Date: May 27, 2013
A team is dispatched to protect a village from falling victim to a series of poisoning attacks. The well and crops in the village are poisoned without them noticing, and after catching up to those responsible and defeating them in combat, Chitose and Itami decide to let them go.
"A few grains is all it takes"
Some village in the Land of Wind
After a series of daring attacks on several villages scattered around the Land of Wind, doing much damage to the already-scarce crops, the Sunagakuran intelligence machine has narrowed down the likely points of the next attacks, for simply lack of any others in the regions. Teams have been scattered around these marked villages in hopes of anticipating and preventing the attacks, or at least catching the attackers right after they've come in. Most of the attacks have used poisons of various kinds: whether it be the local well, or the crops, or a shipment from outside the village, it turned out to be tainted, usually with things that take a while to work, giving the attacker ample time to flee.
This particular village is nestled, where two walls of a rock formation meet, creating a V-shaped area shielded from the wind and the sand, and usually the sun, with a crack running through the entire length of the rock formation from the point where these walls meet. As it tears through this crack, high above the roofs, the wind lets out a constant, unrelenting scream that unsettles newcomers to the village. It conists of several circles of houses, the innermost being the largest, all of them dome-shaped like in Sunagakure. One of the largest houses is the wellhouse, where the villagers get their water. Farms are scattered along the faces of the rock formation, built against and often into it to better be protected, with a narrow piece of land where the wind won't bury the crops in the sand and the waterbearing clay beneath the rock formation can be tapped for nourishment of these crops.
Satoru has had a constant grimace on his face since arriving in the village. Every now and then he inserts a finger into his ear and twists it, as if he hopes to get that awful scream out with a nail. He has made the wellhouse his temporary home, crouched in a shadow in the corner, doing his best to remain unseen and unheard. For his own part, he has done nothing to inform the villagers of his presence, happily leaving that decision to someone else.
In the sky above, Baizo circles, keeping an eye on the village as a whole, ready to swoop down and inform Satoru should the bird spot anything amiss. For now, however, the boy and his bird only wait.
The howl created by this particular corridor was haunting. Enough to give a certain sense of discomfort to Itami as she entered into the village. She utilized familiar henge with the intent of keeping her identity unknown long enough to operate without trouble around here. Easier to catch them when you're hiding in plain sight. She offered herself up as something of a farmhand, one that knew the land and how to work it properly.
For now, she set herself to just lazing about, resting near the farmland until such a time she'd be needed.
Much like Itami, Chitose is hidden in plain sight. She didn't henge herself, she just covered her face a bit and put on clothing a bit more fitting with an average villager. She is standing near one of the farm areas, working to help tend the crops as she keeps her eyes about for anyone being suspicious.
Time passes quietly. At first, the howl is exhausting, and brings to mind ideas that it may be why this village has been avoided so far, but eventually the ninja grow used to it. The villagepeople keep to themselves, and stay indoors most of the time, gripped by the fear that is unavoidable during an internal conflict such as the one the Land of the Wind -and, indeed, the rest of the shinobi world- has found itself caught into. Even normally close-knit communities like this one have been shattered by it. Saturu watches people shuffle into the wellhouse, gather what water they need and usually some more 'just in case', and then shuffle back out, trying not to be noticed and avoiding others. Further from the heart of the village, Chitose and Itami are faced with more life: fear or no fear, the farmers' crops need tending to.
Nobody sees or hears anything remarkable from their chosen points of observation until Baizo swoops out of the sky, and into the wellhouse, settling right in front of Satoru. It alerts him not to an attack, but an exodus: several of the villages, for no apparent reason, have packed up their things and are walking through the desert into a seemingly random direction.
Satoru stares at his bird, brow furrowed, as if confused by its explaination. After a moment, he stows his forhead protector, gets to his feet, and slips out into the open air. He glances around for a moment, then heads into the heart of the village. He attempts to get Chitose and Itami's attention with a wave of his hand, muttering if they get close enough, "People are just walking out of the village. I dunno why. But it seems like a thing we should check out."
Itami looks towards Satoru as he begins to wave his hand. She was beginning to grow comfortable, which was not in her best interests at this point. She stretched and proceeded to draw closer to him and listen to his message. "People just walking out of the village? Hm." That was odd. "Well, we should look at it. Let's get going. Do you mind keeping Baizo around in order to watch over this place when we head out?"
A look at Satoru from her spot up on one of the crops and she moves over to slide down one of the ropes that is used to climb up to this particular field. She slides down to the ground level and walks over to the pair. She hmms as she hears the bit about people leaving before looking at Itami and t hen hmming, "I can move fast." She states, "Faster than most and I know the desert really well." She nods again, "If I could see these people, I might be able to infer more about their purpose."
The group convene and discuss, and in the meantime the mini-exodus is leaving: if they choose to pursue, they will see a group of a few farmers Chitose and Itami have seen in passing. They seemed to be friendly, sociable people: despite the atmosphere in the village, they had been remarkable open and friendly to their neighbours. There is also one person, an elderly woman, they hadn't seen on any of the farms - but whom Satoru can identify as someone he had seen the same day, a few hours earlier, gathering water at the well. He recalls that she had taken less than most did, though at the time it had seemed plausible enough she just needed less than the average person.
Satoru looks up at Baizo, who has again taken flight, and then shakes his head to Itami. "If it's okay with you, I think I'm best staying in the village with Baizo. He could spot something going wrong, but wouldn't be much good for doing something about it." Baizo swoops in, softly crying something into Satoru's ear, and he nods. "I remember her," he says to the bird, then turns to Itami and Chitose. "One of the people leaving, an old woman, she was at the well. Didn't take as much as some of the others." After sharing his though, he sets off, making his way back to the wellhouse.
"Ah, I understand. It's fine by me. You know Baizo best," Itami offered to Satoru. "We'll try and remember that bit of information. Good luck finding out anything more," she stated as he made his way back to the wellhouse. "I suppose that leaves us to figure out why these people are leaving. Seems odd enough that they'd just wander out with no reason, especially into the desert. It's not anything I'd have people do without proper preparation, at least. Even then, it seems tricky."
LOoking at Itami, Chitose shakes her head, "They aren't leaving without purpose." She states, "And the fact that they are leaving without direction means they have direction or are drugged or are genjutsu'd." She nods her head and then turns to walk toward the exit of the village, "Given the people we are fighting are mostly human…" She hmms, "That means they are likely poisoned or have direction." She looks back at Itami, "Given it's normal people who are against us, it's possible they are all leaving iwthout direction so that they can act as decoys for those who do have direction." She smiles, "I say we follow that old lady."
Satoru slips back into the village to continue monitoring the situation, while Chitose and Itami pursue these people. As they close in, they notice that the villagers -or perhaps ex-villagers, now- are not entirely unprepared: they have some camping equipment, though both being seasoned desert dwellers, they can notice it's not expertly prepared, and will last them one or two days at most. The group slips around the rock so it can't be seen from the majority of the village and then begin a long trek amid the dunes, all in silence, not so much solemn as stressful and nervous. Closer inspection shows that they all seem sad or troubled by something. Briefly after they've left the shade of the rock that shields the village, another group joins them - Itami recognizes some of them as the family of one of the farmers. The rest seem to be similarly closely related to them. Some members of the original group remain alone, however, and they grow even more grim. All in all, the departing group grows to maybe a dozen and a half.
The trek itself goes uneventfully: the families and other micro-groups occasionally speak, but overall the atompshere remains an unhappy one.
"Well, alright. Sounds like a good way to start things off. I suppose we'll connect with that group and see if we can't find that old lady," Itami remarks as she heads out of the village. Upon leaving, she takes note of some people that she's familiar with and points them out, "Maybe we can settle in with those people. I was around them in the village while working the fields. I think this might be able to place us closer to the problem without having to draw attention to us." So, she sought to blend in with the crowd and hopefully get an idea of what was going on while also trying to get in close to the old lady.
Nothing seems to be going on so far. The people talk, but not much. They appear to be ill prepared for any long trips in the desert. Just where are they going? She tries to seek out the old woman amongst them, thinking that she may have some answers about this. Satoru had to have pointed her out for a reason, right? But for now, she asks questions to the people she was working with just earlier. "Where are we going?" She asks.
A sigh escapes Chitose's lips at Itami's plan. She hmms and then nods, "Ya know what, sure." She states with a forced smile, "After all, you are the wise councilwoman with all of the knowledge and I'm just the genin who knwos nothing. Lets go with your plan." Chitose smirks and shakes her head, following suit as they draw near to the group with Itami and tehn seeming to let her talk. It's almost like…Chitose were waiting for something.
The sheer level of astonishment, the clarity with which the words 'wait, WHAT?' seem to be written on the face of the young man she addresses is hard to put in words - and a bad sign. After a few stuttering attempts to sentence, he finally brings out, "Who are YOU?!", his tone matching his expression. By the time he's finally able to string syllables together into sentences, the others have stopped, too, becoming aware of a stranger in their midst. The astonishment on all faces is replaced by hostility. A thin, somewhat haggard-looking man walk up to them. Itami remembers him. He asks harshly, "What are you doing out here?"
Itami inwardly sighed at herself. Looks like the jig is up… "The village started to leave. I thought it was my time to leave too. I came from outside the village looking to help out. I tended to the farmland prior to leaving," she stated to those gathered. "I didn't know being a farmhand would be such a…bad thing," she looked around at the people. This was a really unusual moment to be at the center of an angry people. "Don't you remember?" She pointed out to the old man who questioned her. If all else fails, there's always trying to knock them out.
A hmm escapes Chitose as the walk up it seems that the people who might be working with the bandits as decoys and thus would know who was in their group and who wasn't in their group might know that someone walking up wasn't in their group. Chitose looks at Itami with a smirk through her mask as she watches Itami try to convince the people that they aren't suspicious at all for suddenly also making the desicion to leave at the exact same time as the decoys left. Chitose then looks at the group and lets out a breath, "Yeah, ok." Chitose steps forward and then idly glances at Itami, "Should we also tell them about the part where we happened to decide to leave the village, leave our friend behind and also pack nothing at all as we followed them out?" She peers at Itami before looking at the group, "Listen, we aren't looking for trouble…we're just concerned for your safety." She gestures, "You aren't really packed for out of village travel and you won't last long with what you got."
The same thin man begins to speak up, but is interrupted by another man, a farmer Itami had worked for during her brief stay here. Especially in contrast to the first one, this one is muscular and well-built. "Wait-" he says. "Wait, maybe…" He glances at the village with a grim expression. "Look, just go back to the village, pack up your things and go look for work somewhere else. Leave us all alone, okay? It's better for everyone that way." He turns to Chitose. "We're packed enough. Now you - as you pointed out, you aren't packed at all. So, go back, grab your stuff, and head… somewhere else." While he seems to be genuinely concerned and trying to find a peaceful solution, the rest are eyeing them with varying degrees of distrust. The most distrustful-looking ones are also obviously sizing them up - who'd find two corpses out in the desert, after all?
Itami balled her hand into a tight fist, indicating the frustration she had from Chitose pointing out everything that's wrong with this picture. She releases it once the anger had passed and allowed her hands to rest at her sides until a response came forth. When it did, she nodded softly saying, "We didn't mean to disturb you all. It was not our intention. But…could I at least thank the old woman who allowed us to work on the farmland? I just wanted to show my appreciation for the work we were offered. It's not often that we're able to find anything to do…" She offered humbly, going so far as to bow lightly to indicate her thanks. Though, there was more to her actions than she spoke of. She at least needed to figure out what was up with that old woman.
Watching the thin man, Chitose nods and then shrugs, "I just don't want you guys getting hurt is all." The girl then looks at the men who appear to be sizing her up. What does she do in response? She grins at them, perhaps…almost darkly. Like a small girl grins at a camera in front of a burning building. She then looks for the old woman and then back at Itami, "Yes, I do wish to know where that old woman is?" She hmms, "I know I saw her leaving with you guys. I don't believe it wise to be rude to my elders." She then turns her head slowly to Itami and smiles at her.
The crowd's patience is growing thin, and a few of them demand out loud that they "get out". The old woman shoots them a grim, but not particularly hostile glance, looks at them for a few moments and then says with confusion, "But… I don't have a farm." At this point, even the well-intentioning farmer looks between the two of us, starest at Itami and, trying to grab her by the upper arm, exclaims, "She doesn't! Just what's going on here?" At the same time as if taking this as permission to finally come into action, the other tighten a hostile circle around Chitose.
Itami, being grabbed by the arm felt the pressure of this situation continue, but of cours she was ready to take all necessary measures when it came down to it. She glances at Chitose, still miffed and yet concerned for what these people may start doing if things aren't cleared up. "She doesn't? Then why did she seek us out if that was the case? Oddly, I did end up working on another farm due to her lack of one. Why would she invite us to work on a farm she doesn't have? We only came looking for work, not to work on non-existant land."
A look at Itami and Chitose frowns as the man grabs her. She then looks forwad, "I believe this is what they call the jigg being up." She rolls her shoulders before pointing at the old woman, "Listen up, old woman. Something I doubt you even are. What is your game and what are you doing? These people are nervous, they're just people and frankly I doubt they even want to get hurt." She nods, "They are just doing what they think is right." She nods, "Your types are preying on them." She shakes her head, "And I'm not really cool with people who prey on the fears of others in order to get their way." She puts her hands on her hips, seeming, well, frankly unafraid of the people surrounding her, "So, what's the game? Where are all of you really going? I have family here in the Land of Wind…family I care about. I'm sick of people messing with their lively hood."
For a moment, the hostility is replaced by a lot of dropping jaws at Itami's attempt to talk her way out of it. Then the farmer grabs her tighter and prepares to do something violent… Chitose's interference diverts attention to her, and to the old woman, whose expression grows to be one of cold anger. "You 'have'? Well, I had a family. I buried all my grandchildren and all my children. I even burried great-grandchildren. I'm doing what's best by them and what's best by the country. What's necessary. We all are." In the meantime, realisation of the fact Chitose isn't here on friendly terms travels through the group in a wave of whispers and angry glances, and suddenly everyone around her is reaching for her to grab her. The same fate befalls Itami's as more hands attempt to grab her, and those further away reach for pans, tent sticks, or anything else that's heavy and possible to use as an impromptu weapon. Someone snarls right over her ear, "So that's how it is. Well it's time for payback."
Itami shifts her jaw lightly as she listens to Chitose speak up once more. So, the jig is up and though she may have attempted to remain innocent, it appears that calling people out was just as ineffective. She doesn't flip out over the idea that the farmer was tightening his grip on her arm, but she does respond in a way that will put him down. She did only have one arm grabbed at the moment, so she set to work using her free hand to utilize gentle mist style on him in an effort to weaken his grip. She'd then proceed to do the same to others as they reached for her. It wasn't an aggressive style and was meant for situations like these where harm was not the intent, even if it was the intention of others. For all the people know, they just feel brushes against their body as she tries to defend herself before the effects set in soon after.
By this time her henge had dropped and revealed who she truly was. In this state, she figured she has no other choice, but to get down to business. Part of her wonders if this is some sort of genjutsu or is it truly some heavy form of manipulation? There must be something to crack about this, especially with them growing so hostile now.
"Oh and so lets look for someone to blame, right?!" The girl calls out, "You prey upon others to drive your own goals!" She declares and then focuses, "You lost your family? I grew up in a desert, lady! A desert where everyday is hell and every moment is precious."
As people move to grab her, they may think twice as chakra literaly begins to pour out of the girl. It surrounds her person even as a tail of pure chakra sprouts from her. Hornes of chakra forming atop her head as chakra pours over her body. Her body still visible within the chakra but surrounded completely by a beastial horned form.
Two voices call out when she speaks, "We live in a harsh world, where death is a normal occurence and life is short." SHe looks toward the old woman, "You blame others and use those around you to get your revenge against imagined slights." She raises up slightly, her chakra covered hand with almost claw like intensity raises before her, "And now people risk their loved ones for your vengeance and pain!" She points the hand at the old woman, "I will not have it in the country I grew up in. I will not have you working your filth into these people's minds so that they two can leave behind orphans, widows and crying parents."
Those around Itami are no trained warriors - they are farmers, civilians, and as such not trained to withstand even the rather low-level jutsu she uses. One by one, they drop around her, though she has to evade swings in her direction as the group turns into an equally small mob. As Chitose addresses the old woman, she glares back. "-You-'re one to speak! They're all here of their free will, all have done what they've done because they knew they had to! Because people-" while she speaks, Chitose transforms, and the group looks at her in horror. Six people, two adults and four children, split off from the group and flee, screaming about the monster sent by the ninja to kill them all, and those planning to attack her withdraw a bit. But the woman continues, "-THINGS like you are fighting their wars and doing… making… well, things like YOU with no thought about the rest of us!" At the end of her tirade, she raises her cane and comes at Chitose, swinging. Emboldened by the old woman's battle ardor, the rest of the people surrounding her rush back forward, and Chitose finds herself in the midst of swinging fists and makeshift weapons.
A frown appears on Chitose and with an easy move, she simply jumps up and out of the group, flipping through the air and landing nearby. She looks at the group from afar now, shaking her head even as the chakra fades, "And yet, I could kill you all with ease and I don't." She looks at them, "Think on that." She states, "That I could just wipe you out and I don't. Why? Because that is not my purpose. My purpose is to protect those I love and care about." She shakes he rhead, "And you old woman…YOU!" She screams and the beast can be heard in that scream for a moment, "You would drive these people to attack someone like me…who COULD kill them! You drive them to their death with your hate!" She points at her, "You are the monster here. One consumed by hatred so great that you would watch others die around you if it meant you could have your revenge."
Given the chance, Chitose could say some sensible things. Aside from getting the feeling that she had things out for her, she saw that she was making a great point. One that may just serve to have this old woman revealed without any harm or damage done to them. She did have to dodge out of the way of various attacks that were coming for her in the meantime, though. They weren't particularly difficult, though and she continued to weaken the mob up until they made a rush for the girl. "Listen well, to her! Cease from attacking and protect yourselves!" She called to the mob. "Reveal yourself now, woman!" She added to the Old Woman that was bold enough to lead a charge.
A few of the attacking people hesitate - caught up in the surge of mob hate, they had not considered the fact that she could've killed them. That she could still very well kill them. The old woman's boldness continues to burn brightly, however. "Child, I'm an old woman and I don't have long to live. And people like you have taken away everyone that would keep me here. So if you think you can intimidate me, you should find someone else." She advances towards Chitose, cane held out threateningly. She is accompanied by two more - six are still fleeing, two have stopped in hesitation, and the other three are now glaring at Itami from a respectful distance, looking for an opening with the desperation of someone who doesn't believe they have a way out any more. One of them answers Itami. It's the thin man who had first spoken out against them so fiercely. "Protect ourselves? From who? The only one I see here who we'd need to protect ourselves from are you," he indicates the motionless bodies at her feet, "and the pet monstrosity you decided you should bring into our home!"
A look at the man who called her a monstrosity and Chitose growls, "I'm standing right here!" Sh e yells before looking at the old woman and simply stepping aside and tripping her. She shakes her head as she looks at one of the men with the old woman, "And how much longer do you have to live? She's already thrown her life away and sh e's ready to throw yours away, too." She states and then looks at others, "And throw yours away…" And another, "And throw yours away…" She then looks at the old woman. She shakes her head, "Oh how your family must be smiling upon you from the afterlife." She states, "So prepared to let anyone around you die if it means that you can have your revenge. If it means you can blame others." She then shakes her head, "You're a murderer worse than anyone else." She then looks up at the man who responded to Itami. She points at the man, "Defend yourself from that." She points at the old woman, "From a tongue that'd lead you to fight a battle you can't hope to win and starve other people just like you in order to get at who?" She hmms, "People who trained hard to gain power? Or perhaps to get at a poor girl, forced to keep a beast within her?" She shrugs and then shakes her head, "Itami, I'm going back to get Satoru and then I'm going to Sunagakure. There's no conspiracy here. Just an old woman who doesn't wanna die alone."
Itami tried to keep her patience together while dealing with these people, but either this woman had a tight lock on these people or they were truly that stubborn. No one would think to face off against someone like Chitose willingly. She had nothing but frustration present in her mind and features. Letting a jutsu loose under that kind of stress would certainly be the kind that would harm people. That's not what she wanted, however.
With Chitose telling her that she was returning to Sunagakure, the council woman agreed, but it hadn't occured to her that this was a woman trying to kill others in order to keep from herself dying alone. The thought of that made Itami wish to speed along her death, but that wouldn't have solved anything. "If that is what these people wish to dedicate their lives to, then there's no reason or us to seek to get in their way any longer," she stared at the people who looked at her with glares and daggers. Secretly, she hated herself for this, but on the surface, she didn't show it all that much. "Clearly, it doesn't take shinobi to destroy lives."
As Chitose turns to leave, one of the two men who charged her together with the old woman makes a move to go after her, but then stops and just glares after her as she leaves. The two of them continue to help the old woman up. In the meantime, the thin man and his friend continue to circle Itami, not brave enough to attack but not brave enough to turn their backs on her, either. Their fearful glances at Chitose grow less frequent as she walks off into the distance.
The men circling around Itami gain nothing more but a pitiful shake of the head as she departs. "Those people were not harmed, they will recover quickly enough. Best of luck to you and your…wandering." With that, she followed after the girl back to the village. "I've never experienced such a thing before…" She was hurt, but it couldn't be helped. She thinks she may need to look into what causes this sort of thing to occur.
A look at the pair one last time and then she continues to walk, "Leave them. Hopefully when they die so that some old woman can have revenge, their loved ones won't blame shinobi." She shakes her head, "Do enjoy your war." Chitose waves her hand, "Oh." And Chitose turns back to look at them, "I do hope all those normal people living in the area, the ones starving because your kind are stopping caravans, I hope they don't blame you for all their pain. Then they'll come after you and your family." She then points, "Oh, and do enjoy following the words of an old woman who doesn't have long to live so doesn't care if she lives or dies…or if you live or die either." ANd Chitose is now heading back to the town to collect Satoru and head home.
The group gathers up its wounded while Chitose and Itami go to collect Satoru, believing they are done here. Those who had fled after Chitose's transformation, after some doubt and uncertainty, return to the village, where they empathically tell about the monster. A quick visit from a beat-up farmer later, and they leave again, never to be seen in the village, again. The true tragedy, however, happens in the next few days: those who drink from the well, grow weak and die. Those who eat from the local crops, either the locals or those they sold them to, befalls the same fate. The traces of the entire group vanish without a trace - including the old woman.