promise, either in word or in spirit, are unlikely to live to see the next sunrise. It is a simple matter to have a small and inconspicuous fellow find his way into bed with an oath-breaker and plant his 'kiss' upon the betrayer's throat. Such a small mark would not be noticed by most, and yet he or she that received this 'kiss' would never awaken on this side of eternity."
Ra nods to himself, seemingly agreeing with his own words. "Yes, I believe that is all. Harm not what is hers, follow through with one's commitments, and never enter these tunnels without a sign of her blessing." Rising back to a standing position, the Okumo--Wait. When did he say anything about entering these tunnels without a 'sign of her blessing'? More importantly, when did he ever give Datura such a sign!? Is she here without permission now!?! "Let us proceed. Both you and the Queen have prior commitments. To delay is to inconvenience those who rely upon you both." He crouches again, but instead of staying low to the ground, he extends his legs and sends himself hurtling straight up into the air. He keeps going for about fifty feet before he bothers to land on one of the walls high above.
The kunoichi listens with uncustomary patience to the Okuma's words, not wishing to miss any of those words. Being digested from the inside out was certainly not on her list of things to do, and with nothing but genjutsu between herself and a grisly death, she'd prefer to make her way in and out with as little fuss as possible. Would her skills even WORK on nonhumans!? Certainly not something she wished to find out.
"Hmm, vengeful, subtle, and lascivious for treasures. Sounds like my kind of royalty."
Before she can inquire as to this 'sign of her blessing', the Okumo is already vaulting off, upwards into the great unknown chasm above them, her head snapping up to watch his ascent. She looks over her shoulder, then down into her hands, as if she expected to find this 'sign' mysteriously in her possession or nearby. Deciding it was better to be close to her guide in the case of 'misunderstandings' than lagging behind, the young woman makes a jump of her own. It's nowhere near as impressive, merely twelve feet or so, before clinging with her hands and feet to the wall, then vaulting to the other wall, gaining about six more feet or so. Each time she hops to the other side of the chasm, in rapid succession, she gains a bit of ground. From a human perspective, her ascent was likely graceful and spider-like in appearance, though arachnids may find them slightly clunky and awkward. Either way, she follows in the websteps of the First.
Datura was also thankful there were no other humans in the tunnels, and that it was dark, so that none would view her from below. After all, she hadn't had time to get dressed properly and wasn't wearing anything under that silk kimono!
Okumo Ra waits until Datura is mostly caught up before making another leap. He allows this one to be a bit less fantastic, so as to not leave the blonde woman behind. They continue in this manner for a few minutes, the darkness closing in around them as they move further and further away from those Lantern Spiders (which, belatedly, did >not< try to fang Datura's face off, obviously. They just sort of scurried along a bit faster). But there is a light source above them, along with a greater level of cold moisture in the air.
Eventually, Ra steps from the shaft's wall onto a platform in front of an opening. The large opening seems to be where the light is emanating from. He waits for Datura to join him, and though he looks down to watch her progress, he seems highly un-interested in any exposed female flesh he might see. With those eyes of his, he might not even 'see' Datura the way that other humans do. Once she is on the platform with him, he says, "We stand now before the path that will take us to the Palace of Eight Legs. The Palace, and the territory surrounding it, are located in Fukaizan -- or 'Deep Mountain'."
Ra's words may or may not actually penetrate Dature's awareness, given the view she is being presented with. The cavern beyond the opening is… Well, there's lots of words that can be used to describe big things. However, none of them quite encompass >this<. It's an open space with more 'space' to it than the human mind is designed to cope with. If it was not for the 'sky' being an impenetrable blackness with no sign of stars flecked across its surface, one might almost believe this was outdoors and above was the night sky. Instead it is quite apparent this is all indoors/underground. The space above is vast indeed, but so is the space all around! Massive networks of webs in all shapes and sizes link various collections of 'buildings' (though what they're made out of is up to debate). The webs are composed of various colors that at first seem random, but upon closer inspection reveal that they are intended for different purposes. Green appears to be 'road', which spiders of all different proportions travel along to get to wherever they are going. Those going one way walk along the top, while those going a different way walk upside-down on the underside of the webbing roads.
The buildings are clearly organized into 'towns' or at least 'districts'. Perhaps this is all just one incredibly city, with different parts of it suspended in the air! Spiders hang around on threads from some web platforms above, talking to each other, or wrapping up 'food' (don't look too closely at what the food is), or doing any number of other tasks while just… Hanging around!
The path leading directly to the palace is about the only thing that is clearly not made of webs or resin or whatever. It is a mix of white and black marble, and is supported by nothing in particular. Looking down at what lies beneath this marble path is not advised, but just about every human who has ever visited has done so on his or her first visitation regardless. Not too surprisingly, the visitors do not look down on any subsequent trips to Fukaizan. Why? Well… One look down will say way. On the sides and above there is plenty of activity, reaching all the way up until one can no longer see anything. Looking down reveals there is >nothing underneath all this<. It's just a bottomless black pit with no sign of there being a bottom. It seems fully possible that one might die of starvation or dehydration long before one would hit any semblance of a floor, if one were to fall.
Keeping that in mind, Ra says, "Watch your step, Lady Spinner Ryoko." Then he starts walking down the path like it's no big deal. They could at >least< have installed guardrails! At the end of the path, there is a building that dwarfs all other structures in Fukaizan. A palace, definitely. And it's almost completely black, making it hard to pick out from the darkness. Still, that's their destination!
Huffing and puffing with mild exertion, Datura eventually claws her way up to Arachno-Man's position, placing a hand over the lip of the crevasse they were climbing, and pulling herself up. There was a vast difference between traveling long distances horizontally, and moving across them vertically, and even a kunoichi's stamina could be tested by the latter. As she pulls herself up, she gulps a few unladylike mouthfuls of air, then straightens up, pulling at the edges of her kimono to straighten it, then adjusting the sash where it had loosened. With a frown, she also notes that she'd lost a slipper on the climb, bending down to remove her other shoe as well, holding it in her hand. Hopefully she'd be able to recover the other later!
Her bare feet weren't made for standing on rough stone.
As they proceed towards the large palace, down the much smoother marble road, which was easier on her delicate soles, the young blonde takes her time to gape around at the thousands, or perhaps millions, of spiders going about their lives as if they were living in a human city. Or maybe humans had modeled their civilizations after this? Who knew! She doesn't even notice the chasm until they're nearly halfway across, at which point she leans over to look down the side, fully expecting to find yet more layers upon layers of suspended buildings. Instead she finds a vast nothingness that many people often had phobias about.
With her eyes a bit wider, she hurries after her guide, finding herself suddenly channeling chakra to her feet to ensure that there were no sudden slips that would send her tumbling into what looked like eternity.
"Ah-Ah-Ah so! Ra-kun, how exactly will I know when I've received the Spider Queen's blessing to retur- What is that he's over there wrapping up?" Or was it a she? As Datura pointed towards a large arachnid wrapping up it's 'meal', she couldn't be sure.
As the pair proceed along the marble pathway, nothing but emptiness below, Okumo Ra answers Datura's question. "At the moment you are recognized as long as you are with us, Lady Spinner Ryoko. Upon acceptance of the task that our Mistress has for you, something will be granted to you alone to mark you as different from would-be trespassers." Despite the fact that the Okumo are -- or were -- human, Ra's overall behavior so far paints a rather alien picture of his mental state. How long has he been living among these spiders? What kinds of things were done to him to make him the First Okumo? That's not just a title. The Okumo came into being after they began performing the strange and cruel experiments on their bodies and the bodies of their children, in order to augment them and link them to spiders. Who knows what was done to Ra in the early stages, before there was much information about such procedures -- or their side-effects?
For instance, though Datura is certainly less than pleased with the idea of falling off the bridge, neither Ra nor any other spider that has been seen has shown any indication of being concerned with the possibility of falling. Is he really that removed from humanity that he has no fear of plummeting through the darkness for eternity? Before any answer on the matter of wrapping things up can be granted, silent as a ghost and as swift as the wind, a giant spider, black in coloration, simply drops down on a thread and touches down on the bridge with its forelegs. It bars the path. Behind, likely unnoticed given the excellent distraction provided by the gargantuan spider in front, a nearly identical spider also descends and places itself in a position to block any retreat.
"Halt." The spider in the front offers in an odd sort of vibrating, nearly-electronic voice. It sounds nothing like a human voice. This is appropriate, given its source. Ra stops as directed. The giant spider's glistening orbs could be looking at Ra alone, or at he and Datura, or just Datura. Given the lack of pupils or irises, it is hard to tell. A much smaller spider, bearing a scroll and pen, crawls up onto the giant spider's head, and speaks in a high-pitched voice that nonetheless carries adequately. "Name, affiliation, and intentions?" the smaller spider inquires. Ra answers readily, "Okumo Ra. Fukaizan. We are escorting this one to the palace." The small spider marks this down. Then it points at Datura with one leg. "And the other?" Ra responds before Datura can. "Lady Spinner Ryoko. Independent. Journeying to the palace at the request of the Queen." The small spider writes for a moment, and then says, "Make sure to tell her not to wander off alone." Then the tiny spider wanders somewhere else on the guard spider, and the huge arachnid says simply, "Proceed." Then he turns and begins to climb back up his thread, quickly and quietly returning to the shadows above. Behind, the other guard spider does the same, potentially never even being seen.
"Uh… huh. So it's all about sticking close to you, then."
The outcast Yamanaka did not overly enjoy the idea that the length of her lifespan was directly proportional to her proximity to this strange male. While he seemed friendly enough, that was the sort of thing that could be changed at a moment's notice, and really, given the alternatives, she had very little choice other than to plod along in his footsteps and try to stay on his good side.
When the enormous spider drops from out of nowhere, as arachnids seemed to be fond of doing, and demands that they halt, Datura freezes in place behind the Okumo. Though her posture was one of casual waiting, her insides were churning, and her fingers fought to keep still rather than to nervously fidget with each other. The second spider, quiet as can be back there, is neither heard, nor seen. When she's prompted, the blonde wets her lips, then opens her mouth to reply, only to be beaten to it by her escort. As her mouth snaps shut, she merely nods her head in agreement.
And then they're gone, back up into the darkness from whence they came, climbing a silken rope with the speed and grace that only eight legs could give them. As she takes up padding along barefoot in the Okumo's trail once more, Datura holds her arm bent, hand close to her chest, her finger pointing upwards as she leans over to whisper, as though afraid one of the offending arachnids might overhear.
"That spider just… talked. Like human talked! I so want one of those."
Ra turns his head and leans back a bit as he walks in order to hear Datura's whispering better. He nods and responds quietly, "Yes. Those descended directly from the Brood Mother are genetically and intellectually superior to those who have scattered to the four-corners of the world and reproduced amongst themselves. Thousands or even millions of generations after having departed Deep Mountain, the blood of the Queen is much diluted -- to the point that they are essentially just 'common animals' as humans might say. Fresh infusions of blood from the Spider Queen keep the residents of Fukaizan at their full potential, meaning that in addition to being stronger, faster, smarter, and able to use Chakra, they also live much longer. The typical lifespan of a resident of Fukaizan is approximately seven-hundred to eight-hundred years."
Turning to look forward briefly, the enormous Palace of Eight Legs seems no nearer to Datura and Ra. Understandable, given the distance to be travelled, but perhaps vexing to a kunoichi unused to so much walking. Ra returns his attention to Datura as he continues to explain. "By comparison, most of the 'common' spiders in the wild live only one or two years. Some may live longer in captivity, but still far less than Fukaizan residents."
Ra nods to himself, and then turns forward again. After about eight seconds, he turns his head again and asks quietly, "Why are we whispering?"
"Really?" The tone with which Datura asks the question speaks volumes about her belief on the subject, as if she were either trying to wrap her head around the length of life proposed, or she was merely a skeptic at heart and hardly ever took anyone's words at face value. "So this Bloody Fountain of Youth, does that only work for spiders, or does it do it's thing for homo-sapiens, too?"
As the Okumo inquires as to the reason for Datura's hushed tone, the young woman self-consciously looks behind herself, frowning at the empty bridge, then to either side, at the swarms of arachnids crawling across their web-bridges at distances to great to readily overhear. Too great for a human, anyway. Maybe spiders had super-hearing. She scratches self-consciously behind her ear with an index finger.
"I, uh, I dunno. So, does this Spider Queen just let her minions munch on her, or does she excrete it somehow? It's not like birds, is it, with the vomiting into the mouths? Now, spiders have sexual dimorphism, right? So when we're talking Queen-sized spiders, just how big are we talking about?"
For once, the Yamanaka runaway isn't complaining about physical activity or labor! Either she was distracted enough by the subject at hand to forget physical discomfort, or she was trying to be 'tough'. Given what most people knew of the young woman, the former was the most likely scenario. Datura almost always preferred appearing weak.
Ra turns around so that he is facing Datura completely, and walks backwards. Oddly enough, he continues moving at the same pace and with the same precision as with walking forward. A glance down at his legs would reveal that either his knees have reversed direction, or… Or his entire torso just swivelled at the waist, and his lower half continues to face forward! That's… Unexpected. "We do not understand. Perhaps our language skills suffer. Other humans to speak to are rare. We did not mean to imply that the 'blood' spoken of was provided directly by transfusion or consumption. Instead it is the DNA in the blood, and its inheritance by the Queen's children, that grants Fukaizan's people their longevity."
Glancing casually off to the side as he continues walking forward with his upper body facing backwards, Ra says, "Some species regurgitate, but of those that respond to the 'begging' behavior of their children it is more likely that the mother will simply give them her prey -- provided the prey is no longer moving. The Spider Queen is the second most…" He seems to consider his words carefully. "…'Regal' spider in existence. The dimensions of her form match her presence." Is he trying to avoid saying that the Spider Queen is really big? Maybe she's sensitive about her weight.
After a moment of contemplation, Okumo Ra says, "We believe it is possible to temporarily extend the lengthened lifespan of a Fukaizan resident to a human. We have had other human guests that have lived for quite some time. They do not remain forever though. We are presently the oldest human living here, and have been here for the longest period of time out of the others that have lived here recently. The oldest and longest-dwelling of all time would most likely be the Spider Sage. She passed away at the age of almost two-hundred years. It is typically a rather simple matter to obtain longevity, as far as we know. One must merely request it and agree not to leave Fukaizan until one's service is complete. Another fifty years added to one's life is common."
Then he turns his upperbody around with a quiet hissing noise, as though air were being released from containment somehow. "We are approaching the second guard check point," he announces suddenly. "If it were simply us that walked the bridge, there would be no need for the guards to investigate. With a guest, we will either once more need to be checked over, or we will need to provide advance notice of our presence. The latter will permit us to simply continue without interference. Please observe." He then reaches out his right hand to the side. His index finger seems to snag on the air itself, before the ambient light catches on the previously invisible spider thread. When Ra's finger loses contact with the thread, it snaps back into place, the release of tension causing a noise similar to a bow string when an arrow has been let fly.
Nothing happens, and Ra keeps walking. "If we had not provided that notice, at this moment we would be stopped again. If we were unknown to the guards, we would be eliminated rather quickly, rather than merely stopped." There is no sign of how the strumming of that spider thread alerted anyone of anything. If Datura looks up for some sign of spidery guards, she would find nothing but the 'standard' green webbing roads, criss-crossing the air and providing passage to various places.
And out of sight, on the >underside< of the bridge, is a cat-sized spider resting on a web -- with the threads on the top-side presumably attached to it -- and four of those giant guard spiders. They remain stationary, giving no indication that they are even present. If invaders tries to cross the bridge, the guard spiders would probably just ambush them from below, pulling the enemies off the sides of the bridge and either killing them personally, or simply dropping them into the abyss. The silent sentinels under Datura's and Ra's feet remain unremarked upon, and in the case of the former, likely unnoticed.
"Fifty years in exchange for some indentured servitude? Hmph, I'd not want to add fifty years of being a hag onto my existence for that. If I could remain looking young, though…"
Datura does a good job of not cupping her chin and adopting what some have referred to as her 'scheming face', wherein she adopted the squinty-eyed smile that seemed prevalent upon villains in children's comic books. Instead, she keeps her eyes on the Okumo's actions, taking note of what he was doing. Vibro-communications. That'd certainly be a rather handy thing to have for when one needed to communicate silently. If she didn't already have a seal placed on her that allowed the same thing in a much more direct and expedient fashion, not quite as limited by distance.
"So never cross the bridge alone without making sure the guards know that I'm coming. Got'cha."
She had to wonder, but refrained from asking, just who could be more regal than the Spider Queen herself. Given all she knew of insects in general, and arachnids in particular, the females were almost always larger, more aggressive, and deadlier than the males, even EATING them in some cases, which made the sadist in her giddy at the thought of. Maybe there was some sort of Spider 'Empress'? Either way, it wasn't something she needed to worry about in her immediate future! The guards below remain unnoticed by the Yamanaka outcast, but she knew the old saying about arachnids: for every one you see, there's twenty you don't.
"One thing at a time, Dat." The blonde mutters to herself, before speaking up in a more audible tone. "So if the Queen is the mother of most of Fukaizan's children, she must have a lot of consorts, yes? Her own harem of spider-suitors? She doesn't happen to have a red or yellow hourglass on her abdomen, does she?"
Ra shrugs. He either has no confirmation or denial about retaining youth, or simply does not know. At the next question, he answers readily, though. "She does at that. Though only the most worthy are permitted to be her consorts. She chooses these worthy ones personally, though males bold and clever enough to impress her without being chosen may also be allowed to act as mates. As for an hourglass, I have noticed no such mark in my encounters with her."
There is barely any noise in this vast cavern. What noise there is is primarily echoes that may be hours, days, or even weeks old. Still, those nearer by produce various chittering noises that reach the bridge, and some even speak human language. This background noise has been present for awhile now. However, an odd noise, perhaps readily missed by normal humans, joins the background sounds briefly.
It makes Ra stop in his tracks rather suddenly. He stays where he is and tilts his head as though listening. The noise does not repeat. "…Our apologies. We thought we heard--" then his mouth snaps shut as the noise is heard again, a bit louder. It fades into audible range, and then out again. He takes a moment to turn around in place, head looking above and around almost wildly. Then the sound is heard for a third time. In this instance, however, it does not fade away. It simply grows and grows, until it is recognizable. It's the sound of >buzzing<.
Ra mutters fearfully, showing the first sign of true human emotion so far, "…Wasps." The next moment, the sound becomes quite loud indeed, and above Datura and Ra, and near one of the distant walls of the cavern -- likely many miles away -- the stone begins to crumble, and then falls away, boulders large enough to crush the entire town that Datura had been residing in before Ra approached her tumbling into the abyss below. In the newly revealed hole, a mass extrudes from the wall, looking like some bizarre black and yellow tentacle, due to how it seems solid, and yet flexible. As it spreads out more, it is quite evident that it is not a single appendage at all, but merely a cloud of wasps so dense that one could suffocate if caught in the midst of it.
The droning of the wasps is deep and overwhelming. The insects are not left to their own devices, however. Spiders of various sizes and types emerge from just about everywhere. The various buildings in the air, the shadows where nothing had seemed to be previously, and the palace up ahead. All of them disgorge huge numbers of arachnids as they try to mount a defense against one of their two major natural predators. Ra does not simply stand and watch. "Our apologies, Lady Spinner Ryoko. We must find safety at once." So saying, he attempts to snatch up Datura in order to carry her in his arms as though she weighs nothing, and then two pairs of spider-like legs emerge from under his robe -- human-sized -- as he lowers himself towards the ground, and begins dashing at high speed along the bridge's surface. To move so swiftly and so low to the ground, it is abit like being strapped to the underside of a racecar. The marble seems to streak by, and the roaring of the wind >almost< makes the droning of the wasps inaudible.
As the sound becomes more recognizable to her ears, the young blonde raises her eyebrows as she adopts a mild frown towards her guide. "Is that not a normal thing, then?" The answer to her question soon comes in the enormous mass of stone that erupts from the wall of the cavern, more rock than she's ever seen move in her lifetime! Even more than she's ever made someone ELSE believe was moving, like that one child who had a phobia of earthquakes. The sound of the massive terran disturbance reaches them even from the vast distance it comes from, prompting Datura's expression to quickly go rapidly from curiousity to alarm.
She was about to start running herself, being no slouch with her speed, when the male puts his hands on her, an action that she for once does not object to. The young woman wraps her arms about what she assumes is the male's neck as she stares at the onslaught of the invaders over his shoulder, witnessing a battle with numbers that would equal Armageddon, the End of Days, were it humans that were fighting.
Whether spiders died by the ton or not was not of her concern, only that there was enough of them between her and the attackers that she had nothing to fear from them. Given that she was being taken into what she assumed was the main stronghold, she was reasonably sure of this.
"Yes, let's find safety! Somewhere nice and wasp-proof would certainly not be out of the question."
And for once, she wouldn't even care if it lacked the proper accomodations for a lady of her 'standing'!
The battle rages above and around, as 'civilian' spiders flee to prepared evacuation centers. Mother spiders gather their young and vamoose to the nearest sealable structure available. All others have dropped whatever they were doing in order to fight for the survival of Deep Mountain itself. Despite the speed that Ra is moving at, it is still another five minutes of running while wasps -- some dead, some just injured -- fall from above. Luckily, Ra is ahead of the rain of arthropods by at least a few seconds, so the carpet of black and yellow that trails him as he continues to carry Datura fails to actually contact either one of them.
Then the leaders of this wasp invasion make an appearance. Much like there are giant spiders, there are also apparently giant wasps. A few rather large ones squirm and wiggle their way out of the tunnel they have dug, displacing even more of their smaller brethren into the open air, before starting to fly out to engage Fukaizan's defenders as well. The beating of the wings of all those smaller wasps was loud. The vibrations and >wind< produced by the giant wasps beating their wings is like a string of thunderclaps that never stop. The bridge shakes beneath Ra's feet.
Ra notices that one of the giant wasps has four of the giant guard spiders already clinging to, grappling with, and otherwise engaging it. It's only spotted out of the corner of his eyes. But it's enough warning. He stops running, even though the palace is nearly within reach! What is he doing!? He throws his left hand into the air, and all the spiders on his person release a stream of webbing that almost immediately forms into a sort of 'umbrella' shield that prevents any of the smaller wasps from landing on them. One of the guard spiders succeeds in biting into the giant wasp as the four arachnids and one insect tumble towards the bridge.
"Our apologies, Lady Spinner Ryoko," Ra yells over all the noise. "We will be unable to escort you any further! Take this one as your mark of transit!" The glistening diamond-like spider revealed back in the hotel room climbs onto Datura's sleeve and holds on tightly. Ra then switches Datura fully to his right arm, and looks her in the eyes, as the web-shield hides the incoming wasp and attackers from the woman's view. "It was our pleasure to know you." Then he turns halfway, and whips around, >THROWING< Datura with the proportional strength of a spider at human size -- or perhaps greater. She hurtles through the air and towards the palace, and if she's not too busy freaking out, she may catch sight of Ra still standing in the 'throwing' position, when the corpse of the giant wasp lands directly on top of him and his web-shield. That part of the bridge shatters under the impact and the weight. The wasp, guard spiders, and presumably Okumo Ra, are lost to the abyss.
A moment later, Datura lands on something light, yielding, and yet quite durable. A bounce or two on the trampoline-like surface, and then she would likely settle. What did she land on? A giant spider web that waits as a sort of 'reception platform' on one of the palace's however-many floors. Bright-green spiders as big as Datura, though with oddly shaped heads -- almost like inverted cones -- run out onto the web after only a moment's hesitation and begin gathering around Datura, freeing any part of her body or clothing that may have gotten stuck in the webbing, so that she can get to safety inside the palace itself. The battle continues in plain sight, high above.
Was she just CHUCKED at the the building!?
Datura's mind immediately begins to race for a contingency plan, even as she twists her body with the cat-like grace of a martial artist in the air, to put her feet between her and what she suspected was going to be very hard rock she was going to impact. She had one chance to stick, or fall forever down into… well, nothing! And if that happened, she'd have to maneuver herself like a skydiver towards one of the walls and hope the stick to them without terminal velocity completely ripping her clinging limb off.
Not a fun thought.
But before she can think about sticking to the pillow-soft, silken substance she contacts, she finds her flight quite pleasantly, if abruptly, ended, all things considered. Wait… Silken? She was stuck in a spider's web! The initial reaction is much like any creature that's ever been caught in a web: to struggle, which would of course immediately alert any spider connected to the web of something caught in it. And then there's the worry of human-sized spiders skittering towards her with no guide to tell them what a friendly little NOT-EDIBLE guest she was, which only adds to her panicing struggles.
Even the most vile and conscienceless monsters were capable of loosing their cool.
Her eyes lock onto the glittering arachnid attached to her arm. "You remember me, don't you? Tell them- EEEEEE, DON'T EAT ME I'M A GUEST THE SPIDER QUEEN WILL BE PISS-… ed." The shrieking squeal of protest comes to an abrupt end as the blonde-haired kunoichi soon finds her arms, followed by her legs and torso, freed of the sticky webbing, regaining her composure by straightening her kosode and sash. She doesn't even both to thank the spiders that had let her free before she runs, climbs, or plummets, whichever is required, into the body of the palace in order to put solid stone between her and any other enormous, and likely very deadly, flying insects.
Once inside, she plucks the shiny little arachnid from her arm, holding it up in front of her on her palm, frowning at it as she asks over the muffled noise of creatures dying outside. "…Now what?"
The diamond spider seems very subdued and calm, given the situation. It turns on Datura's palm once placed there and points one foreleg down the hall. The hall that Datura is in was lead into via stairs (of all things to find in a spider city) from the arrival-point web. The hall is spacious enough, though after being in the vastness of Fukaizan, it may seem very cramped. Then again, maybe that's more to Datura's liking. Humans >generally< don't like dangling over empty blackness for long periods of time.
Either way, the glittering spider seems to be quite specifically point straight ahead. The hall has many other passages branching off at strange angles, going every which way. Somewhat to be expected, given that spiders can walk on walls and ceilings and everywhere else. But none of the side-passages are Datura's destination, apparently. The walls are various hues, but tend towards black and green, and seem to either have lots of intricates decorative designs, or some kind of writing on them. Do spiders have their own alphabet? If so, this might be it. Largish spiders hurry by on their own business, either trying to shore up the palace's defenses, or whatever else spiders might want to do during a time like this. None attack Datura or indicate they want to do so. If they can speak human, they choose to refrain.
"Hnnh, you don't talk much, do you?"
She didn't know if the little spider was even CAPABLE of speech, nor did she particularly care at this moment. There were giant wasps outside and whatever this little crystal-arachnid's motives were, it was willing to lead her deeper INSIDE, and would hopefully keep her safe from being devoured by it's larger cousings. She places her hand up near her shoulder, scooting the little creature to just about the only natural perch humans had, since she wouldn't be able to see it if she placed it directly on top of her head.
Putting the spider close to her neck probably wasn't the best move if it turned hostile, but then, it could bite her skin just as easily on her palm. The blonde-haired kunoichi begins moving in the direction indicated, blue eyes watching each of the much-larger spiders as they scurry by. She'd have to make a mental note to find a way to open passages back to this place… and send people she didn't care for through those doorways as 'gifts'.
The barefooted Yamanaka begins to ascend the stairs quickly enough, pausing each time the hallway bent, terminated in some sort of cross-tunnel, or otherwise became unclear as to which direction she should proceed, turning an inquisitive frown on her pint-sized guide. While she doesn't really run, Datura does affect a brisk walk. Tarrying too much likely wouldn't earn her any favors, and the more distance she put between herself and hostile, enormous yellowjackets, the better she felt.
She had to resist the urge to hold the little spider up to one of the light sources to see if she could see through it.
The small spider on Datura's palm does not seem to be able to speak, no. Or at least not in human language. It just directs Datura as necessary, wending deeper and deeper into the palace. Eventually, the two find themselves in a larger chamber than the halls that have been traversed so far. There are various web-covered eggsacs attached to the floor and walls, and all kinds of large spiders are tending to them. They look up when Datura enters, and at least one seems to be preparing to do something about her presence, but when they spot the semi-transparent arachnid on her palm, they pause and then relax. And then a spider at least twice as big as the others walks into this egg chamber. She is wearing a pink ribbon on her head.
"What is going on? We have more eggs arriving soon." Then her eyes focus on Datura. All eight of her eyes are like a rabbit's, in some ways. Pink scelera, with a single black blot at the center of each. Though rabbits have irises and pupils, and this one seems to just have pupils with no irises. Either way, her voice, though not standard human, is much more human-like than the Guard Spiders from the bridge. And she even sounds female! (You know, just incase the ribbon didn't tip anyone off)
"Greetings, human. I am Kijogumo, the head attendant of the Mistress's progeny -- born >and< unborn. I see that you have a companion who may vouch for you, but generally speaking it is not advised to come through the Egg Chamber without a good reason. Please, join me over here." The floor may have eggs as tall as Datura's torso is long stuck to it, but it should be easy enough to walk between them and reach the hallway on the other side of the room, where Kijogumo awaits. What would >not< be easy is the whole 'walking on squishy, sticky, and yet somehow not-moist-at-all substances all over the floor'. Maybe it's webbing. Maybe it's discarded egg husks. Whatever it is, it is dry, tends to cling to the bare feet of humans, and is just about everywhere. It's like a really sticky carpet of some kind!
One of the other 'nanny' spiders turns to Kijogumo and speaks in a clearly female human voice, though with an undertone of vibration to it. "Kijogumo-sama," she begins. In addition to the human speech, she also waves her two forelegs around as she speaks. "Are we to move these eggs to the lower levels incase the intruders get this far?" Kijogumo turns her attention on the one who spoke. "Not yet. You will be informed if such is necessary. The invaders are under control, and will soon no longer be a problem." "I see…" the smaller spider responds. "Now return to your duties, please. We have no time for chit-chat!" All the spiders, all apparently female, answers, "Hai!" Then they get back to work.
The blonde-haired young human follows the tiny spider's directions as they are given, without hesitation. There was no use cowering in fear and second-guessing now, not when one was so deep down the rabbit hole that the only way back out would be to accept the Cheshire Cat's help. Assuming the Spider Queen was anything like the Cheshire Cat from that old fable. As they pass through the egg chamber, though, the small hairs on the back of Datura's neck begin to stand up, as if she were entering a zone of heightened danger.
Given that this was where they stored their young, it seemed pretty reasonable, as blue eyes snap onto a particular spider that looked as if it were about to have some objectionable words for her. But that's soon interrupted by the arrival of a spider. Wearing a… ribbon? Datura has to blink twice at that, before hiding an amused smile. Even spiders wanted to look pretty, she supposed.
"Is being lost during a wasp invasion an insufficient reason? If so, well, pardon the in… tru… Ugh."
Lady Spinner Ryoko doesn't quite finish her apology as she makes her way across the floor in Kijogumo's wake, having to YANK her foot up with each step so as not to get too mired in whatever muck was coating the floor. She spends the first ten steps or so grumbling such things as 'what is this' and 'eugh, this better not be afterbirth' before accepting her fate a bit more quietly. Hopefully this wouldn't extend for too much longer past this chamber, or every time she lifts her foot, she might start leaving layers of skin behind!
"I suppose you can escort me to the Brood Mother, then? My guide seems to have fallen behind to have a rather terse disagreement with the, ah, 'invaders'. I don't believe it went well for him."
Kijogumo continues to lead the way. Once they are in the hall on the other side of the Egg Chamber, the sticky substance is no longer present on the floor or walls. "I apologize, but unfortunately I am slightly preoccupied. I can not personally escort you. But I know who can!" Then she pauses in the hallway, turning in place by rearranging where her legs are in sequence, and then peers down a side-passage. "If I could just find him…" Then she lifts one leg up to her mandibles and calls out, "Arujiiii~!" She waits as her voice echoes down the tunnel. "…Arujiiiii~! Your waifu is calling for youuu~!" She waits some more.
"…KIMIGUMO, COME HERE AT ONCE!" she finally screeches. Shortly after that, the voice of a male can be heard calling back, and growing closer. "I'm coming! I'm coming!" Then a spider about the same size as the Nanny Spiders from the Egg Chamber comes out of a hallway in the ceiling, and approaches. As he walks on the ceiling, his eyes seem to shift focus from the large female spider to the small female human. His eyes are similar to his wife's, but the rings around the black blot at the middle are golden and appear to be 'granulated' in texture, even though the surface is quite smooth. Maybe that just the interior of the eye, beyond the lenses?
Either way, when he is close enough he heads down the wall and then hops to the floor easily, before turning to face the two females. There was something odd about the male spider from the moment Datura saw him, but it is now apparent what the odd thing was. He is wearing a top hat! No monocle though. He executes a fair imitation of a formal bow to Datura. "How do you do, Miss? I do not believe I have seen you about before. I am Kimigumo." Kijogumo waits impatiently for this greeting to be gotten out of the way. There's a bit of tension radiating from her for some reason.
Raising himself back into a normal standing position (for a spider), he folds his two forelegs together in an almost human gesture, as he asks with concern in his voice, "Is that outfit warm enough for you? The Palace can sometimes be drafty, and I would hate for you to be chilled! The material appears to be quite high-quality however." He moves closer to Datura, and then pauses in the middle of extending one of his forelegs towards her. "May I sample the texture?" Kijogumo interrupts this odd exchange with, "Nevermind that! Your >wife< is standing right here and you have yet to even ask what she wants!" Kimigumo responds in a hurt tone, "My apologies, dearest, but I would be showing poor manners indeed if I were to ignore this young beauty or fail to provide a greeting and an introduction."
Kijogumo responds rather venomously (and almost literally, as something green starts to drip from her mouth and hiss on the floor), "You may >greet< her and >introduce< yourself, and then you may return your attention to >me<." Kimigumo's brow furrows (somehow. Spiders don't really have brows, but he does it anyway) as he says, "Very well, then. What is it you needed, dearest?" Kijogumo seems to regain her composure after a moment, reigning in both her temper and her venomous saliva, as she answers, "She needs to be escorted to the Queen. She is apparently a guest, or has otherwise had her presence requested." Kimigumo seems to perk right up as he says, "Ah-hah! Ah-hah, I see! And thus you wish for me to act as that escort, correct? Well, let us not keep the Mistress waiting! Please follow me, Miss. We will leave at once!" Kijogumo eyes her husband as he holds out one foreleg in the same way a human man might offer his arm.
"Escorting does not require >touching<." Kimigumo scoffs. "Come now, dearest. There is no reason to be jealous." Kijogumo sputters, "Jealous--JEALOUS!? >Why would I be 'jealous'<!? You are a spider and she is a human! >Are you saying I have something to be jealous about<!?!" Kimigumo responds placatingly, "Of course not, dearest! Now, let us be off. What did you say your name was, Miss? And are you certain that that garment is comfortable enough for you?" He wanders off down the hall, chatting with Datura -- assuming she follows at least -- while Kijogumo stays behind and seethes. The ground steams where her venom lands.
The kunoichi cringes as the large, ribbon-adorned arachnid next to her screeches out the name of the one she is calling, apparently her… husband? Spider-marriange, who knew! As the male in the tophat, which was very hard for Datura not to laugh about, does his bow, she affects her own winning smile, and does a perfect imitation of a curtsey, holding out the edges of her kosode slightly as she dips her head and bends her knees. It felt as if she were in a bad, and very macabre play. Or under the effect of some sort of hallucenogenic drug.
Wouldn't it just be the height of irony if someone had slipped some of her namesake into her drink?
"Thank you, Kimigumo-san. I am Lady Spinner Ryoko, apparently. Now that you mention it-"
But before any garment samplings can be done or complaints about the dress, or lack thereof, can be registered, the tension in the room jumps up several levels as the overbearing Kijogumo begins to lay into the mild-mannered Kimigumo. During this, as venom begins to drip on the floor causing her to curl her toes up towards herself and hope she doesn't receive any 'splash damage', Datura apparently finds something VERY INTERESTING in the tiny crystal spider's form, studying it as if she could find the cure, or woe, for all the world's troubles within. Anything to not come between the marital scuffles of two enormous beasts who likely wouldn't consider her much more than a morsel to wash down their REAL dinner with.
When the foreleg of one of the male's eight arms is offered up to her, the blonde reaches out a hand to accept the limb, only to hesitate in mid-air as the larger of the two arachnids objects. With a sly smile, and hurried footsteps to get out of convenient spitting, or pouncing, range, Datura daintily places her hand on Kimigumo's arm as she allows herself to be escorted off. "Don't worry, Kijo-chan. I'll return him in as good a condition as I found him."
"Ah, 'Lady Spinner Ryoko' was what that Okumo Ra fellow called me, but I much prefer 'Datura'. I could use some shoes." The outcast Yamanaka indicates her barefeet by turning her blue eyes down pointedly to them. "And perhaps a real kimono. I've been roaming about all of Fukaizen in underwear thus far, and have found it to be less than pleasant."
Kimigumo nods, attention fixated on the human he is escorting. "I see. A pleasure to make your acquaintance, Datura-san. Yes, that Okumo fellow sticks strictly to the letter of Fukaizan's customs in regards to titles. Females tend to have one of two titles, 'Huntress' or 'Lady Spinner', as opposed to the male 'Hunter' or 'Spinner'. Technically it should be applied to males and females of any species, according to our customs, but I find it makes for a much friendlier environment to omit titles in casual conversation."
"As for your clothing needs, I do happen to have a… Collection, let us say, of clothing suited to human females. It is a bit of a hobby of mine to collect human garments. If you do not mind a brief detour, I could certainly attempt to find something that would fit you." He glances around as he and Datura exits the hall they had been in, onto a broad, flat area that overlooks a large pit of some kind. Not as large or as deep as the abyss outside the palace, but still not the sort of thing one would want to fall into without a parachute.
"It would take only a moment, most likely." Is it just the imagination or is Kimigumo looking at Datura's legs? "And aside from that, meeting with the Queen in one's underwear is not really something commonly done." The diamond spider takes this moment to wave its forelegs about it at Kimigumo. "…What? Oh, please! I know very well that the Queen does not enjoy being kept waiting! But as I said, customs dictate--" More gesticulating. "--Do not try to use my words against me! Casual conversation and meetings are one thing, but a meeting with the >Queen< is another entirely! She should be dressed appropriately. It is simply proper!" The diamond spider points only one foreleg forcefully and directly at Kimigumo. "How dare you insinuate such a thing! Of course I love my wife! And rumors are merely rumors. I have never been disciplined even >once< for >that<, so I believe it is fairly evident that the whisperings of others hold no value."
The crystalline spider crosses its forelegs in the way a human might cross his or her arms over his or her chest. "We are wasting time here. However, ultimately it is up to Datura-san. She has requested more appropriate clothing. I am willing to provide it. However, if she wishes to proceed to the meeting in her undergarments, she certainly may." Kimigumo turns his attention on Datura. "What say you, dear lady?"
"He did seem rather stuffy, didn't he? I wonder if he'll be returning…"
The blonde-haired Yamanaka couldn't quite make up her mind if she'd rather he stay gone or reappear, but ultimately pushes the thoughts from her mind as the more immediate clothing situation comes back. She casually lifts an eyebrow as she cuts a sideways glance at her escorting male spider.
"This 'collection' wouldn't happen to be from a variety of young women you've lured back to your chambers and made a snack of, would it? Being digested disagrees with my complexion."
Pausing in their walk in the large pit-area, Datura looks back in the direction of the hallway they'd just come from, then around the spacious interior, as if seriously considering the offer with a tiny frown. The rough rock below was certainly beginning to chafe at the skin of her feet, and unlike most shinobi, she did not take excessive measures to ward herself of most notions of physical discomfort. The disagreement breaks out before her mind can reach a concensus.
The blonde-haired kunoichi's eyes flick back and forth between the tiny messenger spider and the larger, top-hat wearing one, doing her best to keep the mild amusement off of her face. She manages, mostly, other than the miniscule smirk that tugs at her lips. Finally, when she's addressed directly, Datura inclines her head.
"I'd hate to keep my gracious hostess waiting, only to meet her when she's in a foul, and hungry, mood. If you'd allow me to climb on you, Kimi-kun, we could travel faster, couldn't we?" A hand toys with the lapels of her kosode. "And then we could see to the state of my dress right after, before I freeze in this thin little garment."
Kimigumo seems apalled by the suggestion. "Eat a young woman!? How barbaric! I have done no such thing, of that you can be assured, Datura-san." He hhmms thoughtfully, and then says, "You are quite correct, of course. The Queen must not be kept waiting. If she objects to your present attire, I will simply suggest to postpone the meeting until the problem has been remedied. Yes, yes. Please climb aboard, by all means!" He lowers himself towards the ground, and waits patiently for Datura to climb onto his back. "You need not worry. The moment the meeting is over I shall seek out and find you garments that you find warm and comfortable."
The crystalline spider makes its way to a perch where it won't interfere with Datura climbing onto the top hat-wearing spider's back. Having only one hand available would make it difficult. Touching Kimigumo is nowhere near as unpleasant as most women would imagine touching a giant spider might be. His back is coated in a thin layer of soft fur, and though spiders are not exactly well-known for producing vast amounts of heat, he is at least warmer than the stone floor.
As the chibi-spider crawls about on her to wherever it would find itself most comfortable, the blonde-haired kunoichi proceeds to climb aboard the much larger arachnid. She uses his legs as stepping stones until she can grab a few tufts of the fur and clamber aboard the male's thorax, with a light, cheery, not-that-contrite "Sorry!" as she yanks a bit on the hairs in order to get herself settled. Once there, she straddles his body as best she can, adjusting her kosode about her legs for modesty. Once situated, she pats the large creatures back to show her readiness to resume traveling, giving a small sigh of relief to have her feet off of the floor.
"Ready, Kimi-kun. Try not to go so fast that I might tumble off. …Is there anything you can tell me about the Queen before I meet her?"
As she rides, Datura's hands find the fur of the enormous spider's exoskeleton, preparing to dig her hands in for any sudden bursts of speed, sharp turns, or vertical movement in order not to fall off. Sure, she could probably use her chakra in order to cling to him, but she'd just consider it payback for making her cling so desperately in the first place!
"And I don't suppose you can tell me this little guy's name?" Her blue eyes snap onto the presumably younger, crystal spider clinging to her person.
Kimigumo keeps most noises of discomfort or pain to a minimum as Datura settles herself. Then he rises gradually to 'normal' height, and says, "Not to worry, Datura-san! Your safety and comfort are my first priorities." Then he begins moving a bit faster than the previous pace set when simply walking alongside Datura. Still, because of the stability of eight legs, as opposed to two or four, there is minimal bouncing or shifting about. Because at least four legs are in contact with the ground at any time, it is much more level on the spider's back than it would be on a horse's.
"Well, she is a magnificent Queen, of course. Strict, yet fair. Excellent judge of character. Oh, and she is much less prone to spontaneity than some less, err, 'experienced' individuals. Careful thought and planning is put into just about everything. That is not to say she does not know how to relax or have fun, though. Why, just a week ago there was a party to celebrate the Princess coming of age…" It seems Kimigumo has much to say on the subject of the Queen, though he does not go into too much detail, and keeps the subject matter light and occasionaly even humorous. Eventually, as he skirts the edge of the cliff that overlooks the canyon below, he changes the subject briefly.
"Oh, that is Shingumo. She is considered one of the Queen's most skilled Far-Sensors among her generation." He does not seem as enthusiastic in saying this as when he was speaking of the Queen, but Shingumo seems quite pleased with the description regardless. Don't ask how it's possible for the tiny spider to seem pleased. She just does. Changing the subject once again, Kimigumo says, "Please forgive me if my asking is too forward, Datura-san, but from the feel of you on my back… Well, what exactly is it that you are wearing other than that abbreviated robe-like garment?"
Perhaps fortunately for Datura, she >might< not have to answer that question. Just around the corner of the cliff face that Kimigumo is walking half-on and half-off, so that the angle on his back does not tip his passenger off, a ring of lights appears to be floating in a sea of darkness. Within the ring, very long and semi-transparent curtains of some sort of gauzy material -- spider silk maybe? -- appear to be draping down from somewhere above, concealing whatever or whoever is also in the ring. A closer look would reveal that there is actually some sort of black marble platform that the lights are on the edges of, and that the platform is immense. There is no wind or even a slight breeze in this cavern, but the draping silk seems to waft and billow regularly, as though in time to the breathing of some great creature.
"…Ah, here we are. This is the place that the Queen uses for meeting with applicants and advisors and so forth. Once we reach that platform your meeting may begin!"
"Oh, Shin-chan! Why didn't you tell me you were a girl-spider?"
Datura's eyebrows raise as her vision snaps onto the crystalline arachnid, as if she were shocked to find out that the little bug even had a gender. She frowns as she looks speculatively at it a moment longer, as if there were some sort of visual indicator she could use to try and judge it's gender. But really, all she could see was a pretty insect!
As they ride, the runaway kunoichi tries to file away and review all that she's thus far learned of the illustrious Queen of Deep Mountain. She's lost enough in thought that she almost misses the last question, snapping out of her reverie with a mild sound of inquisitiveness. Her eyes snap down towards the back of her arachnid mount's head, her lips quirking up into a tiny smirk, even as her legs hold on tighter in order to remain secure with the awkward walking angle.
"Mmm? Kimi-kun, it is impolite amongst humans to inquire about a lady's undergarments. But I'm afraid that this scarce protection is all that I have on at the moment. I had slippers, but they were lost on the way here. The land I was residing in at the time of my departure for here was far too warm to sleep in layers. I hope this doesn't make you too uncomfortable."
The outcast Yamanaka's eyes rise from her arachnohorse up to the appraoching platform, covered as it is by the silken curtains of webbing, or perhaps some collected human-made material. She reaches down and pats the large creature's back again on it's fur. "Thank you for the escort. Hopefully after the audience, I'll still be in enough pieces to get properly dressed."
Shingumo seems to shrug or at least spread her forelegs in a helpless gesture. How could she have told Datura? It doesn't seem she can speak human languages, or else she likely would have done so by now. Kimigumo, a bit later, coughs (or makes a sound like a cough) and says, "Oh, I am terribly sorry, Datura-san. It was not my intention to be rude. I shall keep in mind this custom in the future. And no, not at all! I am not uncomfortable in the slightest! I merely wish that there was something I could to cover you and keep you warm >right now< as opposed to later…" He trails off, presumably to focus on the task of reaching that platform.
Once the narrow ledge along the cliff face widens again, turning into flat ground, Kimigumo is able to move in a stable manner again. Two giant Black Widows stand in front of the canyon's edge, seemingly guarding the Queen's platform. However, there is also nothing linking the this broader expanse of flat ground to the platform. The two guards are guarding empty air. Is this so that only spiders can reach the platform? Is Kimigumo going to start web-slinging and swing across the canyon!?
Nope. Once he approaches, and the guards take notice of him, he bows low to them, taking off his hat as he does so. "Datura-san, alias 'Lady Spinner Ryoko', to see the Queen." The Black Widows are both, perhaps oddly, wearing various pieces of armor. It is crafted to fit their forms, not a human one, so it is likely that they were not simply scavenged from human lands. What appears to be a spear -- one per spider -- is strapped at an angle across the back of each Widow. Why do spiders need spears? They don't even have hands! That aside, one of the guards asks in a velvetty female voice, "And she is expected?" Kimigumo nods as he rises and replaces his hat. "Absolutely. Her escort was originally Okumo Ra, but apparently he stayed behind to help deal with the intruders. …Or something to that effect?" He turns his head slightly so that he can look at Datura on his back for confirmation.
The female guard seems to consider the words, but also does not appear to be in any great hurry to accomodate Kimigumo or Datura. When Shingumo starts waving her legs around and apparently speaking in the nearly-silent tongue of spiders, however, the guard nods. "Very well. The audience shall commence." Then she turns and calls out to no one in particular, "Bridge for one human!" Her voice echoes in the large cavern, and a moment later, two balls of ghostly cyan fire spring into existence on either side of a previously unseen square of… Glass? Crystal? Some smooth and light-distorting material. Then another two fireballs appear beyond the first two, revealing yet another square of reflective substance. This continues until a 'bridge' has been revealed, leading from the edge of the plateau to the Queen's platform.
It is only wide enough for a single human, but unlike the marble bridge that lead to the palace, there are clearly visible 'ropes' of silvery webbing that 'box in' those travelling on the glass bridge. Presumably they are sturdy enough that they would not break if leaned on or used as a handrail. Kimigumo offers, "Err… Am I not to accompany Datura-san to the audience, then?" The guard that spoke before answers, "You are not expected not scheduled for an audience. The audience is with the Lady Spinner, and Okumo Ra. Okumo Ra is not available, thus the audience will proceed without him." "Ah," Kimigumo offers, seeming disappointed. "Oh, well. I shall await the conclusion of this meeting, Datura-san. Once it is over, I shall carry you to a warm and human-appropriate room to change! Good fortune to you." He lowers himself so that Datura can climb or slide off, and waits.
"Oh, I'm sure we can survive with the discomfort just a while longer."
But the conversation about warmth and clothing trails off as the edge of yet another abyss is reached, halting before a pair of guards. While Black Widows were rather ungainly-looking spiders, with a boulbous body and tiny legs and head, nowhere near as massive and powerful as the tarantula family, few arachnids evoked such fear in humans as the sight of those telltale hourglass signs and their portents of potent venom. Not to mention tales of them eating their own mates. As her escort/mount looks back towards her for confirmation as to whom was her original escort, she nods mildly, piping up in response.
"Yes, the last I saw of him, he was making quite a valiant stand in my own defense." The last she actually saw of him was being crushed and thrown into the bottomless pit outside the palace, but she'd keep that bit of bad news to herself. They might just eat the messenger around here. "I do hope he'll be okay."
Upon the discovery that the male spider is not to accompany her, and once he begins to lower himself towards the ground to ease her descent, as if she were a porcelain princess instead of a trained assassin, the blonde-haired kunoichi swings her legs over and slides lithely to the ground, landing with a small, high-pitched oomph on her feet. As she straightens, she tugs her kosode back into a presentable form, tightens her sash, and then begins to step forward.
"Thank you, Kimi-kun. Departing with shoes and full clothing will likely be much more enjoyable."
Should one of the guard-spiders object to the young woman's diamond shoulder-companion, Datura would leave Shingumo behind as well, placing her gently on the ground. Otherwise, she pauses just this side of the near-invisible bridge, sucking in, and then letting out a deep breath, before padding her bare feet across it's smooth, cold surface. She could feel the gooseflesh from the chill air already spreading throughout her body.
Shingumo is not commented on, either because she is permitted, or because she is overlooked. Most likely the former, since she is Datura's 'proof of passage'. Without Shingumo, there is no reason a random wandering spider would not just grab Datura and take a bite out of her face. After crossing over the bridge, the platform beyond is comparatively pleasant. The floor lights up wherever Datura touches, seemingly producing the illumination from within somehow. What was assumed to be black marble is also warmer than stone left in a chilly cavern should be. So Datura's feet, at least, should be somewhat warmer than they were on the bridge. Her presence is also rather easily detected, due to the glow from below lighting her up.
Out of sight beyond the gauzy drapes, the warm air current continues to flow, making those same drapes flutter about. The air smells like roses, but also has an undercurrent of something less pleasant to it. It's hard to define, but it's there. A sour scent that tinges the sweeter. "So," says a powerful, guttural, and yet feminine voice. The draping material reacts to the expulsion of air that accompanies the word. "You have arrived at last."
The blonde-haired kunoichi pauses once she reaches the seemingly floating platform, sighing with relief as the floor lights up and her feet feel suddenly much warmer than the cold stone she had thus far been forced to walk on. She takes a brief moment to glance down at them and scrunch up her toes a few times, enjoying the feel of her limbs being not-cold for once. She detects the change in odors, but only subconsciously, not placing much importance on what her olfactory sense was trying to tell her at the moment. With glow coming from the ground not guiding her anywhere, merely following her footsteps, Datura begins to look towards Shingumo for guidance on where to go from here…
Only to be assaulted by a voice powerful enough to expel wind at her when it spoke. If it wasn't for the fact that the disembodied voice was obviously feminine, she expected it would have been a ground-shaking baritone that could cause small avalanches.
"Yes, I am here as requested." Blue eyes try to squint through the curtains of silk and darkness to make out what lay beyond, but are thus far thwarted in her efforts to do so. She doesn't attempt to walk any closer. "I ran into several unexpected delays, I'm sure you've been told of them, but your, ah, 'children' have been very accomodating." It was hard not to fidget while being confronted with a terrfyingly disembodied voice, but she manages. Barely.
There is no response to Datura's words at first. The breathing just continues. Then there is a sudden electrical >crack< and a bolt of violet energy flashes from somewhere beyond the curtains. It provides a glimpse of a silhouette for a half second. Then another energy bolt crackles through the air. Then a more steady source of violet lighting seems to come into existence, providing a backdrop against which the outline of the Spider Queen's body can be seen. Massive is an understatement. The largest spider that Datura has encountered so far would be less than 1/10th as big as this one. She seems to be hanging in the air from some form of suspension. A giant web? A single thread -- thicker than Datura is tall? It's unclear.
"You are uncomfortable." The voice that sends vibration wave strong enough to be felt on Datura's skin is not asking a question. "To be cautious is understandable. To be fearful is to invite predation." Apparently the Spider Queen can detect Datura's fear. Or perhaps she is just guessing. Either way, there is an odd noise, almost like the sound of suction terminating abruptly as the source of the suction is obstructed. Accompanying the noise is the visual effect of the enormous arachnid body that was previously looming over Datura shrinking and collapsing, and then squashing down and reshaping itself into a humanoid form.
There is the click of heeled shoes on the platform's surface, and the silhouette of the new shape that the Queen has taken on comes closer and closer. She brushes aside one last curtain, leaving the violet light that was produced by some sort of torch or lantern or something to die out. Standing before Datura is a human woman.
Or she looks human-enough at first glance. Her skin has a sort of greenish-grey mottling, and her pale, and yet exquisitely elegant face seems to be a bit sharper and thinner than normal for human women. Her eyes are pure black, with a red ring at the center of each. Her hair is ebony, and drawn up into a regal bun, with a jagged crown on her forehead. She is slender, but the width of her hips and the size of her chest show that she is older and more mature than Datura. Which makes sense, given that she is the mother of who-knows-how-many spiderlings.
She is wearing a black cloak with crimson trim, and a black corset underneath. A long, black, pleated skirt conceals her legs, but her feet are adorned with black high-heeled shoes, with thin leather straps lacing up her shins and out of sight under the skirt. "I trust that this is a more comfortable form for me to take." Again, she is not really asking. But at least now her voice sounds human and isn't making the very air shake whenever she speaks.
"The reason I have had you brought to me is simple… The youngest of my Prime Daughters is finally old enough to depart Fukaizan in search of her first consort. In human terms, she seeks a 'husband' with whom to establish her own nest elsewhere in the world. Princess Nefura is inexperienced in many ways, especially in regards to interactions with humans. She is thus vulnerable to potential harm, trickery, or errors in judgement. You, however, possess an affinity for my people. This affinity makes you well-suited to the task I now assign you."
Walking slowly, steadily, gracefully towards Datura, the Spider Queen manages to give off the sensation that she is a predator, plain and simple. No matter what form she has taken on, it would be hard indeed to conceal the cold, calculating, and >hungering< presence she exudes. She may be speaking to Datura civilly at the moment, but she is not providing any pretenses of seeing the shorter and younger female as a 'person' so much as a 'potential meal'. The Queen advances to within a few feet of Datura and then stops.
"Nefura requires an escort until she finds her consort. When she safely locates her mate, your task will be completed. Educating her on various aspects of human culture is encouraged, but not required. As a reward, you shall be granted access to the Spider Contract, and knowledge of how to perform the Summoning Technique. You may then call upon my children at any time in order to aid you in whatever endeavours you feel important. If Shingumo reports that you have performed particularly well, an additional reward >may< be provided to you… Of course, if you fail in your task, or my dear daughter comes to harm…"
The Queen smiles a slow, small, and highly unpleasant smile with her black-toned lips. The rest of her face and body give no indication of being amused. "I could provide a demonstration of what would happen to you, but the terror might cause you to act… Erroneously. It would be best if you retained your good judgement."
"It can be an understandable reaction to entering the domain of beings whose likenesses humans are taught to fear from infancy in nothing but one's undergarments."
Datura's lips form a small frown as she defends her stance of 'fear', or excess caution, as she preferred, placing a hand on her hip. The outline of the spider was almost a comfort, with it's immense size. She doubted a creature that size would call her all the way here just for a meal when it seemed she could barely serve as a toothpick for such a beast! But she ultimately decides that keeping her mind on being a toothpick was not going to help in these negotiations.
Datura holds her ground as the shape before her begins to merge into itself, shrinking and distorting. Whatever was going on, she probably didn't want to have a good view of it, anyway, and yet despite herself, the blonde kunoichi can't help but show a few hints of surprise on her features at what steps out form behind the curtains, her eyebrows moving up towards her golden hairline. She smiles amiably and inclines her head at the comment about the Spider Queen's form.
With uncustomary patience, for those she spent a great deal of time around anyway, Datura listens to the task 'requested' of her by the inhuman entity stalking slowly closer. She couldn't stop her palms from becoming warm and damp any more than she could stop the heart beating in her chest from thumping harder, faster, or the blood in her veins from quickening, warming her body to nearly uncomfortable levels. Fear was there, to be sure, but in equal, or perhaps even greater, parts was excitement, the intoxicating rush of being so close to such a dangerous being nearly causing the much younger woman to quiver. Nearly.
"Mmm…" Pretending to mull the offer over, the Yamanaka outcast reaches up, running a finger along the underside of her jaw as her eyes narrow in thought. "Don't worry, I've seen enough of your distant cousins feeding to have an idea. It does seem an appropriate payment for such a task. But what would one of your daughters want with a human male as a consort? Are your kind and mine able to- ahem, or am I merely escorting her to another's lair?"
The Queen's smile fades away. Which is alright, since it wasn't a genuine smile to begin with. "It is possible, with certain preparations, for our two peoples to intermingle their bloodlines, yes. Provided the two subjects are anatomically compatible, at least. However, whether she chooses a human male or an arachnid male is up to her. She will have to make a judgement on the quality of a potential consort. There are others of my people in the world of humans that are suitable for mating and yet have never set foot in Fukaizan. By mixing the bloodlines of those who have long been apart from us, there is greater diversity in the resulting offspring. Diversity means survival."
Shrugging slightly, the spider in human form says, "Of course, if the diversity is too great, or the beginning material was flawed, then the resulting children would not survive for long. That is why Nefura must choose >carefully< and >wisely<." Before the woman-looking beast can say anything further, there is a sudden high-pitched voice like a teenaged human girl that rings out through the cavern. "Hey! Hey! Heeeey! Don't start the meeting yet! I'm here!--Hey, why isn't the bridge ready yet!? Didn't you see me coming!?!" "Bridge for the Princess!" The *fwoosh*ing of cyan fire blooming in the darkness is audible, and visible if Datura looks behind her. Running across the reflective darkness, is… Exactly what her voice indicated she was. A teenaged human girl. Her fiery red hair flies out behind her as she approaches the platform. The mother of the incoming Spider Princess shows no sign of anger, joy, or anything else, but her voice bespeaks of great suffering and frustration. "…And, sadly, wisdom is something she is lacking."
Nefura skids to a halt next to the Queen, bowing briefly to her. She is wearing even less than her mother, in the form of a black latex bikini and thigh-high black latex boots, and elbow-length black latex gloves. She has a similar build to Datura herself, though she's a bit shorter. She waves briefly to Datura without even looking, and then returns full attention to her mother. "I got here as fast as I could! I heard that a human was found that can be my guide. Is it true!?"
The broad, happy smile on the red lips of the Princess is gradually extinguished as the icy gaze of the Queen bores into her silently. "It is true that an escort has been located--" Nefura regains her smile and squeals gleefully, hopping up and down in place and clapping her hands rapidly and lightly in front of her chest. "That's great! So where is he? Is he handsome? Is he strong? Does he have tasty blood!?" The Queen extends her left arm lightning-fast, striking Nefura in the face with the back of her hand. The force is enough that the red-haired princess goes flying from the blow, rolling in the air, until she hits the platform and slides several feet. She sits up quickly, and rubs her cheek like she had barely been hit at all. "Wh-What was that for, mother!?"
The Queen says, "Incase you failed to notice, there is a guest here, and you are making a bad impression on her." The Princess looks towards Datura with eyes the same as the Queen's, though the rings at the center of each pure-black eye are green instead of red. "…Oh!" She scrambles to her feet and bounces over to rejoin the Spider Queen and the human. The Queen waits for Nefura to settle herself, hands foldly demurely at her waist, waiting patiently. Then she says, "This human woman will be your escort." The Princess blinks in surprise at Datura, as though just noticing she existed. She points and looks back to her mother. "Her!?" The Queen says, "Yes. I would not trust a human male to keep you safe, and none were found with an affinity for our kind regardless. Men of the human race are prone to lapses in judgement around women they find attractive." Nefura takes a moment to figure that out. "…Oh. Right. We, uhh… Wouldn't want that!" Then the Princess turns her attention on Datura more fully. Sticking our her tongue and making weird human gang hand-signs she asks, "Wazzuuuuuppp?" The Queen raises a hand to strike her daughter again, but Nefura scuttles backwards quickly. "It's okay! That was just a very friendly human greeting! I saw a man use it before!" The Queen lowers her hand at her daughter's explanation. "When?" "…Just before I ate him. He kept talking gibberish at me. 'Wrapping' or something. I don't know why he called it that, since it's not like he was using webs on anything. He was just sort of rhyming words and talking fast and I couldn't understand anything he was saying, so I ate him."
The Brood Mother decides to abandon this line of inquiry. "Datura, or perhaps 'Lady Ryoko', will tell you what is an appropriate greeting and what is not. Listen to her words and follow her instructions. She is wiser than you by far, despite living for less than 5% as long as you have." Nefura pouts. "Hmph. I don't need a Nanny! Let's go, human! I want to get started right away!" The Queen lets out some air through her nose, trying to avoid letting annoyance get the better of her. "I will return you to the entrance into the tunnels, Datura. Your substitute escort will be informed of your departure."
She then places a hand on Datura's chest, right over her heart, and there is a brief mix of burning and tingling as something is printed on the blonde's skin. "You have my blessing to travel the halls and Fukaizan as necessary." Then a blast of what feels like hurricane force wind slams into Datura and carries her right off the platform. Was she just thrown again? Is she going to plummet into the canyon and die!? A moment later, the darkness resolves into the walls of the cave tunnel she first arrived in. Above her is solid rock, and yet she just came >down< from up there! Behind her is the door leading out into the hotel room, and visible through the doorway is both the hotel room and a number of people standing around and gawking. A couple bundles of webbing in the shape of humans lie on the floor where there had been none before.
Before you the volatile young blonde can respond, the sudden introduction of a new voice screeching it's way onto the scene causes her head to turn, and her body to follow suit so that she can look behind her towards the newest bridge being formed, across which is running… not exactly what she expected from a 'Spider Princess'. But then, what about a city of spiders was exactly 'expected'? Calculating blue eyes take in the form that sweeps quickly across the newly-lit construct, in much the same manner as she'd taken in her newest team mate inside of Ankoku cave. Unlike then, however, Datura isn't so unwise as to be casually dismissive of the Queen's daughter right in front of her.
The kunoichi's eye twitches at the sound of the sudden blow, almost a wince of sympathy, her eyes tracking the flight of the younger arachnid-in-human-form. The power demonstrated in the blow causes her blood pressure to rise a notch or two briefly as her heart surges. Outwardly, she does a very good job of remaining impassively calm.
The strange greeting brings forth the sudden urge to sigh and pinch the bridge of her nose as she squeezes her eyes shut from the blonde, but she tempers the urge and instead makes a gentle, lazy swiping motion with her hand. "Men are idiots, Nefura-hime. Never imitate anything they do." There's not much more time to hand over some more pearls of wisdom lambasting men as the scourge of the earth, because soon enough, the Queen is laying a rather personal touch onto the Konoha-native, causing her to gasp as her eyes widen, the unique feel of the brand being placed into unlike few things she's ever felt.
The last thought she had before being thrown into darkness is that she hoped the mark wouldn't be visible, and thus mar her unblemished skin.
It's several long moments before Datura is able to regain her senses enough to regain her balance and get to her feet, yanking at the ends of her thigh-length kosode. The garment was all but ruined by now, and would have to be trashed. But more immediately, the kunoichi-turned-diva realizes, is the problem of just how to explain what had been going on, why she was coming out of a strange doorway to an other-worldly tunnel, and why there were bundles of webbed shaped like people all over the floor! Even as her bare foot exits the tunnel and strikes the hardwood floor, she's come up with the only reasonable solution that wouldn't begin to sprout rumors about her that might harm her chances of fulfilling her original mission.
"Nefura-hime, I require your assistance. These people have entered my room unbidden," The blonde talks about them like they're not even there, even as she makes eye contact with most of them in turn, her chakra seeking to link their minds in preparation for genjutsu. "And their gossip will endanger both our cover, and my efforts to aid you. …None of them must leave this room alive."
Even as she finishes speaking, the young blonde makes a hand seal, unleashing the first horrific illusion upon the target nearest the door.
Nefura lands in the tunnel much more gracefully than Datura did, seeming to simpl float down out of the ceiling like a ghost and land on the tips of her toes. She looks with interest past Datura and out into the hotel room. "…Oh, hey! Look at all that >light< out there! Wow!" She wanders out of the doorway after 'Lady Ryoko', and looks eagerly at everything and everyone, drinking in the details. Is this the first time she has been out of Deep Mountain? At Datura's words, she refocuses on the blonde.
"…Oh, is that all? Well, I suppose so." She raises a hand and snaps her fingers. Two blurs of black streak out of the doorway built into the back of a spider that has been standing on its forelegs for at least a few hours now. The blurs dart around the room lightning fast, and the witnesses just start collapsing like they had passed out suddenly.
When the two blurs stop, there are two human-looking women in familiar armor and wearing familiar spears on their backs standing in the room. One is dark-skinned, while the other is very pale. Both have a red hourglass-shaped mark on their bellies. Both have a fair amount of blood coating their lips. No one but Datura, Nefura, and the two Black Widow guards remains standing. Nasty-looking bite marks that match a giant spider, rather than human teeth, lie on the flesh of the fallen witnesses. Some of the wounds are frothing. None of these people are going to be getting back up. "Will there be anything else, Princess?" the dark-skinned guard asks. Her voice sounds identical to when she was in her natural spider form.
Nefura waves dismissively and answers, "That will be all. Though you should take these bodies with you… And let Ra-san know to recall this Door Spider! He can't be left to sit in here!" The guards bow and then start snaring corpses with web lines and dragging them away. Once that Door Spider is gone, Nefura is likely not going to have guards to call upon as-needed. But for now, Datura's 'problem' has been 'dealt with'.