Date: August 30, 2010
Datura is summoned by the Spider Queen to receive her reward now that her task is completed, and is given some startling news as a further parting gift.
"The Spider Queen, Part 5 - Just Reward"
Fukaizan, Lair of the Spider Queen
She certainly hadn't expected a door to the underground city of Fukaizen to open up right in the middle of her hairdressing appointment! It had been days since she had bid the youngest Princess of the Spider City farewell on her way out of the party to recuperate from the Spider Queen's venomous 'gift' under the watchful eye of her black widow escort. Her assigned task had been completed, as far as she was concerned, once Nefura had snared her mate, and the rest would have to be up to the Princess herself. Whether she succeeded in building her own nest or not was no longer the young blonde's concern. While her time tutoring hadn't been unpleasant, the young woman known as Datura enjoyed being back on her own once more, answering to no one but her own whims, as far as she was concerned.
But now the twenty-something brunette hairdresser had her mouth hanging open scissors in one hand, comb in the other, staring wide-eyed at the entry leading into what might as well be another dimension. The Lady Ryoko's promotional manager, who had been going over their schedule for their Land of Fire debut, was also staring at the portal, though completely different thoughts were running through his mind. Datura lets out a mildly impatient sigh of dissatisfaction. She'd been waiting for this thing to arrive, naturally, but had been hoping that, unlike last time, she would have been much better dressed for it.
No such luck.
As she pushes out of the leaned-back, cushioned chair, the rogue Yamanaka brushes off her dull golden-colored kimono, printed with large, silver flowers, and pulls the pins out of her hair that were keeping parts of it up, allowing it to fall about her shoulders. She was barefoot this time to start with, but at least she was not caught in her sleeping garments, being in much more readily-presentable clothing.
"Do take care of this little complication."
The fat male gulps heavily, his beady eyes moving to the still-shocked hair attendent, nodding his sweaty head hard enough to make his cheeks flap, even as he produces a small knife from the side of his belt, where it was half-hidden by his gut-roll. "I'm so sorry, my dear…"
"Wh-What are… No! NO! STAY AWAY FROM ME!"
The panicing cries of the woman and the sounds of a physical struggle going on behind her fade as Datura steps up into the doorway without looking back. It really was too bad. She rather liked the stylist, who was very skilled in her ability to design and create elaborate, regal patterns in hair, and had a soft, melodic voice and the most gorgeous brown eyes she'd ever seen. A brief thought runs through her head that maybe she should save the eyes for a day or two so that she could study them, to later be imitated via her henge technique.
Once Datura has stepped through the portal, she is only briefly standing in the winding tunnels of the area outside of Fukaizan. Though she has only had to travel in a straight line through here before, it is likely that for those who do not arrive by portal, there is a labyrinth of twists and turns and drop-offs and dead-ends to foil any would-be intruders. And that is not accounting for any >other< things that might be lurking back there in the dark… But Datura circumvented those tunnels, just like last time, and now it seems she will get to circumvent even >more<.
The stone ceiling above turns pure black and then drops on her with all the weight that a mountain dropping on someone has at its disposal. Fortunately, the transformation of the ceiling was more than just a color-shift, but also a material shift… Namely, all those millions or billions of tons of rock became immaterial prior to the tunnel collapsing. This would leave the Lady Ryoko standing on a circle of stone, surrounded by darkness. Nothing is visible beyond the circle, but the space she is in, at least, is somehow lit.
The mark that has lain invisible on Datura's chest, right in the center, ever since leaving Fukaizan, now tingles with a mix of hot and cold at the same time, and a spectral green light shines from it, right through her clothing. It is a stylized spider shape. Small flames suddenly bloom just about everywhere in the previously unpenetrable darkness, revealing that candles are scattered about on all kinds of surfaces. The exact details of the room may take a moment to make out, due to how dim it is in here, but the dimensions, even at first glance, appear to be quite vast indeed.
For the moment, the diva appears to be alone.
The blonde-haired teenager had expected to appear in the tunnels, had even half-expected that this time there would be no one to guide her through them. After all, if she couldn't even make her way unaided down a path she had tread before, she would probably be considered unworthy of the reward that she was to claim. That was the trouble with these bothersome insects: she was not firmly in control and had yet to develope a way in which she could begin to establish said control. And yet it was that same chaotic lack of control that drew her excitedly into this strange lightless world despite herself.
When the shift in scenery changes from bare rock tunnels to an unlit room with her at it's epicenter, Datura naturally finds the experience rather jarring, almost as physically as it is mentally. She actually stumbles a bit when she 'arrives', though it's likely more from vertigo than any actual physical movement, weaving about unsteadily on her feet for a moment or two as her senses regain their rightful sense of balance. Pale blue eyes, their natural color for once, scan at the surrounding darkness with a mild frown, yellow eyebrows lifting fractionally.
The outcast Yamanaka considered herself to be a creature of night, a natural predator, and often the scariest thing around. But now with the role reversed, with herself in the center of a pale circle of light, and everything else beyond unilluminated, making her the vulnerable one, the prey, it sent a small thrill of excitement down her spine. And then the candles start to light up just as she was settling in for the long wait, one of her fingers twiddling with a lock of hair, winding and unwinding it. Her eyes follow the lights as they spring to life around her, turning in a full, slow circle as she scans the chamber, far too large to be entirely revealed with this meager gathering of flames. An impatient breath is let out, with nothing to do but wait.
She really hated royalty.
Datura does not actually have long to wait at all, apparently. The near-silence, disrupted only by the quiet burning of candles, and the human's own breathing and movements, is suddenly punctured as surely as a knife in the throat. A voice that has been heard before, even if only briefly, speaks. And though the voice is not what one might call 'familiar', it is nonetheless one that would be hard indeed to truly forget.
"Welcome to my Parlor, child." The voice is deep, powerful, sending vibrations through the air that can be felt on the skin, along with a strong rush of warm air, scented with a combination of roses and dead things. And yet it also contains tones in its reverberations at the higher end of the scale, giving a somehow-female edge to what would otherwise likely be a baritone so deep that it could make the entire mountain tremble.
The breath that was exhaled alongside the words puts out a number of candles in a circle, expanding outwards from where Datura stands. The candles re-light themselves automatically once the distortions in the air cease. Though there was no indication of where that voice was coming from per se, due the accoustics of this huge chamber — or 'Parlor' — there are definitely indicators that could lead one to guess at the speaker's present location…
The sound of the voice causes Datura to spin around quickly, though whether it can be considered a movement of startlement, or simply trying to catch visual sign of her speaker quickly is up for debate. Her eyes scan what's currently lit up, but find nothing, the sweet stenches of roses mixing with the even nauseatingly sweeter stench of decomposition causing the blonde's nostrils to flare briefly as she inhales. Flowers, she was used to, and even death was not uncommon for her, but she often preferred the odorless kind.
"A phrase I'd hoped never to hear from you," the Yamanaka teen quips as she spins around once more to face the direction opposite of where the largest amount of candles had briefly blown out, briefly casting her eyes above her as if expecting to find a monstrous web with an even more monstrous creature perched in it. "The timing of your summons caused some small trouble, but here I am, as requested. You honor me, bringing me so into your presence without fanfare or guards."
'…That I can see.' She quickly amends, mentally. There could be a thousand of the Spider Queen's bretheren all within a hundred feet of her and she'd never no it due to the limitations of the human's senses. Some day she'd have to try and uncover the secret to the spider's sensitivity to touch and vibrations, and master them for her own use in such lightless environments. For now, the blue-eyed diva wets her lips with a small sheen of moisture and smiles pleasantly, demurely.
Looking up does indeed yield results. Though the ceiling is certainly high, the spot directly above Datura is even >higher<. There is a vertical shaft, large enough to accomodate a moderately-sized mansion or three, and clinging inside near the very top, is a black shape that can be imagined but not truly seen, thanks to the placement of the eight, glistening, red orbs that are the Spider Queen's eyes.
"How dreadful," she responds to Datura's mention of having caused some 'small trouble'. She apparently does not feel inclined to apologize. "We had a bargain. You have completed your end sufficiently well that you have been granted your second reward early. My agents have reported that the youngest of my Prime Daughters has successively and enthusiastically begun procreating with her chosen First Consort. She seems quite attached to him. It will 'break her heart', as humans say, when she finds out that she will outlive him by thousands of years… Along with all other human consorts she may pick up through the centuries."
Though not even the outline of Jurougumo's body can be made out from the cloak of impenetrable darkness that fills that spider-den above, the fact that those two sets of four eyes are beginning to grow larger — no, >closer< — is an indication that the Queen is not remaining stationary. "But the tendency of youth to invest emotionally in the act of mating is something that will eventually pass," she continues, even as she creeps her way down the wall of that shaft, somehow silent despite her massiveness. "A pity you will not live to see the Nefura's own Prime Daughters born, raised, and grown into young women themselves. You are a skilled teacher. So unfortunate you have to die before more lessons can be imparted…"
Why is she talking about Datura dying? Datura dying is not good. Further, it is not part of the plan, or the bargain that was made. So why is it being discussed? Surely it can't mean that the Spider Queen has decided to 'reward' Datura in the euphemism-sense of the word, rather than the literal! And yet those eyes continue to grow, and grow, until it becomes clear that whatever the initial estimations may have been of the Brood Mother's size, her >true< dimensions are far more monstrous than might have been imagined. A single eye is larger than Datura's entire body from head to toe!
"It's never wise to get too attached to your toys. They all break eventually. But at least she will see some use out of the man."
Datura's voice was remarkably level despite what she felt inside; fear, excitement, trepidation, and anticipation all winding around within her, causing her to lock her knees in place lest she begin to quiver. She was unable to tear her eyes away from those glowing, red orbs, the sole other piece of luminescence within the room other than the small, plentiful flickering orange flames. Retaining the presence of mind to smile graciously at the compliment, Datura's lips lose their upwards curve at the mention of her own impending death. Was it to be many years from now, old and haggard as she feared, or was it to be RIGHT NOW?
Arrogance came naturally to the young blonde human, but she held no illusions that if the creature descending towards her now accidentally crushed her beneath one massive claw that it would not give the terminated mammal more thought than to scrape her remains off on a nearby piece of stone. With each moment that passed stretching out into an eternity, blue eyes remain locked on the impossibly huge red, even as her legs remain firmly rooted in place, making no effort to move out from under the massive, lowering beast.
Was she going to die now? Alone, forgotten, her shriveled, dessicated remains cast into some pit never to see the sunlight again?
Her heart speeds up, her arms felt quivering, limp, her breathing ragged, nearly panting. Her head felt light, dizzy, staring up into eight impossibly huge, uncaring red orbs, taking up the entirety of her vision as her body was squeezed, gripped by living rigor mortis. It was the rush she craved, the excitement tingling through every pore of her being, the inevitability of death bearing down on her with an intensity that made her gasp with anticipation. Her voice felt like a raspy whisper.
Jurougumo chuckles in a way that seems to make the sound waves of the laugh echo off of itself somehow, rebounding and doubling and redoubling into a doppling-effect that seems to fill all sense of hearing with that dark, amused, horribly 'human' vocalization, expressed in a way and by a creature that is utterly >in<human.
The massive shape finally seems as though it can grow no closer, the image of Datura herself reflected in the luminescent orbs' curved surfaces. Of course, by that point, Jurougumo's head has emerged from the shaft, her legs plenty long to keep the rest of her body tucked away in the lip of the ceiling-shaft. And her head is very, very large. Her mandibles are as thick as ancient oak trees, and far more bristly, and the opening of her mouth has glistening fangs within.
Though her venom is likely enough to kill a creature as pitifully small as Datura a thousand times over, it is also likely quite unnecessary. She would not even make up a single bite to this monster. As her head fills the space above Datura, her sweet and sickly breath blasts over the rogue Yamanaka, nearly enough to push her physically to the ground from the force of the heated air alone. For several horrible seconds, there is no further action or words from the Spider Queen. She simply hovers over her daughter's teacher and breathes.
Then she speaks, and the vibrations are no longer simply felt on the skin, but right down to Datura's insides, right down to her very >bones<. "Not to worry, my dear. I referred to the dreadfully short lifespan of most humans. Your death shall not come now… Unless your heart continues at that rate. In >that< case, it might simply >burst<. …It would not be the first time I had witnessed such. Regardless, >we< shall take >very< good care of you." Then she turns her head ever so slightly to her right — Datura's left — and inquires in a lilting (or giant spider-equivalent of such) tone, a mockery of sweetness, "Isn't that right, Hunter Okumo Ra?"
From an expansive archway leading either out of this Parlor or simply into another section of it, a voice and a figure both emerge. "We shall at that, Highness." Though his voice sounds the same as last time Datura spoke to him, his movements are different. Where before there were hints of some inhuman aspects to his body, he at least walked relatively normally for a human. Now, he is obviously injured. His right leg drags on the floor with every step, the ankle bent unnaturally, and one arm appears to bound in a cast… Or perhaps webbing? He no longer evokes a sense of the best traits of human and spider merged in a single body. There is no more indication of incredible strength, or supernatural grace. He is simply a very old experimental life form, and one nearly crippled by injuries at that.
He approaches slowly. Slowly enough that Jurougumo turns her attention back on Datura, though there is no shift in her head's position this time. With eyes like hers, she can watch both of the humans at once without moiving an inch. "Well, Datura-san, Hunter Ra here bears your reward. The Spider Contract you were promised. He shall teach you how to sign it properly, and then how to perform the Summoning Technique. You may remain here or return to the world above during this training. It matters not to me. Poor Ra is in need of a skilled healer, as you may be able to surmise. That healer can only be found outside of Fukaizan."
The moment in which Jurougumo ceases descending pauses in place, stretching out into an eternity of anticipation, fear and excitement swirling around inside of her at the thought that this was it, the moment when a predator pounced upon her prey. She was no longer breathing, not even conscious of her surroundings, standing on her tip-toes to greet what was sure to be a gloriously hideous end to her. A gloriously hideous end which never comes.
And then comes the Spider Queen's voice, reassuring her that her death was not imminent. A small whisper of a sigh escapes from between her lips, dropping back flat onto her feet, a sound of disappointment, a look nearly to match. The outcast Yamanaka had been so close, only to be denied at the end, teased. As her aquamarine eyes turn away from the terrible red orbs above her, the young woman spots the limping, maimed First Among Okumo, her gaze cool and distanced as it takes in his now-pitiful form. That he'd been injured in order to spare her from attack didn't even register in her small, professionally detached smile of indifferent greeting.
"It has been a while, Hunter Ra." Her eyes flick once more down to his limp, then back up towards the overhanging Spider Queen. "I see. Well, if he is in need of traveling to the surface one way or the other, we might as well not tarry here. I will take my leave, and bring Ra-kun to a healer I know. Should she refuse, well, there are others to be found."
The blonde-haired runaway lowers her eyes demurely as she bows her head in farewell to the creature above, even as she waits for the other to finish his limping gait towards her. Was she to be sent back much as she'd been fetched, or was she to take the lengthy, scenic route? Considering her bare feet, she certainly didn't like the latter option, folding her hands patiently as she waits for the male spider-human hybrid. Surely he would either direct her towards the exit, or they'd both be sent hurtling through intangible rock together!
Jurougumo waits just as patiently as Datura, even if Datura's patience is merely an act. When Okumo Ra pauses at the top of a short flight of steps leading down from the raised-floor that he has been walking across, and down onto the surface some three feet lower that Datura is standing on, the Spider Queen attempts to regain Datura's attention. This should not be difficult.
"One last thing, my dear. You appear to have an 'infection' of some sort. Shingumo was aware there was a darkness to you, but did not truly recognize it for what it was. With experience and the strength of my blood, I can perceive in full the extent of your illness. It seems you have something buried in you… Like a splinter or a needle… It was always part of you, but was removed at one point. When it rejoined you, it was soaked in the malice of your species. It will continue to torment you until either it is removed from your spirit, or >you< are removed from your >spirit<. We may or may not meet in the future, but if we >do< encounter each other once more it would be wisest if you had that issue over >there< dealt with…"
The Spider Queen begins to rise upwards, faster than she descended, but still completely silent. If the human girl looks at where the Queen indicated, off to her right, with a vague nod of her head, she would find that there is what appears to be a corpse lying face-down on the floor about ten feet away. The body is female, has long, blonde hair, and is garbed in the uniform that Datura herself used to wear as an enlisted ninja when she was still Yamanaka Ryoko. A ring of candles surrounds the dead body, producing a sheen on the surface of a pool of liquid that appears to have been spreading outwards from the corpse's head for awhile now. Though it is doubtlessly red in color, it is dark enough to appear black in this dim environment.
The rumbling voice of Jurougumo echoes down from somewhat distant, up above, not even her glowing eyes visible anymore. "In great part due to this 'malice infection' of yours, I found it very difficult to >restrain< myself a moment ago… And if Hunter Okumo Ra had not been present as a witness to the completion of our bargain…" Once again, that dark chuckle. Even though the voice and laugh are by now far away, the last part can likely be heard quite clearly. "…You would likely not be alive right now…"
A moment later, as the last echoes of the Queen's voice die — or at least pass into whatever expansive areas lie beyond this limited portion of her 'Parlor', Datura is left in silence with what appears to be the corpse of her long-dead sister. Whatever she might be thinking or feeling, such a train of thought would probably be interrupted abruptly by Ra speaking from about half a foot away from her. "We are ready to depart when you are, Lady Spinner Ryoko." He is standing right there, a large scroll that was previously hidden because of his hunched-over stance strapped to his back. He does not react to Riku's corpse, either indicating it really is something that only a special few can detect, or he simply is no longer human enough to make facial expressions. "The Blessing of the Brood Mother that you bear is able to transition us directly to the entrance of the Shadow Labyrinth. Touch it with your dominant hand and focus on your desire to return home."
"Oh, the missed opportunities…"
Datura's voice is barely a breathless murmur as her eyes remain transfixed on the illusory corpse of her sibling. Her specialty was in bending the reality of others, in convincing them that if they could touch it, see it, smell it, then it was surely real. Whatever this 'infection' was, it was certainly 'real' enough to her. Her eyes narrow on the still, blonde head matted through with blood, a frown darkening her face. The Spider Queen's words barely registered in her mind as her gaze practically bores holes into the form of her deceased sibling. It's the voice of the male next to her that finally breaks her reverie.
Glancing up reveals that the impossibly enormous figure above her has vanished, and that Ra is much closer than she remembered him, instructing her on how to travel expeditiously back to the exit of Fukaizen. She begins to reach up with her left hand for the invisible mark in the center of her chest, touching it through her clothes as she gives the too-real corpse nearby a last, lingering look. And then they leave it, and the chamber of the Spider Queen behind. Of course, it was only a matter of time before it came back, before whatever it was decided to come for her again, to erode another piece of her sanity.
This time when the rock fades to transparency, sending her hurtling through it, Datura is a bit more prepared for the sudden feeling of vertigo. Still though, she stumbles when she arrives on the other end of whatever means was transporting them, reaching out a hand onto the bare rock to steady herself, battling the momentary onset of dizziness. The pale light of the room beyond the tunnels, on the other side of the spidery-doorway, illuminates them briefly, before the silk-clad diva steps her bare feet through the portal, back to the 'human' world. Her manager was still there, nervously wiping his hands off on a rag containing dark red stains, the small knife back on his belt, breathing heavily. Of the hairdresser, there was no sign. The outcast Yamanaka's cool gaze settles on him only for an instant.
"See that we're not disturbed. My companion and I have much to go over."