Date: January 2, 2016
A non-shinobi nation has had one of its lords murdered and are offering a reward to anyone who is able to identify and capture the culprits. Three shinobi from prominent Clans arrive to take the case.
Poster's note: foul language filtered in obvious places.
"A Black Pines Tragedy Pt.1"
Land of Black Pines
The Land of Black Pines is a minor but surprisingly extensive land at the base of mountains to the far north, beyond the Land of Earth. It has little involvement with shinobi, and much of its former territory has been gobbled up by the Land of Earth in the past. Infact, large chunks of it and other surrounding lands were simply signed over to the Earth Daimyou upon the country's formation, with little or no discussion with the owners of these non-shinobi countries.
The Land of Black Pines can be quite cold, and desolate, but also hauntingly beautiful. Trees in many colors are present throughout the country, but the ones it is famous for are its black pine trees, the source of its names. This country is not without ninja, but the ninja usually come from elsewhere. The country's defenders are the Alpine Patrol, skilled combatants and law enforcers who get around mostly by skiing or minor Chakra usage. But the trees themselves see little in the way of ninja foot traffic.
Recently, a minor local lord of the Land of Black Pines was murdered in a spectacularly gory fashion during a party to celebrate the coming New Year. He and a woman are both suspected of being splattered all over the walls of a special gallery of art known as the 'white room'. None of the art itself has been taken, though several pieces are now stained red. While the Land of Black Pines prefers to keep their country's matters to themselves, individuals may feel differently. The family of the slain lord has concluded that only a ninja could be responsible. And in order to catch a ninja, they'll need ninja to hunt the killer down.
Thus, word has gradually trickled out of the country that shinobi are being sought, with the promise of a monetary reward if they succeed in the mission. This is not a formal contract with a Village, and thus the arrangements and provisions are a bit different. No one Village or nation is given priority over any other. It's 'whoever shows up and gets the job done'.
The meeting is to be held at the estate of the late Lord Mochi, by one of his attendants who was there on the eve of the party. The journey here was not a short one, and could have been accomplished by land or sea (with sea perhaps being a much shorter trip), but the trek through the wilderness of the Land of Black Pines, with quiet, rustic villages, and winding roads through the woods, and frequent light snow fall, and cold wind that moans through the trees and over the short, tough-grassed hills, has likely been a sobering one.
It's as people have described it. Beautiful, but also somehow… Sad. Haunting. Lonely. The manor is different. Large, with what might be termed 'gothic' architecture, windows that blaze with warm light from within, turning the dark silhouette into a many-eyed monster crouched among the low-lands of the north-east area of the country. Gray mountains can be seen laid out in all in a row along the horizon to the north as ninja make their approach or wait outside the wrought-iron gates to be let in.
Like a funeral procession of giants, the mournful peaks, capped with white and black, watch over this empty-feeling country.
Despite Asashi's new responsibilities as a Clan Head, the former assassin finds this particular case a bit too delicious to stay away from. It's the sort of deed he himself would perform or investigate to see who performed it for the proper fee in his days as an assassin. The fact that there are still others out there capable of performing such dark deeds in such impressive fashion is rather interesting, as he's had run-ins and even battles with others of the type. It may not be pleasant to those here or others trying to accomplish this mission that he himself is rumored to have participated in such dark acts, but his expertise could prove vital to the process.
Having made the trek up from Sunagakure and left the bodyguards the Iga Elders wanted him to bring along behind, the Clan Head has made his way through the wilderness and winding roads of this land to at last make it to the estate. As he arrives at the gate, adorned in his black hooded robe as per usual, Asashi reaches up to pull his hood back. While it seems he just stands there t wait to be let it, it's possible he has organs hidden in his hair or something keeping an eye out for him while he remains stationary. Whether or not he's affected by the somberness of the appearance of the place is unclear, as he has his usual calm demeanor about him as he waits for others to most likely arrive as well as for whatever guards or servant might show up to lead or at least point out the way to the meeting place within the walls.
Isura was unlucky enough to arrive by ship, seasick Isura was an utter mess as he stumbled off the ship missing most of the beauty of the area. Isura took a moment to gather himself before making a swift but annoying journey to the iron gate. Once there he waited for ghe guards or gate keepers to allow him entrence. "Have no idea why I was even sent on a mission like this." Isura spoke softly to himself before moving his hand back under his cloak the snow was cold but and terrible to travel in but he had to deal with it for the promotion. Isura took this time to gloss over the area and once he felt like he has seen enough and was allowed to enter he did. "I'm here on behalf of lord Hokage Daisuke, my name is Uchiha Isura if you need anything from me just ask." Smiling Isura if allowed entered.
Naruko was a bit of a a wild card of Kumogakure. The missions she took as of late had been very selective, though once this one propped up while it wasn't an official "mission" it was an interesting opportunity to get involved with a Land she hadn't ever bared witness to. She began the long trek to the Land on her own. A massive backpack harness was stressed to her her back carrying all sorts of little misc survival equipment, looks like she was going to camp under the sun rather than stay at a hotel once she arrived. As she arrives a soft sigh escapes her lips, she looks upon the iron clad gates which impedes her from moving in any further, she speaks to the guards and politely bows. " I heard something bad happened here, I'm just here to see if I can help offer a solution," Naruko states to the guards, hopefully that being enough to be let in. For now she doesn't notice anyone else, despite having past experiences with Isura. For the most part the young Uzumaki simply looks around to take a the scenery. " What…an interesting Land."
Arriving ninja do not need to wait long with the impression of the mountains watching them. The trip has been long, and cold, and bleak, so keeping them waiting longer than that would be rude. Thus, a servant in a suit the likes of which isn't usually seen in the shinobi nations to the south comes forth from the front doors, down the steps, along the paved path, and open the gates for them. Stringy white hair and a hooked nose, with squinty eyes between, are the other notable features of the aged man. He keeps his gaze to himself as Isura introduces himself, and does not say anything in reply, simply nodding his head in acknowledgement. He welcomes the guests wordlessly, without any obvious sign he is aware of them beyond that he came out to open the gates for them and waits until they have entered. He stares stoically ahead the whole time, and closes the gates behind them when the ninja enter onto the grounds with their statue-lined path and twin expanses of well-maintained grass, before leading the way to the front doors.
The warmth and light of a spacious open room on the other side is likely welcome. Chandeliers and winding stairs and doors going off in every direction, all with various pieces of art and indicators of wealth decorating and accentuating everything appear to comprise this central area. A number of other individuals are also present, some of them suited similarly to the servant, some of them clearly serving servant roles and others carrying themselves with greater important and authority. Some others appear to be foreigners like the newly arrived ninja. Shinobi from back south. None appear to have hita-ite visible, however, so they are likely independents.
The man who allowed the trio in closes the front doors one all are inside. There don't appear to be any guards present, either outside or inside, to receive Naruko's introduction, though the people gathered here cease their conversations to look upon her. A portly moustachioed man in a suit and hat nods his head. "I am certain Lady Mochi will be glad to hear that you and your… Companions are here." He glances briefly over Isura and Asashi, before returning his attention to a scarred, top-knotted man he was apparently speaking with before the new arrivals got here. And with that, the rest also resume either talking or standing around silently and looking the place over, or just appearing to be impatient as they are kept waiting.
The trio are left to do the same, to converse amongst themselves, or whatever they choose to do, for a time, before a woman in a black dress and funeral veil appears at the top of one of the staircases and descends towards the ground floor, even before a servant girl comes forth and announces, "Lady Mochi Tsuki is prepared to speak with you now." The others quiet down when they hear that, bowing respectfully (for the most part. Some of the rougher ninja either just nod their heads or stand by uncaring for formality).
"Thank you for coming," the pale-skinned widow says in a somewhat hoarse voice once she finally reaches the same level as the others and moves to stand in front of a large pair of doors at the north end of the circular welcome room, gloved hands folded at her belly. "Answering the call for aid in apprehending the murderer of my husband is a gesture our family appreciates. You have come from many places and have many different stories behind you, no doubt. I will not ask your identities or your affiliations. I would sooner not know them. All that I wish to know is what you discover, and to know that the late Lord Mochi's assailant or assailants have been brought to justice. Payment will be rendered to those who contribute to the capture of the villain or villains, but all expenses as a result of your trip or in the pursuit of that task will be tended to. Also—"
A darker skinned man with an eyepatch, who has been looking cold for awhile now thanks to wearing a light shirt that doesn't even cover his arms or all of his chest interrupts with, "How about you give us some food and wine before we go right into the serious business, huh?"
Lady Mochi pauses in her speech, while those around the rude fellow mutter and grumble at the lack of manners. However, the widow raises a hand to quiet them, possibly just too drained to get angry at such impetuousness, and instead says, "Refreshments will be provided, along with a room to stay the night if you require it. But the sooner you begin the investigation, the better. I will show you the scene of the crime first, and then you can muse over it while you eat. Local investigators have already been over it."
Lady Mochi turns to the big doors behind her, unlocks them, and it may be noticed they are air-tight, and more like vault doors than the ornate carved wood they appear to be.
"Hopefully you will turn up more than they did." she finishes, as she opens the doors, and the overpowering smell of blood washes over everyone presently, along with the sight of an expansive art hall coated in reds and browns that probably aren't part of the paint job. Pedestals, statues, standing vases, paintings, rare art of all kinds, all stained with the dried or drying fluid of life. Even this long after the deaths, it seems there was so much blood that not all of it is fully dried…?
As the other shinobi arrive, Asashi would use his hidden organs to study them rather quickly while simply using his other enhanced senses to take note of their features. It's best to know them well enough to pick them apart from an enemy should the occasion arise. He then looks to the servant who walks up, taking note of his features as well before moving through the gate to follow him to the doors of the building they are to enter. Each step of the way is studied… just in case they have to make a hasty exit at some point.
Upon entering the room, each person would be secretly studied while the Iga bows his head lightly in greeting to those here. He nods to the man who speaks before looking to the others here to finally introduce himself. "Asashi. Nice to meet you all. I'm sure we'll all work well together."
When the widow at last steps into the room, he bows his head lightly in respect before looking back up to her. This must be rather difficult for her, for her husband to have entered that room with another that this gruesome scene happened inside, as she may never know what actually happened. He peers at the guy with the eyepatch as he speaks up, lifting an eyebrow slightly. A mercenary with no tact… Fantastic.
Looking back to the Lady, Asashi nods as the only question he really had for now is answered. They will be shown the scene of the crime. When the doors are opened, his eyebrows raise slightly at the potency of the smell, which is even greater for him than for most. "My…" After a brief pause, he steps through the doors, saying, "You may not want to watch us go over the scene, Lady. I'm aware it is not a pleasant sight." He starts to chew then, producing a set of eyes and two tongues. The eyes he places on his shoulders and uses them to inspect all around the room while he kneels down by one of the pools of blood that is not yet dry, setting one of the tongues on it and one on one of the parts that has dried. He takes in the scents of the room and the tastes, trying to pick any differences between the two since it occurs to him that the blood that's not dry yet may not actually be blood at all.
Isura made special care to study the guest and exits before proceeding to far in. Once he reached the room a slight hand gesture is offered to the whole room. Once the woman of the hour arrived it was time to get to work, "hmm" is stated as the smell caught him by surprised, taken back he scanned the room and simply followed in the Iga footsteps almost doing what he did. After seeing what he could he checked for chakra with his Sharingan as well as added perception "I wonder." Is stated as he explored the room for further clues, "who was the first person to discover your late husband if you dont mind me asking?" Isura focused closely on the two sets of blood stains one"s fresh and the other old. "Don't you taste that Asashi?" Isura brow raised as he watched him at work.
You paged Isura with 'The only Chakra visible appears to be that of the people present. Most of the other ninja don't seem very strong compared to your group you arrived with, though that's hard to know for sure without seeing them in action. There are clear differences between the 'fresh' red and the older brown-red. The 'fresh' coloration is, upon closer inspection, not actually wet. Or at least not the way a liquid would be. The way the light catches it makes it seem more like something sticky got spilled. You may notice a narrow ventilation shaft in the ceiling as well.'
Pleasantries and all that fancy formal stuff. It wasn't Naruko's cup of tea. If anything it was incredibly annoying. All Naruko really wanted to do was look at some dead bodies and render a verdict. The Uzumaki kept a rather loomy greeting smile upon her face, after all everyone around her appeared to be distraught and out of it. This man that died was oozing of importance, she hadn't seen such a depressing sight like this in such a long time. Before settling down the Uzumaki places her things down in the side of the room, which was just an oversized travel pack at best, the rest of her body was obscured in a white-gray cloak hugged over her form, while her blond locks trailed down her shoulders. As she returns back to her spot she nods to Asashi, bows her head respectfully and offers a thumbs up, wordlessly of course. She then takes a look to Isura. She knew him, so this wasn't awkward at all. "Yo, Uchiha-san. Doing well I hope?" Naruko though minded her matters, after all she was a rep for her village, and there was going to be no one else but herself to keep things in check if she went bouncing off the walls trying to crack the case. She went along with the pleasantries, and also was a little hungry herself, but while all that good stuff was getting prepared she did follow along to check out the crime scene. She took a careful look at the area, sniffing the air as well to see if her own senses could catch anything. A lot of questions came to mind.. " A very…gruesome scene…" Naruko speaks as she sighs softly. "I hope we have a lot of time to ask a lot of questions…"
The independent shinobi don't exactly seem enthusiastic about working with each other or with Asashi, and more than a few just ignore him, while others grunt condescendingly. A short, white-haired girl with one eye concealed by her hair nods politely in response to Asashi, bowing to him, to Isura, and to Naruko, but does not give any other indication of emotion. The eyepatch guy who spoke up originally seems less tough when he is exposed to the stench washing over them from within the room. He also doesn't seem quite as eager to get to the eating.
Lady Mochi turns to him and asks blandly, "I assume you will be wanting dinner after you are done here?"
The guy says, "A-actually, I'm not that hungry after all." As he tries to keep his stomach under control. Not as tough as he looks, it seems. The others wander around, checking the area with their own senses and techniques. Some recognize the Sharingan right away, while others are perhaps a little bit disgusted with Asashi's techniques. But not to be outdone, one of them pulls out a collection of seal tags and starts waving them around, apparently expecting them to react to something.
The tiny white-haired girl moves in with the others, covering the lower half of her face with her long sleeve, and coughing a bit into it while one of the older ninja nearby just chuckles dismissively. She soon has her free hand held up, however, with a vial in it, and is attempting to scrape the smears off the wall into it with the vial's edge.
Most of the suit-wearing people have stayed out of the art gallery or even left to other parts of the house, unable to handle such a gruesome scene, but the moustachioed gentleman comes forth and says to the girl, "Th-the investigators before you checked the same thing. They have not turned up anything yet."
The girl does not answer except to stopper the vial, and start filling another.
Lady Mochi, meanwhile, responds to Isura with, "Some security guards hired for the party heard the screams and came to investigate. They couldn't open the doors at first, though once they were gotten open, it didn't appear that they were even locked. I do not know which of them was the first in the room. There were about a dozen of them." She seems not to be concerned with the sight of it, since she turns to Asashi and says, "I will manage, but thank you for your concern."
"The second set isn't blood, at least not completely," Asashi says as she continues to inspect the scene. He leans down to sniff the wet part a bit closer while the both tongues move to that part to take in the taste further to try and figure out what the substance is made of. He won't actually ingest it since he doesn't know yet if there's some sort of poisonous or otherwise volatile substance in it. When Lady Mochi speaks, he turns his head slightly back her way and asks, "How well do you know these men you hired? It's possible one or more of them could've worked as a double agent to let the assassin through and help them escape. We should probably interview them."
Isura peers around the room and picked up on the slights changes in chakra control before speaking again "the door was locked meaning they needed extra time to escape…I notice a ventilation shaft and I can assume it leads some where out of here…then again chakra control could be used. What really bothers me is this strange substance cause it doesnt appears to be blood because how the lights hit it but something else. Perhaps posin?" Isura sighs. "The laege crowd doesnt make it easy, I have to agree with Asashi one of the men you selected could be a double agent." Isura nooded the moustache gentleman raised Isura brow a little as he released the chakra flow to his eyes. Isura reached into his pocket and pulled out two energy bars and offered one to Naruko "here i know you said you where hungry." Smiling softly he resumed his search of the room starting with the shaft. Zipping up onto the wall he checked it out first for traps before using a kunai to try and open it. "Wonder where this leads."
"There's lots of blood. But this is all pretty useless. You want to know who killed him…and not how they man died right? Who the heck was in this room when he died?" Naruko asks, yes there was blood, the room was painted red and all the fancy stuff. But this wasn't all just blood. "We can start talking to people but the reality of an investigation like this. We are going to need to full story and the full picture of what happened that night… Do you mind giving us a bit of a rehash on what happened?" Naruko asks curiously, she wasn't sure that this was a situation that required ninja magic. Even with foot prints and all the evidence in the world, they needed someone to pin against.
"There are a lot of times where things happen. If we think a guard did this…That's the easiest person to point at. We need a bit more than that…" Naruko states while taking the energy bar that Isura had offered. "This…is food?" She blinked briefly and eyes Isura for a moment before revaluating the whole situation. "This guys inards were ripped from his body or something…" Naruko begins to take a look around, seeing if there was any way someone else could have even gotten inside.
Lady Mochi says, "I did not hire them. That was handled by my husband and by Kuchihige-san here." She gestures at the moustachioed man. "They were hired through an agency, however, whom we have used in the past without incident. I suppose too must trust was placed in the agency to screen their employees and ensure they were competent, but…" She gestures at the art room limply, seemingly increasingly drained of energy. Even her head is drooping. "This is not an ordinary crime scene."
"All security personnel are still available for questioning. They have already been interrogated, I am told, though perhaps shinobi will achieve more impressive results. Our law enforcement has insisted they not leave the area, so I am certain you will have no trouble locating them," Kuchihige supplies eagerly. It isn't clear what his relationship is to this family, but he's trying to be as helpful as he can. It must be renewed hope for a resolution to this case that these NEW investigators have brought forth that is inspiring him. "I handled the funds but was not in charge of the hiring itself. If any of them are found to be culpable, they will not be receiving their payment from the Mochi family's estate, I can assure you!"
White-haired girl finally makes a noise. A quiet, "Un. Poison. Metallic. Unsure compounds. Know people. Can ask. Maybe if know poison origin… Trace to buyer." She seems in agreement with at least part of what Naruko says. They DO need to find the killer… But evidence can lead to that person if they can connect the dots. The full story is still needed, of course. And they do need to question people. But jumping to conclusions before they've finished assembling the information won't help anyone. And accusing people carelessly may only make things harder.
Lady Mochi is leaning against the door frame into the art gallery now, and Kuchihige rushes over to her to provide support when he notices. "Lady Mochi, you should rest…!"
Mochi Tsuki, however, says, "I will provide the full story as I know it at dinner… For now, it is as Kuchihige-san says. Everyone who was here that night is remaining in the area until the matter is done. Our family has at least that much influence still. I must… Lie down for a little while. I feel faint. Please excuse me." She bows to those gathered and then, with Kuchihige's assistance up until the point where some servants come forth to take his place, she makes her way back up the stairs.
Isura's investigation of the ventilation shaft in the ceiling reveals that there's no way any normal human being could fit inside. The space is too small. They'd have to be the size of an infant or the world's greatest contortionist to work their way through the ducts. Which isn't out of the realm of possibility for ninja, and there are no doubt others methods of getting into an enclosed room like this, or delivering a lethal weapon of some kind… But for now, at least, the idea of a non-shinobi using this method to get inside seems less and less plausible, while the idea that it must have actually been a ninja becomes more and more likely.
Once everyone is satisfied with their investigation for now, they are led out of the art gallery and out to get some dinner. Mister Tough Guy von Eyepatch from before jerked his hand back right before he was about to touch the wall when Naruko announced it was a poison of some kind and hurries out of there. The little white-haired girl is braver than he is. And apparently has contacts who deal in poisons.
You really can't judge by appearances alone.
As he detects what the substance is, Asashi blinks several times and quickly moves back just before the organs he's places on the floor turn purple and rupture violently. "I'll be coned," he says as he looks down at the remains of the organs. "I think I know how he died…. but unfortunately it doesn't answer the question of who yet…" He allows what's left of those organs to dissolve as he turns back to Lady Mochi. After peering around at the others, he says, "The girl is right. This is definitely a poison." He then looks directly over to the man who handled the hiring of the staff for the party. "Do you know who served Lord Mochi his drinks or if the lady he walked into this room with was carrying a bottle of alcohol or if one was brought here?"
The answer to that will have to be discovered next time…
TO BE CONTINUED