Date: October 7, 2016
Reikoku, Mana, and Kana meet in a restaurant before setting out on a search.
"Anima - Part One: Heading"
Tsuukai Restaurant, Sunagakure
Tsuukai Restaurant is the meeting place for a woman in white robe and hood, with a pair dressed in the same. Simple desert wear, nothing fancy. Reikoku finds a table to sit and wait for the twins to arrive, while looking over a scroll that appears to have a map on it. Anyone who looks at it other than her sees only gibberish, but with the proper seal, someone can resolve the tangle of confusing lines by forcing their brain to interpret patterns slightly differently. It's a simple trick, but one that is quite useful for encryption, because what's on the paper has no key to unlock it, no code, no discernible pattern.
To see the pattern, one must alter one's self.
Another thing Reikoku learned from her past employer: Not everything has to be a grandiose scheme. Sometimes simpler solutions are better. That doesn't mean they have to be EASY, just simple. Hiding right in front of someone's face is simple. But it's not necessarily easy. The map she is looking at, that she can see only after altering her own perspective, is of various sites around the Land of Wind that are associated with or open up into a vast underground cavern. A labyrinth of tunnels and passages, of which the infamous Catacombs are only a part. The ruins of a past civilization. There may be things of use in there. Technology, jutsu, weapons…
Mana and Kana are not the most inconspicuous of people. Especially in Sunagakure. So the woman who makes her way into the restaurant, a hunched over old lady with a clearly deformed hunchback, using a cane to get over to where Reikoku is seated, is clearly not Mana nor is it Kana. Clearly.
Once she finishes tap-tapping her way and seats herself at the same table as Reikoku however, the voice, despite attempts to mimic an old lady, is clearly Mana's. Or Kana's. They sound the same, okay. "Oh, there you are, dearie~…" 'Old Lady' ManaKana says. "I had the hardest time finding this place. Why are there so many restaurants in this Village? Back in my day, we ate on the floor and we liked it!"
Reikoku looks up as Mana and Kana seat themselves. Despite there seemingly only being one person joining her, it's not hard to figure out that the other twin is merged with the other. …Though which of them is speaking to her, Reikoku would not care to try to guess. "I'm only aware of one restaurant here, actually…" she answers the 'old lady'. "Are you ready for your trip?" she asks, rolling up the paper and tucking it away inside her cloak. "Everything packed? All of the Pets fed? No loose ends to tie up?"
She's speaking in code, obviously. And she's not joining Mana and Kana on their 'trip', despite speaking as though she is. They'll be parting ways shortly. But she needs to make sure that certain things are in place first. To find the daughter of the Hidden Sand's previous Head Librarian is going to need more involved and exotic searching efforts than they've been employing so far.
It's unlikely anyone even realizes she exists at this point, so asking around isn't enough. They need to actively look in unlikely places. Locations hidden and out of the way. Reikoku only came into the information on Nai and his daughter via Reikoku's previous employer. The leader of her old group. And HE only knew about Nai because the latter was instrumental in stopping the assault upon the Hidden Sand using a giant earth snake that gobbled up corpses and produced zombies. Reikoku has many jutsu she wishes to learn of, that require unique Chakra types. And if anyone has a trace of the Chakra of a True Undead, it would be Hone Nai's off-spring.
"Everything we need, dearie. All of the Pets have been fed and watered… They'll have a caretaker set up to tend to them while we're gone. Though it's a short trip. These old bones can't handle long ones anymore, but it's just too busy around here. We need a few days away!" ManaKana know little of the details of Reikoku's past, the true reason she wants to find Hone Nai's daughter, or anything. All documentation on Nai is off-limits to them, and from what they can tell, just ASKING about him would be enough to cause suspicion. Has, in those few cases they outright inquired.
Thankfully, they kept their inquiries away from Sunagakure itself, and didn't ask in-person, or using their own names and faces. But the twins have no doubt that the fact someone has been asking around lately has reached the Kazekage's ears. Or whatever Sunagakure's espionage department is.
So they're taking a different route. Instead of asking other people, they're going to look on their own. The desert is a big place. It may be difficult to search the whole thing, but this is an important enough person to Reikoku that she's willing to pay the assassin twins to do just that if she has to.
"Good," Reikoku says simply, putting down some coins on the table to pay for the drink she didn't even touch, and then pushing her chair back as she gets up in preparation to leave. "Then let's go right now. Don't want the noise pollution to hurt your ears any longer than it already has." Then she leads the way out of the restaurant. On the way out of the Village, she keeps her senses open to any sign of ANBU or people watching them… There are a few people. Maybe the usual strangers who admire Reikoku's figure, or maybe they're Sunagakure ninja. She can't tell. But maybe they'll find out which is which once they're out in the desert.
It's an hour after they leave Sunagakure that the people following them are clearly identifiable as ninja… But not of Sunagakure. A small group of three to five individuals, dressed in rough, desert-appropriate, and non-distinctive clothing. But they move quietly, keeping their distance. They could be bandits or something, waiting for two women to be alone to make their move.
Ninja-trained bandits are about the only group of such still successfull in the Land of Wind these days. The same Ghoul that Reikoku is looking for the daughter of did quite the number on their population, and the Tao Shih before that. But with both the monster and the shadowy organization gone now, maybe their numbers are returning. And maybe they're becoming more bold. hard to say right now.
But Reikoku intends to confront them when she's sure no Sunagakure forces are watching. They're almost far enough away from the Village now. She walks a little bit longer and then stops and turns around to face their pursuers. And wait.
ManaKana keeps up with Reikoku after they leave the Village. Unlike their contractor, they don't have the same degree of experience and sensory ability to pick up on details like 'being watched'. At least not that well. They don't know how long they're going to plod their way across the desert before going along separate paths, but when they suddenly stop and seem to be waiting, well, the merged twins are a bit confused, but try not to show it. They'll keep up the ruse as long as necessary.
And hopefully, when their pursuers come into view, it will become clear what the situation is. And they won't even need to turn around to do it, because one of them is watching their back through a hole in their hood.
Eventually, about three or four men approach. They wear a variety of bland, desert-appropriate outfits, though carefully listening reveals they are carrying weapons by the sound of metal and wood knocking together. They see that the (as far as they know) two women are waiting for them, and a shaven-head man in the front, with nasty, suspicious eyes, narrows those eyes a bit. He eventually comes to a stop, and his companions do likewise.
The desert wind blows sand through between the two parties as they stare each other down. Reikoku seeming impassive and uncaring, with Mana facing the opposite direction even as her twin watches behind her. The other side seems cautious, but not necessarily violent.
"So?" Reikoku asks eventually. She doesn't think anything further than that is necessary as a prompt.
The men look at each other, the one at the fore glancing left and then right to his companions before refocusing on Reikoku. "You infiltrated the Hidden Sand. And you're planning something. We know you're part of a Storm Brigade remnant left behind after the attack to keep tabs on things. We're mercenaries who are tired of this shinobi world that continues to put more and more power in the hands of the Hidden Villages. We want to join up."
Reikoku just continues to stare at them. After awhile, she says, "Assuming what you say is true, why would the Storm Brigade want you? Do you have any marketable skills?"
They react with surprise and then annoyance to that, one of the men getting angry and yelling, "Why you…! You need all the help you can get after the beating you took! Can you afford to turn down experienced fighters—!?"
But the leader cuts him off with a raised hand and says, "That's enough." He looks at Reikoku again and says, "What she says is reasonable. Recruiting fodder isn't a winning proposition no matter how you look at it. What the Storm Brigade needs now is quality, not quantity, isn't that right?"
The dark-skinned woman doesn't answer, but she doesn't deny it.
Eventually, the mercenary leader says, "We are all skilled in kenjutsu and using Wind Release to sharpen our edge. We have been fighting for many years. We know our way around guerilla warfare, or fighting as part of a larger unit. We have contacts in other lands who are interested as well. We can give you a demonstration if that's what you're looking for…" He's trying to lead Reikoku into saying what she wants from them.
"My, my~…" ManaKana says suddenly after that whole exchange, still keeping up their old woman charade. "Quite the case of mistaken identity isn't it? I'll be on ahead. I assume you can take care of this." Direct combat isn't their forte, and the twins don't want to get asked to demonstrate their skills under these cicumstances or something. They just work their way across he desert, leaving Reikoku and her new friends behind. Or 'specimens' or whatever they're going to wind up as.
There are other targets that need finding, and standing around isn't the way to find them.
The men seem slightly puzzled by Mana talking about 'mistaken identity' and then wandering off like that, but Reikoku just watches her go until eventually re-focusing on the mercenaries.
"As she says, you pegged us wrong. We're not Storm Brigade. And your personal philosophy doesn't match our interests. Unfortunately, while skilled, experienced allies with contacts WOULD be useful… I prefer to do the approaching, rather than being approached." Reikoku raises one hand out from under her cloak and holds it out at her side. "That way, I control the flow of information. And no one finds out more than I want them to. And you four? You've found out too much."
Chakra spreads across her extended arm.
The men draw their weapons and prepare to fight, shrouding their own blades in Wind Chakra. The scarred man who got angry before starts to yell some insult.
But then Reikoku blurs forwards.
Several hours later, a merchant caravan stops their procession upon finding the grisly sight of four severed heads impaled on swords along the trade route.