"My father at his prime could control a legion of puppets, but what defines a legion, I don't know. It did make a good story, I will say that." Yatamaru recognized the name Judori, though he only knew cursory knowledge of him. That the man had been a master puppeteer, or that he was somehow able to claim even a small possibility of accomplishing such a feat, was all news to him. Yatamaru considered this, before responding, ”I suppose it’s possible. It’s not unheard of to be able to control fifty or more puppets — I simply have never heard of anyone, even one who possesses a similarly…well…unique biology to my own, being able to do so with anything approaching life-like finesse. Battle combat is one thing. Making a puppet move like a human is another.” It’s true, in battle sometimes having a puppet act like oneself as a deception, or a ruse, could be incredibly beneficial. Drawing out an attack, or creating a diversion, were useful strategies. But fifty puppets? All acting life-like? Yatamaru didn’t buy it. ”Perhaps I’m making an unnecessary assumption; but, why go to the trouble of getting life-like puppets if they will not act life-like? That seems a necessary prerequisite to maintain the illusion of being life-like. I still maintain that, given her likely motives for using such an armada of automatons, I am not confident she could pull it off.” Yatamaru was not angry, or mad, or confrontational. He merely sought the truth. Answers to questions that made no sense. Perhaps he was assuming too much, though?
"Michi has no family. I suspect it is supposed to make at least one side of the room seem less empty.” Yatamaru…hadn’t thought of that. He knew nothing of the woman, let alone her familial relations (or lack thereof). ”Michi was a member of the Cabal when she was known as Fuu. She was not responsible for the explosions, but she was associated with them. She was ... and hopefully will remain that way, the mother of Shouki, the general of the Soverign and the bastard son of the Daimyo." Yatamaru’s memories of his time as an ANBU during the Cabal attacks were…somewhat repressed. This would have been when Mikaboshi — ’Cursed, be that name,’ he thought to himself — had most made use of the puppeteer’s talents, blind loyalty, and willingness to please the ANBU. He hadn’t known she was related to those incidients…but why not? That seemed…pertinent. Like…something he ought to know? But why didn’t he? He found it hard to concentrate on this line of thinking. His thoughts slid over the subject, like oil over water, drawing back to the now. "Michi is a very dangerous woman. Equally you and I are both dangerous people. The only thing that makes one more concerning that others is intentions." This was true. Sousuke had a very clear view of things — it was one of the primary reasons Yatamaru had sought him out. Where Yatamaru made assumptions and leaps, Sousuke was measured and stable. Certainty first. Look before you jump.
Yet Yatamaru couldn’t help himself. He felt he was on the cusp of something. No amount of reason, or measure, would be satisfying enough to restrain him. Perhaps that’s what she was counting on?
There was something interesting in what Sousuke said. ”Do you mean to tell me that she…and the Daimyo…” His words trailed off. Something wasn’t right. "Sennin Roku and Michi? More likely enemies than lovers." Most probably. But then, why did she mention enemies and lovers? She had said an unintended guest might arrive, but might there be more than one unintended guest? "Michi is a hybrid. She is Half-Ancient. She cannot lie. Supposedly." If Roku was the enemy…and if she’d intended for him to think otherwise…then who was…
”Oh no…” Yatamaru looked shaken. A revelation, of sorts, had occurred to him. ”…she said…she said that the more people there were at her wedding, the greater the likelihood that an unintended guest would show up. She mentioned former lovers and enemies. Roku…he’s the enemy. I’m sure of it now. And the former lover?” Yatamaru looked his friend in the eye. He was sure of himself now. ”She intends for the Daimyo to make an appearance, doesn’t she? Him…and probably his entire army…” Every sort of alarm was ringing in the puppeteer’s head. She had never lied, not once. And yet, she hadn’t said she didn’t want them there. ”I admit, it’s a leap, but…” His words trailed off, again. The gears in his head were turning.
"More than likely she is bound by her new heritage. Ancients are bound to a particular characteristic. She is more than likely doing this because she is bound to it - bound to a concept of truth that is. Yet ... I'm not sure how it works for hybrids. They're a rarity." Sousuke’s words only made Yatamaru more certain. Things were lining up. So far, what she’d told him hadn’t been wrong, but neither had it been particularly true in the way he’d expect. For a member of the Deep Court, as she claimed to be, that seemed to fit the bill. "Michi, unfortunately, is my superior in terms of raw intellect and certain abilities. I will confirm that there is a wedding to occur. I'm to host Sennin Kazuki a bachelor party, but she is visiting one Miroku Akkuma to secure the location of this party. I think it is best we do involve Sennin Roku." More affirmation! Sousuke could, indeed, corroborate Michi’s words — just about all of them. And, unfortunately for Yatamaru, the growing worry inside of him that he was dealing with an opponent who could out-smart him, at every turn, was restated by one whom he considered equally his better. His despair was growing. His desperation, too. This was not a battle he could win.
They needed to change the rules of the game.
”You’re right. Roku needs to know. I…I’ve never met the man before…not really…” Not directly, anyways. Not as far as he knew. This whole situation was proving rather difficult. He knew a little about the man, about how he was rather eccentric, seemingly muscle-brained, and that he frequented bars almost as frequently as Yatamaru did. It’s a wonder they’d never ran into each other, yet. ”I’ll find him, somehow. But it’s got to be a way which Michi isn’t anticipating. She probably knows I’ll seek him out — if she’s planning something, I refuse to play more into her hands. I’m done being others’ puppet. First, it was Mikaboshi, and now-“
"I find my name is on your lips a great deal in recent days, Oda Yatamaru."
The words caught in his throat. If he’d had a heart, it would have doubled — no, tripled! — its beats per minute all at once. His head snapped towards the source of the all-too-familiar voice. His eyes were wide with disbelief. His arms retreated, defensively, closer to his body so he might defend himself, if necessary. ’HOW?!’ Rage. Hatred. Fear. The puppet was shaken beyond action. He couldn’t even move. He couldn’t even bring himself to respond to the specter, which whispered like a wisp on the wind, to tell him how much he despised, loathed, and blamed his former superior for all the horrible, awful, things which had befallen upon the ANBU — how it was all the Ancient’s fault, and how he had sworn complete and total revenge upon the shadow which plagued his waking nightmares. Yet he could feel the familiar coldness emanating from the Ancient’s presence. It was the same feeling he got whenever Senju Kazuki was nearby — or, rather, perhaps it was the other way around?
"And what's more... I come to call upon you and I find you with not only my own name in your mouth but other such fascinating words. Ancient. Hybrid. Michi." The Deep Court Lord was toying with Yatamaru, and he was powerless to do anything. He wanted to renounce him. Spit at him. Revile him. Cast him down from atop his terrible throne of malice, and do unto him which the puppeteer felt had been done unto himself. Yet all he could do was sit there, trembling, as the Deep Court Lord twisted in the most inhuman, most horrible, way to face him, directly.
Yatamaru stared into the inky blackness of that hood, and he could swear he felt the darkness itself staring back at him.
"I hope I am not... interrupting you. My sense of timing has ever proven to be... inconvenient for others." The shadow stalked off from his perch, drawing closer to the table and the two sitting by it. While the monster’s body language was not threatening in-and-of-itself, Yatamaru found everything about him threatening. Mikaboshi’s presence was enough to make the puppeteer rabid. It was the Ancient’s next action, the attempted collection of Yatamaru’s prized notes, his hard-fought-for research, that finally did it: a jolt ran through Yatamaru’s body, his will returned to him, and movement once again allowed. The puppeteer grasped out, as quick and precise as a machine, and attempted to snatch the ruby back into his left hand; simultaneously, he jumped out of his chair, backing away from the approaching specter, and grasped for a hidden scroll containing his collection of puppets. He was preparing for battle.
”Don’t you come anywhere near me!” Yatamaru was completely agitated. He was like a scared animal caught in a corner. His eyes were wild. ”I promised myself I would find you…that I would destroy you…that I would pay you back for all the things you did to me. THE LIES! THE BETRAYAL!” He was shouting. He didn’t care anymore if Michi was watching them, spying on them, or was even still searching for them. Nothing else mattered to him. He was feral. He wasn’t thinking. ”YOU USED ME! And now you think you can call upon me, again, like some sort of obedient pup?! I don’t care what Sousuke says,” Yatamaru had almost forgotten the man in question was there, still, witnessing this all, ”I don’t care how human he thinks you are. To me, you're nothing but a monster!”