Disclaimer: I do not own anything from Inuyasha nor Naruto. The only thing I own is the plot.
Beta: Michelle T.
Chapter 2: Of Gold and Fools
"What glitters may not be gold; and even wolves may smile; and fools will be led by promises to their deaths."
- Lauren Oliver -
He watched the girl through the one-way glass pane on the wall. She sat beside the barred windows, looking down on the humming village below. Sunlight streamed on her face, drawing curves of shadows and light on the incredibly young visage.
She couldn't have been more than eighteen, he thought. A child, only just starting to bud into something more. There were secret places still on the planes of her face, and its softness was at once repulsive and inviting to him .
"Yondaime Kazekage-sama." Someone called. He didn't need to turn around to know who it was from the sheer tone alone. There was always a definite lack of respect for his official title in Chiyo of the Gokyodai's voice. Just as well since the retired counselor was already his great grand mother's age and had seen him since he was a snot-nosed genin. He supposed it was difficult to allocate the appropriate reverence to one who would always be a little kid in her eyes.
"Is that the one?"
He nodded imperceptibly, eyes still focused on the girl on the other side of the glass pane. She dangled her legs from the edge of the chair, swinging them idly back and forth, her toes ghosting over the floor. The action made her appear even younger, almost childish.
The shinobi in him disapproved. He had many soldiers of the same age, kunoichi who faced twice the dangers their shinobi comrades did on the burden of their gender alone. In the world of ninja, such… innocence… invited disasters.
"Doesn't look like much," commented Chiyo.
"They never do," he said in reply as he turned away and faced Chiyo in full. " Kekkei Genkai are naturally deceiving in appearance. It's the quiet ones, the least visible ones that are always the most dangerous. A little child may pose the greatest threat. The burliest brute may be the most brittle link of a chain. Such differences are difficult to tell, but they are the ones that decide who will come out the victors on the battlefield. Has the council come to a decision?"
"Maybe… when I'm finally dead," was the answer. "Those bickering idiots always like to draw out on decisions too big for them to handle." Then she turned on him. "What are you doing waiting for them to make your decision for you? Are you not Kazekage, brat? I hope I do not need to tell you the true worth of this girl's power."
The true worth of her power? He glanced at the girl on the side of the glass pane. Yes. That was something he also wanted to know.
"That is… if the reports on what she can do hold true." He said simply.
Mumei, Nameless, because even now we do not know what is her real name. He thought to himself, silently going over what little they had managed to glean off the records and the people who had been spending time with the girl. Discovered at the village gate exactly 59 days prior. At first we assumed her to be one of our lost citizens or a merchant who got lost on the Desert routes. She was taken in and given the requisite treatment for desert-stranded subjects, as per the village policy. Once her records and fingerprints were checked against the archives however, it turned out that she was not one of ours. She had no documents nor traces on her person indicative of her origin and even interrogation and surface mind probes yielded nothing as she did not speak our language.
That was the first anomaly. All five of the great nations and even smaller nations within the cluster of continents known to this day spoke the same language. There were records of a time long past when people of different countries spoke different languages but the timeline must have been eons in the past. And in any case, to this day, such records were still considered myths at best.
Then came the second anomaly. When checked with border patrol teams, we found no reports nor sightings of any entrants passed the border even resembling the subject. Due to the open nature of the border surrounding Kaze no Kuni as well as the vast desert that made up the bulk of the nation terrain, border patrol teams all had at least one sensor in their roster and, when combined, the number and range of the sensors should always cover the entirety of the borderline, ensuring that the teams would always get prior notice on any unreported entries. Even in the case that someone… or something managed to slip past the patrol perimeter, they would have been discovered at one among the many mountain pass choke points surrounding the village. The fact that even the teams at these choke points couldn't pick up on her presence until Mumei was right in front of the village gate can only mean that…
She had no chakra…
Which would explain why she was able to slip past the net so easily as well as the leniency of the interrogation team. Without a full scan, they had thought her chakra only abnormally low and categorized her as a harmless civilian and not a potential spy sent by a rival village.
Then the third, final, and greatest anomaly of all. The girl's Kekkei Genkai.
Discovered by the staffs of the village Public Welfare Center approximately one week ago, the power to, as it appeared on the surface, induce growth in all plant life… even beyond death. Under this yet nameless Kekkei Genkai, a single plant life went from seed stage, through germination, growth, full maturity, into harvestable age within mere seconds. Types or species of the specific plant made no difference. Plants with life cycles spanning decades grew in the same amount of time as those that completed their life cycle within days.
"You are thinking too much." Chiyo cut his thoughts in the middle. "It's the downfall of us thinker types. We like to tinker too much with the theoretical side of jutsu creation and development." She said, referring to their roles as spearheads in Sunagakure jutsu R&D operations. Then she paused, casting a considering look at the still unaware girl. "Though I must admit, it is a most interesting Kekkei Genkai the likes of which I have never seen before. I can barely understand the mechanics of its function as it is. It is so easy to mistake it for the Mokuton Kekkei Genkai… but while there are similarities between the two, calling them the same would be an amateur's mistake and I would loath to make that kind of mistakes at my age." She put on gnarled finger and tapped against the glass pane. "The simplest way to describe it…"
She stopped again as she weighed her words.
"... is that it is an ability that negates all effects of the natural world upon a single plant-based organism and reroutes all its natural needs for sustenance to the source of Mumei's power."
"In other words…" He cut in, "the instance the ability is activated, the Kekkei Genkai user effectively becomes the earth, the air, the water, and the sun for the subject which she casted her power upon. Once it is activated, she becomes the sustenance and the sole source of life for that single subject. It is the power… of a tyrant… regardless of how benevolent it appears to be. " He left off there, not mentioning the fact that they had no idea whether this ability only worked on plant life… or more…
If she can activate her power on a non-botanical lifeform… say…. a human, such ability then, regardless of its owner's lack of physical strength would make her a force to be reckoned with indeed.
Chiyo laughed, suddenly and loudly. "I suppose that is another way to describe it. Such grand words for something we know so little of… but… skepticism is a good trait for a Kazekage…"
"Assume all cautions when dealing with unknown abilities, presume nothing and leave nothing unquestioned. That has always been the policy of the jutsu R&D department… which you yourself laid the foundation of."
"That is true," the old poison master acquiesced… before getting off on another tangent. "The illogical idiosyncrasy of this Kekkei Genkai is the same as the Mokuton."
He tilted his head an almost imperceptible millimeter towards her, indicating his interest in Chiyo's personal observation of Mumei's Kekkei Genkai.
"Konoha teaches its children that the Mokuton is a combination of Earth and Water release brought to the next level. But this teaching is just that—children's tales woven to mystify and deify a power that should by all rights be brought onto the examination table and dissected for its irregularities. Anyone with a brain will see that when mixed together, water and earth would only create mud and not plant life. If only water and earth were sufficient to forest an entire country, we of the desert would have done the same to restore the fertility of our own soil long ago. The combination of only water and earth alone aren't enough to create the element known as wood. From this simple observation alone, there must be a third secret element involved."
He nodded, crossing his arms. He had thought the same despite never having shared his personal observation.
"Of course, there are various examples of advanced Kekkei Tota that combine three elements into one unique release, the Jiton release possessed by not one but two generations of Tsuchikage is a prime example, so this should come as no surprise to any jutsu masters with eyes to see and a brain between their ears. What is special about the Mokuton… is that unlike the Jiton which combines earth, wind, and fire, this third release is not an elemental release at all but is something that is unique to the Senju bloodline.
"The third release is… a life release."
Also correct. He nodded again, unfazed by Chiyo's revelation.
"Out of all Release type Kekkei Genkai, the Mokuton is unique in that it is the only release that deals with 'living matters'. Traditionally, release type Kekkei Genkai are manifestations of natural forces and phenomenons. Fire, earth, wind, water. None of these things carry life in and of themselves. Even advanced release Kekkei Genkai and Kekkei Tota are no exception to this one principal. The Mokuton, the Kekkei Genkai that releases the element of wood, living, breathing organism in themselves and not a force of nature, is the sole exception to this rule… up until now."
"Therefore, it is not unfair… to assume that this secret third element possessed by those of Senju blood is the key that grants the spark of life to the Mokuton." He finished Chiyo's statement, having come to the same conclusion as hers long ago.
"The mythical Sage arts possessed by only a rare handful of individuals within our world at any one time. Mokuton Hashirama Senju… was one such individual." Chiyo continued. "It is said that the key to mastering this art and by extension a higher form of chakra called Senchakra is to train one's body and mind until the point where one can touch, withstand, draw upon, and control the life energy of the natural world itself. This correlates with our theory that the Mokuton is a Kekkei Tota that combines not only earth and water but also the element of life energy taken from nature to create the living element of wood."
That went without saying.
"Based on the similarities we have observed so far between the Mokuton and this girl's Nameless Kekkei Genkai, I think it is safe to assume that they run on the same fuel. The element of life that can only the Sages can perceive. The key to their life-giving property must be this mythical life force of the natural world. That also explains why our sensors couldn't get a read even when she was using her power right in front of them… simply because they cannot perceive it."
"It is," he agreed.
"However, even the Mokuton has its limitations. Both of these Kekkei Genkai may have various similarities but there are several key differences. One…"
Chiyo held up one gnarled finger.
"Mokuton jutsus still need chakra to fuel their power. This girl has none. In the last week, even with the enormous number of plant life, crops and trees she had fostered, she had never once shown signs of fatigue due to the use of her power. Two…"
Came the second finger.
"The Mokuton requires acute understanding of chakra pathways, jutsu theories, and elaborate hand seals to execute jutsus of higher power and complexity levels. In so far, we have observed nothing of the sorts from Mumei. She has no chakra pathways, as impossible as that is, and the requirements for her to activate her power on anything seem to consist of mere physical touch and her own will. Three…"
She held three fingers in the air, drawing circular motions on the glass pane with them. There was a light to her eyes that he hadn't seen in a long time. Anticipation. Amusement. A quiet delight that hid something fierce underneath. The last time he had seen Chiyo of the Gokyoudai like this... that was back when he was a little genin kid who didn't know his own limitation and on sheer ignorance, made the mistake of challenging her to a ninja kumite to prove his 'worthiness as the future Kazekage'.
"The Mokuton is mostly limited to wood. There are accounts of the rare Mokuton users exerting their power on other plant life - shrubs, flowers, weeds and vines - but with these plants, the effect of their power are incredibly limited. We have never heard of Hashirama Senju himself resurrecting an entire field of dead crops and while he was alive he was the force behind Hi no Kuni thriving forestry and wood trade. Agriculture and other food related industries were chaperoned by the Akimichi instead. Historical documents also accounted for several crop failure seasons during Shodaime Hokage's reign, causing fluctuations and, in one case, a war-time food crisis. All of this should never have happened if Shodaime Hokage indeed had the power to resurrect and fuel the growth of any plant life such as Mumei demonstrated."
"And… last but not least." Said Chiyo, her attention fully focused upon the subject of their discussion. "The Mokuton does not posses the power to negate the effects of external factors such as sustenance, soil condition, or even the weather upon the trees it creates or nurtures… not pass the limits of the jutsu caster's chakra reservoir anyway. Among the countless trees created by Shodaime Hokage, only those that were planted upon fertile ground, i.e. that within the territory of Hi no Kuni itself, still survive to this day. Those that were created during his battles in other countries, over barren land or under harsh conditions not suitable for their species, ended up withering away the moment the chakra powering them ran out. As we have seen… this is not the case with Mumei's power. Even planted in barren soil and left out to harsh desert conditions, Mumei's plants thrive."
There was a hint of wonder and exasperation in her voice, as if she was annoyed at the fact that she couldn't quite explain the mechanics behind the nameless Kekkei Genkai. "It can be that we merely haven't found the limits to her power yet. Perhaps if the plants are far enough away from her or enough time has passed for whatever it is that nurtures them to run out… but in so far, the conditions with which we have tested her power have already far outstripped those of the Mokuton."
"From these observations alone…" She concluded. "... it is clear that we are dealing with a vastly superior Kekkei Genkai than the Mokuton possessed by the very founder of Konohagakure."
"... you don't sound particularly pleased about that." He said after a full minute of silence from the usually verbose master of puppetry. He knew what she must be thinking and was goading her into admitting the same.
"... Despite scolding you for overthinking things, I ended up prattling on and on." She said finally, smiling in self-depreciating humor.
"I do not mind. Even the prattling of one of the Gokyoudai is filled with wisdom."
"How cute." Chiyo gave a bark of laughter. "If you used that tongue on the council, they may be more open to going your way once in a while." Then she went quiet for a minute before continuing.
"We sure talked a lot without even looking at that little girl face to face. This is proof that we, you and I, members of the most influential and most powerful group of this entire village, are actually afraid."
He said nothing to Chiyo's statement, neither agreeing nor disagreeing with her.
"The truth of the matter is, we are scared of her power. Any fools would take her Kekkei Genkai at face value and not understand the true ramification of its potentials. But we… because we can comprehend the intricacies behind such deceptively simple ability, that we are… actually… afraid of what we may find. The fact that you are standing here behind the wall of this room, behind all these containment seals..."
She made a gesture, pointing at the seal-laden wall before them.
"... is testament to your fear."
"...I prefer to call it being well prepared." He replied, matter-of-factly.
"Preparation hmm?" Chiyo countered. "I suppose that is true enough. But the fact that you have plastered the same jutsu negation seals on your body means that you intend to face the girl by yourself soon. You want to find things out and speak to her face to face, a task which may be carried out by any of our top rank interrogators. There really is no need for the Kazekage himself to undertake this, even less when the subject concerned is both a foreigner and the possessor of a Kekkei Genkai whose true power remains an unknown. It is simply too dangerous for the leader of the village to even be in the same room with such unknown quality… that is… unless there is something to be gained well worth the risk to the Kazekage himself as well as the village."
Correct again. Truly even in their old age, few things escaped the Gokyoudai's eyes.
"The fact that you plan to undertake this task by yourself… and most likely… yourself alone without even a single assistant..." She said, drawing her words out slowly, each with careful consideration. "... must mean that whatever it is you want to find out… or to do… you would like to keep well-guarded only to yourself and probably a few of the top ranking councilors. This need for secrecy must mean that… you have come to the same conclusion as I have about the source of this girl's power… and you do not want this information, if you ever manage to confirm it, to be spread out beyond your control. And… that is why you will not let anyone else handle Mumei but yourself. Am I correct?"
He went quiet for a while, before finally speaking up.
"In… the mere span of a week, and supplied with only a basket of dead seeds, a single person, this Mumei, was able to create enough food to feed our entire village for a year and… she did this without ever showing signs of taxing on herself, without disrupting her daily life and works." He can feel the old bitterness creeping up in his guts.
"I do not need to tell you what this means to a village such as ours. This single ability to create massive amount of food in so little time probably won't mean much to the other four great villages. However, for us desert dwelling folks alone… it would mean our life or death."
The desert that gave them their name. The desert that harbored them and protected them from invasion and hostile forces. The desert that bore them in its bosom, that forged them and made them in its image. They said desert dwelling folks, ninja of the Sand, were a hardy people who thrived even in the most unforgiving of environments, that a Suna nin would make success out of failure even at the cost of his life, regardless of the odds against him, that Suna nins just didn't know when to quit.
This was all true.
However, as much as the desert that made their home was their pride, it was also their bane. Despite what a lot of young blood ninja would like to think, a ninja village cannot be carried on by the trade of killing alone. In the first Kage summit held by the Shodai of all five great nations, the founding Kazekage himself acknowledged this fact by demanding compensation for Sunagakure not in the form of money, bloodline, or weapons, but in the form of fertile land capable of bearing and sustaining life.
This barren homeland, this bane that they would never be able to escape, over the years had proven to be extremely costly on the business of running a ninja village.
For every ninja Suna produced, it had to pay triple, sometimes quadruple the cost other villages did. Necessities other villages took for granted had to be imported at cut-throat prices from other countries. Food had to be bought from the neighboring Ta no Kuni. Water had to be tubed underground from Amegakure. Other necessities were also no exception. This land simply had next to no production value and simply could not compete with other nations. Even gold trading afforded by his own Gold Dust release could barely hold the economy together.
It was for this simple reason that Sunagakure had always had to fight for its existence and its fragile economy from the day of its creation.
And now… literally from nowhere this little slip of a girl appeared and she alone possessed the single Kekkei Genkai capable of erasing the unfair disadvantage that had dogged the village from its founding days, effectively reversing a situation that had persisted for more than a hundred years.
"She is…" he started, "... or will become… incredibly valuable to us very soon. Those very same councilors that are arguing about what to do with her will soon see the worth of Mumei's power… just as you and I did." He didn't stop there. "They will then go one more step. Blinded by the benefits created by her power, they will not see beneath Mumei's power. They will not be able to comprehend the true depth of what she is capable of."
"Oh ho… by those words I suppose you have your own guesses on what this Kekkei Genkai really is. Let's hear it then."
He paused momentarily, carefully weighing his words. "I believe that despite all our reasoning and hypotheses, we are both wrong about the true nature of Mumei's power." He said finally. His words immediately silence Chiyo.
"The only reason we are even discussing the mechanics of something that has so far defied all known rules of shinobi arts and blood limits, is because of its similarity with Shodaime Hokage's Mokuton. In the face of something so foreign… so bizarre that it is almost impossible to grasp… of course we latched onto the single familiarity we can see… which is its effect upon plant life. Howover, the truth of the matter is that we know too little for any of our theories to actually hold a modicum of truth in them."
His eyes were riveted onto the girl on the other side of the glass pane.
"Why is it that she is alive in the first place? A person who has no chakra and no pathways in their body should not even be able to live. Even the weakest of civilians have rudimentary pathways imbedded in their bodies. Even shinobis with crippled chakra systems, such as the Leaf's Green Beast, have some amount of chakra in their bodies. Even newborns possess the blueprint of chakra pathways that will grow and mature with time. But Mumei… simply has none. She is a ghost to our senses, but she is also flesh and blood. Her mere existence defies our natural laws."
He touched the part of his chest right under the collarbone where the tip of a seal was visible.
"For all I know, these may be useless against her, but because I simply do not know for sure, this is the best I can come up with. What is it that she uses to fuel her ability? Is it truly this mythical life force of the world that only the Sages are capable of perceiving? But… we all know that Sage training takes decades to master even for the luminaries of our world... and we have all heard of the countless failures that ended in death. I have also heard rumors of a clan in a nameless country capable of passively absorbing the energy in the environment around them. This ability however, seems to force them into uncontrollable blood rages at times during which they can kill countless of their own clansmen. From these accounts, we can see that life energy is not the harmless and benevolent force of life as its name may suggest. In fact, from all existing records, it appears to be an incredibly chaotic and destructive force. To be honest, we should not even be surprised. After all, we of the desert know better than anyone that nature is an unforgiving mistress. Why then should her life blood be any less ferocious?"
He paused, watching Chiyo's face from the corner of his eyes. No surprise as far as he can see. Jutsu developers really did think alike.
"But if that is the case… then… what is it that enables Mumei to harness such volatile force of nature? What stops her from being consumed by the source of her power itself? Are we to believe this is also part of her Kekkei Genkai? Is that why she is still alive despite not having chakra in her body? Because this mysterious life energy effectively replaces chakra for her? A naturally occurring savant who lives off of the most dangerous kind of energy in the ninja world… if that is the truth… then there is no way what we have seen is the full extent of her powers…The very foundation is already vastly different from our own. I believe… that we have both been wrong and that Mumei's nameless Kekkei Genkai is something else entirely and not what it appears to be."
That thought… filled him with trepidation.
"Of course, the council will not see it as such," said Chiyo, continuing his line of reasoning. "Once the effect of her plant growth inducing power finally sinks in, they will be too afraid of losing what is right in front of their eyes to experiment and find out the truth. By that time, our own village, our own people will have already become wholly dependant on the 'sustenance' she provides."
She stopped there, eyes widened as if she had just realized something, then laughed .
"A tyrant of life indeed," said Chiyo finally. "Though I suppose that is why you will let no one else but yourself handle her. You would like to affirm her worth and… depending on what you see in that little girl… decide to either destroy her before her tyrant's power can take root or shackles her to our village and force her to live the rest of her life for the good of Sunagakure."
He said nothing in response, simply put his hand on the door.
This bloodline, he thought, is too useful to go to waste. In the desert where things are scarce, any and everything serves a purpose. Mumei is no different. Even if her power proves too volatile, he will not kill her.
The seals reacted to his chakra and together, slowly at first, then faster, they moved, whirled.
The ninja world was no stranger to the many ways with which to forcefully extract a valuable bloodline limit from its original owner. The fact that Mumei was a girl of malleable, fertile age and a lone foreigner in a land as alien to her as she was to it only gave him more options with which to choose from. The thought left a sour note in his mind, after all he himself had a daughter near her age, but he had done worse things for his village… in the name of his village. The suffering of one person could never amount to the suffering of an entire people. The happiness of one person could never compare to the happiness of an entire nation.
This was but a trifle in the grand scheme of things.
With little click-clacks, one by one, the containment seals engraved into the door untangled themselves, unlocking the many layers of stone gates that led to the chamber where Mumei was kept.
He gazed inside and saw her looking back.
End Chapter 2
1. I'm hoping to turn out the third chapter in one week. I already have near 200 words laid out and have made a promise to restrict myself to short chapters (3-5k words) at a time since long chapters have the tendency to make writing really slow (hint: Tis Femina speed)
2. This story will be romance. Any guesses?
3. Don't jump to conclusions. Any readers who are familiar with my work will know that I love nothing more than screwing with my reader's head (Nope! Not sorry!)
4. I also hate simpleton characterization or one-dimensional characters. People that you think will be the villains maybe something else entirely and people who you think you can trust may end up stabbing you in the back. That said though, what do you think of the characterization of 4th Kazekage and Chiyo in this chapter (they are partly built on the info that they were both jutsu developers - Chiyo with her kinjutsu and the 4th Kazekage's creation of new jutsu being credited by one of the Suna councilor as one major factor in keeping the village economy from sinking - thus they both have very analytic and incredibly logical mindset. They are also in the position of power and under the pressure of leadership so they do not lack for ruthlessness either)
5. Here are the ages of the people in this story since the beginning, just for reference:
Kagome: 17-18 years old
4th Kazekage (aka Gaara's dad): 38 years old (In Canon, he died around 40 years old)
Gaara: 10 years old
Kankuro: 14-15 years old
Temari: 15-16 years old
Naruto (and his year mates): 10 years old
Chiyo: 67-68 years old (still advising during 4th Kazekage's reign as stated in canon through the resurrected Kazekage's flashback)
That should also give you an idea on the timeline we will work with. Kagome's presence in Suna will, of course, has an impact on the ninja world, the first of which is the strengthening of Suna (since she alone can pretty much feed the entire village with almost zero cost), thus making them less desperate and a lot less likely to enter into a risky alliance with Orochimaru.